Bananas

How to be a Smart Cookie in the Kitchen with Money

Recently I was lucky enough to be able to host a Twitter chat for Food Bloggers and I dealt with the topic of ‘Food Pricing’. It was an amazing hour of questioning and answering and a fascinating insight into how other food bloggers think. I chose the topic because I was always going to write this post, and there’s nothing with some extra contributions from like-minded people. I started the conversation with this question:

It was an interesting way to start because I instantly got the feel of the bloggers from their responses. And they responded quickly. Here were some of my favourite responses, alongside some good tips as well.

Then we got into the nitty gritty, and I asked the bloggers this question about their essential food purchases.

Next I started my favourite debate of all, the organic and free-range debate. I am certain that free-range and organic products are better quality, but when you go through as many eggs as we do in my house, it’s just not feasible to spend £1 on a pack of 6 free-range eggs when I can spend £1.35 on 15 eggs. Here’s what the food bloggers thought:

My fourth question of the night put a spin on the topic of ‘food pricing’ as I asked the bloggers what ingredient they would spend the money on and there were some very interesting answers, some of which I would never think of.

My final question proposed the question of cheap secrets to making great food. And we had some amazing answers, and here is a selection of my favourites. https://twitter.com/EpsomBakehouse/status/563439857155182593


Many people think that cooking food from fresh is expensive. I think we confuse expensive with time-consuming as well. I’ll admit buying ingredients fresh is a lot of money expended each week but I truly believe it is possible to eat well for less. Keeping a few key ingredients in the cupboards and freezers mean that you can cook both cheap and healthy meals. And I’ve got some of my tips for cooking on the cheap as well as some more contributions from our food bloggers. Frozen fruit and vegetables are better than fresh So many people are strangely afraid of buying frozen fruit and vegetables. We all buy frozen peas but we never reach out further than a bag of sweetcorn. It’s not as if they are bad quality, in fact tinned and frozen, I believe, are better than fresh. Frozen fruit and vegetables will still keep many of their health benefits because they are frozen soon after they are harvested so they retain all their goodness. They are also much cheaper than buying fresh, so I hope that I’ve persuaded you to buy frozen rather than fresh. Throw overripe bananas, bread past its best and pork belly into the freezer It sounds like the world’s weirdest shopping list but these 3 ingredients are my secret to creating quick easy meals. Instant Banana Ice Cream

Bananas

Chop and throw 3 frozen bananas into a food processor and blitz together until the bananas are well mixed. Add one tablespoon of milk and a drop of vanilla extract and mix until incorporated. Serve. Sesame Pork on Toast Defrost 8 slices of bread in the microwave. They should be still frozen and not soft. In a food processor, mix together 300g lean pork mince, an egg, a clove of garlic, a 2cm piece of ginger grated, 1 whole chilli, spring onion, white pepper, 1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice and salt until it turns into a paste. Spread the pork mixture on the bread in a thin layer, coat in sesame seed and deep-fry in moderately hot oil for 2-3 minutes until the pork is cooked through and the bread toasted. Instant Pork Belly Slices A frozen slab of pork belly cuts up into thin slices much easier. Using a sharp knife, cut thin slices from your frozen pork belly and pan-fry or stir-fry as a quick dinner. Keep tins of pulses in the cupboard Beans and chickpeas are a great healthy, nutritious and cheap way to bulk out ragouts and any soups on the cheap. Here’s a ridiculously simple recipe for a Bean Chilli con Carne: 1 red onion, chopped into small dice 1 red pepper, chopped into small dice 1 tbsp oil 1 tsp chilli powder 500g lean beef 450g (equal mix) of haricot beans, cannellini beans and chickpeas , drained 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes 200ml chicken stock; make from ½ chicken stock cube with boiling water 1 tbsp tomato puree 1 tbsp cornflour, mixed with 1 tbsp cold water Fry the onion and pepper in the oil on a low heat for 10 – 15 minutes until they are softened. Turn up the heat and add the chilli powder and cook for a few minutes. Add the mince and cook until the meat has browned. Make sure that there are no large clumps of meat left in the pan. Add in the beans and chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, chicken stock and tomato puree. Fill the tin of tomatoes halfway full of water and slosh it around to get the rest of the tomatoes and add to the pan. Simmer over a low heat for 15 – 20 minutes. Then mix in the cornflour slurry and stir through. Continue to simmer until the sauce has a relatively thick consistency, however you can change this for personal preference. Cooking fresh, healthy and tasty food does not have to be expensive at all. And I want to set a challenge for you.

Food Blogger Smart Cookie Challenge: Can you cook a 3 course meal for 2 for under £5 (or US $7.50)?

I’d love to see how smart you can be with your shopping so food bloggers and readers alike, please tag me on Twitter with your results (@CakeBoy626). You can have as long as you want to prepare, any ingredient can be used, any food can be made as long as it comes under £5 (or US $7.50). The rules of the challenge

  • There must be 3 courses, starter, main and dessert
  • It must come under the price range of £5 (US $7.50) per person
  • Herbs, spices and seasonings do not count in the price
  • Entries must include #BloggerSmartCookie
  • You must follow me on Twitter – @CakeBoy626
  • Challenge ends on 27th March 2015

It isn’t a competition however I will be posting the recipes for my favourite 3 course meal on the blog so you can cook along at home! Please share this competition around the food blogger network.

Blueberries

Fat Shaming is Not Good. Neither is Juicing. Stop Juicing and Lose Weight Like Me!

It seems that in a society where equality is moving forward, we are going backwards on how we express our opinions. I am constantly seeing tweets and articles about how a celebrity has gained weight and how ugly they look. It’s time this stopped now.

I am all for free speech but there comes a time when saying what you really think about someone’s appearance needs to be tamed. The fact of the matter is saying that I’m fat is really not nice. Besides don’t you think we already know that we are slightly heavier than yourselves?

Think about the word ‘fat’. Yes it’s an adjective but it’s a noun. Calling me ‘fat’ is almost the same as you calling me by my actual name. That’s how primary (and secondary) school nicknames come about. And I’m almost a fully-fledged adult. So I’d think by now I’d outgrown the ‘fat’ boy. Turns out I haven’t. I still get referred to as the ‘fat boy’ and it’s horrible. It completely undermines any form of achievement in my life, whether that be this blog right here or my GCSE examination results. Because I’ll only be that ‘fat boy’.

There’s that common saying in the UK: “Fat people are jolly”. Have you ever thought why we are ‘jolly’ and why ‘jolly’ appears to be a connotation of fat people?

  • Maybe it’s because we are actually happy with ourselves and do not feel the need to look down on others.
  • Maybe it’s because we are eating the food that we like to eat and not forcing ourselves to blend another chia seed and add another scoopful of whey powder to try and make ourselves feel healthier. (Newsflash: eating more fruit might be worse for you because of all those natural sugars. )
  • Maybe it’s because we’ve found a way to hide our emotions behind our fat, so you only see the person I want to show off.
  • Maybe it’s because ‘jolly’ rhymes with ‘ice lolly’ and we’ve all eaten a couple too many of them…

And anyways, why do we feel the need to identify people by their appearance?

“Who are you talking about?”

“Oh that fat guy with the small eyes and glasses”

How about learning my name and sparking a conversation with me instead of whispering behind my back whilst eating your lone lettuce leaf, which you proudly proclaim is the only thing you’ve eaten in a whole 24 hours? Who knows maybe we have something in common?

You’re probably looking for a solution to this problem and really using the term ‘overweight’ is even worse. The words ‘overweight’ and ‘underweight’ put people on a spectrum, the spectrum that defines people as ‘normal’ as if by some miracle they’ve been given a number that lies between 18.5 to 24.9; I am of course referring to the BMI scale. Let me just say this:

NO ONE IS NORMAL!

And I don’t want to be normal. I want to be myself and be happy with the person I am. It’s a sad day when you cannot live your own life. We’re a nation of large people, there’s no fact denying that. Maybe that’s because

WE

LIKE

CAKE

We shouldn’t be torturing ourselves with another smoothie. And on that note, if I see another advert trying to me a Nutribullet, I will throw this blog post in their face. We should just try to enjoy food and not come up with a devilish combination of spinach and blueberries. Take the factor of juicing out. No one would ever make a Spinach and Blueberry Cannelloni, so why do we torture ourselves by drinking them together? It’s almost like we’re a nation of children, incapable of eating fruit and vegetables so once again we have to disguise it in amongst a ton of sugar. Nothing has changed. It’s another fad diet that I am not going to follow.

Blueberries Spinach

Losing weight was once so simple:

  • Reduce the number of calories in and increase the number of calories out.
  • Eat less, move more

I weighed 14 stone (196lbs) in September 2014.

I weigh 12st 13lbs (181lbs) in February 2015.

So what changed in those 5 months?


I attended 1 Zumba class a week – 800 calories burned in an hour

Zumba

I’ve been going to Zumba for almost 3 years. And it is one of the best motivations to lose weight. Classes are tonnes of fun, you make friends because you share a lot in common and because you share so much in common, you fit in right away. When I knew the moves after about 5 months by heart, I could start pushing myself further trying to reach that 800 calorie burn. And the amount I sweat, I think I surpass that. And it’s not a female thing either. A man came up with it.

I made clever switches in my diet

Simple changes are a great starting point to any weight loss. Try these:

  • Low fat cream cheese instead of full-fat
  • Semi-skimmed milk instead of whole milk
  • One extra piece of fruit a week
  • Bulking out dishes with tinned vegetables
  • Drinking more water

Large to Medium

My old clothes are quite loose and free-flowing. I had to buy an almost completely new wardrobe for myself. Buying new, smaller clothes makes you feel accomplished.

Nothing changed

This sounds contradictory but it is true. I didn’t stop baking. I didn’t stop eating. I made more cake than I had before, see from the amount I’ve posted recently. I just made a conscious effort to watch what went in my body and I expended that energy.


 

No juicing. No Atkins. No 5:2. No gluten-free. No paleo. No cabbage soup. No chia seeds. No quinoa. No veganism.

 

Just hard work.

I’d like to thank all those people who called me a ‘fat boy’.

Because today I am a healthier, more athletic and skinnier man.

And I still like cake. In fact I’m sitting here smug having a slice of cake with my cup of tea, only ½ teaspoon of sugar.

Inside of Couronne

Tea-soaked Raisin Couronne with Orange Icing

Valentine’s Day may have passed for another year but that doesn’t mean you can’t still show your love. And I love making bread so I thought I’d devise an original recipe for a couronne.

A couronne, meaning crown, is a showstopping sweet loaf and I’ve filled mine with tea-soaked dried fruit and topped it with flaked almonds and an orange icing. Now this loaf does require a bit of preparation the night before but it is ridiculously simple.

The soaked fruit becomes plump and bouncy jewels once they’ve soaked overnight but I didn’t throw away the tea either; it was the liquid that I used for the bread. The tea takes on a lot of flavour from the dried fruit and becomes slightly sweet and sticky. However you do have to drain as much of the liquid away from the fruit as possible otherwise it makes twisting the bread into the couronne shape very messy and difficult.

I like kneading the dough by hand but this can be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook.

This petite showstopping loaf cuts into 12 and goes great with a slab of butter alongside a cup of tea.

Inside of Couronne

I entered this loaf in Sunday Bake Club’s Love Yourself Week and you can find their amazing blog by clicking here.


Tea-soaked Fruit

1 English breakfast teabag

2 tsp granulated sugar

400ml boiling water

200g mixed dried fruit – raisins, mixed peel, sultanas, dried cranberries, whatever you want to use

A pinch of ground ginger

Couronne Dough

300g plain flour

1 x 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

Decoration

25g flaked almonds

75g icing sugar

Freshly squeezed juice of ½ an orange


Start your preparation for this loaf the night before. Place the teabag, sugar and boiling water into a large heatproof bowl. Give it a stir to dissolve the sugar and carefully add the mixed dried fruit, without splashing yourself. Stir again, add the ground ginger and cover with clingfilm and place into the fridge to macerate overnight.

Drain the tea and the dried fruit, reserving the liquid. Into a large bowl, add the flour. Place the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Add the cinnamon. Mix the flour until everything is well incorporated. Make a well in the centre.

Yeast and Salt

Add around half of the tea liquid to the bowl and begin to bring the dough together into a ball. If the dough is dry, add more of the liquid, slightly slower this time. Continue to mix until the dough comes together. It should be sticky but not wet. Turn out the dough onto a well floured work surface and knead the dough for around 10 minutes by hand or for 5 minutes in a mixer. Avoid adding too much flour. It should be smooth on the outside and when a lightly floured finger presses the dough, it should spring back.

Place into a bowl, cover with a tea towel or clingfilm and allow to prove for around 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Proving Dough

Once proved turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute. Roll out the dough using a lightly floured rolling pin into a large rectangle. Tack down the closest edge of the dough onto the surface as shown below.

Tacked Dough

Scatter the plump dried fruit onto the dough, leaving an inch gap at the tacked end. At the untacked end, fold over the dough tightly and then tightly roll up the dough. Think like a Swiss roll. Using a dough scraper, cut off the ends to neaten up. Give the dough a light roll and press to even it out.

Take a knife and cut down the centre lengthways completely. Separate the two lengths of dough slightly and then grab hold of the lengths and twist them together. After a few twists, join the two ends together. Flatten them slightly and then knot them together and place the couronne onto a baking tray lined with parchment.

Scatter over a few flaked almonds, making sure they are not pointing upwards. Place the tray into the oven and turn it on to 200°C. As the oven heats up, the bread will prove and then will bake immediately after. In the bottom of the oven, place a roasting tray filled with water. This will turn to steam, creating a softer crust. The couronne will stay in the oven for around 30 minutes, but keep your eye on it from 20 minutes. Check the couronne is done by the colour – it should be a deep golden brown – and the bottom, when tapped, will sound hollow.

Whilst it is baking, make the icing by adding the orange juice to the icing sugar until it is a thick, spreadable consistency.

Once the couronne has baked, transfer to a cooling rack and paint the orange icing onto the couronne liberally. Allow the couronne to cool and the icing to set before slicing.

Tea-soaked Raisin Couronne with Orange Icing

Cooling White Chocolate Mendiants

White Chocolate Mendiants

I’m continuing my exploration into making confectionery this week by giving you my recipe for the simplest little sweet treat you could imagine, and what’s even better they took me a matter of 10 minutes to make in total. These are my White Chocolate Mendiants.

  White Chocolate Mendiants

The great thing about mendiants is that you can put anything on the chocolate and there are endless possibilities. A contrast in texture is always best, so something soft or chewy works well with something crunchy or brittle. Here are some possible combinations you can use, however feel free to mix it up:

  • Sultanas, salted peanuts, dried cranberries
  • Fresh blueberries, dried apricots, chopped hazelnuts
  • Roasted cashews, raisins, mixed peel
  • Desiccated coconut, dried pineapple, pistachios
  • Glace cherries, almonds, crushed digestive biscuits
  • Crystallised ginger, walnuts, golden sultanas

When pairing ingredients together, not only should you think about contrasting textures, but the flavour combination and whether it matches your chocolate. Remember that white chocolate is a lot sweeter than a dark chocolate and that dark chocolate can take relatively strong flavours. Colours are important in making these mendiants look amazing; pair brighter colours with white chocolate and darker tones with dark chocolate.

WCM

The recipe is easily scaled up to make more than 10.


100g white chocolate

20g raisins

15g mixed peel

15g flaked almonds

15g roasted cashew nuts


Break up the white chocolate into squares and place into a microwaveable bowl. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave in 30 second blasts, giving it a stir after every 30 seconds. Do not overheat or the chocolate will burn.

Spoon 10 equal circles of white chocolate onto a sheet of baking parchment. If you hold the spoon in the same place when you spoon the chocolate onto the parchment, it will naturally make a circular shape.

Place your toppings on each mendiant as you wish. Make sure that they are spread out, the circle is not distorted and try to create height with your toppings. Place into the fridge to set. They are ready when you touch the chocolate and it is not sticky and has firmed up.

Cooling White Chocolate Mendiants

Lift the mendiants off the parchment, pushing them off the base of the parchment. Put the mendiants onto a plate and serve, accompanying a drink as a sweet treat or as a sweet canapé.

Chocolates

Your Guide to Tempering Dark Chocolate

Tempered chocolate is something that sounds really complicated. Whenever you watch TV programmes and they visit chocolatiers to learn about tempering, you always see them pour out the chocolate onto a marble surface. However you don’t need to do that at home. You can temper your own chocolate at home, as long as you have a food thermometer.

Tempering Chocolate

Tempering chocolate has many advantages. Untempered chocolate becomes very dull at room temperature and can become soft or sticky. Tempered chocolate gives slick, professional looking chocolates and that all important snap. With chocolate shards becoming increasingly popular to decorate cakes, it gives great texture and a very professional finish to cakes.

Artisan Chocolates Chocolates

Despite its usefulness, it is a tricky process and one that is a lot easier when you use a greater quantity of chocolate – at least 300g. However you can always save the extra for future use. I use the microwave for this, however the process is the exact same if you prefer melting chocolate over simmering water.


Stage 1: Choose your chocolate

The chocolate should be plain i.e. have no extra flavours or bits inside and personally I feel that you get a better temper with cheaper chocolate. Chocolate chips are not suitable for tempering. The following temperatures are only suitable for dark chocolate; white and milk chocolate have different temperatures due to the lower percentage of cocoa solids.

Dark chocolate

Stage 2: Chop your chocolate finely

This just makes the melting process a lot quicker as a greater surface area is exposed to heat. Set aside ¼ of the chocolate and place the rest into a large microwaveable bowl.

Stage 3: Melt your chocolate to 46°C / 115°F

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second blasts. Too long and the chocolate could burn. After each 30 second period, stir to ensure even melting. Once it has melted, continue to heat in short bursts until it reaches 46°C.

Stage 4: Add the rest of the chocolate and bring down to 32°C / 90°F

Continue to stir the chocolate to melt the added chocolate and cool the chocolate down. Different brands and differing room temperatures mean that the temperatures are not always perfect. To test if the chocolate has been tempered properly, spread some onto baking parchment. It should start to lose its shine before setting around the edges. This should only take 5 minutes. Do not refrigerate it otherwise it will not tell you if it is tempered.

Stage 5: Using your tempered chocolate

Tempered chocolate has many uses, whether that be for coating chocolate truffles, making artisan chocolates or making chocolate bars or shards. It will cool down so keeping it above a pan of warm water (not touching) can help keep your chocolate in temper.

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a selection of recipes that use tempered chocolate. You too can become a chocolate master.

Chocolate Cups

 Chocolate Favours

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

ITKWK Fudge

Basic Vanilla Fudge

I’ve finished my month of posting cake recipes and now I move onto a full month, as we approach February (2015 has moved very fast already), of truly sweet treats as I explore the world of confectionery.

I was incredibly daunted at the thought of making confectionery. I imagined myself turning into Willy Wonka and having a sugar factory at home, churning a whole manner of marshmallows, lollipops and other candies out by the truckload and being pretty sick of sugar at the end. I was very much wrong.

Confectionery is something truly special. There’s something pretty magical about bubbling a pot of sugar away and transforming it into a whole manner of different sweets and goodies. And today I’m tackling fudge.

Fudge has been something that I never thought could make at home. I always saw it being hours of constant stirring but I couldn’t be more wrong. It makes the kitchen smell wonderfully buttery and luxurious (as the milk sugars caramelise) and only requires a bit of attention before a vigorous minute of beating. There are many types of fudge out there but I’m keeping it simple with a Basic Vanilla Fudge.

Chocolate and Cherry Fudge Rum and Raisin Fudge


110g butter

450g granulated sugar

200ml milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

100ml water


Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment. Make sure that the baking parchment is firm and upright.

Place all the ingredients into the saucepan. On a medium heat, whilst stirring, dissolve the sugar and melt the butter. When the mixture no longer feels gritty, turn up the heat and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Fudge Temperature

Put a sugar thermometer into the pan, making sure it is not measuring the temperature of the pan but the fudge itself. When the fudge has reached 116°C (or the soft ball stage as it is known), dip the pan into cold water – make sure you stand back and nothing goes into the pan.

If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, here’s Kate (from In The Kitchen With Kate) showing you her fudge recipe and how to test for the soft ball stage.

Allow the fudge to cool for 2 to 3 minutes.

Fudge Cooling

Taking a wooden spoon, beat the fudge vigorously until it thickens into a lump of sugary goodness. This, depending on how good your beating skills are, shouldn’t take too long. It will turn matt in colour and be warm to the touch.

Fudge Beating

Place the fudge into the prepared loaf tin, and using a palette knife, flatten the top so it is level. Then fold over the baking parchment and press the surface down firmly – this will prevent it from crumbling when it comes to cutting it when it’s set. Allow to cool down and set fully.

Vanilla Fudge

Lift out the fudge and cut into as big – or as small – pieces as you want. I think cubes of fudge always look best and they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet on the palate.

Sugar Free Chocolate Brownies

Sugar-Free Chocolate Brownies

I’ve kept up one of my New Year Resolutions already which is to post once a week every Sunday but the second, and much harder one, is to lose a bit more weight. I’d like to lose another stone (14lbs) by the summer, and I am hopeful with having lost 15lbs in the last 5 months of 2014. However with posting once a week, there’s a lot of sweet food in the house!

I became inspired by Davina McCall’s Sugar Free Chocolate Brownies to make my own version of her recipe, which went down incredibly well with my friends, who said they were the best brownies they’ve eaten. Everyone is surprised that there are healthier than your standard brownie when they are so unctuous, fudgy and dense.

Sugar Free Chocolate Brownies

Making them the first time, I used exclusively plain flour with the only raising agent being the air I incorporated. I replaced it with self-raising flour and they were less dense, making it easier to eat. Davina suggests using the highest percentage chocolate you can find but I can only find 70% and she also uses maple syrup. Both of these are very expensive so I bumped up the amount of chocolate and honey to balance everything out. I also add ground almonds for texture.

I had some leftover tiny sugar-coated chocolates from making my Rice Krispie Birthday Cake so I just dotted them around the brownie mixture.


100g margarine

230g runny honey

170g 70% dark chocolate, chopped finely

125ml milk

½ tsp high-quality vanilla extract

3 eggs

150g self-raising flour

25g ground almonds


Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment.

Weigh the margarine and runny honey into a saucepan and place over a medium heat until the margarine and honey have become well incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. Whisk until it is all combined.

Add the milk and continue to whisk until it is an even mixture. Add the vanilla and eggs. Mix well.

Sift in the self-raising flour and then pour in the ground almonds. Using a spatula, fold in the flour and ground almonds until you can no longer see any specks of flour.

Pour the mixture into the baking tin and give the pan a tap on the work surface to eliminate any large pockets of air. [Here I placed the sugar-coated chocolates on top]

Unbaked Brownies

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the surface has set and is not shiny. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing from the tin to cool completely.

Baked Brownies

Once cooled, cut into 30-36 squares, depending on how many you want to make. They keep for about 3 days.

Rice Krispie Cake

Rice Krispie Birthday Cake

If you’re a bit scared of baking or have never baked before, I have the perfect cake for you. It doesn’t even need baking but it still is a very impressive showstopper. The kids (and the adults) will love it. It’s my recipe for a Rice Krispie Birthday Cake.

This cake is so simple to make, and incredibly versatile since it can be shaped into whatever you want; in my case I made it for a 7th birthday party. Using other little sweets, such as these tiny sugar coated chocolates, can really heighten how attractive it looks.

You can use other cereals, however I just find Rice Krispies mean the cake is easier to shape into your desired shape. Some recipes use marshmallows to help set the Rice Krispies but once the melted marshmallow begins to cool, it becomes ridiculously sticky and hard to work with and shape, so using melted chocolate is much easier (and has less sugar!)

Instead of shaping it with an amount of mixture, you could make a large slab of the cake, set in a disposable foil tray, and then using a serrated knife to cut out your desired shape. This is a lot easier for easier shapes, but you’ll know which is right for you. Find a template online, or mark out the region before you start the recipe.

There are so many recipes out there but this one is failsafe.

Rice Krispie Cake


2 tbsp margarine

1 tbsp golden syrup

250g dark chocolate – you could use milk chocolate instead

300g Rice Krispies

Decorations – any you want, tiny sugar coated chocolates are my favourite, but you could use Smarties, M&Ms, or even white chocolate


Cover a large baking tray with tin foil and set aside. This will be where you assemble the cake.

Place a large heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Put the margarine, golden syrup and chocolate into the bowl and stir occasionally until it has completely melted.

Remove from the heat and add the Rice Krispies and stir until each grain is coated completely. If there is still some chocolate mixture that remains, add more Rice Krispies, since we don’t want any excess chocolate.

Pour out about half of the Rice Krispies onto the baking tray and using clean hands, or two palette knifes or spatulas, whichever utensils you want to use to help shape the cake, begin to clump the mixture into your chosen shape.

For a 7, start with the top line: work the Rice Krispies into a straight line along the top edge and make it the width of the tray. Then with the rest of the mixture, and making sure that the join with this top edge cannot be seen by firmly pressing it together, make the diagonal line by repeating the method, except bringing the Rice Krispies down the tray.

Before the cake starts to set, apply your decorations. I’ve used white chocolate chips to mark a border and then the small chocolate buttons to mark stripes across the cake. The cake goes into the fridge, covered with more foil until it is set.

Once set, the cake should be strong enough to lift of the foil and onto a cake board.

Lemon Celebration Loaf Cake

Lemon Celebration Loaf Cake

I came up with this recipe because I had a little bit of lemon curd left in the fridge and wanted to use it all up. Then I tasted some of the cake and was so surprised that it was the moistest, fluffiest and tastiest lemon cake I’d ever made. The cake had an amazing crumb and it was wonderfully golden.

I used a 2lb loaf tin to bake this cake, and used a paper loaf tin liner for ease. Of course you could transfer this cake into round, or square tins, just remember to adjust the baking times accordingly. Loaf tins just mean that nobody complains about getting a bigger or smaller slice.

Lemon Celebration Loaf Cake


Cake:

180g Stork

180g caster sugar

3 eggs

200g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

25ml milk

50g lemon curd

Zest of ½ a lemon

Filling:

300ml double cream

2 tbsp icing sugar

50g lemon curd


Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a 2lb loaf tin with a paper loaf tin liner.

In a large bowl, beat together the Stork and caster sugar until it is combined with an electric whisk. Sieve in 1 tablespoon of the flour. Then add the eggs one by one until the mixture is well combined. This prevents curdling and makes for a lighter cake.

Sieve in the remaining flour and the baking powder and fold until it is incorporated and the cake is smooth. It should feel slightly thicker than a conventional sponge mix. Add the milk, the lemon curd and the lemon zest and using the electric whisk, mix until everything is smooth and well mixed.

Transfer into the lined loaf tin. Smooth out the top of the cake mix, creating a slight dip in the centre, which will rise to make a level top.

Bake in the centre of the oven, placing the tin horizontally in the oven, for about 35-45 minutes, testing the cake’s doneness by inserting a skewer into the centre and it should come out clean.

Allow the sponge to cool in the tin completely so it holds its shape.

Once cooled, split the cake in half lengthways. Instead of having the cake flat on the surface and trying to level it off, hold the sponge up vertically and cut straight down the middle, ensuring that the sponge does not move. This should give more even layers.

Cut Sponge

Whip up the double cream with the icing sugar until it holds thick, but soft peaks. Fold through the lemon curd.

Lemon Cream

Spoon about half of the cream into the centre. Smooth it out, leaving a slight border around the outside so that the cream doesn’t spill out the side and making the filling more weighted towards the centre of the cake before using a palette knife to encourage the cream outwards. Top with the other sponge.

Cake Sandwiched with Cream

Top the sponge with the rest of the cream and ensuring that the cream is weighted towards the centre to give height. Then using the palette knife, touch the cream and lift the knife upwards to create peaks and repeat for the rest of the cream.

Iced Lemon Loaf Cake

Allow the cake to chill in the fridge for about an hour before serving.

Sabayon Cake Slice

Sabayon Celebration Cake

Whether you’re searching for a luxurious dessert or something last minute for a very different Christmas dessert, I think I’ve got the recipe for you. This cake consists of a delicate, fluffy yet tasty brown sugar sponge sandwiched and coated in a creme mousseline filling, which is a pastry cream base lightened with whipped cream. I hope that you like this recipe because it is devilishly rich but also a cake for any occasion, not just for an alternative Christmas dessert.

Just to make everything a bit easier, after all who needs more stress at Christmas, I use a quick all-in-one method for the sponge and make the filling before I make the sponge so everything is ready to assemble at once.

Sabayon Cake Open Sabayon Cake Slice

Sponge

115g Stork

115g soft light brown sugar

2 eggs

115g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp vanilla extract

Sabayon Filling

3 large egg yolks

75g sugar

40g plain flour

200ml whole milk

300ml double cream

75g toasted almonds, skins removed, finely chopped

  1. For the sabayon filling, take a medium bowl and beat the egg yolks until they become lighter in colour. Add all the sugar and continue to whisk (using an electric whisk) for 3 minutes until the mixture is thick and pale.
  2. Add the flour a spoonful at a time and with each addition, whisk until it has been incorporated. Start to whisk in the milk slowly.
  3. Put the mixture into a pan over a medium heat and with a wooden spoon, continue stirring until the mixture has thickened. You want to take it to quite a thick consistency – the ideal texture is that the sabayon cannot be poured out of the pan. Place the filling into a bowl and cover the bowl with clingfilm, ensuring it touches the surface. Once it’s cooled completely, place it into the fridge.
  4. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line the base of 2 x 20cm round sandwich tins.
  5. Place all the ingredients for the sponge into a bowl and using an electric whisk, beat the ingredients together for about 1 minutes until the ingredients are all incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
  6. Divide the cake mix between the 2 tins and then bake for about 20 – 25 minutes until the cakes feel springy in the centre. Allow them to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then take a palette knife and run it around the edge of the tin. Turn out the cakes onto a cooling rack and peel off the paper.
  7. To assemble the cake, whisk the double cream until it holds stiff peaks. Be careful not to overbeat the cream. Loosen up the sabayon by giving it a little whisk. Fold the cream into the sabayon until it is an even paler colour
  8. Place one half of the sponge on your serving plate or cake stand and spread about ¾ of the sabayon filling onto the sponge. Spread it all the way to the edges and then ensure that it peaks in the middle. Sandwich the cake together. Any of the filling that comes out the side can be used to provide a very thin crumb coat.
  9. Spoon the rest of the filling into a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle and pipe lines of the filling around the outside and then stars on the top of the sponge. Sprinkle over the chopped almonds and grate over a little dark chocolate.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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]

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.