The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Cinnamon and Raspberry Whirl Wreath.

Saturday 2nd December 2017.

Although I love baking and people say I’m good at it, the same can’t be said about my breadmaking and patisserie skills.  It’s only because I’ve not had enough practice or also that I don’t have enough knowledge.  Next year I hope to go on a couple of courses but in the meantime I’m going to practise at home.  It’s as if any recipe contains yeast, it suddenly pushes me into panic mode!  But surely if I followed the recipe to the letter like I do with cake and biscuit recipes?

Cue the reasoning for my second bake from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book.  I saw the photo which accompanied the recipe for the Cinnamon and Raspberry Whirl Wreath and my mouth started to water.  It looked like a giant Danish pastry.  As the recipe introduction says, it’s a “delicious wreath made from a sweet, enriched dough coated in fruity jam.”  Not only that but the dough is infused with cardamom and the raspberry filling is accompanied with the tantalising aroma of cinnamon sugar.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.

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Plain flour was sifted into a large bowl along with some salt.
In a small saucepan I warmed whole milk with ground cardamom, caster sugar and melted butter.

When the milk had cooled sufficiently, I made a well in the centre of the bowl containing the flour and salt.  I then poured the milk mixture into the well and then formed a dough.  I had to add a little  more flour so that the dough was easy enough to knead.

After kneading for 10 minutes I put the dough into a bowl and covered it with a teatowel. I usually put bread to rise in my utility room on the work top as it was warm in there.  I left it there for about an hour or so.

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Before proving…
After proving.

After the dough had proved for about an hour I knocked it back and then turned it our onto the work top.  I had to roll the dough into a rectangle which was easier said than done!  It was the most  wonky rectangle I’d ever seen though.

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The dough was rolled out into a large oblong shape. I trimmed it to tidy the ends up.
To make the filling I spread raspberry jam with sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on top.

The next bit was extremely fiddly.  I had to roll up the dough like I was making a Swiss Roll.  It had to be a very tight roll but that was easier said than done.  Once it was rolled up I then had to cut the roll in half lengthways so that the raspberry jam layers were easy to see. Unfortunately because of the red colour it looked more like a nasty wound or something my daughter might have created on her make up and special effects course! I twisted the dough round to form a wreath but it ended up more like a swirly lump with hardly any gaps in the middle like a wreath should have.

Back into the utility room it went, once again under a teatowel but this time on a baking tray.  Another hour of proving and then the wreath had doubled again in size and was now ready to be baked.  The wreath went into the oven while Mr SmartCookieSam and I were eating dinner and came out of the oven just before I went to pick my son up from work.  The gap in the middle of the wreath had closed up even more and it looked a lot messier than the picture in the book.  The thing was, did it taste good?  I couldn’t wait to try some.  As I’m typing this, it’s 10pm and I can still smell the cinnamony aroma wafting through from the kitchen.  Guess what I’ll be eating for breakfast tomorrow, then!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Syrniki from the Great British Bake Off Celebrations.

I’m a bit at sixes and sevens with my blog posting recently.  I started writing this post last week but the WordPress app kept crashing on my ipad. I had nearly finished it too and the whole thing was lost.  I was fuming and ended up giving it up on the night.  Now I’m trying to type it on my laptop while crossing my fingers at the same time.

Anyway, you’ve all probably gathered I’m a real Bake Off fan and I love watching the series.  I did apply for series 2, the one that Jo Wheatley won back in 2011.  But looking back I could never put myself under that pressure. I would cry my eyes out if Paul Hollywood said my cake tasted like wallpaper paste or like rubber. So I have immense admiration for all the contestants who take part in the series.  I’m content with baking from the book and trying out new recipes without Paul and Mary commenting on it.

Instead I have the critical eye and tastebuds of my family. My son is usually the one who comes out with all the comments, like “That looks like a giant turd” or “It tastes like cat wee!” Then again he is fifteen and being nice to Mum isn’t what he does!  The same went for when I tried to make Syrniki the other day for breakfast.

