Cherry and Almond Traybake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

I love baking traybakes.  They’re so useful as a little goes a long way if you need to bake for a coffee morning or a bake sale.  They’re great for when I have to do my turn for WI supper as they can easily be cut up into little fingers or squares so that everyone gets to have a little taste.

When I was thinking about what to bake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible for this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge it was difficult to choose what to make out of the Traybakes and Flapjacks chapter.  All of the recipes looked so yummy but yet I wanted to try one I’d not baked before. I had lots of Glace Cherries and some almonds in my baking stash so it had to be the  Cherry And Almond Traybake.  Mary says “in season you can use fresh, stoned cherries instead of glace” but with it being April it had to be the glace option.

My daughter and her friend who were helping me in the kitchen on this day were on washing, drying and quartering the cherries duty.  I explained this would help them not to sink to the bottom of the cake but usually I toss them in a tablespoon of flour as well.  Mary doesn’t mention this in the recipe so I didn’t do it.

All the other ingredients (self raising flour, baking powder, softened butter, caster sugar, the grated rind of two lemons, ground almonds and five large eggs) were weighed and measured out into a large mixing bowl.  The mixture was then mixed thoroughly with my hand held mixer.  The glace cherries were then folded in carefully.

The glace cherries and lemon rind was ready to be folded in to the rest of the mixture.

The glace cherries and lemon rind was ready to be folded in to the rest of the mixture.

The cake mixture was spooned into my traybake tin and put into the oven to bake for about 30-40 minutes.

The cake mixture was spooned into my traybake tin and put into the oven to bake for about 30-40 minutes.

The traybake all finished  and just out of the oven.

The traybake all finished and just out of the oven.

Turned out of the tin and cooling on the wire rack.

Turned out of the tin and cooling on the wire rack.

I was pleased with the way the traybake turned out although many of the cherries had sunk to the bottom.  The traybake got nice compliments from some of the WI ladies and there were a few pieces left to take home.

Dusted with sugar and cut into squares to take along to my WI meeting.

Dusted with sugar and cut into squares to take along to my WI meeting.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The finished cookies were dusted with a sprinkling of caster sugar.

Viennese Fingers and Shrewsbury Biscuits from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Last week when I had to provide supper at my local WI Meeting I decided to take along some biscuits as well to go with our supper.  Once again I was trying to work through the recipes set in my Cooking The Books Challenge from Mary Berry’s fabulous Baking Bible.

In Mary’s Biscuits and Cookies  chapter I chose to bake Shrewsbury Biscuits.  I’ve made these (and scoffed loads of them too) before but not worked from Mary’s recipe before.  The other biscuit recipe comes from the Fancy Biscuits section of the book, none other than Viennese Fingers.  These are gorgeous and melt in the mouth but I’ve never made them.  I don’t know why, just haven’t got round to it before. Well I suppose there’s always a first time for everything.

First up was to get on with the Shrewsbury Biscuits.  These are usually made with a fluted circular cutter but because my daughter and her friend were helping me I let them choose their own shapes from my cookie cutter stash.  They found my box full of Easter cutters and chose to cut out chicks, sheep, eggs and rabbits!

I quickly made up the dough so that the girls could cut out the shapes for me.  The dough was made by creaming butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  An egg yolk was then added to the mixture, followed by sifted plain flour, the grated rind of a lemon  and then some currants. It was mixed together to make a dough.

The girls took half of the dough each and rolled their piece out to the thickness of a pound coin.

Chicks cut out of the Shrewsbury biscuit dough.

Chicks cut out of the Shrewsbury biscuit dough.

Cute sheep.

Cute sheep.

The recipe made about 25 biscuits and we were lucky to get a few of each shape.  About half way through baking I had to take the tray of biscuits out of the oven, brush them carefully with beaten egg white and return them to the oven for the rest of the baking time. They came out of the oven all golden brown.

The finished cookies were dusted with a sprinkling of caster sugar.

The finished cookies were dusted with a sprinkling of caster sugar.

Packaged up to take along to my WI meeting.

Packaged up to take along to my WI meeting.

Then it was the turn of the Viennese Fingers.  The mixture for this was easy enough to make- softened butter, icing sugar, plain flout and baking powder was mixed together to form a dough.  It had to be runny enough to pipe onto a baking tray with a star shaped nozzle.  However, although the recipe was meant to make 20 biscuits, I didn’t even get half of that quantity out of the mixture.  My dough was too stiff to pipe and maybe my icing nozzle was too big. I just don’t know.  They didn’t look very pretty anyway.  So I guessed these wouldn’t go to the WI meeting either.

My daughter’s friend melted some plain chocolate for me and then when the biscuits had cooled down I dipped them into the chocolate.  Unfortunately the biscuits were a bit crumbly and they started to break as I was dipping the chocolate in.  In the end there were only about four unbroken biscuits!  We ended up keeping them at home and they got eaten over the next day or so!

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The few Viennese fingers that did end up ok. All shapes and sizes but still tasted fantastic.

Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.

Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Last week I had to take a few bakes along to my local WI meeting to serve up at suppertime.  We take it in turns in groups of three. Usually we liaise between one another and make or buy a selection of savoury and sweet items to take along to share with all the other ladies.  As I was the one out of the three ladies who liked baking the most the others took care of the savoury and I brought along the sweet stuff.  As some people aren’t so keen on fancy decorated cakes I always try to offer something plain like a fruit cake.  The Cut and Come Again Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible seemed to fit the bill.

In the recipe introduction Mary says “This is a traditional name for a cake that is so delicious that everyone will come back for another slice.”  She also said it was “good for a hungry family,”  As I was going to be away for a couple of days over the Easter holidays with my hubby and the kids were going to be at home with my Mum, any leftover cake would come in very useful as a pudding.  I was also hoping that the cake would live up to it’s name and that the cake would be so popular that people would come back for more!

Cut And Come Again Cake couldn’t be more simpler to make.  It was prepared by simply adding all the ingredients measured into one big bowl and mixed together thoroughly.

The ingredients in Mary’s Cut and Come Again Cake are: self raising flour, ground mixed spice, butter (which has to be very soft), caster sugar, eggs, currants, sultanas, raisins and a little milk to mix.

All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.

All the ingredients for the Cut and Come Again Cake were added and mixed together in this bowl.

I used my deep 8" diameter cake tin.  This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.

I used my deep 8″ diameter cake tin. This is my favourite one I use regularly for baking Christmas cakes.

The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.

The mixture was spooned into the tin and the top levelled out.

Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.

Delicious! Here is the finished Cut and Come Again Cake cooling on a wire rack.

The cake smelled heavenly when it was baking.  My kitchen was filled with a spicy aroma and it made my mouth water.  It took about 1 1/4 hours to bake which meant I had to leave it until last when I was getting it ready for the meeting.  By this time it was the afternoon and I was feeling very hungry and in need of a pick me up!  I was so tempted to cut into the cake and scoff a slice.

At the meeting I sliced the cake up but as there were so many cakes and other goodies on offer I still had half of it left to take home.  I enjoyed my slice with a cup of tea, it wasn’t as heavy and rich as other fruit cakes but still tasted gorgeous.  My Mum and my kids ate some more at the weekend, though it doesn’t keep as well as an ordinary fruit cake.  And yes I was tempted to come back for more but I didn’t!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

The finished cake, filled sandwiched and topped with more walnut frosting.  The cake was finished with walnut halves.

Frosted Walnut Layer Cake from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Last week it was my turn along with two others to provide supper for all the ladies at my local WI meeting.  When we sort out the supper rota at the beginning of the year I always volunteer to do my turn depending on when the school holidays are.  Luckily this time I managed to do April’s meeting as it fell during the Easter holidays.  This means it’s easier to get things ready, like baking a few little goodies.

Though I’m glad I had time to experiment in the kitchen this time.  I wanted to try out some more recipes from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible as part of my Cooking The Books Challenge, so I planned to bake a Frosted Walnut Layer Cake.   To help even more I was lucky to have both my daughter and her friend in the kitchen with me. My daughter’s friend is working towards her Duke of Edinburgh Award and wanted to gain some baking skills and more knowledge. So I got them both involved with tasks and it helped the baking go with a swing.

My daughter's friend set to chopping up some walnuts to go in the filling of the cake.

My daughter’s friend set to chopping up some walnuts to go in the filling of the cake.

Two 20cm/ 8" diameter sandwich tins were greased and lined.

Two 20cm/ 8″ diameter sandwich tins were greased and lined.

All the ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs, self raising flour, baking powder and the chopped walnuts) were all added to the mixing bowl and beaten until thoroughly blended.

All the ingredients (butter, sugar, eggs, self raising flour, baking powder and the chopped walnuts) were all added to the mixing bowl and beaten until thoroughly blended.

Here are the two Walnut Cakes turned out to cool on the wire rack.

Here are the two Walnut Cakes turned out to cool on the wire rack.

By this time it was getting busy in the kitchen.  I was trying to rush through each stage of the various cakes I had to make and then upon reading the recipe I realised I had to make a meringue frosting.  The egg whites and caster sugar had to be  continually whisked over a bowl of hot water, which took a very long time.  It was meant to thicken up but it just didn’t. No matter how hard I whisked it,  it just stayed runny.  By the time I had got round to making the frosting I had baked all the other things and I hadn’t got any eggs left to start again from scratch.  I was even low on butter so I couldn’t even make another batch of icing like a buttercream.  In the end I tried more whisking and after another ten minutes it finally thickened a little.  It still wasn’t enough to spread on the cake,  more like to pour it on as you’ll see from all the following pictures.

Spreading the frosting on one of the layers of the cake.

Spreading the frosting on one of the layers of the cake.

The finished cake, filled sandwiched and topped with more walnut frosting.  The cake was finished with walnut halves.

The finished cake, filled sandwiched and topped with more walnut frosting. The cake was finished with walnut halves.

A cut slice of the walnut cake.

A cut slice of the walnut cake.

The Walnut Layer Cake with some slices cut out of it!

The Walnut Layer Cake with some slices cut out of it!

I was so disappointed with the cake that I didn’t dare take it along to my WI meeting.  I was so ashamed of it and it looked so messy.  It went into the fridge and there it stayed.  Over the weekend a couple of days later when my mum was staying she had a piece and said it was lovely.  I tasted a mouthful and thought the icing was very sweet but I did like the walnut cake part.  I’ll definitely try and make it again when I’m not in a rush as it looks such a delicious cake.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

We couldn't resist nabbing the end piece before dinner.

Mary Berry’s Classic Swiss Roll

It was Sunday lunchtime and that means a cake or a dessert in our house to follow the roast.  Once again I turned to my trusty Mary Berry’s Baking Bible to bake another recipe from my Cooking The Books Challenge.  Mary’s Swiss Roll is one of the recipes featured in her Classic Recipes chapter, along with a couple of variations.  As I have only ever made one fairly successful Swiss Roll in my life, I decided I needed a bit more practice.  When my daughter saw I was planning to bake a Swiss Roll she asked if she could do it.  As the one she made in her GCSE Catering Practical got an A* from her teacher I think she is definitely the Swiss Roll expert in our house.

So here’s how my daughter (with a tiny bit of help with one stage from me) made this utterly scrumptious bake!

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Whisking the eggs and sugar together.

The Swiss roll tray all lined and greased.

The Swiss roll tray all lined and greased.

Self raising flour was carefully folded into the whisked egg and sugar mixture.

Self raising flour was carefully folded into the whisked egg and sugar mixture.

Pouring the mixture into the prepared tin.

The mixture was spread about so that it reached all corners of the tin.

The mixture was spread about so that it reached all corners of the tin.

Once the cake had gone into the oven (my oven is a fan assisted electric one, so the temperature was 200oC) my daughter disappeared upstairs to do whatever teenagers do in the depths of their bedrooms.  As the cake was only going to be in the oven for about 10 minutes I didn’t dare leave the kitchen.  It seemed to bake very quickly.  Anyway, as soon as it was out of the oven I called my daughter and told her to come down.  She had got engrossed in something so I said I would take it out of the tin and do the trimming bits.  She could finish off the rest seeing as she wanted to do it in the first place!

Another piece of baking parchment bigger than the swiss roll was put on the worktop.  It was sprinkled liberally with caster sugar.

Another piece of baking parchment bigger than the swiss roll was put on the worktop. It was sprinkled liberally with caster sugar.

Here's the baked Swiss Roll just fresh out of the oven.

Here’s the baked Swiss Roll just fresh out of the oven.

After a little while the Swiss Roll was turned out of its tin and onto the sugared piece of baking parchment.  This would be used to help it be rolled up later!

After a little while the Swiss Roll was turned out of its tin and onto the sugared piece of baking parchment. This would be used to help it be rolled up later!

The Swiss Roll was trimmed to give it neat edges.

The Swiss Roll was trimmed to give it neat edges.

Then a scored line using a sharp knife was used about an inch from one short end of the cake.

Then a scored line using a sharp knife was used about an inch from one short end of the cake.

By this time my daughter had come back downstairs.  I wanted her to get finished with the Swiss Roll as I needed to get started on the rest of the dinner.

This was some homemade jam leftover from last week's Eton Mess which was great to go inside the Swiss Roll.

This was some homemade jam leftover from last week’s Eton Mess which was great to go inside the Swiss Roll.

My daughter spreads the jam onto the top of her Swiss Roll.

My daughter spreads the jam onto the top of her Swiss Roll.

Then, she whipped up some cream to go with the jam for the filling.

Then, she whipped up some cream to go with the jam for the filling.

Starting to spread the cream onto the top of the Swiss Roll!

Starting to spread the cream onto the top of the Swiss Roll!

Slapping it on!

Slapping it on!

My daughter expertly rolls up the Swiss Roll inside the sugared parchment.

My daughter expertly rolls up the Swiss Roll inside the sugared parchment.

Ta-dah! A very impressive, delicious and scrumptious Swiss Roll just asking to be eaten.

Ta-dah! A very impressive, delicious and scrumptious Swiss Roll just asking to be eaten.

We couldn't resist nabbing the end piece before dinner.

We couldn’t resist nabbing the end piece before dinner!!

Well I was totally amazed by this yummy bake and we were rather greedy over it.  Not only did I share the end piece with my daughter before dinner but I had another slice for pudding!  The following night my hubby finished it off.  It was just too scrumptious for words.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Banana and Chocolate Chip Bars from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

I’m now well under way with baking from this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge.  This morning was time to get started on the second recipe, which sounded good in theory being the school holidays.  But in practice probably not a good idea to bake when you’re in a hurry, you need to be somewhere else and you need to be on hand somewhere to be a taxi service to your children.  We had been up to Edinburgh the day before on a trip and I had not slept well on Sunday and last night, probably managed 4 hours sleep.  Coupled with an uncomfortable train ride in a “quiet” carriage full of mobiles ringing, iPads playing films out loud and a screaming baby on the way to Edinburgh yesterday I was ready for my bed.  But sleep just wouldn’t come.  Maybe tonight?  Here’s hoping!

Anyway, enough of me prattling on.  Back to the job in hand.  Baking.  I shouldn’t be baking after letting my diet slip over the past few weeks and yesterday I ate loads of rubbish.  At least my family like banana and chocolate so these flapjack type bars should go down a treat.  It was time to bake the Banana and Chocolate Chip Bars from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  Mary says in the introduction that these are “a really healthy snack.  The banana in the middle could be replaced by ready to eat dried apricots,”  Both my daughter and I like dried apricots so that’s a great variation to try in the future.

As I began to get the ingredients out to start baking, my son came downstairs and asked what I was making.  I told him what they were and he said “Eww, gross!”  Funny how the recipe was in the Baking For Children chapter.  This obviously doesn’t extend to grumpy teens who only eat breakfast when nagged to!

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So first things first, I got a square cake tin greased. Mary says to use a shallow 7″ size one, my smallest one was 8″ square and deep.  Oh dear.  After that I mixed together self raising flour, porridge oats and brown sugar.

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Some butter was then added into the bowl and rubbed into the porridge oats mixture to make it turn out a bit like breadcrumbs.

Some butter was then added into the bowl and rubbed into the porridge oats mixture to make it turn out a bit like breadcrumbs.

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This is what the mixture looked like when the butter had been rubbed in.

Now this is where I was distracted and didn’t read the recipe properly.  This was my fault as the recipe was a simple one and I should have read it carefully.  The porridge mixture was meant to go in the tin like a sandwich with the sliced banana in between.  I made a complete mistake and put all the mixture in at once like you do with a flapjack!

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The porridge mixture in the tin before adding the banana topping.

 

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The sliced banana and chocolate chips sprinkled on the top in the wrong way!

The bars were baked in the oven for about 25 minutes.  I was worried about the banana burning but that wasn’t a problem.  After the right time out came the bars and I let them cool down.

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The chocolate was meant to be drizzled on but it ended up being thrown on instead!

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The bars were cut up once cooled down and turned out of the tin. 

I really enjoyed baking these bars and they would have looked a lot more attractive if I’d read the recipe properly.  I could have got away with the rustic look with the extra chocolate on but because I was rushing (why do I always have to bake when I’m short of time?) I ended up with a very messy finish. I’m sure Mary Berry would have said “Could do better,” if she had seen them.

The appearance didn’t put me off, I ate one with a cup of tea in the afternoon and to be honest it tasted much better being kept in the fridge.  Even my son who had turned his nose up at them enjoyed the bars and they had all disappeared by Wednesday!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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Lemon Griesetorte from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

I can’t believe it is April already though to be honest I am so relieved.  As soon as the clocks go back in October, I am on countdown until they go forward again the following March.  My hubby and I were saying the other day that we should move to Australia for 6 months of the year and then return to the UK for the summer…

Anyway, being a new month means a new book in my Cooking The Books challenge.  This month’s book is Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and the first recipe I wanted to try out was the Lemon Griesetorte.  I’ve no idea what a Griesetorte is but I think it is German or Austrian in origin.  I had never baked one before although a lady brought one along to a Clandestine Cake Club event I went to.  It was absolutely delicious and the lemon flavour was a great hit with all of us.  So, I was keen to try it out myself.

As soon as I realised the cake was in the Special Cakes chapter I began to think, was it included in there because it was complicated? The cake doesn’t contain flour but a small amount of semolina and ground almonds.  It also doesn’t contain fat but you end up putting loads of lemon curd and whipped cream inside it anyway which defeats the object a bit!  But, having said that, it has been one of the most delicious cakes I have tasted and believe you, me I have tasted lots!

So, being as it is the last day of term for me before we break up for the Easter holidays I decided to bake the Griesetorte to take into work to share as an end of term treat with my work colleagues.  I don’t usually work on a Friday so on Wednesday night I was busy in the kitchen getting the cake ready for my last working day on the Thursday.

Heres how I got on:

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The Griesetorte is a whisked no fat and no flour cake so the first step was to whisk egg yolks and caster sugar together until they became light and fluffy.

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I squeezed the juice out of a large lemon into a bowl, realising there were loads of pips! So in the end I had to find my tea strainer to fish them out!

I got a bit muddled at this stage.  Mary says you also need the grated zest of a lemon but I’d already squeezed the juice out of it first.  Silly me, I should have grated the zest first. It was very difficult trying to take the zest off a squashed lemon!  Not only was it difficult to hold but the leftover juice went on my hand, stinging it!  Ooops!

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In goes the lemon zest! I’m sure there isn’t enough but I was nearly grating my fingers at this stage!

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Now in goes the semolina and the ground almonds. Not a very large amount so I hope I’d got the quantities right!

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The semolina and almonds were folded in carefully with a metal spoon.

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The egg whites which had been separated right at the beginning were whisked until they had soft peaks.

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I love clouds of egg whites!

Now the cake mix had to be transferred to a deep cake tin.  I couldn’t find my deep 8″ cake tin so I got out two sandwich tins instead and thought I’d watch them baking instead as I’d need to adjust the cooking time a bit.  I was worried they wouldn’t rise and turn out like flat pancakes.

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The mixture ready in the two sandwich tins to go into the oven.

I was trying like mad to get the cake baked before my hubby got in from work.  He had promised to call at the supermarket on the way home with some tea for us as he had forgotten to take some pork out of the freezer for me this morning.  I’d got in and panicked as there was nothing much in the fridge.  Luckily the cake was out of the oven and cooling before he arrived back so at least I could use the oven for the dinner!

The cooked cake didn’t look very appetising at all.  When I got them out of the tins onto the wire rack one of them broke in a corner and looked a right old mess.  Thankfully I could tart it up when I filled it.

Mary says as an optional filling you can add some raspberries. along with some double whipped cream and some lemon curd.  The version I tried before didn’t have raspberries but I had some in the fridge so I thought I would use them.  There was also an option to use double the amount of lemon curd and cream to put on the top of the cake.  I chose to just add the filling as I didn’t have enough cream.

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It’s great what a dredger full of caster sugar can hide!

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You can see the broken bit in the background. My son thought someone had stood on it!

I thought the cake looked a bit rustic and messy but this was due to me rushing trying to get everything done before teatime!  As the cake contained fresh cream I put it into an airtight box and it went straight into the fridge.

Well as a result of me rushing off to work this morning the cake stayed put in the fridge and I completely forgot to take it to work! Mary says in the recipe introduction that the cake keeps well, I was relieved as I knew I would have to take it up to school on the Friday on my day off after doing my children’s school run!  All I can say is I hope it tastes ok because it certainly doesn’t look that appetising!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx