According to My Legoman’s Mostly Foodie Days Of 2022 calendar, yesterday (January 8th) was National English Toffee Day. It’s a day late as yesterday I was holed up in bed full of the shivers, fever, aches and pains after having my Covid Booster on Friday afternoon. Thankfully I feel a lot better now, although my FitBit decided to send me an alarm telling me my heart rate was too high for someone resting. At the time I felt a bit feverish but it did put the frighteners on me.
I love toffees and whenever we get a pack of mixed mints for long car journeys on holiday in the UK, I always grab the mint toffees first! I couldn’t think what to bake with toffee, apart from a recipe I have for Mint Toffee Choc Crispie Squares. And what’s more, it’s a no-bake recipe and so quick to make!
If you don’t like mint, you could always substitute for plain toffees and use plain chocolate instead of mint chocolate. I know lots of people love mint (it’s my favourite flavour) but I know it’s not to everyone’s taste. My late Dad loved mint chocolates and I’m sure he would have loved one of these to try. The only thing is with the mint chocolate is you have to look out for the bars which contain little mint pieces and not fondant centres. Alternatively, you could always use dark chocolate and up the mint flavouring with some peppermint extract if you have that.
There’s nothing better than a piece of freshly baked shortbread with a cup of tea or coffee. I love baking shortbread. It’s a simple recipe but a delicious one. For my shortbread, you only need 4 ingredients plus any flavour additions. But the plain shortbread, liberally dusted with caster sugar is just perfect.
I bake my shortbread in a 23cm (9″) square loose bottomed tin like I use for my brownies and cookie bars, although if you prefer you can bake it in a circular tin of the same size! I cut it into 12 or 16 pieces depending on who they’re for or what occasion they are going to be used for.
My Favourite Shortbread Recipe.
250g unsalted butter (softened)
125g caster sugar
250g plain flour
125g rice flour or cornflour
Pre-heat the oven to 150oC fan (160oC in a conventional oven)/ 325oF/ Gas 3.
Grease and line your tin with baking parchment.
Put the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat together either in a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.
Add in both types of flour to combine and bring together to form a dough.
If you are adding any flavours to your shortbread, then add them in now so they are combined well.
Press the dough carefully into the tin, ensuring the dough reaches all corners of the tin and that it is level. Prick the shortbread all over with a fork before putting into the pre-heated oven.
Bake for 35-40 minutes approx. Watch out as shortbread can burn quickly!
When you take the shortbread out of the oven, give it 5 minutes or so to cool down and then cut it into the number of pieces you require. Keep it in the tin to cool down.
When completely cool, remove from the tin to a wire rack and sprinkle with lots of caster sugar.
There are lots of flavours you could add to the basic shortbread mixture to enhance it:
100g chocolate chips (dark or milk) For orange chocolate shortbread, you could add the zest of an orange with the chocolate.
Cranberry and White Chocolate Shortbread: add 100g white chocolate chips and 75g dried cranberries
Stem Ginger Shortbread: add 75g chopped pieces of stem ginger and 1 tsp ground ginger.
Lemon Shortbread: add the grated zest of a lemon.
Chopping up your favourite chocolate bars such as salted Caramel Twix (I chop up two standard twin bars) These are one of my son’s favourites.
M&M Shortbread: use a sharing size pouch bag of the chocolate ones.
I’m sure there are lots of other shortbread flavours to discover, but these are the ones I love baking regularly. If you have any other flavour suffestions, then please do let me know.
If you are short of time or don’t like baking yourself then we can provide Shortbread to order through our Facebook page or by contacting us via email. I know I will be sending a few boxes out in the next few weeks leading up to Christmas.
You know when you have a great plan and it goes drastically wrong? That! One Sunday afternoon I had the oven on and thought about a pudding we could have for dessert. I’d only got one egg left after all my baking orders and was just about to head out to buy more. Then I realised that pastry only needed one egg and I had loads of jam to use up. The thought of a Viennese style Linzertorte appealed to me.
I made up a batch of cinnamon and lemon infused sweet shortcrust pastry in my food processor first. Then I wrapped the ball of dough in some cling film and chilled it in the fridge. I did this for about one hour but for some reason the dough was extremely difficult to work with.
My hands were feeling incredibly hot for some reason. I blame the menopause as they never usually feel like this, Or maybe I had not chilled the dough for long enough or maybe I’d not put enough flour in the recipe. I tried rolling the dough out into a circle to line the tin but sadly it kept sticking no matter how much flour was sprinkled onto the work top or onto my rolling pin! Then the dough kept breaking as I was rolling it out. This was so frustrating, I can tell you!
Eventually, I managed to line my 20cm (8″) diameter loose bottomed flan tin. I had originally wanted to use my bigger tin but I just couldn’t roll the dough out enough without it breaking. Also the more I ended up handling the dough, the more it broke. I couldn’t start again as I needed more eggs!
Finally the flan tin had a pastry lining! I had to do a lot of patching up, in fact I felt like I was plastering a wall rather than making a tart! When I had the lining in place, I got a sharp knife and trimmed the top of the pastry. I was tempted to crack open the wine there and then but I resisted!
I noticed I wouldn’t have enough jam from just one jar to fill the insides of the tart tin, so I mixed two jars of seedless raspberry jam together and then spooned it into the tart case. There was just enough.
Now for the traditional Linzertorte Lattice pattern. To achieve this I had to roll out the remaining pastry in a rectangle shape and use a fluted pastry cutter wheel to cut strips of pastry. I didn’t have a fluted wheel so I tried with a pizza cutter. This should have been straightforward but it never is when you have pastry that won’t do what it should do! As I picked up the pastry strips they kept falling apart. The lattice pattern had to be abandoned. As it was Halloween I found a small pumpkin shaped cutter in my stash. Reluctantly, I managed to get a few pumpkin shapes cut out but even those looked rank!
I put the tart into the oven at 160oc fan but it took so much longer to cook than expected. The jam in the middle was still far too runny even after about 40 minutes baking time. Considering the amount I’d used in the filling, I was not impressed. I took it out of the oven after the 40 minutes and admitted defeat.
After giving it some time to cool down I tried to remove the tart from the tin and thankfully it came out ok. I left it on the worktop to cool down completely before I even attempted to cut it up. It was far too late to even think about using it as a dessert and besides we were full up after dinner anyway.
Later on, I tried to cut into the tart so I could put it in the fridge in a plastic box. Mr S came into the kitchen and said the tart “looked like a road accident!” He was right but he was lucky he didn’t end up wearing it!
I did taste a morsel and it actually wasn’t that bad. But not enough to want to eat a whole slice and to serve it up for dessert.
I was so embarrassed by this bake that I definitely won’t be sharing the recipe for this one. I wouldn’t want to publish a recipe which clearly was a big baking fail! One to work on for the future!
Over the past couple of years I’ve discovered Jane’s Patisserie website with her delicious, foolproof recipes. Her cheesecake recipes are my absolute go-to, especially as cheesecakes always used to be a disaster when I made them before. Not any more. No more need for gelatine or for baking cheesecakes. I don’t need that with Jane’s recipes.
Back in August, Jane brought out her recipe book with the same title as her website/ blog – Jane’s Patisserie and at first I was sceptical about buying it. After all why buy a book when the recipes are bound to be on the website. But thankfully, although there are several recipes from the website, the rest are actually specifically written for the book. A few recipes were actually created from Jane’s follower requests. I always find something I like on her website and I was pleased to say this book is no exception!
The book is split into nine main chapters: Cheesecakes, Cakes, Cupcakes and Muffins, Cookies, Breads and Doughnuts, Traybakes, Desserts, Tea Time and last but not least, Sweets. As well as the main chapters, there is a detailed introduction which is useful for novice bakers including ingredient guides and useful equipment and ingredients. At the beginning of every chapter, there is also an introduction. For example, in the Cheesecake chapter, Jane explains the ingredients she uses as a base for all her cheesecakes as well as the top tips for making the perfect one. The same goes for the other chapters in the book.
What is in my Top Ten Recipes to bake?
No Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
Cookies and Cream Drip Cake
Triple Chocolate Brownies
White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart
Malt Chocolate Fudge.
What recipes will I pass on?
Rhubarb Crumble Cheesecake (not that keen on rhubarb myself)
Brown Butter, Pecan and Chocolate Chip Cookies (sounds delicious but I can’t be bothered with browning butter!)
Doughnut Bites (you have to use a deep fat fryer and I don’t have one of those. I also don’t like deep frying things)
Rhubarb and Custard Blondies (for the same reason as above!)
