Sunday, 23 October 2016

Week Nine in the Bake Off Tent

Well that's another series of GBBO almost over and I've had mixed feelings about this series. I don't think I've enjoyed it quite as much as I usually do... some funny old themes and it has taken a while to warm to some of the contestants, although I have huge admiration for all of them. It was sad to see Selasi go this week as he always made me smile but I think it was the right decision although I don't think Benjamina should have gone last week. It was a shame she just had a really bad week. But I guess that it the nature of the competition. It took me a long while to warm to Candice... that pouty mouth was just too much but I do think she is a great baker and love the way she really pushes herself. I think my money might be on her. Who do you think will win?

Of course for me, another week in the tent meant another technical challenge and this week the bakers had to make a Savarin... a sort of orangey flavoured Rum Baba. The base is a yeasted cake which starts as a very soft batter so I used my mixer again. While the dough was rising there were lots of other things to be getting on with, one of which was to make the soaking syrup... almost a whole pint of liquer flavoured sugar syrup!

The cake is baked in a very well greased bundt tin... the biggest problem is always turning out cakes in these tins as they can't be lined.

Also while it was rising I had to make caramel shards. I made my sheet of caramel and then Stewart dropped a pot on to it (he was washing up for me at the time). After a moment of panic we realised the shards were just perfect!

The cake baked beautifully... but would it turn out of the tin?

Hooray! It was then left to cool down and soak up all that syrup... something the bakers in the tent really didn't have time to do properly. Every last drop soaked into the cake!

It was then a case of assembling the cake with whipped cream and fresh fruit and a little chocolate sign... no, I would definitely not bother with this another time!

As you can see my piping skills could do with improvement!

But unlike Selasi, I did segment my oranges cutting them away from the membrane. I also used plums and golden kiwi fruit.

Luckily we were going to my step daughter's for dinner last night so we brought it along to share for pudding... but there is still loads left.

But it was rather good so I don't think it will hang around here for long!

So that is my ninth technical challenge completed and also another week joining in with Jenny from Mummy Mishaps for the Great Bloggers Bake Off 2016

Mummy Mishaps

Saturday, 22 October 2016


Do you eat breakfast or do you abstain? Do you grab something on the go or sit and take your time? Or maybe you just take breakfast at weekends. I'm definitely in the breakfast camp and become quite grouchy if I miss it. I also like to savour my breakfast and think it is probably my favourite meal.... Okay maybe not, mabe just my favourite meal before 10 am! One of the things I love about staying away in hotels is the prospect of breakfast but I'm often disappointed by the sliced loaves, ubiquitous Kellogs variety packs and congealed eggs.

But not in the wonderful Ibsens hotel where we stayed in Copenhagen. Every morning was a feast with a wonderful array of fabulous seasonal food on offer. There were beautifully arranged flavoursome grainy loaves and handmixed museli.

A lovely selection of jams in large glass jars. The apple and rosehip jam was exceptionally good on a nutty rye bread.

Four or five different juices but in keeping with all things seasonal and local there were no citrus juices just various berries and apple.

A selection of Danish cheeses and cured meats as well as large bowls of apples and plums.

Skyr (strained yoghurt) with honey and nuts

And dinky little bowls of porridge topped with chopped apple and nuts.

And of course, there were pastries. These poppy seed squares were filled with a delicious almond paste... I know because I had one every morning! Everything was so beautifully presented, fresh and delicious and once again we were reminded of the Danish concept of hygge which not only means cosy blankets, slippers and candles but a sense of well being and taking care of oneself. Eating a breakfast like this certainly feels like taking care of oneself!

I was delighted when browsing my latest cookbook purchase to find a recipe for the poppy seed squares... or Tebirkes as they are called in Denmark

I haven't tried making them yet but I will!

Meanwhile, since our return from Copenhagen I've been taking my time to make myself porridge every morning but trying to keep it seasonal and have found a new favourite breakfast. Not so much a recipe as such but a guide so if you want to try it yourself...

Make up your porridge in your preferred way - in the microwave or in a pan on the stove, with milk or with water (I like mine with water) or both, but before cooking add three quarters of an apple, grated with the skin on, plus a sprinkling of cinnamon. Once cooked pour into your favourite bowl, add a small spoonful of honey and a splash of milk or cream. Top with the remaining apple, chopped, some sliced plum and a sprinkling of mixed seeds. It's what I'll be eating this morning!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Raisin Banana Cupcakes

It is that time again when the Cake Slice Bakers reveal what they have baked this month. October is the last month we will be baking from Maida Heatter's Cakes and I have to say I've been pleasantly surprised with the bakes I've made from this book over the year and many I've ended up making more than once. The Zucchini loaf has been a firm favourite all the time courgettes have been plentiful, the blackberry cheesecake has already become a family classic and I'm looking forward to seeing fresh cranberries back in the shops so I can make this cranberry upside down cake again. This month we got to choose anything we liked from the book.

There are so many wonderful sounding cakes it was almost an impossible task, so I made the decision on what I already had in the cupboard, and given time was tight this month it had to be quick and simple... no elaborate frosting or decoration. A little while ago the Farm Shop gave me a big bag of black bananas which I froze for making cakes. Every time I take a few out I expect it to be the last few but there seem to be as many bananas as ever so I'm always looking for banana cake recipes. So Raisin Banana cupcakes sounded ideal.

The first step was to steam the raisins! Yes, I'm not kidding. Now I know I'm all for new experiences but steaming raisins is not exactly high up there on my list. Instead, I measured them into a bowl, poured boiling water over them and left them to soak while I measured out all the other ingredients. I figured it would have the same effect. 

 The recipe also states it makes 20 cupcakes and then Maida goes on to say line 12 holes in a muffin pan. I actually made 15 cakes... So make of that what you will. Maybe arithmetic isn't Maida's strong point!

But despite these little oddities and discrepancies they made lovely light and delicious little cakes... Moist, full of flavour and not too sweet. I would describe them more as a muffin than a cupcake. I chose to make mine gluten free because I was taking them in to my embroidery class where one lady cannot eat wheat. All I did was substitute the flour for a good gluten free brand. You would never know the difference. I also added baking powder despite using self raising flour as bananas can make a cake a bit dense.

Not too big, not too sticky... and a perfect (almost) guilt free snack. After all they are full of fruit and relatively low on sugar for a cake! The sort of thing I would have whipped up for my boys for after school many years ago. And they really were whipped up... exactly one hour after taking the bananas out of the freezer I had fifteen cupcakes cooling on the rack... and all the washing up done!

But not having lots of boys at home anymore and to save the one big boy's expanding waistline I took them into class instead, where they were well received. They might have all just been being polite but they all ate one!

So should you wish to try these yourself  here is my version of the recipe:

Raisin Banana Cupcakes (adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes)
You will need one or two 12 hole muffin pans lined with paper muffin cases. Preheat the oven to 190 deg C (170 fan), 375 deg F
  • 100g raisins
  • 280g sifted self raising flour
  • half a teaspoon baking powder
  • half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch of salt
  • half a teaspoon nutmeg
  • half a teaspoon cinnamon
  • three large very ripe bananas, mashed (approx 350g)
  • 1 large egg
  • 85g soft dark brown sugar
  • 60 ml vegetable oil
  •  Put the raisins in a bowl and cover with boiling water while you prepare all the other ingredients.
  • Sift the flour and all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, beat the egg and sugar and oil together until pale and creamy. Add the mashed bananas and beat well to mix.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
  • Drain the raisins and stir into the mixture
  • Divide the mixture between 12-15 muffin cases filling each one about three quarters full.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes or until the tops feel springy.
  • Remove from the oven and cool on a rack

Next month we'll be baking from a brand new book and I can't wait to try some of the bakes. Meanwhile you can see what the other bakers made this month:


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

We've not had a holiday in over a year so having decided it was time for a break we booked long weekend in Copenhagen. Ignoring the fact that it is eye wateringly expensive, I can honestly say it was one of the best city breaks we've had. I could easily write a week full of blog posts there was so much to see and do but in fear of boring you, I'll try to keep it brief... for now anyway!

It was cold, but mostly dry (although there was a brisk wind off the sea, lest you think I'm sporting a new hair style!) so as the city centre is easily accessible by foot so we walked for miles, exploring the various sights such as the picturesque but touristy Nyhavn

Of course we also had to see the equally touristy  Little Mermaid, which I can only describe as underwhelming! The industrial harbour backdrop complete with power station has been edited out.

But there were also beautiful churches...

Castles and palaces...

Crown jewels and art galleries, museums and shops selling wonderful Danish design. And when our feet were too sore to walk any further we took a train over the Oresund Bridge to Sweden, where we had a quick coffee in Malmo before coming back again!

But despite all the wonderful things to see, the highlight of the trip has been the food. Every day we were there, we ate the most delicious and mouth watering open sandwiches with fillings ranging from pickled herrings and vegetables, roast beef, venison, salmon, egg and prawns... sometimes from street stalls such as the wonderful Hallernes, situated in Torvehallern food market just a stone's throw from our hotel, famous for its Smorrebrod...

but as a treat on the final day we had lunch at Shonnemann which has been serving Smorrebrod with beer and snapps since 1877. It was magnificent!

Of course we couldn't come to Denmark without eating a Danish Pastry or two (possibly four or five in my case!) They are not actually called Danish Pastries in Denmark but wienerbrod or Austrian bread which come in all sorts of varieties. My favourite were the kanelsnegel... or cinnamon snails!

And we also sampled the very trendy New Nordic cuisine at a fabulous little restaurant called Host. We ate a five course tasting menu and when our fourth course came up served on these huge plates neither of us could quite believe it,. Stewart was waiting for his chips to arrive! But despite laughing at such a little portion on such a huge plate the food was excellent, full of wonderful flavours and neither of us felt hungry by the end of the meal.

Of course we couldn't go to Copenhagen without a visit to the Tivoli Gardens. Fabulously tacky but great fun too. We resisted the roller coasters and other rides (well it didn't take too much resistance to be honest) and just wandered and watched as it grew dark, warming ourselves on cups of Grog and taking in all the lights and Halloween decorations.

It has been a wonderful few days in so many ways but the thing that will stay with me is that just about everyone we met from waiters and hotel staff to ticket inspectors and shop assistants were friendly, polite and cheerful . All the time we were struck by the fact that everyone seemed to want to help... Danish happiness and hygge are things that could make a whole blog post on its own and maybe I'll write it one day but for now I'm reminded that a smile and friendly word costs nothing and it can make all the difference in someone elses day.

Today it was back to work but feeling refreshed after our break... and I've ticked off a few more things from my sixty by sixty list. Still a long way from sixty but the list in my side bar is growing!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

A Jumble!

I wasn't sure I'd have time to do the GBBO technical challenge this week as I had a big birthday cake to finish today, farm shop bakes to get done and delivered by 4 pm and we're off to the airport before the crack of dawn tomorrow... But there was just time! When I first heard the news about the Bake Off going to Channel 4 and Sue, Mel and Mary leaving I felt quite sad but I'm getting the feeling that they have started to lost the plot a little this series what with Batter week and now Tudor week so perhaps it has started to run its course. Better to stop on a high than to drag on forever with a tired format with more amd more bizarre bakes.

But that said, I'm still working my way through the technical challenges and this week it was... Jumbles! No, I hadn't heard of them either! A jumble describes the contents of my wardrobe or the meanderings of my brain... but not a biscuit as far as I'm concerned. I decided to forego Tudor baking methods and got out the food processor to speed things up.

I followed Paul Hollywood's recipe from the programme. These spicy biscuits are flavoured with caraway, aniseed and mace, none of which I had in the cupboard, so not being up for another supermarket dash, I substituted a teaspoon and a half of fennel seeds for the caraway and aniseed and some nutmeg for the mace as they are from the same seed and have a similar flavour.

The recipe wasn't very clear about the size of eggs to use and I instinctively felt that three large eggs (which was all I had) was probably too much. However I didn't trust my instincts, bunged in all the egg and ended up with a dough that was far too sticky. Off course, had I been mixing by hand and not using the food processor I might have found out before it was too late. Ah, the wisdom of hindsight!


But with a long rest in the fridge and a good dusting of flour the dough was just about manageable and various lumpy looking knots were made... and baked

Of course being very soft they lost definition during baking but had the required crispy exterior and soft interior... well if I'm honest the interior was rather doughy but the flavour was wonderful. I've never used fennel in a sweet bake before, generally only putting it in curries but it was lovely and aniseedy. After I finished my first one (yes, I had two) I decided they reminded me of the Farley's Rusks of my childhood... in the days when they still put sugar in baby food!

Now if you'll excuse me I really must go and pack for the weekend... after I've finished off making a batch of chilli jam that is...  have a lovely weekend and I'll see you next week!

Joining in with Jenny of Mummy Mishaps for the Great Bloggers Bake Off.

Mummy Mishaps

p.s. I forgot to mention that my Marjolaine got star baker last week so I'm feeling rather chuffed!