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 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.
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.
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!
As soon as I got my hands on a copy of Mary Berry’s latest recipe book “Everyday” I wanted to test out loads of the recipes. Of course being a baking addict I always go straight to the cake recipes in her books but it was actually a savoury recipe I made first.
Last weekend we ended up having Mary’s Curried Beef Samosas with a salad. I got out the mango chutney as well. Normally samosas are deep fried and I love them from our local Indian takeaway. But these were baked.
Mary’s recipe introduction tells us: “With their delicious spicy filling and crispy texture , these are guaranteed to go down well. Perfect for sharing either as a canape or a starter,”
The recipe makes 14 large samosas. As I had never made samosas before this was going to be a really tricky challenge for me. It would be like doing origami for me with fiddly filo pastry.
The first task was to prepare the spicy beef filling. I heated olive oil in my large frying pan and added finely chopped onion, red peppers, dried chilli flakes, garlic and tiny pieces of carrot. Once all the vegetables had softened after a few minutes, I added in some minced beef. This was then browned carefully. After the mince had browned I added some medium curry powder, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a spoonful of mango chutney. All this was left to cook for a few minutes until it was time to add in some frozen peas.
Such a good thing that even Mary Berry uses ready made filo pastry. Life is far too short to make your own. I draw the line at making your own shortcrust though. I had this packet of filo pastry in my freezer left over from Christmas. Making these samosas would be the perfect excuse to use up the pastry.
Trouble is filo pastry and I don’t really get on. I find it really fiddly to use and it always rips on me. It’s like an edible version of tissue paper. The air was blue in my kitchen as I tried my hardest to unwrap the pastry. I had to have a long, thin strip of pastry which was about 10 x 40cm in size to make each samosa with. My pastry was completely the wrong size for these dimensions so I had to make do.
The pastry was quite dry even though Mary warned in her everyday tips at the end of the recipe that this might happen. You need to work quickly brushing each layer with melted butter. The butter soaked in quickly and I found the pasty quickly broke several times.
Samosas are meant to be a triangular shape but because my pastry kept breaking I struggled with this. In some cases they looked like uneven parcels or spring rolls. All I could hope for was that Mr SmartCookieSam and my son were put off by their awful appearance. I didn’t care though, so long as they tasted great.I did make the 14 samosas like Mary’s recipe said but half were what I would have called a walking disaster area. I won’t be getting a job in my local takeaway or restaurant making the samosas.
When I served up the samosas I thought they looked nothing like I’d eaten but then they had been oven baked and not deep fried. The pastry looked unappetising but once I bit into the samosa I was pleasantly surprised. The beef curry filling was spicy yet not too overpowering and there was just enough of it. I ended up having two samosas with some salad. Mr SmartCookieSam ate a couple for lunch the day after.
Would I make these samosas again? In all fairness, probably not. I was put off by the fiddliness of using the filo pastry and I found it far too tricky to make the triangles up with out the filling oozing out all over the place. So for me, not something I would make for an everyday meal.
I have a massive addiction to Lakeland. It’s very hard for me to come out of one of their stores empty handed. I see so many fantastic products on their shelves that I wish I just had the money or the room for in my kitchen.
At half term week I met up with my mum at Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield. My mum and I both love cooking and baking. I’ve been trying to lose some weight and so far have lost 1 1/2 stone since last July. I know I need some carbs in my diet but I would like to reduce this. One way I can do this is to use a vegetable spiralizer instead of using pasta. Ar first I thought, what’s wrong with a bit of pasta> But then after going to a restaurant and trying courgetti for the first time, I actually found I liked it.
Since then I’ve been keen to get a spiraliser. There were about 5 or 6 different ones to choose from on the shelf in Lakeland, ranging from a hand held simple one to a massive one which had different interchangeable blades. The one I chose sits comfortably on the work top. It stays put with suction pads and has four different blades of varying thicknesses. I thought that I would get a lot of use out of it, especially when my daughter is back from uni in her holidays. Once I got the hang of using the spiralizer I was really enjoying it. My first attempts were a bit messy and both the courgettes and carrots came out in short strips instead of the curly, long spirals I had seen on other peoples’ Instagram and Twitter pics. I made far too much for one person really as neither Mr SmartCookieSam or my teenage son like courgettes. Though I did mix in a few carrot spirals in with their spaghetti.
I decided to make Mary Berry’s Sundried Tomato Pasta sauce from her new Everyday book which is just out. Not a success at all. I didn’t chop the sun dried tomatoes up enough and Mr SmartCookieSam pushed them to the side of his plate. After that he said “I can’t eat this, sorry,” and put his knife and fork together. I agreed with him but not only did the pasta dish taste vile, it looked vile as well. The mozzarella was meant to be cut into little pieces on top of the sauce but it was so grainy and bitty that it was in large clumps. It wasn’t the spiralised veg, they were lovely. It was the disgusting sauce. So sorry to say this time but this is the first Mary Berry recipe which didn’t go down well in our house.
After we had tipped the disgusting food in the bin I went and found the biscuit tin. Mr SmartCookieSam asked for some cheese and crackers. So much for trying to eat healthily and cut carbs. I had four cream crackers with Brie on top. Ooops, better luck next time!
I know it’s New Year now but I can’t bear throwing things out or wasting things. As I’ve been doing Slimming World up to Christmas and hoping to start back at my local group on 4th January, I can’t really be baking things or eating leftover cake and mince pies.
But what to do with the two spare jars of homemade mincemeat which were sat taking up space in my cupboard? Mr SmartCookieSam said it would last until next Christmas but I’m not always so sure. So I had a look through my recipe books and spotted an ideal way of using up a whole jar of mincemeat without taking too much time and effort up.
This Mincemeat Loaf Cake recipe comes from Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection. The recipe actually makes two small loaves.
As Mary says in the recipe notes: ” These are great to have on hand at Christmas time. They freeze superbly and make a nice present…. the mincemeat adds spice and moisture to the cakes,”
The idea that the cakes freeze well was a real winner for me. I don’t want to be eating cakes right now but there is room in my freezer to put the loaves away and bring out for another time. They’re always useful if one of my friends pops round for a cuppa or for taking into work to share with colleagues.
The recipe was simple to make. I mixed mincemeat, softened butter, light muscovado sugar, 2 beaten eggs, self raising flour, currants and raisins together in a large mixing bowl. To this I also added an extra teaspoonful of ground mixed spice. This was all mixed together and put into two loaf tins lined with special loaf tin liners.
To finish off I needed to stud whole almonds into the top of the loaves. I realised I didn’t have any whole almonds left, only flaked ones. I sprinkled some flaked almonds on and also added some whole glace cherries before sticking the loaves in the oven. They baked for about 1 1 /4 hours while I got on with the ironing. As I was doing the ironing there was a lovely smell wafting about the kitchen, very tempting but not helpful when trying to lose weight!
The loaves didn’t look that big compared to what I was expecting, I would have preferred to have baked one big loaf instead of two tiny ones. It smelled wonderful though and once it had cooled down I was tempted to cut one of the loaves open and see what the inside looked like. I didn’t eat any, honest!
Wrapped up in cling film they’re now in the freezer. Let’s hope I don’t forget I’ve made them!
I’m so excited that The Great British Bake Off is back. What do you think of it so far? In the first couple of episodes I spend most of the time getting confused as you begin to find out who’s who. I get muddled up with what each contestant bakes to begin with but after this week’s programme I felt ravenous. I’d already had my dinner but all I could think about was eating a great big piece of drizzle cake, followed by some Jaffa cakes and finished off with a slice of a mirrored chocolate cake! Much too tempting and as someone who really struggles with dieting, it’s going to be hard not to succumb!
Anyway, Bake Off mania started the day before the first episode came out in SmartCookieSam’s house. My copy of the brand new Bake Off book arrived. The book to accompany this series is called Perfect Cakes and Bakes to Make At Home. I wasn’t disappointed and this year the book wasn’t too heavily bread and yeast bakes biased as last year’s one was. I was impressed with the layout and the introduction featuring all the bakers too. The recipes in this year’s book are also ones which I can see myself baking so I think I’ll be having a go at a few over the next few weeks- watch this space!
It didn’t take me long to plan out what my first bake from the book would be. Week 1’s Technical Bake was for Jaffa Cakes. Not only that but it was the theme for this week’s #GBBOTwitterBakelalong. This was perfect as they’re my son’s favourites as well. He has always loved Jaffa Cakes and once came home from school at Christmas with one of those giant metre long packets. His mate had bought him it as a Christmas present. We were allowed to have some but I think it was me who gave him the taste for them! When I was pregnant with him, I loved eating Jaffa cakes. Then again I had a craving for mushy peas when I was expecting my daughter and she hates them!
The thing is though, when you have a much loved shop bought biscuit or cake, you never know what a homemade version will turn out like. I never forget my one and only time trying to make chocolate teacakes and faffing about with making homemade marshmallow! I’ve never made them since, only bought Tunnocks instead! The same applies to Jaffa cakes, could I make them taste like McVities ones and would they be too much faff?
Last Saturday afternoon was typical August Bank Holiday weather. I’d done my cleaning and was about to go outside to start hoovering out my car. It’s in a terrible state as my dog sat on the back seat after a muddy walk and I’d forgotten to take a towel with me. But just as I was about to get the Hoover out, it started raining. Secretly I thought this was great as I could do some baking.
Baking the Jaffa Cakes didn’t take that long even though it was broken down into stages. Once the jelly was setting in the fridge I got on with the sponge bases. These are a fat less whisked sponge mixture, where you whisked sugar and eggs together for five minutes and then some self raising flour was folded in. To bake the sponges I used a shallow 12 hole tart or mince pie tin which was greased before with Wilton Cake Release. The sponges didn’t take much baking, only 9 minutes. I took them out when the sponges sprung back when I touched them.
After a few minutes the sponges were ready to come out of the tin. This is where I always panic as I didn’t want anything sticking. Thankfully apart from one cake which was a bit on the small side, they came out ok. By the way, the recipe says that there is more than enough mixture and when spooning it into the tin, you only need to fill it three quarters full! There was a bit left over but I wouldn’t have had enough chocolate to cover any extras.
I left the sponges to cool down but as it was a day when I was trying to catch up on everything I was desperate to get on with the next stage. I poked the jelly setting in the fridge and it seemed alright. So I thought I’d try and cut out the jelly circles. The recipe says you are meant to turn out the whole jelly rectangle onto a piece of baking paper and cut circles out of it. I was rushing so much that I realised the jelly wasn’t properly set and it slid out onto the baking paper in a massive orange blob! So there was one thing for it, I had to pile teaspoonfuls of orange jelly on top of the sponges, not neat little circles!
I then melted some dark chocolate and spooned it on top of the jelly blobbed sponges. Of course this wasn’t going to be a neat job with the mess I’d made with the jelly! The jelly began to move about as I spread the chocolate on. As for doing the criss-cross pattern on top of the Jaffa Cakes- forget it!
Would I bake the Jaffa Cakes again? They tasted wonderful and not as sweet as the shop bought ones. They were quite faffy to make though but I might try again when I’m not rushing things.
When August comes around, it’s always exciting in lots of ways. For me being a teacher the summer is my one chance to catch up. It’s also usually when my family go on our summer holiday. This year we went away in July instead but there has still been loads of things to enjoy. Not only that but August means Great British Bake Off time! This year it’s starting later (think it’s Wednesday August 24th) due to the Olympics but the excitement and the build up for GBBO fans has started already.
On Twitter I love to get involved with anything GBBO related and a few of my Twitter followers and friends are doing a bake along. It’s called #GBBOTwitterBakealong and there’s a different theme each week. When the Bake Off is actually on, we’ll be baking something from the show like the technical bake for that week or something connected with that week’s theme. This week on the Twitter Bake Along has been biscuits so we had to bake some biscuits and post them on Twitter. I love any excuse to bake biscuits so I had a look at what was left in my baking cupboard and also looked at recipes I wanted to have a go at.
I looked in Mary Berry’s Foolproof Cooking and found the perfect recipe for busy weekend baking around all the other jobs I had to do. It was her recipe for Stem Ginger Shortbread. My whole family love it when I bake shortbread for them but aren’t so keen on the ginger. The recipe called for five balls of stem ginger and that’s exactly what I had to use up. It’s funny how my kids say they don’t like my ginger cookies, yet when I bake them they miraculously disappear.
Out came my well used and loved Alan Silverwood traybake tin. It’s been bought thinking of Mary Berry and traybakes though this time, it was to make shortbread fingers. I greased it carefully with Wilton Cake Release then started on the shortbread itself. The stem ginger needed to be rinsed and patted dry so that the sticky syrup came off it. This was easy enough and then I chopped the ginger into little chunks to go into the shortbread. When I’d finished this, I then started on the shortbread itself. I put tiny cubes of butter into a large mixing bowl and then added plain flour, rice flour and caster sugar to the mixture. Mary’s recipe used semolina but I didn’t have any so I used some rice flour from the last time I baked shortbread. It gives the shortbread a nutty taste but works wonderfully well in the recipe. All the ingredients were rubbed in together and then formed to make up a dry dough. At this stage, I tossed in the chopped stem ginger and then mixed it into the dough evenly.
The dough was carefully pressed into the tin with a back of a teaspoon so that it was level. To give it a crunchy topping Mary Berry suggested sprinkling on two tablespoonfuls of Demerara sugar to the top of the shortbread. I didn’t have any demerara sugar so I used light brown muscovado sugar instead. This was a bit clumpy though.
The shortbread baked for about 40 minutes and by this time it had turned a pale golden brown. The smell was just heavenly and I was so tempted to scoff one there and then. But I had to let them cool down so they could be cut up into fingers!
The shortbread fingers were divine and they went down very well. As I type the day after, there are only 4 left! I need my jaw wiring with shortbread around! I didn’t eat them all though, please believe me!