Blackberry Victoria sponge

Blackberry Victoria sponge
When my fiancé turned up with a jar of homemade blackberry and apple jam, I just knew I was going to incorporate it into a cake somehow. And even though it didn’t feel like that long since I last made a Victoria sponge, I really wanted to make another one with blackberry jam instead of my usual strawberry – so here’s my blackberry Victoria sponge.

It’s just my normal Victoria sponge recipe with a different jam, so it feels like a bit of a cheat to blog about it, but it was so delicious! The jam was perhaps a little more subtle than the strawberry variety, but that might also have something to do with me being a little overenthusiastic with the buttercream…

Blackberry Victoria sponge
It’s well and truly blackberry season, so this would be a great cake to make if you have lots of blackberry jam on your hands. If you’re not in the habit of making your own jam, you could try making a thick blackberry compote to use instead, or even just slice up some fresh berries and toss them in a bit of sugar instead.

 

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Cream crackers

Cream crackersI think I must like baking a little too much when I reckon it’s less effort to make a batch of cream crackers than nip 5 minutes down the road to the shop to buy some! Seriously, that’s exactly what I did. I must be crackers (sorry).

As this was a bit of a spontaneous effort, I pretty much alighted on the first British recipe for cream crackers that I found online and went with it. I had a look at a couple of US recipes, but I was very confused by the addition of actual cream to the mix… I’m pretty sure that’s not required!

Cream crackers
The dough was pretty straightforward to make (although it was a little difficult getting the dough to flatten out), but I was a little flummoxed by the actual baking of the crackers. The recipe suggests that gas mark 4 is too low, so I baked the first batch at 5, but they were still a little doughy well after the baking time was up.

However, I hit the jackpot with the second batch – they went in at gas mark 6 and voila! Perfect cream crackers after 20 minutes of baking. I think it also helped that I’d tried to flatten the dough a bit more than with the first batch. The photo directly below is of the first batch, whereas the other photos in this post are of the second batch. I think you can see a definite difference between the two.

Cream crackers
I was actually really surprised by how much they tasted like shop-bought cream crackers. It’s definitely the quality of the butter and the seasoning that makes them so perfect, so be sure to use a decent butter and don’t forget the salt!

The recipe below is my version of the one I used, with tweaks to show what worked for me. Do get the dough as flat as you possibly can – it really does make a difference to the crispiness of the crackers.

Cream crackers
Cream crackers recipe

Based on this recipe

Makes around 25 crackers, depending on size and shape

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 55g good quality salted butter
  • Cold water

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/180C fan. Line 1-2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the water a little at a time and mix until you end up with a manageable dough that’s not too sticky.
  4. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a rough oblong, making it as thin as possible.
  5. Mark the oblong lightly into three equal sections, fold one third over the middle and fold the opposite third on top. Turn the oblong 90 degrees and roll flat again before folding again.
  6. Repeat this process once more, keeping the dough as thin as you possibly can all the while.
  7. Trim any curved/rough edges with a knife, then cut the dough into squares or rectangles. Prick each one with a fork and transfer to the baking trays.
  8. Bake the crackers for 20 minutes, until golden and beginning to turn dark brown around the edges.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before eating.

Rock cakes

Rock cakes
I fancied making something quick and easy the other week, so I opened my newly acquired Delia’s Cakes book and landed on this recipe for rock cakes.

I can’t really remember the last time I had a rock cake, but I had a vague idea of them being a bit cakey and a bit biscuity (but most likely to be biscuity if they’re not homemade). This recipe actually gets the balance spot on – especially when you have one that’s still a bit warm from the oven!

Rock cakes
The main flavours come from mixed dried fruit, nutmeg and mixed spice. I used flame raisins and mixed peel for the dried fruit, and stuck to the spices specified by Delia (although you could use anything you like, really).

You start making the dough as if you’re making scones or shortbread – by rubbing butter into flour and sugar to create ‘breadcrumbs’. Everything else goes in to create what Delia calls a “stiff dough”, but what I call a bit of a crumbly mess! Luckily, it’s a crumbly mess that holds together long enough to shape into rough peaks.

Rock cakes
The rock cakes were baked in just under 20 minutes and were ready to eat not long after that. They were absolutely delicious – buttery and soft on the inside and crumbly on the outside. The fruit and spices went very well together – the flavours reminded me a bit of Christmas! I can imagine the recipe working well with other spices too, such as cinnamon and cardamom.

This is a great recipe to make if you want something nice with a cup of tea, but can’t be bothered making a proper big cake – and do try the rock cakes warm!

Rock cakes

Basic baklava

Basic baklava
Another week, another Paul Hollywood recipe. This time, I made a very basic baklava from How to Bake. I must stress that this really is a simple recipe, but one that can be customised to create your own dream baklava!

Baklava is one of those desserts that be really, truly, utterly scrumptious when it’s made right. There’s something about the combination of thin flaky pastry, flavoursome nuts, lots of butter and a fragrant sugar syrup that ticks all the boxes for me.

Paul Hollywood’s recipe calls for pistachios only, but as I didn’t have enough, I made up the difference with almonds and walnuts. As this is a basic recipe, nothing goes in with the nuts, but I was sorely tempted to add some cardamom or another warm spice to them. However, I chose to stick to the recipe as closely as possible!

The baklava was easy to assemble – it’s pretty much just layering lots of filo on top of each other, brushing each layer with butter, then scattering the nuts on top and adding more filo and butter on top. The whole lot then goes into the oven, and you make the sugar syrup to pour over when it’s cool.

The sugar syrup is the other part of the recipe where lots of flavours can be added, but Hollywood opts for just lemon juice. Again, I had to fight the urge to add *something* else! Once the syrup was poured over the baklava and the whole lot had cooled, it was ready to eat.

Basic baklava
It was very nice – the star of the show for me was the richness of the butter paired with the trio of tasty nuts. However, the syrup felt a little but too simple – the pure lemon made it almost stark, if that makes sense, even for what is supposed to be a basic baklava recipe.

Hollywood admits himself that this is a very simple baklava and that you could add rose water or orange flower water to the syrup, which I would strongly recommend that you do. I would also experiment with different spices in the nuts, as I do think the right combination can make for an excellent baklava (see my gushing praise of this masala chai baklava by GBBO’s Chetna Makan). This is a great base recipe to start from, but don’t be afraid to add to it!