I wanted to scratch off another two recipes from my #100bakeschallenge this week. I’d already made some pizza dough on Monday for challenge number 5 which incidentally was also World Pizza Day! Saturday 22nd January was also Blond Brownie Day. I had to make some Lotus Biscoff Blondies so great: another challenge could be scratched off my #100bakeschallenge poster. I’m aiming for on average 2 challenges a week, although this might not go to plan if I have a busy week or if we’re away on holiday!
My new go-to recipe for Lotus Biscoff Blondies is by Jane’s Patisserie. I’ve tried several recipes but this one always works for me. It provides, thick and chewy blondies studded with chunks of white chocolate and filled with Lotus Biscoff spread. It’s topped with crushed and broken up pieces of the Lotus Biscoff biscuits.
I sometimes find it difficult to get hold of some of the biscuits, to be honest. Recently I’ve only seen the circular sandwich ones in my local Morrisons or Tesco. Then another time I had to buy the “lunchbox friendly” packets which come packaged in pairs. These are so much more expensive. I’ve found some at my local wholesalers now, thankfully. I don’t have any problem sourcing the spread, although I think I have some greedy fairies who come and steal spoonfuls of it out of the pot. It’s the same fairies who like my Percy Pig and my M&Ms stash!
Did you know that January 6th is #NationalShortbreadDay? I didn’t until I got a My Legoman Mostly Foodie Days of Calendar for my kitchen wall. Or rather, its framed but still on the floor in my office until I can move pictures around in my kitchen and have the space to put it up!
I also noticed that Shortbread was one of the bakes on the #100bakeschallenge so this was bake number two scratched off the poster. If you’re wondering what I am on about, I got a Christmas present from my friend which is a fabulous poster made by Crumbs by Collette linked to a baking challenge. You post your results on social media using the hashtag #100bakeschallenge. I have seen that some people are giving themselves a year to do it in. I think that is achievable but quite a lot of my bakes are repetitive depending on my customer’s needs, my own time and my family’s personal preferences.
Shortbread has always been one of my favourite bakes to make as well as to eat! I love how you can turn four basic ingredients into something just utterly sublime. Then if you don’t like it plain, you can add extras to make it even more delicious. I bake lots of shortbread to send to customers and also for friends. It’s a shame that this day falls in January in a way, as shortbread does get made a lot in my kitchen for Christmas. It’s ideal for presents and for bringing out when you have visitors if they don’t like mince pies.
I absolutely love the cranberry and white chocolate combination and you name it, I have used it in other bakes where I can. It’s my brother’s favourite cookie flavour and he gets a vegan version every time I see him. I had to test it out in shortbread and oh my it looked lovely. I made extra to take to work as well.
CRANBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD
Serves 12-16 depending on how big you like your pieces.
Grease and line a 23cm/ 9″ square baking tin while you make the shortbread dough.
I make my shortbread dough in my KitchenAid as it stops me from handling the dough so much.
Cream the butter and sugar together in the mixer until it becomes light and fluffy.
Add the plain flour and cornflour to the mixture and bring it all together to form a ball of dough. Then fold through the white chocolate chips and cranberries.
Press the shortbread dough into the prepared tin ensuring that it is evenly spread and into all four corners of the tin. Prick the dough with a fork.
Bake in the oven for around 40 minutes. The shortbread should be lightly golden. After about 10 minutes, cut the shortbread up into however many pieces you would like and let it cool down on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove from the tin and sprinkle with extra caster sugar. Although I forgot to do this on this occasion as I was trying to do about ten things at once, this is what I usually do!
If you bake this recipe, do let me know how you get on with it. Do you use other ingredients in your shortbread or add extra flavours?
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.
Hi everyone! Once again I’ve not kept up with my blogging. I’ve started a new job. I only work part time (every morning) but I’m busy with my online baking commitments and juggling lots going on at home at the moment.
I’m pleased to say it’s actually now half term week here and although I love my day job, I really need this week to catch up. Not to mention getting to see friends, having my Mum to stay and to get on with those long overdue chores.
I’ve still got round to baking the odd thing for ourselves and I got round to testing out the Fairy Cakes recipe in The Great British Bake Off Book Of Amazing Cakes a couple of weeks back.
I have my own tried and tested foolproof cupcake recipe and this has been my go-to recipe for the past ten years or so. But every now and then I like trying out other recipes to see how they compare to my favourite one.
I must admit I’ve not called these little cakes Fairy Cakes since I was little and I guess cupcakes can be seen as a bigger version. I’m not sure. I live in North Yorkshire and before cupcakes became popular, I heard other people calling them buns. No matter what their name was, they’re still fun to bake. I decided to make some cupcakes from the Fairy Cake recipe in the Bake Off book and to adapt the icing to suit what I had in the cupboard at the time.
The Bake Off recipe in the Amazing Cakes book differed slightly in that the quantities of butter, sugar and flour was 25% less than what I put in my recipe for a dozen cupcakes. I use 125g of each of the former, adding in a teaspoonful of vanilla extract to two eggs. This recipe stated 100g of each to the two eggs as well as vanilla bean paste. For my icing, I use 250g butter to 500g icing sugar as a ratio and add milk to soften. The smaller quantity must have been because the recipe was for fairy cakes. I didn’t have the right size cake cases, only larger ones so I actually did up my quantities a bit.
When it got to creating the icing, I noticed the recipe was for two tone butter cream and this also was shown in the photo. I looked in my cupboard and only had half a pack of plain icing sugar as well as half a back of Sugar and Crumbs’ White Chocolate Flavoured Icing Sugar. I just decided to cop out of making it two tone and just made up the recipe quantities with half plain, half flavoured icing sugar. I had some leftover blue, green and lilac sprinkles which I call my “Frozen Sprinkles” to put on the top of the cakes.
I piped my usual swirl on top of the cupcakes with my large star shaped nozzle but I was interested in the recipe book instructions on buttercream and also different ways to decorate cupcakes. I also liked the illustrations to show what alternative effects you could get, depending on the type of nozzle used to pipe the buttercream on the cakes. I would have loved to have experimented with my piping bag but I was so short of time.
I originally was going to take the cupcakes to work to share with my work colleagues but I forgot to take them into work. That day was a Friday. Then I was away for the weekend so they stayed at home. Over the next couple of days they vanished one by one. I never got to try one!
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve tried out a recipe from The Great British Bake Off The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes. Most of the recipes I have left over in the challenge are the more complicated ones or the ones you would bake for a special occasion. Can’t imagine me baking a three tier wedding cake just for my family to have with a cuppa!
This week I have had a lot of baking to do for smartcookiesam.com, my online baking business. These have been brownies, blondies and cookies so it was a change to bake a cake for once! I chose to bake the White Chocolate and Blueberry Cake in the Chocolate chapter of the Amazing Cakes book.
The cake is a three layer blueberry sponge filled with white chocolate buttercream and finished with another layer of buttercream. The top decoration is some more white chocolate buttercream but with blueberry jam swirled in the icing to add flavour and to turn the icing a beautiful shade of lilac.
As with baking these recipes, I look to see what ingredients I have or need to get in. I had to buy double cream in for the recipe but I didn’t have any blueberry jam. I used some blackcurrant jam we had bought on holiday on the Isle of Arran instead which is gorgeous.
After doing my blondie and cookie order, I adjusted the oven termperature to 180oC fan which was stipulated in the recipe. I then thought this was a bit too hot, so I reduced it to 160o.
The cake itself was simple to make itself in a stand mixer: unsalted butter, caster sugar, vanilla extract, free range eggs and self raising flour mixed together to create the cake batter. Then I added in the blueberries, folding them in carefully until they were combined but taking care that they wouldn’t get squashed! I prepared three 20cm/ 8″ diameter sandwich tins with greaseproof lining and Cake Release Spray.
While the cake was baking, I made the buttercream in my KitchenAid mixer. First I whipped the butter for a few minutes. While that was being whipped, I melted some white chocolate in the microwave. I know some don’t approve of using the microwave method but it works for me if I do it in short blasts of time! When the white chocolate was melted and still warm, I stirred some double cream into it. The butter was now ready for me to add the icing sugar to it. No matter how hard I try I still get icing sugar all over the worktops and on the floor even on the lowest speed on the mixer! Finally, when this was blended I added in the white chocolate cream mixture to whip up into the buttercream.
The recipe time said to bake the cake for 20-25 minutes. I checked on it after 20 minutes and I noticed they were already done and coming away from the sides of the tin. I quickly got them out of the oven and onto the cooling racks.
When it was time to ice the cake I noticed the buttercream was a bit runny. It was really hot in my kitchen and I had no spare space in my fridge to chill the cake between it’s crumb coat and needing the top layer on. I also found it impossible to do the white chocolate shavings myself as the chocolate was melting in my hot hands! When the crumb coat was on, I then split the remaining icing in two. One half went as part of the topping and then the remaining part had some of the blackcurrant jam added to it to turn it lilac. I made up a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and then piped the rose swirls on the top of the cake. As the kitchen got hotter and hotter, so did the blooming icing which drove me crazy! It was definitely too runny for my liking. The white chocolate curls were meant to go on the side of the cake but I found this far too fiddly. Instead i just sprinkled them on top.
Would I bake this cake again? Yes I would, although there are a couple of issues I have with the recipe. I think the oven temperatures are too hot and also the cooking times were too long. This is definitely a special occasion cake as you need three packets of butter, some double cream and 400g of white chocolate as well as a huge box of icing sugar! Definitely not a recipe you would bake every day. But worth it when you do. I also think that you could change the flavours by using raspberries and raspberry jam instead of blueberries.
I just love Florentines so I was really glad to see them featured as the Signature Bake on the Bake Off’s Biscuit Week. I don’t really think of them as biscuits though, more like chocolates. They’re something I always associate with Christmas and foodie presents though. I think they’re so pretty and the colours shine through like jewels depending on the sort of dried fruit you use. They can be fiddly to make so that’s why when I make them they don’t look that neat! So long as they taste great, that’s what matters.
I don’t have my own recipe for Florentines but I use the recipe in the Great British Bake Off Christmas book which came out a few years ago. I had to adapt the recipe this time as I had to look at what dried fruit I had in the cupboard. I had to add sultanas instead of dried cranberries as I didn’t have any. I weighed out some chopped glace cherries, some dried mixed peel and some sultanas as well as some flaked almonds. In a pan I gently heated together some butter, sugar and some double cream. Then the cream mixture was combined with the fruit and nuts.
On lined baking trays I put teaspoonfuls of the Florentine mixture spaced well apart. These tend to spread very easily on the tray so I didn’t want them too close together. The other thing I’ve learned to watch with Florentines is that they can burn very easily so they don’t need that long in the oven. I put them in for 8 minutes and even the almonds were beginning to go brown.
From the original Bake Off recipe you needed 100g each of dark chocolate and white chocolate. I didn’t have white chocolate, only some dark chocolate. I couldn’t be bothered to go out to buy just a bar of chocolate. I then remembered I had a packet of strawberry flavoured pink chocolate buttons in my cupboard. I had bought these a few weeks on holiday when I was on holiday on the Isle of Arran and had forgotten I had them.
Once the Florentines were out of the oven, I let them cool down completely before I dared to move them onto a wire rack. From experience I’ve had them completely broken trying to move them off the tray. When they were cooled, I turned the Florentines upside down and spread melted dark chocolate on half of them. The other half had the melted pink chocolate buttons on them. I tried to give them a pattern but it didn’t quite work until the chocolate had set a bit.
I really loved making the Florentines and they were worth the effort. I definitely will be making them again at Christmas for my foodie hampers. They’re not a budget bake especially as dried fruit, nuts and chocolate can be expensive. This is why they are probably seen as a treat for special occasions.
Did you try any of the bakes from Biscuit Week? If so, which did you try? Or do you have a favourite you want to have a go at?
Hot on the heels of baking my successful Lemon Drizzle Traybake, I wanted to try something slightly different to take along for my work mates to enjoy as an alternative to the lemon drizzle. I’ve lost my baking confidence recently and have found recipes I’ve baked time and time again going wrong. I have always managed to bake brownies, though and I thought that I would be fine with the second recipe I wanted to try from The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes. I wanted to have a go at the White Chocolate and Hazelnut Blondies as I love blondies. So moreish! But I didn’t have any hazelnuts so had to think of some substitutions. I had also seen a recipe with Jammie Dodgers put in the blondies so I thought I’d add those in instead.
The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes is the latest book spin off from the last Great British Bake Off series. It came out in October 2019.
To make the Blondies, I weighed out plain flour, some ground almonds (as I didn’t have any ground hazelnuts), some sea salt flakes and baking powder. I mixed them together in a large mixing bowl. In another bowl I melted some butter in the microwave. To this, I added a mixture of caster sugar and dark brown muscovado sugar.
When this was mixed in, I added beaten eggs, along with some vanilla extract and then folded this all into the flour mix.
At this stage I was also meant to add in some chopped hazelnuts which I didn’t have. I just put in the white chocolate chips which the recipe suggested. At this stage I didn’t read the recipe properly and noticed it asked for 2 tbsp of agave syrup or runny honey. This was meant to be brushed onto the still warm but cooked blondies. Instead I put two tablespoonfuls of honey in the mixture before cooking.
Finally, I used mini Jammy Dodgers to poke into the top of my blondies. Each of these mini packs contains four mini Dodgers and I used four of the packs to use sixteen biscuits in the blondies. I was expecting them to sit nicely on top of them. I couldn’t wait to taste the blondies.
But my excitement was shortlived. I didn’t have the 22cm square tin as needed. Mine is an 20cm square one and not loose bottomed. The blondies were meant to be baked at 180oC for 25-30 minutes. I had them in for the recommended time but the blondies were still looking raw and wet in the middle. I also didn’t like how the edges had puffed up around, leaving the middle flat as a pancake.
I put the blondies back in the oven for another ten minutes but they seemed to be even more runny and slimy than before. I admitted defeat and took them out of the oven. The recipe said to leave the blondies in the tin for 10 minutes to cool down. This I did but they began to collapse. I was so frustrated as this doesn’t normally happen to me with brownies or blondies. The temporary baking confidence I got from making the lemon drizzle traybake had taken a nose dive again!
Baking disaster: you can make out the slimy and uncooked batter despite my oven being at the correct temperature and the brownies being in the oven for ten minutes longer than the recipe stipulated. This was the best piece out of the whole batch: one of the corners! The rest looked like road kill!
I would love to know where I went wrong with this recipe. Was it because I didn’t use hazelnuts or that I added the honey to the mixture before baking? I must admit I did not like the taste of the blondies and I was disappointed with how they came out. I asked Mr S what he thought of them and he said he thought the ones around the edge looked ok but he tasted one. He said it tasted very sweet and jammy!
I will test this recipe again at some stage but I’ll try with hazelnuts and leave the Jammy Dodgers out instead!
Cake baking to me is a great stressbuster and it really helps with my anxiety. It brings me back into the moment and has been a huge help to get me through all the worries brought about by this coronavirus pandemic. I was feeling a bit off it on Monday. I know I am far from alone though. I always feel anxious and stressed on a Monday going to the supermarket. I missed about four things off the shopping list. Only one of them was important: some dishwasher tablets. I hadn’t realised we were down to the last one when I opened the pouch in the cupboard. But I was still made to feel like a senile old bat for forgetting them!
At the beginnning of lockdown I had an order from Sugar and Crumbs. I love their flavoured icing sugars and there were several flavours I’d yet to try. One of the flavours I had bought previously and liked was their Mermaid one (what are mermaids meant to taste like?!) It must mean that the flavour is inspired by mermaids as the icing sugar is actually blueberry and white chocolate. I love both blueberries and white chocolate so I was thinking what bake I could come up with which incorporated this flavour into it. Even more so, could I come up with a recipe?
I didn’t come up with my own recipe but instead adapted an old favourite recipe. It comes from the fantastic John Whaite (Bake Off winner from Season 3 in 2012). It’s originally his Raspberry and White Chocolate Melting Cake which was featured in BBC Good Food Magazine as well as in John’s first book, the fabulous John Whaite Bakes.
I have made the original cake before and it is divine! The filling is a white chocolate ganache but I changed the filling and added a topping instead. This was mainly so I could use the icing sugar and also because I didn’t have enough white chocolate for both the cake and the filling. Not only that, I didn’t have cream in.
In place of the raspberries in the cake I substituted the same weight of blueberries. For the filling I spread one cake with some St Dalfour Blueberry Preserve left over from a hamper I had won before Christmas. I made up some buttercream using the Sugar and Crumbs icing sugar and a splash of food colouring to turn it lilac. I then assembled the cake. I added some stars and swirls to the top of the cake and finished it with whole blueberries and a sprinkling of some white chocolate strands.
Althought the cake looked beautiful, I personally found the buttercream far too sweet and sickly for my taste. I think I might have to rethink my quantities next time.
The other day I was in Leeds with my two children. Whenever we go into Trinity shopping centre I like to go into Gobstoppers, the American sweet shop as I look for things I can add to my baking. Usually I buy M&M flavours that aren’t widely available in the UK, such as the mint ones. Or I might try out something else that would look good on the top of a cupcake. This time, though I couldn’t find any different M&M flavours to ones I had already seen but I came out of the shop with a packet of Flipz. I’ve seen chocolate covered pretzels before but I found some white chocolate “birthday cake” one. I’ve found out that if sweets or cakes are labelled “birthday cake” it means they usually have sprinkles over them.
Last Sunday I wanted to bake something and to try the Flipz in a recipe. I have baked brownies with plain pretzels in before and that has worked. But this time I wanted to see what happened if I put the white Flipz in a blondie recipe. I love blondies, especially ones with peanut butter and big chunks of white chocolate in. I didn’t have any peanut butter so I had to look through my recipe books to find a blondie recipe without peanut butter in. As I had my copy of Annie Bell’s Baking Bible still out on the kitchen work top from baking muffins the other day, I looked through the book to see if there was a blondie recipe in the book. There was. Annie Bell’s version does not use peanut butter but the blondies’ sugar content comes from using a mixture of set honey and golden syrup. To the mixture I swirled in some whole and some broken Flipz as well as the remaining half a packet of white chocolate chips I had left over from some cookies in my baking stash.
The blondies were very sticky, no doubt due to the honey and syrup content but they tasted absolutely wonderful. We had one with a cup of tea on Sunday afternoon and then I put them in the rest of the freezer to keep me away from temptation.