Thursday, 28 July 2011

Iced Chocolate Traybake

Recipe Number Sixty Eight: Page 175.

I have made this traybake once before, when I was a teenager, so it was a while ago now! My mum and dad had asked if I could bake something for a few friends who were popping over for coffee. Unfortunately my parents did not realise that several of the guests were vegan and another couldn't eat chocolate, so we ended up eating the cake ourselves after they had left and very nice it was too – their loss!

I think this has to be one of the most expensive cakes I have made so far. I needed some of the ingredients and was running late for the train, so I raced into Marks and Spencer to buy what I needed. My heart nearly stopped when I saw the price of the cocoa powder! I hoped the end result would be worth the expense!

I had so much to do in the afternoon, I didn't get round to baking until 9pm – usual story! The first job was to measure out some of my expensive cocoa powder and add some hot water, which formed a thick paste. The mixture smelt heavenly. I imagined it wouldn't taste anywhere near as nice as it smelt, but I have a curious nature (in more ways than one) so I had to lick the spoon. I was right. It was foul, I wouldn't recommend it! After that, all I had to do was measure the other cake ingredients into a bowl and combine them. I retrieved my electric whisk and beat the mixture together until smooth. I managed to get splattered with cake mix. I think my whisk is a bit over zealous as it is not the first time this has happened. The resulting mixture was very thick, so I couldn't just pour it into my tin; it had to be spooned in. Neil was busy working in the garden, (we seem to do everything late) so I got to lick the bowl out! I think it has to be my most pleasing bowl licking experience. I couldn't believe the cooked cake could taste so good! The cake went into the oven for 35 – 40 mins. I reluctantly washed up and then went to sit down. Neil came in from the garden and, as he walked past, he kindly informed me that I had cake mix on my hand and neck!! I'd been caught out!

It was nearly 10pm by the time the cake was out of the oven. It had risen really well and it looked great. I left it to cool in the tin over night. It was too late to wait for it to cool and ice it, so I headed up to bed. First thing in the morning I started on the icing. I brushed the now cold cake with some warmed apricot jam; Mary says this is worth doing as it prevents crumbs getting into the icing, a great tip. Next step was to melt some chocolate. As it melted I manically raced round with the vacuum cleaner. We were being picked up in an hour by a friend who was taking us on a picnic. All hot and bothered, I went back to my now melted chocolate and stirred in some sifted icing sugar, together with a teaspoon of sunflower oil. I can only presume that the sunflower oil is to give a glossy icing. I got my electric whisk out and beat everything together. I soon regretted doing the cleaning first as pellets of mixture scattered on the floor! Something wasn't right; it was way too dry. I checked the instructions and found that I also needed to add six tablespoons of water! Once I'd added the necessary water, the mixture transformed to a glossy rich chocolate icing. I spread the thick icing over the cake and then left it to set for half an hour while I tried to tidy away my son's ridiculous amount of toys.

Mary says to add some chocolate curls to the top of the cake for decoration. Apparently chocolate cake covering works particularly well (needs to be at room temperature). This was good as I had some that needed using up. I found my swivel peeler and scraped it along the flat side of the chocolate bar as instructed. Unfortunately, the chocolate did not form delicate curls but flaked. Never mind, it looked perfectly fine to me. I was really pleased with it. I had a crafty little slice before we were collected and it was a lovely cake. I particularly liked the icing. The cake was slightly dry, but this might just have been because I had made it the night before.

I took it on the picnic and it seemed to go down well. Some had a second slice. Neil got some too and he commented on how light and chocolatey it was. I am pleased with this cake, as with most traybakes it is so easy to make and tastes so good!
Mmmm....chocolately!


Monday, 25 July 2011

Jane's Fruit Cake

Recipe Number Sixty Seven:  Page 66.

I had fancied making a fruit cake all week; I haven't really made many fruity cakes on this challenge so I thought I would give this cake a go. The picture in the Baking Bible is wonderful. The cake looks so moreish and wholesome. I couldn't wait to bake it and have a taste.

For this recipe I needed buttermilk. I may sound thick but I wasn't sure where to find buttermilk in our local supermarket! I thought it would either be in the yoghurt or milk section. Up and down the aisles we went, peering at all the tubs of yoghurt and all the bottles of milk. It was looking like it might be a fruitless search. However, not one to be beaten, I carried on with my quest. I think Neil thought we were looking a little suspicious so he cleared off to get the rest of the shopping! Eventually I spied a young girl stacking the shelves; I asked if they sold this elusive buttermilk. She took me to it straight away. It was right next to the crème fraiche! I think I thanked her a bit too much as she scurried off in a hurry!

Back home with all my necessary ingredients I could finally make a start! I had to set the oven to Gas Mark 1. No wonder it would take around three and a half hours to cook! It took me ages to double line my deep cake tin with baking parchment. I have never done it before. It was fiddly, but I got there in the end. It appeared to be a really easy cake to make as all the ingredients are added to a bowl and then mixed together. The recipe called for one pound of wholemeal flour; in my book the addition of wholemeal flour automatically deems the cake healthy! When I put the flour into my medium sized mixing bowl, I hadn't anticipated the sheer volume of all of these ingredients. By the time I had added the butter, muscovado sugar, dried fruit, eggs and buttermilk, the ingredients were right at the top of my bowl. I found it impossible to get a spoon in to mix it! I had to transfer the ingredients in to my very large glass bowl, but even that was a tight squeeze! I had to mix it as best I could before using my electric whisk. The mixture had to be whisked for two to three minutes. By the end of this time, both I and the kitchen had been sprayed with cake mix! After successfully making a wonderful mess, I could move on to spooning the mixture into my lovingly prepared tin. This took some time! I sprinkled a generous quantity of flaked almonds over the top. The almonds really made the cake look pretty; a great last touch.

The cake went into the oven and that is where is stayed for most of the evening. It was in the oven so long that I almost went to bed and left it there. That would most certainly have tested the smoke alarm! When I took the cake out of the oven it didn't look much different to when it had gone in. The almonds had barely browned, but the cake certainly appeared to be cooked. I left it cool in the tin overnight and trotted off up to my favourite place - bed! The following morning I took the cake out of the tin, peeled off the paper and cut a slice. It was hard to cut a small slice as it was so moist, (that is my story and I'm sticking to it) so I cut one big one for us to share. The cake was so lovely and light. The amount of fruit was spot on for me and it wasn't too heavy. The great thing about fruit cake is it keeps so well. However, it is also very moreish, so I wonder if we will get to test the theory. Neil took some to work today but we are still left with almost half the cake. I'll be surprised if it makes it to the end of the week! I think this really is a perfect everyday fruit cake. It is so easy to make and even easier to eat!!
This is a good fruit cake :-)


Filo Apple Strudels

Recipe Number Sixty Six:  Page 266.

Earlier in the week I had needed the zest of a lemon for a recipe. Is it sad that I spent ages searching through my Baking Bible to see if there was a recipe which would use up the juice?! It was hard to find something that only required the juice and not the zest. However, finally I struck gold with this recipe; it only needed half the lemon, but I could live with that! Another reason to make these strudels was that I already happened to have a packet of filo pastry in the freezer. I had planned to use it months ago but had never got round to it. This was the perfect opportunity to use it up and free some valuable space in my overstuffed freezer!

First of all I made up the simple filling. I needed a couple of cooking apples which I peeled and roughly cut into cubes. I stupidly peeled the apples right next to my Baking Bible, so this particular page is now smothered with apple juice stains. This book used to be pristine!! I took the half used lemon out of the fridge. I squeezed half of the lemon juice over the apples, which were already turning brown. I sprinkled over some Demerara sugar, breadcrumbs and a small quantity of sultanas. Last of all I added some cinnamon of which I am not a great lover; I was pleased it was only a teaspoonful! Once all of these ingredients were mixed together I could move on to sorting the filo pastry out.

I can't say I had been looking forward to using the filo pastry; it is not known for being easy to deal with. I have used it before on several occasions so I knew it was going to be a fiddly experience. Any little shred of confidence I may have had soon vanished when I read that for each strudel I was just to use one piece of filo pastry. With other recipes I have layered several pieces of pastry with butter. I would never have dreamed of using just one piece, especially when the filling is chunks of apple!! I brushed one piece of filo pastry with butter as instructed. I placed some of the apple mixture onto the pastry to cover the middle third. I then rolled it up and, of course, the pieces of apple broke through the extremely fragile pastry. I still placed it on the baking tray and carried on with the next piece of pastry. My next effort was even worse. At this point the air turned a deep shade of blue! Neil very wisely retreated to the living room!!! I had to throw one piece of pastry away as it had broken up so badly. Neil sheepishly called out that maybe I could use two pieces of pastry at a time. At first I wasn't sure but decided that really was my only option. So I layered the two pieces of pastry with butter. I was a bit over eager brushing on the butter as I soon heard a dripping sound; I looked down to see that butter was merrily dripping off the pastry onto the floor! I looked forward to cleaning it up later, if the cat didn't beat me to it! I put a lot more filling onto the pastry and made the strudel much bigger, I hoped this would make it less fragile. It seemed to do the trick and I managed to transfer it from worktop to baking tray without any breakages! I made one more strudel in the same way and then I called it quits!

They cooked in the oven for about 20 minutes and when I took them out, although some of the juice from the apples had leaked, it hadn't made the pastry soggy. That was a relief. I heated a small quantity of caster sugar with water in a pan and then brushed it over the strudels. The finishing touch was a dusting of icing sugar. The strudels were huge and the intention was to have half each but of course that never happened. We had one giant strudel each – what greedy little piggies! They did taste delicious; the filling was really good, all the flavours combined beautifully. There was just a hint of cinnamon and the apples were cooked perfectly, soft but not mushy. The filo pastry was nice with a rather pleasing crunch. I think one layer of filo pastry is just too thin to deal with. When doubled up it made things so much easier. If I make this again, I would either try it with puff pastry or make sure I had two packets of filo pastry in stock!
I can't do small portions!


Thursday, 21 July 2011

Banana and Honey Teabread

Recipe Number Sixty Five:  Page 304.

Today was a long day. I was up at a ridiculous hour as I had an appointment to get to. The rest of the day was quite painful due to this early start. I was considering propping my eyes open with matchsticks by the time I finally got round to making this in the early evening! Luckily there is a picture of this teabread in the Baking Bible, so I was spurred on. It looked right up my street and I am big fan of honey; I don't eat it nearly as often as I should!

I started off by weighing out my flour and added a little nutmeg to it. On the list of ingredients I had just seen the word nutmeg. I hadn't noticed that it should be freshly grated. I had bought the ground version especially; it would just have to do! I needed to rub some butter into the flour, which I hadn't been expecting. I'd imagined the butter would have been beaten in with the rest of the ingredients. My little boy has half a banana for tea, so I whipped the remaining half away before Neil ate it and went to the fruit bowl to collect one of the over ripe bananas I had been saving. I thought this would take me up to the necessary amount, but I was just shy so I had to head back for another. One thing is for sure, over ripe bananas are not very easy on the eye, yuck! Once the bananas were mashed, which didn't take much effort; I added them to the bowl. Soon to follow was some sugar and the grated rind from a lemon. I will have to make something at the weekend to use the juice up! Thank goodness I only needed two eggs and no more. I had completely forgotten to check; I was lucky to escape that disaster! The last thing to do was add the thick pale honey; this was the tricky part. It was difficult to prise the honey out of the jar and, when on the spoon, it was hard to judge the quantity. I think I would have preferred using my scales to weigh it. Once the honey was in the bowl I was finally ready to beat all the ingredients together and I then poured the banana scented mixture into my loaf tin.

It had to cook in the oven on a low heat for an hour and a quarter. Meanwhile, I collapsed on the sofa and moaned about how much my legs ached! Finally the time was up and my weary legs just about managed to get me back to the oven. I was pleased to see that my cake had risen beautifully; it was above the top of the tin and was a great colour and shape. I gave the cake a poke and it sprung back and I inserted a knife into the middle of the cake (I don't have a skewer) and it came out clean. I left the cake on a wire rack to cool. However, when I returned to the kitchen some fifteen minutes later, I was horrified, yes horrified to see the centre of the cake had sunk. It was not a pretty picture! I was very disappointed. I began to doubt that it was cooked through; I just hoped the taste would make up for it! When my unattractive looking cake was cold I warmed two more tablespoons of honey to brush over the top. I felt unsure about adding more liquid; surely that wouldn't help the situation!!!! I took some pictures of my cake; I have to say I was reluctant to do so! Neil and I had a slice each, to see if it was as bad as I feared. The word moist would be an understatement! The flavour of the bananas was strong and almost wiped out the taste of the honey, leaving only a faint hint of honey flavour. Neil said he liked it, he even had another slice! He thought it would be especially nice with custard. So I have mixed feelings about this cake. I don't think my honey measurement was entirely accurate, that could have been why the cake sunk. Also I wish I had given it just a little longer in the oven, maybe another five minutes would have made the world of difference. It did make for a nice and VERY moist banana cake; I just don't see the point of the honey. This is definitely one to come back to and see if I can make it work better next time!!
Can't help but feel sorry for it!!! ;-)



Monday, 18 July 2011

American Chocolate Ripple Cheesecake

Recipe Number Sixty Four:  Page 373.

On Friday I had been struck down with a cold so, whilst feeling sorry for myself, I flicked through my Baking Bible looking for something horrifically bad for me. I knew a chocolate fix would make me feel much better! This recipe ticked all the boxes; I couldn't wait to make it but most of all I couldn't wait to scoff it!

First of all I grabbed my large packet of chocolate digestives and then weighed out the amount I needed. I was a little concerned to see that I only needed six biscuits! This meant I would end up eating the rest of the packet. Maybe Neil should hide them from me! I enjoyed bashing the biscuits with a rolling pin; I found it most satisfying. When the biscuits were in their crushed form I was a little sad, as I couldn't see any of the chocolate. However, when I tipped them into the melted butter the chocolate which had been hidden from view also melted; the mixture turned a glorious rich brown colour and smelt wonderful. I pressed this biscuity mixture into my loose bottomed sandwich tin. I barely had enough to cover the bottom of the tin; it was going to have a very thin base.

Whilst the base was setting, I got on with the cheesecake filling. I melted a reasonable amount of chocolate over a pan of hot water. I couldn't help but think about all the washing up that was accumulating! I went to the fridge to collect all of the cream cheese; I needed a heck of a lot. As I emptied the tubs of cream cheese into my bowl I realised that they would make for excellent baby food containers; to think I used to buy containers, not anymore! I had to beat the cream cheese till smooth then add in the large quantity of sugar and a tiny amount of vanilla extract. Last of all I added the two eggs. I was glad I had used my largest mixing bowl as any other bowl would have certainly overflowed! I spooned half of the vanilla cheese mixture over the now set biscuit base. I was meant to leave spaces in between the spoonfuls but this proved impossible. Half of the mixture still equalled a lot and I only had a small space to fill! I added the melted chocolate to the remainder of the mixture and stirred together; I was dying to get to the lick the bowl part! I spooned the chocolate cheese mixture on top of the vanilla cheese and swirled them together with a knife. I think I got a bit carried away with my swirling as it pretty much all ended up being chocolate!

I put the cheesecake into the oven and enjoyed a well deserved lick of the bowl. It tasted way too good; I kept putting the bowl down and them immediately picking it up again for another taste, it was irresistible!! After the half hour cooking time I could turn the oven off. The cheesecake was as it should be - puffy around the edges but still soft in the centre. I left it in the oven to cool; meanwhile I searched for any chocolate covered utensils that had yet to be licked!

After a couple of hours I took the cheesecake out of the oven. It still looked a bit gooey in the middle, but I wasn't too worried as it still needed to go in the fridge to chill. I thought that should make it firm up a bit. I needed to take a picture before it got too dark. The cheesecake had only been in the fridge for an hour so I hoped it would be ready for me to cut a slice. Rather annoyingly it was still gooey and the slice more or less collapsed! This showed that it still needed a bit longer in the fridge. Finally, another hour or so later, it was ready. The slices were still not perfect, but I think this was partly due to the base not being thick enough. After having a taste I didn't care one jot that my slice wasn't perfect, as I was in chocolate heaven! It was very rich, chocolatey and almost mousse like in texture. At first I felt that I wouldn't be able to eat much of it but then somehow I managed another slice, just a slither of course!!! Neil loved it to start with but after a couple of mouthfuls he declared it to be too chocolatey for him; he doesn't understand my utter devotion to chocolate!

My only complaint with this cheesecake is that the base wasn't thick enough but apart from that one quibble I can't fault it!
Yummy scrummy in my tummy! ;-)

Singin' Hinny

Recipe Number Sixty Three:  Page 329.

Now there is no doubt that the name Singin' Hinny is a bit odd. Thankfully, Mary has put a header at the top of the recipe which offers a bit more information! Apparently it is a Northumberland griddle cake and it 'sings' or sizzles as it cooks, hence its name. 'Hinny' is Northern slang for honey, which is a term of endearment. Well, you learn something new every day! The Singin' Hinny recipe sits within the scone and bun section and, judging from the picture, it looked to me like a giant scone!

I was a little worried about making this Singin' Hinny as it is cooked on a griddle, which I do not own. Mary does say, however, that you can use a large heavy-based frying pan instead, which thankfully I have. I was, though, still worried! I measured the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into my weighing bowl. I hoped I would require some cream of tartar in other recipes, as I'd had to buy some especially! Butter is not used in this recipe; instead lard or vegetable fat is used. Hmmmm, sounds yummy! As I'd recently made a pie which had vegetable fat in the pastry, I already had some in the fridge, so that was one less thing to buy. I found it really easy to rub in the vegetable fat, much easier than butter. Next I stirred in some currants and quite a bit of milk. There are no eggs in this recipe, which was a bit surprising. Maybe it wouldn't be like a scone after all. I mixed everything together until I had formed a soft but not sticky dough. Now for the fun part of giving the dough a bit of a knead. It was really easy to work with and I barely needed any flour on the worktop. I didn't want to overwork the dough, so quickly moved on to rolling it into a circle. The thickness of the circle should have been about a quarter of an inch, but mine was just a tiny bit thicker. If I had rolled it any thinner it would have been too big to fit into my frying pan!

After lightly oiling the frying pan, I turned on the hob to get the pan nice and hot. I was glad I hadn't rolled out the dough any thinner as it was a tight squeeze once in the frying pan! I made sure I listened out for the 'singing', but I couldn't hear anything. I leant in over the frying pan with my ear as close as I could get without cooking myself, but still no 'singing'!! After cooking it for the suggested five minutes, I had to check to see if the cake was ready to be turned over to cook the other side. I tried to lift up a side with a spatula and it started to break apart. It really was impossible to check to see if it was undercooked or burning without sacrificing my perfect circle, so I gave up! When I couldn't put off turning it any longer, I admit I panicked. I just couldn't bring myself to do it! Neil, who heard my anxious mutterings, came to see if he could help. He's a good egg! He managed the job without any dramas but he said it was very tricky. When both sides were cooked, I volunteered Neil to turn the Singin' Hinny out onto a wire rack to cool! I couldn't watch so had to go in the other room, but it didn't help that I could hear Neil keep saying “Oh no”! When I went back to the kitchen, only a little piece of cake was on the floor and the rest had been reassembled and pushed back together! So, although far from perfect, it wasn't a complete disaster.

I let it cool on a wire rack while I washed up. One big plus point for this cake is that it didn't create much washing up! Singin' Hinny is supposed to be served hot, so I only let it cool for about ten minutes. As I was feeling hungry, I was grateful for this. There was no way I was going to be able to split the cake in half to butter it, as it was broken into pieces. Instead, I split each individual uneven piece and buttered it that way, maybe not as pretty but would still taste the same! As the Singin' Hinny was still hot, the butter melted straight in and it did look tasty! I have to say that, after trying a bite, I was left feeling a little disappointed. I think it could have done with a few more minutes in the frying pan as it was a bit doughy and stodgy. I found it so hard to judge how cooked it was when using the frying pan; I think using a griddle would have made things easier. The flavour was nice but plain, maybe a pinch of mixed spice would have helped. It did remind me a bit of a scone. A scone just buttered is also a little plain, hence the jam and cream, so maybe a more exciting filling might be in order!
Not the prettiest thing I have ever seen!!!


Thursday, 14 July 2011

Oat and Sunflower Squares

Recipe Number Sixty Two:  Page 250.

I wanted to bake something reasonably healthy; I think it is fair to say I have eaten a lot of cake recently. The other reason for these squares is that a friend from where I used to work asked if the book contained any gluten free recipes. I felt sure there must be several considering the large number of recipes the Baking Bible contains. Although I did find a few, it was nowhere near as many as I had expected. Most of the recipes I had already made, so it was hard to find a new one to try. Finally I settled on these oat and sunflower squares. I checked that they would be suitable; I was told that oats are usually ok for coeliacs. This was good enough for me, so I went ahead and bought the ingredients, not that I needed many!

I started this recipe whilst preparing our evening meal. Multi-tasking usually spells disaster for me but, as the instructions for these squares appeared so simple and straightforward, I felt confident enough to risk it!

First of all, I needed a very small amount of butter and two tablespoons of golden syrup. To make things easier, I poured hot water over the spoon before measuring out the syrup and it just slid off the spoon and into the bowl, easy peasy! I melted the butter and syrup in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, I weighed some oats and the sunflower seeds into a bowl. The last time I had eaten sunflower seeds was when on one of my misjudged diets. I think this particular diet included seeds and grains, but didn't include wheat or dairy. Suffice to say it didn't last long! I do remember people at work teasing and asking how long it would be until I started chirping and scratching the ground!

I poured the melted mixture into the bowl of oats and seeds and stirred them all together. All that remained was to spoon it into my tin and into the oven. We ate dinner while it cooked. Our meal was only a little bit burnt, so I call my multi-tasking a success! After about half an hour I took the tin out of the oven. It looked like a flapjack to me, so I was feeling very hopeful about the taste. Mary says that it should be cut into 16 squares – hmmm...fat chance, I made nine!! I know I like big portions but honestly if I had managed the suggested 16 squares they would have been only fit for tiny people!

Once cold, I gingerly extracted the squares from the tin. They fell apart very easily; I had sunflower seeds bouncing all over the place! I took a bite from one of the smaller pieces. It was quite tasty, but I didn't think it was sweet enough; I do have a sweet tooth though! It did taste similar to a flapjack, but not as buttery. Even though the recipe didn't contain a large quantity of sunflower seeds, I could taste them quite strongly. Maybe I am still haunted by my seed diet but the sunflower seeds did put me off! I am wondering if they are just too healthy for me. It did feel weird making something that wouldn't block my arteries! I am quite worried about myself as I am looking forward to making something full of butter and sugar at the weekend!!
Sunflower seeds aren't just for the birds! ;-)



Monday, 11 July 2011

Sultana Streusel Buns

Recipe Number Sixty One:  Page 337.

I made these on Saturday morning. Knowing that I had cake eaters coming over meant it was the best time to make them. Mary says that they should be eaten freshly baked so, if I'd made them on Sunday when it was just the two of us, we would have HAD to eat them all. They wouldn't have been good enough for Neil to take into work on Monday morning!

Before I could get started I had a frantic search for some fairy cake cases, I knew I had them somewhere. I eventually discovered them buried under the new packet of sultanas. I popped the slightly squished cases into a bun tin and then got on with weighing out the ingredients. I measured the flour into a bowl and then rubbed in some butter. I stirred in the sugar and sultanas. Surprisingly, the quantity of sultanas required was pretty minuscule. I would have thought they would have featured more in the recipe especially as they are mentioned in the title. I mixed a reasonable amount of milk with an egg and then added them to the dry ingredients. Everything could then be beaten until smooth, which took next to no time. I put generously heaped spoonfuls into each case. I had enough for 14 buns so had to fish out another tray just for the extra two cases! To add to the excitement I needed to make a streusel topping! For this I stirred together some flour and light muscovado sugar. I then melted a small quantity of butter; it was so small that I put it in the microwave for a quick blast. The three ingredients were stirred together to make a crumbly topping. I sprinkled this on to the top of each bun. I started off just sprinkling a modest amount but soon realised that I had more than enough to cover each bun thickly, so I became less conservative with my sprinkling! Once all of the topping had been used up, I put the trays into the oven. They only needed to cook for 15 minutes. I got stuck into the washing up and lost track of time. Thankfully I got them out of the oven just before they burnt!

I took the cases out of the bun tins straight away and put them onto wire racks to cool. Just before handing out the buns I dusted them with icing sugar. They didn't look hugely exciting but they did hold a certain charm. When I tried one, the first thing I noticed was how they tasted similar to a rock cake. As Mary says they are quite plain buns, but I think the streusel topping is a lovely touch as it gives a buttery almost treacly taste. I wish that they contained another handful or two of sultanas as I barely noticed their existence! I would definitely make them again; they are a perfect moreish treat.
One just isn't enough!


Millionaires' Shortbread

Recipe Number Sixty:  Page 235.

I ended up making these very late Friday evening. Neil had a few friends coming over on Saturday morning for a run and I hoped I could off load some of these rich slices. Yes, I am even trying to pass my cakes on to people who are trying to get fit – I have no shame! As the shortbread takes quite a long time to make due to the three different layers, I wouldn't have the time in the morning so I made a start just before 8pm!!

I weighed out the flour; I needed 250g. I tipped this amount into my weighing scales and then put the flour away. In this short space of time, my scales decided that actually it was 256g. I tsked to myself as I retrieved the packet of flour. By the time I was back at the scales it was now telling me it weighed 262g. OK, something wasn't right! I then proceeded to give a running commentary to Neil who was in the living room. “It's 264, now it's 266, you won't believe it now it's 270” Neil, for some reason, soon tired of this and came into the kitchen. He asked when I'd last changed the battery. I said I had never changed it. I should point out that I have owned these scales for about 6 years!! Neil changed the battery and the scales performed perfectly. I think he only puts up with me because of the cake!!

Anyway, I digress! Once my scales were behaving I could proceed with the shortbread base. I added sugar to the bowl and last of all some butter which I rubbed in until it looked like a big bowl of breadcrumbs. I then changed to a more heavy handed approach and kneaded the mixture into a dough. It didn't take long to press the dough into my swiss roll tin as it was soft and easy to work with. I levelled the surface as best I could and then popped the shortbread into the oven for about 20 minutes. Once out of the oven it had to cool in the tin, so I decided not to make the caramel straight away so got on with other things whilst it cooled. At 9pm I felt it was time to make the caramel; I wasn't looking forward to this part. The last time I'd made some was for the Banoffi Pie I baked a few months ago. I'd had to sieve it to get rid of the burnt lumps!! I needed two cans of condensed milk, butter and light muscovado sugar. It was becoming obvious that millionaires' shortbread is not something even to contemplate if you are watching your weight! I put the ingredients into a saucepan and set it over a moderate heat. Mary says to stir the mixture continuously and not to leave it even for a second. I obeyed this instruction as I didn't want to sieve my caramel again. After about five minutes of constant stirring my wrist was aching but thankfully I could stop as the caramel had thickened up. I poured the thick and very sweet caramel over the shortbread base and then left it to cool. I went and enjoyed a rest; my back was also aching by now!

About 40 minutes later, I peeled myself from the sofa and trudged back into the kitchen. The last job was melting two bars of chocolate for the topping. For quality control purposes, and to keep myself awake, I broke a square off for a taste. Even though it was cheap chocolate it tasted perfectly acceptable!! I broke the bars up and put the pieces into a bowl set over a saucepan of hot water. It took ages before it showed even a vague willingness to melt! Eventually I had a bowl of melted chocolate so that I could pour it over the cooled caramel. At first I had thought it was a lot of chocolate, but I found that I could have done with a bit more. I only had just enough to cover the caramel – maybe sneaking that square was a mistake!! I decided I would have to leave it to set overnight as it was still really runny and my bed was calling me.

Bright and early on Saturday morning I got up and headed to the kitchen straight away. The chocolate had set to a matt finish and was ready to cut into bars. There was no way it was going to tip out of the tin, so I set about cutting it up where it was. Some of the shortbread crumbled as I extracted the bars, so a few were missing a tiny bit of base, but not enough to worry about. As the chocolate on top was so thin, it cracked around the edges and so looked a little messy.

Finally I had a bite to see what it tasted like. Oh my goodness it was rich! I felt a bit sick after two bites and had to abandon the rest of the bar. I suppose that could have had something to do with the fact I that I had yet to eat my breakfast!! My favourite bit is the shortbread base; it really is delicious. The caramel is good but very sweet, and of course the chocolate on top is a winner! After Neil and his running companions got back from their run, they were soon offered a slice; they all gamely accepted! It did make me chuckle, the irony of the situation. These men had just been on a fat burning run but were now sat in the garden eating cake! It went down well and they willingly took some home. Millionaires’ shortbread is not for the faint hearted, it really is rich. But it is perfect if you are hankering for a sweet treat; just remember to cut small slices!
These didn't take long to disappear!


Thursday, 7 July 2011

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

Recipe Number Fifty Nine:  Page 56.

I really must live with my head in the clouds as I completely forgot until Tuesday evening that I was supposed to be baking the following day! I wanted to avoid going shopping as we had very recently had our shopping delivered. I had a good old rummage in the cupboards. Luckily, as I do so much baking, the cupboards usually hold the obligatory flour and sugar. When I looked in the fridge I thanked my lucky stars that the butter had been on special offer and I had bulk bought! I had also got in a significant amount of Greek yoghurt. I checked in my Baking Bible and came across this recipe; I didn't look any further, yoghurt cake it was!

I wanted to make the cake early in the day as I had lots of other things that needed doing. After putting my little boy up for his nap and then sweeping up the cornflakes he had kindly spilled all over the floor, I made a start. At first glance I'd thought this recipe to be very straightforward and, don't get me wrong, it isn't difficult. However, I hadn't realised that I had to separate the eggs and whisk up the whites! When I opened my box of large eggs I found that I only had two left – I needed three. I had forgotten to check the night before, whoops! Thankfully, I had lots of medium eggs, so I plucked out the biggest and weighed it. I found it weighed more than the large ones! I cracked the three eggs and put the egg yolks into my largest mixing bowl and the whites into another. To the egg yolks I added a small amount of butter. Typical! The one day I have butter coming out of my ears is the day I require a minuscule amount! I grated in the zest of a lemon; the whole fruit gets used in this recipe as the juice is needed for the icing, that should please Neil!! I blended these few ingredients together and they formed a lumpy unattractive mess. Next, I had to add the Greek yoghurt; I needed quite a bit of it. I used my electric whisk to blend in the yoghurt and I was pleased that the lumps soon vanished and I was left with a smooth and runny mixture which smelt heavenly. I carefully stirred in some flour and then, last of all, folded in the whisked fluffy egg whites. Once everything was combined I poured the mixture into my greased and lined cake tin.

I was a little surprised by how long the cake needed to cook; an hour to an hour and a quarter seemed like a long time. I left it an hour before I checked and it was a bit overdone, my fault for not checking sooner. I had a near disaster when I tipped the cake out of the tin. I dropped it. It completely missed the wire rack and it landed on the oven hob instead. I am so lucky it didn't fall apart – phew!

When the cake was cold I made the simple icing. I sifted the icing sugar into a bowl and then mixed in a couple of tablespoons of the lemon juice. I was a little over enthusiastic with my mixing and a substantial amount of mixture ended up down the front of my trousers. I spread what remained of the icing over the cake. Some of the icing made a bid for freedom and trickled down the sides, I tried to wipe it off, but it made things worse!

I have to say that the cake looked fairly uninspiring and I was a bit unsure what to make of it. I had a crafty taste before Neil got home and I was very pleasantly surprised! It has a delicate lemon flavour and such a wonderful smooth almost silky texture. The slight sharpness of the icing compliments the cake beautifully. Honestly, one bite and you'll be hooked! It just goes to prove that looks aren't everything!!
Not exactly pretty but tastes real good!!!


Monday, 4 July 2011

Wimbledon Cake

Recipe Number Fifty Eight:  Page 160.

Seeing that it was the last day of Wimbledon, I felt that this cake just had to be made! I have to admit that it was a little daunting attempting this cake, as the picture of it is used for the front cover of the Baking Bible and it looks wonderful.

We were going to Neil's parents for lunch and I wanted to take this cake along with us. Mary says it is best eaten on the day of making and there was no way we could eat all this cake between us! I decided to make the cake before I got washed and dressed; the plan was to get myself ready while the cake was in the oven. I really wasn't a pretty sight when I approached the kitchen still in my dressing gown and with my hair all over the place!

This cake was a bit different to what I am used to as it doesn't contain any flour or butter. Hurrah - no butter!! I put the egg yolks into my largest mixing bowl and then added a relatively small amount of sugar and the zest and juice of an orange. The last ingredient to be added was semolina. This is in place of flour; apparently it should give the cake a slightly crunchy and close texture. I beat everything together and then moved on to the egg whites which I had put into another bowl. It’s great that nothing is wasted in this cake! I had to whisk until I achieved the required stiff but not dry consistency; it didn't take long with my trusty electric whisk. I carefully folded the now stiff egg whites into the orange scented semolina mixture. Once everything was incorporated, I could turn it into my greased and lined tin. When it was in the oven I just about had time to make myself look half decent!

Now in slightly more suitable attire I was ready to take the cake out of the oven. Obviously it wasn't really going to rise, but for some reason the sides of the cake sloped inwards! I tipped the cake out onto a wire rack to cool. We were running late by the time the cake was cold. I still had to whip up the double cream; yes it was a low fat cake until the cream made its entrance! Neil cut the cake in half horizontally for me. I think he feared that if I'd cut the cake myself I may have severed a finger in my rush and panic! Once I had whipped the cream I smoothed it over one of the cakes. I sliced our home grown strawberries and placed some on top of the cream along with the passion fruit. I absolutely love passion fruit so was delighted to be using it, but they are not the most attractive looking fruits! The other half of the cake had to be placed on top of the cream and fruit mixture. For a finishing touch, I scattered sliced strawberries over the cake and dusted with icing sugar. I was pleased with the finished result but it didn't look as good as Mary's. Sadly I didn't have time to try to make changes. We had to get going; we practically threw the cake into a plastic container after taking a picture!

After our very tasty Sunday lunch we all tried a slice of Wimbledon cake. I was worried that the cake might have absorbed the juice from the fruit and gone all soggy. I needn't have worried though. The sponge was surprisingly good when you consider it doesn't contain any butter or flour. I can't say I noticed a crunch from using semolina though! The filling was delicious. The cream, strawberries and passion fruit make a delightful combination. All the family announced it a success and they were looking forward to having another generous slice later. Mary says it is a cake not just for Wimbledon but for all summer occasions. I wholeheartedly agree; it is a beautiful and light summer cake, just perfect.

Can't beat strawberries and cream.

Melting Moments

Recipe Number Fifty Seven:  Page 196.

I had been looking forward to making these biscuits as they seemed like the ideal accompaniment to a cup of tea. I don't really know why they are called melting moments; I can only presume they melt in the mouth! Mary mentions in her introduction to the recipe that the texture is short.

I was keen to get started and was feeling full of energy, so I got cracking before the feeling passed! My new thing is to try to reduce the amount of washing up by mixing everything in my weighing scale bowl. So I measured the butter, sugar, egg yolks and flour into the bowl. I very nearly added the oats as well but, just as I tipped the packet, I read the instructions and saw that they didn't feature in the recipe until later. I grabbed my electric whisk and tried to beat all the ingredients together. At this point I realised how small my weighing bowl actually is. Quite a substantial amount of flour and butter shot out of the bowl and smothered both the kitchen floor and worktop. I think I will be finding bits of poorly mixed dough for some time. I gave up using the whisk after making such a mess, so I worked it all together with my hands instead!

I had to divide the dough into about 36 portions and then roll each piece into a ball. Now it was time for the oats to play their part. I tipped them into a small bowl and rolled each dough ball around in the bowl until it had a decent oat coating. I placed each oaty ball onto a lined baking tray and flattened them a little with my fingers. Next, I was happy to open a tub of my beloved glacé cherries. Sadly I only needed a few as each cherry had to be cut into quarters. I pressed a quarter into the middle of each ball. I ended up feeling a little sick as I couldn't resist eating a few cherries as I worked!

I put the biscuits into the oven. I peered through the oven door after about ten minutes to see that the biscuits had risen and looked puffy. Just before the 20 minutes cooking time was up, I checked the biscuits again and found that they had collapsed and were now flat! Even though I had spaced them well apart to give them room to spread, they still managed to stick together. As soon as they were out of the oven, I quickly cut the biscuits apart from each other before they had the chance to set and become hard.

Once the biscuits were cold I had a taste. They were very crumbly and the flavour was subtle and sweet. I still don't know why they are called melting moments as they didn't melt in my mouth as I thought they might! They must be moreish as both Neil and I ate at least three each that evening! There were so many that I couldn't get the lid on the tin, so we were forced to eat them, honest!
Couldn't get the lid on - what is a girl to do......?