The Yummiest Chilli Con Carne Ever!- The Hairy Bikers

Last week I was in the White Rose Centre in Leeds with my two children.  I find shopping with the children extremely stressful, especially as my son hates shopping for anything that doesn’t involve an X-Box or sweets!  But needs must, my daughter needed new clothes, I promised my son some new headphones to say thankyou for creating the new Yorkshire Bakery logo and I wanted to buy yet another cookery book!

This book is the latest one from the lovable Hairy Bikers, Dave Myers and Si King: The Hairy Dieters! I have always loved watching the Hairy Bikers on TV and recently enjoyed their Bakeation series earlier on this year.  The “diet” book had come about due to their love of food and a weight gain that had crept on over the years.  In my case the weight has yo-yoed since I was a teenager and although I am not obese, I am 2 stone heavier than I should be.  Since starting up The Yorkshire Bakery and previously Sam’s Smart Cookies I have put back on a stone of two stone I had successfully lost about  5 years ago!  I thought if The Hairy Bikers could do it, with their love of good food (like me) then I could do it too.

  I had seen the book mentioned in the latest issue of Good Food magazine, along with a couple of delicious sounding recipes.  The book had also had some good 5 star reviews on Amazon so I was desperate to get it.  The blurb on the back mentions that the recipes are tasty but low in calories and big on flavour.  This is exactly what I wanted to hear.  I wanted recipes that the whole family would enjoy with man sized portions to keep my husband happy, healthy versions of traditional and popular favourites.  Food that was real and for real people.  I wanted to feel satisfied after eating the dinner and not to think, where’s the cake?

Well, as soon as I saw the book on the shelf  I knew I had to have it.  I immediately grabbed it and was delighted it was on a special half price offer for £7.49, this was fantastic. I now have to work hard at the rest.

When I got home I made myself a cup of tea and sat down and looked through all the introduction to the book. I realised that it’s a good commonsense approach to dieting.  You need to make sure you stick to the serving sizes and portion sizes accurately and you are advised to cut out alcohol!  Oh dear, that will be a tricky one for me!

Last night, it was finally time to try out one of the recipes in the book. I had minced beef in the fridge and kidney beans in the cupboard so it had to be Chilli con Carne!  I was looking forward to it as I hadn’t eaten chilli for a few months and it’s a huge family favourite (not with my daughter though as she’s vegetarian)

At first glance down the ingredients the only thing that was different to how I make my regular chilli is that I use a tbsp olive oil to fry the onions in or if I’m being good I use Frylight spray. The latter annoys my husband as he doesn’t like the taste of it.  The only addition was to use 150ml red wine but if you prefer you can use extra stock.  The rest of the ingredients were the same, although I also add chopped red pepper to mine!

The way to brown the mince was a revelation to me! I added it to the pan at the same time as the mince and it did not stick once!  It browned beautifully and I was able to add the spices to the pan without them sticking.  The chopped tomatoes, then the wine and a little extra beef stock was added carefully and then it simmered beautifully for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile I boiled some rice.  I used to be good at weighing out the rice but recently as I always seem to be hurrying I’ve been tipping it in to the pan trying to guess.  I remembered I had some Rosemary Conley portion pots and that one blue portion pot is equal to about 50g of rice per person.

I also steamed chopped carrots and green beans to add a veg portion to the meal.  The recipe serves 5.  I shared this out equally, putting a double portion into a foil takeaway container to put in the freezer for another day.  My daughter had her vegetarian meal but my son, husband and I enjoyed the chilli. We all agreed it was the nicest chilli we had ever tasted, no fatty aftertaste on the mouth and a substantial portion. We will definitely enjoy this again and again and again!

Here’s the leftover portion, that’s dinner sorted out for another day!

Happy Cooking!
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

Attempting Paul Hollywood’s Foccacia from The Great British Bake Off

Who else is looking forward to series three of The Great British Bake Off starting back on TV next week?  I know I definitely am.  The nation has well and truly taken the series and the baking buzz to our hearts.  As soon as the accompanying books came out in the shops I was straight there to buy them. I have attempted a few of the recipes from the books accompanying the first two series and thoroughly enjoyed making them. Some were easier than others but heigh ho I am always up for a challenge of some sorts.

It became a bit of a joke in our house so I stopped baking from the book as a challenge and thought well why just enjoy the recipes you want to bake. Not feeling pressurized into them looking good so that I wouldn’t get laughed at.  The family were thinking “Oh God not another recipe from the Bake Off book” and when I served some bread that tasted like rubber, my family were saying, “Stop, stop, enough is enough!”

Bread baking is something I’ve always wanted to get into but not had the courage or the ability. I guess I need the technical know how and I would love to book myself onto a breadmaking course in the future.  But for now I’m going to test out my ability and hope that the food doesn’t end up in the bin!

Last Friday I had been very busy in the Yorkshire Bakery kitchen baking cupcakes.  I was really tired and the last thing you want to do is to start trying to make a fancy tea for your family.  My hubby is from the breed of men who think a meal is not a meal without meat in it, or that pasta is not a meal.  He eats it because if not it’s the takeaway for him or he’ll have to cook it himself.  I love pasta and I am not going to stop eating it because he wants steak and chips!  I ended up making Pasta Genovese (but it was bought pesto, not homemade) and thinking, well they’ll want something else as well.

Last year I remember Paul Hollywood’s technical challenge of making Foccacia on the Great British Bake Off.  It looked so complicated yet would be perfect to go with our pasta.  I had all the ingredients (or so I thought) and I could fit in the rising, etc around all the other baking I was doing.  In for a penny, in for a pound as the saying goes!

Paul said in the show and in the book (the recipe is shown step-by-step which was fab for me so I wasn’t completely in the dark!) that you added a lot of water to the recipe and the dough comes out quite wet! That’s normal to me with baking bread dough, my hands get so sticky I’m backwards and forwards to the sink washing it off.

So first things first, out came the ingredients. Oh bloody marvellous, I needed 500g strong white bread flour, I had 450g. Oh dear, so had to tip some plain in to make up the loss and hope for the best. I had everything else and I carefully measured the ingredients out into my biggest mixing bowl.  The mixture looked like wallpaper paste.  Not a good look.

After I had managed to knead it for a bit and knock it about the phone decided to ring. Why does the phone ring whenever I’ve got my hands in the mixing bowl?  Neither of my children answered it, so I let it go onto answerphone.  Then just I get back into it the doorbell goes, it’s one of my son’s friends.  Third time lucky then the dog barks at our neighbour coming up the drive. I have a feeling its not going well.

Finally, I gave up and chucked the dough in the Kitchen Aid, put it on the slowest setting with the dough hook. I know Paul Hollywood said you should always knead by hand but if I carried on at this rate the foccacia would never get baked.  It then got put in my warm utility room for an hour or so (or until it had quadrupled in size). I checked it after 2 hours and it had doubled.  Dinner was getting closer so I got it back and put it in the trays to prove for another hour or so.

Here is the unbaked foccacia at the end of proving, drizzled with olive oil and with basil leaves chucked on the top. This was the stage where it looked reasonably ok (but probably wouldn’t pass muster with Paul Hollywood) all ready to be baked in the oven.

Here is the baked foccacia as it looked when it first came out of the oven.  It looked a lot thicker than the ones I have bought from the supermarket in the past.  It smelled delicious though and everyone was keen to have a slice.

But a mini disaster struck. I cut the foccacia into quarters on the plate and quickly carried it through to our dining room.  My dog was lurking about and I tripped over him! One of the pieces of foccacia fell on the floor but before I could pick it up and put it in the bin, Charlie the greedy black labrador picked it up in his mouth!  That was my piece gone for a burton!  He did eat most of it though after running around with it like one of his chew toys.

The verdict?  Fun to make despite all the stress but I can’t see Paul Hollywood making me his Star Baker!

If anyone else has made the foccacia, I would love to know how you got on!

Happy Baking.
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

Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake

I just love Lemon Drizzle Cake and make it often for family, when friends come over and for customers. Mine is usually a circular one though, or sometimes I make it like a traybake served into slices. Whichever way you serve it, I just love it.  Nothing else tastes like it, the sweetness of the sugar contrasting with the sour lemons. It’s a match made in heaven.  It also goes down well at my local WI meeting, whenever any of the ladies make a Lemon Drizzle Cake for supper it is always one to go first.

I particularly love Lemon Drizzle cake in Spring, must be to do with the yellow sunny colours. It conjures up ideas of spring afternoon teas  and of eating tea and cake at National Trust properties.  Give me Lemon Drizzle over a cupcake any day of the week.

Last Sunday I was absolutely exhausted.  I had had a fabulous three days away exploring the Italian Lakes and Venice with my husband as my 40th birthday present.  The morning after we had got back I looked in my fridge to think of something to cook for Sunday lunch, I was still in pasta and pizza mode though.  We don’t eat desserts during the week at home (though judging from the size of me you’d think I ate them all day and everyday!!)  We always treat ourselves to a dessert on a Sunday and I am a stickler for sitting down at the table altogether.  I do not like eating off laps in front of the TV (though we used to do it before we had kids and lived in a small cottage).  My Sunday lunches are important to me and I did not want to have to go up to the supermarket unless I really had to!

I spotted three lemons lurking in my fruit bowl that needed using up so wondered if I could make them into a lemon cake.  Then I remembered there was a Lemon Drizzle Loaf recipe in the Primrose Bakery Cookbook.  I had made the recipe before last Autumn not long after the book came out and enjoyed making it, although I messed up the icing.  I didn’t let the cake cool down long enough as I was in a hurry.  The icing soaked straight through into the cake so you didn’t get that separate drizzle layer.  Afterwards I read the recipe properly and it says to let the cake cool down completely in the tin. You then add the drizzle in the tin and let it set completely before serving.  All  good tips to help you remember for next time.

My first attempt at the Lemon Drizzle Loaf last October, as you can see I haven’t got the sugar crust as well defined as the Primrose Bakery do in their book!
The recipe itself was a pleasure to make.  It was as simple as other lemon recipes though I did spend far more time looking for my lemon zester and lemon squeezer in the drawer than I did making the cake. Why is it that the very thing you want always seems to hide itself away when you need it, then it magically appears when you don’t want it?
Hey presto, here is the finished article and I followed the advice about keeping the cake in the tin and then icing it, it seemed to work better for me this time.

All cut up into slices and I’m pleased to say it was a big hit with everyone.  I found my son had sneaked another slice of it at teatime and then polished it off the following day when he thought I wasn’t looking.  
Happy Baking!
Love Sam x

Peanut Butter Cupcakes

When I was looking through my two Primrose Bakery cookbooks and planning what to bake next, I was spoilt for choice! Lots of delicious mouthwatering cupcakes with different tastes and colours, also different flavours some more unusual than others.

Then, one evening about 2 weeks ago my choice was made for me. A customer asked me if I made peanut butter cupcakes.  Up til then I hadn’t, to be honest it was something I had never got round to trying out due to being too busy.  I’m so glad I did and the customer loved them.  In the first book “Cupcakes From The Primrose Bakery” is a recipe for peanut butter cupcakes and topped with a milk chocolate icing.  I looked through the recipe, looked at the picture and thought that it looked straightforward.

I like to make my own twists to recipes, to call them my own and I like to decorate my cupcakes differently. This wasn’t difficult with the peanut butter cupcakes as the picture in the book showed the cupcakes decorated with peanut butter chips.  I have never ever seen them in the UK, they must be American.  The nearest thing I had used to that was some butterscotch chips I had brought back from a trip to the US about 3 years ago.  I sourced some Reeses Peanut Butter Drops (like M&M’s) but I had a crap day and delved into them when I had a chocolate craving. After that I felt really sick and thought well if I felt sick I don’t want my customers to!   I then had an idea that I could top the cupcakes with peanut M&M’s.  At the moment, what with the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics there’s some bags of red, white and blue ones floating about so they were perfect.  If I have to make them again in the future I’ll use the standard ones or the other limited edition ones.

So, read on to find out how I made them:

The notes in the recipe state that the cupcake is fairly rich and dense, I would agree with that, but I was assured they were moreish!

I mixed the cupcake batter using the creaming method in my KitchenAid mixer.  First I creamed the butter, peanut butter and the sugar together, then added the eggs carefully along with a spoonful of vanilla extract.  The dry ingredients were combined separately, then added slowly to the mixture.

To note: It states in the recipe to use smooth peanut butter.  Personally I don’t like the cheaper brands of peanut butter as they are full of added sugar which to my mind is totally unnessecary! I prefer spending a little bit more and buying a nicer brand, such as Whole Earth. Their peanut butter contains oil, but no sugar.

When it was time to spoon the batter into the cupcake cases I realised I had some American themed cupcake cases left over from a 4th July order beforehand.  As these cupcakes were American in style I chose to bake them in the remaining cases I had left. Usually the Yorkshire Bakery cupcakes are baked in whatever cupcake cases I have left in stock that co-ordinates well with the cakes.

Here are the cupcakes cooling on the rack. I found that they rose very well and smelled delicious when they came out of the oven.  My daughter, who loves peanut butter on toast sometimes for breakfast was very impressed with the smell. She was also worried I’d nicked her peanut butter for the following morning!

After a couple of hours cooling time it was time to make the accompanying icing.  The Primrose Bakery suggest using Milk Chocolate Icing as an accompaniment.  I had never made chocolate icing with milk chocolate before, probably because I was worried it would not melt as well as plain chocolate.  I decided to try it as a half and half.  I also found that this recipe did not need icing sugar but used double cream and butter as well as vanilla extract.  I looked in the fridge and realised I did not have any double cream left, so back to the drawing board it was.  In the end I chose to use the recipe I usually use on my luxury chocolate cupcakes and I’m glad I did as the icing came out exactly as I wanted it to.

Here are the finished Peanut Butter Cupcakes topped with the luxury chocolate icing and with the red, white and blue peanut M&M’s for decoration.

If you want to bake these for yourself you will find the peanut butter cupcake recipe on p72 in Cupcakes From The Primrose Bakery.

Happy Baking!
Love Sam x