Grasmere ginger shortbread + a blogging hiatus

Grasmere ginger shortbreadI’ve been on quite the ginger kick recently, haven’t I?! I decided to follow the ginger and coconut flapjacks I made last time with this Grasmere ginger shortbread, completely forgetting that I’d already made something gingery that week… oh well.

The recipe for this comes from good ol’ Delia, who says she got the recipe from a hotel in the Lake District. I’ve been intrigued by this recipe since I first saw it in the recipe book, because I’m a huge fan of the Grasmere gingerbread that’s sold in the village of the same name – it’s just the BEST gingerbread you’ll ever have.

The recipe is supposed to be a closely held secret (and quite rightly so), so I was interested to see what this version was like – and, as it turns, out, it’s really not the same thing at all!

Don’t get me wrong, Delia’s shortbread is delicious, but it’s nothing like the real thing. Grasmere gingerbread is a bit more chewy and infinitely more gingery than Delia’s take, and the oatmeal is very noticeable here – if it’s used in the original Grasmere gingerbread recipe, I’ve never been able to tell.

As you can see from the first photo above, I ended up with some rustic-looking shortbread – the ragged edges are due to the outside of the bake breaking away when I tried to release it from the tin. I think the shortbread needs to cool for a lot longer than 5 minutes before you try to turn it out!

Nevertheless, Delia’s Grasmere ginger shortbread is really nice – it’s just a touch disappointing if you’ve ever stood on top of a hill in the Lakes, drinking in the amazing views while nibbling on some proper Grasmere gingerbread.

Grasmere ginger shortbread
Finally, just a note that you won’t hear from me for a bit, because I’m getting married next weekend! We’re off to Sri Lanka for our honeymoon, and I’m running the Great Manchester 10k for the Red Cross three days after we get back (you can sponsor me here if you like!), so you probably won’t hear from me until closer to June.

I will hopefully have lots of new, exotic baking ideas from our trip, though, so it’ll be worth the wait! See you on the other side!

First bake: cherry and almond shortbread

Cherry and almond shortbread

Has it really been nearly a month since my last post? Rest assured that I have been baking during that time – I’ve just found it very difficult to blog recently, what with my laptop permanently being away being fixed, a busy time at work, my boyfriend returning from a tour and a rather wonderful holiday in the Lake District earlier in the week.

One of the things I made was this lovely cherry and almond shortbread, adapted from a Mary Berry recipe for cranberry and white chocolate shortbread. I only changed the flavours because, as always, I was restricted by what I had in (and I also really love cherry and almond together, as is well documented on this very blog).

Cherry and almond shortbread 2

The shortbread was fairly easy to make. I used ground almonds as it was all I had in, and that seemed to lend the dough a rather crumbly texture. However, it looked firmer after a stint in the fridge and then the oven.

I had a bit of trouble forming the dough into a circle on the baking tray pre-chilling, and on reflection, I probably should have used a cake tin instead to make things much easier. Learn from my mistake!

Cherry and almond shortbread 4

I did have to bake the shortbread for longer than the recipe said – I’m beginning to think that my oven isn’t as hot as I think it is! However, it could also be down to my penchant for not following recipes.

The shortbread did turn out beautifully, in the end – just the right texture and very moreish. It wasn’t quite as almondy as I would have liked, but a drop of almond extract and/or some flaked almonds should help with that next time!

Cherry and almond shortbread 1

The recipe

Adapted from a recipe in the May 2014 issue of BBC Good Food magazine.

Makes 8-10 wedges

  • 100g softened butter
  • 100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 50g fine semolina
  • 80g caster sugar, plus extra to finish
  • 50g glace cherries, chopped
  • 50g ground or flaked almonds
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to Gas 2/150C/130C and grease a baking tray or round 20″ cake tin.
  2. Stir together the flour and semolina, then rub in the butter and almond extract with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in the ground/flaked almonds, cherries and sugar. Press together to form a dough and either shape into a circle on the baking tray or press into the base of the cake tin (don’t worry if this is a bit crumbly at this point).
  4. Crimp the edges with a fork if you can, prick all over and score into wedges lightly. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until pale golden. Re-score the wedges, sprinkle with sugar and leave to cool before cutting into wedges.

Re-re-bake: millionaire’s shortbread

Millionaire's shortbread!I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with millionaire’s shortbread. I absolutely love to eat it, but making it is such a pain when you cannot for the life of you get the caramel to set! Happily, I think I’ve actually managed to nail it this time thanks to the power of social media.

The shortbread base itself was nothing particularly special – just good ol’ butter, sugar flour and a little salt. No problem.

Millionaire's shortbread - baseI was absolutely determined to find out how to make the caramel properly, so I took to Facebook to ask my friends on there for any tips. Lo and behold, Rachel over at A Jar of Happiness came to the rescue with what looked like (and actually was) a foolproof recipe.

I made the caramel, poured it over the shortbread base and left it in the fridge overnight to set. And yes, I may have resorted to a spot of ‘fridge and pray’ action, for any Great British Bake Off fans out there!

Millionaire's shortbread - caramelI was incredibly, incredibly relieved when I took the tin out of the fridge and I could actually touch the caramel without it coming away on my finger. Maybe there is a baking god up there after all…?

After that, it was a simple matter of melting some milk chocolate, pouring it over the caramel and giving it another few hours in the fridge to set before slicing it up into bars. I used a bar of Choceur chocolate from Aldi, which is an excellent range of chocolate and very reasonably priced (I’m nibbling away at their rum raisin and nut chocolate as I type).

Millionaire's shortbread - chocolateTaste-wise, the shortbread was absolutely divine. At first, I was a little worried that it might have been too salty due to using salted butter and then adding more salt on top, but the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate makes a pleasing contrast – I probably wouldn’t add any salt if I used dark chocolate in this recipe in future, though.

If you too have struggled with making the perfect millionaire’s shortbread, give this recipe a go!

Millionaire's shortbread!The recipe

Makes 16 small squares, 12 small bars or 8 large bars

For the shortbread:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 175g butter
  • Pinch of salt

For the caramel:

  • 100g butter
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 397g can of condensed milk

For the chocolate:

  • 200g good quality milk or dark chocolate (if you choose the latter, opt for 50-60% cocoa content)
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas mark 2. Line a shallow 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. To make the shortbread, sift the flour and salt into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
  3. Rub in the butter until it forms clumps, then press the mixture into the bottom of the tin.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until it’s a pale golden brown. I had to leave my shortbread in my gas oven for about 50 minutes before it got to this point, but your oven may differ to mine! Leave the shortbread to cool in the tin.
  5. To make the caramel, melt the butter and sugar in a pan, stirring all the while. Keep stirring as you add the condensed milk and turn the heat up to boil for 1 minute.
  6. Pour the caramel over the cooled shortbread and set the whole lot in the fridge, for a couple of hours minimum but ideally overnight.
  7. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and pour over the set caramel, tilting the tin to make sure it gets into all the corners. Return the shortbread to the fridge to set for a further 30 minutes or so.
  8. Cut up the shortbread into squares or bars. Stuff your face and feel happy!

Re-bake: millionaire’s shortbread

Millionaire's shortbread (second tier, centre)

Millionaire’s shortbread (second tier, centre)

I was invited round to my boyfriend’s house this weekend for a sumptuous afternoon tea organised by his sister, who is a super brilliant baker! I was obviously very excited, until I realised that I had to bake something too. My boyfriend eventually advised me (read: made me) to make some millionaire’s shortbread.

I do like millionaire’s shortbread a lot, but I haven’t had much luck with making it in the past. I must have baked it about four or five times, but I’ve only managed to nail it once, due to issues with the caramel and shortbread on separate occasions. Annoyingly, I can’t for the life of me remember the recipe I used for the perfect millionaire’s shortbread. So, I decided to adapt a recipe for salted caramel shortbread from the Guardian instead.

I like this recipe mainly because of the shortbread itself, which contains semolina – creating a really nice, substantial texture. The caramel is made by simmering an unopened tin of condensed milk in water for 2 hours, while the topping is melted milk chocolate and butter.

Shortbread, pre-baking

Shortbread, pre-baking

Caramel-covered shortbread

Caramel-covered shortbread

I’ve used the tin-boiling method for the caramel before, but it didn’t turn out quite right – too pale and gloopy. So I decided to simmer the tin for a good deal longer this time, and it seemed much better.

However, it still failed to set despite an overnight stay in the fridge, so I just decided to plough on and make the chocolate topping anyway, using some ‘extra special’ milk chocolate and a little bit of Milka chocolate, along with a knob of butter. I was a bit worried that I’d put too much butter in, as the resulting mixture seemed to be more like a ganache, but it did set overnight (phew!).

The final product was very nice indeed – everything tasted as it should. However, I’m still annoyed about the caramel not setting. As you can see in the first picture above, the caramel ended up dripping everywhere – not great when it’s on a beautiful cake stand filled with other perfect-looking goodies! If anyone can tell me what the secret is to the perfect set caramel, I’m all ears.

Yesterday’s afternoon tea went swimmingly – there were four kinds of sandwiches, two types of macarons, mini Bavarian slices and mini scones (which I knocked up at the last minute from this recipe) served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, as well as cava and lashings of tea, of course! We had to ‘get rid’ of some of the leftovers this afternoon as well, and now I’m all sugared out, but it was well worth it!

The recipe

Adapted from this River Cottage recipe for salt caramel shortbread in the Guardian – just omit the salt in the caramel and shortbread, and feel free to use salted butter instead of unsalted in the shortbread itself (which is what I did!).

Here it is…

I’ve finally decided to start blogging about my baking endeavours. I’ll still post pics on Facebook, but will move all my baking-related waffling here.

I don’t think I’ll be baking my next batch of goodies for another few days, but in the meantime here are some pics of my previous efforts!

Want to see a specific photo or a blog about something in particular? Just let me know!