Thursday, 29 September 2011

Hot Lemon Soufflé Pudding

Recipe Number Ninety Six:  Page 368.

Standing in a hot kitchen with the oven banging out heat is not the best place to be on a glorious day; it was only a few days before that I'd pulled out my winter wardrobe! Fortunately it didn't appear that I would need to be in the hot kitchen for long. The recipe looked surprisingly quick to make.

I have to admit, I was worried about making a soufflé. I have heard how temperamental they can be! However, after reading Mary's introduction to the recipe, I didn't feel sure that this was a soufflé as I know it. Mary mentions that she often makes it ahead of time and reheats it. This didn't sound very soufflé like to me. The one thing I know about them is that you have to eat them immediately as they rapidly collapse in a heap! 

To make the soufflé I required two lemons so, after a long walk in the sunshine, I popped into our local shop. There had just been a delivery of fresh stock so the shop was even more crammed than usual. Large boxes littered the tiny aisles! I couldn't get the pushchair anywhere close to where I needed to be. One of the assistants actually threw me the lemons as I couldn't get to them!

First of all I beat a relatively small amount of butter with a lot of sugar. Once smooth, I could beat in several egg yolks. I was pleased that on this occasion I would be making use of the egg whites; they would be needed later. I added a little flour, grated lemon zest and also the juice. No waste in this recipe! I used the tip of warming the lemons first. Apparently this helps get more of the juice out. I popped them into the microwave for about 15 seconds. I overdid it a bit as one lemon was so hot that I dropped it! However, it is a good tip as I managed to squeeze almost every last drop out! I also needed to add a lot of milk; this made the mixture very runny. Neil said it looked like wallpaper paste - how rude! Mary says not to worry if the mixture looks curdled. Apparently this is perfectly normal, how reassuring! The last task was to whisk the egg whites until they reached the soft peak stage. I then folded the whites into the lemony runny paste! I scooped the mixture into the greased ovenproof dish before placing the dish into a large roasting tin. The most tricky part of this bake was filling the roasting tin with boiling water and then getting the whole thing into the oven without sloshing too much hot water over my bare feet – ouchy! Mary says it should take around an hour in the oven. I didn't feel it was necessary to check it until 40 minutes of cooking time had passed. I couldn't see very well through the oven door, so couldn't tell how golden the top was. However, I could smell burning. That can never be a good sign! I felt I had no choice but to open the oven door and pray the soufflé wouldn't collapse. I was horrified to see that the top of the soufflé was a very dark brown; it was well past the golden stage, sob!

I carefully took the roasting tin along with the singed pudding out of the oven and spooned out some of the soufflé, my camera poised ready for action. I have to admit I thought it looked rather unappealing. It certainly didn't look appetising! With some hesitation we had a taste. To our amazement we found the pudding to be rather delicious. Surprisingly the top didn't taste burnt at all! It was like eating a hot mousse. The flavour was wonderfully lemony and light. I liked the fact that this recipe was not full of fat; I didn't feel it immediately add another inch to my thighs - unlike most of the other recipes!! I was just surprised by the fact it is called a soufflé pudding; it didn't really rise and thus never collapsed. I can quite understand why Mary can make it ahead of time. It is more like a self saucing pudding. What ever you consider it to be, it was lovely nevertheless. Just a shame I burnt it! 
Don't judge on looks alone!!! ;-)

Maple Syrup Cake

Recipe Number Ninety Five:  Page 48.

It was Neil's birthday yesterday so I thought it only fair that he should pick out which cake he would like me to make. Maple Syrup was his cake of choice. I didn't need any persuading; the picture in the Baking Bible looks heavenly. I have never had maple syrup before. I must have led a sheltered life as everyone I've asked has tried it and looked at me in abject horror when I admitted I had not! I was looking forward to trying something new and I very much hoped I would like maple syrup!

We had an early start and Isaac was on the swings before 9am. I think this is a personal record! After the swings, we trudged round the shops, followed by toddler group, and then yet more shopping! With all the bags of food piled into the pram basket and, of course, a stone and a half of toddler, I was exhausted by the time we got home. Once I'd wolfed down lunch, I peeled myself from the comfort of our sagging sofa and went into the kitchen to commence the baking!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love Mary Berry for her all-in-one method. It is so easy, you could surely do it blindfold! First of all I weighed out the butter, muscovado sugar, and flour. To these basic ingredients I added eggs and orange zest. I had to grate the orange zest, so it did take a few minutes, but the only real hardship was washing the grater up afterwards! I of course needed to include the all important maple syrup. I measured this into a jug. I was expecting it to be thick and gooey like golden syrup, but in fact it was rather runny and much easier to deal with. After adding the syrup, I couldn't resist wiping a finger around the jug to see what it tasted like. My first thought was that it tasted slightly orangey. This explained why orange zest is used in the recipe; they compliment each other well. I whisked everything together until smooth. Last of all I added in some pecans. I didn't bother to go to the effort of chopping them; they were easy to break into pieces with my hands. I stirred in the nuts and then spooned the thick golden mixture into the cake tin. I left it to cook on a low heat whilst I regained my previous position on the sofa! An hour and 15 minutes later I took the perfectly cooked cake out of the oven. I couldn't believe how much it had risen; it was huge! I turned it out onto a wire rack to cool. By this time Isaac was up from his nap so it was time for fun and games again!

The filling and topping for the cake looked very straightforward. I just needed to whip up a lot of cream and stir in some maple syrup. Next I moved on to the part I hadn't been looking forward to; I had to slice the cake into three layers. Easier said than done. I was on my own with this one and I was so worried that I was going to ruin it! Very slowly and very carefully I cut the cake. I managed to get through this stressful experience relatively unscathed. Although the middle cake layer was almost as thin as paper and had a small hole it, it would be well hidden!! I put a thin layer of cream between the slices of cake. I then proceeded to smooth the remaining cream over the top and sides of the stacked cake. This job took longer than making the actual cake! I was lacking in cream and could have done with a bit more. The cream looked rather patchy in places. Every time I tried to smooth it over the sides I made things worse! I put shredded orange zest over the top of the finished cake which made it look quite pretty. I put some candles on and forced Neil to listen to a sing-song! Neil obviously had to cut the first slice and make a wish. He was suitably impressed by the three layers of the cake. We had a taste and, oh my! It was divine. The sponge was so moist and light and the pecans offered a pleasant crunch. The maple syrup flavour was evident but subtle. I loved the cream and syrup filling and topping; it complimented the cake perfectly. I really cannot fault this cake; I am so chuffed with it. Neil announced that this is his favourite recipe so far and I would have to agree. It has claimed the crown for my favourite cake! I will have to make sure there is always some maple syrup in the house from now on! 
Neil's Birthday Cake :-)


Monday, 26 September 2011

Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Recipe Number Ninety Four:  Page 89.

The main reason I decided to bake this apple and cinnamon cake this weekend was due to my in-laws bringing us a bag of apples from their garden. How lovely to bake a cake knowing how fresh the fruit is. My little boy had been poorly the previous day; thankfully he was by now on the mend. As I should probably have predicted, I had a thumping headache and was feeling more achy with each passing hour – uh-oh! As I had been so looking forward to this cake I still wanted to persevere and the thought of a slice of warm apple cake with custard helped to spur me on!

I measured lots of butter and muscovado sugar into a bowl. Eggs were the next ingredient to be added; I am glad I remembered to break the eggs into a separate bowl first. The first egg I broke had an unsightly lump floating in the egg white. I gagged at the sight and screwed my eyes tightly shut as I tipped it down the sink, yuck! I gingerly broke the rest of the eggs and breathed a sigh of relief that they were perfectly normal! After adding the eggs, I needed to include some walnuts and sultanas. I have gone through an awful lot of walnuts lately, mainly due to the fact that I keep nibbling on them. At least they are good for me! Last of all I added the flour and baking powder. I gave the mixture a good old whisk until everything was well combined and then spread half of the mixture into my lined cake tin. Next came the exciting part of adding the apples. When I had first seen this recipe I had just assumed that the apples would be sliced. However, they needed to be grated. After I'd added a thick layer of grated apple over the cake mixture, I sprinkled a small amount of cinnamon over the top. As I scooped the remaining cake mixture out of the bowl and smoothed it over the apple, I noticed that the juice was happily leaking out of the bottom of the tin. I'd had to use a spring form tin as my variety of tins is limited. I hastily mopped up the juice and quickly put the cake into the oven with a baking tray underneath. I kept checking on the cake, but thankfully no more juice escaped. I think the heat from the oven must have helped to seal it!

After the cake had been in the oven for an hour, I placed some foil over it as it was going quite brown and still wasn't quite cooked through. It took an hour and twenty minutes before I felt confident that it was cooked. I find it hard to judge this when a cake has soft fruit such as apple in it. I left the cake to cool for around ten minutes before tipping it out onto a wire rack. It was a bit touch and go getting the cake to exit the tin; I felt sure it was going to fall apart! I got there in the end and my only complaint was one of the sides was a little burnt. Once the cake was cold I dusted it with icing sugar, I think I was a little heavy handed with my dusting!

By the time I came to have a huge slice with custard later that evening my head was still pounding, but somehow I managed a mouthful of cake! In fact I managed to eat every last crumb. This has to be at the top of my favourite list and Neil's too. The sponge was moist and at its best served warm. The apples gave a delicious sweet tang and the cinnamon gave it warmth. I think having the combination of walnuts, cinnamon and apples makes this a comforting bake for an autumn or winter’s day.

It was only when I came to write about this bake that I realised that I had forgotten to sprinkle some muscovado sugar and walnuts over the top of the cake before it went into the oven. I am forgetful at the best of times, but I blame this entirely on feeling rotten! Somehow I think I will be making this again, so next time I will make sure I don't forget. I expect their addition would make this cake even more delicious!
Yes -  I really did eat that huge slice!!

White Cottage Loaf

Recipe Number Ninety Three:  Page 285.

For the last few weeks I have been gorging on very rich cakes and bakes. I have to admit that, for the last few days, I have felt even more sluggish than usual! I felt I had to take action and bake something savoury and sin free. My answer was bread! As it takes a while to make, we decided to have it for tea with some of Neil's VERY spicy parsnip soup. I ended up feeling very glad that I had chosen to bake bread as my little boy had a stinking cold. I'd been up with him the night before and was not in the mood for anything too challenging.

While the little man caught up on his sleep, I made a start on the loaf. I have never made a cottage style loaf before, so was looking forward to seeing how my attempt should fare! I dug out my largest mixing bowl and put into it a lot of strong white flour followed by the yeast and salt. I melted the butter in the microwave. I think I left it too long as I heard frantic bubbling and, when I anxiously opened the door, I saw butter had splattered everywhere! Whoops, out came the scrubbing cloth! As the butter was so hot, I thought it wise to leave it to cool down a little before adding it to the flour and yeast. In the meantime, I measured some warm water into a measuring jug and then poured it into the mixing bowl. Looking at the water swimming on top of the flour, it seemed an awful lot of liquid and I can't say that I was looking forward to putting my hands into it! I of course nearly forgot to add the melted butter, but thankfully remembered just in time. By now it had cooled to a more acceptable temperature! Next, it was time to get mucky and mix everything together. Rather amazingly it wasn't that messy at all, the dough easily came together and I didn't require a ridiculous amount of flour on the worktop. Mary says it should be a sticky dough. Of course this made me panic! I kneaded the dough for the suggested five minutes; I was so tired I went into auto pilot. I think I could have easily spent the rest of the afternoon kneading the dough! I placed the soft dough into an oiled bowl and covered it with cling film. I had some jacket potatoes cooking in the oven for lunch, so I left the bowl near the oven and hoped that the dough would double in size.

It ended up being left a little longer to rise than it should have been. Isaac's little nose was too bunged up to let him sleep for long, so I brought him back downstairs for cuddles and games. By the time I remembered the dough it was almost escaping from the bowl! The next part didn't take long; I had to knock the dough back. I love the sound and feel of the tiny air bubbles popping as you knead! I had to shape the dough into the traditional cottage loaf shape. I pulled off a quarter of the dough and shaped it into a ball, I then did the same with the larger piece. I placed the large ball onto a lined baking sheet and put the smaller ball on top. I had forgotten that a cottage loaf has a hole in the middle, so I was a little surprised that I had to shove the handle of a wooden spoon through the middle of my loaf. Fortunately, I managed to pull the spoon handle out of the dough without causing any damage! I left it to rise once more for around half an hour and then used beaten egg as a glaze. I felt quite pleased with my loaf and hoped I didn't burn it in the oven and ruin it!

The smell coming from the oven was of course glorious! The loaf needed the suggested 25 minutes and, by the time it came out, it was a lovely golden colour. I remembered to place the bread onto a wire rack to cool, thus avoiding a soggy bottom! I couldn't resist trying a piece before it was completely cold. Isaac appeared at this moment, and I thought I would see what he thought of it. What a lovely smile he gave me. I think we both agreed that this bread was good! It had a lovely crust with a light textured crumb, delicious warm with lots of butter, yum! Neil and I enjoyed the rest of the loaf with the soup that evening. Once our gums had stopped tingling from the spicy soup and we were able to speak, we both agreed that I would have to make this loaf again. Homemade bread just can't be beaten and it certainly never lasts long!
My wonky cottage loaf! 

Pass the butter!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Chocolate Rum Cake

Recipe Number Ninety Two:  Page 101.

I wasn't too sure what I would make of this cake. Although I have a chocolate addiction, I really dislike chocolate liqueurs. I had one for Christmas once and I am ashamed to say I spat it out!! I now avoid them at all costs. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, adores chocolate liqueurs so I was thankful that she would be visiting the following day; I felt sure she would eat a slice or two.

After Isaac and I attended the baby singing group in the nearby town, we had a quick whizz round one of the mini supermarkets. I had to buy some of the ingredients I needed. My plan was that, as soon as Isaac went for his nap at lunch time, I could crack on with the cake. I managed to get everything apart from the rather important plain chocolate and dark muscovado sugar. I went into two more shops but still no luck. I don't drive, so I rely on the train. They run very irregularly, hence I had to give up my search and gallop down to the station. Neil took pity on me, went to a different supermarket in his lunch hour and found what I needed. However, this meant I couldn't start as early as I had intended; I had to wait until 6pm! Neil had brought value bars of plain chocolate; I hoped they would be ok. Purely for research purposes, I broke off a piece to try. It tasted just like any other good quality bar, yay!

I broke up a couple of bars of chocolate into a bowl and added some cubed butter. I set it over a pan of hot water and resisted the urge to stir it too frequently! Once the chocolate and butter had melted I left it to cool off a little whilst I whisked several egg yolks with the dark muscovado sugar. After tipping in the lumps of sugar I realised I should have broken it up a bit first. I’d forgotten how compacted brown sugar is; it took me ages to break it all up! The recipe says to whisk together until the mixture is light and creamy. I was surprised how quickly the mixture lightened, especially as it started off so dark. I was then ready to stir in the cooled chocolate mixture and a good amount of rum. Cor! The strong fumes nearly knocked my head off. I suppose I shouldn't have sniffed at the bottle of rum! Now, feeling just a little light headed, I folded in a small amount flour and ground almonds. As there wasn't much flour or ground almonds, it was obviously going to be a fudgy, dense cake. The last job was to whisk up the egg whites until stiff and then carefully fold them into the chocolate mixture. I tipped the chocolatey mixture into the ready lined cake tin and placed it in the oven. It was a different licking out the bowl experience; the taste of rum was quite strong, hick!

I was a little worried when I took the cake out of the oven. Even though it had had almost ten minutes less than suggested, it looked dry and overdone. I tipped it out of the tin and left it to cool whilst I got on with the icing. I was feeling very weary at this point and my legs were killing me from all the walking earlier in the day. I had to melt MORE chocolate and then add in MORE butter, oh my poor, poor heart! Whilst it cooled, I had to warm some apricot jam and then push it through a sieve so that it was nice and smooth. Neil very kindly cut the cake in half. It looked a little dry, but once cut I could see that it was moist inside. I spread a little chocolate icing over one of the cakes and then placed the other cake on top. I brushed the sieved apricot jam over the top and sides. I am glad I placed the wire rack over a baking tray as lots of jam dripped off the cake. After the jam had set, I spread on the chocolate icing. There was a large amount so again a lot dripped off the cake and onto the tray; what a messy business, but at least I got to scoop the chocolate mixture off the tray, yummy!

The chocolate ganache decoration was optional, but I felt I should go the whole hog! I needed another load of chocolate; by then just the thought of chocolate made me feel sick! I carried out the process of melting over a pan of water for the third time, boring! Instead of adding the butter in one go, once off the heat, I added the butter a little at a time and mixed well. The butter made the chocolate glossy; it did look good. Just when I thought I had finished I found that I hadn't. I needed to add a couple of egg yolks and whisk them into the chocolate along with a bit more rum. I left it to firm up and went for a much needed soak in the bath; Radox is a good friend of mine! It had gone 10pm by the time I could pipe the ganache onto the cake. Wearing a white dressing gown for this job was a mistake; the sleeves got smothered in chocolate, not a good look! I put the now thick ganache into the piping bag. I only had a large flower nozzle, so had to make do with it, hence why the 'rosettes’ are overly large. As I have said before, piping is not a strong point of mine and, quite frankly, I was too tired to care!

Neil and I nearly died of heart attacks immediately after taking a bite of cake. Oh my goodness me it was so rich and chocolatey! The flavour of rum was very faint, which was fairly surprising. The chocolate was, to be honest, a little overwhelming. It was a lovely moist cake, but it really should come with a health warning – serve in teeny tiny slices!
Not for the faint hearted!!

Monday, 19 September 2011


Recipe Number Ninety One:  Page 248.

Mmmmm...doughnuts. I find them impossible to resist! I don't normally buy them as I can't just eat one and they aren't exactly the healthiest of treats. To make my own seemed an odd possibility; I really had never considered making them before.

I made a start late afternoon; I did feel quite excited to think I was going to make some doughnuts! The first task was to weigh out a lot of plain flour before stirring in the crucial yeast. I went and collected a small amount of butter. Ahh, my long lost friend, how I have missed thee! I rubbed the butter into the flour and then stirred in some sugar. Next, I made a well in the flour mixture and tipped in a couple of beaten eggs. I had to warm some milk and water. I measured both into a cup and gave it a quick blast in the microwave. I know it might sound daft but I have developed a habit of testing the temperature by putting a drop on my wrist. It must be from testing milk for my son! I poured the now tepid water and milk in to join the beaten eggs. I like to mix bread by hand, so I dived straight in! After the initial messy part, the mixture soon came together to form a neat dough. When I placed the dough onto the worktop, I found it to be a little dry. Thankfully I resisted adding more liquid as, with a few minutes of kneading, it became smooth and elastic. I placed the dough back into the bowl and covered it with Clingfilm. It was quite a chilly day, so I decided to shove the bowl into the airing cupboard amongst the towels, bed sheets and goodness knows what else! After a rather lazy hour, I went and checked on the dough. It had already doubled in size, so I brought it back downstairs for what I had thought would be the fun part of adding the jam. However, first of all I had to knock the dough back and separate it into 16 balls. The dough balls then had to be flattened so that I could place a small teaspoon of raspberry jam into the centre. When it came to bringing the edges of dough around the jam and pinching to seal, well it wasn't as easy or as fun as I'd at first imagined! Let’s just say the air turned a little blue at this point! When I brought the dough over and around the jam, the jam oozed out. When I finally managed to seal the edges, the join burst open moments later, grrr!

I was really worried and quite frankly scared about cooking the doughnuts. I have never deep fried anything in my life, eek! I found my biggest saucepan and a large quantity of vegetable oil. In the book it says to use 2cm (5in) of oil. If I had used 5in, it would have reached the top of the saucepan! I assumed they actually meant to use two inches! That is still a heck of a lot of oil! To test to see when the oil was hot enough I had to throw a chunk of bread in. If, after 30 seconds, the bread had turned brown, it was at the right temperature. It didn't really help that I only had brown bread!!! The first piece just floated around not doing much, and came out oily and soggy. The second piece of bread was a different story; it sizzled a merry dance and came out crispy. This meant that it was time to add the doughnuts. I put four in at a time and they turned brown almost immediately. Mary says to cook on each side, turn only once, and they should take five minutes in total to cook. Well, my second batch was almost black as I stuck to the instructions too rigidly! The last few batches were better as I got used to what I was doing. It was terrifying when the oil found any leaked jam, there was a frantic sizzle and I honestly thought it was going to burst into flames. A real element of fear with this bake! Neil found me a polythene bag and I put into it some sugar and a little cinnamon. When the doughnuts had cooled off, each one in turn got thrown around in the bag until it was nicely coated in the sugar mixture. I have to say that this made them look like a doughnut, before they just looked like very brown, unappetising, uneven balls! Neil and I had a taste; I loved the sugar on the lips, which is exactly what you get with bakery bought doughnuts. The taste was the same, but could have done with more jam in the middle. Neil took some round to the neighbours as there was no way even we could eat all 16 and they are best when freshly made. We really enjoyed them. I prefer them to bakery bought doughnuts as they aren't squishy and they are delicious eaten whilst warm. However, I have to say I am still recovering from the terror of all that deep frying. I'm not sure that it is for those of us with a nervous disposition!!
Lip licking good!!! ;-)

Courgette Loaves

Recipe Number Ninety:  Page 313.

I was delighted to find a recipe within the Baking Bible which requires courgettes. Neil has a small vegetable patch in the garden and, after several months of not much happening, four courgettes suddenly sprang to life. They, of course, needed to be eaten up. Three went into a veggie lasagne but I still had one particularly large courgette left over. After a quick flick through the book, I found this recipe for courgette loaves. I weighed the almost marrowesk courgette and it was just a tiny bit over the amount needed, hooray! But, as life is rarely simple and straightforward, I of course hit a snag! One of the ingredients needed was buckwheat flour. This turned out to be a surprisingly elusive substance. I went and asked in several health stores. They did not have any and looked surprised that I should even ask for such a thing! I looked in supermarkets and no luck there either. I felt my only other option was to look online, I found a 1kg packet of buckwheat flour on Amazon of all places! It did seem odd ordering flour from Amazon, so I felt I HAD to order a DVD to go with it! As I had chosen free delivery, there was a five day wait for my flour to arrive. I stored the courgette in the fridge and it was still in tip-top condition by the time the flour arrived. I can't say a bag of flour is the most exciting package I have ever received!

I decided to make the loaves on the Friday evening. Yes, this is the way I spend a Friday night nowadays! I had thrown out some cheap and nasty cake tins several months ago to make way for some better quality substitutes. I could have sworn I still had two loaf tins, but sadly this was not the case; I only had one. I therefore would have to put one courgette loaf in the oven at a time. Oh well, never mind!

First of all, I added eggs and lots of oil to a bowl. I quite like using oil in preference to butter. It is so much easier to measure and I don't have to remember to soften it; I just have to pour it in! I measured out a staggering amount of sugar. I had to remind myself that this sugar would be spread between two cakes! Next, I tipped in plain flour and buckwheat flour in equal quantities. The buckwheat had a speckled appearance. It said on the packet that it has a sweet flavour; good job I have a sweet tooth! I needed to add some baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. I don't usually get to use bicarbonate of soda and on this occasion I needed quite a lot of it; how exciting! I used a teaspoon to measure out some ground cinnamon, only to realise that I had read the recipe wrong; I actually needed a tablespoon! I am not a lover of cinnamon, so hoped the flavour wouldn't be overwhelming. I retrieved the courgette from the fridge. I found it really easy to grate and it was next to no time before it was all in the bowl. Last of all I added a good quantity of both raisins and walnuts and gave the mixture a good stir. The sugar and the oil had, by this time, formed a thick paste, so I really had to make sure I mixed thoroughly! I poured what I hoped to be roughly half of the mixture into my loaf tin and placed it into the oven. As we always have a nice easy meal on a Friday, Neil was busy taking a pizza out of our double oven. Not only did he turn off the main oven, he also turned off the little oven which had been happily cooking my cake. Thankfully he realised straight away and turned it back on!!!

The smell wafting from the kitchen was wonderful. Even though I am not keen on cinnamon I love the smell; it reminds me of Christmas! The cooked courgette loaf hadn't risen particularly well, but did look good and had a rather appealing shiny, sugary top. Mary reassures that this is quite normal! I left the loaf to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. I then moved on to using up the remaining mixture by pouring it into the loaf tin and then putting it into the oven. While it cooked I went and plonked back in front of the TV, another compulsory activity for a Friday night! Once this loaf was cooked, I was pleased to see that it had risen better than my previous effort.

It was too late to try the cakes; maybe if they had been smothered in chocolate I might have weakened! The next morning we had a slice with a cup of tea. To be honest I hadn't expected much of these loaves, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I loved the flavours, the warm subtle spice of the cinnamon, the sweetness of the raisins and the crunch of the walnuts. We couldn't really taste the courgette but the tiny flecks of green throughout hinted at its presence. The courgette did make the cake beautifully moist and my goodness it is moreish; we can't stop eating it! Mary says to store one in the fridge and put the other in the freezer. I don't think we will bother putting it in the freezer!
These have to be part of my five a day!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Raspberry Meringue Roulade

Recipe Number Eighty Nine:  Page 360.

This luxurious dessert won the vote on my Facebook page, by a landslide! I was a little nervous at the prospect of making a meringue roulade. If you have read earlier posts you may have noticed that I can't even make a basic sponge Swiss roll, so goodness knows how I would get on with this! I have only eaten one meringue roulade before; it was at a party some years ago. I thought it was delicious.

On the way back from a trip to the park, Isaac and I popped into the little village shop. The shop is so tiny. Whenever I take the pushchair I find it almost impossible not to dismantle a display or ram into someone’s ankles! On a previous visit I'd been excited to see that they had started to sell large eggs (in the Baking Bible these are the size eggs used in each recipe throughout the book). I carefully edged down the aisle towards the eggs. They must have known that I was coming as all that were on offer on this occasion were medium, grrr! And they didn't have any raspberries! Neil works in the centre of the nearby town, so he nipped and got me the correct sized eggs and two punnets of raspberries on his lunch break – yet again he saves the day!!

I felt impossibly tired when Neil came home with the vital ingredients. I opened up the Baking Bible to see what I needed to do. I became confused; why would I need biscuits? Of course it soon dawned on me that I was reading the recipe for lemon meringue pie on the opposite page. This did not bode well! I needed a lot of egg whites for the meringue. I went to separate the whites from the yolks; I sensed something was missing, I looked around and realised that I didn't have a bowl, oh dear!! At this point I probably should have given up and had a lie down but, right or wrong, I carried on!

I have never really needed to whisk egg whites until very stiff before, but the instructions are most particular; they need to be very stiff! I was worried I wouldn't know when the whites were at the correct consistency. I needn't have been so concerned as suddenly it became quite difficult to move the beaters through the meringue, an obvious sign it was very stiff! Now it was time to add the sugar, and a lot of it too. It was important that I should only add a teaspoonful at a time and give a good whisk after each addition. This took some time and I was a bit worried as there was a faint whiff of burning plastic emanating from my electric whisk, eeek! Once the sugar had all been incorporated, I turned off the exhausted whisk and licked the surplus meringue from the beaters, yum. I have developed a bit of a thing for raw meringue; I am not sure if this is normal. Neil seems to think it isn't! I spread the stiff mixture out onto a lined Swiss roll tin. I popped the tray into the oven. The tin was almost brushing against one of the sides, but I didn't think much of it. This was a silly mistake as, when I checked on the meringue a few minutes later, it had stuck to the oven, oops! After eight minutes cooking on a relatively high heat, I turned the oven down and let the meringue cook for a further 15 minutes.

When the meringue was cooked, I tipped it out onto another sheet of greaseproof paper and left it to cool for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, I whipped up a lot of double cream. I can't help but notice that I have been eating a worrying about of cream lately. I seem to have moved away from butter in favour of the more luxurious and quite frankly delicious double cream! I mixed the raspberries into the whipped cream and spread it over the meringue. Now came the scary part of rolling it up, help! It started off well but, half way through the rolling process, the meringue started to crack. I managed to push it back together, so it wasn't too bad. I thought it looked rather good but I couldn't believe how big it was. Surely it could feed the five thousand! I gingerly placed it into the fridge to chill while we had our evening meal. We forced in a slice of roulade after dinner, Neil and I both thought it rather delicious. It was slightly chewy on the outside and mousse like in the centre. How can you beat raspberries and cream as a filling? Even though we were both stuffed, we managed another slice, just a slither of course!! As this meringue roulade is so large, I think we will be enjoying it over the next few days, not exactly a hardship!
This is only half of the beast - couldn't fit it all on the plate!!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Lemon Griestorte

Recipe Number Eighty Eight:  Page 163.

I chose this cake from the 'Special Cakes' section of the 'Baking Bible'. This section contains the more complicated recipes. I chose this cake as it looked easier than the rest! I realise that I can't put off the more challenging recipes forever, but I am easing myself in gently! When reading through the recipe it didn't seem to be particularly difficult to make; maybe I was just being lulled into a false sense of security.

The first task of lining the cake tin was a bit more challenging than normal! Not only did I have to line the bottom of the tin, I also had to line the sides. The end result was far from perfect! Eggs were the first ingredient I needed and they had to be separated. One of the yolks made a bid for freedom and leaped from the shell. Thankfully it landed in the bowl of egg whites still intact! I then proceeded to chase the stubborn yolk around the bowl with a spoon until I eventually managed to get it into the correct bowl. I tipped some sugar in to join the egg yolks and whisked them together until the mixture turned pale. I used a balloon whisk; it didn't take much effort on my part before I had achieved the correct colour and consistency. There is no flour in this cake. In its place I used semolina and ground almonds. As I weighed them out, I couldn't believe what a small amount of ground almonds I needed; I couldn't understand the point of adding it in such a small quantity! I whisked the semolina and ground almond into the egg and sugar mixture and kept whisking until the mixture was thick. Now to add the lemon; surprisingly I only needed to use half of it. In the instructions it adds the juice first, so I got carried away and made the mistake of adding it before I had grated the zest! Grating zest off of a limp, squashed lemon is fairly tricky and not to be recommended! The lemon juice and zest were folded into the mixture. Then I turned my attention to the bowl of egg whites. I used my electric whisk to create soft peaks; it always amazes me how quickly they transform from a clear liquid to white, foamy 'clouds'. I carefully folded the egg whites into the lemony mixture and then tipped it into the prepared cake tin. All that was left to do was to place it in the heated oven and hope for the best.

The cake did rise a little and turned a nice golden brown. When it was out of the oven, I left it to cool for just a few minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. I wasn't looking forward to cutting the cake in half, as it was fairly thin. Once I had made the first neat incision I felt my confidence grow! It wasn't until I stood back to look at the cut cake I realised that one end was thick and other was very thin, just like one of my doorstop sandwiches!

Now for the cream and lemon curd filling, yum! As we had a lot of cream, I decided to follow Mary's suggestion of doubling the amount of cream and lemon curd; this meant I could cover the top of the cake as well as the middle. It was very simple to make. I just had to whip up some cream and then stir in lemon curd. Unfortunately my hands didn't follow my brain's instructions and I ended up putting a tablespoon of lemon curd into the bowl of un-whipped cream, I had to fish the dollop back out so I could start again!! Eventually, I sandwiched the cakes together with the lemon cream and then generously covered the top. Mary offers an option of adding some raspberries, but I wanted to keep it as a straightforward lemon cake, so decided against it. Also, raspberries are expensive!

I cut a slice each for Neil and me. Neil's first comment was that it was very lemony. Hmmmm, he really is on the ball!! I loved the lemon cream, so tasty and fresh. The cake was short in texture and I could really taste the ground almonds. This is ironic as I hadn't seen the point of adding such a small amount. It shows how little I know! It was a tasty, cake, but quite rich. I think it is nice to have the cream in the middle and on the top, but I think I should have cut myself a smaller slice! I wouldn't say this was a difficult cake to make, but I still managed to create my own little problems!
A double helping of cream!

Brandy Snaps

Recipe Number Eighty Seven:  Page 226.

How could I resist trying these after watching the Great British Bake Off earlier in the week? To be honest I'd previously never given brandy snaps much thought, so I hadn't realised how fiddly they are to make! I ended up making the brandy snaps on the Friday afternoon, instead of at the weekend, as Neil had requested I make them while he was at work. I can't imagine why!!

The previous day I read through the recipe and noticed that I needed four wooden spoons to shape the brandy snaps. All but one of my wooden spoons had flat handles, which were no good. My Mum, who had come to visit, took Isaac for a walk via the shop. The owner of the shop very kindly went and searched out at the back and proudly presented Mum with a wooden spoon. He looked rather bemused when Mum asked if he had any more!! Alas he did not. To solve the dilemma, Neil cut some dowel to size so I ended up with two makeshift spoon handles – what a resourceful man!

Armed with my two wooden spoons and two pieces of cut dowel, I was ready to make a start. To keep any potential stress at bay I put on a soothing CD and attempted to glide around in a calm and collected manner! First of all, I measured out the butter, demerara sugar and golden syrup and heated them in a small saucepan. On the Great British Bake Off, Mary advised using a wooden spoon when stirring the mixture. This way you can feel when the sugar has melted. I followed the advice and found it very helpful as I could easily feel the grittiness of the demerara until it melted. Once all the sugar crystals had disappeared, I left the mixture to cool for a couple of minutes. I weighed out the plain flour and sieved it into the saucepan along with a tiny amount of ginger. The last ingredient to be added was lemon juice. As I only needed half a teaspoon of juice, I just had to give the lemon the smallest of squeezes to collect the little drip! I gave the combined ingredients a good mix, until I was happy that it was smooth. I had already put some greaseproof paper onto two baking trays (Mary uses baking parchment), so the trays were ready for their four dollops of mixture. I only needed a teaspoonful of mixture for each brandy snap. It looked a tiny amount but they would spread out in the oven. Brandy snaps only take eight minutes or so in the oven, so I watched them like a hawk. Out of all the things I have watched cook, these have to be the most entertaining. They bubbled away quite merrily and spread out into thin lacey discs.

I took the golden brown brandy snaps out of the oven and left them to cool for about two minutes as Mary suggests. When I tried to remove them with a cake slicer, I found them to be absolutely welded onto the paper. I didn't really fancy adding greaseproof paper to my diet, so had to throw them away! I started to feel a little stressed, so had to think quickly! I decided to give up on the paper and instead very lightly greased the trays. I put the dollops of mixture directly onto the trays and anxiously placed them in the oven. I hoped it would work. I admit I didn't feel very hopeful! Once the brandy snaps were cooked and out of the oven, I let them cool for just one minute, if not less, before removing them from the trays. They came away very easily and wrapped around the oiled wooden spoon handles and dowels like a dream - phew and hooray! I carried on in this way until I used up all of the mixture. They did turn brittle very quickly so I couldn't hang around! When it came to the process of piping some whipped cream inside the cold, set brandy snaps, I soon discovered more cream was spilling out of the seam of my reusable bag than coming out of the nozzle - I got smothered!

Neil was amazed when he got home to find a relaxed and happy wife, and most impressed when he saw the plate of finished brandy snaps!! They had such a satisfying crunch when they were bitten into, and had a real taste of ginger. Having cream in the middle made them even scrummier. Neil ate six, one after the other! Apart from the greaseproof paper issue, I really did enjoy making the brandy snaps; they were quite fun. As I'd used greaseproof paper instead of the suggested parchment paper, I am holding that responsible! I did feel rather proud of my brandy snaps, but we had to eat them quickly as the cream soon turns them soft. Oh it's a hard life!!
Feel quite proud of them!!!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Cut and Come Again Cake

Recipe Number Eighty Six:  Page 90

This cake was the runaway winner of the vote on my Facebook page. As it had proved so popular I really was looking forward to trying this recipe. Mary says the name 'cut and come again' is traditionally given to a cake that is so delicious that everyone will come back for another slice. Well, what more convincing do you need?! This particular recipe is for a light fruit cake – I am not overly keen on light fruit cakes as I personally prefer the dark, moist and sticky version. However, with the promise of it being a cut and come again cake, I did have high expectations!

As my mum is staying with us, I was able to start baking mid afternoon whilst Isaac entertained his Granny. I could quite get used to this set up!! The recipe was very simple and easy to follow, as always. I tipped some flour and mixed spice into a bowl. Unfortunately I was a bit over enthusiastic with the mixed spice and quite a lot landed on top of the flour. I did spend some time picking out the excess!! To the bowl of flour and spice, I added softened butter and sugar. By this point I realised that I should in fact be using my largest mixing bowl. I made the transfer to the larger bowl and tutted at myself for adding to the washing up. A mixture of dried fruit was the next thing to be added. I used value bags of fruit as they are substantially cheaper than branded. The only problem I find with value is that the fruit can be quite stalky! When adding the currants I couldn't help but notice some good sized stalks still attached to the fruit. I tried to ignore it, but soon found myself picking through all the currants, pulling off the stalks!! The next job was to beat several eggs and pour into the bowl along with a little milk. That was all of the ingredients; all that was left to do was give it a good mix. I couldn't believe how straightforward this fruit cake was to make; surely it was easier to make my own rather than trudge to a supermarket to buy one?

I spooned the thick but pale mixture into my deep cake tin and popped it into the oven. I pondered what to do with myself whilst it cooked for just over an hour. I glanced across at the overflowing laundry basket, full of ironing. I blinked hard but it was still there when I looked again. Hey ho! After a tedious hour spent ironing, I took a break to check on my cake. I decided to put some foil over the top as it was starting to burn. In the end the cake took 1 hour and 20 minutes in the oven. I was a bit worried as it looked overdone. After a few minutes cooling in the tin, I tipped the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely. My mum was very impressed by the size and shape of the cake and I felt pleased too. Once the cake was cold we could have a taste. When cutting the cake, I found it to be very firm and it did appear dry. The flavour was good; I liked the hint of mixed spice and the sweetness of the dried fruits. I felt it was missing glace cherries; I love them in fruit cakes. It did taste perhaps a little on the dry side, but then I am more used to the moist, heavily fruited cakes. My mum, who is a keen fruit cake taster, really enjoyed it and Isaac was allowed a little nibble. He was most upset when he wasn't allowed to eat the entire cake. I am taking that as a compliment!
Just need a cup of tea to go with it!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Viennese Fingers

Recipe Number Eighty Five:  Page 215.

Yet another recipe I have never made before. I really enjoy eating Viennese fingers. I like the way they almost melt in my mouth. However, the thought of making my own has never crossed my mind before. The fact that the biscuit mixture has to be piped is to blame for my lack of interest. I cannot pipe to save my life; I really am dreadful! Usually, if the words piping bag or nozzle are mentioned, I can't get away quickly enough!

Reluctantly I retrieved my brand new nozzle and piping bag (yes, I had to buy them specially) and laid them out on the worktop ready for action! As with most biscuit recipes, I didn't need many ingredients, so it wasn't very expensive. This pleased Neil! The first two ingredients I needed were butter and a little icing sugar. I imagined the icing sugar would help give the biscuits the melt in the mouth lightness. I had to beat the butter and sugar together until they were pale and fluffy. I held the mixing bowl with my left hand and the electric whisk with my right. I obviously wasn't paying attention as I caught my left thumb with the fast moving whisk. This was quite painful but I soldiered on, only to catch myself in exactly the same place just moments later!!!

Once the combined butter and icing sugar was light and fluffy, all that was left to do was to sift in some plain flour and a teeny tiny amount of baking powder. I gave the mixture another good mix, whilst managing to avoid further injury! When I had a lovely smooth mixture, I could move onto the part I had been dreading – the piping bag, ARGH!! I pushed the medium star nozzle into my piping bag and then spooned in the biscuit dough. I wondered if I had enough mixture to make the estimated 20 fingers; I didn't appear to have that much. Mary says to pipe out finger shapes about three inches long. Not one to take any chances, I grabbed a ruler and used it for a guide! The piping wasn't so bad, I admit, but they weren't anywhere near as neat and tidy as I would have liked! I put the uneven biscuits into the oven and prayed that they would turn out OK. I found that they took only ten minutes to cook to a pale golden brown. However, one or two were a little over cooked. I wondered why I had needed to use a star nozzle as all of the biscuits had lost their shape and were now rather flat and plain! Unfortunately one or two broke in half when I tried to get them from the baking trays to the wire rack, they were so fragile. Now for the best bit, adding the chocolate! I melted a small amount over a pan of simmering water and, once the biscuits were cold, I could apparently dip both ends into the chocolate. Well, this was impossible! There wasn't enough chocolate for me to be able to dip the biscuits. I found it easier to spoon some melted chocolate over the ends of the fingers instead, but a few more biscuits broke in the process, grrr!

I left the chocolate to set and then had a taste to see what I made of these temperamental little biscuits. I thought them to be impossibly light; they crumbled and then quickly melted in my mouth. The chocolate helped add more flavour and made them look a bit more special. They were so moreish that I ate a couple before realising I had yet to take the important photo! It is a shame some broke; maybe I was too heavy handed with them? I would certainly make these again, but I think I still need to overcome my fear of the piping bag!!
Far from perfect but tasted good! :-)

Key Lime Pie

Recipe Number Eighty Four:  Page 385.

I have been meaning to try this particular recipe for quite some time. It has caught my eye on a few occasions but, for one reason or another, I had yet to get round to it. However, there comes a time when you can resist no more. I have never made a key lime pie before. Other than knowing that it must contain limes, I had no idea what to expect.

Before making a start in the kitchen, I needed to go shopping to get the required ingredients. I love the flavour of limes but have never actually bought them before. Some were dark green and others were a much lighter shade, I wasn't sure which was considered to be ripe. I judged their ripeness purely on how soft the limes were. I felt I had little choice other than to give them a good old squeeze! I also needed to buy some digestive biscuits. Although I didn't actually need that many, I couldn't resist buying the 25% extra free packet; I felt sure they would get eaten! After getting plenty of things I probably didn't need I trudged home with the fit to burst bags.

I decided to make the key lime pie late that evening. It appeared to be an easy and quick recipe so I thought I would make it up just before bed and then leave it in the fridge overnight to set. The first task was to make the biscuit base. It was pretty much the same as for a cheesecake. I had to bash up some biscuits, melt some butter and mix together, but on this occasion I also needed to include a very small amount of demerara sugar. I pressed the biscuity mixture into a deep cake tin. Mary doesn't seem to like a thick biscuit base, so I only had enough to cover the bottom of the tin thinly, plus a bit for the sides.

I needed quite a lot of lime juice. I have never juiced limes before and couldn't resist licking a finger. I quickly discovered that the juice is as sharp as that of lemons and can also locate a cut on a finger just as easily! To the lime juice I added a can of condensed milk and a lot of double cream! Fattening, just how I like it!!! I poured the thick creamy mixture on top of the set biscuit base. I of course felt forced to lick out the bowl; it was a little sharp, but tasted wonderful!

I made room in the over flowing fridge for my pie and then carried on licking out the bowl and any spoons which might still have a trace of mixture left on them. I found the creamy lime flavour quite addictive! The next morning I couldn't wait to finish my key lime pie. All I needed to do was whip up a small amount of double cream, yes more cream!! As I only needed a little of this I used a balloon whisk; even with my weak little wrist it took no time at all to whip the cream into soft peaks! I pulled the key lime pie out of the fridge and spread the cream over the top. The layer of cream was very thin; I barely had enough to cover the top of the pie. Last of all I sprinkled some grated lime rind over the top for a pretty finishing touch.

It was no good. I couldn't wait any longer for a taste. I cut a generous slice and dived straight in. Oh dear it really was too yummy! I think this is now my favourite recipe from the Baking Bible. How can you beat a crumbly buttery biscuit base and a light, but creamy filling with the zing of lime? Neil agreed that this was a real winner; neither of us could resist it! It was so easy peasy to make and tasted delicious. As I have so many more recipes yet to make, I am not sure when I will get to make this again. This is a shame as I already have the urge for another slice!
Wish there was some left!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Sticky Apricot Pudding

Recipe Number Eighty Three:  Page 345.

This week was the turn of a pudding. We rarely eat puddings in our house; the size of the main course is so mammoth that there is rarely room for a sip of water, let alone more food!! Obviously we eat a lot of cake but just never straight after dinner!

I'd visited my hairdressing friend earlier in the day. She wanted to practise my hair for my sister's wedding. I left her house a few hours later with a very glamorous hairstyle and a dry mouth from all the talking! When I got home, Neil promised he would take me out for a meal to show off my posh hairdo - what a bonus! I didn't want to bake the pudding after an evening out, so I made it before we left. Usually, when I bake, I scrape my hair into a ponytail. I certainly felt more sophisticated on this occasion!

The recipe was nice and straightforward, which is always nice! I added some flour into a bowl along with some sugar. I needed a relatively small amount of butter. I had forgotten to leave it out of the fridge to soften up, so popped it into the microwave for a quick blast. Obviously the blast was a bit too much as a lot of the butter gave in to the heat and melted. I tipped the rather runny butter into the bowl before adding just the one egg. I had chosen a lemon with a skin as tough as old boots. My right arm was aching by the time the zest made it into the bowl! I fetched some milk from the fridge and measured it into a measuring jug. I poured the ample amount of milk in to join the rest of the ingredients and beat everything together. I expected the combined mixture to be runny, but in fact the consistency was that of a normal cake mix. I spread the cakey mixture into an oven-proof baking dish, before adding the apricot halves on top. I placed each half cut side down. There were exactly enough halves to cover the cake perfectly and neatly! Mary does say that this recipe is very adaptable and you can use a variety of fruits, fresh or canned.

After adding the apricots I had to melt some butter. Now I actually needed melted butter; it of course took ages to melt! I poured the stubborn butter over the top of the apricots. Even though it wasn't really that much, when I poured the butter it seemed like gallons!! The surface of the cake and apricots can't have been very level as a vast quantity of butter made its way to the edges of the dish; the apricots in the corners were almost swimming! Last of all I needed to sprinkle some demerara sugar over the top. I was surprised by how much demerara sugar I needed. It really was a large amount; I was sprinkling it for some time! Once the sugar was on top, the pudding was ready for the oven. The oven was pre-heated to a very high temperature, but it still required just over half an hour to cook.

When I took the apricot pudding out of the oven I was a little disappointed as it looked a little overdone. Mary does say it should have a caramelized deep golden brown top, but think mine was a bit too brown! We tried a very small, warm piece with some ice cream. It was so hard to resist going back for more! The sponge base was so light and lemony, the topping had an almost toffee tasting crunch. All those different textures and tastes, thankfully, didn't overwhelm the delicate taste of apricots. Neil was surprised how little time it took me to make this pudding; it really was very straightforward. As our little boy was with his grandparents, we did manage to go out for a lovely meal. Nearing the end of his meal, Neil professed he could not fit in another mouthful. Funny how once home he managed to wolf down a huge portion of sticky apricot pudding and ice cream!!
Fresh from the oven.