Biscuit Week

Now…which of the three GBBO biscuit challenges did I attempt this weekend? Was it the playable biscuit board game, sandwich biscuits or the technically challenging fortune cookies? As much as I wanted to make an edible snakes and ladders, it was the slightly easier sandwich biscuits that took my fancy.

A number of biscuits came to mind like empire biscuits and custard creams but I’also made these before. I wanted to try a new bake and had a look through my biscuit cookbook by the GBBO iced biscuit queen, Miranda Gore Brown. One recipe that took my fancy was for bourbon biscuits. A biscuit tin favourite and something I remember from when I was younger and I used to raid my Grandma’s biscuit tin. But Mr W doesn’t like them (shocking considering how much he loves chocolate) and my mum won’t eat them so will need to be saved for a bake for work weekend.

Then I came across a recipe for lemon and poppy seed polenta biscuits. I’ve never seen the lemon and poppy seed combo as a biscuit before and have always wanted to try making lemon and poppy seed muffins (as they sound yummy). I also liked the idea of the cream cheese filling to sandwich them together instead of the typical buttercream filling you find with most sandwich biscuits.

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I spread the making of these over two days. Friday night I made the actual biscuits which was simpler than most as the ingredients can go straight in the food processor. When dividing the biscuits, make sure you make an even number that are roughly the same size as they will be sandwiched together. Be warned, you do need to make some room in the fridge as the biscuits need to be chilled for at least 30 minutes whilst on the baking trays. So, unless you have a super large fridge, maybe wait until the day before you do your food shop 🙂 Once baked, I left them to cool overnight so that I could be certain they wouldn’t melt the filling. On the Saturday morning I whipped up the cream cheese filling and sandwiched the biscuits together. Before starting this, make sure you pair up your biscuits so that you are sandwiching similar sized biscuits together. Nothing worse than being left with two biscuit sized extremes. Once made I’ve kept in the fridge as I don’t want the cream cheese filling to go off. I then let it come to room temperature before eating.

So….polenta in a biscuit. First time I’ve had one to be honest. I found that the texture and taste reminded me slightly of cornbread but with the zesty lemon coming through. They are quite substantial biscuit so you won’t be eating more than one at a time. In total I managed to make 10 sandwiched biscuits. If I was to make them again, I would consider making them smaller so that they are a bit easier to eat. The use of polenta and rice or spelt flour make these a gluten free bake.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Polenta Biscuits

Ingredients

  • 175g caster sugar
  • 20g quick-cook polenta
  • 100g rice or spelt flour (I used Spelt)
  • 170g unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
  • zest of two lemons
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g poppy seeds

For the filling

  • 200g full fat cream cheese
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1tbsp icing sugar
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 2tbsp lemon juice

Method

  1. Put sugar, polenta and flour into a food processor and whizz well. Add the butter and lemon zest and whizz until it resembles small breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the poppy seeds over the mixture. Beat the eggs and vanilla extract together. Add the eggs to the food processor and mix to get a wet, sticky dough.
  2. Line some baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Using a small ice cream scoop or two tablespoons, place walnut sized balls of dough on the tray and keep them at least 5cm apart. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C and bake the chilled biscuits for 10-12 minutes (until golden and firm to the touch). Leave to firm on the tray for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  4. Put all the filling ingredients into a bowl and beat together until light and creamy. Add a little more lemon juice if the mixture us to dry. When the biscuits are completely cold, spread a layer of filling onto the base of one biscuit and gently press a similar sized biscuit on top.
Recipe taken from Biscuits by Miranda Gore Browne
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It’s back….GBBO!

