Blueberry and White Chocolate Layer Cake

Cake baking to me is a great stressbuster and it really helps with my anxiety. It brings me back into the moment and has been a huge help to get me through all the worries brought about by this coronavirus pandemic. I was feeling a bit off it on Monday. I know I am far from alone though. I always feel anxious and stressed on a Monday going to the supermarket. I missed about four things off the shopping list. Only one of them was important: some dishwasher tablets. I hadn’t realised we were down to the last one when I opened the pouch in the cupboard. But I was still made to feel like a senile old bat for forgetting them!

At the beginnning of lockdown I had an order from Sugar and Crumbs. I love their flavoured icing sugars and there were several flavours I’d yet to try. One of the flavours I had bought previously and liked was their Mermaid one (what are mermaids meant to taste like?!) It must mean that the flavour is inspired by mermaids as the icing sugar is actually blueberry and white chocolate. I love both blueberries and white chocolate so I was thinking what bake I could come up with which incorporated this flavour into it. Even more so, could I come up with a recipe?

I didn’t come up with my own recipe but instead adapted an old favourite recipe. It comes from the fantastic John Whaite (Bake Off winner from Season 3 in 2012). It’s originally his Raspberry and White Chocolate Melting Cake which was featured in BBC Good Food Magazine as well as in John’s first book, the fabulous John Whaite Bakes.

Here is the original recipe; https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/johns-white-chocolate-raspberry-cake

I have made the original cake before and it is divine! The filling is a white chocolate ganache but I changed the filling and added a topping instead. This was mainly so I could use the icing sugar and also because I didn’t have enough white chocolate for both the cake and the filling. Not only that, I didn’t have cream in.

In place of the raspberries in the cake I substituted the same weight of blueberries. For the filling I spread one cake with some St Dalfour Blueberry Preserve left over from a hamper I had won before Christmas. I made up some buttercream using the Sugar and Crumbs icing sugar and a splash of food colouring to turn it lilac. I then assembled the cake. I added some stars and swirls to the top of the cake and finished it with whole blueberries and a sprinkling of some white chocolate strands.

Althought the cake looked beautiful, I personally found the buttercream far too sweet and sickly for my taste. I think I might have to rethink my quantities next time.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Home-made Pizza

It’s been ages since I’ve made pizza. Last Sunday night I was planning out our shopping list when I was thinking about what we could have for our dinner. We all love pizza, although Mr S doesn’t really like shop bought ones. I like the thin and crispy ones but can’t stand anything deep pan or stuffed crust.

It’s easier to do things like this on a Monday while there’s the four of us still at home and when I’m not out at work. The dough can be got ready as and when you need it. Also, my two grown up kids enjoy making their own pizzas and sticking their favourite toppings on. Mr S asked if I could buy some prawns and anchovies for his pizza. Yuck to the anchovies but I got ham and pepperoni as well as lots of grated mozzerella and a carton of passata.

The pizza dough recipe I use is one by Annabel Karmel from her Children’s First Cookbook. I’ve had this cookbook years! It was bought when my kids were little and also got used when I ran an after school cookery club. Virtually most of the recipes had been adapted in one way or another. In fact I made pizzas loads of times throughout my time as a teacher but it was always Annabel’s recipe we used for the pizza dough.

Monday afternoon was not good dough making weather though. We up in North Yorkshire have not had the nasty storms and rain (yet) but the weather has been very muggy. My hands were hot as a furnace and no matter how much flour I dusted on the worktop and on my hands, the dough stuck to the worktop and to my hands. I got more and more flustered. Even having the windows open in my kitchen which gets the full sun in the afternoon wasn’t helping. I put my hands under a freezing cold tap but even that didn’t make a difference.

Eventually after 10 minutes of kneading I did get the dough into a bowl and left it proving. I didn’t need to find an especially warm place, it was warm everywhere! I was so fed up at that time that I wished I’d bought the pizzas and not made them from scratch.

For the tomato sauce I usually use a carton of passata. The only thing is it’s not full of sugar like some readymade pizza toppings are but we honestly didn’t miss it. I know you can make up a tomato sauce with tins of tomatoes, etc but I was seriously in a I can’t be bothered mood that day.

When it was time to get the pizza bases ready I got the dough out of the bowl, knocked it back and then cut it into four quarters. Now for the rolling bit. Once again the dough wasn’t in the mood for it and I found myself getting hotter and more anxious. No matter what flour I put on the rolling pin, my hands or the worktop, it just stuck. My hands were hotter than a raging inferno. In the end I had to get my daughter to roll out the bases. I was just expecting her to do that but she ended up doing the whole lot. In the meantime, I had gone for a cold shower! I came downstairs to find my delicious pizza waiting for me with its thin and crispy base. Just how I like it!

We each had different pizzas. Mr S didn’t get his anchovies for his pizza (haha) as I “forgot” to buy some! But he had garlic and prawns on his: reminiscent of a delicious pizza eaten on holiday in Menorca several years ago. I had ham on mine and the others had pepperoni ones.

I didn’t get a photo of everyone else’s pizza but here’s mine! It was delicious and we all said we definitely have to make it again. Maybe on not such a hot day and also if I can find yeast in the supermarket again. I’m down to my last sachet of my pre-lockdown yeast now.

Do you like making pizza? If so, what are your favourite toppings?

Stay Safe!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Cherry And Almond Loaf

It was Friday afternoon and I wanted to bake something. I try to make different things but it always ends up being brownies. This week, though I hadn’t got any chocolate in and there was no way I was going out to our local Co-op just for chocolate. Even though restrictions have been lifted, I am still really anxious when going out and only go out to shops if I have to. I looked in my baking cupboard and saw I had most of a tub of glace cherries and some ground almonds. Cherries and almonds together sounded perfect, just like Cherry Bakewells! So the idea for a Cherry and Almond Loaf cake came about.

CHERRY AND ALMOND LOAF

You need a 2lb loaf tin (greased and lined or you can use a ready made loaf tin liner available from all good cookware shops)

Serves 8-12 depending on how generous you are!

Ingredients:

175g soft margarine, such as Stork

175g caster sugar

200g self raising flour, sifted

50g ground almonds

3 medium free range eggs

1 tsp almond extract

150g glace cherries

  1. Wash, rinse and thoroughly dry the cherries. Then cut them into halves. I like nice big chunks of cherries in my cakes. Rinse and dry them again as often you find syrup inside them as well! Toss the cherries into a tablespoonful of the self raising flour reserved for the rest of the cake. This should help to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake when cooked.
  2. Put all the ingredients (except for the cherries) into a large mixing bowl and mix together until well combined.
  3. Fold in the cherries.
  4. Spoon the mixture into your prepared loaf tin.
  5. Bake in the oven for 1- 1 1/4 hours at 180oC/ 160oC fan/ 350oF/ Gas 4. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

If you bake the recipe, do let me know if you like it. My daughter doesn’t like glace cherries but she thought that you could substitute chopped dried apricots instead. They would work well with ground almonds.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

#BakeWithStork: Vegan Oat and Cranberry Cookies

It’s been nearly three weeks since my birthday but one of the presents I got with my birthday money was a fantastic recipe book. Called Stork The Art Of Home Baking, it is an amazing collection of recipes which celebrate the centenary of the famous baking ingredient. I sometimes use Stork in my sponges and cupcakes as it makes them lighter but I have never tried their block margarine.

The book contains lots of delicious recipes including both modern and traditional favourites. There are also plenty to suit special diets, including vegan recipes. I’m not vegan but I have several family members who are and it’s always great to know that Stork can be used as a butter substitute when baking vegan recipes.

With this in mind and thinking of what was in my baking cupboard because of lockdown, I chose to bake some Vegan Oat and Cranberry Cookies. They made good use of the end of a bag of dried cranberries and some desiccated coconut lurking in my baking cupboard.

These cookies were so quick and easy to make and were ready in less than half an hour. I can’t share the recipe with you, due to copyright but here is how they were made.

In a large mixing bowl, I weighed out porridge oats, desiccated coconut, plain flour, brown sugar, dried cranberries and some ground mixed spice.

In a medium pan, I put in Stork block, golden syrup and water and let it melt.

When the Stork block, syrup and water had melted into liquid form, I added some bicarbonate of soda. This frothed up and had to be taken off the heat.

Mixing the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stirring carefully to ensure everything was covered.

Mixing into a soft dough.

I had made up three baking trays with baking parchment. I put heaped dessertspoonfuls of dough on the tray putting them well spaced apart as they were bound to spread when cooking. There was enough for 16 cookies.

It didn’t take long for the cookies to bake in the oven. The baking time was from 8-10 minutes so you had to watch them as they brown very quickly.

After ten minutes cooling down on the baking tray, you can transfer the cookies onto the wire rack to completely cool down. If you move them before then, they might break before they have chance to harden up.

Please note, I am writing this to show what I’ve baked from the book bought from my own money. I am not being sponsored by Stork for this post.

If you have the book and have baked anything from it, do let me know what you tried. I’m hoping to bake a Victoria Sponge tomorrow.

Stay Safe.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Sultana Scones- My Favourite Recipe

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post up for ages. Having a bit more time being in lockdown has given me the time to add more things on the blog. Scone’s have always been one of my favourites. You can’t beat a fresh, homemade scone. One of the things I am really looking forward to doing when cafes and restaurants have opened up again is to meet up with one of my besties, Sharon. We love to put the world to rights and have a good old catch up over a cream scone and a cuppa at Fodder on the outskirts of Harrogate.

This scone recipe works for me every time. I always put dried fruit in mine but if you don’t like it, just leave it out. Make sure you have lots of clotted or whipped cream alongside a good quality jam to serve with it. The last time I baked scones I served them with some Blackcurrant and Sloe Gin Jam which my mum had bought for me when she visited a National Trust property.

To also make the perfect scone, I have a few tips which have helped me over the years.

Remember not to overcook the scones or they will become heavy. You are looking for a soft and light texture here. When you are forming the dough, use a round bladed or palette knife to bring it together a bit like you do with pastry. Try not to handle the dough too much. I do use a rolling pin to flatten out the dough, but I don’t roll the dough much. It’s more like a light pressing. When putting the cutter into the dough, don’t twist it or it distorts the shape of the scone.

My Favourite Sultana Scone Recipe

Makes 12 scones.

You need two baking trays lined with non- stick baking paper. I use a medium sized cutter for my scones. I think the one I use is a 5cm one. Some people prefer plain edges, some fluted. With me, I read somewhere that you use a plain edge for sweet scones and a fluted one for savoury. I must admit I’ve done both, depending on what I fancy using at the time.

Ingredients:

125g butter

450g self raising flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g caster sugar

100g sultanas or raisins (optional)

1 medium free range egg, beaten

Whole milk to mix

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190oC/ Fan 170oC/ 375oF/Gas 5.
  2. Weigh out all your ingredients and cut your butter into small cubes.
  3. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and the sugar and stir through carefully.
  5. Stir in the sultanas if you are using them.
  6. Pour in the beaten egg and work the dough together. You might need to add a few drops of milk as well.
  7. Sprinkle some flour on your worktop as well as on your rolling pin. Then roll or pat the dough lightly. The dough should be about 1.5cm thick. Cut into rounds. Gather up the remaining dough and re-roll carefully taking care not to overwork the dough. Cut more rounds until you have used the dough up.
  8. Put the scones onto your prepared baking sheets. I usually have two sheets with six scones on.
  9. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
  10. Allow to cool on a wire rack but serve as soon as you can, the fresher the better!

You can choose whether you want to use a plain or a fluted cutter.

You can’t beat scones served with jam and whipped cream. I love clotted cream as well when I can get hold of it.

I have also baked this recipe as a plain scone as seen in the photo above. This was taken at a family birthday afternoon tea last year and the scones were made without fruit in.

Let me know if you try my recipe and what you think about it.

Stay safe.

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx