• 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.

  • Nothing beats a warm banana and walnut muffin for breakfast

    Muffins have always been something that I have enjoyed making.  They are easier than most bakes, but still result in a delicious morsel to eat in a fraction of the time.  No mixers, blenders required, just a couple of bowls, one with your dry ingredients and one with your wet ingredients and a fork or spoon to combine the two.  The only care you need to take is when you add and mix your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients, as over-mixing at this stage of the process will result in an over-processed looking muffin with a chewy rather than light and fluffy texture.

    If you live in the UK, you will know that it has been very hot and dry (i.e. no rain, not a lack of humidity) of late (the experts are saying unprecedented), well with my reorganisation of my kitchen to make way for home baking, my fruit bowl was relegated to the top of my new storage racks in which there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. However, there is a problem with the relegated spot for my fruit bowl; it is a little too close to the overhead lights, which I turn on when I need a little more light in that part of the kitchen.   As a consequence, when I was taking down a couple of apples to have with my lunch yesterday, I discovered a few browning bananas.  Not wanting to throw them away (as they say, waste not want not), I decided that the first mission of the day today was to turn what would otherwise be food for my food waste bin into a delicious breakfast.

    After Googling banana muffins I settled on a recipe from BBC Good Foods, simply entitled ‘banana muffins’.   It had a five star rating, albeit if I am honest from only one reader.  Despite this and despite not having two of the ingredients required i.e. pecan nuts and buttermilk, I went ahead as planned.

    PS, I should mention that the BBC Good Food site is one of my go-to sites for basic recipes as 9.9 times out of 10, they yield delicious products.

    The 1st step in my banana muffin making was making my buttermilk replacement – mixing the 125 ml milk with a teaspoon of lemon and letting it sit for 20 minutes while I weighed out the rest of my ingredients.   This is a good alternative to buttermilk as sometimes buttermilk is hard to find or not something you necessarily have in your fridge.  Or put another way, you are more likely to have lemon or vinegar (vinegar works just as well) in your kitchen arsenal than buttermilk.

    I had a bag of handy walnuts, so used these instead of pecans.  Not to bore you with the rest of the process; lets just say that I followed the rest of the recipe as outlined on the BBC Good Food site until I got to portioning out my muffins.  Although the recipe suggested that it made 12 muffins, I used large tulip muffin cases and so the recipe only yielded 8 rather plump looking muffins.  Despite this, the cooking time was still around the 20 minute mark in my fan oven at 170 degrees Celsius.

    I ate my first one (yes, I ate two) warm with a cup of tea for breakfast.  Nothing beats a warm muffin just out of the oven.  However, just to check my theory, I thought I would try another one, this time cold, with a cup of coffee to recover from a shopping trip to Fairford.  Okay, shopping trip is a bit exaggerated as I merely picked up a few groceries from Londis, fresh vegetables and bread from the Fairford Market and toiletries from Boots.  Low and behold, my theory seemed to be correct.  The flavours of the muffin seemed to be more enhanced when it was warm.  I needn’t have tried that second muffin after all – while my taste buds may have liked it, I am sure my waistline or the scales won’t be liking it shortly.

    In conclusion, although a very fine muffin indeed, I feel that it could benefit from a little added spice (a pinch or two of cinnamon and/or allspice) and possibly toasting the walnuts (or pecans) before adding them to the mixture to get a nuttier flavour.   I will have to wait until I discover another batch of browned bananas on the top of my storage rack before I can put these suggestions to the test.  However, if you already have some brown bananas which need to be used up give my suggestions a go and let me know what you think.  You will find the recipe for the banana muffins (by Elena Silcock) at www.bbcgoodfood.com.  Happy baking!