Late Summer Cookout!

We may have seen the signs of autumn creeping in, here in the UK, but summer isn’t over yet. There will still be opportunities for a late summer ‘family get together’ outside. A ‘cookout’ or ‘Barbeque’ is always popular and I like to combine outdoor cooking with some of the elements of an Afternoon Tea party.

Here are my family’s 5 essentials for a great outdoors family feast:-

1.     Beer-Can Barbequed Chicken

The men in the family love to cook outdoors and this recipe for a whole chicken cooked with beer has become a favourite!  

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/chicken-recipes/sweet-spicy-beer-can-chicken

2.     Freshly made mayonnaise

We love home-made mayo with lots of salad and it’s surprisingly simple to make!

Mayonnaise Recipe

140mls Rapeseed Oil

1 Medium (very fresh) Egg Yolk

1 Tablespoon White Wine Vinegar

2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard

Pinch Salt

Whisk the egg yolk, white wine vinegar, mustard and salt together, in a food mixer. Continue to whisk while slowly trickling the oil into the mixture until it turns thick and creamy. You can add a pinch of chilli flakes or herbs to the mix at the end for added flavour.

For an extra special Potato Salad

Fry partially cooked, chopped potatoes in their skins, with sliced onions until everything is golden brown. Allow to cool and then stir in some home made mayo and a handful of chopped herbs – yum!

3.      Jasmine Tea Delight

Alcohol will often play a part in a family get together but for a lighter option here is Angel Adoree’s recipe for a lovely alcoholic iced tea:

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. This can be served in pretty summer glasses or in a vintage china tea cup – simply fill half a teacup with tea, then top up with the bubbly.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/royal-wedding/8411424/Green-jasmine-tea-bubbles-recipe.html

4.     Home baked cake

Don’t forget a delicious home baked cake – no family get together would be complete without a deliciously moist carrot cake or a Dorset apple cake served with clotted cream.

Carrot, Date and Pecan Traybake

275g finely grated carrots

250g dates, chopped

175g pecan nuts, chopped

6 eggs

350g soft brown sugar

9 fl ozs sunflower oil

350g SR flour

Whisk eggs and sugar together until thick and creamy. Whisk in the oil slowly then add all the remaining ingredients. Bake in a shallow tin at 190 c for approximately 35-40 minutes.

5.     Fresh flowers in a jug on the table

Just because we’re outside and the men are cooking doesn’t mean we can’t have a bit of styling!

                         “I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck”

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Great British Bake Off – Bread

The Great British Bake Off ‘week three’ challenges were bread bakes. I did think about skipping this week as I’ve only ever baked one loaf of bread – a white loaf from Series 2 of Bake Off. Although it turned out well, I’ve never tried any bread since then and always prefer to bake cakes.

However, I’ve decided to challenge myself to try as many bakes as I can during this series of Great British Bake Off and so had to have a bash at Paul’s ciabatta. I managed to follow the recipe accurately and produced my own ciabatta! To my surprise it was very easy to follow and turned out well (although I don’t have to impress Paul).

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

This is definitely a ‘bake again’ recipe so I would recommend giving it a go.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/ciabatta_05418

I also tried an Irish Brack from the Great British Bake Off  Big Book of Baking which goes with the series. This was absolutely delicious kept for a day or two and served sliced with butter and marmalade:)

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Great British Bake Off – Biscuits

Last week’s Great British Bake Off saw the bakers making biscuits and trying to master Mary Berry’s Technical Challenge – Florentines. I thought the Florentines looked difficult and couldn’t find a recipe that looked like Mary’s so I ‘invested’ in the new Bake Off book, ‘The Great British Bake Off Big Book Of Baking’. (Any excuse to buy another recipe book!)

Turning to the page on Florentine’s I was pleasantly surprised to find that the recipe looked fairly straightforward. I did however, still struggle a bit with getting everything quite right so would have been totally lost in the Bake Off Tent :(

Firstly, I didn’t cut my cranberries small enough. That would seem unimportant but actually the fruit in your Florentine needs to be cut very small or they don’t stick in the mixture very well when you are getting it onto the baking tray. My second hitch was while concentrating on using a teaspoon of mixture for each Florentine, dolloped onto the baking tray, I forgot that there should have been 18. I ended up with 14 and when baked they were all different sizes. How do you measure a sticky mixture accurately whilst dolloping onto a baking sheet?! Its beyond me and probably another good reason why I will never make it into that infamous baking tent.

I can’t say my chocolate melting was entirely successful either. I heated 100g it to 53c as Mary suggests and then added another 100g to melt into it, allowing it to cool to 26c. I thought I could speed up the process by placing the bowl into cold water. Don’t do it, just be patient and wait, my chocolate went hard again very rapidly. Whew! the whole thing turned out to be a bit of an ordeal. They tasted fab though so all was ok in the end but I’m not sure if I could be bothered to do them again:)

I also made some Walnut Oat Biscuits from my BBC Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes. These were simple to make and delicious with cheese but still a bit ‘rustic’ looking, the sizes being slightly different again. My hat is well and truly taken off this week to Norman who baked a batch of absolutely perfect Farthing Biscuits – fantastic!

Florentines

Florentines

Walnut Oat Biscuits

Walnut Oat Biscuits

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Inspirational Great British Bake Off!

I love ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and have eagerly awaited this year’s series of baking challenges. The programme is full of baking achievements and struggles, hilarity, banter and innuendo and tears of disappointment when things don’t go quite right. The team of presenters and judges are a perfect mix and its interesting getting to know all the new characters attempting to become Bake Off champion.

I take my hat off to all the competitors. I can’t imagine anything quite as terrifying as having to bake in a kitchen you’re not used to, in a time limit, in front of T.V. cameras and taste tested by the formidable Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Whew!

However, the series has been a source of great inspiration to me and I have learned so much from all the tips, triumphs and disasters. This year I’ve decided to get a bit more involved in my own little way by baking along with some of the challenges. I know it will inspire me to try different bakes and hopefully enable me to increase my baking skills.

Last Wednesday night saw the competitors baking Swiss Rolls, Mary Berry’s Classic Cherry Cake and mini cakes. I’ve had a go at a Swiss Roll, following Mary Berry’s own recipe very carefully in her 100 Cakes and Bakes. I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the sponge mixture, filled the cake with Morello Cherry Conserve and some double cream whipped with a little caster sugar and vanilla extract. Wow! Ok so I’m not quite Bake Off standard, but I was quite pleased with the result and the taste was heavenly! I would never choose to make a Swiss Roll normally as I have horrible memories of the cheap manufactured ones found in supermarkets so I was sweetly surprised.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

I also baked mini Cherry Cakes. I adapted Mary Berry’s recipe slightly by adding lemon zest and then making the icing with lemon juice and icing sugar. I topped with toasted almonds and added a fresh cherry for decoration. Mary’s mixture made 6 mini cakes.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Thanks to Mary’s tip of washing and drying the cherries carefully my cherry’s miraculously stayed put and didn’t all sink to the bottom – yay!

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Afternoon Tea Scones

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This is Afternoon Tea Week in the UK, which is very interesting for an Afternoon Tea lover like me. It’s not simply the delightful cakes and bakes; I really enjoy a good cup of tea in a vintage china tea cup. My ‘Afternoon Tea’ tends to consist of a cup of tea and a little sweet ‘something’ but it can be a much grander affair.
I was lucky enough once, to experience an Afternoon Tea at Betty’s in York. The venue itself is reminiscent of tea times past and you are served with a three tier cake stand full of scrumptious goodies. The bottom tier always contains the savoury nibbles such as delicate finger sandwiches containing fillings such as smoked salmon, cream cheese and very finely sliced cucumber. The middle tier contains freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream. The top tier then contains a selection of mini sweet bakes.
Another of my favourite places is Dot .Teas Vintage Tea Boutique in Westbourne, Bournemouth. You are served the full Afternoon Tea and lashings of hot tea in a vintage setting with all the lovely vintage china. It’s very small, packed with vintage pieces and feels just like being served tea in your Nan’s kitchen, perfect!
My problem is always that I find it difficult to eat as much as I’d like to. After sampling sandwiches followed by deliciously fresh scones piled high with jam and cream, I really find I can’t squeeze in the cake as well. I often just opt for a cream tea when going out as the scones really are the best bit for me.
This year I’ve been on a sort of quest to find the best scone recipe and am slightly at a loss as it is rather subjective. Just as some people say ‘scon’ and some say ‘scone’, some like jam first while others prefer cream; the type of scone taste preference is always different too. For such a seemingly simple bake there are so many different recipes with very slight differences. The scone is actually rather difficult to get right and there are lots of tips to perfect them. While in Australia earlier this year I sampled some scummy scones made with cream and lemonade instead of butter, milk and sugar.
So, my current favourite recipe for scones is actually made up of a cross between the Australian one and my old favourite from Marguerite Patten.
I use 240g Self Raising Flour, 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder, 60g Butter (very cold). Rub the butter very gently into the flour and baking powder. Then bind the mixture together lightly with some lemonade. Roll out the mixture lightly and cut either 6 large rounds or 12 small ones. Brush the tops very gently with a little milk and then bake for about 35 minutes at 170c.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam…..A delicious scone doesn’t even need jam and cream – sometimes just butter will do!

There is a fabulous post at The Botanical Baker with lots more about scones http://thebotanicalbaker.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/how-to-make-the-perfect-scone-for-afternoon-tea-week/
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Chocca Mocca Traybake

Chocca Mocca Cake
This is a simple, lightly coffee sponge tray-bake with a chocolate topping and sprinkled with toasted nuts. I tried a ‘Cappuccino’ cake at a cake sale and it was absolutely delicious so I thought I’d try to replicate it. However, it had a white chocolate, buttercream type topping, sprinkled with chocolate powder. My cake turned out quite different as I didn’t have any white chocolate available but it is very light and quite delicious.

Chocca Mocca Traybake

Ingredients:-

225g Self-Raising Flour

1 Teaspoon Baking POwder

2 Teaspoons Cocoa

225g Butter, softened

4 Eggs, medium beaten

5 Teaspoons Coffee granules dissolved in a little hot water

Method:-

Pre heat the oven to 180c and prepare a 20cm tray bake tin.

Sift together the dry ingredients.

Beat the butter, eggs and coffee together then stir in the dry ingredients.

Bake for  approximately 30-40 minutes.

Ingredients for the topping:-

125g Chocolate icing sugar

150g Milk Chocolate cake covering

50g Butter

1 Tablespoon Black treacle

1 Teaspoon Vanilla extract

Method for the topping:-

Heat all the ingredients, stirring well until melted, in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.

Allow to cool and then spread over the cooled cake.

To decorate the cake I toasted 150g chopped, mixed nuts and sprinkled over the top of the cake.

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Baking and technology

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Baking with an Acer Iconia A1 Tablet

I have recently discovered the Acer Iconia A1 Tablet. I wouldn’t call myself a technological person and have generally been happy with my laptop and a mobile phone and think of myself as more of an artistic / creative person. I bake, make and create cakes and enjoy a creative life. What I’ve just discovered though is a creative girl’s best friend.
I’ve spent the past two weeks playing with an Acer Iconia A1 Tablet after I was kindly sent it to try. What I discovered is that I can search for recipes and pictures, ideas and inspiration as well as download You Tube tutorials, magazines and books and cake decorating apps!
The 7.9” screen is a perfect size to view while I’m actually baking which is a revelation as I usually struggle to see things on my phone. I like to be able to keep looking at the pictures as I work, particularly when I’m making sugar flowers and models for the top of cakes. And yes, although I have lots of recipe books I am always looking for new ideas and recipes.
I can also store documents so can keep all my new recipe ideas together and of course take photo’s of my newly baked creations. The battery lasts for 7.5 hours and the fact that it is big enough to see everything clearly and small enough to hold in one hand makes it the perfect accessory to take everywhere. I often need to show my cake creations and can create a scrumptious looking slideshow as well as check back to my recommended cake portions and sizes.
I can check out emails, play music, check out ‘Amazing Wedding Cakes’ and play with any number of other apps. Alas, I think my poor trusty old laptop may not be coming out so often – it’s just so much easier to keep the tablet close to hand.
You can find out all about the Acer Tablet and see more information and Iconia A1 Review.
This weekend I created a ‘Beatrix Potter Cake’ for my granddaughter, featuring Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck and Mrs. Tittlemouse. I used the tablet to find pictures from her stories as well as finding cake ideas and modelling tips. The cake was a vanilla sponge with strawberry jam and strawberry chocolate ganache filling (I used 100g of Silver Spoon Strawberry Chocolate drops along with white chocolate). I think she was thrilled with the result!

Created with Nokia Smart CamCreated with Nokia Smart Cam
NB. I was sent an Acer Iconia A1 Tablet to try but was not paid or asked to give any particular view point. Everything I have written is my own unbiased point of view and I only include comments which I believe are of use to others who may read my blog and enjoy similar things to myself.

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Lemon Curd Rolls for Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea doesn’t have to be a grand affair. Sometimes it’s just simply enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake outside on a sunny afternoon. Having some home-made cake available for just those occasions is something I love. As a child it was always a delight to visit my grandmother who always kept home-made cake in a tin. It was just the done thing to have cake available should anyone visit.

I love trying new recipes and recently found several afternoon tea recipes to try out at Baking Mad. This weekend I attempted their Lemon Curd Rolls recipe. I’m not quite sure if mine turned out exactly as they should have as they kind of melted together during baking and became more of a deliciously lemony cake more than separate rolls.

However, this resulting ‘cake’ was something quite scrumptiously moreish and just the thing to go with a cup of tea in the garden. It’s exactly the sort of cake to keep in a tin and serve to any fortunate visitor as it’s just a little denser than a sponge and has lots of lovely lemon curd layered inside to give it moisture. The simplicity of this bake also means it’s one to come back to time and time again.

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I do believe in using good quality ingredients when baking and I’m sure that makes the difference between a good home-baked cake and a shop bought cake. Baking Mad recipes recommend using specific ingredients in their cake recipes and I was only too happy to follow this as I would use those items anyway. They recommend using Billington’s sugar, Allinson’s flour, Neilson Massey Lemon Extract and Silver Spoon icing sugar in the recipe I tried. I also used my own home-made lemon curd and local farm fresh free range eggs.

I was also pleased to see that Baking Mad have some lovely looking scone recipes for me to try. I recently visited Australia and tried a new scone recipe from over there but I have yet to decide on my favourite one. My scone research continues as they are always a favourite for afternoon tea but a great scone can be hard to find!

I bought all the ingredients I used myself and chose the recipe so everything I have written is my own opinion. I have received some other items in the post to try out some more Baking Mad recipes for which I am very grateful:)
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Little lemon drizzle heart cakes

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……..Just time to take a cup of tea and a lovely lemony drizzle cake into the garden and enjoy the sun!

 

These lovely little heart shaped cakes are simply cut with a heart shaped cutter from a lemon drizzle tray bake and look perfect served on vintage china.

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5 fun ways to decorate your cake!

The Artistry of Baking

5 fun ways to decorate your cake

If you ask a stranger if they rather like cooking or baking, his answer is most likely going to be cooking. People who prefer cooking will all agree with food writer Danielle Oteri that following directions and exact measurements is a pain. Although both are forms of culinary arts, it’s cooking that’s more so an art and baking as a science. The artistry of baking really comes after the cake is out of the oven. And for all those bakers, both aspiring and professional, decorating the cakes is the best part of the whole process.
Just like M&S ’s head of cake development Helen Brennan is “always on the lookout for new icing and decorating techniques,” you should be too. There are plenty of ways to personalise cakes, and no baker should just limit themselves with buttercream frosting as the finishing touch to their final product.
Here are some simple yet imaginative ways to decorate your cake:

Add fondant shapes

Use cookie cutters on already rolled out fondant icing to create shapes for your cake or even cupcakes. Fondant dries out pretty quickly so it’s best to seal the leftovers with plastic wrap.

Make a polka dot cake

To make add charm to your layered cake, try adding polka dots! Not only are they fun but they also do a nice job of hiding whatever flaws there are in the cake’s icing. To keep those dots neat, remember to hold the pastry bag in both hands. The tip should be at a slight angle just above the cake’s surface. Then squeeze gently, release, and pull back.

Sprinkle sanding sugar

Place a stencil of your cake and dust away with the colours of your choice using a spoon. Remember, before placing the stencil, the cake should have already been frosted and refrigerated for a couple of hours.

Instead of any additional icing…

Fruits, nuts, and some store bought cookies are great, inventive, and easier ways to decorate a cake. Nuts can be crushed and sprinkled on top or even line the edges of the cake. Sliced berries and cream filled sandwich cookies could serve as embellishments.

Or if you’re looking to just frost the cake after baking…

Try using the teaspoon technique on the cake frosting. All you have to do is make “S” shapes with a teaspoon. If you mess up, simply start over by smoothening out the frosting.

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