The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Peanut Butter, Popcorn and Chocolate Fudge Torte.

Monday December 11th 2017.

Gosh, this seems like a long time ago now but the last two weeks before Christmas were so busy.  I didn’t have time to get updated with my blogging.  Anyway, here we are just after Christmas and I’m sat on the sofa typing this feeling like a beached whale.  I haven’t stuffed myself silly full of Celebrations and mince pies but I’ve not eaten well all through December.  Roll on the New Year!  Though when I go along to one of my Clandestine Cake Club events I don’t feel guilty about eating and enjoying cakes.  

The aforementioned Clandestine Cake Club recently celebrated its seventh birthday at a special event in Leeds.  The event was held in the restaurant on the top floor in the new John Lewis store.  I always like going to cake club events there because of the car park next door so that I haven’t got to cart my cake too far through the city centre.  This time, though was funny as I had my cake in a clear plastic container so various people were looking at me walking through the store carrying a cake.  I was so worried I was going to trip up on the escalator!

The cake I chose to bake was yet another recipe from The Great British Bake Off Christmas recipe book which was one of John Whaite’s own creations.  John won series three back in 2012 and his Peanut Butter, Popcorn and Chocolate Fudge Torte sounded absolutely mouthwatering.  The recipe introduction says: “Christmas is undoubtedly a time of indulgence or rather overindulgence (you’re telling me!) This torte is not only a feast for the stomach with its layers of soft cake, sweet mousse and decadent fudge but because of those defined layers, also a feast for the eyes; perfect for a Christmas Eve treat,”  We tend to go out for dinner on Christmas Eve but usually there isn’t cake involved, we’re far too full up!

 Although there was a lovely photo of John himself in the book posing with what looked like a peanut butter cake, there wasn’t a photo of the whole cake.  I had to guess from the recipe instructions to see how it would turn out like. 

So, on with the actual baking.  Mr SmartCookieSam had gone off to work and my son had left for college, it was just me and the animals.  My dog sloped off to have a snooze in his bed and I put the radio on to listen along while I was baking. I felt really happy and content as I got out my ingredients and the cake tin needed for the recipe.

The main part of the cake is a chocolate genoise.  I am not that familiar with baking genoise cakes but I know that they involce whisking eggs and then sugar together to get the air into the cake,  I did whisk for the full five minutes as the recipe asked me to do, even looking at the clock to check.

After the eggs and sugar had been whisked together I sifted in some plain flour and some cocoa powder along with some melted butter. I’m glad I remembered about the melted butter.  Last time a recipe asked for melted butter I melted it in the microwave and then forgot about it.  It wasn’t until the cake was in the oven baking that I realised I’d forgotten to add the butter! Eeeek!!

The cake mixture was then poured into a springform cake tin and put in the oven for 25 minutes to bake.  I then took it out of the oven and let it cool down on a wire rack until it was completely cold.

Meanwhile, I got the filling for the cake ready.  This was where all the calorific and indulgent ingredients came out.  I started with blitzing some Butterkist Toffee Popcorn in my blender until they became like coarse sand. I then added in double cream until it started to thicken up slightly.  After this, in went some smooth peanut butter, some condensed milk and some mascarpone cheese.  How does this taste sooo good?  Once this was mixed again so it was thickened up but not so much that it couldn’t be spread with a pallette knife. It was then put aside in a bowl and left until the cake was ready to be iced.  

The topping was a chocolate fudge affair and was made with even more condensed milk, more peanut butter, more double cream and some dark chocolate.  I can’t remember what sort of dark chocolate I used, probably what was on special offer in Morrisons that week.  

Now this is where I’d fail miserably if this had been a Bake Off Technical challenge.  I didn’t read the recipe properly and missed out the step where I was meant to put the cake back into the tin once I’d cut it in half horizontally, filled it and then added the fudge topping when it was in the tin.  I didn’t do that.  I took the cake out of the tin and then put it onto a cake board to decorate.  When I’d decorated it, it went into the fridge to set but not in the tin.  It did make the finish of the cake a bit messier.

When the cake was setting in the fridge for an hour, it was lunchtime by this stage.  I sat down and had some soup while the remaining toffee popcorn had been put into a pan with some brown sugar to caramelise.  It took about 10 minutes to do this and then I let them cool down completely before putting them on the top of the cake.  To finish I found some champagne bottle candles left over from a birthday cake and stuck them on the top of the cake.  

The cake was very big and rich so a small slice was all that was needed.  It seemed to go down well, along with the other cakes at the event.  I went home with one of my sugar rush headaches feeling that I could never eat another cake again.  This was very short lived as the following day I was out having Afternoon Tea with my friends!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

White Chocolate Percy Pig Cake.

This cake was an almalgamation of two recipes which I’ve used plenty of times before.  The cake part came from John Whaite’s first book John Whaite Bakes which contains a delicious recipe for a White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake.  The decoration idea came from the second Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook A Year Of Cake which has a fantastic recipe for a Cadbury’s Chocolate Finger and Smartie Cake in it.  This opened up lots of ideas to adapt a design to suit flavours and themes.

I was off to a Clandestine Cake Club event in Leeds which was held in the historic Tetley building. I remember the days of the brewery being open in my childhood when I used to see the shire horses delivering the beer to the local Leeds pubs.  I was very impressed with the bar and restaurant at The Tetley and hope to go back to look around the exhibition soon.

 The theme for this cake club was Childhood Sweets and I chose to incorporate Percy Pigs on my cake.  Incidentally Percy Pigs just celebrated 25 years which gave me the idea.  I was definitely not a child when Percy Pigs came out but my own two children love them and we always buy a bag if we go on a long train journey. I can’t stop eating them!

To assemble the cake together I made up some white chocolate buttercream with Lindt White Chocolate and some Sugar and Crumbs White Chocolate and Raspberry natural flavour icing sugar.  I was so excited to use the icing sugar as it is one of Sugar and Crumbs’ new flavours brought out for this summer.  It smelled wonderful and definitely tasted of white chocolate and raspberries, just heavenly.

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My White Chocolate and Raspberry Percy Pig Cake for The Clandestine Cake Club event I went to a couple of weeks back. The theme was Childhood Sweets.
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All ready for baking and decorating the cake. I used two different recipes for inspiration. In the end I didn’t put any marshmallows on the cake as there wasn’t room for them.
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Percy and Penny Pigs. Funny how these favourite sweets have family names. My grandad was called Percy and my mum is called Penny!
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I used to love Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers but not now. I hate to say it but the white chocolate ones tasted rank.

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We had our own special room reserved for us at Cake Club.
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My friend Amy’s beautiful Sweet Shop Neapolitan cake. It tasted and looked beautiful.

Here are just a few of the photos of my cake and also of some of the other cakes at the event.  It was a wonderful evening and I enjoyed far too much cake! I still had a sugar high the day after!

Happy Baking.

Love Sam xx

John Whaite Bakes At Home- Update on my June Cooking The Books Challenge.

Unfortunately things have gone a bit pear shaped in my monthly Cooking The Books Challenge.  It got to the end of the month yesterday and I realised I’d not baked two of the recipes I wanted to for the challenge.  I missed out on baking some Utterly Nutterly Shortbreads and some Wedding Party Rings!  Oh dear, well not to worry.  Instead I have had other baking to do, including a Labrador shaped cake for my friend.  I’ve also been working some extra hours, so time has been precious.  Not only this but I rejoined Weightwatchers two weeks ago.  I lost 6lbs the first week but last week I didn’t follow it properly as I was too busy.  I can feel all those lost pounds creeping back on and I haven’t had the guts to weigh myself….

So this post is really to show what I did get around to baking.  A week last Sunday the village where I go to WI (when I can get to the meetings, that is!) had their Open Gardens.  I baked three things to donate to the WI tea and cake stand.  I was meant to help at the end of the day but I ended up having to say no, after all hubby was out and I needed to be the children’s taxi service!

First up was the Aussie Crunch.  Rather moreish and Gilchrists, the bakery in my nearby town of Boroughbridge makes delicious Aussie Crunch.  It’s quick and simple to make and John includes it in the Family Bakes section of his book.  Great for all the family to eat and to have a go at baking too!  Though John says “Why it is called Aussie Crunch when it comes from Bolton is a mystery to me!”  I was glad in a way it was heading up to the WI stall, if I’d even tried one bite, the whole lot would end up being scoffed!

To make the Aussie Crunch it was simple.  I put butter and sugar into a saucepan and let the butter melt and the sugar dissolve.  In a large mixing bowl I mixed together dessicated coconut and cornflakes, then tossed in some cocoa powder and self raising flour. This was all mixed together with the melted butter and then put into my greased 8″ square tin ready for baking.  It only took 20 minutes to bake and smelled fab.

