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)

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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**

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

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

 

8. Make and Bake – Chocolate Cheesecake – America – Hummingbird Bakery

With it being Chocolate Week last week and National Baking Week this week, I thought I should bake something else chocolatey and lovely. A triumphant return to America to one of the few Hummingbird Bakery Recipes that I was still to attempt… Baked Chocolate Cheesecake.

Baked Chocolate Cheesecake

After watching the Baked Cheesecake GBBO episode I was aware of how tricky this would be. But I’m still dreaming about Jo’s Rum and Raisin Cheesecake! I was a little surprised in the supermarket when purchasing all the cream cheese needed for this one… 4 packets of cheese seems like a lot!!

Beacoup de Cream Cheese

I decided to improvise with the biscuits as I already had rich tea in the house rather than buy digestives. That won’t make too much of a difference right?

Biscuity Base

I must admit I was in a little bit of a hurry when putting this one together and roughly blended rich tea biscuits and cocoa powder into sweet dust which permeated the entire kitchen with my little hand whisk. An emergency tea towel was required to protect my eyes.

I pressed the biscuity mess into my borrowed loose bottomed tin and shoved it the fridge to set.

I threw all the cheese with the melted chocolate into a bowl and whisked it all up then added all the eggs… Using one hand to smash the eggs and one hand to whisk, i ended up with egg shells all over the floor, but an effective method nonetheless.

Thoroughly Whisked

I poured it all into the tin then once again disaster struck. I’m most definitely consistent in one area. My inability to read recipes. Dear Lord, I despair at my own ridiculousness. I realised I hadn’t read to the end of the recipe! I didn’t have a tray big enough to submerge the cake in, in order to bake it in a bath of water. I only had another loose bottomed cake tin which I managed to gently manoeuvre the runny cheesecake into. Upon pouring water into the second tin, I thought I could hear rain. No. It was all the water running out of my cake tin over the electrical items down the back of the kitchen units and onto the floor. BRILLIANT.

I had to abandon the water bath idea and hope that it wouldn’t burn being baking directly in the oven.

Just as I was lifting the precariously full tin unto the oven I had a flash of panic. I’ve forgotten something…. SUGAR! (and also vanilla). How did I forget sugar??!! I was so very lucky to have realised at the very last minute, as this would have been a rather expensive and disgusting cheese and chocolate bake.

not quite oven ready... quick hand me a ladle!!

Quick to rescue yet another failure on my part I grabbed a ladle and scooped the gloopy mixture it of the tin and back into the bowl. A quick whisk of sugar and vanilla and it was time for the oven again.

Oven Ready?

To compensate for the lack of water I turned the oven down to hopefully prevent burning. From watching GBBO I know the cheesecake has to wobble a bit in the middle, but mine just kept wobbling all over. I probably kept it in the oven a bit too long.

The Double Tin Effect - sadly no water (probably should have stopped baking at this point...)

An hour and a half later I had one massive chocolate cheesecake on my hands, albeit with a huge crack down the middle, it looked ok!

Rather than at this point...

It needed a night in the fridge and then it was ready for tasting. It’s definitely rich and creamy. It’s so filling  you can only eat a little bit in one go, but I quite like it. The Rich Tea base is actually pretty good too! This feeds about 25 people.

But from this angle (and if you squint a little) the disaster disappears! Magic!

I’ve even purchased some take way pots to deliver take away cheesecake to my friends and family this week. If you’re visiting me this week please beware you will be fed cheesecake and then take some home with you too! Its good to share!

Cheesy and Chocolatey

5. Viennese Apple Strudel – Austria (The 4 Foot Pastry Monster- most tricky bake yet)

This week I may have baked myself into oblivion. Following my muffin experiment I wanted to explore a country that I am still yet to visit, Austria. (which I am assured is not in Germany and Prussia no longer exists). We went to our friends’ beautiful wedding last weekend where I was kindly given a boatload of homegrown apples. Congratulations and thank you James and Lara they are very tasty! This is my second bake using said apples.

James and Lara's Wedding Apples

I wanted to find an authentic recipe for something a bit more challenging, stepping up the baking ante. I chose a rather traditional Viennese Apple Strudel Recipe. This involved an enormous amount of apples and butter and yet another pastry effort.

Peeling and chopping a mountain of apples and simultaneously sauteing my previous homemade baguettes in butter I got stuck in.

Best Oxfam purchase ever

Sauteed Baguette

The pastry was epic! My poor little electric whisk started to smell like the blown out birthday candles and I fear it will never be the same again. There’s pastry still trapped inside, even after a took a knife to it, to coax it out!

Poor little whisk

The recipe called for a 4 foot length of cloth to stretch the 4 feet of pastry out on. I’m not even sure my workbench is 4 foot long?! With limited resources yet again I found a subsitiute for cotton, in cling film. (I don’t think this is the traditional method in Austria,) Selotaping vast amounts of cling film to the bench seemed to be my best bet. I felt like the Cling Film Queen. Christening my new fabuolous rolling pin, I set to work flattening it all out and stretching the pastry to within an inch of it’s life.

Miles and Miles of Pastry (new rolling pin!)

Then to add the filling and breadcrumbs quickly before the pastry fell apart. It was very delicate. I had to coat the inside in even more butter, in addition to the extra chunks of butter the recipe requested to accompany the apples and raisins! I hope my guests like butter…

I thought the next bit would be really difficult, folding the pastry over to roll it all up. I was very proud of myself when I got to this point. Who needs 4 feet of cloth to wrap up a strudel?! I thought whimsically. It wasn’t easy, I hasten to add, as the cling film kept tearing but what was still yet to come almost had me in tears…

Roll Up! Roll Up!

Entering in to my second hour of preparation I was getting to that almost frazzled point and needed some stroke of genius to enlighten me as to how I was going to a) get this 4 foot pastry monster out of the cling film and b) on to my quite small baking tray.

I made sure this time I greased the paper very well! But every little attempt to move the strudel made the corners of the apple chunks inside poke through the pastry. Patting down the increasingly thin pastry I went for the Band Aid Method, throw it into the tray and rip off the cling film. I was up to my elbows in butter by this point. Hallelujah! It was on the tray in a Horseshoe shape. Phew!

A Horseshoe Shape?

Now you may notice the obvious mistake here. Despite having the recipe printed out in front of me (without any photos) I still managed to misread it! This is getting beyond a joke. Is my eyesight or my brain failing me? I may have to start wearing my glasses whilst baking. The recipe prescribed half of the bread crumbs to be put into the mix which I successfully did. Then in all the excitement of rolling it up, I thought it said to sprinkle the rest on the strudel. I realised, to my horror, after I sprinkled them all over the final product I had missed a step. The recipe said to put them inside the strudel just before rolling. Damn!! I had a good giggle at my stupidity though. It wasn’t life or death, but I was worried the breadcrumbs would burn and smell like burnt toast.

I'm ready for my close up and look a little twisted but that's ok

Thankfully it was ok in the end! It smelled quite lovely, but as it was now 11pm I wasn’t in the mood for sampling it. Also we had friends coming over the following evening for food so I wanted to save it for them.

No smell of burnt toast at all 🙂

A quick reheat in the oven and lashings of custard and the strudel was a success!

It was well received

The sweet apples and raisins contrasted nicely with the savoury pastry. It should also feed the 5 thousand as it’s enormous. 4 of us hardly put a dent in it! Please send tupperware, or even bring a plate and you can have a slice!

The Final Slice

I may have now reached my pastry capacity now. I may explode. Next bake will have to be something a little different I think…

4. Accidental Breakfast Muffins – America

I had a vision for what I wanted to bake but didn’t have a recipe to achieve it. I’ve attempted American muffins from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook about 5 times now and failed miserably to get them to rise and to look more appetising than a sludgey, sticky, tray bake, rather than lovely risen individual muffins. I give up!

Me in LA with Cary Grant

I’ve been to America quite a few times and they do indulgent food so well. I have quite a few American items on my baking wish list so where better a place to start than the good old fruit muffin.

Accidental Breakfast Muffins

I had over ripe bananas, oats, honey, raisins and rather a lot of apples to use up in the cupboards so I concocted this next baking attempt. I was thinking about how wonderful and creative the contestants on GBBO are and how they invent their own recipes so I found a basic banana muffin recipe and for better or worse, improvised…

Accidental Breakfast Muffins Recipe:

1 cup (115 grams) oats

2 and half  cups (230 grams) plain flour

2 cups (3/4 cup (150 grams) combination of half brown and half granulated white sugar.

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs lightly beaten

25grams unsalted butter

2 large ripe bananas mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)

2 large apples diced

1 handful of raisins

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

sprinkle of honey and oats for the top of the muffins

Chopping the apples up in a hurry before yoga, I left them along with the oats to marinade in the fruity, sugary, cinammony mess that I had made. All that was left to do was to throw the rest of the dry ingredients in and gently mix it all together..

Accidents happen. Somehow, despite bringing my massive laptop into the kitchen and balancing it precariously on the hob, to avoid touch screen phone issues, I still misread the basic recipe!! Mixing up the measurements for the flour and sugar. I realised a little too late that I had added 3 times the amount of sugar (and extra honey that I had taken the initiative to chuck in too) that the recipe needed. Yikes, these were going to be ridiculously sweet muffins!

To balance this out I added more flour and oats. Creating more problems for myself, as per usual. Now I know that oats soak up all the available moisture, wherever they are. If only hadn’t poured away all the sugary apple juice that had seeped out from the fruit. But hey, you bake, you learn.

Pre baking in lovely silicon cases

I keep considering investing in a proper muffin or cupcake baking tray but have yet to commit to it. Undiscouraged by my lack of baking equipment yet again. (I see it as an opportunity to make life interesting…) I improvised. Using a set of silicon cupcake cases set on a flat baking tray. I filled paper muffin cases with the mixture and squashed them in to the silicon cases. I figured they would hold the muffins in the right place.

Extreme Close Up

You may wonder why I didn’t just cook the muffins in the silicon cases. I’ve had some unfortunate silicon cooking experiences; uncooked bottoms, half the cupcake stuck in the case etc. so prefer to use paper cases these days.  Once I ran out of silicon cases I rummaged round for something else ovenproof to hold the paper cases upright (and avoid  muffin sludgage) and landed upon some ramekins. Perfect.

Ramekins and Yorkshire Pudding TIn

Before I popped them in the oven a sprinkled on a few more oats on each muffin and drizzled on some honey to make them look all rustic and pretty.

The End Product

They smelled amazing and tasted really good too.  They were fully cooked and had a proper shape too! Amazing! Maybe paper cases in ramekins and silicon cases are the way forward? No more rivers of muffins for me! The only improvements that could be made would be to add an extra banana and leave in all the fruit juices. Maybe even a slightly bigger dollop of honey on the top too would add a bit more moisture. They were definitely sweet enough though! For my first attempt at full on recipe creation it wasn’t too bad, especially with a good cup of tea.

Now to share them with everyone at work, as I can’t possibly eat all of these myself!

So many muffins

2. My Oh My! My First Apple Pie! England

If I’m ever going to fit in baking eighty things I realised that I need to get cracking. After a little post work trip to the pub I decided to make use of all the apples that we have in the house and attempt my first ever complete pie!

My Nana used to bake an Apple Pie for Sunday tea every week when all the family would congregate at her house in Sunderland. So it seems right that I bake a proper English Apple Pie. I (loosely) used this recipe for the Ultimate Apple Pie.

I didn’t really consider how much time it would take to peel, core and slice 1kg of apples,. After almost taking off a finger tip or two, I succeeded in chopping up rather a lot of apple. I couldn’t quite figure out if the recipe required 1kg of apples pre- chopping and coring or after, so I threw in a couple more for good measure.

Unfortunately I forgot to purchase an adult sized rolling pin so the pastry was a bit on the thick and lumpy side. The recipe called for golden caster sugar, which does not exist in my cupboard.  Instead I concocted my own, from muscovado brown sugar and granulated sugar. This resulted in a rather grainy textured pastry. Probably not what the professionals would do but by this time I had invested too much to start again, so on I ploughed.

miniature Rolling Pin ( Also note Hello Kitty toaster in the background)

I probably should have checked that I owned the correct size pie dish before I began. But who ever thought about planning that far in advance? This didn;t occur to me til I noticed that I had a ridiculous amount of pastry for my little enamel pie dish and that I had rolled it to a similar thickness of turf. I tried to roll it out a little more, but how on earth do you get it into the dish without tearing it?!! I seem to have perfected what can only be described as a ‘pastry flip’, almost like what you do with a pancake, but using pastry flattened onto cling film instead. It did the job and I tried to thin it out further by hand.

In addition to the new sugar combination I decided to stray further from the recipe to my peril. I thought surely with that vast amount of pastry the base will need a bit of blind baking, so I ad libbed. Dangerous. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then came the fun bit, trying to squash as many of the cinnamon apples into the tin as possible. They look a bit like chips…

Chips or Apples?

Then to carry out another pastry flip. On with the lid. It wasn’t that easy to join the lid to the partially baked base (Maybe that’s why they tell you not to blind bake it? So you get a proper seal?) The result? It didn’t really look anything like what my Nana would bake. More like a pie Desperate Dan may have mistaken as containing an entire cow…

Too many apples inside? Desperate Dan would be proud.

I still had loads of pastry left so I thought I would invent something else. Using my Yorkshire Pudding tin I made some mini apple pies, or cricket balls filled with apple. All that was left to do was to slap on a coat of egg wash with my new pastry brush and whack them into the oven.

Apple filled cricket balls in a Yorkshire Pudding tin.

There seemed to be a lot of apple escaping from my modest steam vent and coating the bottom of the oven, but fret not. They looked a good colour! By this time it was about 11.30pm so it was way past apple pie eating time. I let it cool overnight and then kept it in the fridge for a Sunday treat. I just had a piece and I was very happy with it! I think the lumpy sugar must have melted in the oven, as there was not a chunk to be seen.

The end product

Although it was quite difficult to remove from the tin (a spoon had to be deployed) the pastry was most definitely cooked. I’m not completely sure if there’s supposed to be such a gap between the lid and the filling, but it all tastes the same. Complimented by a splash of custard of course too. The little cricket balls were rather pastry heavy but the Yorkshire Pudding tin worked a treat.  A perfectly handsized pudding and a good accompaniment to our road trip, providing much needed sustenance when we broke down yesterday! I’ve created a slideshow below of all the photos…

ps. Still no news from Paul Hollywood. I guess my Tarte au Citron efforts weren’t up to his standards… I’m very excited to watch the final Great British Bake Off on Tuesday!!! I’ve already ordered the book and Mary Berry’s very 70’s cook book which may help to alleviate the GBBO withdrawal symptoms.

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