Monday, 9 April 2018

ABANDONED BAKING BLOG (Temporarily): Guilty As Charged

Hey everyone...

So I may have lost a few of you who may have been reading my blog now and again... and I can't blame you! I'm sure you may have thought..."Where did she go to? Did she give up on her baking adventures and challenges?"

My answer is, Nowhere... and No! I haven't given up... I merely became sidetracked, for like... only a year. That's not so bad, right? 😅 Right...

I finally worked myself up again to check my blog to actually see when my last entry was... and that was March of last year - 2017. It is now 2018. Wow. So now that I have got that out of the way, it's time to start fresh!

So this blog entry, is just to catch you up on what I've been doing... which is mainly working. My last entry was March last year, which is when I became very busy helping my family with our greenhouse business, which is the usual for this time every year... and so my poor blog was "temporarily" abandoned, which you know, turned into a year. No big deal. Carry on I will. Somewhere during that time I became busy with a few graphic design projects, which was a great experience. A few painting projects, life projects, and occasional poetry writing, and again, life projects and tasks... were all thrown into the mix. And you know... maybe a few shows on Netflix too! If you like foreign shows, like I do, I recommend some Korean dramas, such as Oh My Ghost (recommended to me by a friend), Let's Eat (for the foodie in me!), and I really enjoyed a Taiwanese drama called Just You, which is really adorable and lovely and has lots of life lessons.

Some others include the BBC series Merlin which sort of stole my heart! And two more baking shows for my baking education :) Hey! I was still learning! Sorry Mary!  These included Zumbo's Just Desserts, and Nailed It! From these series I learned that I must have perseverance, and a very very strong internal sense of humour directed at failure. These two things will help me accomplish any task in the kitchen, and also in life.

However, over this last year I haven't stopped baking... it's just that, and again I'm really sorry Mary... I think the only recipe I made of yours this year, from last March onwards, is a repeat of your amazing gingerbread cookie recipe...multiple times! During greenhouse season, and for company coming over... and a very very large batch during Christmas time. I even made cowboy shaped ones, and rocking horse ones which I decorated with white chocolate to highlight the details.

I also made birthday cakes for friends, and Mary, and everyone I will tell you that... that... they were not from scratch. I had some help from an old, old friend named Betty Crocker. And now I’m ready to keep learning and challenging myself with my dear Mary Berry. Master Baker.

Here are some photos of my fun with Betty this year. This included cake, cupcakes, and more cakes.

Easter cupcakes! (A year ago/ 2017) Chicks, bunnies, and Mars Bar Rice Krispies Mini Egg Nests. 

School bus cake for our friend Marie - cookies, smarties, and sour striped candy. 

I forgot to mention The Olympic Winter Games of 2018! I made some cupcakes for that too!

Now this brings to me March of this year... 2018! I didn't make cupcakes for Easter,
however, my sister and I made Pasche eggs, and I made an April Fools Day prank for my Dad-
a chocolate covered mushroom with sprinkles and wafer flowers. Looks pretty, right!

So, I guess this blog entry now leaves me with the hope that I can prevail and continue to bake Mary Berry's sweet desserts. I know now, that realistically, and given it is exactly the same time as last year when I paused on my blog with Mary, every month may not be possible. But I will try and bake and blog as much as I can, when I can. So this blog, may in fact, turn out to be a lifelong goal. There are soooo many recipes! And, if I do return to one blog entry every month, guaranteed, that will be great! But I am going to head in open minded and know realistically that that may not happen every month. So I am going to continue, and take my time, and enjoy this process... however long it may take me. But! I haven't stopped this blog, and I'm not giving up, and I will persevere and have my sense of humour about me as I carry on this baking journey.

So, I will end, like usual, and true to form of The Great British Baking Show,
"Ready, Set, BAKE!"

~*Next Bake Coming Soon*~

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Sugared Pretzels


Hi everyone, I am finally back baking again. That one was a long stretch! My 2-3 week deadline isn't quite working out like I had hoped it would! I missed a whole month! Tsk, tsk! So, I must find more time somewhere! I recently started a new job, and have a few other projects on the go, so I'm afraid I have got behind, once again! However, my family has a busy period coming up, so baking will be coming up on the agenda... not just for eating, but for the freezer too! (For those days when our "sweet tooth"/ "sweet teeth?" are calling! :) Speaking of the freezer, I had taken out some of the Cheese & Olive Scone Bake from the freezer, which I had made for my last entry. It tasted so fresh, and was so soft, so it had froze really well! Just in case you decide to make it for yourselves.

