Carrot Cake Candles

Carrot cake candles textFinal week in the bake-off tent…FINALS WEEK!

We’ve made it all the way through to finals week – well done everyone. There has been laugher and tears, burnt and raw bakes, and most all, lots of cups of tea! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, the watching and the bake along!

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What a task to come up with a bake worthy of final week. Well I wasn’t very excited by the idea of making iced buns so soon after the éclairs, and I have had rather enough of dough. A rough puff technical also sounded pretty terrible so showstopper it is! A really tricky challenge for the contestants  to make something really marvellous but also a traditional English cake.

Basics done

My favourite cake is carrot cake so I shall follow in that part in Ian’s footsteps. I also like a challenge so have baked 4 mini tin cakes! Quads are always better than a trio! These cakes are then cut into various sizes to make 5 varying cake columns which are marvellously turned into a collection of candles. I will stick with the tradition cream cheese pairing, as this is also my favourite and finished with some caramel flames.

How to make a tin cake2

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

The cakes themselves are easy to make – it can be adapted to pretty much any recipe. Perfect for the non-baker as there are no tools needed! The tins cannot be pull top (no cat food tins this time) as the lip left at the top will cause issues. The flatter the base is also the better as easier to grease and get the cooked cakes out. I used margarine for greasing the tin but oil would work equally well, maybe even better. The most important thing here is to be thorough, getting into all the ridges, nooks and crannies. There is no need to be pretty in this part just slop the mixture into the tins and pop in the oven.

before and after

Oooo look how yummy they look!! I’m not very good with straight lines so the cutting the tops off was a little wonky! It is a little tricky. The icing is easy peasey too! Almost seems like a cheat for GBBO final week. To make delicious carrot cake icing all you need is cream cheese, double cream, icing sugar and vanilla essence. Whisk all the ingredients up until you get semi stiff peaks and then pipe or smear onto the cakes. Tops and sides. I think the loose crumbs add some character and not the other way around.Glowing

Fake flames anyone? Feel a little of hunger games inspiration coming along. I was also inspired by Tamal’s amazing sugar work and even without a sugar thermometer decided a give it a go. Tricky but not impossible. First lesson? The turn is very quick! My first half were great by the time I get to the second the caramel was a little burnt smelling but still looks good. I placed some toothpicks in the centre half way through pouring the caramel so that I can stick the flames into the top if the cakes. Work way better than I expected and pleasantly surprised. Unlike Tamal the weather was not on my side and oh my word does it make a difference! By the time I finished icing all the cakes the flames had turned sticky and bubbly – and this continue to deteriorate. Lesson learnt – when confident enough do the flames as close to the end/serving time so that they look and taste their best.Frm behind

There is no next week but visit again and see what other wonderful concoctions I have taken on.

Miniature strawberry & mint éclairs

Quarter final week in the bake off tent…PATISSERIE WEEK!

Everything this week is posh and dainty and lots of them! Plenty to go wrong then! It was a great episode to watch but I thought those éclair towers were a little monstrous (can something be a little monstrous, eh oxymoron it is). That being said I settled for the opposite, some mini éclairs perfect for afternoon tea!

Strawberry and mint eclairs and cream puff

I’ve never made choux pastry before because the idea of cooking the mixture just doesn’t sit right with me. I’m always up for trying something new and from what I heard it is actually a fairly easy pastry! I had a little left over so decided to pipe a couple cream puffs along with the éclairs.

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

The pastry was, as its’ reputation goes, pretty darn easy! It did need a bit of prepping to make sure everything was weighed out correctly before starting so that you could be quick on the transition stages. Not one to waste money on “proper” products I didn’t buy any piping bags but went for cutting the corner off a sandwich bag which did the job impeccably. Take that all you fancy pants. On that front I was a little worried about too sloppy dough to pipe but I got it perfect and they all stayed separated. They were cooked a little long so a bit more crisp than I was going for. The pastry itself gets a good 9 out of 10.

eclair pastry

I really could not be bothered with a cream pat as the sun was shining and I was itching to sit in it so instead whipped up some double cream with icing sugar and piped it into and on top of the éclairs popping on the last of the seasons strawberries and some freshly picked mint.

Star taster this week goes to…Sox. My precious cat who thought they looked so good he would lick the off the cream while the family wasn’t looking! Tut tut!

Until next week!

Homemade traditional pork pies with jelly

Week seven in the Bake Off tent – VICTORIAN WEEK!

Well GBBO are you running out of categories or what! Who the heck wants to try to bake something Victorian!? That’s a rhetorical question, but if you need an answer, it’s no-one. I can’t say I’m excited by the challenge but I shall grip it by the horns and see how we get along. I’ll kick everything off with an apology for this being a late post but I was away for the weekend and Victorian baking (VICTORIAN WHY?!)  wasn’t high on the agenda. Never one to skip out a task I thought I would just sneak it into this week.

I loved pastry week and I love pie and I love meat…you know where this is going? It’s a game pie kind of feeling. There is only one hiccup with attempting a game pie, where to find the game! So I’ve used some artistic license and switched it up for a classic pork pie. They both are raised pies which use hot watercrust pastry, a meat jelly and errr meat so pretty much the same concept and I’m sure it was a Victorian favourite too!

Individual pork pie 1

I used this basic recipe from good old Jamie for the pastry and filling though swapped the thyme for parsley. I’m sure my parsley plant is killing off the thyme one. I also had to add in a couple more sausages to make enough filling for the three individual pies (muffin case) and one medium pie (six inch loose bottom tin). Oh and I’m lard kind of girl.

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

I really need to get better at finishing reading a recipe before diving in only knowing half the steps. It was all lovely to start with and then WHAM do this this this and this before the pastry gets cold! Just as well I had the kitchen to myself as I had things on every surface including the floor!

Making the pastry itself was a surprising doddle. Getting the pastry rolled was a relieving doddle. Putting the pastry into the cases was an absolute shamble! I didn’t cookie cutters big enough for the muffin tins so ended up cutting vaguely large vague circles to squeeze in and then trimmed them up. Having nails also meant while trying the squish out all the air holes I kept making actual holes, which would lead to leakage! The larger tin was SO much easier. I rolled this out separately and felt more like making a flan. I did nick the bottom so had to do a little patch work on that. Because it was a watercrust pastry the cooler it got the harder to handle so it was quite tricky cutting out the lids and making sure that they bonded properly to the cups. The filling couldn’t be easier, my only note would be to make more than you think you need and have it ready before you even get started on the pastry.Inside a homemade pork pie

The Victorian pies are very ornate and I was hoping to make something quite beautiful alas ran out of time and sanity meaning the looks leave something to be desired. I see it as something to work towards in future pork pie endeavours.Creation of the pork pies

Because I am a worry wart I was terrified of taking the pies out too early, the pork could be uncooked, the pastry too soft and thus cause a collapse so many issues so I opted to over cook to be sure. Jamie also didn’t give any timings for the bigger pie so you need to know your oven pretty well. Everything cooked well and I love my pastry to have a bit of crunch so I decree all is well!

To make the jelly I stirred one packet of gelatine into 1 pint of hot chicken stock (according to the packet instructions). When the pies were out of the oven I poured the jelly mix into the hole. The jelly set perfectly which amazed me however unfortunately I did not fill the pies nearly enough so most of it looks to have been absorbed and only a little shows around the edges. I made some separate jelly which can be added to individual personal preference.

Star taster this week goes to ME! I don’t think anyone could love them as much as I did. Defiantly going to be making these again for picnics!

Sorry for such a long and rambling post but that’s it until next week!

P&P frangipane tart

Week Six in the bake off tent – PASTRY WEEK!

This might even beat bread week, unless you’re making a puff, that’s just silly. Pastry is so versatile and scrumptious! And I vouch pretty simple…famous last words as my tarts still in the oven while I start writing this. You can’t get closer to the challenge than making a frangipane tart like the contestants, no stretch of the imagination needed this week. Plus I need a good week after that dairy free ice cream fiasco in week five.

I’ve made shortcrust pastry before and it’s all round winner. You can’t go wrong with 3 ingredients and a 1:0.5 ratio! Mum impulse brought a food processer so I’ve excitedly given that a go – oh my gosh converted. So quick and easy, apart from the extended washing up bit but shhhh. I don’t normally sweeten my pastry as I find my fillings are sweet enough that a plain pastry works perfectly however being a frangipane I thought it better to follow some inspiration from the internet instead of thinking I know best.

So where does the P&P come from? Well frangipanes traditionally use stoned fruit, and I love fruit, all fruit, it would be unfair to have to pick one over the rest so… I’ve combined two! Peaches AND Plums. Yummy.

before and after

This week I’ve given my recipe as I started looking at quite a few for inspiration/technique but didn’t follow any of them and winged it a little so I have nowhere to link you to, and that would be unfair. Scroll right to the bottom to read all my secrets.

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

I love pastry lalalalalalalala. I over did it on the blind bake which is infuriatingly frustrating as it was a silly thing to mess up, but catches the best of them out. The pastry was also different to what I am used to adding sugar and egg was definitely harder to handle in the rolling out stage and I had to redo it quite a few times, if I did it again I think I would make my basic shortcrust (below) as the extra sugar doesn’t add much and just makes life more complicated than need be.

Piece of pie

I would recommend everyone give it a try if they want, a tart breaks down into such easy steps and there is not the normal time pressure that comes along with lots of other baking. I burnt mine a little (a little a lot) and it still tasted fabulous so even if you get in a pickle it’s nothing to worry about.

It wouldn’t win any awards but I’m definitely going to get back into the tart making in what is left of this year. The tart got consumed at church lunch this week, and thus we have a special star taster this week Leah Frost!

Recipe (as promised)

Suggested weights in brackets for a 8/9inch flan tin.

Shortcrust Pastry Case – plain flour (200g) and half weight of fat/cold butter (100g) and a TBSP cold water. To fancy and sweeten it up add quarter caster sugar (50g), an egg yolk and a splosh of vanilla essence.
One. Cube and rub your butter into your flour or a quick pulse in a processer. You’ll get breadcrumb consistency. If you’re adding sugar do this next and finally stir in all the other ingredients. If your dough is not coming together and is too crumbly add a tsp of extra water at a time. Wrap the ball in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Two. Flour a surface and your rolling pin – if you don’t have a rolling pin – use a wine bottle! Take out the dough and roll it into a rough circle. It should be quite thin, about the thickness of a pound coin. Lift gently and place onto of your greased flan tin. Don’t worry about tiny holes these can be patched up while no one else is looking. Gently using your fingers or some excess dough press the dough into the side of the tin and trim and large overhanging pieces from the edge. Leave a little at the top as it will shrink while cooking. You can use these extra pieces to do your patching.
Three. The blind bake! Prick some holes in the bottom of your tart using a fork. Cut a large square of baking parchment and scrunch it up. Un-scrunch and lay onto of your pastry in the tin. Top with baking balls if you’re fancy or rice if you’re not. This helps weigh down the pastry and stops it from rising. Pop in the oven (180 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Take out and remove the non-edibles from your tin. I keep my baking rice in a jar to use again! Brush the pastry case with a beaten egg, this helps avoid the dreaded SOGGY BOTTOM and cook for a further 5 minutes. And that’s your pastry case!

Pastry case sm

Frangipane – Another easy weight list yay! Same amounts of ground almonds, butter and caster sugar (150g), third plain flour (50g) and 2 large eggs.
One. Cream the butter using an electric whisk- this avoids sugar going everywhere in step two!
Two. Cream the sugar into the butter until light and fluffy – using that electric whisk again
Three. Briefly whisk in the eggs
Four. Add al the remaining ingredients and combine – put down that whisk fool!

Toppings – Two peaches and one plum (or any stoned fruit you’re  fan of), a TBSP of apricot jam and a shot of Ameretto if you’re feeling cheeky!
One. The fruit …slice your fruit. I go with the avocado method of slicing around in half and twisting to separate the halves. Use a knife to pop out the stone.
Two. The apricot glaze. Take a nice dollop of apricot jam a heat it in a saucepan, now would be the time to add that splash of Amaretto and let it boil almost to a syrup.

Fruit

P&P Frangipane Tart
One. Spread the frangipane into your cool pastry case, as full as you can get.
Two. Lay your fruit slices out on top in a pretty pattern. The pretty bit’s essential.
Three. Pop into a preheated oven at 180C-190C and cook for 30-45 minutes until the frangipane has browned slightly and is slightly firm to touch.
Four. While still warm brush with the apricot glaze and allow to set and cool before serving.

Because the big tart was going to church I also made a plum tartlet for mum and dad to share:Plum tartlet mix

Vegan friendly lemon coconut ice cream

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Week five in the bake off tent – ALTERNATIVE INGREDIENTS WEEK

This week is rather topical! I don’t have any allergies and neither do any of my close friends so I have never encountered the complicated world of allergy free cooking let alone baking! But, as you know, I’m always up for a challenge and this week is no exception.

They covered a wealth of substitutes in the show this week, gluten-free, dairy free and sugar-free! Now in my opinion, if you are going to eat a cake, you may as well go ahead and eat a cake. I know there are diabetics who have to watch out for the sugar, but I count my lucky stars that I am not one of them! Gluten free food has become quite “cool” but I don’t see it as being particularly a healthier option, and does seem very tricky to get right! So that leaves me with dairy free…

lemon coconut vegan ice cream

Dairy free ice cream, not quite baking, but they did it as the main theme of the showstopper challenge so that is enough for me!  This is a challenge with a lot of no’s attached…no dairy…no ice cream maker/machine…no churn. I found a lot of recipes however my vigorous set of no’s cancel most of them out, ice cream machine? How middle class do you think I am blogsphere! Eventually I found a great directory put together on the pretty bee, which led me to these two rather different recipes here and here. I decided to try the more complicated because I was on a dangerous high from last week.

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

Coconut concoctionsMaking this delicious gloop of coconut milk into ice cream? Pretty rubbish! It took double the time to do anything the recipe suggested. The condensed coconut milk got there in the end but I felt like I was losing this bake along battle from the start. The cream didn’t set in the fridge and thus didn’t whisk up to much and the overall result, though okay, doesn’t hold a spoon up to the real thing. I found mine to taste grainy and not smooth and indulgent like you want. It did set rock solid and that was a fear I had, had to leave it out for 30 minutes before I could get a spoon in there. It would work pretty well to sub into smoothies/milkshakes but not a big bowl to itself. Would I make it again…nope…but I might be tempted to try banana based nice cream from nuts about fruit on Instagram.

Star taster this week goes to my Mum who ate a whole bowl with excitement picking up on all the nice flavours and leaving all the dodgy textures out of the conversation. Thanks for the confidence boost mummy!

Until next week!

Snowballs…of the meringue variety

Week four in the bake off tent…DESSERT WEEK!

What’s in common this week…eggs? Errmmm yumminess?

Based on Mary Berry’s tower of meringue, I decided to follow the egg white trend and make some meringue  snowballs. I have attempted meringue once before, it didn’t turn out so well, but then again I just through some egg white in the oven because I didn’t want to waste!

Meringue balls

Meringue balls

Again this came from my Big Book of Baking. I didn’t have any cream of tartar and wasn’t prepared to by a tub for the sake of a pinch so instead subsidised in for just over a quarter teaspoon of lemon juice to stabilise the egg whites. Everything else I tried to follow exactly.

creamed up

 

Evaluation? Oh okay then.

I thought they were going to be much harder! Not often it works out that way. Winning. Having everything measured out and prepared first made a big difference to my normal panicked running around baking state. As is the nature of meringue it tests your patience, the hands on time is short but the bake time is extremely long for little balls of sugary egg.

Snowballs

The cream covering was a little messy, if you make them more than once it is probably an easy problem to iron out. I covered mine in coconut because they are sweet enough that I think the white chocolate idea would be overkill. I think they look great, and turned out bigger than I expected! Star taster this week goes, joint to, Steve and Olivia. It was a pleasure to have them and feed them up!

And your left over egg yolks? I totally turned mine into some yummy carbonara sauce! Dinner and pudding sorted!

Plaited rich saffron loaf

Week three in the bake off tent: BREAD WEEK!

This is the most exciting week by far, I’m salivating just thinking back. You can’t beat a good bread, soft and light with crisp crust oh yes please! ….pretty please! …with cheese and ham and spice please!

This week I wanted to keep pushing myself to bake out of my comfort zone which unfortunately stopped me cribbing a recipe from my overnight artisan loaf. I picked this recipe from the official Big Book of Baking from last year and, some might say optimistically, picked out a four stranded saffron plaited loaf. If I had known about the sourdough round before buying all my ingredients I dare so I wouldn’t  have stayed so brave.

GBBO bake along!

 

Again being one of Hollywood’s recipes and being a rather virgin bread maker I had do some quick Goggle searches on how to “punch down” my proved dough and the correct way to “flatten” my strands pre-plaiting. With some extra research I felt this was at least a do-able task.

Safron loaf

Evaluation? Oh ok then.

Time consuming is the first thing that comes to mind. With soaking the saffron, two proves and forming a plait you need a good half a day at home where you can pick up the different stages easily. Not a waste of time, just a lot of it.

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inside

It was a three spoon rating in my baking book, which translates to tricky, which translates to very difficult, in normal people terms. Enough to say that it lived up to its’ spoons. It got a little burnt so I blame the timings in the book obviously 😛 but otherwise I am very glad that I tried it and tasted pretty delicious with some salted butter. I’m still not convinced on saffron, sorry Paul and Mary.

Star taster this weeks goes to my beautiful sister, Fiona,  who enjoyed the super soft texture for a bit of breakfast this morning. Cheers Fee!

UNTIL NEXT WEEK!

Pecan and Cranberry Biscotti

Week two in the Bake Off tent: BISCUIT WEEK!

This week I didn’t fancy making an edible vessel for other edibales, biscuit-ception, and for the fact I have never even tasted biscotti that sounds like a challenge enough. So challenge two biscotti creations, followed by an attempt to brew the perfect coffee.

Pecan and cranberry biscotti

I settled on a recipe from Paul Hollywood’s website, keeping it in the family. The recipe is here, but be warned I didn’t like using it much unless you know what you’re doing it isn’t very helpful for the beginner. 2 or 3 eggs – that’s not a recipe! I’m not supposed to decide. I also struggled when to take them out after the first bake – I had no idea what to be looking for so settled for slightly browned.

I opted for the pistachio and cranberry mix, but had no pistachios so swapped them out for pecans, which I ran out of so topped up with flaked almonds. I ate the “ends” after bake one, second baked and then I coated half the surviving batch in dark chocolate and rolled them in some chopped nuts to finish off.

Biscotti dunked in dark chocolate and chopped nuts

Evaluation? Oh OK then.

After bake one

After bake one, before slicing and bake two

Quite difficult really.

I found my dough too sticky , for all of Paul’s warnings, which gave me grief when trying to make with the log shaping. They also didn’t spread out or rise as much as I would have liked (which means at all) which left me with rather close delicious biscuits that I don’t think can be called biscotti as much as I tried. Any ideas?

What I made taste delicious, sugary and crunchy, nutty and fruity, but that’s more a combination of great ingredients than baking genius.

Star taster this week was a toughie but I am happy to say goes to George, on the basis that he ate at least 6 which means they must be good!

Until next week!

Coffee AND Walnut Cake

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The Great British Bake Along Challenge begins, because I may be pants but I want to get involved anyway! I love The Great British Bake Off, what great characters and bakes, so let’s celebrate another season has started!

