Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has had a great Halloween! Bring on Bonfire Night!


GBBO - The Final Bake

It's over! I can't believe the Great British Bake Off is really finished for another year. I seriously don't know what I'm going to do with my Tuesday evenings. Thank god for the masterclasses!
I'm happy that Francis won though, she was so creative throughout the whole competition that she put the other bakers to shame. Her final showstopper 'Midsummer Night's Dream' cake was just beautiful.

Now, after 10 weeks of bakes I'm in serious need of a GBBO detox. With that in mind I didn't want a large showstopper cake lying around, the pasty basket pie looked all sorts of weird and I seriously don't like pretzels. I had reached somewhat of a dead end to my bake along.

So, with a nod to the last series of GBBO I got 'Brilliant Bread' by James Morton, aka the amazing jumpered baking beauty, off my recipe book shelf and decided to make something new.

Now, I know bagels and pretzels are similar, but I'm strange and despite hating pretzels, love bagels! These are poppyseed and Marmite flavor and I cannot say enough about them. AMAZING! I thoroughly recommend giving Baking James' recipe a go. (It's also easy enough for a yeast-a-phobe like me to easily follow).

Now that GBBO is over.......what next??



Sunday, 20 October 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 9

It's the semi finals! Time for something a bit more tricky and a bit more fussy! (Totally not what I like to bake, but oh well). 
For my bake along I've never picked a 'Signature Bake' so I thought it was about time I did. I'm not a massive fan of canapés, I think this is mainly because I associate them with boring buffets at weddings. But maybe its time to give them a go. 

The gbbo challenge was to make 3 types of canapé. One with shortcrust pastry, one with choux pastry and another of my choice. That being said, I decided to make these....

Carrot and Coriander Tarts

Cheddar and Pancetta Choux Puffs

Cheese and Chive Oaty Biscuits

Carrot and Coriander Tarts

100g plain flour
pinch of salt
60g butter
1 small egg yolk
2 tablespoons of ice cold water

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped (save a few peelings for decoration)
1 tablespoon of dried coriander
1/2 pint of vegetable stock

Put the chopped carrots, coriander and stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Then turn down to a simmer. 
Put the flour and salt in a bowl, then add the butter, egg yolk and water. Bring together into a dough, flatten and wrap in cling film. Put into the fridge to chill for at least 15 minutes. 
Once chilled roll out on a floured surface. I then used a 8cm circular cookie cutter which fit my muffin tray, to cut out 9 rounds. 
Put these into the greased baking tray and into a preheated oven at 190C/375F for 25 minutes. Once golden, remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.  
Once the carrots are soft remove from the heat and mash (or blend if you have a blender) until it forms a smooth consistency. 
Then simply put a spoonful of the carrot mixture in each pastry case and add a twirl of carrot shaving for decoration. 

Cheddar and Pancetta Choux Puffs

50g butter
125ml milk
50g pancetta cubes
25g mature cheddar
75g plain flour
2 medium eggs
a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment. 
Put a small saucepan on a gentle heat, add a little oil and the pancetta. Put another larger pan on the hob, add the milk and butter and warm on a low heat.
Meanwhile, grate the cheese into a bowl and stir in the flour and salt. 
Once the pancetta is browned, remove from the heat and cool on a sheet of kitchen towel to soak up any excess oil.
When the butter has melted turn it up till the mixture boils. As soon as it has, take off the heat and pour in the cheese and flour mixture. Beat with a wooden spoon until the pastry comes away from the sides of the pan. 
Pour into a desert bowl and spread it around to encourage it to cool. 
Once cooled slightly break in one egg and beat for a couple of minutes. Then add the next egg and beat. (It looks a bit grim at this point, but keep beating!) It will finally come together and look like thick cake batter. Finally, stir in the pancetta. 
Now pour the dough into a piping bag and pipe blobs onto the lined baking sheet, spaced about 3cm apart. 
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until they are crisp and golden. 

And finally, the easiest of the three....

Cheese and Chive Oaty Biscuits

50g caster sugar
100g butter
100g porridge oats
50g plain flour

70g soft cheese
bunch of small chives

Preheat the oven to 160C/320F and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Beat the sugar and butter together in a bowl, until creamy. Then add in the flour and oats. Mix together to form a dough and then bring together with your hands. 
Chill for 15 mins in the fridge and then roll out to the desired thickness. 
Using a 5cm cookie cutter, cut out the biscuits and place on the tray. Bake for 20 minutes, then leave to cool on a wire rack.
Mix the soft cheese and chives together in a bowl and then add a dollop to each biscuit. 
For decoration sprinkle a few chives on each biscuit. 

And voila! The canapé challenge is done!

Happy Baking!


P.s This is what happens when you try to complete the challenge within 2 hours like they did on the show...Kitchen chaos!!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 8

The leaves are turning, winter coats are being aired out and the pumpkin spice latte is back in Starbucks. It must be Autumn! My favorite time of year has finally arrived.
A couple of years ago I discovered the deliciousness that is a pumpkin and I've never looked back.

Time for a showstopper!!

This is my own recipe and it is completely gluten free. There is a lot of chat in the media and also in the scientific community about the level of gluten we (as a society) now eat. The level of processed food available has completely changed our diets. When I was at university I got stuck in the typical lifestyle, including eating terrible food for 3 whole years. I felt constantly awful (and had terrible skin and hair).
I cut as much refined gluten out of my diet as possible just over a year ago and I can honestly say I don't miss it and have never felt better in myself. I'm not saying cut it out completely (who can live without bread?) but like all things, moderation is the key.
Gluten babble over...

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cake

250g pumpkin
75g sultanas
250g ground almonds
150g golden caster sugar
125ml olive oil
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a square 20x20cm tin with baking parchment. 
Grate the pumpkin (with skin removed) and then lay it out on a couple of sheets of kitchen roll to soak up as much moisture as possible. 
In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and oil until creamy and well mixed. Then add in the vanilla extract and eggs. Whisk until the mixture looks like cake batter. As there are no other rising agents in this cake, the more you whisk here the higher the rise will be. 
Finally, carefully fold in the ground almonds, grated pumpkin, sultanas, lemon juice and spices. 
Gently pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. 

When its removed from the oven allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes in the tin and then remove and cool on a wire rack. Fyi, this cake doesn't rise much so don't panic if you don't see much change when you are oven watching. 

For the decoration....

Using 2 different sized round cookie cutters cut out a small circle for every large circle. This recipe will make 6 mini pumpkin cakes. 
Then using some pumpkin jam (or jam of your choice) sandwich a small cake on top of each larger cake. 
Roll out rounds of orange fondant icing and cover each mini cake. You'll find that the cake is so moist that you won't have to crumb coat. 
Using the handle end of a spoon create an indent from the top center of the cake  down each side. Don't bother trying to get each indent perfectly distanced, they look a lot better when they are higgledy piggledy (technical term). 
I then used a leaf plunge icing cutter to cut out the leaves from green fondant. I also rolled up lengths for the vines and a tiny bit of brown fondant for the stalks. 

The showstopper challenge on GBBO called for a slightly larger cake but for us 'not in a baking competition' folk having that much cake around is just plain dangerous! Hence the mini cakes.
I hope that you all have a lovely weekend, I'm off to make soup with the leftover pumpkin!

Happy Baking!


Sunday, 6 October 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 7

Pasty week, duh duh dun!! I'll admit, I'm pretty lazy when it comes to pastry. Shortcrust, sweet and puff can all be bought so easily from a supermarket that I very rarely make my own and I've never made my own puff pastry.
The choice of this week's challenge was easy then. Time for a Showstopper!
The last time I had a Vanilla Custard Mille Feuille was from Patisserie Valerie in Bath, and before that it was at The Ritz, so no pressure...

This recipe is stagey. I made the pastry the day before I cooked it as well, as you need to let it chill for at least 6 hours. Don't be scared, apart from taking time (it's something you can't rush) making puff pastry isn't hard, just time consuming. we go...!

Vanilla Custard Mille Feuille

This recipe makes 6 Mille Feuille's.

For the pastry 
225g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
250g butter
150ml cold water

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and put in the fridge for a few minutes. 
Cut the butter up into a small cubes and get your water ready in a jug (1). Also, lay out a large piece of cling film on a counter surface.
Then put the butter into the bowl of the flour and stir with a metal knife until each cube of butter it completely covered in flour (2). Pour in the water and quickly bring the dough together with one hand. 
Turn the dough out onto the clingfilm and swash into a large flat disc. Wrap it up and put in the fridge for half an hour. 

The next stage is the rolling, folding and chilling. 
Take you pastry out of the fridge and roll out on a floured surface (3). Taking care the whole time to only roll in one direction. Fold the pastry over and roll again (4). Repeat this 4 more times, then wrap the pastry back up in the cling film and put it back in the fridge. (Now it's time to make a cuppa/put the washing on/do a bit of washing up/watch some telly).
After 15 mins take it back out the fridge and repeat the process of folding and rolling. 
When you are finally happy that you can't see anymore cubes of butter (it should look marbley) and you've put in as many layers as possible wrap it back up and chill in the fridge until you need it.

The next day I got up, put my apron on and started making the Creme Patisserie filling. Just before you start making the filling roll out the pastry to 5mm thickness, place on lined baking trays and bake for 30 minutes at 200C/400F.

For the Creme Pat
4 medium egg yolks
65g caster sugar
15g plain flour
15g cornflour
350ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or paste if your budget allows)

In a large saucepan heat the milk and vanilla extract over a gentle heat.
Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until they turn a pale gold color. Then whisk in the flour and cornflour and put to one side. 
Once the milk is simmering take it off the heat, leave it for 30 seconds, the pour half into the mixing bowl whisking vigorously. Then pour the custard into the saucepan and bring the mixture up to the boil whisking continuously. (Seriously, don't stop stirring!)
Keep going until the custard is smooth and thick. 
Take off the heat and immediately transfer to a clean bowl and cool as fast as possible (dust with icing sugar to prevent a skin forming). 

Now for the construction (both the pastry and the custard need to be cool for this).

Cut the cooked puff into 18 rectangles and then put the custard into a piping bag. 
Lay the bottom layers of pastry out (the ones that look the worse!) and pipe on a layer of custard. Repeat and then put on the top layer. Chill the slices in the fridge until serving. 

I took these round to my parent's house and even after a family dinner and pudding an hour later these disappeared with a cup of tea. With approval all round I was pretty happy with how they turned out. Not quite Patisserie Valarie standard, but what can you do!



Tuesday, 1 October 2013

GBBO Bake Along - Week 6

This week's bake along was a bit different. I had help!

It was sweet dough week on GBBO and the females in my family have always had a certain weakness for sweet dough. So, it was only natural then that I up camp, pack up my baking stuff and roll up at my parents house for this week's bake.

The technical bake this week just looked so delicious that I knew I had to give it a go. Everyone in the competition seemed to do well, so surely it would be easy? (How naive I was...!)
Now, the original plan was not to bake at my parent's house, but to get up at the crack of dawn, prep the dough and let it prove (going back to sleep in the meantime), then shape and bake. I would then turn up at my parents, beautiful Couronne in tow.
That didn't happen.
My first batch of dough was so wet and sticky even after the first prove I was forced to abandon it.
I have to admit that the second batch was handed over to my sister to deal with (in-between updating her own blog).

But between the two of us (and my mum's advice and opinions) we managed to produce our own Apricot Couronne. It looks a little messy (though nothing that flaked almonds can't hide) but it tastes amazing!

We used Paul Hollywood's recipe for this, below, and perhaps wisely stuck to it word for word with absolutely no deviations!

Apricot Couronne

For the dough
250g strong white bread flour
50g butter, softened
150ml milk
10g fast action yeast
1 large egg, beaten

For the filling
120g dried apricot
150ml orange juice
90g butter
70g light muscovado sugar
35g plain flour
60g raisins
65g choppedd walnuts
grated zest 1 orange

To finish
50g apricot jam
flaked almonds

To start with, put the chopped apricots in a jug with the orange juice and set aside. 
To make the dough put the flour, butter, milk, yeast, egg and 1 tsp of salt in a bowl and mix to form a dough. Then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 6 minutes.
Put the dough in a mixing bowl, cover with cling film and put in a warm place to rise for a least an hour (until it has doubled in size - because of the butter in the dough this will take longer than you think!)

Meanwhile mix together the filling. Cream the butter and muscovado sugar in a bowl. Then add the drained apricots, flour, raisins, walnuts and orange zest and mix well.

Turn out the risen dough and roll out to a rectangle about 25 x 30 cm. Evenly spread the filling over the dough then roll up tightly (like you would if you were making Chelsea buns or a Swiss roll). 
Lay out the dough in front out you and cut it length ways. Twist the 2 lengths together, then shape into a ring on a lined baking sheet. 
Loosely cover with cling film and leave to rise again for about an hour. 

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C/392F for 30 minutes (or longer if necessary), until it is risen and golden. 
Towards the end of the baking time warm the jam in a saucepan. 
When the Couronne has been removed from the oven brush with the apricot jam and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. 
Then try and resist it while it cools! 

I have to say, 'day old Couronne' is actually nicer than 'freshly baked Couronne'. I had a piece for my elevenses 2 day's running and it keeps beautifully. Both my Mum and Sister have said the same!



P.s. I'm considering making my own puff pastry this week.........wish me luck!