European Bakes – May 2019

This month our European Bakes theme celebrated the ‘love it or hate’ Eurovision song contest, which hadn’t taken place at the time we met – although I don’t think any of us were surprised with our subsequent poor showing!  Despite it all feeling slightly ironic amidst the current Brexit chaos our bakers managed to cover a good spread of European countries with their bakes both sweet and savoury.  This time, for the first time in our nearly two-year history, we didn’t have any actual cakes!  (Jan’s Polish Apple Cake actually being more similar to a pie or tart.)  We also had a last minute change of venue due to a staff shortage at our usual home, and were kindly welcomed and made to feel at home at the Hyde Tavern.

A good spread of savouries included lamb kebabs with homemade flatbreads (Greece),

Flatbreads, kebab, pizza, quiche

a Tartiflette pizza (combining the Italian classic of pizza with a traditional French Alpine recipe), a Quiche Lorraine – chosen because that was the most exotic thing Faye’s family used to eat when she was growing up – and an Irish Guinness Wheaten Bread, made to Naomi’s Mum’s own secret recipe.  It was delicious with a good spreading of butter.  Naomi had worried that she wouldn’t meet her Mum’s high standard, but she said it was a good one and we all agreed, many of us going back for seconds.  Bonus points for the Irish flag too – lovingly made by Naomi’s housemate.

Guinness Wheaten Bread

Then it was onto the sweet treats.

Buns, bread, tarts

A thickly iced indulgent tray of Nordic Cinnamon Buns from Tina, working with yeasted dough for the first time in a long time, a Ruffled Milk Pie (a sort of baked custard affair with filo pastry) from Vicky, an intriguing Szarlota (Polish Apple Cake) from Jan which uses grated frozen pastry on top to create a crumble like texture, and a true labour of love from Michelle with a Povitica; a Croatian bread flavoured with walnuts and spices and layered into beautiful swirls.  This had to be rolled out to the length of one metre and the recipes advised doing this on a bedsheet to facilitate the rolling up.  The metre long dough sausage is then layered into a loaf tin to create the pretty swirled sections of the bread.  (Apparently, on his return from school, Michelle’s son wanted to know why his dinosaur duvet was downstairs and covered in flour!)  This recipe was once used as a Technical Challenge on the Great British Bake Off so it was a brave bake to attempt, but Michelle definitely gave the Bake Off contestants a run for their money.  Just look at those beautiful swirls:

Povitica – Croatian Walnut Bread

We next meet for our Love Local event on 11th June – each bake should feature at least one ingredient made, grown or produced in Hampshire.  Luckily, there’s A LOT of choice!

Here’s the full run down of European Bakes:
Faye – Quiche Lorraine (France)
Jayne – Lamb Kebabs with Homemade Flatbreads (Greece)
Chelsea – Tartiflette Pizza  (France/Italy)
Naomi – Guinness Wheaten Bread  (Ireland)
Vicky – Ruffled Milk Pie (Greek)
Jan H – Szarlota Apple Cake (Poland)
Tina – Iced Cinnamon Buns (Norway)
Michelle – Povitica Walnut Bread (Croatia)

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!

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

A September Birthday Party

This month, Winchester Cakes and Bakes celebrated our first birthday!  What other theme could we have to mark this special occasion except ‘Birthday Party’?  Our bakers did us proud with an array of both sweet and savoury treats, we all enjoyed a cheeky glass of something fizzy, and we played some party games too.  With a special decorations too, it was a fun and special evening.

Most of us started the party food with the savouries – Faye’s lovely Sundried Tomato and Chilli bread and Chelsea’s Cheese and Potato Bread Twists.  Both were very popular.  Our ‘gateway’ bake, bridging the gap between sweet and savoury, was Aniseed Wafer biscuits; a really unusual flavour, using fennel with sugar, but very, very good.

Then it was onto the sweet treats and what an array to choose from: both Carrot Cake and Mojito cupcakes, Lemon Butterfly cakes (as Vicky said, you can’t have a birthday party without butterfly cakes!), scones and Chocolate Peanut Butter cookies.


Mandy kindly brought along some tasty homemade Rum & Raisin and Funfetti cupcakes and bags and bags full of coloured buttercreams fitted with her new special shape nozzles (an array of flowers, leaves, snowflakes, and ice cream amongst others!) so we could all have a go at using them and decorate our own cupcakes!  Much fun was had by all.

To mark the occasion in the bake itself, David piped a 1 onto his scones in green dough, Chelsea made 1 shaped Lime biscuits to decorate her cupcakes and Jayne bought us our lovely little blackboard stands for the labels.  Top marks however go to Cat for producing these tasty carrot cake cupcakes complete with edible ‘candles’ made from white chocolate and a shred of desiccated coconut!  A real labour of love this, involving cut down drinking straws, melted chocolate and a freezer.  Not easy to do I’m sure but they were definitely impressive.

We also enjoyed a traditional game of Pass the Parcel – with a few sweets inside every layer everyone was a winner but unwrapping the main present was Jayne – now Star Baker as she’s the proud owner of a set of star shaped cookie cutters.

Time has flown since we first met back in September 2017 for our launch event at which twelve bakers joined us with their ‘Signature Bake’.  Since then, 23 different bakers have joined us for events and we’ve seen everything from breads, buns, scones and cupcakes to biscuits, layer cakes, cheesecakes, traybakes, pies, tarts, and pastries.  Our themes have been varied: we’ve recalled Holiday Memories, celebrated All Saints and All Souls, got a bit tipsy with Boozy Bakes, paid tribute to the Great British Bake Off, feasted on Festive Flavours, had a Picnic, enjoyed Afternoon Tea, kicked off the New Year with Something New, marked Shrove Tuesday with a celebration of pancakes, livened things up with The Spice of Life and shared our favourite Hand Me Down recipes.  Here’s hoping many more bakers will join us in future.

The full list of bakes from our Birthday Celebration event was:

Faye – Chilli and Sundried Tomato Bread

Jayne – Aniseed Wafers

Chelsea – Cheese and Potato Bread Twists, Mojito Cupcakes with Lime Biscuits

David – Scones with jam and cream

Vicky – Lemon Butterfly Cakes

Tina – Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cookies

Mandy – Rum & Raisin and Funfetti Cupcakes for decoration

Cat – Carrot Cake Muffins with Edible White Chocolate Candles


Picnic – August 2018

In August, Winchester Cakes and Bakes enjoyed a Picnic themed event.  After the heatwave gave our bakers a few difficulties in July we were all left wishing it wasn’t quite so hot;  this time however we were praying for sunshine!  Luckily, although it wasn’t quite as sunny as it has been recently, the rain stayed away and we were able to enjoy a lovely evening, including welcoming first timer Jan.  She’s our second Jan so they’ll have to be Jan T and Jan H from now on!  So that we could picnic properly, we met at Richard Steel & Partners beautiful riverside garden, which provided a lovely setting for our al fresco feast.

Time for a Picnic

For the first time since we started meeting, almost a year ago, the majority of the bakes were savoury.  We enjoyed a selection of pies, tarts, bread, biscuits and pastry, with the only sweet bake – White Chocolate, Cranberry and Banana Muffins – provided by birthday girl Vicky.

Corn Muffins with Avocado, Samosa Pie and Savoury Couronne Bread

Don’t you find that eating outdoors somehow increases your appetite?

Cheese Straws with Beetroot Dip, Feta and Pesto Quiches, Cheese Bites, Beetroot Tarts, Duck Sausage Rolls

We certainly all tucked in with gusto to the lovely duck sausage rolls, corn muffins, cheese straws, mini feta and pesto quiches, cheese bites, beetroot and ricotta tarts, ham and cheese couronne bread (do you get the feeling we all like cheese a lot?!) and Jayne’s magnificent Samosa Pie.  Top tip for bakers – consider adding flavour to your pastry.  Curry spices in the hot water crust for the Samosa Pie, orange zest in the sausage roll pastry and pesto in the quiches really made a difference.

White Chocolate, Cranberry and Banana Muffins

Once we’d finished basically stuffing ourselves with the savouries, there was just enough room to finish off with one of those lovely muffins.

Next month is our first birthday party, so we’ll be back with our usual hosts – Toscanaccio – for a Big Birthday Celebration!  I hope many of the bakers who’ve baked with us during this year will be able to

join us but it is also lovely to welcome new faces too..

Our bakers enjoying the picnic

The full list of bakes for our Picnic event was:

Mandy – Corn Muffins with Avocado and Cheese Straws with Beetroot Dip and Horseradish Cream

Abigail – Feta and Red Pesto Quiches

Jayne – Lamb Samosa Pie

Jan T – Beetroot and Ricotta Tarts

Chelsea – Savoury Brioche Couronne, stuffed with Mozzarella, Parma Ham and Basil

Jan H – Cheese Bites

Cat – Duck and Orange Sausage Rolls

Vicky – White Chocolate, Cranberry and Banana Muffins

Afternoon Tea – June 2018

Our June event saw us enjoying ‘Afternoon Tea’ – for most of us this meant sweet treats but we did have a couple of interesting savoury bakes too.  We were also joined by Marion, a local lady who demonstrates Thermomix, and who kindly brought along with her some carrot cake and a deconstructed lemon tart to fit with the theme of the evening.

Afternoon Tea – a table full of treats
Ciabatta Rolls and Savoury Scones

Our tea started with Faye’s ciabatta rolls and Vicky’s great tasting savoury scones – feta, spring onions and garlic no less.  We then moved on to the sweet stuff!

Mandy provided us with the classic English afternoon tea treat of Victoria Sponge, beautifully decorated with brightly coloured flowers, made using new nozzles she was trying out for the first time.

Sweet Treats

No Afternoon Tea would be complete without scones with jam and cream (or is that cream and jam?) – an emergency early morning bake by Chelsea as it didn’t look like anyone else was going to bring them along!  We also enjoyed a Dutch apple cake, Lemon layer cake, Caramelised Pomegranate and Carrot cake and Red Velvet cupcakes with a cream cheese frosting.  We all learnt a valuable lesson from Tina’s trials with this recipe:  make sure your cream cheese is room temperature before you start trying to beat it!

Debutante Steve made these stunning raspberry and elderflower eclairs

Raspberry and Elderflower Eclairs

(seasonal as well as beautiful) – very impressive for his first attempt at choux pastry and really tasty as the sweetness of the elderflower brilliantly balanced the sharpness of the raspberry.

Rhubard and Amaretto Flowerpots

Absolutely delicious seasonal recipe was Jayne’s Rhubarb and Amaretto flowerpots.  I must ask for the recipe for these!

A number of our members were fascinated by the Thermomix and what it can achieve.  Marion kindly demonstrated the range of operations that it can deliver by creating for us a frozen berry sorbet and hot custards (both vanilla and chocolate).  Her presentation was very relaxed and our bakers had a chance to get their hands on the machine and try it out for size.  It’s always nice to play with a new bit of baking kit, isn’t it!

Members enjoying the Thermomix demo

Another great event; lots of tasty bakes, baking chat, a little bit of learning and a thorough sugar rush by the end of the evening!  Thank you to Toscanaccio for hosting us.

Here’s the full list of bakes:

Jan – Dutch Apple Cake

Mandy – Victoria Sponge with Lemon Curd

Faye – Ciabatta Rolls served with prosciutto and pate

Jayne – Rhubard and Amaretto Flowerpots

Chelsea – Caramelised Pomegranate and Carrot Cake and Lemonade Scones

Cat – Lemon Layer Cake

Steve – Raspberry and Elderflower Eclairs

Vicky – Feta, Spring Onion and Garlic Savoury Scones

Tina – Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting

And, if you’re local to Winchester and interested to find out more about Thermomix and perhaps even enjoy a demonstration in your own home, you can catch Marion on Instagram – she’s marions_kitchen_uk

Holiday Memories – May 2018

Our May event, gave our bakers the chance to revive some of their favourite food memories from their holidays, and we were treated to a range of flavours both exotic and closer to home – taking us from Morocco, to Argentina, on a tour of the UK and into Europe.

Holiday Memories!
Scotch Eggs

A firm favourite was Jayne’s Scotch Eggs – in Jayne’s family apparently every long car journey starts with a scotch egg in the car en route so they always make her think of family holidays.  The combination of a lovely crispy breadcrumb coating, tasty sausagemeat seasoned with chorizo and thyme plus perfectly cooked ‘just runny’ eggs was a winning recipe.  There weren’t any of these left at the end of the evening, which is the best possible endorsement from your fellow bakers!

Rye Bread and Homemade Seaweed Butter

We were also very impressed with Cat’s effort in making her own seaweed butter to accompany her rye bread.  The latter was chosen to recall many European holidays, and the seaweed in the butter evoked memories of Welsh holidays, so an interesting mix.  Cat tells us butter is really easy to make and she’ll be making more.  It was certainly delicious.

Empanadas, and Chapattis with Tagine

Chelsea was reminiscing about backpacking through South America with her Argentinean empanadas – Chorizo and Cheese, with Cheese and Sweetcorn for the vegetarians.  Jan’s recent trip to Morocco was her inspiration as she treated us to a Chicken and Prune Tagine with homemade Chapattis.

The sweet bakes were equally as well received

Welsh Cakes, Chocolate and Banana Cake and Bakewell Cake

Wales came up again with Faye’s tasty Welsh cakes, Abigail gave us Chocolate and Banana Cake inspired by holidays in Austria (who have a great heritage of producing gorgeous cakes in their historic coffee shops) and Vicky treated us to a Bakewell Cake because visits to her grandmother always involved Mr Kipling Bakewell Slices!  An unusual recipe as it was a cake rather than the more traditional Bakewell Tart but just look at that lovely layer of fresh raspberries in the middle.  Vicky had promised the leftovers to her colleagues – they didn’t get much!

It was another great evening – very relaxed, everyone tucking in and enjoying the bakes.

Members tucking into cake and more!

We’ve also just announced the themes for our summer events – in July we’ll be making Boozy Bakes, in August we’re going on a picnic and in September we’ll be celebrating our First Birthday!  Lots of look forward to!  Full details on our Events page.

The full list of bakes from our May ‘Holiday Memories’ event is:

Jan – Moroccan Chicken and Prune Tagine with homemade Chapattis

Jayne – Scotch Eggs with Chorizo and Thyme

Chelsea – Argentinean Empanadas: Chorizo and Cheese, plus Cheese and Sweetcorn, with Avocado Salsa

Cat – Rye Bread with homemade Seaweed Butter

Vicky – Bakewell Cake

Faye – Welsh Cakes

Abigail – Austrian Chocolate and Banana Cake

Next up it’s Afternoon Tea, on Tuesday 12th June, 7.00pm at Toscanaccio

The Spice of Life – April 2018

Our April event was certainly spicy!  Our theme for this month was ‘The Spice of Life’ and our bakers did us proud, with both sweet and savoury bakes showing off over 15 different spices – can you guess what they all were?  We had such a great variety of bakes on show as well – proving that there’s so much more to spicing than just curry!

Spicy bakes

So what is a spice?  A spice is defined as something used to flavour food which derives from the root, bark, seeds, flowers or fruit of a plant; in fact anything but the leaves, which are of course technically herbs instead.

Some of our savoury bakes were delivered straight from the oven, so we we tucked in promptly to Jayne’s tasty Pea and Paneer Samosas flavoured with a whole variety of Indian spices.

Turkish Sumac Spiced Lamb Pides

Chelsea has recently returned from a holiday to Jordan and brought home a vast quantity of sumac which she wanted to start experimenting with, so she chose Middle Eastern flavours for her Turkish Sumac Spiced Lamb Pides (think Turkish pizzas).  They went down as well as the samosas had done, as did Cat’s moreish Cantucci (savoury biscotti), flavoured with Parmesan and Gorgonzola, sunflower seeds, nigella seeds and pink peppercorns.

Parmesan and Gorgonzola Cantucci

As an aside – although definitely a spice, did you know that pink peppercorns are not in fact peppercorns at all?  They’re the dried berries of a Peruvia shrub.  Peppercorns proper come from plants of the Piper Nigrum plant and despite their colour, they’re all the same; just at different stages in the process of ripening and preparation.  Green peppercorns are unripe, they turn red when they ripen.  Black peppercorns are green peppercorns which have been deliberately dried, usually in the sun.  White pepper is simply the fully ripened red peppercorns, soaked to remove the red skins.  India is the biggest supplier of the world’s pepper.  If you’re interested to learn more about the world’s most used spice, here’s a great article:

Before we get too sidetracked with pepper though, back to the bakes!  We finished on the savouries with Jan’s Mozzarella and Chilli pancakes,

Sweet and Savoury Pancakes

before moving onto dessert.  More pancakes from Jan – this time banana and nutmeg, and Mandy’s dazzling Persian Teabread, looking like a little jewelled treasure chest and delicately flavoured with rosewater, cinnamon and cardamom.

Persian Teabread with Rose and Pistachio

Last but definitely not least was Vicky’s beautiful Pear and Cardamom Cake, specially selected for us as none of Vicky’s family like cardamom so an ideal chance for her to try out a new recipe from the Cardamom Trail cookbook.  (They’re missing out, this was utterly delicious!).

Pear and Cardamom Caramel Upside-Down Cake


Have you been playing spot the spice as you’ve been reading?  Did you guess them all?  Our bakes used:  turmeric, poppy seeds, mustard seeds, chilli, garam masala (itself a spice blend containing coriander seed, fennel seed and cloves amongst others) cardamom, rose petals, cinnamon, sumac, cumin, allspice, nigella seeds, pink peppercorns, and nutmeg!

A triumph of an event, all these bakes were really tasty and Toscanaccio recommended some lovely fruity red wines to accompany them too.  A very enjoyable evening.

Here’s the full list of all the bakes:

Jayne – Pea and Paneer Samosas

Vicky – Pear and Cardamom Cake

Mandy – Persian Teabread

Chelsea – Sumac Spiced Lamb Pides

Cat – Parmesan and Gorgonzola Cantucci

Jan – Mozzarella and Chilli Oat Pancakes and Banana and Nutmeg Oat Pancakes

Something New for the New Year

January’s theme of ‘Something New’ gave our bakers a chance to try out new recipe books they’d been given for Christmas, or to start the year by having a go at a recipe they’d been meaning to try for ages but somehow hadn’t ever quite got round to.

Cakes and Fizz

Luckily none of the nine of us appeared to be on the healthy eating bandwagon (or at least we were prepared to take the day off) and, given that we meet in a wine shop, dry January wasn’t much in evidence either.  In fact, since we were all experimenting with something new, it was more like Tryanuary – which, let’s be honest, is much more fun.  And try we most certainly did, tucking in to a lovely array of bakes, again with a good mix of sweet and savoury on offer.

January’s savoury bakes – dahl and naan, cheese biscuit elephants, turkey ham tarts and chicken sausage rolls

We started with a beautifully presented lentil, coconut and tomato dahl served with homemade coriander naan, and progressed through chicken sausage rolls, savoury tarts and Mandy’s beautiful and bright Rainbow Bagels.  After I mentioned that the photos of our last meeting were very ‘brown food’ dominant, Mandy was determined that wasn’t going to be the case this month, as you can see!

Rainbow Bagels

These were definitely a labour of love with each of the doughs needing to be coloured and kneaded separately before being twisted back together, shaped, boiled then baked.

Jayne also made us a really fun bake, trying out her new 3D biscuit cutter to give us cheese biscuit elephants.

January’s sweet bakes – spice date and walnut bundt, egg nog loaf, macarons, galette des rois and coconut macaroons

On the sweet side, we enjoyed macarons (a brave bake as they’re notoriously difficult to get right), a spiced Date and Walnut Bundt cake, coconut macaroons, and Galette des Rois, a French puff pastry tart with boozy almond cream in the middle traditionally made for Epiphany, which was just a day or two before our meeting.  Despite clearly not having sealed the pastry properly and a substantial amount of the almond cream having streamed out all over my oven I was relieved that some had remained inside the galette so it did actually taste good.

We also enjoyed two very unusual bakes – an Egg Nog loaf cake which was absolutely delicious and a Tuscan Spinach Tart.

Tuscan Sweet Spinach Tart

Given that the ingredients included spinach, ricotta cheese and pine nuts it was a bake you would normally expect to be savoury, but it in this case the tart was served sweet.  Tuscan food is traditionally peasant food – hearty and wholesome, designed to fill tummies with cheap and easily available ingredients, so it’s possible this dish resulted from people trying to do something new and different with ingredients they used all the time.  A great choice therefore for ‘Something New’ as it was certainly new to all of us and surprisingly tasty.

With all new bakes and a new member who says she’s coming back again, this was an exciting start to the year.  Our next meeting is taking place on Shrove Tuesday so in February we’re celebrating pancakes and pancake flavours.

The full list of bakes from our January ‘Something New’ meeting was:

Something New for January

Faye – Macarons with vanilla buttercream

Mandy – Rainbow Bagels

Lynn – Coriander Naan served with Tomato, Lentil and Coconut Dahl

Vicky – Spice Date and Walnut Bundt Cake

Tina – Chicken Sausage Rolls and Turkey Ham Tarts

Cat – Tuscan Sweet Spinach Tart

Jayne – Egg Nog Loaf Cake and 3D cheese biscuit elephants

Jan – Coconut Macaroons

Chelsea – Galette des Rois

All Saints and All Souls – our November meeting

The theme for our November meeting was All Saints and All Souls, so bakes were inspired by Hallowe’en, Day of the Dead and Remembrance – reflecting the number of festivals at this time of year which focus on remembering ancestors.  Ten bakers, including four attending the club for the first time, enjoyed a range of tasty and creative bakes.  We had cakes, scones, breads, cupcakes, cookies and even a pancake!


Music is my Life Blood cake
Music is my Life Blood cake

The most creative interpretation of the brief was from Mandy, who said that festivals make her think of music so she created this clever ‘Music is My Life Blood’ chocolate cake which also incorporated an unusual ingredient – mayonnaise!

We had another unusual ingredient from Cat in the form of a Rosemary Remembrance cake.  Vicky majored on pumpkins and gave us both a sweet and a savoury bake.



Coffin cake
Coffin cake

David, for his first bake with us, produced a stunning coffin cake and another first timer, Abigail, treated us to her grandmother’s tea loaf complete with the original handwritten recipe.  We had the battle of the breads as both Bailey and Chelsea chose to make Pan de Muerto, the Mexican sweet spiced bread made for Day of the Dead celebrations.  Bailey flavoured hers with star anise whilst Chelsea chose cinnamon, and both used an orange glaze.  This was Bailey’s first time making bread and she kneaded it by hand, so a lot of effort went into that.  Chelsea had mechanical assistance!

Breads and Loaves
Breads and loaves

Magie gave us a very traditional bake in the form of Soul Cakes – round biscuits marked with a cross which were traditionally given out at the door to children or the poor who begged for them in exchange for saying prayers for the souls of the givers.  Some believe this tradition to be origin of trick or treating, a more recent Hallowe’en custom which Louise referenced with her bake – Chocolate Orange Trick or Treat Cupcakes.  Delicious and decorated with Revels for the roulette element of the ‘trick’ – who would get the dreaded coffee cream?!  Allie’s apple pancake reminded us of the traditions of apple bobbing.

Scones and cakes and biscuits and a pancake
Scones and cakes and biscuits and a pancake

At our next meeting on 12th December we’ll be celebrating Festive Flavours.  Christmas is such an exciting time for homebakers so I think we’re all looking forward to a feast!

The full list of bakes for All Saints and All Souls was:

Mandy – Music is my Life Blood Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake
Cat – Rosemary Remembrance Cake
Vicky – Pumpkin Scones and Pumpkin and Honey Cake
Bailey – Star Anise and Orange Pan de Muerto
Abigail – Grandmother’s Tea Loaf
Magie – Soul Cakes
Allie – Hallowe’en Apple Pancake
Louise – Chocolate Orange Trick or Treat Cupcakes
Chelsea – Cinnamon and Orange Pan de Muerto
David – Vanilla Coffin cake