Lemon raspberry cupcakes

This recipe comes from Lewis’s cousin Laura. It’s originally meant to be crunchy lemon squares but she always makes it as a lemon drizzle cake. It’s so delicious I’ve made it for Lexie’s birthday 2 years in a row, although using a lemon buttercream icing instead of the drizzle for the purpose of adding sprinkles!

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We recently tried it as cupcakes for a pretty little picnic in the garden, taking advantage of the cherry blossom that was in full bloom. The addition of raspberries was a Lexie request that worked really well. The garden is proving to be a godsend for me given sleep is still broken and Lexie’s energy levels are high. Our favourite new game involves me lying on a rug with Finny and counting while Lex runs laps around the garden (ha ha ha exhausted mum)! We also like watching all the musicians come and go (the old church is now an orchestra rehearsal studio) or meeting up with Lexie’s little friends who also live on the square.

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Here I’ve written down the recipe for a standard cake with the lemon drizzle, adding raspberries because they were delicious. It’s very easy to change to make cupcakes, just divide the mixture into cupcake or muffin liners and adjust the cooking time. The lemon buttercream recipe is at the end in case you’d rather use that icing instead of the drizzle.

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Lemon drizzle cupcakes with raspberries

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4oz butter, cubed
  • 6oz self raising flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 4 tbsps lemon/orange juice
  • rind 1 lemon & 1 orange
  • handful of raspberries

Lemon drizzle icing

  • Juice 2 lemons
  • 4oz granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180c. Cream together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy using a wooden spoon. Then add the eggs, lemon/orange juice and rind. Sift together the flour and baking powder and mix this into the bowl.

Grease and line bottom of oblong tin 7”x9”” (as per original recipe) or a round tin 8″ (200mm) if making a cake. Or put cupcake/muffin liners in a muffin tray – we prefer muffin liners to make bigger cupcakes!

Dollop the mixture into the tin or cupcake liners – if making cupcakes fill the liners half full as they rise a lot. Sprinkle fresh raspberries over the top and lightly push into the mixture.

Bake in the centre of the oven at 180c. If making a cake bake for 30 mins (less if fan oven) until golden brown, springy and slightly shrunk from edges. If making cupcakes check them after 15 minutes, ours took just under 20 mins and were starting to burn!

To make the drizzle, mix the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour over the cake while the sponge is still hot. If making cupcakes you only need a tablespoon of drizzle per cupcake, maybe even less. Leave until cold and then enjoy!

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If using lemon buttercream icing instead of the drizzle

  • 125g soft butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • juice 1 lemon

Put the butter and half of the icing sugar into a bowl, and beat with an electric whisk until evenly combined and smooth. Add the lemon juice and the remaining icing sugar, and beat again until light and fluffy. Dollop on top of the cooled cake or cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles!

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Chocolate and almond cake

Hmm my last recipe was sweet and so is this one… Looks like I’m getting to the ‘cake’ phase of pregnancy. With Lexie, I had a sugar aversion during my first trimester but, by the time I finished breastfeeding, cake had become a major food group. A la ‘sleeping child = nice cup of tea/coffee and slice of cake.’ Indeed it is 3:37pm and, after a lovely and hectic morning at the London Transport museum my child is asleep. Here I sit with a lovely little latte and a slice of this scrummy chocolate and almond cake. If only my flat were tidy rather than toy strewn madhouse then we’d be pretty close to nirvana… (yes I could be tidying up instead of blogging BUT I’M NOT.)

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That picture is not my slice! That’s what is left of the cake at the moment. My much more reasonable portion is pictured below. The other pictures are from the London Transport museum. Ok so the recipe is another recommendation from my friend Dani. I’ve made it about 6 times now and think it tastes better the next day or even after a few days. It’s a Hugh Fearnley jobby (his recipes are so reliable I find, as if he’s Delia’s prodigal son) but I’ve changed it a little after a few mishaps/larder emergencies. I had no caster sugar so twice I used granulated white sugar. I’ve since made the recipe properly (and also once with a bar of Lindt chocolate orange by mistake) and I prefer it with granulated sugar. Lewis says I’m cray cray as one must always bake with caster sugar but I think granulated gives it a cruncher crumb and nicer texture. I also usually half or third the recipe as it’s a big cake.

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Chocolate and almond cake

Prep time: 15-20 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Budget: £5-£10 depending on what essentials you have £5-£10 (£5 chocolate, £1.50 eggs)
Ease: Easy to medium
Serves: At least 6
Ingredients:

  • 250g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids – we use Lindt), broken into chunks
  • 250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 4 medium eggs, separated
  • 200g granulated sugar!!!! Or as the original recipe states either 100g caster mixed with 100g soft light brown sugar OR 200g just caster sugar)
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 23cm springform cake tin

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Preheat the oven to 170/gas 3 and grease the cake tin with butter. I use the leftover paper from the butter used in the recipe to do this. Put the chocolate and butter in a bain marie or, as I do, in a smaller saucepan suspended over a larger pan of barely simmering water, ideally making sure the water isn’t touching the smaller pan. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate have melted.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until well combined. Then stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Combine the flour and almonds and then fold these in.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Stir a large spoonful of egg white into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites with a large metal spoon, trying to keep in as much air as possible. When I first made this, I didn’t mix the egg white in properly so my cake was marbled with streaks of chewy egg white. So it should be a glossy brown when you are done.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin, place in the oven and bake for about 30 mins, until only just set. Hugh says: “It should still wobble slightly in the centre – this means the cake will have a divinely sticky, fudgy texture once it’s cooled down.” YUMMY! Then leave to cool for 10-15 mins before taking it out of the tin. It tastes better cold than warm and way better the next day, especially if you use the granulated sugar.

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Blackberry cobbler (and a summer bucket list)

I thought blackberries arrived in September? Or maybe the end of August? Given the current autumnal chill we are experiencing I guess they’ve come early. In any case it was a total joy to watch Lexie pick and stuff herself with blackberries for the first time this past weekend. We drove to Hurley, on the Thames, to visit the Olde Bell pub as recommended by Dee Purdy’s lovely blog (also check out une belle epoque – gorgeous childrens’ clothing set up by Dee and her sister).

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We were hoping to have the BBQ from the pub’s summer kitchen in their beautiful garden. Instead we got lots of rain. As the summer kitchen was shut we shared a roast beef sandwich and burger from the bar menu. The prices are typical of this sort of pub – £6 sandwiches, £11 burger and there’s also a lovely restaurant with gorgeous Ilse Crawford designed interiors serving Sunday roasts, £24 for two courses. We thought the food was ok but not a patch on the Anchor & Hope and that ilk of gastropub (the Eagle, the Albion etc). But we loved the pub’s gardens, especially the tyre swing which Lexie spent an hour on meaning I could read the weekend papers (thanks Lewis!).

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We also had a lovely walk in the rain along the river where we discovered the aforementioned blackberries. Lexie was super excited about baking them and we talked about what we could make on the drive home. Crumble was the obvious option but I had a hankering to try a cobbler. I’ve only ever eaten cobbler once, a supermarket packet one my mum bought one day when I was a teen. She brought it to the table declaring: “Hurry up, eat it while it’s PIPPING hot.” She had mispronounced the word ‘piping’ she’d read on the packet instructions and me and my dad DIED with laughter. To caveat the tables turn when we go to Spain and my whole family DIE with laughter every time I mispronounce something.

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So cobbler it was. We tried the Alice Bay recipe recommended by Courtney on Babyccino Kids and it was soooo good. Incredibly delicious and very easy to make with Lexie who particularly enjoyed sifting the flour, mixing in the butter with her fingers and stirring the biscuit batter with a fork. I added a little extra sugar which was a mistake and our cobbler was too sweet once the vanilla ice cream was added. Both Lewis and I agreed on this but Lexie stated a few times: “It’s not too sweet mummy, it’s yummy.” There you go. We will definitely make this again and probably vary the fruit (but not the sugar ratio!). A great alternative to a fruit crumble. In fact I think I prefer it to crumble because I’ve not nailed my crumble flour/butter/sugar crumble ratio – if anyone has a good crumble recipe please share!!

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Blackberry cobbler

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins plus 10 mins resting time
Budget: This is a store cupboard essentials recipe so I’d say £4 assuming you have flour, baking powder, sugar, lemons and eggs and pick your own blackberries! (£4 ice cream)
Ease: Easy and very easy to make with kids
Serves 6
Ingredients: In cups as it’s an American recipe. I used a small glass for my cup and it worked out fine.

1½ cups sugar
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups blackberries
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter

BISCUIT TOPPING:

2 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
2/3  cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

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Preheat oven to 200/gas mark 6. Mix the sugar, flour, salt, berries, and lemon juice and pour into a baking dish (13 x 9-inch in the babyccino recipe). Dot the butter on top and bake for 15 minutes until it’s hot and bubbly. While the fruit is cooking make the biscuit topping by mixing together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour mix with your fingers until it’s roughly mixed in. Add milk and beaten egg and stir with a fork until mixed.

When blackberry mixture is hot and bubbly, spoon the biscuit mixture on top in 10 or 12 blobs. Return to oven for 20 minutes until biscuits are browned. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving with lots of lovely vanilla ice cream.

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As it seems summer is almost over I thought I’d record what’s left on our bucket list of things to do – a mix of arts and crafts, activities and places to visit (I figure those we don’t manage can carry over to next summer!!)

  1. Visit London Zoo
  2. Make a summer playlist
  3. Sort out our garden
  4. Visit a strawberry farm
  5. Make fruity ice pops
  6. Do coloured bubble paintings outside
  7. Paint pebbles, shells, sticks
  8. Make a summer mobile
  9. Press flowers
  10. Have a teddy bear’s picnic in the garden
  11. Water pistol fight
  12. Boat trip or family bike ride along Thames
  13. Visit National Trust gardens
  14. Catch shrimp in rock pools
  15. Make flower crowns

And here’s what we have ticked off the list

  • Go camping in new bell tent (Dorset)
  • Go on holiday (to France and Scotland)
  • Make fruity ice cubes
  • Have picnics under trees and cloud watch
  • Go to the market to buy summer fruits
  • Eat lots of watermelon
  • Make lemonade
  • Ice cream dates at Gelateria 3Bis in Borough market (we are now addicted to their takeaway boxes – 500ml or 1L!!)
  • Run through fountains
  • Make sandcastles
  • Make a mini beach in a jar and lobster footprints
  • Make ice animals
  • Make paper boats
  • Paddling pool
  • Have lunch in a pub garden

(To be honest we’re slightly ok with the end of summer, the heat is not great for preggo me and I think we’re a bit knackered from all the lovely holidays and fun – the last few days have been the laziest ever with too much Cbeebies). That said we’re off to San Sebastian early September to celebrate mum’s 80th with her family and will be staying by the beach so a little bit of Indian summer wouldn’t go amiss!)

 

Baked rhubarb with orange and ginger

Rhubarb isn’t very Spanish and I was in my 20s the first time I had it. I think it was my mother-in-law who made me the most delicious rhubarb fool served with sable biscuits. This recipe is also hers – dreamy rhubarb baked with orange and ginger and served with vanilla ice cream. The perfect desert after a long Sunday lunch!

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Baked rhubarb with orange and ginger

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20-30 mins in the oven or 15 mins on the hob
Budget: £5-10 (£3 rhubarb, 50p orange, £4 ice cream)
Ease: easy
Serves 4

  • 1 bunch of rhubarb, ends trimmed
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • A few chunks of peeled ginger
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Vanilla ice cream

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Put the chopped rhubarb into a baking tray with the sugar, ginger and orange. Cover with foil and bake at 180 for 20-30 mins. Or you can cook covered on the hob for 10-15 mins. When it’s done the rhubarb should be all fluffy with a gorgeous red syrup. Remove the ginger and serve hot with scoops of vanilla ice cream!

