Amaryllis – no one year wonder

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Amaryllis Picotee in spring last year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ve been compiling this week’s post for a while, and I have been in a bit of a dilemma as to the best time to go public with it.

Often given as Christmas presents, Hippeastrum hybrida, commonly known as Amaryllis, will begin to grow soon into the new year if they have sufficient warmth and light, but where I am in the north of the UK, I find it a challenge to get the bulbs started much before late spring. I do love their big voluptuous blooms, so flamboyant for something that grows in such a confined space. I’ve purchased many a variety over the years but it’s only recently that I have realised that you can keep the bulbs from one year to the next, and have them flower again. So while I wait for mine to start shooting, I thought I would post this week for the benefit of anyone who has been enjoying their Amaryllis already this year and who wants to do so again.

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Amaryllis first and second time around. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When I first planted the Amaryllis bulb back in 2017, the following spring, I was delighted to see 2 strong stems of flowers forming, I ended up with 4 blooms on each stem and they lasted in succession for several weeks. Once the flower buds form, move the plant to a cooler spot, still in the light as too much warmth and mean that the flowers will go over quickly.

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When the floral show is over. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When the final flower has faded, cut off the stalk but leave the plant in the light and  warmth, and continue to water and feed as usual. You need to encourage the plant to grow foliage so that it can photosynthesize and build itself up for next year. These plants are best left indoors; they are not very robust and can’t tolerate variable climates.

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Green foliage and the dormant season. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In late summer, you will notice that the foliage will begin to die back. Stop watering at this point and allow the foliage to dry and shrivel. Store the bulb, still in its pot, in a cool place, unwatered, so that it can become dormant over the Autumn and into winter. Leave it like this for at least 6 weeks, and don’t let the temperature get below 10°C.

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New shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As the coolness of winter approaches, bring the bulb back into the warm and start watering and feeding again, and soon the shoots will appear. Don’t over-water otherwise the bulb will rot, but make sure the soil doesn’t dry out completely. In the second year, my Amaryllis produced one flower stem with five blooms attached.

After the second year of flowering, you might want to re-pot the bulb when the flowers have died down. They don’t like too much space, so only upsize if really necessary and then only transfer to a pot one size up from the original. Take care with the roots, they don’t like root disturbance either.

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A stunning floral display, 2 years running, Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It looks like my bulb is a long way from doing anything at the moment. The weather is too cold and dull for it to get it started. But I am looking forward to it’s splendid display in a couple of months time. Until my next post, I wish you well and hope you have a good few days ahead.

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Amaryllis with 5 blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Gingerbread cupcakes and cookies (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Gingerbread cupcakes. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I have two lighthearted recipes for you this week. One for cake and one for cookies, and if you choose to, you can make either or both 🙂

I don’t think there are many people who can resist a  gingerbread man cookie. They look so cute for one thing and then there is the sweetness and the mellow spiciness of gingerbread itself. It is a perfect bake for this time of year with its warming and comforting aroma and flavour.

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Just waiting to be eaten. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The gingerbread men cookies keep very well in an airtight container for over a week, and also freeze well. The cakes are best eaten within 24 hours, so you may want to ice a few at a time. After 24 hours, I find that the cake dries. The cake batter has a relatively low fat content compared to other cake recipes so the keeping qualities are reduced. No matter, the cakes and the frosting freeze fine too. By the way, the uniced cakes can be served warm as a pudding, just pop in the microwave for a few seconds and voila!

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Mini homemade gingerbread men cookies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On with the recipes. They are remarkably similar in ingredients and straightforward to make so I hope you enjoy making them 🙂

Gingerbread men cookies

Makes: approx. 25

Ingredients:

  • 75g plain gluten-free flour blend (such as Doves’ Farm) + extra for dusting
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 25g dairy-free margarine
  • 40g soft dark brown sugar
  • 25g golden or corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp white icing for decorating (I make mine simply with 2 tbsp icing sugar and a few drops of water)
  1. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the spices into a bowl and rub in the margarine with your fingertips until well blended. Stir in the sugar.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the syrup, then mix everything together well to make a softish, smooth dough.
  3. Lightly dust the work surface with a little more flour and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 3mm. Use a small gingerbread man cutter to cut out shapes, gathering and re-rolling the trimmings as necessary. My cutter is 6cm tall, and I made 25 cookies. Transfer to the baking trays and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 170°C fan oven, gas 5 and bake the cookies for about 10 minutes until firm and lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  5. When cool, put the icing in a piping bag (no nozzle necessary). Snip off a tiny piece from the end and pipe features on each cookie. Leave for a few minutes to dry before storing in an airtight container.
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    Making, baking and decorating gingerbread men cookies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

     

Gingerbread cupcakes

Makes: 12

Ingredients

  • 300g plain gluten-free flour blend
  • 20g gluten-free baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 190g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped (optional)
  • 75ml vegetable oil
  • 225ml plant-based milk (I used oat milk)

Lightly spiced frosting

  • 100g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1 tbsp ginger wine or the syrup from stem ginger jar if using (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C fan oven, gas 4. Line 12 muffin or cupcake tins with paper cases. Sieve the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Add the sugar and stem ginger if using. Mix everything together.
  2. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and milk. Gradually work the dry ingredients into the liquid and continue mixing until all the ingredients are well blended and make a smooth, thick batter.

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    Gingerbread cupcake batter. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Divide between the cases and bake for about 30 minutes until just firm to the touch – they do sink a little bit so don’t worry. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. For the frosting, put the margarine in a bowl and beat to make it smooth and glossy, then gradually sieve over the icing sugar, in small batches, mixing it in well after each addition, to make a smooth, soft and fluffy icing. Stir in the spices and ginger wine or syrup if using.
  5. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small closed star nozzle, and pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake. If you don’t fancy piping, simply smooth some frosting on top using a small palette knife.
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    Baking and decorating gingerbread cupcakes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    Just before serving, pop a gingerbread man cookie on top of each cupcake. The cookies will go soft if left on top of the cakes for more than half an hour, so best leave the arranging until the last minute to eat them at their crisp best.

    Have a good few days. Until next time, happy baking!

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    Love at first bite. Image: Kathryn Hawkins