So, the Great British Bake Off is back and some mixed reviews to go with it. For those who aren’t aware (where have you been?), GBBO has moved from BBC1 to channel 4. It’s taken everything with it except Mary, Mel and Sue. It’s the same tent in the same location with the same benches and even the same opening credits. There is now the addition of Sandie, Noel, Prue and some advert breaks (which is actually a welcome relief). Some reviews have been that it is obvious that the dialogue between Sandie and Noel is scripted and doesn’t seem as natural as Sue and Mel. What we need to remember is that the show is currently on it’s eighth series which means that there has been 7 years for the show to become what it was and for the dynamics to work (with Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue). I’m sure if we were to watch the first series again, we will have some comments to make about the presenters. Personally, I’m just glad it’s back on 🙂

So the first episode was cake week with the first bake needing to be a fruity cake. Now, this seemed to fit in well with my need to make a cake, in particular an apple cake….an Italian apple cake. Now I’ve made an Italian apple cake before but the flavours did not quite meet the bar set by the version Mr W had whilst we were on honeymoon. So I did a bit of research in preparation for my weekend bake and managed to find a recipe on pinterest which looked like the apple cake I wanted. It was simple and uncomplicated (just what I needed to ease me back into baking). The inspiration for mine came from Manus Manu , a website full of Italian recipes. This particular cake was light and moist with hints of vanilla, sweetness from the apple and a zing from the lemon zest. Would go perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or gelato if we’re being fancy). It definitely benefits from a dusting of icing sugar on top. I didn’t have any for the first time we ate it but bought some so we could have a dusting on our second slice (never assume you have an ingredient in).

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Torta Di Mele Della Nonna (Granny’s Apple Cake) (Serves 12)

Ingredients
  • 3 apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 150 ml milk
  • 1 lemon zest
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar (for dusting)

Method

  1. Grease and coat with flour a 22 cm – 9 inch springform pan and keep it aside.
  2. Beat the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the melted butter and keep beating.
  4. Add the milk and flour, little by little and keep beating.
  5. Add the baking powder, salt, lemon zest and vanilla extract.
  6. Fold in the apple slices and pour into the prepared springform pan.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C  for 45 minutes.
  8. Let the cake cool down, then release from the tin, dust it with icing sugar and serve it.

As we don’t have 12 people in our house and didn’t particularly want to eat the cake for 6 days straight (as delicious as it is), I have put some slices in the freezer to test how well it freezes (fingers crossed).

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Rocky Road

Last Friday saw the UK raising money for Red Nose Day. At my work, we have one charity that we raise money for each year so nothing was organised to raise money for Red Nose Day. My dad, however, was involved in a number of events to raise money for this cause. First, he works in a call centre which was being used to take calls from members of the public wanting to make donations. Secondly, he was getting his head shaved to raise money. When he was younger, my dad used to have long hair and as he has gotten older he’s kept it short but has never dared to get rid of it completely. Why would he? He hasn’t started to lose any yet and it is still it’s natural colour (no grey appearing yet). Good on him for going through with it but now he’s worried it won’t grow back. Thirdly, charity bake sale. Cue him asking me (very nicely) if I’d do some baking for him. He re-requested some triple chocolate cookies that I baked for his team last month, which I did bake for him. But the week before, I found out that maltesers were promising to donate £5 for every photo that was posted on the Facebook page showing a Red Nose Day charity bake using maltesers. Now, that wasn’t a challenge I was going to ignore. So, it got me thinking about what I could make. Crush some maltesers and mix them into the cookie mix instead of chocolate chips? Nope, his team were looking forward to the original cookie recipe. Make some malteser cupcakes? Nope, last time I was involved in a cake sale, the cupcakes were still there until the end. Make a malteser cake? Nope, my dad would only worry about cutting it into pieces.

Rocky road….chocolate….biscuits….marshmallows….maltesers…winner!!!

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A bonus about rocky road is that it is simple to make and can be made in advance. No manic baking the day before trying to get everything ready for me to to take round to my dad. So, as mentioned above, my recipe only consists of four ingredients, yes, FOUR!! Everyone has an opinion on what should be in rocky road. Dried fruit, cherries, nuts, marshmallows, certain type of biscuit, certain type of chocolate, dusted with icing sugar….The list is endless. For me, I like to keep it simple. Adding too much can mean fewer people will buy it. With this recipe you can interchange the type of biscuit used (shortbread, shortcake, cookies, rich tea, digestives, oreo) or put in your favourite chocolate bar (crunchie, double decker, mars bar, milky way). But if you want to re-create my version, follow the below recipe.

