Easter Egg-stravaganza! – April 2019

This month our bakers did us proud with an Easter Egg-stravaganza, producing some traditional celebration bakes alongside some really good, fun bakes featuring eggs, chocolate and even lambs!

Only one savoury bake this month but it was a definite triumph – a clever twist on the Roscon de Reyes (or King Cake) which features in Spanish Epiphany celebrations but is also part of the New Orleans Carnival tradition in the period leading up to Lent.  Traditionally sweet, Jayne turned this one savoury, creating layers of beautifully pillowy dough filled with ham and cheese and decorated with olives and peppers.  Most of us went back for seconds!

Another traditional bake was little Simnel Cakes, complete with the 11 little spheres on top said to represent the disciples of Jesus.  (Judas, of course, is not included in their number, being considered a traitor by this point in the Easter story).  We also had an Easter Egg Challah – an enriched, braided dough traditionally made for the Jewish Sabbath and for important holidays.  Three braids represent truth, peace and justice.  This particular recipe (not entirely traditional) had sugar in – and the leftovers made amazing French toast!  Our final traditional bake was these pretty star shaped Pardulas, an Easter treat in Sardinia; pastry filled with a ricotta cheese and sugar mixture, flavoured with saffron and citrus.

After all that culture, we descended into pure decadence with a riot of chocolate, mini eggs and these very cute little lamb and butterfly cupcakes.  New baker Naomi created these with the help of Pinterest and they were almost too pretty to eat.  We also tucked into a Chocolate Orange Nest cake (made with All Bran so it must be a little bit healthy, right?), a Chocolate Guinness Cake, Cardamom and Lavender Easter Cupcakes (made with eggs from Barbie’s own chickens) and a very indulgent Italian Tres Leche Cake – named for the three milks (condensed, evaporated and double cream) poured over the sponge after it’s baked to soak it through.

The full list of this month’s bakes was:

Jayne – Savoury Roscon de Reyes

Mandy – Chocolate Guinness Easter Cake

Vicky – Simnel Cupcakes

Chelsea – Easter Egg Challah Bread

Naomi – Lamb and Butterfly Vanilla Cupcakes

Sharon – Italian Tres Leche Cake

Ann – Chocolate Orange Nest Cake

Cat – Sardinian Pardulas

Barbie – Cardamom and Lavender Cupcakes

Next month we’re celebrating Eurovision with Continental Classics.  Who knows what our creative bakers will come up with for that!

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A Life of Pie – March 2019

Our March theme was ‘A Life of Pie’, and rather than an evening full of pastry, our bakers surpassed themselves with creative interpretations of the brief alongside more traditional classic pies.  We shared a tasty and varied feast with a good mix of both sweet and savoury bakes.

A Life of Pie

Those who chose savoury experimented with different types of pastry and usual fillings.

Savoury Pies

We had a classic suet pudding, filled with Beef, Ale and Parsnip – far from being stodgy the crust was surprisingly light and fluffy.  Jayne introduced us to Cuban pastry (made with cream cheese) for her delicious little lamb patties and Cat produced a splendid Chicken and Chorizo pie with a difference – the filling was solid, almost like a pate, and beautifully layered (providing some colour in what was otherwise very much a brown food month!).  Check out the chorizo and peas.  Intended to be served cold, this would make a wonderful picnic pie.

Chicken and Chorizo Picnic Pie

The sweet bakes also ranged from the traditional to the unusual.

Sweet Pies

Ann, joining us for the first time, treated us to a classic Apple and Blackberry Pie (although apparently her son got into a great deal of trouble for stealing a slice before she brought it along to our event!) – we can confirm it was definitely worth getting into trouble for!  Jan made a Key Lime Pie and Vicky got creative with both Ginger Whoopie Pies and the most creative bake of the night, these tasty Custard ‘Pi’ biscuits.

Custard Pi-es

Not only a great shape but a great taste too, with custard powder in the biscuit mix.

 

On the night we all enjoyed what was effectively a delicious three course meal – starting with the lamb patties and dip, through the other savoury pies to a choice of desserts.  Of course we all tasted them all!  (Well, that’s what Cakes and Bakes is all about…)

Next month we’re expecting another good variety of different bakes – looking forward to an Easter Egg-stravaganza!  What would you bake?

The full list of bakes from the Life of Pie event was:

Vicky – Custard ‘Pi’ Biscuits and Ginger Whoopie Pies

Jan H – Key Lime Pie

Jayne B – Cuban Pastry Lamb Patties with Aubergine and Feta

Ann – Winchester Apple and Blackberry Pie

Chelsea – Beef, Ale & Parsnip Suet Pudding

Cat – Chicken and Chorizo Picnic Pie

Baked with Love – February 2019

Love is in the air during February, and our bakers were no different!  Our Baked with Love event was a true Valentine’s feast of hearts and flowers, chocolate, pinks and reds – and not only did it look good it was all extremely tasty too.  We really were feeling the love.

Baked with Love

We started the evening with our two savoury bakes – both very creative!

Love for Home Grown and Home Made

Sue’s homemade bread croutons served with Egg Mayonnaise and Goats Cheese on a bed of Cavolo Nero and featuring squash as ‘the Crown Prince’ was made with her love of home grown and home prepared – and presented with its own little menu of Love.  And Jane chose to use all of her favourite flavours to create fantastic heart-shaped Cheese and Bacon Burger Pockets.  Imagine the flavour of the best burger you’ve ever had wrapped in gorgeous soft dough….  Mmmmmm…..

Hearts and Flowers

The heart-shaped theme continued with the sweet treats: Chocolate Cheesecake Swirl Brownies, Lavender Biscuits (with locally grown lavender from the lovely Long Barn at Alresford), a Chocolate Chestnut Torte and Shortbread.  New baker Barbi bought along some stunning pink and sparkly Rosewater Cupcakes – they were so amazingly light and fluffy, we had to ask her to share her secret with us!

Summer Fruits Pavlova

And Cat chose a very special bake for us.  She treated us to a Summer Fruits Pavlova – because it was the dessert served at her wedding.  A true romantic.

Perhaps this will give you some inspiration for your own Valentine’s baking.

We all had a lot of fun with our bakes this month, and we’re looking forward to a very different challenge next month.  It’ll be all about the pastry for A Life of Pie!

The full list of February’s creations, ‘Baked with Love’, is:

Sue – Egg Mayonnaise with Cavolo Nero and Squash served on homemade croutons

Jayne – Bacon Cheeseburger Heart Shaped Pockets

Cat – Summer Fruits Pavlova

Vicky – Chocolate Chestnut Torte

Faye – Shortbread Hearts

Barbi – Rosewater Cupcakes

Jan H – Lavender Heart Biscuits

Chelsea – Chocolate Cheesecake Swirl Brownie Hearts

Retro Recipes – January 2019

The theme for our January event was Retro Recipes and we all enjoyed baking things we remembered from childhood, or looking through old school recipe books – laughing at the number of dishes using aspic.  They look so unappealing to us now but were clearly the height of sophistication at the time!

Cheese Fondue with Parsnip Soda Bread

Most of us opted for sweet bakes this month, but Jayne treated us to a true 1970s classic; a cheese fondue made with raspberry beer, accompanied by a parsnip, cheese and sage soda bread.  It was truly delicious and a good social start to the evening with us all tucking in together, laughing at whoever dropped their bread off their fork into the fondue pot.  Wasn’t there supposed to be some sort of forfeit for that?

After the glorious cheesiness of the fondue,

Sweet Retro Recipes

it was onto the sweet stuff – lemon curd tarts, a Battenberg cake (personally that always reminds me of cricket teas when my Dad used to play and my Mum used to do the sandwiches), a Bakewell Tart, Garibaldi biscuits, a Lemon Meringue Pie, a Seed Cake (using caraway, now that’s a flavour that takes me back), a Pineapple Upside Down cake and Fondant Fancies in a choice of lemon or lavender.

We all marvelled at the straightness of the Battenberg until Cat revealed she had help from a special tin, which has dividers so that you can make each section of the cake individually.  I was reminded of the brief period of time when I worked at the factory making Mr Kipling cakes.  Turning the sponge on the Battenberg to invert the top layer was the one thing they couldn’t automate.  The machines used to squash the sponge, so it all had to be done by hand!

Retro Recipes

Our look through the Hamlyn All Colour Cook Book revealed just how much recipe books and recipes themselves have changed over the years.  Recipes written by giants such as Delia Smith and Mary Berry are simply presented alongside all the rest with no nod to their authorship.  There was clearly no cult of the celebrity chef at that time!  The index was virtually useless unless you knew the name of the dish you were looking for, and the ordering of the recipes was also strange – there is be a chapter on ‘Cooking with Cream’ for example, which features Salmon Mousse alongside Mocha Eclairs, and Pork chops with cider next to Chocolate Cream Gateaux!

We all enjoyed our walk down memory lane.

The full list of bakes for this event was:

Cat – Battenberg Cake

Vicky – Seed Cake and Garibaldi Biscuits

Jayne – Parsnip, Sage and Cheese loaf to accompany a Beery Cheese Fondue

Michelle – Bakewell Tart

Jan – Lemon Curd Tarts

Faye – Lemon Meringue Pie

Alison – Lemon and Lavender Fondant Fancies

Chelsea – Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Sweet Treats and Edible Gifts – December 2018

Our December event was a real treat – Sweet Treats and Edible Gifts to be precise!  Naturally this led most of us towards the sweet end of the baking spectrum but there were also a fair few cheesy favourites too!

Gift Boxed Savoury Biscuits

Some contributions came beautifully packaged– stilton shortbread in a box with a bow from Jan, individual packets of vanilla fudge from Abigail, and a stunning canape most of us had never tasted before from Sue: olives stuffed with smoked anchovies encased to cheese pastry.

Pastry Wrapped Olives

Can you imagine how fiddly it is to wrap olives individually in pastry?  They were seriously tasty though.

Continuing our occasional efforts to create colourful food and avoid an all ‘brown food’ evening, Jayne tried her hand at Raspberry Caramels.

International Bakes

Red, sticky and surprisingly made with Belgian fruit flavoured beer!  The international influence continued with Stollen, Black Forest Gateau (from newbie Annabel – she can definitely come again!) and Lebkuchen from Germany, and Italian ‘Baci di Dama’ (Ladies Kisses) – little hazelnut biscuits sandwiched together with chocolate.

Sweet Treats and Edible Gifts

There were also more traditional Christmassy flavours with Mince Pies, Oat and Mincemeat Cookies,

Florentines and muffins

Mincemeat Muffins, Cranberry and Macadamia Florentines and Clementine Fudge plus sweets in the form of Rose Marshmallows, Peanut Cookies and Tablet.

Traditional Sweets – fudge, tablet and marshmallows

This theme seemed to inspire a number of bakers to try out a couple of different bakes so we had a huge ariety to choose from.

 

The whole evening was given a true flavour of fun by Jayne who kindly supplied everyone with light up Christmas necklaces to get us truly into the spirit of the season.

Festive feeding!

For me, a delightful evening with an abundance of tasty treats that provided a great start to the season of parties and overindulgence!

Full List of Bakes:

Jan H – Stilton Shortbread and Cheddar Stars

Faye – Star Topped and Traditional Mince Pies plus Stollen

Mandy – Clementine Fudge, Peanut Cookies, Rose Marshmallows and Tablet

Abigail – Vanilla Fudge

Sue – Pastry Wrapped Olives Stuffed with Smoked Anchovies

Chelsea – Cranberry and Macadamia Florentines

Jayne – Raspberry Caramels and Cheese Stars

Vicky – Oat and Mincemeat Cookies and Mincemeat Muffins

Annabel – Black Forest Gateau

Cat – Lebkuchen and Baci di Dama

Bright Sparks – November 2018

As the dark November nights drew in, we thought we’d bring a bit of colour into our evening with our ‘Bright Sparks’ theme.  There are many festivals of light at this time of year – Diwali, Hanukkah, even Bonfire Night – many celebrated with candles and fireworks, so the idea was to produce a bake either linked to one of these festivals or simply celebrating light and brightness with colour at this dark time of year.

This was a theme that drew most of us towards sweet bakes, although Sue – joining us for the first time – gave us an interesting sweet/savoury mix of miniature apple tartlets with cheese pastry and chilli jam.  She thought the chilli would be perfect for the fiery theme.

Bright Sparks Bakes
Bright and Colourful Cakes and Bakes

Chelsea and Cat’s bakes referenced Bonfire Night – from Cat sticky ginger parkin, a bake from her Yorkshire roots, traditionally served on Bonfire Night.  And Bonfire Cupcakes from Chelsea – the buttercream ‘flames’ took ages to get right!

The colours theme was taken up by both Faye and Vicky, with a brightly coloured Funfetti Cake and a swirly Vanilla Cheesecake, and Abigail gave us some beautifully bright Red Velvet Cupcakes.

Jan’s bake was something a little different

Pinata Chocolate Cake

– again on the bright colours theme – but with a little surprise…  A beautifully decorated Pinata Cake so when we cut into it a cascade of rainbow Smarties fell out!

It was great to see some inventive bakes again this month.  Looking forward to Sweet Treats and Edible Gifts when we next meet on 11th December!

The full list of bakes was:

Faye – Funfetti Cake

Vicky – Rainbow Vanilla Cheesecake

Jan – Chocolate Pinata Cake

Abigail – Red Velvet Cupcakes

Chelsea – Chocolate Orange Bonfire Cupcakes

Cat – Sticky Yorkshire Parkin

Sue – Apple and Chilli Tartlets with Cheese Pastry

 

 

 

 

Harvest Festival – October 2018

With all the lovely produce abounding at this time of year, we thought we’d celebrate with a ‘Harvest Festival’ theme for our October event, with bakes celebrating different kinds of fruit, veg and grains.  We were a small but perfectly formed group, managing to evenly balance the sweet and savoury offerings.  Another meeting ‘on safari’ away from our usual venue which was unavailable this month, but Greens Bar and Kitchen were very friendly and welcoming.  Some of us very much enjoyed their Gin & Tonic Tuesday promotion!

A Harvest Feast!

We started of course with the savouries: a very cheesy Cauliflower Cheesecake from Jayne, Jan H’s Spinach Quiche with innovative Sweet Potato base instead of the traditional pastry (probably much healthier, and certainly very tasty)

Savouries – cheesecake, quiche and quinoa

and, celebrating the grain harvest not with bread but with quinoa, a twist on falafels made with quinoa, tomato, egg, chard, garlic and onion from Jan T.  Given that there were only six of us there we managed to make quite a big dent in all of these so I guess they must all have been good.  Luckily the Cheesecake was huge, so there was enough to take a slice home for the lunch the next day.  That’s one of the lovely things about Cakes and Bakes – sharing the leftovers means you get to enjoy the great tastes for a day or two afterwards!

Pumpkin, Banana and Maple Cake

Seasonal fruit was the theme for the sweet bakes, with both Chelsea and Vicky opting for pumpkin and Faye celebrating apples and pears with a Tarte Tatin.  Despite both using pumpkin, the other two bakes were quite different – a Pumpkin, Banana and Maple Cake and a classic American Pumpkin Pie with Maple Pecan cream.  There wasn’t much left of any of these either!  We even persuaded the bar staff to sample one or two of our creations.

A Slice of Pumpkin Pie
Apple and Pear Tarte Tatin

Thinking caps are now on for our next event – Bright Sparks on 13th November!  Celebrating the many festivals of light at this time of year (from Diwali to Bonfire Night) or, now that the long winter evenings are drawing in, just baking something bright and cheerful to liven things up.  New bakers are always welcome – it’s not a competition, we just bake because we like to.  (And because we like eating the results!)