The Best Banana Bread I’ve ever made

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My Bestest Banana Bread

I’m going to let you into a secret. I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, trying new combinations of flours and flavours to make some tasty, healthy (ish) cakes using up food that would otherwise go to waste. And what did I conjure up? My bestest banana bread recipe, with coconut, pistachio and rye. Additional bonuses include an extra cake! This recipe is enough for 2 cakes, so you can freeze one for later or give it to a friend who needs a nutritious energy boost. It’s also low in sugar and gluten. (You could choose gluten free flour if you prefer.)

Bonus Banana Bread

Bonus Banana Bread

When my bananas are on the turn and almost ready for the bin I throw them in the freezer in their blacken skins to save for a later date.  (Yes you can freeze bananas. Feel free to peel them first and pop them in a tupperware container first if you want to use them from frozen for smoothies or milkshakes, then you don’t even need to add ice cream for a chilled drink).

Once I have 3 black bananas stockpiled I whip up my Banana Bread. Leave your bananas to defrost for an hour or so before you peel them to make your banana bread, as if they’re too cold it will make your butter solidify and could give you denser cake and an uneven bake.

This is really quick to make. Basically beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Followed by your bananas, vanilla and eggs, then the combination of flours and baking powder. Finally beat in a handful of sultanas and chopped walnuts. This takes about 15 minutes with an electric mixer.

I use two 6 inch round tins to bake this recipe, or you could bake one large banana bread loaf if you prefer. Liberally sprinkle the cakes with chopped nuts (whatever you have to hand is fine). I use pistachios which gives you gorgeous green flecks singing out in between the flaked almonds and hazelnuts.

As the cake bakes the batter rises up and supports the nuts, holding them in place for the final cake. It’s also the perfect way to disguise any uneven finishes on your cake, if like me you have an unpredictably hot oven.

My initial experiments involved using 100% coconut flour, but this ended in disaster. I think coconut flour needs to be balanced against other nuttier flours (I like using rye flour but spelt or wholemeal would work well too) to absorb some of the natural oils and sugars and avoid the quick to burn, blackened mess that I made.

In less than an hour (50 minutes at 150 degrees c to be precise) you will produce two beautifully moist banana cakes, that are perfect accompanied by a large mug of strong tea, perhaps after a bracing stroll by the coast. I’m drooling just thinking of that sweet sponge and nutty crunch of a cake. Wonder how many bananas I have lurking in my freezer today…

Perfect Cake spot: A blustry day by Alnwick Castle

Perfect Cake spot: A blustery day by Alnwick Castle

 Things I used to make my Bestest Banana Bread

  • 125g margarine (or butter)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 over ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 100g coconut flour (or finely ground dessicated coconut if you can’t find the flour)
  • 90g Rye Flour (or spelt or wholemeal) -NB: Spelt and Rye flours are not gluten free but may be more suitable to those who have a wheat intolerance. Use a wholemeal gluten free flour if you want to avoid gluten in this recipe.
  • 60g plain flour (feel free to use gluten free flour)
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground cassia (or cinnamon or mace)
  • Handful of chopped sultanas
  • Handful of chopped walnuts
  • * Topping: (2 handful of chopped/flaked nuts: almonds, pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts
  1. Beat together sugar and butter until fluffy
  2. Beat in bananas
  3. Beat in eggs one by one
  4. Beat in vanilla paste
  5. Beat in coconut, plain, rye flours and baking powder and spice
  6. Beat in sultanas and walnuts
  7. Pour into 2 greased 6 inch round tins (or one large loaf tin)
  8. Cover the top of each cake entirely with a layer of chopped nuts
  9. Bake for 50  mins at 150 degrees c (or until a skewer comes out clean)

My other banana based recipes are Fanny and Otto’s Fijian Banana Cake

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36. Wiltshire Lardy Cake – Let Them Eat Lard! – 18th Century Clandestine Cake Club – EAT Festival

Wiltshire Lardy Cake at the Clandestine Cake Club

Lard in a cake? Sounds vile doesn’t it? I’ve always been perplexed by this notion of animal fat in food. Long gone are the days when we made Yorkshire Pudding with blisteringly hot fat and yet we still use butter and such like in all our cakes which I guess is a tad more appealing than pork blubber.

