Cooking The Books- July Challenge Update.

In July my Cooking The Books Challenge was to bake one or two recipes from each chapter of Celebrations At The Primrose Bakery. At the beginning of the month this didn’t seem too daunting but as it got closer to the end of term things went crazy. I did a lot of baking but not from this book, in fact I’m surprised my oven didn’t pack up in protest.  It was on that much!

I also found I didn’t get time to bake all I wanted from the Celebrations book and had to leave two things out, the Gin and Tonic cupcakes and the Jasmine Cake.  I just didn’t have chance to make them and find any Jasmine extract from anywhere to bake the cake with.  So I had to leave it.

This is what I DID get around to making though!

First up were the absolutely delicious Quesadillas and the accompanying Guacamole from the Teenager’s Party chapter of the Celebrations book.  All the recipes were based around a Mexican theme which we all love in our house, Mexican food always goes down a storm.  I chose to make the Quesdillas and Guacamole as I needed something savoury and salty after being at my Clandestine Cake Club event that afternoon.  The Quesdillas were simple to make and we really enjoyed them.  I loved making the guacamole as well, never made it before as I always buy it ready made.  It was totally different to the shop bought stuff and I think I overdid the red onion in it but it still got troughed.  Served with a bowlful of chilli con carne I’d had lurking in the freezer, some salsa and sour cream this was a delicious Saturday night supper!

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Homemade guacamole.
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Quesadillas- I called them Cheese Quesadillas when I tweeted about them, my fluent Spanish speaking brother put me right and said queso meant cheese so I didn’t need to call them Cheese Quesadillas. Well how was I to know, I can only speak French!

The other bake I did attempt was the Date Slices in the Baby Shower chapter.  All the recipes in this chapter were based around a Moroccan theme.   I don’t see what Date Slices and Morocco has to do with having a baby!  But I was interested in the recipe and thought about having a go.  Sadly the results were very poor. The mixture turned out a bit wet.  I was expecting it to have a shortbread consistency, to me this was more like a claggy cake.  I had to spoon half the mixture into the tin base, then add the date filling (which smelled revolting), then top that with the rest of the mixture.  The mixture wouldn’t spread and cover the whole tin.  It just got wetter and wetter as it cooked.  When I took the cooked slices out of the oven after the required time I found that the middle was still wet and soggy inside.  Back they went in for another ten minutes but I was disappointed.  When finally ready I cut them up into slices and tasted one.  They tasted disgusting.  They tasted salty even though there wasn’t salt in the recipe.  My hubby tasted one and said he thought they were nice, though.  Not one I want to try again, so disappointing!

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The yukky date slices.

On the whole I have enjoyed baking recipes from the Celebrations book, although it isn’t my favourite from the Primrose Bakery. To be honest there are a lot of recipes with weird ingredients that are difficult to source if you don’t live in London or another big city.  I much preferred the previous two books, especially their Cupcakes one.

Watch out to see which book I am baking from for my August Cooking The Books Challenge.

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

Cupcakes from Primrose Bakery Celebrations.

I wanted to get started on my latest Cooking The Books Challenge so what better excuse was to bake for my school’s Summer Fair?  This month’s book is the third Primrose Bakery Book- “Primrose Bakery Celebrations” and I have had it for several months now and not tried any of the recipes out of it.  After all that’s the reason why I set myself this monthly challenge, to get myself baking from the books I buy and then put on the shelf to look pretty, then forget about them!

I had four different cupcake recipes to try out from Celebrations and I chose flavours which were going to be the easiest to create with ingredients I could easily get in my local supermarket. I didn’t have time to go to my local American candy stockist or even to order online.

First up were the White Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Icing from the Young Girl’s Party Chapter of the book.  I found these simple to make even though the weather was very hot and sticky on the day I made them.  The chocolate melted really easily and I found that there was not enough white icing to cover the cupcakes using the piping method that I like using when baking cupcakes.

White chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate icing.
The cupcakes were finished off with some small chocolate chunks and white chocolate chips. I would have liked to have grated the chocolate but it was melting in my hand as I was holding it to the grater.

Second to be baked were the Cola Cupcakes in the Boy’s Party chapter.  I’d already wanted to bake Cola Cupcakes but never got around to it. I’m surprised as I love fizzy cola bottles but when I went to our local Morrisons all I could find was a pack of large ones.  I didn’t want to buy a multipack because I’d be nibbling the remaining sweets I didn’t need for the cakes!  When I opened the large cola bottle pack I found there were only 8 in there so the remaining 4 cupcakes were sprinkled with popping candy!  In the recipe introduction it says “we found that using a cola concentrate rather than real cola is much more effective” but unfortunately I couldn’t find a bottle of SodaStream cola concentrate so a real can of “full-fat” coke had to do!  The matching cola icing turned out very runny and just would not thicken up.  Instead of swirling it on it was spread on just as it seemed to get warmer and warmer in my kitchen!

These cola cupcakes were a hit with the children.
Some of the cola cupcakes were sprinkled with popping candy.

When the cola cupcakes were finished I got on to bake number three.  This time I had a go at Salted Caramel Cupcakes which sounded incredibly rich.  The cupcakes were vanilla flavour but were topped with the rich caramel icing.  They did have a hidden surprise in them though- half a chunk of Galaxy Bar!

Galaxy chocolate inside the cupcake filling, put more on top after the photo was taken!

 I cheated and instead of making my own caramel I used a jar of salted caramel sauce  bought from a local deli.  The icing for these cupcakes came up a bit thicker and spread on the cakes much easier.  My daughter came into the kitchen as I was making these and asked if she could help.  So she had the fun job of bashing a packet of Werther’s Original caramel sweets with the end of a rolling pin so they could be sprinkled on the top of the cupcakes.

Salted caramel cupcakes topped with crushed Werther’s Originals!

The final bake for the summer fair was some Eton Mess cupcakes.  I love Eton Mess pudding so I wanted to see if I could recreate it in a cupcake.  I baked them slightly differently to the way they were in the recipe.  The recipe called for making a hole in the baked cupcake and poking in a fresh raspberry and some mascarpone cheese.  I didn’t bother with the mascarpone but put the raspberry into the mixture before it baked. When the cakes cooled I got ready to make the creamy frosting.  I needed to add pureed raspberries to cream to make it pink but I couldn’t believe it, I hadn’t got enough raspberries.  In the end I had to use artificial pink food colouring in the cream.

Eton Mess Cupcakes.

To finish off the Eton Mess cupcakes I had bought some ready made mini meringues.  I could have made them myself but I just ran out of time.  My daughter enjoyed crushing them for me and then sprinkling them on the cupcakes.

But… disaster struck when I got the cupcakes to the school fair the day after.  I had boxed the cakes and put them in my garage which was the coolest place in the house being as I didn’t have a fridge which worked!  The other cupcakes were fine but the Eton Mess cupcakes were a mess!  The meringue melted into the topping and looked horrible.  So they went in the bin.  I was gutted but I will try and bake another batch on a cooler day in the future so that I can see what they should taste like!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

My Cooking The Books Challenge for July 2014.

Another month= another book in my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  Now it’s July I needed to think of another book that would have recipes I would enjoy baking yet my family would eat them!

This month it’s going to be Lisa Thomas and Martha Swift’s third book from the Primrose Bakery, this time their Celebrations book.  Although I’ve never had chance to go to one of the Primrose Bakeries I have loved using the previous two books  particularly at the height of the cupcake craze.

Here are some previous Primrose Bakery Cupcake recipes I have baked and loved over the past four or five years.  My children loved the Peanut butter ones the most!

The Primrose Bakery's Strawberry Cupcakes Peanut Butter Cupcakes Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

This time, the Celebrations book features around eight different types of celebration and I am hoping to try out recipes I’ve never attempted before.  So what am I going to bake?

In the Young Girl’s Party chapter there is a recipe for White Chocolate Cupcakes.  This doesn’t sound that unusual but my school is holding a Summer Fair in the middle of July and I know these will be great to go on the cake stall as one of my contributions.

Following on from this, into the Young Boy’s Party chapter there is another cupcake recipe, this time for Cola Cupcakes.  To get the intense flavour needed I will need to buy some cola Soda Stream concentrate.  I remember having a Soda Stream when I was a child!  These can also go along to the Summer Fair!

The third chapter is the Teenage Party and all the recipes here are based on a Mexican theme.  We all love Mexican food in our house so this time we’re going for two savoury recipes the Cheese Quesadillas and the Guacamole.  Sounds delicious to me!

Picnics is the title of the fourth chapter and although I love picnics I don’t fancy eating it in the car as the rain lashes down in true British style.  But I do love the sound of the Eton Mess Cupcakes which are also going along to my school’s Summer Fair!

Another popular celebration is a Baby Shower and that is featured in the fifth chapter of the Celebrations book.  I’ve never been into things like Baby Showers, well we didn’t really have them when my children were born.  It’s one of those American customs that have slipped over the pond! All the recipes in this chapter are Moroccan inspired so I am baking the Date Bars. Date Bars remind me of my Nana Margaret.  She used to buy them from her local bakery in Scarborough when she was on holiday there.  I remember being forced to eat them as a child and hating the filling.  Recently I ate one from our local bakery when my hubby bought one and it tasted delicious.  I would love to try some out myself!

Chapter six is called Afternoon Tea Party and all the recipes are Japanese inspired.  I must admit I struggled with this chapter as it calls for specialist ingredients which I won’t necessarily be able to find locally.  However I did find the Jasmine Cake looked pretty and although I might not be able to get hold of some jasmine essence, I might adapt the recipe to suit.

My favourite chapter in the book is the Cocktails and Cupcakes one.  As I’m a huge gin and tonic lover I would like to bake the Gin and Tonic Cupcakes to take along as a gift for a dinner party I’m going to at the end of July.  I’m going to use my favourite local artisan gin in it, Mason’s which is made in Yorkshire and it is wonderful.

Finally and although it is totally the wrong time of year for this being July but there is a Christmas and New Year chapter!  A lot of the recipes don’t suit this time of year obviously but I was tempted by two recipes here the Salted Caramel Cupcakes and because I’ve never baked for my dog before, the Cheese Dog Treats!  Being a Labrador, I’m sure my dog will like them whether they taste good or not!

Watch this space to see how I get on with these recipes!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Plum Cake from The Primrose Bakery Cookbook

Another Sunday, another dessert to think about for a family lunch.  This time I had a joint of beef topside to roast with some Yorkshire Puddings, lots of veg and gravy.  My vegetarian daughter ate a Vegetable Kiev with the potatoes and vegetables, which she really enjoyed.  This weekend we have had my mum staying with us.  She lives in Nottingham so we tend to see her on average once a month depending on what she is up to.  This weekend I wanted to bake a crumble for pudding as it is now feeling very autumnal and I wanted a comfort pudding that everyone would eat.  I had a punnet of plums to use up and thought about the individual plum crumbles that are in the Great British Bake Off Showstoppers recipe book. However, although the recipe sounded nice, it involved cooking the plums in port, something I couldn’t do as I didn’t have any port!  I suppose I could have substituted something else but I couldn’t think what to do.
I remembered looking through my copy of the Primrose Bakery cookbook the other week and spotting a rather yummy looking plum cake on one of the pages. I must admit I don’t really like eating plums unless they’re mixed in a cake or a crumble, so I thought it would be a good way of using them up. No one else in my family had tried to eat them either.  I scanned the ingredient list and thought I had everything in so why not give the cake a go?
I was intrigued to know what the cake would taste like as in the recipe introduction it mentions that the cake is very popular in the Primrose Bakery cafes and always sells out.  It also was from an original recipe by the Australian chef Bill Grainger, a chef who I’ve heard of but don’t know much about his cooking!
The beef was roasting in my slow oven, the veg was prepped so all I had to do was to get started on the plum cake. As soon as I got the plums out to stone and quarter my hubby appeared back from his usual Sunday morning trip to Morrisons and expected me not only to put the shopping away, but to make him a cup of tea as well!  Luckily my mum put the shopping away for me but I thought he could wait for his cup of tea, in the end he came in the kitchen and made it himself!  What’s more, I got a cup of tea too, but I told him if he had wanted me to make it he would have to wait!  Since I am not an octopus, I can only do one job at a time!
Once the plums were stoned and quartered, I started on the cake mixture itself.  It was a simple vanilla sponge involving the creaming method.  Once the mixture was ready, I greased and lined a loose bottom cake tin.  The recipe called for a 25cm diameter cake tin, I had one but it was quite small.  I found out that the cake leaked out of the top because it simply wasn’t deep enough.  It was embarrassing and I should have thought it through.
I quickly found a baking tray to rest the cake on and it was popped back into the oven with a quick prayer that the air hadn’t got to it and it wasn’t going to suddenly sink on me.  The cake was meant to stay in the oven for about 1- 1/4 hours but even after that time it still looked runny.  I kept checking the recipe wondering if I’d got quantities wrong or put the oven on at the wrong temperature!  It was turning into one of those Great British Bake Off moments where some of the contestants were filmed kneeling down in front of their ovens checking their bakes!
Finally, minutes before the roast beef was ready for lunch the cake looked like it was ready and it appeared cooked with the good old skewer method.  I put the cake on the cooling rack still in it’s tin and hoped that it would be easy enough to turn out onto a plate for pudding.  It didn’t help that both my kids came into the kitchen and said that the plum cake looked gross and they weren’t eating any because they didn’t like plums.
All the more for us then, was the answer to that!
I hoped and prayed that the cake would turn out right and thankfully it came out more or less intact.  It was a bit messy so if a customer ever asked me to bake a cake like this I would only do it after lots more practice.  
Well, you should never judge a book by it’s cover and although my plum cake looked far messier than the one in the Primrose Bakery Cookbook, I can assure you it was one of the loveliest, moist cakes I had ever tasted.  The Primrose Bakery suggest serving it warm with vanilla ice cream, we had pouring double cream with ours and it was delicious. So much so that we all had seconds (I’m meant to be dieting but everyone else was, so if you can’t beat them, join them!) My kids didn’t even try it, they went without and what a shame because it was a gorgeous treat!

Plum Cake from The Primrose Bakery Cookbook- as you can see the cake wasn’t one of my best efforts and I think the plums were a bit mushy. It tasted fine, though I’m sure a judge like Paul Hollywood would have laughed his head off at it

Would I bake it again?  Oh yes, but I will use the proper sized cake tin next time!
Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Blueberry and Polenta Muffins

This morning I woke up with a huge urge to bake muffins.  Muffins are not something I have baked a lot of recently due to the fact that I end up making more cupcakes and cookies than anything else really.  I have always loved making them though and used to make them regularly with my children when they were younger.  Some muffins came out much better than others with mixed results.  My kids still laugh about my apple and carrot muffins made from one of Annabel Karmel’s books.  I had taken them on a family picnic and they were so oily and greasy (my mistake) they had to be thrown out!
I see muffins everywhere I go, some are massive like giant boulders.  These are meant to serve one person but could serve two to three people.  I always feel bitterly disappointed when I eat muffins in cafes, they never live up to my expectations.
I knew that I wanted to bake blueberry muffins and that there was a yummy sounding recipe in the Primrose Bakery Cupcake book.  I thought muffins usually had oil in them but these contained butter.  The recipe description described them as cupcakes but they looked more like muffins to me.  They also contained polenta, an ingredient I don’t use all that often but I wanted to try it out.
I also had some pretty blue gingham muffin cases which I had bought and was keen to try out. I thought they would look perfect against the blueberry colour in the muffins.
The recipe was very simple to make using the creaming method to mix the butter and sugar together. I then added the eggs one at a time. Next, the dry ingredients, including the polenta was added.  There was also another unusual ingredient- buttermilk but it is something I always have in my fridge for scones.  Finally, the blueberries were added.
The picture in the recipe book shows reserved blueberries scattered on top of the muffins.  I completely forgot about that and chucked all of the blueberries into the mixture leaving none spare.  I thought it would make the top look boring but at least it got jazzed up with a dusting of icing sugar.
The muffins were baked in the oven for about 25 minutes and came out a lovely golden brown.  They were perfect for breakfast.  I ate one for my breakfast with a steaming mug of coffee.  The polenta gave the muffins an interesting crunchy but nutty texture and I will definitely be making these again for my family!
Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

The Primrose Bakery’s Strawberry Cupcakes

Last Sunday I spent all day running a stall at a local craft fair in Masham, which is about a 40 minute drive from where I live.  I love visiting Masham, it’s such a pretty market town.  When my children were younger we would often drive up into the Dales and stop in Masham on the way back for an ice cream.  It seemed a perfect venue to try out selling my cupcakes and cookies at a bit further afield.

This last Sunday, sadly was a disaster.  There was a very poor turnout due to the dreadful weather and the Olympics.  The weather started off quite mild and fine but by the afternoon had turned into torrential rain and  we had a thunderstorm.  We ended up with a powercut followed by a fire engine speeding off down the road, perhaps a local substation had been hit. Luckily the power came back on almost straightaway!  With the fantastic gold medal achievements of Team GB over the weekend who could blame people for staying in and watching the TV?  The other stall holders were lovely, a really friendly bunch and I enjoyed chatting with them.  They really made me feel good about my cupcakes and cookies even though I had a lot left over!

  For me though, baking for a stall means I have to sell everything, especially the cupcakes as they cannot keep.  I had baked over 80 cupcakes along with brownies, shortbread, flapjack and various types of cookies.  Really and truly I should have done my homework and not made so many cupcakes but I thought Masham was a tourist town.  I only sold 20 out of the 100 cupcakes and all of my cookies.  It was awful to drive home with a bootful of cupcakes, I thought everyone will be laughing at me.

Thankfully a dozen cupcakes went up to my husband’s office in Boroughbridge and he shared them out with his work colleagues and the other staff in the building.  He said they went down very well and brightened up a Monday in the office.  Another box is going to my daughter’s dance teacher today who has asked for some.  The rest ended up being donated in one which way or another.

BUT every cloud has a silver lining!  I had a huge bowlful of strawberries at home which needed using up so I wondered how I could incorporate them in my baking.  In the past I have made my vanilla cupcakes with a swirl of plain buttercream or freshly whipped double cream then topped with a whole (washed, but not hulled) strawberry on top.  I was worried about the fresh cream on a stall and also had enough plain vanilla cupcakes to sell.

So, once again it was back to my Primrose Bakery cookbooks which have been an absolute favourite of mine.  I saw that there was a strawberry cupcake recipe in their first book “Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery” and I immediately had a lightbulb moment.  I would bake these but adapt them to suit my own tastes.

First I had to wash, hull and chop up around 250g of strawberries. I don’t mind doing this at all, strawberries are heaven to me. Sadly my own small crop has now gone at home so I had to buy these from my local supermarket.  They still taste fab though.

The cake batter ingredients were all mixed together in my Kitchen Aid, I was pleased with the way the batter  came together.  The recipe suggested crushing the strawberries but I left mine as chunks.

The recipe served 12 but I found that there was a little bit of batter left over, this to me seemed strange.  Perhaps they were meant to be muffin sized cupcakes, mine were standard sized ones.  I used some pretty strawberry patterned cupcake cases I found last year when I was in Thirsk.

Once the cupcakes had cooled down on the rack I set to with the buttercream.  I used my own buttercream recipe and coloured the icing with some pink paste.  Luckily I didn’t get too heavy handed with the food colouring paste as I have done sometimes.  Then, on with the strawberry decorations.
I’m pleased to say that even though I only sold 20 cupcakes on the day, 8/12 of the strawberry ones sold, closely followed by the coffee ones!  Of the four that were left, my husband ate two of them even though me says he doesn’t have a sweet tooth! They seemed to appeal to the adults who bought a cupcake, the children all liked the vanilla and chocolate ones.  
I will definitely make these again, it was a lovely recipe to bake and the result looked attractive especially when placed on the stand.
Happy Baking!
Sam xx

The Primrose Bakery’s Mars Bar Cake

Yesterday morning I was in experimental mode.  As it is the school holidays so I have six weeks off from my day job as a teaching assistant/ supply cover in a local primary school, it means I have more time to “play” with recipes and try out new things.  Most of my Yorkshire Bakery commissions and baking for stalls is done    at the weekends, on a Friday (which is my day off) or in the evenings when I am stood in the kitchen baking after everyone else has gone up to bed.  So, yesterday morning was an absolute treat for me in lots of ways.

My children moan that I never bake for the family, it’s always for customers. So I decided to prove them wrong with this sweet and sticky treat.

The Mars Bar Cake is featured in the second Primrose Bakery Recipe Book and if you like making chocolate crispie cakes than this recipe will be perfect for you.  The notes at the top of the page say it is a best seller in the Primrose Bakery but it is not really a cake, just a sweet and sticky treat that is hard to resist!

All you had to do was to melt butter and golden syrup in a pan on a gentle heat.  Then you add 6 (yes 6 standard size) Mars Bars chopped up into the pan.  I was concerned that the Mars Bars would burn due to the high sugar and glucose content, but I took the pan off the heat very quickly.  The heat that was still in the pan helped it to finish off melting.  The recipe called for 200g cornflakes, which I added bit by bit to ensure they got an even coating.

As this is a no bake cake I pressed the mixture into a greased sandwich tin. The picture next to the recipe shows the Mars Bar cake cut into slices, very confusing as it clearly was made in a rectangular tin not circular. I stuck with an 8″ sandwich tin.

Two hours later and my two children were begging me to get the cake out of the fridge and cut it up. I did, into 8 slices of rich gorgeousness.  I am ashamed to say I wolfed down a slice, no wonder I’m going to be the fattest person on the beach this summer!

Amazingly though, it had all disappeared by teatime. We must have cake fairies in the house!

All ready and waiting for the pouncing hands!  
My daughter said that she liked the cake so much could I make it again for her birthday but using Snickers Bars?  It made me wonder what chocolate bars you could use instead, I like the idea of melted Bounty Bars, not sure if it would work though but I bet it would be fun trying!
Happy Baking!
Love Sam x