So, for this week's bake I decided to make Mary's Sugared Pretzels, featured on page 223 of her Baking Bible. I was immediately pulled into it because the ingredient list was so short, and basically everything you would have on hand in your kitchen on an everyday basis. It looked an all around, quick and easy recipe. So, was definitely a must for a weeknight bake! Or, if you have a call from your family or friends that they are stopping by your house in an hour for tea - they are perfect! Especially then, as they are fresh and hot from the oven.

I started off making my pastry first. Such simple ingredients, so handy! Flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Once I had the pastry formed, I wrapped it in Saran Wrap, and let it chill in the fridge for around 1/2 an hour. Our family dog was watching me work in the kitchen that night!

About 15 mins, until the pastry would be ready, I preheated the oven. Mary calls for a 180 degree Celsius oven with the fan on, which converts to a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven with the fan.

Once the pastry was ready, I turned out onto a slightly floured countertop, and separated into 14 small balls. Mary says the recipe calls for 16 pretzels, but I found I was only able to come up with 14 - and they were still quite small. I rolled them out into long, 1/2 an inch sized little log shapes, and curled the ends around to form a 'pretzel' shape, when really they looked like very inconsistent, attempted knots! :)

Once you have your tiny pretzels done, pop 7 or 8 onto each, slightly greased, cookie sheet.

I baked them for the exact time Mary called for, 8 minutes was just right.Take them straight out of the oven to a cooling rack and dust with icing sugar. I often thought later, some cinnamon mixed with white sugar would have been nice for dusting the tops too. Some of each would be nice for serving at a tea.

I was so happy that this recipe was so easy. They are very cute, and reminded me of sweet treats like the "Two Bite Brownies" that we have in the bakery sections in Canada. I must say though that they did surprise me, as they are more of a shortbread cookie, than the soft texture of a pretzel. Perhaps, again, this may be a difference in Canada. I was expecting a soft, sweet, dough like pretzel. However, they are much more of a dainty, knotted cookie. I think I would make them again, but they are really the best served on the day. The next day is fine too, but I wouldn't leave them any longer than that really. Well Mary, I think we have different ideas of pretzels, but yours is definitely the sweetest one!

See you all in a little while!
I will end with "Ready, Set, BAKE!"

~*Next Bake Coming Soon*~

Friday, 27 January 2017

Cheese & Olive Scone Bake


Hi everyone! So, I have once again finally made it back to visit you all and tell you about my latest bake. Unfortunately, I am late years resolutions are already slipping! My goodness! I just realized today actually, that at this rate, pretty much one bake every month as it is turning out to be... I may finish this baking challenge in perhaps... 20 years from now! :) Oh my! That can't be right! Hint, there are over 250 recipes in her book. Oh dear... but I am having fun on this baking journey. One of my favourite quotes is "Life is a journey, not a destination." So, if I do end up taking 20 years or more to finish - that's ok. :)

So for my bake this week, I felt like making something to accompany supper... and that turned out to be Mary Berry's Cheese and Olive Scone Bake from Mary Berry's Baking Bible - page 325. It sounded savoury and tasty, paired along with a slice of salmon, potatoes, and a strawberry salad. So, I was definitely looking forward to it. 

I learned from this recipe, and expanded on my vocabulary. I also had some hints and tricks from my Mum over the years too in regards to making scones. Always use the end of your fingertips when rubbing the butter into the flour. This is because your fingertips are much cooler - you also want to work the dough as lightly as possible. This will help make your scones light, fluffy, and airy. You don't want to overwork the dough if you can help it. 

