Update! September and October’s Cooking The Books Challenge.

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that I’m doing a Cooking The Books Challenge.  This started off well back at the start of the year but then as life got in the way! I logged on to update SmartCookieSam and realised it’s been well over a month since my last post. I haven’t been quiet on the baking front though.  It’s mainly been trying out recipes from The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking  cookbook that came out to accompany the latest series.

The front cover of the latest Great British Bake Off Book- Big Book Of Baking. I intended to blog a review of it but never got round to it.

So the idea of this post is to share with you some of the bakes I’ve made from the book.  Here goes!

Golden Carrot Traybake.

I love baking traybakes as a little goes a long way, especially at coffee mornings or fairs.  The Golden Carrot traybake was a big success at my school’s MacMillan Coffee morning.  I had to put pieces aside for the staff before they all got sold!

Irish Brack.

I also baked the Irish Brack recipe from the Bread Chapter of the book. It was very similar to the Yorkshire Tea Loaf recipe I regularly make.  This went along to the MacMillan Coffee morning and about half of it sold, not as popular as carrot cake!

Somerset Apple Tart.

For one of the Sunday lunch puddings over the past few weeks I’ve been trying out various recipes from the Bake Off book.  When on holiday in Normandy several years ago I loved the melt in the mouth apple tarts you could buy in the local patisseries.  The tart is called Somerset Apple Tart in this recipe because it calls for Somerset Apple Brandy if you have it. Mine was Normandy Apple Tart as it had genuine Calvados in it. I love Calvados in cream to go with mince pies at Christmas but would struggle to drink any, too strong for me! Of course I would not get a job as a patisserie chef with my offering.  When blind baking the pastry case I left it in the oven a bit too long and the sides burned.  At least Mary Berry would be impressed that the tart didn’t have a soggy bottom though!  My two kids, especially my son weren’t impressed by the tart.  They said “Yuck, cooked apples!”  Everyone else enjoyed it though and all the better with a splodge of whipped cream on the side.

Cheddar and Mustard Loaf.

Being a sweet toothed monster I thought it was about time I tried out some savoury recipes and I wanted to try out the cheese and mustard loaf.  I thought it would be perfect on an Autumn Saturday along with a bowl of warming soup.  So last Saturday I baked the loaf to have with some homemade vegetable soup.  Again, my son wasn’t complimentary about my baking saying “Why do you have to put cheese in it? Why can’t you just cook some “normal” white bread?”  Been there, done that, wanted to try something else!  Both my hubby and I enjoyed a big slice with our soup though.

Norman’s Farthing Biscuits.

My hubby is a cheese lover and would prefer cheese and biscuits instead of a pudding if we go out anywhere.  He reminds me of Wallace when he says “Got any cheese?” so the other day I bought some Harrogate Blue Shepherd’s Purse Cheese and had a go at Norman’s Farthing Biscuits from the Bake Off book. I thought Norman was a lovely guy, one of my favourite contestants from this year’s series.  His quote about Tiramisu “I can’t even spell it” or words to that effect makes me smile.  So I was keen to try out his recipe for Farthing Biscuits although mine seemed to puff up a bit in the oven.  They tasted great though and even my fussy son liked them.  Thankyou Norman, will be baking these again!

Hot White Chocolate Puddings with chocolate sauce.

Another Sunday dinner or lunch dessert.  These individual puddings were made in my Alan Silverwood Pudding Moulds which I think I bought from Lakeland.  They are massive though and I should have shared one with my hubby.  Anyway both of us were feeling greedy and had one to ourselves.  No wonder I am struggling with my weight and was up half the night afterwards with heartburn.  It did taste like heaven though; white chocolate sponge topped with a chocolate sauce.  The chocolate sauce is plain chocolate, cream and butter heated together.

Sticky Apple Sponge Pudding.

I was given some apples to use up from a neighbour so I incorporated some of them into this Sticky Apple Sponge Pudding.  Very like the flavours of a Sticky Toffee Pudding but with sliced apples added to the bottom of the dish.  A hit with all of the family despite the kids pulling the sliced apples off the cake. Apart from that it was scrumptious.

Grassmere Gingerbread

I love anything with ginger in it so I just had to bake the Grasmere Gingerbread recipe in the Bake Off book.  I can’t get enough of Grasmere Gingerbread but the original recipe is a closely guarded secret.  I bet this is as near to it as you get though.  The gingerbread was going to be taken with me into work to put in the staff room but it never got there.  All my family kept nibbling!

Morello Cherry Bakewell Tart.

I also love anything with almonds in, so I was keen to have a go at the Morello Cherry Bakewell Tart.  I’ve had a go at Bakewell tart a few times before but always used raspberry jam in it.  I bought some Morello Cherry Jam in the supermarket and baked this version for another of our Sunday lunch desserts. I was surprised when my son said he liked it!  I nearly passed out cold on the floor!  HE ACTUALLY LIKED SOMETHING I BAKED! Well, I know it’s a winner then.  Again I managed to overbake the pastry.  Why is it that there’s always something else going on?

In the true spirit of the challenge I haven’t baked everything I set out to bake.  I really wanted to have a go at some of the more complicated bakes such as the Princesstarta, the Kouign Amann’s and a couple of the savoury pies.  But it has been so busy recently and I have really struggled to fit these bakes in around my day job and what I’d actually need them for.

Watch this space for November’s challenge:  I’m going to be changing things a bit so I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve worked it all out!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam

Rum Babas from The Great British Bake Off -Showstopper Bakes.


Last year when the Great British Bake Off was on I was tempted by the Rum Babas that the contestants were asked to make for their Technical Challenge in the very first week. Who can remember John Whaite accidentally putting salt in the rum babas instead of sugar because the glass jars weren’t labelled?  Luckily though it worked out for him in the end becoming the series winner! I was keen to try out making rum babas, they are something I think of as a 1970’s dessert trolley invention.  I had only tasted a rum baba once, about three years ago when my hubby bought one.  It was stale and tasted funny.  I only had one mouthful of it which is rare for someone like me who is a sugar addict!

To make the rum babas you need some small savarin moulds, these are the ones I bought last year in Lakeland: http://www.lakeland.co.uk/16019/4-Small-Savarin-Rings

I noticed that Lakeland started stocking them after the Bake Off had been on which is great. They came in packs of 4. They have also started stocking the silicone chocolate dome moulds which are for making the chocolate teacakes which were another very tricky technical challenge bake from Series 3.  As a regular shopper at my local stores (either Harrogate, York or Northallerton) I was pleased as I knew my hubby would want me to try them.

But did I get round to using them? No I didn’t! Well over a year later I had forgotten about the moulds and found them in my cupboard still in the packaging.  Guilt overcame me and I thought I must try them out as promised.  My hubby talked about rum babas saying he would love to have one for pudding.  We had rum, I had yeast so I decided to get baking.

Last Sunday morning was a quiet day at home at the beginning of half term week.  I had all day to spend on the rum babas between other jobs but there was lots to do.  I’m still underconfident when it comes to anything involving yeast.

Here’s how it was made and what happened:

First, flour, sugar, yeast and salt were put in a large bowl. They were put at different sides to one another.
A beaten egg in the measuring jug.
The dry ingredients are gently mixed together, then the egg was poured into the same bowl.
The eggs were mixed in with the dry ingredients to form a wet dough.
The wet dough was placed in my Kitchen Aid mixer bowl and mixed on a very slow setting for 8-10 minutes with a dough hook.
After the kneading time.

At this point I began to panic.  The dough was very wet and I really struggled to knead it by hand.  In the end I had to stick it in the mixer as I just couldn’t work with it.  It just stuck to my hands and the more I tried to knead, the more it stuck.  I don’t know if I was meant to use the mixer but I thought it would be better than my hot hands touching the dough.  I managed to get it into the bowl, I washed my hands and then tried to search on YouTube to see if they had the original episode where they made the rum babas.  Then I could watch it back and see where I was going wrong.  Lo and behold there was a clip showing the rum babas and it was mentioned that the dough did appear wet.  Thank heavens for that!

If you want to see the original clip, then here is the link to it here:

The dough was placed in my Utility room on the work surface. The bowl was covered in cling film. I chose the utility room as I had the tumble dryer on and the room was quite warm at the time.

After all this messing about my kitchen surface looked like a scene of destruction.  It took some scrubbing to get the dough of the surface, it felt stickier than Superglue, if that’s possible!  I left the dough to rise in the bowl for about an hour and a half which was enough time for me to get on with the ironing.

Here are the 4 savarin moulds bought from Lakeland.
The moulds were lightly greased with flour and a sprinkling of caster sugar.
The dough was meant to be piped carefully into the savarin moulds, taking care that each one held an equal amount of mixture.  I spooned it in with a teaspoon and wondered why it was so messy!

Then for a second proving, this time in the savarin moulds. They had to rise to the level of the hole but not be too overproved.  This was easier said than done!

After baking, I turned the rum babas out onto a mat to cool down. Before they were fully cooled I needed to soak them with the rum sugar syrup.
Each rum baba was so big it only just fitted inside my dessert bowls.
Here is the cream mixture all whipped up. I swear by the Get A Grip piping bags from Lakeland. To help me fill these bags easily I use a pint glass to support the bag.
Each rum baba got a swirl of cream piped in the middle of it and was then topped with some berries. I used blueberries and strawberries but I reckon chopped kiwi fruit would look pretty too!
All ready for our pudding! What a massive rum baba as well. We all really enjoyed them and our eyes were bigger than our stomachs!

So, would I make the rum babas again?  Yes, I would.  Despite them being quite labour intensive in short bursts they were a massive hit with the family and a perfect treat.  Very naughty but nice!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx