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GBBO 5 Technical Bake #2: Mary Berry’s Florentines

August 16, 2014

This week the Great British Bake Off technical challenge from Mary Berry was Florentines. In the special land that is my brain their name is always sung to the tune of Clementine by Mark Owen. Not because I’m a fan, it’s just stuck in my head that way.

I have only ever really experienced florentines in the form of Thomas J. Fudge ones (which are good). If the contestants has been paying attention to these when doing their shopping, they would have known that there should be wiggles in the chocolate on the back. As usual with my baking I’ve taken shortcuts in order to create  my Great British Fake-off. This time it was using a fruit, nut and seed mix from Waitrose rather than measuring out all the fruit and nut separately and also melting the chocolate in the microwave.

Mary Berry Bake Off Florentine


This was attempt number 2, hence the slightly sparse fruit & nut content. Batch one spread LOADS, but were actually rescued by some careful trimming and rewarming to be rather good. I decided to wait until the next day to do the chocolate and thought they needed a bit longer in the oven as they were still slightly chewy. So I popped them in….and forgot them until the stench of burning sugar filled the house. This, dear reader is why this blog is a learning journal rather than an example of excellence. I mess up so you can feel better about yourselves. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.

Mary Berry Great British Bake off Fudges Florentines

Ring of Florentines

Mary Berry’s Florentines

50g butter
50g demerara sugar
50g golden syrup
50g plain flour

If you’re using my shortcut:
125g of mixed fruit nut and seed mix from waitrose, roughly chopped (the seeds make it a finer mix naturally)

If you’re following Mary:
25g dried cranberries or glacé cherries, finely chopped
50g candied peel, finely chopped
25g almonds, finely chopped
25g walnut pieces, finely chopped
200g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
Line three baking trays with baking parchment or silicon sheets.
Measure the butter, sugar and syrup into a small pan and heat gently until the butter is melted.
Remove from the heat and add the flour, nuts, fruit etc. to the pan.
Stir well to mix.
Make 18 florentines by spooning six teaspoonfuls of the mixture on to each of the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of room for them to spread during cooking.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden-brown.
Leave the florentines to cool before lifting onto a cooling rack using a palette knife (if the florentines have been baked on greased baking trays, then allow them to harden for a few moments only before lifting onto cooling racks to cool completely). If the florentines become too hard to remove, then pop them back into the oven for a few minutes to allow them to soften.

Either carefully melt chocolate in the microwave OR if you’re doing things properly….
Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, without letting the bowl touch the water. Temper the chocolate by breaking half of the chocolate into the bowl.
Stir until the chocolate reaches a melting temperature of 53C/127F.
Meanwhile, finely chop or grate the remaining chocolate.
Carefully remove the bowl from the pan, add the rest of the chocolate and stir gently until the chocolate has cooled to 26C/79F.
Spread a little melted chocolate over the flat base of each florentine and leave to cool slightly before marking a zigzag in the chocolate with a fork. Leave to set, chocolate side up on a cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container.

This is being entered into  My GBBO Bakealong and the Great Bloggers Bake Off



Even distribution

Chocolate Muesli Cookies

August 13, 2014

Whilst the GBBO gang may be making fancy pants biscuits, I am taking you down a more practical path this evening. All in one, easy chocolate muesli cookies.

I made these for a bring and share lunch at Euston Church. I had a load of muesli to use but I didn’t want to make flapjack or brownies as there’s always loads of them at a sharing lunch. They do go down well though, so I was looking for something in between the too but that didn’t involved faffing around with creaming butter and sugar. I found this Easy Oat biscuit recipe on Nigella’s website and since Mr B probably wouldn’t go for a muesli cookie, I added cocoa to act as a chocolate-smuggle.

chocolate muesli cookies

Leaning tower of pleasing

Easy Chocolate Muesli Cookies

300g muesli (not the milk powde eg. Alpen kind though – you might need to adjust if you go down that route)
300g self raising flour
300g butter
300g caster sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp cocoa
4 tbsp milk
50g ish of rye flour

Makes: 12 cookies and 1 large tray bake.

Put the flour, muesli, sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Mix.
Melt the butter and golden syrup either in a saucepan over a low heat or by zapping in the microwave for 30s at a time.
Pour the melted butter and syrup into the dry mix and stir through a bit, then add the milk and stir until completely combined.
Finally, add rye flour a bit at a time until the dough is dry enough to make a golf ball out of it. It will still be really sticky but you’ll be able to handle it without it running through your hands.
I’m sorry this is very inexact but I wasn’t realistically expecting my very inexact “throw it in” adaptation of the recipe to work so I wasn’t taking notes.
Put golf ball sized blobs onto a well greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 mins then take out and leave to cool.
For the tray bake it’ll need about 50mins and then leave it in the oven as it cools.

The resulting cookies / bake will be really soft so you could bake them for longer if you want a more robust bake.

Bake at 180c for 30mins

Remove and leave to cool before moving


easy quick cookie

Yes it’s muesli, but it’s CHOCOLATE

Freakishly large kettle chip

August 13, 2014

Mr B just sent me this photo. Apparently he had 25 colleagues around his desk looking at this oversized beauty.


GBBO 5 Technical Bake #1: Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake

August 10, 2014

As you may have noticed, the Great British Bake Off has started again on the UK. I wasn’t sure if I’d want to invest the time in another series, but I appear to have already watched the first episode and been persuaded to reprise my self inflicted challenge of the last series to tackle every single technical bake.

Tech Bake 5.1

So, here is GBBO Tech-Bake 5.1 the cherry cake. I forgot to shake the cherries in flour but still got a good even distribution. I used 3/4 natural French glacé cherries and 1/4 dried cranberries as I didn’t want to break open a new packet. The glacé cherries are less luridly red but I like the more refined colouring. Did you know they used to be preserved in honey? Find out more about their history here. I also made the icing pink and used Raspberry Ripple naturally flavoured icing sugar from Sugar and Crumbs. It really does taste like raspberry ripple and bring a little cheekiness to the cake. I’m not sure what Mr Hollywood would think though!

A while back I was sent a Lekue silicon savarin mould. I’ve never been a huge fan of silicone but I’m impressed the fact that this cooked in exactly the same time, with the same evenness and browned well. I didn’t grease it at all and it came out like a dream!

What would Mary say?

Mary Berry’s Cherry Cake
taken from BBC Good Food and Great British Bake off Series 5

150g natural French glacé cherries
50g dried cranberries or other dried fruit
225g self-raising flour
175g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
175g caster sugar
3 drops natural lemon essence
50g ground almonds
3 large free-range eggs

For the decoration
175g raspberry ripple icing sugar + food colouring
15g flaked almonds, toasted
5 glacé cherries, quartered

Preparation method 

Preheat oven to 180c (160 for fan)
Grease or spray a 23cm/9in bundt tin or savarin mould.
Rinse the fruit under cold water
Reserve 4 cherries
Cut the rest of the fruit into small pieces – eg. the cherries into quarters.
Set aside five of the quartered cherries for the decoration later.
Drain the fruit, dry thoroughly on kitchen paper and toss in two tablespoons of the flour.
Measure the flour, butter, sugar, almonds , eggs and lemon essence (or zest)into a large bowl and beat well until completely mixed.
Fold in the fruit.
Spoon into the bundt tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until well risen, golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Toast the almonds in a pan.
Mix the icing sugar together with 4 tbsp water, add more if needed to make it loose enough to drizzle. Colour if desired.
Drizzle over the cooled cake using the back of a spoon, sprinkle over the toasted almonds and reserved cherries cut into slices


Lekue sent me the mould for free ages ago but I wasn’t required to write a review. I was genuinely impressed. I have had freebies in the past from French Glace Cherries and Sugar and Crumbs. I really like the Sugar and Crumbs intriguing flavoured icing sugar and cocoa powder and have a few more I’m looking forward to trying. The cake stand is from

This is being entered into Cook Blog Share , My GBBO Bakealong and the Great Bloggers Bake Off



Even distribution

Chocolate Courgette Cake by Riverford

August 6, 2014

I made this cake 2 weeks ago, but I’ve seen a few courgette cakes showing their faces around the web since then. Clearly it’s courgette time. You can see Beckie’s here and Steph’s here.

My congestion of courgettes (made-up collective noun)  was the result of an excellent offer which Riverford had been running where you could get their veg boxes delivered really cheaply for 3 weeks. I really enjoyed coming home every Tuesday evening to a box of suprise veg, but I don’t think our potato consumption is voracious enough to justify keeping it going, and the non-potato one is just that bit more expensive. If it wasn’t just the two of us though I’d recommend their excellent service and great tasting veg (oh the carrots!). In particular, our local rep Simon Bear  was incredibly friendly and helpful.

Riverford have recipe cards in the box and lots of ideas online of how to used their various veg, so when I ended up with a bit of a queue of courgettes (ooh that’s a better one…they look a bit like buses all lined up) I went on their website and found this one.

I have to confess that mine had a slightly grainy texture but I entirely put this down to my own failing of curdling the creamed mixture (milk too cold, butter too warm) and thinking I could use gluten free flour without any xanthan gum. I’d bet my buns that this will turn out wonderfully if you make it and it still got hoovered up quite happily but church friends and Mr B. Hey, if it’s got chocolate in it, it’s always pretty safe. Well, unless it’s chocolate mashed potato cake but that was too traumatic to even make it to the blog. Another time.

Last time on Great British Bake Off they had to make a vegetable based cake, so this is my welcome cake for the new series.

courgette cake from riverforf

Apologies for the bad photo

Riverford’s Chocolate Courgette Cake

120g softened unsalted butter
125ml sunflower oil
100g caster sugar
200g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
130ml milk
350g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
450g courgettes, peeled and finely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put the butter, sunflower oil and both sugars in a bowl and beat them together until light and fluffy.
Gradually beat in the eggs and then the milk.
Sift the dry ingredients together and fold them into the mixture. Stir in the courgettes and vanilla, then spoon the mixture into a 20 x 35cm baking tin lined with baking parchment.
Place in an oven preheated to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 and bake for 35–45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Mix a teacup full of icing sugar with 2 tsp cocoa.
Moisten with drops of water, stirring well until it starts to turn runny.
Drizzle over the cake while warm

Courgette covered in chocolate

Please note – I paid good and proper for the veg boxes – they weren’t a freebie or review. I’m a normal punter for this one.

Peach Bubble Tea, Pigling Bland Style

August 3, 2014

I’ve tried bubble tea twice. I can’t remember the first time but this time was at the Wembley Outlet centre and it wasn’t great. I had green tea (very sweet) and inadvertently chose popping bubbles, which were filled with a synthetic flavoured strawberry sugary liquid.

I decided to make my own version when I get home. It’s be a good way for your whole family to be able to enjoy bubble tea without having a load of nasties. I do like the slightly odd sensations of bits of jelly in the middle of a drink. It’s like a little wibbly surprise in each sip!

peach bubble tea

Summer Refreshment

You could make iced tea or sub half the milk for a fruit tea if you want to make it properly a tea drink, but I like it as a milkshake.

Peach Bubble “Tea”

Choose your glass and take..
1 pack sugar free strawberry jelly mix or ready made jelly pots like Hartleys
1 peach (you could peel the peach, but I’ve left the skin on – hence the bits in the photo)
3/4 glass milk
6 icecubes


Make up the jelly ahead of time if you’re making your own.
Chop the peach into large chunks.
Put the peach, icecubes and milk into a large jug or a blender.
Use a stick blender or the actual blender to blitz it.
In the jelly pot use a knife to chop it up into bits.
Pour the peach milkshake into a glass, spoon in the jelly bits.
Drink with a straw.



peach milkshake and jelly

Bits of jelly and peach





Foodie Penpals July: Hometown and Healthy

July 31, 2014

After Swiss and Danish parcels, this one came from closer to home….the Barbican in London to be precise. Funnily enough I had been there to see Ben Folds’ Piano Concerto just days before Sally, my provider of all things delicious for this month, contacted me.

Well, we may not have won the World Cup, we may flop at Wimbledon and crumple in the cricket (most of the time), but I can proudly say that when it comes to the foodie penpal prize, we’re up there with the best of them (Brits / English, UK-ers, Londoners, whichever you will).

After the delicious chocolatey excesses of Switzerland I was excited to see a predominantly healthy parcel with a few treats.

Colour coordinated

Not only was the contents great tasting but when I laid it out, it was all colour coordinated – even the notecard. Sally, I have no idea whether this was  on purpose but respect either way!

Hiver Beer: Beer made with “Urban London, English Blossom and Heather honeys during fermentation and conditioning to produce a beer of medium body and low bitterness”

Furikake: Sesame seed and seaweed seasoning. Great on salads and for sprinkling over vegetables before roasting.

Giant Amaretti type biscuits: but not the hard rubbish ones from coffee shops. These are GOOD. Carluccios?

Proppercorn: I’m a huge fan of their coconut and vanilla and have thought about trying the worcester sauce but was always worried I’d be hankering after my staple so it was nice to get to try this. It’s got a great kick to it. I’ll definitely have it again

Clearspring snacks – Soybean, Goji Berry and Pumkin seed mix & Tamari Roasted Almonds. These are exactly the kind of things I crave. The clearpsring range is one I have seen a lot about on blogs so I was glad to get to try it. Again, really impressed with these.

Amisa Spelt Crispbread - My first foodie penpal repeat and I’m very happy for it to be so. I got this in my first ever parcel and loved it so I was delighted to have it again. Great for dunking in boiled eggs or having with a salad or for snacking.

Pukka Herbal teas – healthy hot drinks.

You can see what everyone else got here

The Lean Green Bean

More about Foodie Penpals

Started by The Lean Green Bean, Foodie penpals is a way for food bloggers and blog readers to get to know each other, via a lovely parcel in the mail every month. This is Rock Salt has brought it to the UK and Europe. Here’s the rough outline of how it works:

  • All interested parties in the UK and Europe – bloggers and blog readers alike – sign up by the form available at the bottom of the Terms and Conditions post
  • Participants are matched on the 5th of the month
  • Penpals send thoughtful, food related parcels, on or before the 20th of the month. The parcels can include home baked treats, shop bought treats (especially local or unusual things), cake cases or decorations – use your imagination. The parcel must include something hand written – a note explaining the box’s contents, a recipe card, whatever you like. The price limit for the boxes is £10 – this is a limit, the point is not the cost, but the thought (no, really!)
  • Penpals open their boxes and rejoice!
  • At the end of the month, everyone blogs about their box, or writes a guest blog post if they are usually a blog reader and not writer. Everyone reads one another’s posts and rejoices some more. Posts are made available on Lindsay’s blog so we can all find each other easily

Find out more here: How it Works // Terms and Conditions.


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