Starting out, I put the oven on at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Mary called for a 230 degree Celsius oven which converted to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. But I thought I would try it a little lower, and without the fan. (I have never baked anything that high actually, and I think I had fears it would burn very quickly). I then greased a 9x13 metal pan. I measured the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large mixing bowl. (I added a little less salt than Mary called for). I then rubbed the butter into the flour mixture until it looked like breadcrumbs. I then grated my cheese, there is quite a bit in this recipe! You will think it's a lot, just like I did! It is worth it though, so stay true to the recipe :) 

Chop up some olives... I ended up using less than Mary's measurements...but that is also partly because I ran out too! Mary calls for black olives, I used canned black olives, but it wasn't nearly enough. So I ended up using a combination of black and green olives. I used the leftover green olives stuffed with pimento paste that I had in a jar. They still didn't measure up! Literally! :) But, as it turned out, they seemed to be just fine in the loaf - they didn't overload it. 

This is where I learned the word that would have made my scone bake a disaster, if I hadn't understood it properly right at that moment! This word, oblong, seemed to boggle me! I'd never heard it before. In my mind, I thought it meant a long roll - like when you roll up cinnamon bun dough to slice it. Mary says in the recipe..."then roll out on to a lightly floured work surface to an oblong to fit the tin." For some reason, in my head, I was thinking of a long roll just long enough to fit in the tin. If I had also taken proper time to read her description of the recipe, I would have realized it was flat. Mary's description is "Making one large scone if fastest of all, as you don't have to roll and cut out the mixture." Oh, Katrina. I suppose I was hungry, saw the title, and thought, "Oh, this will be great for supper!" Jump to ingredients, and directions. 

If there is one lesson I have got to learn quickly in this challenge, it is to take time and read the recipe top to bottom. One I keep forgetting. So, after a long discussion with my Mum on what an oblong is, a rectangle basically, two short and two long sides, I figured out to roll out my dough mixture lightly with a rolling pin. I often gently shaped the sides with my hands too. 

Once it fits your pan, lightly brush it with milk. I'm still not sure why really, and if Mary Berry was in front of me I would ask her why! :) If anyone knows, please write me in the comments. I think it could be so the top of the scone will still be a little moist, so that when the parmesan cheese is added on later while it is baking, maybe it sticks on better? I'm not sure, but would love to know why as I find it really curious! So, anyways, Mary called for a 15 minute bake before adding the parmesan cheese topping, and then baking 5 minutes more. The time turned out perfectly for me at 425 degrees. 

It was lovely and soft, and raised quite nicely. I then understood that if I hadn't rolled it out flat for the pan, and kept it in a long roll, it would have risen extremely high, and would not have baked properly at all, and would have most likely turned out to be a very sticky mess. So, oblong, I understand you now! 

I forgot about my final photo! I was so excited to try some when it was hot and fresh, and with some real butter of course! I also didn't read the part where Mary said "mark into 12 squares," before putting in the oven. But, I think in the end, it could be a personal choice, if you would like to do that before or after. For me, I ended up cutting half and freezing it. It was a large scone, and with ample for supper, breakfast and lunch for tomorrow, I thought it was best to freeze some for another day. 

I will be making it again one day for sure, but maybe when we are having friends or family over for supper. It would make a great dish for large family gatherings, where everyone can still reach up for seconds. 

I hope you enjoyed this bake. See you in a little while. 
I will end with "Ready, Set, BAKE!"

~*Next Bake Coming Soon*~

Monday, 2 January 2017

Chocolate, Brandy, & Ginger Cheesecake


Happy new year everyone! Welcome 2017! Another year has flown by... I guess they all do to some extent :) This year has been a year of ups and downs, but has given me lots of room to grow and try new things - such as this blog and my very own baking challenge! I am excited to see how all of these baking adventures will unfold in the new year.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I wanted to include a picture of my own Christmas Cake, which I had made last Christmas (2015). My Mum and Grandma's recipe. I had so much fun decorating the first Christmas cake I had ever made, and so I wanted to share it with you.

Anways, this time around, I am extremely late with my latest blog entry. Due... probably over around a good two weeks I would imagine? I had actually made a few more batches of Mary's Gingerbread Men recipe for family and friends, and my Mum had made a Christmas cake, so I hadn't really had the gumption to try any new recipes during the holiday season.  

But, new year, new start! So, I am now "hopefully" getting back on track!

