Lemon and elderflower sandwich biscuits

Week two: biscuit week.  Reflections on the GBBO revival so far – I’m warming to the new presenter / judge combination with every week that passes. Even previously dour and famously grumpy Paul Hollywood appears to have undergone a welcome transformation with the new line up – far warmer, far funnier, and much more likely (it seems) to engage in some off-script (I hate myself for using this word, sorry) banter. What more could we ask for?

I’ve chosen the signature to recreate again because a) I have absolutely no desire to make fortune cookies and they look fiddly as anything and b) I fear I’ll never have the will to recreate a showstopper.  So much to go wrong, and who would eat that amount of biscuit in my two person household?  M is good, but he’s not that good.  There you go: the proof you needed that I am a thoroughly unadventurous baker – so just to drive that point home, here are my thoroughly unadventurous sandwich biscuits (they tasted nice though).

I went for lemon and elderflower in an unashamed attempt to cling to the last vestiges of summer, and also because I had a bottle of my mum’s homemade elderflower cordial ready and waiting in the fridge for this very eventuality.

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For the biscuits, I used a recipe I’ve featured on the blog before here, simply using a slightly smaller cutter for slightly smaller biscuits and baking for a little less time.  I also skipped the icing drizzle as it felt like too much with the addition of the buttercream in the middle.

For the filling, I blended 200g of soft butter and 300g of icing sugar together until very light and fluffy using a handheld mixer, then added a decent splosh of elderflower cordial – be careful here as you need your filling to be soft enough to pipe, but still pretty stiff so it sets.

Once cool, you need to pair your biscuits.  If you’re a perfect, patient baker, all of your biscuits will be identical in size and shape.  If, however, you bake as I do, they will be largely uniform but – if you’re really honest – range in shape from a perfect circle to slightly oval and everything in between.

Pair them up as best you can, then use a piping bag to pipe five small rosettes around the bottom on one of your pairs. Place the other biscuit on top, and squish gently together. Once you’ve sandwiched all of your biscuits, dust lightly with icing sugar.

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All content and photographs are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

Blackberry, marzipan and orange cake

I know, I know – I’m late to this party.  The excuse for my tardiness lies somewhere between being on holiday for most of last week, unthinkingly baking a giant chocolate cake just before the first episode aired (couldn’t bake another cake straight away, could I?) and a general scepticism about whether I’d want to get on the Bake Off Bandwagon at all this year.

I’ll admit that along with the rest of the nation, I was unsure about the move to Channel 4.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that just as the dust had settled and we’d all started to make peace with a Mel, Sue and Mary-less GBBO, somebody or other important at Channel 4 trailed the new series with a doom-laden reference to giving the show a “Channel 4 edge”.  If you’ve ever seen Channel 4 offerings like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, you too would be concerned as to what on earth this “edge” might be.

Turns out it’s mainly just the presence of Noel Fielding.  And not really knowing who he was but being slightly put off by his hair (sorry) I have to admit I think he makes a pretty nice host – friendly and goofy rather than obnoxiously edgy.  Plus he is charmingly offset by the British institution that is Sandi Toksvig, so we can all calm down and enjoy another helping of basically-the-same-old-GBBO.  So I’ve decided (belatedly) to bake along!

Initial thoughts aside, it’s (well, was… see above) cake week.  The signature challenge was a cake with fruit in it.  I decided to adapt a beautiful orange and marzipan cake I’ve made before to include more blackberries and a little less orange. I had lovingly collected a heap of them at the cost of scratched shins, nettle stings and purple-stained fingertips, so they needed a home.

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Ingredients

For the cake

  • 175g (6oz) butter
  • 100g (3½ oz) caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g (8oz) self-raising flour
  • Zest and juice of one large orange (reserve 2 tbsp for the icing)
  • 140g blackberries
  • 250g (8oz) white marzipan, fairly finely chopped

For the icing

  • 100g (3½ oz) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice

Directions

  • Set the oven to 180°C (160 fan) and line a square or rectangular tin with grease proof paper.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using a handheld mixer.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon of the flour each time, then beat in the orange juice (reserving two tablespoons for the icing) and zest.
  • Fold in the rest of the flour and half the marzipan pieces.
  • Sprinkle a handful of blackberries onto the bottom of the tin, then spread about a third of the mixture on top.  Sprinkle in about a third of the remaining berries, and about a third of the remaining marzipan.  Add half of the remaining mixture on top.  Repeat – add the rest of the marzipan and blackberries (expect a handful) then spread the rest of the mixture on top.  Sprinkle the handful of blackberries evenly over the surface.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Leave in the tin for 10 minutes to cool slightly before removing from the tin to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  • To make the icing, mix the two tablespoons of orange juice with the icing sugar to reach a consistency with a good dribble.
  • Once the cake is cool, slice into 16 squares before drizzling the slices with the orange icing – leave to set.

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Recipe adapted from goodtoknow.co.uk; all other content and photographs are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

{microwave} lemon curd

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Spring has sprung in London, and what more appropriate way to welcome the bright, sunshiney days than with a bright, sunshiney kitchen project? Enter: lemon curd. It’s smooth and buttery, oh-so-lemony and — most importantly — sunshine yellow.

This version is made in the microwave, so it really couldn’t get much easier. It’s from an ancient microwave cookery book and mum has been making it for years. On the first properly warm weekend of the year, I asked her to text me the recipe and about half an hour and many lemons later I had my own jar full of sunshine.

Enjoy it on toast, as a cake filling, in cupcakes or by the spoonful.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 lemons
  • 4oz (115g) butter, cubed
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz (230g) sugar

DIRECTIONS

  • Zest and juice the lemons before adding to a microwaveable bowl
  • Add the sugar and eggs, and whisk until combined
  • Add the cubed butter, and give the mixture a gentle stir to distribute evenly
  • Microwave for 5-6 minutes in total, whisking very thoroughly every 30 seconds
  • When it’s ready, the curd should be starting to thicken – remember it will continue to thicken as it cools
  • Remove from the microwave and keep whisking until the curd reaches about room temperature
  • Sieve the lemon curd into a jug (for easy pouring) to remove the zest and any lumps*
  • Pour into a clean jar and store in the fridge (I can’t vouch for this lasting for much more than a week at most, because it’s never around that long…)

*I prefer my lemon curd totally smooth and without any zest but many people prefer it with some bite / texture – skip this step if you fall into the latter camp.

Listening to What’s Inside by Sara Bareilles, Confident by Demi Lovato and The Minnow & The Trout by A Fine Frenzy.

 © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

The Breakfast Club: creamy blueberry overnight oats

One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to get into a better morning routine.  I really wanted to make my mornings a more mindful, fulfilling time of preparation for the day, rather than – to use the technical term – a mad rush.  If you’d like to have a morning in which breakfast is not one of the things you have to think overly hard about, then these oats are going to be your best friends.

You prepare them the night before by mixing a few things together, and then in the morning you just need to give them a stir and you’re ready to go.  They’re also ridiculously healthy, and vegan to boot. I’ve tinkered around with differing amounts of milk and oats to find what I like, so please feel free to do the same. And the beauty of a recipe like this is that once you find a base that works, you can add almost anything on top to make it even more delicious.

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Serves one for a yummy breakfast

Ingredients

1/2 cup porridge oats

1/2 cup almond milk (or any milk you like)

1 tablespoon cashew or almond butter

A handful frozen blueberries

A generous squeeze of honey (optional)

Directions

  • Take a tupperware (perfectly acceptable) or Kilner jar (Pinterest-worthy but slightly pretentious) and scoop in your oats.  Add the milk, nut butter and honey and give it a really good stir.  Now add your blueberries, and stir those in too.
  • Put on the lid and place in the fridge overnight.  In the morning I like to let mine warm up a little closer to room temperature if I remember – I just lift it out on my way to the shower and around half an hour later it’s perfect.

Tip: Use a decent container and on your less than zen mornings you can throw your oats into your handbag and eat them at work. I’d say just now I do this roughly 50 per cent of the time. Hey! I’m getting better!

Listening to Love Myself by Hailee Steinfeld, Cake by the Ocean by DNCE and Stitches by Shawn Mendes.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

{The best} microwave chocolate chip cookie

I think like most people who have craved a late night freshly baked snack, I’ve had mixed results with microwave ‘cakes’ and ‘cookies’. I’ll just say ‘rubbery’, and leave it at that.

This cookie is different. And without wanting this post to devolve into histrionics, it has changed my relationship with the microwave forever. Having a delicious chocolate chip cookie available within ten minutes is, admittedly, dangerous, but well — you only live once. And if you’re going to have an evening treat, make it this wonderfully gooey, deliciously sweet, ridiculously easy microwave cookie.

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Ingredients

1 tablespoon (14g) butter
1 tablespoon (13g) sugar
1 tablespoon (13g) light brown sugar
A tiny splash of vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons (30g) plain flour
2 heaped tablespoons (30g) chocolate chips

Directions

– Grab a ramekin or mug that’s microwave safe (this won’t rise, so no need to use something big)

– Place the butter in the ramekin and melt in the microwave; do this in short intervals at about 70% power until just melted.

– To the melted butter, add the sugars and the vanilla. Stir together until combined ( a teaspoon is easiest on this scale!)

– Add the egg yolk and stir well.

– Add the flour, and stir in. The consistency should be similar to real cookie dough; if it’s too runny add a little more flour, and if it feels too stiff add a splash of milk.

– Add the chocolate chips and stir in. For this cookie I used a mixture of milk and dark chocolate chips – use whatever you fancy. Flatten the surface of the cookie.

– Microwave at about 70% power for between 30 and 40 seconds.

Tip: You don’t want to overcook this as it will dry out. The first time, only cook for 30 seconds; if it’s still looking quite wet on top, microwave for another 10 seconds. The cookie will continue to cook after you remove it from the microwave, and retains its heat for a while so be careful!

– Devour with a side of ice cold milk. Pretentious mini milk bottle not obligatory.

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Listening to Black Magic by Little Mix, Sugar by Maroon 5 and Hit me with your best shot by Pat Benatar.

This recipe is from Sweetest Kitchen with a few very tiny tweaks. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Flying saucer cakes – honey & vanilla madeleines

The best thing about creating food, as far as I’m concerned, is making it for other people.  It’s one of my favourite ways to show I love somebody.  When I was about ten, that meant trying to make a pink mushroom birthday cake for my mum, and learning the hard way that you cannot ice a cake when it’s hot from the oven.  As I got older and slightly more handy in the kitchen, it has meant pancakes or scrambled eggs or huge plates of pasta for my hungry brother, and impromptu desserts for whoever is coming around for dinner.  Surprise birthday cakes in sixth form and careful research to find out which baking would most cheer up a friend mid essay crisis.

And that’s how I came to make madeleines for the first time.  My boyfriend has been talking for a while about a kind of cake crossed with a biscuit which he remembered from holidays in France.  It took some googling to find out what he was referring to, but it turned out to be these little golden cakes — denser than a sponge, but lighter than a biscuit. And so I set about working out how to make them, then putting two into a tupperware each evening for him to take to work the next day.  What can I say, I love through cake.

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Traditionally, madeleines are made in a special tin which creates delicate little shell-shaped cakes.  But let’s be honest, I have neither the space nor the money to buy a whole new set of trays.   One day, I will have a kitchen straight out of a Lakeland Plastics catalogue.   Today is not that day: I have two functioning cupboards in my kitchen, so adaptability is the name of the baking game here.  I took a gamble, made my first batch in a cupcake tray, and it worked just fine.  They may not be as refined as their French cousins, but I kind of enjoy their spaceship stylings.  This version is delicately flavoured with vanilla and honey, and although I do ostensibly make these for M, they don’t all make it to his lunchbox…

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Ingredients

  • 100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, melted
  • 1 whole egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

Directions

– Preheat oven to 190c (170c fan oven or gas mark 5).

– Use a tiny amount of the melted butter to grease a 12-hole cupcake tray (or a madeleine tray if you have one) and use a sieve to dust lightly with flour.

– Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl. Put the butter, egg yolk, honey and vanilla into a separate bowl and whisk together.

– Using a hand held whisk, whisk the two egg whites until stiff.

– Fold the butter mixture into the dry ingredients until evenly mixed, then gently fold in the egg whites until thoroughly combined.  Be careful not over mix (you want to keep the volume in the egg whites).

– Divide between the moulds and bake for 10-12 mins until golden brown and firm to the touch.

– Leave to cool in the moulds for a few minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

– Dust with icing sugar before serving, if you like.

I haven’t tried it, but I feel like these would be really fun to decorate with smarties, chocolate chips, coloured icing and strawberry laces, to make them look like actual spaceships. That would definitely be a legitimate use of time for a twenty-something, right?

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Listening to: Overwhelmed by Rachel Platten, Stutter by Marianas Trench and Girl by Beck.

Edit: 10th July 2016

My mum bought us madeleine trays! These ones are kind of prettier – I even dusted them with icing sugar…

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This recipe is from the BBC Good Food website.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Crispy chilli beef with red peppers

This is an attempt at a classic Chinese takeaway dish — my boyfriend’s favourite in fact.  He loves it, and although this isn’t exactly the same, it’s delicious in its own right. I’ve made it twice now, and it’s a firm favourite in the lovely-treat-but-healthier-than-a-takeaway dinner category. It’s has a little heat to its thanks to the chillies, but I have a feeling that if you left them out you’d still be left with a deliciously sticky sauce perfect served with fluffy white rice. The red peppers are my own edition — what can I say? I’m my mother’s daughter and can’t often bring myself to create a meal wholly devoid of vegetables!

This is the kind of recipe that can seem a bit complicated at first, but after your first attempt it soon becomes more straightforward. In fact, most of the changes I’ve made to this dish were to simplify it from its even more complicated original! I didn’t have any black rice vinegar…

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Ingredients

For the crispy beef

  • 200g of beef steak (the thinner the better)
  • 100g cornflour, seasoned with salt and pepper

For the marinade

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1 egg

For the sauce

  • 5 thin slices of fresh ginger,  finely chopped
  • 2 gloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Dried or fresh chillies to taste, very finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Optional garnish

  • Spring onions, sliced

Directions

– First make the marinade. Mix together the sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and the egg until well combined.

– Cut the beef into strips a couple of inches long. Add them into the marinade, swish around and let it sit for a couple of minutes.

– Heat a decent couple of slugs of cooking oil of your choice (I used rapeseed) in a deep frying pan over a medium heat.

– Meanwhile, add the seasoned cornflour to a shallow dish. Once the oil is hot, dip the beef pieces into the cornflour, shaking off the excess before adding to the pan. Fry until crispy and browned. Drain off the excess oil on kitchen paper and set the beef aside.

– In a clean frying pan, fry the ginger, garlic and chilli gently on a low heat. Mix together the soy sauce, tomato ketchup, balsamic vinegar and honey and add to the pan. Add the red pepper and turn up the heat. Bubble the sauce for a few minutes until thickened slightly.

– Return the beef to the pan and coat with the sauce.

– Serve immediately with rice and a sprinkling of spring onions.

Listening to Mr Hurricane by Beast,  Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard by Paul Simon, Can’t Stop by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Little Red Wagon by Miranda Lambert and Speaking a Dead Language by Joy Williams.

This recipe is quite heavily adapted from the Food Network website.  All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Jam and cream and all things nice: Victoria sponge

This was the first cake I ever made; for a long time, it was the only cake I ever made. It’s perfect for a beginner: pretty much foolproof and reliably delicious despite its simplicity. My boyfriend requested it for his birthday this year, and it’s my Dad’s favourite too. If you’ve never had it, you need to make it soon!

There are of course many similar recipes out there, but this cake goes back to first principles in that it’s the same weight of everything (except the vanilla essence, but that’s optional anyway), and mum uses a method designed to account for differing weights/sizes of eggs. At home we had a pair of those old fashioned scales which use tiny weights on one side and a removable metal dish on the other; this method was devised with that in mind, but the same principles apply with any other type of scale.

In the ‘old fashioned’ way, you put your eggs (I used three this time, but you can use two depending on how big you want your cake to be) on the part where the weights would go, and then use their weight to measure all of the other ingredients. If you’ve got any other type of scale, weigh your eggs and then measure out the same amount of everything else. In my case, three large eggs weighed 200g, so I used 200g of the other main ingredients too.

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Ingredients

For the cake

Sugar

Butter or margarine

Eggs (2 or 3, see above)

Self raising flour

A splash of vanilla essence

A little icing sugar (for dusting)

For the filling

Double cream (as much as you like)

Jam (any kind, I used strawberry)

– Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan), then grease two 20cm sandwich tins and set aside

– Cream together the butter and the sugar using a wooden spoon, or an electric whisk if you’re feeling fancy

– Add the eggs one at a time, with a tablespoon of flour each time, mixing after each addition

– Splash in the vanilla essence

– Sieve in the rest of the flour and fold in until the mixture is smooth

– Divide the mixture between the two tins and spread into a fairly even layer.

– Bake for 20- 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean (with a few moist crumbs)

– Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

– Meanwhile, beat the double cream until stiff – when the cakes are cool, spread the underside of one with the cream, and the underside of the other with a generous helping of jam.

-Sandwich together and dust the top with icing sugar – the easiest way is to put a few spoonfuls of icing sugar into a sieve, hold it about 10cm from the top of the cake and gently tap the side until you have a light layer of powdery goodness.

– Slice generously and serve.

Because it contains fresh cream, you need to keep this in the fridge unless you live somewhere really cold! It’s not ideal as it can make the sponge really hard, so each time you want some more try to remember to lift the cake out about half an hour  before to allow it to return to room temperature. Because of this, the cake is really best devoured as soon as possible – I don’t think you’ll have too many problems persuading people to eat this rapidly though.

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Listening to Beat me Daddy (Eight to the Bar) by The Andrews Sisters, New York, New York Medley by Mel Torme, That Old Black Magic by Ella Fitzgerald, Night Club by Mose Allison — I’m going through a serious jazz phase… It’s genetic.

This recipe is one I learned from my mum – it’s one that’s been around forever, seemingly. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.