Week One Hundred & Thirty Two – Mary Berry’s Walnut & Raisin Loaf & Cranberry & Apricot Fruit Cake

Week 132 and again apologies for the tardiness of the posting but losing our beloved hairy hoolie Bailey, dampened spirits and moral and a lot has happened since then…but more of that later. I delved into Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible and surfaced after a brief browse with the last of the bread bakes, the walnut & raisin loaf and the cranberry& apricot fruit cake.

I began with the walnut & raisin loaf as this was going to take a while.I mixed together the flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon, melted butter, water and yeast into a sticky dough and by hand too this time, back to traditional methods for this last yeast recipe. I kneaded it for a while and then put it in an oiled bowl and covered it and left it to rise. While this was doing it’s thing, I weighed out the walnuts  and began the tedious task of chopping them, then weighed out the raisins and when the dough had finished rising, I had to knock it back and add the raisins and walnuts and divide the mixture into two loaves. I placed them on a baking tray and covered them with a bag and left them for a final rise. I then sent them to the chief taster’s to bake as my other bake was in the oven for a long slow cook and these guys needed a hot quicker bake.

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The loaves arrived back hot out of the oven after about 25 minutes and finished their cooling here. I then sent one loaf back to the chief taster with half the other bake.

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The second recipe was the cranberry and apricot fruit loaf. Mary tells you at the beginning of the recipe that this cake is robust enough to pack for a picnic but could also make a great alternative to a christmas cake.  I had to begin by draining a large tin of pineapple , coarsely chopping it and drying it as much as possible which involved lots of kitchen roll. I then had to cut the apricots into pieces and chop the almonds. Finally I was ready to mix all the ingredients together and pour into a tin and level the top. I didn’t decorate the top with whole blanched almonds as suggested- I forgot!!!

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The cake baked for about 2 1/2 hours and finally was ready, I left it cool as Mary suggested before turning it out. I got great compliments from the chief tasters who thought it made a really tasty fruit cake and dropped big hints about it being nice as a christmas cake!

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I have still been following the Great British Bake Off but with a heavier heart than before , and I have been keeping a close eye on Paul, Tamal and Nadiya and would be happy to see them in the top three.

As you may have read in my last blog, we were devastated to lose our beloved Bailey so quickly. The poem, The Rainbow Bridge gives us both comfort and hope that we will be reunited with all our dogs when it’s our time.

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The day after we lost Bailey, we went to see our friends who had bred both our dogs to tell them about Bailey as they have his mum and his brother. We couldn’t tell them on the phone and there were lots of hugs, tears and tea. It’s funny how things happen. Three months before, they had another litter of puppies that we enjoyed spending time with and helping to socialise and then we waved them off to their new homes. The day we lost Bailey, they had contact from one of the new owners asking them to take back one of the puppies as they were struggling to cope with him. Our friends knew we were still raw and heartbroken about our Bailey but asked if we would consider having him. We went away and spoke lots about it. Our other hoolie was very down and quiet as she had never been an only dog and was missing him lots…as were we. We came to the decision that when they collected the puppy, that they should bring him back via us to see how the two of them got on….and he never left. We now have 1 1/2 hairy hoolies ! He is not a replacement for Bailey- Bailey can never be replaced, he will always hold a special place in our lives. However, the new young hoolie is helping with the heartache as he needs a lot of attention. He is learning about my baking challenge already and has learned that the oven gloves are fair game!

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The count down continues as is now….9 recipes left to bake!

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Week One Hundred & Twenty Seven – Mary Berry’s Continental Cheesecake & Frosted Walnut Layer Cake

Week 127 and the old Mary Berry Baking Bible is now looking well used and “lived in” and there are few recipes left to choose from but I delved in with a bit more vigor than last week and came out with the last cheesecake recipe from that section and a frosted walnut layer cake.

Mary Berry's continental cheesecake

I began with the cheesecake as this a cooked cheesecake which involves several stages. I made the base first and I know Mary is quite lean on the biscuit and butter for her cheesecakes so I doubled the biscuit and butter amounts and melted the butter while crushing the biscuit for the base. I thought this gave a nice base to the cheescake with no gaps or holes. I put it in the fridge to set. Once it was set, I then set off to make the filling. This involved enormous amounts of ricotta cheese, with butter , sugar, flour, lemon and egg yolks all whisked together. Then fold in whipped cream and whisked egg whites and pour onto the biscuit base and bake for about 1 1/2 hours. When cooked, turn the oven off but leave the cheesecake in the oven for a further hour. Finally remove the cheesecake from the tin and decorate with cream and summer fruits.

Kim's continental cheesecake

The recipe actually called for cooking some redcurrants, blackcurrants and blackberries in 2 tablespoons of water and sweeten to taste and then blend some arrowroot with some cold water and add the fruit and allow to thicken. I chose to keep mine simple with cream, strawberries and raspberries. We haven’t been overly keen on baked fruit cakes but this one was quite nice and would be nice possibly to do again.

Mary Berry's walnut layer cake

The second recipe was the frosted walnut layer cake. The initial sponge cake was one of Mary’s easy throw everything in a bowl and mix cakes – one of my favourites! Pour into the sandwich tins and bake. Once cooled prepare the frosting. This is where is got a little more complex!  Mary asks you to put all the frosting ingredients in a bowl and whisk over a pan of hot water – FOR 10-12 MINUTES!! My poor hand mixer was definately pushed to it’s limits of endurance, as was my wrist! Once the mix forms little peaks, sandwich the layers together with the frosting and then cover the top and sides with it, putting little peaks on the top and decorate with walnuts. Mary tells you to work quickly as the icing sets rapidly.

Kim's walnut layer cake

Leave the cake to set in a cool place and enjoy! This was a yummy cake and definately one I would make again.

The countdown has now reached another milestone now …… so near and yet……

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Week Forty Six – Mary Berry’s Coffee & Walnut Tray Bake

Week forty six and I seem to have found my “oomph” again and enjoyed sitting with a coffee and looking through Mary Berry‘s Baking Bible and ticking off what I had done already and realised there are so many more yet to do! I chose the coffee and walnut tray bake and made sure I had everything in this week so there were no mad dashes to find an ingredient late on a Sunday afternoon!

Mary Berry's Coffee & Walnut Tray Bake

As usual , Mary’s recipe encourages you to put every thing in a bowl and mix it together well. No fussing or various stages to this recipe! Then I put it in a foil tray for tray bakes from Lakeland ( one of my favourite shops!) and into the oven for the allotted time.

Forty minutes later, the timer pinged and I returned to find a lovely raised, browned sponge tray bake with a lovely coffee aroma. I set it to one side and left it to cool for a while.

Kim's Coffee & Walnut Sponge

The second step of this bake was to mix some coffee flavoured buttercream, spread it over the sponge and then put some walnuts on the top. In Mary’s photo she put the walnuts on “haphazardly”. I decided on a more methodical approach so when I cut the sponge, hopefully every slice has a walnut on it!

Kim's Coffee & Walnut Tray Bake

I have seen the adverts and now I am really excited to see that The Great British Bake Off is back on TV next week, I am so looking forward to it!  People ask if the show is something I would apply for. Definitely not! I am strictly an amateur baker, who can follow a recipe but take away the recipe instructions and I am lost! I enjoy baking and the art of putting it together and hopefully making it look pretty and edible…..