Friday, 25 February 2011

Cookies, Tarts and Pies!

Apologies for the lack of blogs! I've been busy baking, whilst watching Daytime TV and failing to do much else so spare time has been non existent...

Bakewell Tart

I found this recipe in Lorraine Pascale's Baking Made Easy and made it for my boyfriend's birthday, mainly to prove that I do listen to his baking requests!

This was the first time I have ever made Bakewell Tart never mind pastry and, having heard many pastry horror stories, I followed the recipes suggestion and bought pre-made pastry. I hear all of your jaws dropping and I am not ashamed (I must repeat this to myself), this honestly saved me a whole lot of time and took a load of stress from the pressure of providing the only birthday 'cake' for the party. I must say at this point, however, that a recipe for Lemon and Almond pastry was also provided, I just took the cheat's way out...

I don't like Bakewell Tart, or more to the point I don't like almonds so this may appear a pointless venture but it's my boyfriend's favourite and it was a big birthday! I decided to make two tarts (the best one going to my Grandfather to fatten him up) and by the time I made the second tart, I felt like a pro.

This of course is all down to Lorraine Pascale and her brilliant 'baking made easy' which allowed me to bung all the ingredients into the mixer and concentrate on my shop bought pastry. It was a bit of a faff mind and took a good 3 hours to make the two tarts, this was not helped by my refusal to taste the tart but I tried and it was very good indeed!

Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie! Or tart? Who knows but who cares! What a beautiful invention! However every time I eat one I always remember why I don't like bananas. Certainly, after eating this I expected to feel like it would work better without the bananas but the recipe I used, again Lorraine Pascale, cooked the bananas in butter and vanilla essence and it added something to the taste of the pie which I actually quite enjoyed.

I used whipping cream for this pie but felt that double cream would have provided a fuller flavour, the unhealthier the better!

I also stupidly didn't make it in a loose bottomed tin and consequently struggled to get it out, much to my taste buds frustration! An easy peasy recipe all around, to be honest, and considering I've ruined 3 pans trying to make Dulce Leche, I went for Carnation's caramel in a tin. I'm such a pathetic cook!!

Crinkle Cookies

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies! I found this recipe on BBC Good Food last year and have never turned back. They are soo easy to make and have proper chocolate in them, not just cocoa powder like some other recipes I've come across. A tad faffy, you have to leave them in the fridge for an hour or two but this can be done for as long as you need, over night too if necessary. This also gives them their fantastic fudgey brownie texture, they are absolute bliss! The recipe says 60g of icing sugar is needed for the coating but I just tend to chuck some in a bowl and drop the dough balls in. A tip though, have COLD hands! Otherwise the dough just melts and it's an absolute mess. One adjustment I think I'll make next time is some chocolate chips, the cookies don't need any more flavour but I fell their texture is missing out somewhat. Go try them, now!

Bakewell Tart- adapted from Baking Made Easy


500g shop bought shortcrust pastry or Lemon and Almond Pastry (found on Pg.222 in her book)
200g butter
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp amaretto (optional, I didn't use)
40g plain flour
200g ground almonds
40g flaked almonds (again, I didn't use these)
180g good strawberry jam (I was told raspberry jam was used traditionally and chose this, which worked beautifully)
23cm flan ring or loose bottomed tart tin, about 4cm deep


-Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4
-Roll out your pastry on a floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Ease this into the flan tin and press into the sides. Place this into the fridge until firm, roughly half an hour
-Once ready, line with baking paper and weigh down with baking beans. Blind bake for 15-20 minutes or until a light golden
-Then, remove the beans and place the pastry back into the oven, allowing it to brown for a further 3-4 minutes
-Once out of the oven, set it aside to cool and make the frangipane. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, add the eggs and amaretto and beat until combined
-Fold in the sieved flour and the ground almonds. Cover the base of the pastry with the jam and then spoon the frangipane over the top
-Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the frangipane has puffed up
-Remove from the oven and allow to cool

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Victoria Sponge Cake

After the success of my lemon drizzle, I decided to attempt a traditional Victoria sponge and, after all, what could be so difficult about such an easy cake?! Ha! I thought wrong!
First of all, the recipe called for a whipped cream and jam filling. With hindsight, this seems obvious and completely justifiable having tasted the cake but I immediately presumed I would be using a buttercream filling.
So, after sending my boyfriend out for cream, I attempted the sponge. After following the instructions and finding my mixer could only do half the work, I sighed, folding in the flour with a metal spoon? Isn't that what my mixer was for!? Never the less, I finished the mixture off with the largest wooden spoon I could find and began to pour my cake into the tins. This was where I stumbled across the next problem as I tapped the tins against the work top to even layer the mixture and consequently knocked all form of air out of my potentially wonderful cake.

This didn't make any difference to be honest but as the cake was a gift, I was petrified it had failed and I would probably never know! Luckily my Grandfather, who the gift was for, halved the cake and I came home with some (score!!) to taste test. In terms of presentation, I was mightily impressed (see above photo!) as I delicately sprinkled icing sugar over the top as I've seen Nigella do so many times. For reasons beyond me though, I decided to go against the recipes suggestion of layering cake, cream, jam then cake once more and instead I put jam on one side, cream on the other and squished them together. This just made the jam less visible but made no difference to the taste, I should follow the rules next time!!

However, as I sit here and moan about my somewhat lack of common sense in the cake department, I eat my wonderful, airy, deliciously creamy and jammy Victoria sponge and I know I've succeeded. The cat and my dad agree too.

Victoria Sponge- adapted from The Great British Book of Baking

For the sponge:
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 medium eggs, at room temp
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g self raising flour
1 tablespoon of milk, room temp

For the filling:
150ml double or whipping cream, well chilled
4 rounded tablespoons of good jam- raspberry, blackberry, strawberry etc.
Optional: 200g berries- if strawberries they should be hulled and sliced

To finish: icing sugar, for dusting


- Heat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas 4 and line two cake tins

-Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla and gradually add to the butter mixture

-Sift the flour into the bowl and add the milk, fold gently with a large metal spoon (I didn't use a 'large metal spoon' and it made no difference whatsoever)

-Divide the batter into your tins and level out. Bake in the oven around twenty minutes or until golden

-Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool

-For the filling, whip the cream until it reaches the soft peaks stage. Cover one sponge with the cream and the other with the jam, sandwich them both together and press carefully

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