Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Best of the Boi - 2014

That's another year done and dusted then!

Where does the time go? It only seems like a couple of weeks ago I was writing my review of 2013. But then, as you will see, I have had a pretty packed year, which always makes time fly by! This isn't a recipe review by the way - I did that a couple of posts ago.

courtesy of greatbritishbakeoff.co.uk
The start of the year saw me audition for the Great British Bake Off. I applied in the latter part of 2012, but didn’t have my first audition until January in cold Manchester. I made a Hummingbird cake decorated like a watermelon to take along. 

And they must have liked it as at the beginning of February I found myself in the final 50! I won’t go into great detail (I had to sign papers forbidding me from talking about it too much), but I had another audition, this time in London, where I had to take part in a technical challenge. It was nerve-wracking, and I waffled into the camera.

courtesy of greatbritishbakeoff.co.uk
 I also met Norman, Jordan and Diana there who did make it to the final show. I got my call mid-February saying I hadn’t made it. I was pretty gutted to be honest! As for this year?  I haven’t even applied this time, even though everyone says I should! 

 Mid-March saw one of my healthier recipes from January get picked up by a Sugar-Free Magazine and Cakeyboi appeared in print (not for the last-time)!

 The next few months were pretty busy and I baked away, posting my recipes regularly for you all to enjoy. Then June came along and I attended Food Blogger Connect in London. As the picture above shows, it's the world's leading international food blogging conference. A yearly gathering for fellow food bloggers, I met loads of familiar faces including the lovely Lisa from United Cakedom.

 I learned so much about the intricacies of food blogging. Someone called Ottolenghi was there (I am a baker, forgive me that I didn’t really know who he was) and excitingly for me I met Anna Olson the Canadian chef and TV presenter. I was definitely star-struck by her.

 I also met Luca from 'Oh La Vache', and we started up a baking boys Facebook group. I have to admit my participation has dwindled somewhat in the past few months, but it is great to connect with other male bloggers. If you have a blog, are male and bake, email me and I can send you an invite to the group.

 On a personal level, July was a great month as I proposed to my best friend and partner of 11 years. Yes, Disneyboi and I are engaged. No date set yet to get married, house-hunting in the New Year first…

August was also an exciting month as we attended the Foodies Festival in Edinburgh. Sadly the day we went there was torrential rain. 

But to brighten things up we saw Glenn Cosby from 2013’s GBBO do his thang on stage. He baked and cracked jokes, and is actually a very funny guy. 

Plus we met ‘Fanny’ of the brilliant blog ‘Keep Calm andFanny On’. ‘Fanny’ gave me a copy of the treasured Christmas Cookery booklet which I now cherish! And ‘Fanny’ has since become a very good friend. We food bloggers are lovely people!

 We went on our summer hols in September, but just a few weeks later in October, it was the BBC Good Food Show in Glasgow. A few months earlier I had been contacted by Katy Truss who organises the show and she asked if I would like to be interviewed on the stage all about this blog. After some consideration, I said yes! It was nerve-wracking but the interviewer, the lovely Lotte Duncan (of the Food Network) put me at ease and we chatted and laughed. 

I thoroughly enjoyed myself and even signed my first autograph (thanks Melanie!). The Good Food Show itself was as enjoyable as ever. We saw Paul and Mary bake, John Torode cook and visited loads of stalls and sampled great food.

 November was a really busy month! I was asked to appear as a guest on the BBC Radio Scotland show ‘Kitchen CafĂ©’. It was ‘Children In Need’ weekend and they were doing some baking, hence I came in as a sort of ‘expert’. Sadly, I didn’t feel this went nearly as well as the Good Food Show. I was more nervous and waffled. But everyone who listened to it said I was really good and sounded like I knew what I was talking about. I still can’t bring myself to listen to it…

 November also saw me, and four other intrepid food bloggers – Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen, Jac at Tinned Tomatoes, Rachel Cotterill of her self-titled blog and Becca from Amuse Your Bouchevisit the Thornton’s factory in deepest, darkest Alfreton. I felt like Charlie Bucket visiting Willy Wonka for the day. 

We saw Easter Eggs being made, decorated a chocolate casket ourselves, saw toffee being made, broken and smashed into pieces and sampled loads of lovely choccies. The staff were really hospitable and gave us a great insight into a British institution.

 Which brings us up-to-date and into December. Christmas is always a busy period but I did find the time to write the foreword to the December issue of Brilliant Baking Magazine with Edd Kimber on the cover!

It has been a great year and I want to thank those of you who have been there throughout!

Here’s to 2015 and whatever that may bring (hopefully losing a few pounds personally!!). Happy New Year when it arrives folks!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Mini Macaroni Pies

mini mac 'n' cheese pies

I always like to bring you a bit of a party snack for New Year. And this year is no exception.

Macaroni Pies are a Scottish staple where you find them next to steak or mince pies in the supermarket. I call them all ‘Flemings Pies’ as they are often made by a butcher up here with that name. However, Macaroni pies are essentially mac ‘n’ cheese encased in a pastry shell – (it is still before New Year and we are still indulging!).

The regular crust on ‘Flemings pies’ involves lard and flour, which makes a firm casing for the delicious ingredients inside. But for my recipe of mini macaroni pies, I am opting for a shop-bought, ready rolled shortcrust pastry. Unless you have time to knock up a batch of shortcrust yourself of course!

mini mac 'n' cheese pies

For the filling, I used the smallest macaroni type pasta I could find, which was meant to be used in soup. It was perfect for my mini pies though. And I used the strongest, most mature cheddar I could find for the cheese sauce. You have to be able to taste the mac ‘n’ cheese after all!

I blind baked my pastry in a cupcake tray, each cup weighed down with baking beans. Then I added the cooked mac ‘n’ cheese into the shells, sprinkled with more cheese and baked them just until bubbling.

The result was a delicious miniature combination of crumbly pastry with a rich cheesy pasta filling. Imagine handing these around at your New Year shindig? To gussy them up a bit, I added some chopped spring onion for garnish.

Here’s how I made them;

Yield: 12 mini macaroni pies

I roll of short crust pastry (about 375 grams)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
250 ml milk
125 grams grated mature cheddar
½ teaspoon mustard (I use American yellow)
Black pepper, to taste
125 grams mini macaroni
1 spring onion, shredded for garnish

Preheat the oven to 180C.
With a circular cutter, cut rounds of the pastry, so that it fills a cup in a cupcake tray. You want the pastry to go up the sides of the case. When all twelve have been cut, add foil on top of each bit of pastry and top with baking beans. Cook for 12-15 minutes until the edges of the pastry cups are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the beans and foil. Allow to cool slightly then make sure you can remove the pastry easily from each cup of the tray, then place back in.

To make the mac’n’ cheese, boil the pasta as directed and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and then add the flour. Whisk together for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Add the milk, and keep whisking until the sauce reaches a boil and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the mustard and cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce. Season to taste with black pepper. Add the macaroni and stir this through.

Carefully spoon the mac ‘n’ cheese into the pastry cups and top each with a little more grated cheese. Place back into the oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melty and bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool then garnish with some chopped spring O’s.

And that is mini macaroni pies. A bit posher than the usual variety you find here in Scotland. But a sure-fire winner at your New Year’s soiree!

mini mac 'n' cheese pies

Friday, 26 December 2014

My #ChristmasFridge for Random Recipes #46

Just a quickie today as we are all mid-festivities!

I am entering Dom’s Random Recipes this month, over at Belleau Kitchen! Which isn’t actually about recipes this December would you believe.

Instead Dom is being particularly evil this month and asking us to share images of our Christmas fridges, that is the contents of our refrigerators heaving with the goodies, ready to be snaffled on Christmas day and beyond.

I took my snap when I was defrosting my turkey as you can probably see on the top shelf. Now, don’t get on at me for stacking my raw meats at the top etc. There is no cooked meats in there, so we are okay (well, I was at the time of writing this!).

Would you believe that I am only catering for three. There will be plenty of leftovers which will do us well into the new year.

I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas festivities and I’d like to ‘thank’ Dom for this cruel challenge!!! It is good to have a wee nose around other’s fridges isn’t it…?

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Cinnamon and Black Pepper Sugar Cookies

Cinnamon and black pepper sugar cookies

I’m sure you are all busy last minute shopping or trying to sort out Christmas dinner by now. So just a wee cookie recipe for you, which is good for this time of year or anytime really.

It’s a sugar cookie, which are more prevalent at the moment, but I have flavoured my mix with a little cinnamon and black pepper. This imparts a bit of extra sweetness and a bit of a spicy kick.

The batter is really simple and you can keep it in the fridge until ready to roll, cut out and bake. In fact, you could roll it into a log, wrap it up and freeze it. Then when guests arrive, cut them up and bake from frozen.

Cinnamon and black pepper sugar cookies

I iced mine with some royal icing I whipped up from a Martha Stewart recipe and feathered some in the colours of the season – red and green. They are just as lovely plain though, if you are running out of time or simply can’t be bothered!

Here’s how I made them…

Yield: 48 cookies approx

300 grams plain flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
225 grams unsalted butter, very soft
225 grams granulated sugar
1 medium egg


In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pepper.

In another bowl beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the egg and beat this in. Add the flour and mix in until no dry ingredients can be seen.

Divide the dough into two and wrap each half in clingfilm. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours, longer if you have the time. Remove from the fridge and roll out onto a work surface dusted with icing sugar. Cut out into desired shapes and place on to a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper.

Once the sheet is full, pop into the fridge and then preheat the oven to 180C. Once the oven is up to temperature, place the cookies into the oven and bake until lightly golden around the edges, 10 – 12 minutes.

Allow to cool fully if you are going to ice them. If not, they are lovely eaten warm.

Alternately, after making the dough, roll it into a log, wrap it in greaseproof paper and then clingfilm and freeze until ready to use. Cut them as required with a serrated knife, into discs about a centimetre thick and back in a 180C oven for 12-15 mins. They will need a bit longer as they are frozen.

Cinnamon and black pepper sugar cookies

If you make them, I hope you enjoy the spiciness of the pepper mixed with the cinnamon sweetness. This is my last post before Christmas, so I’d like to wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas and I hope you have a fantastic time.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Gingerbread Pancakes with Eggnog Cream Cheese

Gingerbread Flavour Pancakes with and Eggnog flavour cream cheese

I love the easy, lazy mornings over the Christmas break. If you are lucky enough to be off your work for a few days in between Christmas and New Year, you’ll know what I mean. I think it takes me back to being a child when I had lots of time off school.

You get up in your jimjams, heating on, and pop on you’re the Christmas tree lights then settle down to watch naff Christmas telly. Usually repeats of old festive episodes of BBC comedies. That’s what we do anyway!

And breakfast, which is my favourite meal of the day, has to be extra special during this time I think. Instead of hoovering up the content’s of a recently received selection box, I like to indulge. We actually have bacon rolls on Christmas morning, and after that I try and make different things such as an After Eight inspired cereal I made a couple of years ago.

Gingerbread Flavour Pancakes with and Eggnog flavour cream cheese

But this year, I plan on making more of these gingerbread pancakes. I have tried them already, just so I know they will be a hit with Disneyboi. And they will be. They have all the familiar gingerbread spices you would expect, such as ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Plus some treacle which gives a dark earthy flavour and makes the pancakes a nice rich brown colour.

If that wasn’t enough, I decided to make an eggnog flavoured cream cheese (I know, I know, I’m going eggnog crazy this year!). This cream cheese is the same filling which I used in my eggnog stuffed chocolate cups the other week (grab the recipe here). Like I said a bit of indulgence, but if you can’t do this at Christmas time, then when can you?

Yield: 10 small pancakes

100 grams plain flour
30 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 medium egg
180 ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
1 tablespoon groundnut oil
1 ½ tablespoon treacle
(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma and Taste of Home)

Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices together in a bowl. In a jug, combine the egg, oil, milk and treacle. Keep stirring until the treacle blends into the rest of the ingredients. Add the wet mix to the dry mix and blend just until combined. Don’t over mix.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and grease very lightly with a little butter or vegetable oil.  Add a heaping dessert spoon to the pan and let cook until bubbles start to appear on top of the pancakes then flip and leave for another minute. Do not press down with a spatula as you want them light an airy.

You can keep the pancakes cosy in a 100C oven, on a baking sheet, until you are ready to enjoy them.

Gingerbread Flavour Pancakes with and Eggnog flavour cream cheese

To serve, enjoy with butter, maple syrup or as I did – eggnog flavoured cream cheese. Now, go and enjoy them in front of the TV with your feet up!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

12 of the Best - 2014

It’s almost that time of year where we get ‘round ups’, 'the best of 2014', 'my favourites', that sort of thing. So, I am jumping on the bandwagon a bit early to bring you some of your (and my) favourite bakes and makes of the year from Cakeyboi.

 To start off the year, in January Cakeyboi went a bit healthier and made some sugar-free, low-fat recipes. This recipe for sugar-free cherry lemonade striped jelly was so popular it ended up featuring in a magazine. Made from Diet Cherryade and 7up it was perfect for those post-Christmas diets.

February wasn’t quite so virtuous. In fact Cakeyboi went a bit dirty – with Dirty Coke Fudge. A dirty coke is apparently cola, lime and coconut together. Sugarhero made these on her American blog and I adapted it for British kitchens. This was a great flavour combination.

 This next recipe I remember making on a cold March day – a delicious savoury treat to eat fresh from the oven or toasted. It was Cheese and Pickle Bread – which confused some Americans. Not pickle as in the green cucumber like vegetable. But pickle relish. Based on something I’d tried from ASDA it was as good as it sounds.

 April I hit the bottle. Not in a bad way you understand, but by adding some beer to my brownies. The Blue Mountain I used provided a nice twist to these gooey fudgy beer brownies in a recipe which my Canadian friend Stephanie had made on her blog Kitchen Frolic and I whipped up in my  own kitchen.

 May brought me a new camera and my first bash at Magic Bars – Peanut Butter Magic Bars. Layered up with loads of ingredients, these coconut, nutty, peanut buttery bars were wickedly good.

 In June I received some speculaas spice mix to try and I added them into Nanaimo bars. I had tried some flavoured Nanaimo bars recently and thought that the spices in this speculaas would provide a nice alternative. These Speculaas Nanaimo bars went down very well with my work colleagues.

 Although it was summer, when I made these cherry and banana mini pies in July it was a miserable day outside. Still, these pies certainly brightened up the day with their flavourful combination of fillings.

 In August I made another flavoured brownie. This time I cracked open a bottle of cola and added that, plus some coke flavouring and cola bottles. The Cola Bottle Brownies were sweet and moist. I only wish I had thought of adding fizzy cola bottles as some of you guys suggested. That would have been even better!

We went on our holidays in September, but before we left, I made Chocolate Biscoff Puppy Chow with a jar of the spread which I love. I added some banana chips for added flavour and these were scoffed in no time at all.

 Autumn beckoned and with all the abundance of apples around, in October I bought a slow-cooker and made a batch of apple butter. A delicious spread with apples and spices, everyone said it tasted of Christmas. That is why I froze one jar at the time, which I am now defrosting so I can enjoy it over the festive season!

 In November, my favourite Starbucks drink the Pumpkin Spice Latte was relegated to make way for the seasonal Christmas drinks. But I made it last a bit longer by knocking up a #PSL cheesecake. It had all the flavour of the drink, plus a crumbly buttery bottom, so just as good as the real thing.

 And as for this month, well my recent recipe for Mince Pie and Custard bars has been seen by thousands over on Facebook, so I’m plumping for that one, although as the month isn’t over yet, I may surprise myself and bake something even better!

And there we have some of the most popular recipes of 2014!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Peppermint Frosting

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Peppermint Frosting

Remember I told you I love white chocolate and peppermint together and how Christmassy I think it is? Well, I’m using the combo again! But these cupcakes are so nice, I know you won’t mind.

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Peppermint Frosting

The cupcakes in the recipe are made using melted white chocolate and have a lot of vanilla extract, which brings out the flavour even more. And as for the topping, it’s a peppermint flavoured buttercream. And to add a little bit of kick I’ve sprinkled on some sea salt. I tried peppermint and salt together recently and it was lovely. Because the cupcakes are sweet, the salt also helps to temper that a little bit too.

To finish, I dunked the frosted cupcakes in some crushed candy canes, for an extra minty hit and a bit of crunch. It’s a really simple recipe that you will love.

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
250 grams self-raising flour
175 grams caster sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 medium eggs
90 ml milk
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
50 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
100 grams white chocolate, melted and cooled

Frosting Ingredients:
100 grams unsalted butter
250 grams icing sugar
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
1-2 teaspoon milk
Red food colouring
Sea Salt to sprinkle
6 candy canes, crushed

Cupcake Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12 cupcake tin with liners.

In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs with the milk and vanilla. Add the cooled butter and milk chocolate, making sure they are cooled as you don’t want scrambled eggs! Beat until fully combined then add to the flour mix and with a spoon mix until the ingredients are combined. Don’t over mix.

Divide the batter equally between the 12 cupcake liners and place in the oven to bake for 15 to 10 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean from the centre of a cupcake and it should be golden brown on top. Allow to cool fully.

Frosting Method:

Beat the butter with the icing sugar and peppermint extract. When it is all combined, if it feels to stiff add a little milk until you get a spreadable consistency. Add some colouring. With a knife, spread the buttercream on top of each cupcake and then sprinkle the tops of each with a little salt (don’t overdo it!). Cover the buttercream in crushed candy canes.

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Peppermint Frosting

And that’s it! The white chocolate cupcakes are very sweet, very vanilla. And the contrast of minty and slightly salty is very, very good! Enjoy…

Monday, 15 December 2014

Mince Pie and Custard Bars

shortbread, mincemeat and custard

I never used to like mince pies you know. As with a lot of Christmas sweet treats, they were full of dried fruit such as sultanas, currants, raisins and other things which my palate didn’t really take to.

But as I got older, I got braver and I started to not mind dried fruits quite so much. Now, I still wouldn’t go near a Christmas pudding, but I do quite like a mince pie with its warming, slightly spicy filling.

So this year I decided to bake something with mincemeat in it.  I didn’t quite go the whole hog and make my own mincemeat, but if you are so inclined my good friend Kevin at ‘The Crafty Larder’ has a vegetarian slow-cooker recipe which look simple and delicious.

shortbread, mincemeat and custard

I decided to make my mincemeat treats into bars, or squares, by baking a shortbread type base (replacing pastry), slathered with a jar of mincemeat and then more shortbread crumbled on top. To finish with I wanted something to decorate it with,  which turned out to be a really easy custard drizzle.

So easy, all I did was open a packet of instant custard powder and mixed it with some milk until I got a drizzling consistency. The drizzle set after a little while and added a little extra sweetness from something you would normally associate with mince pies.

Disneyboi is a true lover of mince pies and he gobbled these bars up in no time at all!

225 grams butter
260 grams plain flour
150 grams granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
400 grams mincemeat (1 regular jar)
I packet of instant custard powder
1-2 tablespoons milk

Line a 9”x13” baking pan with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a food processor pulse the butter, flour, sugar, salt, orange rind and cloves until it begins to form a ball. Tip half of it into the lined baking pan and with a spatula press down into an even layer, so the bottom of the pan is completely covered. Reserve the other half.
If using shop-bought mincemeat, warm it slightly in the microwave (about 30 seconds or so) then spread it evenly, all over the layer of dough.

With the remaining dough crumble this over the top of the mincemeat. You should still be able to see patches of the mincemeat peeking through.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the top layer of shortbread crumbles is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully. Using the greaseproof paper remove it from the pan and cut into squares.

To make the custard drizzle, empty the packet of instant powder into a jug and add 1 tablespoon of milk, stirring this through so there is no dryness. If it seems too dry add more milk until it’s of drizzling consistency. With a fork or whisk drizzle it over the top of the squares.

Let it set for a while, if you can wait that long!

shortbread, mincemeat and custard

There you have a different take on your festive mince pie. Give it a try!

I am entering these into mine and Kat (The Baking Explorer)'s challenge 'Treat Petite'. Kat is hosting and the theme is Christmas.

And I'm also entering these into this month's Alphabakes hosted by Ros (The More Than Occasional Baker...) and this month Caroline at 'Caroline Makes'. The letter is X and they are accepting any Christmassy treats. Which I believe this treat is!