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While the Aussie crunch was still cooling in the tin, John suggests adding the chocolate topping by breaking it up into squares and putting it on top of the crunch. The chocolate melts from the heat of the warm cake.
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I spread the melted chocolate into all corners of the tin and then left it in the fridge to set.
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The finished Aussie Crunch cut up into 12 large heavenly pieces.

While the Aussie Crunch was setting in the fridge, I got on with the next bake.  As I love baking bundt cakes so much I was really keen to try John’s Fig, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake in the Friendship Feasts chapter in the book.  I’m not really keen on figs and even though I wasn’t going to be baking the cake for myself I still fancied putting something else in the cake instead!  So I plumped for chopped, dried dates.  I wanted to use my Jubilee bundt pan again as it has such a pretty lattice design on it and hoped that it would encourage people to try it.

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Butter and sugar was creamed together, then I added in grated orange zest. After this, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract were added in carefully, followed by plain flour, baking powder and some ground cinnamon. After everything was folded in, I added in chopped pecan pieces and the dried dates.
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The finished Date, Pecan and Orange Bundt Cake baked in the pretty Nordicware Jubilee pan.
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View from the top! It looks like a flower when you look at it this way too!

I was very impressed with the results I had with the bundt.  I will definitely be baking this again.  John says “This makes for perfect toast, toppped with some boisterous Stilton cheese!”  Sounds good to me!

The final bake for the WI Open Gardens Stall was John’s Lemon Sherbet Cake.  It contains the sherbet (not the lollies though!) from Sherbet Dip dabs!  I’d never thought to put them in a cake before and it was funny buying Dip-dabs in the shop, haven’t done that since I was about 10!  I also added my own slant to the cake by decorating it with sherbet lemon sweets instead of handmade lemon peel. I just felt a bit lazy by then and wanted to cut a few corners to save time!

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Lemon Sherbet candy heaven!

The lemon sherbet cake is from the Family Bakes chapter of John Whaite Bakes At Home and is definitely one to avoid if you are on a diet but perfect for a family get-together or celebration.  John’s version involves vertically slicing the two cake layers so you have four altogether.  I find this dead fiddly so I kept the two and had all my filling in the middle of the cake.  The filling was absolutely gorgeous: whipping cream, mascarpone cheese, icing sugar, the Dip dabs, lemon juice and zest whipped together.  I piped it in the middle and on the top of the cake using my large star shaped nozzle.

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The Sherbet Lemon cake had a delicious mascarpone, lemon sherbet and cream frosting.
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Sherbet Lemon sweets on top of the cake. I put whole ones around the edge and then got the remaining ones in the packet and crushed them up to sprinkle them in the middle.

Again, I was really pleased with how the cake turned out and thought I would love to try this with different flavours and sweets.  Very retro.  I took the three cakes around to my friend’s house as I couldn’t help at the stall myself.  She was pleased with them but I haven’t had chance to ask her how they went.  I hope they tasted ok.

As I type this, it is now July 4th.  I’m meant to be thinking about July’s challenge.  I’d better get my bum into gear or else it will be August!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Fruit and Macadamia Nut Cookies from John Whaite Bakes At Home.

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A variation on John Whaite’s Apple, Macadamia Nut and Oatmeal Cookies.

Last weekend my village had a yard sale and I usually bake a couple of batches of cookies and flapjacks to sell on a stall. I had my eye on the Apple and Macadamia Nut Cookies in John Whaite’s latest book John Whaite Bakes At Home and wanted to bake them from the Breakfasts chapter at the beginning of the book.  This was part of my latest Cooking The Books Challenge for June 2014.

I read the recipe and realised that the recipe needed dried apple, not fresh apple chopped up in chunks.  I hadn’t got any dried apple so I found a bag of mixed, dried fruit which I thought I’d use instead.

John says “These inelegant cookies are nothing short of heaven sent.  The dried apples are chewy, the macadamia nuts are crunchy and the oatmeal adds great texture in between the two”  I could imagine me scoffing a whole plateful of these!  So I thought I’d try them out on visitors to our Yard Sale.

First I creamed butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, then added vanilla and egg. After this I tossed in some oats, plain flour and baking powder.  Once this was brought together into a dough, in went some mixed dried fruit and some chopped macadamia nuts.

