Amazing Cakes #15: Banana And Chocolate Chip Loaf



On the first Monday of the second “lockdown” (don’t even get me started on that term!) I had a day at home.  I wasn’t even sure what was going to happen for some of that week.  Some of my work involves working in a day nursery on a regular basis and the other time I am teaching on supply in various primary schools in my area.  I knew I already had Friday booked but nothing for the three remaining days of the week. Although I love teaching, I am really anxious at the moment with the Covid situation.  I am really careful with keeping safe but I have to do my job.

To me, baking is a massive help and distraction from the crazy world we live in.  Even before the pandemic came I found baking on my days off extremely calm and therapeutic. I’d put on some of my favourite music in the kitchen and get lost in my own little baking world. I think back to why I started baking in the first place and that was over 20 years ago as a new mum.  Obviously baking was the last thing on my mind when I had a newborn but I bought a couple of Annabel Karmel’s recipe books to help give me ideas for family meals. 

In Annabel’s book The Family Meal Planner, she had a recipe for banana bread. I used to make this so often as my kids loved it and so did Mr S.  I still make this recipe to this day! Funny how my kids (especially my son)  wouldn’t eat many of her baby purees at the time but they loved all the cake recipes!
On this Monday morning I had some bananas to use up and thought about baking some banana loaf.  Annabel’s recipe includes optional nuts like walnuts or pecans but I sometimes substitute in dark chocolate chips or raisins.  It’s also a great way of using up stuff you have at home.  I also decided to try a slightly different Banana Loaf recipe and went for the one in my Great British Bake Off Amazing Cakes book. It is similar in quantities but it is a plain banana loaf with no chocolate or nuts in.

As per usual, the butter and sugar was mixed together first using the creaming method. Then beaten eggs were added in carefully, followed by  some vanilla extract.

In another bowl I weighed out the dry ingredients: plain flour, bicarbonate of soda and my own addition: a teaspoonful of cinnamon.  After the dry ingredients were folded in, I added in three ripe mashed bananas and some sour cream.  The Annabel Karmel recipe uses natural yoghurt here but I had sour cream left over from making fajitas a couple of days before.  I also added in 75g of dark chocolate chips to my mixture.

The loaf was baked in a 900g or 2lb loaf tin and I used one of my pre made loaf tin liners which I think came from Lakeland originally.

I followed the baking time carefully (one hour) and had the oven temperature on at 160o fan as stated but I felt as if the top of the cake looked burnt and unappealing.  It definitely wasn’t burnt inside and it tasted fine when I had a piece with a cup of tea later on.

Sliced up into pieces, we ate the banana bread over the next week. It keeps well for a couple of days in the tin but I always freeze it and get out exactly what we need for the day. 

Happy Baking!
Love Sam xx

Home-made Pizza

It’s been ages since I’ve made pizza. Last Sunday night I was planning out our shopping list when I was thinking about what we could have for our dinner. We all love pizza, although Mr S doesn’t really like shop bought ones. I like the thin and crispy ones but can’t stand anything deep pan or stuffed crust.

It’s easier to do things like this on a Monday while there’s the four of us still at home and when I’m not out at work. The dough can be got ready as and when you need it. Also, my two grown up kids enjoy making their own pizzas and sticking their favourite toppings on. Mr S asked if I could buy some prawns and anchovies for his pizza. Yuck to the anchovies but I got ham and pepperoni as well as lots of grated mozzerella and a carton of passata.

The pizza dough recipe I use is one by Annabel Karmel from her Children’s First Cookbook. I’ve had this cookbook years! It was bought when my kids were little and also got used when I ran an after school cookery club. Virtually most of the recipes had been adapted in one way or another. In fact I made pizzas loads of times throughout my time as a teacher but it was always Annabel’s recipe we used for the pizza dough.

Monday afternoon was not good dough making weather though. We up in North Yorkshire have not had the nasty storms and rain (yet) but the weather has been very muggy. My hands were hot as a furnace and no matter how much flour I dusted on the worktop and on my hands, the dough stuck to the worktop and to my hands. I got more and more flustered. Even having the windows open in my kitchen which gets the full sun in the afternoon wasn’t helping. I put my hands under a freezing cold tap but even that didn’t make a difference.

