Banoffee Birthday Cake

Today is my Mum’s birthday, and as she has some friends coming over, she requested a cake. She went for one from the most recent Waitrose magazine (March 2014), a peanut butter banoffee cake. It is a banana sponge filled with caramel sauce, bananas, and cream, topped with peanut butter buttercream. There is crushed peanut brittle in the cake batter and sprinkled on top.

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I’m a fan of the Waitrose magazine, whenever I use the recipes, the results are always great. I think they must put a lot of effort into the content, unlike some other food magazines…

If you want the recipe just let me know.

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Catch-up Post

Hi everyone! I haven’t been active for a while, but I’m still here. It’s been a tough few months for my family, and very busy, so I haven’t had much time or energy to blog. Time is moving on though, and we need to get back to living, as we are now.

In better news, I have also been busy with a new addition: meet my puppy, Digger!

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I have been baking, though less so after Christmas as I was working through all my chocolatey presents! Here are a couple of things I have made since I last posted.

I’ve also been doing some crafting, so hopefully I should have some “makes” posts on the way!

The C word

No, not that one! I mean Christmas! It is far to early to get excited about it, even if the lights are on in Oxford Street and there are are adverts on the tv constantly. The one thing I have allowed myself to do is get on with the Christmas pudding. The puddings get better with age, so it is well worth making them early.

If you aren’t familiar with Christmas Pudding, it is a steamed suet pudding filled with dried fruit, spices and booze. It’s delicious! I made mine from a Good Housekeeping book that we have, but you can use any tried and tested recipe. I would recommend Delia Smith for example, or any of the ones on the Good Housekeeping website.

I soaked the fruit in rum and brandy overnight, then got on with making the pudding. I made two puddings, so I can send one to my Grandparents. They are steamed in basins lined with muslin for hours so it is worth starting out in the morning. When they are steamed, you wrap them up and keep them somewhere cool to mature until Christmas Day.  On the day you steam them again to warm them up.

If you are planning to make a pudding but haven’t yet, never fear! The traditional time to make your pudding is Stir-Up Sunday, which will be 24th November this year.

Bonfire Night Bakes

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Guy Fawkes’ is one of my favourite nights of the year.  There is nothing like standing out in the cold, all wrapped up, with a sparkler in one hand as you watch fireworks. The smells are incredible, of bonfires, gunpowder, frost and wet leaves – I always spend the time taking deep breaths through my nose. Then of course there is the food – a flask of hot soup, a jacket potato cooked in the bonfire, bangers, toffee apples and spiced cakes. It’s a peculiarly British sort of celebration, I remember once trying to explain it to a very confused French conversation teacher (“you burn… people?!”). If you aren’t familiar with it, here is the wikipedia explanation.

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When I was in Canada, I would always get very homesick around Bonfire Night, and since this is my first one since I came back to the UK, I want to make it as good as possible. Unfortunately we won’t be having fireworks, but we will definitely have a bonfire and some sparklers, I am sure of that! It’s pretty busy around here at the moment so I won’t be able to make my bonfire night food until the day of, so instead I’m going to give a few ideas of recipes to try.

This parkin by James Martin is traditionally cooked for Bonfire Night in and around Yorkshire. It is spicy and sticky, and gets better with age! Serve it with or without the stewed fruit, it’s good either way

Why not nibble on some cinder toffee as you stand by the bonfire?

Mushroom soup is good and warming when you come back inside.

If all else fails, you can’t go wrong with bangers and mash!

Brilliant Bread!

I’m still determined to improve my baking skills, so I have been tackling one of the techniques I have historically found very difficult – working with yeast! I have had some memorable disasters in the past, not least a completely inedible focaccia (I blame the recipe of course)!

As I had been avoiding making bread, I didn’t have many recipes to work from, so I decided to treat myself to a new book – Brilliant Bread by James Morton (and it was half price!). You may know James from the 2012 series of the Great British Bake Off. I went for this book because, besides my little crush on him, I read about his motives and aims when writing the book and I thought it was a good choice for a beginner like me. Morton writes about how he was dissatisfied by the books on the market which are written by professionals and simply include scaled-down industrial recipes, and don’t explain how the processes in bread-making work.

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I’m really glad I bought this book. It’s not only good-looking, Morton also has a succinct and approachable style, and he gives some really clear and in-depth explanations of the science and theories behind baking with yeast. I particularly liked the trouble-shooting advice and step-by-step pictures of techniques such as kneading and shaping.

The book is set out in chapters with recipes of increasing difficulty, so I have started to work my way through. My first attempt was of the first loaf in the book – basic white bread.

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It looked pretty good, but it was quite tough. It improved a lot with toasting though! I consulted the book and figured out that it was underproved.

So for my second loaf I tried the same recipe again. This time for some reason it refused to stay shaped, so I ended up shaping and re-shaping about ten times. I got very frustrated with it and in the end I just put it in the oven. It turned out really nicely! The bread was nice and soft, with a fairly even texture, but it did have a weird flat bottom.

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Next I tried making some rolls, though I never managed to get a photo of those. I also figured out that it is quite hard for 3 people to get through a dozen rolls before they go stale so I probably won’t be making those again until there are more people around to eat them. We are very much a toast-eating household, so a loaf is a better bet.

My most recent bread was a wholemeal loaf, baked in a tin. This was my best yet! A nice even crumb, easy to cut, with lots of texture and flavour. I will definitely be making this again.

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If you want to start making bread, I can heartily recommend Brilliant Breads by James Morton as a beginner’s tool, or as inspiration for the experienced baker.

Halloween

Not much going on here for halloween, but I did think I ought to do something, so I have of course carved my pumpkin!IMG_3766

I’m not the most accomplished carver, but I quite like it.

I roasted the innards, and made some pumpkin soup, and finally, I made some ghost cakes!

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I used the Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcake recipe, but tweaked it to make it a little more bitter and less sweet. I did this because I topped the cakes with little (read: huge) ghosts made of piped marshmallow icing, from this recipe. I then finished them off with faces made of melted dark chocolate, and a sprinkle of edible glitter.

Hope everyone has a suitably spooky evening!

Pizza!

Confidence buoyed by the success of my sweet rolls this year I have decided to work on baking with yeast. Hopefully with practice I can improve and understand how yeast works!

A little while ago we decided to clear out the cupboards, and what better way to use up half-empty jars of olives and aging saucisson than pizza?!

I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver, which can be found here. It turned out really well! We had a small pizza each, I made mine half pepperoni, half mushroom. The crust was thin and crispy, and tasty!

If you want some topping inspiration, here are some of the toppings we used

mozzerella
olives
chilli
pepperoni
sardines
garlic mushrooms
pesto
marinated artichokes
sundried tomatoes

Toffee Apple Puddings

I’m still looking for apple recipes! Of course I have made buckets of apple sauce, and the usual suspects, apple and blackberry crumble, apple turnovers and pies, but they do get boring. The other day, I was reading this month’s Waitrose magazine and I came across the recipe for these toffee apple puddings.  Sticky toffee pudding is one of my favourites so I knew I had to try them.

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The recipe is pretty simple, first you make a caramel sauce, which you then put in the bottom of your buttered, sugared pudding basins/ramekins. Then you top this with the apple sponge mixture, cover each pot with foil, and bake in a bain marie.

The verdict: Oh my giddy aunt, these are *amazing*! I could not recommend them enough! Sticky, caramelised, rich, with the sharp taste of apple… I could eat 3 in a row! Just leave a comment if you want the recipe 🙂

Glad Kanelbullens Dag!

I started a new Swedish class this week, which was perfect timing as today, 4th October, is the official Cinnamon Bun Day in Sweden. This gave me the perfect excuse to make them and gorge myself on them, of course!

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I have made them before, and they always go down very well with friends and family. I use this recipe, which has never failed me. The traditional addition of cardamom in the dough gives them an extra kick of flavour. They aren’t as sickly sweet as the American variety either, so they are perfect for a naughty breakfast or a mid-morning snack (or as the Swedes say, fika).

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I am gradually improving at working with yeast. For a long time I was too scared to bake with yeast as whenever I had tried the results just weren’t that great. I have a better understanding of it now though, and I’m going to keep at it and keep you posted! This just goes to show how easy this recipe is though, even a dunce like me can get great results!

Cheat’s Tatin

Apples, apples, apples. We are drowning in apples and have been for weeks.  We have 5 large trees, and while the eating apples have finished, the cooking apples have taken their place.  It’s impossible to use them all, but I am trying to do my best to cook as many as possible. The exact varieties are a mystery, particularly as one of the trees is a so-called “family tree”, with more than one type grafted on to the trunk.  What I do know is that they are really delicious!

One way I’ve found to use them up is a cheeky take on a tarte tatin, without the hassle and mess of making caramel.  It also uses ready made puff pastry, as, let’s face it, there isn’t always time to make pastry, and shop-bought tastes just as nice in dishes like this.

Cheat’s Tatin

Ingredients

2 large cooking apples
75g soft brown sugar
25g butter
250g puff pastry
1 egg

Equipment

20cm Oven-proof skillet
Rolling pin

To start, preheat your oven to 200C/390F.  Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the bottom of the skillet then cut the butter up into small pieces and dot over the sugar.

Peel and core the apples, then cut into 1cm-thick slices and arrange on top of the butter and sugar. Remember this will be the top of the tarte, so if you want a nice pattern, make sure to do that facing the bottom of the pan.

Roll out the pastry to 4-5mm thick and lay over the top of the apples, then cut to fit the pan. Make a slit in the middle of the pastry then brush with beaten egg.

Bake the tarte for 15-20 mins, or until the pastry is puffed and golden and there is caramel bubbling up around the edges of the pastry. Take out of the oven – don’t forget the handle will be hot – and leave to cool for around 5 minutes before turning out onto a plate. Serve with cream.

Bon appetit!