Jam Drops & Greek Almond Crescents - Recipe 6 & 7 of the Women's Weekly Challenge

Last night I was lucky enough to have the house to myself and so I was able to get through the next two recipes in my Women's Weekly book. I decided to do the Jam Drops first as these appeared to be much easier than the Greek Almond Crescents. I have always liked jam drops, but have never made them before and they were so simple I'm sure I will whip them up again soon with maybe a bit more jam, definitely more jam.

Next up were the Greek Almond Crescents and these may not be every one's taste, but they were definitely mine. The mixture calls for brandy which I no going forward think every batter/mixture should have brandy in it.. okay that might be a bit over the top, but the smell was amazing and even more amazing opening up the oven when they were ready to come out.

Once these biscuits come out of the oven you need to baste them while they are hot with Rose Water. Trying work out if the rose water the recipe called for was the same rose water I had purchased from Waitrose a few months ago. The rose water I had was in a small bottle similar to a vanilla extract bottle and contained 40% alcohol. My gut feeling was that this wasn't the 60ml of Rose water the recipe asked for and I start with just putting 1/2 teaspoon into 60ml of water instead. I think I was right as the smell of the water was definitely overcome with a rose smell.

The tricky bit with these biscuits were the coating of icing sugar and I'm not sure what the trick is, but instead of a smooth coating of icing sugar it was all lumpy and feel off completely in sections. If anyone has any tips on how to cover them, please let me know.

Regardless they tasted amazing and I later enjoyed both biscuits with a cup of tea (out of my new Emma Bridgewater cup - Thanks LauraP)

Happy Baking x

ANZAC Biscuits - Recipe 5 of the Women's Weekly Challenge

Tonight I'm going to try get on with the next two recipes in the Women's Weekly book and so I really need to keep on top of my blogging which at times is difficult, but I'll get there in the end.

This recipe was hardly a challenge as I've made this many times before. The challenge however was that I needed to make them out at Pete's place and I would not have all my baking tools or back up ingredients. I decided on the Saturday morning that I wanted to take something out to Pete's parents place the following day and so I quickly measured out everything I needed and we headed out to Reading.

The problem with this recipe is the mixture is so goddamn delicious and I end up eating half of it before it even makes it into the oven. I had a slight problem though with my mixture and that was that it was very runny and so when I cook the first couple to try them they ended up being very thin and very wide. I did throw about an idea of just eating the whole mixture, but I don't think I would have felt to good afterwards and so I improvised and found a Yorkshire pudding tray and I put the mixture into and alas they had no where to spread.

After an afternoon of berry picking in the country, one of these was perfect for afternoon tea.. okay maybe I had more than one....

Happy Baking x

A Croatian Delight - Balatonske Šnitte

In between my WWC I have a few blogs that I have yet to post. I have been meaning to write this one up, but just never got around to it, but this was definitely one of best baking experiences/experiments.

I was lucky enough to have the lovely Heidi from Cloud Control to come over and teach me a few things. Despite being a talented musician she is an excellent baker and has done wedding cakes and the likes and I have a lot I can learn from her.

This baking session was more for Heidi as she wanted to re-create a cake a Croatian Grandmother had made for her once. Apparently she had been pestering her for this recipe for years and she finally wrote it down for Heidi and it then was translated. The recipe is as follows:

Balatonske Šnitte

Ingredients “A” for cake layers:
6 big tablespoons of milk
2 big tablespoons of honey
150 g of icing sugar
40 g of lard

Ingredients “B” for cake layers:
450 g flour
1 tablespoon soda bicarbonate
2 egg yolks

Mixture for cake layers:
Mix all ingredients “A” and steam heat in double saucepan* until completely dissolved.
Allow to cool down.
Add 450g flour, 1 tablespoon soda bicarbonate and 2 egg yolks.
Blend all together until a smooth and firm dough is formed.
Place on a floured surface and divide into 5 equal portions.
Use a rolling pin to flatten each portion of dough to make the pastry such as to cover a 30 cm x 24 cm baking tray.
Bake on the baking trays, but on bottom surface (i.e. tray used upside down).
Make sure to rub margarine liberally over the baking tray and then dust over with light layer of flour – shake off excess flour.
Lift pastry with rolling pin and lay down on baking tray.
Cut off excess pastry to leave a clean edge.
Bake each pastry layer taking care not to burn the pastry.

Ingredients for filling:
600 ml of milk
6 tablespoons of plain flour (or corn flour)
300g icing sugar
250g unsalted butter
Juice of one lemon.

Mixture for filling:
Bring half of the milk to boil.
In the other half of the milk mix in the flour and blend until smooth.
Add the milk/flour mixture to the boiling milk and boil for a few minutes while stirring.
Take off the heat and allow to cool.
In the meantime take 1 packet of unsalted butter and mix with the icing sugar until nice and smooth.
Add the cooled down mixture, add the juice of one lemon and mix well to a smooth cream.
Spoon the cream over the baked layers of pastry and place above one another.

Ingredients for icing:
3 egg whites
7 tablespoons of sugar
3 bars of dark cooking chocolate (each approx. 9 cm long, 2 cm wide, 1 cm thick)

Mixture for icing:
Use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites together with the sugar while steam heating in a double saucepan.
Beat until a very thick and hard meringue is formed.
When done spread the meringue evenly on top of the cake layers.
Dissolve the cooking chocolate in a double sauce pan and spread over the meringue.
Draw patterns in the chocolate surface using a fork.
When cooled down cut into squares.

Hedi's got the technique and thanks to Meg
for the amazing aprons: cat + baking = nothing better
mixing in more flour
the dough ready to be cut
cutting into 5 equal pieces
first layer
second layer
third layer
the icing goes on top
and now the chocolate
after the split

This was all we had to go on and since I had no idea what the final cake should look like I was completely out of my depth. The cake was meant to have 5 different layers, however getting the temperature right in my oven is a tricky balance and some of the layers came out slightly overcooked. I also learnt a few things about pastry and how to roll it out evenly without it splaying out to thin on one side. Heidi is a tough teacher, she would roll it all out perfectly then scrunch it into a ball and get me to roll it out all again.

After all our hard work we finally ended up with something that resemble a picture in Heidi's mind from all those years ago and we cut the cake in half and sent her on her way.

One of my favourite cakes, which actually I haven't even tried to make yet, is Tiramisu and this cake seems to have a lot of the look and textures I love about a good Tiramisu - so if anyone wants to have a good following the recipe above I'd love to see your pictures.

Thanks to Heidi for the baking session, hopefully you will come back and bake again soon. 
you can tell who's posed in front of the cameras more regularly

Happy Baking x

Mini Florentines - Recipe 4 of the Women's Weekly Challenge

My second Women's Weekly Challenge recipe this week was Mini Florentines.

I had no idea prior to reading this recipe what they were and by the look of the recipe I wasn't sure I would like them. I have a bit of a hatred for 'fake cherries' and I'm not a lover of things just lumped all together, sorry don't mean to be paying out on the Florentine's, it was just my pre-conception.

The recipe was simple enough, however after the bliss I had from making the choc chip cookies the night before, these little thing just made me angry - baking rage... my housemate have seen it several times. I was a bit sceptical from the beginning as the only thing that was meant to hold them together was condensed milk. I'm not sure if maybe condensed milk in Australia is different to the UK but something wasn't happening. After being baked in the oven for a quick 5 minutes and left to cool on the tray, I would guess the stickiness of the condensed milk was meant to hold it all together, but it didn't.

Thankfully instead of just throwing them all in the bin, LK suggested I put them in my cupcake cakes, which is what I did, drizzled the chocolate that was meant to go nicely on the back of the mixture and there we had it... mini (cupcake) Florentine's.

I was a little bit apprehensive bringing them into work as some of my work mates will tell me exactly what they think, but I was shocked to find that most people loved them, so not a complete failure, but they definitely won't be on the top of my list for round 2.

Happy Baking x

Choc Chip Cookies - Recipe 3 of the Women's Weekly Challenge

I have officially started my Women's Weekly cookbook challenge. I think I need to set myself some goals as a challenge isn't a challenge without some rules. I will work them out for my next post I promise.

I was planning on getting through three recipes this week, however most of the shops in London were closed early this week... I was totally going to pay for all the flour I use I swear!!!! 

The first chapter in the book is "Plain Biscuits" and choc chip cookies were up first. I definitely underestimated what I thought 375grams of chocolate  and ended up having to raid my baking cupboard for every last piece of chocolate which included dark cooking chocolate, white chocolate and some dairy milk chocolate., but I think the three different flavours worked well together instead.

chocolate stack
so much chocolate goodness!

I was pretty impressed at how good these tasted, they were the perfect middle ground between chewy in the middle and slightly hard around the edges. And also when re-heated in the microwave, the chocolate re-melted and was a great addition to ice-cream.. nom. Just reading about it makes me feel like I need to go to the gym now. 

just chillin'
all tucked in read to go...and get eaten.. NOM

Next up.. mini florentine's...

Happy Baking x

Honey Jumbles & the start of my challenge Women's Weekly Biscuit & Macaroon Challenge

I have decided that I need to make a little bit of a challenge for myself. For my birthday I was lucky enough to receive many lovely gifts, one of which was a box of 101 cookie cutters. I haven't used any until now and I thought I'd just have some fun with them and make a simple dough and use all the different cutters, but it was a disaster. The first batch were burnt, the second batch melted out of shape and by then I just gave up.

For this reason I have set myself a challenge to get to know biscuits & cookies a bit better and so I've decided to make every recipe from the Women's Weekly Biscuit and Macaroon cookbook that I was lucky enough to get my hands on when I was at home in December. I guess I'm cheating a bit as I've already made 2 recipes, one of which I've already blogged about and this is the other.

I've started off making two of my favourite biscuits that I missed from back home; Monte Carlo's and Honey Jumbles. My earliest memories of Honey Jumbles are from my Nana Peg's next door neighbour MeMe. She was a old frail lady who's husband had died many years before I was born and my mum had grown up going to visit her all the time as she had no children. As I remember it she had the perfect 50's kitchen and every time my brother and sister all went to visit she would happily sit down and play endless games of snap whilst eating honey jumbles and drinking a glass of milk. I can remember always having the same dilemma whether to have 2 pink or 2 white or one of each... actually this sounds a bit like a Mad Men advertisement.
The recipe for these was fairly simple, however it calls for golden syrup or treacle and as I somehow acquired a tin of black treacle that I rarely use I thought I would put it to use. However I think this resulted in the dough being very dark and strong treacle taste, however I didn't mind and I enjoyed them just the same. I think I got the texture as I remember it to be and there were the hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, mixed spice, cloves and ginger all coming through which are to this day some of my favourite spices and flavours.

Even without the trip down memory lane that I have with these biscuits, my English work mates all seemed to enjoy them too.

Happy Baking x

Neil & Melinda's Wedding Cupcakes

I was very honoured (and nervous) to be asked to do my first ever Wedding Cupcakes. I knew it was defiantly going to be a challenge and a lot of planning to bake, ice and transport all 100 cupcakes to Essex on a Saturday afternoon.  But in the end I think at the end of the day, despite a few hiccups and a lot of glitter and icing later I watched all my work getting piled in the back of the courier, however not without giving the driver a bit of grief that my cupcakes would be looked after well.

The top centre piece

They all made it there and in good order! Phew! .. and I the lovely bride Melinda reported back that my cakes went down a treat and apparenlty as she didn't get to each much all day that her and her new husband spent their wedding night eating my cupcakes in bed..

soooo much icing.. this was bowl 1 of 3

The wedding cupcake army
just a few dozen cupakes
All boxed and ready to go

 Congratulation to Melinda & Neil and hope there will be many more nights filled with cake xx

Happy Baking x

Fluted Blueberry Cake

This weekend we had the pleasure of enjoying the much awaited English Summer on my friends houseboat on the Thames. Out of all my friends I think only my friend Lulu could make living on a boat in one of the most picturesque spots in London and working a city job seem quite normal, which is why we love her. The occasion was to celebrate her mum visiting from Sydney and it was defiantly one of the best BBQ's I've been too as I think it might be a bit tough to beat sitting in sun on a boat just down stream fro the Tower Bridge and watching the sun go down with all your pals - oh and don't forget the Pimms!

I didn't have to be asked, but I wanted to bake something for the afternoon... the criteria.. anything but cupcakes, I do love them, but I love the challenge of a cake! I recently had purchased a fluted cake tin and so I thought I best try it out. Stupidly I didn't read the recipe properly and so I had a slight disaster once it was in the oven. So what happens when cake mixture meant for a 25cm tin goes into a 20cm tin... this...

Basically my cake massively overflowed (I think if you look at my photo of the cake mixture in the tin - the telltale sign for disaster were quite clear already) and so instead of giving up I thought I would try save it by cutting off the top and hoped like hell the rest of the cake mixture would cook - and it did. Luckily the cut off bits (and there was a lot of them) didn't go to waste as LK and I enjoyed them with bits of tea.. nom!

In the end the cake came out perfectly cooked and people were none the wiser.

Happy Baking x

PS. Thanks to Helena again for your lovely photos