Pink Whisk’s Best Ever Ginger Cake

When I was a child, Mum sometimes used to buy a well known brand of ginger cake for our tea. It was perfectly sticky and gingery and stuck your teeth together. I decided some time ago that I would try and make one rather than buy it and found the Pink Whisk’s best ever ginger cake recipe. I’ve baked it a few times now and it has never failed me. It’s great on the day of baking when it is light and moist but even better after a few days when it has developed the lovely sticky texture. This recipe makes a vast amount but you could halve it if you liked.

First I preheated the oven and greased my tin. I use my roasting tin for this – its not quite the same dimensions as Ruth’s recipe but I haven’t had any problems so far. Then I weighed flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, baking powder, salt, caster sugar and butter into a bowl. Next I weighed the treacle and syrup into a separate bowl. I don’t like this bit – trying to get golden syrup and treacle out of the tin always results in a sticky mess. If anyone has any ideas how to get it out without this happening, please let me know!! However getting them out again into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients is easy as Ruth says to weigh the boiling water on top. The mixture then slides out of the bowl easily with very little left behind. At this point I realised I was 100g short of the syrup and treacle. Well as it was raining and dark, I decided to carry on so without going out to buy any more. Once all the ingredients were in the bowl, I stirred them first with a wooden spoon and then with my electric mixer to reduce the splashing. The bowl was almost full. I don’t know why I didn’t use Mr Foodie’s massive stainless steel 10 litre one – it would have made things a bit easier! Next time! Once all the ingredients were combined I poured the mixture into the tin and baked it for 25 minutes. I took it out of the oven and let it cool before cutting into squares and putting on a wire rack. Ruth then recommends an icing glaze which I have never bothered with although I do think this would make an excellent pudding with custard. This cake isn’t particularly attractive but it more than makes up for that in taste.

Edit:  Days survived in the office 1.5


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Sams Kitchen Cinnamon, Oat and Raisin Cookies

I love cinnamon. It’s a smell that always reminds me of Christmas, a warming spice on a cold day and chez Foodie it gets added to various recipes other than cake. It’s very good on porridge with honey and also surprisingly good in plain yoghurt with jam (this was the Jbug’s discovery not mine!). I was browsing through Sams Kitchen last week and to my delight found a couple of biscuit recipes where cinnamon takes centre stage. I chose to bake the cinnamon, oat and raisin cookies as this looked a simple recipe, perfect for baking with an almost 3 year old. I doubled the recipe as the original one makes 8 which would have been scoffed in no time at all!

While the oven was preheating, I set the Jbug to work greasing oven trays. He likes doing this but does have a tendency to grease one small spot very well whilst omitting the rest of the tray! Once they were greased and lined, we measured both light brown and dark brown sugar, self raising flour, baking powder, cinnamon, raisins and oats into a bowl. JBug sampled as many ingredients as possible as we weighed them in – he enjoyed the raisins but wasn’t very keen on the flour! Once they were all in the bowl, we gave them a quick stir to ensure they were evenly distributed before adding the butter and the egg. We mixed again until well combined and the mixture had formed a dough. It was stickier than I expected. Then we measured tablespoons of the mixture onto a tray and then I formed them into balls using a bit of extra flour to stop them sticking to my fingers. Finally I flattened them slightly with my palm. JBug meanwhile was busy licking the bowl clean!

We put them in the oven and baked them for 15 minutes. By then, they were golden brown but not firm as the recipe says they should be. I took them out anyway as I thought they might harden up when cooling and I didn’t want them to overbake.

Once they were cool, we tried one. It was soft and chewy with an obvious but not overpowering cinnamon flavour. It also lighter than some oat based cookies I’ve made in the past. They were so good I made another batch the next day and sent it to Mr Foodie’s work who quickly demolished it.

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Pink Whisk Berry Tea Loaf

Chez Kungfoodie this tea loaf has become the “take on holiday cake”. Last year (when my cake baking repertoire was pretty limited), I baked this tea loaf and we took it on holiday with us. It is an ideal cake to take travelling. It’s moist so doesn’t dry out or disintegrate unlike sponge. It keeps really well (should you not scoff it all in one session!) and, unlike a lot of fruit cakes, is quite light. It only requires a bit of advance planning (soaking the fruit the night before) before you make it and the rest of the method is of the “weigh a few more ingredients out and stir into a bowl” school of baking making it ideal to bake with a toddler in tow (if that hasn’t convinced you to try it, nothing will!!)

First weigh dried fruit into a bowl. Ruth suggests sultanas, cranberries, cherries and blueberries. I use sultanas and raisins plus then two out of cherries, blueberries and cranberries depending on what’s in stock at the supermarket. All combinations of these work really well. Then pour some tea on top and leave it to soak overnight. If you forget (as I’ve done before), you can soak it first thing in the morning and bake it in the evening.

The following morning preheat the oven and line a loaf tin. Stir in sugar and then beaten egg. Lastly sift in the flour and mix together. Add the mixture to the loaf tin and bake. I find it takes between 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. I check it at 45 minutes to make sure it’s not browning too quickly on top (if it is then I cover it with foil). Leave it to cool in the tin then turn it out, slice and eat!

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Mrs Foodies Secret Crumble Recipe

When I was a child, I was given a Ladybird cookery book called Cooking. The idea behind this book was that children could cook the recipes in it with some help from a supervising adult. As a child I often made the shortbread recipe from it but, as an adult, the only recipe I have used on a regular basis is that for a crumble. In the book it is rhubarb. I usually tend to make apple crumble as this is the favoured flavour chez Kungfoodie plus at the moment it is a good way to use up the apples from the tree in the garden. It is easy to scale up or down as long as you keep the topping ratios the same and add more fruit.

You will need:-

175g / 6oz plain flour
75g / 3oz unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
75g / 3oz caster sugar
4 cooking apples (approx weight 1.2kg before peeling, coreing and cutting into small chunks)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Caster sugar to taste

This fed 3 adults and 1 child this weekend with a generous portion leftover.

First preheat the oven to 190C / 170 fan / Gas mark 5.

I tend to make the topping first then prepare the apples to stop them browning but it doesn’t really matter.

Sift the flour into a bowl then add the butter and sugar and rub the mixture together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. You could also do this in a food processor to save time.

Then peel, core and cut up the apples into small chunks.

Place in a large ovenproof dish (I use a large pyrex dish about 2 litres / 3.5 pints capacity). Then add the cinnamon and caster sugar. I don’t bother to weigh the sugar – I just put in a couple of tablespoons as I prefer my crumble more on the tart side as otherwise when you serve it with ice cream or custard it is overwhelmingly sweet. Add more sugar if you think you’ll need it.

Sprinkle on the topping and press down well with a fork. Then run the fork gently over the top to give it a crumbly appearance.

Place in the oven for about 30 minutes until the apples are soft and the top is just brown.

Serve with ice cream, custard or cream.

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The Bread Bakethrough: Guinness and Treacle Bread

The Guinness and Treacle bread is on page 28 of 100 Great Breads, by Paul Hollywood, the patron saint of breads, well at least he is in my house. There are a hundred recipes, so to make sure I get through the book in a reasonable amount of time, I try to bake two loaves a week, one an every day loaf like an everyday white or wholemeal, and the other a more exotic one. This week the Guinness and Treacle bread was supposed to be the exotic loaf. When I first made this bread, thought it’d never work. It was meaty, and being mostly wholemeal, felt compeltely different when it was being worked. I had to suspend my disbelief, this loaf was outside of my comfort zone.


As you can see, it looked like an unholy mess when I first added all of the ingredients to the cauldron, I mean mixing bowl. I’ve never worked with treacle, and I found that getting two tablespoons of treacle out was harder than I thought! That stuff sticks to everything and once you get it on the spoon, it was hard to get it off. Scrape with another spoon and it sticks to that one and so on and so on. Mrs Foodie came to the rescue by instructing me to warm the spoon up. Half a minute in boiling hot water made all the difference.

This just left me with the contents of the bowl. It reminded me of some of the things I’ve seen in B-movies and was getting ready for it to jump out and attack. It was at this point that I decided to trust in St Paul, and carry on working the dough. The patron saint of breads could not, after all be wrong on things of a leavened nature. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes, it began to come together, and I tipped it onto the work surface before all the flour had been worked into the dough ball. That way I don’t need to flour the worktop as I use some of the flour that’s going in the bread to keep the dough from sticking to my worktop. It’s a much tighter dough than your average white loaf, and it took some working, and it took a while. It felt much coarser than the white loaves I’ve been used to and all the time I wondered how it’d turn out. I kneaded it for what felt like ages and it refused to yield. It didn’t feel like it was getting appreciably stretchier or silkier and for a moment, I had visions of baking a brick. St Paul counselled patience, and ten minutes later it looked and felt like it was going to make a good loaf. The jBug certainly had fun poking the dough. The froth in the Guinness does help the dough rise. I baked one with frothy Guinness straight out of the can and another with Guinness that I’d defrosted and the froth one rose a lot more. Now that’s an interesting thought. Can I get even more rise out of my loaves if I use fizzy water to mix up the dough? By the time the rising and proving was done, I was rather proud of it. It looked and felt like bread was supposed to, and I wondered why I’d ever doubted St Paul. When it came of the oven, I couldn’t wait to try it. Guinness and treacle would have you expecting a very hearty bread, one slightly sweet but very versatile. It goes well with your bacon and eggs, and just as well with fried apples, in fact I think that combination is a marriage made in heaven. I tried them in ham sandwiches and it worked too. So far the only things that I’ve tried that don’t work with this bread are banana and lime (Don’t ask me why). jBug has liked it so much he’s been asking for it ever since!

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Mary Berry’s Best Ever Chocolate Fudge Cake

Mr Foodie’s work had planned a small celebration for their first anniversary so I volunteered to make a cake. I haven’t made a chocolate cake in years but thought it would be appropriate for a celebration. To be honest I was a bit nervous as in the past my chocolate cakes have come out rather dry and tasteless. I had a look through my baking books as well as some recipes for chocolate cakes online. I picked this one as it uses the all in one method (which I’ve had quite a lot of practice with) and didn’t use any ingredients that were either going to be difficult to source or would only use a small quantity that we wouldn’t get used up in another recipe. This is yet another recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

For this cake you need 2 20cm / 8 inch deep sandwich tins. I only own one of those but I do have a springform tin of that size so I used that instead. Once the oven was preheating and the tins greased with the bases lined with greaseproof paper, I got the rest of the ingredients together. First I sifted some cocoa powder into a large bowl then mixed in 6 tablespoons of boiling water. Then I added eggs, milk, self raising flour, baking powder, softened butter and caster sugar and beat the mixture until it become a batter. The butter took ages to mix in despite being soft and I started to worry I was overbeating the batter. It was also runnier than I expected and was hard to divide between the 2 tins without making a bit of a mess! I baked it for 25 minutes then left it to cool. Once the cakes were cool, I placed them on a plate in my tin with one on top of the other but a layer of greaseproof to separate them as I didn’t have time to ice them the same day.

The next day I made the icing. I warmed some apricot jam in a pan then spread it over the top of one cake and the base of another. Next I broke chocolate into a pieces and put it in a heatproof bowl together with some cream. The bowl was then placed on top of a pan of simmering water and I stirred this mixture occasionally until the chocolate had just melted. This was much quicker than I thought it would be and certainly not the 10 minutes the recipe suggests! Then it was left to cool until it was almost setting. I didn’t think this was take too long but in fact it was nearly 2 hours later before the icing reached this point. I then sandwiched the cakes together and spread some icing on the top.

At this point I would usually sample a cake. However I thought it might be a bit rude to send in a cake for a celebration with a slice missing so off it went to Mr Foodie’s work intact! They really enjoyed it and one person even asked for the recipe. Mr Foodie kindly saved a slice so I could sample it. This is a very chocolatey but light and moist cake. I fully expected this cake to be much richer because of the ganache in the middle and on top but it wasn’t at all. I’ll definitely be making this one again.

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Holly Bell’s Chocolate, Hazelnut and Orange Wrinkly Biscuits

Holly’s cherry, white chocolate and apricot oaty biscuits were so well received the other week that I thought I’d give another one of her biscuit recipes ago. I chose this one as I was intrigued by the title chocolate hazelnut and orange wrinkly biscuits – I’ve never heard a biscuit described as wrinkly before although I can see why from the photo! Skimming through the ingredients I noticed we had the lot and as jBug had earlier expressed an interest in doing some baking, we were all set.

First you cream together butter, sugar and Nutella together with a wooden spoon. This was harder work than I thought it would be as our Nutella wasn’t particularly soft but eventually this was all combined and soft. I didn’t look at the clock but I don’t think I did it for as long as Holly recommended. At this point jBug decided he didn’t want to bake after all and would rather I come and play with him. I was in a bit of a quandry at this point as I had already started and didn’t want waste the mixture so decided to continue as this looked like a pretty quick bake. This was a mistake as he spent the remaining time wanting my attention which made it pretty hard to focus!

Next I added one beaten egg and stirred it into the butter, sugar and Nutella mixture. The mixture curdled at this point so I just kept on stirring until it was well combined. Then I added the flour, bicarbonate of soda and some orange extract and mixed them together well. The mixture was really wet and reminded me more of cake mixture than cookie dough.

I placed tablespoons onto baking sheets well spaced apart (or so I thought!) and baked them for 10 minutes until they had puffed up. When I removed them from the oven, I found the biscuits had merged so instead of having 9 per tray I had 3 large ones!! I decided not to separate them but pressed my hand lightly down on top to flatten them, left them to cool for 5 minutes then put them back in the oven to bake for another 5 minutes.

I left them to cool on the tray for a few minutes, separated them out and placed on a wire rack to finish cooling. They were pale brown and very very thin. Happily they didn’t break up when I transferred them to the rack. Once they were cool it was time to taste. I was quite disappointed by their appearance – they weren’t very wrinkly and were extremely thin. However they were chewy on the inside and I could taste the orange flavour which was present but without being overpowering. It is entirely possible that they didn’t turn out right as I was distracted by the jBug’s attention seeking so may have mis-weighed an ingredient or two! Next time I make them I’ll do it when he’s asleep!!!

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Chicken Massage

The first time I did this food hack, I felt like I was an animator on Sledgehammer, and you have to admit that it DOES look ridiculous. The benefits of giving your chicken a spa treatment may not be immediately apparent, but I must, however ask you to indulge me for at least this blog post.

You see, after being tied up and packaged and shipped from pillar to post, the chicken is tense. It’s curled up and all defensive, which isn’t good for cooking. That chicken is keeping its limbs close to the body. This is not good for cooking.

A tense chicken doesn’t cook properly, often when roasting where the leg joins the body (hereafter called “leg-pits” in blokespeak) is often rare when the breasts have long dried out.

The question is how to relax the poultry, let those limbs hang loose from the body, so that hot air or hot water can circulate and cook it properly

It just so happens that Martin Yan has such a technique:

Here’s the chicken before…





and after the said massage.






The massaged chicken is more chilled out and its limbs are hanging loose. The chicken massage makes the legs relax away from the body of the chicken. The first roast chicken I massaged before I roasted came out perfect. Not to be convinced so easily I did another, and another and so on. I even went back to doing it the old way without massage to check the difference. The only thing I haven’t done is two chickens side by side, one massaged and the other not. Whilst lots of other factors might contribute to the done-ness of our chicken, the efficiency of the oven for instance, at least in MY oven, massage prior to roasting does make a big difference.

It also makes it also easier to joint. If you’sre using the chef Pepin’s ballotine technique the tip he gives of working the knife into a chicken joint to cut neatly through it works much better once the chicken is relaxed. The joints are more open and easier to get into.

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Mary Berry’s Lemon Yoghurt cake

Last Sunday some friends came for lunch. Mr Foodie took the opportunity to do a slow roasted rump (which he’ll have to cook again before he blogs about as we forgot to photograph it before serving it!). I was looking for a dessert that would complement this but without being too rich. As the rump was hogging the oven at a very low temperature, I choose a cake as I could make it the day before. I’ve never made a cake with yoghurt in it before but this recipe for lemon yoghurt cake sounded light and the lemon flavour would go perfectly with the raspberries I’d picked up in the supermarket during the week.

First I had to grease a 20cm round cake tin. Then I separated 3 eggs and whisked the whites until they formed soft peaks. After this I beat sugar, the egg yolks and some butter together. As the recipe unusually didn’t state what consistency this should be when it was ready I aimed for light and fluffy as that it what most cake recipes require. I added yoghurt and lemon rind to this mixture and beat until it was smooth. Next I folded in the flour before adding the egg white. As I added the egg white, a moderate amount of non-beaten white spilled out of the bowl and onto the worktop and floor :-( . I should have made sure it was all properly beaten. I folded it in gently and then poured the mixture into my tin. Mary Berry suggests a cooking time of 1-1 1/2 hours. I checked the cake at 45 minutes to find it was pale brown on top and darker at the edges but not cooked so covered it with some foil before returning it to the oven for 15 more minutes. Once the cake was out of the oven and cooling on a wire rack, I made a lemon glace icing by mixing together lemon juice and sifted icing sugar. Once the cake was cold, I poured it over and smoothed it with a palate knife. There was enough to cover the top of the cake but not the rest of it so I just let what was left artfully drip down the sides!

This cake was much denser than I expected it to be (perhaps because of the yoghurt or because it has to be kept in the fridge) and really moist. The lemon icing was zingy and set it off beautifully. Served with raspberries it went down a treat and by the end of the meal only 1/4 of it was left. The remains in the fridge didn’t last long either!

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Holly Bell’s Cherry, White Chocolate and Apricot Oaty Biscuits

The JBug started preschool last week just 2 mornings. It’s lovely to have some time to myself and good for him to dip his toe into the educational world but it comes with the price of managing an overtired toddler’s behaviour. Last Sunday he was a right pain in the neck so once he was in bed, I headed to the kitchen for a bit of stress relief baking.

I have a massive list of biscuit recipes to bake my way through and quite a few are Holly Bell’s. Holly was a finalist in the 2011 Great British Bake Off and she has some great biscuit recipes on her site. This one for cherry, white chocolate and apricot oaty biscuits is the first one I’ve tried but it won hands down as I already had all the ingredients stashed in my baking box.

First I cut up the glace cherries and apricots using a pair of scissors. Next I got to break up the white chocolate into shards using a rolling pin. This was a very satisfying stress relieving moment although I did get a bit carried away and ended up with a lot more crumbs than shards! Next I beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. To stop the sugar flying all over the kitchen, I used a wooden spoon to mix the two together first before getting the handheld electric whisk to finish the job. I then added the fruit, chocolate, porridge oats and self raising flour to the butter and sugar and mixed everything together.

Once it was all mixed up, I put tablespoons of the mixture onto baking trays lined with greaseproof paper. I got 9 cookies to a tray and baked them for 15 minutes until slightly brown round the edges. Once they had cooled on a baking sheet for 5 minutes, I put them on a wire tray to finish cooling. Then I sampled one. It was still warm :-) . These cookies have a texture that was quite similar to shortbread and the white chocolate was still warm and oozing. Despite the white chocolate and sugar I didn’t find them overly sweet. By the following day they had become more chewy and crumbly but were still delicious. A quick straightforward bake and definitely one to make again.

(Mr Foodie): I set a timer nowadays whenever I take something the Mrs has baked to the office, and time how long the bake takes to be finished. This one survived for 8 hours 32 minutes!

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