Thursday, 22 December 2011

"I Can't Believe You Made That!" Christmas Cake; Time to Decorate!

When I posted the first step to baking my "I Can't Believe You Made That!" Christmas Cake, I explained the reason behind the funny name; that it looks so professional and tastes so delicious that all my friends and family exclaim, "I can't believe you made that!"...and the final step, decorating the cake, will show you why.

Now you've covered the cake in marzipan and icing, you'll have a lovely, smooth base to get started with.  Sometimes there's the worry that you've gone to all that effort, lovingly making, baking and covering, and the decorating will let you down, but I promise this design is super easy and your cake will look amazing and wow your guests on Christmas Day. 

This year I chose a girly Christmas design for my cake as I'll be sharing it with my girlfriends for a special Christmas Eve Afternoon Tea.  All you need is some fondant icing, food colouring, a few cookie cutters and some little extras like mini sugar stars and edible pink balls.  I won't lie, it may take a good few hours, but ultimately it is just a case of cutting out the right shapes and arranging them in the right really is that easy!  Ultimately, the cake is yours, so decorate however you like, check out my top tips below for some extra special ideas.

"I Can't Believe You Made That!" Christmas Cake; Time to Decorate

Christmas Tree Cake

400g fondant icing
Green, yellow, pink and blue food colouring
Mini sugar stars
Edible pink balls
Boiled water, cooled

Divide the fondant icing into 4 100g pieces and colour each one using the different food colourings.  Add a drop at a time, kneading as you go, until the colour is pale and even.  Roll out each piece, you will need the icing quite thin, but sturdy enough to handle without breaking.

Take the cooled water and a pastry brush.  The water will act as your "glue" for decorating, but be careful not to over-wet the brush, you only need a very little to moisten rather than wet the icing.

Cut out a Christmas Tree shape from the green icing and stick this onto the centre of the cake.  Use the star nozzle of an piping bag to cut out 8 stars in the pink icing and stick these to the end of each branch of the tree.  Cut a small star shape from the yellow icing and stick this to the top of the tree, then carefully press some sugar stars into the tree to decorate, a cocktail stick will help you gently push them in place.

Cut out an array of different sized squares and rectangles from the coloured icings and use a knife to cut out thin strips of the icing too, these can be laid across the parcels and gently pushed down to create "ribbons".  Carefully stick the parcels all around the edge of the cake, overlapping as you go, until they reach all the way around.  On some of the parcels use some sugar stars and pink balls to decorate them, using the cocktail stick to carefully push them in place.

Finally, carefully press the pink balls into the rest of the cake to resemble snowfall, again the cocktail stick will help.  Leave the cake for about 30 minutes for the design to set and you're done!

Belle's Top Tip
If you would prefer the same cake, but a little less girly, you can replace the pink icing with red and use deeper shades of the other colours by simply adding a little more food colouring.

If you're short on time just grab some white fondant icing and roll 1 large ball and a slightly smaller one to make a snowman in the centre of the cake.  Give him some eyes and a beaming smile using black icing and a small piece of ribbon as a scarf.  Roll up lots of small balls of the icing to dot around as snowballs and tie a big festive ribbon around the edge of the cake, finishing with a big bow.

You can use red or green icing to pipe a festive greeting on the cake, but only try if you're confident piping letters.  I have spoilt many a cake with wonky handwriting and spelling mistakes!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

"I Can't Believe You Made That" Christmas Cake; Time To Cover!

The time has come!  You've been lovingly "feeding" the "I Can't Believe You Made That" Christmas Cake for weeks now and with just 7 days left until the big day now it's time to cover it ready for the best bit...decorating!

The idea of covering a cake in marzipan and icing can seem daunting if you've never tried it before, but I promise it's not that difficult and it really will give you a fantastic base to wow your friends and family on Christmas Day with your festive creation.  Read through my step-by-step guide carefully before you start so you know exactly what you need to do and for an extra confidence boost check out my top tip below before you begin...let's do this!

You will need

500g white royal icing
500g golden marzipan
3tbsp apricot glaze or jam
icing sugar, for dusting

Unwrap your Christmas fruit cake and place in the centre of a cake board that is slightly bigger than the cake.

Place a saucepan on the lowest heat and add the apricot glaze; if using apricot jam ensure you have sieved it beforehand.  Gently heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until no lumps remain.  Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Lightly dust a clean surface with icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft and pliable.  Coat a rolling pin in some icing sugar and begin rolling out the marzipan.  After a few rolls move the marzipan and continue until it is about 5mm thick, aiming to keep it in a rounded shape.

Using a pastry brush coat the fruit cake in a layer of the apricot glaze, ensuring it is completely covered, this will help the marzipan stick to the cake.  Place the rolling pin at the top of the rolled out marzipan (the end furthest from you) and roll it onto the pin as if bringing the marzipan towards you.  Now carefully hold the marzipan in place on the rolling pin and lift it.  Place the bottom of the rolled marzipan at the end of the cake furthest from you and gently place over the cake.

Coat your hands in icing sugar and use your hands to carefully smooth the marzipan in place, turning the cake and smoothing as you go.  When covered use a sharp knife to cut away any excess at the bottom, then use the side of a blunt knife to push the bottom marzipan into the cake giving an extra smooth finish.  Ideally, you should leave the cake overnight before covering with the icing, or at least 4-5 hours if you're in a hurry.

To cover with royal icing; lightly dust a clean surface with icing sugar and roll out exactly as you did with the marzipan.  Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the marzipan covered cake in cooled boiled water and then lift and cover the cake exactly as you did before. 

If you notice any air bubbles in the icing carefully pierce with the end of a sharp knife or pin, place some icing sugar on your finger and gently rub over the cut you made to cover it. 

Now your cake is a blank canvas for you to decorate however you wish, but if you keep an eye on the blog in the next couple of days I'll be giving you lots of hints and tips on how to make it look super-professional super-easily!

Belle's Top Tip
If you still feel you need a little help or a confidence boost before covering the cake, the BBC Good Food website has an excellent video showing you basically what I've described above and you can view it here.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Countdown: Crunchy Christmas Cookies

Less than 2 weeks to go!!!  If you've been following my Christmas Countdown series you'll already have your Christmas fruit cake wrapped up and ready to marzipan and ice (not long to go I promise!) and if you haven't already tried them you'll have chocolate in the fridge and dried cranberries in the cupboard ready for the White Chocolate and Cranberry muffins.

The next recipe in my Christmas Countdown series are these utterly delicious Crunchy Christmas Cookies.  What I love about these cookies is that they're so versatile; you can hang them on the tree for a foodie festive paradise, wrap them and give them as extra special gifts, have them on the table when your family and friends pop by, or just keep them as a special "you deserve it" treat after you've spent hours buying and wrapping all of those Christmas presents!

The cookies are crunchy, crumbly and buttery and the almond gives them a light, nutty flavour and an incredible Christmassy fragrance, the kitchen will smell amazing!  You can also decorate them however you like so not only will they taste delicious, they'll look fantastic too!

Crunchy Christmas Cookies


500g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
125g golden caster sugar
2tbsp ground almonds
125g butter, melted
1 large egg
60ml milk
1tsp almond essence

In a large bowl add the flour, baking powder, caster sugar and ground almonds and mix together with a wooden spoon until well combined, make a well in the centre.

Pour in the melted butter, egg, milk and almond essence and stir together with a wooden spoon, then use your hands to bring the dough together.  When the dough is smooth, even coloured and all traces of flour have gone, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper, leave to one side.  Lightly dust a surface with some flour and knead the dough a little until smooth and pliable. 

Roll out the dough to about 5mm thick, take a cutter of your choice, dip in some flour and start cutting out shapes.  Keep bringing the dough back together, re-rolling and cutting until you have used all of the dough, you'll have about 25-30 cookies depending on the cutter sizes.

Place the cookies on the baking trays, evenly spaced to allow for spreading and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden.  Leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely...then it's decorating time!

Belle's Top Tip
Once cooled you can decorate these cookies however you like!  As you can see I used various cutters and different decorating techniques.  You can drizzle over icing and dust with edible glitter, use a food colouring pen to draw on Christmas patterns, or how about Christmas trees covered in green royal icing and red icing baubles...the choice is yours!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Christmas Countdown: White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Muffins

Ahhh, the first weekend of December; advent calendars have been opened, the tree has been decorated, Christmas cards written and the next bake of my Christmas Countdown out of the oven.  The house smells like Christmas and I love it!

My White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Muffins are delicious served warm with a big mug of hot chocolate when you're cosying up on the sofa, or leave them out on Christmas Eve for a scrumptious treat for Santa and his reindeer!  They're super easy and super quick to make so a great bake for kids and they taste amazing...what more could you wish for at Christmas?  Well, that and some Jimmy Choos maybe...

White Chocolate and Cranberry Christmas Muffins


200g self raising flour
100g golden caster sugar
100ml sunflower oil
75ml milk
1 large egg
100g white chocolate chips
100g dried cranberries, plus extra for topping
100g icing sugar
2-3tbsp water
1tsp white edible glitter (optional)
small ball of green regal or fondant icing

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and lightly grease a 6 hole muffin tin with butter.

In a large bowl add the flour and sugar and mix well.  Make a well in the centre and leave to one side.

In a small bowl whisk together the oil, milk and egg until smooth and well combined.  Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and mix gently, being careful not to over work the mixture.

Pour in the white chocolate chips and the cranberries, gently fold into the mixture; the batter should have a thick, almost doughy consistancy.

Spoon large rounds of the mixture into the prepared muffin tin, you should have enough for 6-8 muffins.  Place in the oven for 20 minutes until golden.  Leave to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before carefully placing them on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing; sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the water.  Mix together until you have a thick consistancy, then add the edible glitter if using.  Using a teaspoon pour icing over each of the muffins, allowing it to pour down the sides.

Place a couple of the extra cranberries on the top of each muffin, then roll out the green icing and cut out holly leaf shapes.  Place these on top to make the cranberries look like holly berries and dust lightly with icing sugar or a little more glitter.

Belle's Top Tip
For an alternative to white chocolate and cranberries, why not try dark chocolate and two heaped tablespoon of mincemeat (typically used in mince pies) instead!  Just as festive and more importantly...just as tasty!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Christmas Countdown: “I Can’t Believe You Made That!” Christmas Cake

I love Christmas; wrapping up gifts, decorating the tree, gingerbread lattes and warming mince pies.  With only 5 weeks to go now is the perfect time to start your baking for the big day and as it’s the Bakehouse’s first Christmas I can’t wait to share all my festive recipes and tips to help you create some delicious, yuletide treats.

My first bake for Christmas is always my centrepiece spectacular; the “I Can’t Believe You Made That” Christmas Cake.  The reason for the funny name is that it always looks so professional and tastes so delicious that all my family and friends exclaim, “I can’t believe you made that!” when I cut them a slice.  What’s also fabulous about this cake it that it’s so easy too, you’ll look like a baking goddess without any of the fuss!

Now is the time to make the cake, I know it seems too early, but this fruit cake tastes sublime when it’s baked in advance and topped up with a little brandy or orange juice once or twice a week.  By the time you’re ready to eat it you’ll have a succulent, moist, fruity, sweet cake that everyone will enjoy!  This post will give you the recipe for the cake and in the next few weeks I’ll also show you how to cover it with a traditional marzipan and icing and then the best bit…my decorating tips to ensure all your friends will also be screaming with delight, “I Can’t Believe You Made That!”.

"I Can't Believe You Made That" Christmas Cake


175g unsalted butter
200g dark muscovado sugar
750g mixed dried fruits
finely grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
100ml orange juice or brandy
3 large eggs, beaten
85g ground almonds
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp ground mixed spice
1tsp ground cinnamon

In a large saucepan add the butter, sugar, dried fruit, zests, juice from the orange and the orange juice or brandy.  Slowly bring to the boil, stirring until the butter has melted then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150C/gas 2 and line a deep, round cake tin with baking paper, grease lightly.  Stir the eggs and ground almonds into the fruit mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon. Sift over the flour, baking powder and spices and stir in gently until there are no traces of flour left.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top.  Bake for 45 minutes, then turn down the heat to 140C/gas 1 and cook for a further 1 hour and 30-40 minutes until the cake is dark golden and firm to the touch; the cake is done when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Use a skewer to make holes all over the warm cake and spoon 4tbsp of orange juice or brandy over the cake. Leave to cool in the tin and when completely cold remove from the tin and peel off the baking paper.  Wrap the cake in new baking paper and then wrap tightly in tin foil or clingfilm.  Now the cake will need to be "topped-up" with 4tbsp of orange juice or brandy once or twice a week until I show you how to cover your cake.