  • 450g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 150g ginger biscuits, broken into 1cm chunks
  • 100g mini marshmallows
  • 80g maltesers

Line the base and sides of a 7×9 inch cake tin with baking parchment. Place the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot water. Bring the water to the boil, then take the pan off the heat and allow the chocolate to melt slowly. Once the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the pan and leave to cool slightly. If the chocolate is too hot the marshmallows will melt. Stir in the biscuits, mini marshmallows and maltesers and then press into the cake tin. Place in the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until set. Cut into 12 pieces.

I use basic own brand chocolate as I feel it is not as sickly as the brand and balances well with the sweetness of the rest of the ingredients.

I’ve made this before where I have used one third plain chocolate and two thirds milk chocolate which gives it a bit of bitterness.

I melted 50g white chocolate and drizzled over the top once it had set to add some contrast.

Mr W managed to sneak a piece before it went and loved it. I was worried the ginger biscuits might overpower but he felt they worked well. Feedback from my dad’s work has been good and some have wanted the recipe. Here you go 🙂

Soft Baked Pretzels

One of my New Year  ‘resolutions’ was to bake more bread/dough based recipes. I’ve mentioned in my blog a couple of times that it is one of the baking areas that I feel less confident in. The main reason for this being unsuccessful proving in the past. So this year, I aim to bake a new bread/dough based recipe once a month.

January saw me making my first rye bread. Over the last few months, rye bread has become one of my favourite bread options. Especially toasted for breakfast with smashed avocado or almond butter and banana. I particularly like the dense texture which is one reason why Mr W doesn’t like it. For this bake I followed the suggested recipe on the back of the dark rye flour pack. It was an easy recipe to follow (although the addition of a beaten egg threw me a little) and the end result was a decent, although basic, rye loaf. This recipe was more like the rye breads that you can buy from the bakery section in your local supermarket as opposed to a traditional rye bread. Although it did have the addition of caraway seeds which gave it a slightly aniseed taste which took a while to get used to when eating for breakfast. I’m going to attempt this bake again and follow a recipe Paul Hollywood recipe. His ‘How To Bake’ book has a number of different ones.

February found me wonder what to bake. I didn’t want to bake another bread as I wanted a new challenge. Also, I want to attempt sour dough but I am waiting until summer so I have warmer temperatures to get a starter growing. Mr W didn’t like my suggestion of attempting doughnuts again so I asked my sister for suggestions. I should have guessed what she would want me to bake. Her favourite bakery snack that she had to have every day whilst we were in Germany. Pretzel. A soft baked pretzel. I tried to put her off them by telling them that they were dipped in caustic acid before being baked (honest fact there, it gives them the crunchy outer texture. I was able to find a fairly easy recipe online that got the nod from sis.

They were surprisingly easy to make. They used active yeast which isn’t a yeast I’ve used before. As the name suggests, it needs to be activated in water before use. I’m used to fast action yeast. Unsurprisingly, the hardest part was shaping the pretzels put for a first attempt, they weren’t too bad. Ideally, they need to be eaten straight away as after two days, they’d past their best (but sis still ate them). Although not as good as shop bought, they were a decent attempt. The texture was softer but it had the flavour. They did seem a little greasy which is down to the lashings of melted butter that was used to coat them. I followed the recipe from this blog. If you want to try making them, head over. Do follow the recipe exactly. Although I thought there was too much melted butter it’s better to use your own judgement. See if you can master the classic pretzel shape. You think you’ve managed it but by the time it comes out of the soda bath, its a soggy mess lol.

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Salted Caramel Brownies

Now, when asked to make a birthday bake that was chocolate related, this recipe was the first that popped in my head. I made it earlier this year when going to visit some friends. There were 6 of us. I went with 16 pieces and returned with none. If that’s not a sign of a good brownie, I don’t know what is. Maybe that Mr W had more than one means it’s a winner seen as he tells me he doesn’t like brownies!!

I found the recipe in an old copy of a Good Food magazine (it has since made an appearance on their Instagram). It’s a fairly easy recipe. The only step I struggle with is the placing of the salted caramel. It asks for 5 thick strips (I can only manage 4) and the strips are never even (I’m a bit of a perfectionist). The first set of strips are placed in between two layers of brownie batter. This time round I had a thinner base layer so the caramel oozed out the bottom a little (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just meant I had more bits stuck to the greaseproof paper to eat 😛 ). The last set of salted caramel strips are placed on top and feathered. I struggled to make the feathering look anywhere as good as Mary Berry’s iced Bakewell tart (remember GBBO pastry week?).

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If you want to make these yummy brownies, see the recipe below. I adapted the original slightly as I feel that the higher end chocolate does not melt as well as the cheaper chocolate. It’s down to preference.

Makes 16 large pieces

Ingredients

  • 200g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 397g can Carnation caramel
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 130g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • pinch flaky sea salt

Method

  1. Heat oven to 160C fan. Grease then line a 23cm square traybake tin with baking parchment. Melt the butter in a medium pan, break in all the chocolate, then remove the pan from the heat and wait for the chocolate to melt.
  2. In a small bowl, mix 175g of the caramel with 1 tsp salt to loosen. Put the rest of the caramel in a large bowl with the sugar and eggs, and beat with a whisk until evenly combined.
  3. Whisk in the melted chocolate and butter. In another bowl, combine the flour, cocoa and a good pinch of salt, then sift this on top of the chocolate mix. Beat briefly until smooth.
  4. Pour half the brownie batter into the tin and level it with a spatula. Using a teaspoon, spoon half of the salted caramel on top of the batter layer in 4 evenly spaced strips. Spoon the rest of the brownie batter on top and smooth it out. Try not to disturb the caramel. Top with the rest of the caramel in the same stripy fashion. Drag a skewer or tip of a knife through the caramel to make a feathered pattern on the top.
  5. Scatter with the sea salt flakes, then bake for 25-30 mins or until risen all the way to the middle with a firm crust on top. Let it cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares.

GBBO weeks 3 and 4

So, the third week of this year’s Great British Bake Off was bread week. Now, as I’ve admitted on here before, bread isn’t my strongest baking area. I never seem to get a good rise. But, I had seen in a recipe in one of my Jamie Oliver cookbooks that I’d been wanting to try, so week 3 theme seemed a good time to try. It didn’t fit in with any of the categories (a sweet dough, a steamed bake or contain three flours) but who cares?

The recipe was for a ‘Figgy Banana Bread’ from Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food cookbook. It’s a suggested breakfast idea so we actually had our first try of it before the bake off episode (yum yum yum). The recipe is relatively easy with everything going into a food processor. It also doesn’t contain any yeast so does not need to be proved and can be ready in under an hour and a half. Rather than being a typical bread, it comes out looking more like a cake. I don’t think it helps that it is baked in a cake tin. I found it easier to slice the bread into the recommended number of wedges so you can grab a piece each morning. Jamie suggests serving it with a dollop of nut butter and a dollop of natural yoghurt. I did this and loved the combination of salty peanut butter with the sweet figgy bread.  I sliced my piece of bread in half, topping one with the peanut butter and the other with yoghurt. I also had it with home made strawberry chia jam instead of the peanut butter and it was still yummy. Mr W had his with sliced banana instead of the nut butter so the combinations are endless. I strongly recommend having it with something to make it more into a meal rather than a snack. Although the recipe doesn’t mention anything about freezing the bread, I froze a couple of pieces for about a week and they were just as good as fresh once defrosted. The bread until stays fresh for a few days in a tin and I didn’t want to have to throw away the leftovers (I liked it too much). Below is the recipe taken from Jamie’s book.

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Serves 12

  • 250g dried figs
  • 75ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • 125g natural yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 eating apple
  • 50g whole almonds
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line a 25cm cake tin with a scrunched sheet of wet greaseproof paper. Place 200g of figs in a food processor with the oil, yoghurt, vanilla extract, peeled bananas and eggs then blitz until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, ground almonds, poppy seeds and turmeric and pulse until just combined. Be careful not to overwork the mixture. Coarsely grate the apple and stir into the mixture.
  2. Spoon the mixture into the tin and spread out evenly. Tear over the remaining figs and chop the almonds, scatter over the top of the mixture, pushing them down slightly. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little. N.B. I found it difficult to remove from the greaseproof paper. Don’t panic if it sticks, just slowly peel it away.

This is definitely a  recipe I want to bake again. It was slightly indulgent having essentially cake for breakfast but it made a nice change.

Now, GBBO week 4 was batter week with the making of Yorkshire puddings, lace pancakes and churros. The obvious option for something to make was pancakes. This year, I never made the traditional pancakes for Shrove Tuesday so took this week as a chance to do so. Now, what a disappointment. Maybe I’ve gotten too used to having slightly thicker, flavourful breakfast pancakes. These crepe style pancakes were plain, bland and boring. Even the addition of lemon, sugar and ice cream didn’t help matters. Not something I will be repeating anytime soon.

 

 

Biscuit Week

One of my favourite television programmes returned to our screens two weeks ago….The Great British Bake Off!!!! Who would have thought that watching 12 amateur bakers battling it out each week would be so popular. I think having Mel and Sue presenting the show makes it even more enjoyable. The start of this years series coincided with Mr W’s birthday which meant I had even more reason to bake. I’d decided to bake Mr W one of his favourite biscuits, Empire Biscuits. Now, I’d never hear of these delectable treats before I met Mr W. They seem to be more popular in Scotland than in England. I guess you could call them a fancy jammie dodger. It wasn’t until the night before the first episode did Mr W point out that it was cake week. And it wasn’t until the end of the show did I find out that it was biscuit next and I was a whole week early with my bake. Never mind. I did do an experimental ginger and lime drizzle cake to make up for it. Although it tasted great, it had more of a syrup topping rather than a drizzle. I was also disappointed with the rise of the cake (more of a traybake than a loaf cake) and refused to take pictures. To make up for it, I made some more biscuits which turned out a lot better. These were a request from someone at work. She wanted the biscuits she used to have at school that had jam in the middle…thumbprint biscuits.

To be fair, these two biscuits weren’t the most technical of bakes but they were very much enjoyed. Although I didn’t get to try the thumbprint biscuits, they met my colleagues criteria which was a hit.

Empire Biscuits

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After a bit of googling, I managed to find a recipe by a previous GBBO contestant (James Morton) that looked like the biscuits Mr W wanted. The recipe has very few ingredients and is extremely easy to make. The only adaptation I made was the halving of the recipe. I followed the suggestion of using some cornflour which gives it a lovely crumbly texture. I also rolled the dough as thinly as possible so that when the biscuits are sandwiched together, the ratio of biscuit to jam to biscuit is as close to the same as possible. Click here for his recipe.

Thumbprint Biscuits

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There were a number of variations of this recipe online. I knew what biscuit my colleague wanted. I managed to buy one a couple of years ago at a food fair and it brought back those school memories. It’s funny how as a child, school dinners were awful but when you think back on them, they weren’t as bad as you thought. The biscuit needs to be crumbly with a good dollop of jam (preferably strawberry) in the middle.  BBC Good Food had just the recipe I needed. Again, it uses very few ingredients and is very easy to make. It is also a quick recipe if you have a food processor as it can do all the work for you. Click here for recipe.

Tomorrow it’s bread week….