Thursday, 22 December 2011

Secret Santa & Easy Gingerbread Recipe.

When I saw that the lovely Amy from Weekly Bake-Off was hosting a secret Santa on twitter I jumped at the chance to take part. In hindsight I really should of thought about how much I had to do already in the run up to Christmas and how limited my time was, but my mind was fogged by the prospect of presents!

I was really worried that my secret Santa parcel was going to be a bit naff, even as I was making the items I was doubting their worth and feeling like a pretty crappy Santa. However, once the items were decorated and packaged I stepped back and surveyed my work...

I was pretty impressed with myself! So here is what I made/bought:

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged.

This post is a bit different to my regular posts, today I'm joining in the game of tag started by Susan at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate. I was tagged by Kate at What Kate Baked and Elly from Nutmeg Seven.

The idea is just a bit of fun to help get to know the blogger behind the recipes and deliciousness. I was a bit apprehensive at first as writing about my recipes and baking adventures is a lot easier than writing about myself, but here goes...


Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Gingerbread House!

It's beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas, the decorations are up, the Christmas cakes are baked and the weather men and women are harping on about the possibility of a white Christmas. I have been very jealous listening to everyone talking about their Christmas cake decorating and looking at pictures of gorgeous Christmas cakes on pinterest. Those of us out there who don't like the traditional Christmas fruit cake need a decorating challenge don't we?

Enter the magnificent Gingerbread House! They are cute, Christmassy and a bit of a challenge to decorate. So, I decided to dust off my rolling pin and piping bag and give it a go!

Monday, 12 December 2011

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011 - My cookies.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, and nothing made me feel more Christmassy then putting up my tree and baking Christmas biscuits. I did get a sore back from hunching over the kitchen bench decorating 36 biscuits for 3 hours, but Christmas music and good cheer got me through...


Friday, 9 December 2011

My Baking Mad Casting Adventure & Recipe.

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I recently applied to take part in the new series of Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard. I was a bit apprehensive at first and came over all self-doubty and weird so wasn't going to apply. But after lots of lovely comments, tweets, facebook messages and emails I decided to go for it. If I have learned anything this year it is that life is just too short.

Last Monday I set off on a little road trip to Leeds for the casting day. My lovely lovely sister offered to drive which was great, I love road-tripping with my sister as we spend most of it just loudly singing along to anything and everything. Plus on the way back we got to messily munch on all the leftover baked goodies. Bonus!

For my casting interview I had to take something baked along to "wow" them. I spent about 2 weeks worrying and planning what I would take. I firstly decided to take my triple threat cupcakes as they were deemed the most "wow" worthy. But when I practiced them the weekend before they didn't go to plan at all.

After having a long chat with friends I finally decided to avoid cake altogether as I imagined that everyone would be taking cake/cupcakes to casting. So, I decided to stick to my strengths and went for pastry! I love making pastry and it is the thing I probably have the most experience in if I am honest...

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Feeling brave: Macarons!

I had a full day of baking planned on Sunday, mostly I was planning on making heaps of biscuits for the Food Blogger Cookie Swap, but I also wanted to try a few other things while the biscuits were cooling or in-between bakes.

The biscuit recipe (which I will post on the 12th) called for only egg yolks so I had a few egg whites going spare so I flicked through a few recipe books and online sites to see what I could come up with. I came across a recipe for Macarons which seemed on face value relatively simple.
After watching The Great British Bake Off I was frankly terrified of these little french biscuits, they seemed like the hardest thing in the world, so I never even attempted them. I must of been feeling brave because I decided to give it a go...

Now onto the recipe:


Thursday, 1 December 2011

Christmas Cupcakes and Cookies

It is December the first today, officially 24 sleeps until Santa and I am pretty excited. I am a big fan of all things Christmas and some of my best childhood memories are all wrapped up in Christmas. This year is going to be slightly different as it is our first one without Mum but I am determined to make it a good one and carry on all the traditions. Most of our family traditions involve watching muppet themed Christmas movies and drinking copious amounts of wine, so it shouldn't be too hard to carry on those traditions!
I am also keen to start a few traditions of my own, it should come as no surprise that most of the ideas I have come up with so far have been baking related; gingerbread houses, homemade biscuits as gifts, cherry bakewells instead of mince pies etc...

So when I saw that Craft North East were running some Christmas themed cupcake and cookie workshops I jumped at the chance to improve my skills in a Christmassy fashion....


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Clandestine Cake Club - November 2011

For those who have never heard of the Clandestine Cake Club head on over to the website to read a bit more about how it got started and how to take part.

Last Wednesday I attended my first ever CCC meeting. I was a bit afraid to take a cake along so was luckily invited as a guest. Lisa who runs the Newcastle CCC put a plea out on twitter looking for a guest (as hers had dropped out), needless to say I jumped at the chance! A night of free cake and a chance to meet fellow cake lovers of Newcastle? Yes please!

The club was held in Fenwick's this month and I had a fantastic time, eating cake and meeting new people. There were some amazing cakes to try, some are pictured above. (from left to right)

Top left: this was a deliciously decadent chestnut and rum cake, it had a really dense and unusual texture but the chestnut flavour was amazing!


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving: Pumpkin Pie

Well since today is Thanksgiving for our American cousins I thought I would post my recent attempt at an American classic; Pumpkin Pie.
I have only ever had pumpkin pie once before and that was at University when one of my housemates wowed us all with it at Christmas one year. Ever since then I have been determined to try baking it myself but have never actually got around to it.

When I spied the recipe in Edd Kimber's new book I knew I had to give it a go...


Jamie at Home Funsies.

I just want to start by saying that I have in no way been paid to write this post, I simply wanted to share my gorgeous new cake tins with you!

A the beginning of the month I was invited to a friends house for a Jamie at Home party. I had never heard of Jamie at Home before but was told it was like a tupperware party only jamie-r.

I am not normally a fan of Jamie's food shows or recipe books as a rule (not enough cake and sweets for me), but I went along to support a friend and hopefully have a fun wine-filled time.

The second the Jamie consultant started setting up the table I spied these beautiful cake tins. I hadn't intended on buying anything but the moment I set eyes upon these beauties I knew I had to have them. Some of the Jamie products were pretty pricey but I felt these were a steal at just £23.50. Plus they are much deeper that regular cake tins, so great for transporting lots of baked goodies...


Monday, 21 November 2011

Hotel Chocolat - Recipe and Giveaway.

Christmas is just around the corner and I was delighted when Hotel Chocolat approached me and asked if I wanted to do a review of their decadently delicious Christmas collection and also host my first ever giveaway! I adore Hotel Chocolat so without hesitation I accepted.

I have never done an official product review on this blog before but I was keen to do a little more than just talk about how amazing the product is (which in case you are wondering; it is).
As I perused the Hotel Chocolat Christmas Collection I soon clapped eyes on the Milk Chocolate Cinnamon Almonds, as soon as I saw the name of the product I was sold. I could almost taste them on my tongue and I immediately started thinking of recipe ideas incorporating these quintessential Christmas flavours.

When I was little we always got a selection of nuts in their shells at Christmas, it was tradition. Inevitably there was always loads left after Christmas as no one could be bothered fighting with the nutcracker or cracking a tooth when accidentally biting into a bit of shell. These chocolate covered cinnamon roasted nuts would be the perfect update on the tradition for me. (Although they wouldn't last long in my house)...


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Mini Jammy Cakes

A great big jammy thank you to Amy from the Weekly Bake Off for recommending these little beauties. One of the easiest and yummiest little treats I have made for a while.
The real thank you of course goes to the wonderful Mary Berry for the original recipe.

The method for making these lovely little cakes is not dissimilar to scones, in fact when I was making them I did do a bit of a double-take to make sure I was on the right page! They actually taste a little scone-like too, only smaller, sweeter and jammier!
I made these one morning when I had some family coming over, I wanted to make something traditional yet appealing to kids and these fit the bill perfectly.

Anywhoo, on with the recipe...


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Getting experimental with cupcakes...

Last week I was poorly, if you follow me on twitter I may have mentioned it (a few hundred times). In my opinion sympathy is the best cure for any minor ailment or illness so I like to whinge and whine to get maximum sympathy and therefore get better faster!

One thing that did make me feel better last week was escaping to my kitchen and playing with some delicious recipes. One of my experiments turned into a big success so I thought I would share.

I started out wanting to make my dulche de leche brownies. I had been given one of those box mixes for brownies (which I normally don't use but was poorly and really wanted some brownies) so I quickly added milk as instructed and made the batter. Which, by the way looked nowhere near as good as my homemade brownies; lesson learned.

However, once the batter was made I quickly realised that there wasn't nearly enough batter to layer it up with the caramel! So my fever riddled mind devised a cunning plan...


Monday, 14 November 2011

Weekly Bake-off: Marble cake

This weeks weekly bake off bake is the impressive looking vanilla and chocolate chip marble cake. The recipe was so easy to follow but wielded pretty lovely results...


Friday, 11 November 2011

Weekly Bake-off: Chocolate Fudge Cake

This weeks weekly bake off cake is Mary Berry's very best chocolate fudge cake, it has a rather ambitious name, does it live up to it?


Monday, 31 October 2011

Meringue Ghosts

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of my all time favourite times of year, coming just after Christmas and my birthday in the pecking order. I have such fond childhood memories associated with Halloween. When I was little we used to have epic Halloween parties every year. We lived in a pretty rough neighbourhood so my Mum didn't like the idea of us trick or treating, so she would pull out all the stops and invite all of our school friends round to party it up!

My Dad would play Michael Jackson's Thriller on repeat all night, it was on LP rather than tape or CD so it involved a lot of standing by the record player and lifting the needle back and forth. Those were the days eh?
I remember my sister would always go as a witch and I would go as a vampire, to be honest it was probably just one year but that is the one that stuck in my head.

The food was always classic kids party fayre, sausage rolls, mini sandwiches, crisps, and a cheese and pineapple stick creation made from half a melon and some tin foil...Remember those? Awesome.
One day when I have kids of my own I cannot wait to plan parties and pull out all the stops!

This weekend I decided to get all Halloween in the kitchen and made meringue ghosts and cupcakes. Unfortunately I will not be blogging about the disastrous cupcakes, needless to say they were so bad I actually threw them away! *shudder*

The meringue ghosts on the other hand were a triumph...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The ultimate comfort pie...

I have never been a huge savoury pie fan, I don't really know why. I love pastry, but fill it with mince beef or creamy chicken and my taste buds just turn off.

There is one special exception to this self imposed rule though, and that is the humble corned beef and potato pie. I know corned beef has a bad reputation and believe me I have had a few people turn their noses up at the mere mention of my corned beef and potato pie, but I defy anyone to turn their nose up after they taste it! It is pure comfort and joy wrapped in a warm pastry coat!

Shortcrust pastry is one of my favourite things to make, it is so simple yet so satisfying. My shortcrust recipe is pretty simple, I have no idea where it came from as I have it scribbled down on a piece of paper that floats around my kitchen but it has been adapted a lot over the years...


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Baking Mad With ...

I got a rather interesting email today, so I thought I would share it with you; my lovely readers. I don't know if any of you saw the Channel 4 series "Baking mad with Eric Lanlard"? I caught a couple of episodes and it was pretty good.
Some parts were a little corny but I picked up a few great tips on cake baking and decorating.

Anywhoo, here is the email...


Monday, 24 October 2011

All the fun of the festival!

I live for the weekends, the promise of uninterrupted all day kitchen time makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I had a cracking weekend this weekend! Lots of cooking and baking on Saturday (blog posts to follow) followed by a trip to the fantastic Durham Food Festival on Sunday.

There were a lot of wonderful food related stalls to behold, from meat, preserves, local beer and cider, to cake, meringues and all things bake-related. I bet you can tell which ones I headed straight for?
There was also a craft section, but I have to be honest and say it was rather underwhelming. Very old-fashioned, over-priced and lacking in variety.

I got chatting to a lady from one of the lovely cupcake stands, Cupcake & Co.(pictured on the left)
I mentioned that I wrote a food blog, and asked permission to take a few photos (I always think its more polite to ask, even though most stand holders commented that nobody ever does) She asked for details of my blog so she could read and when I mentioned the name she recognised it! She had read it before!
I felt all famous for a minute or two, totally made my day.
I also have to mention that her cupcakes were delicious! The Chocolate Marble variety was particularly decadent.

I also found a cupcake stall that was selling edible glitter and sprinkles, I couldn't resist buying a few bits and bobs. (pictures in the middle) Glass Slipper Bakery were also selling cupcakes, cakepops and cakepop kits to try and make them yourself.

Oh and I couldn't not mention the lovely Wham Bam Meringue (pictured on the right), the strawberry meringue I sampled was melt-on-the-tongue fantastic, so light and flavourful. Plus the bonus of it being gluten and fat free.

And now down to the most exciting bit of the day...


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Battenburg and the loss of my baking mojo...

I had a terrible baking weekend, I felt like everything that could possibly have gone wrong, went wrong. Well, maybe it wasn't as bad as all that but it sure felt like it.
I was baking some delicious goodies for my friends Jamie at Home party. (Like a Tupperware party but with Jamie Oliver stuff) I have never baked for a party or occasion before so was a little nervous.

I had wanted to not only bake something delicious but also something pretty so I could show off some of my new skills! But alas, it just wasn't meant to be...


Monday, 10 October 2011

A bit of a scone fail.

My first foray into the world of scones was not a successful one, it was entirely my fault and nothing to do with the fabulous recipe from Edd Kimber.

The dough/scone mixture itself was lovely, looked exactly as it should and I had the highest of hope. However, I realised when it came to cutting out that I didn't have a circular cutter! I had every other shape under the sun from dinosaurs to Christmas trees but alas no circle.

I decided to use a glass instead, so searched my cupboard for something of the right size and settled on my Disney's Camp Rock tumbler (Yes it is mine, no I don't have children.) However, it turns out the thick glass doesn't make for a good scone cutter...


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Weekly Bake-off: Bakewell Bonanza!

This weeks Bake-off challenge was from page 96 of Mary Berry's 100 cakes and bakes; Bakewell Tray Bake.

I am a massive fan of Mr Kipling's bakewell tarts, they are always my go-to cake treat at the supermarket. Unbelievably I have never attempted to make anything bakewell related myself.

Needless to say I was over the moon when this challenge was announced and jumped at the chance to make it....

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Craft North East: How I went cupcake crazy!

As I am sure you have all noticed by now, I am a little obsessed with baking (and blogging about baking).
I spend a lot of my time perusing new recipes, checking out other foodie blogs and making mental lists of things I want to try and bake in the future.

However, some items on my mental lists never make it into my kitchen. Mainly because I am scared, I am big scared-y cat! I see beautiful bakes and drool-inducing photographs and that little voice in my head screams "You could never make something THAT good!" and a lot of the time I listen to that little voice and don't even try!

I have decided that enough is enough! Watching the Great British Bake-off and talking to lovely people on twitter has convinced me that with a bit of practise and a lot of perseverance I can achieve anything I put my mind to! -With the exception of maybe Macaroons, those little suckers look hard!

One thing I have always wanted to try was icing. I wanted to make my cupcakes look pretty as well as be delicious and my past attempts left a little to be desired.

I mean these little cakes were delicious but look like they were iced by a five year old! I may have even lied to people and told them I had a child in the kitchen with me! I needed some serious help in the presentation department!

So imagine my delight when I saw a tweet for a cupcake decorating workshop! It was affordable and being held locally in Newcastle upon Tyne! Needless to say I jumped at the chance.

I even went on my own, which is something I would never normally do....


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Autumn in muffin form.

As previously mentioned, Autumn is my favourite time of year. Great clothes, great weather, and most of all great flavours! My house pretty much smells of cinnamon and nutmeg from September until January, I would bath in the stuff if I could!

After my recent crumble success I decided to get a little experimental and use up some left over ingredients. I had a huge stack of chopped apple and loads of crumble topping left over. I had already made three crumbles and really wanted to try something different. So I flipped through some recipe books, and came across a recipe for toffee apple muffins (James Martin). Then I remembered seeing on Browned Eyed Baker that she had used crumble topping on muffins. An idea started to take shape.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Weekly Bake-off challenge one: Carrot cake with mascarpone topping.

I heard about a great weekly bake-off challenge on twitter, It seemed the like the perfect way to get over the eventual heartache that will come once the Great British Bake Off is finished. *sobs*
Although I have heard rumours of a possible celebrity bake off! Which I am pretty excited about. Who do you think they will get as contestants?

Anywhoo back to the weekly bake-off...

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Great British Bake-off

Over the past eleven weeks I have been glued to my screen every Tuesday night at 8pm. The Great British Bake off has been compelling to say the least. Who would have thought that watching eleven amateur bakers attempt to master a variety of baked goods would make for such addictive viewing.

So many elements have made this series special from the judges, How can you not love Mary Berry? The presenters, Mel and Sue and their innuendo filled speeches and voice-overs. And how can we forget the contestants!?


Monday, 26 September 2011

Share the crumbly love day.

I have been itching to make a crumble all summer, I have been waiting for the weather to turn and the leaves to fall. Autumn is by far my favourite time of year, the days have cooled, the leaves have turned, and the food! Oh the food!

Autumn flavours are the best! Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger; I am drooling as I write this. Autumn to me means comfort food, rich soups and stews, puddings with custard, which make you feel all warm inside.

As I was contemplating making my first crumble of the year I saw Delicious Magazine was promoting their "Share the love day". The idea was simple; instead of making one crumble, why not make two and give one to someone who you don’t know, someone you wish you knew better or someone who needs cheering up.

It is all about spreading some much-needed good cheer, and fostering community spirit in the process.
So I set to work making some yummy crumbles.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Make and Mend at Grainger Market

Since coming back to blogging last month I have been making a real effort to get out and about. There are so many fabulous events that go on in and around the North-east and I always mean to go but never get around to it.

I heard about the Make and Mend Market on facebook, and as soon as I saw that Pet Lamb Patisserie were going to have a stall I just had to go and try their delectable delights for myself.
Check them out on facebook

Who are Pet Lamb Patisserie you ask?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Roadtrip; the one with all the jam.

Last weekend me and my lovely sister went on a little roadtrip!

I may have annoyed quite a lot of people on social networking sites by tweeting the entire journey, but we made it in one piece!

We were travelling from Newcastle to Ipswich, which we managed in just under 5 hours. We didn't set off until after 5pm, I had taken a days holiday to pack, burn roadtrip CDs and bake bread, but my poor sister had to work all day then drive 5 hours! (I don't drive; sorry Jen!)


Friday, 9 September 2011

A simple white loaf

Not bad for a first try!

As anybody who follows me on twitter or facebook may be aware, I am a big fan of the Great British Bake-off on BBC2 (Tuesday nights at 8pm). I love the concept; sort of like the masterchef of cakes and other baked goodies. A few of my posts have been inspired by the show and this one is no different.

Last week on the show they tackled bread. I have never attempted to make bread myself, I vaguely remember making it with my Mum as a child but I have never tried it all by myself. So this weekend I set myself the task of making a simple white loaf.

So I pulled out my Great British Bake-off book and found Paul Hollywood's recipe for a basic white loaf, it said it was the prefect starting place for beginners! Brilliant! So off I went to my kitchen...


Friday, 2 September 2011

Dulche de Leche Brownies

Dulche de Leche brownies

One of life's little pleasures for me, is sitting down on a Sunday morning with a nice brew, a bacon sandwich and watching Something for the Weekend on BBC2.

Simon, Tim and Louise - My Sunday morning friends

One of my goals in life is to appear on the fridge with my version of one of Simon's recipes. I did send a photo in once or twice but alas it has never happened.

The week before the "big move" they made some delicious looking Dulche de Leche brownies on the show. I have just been calling them caramel brownies as I think trying to pronounce dulche de leche makes me sound like a tool.
I decided these were the perfect treat for my lovely helpful moving buddies.

So here is my attempt at the brownies, I have only ever attempted brownies once before and they turned out more like cake so I had very high hopes for these bad boys.


Thursday, 1 September 2011

The big move and exploding ovens

First of all apologies for lack of posts over the past two weeks, however, I do have a valid excuse; I was moving house! We waved goodbye to our grotty old flat and moved into our gorgeous new home! I cant even put into words how happy I am with the new house. It is a proper grown-up house with an upstairs AND a downstairs!

Shiny new house

The day before the big move I decided to bake some delicious cookies and brownies for all the wonderful people helping us move, because I am nice like that.

Although, not everything went according to plan...


Monday, 22 August 2011

Chocolate Courgette Cake

Last Thursday I got offered some lovely home-grown courgettes from someone at work, as they had far too many to use themselves. Never one to say no to free food I happily took them.

Thats right, bigger than my keyboard!

I had seen Simon from the Great British Bake-off make a chocolate and courgette cake so thought I would give it a go! I did ask around for some recipes and was told by a few people on twitter that the BBC Good Food recipe was the best! So here it is...


Friday, 19 August 2011

Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate-y goodness!

I am always on the hunt for a really good biscuit recipe, something easy yet delicious that I can make over and over again. Last weekend I had a wonderful baking day with the lovely Sacha. She came armed with this recipe from so we decided to give it a go.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Back to basics - Victoria Sponge

Well I definitely got my baking Mojo back this weekend! With a vengeance!

I spent Saturday shopping with my lovely sister and she bought me two new cookery books! The first was the Great British Bake-off
book, which accompanies the TV show that was on BBC2 and the second was Gizzi's Kitchen Magic which is not only gorgeous to look at but full of great tips and delicious recipes.

Oh the possibilities!

I spent most of my Saturday night immersed in these books, trying to decide which recipes to try, there was far to many to chose from.

In the end I decide to ease myself back into this baking game with a simple Victoria sponge. The bake-off book had a recipe which they dubbed "the perfect Victoria sponge" so I decided to try it and see how perfect it really was.


Friday, 12 August 2011

Long time no see...

Hello, my name is Helen and it has been over a year since my last blog post...

*hangs head in shame*

Sincerest apologies to the blogosphere, has been a long old year and I literally don't think I have baked anything in that time! *gasp*

I am happy to announce that I am moving to a lovely new house in just 3 short weeks! I am hoping a nice new kitchen will spur me on to get back to baking.

I have a list of recipes as long as my arm that I want to try, so please watch this space for upcoming deliciousness.

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