Scandelicious Baking- An Update on the August Cooking The Books Challenge.

It’s been a few weeks since I updated my blog. There’s been so much going on.  Once the school holidays are over I’m back into work mode and there is barely time to get the jobs around the house done.  Then again, I haven’t managed to get anywhere near my computer.  So I thought I’d better get something writen down.

My August Cooking The Books recipe book challenge from Scandelicious Baking seems like a lifetime ago now.  Although I found it enjoyable and I had plenty of time, I didn’t get round to baking two of the recipes I’d originally planned to bake. These were a Pistachio Pavlova with Boozy Cherries and a Norwegian AlmondTart.  I don’t know what happened at the end of the holidays, guess I just ran out of time.

So, to recap I think I would like to look at what I did get round to making.  On the whole I have really enjoyed testing out some delicious recipes. Different flavours and things I wouldn’t have thought to try.

I love making fish pie for my family so I thought the Scandelicious Fish Gratin would go down well with my family.  Instead of being topped with pastry, mashed potato or breadcrumbs this version of a fish pie was topped with some crushed Swedish Krisprolls.  Well I didn’t crush them enough so the topping looked very rustic and unappealing.  Also my son (who used to love my fish pie) refused to eat it.

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The Scandelicious Fish Gratin had a topping of crushed Krisprolls.

To make the Fish Gratin filling I poached some cod cut into large chunks in some milk infused with peppercorns and nutmeg.  After this I made a sauce which had leeks, onion, eggs and creme fraiche in to add to the fish.  This was then poured into a baking dish ready to be topped with the crushed krisprolls!

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The fish gratin filling.
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The finished fish gratin. Looked a bit unappealing and appealed even less to myself and my family. Not a big success at all.

After eating some savoury cheesecake from a buffet once I was keen to have a go at baking one myself. So I had a go at the Scandelicious Cheese and Onion Cheesecake.  The cheesecake contained an oatcake and porridge oat base which had been combined with melted butter.  To make the filling I whisked egg yolks with a pinch of salt, then added some Quark and some cream cheese along with some flour, chopped spring onions and some cheese.  Now in the recipe Signe Johansen suggests Vasterbotten cheese which I have never even heard of, let alone seen it in my local shops.  In the end I used Jarlsberg cheese and grated it straight into the mixture.  In another bowl I beat some egg whites which were then combined with the cheese mixture.  When this was ready it went straight on top of the base and was baked in the oven for about half an hour.

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The finished Cheese and Onion Cheesecake.
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Delicious with a salad.
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I had a slice on its own for lunch the following day.

I’m not very good at baking bread or using yeast but I wanted to have a go at the Spelt Picnic Buns.  I’m not that used to using spelt flour either but I like eating spelt bread.  These buns were meant to be useful for eating on a picnic but we never got to go on one as it was too cold or wet during the last couple of weeks of the school summer holidays.  I baked the buns in my muffin tin but they were not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting them to turn out a lot a bigger than they were.  They tasted delicious though and I had one spread with butter at breakfast.

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Scandelicious Spelt Picnic Buns.

So here ends the Cooking The Books Challenge for August and I had more challenges for days in the month than I had time for.  There are lots more recipes I would love to bake from Scandelicious Baking.  I can definitely recommend the book.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Let’s Bake (Cathryn Dresser)- Pitta Breads.

About a month ago I was really excited to buy the lovely Cathryn Dresser’s book “Let’s Bake”.  It is a fabulous book but then I always knew it would be as Cathryn has been one of my favourite contestants on The Great British Bake Off so far.  I think she owns the expression “Oh my giddy aunt!” now.  So when her book aimed at baking with children came out, I just had to have it.  Although my own kids are now teenagers  I knew they would enjoy using it just as much as younger children.  And as I work in a primary school we tend to do a bit of cooking now and again when it fits in around curriculum demands.

About two weeks ago I chose to make a chicken curry for tea but thought about having chapatis or naan bread with it instead of rice.  My hubby and son aren’t that keen on rice but love their bread so I thought I’d have a go at baking something to go with the tea.  I found Cathryn’s recipe for her perfect Pitta Pockets would go down well and they were much easier to bake than I thought they would be!

Here’s how I got on:

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Flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl ready to be mixed in with some warm water.
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Now combined to make a ball of dough. This was kneaded for about 10-15 minutes on my floured worktop.
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The ball of dough was put into a mixing bowl which had been lightly oiled. I put it in my utility room and covered the bowl with some cling film.
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After two hours the dough looked like this thankfully!
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I split the dough into 8 equal pieces and rolled each one out thinly so that they were flat.
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Here are two of the pittas after they had been baked in the oven. They were puffed up but soon deflated!
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All ready to serve with our Chicken Curry.!

We absolutely loved the pitta breads and as they were so easy to make I know I will be making them time and time again.  They were so much better than shop bought ones.  My hubby would have eaten more if he could.    Cathryn says that “any homemade bread is best eaten fresh on the day but these will keep for 2-3 days wrapped in cling film”  No cling film needed here, they were so delicious it wasn’t needed.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Garlic and Coriander Naan Bread.

About two weeks ago I was going to cook Prawn Korma for dinner but forgot to buy some prawns.  I rushed off to Morrisons and forgot my shopping list.  I couldn’t even remember what I’d planned for dinner that night so we ended up with me buying some chicken breasts and a spice kit to help me make chicken tikka masala.  It tasted great and I was pleased even my fussy son enjoyed it.  One to try again sometime!

When we get Indian takeaways we love naan breads and chapatis but I’ve never had the courage to make them myself.  When I made some chilli and halloumi cheese flatbreads last year I was gobsmacked by how easy they were to make and how my family devoured them.  Of course being homemade they tasted much better too.  So I thought I would love to have a go at making naan bread as I had been told by my friend at work that they were really easy to make.  She was right!

The recipe I used was from the  book to accompany the very first series of The Great British Bake Off back in 2010- The Great British Book Of Baking.

Here’s how they were made:

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Plain flour, salt, water and natural yoghurt was put into a large mixing bowl and combined together to create dough.
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Here is the naan bread dough.
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Now for the naan’s flavouting- I used freshly chopped garlic and some chopped coriander.
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After an hour of leaving the dough to ferment in the mixing bowl which was left in my warm kitchen, I chopped the dough into eight equal portions to make the individual naan breads.
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I think you are meant to grill the naan breads but I put them in my small non stick frying pan one by one. They cooked for about 2 minutes on each side then I kept them warm in the oven while the rest were cooking.
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A plate of delicious naans. Well worth the effort.

Everyone in our house loved the naan breads and I’m so glad I tried making them.  They tasted much better than any bought ones and were great for mopping up leftover sauce from our curry.  I might try them again but with chilli and garlic or even with coconut.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books March 2014- Baking Update on A Passion For Baking.

I’ve not been very organised at keeping up with the old blog posts recently.  Life has been very busy both at work and at home so blogging has gone a bit by the wayside!  I also managed to delete a load of photos on my phone I’d taken of some Peanut Butter M&M cookies and some Raspberry Iced Fingers!  They were two of the ten recipes I needed to bake from my “Cooking The Books” challenge from this month, which is to bake one recipe from each chapter of Jo Wheatley’s A Passion For Baking. I got as far as sticking the photos on Facebook and Twitter but that was it!

As I don’t have time to write much at the moment I thought I would produce an updated blog post to show everyone how I’m getting on so far this month!  I’ve managed to bake seven out of ten of the recipes and as I’ve had so much on (but then who doesn’t these days, it’s a fact of life!) I can’t even remember how the recipes were baked.  Isn’t that awful but let’s hope as soon as the Easter holidays are here I can concentrate a bit more!

I was very pleased with how the Peanut Butter Cookies from the Biscuit chapter turned out.  I adapted the recipe and added in some Peanut Butter M&Ms bought in Gob Stoppers, an American sweet shop in Trinity Leeds.  This was based on a similar idea from a few months earlier where I baked Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies.  They turned out MAMOOOSIVE and even though I lost the picture to post on here, if you follow me on Twitter (@smartcookiesam) there will be a couple of pics of them somewhere about. The cookies disappeared very quickly as everyone in my family love peanut butter. A big success and one to try again in the future.

A couple of days after I tried baking the Raspberry Iced Fingers from the Bread and Yeast chapter for Sunday lunch pudding instead of a massive, stodgy dessert.  Anything involving yeast is my nemesis but I managed ok with these apart from the fact they looked a bit messy.  They were very naughty but nice but better eaten fresh as my hubby tried eating one the day after and it tasted stale.  No pictures here, either but once again if you are really bothered about seeing what they look like, look through my tweets!

