Showing posts with label Show all posts
Showing posts with label Show all posts

Sunday, 23 October 2011

4th Friern Barnet Guides do Random Bakes of Kindness Part 4

Barbara is a new Guide with us, one who throws herself into everything we do with gusto and enthusiasm, so her keenness for this Challenge wasn't unsurprising. She quite literally bounded into view, her hand waving in the air as I asked "So, who wants to do their Random Bake of kindness next week?"

Barbara chose Gingerbread easter bunnies - sometimes it's best not to question the thought process of your average 10 year old. And it's actually very seasonally appropriate taste-wise, if you ignore the Easter part of the equation. I think I might use this recipe again if we do Christmas bakes as part of our weekend away in December. I think these would make brilliant tree decorations, iced with white water icing and silver balls, and gingham ribbon through the top of star shapes. Plan!


250ml honey
250g soft brown sugar
150g softenend butter
100g ground almonds
400g plain flour
1 tsp cinammon
1/4tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground mixed spice
4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp lemon zest, grated
1 egg
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tbsp water


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ Gas mark 4

Heat the honey, sugar and butter in a pan on a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved (we had adult supervision for this bit, obviously) Remove the pan from the heat and pour it into a bowl to cool
Add the ground almonds, flour, spices, lemon zest and egg to this bowl and mix well
Stir in the bicarb and knead with your hands until the dough is shiny and stops sticking to the bowl
Roll out the dough on a floured worktop to a thickness of about half a centimetre
Cut out your shapes, rerolling until you've finished the dough
Place on baking trays lined with parchment and and bake for 14-18 minutes
Remove from the oven carefully and cool on a wire rack

Decorate with water icing.

We found these spread more than we would have liked so if the girls decide they want to do a weekend of Christmas prep then I might do a trial run in the coming weeks mixing it up with my gingerbread recipe that I've used for Christmas Gingerbread Guides previously.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Great British Bake Off - Technical Challenge: Iced Buns

For the record, these are NOT Iced Fingers. They don't have cream and jam in. These are iced buns. So there Great British bake off. I know this as I was never allowed the ones with cream and jam, as 'they weren't for children' so this was a natural place to start my investigation into the Great British Bake Off technical challenges. I will be ignoring the macarons. Macarons terrify me. If you start talking macarons I WILL hide behind the sofa.

Inspired by Utterly Scrummy and the post show masterclasses, I thought I'd have a go at some of the technical challenges from the Great British Bake Off. No I'm not practicing for next year before you ask, and yes there is more than a passing resemblance between me and Jo, and yes we're both from Essex, I'm just blonder.

Making the buns was straightforward, as regular readers know, I like breadmaking - I find the kneading and proving a soothing, restful process (I never said I was normal) and despite these being a fairly vigourous knead, I spent a happy afternoon pottering in the kitchen.

I love that the icing is water icing (I think the adults amongst you call it glace icing, but I call it water icing with the Brownies and so that's what we're calling it here) as it just reinforces, what a lovely, family bake these are. Kids could easily help with kneading, shaping the dough and icing the buns. It's only when you start to want to pipe the cream and jam that this becomes properly technical.

As I may have mentioned on twitter I was blown away by the evenness of my bake, and how lovely the buns looked when they came out of the oven. It was quite a pull to leave them to cool.

I used home made jam from earlier in the summer, and because I like things jammy, refrained from piping this on, instead spreading the cut inside of the bun with the warmed, fruity jam.

Because 12 buns is simply too many to have in my house at any one time, I've given 8 of these away as a Random Bake of Kindness, to my upstairs neighbours. I've saved 4 for Mark and I though.  


500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour
50g/1¾oz caster sugar
40g/1½oz unsalted butter, softened
2 free-range eggs
2 x 7g/¼oz sachets instant yeast
2tsp salt
150ml/5fl oz warm milk
140ml/4½fl oz water
200g/7oz icing sugar
5 tsp cold water
200ml/7fl oz whipping cream
100g/4oz strawberry jam
icing sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

To make the dough, place all the ingredients into a large bowl, holding back a quarter of the water. Stir the mixture with your hands, then slowly add the remaining water to form a dough and knead in the bowl for four minutes.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for one hour.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces, each about 70g/2½oz, then roll into balls and shape into fingers about 13cm/5in long.
 Place the dough fingers onto a greased baking tray, leaving space for them to double in size, then set aside in a warm place for 40 minutes. They should just touch each other when they’ve risen.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes then set them aside to cool.
For the icing, sift the icing sugar in a wide bowl and gradually stir in the cold water to form a thick paste. I needed far less than 5tbsp of water to get the thickness needed to coat the top of the buns. Well, actually a lot more than 200g icing sugar as I blithely trusted Paul Hollywood and added all the water.
Dip the top of the cooled fingers into the icing, smoothing it with your finger, then leave to set on a wire rack
Lightly whip the cream and spoon it into a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle.
Sliced the iced fingers horizontally, leaving one long edge intact.
Warm 1tsp of jam per bun and spread one side of the iced buns with the warmed jam
Pipe in a generous line of whipped cream into the middle of each finger, Dust the iced fingers with icing sugar and serve (or give away)

Monday, 17 October 2011

4th Friern Barnet Guides do Random Bakes of Kindness: Part 3

Hollie is one of those Guides I've known for a long time. Pretty much on her seventh birthday she walked into Brownies, confident, self assured and one of the nicest whilst very competitive children I've ever met. She started asking me about Guides six months before she even turned ten and had planned to come up bang on her tenth birthday so that she could combine moving up with her first sleepover. When you're working with children people often think it's the loudest, or the quietest that get the most attention, and as a Guider it's hard to balance those in tears, or those yelling with those getting on in the background. But you know what it's something I try to do, to make sure that they all get that validation from our leadership team, in whatever way is right for them. Hollie is adamant she's no good at crafts, yet the patch she designed for our quilt recently was beautiful. Truth be told I wasn't sure how she'd take to a baking challenge, but she embraced it head on, last week when I asked who wanted to bake this week her arm sprang into the air much as it would if I'd asked who wanted to be cat or mouse. She chose to make Rocky mountain cupcakes, and was the only Guide who asked if it was OK to split her Random Bake of Kindness up, because "there are lots of people who love me and make sure I'm OK." Hence the cupcakes I guess.

So this week at Guides was a tricky one, I was coming down with a migraine and we were a leader down. Sometimes I'm so proud of having grown the unit to the size it is now, but sometimes they're just so loud - and it was a windy day - which as anyone who works with kids will tell you, somehow gets under their skin and makes them noisier than ever - which is a lot if you have 27 in one room. Still we managed two more Random Bakes, some quilting, Community Action to save our local library, making pinatas, drama games and a fashion show for teddy bears. Extra points if you can guess which Go For It's! the girls have chosen to this term.

Rocky mountain cupcakes

200g softenend butter (from here on in this butter = Stork)
140g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
150g self-raising flour
55g cocoa powder

Chocolate buttercream
85g mini marshmallows
55g milk chocolate broken up and melted
I thought something else was going on top, but apparently the toppings were heavily sampled and didn't quite make it on the cakes!

Preheat the oven to 180degreesC/ Gas Mark4
Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Beat in the vanilla extract
Gradually beat in the eggs adding a spoonful of flour each time to stop the mixture from curdling
Fold the sifted flour and cocoa into the mixture
Spoon into the paper cases
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until springy to the touch, transfer to a wire rack to cool
Spoon or pipe the buttercream onto the cakes and top with the marshmallows, nuts and anything else you like in rocky road
Top with drizzled, melted chocolate and leave to set.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Beetroot purple, with chocolate cake

It scans beautifully with  the Paintbox lyrics if you remember that from your school assemblies. If not, youtube it. My favourite harvest song. Although it's a close run thing with the adaptation of We plough the fields and scatter from Godspell.

Now I should explain about the proliferation of baking posts this week. I was recently invited to a party. Kavey's birthday party. But, owing to my supreme levels of stupidity. No, really I'm not kidding. I wrote it down on the calendar as Sunday. So whilst I was happily baking my little heart out in the heat on Saturday, that was when the party was. This recipe was my second of two cakes I had planned to take, the lime drizzle from the other day being the first, and chocolate beetroot with a ganache topping being the second.

I've been thinking about adding beetroot to chocolate cake for a while now, I love it's earthy flavour, and have often wondered when I've heard other people saying that they've used it in chocolate cake, how it works - if it tastes beetrooty, or if cooking it out changes it in anyway. Well now I know. I was a bit naughty with this bake (well it was supposed to be for someone else) and bought the beetroot specially - you know me, I'd have waited until next year for it to come around in the veg box normally. Our little Greek grocers near my house sells huge cooked beetroots from a stainless steel bowl by the till so off Louise and I popped to top up on my shopping.

Because I don't use social media whilst I'm working, I often find myself in the position of favouriting tweets for later to read in hotel rooms, and this is how this bake came about, Jenny Eatwell had tweeted about it earlier in the week and it was the prompt I finally needed to try it.

When I realised what had happened with the party, I hastily turned my bakes into a Random bake of Kindness and gave half of each to Louise to take home with her. I take my thinking of others before myself very seriously I'll have you know. I also was a bit naughty and failed to mention he secret ingredient to Mark who wouldn't normally touch beetroot with a ten foot bargepole. He wolfed it down happily and I can safely say it was a hit.

I've amended Jenny's recipe slightly, as I tend to so here is what I did.



250g cooked beetroot, grated in the food processor 
125g softened butter

75g milk chocolate, broken into pieces (this should have been dark, but it makes Mark unwell so I wanted to see how it would work with milk)
300g soft dark brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
225g self-raising flour (you're supposed to sift this, if anyone could find my seive that would be terrific)

a quarter of a tsp salt
50g cocoa powder (again this should be sifted... see above)


1. Pre-heat the oven to 160degC fan/gas 4. Grease and fully line a non-stick loose-bottomed tin with baking parchment. 
2.  Grate, or blitz in a food processor, the beetroot until coarsely chopped. You are definitely not looking for a puree! Set aside.
3. Place a small saucepan on the heat with some water inside and place a bowl on top, so that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Put the chocolate pieces into the bowl and melt by allowing the water to simmer, which in turn will heat the bowl, causing the chocolate to melt. 
4.  Beat the butter, sugar and eggs and until lighter and fluffy (as it's dark soft brown sugar you're using, it won't go completely pale as though you were using caster).
5. Mix in the melted chocolate, then fold in the flour, salt and cocoa powder with a large metal spoon.
6. Finally, stir the beetroot gently into the mix. I wish I had taken a picture at this stage as the pink beetroot looked beautiful against the dark brown mixture
7. Transfer the mixture to the cake tin, flattening out the top. Bake for an hour, or until a skewer comes out with just a tiny bit of cake mix still attached.
8. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove from the tin and place on a cake rack to cool completely.

I didn't ice it, but any chocolate ganache/ frosting would be a lovely addition, plus you could then decorate it. Again I was a bit worried about the quantity of chocolate and Mark as I wasn't sure if it would make him poorly, but I'd just realised I'd got the date of the party wrong and was having a bit of a huff.

This is definitely on my to make again list, it was great with ice cream, and then in packed lunches for the rest of the week, and the beetroot seems to cook down in some way so that it just adds a lovely fudginess to the cake - there's no trace of vegetabliness (it's a word) whatsoever.

Jenny found lots of recipes that used vegetable oil instead of butter, so it looks like this would be a fairly easy one to make dairy free (not egg free though) if you needed or wanted to. Certainly Green and Blacks dark chocolate always used to be dairy free - I don't know if it still is.

Friday, 7 October 2011

4th Friern Barnet Guides do... Random Bakes of Kindness (part 2)


So here we are again... part 2 of our ongoing series of Random Bakes of Kindess. Inspired by Vanessa Kimbell's idea earlier this year, Fourth Friern Barnet Guides will be baking, and blogging a bake each week for someone who has touched their life in some way; be it big, or small.

Today's bake was chosen and made by Maria (see below) and she gave it to Jade one of our other Guides. No words were exchanged at the giving, but these two are inseparable, lovely girls. Look at the pride here!

Maria chose to make Mocha vanilla latte cookies that she cut out into star shapes - what you can't see here is that she made small stars, and big stars too, some were vanilla, others coffee

1 sachet instant latte
1.5 tsp hot water
225g softened butter (again, Stork)

140g caster sugar
1 egg yolk lightly beaten
250g plain flour
1tsp vanilla extract
3tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/ Gas mark 5
Make the instant latte powder into a paste with hot water in a little bowl
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk.
Divide the mixture in half, beat the latte into one half, and add half the flour and salt into the mixture and stir until combined
Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge (allegedly for 30-60 minutes, but we popped it in the freezer for half an hour - we only meet for 2 hours and need to clear up too!)
Beat the vanilla extract into the other half of the mixture, then add the rest of the flour and the cocoa powder and salt
Stir until combined and again shape the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and chill.
Unwrap both flavours of dough, roll out and cut out cookies.
Bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.

*Guides pictured have full photo permissions

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

4th Friern Barnet Guides do... Random Bakes of Kindness

Apologies for the quietness on the blog this last week, as usual I've been working away, but also have been cooking and baking quite busily - so much so I've run out of time and energy to blog. I've also been a bit lax on the piccy taking front (and almost entirely blame M as he's normally my prompter to take pics but bless him, he's been doing overtime too).

Tonight my aim is to catch up and schedule some posts for the coming week, but those are fatal last words so lets see how I go. Cross your fingers for me!

As you know I run a busy Guide unit, and this term is no exception, my planning co-incided with Vanessa Kimbell of Prepped launching her Random Bakes of Kindness project. This is such a Guide-like project that I immediately thought, fantastic! And a terms worth of inspiration was borne. Each girl has chosen her bake and identified who it's for. We've asked them to think about people they want to say thank you to, people who touch their lives in some way. Their choices have been extraordinary, from Jennifer, our Assistant Leader, to their Librarian, to friends and family. As always, they surprised me with their sensitivity, insight, sense of humour and ability to be utterly candid.

Being Guides however, organising them is a little like herding spaghetti so despite being a month into the term, last night was our first 'bake' (says she, ruthlessly stealing the term from the Great British Bake Off)

Lucy (below) had decided to make double chocolate cupcakes for Jennifer - a true baker in the making, she had adapted her recipe to alter the tricky ganache to a more straightforward buttercream - which I can certify as being very tasty.

125g softened butter (we used Stork as butter is just too expensive for use with 27 Guides!)
125g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
90g self raising flour
30g cocoa
100g white chocolate drops

175g butter softened (again we used Stork, and added vanilla essence)
60g milk chocolate melted
350g (ish) icing sugar (there was quite a lot in the kitchen!)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C/ Gas mark 5
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Add the eggs and then sift in the flour and cocoa
Beat the mixture until smooth
Stir in the chocolate drops
Divide the mixture between paper cases in a bun tin and bake for 15 minutes

Top with chocolate buttercream, and white chocolate buttons - and in our case - give to your lovely Assistant Leader who is definitely deserving of them!

*All Guides pictured have full photographic permissions


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