Monday, 10 September 2012

GBBO Biscotti

So having decided that Sunday was a baking day, my dismal attempt at apple scones didn’t put me off and I decided to delve into my new GBBO Showstopper book and have a go at something a bit different. I’ve been making lots of cakes recently so decided to have a go at the Sour Cherry Biscotti. I’m a big fan of biscotti and tend to make it at Christmas as presents, as it lasts really well.
So, it all started well and my KitchenAid had beaten the butter, sugar and eggs into a lovely light mousse-like froth. I merrily sieved in the flour, salt and baking powder and turned to check the recipe, only to realise that I had chucked in s-r flour rather plain flour – aaaaargh! Having no idea what the impact of this would be - not wanting to use up my white chocolate, almonds and sour cherries but also not wanting to waste all of the ingredients already in the mix - I decided to substitute the key ingredients and see what happened. A delve into the depths of the larder delivered some dark chocolate, raisins and pistachios. I threw these in, divided the dough in two, stuck it on two baking trays and popped it in the oven: hoping that it didn’t decide to grow out of control and splurge out the sides of the oven!

Timer on the oven set, Batch Number Two – this time with plain flour – was started, with the delicious additions (as per recipe) of white chocolate, almonds and sour cherries. After lots of anxious glances through the oven window, Batch One came out of the oven – and looked surprisingly normal! After cooling, slicing and baking again, Batch One were complete and looking surprisingly good!

Dark chocolate, raisin and pistachio biscotti
Dark chocolate, raisin and pistachio biscotti

45 minutes later, Batch Two (white chocolate, almond and sour cherry) were complete and looked very similar to the not-so-disastrous Batch One!

White chocolate, sour cherry and almond biscotti
White chocolate, sour cherry and almond biscotti

Overall verdict? Both batches were delicious and went down a storm with my colleagues and with EHH’s colleagues. They were lovely and crisp when they came out of the oven but weren’t quite as crisp this morning – perhaps I didn’t bake them for long enough? Not sure they would have held up to much of a dunking!    

Dark chocolate, raisin and pistachio biscotti


  1. 115g butter, softened
  2. 125g golden caster sugar
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 2 large eggs, at room temp, beaten
  5. 275g flour
  6. Pinch of salt
  7. ½ tsp baking powder
  8. 100g raisins
  9. 100g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  10. 100g pistachios

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / gas 4.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light in colour and fluffy.
  3. Gradually beat in eggs, beating well after each addition.
  4. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into the bowl and mix in with a wooden spoon to make a soft dough.
  5. Add the raisins, chocolate and pistachios and work in until evenly combined.
  6. Add a little more flour to the dough if it is still very sticky.
  7. Dust hands with flour and then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
  8. Divide dough into two pieces and roughly shape each into a long, wide sausage in your hands.
  9. Lift each piece onto a lined baking sheet (one piece per baking sheet) and pat each piece into a neat rectangle about 8cm x 25 cm.
  10. Bake for about 25 minutes until just firm to the touch and golden (turn after about 18 minutes if your oven bakes unevenly). Remove from the oven (leave the oven on) and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  11. Slice each piece of baked dough (still on baking sheets) on the diagonal. Gently tip the fragile slices over so that they are cut-side down on the baking sheet.
  12. Bake for a further 10 minutes until starting to colour.
  13. Remove from the oven and set the baking sheets on a wire rack to cool and firm up before removing.
  14. Store in an air-tight tin and eat within two weeks. 

Try alternative flavours:
  • sour cherry, white chocolate and almond (as per the recipe in the GBBO Show stoppers book)
  • orange zest, dark chocolate, dried cranberries and hazelnuts – with mixed spice and cinnamon instead of the vanilla extract
  • lemon zest, dried blueberries, white chocolate and almonds

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Apple Scones

I was in a baking mood today so had a search through my recipe folder to find something I hadn’t baked before (I cut out recipes that I fancy in magazines and store them in a big A4 ring binder – there’s loads I haven’t attempted yet!). I haven’t made many scones and it’s been ages since I last made any so I decided on apple scones from BBC Good Food magazine.

