Finally nailed Victoria Sponge…

I’ve been trying for ages to make a decent Victoria Sponge. It’s a classic, and nothing (apart from maybe a scone with jam and clotted cream!) goes better with a cup of tea. Unfortunately, I’ve not managed up until now to get it to rise properly – it tasted great but was a bit dense. I made a couple of changes this time which made all the difference – I sifted the flour and the sugar to let a bit more air in, I blasted it with an electric whisk, and I cooked it a bit lower. Seemed to work, it’s the best yet!

200g self-raising flour
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
A good splash of vanilla essence
4 eggs
200g Sainsbury’s free-from spread or equivalent, softened
2 tablespoons of milk (rice, almond, soya etc)
Strawberry jam (or another fruit if you prefer!)

Turn your oven on – 170 for a fan oven, about 180 for a normal one. Sift the flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl. Beat the eggs separately and then add in. Add the softened spread, milk and vanilla and blast with an electric whisk (mix it in a bit first to make sure you don’t spray the kitchen with flour!).

Divide into two greased round cake tins and bake for about 20 minutes. I guess you could do one large one and slice it to jam it but you’d probably have to cook it longer. Get the cakes out of the tins as soon as you can, leave to cool, spread one with jam and stick them together. Slice and we’ve – and don’t forget your cup of tea!

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‘Bacon’ brownies

OK, so these aren’t actually made with bacon. I’ve called them Bacon Brownies in  honour of Sarah from my team at work. When she interviewed with us, her ever so slightly northern accent led us to believe she loved ‘bacon’ rather than ‘baking’, which was what she actually said. Anyway, she got through the interview and joined us – and decided to bake us these brownies to prove she wasn’t lying on her CV. They were excellent, so in my attempt to learn to bake I asked for the recipe – so here we go! I’ve made a couple of amendments to the original recipe (in brackets) to render it dairy-free.

Makes about 16 brownies depending on how big you cut them:

75g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

125g caster sugar

50g low fat spread (I used Sainsbury’s FreeFrom which worked perfectly) (plus a smidgen for greasing)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I always go heavy on the vanilla extract so a bit more wouldn’t do any harm!)

50g pitted soft prunes (next time I will soak the prunes in hot water before adding for extra moistness. Or I might try cranberries instead. Or both!)

50g Maltesers (I used 70% dark chocolate – actually works really well and lends it an ‘adult’ richness)

2 eggs

1)            Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease a square tin (19cm) with a smidgen of the spread

2)            Sift both the flour and cocoa powder into a bowl, adding the sugar and vanilla extract

3)            Crush the Malteasers (Sarah placed them in a sandwich bag and crushed with a rolling pin) and add these to the bowl – if using the chocolate chop it finely or if you can be bothered grate some of it

4)            Chop the prunes finely and add to the bowl

5)            Melt the spread in pan and add this to the bowl along with the beaten eggs

6)            Mix thoroughly and spoon mixture into tin

7)            Place in the oven for 15-20, letting them cool for 10 minutes once removed

8)            Cut into squares and enjoy!

Thanks for your contribution, Sarah!

(photo of my brownies first, Sarah’s second)

'Bacon' Brownies

Sarah's brownies

Daddy bread

I love bread… Who doesn’t? Wonderful stuff! There’s a lot of fuss at the minute about how wheat is not necessarily the best for us, as it is so refined. Not sure about that, but I know there are a lot of people who struggle with wheat – but really miss good bread (let’s face it, most of the gluten-free stuff is not great). A little while back, I started making bread with spelt flour instead of wheat. Spelt is related to wheat, but is apparently a much more primitive and less refined grain. While it does contain gluten and is therefore of no use to coeliacs (sorry guys!), it is apparently more easily digestible and therefore some people who struggle with wheat can cope with spelt. And you know what? I reckon it’s the best bread anyway – as does Iris, who refers to it as Daddy Bread (hence the title of this post). In fact, she’ll be having a sandwich made from it in her lunch tomorrow as I’ve just finished baking a loaf! One of the major benefits for me is that it is best baked on the ‘quick loaf’ setting on your bread maker – so with mine, it is cooked literally in an hour! Fantastic. Anyway, here’s the basic recipe with some variations underneath:

450g spelt flour

1 tablespoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of yeast (one of those sachets is a teaspoon but if you are going to do this regularly getting a tin of yeast is so much easier)

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 tablespoon of oil (olive works well, but sunflower/ rapeseed gives a better texture and it stays fresher longer)

400ml of warm water (try 100ml boiled to 300ml straight from the tap

Chuck it in your bread maker in that order and set it off on your shortest cycle (an hour or so ideally). Job done!

Variations:

Obviously you can take it out before it bakes (about half-way through on my machine) and make rolls – or it makes a fabulous pizza base!

I normally use wholegrain spelt flour, but you can get white spelt, which makes a lighter loaf. Any ratio of the two mixed seems to work just fine – half and half is perfect…

One of my favourites is to add in two tablespoons of caraway seeds and two tablespoons of poppy seeds. I love the flavour of caraway, and the poppy seed gives an awesome crunch.

Daddy bread

Bread made with spelt flour instead of wheat

Give it a go – it is blooming awesome!