Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Biscuit Barrel April 14 Round Up

Another month and another Biscuit Barrel challenge, this time packed with fun filled bakes. 

As the exam, poster presentation and major hand-in date draws closer (May 13th, yes, all on the same day - tea will be required) things are getting more than stressy but I've still enjoyed seeing all your fantastic baking projects. It cheered me up that little bit every time I saw a new one pop up on the list and I hope you all enjoy reading about them too.

First up is Helen at Family Friends Food with these Spring Flower Thumbprint Cookies. I hadn't even read the title when I saw the picture and thought how pretty and Spring like they looked - as well as delicious. Making use of some unable-to-resist bargain snowflake cutters, these biscuits are ideal to make with children or even for making into cookie pops.

Next is Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker with these Blueberry and Peach Maple Syrup Muffins. Doesn't that sound like such a yummy combination to you? Also, these are another bake which I'm sure many would feel a little less guilty about eating because of the fruit content - I know I'm not the only one who likes bakes that are almost one of your five (or seven!) a day. They wouldn't require me to be persuaded to eat them - they look far too inviting already.

Ros has certainly been having a lot of fun this month so I've decided to group all her entries together - I know I would certainly have fun eating them! Not least these Mini Peanut Butter and Chocolate Croissants. I can't give you too much detail because that would spoil the delicious surprise and that is all part of the fun!

If I can ever stop myself eating leftover buttercream long enough to do something with it, I'm definitely going to give these Chocolate Chip Cookies a whirl. Ros has made similar lemon ones before but chocolate ones...enough said.

Ros' next entry are these Chorizo and Manchego Cheese Hot Cross Buns. I bet most people have never had a savoury hot cross bun but what a wonderful variation these are. 

These Chocolate Easter Egg Nests from Ros are a fine example of a classic Easter treat. What is it about making and eating cereal coated in chocolate that is so addictive to all ages???

I would be very happy to eat any of Ros' entries this month but these Chocolate Easter Eggs with a Twist have to be my favourite. The twist? Chocolate cake baked into egg shells! So clever and open to using your favourite cake recipe in a new, fun way.
Something a little different now from Stuart at Cakeyboi with these Bunny Lollichops. Made from marshmallows, sweeties and almonds held together with white chocolate these would be fun for children and adults. I know my nephews would love them but if they really are only suitable for children then I'd quite like to be eight again please.

Kate from The Gluten Free Alchemist made these gluten free Easter Egg Pops and I'm sure you'll agree that this is another goodie that adults will be pretending that they have no idea why one disappears from the basket each time they pass! Originally as part of a homework project, deeply flavoured with a wonderful texture, these egg pops bring so much Easter cheer into the room by their bright colours alone. 

Sue from A Palatable Pastime made these Amazing Apricot Bars to recreate and improve on a treat she had seen in the shops.I was hooked as soon as I read the words 'ooey gooey' and the caramel just tops it off for me. They come with the warning to let them cool and set in the pan before eating but I'm not sure I could wait that long.

This month I made Monster Cookies for my entry. Containing all the cookie favourites of peanut butter, oats, chocolate chips and sweeties, I think it might be worth renaming these as 'Monsterly Addictive Cookies' and that doesn't even begin to describe the cookie dough itself.

I think it is easy to see why Janine from Cake of the Week thought these Rainbow Dinosaur Pinata Cookies fit the theme this month and I completely agree. Admitting that they took a while to make, the proof of their popularity came from the disappearance of several soon after they were finished. If I'd been Janine's flatmate at the time, I think I would have been hnging around during the construction so I could whip off with one ASAP too.

Caroline from Caroline Makes shows some fantastic sugarcraft skills and ingenuity in these Spring Cake Pops. Looking real enough to fool people into thinking they were real flowers they taste lovely too. It seems a shame to bite into them with then again a shame not to enjoy the taste.

In trying to recreate one thing, Alexadra from The Lass in the Apron managed to nail another favourite treat of hers in these Chocolate Sandwich Cookies with Rice Crispie Ganache. The addition of the cereal adds a malty flavour which Alexandra is keen on and adds another diension to a classic smooth and creamy filling.

