Thursday, 14 January 2016

Ten Best Baking Hacks


Knee deep in nappies, hours (mostly at 3am) spent googling "how to get my baby to sleep through the night" and days spent happily splashing my maternity cash on lattes in local coffee shops with other new mums, means the concept of a life hack had until recently passed me by. But apparently it's a "thing" at the minute. For those not in the know, Wikipedia tells me that Life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life. 

While my husband was taking his turn to blow raspberries while our darling baby laughed uproariously, I thought to put together a list of my favourite baking hacks. While these hacks may not change your life, say in the manner of this week's largest ever lottery win, they may come in handy one day... 

1. Softly, softly
Although a microwave will soften and warm butter in seconds, it is rather frowned upon. Another version is to pop the butter in a freezer bag and give it a bash with a rolling pin. Terribly satisfying. Another option is to copy Jo Brand and sit on it

2. Grounded
If your recipe calls for ground almonds and your cupboard is bare, simply replace the quantity with plain flour and add a teaspoon of almond extract.

3. Whisk
Whisking icing sugar almost inevitably means your work surface is covered in a fine layer of the sugar for at least the next fortnight. A teatowel over the whisk or a paper plate, with holes cut out and inserted at the top of the beaters, will reduce any back splash and messy clear up

4. Bangin' biscuits
Keep your homemade biscuits crisp by placing a couple of sugar cubes in the biscuit tin. Previously baked biscuits can also be pepped up by popping them back in the oven for a few minutes on a low heat

5. Brown Sugar
Not the song, but the hardened sweet stuff. No matter how carefully I reseal the bag, inevitably the sugar hardens between use. Either I need to make a lot more fruit cakes or I could pop a marshmallow or slice of bread in with the brown sugar in an airtight container

6. Egg-cellent
Urgently need eggs at room temperature? Simply pop them in a bowl of hot water for 5-10 minutes. 

7. Perfect precision 
For the absolutely perfectly cut slice of your favourite sticky cake, run your knife under hot water for several seconds, dry and slice

8. Crumbled
If no Sunday lunch is complete without a crumble for pudding, you can bulk-bake the crumble topping, divide into small portions to freeze and simply whip out each Sunday no ring to scatter over your fruit without missing a single word of The Archers omnibus 

9. Emergency Cake
Need a cake-fix in a hurry? Microwave Mug Cake recipes have come a long way and take all over 8.7 seconds to make (possibly a slight exaggeration)

10. Charred, scorched and crisped 
Slightly singed cake or burnt the biscuits? Use a microplane to grate away the bits you don't want anyone else to see. Who knew you accidentally forgot about the cookies in the oven while preoccupied with goings on in Ambridge?

11. Tricky sticky ingredients
When you're measuring out sticky ingredients, such as treacle or honey, spray the measuring bowl with a little non stick cooking spray and the ingredients will miraculously not stick

* Eleven. Sorry, somewhat sleep deprived and can no longer count.

What are your best baking hacks?

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Baking Trends 2016

Image result for 2016
Image courtesy of

Happy New Year!

And welcome to the annual What Kate Baked prediction of baking trends for the next 365 days, aka the post in which I wildly and inaccurately attempt to predict what the cool kids will be eating in 2016.

Savoury Doughnuts

Image courtesy of

Remember that Miranda episode with Miranda's apocalyptic reaction when she discovered the existence of savoury muffins? My response to reading about the forthcoming trend for Spicy Ox flavoured doughnuts or the Nutella Bacon Doughnut was not dissimilar...

Artisan Ice Cream

Salted Caramel Bacon Butter Ice Cream is the new Mr Whippy. No really; this trend will definitely be found at an ice cream van near you this summer.

Ube Cheesecake

Image courtesy of

Not the illegitimate child of the popular taxi firm, but a Filipian vibrant- purple yam. Currently a big hit on the West Coast of the US

Trashy Flavours

Think Oreo or Smarties or Creme Egg everything. Simply bake your classic, traditional Victoria Sponge and decorate it in an enormous amount of E-numbers

Extreme Pastry

...has the makings of the best obscure-satellite channel TV programme ever. Its all about the mountains of spun sugar apparently. Where's Bear Grylli when you need him?

Bakewell Tarts

According to a top London restranteur, Bakewell Tarts are going to be huge this year. Well, in terms of popularity, not size. Although a giant Bakewell Tart does sound like my kind of trend.

Whether you'll be tucking into ubes, creating spun sugar mountains or devouring savoury doughnuts, have a very happy 2016!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas Pudding Sundae

Well, hellooooo, did you all have a good Christmas Day?

As you read this post, I'm sure the detritus of Christmas is all around; scrumpled, hurriedly unwrapped paper decorating the living room like confetti, only half of the sparkly lights on the tree still flashing as its quite frankly too much effort to replace the batteries, a discarded tin of Roses, the unwanted coffee creams forlornly piled at the bottom and, no doubt, rather a lot of leftovers.

Here's where I can help. Especially if you have any leftover Christmas Pudding.

Christmas Pudding Sundae

200g leftover Christmas Pud
100g cranberry sauce
2 tbsp mulled wine
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsps. toasted flaked almonds
8 scoops ice cream (I used Carte D'Or Vanilla)

1. Warm through the Christmas Pudding as per the original pudding instructions and spoon between four sundae glasses or pudding bowls
2. Mix the cranberry sauce with the mulled wine and sugar in a small pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring to combine
3. Drizzle the cranberry sauce over the Christmas puddings, add a scoop of ice cream and sprinkle with the almonds
4. Serve immediately

With thanks to Carte D'Or

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Festive Foodie Wish-List: The Best Christmas Presents for the Foodie in Your Life

With just nine days left until Christmas (approximately 104 shopping hours*) I've taken all the joy/despair out of that last minute 'what on earth am I going to get the foodie in my life?!' 

You are very welcome. 

* Totally random, made up figure.

I don't think anyone will ask for the receipt if they were to open this beautiful recipe tin on Christmas morning (dotcomgiftshop £9.99)

Keith Brymer Jones Bah Humbug Medium Mug - White

Fans of the Great British Pottery Throw Down will be 'pot-ty' about this festive mug from judge Keith Brymer Jones (£10)

Chocolate obvs isn't just for Christmas, but this scrumptious seasonal offering from Lindt certainly is; I can't imagine it lasting past Boxing Day (£8.99)

Of all the trillion* cookbooks out this year, I reckon this one is the best. Read my review here (Homemade Memories, Kate Doran £18.99)

*Another random, made up figure.

Image result for chocolate guess who

Games and Christmas go together like January and gym membership. Here's a chocolate version of the classic Guess Who? (Selfridges, £12.99)

Image result for waitrose hampers

Tick all the boxes with a Christmas Hamper from Waitrose (£24-400)

Christmas Toast Tea Towel

Someone will have drawn the short straw and have to do the washing up on Christmas day. A festive tea towel will surely help with such matters (Emma Bridgewater £10)

Image result for carluccio's panettone

Pannettone makes a great gift and this enormous, award winning offering from Carluccios is 5kg of pure candied fruit and peel (£65)

Three-month gin journey - gift certificate

In the market to get your recipient absolutely trollyed by 3pm this Christmas? This Three Month Gin Journey Subscription should do the trick (Shaken, £72)

Nordic Ware Chiffon Bundt® Cake Pan

For the baker in your family a Nordic Bake Ware Bundt Tin is always going to garner 'brownie' points (Divertimenti, from £30)

How To Cook Everything A2 Kitchen Print

Want to whip up a curry in a hurry? Can't recall how many eggs matter in a batter? This print will give you the answers to pretty much every cooking query (Paperplane Designs, £18)

Image result for bucks fizz marmalade

Bucks Fizz Marmalade. Festive toast sorted. (Fortnum and Mason, £7.95)

Buy Kikkerland Bear Hug Bottle Opener Online at

And finally who doesn't need a bear hugging bottle opener in their lives? Exactly. (£9 John Lewis)

PS: I have sent this post to my husband about 34 times.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Piparkakut- Finnish Christmas Gingerbread Biscuits

Its a cliche, I know, but this really is the most wonderful time of the year. No other season can possibly compare to Christmas for the sheer indulgence, tradition and glory of festive food. In which other month does your daily fluid intake consist mostly of fizz and cocktails? Your breakfast involve advent chocolates? Turkey seem quite such a triumphant dinner?

Well, Expedia got in touch recently to ask if I'd take part in their Christmas on A Plate Challenge. This has been running throughout 2015 and challenges bloggers to create a meal or recipe based on an Expedia holiday destination. With Christmas but a length of tinsel away, I've chosen to bake a Finnish recipe. Now if you google 'Finland', 'Christmas' and 'recipes', you'll soon discover the Fins traditionally enjoy fish roe, liver and an awful lot of beetroot. Not necessarily on one plate, and all delightful I'm sure, but not for this sweet-toothed baking blogger. Then I read about these glorious Piparkakut biscuits. Crunchy, warmly spiced with ginger, clove and cinnamon, with a touch of orange zest, these make perfect presents at this time of year. These first appear around Finnish Independence Day on 6th December, giving plenty of time to perfect the biscuits before The Big Day itself.

I've been munching on these as we begin to wrap our presents, warbling along to classic Christmas tunes; all I need is an an extra large glass of glogg to truly enter the Finnish Cheistmas spirit!

Piparkakut- Finnish Christmas Gingerbread Biscuits

Makes 10-12 biscuits

75g unsalted butter
50g dark muscovado sugar
50g golden syrup
160g plain flour
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground clove

50g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line 2-3 baking trays with baking parchment.
2. Over a gentle heat, melt the butter, sugar and syrup, stirring occasionally until completely melted
3. Remove from the heat and mix in the flour, bicarb and spices to form a stiff dough. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
4. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll to a thickness of around 5mm. Use a selection of festive biscuit cutters to cut out your biscuit shapes and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Bake in batched for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown
5. When completely cool decorate with the icing: sift the icing sugar into a bowl and gradually add a little water to form a thick paste. Pipe or spoon the icing over the biscuits

Baker's notes...

  • If you wish to hand these on your Christmas Tree, use a skewer to insert a hole into each biscuit while they are still warm. 
  • These make a great Christmas present and can be stored in an airtight tin for up to two weeks
With thanks to Expedia who gifted a voucher and hamper for writing this post.