The Very Best of Mary Berry’s Shortbread

I’ve been on a bit of a baking slump at the moment, like a huge one. I have no idea why – I just haven’t felt like baking very much. But the Great British Bake Off started again and, in true GBBO style, it inspired me to start baking again.Read More »

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Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake

I saw the photo of this cake in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and thought – ‘it looks fit, I must try it’. Yes people, I described a cake as fit. I’m sorry, it had to be done.

I needed a reason to try out this marbled chocolate cake and luckily, my neighbours were due to come round for dinner; technically not a dinner party, but excuse enough for dessert.Read More »

Chocolate Chip American Muffins

Since the success of my Lemon and Raspberry Tart, I’ve got a bit ambitious and decided to try another first – muffins!

OK, so I know it doesn’t sound quite as terrifying as it could be, what’s hard about muffins right? I don’t know what it is about them that have made me really nervous about baking them; but I figured I have to start making them at some point – why not start this weekend?!

 The recipe was pretty easy to follow if I’m honest.  I mixed together the flour, baking powder and rubbed the butter in to get to a ‘breadcrumb’ consistency.  Then I stirred in the sugar and chocolate chips. I was slightly worried at how little sugar I used until I started adding the chocolate chips ­– there were so many! Thankfully, there was enough left over for me to nibble on whilst I carried on with the rest of the recipe.

In another bowl I mixed the eggs, milk and vanilla essence before pouring it all in to the ‘dry’ ingredients. According to Mary Berry, this batter is meant to be a bit lumpy so I tried not to get too freaked out by the fact that I was putting lumpy batter into muffin cases – it felt so wrong! Oh well – into the oven they go.

 Chocolate Chip American Muffins

Now these muffins are titled ‘American’ so I figure they should come out pretty big – maybe not! When I think of muffins, I think of huge, delectable, muffin-top treats; these were more like extra-large cupcakes.  They also came out a mixture of colours – for some reason some were beautiful and golden-brown, whereas others were a little more … ahem… light-yellow? Ah well. If anyone complained, I’d blame it on my temperamental oven.

As I packed up the muffins to take to work the next day, I started to worry  about what people would think; I don’t normally do very well on my first attempt at baked goods (you should have seen my first ever cake!) and didn’t want my ‘baking-goddess’ reputation to diminish.  On the other hand, I wasn’t about to force my parents to eat their way through 12 muffins so off to work they went.

 Chocolate Chip American Muffins

Now I usually prefer muffins to cupcakes, mainly because one is enough to satiate my sweet tooth; but I just wasn’t feeling these muffins.  Simply put, I think they weren’t sweet enough for me. This is not to detract from the recipe, however, they tasted great with my morning brew, and everyone else seemed to love them.  They were especially pleased with the muffin to chocolate chip ratio.

 As my first muffin attempt – I’d say I was quite happy with them (the perfectionist inside me is not easily pleased!). However, I have decided to reserve judgment until I have attempted a few more recipes. There’s a chance for these American Chocolate Chip muffins yet!

Apple and Cinnamon Cake

I had planned to make this cake for Christmas day, but my Gingerbread Mansion took up a lot more time than expected so I had to make it later on.  I was making my first ever Iranian meal and decided that we would also have to have some sort of dessert as well.

I chopped up the walnuts and peeled, cored and grated the apple ready to go into the mixture.  The recipe is pretty easy: essentially you throw everything except the cinnamon and apples into a bowl and whisk it together until it is thoroughly blended.  Then you pour half the mixture into the cake tin, spread the apple and cinnamon on top of that, and then spoon the remaining cake mixture on top. That’s, literally, how easy it’s meant to be. I put the cake into the oven and carried on with the main courses while it baked.

We have a new oven in our kitchen, a beautiful double oven that I adored, until now.  During the first attempt at this cake (yes – there were two attempts!), I did what I always do: set the timer and go off to do something else until the alarm goes off.  Usually an extra few minutes is needed but generally, this method has always worked for me.

 This time, I smelt something that wasn’t that beautiful baking scent and went back to the kitchen 15minutes earlier to investigate.  The cake was burnt – not just a little burnt – a lot burnt! I had no idea what went wrong: the temperature was right, the time was right – I couldn’t explain it.

With a broken heart I took the cake out and dejectedly popped open the tin to look at the damage.  My mum, who was teaching me how to cook the Iranian main course ate some and deemed it edible, but I refused to serve it – I’m the cake queen; I was determined to try again.

Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Thankfully I was at a point in cooking the main course where I could stop; I had planned to have a cup of tea in front of the telly but I resorted to a glass of wine and a grim-faced second attempt at the cake. This time I turned the temperature down slightly and set the timer for 30 minutes.

I quickly checked the cake once the alarm went off and thankfully, it wasn’t burnt … but it wasn’t cooked either. I quickly slammed the door shut and set the timer for 15minutes at a time until it had cooked. I left it to cool while I made the rest of the food.

Recipe 65 - 3

The rest of the meal went really well and everyone was amazed that I managed to not only cook so much, but make it taste almost as good as my mums (lets be real – no one can cook as well as her!). When it came to serving the dessert, I was so happy that it hadn’t burnt that I completely forgot to sprinkle a little light muscovado sugar and icing sugar on top before cutting everyone a slice.

Recipe 65 - 4

The cake was beautiful – not too sweet, not too cinnamon-y, the layer of apple in the middle also made it beautifully moist.  I’m not the biggest fan of sultanas so would probably cut them out if I made the cake again.

Recipe 65 - 5

Dark and Indulgent Chocolate and Walnut Brownies

Normally when I bake brownies, I think of it as a bit of a ‘childish’ treat – I have no idea why I have this connection as I never had brownies as a kid.  The inner workings of my mind is a pretty terrifying place to spend any time in so I didn’t bother to figure out why I have the connection, and started getting down to this ‘grown-up’ version of a timeless classic.

The first difference this recipe has to other brownie recipes is that it doesn’t use cocoa powder; instead Mary Berry decided to thrown in another bar of plain chocolate. And let’s be honest, what person is going to say no to another bar of chocolate, huh?

I broke up the pieces of chocolate, added the butter and put my bowl over a simmering pot of water for it all to melt.  This is when I realised I was using a plastic bowl that would start to melt itself at any second … aargggghh! I dashed back into the kitchen, to look for another bowl whilst holding the first one above the pot (so it could still get heat without burning a hole in the plastic).

After 5 minutes of looking for a glass bowl I remembered that, naturally, we don’t have any. Cue a very long, exaggerated ‘ugh’ sound before accepting defeat and holding the plastic bowl over the pan for the time it took to melt the chocolate and butter which, if you didn’t know, takes quite a while!

The chocolate finally melted and I was able to get on with the rest of the baking.  I chopped up an endless amount of walnuts, and put them to the side, ready to throw in at the last stage.  The whisk then came out and whipped up the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and coffee … Wait … coffee?! Yes folks, if an extra bar of chocolate isn’t enough of a sugar rush; Mary Berry decided to throw in an extra shot of caffeine. I guess this is another reason why it should be considered a ‘grown-up’ brownie recipe.

Once this was all whisked, I stirred in the chocolate and butter mixture and folded in the flour, walnuts, and a heck of a lot of chocolate chips.  Now I understand the use of ‘indulgent’ in the title of the recipe. The batter was poured into the tray tin and baked for the recommended time.

Now, you’re normally meant to let the brownies cool a bit before cutting them up, as the gooey middle sets better once it’s cool – but I was tired, and very hungry after watching all that chocolate melt and decided enough time had been spent on brownies for one day.  I attempted to chop the brownies up into equal pieces, nibbled on the bits that came off in the process and packed up the whole lot to take to work the following day.

Dark and Indulgent Chocolate and Walnut Brownies

There is one thing I do know about brownies, no matter what you put in them, or what they taste like – they are generally devoured in the work place.  Normally, I’m good with ‘taste-testing’ and only have a small piece/slice of whatever I bake but with these brownies, I couldn’t help but have an extra slice (or two…OK four in total!) The were definitely rich, but not sickeningly so – the coffee added a nice kick to balance out the sweetness of the chocolate.

These brownies should come with a warning however –no matter how old you are, you will get an insane sugar/caffeine rush from eating these.  OK so maybe don’t do what I did and eat 4 in one go, but I can say that attempting to eat only one of these moreish little delights is almost impossible, they’re just that good!

 Dark and Indulgent Chocolate and Walnut Brownies

Jane’s Fruit Cake

Why is it Jane’s? Well I can’t answer that, but it was the fruit cake that my mum has been asking me to bake for a while. So I finally gave in and decided to give it a try.

I can’t help but love Mary Berry’s instructions – they generally consist of mixing everything together in no particular order and bunging it all in the oven! Great for everyone else but unfortunately not for a perfectionist like me.

So instead of throwing everything in, I started by mixing the butter and the muscovado sugar, then added the eggs and buttermilk and finally the wholemeal flour.  I did question what the wholemeal flour would add (or detract) to the recipe, but I have full faith in Mary Berry and will do (almost) anything she says – or writes.

Finally, I stirred in the currents and sultanas and began to pour the batter into my cake dish.  This was when I realised that my 23cm-diameter cake tin was definitely too short for all the batter I had.  Cue the very speedy preparation of another, smaller, cake tin – and hey presto we have a mama cake and a baby cake.

I managed to fit the cakes into the oven and put the timer on for … 3hours?!?!?! Of course this is always the last thing I read and I managed to pick the cake with longest cooking time ever. * Sigh *

I took one last quick look at the recipe as I sat on the sofa with a cup of tea when I realised that I had to sprinkle the almonds on top of the cake before I put it in the oven.  Oops.

I ran back to the kitchen (I’m not joking, I actually skidded around two corners!), ripped open the packet of flaked almonds, and held my breath while I opened the oven door, quickly sprinkled almonds on the batter, and slammed it shut again.  I strolled back into the living room, sat down looking thoroughly pleased with myself, and found two parents with their mouths hanging open. I told them I forgot to sprinkle the almonds, which, apparently, wasn’t enough explanation for my dramatics.  I then explained that cakes sink if you open the oven door too much and even with this perfectly rational argument, I got nothing. So I gave up and settled down with my tea and my book.

Jane’s Fruit Cake

About 3 hours and a good few chapters later, I checked on the cakes to make sure they were dark enough, springy to the touch, and that they passed the skewer test.  Thankfully the cakes passed all three and I got the bigger one out for the taste test with the family.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of fruit cakes – I just don’t understand the concept of dried fruit, in general, and specifically in cake. Despite this, the cake was actually OK – definitely not my favourite – but the muscovado sugar added a really nice flavour and the wholemeal flour gives a nice texture. The parents, who happen love fruit cakes, devoured it so I guess that’s a good sign. I did plan to ask them to describe it to me but they went straight to bed claiming exhaustion for having to wait so long for my baked goods.

Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy Cheesecake

This is my first Mary Berry Cheesecake, and in true Diary of a Bake-A-Holic style I looked for the easiest one possible. The name of this recipe therefore made the choice ridiculously easy for me.

 I went out specifically to buy some condensed milk and got a tiny bit carried away with all the recipes on the tins. About 20 minutes later I realised what I was doing and grabbed the first tin of condensed milk I saw and dashed home to start baking.

The base of the cheesecake consisted of digestive biscuits, melted butter and a bit of Demerera sugar.  I was determined not to have any big lumpy bits of biscuit so whipped out the pestle and mortar and ground my way through the pack. Naturally one or two had to be eaten along the way – for quality assurance, of course.

I finally managed to get all the biscuits crushed and mixed with the butter and sugar, squished the somewhat dry mixture into the bottom of the cake tin and got it into the fridge to cool while I worked on the next layer. Mary Berry, I hope you know what you’re doing with these crumbly bases!

Then came the hard part – grating lemon zests! Over the course of this blog, I have realised that it is impossible for me to grate anything without injuring myself. I have therefore come up with a fool-proof plan to get it done without any type of injury … bribe someone else to do it. This time, three lemons were grated by a loving father, who received tea and a digestive biscuit for his troubles (thanks dad!).

With the hardest job out of the way, I set about measuring out the cheese, single cream and condensed milk ready to be mixed.  This is where I encountered a slight hitch … my condensed milk was actually ‘caramelised’ condensed milk.  Oops. I had been so engrossed in the recipes on the sides of the tin I didn’t bother to look at what I was buying! I rushed to the shops again while I fogged off a ‘digestive biscuit covered with caramelised condensed milk’ snack onto my family (which, I’d like to point out, is very tasty!).

Once back, I whisked everything together and attempted to spread the mixture evenly on top of the biscuit base.  This went in the fridge overnight and the bowl was taken away by the family to be ‘taste tested’ – a term I wish I didn’t teach them!

After a hectic day the next day I came home to a family sitting expectantly and waiting for me to get the cheesecake out; when I say ‘sitting expectantly’, I actually mean they were glaring at me and pointing at the kitchen as soon as I walked through the door (charming aren’t they?!).

 In my rush to get home I managed to buy double cream instead of whipping cream but I figured it was all relative and started to whisk it anyway. It didn’t help that I didn’t whisk it as much as I probably should have – but I put this down to pressure from the evil glares I was getting for taking so long. A few slice strawberries later and ‘et voila’, we have an Easy Lemon Cheesecake ready to be served.

Once everyone had had their first piece and stopped glaring at me, I could tuck into my own slice of cheesecake. Oh my, Mary Berry, you have done it again! The biscuit base was delectable – the Demerera sugar adds a lovely sweet crunch to it all.  If that wasn’t enough the actual cheesy part – I dribble just thinking about it.  It was very sweet, which may not be to all tastes, but is definitely to mine.  It wasn’t sickly sweet however, but was light and creamy, with the lemon cutting through the sweetness perfectly.

 

Basically this is a delight of a cheesecake.  The only downside was that the double cream made the cake look a little runny, but this is only an aesthetic hitch and thus shouldn’t count in any way. OK, so looks count a bit but it tastes so good that frankly, no one cared.