Jill from Lapin d'Or and More has come up with a fabulous combination in these Animal Biscuits for Easter. A sugar biscuit base with a thin layer of marzipan and the whole thing carefully dipped in chocolate to coat the base and edges. I wouldn't be brave enough to tackle the chocolate dipping myself but I'd welcome a plate of these to help my revision.

Louisa at Eat Your Veg is promoting the virtues of making your own biscuits in these Easter Biscuits which are spiced and fruited, containing less sugar than normal with the added benefits of wholemeal flour. When there is all that goodness to consider, there is no need to feel any guilt at eating more than one I reckon.

Strawberries and bananas are a brilliant combination in many things and Tina from The Worktop gives us another example in these Strawberry Banana Mini Pie Bites. In exploring the new products available in the UK compared to those in America, Tina has found that ready to roll shortcrust pastry is perfect for dinky little goodies such as these. They are just the right size to sneak one or three when left unguarded for a second

Grace from Life Can Be Simple made these Coconut Butter Cookies after learning quite a bit about coconut and especially coconut cream. These cookies use coconut cream powder which Grace says gives the most amazing scent to the air while baking and the cookies themselves are lovely too, coconutty and buttery at the same time. 

These Jammy Flapjacks are our last entry this month from Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog. Cleverly using a pot of homemade strawberry jam to replace the sugar and syrup in a normal flapjack recipe, these turned out to be very popular. I am definitely trying this for myself come summer when I'm making jams.

Wow! What a bumper month it has been this time. Once agan I' incredibly grateful for all those who have took the time to enter bakes - I wouldn't have this challenge without you. Check back in a few days time on May 1st to see what the next theme is and if you have any ideas for future themes or ingredients then please let me know. I'm always interested to here your thoughts. See you soon!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Simnel Eccles Cake

You know how sometimes you get such a good idea for a bake that it has to be tried, even if it isn't quite appropriate at the time? Or that you know you are likely to upset your mother by making it while you are away at university, because it is the type of cake she will love but the idea is such a good one that you have to try it anyway? Well this was one of those ideas.

I came across a recipe in a BBC Good Food supplement for an Eccles Cake but I wasn't happy that they had included chunks of apple. A cake version of a pastry that I've never been keen on really appealed because cake is my thing. When I'm playing around with recipes I like to stay as true to the original idea as possible (contradiction I know) and since when have Eccles cakes contained apples? That's just being silly. So I did it my way.

At the same time as seeing the original recipe, I was fancying making a Simnel cake. I was determined that this year would be the year I would make one, as well as my own marzipan, even if I didn't get chance at Easter time. Then it hit me. Combine them both. Oh my goodness me - what a result.

I couldn't believe how good it tasted. Such a difference from the pastries that I don't like and yet it contains all the flavours of tradtion. A rich and buttery, silky close crumb enveloping a layer of spiced, almost caramelised currants. Add in the layer of homemade marzipan which bakes to become a melting fudgy delight and finish it off with another layer of glazed and toasted marzipan on top. So simple. So delicious.

I really didn't realise how easy it is to make your own marzipan. I've heard of people that say it isn't worth it. Well, I don't care how many recipes you have published. You've got something wrong. And if it's getting the texture right that is the bother......really? It may have been a case of beginners luck with me. Now I want to try other nut marzipans. My mum will be particularly happy when I do a pecan version though I might not be able to make it in front of her or none will end up as intended.

Even my housemate liked the marzipan. It was a struggle to save her some but the meagre ball I did manage to not eat was devoured by her even though she doesn't like the shop bought stuff. I'm never buying the packet stuff again.

So. I may have missed Easter Sunday but when you like a baked good that much enjoyment of it shouldn't be limited to certain seasons. I think Mum would be pretty pleased if I made it again sometime soon. Then again, there are the hot cross buns I want to play with before I go back to university. We've even avoided buying our favourites from M&S because I have ideas. I hope they are worth the wait. If they are anywhere as near as successful as I thought this cake was then I'll be onto something good. Happy Easter everyone!

print recipe

Simnel Eccles Cake
A cake version of the famous spiced fruit filled buttery pastry crossed with the most classic of Easter cakes - simnel cake.
For the marzipan:
  • 225g ground almonds
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 0.5 tsp almond extract
  • Apricot jam or marmalade to glaze
For the cake:
  • 175g softened butter
  • 175g dark soft brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 75g plain yoghurt
For the filling:
  • 0.5 tsp each cinnamon and mixed spice
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp dark soft brown sugar
  • 110g currants
1. First make the marzipan. Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar together into a bowl then mix in the almond extract and egg. Knead together until combined and smooth, form into a ball and wrap well in cling film until required.2. Next prepare the filling. Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl until even distributed. Set aside while you make the cake.3. Set the oven to 170 C/150 C fan and grease and line a 7" circular cake tin.4. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together then beat into the butter and sugar a little at a time until all combined. Sift the flour then fold into the mixture, alternating with the yoghurt.5. Transfer half the mixture to the cake tin. Roll out a third of the marzipan to a few mm thick and cut to a circle which fits into the tin. Lay on top of the cake mix, smoothing out any of the bubbles. Place the fruit filling on top leaving a border, then add the remaining cake mixture, first in the border space, then over the top. Level off and bake in the preheated oven for around an hour, checking the cake and adjusting the temperature as necessary.6. When a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean remove the cake from the oven and cool in the tin on a wire rack.7. When the cake is cool, remove from the tin. Roll out half the remaining marzipan to a few mm thick and cut to a circle slightly larger than the cake. Sieve some warmed aprocot jam or shredless marmalade and use to stick the disc to the top of the cake and crimp the edges. If the top of your cake isn't level, turn upside down and use the base as the top.8. Make 11 balls from the last of the marzipan (mine were about 10g each) and use some more jam/marmalade to stick around the cake edge. Place the cake under a heated grill until starting to brown, then remove and glaze with jam/marmalade. Enjoy!
If the hosts can accept my apologies for being so boastful in this post, I'd like to enter this into a couple of Easter themed challenges. I would like to blame it on how excited I get when I get a bake right. Passion is good in a baker right?! These challenges are:

Calendar Cakes host by Rachel from Dollybakes.

Love Cake hosted by Ness at JibberJabberUK.

Both are brilliant challenges so pop over to see what is going on!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Peanut Butter White Chocolate Rocky Road Cake Pops

Whether you are religious or not, Easter is associated with fun. And chocolate of course. Let's never forget the chocolate. What is more fun to eat than rocky road? Ok so maybe those novelty looking bitesized treats known as cake pops. What about them both combined? With some classic Easter mini eggs stuck on and half a kilogram of sprinkles for good measure? Hell yes!

A few weeks ago I was offered the chance to receive some Renshaw baking goodies to create some spring themed cake pops for a competition they are running. I truly couldn't believe my luck.

Of course, I jumped at the chance despite not having a great deal of experience with cake pops (see my Almond Cake Pop Truffles. Let's not mention the horrendous mess I made of the ones to go on top of the 2013 Christmas cake.) However, I'm pretty pleased with these. The colours instantly remind me of the pretty shades of spring blooms and with the Mini Eggs prominent in the decoration they have a clear spring Easter link.

In my parcel I received some of Renshaw's Colour Melts in white, red, pink, blue, yellow and green, some multi-coloured sprinkles, some multi-coloured hundreds and thousands, and some white flower and modelling paste. The products I was most eager to try out were the Colour Melts because I've heard they are so easy to use. Well I heard correctly. Literally all you do is open the tub, stick them inthe microwave and stir periodically until melted. Plus, they gave my cake pop an even coat and hid the roughness natural to rocky road brilliantly, drying quick enough so my sprinkles weren't dropping everywhere in blobs. Well done Renshaw!

Given more time (the parcel had a bit of a treck around Yorkshire so I didn't receive it until Thursday mid-afternoon) I would have had a play with the modelling paste but alas time didn't allow. Never fear though, I will tell you all about my shenanigans when they occur. Anyway, rocky road is always a winner. I've been wanting to make a white chocolate version for a while and then on a whim I decided to throw in some peanut butter. Oh my.

Need I say much more? Sweet and creamy white chocolate combined with the addictive appeal of crunchy peanut butter and the classic combination of springy, chewy marhmallows, crunchy traditional digestives and the juicy nuggets of glace cherries. Molded into balls, these (large) bite-sized goodies are then given a thick coating of pink(!) Colour Melts and covered in as many sprinkles as can possibly be held - another layer of cruncy, crackly fun. The Mini Eggs make the perfect finisher - the milk chocolate a pleasing contrast to the vanilla white chocolate. Easter Sunday may be over in a few hours but that shouldn't stop you from making something so good. 

print recipe

Peanut Butter White Chocolate Rocky Road Cake Pops
Classic roacky road is given a twist in these cake pops with white chocolate, peanut butter and good old Mini Eggs. The perfect Easter treat.
  • 300g white chocolate, chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 50g crunchy peanut butter
  • 40g golden syrup
  • 40g digestive biscuit, crumbled into rough pieces
  • 50g marshmallows, chopped into small pieces
  • 60g glace cherries, rinsed, dried and quartered
  • 200g Renshaw Colour Melts in a colour of your choice
  • Multi-coloured sprinkles
  • 100g bag Cadbury Mini Eggs*
1. In a microwavem melt together the chocolate, butter, peanut butter and golden syrup, stirring frequently.2. Mix in the digestives, marshmallows and cherries until well combined then divide between a cake pop mold** or form into rough balls. Cover loosely and chill in the fridge until well set.3. Melt the Colour Melts as directed. Insert a tootpick into each cake pop and did into the Colour Melts, tapping the stick on the edge of the tub to get rid of the excess, rotating as you go. Quickly did the wet cake pop into the sprinkles. Leave to set in a polystyrene block or bowl of rice.4. Once set, re-melt any remaining colour melts and use a tiny bit to attach a Mini Egg to each cake pop. Leave to set then enjoy.

*Any leftovers are of course cook's perks. 
**I used a silicone mold for this and got twenty cake pops as well as a generous amount extra for quality control taste testing.
I may have created these for Renshaw's competition but hopefully they will still be accepted into a few Easter themed baking challenegs this month. These are:-

Treat Petite, this month hosted by Stuart from Cakeyboi, alternating with Kat from The Baking Explorer.

We Should Cocoa, originally created by Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog but hosted this month by Rachel from Rachel Cotterill.

Lets Cook hosted by Nayna from simply.food.

Easter inspires so much fun baking that I really cannot wait to see all the round-ups!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Monster Cookies

I would start this post with an apology for all the forthcoming capitals and repetition but that would be a lie. I'm not sorry in the slightest. These cookies are just TOO DAMN GOOD. I haven't baked a peanut butter cookie for aaaaages, and one with oats even longer. 

A couple of weeks ago I got it into my head that I had to bake  apeanut butter cookie, possibly with oats so I turned to one of my favourite blogs - Sally's Baking Addiction. Sally loves the combination of peanut butter and chocolate herself and amongst all the other orgeous recipes on her blog, there is a whole section on peanut butter ones. Needless to say, I spent rather a lot of timme pouring over those pages. Seriously, if you haven't discovered Sally's blog already you really ought to pop on over there. It's really good and Sallly seems like a lovely person to boot. Plus, it's where these AMAZING cookies originally came from. Before my, ahem, (minor) adaptations.  

The day I made these, I was supposed to be getting on with uni work. Revision to be exact. Now can you see why I wanted to bake rather than work. The name of this blog is I'd Much Rather Bake Than... after all. 

Seeing as it was a new recipe to me, and just because I wanted to make sure it was alright to shar with all my lovely readers in the raw, I tried the dough. Repeatedly. Like over and over. If you are one of those people with an iron will who only ever eats the cooked and finished product, then if you think the cookies are addictive, you should break your own mould and try the dough. There would've been a good few more cookies if it weren't so good. Needless to say, I had a very late lunch that day after the number of bits I snaffled. With and without the chocolate in. AND I'M NOT EVEN SORRY.

So yes. An amazingly delicious, soft and melty (but absolutely not cakey), peanut butter loaded, oaty, chocolate goodie packed cookie. Craggy is beauty in this case. That's what a monster cookie is and this example is prime.

print recipe

Monster Cookies
A deliciously soft baked cookie to get that wonderful state of melting crumbliness. Packed with peanut butter, chocolate chips and M&Ms. The crunchy peanut butter adds even more texture.
  • 115g butter, softened
  • 150g dark soft brown sugar
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 185g crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 160g plain flour
  • 2 sachets microwave oats
  • 150g chocolate M&Ms
  • 90g milk chocolate chips
1. Set the oven to 180 C/160 C fan and line a bakinng sheet with baking paper.2. Cream the butter and sugars together until well blended then mix in the peanut butter, followed by the egg and vanilla. 3. Mix in the baking powder, flour and oats until just combined then fold in the chocolate/M&Ms, reserving a few for the tops if you wish.4. Roll into balls (mine were about 25g each) and place on the baking sheet. Press down slightly and bake for 10 mins for each tray, turning the tray half way through. Cool on the tray for a few mins after pressing down to the desired thickness with your hand (carefully!) then remove to a rack and continue with batches. 

Credit for the original recipe to Sally's Baking Addiction.
My Biscuit Barrel challenge has the theme of FUN this month and I so enjoyed making and gobbling these cookies that I would be foolish not to pu them into the pot. Please spread the Biscuit Barrel word if you can!

I'm also sharing these with the No Waste Food Challenge this month, currently being hosted by Ness at JibberJabberUK on behalf of Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. The two sachets of microwave oats would've been sat in my cupboard for ages if I hadn't used them in baking because they weren't a very nice brand to eat as porridge but they were 100% perfect for using in these cookies. I should know - I ate enough f the raw mixture!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Biscuit Barrel Challenge - April 14

Welcome to a new month and a new Biscuit Barrel challenge. Last month the theme was spring and it was fantastic to see so many recipes which you connected with the new season in some way - once again I was made very hungry by looking at so many delicious treats. March proved to be an even bigger treat for me because I had the good fortune to host the We Should Cocoa challenge - one of my favourite blogging challenges. It was such fun and I am ever so grateful to Choclette for letting me host, and to each an every one of you who entered a bake or spread the word.

April is a continuation of spring and often contains some of the most drizzly days before they start to brighten, heading towards May and summery June. The rain (although we've had a lot of that lately anyway) can get people down and what better way to cheer yourself up with a homemade goodie? With that in mind, the theme for this month is...
Once again this can be interpreted any which way you like. It can be something you think is fun to make, fun to eat, fits in with Easter cheer, something you would serve at a gathering as a treat for friends and family etc. Admittedly, now I've set the challenge I've just realised that I find most baking fun so I'm going to have a hard job choosing my entry. Never mind, the more the merrier!

Enjoy yourselves baking!

The Biscuit Barrel Challenge rules:
  1. Blog about your recipe that fits in with the theme of the month, linking back to I'd Much Rather Bake Than... Include the logo in your post and add 'The Biscuit Barrel' as a label.
  2. It would be lovely if you could follow I'd Much Rather Bake Than... using the Google Friend Connect Button.
  3. Add the link to your post to the linky tool at the bottom of the post of the month (see above for themes/inks) by the 26th of the month. Don't worry, it's really easy.
  4. The recipe can be your own or someone else, just give credit where it is due.You can also add old posts as long as they have been updated to include the logo/link/label.
  5. You can submit as many recipes as you like and enter your recipe into as many other challenges as you wish as long as it complies with the rules of that challenge.
  6. Don't be concerned about joining in every month. When you have time or when you feel like it is fine.
  7. If you are on Twitter tweet your link to be @MustBakeCakes and use #biscuitbarrel and I'll try to retweet those I see. I'll also pin entries onto the Biscuit Barrel board on Pinterest.
  8. Any questions feel free to ask in a comment or email at smile101@fsmail.net or laurajdenman@gmail.com
  9. Most important of all, have fun!