Chocolate, Glacé Cherry and Coconut Slice

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There is a wonderful baking club on Twitter which I am very proud to be involved with. Their Twitter account name is @SundayBakeClub and they have an excellent blog too at The Sunday Baking Club. If you’re not familiar with them (although I should imagine most people reading this already are) they set a different theme every week and we all bake something on the Sunday that is connected with the theme. They then choose 10 to put on their blog, and we all vote for which one we think should win the virtual Golden Spoon prize. Last week’s theme was an extra special one. We could bake whatever we wanted as long as it had French Glacé Cherries in, and every bake entered earned a 20p donation to charity. The baker of the winning entry at the end of the voting gets to donate the whole amount raised to their chosen charity. The amount stands at £110 which is fantastic! At the time of writing this, the winner has yet to be announced, but its amazing to think that a charity will benefit from a group of people doing what they love… baking.

I entered 4 bakes. Well, more precisely, I entered 3 and my son Luke entered one. I had quite a few requests for the recipe for this one, so am putting it on here for you all to enjoy. I found it in a book called Cakes and Slices published by Murdoch Books. I had to slightly tweak the recipe as the top is meant to be plain chocolate, but Luke hates that with a passion so I used milk chocolate. It is still delicious, it just looks a lot more dramatic with a dark chocolate on top. Here’s the recipe:

FOR THE BASE

125g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

90g caster sugar

125g unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE FILLING

420g glacé cherries, chopped up small

60g icing sugar

135g desiccated coconut

125 ml condensed milk

60g unsalted butter, melted

50g white vegetable fat (Trex), melted

FOR TOPPING

150g plain or milk chocolate

25g unsalted butter

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Lightly grease a 7 x 10 inch rectangular baking tin and line the base with baking paper, letting the paper hang over the long sides of the tin so you can lift it out easily when its ready.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa, and sugar into a bowl, then add the vanilla and butter, and mix well to form a dough. I did this by hand, not with a mixer.
  • Turn out on to a lightly floured worktop, then gently knead it for about a minute to bring it all together. Using the back of a metal spoon, press this dough into the base of the tin. It’s a very soft dough so really easy to do. Place into the fridge and chill for 20 minutes.
  • Cover with baking paper, then cover the paper with baking beads, and bake blind for 10-15 minutes. Remove the paper and beads, then bake for a further 5 minutes. A word of warning here… I found the paper stuck to the mixture, so lift it away very carefully or you’ll lose half of your base! The base still felt extremely soft for me at this point, so I baked it for another 5 minutes again! Don’t worry if its still feeling fairly soft when it comes out of the oven… it will firm up when it cools.
  • Leave in the tin to cool.
  • Mix together the cherries, coconut and icing sugar until the cherries are completely coated, then add the condensed milk, melted butter and white vegetable fat. Mix well, then spread over the cooled base. Place in the fridge and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Break up the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl with the butter, then set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. When they have melted, stir to mix together, then spread on top of the cherry mixture and chill in the fridge until set.
  • When set, lift out of the tin using the long sides of paper to help you, and cut into desired sized slices.

It does take a long time to make with all the various stages, but is well worth it. The base is like a thinner version of the chocolate concrete/crunch we all remember well from school dinners. The filling is basically a soft coconut ice, and the chocolate just adds to the overall yumminess. It is absolutely scrumptious, a real treat.

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World Baking Day Bakes Part 2… Coconut and Chocolate Bundt

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As well as making the rose madeleines for World Baking Day, I wanted to bake my favourite type of cake… a bundt. I was trying to decide which flavour bundt to make, and while I was pondering I got a bit peckish so nibbled on a Bounty chocolate bar. And then it hit me. No, not the Bounty! The idea to make a bundt using those delicious flavours, coconut covered in chocolate. My love of Nordic Ware tins means that my collection is ever-expanding, so the next tricky decision was which tin to use. Of all the tins I own, the Bavaria tin is probably the least decorative one and as a result I hadn’t baked with it before. I had wrongly considered it to be a bit boring. I thought I’d try it out for this recipe though, and I’m so glad I did. The pattern is simply beautiful and is perfect for recipes which have a sauce-style topping, as it follows the lines perfectly on its path down the sides.

I’ve been asked before about what type of recipe you should use in a bundt tin. A lot of people will say you need a denser firmer recipe to make sure it holds its shape. Personally, I find no difference in how well they keep their form. I have used Victoria sponge recipes and the resulting bundts have been light as air, just in a beautiful shape. I think as long as you spend time preparing the tin well for baking, and allow the baked bundt 10 minutes to cool in the tin at the end, you shouldn’t have a problem with any recipe. At least that’s my own experience anyway. My chosen method of preparing the tin is to apply Wilton Cake Release and use a pastry brush to spread it into every last nook and cranny, including the centre piece. I have never had a bundt stick in the tin using this method. So here’s my very easy recipe. I hope you like it.

250g unsalted butter, room temperature

250g caster sugar

4 large eggs, beaten, and at room temperature

250g self-raising flour, sifted

4 tbsp creamed coconut, melted

For the chocolate topping (optional)

150g milk chocolate

2 tbsp creamed coconut, melted

desiccated coconut, to decorate

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease the bundt tin well.
  • In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and very fluffy. This takes me about 10 minutes.
  • Very gradually add the eggs, beating the mixture well after each addition. If your mixture starts to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour.
  • Add the sifted flour to the batter and fold in gently with a large metal spoon or a spatula. Try to keep as much air in the mixture as possible, so fold in gently until the mixture is smooth and lump-free. Add the coconut and gently fold that in too.
  • Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden and the top springs back up when pressed. To check the middle is cooked, insert a skewer and remove again. if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.
  • Leave in the tin for 10 minutes to cool, and then turn out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • To make the chocolate topping, break up the chocolate and place into a small heatproof bowl, with the creamed coconut. Place over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. When the chocolate has melted, mix well to combine the melted coconut. If it is a little bit too thick, add a drop of milk and mix well.
  • Spoon the chocolate mixture over the top of the bundt, letting it run down the sides and into the middle. Sprinkle desiccated coconut on the top to decorate. Leave to set, then enjoy!

If you don’t want a chocolate topping, this is also lovely sprinkled with sifted icing sugar. That highlights the pattern even more. The coconut in the cake makes it so moist and tasty. I will definitely be making this again and again!

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World Baking Day Bakes Part 1… Bunch of Roses Madeleines

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Sunday 17th May was World Baking Day, a day to bake for those you love. I wanted to bake something special, something meaningful.

I wrote in my last blog post about my father. I haven’t yet mentioned my mother, so now’s the time. Sadly I have to admit I didn’t really know her all that well. For as long back in my memory as I can go, Mum was ill, and because she was ill my sister and I spent a lot of time staying at grandparents’ houses, and being sent off to church 5 times a week to give Mum some peace at home. I had no idea how ill she was so free time was spent with my best friend Suzanne. This was in the days when no one worried if you were out from morning till teatime, and I grew up in a sleepy village in South Wales which had a river, fields and a mountain to provide me with hours of adventure. Home was for sleeping. Because I was out all the time I didn’t ever spend any quality time with Mum, something I deeply regret now. We all know what they say about hindsight! I was 12 when she lost her battle with cancer. She was only 40. I have no idea what her favourite colour was, or her favourite food. All I can remember is her favourite films were The King and I, and Chariots of Fire, and she loved roses. We had a beautiful rose garden at the front of our house with roses of every colour. I used to love breathing in their fragrance as I walked past them on my way out. Rose is now my favourite fragrance and flavour. I think part of the reason I love it so much is that it makes me feel closer to Mum. For that reason too, I wanted my bake of love for World Baking Day to have rose flavouring.

While searching through my recipe books, I found the perfect one. It was in the John Whaite Bakes book. If you don’t already own this, I would highly recommend it. Its packed with really delicious recipes and gorgeous photos.

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John Whaite has very kindly given me permission to share his recipe with you. So here is my first bake of World Baking Day… Bunch of Roses Madeleines.

100g salted butter

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

100g plain flour, sifted

a few drops of rosewater

For the fondant icing (optional)

200g ready-to-roll fondant icing

40ml water

a few drops of rosewater

Pink or red food colouring

100g white chocolate

  • Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5. Grease and flour your madeleine tin, then place in the freezer.
  • Put the butter in a small saucepan and heat on high until melted and just starting to brown. Set aside.
  • Place the eggs and sugar in a bowl and whisk on full speed with a handheld or stand mixer, until frothy, light, and the mixture falls in ribbons from the whisk. This will take about 4 minutes in a stand mixer, and a few minutes longer with a handheld one.
  • Add the sifted flour by pouring it down the side of the bowl. Sifting it straight into the eggs could deflate the mixture so it is much better to pour it down the side. Pour the butter down the side in the same way, then fold in the flour and butter until you have a smooth light batter. Add rosewater to taste.
  • Remove the tin from the freezer. Place about 2 teaspoonfuls of batter into each hole. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until the edges are just starting to brown. Remove immediately from the tins and place on a cooling rack, ridged side up. Allow to cool.
  • Beat the fondant icing until it breaks apart, then add the water and whisk into a thick pourable icing. Add rosewater to taste, and the colouring to make it into a soft pink. Spoon over the madeleines.
  • Melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, then spoon into a piping bag with a writing nozzle (tiny hole) in. Quickly and confidently pipe the chocolate over the madeleines. Allow the chocolate to set before serving.

