Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Grand Day Out at Fudges Biscuit Bakery; Almond and Ginger Biscuits; Hazelnut, Pistachio and Vanilla Biscuits

Dorset. Land of Hardy. Origins of the Trade Union movement. Location of Cerne Abbas (aka the giant naked chalk man).

And home of Fudges Bakery.

If you owned a bakery that produced approximately two million biscuits a day, what proportion of those would end up being eaten by you?

If it were me, I'd reckon at least half would end up not leaving the Bakery floor.

When I asked this question to Steve and Sue Fudge of Fudges Biscuits, they reckon they sample a far more modest number.

On a visit to the Bakery last week, I was extremely refrained. Battling sometimes overwhelming greed, you'll be pleased to hear I did not my position myself at the end of each production line, mouth agog awaiting the Marmite Biscuits, Cheese Straws and Florentines to fall gently into my opened trapdoor.

The bakery itself was an absolutely gigantic version of a home kitchen. 


See this is just a humongous mixer:

After a glorious Dorset themed dinner and a night in a Downton Abbey style Four Poster Bed at the Acorn Inn, the following day found us at Sue Fudges' home and a kitchen straight out of Home Beautiful meets Country Living meets Interior magazine.  A short, but straight to the point letter to Father Christmas was written there and then*

Sue and Steve provided a batch of their sweet biscuit dough and savoury cheese dough and approximately one hundred thousand different flavourings and ingredients. All in the name of new recipe development.

It was like letting loose a small hyperactive child in a sweet shop.

And this is what I baked

Ginger and Almond Biscuits

175g plain flour

50g self-raising flour
75g golden caster sugar
75g unsalted butter
75g golden syrup
2 tsp almond extract
1  egg yolk
150g crystallised ginger
50g flaked almond

Makes approximately 12 biscuits

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper
2. Place the flours and sugar into a bowl and mix together. Dice the butter and add to the bowl. Using your fingertips rub the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 

3. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, add the egg yolk, almond extract and syrup. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a ball
4. Add the ginger and using your hands, distribute evenly within the dough
5. Roll out the dough on a surface dusted with flour and cut out biscuit shapes of your choosing 
6. Space well apart on the prepared baking sheets, decorate with the flaked almonds and brushing a little water over each biscuit to help the flaked almonds remain put 
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden in colour 

Hazelnut, Pistachio and Vanilla Biscuits

175g plain flour
50g self-raising flour
75g golden caster sugar
75g unsalted butter
75g golden syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
100g roughly chopped hazelnuts
75g finely chopped shelled pistachios

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper
2. Place the flours and sugar into a  bowl and mix to combine. Dice the butter and add to the bowl. Using your fingertips rub the butter into the flour and sugar until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. 

3. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, add the egg yolk, vanilla extract and syrup. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a ball
4. Add the hazelnuts and using your hands, distribute evenly within the dough
5. Roll out the dough on a surface dusted with flour and cut out biscuit shapes of your choosing 
6. Space well apart on the prepared baking sheets, decorate with a line of pistachios, brushing a little water over each biscuit to help the pistachios remain put 
7. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden in colour 

Baker's notes...

  • The Fudge's sweet biscuit dough recipe is a closely guarded secret. The dough in both recipes here is the standard dough I usually use for biscuits
  • With many thanks to Fudges Biscuits who had invited me to spend two days with them in Dorset.

*('Dear FC, Can I have Sue Fudges' kitchen for Christmas please thank you')

Hard at work. Honest.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Stir Up Sunday: Christmas Pudding

Tomorrow is Stir Up Sunday and here are What Kate Baked's Christmas Pudding Seven Top Tips for Stir Up Success!
  • Use the freshest, bestest, most expensive(est) dried fruits your money can buy. No past-their-best, been-languishing-in-the-cupboard-for-decades dried fruit please
  • And talking of the fruit, allow it to leisurely wallow in the booze of your choosing for as long as possible. At least twenty-four hours but up to a week would in a cool, dark place would do wonders
  • The earlier you can make your pudding the better. Flavours intensify and become richer. My Dad has been known to make our Christmas Pud a whole year in advance
  • I promise it isn't complicated to make your own pud. There really are only three simple steps: pop all the ingredients in a great big bowl, give it a good stir while making your wish and spend the remainder of the afternoon with your kitchen resembling a fragrant sauna as you steam your puds
  • Helpful 'how-to' videos on steaming puddings can be found right here on the BBC Good Food website
  • Whichever booze you may be using, be it rum, brandy, sherry or, a la Nigella, vodka, don't forget to pour a generous measure for yourself. Baker's bonus and all that

This is the recipe I'm using this year:

Christmas Pudding

(Makes 4 x .5 litre mini puddings)

400g dried fruit
50g mixed candied peel
75ml brandy or orange juice
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
125g butter
125g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs beaten
55g self-raising flour
55g breadcrumbs
40g walnuts
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1. Place the fruit, peel and zests in a large bowl and pour over the booze or juice. Cover in clingfilm. Set aside for twenty four hours or up to a week
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until thoroughly combined. Beat in the egg, a little at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour if the mixture is beginning to curdle. Mix this into the fruit
3. Stir in the flour, breadcrumbs, nuts and spices
4. Make a wish!
5. Prepare the pudding bowls by brushing softened butter around the inside of each and placing a small disc of baking parchment at the bottom 
6. Spoon the pudding mixture into each bowl and cover with a double layer of greaseproof paper and a single sheet of foil. Tie around each bowl with string to secure and create a little string handle for ease of lifting each pud
7. Steam each pud for three hours before storing in a cool, dark place until Christmas Day!

Baker's notes...
  • On Christmas Day re-steam the puds for one to one and a half hours and serve with lashings of brandy butter
  • Happy Stir-Up Sunday. What's your favourite Christmas Pud recipe?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Thanksgiving Baking: Mini Pumpkin Pies

The United States of America has given us a great many things.

Play-Doh. Barack Obama. Moon landings. The Simpsons. Joy the Baker. Motown. Pixor. New York City. 24 hr liquor stores. Peanut M&Ms. Route 66. Michelle Obama. Pumpkin Pie.

Except I'm not convinced about the inclusion of Pumpkin Pie in that (otherwise very comprehensive and virtually exhaustive) list.

For me, pumpkins tend to shine in soups or stews. I'm not one for vegetables in cakes. Except carrot cake 'course.

Are Pumpkins alone not a just a little watery, tasteless and bland? Indeed, as this American writer describes 'Pumpkin in North America is an idea, a symbol, a seasonal icon that has little relation to the flavour of pumpkin'

But, in the interests of Anglo-American relations (that recent screening of James Bond has clearly gone to my head-get me doing my bit for Queen and Country) I thought I'd give a Pumpkin Pie a go. 

(But in mini form, in case we don't like them).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mini Pumpkin Pies

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
125g cold butter
1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted

400g pumpkin
160g maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
2 large eggs, beaten
150ml evaporated milk

Makes 5-6 8cm small pies

1. To make the pastry: Sift the flour into a large bowl. Coarsely grate the butter into the bowl. Add the icing sugar and using your hands, bring the dough together, adding a few drops of water if necessary to bind. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for one hour
2. Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7/420F. Take the chilled pastry from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface, to roughly 4-5mm thick. Line the base and sides of a 22cm tart tin (or four small tart tins). Line the pastry case(s) with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside to cool. Turn the oven down to 180C/Gas Mark 4/350F
3. To make the mixture: place the pumpkin puree, maple syrup and spices into a bowl and mix. 
4. Mix in the beaten eggs. Gradually stir in the evaporated milk until the mixtures becomes nicely thick and creamy
5. Pour into the pastry cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until the mixture firms and the pastry turns a lovely golden colour

Baker's notes...

  • I used Libby's tinned pumpkin, but Felicity Cloake has some suggestions here for using fresh pumpkin
  • Additional toppings to the pumpkin include marshmallow and pecans
  • Serve with a dollop of double cream or ice cream wihile reading a Great American Novel or watching a classic Hollywood movie
  • And the verdict? Pretty darn tasty!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Happy Birthday Tea Time Treats! And the Nation's Favourite Cake...sort of

This time a year ago Karen from Lavender and Lovage and I sat down and created Tea Time Treatsa monthly blogging and baking event concerning all things (you guessed it) Tea Time.

And exactly twelves months on, we are celebrating the first anniversary of Tea Time Treats with the theme: cake!

But what to bake? I dithered and deliberated. Contemplated and cogitated. Ruminated and reflected. And, erm, so on.

And eventually I had an epiphany.

Well, by 'epiphany' what I really mean is 'had a pretty good idea'.

For Tea Time Treat's very first birthday I will bake the nation's favourite cake!

The only problem was everyone had a view on the nation's favourite cake.

A BBC survey reckoned chocolate cake, echoed by a Good Food Channel vote. A Radio Times survey had Carrot Cake in the top spot. The Cherry Bakewell came top in a Mr Kipling poll. Meanwhile Delia plumps for a Ginger Cake and Mary Berry the classic Victoria Sponge. And a strawpoll of my mates on Twitter was most inconclusive.

So in the end I plumped for a cake that is consistently in my own personal Top Ten Bakes...

Carrot Cake with Clementine Icing

125g sultanas
juice of 1 orange
75g pecan nuts or walnuts

3 large eggs
150ml oil
150g light brown soft sugar
200g self-raising flour (wholemeal or white)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
220g peeled and grated carrots
50g dessiccated coconut
grated zest of 1 orange

200g full fat cream cheese
75g butter
100g icing sugar
Zest of 3 clementines

1. If possible, the night before baking the cake, place the sultanas and orange juice in a bowl and set aside. This will plump up the sultanas ensuring they are nice and juicy for the cake. If you haven't the time, simply pop the sultanas and juice in a microwave-proof dish and microwave for around a minute or so
2. Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 3/180C/160C fan/325F. Grease and line two 8inch/20cm sandwich tins with baking paper
2. Spread the nuts on an ungreased baking tray and toast for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven
4. Whisk the sugar, egg and oil together for a few minutes until all the sugar is nicely dissolved
5. Sift the flour, spices and bicarb into the bowl and stir gently
6. Add the sultanas, carrots, coconut, orange zest and 50g of the toasted nuts and stir gently until combined
7. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and bake the cakes for approximately 25-30 minutes or until risen, firm and springy to touch. Allow to cool in the tins for five minutes before removing the cool completely on wire racks
8. To make the icing: gently beat the butter, cream cheese, icing sugar and zest of 3 clementines. Spread to sandwich the two cakes together and use the remainder on top of the cake. Decorate with the remaining nuts

Baker's notes...

  • This recipe is a bit of a mash-up, with inspiration from Delia, a Good Food recipe and Felicity Cloake
  • I took it into work for consumption by my cake-loving' colleagues. If this cake was a politician it would be like Boris and have a very high approval rating
  • For more details on this month's Tea Time Treats challenge pop over to Karen's blog

Tea Time Treats Challenge Logo

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Best Baking Inventions Yet To Be Invented ... and Bakewell Cupcakes

1. Non-exploding Icing Sugar.

2. The Ultimate Kitchen Timer. This timer will not only beep-beep but very handily make useful announcements in the voice of Mary Berry, such as: 'Take this cake out now! I know it looks like it could do with a minute or two more, but it will burn! BURN I TELL YOU!'

3. Everlasting cake. The clue is in the title really but think Willy Wonka's Everlasting Gobstopper

4. Calorie-free, dentist-friendly cake (equals guilt free seconds!)

5. A dishwasher emptier, alongside ...

6. ... the self-cleaning kitchen. 'nuff said

7. A bottomless storage cupboard. For those of us with teeny-tiny bijou kitchens necessitating baking paraphenalia crammed in every single nook and cranny. Yes, my oven doubles up as storage space.

8. A perfect, works-every-time macaroon recipe

9. A free Baking Delivery Service available 24 hours a day. Perfect for those late night cupcake baking sessions when you realise half way through that you've run out of butter....and baking powder.... and flour...

10. A camelbak style hydration system for when bakes go really, really wrong and you need access to a litre of cooled wine fast

Bakewell cupcakes

For the cakes:
150ml natural yogurt
3 beaten eggs
1 tsp almond extract
150g caster sugar
140g self- raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
175g unsalted butter, melted

For the decoration:
90g cherry jam
250g icing sugar
3-4 tbsp water
12 cherries
A handful of blanched almonds

1. Line a twelve hole muffin tin with paper cases and preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas Mark 5
2. In a bowl mix together the yogurt, beaten eggs and the almond extract
3. Pop the sugar, flour, baking powder and ground almonds into a large bowl, mix well with a wooden spoon and make a well in the centre. Add the yogurty mix and nicely melted butter and fold together
4. Spoon the mixture, which will be quite liquidy, into the paper cases approximately 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes until risen and golden in colour
5. Cool on a wire rack
6. To make the icing: mix the icing sugar and water together until smooth 
7. Spoon a tsp of cherry jam, followed by the icing  on top of each cake and decorate with the cherries and almonds

Baker's notes...
  • This recipe was originally inspired by last year's Great British Bake Off when it was baked by contestant Holly Bell
  • I can't quite remember the judge's comments but I imagine Mary Berry smiled kindly and said something nice and Mel-n-Sue hoovered up the crumbs

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Bonfire Bakes: Fat Rascals

Is it a scone? Is it a Bun? Is it a rock cake?

No, its a Fat Rascal!

Along with roly-poly pudding, surely the name of this Yorkshire classic is the best in baking?

The Betty's recipe for Fat Rascals, arguably the best, is a very closely guarded secret. Not even the combined efforts of James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and Mary Berry could possibly guess the original recipe.

I've taken on this challenge however! With just a little help from Google and many a consumption of the Betty's version over the years. 

This is what they should look like.

But, the million dollar question (or indeed the £1.45 question, as that is how much they currently retail at) is, did it taste like the real thing?

It was a pretty good homemade version was the verdict. 

This also makes a rather tasty Bonfire snack. Really, this weekend, while out and about celebrating Guy Fawkes, Sparklers and Catherine Wheels all you really need is several a warm inner layer, a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a portable, sturdy snack. 

Happy Bonfire Night!

Fat Rascals

125g plain flour
125g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g unsalted butter, softened
85g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grounded nutmeg
120g mixed dried fruit
60g mixed peel
Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 egg
80ml soured cream or double cream
To decorate: 1 beaten egg, glacĂ© cherries and blanched whole almonds to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/Gas 6. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
2. Sieve the flours into a nice large bowl and stir in the baking powder
3. Dice the softened butter and rub into the flours with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
4. Add the sugar, orange zest, lemon zest, spices, dried fruit, peel and mix until well combined
5. Stir in the cream and the beaten egg until the mixtures comes together as a dough. Using your hands form six rascals from the dough and place on the baking tray
6. To decorate: Brush the second beaten egg over the top of the rascals and top with the glacĂ© cherries and blanched almonds.
7. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden-brown

Baker's notes...
  • Do keep a close eye on the rascals in the last few minutes of baking as they can singe very easily
  • I spent one whole Christmas season working in Bettys. I often think of it as the highlight of my career thus far
  • These are delicious warm from the oven but keep in an airtight container for a day or two