Nostalgic Bakes from Paul Hollywood’s “A Baker’s Life”

The recent spate of snow days has made me want to stay in my warm kitchen and bake comfort food.  Never mind me trying to diet.  Forget that! When you feel cold and tired, all you want to do is to hibernate with a giant piece of flapjack in each hand!

I ended not being able to work for three days due to the snow last week but then again I wasn’t the only one.  Then again it gave me chance to catch up with jobs and to try out some recipes from Paul Hollywood’s latest book A Baker’s Life.  I had got it at Christmas last year and had my eye on several things I wanted to test out.

The book spans the five decades of Paul’s life so far from his childhood as the son of a baker in Merseyside right up to the present day as a judge on The Great British Bake Off.  Each chapter in the book concentrates on recipes from a certain time of life.  I wanted to start with the first chapter: Nostalgic Bakes from Paul’s early years.

There were loads of recipes to choose from, including traditional favourites that we would all remember from our own childhoods.  Some of the recipes are perfect for actually making with children, such as Cornflake Cakes and Jam Tarts.  As well as these, there were also recipes for bakes that your grandma or mum may have made in years gone by.  The first recipe in the book was actually called My Mum’s Ginger Biscuits.  I absolutely love ginger biscuits and they remind me of the Yorkshire Ginger Biscuits my Nana Margaret would buy.  She would never bake them as she was a walking disaster in the kitchen.  If she could buy it in Marks and Spencer’s food hall, she would have it and pass it off as her own.

Paul says in his recipe introduction: ” Not only are they a doddle to make, but they’ve got the right balance of being crispy and chewy.” The recipe was an old-fashioned melting method one, where the butter or margarine is melted in a saucepan on the hob with golden syrup and caster sugar. Then once the melted mixture was cooled enough to handle, then self raising flour and a beaten egg were added to the mixture.

The mixture was then gathered up into a ball and made into a dough.  I separated the dough into about 24 pieces and spaced them out carefully on lined baking trays.  I put two trays in the oven at a time and watched them like a hawk. They could easily burn quickly after about 10 minutes.

I always like my cookies on the chewy side and to be honest I would add tiny pieces of chopped stem ginger to the dough.  This version has the ginger flavour coming from ground ginger and wow, did my kitchen smell wonderful! I honestly don’t know how I managed to keep them from being scoffed instead of taking them into work.

When the biscuits were cooling down on the rack, I decided to have a go at another recipe from the Nostalgic Bakes chapter.  This time it was for a Tea Loaf.  I have baked countless tea loaves in my time, including my own version of a Welsh Bara Brith which recipe is featured in the second Clandestine Club Cookbook A Year Of Cake.  I can’t resist a slice of tea loaf, slathered in butter and with a cup of my beloved Yorkshire Tea.  The recipe doesn’t feature any spices or citrus fruit zest but is crammed full of raisins, sultanas and currants.  I did not have any currants but made up the difference in weight with extra sultanas and raisins.  The dried fruit had been previously soaked in some strong Yorkshire Tea and to this I added self raising flour, demerara sugar, milk and a beaten egg.

Once this was mixed up, I lined my 2 lb loaf tin with a special loaf tin liner and put it to bake in my fan oven.  I completely forgot that I also needed to bake some potato wedges to go along with the Cajun Chicken breasts cooking in the slow oven for our dinner that night.  So half way through the baking time I had to whip the oven door open and stuff the tray of wedges in on the shelf underneath the tea loaf.  Luckily they were both ready at the same time as I didn’t want the cake sinking.

I left the cake to cool on the side with the ginger biscuits and then took them along to work the following day.  I left them in the staff room and found that half the biscuits had gone along with a couple of slices of cake when I popped in at lunchtime before going home.

Next week I’m thinking of trying out some Millionaire’s Shortbread if I have time.

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

Praline Brownies

There’s nothing like a great big gorgeous gooey chocolate brownie.  Just pure decadence.  I was off work for three days last week due to the snow and by last Friday afternoon I had cabin fever.  Now if you’re a baking addict like me you begin to think of what you can bake, never mind cooking the tea.  I was thinking I might have to get my breadmaker out but thankfully we had enough to keep us going.

A couple of weeks back I bought Martha Collison’s second recipe book “Crave” and ended up craving things after looking through the recipes.  One of her recipes for Pecan Praline Brownies including some homemade pecan praline to add to the mixture.

I had a packet of Vahine Pralines Concassees which I had bought from a Carrefour Supermarket when on holiday in France last year.  I didn’t know what I would use them for until I saw the recipe for the Praline Brownies.  Instead of making the praline with pecans, I would substitute the packet of pralines.  The pretty pink colour contrasted well against the rich, dark brown colour of the brownies.

What I also loved about this brownie recipe was that it used real, dark chocolate in the mixture and not just cocoa powder.  I also chose to bake mine in a square tin, rather than a traybake tin so I would get deeper pieces.

Instead of melting the dark chocolate separately, the recipe asks you to melt butter and sufar together on the hob.  Then, once this is melted then you add in the chocolate pieces using the heat of the melted mixture to melt the chocolate.

When the mixture had cooled, I added in beaten eggs, flour and cocoa powder and then finally tossed in the pralines.  Then it was poured into the prepared tin and ready to bake in the oven for between 25-30 minutes.

When the brownies were baked, they were taken out of the oven and left to cool.  I always worry about overcooking brownies as they are meant to be fudgy and chewy, not like a cake.

As not to tempt me to scoff them, I cut up the brownies and put them straight into a plastic box to go in the freezer.  I knew if they were frozen, I’d not be able to eat them all up. I did love the way the brownies turned out, though.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx