It has been such a long time since I have been able to truly bake 😦 I have been working full time and baking sadly was one of the casualties. After much soul searching though I decided to follow my bliss and quit my job and try and find one that works for me and my family. Scary but very liberating. Only been at home for a few days but thought I would do a family favourite that my daughter especially likes to dunk in tea! Personally these biscotti are scrummy with an excellent coffee, but truly, whatever floats your boat is good.
Thanks as ever to Nigella for the recipe which I only tweak a bit.
- 1 egg
- 100g caster sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract – I use vanilla paste for preference but either is good
- few drops of almond essence
- 125g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Nigella’s recipe is for 50g shelled almonds and 75g chocolate chips. I tend to use around 50g chocolate chips and no almonds but I think you can use anything that your family loves, white chocolate chips and dark combined may be nice. Hmmm may do that next time…..
- Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees C
- Whisk the egg and sugar together until thick and pale. I use an electric whisk for this and also the freshest eggs tend to whip up much more satisfactorily. When you lift your whisk out of the mix it will leave a trail of ribbons.
- Beat in the vanilla and almond essences, then fold in the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Then add your almonds/chocolate chips or whatever you have decided to experiment with. I usually jump in with clean hands at this point as that is much easier.
- Once you have all your ingredients combined you need to shape the dough into a log about 25 x 5 cm and place this onto a baking tray that you have lined with baking paper.
- Bake for 25 minutes till a pale brown colour. Check your oven after about 17. Mine usually is done at around 22 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave to harden slightly for around 5 minutes.
- Then cut diagonal slants about 1cm in thickness so that you have finger like pieces.
- Place these back down on your baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, flip them over and then give them another 5 minutes.
- Cool on a rack and then store in an airtight container for the 5 minutes you have before the family realises they exist and nom the lot!
Have had a truly wonderful Christmas Eve. As always I made a gingerbread house and decorated it with the help of the offspring. This year we had the added help of the firstborn’s girlfriend, Jas Poole. who is an excellent photographer as well as being creative with a jelly tot! (check out her website here http://www.jasminepoole.co.uk/)
I hope you feel inspired to have a go, I really can’t think of a nicer way to spend the day.
I have had a bit of a cupcake phase over the last few weeks as you can see from the last couple of blogs. Actually, have made a few hundred cupcakes over the last couple of weeks for various events including of course The Diamond Jubilee. The one thing I have been asked for the most is the recipe for the butter cream so over the weekend I finally wrote down the ingredients. Up until last week my butter cream had always been a bit improvised. Actually I still think that you should play around with this recipe if you like, use it as a starting point and go from there.
- 125g really, really soft unsalted butter
- 350g icing sugar
- 1 or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or paste. The paste is lovely and adds all the pretty seeds to your icing.
- 1 or 2 tablespoons hot water
- Put all your ingredients into a bowl and then carefully, using a wooden spoon initially, combine your ingredients into a paste. You may need to add a little more water, add it in tiny amounts as a little goes a long way.
- Once you have blended your ingredients you can then start mixing using an electric hand whisk. You can do this manually, but you will be there for ages. With the electric mixer I recommend that you mix your buttercream for at least 3-5 minutes if not longer. The buttercream will become pale, fluffy and creamy.
- Do taste it, you can add any extra of your original ingredients to this to suit your taste buds. More sugar to sweeten, more butter to add creaminess or more vanilla to get that yummy panna cotta flavour.
I think that this next recipe is my very favourite to make (well it is at the moment!!).
I pretty much always have the ingredients handy, and as far as I can tell this recipe is the easiest one I have come across for a really good, chewy cookie. I am playing around with the recipe, as I think there is probably scope for an excellent oatmeal and raisin cookie (probably my favourite cookie to eat, but have been sadly disappointed with recipes over the years, so going to have a go at making my own!! Fingers crossed)
Right first things first, this recipe comes from “The Great British Book of Baking” which accompanied the TV series The Great British Bake Off. Lovely book, very nostalgic.
Ok, first things first, here are the ingredients:
- 350g self raising flour
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 200g caster sugar
- 115g unsalted butter
- 85g golden syrup
- 1 medium free range egg – beaten
- 35g (2 pieces) stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
You will also need 3 baking trays greased with butter. However I never have more than 2 available so always have to cook this recipe in 2 batches. Worry not, they only take minutes to cook, so you won’t be hanging around the kitchen that long even if you only have one tray handy.
- Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C or Gas Mark 3
- In a bowl, sift your flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and sugar. I tend to just put all the ingredients into the bowl and then mix together using a whisk. This works really well.
- Then in a small (non-stick if you have one) pan, melt your butter and golden syrup together over a gentle heat. Leave it to one-side until it is just lukewarm.
- Then pour that mixture, the ginger pieces and your beaten egg into your bowl with the other ingredients and combine together.
- Once combined you can roll the mixture into about 24 walnut sized balls. Best equipment for this is your hands!
- Place these onto your prepared trays giving them plenty of room as they will spread out.
- Now according to the book these will need 15 – 20 minutes to cook. Mine have never taken more than 13 minutes so do start checking them after 10. Once they are spread out and golden brown take them out of the oven, leave them to cool for a minute or two on the tray ( this will firm them up a bit) and then using a spatula, slide them off onto a cooling rack.
- Try not to eat them when they are hot, you will burn your tongue and they actually taste better cold.
- They can be stored in an airtight container.
My variation on these, or added extra I suppose is dark chocolate. In a bowl in the microwave, gently melt around 50 – 100g dark chocolate. This very much depends on how much chocolate you want on your cookies. I usually melt around 75g and then using a piping bag, drizzle dark chocolate on to your cooled cookies. You do not have to do this as they taste properly gorgeous without chocolate, but sometimes you have those days when only chocolate will do!
Anyway, do have a go at these as they are so satisfying to bake.
After baking what could be called the worst cookies in history (so wrong they ended up in the bin) I decided to go back to basics and cook one of the first things I ever learnt to bake. The recipe I used is from The River Cottage Handbook series No.8 Cakes. A fabulously old fashioned book with all you need to know about baking cakes and biscuits.
It seems to be a pretty forgiving recipe too, (always a good thing) as I only had a medium egg left in the house, I topped up the liquid with a dash of milk. I also substituted all white self raising flour instead of half white, half wholemeal as detailed below. The end result are yummy but not quite as healthy as they could have been.
Here then is this lovely, fabulously kid friendly recipe.
- 100g white self raising flour
- 100g wholemeal self raising flour
- Pinch of sea salt
- 100g unsalted butter cut into cubes
- 75g soft light brown sugar
- 175g raisins
- finely grated zest of one unwaxed orange
- 1 large egg – beaten
You will also need a couple of baking trays that you either line with baking parchment or lightly grease.
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 5.
- In a bowl put your flour, salt and butter. Rub them together until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
- Then you can mix in your brown sugar, raisins and orange zest. Use a fork to combine them.
- Add your beaten egg and then bring the mix together into a dough. Get stuck in with your hands if you like, to be honest that is the easiest way of mixing this dough.
- On your prepared baking sheets put 4 dollops of dough on each, spaced well apart. They don’t have to be neat shapes, in fact the nobblier the better in my opinion. Just keep them similar in size as this makes for a more even bake.
- Pop them into the oven for between 15 and 20 minutes. You know your oven best, mine took 25 minutes to finish these to a lovely golden brown that was firm to touch. When you pull them out of the oven, leave them to cool a little on the trays before you transfer to a cooling rack.
- According to the book these keep three days!! Best eaten fresh though. Yum.
Dear Chocolate fans, this one’s for you with love xx
The following recipe I found in the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. It is one of the only recipes that I haven’t tweaked in any way. This recipe is fab to work with. Easy peasy for all and a perfect first bake for any small offspring.
- 200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- 175g unsalted butter
- 325g caster sugar
- 130g plain flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- icing sugar to decorate
You will also need a 33 x 23 x 5cm tin, greased and lined with baking paper.
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (gas 3) 325 degress F
Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Leave until melted and smooth.
Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and stir until well incorporated. Add the flour and also stir until combined.
Then add the beaten eggs to the mixture and stir until smooth and thick.
Pour into your prepared tin and bake for around 30 – 35 minutes. My oven is a little lively and tends to have this done in around 25 minutes so I would start checking yours from around 22 minutes. It starts to flake a little on top when cooked but is still soft in the centre. Be careful not to overcook this as it can become hard and crunchy.
Once cooled you can dust with icing sugar if you like.
This is another family favourite that apparently I don’t make often enough! I made it today for work colleagues (panic not, I saved some for the offspring, no starving teenagers here) in exchange for donations to my favourite charity, The Teenage Cancer Trust. If the urge takes you, please donate! http://www.justgiving.com/jackclark
This recipe was in a magazine on a promotional piece for Carnation Caramel. I haven’t tweaked it at all, tis a very reliable cake. It serves 12 comfortably as a two tier cake. I usually is make it into two single layered cakes as it really is quite rich so in theory you only need a small piece! It also is gorgeous if you give it 30 seconds or so in the microwave (you will have to experiment with yours) and then dollop some double or clotted cream on the top. Yum.
- 175g Self Raising Flour
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 150g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 150ml corn oil (vegetable oil works fine too)
- 150ml milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 x 397g tin Carnation Caramel
- 125g dark chocolate
- 1 tablespoon of icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180ºc, fan 160ºc, gas 4
Line the base of two sandwich tins with baking paper and set aside.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate and sugar into a bowl. Set aside.
In a jug, whisk together the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla along with two tablespoons of the Carnation Caramel, until smooth.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
Pour into the tins and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until springy to the touch. Cool, then turn out onto a wire rack.
Once the cakes have cooled you can make your fudge topping.
Melt the chocolate, add the remaining caramel and beat until smooth. Sift in the icing sugar and combine.
Sandwich the two cakes together with a third of the filling then spread the remainder over the top and the sides.