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Danish pastries

15 Nov

danish-pastry

I was genuinely intimidated by the thought of making Danish pastry from scratch. So much so that it knocked my Great British Bake-off cook-a-long right on the head.

But one of the things children excel at is reminding you of those promises you’d just as soon forget, and there was no way I was getting out of this one.

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Yorkshire pudding

28 Sep

Yorkshire pudding

When I was a little girl, my dad cooked a roast dinner every Sunday. Gradually, he stopped  – maybe roasts got too expensive, or family schedules too complicated, I don’t know. But I do remember years where Sunday night meant The Wonderful World of Walt Disney, roast beef, and bath-before-bed.

We were a meat-and-four-veg family  – typically potatoes, beans, corn and carrots, but sometimes squash, peas, beets, broccoli, spinach or chard featured instead. Whatever the vegetable, it was always boiled or steamed.

But I couldn’t have cared less about roast meat or boiled veg – for me, that dinner was all about the Yorkshire pudding. Never mind that dad’s Yorkshire puddings were often the size and density of hockey pucks – they were utterly delicious, and capable of holding a generous splash of gravy.

While I now know that airy puff is what you’re aiming for with Yorkshire puddings, I retain a fondness for the dense little numbers of my childhood. (I’ve noticed many recipes call for twice the number of eggs dad used, which would no doubt make a difference to the rise.) Continue reading

Chocolate babka

25 Sep

chocolate-babka

The moment I saw those Great British Bake-off contestants tackling chocolate bread, I knew I’d be making chocolate babka.

I first heard of chocolate babka in that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and Elaine fail to buy one for a dinner party, but have never made – or eaten – any type of babka until now.

It turns out that making babka is a time-consuming, fiddly labour of love. Part way through the bread-braiding process, I thought “this is the first and last chocolate babka I’m going to make.”

And then I tasted that pillowy sweet dough laced with swirls and knots of chocolate and nuggets of toasted pecan. If I hadn’t been stupified by deliciousness, I could have happily started making another one immediately…;-)

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Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger biscuits)

7 Sep

Pepparkakor (Swedish ginger biscuits)

“Oh, reindeer biscuits!” my daughter said when she saw these cooling on the rack. “Are they for Christmas?” “They’re moose biscuits,” I told her, “and they’re for the Great British Bake-off biscuit week.”

Why moose biscuits? Because I’m a proud, moose-loving Canadian, of course. (And also because it’s the only non-Christmas-shaped biscuit cutter I own…)

When making cut-out biscuits, it’s important to choose the right sort of dough. It’s dispiriting to go to the effort to cut out little bells and Christmas trees, say, and end up with indistinguishable, amorphous blobs.

Of the three go-to biscuit doughs I use to make cut-out biscuits, this pepparkakor one is my favourite. It hardly spreads at all during baking, and the resulting biscuits are fragrantly spiced, and satisfyingly crisp.

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Grapefruit drizzle cake with yogurt icing

31 Aug

Grapefruit drizzle cake

The Great British Bake-off is back! Returning from a week in Girona a couple of days ago, we didn’t even unpack our suitcases before sitting down to watch the first episode. We have our priorities straight around here…;-)

“You are going to bake along with them again, aren’t you mum? You could do the technical challenges this time…” (While the thought of attempting my own Jaffa cakes is tempting, I plan to stick with signature bakes for another season.)

So, first up, drizzle cake…

Lemon drizzle is the undisputed champion of the drizzle cake world – a sweet-tart, sticky-soft, tea-time treat you’d have to go some way to improve upon. But having already written about my mum’s lemon bread, I decided to make a grapefruit drizzle cake instead.

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Sticky ginger cake with lemon icing

27 Aug

Sticky ginger cake with lemon icing

This lovely, slightly damp and sticky ginger cake is fast becoming a staple in our house. I love how the sharp lemon icing cuts the sweetness of the sponge.

The cake keeps really well, and is even more delicious the following day. It could well be even better the day after that, but we’ve never had one last long enough to find out…;-)

The original recipe is from the BBC Good Food website. Continue reading

Lemon gems

13 Aug

Lemon gems

Lemon gems (or fried egg biscuits, as they are known round here), are delightfully crumbly-yet-crisp, tart little morsels of loveliness. Plus they look so cute! Continue reading

Broa

25 Jul

Broa

This Portuguese bread has a lovely crisp crust and soft interior. It is delicious served with grilled sardines, or caldo verde, and the rest of the loaf made beautiful toast the following day. Continue reading

Apple streusel cake (apfel streuselkuchen)

9 Jul

Apfel streuselkuchen

This yeasted apple streusel cake is less sweet than your typical coffee cake. The cake itself is quite light and is enhanced by the crunch of the streusel topping. I’d intended to make it for an afternoon snack, but the day got away from me and I ended up serving it with dinner.

Turns out that it’s also very nice accompanied by a nip of brandy…

The apple streusel cake recipe I followed comes from the For Love of the Table blog. Continue reading

Blueberry mazurka

30 Jun

Blueberry mazurka

Mazurka (or mazurek) is a traditional Polish cake served at Easter and other special occasions. There are lots of mazurka recipes online – some for single-layer mazurka topped with fruit or chocolate and drizzled with icing; others with the fillings sandwiched between two thin layers of cake.

I chose this blueberry mazurka recipe for its similarity to the date squares my family makes at Christmas. It hadn’t occurred to me to use anything other than dates for the middle layer – my eyes are opened to all sorts of possibilities now…;-) Continue reading

Gateau de Vully salé (savoury Vully tart)

25 Jun

Gateau de Vully salé

Gateau de Vully is a speciality from the French-speaking western part of Switzerland. While the sweet version (topped with cream and grated sugar cubes) is more common, after yesterday’s referendum the salty version better suited my mood.

Unable to find an English recipe for a savoury Vully tart online, I had a go at translating a French one with the help of Google Translate. This resulted in a few puzzlers, such as “form a lace around the cake” or “streak the dough with a roulette”, but I forged ahead nevertheless… Continue reading

Kladdkaka (sticky chocolate cake)

22 Jun

Kladdkaka

I’ve been meaning to make a kladdkaka for a while. I live with a houseful of pudding lovers, and I expected this would go down a treat. Apparently, it’s very popular in Sweden, and it’s easy to see why. Dense, gooey, chocolatey – what’s not to like? Continue reading

Cherry bubble cake (třešňová bublanina)

17 Jun

Cherry bublanina

With a daughter called Nova, I would have chosen this dish for its name alone. For a girl whose first word was “cakey”, cherry bubble cake is tres Nova, indeed… 😉 Continue reading

Barmbrack

13 Jun

Barmbrack

Barmbrack is a traditional Irish bread made with dried fruit that has been steeped in tea. Often served on Halloween, I chose it to represent Ireland in our Euro 2016 food challenge.

There are both yeast and quick bread versions of barmbrack – I decided to make a yeast one using a recipe I’d clipped from a magazine years ago.

I soaked my fruit in the morning, planning to bake mid-afternoon, in time for the Ireland-Sweden match, but the dough had other plans… Continue reading

Sourdough bread

5 Jun

sourdough-bread-1

I grew up eating homemade sourdough bread. My dad got bitten by the sourdough bug (metaphorically, of course), and eventually built up a little business selling his extra loaves to colleagues and neighbours. He installed a second oven in the basement, doubling his output to four loaves a day. Continue reading

Nanaimo bars

26 May

Nanaimo bars

Nanaimo bars are a national institution in Canada. I’d always assumed these delicious bars of nutty, creamy, chocolatey goodness were first in Nanaimo (a town on Vancouver Island) – and research bears this out.

Loved across the country, there was even a knockout round in the first season of MasterChef Canada where competitors had to make desserts inspired by Nanaimo bars. Continue reading

Sourdough starter

4 May

Sourdough starter

Sourdough bread baking is on the rise (pardon the pun). To get in on the action, the first thing you need to do is acquire some sourdough starter.

There are three ways to go about this. The easiest way is to get some from a “culture-d” friend (like me). You can order dried starter culture through the mail, which should arrive with instructions on how to activate it. Or you can make your own. Continue reading

Lemon bread

25 Apr

Lemon bread

What I now recognise to be a mighty close cousin of the British classic lemon drizzle cake, went by the more modest name of lemon bread round ours.

Christmas baking aside, lemon bread was my hands-down favourite out of everything mum baked. I particularly adored the way the lemon syrup crystallised on the crust before seeping down to creating that thin layer of sticky citrusy goodness. Continue reading

Hamburger buns

14 Apr

Hamburger buns

Store-bought hamburger buns are always a huge disappointment. It seems such a shame to go make fabulous patty, top it with fresh veg and a slice of good cheese… then stick it between two washing-up sponges.

So I forgo the bun, but that’s not entirely satisfying either. With a bit of planning, you can make a batch of hamburger buns that are so delicious, you might decide to forgo the patty…;-) Continue reading

Margarita brownies

6 Mar

Margarita brownies

A few weeks ago, I made a batch of chilli chocolate brownies to serve after a Mexican meal. While they were tasty (it’s hard to find a brownie I don’t like), the chilli flavour didn’t feel quite right at that point in the evening.

That sparked the idea of making margarita brownies (it’s also hard to find a margarita I don’t like…) Continue reading

Filled iced buns

21 Jan

Filled iced buns

I was pleasantly surprised by these iced filled buns, which are like homemade, fresh and delicious jam doughnuts. Or sweet hamburgers. Needless to say, the girls adored them.

As I’m not keen on strawberry jam, I opted to fill mine with raspberry instead. It’s not the most photogenic of jams, appearing dark and gelatinous in the photos.

With these filled iced buns I complete my Great British Bake-off signature bake challenge – better late than never. Continue reading

Cornbread

15 Jan

Cornbread

I grew up eating cornbread, but it’s not that common in the UK. The girls were pretty skeptical the first time I made it. “I don’t know what it is!” Lyra complained. “Is it a bread or a cake?”

Cornbread does edge towards cake territory, with its slight sweetness and moist crumb. This recipe makes loads, which is fine by me as cornbread makes a great leftover. Continue reading

Mum’s shortbread

8 Dec

Shortbread

For a recipe with so few ingredients, it is surprising how variable shortbread can be. I am completely loyal to my mother’s shortbread recipe, having never tasted anything to equal it.

Rolled thin, decorated with a single silver ball, and baked until the edges were tinged with gold, mum’s shortbread were always light and crumbly-crisp.

When you bit into one, after a second’s resistance it would dissolve deliciously in your mouth, leaving that little silver ball on your tongue like a seashell stranded by a receding wave for you to dispatch with a single, satisfying crunch.

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Butterscotch fudge

3 Dec

butterscotch fudge

This year, I’m kicking off my Christmas baking by making butterscotch fudge.

I use my precious stash of butterscotch chips for two things – oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies and butterscotch fudge, and I’m always careful to keep a bag in reserve for this moment. Christmas just wouldn’t be as sweet without butterscotch fudge.

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Chocolate tart

27 Nov

Chocolate tart

There’s been a hiatus in the Great British Bake-off project, but the girls were never going to let me get away without making the double chocolate tart.

Chocolate pastry is new to me. My go-to pastry recipes have little or no sugar, and I wasn’t confident that would be enough to balance the bitterness of the cocoa. The pastry recipe I followed starts by creaming the butter and sugar, which resulted in a biscuity-crisp crust.  Continue reading

Mocha cream horns

29 Oct

Cream horns

Cream horns are delightful things – and were completely new to me when I saw them on the Great British Bake-off the other week.

The concept is a simple one. Thin strips of puff pastry are rolled around a conical mould. Once baked, the pastry cones are piped full of sweet cream.

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Oatmeal school cookies

18 Oct

Oatmeal school cookies

Oatmeal school cookies strike the right balance between healthy and treat. Despite the wholewheat flour and wheat germ, there’s just enough sugar and butter to spare them  being worthy.

I’ve made these cookies dozens of times, using whatever dried fruit I have on hand, or swapping the fruit for chocolate chips.

They are just as nice with nuts – but then they wouldn’t be school cookies, unless your school is bucking the “nut-free-zone” trend.

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Raised game pie

15 Oct

Raised game pie
My heart sank when the Great British Bake-off contestants were set the task of making a raised game pie.

According to BBC Good Food (where I found this Paul Hollywood recipe), “a game pie always makes a spectacular centre piece and… is amazingly straightforward to make – especially if you buy mixed game meat ready-prepared from a good butcher.”
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Pear frangipane tart

6 Oct

Pear frangipane tart

The Great British Bake-off signature bakes seem to be increasing in complexity as the weeks go by – which is as it should be I guess.

Still, I find myself watching in trepidation, wondering what challenge I’ll be inflicting on myself next…

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Sugar-free orange cake

29 Sep

Sugar-free orange-almond cake

When the Great British Bake-off contestants were tasked with making a sugar-free cake, I immediately thought of Claudia Roden’s orange cake.

This Judeo-Spanish cake relies on puréed whole oranges for much of its sweetness, which I thought would make it relatively easy to adapt. And because it calls for ground almonds instead of flour, it’s gluten-free as well, which seemed in the spirit of the challenge.

As this was my first attempt at baking with agave nectar, I did some reading first. The recommendations are to cut the quantity of sugar by about quarter, reduce the liquid in the recipe and lower the oven temperature – all of which I did.

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Soda bread

16 Sep

Soda bread

Soda bread and I have never got on… My go-to quick bread has always been baking powder biscuits – I could throw together a batch with my eyes closed, and they would turn out light as air, fluffy and delightful.

Soda bread is another story. Whatever I do, it turns out heavy as rock, dense and… undelightful. I still remember making it for the first time in Home Ec. The ugly brown lump that emerged from my oven had a crust like rhinosaurus hide and a sullen, pastelike interior. It had somehow doubled in weight– though not in size – and could have been used as a weapon in close combat.

So when the Great British Bake-off contestants were tasked with producing a signature quick bread, my first thought was to make something based on biscuit dough. That would have been the easy way to go… Continue reading

Cranberry and almond biscotti

13 Sep

cranberry almond biscotti

Biscotti is the second signature bake on this year’s Great British Bake-off. I’ve eaten plenty of biscotti, and even knew that the name means “twice cooked” in Italian because they are baked once as a log, and again in slices. But I had never tried baking them myself. Continue reading

Madeira cake

10 Sep

madeira cake

The Great British Bake-off has returned to our tellies, and the family is following along enthusiastically. Inspired by the contestants’ efforts in the tent each week, I’ve signed up to complete each week’s signature bake. Baking and desserts are not my forte, so this will be a stretch for me. First up, Madeira cake… Continue reading

Cranberry and white chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

1 Aug

cranberry-white-chocolate-biscuits

I know we’re due for another trip to Canada when my precious stash of butterscotch chips has run out…;-)

On the few occasions I’ve seen butterscotch chips for sale in the UK, they were in the specialty imports section and crazy expensive. So I tuck a few bags into my suitcase whenever we make the trip home. And Canadian houseguests have been known to arrive bearing butterscotch chips for me (and Goldfish crackers for the girls).

When oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies aren’t an option, these cranberry and white chocolate numbers are a decent alternative.

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Strawberry shortcake

8 Jul

Strawberry shortcake

Strawberry shortcake is America’s take on the quintessentially British scones with cream and jam. Fresher, looser, less “proper”, and somehow more bountiful – for me, strawberry shortcake wins hands down. Continue reading

Lemon-ginger flapjacks

2 Jul

Lemon ginger flapjacks

In Canada a flapjack is another name for a pancake. Here in the UK, it’s a sort of baked oat square. Similar to a granola bar, a good flapjack is chewy and dense and sweet with golden syrup.

The first flapjack I tasted was not good – in fact, it was a huge disappointment. While it looked tempting enough in the sandwich shop with its generous coating of chocolate, it tasted of nothing but cheap oil and sugar, compacted itself into my molars and left a coating of grease on the roof of my mouth. I didn’t finish it – or buy another flapjack for a good ten years. Continue reading

Antiguan pineapple bread

11 Jun

Antiguan pineapple bread

The distinctive taste of Angostura bitters sets this Antiguan pineapple bread apart from the other quick breads and loaf cakes I make.

I’m sure it would work nicely with vanilla as well, but given the last bottle of Angostura bitters I finished was “by appointment to his majesty King George VI” I’m very happy to stick to the original recipe. Continue reading

Frangipane tarts

21 May

frangipane-tart-1

Frangipane is such a beautiful word, conjuring up images of sugar and spice, flowers and French patisserie. These tasty little numbers with their moreish almond filling, tart slick of raspberry jam and flaky crisp pastry are as delicious to eat as the name suggests.

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Mini meringues

30 Apr

Mini meringues

Mini meringues are a great favourite with the girls – both making and eating them. For years it was deemed necessary to dye these mini meringues pink, but we’re finally moving past the “all things pink” phase.  Continue reading

Soft white dinner rolls

2 Apr

Soft white dinner rolls
These little dinner rolls are straightforward to make, and transform yet another “soup for supper” evening into something a bit special. If you have any leftover, they make nice little lunchbox sandwiches the next day.

The recipe is from Nigella Lawson’s Feast. Continue reading