2014 – a year of baking

Well, once again this is a bit late due to essay writing. But now I am finally done, and apart from having to go to work the next three days, my Christmas break has officially started!

I didn’t manage to bake anything new or exciting this week though (predictably), just more gingerbread, and some brownies for my housemate’s birthday. So instead, I thought I’d go through all the stuff I’ve baked this year and talk about some of my favourites. 2014 has gone quickly, but looking back to January feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then – not least that I have proven to myself that I can post regularly on a blog for a year (well, I’ve still got a couple of weeks until its officially a year, but let’s call it that anyway).

So without further ado, here are my ten most favourite things I baked this year…

10. Plum Cupcakes – a celebration of all things autumnal!

9. Gingerbread Cupcakes – brought festive deliciousness

8. Rhubarb and Almond Loaf – this was a really good late spring bake, which I made multiple times because it was so tasty.

7. Suksessterte – perhaps the tastiest thing that I didn’t get to eat, but was made in celebration of my lovely friends getting engaged ❤

6. Peanut Butter Cookies – there should always be peanut butter cookies

5. Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels – these are the best breakfast you will ever had. And best snack you will ever have.

4. Peach Jam Scones – peach jam is the best jam ever, and it’s even better when you put it in a scone.

3. Walnut, Chocolate and Honey Tart – I can’t even. Every time I think about this I want to  make it and eat it all by myself

2. Caramel Walnut Upside Down Banana Cake – see above. Also, the tastiest thing I didn’t write a proper post about.

AND THE WINNER IS….

1. The Pancaken!!! – literally nothing will ever beat this – the most frustrating and rewarding thing I have ever baked. I don’t know if I’ll bake another one for Pancake Day 2015. Part of me wants to, and the rest of me is horrified at the prospect of spending hours making pancakes and burning myself repeatedly.

I hope you all had a great 2014, and have a Happy Christmas!

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Gingerbread

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I realised last week that even though I feel like I talk about gingerbread a lot, I’ve never actually shared a recipe for it on here. It’s December tomorrow, which means Christmas is just around the corner, and I’ve started making preparations – I even wrapped my first presents the other night! Yet, bizarrely enough, as I was making gingerbread dough the other evening, I kept hearing the sound of an ice cream van going around near my house playing its jingle. Who buys ice cream when it’s late November and 6 degrees? I have no idea, but I see ice cream vans all the time in Norwich, so I guess someone must be doing it.

Gingerbread has many recipe variations, and I’ve amalgamated my own based on various recipes I’ve seen and tried over the last couple of years. It might not be the ultimate gingerbread recipe (if such a thing exists), but it’s the one I like. I think it’s pretty much up to you the amount of ginger and other spices you use, and whether you use treacle or golden syrup or both – it has slightly different results. I prefer to use a small amount of cinnamon and nutmeg along with ginger because I think it gives it a better depth of flavour.

Some of this gingerbread has a decorative role to play in what I’ll be making for next week – gingerbread cupcakes!

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Gingerbread

350g plain flour

1 & 1/2 tbsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp baking powder

100g butter

150g dark muscovado sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp golden syrup

2 tbsp black treacle

1. Sift the flour, spices and baking powder together, and rub the butter in until you get a breadcrumb-like consistency. Stir in the sugar (if the muscovado has lumps in, try to get rid of them). Whisk the egg, syrup and treacle together and then add to the flour mixture. Knead together to form a dough.

2. Wrap the dough in cling film and put in the fridge for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

3. Remove the dough from the fridge, cut in two (it’s easier to roll out the dough in two batches, this makes it less likely to dry out). Roll out the dough onto a floured surface until it’s about half a cm thick. Cut out your gingerbread men, or whatever shape your gingerbread is going to take, place on the tray and bake for 10-12mins. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Allow them to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Ginger and Lemon Biscuits

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Uhhhhhh… I think I just found my favourite biscuit EVER. These are so beautiful. If you like ginger biscuits, these are even better. The hint of lemon is just wonderful, and it works really well. I’ve been drinking a lot of herbal tea recently, and when I was feeling a little under the weather the other week I bought some ginger and lemon tea (best mixed with honey). It made me feel so much better – pretty powerful flavour! But then I was flicking through my recipe books looking for Christmas ideas, and these stood out. I figured it was worth a try, and that ginger and lemon might be nicer together when mixed with sugar and flour and golden syrup instead of hot water. I was not wrong.

The original recipe says to use freshly grated ginger instead of ground ginger, but I found the crystallised ginger to be so strong that I thought having fresh ginger on top of that would be too overpowering (it also meant I didn’t have to try and find ginger root from somewhere).

If you’re not a huge fan of ginger, then I think these can probably be adapted to be lemon and honey biscuits instead (another great tea). Swap the golden syrup for honey, and the crystallised ginger for candied peel, and either leave out the ground ginger or swap it for vanilla extract or something. I’m hoping to try this next week. Also, a lot of biscuit recipes say you should refrigerate the dough for a while, and usually I don’t bother, but in this case the dough is really soft, so that time in the fridge is pretty important.

I think I will be making many a batch of these in the run up to Christmas…and I’ll have to try not to eat them all myself.

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Ginger and Lemon Biscuits (adapted from ‘Scandilicious Baking’ by Signe Johansen)

125g softened butter

125g brown sugar

1 egg

50ml golden syrup

50g crystallised ginger, chopped

3 tsp ground ginger

zest and juice of 1 lemon

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Mix the egg, golden syrup, ginger, lemon zest and juice together in another bowl and the flour and baking powder together in a third bowl.

2. Alternate between adding wet and dry ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing as you go until it starts to form a dough. Refrigerate the dough for 1-2hrs.

3. Preheat oven to 190C/Gas 5 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Using a teaspoon, place small lumps of mixture on the sheets, leaving about 4-5cm between each one. Bake for 8-10 mins until golden, and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Cranberry-Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

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This week has been my reading week, which naturally meant that I got ill, because I needed to spend my time writing essays. Typical. On the bright side, Taylor Swift’s new album ‘1989’ came out, which I have been dancing to all week (in between sneezes). Time is flying by, and now that Halloween has passed, it feels like Christmas is just around the corner – which quite frankly is terrifying. The last 8 weeks of this year are going to be incredibly busy for me – I have an insane amount of work to do in the coming weeks, and I’m already tired.

Toffee Apples didn’t happen..I looked at the recipe, saw it (unsurprisingly) involved boiling water and sugar together, and I didn’t really have time for disasters this week, so instead I decided to look for more ways to use the pumpkin puree I have still. These cookies are really quick and easy, and I chose to do the cranberry pumpkin ones because they seemed the most autumnal, but you can add chocolate chips or other dried fruit or nuts or anything you want really! To be honest, the pumpkin doesn’t add much flavour (unless you add your cinnamon,nutmeg and ginger), but it does give the cookies a nice yellowy colour inside. The original recipe is for tiny tiny cookies, and suggests it yields about 48-60 cookies – I made mine slightly bigger, about 3 inches across, and got 26, which seems a more manageable number to me (and a more satisfying size of cookie).

This recipe is in cups, but if you need conversions into grams or ounces, this is the best place.

 

Cranberry-Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from Fall Baking – November 2011)

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 & 1/2 cups plain flour

3 cups oats

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large bowl beat together butter, brown sugar, caster sugar, baking soda, salt and spices. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add flour. Stir in oats, pumpkin and cranberries until combined. Chill the dough if you want/if you have the time.

2. Drop heaped dessert spoons of dough onto lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Leave to cool on the sheets for a couple of minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.