A bread mix everyone kneads in their life

Okay so that pun wasn’t the best but this bread mix is! Asda sell a variety of them and even when they’re not on offer for the cheap price of 35p, they’re still only around 60-70p! I will just say that this is not an endorsement whatsoever, I simply love bread, easy baking and good value for money! After baking a parmesan and sundried tomato loaf at the weekend, I felt I had to share it!

The only things you need are 320ml of warm water and flour for your work surface when you knead the dough.

Method

  1. Pour the mix into a large bowl, add the warm water and blend together for around 5 minutes. Leave the dough to rest for a further 5 minutes before kneading it on a floured work surface for an additional 5 minutes. You’ll know when the dough is ready because when you press down fairly lightly on it, it’ll spring back up.
  2. Now it’s time to shape the dough! I went for a standard loaf but you can shape it into individual rolls, depending on what you fancy. Even though I shaped mine into a loaf, I placed mine onto a baking tray to get that rustic look(😉) but you can use a bread tin. I placed a sheet of greaseproof paper onto my tray as I find this far more effective than greasing the tin. Too many baked goods have ended up stuck to a tray, thanks to the latter method so I have learnt my lesson!
  3. Cover the dough with a damp cloth or cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for half an hour or until it’s doubled in size. I used a damp cloth and due to the hot weather at the weekend, the warmest place in the house was upstairs on the landing so that’s where my dough went! I never thought that’s where the prime spot for proving would be but I guess you’ve got to go where the heat is!
  4. Turn the oven on at 230℃/350℉/Fan 210℃/Gas mark 8.
  5. Finally bake in the oven for 30 minutes, if you’ve chosen to do loaves, or 20 minutes, if you’ve chosen to do rolls. You’ll know its cooked when you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow. Leave to cool on a wire rack but don’t let it get cold before you start tucking in because honestly you cannot beat a thick slice of this with some melted butter! This bread gets eaten very quickly so be sure to get a slice before it’s all gone!

If I’m being perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this bread mix but it’s ridiculously easy and quick to do and you’re guaranteed really great loaves!

 

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Apple and almond layer cake

Despite eating this cake a lot, I’ve never actually made it before mainly because my Mum is a dab hand at this one and hey, why not leave it to the professional?! I’m also a little hesitant about baking cakes with fruit in because it usually ends in disaster with the cake becoming soggy and that is the last thing you want because it’s disgusting! However, we had some cooking apples which needed using and I had free time so I finally took the plunge and baked this cake!

The recipe comes from Hamlyn All Colour Vegetarian Cookbook. As you probably guessed from the fact the title has “all colour” in it, it’s an old book! It’s a rather entertaining read mainly because of how the dishes are presented in the pictures, oh yes we are going old school! But as funny as it all is, you can’t argue with the fact that the recipes are bloody tasty! The only downside is it tells you how many calories are in each dish which is something you don’t want to know when tucking into a big slab of cake but I mean this one has apples in so it’s kind of healthy, right!?😂

Ingredients

  • 150g/5oz soft margarine
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 225g/8oz golden granulated sugar
  • 1tsp almond essence
  • 225g/8oz self-raising flour
  • 1.5tsps baking powder
  • 350g/12oz cooking apples
  • 25g/1oz flaked almonds

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160℃/325℉/gas mark 3. Grease and base line a 20cm/8in loose-bottomed cake tin.
  2. Peel, core and slice the apples into relatively thin strips. I’d recommend placing them into a bowl of cold water to help prevent them going too brown but it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference once they’re cooked in the cake.
  3. Place the rest of the ingredients (minus the flaked almonds) into a large bowl and beat thoroughly until well combined. The mixture looks pretty dry at this point and it is a little worrying because you have a large cake tin and not that much batter but it will turn out alright! I think they make it fairly dry because of the amount of moisture which comes out of the apples.
  4. Spread half the cake mixture in the base of the tin. Cover with the sliced apples and put the rest of the cake mixture on top of the apple in blobs, then you can go about carefully spreading this until it’s covered the apples relatively evenly. This part is pretty frustrating, well for me anyway because I’m cack-handed and a perfectionist (it’s a great combo😂) but I doubt you’ll have any issues!
  5. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Now I know I gave measurements for this and I would usually follow them myself but I really love almonds so honestly, I wouldn’t really worry about being precise with them! Put as many or as little on as you want to!
  6. Bake in the oven for about 1.5 hours, until the cake is evenly golden and the edges shrink away from the sides of the tin. Cool on a wire rack.

I find the textures are wonderful! The top is nice and crunchy and the cake is gorgeously moist and the apples give a lovely softness to it!

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Simple but oh so tasty

THAT’S RIGHT, THE AWKWARD BAKER IS BACK!

I know, I know, I’m not some super popular food blogger who everyone has been missing so I can’t get away with writing a statement like that but even if no one else is happy that I’m back, I certainly am! I have no excuses for neglecting this blog and I’ve really come to miss it but you have my word that I will regularly update it with recipes of what I’ve been making and I might even start including reviews of restaurants etc. and places I’ve been visiting because well you’re always guaranteed a funny story whenever I go anywhere!

So for my post today, I thought I’d go for something that’s really easy but will have everyone coming back for more!

The lemon drizzle traybake!

I baked this last week for my co-workers because what better way to put everyone in a great mood than cake?! I’ve baked it for them before and because it got such a good reception last time, I thought I’d do it again! The main reason though is just how quick and easy this recipe is which is perfect for when you don’t have much time before your shift starts!

Okay so the recipe is actually called Iced Lemon Traybake from the Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book (I’m pretty sure I’ve raved about this cookbook before but how could I not, it’s my go to whenever I need to bake anything!). I never do the icing it recommends because I’m lazy. Sieving icing sugar is always such a faff and I find getting the consistency right is a never-ending battle with royal icing. The prime reason though is that the topping I choose, in my opinion, is far better and tastier and doesn’t take any time at all! This topping is from the recipe Crunchy Top Lemon Cake, something which brings back such happy memories of when I was growing up because this was (and still is) my Mum’s signature bake and the whole family would get so excited when we found out she was making it! Even to this day, this still happens because we know we’re going to get a fantastic slice of cake!

Ingredients

  • 8oz (225g) soft margarine
  • 8oz (225g) caster sugar
  • 10oz (275g) self-raising flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsps milk
  • rind of 2 lemons
  • 8oz (225g) granulated sugar
  • juice of 2 – 2.5 lemons (I had to use 2.5 because 2 just wasn’t enough)

 

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180℃/350℉/Gas 4 (does anyone still have ovens that use the last two settings?). Base line a 12 x 9in (30 x 23cm) roasting tin with greaseproof paper. I’ve found the easiest way is to cut out the lining for the base before I’ve even started baking and then, when I’m about to mix all of the ingredients together, I grease the tin. It’s the best option for me because it stops me from having to mess around with the paper midway through baking or have to grease the tin twice because the butter from the first time has dried up! 
  2. Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat together for about two minutes until the mixture is well blended. I absolutely love these kinds of recipes, isn’t this just the easiest way of doing it!? For some cakes, you need about four different bowls and even though this method is necessary, it is so much extra effort! I end up having to use bowls which haven’t seen the light of day for several months simply because I don’t have enough regular baking bowls!
  3. Pour the mixture into the tin and place in the preheated oven for 35 – 40mins. I usually have my oven at 160 – 170℃ and bake it for the full 40 minutes as this prevents my cake sinking in the middle but I feel this is probably down to my oven.
  4. You’ll know the cake is done when you press it lightly with a fingertip and it springs back and when you insert a skewer into the sponge and it comes out clean.
  5. When the cake has about five minutes left in the oven, measure out the sugar and combine it with the juice of two lemons. I find I never have enough of this mixture hence why I added the extra juice and even then it was a struggle making sure all of the cake was covered! So leave the cake to cool for a little bit just so it’s not piping hot and then use the skewer to insert holes(I push the skewer down to the bottom) all over the cake which is an incredibly satisfying feeling! Pour the mixture over the cake and ensure it’s evenly spread. The lemon juice will seep into the cake and make it gorgeously moist and lemony and allow the sugar to become a lovely crunchy topping! I genuinely can’t recommend this cake enough, it ticks all of the boxes!
  6. Wait until the cake is cool before removing from the tin and that’s it!

 

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Boozy chocolate cake

It’s hard knowing what kind of cake to make for someone’s birthday, especially when your decorating skills leave a lot to be desired! Sure it would be great if you could imitate some of the cakes shown on Pinterest, but you know that it’s just not going to happen especially when you’ve only recently managed to make your icing presentable! Who wants to be bent over a ball of icing, shaping it, in this heat anyway? You need something simple but still looks better than your ordinary cake and of course, it needs to have the taste!

Well let me introduce you to this recipe. It’s from “1 Mix, 100 Cakes” by Christine France. This recipe is officially called ‘Rich Chocolate Rum Torte.’ However, I don’t believe it has the consistency of a torte, it is a cake but be that as it may, it’s still bloody lovely!

The recipe asks you to split the mixture between 3 7″ tins but I only actually have one 7″ tin (and I call myself a baker!?). I’m sure a lot of you have a similar sort of situation  where you have one drawer rammed full of tins, half of which you never get around to using and there’s maybe only 2 or 3 which are your favourites? It’s a bit like clothes really😂. So I decided to use 2 8″ tins instead which worked out pretty well actually. If you are organised enough to have the right amount of tins, I would recommend that you use shallow ones as the recipe doesn’t produce a huge amount of mixture.

Ingredients

  1. 70g/2.5oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  2. 2 tbsp milk
  3. 175g/6oz plain flour
  4. 1 tbsp baking powder (I know that doesn’t seem right, I was shocked too but it does work)
  5. 175g/6oz softened unsalted butter
  6. 175g/6oz dark muscovado sugar
  7. 3 eggs, beaten
  8. 1 tsp vanilla extract (I had run out of vanilla so used almond instead and it still worked perfectly fine)

Frosting

  1. 225g/8oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  2. 225ml/8fl oz double cream
  3. 2 tbsp dark rum
  4. Chocolate curls or grated chocolate, to decorate

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃/350℉/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line 3 7″ or 2 8″ cake tins.
  2. Gently heat the chocolate and milk in a small saucepan until melted and then remove from the heat. Stir continuously throughout.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and then add the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Beat well until smooth and then fold in the chocolate mixture.
  4. Divide the mixture between the tins and then bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch.
  5. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning the sponges out onto a wire rack.
  6. Melt the chocolate with the cream and the rum over a low heat. I will admit that I added an extra tablespoon of rum into the mixture but partly because I didn’t feel it had a strong enough taste and also because my Dad loves the stuff (it was his birthday). Remove from the heat and stir occasionally whilst it cools. I was expecting it to thicken up fairly quickly but I ended up leaving it a full day and by that time it was the perfect consistency to spread.

 

 

 

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New starts

So it’s been a while to say the least! I’m not really sure why I haven’t been posting anything but I apologise for how long it’s been. I know I say this a lot but I am going to try and make more of an effort with this blog because I do genuinely enjoy it!

I recently started a new job and it’s much more up my alley! I get to bake in a relaxed environment and the best part is I get paid for it! Obviously there are complications (there always seems to be when it comes to my life haha) which means I’m no longer getting enough hours to live on. I won’t go into it but I’m having to try find another source of income which is a shame really but I’m going to try and be positive and think about the experience I’ll be gaining (it’s been a struggle but we all know I’m not very good at being optimistic😉).

It’s really got me thinking, should I put what I want to do on hold to find a higher paid job so I’ve got enough money to live on or should I continue doing what I enjoy and hope that that line of work pays off? For a long time now, I’ve been wanting to set up my own cake business and wondering if now is the right time to set plans into action but there is always the worry that it might go wrong or not go how I want it to and then I’ll have to go back to the drawing board which definitely isn’t going to be good for my head. Has anyone set up a food business from home and if so, how has it gone? Would you recommend it?

I wonder how many people who work in dull, dead end jobs, had dreams? Dreams to truly make something of themselves but are trapped by the expensive cost to simply be alive and have to choose whether to pay the bills or to take the risk and give their dreams a go. It makes me sad thinking of all those people who can’t do what they want just because everything is so overpriced these days. It isn’t fair to not even give us a chance. I mean we only have one life and surely we should be allowed to be as happy as possible? But whenever any of us complain about how hard it can all be, we just say “Oh well that’s life, isn’t it?” It should not be this much of a struggle to be alive, none of us chose it and we’re all dumped into the deep end and expected to make it.

I wasn’t expecting my blog to take this turn but writing about the choices I have to make has made me realise how fed up I am of how life goes. I have found a good way of cheering myself up though: 80s music! Something about it manages to put me in the best of moods! What do you do to deal with the struggles of life?

The New Year

So we’re a few days into the new year. Are you as excited as me for the obligatory ‘new year, new me’ posts that will litter social media in the next couple of weeks? My favourite part is when they revert back to their usual selves after only a short amount of time but hey it’s not new years if people don’t break their resolutions, right?

But on a more serious note, when it was coming up to the end of 2017, I started to feel quite low. Firstly, because the year had just gone by ridiculously quickly and secondly, because I looked back and realised I hadn’t really accomplished anything. This reminded me of my fear of wasting my life, something which used to regularly bring on my low moods. But then as it changed to the 1st January 2018, a thought popped into my head: I survived. For more times than I can count, I didn’t think I was going to make it. I was too far down in my pit to see any way of recovering. I genuinely thought that all hope was lost for me and all that lay ahead was darkness and pain. But then I finally got the help I needed. Okay it did come in the form of medication but by allowing myself to open up to my family about how much I was actually struggling, it lead me to open up to my friends too and I eventually got the support I had long been craving.

I’ve had issues for a long time with my parents regarding mental illness. I don’t believe that they fully understood what it was or how to help someone with it. I also think that  generation were brought up not to talk about their issues. They are of the generation who “just got on with it,” so the whole idea of people talking about their problems and the demons in their heads affecting them physically was completely alien. So I have to take my hat off to them. It took them time but they finally changed their long held opinions to support me which I know must have been a tough thing to do considering how stubborn they both are!

So my achievement for 2017 is persevering through the pain and making it to 2018. I’m on the road to a full recovery (hopefully) and can now focus on more enjoyable things like getting into photography thanks to my new camera and of course baking and this blog! What did you achieve last year?

The next time you’ll hear from me, I’ll be trying out something new on my blog. It’s going to be a weekly challenge where I attempt to make something difficult so we’ll see how that goes! I hope your first week of 2018 goes okay and I’ll see you in my next blog!

A better outlook on life

I’ve never struggled to write a post before. But this has been one of the hardest ones to write. When I first started it, I was really happy and felt consistently okay. Something which I’ve craved since my depression began several years ago. I finally felt like it was acceptable to ask for help and that I wouldn’t be judged for it. However, when I tried to finish it a few days later, things had changed.

I felt alone. My family and friends were being supportive but, without trying to sound crazy, that little voice in my head was telling me I had no one. Whenever I tried to reason with it, it said that those supportive people always preferred someone better and I was never going to be anyone’s first choice. As always, the voice won and I was left feeling pretty much nothing. So as I tried to complete this post, I knew I was lying and acting like everything was okay when it really wasn’t. I decided to wait and come back to it when I was ready because I’ve always aimed to be as honest as possible on here.

I’ve been on Sertraline for a couple of weeks now. So far I haven’t had any really bad side effects. My appetite has decreased which I’m so grateful for as I was constantly eating and just couldn’t stop. I am finding it a lot easier to sleep now which I think has really helped with my moods because I was always feeling so drained.

Overall, I am glad I’m on this medication because I do feel better than I did before. I still have days where I hate myself and feel that life is pointless but these thoughts don’t occur daily like they used to. It is still early days and from what I’ve seen it does take time to be fully effective so I’m going to be patient and see what happens. But things are looking up and I’m no longer trapped in a dark pit which I’ve called home for many months. I can finally breathe a sigh of relief!