what? bread?

a blog about making bread at home

Archive for the category “cakes, cookies and other things”

Don’t waste bananas

News today suggests people throw away slightly bruised bananas and that’s bad for lots of reasons. Guardian article here.

If you want to stop wasting bananas but only have one occasionally, then pop it in the freezer until you’ve got a enough to make something. It doesn’t matter if the outside goes all black and the inside is squishy, just defrost them when you want to use them.

Here are some of my blogs about banana recipes, but there’s plenty more things out there to try.

Banana 1 – Butterscotch Banana Cake

Banana 2 – Banana Bread with Spelt Flour

Banana 3 – Dark Banana Ginger Cake


A new star in the baking firmament – #TanyaBakes

Earlier this year I was asked to make an index for a baking book written by a YouTuber (yes that is a word, it’s in the dictionary). So I did the job and ended up a bit puzzled. There were plenty of recipes for cakes, cookies and cheesecakes, but they were a bit ‘easy’, no complicated techniques, no hard-to-find ingredients, not many flavours, and I wondered faintly why anyone had bothered to make the book. So I put the work behind me and got on with other things and wasn’t even tempted to try making any of them.

Last Friday, 1st July, while Britain and Europe were still reeling from Brexit, I was labouring over an index for a book about medieval trade across the North Sea, and on the day the destruction of the Somme was remembered (wasn’t #wearehere fabulous? I wish I’d been able to see some of the young men myself), Tanya Bakes was launched. And I finally got why the book was written, it’s not a book for my demographic at all, it’s a cookery book for people who want straightforward, simple, feelgood recipes, with nice pictures. It’s for girls (and boys) who want to thank their mum or dad or sister, or nan or uncle or teacher and make them a few cookies. It’s for friends who want to spend an hour together to make something before settling down to watch a movie. It’s for anyone who wants to make cheesecake or party pudding or a cake you can stick sparklers in. There’s not much in the way of fancy icing to be done and it shows it is OK to put sweets on cakes if that’s what you want to do. If you want recipes for Nutella or put peanut butter in something, you’ll find something to help you.

Twitter went mad. #TanyaBakes was used by people expressing their excitement at having received their copy, saying they were going to one of the book signings she has arranged, and more importantly perhaps, showing off their bakes. So it’s not my demographic, but I’ve got to congratulate Tanya if she encourages people to try a few things for themselves. It’s not a book to grab and use every day, I had to laugh a little at the person who put a review on Amazon complaining about the amount of sugar, but in moderation it has got good points.

And I made some brownies. Tanya’s most ‘exotic’ recipe uses coconut sugar and coconut oil, I swapped that out for brown and white sugar and some butter, but I did put in the half an avocado. Here’s a piece with some raspberries out of my garden and a bit of cream.



Poppy-seed walnut strudel

Last week I asked Dan if he had a recipe for mohnplunder, something I ate more than half a life time ago when I took a trip round some museums in Europe looking for Celtic objects. The ones I ate in Germany were pastries stuffed with poppy seeds. Dan didn’t have a recipe for pastries, but pointed out this recipe which is in Short and Sweet and also published here.

You need about 5 hours to make this sweet yeasted dough epic. So it’s not something to rush into, but can be done in stages with a bit of preparation in between. There’s no picture in Short and Sweet, but there is one on the Guardian website, so at least we know what it should look like.

The dough is made in two stages. First a sponge stage with yeast and flour mixed into milk that has been boiled and cooled, and left to rest for about an hour. Then butter is rubbed into more flour and mixed with the sponge and rested. Meanwhile you make the filling. I’m a bit scared of the filling because it is quite runny, but it tastes quite nice. I don’t think my food mixer can grind the walnuts small enough. The only change I made was to use brandy instead of rum.

Here’s some pictures so you can see what happened. A fair amount of filling spilled from the top down the side. The result wasn’t particularly elegant-looking, but it tastes OK!

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Butterscotch banana cake

My baking mojo seems to have put in appearance recently and I’m trying out a few things I’ve not done before. So from Short and Sweet and appearing here in a slightly different version, this morning I’ve made butterscotch banana cake. The new thing for me was the caramel, which I feel is a bit daunting. But it’s not, really, it’s not, just keep an eye on it. I wasn’t too sure how large to leave the banana pieces so didn’t let it cook too long. It looked a bit bare when I took it out of the oven so I’ve topped it with some lemon icing, just lemon juice and icing sugar. Very moist, not soggy or stodgy.

