Monday, 2 June 2014

Hob Nobs

I came across this recipe from who I subscribe to, and give various inspirations for my cooking and baking, so decided to use it as a base. LINK

I certainly felt my pedantic, 'put your money where your mouth is' side coming out, when I read the claim that these are better than the famed (and beloved) shop bought type.

Now I'm a huge advocate of DIY, however I have somehow always thought of my edible creations as satisfying a different need (treats for friends, family, and colleagues), rather than replacing a current one (I need sweet stuff, buy the shop stuff!). If that makes sense.

Anyhoo, to cut a long story short, I wanted to try these, as English biscuits (when available) are ridiculously expensive here in Stockholm, which goes against my thrifty ways, which nevertheless miraculously vanish in the face of Immediate Need.

So I did indeed try them; the ingredients and measurements are simple; a quarter of a kilo for the base of SR flour, sugar, - not specified which type, so freestyle! - butter; I used unsalted, but I think salted would be fine, and oats - I've been looking for a loose reason to use my jumbo ones, and the lack of specification let me do just that!

The instructions advise you to roll the dough out, however I felt my mixture was a bit loose (perhaps the use of jumbo oats didn't help), so I opted to shape the individual biscuits by hand. This also showed me that the mix was a bit greasy, I reckon it wouldn't hurt to reduce the butter by 20-50 g.

I made 29 biscuits in all, and they do indeed taste like the hob nobs many of us know and love, and I do give my Baking Fanatic stamp of approval: they are better than the shop bought ones!

Tin o' Biscuits
I have since tried these using a finer oat, and no other changes. They were still scrummy!

Available at Samara's Baked Goods

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Swedish Butterscotch and Sea Salt Cookies

Recipe base from Not Quite Nigella (LINK)

I was drawn to this recipe as I am yet to try Swedish baking (minor crimelet as I live in Sweden), and this seemed remarkably simple. It did not disappoint! Very easy to make, tasted lovely, despite some improvisation with the ingredients; milda margarine rather than unsalted butter, ground salt instead of sea salt, vanilpulver rather than vanilla extract (the last being more authentic to Sweden, so nyeh!).

As I have a 'hasty' oven, I removed the biscuits after 10 minutes, but other than that, the instructions were followed.

They were very tasty, and as noted by Not Quite Nigella (NQN), a reward far outweighed by the effort.

Definitely one to do again! I also had two Swedes try them out, and they said they tasted authentic: result!

Easy Peasy

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Strawberry Shortcakes/Passion Fruit Shortcakes

Based on a recipe from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

I've made these once before about a year ago so felt it was a good choice to make as a birthday gift for a friend. I had to smuggle them into the club (yes, you heard me right), and they are better served warm, but they survived (just) and still tasted great.

I found some delicious Belgian strawberries at the bargain price of 20 SEK (~ £2) at the street stalls that are common in Stockholm and was sold a cake box from a local cake shop for 5 SEK so was feeling pretty smug. At the same time, I was also slightly indignant as the same shop had sold me two cake boxes of the same size two months earlier for 15 SEK each.

I had to go to The English Shop to get pastry cutters, and weirdly enough, couldn't find the required 6.5 cm size, so had to choose between a 6 cm ring or 7 cm. I opted for the smaller size in the end.

I was able to make a baker's dozen from the dough, and ahem, 'rounded it off' to a proper dozen, just for testing purposes, of course!

The strawberry sauce was lovely, and I would say that the optional balsamic vinegar is actually essential.

Strawberry ones

The whipped cream was a bit of a challenge as Swedish cream doesn't whip as easily as the English type, so I added a couple of teaspoons of vannilinsocker to help it along, which it did, although it was still too soupy for my liking. I would say that only half of the cream is needed; 125 ml rather than 250 ml.

I will be trying this again with the suggested alternative of passion fruit to strawberries for another friend's birthday as I know she loves the fruit (as do I!)
Keep your eyes peeled!

Nightmare to make! Doing double quantities wasn't a good plan!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Chocolate Cheesecake

After many years of looking longingly through the glass panels of my mind, I decided to break through and finally make My First Cheesecake.

I opted to do a chocolate version as a colleague is an expert at the more traditional NY cheesecake, and I didn't want to disappoint myself. I was swaying between Nigella's suggestions, and those from The Hummingbird Bakery book. I settled on basing this bake on the latter as I had the right size tin, and do not yet own a 20cm springform (that Nige's recipes require).

The mixture was fairly easy, both for the base and the cheesey mix. I was a bit concerned that when lowering the temperature of the melted chocolate with the cheese mixture, it turned a bit claggy, which reminded me of an awful encounter with corn flour when making custard. It righted itself in the end, and I even added a little flourish of a cup of milk & white chocolate chips in the batter. In retrospect, I think another half cup would have been better.

The Bain Marie, oh the Bain Marie! None of my roasting tins were big enough to sit the springform in, especially with the double layer of extra thick foil around it, so I used one of those trays that fit across the oven.

The water didn't go up to the recommended 2/3 of the tin, more like 1/2, but it didn't appear to hurt the cake (this is written pre-Cut). I baked it for 50 minutes, and despite the wobble I took it out.

So far, I'm pleased with the outcome... Maybe I'll research on how to lessen the bubbles...
Mixing by hand perhaps? Hopefully after refrigerating, the cake is *still* good!

So after the cut, I found the cake to be very soft... this was after around 12 hours in the fridge! It tasted amazing, though, so still very pleased with my first attempt!

The Cut

Monday, 5 May 2014

Gateau Breton

Based on a recipe from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

According to Nigella, it is a cross between a pastry and a pound cake.

Very simple cake, surprisingly moist, but needs to be carefully watched. I felt it was overdone at 25 minutes but I wanted to follow the instructions exactly. Next time 20 minutes! It still tasted nice!

Before the bake...
I don't think it made any difference, but I used a 26 cm tin rather than a 25 cm. I felt that was a better option to a 23 cm.


Butterscotch Layer Cake

Recipe base from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

I would like to say I followed the instructions exactly but right off the bat, I added too much water to the sugar for my caramel. First time excuse still valid??

I managed to rescue it somewhat, and the cake was a success. Moist, and not overly sweet. Obviously no oil painting, but it was gone in 15 minutes from the staff room, which I was pleased with.

Finished Article

The cut! The top was missing a piece as it stuck to the tin

Read about my second attempt here

Available at Samara's Baked Goods

Hummingbird Cake

Based on recipe from... You guessed it: The Hummingbird Bakery book.

A signature fruit cake that I would never have attempted, again because it is a layer cake (see Brooklyn Blackout Cake), and also because it has pineapple in it. Not my cup of tea... Or so I thought!

The batter was easy to create, and the bake was very simple. Again, being a reluctant cake decorator I unceremoniously slathered the cream cheese frosting on, and arranged some pecan nuts on the cake. It actually had its own charm. I'm hindsight, I should have probably levelled the cakes as the result was quite a tall assembly, but meh! I didn't want the scraps about.

The cake turned out to be lovely and light... Whilst it was mainly a banana and pecan cake, the cream cheese frosting made it reminiscent of carrot cake.

Definitely one to do again!

Available at Samara's Baked Goods

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

Based on the recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery book.

I was nervous about this cake, mainly because it's a layer cake - never attempted one before! - and also because it involves a custard; also never made one from scratch.

The instructions were very clear, the cakes and the custard came out well. My issue was with the assembly. The chilled custard was very stiff despite not chilling it for as long as advised, and I was worried it would destroy the cake as I was spreading it on. I wouldn't chill it again should I make it again (unlikely)!
I also couldn't get the crumbs on neatly so it looked very homemade... Not that I'm complaining, a polished finish on one of my cakes would be suspicious given my less than favourable views on icing.

'Finished' Product
Regarding the taste, I found the cake rather heavy and extremely chocolatey. One for the chocoholics, but not for me... I'm not a chocolate fan.

The 'Cut' - don't mind the speck, that was from another cake!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Sticky Fruit Flapjacks

Based on the Sticky Plum Flapjack Bars recipe from BBC Good Food (LINK).

I have actually made these before, and they turned out fine, if not a little juicy, most probably because I used frozen fruit.

I've been in the mood for a chewy flapjack, so decided to give this recipe another go.

Everything was fine. The bake was perhaps a little bit over at 45 minutes, but otherwise I would say it went well.

The disaster struck when I misguidedly left the flapjacks to cool completely in the tin. After turning it out, I could not slice them at all, without it breaking into misshapen unsightly pieces. I wrapped up the remaining unsliced block in foil, and it did soften a little bit after a couple of hours, but it was still not soft enough to slice adequately.

I felt that this was a waste of ingredients, so will be cautious before making this again.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Sticky Peach Cupcakes

Based on the Peaches and Cream Cupcakes recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery book.

These were fairly straightforward to make, nothing overly complicated.

I opted to not ice them as it was too soon after the Ginger Cupcakes debacle, and I couldn't face making another batch of icing. Instead I used vanillinsocker, which is essentially vanilla flavoured icing sugar, and sprinkled it over the top.

I renamed them 'Sticky Peach' cupcakes, as they did become very sticky, even before they had been dusted with the vanilla sugar; this may have been because I stowed them away into a tub when they were not completely cool (although they were pretty much cool). Also as there is no cream in the mixture, this part of the name must come from the icing, so I would have been slightly fraudulent if I had stuck with the original title.

I am personally not a fan of fruity cakes, whether the fruit is incorporated in the batter, or on the bottom/top. I like them even less when they make a layer, as there is that slightly sticky residue that occurs where the batter meets the fruit, so I was not overly impressed by these cakes, however as per usual, they were eaten by my ever willing colleagues - mainly because they were cakes, rather than that they were good.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Ginger Flapjacks

Recipe base from BBC Good Food (LINK)

I followed the advice of the comments and reduced the butter to 250g, and opted not to use the topping, so I added all the crystallised ginger and ground ginger to the base mix itself, which made them quite spicy, but not horribly so.

What I did do was bake the flapjacks in a rather large roasting tin for 20 minutes - this made them rather hard and biscuity, so should I do them again, I will use my smaller roasting tin to keep them chewy rather than crunchy.

Coconut Carrot Bites

Recipe base from BBC Good Food (LINK).

I was really looking forward to making this recipe, as I am a big fan of carrot cake. I added the remainder of my pumpkin seeds, and whilst they didn't hurt the cake, they didn't really add to it either.

The cake timings definitely need adjusting - I found the cake needed at least another 20 minutes after the topping was added, however the topping was nearly done after 10, so I needed to cover it with foil to protect it.

The resulting cake was moist yet somehow crumbly. I didn't feel it was as 'carrotty' as I would want; the predominant flavour was from the coconut topping - that could definitely have done with more butter - which was not unwelcome, however it made the carrot surplus to requirements in my mind.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Ginger Cupcakes

Ginger Cupcakes based on the recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery book.

The amount of ginger to use is a bit confusing as they say to use 200g and then reserve the syrup, so I think you are meant to weigh the ginger with the syrup, and then chop the ginger that is included.

I say this in retrospect, as I decided to weigh 400g of the ginger itself (I was making double the mixture), and when chopping the it, I found the process extremely tedious. Plus it looked like there was a lot of ginger. I ended up only chopping around 300g of the ginger.

The batter seemed very nice and smooth, and when I baked them (each tray was done in 21 minutes), they seemed to have had a nice consistency.

The recipe required the sugar syrup that the stem ginger came in to be mixed with water and then reduced, but this seemed unnecessary to me, so I just spooned over the gingery syrup straight from the jar.

The Icing. This is where it all went wrong. The recipe called for ginger infused milk, to which I thought I should add a bit of vanilla extract. I think this curdled the milk. In the future, when wanting to add vanilla to icing that involves milk, I will make sure I use vanillinsocker or vaniljpulver as they do not have alcohol, and are dry ingredients, so should not curdle it.

As upsetting as the icing was, I think the cakes were good - nice consistency, but I think I would prefer ginger flavour, rather than ginger pieces.

Doubling the quantities yielded 28 cupcakes (my muffin tin is slightly smaller than standard).

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Blueberry Cake

Recipe based on The Hummingbird Bakery Recipe Book.

The batter was lovely and smooth, and I thought I would make it extra special by using my precious handpicked Swedish blueberries that a colleague and I had collected, and then put into the freezer (after washing them of course).

Despite the recipe recommending that the cake go into a 25cm ring tin, I found the batter quite plentiful, and barely fitted into my 26cm ring tin.

The cake took over an hour to bake, and developed a large unsightly crack on the top (something I am becoming more accustomed to seeing when following recipes from this book), which then became oozy during its bake.

I was unhappy with the way the cake turned out; it was quite a damp one, and I've never been a fan of that type (which is probably why I don't like fruit cakes), so didn't feel it was worth my while to ice it.

Chocolate Covered Banana Cake Poops

Yes, they are Cake Poops, not Cake Pops.

One, because they looked like poops, and two, because they are - strictly speaking - not cake pops.

I was baking banana cake based on the Hummingbird Bakery book, and I could tell it wasn't quite going well; the cake looked like it was baked when it still had at least 30 minutes to go. It clearly wasn't done, so I decided to risk it and go for a run - ostensibly for 20 minutes, but as a non-runner, and indeed non-exercise-anything-person, it took a little bit longer, and I returned to a very well done and slightly sunken cake.

In its defence, it was still edible, but it looked terrible. I couldn't present that!

I decided to try and salvage the cake as I can't abide waste (have I mentioned that before?!)

I cut the well done edges off and crumbled the cake inner (which tasted very nice, by the way, it just had the appearance of a Jamaican Ginger Cake!) then mashed them into healthy sized balls (about the size of a ping pong ball), and then dipped them in dark chocolate melted with a bit of butter.

I chilled them in the fridge for just under an hour, and by which point they still kept their shine, yet were firm and cool enough to eat. They were delicious. I would definitely do something like this again, but only if the cake looked like it had been hit with the ugly stick.

When I later managed to get on-line, I then discovered that cake pops are actually crumbled cakes mixed with a bit of buttercream icing and then chilled before dipping into chocolate.

I state now that the likelihood of me ever making cake pops is minimal. Cake Poops all the way.