The ball of dough was then formed into a long sausage on a piece of cling film and wrapped carefully to chill in the fridge for about half an hour.  When it was chilled enough, I cut the cookie sausage into 1cm slices and arranged them on a baking tray, baking them for about 10 or so minutes.

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The finished cookies piled up on the cooling rack ready to be boxed up for our yard sale.

The Yard Sale started off well and all my chocolate flapjack and my white chocolate fudge cookies sold.  I was left with about six out of twenty of these beauties.  Many people who realised they had dried fruit in said “Oh no, I don’t like raisins” or “My kids won’t eat those,”  The people who did buy them said they were delicious.  I would love to bake the recipe again but will buy in some dried apple especially!

Here are a couple of pictures of the other two bakes for the Yard Sale:

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White Chocolate and Fudge Cookies.
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Chocolate Covered flapjacks.
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Bakes laid out on the table ready for the customers.

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

Cookie Dough Brownies- John Whaite Bakes At Home.

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Cookie Dough Brownies- another example of heaven on a plate!

My family are obsessed with brownies and who can blame them?  It’s just heaven to sink your teeth into some chocolatey gooiness.  My fourteen year old son loves any excuse to bake or eat brownies and had he not been at school when I baked them, I’m sure he would have been in the kitchen with me hovering around to lick the bowl out!

So,  last Friday when I planned to bake John Whaite’s Cookie Dough Brownies from his latest book John Whaite Bakes At Home, I knew I would be popular.

  I realised l I couldn’t bake the brownies straightaway as  I’d forgotten to buy plain chocolate!  So off I went to the shop, came back with what they had to offer plain chocolate wise (Bournville) and got ready to start.  It wasn’t a quick recipe to knock up but it was worth it!

So, once I was ready to get down to baking I started on the cookie dough part of the recipe. I then realised this was going to take much longer than I thought as the cookie dough has to be frozen in little balls first before you get round to making the brownie batter.  Thankfully I didn’t have a deadline for baking them or I would have been in trouble.

The cookie dough was quickly made up using a rubbing in and getting the dough together method then I separated the dough out into about 16 walnut sized balls.  These were then put in my freezer (easier said than done, my freezer is tiny!) on a lined baking tray.  I had to move everything about to fit the two small trays in.  I yearn for one of those massive American fridge freezers sometimes that fits more than a bag of peas or a pint of milk in.

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The cookie dough balls put onto the lined baking tray and ready for the freezer.

After a couple of hours in the freezer it was early afternoon and I wanted to get on with the brownies before my son came home from school.  I got on with making up the brownie batter.  Usually my brownies are made with Green and Blacks Organic plain chocolate but I couldn’t find any in the local shop so I had to use Bournville.  I like Bournville, though I know some chocolate snobs would be horrified to hear me say that!

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The chocolate and butter were melted gently in the microwave.
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To this I added in two free range eggs..
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and then some mayonnaise! Yes, you read right, mayonnaise! Well I know it sounds an odd ingredient for a cake but then again it does contain eggs and oil!
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Now for some milk and some vanilla extract along with some sugar.
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Finally, I folded in some plain flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Just look at that, yum, yum!

Out came the cookie dough balls which had frozen well and these were then put in the bottom of my greased square tin. I spaced them well apart, thinking that there would be about 12-16 pieces of brownie, so you would get at least one large cookie dough ball in it!

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Cookie dough balls in the greased tin.
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The brownie batter was then carefully poured all over the top of the cookie dough balls.

The brownies baked in the oven for about 25 minutes and the kitchen smelled wonderful.  I had been so careful eating healthily so far this week but the brownies would soon be my downfall.  I hoped I could hide them so that I wouldn’t be tempted.

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Cut up on a plate to share round the following day. Just how I like brownies, all fudgy and gooey inside with the cookie dough flavour and texture complimenting the brownies.
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It was very difficult to see the cookie dough in the cut pieces in the photo as they were inside the pieces of brownie. But believe me they were there and they were just sublime.

When my son came home he begged to have a brownie there and then.  He wasn’t very happy when I said no but he could have one for tea.  He kept trying to wheedle one out of me but I was having none of it.  Finally we ate one for pudding, I succumbed to the temptation and it was wonderful.  The other pieces went in the freezer for another time.

Well John Whaite, you have created a winning recipe with these brownies and I am sure my family would love me all the more if I made them again and again, thankyou so much!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx