39. Bagels Bagels Bagels! Polish Bakery

Bagels! Bagels! Bagels!

Bagels have been on my to bake list FOREVER! Inspired by a recent episode of The Great British Bake Off (new series and I’m guessing everyone else is totally addicted to it like me too?) I uncovered my wonderful (signed) copy of  Thoughtful Bread  ‘Bread Revolution’ for a recipe I could begin late one night. (I’ve even tweeted @thoughtfulbread to let them know I was baking from their book and got some lovely late night baking encouragement.)

We were treated to a short history lesson on bagels by the Great British Bake Off. Although they are more recently considered to be an American bread, they were originally brought from Poland to England and then on to America. They are typically Jewish Food with a wonderfully chewy crust from the poaching of the dough before the bake. (My favourite bit!)

Mixing up all the flour, salt, honey and yeast

A spot of late night preparation was in order to get this dough on the road. I mixed together the flour, dried yeast and a little salt to0. I ran out of strong white flour so made up the difference with brown strong flour, so these bagels were almost healthy too.

Add the water to get a sticky dough and stir!

Then to add the water. I had to add a little more water as I worked with the dough, probably due to the slightly drier brown flour I used.

Ready for some good kneading

When I started kneading the dough I was determined to reach the elusive ‘window pane’ stage where the gluten in the flour has become all stringy and elastic  and stretches out when pulled to create a transparent window when held up to the light in the dough. Alas after the allotted 10 minutes of kneading the rather tough dough by hand I was still windowless. A further 10 minutes of kneading (tracked by my faithful hamburger timer) and I was STILL windowless… I asked Chris to have a go with his brute strength and STILL no window. So I gave up comforted slightly that the dough had been kneaded at least twice as long as it was supposed to be and it did bounce back when prodded with my finger.

Me kneading on tip toes

I think I need lower work surfaces for bread making as I always have to resort to balancing on my tip toes to get the full impact of the kneading…

proving time

I left the ball of dough to prove and double in size over night in a greased bowl covered with greased cling film. Et voila! The next morning I awoke to beautifully risen dough.

Beautifully risen dough

Punching it back I kneaded it thoroughly again (it’s a good job I do yoga press ups!) dividing the dough into 12 (equal-ish) portions I left it to rest for 5 minutes whilst I arranged the next stage. Water bath!

12 chunks of dough

Taking my largest soup pan I filled it about half way with water from the kettle.

Stage 1: The dough sausage

Then to shape the bagels. I tried a few different methods to see which worked best and I think I prefer the traditional method. Roll a long sausage about 20 cms long) of dough and shape it into a circle.

Stage 2: shape into a circle

Fold the loose ends together and squash them together.

Stage 3: Fold the loose ends together

Then put your hand through the ‘hole’ in the centre and roll the join together until the two ends are firmly merged. Then if required roll the rest of the dough ring in the same way to even up the dough and shape it into a bagel.

Stage 4: Squash the loose ends together

The other method is more modern and maybe slightly quicker. Where you shape the dough into a ball, flatten it, poke your thumb through the centre and then whilst holding the dough in your palm squeeze around the dough to widen the hole and shape the dough into a bagel.

I used for each bagel? Poor dough ring on the right is a bit more of a bagel bracelet

Once shaped the bagels need to prove for about 30 minutes under a damp tea towel or greased cling film at which point you can start to warm up the oven and water so it’s simmering nicely.

If you want to add flavouring to your bagels you can add toppings like sesame or poppy seeds after the poaching stage, but if you like your bagels fruity on the inside (like me) then you will have to add your chosen flavour before you shape the bagels. I chose to make half savoury and half sweet.

pre soaked dried fruit, apple, cranberries and raisins

I pre soaked some dried fruit, raisins, apple and cranberries overnight in a little boiling water with a dash of cinnamon. Drained off the excess water and folded in a teaspoon (or 2) of the fruit along with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon into the dough before shaping it.

Step 1: Filling the bagel

It makes the bagel a bit unpredictable with spots of fruit poking out all over the place but I found if I sealed the fruit into the dough and then shaped it, it was a little easier.

Step 2: folding in the edges to make a fruit pouch. Sealing the edges together

Step 3: roll into a dough sausage and follow the stages above to shape the bagel

Then all you have to do is plonk the bagels into your pan of simmering water for 2 minutes (turning them over half way through for an even poach).

Bagels in for a swim

The bagels do expand slightly so don’t over fill your pan, do them in batches so they have room to breathe.

Ever increasing circles

Then out of the pan an into the oven! I used my Nana’s slotted spoon to scoop the bagels out and drain off the water. Then gently pop then onto a lined baking tray (sprinkle on your choice of topping while the bagel is wet) and into the oven they go.

Ready for the oven

This means you can have a continuous run of bagel poaching and baking until all of your bagels are baked. However this meant I was waiting for my breakfast for almost 2 hours. I ended up devouring 2 hot bagels and butter straight from the oven and they did not disappoint! Hot and buttery they were just what I needed.

Fruity Bagels in for a swim

They are definitely easier to split down the middle when they’ve cooled a bit though. The plain bagels were easier to eat and even better toasted too to give an even crisp coating and chewy soft centre. I LOVED this bake. You know you’re making something special when it takes a bit more effort and skill.

Bagels! Hot from the oven

The fruity bagels were a little more moist in the middle, but this is what I had expected. You can’t put fruit into a bagel without adding a bit of moisture.

bagel splitting

Perhaps in the future when I think they’re baked I might also turn them over and return them to the oven for a few more minutes just to ensure the bagels are baked evenly. As I did find that the bagels were quite wet when they went in the oven so they were slightly soggy when they came out of the oven, but a lot of this moisture dried as they cooled (and I guess adds to their chewiness.)

Bagel goodness

I would also add more cinnamon to the bagels as they weren’t quite cinnamony enough for me. All in all a very good bake and I’m adding this to my baking repertoire now!

Bagel sandwiches

Things I used to make this recipe:

Lovingly adapted  from Bread Revolution by the Thoughtful Bread Company

  • 375g strong brown flour
  • 375g strong white flour
  • 3 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 375ml warm water
  • 7 tsp honey
  • additional strong white flour for dusting the board

Fruit filling

  • A bowl full of dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, dried apple)
  • cinnamon

Optional Toppings

  • I used sesame seeds and just sprinkled enough to coat the bagels on each one
  • You could use anything such as poppy seeds, sunflower seeds,

Cath Kidston Flour Sifter – so handy when you’re covered in sticky dough

The Hamburger Timer – so handy for timing all those batches of bagels

31. Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake – Hot! Hot! Hot!

Chocolate and Chilli Cake! Glazed and Glorious

Having never been to Mexico before  or eaten chilli and chocolate together, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I am now a chocolate and chilli convert! What a combination! They compliment each other so well, with the gentle heat from the chilli and  the creamy chocolate, this cake is oh so moreish. Originally the Aztecs and Mayans drank a lot of spicy chocolate, on a daily basis, and believed it had wonderful medicinal and magical properties. Therefore this cake must be good for you and eaten in large quantities.

I baked this originally as I had a major cake disaster. I broke my Mary Berry ‘ultimate chocolate cake’ that I was baking for my leaving do at work. (Unfortunately there are no photos available I seem to have had a baking meltdown at this point.) I had baked myself crazy (making macaroons and a chocolate cake in one go) and when I attempted to cut the Mary Berry creation in half to layer it up, it fell apart in my hands. I almost cried. Then I remembered I had bookmarked the chilli and chocolate loaf in the Great British Bake Off Book for a rainy day, and this was most certainly a rainy night.

Grabbing the book from the shelf and rolling up my sleeves I was ready to improvise and muddle my way through with what I had left in my cupboard to create a new chilli and chocolate cake.

I threw the milk in a pan and blasted it on the stove until it was almost boiling and switched on the oven at 180 degrees C/350F/gas4. While it heated I had time to start preparing the rest of the cake.

Whisk the butter and sugar together and then keep whisking and whisking!

I was surprised by the amount of whisking the butter and sugar needed, I had chosen this cake for it’s simplicity and hadn’t anticipated whisking for 5 minutes, but it was totally worth it. I may even start to whisk the butter and sugar for longer in all of my cakes as you can real feel the difference in the texture. It is a really light and moist sponge. I think it might actually be the lightest sponge I’ve ever made.

I feel like chilli tonight, like chilli tonight

When the milk reached scalding point (just before boiling point wait until it starts to steam a bit) I took the pan off the heat and plopped the broken chocolate into the hot milk. After about 5 minutes the chocolate melts into the milk. It needed a good stir to get the chocolate to distribute evenly into the milk.

Chocolate and Chilli Milk – floaty chilli oil

I added all of the wonderful chilliness to the chocolate milk. As you know by now I don’t ever follow a recipe exactly. I can’t resist tampering with it or tweaking it. Therefore I opted for adding chilli oil (extra hot), chilli powder, paprika and ginger to the milk. Just to ensure it had that added oomph! You can tell if you look closely how much chilli I actually added as there are speckles of red floating in the milk :)

Still whisking the butter and brown sugar together, adding one egg at a time and then keep on whisking…

Once you think you’ve whisked the butter and sugar together enough, you still need to whisk it a bit more. Then in goes the treacle. Keep whisking until the treacle is incorporated, until it becomes a smooth sugary paste. The butter, sugar and treacle combination needs whisking for about 5 minutes in total. Then it’s time to whisk in an egg at a time. This creates wonderfully fluffy and creamy pale brown batter.

Sifting the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together

Now if like me, you’re in a real hurry and enjoy the danger of multi tasking to the extreme you can throw all of the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cocoa powder into the sieve and while you’re still whisking the sugar and eggs with one hand, sift all of the dry ingredients together in a seperate bowl. Lifting the sieve up high to add as much air as possible to the mix. Or if you’re more sensible, chose to do these 2 steps separately.

Folding in the flour

Then all that’s left to do is fold the flour into the sugar batter with a metal spoon, (about a third of the flour mix) then fold in a third of the chocolate chilli milk,  alternating the flour and milk until it’s all incorporated and there are no hidden lumps of flour lurking in the bottom of the bowl. I love my pyrex mixing  bowl for this very reason, it makes it so easy to check to see I’ve finished my folding. It will end up as a glossy batter that can be poured slowly into it’s greased and lined tin.

Tin Time

The recipe calls for a 900g loaf tin. I did originally bake a chocolate and chilli loaf, however I failed to take any photos whatsoever due to my aforementioned baking meltdown, so I used this excuse to bake it again. (Did I tell you how much I love this cake??) This time I opted for my favourite bundt tin and made sure I greased it really well to avoid any sticky disasters.  I reduced the baking time by 5 minutes to take into account  the variation on the tin and it worked brilliantly. It needed 50-55 minutes in the bundt tin or 55- 60 minutes in the loaf tin.  But just to make sure I did the cocktail stick test to make sure it was cooked all the way through.

Chocolate and Chilli Cake – look at those flecks of red chilli

I allowed the cake to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes and then tipped it upside down onto the cooling rack. It slid out effortlessly. No coaxing required!

Pre Glaze

Now I did mention that I had been baking a Mary Berry chocolate cake originally. This cake also had a chocolate glaze. I figured I wouldn’t need all of it after I broke the Mary Berry cake so I poured it all over my chocolate and chilli cake instead. What a triumph! The original recipe calls for a sifting of cocoa powder over the loaf but now it seems that I have added a chocolate ganache glaze instead. I think this glaze helps to balance out the savoury undertones of the chilli (and mellow out the extra hot chilli oil that I added) so if you can be bothered to add an extra step into the recipe I really recommend that you do.

Glorious Glaze

While the cake was cooling I warmed a good tablespoon of butter in a pan and added 100g of icing sugar and 10g of cocoa powder. Once the butter has melted I added 4-5 tablespoons of warm water to the mix, or enough water to create a smooth glossy glaze. When the cake had cooled enough I simply poured it all over and spooned it onto the gaps. The glaze will crisp up slightly once it has cooled.

Dripping Glaze

The cake will cut easily when it’s cooled, if you can wait that long for your first slice! If you can’t, just dig in with a fork, as it’s so tender it will melt in your mouth :) This was a perfect pick me up after my first 10k practice race that I ran at the weekend, in preparation for the Great North Run. I must admit the thought of wedge of restorative Chocolate Chilli Cake did help to keep my feet moving and got me round in 1 hour 1 minute :)

Chocolate and Chilli Cake – The final slice

Finished the Sunderland 10k. Now time for cake…

Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake

Things that I used to make Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake*

Cake – Milk Base

  • 250ml milk
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • a good splash of chilli oil (1/2 to 1 full  teaspoon depending on how hot you like it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried chilli powder

Cake – Fluffy Base

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 300g brown sugar (demerera or muscovado will do)
  • 1 tablespoon of treacle
  • 3 eggs (I used medium but you could use large

Cake – Dry Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Glorious Glaze**

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter/margarine
  • 10g cocoa powder

* Recipe chaotically adapted from The Great British Bake Off  ‘How to Bake’ Book – Chocolate Chilli Cake

** Glaze made up from a Mary Berry recipe (Ultimate Chocolate Cake) and a Marguerite Patten recipe (Water Icing with chocolate)

29. Messy Macaroons – France

In Hiroshima, I spotted shop windows stylishly displaying towers of tantalisingly multicoloured circular sandwiches, of every colour in the rainbow. At this point, a couple of yearrs ago now, I had never even heard of Macaroons, let alone tasted one. I kept promising myself one, but with all the other amazing food I never got round to it! Returning home I realised I was macaroonless.

Hello Hiroshima

I then heard more and more about Macaroons, they were everywhere, from Gossip Girl to Lorraine Pascale. (Think Blair Waldorf eating an entire box of pistachio macaroons in the bath.) Then The Great British Bake Off with Edd Kimber’s fabulous macarons. The more I heard about them the more I wanted to try them. Newcastle is not the Macaroon (or macaron – you choose which spelling you prefer, English or French?) central of the world. However my Mam happened upon them in Betty’s Tea Room and bought me an entire box! How decadent and divine, so light and sweet. I sampled the lot,  lemon, pistachio, chocolate and strawberry glossy and smooth macaroons filled with delicious jam and buttercream. They feel like something French aristocrats would enjoy on a daily basis.

Betty’s Tea Rooms Handmade Macaroons – note the glossy exterior, feet and lift!

I had to attempt them myself. They are a French invention, but it seems quite a few other countries have their own variation and have adopted them too. We used to make coconut macaroons with my Mam, but they are something entirely different. (But I have bought some rice paper to have a go myself soon…)

My Messy Macaroons

You can use the Italian meringue method (which uses hot sugar syrup to cook the egg whites before drying out the meringue in the oven. I used it to create my Key Lime Pie) or the French meringue method (where the raw meringue is cooked slowly in the oven)  to make the macaroon shell. I opted for the French method, as it seemed easier! However upon further research the Italian method may be more tricky but it supposedly produces more consistent results. (Next time I’m up for experimenting a bit more with this!)

I learned a few things along the way when making these. They are quite technical and a bit tricky but essentially they are a meringue and like when I made pavlova and mini meringues they require ‘drying out’ or cooking in a low temperature oven.

I chose a classic macaroon recipe to follow and adapted it to suit the flavours that I had in my cupboard. Which meant that I ended up with pink lemon flavoured macaroons. This kind of messes with your mind a little.

Whisking the egg whites

I started by whisking the egg whites and a tablespoon of lemon juice with an electric mixer for quite some time until it becomes stiff. Then gradually whisked in  the rest of the lemon zest and sugar until it was fully incorporated. I also added some powdered red food colouring at this point until I reached my desired pinkness. It’s probably best not to use liquid food colourings here as you don’t want to disturb the consistency of the egg whites too much… Runny egg whites make for one flat and merged meringue. (I should know I’ve already been there and done that.)

Adding the pinkness

It can take 10 minutes or so to whisk the egg whites until they are shiny. Then you known they’re ready for the ground almonds. Using a metal spoon I carefully folded in the ground almonds, so as to keep as much air  in the meringue as possible.

I spooned the meringue paste into a piping bag with a plain round nozzle and piped freestyle. Some people like Holly Bell, who are far more prepared than me, use a template of equally spaced circles (or other shapes) under their greaseproof paper to pipe equal amounts onto the tray.  I however was in a baking frenzy and choose to guess. Therefore my  results are somewhat less than consistent. My piping was supposed to produce little delicate rounds of meringue onto the baking tray lined with grease proof paper. Occasionally little meringue peaks formed on my macaroon circles. I quickly flattened them down again with a slightly wet finger. Good news however! There’s no need to grease the paper before piping, which is always a nice treat.

Piped onto the baking paper – all shapes and sizes

Now here’s my lesson at this point I wish that I had

a)    Gently banged the tray on the worktop to make sure the bottom of the macaroons were flat.

b)    Left the macaroons for 20 – 30 minutes to dry slightly and form a skin on the top before putting them into the oven. (I have since discovered that you get a more glossy finish by doing this and it helps the macaroons to form their characteristic ‘feet’(the little rugged ridge around the base of the shell) and lift up from the tray in the oven.

c)    Blitzed my ground almonds in the food processor before using them to make sure they were really fine. This is supposed to help ensure a smooth and glossy finish. I may have even sieved them if I could have been bothered.

d)    Used icing sugar! The recipe just called for caster sugar. Other recipes I’ve looked at use powdered sugar to get a smoother finish.

e)    Froze the first batch before I filled them. Apparently freezing macaroons helps to make them look and taste even better.

Just baked macaroon shells – oh so many I ran out of trays to pipe them on! (oh and I dropped a wooden spoon on that one in the middle before it made it to the oven…)

But this is all fine and well in hindsight. I didn’t have this wisdom then. I was pleased that they held their shape (whatever shape that may be)  in the oven when I baked them for 40 minutes at 150 degrees C with the oven door slightly open. However they didn’t develop the little feet or lift that they are supposed too so they weren’t as sophisticated as I hoped. They were most definitely not smooth, glossy or shiny either, but more of a pumice stone texture. Thankfully they didn’t taste like pumice stone! They were chewy in the centre and crisp on the outside, just how I like them. (I couldn’t resist trying a few straight from the oven.)

I left them to cool completely before filling them with a generous smudge of my home made lemon curd and a sneaky layer lemon buttercream. Then sandwiched two shells together.

Little and Large

This recipe was only supposed to make 15 macaroons. I ended up with well over 30, so perhaps I made slightly smaller ones than I was supposed to, but they seemed massive to me. All the more macaroon to enjoy in my opinion.

My Messy Macaroons

I took a whole box along with me on my last day in my job and they were the first thing to disappear from the buffet table, which indicates success despite their ever so rustic appearance. With the other half I wrapped the empty shells carefully in layers of greaseproof paper and stored them in an airtight container. I froze them for a month and defrosted them for my friend’s leaving do. They accompanied me to the pub in their own takeaway container.

Take away macaroons

I have a whole macaroon book to experiment with so you can definitely expect messy macaroons part 2 in the near future as I’m determined to perfect them!

Things that I used to make messy macaroons

4 egg whites (I used medium eggs)

1 lemon (juice and zest)

250g caster sugar

200g of ground almonds

Buttercream

Approx 300g icing sugar (enough to create smooth sweet paste when combined with the sugar)

1 lemon zested

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g butter

Lemon Curd

Approx 3 tablespoons of homemade lemon curd (but you can add as much or as little as you like)

Baked for 40 minutes at 150 degrees C with the oven door slightly open.

**Note to self – I also used a little splodge of the uncooked meringue mix on each baking tray to hold the greaseproof paper in place**

27. Paul Hollywood’s Peshwari Naan Bread – India

Paul Hollywood’s Naan Bread

Rolling on to India and bake number 26! (All this baking is taking its toll! I’m now increading my exercise to 15 miles of walking a week, Ashtanga yoga and the occasional spin class/torture session.) But I love food and I love naan bread, particularly Peshwari Naan but then again who doesn’t love a good Naan? And not just any Naan bread but Paul Hollywood’s, the King of bread bakers, Naan bread?

Looking for the perfect accompaniment to my home made dahl and pilau rice I stumbled across the Paul Hollywood recipe I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Any excuse to whip out my trusty food processor too! I combined the flour, yeast, salt and oil and mixed it all up using the dough hook attachment, adding water until it became a good sticky dough.

The food processor alone was not enough to knead the dough properly and the food processor was about to leap off the worksurface with the sheer effort of spinning the dough. I had to admit defeat and resort to my own hands.

Shiny Happy People – Kneady Stuff

I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes on an oiled surface, to stop it sticking, which is so much easier than a floured surface. Until it was smooth and shiny and bounced back when pressed lightly. It’s times like these that I wish I was 2 inches taller so I didn’t have to knead the dough whilst teetering about on my tip toes to get the right force required!

Time to Prove

Whilst the dough proved under it’s oiled cling film covering I set to work on arranging my naan flavours. Paul Hollywood’s recipe called for caraway seeds and coriander. Unable to follow any recipe without substituting something or ad libbing somewhere, I decided to attempt a Peshwari Naan, guessing that I could throw some crushed garlic, spices (coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds), raisins and coconut into the mix and it would produce Peshwari Naan. Upon opening the cupboard I found dried fruit store severely depleted! My normal store cupboard staple, raisins, were nowhere to be found! (I forgot earlier in the week I bought an extra double amount to feed an entire litre of rum to for a very special future bake! All of my dried fruit is currently sitting patiently soaking up lashings of rum. All will be revealed soon!)

Naan Flavourings: Coconut, Garlic, Coriander, Cardamom Seeds and Cumin

Slightly disappointed I ploughed on with a combination of coconut, half a bulb of crushed garlic, dried coriander and cumin instead. Noting I must buy more dried fruit as soon as possible.

Risen to perfection

After about an hour of rising, (near the hot hob on the stove while I was cooking a chicken and vegetable dahl to encourage the dough to prove) the dough had doubled in size and was ready to be flavoured! I added the flavours a third at a time and kneaded them thoroughly through the dough.

Flavoured and divided

Once all the coconutty goodness was distributed evenly throughout the dough I rolled it into a fat sausage to chop it into quarters. Each quarter of dough should then be cut in half and flattened. Paul Hollywood is obviously a bit more of a perfectionist than me as he insists that a rolling pin is required to flatten the dough portions out. I can’t believe that people in India whip out a rolling pin at this point and so I decided to do all this flattening with my bare hands. Which did mean that my first attempt was more like a paperback novel than a fluffy, naan bread.

Stacks of semi flattened naan bread dough – must be flatter than this before hitting the pan!

I re-read the recipe and realised that the dough should be stretched into circles about 25cm in diameter, probably twice as big as my inital attempt! This explains the chunky naan brick that I produced.

Chunky Naan

Once flattened the dough has to be rested again for 5 minutes before plopping them (individually) into a hot pan with a splash of oil. I quite enjoyed the sizzle of the naan in the oil as the naan immediately puffed up and bubbled away happily in the pan. Then a quick flip over to sizzle it on the other side too. I was worried the coconut would all fall off as I got a bit bored whilst frying up the naans and decided to press some more coconut and coriander into the awaiting naan breads. I’m not sure if Paul Hollywood would approve of my inconsistent making-it-up-as-I-go-along approach but hey they were looking golden and lovely in the pan, so why worry about presentation and consistency now?!

Naan -ish and Golden (look at those bubbly edges!)

Once the naan is golden brown on both sides, it’s ready to hop out of the pan on onto a plate. I continued pan frying all 8 of the naans, piling them high on a plate ready to be devoured with daahl.

Stacks of Naan

Tea time! It smelt amazing, although a tad smokey in my kitchen as I definitely had the heat up too high on the pan. The windows had to be opened to get rid of the haze in order to see at one point. But other than my carelessness when it comes to fire safety, this recipe was a resounding success. I did slightly chargrill (burnt) one naan and created a naan brick, but I still had 6 more naans to get the technique right with. When I eventually got it right, I really got it right!

Chargrilled Naan

The bread was fluffy and light around the edges with thinner crispier bits towards the middle, where I had possibly been a bit over enthusiastic with my thinning process. I quite liked the texture and it was a good call to add an extra layer of coconut before frying the bread as it toasted on the top. Lovely! I’ve frozen the rest of the batch after we had eaten our share, to be defrosted in naan bread emergencies, of which I’m sure I will have many.

Tea Time! (The naan was so massive I couldn’t fit it all on the plate or in the photo…)

The recipe, just in case you would like to try it is…

    • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
    • 10g/¼oz salt
    • 15g/½oz fresh yeast
    • 30ml/1fl oz olive oil
    • water, to mix
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds (I substituted this for – the crushed seeds of 4 cardamom pods)
    • 1 tsp caraway seeds (I used a generous 1 tsp of dried coriander and 1 tsp cumin)
    • I then added further to Paul’s recipe with 1/2 a cereal bowl of coconut (sorry its a very rough guestimate, my usual measurement unit)

You can also find the full Paul Hollywood Naan Bread recipe on the BBC Food website.

Paul Hollywood’s Naan Bread Recipe

25. Happy Birthday to me! Triple Lemon, Triple Layer Victoria Sponge – Extravagana – England

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Triple Lemon, Triple Layer Victoria Sponge

Ok, ok I’ve baked rather a few things already from good old England so it may not be that exotic to choose a Traditional Victoria Sponge. However! I know a true test of baking skill lies in the creation of a perfect sponge. I’ve never made one of these before but I sure have eaten my fair share of them. I have pondered over baking a layered cake for quite some time and debated over experimenting with a Hummingbird Bakery venture delicious although it would have been it involved too many ingredients that I couldn’t find so back to Marguerite Patten! Always wanting to try something a little bit different, and having rather a lot of home made lemon curd still to use up, I made mine a triple lemon triple layered Victoria Sponge…
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The Marguerite Patten recipe for Victoria Sponge has so many variations I think you need a Home Economics degree to put it all together! After engaging my non mathematical brain I managed to measure out in ounces (reading my scales correctly this time- I recently realised that I’ve been reading Llbs instead of ounces… This may explain why my last sponge cake went SO very wrong…)

The Many Variations of Marguerite

I used the variation for one 10 inch cake tin, the plan being that I would simply split my one cake in half and fill it with buttercream and my lemon curd.

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Whisking the eggs well

As I was making probably the biggest cake in Marguerite’s recipe options I had to increase all the ingredients from 4oz to 6oz. Simple?

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Creaming the butter, sugar and lemon zest together

I simplified the method for myself: 6oz of butter and 6 of sugar creamed together. 2 medium eggs to be whisked ‘well’. 2 lemons zest and half a lemons juice added to the butter then beat the eggs gradually into the butter being careful not to curdle the lot.

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Scrambled eggs?

Then to fold in the 6oz of plain flour and ta da we have a cake mix!

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Folding in the flour

Careful not to knock the air out of the mixture I lovingly spread it as flat as I could get it into the greased and lined tin. 35minutes at 180 degrees and I had one slightly thinner than I expected lemon sponge.

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Spread as even as possible in the tin

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One slightly sad looking thin lemon sponge

This rather sad looking sponge would be impossible split down the middle and ice. So I just had to bake another 2 layers!! It would have been a bit of a disappointing cake had I not. To speed up the process I doubled the ingredients to make enough for 2 cakes in one go. I wasn’t entirely sure this was technically the best thing to do but hey I didn’t want to be on all night. The problem being I only have one round cake tin so I had to bake one sponge at a time in order to re use the tin. This meant cooling the cake quickly and hoping the last sponge wouldn’t be airless and dry after the sponge mix had sat around waiting to be plopped into the tin.

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Citrus buttercream

Throwing an unmeasured amount of butter and icing sugar into the food processor, (probably around 1 and a half packs of butter and enough icing sugar to make a good smooth sweet texture) I whizzed it all up with a splash of orange extract and vanilla too. I ran out of lemons by this point so thought any citrus would be a good move…

I am not very good at icing cakes with buttercream. My cupcakes always look a bit sad so this was a bit of a trial by fire. I’ve watched Lorraine Pascale ice cakes and it looks easy so I do what I do best and make it up as I go along. Lorraine made a mint sugar syrup and spread it on to her layered sponge cakes before icing, so I thought this must be a good idea although it did mean deviating from Marguerite’s recipe somewhat.

Lemon Syrup

Using what I had left over from the sponges I simmered the juice from all of the zested lemons with some sugar (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) to make a lemon drizzle. When it and the cakes had cooled slightly I spread a generous sticky coating on all 3 sponge layers to add to the lemony flavour and to help keep it moist.

The Terrible Trio

The exciting bit was then whacking on a thick layer of lemon curd followed by buttercream then smushing on a sponge layer (and it cracked slightly but no one will see this once I coat the entire thing in buttercream. The problem was the lemon curd started to dribble out everywhere! For the second layer I put buttercream first then lemon curd which helped hold it in place a bit better.

Layer 1! Lashings of Buttercream

Layer 2. I could stop here for a traditional Victoria Sponge…

Lemon Curding it up

Layer 3! Looking a bit rustic

It was looking enormous and slightly lopsided. I had obviously not spread the buttercream evenly but the leaning tower of Pisa look is so in right now (I tell myself). Once the third sponge layer was added I spread the remaining butter cream, around the sides of the cake, sealing all 3 layers in. Smoothing the cream round with a palette knife. I saved a little buttercream to finish it off after the entire cake had a little rest in the fridge to ‘set’.

All 3 leaning layers encased in buttercream

The cake was so massive I had to take some shelves out of the fridge just to squeeze it in! Once I smoothed on the final finishing touches of buttercream in an attempt to hide some of the crumbs that had broken off the sponges and worked their way into the cream I faced a little challenge. How to cover the leaning tower of cake up to keep it fresh in the fridge?! It was too big for any of my cake boxes and I had welded it to my glass cake stand with buttercream so it wasn’t possible to move it.

Cake Tent

I fashioned a rudimentary cake tent by selotaping cocktail sticks underneath the glass cake stand and gently folding 2 sheets of tin foil around the cake and skewering them onto the sticks. The cocktail sticks meant the tin foil didn’t touch the buttercream but would stop it all drying out in the fridge. Perfect!

Triple Lemon, Triple Layer Victoria Sponge

Once you start you can’t stop

This cake was immense!! I loved the sharp lemon flavour of the Curd combined with the gentle citrus buttercream. The sponge was probably a bit dry around the edges (hence the loose crumbs) so I would probably take it out the oven a little sooner if I was making it again. But hey for a first attempt at a layered cake I was happy. The tilt definitely gives it a certain je nais sais quais. I enjoyed the quirky take on the traditional Victoria Sponge. I took some to work and one comment was “that is the best cake that I have ever tasted’ which is high praise indeed!

Ps. This cake was perfect for trying out my lovely new cake slice!

19. Sunderland Gingerbread – How to Mackem

Sunderland Gingerbread

Years ago I bought a postcard from Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens (my favourite museum from when I was little with the Walrus head and stuffed lion that we visited on a weekly basis)  with a recipe on it for Sunderland Gingerbread. As far as I’m aware Sunderland isn’t renown for it’s Gingerbread but I guess as it was major port there would have been a plentiful supply of exotic spices to create lovely things with. It’s been pinned to my fridge for over 3 years reminding me that I need to try it out.

I am the Walrus

I was aiming to bake something special for my friend in Australia and post it out to her. As we’re both from Sunderland and therefore officially Mackems, this recipe seemed perfect. Not only because of the Sunderland connection but also because gingerbread needs to mature, which it could do as it was winging its way to her down under.

The Postcard

Customs are pretty tight in Australia so I also had to be very careful in recipe choice as there are restrictions on importing dried/fresh fruit and dairy to protect the eco system. Again Sunderland Gingerbread was a winner, as it was definitely less than 10% dairy and contains no dried fruit.

Necessary Ingredients - Baking Powder, Corinader, Ginger (of course) and AllSpice

This was my first foray into gluten and wheat free baking. I’ve never used this type of flour before so was intrigued by its white luminosity and fine texture. It reminded me of fresh snow that crunches when stepped on. Very Christmassy indeed!

Gluten Free Flour Blend

I loved making this recipe. It was so very simple, perhaps because a postcard only has space for the most basic instructions on it. It was easy to follow and very little washing up! My kind of bake! Everything was mixed together in one pan. Fantastic!

Measuring out the flour, baking powder, bicarb of soda and spices (all in one bowl saves washing up...)

Melting butter, golden syrup and sugar together

Sift in the flour and spices

Mixing it into a paste

Looking gingery

Add some milk... (I possibly should have added this sooner?)

Liquid Gingerbread

Oven Ready - Poured into a greased and lined tin

The texture was a little different to what I’m used to for this gingerbread, possibly because I haven’t tried gluten free flour before but after a couple of days of maturing it was rather nice, especially with a good dollop of ice cream on the side. (I’m sure custard would be pretty good with it too).

Baked!

All that was left was to cut into travel sized chunks and figure out how to package it up safely so it would survive up to 2 weeks in transit. Greaseproof paper and cotton string is my new favourite thing. I may have gone a little over board, but customs were very specific about their packaging requirements (I even emailed them to double check and everything :) )

The Final Slice

You may have already spotted my disastrous turkish delight post, as I was searching for other suitable non perishable things to post. As my package was not yet complete I still needed to bake one more thing… will let you know how that turned out very soon.

The Final Slice

Perfect with rum and raisin ice cream!

Just in case you fancy giving Sunderland Gingerbread a go yourself, here’s the recipe…
Ingredients:
340g plain flour
140g butter
110g soft brown sugar
225g golden syrup
1 egg
140ml milk
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tsp baking powder
How to Mackem (Directions):
      • Heat together butter, sugar and syrup in a pan until just melted
      • Sieve together dry ingredients then stir into syrup mix
      • Beat together egg and milk and beat quickly into syrup mix
      • Pour into 15x25cm greased and lined baking tin
      • Bake at gas mark 2, 150*C/300*F for about an hour (or until cooked in the centre)
      • Allow to cool in the tin
      • (Don’t worry if it sinks in the middle! – hurrah! – or cracks a little)
      • Keep for a few days in an airtight container before eating.
      • Enjoy with custard or ice cream or just with a cup of tea :)
*Recipe courtesy of Dane Stone Cards www.dane-stone.co.uk

17. Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake – Japan

I love Japan. This is probably an understatement. The North East of England has slowly but surely caught on to the variety of foods that other countries can offer. For a long time we only had one sushi restaurant. I’m happy to report that we now have at least 3 that I’m aware of. Wagamama posed quite a revolution when it first opened its doors and we all queued down the street for a chance to eat some gorgeous food.

The Golden Palace

Traditionally Japanese food focuses more on savoury things rather than cakes I found this fantastic recipe for a Green Tea Drizzle Cake in the Wagamama cookbook.

A delicious slice

I went to Japan last year after dreaming about it for many, many years. I love that pretty much everything has green tea in it. I ate so much Green Tea ice cream…

My favourite ice cream parlour (this may have bee rose but I ate so much I forget)

went to a Tea Ceremony,

Me making Matcha in the Tea ceremony

Tea Ceremony

dressed up in kimono

The Full Kimono Experience

Kimono

and ate tonnes of sushi and noodles and maple leaf cakes (if I can find a recipe I will be attempting this very soon!)

The best cold soba noodles I have ever had. EVER

I’m quite adventurous when it comes to food and when in Japan of course I’m going to experiment a bit further, so yes I ate Bento boxes on the bullet train til they were coming out of my ears, (octopus legs and all)

Tasty Octopus Legs

but I drew the line at raw horse meat which was almost eaten by accident, slightly lost in translation somewhere…

No raw horse meat here!

Luckily during my Hello Kitty splurges I also insisted on purchasing Matcha (Green Tea Powder although the bamboo whisk is yet to see daylight and is still sealed in its packet at the back of the cupboard) My Asian cooking obsessions mean that I regularly purchase bizarre things from the Chinese Supermarkets, so I have a cupboard full of tapioca pearls, jasmine essence and of course gunpowder green tea.

The strong stuff

We had friends coming round for takeaway and I thought Green Tea Cake would be a perfect light end to the meal. It was quite a quick bake too, so just enough time to whip up a double batch as I wanted to bake one to take with me to my friends house the night after too.

Unlike a normal sponge cake, the sugar and eggs were beaten together in a bain marie until it tripled in size.

Eggs and sugar into the whisk

Whisk it all until it triples in size

Magic

then flour, baking powder and matcha powder were folded in.

Matcha Green Tea Powder (and flour)

I divided the batter between the 2 tins and set them away to bake whilst I brewed up the strongest green tea I’ve ever made. It goes against my tea teachings to use boiling water when brewing green tea, but that’s what the recipe called for so I followed the instructions, wincing at the bitter green tea smell.

Brewing tea

I sieved the stewed tea to separate out the leaves and then reduced the tea down to a syrup with sugar.

Dark green tea

When the cakes they had to rest in their tins until cooled. I pierced the top of the cakes with a skewer and then poured the syrup generously over the 2 cakes.

Green Tea Syrup

They needed a little more resting and then wrestling out of the sugary tins, as the syrup hardened and required some brute force to release the cakes. Normally with a drizzle cake I use a solid tin and can dunk it in hot water to release it, but as this wasn’t water tight with a loose bottom I didn’t want to drown it before we had a chance to eat it!

Drizzled

Having saved a little syrup back, I ‘spiked’ the crème fraiche with green tea.

Green Tea spiked Creme Fraiche

I usually don’t like cream on the side of my cakes, but this was divine! The cake didn’t taste anything like how it smelt, which to be honest wasn’t the best smelling cake I’ve made.  (Nor was it the prettiest!)

The Final Cake

It was clean tasting and refreshing, with a crispy coating on the outside and soft and moist on in the inside. Beautiful! I would definitely recommend this to anyone.

The cake was enjoyed by all

Bonsai Trees at Hiroshima Peace Park

 

Things that I used to make my Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake (Courtesy of Wagamama Cookbook) 

This will make 1 Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake. I doubled these ingredients and made 2 cakes at the same time. (Just in case you’re feeding a few people! The cake should serve about 6-8 people)

For the cake

  • 110 g plain flour
  • 10 g matcha (powdered green tea – you can get this in most oriental supermarkets)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 75 g butter
  • 110 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs

For the green tea syrup

  • 2 tbsp green tea leaves (I used gunpowder loose green tea leaves to make the syrup)
  • 150 ml boiling water
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • Don’t forget to save a little of the syrup to spike the crème fraîche  with!
  • about 200 g crème fraîche  to serve

16. Anzac Biscuits – Australia

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac Biscuits were very high on my list of things to try when we were in Melbourne, but somehow time got away from me and I missed out. I saw them when we visited the Shrine of Remembrance, in the centre of Melbourne and so I thought it was quite a poignant recipe to choose as last week it was Remembrance Sunday in England where we remember the soldiers who have fought for us.

Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, Australia

I read up a little about Anzac biscuits and they were referred to soldier biscuits because they kept well and could be sent out to the soldiers on the front line. They are particularly important to Australian’s and New Zealanders or the Australian New Zealand Army Corps and are baked to commemorate the day they joined forces. Apparently they’re also sold around England to raise funds for the British Legion but I haven’t seen any as of yet. Any one else spotted them?

I discovered the recipe in Mary Berry’s At Home book and even she said they’re really simple to make. Hence an early morning pre work baking extravaganza! Here’s a very similar recipe from the BBC.

Melting all the butter, sugar and golden syrup together

These biscuits were made in a pan. A very novel idea I think and effective. One pan means less washing up! I liked this recipe all the more!

The butter and sugar were melted together in the pan along with lashing of golden syrup.

Stir in all the dry ingredients, oats and coconut

Then in go the dry ingredients, oats and flour.

and finally the flour

Once its all combined I had to dissolve a teaspoon of baking powder in 2 tablespoons of water, throw it in the mix and then all that was left to do was roll it out! simple as that.

Bicarbonate of Soda paste

I was half way through rolling the butter mix into walnut sized balls and placing them onto the baking sheet when I realised that I couldn’t remember how big a walnut is (I only have walnut halves in the cupboard so was imagining 2 of those squashed together….). A quick check of the recipe told me that it was supposed to make 36 biscuit. I was almost finished rolling them all out and I only had 8!  I was definitely over estimating the size of walnuts.

is this the size of walnuts??

I split each ball in half and carried on making smaller versions. Mary emphasised the need to space the biscuits out as they spread. I tried my best but I only have 2 baking sheets that fit in the oven (I accidentally bought a giant one that I don’t think will fit anyone’s open. Please let me know if you have a spectacularly large  oven as you are more than welcome to the baking sheet!)

So once I flattened the walnut sized balls down it was a bit of a tight squeeze on the tray but with 8 minutes on the oven timer I had just enough time for a shower.

Slightly merged into one biscuit (but it's ok!)

The kitchen smelt amazing with the golden syrupy, coconut, and combination. The biscuits had spread a bit but it wasn’t anything a sharp knife couldn’t fix.

Easily solved! Hand me a knife

I had to do a taste test before packaging them up and they were divine. Chewy yet crunchy. I can see why Mary B got so obsessed with them! They made the perfect sweet treat to take to work. I think we are now officially partaking in elevenses at work it’s almost like being in a Jane Austen novel (almost but not quite).

Anzac Biscuits

You can also freeze the baked biscuits for a month and prolong the pleasure. If they last long enough to put them in the freezer that is…

14. Key Lime Pie – America (but with a massive Italian Meringue!)

There seems to be a pattern emerging here. It was my friend Jenny’s birthday and I wanted to bake something special for her. When I asked what she would like her immediate response was ‘Key Lime Pie’. Your wish is my command.

I’ve never had Key Lime Pie before but I immediately thought of the Hummingbird Bakery recipe that I had gazed at longingly many a time but had thought it was too complicated and messy to attempt. I would not let my niggling doubts defeat me.

I knew that I would need a bit of time to prepare this one in order to bring it to work to celebrate Jenny’s birthday in style. I got up extra early the day before to smash up digestive biscuits. It’s days like these that I wish I had a food processor. Chris had to ask me nicely to stop hammering the biscuits with the rolling pin as it was simply too early. I ran out of digestives and supplemented the rest with rich teas instead. (that’s ok right?!)

Smashing Digestives

Again I had to shield my eyes from the flying digestive debris when I blitzed the shards with the hand blender. I may, or may not, have gone to work with crumbs in my hair. (It’s hard to tell with my curly mop sometimes).

I melted the butter in the microwave successfully not causing any fireworks this time and quickly stirred it all together. I quickly realised as I attempted to press the buttery biscuit paste into my flan dish that if I used all of the biscuits as instructed in the recipe that there simply wouldn’t be any space for limes in the pie…

Can't fit any more biscuits in!

I had felt a bit guilty and frivoulous for  buying mini pie dishes recently, but this Key Lime Pie emergency meant that I got to christen them! My sleepy brain missed a step in the recipe which said you bake the biscuit base and I assumed they would need to set in the fridge (hence the extra early preparations). Into the fridge they went to wait for me upon my return from work.

Mini Tins

I realised that I had to bake the base and cool it before the lime filling could be poured in. No baking beans needed for this inital bake unlike the Tarte au Citron.

Ready for round 2. Into the oven...

The grating and juicing of the limes was intense and made me crave a mojito. Once it was all grated I whisked it into the lashings of condensed milk and egg yolks, which I lovingly separated from their whites to save for the magnificent meringue.

A lot of limes went into the making of this.

and eggs :)

Then to pour the limey goodness onto the biscuit base  which was now a thick greenish creamy paste and bake it in the oven. The lack of light in my oven could pose a problem for checking the bake, but I’ve lived with it for over 2 years now and found a torch is a handy cooking tool.

Ready for round 2. Into the oven...

Who needs a light inside their oven? Torches are the way forward. Is it done yet?

Now for the exciting bit. I’ve never made Italian style meringue before. (and only made normal meringue for the first time recently!) I saw it on the Great British Bake Off  being created very precisely with thermometers and such like. If you’ve read any of my blog you will know by now that I simply don’t do precise, so I was relieved that a thermometer was not needed in this recipe. The only thermometer I own is a forehead strip one that I bought during the Swine Flu Panic last year. Somehow I don’t think I could use that to measure the temperature of sugar syrup…

Frothy egg whites (Before sugar)

8 egg whites were whisked into a frothy frenzy whilst the sugar and water bubbled merrily on the stove. I couldn’t remember if you were supposed to stir sugar constantly or if it makes it return to it’s crystallised state, so I did a bit of both. Stir, let it bubble, stir again. It eventually reached what I assumed to be the ‘soft ball stage‘. A mystical sugary state that frankly I’ve never heard of before I attempted to make fudge the other week, which was a disaster, so I clearly can’t recognise this stage of sugary wonderment. To be on the safe side I let it bubble some more..

Sugar Soup?

Bubblin Hot

When the sugar is syrupy and hot enough it needs to be poured slowly into the egg whites whilst whisking it. It’s a good job I can multi task, as I poured the liquid molten lava with one hand and held the electric whisk with the other, praying I wouldn’t slip and scald myself. When I win the lottery I have promised myself a Kitchen Aid mixer (and a bigger kitchen).

After sugar... I think the meringue's cooked!

I think I may need a bigger bowl if I’m ever going to make this again. It was amazing. Compared to uncooked meringue this was like magic. It quadrupled in size and almost over flowed the bowl! The only downside was after all the sugar was incorporated was that it involved 15 – 20 minutes of more whisking. Thank god for my little electric whisk and my ipod on random. Elvis and whisking. What can be better?

A mini one

Once the meringue had cooled, it was cooked through and ready to be assembled on top of the lime pies. It was a sticky process. With each mountain of meringue in position I popped them all in the oven for the final bake!

The Key Lime Pie Family Portrait

What a wonderful sight! So impressive! I struggled to get the pie into my cake box to transport to work. So cling wrapped it to the hilt and carried it like a baby. I got A LOT of smiles from strangers on my way to work that morning! Someone actually offered me their seat on the metro. It just goes to show people LOVE cake and Key Lime Pie is an attractive bake.

The grand reveal (somehow pearls of toffee appeared from the meringue, I know not how or why but they look pretty.)

This pie goes a long way. We shared it amongst 11 people and then I still had 3 mini pies at home! (don’t worry I didn’t eat them all by myself) The wonderfully sweet meringue balanced out the sharp and creamy lime. The digestive base tasted almost gingery after their third bake in the oven. Perhaps it was the addition of rich tea biscuits, whatever it was, it was wonderful.

Heaven is a massive slice of Key Lime Pie. Happy Birthday Jenny!

Very Neapolitan

13. Lovely Lamingtons – Australia – Lord Lamington’s Finest

As a surprise birthday treat, I decided to bake Chris his favourite Australian treat, Lamingtons. We ate Lamingtons the size of house bricks when visiting Australia. One particular Lamington stands out from our visit this year when we drove the Great Ocean Road and stayed in the seaside towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay to take in the sights (and the cakes and pies too).

Look at this little fella! Spotted on the Great Ocean Road

Somewhere over the rainbow…

I spotted a Lamington recipe in Marguerite Patton’s Everyday Cookbook and planned it all well in advance, purchasing an industrial sized bag of desiccated coconut, only for Chris to then ask for Lamingtons (and a Chocolate Roulade) for his birthday! My plan was discovered, but then again I’m not very good at keeping surprises secret and our tiny Tyneside flat doesn’t leave much to the imagination anyway…

Lamingtons. The classic Australian ones

I googled Lamingtons as they caused a bit of debate in the office. Many of us remember eating these chocolate, coconut, jam, sponge cubes as children, although others remember a pink version. They are also known by different names, such as Madelines, or pink Lamingtons. Some Australian Counsellor put me right. Apparently an Australian Lord loved cake. His maid  accidently dropped his cake into chocolate. Despite being a Lord he didn’t want to waste his cake (Don’t blame him!). So he told her to roll it in coconut so he wouldn’t get messy fingers. Et voila! Lamingtons were born and Australians are very proud of their 100 year recipe. (Check out the Australian Lamington official blog for evidence of the City Counsellor of Queensland shovelling Lamingtons into his mouth and the record breaking Lamington).

Celebrating 100 years of the Australian Lamington

Counsellor Paul Tullly enjoying Lamingtons – Courtesy of australianlamingtons.blogspot.com

I was a bit worried about how technical this recipe was and I didn’t actually own a square tin. I made a quick trip to visit my mam to borrow her tin. I’ve never baked one cake and sliced it in half before. It seems a bit dangerous. Is it difficult? What if I slip with the knife and ruin the entire cake?!

Sponge time

The sponge itself was pretty simple to make. A basic vanilla batter, which smelled gorgeous and tasted rather like a dense madeira cake.

Smells so good

I had to leave it to cool overnight and the next day chopped off the slightly domed top to create a flat surface instead. This was nerve wracking too as the last time I attempted this I cut my hand. I managed and kept all my fingers intact. This meant that I got a sneak preview and ate the lid before work. Hurrah! It was delicious!

Off with it’s dome

I set about creating the chocolate soup, from cocoa powder and icing sugar. I carefully sliced the cake through the middle widthways and had two perfect halves!!

Chocolate Soup?

The recipe was supposed to make 16 portions… I was a bit worried that this dinky square cake just wasn’t enough for the Australian cakes that we were accustomed too. So I baked another one. This time in a big roasting tin to make one flat cake, remembering this time to leave a bit of a dint in the top (pushing more mixture to the edges) so I didn’t get a dome finish.

The second sponge… (please ignore the cat food in the background)

Our guests were arriving for fish and chips and Lamingtons so I didn’t have much time for mistakes. I threw almost a full jar of strawberry jam onto the sponges and rubbed it in with the back of a spoon. (Excessive? Me?)

JAM

Then plonked one half on top of the other and decided that 4 big cakes were better than 16 little ones. I used the sharpest knife I could find and cut the sponge into quarters. Although they still didn’t look that ‘Australian sized’ to me.

That’s more like it

The recipe suggests you use a skewer to pierce the cake and dip gentily into the chocolate soup before lovingly rolling it in desiccated coconut. Who has time for these things? I picked the cakes up with my bare hands and within 2 seconds was up to my eyes in chocolate and coconut. Everything stuck to me! My messy yet effective method.

Step one. Dunk yourself in chocolate

Step two. Roll around in coconut (Do not try to a. answer the phone b. push your hair out of your face c.  say hello to the cat until hands can be throughly washed.)

The cakes needed about an hour to ‘set’. I definitely used more coconut than suggested as the chocolate from my fingers kept leaking onto the pristine white finish and ruining the effect slightly.

The Setting Process

When piled onto my new vintage cake plate, topped with candles, lit and then carried through the beaded curtain from the kitchen to the living room. (No fires were caused in the making of these cakes, don’t worry), They suddenly transformed into magnificent brick like beasts. I had made giant cakes. One cake was more than enough for two people and I still had an entire sponge cake left to assemble!

Happy Birthday Chris!

Happy Birthday Chris! I loved these cakes and was so impressed with how they turned out. The sponge doesn’t need to be the perfect shape, the coconut makes up for any inconsistencies and they are so very moreish.

My Half

I attempted some pink Lamingtons (or English Madelines as Nigel Slater informs me in his ‘Eating for England’ book) especially for Caroline at work as they were her favourite, using powdered jelly. Bizarre stuff but apparently they tasted excatly like the ones she had when she was little. Success!

Pink Jelly Soup

One flat sponge cake goes a long way…

Things that I used to make Lovely Lamingtons…

Sponge cake

  • 5 oz butter
  • 7 oz caster sugar
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 10 oz self raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons of milk

Filling

  • strawberry/raspberry jam

Coating

  • 7 oz icing sugar
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons of boiling water

Decoration

  • 6 oz desiccated coconut (or as much as you need to coat the lamingtons liberally!)

Method

  1. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence together
  2. add the eggs gradually
  3. fold in the sieved flour alternatively with the milk
  4. spread the mixture into a baking tin (8 inch square)
  5. bake for 50-60 mins at 350 degrees F/gas mark 4
  6. cool the sponge and store in an airtight container over night
  7. carefully slice the sponge through the centre to create 2 square sponges
  8. spread with jam
  9. sandwich the two sponges together
  10. mix the icing sugar and cocoa powder together in a shallow bowl adding the boiling water gradually to create your chocolate soup. Add more sugar/water as required.
  11. chop the sponge into equal sized squares (4 if you want big pieces or 16 smaller ones)
  12. dip each piece into the chocolate soup and then into a shallow bowl of desiccated coconut
  13. leave on a cooling rack to harden
  14. eat with a big cup of tea!

* Recipe lovingly adapated from Marguerite Patten’s Everyday Cookbook