If you like Blueberry Muffins then you will love the Blueberry Muffin Loaf which is in the Brunch chapter of A Passion For Baking.  It has a crumbly streusel like topping which gives the cake a lovely texture.  The cake itself was easy to make and very quick, all put together into a loaf tin.  It was moist and kept well for a couple of days in an airtight tin. Although it was a brunch recipe I baked it to have over the weekend for my family to have with a cup of tea.

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The delicious Blueberry Muffin Loaf Cake.

My hubby went away overnight a couple of weekends ago so I cooked some Singing Hinnies for my two children one Sunday breakfast time.  They reminded me of Welsh cakes which you cook in a griddle pan but Singing Hinnies originate from the North East as they “sing” as they are cooking on the griddle. Hinny is a term of endearment used in the north east, a bit like honey I suppose!  I thought they were delicious and I devoured them spread with jam. Definitely a recipe I have to try again and again!

Singing Hinnies "singing" away in the griddle pan.  They contained currants and were absolutely delicious!
Singing Hinnies “singing” away in the griddle pan. They contained currants and were absolutely delicious!

Last week I had another go at making macaroons, this time it was to try out some Coconut and Pineapple ones.  Unfortunately they burned a bit and the colour came out a bit brown rather than the delicate pastel yellow they were meant to be. My daughter said they tasted nice, though I wasn’t convinced.  I might have another go when I get time as I love the pina colada combination.

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Pineapple and Coconut Macaroons from the Afternoon Tea chapter.
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Even at a better photo angle the macaroons didn’t look their best! Never mind!

Last Sunday I attempted to bake a Swiss Roll for the first time.  I chose to try out the Chocolate Cardamom Swiss Roll from A Passion For Baking as I loved the idea of baking with flavoured sugars.  I made up a jam jar of Cardamom sugar a few days before, leaving the flavour from the cardamom pods to infuse into the sugar.  The smell was gorgeous and the leftover sugar will go beautifully in some shortbread in the future!

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My made up jar of Cardamom Sugar to go in the Chocolate and Cardamom Swiss Roll.
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A bit squished and probably wouldn’t impress Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood but who cares? It tasted fab!
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Oooh all that cream and chocolate made this cake quite calorific but it was worth every mouthful!

So what’s left to bake this month for the Cooking The Books Challenge? I have three recipes left to bake this weekend, after all it’s the end of the month on Monday!  Onion and Port Salut Tart for Saturday lunch with some salad, Eton Mess for Sunday lunch dessert and that leaves something from the Celebration Cakes chapter.  I’m thinking of the chocolate cake decorated with lots of sweets on top!

Watch this space!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Norwegian Cinnamon Buns (How To Be A Domestic Goddess)

Norwegian Cinnamon Buns.  My recipe challenge to bake from the Bread and Yeast Chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
Norwegian Cinnamon Buns. My recipe challenge to bake from the Bread and Yeast Chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

For my first recipe from this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge I chose to bake some Norwegian Cinnamon Buns

from the Bread and Yeast Chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.  I’ve never been to Norway, it’s one of those places that’s high on my places to go list but I have eaten similar buns when I went to Copenhagen a few years back.  I can also wholeheartedly recommend the delicious Cinnamon Buns that are sold in one of my favourite local eateries, a fabulous Norwegian cafe, Baltzersens in Harrogate.  Their bakes are just utterly sublime.

In the recipe introduction Nigella says ” The Northern Europeans and especially the Scandinavians are wonderful bakers and eating these for breakfast or tea on a cold winter’s day makes one feel ours is a climate to be grateful for. But then, I’ve always thought that bad weather has its compensations, most of them culinary”  Nigella, you’re a girl after my own heart!

Now, on this damp and cold February afternoon I’m at home from work and have just got in from walking the dog.  My son is laid up on the sofa with the start of a horrible flu virus and my hubby has just phoned to say he feels rough and is coming home early.  I guess if they are feeling rough, they might need something of a pick me up. So, I thought I’d bake them these Cinnamon Buns.

Here’s how I got on:

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First I added flour, sugar, salt and 3 sachets (I know, I thought it was a misprint too!) of yeast into a large bowl.
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In another bowl I added melted butter and whisked it together with milk and eggs.
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The whisked egg mixture was then stirred into the flour mixture.
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The dough was then put into my Kitchen Aid mixer with my dough hook on. It was put on a slow speed for a few minutes. It was meant to be smooth and springy. I didn’t think it looked right somehow.
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The mixture was extremely wet and was difficult to touch. I had to use a scraper to get it out of the bowl and I wasn’t sure if it was meant to feel like this.
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I greased another large mixing bowl to put the dough in to rise.
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This is what the dough looked like after abut 25 minutes rising time. It had been in my utility room on the worktop as it gets very warm in there.

Although I was meant to leave the dough for only about 25 minutes it ended up being left for at least a couple of hours. This was due to me having to go and pick my daughter up from her school rehearsal.  By the time we’d got back the dough had reached the top of the cling film stretched along the top of the bowl!

I had prepared some filling which was butter, sugar and cinnamon melted together.  It smelled absolutely gorgeous!

The dough was very wet and difficult to work with, so I found it difficult to roll out and got in a right pickle with it.  I needed lots of flour to stop it sticking to the rolling pin so I made my buns very much by hand and they do look very rustic!  I managed to get them to roll up into my large traybake container but they were very haphazard and all different sizes.

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Once I’d got the buns ready in the baking tray I brushed the tops with some beaten egg and let them prove once again before baking in the hot oven.

The buns went into the oven at 210oC for about 20 minutes and they did burn a little on the top of them. Though when I looked at Nigella’s picture her’s were similar and she says not to worry “if they catch in places”.  This was comfortably reassuring, thank you Nigella!

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The gorgeous smelling Norwegian Cinnamon Buns just straight out of the oven.
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Oy!!! Who’s been eating my buns?
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Eaten warm and fresh, these buns were heaven on a plate.

Well the buns went down well with my daughter and myself, though my son and husband were feeling very ropey and off their food. By the next couple of days I had gone down with the flu virus and went off my food too.  One day all I managed was one of these buns and by then it had gone stale.  I’m definitely going to try making them again, although they were a bit faffy to make they tasted delicious and I think my husband and son will enjoy them.  After all they love Danish Pastries and Chelsea Buns so they’ll love these!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

All Grain Nutty Seedy Soda Bread Loaf- A Lighter Way To Bake (Cooking The Books- January 2014.)

Sunday 26th January 2014.

It was Sunday teatime and I realised we’d run out of bread for the morning.  This is not good.  We’d been very busy all over the weekend and checking the bread bin was the last thing on my mind.  It was too late to nip out to the shops. I had to bake my own instead.  But when I opened my baking cupboard I realised I didn’t have any yeast.  Thankfully I could get out of that problem by baking soda bread instead as it needed bicarbonate of soda.  Fortunately I had that and plenty of it!

I found a suitable recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s book “A Lighter Way To Bake” which uses wholemeal flour and semi skimmed milk to enrich it.  You had to add about 5 tablespoonfuls of mixed nuts and seeds.  I had some pumpkin seeds and a few hazelnuts which I threw in to the mixture.

So how did I make this delicious bread?

First of all you had to put the flour, seeds, nuts, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a mixing bowl and mix it all together.  Once that was done I made a well in the centre and poured in the semi skimmed milk.  Finally the mixture was combined to make a soft dough (but not too sticky!)  I found a loaf tin liner and put this in my loaf tin as I couldn’t be bothered to cut out the parchment.

The mixture was spooned into the tin carefully and then I sprinkled on a tablespoon of rolled oats.

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The very impressive All Grain Nutty, Seedy Soda Bread Loaf.

The loaf was ready after I tapped the base of it to see if it made a hollow sound.  This took about 35 minutes baking time and the mouthwatering smell permeated the whole house.  We ended up having a slice of it for tea with a bowl of soup so there wasn’t much left over for the day after!  My son, who would happily eat white processed “plastic” bread all the time said he liked it.  I thought he must have something wrong with him, he normally poo-poos any sort of seeded bread, calling it “nit bread”!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Rum Babas from The Great British Bake Off -Showstopper Bakes.

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Last year when the Great British Bake Off was on I was tempted by the Rum Babas that the contestants were asked to make for their Technical Challenge in the very first week. Who can remember John Whaite accidentally putting salt in the rum babas instead of sugar because the glass jars weren’t labelled?  Luckily though it worked out for him in the end becoming the series winner! I was keen to try out making rum babas, they are something I think of as a 1970’s dessert trolley invention.  I had only tasted a rum baba once, about three years ago when my hubby bought one.  It was stale and tasted funny.  I only had one mouthful of it which is rare for someone like me who is a sugar addict!

To make the rum babas you need some small savarin moulds, these are the ones I bought last year in Lakeland: http://www.lakeland.co.uk/16019/4-Small-Savarin-Rings

I noticed that Lakeland started stocking them after the Bake Off had been on which is great. They came in packs of 4. They have also started stocking the silicone chocolate dome moulds which are for making the chocolate teacakes which were another very tricky technical challenge bake from Series 3.  As a regular shopper at my local stores (either Harrogate, York or Northallerton) I was pleased as I knew my hubby would want me to try them.

But did I get round to using them? No I didn’t! Well over a year later I had forgotten about the moulds and found them in my cupboard still in the packaging.  Guilt overcame me and I thought I must try them out as promised.  My hubby talked about rum babas saying he would love to have one for pudding.  We had rum, I had yeast so I decided to get baking.

Last Sunday morning was a quiet day at home at the beginning of half term week.  I had all day to spend on the rum babas between other jobs but there was lots to do.  I’m still underconfident when it comes to anything involving yeast.

Here’s how it was made and what happened:

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First, flour, sugar, yeast and salt were put in a large bowl. They were put at different sides to one another.
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A beaten egg in the measuring jug.
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The dry ingredients are gently mixed together, then the egg was poured into the same bowl.
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The eggs were mixed in with the dry ingredients to form a wet dough.
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The wet dough was placed in my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl and mixed on a very slow setting for 8-10 minutes with a dough hook.
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After the kneading time.

At this point I began to panic.  The dough was very wet and I really struggled to knead it by hand.  In the end I had to stick it in the mixer as I just couldn’t work with it.  It just stuck to my hands and the more I tried to knead, the more it stuck.  I don’t know if I was meant to use the mixer but I thought it would be better than my hot hands touching the dough.  I managed to get it into the bowl, I washed my hands and then tried to search on YouTube to see if they had the original episode where they made the rum babas.  Then I could watch it back and see where I was going wrong.  Lo and behold there was a clip showing the rum babas and it was mentioned that the dough did appear wet.  Thank heavens for that!

If you want to see the original clip, then here is the link to it here:

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The dough was placed in my Utility room on the work surface. The bowl was covered in cling film. I chose the utility room as I had the tumble dryer on and the room was quite warm at the time.

After all this messing about my kitchen surface looked like a scene of destruction.  It took some scrubbing to get the dough of the surface, it felt stickier than Superglue, if that’s possible!  I left the dough to rise in the bowl for about an hour and a half which was enough time for me to get on with the ironing.

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Here are the 4 savarin moulds bought from Lakeland.
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The moulds were lightly greased with flour and a sprinkling of caster sugar.
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The dough was meant to be piped carefully into the savarin moulds, taking care that each one held an equal amount of mixture.  I spooned it in with a teaspoon and wondered why it was so messy!

Then for a second proving, this time in the savarin moulds. They had to rise to the level of the hole but not be too overproved.  This was easier said than done!

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After baking, I turned the rum babas out onto a mat to cool down. Before they were fully cooled I needed to soak them with the rum sugar syrup.
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Each rum baba was so big it only just fitted inside my dessert bowls.
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Here is the cream mixture all whipped up. I swear by the Get A Grip piping bags from Lakeland. To help me fill these bags easily I use a pint glass to support the bag.
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Each rum baba got a swirl of cream piped in the middle of it and was then topped with some berries. I used blueberries and strawberries but I reckon chopped kiwi fruit would look pretty too!
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All ready for our pudding! What a massive rum baba as well. We all really enjoyed them and our eyes were bigger than our stomachs!

So, would I make the rum babas again?  Yes, I would.  Despite them being quite labour intensive in short bursts they were a massive hit with the family and a perfect treat.  Very naughty but nice!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx