I’ve been thinking recently about what it is that attracts me to baking so much. Some questions that I have been asking myself include why do I go to great lengths to squeeze it into my already hectic day? Why do I stay up way past my bedtime to finish off something I made earlier, and what is it that drives me to look for any excuse to bake something for someone? Seems a bit excessive when I put it like that, but I think I have worked out the answers. Baking makes me feel like myself again. Not mummy, but Fleur. Having that sense of identity when most if my day is consumed with school runs, changing nappies, washing (arghhh how I hate the washing) playing taxi driver and feeding three little mouths is so important to me. I’d go as far as to say that baking helps me to be a better mummy. I know that is quite a bold statement, but to me it makes perfect sense. When I bake I feel a real sense of achievement from turning a pile of separate ingredients into something yummy that I can eat and share. I love my children’s faces when they see what I have made and baking with them is really special too. I am able to give them my undivided attention for a while at the same time as teaching them a new skill. By doing this I hope to create happy memories for them so that they will want to do the same with their children. Baking also takes me on a journey to somewhere I call ‘cakeland’. What I mean by this is completely focusing on the baking task so that all the other things going on in my head (like list building…I like to make lists) take a back seat for a while. This I know is good for me because I always feel calmer and more relaxed after baking. Or maybe it’s the fact that baking is an expression of my creativity? I love to see an idea that started in my head becoming real.
So I guess baking is a very important part of my life at the moment for many reasons. Ultimately, it makes me happy, and when it’s written like that, maybe my baking antics don’t seem so excessive after all. I’d love to hear from any of my readers if you also indulge in a bit of cake therapy.
This week, I’m going to share some top tips for one of my all time favorite bakes. It is Mary Berry’s infamous chocolate roulade. In my experience this is a total crowd pleaser and they are great fun to make. The sponge is made without flour and butter which creates a beautifully light, melt in the mouth cake, leaving you hankering after a second slice. Don’t let the rolling part put you off though as it is really is not that bad, and I’m being totally honest. The sponge will crack as you roll but that is part of the look and character.
It won’t come as a surprise when I say that I have been experimenting a bit with this recipe, so if you fancied added a little extra flavour you could try making my Chocolate and Chestnut Roulade filled with Almond Cream variation. I will tell you how to do this in the tips section below. Having used chestnut in my chilli a few weeks ago, I though it would be fun to show how it can be used it in a sweet dish as well.
- Tin of chestnut spread (I found mine is my local Waitrose and brought it thinking it looked so lovely I just had to find something to use it in)
- 1 tsp of almond extract
- It’s worth following the recipe carefully and taking time to measure out your ingredients as the way you mix the batter will have a big impact on how much it rises.
- To test stiffness of egg whites turn the mixing bowl upside down and it should stay put with none falling out
- Make sure you have the right sized tin for this recipe. If the batter is spread too thick or thin you will end up with underdone or over cooked sponge
- Having two mixing bowls makes this recipe so much easier. You will need one for the egg yolks, sugar and chocolate and another for the egg whites
- Give the bowl for the egg whites an extra wipe with a clean tea towel to get rid of any grease as even a speak of it can effect the way your egg whites whisk up
- To make the Chestnut and Almond Roulade variation simply add 1 tsp of almond extract to your whipping cream as it is being mixed. Then you need to apply a layer of the chestnut spread onto the sponge once it has cooled and you have placed it on your icing sugar covered greaseproof paper. Finish by topping with a layer of the almond flavoured cream. Then continue with the remaining steps of Mary’s the recipe
- When you come to roll the sponge, score across the short width with a knife into the sponge about an inch in from the edge, then fold this bit in. Then use the end of the greaseproof paper to start the roll by pulling it back over the sponge towards the opposite end. This will avoid finger prints and finger marks in the sponge as you roll it
- Don’t worry if the ends look messy once you have rolled it up, these can be sliced off with a knife to reveal (fingers crossed) a beautiful swirl of chestnut and cream. Then you can do a taste test and scoff the enders 🙂
- This roulade can be frozen once made and defrosts perfectly with only a little extra dusting of icing sugar needed before presentation
Pancake Day is tomorrow and I cannot wait! I feel the same about it every year, and always wonder why I don’t make pancakes more often? They are hardly any bother and are such a treat to have for dessert. They don’t need much in the way of toppings either as the simple but traditional sprinkle of lemon juice and sugar is often a favourite. Perhaps I like pancakes so much because they remind me of our holidays in France? We go every year and always treat ourselves to a crêpe or two whilst we are there. The smell of cooking pancakes is enough to transport my mind into imagining that I am walking down a little cobbled street in a scenic French village enjoying sunshine on my back and feeling relaxed. This is a great tonic on a dark, wet February evening.
My children love pancakes too. A dollop of nutella and they could not be happier. I normally fill my pancakes with cooked banana, squirty cream and melted chocolate, but this year I wanted to be a little bit more adventurous, and what I have come up with is something that I think tastes pretty yummy indeed, even if I do say so myself! I am actually sitting here writing this blog post completely full up with pancake after eating far more than I thought at the ‘tasting session’. I’ll be making more pancakes on Tuesday as well. Double the amount of pancakes…hmmm writing a food blog definitely has advantages! But I do need to warm you that just one of these pancakes is unlikely to be enough. They are sooo moreish and if you get a little bit artistic with your presentation I think they could be served as an impressive dinner party dessert. Here is what I came up with:
Chocolate and cinnamon pancake filled with fresh blueberries and vanilla cream, drizzled with blueberry coulis and melted chocolate.
Bit of a mouthful, but I would say that is quite literally what it is…a heavenly mouthful! But don’t be put off by the complicated sounding title, this really is very easy to put together and I’ll even make a couple of extra shortcut suggestions as I go along because I know that as a busy mum myself, saving a extra 10 mins at dinner time can make a big difference at bath time, and then bedtime.
Interestingly, the inspiration for these came from the two boxes of blueberries that were sat in my fridge and needed using up. But in hindsight, these little balls of loveliness are a perfect match for a pancake. They are naturally very sweet so do not need much sugar added to them, but they also provide a subtle tang which sets off the warm cinnamon tones, chocolate and cream of beautifully.
What you will need:
- 105g plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 200ml milk mixed with 75ml water
- 50g unsalted butter melted
Filling and topping
- 250ml whipping cream
- 2 tsp vanilla paste
- 50g melted dark chocolate
- 150g fresh blueberries
- 40ml water
- 2 tbsp of agave/maple syrup
- Icing sugar to dust
How to make:
- In a separate bowl sift in the dry ingredients of the batter mix and whisk with the two eggs. Then slowly add the milk and water mixture whilst continuing to whisk. Finally add in 2 tbsp of the melted butter and keep the rest for the frying pan. Put batter in the fridge to keep cool (cold batter on a hot pan is good) and to allow it to thicken a bit as it stands
- Pour the whipping cream and vanilla paste into a large mixing bowl and whisk until the cream has thickened. Cream should be thick enough to stay attached the whisk when you pull it out of the cream. Put to one side
- Now put 120g of the blueberries in a saucepan with the water and syrup and heat for about 5 mins until the berries start to burst. Blitz in the food processor until smooth. If you want it super smooth you will probably need to sieve it as well, but I did not bother to do this with mine. Put to one side
- Start to slowly melt your chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Or leave this step out and use a pre-made chocolate sauce (we have a Hershey’s one which is lovely)
- Heat up your frying pan, and when you think it is pretty hot, dab a bit of scrunched up kitchen paper in the remaining melted butter and rub onto the frying pan. Then add a small ladle full of batter to the pan, or a couple of tablespoons. You don’t need too much as pancakes should be thin so that they are cooked though before they start burning. Move the pan in circular motions to spread the batter around. If you use something like the back of the spoon it will most likely catch and create a hole as they start to cook as soon as they are poured on
- After about 2 mins, flip the pancake, (in the air if you are brave enough) and cook for another two mins on the other side
- My advice is to cook a few pancakes and keep the ones you have done on a plate covered in foil. I think you could probably get away with coking 3-4 this way before you should start to make them up and by cooking in batches like this you will save a bit of time rather than cooking, constructing, cooking etc
- When putting together, put a nice thick line of cream down the middle of the pancake, then top with fresh blueberries, wrap over both sides, and drizzle with blueberry coulis and melted chocolate/chocolate sauce. Finally dust with icing sugar and serve straight away
Chilli is a regular feature in our household. It is quick and easy to make, everyone (yes everyone) in my family likes it, it is healthy and low fat, you can make a truck load in just about the same time as it takes to make a normal portion so perfect for when all the aunts and uncles come to stay, you can jazz it up by serving with a nice salad and some garlic bread, it can be made in advance and either kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen…and the list goes on. So why, I can hear you asking, am I messing about with something that is effectively a family dinner institution? Well, I guess the answer to that is quite simply that I love to put my own spin on recipes. This normally involves including more of what I like in a dish and creating an opportunity for myself to experiment with flavours. I have to admit, it is a bit scary at first, but now I pretty much do it all the time. The reward for being brave is creating a dish that you love which you might never have had otherwise. There are of course times when it does not go to plan, but after a few swear words and deep breaths, I’m normally able to put it down to experience and take it in my stride. I have every confidence that you will be able to do the same.
This recipe is the result of an afternoon of experimentation, and for want of a better expression, I think it has been a ‘roaring success’! It’s vegetarian, because I don’t eat meat. But fear not, I will also tell you how and where to add some meat because I know for some (my husband being one of them) chilli without meat is a crime.
Part of my motivation for this dish was in fact this months We Should Cocoa blog challenge set by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog. The theme is ‘savoury and vegetarian’, and as with all We should Cocoa challenges, chocolate must be included. I have got to say, this stumped me for quite a while, but then I remembered that special chocolate that had a whole TV series dedicated to it a couple of years back and which I have always wanted to try. A little bit of internet research later and I found out I was thinking of Willie’s Supreme Cacao. It’s 100% cacao and although it looks like chocolate, it is not something you want to eat raw. I tried!! The theory behind adding this to dishes, apart from it being cool, is that is adds a depth of flavour and chocolate compliments chilli beautifully. So the very special ingredient in this chilli is cacao, but for the sake of ease, lets call it chocolate! If you can’t get hold of Willie’s chocolate, some unsweetened cocoa powder will be a good alternative.
So go on, give this a go and impress everyone who will listen with your culinary knowledge (cacao, depth of flavour etc) and most importantly your willingness to try something a little bit different with splendid results.
What you will need:
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed,
- 1 tin of cannellini beans or leave this out and add a 500g pack of minced beef
- 1 tin of black beans (or kidney beans if you can’t get black)
- Half a medium pumpkin or 1 medium butternut squash cut into squares
- 200g chestnuts (I brought mine in a pack)
- 1 romano pepper chopped
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- 1 tsp of cumin seeds
- 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp of ground paprika
- 1 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp of grated cacao or 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 pint of vegetable stock
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 350g of tomato passata (about half a bottle)
- Pinch of pepper for seasoning
How to make:
- Preheat you oven to 180c/350f/gas 4. Put your cubes of pumpkin into a roasting tray, sprinkle with olive oil and cook in the oven for 30-40 mins. I like to roast pumpkin for most dishes as it brings out the sweetness and flavour
- Put your onions and garlic in a large saucepan and start to cook gently with a bit of olive oil. Once soft, add the pepper. Then add all the spices apart from the chocolate and cook for a further 5 minutes
- Now add beans/meat and cook for 5-10 mins (more like 10 mins if you have meat)
- Now add chestnuts, chopped tomato and passata and cook for 10 mins
- Add the vegetable stock and season with pepper. Cook on a low heat for about 25-30 mins
- Towards the end of this cooking time, add the roasted pumpkin, and right at the end stir in the grated chocolate
- Serve with plain basmati rice
PS: Willie did not sponsor me to write this post
PPS: There are still a few places left for my very first Bake Club evening, so if you live in the Sevenoaks area take a look at my Bake Club post for more info on how to book.
I have been thinking about doing a Bake Club for a while and have decided to go for it! I wanted to set one up because I thought it would be great fun to organise an event where like minded people who love to bake get the opportunity to bake, meet and share. If you live in the Sevenoaks area and are interested in joining my Bake Club then I would love to hear from you.
The bake club will be held monthly and each time there will be a something new to bake along with a theme for a bit of extra fun.
It’s a bit like a book club but with bakes that you bring rather than books that you read. We all get to share a bit of what everyone else has made and you will get to take any left over cake home. I will also collate everyone’s recipes and distribute on the night so if you feel inspired you can bake and recreate even more once you get home.
You don’t need to be an experienced baker to come along, all levels are very welcome.
The first meeting will be a bit experimental and I would love to spend some time (in between chatting) hearing your thoughts and ideas on how you would like to see the Bake Club progressing.
So if you, and up to one non baking guest fancy meeting a few new people to talk ‘bake and cake’ with for an evening whilst at the same time tasting lots of lovely treats, the details you need to book your place are below:
Date: Wednesday 29th Feb 2012
Time: 8pm – 10pm
Location: Sevenoaks (address will be given once you have booked via email)
Bake and theme: Chocolate cake and spring time. You make this beforehand at home and bring it along to the meeting with you.
Cost: £5 payable on the evening (includes tea/coffee and recipes)
To book email: email@example.com
Places are limited. I will allocate on a first come first served basis.