GBBO Week 2 – Biscuits

Week 2 – Biscuits

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I had sympathy for all of the bakers in week 2. Biscuits shouldn’t be too difficult to make, however when faced with the challenge of making a sculpture from Gingerbread you can understand why there was so many disasters in the tent. Not only does the recipe for the biscuits have to be spot on, but you also have to decide on the right substance to ‘stick’ it all together that will hold the desired shape.

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As I am only baking along for fun I decided against a gingerbread sculpture and went for the Viennese Whirls as they looked a little challenging, but a lot easier! I decided to super size them and only made 9, well 8 big ones and a little one for Grace to taste. For the flavour I went for Ginger whirls filled with lemon buttercream. The best tip is to have really soft butter, as when I was mixing it I made sure it was almost runny, and that left the mixture loose enough to pipe and thankfully it kept the shape. Whilst I was heating up the oven I put the biscuits in the freezer, to ensure that they didn’t melt as soon as it went into the hot oven.

These biscuits are designed to be crumbly and that is exactly how I would describe them. Itfinished whirls was so tricky to move the biscuits to the cooling rack, you could feel the delicateness of the biscuit. To sandwich them together I made some buttercream and added some lovely lemon curd, which was carefully piped on the biscuits, and they tops slowly lowered. It was a relief to finish with a little dusting of icing sugar. I have to admit they were a little over baked as my oven is to temperamental, it doesn’t matter how low you put it, everything becomes brown quickly!!

 

Next Week….. Bread Week!!

Great British Bake Off is back!!

Week 1 – Cake week

jaffa

Week 1 – Cake Week

A nice easy week to get everyone started, well you would think that but really who would have expected to see a Mirror Glaze Showstopper cake in week 1, I certainly didn’t! I think all of the contestants did well worth the challenge but I was not brave enough to attempt this one so for the Bake Along with Alison I decided to give the technical challenge a go -the humble Jaffa Cake. Although is it a cake is a biscuit – the answer to that will remain a mystery until the end of time. I followed Queen Mary Berry’s recipe for the Jaffa cakes and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. They actually resembled Jaffa Cakes and they did smell amazing.

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As always the proof is in the tasting and James did eat 2 on the day I made them. which is a tell tale sign that they are nice .

I like all of the contestants so far – I am sure that may change over the weeks.

Up Next ………. Week 2 – Biscuit Week

 

 

Baby Shower cake

A 3 tiered cake, hexagonal vanilla base, round middle and the little top was Chocolate and this was the stage for the main attraction – Barry the Bear!

This cake was for the lovely Sheelagh who was about to go on Maternity leave. As we already knew she was going to have a beautiful baby girl I was able to make the cake with a little pink. After trawling the internet I combined a few ideas as I wanted the cake to look classy, just like the mum to be whilst also being a little different. I stuck to the traditional white fondant for the base and top with a lovely pink ribbon about them but for the middle layer I wanted something a little different. I do think that piped roses really add to a cake and it makes it stand out a little more than a generic white cake.

Once the cake elements were all decorated I had to decide what exactly I was going to put on the top. Looking at all of the colours of icing I had, I did have a lovely chocolate colour so I decided that a cute little bear would be perfect. Although as I had never made one before I had to trawl the internet to find a video on how to do one. Got it right on my 1st attempt and it even resembled a little bear – I roughed it up a little to bring his fur to life and added the obligatory little patch to him, oh and named him Barry.

Was happy that the cake made it in one piece to the office – although Barry had to have his little ear stuck back on, poor little thing!!

Barry

 

 

 

 

Catch up continues

40th Birthday cake

Poker cake

This cake was just a little one that I made for James’s friend as he was going to be the big 40 and loves a game of Poker so the design was a no brainer. I managed to get a playing card cutter which I thought would have been perfect, however when I decided on the cake, I realised that the cutter was a little large! But not to worry, I changed my idea to look like a poker table with some oversized cards and obviously with some poker chips. They were really easy to make, roughly measuring the size I needed for the chip I placed little white balls of fondant on the circle and lightly rolled over it with a rolling then Hey Presto we have some poker chips. Happy with the end cake, although if I have to make this theme again will definitely make the cake  bigger or the cards a little smaller!

Its been how many months!!

Unbelievably I am updating this with some of my bakes from January.

The Months are just flying past!!

Over the past few months my baking has took a back seat as I am trying to concentrate on getting fitter and healthier which I have to say is going well. It is not an easy thing to do when your hobby is baking but I am sure it will be worth it in the end whenever that may be. The down side being is that I am not getting to bake many things hence the lack of posts. Since my last post I haven’t made much but here is a little update of what has been made.

I made these for my chance to be able to show off my baking skills on a larger scale and they were enjoyed by all parties.

Sticky Toffee Cake with salted caramel icing – I have made this previously so I won’t bore you with all of the details, but what I would say is that it is such a yummy cake, if anyone is looking for a special occasion cake that isn’t the generic vanilla or chocolate sponge I would highly recommend this. I did decorate this one slightly differently than the last time to show off my piping skills and I was very happy with the finished cake.

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Haggis, Butternut Squash and Goats Cheese Pasties – It did take me a while to come up with an idea for some kind of savoury bake, pastry is not something I have made a lot of apart from the odd quiche or sweet tart so I wanted to challenge myself to a pastry type that I hadn’t done before. I went for flaky pastry as I thought that would challenge me. I only had 2 attempts at getting both the pastry and the filling right, on the first attempt I rushed the pastry slightly and didn’t really give the pastry enough time to rest but the finished article wasn’t too bad and the filling was spot on. The roasted butternut squash gave a nice sweetness which worked so well with the spiciness of the haggis and the saltiness of the goats cheese. Two days later it was time to go for it, I got everything ready to go, filling was made and left to cool which allowed me to completely concentrate on perfecting the pastry. Tip : add some Turmeric to the pastry as it gives it a lovely golden colour! I took my time, allowing the pastry to chill out longer than needed in the fridge, and making sure I did all of the turns needed and think I did an extra turn but it did work. Once in the oven I did what any respectable baker does, I sat and watched them cook, the initial view worried me as it looked like the pastry was melting and not cooking. I had only made 6 pasties and didn’t have enough pastry left to make anymore and they were being delivered to the venue the next day so however they were going to turn out was going to have to be good enough. Making myself busy for the remaining 10 minutes I did my best to not look at the pasties whilst waiting patiently to hear those all-important beeps of my timer. BEEP BEEP BEEP!! When I brought the pasties out of the oven they looked ok, shiny, there was some lamination and the smell was amazing!

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Thankfully they made it to their destination and I was complimented on my pastry especially on the lamination and the colour. At the end of the day we were lucky as we were able to take a couple home to keep us going on the drive back home. Stopping off at the service station myself and James thought we would share one, I went into the garage to pick up some water and came back to find James enjoying almost a whole pasty. After deciding that he could have the rest of it to himself and he looked as he was enjoying it,, I have one to myself. I am not being big headed at all when I say that it tasted AMAZING!! all of the flavors really came together well and the pastry was indeed perfect, just like I was told earlier that day. I will definitely be making these again – but when that will be is anyone’s guess.

Next post will be all about Barry the Bear and Baby Shower cake.

 

Where does the time go!!

It has been a few months since I updated my baking adventures.

 

The months seem to be flying past this year, how can we be halfway through June already.

 

In all honestly I haven’t been baking as much as I would like. I started off well at the beginning of the year but for the past few months I have been really trying to lose some weight and baking yummy cakes are not really part of my healthy eating which is sad but I am sure it will be worth it, well that’s what I keep telling myself! So far so good but still a long way to go!

 

Since my last update I have made couple of things and aim to write these up at some point over the next few weeks. From Pasties to Baby shower cakes my baking has been a little varied and I got the chance to have a go at Flaky pastry for the 1st time ever and it was lovely even if I do say so myself! Just need to figure out a healthy version or have an excuse to try it again.

 

Update on the few things I have made is to follow…………………………

Christmas baking catch up!

Xmas

Happy Christmas times

Over the festive period I didn’t really have time to do as much baking as I would have liked. Between  a little trip to Inverness, dog sitting for a few weekends and going to visit my Mum and Dad for New year there wasn’t much free time at all, although I can’t complain as it was all good fun and making memories is just as good as making cakes!

My Christmas baking list was

  • Christmas Tree Cupcakes
  • Viennese Mince pies
  • Christmas Macaroons
  • Ginger and Clementine Shortbread
  • Chocolate cheesecake

treeFor my Christmas tree cupcakes, I just made chocolate cupcakes and piped some bright green butter icing, all finished off with some sparkle.

I like to share my baking as little gift at Christmas time and I decided to change the shortbread ever so slightly so I went for clementine and ginger. The recipe was a little bit of guess work but it was all greatly received so its on the list as a success.  I used the baking mad recipe for the Christmas Macaroons and it is always a winner. On my second attempt the macaroon were perfect, I think the house was too cold the first time so they didn’t settle enough before going in the oven.

I used the John  Whaite’s recipe for the Viennese mince pies, but I think I had to cream the topping a little more that I did, but not bad for a first attempt.

I tweeted the picture to John and as he is so lovely, he replied which made my day!!

Viennese mince piestweet

bob

Bob enjoying a little sleep

When we were looking after Bob the dog I didn’t have access to a functioning oven so I made a Chocolate Cheesecake. This is a go to recipe for me that I found in a recipe book called Chocolate and it is always a crowd-pleaser. It is made using a lot of cream cheese, double cream and exquisitely bitter plain chocolate. With a chocolate digestive buttery base this is really only for certified chocoholics. As this was for a dessert I also made some chocolate truffles and as I had some chocolate left over I thought that I would have a go at a chocolate collar.

cjhe

 

A little bit of Gardening – Cake style!!

Over the past few months I haven’t been baking much, well the odd cake here and there but nothing to write about. That changed a few months ago when a work colleague asked if I could make her husband’s 60th Birthday Cake. As a keen Gardener she was looking for a Lemon cake that looked like an allotment. Looking for some inspiration I had a look for some ideas online and I had 2 options, decorate with Fondant icing or buttercream. It was decided to go with Fondant so that the cake wouldn’t be too sweet so I go t to work planning it all.

Basic things needed for any respected allotment –

* Shed

* Vegetable patch complete with Vegetables

* Flowers

* Wellies

* Flower boxes

* Lovely little picket fence

* Grass

Not a long list, but when you are contemplating making them from fondant it certainly feels like one. I made the decision to make the cake completely edible, which meant that the shed had to also be made out of cake. I would say that the cake was 99.9% edible, had to but some skewers in to hold up my tomato plants!

Part 1 of the plan – make some vegetables and Wellies.

VegetablesWhen it comes to vegetable patches I am far from an expert so I decided to keep it simple. The list consisted of Carrots, Parsnips, Cabbages, Cauliflowers, Beetroot, and Tomatoes. Obviously I knew what they all looked like but trying to produce miniature vegetables from icing did prove to be a challenge. Every two minutes I was asking James, ‘what does this look like?’

Thankfully they were all easily identified by James, so on to the Wellies. Stupidly I though these would easier than the vegetables, but that was certainly wasn’t the case. I had 3 attempts until I managed something that resembled some kind of footwear, there could be a plausible debate as to whether they could pass for Wellies.

Part 2 of the plan – make the cake (easiest part!!)

Onwards and upwards, it was time to make the cake, which is something I could do with my eyes closed. I used the zingy lemon cake recipe from the BBC food website as I have used it in the past and it was pretty fool proof. As well as the 9 inch main cake I had to also make a miniature cake that in my head would become the shed. Cake turned out well, as expected as did the miniature one. The bonus was that there was cake left over so I could ensure the cake tasted nice before I spent hours covering and finishing it.

A cake may look good but if it tastes awful then it becomes a waste of time.

Part 3 of the plan – cover the cake and make it resemble an allotment

As the cake was going to be covered in fondant I decided on colouring some white fondant a lovely green colour, although not a dark grass green as I didn’t think that would look edible. I was more than happy with the outcome of the icing, the colouring was really easy and several hours of kneading later I had a lovely shade of green to cover my cake. Once the main cake was done, I turned my attention to covering the shed. Using some brown fondant I covered the mini cake and scored it slightly to make it look like wood. Then added a little window and a flat roof. I did want to do a proper roof, but the icing just wouldn’t sit properly so I had to go with the flat one, and it didn’t look too bad. I also made some little flower boxes, and also the beds for the vegetables.

With all the elements ready all I had to do was put it all together. Once it all came together I was really pleased with how it looked, I added the little fence and a gate, as helped to hide a few little imperfections.

Big Bucks Bake Off 2015

Each year the Eden Shopping centre hosts a food festival and there is a Big Bucks Bake Off which is judged by a celebrity chef/baker. The first year I entered it was Mary Berry but I wasn’t a winner with my lemon and coconut cake. Last year it was Jean Christophe Novelli and again I was unsuccessful with my lemon and blueberry cake. Although I did get some positive feedback from him so that was good enough for me.

For the competition this year the judge was Gregg Wallace and I decided to give it another go. Trying to come up with a cake was easy, after watching a few episodes on Masterchef it was clear that Gregg has an incredibly sweet tooth. I combined a few recipes and came up with a Sticky Toffee Cake with homemade Salted Caramel buttercream. That however was the easy part as I then had to perfect the cake and caramel, both of which I have never made before!

I did a practice run and it went well apart from the cake burning around the edge, and this could not happen to my actual entry as all you could taste was the burnt bits!

First Attempt, a little burnt

First Attempt, a little burnt. Next stop the real one!!

I managed to get the flavours right and apart from the burnt edge, I was happy with the cake itself so on Thursday it was time to bite the bullet and make the one that would become my entry for the competition. I have never really used this method of making a cake before, working with date ‘pulp’ and melted butter but the recipe itself did come together quite easily and the raw mixture was rather tasty.

After over an hour we have Salted caramel!

After over an hour we have Salted caramel!

Flour all sieved and ready to fold!

Flour all sieved and ready to fold!

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Eggs, Muscovado sugar and Golden Syrup whisking away

Dates mashed within an inch of their life.

Dates mashed within an inch of their life .

To ensure that the cakes baked evenly I put a tray of steaming water at the bottom of the oven which worked and I was really happy with the sponges as they came out level and not burnt!! After a little rest and a coffee I had to make the Salted Caramel which was another challenge as the method was not one that I have heard of before. I always believed that when making caramel, the one thing that you shouldn’t do is stir the sugar as it will crystalise but the recipe I was following stated that you had to stir the sugar constantly until it eventually becomes an amber liquid. After about an hour and with help from James the sugar finally melted and kind of resembled caramel, so in went the butter, cream and the all important salt.

The easiest part of the recipe was to make the buttercream as it was a basic mixture until I added the salted caramel. This turned it into something so delicious that I could have easily eaten it all but sadly I had to put it on the cake. I decided to pipe the buttercream in the middle of the cake and on the top just to make it look a little fancy, using my large plain piping nozzle. I managed to keep a little of the salted caramel so I piped little droplets between the peaks and finished the cake off with some Thorntons vanilla fudge which I cut up into little squares.

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The entries this year were really good and when I dropped my cake off I didn’t think I would have any chance of getting a place. So I was really happy when I managed to get 3rd Place, I was so surprised and Gregg said lovely things about my cake.

Comments about my cake!    FullSizeRender

The winner of the competition was a lovely lady from Cake Club which was also good, although Alison should have won a trophy as her mint humbug cake looked amazing and I know it would have tasted lovely!!

We are going for a clean sweep next year – Fellow Bucks bakers look out!!

It’s all about double digits!!!

So a few weeks ago my Stepdaughter Grace, or little mini baker Grace as you all know her, celebrated her 10th birthday. It seems to have all changed as when I turned 10, a few years ago well several really lets be honest, it wasn’t really a big deal but today it’s all about getting to double diimagegits!!

A real big milestone so obviously we had to mark this big day with a little party and of course a cake fit for a 10 year old. Planning the party was easy, make everything pink and girly with a hint of sparkle. The cake on the other hand was tricky as I really didn’t know what to make. I decided on a giant cupcake with some little cupcakes all finished off with some edible glitter and the big 10 candles. The inside was a little special as I made a vanilla sponge and turned the cake into a piñata cake filled with smarties. To make it look like a cupcake I used white chocolate fingers and the pink icing to look like a cake case and piped pink and white roses on top. This was also an excuse to use my giant cupcake tin as I had only used it once before and we don’t want James thinking that is should go to cake tin heaven!

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The little party itself was a success if I do say so myself as chief and only person in the party planning committee!! There was some Karaoke and a lot of eating what more does a 10 year old need. So a very belated Happy birthday to mini Baker Grace- next stop is the big 11 and probably boys!!!!!image

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