Well, for new year's day my sister cooked my family a wonderful meal, crown pork roast, and it was so delicious. We were spoiled! As agreed, I was responsible for bringing the dessert. I have been wanting to try this cheesecake recipe for quite some time now, and thought new year's day was the perfect opportunity. After all, it did have a small helping of liqueur in, which is always needed to ring in the new year! I had such high hopes for this cheesecake... but I am sorry to say that it was not my favourite, Mary Berry! I will explain why... and I am pretty sure I mucked up in the recipe somewhere along the way. So it hadn't been a great start to my baking challenge of the new year, but I knew the further I got into this book, the more challenges I would face! I guess that is why I have called it a baking challenge. :) I felt very, very flustered throughout this recipe, and I didn't even have to bake it! It was a no-bake recipe! :) Anways, here is how it went...

I should have read through all the steps in my recipe first. Read the whole thing through, so that is another rule I learned in baking! For me anyways! You must read the ingredients, AND all the steps start to finish. #1- so you know what you're getting into, and #2 So you can prepare things ahead of time. Lesson learned. :) This recipe is featured in Mary Berry's Baking Bible, pages 374-375.

So I probably went wrong with her first step in the book - use an 8" loose-bottomed/springform tin. I didn't have one, so I used a 10" springform tin. "This will be fine..." Uh-huh. My cake would have been much denser, and had much more height if I had listened. So I'm hoping in the new year I will be able to buy myself an 8" cake tin. Hint- I looked ahead in her book and she does use 8" tins quite frequently. 

The base turned out wonderfully, ginger snaps, butter, and demerara sugar. I melted the butter, sugar, and combined the crushed ginger snaps in a small saucepan, and pressed into my cake tin, which I had to spread out finely, so it made for a very thin base layer really. My fault! :)

Letting it cool, and set in the pan, I moved onto melting the chocolate in a glass bowl, over boiling water in a pan. I used baking chocolate squares which had 54% cocoa. Stirring regularly, it melted quite nicely. So far so good, I thought! Next, I needed to prepare the gelatine for my cheesecake mixture. This was where I fell apart... still not sure what the right quantity would be. Maybe there is a difference in gelatine between Canada and England.

I won't include Mary's measurements, as I worry about copyright laws, etc... but I originally had added 3 packets of gelatine, as I figured this weighed up on the scale to the measurement of gelatine she had called for. This is what it looked like when I had dissolved it in the cold water...

Mary said it was supposed to take 10 mins to "sponge," but it looked like this right away! So I knew it wasn't right. So I decided to try only 1 packet of the gelatine and it looked like this after 10 mins...

It definitely looked more airy and spongey, so I took this as a good sign. Next step was to position the gelatine over a pan of simmering water until it completely dissolved, or I thought of it as 'melted' again. Leaving the melted chocolate and gelatine to cool, I started on the mixture portion. Mary called for 'full-fat soft cheese' so I interpreted that as cream cheese for over here. I then separated the eggs, you needed to keep the whites and yolks separate in this recipe. So, I beated the cream cheese, egg yolks, and white sugar with my hand mixer. I then spooned in the sour cream and slightly cooled chocolate and mixed with a wooden spoon. I beated the egg whites until white and frothy/bubbly, and folded it into the cheese mixture with a large, deep metal spoon to try and keep the air in. I added in the finely chopped ginger, and the brandy...she insists you can add more if you like! Oh dear, Mary Berry! But I decided to keep the amount she originally calls for, and it later proved to quite enough brandy for my family!  (I'll explain that later too!) I used a French brandy, this was the smallest bottle that I could find in the liquor stores! But I have noticed that Mary calls for brandy in other recipes too... I'm starting to think that she really likes brandy! :) Also, have a peek at how beautiful her cheesecake looks in the book... what I am aspiring to and hoping for! 

So folding in the brandy concluded the cheesecake mixture. I had high hopes! It looked and tasted good... so I poured it onto the ginger snap base and placed in the fridge to set. She didn't clarify how long to set exactly, so I kept it in the fridge overnight. 

I told all of you earlier how messy the kitchen at home becomes when I'm baking, and I think because I was feeling very flustered with this recipe, the 'dish situation' became much worse than usual! So, I will be brave and show you just how bad it gets! :) Definitely a new year's resolution!

The cheesecake looked as though it was almost set, but I stuck it in the freezer for around an hour or so before garnishing the top. I decorated the cheesecake with real whipped cream, chocolate curls, and a few slices of ginger. I added some icing sugar into the whipped cream, and I used a peeler on some room temperature eating chocolate to make the curls. I also sort of caramelized the ginger slices in some butter and demerara sugar in a saucepan on the stove.

As you can see, we ate the cheesecake in bowls! It sadly did not set like a proper cheesecake should, and so I knew I definitely got something wrong with the gelatine measurements. I think, for future references, 2 gelatine packets would have been correct. For me doing an encore recipe? I don't think so. And this mainly had to do with the difficultly I had with this recipe. The raw eggs in the mixture, added to the feeling of a 'mousse' to my attempt at this recipe. It was indeed very mousse-like. It did have a nice flavour... you could taste the brandy for sure! But it turned into a very messy cheesecake where we needed spoons. I definitely did at least one, if maybe not a few things wrong in this recipe. The proper tin size would also have made a huge difference. 

My family, within 1/2 an hour, was extremely giddy...and I knew it wasn't from the artificial wine/ sparkling grape juice we had at dinner. It was the brandy cheesecake. So if anything, it put us all in a great mood for the new year! Thanks Mary Berry. :)

I hope you enjoyed reading along! I had fun with this recipe... a challenging one, and one I know would be amazing if done properly! I am still not sure yet how to do that... and won't be attempting any time soon. But maybe by the time I'm through the book, I'll have things figured out to try it again. 

Happy new year everyone, I hope it is everything you wish it to be. x

So, I will end with "Ready, Set, BAKE!"

~*Next Bake Coming Soon*~

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Gingerbread Men

Bake #3: Gingerbread Men

Hi everyone! So it has finally been starting to feel very Christmassy outside... there is hoar frost on the trees and there is swirling snow. And just so, I have been having a craving to start some holiday baking... just in time for my usual blog entry! (More or less on time) :)

So this week's bake is a fun one! I decided I would switch from baked bread goodies and have a go at some Christmas cookies... Mary Berry's Gingerbread Men recipe from the Baking Bible pages 258-259. As usual, I won't be including the recipe, but will describe the process and any substitutions that I had to make. 

Starting off, oven first, always important! And I promise I am remembering to do that much more easily, Mary Berry! So on the oven goes... her recipe did call for 190 degree C, which converted to 375 degree F. This time, I did not use the fan in the oven - I just put it on at a normal bake. Which still ended up being very much on the hot side, and I ended up reducing my baking time... but I will talk about that later. :) 

I felt very at ease with this recipe, it was pretty straightforward for the most part. The smell of ginger was wonderful! I took my time just smelling the ingredients and creating the dough. The one substitution I made in this recipe was in exchange of muscovado sugar, I used light golden brown sugar. Sometimes I google! I had never heard of muscovado sugar, which was what was really called for in the recipe. So I looked up substitutions, and most people had said that a light brown sugar works just as well. I mixed the dry ingredients before adding the wet, in order to make the dough. The recipe calls for golden syrup, so I wanted to include a photo of the type of golden syrup I used. I believe it is British, it is called "Lyle's Golden Syrup." I found it in The Bulk Barn. I think you would be able to use corn syrup as a substitution. Golden Syrup has a milder flavour, but is still sweet, and blends in nicely into your baked goods. Afterwards, I was starting to wonder if I actually could have added maple syrup! Next time, perhaps?!

The dough took a little while to form, and was quite crumbly. I was actually starting to lose faith that it would come together. So if you try this recipe, stick at it! It will form into a ball. It just seemed to take a little while for the syrup to work in and become oily enough to form the cookie dough. Make sure to flour the counter, so the dough doesn't stick! I lost a few heads off my gingerbread men, and then had to rework and roll out the dough again. Mary called for 1/4" thickness, but I think they could have been a little thicker maybe? It wouldn't hurt anyways. I cut out approximately 22 gingerbread men, very close to what Mary called for. She said I should end up with 20 gingerbread men. 

I placed the gingerbread men on greased cookie sheets, and decorated them. You can do this however you'd like! Mary recommended currants to decorate the eyes, and buttons. They tasted nice with the gingerbread, but some of the currants fell out, leaving the poor things eyeless! Unless I hadn't pressed them in hard enough into the dough. I later found that mini chocolate chips worked great, they didn't melt too much, but melted just enough to stay on the cookies. I used sprinkles I found in The Bulk Barn. They have a great selection of snowflakes, gingerbread men sprinkles, and a variety of red and green ones too. You could even ice them after they have cooled if you would like, or lightly dust them with icing sugar. Completely up to you!

You can see with how the ones in the tin turned out! Some were almost burned, 10 - 12 minutes was too long for them. After a few tries, I found that at 375 degrees F,  8 minutes was a perfect time. Because they were so thin, the baking time didn't take very long at all. However, my slightly burned ones weren't lost, they were great dunked in our coffees! So don't throw them away! :) (That is if this happens to you!)

So all in all, another enjoyable bake. So far, all my bakes have been, which is boosting me on to keep going! I am loving this challenge, and learning a lot week by week. Still, my cleanup needs work! And I haven't been brave enough to post any photos from near the kitchen sink... so if you'll stick with me I will show you next week. Then hopefully I can improve on that too! :) This recipe was easy to follow, just make sure you keep an eye on your ovens... maybe could even bake them at 350 degrees F, with the fan on, with 10 - 12 minutes or slightly longer. Always a trial and error it seems. But, nice and gingery flavour, but not too strong. If I was making them again, I would definitely use the mini chocolate chips instead of currants. They just seemed to stick better, for me anyways. 

I hope you are all getting into Christmas baking too! I will have a look for another Christmassy recipe from Mary Berry for next time. Fun bake this time, Mary! Thank you.

See you all in 2 weeks or so, I will end with "Ready, Set, BAKE!"

~*Next bake coming soon*~

p.s. After having another few goes at this recipe, I decided to try out some more cookie cutter shapes. I used baking M & M's this time around for the butterfly wings and flower centers.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Cheese and Celery Crown Loaf

Bake #2: Cheese and Celery Crown Loaf

Hi! Wow, the 2 weeks since my last bake have just flown by! I am, once again, a few days late with my scheduled baking challenge. But, it's early days, and I'm sure I will improve as I journey along... probably... hopefully.

I hope you all had a lovely and spooky Halloween! A good friend of mine gave me the cutest pumpkin and I simply had to share a picture with you! At the moment it is sitting next to one of my Christmas house ornaments. That is the feeling at home right now... the transition from Halloween to Christmas. I also roasted some pumpkin seeds as well... however I unfortunately ended up burning most of them! Perhaps I will have another go this week and scoop out the seeds from my tiny pumpkin. They are great tossed in some melted butter, seasoning salt and some pepper too 
for roasting.

So, for this week's challenge, I thought I would try making some bread buns to accompany my homemade vegetable soup. The weather has been beautiful, but the days are turning colder now that November has come to her senses and we are entering into the winter season. So I decided soup and bread buns were just what was needed for today. I was also tempted to try these, since Mary says "This recipe is quick to make..." She had me there! But she finishes with "because it has no yeast in it, so the bread does not have to rise before baking." There you have it, a great quick bake for lunch! :)

Shall we begin? This recipe is featured in Mary Berry's Baking Bible, page 288. So, first thing was first, I made sure I read the ingredient list to begin with. Last week, I forgot that rule and learned I needed to think on the spot for a substitution. So, I have to admit I felt I was off to a good start! :) Oh, and then I put the oven on next. Mary's conversion chart for this recipe called for a 375 degree Fahrenheit Canadian oven. I started mixing all ingredients in a bowl, dry first, then wet. I made sure I chopped the celery very fine for this recipe. She does say to finely chop the celery, but I wasn't sure just how fine as I wasn't sure how fine it needed to be to bake quickly in the loaf. So I sliced it quite thinly and in tiny pieces just to be sure. 

The recipe calls for some garlic, which added a wonderful, savoury smell to the dough mixture. The celery and cheese in the dough reminded me of cheese and onion scones that we used to have in the bakery I used to work at. It smelled so good and was making me hungry already...good thing they whip up fast! I kneaded the dough mix gently in the bowl, then separated and loosely rolled into 12 equal pieces to make a circle on my baking sheet. (You can also bake the loaf as it is, once kneaded into a round, and then cut into servings after it has baked.) I popped them into the oven for around 40 mins. The recipe calls for 45 mins, however they were starting to brown quite quickly on top. I also had the fan going in the oven, so perhaps next time I make these I would bake without the fan to lower the heat. I figured the fan would help in rising, however I am learning it becomes much too hot 
too quickly. 

While they were baking in the oven, I made some homemade ham and vegetable soup. I was enjoying being in the kitchen today with smelling all these vegetable and spice aromas! Ahhh... heavenly! :) So, as you can see, they do look very brown on top. They aren't burned, but they definitely didn't need any longer in the oven! 40 mins was enough time. I tapped the bottom, like Mary told me to, and they sounded hollow. I cut into one right away... there is nothing like fresh bread hot from the oven with real butter! I could hardly wait and almost forgot to take a photo!

They certainly had a nice crunch, Mary Berry! The top was indeed crumbly and crunchy, but the middle was very light and fluffy. I enjoyed them very much! I did dunk them in my soup occasionally. I can tell this recipe is best the day of for eating. I have some leftovers, so I will see what they are like tomorrow...but they are very good straight from the oven. If any of you have been to Red Lobster before and had their cheddar biscuits, these seemed to remind me of them. They are similar, but the celery is very unique, and also...refreshing? Yes, I think so...among the cheese it is so different and I think this is what makes it very much like a lunch loaf. Very tasty. I think my only critique is that in the future I would need to closely watch how high the heat is in the oven. They could have been a slight bit softer maybe, but it did have a pleasant, lumpy and crunchy texture on top. They were very savoury and slightly salty tasting with the garlic, so if you are pairing it with homemade soup like I did, you really don't need many herbs or seasonings in your soup.

It was a good day for these biscuits...bread loaf! :) I will see you again in 2 weeks or so. I will end with "Ready, Set, BAKE!"

~*Next Bake Coming Soon*~

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Banana and Honey Teabread

Bake #1: Banana and Honey Teabread

Hi again! I'm glad to be back! So, I have finally finished my first attempted recipe in Mary Berry's Baking Bible. I am a little overdue on my two week deadline...which is leading me to realistically aim for a recipe post every three weeks. Although I have a sinking feeling that if I extend my deadline, I may end up not posting for four weeks! So I will stick to the two week deadline from this post for my next recipe and see how that goes for now. :) I am also late because I had bought some bananas and waited for them to ripen, and then they over-riped and went I bought some more and had to wait for them to ripen too. I didn't forget about them second time around though! They turned out to be just nicely speckled brown, and not I had a promising start, or second go, at this recipe!

I'm so glad I chose this recipe for my first baking blog attempt, because a) I thought it would be a good starter recipe as it contained a small list of ingredients, and b) because I have been drooling over the photo in the book for a while! This recipe is featured on pages 304-305. It has been an enjoyable bake from start to finish and I highly recommend it for an afternoon weekend tea with family and friends. 

So, starting off on the right foot... or "mixing with the right hand," I won't be including the recipe in my post, but I will explain any substitutions I had to make, tips with oven temperature (since Canadian ovens seem to be rather different than English ovens), and of course the things I wish I had done differently. So, here we go... "Ready, Set...BAKE!"

