Victoria Sponge with a twist

Sometimes I love going back to basics and I think that you can’t beat a simple Victoria Sponge.  But sometimes it’s fun to give classics a little twist and that is what I’ve done here.

A few weeks ago a friend gave me a big bag of rhubarb from his garden and I used it to make a lovely rhubarb and vanilla jam from the Good Food website (http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/251611/rhubarb-and-vanilla-jam). Although there are more traditional fruits that spring to mind when I think of summer, I thought that the tart rhubarb would be a lovely contrast to the sweet sponge.

Ingredients

225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder

For the filling and topping;
Rhubarb jam
300ml double cream
Icing sugar, for dusting

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C / Fan 160C /gas mark 4. Lightly grease and line two loose-bottom 20cm (8 inch) tins.
  2. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder into a large bowl and beat for about 2 minutes until just blended (if beating by hand you may need to beat for slightly longer).
  3. Divide the mixture between the two tins and smooth out the tops with the back of a spoon or rubber spatula. (Some people like to weigh the tins to make sure both have the same amount of mixture in. I don’t have the patience for this so I just do it by eye and if the sponges aren’t quite the same size I tell myself it looks rustic and homemade!).
  4. Bake the sponges for about 25 minutes until risen and golden (TIP- every oven is different so the baking time for any recipe should be a guide only. Get to know your own oven and adjust timings accordingly. My oven is super efficient so I always bake for at least 5 minutes less than the recipe says. One good way to tell if your cake is cooked is to push gently on the top of the cake with your finger – if it is done the cake will spring back).
  5. Leave the sponges to cool in the tins slightly and then run a blunt knife round the edge of the tins to loosen the cake and then turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack (TIP – I always place my loose-bottom tins onto an upturned glass. This means you can use the balls of both hands to gently push down on either side of the tin to release the cake).  Peel off the grease- proof paper and leave the cakes to cool completely.
  6. When the cakes are cool, choose the cake with the best looking top then place the other cake top down onto your serving plate or stand.  Spread the jam onto the sponge. I haven’t specified how much you need as it’s really personal preference. I used about half a large jar as I like a lot of filling in my cakes! Whip the cream until it is stiff enough to be spread and then spread this on top of the jam. Again, I was very generous with the cream as I love the look of cream oozing out of a cake but put in as much as you like.
  7. Put the other cake on top and sprinkle with some icing sugar to serve.  I served my cake with lots of lovely fresh fruit which was fabulous but the cake is so delicious it can definitely be served on it’s own.

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April challenge – Bread

April Challenge – Bread

I am not a big bread maker. When I do make time for it I love the process of proving and kneading but I often find that I just don’t have the time to dedicate to making a decent loaf.  As my year doesn’t show any sign of slowing down and so I needed a quick bread recipe to try for this month’s.  Flicking through Paul Hollywood’s book “Bread” I found a recipe for Pitta breads. This dough has 5 ingredients and only requires one prove – perfect!

Ingredients:

250g strong white bread flour
5g salt
7g fast-action dried yeast
20g nigella or black onion seeds (I could not find these and so I left them out)
160ml cool water
2tsp olive oil

Makes 4-6 pittas

Method:

  1. Put the flour into a large bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the nigella seeds, pour in 120ml of the water and add the 2tsp oil.  Mix the ingredients together using the fingers of one hand.  Add the remaining water a little at a time until you have a smooth, soft dough and you’ve picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl.  You may not need all of the water. (TIP – when adding the water add a tiny bit at a time, even the smallest amount of water can make all the difference to the dough).
  1. Pour a little oil onto a work surface and place the dough onto it. Knead for 5-10 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic dough (TIP – I “cheated” here and used the dough hook setting of my kitchen aid. Kneading by hand is fun but this certainly saved me some time and energy! 5 minutes on a medium speed did the trick).
  1. When the dough is soft, smooth and stretchy, shape it into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.

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  1. Cover and leave to rise until the dough has doubled in size – at least 1 hour. Then heat your oven to 220°C (or higher) and put two baking trays inside to heat up.
  1. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock back by folding the dough in on itself repeatedly until all the air is knocked out. Divide the dough into 4-6 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball.  Flatten each ball with your finger tips, then roll into an oval 5mm-1cm thick.

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  1. Take the hot trays from the oven, dust with flour and lay the pittas on them. (When putting the trays back in the oven, don’t forget they are hot!).  Bake for 5-10 minutes until the breads puff up and just start to take on a hint of colour.
  1. Wrap the pittas in a cloth to trap the steam and keep them soft, then leave to cool. They are best eaten on the same day or they can be frozen.

I would never have guessed how easy it would be to make pittas from scratch. For some reason I had always thought they would be much more complicated.

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Next time you fancy some lovely fresh bread but find yourself a bit pushed for time why not whip up a batch of these lovely pittas. They tasted delicious still warm from the oven!

I have been inspired by Bake Off Crème de la Crème so next month I am going to attempt patisserie!

Happy Baking!

Katherine

 

March Challenge – Pastry

Phew! I don’t know about you guys but I can’t believe that we are almost at the end of April already! I completely missed February. I finally have a bit of time to catch up with you all and update you about my March challenge- better late than never! (I did do my February challenge – Cake Week – I just didn’t blog about it, promise! You can see the pictures on my Instagram and Facebook). I will be tackling bread this month for my April challenge and will upload the blog next week!

I tackled pastry in March and stepped out of my comfort zone by attempting gluten free pastry. Here is how I got on making a red pepper and goat’s cheese gluten free tart:

Ingredients:

For the savoury crust
280g plain white gluten free flour
1tsp xantham gum (can be found in most large supermarkets)
1/2 tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, diced and chilled
1/2 to 3/4 cup ice cold water

For the filling
3 red peppers
1 garlic glove, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200g goats’ cheese, sliced
3 eggs, beaten
150ml natural Greek yogurt (I used soya yoghurt)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:
1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, xantham gum and salt until well combined.

2. Add the butter and cut in the butter using either a pastry cutter or two knives to cut repeatedly into the mixture until the mixture resembles sand.

3. Add 125ml water to the mixture slowly. Cover your hands in flour and bring the mixture together with your hands. It will be flaky and probably sticky but keep adding water a little bit at a time and make sure your hands are floured and the dough will eventually come together.

4. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it in cling film. Chill for about an hour.

5. Lightly butter a 23cm shallow tart tin.

6. Put the pastry between two sheets of cling film and roll out to 2in larger than your tin. Remove the cling film from one side of the pastry and then pick up the pastry and drape it over the tin. Peel away the cling film and gently ease the pastry into position, lifting the edge of the pastry and pressing firmly into place with your fingertips.

7. Run a rolling pin over the top of the tin to trim off the excess pastry.

8. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes until golden brown (NB. Don’t line the pastry with baking paper and baking beans – the paper will stick to the pastry and you will spend ages trying to surgically remove the paper with a knife…). Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

9. Whilst the pastry is baking, cut the peppers into quarters and remove the seeds. Place the peppers in a roasting tray with the garlic and drizzle with oil. Roasted at 180C (fan 160C, 350F/gas mark 4) for 20 minutes or until the peppers are soft. Put to one side and leave the oven on.

10. Cook the onion in a saucepan over a low heat for 5 minutes then add the balsamic vinegar. Cook for a further 5 minutes until the vinegar has reduced and the onion is the texture of marmalade.

11. Spread this evenly over the bottom of the pastry case and arrange the peppers on top (pack them tightly but leave some gaps as you want the topping to sink through). Follow this with the slices of goats’ cheese.

12. Mix the eggs and yoghurt together and season well with salt and pepper. Place the tart on a baking tray then pour the egg mixture evenly over the filling.

13. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the tart is set and golden. Garnish with parsley and top with some spare peppers if you wish.

Gluten Free Tart (March)

This was my first attempt at gluten free pastry and (except the minor surgery with the baking parchment) I am so pleased with how it turned out.

Happy baking!

Katherine xx

Gluten Free Chicken, Bacon & Mushroom Pie

After a busy few weeks (including a trip to China for the hubby!) we decided that a roast just seemed like too much effort this Easter Sunday. We wanted something warming since Storm Katie was in full swing outside (we had sunshine, hail and rain in the space of an hour!) and so we decided on a pie and roast potatoes with lashings of gravy – yum!

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Ingredients

For the savoury crust:

280g plain white gluten free flour
1tsp xantham gum (can be found in most large supermarkets)
1/2 tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, diced and chilled
1/2 to 3/4 cup ice cold water
1 egg, beaten

For the filling:

50g butter
1 medium leek, trimmed and sliced
50g plain white gluten free flour
300ml milk
300ml hot chicken stock
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
150ml white wine
500g chicken breasts, diced

Method

  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, xantham gum and salt until well combined.
  2. Add the butter and cut it in using either a pastry cutter or two knives to cut repeatedly into the mixture until the mixture resembles sand.
  3. Add 125ml water to the mixture slowly. Cover your hands in flour and bring the mixture together with your hands. It will be flaky and probably sticky but keep adding water a little bit at a time and make sure your hands are floured and the dough will eventually come together.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it in cling film. Chill for about an hour.
  5. Lightly butter a 18cm shallow tart tin.
  6. Put the pastry between two sheets of cling film and roll out to 2in larger than your tin. Remove the cling film from one side of the pastry and then pick up the pastry and drape it over the tin. Peel away the cling film and gently ease the pastry into position, lifting the edge of the pastry and pressing firmly into place with your fingertips.
  7. Run a rolling pin over the top of the tin to trim off the excess pastry. Keep this to make the pie lid.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C fan (200C /Gas 6) for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  9. Melt the butter in a pan. Add the leeks and fry over a low heat for about 10 minutes. Add the chicken and bacon and fry until the chicken is sealed.
  10. Slowly increase the heat and then add the wine, cooking until the wine has reduced. Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes.
  11. Mix the flour with a little of the milk in a small bowl to make a smooth paste and add to the pan. Stir through and then add the remaining milk and stock. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time until the sauce is thickened and smooth.
  12. Add the mustard and season with pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool slightly before pouring into the blind baked pastry case (if you have any mixture left over, it goes really well with pasta!).
  13. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out a lid slightly larger than the pie tin.
  14. Brush the top of the pastry case with some of the beaten egg and place the lid on top, pressing down gently. Take care to handle the pastry very gently as it is more delicate than normal pastry. If you’re feeling fancy you can crimp the edges and decorate the top with pastry leaves or other shapes.
  15. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg (again, be gentle to avoid ripping the pastry) and create a small steam hole in the middle of the pie (using a skewer or sharp knife).
    Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes until the pastry is golden.
  16. I served the pie with roast potatoes and fresh veg and some chicken gravy. Just perfect for a blustery Easter Sunday!

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I would love to hear from you if you make this recipe!

Happy Baking!

Katherine

Tea Cakes

As you lovely people may know, the hubby and I moved house a few months ago and in the move I discovered a brand new silicone tea cake mould, still with the packaging on and everything! So, to avoid risking giving my husband further ammunition in his “you have too much baking stuff” conversation I set about putting the mould to use!

I used a recipe from the GBBO “How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers” book, but put a little twist in to liven it up a bit. I was a bit apprehensive about this bake (who could forget the stressful episode in Series 3 when the bakers attempted chocolate teacakes on one of the hottest days of the year?!) but I was pleasantly surprised about how straightforward the recipe was. You just need to be prepared to put in a bit of time as there are several steps that require a bit of waiting whilst chocolate sets etc.

I have set out the recipe and method below and put in my hints and tips based on my experience of baking these lovely little teacakes.

Ingredients

For the shells:
400g dark chocolate (*see tip below*)

*Tip*
I used 85% cocoa solids which worked well with the sweetness of the marshmallow, however I found it slightly too bitter for my personal taste and so next time I would probably use either plain chocolate or a mix of dark and milk chocolate.

For the biscuit base:
50g plain wholemeal flour
50g plain flour
good pinch of salt
½ tsp baking powder
25g caster sugar
25g unsalted butter, at room temperature (diced)
1 tbsp milk

For the marshmallow:
3 free-range egg whites, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
½ tsp salt
½ seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod

*Tip*
I added the zest of one large orange to the marshmallow mix to give it a bit of extra zing!

Equipment:
1 x 7.5cm plain round cutter
1 baking sheet, slightly greased
6 hole (7.5cm) silicone semi dome chocolate mould
Baking paper
2 x disposable piping bags

*Tip*
I found that using the same size cutter as the chocolate mould meant that the biscuits were slightly too large to fit comfortably on the base of the teacakes. I would suggest either re-cutting the biscuits as they come out of the oven or using a slightly smaller cutter than your mould.

Method:
1. Break up 300g of the chocolate and melt it. Leave to cool and firm up slightly

*Tip*
It’s a good idea to transfer the chocolate to a cold bowl, as leaving it in the bowl you used to melt the chocolate will slow down the cooling process.

2. Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flours, salt, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub in until the mixture resembles fine crumbs, then add the milk and work the mixture until the dough comes together to make a smooth ball of dough.

*Tip*
If the dough is still a bit dry, just add a little bit more milk until it comes together.

3. Turn out onto a lightly floured worktop and roll out to about 5mm thick. Using the round cutter, cut out 6 discs, re-rolling the trimmings if necessary. Arrange slightly apart on the prepared baking sheet and prick each biscuit a couple of times with a fork. Chill for 10-15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas 3.

4. Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes until firm and just starting to colour around the edges – don’t let them get too dark or they will taste bitter. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

5. Wipe out the semi-dome mould with kitchen paper, then pour about 1 tablespoon of chocolate in each hole. Spread with the back of the spoon, and tip and swirl for several minutes, so the holes are completely covered (be careful when swirling one hole that the chocolate doesn’t pour out of the other holes!) – the domes need enough chocolate to be sturdy but should be thin enough to bite through easily. Take your time doing this, to allow the chocolate to thicken up so it doesn’t settle in the base of the holes. Leave to set (but not in the fridge).

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*Tip*
I spread the chocolate out and then left it for a few minutes next to an open window to harden up slightly and then used a spoon to re-spread the chocolate that had settled back into the base.

6. Dip the cooled biscuits in the remaining melted chocolate to cover completely and evenly (or brush chocolate over them), then place them uneven side down on a sheet of baking paper. Leave to set.

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7. To make the marshmallow, put all of the ingredients into a large heatproof mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk with a hand-held electric mixer on full power for 6-8 minutes until you have a bowl of thick, glossy, silky-smooth and very stiff meringue (rather like Italian Meringue). It needs to be stiff enough to pipe. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk for a few more minutes until the meringue has cooled. Leave it until it is completely cold, then spoon into one of the piping bags.

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*Tip*
When filling piping bags, to avoid mess, I put my piping bags into a clean glass and fold down the edges then fill them and roll the edges back up.

8. Melt the remaining 100g chocolate as before. Spoon into the other piping bag and turn up the tip so the chocolate doesn’t set hard; stand it in a glass until it has cooled and firmed up to piping consistency.

9. To assemble the teacakes, peel the biscuits off the paper and lay them, flat side down, on a clean sheet of baking paper. Snip the end off the piping bag containing the marshmallow to make a 2cm opening, then pipe the marshmallow into each chocolate dome to fill it level with the rim.

*Tip*
I tried “swirling” the marshmallow round a bit like I do when icing cupcakes and also simply holding the piping bag in the bottom of the dome and squeezing the bag and found that the latter was the most effective way of filling the domes.

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10. Snip off a 2cm opening from the piping bag containing the chocolate, then carefully pipe some chocolate on the marshmallow and a ring of chocolate around the edge of each biscuit. Swiftly place a biscuit on each marshmallow-filled dome. Smooth the join with a knife then leave to set until sealed together.

*Tip*
As I said above, my biscuits were a bit too big and so I had to slightly peel back the silicone mould and “glue” the base to the dome with a lot of melted chocolate.

11. Very carefully remove the chocolate domes from the mould by turning the mould upside down and gently popping out the domes (as though you are removing fragile ice cubes from a tray). Store in an airtight container in a cool place, but not the fridge, and eat within 2 days.

*Tip*
I didn’t turn the moulds upside down but “peeled” them away from the top edge of the dome first and then gently pushed up from the bottom at the same time as peeling the mould away to get the domes out.

I thoroughly enjoyed making these teacakes (and eating them)! Let me know if you have tried this recipe or something similar and, if so, how you got on? I’m thinking about another recipe which would use white chocolate and raspberries. What other combinations do you think would work?

Happy Baking!

Katherine

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Great British Bake Off – 2016 Baking Challenge – January

Welcome to I Love to Bake’s first blog of 2016. Sorry it has take a while, this year really has got off to a hectic start!

As you all know I absolutely love making cakes and I use any excuse to whip up a beautiful, full sized cake. But I also love trying new things and I feel like I would love to get more experience in other types of baking.

So, with this in mind I decided I would step out of my comfort zone and expand my repertoire. I decided to take inspiration from The Great British Bake Off and will be making one thing each month from a different theme. January was “Biscuit Month” and I made Chocolate and Peanut Butter cookies and Lemon Macaroons from The Hummingbird Bakery’s Home Sweet Home book. Here’s how I got on.

Lemon Macaroons

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of one lemon
230g icing sugar (sifted)
115g ground almonds

Makes 15-20 macaroons

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F), Gasmark 4, and line three baking trays with baking parchment.

2. Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and vanilla extract, then continue to whisk the egg whites until they are thick, white and glossy.

3. Using a rubber spatula, gently and gradually fold in the lemon zest, icing sugar and ground almonds.

4. Put the mixture into the piping bag and pipe cookies onto the prepared baking trays, each about 5cm (2in) in diameter as they will spread. (Alternatively, you can use a dessertspoon to spoon the mixture onto the trays in dollops, but your macaroons will come out less evenly shaped). Make sure to keep the cookies about 5cm (2in) apart from each other on the tray.

5. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes or until a golden colour and a nice shell has formed.

6. Allow to cool slightly and then remove from the baking sheet using a palette knife. Be careful as they can stick and easily crack. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before serving

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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients:
170g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
115g unsalted butter, softened
120g crunchy peanut butter
120g caster sugar, plus 40g extra for rolling
90g soft light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Makes 20-30 cookies

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170 C, Gas mark 3, and line two to three baking trays with baking parchment.

2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

3. Using a hand-held electric whisk or a free-standing electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, peanut butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. With the speed on slow, add the dry ingredients and mix until combined and a dough is formed.

4. Put the extra caster sugar in a small bowl. Roll the dough into 4-5cm (1.5-2in) balls, and roll each ball in the caster sugar to coat. Place the dough balls onto the prepared baking trays, keeping them about 4cm (1.5-2in) apart.

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5. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cookies have a crusty surface and have cracked. Cool completely before serving.

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As with the lemon macaroons these cookies will continue to cook when you take them out of the oven so make sure you don’t overbake them – mine were a little crispier around the edges than I would have liked. The recipe says to wait for the cookies to cool before eating them but I have to confess that I didn’t have enough willpower – they are delicious slightly warm!

If any of you have done or are planning to do any baking challenges I would love to know! Stay tuned for more GBBO inspired challenges – February is cake week and I am attempting a naked layer cake!

Happy Baking!

Katherine xx

How to make sugar-paste / fondant icing

I’m not a fan of sugarpaste (also known as fondant icing) so on the rare occasions when I do use it I have to confess that I usually just pop to Tesco and buy a packet, but ever since I saw Nadiya make her own sugarpaste from marshmallows on The Great British Bake Off I have been dying to try it out.

Nadiya referred to her marshmallow method as the “cheat’s” method and so I did a bit of research online to find out what the different methods were. Of course there are loads of different methods but I narrowed it down to two – the “cheat’s” method with the marshmallows and a slightly more complex method using glucose, glycerin and gelatine. I think that this method would be considered to be the more traditional method.

I decided to make a batch of each and compare them for texture and taste (well, my husband did the taste-testing!). Here’s how I got on:

Traditional Method

I used a recipe from Lindy’s cakes for the traditional sugarpaste recipe.

When I first saw the list of ingredients I was a bit intimidated and wondered if I would even be able to get hold of all of them. To my surprise I was able to get the gelatine and glucose in Tesco. I found the glycerin in Dinghams, a local cook shop in Winchester.

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I decided to half the recipe as I was making two different types and this was easily done. I found that halving the recipe gave me about 600g of sugarpaste. You need between 600-700g to cover an 8 inch cake.

Step 1 of the recipe says to mix the water and gelatine until “spongy”. I would describe the texture like runny jam.

When mixing the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, don’t panic if it seems like there won’t be enough liquid- there will be trust me! This is what mine looked like after all of the liquid was first added:

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Just keep stirring until it starts to come together and then finish it off with your hands (kind of like when making shortcrust pastry). I added a tiny bit of water to mine just to bring the final bits together.

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Then tip it onto a surface well-dusted with icing sugar and keep kneading until it becomes firm but pliable. And there you have it, homemade sugarpaste!

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The texture was perfect for covering a cake or modelling. My husband said that it was tasty but perhaps tasted slightly more like royal icing than the shop bought icing he is used to.

Marshmallow Method

This recipe is a Nigella recipe so I knew it would be easy but with good results.

The recipe calls for “shortening”. I did not know what this meant and so I had a quick look online (where would we be without Google?!) and found out that shortening is just a type of solid fat made from vegetable oils. It is called shortening because it shortens the gluten strands in wheat by adding fat. There is a good explanation of shortening at bakingbites.com. I used Trex which is available in the butter aisle in most supermarkets.

Again, I halved this recipe and it made around 500g of sugarpaste in the end.

Make sure you watch your marshmallows carefully whilst you are melting them as they do melt quickly. I found that after the second burst of 30 seconds they were pretty much there and a quick stir made sure everything was melted.

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A quick word of warning here – I bought a bag of mixed pink and white marshmallows without thinking and so ended up with pink fondant! I kneaded colour into mine when it was done so it was fine but do make sure, if you want white fondant you get white marshmallows!! Tee hee…

Another word of warning – I didn’t make my well deep enough in my icing sugar and the melted marshmallows started to escape! I managed to contain it by scooping it up ad quickly mixing it in to the icing sugar but I’m sure Nigella’s way is easier!!

When I had finished mixing in the icing sugar as stated in the recipe if found that the texture was still far too marshmallowy to roll out properly or model with. I found that the trick was to keep kneading in more icing sugar to make it firmer, however I would say that the texture still wasn’t quite as good as the traditional method.

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My husband again liked the taste of this batch and said he thought it was probably more like the shop bought flavour but perhaps a bit sweeter.

Overall, both methods worked well. I think I preferred the overall texture better of the traditional method but the marshmallow method is definitely a good compromise as it uses store cupboard ingredients.

Once my sugarpaste was done I had fun creating these little cuties:

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I hope to have a play around making some flowers soon and will upload pictures for you all to see!

Happy Baking!

Katherine xx

Christmas Cake [Part One]

So I’ve been meaning to get around to making my Christmas cake for a few weeks and finally found some time today. I was worried that I had left it too late but one of my friends mentioned that Sunday was actually the perfect day to make my cake because it was ‘Stir up Sunday’. This is a tradition that dates back to Victorian times when family members would gather together to stir the Christmas pudding and make a wish five weeks before Christmas (five weeks?! Blimey, I need to go shopping…).

Anyway, whilst Stir up Sunday traditionally applies to Christmas puddings I’m going to tell myself that it also applies to cakes and therefore I’m not behind, I’m perfectly on time with Christmas prep. In the kitchen at least…

I used a Mary Berry recipe from the GBBO Christmas book. Make sure you get yourself organised as the recipe requires you to soak the dried fruit in brandy for three days before baking the cake.
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You will need a very large bowl for this as by the time all of the ingredients are in there’s a lot of mixture! I found the mixture to be a bit dry so I added a bit of brandy to the mix (can’t have too much booze!) to loosen it up a bit.
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The recipe calls for the cake to be in the oven for 4-4.5 hours but I found that mine was done within 3 hours and 45 minutes. Everyone’s oven is different so keep an eye on your cake- when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean your cake is done.
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I’m so excited that my cake is finally done! I’m just letting it cool in the tin before feeding it for the next few weeks so that it’s lovely and boozy for the big day! I’ll post part 2 once I’ve decorated it.

Happy Baking!

Katherine

Sea Salted Caramel Showstopper Cake

As many of you know I am a member of the Winchester branch of Clandestine Cake Club and our theme for this month was Showstoppers as nod to the final of Bake Off. I wanted a cake that was a different flavour from one I would usually bake and that also had the “wow” factor in terms of how it looked. I scoured my (many!) recipe books and settled on the Sea Salted Caramel Cake from the new CCC book. If you read my Borough Market blog you will know that I am a big fan of salted caramel doughnuts and I have also tried it as a dessert and in a chocolate bar but I had never thought of it in a cake.

The first step is to make the caramel sauce. At first the mix looked awful because the butter separated and the sugar congealed into soft lumps but do persevere with it and once it is simmering stir it a couple of times and it will come together. When I added the chocolate and cream I added the chocolate first and stirred until this was melted before adding the cream as I didn’t want to risk the cream cooling the mixture down too much so that the chocolate didn’t melt.IMG_7037
I came unstuck a bit here (that’s what you get for not reading ahead!) and got on with the cake mixture whilst I left the sauce to cool. It turns out that the cooled sauce is in the cake mixture and so there is no point starting the cake mixture until the sauce is cool. To speed things up I measured out the 60g required for the cake mix and put this in a separate bowl to cool.

I found the cake mixture a bit stiff and so I added a little milk to loosen it. I imagine that I could have also added a bit more of the caramel sauce to loosen it as well and I will probably try that next time.

Once the cakes were cooled it was time to start the decorating process (exciting!). When filling the cake make sure the caramel sauce doesn’t go right to the edge otherwise it will get mixed in with the buttercream when you ice the outside of the cake.

As suggested by the recipe, the crumb coat is a good idea as it helps with the final look of the cake. The recipe says to crumb coat the sides but if I made this cake again I would also crumb coat the edge of the top of the cake where you intend to pipe as this would have made the finish neater. When you are doing the crumb coat you will get crumbs on your palette knife so make sure these don’t get mixed in with the rest of the icing as you don’t want crumbs in the icing you’ll be using to pipe the rosettes.IMG_7041

The rosettes took for blummin ever but the end result was worth it! Here is the finished product:
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If you don’t have the patience for rosettes then you could do swirls or roses instead.

This cake did take a bit of effort and patience but in my opinion it was well worth it! And judging by the small slice left at the end of cake club so did everyone else!

Happy baking 🙂

Katherine

Mary’s Mokatines

Sorry for the radio silence recently fellow bakers – I have been moving house!

I’ve been dying to try out my beautiful new kitchen (so much space!!) and I need to fill the massive void that has appeared in my life now that I no longer have Paul, Mary and co to entertain me on a Wednesday evening so I have decided to recreate some of the bakes attempted by the Great British Bake Off 2015 contestants. I have decided to start with the Mokatines which were the Technical Challenge in Week 8. You can find the recipe here, as well as the recipes for lots of the other bakes attempted in the Bake Off tent.

I decided on this challenge because it has a lot of technical skills involved, including creme au beurre moka, piping and genoise sponge which *lowers voice and looks over shoulder* I have never made before! Shh…don’t tell Mary or Paul!

I was quite nervous about attempting the genoise. I don’t know about you but I’ve heard so many things about how hard a genoise sponge is that I feel like mastering it is key to being able to call myself a baker! Anyway, it turns out the genoise was fine but I struggled with the icing! More on that later….

Given the tricky nature of a genoise I decided that I would use the ingredients set out in the GBBO recipe but I followed the technique suggested by James Morton in his book “How Baking Works” because it provides a lot more detail and explanation as to why each step is important. I can’t recommend it enough, it has such fabulous explanations!.

As explained by James you need to make sure you get masses of air into the mixture because there is no raising agent to help it rise so you need to whisk it like mad before you put it in the oven. James recommends to whisk the egg and sugar mix for 10 minutes before adding the butter and flour. When I first read this I thought it was crazy – 10 minutes?! But it is necessary; you cannot get enough air into the mix at this stage because adding the butter and flour will knock a lot out.
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When adding the butter and flour make sure you are very gentle. The key is to “fold” the flour in rather than beat or whisk it. Folding just means gently mixing everything together. It is best to use a large metal spoon as the thin edge cuts through the mixture easily without knocking out air. Make sure you scoop right to the bottom to get all the flour mixed in. Try not to fold it too many times, just enough to incorporate all of the flour.

The Great British Bake off recipe says that the sponge should be baked for 35-40 minutes but this seemed like far too long for most sponges, let alone a delicate genoise so I baked my sponge for 20 minutes before checking it and it was perfect. The best way to tell if a sponge is done is to give it a little prod on top, when it is done it will spring back (don’t poke too hard though or you will put your finger through it!).

I was very pleased with how the sponge came out (even if I did nearly drop the tin when I was turning it out! So clumsy!).
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Next I turned my attention to the decorating. I seem to find that this is the stage where it all goes a bit wrong for me so I was a bit apprehensive. It didn’t start well when the coffee icing was so dry it was more like a choux pastry mix! I added some water to the mixture (about a teaspoonful) which helped to loosen it and it didn’t affect the flavour at all so disaster averted thankfully!

Right. So far so good. Genoise sponge safely out of the tin (and not on the floor!) and small icing disaster averted. However…this is where it went really wrong and I ended up free-styling! The creme au beurre moka did not work for me AT ALL. The end mixture was extremely runny and I knew I would not be able to pipe it. I tried to salvage it by putting it in the fridge to firm up but this just caused it to separate and harden. I ended up making a coffee buttercream. Admittedly not quite the same but it works well and seems to have passed the taste test with my friends and family.

So next was the fun (and messy!!) bit. I decided to cut the cakes first and then fill them rather than fill then slice as the recipe suggests because I was worried that the coffee icing would just squidge out of the side when I cut into the sponge. Rather than spreading the icing onto the cakes I piped it in. This meant that I didn’t risk tearing the delicate sponge apart and allowed me to make sure each had the same amount of filling.

The next stage was quite messy – covering the cakes in the almond nibs! I found that I needed way more apricot jam than the recipe called for to ensure that the sides were covered sufficiently. I would estimate that I used at least 6 tablespoons and if I had had anymore I would have used it. It is important to make sure that the sides are totally covered in apricot jam because otherwise there will be gaps in the almond nibs.

I struggled to pipe the rosettes round the bottom as the almond nibs prevented the icing from sticking to the sponge. In the end I gave up and just piped the rosettes round the top.

The final stage is the fondant icing glaze on top. I found the recipe for this really weird. It calls for ready rolled fondant icing and says to beat this until it is smooth before adding water to make a glaze. My glaze ended up being lumpy as I couldn’t get the fondant to be completely smooth. I ended up sieving the glaze so that the lumps of fondant were removed and this worked well. I think that perhaps some royal icing would have worked better or perhaps even melted chocolate to add a different flavour.
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I really enjoyed the challenges of this recipe but I have no idea how the bakers managed it in such a short time, I take my hat off to them all!

If any of you have any top tips or golden rules for creme au beurre moka then I would love you to comment below!

Happy baking!

Katherine