Raspberry Swirl Biscuits

raspberry swirl cookiesLast week I spent a couple of days at Seasoned teaching groups of secondary school children how to bake. This was one of the recipes they made. I chose this recipe as it is a twist on traditional baking and they had to use both team work and perseverance to get the recipe to work. They all did fabulously well and as the coach pulled away from the building I could see everyone opening their cookery tin with glee and delving into the biscuits.

Hands up I do use big fat fake raspberry flavouring in these. It doesn’t taste anything like real raspberries but has a nostalgic taste. If you wanted you could try adding powdered dried raspberries to the pink dough for a bit of authentic berry. I get raspberry flavouring in Asda.

As for the colour I use gel dyes as they don’t water down the dough and you get an intense colour. I just used a small amount of red to get this pink colour

The key to working with doughs like this is to chill the dough and then chill it even more. You can even freeze the dough meaning you can have freshly baked biscuits at your disposable. This could be seen as a good or a bad thing.

Raspberry Swirl Biscuits

Makes 20-30 biscuits

  • 220g butter
  • 220g caster sugar
  • 1 egg, large
  • 2 tsp raspberry flavouring
  • 370g plain flour
  • red or pink food dye gel
  • hundreds and thousands


  1. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then mix in the egg and raspberry flavouring. Sift in the flour and mix until you have a smooth, well combined dough.
  2. Split the dough in half, colour one of the pieces with the food dye gel. If you are using a stand mixer put this half of the dough back in the mixer add a small amount of dye and beat until colour well mixed into the dough.
  3. Place one piece of dough between two sheets of baking parchment. Roll out until dough is around 4mm thick and slightly smaller than an A3 piece of paper. Repeat with the other ball of dough, then chill the dough sheet for 30 minutes.
  4. Take the dough of the fridge, remove one side of the baking parchment then flip one piece of dough on top of another. Place the baking parchment on top and roll the dough a bit more to help the two layers to merge. Then starting with the long side tightly roll the dough into a long sausage. I find this easier to do by rolling the dough towards me. Wrap well in clingfilm. Roll the dough back and forth to get a tight cylinder and get rid of any bubbles in the dough. You’re aiming to roll a cylinder that has a diameter of around 4cm.
  5. Unroll the clingfilm and place this and the dough in a shallow baking tray. Sprinkle a generous amount of sprinkles over the dough and roll it over to embed the sprinkles in the dough. Of course you can do this stage without the baking tray but a warning – hundreds & thousands roll for miles. Wrap the dough back up and place it back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.

    If you wanted to freeze some of the dough do it at this stage.
  6. Preheat the oven to 160°c (fan)/180°c then take the dough out of the fridge and cut into rounds about 4mm thick. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 12-15 minutes until they are only just beginning to turn golden brown. Just be careful, due to the sugar content of the biscuit they can go from uncooked to burnt in a very short time
  7. Once the biscuits have baked transfer to wire rack and leave to cool completely.

baked raspberry swirl biscuits

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2013/07/15/raspberry-swirl-biscuits/

My new plant obsession (The Garden – July 2013)

David Austin rose Heathcliff

The garden has been a long time coming but it’s wonderful that it’s back and the days of sun we’re having at the moment is making it thrive. It’s interesting seeing how the garden has transformed in just a couple of months. I also have a new addiction: buying plants, in particular flowers. Having all this new space means I have to fill it and in this garden it doesn’t have to be edible. The last week of hot weather has made me really fall in love with our garden. The colour, textures and that the two seating areas we have are glorious to sit in at certain times of the day.

forest of carrots

I’ve had a love of David Austin roses for a few years, but only until now have I been able to unleash my passion. Hey they are beautiful to look at and far less calories than cake. The first rose in my collection is a double flower rose called Heathcliff. The colour of it is an amazing deep crimson/fuchsia pink. It’s taking quite a lot of will-power not to buy anymore roses to add to my collection. I have Queen of Sweden & Winchester Cathedral in my sights. As beautiful as the Alan Titchmarsh rose (yes you read that right) I can’t bring myself to buy a rose called Alan.

raised bed

While I’ve got a bit obsessed with flowers Hubs has been busy over the last week building the raised beds and shifting lots of mushroom compost to fill them. As we had no garden to get our veg plants started earlier in the year we took advantage of a sale at a local council run garden centre and picked up an amazing seven fruit and vegetable plants for just £9. The haul included tayberry, loganberry, golden raspberry, dwarf purple french beans and some golden beetroot. They were chosen not only for the crop they produce but also the colours they will give to the garden. Yes I’m turning into a vain gardener. However our neighbour’s cats have taken an instant dislike to these new beds. We will win.

The grapevine is doing very well in its new place; buds are forming that will flower in the coming weeks. Plus the latest addition to my herb garden is culinary lavender. I’m not a big fan of it in baking, but want to experiment and lavender is always good for bees and butterflies.

culinary lavender

The biggest surprise is a plant that snuck into a planter brought from the old house. A couple of years ago we planted some white alpine strawberries but they were frankly rubbish, then this year a little shoot began to flourish. Even if the crop is quite small these white strawberries are amazing little fruits. If you ever get the chance to grow them you must. The flavour of them bursts in your mouth as you bite them like intense, juicy, strawberry sweets. They taste unlike any strawberries I’ve eaten before.

tiny white alpine strawberries

However it hasn’t been plain sailing. It’s almost as if we’re back to square one learning about gardening, we’re almost making it up as we go along. The clematis that came with the house appears to have clematis wilt and I managed to rapidly kill the housewarming hyacinth within 24 hours of it being put outside but it  has been replaced with a new one.

raspberry cane

Just hoping even with daily watering the lawn doesn’t get too parched. Now I can’t imagine me saying that last year.



Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2013/07/11/the-garden-july-2013/

Custard Powder Pavlova

Custard powder pavlova topped with strawberries

Every good cook has a secret ingredient up their sleeves that can transform a recipe. Sometimes the ingredient is a long-term favourite or an accidental discovery. I’ve known for a while that a cheeky spoonful of cornflour to meringue mixture gives the centre that glorious chewiness that most shop bought meringues lack. I’ve also used cornflour in sponge mix to make them fluffier.

Piped pavlova base

Bird’s Custard Powder was invented by Mr Bird for his wife who was allergic to the main ingredient in traditional custard; eggs. Custard powder is essentially vanilla flavoured cornflour with a pinch of salt and tiny bit of colour, so I decided if bog-standard cornflour works in meringue surely custard powder must work too. As well as the chewy meringue centre, the custard powder gives subtle vanilla taste along with a golden colour. Similar hue to when you make meringues with golden caster sugar. Of course if you don’t have custard powder to hand just use cornflour.

Custard powder pavlova base with red  swirls

What I love about pavlova is that they are the kind of dessert that everyone loves and this was perfect for our housewarming BBQ. It was made even sweeter when one of my pupils gave me a couple of punnets of deliciously sweet local strawberries grown on her parent’s farm. In fact if you have bought some strawberries from a certain supermarket recently it’s likely you will have eaten some from this particular farm.

Meringue, cream and strawberries. A perfect summertime combination.

Custard Powder Pavlova
Serves 8-12

  • 3 egg whites
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon custard powder
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • punnet of strawberries


  1. In a clean metal bowl whip the egg whites until you have soft peaks.
  2. While continuing to whip the eggs whites (this is when a free-standing mixer comes in handy) add the sugar one tablespoon at a time waiting 5 seconds before adding the next spoonful. You’ll notice the egg whites begin to take on a glossy appearance.
  3. Sprinkle the custard power over the meringue and whisk for a further 5 seconds.
  4. Using a metal spoon (to help make sure the egg whites don’t collapse) transfer the mixture into a piping bag then on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment pipe a base with an approximate diameter of 8 inches.
  5. Use the remaining meringe mixture to pipe blobs (technical term) around the edge of the base. To get the  coloured swirls, dip a clean cocktail stick in some red food dye then swirl in the blobs.
  6. Bake at 140°c for 1 hour then without opening the door, switch off oven then leave in the oven overnight to finish drying out.
  7. When ready to serve beat the whipping cream until you have soft peaks. Spoon on top of the meringue then top with fresh strawberries.

Custard Powder Pavlova with strawberries

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2013/06/18/custard-powder-pavlova/

Berry, Cherry & Almond Bread

Berry Cherry and Almond Bread - Butcher Baker

Dried fruit is a bit of a Marmite; people either love or hate it. I really like it. As well as dried fruit I love the combination of cherries and almonds. There is something so sweet and succulent when the two flavours are paired which probably goes a long way to say I adore, nay obsessed, with anything Bakewell flavoured. Dried fruit can work out quite expensive especially when it comes to the more unusual mixes, but the berry & cherry mix I used in this recipe was a bargain 80p bag from Lidl.

cherry berry and almond bread

We’ve been in our new house for a good few months now but today was the first time I’ve made any form of bread (pizza & calzone dough doesn’t count). This recipe uses one of my favourite enriched dough packed with egg, butter and a generous sprinkling of sugar. It’s a pleasure to work with and tastes just as good. What makes it even better is that the sugar melts out of the filling during baking and leaves a gorgeous hard caramel layer on the bottom of the bread.

At the moment we have a rule in the house: sweet, treat baked goods can only be made on special occasions. We have a big wedding to attend in the next few weeks and frankly I’m struggling to fit in my dress; at least I know my amazing Sheena Holland creation will fit. Today I have a good friend coming for a housewarming lunch so I think this is a suitable enough occasion to bake.

close up of cherry berry and almond bread

What you can’t tell from the photos is that I had to flake the almonds by hand as I realised I had run out and was too lazy to walk to the shops. This method is not exactly recommended. You need a very sharp knife, a steady hand and long fingerails to pin the almond down.

Berry, Cherry and Almond Bread
Serves 8

For the dough

  • 225g strong white bread flour
  • 25g soft light sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp fast action yeast
  • 90ml warm milk
  • 25g softened butter
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 medium egg, beaten

For the filling

  • 75ml cherry or berry juice (I use juice from a Ribena carton)
  • 120g mixed dried berries (cherries, blueberries, cranberries and raisins)
  • 25g butter, softened
  • 30g soft light sugar
  • 30g demerara sugar
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

For the topping

  • 20g soft light sugar
  • 25g softened butter
  • 25g flaked almonds
  • 50g icing sugar


  1. Put all the dried fruit in a saucepan with the berry juice. Bring to the boil then take off the heat. Allow the fruit to soak up the juice. When you are ready to use the fruit drain off any remaining juice.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. In a jug mix together the milk, softened butter, almond extract and beaten egg. Make a well in the centre of the flour then pour in the milky mix. Mix to make a soft dough then knead until smooth. The dough can seem a bit sticky. As tempting as it may be don’t add extra flour. The dough needs to be this silky, sticky texture.
  3. Cover the dough and prove until doubled in size. Due to the amount of yeast and sugar in the dough this does happen quite fast. On a warm day in my kitchen this can happen within 45 minutes.
  4. Lightly flour your work surface. Roll out the dough (no need to knock it back) to a rectangle measuring about 15 x 9 inches. If you get the edges as square as you can it will help when rolling the dough later.
  5. Dot the softened butter for the filling as evenly as you can over the dough. Sprinkle the two sugars, cinnamon and soaked fruit on top.
  6. Roll up the dough along the long edge, as though you were making a Swiss Roll. Turn the roll over so that the seal is underneath. Make a cut down almost the whole length of the roll. Twirl the two “legs” of the dough together then form into a round.
  7. Place the dough circle on a lined baking tray and leave to prove until the dough has doubled in size. Sprinkle the remaining soft light sugar and flaked almonds over the top of the buns then dot with the softened butter.
  8. Bake at 180°C, for 20-25 minutes until bread is risen and golden. Allow to cool on the baking tray.
  9. Mix the icing sugar with a small amount of boiled water to make a glace icing then drizzle this over the bread.

cut through of berry cherry and almond bread

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2013/05/29/berry-cherry-almond-bread/

Peanut Butter and Pretzel Cookies

pretzels and peanut butter toll house morselsI’m the kind of person who walks excitedly down foreign food aisles and am a sucker for any product I’ve never seen for sale in the UK before. I’m the same when I am on holiday. I have to return with foods to try at home; it also helps I have a globetrotting brother to sends me food products from far-flung places. Now I should point out it’s not always the finest of foods I’m drawn to but also the more unusual junk or baking foods hence these peanut butter morsels brought back from the US for me (Nigella has a lot to answer for).

When you move house you get lots of housewarming guests so a well stocked biscuit tin is essential if you want to be a good host.

peanut butter morsel and pretzel cookie mix

There is something I love about both pretzels and peanut butter. I think it’s the salty sweet taste you get from both and when paired together even better. The pretzels help give the cookies texture. I’ll have to be honest I’m not sure peanut butter morsels are available in the UK apart from buying them online. If you can’t get hold of them replace the peanut butter morsels with 25g chocolate chips and 50g crunchy peanut butter.

These biscuits won’t win any prizes for their looks as the mixture uncontrollably spreads, but they make up for it with taste. The dark sugars used in the cookies give them a slight burnt caramel taste that goes well with the salty peanut butter and pretzels.

peanut butter and pretzel cookie dough

Peanut Butter & Pretzel Cookies
Makes 18

  • 125g butter, melted
  • 50g demerara sugar
  • 125g soft dark sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g milk chocolate and peanut butter morsels
  • 20g mini salted pretzels, broken up slightly
  • pretzels for decoration


  1. Preheat oven to 180oc.
  2. Mix both sugars into the melted butter and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Beat in the egg then stir in the plain flour and baking powder.
  4. Fold in the morsels and broken pretzels then put dessert spoonfuls of the mixture on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. These cookies spread significantly so I usually spoon the mixture over 3 baking trays otherwise you’ll end up with one giant cookie.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes then allow to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack and allowing to cool completely. Yeah right. Eat warm with a cup of tea or use to sandwich a glorious dollop of caramel ice cream.

pretzel and peanut butter cookies



Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2013/05/11/peanut-butter-and-pretzel-cookies/

The new garden – May 2013

pear tree blossom

With a new house comes a new garden to play with. It’s significantly different from our last place. We’ve swapped a tiny, no-so-private courtyard with raised beds that overlooked the fields to a “grown-up” garden with lawn, patio, grass, trees and flowers slap bang in the middle of suburbia. I certainly don’t miss sitting on our crowded courtyard wondering if a mouse was about to run out from the wood store I was sitting next to.

Before now we’ve only ever known a garden with fruit and vegetables, now we have a host of new plants and completely different soil to work with. You could say it’s a bit of pot luck and the last few months have been a steep learning curve.

herb garden

From the old house I brought with me my cherished herb garden grown in big planters, our grapevine that was a wedding present 6 years ago plus a tiny white alpine strawberry plant that managed to seed itself another planter. As it turns out we moved at the perfect time to transplant a grapevine thanks to advice from Mark Diacono. The extended cold snap helped to keep the vine dormant until we could replant it and over the last week we’ve spotted the leaf buds are beginning to appear. Everything else came with the new house.

grapevine buds

As we bought the house during a winter that seemed to go on for ever, we’re only beginning to see the garden come in to life now and interestingly it appears to include plants I wanted to put in the garden in the first place. We have tulips in some beautiful colours (including what appears to be the stunning Queen of the Night variety), cherry blossom, lots of muscari, a small pear tree, clematis, rose, day lillies, honeysuckle and more.

young clematis leaves

At the weekend we planted a Katy apple tree which we’ve decided to train against a wall to turn it in to an espalier. This means it has been seriously lopped to get it to grow in the right direction.

Katy apple espalier blossom

Currently we have no vegetables. The raised beds in the garden are not in the best condition so they are going to be rebuilt and all I’ve asked is that I can grow golden raspberries, possibly my favourite fruit in the whole world. There is also talk of the pizza oven and outdoor kitchen that Hubs dreams of being built to go with the tandoor oven.

white alpine strawberry blossom

We seem to have lots of worms and bees in the garden which is good along with the odd swallow that has joined us in the evenings recently. We’ll ignore the prevalence of pigeons and collared doves. So here’s to a new garden chapter for us and my goodness do we have so much to learn.

honeysuckle leaf

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2013/05/10/the-new-garden-may-2013/

Baked Stuffed Peppers

oven baked stuffed peppers

There is no denying it that living on a diet of empty food cupboard concoctions and quickly grabbed meals from the supermarket while waiting to move house wasn’t the best for the waistline so I’ve banned baking recently. However unpacking all my cookbooks has brought some gems out that had laid in dusty storage for a while. As its bank holiday this coming weekend I can guarantee there will be some sort of baking to celebrate this.

Aside from the lack of baking I’ve had to do recipe development for my school cookery club. Each term I like to mix in all different sides of cookery from the baking to the raw. Whenever you teach cookery in schools, in particular primary, there are lots of restrictions you have to take in to account:

  • Age of kids
  • budget
  • size of class
  • available equipment
  • any ingredient restrictions etc.

For this particular school rules are: no nuts, 90 minutes for class (never ever underestimate how long it takes a child to cook) and a couple of catering ovens that only I have access to. The children can see in to the catering kitchen but are not allowed in on H&S grounds. Now can you understand how tricky it can be teaching cookery in schools and that it is often never given the justice it deserves? Bearing all of this in mind this term we are making:

  • Jam Tarts – linked to St Georges day
  • Cheesy breadsticks – simple introduction to breadmaking
  • Cornflake cookies – from Things we Make
  • Baked Stuffed Pepper
  • Raspberry Cheesecake – hoping summer may finally be here when we make this

In cookery club as well as learning cookery skills it is also a chance to introduce the kids to foods, tastes and textures they may not be familiar with without pushing them too much out of their comfort zone. Kids are more likely to try new things when surrounded by their peers. At the same time the recipe must be easily accessible. You want the child to feel inspired to make the recipe again at home. You don’t want to be using expensive, obscure, hard to source ingredients as I believe that can put both kids and parents off.

stuffed peppers

Due to equipment and time limitations I am cheating with the ratatouille. Asda do a good tinned version that works well in this recipe. You can use different coloured peppers but bear in mind red ones are sweeter.

Baked Stuffed Peppers
Serves 1

  • 1 red pepper
  • 30g cous cous
  • 70g (around 3 heaped dessert spoonfuls) of ratatouille
  • 40g feta cheese
  1. Carefully slice the pepper in half along its length then pull out the centre with the seeds. Try and keep the bowl of the pepper intact.
  2. Pour the couscous in a bowl and just about cover with boiled water. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 5 minutes.
  3. Once the couscous is cooked fluff up with a fork then stir in the ratatouille.
  4. Crumbe the feta cheese in to the couscous mix and stir until well combined.
  5. Share the couscous mix between the peppers.
  6. Place the peppers in a baking tin then cook at 200°c for 20-25 min until pepper is soft. Can be served hot or cold.




Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2013/05/01/baked-stuffed-peppers/

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