World Cup Weekend 1

I’m not a football fan and having to put up with World Cup matches on practically all the tie (especially on my birthday) doesn’t exactly make me happy. So, to make the next four weeks more bearable, I’m setting myself World Cup recipe challenges. Twice a week I’m making a recipe for one of the countries laying that day.

First up was something for Saturday and a baking recipe. Biscuits seemed to be the safest bet with a couple of South American countries playing and Australia. I settled on Alfajores, a sweet crumbly biscuit from Argentina. I managed to find a relatively simple recipe here. Although it may not be a traditional recipe, not coated in coconut (a no no for Mr W) or be filled with the delicious dulce de leche, it was still a good substitute. One criticism is that the filling was too soft and with the slightly warmer temperatures, could not survive out of the fridge for longer than 10 minutes.

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The final recipe for week one was in honour of Germany. I managed to find a recipe for German Meatballs with Spaetzle. The meatballs, serves four, were made using 500g beef mince, handful of breadcrumbs, an egg and seasoned with dried oregano and seasoning. Mix together and shape into meatballs before browning in a pan. I then made a mushroom and sour cream sauce to go with it. In the same pan as the meatballs, brown some onions before dding a handful of sliced mushrooms and 500ml beef stock. Simmer for 30 minutes. Mix 150ml soured cream with 1 tablespoon flour and add to the sauce. Stir through and simmer until thickened. Finish with some chopped fresh parsley.

Meanwhile, make the spaetzle (simple egg noodles). To serve two, combine 1 cup of plain flour with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add one beaten egg and 1/2 cup of milk and beat well before resting for at least 10 minutes. Place a colander or a steaming pan over a pan of boiling salted water. Press the batter through the colander/steamer using a spatula and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and serve with the meatballs.

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This meal reminded me of when we went to Munich for Oktoberfest. Better suited for winter when you want home comforts as opposed to summer but never mind.

Looking forward to this weekends challenge 🙂

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Strawberry Mimosa Cupcakes

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A hen party seemed a great opportunity to try making some cocktail themed cupcakes. I slightly adapted a recipe from one of my (many) baking books.

Firstly, the recipe to make 12 cupcakes will use a small bottle of prosecco (or give you an excuse to finish off a standard bottle).

Secondly, I forgo the handmade decorations that were part of the recipe and the typical hen party themed toppers for some unicorn inspired ones that I found in the supermarket. They were so cute that I couldn’t resist 🙂

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The inclusion of orange zest to the cake and frosting gives it a lovely freshness and balances the sweetness.

Makes 12

190g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

115g unsalted butter, softened

200g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 eggs

125ml prosecco

zest of one orange

2tbsp orange juice

Filling

4 tbsp water

2 tbsp cornflour

175g fresh strawberries, chopped into small pieces

75g icing sugar

4 tbsp prosecco

Frosting

115g unsalted butter, softened

440g icing sugar

4 tbsp prosecco

zest of 1 orange

2 tbsp orange juice

Cupcake toppers

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with paper cases.
  2. 2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla bean paste, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add half of the flour mixture along with the prosecco and beat until combined. Add the remaining flour mixture, orange zest and orange juice and mix until combined.
  3. Using an ice cream scoop, divide the mixture between the paper cases. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until risen and golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the filling, stir the water and cornflour together in a pan and bring to the boil (mind turned jelly like but don’t worry, mine still came out okay).Add the strawberries and icing sugar, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture is combined. Add the prosecco and simmer for a further 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Set aside to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, put the butter, icing sugar, prosecco, orange zest and orange juice into a bowl and meat with an electric mixed until well combined and is at a piping consistency. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
  6. Use a cupcake corer/apple corer or small knife to remove the centre of each cupcake. Spoon the strawberry filling into the holes. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes and top each cupcake with a topper.

Eat the leftover pieces of cake with leftover jam filling and icing (just to make sure they taste good 😀 )

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Sourdough Banana Bread

I’ve been able to keep a sourdough starter going for a couple of months now. I’ve made three attempts at a sourdough bread and have even bought myself a proving basket (although my only attempt at using it resulted in the dough sticking to it. Lesson learnt – use more flour). For those that have a starter, you will know about the needing to feed it (keeping some aside that you feed and binning the rest). Rather than throw away this discarded starter, I’ve been keeping it in a sealed container in the fridge. Everytime I add to it, I give it a stir. So…what to do with this excess starter? It’s great to use in other baking recipes and on this occasion I made banana bread. I don’t like my banana bread too sweet as I eat it warmed through for breakfast (with pears cooked in marmalade and a dollop of yogurt) rather than a slice for elevenses or an afternoon pick me up. Feel free to add some chocolate chips or chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts would be the perfect combo). I used a food processor which makes it so quick and easy to make.

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sourdough starter

1/2 cup butter, softened and cubed

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160C fan. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt until its all combined.
  3. Add the sourdough starter, cubed butter and mashed butter on top of the dry ingredients. Then add the egg and vanilla paste. Pulse together until a smooth, thick batter is formed. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf tin.
  4. Bake in oven for 60 to 70 minutes until well browned and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Serving suggestions – liberally covered with nut butter, warmed fruit and yogurt, ice cream, chocolate spread.

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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

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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