Yorkshire Bake Off Challenge #4: Gingerbread Cookies

Autumn Maple Leaf cookies inspired by a visit to New York to visit my friend during the Fall three years ago.

Well, here is the next challenge in the Yorkshire Bake Off!  It has been a difficult one choosing what to do this time round, but suddenly the idea came to me last night as I was writing a shopping list of all the things I needed for my Hallowe’en bakes for this week.

I usually make Hallowe’en themed cookies for customers who often buy them to give out to their children at Hallowe’en parties or for Trick or Treating. I also make a batch of cookies and cupcakes for the children in my village who come round Trick or Treating.  I usually make the cookies out of a gingerbread dough, similar to the one on page 75 of the Great British Bake Off Showstoppers book.

So, are you up for the challenge?  Your challenge is to make a batch of Hallowe’en or Bonfire Night themed cookies using the gingerbread dough on page 75 of the book. You can make your cookies as creative as you like!  You have until midnight of Sunday November 11th to post me a photo of your cookies.  The photo can be posted to me via my Twitter @YorkshireBakery or via email to sam.smartcookies@btinternet.com.

Here’s some pictures just some of the Hallowe’en cookies I have baked over the past 4 years, looking forward to seeing what you come up with.  If you want a great website for fab decorating inspiration then http://www.wilton.com is brilliant.

Pumpkin Gingerbread cookies #1: topped with fondant icing, stamped faces and fondant pumpkin leaves.

Spooky Gingerbread Black Cats. These were decorated with black edible glitter, though now I am not allowed to use it!

Gruesome gingerbread tombstones.

Gingerbread Spider’s Webs, topped with melted chocolate feather pattern.

Gingerbread Pumpkin #2: this time the pumpkin’s faces are piped on with melted dark chocolate.

White fondant gingerbread ghosts with white edible glitter and fondant faces.

Spooky Frankenstein faces made from gingerbread cookies and topped with fondant icing.

I can’t wait to see what you all come up with, and what’s more if you aren’t keen on Hallowee’n you  are welcome to decorate your cookies on an autumnal theme or  Bonfire Night theme if you want to!

Here are some autumn leaf cookies I made a couple of years back and they remain one of my favourite designs ever I have made.

Autumn Leaves created by mixing red, orange, yellow and green fondant icing together, great for using all those oddments left in the cupboard!
Maple Leaves, loved the pretty colours the icing made on these gingerbread cookies.

Happy Baking!
Sam xx

Yorkshire Bake Off- Your Bakes of Treacle Tart

Hi!  As I’m typing this with one hand, I’m stuffing  a cheese sandwich down my cakehole in the other hand! It’s half term week here in North Yorkshire as it seems to be in most places, but life is still busy. I’m rushing backwards and forwards as the chauffeur, walking the dog, sorting out horses and now my daughter starts rehearsals as a dancer in this year’s pantomime in Harrogate.  So, I hope my blog post makes sense to you!

I received another three entries this time for the Yorkshire Bake Off after choosing the technical challenge Treacle Tart which the bakers had to endure in Week 3 of this year’s Great British Bake Off.  I decided to try this out for myself as it well and truly was a technical challenge and a half for me!

So, after watching the GBBO Masterclass episode aired last week I made notes on how Mary Berry does it perfectly.  But before that, I enjoyed looking through the entries that my Twitter friends had sent to me and tonight, my treacle tart loving husband Doug will have a look at the three entries and make a decision.  Be warned, he can be as nasty as Paul Hollywood when he wants to be!

So, here goes!  In order of the photos given to me, here are the entries for the three participants!

The uncooked treacle tart as made by @EversNanaJules
http://www.juliebradhen.blogspot.co.uk

Julie won the very first Yorkshire Bake Off online competition with her delicious looking interpretation of  Ryan Chong’s American Key Lime Pie!

Our second entry is from Joy Stephenson @joysebook
. Joy is an author, you can follow the link to download her book here:
Our third and final entry this time is from Sarah Haynes @sarahhcakes who loves to bake all sorts of delicious goodies which you can see on her Twitter page.
As soon as my hubby Doug has had chance to look at the entries, he will give his verdict in the next couple of days. In the mean time, I will be posting up another Yorkshire Bake Off challenge, so please do have a go, it is great fun!
Here’s how I got on:
I was absolutely bricking it making this treacle tart as pastry is not my strong point.  I only learned to make it two years ago when I bought the very first Great British Bake Off book as a way of trying to face up to the baking demons.  As many of you out there may have experienced, we either have very good or dreadful experiences of cookery lessons in school.  Up until the age of 11 I loved to bake for my family using my Ladybird cookbooks I was given.  Every Sunday teatime we would have a cake or buns that I had made.  Then, all that changed as soon as I went to High School.  I was eagerly looking forward to my cookery lessons, after all I could make cakes so pastry wouldn’t be a problem, or would it?  We were asked to make a sausagemeat pie with shortcrust pastry and all I remember now nearly 30 years later is that mine was grey and watery. The teacher was nasty to me and said I was hopeless.  In fact after that I began to think I was hopeless at cooking so the seeds of doubt set in my mind!  If that old dragon of a teacher is still alive today I would like to go up to her and shove her head into one of my cakes!  So, after that day back in 1983, I was convinced I couldn’t make pastry and if I needed to make it out would come the frozen Jus-Rol!
So, back to yesterday.  I feel a lot more confident now, thanks to more experience and the brilliance of cookery writers like Mary Berry.  I got out my food processor to start making the pastry and weighed out the ingredients hoping for the best.  I was so glad of Mary’s fab tip to slip the bottom of the tin under the rolled out circle of pastry so that it was much easier to put in the tin, also the chilling of the pastry I followed to the letter. I also warmed a baking tray up in the oven and it did make a difference!
My biggest mistake was by my only loose bottomed and fluted tart tin was far too big. It is a lovely tin which I bought from a Jamie Oliver at home party a couple of years back, but Mary’s recipe states you need an 18cm tin, mine was about 21cm. This of course affected the amount of pastry I had to play with even though I stuck to the amount of 150g needed to keep back for the lattice top.  
When the pastry was put into the tin I noticed in a couple of places the pastry didn’t reach to the top of the tin.  The filling also didn’t come right to the top of the pastry case.  When it came to putting the lattice on the top, I found that the lattice strips just wouldn’t stretch enough, so I gave up after three attempts.  In the end, being as it’s nearly Halloween I decided to add some mini Halloween shapes from some tiny cutters I had bought last week.  These were quickly brushed with beaten egg and placed on top of the tart.
Once the tart was in the oven I started to get nervous again, what if it burned like last time? I hovered anxiously round by the cooker hoping and praying.
My treacle tart as made from the Great British Bake Off Showstoppers book, sliced up and ready for some pouring cream.  Some of the beaten egg was a bit clumpy on it, sadly.
What’s more I didn’t have a soggy bottom this time, which was a first for me!
Would I bake it again? Oh yes, but I could do with learning how to adapt the quantities to fit my tin to save me going out to buy another.  However, the tart tasted fantastic according to everyone else and went down well at our family meal along with a chocolate hazelnut cake which my daughter had made.
Neat edges are not really my strong point but it was a far cry from the wet and grey pastry of my teenage pastry experience.

Happy Baking!
Sam xx

Say It With Cake- A Chocolate Celebration Cake

Last week I was given an order for a chocolate birthday cake which had to incorporate the birthday girl’s favourite swee.  ts on top- Skittles!  I know my daughter buys them from time to time and I used to like them but not now, I’m definitely a Maltesers girl!

I was racking my brains and thinking how I could make the cake look special without just having a load of Skittles chucked on the top willy nilly and came across the idea of the cake being turned into a present.  I had a spare packet of yellow Regalice sugarpaste in the cupboard leftover and thought they could make the bow for the top of the cake.

I am all for the cake tasting good as well as looking good and was thinking about the chocolate recipe I could use.  A couple of days earlier I was looking through my new copy of Edd Kimber’s new book “Say It With Cake” and came across a wacky looking cake that looked like a large custard pie splat on the top of it.  The cake inside was a yummy looking chocolate cake which in fact contained coffee as well.  I thought, “That’s the one!” and I knew I had to bake that recipe to suit the present cake.

Edd Kimber’s brand new second book “Say It With Cake”

Last Saturday morning I started baking the cake after I had been out walking the dog, cleaned and prepped the kitchen for baking and immediately went into relaxation mode.  I love it when I have the TV or Radio 2 in the background, my hubby and kids popping in or out and I was feeling really happy.

The coffee taste in the cake was incorporated by mixing strong coffee with some cocoa powder into a paste. I then let this cool, then whisked eggs and sugar together using my hand blender with the whisk attachment. I couldn’t be bothered to get the KitchenAid out of the box in the cupboard.  The other ingredients were swiftly added and then the gorgeous looking and smelling mixture was divided between two sandwich tins.

Once the cake was baked and cooling on the rack, I made up the ribbons and bow and left this to harden on a plastic mat.  The cake turned out onto the rack beautifully and it rose well, I love a really good layer cake with depth to work with when decorating.  The cake would then later be filled and coated with the chocolate ganache.

By this time it was late morning and my mum was due to arrive. I needed to get on with a few chores before she arrived and the kids and hubby had gone out leaving me to wait for my mum.  We agreed we would have lunch in Harrogate, I would get a few things in town I needed and then come home to finish the cake off as the customer was going to come at 6.30 for it.  I had to work like lightening!

Later on that afternoon I made up the chocolate ganache carefully and thankfully it was perfect spreading consistency.  Sometimes it has gone grainy on me and I have to start again but luckily this time it was fine.
I spread it on one of the cakes then sandwiched them together before decorating the top and the sides.
Once this was on the cake I had to work quickly to put the ribbons, bow and all the Skittles on top.  I was pleased with the result and thankfully the customer loved it too, she gave me a hug when she saw it.

Chocolate Celebration Skittles Cake.

Top view of the Skittles Cake.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

A Passion For Baking- Lemon Drizzle Traybake

As I mentioned before in my previous blog post, I am a huge fan of Jo Wheatley and I love her book, ” A Passion For Baking” As I too have a passion for baking like Jo, this book is absolutely fantastic and I am steadily trying out lots of different things in it as I go along.

Jo mentions in her book that she likes traybakes like Mary Berry.  I too associate Mary Berry with traybakes as I love using the traybake recipes in her Baking Bible.  They are useful for many occasions, such as a Coffee Morning like I baked some traybake recipes for.

It was a Thursday night about a couple of weeks ago and I had promised to bake some extra things to go on our cake stall at our school’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning in aid of Macmillan.  I know that homemade cakes always go down well and the children in the class I work in had been extremely busy the previous two mornings baking with me in class.  The children love cooking with me (whatever we make) and I really enjoy it too, I just hope they remember all the little tips I tell them so that they can recreate things at home with their parents.  On the Wednesday we made cookies but on this particular Thursday we made two traybakes from Mary Berry’s book- a vanilla one with vanilla buttercream and a chocolate one.  Unfortunately I was in such a rush I forgot to take pictures of them but I was so impressed with what the children had created.  I wasn’t alone.

When I got home I was thinking about what would have a different flavour to go alongside all the other things we would be selling and remembered that I had two lemons to use up.  Jo’s lemon drizzle traybake recipe really appealed to me because when I have sold anything like lemon drizzle cake in the past, it flies off the stall.

The recipe was a quick one; I simply mixed all the ingredients together- sugar, flour, butter, eggs, lemon zest, baking powder and a little milk in my KitchenAid and poured it into a greased traybake tin. This is my trusty Alan Silverwood tin that always gets used for traybakes and works perfectly every time.

The cake baked for about an hour in the centre of the oven and I was craving lemon cake all along as I could smell it baking.  The aroma wafted around the house and you could smell it everywhere, which made me feel even worse.

Once the traybake came out of the oven and was left on a cooling rack, I quickly mixed up lemon juice and sugar to make a syrup.  This got poured over the top of the cake but I did not remove the cake out of the tin until the sugar had set, I’ve found if you want it to stay on the top it won’t drip down the sides if it’s in the tin!

Then, last of all, I cut the cake up into 16 large rectangles and hoped that they would go down well at the coffee morning.

I was glad that they did sell well, I did buy back a couple of pieces back home for my hubby and the kids as they love lemon drizzle and they always complain I never bake for them.  One of the ladies who bought a slice said it was lovely and moist, and the sponge was light.  I was so relieved and I’m definitely going to make it again for another coffee morning or occasion.

Lemon Drizzle Traybake from Jo Wheatley’s book- “A Passion For Baking”

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

A Passion For Baking- Cranberry and Currant Flapjacks

As you may be aware I am a huge fan and admirer of the lovely Jo Wheatley, winner of the 2011 Great British Bake Off.  I was so thrilled to buy a copy of her book “A Passion For Baking” earlier on this year and I am pleased to admit it has been worth every penny if not more. I know I am not alone in this as every time I post a picture or tweet about baking one of Jo’s recipes, I get a massive response. I was also over the moon when Jo herself replied to my tweets.  I think “A Passion For Baking” is a fabulous book for all types of bakers, whether you are a novice or you are experienced.  My copy of the book is getting a bit spattered now and I am so glad I have it.  Every time I bake something of Jo’s I am thrilled to say the recipe always works and the results are spectacular.  Jo, if you are reading this, I do hope you are going to write more recipe books because I know there are thousands of us out there who will be queuing in droves to buy them!
Two weeks ago the school where I work in my day job as a teaching assistant held a World’s Biggest Coffee Morning in aid of Macmillan.  I was thrilled that we were doing this as my mother-in-law died of cancer nearly three years ago, the Macmillan nurses were fantastic with our family. I also know loads of others who know or have families or friends with cancer and one friend described the Macmillan Nurses as angels without wings. I know it isn’t a lot of money but I wanted to contribute as much as I could. Our school is only a small school, but we put in so much effort into everything we do. I am so proud to work there and we raised over £100. I was also delighted to be able to add another £50 proceeds from the sale of  personalised padded hearts that I sell over on EBay.   The children made vanilla and chocolate traybakes from the recipes in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and stem ginger cookies and white chocolate Jumbles from the very first Great British Bake Off recipe book. However, we knew the children’s baking was so good it would sell out quickly so we also needed some other cakes and biscuits to sell.  My other work colleagues contributed some delicious flapjacks and oat cookies, another parent some yummy buns.  I thought well, I should bake something too.  I didn’t want to bake cupcakes as I often do, as they can be time consuming and cost a lot of money to make.  They do sell well, but I know quite often the plainer stuff is what some people prefer. In the end I settled for some of Jo’s flapjack along with her lemon drizzle traybake and some Great British Bake Off Chocolate crackles.
Here are the gorgeous cookies that the children at school made using the recipe from the first Great British Bake Off recipe book. Top- Stem Ginger Cookies, bottom- Jumbles (we added white chocolate).
I make flapjack a lot and I am ashamed to say I am addicted to it.  If someone put a plate of flapjacks in front of me I could wolf the lot down. I can’t stop at one, I know it is disgusting of me but I can’t help that chewy gorgeousness.  I always feel guilty afterwards but I can’t stop myself.  I don’t know why!
So, enough of me waffling and down to the recipe itself.  As I looked through Jo’s ingredient list I noticed that there were dried apricots on the list.   I always have a bag in my baking cupboard but I found when I got there, there were only two apricots left in the bag!  Ooops!  That must’ve been down to me putting them in some cookies a few weeks back and not replacing them!  Jo also suggested cranberries, thankfully I have them in as I make white chocolate and cranberry cookies for stalls and customers.  In the end I plumped for currants and cranberries.

The recipe itself was simple enough to make, it’s one that’s designed with baking with kids in mind.  If I need to make flapjack with the children at school, I would definitely try this recipe with them.
All I had to do was melt brown sugar, butter and golden syrup in a pan.  Once it was all melted I mixed in the porridge oats and folded in the dried fruit.  As soon as this was combined, I greased a square tin and pressed the flapjack mixture into it. The only thing was I found the flapjack took a little bit longer to bake than my usual recipe and it looked a bit runny for a while.  Thankfully it hardened up beautifully and I was delighted with it as it cut up easily into 16 large pieces.
Fruity Flapjacks from Jo Wheatley’s recipe in “A Passion For Baking”

When I got to school the next day I put the flapjacks out with all the others but I was really worried they wouldn’t sell as a couple of others had brought along flapjacks too. I did buy back a piece to try while I was having my morning cuppa and I really enjoyed it, it had a lovely gooey texture.  Definitely one to try again!
Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Plum Cake from The Primrose Bakery Cookbook

Another Sunday, another dessert to think about for a family lunch.  This time I had a joint of beef topside to roast with some Yorkshire Puddings, lots of veg and gravy.  My vegetarian daughter ate a Vegetable Kiev with the potatoes and vegetables, which she really enjoyed.  This weekend we have had my mum staying with us.  She lives in Nottingham so we tend to see her on average once a month depending on what she is up to.  This weekend I wanted to bake a crumble for pudding as it is now feeling very autumnal and I wanted a comfort pudding that everyone would eat.  I had a punnet of plums to use up and thought about the individual plum crumbles that are in the Great British Bake Off Showstoppers recipe book. However, although the recipe sounded nice, it involved cooking the plums in port, something I couldn’t do as I didn’t have any port!  I suppose I could have substituted something else but I couldn’t think what to do.
I remembered looking through my copy of the Primrose Bakery cookbook the other week and spotting a rather yummy looking plum cake on one of the pages. I must admit I don’t really like eating plums unless they’re mixed in a cake or a crumble, so I thought it would be a good way of using them up. No one else in my family had tried to eat them either.  I scanned the ingredient list and thought I had everything in so why not give the cake a go?
I was intrigued to know what the cake would taste like as in the recipe introduction it mentions that the cake is very popular in the Primrose Bakery cafes and always sells out.  It also was from an original recipe by the Australian chef Bill Grainger, a chef who I’ve heard of but don’t know much about his cooking!
The beef was roasting in my slow oven, the veg was prepped so all I had to do was to get started on the plum cake. As soon as I got the plums out to stone and quarter my hubby appeared back from his usual Sunday morning trip to Morrisons and expected me not only to put the shopping away, but to make him a cup of tea as well!  Luckily my mum put the shopping away for me but I thought he could wait for his cup of tea, in the end he came in the kitchen and made it himself!  What’s more, I got a cup of tea too, but I told him if he had wanted me to make it he would have to wait!  Since I am not an octopus, I can only do one job at a time!
Once the plums were stoned and quartered, I started on the cake mixture itself.  It was a simple vanilla sponge involving the creaming method.  Once the mixture was ready, I greased and lined a loose bottom cake tin.  The recipe called for a 25cm diameter cake tin, I had one but it was quite small.  I found out that the cake leaked out of the top because it simply wasn’t deep enough.  It was embarrassing and I should have thought it through.
I quickly found a baking tray to rest the cake on and it was popped back into the oven with a quick prayer that the air hadn’t got to it and it wasn’t going to suddenly sink on me.  The cake was meant to stay in the oven for about 1- 1/4 hours but even after that time it still looked runny.  I kept checking the recipe wondering if I’d got quantities wrong or put the oven on at the wrong temperature!  It was turning into one of those Great British Bake Off moments where some of the contestants were filmed kneeling down in front of their ovens checking their bakes!
Finally, minutes before the roast beef was ready for lunch the cake looked like it was ready and it appeared cooked with the good old skewer method.  I put the cake on the cooling rack still in it’s tin and hoped that it would be easy enough to turn out onto a plate for pudding.  It didn’t help that both my kids came into the kitchen and said that the plum cake looked gross and they weren’t eating any because they didn’t like plums.
All the more for us then, was the answer to that!
I hoped and prayed that the cake would turn out right and thankfully it came out more or less intact.  It was a bit messy so if a customer ever asked me to bake a cake like this I would only do it after lots more practice.  
Well, you should never judge a book by it’s cover and although my plum cake looked far messier than the one in the Primrose Bakery Cookbook, I can assure you it was one of the loveliest, moist cakes I had ever tasted.  The Primrose Bakery suggest serving it warm with vanilla ice cream, we had pouring double cream with ours and it was delicious. So much so that we all had seconds (I’m meant to be dieting but everyone else was, so if you can’t beat them, join them!) My kids didn’t even try it, they went without and what a shame because it was a gorgeous treat!

Plum Cake from The Primrose Bakery Cookbook- as you can see the cake wasn’t one of my best efforts and I think the plums were a bit mushy. It tasted fine, though I’m sure a judge like Paul Hollywood would have laughed his head off at it

Would I bake it again?  Oh yes, but I will use the proper sized cake tin next time!
Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off- Lemon and Coconut Traybake

I’m sorry my blog posts have been a bit thin on the ground recently.  I have been so busy with my day job as a teaching assistant that I haven’t had the time to devote to baking. I am looking forward to some Hallowe’en baking coming up in the next few weeks, though.

Despite being very busy I have had time to bake but not on my usual scale.  I have enjoyed trying out some of the yummy bakes in the latest Great British Bake Off- How To Turn Everyday Bakes Into Showstoppers book.  It has been a difficult choice knowing what to choose as there is so much to choose from!

However, 2 weeks ago on Sunday I was looking for an idea for our Sunday lunch pud which I always make. I insist on a proper Sunday lunch if we are all together as a family, whether we have visitors or not.  I am trying and I mean trying to lose weight (and failing miserably at the moment) but I always think it’s not Sunday lunch without a pud to finish.

I had woken up that morning with a throbbing headache as I’d been out the night before to a Race Night in our village. I had had far too much red wine and my hubby had poured me a G&T which slipped down very nicely before we toddled off down to our local village hall! So, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and even two huge coffees and some toast didn’t give me much energy!

I had to get lunch sorted out even though I wanted to put my feet up!  What could I make to follow my roast chicken?  I saw the recipe for the Lemon and Coconut Traybake and thought I HAVE to bake that. Anything with lemon and with coconut in is a surefire hit with me, so this would be doubly delicious.

Upon looking at the ingredients I found immediately that it needed Greek yoghurt both for the cake and in the icing. I didn’t have any in my fridge, I did have some Mullerlight ones (cherry flavour ones, though and I don’t think they would have worked somehow). Usually on a Sunday morning my hubby goes to our local Morrisons to get the papers and any bits and pieces we’ve run out of, so the Greek yoghurt had to go on the list.  His reaction was “Well, we’ve already got some in the fridge, why can’t you use that?”  Er.. no…

Luckily I had the other ingredients in my baking cupboard so although I had to wait until my hubby got back from Morrisons with the Greek yoghurt, I was so glad I could get on with baking this mouthwatering traybake.

The traybake was simple to make.  I think it was versatile as a pudding, ideal served as slices at a coffee morning or even great to slip a slice in a lunchbox.  The recipe made 16 massive rectangular slices and I found that once I had one, I could feel like scoffing another.. and another… and another…

Here’s how the luscious traybake was made:
 First, lemon zest, flour and dessiccated coconut was put into a bowl.  I then put eggs into another bowl and whisked them until they became frothy, then adding sugar to the eggs.

The flour mixture was gently folded in, bit by bit into the egg mixture.  Finally I mixed the yoghurt in with some bicarbonate of soda along with some lemon juice.

I used a large traybake rectangular Silverwood tin I bought a few years back in a local kitchen shop.  It gets used a lot for traybakes and the mixture fitted in perfectly.  It baked in the oven for about 30-35 minutes.

Thankfully, the actual baking session was uneventful. I was trying like mad to sort a pile of washing and ironing out while the traybake was baking though, so I was constantly clock watching.

When it came out of the oven, I mixed up some caster sugar and some more lemon juice to make a syrup like you do when you make lemon drizzle cake.  I pricked the sponge with a cocktail stick so the lemon syrup soaked into the sponge and then let it cool down.

As it was cooling down I made up the coconut frosting which was simply the remains of the Greek yoghurt, icing sugar and some dessiccated coconut mixed up. It reminded me of a snow scene, as I spread it on top of the cooled traybake.  I had to be careful to make sure it was completely cool before cutting the cake up though.

My family had mixed reactions to the traybake.  Coconut isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and half of us liked it, the other half weren’t as keen and ended up eating a Morrison’s trifle which my hubby had bought that morning.   I will definitely make it again though, as it was so moreish. It just melted in the mouth, the sponge was so light and the lemon and coconut worked so well together, a great hit for me!

Lemon Coconut Traybake from the Great British Bake Off Showstoppers book.

Happy Baking.
Love Sam xx