Pumpkin Bars from The Hummingbird Bakery

Several months ago I was given a copy of the latest Hummingbird Bakery recipe book_ Home Sweet Home from The Hummingbird Bakery. When I first had it I baked several of the recipes but then got sidetracked by other recipe books.

The other week I was shopping in Northallerton on my day off.  I always head to Lewis and Cooper for cake decorating supplies and for other foodie treats.  These usually end up being Shepherd’s Purse cheese which my hubby and I adore.  This last time though as well as the cheese stash I spotted some cans of Libby’s unsweetened pumpkin pie puree.  I have bought this in the past to make Pumpkin Muffins with and have also used it at school when baking Pumpkin Pie towards a Thanksgiving celebration.  You can’t often find it in the shops, though Waitrose sometimes has it if I’m lucky.  So, I grabbed a tin thinking it would be useful for pumpkin muffins.  But, looking through my recipe books I spotted a delicious sounding recipe for Pumpkin Bars in the Hummingbird Bakery book.  The bars were baked like a massive rectangular traybake and topped with a cream cheese icing and sprinkled with desiccated coconut.  It sounded too delicious for words.

So, finally last Sunday I decided to have a go at making the Pumpkin Bars and would take them into school to share with my work colleagues.  Here’s how I made them:

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For this recipe you need a 400g can of LIbby’s unsweetened pumpkin puree.
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This is what the contents of the pumpkin tin look like! No, it is NOT cat sick as my 13 year old son said.
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The puree was whisked up with 4 large eggs, some sugar and some sunflower oil in a large mixing bowl.
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In another bowl all the dry ingredients were weighed out- plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and ground mixed spice. It smelled heavenly and autumnal.
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All the wet and dry ingredients were folded in together.
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The mixture was poured into my large traybake tin which had already been greased and lined.
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After about 1/2 hour baking time the traybake came out of the oven and sat cooling on the rack until it was completely cold. It had risen well.
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The frosting was made by whisking together softened butter and full fat icing sugar.
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I then added some icing sugar to the mixture so it was sweetened slightly.
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This made a lovely, creamy frosting with an easy spreadable texture.
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The frosting was spread onto the traybake and dessicated coconut was sprinkled onto the top of it. I then cut the traybake into 16 large bars!
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One of the bars close up!

I was pleased with the way the pumpkin bars had turned out but I have yet to try one as I am trying (but not doing very well) to lose weight.  I kept four of the bars and put them in a container for the freezer to try out next weekend.  The rest went into work to share with my colleagues.  They seemed to go down well because I looked in the box on the Tuesday morning and only 2 out of the 12 were left!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Blooming Brownies from Lorraine Pascale’s “A Lighter Way To Bake”

I have always been a huge fan of Lorraine Pascale ever since I first saw her TV series “Baking Made Easy” a couple of years back.  Since then I have bought her books and enjoyed making her no-fuss, yet utterly delicious recipes.  We love both her savoury and sweet recipes and can’t get enough of them.

So a couple of months back I was excited to hear that Lorraine was bringing out another baking book and it would be featuring “favourites that you could enjoy everyday”, in other words it would be a baking book that features our best loved classics but made a bit lighter so we can enjoy them without feeling that we are being naughty.  As a serial dieter who manages to lose a few pounds and then promptly puts them back on again, I thought this book sounded like a great idea.  I will be reviewing the book in the next week or so, so watch this space!

The front cover of Lorraine Pascale's fab new book "A Lighter Way To Bake".
The front cover of Lorraine Pascale’s fab new book “A Lighter Way To Bake”.

Of course this does not mean you can trough the whole plate of brownies or cookies- far from it. It just means you can enjoy one and it is a little bit better for you than a standard bake.  I absolutley detest shop bought “low-fat” type cakes and biscuits.  They taste awful, are usually packed with extra sugar and other rubbish to compensate for the lack of fat and are usually so sickly sweet you are left with a huge headache after eating them.  I would rather have something small and home-made instead.

So, last Sunday afternoon for our usual Sunday lunch pudding I decided to put one of Lorraine’s “Lighter Bake” recipes to the test.  I chose to go for the “Blooming Brownies” on page 164.

Lorraine says in the recipe introduction that “the outcome is a much lighter brownie, with a slightly more cakey taste, but it’s still the right sort of naughtiness to feel that you are getting a tasty treat,”

Here’s how I made the Blooming Brownies.  I made mine into a Mint Chocolate version as I had a bar of Lindt Chocolate Mint Intense in my cupboard and no plain chocolate left.

First butter was melted in a small pan over medium heat.
First butter was melted in a small pan over medium heat.
I used a bar of Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense pg of good quality milk chocolate. This one was from Waitrose.
I used a bar of Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense pg of good quality milk chocolate. This one was from Waitrose.
Once the butter had melted and was taken off the heat, I added in the chunks of chocolate.  These melted from the heat of the hot butter.
Once the butter had melted and was taken off the heat, I added in the chunks of chocolate. These melted from the heat of the hot butter.
Three whole eggs plus two extra egg whites were whisked with my hand held electric mixer. Sugar was added bit by bit and mixed in carefully.
Three whole eggs plus two extra egg whites were whisked with my hand held electric mixer. Sugar was added bit by bit and mixed in carefully.
Here's the melted chocolate- gorgeous!
Here’s the melted chocolate- gorgeous!
The wet ingredients were then folded in with  some wholemeal flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda.
The wet ingredients were then folded in with some wholemeal flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda.
The mixture was poured into a well greased and lined loose bottomed square tin.
The mixture was poured into a well greased and lined loose bottomed square tin.

The brownies were baked in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
The brownies were baked in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
The brownies were cut up into 16 squares. I dusted them with a small sprinkling of icing sugar.
The brownies were cut up into 16 squares. I dusted them with a small sprinkling of icing sugar.
The leftovers were put into an airtight container to go into the freezer though my son did take a couple before they got put in there!
The leftovers were put into an airtight container to go into the freezer though my son did take a couple before they got put in there!

So, the verdict?  Lighter Bake Brownies versus my own “standard” ones?  Lorraine compares her lighter version with another recipe she has in Baking Made Easy for her Oreo Cookie Crumble Brownies.  These have been a massive hit when we have made them in our house before.  My own brownie recipe I use uses much more sugar but less eggs, more butter, less chocolate and less cocoa powder but more flour. The result is definitely more fudgy and chewy.  Lorraine was absolutely right in saying that these are more “cakey” but this did not put me off. In fact it was great to have the delicious chocolate hit without the over powering sweetness or the artificial “low fat” shop bought taste.  The rest of my family loved the brownies too and couldn’t tell the difference.  I thought one square at 165 calories was great, you could indulge without feeling “naughty”.  I had to hide the rest though!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Coconut Sables from The Great British Bake Off Everyday

Yesterday I had already made some Mint Chocolate M&M Cookies but as the oven was already on I thought I’d have a go at another recipe from the latest Great British Bake Off book- The Great British Bake Off Everyday.  Back in August I had baked the Vanilla Sables from the book and they were delicious.  I love coconut and had been keen to try the coconut version of the recipe for a few weeks.  No one else in our house really likes coconut but they eat it when I don’t tell them it’s in things!

The introduction to the recipe says “these deliciously crisp biscuits are particularly good with ice cream.”  In my case though, they would go down well at any time and with anything because once I have one biscuit, I trough the lot!

Here’s how they were made:

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First I weighed out desiccated coconut, plain flour, salt and some icing sugar into a mixing bowl.
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Into a mixing bowl went some cold, diced butter which I rubbed into the flour and sugar mixture so it turned out like breadcrumbs.
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I added two egg yolks and then formed the biscuit dough into a large ball.

The instructions mention making the dough in a food processor which is useful to know. I just couldn’t be bothered to get mine out of the cupboard so I made my dough by hand.  The recipe also recommends 30 minutes chilling time before rolling out the dough.  Unfortunately, due to running out of time I only managed 10 minutes in the fridge.  I wouldn’t have had enough time to get the cookies baked before going to pick  my daughter up from her After School Club.  That’s probably why I struggled to roll out the dough, it was quite sticky and I had to use a bit of flour on the work surface and on my rolling pin.

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  I used a fluted biscuit cutter to cut out rounds of dough. I used a plastic one which wasn’t a good idea as it kept sticking to the dough.
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Tray one out of the oven.
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Tray two out of the oven.
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Cooling on the rack and waiting to be eaten even if they do look a bit rustic looking!

Although the cookies don’t look that exciting to eat, they did taste lovely. After all they say “looks aren’t everything”.  I tasted one with a cup of tea. I shouldn’t have done as I had already eaten a chocolate mint M&M cookie earlier that afternoon.  I will definitely make these again and I do like the idea of serving them with ice cream.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies

It was a sunny autumnal day up here in North Yorkshire yesterday and was a complete contrast to the day before.  All that rain made me think, “Oh this is it, all downhill from here on until Spring!” I was wrong as we had lovely weather.  Now today as I type we are back to the damp and misty conditions.  However, I was in really good spirits yesterday.  Although my son had now gone down with the horrible cough that I had last week and was tucked up on the sofa underneath the duvet, I had two whole days off as I worked all my hours at the beginning of the week.  I love my job as a teaching assistant but I was grateful for the time at home to catch up on everything at home.

By yesterday afternoon I had done a few jobs, the huge compulsion to bake came back.  I was trying not to but my son complained that he was hungry. Feed a cold, starve flu as they say!  He had eaten a ham sandwich at lunchtime but as he has hollow legs being a growing teenager, he asked if we had any biscuits.  I don’t buy them as I know I’d trough the lot before I’d got them into the biscuit tin!

In the end I remembered I had bought some mint flavoured M&M’s last Friday when I was in Leeds at Gob Stoppers, the American sweet shop in Trinity Leeds.  At over £5 for a 225g bag they were much more expensive than the plain or peanut M&M’s you can get in the UK.  But as I love all things mint I bought them!  I thought they would make great cupcake toppings.

In the end they got turned into chocolate mint M&M cookies.  I adapted a recipe I use  from BBC Good Food which is for Smarties Cookies.  These cookies have been made many times over and over for many occasions and if I haven’t got Smarties handy I sometimes substitute  chocolate M&M’s!  This is how I adapted the recipe:

Instead of 350g of plain flour, I used 300g plain flour and 50g cocoa powder.

Instead of 1 tsp vanilla extract I used 1 tsp peppermint extract.

Instead of the Smarties I used the whole bag of peppermint M&M’s.  I put half of the quantity of M&M’s in the mixture itself. Then about approximately halfway through the cooking time I got the trays out of the oven, banged the trays on the worktop* and studded the remaining M&M’s on the top of the cookies.

* This is a fab tip I picked up from the lovely Jo Wheatley who won the Great British Bake Off in 2011.  Ever since I read about banging the tray on the top of the cooker in her  Passion For Baking Book, I have done it with my cookies and it works a treat!

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The finished cookies: Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies. They didn’t take long to make and smelled wonderful.
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Mid afternoon treat- coffee and a cookie. Naughty but nice, what an epic diet fail!

I will definitely make these cookies again in the future but as the M&M’s were expensive, it won’t be too often.  Perhaps that’s a good thing for my waistline, too!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook- Book Review.

Last week I featured a book review about The Hungry Student Baking Book on my blog.  This week it’s the turn of another of The Hungry Student Books: The Vegetarian Cookbook.

About three years ago my daughter chose to become a vegetarian.  I was happy to support her but after a few months she became anaemic.  This was very worrying so after a lot of discussion we decided to get her to eat chicken and fish again.  Unfortunately my hubby is a true carnivore and thinks a meal isn’t a meal without meat or fish in it.  My son is just the same (is it a man thing or are they just like that?)  I experimented with Quorn in recipes which my daughter and I liked but the fussy men didn’t!

So, I was delighted to see a Vegetarian Cookbook in the Hungry Student series for several reasons. I’m always after cooking healthy but delicious meals for all of us as a family. Being student friendly it would also mean they would be easier on the purse strings, especially in this current economic climate.  It meant that I could resort to a couple of meatless days a week, helping all of us in the meantime.

The introduction to this helpful book states ” Feeding yourself well at uni can be a real challenge and if you’re vegetarian, your options might look even more limited…. But you don’t have to resort to endless takeaways and baked beans!”  

I was very impressed with the introduction to the book- ideas on how to stock up your storecupboard so you have herbs, sauces and cans of pulses and tomatoes to hand. There are also ideas on how to watch your budget, how to cook safely so you don’t poison your friends as well as what you need to know about foods may contain animal deriatives not suitable for vegetarians.

The recipes themselves are split into several chapters: Pasta, Stir Fries, Noodles and Rice, Soups, Stews and Curries, Salads, Veggies and Sides, Jacket Potatoes and Toppings, Easy Dinners, Feeding Friends, In Bread and On Toast, Sweets and one which made me chuckle The Morning After (hangover cures of course!)

So far we have tried two of the meals from the book.

Spinach and Mozzarella Gnocchi made from The Hungry Student Vegetarian Cookbook.
The Creamy Gnocchi Bake With Spinach, Olives and Walnuts.

In the summer holidays, about a week after I bought the book we tried the Creamy Gnocchi Bake with Spinach and Walnuts for tea. This was absolutely gorgeous and tasted fab with a side salad.  It was the first time my hubby and kids had tasted gnocchi and they loved it.  In fact no one noticed the lack of meat in the recipe. I was so pleased with this that I made it again a couple of weeks later.

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The Roasted Vegetable Pasta Bake.

Yesterday I made the Roasted Vegetable Pasta Bake for tea. It made four massive portions but unfortunately it was not a success with my carnivore loving husband and son.  My hubby said it “didn’t taste of anything” which I thought was totally untrue. My son picked some of the pasta and the cheese out but said they were all vegetables he didn’t like in the recipe. (aubergines, courgettes and peppers). My hubby ended up going to pick up my daughter from her dance class and bought himself a Doner Kebab on the way home!  I give up!

Tomorrow night I am going to try out the Beany Nachos on the whole family.  They love nachos normally so why not beany ones? The beans are in a chilli sauce and heated with cheese on the top along with all the sides you get, such as guacamole and salsa! They’re just like the ones you get as a starter in Mexican restaurants.  Surely they can’t moan about that?  You don’t have to put half a cow on the top of things to make it tasty!

So can I recommend this book to others?  Yes I can!  Not only is it designed for students, it can be an ideal present for a parent giving a cookbook to their teenager to encourage them to cook. Or even if they are a keen cook themselves and are looking for new ideas of cooking with less or no meat or fish in your diet.  This is how I see it, as well as being a book full of great inspiration for cheap meals.  I bought this book myself and am intending to buy another copy so that both children have useful cookery books to help them get started when they move away from home in the years to come.  I also think it is an affordable book, along with the others in the series at only £7.99 each. This makes it huge value for money as there are loads of recipes in the book (I didn’t count them but it seems that way!).

Watch out for my review of The Hungry Student Cookbook coming up soon.

Happy Cooking!

Love Sam xx

Apple Pie Cake From The Boy Who Bakes

Not another apple related blog post?! Well it certainly feels like it at the moment but then again I have been inundated with apples.  The other day my next door neighbour came round with some apples.  He gave us two huge carrier bags full of apples from his tree in his garden. One bag of smaller apples is being eaten by my daughter’s horse, the others by me and my family here in North Yorkshire.

The other day I posted about baking a Sticky Toffee Apple Pudding nearly two weeks ago from the latest Great British Bake Off book but I still had loads of apples to use up.  I had been ill with a nasty cough so I hadn’t baked anything for nearly a week (a record for me!) But to me, Sunday lunch isn’t Sunday lunch without a pudding to finish it off especially in the colder weather.  So it had to be something with apples but what could I bake? I’d made apple cakes, apple crumbles, apple pies and was running out of ideas. I looked through my recipe books and although it looked very big for a Sunday lunch I couldn’t resist having a go at the Apple Pie Cake which is from Edd Kimber‘s recipe. This cake recipe is featured in his “The Boy Who Bakes” book.

I have always liked Edd and his style of baking ever since we first saw him on the very first series of The Great British Bake Off back in 2010.  His Red Velvet Cake from The Boy Who Bakes and his chocolate cake from his second book “Say It With Cake” are two of my favourite large cake recipes which I use time and time again.

Here’s how I made the Apple Pie Cake:

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I needed to use three 20cm/ 8″ sandwich cake tins to make the apple pie cake. Here they are greased and lined with baking parchment circles from Lakeland.

The cake itself is actually created using a whisking method where the eggs are separated.  The air gets into the cake by whisking the volume into the yolks and then into the egg whites. I’m not as experienced at this method so I did wonder how it would turn out.

Flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon were sifted into a large bowl.
Flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon were sifted into a large bowl.
Butter and half the sugar were creamed together.
Butter and half the sugar were creamed together.
One by one four egg yolks were added and beaten in to the mixture.
One by one four egg yolks were added and beaten in to the mixture.
Then some vanilla extract was added in.
Then some vanilla extract was added in.
The egg whites were whisked together.
The egg whites were whisked together.
Hoping to achieve soft peak status!
Hoping to achieve soft peak status!
Adding the remains of the caster sugar to the mixture bit by bit.
Adding the remains of the caster sugar to the mixture bit by bit.
Folding the egg whites into the cake mixture.
Folding the egg whites into the cake mixture.
Then adding the dry ingredients.
Then adding the dry ingredients.
Sharing out the mixture equally  between the three tins.
Sharing out the mixture equally between the three tins.
Making the caramelised apples for the top and filling of the cake; butter, sugar, cinnamon and sliced apples heating slowly in the pan.
Making the caramelised apples for the top and filling of the cake; butter, sugar, cinnamon and sliced apples heating slowly in the pan.
Two out of three layers of apple cake!
Two out of three layers of apple cake!
The final one!
The final one!
The apples were then taken out of the sauce so that the sauce could thicken and caramelise.
The apples were then taken out of the sauce so that the sauce could thicken and caramelise.
The apples in their bowl cooling down
The apples in their bowl cooling down.
Building up the cake layer by layer, spreading on a layer of cinnamon cream cheese icing, topped by a layer of apples.
Building up the cake layer by layer, spreading on a layer of cinnamon cream cheese icing, topped by a layer of apples.
Two of the cakes turned out onto the cooling rack.
Two of the cakes turned out onto the cooling rack.
Ta[dah! The finished cake.  It tasted delicious- all the flavours of apple pie in cake form!
Ta[dah! The finished cake. It tasted delicious- all the flavours of apple pie in cake form!

Despite still feeling rough from my cough after last week I was delighted that the cake turned out well.  It tasted absolutely delicious and everyone enjoyed it. Even my son who complains he “doesn’t like apple cooked in anything” ate a second slice!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Amaretto Cake from The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook

Last Monday was the Harrogate Clandestine Cake Club event which was held at The Mitre Inn in Knaresborough.  I had chosen the theme of Boozy Cakes as we were going to be in a pub in the middle of Knaresborough next to the station.  This, funnily enough didn’t bode well with my Sober For October challenge with Macmillan though.  Having said that, there was only two tablespoons of alcohol in the whole of my cake.

I had had a very busy weekend, the Saturday was spent in Liverpool with my Mum and my daughter and my mum was with us the whole weekend.  By the time I got to Sunday night I was feeling dreadful.  I had started off with a sore throat that morning and it had developed into a tickly, niggly cough.  I thought, that was all I needed with a busy week at work and cake club the following day as well as two other nights out!

So, by the time I got round to baking my offering it was about two o’clock on the Monday afternoon, four hours before it was going to be served at the Cake Club. After a lot of chopping and changing I eventually chose to bake a cake that I had really enjoyed eating a slice of at a previous Clandestine Cake Club event where Lynn Hill (The Clandestine Cake Club’s founder) had baked the cake. It is the Dark Chocolate and Amaretto Cake which is featured in The Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook.  Mine turned out totally different to the way Lynn had made it and how it looked like in the book.  I was in a right old rush as I made the cake!

Here’s what happened:

First I melted some butter and put it aside.
First I melted some butter and put it aside.  Putting it aside meant I clean forgot about it! More of that later!
In a large bowl I put in flour, baking powder and ground almonds.
In a large bowl I put in flour, baking powder and ground almonds.
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Mixing baking powder with vanilla extract.

Carmela Hayes’ recipe in the Clandestine Cake Club cookbook calls for “pane degli angeli” which is a special Italian vanilla flavoured raising agent.  If you are unable to get hold of this, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of baking powder mixed in with vanilla extract instead.  I had to do this as I didn’t have chance to look for the pane degli angeli anywhere.

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A whole packet of these delicious Amaretti biscuits were crushed in my food processor.
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Everything is combined together, even the chocolate (which was Green and Blacks 70% cocoa solids)

I got to this stage and thought, this mixture is a bit stiff!  Is it meant to be like that?  It seemed to stick to the wooden spoon and I tried my hardest to tip it into my greased cake tin and spread it evenly.  Never mind, I thought. Let’s hope it’s ok once it’s in the oven.  Off it popped into the oven.  It was then when I saw it!  The bowl of melted butter was still on the side by the microwave!  I’d completely forgotten about it!  I quickly whipped the cake out of the oven, tipped the mixture back into a clean mixing bowl with the melted butter and stirred it in.  I then re-greased the tin as fast as I could and popped the cake back into the oven, while saying a huge prayer.

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The finished Dark Chocolate Amaretto Cake.

When the cake came out of the oven about an hour later it didn’t look very appealing.  The chocolate had melted in to the mixture instead of staying in chunks as it had on the picture.  I had also forgotten to switch my timer on and didn’t note the time it went in the oven as I was rushing.  I just did it on guesswork with a large skewer! To be honest I wasn’t impressed with my effort and I really felt disappointed in myself that I didn’t take more care.  I had no time to make another cake as I had to walk our dog and prepare some dinner for my family before I went out to Cake Club.

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The cake cut up at the Cake Club event.

At Cake Club I took a small piece and so did everyone else. As I cut into the cake it began to crumble whereas the other two cakes there cut perfectly. I was really embarrassed and even though it wasn’t being judged and it isn’t a competition I felt ashamed of it.  The other members still ate it out of kindness though!  I felt the cake was a little bit dry but it had a lovely crunchy effect.  I will definitely make it again when I have more time so I can get the recipe right!  Serves me right for rushing.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx