April 2019, Lavender & Black Bakes

Breads: Mushroom and Garlic stuffed Picnic Loaf

Oh Hi!

It’s been a while since I last blogged here, the beginning of October in fact! I have baked on and off during this 6 month hiatus but not really from the Mary Berry Baking Bible. I’ve also been really uninspired by the recipe numbers I was pulling from my lucky dip pot so a few weeks back I decided instead to have a flick through the book and see what grabbed my attention.


With Ostara / Spring Equinox occurring back on the 20th, I decided I wanted to make something relevant to the holiday and Mushroom and Garlic stuffed Picnic Loaf screamed at me to be made.  So I toddled to Tesco for the ingredients I didn’t have in our baking cupboard such as; bread flour, a jar of wild mushrooms and (fresh) yeast and off I went home, and I made this bread the next day on my day off, and what a tinydisaster that ended up being! 

Okay so basically, many moons ago, I went to college and did a level one food tech course, where we were taught how to bake breads. I was always told to microwave your part milk part water mixture until it was at room temperature as this is when your yeast will thrive. Too hot – it will die, too cold – it wont activate. So, I did this and stirred in my yeast and set it aside for 10 minutes. Nothing. Nada! What was meant to be happening was little bubbles were meant to be foaming on the surface to indicate my yeast was active, but this did not occur in any of the FOUR attempts / jugs I made. I had one jug in warm water another on top of the oven and the third I had cradled in my hands with the oven door open trying to keep the mixture warm, but not too hot. Madness.

Then, on the fourth attempt I kind of thought fuck it. Not one of these mixes is showing signs of life, I’m just going the throw this yeast mix into my flour and pray something happens. So I did, I did the usual mixing and kneading of the dough by hand, something I didn’t realise I had missed doing over these past 6 years.

I popped the mixture onto my board, placed the bowl over the top and left it as Mary instructed. After 20 minutes I couldn’t help but peak (mainly due to the certainty that this bread was not going to rise and I was wasting my time and life) but to my delight, surprise, possible horror the bread had tripled in size in 20 minutes! The yeast was ALIVE!!!!

Now you may be thinking, to your delight – yes, surprise – yes, horror? Why horror?
Well. I had to take little legs to the doctors meaning I had to leave the bread to prove for around 3 hours? and it had already tripled in size within 20 minutes! So off I went to get ready, came downstairs after an hour and the bread dough was trying to slowly escape under the bowl.

So, I sorted that and off I went. I won’t lie I spent most the journey googling how long you can leave bread to prove for before it goes rank and won’t bake properly anymore, and Paul Hollywood told me (his website not him personally) that I can leave it to prove for up to four hours and it would be fine as long as it was covered and did not form a crust. Get in, there was hope yet.

So few hours later, in the door I wandered joking on about how we could be about to enter the kitchen to the blob from goosebumps taking over the house… and there was half of my bread dough all over the pastry board without any form of cover meaning it had developed a crust!! NOOOOO. I lifted the bowl, and there is the other half of my bread dough, without a crust. Shiiiit…

I quickly got to work kneading and smushing and praying that I could fix this disaster as there was no way I had time to start over, and I think I did if truth be told. I just sort of kneaded and kneaded and kneaded the dough until it all came together again and the ‘crust’ was gone, which isn’t what I was supposed to be doing at this stage as I was only meant to be knocking back the air from the bread. I debated leaving it to rise again, but thought better of it. It was probably already fucked so I may as well just keep riding this train right? So I rolled it out, covered one half of the dough with the wonderful mixture of, 1 jar of wild mushrooms, fresh crushed garlic and parsley and then folded the uncovered dough over on top of the mixture and sealed the edges, and at first it looked a little bit like a calzone pizza but I managed to get a weird bread shape in the end, though it looked NOTHING like a traditional loaf! 


I then glazed the top of the loaf with egg wash, and sprinkled sesame seeds, black pepper and parsley over the top before covering it with cling film so that it did not form a crust (again) during its final prove. After, 45 minutes (and two cooked pizza’s later) I popped it in the oven for 20 minutes until it was golden brown in colour.

I was a bit worried as the bread seemed very flat, but after a quick google I think this is normal for this recipe, and it tasted wonderful. Would I make it again? Probably not if truth be told, but I would consider replacing the wild mushrooms with olives and making an olive loaf instead if truth be told.

Lavender & Black Bakes

Traybakes and FlapJacks: Date and Walnut Traybake

Here we have the first recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible that I have been avoiding making. Why you may wonder, and I do not know is my answer. I suppose I wrongly associate dates and walnuts with the older generation, and both are foods I actively avoid eating, so the idea of making a cake that would be getting popped straight in the bin didn’t really inspire me when it came to baking it.


After voicing my concerns with a few friends I realized that a lot of people around me of my age group actually like date and walnuts and actively seek them out to purchase, so at least I knew I could palm this cake off on them once it was made (sorry guys!).

I decided to make this recipe after a busy Sunday of writing up this weeks blogs posts for blogtober, so it ended up being quite a late bake. It seemed an easy enough recipe to make; soak your dates, whisk the eggs and sugar together and then add all the dried ingredients and soaked dates to the egg / sugar batter and whisk again before popping it into a tin and baking for an hour or so. Once cooled I spread over a sugar and lemon glaze and topped with some more walnuts. This sounds  like an easy task but I have never seen a date and walnut cake so I wasn’t entirely sure if this looked correct or not, I still don’t.


The next day (I didn’t stop baking until 11.30pm on Sunday evening!) I give the tiniest piece a try as I have a total phobia of eating nuts (no idea why) and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice this tray bake tasted. I did feel it was a little bit dry around the edges but once I got into the middle of the slice the cake was slightly moist and stodgy which I have been told is normal for this kind of cake.

So there we have it. No Mary Berry Bake next week as I am going to start my Halloween bakes now we are getting further into the spooky season, but I will post about whatever I end up baking next week at the usual time! Let me know if you have any Halloween recommendations or recipes for me to try!

Lavender & Black Bakes

Rhubarb & Almond Loaf

Okay, so I’m slightly cheating just a teeny tiny bit this week, as you see this week’s bake isn’t actually from Mary Berry’s baking bible. If truth be told it actually isnt a Mary Berry recipe at all! No, this bake comes straight from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book and is a rhubarb and almond loaf, which I have also adapted and created in cupcake form.

The reason for my betrayal to Mary? Quite frankly I’m uninspired to bake this week’s prune and walnut traybake as I have never ate either of those things nor have I ever wanted to do so, and who wants to make cake they may not eat? Also I didn’t realize until last-minute that I don’t actually have a baking tray the correct size for this recipe.


So yes! Rhubarb and almond loaf. This was a very simple bake and a wonderful way to use up all the excess rhubarb we have growing in the garden. Also added with the cinnamon and ginger this loaf felt like the perfect autumn bake to settle down in front of the GBBO with a large mug of tea.

I promise that next week I will upload two posts on the same day so that I stay on track with my baking challenge and don’t end up falling behind. But here is the recipe for rhubarb and almond cupcakes! Enjoy ☺️


Rhubarb and Almond Cupcakes

For the stewed Rhubarb

  • 250g (9oz) rhubarb
  • 70g (2 1/2 oz) caster sugar
  • 20g (3/4 oz) butter
  • 1 tablespoon of water

For the cake

  • 190g (7oz) butter softened
  • 190g (7oz) caster sugar
  • 140g (5oz) plain flour
  • 50g (1 3/4 oz) ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 large egg
  • 25ml (1fl oz) milk
  • stewed rhubarb
  • flaked almonds
  1. Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 3 / 170oC / 325oF and line a muffin tray with muffin cases or line a loaf tin.
  2. Pop the rhubarb, sugar, butter and water in a pan and cook on a medium heat until the rhubarb softens and becomes jam like. Remember to stir every now and again so the mixture doesn’t stick and burn. Remove the pan from the hob and set it to one side to cool completely.
  3. Begin making your cake mixture by creaming the butter and sugar together until it is pale and fluffy.
  4. Measure and sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and ground almonds together in a separate bowl and mix.
  5. Beat the egg and milk mixture together and add 1/3 of the mixture to the bowl with 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix well making sure you scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding some more of the milk / egg mixture and flour.
  6. Once all the ingredients are combined, stir in the cooled rhubarb and make sure it is evenly mixed throughout the batter.
  7. Either pour the entire mixture into a lined loaf tin or spoon the mixture into the individual cupcake cases and sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.
  8. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, keeping an eye on it for the last 10 minutes (50-60 minutes for the loaf). Make sure the sponge springs back once cooked and that a metal skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool and enjoy with a strong cup of tea!


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Fruit & Nut Cakes: Cranberry & Apricot Fruit Cake

As if it is this time of the week again! Even though today is clearly Wednesday, and I have once again strayed away from my posting schedule, I honestly think that the best night of the week is currently on Tuesday. Not only am I supposed to post about my weekly bake but the Great British Bake Off itself is also on our screens and that means Tuesday night is the night for cake!


Thankfully this weeks bake has that covered, seeing as I had to make a cranberry and apricot fruit cake. In god’s honest truth, I was a little scared about this. Firstly I have never made a fruit cake before, I mean I have stood around watching my mam make Christmas cakes year in year out but I have never attempted a recipe like this on my own. Secondly, the list of ingredients was both huge and immensely intimidating, and lastly I have never eaten a fruit cake before so I have no idea what one is meant to taste like.

However, all of that negativity aside, I actually really enjoyed this weeks bake. I decide to make it on a Friday rather than the usual Sunday as I would have the ovens to myself which was fantastic seeing as this cake takes 2 1/2 hours to bake, so this also meant I had the entire kitchen to myself as well. Que lots of loud 60’s music, lots of tea and embarrassing dancing.

At first I was really shocked that the cake mix for this batter was actually just your regular victoria sponge cake recipe but minus the vanilla extract, however I soon became more taken aback by how much dried fruit and nuts had to be folded into said cake mix. Look at this picture below! I mean this is my nanna’s baking bowl and it is full to the brim with just dried fruit (and some chopped almonds) insane! Also, folding that into the mixture was like a gym work out for my arms let me tell you!


All seemed to go well with this weeks challenge, not mentioning the little blip that occurred when I realised I had forgotten to pop the blanched almonds on top of the cake and having to remove it from the oven 15 minutes into the baking time. I know, I know, that is the ultimate baking sin but I think I got away with it. It also tasted really nice, and I ate the majority of my first slice which I think is a huge thing considering I am not a fan of dried fruit at all. I also took the plunge this week and give slices of this fruit cake out to people outside of my family home and the feedback seems mostly positive, so that is a huge step forward for me confidence wise when it comes to my baking!

Next week Date and Walnut Traybake.

Lavender & Black Bakes

Hot Puddings & Pies: Apple Pie

Is there anything that screams Autumn more than curling up on a Sunday evening under a blanket and tucking into a bowl full of warm apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream? No, I didn’t think so!

Obviously that is what this week’s bake was all about, and it seemed a fitting warm welcome to Autumn considering we are now entering the final days of Summer. Also here is a fun fact, I have never actually made nor have I ever eaten an apple pie. I’m not sure why as I was given this celebrated desert many times as a child but I always just sat pushing the bits of stewed, cooked apple around as if I was being force-fed an alien slug baby with a look of absolute horror on my face.

So my introduction to apple pie as an adult seen me bravely tuck into my Sunday evening desert and left me wondering why it has taken me so long to try this wonderful desert. Little legs on the other hand had the same look of disgust / horror ingrained on his face just like I did 20 years previous. Kids eh?


This recipe was surprisingly easy, I made my own pastry from scratch and also completely by hand! Double gold star to me. I replaced the cloves with ground cinnamon and I even hunted out my cookie cutters from my sugar craft days past and attempted to make the top of the pie look cute (okay, yes you got me. It was mainly for the Instagram photos). My mam also said she would give this bake a gold star and that is better than any Hollywood handshake! So yes, I will attempt this bake again, however I think I am going to play with the recipe and tweak it slightly by adding a larger quantity of apples etc.

Next week Cranberry and Apricot Fruit Cake

Lavender & Black Bakes

Bread: Cheese & Celery Crown Loaf

As if it is that time of the week again! This weeks baking challenge see’s me enter into a new section of Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and to a recipe I have never heard of before in my life, a cheese and  celery crown loaf!


According to the small description located on the page above the ingredients list and the method, this loaf is good with soup or a chessboard. I could definitely see it pairing well  with a bowl full of hot vegetable soup and tomorrow a huge chunk of this loaf will be heading into work with me to mop up all the leftover beef stew from last night, I actually can not wait!

Now, this loaf ended up being quite a pleasant surprise if I am honest, the idea of celery in bread left me feeling a little deflated (does anyone really like celery?), the lack of yeast had me worried about how the bread would rise and after combining the ingredients into something that hardly resembled a bread dough I didn’t really have high hopes for this loaf at all!

However, 20 minutes into cooking this crown loaf it was giving off a wonderful aroma and as soon as I removed it from the oven I tore off a wedge and tucked into the steaming hot cheesy bread and to my surprise the bread had a) risen perfectly and b) I could barely taste the celery despite it still being visible throughout the bread.

Now I will admit that this loaf actually reminds me more of a dumpling, but I think that adds to its charm if I’m honest as like I say I am rather looking forward to pairing it tomorrow with beef stew.

Would I bake this again? Yes, now that Autumn is almost upon us this loaf will be making more of an appearance in our household to accompany the hearty stews and soups during the colder months.

Next week? Classic Apple Pie!!!!!!




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This recipe took a while to get around to, my original draft for this post was created on the 2nd of August however it has taken until the 26th of August to finally bake these tasty little treats, and they were well worth the wait.


I was quite dubious about making Jumbles at first as they sounded a little strange if truth be told, lemon flavoured biscuits smothered in honey and sugar? I also wasn’t really a fan of fannying on and shaping them into S shapes as I assumed it would take an absolute age as well as being a disaster but in all honestly it really wasn’t!

The mixture took no time to make at all, you literally just pop all the ingredients into a mixer and turn it on for a few moments and wallah! Biscuit dough. Nice tasting biscuit dough in fact, I probably lost two jumbles straight away due to eating the raw mix, which I know is bad but here we are.

Anyway, after making the mixture you roll a tiny bit of the dough into a little thin sausage and then shape it into an S (or any shape you like from what I can gather) before chilling for 30 minutes in the fridge. After the 30 minutes is up you then transfer them to the oven on low setting until they are golden, however as you are nearing the end of the baking process you turn the heat up and smother the biscuits in honey and sugar before returning to the oven for a few more moments.

My worry about the honey turned out to be silly as in all honestly you can’t really taste the honey at all, in fact the lemon flavour really stands out in these biscuits and they remind me slightly of shortbread texture wise which obviously means they pair up perfectly with a good cup of tea. I think I will end up making these biscuits again in the future due to how quick and easy the process was, however rather than making S shapes I think next time I might make some nice circular biscuits or shortbread shaped biscuits instead.

Next week – Cheese and Celery Loaf.

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Other Small Bakes: Blueberry Muffins

So this week I ended up continuing to bake from the chapter entitled Cupcakes and Other Small Bakes. I pulled recipe 48 – Blueberry Muffins from the pot a little while ago, and if truth be told I just could not find the time to put aside to bake, which I know defeats the point of this challenge but here we are. However after eventually pushing myself into making these muffins one Friday evening before a wonderful thunderstorm hit the North East (which I enjoyed watching with a cup of tea in the dark) I was shocked to discover that these muffins take 10 minutes tops to prepare, and 25 minutes to bake! For some reason in my head I was convinced I would need a good few hours to make these muffins and in reality they were made in a blink of an eye.


I was incredibly worried when I was filling my muffin cases with the cake mix as it was incredibly wet. Wet as in, a little bit of flour mixed with a lot of milk! I re-read the recipe and ingredients list many times before popping the tray into the oven convinced I had missed out a step or a vital ingredient that would help to thicken the mixture but there was none. I honestly had no confidence that this mix would rise at all and that this week’s bake was a total disaster, however when I returned to the oven door 25 minutes later I was greeted by the sight of 12 golden and well raised little muffins all oozing blueberry jam goodness from their tops.


From what I have been told these cakes were quite nice, however I HATE blueberries with a passion so I decided two days later to whip up another batch of these muffins but this time I replaced the blueberries with frozen raspberries instead. I was incredibly worried that the frozen raspberries would create a mixture that had too much liquid (once they began to defrost during cooking) but these muffins were perfect in everyway as well. All in all a good baking week!

Next week: Jumbles.

Lavender & Black Bakes

Other Small Bakes: Eccles Cake

Right so here we are, after a ridiculously busy week I am finally getting around to writing up this post which is all about the Eccles Cakes I made just over a week ago! You may have thought after three baking attempts that I had given up on my little project but fear not I am still here baking away in my limited spare time.


Now this weeks challenge was exactly that as I have never in my life heard of an Eccles cake never mind seen what one is supposed to look like, so when I flicked to the chosen recipe for last week I was a little confused as to what I was actually making. From the list of ingredients and brief method I gathered it was a small current filled pastry. I hate currents. I don’t hate them as much as rice pudding or custard but there pretty far up there on the list of foods I twist my face at.

This recipe was fairly an easy one in all honesty, just a mix of butter, currents, sugar and orange peel encased within two sheets of pastry. I did cheat slightly and I ended up purchasing some Jus-Rol puff pastry which if truth be told ended up being a god send as after the heat wave we have had in the north-east I think attempting to make flaky pastry in a boiling hot kitchen would have ended up an absolute disaster with me rocking in the corner, but I promise I will make pastry from scratch when the next recipe calls for it.

