Half Term Baking

It feels like an eternity since I last updated my blog. I was working in a long term and full time post last half term. Baking, let alone any blogging was the last thing on my mind.

The last few weeks have been extremely stressful. Even though baking helps me to relax and unwind, I didn’t have the time and the energy to lift a wooden spoon. As soon as my work was finished for the night, it was bedtime and the cycle would start again at 6.00am the next morning.

Although half term week was last week up here in Yorkshire, it’s taken me that long to get my head back to writing up my latest post. But I was so happy, esctatic even to be back in my favourite place doing what I love. So I am sharing with you what I have baked this last week.

At Christmas I was given a copy of Jamie Oliver’s latest book “5 Ingredients” which I really love. As there are only 5 ingredients in each recipe, a lot of the recipes are simple to make and quick to throw together after a busy day. Although poor Mr SmartCookieSam ended up cooking our dinner most nights last half term! As usual, whenever I get a new recipe book I’m always looking at the sweet stuff at the back of the book.

On the Monday of half term week I went over to Leeds to meet up with my cake club friends at one of our friends’ houses. Linda cooked us a delicious Spanish Chicken Traybake (from the Hairy Dieters first book) and we had some sweet treats afterwards. This was a real tonic to catch up with my friends as I hadn’t seen anyone for a couple of months. My contribution was a Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake (more of that to follow) and some St Clements Polenta Biscuits from Jamie’s 5 Ingredients.

The St Clements Polenta Biscuits could have been used with lemons or oranges but I used just lemons in my recipe. The five ingredients were: butter, fine polenta, self raising flour, caster sugar and lemons or oranges. The biscuit dough could be made up in my food processor, so it was really quick to put together. When the dough had formed into a large ball, I split the dough into 24 equal pieces and laid them onto a lined baking tray. The biscuits spread a lot during the baking so I needed to space them well apart on the tray. I usually put 6 biscuits per tray. These were baked for about 10 minutes in the oven, but my oven temperature is a bit out at the moment so I was watching them like a hawk.

I was very pleased with the biscuits and they went down well. My only problem was not to eat them before I met my friends! It’s the first time I’ve used polenta in a biscuit recipe. I’ve baked polenta in savoury recipes and also in a cake. The latter was a complete disaster and the cake fell apart. Cake balls, anyone?!

The other bake I took along to my friend’s house was a Chocolate Orange Bundt Cake. Anyone who knows me well will know that I collect Nordicware Bundt pans. Much to the annoyance of Mr SmartCookieSam who complains about them taking up space in the garage! I chose to use my Elegant Heart pan to make my cake in, being as it was two days before Valentine’s Day. I had a packet of mini Chocolate Orange Lindt D’Or balls in my baking cupboard which I could use to decorate the top. I’m still confused. How were they still there in the cupboard? I’m surprised they hadn’t been scoffed.

I adapted the Tunnel of Fudge Bundt recipe from one of my Nordicware cookbooks and used one of my favourite products in the mix. I’m a huge fan of Sugar and Crumbs’ Natural Flavoured Icing Sugars and Cocoa powders. I used the chocolate orange cocoa powder in the cake itself and in the glaze on top.

The third bake of the week was on the Thursday of half term week. I was at home on my own that day just catching up on jobs around the house and by the afternoon I was fed up of doing boring chores. The kitchen beckoned again so I had a go at making another recipe from Jamie’s “5 Ingredients” This time I baked “Buddy’s Flapjack Biscuits” Jamie must have made the recipe for his son, Buddy. The five ingredients in this recipe were: butter, mixed dried fruit and nuts, porridge oats, self raising flour and golden syrup. Basically a flapjack style recipe without sugar in it, only syrup and more sweetness derived from dried fruit. I chose to substitute the dried fruit for a packet of Vahine choco-caramel chips which I had in the baking cupboard. They had been brought back from France last August and I hadn’t got round to using them. They melted into the mixture, though and turned it darker. I was hoping they might stay solid, rather like chocolate chips do in a cookie. Once again, this recipe was simplicity itself pulsed together in my food processor.

I also treated myself to Mary Berry’s latest book “Classic” and used her recipe for flapjacks which definitely are a classic to me. If I could only ever eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would easily be a flapjack. Though it has to be said, both my son and Mr SmartCookieSam ate these.

Finally, I had a very special cake to bake at the end of half term week. My friend was celebrating her 60th birthday so her husband asked me if I could bake her a cake. Marion and I met a couple of years ago before our favourite band of all time Wet Wet Wet were playing in Scarborough at the Open Air Theatre. Her husband was bringing her away for the weekend at Nidd Hall near Knaresborough in North Yorkshire and they asked Mr SmartCookieSam and I to come over to Nidd Hall for drinks and afternoon tea. I baked Marion’s special cake the day before and had great fun decorating it with a fanastic cake topper from mycupcaketoppers.co.uk. I used the image from Wet Wet Wet’s very first album cover Popped In Souled Out and added stars, hearts and sugar coated crispy balls around the edge. The cake itself was a Madeira sponge which I cut in half horizontally (not straight as you can tell from the photos), and layered with strawberry jam and buttercream. I then crumb coated the cake with buttercream, left it to dry and then added the sugarpaste layer. I hate covering cakes with sugarpaste and even though I’ve been decorating cakes for years, I still get anxious and nervous about the sugarpaste breaking and falling off the rolling pin. But thankfully today, it all worked out fine.

As I type, it’s now the following Thursday morning and I’m not at work today. I’m wondering what I can bake. I daren’t bake anything as I know I’ll eat it though. Maybe I’ll have to keep out of the kitchen and do my knitting instead once I’ve done all my chores.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Honey and Apple Cake from The Clandestine Cake Club (A Year Of Cake)

  A Year Of Cake is the eagerly awaited second book by Clandestine Cake Club founder Lynn Hill with contributions of lots of delicious recipes from Cake Club members from around the world.  The book was published on 10th September but being as I was lucky to have two recipes included in the book, I got my hands on my very own free copy a few days before.  As with the first Clandestine Cake Club book which is well used and cake splattered, I know that this one will be the same. The book is arranged into recipes to fit suitable special occasions, birthdays and anniversaries throughout the year.  So it was apt that I started to bake a couple of recipes from the September chapter.

I will be writing a couple of posts about my own featured recipes in the next few days. So watch this space!

021
I was really excited when my very own copy of A Year Of Cake arrived at my house the other day!
022
Lynn Hill very kindly autographed all the recipe contributor’s books for us. This is just a small sample of the beautiful photography featured in the book.

Last Sunday was one of those days where hubby said to me “Don’t bake anything, we don’t need cake in the house!” Though funnily enough when I don’t bake anything he always says “Have you got any cake? It’ll put me on ’til teatime?” I can’t win!  Anyway we had got back off holiday a couple of weeks before and due to the miserable weather and me feeling tired after a long week at work, I succumbed to temptation!

I had some eating apples in my fruit bowl and some gorgeous Welsh runny honey in my baking cupboard.  So it had to be Lynn Hill’s own recipe for Honey and Apple Cake to try out first.

The Honey and Apple cake was included in the September chapter of the book to mark the Jewish New Year or Rosh Hashanah which falls in September and is the start of the 10 day celebration for Jews.  Sweet foods are popular at Rosh Hashanah, especially honey.  This can be with apples dipped in honey or in the form of a honey cake.  Lynn’s cake is moist but also has an aromatic flavour from cinnamon and mixed spice as well as from fresh coffee in the mix.

I was keen to try out this recipe as I tried out a similar Jewish honey cake recipe a few months back.  My recipe was a disaster.  I had planned to bake it, along with some Challah to take into a school where I was teaching on supply and we were learning about Judaism.  Unfortunately both the Challah (which didn’t rise and came out like a heavy doorstop) and the honey cake (which fell apart when it came out of the tin) ended up staying at home.  I was too embarrassed to take them to work!

Fortunately, I needn’t have worried with Lynn’s recipe.  Here’s how I baked it:

030
In a large mixing bowl I sifted self raising flour, cinnamon, mixed spice, baking powder and salt together.
031
In another bowl I beat eggs and both dark brown and light brown sugar together.
032
In a third bowl I measured out oil, runny honey and some freshly brewed warm and very strong black coffee.
033
To another bowl I added grated apple, flaked almonds and some raisins.
034
Finally I carefully folded the flour mixture into the wet mixture and then added in the fruit and nuts to create this batter. It was very runny.
035
Lynn’s recipe calls for the cake to be baked in a 23cm springform cake tin. I wondered if it would work in a bundt pan. I thought I’d try it out as my springform tin is too small. I would watch the cake carefully as it cooked though.
036
Lynn’s cake needs to be baked for 40-45 minutes but being as mine was in a bundt pan I had to keep it in about 10 minutes longer. I was a bit worried as it was beginning to burn round the edge but it was fine. Now all I had to to was to give it time to cool down and then hope and pray it came out of the tin in one piece!
037
I decided to go off for a run and to do a couple of jobs so I wasn’t tempted to take the cake out of it’s pan too early. Luckily it slid out really easily apart from in one place round the middle of the pan. It began to come apart but I managed to save it before it slid on the floor!
039
I’m sorry to say I’m such a greedy pig that I couldn’t wait til pudding to eat it. We were having roast chicken at tea time and the Honey cake was meant to be the pudding. Did that stop me nicking a big slice? No way!

The honey cake was delicious, just as i imagined it. Moist and sweet with juicy plump raisins. It was perfect with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side.  My family were too full up after the roast dinner to eat any though, including me who had eaten my fair share before.  So it got cut up into sections and is now in the freezer! Now I have baked this recipe successfully I will have a go at baking it with a class when we learn about Judaism although I will omit the almonds and use de-caff coffee!

if you love the sound of this recipe and lots more like it, then A Year Of Cake is available through Amazon and through lots of other book retailers.

Happy Baking

Love Sam xx