Baking along with the bake off: baking with batter

19 Sep

So this week’s Bake Off was all about batter. I was brought up on Yorkshire puddings, with my grandma’s pudding recipe being legendary in my family.

Sadly though I share Jane’s pain – it’s been an embarrassment of mine for years that I can’t make them, despite my dad’s best efforts.

Until now.

I decided to forget about my inability to make them and to instead treat the recipe like I would a cake. 

I thought I’d also try two sizes of cake tin too just to be on the safe side.

And it worked! Woo hoo!

Ok so they’re slightly over baked and some are a little flat (not enough batter I think) but I’m pretty proud of myself. 

 

Seriously though…

  
I ate four!!

I’m looking forward to pastry week and seeing what they all come up with. It’ll be another hard task for me too as pastry isn’t a strength of mine…

The secret lives of bakers

18 Sep

Can you keep a secret?

For the last year I’ve been running a secret group for bakers, a branch of the Clandestine Cake Club.

As you may already be aware, I’ve been a member of the Clandestine Cake Club for a while and so I joined both the Newcastle branch and the Gosforth and Jesmond branch, my local group, as soon as I moved up to the toon.

Sadly the Gosforth and Jesmond leader had to step down before I could attend a meeting, with no-one stepping up to take it over. I had two choices: watch the group fold before I’d had chance to enjoy the cakes my neighbours had to offer or step up myself. It was a no brainer really!

That was April last year and we’ve been meeting pretty much every month since. In that time we’ve grown from a group of four or five into a core of around 10 and every one of my members is lovely!

Our last meeting was by far the best one yet, courtesy of a little cheeky email to Jesmond Dene House.

I never thought for one second they’d even reply when I fired off the email on a particularly brave night. So to say I was surprised when I not only received a response but that they’d be more than willing to host us would be a huge understatement!

They couldn’t have been kinder and we loved every minute of our two hours there.

Here are just some of the delicious cakes we enjoyed:

 
What made the March meeting even more exciting was the fact that I also got the chance to team up with Jesmond-based business Le Mini Macaron.

As a local business, who I knew made delicious macarons having tested them at both the Sunday Quayside market and a few local food fairs, I had initially approached them to see if they’d be interested in hosting a meeting.

They’d had to turn me down as they operate from home but were willing to help in another way, and agreed to make me some mini macarons for the top of my cake.

They were gorgeous!

Putting a dampener on baking with the Bake Off

17 Sep

I’m a bit late this week with my blog post but wow what a struggle I had with bread week!

I had been excited all week to try out Tom’s chocolate orange bread and happily collected all the ingredients at the supermarket ready to give it a go. Sadly I hadn’t read the recipe though and for the life of me couldn’t figure out how to crush cardamom pod seeds without a pestle and mortar! (Any suggestions welcome!)

I really didn’t fancy making the technical challenge but by this point it was too late to buy more ingredients and I had everything I needed for dampfnudel so the decision was made.

The fact that I haven’t changed my pans for about a decade and only have one with a lid(!) meant the odds were stacked against me for this one. Still, it was worth a try.

Making the dough was surprisingly easy 

   
 
Cooking the things, however, was a different story. They managed to swell up quite well:
  
But I made the same error as the bakers and my pan was the unfortunate victim 

  
Still, they tasted pretty nice. Having made a ridiculous amount of jam recently (blog post coming soon), I couldn’t be bothered making the sauce to go with the dampfnudel and instead opted for my apple and blackberry jam and some thick double cream. Yum!

  
I won’t be baking these again but they have made me less terrified of bread. I think I might try a loaf soon…

I know it’s a week old now but I loved the bread week episode, especially as we finally got a glimpse of Val’s kitchen dancing (something I’m partial to myself). I cheered when she won the technical, I’m definitely team Val! She’s as mad as a box of frogs but I love her!

I also LOVED Mary’s phrase, it’s not a mess, it’s informal. I’ll be using that forever more for my baking!

I was sad to see Michael go but sadly I think it was the right decision.

Now I can’t go without talking about the news of the week – channel 4 gate! What do you make of it? Bad decision from Love Productions in my opinion but good on Mel and Sue! 

Baking with the Bake Off: giving biscuits a whirl

7 Sep

Second week of the Great British Bake Off was biscuit week, and oh what fun they had.

How amazing was Candice’s pub with the sticky ginger floor? And Andrew’s biscuits looked lovely!

Val had a lucky escape but I’m glad she’s still around for another week.

For my baking along with the bake off challenge, it had to be Mary’s Viennese whirls.

Biscuits are definitely not my forte and this week was no exception. I made the same story as the Bake Off bakers and forgot to put the mixture in the fridge, meaning they lost their whirl. I also piped then far too big and close together so they were giant and stuck together!

Still, with homemade jam (more to come on that later this week) and some buttercream, they didn’t taste half bad. 

  
Dreading week three, where I’ll be making bread for the first time. Let’s hope the bakers have tried more than I have!

Baking along with the Bake Off: the good old Jaffa Cake

29 Aug

It would seem as though everyone is making Jaffa Cakes this week. I am no exception.

If you’re anything like me, you LOVE the Great British Bake Off. For me, it’s the only thing that makes the summer transition into autumn bearable.

The first episode didn’t disappoint. With a record number of cake do-overs, and enough innuendos to keep all the non-bakers like my boyfriend happy, there was plenty to entertain us all.

My initial favourite is Selasi and I have to admit I’ve got a soft spot for Val.

For the last few years I’ve attempted to bake along with the Bake Off and failed miserably. This year I’m going to try harder.

So, like everyone else in the country, I decided to give Jaffa cakes a try.

I’m not going to lie, I found it hard – even with Mary Berry’s recipe! I definitely won’t be applying for the Bake Off anytime soon. 

   

  

I’ve always loved Jaffa Cakes but I appreciate them all the more after today. Never again will I turn my nose up at a not-quite-centre jelly circle in a Jaffa Cake!

I enjoyed it though – and they taste pretty nice, even if I do say so myself.

In case you haven’t had a go yet and would like to try them out, you can find Mary’s recipe here

 Next week is biscuit week. Argh!

Review: Hop & Cleaver

20 Aug

Arguably, Newcastle’s Quayside is one of the most attractive part of the city (for a tourist like me at least).

As well as a setting that never fails to impress me, it boasts some of the best cafes and restaurants that Newcastle  has to offer.

One of those is the Hop & Cleaver.

Despite being in plain site, you could be forgiven for missing the Hop & Cleaver, its unassuming facade not giving much away.

Yet inside lies a real gem. Much like its neighbour, The Red House, its nooks and crannies make it cosy and its exposed brickwork gives some of its history away. Unlike its neighbour though, it’s more open and modern, complete with craft ales and flashing sign.

  
The boyfriend and I have been dying to try this restaurant since we moved up here so it seemed the perfect choice for a pre-birthday meal (his not mine).

Neither of us were disappointed.

I was a bit boring and chose the burger, although it was a mighty fine choice. The boyfriend, meanwhile, opted for a smoked sausage and chicken wings crate. We were both VERY impressed!

  
The only thing that let the meal down was the side of onion rings. They were ENORMOUS which I was pleased with but were a bit too oily for my liking. The special vanilla dip with it was really interesting, although the boyfriend wasn’t massively keen.

My sweet tooth couldn’t resist the chocolate brownie for dessert (the pull of bourbon vanilla was too much for my weak-willed Weight Watcher brain). It was worth all the millions of points it cost me though – it tasted just as delicious as it looks!

  
Both for taste and value for money (less than £40 for 2 courses and drinks) I would rate the Hop and Cleaver five out of five. The service, at times, was a little slow but all staff were very friendly. 

We went on a rainy day but the restaurant also has a lovely looking outdoor area which I expect is popular in the sunshine.

If you get chance you should definitely go.

Reading Challenge: Book 16 complete

17 Aug

If you’re anything like me, you were one of the first in line to see Me Before You at the cinema, having been obsessed with the book.

Finding out there was a sequel was even more exciting; what would happen to Louisa? What type of adventures would we follow her on?

I was also a little worried about being disappointed – I had loved the first one so much, what if the second one was awful?

That me the biggest fear for an author too.

 I needn’t have worried though, and I’d Jojo Moyes was at all worried she needn’t be either.

After You wasn’t what I expected but it far exceeded those expectations.

  
It also thoroughly deserves to be my ‘book guaranteed to bring you joy’ tickbox on the Popsugar list.I

I use the word joy loosely – she broke my heart (visibly on a plane) before sticky taping it back together again. But the overall feeling on closing the book was definitely a happy one.

After you, much like its predecessor, will remain proudly on my bookshelf with the rest of my favourites, forever more.