Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Picnic Pies: August Tea Time Treats Round-Up!

Roll up, roll up, take your place on the picnic rug
Bring along your plastic plate, your napkin and your mug

Its time for this month's Tea Time Treats
Hurry up, take your seats

It may be raining; there's certainly no sun
But let that not spoil our picnic fun

Here we have a selection of the finest bakes
August is the month for perfect pies, pop back in September for the cakes!

In between watching Wiggo's win, Claire from Under the Blue Gum Tree got this month's Tea Time Treats off to a flying golden start with this glorious Ham, Egg and Potato Pie, inspired by Dan Lepard. Delicious additions to this pie, suggests Claire, could include a little mustard, some sliced Spring Onion or a handful of peas. 

I loved Lauralovescake's description of where she enjoyed her delicious Picnic Pie, an Apple and Blackberry Pie: at the Olympic Park!! An electric atmosphere, a morning of amazing sport and a really tasty Pie complete with soft, sweet pastry and the classic fruit combo makes for one great picnic!

Fantastic finger food makes one perfect picnic and one of our most regular and enthusiastic Tea Time Treaters, the lovely Kiki from Kitchen of Kiki has been busy baking these adorable mini Quiche Lorraines

Inspired by Sicily, our next Picnic Pie comes courtesy of Solange from Pebble Soup who has baked this  Crostata di Peperoni, Ricotta e Basilico (Sweet Pepper, Riccota and Basil Pie). Salute! as they would say on the Italian Tea Time Treats Table!

The fresh air of the great outdoors increasing your appetite? This next peachy entry caters for those with mini and massive appetities (I for one count myself firmly in the latter category): Little and Large Peach and Marsala Pies, a recipe that simply screams summer from Laura's How to Cook Good Food. Laura will be teaching some very fortunate students how to make delicious pastries and pies next term.

Apple and cheese in a pie? Don't mind if I do. The picnic rug over at Belleau Kitchen is a mighty fine place to whil away a hot summer's afternoon, digging in blissfully to these crackin' little Cheese and Apple tartlets baked by Dom

Now this next entry brings back many a memory of this week's episode of the Great British Bake Off, the show that has the nation glued to the sofa every Tuesday evening. This week's theme was tarts and Cookaroo's French Pear Tart, complete with almond frangipane and apple jelly would have Mary-n-Paul (never mind Sue-n-Mel and 3.85million viewers) salivating with delight

A great combination of flavours makes this next terrific tart: Salmon, Mustard and Rocket Tart from Cookbooks Galore 

As I'm sure you too will agree, the only problem with peaches is that they are so darn tasty they are often devoured before coming anywhere near a hot oven. Hungry Hinny solved this by buying a cut price punnet, enabling the baking of these mouthwatering Mini Ginger Peach Pies

With not one but two entries the Tea Time Treats picnic rug is thrilled Mich from a Piece of Cake joined the picnic party. First up, Mich baked these eggscellent (sorry!) Egg Tarts:

And secondly these Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Green Tea Cream, which are low-cal which means we get to eat LOADS! Hurrah!

The three key aspects of a Perfect Picnic Pie are as follows (and not necessarily in this order): easy to transport, easy to eat and downright delicious. Suelle from Mainly Baking has baked this Sour Cream Apple Pie with Streusal Topping which fits all three!

Ahhh, summer fruits. Juicy, plump, sweet summer fruits resting on a light sponge and a crumbly pastry- with many thanks to Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker for this magnificent Nectarine and Summer Berry Tart!

 Oh. My. How gorgeously gorgeous are these delightful little Strawberry Angel Delight with Crunchy Chocolate Bottoms from Tales from Pigling Bland? I LOVE ANGEL DELIGHT!! And look, its like GROWN-UP delights!! Utterly inspired genius.

dorset cereal based angel delight

Inspired by the Great British Bake Off, which I'd no doubt Euan from Signor Biscotti would win should he ever enter, a super savoury pie and splendid sweet pie has kept Euan very busy in the kitchen- just look at these magnificent Pork Pies!

And to follow, Euan has baked these Portuguese Custard Tarts, complete with sweet, flaky pastry and custard infused with cinnamon, lemon and vanilla 

Hands up who'd like a succulent slice of Working London Mummy's Nectarine, Orange Flower and Almond Filo Tart? Described as nectarines in an almond frangipane encased within filo pastry and scattered with pistachios and almonds there certainly won't be any second helpings of this tremendous tart left over!

For her very first entry to Tea Time Treats (welcome to the groaning, packed picnic rug!), Charlene from Food Glorious Food has baked this delicious Chicken and Ham Pie, a classic pie combo if there ever was!

Complete with a really fascinating account of the origins of the picnic, Karen, from Lavender and Lovage my fellow Tea Time Treater baked this stupendous Sausage and Onion Plait with Sage and Onion, a much loved family recipe, which she and her good friends tucked into right beside the beach during a nocturnal picnic!  That's right, a nocturnal picnic! How much fun!

 Sausage Plait with Sage and Onion (Picnic Pie)

Yorkshire. The home of cricket. Bettys. The Dales and the Moors. And Yorkshire Curd Tarts! These come with a chocolately twist on the classic, courtesy of Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, who was even able to enjoy them at an actual picnic in the GLORIOUS SUNSHINE! Woozaas, as I think they say in cricket. Or is that Howwzaat?! 

With September right around the corner, this next entry from Caroline Makes is sure to inspire lots of Autumnal baking (and I love that time of year and most certainly will be bookmarking this recipe): Apple, Pear and Chocolate Tarte Tatin, just look at all that sweet, sticky, caramalised  gooey, fruit

Michelle from Utterly Scrummy describes this tart as a lovely, easy bake that takes seconds... I presume to bake but also I'm sure to devour! This tart, with its classic combination of Peach and Raspberry is sure to be popular addition to any picnic

And our penultimate pie, summer in a glorious bright yellow pie dish is this Mango Mousse Pie (even typing the words puts a big summery smile on my face!) from Season to Taste and Serve 

And here's one TTT pie I made earlier...

Thank you, as always, to all the wonderful Tea Time Treat bakers!

Pop over on 1st September to see what Karen has in store for next month's theme!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Summer Village Shows and Bunting Biscuits

It is Summer Fete and Show time.

Up and down the country village greens and church halls are being turned into the most competitive arenas outside the Olympic Stadium.

A highlight of each childhood summer (you know, the ones that were always long and hot) was attending our local village show

I was never able to enter certain categories. Mainly due to lack of key components. Such as Class 14: Welsh Mountain Pony Foal. I didn't have a single Welsh Mountain Pony Foal to enter. Would a 'My Little Pony' suffice, I'd be wondering despondently. 

I really wished I could enter certain Classes. Novelty Dog Classes: Class 13: Dog with the Waggiest Tale was one I felt exceptionally saddened at missing out on. Imagine being the owner of the prizewinning Dog with the Waggiest Tail! The fame! The notoriety! 

Instead I spent my entire summer planning my entries for the classes I could enter. Such as Children's Section: Class 6: Vegetable Animal. Each year I perfected my Crocodile Cucumber to find at least a dozen other Crocodile Cucumbers present; if only the internet existed when I was eight years old.

I'd meticulously design my Flower Arrangement in an Egg Cup (Class 10). Please bear in mind there is not a huge amount of room in an Egg Cup. It took infinite imagination, patience and a lot of luck to win first prize in this particular category.

Are you attending any shows or fetes this year? Entering any categories? 

These Almond Bunting Biscuits are baked in honour of all entrants, winners and would be winners, if only they had a Welsh Mountain Pony Foal or Dog with a Waggy Tail... 

Bunting Biscuits

350g plain flour
100g cold butter, diced
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g light soft brown sugar
1 large egg
75g golden syrup
2 tsps almond extract

Ready roll icing, assorted colours (approximately 1 kg in total)
Icing Sugar to decorate

1. Pop the flour, butter, bicarb and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined. Tip into a mixing bowl
2. In a separate bowl whisk the egg, syrup and extract then add this mixture to the pulsed ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon then use your hands to knead together to form a smooth dough. Wrap the dough securely in a piece of clingfilm and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes
3. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Roll out the dough out on a floured surface and cut triangular shapes out, approximately 4 inch x 4 inch x 3 inch. Use a pencil end to make two holes for the bunting string at the top of each  triangle. Place on a baking parchment lined baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes. When you remove the biscuits from the oven and they remain warm use the pencil to re-establish the holes for the string as during the cooking process these will have closed slightly
4. Roll out the icing on a lightly icing sugar dusted surface and cut out triangular shapes the same size as the biscuits. Brush the cooled biscuits with a little water to stick the icing triangles down. 
5. Cut small circles from left over icing to decorate the flags (I used the larger ends of piping nozzles), again brushing a little water on the circles to stick to the bunting biscuits
6. Thread through ribbon or string to finish

Baker's notes...
  • These are lovely, delicious celebratory biscuits perfect for any summer do
  • The original recipe, from Good Food Magazine June 2012 contained a little more sugar and were vanilla flavoured. 
  • It would of course look more authenticate if you did string the ribbon through the bunting, unlike lazy me throwing it on top of the biscuits!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Great British Bake Off, Ruby Jacks and Aztec Cookies

The Great British Bake Off is back!

The perfect cure for POB (Post-Olympic Blues).

Rather than engaging in the hopeful side-effect of POB, namely investing in new trainers and practicing now for Rio 2016 while simultaneously achieving Jess' fab abs, I'm back infront of the telly. This time salivating at treats that make any sweet-toothed soul cancel all plans for Tuesday nights for the foreseeable future.

Queen Mary of (Bakewell) HeTarts is back.

Paul 'Mr Silver Fox Nasty' Hollywood returns.

Mel-n-Sue are there to offer a comforting word and a tension-relieving-giggle. Anyone else laugh just a little uproariously when Sue thought that Upside Down Cake, the first challenge set to the contestants, is known as just cake in Australia? Surely straight to the top of the 'Best Cake Jokes Ever' chart, easily displacing:

'Which cake wanted to rule the world?

Attila the Bun'

And my goodness, weren't the standards high! That Blackbird Pie Cake! The challenge of the Baba! The praying at the alter of the oven! You couldn't help feel for Natasha, the first contestant to leave when Paul, upon tasting her technical challenge, pointedly noted 'technically, its raw'

And we've a whole FIFTEEN more episodes to go. Pinnies at the ready...

Meanwhile, for behind-the-scenes chatter, The Radio Times interviewed all the contestants who were all lovely and candid about their experiences.

And a new GBBO baking book is out, inspired by the Showstopper Challenges and full of creative and inspired ideas to bake eye catching cakes.

A quick flick though and it certainly is intended for the more experienced baker, although restricted by time (that blackbird cake in two hours?! Not on your nelly!) I found two of the more simpler recipes to bake to celebrate the return of the show.

Ruby Jacks (above)

I adapted this recipe from the book

115g unsalted butter
60g light brown sugar
4 tbsps golden syrup
1 piece of stem ginger, chopped into smallest pieces you can
1 tsp ground ginger
180g porridge oats
30g white chocolate melted
1 x 20.5cm square tin, greased

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
2. Pop the butter, sugar, syrup, stem ginger and ground ginger into a pan and heat gently, stirring continuously until all the ingredients have melted together
3. Remove from the heat and stir int the oats until completely combined
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface with the back of the spoon. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the flapjack is turning golden brown around the edges
5. Cut the flapjacks into squares while still warm, then remove from the tin when cooled and drizzle over the melted chocolate to finish

Baker's notes...

  • The original recipe had 5 tbsps of golden syrup which was quite generous compared to other flapjack recipes I've used
  • Chopped glace ginger, as suggested in the book, can be used instead of stem ginger- use 1 rounded tbsp. Also suggested are a handful of dried sour cherries and cranberries to decorate on the top
  • The flapjacks last for up to one week in an airtight container

Aztec Cookies (above)

These coffee flavoured chocolate cookies had somewhat of a cakey texture but certainly provided a boost in our Thursday morning meeting at work. The recipe can be found in The Great British Bake Off- How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers

Baker's notes...

  • I omitted the chunks of white chocolate suggested as I accidently nibbled too much of the chocolate during the cooking process (occupational hazard I guess). Instead I had to srizzle melted white chocolate over each cookie
  • The original recipe suggested using gold dust or glitter (of the edible variety) to provide the Aztec sparkle
  • Any signs of that squirrel yet?!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Olympic Baking: Team GB Red Velvet Whoopie Pies with Blueberries and Raspberries

Its the very last day of the London 2012 Olympics today.

As you read this I'll be busy in final rehearsals for the Closing Ceremony tonight: A Symphony of British Music.

And with the Closing Ceremony comes the the sad realisation: what am I going to do with myself now the Games have finished?! And while I eagerly await the start of the Paralympics, here are some of my highlights of the last two weeks:

  • That night in the Olympic Stadium on Super(duper) Saturday when Team GB dominated were the Athletics, the entire nation was glued to their telly screens in disbelief through the combined brilliance of Jess, Mo and Greg. And the Second Super Saturday when Mo did the Double!
  • Celebrating Team GB's Golden Games- they just kept coming! An unprecedented Gold rush for Great Britain made these the most successful games in the modern era. Or at least since the 1908 London Games, which included sports such as Tug of War, Bicycle Polo, Pie Throwing and the Tandem Cycling race...*
  • Reading the stories of sacrifice and suffering each athlete has experienced over the last four years...and all the support provided by the families and friends of our superstars
  • The enthusiasm, joy, emotion and unabashed patriotism. And the super support shown by sporting fans to all nations: typified by the following description in last week's Sunday Times:  'One woman roared with such passion that her friend had to calm her: "But you're not from Azerbaijan. You're from Swansea"
  • Developing an encyclopedic knowledge of lesser known sports. While its pretty straightforward that whoever crosses the line first on the Athletics track gets 400g of precious metal placed around their neck a short while later, over the last fourteen days I've learnt that 'eggbeater' is not a fancy word for 'whisk' but a move in Synchronised Swimming
  • Possibly the best celebration of winning a Gold Medal: Germany's Robert Harting ripping off his shirt, grabbing his nation's flag and jumping in the wrong direction over each of the hurdles set our for the Women's competition
  • Playing my small part and getting to enjoy watching some Olympic Sport live with tickets to the Volleyball and Women's Road Race

* One of these events I may have made up. 

What are your best memories? Which moments captivated, astonished and wowed you?

These Pies were made to celebrate the phenomenal success of the Games of the XXX Olympiad as I've spent a huge amount of time over the last fourteen days shouting:


Team GB Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

For the pies
75g unsalted softened butter
125g soft light brown sugar
1 medium egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Half a tsp baking powder
50ml plain yogurt or buttermilk
150g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
2 tsps red food colouring

For the whoopie filling
30g softened unsalted butter
60g full fat cream cheese
Half a tsp vanilla extract
180g sifted icing sugar

A handful of raspberries and blueberries to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas Mark 4. 
2. Beat together the butter and sugar for a few minutes until nicely light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and continue to beat until combined. 
3. Sift together the baking powder, flour and cocoa powder. On a low speed, whisk in the flour mixture and yogurt in alternative batches. Be careful not to overbeat
4. Whisk in the food colouring and then spoon the batter into a piping bag. Cut a 1cm hole at the bottom of the bag and pipe approx 10-12 pies onto the prepared baking sheets ensuring to leave a few centimeters between each pie
5. Pop in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until nicely puffed and springy to touch. 
6. Allow the pies to cool while making the icing: beat together butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract. Sift in the icing sugar and beat until the icing becomes smooth and glossy
7. Once the pies are cooled use a spoonful of icing to sandwich two pies together. Dab a little icing to the top and use the blueberries and raspberries to decorate
8. Toast Team GB for their amazing achievements!

Baker's notes...
  • To ensure whoopies of the same size, use a circular object, such as an upturned glass and pencil to draw circles on the baking parchment to guide the piping of the pies
  • Keep a close eye on the pies as they bake- as you can see, distracted considerably by the Olympic action unfolding, a few of my pies got slightly singed at the edges. Oops.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Olympic Baking: Nectarine Gold Medal Tarts

The Olympics.

What can I say?

And I'm never lost for words (A, standing beside me as I type this, is fervently nodding in agreement)

It's awe-inspiring!

I'm glued to FiveLive on the way into work, I'm developing repetitive strain injury from pressing 'refresh' on my computer for BBC text updates and each evening is spent infront of the telly, gaining pressure sores from the sofa. I go to sleep dreaming of mixed synchronised time trial boxing medleys (well, they all mix up into one great big sport at the end of each day no?).

And we've still a whole eight days to go!

All that while still remaining on Cloud 9 (pun intended!) following the incredible Opening Ceremony, playing my very little bit and, erm, meeting Ban Ki Moon.

As I write even the most cynical are seduced by Olympic fever, Clare Balding has been crowned National Treasure and there are Cabinet-level discussions about cancelling this year's Sports Personality of the Year as there as simply far too many awesome Team GB candidates.

While the likes of Sir Chris, Wiggold and Queen Vic have the real thing, here's the baking version of their Gold Medals. Perfect to munch on while Team GB hopefully continue with their Gold Rush.

Yes, I appreciate these medal tarts can easily be mistaken for, erm, bunny rabbits

Gold Medal Nectarine Medal Tarts

150g ready rolled Puff Pastry (approximately half a pack)
4 nectarines, stoned and sliced into segments 
3 tbsps Apricot Jam
1 beaten egg
Icing sugar to dust
Patriotic Flags to fly

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Roll out the puff pastry on a surface sprinkled with icing sugar
2. Using a 7cm (approximately) circular pastry cutter, cut out medal discs. Go for Gold: you should get roughly seven medals! 
3. Using the remainder of the pastry and a sharp knife, cut strips of pastry 2-3cm in length to make the medal ribbons
4. With a brush of the beaten egg, stick the pastry ribbon to the back of the pastry medals
5. Gently heat the jam in a small pan. Once warmed, brush the jam in the centre of each pastry medal, leaving approximately half a centimeter of exposed pastry around the edges
6. Arrange the nectarine segments into the centre of each pastry medal and along the pastry ribbon. Brush  the exposed edges of the pastry with the beaten egg
7. Pop in the oven for ten minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and puffed

Baker's notes...
  • These are easy-peasy and super quick. Admittedly not lightening-Bolt-100m quick but ideal for when you daren't take your eye off the telly and the Olympics in case you miss a single second of the action
  • They've been inspired by a combination of the Hairy Bikers, Nigella and Ren Behan from Fabulious Food, to whom I'm sending over these medals for the Sporting Snacks Blogging Challenge

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

August Tea Time Treats: Picnic Pies and here's one I made earlier!

Following a resplendent round-up of Cake Stall Bakes for a jubilant July Tea Time Treats table hosted by the marvellous Karen from Lavender and Lovage, this month's theme is:


Sweet or savoury, small or family-sized, all pies, tarts and flans are most welcome... even if your picnic is more of a knees-up on the sofa infront of the Olympics while the rain falls outside.

Email your bakes to  for a round-up of all your perfect pies on 28th August.

And to kick start proceedings, in true Blue Peter stylee, here's one I made earlier!

A light, summary Tea Time Treats Chicken and Leek Pie

500ml chicken stock
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
3 thyme sprigs
200g carrots, sliced
200g leeks, sliced
Handful of button mushrooms, sliced
4 skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 tbsp cornflour mixed with 2 tbsp water
4 tbsps creme fraiche
1 tbsp parsley
Short crust or filo pastry to cover

1. Pop the garlic, thyme, carrots into a large wide frying pan and add the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few minutes
2. Lay the chicken in the stock, grind over the pepper and simmer for five minutes
3. Scatter the leeks and mushrooms over the chicken, cover and simmer for ten more minutes
4. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for fifteen minutes or so
5. Strain the stock into a jug. Tip the chicken and veg into your pie dish (approximately 1.5 litres) and discard the sprigs of herbs. Pour the stock back into the frying pan and heat gently, slowly adding the cornflour mix, stirring throughout until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the creme fraiche and parsley. Season
6. Heat the oven: 200C/180Cfan/Gas Mark 6
7. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables and stir together
8. Place the pastry, cut to the size of the pastry dish, over the filling, tucking in the sides. I used spare pastry to spell out Tea Time Treats. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and sauce bubbling

Baker's notes...
  • I used shortcrust pastry but the original recipe, from BBC Good Food Magazine uses four layers of filo pastry brushed with rape seed oil for a healthy twist
  • Using spare pastry to spell out TTT. 'PIE' or 'YUM' might also work!
Happy Baking!