John Whaite Bakes At Home- Update on my June Cooking The Books Challenge.

Unfortunately things have gone a bit pear shaped in my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  It got to the end of the month yesterday and I realised I’d not baked two of the recipes I wanted to for the challenge.  I missed out on baking some Utterly Nutterly Shortbreads and some Wedding Party Rings!  Oh dear, well not to worry.  Instead I have had other baking to do, including a Labrador shaped cake for my friend.  I’ve also been working some extra hours, so time has been precious.  Not only this but I rejoined Weightwatchers two weeks ago.  I lost 6lbs the first week but last week I didn’t follow it properly as I was too busy.  I can feel all those lost pounds creeping back on and I haven’t had the guts to weigh myself….

So this post is really to show what I did get around to baking.  A week last Sunday the village where I go to WI (when I can get to the meetings, that is!) had their Open Gardens.  I baked three things to donate to the WI tea and cake stand.  I was meant to help at the end of the day but I ended up having to say no, after all hubby was out and I needed to be the children’s taxi service!

First up was the Aussie Crunch.  Rather moreish and Gilchrists, the bakery in my nearby town of Boroughbridge makes delicious Aussie Crunch.  It’s quick and simple to make and John includes it in the Family Bakes section of his book.  Great for all the family to eat and to have a go at baking too!  Though John says “Why it is called Aussie Crunch when it comes from Bolton is a mystery to me!”  I was glad in a way it was heading up to the WI stall, if I’d even tried one bite, the whole lot would end up being scoffed!

To make the Aussie Crunch it was simple.  I put butter and sugar into a saucepan and let the butter melt and the sugar dissolve.  In a large mixing bowl I mixed together dessicated coconut and cornflakes, then tossed in some cocoa powder and self raising flour. This was all mixed together with the melted butter and then put into my greased 8″ square tin ready for baking.  It only took 20 minutes to bake and smelled fab.

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While the Aussie crunch was still cooling in the tin, John suggests adding the chocolate topping by breaking it up into squares and putting it on top of the crunch. The chocolate melts from the heat of the warm cake.
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I spread the melted chocolate into all corners of the tin and then left it in the fridge to set.
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The finished Aussie Crunch cut up into 12 large heavenly pieces.

While the Aussie Crunch was setting in the fridge, I got on with the next bake.  As I love baking bundt cakes so much I was really keen to try John’s Fig, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake in the Friendship Feasts chapter in the book.  I’m not really keen on figs and even though I wasn’t going to be baking the cake for myself I still fancied putting something else in the cake instead!  So I plumped for chopped, dried dates.  I wanted to use my Jubilee bundt pan again as it has such a pretty lattice design on it and hoped that it would encourage people to try it.

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Butter and sugar was creamed together, then I added in grated orange zest. After this, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract were added in carefully, followed by plain flour, baking powder and some ground cinnamon. After everything was folded in, I added in chopped pecan pieces and the dried dates.
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The finished Date, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake baked in the pretty Nordicware Jubilee pan.
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View from the top! It looks like a flower when you look at it this way too!

I was very impressed with the results I had with the bundt.  I will definitely be baking this again.  John says “This makes for perfect toast, toppped with some boisterous Stilton cheese!”  Sounds good to me!

The final bake for the WI Open Gardens Stall was John’s Lemon Sherbet Cake.  It contains the sherbet (not the lollies though!) from Sherbet Dip dabs!  I’d never thought to put them in a cake before and it was funny buying Dip-dabs in the shop, haven’t done that since I was about 10!  I also added my own slant to the cake by decorating it with sherbet lemon sweets instead of handmade lemon peel. I just felt a bit lazy by then and wanted to cut a few corners to save time!

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Lemon Sherbet candy heaven!

The lemon sherbet cake is from the Family Bakes chapter of John Whaite Bakes At Home and is definitely one to avoid if you are on a diet but perfect for a family get-together or celebration.  John’s version involves vertically slicing the two cake layers so you have four altogether.  I find this dead fiddly so I kept the two and had all my filling in the middle of the cake.  The filling was absolutely gorgeous: whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, icing sugar, the Dip dabs, lemon juice and zest whipped together.  I piped it in the middle and on the top of the cake using my large star shaped nozzle.

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The Sherbet Lemon cake had a delicious mascarpone, lemon sherbet and cream frosting.
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Sherbet Lemon sweets on top of the cake. I put whole ones around the edge and then got the remaining ones in the packet and crushed them up to sprinkle them in the middle.

Again, I was really pleased with how the cake turned out and thought I would love to try this with different flavours and sweets.  Very retro.  I took the three cakes around to my friend’s house as I couldn’t help at the stall myself.  She was pleased with them but I haven’t had chance to ask her how they went.  I hope they tasted ok.

As I type this, it is now July 4th.  I’m meant to be thinking about July’s challenge.  I’d better get my bum into gear or else it will be August!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Brunch Burritos- John Whaite Bakes At Home.

Over the past few Saturdays we’ve been so busy with one thing and another I thought it would be nice if we could all sit down together as a family for our lunch.  It’s always a quick snacky lunch on a Saturday as we’re so busy doing jobs and going here, there and everywhere.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  My son went out with his mates round town, my daughter went off with her Dad on another errand and I was left at home alone.  Was I enjoying the quiet freedom of being at home by myself? Well at least I got the bathrooms cleaned and the hoovering done.

I’d planned to cook the Brunch Burritos from John Whaite Bakes At Home for our lunch.   I don’t think I’ve ever had brunch in my life.  Maybe before I had children I would have a late breakfast at the weekend over the Sunday papers.  Now when people are eating brunch, I’m eating lunch as I’ve got up so early! The recipe serves one person but I’d quadrupled the quantities when doing my shopping. So at least I could work out how to cook it for one person and what a delicious and filling meal it was!

Here’s how to make the Brunch Burrito:

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I chopped half a red onion, a quarter of a yellow pepper, about 50g of chorizo sausage and sprinkled some dried chilli on top of it. These were softened gently without oil in a frying pan.
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In another frying pan I heated up a spoonful of oil.
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To this I added two beaten eggs and cooked them as if I was making a plain omelette.
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The cooked omelette is put on top of a warmed tortilla wrap.
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I added half a tin of baked beans to the chorizo mixture and warmed it through. Then I put the beany mixture on top of the tortilla.
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There was a lot of filling in the burrito so I had to eat it with a knife and fork!

I was so impressed with the burrito, it was tasty and filling.  So a couple of days later on the Monday night I cooked four of them for us for our tea to use up the remaining ingredients.  I’m so glad I did as even my fussy son enjoyed it.  My hubby asked if I could grate cheese over it next time or add some sour cream.

Thankyou once again to John Whaite for such a delicious and speedy recipe, not just for brunch but for lunch and dinner too!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cookie Dough Brownies- John Whaite Bakes At Home.

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Cookie Dough Brownies- another example of heaven on a plate!

My family are obsessed with brownies and who can blame them?  It’s just heaven to sink your teeth into some chocolatey gooiness.  My fourteen year old son loves any excuse to bake or eat brownies and had he not been at school when I baked them, I’m sure he would have been in the kitchen with me hovering around to lick the bowl out!

So,  last Friday when I planned to bake John Whaite’s Cookie Dough Brownies from his latest book John Whaite Bakes At Home, I knew I would be popular.

  I realised l I couldn’t bake the brownies straightaway as  I’d forgotten to buy plain chocolate!  So off I went to the shop, came back with what they had to offer plain chocolate wise (Bournville) and got ready to start.  It wasn’t a quick recipe to knock up but it was worth it!

So, once I was ready to get down to baking I started on the cookie dough part of the recipe. I then realised this was going to take much longer than I thought as the cookie dough has to be frozen in little balls first before you get round to making the brownie batter.  Thankfully I didn’t have a deadline for baking them or I would have been in trouble.

The cookie dough was quickly made up using a rubbing in and getting the dough together method then I separated the dough out into about 16 walnut sized balls.  These were then put in my freezer (easier said than done, my freezer is tiny!) on a lined baking tray.  I had to move everything about to fit the two small trays in.  I yearn for one of those massive American fridge freezers sometimes that fits more than a bag of peas or a pint of milk in.

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The cookie dough balls put onto the lined baking tray and ready for the freezer.

After a couple of hours in the freezer it was early afternoon and I wanted to get on with the brownies before my son came home from school.  I got on with making up the brownie batter.  Usually my brownies are made with Green and Blacks Organic plain chocolate but I couldn’t find any in the local shop so I had to use Bournville.  I like Bournville, though I know some chocolate snobs would be horrified to hear me say that!

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The chocolate and butter were melted gently in the microwave.
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To this I added in two free range eggs..
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and then some mayonnaise! Yes, you read right, mayonnaise! Well I know it sounds an odd ingredient for a cake but then again it does contain eggs and oil!
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Now for some milk and some vanilla extract along with some sugar.
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Finally, I folded in some plain flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Just look at that, yum, yum!

Out came the cookie dough balls which had frozen well and these were then put in the bottom of my greased square tin. I spaced them well apart, thinking that there would be about 12-16 pieces of brownie, so you would get at least one large cookie dough ball in it!

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Cookie dough balls in the greased tin.
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The brownie batter was then carefully poured all over the top of the cookie dough balls.

The brownies baked in the oven for about 25 minutes and the kitchen smelled wonderful.  I had been so careful eating healthily so far this week but the brownies would soon be my downfall.  I hoped I could hide them so that I wouldn’t be tempted.

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Cut up on a plate to share round the following day. Just how I like brownies, all fudgy and gooey inside with the cookie dough flavour and texture complimenting the brownies.
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It was very difficult to see the cookie dough in the cut pieces in the photo as they were inside the pieces of brownie. But believe me they were there and they were just sublime.

When my son came home he begged to have a brownie there and then.  He wasn’t very happy when I said no but he could have one for tea.  He kept trying to wheedle one out of me but I was having none of it.  Finally we ate one for pudding, I succumbed to the temptation and it was wonderful.  The other pieces went in the freezer for another time.

Well John Whaite, you have created a winning recipe with these brownies and I am sure my family would love me all the more if I made them again and again, thankyou so much!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books- Brand New Challenge for June 2014.

A new month.  Gosh we’re nearly halfway through the year, that is so scary!  It doesn’t seem 5 minutes ago since I was wishing everyone a Happy New Year.  Anyway I’m glad of the longer days, the light nights and the better weather (well mostly, we do live in the UK remember!)

So on my SmartCookieSam blog a new month means a new book to start baking from for my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  This month’s choice has been a really easy one to choose from, a book which has been out only a few weeks but I’ve been keen to bake from since it arrived on my doormat!

So drum roll, who is it then?  Well this time I’ve chosen none other than the fabulous John Whaite, who won series 3 of The Great British Bake Off in 2012.  He has now got two books out:  John Whaite Bakes and John Whaite Bakes At Home.  I’m going to be trying out recipes from the At Home one.  Now a lot of John’s recipes with their interesting and sophisticated flavour combinations appeal to me but not to my children. So I might struggle with recipe choices here.  Time consuming recipes aren’t going to go down well this month either, there’s lots going on Chez SmartCookieSam at the moment.

The front cover of John Whaite Bakes At Home.  Image courtesy of Google Images.
The front cover of John Whaite Bakes At Home. Image courtesy of Google Images.

Looking through the book, this is what I plan to have a go at.

Fast Fabulous Breakfasts:  Although I love cookies, I wouldn’t think to eat them at breakfast.  But I’d love to have a go at the Apple, Macadamia Nut and Oatmeal Cookies.  They sound delicious at any time of the day, not just for breakfast!

Leisurely Brunches:  What’s a leisurely brunch then?  I’ve never had one!  With two children, a horse and a dog breakfast is very early in our house.  So when people eat brunch, that’s usually my lunchtime!  Anyway, I still fancy trying out John’s Brunch Burrito at any time of the day and it would go down well with all of my family.

Afternoon Tea and Patisserie:  After looking through this chapter sadly I couldn’t find something that wouldn’t be too time consuming.  If I have time over the summer holidays or had an occasion to bake it I’d love to bake the  Choco-Berry Frasier Cake.  Instead I’ll bake two things from another chapter.

Family Bakes:  Instead of a bake from the Afternoon Tea chapter I’m baking two things from the Family Bakes one instead.  This month I will be helping at a neighbouring village’s Open Gardens where I am a member of their WI.  We do afternoon teas and coffees so I plan to bake the Lemon Sherbet Cake and some Aussie Crunch to take along as my contribution to the cake stall.

Picnics:  Now there were lots of delicious picnic recipes in the book but I just have to bake the Cookie Dough Brownies.  Whether we will have them on a picnic or not depends on the weather!

Friendship Feasts:  As I’m a bit of a Bundtaholic (is there such a word?) I plan to bake the Fig, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake.  I don’t have the Heritage Bundt pan featured in the picture but I’m sure my Jubilee one would work just as well.  I’m not going to use figs in it though as I don’t like them, maybe dates instead?

Special Occasions:  Again I found a lot of these recipes were delicious sounding but I wouldn’t have the occasion to bake them right now.  I thought I’d bake a version of the Wedding Party Rings and take them along into school for the staff room biscuit tin!

The final chapter is Indulgent Treats and I thought I’d have a go at the Boozy Brambleberry, Honey and Oatmeal Meringue Messes as a pud for Father’s Day.

So watch this space to see how I get on!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx