Thursday, 20 November 2014

Sweet Potato and Banana Squares

biscuit base, sweet potato and banana mousse filling and cream on top

What to do if you have run out of pumpkin?

Reach for the sweet potato of course! This combination of flavours (sweet potato and banana) is something I had heard mentioned briefly on Barefoot Contessa who was baking with pumpkin instead.

I decided to have a look online and there were more pumpkin and banana flavour combos out there, rather than with sweet potato. But, heyho, give it a go! (I just boiled three chopped sweet potatoes until soft and mashed them within an inch of their life to get a good consistency for this recipe.)

This no-bake treat is like a slice of pie, in a way, with a lovely sweet mousse-like filling.

Instead of the traditional pie, I decided to make these into little squares so everyone got a piece they could pick up with their hands.

For the base, instead of a regular digestive biscuit/graham cracker crust, I used Biscoff instead to add another dimension of flavour which worked really well.

biscuit base, sweet potato and banana mousse filling and cream on top

To top things off, I went down a bit of a retro route and spread on some 'Dream Topping'. It holds it's shape and lasts longer than fresh cream would on top. But you could always add whipped cream instead.

Lastly, for a bit of tropical(ness) I sprinkled on some toasted coconut which complemented all the flavours well.

biscuit base, sweet potato and banana mousse filling and cream on top

My taste-testers (i.e. work colleagues) decided that they tasted somewhere in between a banoffee pie and carrot cake. Not bad at all, I’m sure you will agree.

Here’s how I made it (there are quite a few steps, so please be patient!)

print recipe

Sweet Potato and Banana Squares
Cross between carrot cake and banoffee pie!
Adapted from
  • 250 grams Biscoff type biscuits
  • 125 grams unsalted butter
  • 425 grams sweet potato, mashed
  • 125ml milk
  • 200 grams light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons powdered gelatine
  • 1 medium ripe banana, mashed
  • 125 ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 pkg Dream Topping, prepared (or 250ml Double Cream)
  • 2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
Line a 9”x9” square tin with foil. Crush the biscuits in a food processor until they are a fine crumb. Melt the butter in a saucepan then combine with the crushed biscuit. Transfer to the tin and cover the bottom, pressing down firmly. Place in fridge to firm, at least 2 hours. In a bowl, over a simmering pan of water, combine the milk, sweet potato, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and the nutmeg. Stir for 5 minutes until hot. Whisk the egg yolks together in another bowl and add a small amount of the sweet potato mix, to warm it up. Add the warmed egg yolks to the rest of the sweet potato mix, over the simmering water, and continue to stir for about 5 minutes until the mix is thickened. Add the gelatine to 4 tablespoons of cold water and let soften for about 5 minutes. Then add the gelatine and the mashed banana to the sweet potato mix. Combine until smooth. Allow to cool. Whisk the double cream and add the 2 tablespoons of sugar when soft peaks are formed. Keep beating until stiff peaks are reached. Fold the cream into the sweet potato mix. Pour the sweet potato mix over the child biscuit base and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight. To finish add the prepared dream topping, or whipped double cream to the top and smooth with an off-set spatula. Toast the coconut in a small frying pan until lightly golden and sprinkle over the top. Allow to chill another hour and then slice into squares. Enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 25 squares approx.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Blueberry Muffin Biscotti

I love blueberry muffins. I’m sure I’ve told you that in the past. But, back in my childhood, there was nothing blueberry in the UK at all!

I had to travel to Edinburgh into Jenner’s Food Hall before I got my hands on a large tin of blueberries, shipped from the US at some exorbitant cost!

Slowly, but gradually, blueberries did filter through into UK life. I remember blueberry Hubba Bubba (It was the 80’s), blueberry soft-drinks and thankfully Blueberry Muffins courtesy of a Mrs B Crocker and her packet mixes.

I loved those packet mixes – opening the can of little highly fragrant berries and stirring them through the prepared batter. In hindsight, the blueberries were strangely tiny, which I discovered again recently, after buying my first pack of blueberry muffin mix in a very long time.

Don’t worry, I’m not just going to whip up a batch of boxed muffins. I am making these into biscotti, the hard, crunchy biscuits which are perfect with a cuppa. I love taking boxed cake mixes and making them into other treats such as cookies or cake batter bark.

I saw a recipe on the Nestle website, which used a box of blueberry mix to make these. But they added white chocolate chips as well. How about just the packet mix, unadulterated, twice baked into a crispy cookie (for biscotti translates as twice baked, as we all know)?

Actually, in America the packet mixes must come in huge sizes. I had to severely adapt the recipe to accommodate the rather less plentiful packet sizes we get. Still, it made a lovely toasty biscuit, with all the taste you would expect from a blueberry muffin.