During my aptly named Great British Bake Along Challenge I plan to bake along with the contestants every week based on the themes laid out in the show. I am but a lowly amateur so won’t necessarily bake exact recipes however will use them for inspiration and stick to the episode themes tightly (until it gets too tough and then loosely, very loosely)!

Week one in the Bake Off tent: CAKE WEEK

Caaaake

Oooo who doesn’t like a light fluffy sponge covered in sugary smooth icing or chocolate. No one worth listening too that is! This week’s technical challenge was Mary Berry’s walnut cake, but if you going to make a walnut cake I reckon you may as well go the whole hog and make a coffee and walnut cake. I also wasn’t too sure about that meringue nonsense.

Mooore cake

 

I went with a simple recipe from a trusted source, my student baking book! Shhh Paul put away those disappointed eyes! If anyone is desperate for the recipe I’ll post it up but with baking every week don’t have time to do them all. Pesky day job!

Evaluation? Oh ok then.

A nice easy bake to start this challenge covering all the basics. Good recipe and I would make again! I would give myself a whooping nine out of ten. There was a good distribution on my walnuts (cut into eighths!) and they didn’t sink to the bottom hurrah! Cake rose well and evenly and most of all tastes delicious! I suppose it could have looked a little prettier *sigh*

Star taster this week goes to… Jackie! That lovely colleague commented “It’s really lovely Brenda, not too sweet” – Oh but you are!

Until next week!

Day 4 of a Pin a Day Challenge

Felt flowers banner

You might have already gained the inkling that I am a bit of a hoarder when it comes to craft things and felt sure fits into that category. I just cannot resist snapping up a bargain, I’m being savvy in the long run, or at least that is what I tell myself. Mostly I buy A4 packs and use the sheets to make cute felt animals that can then be incorporated into all sorts of things. Today’s challenge has given me a great excuse to keep buying more and more!

Unfortunately the pin I have was not linked to a direct post and so is around but very much lost somewhere on the blogosphere. I still love the felt flowers that the image displays and so have searched and tested many a method and I am exited to be reporting them back to you now.

Felt flower DIYFlower one is the simplest (they are all pretty easy) and the tutorial I used and recommend comes from Life after Laundry. I love how mine turned out and super quick too. Really easy to change sizes, mine is a 4 inch square. The result is extremely similar to flower 3!

Felt flowerFlower two comes from Rainy Day Joy and I didn’t have much luck with it. I was tempted to leave it out of this post however somehow that didn’t feel honest. This is the only flower that uses thread instead of glue and has individually cut petals. There are still other designs I want to try so will give it another shot then.

Felt flower DIYNumber three had a great tutorial from Craftiness is not Optional and I loved all the photos giving help at every stage. The light blue one is 4 inch and the dark blue/purple is 3 inch (roughly). They take an extra 20 seconds compared for flower 1 and look the same to me but great none the less!

Felt Flower DIYNumber four tutorial comes from Infarrantly Creative again with loads of great images. She gives examples of how cutting slightly differently can lead to different end results which is great for when you want to experiment. The only thing I didn’t really like this tutorial was how she chose to finish it off on the bottom and so I just cut a circle of felt and glued it to the bottom. I found this one took the longest and was the trickiest since there is a lot of cutting but has a really unique end result. I personally wouldn’t use it as a stand alone flower but love it when incorporated into a bunch.

Felt FLOWERSFlower five takes position as my favourite! It is based on the example given by Fox Hollow Cottage. The only change I made from her tutorial was that I cut the petal shapes all the way round skipping one of her steps and then after wrapping I cut the little edges flat. I think that I did it in a rather cack-handed way but the turn out was the same so who is taking note. I like them so much I did a 4 inch (blue) and a 3 inch (white).

Pretty fabric flowers

Well there you have it! No wait it is not the end! After making the flowers I was determined to make them into something and not let them just lie around the house! As with the original pin that brought these gorgeous things to the challenge I love seeing them as hair pieces and gathered together into little blooms. I made them into a hair clip, brooch and my favourite two purple flowers onto a hairband (hot glue and extra felt rectangle).

Felt flowers Collage. Hair accessories