Nutty Apple Loaf

I felt like baking again this weekend, although nothing too difficult. So when my lovely wife Helen was making an indulgent chocolate cake for friends who had done us a big favour, I made a nutty apple loaf.

The recipe was from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which has some very tasty looking cakes. As with almost every cake you start by creaming together butter and sugar. This was a little different as I was using brown sugar and the two tablespoons of strawberry jam. Once this mix was nice and smooth a couple of eggs were added, and then the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Finally nuts, apples and chocolate was mixed in. This was left in the fridge to cool for a few hours before baking on a low heat for just over an hour.

The end result was an incredibly moist and tasty loaf cake. Very impressive and very easy to make. Another one to add to the hit list and almost too good to share with the neighbours. I will definitely be trying something else from the Hummingbird Bakery in the future.

White Chocolate and strawberry Cake

Today is my lovely wife’s birthday and I made her a cake. I had asked a few weeks ago if she would like one and if so, what sort of cake. White chocolate and strawberry was her immediate reply. So yesterday I set about making a birthday cake. I’ve never made a cake for an ‘occasion’ before so I was a little nervous, added to the fact that Helen is an amazing baker. Fortunately she was in the house as I was making it so I could ask her questions as I was going along to make sure that it turned out OK.

Anyway, first off was the actual cake. No messing about, straight in with a Mary Berry all in one Victoria Sponge recipe. No real problems there, although it did take a little bit longer to bake than expected. Once out of the oven it was allowed to cool. I whipped up some double cream, spread some strawberry jam between the two halves and then added the cream. As this was a special cake I decided to cover it with a white chocolate ganache sprinkled with dried strawberries. Unfortunately the ganache was a little runny. I must have used a little too much cream, although I had stuck with the recipe. The ganache recipe wasn’t by Mary Berry, so that was probably where I went wrong.

Possibly not the neatest cake, but it did taste good and Helen liked which is all that really matters.

Blackberry and Buttermilk Cake

This was without doubt the best cake that I have ever made. It was also nice and easy. This recipe was from an official Bake Off book, and is most likely a Mary Berry recipe.

Usual start, creaming together butter and sugar, then add some vanilla essence and a couple of eggs. Whisk thoroughly before slowly and carefully adding some buttermilk and self raising flour. Pour the mix into a spring-form tin, add some blackberries, pushing them into the mix so that they are half covered, sprinkle over some demerara sugar and bake.

The end result looked exactly like the picture from the book.

The inside was soft and the cake tasted absolutely amazing. I have given some to our neighbours, although I’ve not had any feedback yet.

This is the cake to try if you want to impress, or if you just fancy having a go at baking. Not too difficult, but slightly different. I will definitely be baking this one again in the future.

Swiss Roll

I wasn’t sure if I would bake this weekend, but then the new series of The Best Home Cook started with Mary Berry. This series is celebrities only, although I didn’t know who half of them were. Anyway, for the eliminator three of them had 30 minutes to make a raspberry ripple Swiss Roll. A quick look on our shelf of cooking books and what do you know, there’s a recipe for a Swiss Roll in a Mary Berry cake book. All I needed was some eggs and caster sugar. My lovely wife already had a perfect Swiss Roll tin.

My first attempt was a disaster. It looked and tasted like an eggy pancake. Once back from the shop with more eggs it was time for Swiss Roll Take 2, this time with help from Helen. First mistake was that I hadn’t whisked the eggs and sugar together for long enough, and then I had been too exuberant with folding in the flour.

Once the second version was out of the oven it was carefully rolled while still warm and left to cool, before spreading raspberry jam. End result was a magnificently looking cake which also tasted good.

Absolutely couldn’t have made this without help from the best woman in the world, my lovely wife Helen B.

Hello Fresh

My lovely wife’s youngest son and his partner just moved into a new house and started to use Hello Fresh. They were positively raving about it, so we decided to go for a trial veggie box. Note, we’re not vegetarians, but for a variety of reasons we eat very little meat.

A little background about Hello Fresh first. Basically, each week you get a box of food delivered split into separate bags for each recipe, along with step by step instructions. You can chose to have as many meals as you want each week and go veggie, full meat and even add premium extras if desired. We had a look on Trust Pilot and there were some very mixed reviews. Despite that we went ahead and ordered our free trial box, which would normally be £40.

When it arrived we were both a little underwhelmed as it really didn’t look like £40 worth of food. Additionally, as it was a free box we didn’t get to chose what we had. I don’t like mushrooms and two of the five dishes included this abomination of a vegetable. More serious though, Helen is allergic to cannellini beans which was also in one of the recipes. If we signed up for a weekly delivery we would obviously be able to pick exactly which recipes we wanted. Two of the recipe cards were also missing, but we were able to print those off.

First night of cooking and I’ll admit I was quite excited. Helen was still at work so I was left to my own devices. I picked butternut squash curry.

The other side of the recipe card had simple step by step instructions, which were very easy to follow and 40 minutes after starting I had cooked an excellent meal. Not only did it look just like the picture it tasted amazing. The next evening I made grilled haloumi with lentils. Once again it was incredibly simple and the end result tasted even better than the previous evening. The portions are also fairly generous.

Last night and it was Helen’s turn to cook and she went with spicy cauliflower with courgette and beans. Again the meal was restaurant quality. The florets were coated in Panko breadcrumbs!

The step by step instructions do take a little getting used to, as they are very thorough. I’m used to winging it to a certain extent. Other pluses are the lack of food waste and not having to spend ages looking through recipe books trying to decide what to cook. Additionally you don’t need to go shopping as often. Drawback is the price. £40 for 5 meals is quite high. However we’ve been so blown away by the quality of the meals that we’ve produced we’re going to go with a 4 meal weekly box.

There are loads of other recipe boxes out there to try, so if you fancy the idea you don’t need to stick with Hello Fresh.

Courgette and Lime Loaf Cake

I’m really enjoying baking every weekend and today’s bake was yet another new one for me. I’ve made banana loaf cakes a few times in the past, mostly very successfully, and our lovely neighbour gave us two slices of an amazing banana loaf just yesterday. There’s definitely a little friendly competition going on here.

Anyway, today was another Lorraine Pascale recipe, although she suggested lemon instead of lime. First off you need to grate the courgette and squeeze as much of the moisture out as possible. I only had one courgette so I used a carrot as well. Then melt some butter and mix it with sugar, add three eggs, the courgette (and carrot) and the zest of three limes, combining it well before adding self raising flour. This was poured into a loaf tin and baked for almost an hour.

Once out of the oven, icing sugar and the juice of the limes was poured over the cake. The end result was a mighty fine looking loaf cake. Tasted pretty good too, although it probably would have worked better with more courgette and less carrot, or no carrot at all. Possibly also a little more lime, but minor issues. I also knew that the cake mix was right when I was pouring it into the loaf tin, not too dry and not too wet. It would appear that slowly I’m learning stuff.

Cornbread

Another new bake for me, and one that I have to say was a little disappointing. I’ve never even eaten cornbread which probably didn’t help as I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to taste like. This was another Lorraine Pascale recipe, and in theory it looked easy and tasty.

First problem was with the cornmeal, which isn’t readily available under that name in the UK. Instead it is known as polenta, and it could well have required soaking or cooking before being added to the other ingredients. Anyway, as well as the polenta, the recipe required bicarbonate of soda, regular flour, an egg, milk, sweetcorn and jalapenos. The mixture was far too wet. I should have added the milk in stages. As a result the bake took much longer to cook, and ended up with a layer that wasn’t cooked enough, but was dry and almost burnt on the outside.

I had a couple of pieces and my lovely wife struggled with a slice, before most of it was placed on the bird table, who also decided they didn’t like it. I will have another attempt at cornbread again, as I think it could be a great tasting and fairly easy bake; possibly an American version of soda bread.

The day wasn’t a failure in the baking department, as Helen made a batch of lamingtons, which despite being fiddle monkeys, were one of the best cakes I have ever had.

Almond and Apricot Thumbprint Cookies

Another weekend of lockdown version 3 and another weekend of baking. Also, a return to Lorraine Pascale’s baking recipe book, which I used way back in September when making a Battenburg (read about it here). I was looking for something fairly quick and easy to bake, which would also hopefully look good. Generally on a Friday afternoon I would meet up with my lovely wife in Lancaster and we would have a mooch in a book shop and then cake and coffee in a local cafe. Lockdown means that book shops are closed and cafes are take-out only. My plan was therefore to set up a small book shop and cafe in our home to surprise Helen when she returned from work.

Anyway, back to the cookies. As always, cream together butter and sugar, and then add flour, ground almond and an egg yolk. Bring it all together into a dough, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for an hour. That left me enough time to go out and buy gin. I’ve added a post-it note to the recipe indicating that the dough was dry and crumbly, and that possibly I should use a little less flour next time.

Back home and a small lump of the dough was rolled into a ball, placed on grease proof paper and a thumb pressed into it. I used my own thumb but anyone’s clean thumb would do (ask permission first and use a thumb that is still attached to it’s owner). The hole is then filled with apricot jam. I was possibly overly generous with the apricot jam.

The end result is a very tasty soft cookie, which also looks good. As for the fake book shop/cafe, Helen absolutely loved it.

Gingerbread Tiles with a Rum Butter Glaze

Weekend baking once again, and this week I picked a recipe from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. It is one of my wife’s recipe books and one that neither of us use very often as many of the recipes feel complicated with loads of ingredients and multiple stages.

However, the gingerbread tiles didn’t appear to be any more complicated than a regular gingerbread biscuit. All I needed was to buy a tile stamping device (seen below).

The ‘stamper’ came with 6 different designs and an integral cutter, although it takes a bit of practice to create just the right pressure for the design to be clear, and not flatten the biscuit too much.

Anyway, the gingerbread biscuit was quite simple. First off cream together butter, brown sugar and treacle, before adding an egg yolk. One this mix is nice and smooth the dry ingredients can be added. These were plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves and cocoa powder. This was all brought together, kneaded slightly, chilled and then rolled out.

Then came the fun part, using the tile stamp. Press too hard and some of the dough is left on the stamp, and then isn’t very good for the next one. Too softly and you don’t get any design. The first few were a bit rubbish. The biscuits were then baked and the rum butter glaze was brushed on before the biscuits had cooled completely.

The rum butter glaze was also fairly easy. Melt some butter and icing sugar with a teaspoon of warm water and a tablespoon of rum. Keep stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved.

The end result was another very tasty biscuit which also looks quite special. As a bonus, when I uploaded a photo to Instagram I tagged both of the creators of the recipe book, and Helen Goh not only liked my photo but made a comment as well.

Lumberjack Cake

Making the most of having time off from work I baked again. This time it was a cake that I had never heard of before. As with the chocolate caramel slice last week (read about it here) it was from the Australian Woman’s Weekly and was kind of a fruit cake.

Chopped up fresh apples and dried fruit were mixed together in a bowl with a teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda and some boiling water. This was left for 10 minutes. With a food mixer I creamed together butter, sugar, vanilla essence and a egg until nice and smooth. The fruit was then drained and the batter mix and some flour were combined fully. This was spread/poured into a tin and cooked for almost 50 minutes. With all of the moist fruit it needed all of that time.

When it was almost cooked I melted some butter with sugar, milk and desiccated coconut, which was then poured over the top of the cake and cooked for a further 20 minutes.

The end result was a very soft, moist and yummy little slice of goodness. I have cut up the rest of it into smaller pieces and intend to hand out some of it to our neighbours, saving some for ourselves.

I learn something with new every bake, and this one was no exception. When I make this again I would make sure that the fruit was drained more thoroughly, and I would use less milk for the topping. Minor quibbles, and another excellent cake to add to my repertoire.