Well, even at the beginning of this recipe, I realized I had already completely forgotten one of Mary Berry's baking tips from her book. And it was the very first one... I guess I was too excited and went ahead full steam! So, I will include her first tip: "Always read the recipe carefully, checking that you have enough time and all the ingredients to make the cake before you begin." Well, I was missing an ingredient and then I had to make a substitution. I'm sorry Mary! Tip is now remembered and will be put to better use next time! So, my substitution involved using cinnamon instead of nutmeg. I had also considered using a ground mixed spice, which includes: cinnamon, coriander, ginger, dill seed, and nutmeg. However, sometimes less is more, and because the recipe called for such a small amount of nutmeg, I was sure an identical small amount of cinnamon would be fine. Nutmeg is a wonderful, cozy, fall and winter spice, as is they sort of go together like peanut butter and jelly, right? :) Mixing all of these ingredients together filled the kitchen with such a comforting smell. The batter smelled much like a Christmas cake batter, or a poppyseed loaf batter. The combination of bananas, honey, and lemon smelled wonderful. I mixed the ingredients quite thoroughly with a wooden spoon - me being old fashioned again! The batter wasn't lumpy, but not completely smooth either, so it had a little bit of texture to it. I think this was probably a result of not mashing the bananas completely smooth before adding them to the mixture. Measurements can be tricky... I'm lucky my Mum is from England and so she does have a weighing scale which she bought over there. If you can invest in one they do save a bit of headache. I'm sure they would be available for purchase online. Again, something I may look into at a later date and let you know. Spoon measurements, and fluid ounces are fine, it is just when you get into measuring ounces of sugar, flour, etc. For example, I found that 1 oz of sugar or flour = roughly 1/8 of a regular measuring cup. So, if you can, I highly recommend ordering a weighing scale from England. It definitely helps! You can see the white scale I was using in this photo... along with my mess! You'll notice how I avoid taking photos near the sink in the kitchen. I'll work on cleanup skills next week while I'm baking. :)

The recipe called for a 2 lb loaf pan, so I took my best guess with some of the baking pans I had. I ended up using a smaller pan which measured roughly 8.5" x 4.5" by 2.5" deep. I greased the pan, and then lined it with parchment paper. I always find this helps to keep it in place better. A friend of my Mum's sent over some loaf parchment cases from England, so I gave one of those a try and they worked wonderfully. I will keep an eye out for them in the stores over here. Perhaps they have them at Michaels, or the Bulk Barn, but I will remember to look out for them and I'll let you know if I find them! They do save some time with fidgeting and cutting the paper. Always try and level your batter as evenly as possible to help create an even rise. Somehow I did this and it still raised up! Which did turn out to be a nice loaf, although it still didn't look like the picture suggested!

My next predicament turned out to be the oven. Always make sure your oven is preheated and ready to go, before you start mixing anything. This goes for any recipe you undertake, and yes, Mary was wonderful at reminding me about that at the beginning of the recipe. Thank you Mary. It is definitely going to take me a bit to get back into the baking world. So, yes, the oven. Mary does also include a conversion chart for temperatures, she is so helpful! I'm so glad I'm baking with her! So this recipe called for 160 degree Celsius oven, which turned out to be a 325 degree Fahrenheit Canadian oven. I also made sure I had the oven working with the fan, to help distribute the heat evenly. However, with the first 20 mins or so, I noticed it was beginning to crack. So, according to another tip from Mary, "If cakes crack on top during baking, it means that the oven was too hot or the cake was placed too high on a shelf." I placed my loaf pan on the centre rack in the oven, so perhaps one lower down next time. Or, maybe the oven should be turned down to 300 degrees, as having the fan also creates more heat in the oven. The baking time called for 75 minutes, and my loaf completely baked nicely with a nicely browned top in 65 minutes. Always check yours with a needle to see if it comes out clean to see if it has baked  properly. I let it cool in the pan for nearly 15 minutes, it could have used longer I think. This helps give it some time to settle and shrink from the sides so that it comes out of the pan easily. I later decorated it on top with some honey and decorative sugar once it had time to cool.

So, something I still need to figure out is how to prevent cracking, but I've realized in this baking challenge it has to do with the amount of heat, and maybe perhaps the size of my loaf pan. Perhaps next time I should use a slightly larger, or deeper pan. Trial and error! :) However, I was really pleased with the taste and texture of this loaf. It was wonderfully soft, savoury and sweet! I think the lemon zest in the recipe overpowers the honey slightly, but just the right amount as it adds a nice tang to the tastebuds, and proves it to be a light and refreshing loaf. Great for tea time, and not only for the weekends! It keeps well in an air-tight tin for a couple days as well. I didn't have a chance to freeze it, we ate it too fast! But I'm sure it would keep in the freezer well too. Great first go, and I loved the fragrance it made in the kitchen. 

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it! See you in a couple weeks. 
I will end with "Ready, Set, BAKE!"

~*Next Bake Coming Soon*~