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Valentine’s stained glass biscuits (and origami message hearts)

I love the idea of a day celebrating love. Valentine’s day does not fill me with nausea, to the contrary, I think it’s sweet and romantic. This year, because the depth of feeling for my daughter continues to overwhelm me, Valentine’s pays homage to this love. A favourite children’s book comes to my mind – Mama do you love me? Set in the Alaskan wilderness, it’s about a daughter testing the limits of her mother’s unconditional love, asking her over and over: “Mama do you love me?”… “What if I put salmon in your parka?”… “What if I turned into a polar bear and I was the meanest bear you ever saw?” Of course each time the mother responds that she will still love her daughter:

“I will love you,
forever and for always,
because you are
my Dear One.”

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Today I entered a competition where I had to submit my favourite picture of us. I chose the picture above. Lexie was one day old and weighed six pounds. I love the look of astonishment in my face – she looked like a little china doll – so tiny and precious. Those fleeting moments when time stands still and I’m upended by just how extraordinary children are, how extraordinary my child is: ‘Every day you play with the light of the universe’

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My Dear One and I did two sweet things together today in honour of Saint Valentine! First we made these pretty origami hearts to put messages in and give to our friends and loved ones. I made the hearts and Lexie wrote the messages which she did very diligently with a silvery pen.

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We also had a not so successful stab at making stained glass heart biscuits. I meant to make these for Christmas using Mary Berry’s recipe but never got round to it. Lexie really enjoyed making them, especially separating the colourful sweets then bashing them with a rolling pin. Our downfall was not having baking paper so we might give them another go when I get some! Or use jam instead. For our love songs we listened to Dos Gardenias from Buena Vista Social Club which I once asked Lewis to translate as Spanish homework (we agreed after 3 weeks of ‘lessons’, during an argument in Spanish on the Machu Picchu trail, that I shouldn’t teach him Spanish).

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Stained glass biscuits 

Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 12-15 mins
Budget: £5 (£1 boiled sweets, £1 plain flour, £1.50 butter, £1 caster sugar)
Ease: Not sure – easy recipe and easy to make the dough, the stained glass element is a bit tricky
Makes 20 biscuits (I halved the recipe to make 10)

  • 175g (6oz) butter, softened
  • 100g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 225g (8oz) plain flour
  • About 20 boiled sweets (in different colours)

Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas 3. Line two baking trays with NON STICK baking paper. If you don’t have wood floors (sigh) put a huge splash mat down around where your child will be ‘creating’. Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and cream using a wooden spoon. Add the flour and use your hands to make the dough.

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Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface using a rolling pin until it’s about 0.5cm (¼in) thick. You need a 2 different sized heart cutters or one small heart cutter and one larger round cutter. Use your large cutter to cut out the shapes. Use the smaller cutter of to cut the middle out of each shape, leaving about 1cm (½in) of biscuit around the edge. Arrange the cut biscuits on the baking sheets. I let Lexie go to town on half the dough, then I slightly… ok very competitively cut the most perfect heart shapes of all time (scary mum alert!).

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Separate the boiled sweets into their colours and put them in plastic bags (one colour in each bag). Crush using a rolling pin until they’re fine grains. Every time we did this the bag burst – I have no idea how Mary Berry achieves her fine grains, we made a right old mess of it! At one point Lexie started licking the table… Anyway however you get your grains, once you have them sprinkle into the middle of the biscuits.

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Bake in the preheated oven for about 12-15 minutes or until the biscuits are a pale gold and the sweets inside them have melted. Leave to stand on the trays for about 5 minutes to cool slightly, then carefully transfer to a wire rack or plate and leave to cool completely and firm up. Don’t be tempted to overcook if they look a little soft, they firm up when cooling. 

Apparently they can be made up to 2 days ahead and kept in a sealed box but we don’t know because ours just stuck to the baking tray sob! Luckily I made a few little heart biscuits to use up the excess dough and they were yummy so at least Lexie got to eat something!

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(EDIT: I suddenly recall every Valentines growing up my mum getting so excited about giving me a Valentines card. I never really understood why…)

me and my lovely mum

Chocolate mousse

My favourite restaurant in Paris is called Le Square Trousseau. It’s so beautiful. The original zinc bar has featured in lots of movies and the food is classic and incredible – garlic snails, steak and chips, steak tartare, confit duck, lemon sole – as are the wines (Drappier champagne, Morgon reds). They always have an ‘all you can eat’ chocolate mousse on the dessert list which sounds quite naff but is so divine! You get a huge bowl of chocolate mousse to share regardless of the size of your group and you pay for what you eat – it’s heavenly.