Eventually after 10 minutes of kneading I did get the dough into a bowl and left it proving. I didn’t need to find an especially warm place, it was warm everywhere! I was so fed up at that time that I wished I’d bought the pizzas and not made them from scratch.

For the tomato sauce I usually use a carton of passata. The only thing is it’s not full of sugar like some readymade pizza toppings are but we honestly didn’t miss it. I know you can make up a tomato sauce with tins of tomatoes, etc but I was seriously in a I can’t be bothered mood that day.

When it was time to get the pizza bases ready I got the dough out of the bowl, knocked it back and then cut it into four quarters. Now for the rolling bit. Once again the dough wasn’t in the mood for it and I found myself getting hotter and more anxious. No matter what flour I put on the rolling pin, my hands or the worktop, it just stuck. My hands were hotter than a raging inferno. In the end I had to get my daughter to roll out the bases. I was just expecting her to do that but she ended up doing the whole lot. In the meantime, I had gone for a cold shower! I came downstairs to find my delicious pizza waiting for me with its thin and crispy base. Just how I like it!

We each had different pizzas. Mr S didn’t get his anchovies for his pizza (haha) as I “forgot” to buy some! But he had garlic and prawns on his: reminiscent of a delicious pizza eaten on holiday in Menorca several years ago. I had ham on mine and the others had pepperoni ones.

I didn’t get a photo of everyone else’s pizza but here’s mine! It was delicious and we all said we definitely have to make it again. Maybe on not such a hot day and also if I can find yeast in the supermarket again. I’m down to my last sachet of my pre-lockdown yeast now.

Do you like making pizza? If so, what are your favourite toppings?

Stay Safe!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Chip Muffins

It’s been ages since I’ve baked muffins. At the beginning of the lockdown when going off to the supermarket for our weekly shop, my son asked if I could buy some of those mini muffins you can buy in plastic tubs on the bakery counter. I never usually buy these as they taste horrible to me. I bought him a tub of them but when he asked again the following week, I said I would make him some homemade ones instead. After all, even though they come off the supermarket bakery counter, you still don’t know what they put in them. Would you believe, I couldn’t find any dark chocolate or milk chocolate chips. Luckily my local village shop had them in on a couple of visits.

I love making muffins as there’s not a lot of preparation goes into making them. They can be done in just about half an hour. But I do reckon they taste best on the day you make them. I love a muffin with a cup of my favourite coffee or a mug of tea and even have the odd one for breakfast if I’m in a rush on a working day morning.

My recipe for Chocolate Chip Muffins makes 12 generous size ones and they do fill over the tops of the muffin cases. I love those tulip muffin cases the best for baking in. They look pretty and give great results. I haven’t got any left at the moment so the red spotty ones I used here in the picture were from a tub from John Lewis mixed with yellow and orange spotty cases. They are still very pretty and good quality, though.

I also chose to add some vanilla yoghurt to the muffins to keep them moist and to add flavour. Use full fat yoghurt, though.

CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS

Makes 12. You will need a 12 hole muffin tray and 12 muffin cases.

Ingredients:

350g plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 large, free range eggs

200ml full fat vanilla yoghurt

200g light brown soft sugar (preferably) but I ended up using Demerera as there wasn’t any other brown sugar in the shops

115g butter (melted before adding)

200g dark or milk chocolate chips

  1. Preheat your oven to 180oC/ Fan 160oC/ Gas 4 or 350oF. Prepare your muffin tin by putting the paper muffin cases in the holes.
  2. Weigh out all your “dry” ingredients into a large mixing bowl: the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the chocolate chips. The only exception is the sugar. Mix these together with a wooden spoon.
  3. In another bowl, weigh out all your “wet” ingredients and the sugar. I find it easier to melt the butter beforehand in the microwave for about 30 seconds and to pre-beat the eggs in another bowl so you just tip them all into the bowl with the sugar and yoghurt. Mix together with a wooden spoon.
  4. Fold all the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not over mix but just fold to combine. This is best done with a large metal spoon.
  5. Spoon the muffin batter into the cases. Try and fill to the top as much as you can.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the muffin tops spring back when you press them gently with your finger.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then remove from the muffin tin. Put the muffins to cool down on a wire rack.

These muffins could be adapted to make chocolate orange ones if you substitute the vanilla yoghurt for natural yoghurt and add some grated zest of an orange to the mixture.

I couldn’t wait to tuck into a muffin. I made myself a cup of tea and sat with it out in the garden enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

Let me know if you try out this recipe and what it comes out like.

Stay safe!

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Paradise Slice

This has got to be one of the best bakes….EVER! I can’t get enough of these. I remember my mum baking some when I was about 6 or 7 when I had a birthday tea party. The recipe came from an old Ladybird cookbook. I still have it somewhere. There’s nothing quite like the combination of melted plain chocolate, dessicated coconut and glace cherries! So retro. I since found out that there is another version of Paradise Slice where the coconut and cherries or other dried fruit are baked on a shortcrust pastry base, not a chocolate one. To me chocolate is paradise but I will try out the pastry version another time.

Yesterday was a quiet chilled out Sunday at home. Mr S had gone shopping with his sister who was visiting at the weekend and I was at home with the dogs. We had troughed our way through the cheesecake I had made at my class and I had cherries, chocolate and dessicated coconut. What’s not to like?

First, I lined my traybake tin with some foil and poured melted dark chocolate into the base. This went into the fridge to set for about half an hour.

Meanwhile, I washed and halved a tub of glace cherries. I do hate all the sticky syrup they come in but needs must. Ive found that even after you chop them, there’s more syrup inside and you end up having to rewash them! The cherries were put on to the top of the set chocolate and then ready for the mixture to top it.

The topping for the paradise slice is made by whisking eggs and caster sugar together until light and fluffy. When this is ready, you then fold in the dessicated coconut and put it on top of the cherries and chocolate. The whole concoction is baked in the oven until turning lightly golden for about 20-25 minutes.

I left the Paradise Slice to cool down on the work top for half an hour or so but the tin was still very hot. I gave it another 10 minutes by which time it was ready for me to cut it up. You can’t leave it until the chocolate goes hard or it’s impossible to cut up. Once it was cut up, I then turned each piece out upside down (so the chocolate was on top) and put them onto plates in the fridge so that the chocolate would harden. Half an hour later and hey presto, they were ready!

Did I forget that I was doing Weightwatchers and eat one? Yes, I blinking well did! I enjoyed every mouthful of it until I decided to work out the SmartPoints for it! It was a whopping 23 Smartpoints and I was so shocked! My sister in law took one home with her this morning. I was so tempted to have one only an hour ago with a cuppa but had an apple instead.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cookies.

I’ve had a day off work today. It was a great opportunity to catch up with my friends over in Leeds for lunch. They’re my cake club lovelies. We met initially through the now disbanded Clandestine Cake Club and got on so well we meet up regularly to put the world to rights over coffee and cake. But before I drove over to Leeds my dog had an appointment at the “pooch parlour” to have his nail trimmed and a good old shampoo. While he was up the road having his beauty treatments, I was at home baking cookies.

Last September when I was visiting my family in Canada, I bought a few bags of Hershey’s Chipits. I had bought some butterscotch and some mint ones the year before but this year I couldn’t find the mint flavour. I ended up with about four different flavours and the final bag which needed using up was this bright blue bag of Salted Caramel Chips. (Pictured below).

How I wish I could find these in the UK. No one seems to stock them or a similar product. If you do know where I can find them, please let me know. I’m hoping to go back to Canada in the Autumn so I’ll have to keep extra space in my suitcase for some more supplies!

I was wondering what I could do with the chipits and thought of baking “Brookies” which are double layered brownies and cookie bars. My son loves them and sometimes gets one from our local Co-op! But I didn’t have any spare plain chocolate for the brownies. Instead, I tried out the recipe which is on the actual packet for Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cookies. It was really quick to make and the recipe yielded 30 cookies! I didn’t need real chocolate for this, but cocoa powder for the chocolate flavour.

First, I creamed together butter and both light brown and caster sugar in a mixing bowl. To this I then added beaten egg and a spoonful of vanilla extract. When this was mixed in I folded in plain flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Then, I formed the mixture into a dough and finally folded in the whole packet of Chipits.

I needed five baking trays lined with parchment for the cookies. I scooped small balls of dough onto the trays, keeping the cookies well apart so they didn’t spread and join together. I usually put 6 cookies on each tray and two trays in at a time. If you don’t have that many trays you will have to cook in batches. Just remember to wait five minutes before moving the cookies off the baking tray or they might fall apart! I still have loads of trays left from when I baked cookies professionally.

The cookies were baked in my fan oven at about 160oC for about 8 minutes. At this point I take the cookie tray out of the oven and bang it on the hob. This flattens the cookies down. Then I returned the cookie trays back to the oven for a further 5 or so minutes. I don’t overdo my cookies as I like them chewy.

I was really happy with these cookies and my son enjoyed one or two today while he was off work. I have had to hide the rest and will be taking them to work with me tomorrow before I end up troughing the lot.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cornflake Crispies.

Chocolate Cornflake Crispies are always a popular treat with adults and children alike.

I have a new favourite recipe book. It’s actually one I bought about 5 years ago and never got round to testing out any recipes. Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is a classic which millions of people use (including me) but Annie Bell’s Baking Bible is a fabulous book. It features many classics and traditional favourites but also includes special twists and more unusual bakes that we might not have heard of.

I would like to be able to bake through the whole of the book but I don’t know if I will have chance to do this. I start off projects and then work gets busy . And life in general just takes over. So I’ll have a go and even if I bake some recipes I’ve never had a go at before, that’s a great start.

I like to use a mixture of dark and milk chocolate in my crispies.  As it was nearly Easter I chose some pretty yellow spotty pastel cupcake cases from my baking stash.

To begin with, I thought I would take one of the simplest recipes ever. One we always start off learning as children. Cornflake Crispies which Annie Bell describes as “an oldie, but a goodie, these remain a classic favourite of children, teenagers and a few grown ups. You can also make them using dark chocolate only, but the mix of milk and dark creates a good balance,” I agree, the presence of milk chocolate for children seems to work better although dark chocolate is delicious as well.

This is what I chose to use when I made Cornflake Crispies at home a few weeks ago when it was Easter. I had some Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, which to me are seriously addictive. In fact, I’m really surprised there were enough to put in the crispies to turn them into Easter nests. Usually you’re meant to use Shredded Wheat to make them into a chocolate nest but I didn’t have any in the cupboard, only cornflakes.

First, I melted a mixture of dark and milk chocolate in a microwave proof bowl, along with a small portion of butter. Once this had cooled down slightly, I folded in some cornflakes. Another version I have uses golden syrup as well but this wasn’t needed in this recipe. The chocolate I used was Tesco’s own brand and it works really well. I tend to get it in when it is on special offer.

I spooned the mixture evenly among twelve cupcake cases which I had already put inside a muffin tin. Although the crispies is a no bake recipe, and sers in the fridge I always put them into a muffin tin so that they keep their shape. Before putting in the fridge I put some mini eggs on the top of the nest.

I put the chocolate crispies into a muffin tin so that they keep their shape while they set in the fridge.

One for me with a cup of tea!

After an hour or so, the crispies had set in the fridge. We had them over the course of the Easter Weekend with cups of tea or instead of pudding. They didn’t last long. I just wish I had made double the amount!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Vanilla and Chocolate Button Cookies.

Wednesday 6th December 2017.

Yesterday was full on at work and I came home with a thumping headache. I couldn’t face cooking anything for dinner, so we ended up at the chippy. The sooner I could sit down and switch off last night, the better.

Today was a different story. I was home earlier from work but wanted to try out a new cookie cutter I bought in Lakeland a few weeks back. It was a button shape with four mini holes in the middle. I thought it would be perfect to try out the vanilla and chocolate button cookie recipe in The Great British Bake Off Christmas book. The recipe looked simple enough and as I enjoy baking cookies I thought there wouldn’t be any problems.

How wrong I was! My go to recipe for vanilla or chocolate roll out cookies uses four or five ingredients. This recipe used icing sugar in place of caster which isn’t unusual but just used egg yolks and asked for baking powder.  Now, especially when I’m baking roll out cookies I never use baking powder as it makes the cookies expand and depending on the design can make them lose some of their shape.  I was tempted to leave it out but then if the recipe said so, it must have been put in there for a reason!

Ingredients needed to bake Vanilla and Chocolate Button cookies.

Softened butter, icing sugar, plain flour and baking powder added to the mixing bowl to be rubbed in and turned into a breadcrumb like texture.

Working the dough together. Unfortunately, although my recipe proportions were right, the dough turned out very sticky.

Then I divided the dough into two equal parts.  One half had vanilla added to it and the other cocoa powder to turn it chocolatey.  This did not work out too well as I felt as if I should have made the two doughs separately. The cocoa powder did not work into the dough as well as it should and the result was more of a marbled effect. Well I suppose you do get buttons that looked like that but that wasn’t the effect I wanted on these button cookies!

Then, after chilling the dough in the fridge for half an hour, it was time to get the button cookie cutter out and cut out the biscuits.  I was very disappointed with the cutter and despite the dough being chilled for the right time, the dough just wouldn’t come free from the cutter. The dough stuck to the rim of the cookie cutter and so I gave up. I don’t know whether it was the cutter or the dough so I went to my cookie cutter stash and found two round cutters. I cut out rounds of dough easily and then used a slightly smaller cutter to make the pattern for the rim. This just made an indentation and didn’t go all the way through the biscuit.  Then, to finish, I used a skewer to make four holes in the centre of each biscuit like a button.  Unfortunately due to the horrible nature of the dough used the skewers didn’t do a very good job of making the holes.

Vanilla button cookies on the cooling rack.

Chocolate Button Cookies on the rack.

As expected the cookies expanded in the oven, not a lot admittedly but enough to swell and look slightly out of shape.  I wasn’t impressed with the look of them. But as I love the recipe idea, I’ve decided to try and make them again with my own tried and tested recipe for roll-out cookies. Then I might actually be able to use my button cookie cutter without the dough sticking to it!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

White Chocolate And Raspberry Fridge Cake.

It’s been nearly two weeks before I broke up for the summer holidays but it’s taken me ages to get round to blogging this recipe.  My White Chocolate and Raspberry Fridge Cake turned out to be a real experiment.  It was the last day of term in the school I’d been working in on a long term supply placement.  I’d come home the night before wanting to bake two or three really gorgeous layer cakes for the staff to share.  By the time I’d got myself sorted I couldn’t face icing the cakes so I just thought of quick things that people would like. I’d originally wanted to bake a white chocolate and raspberry cake topping it with some Lind’t Dor White Chocolate and Strawberry balls. I had 12 in my baking stash, bought with 12 mint chocolate balls and 12 caramel ones from the Pick n’ Mix in the Lindt shop at the York Designer Outlet. But all my plans were also scuppered when I found 3 strawberry ones missing and 4 caramel ones had gone!  Both my children swore blind they hadn’t eaten them and I must be senile because I hadn’t counted them properly! One of these days I’ll get some chocolates made with disgusting flavours in the centres and trick them!

So, what could I bake instead that wouldn’t take long to prepare?  I thought about a no bake cake as that could just set in the fridge while I baked something else.  I had white chocolate, Cadbury’s White Chocolate Fingers, digestive biscuits, double cream and a punnet of raspberries.  I had forgotten about the unopened pack of digestive biscuits lurking in the back of my baking cupboard from the last time I made Rocky Road.  Then the idea of a White Chocolate Fridge Cake came to me as soon as I saw the digestive biscuits.

WHITE CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY FRIDGE CAKE

Ingredients:

500g good quality white chocolate (I use Green and Blacks or Lindt)

3 large packets of Cadbury White Chocolate Fingers

400g Digestive biscuits

200ml double cream

250g raspberries

200g dark chocolate (good quality)

First, weigh out all the ingredients.

Then find a 20cm x 30cm traybake tin, preferably with a loose bottom and line it with cling film.  Make sure the cling film overhangs the sides of the tin.

When you have done this, melt the white chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water or in the microwave.  If you are melting the chocolate in the microwave, put the chocolate in for a minute on high, then take out and stir. Repeat for another 20-30 seconds then take out and then continue stirring until the chocolate has completely melted. Allow to cool for a little.

Stir in the double cream.

Break up the Digestive biscuits and the white chocolate fingers into small pieces. Don’t crush them completely but leave them in little pieces to add texture.  Stir into the melted cream and chocolate mixture.  Fold in the raspberries.

Tip the mixture into the prepared traybake tin and spread out with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.  Put in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.

Later on, if you want to have a topping on your fridge cake melt 200g of dark chocolate in the same way as the white chocolate.  Leave to cool slightly, then snip a tiny hole off a disposible piping bag.  Pour the melted dark chocolate into the piping bag then drizzle chocolate over the top of the fridge cake.

Put back into the fridge to set for another half an hour.  When set, remove the fridge cake from the tin and slice into 16 pieces.  Best kept in the fridge until needed, though but I can guarantee it won’t last long.

 

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Orange Star Cookies. 

The other day when I was in WHSmiths I ended up buying a copy of Lorraine Pascale’s new book “Bake”.  I was only meant to go in there to buy some new highlighter pens and a notebook but I came out with them plus Lorraine’s book and a magazine.  I was then meant to be doing my weekly shop so I went across the road and found myself sat in Costa coffee looking through the book. Instead of writing my shopping list I was sat there looking through all the recipes and mentally bookmarking which ones I wanted to try out first.

Now I’m not meant to be baking at home at the moment unless it’s for someone else or when I go to my local Clandestine Cake club event.  But I can’t help it. Baking is part of me.  So I try to make things for others.  I sometimes take bakes into schools I work in or give to other people.  This is what I did with the very first bake I tried from Lorraine Pascale’s “Bake”.

The first recipe I tried from the book was funnily enough also the very first recipe chronologically in the book.  It is an easy recipe to try and also looks effective.  The original recipe was for Chocolate and Vanilla Stars but I adapted this to turn them into Chocolate Orange Stars.  Instead of adding a vanilla pod or some vanilla extract to the dough, I used Sugar and Crumbs’ Chocolate Orange Cocoa Powder instead.

Lorraine’s recipe introduction says “These stars look great and are perfect for making with children. They are also awesome as presents.”  

The first job was to cream together some butter and sugar in a bowl or with a hand mixer. This needed to be done until the mixture was light and fluffy.  After this I added in a beaten egg.  The mixture was then divided carefully into two bowls.  Although I tried to take great care over this and to split the mixture evenly, I still thought there was slightly more chocolate dough than plain dough! To one bowl I added half of the quantity of self raising flour  and some cocoa powder. To the other bowl I just added the remaining amount of flour.

My star cutters looked a bit bigger than the ones featured in the photo next to the recipe but I still had enough mixture.  I rolled out the chocolate dough first and cut out the stars.  Once all the chocolate stars were cut out, they were laid onto two lined baking trays.  I then got a smaller star cutter and cut out the middle of the biscuit leaving a star shaped hole.  The chocolate mini stars were then put to one side to become the centres of the plain cookies.  On another two baking trays I did the same but with the plain dough. When I had cut the stars out of the middle they went into the middle of the chocolate ones and vice versa.

I had to bake the cookies in two batches as I needed four trays and I can only fit two trays in at a time in my oven.  They expanded in the oven and puffed up slightly, maybe because the recipe asked for self raising flour rather than plain flour.  Once cooked in the oven after about 10 minutes I let them cool down on a wire rack then planned to get ready for work.  When I was about to go out of the door I would put them into a box.

That never happened.  Just as I was getting ready to leave my phone rang so I was locking up and getting my things together.  I left the boxful of cookies on the worktop and drove off to work.  Over the next few days they got eaten at home.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx