Amazing Cakes #28: Mint Chocolate Roulade

Baking roulades and Swiss Rolls always fills me with dread. They look fiddly and messy whenever I make them and the filling never looks neat when I roll them up. Or the actual sponge cracks so much.

Roulades are usually made without flour and fat and are whisked sponges baked in a flat rectangular cake tin. I have a new Swiss Roll tin but it gets used for all manner of things including roast potatoes. Before using it for cakes, I make sure it has been cleaned carefully and I always line it with baking parchment. With this cake being flour free, it is also gluten free.

Last Sunday I had my mum visiting for a few days and planned a roast chicken dinner followed by a dessert. Now it’s usually just Mr S and I at home on a Sunday (our daughter is at work and our son is at uni), we don’t usually do roasts for ourselves. I thought having my mum to stay was the perfect excuse to have a roast as well as a pudding after!

The Chocolate Roulade as featured in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes looked stunning, yet fairly quick to bake. However, looking in my baking cupboard I didn’t have any plain/ dark chocolate left. I did have two bars of mint chocolate which I love. Whenever we go up to the Isle of Arran on holiday I buy bars of Mackies chocolate in the Co-op there. Where I live in North Yorkshire, you can get Mackies icet cream but not the chocolate. Mint is just one of the best flavours out there, I love it! So a Chocolate Mint Roulade it had to be, then!

First things first was to prepare the Swiss Roll tin for baking. As I said before, it was cleaned carefully as I didn’t want residues of olive oil on it from the last time I used it. Then I lined it with some baking paper. At the same time I also cut out another sheet of baking paper to use to help me roll up the roulade later.

I then melted the mint chocolate in the microwave carefully. The recipe said to do this on the stove in a bowl over simmering water, but I find it easier to do in a microwave if I do it in small stages. Then, in my KitchenAid I whisked egg yolks and caster sugar together until the mixture had turned into a thick type mousse.

As the eggs had had to be separated, in another bowl I whisked up the egg whites. They had to be whisked up until they were stiff peaks. These egg whites were then folded into the whisked yolks and sugar mixture. Finally I folded in some cocoa powder.

When the roulade was ready, I put it on a wire rack to cool down but left it in the tin until it was completely cool to move it. I still managed to make it crack as I got it out of the tin. Using the spare piece of baking parchment sprinkled with a little icing sugar, I turned the roulade out onto it upside down. I then filled it with whipped cream. As I kept doing this, the roulade started cracking. The instructions said that it was normal for it to crack. But the recipe book photo didn’t have the massive cracks that mine did! Upon looking at the roulade from above, it resembled a giant long poo! Tasted amazing though, and I sneaked a couple of off cuts!

The complete mixture was then poured into the tin and spread carefully so that it touched each corner of the tin. I then baked it in my fan oven at 160oC for roughly just over 20 minutes.

A recipe I think I will bake again as it was quite quick to make. I just need to work on the good old presentation.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Chocolate Drip Cake: Amazing Cakes #12

It was my daughter’s birthday back in October. It had been a strange couple of weeks for us and her birthday coincided with her last day of self isolation. I had originally planned her cake for her weeks ago and had bought ingredients and the decorations well in advance. Had I known, I wouldn’t have baked such an extravagant and massive cake!

I’ve seen lots of these fancy drip cakes around and although I bake lots of cakes it has been a while since I have made any celebration cakes. Making a drip cake is something I’d always wanted to have a go at but never had chance to do. So even though my daughter said “Don’t make me a massive cake, Mum!”, what did her mother do? Make a massive cake!

I looked at the recipe for the Chocolate Drip Cake in the Great British Bake Off book Amazing Cakes to help me for quantities, etc and I adapted it to suit the ingredients I had at home at the time. The original recipe has two layers each of chocolate sponge and also of a brown butter sponge! As the brown butter sponge used a whole packet of butter which I didn’t have enough of, I chose to make this one as a Vanilla sponge but bake both sponges using Stork instead. I had a whole tub of Stork which needed using up and only enough butter for the buttercream. Also I chose to adapt the decorations. My friend Amy had bought me a tub of Cake Decor Chocolate Mirror Glaze icing in a tub which I had not used before and I thought it would be perfect on the top of the cake for the drip. Instead of homemade chocolate shards, I used Lindt Dor Salted Caramel Truffles and some honeycomb pieces. For the buttercream icing, I had to use a mixture of plain Tate and Lyle Icing Sugar with a packet of Sugar and Crumbs’ Honeycomb flavour icing sugar as I didn’t have enough plain for all the buttercream. So the chocolate cake ended up being a chocolate, salted caramel and honeycomb flavour cake!

On Sunday morning, the morning of my daughter’s actual birthday I baked the sponges and made up the buttercream. This did not take long. It wasn’t until later when I had to assemble the cake that the panic started. I see so many perfect cakes on the internet where the buttercream is so smooth. I can never get mine like that. You can also bet your bottom dollar that the moment you start piping or something is the exact moment when Mr S comes in the kitchen and wants to get something out of that very cupboard right where you are working! This time he came in asking for a cup of tea! (fit eyeroll emoji in here!)

It was as I was assembling the cake that I realised how big it actually was and why I needed 500g butter and 1kg of icing sugar in the buttercream. It also contains 200g dark chocolate and double cream which was made into a ganache and then whipped into the butter and icing sugar. Assembling the cake was fine and I put it on my larger Cath Kidston cake stand. Once it was assembled, I gave the cake a crumb coat and put it to chill in the fridge for an hour. While it was chilling I made the cup of tea and tried to clean up as best as I could.

Another coat of buttercream went on and then I spent ages smoothing it with my cake smoother before melting the pot of chocolate glaze gently in the microwave. I have seen people use plastic bottles with nozzles on for piping on the chocolate drip but I chose to use a piping bag to help me. The chocolate glaze was slightly too thick really and some of the drips didn’t look as neat as others. Once the chocolate was on then I put on the Lindt balls and sprinkled the honeycomb pieces in the middle. The finishing touch was some gold Happy Birthday lettering.

I was very pleased and proud of the cake and my daughter loved it which was the main thing. Since she has gone back to work she has taken it to share with her work mates and they enjoyed it too.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Apricot and Almond Flapjacks.

Finally getting back to normality, if there is such a thing. Over the weekend I really fancied baking some flapjacks as I have loads of porridge oats in the cupboard. They are meant to be for breakfast though, Sam! But who can resist a chewy flapjack? I can’t, and unfortunately they’re a mega downfall for me. At the moment I’m battling with my hormones all over the place and I just wanted to relax while doing some therapeutic baking.

I’m testing out recipes from Mary Berry’s new book Quick Cooking this month. Although the book has some delicious savoury recipes, I always look out for the baking ones at the back. Most of the recipes looked easy enough for an experienced baker like me to cope with. As I was in the mood for flapjack, the recipe for Figgy Oat Squares caught my eye. I’m not really a great fig lover and even though I was given a jar or figs last year in a Christmas present hamper, they have stayed unopened in the cupboard. Figs and sunflower seeds might be someone else’s idea of a taste sensation, but not really mine.

Instead of figs I chose to add 50g of chopped, dried apricots to the flapjack mixture. In place of sunflower seeds, I substituted flaked almonds. I don’t mind dried apricots cut up in pieces.

Making the flapjack itself was easy enough to do. I melted butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in a saucepan. The recipe asked for golden syrup but when I got to that part of the recipe, I noticed there was only a tablespoonful left in the tin. That got scraped out and the rest had to be maple syrup.

After all the melted ingredients were ready, I stirred in some porridge oats, the dried apricots and the flaked almonds.

The mixture then was put into a square tin (probably 20cm) and baked in the oven for 25 minutes.

The flapjack was much more chewy than my regular recipe and although had got very dark around the outer edges, the inner pieces looked much better. I think flapjack, although can look plain and homely, is so moreish and comforting to eat.

Mary Berry’s flapjack recipe is definitely one I will keep in my baking repertoire. Though I’ll be passing on the figs, Thankyou very much!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Oat Cookies

Here I am only four days into the New Year and I’m baking cookies. Somehow, these little moreish beauties found themselves being put in the oven. How did that happen?

I’m cooking recipes from the three Eat Well For Less books this month as a basis for my blog. This recipe from the first Eat Well For Less book is so easy to make and can be adapted to use up whatever ingredients you have in your cupboard. You can use dried fruit, nuts and chocolate chips so long as the quantities remain the same. The original recipe also uses peanut butter but you can substitute other nut butters or even use all butter if you can’t have nuts.

I chose to use peanut butter and raisins in my cookies and put them straight into the freezer so I wasn’t tempted to eat them straightaway.

1. Cream butter, brown sugar and peanut butter together in a large bowl.

2. Add eggs to the creamed butter mixture and beat them in.

3. Weigh out plain flour, baking powder and porridge oats and mix them into the butter mixture.

4. Fold in the dried fruit, nuts or chocolate of your choice and form into a dough.

5. Heap teaspoonfuls of cookie dough on lined baking trays. I had to bake the cookies in two batches as I wanted to keep them well spaced apart.

6. Cool on a wire rack.

Will definitely bake these again although I felt the dough was a lot wetter than the cookie dough I usually use. Also the cookies looked rather untidy and rustic. When I get them out of the freezer, I’ll have to eat one to see if tastes better than it looks!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Florentines- The Great British Bake Off Christmas.

Friday 22nd December 2017.

Yet another new favourite from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book.  I love Florentines but have only ever made them once before.  They’re another perfect treat to make for foodie gifts at Christmas as well as handy for having around for visitors who don’t like mince pies!  I don’t know why I’ve only made them once before, maybe because if I did make them more often they wouldn’t even get to the serving plate or into the box!

The last and only time I made Florentines was about 3 years ago.  That year my mum, auntie, cousin and his wife came up to stay in a nearby holiday cottage in Yorkshire.  They came over to our house on Boxing Day but before we had lunch and went home to open the presents, we went out to the pub.  Normally I don’t leave anything food related under the Christmas tree  because our greedy Labrador would have the lot. Anyway I made the mistake of putting all the presents out under the tree for when we got back. I though I had shut the door into the lounge but obviously not. We left our dog at home for about an hour but when we came back we noticed that he had eaten half the Florentines and ripped open the cardboard gift box they were in.  It was a wonder he wasn’t ill, what with all the chocolate and glace cherries on them.  So my mum, auntie, cousin and his wife ended up sharing what was left of the Florentines between them! They didn’t look that marvellous anyway, quite rustic looking but I heard they tasted lovely.

This time I was planning on Florentines but this time I would bake them for my three step-sisters and their families.  I definitely wouldn’t be putting them under the tree!  I’d keep them up on the work top in my utility room with the door firmly closed.

The recipe introduction to the Florentines says: “These sticky little sweet treats are half biscuit and half chewy caramel goodness. They have become a classic at Christmas, probably thanks to the candied peel and glace cherries that are so beloved at this time of year,”

The recipe said it made 16-18 biscuits so I prepared two baking trays with lining paper.  I know that Florentines spread out quite a lot when they are in the oven so you need to leave plenty of space between each biscuit.  I wondered whether to set out a third baking tray just in case.

First, I melted butter and sugar in a small pan on the hob. When this was melted and turned into a paste, I stirred in plain flour and double cream.  This was kept on the heat until smooth and the sugar had dissolved.

After this I folded in flaked toasted almonds, candied peel, dried cranberries and glace cherries.  I love all the different jewel like colours in Florentines which does add to their seasonal prettiness.

When it was time to bake them I put teaspoonfuls  of the mixture spaced well apart on the two baking trays. They only just fitted on two trays.  Both trays went into the oven at the same time and baked for about 10 minutes.

A word of warning! Do not move the Florentines onto a cooling rack until you have given them time to cool first and harden up a bit on the baking tray.  Like with any cookies, if you move them before you need to, they will break!  That happened to two of mine so I left the rest for about half an hour and then moved them with a pallette knife.

To decorate the Florentines I chose to melt two different types of chocolate. I melted a pot of white chocolate and the other dark chocolate.  I turned each Florentine over so that the flat bases were uppermost and spread either the white or the dark chocolate on the top of it with my small pallette knife.  I then left them to set before putting them into gift bags, alternating white chocolate ones with dark chocolate ones.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart.

Thursday 7th December 2017.

I love making pies, quiches and tarts but I always worry about the fat and calorie content in the pastry and the fillings.  But nothing beats a homemade pie or tart, especially on a cold Winter’s evening.

I had planned out the meals to cook for this last week but forgot I was a day behind with what needed eating up first in the fridge.  I had some chicken breasts which needed to be used so they ended up being cooked for Thursday night’s dinner.  Being a supply teacher and at the time having no work booked in for the day after, I thought I’d prep ahead just in case I ended up working.  We’d all be starving by the time I got in from work. Not only that but the last thing I’d want to do is to start cooking something from scratch.  I’m glad I was prepared.  I ended up working and didn’t get home until 6.15pm.

The Caramelised Onion and Stilton Tart from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book ended up being our dinner along with some new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  It was assembled and cooked the night before and it was reheated carefully the following night.

So, back to Thursday tea time and I’m cooking two meals one after the other.  I started off with the tart and then went on to cooking the chicken breasts in a chipotle marinade with new potatoes, peas and sweetcorn.  Yes I know we had that two nights running but it was what I was trying to use up in the fridge before doing my weekly shop at the weekend.  I began with making up the shortcrust pastry which was fine.  It was chilled in the fridge for half an hour as I was cooking three medium onions in some olive oil and butter. The long, slow and low heat of cooking the onions really helps them to caramelise.

When the pastry was chilled for long enough, I got it out of the fridge and rolled it out to fit it into my tart tin.  There was enough pastry to overhang the edges. I filled the pastry case with baking parchment and my ceramic baking beans so I could blind bake it.  After 12 minutes I had to remove the paper and the beans then pop the pastry case back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

As the pastry case was baking, I mixed together the filling.  I mixed together two eggs and another egg yolk, along with some double cream, some grated Parmesan Cheese and some crumbled Stilton.  I was also meant to add pine nuts to the mixture but when I looked in the cupboard I’m sure I couldn’t find any.  So I left them out altogether.  I’m sure walnuts would have gone well in the tart as well.

When the pastry case came out of the oven, I mixed the filling, along with the caramelised onions together. The mixture was poured into the case and I popped the tart back into the oven.  I always put the tart case onto a flat baking tray in case it leaked out all over the oven floor.

The following day, when we chose to eat the tart, I asked Mr SmartCookieSam to put it back in the oven to reheat through for half an hour.  The result was absolutely delicious.  I’m sure it was hugely calorific, what with all the cheese and cream in the filling not to mention the butter in the pastry as well.  But it simply melted in the mouth.  What’s more is that as the tart was so big there was enough left over to eat cold the next day for lunch. It was a big hit and a recipe I’ll definitely be making again.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Rudolph’s Carrot Cake.

Wednesday December 6th 2017.

I love a good carrot cake.  This version from The Great British Bake Off Christmas book has a special twist to it in that it’s decorated with a reindeer red nose and antlers on the top of it.  Although my children are too old for the leaving goodies out for Santa tradition, I can imagine that Santa and Rudolph will love a slice of carrot cake as a change from all those mince pies and raw carrots!  It does take me back to when we used to leave Santa a glass of whiskey, a mince pie and a carrot for the Rudolph. As the recipe introduction says: “Father Christmas and Rudolph will be over the moon when they receive a little slice of this moist carrot cake before heading back to the North Pole.  It is best eaten on the day it is baked as the icing needs to be kept in the fridge which can make the sponge a little bit heavy”

As it’s still over 2 weeks until Christmas, there’s no way that this cake will be left out for Santa to eat at our house.  Instead it was to be baked and taken as a treat along to one of my regular schools I teach in as a supply teacher.  As I have to be extremely careful with allergies, etc. I made sure that the cake did not contain nuts.  Instead of pine nuts which this recipe called for, I substituted the same amount of nuts for raisins.

The most tedious part of baking a carrot cake, to me is the carrot grating.  Of course I could cut corners and put the carrots through the grating attachment on my food processor. But, by the time I’d got the machine out, I could have grated the carrots by hand. When I’d grated all the carrots I needed I put them to one side in a bowl so that I could get on with weighing out the other ingredients.

In one bowl I whisked together sunflower oil. maple syrup, eggs and some light brown muscovado sugar.  Then in another bowl I weighed out and sifted together the dry ingredients: self raising flour, ground cinnamon, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. The raisins then got added in, instead of the pine nuts along with the grated carrots.

I then greased and lined two 20cm or 8 inch diameter loose bottomed sandwich tins.  The mixture was divided between the two tins and baked in the oven for about 35 minutes.  By this time I was feeling really hungry.  I’d come home from work, grabbed a sandwich and a cup of tea and now the smell of baking carrot cake wafting around the kitchen was too much for me.  I made myself another cup of tea and sat in the lounge away from temptation to nibble at something sweet.

When the cake was out of the oven and cooling down on the rack I made up the cream cheese icing.  It was a miracle that Mr SmartCookieSam hadn’t nicked any of the cream cheese to put on his toast at breakfast time.  This recipe needed 400g of full fat cream cheese.  I always use full fat Philadelphia as it gives great results and is really creamy.  To this I added some icing sugar and about 50ml of double cream. This version doesn’t use butter so wasn’t as sickly as some cream cheese frostings I’ve had in the past.

Half an hour later the cake was cooled and ready to be iced and filled.  I decided to decorate the cake differently to how it was illustrated in the book.  Instead of melted chocolate and red sprinkles to make a reindeer face and antlers, I found some reindeer themed sprinkles in my baking stash.  They contrasted well with the carrot cake.

On Thursday morning I was in such a rush to get off to work that I left the cake at home in a box in the fridge. I’d kept it in the fridge what with the frosting containing cream cheese and double cream. Of course out of sight, out of mind!  So what did I do when I got in from work? Yes, you guessed right, I had a piece!

Definitely a cake to start new traditions with children on Christmas Eve. Or even a great cake to eat with a cup of tea or coffee instead of a mince pie to relax with at any time over the festive period.

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