Golden Spoon Winner – Burns Night Bakes

Rejuvenating an old post ! In 2015 I won a Golden Spoon from Sunday Bake Club for this recipe. I use this quick cheesecake recipe all the time so though I’d update this post for my own purpose and Lovely WordPress has decided to publish it as a new post! So updating again with a quick explanation !! 

Yay how exciting thank you voters hope you enjoy trying this recipe .

Burns Night Raspberry Shortbread Cheesecakes 

Set Cheesecake

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 100g double cream
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • fresh raspberries ( possibly a 200g packet)!

4 x 8/9cm deep ramekins greased and lined with cling film. Make sure you tuck the cling film right down inside the ramekin and hang the excess cling film over the edges.
Cut the raspberries in half from tip to base and make a circle of raspberries with the insides facing the outside edge of the ramekin ease them in so there are no gaps and they stand up on their own,
In a large bowl beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla until well mixed.
In another bowl whisk the cream until forming soft peaks.
Fold the cream into the cream cheese until well combined.
Fill the ramekins with the mixture up to the level of the top of the raspberries.
Leave to set for a couple of hours in the fridge.
Shortbread

  • 300g plain flour
  • 200g unsalted butter at room temp
  • 100g golden caster sugar

Preheat oven to 150C
The easiest way to make this is in a food processor, just pop in all the ingredients and whizz until it starts to form a dough. By hand rub all the ingredients together with your fingertips and knead into a dough.
Roll out to a depth of 3-5mm. I cut one larger circle per dessert ( about 9 cm) and smaller ones for the top. (about 6cm), impress a design if you have a cookie press at this stage.
Place on a greased baking sheet refrigerate for 15/20mins then bake for 25/30mins until a light golden brown.
When you take them out of the oven you can be super picky and recut the circles whilst still warm to make them have a sharper shape and edge. This needs to be done very quickly as they become very brittle as they cool. Sprinkle with a little more caster sugar and leave to cool completely.

To construct take the cheesecakes out of the fridge, warm the dishes slightly by rubbing the outside with your hands. Gently ease out the cling film by pulling upwards and the whole thing should come out in one piece!

Place the larger biscuit on the serving plate, pop the cheesecake on top, the top with the smaller biscuit and a raspberry.
Serve with some raspberry coulis.

The Sunday Baking Club

Evening bakers!

We have another winner to announce *clears throat*

This time, we’re thrilled to announce that your Burns Night Bakes Golden Spoon winner was @becksbake with her stunning looking Raspberry Cheesecake Shortie – easy to see why this was the winning bake when it looks like this:

 Becks

If you want to have a crack at this recipe, Becky has shared her secret…

Set Cheesecake

250g cream cheese

100g double cream

50g icing sugar

1tsp vanilla essence

fresh raspberries ( possibly a 200g packet)!

4 x 8/9cm deep ramekins greased and lined with cling film. Make sure you tuck the cling film right down inside the ramekin and hang the excess cling film over the edges.

Cut the raspberries in half from tip to base and make a circle of raspberries with the insides facing the outside edge of the ramekin ease them in so there are no gaps…

View original post 312 more words

Happy New Year with Speculaas Macarons

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Happy New Year everyone – did you have a special celebration this year?

There has been a lot of talk of how awful 2016 has been and there certainly seem to have been many high profile deaths, horrific plane crashes, dreadful wars and unfathomable political changes. For me on a personal level I turned 50 this year and was determined not to let a number envelop my special year. I had fun, I went on fabulous holidays, had amazing adventures shared with family and friends, took time for myself and wanted to make sure 2016 went out with a bang and that we welcomed 2017 wholeheartedly.

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So we hosted a dinner for 29 friends, everyone helped out with tables, chairs, crockery, cutlery, food and decorations and we had an amazing time. my job was to provide the central main course but naturally I couldn’t let the evening go by without a sweet centrepiece. My friends were bringing the main desserts, a delicious pecan pie and some poached pears, so I thought a mini macaron tower with flavours inspired by after dinner chocolates would be nice. I went for chocolate orange, mint chocolate, ginger with chocolate filling and finally speculaas with a caramel filling.

If you haven’t heard of speculaas spices its a spice blend I believe originating from Holland. You may have come across it in those little caramelised biscuits served with coffee, and there is also a spread version available in the supermarket now, however I have tried a more authentic version from The Speculaas Spice Company . I made a few of these flavour macarons a few weeks back and whilst delicious, the spices are so flavourful that I think I over did it a bit so this time I reduced the amount of spice and added a bit more caramel in the filling, I think I got the balance just right this time.

I always make macarons with the italian meringue method, I feel it gives a much more stable and reliable base to the mixture, giving me more consistent results. If you want to read my hints and tips on mac making check out my blog post on Macaron Mysteries. I also used Billingtons golden icing sugar for these ones as it has a more caramelly flavour than white icing sugar which compliments the spices well.

This recipe will yield about 40 macarons (80 shells).

Speculaas Macarons

Meringue Ingredients

  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 60ml Water
  • 75g egg white at room temperature.

Macaronage Ingredients

  • 200g ground almonds
  • 200g Billingtons Golden icing sugar
  • 2 tsp Speculaas spice mix
  • 70g egg white room temperature

Filling

  • 75g dulce de leche – shop bought is fine!
  • 75g white chocolate

First thing with macarons, I find it is much better to have everything laid out ready, all the ingredients weighed, your piping bags ready and baking sheets lined with silicon sheets  (thin not thick ones) and ready to go. You will need 4 large baking sheets, and a piping bag with a 1 cm nozzle.

Secondly blitz the almonds in a processor, then sieve into a large bowl with the icing sugar, make sure you have the correct amount of each once sieved, finally sieve in your spices. img_0619

Hand whisk them all together to make sure they are thoroughly combined. Weigh out the macaronage egg white into a separate small bowl.

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Next make sure the equipment you are going to use for the meringue is completely grease free, the bowl, the whisk and the pan the sugar is heated up in to make the syrup. I wipe all mine over with some white wine vinegar to be doubley sure and the acidity also helps stabilise the meringue.

Warm the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pan , swirling gently until dissolved. whilst doing this whisk the meringue egg white in a stand mixer on a very slow speed just to loosen it up. Once the sugar is all dissolved turn up the heat and bring the syrup to a boil, at the same time turn up the stand mixer to whisk the egg white on a medium speed. Finally once at a rolling boil turn the mixer right up to get to a firmish peak, you want the syrup to reach soft ball stage, around 112C-114C.

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Once you are there remove the syrup from the heat, allow to stop bubbling then very slowly drizzle down the side of the mixing bowl whilst the whisk is still on high.

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Be very patient this will take a while, its worth moving around your bowl so one side doesn’t get too hot and if the syrup becomes too thick just warm it up again very slightly. Keep whisking all the time. Once you have added all the sugar syrup keep whisking for about another 7 or 8 minutes until the bowl has cooled to room temperature when you touch the outside. Your meringue should then be really firm and glossy.

img_0632Now time to add to the macaronage mixture. Add all of the meringue and the remaining loose egg white to the almond, sugar and spice mixture. Fold in with a spatula.

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Keep stirring and mixing until it is all incorporated. This is the trickiest part of macaron making, you need to reach the ribbon stage where the mixture just falls in a ribbon from your spatula, too much mixing and the mixture will be too loose to hold its shape, too little and its grainy and won’t form nice smooth tops. If I’m honest this mix was ever so slightly too stiff so I got some little peaks on mine, but over mixing can cause cracking and the a poor foot so I’d rather it was this way round.

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Transfer your mixture to the piping bag and pipe out small blobs evenly across your baking sheet. I use a template under my silicon sheet to help get them even sizes.

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Once you have piped a whole sheet you should give them a few sharp taps on the surface, this helps form a good foot and gets rid of the little central peaks too.

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Once piped and tapped out leave them to dry out, and turn on the oven to 140C mine is a fan oven.

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Drying out helps form the shell top to your macaron, it takes around half an hour depending on how warm and dry your kitchen is, but don’t be scared to leave them for an hour if need be. Test by touching gently with your finger tip, if they stick they aren’t ready!

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Once dry they wont stick to your finger, test a few as the outside ones dry before the middle ones!

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You are now ready to bake, you need an middle and lower shelf, put your first tray in on the middle shelf and time for 8 minutes. Once the timer is up, move the tray to the lower shelf, I usually turn my tray 180 degrees too. Put the next tray of macs on the middle shelf and time for another 8 minutes. When this time is up remove the lower tray and rotate the second tray down to the lower shelf, put in the next tray of uncooked macs and repeat 8 minutes. Repeat this process for the final tray of macs but put in an empty tray on the final rotation above the last tray to be moved down – does that all make sense?

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Your macs are done when they lift easily from the baking sheet, if you find they are a bit sticky pop them back in for a couple of minutes – everyones ovens are slightly different and humidity plays a huge part when cooking macarons.

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They cool really quickly, so once cool you can add the filling.

To make the filling simply melt the white chocolate gently in a microwave. I do mine on half power for 1 minute, then 30 second bursts until its all melted. Stir in the dulche de leche and mix well. Allow to cool to a piping consistency.

The secret I find with macs is to match them up so I always lay mine out in pairs that are of a similar size, as despite using a template they are invariably slightly different sizes but as long as they match each other I don’t think it really matters!

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Pipe swirls of filling on one half of each pair then gently sandwich together hold the shells by the out side edge and don’t try to press on the centre as its quite fragile, although a few broken ones are good ‘chefs perks’!

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I decorated mine with some copper coloured edible metallic paint and a a 2017 for good measure, all ready to add to the others on my tower!

Macs keep for about a week in the fridge but also freeze really well so you can make them ahead of time.

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So here is to 2107 – may you reach for your own stars and have fun along the way.

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Our Special Christmas Traditions – how to make a Chocolate Christmas Pudding

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Christmas, to me, is a time for family, traditions and having fun play the biggest part in our family festivities. I love a busy house, we always have extended family to stay and spend lots of time with friends and neighbours.

This year for the first time, as my little family grow up we won’t all be together on Christmas day as my 18 year old daughter is off on her gap year adventures to chalet host in France. This weekend we were all together with the eldest back from Uni for the weekend so I thought we would have an early Christmas lunch.

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We went all out with crackers, table presents, snowballs,

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roast (albeit beef- no turkeys around at this time of year!) with sprouts and pigs in blankets!

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We even then snuggled in front of the fire for a Christmas movie afterwards to get the full experience! Can you guess what we watched?

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But where was the Christmas Pudding I hear you cry? Taking a step back to family traditions – my kids aren’t keen on anything with dried fruit in so traditional Christmas cake, puddings and mince pies always take a back seat. On Christmas Eve I always cook with the girls creating puddings they have chosen for the holidays. So, in true family tradition, we made a Chocolate Christmas Pudding, a twist on a classic that is a family super chocolatey winner. I’m sure you have seen them on the internet and they are a great Christmassy bake to do with the family. Having made one last year we learned a few things that make the process a bit easier so I have written my method to help you. The cake is based on my favourite chocolate cake recipe on the BBC Good Food site with my own covering and scaled to fit the Lakeland medium semi-hemisphere tins. The method has quite a few steps and ideally you need to start the day before you want the cake. I found a couple of boxes of Maltesers were the cheapest way to buy them for the cake, there were some leftover – but they soon found a home!!

Ingredients

Cake

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 200ml buttermilk
  • 150ml boiling water

Ganache covering/filling

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100ml double cream

Decoration 

  • 500g Maltesers (or any chocolate ball!)
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • Red and green food colouring

Method

Preheat the oven to 150C (fan)

Grease the tins well, if you don’t have the semi-hemsphere tins you can use a pryex oven proof bowl but it would be a good idea to line with strips of non stick parchment as well as greasing to help lift the cake out. I also use a couple of jam jar lids in my baking tray to hold the semi-hemisphere tins level.

Place the chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl and place for 1 minute on full power – you can melt this in a pan on a very low heat if you don’t have a microwave.

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Whilst this is going on measure the flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl and combine either in a mixer or with a hand whisk.

Measure out the eggs and buttermilk into a jug and whisk together.

Give the chocolate and butter mixture a stir and make sure all the chocolate is melted, return to the microwave for 30 second blasts until completely liquid.

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Add the chocolate to the dry ingredients and combine to get a ‘sandy texture’.

Gradually add the beaten egg / buttermilk mixture, combining thoroughly between additions.

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Finally really slowly add the boiled water beating well between additions to get a smooth glossy and fairly runny cake batter.

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Fill each of the tins to a good 3/4 full, you may have a little left over to make a couple of muffins too.

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I always place a bowl of water in the base of my oven to help keep the cake moist and to aid an even rise. Bake for 45/55 mins until a cocktail stick comes out clean from the centre of the cake.

img_3917Turn out onto a cooling tray and allow to become complete cool.

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Whilst the cake is cooking you can make the ganache which will be used to fill and cover the cake.

I use the microwave method to make my ganache but will tell you how to do it on the hob if you prefer.

Place the chopped chocolate and cream into a microwave proof bowl, ideally plastic rather than glass as the glass can heat up a bit too much and over heating can lead to a split ganache.

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Microwave on half power for 1 minute, remove and swirl the bowl, dont stir yet!

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Return for 30 second blasts at half power, swirling between each until the chocolate melts into the cream. you can stir now but gently!

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Keep going until there are no lumps and you have a smooth glossy ganache

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If you prefer to use the hob, place the cream in a heavy bottomed pan and heat the cream slowly to almost boiling. Remove from the heat and add finely chopped chocolate. stir slowly until all melted.

Place in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours.

Once the cake is cool you are ready for construction, trim off any excess cake from the flat edges and stick the two halves together using the ganache. The ganache needs to be soft but not runny for this step. You now need to cover the ball in a thin layer of ganache all over. Pop onto a piece of non stick parchment paper and leave to harden in the fridge – ideally overnight. Don’t worry this cake recipe is super fudgy so its doesn’t mind the fridge and actually matures if kept for a day or two.

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Once hardened to you are ready for the fun part. .

You might need to loosen up your leftover ganache, 10 second blasts in the microwave on half heat until its soft enough to spread will do the trick.

Start by creating a base using a little melted chocolate create a small ring of Maletsers. I stuck mine to a firm piece of card about 7.5cm diameter.

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Place that in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden. In the meantime spread some ganache to the base of the ball

When the chocolate circle is hard place the ball on top making sure centred.

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Make a small flat circle of tin foil that will go round the base of the ball for the next layer to rest on then build up another layer of Malteser balls. Lifting the foil up round the balls to support this first layer.

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Carry on building up the layers and adding more ganache as you go, gently press in each layer as you go.

If the odd ball drops out as you go just add a little ganache individually and pop it back in place.

You can now put your ball in the fridge whilst you make the decoration.

Firstly melt the 170g of the white chocolate and the 30g of butter together in the microwave, as before 1 minute on half power then 30 second blasts until all melted. To drizzle over the ball the chocolate mixture should be runny but not completely hot liquid so allow to cool whilst stirring for a few minutes before using. Fill a disposable piping bag , or a plastic bag, with the chocolate mixture.

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Drizzle from the top of the ball and allow to drip down the sides, using the piping bag to encourage drips where you want them. you can also use a spatula to slightly spread the chocolate but be careful not to move the chocolate on the Maltesers underneath as this will soften. Keep a small amount back to fix the final decorations.

img_3996Allow this to harden whilst you make the finally decoration flourish!

Draw some simple outlines of holly leaves on a piece of paper, take a strip of baking parchment and pop a couple of pieces of double sided sticky tape to a rolling pin.

Melt the last 30g of chocolate, take a small spoonful and colour red, pipe small balls of red chocolate on to the baking parchment. Then colour the remaining chocolate green, pop in a piping bag and snip a small amount from the end. Pipe the holly leaf outlines onto the baking parchment using the drawings as a guide underneath.

Place the parchment over the rolling pin and pop in the fridge or freezer to harden.

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To finish the cake place the ball onto a board with a little melted chocolate in the centre, place the curved holly leaves and berries on top, use a little white chocolate in the middle of the cake to hold it in place.

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This recipe has been blogged in conjunction with Wren Christmas Kitchens campaign. Through this post I have not been paid to endorse any products.

 

 

My Extra slice of notoriety – chocolate, blackberry and liquorice savarin

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I was fortunate enough to have my bake highlighted on the TV program ‘Extra Slice’ last week – its the spin off show from ‘The Great British Bake Off’.

We went to watch the show being filmed last year too with Sunday Bake Club and this year a smaller group of us managed to be allowed back to show off our bakes. You are told the theme to the show in advance with some clues to the bakes that will feature but in a very cryptic way so I watched the previous weeks show with interest to see if I could work out what the bakes would be for the show we were seeing. Luckily I managed to guess that being patisserie week the technical challenge which had been described as a yeast based cake with fruit was a savarin.

The way it all works is that you are encouraged to bring along a bake which fits the theme but perhaps has an amusing or unusual flavour twist. So what to do?

I thought about a savarin as I thought it would travel well but how to give it that twist? Going all guns I opted for a chocolate, blackberry and liquorice flavour, inspired by a couple of John Whaite recipes who loves the chocolate and liquorice combination and using a seasonal fruit too. Savarins are also traditionally soaked in an alcoholic syrup and as Mary Berry is known to enjoy the boozy bakes on the show I thought I would go for model of Mary enjoying a tipple under the cake to give an extra comedy factor. Finally the bake just had to have a wow appeal so I found a ‘how to’ in the Bake off Creme De La Creme book to make some curved chocolate chards.

You bake it all ready to take along to the ITV Studios in London. I went by train and although the cake was fairly stable I was pretty nervous about the shards breaking en-route. My cake had its own  seat all the way there! I took spares but luckily didn’t need them.

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The production team take you through to an area where you describe your bake and inspiration. You then leave for a couple of hours and return later for filming. We also had to sign confidentiality forms to make sure we didn’t disclose any information prior to the program going out on air. Filming of Extra Slice is done on a Sunday prior to the Great British Bake Off program going out on the Wednesday so we would know who had left the tent before anyone else. I went with six baking friends and we all were excited and nervous to bring our bakes along, everyone had done such a fabulous job and other people were also there with their bakes.

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Lauras savarin

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Debbies Sable and Rubys mini Victoria sponges

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Karens bacon topped cream horns!

img_3567Debbie and her mum describing her sable biscuits.

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Joyces afternoon tea selection

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My bake made it in one piece hurrah!

With a couple of hours to kill we naturally went to the pub over the road for lunch and maybe a calming glass of wine too!

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Finally time to return to the studio, we were shown to a room where we were told how the show would work and ushered off to the studio.

We get to watch that weeks Great British Bake Off first so we know what the Extra Slice will be all about, its great fun being in such a big room with other baking fans watching the program and everyone was sad when Selasi was eliminated from the competition, but excited knowing he would be in the studio with us really soon.

When we arrived at the studio a few off us were called to sit at particular tables and miked up I couldn’t believe it when they said I would be one of them. Joyce was chosen too and we both hit new heights of nervousness! After watching the show we had a quick comfort break and when I came back they found a stand for my cake and told me they would be tasting my bake but would I mind taking Mary off! I was a bit disappointed as she had taken ages but understood that my bake had been chosen as it was the same as that weeks technical bake and they seemed to like the liquorice twist in the ingredients.

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Finally filming starts and we get to be up close with Nadiya Hussain, last years winner, Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish conservative party and Tom Allen a comedian

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Filming lasts a couple of hours and it gradually gets colder and colder in the studio. You are encouraged to smile all the time and they film a few early shots and sounds of clapping and cheering too! It does seem to go on forever to be honest and I was getting pretty nervous about what to say when they came to taste my bake.

Finally they highlighted a few really good novelty bakes and then got round to the tasting part.

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It all felt a bit chaotic at the time, Nadiya couldn’t taste my cake as she doesn’t drink but both Ruth and Tom tasted it and kind of understood what I was trying to achieve but I’m not convinced they really liked the flavours. Nadiya however said some lovely things and complimented me on my chocolate tempering which I was so delighted with. In the final cut they didn’t show my bake being tasted, but I was lucky to get on at all as one other vegetable based bake that they tried wasn’t shown at all.

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Jo Brand the host asked if I had my own show which was hilarious too!

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Joyces bakes were also tasted and shown on the program, they loved her savoury twist on the patisserie theme

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Once again Nadiya said some lovely things about her bakes and Jo Brand was highly amusing when she tried Joyces pork scratching caramel shards!

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it felt like we had been there forever but eventually we saw Selasi, a very popular contestant as he came on for his interview.

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He came across every bit as laid back as he had in the tent and all too soon it was time to go home and wait to see if we had made the final program.

Its the final tonight and I feel the best bakers have made the top three. Nadiya stressed that its always about your performance on the day so who do you think will be crowned Great British Bake off winner 2016? Andrew, Candice or Jane?

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I also managed to recycle Mary in another bake later that week for the GBBOTwitterBakeAlong run by Rob and Jacqui which has just come to end and on Twitter. they have done an amazing job throughout the entire series and we will miss Bake along as much as we miss Bake Off!

Give us a wave Mary –  pointing the way to my fondant fancies!

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If you want to give my savarin a try here is the recipe.

Chocolate, Blackberry and Liquorice Savarin.

As a quick note before I start – the savarins o the program were cooked in Nordicware bundt tins, mine was cooked in a more classic savarin ring (22cm). This recipe will work in a bundt tin but wouldn’t fill a 10 cup tin, although perhaps would fill a 6 cup tin – you may need to adjust the cook times.

Ingredients – cake

40g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

40g unsalted butter

225g strong white flour

7g  (one packet) dried instant yeast

1/2 tsp salt

45g caster sugar

60g cocoa powder (use a good quality one such as Food Thoughts )

2 large eggs

100ml full fat milk

50g dark chocolate chips

50g soft black liquorice.

Ingredients – syrup

150g caster sugar

6 liquorice lozenges

I use these ones available online

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but if you cant get hold of these Foodie Flavours do a good liquorice natural flavouring, but you need to add this when you add the liqueur.

6 tbsp creme de mure liqueur

275 ml water

Ingredients to finish

Shards – 200g good quality dark chocolate.

250g blackberries

30g white chocolate

Method

Warm the milk in a jug to tepid temperature  (neither hot nor cold to the touch). Whisk in the yeast and set aside for 10 mins in a warm place.

Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave in shorts bursts. Add the butter, stir to melt and mix and put to one side to cool slightly.

Combine the flour, salt, caster sugar and cocoa in a large bowl and whisk together.

Once the yeast has started to form a slight foam over the milk add to the flour and stir in (you can use a dough hook on a mixer if you have one).

Beat the eggs and add to the flour mixture and combine.

Add the melted chocolate and continue to combine, it will be hard to knead as its a very sloppy batter by the point but a dough hook on a mixer or wooden spoon by hand will do the job.

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to prove for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Prepare the savarin tin by greasing well with butter, if using a bundt tin then flour the tin as well.

Chop the soft liquorice into small chunks about the same size as the chocolate chips.

After the first prove work in the chocolate chips and liquorice pieces into the mixture.

Turn into the prepared tin, cover wth cling film and leave to prove for about 50 minutes or until doubled in size, mine reached the top of my tin.

Meanwhile pre heat the oven to 180C (fan), bake for about 25minutes until a cocktail stick comes out clean (try a few spots incase you hit a chocolate chip!).

Whilst the cake is cooking make the syrup.

Combine the water and sugar and liquorice lozenges if you are using them, warm until the sugar and lozenges are dissolved then boil for about 3/5mins to make a light syrup. Add the liqueur (and liquorice flavouring drops to taste if using these) and simmer for a further minute. Keep warm. The syrup will be a very light runny consistency.

When the cake is cooked leave to cool for 5mins then turn out. Pour half the syrup into the cake tin and replace the cake. Allow the syrup to be completely absorbed for about 15 minutes. Place the rest of the syrup into a lipped dinner plate then turn the cake out flat side down to absorb the rest of the syrup. I trimmed my cake prior to this stage in the tin to give a totally flat surface to sit on. Leave to cool completely.

I finished my cake by drizzling some melted white chocolate over the top of the cake, I added curved, tempered chocolate shards which I stuck inside the centre of the cake with some meted chocolate then filled the centre with fresh blackberries which I then drizzled with more white chocolate. I followed the instructions to make the shards in the Bake Off Creme de la Creme book.

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I loved the flavours,  the mixture of the fruit and liquorice reminded me of the pink or blue sweets in Bassetts Allsorts but must admit it wasn’t a huge hit with my kids, so only give this one a try if you are truly a liquorice fan!

 

 

 

Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Biscuits

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Its October so we can all crack out the halloween themed recipes now!

If you would like to link your own recipe using pumpkin spice to mine let me know.

I made these biscuits for biscuit week on the Great British Bake Off and tweeted my way through the process. There are two kinds of decoration one a little simpler than the other making them a lovely recipe to make with the kids.

Pumpkin spice is an American import, now adopted and used widely in the UK – it is a blend of a few different spices and nothing at all to do with the flavour of pumpkins but for some reason evokes the flavours of autumn for me. You find it a lot in pumpkin pies and in a well known coffee chain latte! I reckon its one of those things that Americans have their secret family recipe for and you can certainly adjust the proportions to suit your own taste.

Pumpkin Spice

2 tblsp ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp cloves

Simply mix the spices well together and store in an airtight jar.

 

Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Biscuits

You will need a pumpkin shaped cutter ( mine is about 6.5cm wide) and two large baking sheets lined with non stick paper or silicon sheets.

Ingredients

275g plain flour

1 dstp pumpkin spice mix

1 level tsp baking powder

100g soft brown sugar

75g butter cubed

1 small egg

50g golden syrup

 

Icing

500g icing sugar

1tsp merriwhite ( dried egg white powder)

Food colouring

250g fondant ready to roll icing

 

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Method

Measure the flour, baking powder and pumpkin spice into a large bowl and whisk to combine.

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Then add the sugar and combine again. (On the day I forgot this step and added the sugar after the butter but it didn’t seem to matter!).

Add the cubed butter and rub in with your fingertips to achieve a fine bread crumb consistency.

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Whisk together the egg and the golden syrup.

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Add to the rest of the mixture.

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Combine, first with a fork then use your hands to get a ball of dough.

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Put in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes – don’t skip this step it makes the dough easier to handle and keeps the fats at the correct temperature to use.

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After chilling flour the work top well, place half the dough ready for rolling.

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Roll the dough to a 5mm depth – I use a rolling pin with adjustable guards to get it even.

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Cut out the pumpkin shapes and use a fine spatula to place on the baking sheet.

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Repeat until you use up all the dough.

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Place back into the fridge for another 20 minutes. Again don’t skip this stage this will help stop your biscuits spreading too much.

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At this point preheat the oven to 170C (Fan).

After chilling bake for 15 mins (ish) until golden brown.

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Leave to cool for 5 mins on the trays then transfer to a cooling rack to allow to cool completely.

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To make the runout icing

Mix the icing sugar and merriwhite powder together in a mixing bowl, add cold water 1 tablespoon at a time and beat slowly to achieve a soft peak consistency. OR buy ready to make royal icing powder and follow the packet instructions!

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Split the icing into two bowls 1/3 rd /2/3 rd split and colour with green and orange colouring (you need more orange than green).

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Once the biscuits are cool put the icing into two separate bags each with a fine writing nozzle.

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Keep the icing damp at all times by covering the bowls with  a damp cloth and the bags and nozzles under a damp cloth too.

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Pipe the outline of the pumpkin in orange – leave the stalk section.

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Once these are all done start on the stalks, again pipe the outline then fill once dried slightly using a cocktail stick to spread the icing to the edges.

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To fill the pumpkin make half the orange icing a bit runnier by adding some water.

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Then pipe the centre of the pumpkin, tip the biscuit around to let the icing run to the edges and use the cocktail stick again to make sure there are no gaps.

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Allow to dry completely before the next stage.

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The final step is using a slightly finer nozzle pie the characteristic lines on the pumpkin – remember pumpkins aren’t all even so wobbly lines are perfectly acceptable!!

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To create the fondant tops is much simpler.

Colour the fondant 3/4 orange and 1/4 green – roll out the orange to 1 or 2 mm thickness and cut pumpkin shapes out.

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Roll out the green and cut out just the stalk sections trimming at the base

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Brush the orange stalk with a little water and place the stalk in position.

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Use a cocktail stick to ‘draw’ on the characteristic lines

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Dampen the biscuit slightly  if you have made some runny icing you can use that but water will do the job, and stick the fondant shapes on top.

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Leave to dry completely – I have to leave a sign on mine to stop anyone eating them before I take a photo!

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Enjoy!

 

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If you fancy trying out other recipes using pumpkin spice how about these baked doughnuts by Sammie at Feasting is Fun

These pumpkin spice macarons by Turquoise Toffee looking utterly amazing pop over and check them out 

BakingQueen74 has a fabulous slow cooker pumpkin spice pudding recipe to try 

recipe-of-the-week

The Girls

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If ever there was a cake with a back story its this one so let me take you back to 1999 when a whirlwind hit our family in the shape of the Alternative WI Calendar.

My husbands Aunty Trish was a member of her local Yorkshire Dales WI she has a great sense of humour and not always one to follow conventional rules! She had often joked that instead of their usual WI pictures of local scenery calendars that they should do a ‘naked’ one of the members instead, of course everyone laughed but no-one really took her seriously. She had a friend whose husband had very sadly died of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1998 and he indeed also thought the project would never happen. However finally she managed to muster support, and persuade an artist friend to take the pictures and they were off. They thought they might sell a couple of hundred copies but before they knew it the media had got hold of the story and the rest is history. The original girls travelled the world talking about the calendar, the film Calendar Girls was a huge box office hit, the stage play of the same name ran in the West End and toured the country. Tricia still hosts talks extensively about the experience and they have continued to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, raising over £3.5million in the first 10 years. You can read more about the whole story here 

Every year we all think that perhaps the furor will die down but it seems not as now Gary Barlow has teamed up with the writer of the original film and play, Tim Firth, to put on a new Comedy musical based on the story called The Girls.

I have been lucky to see be at some fabulous Calendar Girls events with Aunty Trish over the years and as a close family we see each other quite a bit. So last time we were together we chatted about me possibly doing a cake for the opening night for us all to enjoy. I then saw on that the original girls were going to be serving tea and cake as part of the promotional events around the ticket sale launches at the Phoenix Theatre. So I asked if I could make her a cake for that as well, and there was born a creative idea!

It obviously had to have sunflowers on as these are a prominent part of the whole story, the promotional material for the musical all had a blue background, but how on earth could I recreate that logo and make it look good?

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I immediately thought of Tom at Iced Rainbow he has made customer acrylic toppers for me in the past and is always really helpful. I was short on time but within just a few hours Tom had mocked up the design for me, with a few tweaks we managed to get it just right and two days later it arrived. So that was it blue cake, sunflowers, topper design done!

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I then of course decided that it would be a fitting tribute without some form of boobs on it too! But how to do it? Initial ideas were very complex with a naked figure behind a table holding iced buns, or much simpler with just the odd pair of breast peeping out from behind a sunflower! Helpful comments from my kids like ‘I find your figures a bit creepy mum’ and voices in my own head saying ‘don’t make it too time consuming’ were definitely putting me off but I couldn’t shake that feeling that it needed more than just the sunflowers, even with Toms fabulous topper. I was also having a few other design misgivings – a blue cake? Mary Berry herself dismissed a blue cake on Bake Off recently – people just don’t like eating blue things, and I had thought it should be a smooth professional fondant finish, but I really don’t enjoy working with fondant much.

Finally I settled on my design, all in my head as I really really can’t draw! I took a wired modelling class earlier this year and reckoned I could use that knowledge to make a lying down naked lady! She was to lay amongst the sunflowers as if in a field, with them strategically placed to save her modesty. The cake would be buttercream with a band of green and yellow at the base and yet more sunflowers to finish the whole thing off.

The sunflowers were fairly easy to make based on a gerbera/daisy design I have done a few times before and I even got my daughter involved showing her how to make these with me.

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The naked lady presented lots of challenges, not least that I made her on the hottest September day in the UK in over 100 years. The models are made using modelling chocolate and fondant mix which is very soft in the heat and because she was to lie down it made it tricky not to squish her! She was popped in and out of the freezer and whilst she wouldn’t win any figure making competitions I was pleased with how she turned out.

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Once nestled in her sunflowers and a few pertinent details were added she was looking great! I can honestly say that I have never studied the female form in quite so much detail before – I am no artist and to get the positioning of limbs and proportions so they looked right was harder than I expected.

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The final cake as always had to taste good too so I went for two layers of chocolate sandwiching a layer of brown sugar cake. The buttercream was just vanilla but there were a couple of layers of salted caramel in the between the layers!

My recent courses on ganache cakes and ombre buttercream had great transferrable skills in terms of getting a good straight edge to the buttercream finish and getting great striped layers in the colours.

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The final flourish was that a friend Birgit Mons, who I will be working with on some upcoming projects, offered to come and take some fabulous professional pictures for me making a huge difference to how I was able to show the cake off.

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Finally it was ready, in and out of the fridge to stop it all melting in the heat with the flowers on then off then on again. I had to travel to London by train and of course now it was pouring with rain, stations across London were flooded and public transport was generally in chaos!. Spurred on by seeing Aunty Trish on the Lorraine show before I left….

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I made sure the cake had its own seat on the train – we weren’t going to fall at the final hurdle!

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Eventually with the help of a London cabbie I made it to the theatre with the cake in one piece!

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There were some amazing fans there enjoying the tea and cake, dressed to the nines with sunflowers on leggings, shoes and in their hair!

I got there before Aunty Trish and her fellow original girls, Angie and Christine, but still managed to get a big ‘woo’ from the waiting fans when I was introduced not just as the cake maker, but also as Tricia’s niece which was all highly amusing!

The ladies posed for lots of pictures with the fans and I became official photographer for Aunty Trish!

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They were delighted with the cake!

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Before I knew it I was whisked off for a champagne lunch with everyone. Sadly Gary Barlow didn’t make an appearance but I did have lunch with Tim Firth, and the producer David Pugh who were both really lovely. Tim even took a photo of my cake.

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We cut it at the restaurant and it also got the thumbs up flavour-wise which is always a relief.

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Thank you Aunty Trish for letting me play a little part in your exciting adventures and I can’t wait to see the musical next year.

 

 

 

Learning new skills with CakeyBake

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I was delighted to be able to attend a course this week, I love learning new skills and improving upon old ones.

My cake style is very much naked or buttercream cakes, with fresh or sugarpaste flower decoration some recent examples:

I usually steer clear of fondant cakes as I really feel they don’t play to my strengths, but that said lots of people prefer fondant covered cakes and they can give so much more scope in terms of a highly personalised and decorated brief.

I have had some successes but always feel I could improve my finish, with strategically placed decoration hiding and slightly less than perfect covering.

So I decided I would try a course that has been calling my name for sometime on Facebook by CakeyBake.

The course promised to teach a ‘shabby chic’ wooden cakeboard cover, how to cover and fill a cake with ganache, how to then cover the cake with fondant to get really sharp edges, painting with metallic dusts and how to make a wafer paper flower. The resulting cake left little room to hide imperfections and it was a lot to cover in one day but I was up for the challenge.

My first quest was just to get there – the course was just over an hours journey but of course the M20 was closed and the A21 had a major accident so I had a lovely diverted route through the little woodland roads of Kent, all very pretty and I still made it in time!

The course was held in a lovely airy church hall and as I arrived there were 4 other ladies already in place with Kirsty from Cakey Bakey flying around getting everything ready that we needed for the day. I won’t go into detail on all the methods we were shown but want to give you a flavour of the course.

We soon got underway, the cake already and ganache already supplied, our first job was to cover the boards. We got to choose the colour we preferred and Kirsty showed us a really easy way to produce a wooden plank effect which we then white washed for that shabby chic feel.

We were then shown how to trim split and fill a cake to get a good height and even finish and finally made our wafer paper flowers

 

It was amazing to see with the same direction and instruction how personal our designs were becoming.

Kirsty then demonstrated how to trim and cover the cake with ganache to get perfectly upright edges and sharp toplines.

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She made it look so easy and I was sure mine wouldn’t look anywhere near as good but actually with a bit of effort and some top tips we all achieved beautifully ganached cakes. I really felt at that point I should quit whilst I was ahead it was already the neatest cake I had ever made so I was happy.

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We were shown how to make a good ganache with some excellent tips on how to achieve a good setting mixture without splitting, and what to do if it did split! Then time for the dreaded covering.

Kirsty yet again demoed a how to and off we went. My hands were shaking, literally! Everyone there was a hobby baker most of whom baked for others too and all of whom seemed to have much more fondant experience than me. The thought of ruining my lovely ganached cake with dodgey fondant absolutely terrified me but I followed Kirsty’s instructions and TaDah I did it! Special corner tools and smoothers help get that nice sharp topline. Although my fondant was a tiny bit cracked on the edge (I probably should have kneaded it a bit more) and i perhaps could have gone sharper – I really was over the moon with the result.

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The final flourish was to semi dry brush on the metallic dusts and place on the board, with a finishing touch of some raffia ribbon, the flower placed and we were done.

Everyones cakes were amazing – lovely individual styles within the same brief.

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The course ran really smoothly with Kirsty having time for everyone, we all took our own lunch but there were teas coffees and snacks available as well as plenty of cake cutoffs. She had lots of lovely tools for us to purchase at the end – us cakers do love a bit of kit!

I will definitely do another course with Kirsty, she is very approachable and knowledgable and I learned so much that maybe I will shake just a little less next time I have a fondant cake to do!

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If you would like to see more of my cakes please visit my Facebook page – BecksBakes 

Daily post ping back Cake

A week in the life of …. my oven!

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So maybe not the most exciting post but my oven is an essential part of my daily life without which I couldn’t run my little business.

When I visit my mums house her oven is ALWAYS immaculate – it looks like she never uses it and it has always been like this – I don’t know how she does it but it just doesn’t get dirty – or she is a magical cleaning wizardess – I suspect the latter! Well I can probably never live up to those dizzy heights. My oven on the other hand seems to get greasy and grimy even without using it, but admittedly its on most days not just with cakes but home cooked meals and the weekly roast adored by my family! As I bake for others it is essential I keep the oven clean and it regularly gets a total blitz – I like to use OvenPride its pretty toxic stuff but it does the job without too much scrubbing.

However, how to master the keeping it clean between cleans magic – Croylek asked me if I would like to trial their Tufflek teflon oven mats – so of course I said yes and here are the results.

Day1: My 13 year old oven looking very smart with its freshly trimmed mat

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& chicken wrapped in bacon and new roast potatoes for supper

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Day2: Just a few cakes to bake

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Day3: More cake and a few marks on the mat easily removed with a damp cloth

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Day 4: roasting chicken thighs for my poorly dog to eat!

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Day 5: Beef and ale pie with wedges!

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Day 6: Little lemon cakes and lasagne for supper

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Day 7 : slow roast lamb and roast potatoes

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and a quick wipe over and its like new!

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Well I don’t think I’ve have ever kept my oven so clean – so perhaps I haven’t put the mat properly through its paces – how about a greasy bacony grill pan. My teens are bacon obsessed but not so clean the grill pan obsessed. So here it is pre and post cleaning

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A few grease spots left but it literally took a rinse over with warm water and a squirt of washing up liquid.

Conclusions : yes there are lots of teflon mats out there and I’m not sure these are much different to most but they do work, they do the job perfectly and at £4.99 per mat on Amazon they are a competitive price. I have a spare mat for you to win too! Just follow my self @becksbake and @Croylekstore on twitter and retweet the link to this blog post and I will draw a name out of a hat on 1st September.

Croylek kindly sent me complimentary mats to try however the views here are completely my own.

Silicone Mats and new recipes!

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I am quite a traditionalist when it comes to my baking equipment, I like my metal baking trays and am happy using non stick baking parchment, so when I was asked if I would like to try some silicone mats I must admit to being a little dubious.

Kitchenways kindly sent me this set of two to trial run and here is how I got on with them.

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My first observation was that they have two sides – a smooth side and an imprinted side – the instructions on the back of the packet are rather generic to all of the silicone bakeware products I suspect and I wasn’t sure which side to use. As a silicone newby this would have been helpful information. Secondly do I need to grease or not? nothing helpful there either.

My first outing with the mats was when making meringue shards – unfortunately a complete disaster – I have heard that macarons don’t cook well on silicone mats either – The meringue didn’t dry out enough ( I feel the thick silicon changed the way the heat was conducted from the metal baking tray) and stuck terribly to the mat (I hadn’t greased it). So I would definitely not be using it for those again. I canvassed a bit of opinion from bakey pals who do use silicone and decided to try biscuits and greasing!

I was given Eric Lanlards new book, Afternoon Tea for my birthday and as there was a biscuit challenge over on twitter #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong run by Bakes4fun and @BakingNanna this was the ideal chance to try a new recipe.

Cardamom Biscuits

The full recipe for these biscuits can be found in Afternoon Tea by Eric Lanlard, but here is how I got on.

The basic biscuit is a shortbread style dough so rubbing in cold butter to flour and sugar, with just a small amount of ground cardamom.

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I get mine from Steenbergs – it has a lovely flavour.

There is quite a high butter content which makes the ‘rubbing in’ a bit tricky – make sure to use the tips of your fingers so you don’t melt the butter to get to this ‘breadcrumb’ stage – it will make for a lighter biscuit.

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You then add the vanilla bean paste, I like this Nielsen Massey one as I can get it in the supermarket and it has a lovely flavour, finally bring together into a dough.

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It is key with biscuit making to allow the dough to rest in the fridge, the recipe says for 1 hour, so wrap well in cling film to be sure it doesn’t dry out.

The next step in the recipe was to roll out the dough. My tip here would be to split the dough in half so you don’t keep re-rolling the same dough over again, as this will cause the biscuits to go tough.

The recipe said to roll out to 1cm or 1/2inch, that seemed extraordinarily thick to me and certainly didn’t seem to match the picture in the book – I suppose shortbread is often quite thick but I felt that this wasn’t quite right so opted for 1/2cm instead. I have a fab rolling pin with guards on with measured thicknesses, this really helps get an even layer of dough for cutting.

You are then told to cut your desired shapes, transfer to a greased baking mat, I decided to grease my silicone ones this time, and press a blanched almond into each biscuit.

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Chill once more for 20 minutes before baking.

So onto my next bone of contention with the recipe – the instructions say to bake at 170C or 140 fan oven, 30C is an awful lot to reduce a temperature by for a domestic fan oven and as the baking time was only 12  minutes I guessed 140C fan would be too low (even more so had I stuck to the original 1cm depth).

So 12 minutes in, the biscuits weren’t golden brown at all, in fact they barely had changed colour, so I added on 3 minutes, then maybe 2 more minutes? Still no better, so I turned the oven up by 10C and gave them another 3 minutes. By this point I was worried they would be drying out but they still hadn’t achieved the lovely golden colour in the book.

The next step was to leave them to cool enough to handle, remove from the baking sheets (which they did perfectly) then dip the corners in golden caster sugar, which I duly did but you couldn’t see it at all, the whole thing looked really insipid.

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These were to be a gift so tasting good alone wasn’t enough I needed them to look tasty too. I ended up resorting to my blowtorch to caramelise the sugar and the almonds and finally they looked the part

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If I make them again, and I probably will as they were delicious, I think I will sprinkle the biscuits with the golden caster sugar before I add the almonds and bake at a higher temperature. The ones in the book have a light sheen to them under the almond and the dipped sugar which I reckon was achieved this way. Its such a shame when recipes seem not to have been tested properly in books, but I will try some others before I condemn this particular book to the charity pile.

As for the mats – yes they bake biscuits very nicely, they save the need to use baking parchment which then gets thrown away and are easy enough to clean, my only request is some more detailed instructions on using them on the packet.

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