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After a particularly stressful evening trying to get our daughter to sleep Lewis surprised me with a tray of chocolate mousses. He’d made them as I’d been trying to settle her. Amazing! And totally delicious (although I had to wait for them to chill before I got to eat them!). He adapted Simon Hopkinson recipe from the gloriously retro ‘The Prawn Cocktail Years’. We now leave out the rum and coffee – I ate one and found it impossible to sleep so… This also proved to be the perfect dessert for my celebratory birthday dinner with old school friends I rarely see without children!

(Quick note: I’m keen to try this chocolate mousse recipe – maybe without the salted caramel – when I do I’ll update this post and compare.)

Chocolate mousse (serves 4)

Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 6 hours or overnight in the fridge to set

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate
  • 4 tbsp water (or 3 tbps expresso coffee and 1 1/2 tbps rum)
  • 25g butter
  • 3 large eggs – separated

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Break the chocolate into bits and place in a bowl with the butter and water. Suspend bowl (as in not in contact with) over a pan of simmering water. Let the ingredients melt stirring gently from time to time.

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Once melted remove the bowl from the pan and stir the egg yolks in one by one. Beat the egg whites until they are fluffy. Take 2 tbpn of egg white and fold into the chocolate mixture. Then fold the rest of the egg white in with a metal spoon until it’s completely mixed.

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Pour the mixture into little ramekins or glasses, cover with cling film and leave in fridge to chill for 6 hours or overnight.

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Chocolate chip cookies

A few years ago I spent Christmas in the Basque country with my family. The main celebration is on Christmas Eve with everyone out in the bars, dressed in traditional Basque clothes. Male choirs walk around the town singing carols then everyone goes home around 10pm to start dinner. The food is incredible – jamon, foie gras, smoked salmon, asparagus, steak, turrones…

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Basque men

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The whole experience was amazing but I was heartsick as Lewis was home in London. One phone call to him made me particularly maudlin. It was Christmas Eve and he was looking after his dad’s dog and making chocolate chip cookies to give to his family as presents… awwww! Of course he made me the cookies upon my return and they’ve been a favourite ever since.

The recipe is Hugh Fearnley and very easy to make with kids. They take about 7 minutes to bake and the day we realised we could freeze them in batches then cook from frozen was a very good day!

Chocolate chip cookies (makes 12-14 cookies)

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 75g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped into smallish chunks – Bourneville or Sainsbury’s dark chocolate are nice

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees and grease a baking tray with butter. Weigh out all your ingredients (tutu optional).

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Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Put the sugars into a mixing bowl, pour in the melted butter and beat well with a wooden spoon. Beat in the egg and vanilla (this is Lewis ‘adding vanilla for Phillipa blog’ face).

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Sift the flour into the bowl and add the baking powder and salt. Stir them in, then add the chopped chocolate (eat some chocolate).

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Using two tablespoons put little blobs of cookie dough on to the baking tray – leave lots of space between them. Either use 2 baking trays or bake in 2 batches (or freeze half the cookie balls – see below). Bake for 8-10 mins until the cookies are pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave for a few minutes then use a spatula to put the cookies on a wire rack or plate to cool. I always eat at least one cookie straight from the oven when it’s all goey chocolately (or “chocolalli” as Lexie’s little friend Bonnie says). Lexie prefers to eat hers nudie on the sofa. Remember to store them in a biscuit tin so they are nice the next day. 

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To freeze the cookies (we usually bake 6 and freeze 6) put the little blobs of cookie on a plate and pop in the freezer. Once they are pretty frozen you can pop them into a plastic freezer bag. Then every time you want a cookie just take a ball out of the freezer and bake in the oven for 8-10 mins. This is Lewis ‘putting the cookies in the freezer for Phillipa’s blog’ face.

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