Monday, 29 April 2013

Raspberry & Lemon Shortbread Biscuits

I don't often shop in Waitrose, but when wondering past one the other week I just had to go in and have a look at their baking section! They had a lot of different stuff from what I have seen in the baking aisles of my usual supermarket. I could have gone a bit crazy if I had a lot to spend! As on this occassion, funds were limited, I had to narrow it down and pick something special to try out. So, I chose freeze dried raspberries.

Baking with very 'wet' fruits like raspberries can be tricky as the amount of liquid can destabilise your bake. Freeze drying the raspberries takes away all the water and just leaves fantastic flavour! Until you try these it is hard to believe just how much flavour there is in these small bright pink flakes. I thought lemon would go really well and create a tangy zest to contrast with the butterey shortbread biscuit.

I started by creaming together 100g butter and 75g caster sugar. I then added 100g plain flour and 25g corn flour, both sifted.

I used about half the tube of raspberries (about 5g) and the zest of one lemon.

I brought the mixture together to form a smooth dough and rolled it out using some plain flour for dusting. About 3mm is ok. I'm not very good with dough thickness!

I cut shapes out of the dough and put on a lined baking tray, I did some heart shapes but didn't have time to chill them before baking so as you can see below they didn't keep their shape! The biscuits also spread a lot more than I expected.

I baked on 170C/340F/Gas Mark 3 1/2 for about 20 mins. You want them to 'just' go golden. I sprinkled the biscuits with caster sugar while they were still warm.

These biscuits have a varied combination of flavours, tangy raspberries, zesty lemon, smooth butter and sweet sugar. I think they fit together really well. I took these into work as I do with most of my bakes, and they went down a treat! These would be great on a picnic or with a cup of fruit tea. Waitrose also sell freeze dried strawberries and mangos.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Speculoos Topped Chocolate Brownies

So...Speculoos. You may have seen other bloggers mention this new baking ingredient recently. Cakeyboi made Speculoos Frosting for some cupcakes, and Slice of Barnes added it to a Cappucino Cake. So what is it?! Well "Speculoos" is actually a caramelised biscuit spread. The name Speculoos comes from the Dutch biscuits that the spread originates from. It is also known as Cookie Butter and a few other brands make it too, but the Lotus version pictured below is the only one available in the UK at the moment. You can get it at Waitrose in both crunchy and smooth, and it can be found on the same aisle as the chocolate spread.

I don't live near a Waitrose, but I wondered past one the other day and decided to hunt out this stuff and find out what all the hype was about. Straight from the jar I thought it was nice, but I wasn't about to go crazy and devour the whole thing. I haven't made brownies for a while and I love topping them with things so I thought Speculoos Topped Chocolate Brownies would be a nice simple recipe to try it out with. Here's what I did...

I started by melting 225g butter on a low heat. After transferring the melted butter to a mixing bowl, I added 400g caster sugar and mixed until fully combined.

I beat in 3 eggs, one at time and mixing in between, and 2 tsp vanilla extract.

I made a last minute to decision to throw in a bag of chocolate chips and did so along with 85g cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.

Finally I folded in 125g plain flour and poured the mixture into a lined square baking tin.

I baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes. I left them to cool in the tin on a cooling rack.

Making the Speculoos topping involved a bit of guesswork. There are several different ways you can do it. Some people use milk, and some use double cream. I decided to use cream cheese, or rather the contents of my fridge decided for me! I mixed 100g Speculoos, 30g butter and 5 tsp cream cheese. Also at the end I added another 1 tsp each of butter and Speculoos. I think milk or cream would create a smoother glossier finish.

I spread the mixture over the brownies and cut them up to serve. The brownies were super squidgy and moist - I recommend this recipe even if you don't top it with Speculoos! I really liked the mixture of the caramelised biscuit flavour with the gooey chocolate. It definitely enhances the brownies and isn't overpowering. I devoured a piece in a very short time! Have you tried Speculoos yet? What do you think?

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The April Lust List

I'm completely undecided on the feel of April this year. Easter has already past us by, spring is technically here, but spring weather isn't. The nights are a lot lighter, which I love, but the temperature hasn't quite caught up. That is why I am off to Portugal for a few days tomorrow! So I will therefore declare April the month of going on holiday wahey! For those of you that aren't heading off anywhere sunny this month, this lust list is full of bright, colorful and inspiring items to tempt summer nearer and cheer up these dull spring days!

Sweet Spirits Cookie Cutters: Day of the Dead Cookie Stamps
Baker & Maker, £10.95
I recently discovered this company and am in love with everything they have on offer. All the products are unique, pretty and fun. These cookie cutters really capture the spirit of that and they stood out to me for their unusual and eyecatching design!

LorAnn Oils Cranberry Flavour 1 Dram
The Cake Decorating Company £1.99
What says bring on summer more than cocktails?! LorAnn oils are super strong, three to fours time stronger than standard supermarket extracts. You could make some fabulous cosmopolitan themed cupcakes with this cranberry flavouring! Add some lime zest to the sponge and vodka to the buttercream...yes please!

Neon Sugar
Waitrose £2.49
With colours like Electric Blue, Hot Pink, Sunshine Yellow and Lime Green, this set of four sugars will add brightness and vibrance to cakes and cupcakes! At the Cake & Bake Show, they also rolled cake pops in it. Don't they look great in the photo?!

Lakeland Duo Colour Icing Kit
Lakeland £4.99
I got one of these kits at the Cake & Bake Show and I am so excited to try it out! My brain is already thinking of all the colour and flavour combinations I could use! I comes with 8 piping bags and 6 different nozzles.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Review: The Cake & Bake Show - Manchester 2013

Last weekend I attended The Cake & Bake Show in Manchester, at Manchester Central. It was on for three days, Friday to Sunday, and I visited on the Saturday. There was so much to do and see at the show. Demonstrations, plenty of shopping opportunities, Q&A sessions with baking celebrities, expert classroom sessions and lots of competitions to enter!

I arrived on the dot at 10am when the doors opened and started my day by generally looking around in awe at all there was to do! I first stumbled upon the Dr. Oetker stand which showcased all their fabulous products and what you can do with them. I do tend to use Dr. Oetker quite a lot as their products are so readily available in the supermarkets and they make nice finishing touches to cakes and cupcakes.

They also had demonstrations on throughout the day with cookery writer and food stylist Kathryn Hawkins showing visitors piping, chocolate decorating and meringue making.

Neff ovens also had a stand - these are the fab ovens seen on The Great British Bake Off where the door slides underneath. The ovens retail for around £500 (based on a quick Google search) so they are a big investment. I entered a competition to win one, fingers crossed!

I also checked out the stunning Gingerbread Village being created over the weekend by Billingtons. I'm not sure how much of this is edible, but I think quite a lot. The roses under the window are little cupcakes and a lot of the smaller things like the rabbit are sugarcraft.

They had already made a Hansel for the house and Gretel was being crafted on the day. Very impressive stuff!

I found some gorgeous dessert tables, oh how I wanted to dive right in and sample some of these! Sadly it was not an option. The above photo is by West Didsbury cafe And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon.

The above photos are Honeywell Bakes table. I love the carnival/fete theme, so pretty!

My first demonstration of the day was Peter Sidwell. As well as being a chef for 20 years, he is a judge on ITV's Britain's Best Bakery and owns a cookery school and restaurant in the Lake District. Peter made a spinach, walnut, rosemary and hootenanny cheese focaccia, and some savoury eccles cakes using the same ingredients as well as halloumi cheese. He gets the hootenanny cheese from a local creamery, and he talked about using local ingredients to make foreign foods. The focaccia was absolutely delicious, I grabbed a piece at the end so got to taste it!

Peter answered some questions from the audience, the one that stood out to me was a woman who asked about the difference between using cheap and expensive flour. He said that if you are making something like a Victoria sponge or some scones, cheap flour is fine to use. But you should spend on spelt, rye and wholemeal flours as they will make a noticeable difference to the final result.

Some of the stalls had some gorgeous looking tasty treats for sale. The stunning meringues above are made by The Little Round Cake Company. Everything they sold was huge! The big cakes and tarts looked so good. They aren't based up north, but you can buy their giant 'merangz' and other treats online.

Now these aren't your standard marshmallows. The Marshmallowists use whole fruit and no artificial colouring or preservatives to make these stunning marshmallows in a variety of exquisite flavours.

Wrights Flour had brioche, pumpkin and sourdough bread mixes for only £1 per bag. I bought some brioche mix and am looking forward to making it!

The Bakewell Baking Festival is taking place 8th - 9th June and features Stacie Stewart and series one Great British Bake Off winner Edd Kimber. I want to go!

Manchester cupcakery Hey! Little Cupcake were in attendance showing of their gorgeous cakes! They sell delicious cupcakes everyday, but offer bigger cakes for special occasions. I have visited a few times now and also went to their Cupcake Decorating Class. I love their Sorrento Cello cupcake, it's amazing!

Baker and Maker had a gorgeous stand, I loved the styling and every item was so pretty and interesting. The paper straws and milk bottles are quite popular now and I am seeing them used in a lot of food photos on other blogs. They have some really cute stuff and I am expecting to find some more gorgeous goodies on their website!

Conserve and compote makers Bonne Maman had a stall. I am not a huge jam eater, but I do love it in cakes and it's a must have on scones. They also have a cook book featuring both savoury and sweet recipes all involving jams. Some of the recipes I would never have thought you could put jam in! For example, mackerel with rhubarb sauce and steak with blueberry sauce.

I thought the design of the The Kids Cooking Company's products was really fun and eye catching. I support anything that gets children involved in baking. I used to love baking in school and at brownies when I was younger, and it's definitely formed part of my passion for baking today.

Pryces Bakery are based in Manchester, it was nice to see another local business at the show. They had some yummy looking pies and cupcakes on offer.

Simply Vintage Designs were another stall with gorgeous products and beautiful styling. I would love my kitchen to be full of stuff like this one day! So gorgeous and pretty!

I love a table full of freshly made bread and The Artisan Bakery didn't disappoint, the focaccia in particular looked fabulous. My mum purchased one and some sourdough too.

I have to say the highlight of the day for me were the 'Bake Offs' between The Great British Bake Off contestants! I watched two, and the first was James Morton versus Ryan Chong making madelines with audience volunteers. After the bakes were done, three audience members taste tasted them and chose a winner, who received a goodie bag and ticket to the London Cake & Bake Show.

It was really fun and entertaining to watch and listen to them talk about their time on the show and what they've been doing since. There is a lot of camaraderie and genuine friendships between the Great British Bake Off bakers, and this really enhanced the atmosphere in the competition tent as the other bakers appearing, but not on stage, were sat at the front watching and chipping in or stealing food! We also found out that Ryan's favourite bake is Japanese Cotton Wool Cheesecake and James' is Banana Bread.

Ryan won the challenge!

The second challenge was Brendan Lynch versus John Whaite making cookies. I absolutely love Brendan and could listen to him talk for hours. I was thrilled to be watching him baking. He told the audience that his baking inspiration was Raymond Blanc, he bought his first book about 30 years ago and went through it page by page until he was good at everything. If ever he got stuck, he rang up Raymond for help! As he got his number off his publisher. I thought this was brilliant!

John talked about his family being his inspiration, and how you should learn from experience when baking as it's different in every kitchen. I really agree with this as ovens are all different and you have to get used to them. He also threw in a few plugs for his book which is out soon! James Morton also has a book coming out in August, and Cathryn Dresser has one out next year about baking with kids. Brendan won the challenge and I got to try one of the cookies he made - I can report that they were very good!

I have to share this photo as I met some of my baking heroes which was a real pleasure and so exciting for me! I had such a brilliant time at The Cake & Bake Show. The atmosphere was so friendly and the opportunity to interact and meet some of the stars was brilliant. Big crowds surrounded the Great British Bake Off contestants, but they all took time to have photos, sign autographs and talk to everyone. There was no pushing or shoving, everyone just waited their turn, it was really nice. Bakers are such great people and what can be better than spending the day in a room full of them!

The Cake & Bake Show is back in London on 13th - 15th September at Earls Court. Click here for more information and to buy tickets!

NB. I had a press pass for the show, but I picked all the stalls and products I liked based on my own opinion to feature in this post.