GBBO Technical Bake: Paul Hollywood’s Chocolate Babka

When watching last week’s GBBO and it came to the technical I was intrigued to know what a Babka was. I’m sure that the contestants have had to make a Babka before in a previous series but I couldn’t remember what they were.

A babka, according to the description on Wikipedia is “a sweet braided bread or cake which originated in the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine.” It is also popular over in the USA, especially around New York. They are traditionally filled with cinnamon as well as other non traditional fillings such as cheesecake, apple and Nutella!  Paul Hollywood’s recipe is published in the new GBBO book “Love To Bake” and his recipe is very much based on a chocolate and hazelnut filling, which is basically Nutella!

I’ve been trying to join in with a few of the GBBO bakes where I can at the moment and as I have had time off work having to self isolate, I was keen to bake the Babka. I’m not that confident with anything involving yeast so I wasn’t expecting great results!

Last Saturday morning I planned to get up early to make the dough so we could have the Babka for breakfast.  This didn’t happen. I’d been up very late the night before trying to work on a crochet blanket I was making for my daughter and I ended up sleeping in! The babka dough needed two hours proving time as well. Oh never mind, it ended up being a four o clock treat instead!

To make the filling at first I had to roast the hazelnuts for 5 minutes on a baking tray and then chop them up. I left them while I made up the dough.

Paul Hollywood’s recipe says to use a free standing mixer with a dough hook.  I have a Kitchen Aid but for some reason I couldn’t find the dough hook and I gave up looking in the end. So by hand it had to be then.  I just forgot about my hands getting sticky and used my dough scraper to scrape it off the worktop. After about 10 minutes kneading it was time to roll the dough out into a large rectangle.  I spread  melted chocolate on top of the dough, followed by sprinkles of the chopped hazelnuts.

Now for the fun bit! I rolled the dough up into a long Swiss Roll like sausage and put the seam underneath me on the worktop.  I trimmed each end of the spiral then cut the dough lengthways into two long pieces. I then stuck the two pieces together at the top and then braided the loaf to make a two stranded plait. This was then secured at the end and put into a greased and lined loaf tin.

There the loaf tin was left to prove in my utility room (which was warm from having the dryer on) but was covered with a teatowel for nearly 2 hours.

The babka was baked in the oven for 45 mins. The first 15 mins was at the higher temperature of 170c then the temperature was turned down for the remaining time to 150oC.  While the babka was baking, I made a sugar syrup which was then poured over the babka when it came out of the oven.

The babka was meant to be left to cool but we were so keen to try it that we ate some straightaway! Oh my, it was good and they say they are best eaten on the day they are made.

Happy Baking
Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #9: Coffee and Salted Caramel Cake

While we’re self isolating and Mr S is working from home sometimes he likes to have something with a cuppa to keep him going on an afternoon.  Last week’s Victoria Sponge had been eaten and he doesn’t really like gingerbread like the gingerbread loaf I made the day before.  So on Sunday morning I planned on making Mr S a coffee and walnut cake.  There is a recipe for Coffee and Walnut Cake in Amazing Cakes and comes under the Classic Cakwes chapter.  I know that this is one of my husband’s favourites. 

I got all the ingredients out but then realised the half finished packet of walnuts I needed to use was past its best before date.  I wasn’t going to risk it and put it in the cake but I had chocolate coated coffee beans to decorate the top of the cake instead of walnut halves.The sponge itself is a standard coffee sponge made using the creaming method. Although I use Camp Coffee Essence when making my coffee cakes, this one was made with strong, fresh espresso coffee.

When it came to icing the cake, I had to change the flavour slightly as I didn’t have enough plain icing sugar.  I had to do half Silver Spoon and half Sugar and Crumbs’ Salted Caramel flavour icing sugar.  This was the nearest flavour icing sugar I thought would complement the coffee flavour.

The layers were sandwiched together with half of the buttercream. I spread another thin layer of buttercream on top of the cake and then piped the rest as a swirl decorative effecet around the rest of the cake as well as in the middle with my star shaped nozzle.

Mr S had a slice with his cup of tea on Sunday afternoon while we were watching a film.

Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #8: Iced Gingerbread Loaf

As the days grow colder and it gets into Autumn, I always like to think of gingerbread and other comforting bakes. I love gingerbread as it has a strong flavour and smells heavenly as it is baking. I especially like iced gingerbread as it reminds me of the ones I’ve eaten when I’ve been to Scotland on holiday.

On Saturday morning I had baked soda bread and wanted to make something else. I looked through the Amazing Cakes book and thought what had I got in the cupboard that also had a seasonal element to it. I had lots of golden syrup and treacle to use up so what better than the Sticky Gingerbread Loaf as made by Michael Chakraverty from last year’s Great British Bake Off. Michael’s recipe according to the recipe notes was “a family recipe that has been passed down to Michael from his great grandmother via his grandmother and mum” and was also one of the first cakes he and his mum baked together. I love how family memories can be created from baking and it’s exactly the same in my family.

First, the dry ingredients were weighed out and mixed together: flour and ground ginger. In another bowl I put bicarbonate of soda mixed with a bit of milk. The rest of the milk was put in a pan on the stove with some baking spread, brown sugar, golden syrup and treacle until it was melted.

When the melted mixture cooled a little, I mixed it all together and then put it into the prepared loaf tin. I used a loaf tin liner as they’re so much easier.

While the loaf was baking, I mixed up some lemon glace icing. This was just simply icing sugar and lemon juice mixed up and poured on top of the cake. I wanted a thick icing rather than a little drizzle and left it to set before I could dive into it!

I really enjoyed the taste of the gingerbread and it was perfect with a cuppa. I wish I could have another and another….

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #7: Victoria Sponge

I know I’ve published a blog post somewhere about a good old Vicky Sponge but I wanted to try out the Amazing Cakes’ version last Monday.

It was my day off work and I walked down to my local post office to post a few parcels of some hand crocheted and knitted baby blankets I sell. This walk took me twice as long as my local post office is 1 1/2 miles away and I was trying to walk the dog and carry parcels at the same time. On the way back my shopping bag contained some Stork and some fresh Longley Farm thick Jersey double cream. I kept thinking ooh that would go nicely in the middle of a Victoria sponge. We walked back and I sat eating some lunch quickly so I could get on with my jobs and then the all important baking!

In the Amazing Cakes book the quantities for butter/ margarine, caster sugar and flour are the same as they are in all Victoria sponge recipes. This version asked for 4 eggs but when I weighed them only 3 eggs weighed the total as the separate quantities of 200g. As I always weigh the eggs to match the weight of the other ingredients, I only used three eggs. This worked well and I also used the creaming method.

I had invested in some new 20cm or 8″ diameter cake tins a few weeks ago as my previous ones had got very scratched. They had been used a lot though and I worked out I had had them since about 2002! My new ones are Mary Berry endorsed ones from Lakeland and I can’t recommend them enough. I also treated myself to her traybake tin and square tin at the same time and they are fantastic. This was the first time I had got round to using the sandwich tins and I was impressed with the result.

Usually you think of Victoria Sponges as being filled with strawberry or raspberry jam but I thought I’d give mine a seasonal twist and used some gorgeous Bramble and Apple jam I buy when we go on holiday to the Isle of Arran. I know I’m always banging on about going to the Isle of Arran but that’s where we have been for our last two holidays (last October half term and this September) and there is a wonderful selection of food produce I buy each time we go there. The Bramble And Apple Jam being one of them made by Arran Fine Foods though they also make other wonderful preserves and chutneys.

When Mr S got in from work he said “More baking!” as I also managed to bake some Coconut Macaroons on the same afternoon. He didn’t complain when he got a piece of cake with his cup of tea before I started getting our dinner ready.

The remains of the Victoria Sponge got eaten throughout the rest of last week as on Wednesday night we found out we had to self isolate for two weeks.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #6: Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Brownies

There are a couple of Brownie recipes in The Great British Bake Off Amazing Cakes which I’ve been really keen to try out. I have my own favourite regular Brownie recipe but I must admit I’ve never made a gluten free brownie before. The Amazing Cakes book has a whole chapter dedicated to Free From Cakes and one of the Gluten Free recipes is for some Chocolate Berry Brownies. I like fruit inside cakes but I didn’t want to use up my raspberries I usually have on my cereal at breakfast time. Instead, as I wanted a chocolatey hit, I put in the equivalent amount of milk chocolate chips.

The brownies are made gluten free by using ground almonds in place of the flour and baking powder. The original recipe also shows the Brownies topped with some flaked almonds. I didn’t have any left as they’d all gone in the Florentines I’d made!

The chocolate chips were part of a lovely, belated birthday present from my friend Amy. I have tried the Guittard plain chocolate chips before but never the milk ones. I used about two thirds of the packet. Hopefully there will be some left to make choc chip cookies with another time.

To make the brownies I had to melt dark chocolate and butter first. When this was melted, I added in some light brown muscovado sugar as well as some vanilla extract.

After that, I stirred in beaten eggs, followed by cocoa powder and ground almonds. Finally the chocolate chips were folded in.

I baked the brownies at 180oC in a 22cm square loose bottomed pan for 30 minutes or so.

The brownies came out with a slightly different look to them on the top but they honestly tasted fudgy and squidgy inside, just how I enjoy eating a brownie. I needed to wait until the brownies had cooled down before I could cut them up into squares. The chocolate chips gave it an extra edge of deliciousness and I was really impressed with them. No one could tell they were gluten free.

I definitely will be baking these brownies again and again as they were so simple to bake without having to buy special gluten free flour and baking powder in. I saved two brownies for Mr S and my daughter while the rest went off to work to share around with my workmates.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Great British Bake Off Technical Bake: Coconut Macaroons

I was really keen to bake the Coconut Macaroons from the Great British Bake Off’s Biscuit Week Technical Bake as I love coconut.  I’d never baked coconut macaroons though so this was a first for me.  I don’t really think of macaroons as biscuits though, I think of them as small cakes!

The Technical challenge followed Prue Leith’s recipe which is featured on the Bake Off website:

I cheated a little with the recipe and instead of making my own mango curd, I used ready made lemon curd! It needed using up and there was no point in buying in a mango especially.

Half the macaroons were filled with small pieces of chocolate and the other half with a small amound of lemon curd.  I then put the rest of the coconut mixure on top so the filling was encased. 

When the macaroons had baked, I let them cool down and drizzled them with dark chocolate.

I have seen versions of coconut macaroons where they are baked with rice paper on the base. I couldn’t find any when I was out shopping so I was really hoping that if I used the baking parchment underneath the macaroons at least they wouldn’t stick to the tray! I’ve also seen coconut macaroons where the the base is also dipped in chocolate but I didn’t have enough chocolate left to do that.

Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Great British Bake Off Bread Week: Soda Bread

I really enjoyed watching all the bakers on GBBO last week baking Soda Bread. As a complete novice when it comes to baking bread and anything with yeast in, I thought soda bread would be an easier bake for me to start with. Last Saturday I was also baking for necessity as we’re currently self isolating. We were out of bread and don’t get our food delivery until Monday night. It’s times like these when I’m glad I had some baking ingredients in! The only thing I didn’t have was some buttermilk which a lot of soda bread recipes have.

I googled what you could use in place of buttermilk and one website suggested using normal milk mixed with lemon juice. I had a bottle of lemon juice concentrate so I used a couple of tablespoonfuls of the lemon juice in with the milk. Whether it did the trick, I don’t know!

I used Mary Berry’s Irish Soda Bread recipe from her latest book and TV series: Simple Comforts. Here is a link to the book:

I used strong white bread flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda mixed up first and then added the milk and lemon juice in. The recipe asks for two teaspoonfuls of bicarbonate of soda but when I got my measuring spoons out I used a half teaspoon measure without concentrating. This meant that I’d only used half the amount of bicarb! Oops! Not good when the bicarb is the raising agent in the bread. It might turn out like a flat brick.

The dough was shaped together into a ball and put onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. I marked the top of the loaf with a cross in the traditional way and then put it into the oven to bake for about 30 minutes.

My loaf got a little bit burnt on the top but every time I checked it (in 5 minute intervals) the base of the loaf wasn’t sounding hollow when I tapped it! It was still in the oven 10 minutes after the recommended cooking time. After it was finally ready, I let it cool down before we could actually use it for our lunch. Mr S and my daughter had bacon butties and I had Isle of Arran cheese melted on toast which was the last of the cheese we had brought back from our holiday.

I loved the soda bread and to get six slices nearly took up the whole loaf! There was just enough left for Mr S’s toast on Sunday morning! I’ll definitely make soda bread again and would love to add different flavours to it which made me think of the lovely things from Bake Off. As I needed a plain loaf for Saturday, that’s what I ended up making. Maybe I’ll try a sweet one next time!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Great British Bake Off Signature Bake- Florentines

I just love Florentines so I was really glad to see them featured as the Signature Bake on the Bake Off’s Biscuit Week. I don’t really think of them as biscuits though, more like chocolates. They’re something I always associate with Christmas and foodie presents though. I think they’re so pretty and the colours shine through like jewels depending on the sort of dried fruit you use. They can be fiddly to make so that’s why when I make them they don’t look that neat! So long as they taste great, that’s what matters.

I don’t have my own recipe for Florentines but I use the recipe in the Great British Bake Off Christmas book which came out a few years ago. I had to adapt the recipe this time as I had to look at what dried fruit I had in the cupboard. I had to add sultanas instead of dried cranberries as I didn’t have any. I weighed out some chopped glace cherries, some dried mixed peel and some sultanas as well as some flaked almonds. In a pan I gently heated together some butter, sugar and some double cream. Then the cream mixture was combined with the fruit and nuts.

On lined baking trays I put teaspoonfuls of the Florentine mixture spaced well apart. These tend to spread very easily on the tray so I didn’t want them too close together. The other thing I’ve learned to watch with Florentines is that they can burn very easily so they don’t need that long in the oven. I put them in for 8 minutes and even the almonds were beginning to go brown.

From the original Bake Off recipe you needed 100g each of dark chocolate and white chocolate. I didn’t have white chocolate, only some dark chocolate. I couldn’t be bothered to go out to buy just a bar of chocolate. I then remembered I had a packet of strawberry flavoured pink chocolate buttons in my cupboard. I had bought these a few weeks on holiday when I was on holiday on the Isle of Arran and had forgotten I had them.

Once the Florentines were out of the oven, I let them cool down completely before I dared to move them onto a wire rack. From experience I’ve had them completely broken trying to move them off the tray. When they were cooled, I turned the Florentines upside down and spread melted dark chocolate on half of them. The other half had the melted pink chocolate buttons on them. I tried to give them a pattern but it didn’t quite work until the chocolate had set a bit.

I really loved making the Florentines and they were worth the effort. I definitely will be making them again at Christmas for my foodie hampers. They’re not a budget bake especially as dried fruit, nuts and chocolate can be expensive. This is why they are probably seen as a treat for special occasions.

Did you try any of the bakes from Biscuit Week? If so, which did you try? Or do you have a favourite you want to have a go at?

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Amazing Cakes #4: Carrot and Apple Cake

I can’t resist a good carrot cake. Neither can the rest of my family and whenever I make carrot cake it disappears very quickly. Last Saturday afternoon I hadn’t planned on doing any baking. But I had done all the housework, been food shopping and came home having bought another bag of carrots. I couldn’t believe it, I’d forgotten I’d bought carrots the other day! The ones I’d bought the other day were beginning to go funny so I thought I’d better do something with them. So I made a batch of carrot soup.

I still had about 4 large carrots left so thought I’d better bake a carrot cake. Every carrot cake recipe I had needed full fat cream cheese in the icing and I had to nick what was left of my daughter’s Philadelphia in the fridge. I chose to bake Amelia Le Bruin’s recipe in Amazing Cakes From The Great British Bake Off. One of the chapters features recipes from last year’s bakers and I remember Amelia’s Naked Christmas Cake. I don’t recall this cake though. This carrot cake actually has chopped apple in it as well as raisins and chopped walnuts. I didn’t have chopped walnuts, only a small bag of mixed nuts which ended up being chopped into the cake instead. As with a traditional carrot cake, the fat content comes from vegetable oil and not butter.

I started by preparing and weighing out the carrots, apple, raisins and nuts. Then I weighed out the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, which was some self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger. In another bowl I whisked together beaten eggs and oil along with some granulated sugar. These were then folded in with the dry ingredients followed by the carrots and apple, etc. When this was done, I tipped the mixture into the tin. I used a deep filled 20cm diameter deep filled tin. This carrot and apple cake was a single layer one. Normally the ones I make are double ones.

A raw carrot cake batter unfortunately doesn’t look very nice but I assure you it looked much better once baked! I put the cake in the oven to bake and carried on with my other jobs.

While the cake was cooling, I made up the cream cheese frosting. I have learned over the years that it is not a good idea to use low fat cream cheese for frosting. It is not the same and makes the frosting so runny. There was an added ingredient in Amelia’s frosting: double cream! This gave the frosting a delicious flavour and made it thick and glossy. It was so easy to spread onto the top of the cake and there was lots of it!

To finish, Amelia’s recipe had chopped walnuts on top of it as is traditional on a carrot cake. I must admit I prefer marzipan or sugar carrots on mine and the ones I use are ones I buy in packs of 12 from my local supermarket. They also help me with portioning out the carrot cakeWe had a piece of carrot cake that afternoon with a cup of tea and then I saved the rest to put in a box to take along to work to share with my work mates. Mr S and my daughter were looking to find the rest of the cake on Monday afternoon and wondered where it had gone. Trouble is if I usually make something they say to me why have you baked that, we don’t need it! Then when I don’t bake, they want me to make something! I can’t win!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx