Cooking The Books- The Brand New Challenge for May 2014.

Another month means another book yet again in my Cooking The Books Challenge.  I’ve found it hard to choose for this month as it is going to be an extremely busy time.  May is always a busy month in our house so I had to choose a book with much fewer chapters to bake from.    The recipes themselves also had to be ones that weren’t too complicated and would be suitable to donate to cake stalls at both my village Open Gardens and at the neighbouring village’s Spring Festival.  On top of that I wanted a nice cake for my own birthday although I’m not really celebrating it this year!

So after much choosing I finally came up with the lovely Delia’s Cakes.  I’m a huge fan of Delia Smith and have been ever since I first got my own home.  I tried to impress my husband with her recipes when we first started going out together and over the past eighteen or so years I return to her cookbooks time and time again.  I didn’t have her original Book of Cakes but bought a copy of the Baking book she published a few years back as part of her collection.  So, when she brought out an updated version of her Cakes book last year I just had to have it.  I enjoyed baking two of her large cakes but there are so many more I would love to try.  So Delia it is then!

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This is Delia’s Chocolate Beer Cake which I baked on St Patrick’s Day last year. It was absolutely delicious and we couldn’t eat enough of it!
This was the Lemon Layer cake I baked to take to the York Clandestine Cake Club event last Saturday.
This is Delia’s Lemon Curd Layer Cake which I baked for a Clandestine Cake Club event last year.  It was an afternoon tea theme and I thought this cake was perfect to fit in with that theme!

So which recipes am I going to bake? Decisions, decisons!  Well Delia’s Cakes has nine chapters, so that means nine bakes.

Sponge Cakes: So many to choose from here but I wanted to bake something that people would eat at the Open Gardens so I’m going for the Coffee and Walnut Sponge Cake.

Chapter two in the book is all about Loaf Cakes:  I couldn’t make up my mind what to bake here but have chosen to bake the Sticky Toffee Loaf Cake with Fudge Icing for the Open Gardens Cake Stall.

Family Cakes: Another winner here is definitely the Double Lemon Drizzle Cake with Poppy Seeds for the Open Gardens Cake Stall.

Little Cakes:  For our neighbouring village’s Spring Festival I’m going to donate some of the Iced Hidden Strawberry Cupcakes but going to use raspberries instead as strawberries aren’t in season yet.

In the Muffins chapter it just had to be the large Blueberry and Pecan Muffin Cake.  I know I’ve baked something similar from Jo Wheatley’s book recently but I do love blueberries.

Biscuits: I love the sound of the Chocolate Orange biscuits. Wonder if they’ll make it as far as the cake stall?

Chocolate:  I’ve been keen to try out the Chocolate Marbled Energy Bars but will leave the nuts out. Instead I’m going to add small pieces of digestive biscuit.

Celebration Cakes: I adore Carrot Cake so I’m going to bake The Ultimate Carrot Cake for my birthday cake.  Unless someone else offers to bake it for me….

And finally…  in the Dessert Cake chapter is the most sublime looking cake I’ve had my eye on ever since I saw it in Delia’s How To Cook Part 3, it’s the Venetian Zabaglione Cake and I’m determined to have a go at baking it for a Sunday lunch pud. Wish me luck, it looks fiddly!

Cooking The Books Challenge (April 2014)- Mary Berry’s Baking Bible Update.

I go in fits and starts with my blog posts. Sometimes I have loads of time to write things up and take photos, other times I don’t have time to even think about it.  Over the past week it’s been the same and I realised I had seven recipes to blog about linked in with my Cooking The Books Challenge for this month.  For those of you that don’t know, I’m attempting this month to bake one recipe from each chapter of Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  This is easier said than done as the Baking Bible has about 250 recipes and 19 chapters!  At the beginning of April what with me having 2 weeks off for the Easter Holidays and for Easter itself I thought I would have it covered.  Oh no!  It’s the end of April tomorrow and I have two recipes I won’t get round to baking: the Banoffi Pie and the Marbled Chocolate Cake.  At least I managed 17 out of 19, that is some achievement and I am proud of that.

So I’m going to share pics of the bakes I never got round to blogging about and as from now I’ll try to keep up!  So here goes:

First up is Mary Berry’s Simnel Cake which I baked for Easter Sunday.  It tasted absolutely divine and had a delicate spice flavour to it.  I loved Mary’s recipe and so far out of all the Simnel Cake recipes I have tried I have found this by far to be the tastiest as well as the easiest for me.

212Last Sunday I baked Mary’s Hazelnut Meringue Cake for our Sunday lunch pudding.  Both my children hate anything with nuts in it but they devoured this.  I really enjoyed baking this dessert and I think I will bake it again and again.  I would love to try it with pistachios and strawberries in over the summer, they sound like a delicious combination.

083Now for one of my baking flops!  I have never ever made choux pastry before and it shows!  I wanted to bake Mary Berry’s Chocolate Eclairs last Saturday but they were a complete disaster from start to finish.  First the mixture was far too runny so it poured out through the piping bag straight onto the trays like a flood!  I tried again but this time I gave up the idea of piping eclairs and did great big mounds.  Of course they didn’t puff up like I wanted them to and looked like frisbees!  By this time I couldn’t give a stuff and filled and decorated them anyway.  Although they looked awful, can you imagine what would have happened if I’d have been on The Great British Bake Off with those monstrosities? But not to worry, my family wolfed them down anyway!066

My daughter was asked to bake some buns for her dance class bake sale, so she baked Mary’s Butterfly Buns for her contribution.  I originally was going to bake them myself but she asked if she could do them instead.  I thought she did a marvellous job.  I think butterfly buns are so cute and I’m sure they went down well.

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I made Mary Berry’s Borrowdale Teabread to go in the freezer as we didn’t need it there and then but might in a few weeks time.  I should have baked one big tea bread instead of two small ones as they don’t look very attractive.  Still, I’m looking forward to a slice with butter or served with cheese sometime soon!

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All the family loved the pudding I made for the Easter weekend.  It was an Austrian  Baked Cheesecake but instead of curd cheese I used ricotta.  My son finds creamy American style cheesecakes far too rich but this was sweet without being  too heavy, claggy and overpowering.  I really enjoyed it and had to use all my willpower to stop myself eating the leftovers!

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At work we had a training day for the first day of term so I took in some of my first ever attempt at Millionaire’s Shortbread from the Baking Bible.  I find it a bit rich and sickly so I don’t often eat it.  I need a bit of practice in getting the neatness on the top but it did taste lovely.

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On the Easter Weekend I baked a large Cheese Scone Round to go with a bowl of tomato soup.  It was heaven and went down very well with the whole family.  I think I’ll be baking this again and again as it was so quick to make and tasted fab.
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Two weeks ago during the Easter holidays my mum came to stay.  On the Saturday night I chose to bake Mary’s Caramelised Onion and Balsamic Foccacia Bread to go with antipasti meat, olives and cheese.  When I was kneading the dough earlier that day my son came into the kitchen and asked “What’s that?” When I told him what it was and that it was for our tea he said “I’m not eating that Italian shite!”  That’s teenagers for you!  Anyway, he ate two pieces of the bread so it can’t have been “shite!” The rest of us enjoyed it too, though it reminded me more of pizza dough than foccacia.

A Caramelised Onion and Balsamic Foccacia bread.  I baked this when my mum came to stay, it went really well with anti pasti, cheese and olives.

I have really enjoyed this month’s challenge and baking more recipes from one of my favourite cooks.   There are still loads more recipes I would like to try but now is the time to move onto a fresh challenge for next month.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cherry and Almond Traybake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

I love baking traybakes.  They’re so useful as a little goes a long way if you need to bake for a coffee morning or a bake sale.  They’re great for when I have to do my turn for WI supper as they can easily be cut up into little fingers or squares so that everyone gets to have a little taste.

When I was thinking about what to bake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible for this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge it was difficult to choose what to make out of the Traybakes and Flapjacks chapter.  All of the recipes looked so yummy but yet I wanted to try one I’d not baked before. I had lots of Glace Cherries and some almonds in my baking stash so it had to be the  Cherry And Almond Traybake.  Mary says “in season you can use fresh, stoned cherries instead of glace” but with it being April it had to be the glace option.

My daughter and her friend who were helping me in the kitchen on this day were on washing, drying and quartering the cherries duty.  I explained this would help them not to sink to the bottom of the cake but usually I toss them in a tablespoon of flour as well.  Mary doesn’t mention this in the recipe so I didn’t do it.