Jane’s Patisserie is one of those books where I know that I will get to use it to bake everything (apart from the four recipes above!) Jane has created a wealth of recipes using popular flavours and ingredients which are easy to obtain. No weird and strange flavour combos here and the bakes aren’t too over the top. As an experienced baker I find that her recipes are easily achievable and taste wonderful.
I hope that there will be a follow up book in the future because judging by the huge success of Jane’s blog and her book sales so far, there will be a massive demand for it. I’m off to bake some brownies and blondies to take into work tomorrow using a couple of Jane’s recipes.
It’s been over a year since I set myself the challenge of working my way through the bakes in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes. I’ve only managed about half of the recipes and it’s getting to the stage where there are some bakes that I might not be able to attempt. These are because they are big celebration cakes which I don’t have the occasion to make a cake like that for and baking all that cake for nothing would be a terrible waste. Over the next month or so I am going to try a couple more recipes which will be suitable and then I will start another challenge.
Now it is Autumn, I am beginning to struggle a bit. I know lots of people love Autumn and Winter but I am not one of those people. I am a Spring and Summer person and dread the clocks going back. Dark nights and cold, damp weather are not my idea of fun. I struggle to get up in the mornings when it is dark. The only way I can embrace the seasonal changes, apart from trying to get out as much as possible for fresh air and exercise is to cook comfort food. I make our Sunday roast and try to make us a Sunday dessert as something to look forward to.
For our Sunday dessert last weekend, I chose to bake an Apple, Maple and Streusel Cake from the Amazing Cakes book. Featured in the Bakers’ Favourites chapter, this gorgeous and gently spiced cake was one Henry made during Series 9. This was one of Henry’s childhood favourite cakes inspired by his family holidays to Germany. I have never been to Germany myself but have tasted several Streusel cakes in the past. They are usually cakes topped with a crumble like topping with added nuts. This version uses chopped walnuts but pecans are a great alternative.
To start baking the cake, I lined and greased the bottom of a 20cm (8″) deep loose bottomed circular cake tin. I then put all the dry ingredients needed into a mixing bowl. These were self raising flour, baking powder, ground mixed spice, ground cardamom, and cinnamon. Then I rubbed cold cubes of butter into the dry ingredients until they became like breadcrumbs. Then I added brown sugar, some chopped apple pieces and some raisins. The recipe stated sultanas or blueberries but I had a load of raisins which needed using up and I didn’t want to waste all my blueberries in a cake. I wanted them for my yoghurt on my breakfast!
In another mixing bowl, I whisked eggs, double cream and vanilla together. This was then tipped into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and the fruit. When this was done, I made the Streusel topping which was quick and easy to make. I rubbed butter, flour, cinnamon and brown sugar together and then stirred in some chopped walnuts.
The cake mixture was spooned in to the prepared tin and then finally the Streusel mixture was sprinkled on top. The cake went into the oven and was baked for just over an hour.
When the cake came out of the oven, the kitchen smelled wonderful. Never mind me moaning about miserable weather, the smell of cinnamon is enough to cheer me up!
I gave the cake a good hour to cool down. While it was cooling, I made up some Maple Icing. This was butter, brown sugar, Maple Syrup and full fat cream cheese mixed together. I filled a piping bag with the mixture and then piped twelve rosettes around the edge of the cake. To finish, I put a walnut half on top of each rosette.
In the end we were so full after our main course that we left the cake and didn’t eat any! We didn’t start on it until the Tuesday and believe it or not it was still fresh. It was such a deliciously moist cake, with the aroma of the spices still lingering. I can honestly say this has been one of my favourite things to bake this year.
I always love Biscuit Week on the Great British Bake Off. It was great to see that this year’s contestants were asked to bake Jammy Dodgers for the Technical Bake. I love making Jammy Dodgers, although mine always look boring. I so need to get a set of those Nordicware Cookie Stamps as featured in the show to get that beautiful pattern on top of the biscuits.
If you are on Twitter, you might have heard of #TwitterBakeAlong which has been running for the last 5 years or so. Jackie (aka The Baking Nanna) and Rob run weekly challenges over on Twitter. During Bake Off Season it becomes #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong and bakers can enter one of the challenges like the contestants bake and submit a photo of their bake on Twitter. As I’m busy a lot with work commitments, I don’t always get to join in but I was able to for this week with my version of Jammy Dodgers.
I used the recipe in The Great British Bake Off: A Bake For All Seasons and I must admit it was different to my standard “roll out” biscuit recipe in that there was added cornflour in the recipe. I also felt that I could have done with double the quantity of dough as to get the quantity of biscuits out of the dough, I had to roll the dough so thinly. I used my KitchenAid mixer to bring the dough together so that I didn’t overwork it.
No way was I going to make my own jam to go inside the biscuits as the original contestants had to. I hadn’t got time for making jam as well. To be different from the traditional, I found some Lemon Curd in the cupboard which needed using up as well as some Cherry Curd which I’d found in a local supermarket. The dark pink colour was so pretty that I thought I’d use it as well. Instead of a heart shape cut out in the middle I looked in my cookie cutter boxes and found a splat type cutter which I’d used on a psychedelic 1970s style cake from a few years ago. I thought it would make a change from the hearts and stars and other shapes you might find in the middle of a Jammy Dodger or those Linzer style cookies.
I took the cookies with me to work and left them in the staff room. I was a bit ashamed of the actual biscuits to be honest. Because they rolled out so thinly, they caught round the edges and baked a lot quicker than expected. But everyone enjoyed them and that was the main thing.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not that much of an Autumn/ Winter persion. Mainly because I don’t like it being dark early and getting up in the dark. Not to mention the lack of sun. But having said that, there are positives to this time of year- it’s Bake Off Season!
The 2021 Season is well underway as I write and I’m enjoying it as much as ever. Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers on here.
I preordered the new Great British Bake Off recipe book to accompany this series from Amazon and it arrived on the day of release. I’ve done a review on the book as a separate post: you can read it here!
I looked to see which recipes tied in with Autumn and what fitted in with ingredients we had at home. I also wanted something suitable for a Sunday lunch dessert and not an overly complicated occasion cake which we wouldn’t be able to eat.
We chose the Blackberry and Pear Crumble Cake on page 200 in the Autumn section of the book as our first recipe. But I subsituted apples in place of pears in the recipe as we had apples to use up. I also have struffled to find blackberries recently. I’ve noticed not so many growing on the hedgerows recently, or have I missed something? The only way I could find any blackberries to use in this recipe was to buy a mixed berried frozen fruit bag from the supermarket and to separate them out to use in this recipe. To peel and core the apples, I use an apple segmenter which I have had since my children were little so that I could cut apples up for them when they had a snack.
So, on with the cake. I used a 20cm (8″) springform cake tin for the recipe which was greased and lined. When that was done, I put the chopped apples into a small saucepan with a tablespoonful of sugar and 25g butter. These were slowly cooked so that they would caramelise.
In another bowl I added 50g more butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and 75g plain flour and mixed this together with some toasted hazelnuts. The hazelnuts I found a bit fiddly to do as even as they toasted, it took ages to get the skins off. This made the crumble topping.
I then got out my KitchenAid and beat together some more butter and some more caster sugar until it was pale and creamy. I then added in eggs, one at a time and beat them well one at a time. In went the rest of the flour followed by some baking powder and finally some sour cream.
Now it was time to assemble the cake in layers. Starting with two thirds of the sponge mixture in the base of the tin. Followed by a third of the crumble topping and then the rest of the sponge. Then another third of the crumble topping. To finish off I arranged all the caramelised apples and blackberries on top, followed by the final sprinkling of crumble topping.
The cake takes quite a while to bake: the recipe stated 1 1/2 hours but I found mine was ready after 1 1/4 hours. It smelled absolutely delicious and there was nothing else you needed to do to serve it, except put a generous slice on a plate with some warm custard. The recipe suggested creme fraiche but we wanted custard.
I will definitely make this again. It might work with almonds instead of chopped hazelnuts and I will try it with pears as well. It really did hit the spot on a chilly Autumn afternoon. I must admit I had some leftovers the next day when I got in from school as I had a sweet craving!
Back in the summer holidays (seems so long ago now!) I was shopping in my local Waterstones. I love going into bookshops and could spend hours looking through all the shelves. Especially at the cookery ones. I’ve not seen so many new baking books I’ve wanted to buy recently but the Finch Bakery one caught my eye.
I must admit I had never heard of the Finch Bakery before but the front cover of the book caught my eye. Mouthwatering cupcakes, cookies, traybakes and layer cakes all adorning a counter. I was immediately interested as I bake cookies and traybakes for SmartCookieSam as well as the odd layer cake. I just had to look inside and was treated to a delicious sounding list of recipes.
As a background, if you don’t already know (and I didn’t, either!), the Finch Bakery was started by twin sisters Lauren and Rachel Finch. They started their business in their parent’s kitchen just before their 21st birthday and then as the business grew, they started a shop on Queen Street in Great Harwood, Lancashire back in 2016. This has now turned into an online business and a bigger store. I need to go over to Lancashire to try one of their bakes as they are very popular.
The Finch Bakery book starts with a useful chapter on Basics: the equipment you will need, ingredients, how to line a cake tin and details of sprinkles and other touches. There are also handy recipes for buttercream and other frostings which are used in the Finch recipes.
For the main body of the book, there are five chapters: Celebration Cakes, Cupcakes and Cake Jars, Cookies and Cookie Cups, Traybakes, No Bakes and Small Bakes.
Celebration Cakes: Wow, what an incredible array of cakes to choose from! Covering many different flavours of cake which you could possibly choose from. I don’t make many big celebration cakes now as I concentrate on the small bakes for my business but I am going to use one of these recipes next year as I am going to be celebrating my 50th birthday. What is a great idea is how each large celebration cake recipe can be adapted into corresponding cupcakes or cupcake jars. I must admit I’ve never eaten, let alone made a cupcake jar as they look incredibly sweet. And that comes from someone who has a sweet tooth! I also love the idea of the Vanilla and Chocolate Half And Half Cake, which are two layers of each of chocolate and vanilla sponge baked separately, then cut in half and reassembled. Great for those who love a bit of both flavour or don’t like chocolate!
As cookies are my favourite thing to bake, I went straight to the Cookies and Cookie Cups chapter in the book. I already have lots of recipes I use for my cookies but I was interested to see if there were any different flavours to try. I must admit I want to try the Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies as I’ve never baked them before. I love the idea of these cookie pies which seem to be everywhere at the moment and intend to try the Peanut Butter Cookie Pie recipe at some stage.
Brownies and Traybakes are another favourite of mine to bake and I always love comparing brownie recipes. I just have to try those Slutty Brownies! I went to meet one of my best friends for coffee and cake at a local farm shop a month or so ago and the farm shop sold Slutty Brownies. They were absolutely delicious with both a brownie and a cookie layer. Like a Brookie but up a whole notch! But I did actually test out one of the recipes and went with the original Brownies recipe as that was what I needed to bake at the time. There are lots of other brownie and blondie recipes in the chapter as well. I need to work my way through them!
The fourth chapter is called No Bakes and I always love a No Bake recipe or two. So useful if you are running out of oven space and time to bake. There are delicious cheesecakes as well as mouthwatering Rocky Road recipes including one based on one of my favourite flavour combos Lotus Biscoff! Not a cheap bake as you need a lot of Biscoff Biscuits, spread and white chocolate but you do get a huge tray from it! There are also many more recipes to choose from.
Finally, in the Small Bakes Chapter, there are cake pops and various flavours of macaroons. I love making macaroons but haven’t had chance to bake them recently. I might have a go before Christmas for foodie presents.
My Top Ten Recipes I’m going to try out:
Creme Egg Cake (next Easter will be fun!)
Vanilla and Chocolate Half and Half Cake (my 50th, maybe?)
Red Velvet Stuffed Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookie Pie
Jammie Dodger Blondies
Lotus Biscoff Rocky Road
Triple Layered Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bar
Lemon and Blueberry Scones
Caramel Mocha Macaroons
What I’ll pass on:
Hard Candy Lollipops
Geo Heart Cake Shapes (they look really fiddly to make to me)
Cake pops and cakesicles (as above, they look really fiddly to make!)
The cake jar recipes: they just don’t appeal to me. Sorry!
As I mentioned before, I tested out the Basic Chocolate Brownie recipe. It’s very similar to the recipe I use for my own brownies and I always add in extra chocolate chips as well as the melted chocolate and the cocoa powder for the chocolatey fix. I found they came out very fudgy, which is just how I like them and the tip to put them in the fridge after cooling completely in the tin really works with me. My only concern is that the recipe is suitable for a 30 x 23 cm traybake tin whereas I use a 23cm square one so that it fits in the boxes. I took the brownies along to work with me and they went down a treat.
I would recommend this book to others, although I would not class the bakes as suitable for every day bakes, the recipes are just perfect when you want to bake for special celebrations and occasional treats.
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.