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Online Shoppers… Give as you Live

As those of you who are familiar with me will already know, I was beyond devastated last March when my father lost his short battle with Multiple Myeloma. He had been diagnosed with it 5 months earlier which was a huge shock to us all, and given an approximate 2 year life expectancy. He spent his final 5 months in hospital as they tried various treatments to fight it. Sadly it spread rapidly causing his ribs to break every time he coughed/sneezed etc. I’ll never forget the day I received the phone call to say we needed to get to the hospital quickly as he was fighting for his life. The shock was immense as we had all been convinced this was a battle he would win. Dad was a fighter and there were so many things he hadn’t done that he still wanted to. That was Sunday March 2nd. Seeing him in the hospital bed struggling to breathe was horrendous. On Monday they injected a syringe drive into his abdomen to make him comfortable and I was taken into a side room where a lovely doctor held my hand and explained that this was the end. Dad wasn’t going to get better so they were just going to keep him pain-free and sedated and he would eventually fall into the eternal sleep. The doctor and a nurse hugged me as I sobbed uncontrollably,and then I went back to Dad’s bedside. He had always said that when he was in most pain he visualised himself flying with the seagulls over oceans, feeling free and at peace. As I held his hand I whispered to him that he could now finally fly free. Tears streamed down my face as this was the last thing I really wanted. I wanted him to wake up and smile at me and tell me I was a dafty for getting upset. I wanted him to see his house, as we had spent weeks clearing it and getting it ready for him to have a hospital bed in his lounge as he couldn’t get upstairs any more. I wanted him to sit with my son Luke as Dad was an artist and Luke loves anything creative, so I had hopes of them painting together. But all of those hopes were gone now, and Dad fell asleep forever in the early hours of March 5th. Never a day goes by when I don’t miss him, and over a year later I still cry every day thinking about him.

I had never heard of Myeloma before Dad’s diagnosis. In fact when I was told that was what he had I thought it meant skin cancer, getting it confused with melanoma. It is actually a cancer of the blood plasma cells made in bone marrow. I wanted to do something to help to raise awareness/ money for the main UK charity for myeloma…  Myeloma UK. I’m not rich by any means so when I discovered there is an amazing site called Give as you Live I decided to register with them.

Give as you Live lets you raise money for your chosen charity simply by shopping online. It costs you nothing extra, money is donated by the retailers. Most of us nowadays do at least some shopping online. I think I can safely say most of mine is now done this way. So why not raise money at the same time? It seems a no-brainer to me. All you need to do is register your details on the Give as you Live website, choose your favourite charity to raise money for, and shop till you drop! You can download an app on your mobile devices, which you use to browse your favourite retailers. Just by buying from them through the app, a percentage of the money you spent is donated by the retailer. Likewise, on your PC you can install a shopping bar. Using this, if you type in a product into Google it will highlight which companies will donate when you purchase from them. It really is so simple and NO EXTRA COST TO YOU. You can buy anything from a pencil to a holiday and a percentage will be donated. So far, most of the companies I use to buy from donate money. Amazon. Ebay, Lakeland, Argos, Debenhams…the list goes on and on. You can even raise money with your favourite supermarket if you do your grocery shopping online.

Everyone has a particular charity especially close to their heart. Why not Give as you Live and help your chosen charity raise extra funds from today? Simple! 🙂

Caramel Choux Rings recipe

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Sometimes I get a craving for a yummy fresh cream-filled treat, and today was one of those days. Normally I’d quickly bake up a Victoria sponge and cram it with cream and strawberries, but today I wanted something lighter. I love making choux pastry. There’s something strangely satisfying about watching something pale and flat puff up into a golden cloud of scrumptiousness. I’ve tried a few different recipes, but this one is my favourite.

CHOUX PASTRY

50g chilled butter

150 ml cold water

65g plain flour, sieved twice

2 large eggs, beaten

  • Preheat oven to 200C or 180C fan oven. Grease and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Greasing the sheet keeps the paper nicely in place. Do not grease the top of the paper).
  • Put the butter and water in a medium-sized saucepan, and place on a medium heat until the butter has melted. Let it come to a boil, then remove from the heat.
  • Quickly add the flour all in one go and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft ball and doesn’t stick to the sides of the pan. It will look something like this:

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  • Leave to cool for 5 minutes. This is important or you will end up with a scrambled egg mixture in the next part!
  • Gradually add the beaten eggs, using a balloon whisk to mix well after each addition. It will end up looking like this:

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  • You can use this pastry mixture any way you want… spoon small mounds on to the baking sheet to make profiteroles, or pipe lines to make eclairs. I used a large round nozzle to pipe rings on to the sheet. This recipe made 6 large rings. When you have piped the shape you want, dip your finger into water and smooth down any peaks that have formed at the end of piping.

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  • Bake on the middle shelf of your oven for 25 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven, cut a small slit in each ring, and return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until crisp. This allows the steam to escape and dries out the inside of the pastry.
  • When crisp, remove from the oven, leave on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then cut in half horizontally. Leave to cool completely on wire cooling racks.

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You can fill and decorate these however you like, but the usual filling is whipped cream. I piped whipped cream into mine, spread a delicious caramel icing on top, and sprinkled butterscotch pieces (available from Asda) liberally on the icing. The icing was a quick and easy caramel sauce mixed with sieved icing sugar.

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They would be just as delicious with chocolate on top or any flavoured icing.

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I’m entering these Choux Rings into the May 2015 Perfecting Patisserie Blogging Challenge, which is hosted by Lucy at BakingQueen74 and Kevin at The Crafty Larder.