Here’s how it’s done:

print recipe

Blueberry Muffin Biscotti
Blueberry Muffin Flavoured Biscotti!
Adapted from Nestle
  • 1 pkg. (about 375g) Blueberry Muffin Mix (with can of blueberries inside)
  • 40 grams plain flour
  • 60 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • 200 grams icing sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Drain the can of blueberries, reserving the liquid. Absorb any excess liquid from the blueberries with a piece of kitchen paper. In a bowl mix together the cake mix, flour and butter. Use your hands to rub the butter into the dry ingredients. It should resemble breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix through until a dough forms. Add the drained blueberries and mix through, using your hands if necessary. Don’t worry if the blueberries squash up a bit. Transfer the dough onto the baking sheet and form into a thin log about 2 inches wide. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, then transfer the log onto a cooling rack, for one hour. Turn the heat down to 150C. After the hour, with a serrated knife, cut the log into slices about ¾ inch thick. On a new piece of greaseproof paper, on the baking tray, stand the slices upright and carefully place into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. You want the pieces to slowly bake and almost toast. They should turn lightly golden brown, not burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully. Mix the icing sugar with 2-3 teaspoons of the reserved liquid from the can of blueberries and mix into a drizzling consistency. Drizzle over the cooled biscotti and allow the icing to set. Enjoy your biscotto with a cuppa!
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 biscotti

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Cakeyboi Radio!

Just a quickie today, I’m still getting over the horror of my radio appearance yesterday on BBC Radio Scotland’s Kitchen Café.
I’m sure you have heard of car-crash TV, but this was more like car-crash radio!
During the week I was asked if I’d like to appear on Friday’s show which was a Children in Need special. Host Clare English (above) and her producers were making cakes, as many folk were having bake-sales for Pudsey, and wanted to discuss baking on the show.

I was to be there as the amateur baker whilst Fiona Burrell from the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School was there as the professional.

I turned up at the studio in Dundee – during my lunchbreak at work – and soon was sitting behind the desk with a microphone in front of me and a pair of headphones on. Everyone else on the show was dotted around the country even though it sounded like we were all in the same room.

The show started and I got butterflies! And when asked questions I couldn’t actually hear myself talk because of the headphones so halfway through took one side off my ear. That was better. Sort of!

I waffled and winged my way through it and was relieved it was all over. Not sure I did much for the Children in Need appeal – well apart from 'Fanny' of Keep Calm and Fanny On donating as I had made them laugh referring to Mary Berry as having the ‘Granny Factor’. Maybe I do have latent comedic skills after all!!

So, If you really want to hear carnage on the radio (okay it wasn’t that bad) then click on this link to be transported to Kitchen Café Friday 14 November!

And details of how you can still donate to the 'Children in Need' appeal can be found over at the BBC website.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Maple & Walnut Bagels

Maple & Walnut Bagels

When I set the theme for Treat Petite this month, I had a bake in mind already.

In case you haven’t checked the theme out yet, it’s ‘Thank You’ and I’ve asked all of you to think of someone who has done you a good turn this year, been there for you, that sort of thing, all in the spirit of Thanksgiving. With that person in mind I’d like you to bake them something – Treat Petite styley.

Many moons ago, our local Sainsbury’s made maple flavoured bagels which Disneyboi absolutely adored. We would buy loads of them for that Canadian hit! Then they disappeared off the shelves without so much as a farewell.

Although it’s been many a year, we both pass by the bakery section looking for some maple bagel goodness without any joy.

With that in mind, and to say thank you to Disneyboi for putting up with me during a very mad year of food blogging (we’ve had conferences, GBBO auditions, random meetings in train stations, factory tours, interviews) I decided I would try to replicate those beloved bready O’s.

Maple & Walnut Bagels

I’ve never made bagels before, but did see them being baked on GBBO once. I remember big vats of boiling water and the bagels being plunged in like some poor defenceless lobster.

Nothing ventured however and I found a recipe on-line which I decided to tweak a little.

I added some walnuts for a bit of added crunch. I knew Disneyboi wouldn’t mind as long as there was pancake syrupy flavouring in there.

I was surprised how easy it was. The only bit half tricky was forming the shapes. I plunged my index finger in the middle of the dough ball, and twirled it around like a whirling dervish (whatever that is). And it made a circle of sorts.

Maple & Walnut Bagels

After boiling it in the water, which wasn’t too daunting after all, I popped them in the oven, out came chewy, soft, maple flavoured bagels for Disneyboi. And he loved them! Especially with a schmear of cream cheese on top.

And if you hadn't guessed these are my entry into this month's Treat Petite, hosted alternately by myself and Kat at the Baking Explorer.

print recipe

Maple Walnut Bagels
Maple flavour baked into a bagel!
Adapted from Baked By an Introvert
  • 500 grams strong bread flour
  • 2 ¼ tsp dry active yeast
  • 320 ml warm tap water
  • 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 60 ml Grade A maple syrup
  • 100 grams chopped walnuts
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place 250 grams of the flour, the yeast, sugar and warm water. Stir by hand so everything is well combined. Cover and leave to prove for 1 to 1½ hours, until it has doubled in size. Once risen, add the rest of the flour, salt, maple syrup and walnuts to the bowl and with the dough hook attached to the mixer, mix on medium slow for 10 minutes. If the mixture looks too dry and bits are left at the bottom of the bowl add water gradually until it comes together. Cover and prove again for 1 ½ to 2 hours. It will double in size. After it has proved transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead just a little. Divide into 8 equal portions and form these into balls. Cover and let prove for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, bring a pan of water to the boil. After the 20 minutes, flatten each ball slightly and push your finger through the centre of each disc. Twirl each on your finger until a bagel shape is formed. Place each bagel in the boiling water for a minute, then flip over for another minute before draining on a cooling rack. Preheat the oven to 200C and cover two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Place 4 bagels on each sheet and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, turning once during baking, so the bottom gets browned. Leave to cool, then slice open and enjoy with a filling of your choice.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8 bagels

Monday, 10 November 2014

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cheesecake

pumpkin cheesecake with spice and coffee

I’m sad. My favourite drink at Starbucks has been and gone for the year. Those pesky red cups have replaced my Pumpkin Spice Latte with Christmas-inspired drinks all too soon.

I love pumpkin spice lattes. They only introduced them in the UK a couple of years ago, after an on-line campaign proved successful. They were an instant hit and were even brought out a month early this year so we could savour them for longer. Still not long-enough in my opinion!

pumpkin cheesecake with spice and coffee

It was cake-club time a couple of weeks ago and I stumbled across a recipe for a Pumpkin Spice Latte Cheesecake on the Kraft website. I loved the idea. My favourite drink in edible form! I knew this would prove a hit at the club – the theme being ‘Favourites’.

The original recipe used a cookie dough type base, but for me a cheesecake is not a cheesecake without a base made from crushed digestives (or graham crackers depending where you are) and butter. So I tweaked it a little to suit.

I still had some tinned pumpkin languishing at the bottom of the fridge and used this, plus for some added authenticity, a sachet of Starbucks Via for the coffee element.

pumpkin cheesecake with spice and coffee

The result was a deliciously rich cheesecake. Pumpkin spices, a little bit of coffee and a crumbly buttery base. Just like my favourite drink, it was so good I made it again to take to my cousins for dinner. And my family lapped it up too.

Here’s my version, tweaked from Kraft.

print recipe

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cheesecake
#PSL in a Cheesecake!
  • 250 grams digestive biscuits/graham crackers
  • 125 grams unsalted butter
  • 750 grams full-fat cream cheese
  • 225 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 225 grams pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • half teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3g sachet Starbucks Via instant coffee (I used Colombian)
  • 150 ml double cream
Line the base of a 9” spring-form tin with foil. Crush the biscuits either in a food processor or in a bag and whack with a rolling pin. Melt the butter and pour into the biscuits. Place into the prepared tin and press down firmly to an even-layer. Chill in the fridge for two hours. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the softened cream cheese with the sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla and eggs. Beat until combined. Place 400ml of this mix into a separate bowl. With the remaining mix, add the pumpkin and spices and beat until combined. Pour onto the chilled biscuit base. Add the instant coffee to the 400ml of cream cheese mix and stir until dissolved. Slowly pour this over the pumpkin cream cheese, so it is an even layer. Place the tin in a large roasting pan and pour boiling water into the roasting pan, about 1 inch high. (Double wrap the bottom of the cheesecake tin with foil, to ensure water doesn’t get in). Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. The cheesecake will puff and jiggle. It will also darken on top. The centre will almost look set. Allow to cool fully then refrigerate for several hours or overnight. When ready to serve, whip the cream until thick and spoon over the top of the cooled cheesecake. Sprinkle more of the spices on top for decoration. Slice and enjoy!.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 9” cheesecake

Saturday, 8 November 2014

What To Bake & How To Bake It {Book Review}
It’s that time when we are all thinking about what to get friends and family for Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I think it gets more and more difficult knowing what to get people.

But I was recently sent a book, which I thought would make a perfect gift for any budding baker, or anyone who loves cookbooks in general.

‘What To Bake and How to Bake It’ by Jane Hornby arrived via the postie and I was eager to have a look. The cover alone is visually impressive with a colourful drawing of some of the bakes you will find inside.

There are 50 recipes inside and the sections are split into the following:

Simple Family Baking
Morning Coffee and Afternoon Tea
Special Bakes
Desserts and After Dinner

Each recipe is photographed in easy to follow steps, with photos containing the ingredients and each step of the baking process. So it is ideal for those who may be wanting to get into baking. It really makes the whole process look incredibly simple.

The author Jane Hornby trained as a chef before becoming Cookery Writer and Food Editor of the BBC’s Good Food magazine for 5 years. So you know that with this book you will be in safe hands!

I decided to try one of Jane’s ‘Simple Family Baking’ recipes and went for the Fruity Cupcakes. Here’s the recipe;

Cupcake ingredients
110 grams soft butter
150 grams caster sugar
185 grams plain flour
1 tbsp cornflour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
2 eggs, room temp
½ tsp vanilla extract
120 ml milk

Fruity Glaze ingredients
65g berries (fresh or frozen and defrosted)
Or 2 large ripe passion fruit
125-150 grams icing sugar

My Cupcake Method:
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a cupcake tray with 12 paper liners
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, cornflour baking powder and salt.  Add half to the butter/sugar and mix in. Add the eggs, vanilla and half of the milk. Beat until smooth.
Add alternate amounts of the remaining flour and milk and mix in between each addition. Keep mixing until smooth.
Divide between the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the centre.
Allow to cool fully.

Glaze Method:
Mash the fruit with a fork and sieve in the icing sugar. Stir to combine and spoon over the cooled cupcakes. Allow to set before digging in!

my attempt!
So, as you can see a very simple (yet tasty) recipe, but one which would be great for kids or a novice baker.

The bakes do get more complex, and include:
 fudgy cheesecake brownies
easy bake doughnuts
pumpkin pie
chocolate hazelnut log
mint-chocolate macarons, to name a few.

The step-by-step guide makes it great for anyone to follow and get the hang of.

‘What To Bake and How To Bake It’ is published by Phaidon books, costs £19.95 and is available from Amazon and all other reputable stockists.

Disclosure Statement: I was sent the book free to review. Any opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sweetie Pies (or uses for leftover Halloween treats) and Kleeneze Competition Winner Announced!

pastry-wrapped chocolate candy bars

Not that I have children, but I was wondering what on earth you would do with all those sweets kids pick up on their ‘trick or treating’ expeditions? 

Children must get loads of goodies that you maybe don’t want them to gobble up straight away. Or perhaps, like me, you buy lots of sweets ready to hand out, but end up with leftovers.

So, I thought of a fun way to use fun-size treats (which are always my go to sweets for Halloween hand-outs). It also makes me think of a ‘classic’ Scottish recipe – ‘Deep-fried Mars Bars’ (which I think everybody outside of Scotland mistakenly thinks we scoff all the time).

pastry-wrapped chocolate candy bars

Truth be told, I have had one deep-fried Mars Bar in my life, back in the 80’s when I was at school. Not something I would want to repeat in a hurry!

Back to this treat though, and instead of frying said bars, how about wrapping them in pastry like a little hand-pie? And here in Scotland we call chocolate bars, candy bars, all confectionary ‘Sweeties’. So the name Sweetie Pies was an obvious choice.

I chilled the bars before popping them in the oven as I didn’t want then to run everywhere. I used shop-bought puff-pastry to make things easy and drizzled some chocolate over them when baked – so people didn’t mistake them for sausage rolls!

pastry-wrapped chocolate candy bars

They are fun, perfect for anyone who loves sweet pies and are so much better than a deep-fried Mars Bar!

Here’s how I made them;

print recipe

Sweetie Pies
Sweeties wrapped up in pastry!
  • 2 packages shop-bought ready-rolled puff pastry
  • 15 approx fun-size chocolate bars
  • 1 medium egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 30 grams dark chocolate melted
Chill the chocolate bars in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Unfurl one sheet of the chilled pastry and place the chocolate bars on top in rows, spaced well apart. Make an egg-wash from the milk and egg and brush this over the exposed parts of the pastry. Unfurl the other sheet of pastry and lay over the top of the bars. Gently press in between each bar so the top pastry sticks to bottom sheet . Take a pizza cutter and carefully cut between each chocolate bar. Crimp the edges of each pastry parcel with the tines of a fork. Prick the top of each pastry parcel gently with a fork. Pop into the fridge to chill and pre-heat the oven to 180C. After 20 minutes remove the chilled ‘pies’ and brush the tops with more egg wash. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until lightly golden on top. Allow to cool fully. Drizzle some melted chocolate on top.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 15 mini-pies

And lastly congratulations go to Kevin from The Crafty Larder who won the Kleeneze competition with his Spiced Pumpkin Cake in  Jar!