• The raspberry: the gone wrong version of a strawberry

    My next door neighbour, but one, caught me in the garden the other day and informed me that her husband and her were off to London for a few days and that she would appreciate it if we could pick (and use up) some of the raspberries growing in her garden.  Having used her raspberries before to make a raspberry coulis, it didn’t take much persuasion and before long, Jo had picked a large punnet of raspberries.

    Mindful that I had a punnet of raspberries in the fridge, I thought I should set about doing a bit of baking.  Whilst flicking through Donna Hay’s ‘Basics to Brilliance’ for her chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe,  I came across her recipe for a raspberry swirl cheesecake.  Raspberries and baked cheesecake, what more could you ask for?  So, on Saturday evening, exhausted from our first session at British Military Fitness, I set about baking the raspberry swirl cheese cake.

    The first step was to make the raspberry syrup.   The second step was to make the ricotta cheesecake base and filling.  All went well with the first two steps, or so I thought…. The third step was to swirl the raspberry syrup through the ricotta cheesecake base.  At this point, I realised that my syrup (after cooling) had become less of a syrup than a jam and rather than being swirled through the ricotta cheesecake it seemed to slide inelegantly through the surface of the cheesecake only to disappear beneath the surface.  Not deterred by my disappearing raspberry syrup (or should I say, jam) I placed my cheesecake in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius for 50 minutes.  After which, I turned off the oven and left my cheesecake in the oven for a further 50 minutes as instructed.   After an hour and forty minutes, I placed my cheesecake into the fridge to cool for at least an hour.  At the point that I placed my cheesecake in the fridge, it looked very much like a cheesecake, albeit without a raspberry swirl.

    After an hour (there is only so long that a girl can wait for her dessert), I removed the still slightly warm cheesecake out of the fridge to cut a couple of pieces for our dessert.  A couple of smallish cracks had appeared on the surface of the cake but I wasn’t overly bothered.   I finished off the cheesecake with a handful of fresh raspberries and all was well in the world of cheesecakes again.  As suspected, the raspberry syrup/jam had sunk to the bottom of the cheesecake i.e. between the base and the cheesecake topping.  While this may not have been as aesthetically pleasing as raspberry ripple it certainly did not affect the taste of the cheesecake.  The cheesecake was a taste delight, even if I say so myself.  It took a lot of will power to refrain from having a second slice.

    The following morning, and in preparation for a large family do at my younger sister’s house, I set about baking my second raspberry bake of the weekend, raspberry Bakewell.  Although I had mentioned to my husband that I needed more raspberries for my second bake the night before, he had either not heard or registered my request so in the morning, as I started my bake, I asked him where the freshly picked raspberries were.  He said that they weren’t any.  Reluctantly, he ventured into the neighbour’s garden in the light of the morning to pick me the raspberries for my bake.  He came back with 200g of the 250g of raspberries I needed for my bake, but I didn’t have the heart to ask him to pick anymore.  I hoped that 200g would be enough.  Following the recipe to the letter, including processing all the ingredients in a food processor (the first time I have made a cake in a food processor), I scattered my raspberries over half the cake mixture in the tin and then covered them with the other half of the cake mixture as instructed.  Not convinced by the texture of the cake mixture (a lot more dense than normal cake mixture), I placed my cake in the oven and baked as instructed.  I was surprised to see that the baked cake had such a good rise and looked as it did in the photo of the BBC Good Food site.  Still a bit nervous, I cut into my bake at my sister’s house after lunch and was very pleasantly surprised to see that the cake had a light, spongy texture and the combination of the almonds and the fresh raspberries went very well (200g of lovely sweet raspberries was enough).

    I should mention that I did take some of my raspberry cheesecake to the lunch as well, albeit somewhat reluctantly as in the morning after my cheesecake bake, I discovered that the cracks on top of my cheesecake had multiplied and deepened overnight and my raspberry cheesecake was no longer the fine looking specimen from the night before.  Knowing that it had a delicious taste and ignoring the adage that ‘you eat with your eyes’, I thrust my cheesecake onto my family members while apologising for its less than perfect appearance.  Let’s just say that taste won the day and my family members were very happy with their dessert options, which also included a delicious Mary Berry chocolate cake, which my younger sister had lovingly prepared.   I have pondered about the cracks since and my theories are as follows: (1) I should have left the cheesecake to cool at ambient temperature first before putting it in the fridge to cool – the cold fridge could have ‘shocked’ the warm cheesecake or (2) as the raspberry syrup was more of a jam than a syrup, perhaps the density of the jam in the light cheesecake caused the cheesecake to crack, especially as the jam and the cheesecake mixture could have cooled at different rates.  Your thoughts?

    On Sunday evening, still uncomfortable with his early morning raspberry forage, I armed my husband with two slices of cheesecake (the best two slices, I might add) and two slices of the raspberry Bakewell and suggested that he took them around to our neighbours to thank them for their raspberries.  Happy that he had confessed to his ‘early morning crime’ (the neighbours were not concerned in the least – funny that!) and giving the neighbours something in return for their raspberries, my husband was able to relax for the rest of the evening with a clear conscience.

    The following morning, my husband received an email entitled ‘We know Coln’s best pastry/pudding chef!’ with the message ‘.. many thanks, Bridget and Jo.  Crowned a perfect evening!’  Our neighbours had been at the local pub with a couple of friends and had followed up their meal at the pub with the raspberry cheesecake and Bakewell cake.  We were even sent a photo of the four of them tucking into their pudding with glee.

    So while the raspberry may be seen as a ‘gone wrong strawberry’, it can still bring delight to many and make me feel that maybe, just maybe, my change in career my be worth it, even if it takes a bit of time to establish myself.

  • Foolproof baking, is it possible?

    Not long after I wrote my blog entry entitled ‘Good Food’ I was asked to make the bitter orange and poppy seed loaf cake for a friend.  If you remember, I was going on in my blog about how great the BBC Good Food recipes were and that they almost always resulted in delicious cakes with a delightful texture.

    Although my second attempt at the bitter orange and poppy seed cake tasted delicious (confirmed by my friend who shared it with three of his friends – their verdict was that it was delicious with Yorkshire tea, but not Early Grey tea, which one of his friends was having), the texture was not as good as the first one I made.  The crumb was more dense than the first time around.  As I had not recorded what ingredients I used the first time around, I had no way of knowing if the change in texture was the result of using different ingredients or with the preparation or bake.  On the ingredients side, the only thing that I could think of was that I may have used a different self-raising flour.  On the preparation and bake side, the only thing that may have different was that I was in a bit of a hurry and I may have rushed the bake.

    Not put off entirely (albeit a little disappointed), I started to scour the internet for tips on the best self-raising flour to use in baking.  Not surprisingly, rather than finding a recommendation for a good self-raising flour, I was informed that I should not use self-raising flour at all but rather add baking powder to plain flour as in this way you can control how much baking powder you add to your bake.  The next step was to google the ratio of baking powder to flour.  Well that is a completely different story as every site I visited had a slightly different ratio.  Nigella suggests two teaspoons of baking powder for every 150g of flour, whereas Delia suggests 1 teaspoon for 110g plain flour.  BBC Good Food recommends the same as Delia.

    During my scouring of the Internet, I came across some baking tips from the trusty Mary Berry and her previous sidekick, Paul Hollywood, which I thought I would share with you (Source: Woman & Home and the Telegraph).

    Baking Tips

    • Use a tried and tested recipe and follow it accurately.
    • Use the right fat.  If you use margarine or butter, it must be soft and ready to be beaten straight away.  Do not use a low-fat one.
    • Use plain flour with the right amount of baking powder rather than self-raising flour.  If you add the baking powder yourself you will know exactly how much you’ve put in.  This will give you better control over your bake.
    • Don’t add extra baking powder.  It will rise up and then fall down.
    • Use caster sugar in cakes rather than granulated sugar.  Speckled tops on cakes are usually caused by granulated sugar that has not properly dissolved in the mixture.
    • Don’t over beat the batter or you will knock all the air out of it.
    • Use the right type of tin.  Using the wrong tin will affect the bake and the texture of the end product.
    • To avoid cakes cracking don’t bake them too high in the oven.  If you do then the crust forms too soon and cracks as the cake continues to rise.
    • Don’t over bake or under bake or open the oven door too soon.  Over-baking gives a dry result. Watch the cake in the oven during the final stage of cooking.   The cake should be shrinking away from the side of the tin. When you press your finger in the middle, the mixture should spring back.  Under-baking will cause the cake to sink.  Only open the oven once the minimum cooking time has been reached.
    • Know the quirks of your oven and be aware that you can get ‘hot spots’ which can throw a bake out.  Use an oven thermometer to check the temperature of your oven.
    • Make notes about the bake i.e. cooking time if different to the recipe; whether the cake freezes well, ingredients used etc.
    • Most cakes are best iced after freezing, except if filling with buttercream.
    • When icing a cake, seal the top with apricot jam first to prevent crumb contamination.  Add liquid gradually to icing.  You can always add more and a thicker icing works better than one that runs off the sponge.
    • Use the right chocolate stipulated in the recipe.  As the cocoa solids in the chocolate will affect the desired outcome.
  • Bake well, all things Bakewell

    I mentioned in a recent post that over the last year I have tried various incarnations of the Bakewell tart.  It started with me trying a recipe from Marsha’s Baking Addition for Bakewell tart muffins.  A delicious combination of light sponge with raspberry jam in the centre, topped with icing and cherry with a not too overpowering almond flavour.  Not only did I enjoy these at home but we also sold them at Lynwood & Co for a period of time.  Although they went down well with the customers, they were a bit of a faff to make on a regular basis, given the time restrictions in the kitchen.

    I knew the Bakewell flavour was popular so my next incarnation of the Bakewell was a Bakewell traybake.  I tried an Allrecipe recipe first but although the flavour was good, the rise was not as good as it could have been.  If I recall correctly, the cake did not have enough flour/raising agent (sponge was made largely of ground almonds).  I wanted to make a traybake with a shortcrust pastry base with jam, almond sponge and icing layers (topped with toasted almonds and glace cherries), so I found a similar recipe to the Allrecipe one but with more flour/raising agent from Marsha’s Baking Addition.  The result was excellent and the traybake was very well received at the cafe.  So much so that after a few such traybakes at Lynwood & Co, it became so popular that I could not keep up with the bake and I had to go back to the drawing board again.  It is not that a Bakewell traybake is difficult in itself, it is just that it is more difficult to make in large quantities i.e. a large single sheet of shortcrust pastry, which needs to be chilled, rolled, chilled, blind baked etc. before completing the rest of the bake.  In a larger kitchen with more prep chefs, this would have been possible, but as the main prep chef at the time it proved quite difficult to do when I had the Lynwood signature bakes to complete as well.

    I tried a couple of almond and cherry cakes after the Bakewell traybake and although they were still quite popular, they were never quite as delectable as the first two incarnations of the Bakewell.

    My last attempt at Bakewell at Lynwood & Co was in March of this year, when I tried Bakewell biscuits.  Although my bake resulted in the largest biscuits known to all people kind (okay, a hefty exaggeration) they were very delicious indeed.  The only problem with the bake (and a significant one at that) was that they were not too popular with the customers.  What we discovered through trial and error is that the preferred choice of biscuit at Lynwood & Co is the triple or quadruple chocolate cookie, which my colleague Shemaine first baked.

    Not put off entirely, but possibly for some months, my next Bakewell attempt was in August of this year.  Armed with a trusty BBC Good Food recipe, I made a cherry Bakewell cake.  Two light sponge cakes, separated by a cherry jam layer, topped with icing, toasted flaked almonds and glace cherries.  A culinary triumph even if I say so myself (so much so that the image of this bake adorns this post).

    I am not sure if or when there will be another Bakewell bake, but given the evidence above I am sure that I will give the Bakewell another go in the not too distant future.

  • Good Food

    For those of you who have read my posts for a while; the posts which are now private, you will know that BBC Good Food is my go-to site for recipes, particularly cakes and bakes.  The reason is essentially two-fold: (1) they have a large range of cakes and bakes to choose from and (2) the cakes and bakes tend to work well and are very tasty indeed.  Although I have been relying on the BBC Good Food site (not to mention their magazines, which I pick up from the newsagent if I see a copy of the latest edition) for some time now, I have had a bit of a BBC Good Food baking spate over the last few months.

    It started by baking a ‘brilliant banana loaf’ (their words).  My aim was to use my dehydrator, which I bought some months back, for the first time and luck would have it that the ‘brilliant banana loaf’ required dehydrated bananas for decoration, along with a drizzle of icing.  All was going well – the cake was baked and the bananas were dehydrating in the dehydrator – when I realised that I was running out of dehydrating time before my shift at the Coln Community Stores.   Rather than adding fully dehydrated bananas to my delicious banana loaf, I had to add a ‘sun-blushed’ version, which although looked absolutely fine when I photographed my creation, resulted in rather soggy, brown decorations by day two.  The good thing was that my lack of dehydrating time did not affect the taste of the cake in any way, just its appearance on day two.   The other good thing was that most of the cake was eaten on day one, so there was not much evidence of my flacid, discoloured bananas.  Note to self, ensure that you have enough dehydrating time (preferably overnight) and make another opportunity to practice your dehydrating sometime soon – perhaps lemons or oranges next time.

    My next bake was a decadent carrot cake loaf with a cinnamon cream frosting.  This bake came around as I was working one weekend at the Coln Community Stores (I don’t normally work on a weekend) and asked my husband, Jo to do the fruit and vegetable order.  When it came to ordering the carrots, he promises me that he asked the supplier for ‘the usual’ but when the order came in on the Monday, we were greeted with a large mound of carrots, which the Stores were certainly not going to sell in any great hurry.  By about day three, and still embarrassed by Jo (and my) collective faux pas, I decided to purchase about a kg of the carrots and then work out what I could make with them.  Carrot cake seemed the most obvious thing to make with carrots but I didn’t want to make a carrot cake that I had made before.  I also wanted to try a carrot cake loaf rather than cake.  A short google later, yet again the BBC Good Food site came up trumps.  Definitely one of the best carrot cakes I have made and tried to date.  Especially lovely with the walnuts on top.  With a retweet and like from BBC Good Foods, my carrot cake was quite a popular one on Twitter.

    My next two BBC bakes were a sticky malt loaf and a bitter orange and poppy seed cake.   Not to bore you too much with the details of these two bakes, lets just summarise as follows.  The sticky malt loaf was the best malt loaf I have ever tasted, full of flavour and moist (the word that makes everyone squirm).   One of my Twitter commentators remarked: ‘@bakebybuffy@bbcgoodfood that’s just gastro porn, stop it it’s too early ;-)’.  My bake was enjoyed warm with a generous spread of slightly salted butter, accompanied by a cup of tea.  Perfect!  The bitter orange and poppy seed cake was another flavour and texture triumph.  Following a discussion with one of my neighbours earlier in the week about the merits (or lack thereof) of the bakes on offer at the Coln Community Stores, I took a piece of my bitter orange and poppy seed cake around to his to try.  The following morning he approached me at the Coln Community Stores with a great deal of enthusiasm saying that it was the best cake that he had ever tasted.   I am sure he was exaggerating, but you can’t really get a better accolade than that.

    My final two BBC Good Food bakes were a chocolate and banana loaf which I made for my in-laws, when they visited us recently and a cherry Bakewell cake.   While I will briefly mention the chocolate and banana loaf here,  I will devote a separate blog to the cherry Bakewell cake as over the last 12 months I have tried various incarnations of the cherry Bakewell, some which have been a great success while others have been less so.

    Going back to the chocolate and banana loaf briefly, I have to admit that I resorted to using bought dehydrated bananas (as I didn’t have time or didn’t make the time to dehydrate my own with all the cooking I had to do the same weekend) to decorate the loaf.  It was another delicious bake, made especially delicious by a sour cream frosting.  A posting on Twitter seemed to confirm the popularity of the cake, with 11 retweets and 55 likes and with one commentator stating that they had made the loaf for their book club ladies and they all agreed that it was delicious.

    On that note, let me end my blog post by saying that if you are ever at a loss as to what to bake, scour BBC Good Food site.  I am sure that they will have something to your taste and I am sure whatever you choose it won’t disappoint.