Great British Bake Off Audition

Another post before the New Year is in 🙂  I think I’m getting blogging and baking withdrawal symptoms as John and I have been away from home for 10 days now and I’m itching to get back to my kitchen!  I don’t start work again until the 7th of January, so baking is going to be my main focus from the 2nd January to the 6th 🙂  I thought I’d take the lull in baking as an opportunity to tell you about an exciting day I recently attended in London.  At the end of November I applied for the ‘Great British Bake Off’.  To my non-UK friends, this is a programme in which 12 amateur bakers take part in baking challenges (different types of bake each week), until one is eventually crowned the winner.  Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are the judges (queen and king of all things baking) and they set the bakers a challenge each week.  In the last series, these challenges included making an 8 strand plaited loaf and chocolate teacakes (scary!)  I would not be surprised if other countries ended up with their own version of the programme, as it has been phenomenally successful after 3 series’ here.

I filled in the application and after around a week, I received a phonecall and went through a telephone interview where I was asked all sorts of things about my baking and also some technical questions (such as: what are the main ingredients in bread?  What are the ingredients in chocolate ganache?)  I am proud to say that I got all the technical questions correct!  After the phone interview I was invited up to London to attend one of the first round auditions.  For the audition we were asked to bring with us one sweet and one savoury bake.  I have to admit, I found the savoury bake quite hard to decide.  I don’t make a lot of bread, which may have been the obvious choice.  I decided eventually one mini lemon sponges with lemon curd mascarpone cream and spiced cheese and nut biscuits.  In the near future I’ll do a blog post that features both these recipes 🙂  On arriving to the audition, it was clear that some people had gone all out to impress.  I think my bakes held up though!  Everyone that I met during the process, from the other auditionees to the producers of the programme were absolutely lovely.  The audition involved a short chat with some of the producers about what you brought with you and about your baking in general.  I was honest when talking to them and their feedback was that they liked what I baked, however I didn’t make it through to the next stage as they felt I needed more experience in certain areas of baking, which is fair enough.  I think that this blog will help with that!

I had a great experience at the audition and I’m pleased to have made the cut from the thousands that applied, down to the first audition.  I may apply again next year, but in the meantime I’m going to enjoy developing Baking-Joy.com!

Have a fantastic evening everyone whatever you are doing.  Happy New Year and here’s to 2013!

Happy New Year! (& news for 2013!)

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy new year!  Baking-Joy is only a few months old, but I can safely say I’ve had a fantastic time working on it since I started in October 😀

I’m looking forward to where Baking-Joy is going in the new year…I’m moving over to self-hosting in January and having a blog redesign, which hopefully should be up and running in February/March, which I’m very excited about!  I’m also starting a new photography course in photoediting in February 🙂  Santa was very kind with his Amazon vouchers this Christmas, so as soon as John and I get back from our New Year holiday…50mm prime lens here I come!  I’m looking forward to improving my photography throughout 2013.

 I’ve met some fantastic people through my blog and other blogs and am incredibly grateful for all the friendship and support I’ve received since October.  Thank you to you all and here’s to a fantastically baked 2013! 😀

Below are some of my most popular recipes since I started (well…popular on my scale!)

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After Eight Mint Chocolate Chip cookies

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Peanut butter banana muffins

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Peanut butter layer brownies (my personal favourite!)

Chocolate orange cookies

Happy Christmas Eve everyone!  I wanted to do some baking today, as we’re going to be pretty busy over the next few days, so I won’t have a lot of time to focus on blogging :-(.  It also gave me a perfect excuse not to wrap presents 🙂

Husband, Granny and I are off to the Christingle service at 5pm today.  This is a tradition for us every Christmas Eve.  It is a church service involving a nativity play, carols and a procession of children carrying candles placed in oranges (the orange representing the world).  This got me thinking…about chocolate orange cookies 🙂  I’m sure this wasn’t the message intended, but never mind!

This cookie recipe was a little bit of an experiment as it included bread flour as well as plain (all-purpose) flour.  The intention of the bread flour is to make the cookies extra chewy.  I’m sure there is a scientific reason behind this and I will endevour to find out for you 🙂  This is coupled with this recipe only using brown sugar, which makes the cookies become more chewy over the next few days.  The addition of orange chocolate and the wonderful smelling orange zest to the cookie dough takes these fairly ordinary chocolate chip cookies to another level!

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Ingredients (makes 16 large cookies or 32 small):

  • 125g soft unsalted butter
  • 225g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 125g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa
  • 50g bread flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 100g milk chocolate chips
  • 100g orange milk chocolate, chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas 4.  Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the egg and beat again.
  2. Add the flours, bicarb, baking powder and orange zest and stir together to form a sticky dough.  Fold in all the chocolate.  Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for as long as you have patience! (at least an hour)
  3. Roll cookie dough into small balls and place on 2 lined baking sheets.  Bake for around 10 minutes.  Take cookies out when they look slightly underdone.  Leave for a few minutes on the baking sheet, before moving to the cooling rack.

Have a lovely Christmas Eve and holiday everyone.  A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂  I’m looking forward to where Baking-Joy is going in 2013!

Photography course portfolio

I finished my photography course this week 🙂  I’ve had a brilliant time and it’s been so helpful and interesting.  I love learning new things 🙂  The good news is…another course is being run in February for using Photoshop Elements, which I’m going to sign up for.  Annnnd…I should have my 50mm prime lens by then (thank you Santa!)  Below are the 6 photographs I submitted for my portfolio.  We weren’t allowed to alter them in any way, which ended up being quite frustrating when I ventured into trying Photoshop and saw the difference it made…can’t wait for the February course!  My theme, of course, was Food and Baking 🙂

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Blue cheese and walnut biscuits

Ok, brace yourselves.  I have made…something savoury! 🙂  Have I told you all about my cheese obsession?  It probably comes a very close 2nd to peanut butter.  Sometimes I even eat them together (peanut butter and cheese sandwiches…yum).  These biscuits make me feel very festive as they use my favourite blue cheese, Stilton.  Stilton is special as it has a protection order applied to its production, which basically means it can only be produced at a handful of select dairies in the UK.  If you can’t get hold of Stilton, any crumbly blue cheese will work just as well 🙂  If you’re worried that you aren’t a blue cheese fan, these really aren’t overpowering.  They have a lovely buttery, subtle flavour.  Great to serve as a savoury snack at any Christmas party you might happen to have!

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Ingredients:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g stilton (or other blue cheese) + extra for topping
  • 50g walnuts
  • Poppy seeds for sprinkling
  • Beaten egg (for glazing)

Method:

1.  Food process all ingredients (apart from the egg) until it forms a dough (a little water may be needed)

2.  Take dough out and knead lightly.  Roll out thinly onto a floured board and cut out biscuit shapes (use whatever cutter you like!)  Top with poppy seeds (or other seeds) or more blue cheese

3.  Bake biscuits for 10 minutes or until golden.  These will keep well in an airtight tin for a few days.

Apple crumble cinnamon muffins

My cinnamon journey continues 🙂  I wanted to bake apple muffins as I knew these would keep for a good few days (and provide a perfect ‘healthy’ breakfast!) and nothing goes better with apple than cinnamon.  This a twist on the apple loaf cake I blogged about recently with the addition of a delicious crunchy cinnamon crumble topping.  I’ve become a bit of a fruit fiend in my baking recently…coming soon mini lemon sponges with lemon curd marscapone cream!

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I decided to grate some of the apple, as well as chopping it finely, which gave a lovely combination of textures.  The addition of flaked almonds on top of the crumble gave an extra crunch, which contrasted really well with the muffin itself.  There is cinnamon all over the place in these muffins…but you can never have too much in my humble opinion! 🙂

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Ingredients (makes around 10 muffins):

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 90ml milk
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 eating apples, skin left on.  1 grated, 1 chopped finely

For the crumble topping:

  • 75g porridge oats
  • 50g butter
  • 25g dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Flaked almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6 and line a muffin tray with muffin cases.
  2. Stir dry ingredients for muffins together in a bowl.  Add the oil, milk and egg.  Fold in, until just combined.  Do not overmix and this makes the muffins heavy.
  3. Fold in the apple and spoon mixture into muffin cases (nearly to the top).
  4. To make the topping; melt butter, sugar & cinnamon together, then stir in the oats.  Spoon the topping over the muffins and sprinkle with flaked almonds.  Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Great for breakfast (or if you’re me, any time of day!)

Gingerbread bundt cake

I went to Lakeland the other day.  For my non-UK friends, this is a shop that spells danger around every corner.  It is a shop where I may pop in ‘just for a look’ and end up spending far too much money 🙂  Whilst visiting the shop over the weekend, I happily told Mr Baking-Joy that I’d be at the back, looking at the baking stuff.  He then asked me if I’d be ok, or would I need supervision 🙂  The truth is, I do need supervision in that shop, otherwise I dance around shouting ‘ooo pretty’ and putting many items in my basket!  However, on that day I tried to restrain myself and bought a square cake tin (for brownies and bars) and a bundt tin.  I been using the word ‘bundt’ in many conversations over the last few days.  In fact, I think I confused someone at work who thought I was using rude language 🙂

Anyway…on the Christmas/cinnamon road I’ve been travelling down recently, I wanted to add a gingerbread bundt cake to my travels.  The lemon icing is on a similar theme to my gingerbread cupcakes I blogged about recently.  Gingerbread + lemon = yum.

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Ingredients:

  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 120ml treacle
  • 250g light brown sugar
  • 300ml milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 450g plain flour
  • 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 200g dried prunes, chopped
  • Icing sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas 4.  Spray bundt tin with cooking oil spray or grease with butter.
  2. Put butter, sugar and treacle into a saucepan and heat gently to melt
  3. Remove saucepan from heat, add the milk and stir.  Leave to cool before beating in the eggs
  4. Sift the flour and bicarb into a bowl and mix in the spices.  Pour in the saucepan mixture and mix together until you have a batter (I would use an electric mixer here, the mixture can go lumpy when you add the wet ingredients to the dry)
  5. Fold in the chopped prunes.  Pour the batter into the bundt tin and bake for around 1 hour
  6. Let the cake cool for 20-30 minutes in the tin, before turning the cake out.  Leave the cake to cool completely before drizzling over icing
  7. To make the icing…sift some icing sugar into a bowl and beat in the juice of a lemon.  Add more icing sugar until a thickish icing is made.

Recipe adapted from http://www.lakeland.co.uk/