IMG_0097

Handmade Paper Christmas Trees II

So last year I posted a tutorial on how to make Paperback Christmas Trees. Making them again this year, I’ve discovered a better way to make them which makes them a lot less fussy to construct but you can also get a bit of a production line going if you were making multiple trees. Instead of doing a lot of mental maths, this method is many times simpler.

IMG_0097IMG_0098


Stage 1: Choose your catalogue

A catalogue that has thick paper, almost the thickness of card, is not suitable as it is a lot harder to fold it neatly so the tree is even. A thin paper is easier to fold, and therefore make the final tree even.

Stage 2: Remove the front and back covers, leaving the spine intact

Any parts of the front and back page that remain on the spine should also be removed; avoid destroying the spine when removing these last little pesky bits.

Stage 3: Find the point about 70 pages in and rip out the pages as a whole.

Remember that this creates just one half of the final tree and most catalogues will create 3 half trees so bear this in mind. You will no doubt lose a couple of pages at the beginning and end during the folding process as well.

IMG_0101

Stage 4: Make the first fold by folding the top right corner of the page into the centre such that the original top edge is now touching the centre spine. If you aren’t sure, see the picture below. Repeat for each page, ensuring that the top edge is directly in the centre.

IMG_0099IMG_0102

Stage 5: Complete the second by folding the triangle so the creased edge touches the centre. Again use the picture below for reference. Ensure it is touching the centre to create an even tree. Repeat for each page.

IMG_0108

Stage 6: Fold up the flap of paper that hangs off the page such that the base is completely clean. This allows the tree to stand on its own. See the picture below for help and then repeat it for each page.

Check that there are no pages that are starting to come loose from the spine. If there are any, simply rip them off and throw them away.

IMG_0096

Stage 7: Repeat Steps 3 – 6 to create another half of a tree. Make sure that both halves are same from the same catalogue.

Stage 8: Using PVA glue, or double sided tape, stick the two exposed backs of the trees together. Only put the adhesive on one side.

Make sure that a small bit is placed to secure the tops of the trees together otherwise it spreads and doesn’t look like one tree.

IMG_0098IMG_0097

To finish, decorate the trees with Christmas decorations, whether that be tinsel, baubles or reindeer. I like to simply top the trees with a red bauble and wrap one length of thin gold tinsel diagonally around the tree, starting at the top and going around the base once.

Reindeer Cookies

Guest Post: Reindeer Cookies by Rebecca Herd

I’ve really loved how down to earth Rebecca’s Christmas recipes have been. They’re simple and something that you can do with little children across the festive period.

You can see Rebecca’s other guest posts: Ginger and Fudge Cupcakes and Star-topped Mince Pies


I love the way these turned out and how creative you can be with them. It’s completely up to you how you decide to decorate them. I went quite simple but there are endless possibilities:

Becky Reindeer BiscuitsDecorated Christmas Cookies Reindeer Cookies

Ingredients

Biscuit

250g plain flour

200g golden syrup

50g butter

1 tsp ground ginger

Decoration

8 glace cherries, cut in half

30 chocolate drops

100g icing sugar

Hot water

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. For the biscuit, melt the butter and golden syrup together in a pan.
  3. Add this to the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Chill for 1 hour.
  4. Roll out the dough and cut out using gingerbread men cutters
  5. Bake for 20 minutes and remove from tray to leave to cool.
  6. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually a small amount of water until a thick pipable paste is achieved
  7. Turn the biscuits upside down and pipe antlers, ears and a dot for each eye and nose
  8. Stick the cherry for the nose and chocolate drops for the eyes and leave to set.
Star Topped Mince Pies

Guest Post: Star-topped Mince Pies by Rebecca Herd

I loved having Rebecca write posts for my blog so much so I asked her to write a couple more Christmas-inspired posts for me.

You can check out Rebecca’s last post here: Ginger and Fudge Cupcakes


After writing my last post, Andrew asked if I would mind writing a Christmas post for his blog. As I enjoyed writing the last post so much I was delighted to have another opportunity. Christmas is by far my favourite time of year. Because of this, the decision as to what recipe to do has been exceedingly difficult.

Many of you may be aware that Paul Hollywood has been on a tour around the UK and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go and see him perform. I have to say he was wonderful. [I agree I went to see Paul as well and a picture of his show in my hometown is below]

P1040964

The recipes are delicious and because of that I decided to use one. So here is a Mince Pie recipe as demonstrated by Paul Hollywood:

Becky Mince Pies Star Topped Mince Pies

Ingredients

Pastry

250g plain flour

150g butter, softened

2 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

30g ground almonds

1 medium free-range egg

Filling

A 410g jar of mincemeat

2 satsumas segmented

1 apple, finely diced

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. For the pastry, rub the flour, icing sugar and ground almonds into the butter.
  3. Add the egg and mix together until it just comes together as a dough. Do not over work the dough.
  4. Wrap the pastry in cling film and set aside to chill in the fridge for 3 hours
  5. To make the filling, turn the mincemeat out into a bowl, add the satsuma pieces and chopped apple.
  6. Roll out the pastry to a 2-3mm thickness. With a round pastry cutter, cut out 12 9.5cm discs.
  7. Press the pastry into the muffin cups and fill each one with a good helping of the mincemeat mixture, so that it reaches three-quarters of the way up the side of the pastry-lined cup.
  8. With the remaining pastry, cut out 12 stars and top the mince pies.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar.
Processed with Moldiv

Guest Post: Christmas Panettone by Paul Roughan

For my next Christmas Guest Post, I’ve invited Paul from beerandbaking.net to bake something sweet and sticky for the blog. Like myself, Paul is a food blogger and shares his adventures in baking on his blog. I met Paul on Twitter through BakeChat and I’ve seen many of his fantastic bakes, including a Nutella Star Bread (picture below). I contacted Paul after seeing how great his bakes were and he was more than happy to bake something for the blog.

Nutella Star Bread PR

You can find Paul’s blog here: http://beerandbaking.net/

You can follow Paul on Twitter: @beerandbaking


How long have you been baking and where did the interest come from?

I grew up baking with my mum and if I helped I got to lick out the mixing bowl! Baking really became a hobby a few years ago when I was given an Italian Baking book for Christmas. I started posting pictures online and discovered the Sunday Baking Club and it all exploded from there.

Why do you think Britain has captured the baking bug?

Bake Off has contributed massively to people rediscovering baking but I also think that the recession has also had its effect. It is cheaper to cook and bake at home than go out for dinner even if you splash out on some ingredients.

What is your most memorable kitchen disaster?

There have been a few but I think my attempt at croissants has to take the crown. I had found a recipe in a free eBook and I completely failed to create a laminated dough. I ended up with what can be best described as very buttery tasting rock cakes instead of the luscious French classic.

What is your Signature Bake?

For pastry it’s lemon meringue pie. This is a regular request from friends and family whenever we meet up, even if I need to use their kitchen to make it. For cake, it’s cappuccino cake always goes down a storm at work charity bake sales.

Would you apply for Bake Off? Could you stand the pressure of baking in the tent?

A bit 50/50 really, at the moment I do not have all the skills required e.g. Puff pastry, Tempering, Sugar work and my piping skills definitely could do with improving. But even if I was confident in my skill level the time pressures are ridiculous! Jay (dontboilthesauce) blogged his way through the technical challenges this year and the time in the recipes was significantly longer than the time allotted. Yet there is still a part of me that would like to give it a go.

What do you bake most of, cakes, biscuits, pies or bread? Why?

I’m a jack of all trades but a tossup between pastry and cake, with bread in third place. Sunday Bake Club has been fantastic as it is a really supportive community, encourages you to stretch yourself, and the competitive aspect hones presentation skills. Even though I’ve put bread in third place this is the category I have won the most competitions with; 2 Sunday Bake Club Golden Spoons and a BakeTalk Golden Mixer.

Who is your favourite TV chef/cook?

In terms of cookery books I love the Hairy Bikers. Their recipes are straightforward, delicious, and aimed at the everyday cook. But my favourite to watch has to be Nigella [Lawson] as she could make a piece of toast into a sinful decadent delight. [I agree very much with Paul!]

What have you chosen to bake for this post and why did you choose it?

As it is getting close to Christmas I wanted to do a seasonal recipe and Panettone is one of my favourite seasonal treats and doesn’t require huge amounts of ingredients, but it does take a bit of time. This is also a recipe from that first Italian Baking cookbook by Gino D’Acampo I was given that kickstarted this whole baking adventure. The quantities posted are half the original recipe as I was cooking for 2 and not 6.

Processed with Moldiv


Ingredients:

8g fast action dried yeast

70ml milk

200g strong white flour

Pinch of salt

1 egg

1 egg yolk

40g caster sugar

75g butter

90g dried mixed fruit

Warm the milk to 40°C and stir in the yeast and leave to bubble away for 15 minutes. The temperature is really crucial as if it’s too hot will kill the yeast.

Processed with Moldiv

Set aside a tablespoon of flour and sift the rest with a pinch of salt. Make a well and pour the yeast and milk in with the whole egg. Mix together and form a dough, don’t be worried that it is a little dry at this stage as more moisture will be added later. Cover with cling film in the bowl and leave to rest for 35 minutes.

Mix the sugar and the egg yolk together, then knead the yolk mixture into the dough in the bowl. Dice the butter and knead in as well. (Still using the bowl as it is very sticky and messy at this stage!). Add the reserved tablespoon of flour. When all the ingredients are evenly mixed transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Pick up the dough and slap one end back onto the work surface. Fold the dough in half and slap again. This technique builds up the gluten and dries the dough out. After 10 minutes or so should have a soft smooth elastic ball of dough.

Processed with Moldiv Processed with Moldiv

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with cling film and leave to prove for 2 hours.

Now to prepare the tin, this part is particularly crucial if using the original recipe (double the quantities). A springform tin around 15cm is ideal. Measure out a piece of baking paper that is just bigger than the circumference of the tin. The easiest way is to roll the tin down the paper to get the right length. Fold the baking paper into thirds and create a collar inside of the tin. It should stick up above the sides at least the depth of the tin again.

Processed with Moldiv

Turn out the dough and knock back (punch out the air). Knead in the dried mixed fruit until it is evenly distributed. Put the ball of dough into the prepared tin, cover and leave to prove for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 190°C and rearrange the shelves to make sure you have enough room. Uncover the dough and using a sharp knife cut a cross is the top. Brush with a little melted butter and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the temperature to 180°C and brush the top with a little more melted butter. Bake for another 20-30 minutes then take out and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out to cool completely.

Kitchen Sink Cookies

Large Everything-but-the-Kitchen-Sink Cookies

The ultimate chocolate chip cookie is crisp on the outside, unbelievably soft and chewy in the middle and packed full of chocolate. Some recipes will often call for the quantity of chocolate chips equal to half the total amount of mixture – and that’s a lot of chocolate!

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES 2

While the classic chocolate chip cookie is pretty hard to beat, I raided the cupboards (quite literally, I took everything out and then put it all back in) to find anything that I could add to these cookies to make them even better. I found some hazelnuts, which we know go very well with chocolate, some glace cherries, which chopped up finely would add chewiness and is reminiscent of the Black Forest Gateau (my ultimate cake), and some Smarties. I combined them all in these to make my Large Kitchen Sink Cookies and are perfect to give to people; who would turn down a cookie this size?

Kitchen Sink Cookies 2

To prevent the cookies from getting soft over time, ensure that they cool completely on the baking tray when it comes out of the oven.

I was inspired by the amazing Puffy and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies over at Wishful Whisking to make these. Thanks!


150g Stork or salted butter

120g soft light brown sugar

40g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

265g plain flour

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

100g white or milk chocolate chips – or chop up a 100g bar of chocolate finely

50g hazelnuts, finely chopped

25g glace cherries, finely chopped

50g Smarties

1 tbsp milk, optional

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment – it will stick with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the Stork or butter into a bowl and cream together with the two sugars until it has turned a shade lighter and looks fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and egg.
  3. Sieve over the dry ingredients and fold until it has combined into a thick cookie dough. Add the chocolate chip, hazelnuts, cherries and Smarties into the dough and fold 8 times so you don’t overwork the dough. If the dough feels heavy, add the milk to loosen slightly.
  4. Spoon tablespoons of the cookie dough onto the trays, leaving room for spreading. You should be able to squeeze 9 per tray, accounting for spreading whilst baking.
  5. Bake for at least 12 – 15 minutes. The cookies are done once they’ve just turned a light brown at the edges and are still soft in the middle.
  6. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking tray completely before placing in cellophane bags or wrapping in a strip of parchment and tying with ribbon to give as presents.
Lamington Platter

Coffee and Walnut Lamingtons

Just to prove how versatile the Lamington is, I’ve made some more in a different, although incredibly classic, flavour combination. The classic coffee and walnut cake was my inspiration for these mini cakes. I used sugarpaste or fondant for the very first time and moulded them into the shapes of coffee beans to make them even cuter.

Fondant Coffee Beans

You can find out how I made the fondant coffee beans by clicking here.

You can also find the recipe for my Chocolate and Hazelnut Lamingtons here.

I made a serving platter full of my Lamingtons and they went down incredibly well, so well in fact they won a Bake Off at school. If that isn’t enough reason to make these incredibly simple but showstopping miniature cakes, well you’ll just have to miss out.

Lamington Platter


Coffee Sponge

175g Stork

175g sugar

175g self-raising flour

3 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp instant coffee mixed with 1 tbsp milk

Coffee Buttercream and Decoration

75g Stork

200g icing sugar

1 tbsp instant coffee mixed with 1 tbsp milk

150g walnuts, finely chopped in a food processor

150g white sugarpaste/fondant made into coffee beans – click here


Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.

Place all the ingredients for the sponge into a large bowl and beat for about 1 minute until the cake mix is smooth and an even colour.

Transfer to the baking tin, level out and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes until a skewer or cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the tin immediately and allow the sponge to cool on a wire rack. Once the sponge has completely cooled, cut the edges off to create a perfect square. Then divide the sponge up into however many squares you want or need; I got 30 out of my sponge.

Cooled Coffee Sponge

For the coffee buttercream, place the Stork, icing sugar and coffee mixture into a bowl and beat until it is light, fluffy, an even colour, thick enough to spread and pipe and no longer grainy (test this by tasting, if the icing sugar is powdery, keep beating). Transfer about a quarter of the buttercream into a piping bag. Cut off the end to create a 5mm hole.

Making Coffee Buttercream

Place the chopped walnuts in a deep bowl or in a baking tin.

Take one sponge square and hold it on the top and bottom. Using a palette knife, roughly spread some of the buttercream on the remaining 4 sides and then place on a large sheet of baking parchment. Pipe a small dot of the buttercream on the top and finish with more walnuts and a fondant coffee bean. Repeat for the remaining sponge squares.

Keep refrigerated until serving.

Chocolate & Hazelnut Lamingtons

Chocolate and Hazelnut Lamingtons

Lamingtons are a traditional Australian treat consisting of a vanilla sponge cake coated in a layer of jam and coated in a chocolate glaze and then tossed in desiccated coconut. I’ve decided to put my own twist on this Australian classic by switching up the sponge and the outside to create a famous chocolate spread inspired Lamington. These are my Chocolate and Hazelnut Lamingtons.

[Side note, they won the seal of approval at school after winning against multiple members of staff in our very own Bake Off]

Chocolate & Hazelnut Lamingtons

Chocolate Sponge

175g Stork

175g sugar

150g self-raising flour

25g cocoa powder

3 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

Chocolate Glaze and Decoration

50g Stork

1 ½ tbsp golden syrup

150g plain chocolate

100g hazelnuts, finely chopped in a food processor


Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.

Place all the ingredients for the sponge into a large bowl and beat for about 1 minute until the cake mix is smooth and an even colour.

Transfer to the baking tin, level out and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes until a skewer or cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the tin immediately and allow the sponge to cool on a wire rack. Once the sponge has completely cooled, cut the edges off to create a perfect square. Then divide the sponge up into however many squares you want or need; I got 30 out of my sponge.

Cooled Chocolate Sponge

Make the chocolate glaze by melting the Stork with the golden syrup in a pan over a medium heat. Whilst you leave it to melt, break the chocolate up into squares and then once you’ve done that, add to the melted Stork and syrup and turn off the heat; the residual heat will be enough to melt the chocolate. Stir until it all comes together and resembles ganache.

Place the chopped hazelnuts into a deep bowl or in a baking tin.

Take one sponge square and hold it on the top and bottom. Using a palette knife, roughly spread some of the glaze on the remaining 4 sides and then place on a large sheet of baking parchment and cover the top. Then toss the coated sponge in the hazelnuts and return to the parchment to cool and set. Repeat for the remaining sponges. The glaze will set very quickly so simply return to the heat to make it easier to use if needed.

Keep the cakes stored in the fridge and they will keep for 5 days thanks to the glaze.

LM Buche de Noel

Guest Post: Bûche de Noël by Luca Marchiori

I’ve got another one of my Guest Posts from a fellow food blogger, Luca Marchiori for the 2nd post in my Bumper December. I met Luca on Twitter, as seems to be the case all too often these days, and when he started tweeting these amazing bakes I discovered his blog. Then I had the idea for these Guest Posts and we started talking and soon we traded a post each tackling something French, since Luca lives in France. Luca will be tackling a Bûche de Noël on my blog meanwhile I’ve created a Sabayon Cake over on Luca’s blog.

Luca Blog

You can find Luca’s blog here: http://ohlavache.co/

You can follow Luca on Twitter: @chuechebueb


Known in the UK as the Yule Log, the Bûche de Noël is one of the two archetypal French cakes for the festive season and no French reveillon or Christmas dinner would be complete without one. Originally designed to look like logs, the chic boutiques of Paris now sport them in all shapes, sizes and colours. Not being a chocolate fan, I developed the following recipe to reflect this, and oh la vache, it tasted good.

Any sweet white wine such as Tokaji Àszu, a Sauternes, or a sweet sherry, can be used to replace the Muscadet. Strawberries, redcurrants, or even cranberries soaked in sugar syrup, would all provide alternative fruit.

LM Buche de Noel

Biscuit Joconde:

30g butter

20g flour

75g icing sugar

75g ground almonds

2 whole eggs

2 egg whites

Pinch of salt

12g caster sugar

Crème Patissière:

½ vanilla pod

250ml milk

3 egg yolks

50g caster sugar

20g flour

20g butter

To Finish:

Muscat de Rivesaltes – a sweet French wine

125g fresh raspberries

500ml double cream

½ tsp red powder food colouring

120g white cooking chocolate

Icing sugar, to decorate

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Grease and line a lipped baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the butter and then let it cool.
  3. Sift the flour, icing sugar and ground almonds into a bowl. Add the whole eggs and beat until you have a light creamy mixture.
  4. Place the egg whites in a bowl with the salt and caster sugar. Whisk until they form stiff peaks.
  5. Fold the egg whites into the other mixture, being really careful to keep as much air as possible. This is what will give the biscuitits light character. When they are combined, add the melted butter and continue folding until it is incorporated.
  6. Place the mixture into the baking tray and spread with a spatula until is it even; bake for 8‑10 minutes. Let it cool, remove the paper and the biscuitis ready to use.
  7. For the crème pâtissière, place the vanilla pod and milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil; remove from the heat and leave the pod to infuse for about 10 minutes. Then remove the pod and discard
  8. Beat the egg yolks together with the caster sugar in a mixing bowl; then sift the flour into the bowl and mix until smooth.
  9. Pour the milk into the mixing bowl and combine with a whisk; then put the entire mixture into a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring all the time with the whisk; simmer, still stirring, for one minute.
  10. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the butter; stir until combined. Cover the mixture with cling film which should touch the surface of the cream to stop a skin forming and leave to cool completely.
  11. Spread the crème pâtissièreevenly over the biscuit. Place a row of raspberries along one of the short edges of the biscuit and then roll it up with the raspberries in the middle. Place it on a serving plate and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  12. Add the food colouring to the cream until you have achieved the desired color. Break the white chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl. Boil the heavy cream and then pour over the white chocolate and leave for 10 minutes. Stir the cream until the chocolate has been dissolved completely. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
  13. Using a stand mixer, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Then using a piping bag and a star nozzle, pipe long stripes of cream to cover the cake. Place three rows of raspberries on the top and sprinkle with icing sugar. Voilà!
Hummingbird-bakery-cookbook

Cookbooks for Christmas Presents

Maybe you’ve left it a bit too late to get Christmas presents from the shops. Turn to the Internet and you find a treasure chest of potential presents. But for your foodie friends, I suggest getting them cookbooks because there are many bargains to be found on Amazon with enough time to wrap them up and put them under the Christmas tree.

With free delivery in the UK on orders over £10, buying any 3 of these books means you don’t need to pay delivery charges. There is a mixture of cookbooks I’ve found to be £5 each and some of them are “old” but that doesn’t mean someone won’t appreciate the thought that goes into them.

Of course if none of these take your fancy, you can check out some of the books I’ve reviewed already here.


For the Beginner and Improving Baker: The Great British Bake Off: Everyday

 

For the Improving and Advanced Baker: The Great British Bake Off: How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers

 

For the Weight-Watching Bakers: A Lighter Way to Bake

 

For the Avid Cake Bakers: The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

 

For the Paul Hollywood Pastry Fans: Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds

 

For the Beginner Cook: Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course

 

For the Improving Cook: How to Be A Better Cook

 

For the Chef Looking for a Challenge: Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food

 

For the Chef Looking to Cook Healthily: River Cottage Veg Every Day!

 

Woven Ribbons

Handmade Gift Boxes for Edible Presents

One thing people would never think to do is make their own gift boxes and I’ve found a way to make them not only very easily but as quick and cheap. My little boxes can hold some of the biscuits that I’ve posted before such as Chocolate & Nut Biscotti, All Butter Almond Cookies and Iced Sugar Cookies.

All Butter Almond Cookies Biscotti

If you go to your local pound shop in the UK, you can source coloured pieces of card very cheaply however you can do this with old Christmas cards all the same. I’d suggest that you use a flattened paper cupcake case or a piece of baking parchment to line the base of the box in case of contamination, and health and safety and all that.

[Each sheet of A4 card makes 1 box approximately 11cm x 6.5cm x 2cm]


Take your A4 sheet of card and cut it in half. Use a trimmer to ensure the edges are absolutely straight.

Flip the piece of card over to the undecorated/uncoloured side.

Decide how tall you want the box to be. I’ve made mine 2cm high, which is enough to create a nice rectangular box which can hold the biscuits linked above. Mark a region with a pencil equal to the height of your box from each side such that there are four corner squares.

Dimesions

Using a pair of scissors, score each pencil marked side of the box and gently fold it upwards.

Scored and Folded

On the short side of each corner square, cut along the line up to the border. This creates tabs to glue the box together. Fold the tabs over so the decorated side faces upwards. Apply some PVA glue and then fold the tabs onto the middle section. Use paper clips to secure the tabs as it dries. Repeat for the other side.

Completed Half

Using the other half of card, make the lid by repeating Steps 2 – 6, this time making the box 1-2mm less high – this allows the lid to go over the base of the box without being too loose or too short.

Next, write the name of the person receiving the present on the lid. Have a practice on paper before you write on the card, otherwise it’s wasted. Investigate some fonts online well if you want to make them slightly fancier.

Then complete the gift box by filling with the edible present, topping with the lid and tying the box up with decorative ribbon, one of my favourites is pictured below

Woven Ribbons

IMG_0134

Cornflake and Almond Tart

I managed to get myself, somehow, hired to make a couple of new twists on some old classic desserts. I took the opportunity to widen my baking repertoire and delve into the world of 1980s school dinner desserts. I came across a cornflake tart which I’d never heard of before. As I read the recipe, I read it and knew that it was something that would not only fit the brief I was given by a family friend but I could make in a day.

IMG_0134

As I read multiple recipes, and literally I must have visited 20 websites, it seemed the ratio of golden syrup to cornflakes would create a sickeningly sweet dessert, and this was understandable, but wouldn’t really suit the people I was making it for, so I found the recipe with the lowest amount of sugar and went from there.

Most of the recipes stuck to just cornflakes, golden syrup and butter, but a few had the addition of flaked almonds which I thought would be great. Not only does it add another dimension, but they look similar to the cornflakes so blended in well. Many went for raspberry jam but I stayed with the jar of strawberry in my fridge.

So here’s the recipe for my Cornflake and Almond Tart. It requires the use of a 23cm loose bottomed tart tin.

175g plain flour

75g Stork, cubed

40g caster sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp cold water

2 tbsp strawberry jam

115g golden syrup

55g Stork

25g caster sugar

A pinch of salt

130g cornflakes, unsweetened and plain

50g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Place the flour into a medium bowl and add the cubed Stork. Rub them between your fingertips until it reaches a breadcrumb consistency. Add the sugar, egg and water and using one hand, bring the pastry together into a ball.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry until it is 5mm thick – it will become thinner when we work it in the tart tin, so don’t worry if it’s slightly thicker but do not make it thinner or it will be hard to handle.

Remove the base from your tart tin and lifting up the pastry without breaking, slip the base underneath the pastry. Fold the edges into the centre and place the base with the pastry on it back into the tin and unfold the edges.

Make sure that the pastry is tucked neatly into the edges. Take the rolling pin and roll the flutes so the pastry cuts off. Using the scraps, fill in any gaps in the base and sides. Then slightly press the pastry in the flutes so it sits proud by about 2mm around the edge.

Take a large square of foil and place into the tart tin, making sure it touches the edges. Pour in your rice, or ceramic baking beans, and spread out so it evenly covers the foil.

Filled Pastry Shell

Bake for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and rice. Return to the oven to bake for a further 5 minutes until the base is crisp and dry to the touch. It should be slightly browned.

Blind Baking

Whilst blind baking, prepare the filling. Over a medium heat, combine the golden syrup, Stork, sugar and salt together until the sugar has dissolved, stirring continuously.

Pour in the cornflakes and the flaked almonds and mix until all the cornflakes are coated in the syrup mixture.

IMG_0126

Spread the jam on the base of the baked pastry shell so it creates an even but thin layer. Spoon over the cornflake mixture and use a palette knife to level out the cornflake mixture.

Return to the oven for 5 minutes just to set it slightly.

Remove from the tart tin immediately and serve with custard or cream.

Simple Bakewell Tart

Simple Bakewell Tart

There’s something so magical about the Bakewell Tart. Its essence is a shortcrust pastry case topped with a layer of jam, usually strawberry or raspberry, and a frangipane style sponge mixture and it just works.

Simple Bakewell Tart

I’ve used frangipane before and the cake batter was a lot wetter this time, so I blind baked the pastry, which I don’t normally do for frangipane. Blind baking is a part baking of the pastry shell to dry and colour the pastry so the pastry doesn’t absorb the moisture from the filling and create an undercooked pastry shell and the dreaded soggy bottom.

CP2

Whilst you can use ceramic baking beans to blind bake, I prefer using rice. It’s a lot cheaper and gets into the corners of the tart tin better thereby giving you a more even blind bake. Just set aside a container of “blind baking rice” to reuse over and over again. I’d replace it every year, and when the rice starts to burn, you know it’s gone its course.

Filled Pastry ShellBlind Baking

For this recipe, I’d advise using a 23cm loose bottomed fluted tart tin.

175g plain flour

75g Stork, cubed

40g caster sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp cold water

2 tbsp raspberry jam

4 eggs

100g granulated sugar

125g Stork, melted

125g ground almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Place the flour into a medium bowl and add the cubed Stork. Rub them between your fingertips until it reaches a breadcrumb consistency. Add the sugar, egg and water and using one hand, bring the pastry together into a ball.
  3. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry until it is 5mm thick – it will become thinner when we work it in the tart tin, so don’t worry if it’s slightly thicker but do not make it thinner or it will be hard to handle.
  4. Remove the base from your tart tin and lifting up the pastry without breaking, slip the base underneath the pastry. Fold the edges into the centre and place the base with the pastry on it back into the tin and unfold the edges.
  5. Make sure that the pastry is tucked neatly into the edges. Take the rolling pin and roll the flutes so the pastry cuts off. Using the scraps, fill in any gaps in the base and sides. Then slightly press the pastry in the flutes so it sits proud by about 2mm around the edge.
  6. Take a large square of foil and place into the tart tin, making sure it touches the edges. Pour in your rice, or ceramic baking beans, and spread out so it evenly covers the foil.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes. Then remove the foil and rice.
  8. Whilst baking, prepare the filling by beating the eggs and sugar until they are slightly lighter and thicker. Add the melted Stork and ground almonds and whisk until it is well combined.
  9. Spread the jam over the base of the blind baked shell, working from the centre outwards. Pour over the liquid frangipane batter and then bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the frangipane is set and is a nice golden colour on top.
  10. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before taking the tin off and removing the tart from the base. Serve with hot custard or cream.
RH Ginger and Fudge Cupcakes

Guest Post: Ginger and Fudge Cupcakes by Rebecca Herd

Unlike my last guest post, you will not have heard of the author of this guest post. Rebecca Herd is a true foodie like me, as you’ll discover below. I met her on Twitter through Bakechat, a Twitter discussion organised by the 2013 bakers from GBBO in which we, as a baking community, asked (and answered) baking queries. I contacted Rebecca knowing that she would not only help and produce a great post (as you’ll read now) but she loved food and could share her passion with others. Hopefully there will be more collaborations with Rebecca in the future because I look forward to see what else she will bring to the table.

Chocolate Fondant Wedding Cake

You can follow Rebecca on Twitter: @beckyh12


When I was asked to write a post for this blog I didn’t really know where to start as it is hard to describe my passion for baking and food in general but I’ve had a go and hopefully it will inspire you to try my recipe and maybe  you’ll find it as great as I do!

I have always had a passion for baking and just food in general. Coming from a family of foodies, I was surrounded by food, both savoury and sweet. My parents own a butchers shop which introduced me to the savoury side of food but my true passion lies with cakes and pretty much any form of patisserie. The majority of my family are bakers, so much so that we have a tradition that over the years has grown to consume the summer months, of entering handicraft and produce shows. Now being the fourth generation to enter these shows is quite an accomplishment but to be able to say that you not only enter but are successful in winning prizes and trophies is something else. When you are surrounded by baking from an early age, it is more than likely that you will develop an interest and when the baking is of trophy winning standard, the skills and techniques you learn are second to none. In a way I have always taken baking, and cooking in general, for granted until I started secondary school. I took any opportunity to cook or bake as it was a way to expand my knowledge and skills further.

By GCSE I had started to gain a reputation for my work and when it came to the coursework I thrived. Many people believe I am slightly crazy when I say I enjoy doing my coursework but the opportunity to make something, that maybe I would not usually, and then be given praise for my work is something special. As the year went on, what I created in these lessons grew and towards the end I was creating complex products, often of my own design and pushing myself as far as I could to create the most in each possible lesson. The hard work clearly paid off as I achieved an A* for my food technology GCSE (only dropping 3 marks for my coursework!). However the grade means little compared to the comment received off my teacher. I was delighted that the hard work I had put in had paid off as I was told that it was “astounding what I could achieve in an hour and 15 minutes”. This deepened my interest and made me truly realise that I was actually really good at baking!

The success of GCSE made the decision to do A-Level the easiest of my life. I knew for sure that I wanted a career in the food industry and I was determined to succeed. My passion was not always recognised by teachers and my school in general. I was lucky enough to achieve a place at a grammar school which is one of the greatest achievements of my life. However, this also meant that the focus on subjects which are not necessarily academically based was often negative especially for A-Level. After a hard campaign, it was accepted and, although there is a large amount of practical work, I can confirm that A-Level food technology is as hard (if not harder) as any other A-Level subject.  With more freedom, A-Level food has enabled me to create food that I want and take my project in the way I wish. It has also made me realise that a career in product development is want I want to achieve.


The decision of what recipe to include in this has been very difficult. I have an ever increasing list of favourites so to choose just one is nearly impossible. However I did come to a decision. I wanted to include something of my own, something original. Therefore I have chosen to include the recipe for my Ginger Fudge Cupcakes. Believe it or not, this actually originated from a cream scone but I believe the final product is much better.

Inside of RH RH Ginger and Fudge Cupcakes

 

Fudge:

55g butter

225g granulated sugar

100g evaporated milk

50ml of water

Cakes:

50g butter

1 tbsp golden syrup

120ml milk

65g sugar

130g self-raising flour

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 egg

Meringue:

1 egg white

50g sugar

  1. Grease and line a 15 x 10cm tin
  2. To make the fudge, place all of the ingredients in a large saucepan and stir over a low heat till the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil stirring occasionally until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (116oC if using a thermometer).
  3. Remove from the heat and dip base of the pan in cold water. Leave for 5 minutes.
  4. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture loses its gloss.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin and leave to cool. When cooled, cut the cooled fudge in to 4cm circles using a biscuit cutter.
  6. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
  7. For the sponge, heat the syrup, butter, sugar and milk in a pan until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Sift in the flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda and mix. Add the egg and beat well.
  8. Divide into the 12 bun cases and bake for 20 minutes.
  9. When ready to serve, turn the oven to 230°C.
  10. Whisk the egg white until stiff and gradually add the sugar until you are able to tip the bowl upside down without the mixture falling out. Place the meringue in a piping bag with a star nozzle attached.
  11. Place a piece of fudge on top of each bun and pipe a swirl of meringue over the top.
  12. Flash bake for 1 ½ minutes or until the meringue starts to colour.
Baked Cheesecake

Basic Vanilla Cheesecake

I love cheesecake. There’s something about the combination of a buttery biscuit base and a sweet creamy filling that works every single time. This recipe is a recipe which I’ve used ever since I first made it and I’d like to feel that I’ve perfected it.

Baked Cheesecake

The one today is a pretty standard Vanilla Cheesecake but you can add any other flavours to suit any occasion. Whilst I’ve stuck with a digestive base, you can always jazz this up as well. Here are some ideas:

  • Mocha Cheesecake – use Bourbon biscuits for the base, swap the sugar for soft light brown sugar add some instant coffee powder to the filling
  • Ginger and Apricot Cheesecake – use Ginger Nuts for the base and place halved fresh apricots (or tinned if you cannot find fresh) on the base
  • Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake – add walnuts to the biscuit base, halfway through the baking time, drizzle a swirl of salted caramel on top of the cheesecake

Ensure that you’ve not only lined your springform tin properly, an essential piece of cheesecake making kit in my opinion, but that the biscuit base is completely pressed into the base to prevent any leakage in the oven.

200g digestive biscuits – or whichever biscuit you choose

80g Stork, melted

450g cream cheese – at room temperature (if it isn’t, it won’t mix together with the eggs well)

150g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 eggs

  1. Grease and line the base of a 23cm springform tin.
  2. Place the biscuits in a sandwich bag and bash them up into very fine crumbs using a rolling pin. Add to a bowl with the melted Stork and mix until it begins to come together.
  3. Pour into the springform tin and using the back of a spoon, press down the base evenly and making sure that there are no gaps. Chill for about 10 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  5. Beat all of the remaining ingredients together until they are smooth and creamy. Pour the mixture onto the cooled biscuit base.
  6. Placing the springform tin onto a baking tray, bake the cheesecake for about 45 minutes until it is just a light golden brown on the surface and when you shake the tray, the cheesecake gives way in the centre just slightly.
  7. Cool the cheesecake in the tin completely and then when you want to serve, take a palette knife and loosen around the edge. Release the spring and then use the same palette knife to lift underneath the parchment to move, and then remove, the cheesecake.
  8. Dust with icing sugar and finish with a sprig of mint.
DM Brunch Pies

Guest Post: Brunch Pies by Deborah Manger (of GBBO fame)

Anyone who has watched The Great British Bake Off will know the writer of this guest post. Let’s say that she was heavily involved in ‘Custardgate’ so much so that she even stole the custard. I contacted Deborah Manger, a former contestant on the show, about the possibility of writing a guest post for me and Deborah was more than happy to help.

Deborah

I asked Deborah a few questions and then asked her to provide me with a recipe that would feature on the blog and she didn’t disappoint. I’m also looking forward to working with Deborah in the future on more posts on the blog.

You can find Deborah on Twitter: @MangerBakes


What made you want to apply for The Great British Bake Off?

I decided to apply for the ‘Bake Off’ for many reasons. I enjoy a challenge. My family said why not and above all I try to approach life knowing that our memories are really important. I have great memories of my involvement so when I’m older and greyer they will be great times to reflect upon

What was your favourite moment from your series?

My favourite moment which never found its way onto the television was Mary saying “Boy can you make a great Genoise sponge” followed very close behind by my car journeys home from filming with Frances [Quinn, winner of Series Four]

Do people still mention Custardgateto you?

They do. I have learnt that most people do it as a friendly tease; such is the usual GBBO viewer.

Custardgate dm

Have you had any ‘disasters’ in your own kitchen?

Plenty! I defy anyone who cooks and bakes to say they have not. My family, including my cats, are my greatest critics. I know I’ve really failed if the cats turn their noses up at stuff the men reject!

Do you have an idea when you started to bake?

I started to bake when I went to grammar school. I studies home economics up to A-Level. The first thing we baked was a Victoria sponge cake

What do you bake most of, and is there a reason why? Cakes, biscuits, bread or pastry?

I bake a lot of bread. Many flavours and presentations (free form, tin). We need bread for breakfast, lunches and snacks. We do not like shop bought bread. I bake bread every week.  Probably closely followed by cake for ‘pudding/dessert’. With an active teenager in the house cake is a great way of filling him up as part of a meal

Who is your favourite TV chef or cook?

My favourite TV cook/chef has to be Raymond Blanc. I love the fact he was essentially self taught. His skills have grown from living in a family where food and eating matters. He is dedicated to eating food that has been grown/raised as locally as possible and is obviously passionate about his trade.

What would you say is your one and true Signature Bake?

Brunch pies [below]. These are favourites of both family and friends. They are a play on the picnic pork pie with flavours of pork, bacon, tomato and egg, all wrapped up in a thin hot water crust case.

Would you say that how Britain sees baking has changed since GBBO?

I would like to say yes. I think we like watching others but the evidence is clear, the more recipe books and equipment we buy the more convenience foods are purchased. I suspect people like the idea of it but feel under confident in actually following a recipe or process. That’s where my home economics helped me.

What is your opinion on ‘Bingate’, the media blaming Mary Berry for the obesity crisis in the UK and the innuendo complaints as seen on Points of View? 

Bingate: I know that what we saw was the bakers being short of space, something we experienced, and the fridges and freezers struggling to cope with all the warm food placed in them. Ian was obviously stressed and his response was to do what we all do in our own home when cooking/baking goes wrong. Having been similarly stressed I do empathise with his reaction.

Obesity: This is a public health issue leading to ill health and placing an enormous strain on health and social care. Individuals need to take personal responsibility for their own health, including weight and levels of fitness. To blame any celebrity is disingenuous.

Innuendo: If you do not like watching the programme because you find it offensive, watch something else.


Deborah’s Brunch Pies

DM Brunch Pies

The key to these pies is keeping the pastry thin thus allowing you to have more filling within. They are a great, late morning alternative to a full ‘English’.

Preparation Time: 60 Minutes

Cooking Time: 45 Minutes

Hot Water Crust Pastry

200g plain flour

40g strong white flour

50g butter

60g lard

100ml water

1 tsp salt

Filling

6 quail eggs

6 small vine/plum tomatoes

8 large tomatoes with vine

1 onion, chopped finely

350g pork loin, chopped finely

100g smoked back bacon, chopped finely – if you wish to intensify the tomato flavour of these pies, you can buy smoked bacon that has been marinated in tomato ketchup

1 tsp lemon thyme leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

1 egg, for glazing

2 leaves gelatine


Preheat oven to 200C/400F

Grease 6 x 7cm cooking rings and place on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment

Place all the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter to resemble breadcrumbs

Place the lard, salt and water in pan. Heat until lard is melted.

Pour the lard/water mix into the flour mixture and mix thoroughly to produce a smooth, elastic dough. Place on a floured surface and roll to approx 3mm thickness. Cut six 15cm circles to line the pie rings and six 10cm circles for the lids. When lining the rings roll a ball of excess pastry and place inside some cling film. Use this to press the pastry into the rings ensuring full, thin coverage with no tearing.IMG_0113

Cook the quails’ eggs in boiling water for 2 minutes then plunge into cold water. Peel carefully.

Remove the skins from the 6 small tomatoes and then remove the core and seeds whilst keeping the flesh as intact as possible. Place a quail egg inside each tomato.

Mix the onion, pork, bacon, thyme and seasoning well. Place one dessertspoon of pork mixture in the base of the pie cases. Place the egg in the centre and then cover with more pork mixture.

Place the pie lids on.IMG_0037

Cut a hole in the top using a 1/2cm metal piping nozzle and crimp or use a fork to seal the edge of the pastry. Glaze the lids with egg wash.IMG_0038IMG_0039

Place in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the pies from the rings carefully and egg wash the sides of the pies. Replace in the oven for a further 15 minutes.

Set the pies aside to cool.

Liquidise the 8 large tomatoes and their vines until smooth. Place in a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the temperature to simmer for 5 minutes. Use a fine sieve to remove the tomato pulp; the pulp can be kept to use in other dishes. Replace the tomato essence in a pan and heat to reduce until you have 150ml/5fl oz of concentrated essence.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes; squeeze the leaves to remove excess water and then whisk into the warm tomato essence.

Pour the tomato/gelatine mixture through the holes in the pie crust. Leave the pies to cool in the fridge – if the family will allow!