Monday, 18 September 2017

GBBO 2017 Week 3 - Bara Brith Inspired Teacakes

Bara Brith Inspired Teacakes

It was bread week on the Great British Bake Off this week - I've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with baking bread - sometimes the dough just doesn't behave like I'd expect, or the tastes don't quite live up to expectations. I've had a few successes, like my pesto and feta swirl bread, but you may have spotted most of my recipes aren't yeasty. My partner however, is amazing at baking bread and is currently writing a guest post about this week's technical challenge.

I decided to have a go at the showstopper challenge, which were teacakes. When I was little, I remember going to my local market with my brothers and sisters, and eating toasted current teacakes with butter. Because of this and my inexperience with bread, I was pretty eager to attempt to master them.

None of the flavours the bakers in the tent took my fancy (way too many had cardamom in), so I decided to do a take on the welsh fruity bread known as bara brith. This bread contains mixed dried fruit (including raisins, sultanas and mixed peel), and is spiced with cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice. I used these elements in the teacake, to make a really tasty bun :)

After baking, I went a little away from my bara brith theme and glazed the teacakes with an orange and cinnamon glaze. This gave them a really lovely shine and added another dimension of flavour.

These are probably the most technically-correct bread I've ever made, and they really do taste fab. So give them a go - they're brilliant as an alternative to toast or a mid-morning snack. I'll definitely be making them again :)

This recipe makes 6 large teacakes, but double up the recipe if you want more.


For the soaked fruit:

  • 300g (2 cups) mixed dried fruit (I bought a blend of raisins, sultanas and candied mixed peel)
  • 75ml (1/3 cup) strong black tea (I brewed 2 teabags in a cup of water for 5 minutes)

For the dough:

  • 375g (2 & 1/2 cups) strong white bread flour
  • 1 sachet (7g) fast-action dried yeast
  • 3.5g (2/3 tsp) salt
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 45g (1/4 cup) light soft brown sugar
  • Finely grated zest of one orange
  • 35g (1/4 cup) butter, softened
  • 225ml (around 1 cup) tepid water
  • 1 medium egg, to glaze

For the glaze:

  • Juice of 2 oranges (100ml)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 50g (1/4 cup) caster sugar


1. Pour the mixed dried fruit into a mixing bowl and tip over the strong tea. Stir briefly then cover. Leave for at least one hour for the dried fruit to plump up. For the best results leave them overnight, but this isn't essential.

2. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, orange zest, ground cinnamon, mixed spice, ginger and crumble the brown sugar into the bowl (as brown sugar tends to clump). Stir in to evenly combine, then sprinkle over the yeast. Stir in.

3. Break the butter into small (1cm) cubes, then tip into the bowl. Use your hands to rub the butter into the flour. When you can no longer see any butter, make a well in the centre of the flour and tip in 3/4 of the water. Bring the mixture together with your hands to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.

4. Lightly oil a work surface and tip the dough onto the surface. Knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is really smooth and elastic. If you prod the dough it should spring right back. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for at least one hour, until doubled in size. 

5. Drain the dried fruit to remove excess liquid. Grease and line two baking trays with baking parchment.

6. Once the dough is ready, tip out of the bowl onto a lightly oiled surface. Knock any air out of the dough by pressing the dough down into a large rectangle. Scatter over the drained dried fruit then gently bring the dough over the fruit and knead until evenly incorporated.

7. The dough may have become stickier by this point due to the dried fruit addition.. If it does, sprinkle over a few tablespoons of flour and work in. Evenly divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly with the palm of your hand into a rough circle. Place on the prepared baking trays, leaving plenty of space between each teacake. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 45 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.

8. Remove the clingfilm and use a pastry brush to brush the top of each teacake with the beaten egg. Be careful not to let the egg wash drip down the sides of the teacake as this will inhibit it's rise. Bake the teacakes for 18-20 minutes, until the tops are golden, and if you flip a teacake over, it sounds hollow when tapped. 

9. Whilst baking, prepare the glaze by heating the orange juice, sugar and cinnamon syrup together for around 5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

10. Once the teacakes are out of the oven, brush over the glaze and leave to cool.

11. Enjoy on their own or with a little butter :)

Bara Brith Inspired TeacakesBara Brith Inspired Teacakes

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Saturday, 16 September 2017

GBBO 2017 Week 2 - Amaretti Coffee Sandwiches

The final bake I made for week 2 of the Great British Bake Off were Steven's amarpressi biscuits - they were piped amaretti biscuits filled with a coffee mascarpone filling. The first issue I had was finding one of the ingredients - semolina. None of my local big supermarkets stocked it (it must not be that popular in the UK anymore?), but luckily, my local Polish supermarket had loads of it!

The second issue I had was during the preparation of the biscuits. As I mentioned in a previous blog post (for the chocolate peanut butter spritz cookies), I've had some problems in sourcing good piping bags. I tried to make these on the same day as the spritz cookies and suffice to say, the piping bags were awful :(

I had a fix though, which doesn't look as pretty as Steven's, but is less fiddly :) I shaped balls of the dough, then squished them with a fork.

The filling is delicious, but not one children would like (or anyone who dislikes coffee). The instant coffee granules I used were pretty chunky (I used Nescafe Gold Black blend), so as you'll see in the recipe I used a little hot water to make the coffee into a smooth paste - this worked well, but if you have super fine coffee granules, the step isn't necessary.

This biscuit is very yummy, with a crisp outside and soft inner, even if you decide not to sandwich them. Perfect alongside a cup of coffee or tea, or even a cup of milk for the kiddies.

I increased Steven's original recipe and was able to make 24 small sandwich cookies.


For the biscuits:

  • 210g (1 & 3/4 cups) ground almonds
  • 210g (1 cup - 2tsp) caster sugar
  • 45g (3 tbsp) semolina (I used non-instant)
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp amaretto liqueur 

For the filling:

  • 190g (7/8 cup) full-fat mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon very finely ground/espresso-grind coffee beans, or to taste
  • 20-30g (4-6 tsp) instant espresso coffee powder (if using chunkier coffee granules, dilute in 1-2tsp of water to get a smooth but spreadable paste, and use that), or to taste
  • 45-60g (3-4 tbsp) icing sugar
  • 25g dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids)

To finish:
  • 75g (1/2 cup) dark chocolate (optional)
  • 1 tbsp desiccated coconut (optional)


1. Preheat your oven to 190°c (170°C fan)/375°F/Gas mark 5. Grease and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

2. Put the egg whites in a large grease-free mixing bowl whisk (use an electric whisk or stand mixer for ease) until they stand in stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted.

3. Add the ground almonds, semolina, and caster sugar and carefully fold in using a large metal spoon or plastic spatula. When combined, add the amaretto. Use your hands to blend the amaretto in evenly.

4. Weigh out 10g of the dough and roll into a ball. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat to fill each sheet. Use a fork (lightly dusted with icing sugar) to press down each ball until they are about 5mm thick. Lightly press in the opposite direction to create a grid-like effect.

5. Bake the biscuits in the pre-heated oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until light golden with slightly darker edges.

6. Remove the trays from the oven and leave the biscuits for a few minutes to cool slightly and firm up before carefully transferring to a wire rack. Leave to cool before sandwiching.

7. To make the filling, spoon the mascarpone into a bowl and give it a quick stir, then add the finely ground coffee and instant coffee powder (or paste if your coffee isn't finely ground). Stir to combine, then cover and chill for about 10 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.

8. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl with the coffee and mascarpone. Grate the chocolate on top and stir everything together. Taste the mixture and add more instant coffee or icing sugar as needed. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag (there's no need for a nozzle).

9. To assemble the biscuit, try to match the biscuits in pairs of the same size, shape and colour. Flip half of the biscuits over and pipe a mound of buttercream on these flipped biscuits.  Top each biscuit with the other half of the pair and gently press the two together so the cream is gently and evenly pressed towards but not over the edges.

10. To finish, for extra indulgence, melt the dark chocolate in a microwave on high power, heating for 10-15 second bursts and stirring well after each burst, until all of the chocolate has melted. Dip the biscuits into the chocolate, or drizzle over each pair of cookies. I then dusted mine with a little desiccated coconut, but this is completely optional (I just liked the look of it).

10. Enjoy!

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GBBO 2017 Week 2 - Cinnamon Fortune Cookies

The technical challenge on the second week of the Great British Bake Off were fortune cookies - simply they are really thin biscuits (like a tuile), shaped into the classic fortune cookie shape whilst warm. Now I've never made a tuile before, but how hard could it be? The method for making the batter is very simple, but the published recipe is a little misleading when saying the amount of batter to use and how big to make the cookies. They say to use 2 tbsp of batter per cookie and to spread it out until it is 10cm in diameter....Suffice to say that makes an incredibly large circle and makes a really thick circle as well.
After a lot of experimentation, I did get a few of the cookies fortune cookie shaped, and my recipe is below :)
I'd recommend testing these before making them for a party/event - they are a tricky thing to master and need to be shaped seconds out of the oven!

Oh, and I added cinnamon to the cookie to make it taste extra yummy, and make a small portion of the batter chocolatey (with some cocoa powder) - this is completely optional but makes the fortune cookies seem a bit more worth making rather than simply buying them in (you'll understand if any of your cookies crack - the heartbreak!)

Makes 12-15 fortune cookies (depending on how much batter you use per cookie)


  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 65g (1/2 cup) plain flour
  • 1 ½ tsp cornflour
  • pinch of salt
  • 100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 150C (fan 130c)/ 300f/gas 2. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Write your fortunes on pieces of paper around 6cm x 1cm in size.

2. Use a whisk to beat the egg whites, vegetable oil and water together until frothy but not aerated.

3. Sieve the flour, cornflour, ground cinnamon (if using) and salt together in a bowl, then stir in the sugar. Add the egg white mixture to the bowl and beat to a smooth batter. Try not to incorporate any air during the beating as you don’t want bubbles in the batter.

4. Take 3 tbsp of the mixture and place into a little bowl. Add the cocoa powder and beat in. Pour into a piping bag.

5. Take 1-2 teaspoons of the batter and spread until it is a 6-8 cm wide (use an oiled spoon to do this). Only make 2 or 3 cookies at a time. Cut the tip off of the piping bag and pipe small dots of brown batter around the cookie. Run a skewer/knife through the dots to create a feathered effect. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies have started to turn brown.

6. As soon as the cookies are out of the oven, run a palette knife underneath to release the cookie. Flip the cookie over, place the fortune inside, then fold in half and pinch the semi-circular edges together to seal. Place the middle of the folded edge of the cookie over the rim of a glass and gently pull the corners down on the inside and outside of the glass, to form the classic fortune cookie shape. Place in a 12-hole muffin tin (as this helps to hold the shape) to cool and quickly shape the second fortune cookie.

7. Repeat with the other cookies.

8. Enjoy!

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