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Victoria Sandwich

Friday 28 October 2016
I baked a Victoria Sponge as a technical challenge for the last episode bake along in the latest series of The Great British Bake Off.  I used the 'all in one' method which makes it such an easy cake to whip up.

My family managed to wait until I had finished taking photos before they pounced on the cake and devoured the lot, I had to be quick taking the photos though as they were hungrily circling.  It went down very well with the hungry hordes and they now want it added to my regular baking sessions.  

Victoria Sandwich

4 large free range eggs
225g/8oz caster sugar
225g/8oz self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
225g/8oz baking spread or soft butter at room temperature

To serve:
Jam, I usually use raspberry
Whipped Cream

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.  Grease and line 2 x 20cm/8in sandwich tins.  Grease the inside of the tin then line the bottom of each of the tins with a circle of non-stick baking paper.  

Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl, then add the rest of the cake ingredients.  Beat with an electric mixer until combined.  Don't over mix the batter, as soon as everything is blended stop mixing.   

Divide the mixture evenly between the tins and gently smooth the surface of the batter.  Place the tins on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes.   The cakes are done when they’re golden-brown and coming away from the edge of the tins. The centre of the cakes should spring back when gently pressed.

Remove the cakes from the oven and set aside to cool in the tins for five minutes.  Turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack that has been covered with a clean tea towel.  This stops the cake tops from being marked by the wire rack.  

Once the cakes have cooled completely you can assemble the sandwich.  Place one cake upside down onto a plate and spread it with plenty of jam then spread over plenty of whipped cream.  Top with the second cake, top-side up.  Dust with icing sugar to serve.  

Giant Chocolate Chip Birthday Cookie

Monday 17 October 2016
I baked this as an experiment and oh my goodness was it delicious! My daughters said it would be great decorated like a Birthday Cookie that a certain cookie retailer sells.  Baked as one of 10yo's birthday cakes, this giant cookie cost £1.87 to make, without energy and decorating costs.  The High St retailler version costs £14.99 or more depending on your choice of decoration.  My version is 8 times cheaper!

I used a simple icing sugar and water icing to decorate the cookie, coloured with gel colours.  Cost of icing was 60p for the icing sugar, I had the gel colours already but you can purchase them for around £1 and they last a very long time as you don't need to use much.  You could of course use 30g cocoa (30p) to make chocolate icing, and save on cost.

Giant Chocolate Chip  Birthday Cookie

175g softened butter (56p)
200g granulated sugar (11p)
1 large free range egg (16p)
2 tsp vanilla bean paste (30p)
250g self raising flour (8p)
2 tsp baking powder (6p)
100g dark chocolate chunks, I chopped up a chocolate block (30p)
100g milk chocolate chunks I chopped up a chocolate block (30p)

Preheat your oven to 200C/Fan 180C/400F/Gas Mark 6.  Grease and line a 23cm/9 inch non-stick, loose based flan tin or springform cake tin.

Cream the butter and the sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla then beat again until completely combined.  

Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl, then gently but thoroughly mix it until a soft cookie dough forms.  Add the chocolate chips and stir to distribute them evenly through the cookie dough.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared flan tin then spread out evenly, ensuring the top is level.  

Bake in the preheated oven for bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out free of crumbs or dough.

Allow to cool in the tin and gently turn out the cookie before serving in slices.

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies - GBBO Botanicals Week

Sunday 2 October 2016
It was Botanicals Week on The Great British Bake Off and for the signature challenge I decided to bake Mini Lemon Meringue Pies instead of a large one as they are much better for portion control purposes, and also more appropriate for afternoon tea which was when my family would get to devour them.  I cooked the meringue in the oven, no blow torches in my kitchen, so I think Mary Berry would approve. 

I used the Nutri Ninja Complete System that I had been sent to review to make the pastry.  It whipped up the pastry in a flash! So quick and easy to just bung all the ingredients for the pastry into the machine and whizz it for a few seconds.  

I also made my own lemon curd, and used the leftover egg whites for the meringue.  Such a delicious afternoon tea treat, and no waste as all of the eggs were used and I also used some lemons that were looking rather tired in our fridge.

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies - Makes 24

To make the pastry cases:

330g plain flour
3 Tblsp caster sugar
175g cold butter, cubed
Cold water

Put the flour, sugar and butter into the bowl of a processor, add 1 tablespoon full of ice cold water and mix until the dough comes together.  If you need to add more water do so one teaspoonful at a time until the dough comes together.  Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in clingfilm then chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.  

To make the dough by hand: Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar before adding the a little water. 

I add a tablespoon of cold water then add more, if necessary, a teaspoonful at a time. Mix to a firm dough and press out to a disc shape. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for half an hour before you attempt to roll it out.  Whilst the pastry dough rests, make the lemon curd.

Lemon Curd

200g butter
225g caster sugar
Grated zest and juice from 3 lemons
4 free range eggs

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Whisk the sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and eggs into the butter until well combined. Keep whisking continuously whilst the curd thickens and comes to the boil. Remove from the heat just as it is about to boil vigorously. Pour into a bowl to cool for a couple of minutes then put a piece of clingfilm over the curd, touching the surface so that a skin doesn’t form. When the curd has reached room temperature, transfer it to the fridge. You can store the lemon curd in a the fridge, just keep it covered. I put mine into sterilised jars topped with cellophane and a band. The curd will thicken considerably in the fridge and will keep for 2–3 weeks.

To make the meringue:

Make the meringue by whisking the egg whites with half the sugar until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the remaining sugar and the cream of tartar whilst whisking. You should end up with a very stiff meringue mixture. Carefully spread the meringue over the cake, make sure you cover the lemon curd completely and that the meringue forms a seal around the edge of the cake. Rough up the meringue with a spoon to make peaks on the top. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the meringue is golden. Keep an eye on it as it can go from golden to burnt very quickly. Cool for 10 minutes then chill in the fridge for half an hour to an hour before you serve it as this makes it much easier to cut neat slices.

Assembling and baking the mini pies:

Take one half of the pastry out of the fridge and unwrap it.  Roll out into an even shape, on a lightly floured surface, to about the thickness of a £1 coin. 

Grease two 12 hole muffin tins and cut large circles out of your dough before placing them into the prepared muffin tin holes. Prick the bottom of the pastry well with a fork and bake in a preheated oven set to 180C/160C Fan/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 10 minutes.  Repeat with the second batch of dough.

Once the cooked pastry cases have cooled, dollop some lemon curd into each one. I usually fill them about 3/4 full.  You can then pipe your meringue on top of each tart.  I make sure that I completely cover the lemon curd.

Bake the tarts in an oven preheated to 220C/200C Fan/425F/Gas Mark 7 and cook the tarts for approximately 10 - 15 minutes until the edges of the meringue start to turn golden.  Keep an eye on the tarts after 10 minutes as the meringue can brown very quickly.

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