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Sticky lemon and poppy seed cake

I have made this before, but haven’t blogged it, so I am typing away while it is in the oven.

I’m following the recipe in Short and Sweet, but you can also find it here. The differences are minor – Short and Sweet uses slightly less sugar, more flour and an extra egg in the cake mix. Which suggests it’s all good and you can tweak if you haven’t got quite what the recipe suggests. The main differences compared to a standard lemon drizzle cake, for example by Mary Berry, is the use of some sunflower oil in the mixture, the substitution of some of the flour with fine oatmeal plus some extra liquid, and the addition of poppy seeds. So the results are slightly chewier – a good thing, cake you don’t have to chew is not a good thing in my book. And I like the poppy seeds. Cranks also has a great recipe for lemon, lime and poppy seed drizzle cake which I must do sometime.

I do wish Dan was back with the Guardian, I have to say I haven’t cooked anything by Ruby, sorry.

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Chocolate and almond fudge cake

Recipe from Dan’ Lepard’s Short and Sweet, also available here, but use 3 eggs not 4. A flour free recipe,

A cake that is mostly made in a saucepan goes slightly against the grain, but makes it all pretty easy. You don’t need an electric mixer for the egg white whipping bit, a firm arm with a hand whisk will do the job quite nicely.

I found it took a lot longer to bake than the 40 minutes suggested, and I gave it 55 in the end, but it might have needed a bit more. My eggs were from a mixed box, not the medium ones stated, so maybe that affected the cooking time.

It does shrink down quite a bit after baking and I didn’t use the cream topping suggested. Here’s some pics, and it was rather tasty.

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Banana bread with spelt flour

I have an old and splattered copy of The New Internationalist Food Book, first published in 1990. It is out of print now, but second hand copies are available. It contains recipes from Africa, Asia and Latin America, worked out for Western kitchens and with some information and food facts. I guess it was published long before we all got exercised about food miles, food waste, eating locally and still appreciating the foods of other cultures. It is a book that I go back to from time to time for recipes and ideas. Today I retrieved it for the Caribbean banana bread.

Ingredients are: 3 large bananas, 175 g margarine, 175 g sugar, 225 g flour, pinch of salt, half teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 large egg, 125 g chopped walnuts, 100 g raisins or sultanas. The cinnamon and dried fruit are marked as optional.

Instructions: mash the bananas, beat in the margarine, then the sugar, then the dried goods, then the egg, and finally the fruit and nuts. Bake for one and a half hours in a 1 kg loaf tin at 180C.

I had a couple of squashy bananas in my fruit bowl and one I’d tucked away in the freezer, so I was good to go. Because the recipe is not specific about sugar, I find it easily accommodates whatever you fancy. Today I went with light soft brown sugar, but another time I might have used a heavier sugar. As the recipe only needs plain flour I’ve also tried something for the first time. I spotted Sharpham Park Organic Spelt White Flour in Waitrose the other week. As it claims it is suitable to use anywhere white wheat flour is used, I’m taking them at their word. I have used spelt flour in baking before, but not in cakes so far, unless it was just a bit mixed into the carrot cake recipe. I’ve also replaced the walnuts with some chopped brazil nuts.

Some pictures below of the mixture, and then one of the finished result. It takes quite a while to cool down, but finally after the wait I can say that the cake was …. delicious, or as my husband said “you wouldn’t know there was anything different in it”.

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Lemon Drizzle cake – Mary Berry recipe

This may be the shortest blog I’ll write. A little while ago before she became the face of BBC’s Great British Bake-Off, Mary flirted with UKTV and this lemon drizzle cake recipe is on their website. A four egg recipe is a bit much for us, so I cut it down to three eggs and use a square pan to bake it. Today I only had one lemon, but used a fine microplane grater to get the zest off and heated the lemon in the microwave oven for 30 seconds to make sure I had got out as much juice as possible.

A nice quick recipe, you can just bung all the ingredients in together and give it a good seeing to for a couple of minutes, or do it in stages. So we have butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and lemon zest. With a topping of granulated sugar and lemon juice. So simple I don’t know why I don’t make it more often.

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Doughnuts – River Cottage recipe

New Year, and finally, new baking. Having had my fill of lovely Christmas things I didn’t fancy anything with dried fruit in today, which is most unlike me because I love my dried fruit. So, taking some inspiration from the celebrity Sport Relief Bake-off programme which featured doughnuts as a recipe, I’m trying them for the first time. The easiest-looking recipe I had to hand was from the River Cottage handbook 3, and which also handily appears on the Telegraph website (sssshhh, don’t tell the Guardian I’ve gone off-piste, but it isn’t the same without Dan Lepard). You can try Paul Hollywood’s recipe over here too.

As I often do with recipes when trying them for the first time, I’ve only done a half measure of all the ingredients, and I’ve used fresh yeast, not dried. I don’t have a mixer so I’ve adapted the River Cottage recipe to the Dan Lepard method.

I mixed all the ingredients, left it for 10 minutes, kneaded lightly and then repeated two more times. In between I left the bowl cuddled up to the big pan I have boiling oranges for marmalade (I use Delia’s recipe for that, and there’s a blog over here about it from last year, nothing new to say on that subject this year) as the kitchen is heading for Baltic conditions again – currently 18.7 C.

Then I left the bowl to allow the dough to prove for about 45 minutes before making it into balls and rings. My son doesn’t much like jam doughnuts, but he does like the ring ones. I just poked my finger through like I would for bagels. I’m also making pizza so need to fit it all in together. They got to rest for about an hour before being fried.

Some time later…. Results are in. Not bad for a first attempt, but a bit stodgy. Next time I might let it prove a bit more the first time, fry them with a bit more oil, or make them smaller or make them all ring doughnuts. The ball ones expanded a bit, then split, but the outer surface was cooked before the inside had finished expanding. Here are some pictures of what went on! I’ll definitely be needing a good long run tomorrow.

All mixed up

All mixed up

After kneading

After kneading

All shaped

All shaped

After rising

After rising

First two

First two

Three balls

Three balls

Christmas cake and a word about marzipan

I realised that I hadn’t blogged the making of a Christmas Cake. This year’s trendy thing to do apparently as sales of dried fruit and other cake ingredients have risen by over 30% compared to last year, according to The Times (but you’ll need a subscription to read the rest). Now this could mean several things – we’re not just making Christmas cakes and puddings, we’re making all sorts of lovely things packed with sultanas, raisins and currants, cherries, peel and nuts. It may also mean that the stores have over-ordered their own Christmas offerings and there will be lots of cut-price goodies on Boxing Day, so if you’re not making your own, hang on for a post-Christmas blitz, but don’t blame me if I’m wrong.

I must say there are few things I like more than good fruit cake. However, at this time of year it is all to easy to end up with everything tasting of dried fruit and spices so sometimes it is good to go outside the box. So I will be making Panettone and probably stollen just to keep us going until the big day. There’s a great Dan Lepard recipe for stollen which I also don’t seem to have blogged about yet, so maybe next week for that one.

You can find all sorts of recipes on the web from all the celebrity bakers, and they’ll all be just slightly different, also they’ll be telling you “you should have made your cake a month ago”. Does it really make a difference whose recipe you follow and how long you leave it to sit? Personally I don’t think so. I’m not that keen on treacle in cake recipes or filling them up with alcohol so I’m here now with my split-at-the-spine copy of the National Trust Christmas and Festive Day Recipes, another copy of which I may have to put in my trolley next time I’m on Amazon, as it has suffered. For a good read about historic Christmas cakes you could do worse than read Ivan Day’s blog and course where he talks about yeast-leavened plum cakes.

I reduce a 6 egg recipe down to 4 eggs and proportion all the ingredients likewise, as while we like the cake, if it hangs around the house much past Twelfth Night I find it’s gone a bit dry. Absolutely nothing tricky in here: sultanas, currants, raisins, cherries, peel, some orange juice, butter, soft brown sugar, eggs, plain flower, salt, baking powder, mixed spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, almonds, lemon juice, brandy/rum or sherry and vanilla/almond or ratafia essence. Some pictures below as I went along and one of the finished article.

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It won’t be getting decorated until much nearer the date, but I do also like to try and remember to make my own marzipan, as along with how shops treat dates at Christmas, I can’t be doing with the added stickiness of the syrup that shop-bought brands contain. The above-mentioned book also includes a recipe for almond paste which features ground almonds, caster sugar, icing sugar, egg, lemon juice, brandy or sherry, vanilla essence, almond essence and orange-flower or rose water. The finished mix my be a little more gritty than shop bought, and the cake does benefit from leaving for a week wrapped in paper before icing, so is not a last-minute thing, but most importantly, does not stick to the teeth!

And here’s the finished article. Maybe a bit on the blue side, but my son said it was awesome, so who am I to argue?


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