Happy New Year! Lots of bakes to catch you up on!

Hello all and happy new year to you! I hope you all had a wonderful time over the holidays, I must apologise for my brief hiatus but I’ve been very busy with family things and of course, baking. Therefore, I have multiple bakes to catch you up on. Christmas Eve in my household means freshly baked mince pies with home made brandy butter. Fresh from the oven, the brandy butter melts into the mincemeat and the pies are more pastry than they are filling – perfection!

This was a great way to really kick start Christmas but even before this, I had multiple bakes to catch you up on; gluten-free Earl Grey muffins, almond and chocolate biscotti and almond and cherry florentines!

First – the Earl Grey muffins. I couldn’t resist this recipe from Twinings; a friend of mine and I both independently saw the recipe, wanted to try it and ended up baking it together. The recipe isn’t gluten free but as my friend is allergic to gluten, we replaced both types of flour with one gluten free flour and added a teaspoon of xanthum gum at the same time. The xanthum gum helps to bind all of the ingredients together and improves the crumb structure – it’s not needed with regular flour but helps when baking gluten free. The result turned out more like an English muffin texture rather than an American muffin and was something I’d not experienced before but it was delicious! The combination of the Earl Grey and the orange really complimented each other and as the muffin was slightly more like a sweet bread, it was perfect for breakfast with a cup of tea. I will definitely be trying these again but next time, I think I’ll replace the orange zest with lemon as Earl Grey tea is typically served with lemon. I might also try adding a violet flavoured icing to the top to add another level. The recipe can be found here.

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This Christmas, I also decided to bake something for my parents and give it to them in a decorative Christmas box. I chose to make almond and chocolate chip biscotti for my dad and cherry and almond florentines for my mum. The biscotti turned out really well, recipe found here, they were incredibly simple to make and my dad loved them so much that they were practically all gone by the next day! The florentines weren’t quite as successful, I used this recipe as I haven’t made them before but they seemed to take a long time to cook the middle of them and in doing so, the outsides became slightly burnt, not badly so but if I were to make them again, I’d ensure that they were smaller and flatter so that they cooked through quickly.

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If you’d like to know the recipes for the mince pies or brandy butter, then let me know but please have a go at any of these recipes, they were all fun to make and of course, to eat! Now that the holidays are over, I shall finally be getting back to my oven and that means plenty of recipes for you! I’ve been re-watching episodes of the Great British Bake Off as well so I have many things I’d like to try in this new year. I also have something very exciting happening but more to come on that soon (if I told you now, that’d spoil the fun wouldn’t it!)

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Chocolate cake filled with brownies? Oh yes it is! (Oh no it’s not) plus the Werthers Christmas caramel shop

Apologies for the pun and for the lack of posts but this week, my Theatre society have been performing their Christmas pantomime (hence the pun). It was a fun but exhausting week and of course, it called for cake. Brooklyn Brownout cake to be specific. I read about this treat on so many people’s blogs that I had to give it a go; devil’s food cake layered with brownies and ganache – heaven! Sufficed to say, I was not disappointed and neither were my society. It was wonderfully moist and dense, just like a devil’s food cake should be and the ganache was smooth and silky. It was incredibly rich but truly delicious, whoever thought of layering cake with brownies was a genius, I really recommend you try this recipe here: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2008/04/sweet-melissa-brooklyn-brownout-cake-recipe.html

Sorry for the poor photo and messy plate but I finished this literally as I was walking out the door!

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Somehow I managed to have half an hour off this week to pop into town and what awaited me was something truly incredible… a Werthers caramel shop. A small wooden shop in the middle of the precinct adorned with Christmas decorations and offering thousands of Werthers in old fashioned sweet shop jars, pots and falling down brass chutes. I felt like a child on Christmas eve and couldn’t resist buying a Christmas tin filled with assorted pick ‘n’ mix Werthers.  It really inspired me to try a butterscotch recipe but I’m not sure what – anyone got any good recipes that they’d recommend I try?

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It’s snowing! (On WordPress at least…) and the Good Food Show!

I turned on my blog this morning to find small white circles falling down my screen and confusion ensued! What could they be? Is my computer going wrong? But no! The circles kept coming and I realised that they must be snow! This, combined with opening a chocolate advent calendar, clearly means it’s nearly Christmas! How exciting, I know!

On Saturday, I went to the winter BBC Good Food Show, which of course made me feel even more Christmassy! I’m a firm believer that the Good Food Show is always a brilliant day out; you get to meet some of your favourite chefs, sample products you wouldn’t normally know about and generally just have a good day entirely about food. However, it always astounds me that there is a severe lack of GOOD food to eat for your lunch. Sure, you could queue up for twenty minutes to buy a pork bap for double the price that you would at your local village fete but the alternatives are even worse. I thought I would be fairly safe going to the Good Food show stand but how wrong was I? I had a burnt rosti-topped fish pie that tasted of nothing but black pepper, which made me choke. I followed it with an apple flapjack crumble that mainly tasted of the whole cloves that I found scattered all over it. Sufficed to say, I was not happy and had to take the food back. Now, I know it’s not the Good Food show’s fault as they hired outside caterers but frankly, I wouldn’t hire the company again.

Anyway, that’s enough on the bad points because the good points far outweigh them! I got to see Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Shelina Permaloo and Jo Wheatley cooking. The highlight however was watching John Whaite, the winner of this year’s Great British Bake Off, demonstrate cooking his festive sticky toffee pudding. He was so natural, didn’t seem nervous and was just so lovely. If he doesn’t have his own television show within the next year, then TV producers are missing a trick! I’m really glad that I managed to speak to him but I’d have liked to have had a proper chat with him. He’s really inspired me further to apply for the Great British Bake Off this year…what do you guys think?

Anyway, I got a few treats to try at the Good Food show (all of the baking persuasion of course) and when I’ve sampled them all, I will be posting my verdict! If you haven’t been to the Good Food show yet, then you should definitely give it a go; it’s a great day out for all the family (and no I don’t work for them!)