Hello all! Or hello few…or none? If I have any readers left after my long and unexplained absence, let me apologise for the attention I have categorically not lavished on this blog for some weeks now. Also, Happy New Year! and I hope you all had lovely Christmas/other festive holiday celebrations that included lots of home cooking and baking. One of my New Year’s resolutions (aside from stop pigging out on chocolate, go back to the gym – the usual) is to get this blog back on its feet – I enjoy writing it too much to let it fade to nothing and will always, even if weeks do lapse between my stints in the kitchen, call myself a baker, so I may as well record the results for other bakers to learn a bit from and enjoy.
Did anyone else watch the Great British Sport Relief Bake Off?? Some hilarious concoctions were born that week, and I thought the celebrity guest judges were a great addition. A combination of that mini-series this January, along with a reminder about applications for the actual Great British Bake Off in the forthcoming summer (hands down my fav TV cookery programme) and the acquisition of numerous baking books around Christmas spurred me on to breathe new life into this little virtual space of mine. With this in mind, I have decided on a driving force behind the blog which I imagine will last for some time…
Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. I got this for Christmas from my mum and it is absolutely one of my most prized gifts this year. I love Mary Berry – I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before – so to have a whole book of her best recipes is very exciting for me.
So, in light of that, and due to a vague-ish plan to apply for the Bake Off myself in 2015, if it’s still running then, I will attempt to bake every single recipe in her Baking Bible and update my little blog with all the details! By the end I should become a better, more experienced and knowledgeable baker and An Inexact Science will be more interesting for it. N.B. I’m not setting a time limit, because in truth I have absolutely no idea how long it will take, and don’t even know where I’ll be living in six months time (arghhhhhhhh graduation). I will say that there are over 250 recipes…so this project will take a while.
So, no time like the present – first recipe! The delicious Cherry and Almond Traybake was the bake I chose to start with because it’s not too challenging (I am in the run-up to an exam this week so recipes requiring excess brain power were off the list) and I had some glace cherries in the cupboard. There’s no rhyme or reason to the order in which I’ll pick them, it just depends on what I fancy baking/eating and, as ever, what’s in the cupboard and the balance of my weekly budget. I do happen to love sticky, syrupy, bright red glace cherries too; when I was younger I definitely used to ask for them as treats if my mum was baking with them. The ground almond in this cake doe lend it quite a dense texture, but it’s not at all unpleasant or dry – in fact mine was very moist, but not claggy either. I made it on Tuesday morning, and every single piece has disappeared by now, so I suppose that’s a thumbs up! Or an indication of the motivation levels regarding revision in my house. Anyway, here we go:
- 225g (8oz) red or natural glace cherries
- 275g (10oz) self-raising flour
- 2 level tsps baking powder
- 225g (8oz) softened butter or spread
- 225g (8oz) caster sugar
- zest of two lemons
- 75g (3oz) ground almonds
- 5 large eggs
- 25g (1oz) flaked almonds
Step 1. First wash and dry the cherries. It’s easiest to get all the syrup out if you halve or quarter them first, then run them under cold water in a sieve. Pat dry with kitchen paper – this all helps to try and stop the fruit from sinking to the bottom of your cake, something that I have unfortunately not yet managed to achieve.
Step 2. The super easy bit; weigh out all the remaining ingredients – except the flaked almonds – pop them in a bowl and beat together. It won’t take long – Mary recommends one minute’s beating time.
Step 3. Fold in the cherries. Alternatively, turn the mixture into a greased and lined baking tin and then poke the cherry pieces into the top of the cake so they (maybe) won’t sink as much. No promises, though. Sprinkle generously with the flaked almonds.
Step 4. Bake at 180C / Gas Mark 4 for about 40 minutes, after which the middle should be springy to the touch and the cake beginning to come away from the sides of the tin. The flaked almonds on top will be toasty, crunchy and delicious as well.
Step 5. Cool in the tin, then lift out and cut into squares. I reckon a drizzle of glace icing (just icing sugar and water) with a splash of lemon juice in it would not go at all amiss on the top of this cake.
My little alterations will go here for every recipe – not because I think I’m superior to Mary in any way, but because for one we have very different ovens – and entire kitchens, for that matter – and two because I just don’t always have/want to buy all the things the recipes asks for! Okay, so I halved the recipe first of all and baked it in a loaf tin as my roasting tin was then too big. It seemed to work absolutely fine, and I used the ounce measurements given above to divide the quantities more easily. Two and a half eggs is tricky, though, so I used two eggs and added about 100ml of milk to make up the extra liquid. I immediately reflected that lemon zest really would be cracking in this cake after I’d made it with lemon juice as a substitute (didn’t have any actual lemons), which didn’t impart the same zesty flavour, unsurprisingly, so do follow Mary’s good advice there. That’s pretty much everything, except that you should know, because I like to rant about it, that my oven is the slowest thing on earth and took, I kid you not, almost an hour to bake a measly half-size cake, at a whole mark higher than the recommended temp! Grrr.
Source: Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, p. 183.
If any of you lovely readers have your own copy of said book and would like to make suggestions, recommendations, or impart your own pearls of wisdom about any of the recipes, please do! Whack them in the comments box and I will attend to your remarks asap.
Til the next installment, later this week or early next week depending on the progress of my revision…wish me luck!