Great British Bake Off – Pastries

Week 7 on Great British Bake Off saw our intrepid bakers challenged with lots of different pastries. The competition is so fierce now that the slightest mistake made a difference and the lovely Kate had to leave the tent. These bakers are incredibly talented and my bake along challenge is no where near as challenging as what they are experiencing. The time constraints and judging would terrify me before I’d even had time to panic about the actual baking.

So my feeble attempts are just my own little challenge to myself to improve my baking. This week I attempted mini eclairs, filling them with rose flavoured crème pattissiere and topping with pink icing and strawberries.

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I also baked mini pasties which I enthusiastically overfilled. I used a pastry recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Veg book and filled them with caramelised onions, sweet potato and brie. I caramelised the onions first in a pan, then added finely chopped sweet potatoes to brown them off. I then turned off the heat and added chunks of brie which melted into the mix a little. The mixture was left to cool and then added to the middle of pastry circles (saucer sized). These were then cooked until golden brown. They were actually quite tasty even though they did overflow a bit  and were nice eaten hot or cold. :)

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Lemon Griestorte

Last week was European Cake Week on Great British Bake off. We saw Yeast Leavened Cake, Kugelhopfs, Savarins and Tortes and the final challenge was Mary Berry’s Prinsesstarta .

I was slightly unsure where to start baking – not too sure what was a Kugelhopf and what was a Savarin; and slightly unnerved by the amount of sweetness in the Tortes and Tarta’s. After a few weeks of trying to bake along with the Great British Bake Off I’m starting to struggle a bit with eating it all! I decided to try to find a lighter European Cake and found a lovely Lemon Griestorte in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

My Lemon Griestorte was baked following Mary’s recipe. ‘Self-Raising Flower’  has baked her way through Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and has a lovely blog post describing how to make Lemon Griestorte.

I filled my cake with a lemon, cream, mascarpone filling and added blueberries. I also piped some of the mascarpone mix onto the top of the cake to make it look pretty. The cake did need some ‘prettying’ as it was rather plain when baked and hadn’t risen very much as it has no flour. The end result however, was very scrummy. It’s a light cake with a slight graininess from the semolina and ground almonds it’s baked with. It would be very bland without a filling and the lemon, cream and mascarpone filling with blueberries was perfect. It was scrumptious without being over sweet – and would be suitable for afternoon tea as well as for a special occasion. Mary states that the cake keeps well but it would have to be stored in the fridge with this filling.

To make the filling I used 250g Mascarpone whisked together with 300g Double Cream and 4 teaspoons Lemon Extract ( I used Nielsen-Massey)until thick. For the blueberries, I made a syrup with the juice of 1 Lemon and 50g Caster Sugar – heated gently in a pan while stirring to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil for a few minutes. When the syrup started to thicken I added a punnet of Blueberries, stirred them in so that they had a little heat and were covered in syrup, then I turned the heat off and allowed them to cool. The thick, syrupy blueberry mixture should be cooled fully before spooning onto a layer of the mascarpone mix in the middle of the cake.

A beautiful Prinsesstarta was baked by Kat at The Baking Explorer, who is also challenging herself to bake along with Great British Bake Off – it looks stunning!

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Great British Bake Off – Tarts

Week 5 on The Great British Bake Off saw the intrepid bakers challenged with pies and tarts. I decided to make a Raspberry and Lemon Custard Tart. I used Pate Sucree – a French recipe for a sweet pastry but added lemon zest to the mix. I blind baked it to provide a cooked tart base. I made crème patissiere (a French set custard) with added lemon extract and allowed this to cool before it was added to the pastry base. I then made a raspberry curd to drizzle over the top, finally adding some fresh raspberries and a dusting of icing sugar.

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Raspberry Curd Recipe

200g Raspberries

Juice 1 Lemon

225g Caster Sugar

50g Butter, melted

2 Eggs

Cook the raspberries and till soft and mushy then strain to get all the juice but leaving all the seeds behind. Then add all the other ingredients and place in a bowl or pan over another pan of boiling water. Keep the water boiling while stirring all your ingredients continuously until starting to thicken. Allow the curd to cool before using.

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Orange Marmalade Self-Saucing Pudding

Recently I have been enjoying the Great British Bake Off series and trying to join with some of the baking challenges. Week 4 saw the bakers in the Great British Bake Off tent challenged by desserts. There was some controversy as poor Iain had a pudding meltdown but I felt very sorry for him as things transpired against him. Desserts week was indeed a challenge for me although I’d expected it to be one of my easiest and I almost reached a pudding meltdown.

Things started badly as I thought I’d try Mary Berry’s Tiramisu Cake. I love Mary Berry dearly and her recipes have always turned out perfectly but I found myself asking ‘why would anyone want to make this?’ It was hideously complicated and fiddly and ended up tasting like soggy cold, excessively sweet coffee – not nice. The recipe involved baking a Swiss-roll type base, cutting it into squares which were also cut in half horizontally to create wafer thin pieces of sponge. These were then soaked in a cold coffee mixture and layered with a mascarpone and icing sugar filling. The final result was then coated completely with the sweet mascarpone, sprinkled with chocolate and decorated with chocolate swirls. I’m sorry to sound so disrespectful but it was a total waste of time and something I will never bake again:)

Self-saucing puddings were my next challenge. Chocolate Fondants – my preferred option, were out of the question as despite having a cupboard full of baking paraphernalia I didn’t have quite the right thing to bake them in. I decided to try a chocolate pudding that had the sauce at the bottom, a recipe I’d found in a magazine. The sauce did manage to find it’s way to the bottom quite successfully but was too runny and too sweet. By this point I was in no mood to attempt the dreaded Baked Alaska which resulted in Iain’s demise. In desperation for a delicious pudding I resorted to a basic Bread Pudding with Lemon and Blueberries I’d found in the new Bake Off book. At last! A pudding that was actually edible!

Still, not one to be beaten by a pudding, I devised my own self-saucing recipe. My Orange Marmalade Self-Saucing Pudding is actually yummy if I may say so myself. It put a smile back on my face anyway :)

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Orange Marmalade Self-Saucing Pudding


150g Softened Butter

150g Caster Sugar

2 Eggs + Milk to make 150ml

Zest 2 Oranges

150g Self-Raising Flour

25g Fine Semolina

1 Tablespoon Marmalade

Ingredients for Orange Sauce:-

Juice 2 Oranges

75g Granulated Sugar

125ml Water


Beat the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy.

Whisk the eggs and milk together.

Prepare a pudding basin by greasing it well. Then spread the marmalade over the bottom.

Mix the butter and sugar, eggs and milk, together with the zest, flour and semolina until all the ingredients are combined but for no more than 1 minute. Pour the mixture into the pudding basin over the marmalade. Cover the mixture and place in the fridge for at least four hours, preferably overnight.

When the pudding is ready to be baked, preheat the oven to 200c and make the sauce by combining the orange juice, sugar and water in a pan. Heat the ingredients gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar then bring to the boil for two or three minutes.

Take the pudding straight from the fridge and pour the boiling sauce directly over the top and then place into the hot oven. Bake at 200c for ten minutes then reduce the heat to 180c for about 15 minutes. The sponge will be baked and raised while the sauce will sink to the bottom and combine with the marmalade.

This is a deliciously light and moist pudding which will keep well for about three days.


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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.

I was recently asked what favourite items I would want to put in a ‘Cookout Crate’ and so started to think about what essentials make a great outdoors family feast. A ‘Cookout Crate’ is an idea from Man Crates, a new company that ships ‘awesome’ gifts for men in custom wooden crates. I was intrigued by this as the men in my family are often difficult to find exciting gifts for. Man Crates have some great ideas and I love their Hickory Grill Crate which would be perfect for a man who loves a cookout. 

Here are my family’s top 5 essentials for a fun Cookout:-

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!

2.     Freshly made mayonnaise

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

Mayonnaise Recipe

(This recipe is adapted from other recipes I’ve seen as it contains Rapeseed Oil)

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.

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).

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

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!



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.

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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.

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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


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
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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


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


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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