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Baking up a bonfire!

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Tried and Tested: Raspberry and Chocolate Brownies

We recently made another batch of brownies, using the Waitrose raspberry brownies recipe, which we made last Christmas. The chocolate mix was a bit different this time as it was left over from another project. We had the problem of the mixture separating during the melting stage. We put it down to not having the right proportions of milk and dark chocolate. We also added blueberries to the mix, which worked out very well. I think it would be nice to try to add white chocolate for a marbled effect, but it might separate in the melting stage again. The brownies are stickier than usual, although they were slightly over-baked and the crust seems quite hard. Not that we are complaining about oozing chocolate! The recipe made thirty-two pieces, which I think is about average, of which half a dozen were sent off as a birthday present.

                                 Father’s Day cake

It’s a bit late to blog about it now, but we did make a Father’s Day cake which has only just been all eaten up. The recipe was a variation on English Apple Cake. We used rhubarb instead of apple. We also left out the ground almonds and lemon rind. The cake is made using the creaming method. The recipe makes an 8 inch cake although it isn’t very deep, but it was large enough for a good bit of icing. The original recipe calls simply for a glaze on the top but we opted for an under layer of marzipan and white sugar-paste icing over it.

Father's Day cake

Iced rhubarb cake

He Who Put The Shelves Up is fond of hill-walking so the cake was iced like a rocky mountain path. All of the decorations are sugar-paste, the moss in light Holly Green, the flowers in two shades of Primrose and the path in Chestnut. The stones were made using a very small amount of black which wasn’t fully worked in so it looks like streaky grey, the small white parts were meant to represent crystals in the stone. The path was marked and pitted using various tools to make it look more rugged. The flowers were cut using two tiny cutting gadgets. The moss is less high-tech, it was made using one of Chris’s tricks of pushing icing through a sieve and scraping it off the other side to create curled strands. The distance sign is just paper and a short wooden skewer. I tried to make a small dolmen at the edge of the cake as well with the rest of the grey icing.

What have you been baking recently? 

Iced cake

Sugar-paste icing

Iced cake

A sweet hill path

Two Tray Bakes in One

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Raspberry Ingredients

All Ready to Begin Mixing!

On Curiously, Creatively today, we return once more to cake (both the baking and the eating of it), which as you might have guessed is a topic very close to my heart. The post graduate students’ coffee morning was yet again a great excuse to try out an idea. I mentioned in a previous cake related post that I would be talking about some more of my coffee morning products. This time I am going to write about two versions of a very basic cake recipe, baked as before in a small roasting dish for easy cutting into plenty of slices to go round. I had good reports of the cakes’ reception from those who tasted them, so I offer my improvisations in today’s post.

Blueberry Bake

Just turned out…

As I happened to have some raspberries and blueberries in the freezer, they formed the basis of my baking plan. I didn’t have any chocolate in stock so that ruled out making the chocolate raspberry brownies that I have featured before (I have wanted to try this recipe out with blueberries instead, an idea for the future). In the end, I came down on the side of a simple rubbed in cake mixture, mixed in two batches. For anyone who has not used this method before, you just rub the fat into the flour until you have something resembling fine breadcrumbs. Then you stir in the sugar and add the eggs, with a little milk if required, to make a soft dropping consistency. To the first mixture I planned to add the raspberries with some chopped apple and to the second I added the carton of blueberries.

Here is my (very) basic cake mixture, which I baked at 180⁰ C (gas mark 4), in a tin roughly 12” x 9” (30cm x 23cm). This is the size of tin in which I usually bake my shortbread squares which gives between twenty-four and thirty-two pieces.

Blueberry Cake Ingredients

All organised…

8oz (200g) self raising flour
4oz (100g) butter/margarine
4oz (100g) sugar
(I used castor in one and Demerara in the other)
2 large eggs, plus some milk or juice to mix

I had 150 g cartons of the soft fruit and I used one medium sized eating apple in the raspberry and apple bake. You can tweak flavours by adding vanilla or almond essence, or by using lemon/orange zest and juice perhaps.

There are all sorts of possibilities for varieties of tray bakes, and you could top with a glaze or some glace icing before cutting into squares or slices. You could also add a sprinkling of flaked or chopped nuts before baking, for a crunchier square. I cut the cakes into squares (more or less evenly at four by eight) before packing them up. Naturally we both felt that we should have first taste of the goods, in the interests of Quality Control!

Raspberry Squares

All thirty-two of them…

If you have a very adaptable basic recipe, do tell us about it below…


Picture Credits: Curiously Creatively

Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Yule Cake (part I of a Christmas de-brief)

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Yule Cake

Just begging to be eaten…

I don’t want to push the Christmas theme for too much longer, but this piece focuses on a recipe that is not really a seasonal one, but one that we adapted to suit our purposes. If you are all seasoned-out, then just skip down to the ingredients section and take it from there. This is a nice, gooey brownie recipe, which uses raspberries and flaked almonds. We decided to create a slightly different cake for New Year this year, instead of making a Yule Log as we usually do and so we looked through the recipe stash for ideas.

The brownie recipe that we use comes courtesy of a Waitrose supermarket leaflet that we picked up in Birmingham last summer. You can get recipes on the website also, though I haven’t checked them out yet. The brownie recipe is a good one (already one for the tried and tested category) despite the fact that we never actually used any Waitrose ingredients! I have to confess to making up the brownies at my parents’ house with products from A. N. Other supermarket so consider this piece my nod of thanks to Waitrose for the recipe. We were thinking of doing a blog post about supermarket recipes at some point, so if you have any favourites or perhaps any comments on the topic, do let us know.Brownies Leaflet

I have made the brownies again since the summer and I have tried freezing half of the batch, sliced and ready for use. They are ideal to just take out and warm up to serve with ice cream or cream for a quick dessert. Since the recipe tested so well, I thought it would make a nice change to use it as the basis for our New Year cake. The only real change we made to the recipe was to leave out the almonds, on the first occasion because we forgot to buy any and on the following times, because we decided we liked the brownies that way. I think it might be interesting to try blueberries instead of raspberries sometime, but anyway for now, on with the Yule idea.

Brownie Sheet

Just cooling in the paper.

After the brownie slab cooled, I just trimmed the edges and then cut it in half. I sandwiched the halves together with a chocolate cream based on the truffle mixture from a previous post (a versatile ganache filling). I covered all over the cake and left a rough finish as you would on a chocolate log. Think of it as a chocolate rough-hewn plank of wood. Or something. I had to adapt the chocolate covering a little because I didn’t allow for the fact that I put in light cream and not my usual whipping cream. This meant that the chocolate mixture was too thin to allow me to beat it up into a cream. I had to add some icing sugar and cocoa to the mix while beating it up to a fluffy consistency. I’ve scanned the recipe in below so just click on it to enlarge.

I had some scraps of paste that I had coloured for the jumper cake so it was just enough to make enough holly leaves and berries to decorate my unconventional Yule Log. The final touch was a shake of pearl decorations in a swirly pattern. It was a very more-ish cake indeed. I can see a good excuse for making an Easter Bonnet brownie cake too…

Brownies Recipe

If you have a tried and tested recipe that you adapt for different occasions, please let us in on your culinary secrets!

Butter Shortbread: My Dad’s Favourite

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Cakes & Cake Decorating

A real treasure…

This shortbread recipe has been part of my repertoire for years and I can’t imagine being without it now as it is just so quick and straightforward to make. It’s also a very more-ish nibble to enjoy at any time. The biscuit recipe that I use came from a cookery book that I own, Cakes and Cake Decorating by Rosemary Wadey.  I left it behind at my parents’ house in Birmingham several years ago and I keep meaning to bring it back with me sometime but I never actually do. Not that I’m exactly short of recipes to try out, as my newspaper and magazine recipe stash gets larger by the week.Ingredients

In the meantime, my mum copied out a few of my favourite recipes and this is one of them. In return, I regularly despatch shortbread home to my dad, who is a big fan of this buttery treat. I used to bake from Rosemary Wadey’s book when I ran a market stall and so the book had plenty of use (witnessed by the many sticky and greasy marks).  When I’m baking, I tend to flip between metric and imperial measures. This is one where I’ve always used the pounds and ounces version so I would probably find it completely impossible to make in metric, such is the effect of ingrained habit.

Shortbread Recipe

From the archive….

I usually double the quantities given above and press the dough into a shallow oblong tin (about 20 x 30cm), though I do like the shortbread made in rounds as given in the method above. I used to have a thistle decorated shortbread mould which produced a very attractive shortbread round with fluted edge. Failing a mould, you can pinch the edges to decorate the border before baking and then cut into ‘petticoat tails’. Sometimes I take a circle from the centre before cutting the tails, which also looks pretty. However you cut them, sprinkle with castor sugar after baking and remember to leave the biscuits until cool before handling as they are easily breakable when warm. Be careful not to over bake; the shortbread should be a light golden brown. The flavour can be bitter if you over bake. I find that I have to be really careful with this as I tend to underestimate the time it’s been in the oven (why, oh why do I not use the timer more often I ask myself!)


Ready for the tin…

The basic shortbread recipe is a good one, though you could tinker with it a bit and substitute some of the plain flour with rice flour as suggested. At other times, I’ve added grated lemon or orange zest; dried fruit makes a nice change and I’ve also turned the plain shortbread into chocolate with the substitution of some flour for cocoa powder. I even daringly spread a layer of chocolate icing on top before cutting it into squares. The mixture is versatile enough to roll out and cut into shapes if you want, though you would need to chill the dough and not roll too thinly.

Baked shortbread

Ideal with a cuppa!

I am a great fan of anything that you can bake in an oblong or square tin and cut up into lunchbox or picnic friendly portions. This kind of baking is also ideal for all of those school cake sales that pop up with alarming regularity during the academic year. If I can support a good cause or Transition Year project with a quick tray bake rather than anything more fiddly, then so much the better.

Now I wonder if there are any pieces left in the cake tin to go with my morning coffee….

Let us know if you have any recipes that you return to again and again.


Additional Picture Credits: book cover taken from Ebay (with thanks)

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