Monday, 28 February 2011

Double Chocolate Cookies

Recipe Number Four: Page 201.

Now, I had a feeling making these was a mistake. I cannot resist chocolate! Like most women, I find it utterly irresistible. To say I live to consume chocolate might be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much! Neil is horrified that at Christmas and birthdays I happily sit up in bed gorging myself with chocolates – BEFORE breakfast, shocking!!

I had to melt some plain chocolate first of all, I was quite distraught to see that the amount needed was exactly the same quantity as the bar of chocolate I had. I have to admit, I was hoping to be able to have a few squares spare to nibble on, as a cook’s perk. It was quite hard work breaking the bar of chocolate into squares, it was rock hard and was quite painful on my poor hands, but I struggled on regardless.

I have never used condensed milk in cookies. I am not a big lover of condensed milk; even I find it too sickly sweet. As I stirred it into the melted chocolate mix, I could almost feel my teeth and jaw aching with the thought of all the sugar these cookies contain. Would we eat as much naughty food if we made it ourselves? It’s shocking to see what goes into things to make them nice!! Anyway, moving on, self raising flour was next, and in went the chocolate buttons too. Buying a big bag of giant chocolate buttons was a fatal error. I only needed about half of the bag, so I ended up picking at the rest. I had to give them to Neil to hide from me in the end! The very chocolaty mixture was put into the fridge to set. I sat down for a little break for 15 mins. Top Gear had by this time finished!

When I took the bowl of artery clogging mix back out of the fridge, I found it quite hard to stir as it had set into a stiff cakey dough. Mary Berry says to place large spoonfuls onto greased baking trays. I didn't know how large that might be in her eyes. I therefore used heaped dessert spoonfuls. Mary Berry's idea of large must in fact be teaspoonfuls as there was no way I was going to even make 20 let alone the recommended 36! I had some huge ones and some really small ones and still only managed 30, which was probably a good thing. She stresses the importance of not overcooking them. As my huge cookies had spread so much, they had become quite thin, so they were not as chewy as I would have liked. The smaller ones, however, did seem to hold their shape and are definitely chewier. They are a little addictive; I ate three before bed, this was a mistake as I felt very full and could hardly lie down for some time!!  

Next weekend we are having friends over for afternoon tea.  To see what I plan to bake in advance, take a look at - Rising To The Berry Facebook Page.  Thank you for you support :-)

Cherry Loaf Cake

Recipe Number Three:  Page 312.

It was getting rather late by the time I got myself ready to start baking. My little boy was in bed, I then got distracted by other things and I could hear the Top Gear music in the next room by the time I got started, which meant it was 8pm!! I chose to make Cherry Loaf Cake as I have a love for glacé cherries; I add them to as many recipes as possible. Also, the word loaf makes it sound moreish and comforting for some reason. To start, I had to grease my loaf tin. I was proud of myself for remembering to leave the butter out of the fridge this time, so it was nice and soft. However, when I picked up the scissors to cut my baking paper, due to my buttery fingers, I dropped them on the floor and now they are just a tiny bit broken, whoops!!

I was disappointed to read that the first task after lining my loaf tin was to wash and dry the glacé cherries. I almost disobeyed the instructions as I personally love them to remain all sugary and sticky. After slapping myself on the wrist, I carried on and did as I was told!! So, begrudgingly, I washed the now quartered cherries (this is a boring job) and patted them dry. Mary Berry states that by washing and drying the cherries first, it stops them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

The rest of the recipe was very easy to follow; simply put all the other ingredients into a bowl and give them a good beating. The only troublemaker was the lemon. I needed to add finely grated lemon rind; most of the rind stuck itself onto the grater, so I spent ages picking it off. On the plus side I ended up smelling all lovely and lemony! After last week’s failure to summon up enough elbow grease to hand whisk adequately, I used my spanking new shiny mixer! This made it all the easier. After I had let the machine take the strain, I folded in my cherries and then popped the cake mix into the tin and straight into the oven, easy! That is, apart from it not being cooked through after the suggested time. It was still gooey in the middle, so I had to put foil over the top of the cake and put it back for another 20 mins. Even with the foil, it still got burnt around the edges. And as you can see from the picture, the cherries still sank, so I don't think I will bother washing them next time. I never normally do and they don't behave any differently. The cake tasted nice and lemony and I could just taste a hint of almond. The texture was nice and moist, but due to it being a bit scorched, a little crunchy around the edges!
A sinking feeling!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Swiss Roll

Recipe Number Two:  Page 45.

I decided to make this after the scones as the list of ingredients was short and simple and also used up some more eggs! First of all, I had to whisk the eggs and sugar together until they were frothy and a trail followed when I took the whisk out. I decided to use a balloon whisk rather than my electric hand mixer. It just seemed like more bother to get it out and put it together! So, after about 30 seconds of vigorous whisking my arm was killing me. I tried swapping hands, but discovered that I have no coordination when using my left arm. I therefore went back to the right and tried holding the bowl in different positions but that, of course, made little difference. After about two minutes of being very uncomfortable, my mixture was nice and frothy and was beginning to get a trail. I'd had enough so, using up what little energy I had left, I gave it a few more energetic whisks and admitted defeat.

Next, I tipped some sifted self raising flour into the egg and sugar, gently folding everything together. The combined mixture looked awful, runny with clumps of flour, a curdled mess! So I got my balloon whisk and gave it another, this time gentle, whisk, to get rid of most of the huge lumps. I got my lined baking tray, which I had prepared earlier, poured the gloopy mess into the tray and then tilted the tray to make sure all of the mixture reached each corner and was even. In the oven it went. About 10 minutes cooking time was suggested. After 15 minutes I took mine out, as it wasn't cooking evenly. I had used a cheap baking tray (Mary Berry advises against this earlier in her book) and it had bowed in the oven, the mixture had one thick side and one thin. The thin edge was burnt. After I inverted the sponge out of tray, I peeled the baking paper off the bottom of the sponge and trimmed its edges as instructed. That at least got rid of the burnt edge! I left it to cool for a few minutes before spreading on some jam and rolling up the cake. I could see that the sponge just didn't look right; it had not risen and it didn't look appetising at all. Neil and I gamely tried a bit anyway! We both agreed it tasted eggy and the texture was chewy. Neil said it just didn't taste cooked. This cake wasn't taken in for his workmates to taste! To be honest it will probably get thrown away, or we could possibly have it with custard to mask the taste!
Tastes like it looks!

The recipe must be right. I think that, had I bothered to get the electric hand whisk out, it would have put more air into the cake, given it a better rise and texture, and probably would have resulted in a lighter sponge. I should have used a heavier baking tray, then it would have cooked evenly. I will be revisiting Swiss Rolls later, deep joy! I shall make those changes and expect a much more successful outcome.

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Variation:  Strawberry Swiss Roll

If you read through the above post you will see that my first attempt at a Swiss Roll was pretty dismal!! I have since learned that when whisking the eggs and sugar you really do need to use an electric whisk and whisk for a good few minutes.

On this attempt things clicked into place and I ended up with a fluffy well risen sponge. What a relief!

The only variation to the original recipe is the filling. I was to fill this Swiss roll with whipped double cream and chopped strawberries. Whole raspberries could of been used if preferred. I was lucky to be left with any strawberries as Isaac broke into the packet on the way home and proceeded to eat them! I thought the amount of whipped cream to be a bit excessive. A lot squidged out as I rolled up the sponge!

This is a lovely dessert but it is very sickly due to the large amount of cream. I had to scrape some of mine off!

Recipe Variation: Coffee Swiss Roll

I've been looking forward to making this variation for some time. I never gave coffee cakes much thought before this challenge but now I adore them! 

I stuck to the original Swiss roll recipe. The variation was all to do with the filling. I needed to make a coffee butter cream to fill the cooled cake. I was soon longing to simply spread on a layer of jam; butter cream equals mess! After chocking on a cloud of sifted icing sugar I could combine it with the softened butter along with tiny quantities of coffee essence and water. To make sure the butter cream was suitably light and fluffy I whisked for perhaps longer than necessary. 

When I came to spread the butter cream onto the sponge, I realised that the top layer of sponge had stuck to the piece of greaseproof paper; it was now as bold as a goose!!

The Swiss roll was delicious and I loved the coffee butter cream but there was perhaps too much of it. It was a little sickly but I still went back for a second helping!! 
My anaemic Coffee Swiss Rolli

Special Fruit Scones.

Recipe Number One: Page 322.

I wish I could say that I approached my first recipe with enthusiasm. But, after a long day, the comfort of the sofa was calling. I ignored its pitiful cries and shook the moths out of my apron, admired my pristine Mary Berry 'Baking Bible', sadly acknowledging that it would soon be covered in butter and sugar, which would undoubtedly form a glue, sticking numerous pages together!!

I had decided to try to be more organised with this project, as organisation is not my forte! Therefore, I was careful to see what I would need, before I got carried away. I was told I would need to grease two baking trays, so I went to the fridge to get the butter. Returning, I took another look at the list of ingredients. Oh, first mistake, I actually needed softened butter! I must learn to read the recipe properly first. I had to pop the butter in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up a little.

Next job was to place the self raising flour and baking powder into a bowl. No mention of having to sift them. So into the bowl they went unsifted. The SOFTENED butter is then mixed in with your hands to form something resembling fine breadcrumbs. (I did remember to weigh my butter after I weighed my dry ingredients as, if not, everything sticks to the butter residue).

My husband Neil bought the ingredients. On the list was mixed dried fruit; he had purchased a value bag. Nothing against value, but I sometimes find that it still has a lot of stalks and the fruit is hard. Usually I would have put the fruit into a small bowl, added some orange juice and heated it in the microwave for about 20 seconds to soften up the fruit. As I was sticking to the recipe, I couldn't do this. Therefore, I carried on as instructed and stirred in the very hard fruit, also adding the sugar.

As I was trying to be clever, I noticed that I needed a little milk so, before putting my hands in the dough, I had put a small amount into a glass, so I didn't get sticky dough all over the bottle of milk, as I usually do. I was quite chuffed with my foresight, until I found that I actually needed to break the egg into a measuring jug and then top it up with milk to a certain amount. I was just shy of the quantity needed, so I had to go and get the bottle of milk anyway: it is now very sticky! Again, note to self, read the whole recipe before starting!

Once all the ingredients were combined, the resulting dough was meant to be soft but not sticky - mine was sticky! I turned it out onto my floured worktop and kneaded. Mary Berry doesn't say how long to work the dough, but I have heard that you shouldn't over work it, so I just did it enough to bring the dough together and until it was soft and smooth. Also, best not to put too much flour on your worktop as it will work into the dough and could make it dry. I measured the dough with a ruler as every time I have made scones in the past, they came out like biscuits due to my rolling it way too thin. (Neil suggested that having cutters with a measuring guide would have been useful, which indeed they would have been). The last job was to cut the scones out using a small cutter, place them on the already greased baking trays and brush the tops with milk. I don't have a brush so my forefinger had to do. In the oven they went for about 10 minutes. As you can see, they are rather golden!
Just out the oven.

Next the taste test! I have to say, I am really pleased with them. They are definitely the best I have made. They are light and fluffy, have a good flavour and the fruit is not noticeably hard. Neil ate quite a few! His workmates, who are my trusted taste testers, had them today with just clotted cream. The feedback was very positive. The scones don't keep very well, so should really get eaten on the day of baking. A hard job but someone has to do it!

Ready to eat.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

An Introduction!

This is a story about a scatterbrained woman, who has a love of baking, trying to replicate ALL the recipes in Mary Berry's ‘Baking Bible’.

Mary Berry is one the UK's most respected cookery writers and TV cooks.
She has sold over five million books worldwide!!

Mary Berry summons up the words ‘reliable’, ‘dependable’ and above all else, ‘success’! (In fact, in 2004, Mary was voted in the Top Three by BBC Good Food for the category “Most Reliable Celebrity Cook Books”). To look through one of her many cookery books brings a feeling of warmth and comfort. As a young child I poured over her books, turning each page with eager anticipation!  I would look forward to Christmas time and birthdays, as the extended family would be invited and I would start to make cakes and bakes. I spent ages planning what I would make. To see people enjoying something that I had made was a powerful drug! Never one who was particularly academic or skilled with crafts, cooking was something I could do, so I kept on doing it. The problem was that, as with many others, that I found that I had few 'safe' options. I would always turn to Mary Berry's cake books but, out of a book of 50 recipes, I would only make the few easier and safer options, never daring to make something more complicated in case it failed and the enjoyment on people’s faces would disappear. This seems ironic when, as I have said myself, Mary Berry is reliable! Surely I could try any recipe I liked with the confidence that I would easily master whatever I chose to make? Maybe so, but a three tiered maple syrup cake or Danish pastries can look pretty daunting to a young child, and I suppose those feelings have stuck with me.

My sister kindly gave me Mary's Baking Bible several birthdays ago and I am ashamed to say that, although I have spent some time lovingly looking through it, I have yet to try a single recipe! This got me thinking, maybe I should try to move out of my comfort zone and go the whole hog. Why not try every single recipe? Are all the cakes and bakes really foolproof and reliable? Or am I just conjuring up the rose tinted glasses of my youth? I initially planned to bake my way through the whole book in a year. As there are just over 250 recipes this could be achievable. However, by setting myself a deadline, I could well lose the enjoyment of it. Also, I have my own family now. So I will try my hardest to make a couple of things each week (most likely at the weekends). I will be making such things as fruit cake, cheesecake and also a complicated wedding cake. Gulp! When each recipe has been made I will take a picture of the finished result, write up an account of how I got on and post online during the week.  If I am the size of a house at the end of this I only have myself to blame!