Saturday, 7 December 2013

Getting in the Festive Spirit!

Until Christmas last year I had never tried Stollen. One day in December 2012 my workmate brought some in that she didn't want and as they say the rest is history.  
So this year I decided it was time for me to return the favor. Suffice to say it went down pretty well at work and also at my parents house when I took round the leftovers.
Now, this Stollen does keep quite well (I've been eating it for my elevenses for most of the week) but is best eaten on the day of baking. Also, the recipe says that this will make a 'large' loaf. For 'large' see 'absolutely gargantuan'! It can easily feed 12!

The recipe is taken from Ed Kimber's Say it with Cake, with a few of my own adjustments and ingredient switch ups.


250ml milk
100g butter
500g strong bread flour
1 tablespoon mixed spice
50g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7g fast action yeast
1 large egg
150g raisins
25g chopped glace cherries
25g halved almonds
200g golden marzipan
50g melted butter for glazing
icing sugar for dusting

Firstly put the milk and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter has melted. Allow this to cool until it is lukewarm. (This is important, if you don't let it cool you will kill your yeast!)
In a large bowl mix in the flour, mixed spice, sugar, salt and yeast together, making sure to put the salt and yeast on separate sides of the bowl (salt will kill your yeast too). Then pour in your milk and butter and work together with a wooden spoon and then your hands to form a soft dough. 
Turn this out onto a floured work surface and knead for 15 minutes or until you have formed a smooth, elastic dough. 
Then flatten the dough out and sprinkle over the fruit and almonds. Knead until the fruit is all evenly distributed. 
Lightly oil a bowl, plop your dough inside, clover with clingfilm and leave in a consistently warm place until the dough has doubled in size. (My flat is freezing during the day in the winter so I find the best place is actually in the oven on the lowest setting possible for an hour).  
Once risen turn out onto a floured surface and lightly knead to knock some of the air out. It should look all stringy and holey underneath. Since this dough is very soft it is now best to press it out (instead of rolling) to a large rectangle. About 25 x 30cm. 
Take your marzipan and roll out to a sausage of the same length as your dough rectangle. Place this in the middle of your dough and fold the dough over, pressing it around all sides to seal the edges. 
Now the challenging bit. Gently lift the dough onto a large baking sheet lined with baking parchment. (This was mildly terrifying, but its very forgiving dough! Also it's a loaf, so it really doesn't matter if it looks a little messy!)
Place back in your warm place for 30 mins or until it has grown in size. 
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 190C/374F. 
Before you put the loaf in the oven brush with half of the melted butter. 
Bake for 35-40 minutes until the loaf is browned and there is a hollow sound when you tap the bottom. Keep an eye on it towards the end of the cooking time as it will turn quickly. 
Allow your loaf to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes then brush with the remaining melted butter and dust with icing sugar. 
Leave to cool completely before eating. 

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Katie x

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

It's now December and we are in the official run up to Christmas! I can't even tell you how excited I am. This has always been my favorite time of year. Not so much the day itself, but the next couple of weeks are always so magical.

I have been using the recipe for years for various different shaped and size biscuits. I scaled it down by 2 thirds for these biscuits (makes 32 5cm stars), so it can be scaled up for more or bigger biscuits.
These are crunchy, nibbly biscuits that are perfect when dunked in hot chocolate, tea or coffee. They are flavored with what I have always called 'Winter Spice'. It's the kind of flavor that I always associate with this time of year. (Also, your house will smell AMAZING when they are cooking!!)

Winter Stars

30g butter
30 light brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon black treacle
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
half teaspoon bicarbonate soda
80g flour

Preheat the oven to 180C/356F. 
Put the butter, syrup, treacle and spices in a small saucepan and heat gently until everything is dissolved (be careful not to overheat or your biscuits will taste burnt). 
Put the flour and bicab in bowl and mix in the melted winter spice. Combine until it forms a smooth soft dough. 
Roll out on a lightly floured work surface to a 5mm thickness. Using a cutter of your choice cut out and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. 
Bake for 10 mins on a middle shelf (keep an eye on them as they cook very quickly!)
Allow to cool on a wire rack and definitely try one when they are still warm! 

Happy Baking!


Saturday, 30 November 2013

Autumn Cookies

We are in that weird transition season at the moment. One day you are wrapped up with your scarf, gloves and winter coat and then the next day you are stripping them back off!
But even with all the clothing drama my favorite thing about this time of year is to curl up on the sofa with a massive woolly jumper, a mug of hot chocolate and a couple of crunchy biscuits.

Chocolate and Vanilla Pinwheel Cookies

This recipe makes about 20 small cookies and takes about 1hr 20mins for prep time and cooking.

For the vanilla biscuit
50g butter
25g golden caster sugar
25g cornflour
50 plain flour
1/2 egg
teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the chocolate biscuit
50g butter
25g golden caster sugar
25g cornflour
40g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
1/2 egg

Put all the vanilla biscuit ingredients in a bowl and mix together to form a soft dough.. Then wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins. Then do the same for the chocolate biscuit. 
On a floured work surface roll out both the chocolate and vanilla dough's to about 5mm thickness, ensuring both are the same size. 
Lay the vanilla dough on top of the chocolate dough and roll up like a swiss roll. Wrap this in cling film and then pop in the freezer for 15 mins. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 180C/356F and line a baking tray with parchment. 

Using a sharp knife cut the roll into slices and place on the tray. Bake in the oven for 20 mins or until they look golden in color. Allow to cool on a wire rack and then pop the kettle on and enjoy!

Happy Baking!


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Stuffed Bonfire Night Apples

"Remember Remember, The Fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason And Plot. I See No Reason Why The Gunpowder Treason Should Ever Be Forgot!"

Today when I left for work it was absolutely freezing and I seriously wasn't dressed for it! So when I got home I was in the mood for something autumny and wintery. For me, this time of year is all about cinnamon and cloves and mixed spice. I just love that smell and just can't get enough of them. 
I feel I have to warn you that when you cook this your entire house will smell so good that you'll have your nose pressed up against the oven like some kind of winter spice junkie! 

Stuffed Bonfire Night Spicy Apples

2 Braburn Apples 
a handfull of raisins
a handfull of granola (I used Quaker Oats Granola - best cereal EVER!)
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
2 tablespoons of demerara sugar
2 nobs of butter
approximately 40 whole cloves

Preheat the oven to 180C/356F. 
Firstly core the apples and score them around the middle (this stops them bursting open in the oven). 
The skin of a braburn apple is quite soft so it will be easy to poke the apple with the cloves. Make 3 lines of cloves around each apple.
Then in a bowl mix together the sugar, cinnamon, mixed spice, granola and raisins. 
Put the apples in a deep sided brownie tin and fill the middle of each apple with the mixture. 
Put a nob of butter on the top of each apple and pour a little bit water into the tin. 
Then bake for 30 minutes and enjoy the delicious smells!
Once cooked leave to cool for at least 5 minutes (they will be like an inferno inside so be careful) and then enjoy! 

I hope everyone has a lovely Bonfire Night!


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has had a great Halloween! Bring on Bonfire Night!


GBBO - The Final Bake

It's over! I can't believe the Great British Bake Off is really finished for another year. I seriously don't know what I'm going to do with my Tuesday evenings. Thank god for the masterclasses!
I'm happy that Francis won though, she was so creative throughout the whole competition that she put the other bakers to shame. Her final showstopper 'Midsummer Night's Dream' cake was just beautiful.

Now, after 10 weeks of bakes I'm in serious need of a GBBO detox. With that in mind I didn't want a large showstopper cake lying around, the pasty basket pie looked all sorts of weird and I seriously don't like pretzels. I had reached somewhat of a dead end to my bake along.

So, with a nod to the last series of GBBO I got 'Brilliant Bread' by James Morton, aka the amazing jumpered baking beauty, off my recipe book shelf and decided to make something new.

Now, I know bagels and pretzels are similar, but I'm strange and despite hating pretzels, love bagels! These are poppyseed and Marmite flavor and I cannot say enough about them. AMAZING! I thoroughly recommend giving Baking James' recipe a go. (It's also easy enough for a yeast-a-phobe like me to easily follow).

Now that GBBO is over.......what next??



Sunday, 20 October 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 9

It's the semi finals! Time for something a bit more tricky and a bit more fussy! (Totally not what I like to bake, but oh well). 
For my bake along I've never picked a 'Signature Bake' so I thought it was about time I did. I'm not a massive fan of canapés, I think this is mainly because I associate them with boring buffets at weddings. But maybe its time to give them a go. 

The gbbo challenge was to make 3 types of canapé. One with shortcrust pastry, one with choux pastry and another of my choice. That being said, I decided to make these....

Carrot and Coriander Tarts

Cheddar and Pancetta Choux Puffs

Cheese and Chive Oaty Biscuits

Carrot and Coriander Tarts

100g plain flour
pinch of salt
60g butter
1 small egg yolk
2 tablespoons of ice cold water

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped (save a few peelings for decoration)
1 tablespoon of dried coriander
1/2 pint of vegetable stock

Put the chopped carrots, coriander and stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then turn down to a simmer. 
Put the flour and salt in a bowl, then add the butter, egg yolk and water. Bring together into a dough, flatten and wrap in cling film. Put into the fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes. 
Once chilled roll out on a floured surface. I then used a 8cm circular cookie cutter which fit my muffin tray, to cut out 9 rounds. 
Put these into the greased baking tray and into a preheated oven at 190C/375F for 25 minutes. Once golden, remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.  
Once the carrots are soft remove from the heat and mash (or blend if you have a blender) until it forms a smooth consistency. 
Then simply put a spoonful of the carrot mixture in each pastry case and add a twirl of carrot shaving for decoration. 

Cheddar and Pancetta Choux Puffs

50g butter
125ml milk
50g pancetta cubes
25g mature cheddar
75g plain flour
2 medium eggs
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. 
Put a small saucepan on a gentle heat, add a little oil and the pancetta. Put another larger pan on the hob, add the milk and butter and warm on a low heat.
Meanwhile, grate the cheese into a bowl and stir in the flour and salt. 
Once the pancetta is browned, remove from the heat and cool on a sheet of kitchen towel to soak up any excess oil.
When the butter has melted turn it up till the mixture boils. As soon as it has, take off the heat and pour in the cheese and flour mixture. Beat with a wooden spoon until the pastry comes away from the sides of the pan. 
Pour into a desert bowl and spread it around to encourage it to cool. 
Once cooled slightly break in one egg and beat for a couple of minutes. Then add the next egg and beat. (It looks a bit grim at this point, but keep beating!) It will finally come together and look like thick cake batter. Finally, stir in the pancetta. 
Now pour the dough into a piping bag and pipe blobs onto the lined baking sheet, spaced about 3cm apart. 
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until they are crisp and golden. 

And finally, the easiest of the three....

Cheese and Chive Oaty Biscuits

50g caster sugar
100g butter
100g porridge oats
50g plain flour

70g soft cheese
bunch of small chives

Preheat the oven to 160C/320F and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Beat the sugar and butter together in a bowl, until creamy. Then add in the flour and oats. Mix together to form a dough and then bring together with your hands. 
Chill for 15 mins in the fridge and then roll out to the desired thickness. 
Using a 5cm cookie cutter, cut out the biscuits and place on the tray. Bake for 20 minutes, then leave to cool on a wire rack.
Mix the soft cheese and chives together in a bowl and then add a dollop to each biscuit. 
For decoration sprinkle a few chives on each biscuit. 

And voila! The canapé challenge is done!

Happy Baking!


P.s This is what happens when you try to complete the challenge within 2 hours like they did on the show...Kitchen chaos!!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 8

The leaves are turning, winter coats are being aired out and the pumpkin spice latte is back in Starbucks. It must be Autumn! My favorite time of year has finally arrived.
A couple of years ago I discovered the deliciousness that is a pumpkin and I've never looked back.

Time for a showstopper!!

This is my own recipe and it is completely gluten free. There is a lot of chat in the media and also in the scientific community about the level of gluten we (as a society) now eat. The level of processed food available has completely changed our diets. When I was at university I got stuck in the typical lifestyle, including eating terrible food for 3 whole years. I felt constantly awful (and had terrible skin and hair).
I cut as much refined gluten out of my diet as possible just over a year ago and I can honestly say I don't miss it and have never felt better in myself. I'm not saying cut it out completely (who can live without bread?) but like all things, moderation is the key.
Gluten babble over...

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cake

250g pumpkin
75g sultanas
250g ground almonds
150g golden caster sugar
125ml olive oil
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a square 20x20cm tin with baking parchment. 
Grate the pumpkin (with skin removed) and then lay it out on a couple of sheets of kitchen roll to soak up as much moisture as possible. 
In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and oil until creamy and well mixed. Then add in the vanilla extract and eggs. Whisk until the mixture looks like cake batter. As there are no other rising agents in this cake, the more you whisk here the higher the rise will be. 
Finally, carefully fold in the ground almonds, grated pumpkin, sultanas, lemon juice and spices. 
Gently pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. 

When its removed from the oven allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes in the tin and then remove and cool on a wire rack. Fyi, this cake doesn't rise much so don't panic if you don't see much change when you are oven watching. 

For the decoration....

Using 2 different sized round cookie cutters cut out a small circle for every large circle. This recipe will make 6 mini pumpkin cakes. 
Then using some pumpkin jam (or jam of your choice) sandwich a small cake on top of each larger cake. 
Roll out rounds of orange fondant icing and cover each mini cake. You'll find that the cake is so moist that you won't have to crumb coat. 
Using the handle end of a spoon create an indent from the top center of the cake  down each side. Don't bother trying to get each indent perfectly distanced, they look a lot better when they are higgledy piggledy (technical term). 
I then used a leaf plunge icing cutter to cut out the leaves from green fondant. I also rolled up lengths for the vines and a tiny bit of brown fondant for the stalks. 

The showstopper challenge on GBBO called for a slightly larger cake but for us 'not in a baking competition' folk having that much cake around is just plain dangerous! Hence the mini cakes.
I hope that you all have a lovely weekend, I'm off to make soup with the leftover pumpkin!

Happy Baking!


Sunday, 6 October 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 7

Pasty week, duh duh dun!! I'll admit, I'm pretty lazy when it comes to pastry. Shortcrust, sweet and puff can all be bought so easily from a supermarket that I very rarely make my own and I've never made my own puff pastry.
The choice of this week's challenge was easy then. Time for a Showstopper!
The last time I had a Vanilla Custard Mille Feuille was from Patisserie Valerie in Bath, and before that it was at The Ritz, so no pressure...

This recipe is stagey. I made the pastry the day before I cooked it as well, as you need to let it chill for at least 6 hours. Don't be scared, apart from taking time (it's something you can't rush) making puff pastry isn't hard, just time consuming. we go...!

Vanilla Custard Mille Feuille

This recipe makes 6 Mille Feuille's.

For the pastry 
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
250g butter
150ml cold water

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and put in the fridge for a few minutes. 
Cut the butter up into a small cubes and get your water ready in a jug (1). Also, lay out a large piece of cling film on a counter surface.
Then put the butter into the bowl of the flour and stir with a metal knife until each cube of butter it completely covered in flour (2). Pour in the water and quickly bring the dough together with one hand. 
Turn the dough out onto the clingfilm and swash into a large flat disc. Wrap it up and put in the fridge for half an hour. 

The next stage is the rolling, folding and chilling. 
Take you pastry out of the fridge and roll out on a floured surface (3). Taking care the whole time to only roll in one direction. Fold the pastry over and roll again (4). Repeat this 4 more times, then wrap the pastry back up in the cling film and put it back in the fridge. (Now it's time to make a cuppa/put the washing on/do a bit of washing up/watch some telly).
After 15 mins take it back out the fridge and repeat the process of folding and rolling. 
When you are finally happy that you can't see anymore cubes of butter (it should look marbley) and you've put in as many layers as possible wrap it back up and chill in the fridge until you need it.

The next day I got up, put my apron on and started making the Creme Patisserie filling. Just before you start making the filling roll out the pastry to 5mm thickness, place on lined baking trays and bake for 30 minutes at 200C/400F.

For the Creme Pat
4 medium egg yolks
65g caster sugar
15g plain flour
15g cornflour
350ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or paste if your budget allows)

In a large saucepan heat the milk and vanilla extract over a gentle heat.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until they turn a pale gold color. Then whisk in the flour and cornflour and put to one side. 
Once the milk is simmering take it off the heat, leave it for 30 seconds, the pour half into the mixing bowl whisking vigorously. Then pour the custard into the saucepan and bring the mixture up to the boil whisking continuously. (Seriously, don't stop stirring!)
Keep going until the custard is smooth and thick. 
Take off the heat and immediately transfer to a clean bowl and cool as fast as possible (dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming). 

Now for the construction (both the pastry and the custard need to be cool for this).

Cut the cooked puff into 18 rectangles and then put the custard into a piping bag. 
Lay the bottom layers of pastry out (the ones that look the worse!) and pipe on a layer of custard. Repeat and then put on the top layer. Chill the slices in the fridge until serving. 

I took these round to my parent's house and even after a family dinner and pudding an hour later these disappeared with a cup of tea. With approval all round I was pretty happy with how they turned out. Not quite Patisserie Valarie standard, but what can you do!



Tuesday, 1 October 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 6

This week's bake along was a bit different. I had help!

It was sweet dough week on GBBO and the females in my family have always had a certain weakness for sweet dough. So, it was only natural then that I up camp, pack up my baking stuff and roll up at my parents house for this week's bake.

The technical bake this week just looked so delicious that I knew I had to give it a go. Everyone in the competition seemed to do well, so surely it would be easy? (How naive I was...!)
Now, the original plan was not to bake at my parent's house, but to get up at the crack of dawn, prep the dough and let it prove (going back to sleep in the meantime), then shape and bake. I would then turn up at my parents, beautiful Couronne in tow.
That didn't happen.
My first batch of dough was so wet and sticky even after the first prove I was forced to abandon it.
I have to admit that the second batch was handed over to my sister to deal with (in-between updating her own blog).

But between the two of us (and my mum's advice and opinions) we managed to produce our own Apricot Couronne. It looks a little messy (though nothing that flaked almonds can't hide) but it tastes amazing!

We used Paul Hollywood's recipe for this, below, and perhaps wisely stuck to it word for word with absolutely no deviations!

Apricot Couronne

For the dough
250g strong white bread flour
50g butter, softened
150ml milk
10g fast action yeast
1 large egg, beaten

For the filling
120g dried apricot
150ml orange juice
90g butter
70g light muscovado sugar
35g plain flour
60g raisins
65g choppedd walnuts
grated zest 1 orange

To finish
50g apricot jam
flaked almonds

To start with, put the chopped apricots in a jug with the orange juice and set aside. 
To make the dough put the flour, butter, milk, yeast, egg and 1 tsp of salt in a bowl and mix to form a dough. Then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 6 minutes.
Put the dough in a mixing bowl, cover with cling film and put in a warm place to rise for a least an hour (until it has doubled in size - because of the butter in the dough this will take longer than you think!)

Meanwhile mix together the filling. Cream the butter and muscovado sugar in a bowl. Then add the drained apricots, flour, raisins, walnuts and orange zest and mix well.

Turn out the risen dough and roll out to a rectangle about 25 x 30 cm. Evenly spread the filling over the dough then roll up tightly (like you would if you were making Chelsea buns or a Swiss roll). 
Lay out the dough in front out you and cut it length ways. Twist the 2 lengths together, then shape into a ring on a lined baking sheet. 
Loosely cover with cling film and leave to rise again for about an hour. 

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/392F for 30 minutes (or longer if necessary), until it is risen and golden. 
Towards the end of the baking time warm the jam in a saucepan. 
When the Couronne has been removed from the oven brush with the apricot jam and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. 
Then try and resist it while it cools! 

I have to say, 'day old Couronne' is actually nicer than 'freshly baked Couronne'. I had a piece for my elevenses 2 day's running and it keeps beautifully. Both my Mum and Sister have said the same!



P.s. I'm considering making my own puff pastry this week.........wish me luck!  

Sunday, 22 September 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 5

I literally cannot describe how excited I was about this week's challenge. Is there anything better than a nice crunchy biscuit with a cup of tea after a hard day? Actually, no matter what your day was like and no matter the time of day, a cuppa and a biscuit always hits the spot!

I love biscuits, to the point that I have to hid them or I'll happily munch my way through a whole packet!

Last weekend I went with some friends and family to The Cake and Bake Show at Earls Court, in London. While there I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of thee nicest biscuits I've ever had from the lovely Cinnamon Tree Bakery, along with a serious amount of taste tests!
I also had the excitement of meeting bakers from this and previous series' of GBBO. I'm not even a bit ashamed to say I went slightly fan-girl.

But anyway, this week I decided to go for the Show Stopper (though I have just realised I didn't adhere the criteria of it being 30cm tall. Paul and Mary would not be happy. Whoops!)

 Birthday Biscuit Castle

Firstly, to make this castle you have to do a reasonable amount of baking and in multiple batches, so it is not only worth planning ahead but also planning the size of your castle. 
In my bake each turret is 12 biscuits high and the circular cookie cutter used was 6cm in diameter. 
The castle sides were 9cm x 9cm, the arrow loops 3cm x 1cm and the drawbridge 3cm x 2cm.  
Naturally this can be adapted to suit your own wants/needs. 

Chocolate and Earl Grey Biscuit Dough
175g softened butter
1 earl grey tea bag
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
100g golden caster sugar
225g plain flour

Lavender and Lemon Biscuit Dough
260g softened butter
2 tablespoons of dried lavender (I got mine from The Jersey Lavender Farm
Zest of 2 lemons
150g golden caster sugar
340g plain flour

A small amount of royal icing is also needed for construction. 

Get out 2 large mixing bowls. Add 175g of butter to one, then add the tea leaves from the teabag and the cocoa powder. Beat together until the flavourings are incorporated into the butter. Repeat with the 260g of butter in the other mixing bowl, adding the dried lavender and lemon zest and beat. 
Then add the sugar to both bowls and beat again. 
Then finally stir in the flour to both bowls. Bring the 2 lots of dough together with your hands in each separate bowl. Give them both a bit of a knead, as they need to be strong enough to support themselves in a structure. 
Then wrap both doughs in cling film and put them in the fridge to firm for at least 15 minutes. While you are waiting pre-heat the oven to 160C/320F. 

Now for the baking and construction (see picture below);
1 - Once chilled roll out the choc and tea dough and cut out 24 biscuits (you should have a little leftover). Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. While the choc biscuits are in the oven cut out the 24 lavender and lemon biscuits. Once cooked remove the choc biscuits from the oven, put in the lavender biscuits and then cut out the castle sides and add-ons. Apart from measuring to ensure the sides were 9cm x 9cm, I cut the battlements, window and front gate out freehand with a sharp knife. (Fyi - If you want to be crazy anal about it, each castle side was 130g of dough). Finally with the remaining chocolate dough cut out the arrow loops and the drawbridge. Bake everything! 
2 - Once everything is cooled, use a bit of royal icing to stick the arrow loops to the sides of the castle. Put in the fridge to set while you do the next step.
3 - Stack the circular biscuits on top of each other in the four corners of your presentation board to form the turrets. You can add a dollop of royal icing between each biscuit layer if you want to be certain there is no movement.
4 - Then take each castle side and wedge them in position with a little bit of royal icing acting as glue. 
5 & 6 - As an optional step, I had a ginger and walnut cake lying around (as you do) and so I broke it up into crumb size pieces and sprinkled it inside the castle courtyard and around the outside. (This also helps disguise any rough edges, so for instance if you accidentally drop one of the castle sides no one will ever know....)

So far in my GBBO bake along this has been by far the most fun I've had baking (and constructing).

It would be great for a (big) kid's birthday party. You could also get them involved in the baking as well. The biscuit flavourings can be changed and switched around again and again. Though I do recommend the earl grey and chocolate biscuit, my new favourite.

Hopefully someone will give this a go!



Friday, 13 September 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 4

I feel like the Great British Bake Off is definitely expanding my baking horizons. I have a habit of sticking with what I know and so this bake along that I've got myself into is forcing me to try new things. I do make tarts now and again, my favourite being a large dark chocolate tart, but I haven't made tartlets since mince tarts last Christmas. I love sweet pastry and so I didn't even have to think what I wanted to take on this week.
GBBO technical challenge it was then....

Egg Custard Tartlets 

For the pastry;
125g plain flour
25g icing sugar
60g butter (cubed)
1/2 egg
splash of milk

For the filling;
1 egg
1 egg yolk
75ml milk
50ml single cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
30g caster sugar
grated nutmeg

Sift the flour and icing sugar together in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub together with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. 
In a jug mix together the egg and milk, and add 30mls of this to the flour mixture. Gently mix this together until it forms a soft dough. Cover the bowl in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. 
While the dough is chilling preheat the oven to 180C/356C and prep a deep muffin tray. This mixture should make 8 tartlets. Grease the tray and cut out 8 squares of baking parchment. Also cut out 8 lengths of baking parchment and fold into each hole. This will ensure the tarts are easy to remove from the tray once cooked (amazing top tip from Ruby on GBBO, works like an absolute charm). 

Roll out the dough to a couple of mm thick and using a fluted cookie cutter cut out a large circle (I used the largest one I had). Use a rolled up piece of spare dough to press the pastry circle into the tray. Blind bake, using the parchment squares and baking beans, for 15 minutes or until the pastry is starting to go golden.
While the tarts are in the oven beat the egg and egg yolk together in a jug, and stir in the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Then leave to stand. 
As soon as the tartlets are taken from the oven reduce the temperature to 160C/320C and remove the beans and parchment.
Gently pour in the custard and grate over the nutmeg.
Carefully return to the oven and cook for 20 minutes on a high shelf. 
They are cooked when the top is starting to go golden, they have a slight wobble and the custard has puffed up a little bit. 

After my first taste of a warm from the oven custard tart I was undecided if I liked it, so naturally I had to have another to make sure. Even after the second tartlet I was still in two minds. It is a very classic traditional taste but nonetheless enjoyable.

I decided that since I had no idea if this was what custard tarts tasted like I should compare mine to a shop bought tart. Aside from the horribly mass-manufactured perfectness of the bought pie, I actually thought the pastry of my own recipe was so much nicer. The icing sugar addition adds a nice bit of sweetness, which the shop bought one was entirely without. My own pastry was also crisper but sadly not as deep. Oh well, next time I will definitely use a larger cookie cutter.



P.s I'm off to The Cake and Bake Show at Earls Court this weekend and I literally couldn't be more excited. Fingers crossed for taste tests!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 3

There were highs and lows in the Great British Bake Off this week, with custard thievery and failed petit fours. But it was with great excitement that I planned this weekend's bake.
In April this year my sister and I had afternoon tea at The Ritz (see here) and since then my (already well established) love of petit four has just grown and grown.

Ruby's showstopper bake just looked so tempting and delicious that I knew I had to give Madeleines a go. Madeleines are another classic bake that I've never even tasted, talk about baked before. In the last two days I have made nearly 80 of them and I can officially say they are AMAZING!

For this recipe I used a mini Madeleine mold, which you can get here, and it makes approximately 72. Also, this recipe requires you to chill the batter overnight, so don't forget to think ahead if you plan to make them.

Lemon & Raspberry Madeleines

3 eggs
130g caster sugar
200g plain flour
10g baking powder
the zest of one lemon
20g clear honey
4 tbsp milk
200g butter
18 raspberries

Firstly melt the butter over a gentle heat and then put to one side. In a large bowl beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale and frothy. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and lemon zest. 
Mix the honey and milk with the cooled butter and then add to the egg mixture. Gently fold the flour into the wet mixture until it is fully incorporated, taking care not to knock too much air out of the eggs. 
Now cover the bowl in clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight (or for at least 6 hours). 

When you are ready to bake the madeleines preheat the oven to 190C/375F. (Place the madeleine mold on a baking tray for ease). Put a teaspoon of the mixture into each mini madeleine shell. If you are using a metal mold for this you will have to grease and flour the mold first, but for the silicone mold that I used it is unnecessary.  
Cut each raspberry into 4 quarters and push a quarter into each madeleine.

Bake for 5 minutes, then turn the oven off for 1 minute, then bake for another 5 minutes at 160C/325F. 

Leave the madelines in the mold for five minutes or until they are cool enough to handle, then pop them out and place on a wire rack to cool. 
You can then quickly wash and dry the mold, and put another batch in the oven. Repeat until you run out of mixture. 

These little dainty treats are mouthfuls of deliciousness and go perfectly with a cup of tea or coffee (I would know, as that is currently what is sitting on my desk beside me as I type. I have definitely had too many!!)

I hope some of you give this recipe a go. Let me know your thoughts!



Tuesday, 3 September 2013

GBBO Bake along - Week 2

I have to say the idea of making bread feels me with yeast based dread and trepidation. I've never had much success with any bread based recipes and while I watched episode 2 of the Great British Bake Off I genuinely couldn't decide what to try myself.

Then when I watched it back again during the week, while researching recipes, I began actually taking in how easy it is to make breadsticks. Time-consuming, as all recipes that include yeast are, but fundamentally easy. 

And so I braved the technical challenge, the kneading and came up with my own breadstick recipe. These breadsticks are light, tangy and go perfectly with a beer and a film!

Lime and Coriander Breadsticks

300ml lukewarm water
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 x 6g sachet dried yeast
260g wholemeal bread flour
260g plain flour
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tsp salt
Grated zest of 2 limes
2 tablespoons of coriander
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds

Mix the water and sugar in a large bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Add the yeast and leave to stand for 10 minutes.
In another bowl mix together the wholemeal flour, plain flour, oil, salt, grated lime zest and coriander. Then add the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Then turn out on to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (for about 5 minutes).
Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough inside, turning the dough until it is covered with oil. Cover and leave to rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Pre-heat  the oven to 190C/375F and lightly oil 2 baking trays.
Roll the dough out and cut with a pizza cutter to make 24, 12 inch long breadsticks. Twist by holding each end and place on the baking trays 1/2 inch apart.
Finally brush with oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds. To ensure you know when they are done add a breadstick that you intend to sacrifice for snapping tests. 
Bake on a middle shelf for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool on a wire rack and hopefully you'll be left with the classic snap Mr Hollywood is always looking for! 


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

GBBO Bake along - Week 1

Just when we thought we couldn't wait any longer The Great British Bake Off is back on our screens. We now have week after delicious week of baking highs and lows and I know I will literally be glued to my tv. 
Halfway through the first episode I decided that I was going to attempt to bake-along with the show, choosing either the signature bake, the technical bake or the showstopper.

The technical challenge of week 1 jumped straight out at me. I had vaguely heard of angel food cake, not to be confused with angel cake, but I had never seen, eaten nor made it before. Not only did it look something of a challenge, but it also looked completely intriguing; like a strangely cloudy bath sponge (totally not selling it!). 

And so, after purchasing a crazy amount of eggs and inviting my sister round to help with her electric whisk the GBBO challenge began...

This recipe came from Mary Berry, naturally, and the original is available on the BBC website. 

Angel Food Cake with Lemon Curd

125g plain flour
300g caster sugar
10 large egg whites
Grated zest of 3 lemons
1 tbsp lemon juice 
5g cream of tarter
1/2 tsp salt

300ml whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
100g lemon curd

Start by preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
In a bowl mix the flour and 100g of the caster sugar together, then put to one side. In a separate (large) bowl, use an electric whisk to mix the egg whites for a minute or until they are frothy and have doubled in size. 
Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cream of tarter, salt and continue whisking until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. 
Then turn the speed up and add the remaining 200g of caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Whisk until firm, but not stiff peaks are formed.
Gently sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture into the bowl of egg whites and gently fold in. Continue gently adding the flour mixture and folding in until all is combined. Make sure there are no pockets of flour mixture, but be careful not to knock the air out of the egg whites. 
Gently pour the mixture into a 25cm tin (DO NOT GREASE OR LINE!!) and cook in the oven on a low shelf for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 
When cooked, remove for the oven and immediately turn upside down on a wire rack and leave to cool. 
Once cool remove from the tin by running a knife round the edges and a pallet knife between the base of the cake and the tin. 
While the cake is finishing cooling you can make the topping. 
Whisk the cream and vanilla extract in a bowl until soft peaks form. Then spoon the topping over the top and sides of the cake, smoothing it down to form smooth sides.  
Finally spoon the lemon curd on to the top of the cake and pull a cocktail stick across in parallel lines to finish. 

Naturally the next step is to cut a slice and try out this cake! 

I have to say, I was unsure about this cake to start off with, but it really started to grow on me. The texture, if you are not used to it, is surprising. But it's a light cake which doesn't leave you feeling full. Not to mention that anything lemon flavor is good with me! 



p.s. Posted just in time for GBBO Week 2.!! (Trying not be apprehensive about bread week!) 

Monday, 12 August 2013

Time for Coffee

Some cakes are just so decadent that they call to you. This is one of those cakes. First you get the teasing smell of coffee when you are mixing up the cake batter. Then you get the delicious waft filling the house as the cake cooks. Then, finally, it's time for the taste.   

This is a very simple recipe and the cake it produces is not only scrumptious but it lasts for days (if you can make it last that long!) 

Coffee & Walnut Cake

175g butter
3 tbsp instant coffee 
100g walnut halves
150g self raising flour
50g wholemeal flour
200g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs

Filling and Topping
400g icing sugar
200g butter
2 tbsp instant coffee

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and grease and line 2, 20cm sandwich tins. 
Mix the coffee powder with 2 tablespoons of water from the kettle and finely chop half of the walnuts. 
Put the flours, sugar, baking powder in a bowl and combine. Then add the wet ingredients, the butter, eggs, coffee mixture and chopped walnuts. Beat until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Divide evenly between the 2 tins and put them in the oven for 25 minutes on a middle shelf.
Once the cakes are done, check that a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean, remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool. 
For the filling and frosting beat the butter and icing sugar together in a large bowl. Mix the coffee powder with a tablespoon of boiled water, and then add to the buttercream, stirring until combined. 
Put the first cake on a serving plate and then coat with a thick layer of coffee buttercream, place the 2nd cake on top and then cover the top of the cake with the remaining buttercream. 
To finish, place the remaining walnuts round the edge of the cake and then dive in!



Monday, 5 August 2013

A Classic Challenge!

I think I literally jumped in at the deep end with this one. Until last Christmas I had never even tried marzipan, and I had never eaten a Battenburg, talk about make one. After a little bit of research (Wikipedia...) I was disappointed to learn that the origin of Battenburg cake is unknown. So sadly, there's no interesting fact about it, other than it's a teatime classic.

Half of the challenge of this cake is the construction, and trying to keep it neat. But it can be done and have no fear, this post will be picture heavy! This recipe makes two cakes, which when you make this for the first time is a blessing. It means you can work out how to do it on the first cake without worrying too much about keeping it tidy. My second cake was a dream!

I used Edd Kimber's recipe for this as a guide.

Battenburg Cake

4 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
275g caster sugar
185g unsalted butter
235g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
red and yellow gel food colouring
500g marzipan
170g raspberry jam

Stick the oven on and pre-heat to 180C/160F and line a 23 x 33cm brownie pan with baking parchment, creating a divide down the centre. 
Put the eggs, vanilla & almond extract and 70g sugar in a large bowl. Whisk using a machine or by hand until the eggs are thick and fall from the whisk slowly in a ribbon, adding the remaining sugar as you go.
In another bowl mix the softened butter, flour and baking powder. Add a quarter of the egg mixture, and combine, then add a little more, and combine. Continue until all the egg and flour mixture are combined. 
Then divide the mixture equally between two bowls and add a small amount of food colouring to each (gel food colouring is potent, so be careful not to overdo it!) Pour the yellow mixture into one half of the prepared tin and the pink batter into the other. 
Bake for 18 - 22 minutes, or until a cocktail stick comes out from the centre of the cake clean. 
Allow to cool completely before the construction!

Once cool, trim the edges of the cakes (including the top if it forms a skin), then cut the cakes length-ways into four equal sized pieces. You should then have 8 pieces in total, 4 yellow and 4 pink. 

Now divide your marzipan into 2 and roll out each piece (dusting the surface with icing sugar), ensuring each piece is long enough for the length and width of the cake. 
Brush the marzipan with the jam and stack the cakes, coating each side with a layer of jam. (Don't forget to alternate the colours).
Finally, roll the remaining marzipan around the cake and trim the excess length (as close to the cake as you can). Cut a slice off each end to create a neat finish (and eat the scraps). 
Repeat with the second cake. 

The result will be two Battenburg Cake's, a slice of which go perfectly with a cup of tea!

Good Luck!


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Travel Buns!

I'm off on holiday to the beautiful city of Bath tomorrow, and what better way to avoid packing than making Chelsea Buns for the long car journey!

Sweet buns are one of my favourite things to eat. If it was socially acceptable I would eat the classic treat of hot cross buns, tea cakes and chelsea buns every day, for every meal.

That being said, I decided to shake up the usual cinnamon (my favourite spice) and raisin buns, and instead make them chocolate, lime & ginger flavour. The basic dough recipe for this comes from the silver fox that is Mr Hollywood.

Chocolate, Lime & Ginger Chelsea Buns

Ingredients - Dough
500g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 x 7g sachet dried yeast
300ml milk
40g unsalted butter
1 egg
vegetable oil

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl. Making a well in the centre add the yeast. Melt the butter on the hob with the milk until the mixture is lukewarm. Stir this into the flour mixture with the egg until the it comes together in the bowl.
Then tip the dough on to a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. 
Lightly grease the washed mixing bowl with the vegetable oil and place the dough inside, turning until it is covered in the oil. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it has doubled in size. 
Once risen punch down the dough to it's original size and then turn out onto a floured work surface. Roll out to a large rectangle shape, approx 40cm long and 5mm thick, ready for the filling.

Ingredients - Filling
25g unsalted butter
grated zest of 1 lime
75g soft brown sugar
150g broken up dark chocolate
100g chopped crystallized ginger

Melt the butter in a pan and then brush all over the dough surface. Then evenly sprinkle over the lime zest, sugar, chocolate and ginger. 
After tacking down the long side of the dough (closest to you) begin to roll the opposite side towards you, taking care to keep the roll tight. Once rolled into a length, cut into 10 pieces, about 4cm wide and place in a baking tray, leaving a little space around each slice. 
Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes for the final rise. 

Bake the buns at 190C/375F for 20-25mins until they are golden brown (cover with foil if needed). 

To finish, once buns are cool, glaze with melted orange marmalade (or any other jam you have in the fridge!) and drizzle with icing. 

I have one more word to say about these buns......delicious!



Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Afternoon Tea Treats

Now lets be honest, having visitors is just an excuse to bake.

Afternoon tea is one of my favourite meals and I jumped at the opportunity to create my own (and use my brand new glass cake stand) when my Grandparents visited last weekend. 

As per tradition my tea included a variety of sandwiches, scones and sweet treats, all washed down with tea and pink lemonade. 

Both these recipes are easy and yet they look great sitting in the centre of the table. Not to mention they are so tasty that you will have to restrain yourself from going back for seconds!

Here's how I made them...

Bakewell Cheesecake 

160g almond biscuits (Amaretti)
60g butter
160g ricotta
160g cream cheese
2 large eggs
132g soured cream
1 tbsp cornflour

Flaked almonds
Raspberry jam

Break up the biscuits into fine crumbs, mix with the melted butter and press firmly into a 20 x 30cm tin, that has been lined with baking parchment (makes it a LOT easier to get it out of the tin once cooked). 
Add butter, ricotta, cream cheese, eggs, soured cream and cornflour to a bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour the cheese mixture onto the biscuit base and spread evenly. 
Dollop spoonfuls of the raspberry jam into the tin, then using a cocktail stick mix the jam into the cheese mixture gently to create a ripple. 
Bake for 40mins at 160C/320F until it is lightly set all over. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature, then chill in the fridge overnight. 
For serving, slice and sprinkle with flaked almonds. 

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Tarts

Salted caramel sauce (you can slave away making this, or like me, by it from m&s)
110ml double cream
1/2 tsp caster sugar
40g unsalted butter
150g dark chocolate
40ml cold milk
Mini pastry cases (call me lazy, but small pastry tarts are a nightmare to make)
Cocoa power for dusting

Coat the inside of each pastry case with a liberal layer of salted caramel and then put to one side.
Pour the double cream into a large sauce pan with the sugar and bring to the boil, then turn off the heat. Add the butter and chocolate, stirring until both have melted into the cream. Then add the cold milk and stir until the mixture is smooth, thick and shiny. 
Pour into each case, allow to cool and then chill until set in the fridge. 
Before serving decorate with whole pecans and dust with cocoa powder.