Belle's Top Tip
Follow me on Twitter for reminders of when to "top-up" your cake so you don't forget!  You'll also get a heads-up when the next part of this recipe is posted!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween Special: Terrifying Toffee Apple Muffins

It's Halloween tomorrow!  So it's time to dust off those fancy dress costumes, carve up those pumpkins and bake the last treat in my Halloween Special, Terrifying Toffee Apple Muffins.

There's not actually anything terrifying about these delicious muffins, just sweet, fruity deliciousness.  They'll delight guests at your Halloween parties, please Trick or Treaters and make wonderful little gifts for friends and colleagues. 

So here is the last recipe for Halloween, but before you sigh a breath of despair fear not...the Christmas Special is on it's way soon!

Terrifying Toffee Apple Muffins


300g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cinnamon
100g dark brown sugar
100g butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
240ml milk
3 small apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
100g vanilla fudge, chopped into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

In a large bowl add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and sugar.  Mix together until well combined and make a well in the centre.

In a separate bowl whisk together the butter, eggs and milk until smooth and even coloured.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix quickly with a wooden spoon. Stir in the apple and fudge, being careful not to overwork the mixture, it should be quite lumpy.

Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Belle's Top Tip
I love to give these to Trick or Treaters and as gifts by placing the cold muffin in a Halloween designed paper cup, wrapping in cellophane and tieing with ribbon.  It makes them easier for the Trick or Treaters to carry and makes them look extra special for friends.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Halloween Special: Jack Skellington Cookies

For the second part of my Halloween Special here are my lightly spiced, utterly delicious Jack Skellington Cookies.  As fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas know, Jack is the "Pumpkin King" of Halloween Town, where residents are responsible for scaring people in the "real world" on Halloween night.

These tasty cookies are sweet and lightly spiced to give them a warming, autumnal taste and aroma to compliment this special time of year.  I've made Jack's face with white chocolate regal icing and milk chocolate food colouring to give them a lovely, surprising chocolaty flavour!  So to add a spooky treat to your Halloween celebrations give these yummy cookies a try!

Jack Skellington Cookies


300g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
250g white chocolate flavoured regal icing
1 milk chocolate food colouring pen (or 100g melted milk chocolate)

In a large bowl sift in the flour, baking powder, spices and a pinch of salt, mix together.  Make a well in the centre and leave to one side. 

In a small bowl beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the egg and mix until well combined.

Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon to combine.  When the dough starts to come together add a teaspoon of cold water and use your hands to form into a smooth, even coloured dough.

Once the dough has formed a ball shape, wrap tightly in clingfilm and place in the fridge.  Preferably leave overnight, or for at least an hour if you're short on time.

When the dough is ready preheat the oven to 170C/gas 4 and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.  Lightly flour a clean, dry surface and roll out the dough to the thickness of a £1 coin.  Use a round cookie cutter to stamp out rounds of the dough and place on the baking sheets, ensuring they are evenly spaced, you should get around 15 cookies.

Place the baking sheets in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cookies are lightly golden in colour.  Remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the Jack Skellington faces; lightly dust a clean surface with icing sugar and roll out the regal icing to about 3-5mm thick.  Use a cookie cutter slightly smaller than the one used for the cookies and cut out rounds equal to the amount of cookies you have.

Take a cold cookie and lightly dab the top with a little cold water (this will help the icing stick), place a round of icing on top and smooth gently with your fingers; repeat with all the cookies.  Then use your food colouring pen (or melted milk chocolate if piping) to add Jack's eyes, nose and mouth to the icing face and voila!

Belle's Top Tip
White chocolate regal icing and chocolate food colouring pens are available from specialist Cake Craft stores like The Craft Company.  Alternatively, you can use plain white regal icing and melted milk chocolate in a piping bag with a fine tip nozzle for the same fang-tastic result!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Halloween Special: Ghostly Graveyard Chocolate Cake

Now we're well into October that means only one thing...Halloween is approaching!  To help you create some fantastic treats to celebrate I've created a "Halloween Special" which will include a series of deliciously devilish bakes to serve up on 31st October.  So whether you're having a frightful fancy dress party, a scary movie night or a Halloween themed afternoon tea, these bakes will go down a (trick or) treat!

To kick things off here is my Ghostly Graveyard Chocolate Cake.  A mysteriously moist, gruesomely gooey sponge, covered in thick chocolate icing and decorated with tasty tombstones and scrumptious spooks!  It makes a great centrepiece to any ghoulish get-together and will delight everyone, from cheeky little Caspers to wicked old Witches and everyone in between!

Ghostly Graveyard Chocolate Cake


300g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
125ml milk
4tbsp cocoa powder
85g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
100g dark chocolate, melted
150ml soured cream

For the tombstones

125g unsalted butter
55g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
180g plain flour
icing sugar, to dust

For the icing

300g icing sugar, sifted
2tbsp cocoa powder
7tbsp cold water

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a square tin with baking paper and grease lightly.

In a large bowl sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well.  Make a well in the centre of the bowl and leave to one side.  In a small bowl mix the vanilla extract with the egg yolks and leave to one side. 

Heat half of the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it is just about to boil.  Remove from the heat, add the cocoa powder and mix well.  Stir in the remaining cold milk, mix and leave to cool.

In a large bowl beat the butter and 200g of the sugar until pale and creamy.  Slowly whisk in the egg yolk mixture and the melted chocolate.  Use a spatula to pour the mixture into the dry ingredients along with the cool chocolate milk mixture and soured cream.  Gently fold the ingredients together until no traces of flour remain.

In a small bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and then whisk in the remaining 50g of sugar until it forms stiff peaks.  Fold the egg whites into the cake mixture gently, being careful not to overwork the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, using a spatula to smooth into the corners, and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the tombstones; turn the oven up to 190C/gas 5 and line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. 

In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar and vanilla with a wooden spoon until it is pale and creamy.  Sift over the flour and use your hands to bring the mixture together to form a soft dough.

Dust a surface and rolling pin with a little flour and roll out the dough.  Dip a tombstone shaped cookie cutter into some flour and press into the dough repeatedly.  Place the cut cookie dough on the prepared baking sheets, roll the left over pieces of dough back into a ball and repeat the process.

When you have all the tombstones on the baking sheets dust lightly with icing sugar and place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes before transferring to the oven.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  When cold you can ice names on them if you wish to.

Meanwhile to make the icing;  place the icing sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl and mix until well combined.  Add the water, little by little, stirring as you go, until it reaches a thick, glossy consistency.

To decorate the cake; cut the risen top off of the cake using a bread knife to give a flat surface.  Use your fingers to crumble the cut-off cake into breadcrumbs.  Pour the icing over the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides.  Firmly push your tombstone biscuits into the cake so they stand upright and sprinkle the cake with the cake crumbs.

Belle's Top Tip
When it comes to decorating your "graveyard" really let your imagination run wild!  You could use insect shaped jelly sweets, a cookie ghost (like mine!), spiders made from fondant as creative as you dare!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

White Chocolate, Apricot & Ginger Oat Cookies

I'm back!! Sorry for the lack of posts recently; with Weddings and holidays I've hardly spent anytime in the kitchen so it was great to get back into the swing of things with these delicious cookies!

Now I have some time to myself again I wanted to sit back and relax with some yummy comfort food and nothing says comfort quite like a glass of ice-cold milk and a plate of sweet, crumbly, chewy cookies.  The creamy chunks of white chocolate and apricot pieces give a sweet indulgent flavour and the delicately spiced ginger and wholesome oats add a comforting warmth to this bake.

So draw the curtains, cosy up on the sofa and enjoy these scrumptious treats.  They keep well in an airtight container for a good 5 days, just enough time to get you through to the weekend, if they last that long that is!

White Chocolate, Apricot & Ginger Oat Cookies


110g unsalted butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
2tbsp golden syrup
1tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp baking powder
1tsp ground ginger
100g porridge oats
200g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
200g dried chopped apricot

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3 and line 3-4 baking sheets with baking paper; leave to one side.

In a large bowl add the butter, sugar, syrup and vanilla and beat together with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.

Sift over the flour, salt, baking powder and oats and mix together.  Pour in the chopped chocolate and apricot and mix well until combined; the mixture will look quite crumbly at this stage.

Use your hands to scoop out some of the mixture.  Knead between your hands into a soft, doughy ball, flatten slightly and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat this process until you have 18-24 balls of dough evenly spaced on the sheets, allowing room for spreading.

Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes (if you have placed them on different shelves swap halfway through to ensure even baking).  When golden brown remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Belle's Top Tip
If apricot doesn't take your fancy try using raisins, dried cranberries or even dried blueberries instead.  You can even substitute the white chocolate for dark or milk if you like.  Feel free to mix and match to create your own unique oat cookies!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Soya Bran Seeded Loaf

There always seems to be some angst involved when it comes to baking bread; will it rise well?  Will the crust stay crunchy?  The inside soft and fluffy?  The great thing about this recipe is that it's super simple and always comes out great!

The added wholemeal flour, soya bran and seeds in this loaf make it a healthier alternative to plain old white bread and it's also vegan friendly too!  I love to use it to make sandwiches, but it's also delicious toasted in the mornings with a slither of butter and jam.  You can cut it into slices and freeze so there's always some around when you need it, simply defrost and you're good to go!

Soya Bran Seeded Loaf


220g self-raising wholemeal flour
230g strong white bread flour
50g plain flour
1tsp salt
50g poppy seeds
2 small handfuls of pumpkin seeds
3tbsp soya bran
300ml warm water
7g dried active yeast
2tsp sugar
2tbsp sunflower oil

In a large bowl add the flours, salt, seeds and soya bran, mix until combined.

Pour the warm water into a jug and add the yeast, sugar and oil, stir until frothy.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture.  Use your hands to bring the dough together.

Lightly dust a surface with flour and turn out the dough.  Knead for 5 minutes until the dough no longer feels sticky.

Use a teaspoon of oil to grease a loaf tin and place the dough inside.  Use your hands to press the dough firmly into the tin, ensuring it goes right into the edges.  Cover with clingfilm, top loosely with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour until it has almost doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6 and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden, the loaf should sound hollow when tapped.  Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.  When ready cut into slices and serve with lashings of creamy butter.

Belle's Top Tip
Rather than place the dough in the tin to rise, leave in an oil coated bowl instead.  When ready divide the dough into even sized balls and place on an oiled baking sheet (use two if necessary).  Bake as above and you'll have bread rolls instead, great for serving with soup or as an accompaniment with dinner.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

English Rose Apple and Berry Pies

If you're looking for a warm, tasty, fruit dessert then look no further, these pies are absolutely perfect!  Succulent chunks of apple are mixed with a variety of juicy English berries with a hint of rosewater, all encased in a buttery, sugar-crusted pastry...I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

They're so easy to make and so delicious, I'm sure you're guests, friends and family will adore them.  The recipe makes six small pies, but if you prefer you can use the exact same quantities to make one big pie instead.  Whichever you prefer I guarantee you won't have much left once everyone starts tucking in!

English Rose Apple and Berry Pies


250g plain flour
80g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 egg yolk


2 large cooking apples, peeled and cored
120g caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
300g frozen mixed berries
1tbsp cornflour
1tbsp rosewater
2tbsp milk
icing sugar to dust

To make the pastry; place the flour and sugar in a large bowl and mix.  Add the butter and a pinch of salt and use your fingers to rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of cold water and bring together with your hands until it forms a soft dough.  Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Whilst the dough is chilling cut the apples into 1cm pieces and place in a large saucepan with the sugar and 250ml of water.  Cover and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes , or until the apple begins to soften.  Add the berries to the saucepan and heat, uncovered, for about 2-3 minutes, until the berries start to release their juices.

In a small bowl add the cornflour with the rosewater and 2 tablespoons of cold water, mix until smooth.  Add the cornflour mixture to the fruit mixture and heat for a further few minutes until the mixture has thickened.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and grease a 6 hole muffin tin with butter.  Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out onto a lightly floured surface until it's about 3mm thick.  Use a 12cm pastry cutter to cut out six rounds and use them to line the muffin holes.  Divide the fruit mixture between the holes, being careful not to overfill them.

Bring the remaining pastry into a ball and roll out until about 2-3mm thick.  Use a 9cm pastry cutter to stamp out 6 rounds.  If you have extra pastry you can stamp out a design to top these rounds (I used small hearts).  Brush the pastry edges with water and top with the smaller circles, pressing the edges firmly together to seal.  Brush the tops with sprinkle and sprinkle generously with caster sugar.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before carefully turning out.  Dust with icing sugar and serve warm with vanilla ice-cream or a dollop of thick cream.

Belle's Top Tip
I always make more filling than I actually need, so if you find you have some left over, pour into a baking dish, use the crumble topping recipe from my "Totally Tropical Caribbean Crumble" post and make a delicious English Apple and Berry Fruit Crumble too!