Apple Scones

Cup of tea and a scone with jam and clotted cream


  1. 225g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting  
  2. 50g butter  
  3. 4 tbsp golden caster sugar  
  4. ¼ tsp cinnamon (I actually used about ½ tsp) 
  5. 1 apple, peeled, cored and diced (I used a Granny Smith) 
  6. 125ml milk, plus extra for brushing

  1. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. 
  2. Tip flour into a large bowl with butter then rub in using fingers until the mix looks like fine crumbs. 
  3. Stir in sugar and cinnamon, add apple and give everything a mix.
  4. Pour in milk and stir it in quickly, then fold dough over 2-3 times until it's a little smoother. 
  5. Tip onto a lightly floured surface; pat into a round about 3cm deep.
  6. Dip a 6cm cutter into some flour then cut out scones, flouring the cutter each time. Squash offcuts lightly back into a round and repeat until all dough is used up. 
  7. Brush tops with a little milk then place on to a lightly floured baking sheet and bake for 18-20 mins until risen and golden. Allow to cool on the tray.
These didn’t rise as much as I would have liked and looking at the reviews on the website, this seems to be a fairly common theme with this recipe. There are various suggestions in the reviews section, including using an egg or using a tsp of baking powder, so I may try these next time. However, having done a bit of online reading this evening – it appears that I made a few rookie mistakes! Most websites providing tips for making scones suggest that butter should be extremely cold (mine definitely wasn’t) and so should the milk (mine had been sat on the side for a little while – being used to making cakes, I was bringing it up to room temp!). There seems to be lots of other varying suggestions out there about how to make “The Perfect Scone” – I feel a challenge coming on! I may return to this recipe and give it another go – but properly this time!

The magazine recipe suggested serving with clotted cream and a blackberry compote (recipe is also on the BBC Good Food website) – which sounds fantastic, but it’s a bit early for blackberry foraging yet. I ate mine plain and, despite not rising brilliantly, it wasn’t overly stodgy and tasted pretty good. My ever-hungry husband (EHH) slathered his with clotted cream and raspberry jam, which, although not a perfect accompaniment, tasted great when I sneaked a bite.  

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Temple Gate Coffee Shop review

Image of the front of Bowood House with a fountain in the foreground

Apologies first – this feels like a bit of a cheat – the basis for this blog is meant to be cake and no cake has been made or eaten today! However, we did visit a coffee shop so thought I’d write up a quick review.  

Temple Gate Coffee Shop at Bowood House

Image of Temple Gate Coffee Shop
Picture taken from the Bowood House website
Wow – a very rare thing – sunshine at the weekend! We decided to make the most of the weather and head out to Bowood House, near Chippenham. We arrived, very hungry, in time for a late lunch, so we were pleased to find that the Temple Gate Coffee Shop was right at the entrance to the Estate. It’s outside the ticket office so you could visit without having to pay entrance to the House and Grounds.

It’s a fairly modern and simple building with some tables and picnic benches outside. The lunch menu was pretty standard and fairly disappointing – jacket potatoes with a few standard fillings, a choice of two salads, soup French bread pizzas and some packaged sandwiches. The cakes on offer were a Victoria sponge, coffee and walnut sandwich and a chocolate cake. They also offered a cream tea with pot of tea, two scones, jam and clotted cream but the scones looked fairly small and it was an expensive offering at £5.45.   

I opted for the chorizo and sun-dried tomato salad (£6.50), which sounded promising. When it arrived, it looked fairly appetising – with a salad of leaves, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and mixed peppers topped with a reasonable amount of sun-dried tomatoes and fried chorizo. Unfortunately, the sun-dried tomatoes were tough and fairly tasteless and the salad just had the faintest hint of balsamic vinegar, rather than a decent dressing. It was edible (with the addition of a couple of sachets of salad cream!) but uninspiring.

My ever-hungry husband chose a jacket potato with tuna (about £4.25) and a sausage roll (about £2.50). The sausage roll was fairly standard, acceptable but nothing special. The jacket potato and tuna mayonnaise topping was generous – the potato was a little tough (it had probably been sat around a while) but the tuna was fine and not overly swamped in mayonnaise as can so often be the case.

In summary, the coffee shop was a bit of a disappointment and we felt that they could make a lot more of it. I’m guessing they cater mostly for the families visiting the adventure playground (which looked amazing!) and therefore everything is fairly basic. We certainly wouldn’t return for lunch and the cakes didn’t really tempt me either. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Rhubarb Crumble Muffins

So, have been meaning to start this blog for ages and, having had a very lazy weekend, I finally found the time to set something up. Not sure that this is exactly right yet but it's a start at least! 

The plan is to write up my baking successes (and failures - we all have them - fortunately my husband's work are very happy to eat them!), share great recipes, review cook books (I already have far too many!) and write reviews of the many tea shops that I visit with my husband. Being far too middle-aged for our actual ages, we spend much of our free time pottering around villages, farm shops and garden centres in search of a great piece of cake and perfect cuppa!

Today's batch of baking was made complete with rhubarb grown in our own garden. Nearly everything else that we have attempted to grown this year has been a complete disaster - but, thanks to lots of warm wet weather, the rhubarb has done brilliantly! So today's challenge were rhubarb crumble muffins. I have a recipe cut out from a magazine somewhere, but couldn't find it - so this was a bit of a gamble - adapting a recipe I have for other muffins! But muffins are fairly robust and I've made the original recipe a few times with other fruit so I figured it would be fine. The original recipe was Blackberry and Apple Crumble Muffins, found on the Delicious website. It's a really easy, quick and tasty recipe that I've just adapted slightly.  

Update - June 2013
As the rhubarb is well and truly flourishing again this year, I've just made these again. Thought I would pop a note on here as, this time, I added chopped hazelnuts to the crumble and this addition was fantastic - highly recommended! 

Rhubarb Crumble Muffins:

Freshly cooked rhubarb cumble muffins

  1. 400g rhubarb (halved lengthwise and then diced)
  2. 40g castor sugar
    Rhubarb crumble muffins
  1. 300g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
  2. 1 tblsp baking powder
  3. 1 tsp cinnamon
  4. 1 tsp ginger
  5. Pinch of salt
  6. 190g caster sugar
  7. 210ml milk
  8. 1 large free-range egg, beaten
  9. 100g butter
  10. Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
For the crumble topping
  1. 25g butter, at room temperature
  2. 25g plain flour
  3. 25g demerara sugar
  4. 25g oats
  5. 15g chopped hazelnuts (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/fan180ºC/gas 6 and line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper muffin cases. 
  2. Mix the rhubarb with the 40g of sugar and leave to one side.
  3. Melt the 100g of butter and leave to one side to cool slightly.
  4. Make the crumble topping. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, hazelnuts and oats and work the mixture with your fingers until it forms nuggets.
  5. For the muffins, sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt into a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar. In another smaller bowl, beat the milk with the egg, melted butter and lemon zest. 
  6. Stir the wet mixture into the flour and sugar mixture until combined. (It’s fine if it’s still a bit lumpy.) 
  7. Strain the rhubarb through a sieve to remove any liquid and then stir the rhubarb into the muffin mix. 
  8. Spoon the mixture evenly into the paper cases and sprinkle over the crumble topping.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then cool on a wire rack.
These are fab served warm but also freeze really well. I freeze the batch of them and then defrost one at a time for weekend breakfasts – a quick zap in the microwave and they warm up beautifully and taste lovely!