One adjustment I did end up making to this recipe was the size of the Eccles cakes. From the measurements given in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible I think these pastries are meant to be the size of small tea plates, I however cut my pastry with a large scone cutter instead which made them a lot smaller than the recipe called for, yet I believe it was a more manageable size to both cook evenly and to consume afterwards.

So that’s that. The next challenge is Blueberry muffins, and surprise surprise I also dislike Blueberries. I honestly fear this baking challenge is going to end up just highlighting how much of a picky eater I actually am rather than helping me learn to bake tasty treats. Oh well…

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Banoffee Pie – pt 1



Upon further investigation of my mammoth baking task at hand, my brother who was flicking through Mary Berry’s Baking Bible to see what I will be making these next few months discovered that right in the middle of the cook book there is a recipe for a three-tier American style wedding cake.This cake serves up to 100 slices and calls for 38 eggs and lord only knows how much sugar and butter. So yeah, there is a high chance that I have bit off more than I can chew here. Pardon the pun.

This week’s recipe however, I am sure you will be in no way shocked to discover (the title of this post is a huge give away after all) called for me to create a banoffee pie from scratch, or at least something that slightly resembled a banoffee pie. I hilariously wrote in my blog notes that I felt like this recipe would ‘ease me in gently’ and ‘wasn’t as scary as making a swiss roll or a three-tier wedding cake’. How naive and very wrong I was.

The biscuit base was fairly simple to create, smash-up some ginger nuts mix it in with melted butter and line the bottom of the tin with this buttery ginger crumb goodness. Step one complete. It was really step two where I started to lose my way a little. You see as upon opening the cans of condensed milk (which I needed to make the toffee filling for the pie) the smell of rice pudding smacked me in the face and knocked me a little off colour. There’s nothing I dislike more than rice pudding (custard being a close runner-up). After melting my butter and stirring in the sugar until combined, it was time to add the condensed milk. This was going relatively well until I thought ‘oooo if I get a boomerang of the milk pouring into the pan that may look good on my social media’. So I’m sure you can guess the rest, out comes my phone, I stop stirring the milk / sugar / butter mix take a video and…. drop my phone, which slides under the pan, into the flames underneath.


After a little bit of a moment of rescuing what is practically my third limb and composing myself, I popped the pan back onto the hob and began to stir my ‘toffee’ mixture thinking everything would now be okay. How wrong I was. Due to me fannying on for a good 5 minutes and doing everything and anything except what Mary had told me to do aka constantly stir the mixture so it does not burn, my mixture kind of accidentally.. burnt. The mixture also didn’t really resemble toffee but more like gross custard with burnt bits floating in it. So I kind of think it was at this point that I realised that this weeks task wasn’t going to be a raging success. Due to not having any backup ingredients available, I decided to pour the burnt toffee / custard combo on top of the biscuit crumb base and pray to the gods that all will be well in the end.

The mixture actually took quite a long time to cool if truth be told, so I was grateful I had decided to make the pie filling and base quite early on in the day for a change. Once everything was set and cooled to room temperature I whipped  up some double cream, cut up some bananas and popped the last few ingredients on the top of the toffee / custard hybrid I had created. Unfortunately the recipe had called for luxury Belgium chocolate to decorate the top of the pie, however Galaxy chocolate was the most luxury brand my local corner shop seemed to sell so we went with that instead (Apparently there’s not a lot of chocolate connoisseurs in Gateshead). I then popped this all in the fridge, once again prayed that the banana and cream mixture would distract from the failings of the filling and left it all to chill.


Unfortunately my prayers were not answered, and this post doesn’t have a happy ending of ‘we cut into the pie and law and behold the mixture had turned into a silky smooth toffee, and we devoured the entire pie and everyone was happy and laughing away as the sun set, what a fabulous night’.

No, unfortunately the looking very sorry for itself banoffee pie just sort of tasted like nothing. Just very.. meh. All three pieces that were taken got pushed around the plates with tiny spoons as no one dared to take a third bite after the polite first and second, and the rest of the pie made a very sorry for itself noise as it hit the bottom of the bin. Plop. I’m not going to be too deflated about it though, I mean it was honestly a really rank desert and if truth be told I can’t see how the ginger nut base would have worked with the rest of the pie had the toppings actually been a triumph. I have decided to try to make this horror show again pretty soon, rather than giving up completely on banoffee pie forever, however next time I am going to tweak the recipe slightly and I will probably avoid taking photos mid process.

Next week… Eccles Cakes.