Wiltshire Lardy Cake

I purchased a pack of lard to bake some Chinese cakes but never found the right occasion to bake the Lardy beauties. I was greatly amused in my favourite Chinese Bakery to see little signs in front of some of the buns proclaiming “I contain lard”. Like they were sharing a guilty secret with us. This was another case of serendipity,  me having the perfect random ingredients required to bake something unusual for a very special EAT Festival Clandestine Cake Club.

Clandestine Cake Club – 18th Century Cakes – note the oranges and cauliflour!

The theme was 18th century cakes. (It’s harder than you would think to find a genuine 18th century recipe online.) A bit of research/googling later I realised in the 18th cake was spicy (the spice trade was blooming) and mainly contained readily available ingredients such as Lard and yeast!

I reverted back to good old Marguerite Patten and found Wiltshire Lardy cake. A very traditional English recipe. (I realise I’ve baked A LOT already from England but I promise to be more exotic again soon.)

Marguerite instructed me on making a basic yeast dough. I could tell how authentic (and genuinely old this recipe is as it uses the measurement ‘gill’ I have never heard of this before and it took a bit of deciphering!)

Now attempting to follow a recipe and instructions located in 3 different sections of a book is sure fire way to get me to make mistakes. I did not fail. Was it the late night baking efforts or my recipe coordination skills that are lacking?! Probably a bit of both!

The Food Processor did a wonderful job of distributing the yeast and rubbing the butter into the flour. Saved me a job!

The recipe instructed me to make a yeast paste. I ignored this as I know dried instant yeast doesn’t need to be mixed with liquid first. If I was using fresh yeast (which is a bit more difficult to find these days and more tricky to encourage) I would have followed the recipe to the letter, using blood temperature water and whatnot. With the instant yeast all you need to do is chuck it in with the flour and give it a stir to distribute it throughout. Simple.

Proving Time

After creating the basic yeast dough and leaving it to prove I fully embraced the lard. The technique required is very pastry like and it requires a little planning and preparation.

I set out my;

– glass work surface protector on top of a damp tea towel to hold it in place
– rolling pin
– flour for dusting
– lard
– spices, sugar and dried fruit

Proven Dough

Pastry is not my strong point I’m unashamed to admit. I’ve only tried to make flaky pastry once and I shed a few tears over the sheer effort and complicated origami folding required. It was distinctly lacking in flakes too after all the hard work!!

To start with the dough needs to be knocked back and kneaded gently to distribute the yeast and warmth again. Then on a floured board it needs a good flattening with the rolling pin. Roll it into a rectangle.

Rectangular Rolling and dotting of LARD

Then to dot dollops of lard all over, (but leaving the final third empty)! I was in the throes on smearing the distinctly stinky lard in dots onto my flattened dough and crazily folding it into envelope shapes when Super Hans (the cat) joined me wailing for a bit of lard.

One Fold

Two Folds

Seal the edges with the rolling pin

Roll it out and repeat!

Turn clockwise and roll into rectangle

The animal fat smell most surely lured Super Hans into the kitchen. Is this a good sign?! I guess if it’s good enough for the cat to eat it’s good enough for me. Lard most certainly passes the Super Hans taste test. However a wailing cat is not conducive to pleasant baking experience…

Super Hans the noisy Cat. He enjoys a nice bit of lard.

I merrily proceeded to fold the dough up as required and smeared all the lard into it, then returned to the Lardy Cake recipe to discover I was supposed to have folded the fruit and spices into the dough along with the lard! Damn. Back to the rolling pin and floured board for me to fold in the remaining ingredients. My Lardy dough had a very through folding and rolling! It is a bit more difficult to roll dough when it has dried fruit sandwiched in it, but don’t despair if a few raisins pop through. I think it gives it character.

Folding (again) this time WITH the sugar, fruit and spices!

Folded and ready to be rolled with fruit, sugar and spices

Rolled out and ready to be folded again

Second half of the fruit and sugar and yet more folding!

Another fold (don’t worry the fruit is going to peek out in places!)

This Lardy cake definitely has ‘character!’

I was very lucky that my friends Jill and Jonny brought me back some amazing spices from their Indian Honeymoon including some cinnamon bark, which I whizzed up in my spice mill on my food processor. It smells AMAZING, much fresher then my normal ground cinnamon. I added rather a lot of my Indian spices to the sugar mix.

Hand Shaped chunky lardy cake

Once I had folded everything into the dough, it needed to be shaped and coaxed by hand into a chunky square. I plonked the square dough into a round, greased and floured cake tin. Then to squash the dough into a round, ensuring there are no gaps along the edges or on the base of the dough to avoid any holes in the cake. It needed a bit more time to prove and then into the oven!

Squashed-into-a-cake-tin Lardy Cake

While it was baking away I prepared my glaze to pour over the cake as soon as it came out of the oven.

Just Baked – Wiltshire Lardy Cake

I was very nervous taking this cake along to the Clandestine Cake Club as it wasn’t as pretty as the other 18c cakes, which included a Wedgewood Iced Pepper Cake (beautiful!!), a basket of oranges! (marzipan encased chocolate and ganache cakes! So very realistic!) and I brought along LARD!? I made sure I sampled my cake first in case it was horrid and I needed to remove it from the table. But I was very pleasantly surprised.

Post Glaze – Just Chilling – Wiltshire Lardy Cake

It actually tastes rather nice. It’s a distinctly brown cake. The sugar glaze adds a nice crunchy texture and the lard (dare I say it) gives the cake a slightly savoury feel, a little bit like the Herman the German Cake. I couldn’t see any layers despite all the meticulous folding but perhaps I messed that up with my accidental double folding and rolling. I’m not entirely sure it’s supposed to result in layers either! Marguerite doesn’t really go into that much detail.

A sideways glance of Wiltshire Lardy Cake – No layers in sight but plenty of fruit and spice

But as you may realise by now I am a sucker for a fruit cake and this ticks all my boxes, fruity, spicy, sugary. It’s always the way isn’t it? The things that are the least healthy, taste the best!

A fine selection of 18th Century Cakes

The Clandestine Cake Club was held in the Alderman’s House, which is absolutely beautiful. I’ve walked past so many times and it is only open on special occasions. It was perfect for our 18th century cake feast. As it was part of the EAT Festival we had additional guests to entertain with our cakes. It was a fabulous atmosphere with lots of tea flowing, cake demonstrations and sugar craft too. I’m looking forward to our next meeting in August.

 

Alderman’s House – Clandestine Cake Club

More Clandestine 18th Century Cakes

 

Rose cupcake decorating – look what I learnt!

Wiltshire Lardy Cake

Ingredients

Plain Yeast Dough

  • 12oz Plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1oz margarine
  • 1-2oz sugar
  • 1/2oz fresh yeast or 14grams instant dried yeast
  • Approx 1and ½ ‘gills’ tepid water, milk & water or milk (7.5 imperial fluid ounces or 213ml)

If using fresh yeast…

  1. Cream the (fresh yeast) yeast with a tsp of sugar
  2. Add tepid liquid and a sprinkling of flour
  3. Put into a warm place until sponge ‘breaks’ through

If using dried yeast ignore these 3 steps above and add instant dried yeast directly to the flour at this point

  1. Sieve flour and salt into a warm bowl
  2. Rub in margarine and add sugar
  3. When ready work in the yeast liquid and knead thoroughly
  4. Put into a warm place to prove for about 1 hr until it doubles in size
  5. Knock back and knead again until smooth

 

Lardy Cake

  • 4 oz Lard
  • 4oz Sugar
  • 4oz dried fruit
  • Little spice (mixed spices, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom,)
  1. Roll our the plain yeast dough into an oblong shape
  2. If it’s a bit sticky flour the board well
  3. Divide the lard and sugar into 2 equal portions, cutting the lard into tiny pieces
  4. Dot  half the lard onto the all over the dough and half the sugar and fruit, with a light dusting of spice on to the dough
  5. Fold in the same way as for flaky pastry
  6. Fold the dough over one third at a time, closing it like an envelope.
  7. Seal the edges by pressing it with the rolling pin
  8. ‘Rib’ the dough with the rolling pin. (Press the rolling pin into the dough lengthways to create ridges equally spaced across the dough)
  9. Turn the dough clockwise and roll out flat to a oblong shape
  10. Add flour as required to prevent the dough sticking to the board
  11. Re-roll the dough and repeat with the remaining lard, sugar, fruit and spice
  12. Fold again and roll into a neat square or oblong shape
  13. To fit into a 7 or 9 inch tin
  14. If using a round tin mould the dough with hands to the required space
  15. Put the mixture into a warmed, greased and floured cake tin, making sure it comes no more than two thirds of the way up the tin.
  16. Prove for 20 mins in a warm place
  17. Bake in the centre of a hot oven (425-450F or Gas Mark 6-7) for 15 mins
  18. Lower heat to 375F/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 mins
  19. Either dust the cake with caster sugar when cold or brush with glaze when hot (1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon water)
  20. Enjoy with a big cup of tea and revel in the lardy glow

Happy Mother’s Day Mam! Here’s a Cath Kidston-esque cake just for you

Happy Mother’s Day! Cath Kidston inspired cake

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mam! I wanted to bake something special, Cath Kidston -esque and chocolate free for my Mam and came up with this haphazard star cake. I will tell you all about the inside of the cake later on as it’s still a little secret (and we haven’t tried it yet!).

After some frantic last minute icing shopping I managed to get a layer of marzipan and royal icing on the very alcoholic cake in record breaking time. Fingers crossed it’s all set in place now as there was no time to let the icing dry before adding the decorative touches. Especially with the cake inside having taken 2 weeks of soaking and 7 hours of preparing/baking. I’m hoping it tastes good!

The various colours of icing and star shape cutters

I attempted to colour my own icing after failing to create purple with red and blue food colourings I managed to use some silver spoon blue liquid colouring to create the blue icing and I was lucky to have some pre coloured red icing left over from Christmas too, that needed to be used up.

Glitter plate

I rolled the different colours of icing out using my mini silicon rolling pin and used a variety of star cutters to cut out the shapes.  Adding a liberal coating of glitter on each star to give it a bit more sparkle. I found tipping the glitter onto a plate and swishing the stars in the glitter made life a bit easier and a good generous layer of glitter to boot. Although the curious cat also got a bit glitterified too in the process.

Super Hans the glittery cat

I don’t own edible cake glue so I made my own with a bit of water and liquid glucose and used a knife to spread it on each star (sparingly) as I didn’t want the colours to bleed into the white icing and ruin the effect. The idea is to create just enough stickiness to hold the decorations on.

Stars climbing up the side of the cake

I got a bit carried away and put as many red and blue stars on to the cake as I could fit, including a few that are climbing up the side of the cake… I was envisaging a Cath Kidston fabric print and hope that it kind of conjures up that image but with more glitter 🙂

I’m off to take it to my Mam now. Let’s hope she likes it!

Star shaped and sparkly

All shapes and sizes

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!

Lemon Curd – Curd is the Word

Marguerite Patten's Preserves

This is another non bake so I’m not counting it towards my eighty bakes from around the world. However I want to master the many skills that are needed to be a good baker and make things from scratch hence the curd experiment.I had a bag of lemons that needed to be made into something lovely and after reading Mary Berry’s ‘At Home’ book I realised Lemon Curd is a vital ingredient in many, many cakes. Marguerite Patten made my first venture into jam making so easy that I wanted to try another recipe from her Everyday Cookbook.

