The Great British Bake Off Christmas- Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake.

Sunday December 3rd, 2017.

Since I gave up baking professionally to concentrate on the day job full time, I’ve had less time to spend on baking things like Christmas cakes. Mr Smartcookiesam says to me every year that I should just go and buy a small one from Marks and Spencer but to me part of Christmas is baking and decorating a Christmas cake. Why should I go out and buy something I enjoy baking at home?

I’ve never been a massive fan of roll out icing and marzipan but I love fruit cakes. If I eat Christmas cake I always take the icing off and serve it with a slice of Wensleydale cheese as you do in my part of the world. I try to decorate my cake differently each year but if I’m short of time I always get out my The Snowman and the Snowdog decorations and cake ribbon. At the time of writing I’ve no idea how I’m going to decorate this year’s cake, please send some inspiration my way!

As for the previous couple of years I’ve used Mary Berry’s Classic Christmas Cake recipe for my family Christmas cake. The recipe features in both The Great British Bake Off Christmas book and Mary’s own Christmas Collection. Dried fruit (a mixture of currants, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel and halved glacé cherries) had been soaking in some brandy for a few days along with some orange zest.

This afternoon, albeit a few days after it should have been done but I thought I’d better get started on the cake. I knew I needed time where I’d be in all afternoon while it was baking. Sundays are not usually a day of rest in our house. I’m normally catching up on all the jobs I haven’t done from the previous week or trying to get ahead for the next week. No time like the present, as they always say.

In a large bowl I creamed together unsalted butter, light brown sugar, treacle and eggs. After these were mixed together, I added in some flour and some ground mixed spice along with some chopped blanched almonds. Then this was combined with the dried fruit mixture.

I had greased and carefully double lined a deep 9″ or 23cm diameter circular cake tin. Mary Berry says in her recipe intro that the cake isn’t a very deep one but it definitely makes a big enough cake for our Christmas celebrations. I found the cake mixture went just over halfway up the cake tin and was deep enough for me.

My oven had been preheated to 140oC and I put the cake tin into the oven on the central shelf. By this time it was 2.30pm and time was cracking on. The cooking time was estimated between 4- 4 1/2 hours so I wanted the cake out by the time we were due to go out.

Jobs done and now it was time to chill. Every now and again throughout the 4 hours I kept popping backwards and forwards to the kitchen to check on the cake. I’m always worried about fruit cakes burning and to be honest I think I need to get my oven checked out. I don’t think the temperature is as accurate any more. Well my oven is 11 years old and it has had a lot of use over the past few years.

At 6.30pm the cake was ready to come out of the oven. The fruit looked a bit burnt on top to be honest and I should have covered the cake with some foil or baking parchment to stop it catching. You can never tell with my oven at the moment.

I’ll be wrapping the cake up in foil and feeding it with brandy every few days or so. In the week leading up to Christmas I will be marzipanning and icing the cake. Watch this space to see it finished!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Orange Chocolate Chip Shortbread.

Excuse the dire photography in this post.  Taking photos isn’t my strong point.  The photos didn’t do these tasty morsels justice.

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I baked these shortbread pieces for my family to eat at home while I was away staying away in Canada visiting my brother and his family.  I don’t think they remembered they were there as they were still in the plastic box I’d put them in over a week later when I got back home!

They’re adapted from a recipe in Mary Berry’s “Cooks The Perfect…Step By Step” which I’m really enjoying cooking from at the moment. The original recipe is for individual shortbread round biscuits but I chose to put all the dough together in a square loose bottomed tin and cut it into pieces instead.  I had some Sugar and Crumbs Natural Flavour Chocolate Orange Cocoa powder which I love using so instead of using plain cocoa powder, I used that instead.  Absolutely delicious and the smell of chocolate and orange was heavenly.

The recipe introduction says: ” Buttery and very moreish, few can resist these delicious cookies.”  Mary’s original recipe also contains semolina of which she states “brings a lovely crunch,”  I didn’t have any semolina so I added cornflour instead which I use in my normal shortbread recipe.

Here’s my adaptation of the recipe.  The original recipe can be found in Mary Berry’s book.

Makes 12-16 pieces depending on how big or small you like your pieces of shortbread.  Use an 8″ square loose bottomed tin and pre-grease it with either butter or Cake Release.

Ingredients:

75g cornflour

140g plain flour

75g caster sugar

25g Sugar and Crumbs Natural Flavoured Chocolate Orange Cocoa Powder

175g butter

100g plain, dark chocolate chips/ dark chocolate chunks or alternatively chop up your own bar of chocolate.

First, pre-heat your oven to 1600C/fan 140oC/235oF/Gas 3.

Put all the cornflour, flour, sugar and cocoa powder together in a bowl.  Mix well so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

When this is done, add the butter in and rub it in with your fingers.  I find it easier to cut the butter up into small cubes first so it takes less rubbing in and handling. It needs to be at room temperature too, so take it out of the fridge in good time!

Make your mixture up into a ball of dough.  Press into the square baking tin and make sure it is evenly covering the bottom of the tin. It helps to press down with the back of a spoon.  Prick the surface of the shortbread with a fork.

Bake in the oven for approximately 40-45 minutes until firm to the touch.  Transfer the shortbread to a wire cooling rack and cut into squares or pieces as soon as you can.

 

Spiced Dorset Apple Traybake.

Another tried and tested favourite from Mary Berry’s “Cooks The Perfect..Step By Step” recipe book,  Mary says in the introduction: ” As well as being a good coffee or tea time cake, this makes a comforting pudding, served warm with clotted cream or creme fraiche. I often make it in Autumn when I have a glut of apples,”

This was the very reason I bake this traybake often.  I get lots of beautiful apples given to me and although we like crumbles and pies in our house, sometimes you always want to make something different.  Traybakes are great as you can use them like a pudding or a slice of cake but a little goes a long way.  I also find them so easy to make, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to bake.

My dad and step mum gave me two huge bags of apples from their tree in their garden. I’m sure they said they were Pink Lady apples.  Not only did they look really pretty on the outside, but the inside had a lovely pink hue to them too.  They always tasted delicious so I knew they would taste incredible in this bake.

I have a well used and loved Alan Silverwood traybake tin which came out of the cupboard again on this wet and cold Sunday afternoon.  It doesn’t need a lot of greasing but I used a small amount of Wilton Cake Release to stop any stubborn bits sticking to the tin.

Once all the apples were peeled, cored and cut into thin slices, I put them into a shallow dish and sprinkled them with some lemon juice to stop them going brown.

Next, I mixed together butter, light brown muscovado sugar, self raising flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, eggs and milk into a large bowl.  So easy being an all in one method and I made sure everything was well mixed.

Now this is where I lost concentration.  I got distracted and put all the apples in a layer on the bottom of the tin and then topped them with all of the sponge mix.  In the recipe you are meant  to put half the apples on the bottom, then half the cake mixture, then to repeat it. Rather like making a lasagne!  In the end my cake turned up a bit like an upside down cake and didn’t have the defined layers that Mary Berry mentions in her “Keys To Perfection” part of the recipe.  My motto is well if it tastes fine, then who cares what it looks like?

We had Toad In The Hole for Sunday lunch followed by a slice of the traybake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I love the smell of apples and cinnamon as they’re cooking. Definitely an aroma of Autumn there! As the traybake was so big, the rest of it got cut up into slices and put in the freezer for my family to eat in weeks to come.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti Carbonara- Midweek Meal. 

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I’m all on for a quick mid week meal. As with any working parent, the last thing you want is to have to make something complicated and time consuming when you’re exhausted after a long day.  I’m very lucky in that when I have full time work placements in my role as a supply teacher, Mr SmartCookieSam is great at cooking and having dinner on the table.  But even then there are times when he’s late himself or away working. Or there are days when I’m not working myself. On working days I love meals like Spaghetti Carbonara as it’s quick to make and everyone in our house likes it.  I know it’s one of my son’s girlfriend’s favourites as well.

I’ve tried lots of different carbonara recipes but it was the first time I tried Mary Berry’s version in her “Cooks The Perfect Step By Step” book. Her “My New Spaghetti Carbonara” had added mushrooms and bacon to it, as well as garlic. So it wasn’t an authentic Carbonara, but it still tasted amazing.

While my spaghetti was cooking in my large saucepan, I fried a packet of bacon lardons in their own fat.  Once these had started to cook and crisp up, I removed the bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and added a tablespoonful of olive oil to the pan.  Then I fried two crushed cloves of garlic and some quartered closed cup mushrooms.  (Mary suggested chestnut mushrooms, but I don’t like them!) These were then cooked for about 3-4 minutes.

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When the pasta was nearly ready, I combined  2 large beaten eggs and some parmesan cheese, along with  4 tablespoonfuls of double cream in a measuring jug. The pasta was then drained and added to the frying pan with the mushrooms, garlic and the bacon all at once. At the last minute I tipped in the egg mixture, taking the pan away from the heat so that the eggs didn’t become scrambled.

The result was delicious and made four very generous servings of Carbonara.  The whole thing only took about 20 minutes to make from preparation to putting on the table.  Quicker than ordering a takeaway around where I live!

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Love Sam xx

Leek and Potato Soup

I love a good bowl of soup. I don’t make it often enough and I should do.  It’s cheap to make, filling and keeps you warm on a cold day.

One of my favourite soups is Leek and Potato and thankfully it’s one that the rest of my family will eat, too.  Though in the past I didn’t tell my son it had leeks in it, I just used to say it was vegetable soup to him in case he turned his nose up at it.

About  three weeks back I made this delicious, comforting soup. (see, I’m really behind with the blogging at the moment). Anyone fancy buying me a new laptop? No, I thought not. My laptop is slow and keeps disconnecting from the Internet. Not a serious problem in the scheme of things but it does slow work down somewhat.

I adapted the recipe from Mary Berry’s Cookery Course, which is a well used book on my shelf.  First the leeks and onions were chopped up and fried gently in butter. After that, in went some thinly sliced potatoes.  To this I then added some hot chicken stock.  Unfortunately it wasn’t home made, sorry Mary! The soup was then seasoned and left to simmer.  Mary Berry’s recipe also suggests a few gratings of nutmeg. I didn’t have any nutmeg but I sprinkled on some parsley instead.

After about 20-30 minutes simmering I took the pan off the heat and allowed the soup to cool down for a couple of minutes. Out came the stick blender to puree up the soup. Finally. I added in a swirl of half fat creme fraiche. Mary’s recipe uses single cream but I didn’t have any so, creme fraiche had to do.

A perfect lunchtime bowl of soup for myself and Mr SmartCookieSam with a chunk of crusty bread.  There was enough left for me to have for lunch on two days during the week either at home or at work.

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Strawberry Milkshake Traybake.

Strawberry Milkshake Traybake as made for an event in my local village hall.

A couple of weeks back we had an event in my local village hall.  I was asked to bake a couple of things to take along.  I was surprised to be asked as it was an evening event.  Usually cakes and bakes are meant to be eaten during the day but not alongside wine and nibbles.  I presumed this was because there would be children there.

So with this in mind I got baking one Saturday afternoon.  I started with some flapjacks, then some Oreo Cookie Brownies and then decided to make a traybake.  Traybakes, to me are perfect for big gatherings as they take no time at all to prepare and a little goes a long way. I thought a plain vanilla sponge would go down well and thought about a suitable topping.

I went completely overboard with the heart shaped sprinkles and the purple edible glitter.
Traybakes always go down well- a little always goes a long way.
I also baked flapjacks, which go down well with people of all ages.

I use a lot of Sugar and Crumbs’ natural flavoured icing sugars and their cocoa powders.  Every now and again I get a few packets and stock up, trying out new flavours.  Or I go back and repeat buy flavours I know everyone loves. This is what happened with their Strawberry Milkshake flavour.  Last year I tried making some cupcakes with strawberry milkshake flavour buttercream. This time I decided to make up some buttercream and put it on the top of the traybake.  I also had some pastel coloured heart sprinkles and some edible glitter to finish off the decorations.

As expected the traybake went down well with the children and not so much with the adults.  After all, who wants to eat cake with wine?  I had also eaten my dinner quite late that afternoon and was still full up from then. There were a few bits left. I was still happy with the result though and will make another traybake like this another time for a coffee morning.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Hummingbird Cake- Mary Berry Everyday.

As soon as I saw Mary Berry’s new book Everyday I had to bake the Hummingbird Cake recipe from the book. A while back I’d made some Hummingbird Cupcakes which had been very popular with everyone who tasted one.  So I was keen to test out a big cake version of this “Southern US classic which takes banana cake up a notch,” according to Mary’s recipe introduction.  Mary also states that “It makes for a moist, substantial cake, beautifully offset by the tangy cream cheese icing,”

Baking the Hummingbird cake would also be a great way of testing out some Sugar and Crumbs Banana Split icing sugar I had got in my baking cupboard. I had bought it before Christmas and wanted to use it in something but not had the chance. As banana is one of the key flavours in a Hummingbird Cake, along with pineapple, this banana flavour would be a perfect additional dimension to the cream cheese icing.

Into a large mixing bowl went all the dry ingredients. Self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon, caster sugar all went in as well as some chopped walnuts.  I mixed them all up together and then put them to one side to prepare the rest of the cake.

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In another bowl I mashed up two large, ripe bananas. These were then added to another mixing bowl along with some drained and chopped pineapple chunks, two beaten eggs, a spoonful of vanilla extract and some sunflower oil.

Both bowls were combined together and dry mixture was folded in carefully.  The mixture reminded me of a muffin batter.  This was then divided between 2 greased 20cm/ or 8″ diameter circular tins.  The cake baked for about 25 minutes in my fan oven. When it came out it had risen beautifully and smelled fabulous. I went off to put some laundry away and to do some hoovering.  By the time I’d finished that job it was time to take the cakes out of the tin and put them on a wire rack to cool down.

The Hummingbird cake does not need much decoration.  It’s all in the taste of the cake.  In the illustraion Mary uses a cream cheese frosting for the filling and the top of the cake. I wanted to add a little bit more yet I didn’t want to overdo things.  In the end I chopped up some more walnuts and sprinkled them on top to finish off.

The cream cheese frosting is made with softened butter, full fat cream cheese, vanilla extract and icing sugar. As mentioned before I substituted the plain icing sugar for the Sugar and Crumbs’ Banana Split icing sugar. I left out the vanilla extract.  This gave the cream cheese mixture a delicate banana flavouring. It was wonderfully creamy and so easy to spread on the cake.

As the icing contained cream cheese I chose to put the cake in the fridge to keep and this helped enormously.

A huge hit with everyone but the worst thing was that I kept craving more. I longed to have another slice and having the cake in the house tested my weakening willpower to breaking point.Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx