Great British Bake Off – Baguettes

Last week’s ‘Great British Bake Off’ challenged the bakers in the tent to bake a variety of breads. Now bread has not been something I often try at home so I’m always very impressed by the skills shown in the tent. Last year I tried Paul’s ciabatta recipe and surprised myself by how yummy they were so I was keen to try something new this year. I was very happy to see baguettes on the agenda as I really love a proper French baguette and I knew a friend of mine had brought back some French bread flour from a holiday. After scrounging some of the bread flour I set about following the baguette recipe in the new ‘The Great British Bake Off – Celebrations’ book. The recipe is not easy to follow for a bread beginner and I soon began to feel the pressure, even without the television cameras and Paul and Mary looking over my shoulder. Paul has a way of asking specific questions about what the bakers are doing and then looks very scathing as though they’re making a horrible mistake. Goodness only knows what he would have made of my dough and the mess in my kitchen. I have to say I was totally ecstatic to find that something fairly edible came out of the oven at the end. No, it wasn’t four evenly sized baguettes with the perfect golden, crispy crunchy outside and open, airy crumb inside. However, they tasted delicious and I’m so glad I had a go as I certainly learnt a lot more about how to handle dough!

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Baguettes

Here are some of the things we’ve learnt so far on The Great British Bake Off
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Rose Iced Cookies

Last week was ‘biscuit week’ on The Great British Bake Off and we saw some of the bakers ‘crumble’ under the pressure in the tent (sorry!!!) Here’s a recap of the baking fun.

I had great intentions of trying to create an amazing showstopper biscuit ‘box’ filled with biscuits but sadly didn’t have enough time – I’m really not sure that I could have created anything half as amazing as the bakers though. So my bake this week involved creating a very simple but delicious rose icing to decorate some quick cookies.

I’ve been lucky enough to have some lovely roses in my garden and have collected rose petals…

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Rose Petals

I rinsed off the petals very carefully and then lay them out on a tray covered with kitchen roll to dry…

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Rinse the rose petals very carefully

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Drying rose petals

I then added my dried rose petals to a jar topped up with granulated sugar. This makes rose petal sugar but when trying to use this in the past I’ve struggled to know how to use it as dried rose petals are horribly chewy so need to be removed from the sugar. I came up with a great solution which is to put the petals along with the sugar into a food processor and blitz them together. This gives a rose petal icing sugar which can be used in baking or to decorate. I found mine was quite strong so I added just a teaspoon full at a time to ordinary icing sugar to get the perfect flavour.

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Rose Petal Sugar

This icing was so pretty and delicious and perfect to ice simple vanilla cookies…

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Rose Iced Cookie

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Great British Bake Off and Black Forest Cake

If, like me, you love baking, have a T.V. and live in the UK, you would undoubtedly have come across ‘The Great British Bake Off’. Series 6 started last week after much excitement and build up. Along with thousands of others I couldn’t wait to start watching and meet this year’s bakers. The first programme of the series didn’t disappoint. It was packed full of baking talent; smiles and tears; baking innuendo and of course, the most popular judges on T.V., Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. It’s a winning formula that has encouraged many of us to take to our ovens and challenge ourselves. I’m always inspired by the intrepid bakers who have such an incredible journey through baking triumphs and disasters, taking on many bakes that I’ve never tried and some I’ve never even heard of.
I’m once again following The Great British Bake Off by challenging myself to try a bake a week along with the programme. I don’t have the time to do all the bakes or indeed the ability to eat them all (though I’d probably give that a good try!) so I’m going to try just one thing a week and see if I can learn something new. In the first week the bakers were asked to bake a perfect Madeira Cake, Mary’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake and a Black Forest Gateaux which was the final challenge and could be the baker’s own version. I initially wanted to try the Technical Challenge which was Mary’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake (Recipe here). However, after finding a bowlful of beautiful cherries on my cherry tree (the first I’ve had) I decided I would have to bake a Black Forest Cake.

The recipe for the two chocolate sponges was taken from the new Bake Off book ‘The Great British Bake Off – Celebrations’. They are fatless, whisked eggs and caster sugar with sifted self-raising flour and cocoa powder folded in. (This makes a very light sponge). I then added a layer of cherry preserve between the two sponge layers (made with my cherries), and white chocolate cream cheese frosting (recipe below). The frosting was also added to the top and sides. The cake is ‘semi-naked’ – with only a very fine layer of frosting on the side, to cut down on sweetness.
Finally, I used some of the same frosting to pipe some swirls all over the cake and added some little cherry blossoms made with flower sugar-paste and a tiny round chocolate ball for the centre. The decoration was really simple as it’s very random but I was pleased with the result and the effect would look lovely on a Wedding or Celebration Cake with fresh fruit and flowers added.


This week also happens to be Afternoon Tea Week (10th – 16th August) and this cake looks beautiful served on a cake stand with a pot of tea at the ready!
Afternoon Tea Week celebrates the great heritage and tradition of Afternoon Tea in the UK. Here is more information and events
In case, you missed the first Great British Bake Off, here’s a recap of some of the best bits!

And finally, Here is a lovely post all about Afternoon Tea by Urvashi at The Botanical Kitchen

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients
100g Butter, softened
100g Cream Cheese
100g White Chocolate, melted and allowed to cool a little
300g Icing Sugar
Method
Add all the ingredients together and beat well for a few minutes until well combined, soft and light. If it is too wet, add more icing sugar and beat well. The consistency needs to be soft but firm enough to spread on the cake.

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Baking Pantry Essentials

This is a guest post written for this blog by Kaitlin Krull

Pantry Essentials: Every Baker’s Must-Have Ingredients

With a pantry like this, who wouldn’t want to bake?

Pantry

via Modernize

A well stocked pantry is a must for professional and occasional bakers alike. When the baking urge strikes, there is nothing worse than finding your pantry ingredients are out of date or missing altogether. Take a look at this list of every baker’s must have pantry items and keep your pantry well stocked for a successful bake every time.

Basics
Most basic baking recipes consist of a combination of flour, dairy, sugar, and eggs. While dairy and eggs should be stored in the refrigerator (but left to room temperature before using in a recipe), the dry ingredients can be kept in a cool, dry, and dark pantry for an extended period of time. Make sure to stock the following items in order to have the basics covered whenever you plan to bake:

Flour – Use all purpose, unbleached flour for traditional bakes but consider stocking wheat, rye, and gluten free flours if your recipes often call for alternatives.

Sugar – Granulated sugar works best in most recipes, but brown sugar gives a sweeter taste and caramel color (and is traditionally used in many cookie recipes). Also stock confectioners’ sugar if you often make your own icing.

Baking powder and baking soda – Recipes with light, airy cakes will almost always call for one or both of these leavening agents, so keep them on hand at all times.

Salt – Any table salt will do for most recipes.

Rolled oats – For the family baker, rolled oats are indispensable for “no bake” tray bakes, cobblers, and porridge.

Sweeteners – Both honey and vanilla extracts sweeten recipes, so keep both on hand. Just make sure to check the use by date regularly.

Chocolate – Keep a bar or two of baking chocolate stocked in your pantry, and use cocoa powder to flavor your doughs.

Yeast – If you’re planning to make your owned leavened bread, keep active dry yeast in your pantry (but some experts suggest that keeping it in the fridge extends its shelf life).

Spices
Although sweet spices such as cinnamon, ginger, clover, allspice, and nutmeg are likely to be kept in your kitchen spice rack, they are baking essentials and should be in your baking arsenal. Just make sure they’re checked and restocked regularly, as they can quickly go rancid.

Alternative ingredients
If you consider yourself to be a slightly more experienced baker, or if you are planning to bake with alternative ingredients (gluten free, allergen free, etc.), you might consider adding some of these ingredients to your pantry’s baking shelf:

Coconut oil – Use this as an alternative to butter in many recipes, making sure to check the conversions properly first.

Sugar alternatives – Using alternative sweeteners such as Stevia and molasses can change the composition of your cookies and cakes, so make sure you know what you’re doing with them in any particular recipe.

Evaporated milk – If this was a list of Christmas pantry essentials, evaporated milk would be right there at the top. A must for fudge recipes!

Cornstarch – This is a thickener that helps jellies, jams, and other sweet sauces from becoming too thin and wet.

Corn syrup – If you’re making candy, then this ingredient is a traditional essential.

Other extracts – We all know about using vanilla as a sweetener, but think about using other extracts such as lemon and peppermint for holiday recipes and to boost a traditional sponge or cookie.

Gelatine – Want to experiment with European favorites like flan and panna cotta? Then keep some of this unflavored ingredient to hand.

Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts, and pecans, as well as any edible dried seeds can be stored for a short period of time in the pantry. However, most will stay fresh longer when refrigerated or frozen, so check their individual storage recommendations to get the most out of these ingredients.

Extras (not found in the pantry)
Bakers with even the most well stocked pantries will be at a loss without staples such as milk, eggs, butter or margarine, lemons and cream cheese, so make sure your wet ingredients are all accounted for before embarking on a baking adventure.

Once your pantry (and fridge!) is well stocked and organized, the only thing left to do is bake. For more kitchen and storage tips and tricks, head to Modernize.com!
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Blueberry, Lemon and White Chocolate Sponge

Blueberries are delicious with a little lemon or lime and in this cake I’ve used them with lemon and white chocolate. The lemon adds a slight tartness to the blueberries and really brings out their flavour. The white chocolate adds a creamy sweetness that really complements this.

Blueberry, Lemon and White Chocolate Cake

Blueberry, Lemon and White Chocolate Cake

I made a 6” round sponge, using two 6” round baking tins.

For the sponges:-

200g softened butter

200g caster sugar

200g self-raising flour

3-4 medium eggs, beaten (you will need 200g weight)

Zest of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line the two baking tins.

Mix all the ingredients together, I beat the sugar and butter first and then add the beaten eggs, flour and zest and beat for a further minute.

Divide the mixture between the two baking tins and bake for around 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown, firm to touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

While waiting for the cake prepare a blueberry preserve:-

100g Blueberries

Juice of 2 Lemons

100g Granulated sugar

Place the sugar and lemon in a pan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Then bring to the boil, boiling rapidly until the mixture starts to become syrupy. Add the blueberries and simmer until the mixture reduces and becomes thicker. You can test by dropping a little onto a cold plate. Only stir very gently as the blueberries will break up too much. Leave to cool completely before adding to the cake.

When the two sponge cakes are baked and fully cooled they are filled with white chocolate buttercream and the blueberry mixture.

White Chocolate Buttercream:-

Melt 100g white chocolate. When it’s almost cool but not set, add 50g softened butter, 250g icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and beat well.

I’m entering this cake into this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge at Tin and Thyme as the theme is baking with chocolate and blueberries.

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Selling Home-made Cakes – Costing/Pricing

This is a guest post which has been written for me and I’ve found it really helpful. I’ve now set up my own cake company from home and one of the most challenging things I’ve found is correctly pricing my cakes. I hope it’s helpful to anyone else thinking about selling their home-made bakes.

Cost a Cake Pro: One of the Best Apps for Bakers

Baking can be one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. There’s nothing quite like spending hours in the kitchen creating something delicious with your hands and then seeing your friends’ and family’s smiles as they taste your bakes. What’s even better is that you can actually turn this hobby into a business, selling your home-made cupcakes to order.

But just as with any business, sometimes, we encounter a few problems, including not knowing how to price your products. Pricing is both the biggest problem small businesses face, and the most common, and sometimes, you may end up selling yourself short, barely making a profit between buying ingredients and accounting for labour and delivery costs. It often takes a lot of trial and error to be able to quote the proper price for your cupcakes, but not anymore.

According to the operators of Iceland Bingo, there were 1 billion people relying on their smartphones in 2012, and in just three years, this number has already doubled, encouraging app developers to create millions of apps for just about any need. Thanks to the growth of the mobile app market, even bakers can now use a great app to help them price their baked goods right! The app is called Cost a Cake Pro, and it’s made by The Cake Makery, an organization dedicated to helping bakers get the most out of their skills.

Costing £2.49 / $3.99 on Google Play, it might seem like Cost a Cake Pro is a bit expensive, but the app can easily prove to be worth its price. The way it works is that it allows you to add recipes for your cakes, and the input the prices of the ingredients individually. It even gives you the option to add costs of electricity or gas used for baking your cakes. Not a single factor goes unaccounted for, as you also add the costs of the baking paper and cupcake tins used. After which, the app even asks you how much you think you should be paid for labor, and then it gives you a basic quotation for that particular recipe. You can then use the app to keep track of orders and quotes, and gives you the option to convert between the Imperial and Metric systems, and also gives you access to all the classes at The Cake Makery.

Costing Cakes

The app is also quite adorable and easy on the eyes, and using it doesn’t feel tedious at all. Once you’ve inputted a recipe, you can continue reusing it for different orders, adjusting ingredient costs and other fees effortlessly right from the app itself!

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Cappuccino Cupcakes

Recently life has become very busy and I can’t complain one bit as I’m following my dream. I started my blog in October 2011 to record recipes I tried and loved and some of my own, and to try to bake more and learn more about baking. I intended it just to be for myself as I didn’t imagine anyone else would read it. I was amazed to find so many like minded people through the world of blogging and although I’d always loved baking it’s become such a passion through the inspiration I’ve found online. In February 2012 I attended my first cupcake course to learn a bit more about making my cakes look pretty to post on my blog. That started my journey in learning cake decorating and started my dream of having my own cake company. Today I’m in the middle of a very busy ‘Wedding Season’, having achieved my goal of starting a cake company and having the opportunity to make wedding cakes. It’s been a journey of crazy dreams and lots of hard work but I’m loving every minute. Sometimes it means that nothing else gets done and so my blog doesn’t get looked at but each time I come back and take a look around other people’s blogs I’m so inspired. My whole life is full of baking and cake decorating now and I love trying new recipes and ideas and I love that people pop by my blog and like my recipes too. Cakes are meant for sharing and recipes certainly are too.

So today I’m sharing these yummy cappuccino cupcakes, simple but very good.

Cappuccino CupcakesCappuccino Cupcakes

125g self raising flour
1 teaspoon cocoa powder (sieved)
125g very soft butter
125g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1 tablespoon coffee granules dissolved in 1 tablespoon of hot milk
Preheat oven to 160c
Put all the ingredients together in a mixer and mix until light and fluffy, but not for more than about 45 seconds. Fill 12 cupcake cases set in a 12 hole muffin tin and bake for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven. The cupcakes should be golden brown and firm to touch and a cocktail stick should come out clean when inserted into one of the cakes. Leave to cool completely before adding topping.
The cupcakes are now ready to cover with white chocolate buttercream…
150g white chocolate
50g soft butter
200g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Melt the white chocolate carefully in a bowl over a pan of boiling water or in the microwave. Allow to cool a little while beating together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla extract. Add the melted chocolate. Pipe swirls of the topping onto each cupcake.
Complete the cappuccino cupcakes by shaking some cocoa powder over the top using a sieve.
Cappuccino Cupcakes
The cappuccino cupcakes would look great served in cups as a dessert :)
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Top tips for a a very simple but perfect summer Tea Party

If, like me, you are suffering a turn in the weather and are having to stay inside, its time to think about planning a summer tea party for when the sun comes out again! Here are my top tips for planning a great tea party:-

1. Bake your own cakes and buy in your sandwiches. A perfect party needs a perfect host so time needs to be organised well. A home baked cake absolutely can’t be beaten for taste (even if it doesn’t look quite perfect), but I find sandwiches can be fiddly, time consuming and messy so I buy them in. Many supermarkets offer sandwiches to order for parties and I’ve found them to be delicious with lots of filling choices, and perfectly neatly made. Most cakes can be baked in advance allowing the much needed time on the party day for setting up. Cupcakes and sponge cakes can be baked one day ahead and kept sealed in an airtight container. Carrot cakes, fruit cakes and chocolate cakes keep well for a few days and the flavour is often better. Just remember that cream or cream cheese can only be added at the last minute as it can only safely be out of the fridge for a short time. Here is Mary Berry’s Victoria Sponge recipe – it’s easy but totally scrumptious and you can add fresh strawberries or raspberries and lashings of whipped double cream to create a stunning showstopper!

2. Decorate your party space. The garden or a gazebo can look pretty with just a few pieces of vintage china, for example cups or teapots filled with flowers. Mix and match patterns and add doilies on the plates. Complete the look with jam jars tied with lace and twine, filled with sugar and a teaspoon in the top or tied into the twine, to serve with tea. Making bunting needn’t mean getting out the sewing machine and cutting perfect triangles. Strips of prettily patterned fabric tied onto a length of twine (knot at the middle so that both ends flap freely) look gorgeous hung around a gazebo or from a tree.

3. Serve delicious drinks. Alcohol is wonderful at a party but on a hot day not everyone wants to drink it all afternoon so I serve some deliciously refreshing slightly alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks too. Jasmine Delight is a lovely light drink which sounds odd but is absolutely gorgeous and is always really popular.

Jasmine Delight:- 5 green Jasmine tea bags, 4 tbsp sugar, or to taste, 750ml champagne or prosecco. Brew the tea for 1 minute in 200ml hot water, then remove the bags, stir in the sugar and add 500ml cold water. Cool in the fridge. To serve – fill half a teacup with the tea, and then top up with the bubbly. (I found some lovely Organic Green Tea with Jasmine infusion tea bags at Marks & Spencer.)

For other summery drinks, I make fruit syrups by simmering equal amounts of fruit and sugar and water. (This can be made well in advance and stored in the fridge.)When the fruit is cooked well and pulpy, strain it to remove any fruit pulp, seeds etc. and then bring the remaining liquid to boil for a few minutes until it starts to thicken a little. When cooled, the syrup can be added to sparkling water for a non- alcoholic drink or can be added to prosecco or vodka for a delicious alcoholic version. Strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants are perfect to use. I serve drinks with a slice of lemon too and, if I’ve had time, home-made ice cubes containing a little edible petal or herb flower.


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Raspberry and Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes

These cupcakes are very summery and extremely delicious. Sweet raspberries with a zesty zing – yum!

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Cupcake Ingredients:-

100g Caster Sugar

100g Butter, softened

120g Self Raising Flour

2 Tablespoons Cornflour

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

2 Medium Eggs, beaten

3 Tablespoons Milk

Grated Zest 1 Lemon

Method:-

Heat the oven to 160c.
Beat together the butter and sugar until soft and creamy, then add the flour, cornflour, baking powder, lemon zest and eggs. Mix together well for one minute, making sure everything is combined. Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases set in a 12 hole muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and firm to touch.

Raspberry Syrup Ingredients:-
50g Raspberries
100g Caster Sugar
2 Tablespoons Water
Put the ingredients together in a pan and simmer over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar and cook the fruit. Heat for about ten minutes, stirring continuously, then sieve the fruit mixture into a clean pan, discarding the seeds. Bring the fruit mixture to a boil, continuing to boil rapidly for a few minutes until it is syrupy. Leave to cool before using.

Lemon Cheesecake Buttercream Ingredients:-
150g Butter, softened
250g Icing Sugar
2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
1 Teaspoon Cream Cheese Icing Flavouring (I used LorAnn Oils) Or replace 50g of the butter with cream cheese.
Beat the ingredients together well for a few minutes until really soft and creamy

To complete the cupcakes:-
Brush some raspberry syrup over the top of each cupcake. Then make up some lemon cheesecake buttercream and swirl this over the top of each cupcake. Finish with a drizzle of the raspberry syrup over the top. You could also add some biscuit crumbs to make a cheesecake effect but you will need to add this immediately before serving as they will go soft on the buttercream.

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Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes for Easter

Its time to celebrate all things chocolatey and spring like, so here are my Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes and some ideas for spring cupcake toppers and decoration. Happy Easter!

Chocolate Fudge Cupcakes

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Cupcake Ingredients:-

100g Soft Brown Sugar

100g Butter, softened

120g Self Raising Flour

2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder, sieved

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

2 Medium Eggs, beaten

3 Tablespoons Milk

5 x 25g Chocolate covered Fudge Bars

Method:-

Beat together the butter and sugar until soft and creamy, then add the flour, cocoa, baking powder and eggs and mix together well for one minute, making sure everything is combined. Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases set in a 12 hole muffin tin. Chop the fudge bars into small pieces and place one piece on top of each cupcake. (These will sink down during cooking but give a gooey, fudgy mouthful.) Reserve the rest of the chopped fudge bars to make the topping. Bake for 20 minutes at 160c.

Topping:-

2 Tablespoons Carnation Caramel

1 Tablespoon Cocoa Powder

75g Cream Cheese

225g Icing Sugar

Remaining Chopped Chocolate Fudge Bars

In a bowl set over a pan of boiling water, or a double pan, melt the chocolate fudge bars together with the caramel and cocoa powder. When fully melted and combined set aside to cool. The mixture needs to be cool but not set so stir occasionally and when ready beat together well with the cream cheese and icing sugar. The topping can now be used for the cupcakes. If not eaten (unlikely) they will need to be stored in the fridge due to the cream cheese.

I decided to package up some cupcakes as Easter gifts so added pretty spring toppers, some stripy paper cups with an added ribbon and popped them into gift boxes. I found some gorgeous Oxfam Easter cards and these were my inspiration for the toppers – spring flowers, little birdcages and birds – they looked perfect with the cupcakes.

Here’s how I made the little bird cupcake toppers…

I rolled out some pale ice blue roll-out sugar-paste and cut fluted circles to fit the top of my cupcakes, with a pastry cutter. I then cut heart shapes from white sugar-paste and some smaller hearts in pink. I cut each heart in half to give the shapes for the bird’s body and the wings. I then cut little pink blossoms with a cutter and completed the topper by piping some legs and an eye on the bird and some dots around the edge.


I would like to say a very Happy Easter and a big thank you to everyone who has liked my posts – I am really grateful and will be popping by your blogs to have a read and say hello!
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