Syrniki? Well I wondered what they were, too!  According to the recipe in The Great British Bake Off Celebrations book on page 68, they are “a treat for Easter morning” and are “the festive version of the thick Russian breakfast pancakes popular also in Ukraine and Poland.” They are usually made with local soft cheese to produce a thick pancake batter.  The recipe in the book used Quark.  I had bought a tub of Quark the week before to go in a recipe but ended up not using it. The recipe also was quite fiddly because you had to separate the eggs.

First Quark was mixed in a large bowl along with some sugar and a little lemon zest.  After that I added in some plain flour and then some egg yolks.  The egg whites were whisked separately and then folded in to the mixture. Finally I added some raisins to the batter.

The batter came out really thick, even thicker than American pancakes or drop scones.  I fried two of them at a time and asked my children to stand with a plate ready to get one as they were being cooked.  My son took one look at them and said “I’m not eating them, they’ve got raisins in!” My daughter ate one and said the cheese made it taste “wierd”. So I cooked a couple for myself and tried them out.

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Syrniki-a type of thick Russian pancake.

I served the Syrniki with some blueberries. You could also have them with yoghurt, jam or maple syrup. I found them filling and the taste did not put me off like it was with my children.  I guess it’s what you’re used to, these had less sugar in them.

Would I make Syrniki again? Probably not as my family weren’t keen on them and I found having to separate eggs a bit of a faff first thing in the morning when everyone is hungy and wanting their breakfast.

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

The Hairy Dieters’ Banana and Sultana Muffins.

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Who says you can’t have muffins on a diet? You can if you bake these banana and sultana muffins from the Hairy Bikers’ diet book.

I have a long running diet problem.  My weight goes up and down by the same two stone like a yo-yo.  The reason  why? I have a sweet tooth. I had a long chat with my hubby and he said the answer is simple: “Stop baking!” To me, to stop baking would be like someone who loved playing football to be told they couldn’t play or even watch a game.  Baking is therapy to me, a real stress buster and I hope when my children are older to go back to baking cakes professionally.  It is something I enjoy doing and although I need a lot of practice in some techniques, I like to think I’m good at what I do.

In the meantime, I had ripe bananas to use up.  The kids never seem to eat them as much as they used to and I didn’t want them to go to waste.  It was last Friday afternoon and we had to be up on the Saturday morning at 3am as my daughter was setting off on a school trip to New York.  This involved being at school for a very early coach trip down to Heathrow.  I don’t know about you but I can’t eat that early on in the morning, just a cup of tea or coffee is fine for me.  Same goes for my daughter but I was worried about her not eating breakfast.  So these muffins seemed a perfect idea.

The original recipe for the muffins is in the breakfast chapter of the second Hairy Bikers’ diet book “Eat For Life” which is the yellow one published last year.

The muffins are so easy to make and as Si and Dave say “These little beauties are lower in fat and sugar than the standard and are still nicely naughty. They don’t have the same texture as a shop bought muffin but they are still tasty and filling”

At only 119 calories a muffin they would be ideal for anyone who needed to be out and about for an early start and then you could eat something like a piece of fruit later on in the morning to keep you going.  Or if you’re like me, you’d drool at the smell of a bacon buttie…..

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These banana and sultana muffins tasted great and not like “diet” food!

 To bake the muffins I started off by sifting self raising flour, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. This was then mixed up and to this I added some grated lemon zest. After this I added in two medium mashed bananas and some milk.  Then this was followed by some sultanas.

The lower fat content is created by using egg whites only in the mixture and there isn’t any other fat such as butter or oil added. The sweetness comes from the flavour of the bananas and there is a sprinkling of brown sugar on top of the muffins themselves.  It’s a whole tablespoon that has to be divided amongst 12 muffins though!

I had to whisk three egg whites with my electric stick whisk until stiff peaks formed then this was quickly folded into the mixture until it was easily incorporated.  Into the oven they went after spooning the mixture carefully into some muffin cases.  The ones shown in the picture come from Waitrose, love the pretty pastel colours.  There were green ones in the packet as well but they’ve all gone now!

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The banana and sultana muffins fresh out of the oven. Baked in some pretty cases from Waitrose.

The muffins baked for about 20 minutes and rose beautifully in the oven.  I was desperate to eat one but had to wait until the next morning. My daughter didn’t eat one but my son and I enjoyed one.  I was pleasantly surprised. They did taste different from the muffins you get in the shops but then again I don’t really like them anyway. Much too sweet for me and too big! These tasted delicious and not like “diet” food.  Just the right size too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how I got on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess- Christmas Morning Muffins.

Nigella’s Christmas Morning Muffin recipe from her Domestic Goddess Cookbook is just one of those recipes I’ve been keen to try ever since I bought the book nearly 10 years ago.  In the introduction Nigella suggests that these muffins are good as part of establishing your very own Christmas morning traditions or rituals.  To us in our house, we have our own traditions but I’ve never bothered with traditions for food on Christmas morning. We usually have something light and quick like tea and toast. About 11 am we’ll have a glass of Champagne or Prosecco with a mince pie to put us on until dinner is ready, usually about 2 o’clock.  Then again things are never set in stone in our house.  But I was keen to try out the Christmas Muffin recipe, it looked simple enough to bake the night before as I didn’t want to be baking on Christmas morning and the ingredients sounded festive and delicious.

Instead of the cranberries Nigella suggested I chose to use the same quantity of dried fruit.  I had some mixed dried fruit left over in an open bag.  I thought I’d save the cranberries for something else.

Here’s how the Christmas Morning Muffins were made:

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I used these pretty Nordic inspired Christmas muffin cases from Waitrose. I bought them last year and loved them.
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All the “dry” ingredients were weighed out into a large bowl. This was flour, baking powder, mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and some brown sugar.
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The “wet” ingredients went into another bowl: orange juice, milk, eggs and some melted butter.
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Everything was combined carefully in one bowl with the dried, mixed fruit added into the wet ingredients right at the end.
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The muffin mixture spooned into the cases and all ready to go into the oven.
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Fresh out of the oven. Some muffins rose better than others!

Nigella suggests sprinkling the muffins with demerara sugar and cinnamon before baking.  I totally forgot to do it so I ended sprinkling icing sugar on the top of mine.  However, I was a bit heavy handed as you can see in the picture below!

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Ready to be eaten dusted with a little icing sugar on Christmas Day.

So, will this be a tradition to come in my family?  I don’t think so. Sadly I was the only one who ate a muffin!  It was just the four of us on Christmas morning and my hubby said no to a muffin.  As soon as the kids noticed there was dried fruit in the muffins they turned their noses up at them. Bet it would have been different if it was chocolate.  So it was toast all round.  It did taste lovely though.  The rest ended up being used as the trifle sponges towards our Boxing Day Trifle!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas Day. It would be lovely to know if anyone reading this also has their favourite baking traditions over Christmas.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Paul’s English Muffins , The Technical Bake From The Great British Bake Off Series 4

I was really excited to be watching episode 2 of The Great British Bake Off.  We’re beginning to get to know the faces of the contestants of this new series and what they are capable of.  As Week 2 was bread week and one area of baking I really struggle with, I was glued to the TV to see if I could pick up any tips or advice.  The breadsticks looked amazing and my mouth was watering at the thought of a pile of breadsticks washed down with a large glass of red wine. I had to make do with a cup of tea and I had already had my dinner.   I was totally gobsmacked by the over-the-top bakes of the showstopper bread.  It seems as if they are doing really taxing things this year and upping their game. I’m sorry to say this but I wasn’t impressed by the Octopus football bread . However I was amazed by all Kimberley’s bakes and was very surprised when she wasn’t made Star Baker.  Ruby though did extremely well and I was pleased to see her being recognised for all her efforts.  It was sad to see Lucy go, though. I thought she could have got further in the competition.

So, the technical bake for this week was English Muffins. As it was a bread bake it would be one of Paul Hollywood’s recipes.  I had to explain this to my children that I meant the sort of muffins you had at McDonalds with bacon and egg for breakfast, not ones with chocolate chips in!  I for one love English Muffins and my favourite dish on the menu at Betty’s in Harrogate is their delicious Eggs Benedict. So, I thought I would try it out on Saturday to see how I got on.  I was dreading it.

So on Saturday morning, my hubby was out working and the kids were still in bed (well they are teenagers!) I decided to get on with it so we could have the Eggs Benedict for lunch.  I always make a mess of Hollandaise sauce though, so I cheated and bought a jar of it from Tesco. I wish I hadn’t though, the list of additives on the label was shocking!  It was a Finest one but even that had glucose-fructose syrup in it? Why?  Totally not necessary but because I’d ordered it as part of an online shop I hadn’t checked the ingredients list first, yuck!

Strong white bread flour, yeast and salt are put into a large mixing bowl.
Strong white bread flour, yeast and salt are put into a large mixing bowl.
Sugar, small pieces of butter, a beaten egg and some mlik at room temperature are added to the bowl.
Sugar, small pieces of butter, a beaten egg and some mlik at room temperature are added to the bowl.
The dough is mixed together by working it with your hand.
The dough is mixed together by working it with your hand.
The dough is made into a big ball and kneaded for about 10 minutes.
The dough is made into a big ball and kneaded for about 10 minutes.
After kneading the dough is put in an oiled bowl, covered in cling film and left to rise on the worktop.
After kneading the dough is put in an oiled bowl, covered in cling film and left to rise on the worktop.

At this stage I thought I would get the kettle on and make myself a cuppa.  It was great to sit down for 5 minutes before the kids surfaced.  I didn’t get much time for sitting down as there was washing to hang out and some  ironing to get on with.  Why is it that on a day when I try out a Technical Bake, it ends up being a day where you have loads to do?

After about 1 1/2 hours the muffin dough was doubled in size.
After about 1 1/2 hours the muffin dough was doubled in size.
The dough is rolled out to a 1.5cm thickness and left on the worktop to relax for 1/4 hour.
The dough is rolled out to a 1.5cm thickness and left on the worktop to relax for 1/4 hour.
Some semolina was tipped onto a baking sheet and the muffins were dipped in this.
Some semolina was tipped onto a baking sheet and the muffins were dipped in this.

At this stage my hubby got in from work. He had been out to get a few jobs done that he needed to catch up with and came in absolutely starving.   I said if he wanted the dinner a bit quicker he could poach the eggs for me while I did the muffins.  He agreed to this thankfully as his poached eggs are sublime! This is the bit where I wanted it all to go right as when you make something for the first time, especially when you are making it for your family, you want it to go right.

The muffins are cooked in a griddle pan for about 6 or so minutes.
The muffins are cooked in a griddle pan for about 6 or so minutes.
Cooking the muffins on the other side.
Cooking the muffins on the other side.
Eight Muffins all ready to be split in half, toasted and eaten.
Eight Muffins all ready to be split in half, toasted and eaten.]

Fortunately, the muffins turned out really well. I’m not sure if they would be Great British Bake Off standard but I was pleased with them. If my family eat the lot, then that to me speaks volumes!

Two halves of a muffin to make one of my all time favourite meals- Eggs Benedict!
Two halves of a muffin to make one of my all time favourite meals- Eggs Benedict!

This is a Technical Bake I would definitely try again for a winter Sunday teatime if I have enough time to make them.

If you bake English Muffins, it would be great to know how you get on with them.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx