Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie is the most stickily delicious way to round off a tasty meal. The combination of crunchy buttery biscuit base, golden caramel, and fluffy whipped cream, topped off with chocolate is so simple, and so so moreish. Oh yes, there’s some bananas in there too!

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It’s not a typical dessert for all those January healthy eating resolutions, but definitely perfect for those times when you’re feeling a bit lazy, a little sorry for yourself, and not willing to spend any longer than fifteen minutes flat assembling and eating your treat.

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For such a simple recipe, there’s a surprising amount of variation in what you do in a perfect banoffee pie. Apparently the original recipe also contained coffee! I go for the most streamlined version I know possible, and it definitely works for me.

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It’s not the easiest dessert to photograph, and certainly the wintry light doesn’t help, but the taste definitely makes up for it. I can’t imagine January being the favourite month of many out there, but this goes a long way to helping banish those blues! Second helpings all round.

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Not long till February…and then so so close til Spring!

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Banoffee Pie

  • 250g digestive biscuits, crushed into crumbs
  • 125g butter, melted
  • 1 tin carnation caramel
  • 2-3 bananas, sliced
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 Cadbury’s chocolate flake

Mix the digestive biscuit crumbs with the melted butter, and press into the base of a 23cm tart tin. Leave in the fridge for around 15 minutes until firmed. Then spread the caramel over the biscuit base, and lay over the sliced bananas. Whip the cream to soft peaks, then spread over the bananas, and sprinkle over with a crumbled flake. Return to the fridge to set for 30 minutes, then tuck in!

 

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Merry Christmas!

Hello folks!

I’ve been a bit remiss with blogging in the run up to Christmas as a dodgy oven does not a good bake maketh. So I’ve actually not had the chance to do any baking until now, with these mince pies whipped up in my parents oven.

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It’s the same recipe from last year, some sweet shortcrust pastry, and a jar of mincemeat that I’ve doctored with extra cranberries, chopped apple, raisins and a shake of speculoos spices.

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Unfortunately, whilst taking these photos, the dome of my cake stand, which was sitting on the sofa, fell onto the carpet and smashed into smithereens. It’s a lovely new cake stand with dome from M&S that I had been saving for that special occasion to take photos with, so really quite gutted!

At any rate, despite my longish break from baking, these mince pies turned out pretty well. I think I rolled out the pastry a little too thick for some of them, although that does mean a nice sturdy pie with a good pastry to filling ratio for those that prefer their pastry!

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The mincemeat is much less sweet than normal, which I really like, and packed full of fruity flavours. Although it’s unlikely I’ll be making my own mincemeat in the future, I do like the idea of throwing in some extras to make the supermarket stuff a little more special.

Hope everybody is enjoying spending a little bit of quality time at home with friends and family, and see you in the New Year! Roll on 2016!

Autumn Comforts and Apple Pie

It’s such a luxury having the time to gently potter away, and fritter away the hours doing a bit of relaxing cooking. Not the kind that involves furiously thinking about how to use up the fridge odds and ends into something vaguely edible in fifteen minutes, but the kind of lovely slow stirring, stewing and baking that only a slow day at home can give.

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With autumn well underway, it’s time for comforting foods. I roasted up a batch of tomatoes for a roasted tomato soup based on Sophie Dahl’s recipe. It smelled delicious in the oven, but the tomatoes could have done with a bit more flavour. I’ve got my eye on another tomato soup recipe with the addition of sundried tomatoes and pesto.

DSC_1013Then the glories of sticky toffee pudding, which I have blogged about previously last year.

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Thanks to a massive bounty of windfall apples, I’ve also been baking multiple apple crumbles, and with the last of the lot, also decided to bake an apple pie. I adore the Hawksmoor sticky toffee pudding recipe, so was keen to try out the apple pie recipe too, which also sounded delicious.

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The pie had an unusual pastry recipe with 120g of sugar, and double cream instead of eggs used to bind the mixture together. It was more akin to a cookie dough on being handled, and on baking, was soft, slightly cakey, and the overall effect was a little like eating an apple cake. Possibly not my go-to recipe for apple pie in the future, but very tasty all the same.

Now that we’re coming towards the end of October, I’m starting to get little excited thoughts that Christmas really isn’t so far away. I love the idea of making the flat as cosy as possible, and with this, need to resist the temptation of all those delicious-smelling Anthropologie candles  – when they are packaged up so prettily, how is a girl to say no?

Lemon Viennese Whirls

Annual leave, yay! The weather has been properly disappointing in parts (rain rain, go away) but it’s so wonderful having the luxury of time to potter around doing very little, with the odd bake thrown in here or there.

I wasn’t sure whether to blog about these viennese whirls as they were a bit disappointing. Whilst I love watching Bake Off, the downside is there’s nothing like watching a couple of showstoppers to make me feel a little inadequate in the kitchen when things don’t work out! I also didn’t have my proper camera (making do with phone pics) but hey ho. Sometimes it’s worthwhile mentioning when things didn’t go right.

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So I had baked a batch of really luscious viennese whirls earlier, and filled them with cherry jam and vanilla buttercream. As I was eating them, I thought they would be great in a lemon incarnation too, but it was those of the lemon variety that didn’t turn out quite as planned.

They were far too crumbly, breaking up into powder on just gently being touched. The biscuit also tasted strange, not quite lemony enough, but a hint that reminded me a little bit of citrus washing up liquid.
IMG_1581The homemade curd was delicious though, very tangy, with a strong lemon flavour that would probably work very well in another bake. I used Nigel Slater’s recipe found here.

I packed the viennese whirls into an airtight container, and they firmed up considerably overnight. You could eat them without ending up with a pile of sandy crumbs all over the floor, hooray. They just didn’t taste particularly great. The original recipe is fantastic, so I think it’s mainly a case of tweaking my alternative flavourings a bit more, and potentially doubling the lemon zest.

I might use up the remaining curd in some macarons. I’ve been baking a plenty of macarons, but they’ve been causing me a more trouble too, hmm!

Summer Berries and Cream Cake

Small happy thoughts towards the end to the rather wet summer…

A fresh coat of scarlet paint on my toenails, an upcoming trip to the Royal Opera House, the anticipation of annual leave in just a few weeks time, and with it, opportunities to go and explore the beautiful South Downs.

More in the present (or rather, the past, by the time this post goes up) is the prospect of delicious cake. I have lost count of how many times I have baked variations on a theme of sponge cake this summer. The combination of buttery sponge, cream and fresh fruit has an utterly delicious scent and is just irresistable to a cake-fiend like me.

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On the bank holiday weekend, A and I held our first flatwarming party. I went bake-crazy and made a grand sum of two kinds of macarons, a lemon and raspberry cake filled with lemon curd, raspberry jam and cream cheese, pumpkin pie, mixed berry cheesecake, and two kinds of chocolate tiffin. Then after all that, I had a wobble when the cheesecake base went soggy, made a second cheesecake, a backup sponge cake, and bought a pear tart from the patisserie just in case all the above wasn’t enough.

I think the moral of this story is don’t make quite so much next time!

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My parents ended up being the recipients of this, the backup cake, and very tasty it was too. It’s a very simple victoria sponge, unflavoured, and filled with whipped double cream, raspberry jam, and topped with a profusion of late summer fruit. I overwhipped the cream so it looks aesthetically less pretty, but actually I prefer it that way in terms of taste and texture.

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I was surprised to find out that my parents’ lawn was a lush verdant green, rather than the scorched gold I tend to expect at this time of year. One positive from the excessive amount of rain lately.

Sadly I didn’t actually take any pictures of the bakes at the housewarming itself! I’ll definitely be making the lemon sponge again though, as the pink lemon curd in the centre was just so girlishly pleasing. Summer might be coming to an end, but the cakes are just going to keep coming!

Summery Scones

When the weather gets really hot, I never feel much in the mood for baking, with the exception of scones of course! They just epitomise summer for me, and I bake multiple batches every year without fail.

I also wonder every year why are scones in North America are so different from scones in the UK? I’m not sure I want one that is dyed pink with food colouring, or topped with cream cheese icing. A scone with some dried fruit is as about as exotic as a scone gets in the UK. Otherwise there’d be no room for the cream and jam!

Which in my book is surely the whole point of scones?

Sulking and Scones

I keep deviating from the tried-and-tested recipe every year to try out new ones. I think this one really is a keeper.

This scone recipe is from Like a Strawberry Milk, and is so simple. Flour, raising agent, butter, milk, and cream. A lick of egg yolk for the tops.

I love Fanny’s writing, which gets the balance just right between the necessary precision, yet airy, carefree, more romantic side of baking, along with nature, and snippets of an artistic presence that don’t otherwise exist much in my pragmatic household.

True to form, the scones were delicious. Thanks to the tips, they are also quite possibly the neatest risen, most glossy-topped, photogenic scones I have ever baked. Sadly my camera has been put out of action, but thankfully my new phone doesn’t take half bad photos, so you get to see how gorgeous these scones look too.

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The only changes I made to Fanny’s recipe was to substitute plain flour and baking powder for cake flour mixed with self-raising flour. I only had spelt flour in the cupboard, and was worried this would make the scones too “wholemealy” and perhaps crumbly. The self-raising/cake flour combination worked great. I also rolled the scone dough out slightly thinner to 2cm thick instead of 3cm, as I couldn’t cut 6 scones out of the thicker dough. As you can see the scones rose a dream, so it really didn’t matter at all!

Next time I’m going to be really exotic, and put some sultanas in the mixture…hold onto your hats!

Chocolate, Cream and Raspberry Cake

Currently…

Still obsessed with baking sponge cakes. I can’t seem to stop, they are just so good, so addictive, and so easy. Chocolate this time, lavishly filled with Jersey double cream and raspberries.

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Admiring the peonies. Despite being the epitome of online-social-media cliche, they are stunning flowers, and I can’t possibly get sick of looking at them at my window.

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Lusting after stand mixers. I almost bit the bullet and bought one, but my laptop chose that month to die, so I had to spend a good chunk of my salary replacing that instead. Then I decided that perhaps I didn’t need a stand mixer after all, and splashed out on the Kenwood KMix hand mixer instead. It is a beauty.

Looking for twenties-themed black tie wear. I’ve got a themed do coming up in the next few weeks, and of course (in typical female style) I have nothing, NOTHING to wear.

Anyway, back to the chocolate cake.

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I never seem to bake chocolate-based victoria sponges, always preferring my go-to recipe based on oil. So I thought I’d astonishingly break away from my vanilla and lemon habits, and make a summery chocolate cake. After all, if thickly festooned with cream and fruit, it’s got to make the rainy weather a bit better eh?

The method is exactly the same as a standard victoria sponge, just with the addition of cocoa powder into the mix. The difficulty for me often lies in how much cocoa powder to add. Some recipes state up to a whopping 100g, whilst others are much more restrained with a mere 25g. I went for a compromise of 50g cocoa powder in a 4 egg cake batter.

By magic kitchen alchemy, my chocolate cakes always respond rather differently in the oven, rising taller, cracking, the crumb itself a different, more delicate texture.

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I remembered afterwards that I forgot to add the salt. I don’t think it made much difference. Of course I had to throw on as many raspberries as I could fit, they look so pretty on top. The only downside is raspberries go mouldy so fast. You either have to eat the cake super-fast or keep it religiously in the fridge between helpings. Why do raspberries go mouldy so quickly compared with, say, strawberries? Is it the sugar content? Or their furry mould-loving nature? Absolutely no idea.

Chocolate, Cream and Raspberry Cake

  • 225g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 175g self-raising or sponge flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
  • milk
  • 300g double cream (I used extra-thick Jersey cream which is utterly sinfully gorgeous)
  • punnet of raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Beat the butter until light and creamy, then beat in the salt, followed by the sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs together in a jug, then slowly add to the creamed mixture, whisking religiously as you go to incorporate as much air in as you can. Then sift in the flour, cocoa powder and coffee, and fold in until just combined. Add a dash of milk to get it to dropping consistency and scrape the cake batter into your prepared tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes until springy and a sharp knife comes out clean. Leave to cool, then unmould and slice into two halves.

Whisk the cream to soft peaks, then sandwich half between the cakes, and spread half the cream on top. Decorate with raspberries.

Jam and Clotted Cream Cake

It’s a simple combination but oh it’s a good one. Jam and cream, yum yum yum. Jam and clotted cream? Oh be still my beating heart! (Oh wait….)

As well as a heart attack waiting to happen, jam and clotted cream also sing of warm scones, the hum of bees amongst the roses, sunny skies and grassy picnics. It’s pretty much the epitome of an English summer. So I baked a victoria sponge, and smothered the cake in creamy jammy goodness.

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My usual rigamarole is  brushing the cake in sugar syrup, then piping the cream in, sternly telling it to stay put, and filling the middle with jam, carefully arranged in cream-shaped crater so it doesn’t ooze out. This time, I felt supremely lazy, left out the syrup, slathered the filling onto the sponge willy-nilly, and immediately cut out a juicily large slice.

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It was absolutely delicious. Just look at that thick layer of clotted cream! I’m a big fan of mascarpone-based icings as they are less sweet, but I think using clotted cream is another brilliant option and easier by far. No need for sugar, vanilla, or any prep really, just whip it to spreadable consistency and away you go!

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I’m a real convert to using the best quality ingredients I can afford, and I really think it makes a huge difference. Lescure butter, jersey cream, and sponge flour all cost a pretty penny, but oh how delicious the cakes are as a result! A liked the last one I made for him so much he declared it too good to take into work to share with his colleagues! What a compliment.

Peonies and Pottering

What I have been up to this weekend…

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A trip to Waitrose for baking goodies and peonies. The checkout lady was quite horrified at how much butter, chocolate and cream I bought and said consolingly “At least you’re still slim so you can eat it all. For now.”

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I put my peonies in pride of place, and got down to some sweet, simple baking. 

I did an experiment a few weeks ago on Tesco Value products and the results were so horrible, I’ve been fleeing to Waitrose ever since. I’ll write a future post on what happened, but I still have quite a wide variety of ingredients I am trying to use up. Currently, I am putting them to one side, and playing about with nice and expensive butter and flour instead.

Snobbery aside, I really do think better ingredients produce better cakes. I whipped up one of the lightest, fluffiest, most tasty victoria sponges I’ve done in a while, and it really went down a real treat. The only downside is all the fresh cream in this cake means it has to be stored in the fridge or it goes off very quickly.

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Mmm, definitely could help myself to another slice.

Homemade HobNobs

My current first world problem woes:

I choked on a fly that flew/blew into my mouth as I was running. I then inadvertently swallowed it. Gross.

No matter how many times I sign up for their loyalty scheme, Anthropologie will not give me free online delivery, sob sob

I’m too much of a technological dinosaur to figure out how to work my new laptop after my old one died after six years solid service. Every time I press the touchpad, STRANGE THINGS happen.

Besides that, life is pretty good. I baked homemade HobNobs, and am pootling around getting ready for holiday time, hooray!

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Much as I like richly packed chocolate-chip cookies, and slabs of gooey brownie, there’s something just so endearing about very simple, plain recipes from ancient home baking books. They’re tried and tested, they taste delicious, and you can most definitely eat quite a lot in one sitting.

This homemade HobNob recipe is from the ye ancient archives of MoneySavingExpert.com, oh yes. You can find it here.

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They’re not exactly like the mass-produced original, but they’re singing from the same hymn sheet –  packed full of rolled oats, buttery, chewy and crunchy all at once. I’ve used margarine with them before, and they were delicious, but salted butter is the best.

The HobNobs turn out looking different every time I bake them, but they always taste fantastic – like a small flapjack-themed party in your mouth. This time I have a feeling that this time they finally look the way they ought to, i.e. like biscuits, and not hockey pucks or lace doilies.

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If you can’t resist a bit of tinkering, I think replacing some of the oats with dessicated coconut would be a good shout, and I’ve done a version where I threw in some chopped white chocolate and cranberries, mmmm. Now I’m off to paint my nails and hopefully not screw them up. The last time I was so tired I fell asleep waiting for them to dry. Messy.