The addition of eggs scares me a little. What if I do it wrong and I poison people?! Pushing down those terrible thoughts, I put my faith in Marguerite. She’s never let me down yet and my Dad loves Lemon Curd so I’m sure he will appreciate it.

Them's a lot of lemons (and pips)

It was a relatively simple process. Grate the lemon zest and juice the lemons into a jug.  Admittedly this is hard work when you only have a little wooden juicer thing (I’m not sure of its real name) and trying to avoid pips getting into the mixture. If only I had some muslin or something to sieve the juice through… I try to avoid using the fine sieve whenever possible as I don’t like washing it but it had to be deployed here to sieve out the remaining shards of pip.

Juiced

All the ingredients, butter, sugar, lemon and eggs had to be placed in a good old bain marie to simmer. With a constant and vigorous stir to avoid lemon scrambled eggs.

Bain Marie

Looking a tad lumpy but it's all in the process...

After about an hour on a gentle heat it was the right consistency to ‘coat the back of a spoon’. I find this term a bit confusing as most things do coat the back of spoon… I think Marguerite means when the mixture is thick enough it sticks to the spoon and slides slowly off, or that’s the definition I went with.

Now it coats the back of a spoon! (and looks a lovely glossy sunshine yellow colour)

Then all I had to do was pour it into my sterilised jar (previously of curry sauce origin – lets hope this doesn’t taint the final product!) I had purchased a beautiful thick glass jar with a hinged lid for preserve making. However I managed to knock it onto the floor before work one morning and it promptly smashed into smithereens and flew everywhere! Hoovering under the cupboards before work whilst holding back a curious cat is not so much fun!

The final Lemon Curd

I saved the curd for a special occasion and cracked it open to make a couple of lemon curd tarts this week. It is beautifully sharp and sweet and just the right consistency. There was no curry like after taste either (phew!) so I had sterilised the jar very well. I may never buy lemon curd from a shop again!

Just in case you would like to make your own Lemon Curd a la Marguerite Patton here’s the things that you will need…

  • Rind of 3 lemons
  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  • 8 oz of sugar (I used granulated and got good results)
  • 4oz of fresh butter (I used unsalted real butter not margarine)
  • 2 eggs

20. Chelsea/Belgian/Cinnamon Sticky Bun Hybrid – What’s in a name? A bun by any other name would taste just as sweet

Chelsea/Belgian/Cinnamon Sticky Buns

I truly love cinnamon. When faced with the cake selection in Greggs I normally opt for a massive Belgian Bun the size of my face, oozing with icing and raisins. I’m not entirely sure what I can call this bake or which country I can say it’s from as, surprise, surprise, I made it up a bit. It started life as a Chelsea Bun recipe from the lovely Marguerite Patten, however I’m not keen on candied mixed peel and it had a distinct lack of cinnamon.

The bun is based on a sweet bread recipe and needs some time to prove and unfortunately some planning in advance.  I mixed and kneaded this dough rather late one night and then let it prove overnight in the fridge to slow the yeast development a little and I wasn’t too sure about keeping dough enriched with egg at room temperatute overnight. (Don’t want to poison anyone..) Although Marguerite didn’t seem to say anything about leaving it over night, I don’t think it did it any harm

Flour, yeast and sugar

Just the one egg

Drizzle in some milk

Proving itself

The next morning was thankfully a Saturday and I had time to play in the kitchen. So out with the pastry board, cling film and rolling pin! I rolled out the dough onto a long piece of cling film, as far as it would stretch. I definitely need more practice with a rolling pin as this tapered effort was definitely not the desired shape or size of the flattened dough.

Roll, roll, roll, your dough

I couldn’t possibly tell you how much sugar and cinnamon I threw onto the dough. (I really should pay more attention in the kitchen) I was liberal to say the least. I guessed the amount based on how brown the sugar turned and then added some more spice for good luck. Once the entire flatten dough was coated without any gaps in the cinnamon brown spicy sugar I figured I had reached the perfect sugary point.

Spicy Sugar

Then the exciting bit! To roll it all up without putting a hole in the dough. as an added precaution I brushed a little melted butter on the inside edge to help it stick before rolling it and on the final edge too. I fought with the dough carefully lifting it up with the cling film then turning the edge over tightly. The cling film had to be peeled away carefully, it wouldn’t be a very tasty accompaniment to the roll whilst juggling the pliable dough. The raisins needed a lot of attention as they were falling all over the place and dangerously poking through the dough. Patience is the key here and a gentle hand to guide the dough into a swirly log. If only I could get my roulade to roll as tightly as this…

One massive cinnamon log

Wielding a very sharp knife I sliced the log into sections and placed on a greased and lined baking sheet to prove a little more whilst I washed all the sugar out of my hair.

I’m not so sure Paul Hollywood would approve of my consistency in shape and size in this batch, but they tasted great and it meant I could eat 3 little ones instead of one enormous one.

*some teeny weeny rolls on here*

After a quick bake in the oven, Heaven had arrived! (I don’t use that term lightly either!) I’m considering making this for a perfectly indulgent Christmas morning breakfast, to permeate the house with cinnamon and loveliness! It was hard to wait for the them to cool down before devouring them! They just needed a simple icing sugar glaze, which I made in a pan and drizzled over while they sat on ther cooling rack.

The baked rolls

Then I piled them high on my plate and made a pot of tea and ate 3 in one go in front of the TV. Whatever they’re called they were divine and needless to say they didn’t last long in our house, especially when they were still warm out of the oven…. I’ve got to go, must bake some more.

Things that I used to make the Chelsea/Belgian/Cinnamon Buns

Inspired by Marguerite Patten’s Chelsea Bun Recipe

1 quantity of ‘Richer Yeast Dough’

  • 8 oz plain bread flour
  • 7g (1 packet of fast action dried yeast)
  • 3 oz of sugar
  • just under 1/2 pint of milk (at room temperature)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2-3 oz of butter/margarine
  • 1 egg

Combine all of the ingredients and after kneading allow it to prove

Filling

  •  4oz of dried fruit (I used sultanas but you could add mixed peel too if you like)
  • 2 oz brown sugar
  • Lots of cinnamon! (I must have used more than 3 tablespoons of cinnamon)

Glaze

Marguerite uses a simple honey glaze, brushed over the warm buns but I made a sugar glaze with

  • (about) 100g icing sugar
  • Enough water to dissolve the sugar into a clear runny liquid

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

We’re painting the roses red… Sugar flowers (first attempt)

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My Christmas food coloring pastes have arrived. I’ve started icing the 14 mini Christmas cakes and I’ve been watching the Junior Great British Bake Off avidly. I’m so very impressed with the creativity and imagination that the young bakers have.

I’ve been itching to try out sugar craft but been put off slightly by the expense and equipment required.

Improvising to the hilt and having read I read Ruth Clemens sugar rose tutorial a couple of months ago I thought that I’d give sugar craft a whirl. Surely it can’t be too difficult. Can it?

Lacking any official icing tools apart from things I can find in my cupboards which includes a cocktail stick to add food colouring, a glass worktop saver, 2 plastic sandwich bags, my mini children’s rolling pin and of course a block of fondant icing.

Its quite delicate work. Not so much like play dough as I had hoped. I mainly gave up attempting to roll anything out properly and just used my hands.

Here’s the results…

Truffled and Fudged – I’m dreaming of a White Christmas

White Chocolate and white chocolate, cocoa and coconut truffles

I feel a bit of fraud putting a number against this bake as its more of a make than a bake. It was also very experimental but who doesn’t love a bit bit of fudge or truffles?! (Yes, I made them both simultaneously and still have chocolate left!)

I’m attempting to find recipes that can be made for Christmas presents, that are wheat free, not perishable and that are postable to Australia. Oh and I also accidentally purchased probably a years supply of white chocolate that needs to be used up quick… Not asking for much am I?

Hence my dalliance with truffles and fudge. As it was an experiment no one was expecting much apart from me. I think I need to learn not to expect everything to turn out perfect as if by magic when I mostly rely upon guess work (despite being guided wonderfully by Margeurite Patton’s Everyday Cooking Bible).

I started with White Chocolate Fudge. The recipe actually asked for dark chocolate but I’m sure it won’t matter that I replace it with white chocolate and vanilla essence. I will let the pictures do the talking…

Lashings of White Chocolate

Melting butter all the butter and sugar and chocolate together

Icing sugar frenzy

This is why I usually don't bother with sifting anything...

Truffley. (Now to set in the fridge)

Bendable, shapable truffles

What flavour would you care to sample? Chocolate, chocolate or coconut?

The Final Truffley Trio

Then on to Fudge Making. It bears quite a lot of resemblance to truffle making, but without eggs…

The beginning of fudge. Looks suspiciously like the beginning of truffles. (White Chocolate, butter, sugar and vanilla)

Let’s whisk

I was aiming for the elusive ‘soft ball stage’ to let me know it was ready. I think I may have missed it as despite over a week in the fridge the damn thing just wouldn’t set!

Fudge (swirly for Halloween)

Fudge (glittery - just because)

In an attempt not to waste this delicious fudgey paste I thought I would bake an experimental cake and shove some in the middle! Like an alternative Victoria Sponge, chocolate and almond with vanilla fudge filling.

It worked a treat and was like a sweeter version of buttercream, (if a slightly crunchy with all that sparkly sugar!) I still have half left. I wonder what else I can make with it?

11. Pavlova Continued… Modified Meringues!

2 days after the tanned Pavlova creation, I still wasn’t happy with my meringue techniques. I can remember my Aunty Janet making beautiful chewy mini meringues and eating loads of them with my cousin Andrew. They were beautifully piped  and subtly golden. I’ve always wanted to attempt petite meringues like my Aunty Janet used to make. Unfortunately I don’t have her recipe, so I thought I would modify the BBC recipe that I used for the Pavlova.

Super Hans. The cat that got the meringue.

I whipped the eggs and the sugar together. Then out with a piping bag! I should probably invest in  something a little more sturdy than a Wilko’s 90p effort, but this was breakfast cooking at it’s best. I free handedly piped little meringue swirls  onto the baking paper saving a little meringue to experiment with later. Super Hans, my cat, was very intrigued by this recipe and insisted on sniffing some of the leftovers…

Freshly Piped Petite Meringues

I thought ‘let’s have a go at pink meringues and make them more like macaroons by throwing in some ground almonds!’ In my mind these were going to be pretty little pink swirls all light and chewy…

Meringue Dots

A second whisk is not what meringues like. A runny pink mess ensued and I struggled to get it into and keep it in the piping bag. Therefore I invented Meringue Dots. Mainly due to the fact that the piping bag kept  dripping meringue everywhere.

Some meringues didn't quite survive.

I guessed at the cooking time again with these being very little meringues and left them for about 40 minutes or so to dry out in the warm oven. Frightened they would weld themselves to the baking paper I quickly removed them and let them cool fully whilst sampling a few on the way. One for the tray , one for me. Oh dear, that one broke. Two for me, one for the tin..

Petite Meringues

I liked these a lot. And one batch makes tonnes of petite meringues!! Although I can’t say they are anywhere as good as my Aunty Janet’s, for a little experiment I quite enjoyed them. Perhaps the piping bag may have to come out to play more often.

The Final Presentation

Perfect little presents too

Not wanting to waste all those egg yolks I whipped up a quick batch of Nigella’s Egg Yolk Sponge Cakes too.

Egg Yolk Sponge Cakes