All the other ingredients (self raising flour, baking powder, softened butter, caster sugar, the grated rind of two lemons, ground almonds and five large eggs) were weighed and measured out into a large mixing bowl.  The mixture was then mixed thoroughly with my hand held mixer.  The glace cherries were then folded in carefully.

The glace cherries and lemon rind was ready to be folded in to the rest of the mixture.
The glace cherries and lemon rind was ready to be folded in to the rest of the mixture.
The cake mixture was spooned into my traybake tin and put into the oven to bake for about 30-40 minutes.
The cake mixture was spooned into my traybake tin and put into the oven to bake for about 30-40 minutes.
The traybake all finished  and just out of the oven.
The traybake all finished and just out of the oven.
Turned out of the tin and cooling on the wire rack.
Turned out of the tin and cooling on the wire rack.

I was pleased with the way the traybake turned out although many of the cherries had sunk to the bottom.  The traybake got nice compliments from some of the WI ladies and there were a few pieces left to take home.

Dusted with sugar and cut into squares to take along to my WI meeting.
Dusted with sugar and cut into squares to take along to my WI meeting.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Viennese Fingers and Shrewsbury Biscuits from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Last week when I had to provide supper at my local WI Meeting I decided to take along some biscuits as well to go with our supper.  Once again I was trying to work through the recipes set in my Cooking The Books Challenge from Mary Berry’s fabulous Baking Bible.

In Mary’s Biscuits and Cookies  chapter I chose to bake Shrewsbury Biscuits.  I’ve made these (and scoffed loads of them too) before but not worked from Mary’s recipe before.  The other biscuit recipe comes from the Fancy Biscuits section of the book, none other than Viennese Fingers.  These are gorgeous and melt in the mouth but I’ve never made them.  I don’t know why, just haven’t got round to it before. Well I suppose there’s always a first time for everything.

First up was to get on with the Shrewsbury Biscuits.  These are usually made with a fluted circular cutter but because my daughter and her friend were helping me I let them choose their own shapes from my cookie cutter stash.  They found my box full of Easter cutters and chose to cut out chicks, sheep, eggs and rabbits!

I quickly made up the dough so that the girls could cut out the shapes for me.  The dough was made by creaming butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  An egg yolk was then added to the mixture, followed by sifted plain flour, the grated rind of a lemon  and then some currants. It was mixed together to make a dough.

The girls took half of the dough each and rolled their piece out to the thickness of a pound coin.

Chicks cut out of the Shrewsbury biscuit dough.
Chicks cut out of the Shrewsbury biscuit dough.
Cute sheep.
Cute sheep.

The recipe made about 25 biscuits and we were lucky to get a few of each shape.  About half way through baking I had to take the tray of biscuits out of the oven, brush them carefully with beaten egg white and return them to the oven for the rest of the baking time. They came out of the oven all golden brown.

The finished cookies were dusted with a sprinkling of caster sugar.
The finished cookies were dusted with a sprinkling of caster sugar.
Packaged up to take along to my WI meeting.
Packaged up to take along to my WI meeting.

Then it was the turn of the Viennese Fingers.  The mixture for this was easy enough to make- softened butter, icing sugar, plain flout and baking powder was mixed together to form a dough.  It had to be runny enough to pipe onto a baking tray with a star shaped nozzle.  However, although the recipe was meant to make 20 biscuits, I didn’t even get half of that quantity out of the mixture.  My dough was too stiff to pipe and maybe my icing nozzle was too big. I just don’t know.  They didn’t look very pretty anyway.  So I guessed these wouldn’t go to the WI meeting either.

My daughter’s friend melted some plain chocolate for me and then when the biscuits had cooled down I dipped them into the chocolate.  Unfortunately the biscuits were a bit crumbly and they started to break as I was dipping the chocolate in.  In the end there were only about four unbroken biscuits!  We ended up keeping them at home and they got eaten over the next day or so!

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The few Viennese fingers that did end up ok. All shapes and sizes but still tasted fantastic.

Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Last week I had to take a few bakes along to my local WI meeting to serve up at suppertime.  We take it in turns in groups of three. Usually we liaise between one another and make or buy a selection of savoury and sweet items to take along to share with all the other ladies.  As I was the one out of the three ladies who liked baking the most the others took care of the savoury and I brought along the sweet stuff.  As some people aren’t so keen on fancy decorated cakes I always try to offer something plain like a fruit cake.  The Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible seemed to fit the bill.

In the recipe introduction Mary says “This is a traditional name for a cake that is so delicious that everyone will come back for another slice.”  She also said it was “good for a hungry family,”  As I was going to be away for a couple of days over the Easter holidays with my hubby and the kids were going to be at home with my Mum, any leftover cake would come in very useful as a pudding.  I was also hoping that the cake would live up to it’s name and that the cake would be so popular that people would come back for more!

Cut And Come Again Cake couldn’t be more simpler to make.  It was prepared by simply adding all the ingredients measured into one big bowl and mixed together thoroughly.

The ingredients in Mary’s Cut and Come Again Cake are: self raising flour, ground mixed spice, butter (which has to be very soft), caster sugar, eggs, currants, sultanas, raisins and a little milk to mix.

All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.
All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.
I used my deep 8" diameter cake tin.  This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.
I used my deep 8″ diameter cake tin. This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.
The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.
The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.
Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.
Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.

The cake smelled heavenly when it was baking.  My kitchen was filled with a spicy aroma and it made my mouth water.  It took about 1 1/4 hours to bake which meant I had to leave it until last when I was getting it ready for the meeting.  By this time it was the afternoon and I was feeling very hungry and in need of a pick me up!  I was so tempted to cut into the cake and scoff a slice.

At the meeting I sliced the cake up but as there were so many cakes and other goodies on offer I still had half of it left to take home.  I enjoyed my slice with a cup of tea, it wasn’t as heavy and rich as other fruit cakes but still tasted gorgeous.  My Mum and my kids ate some more at the weekend, though it doesn’t keep as well as an ordinary fruit cake.  And yes I was tempted to come back for more but I didn’t!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Frosted Walnut Layer Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Last week it was my turn along with two others to provide supper for all the ladies at my local WI meeting.  When we sort out the supper rota at the beginning of the year I always volunteer to do my turn depending on when the school holidays are.  Luckily this time I managed to do April’s meeting as it fell during the Easter holidays.  This means it’s easier to get things ready, like baking a few little goodies.

Though I’m glad I had time to experiment in the kitchen this time.  I wanted to try out some more recipes from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible as part of my Cooking The Books Challenge, so I planned to bake a Frosted Walnut Layer Cake.   To help even more I was lucky to have both my daughter and her friend in the kitchen with me. My daughter’s friend is working towards her Duke of Edinburgh Award and wanted to gain some baking skills and more knowledge. So I got them both involved with tasks and it helped the baking go with a swing.

My daughter's friend set to chopping up some walnuts to go in the filling of the cake.
My daughter’s friend set to chopping up some walnuts to go in the filling of the cake.
Two 20cm/ 8" diameter sandwich tins were greased and lined.
Two 20cm/ 8″ diameter sandwich tins were greased and lined.
All the ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs, self raising flour, baking powder and the chopped walnuts) were all added to the mixing bowl and beaten until thoroughly blended.
All the ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs, self raising flour, baking powder and the chopped walnuts) were all added to the mixing bowl and beaten until thoroughly blended.
Here are the two Walnut Cakes turned out to cool on the wire rack.
Here are the two Walnut Cakes turned out to cool on the wire rack.

By this time it was getting busy in the kitchen.  I was trying to rush through each stage of the various cakes I had to make and then upon reading the recipe I realised I had to make a meringue frosting.  The egg whites and caster sugar had to be  continually whisked over a bowl of hot water, which took a very long time.  It was meant to thicken up but it just didn’t. No matter how hard I whisked it,  it just stayed runny.  By the time I had got round to making the frosting I had baked all the other things and I hadn’t got any eggs left to start again from scratch.  I was even low on butter so I couldn’t even make another batch of icing like a buttercream.  In the end I tried more whisking and after another ten minutes it finally thickened a little.  It still wasn’t enough to spread on the cake,  more like to pour it on as you’ll see from all the following pictures.

Spreading the frosting on one of the layers of the cake.
Spreading the frosting on one of the layers of the cake.
The finished cake, filled sandwiched and topped with more walnut frosting.  The cake was finished with walnut halves.
The finished cake, filled sandwiched and topped with more walnut frosting. The cake was finished with walnut halves.
A cut slice of the walnut cake.
A cut slice of the walnut cake.
The Walnut Layer Cake with some slices cut out of it!
The Walnut Layer Cake with some slices cut out of it!

I was so disappointed with the cake that I didn’t dare take it along to my WI meeting.  I was so ashamed of it and it looked so messy.  It went into the fridge and there it stayed.  Over the weekend a couple of days later when my mum was staying she had a piece and said it was lovely.  I tasted a mouthful and thought the icing was very sweet but I did like the walnut cake part.  I’ll definitely try and make it again when I’m not in a rush as it looks such a delicious cake.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Mary Berry’s Classic Swiss Roll

It was Sunday lunchtime and that means a cake or a dessert in our house to follow the roast.  Once again I turned to my trusty Mary Berry’s Baking Bible to bake another recipe from my Cooking The Books Challenge.  Mary’s Swiss Roll is one of the recipes featured in her Classic Recipes chapter, along with a couple of variations.  As I have only ever made one fairly successful Swiss Roll in my life, I decided I needed a bit more practice.  When my daughter saw I was planning to bake a Swiss Roll she asked if she could do it.  As the one she made in her GCSE Catering Practical got an A* from her teacher I think she is definitely the Swiss Roll expert in our house.

So here’s how my daughter (with a tiny bit of help with one stage from me) made this utterly scrumptious bake!

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Whisking the eggs and sugar together.
The Swiss roll tray all lined and greased.
The Swiss roll tray all lined and greased.
Self raising flour was carefully folded into the whisked egg and sugar mixture.
Self raising flour was carefully folded into the whisked egg and sugar mixture.
Pouring the mixture into the prepared tin.
The mixture was spread about so that it reached all corners of the tin.
The mixture was spread about so that it reached all corners of the tin.

Once the cake had gone into the oven (my oven is a fan assisted electric one, so the temperature was 200oC) my daughter disappeared upstairs to do whatever teenagers do in the depths of their bedrooms.  As the cake was only going to be in the oven for about 10 minutes I didn’t dare leave the kitchen.  It seemed to bake very quickly.  Anyway, as soon as it was out of the oven I called my daughter and told her to come down.  She had got engrossed in something so I said I would take it out of the tin and do the trimming bits.  She could finish off the rest seeing as she wanted to do it in the first place!

Another piece of baking parchment bigger than the swiss roll was put on the worktop.  It was sprinkled liberally with caster sugar.
Another piece of baking parchment bigger than the swiss roll was put on the worktop. It was sprinkled liberally with caster sugar.
Here's the baked Swiss Roll just fresh out of the oven.
Here’s the baked Swiss Roll just fresh out of the oven.
After a little while the Swiss Roll was turned out of its tin and onto the sugared piece of baking parchment.  This would be used to help it be rolled up later!
After a little while the Swiss Roll was turned out of its tin and onto the sugared piece of baking parchment. This would be used to help it be rolled up later!
The Swiss Roll was trimmed to give it neat edges.
The Swiss Roll was trimmed to give it neat edges.
Then a scored line using a sharp knife was used about an inch from one short end of the cake.
Then a scored line using a sharp knife was used about an inch from one short end of the cake.

By this time my daughter had come back downstairs.  I wanted her to get finished with the Swiss Roll as I needed to get started on the rest of the dinner.

This was some homemade jam leftover from last week's Eton Mess which was great to go inside the Swiss Roll.
This was some homemade jam leftover from last week’s Eton Mess which was great to go inside the Swiss Roll.
My daughter spreads the jam onto the top of her Swiss Roll.
My daughter spreads the jam onto the top of her Swiss Roll.
Then, she whipped up some cream to go with the jam for the filling.
Then, she whipped up some cream to go with the jam for the filling.
Starting to spread the cream onto the top of the Swiss Roll!
Starting to spread the cream onto the top of the Swiss Roll!
Slapping it on!
Slapping it on!
My daughter expertly rolls up the Swiss Roll inside the sugared parchment.
My daughter expertly rolls up the Swiss Roll inside the sugared parchment.
Ta-dah! A very impressive, delicious and scrumptious Swiss Roll just asking to be eaten.
Ta-dah! A very impressive, delicious and scrumptious Swiss Roll just asking to be eaten.
We couldn't resist nabbing the end piece before dinner.
We couldn’t resist nabbing the end piece before dinner!!

Well I was totally amazed by this yummy bake and we were rather greedy over it.  Not only did I share the end piece with my daughter before dinner but I had another slice for pudding!  The following night my hubby finished it off.  It was just too scrumptious for words.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx