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!

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

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:     https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/where-does-pepper-come-from_us_56252705e4b02f6a900d2541

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

Festive Flavours – December 2017

The theme for this month’s Cakes and Bakes was ‘Festive Flavours’.  This time of year is such an exciting time for homebakers so we were all excited to try something new, or share family favourites with each other.  Not only did our bakes reflect Christmas traditions and flavours, but our meeting on 12th December also happened to fall on the

Latkes
Happy Hanukkah! Celebrating with Latkes

first day of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah so Mandy treated us to latkes – a deep fried treat eaten with either soured cream or apple sauce.  Fried food is traditionally eaten at Hanukkah since it is a festival which celebrates the miracle of the oil.  Mandy explained that a small group of Jews, fighting for their religious freedom, found themselves in hiding with only enough oil for one day of heat and light but miraculously this oil lasted for seven days.  Now, Hanukkah is celebrated with lighting of candles and lamps, and eating of foods fried in oil.  It was interesting to hear this story and be introduced to this festival, which most of us knew very little about.

After starting with the lovely latkes (which Mandy managed to get to us warm, despite terrible traffic problems!), we had some more savouries to enjoy before diving into the sweet treats.  Jayne made a festively decorated Christmas tree of Cheese, Bacon and Cranberry scones (which were so delicious some of us may have indulged ourselves with more than one..) and Tracey put in a huge amount of effort, making her own filo pastry for her sausagemeat, brie and cranberry parcels.  I’m not sure anyone else fancies trying filo as frankly not even professional chefs make their own, so we’re glad that Tracey has tried this and reported back to the rest of us!

Sausage, Brie and Cranberry Parcels
Sausage, Brie and Cranberry Filo Parcels
IMG_8307
Cheese, Bacon and Cranberry Scones

Once we’d sampled the savouries, it was time to dive in for the sweet stuff.

Christmas Tea Loaf
Christmas Tea Loaf

Our bakers treated us to a cornucopia of Christmassy flavours including marzipan, dried fruits, spices, nuts, ginger and of course just a little bit of booze.  We were thoroughly spoilt for choice (not to mention thoroughly stuffed) after sampling Banana, Pecan and Rum Caramel self-saucing pudding, Stollen, Rum and Cranberry Cheesecake, Christmas tea loaf cake and Lebkuchen.

Lebkuchen
Iced Lebkuchen
Rum and Cranberry Cheesecake
Rum and Cranberry Cheesecake

It was one of those months where nearly everyone had something go slightly wrong with their bake, from putting in too much of one ingredient to leaving out an ingredient, textural issues and minor collapses due to time pressure – but it didn’t matter in the least.  Everything was really tasty and since we’re just people who enjoy baking (and eating) it wasn’t in the least a problem that some bakes weren’t perhaps as perfect as we may have hoped.  Actually, it was very funny as everyone arrived looking downcast, worried that they’d done something wrong.  We all started to laugh in the end as we realised we were all in the same boat!

Stollen
Stollen
Banana, Pecan and Caramel Pudding
Banana, Pecan and Rum Caramel self-saucing pudding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were also supposed to have been able to enjoy an actual Christmas Cake from Faye, but sadly she was ill and unable to join us at the last minute.  She sent us this photo though:

IMG_8381
Christmas Cake

It looks delicious so it was a shame we were unable to try it, but hopefully Faye will make a quick recovery and be able to join us again in the new year.  Our January meeting is ‘Something New’ so we’re all looking forward to trying out a bake we haven’t made before.  I don’t know about everyone else but my problem is going to be selecting just one recipe from the huge list I’ve built up of recipes that I’d like to try one day!

Merry Christmas all!  We’ll be back with more bakes in 2018.

 

The full list of bakes from our Festive Flavours meeting was:

Mandy – potato latkes with sourced cream or apple sauce

Tracey – Sausagemeat, Brie and Cranberry Filo Parcels

Jayne – Festive Cheese, Bacon and Cranberry Scones

Louise – Banana, Pecan and Rum Caramel Self-Saucing Pudding

Chelsea – Stollen

Vicky – Christmas Tea Loaf Cake

Jan – Rum and Cranberry Cheesecake

Cat – Lebkuchen (soft spiced gingerbread biscuits)

Faye – Christmas Cake

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!

IMG_8100

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

A Tribute to the Great British Bake Off (October meeting)

The theme for our October Meeting was ‘A Tribute to the Great British Bake Off’, with our bakers invited to make any of the recipes which have featured on the show in the past.  It certainly inspired everyone, with some lovely bakes produced, although one of our number (who shall remain nameless) confessed to never having actually seen Bake Off – we were shocked!  We also welcomed three new bakers this month as well; so good to see even more new faces joining us.

Between us we managed to produce a wider variety of bakes than last month, with a good mix of both sweet and savoury dishes on offer.

Our tribute to The Great British Bake Off

We basically enjoyed a three course meal, starting with Tracey’s excellent fougasse bread served with oil and vinegar for dipping, having an appetiser of Chelsea’s lamb, apple and rosemary sausage rolls with homemade puff pastry before indulging in a slice of Cat’s magnificent game pie with its amazing hot water crust.  We were spoilt for choice with dessert (although of course we tried them all!) – Mandy’s Chocolate Orange layer cake, Vicky’s Frosted Walnut cake, Faye’s Grapefruit and Ginger Meringue Pie and Bailey’s unusual Fresh Fig and Earl Grey cake.

Bake Off Bakes

Some of us even managed to accidentally reproduce similar conditions to those found in the actual Bake Off tent.  Cat can vouch for the fact that a game pie does indeed produce a lot of liquid, Chelsea learnt that there are no shortcuts with puff pastry and Faye that toasting meringue is a very delicate job requiring total and undivided attention.  Tracey produced her fougasse under a very tight timescale strongly resembling a typical Paul Hollywood Technical Challenge, having forgotten to start her dough the night before and therefore getting up extra early in the morning to prove her dough before work!

As lovely as our September cake fest was, this time I really enjoyed indulging in some savouries before hitting the sugar.  Somehow it seemed to allow more room for seconds too…