Time for a change

As my baking challenge has progressed this year, I’ve realised that perhaps this wasn’t the best challenge for me. I endorse a healthy lifestyle and prescribe diets free from processed food, white flour, sugar and butter for my friends and clients… a far cry from Mary’s recipes. Its with this conviction that I’ve had a really hard time putting the last few week’s of Mary’s recipes together.

SO…. sadly for my Mary Berry Challenge, but happily for our general well being, I’m going to cut short my 52 recipe challenge and start up a new blog that each week will introduce a new healthy recipe made up by me! As many of you know, I already have a secret stash of fabulous healthy alternatives to processed cakes and will spending more time experimenting in my kitchen to invent new recipes.

From time to time I will no doubt pick out a Mary recipe for a special occassion or party, so keep an eye out for the odd indulgent cake or treat! But for now, I’ll be sending out the link to my new blog as soon as its up and running. Hope you’ll keep following me on my new baking journey.

Health, happiness & longevity


Week 33, recipes 31 and 32… English muffins and walnut bread



This week I thought I’d have another stab at Mary’s bread. I make a lot of bread in my bread maker but I’m always a bit unsure of doing it by hand… if never really rises to the occasion!

Both these recipes were really easy. First up the muffins.I did the initial mixing and kneading in my mixer with a dough hook. As with all Mary’s recipes you literally throw it all in and mix. Once it was combined I kneaded it by hand for about 5 mins. Roll it out, cut out circles with a cookie cutter and allow the muffins to rise for about an hour.

This gave me time to get the bread dough on the go. I followed the same method as with the muffins first in my mixer then by hand. The recipe has both chopped walnuts and sunflower seeds. Took me a while to get the seeds together… I forgot to buy seeds to had to extract the cranberries and nuts from our sprinkle mix. Lol. Again leave to rise for about an hour.

The muffins get cooked in batches on a heavy bottom pan. They are delicious and reminded me a bit of a dough we used to have when braa’ing. You’d pack some dough on the end of a stick and put it over the fire to cook. Yummy.

The bread we enjoyed with some tapas and good red wine for a supper picnic in the lounge… left over bread made fantastic toast with peanutbutter the next morning.

I feel rather smug with my bready success.

Week 32, recipe 28, 29 AND 30… bakewell slices, Viennese fingers and banoffee pie




Inviting a few friends over for afternoon tea is the perfect reason to do some serious catching up on my 52 recipe challenge. Its baby season in our friendship circle so with new mums sticking to baby bed time routines, 3pm tea works for everyone.

I wasn’t sure what a bakewell slice was although I’m sure I’ve heard of them before. I love almond flavor and as these have both almond flavor and almond flakes I knew I’d love them. The pastry bottom was quick to make, roll and line the tray. Then smooth on raspberry jam. Easy enough. Then top with a layer of sponge that is a thick gooey batter… darn, I knew it was going too well! I battled to smooth over the jam without mixing the two and couldn’t help wondering how Mary does it.  N’mind it worked out in the end. Top with almond flakes and in the oven it goes. Yum.

Now those Viennese fingers really had me baffled. Mary says to pipe fingers with a bag but I couldn’t get the dough to move through the wide nossel… and as you all know its not for a lack of muscle power! Running out of time (and patience) I gave up, grabbed my biscuit press & punched out fingery shaped biccies. The chocolate dipped ends once they’re baked and cooled is time consuming but they turned out delicious! I was surprised at how much they taste like the bought version.  Our friend’s little girl absolutely loved them and she’s such a sweet angel it was a pleasure to see her delight in them.

Finally the banoffee pie and I have to admit I was getting a little tired after hours in the kitchen!  Mary uses ginger biscuits for her base. Is that the normal bottom for a banoffee pie? I’ll have to investigate coz it makes a fabulous contrast to the caramel. Next layer… caramel which Mary insists you make yourself. I like that about her. Unfortunately I was over zealous with my caramel beating and once set I thought it was a little too thick 😦  next up sliced bananas which my hubby sliced while I whipped the cream. I topped the cream with a generous layer of grated chocolate. I think I’ll try this one again… everyone loved it but lessons learned: a little gentler on the caramel and although Mary says 1 banana and we used 2, I think I may go for 3.

All in all a successful days baking and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the treats. We had a great afternoon catching up and hubby had so many pieces of pie and cake that it saved me cooking dinner.

Week 30, recipe 27… Austrian Curd Cheesecake


Ooo yum. What a fabulous recipe. So quick, so easy and oh my word delicious. I used ricotta cheese as I couldn’t find curd. It has fresh lemon juice and zest for lemony freshness, and well beaten egg whites for fluffiness.
Pop it in the oven for an hour and then leave it in the switched off oven to cool means you wont be making this one in a hurry but its well worth the wait.

We took it to friends for Sunday lunch and it was a winner, even their newly adopted little 5 year old son thought it was tasti-gorgeous. Yay!

Week 29, recipe 25… balsamic glaze focaccia and 26… pecan pie



This week I had some catching up to do and got stuck into 2 recipes for a braai.

The focaccia was quite quick to make and rose well. The red onion balsamic topping was delicious but when it came out and we tucked in I was a little disappointed. It was more like a savoury scone than a bread but every one seemed to enjoy it so what the heck… scone, bread or pie… yum.

The pecan pie is one of my favorites. I’m sure by now you can tell my favorites are all the ones with nuts!  The pastry was really fiddly and I couldn’t get it to roll as instructed by mary. Eventually I kinda pressed it into the low flan dish and got to use my new baking beads to flash bake it. Mary is quite particular about pies not having a soggy bottom so I was careful to get it crisp. Then I took ages to lay the pecans so I could for once have a well presented finish. Finally the filling went in and I popped it in the oven.
I couldn’t wait to get it out the oven, it looked beautiful… then I realised half the filling had leaked out the bottom 😦
N’mind, we had had enough wines over our braai for noone to notice. It was still delicious and my boss even got to enjoy a left over piece on Monday.

Week 28, Recipe 24… Millionaires Shortbread

Millionaires 1

Millionaires 2

I had been putting this recipe off for a while because I have never eaten a truly successful homemade Millionaires Shortbread before – the caramel layer is always too runny.  Now I’m not hugely fond of the store bought version either as I find the biscuit base is over processed and one layer of the treat is always out of proportion to the others.. some places have a ridiculous shortbread brick with a hint of caramel and chocolate and others have a chocolate layer so thick you can get your teeth through it.   With that in mind, I pressed on and decided to make not only a successful caramel layer that stays in between the biscuit base and chocolate topping, but also one with a good proportion of crunchy biscuit, to velvety caramel, to sweet delicious chocolate.

The biscuit basy is dead easy to make – flour, sugar, butter and press into a pan, bake for 20 minutes.  Tah-dah.

The caramel layer has as few ingredients – butter, sugar and condense milk, but I was extra careful in its processing.  Sugar has a tendancy to catch and burn at the bottom of the pan so I kept a close eye on the temperature and stirred it non-stop like a mad lady.  The recipe says let it simmer while stirring for 5 minutes and I truly believe this is where everyone’s home made version fails.  5 minutes doesn’t make the caramel stiff enough.  I did mine for 20 minutes and the end result was perfect.

Finally, the chocolate and to add a bit of fun, I dropped spoons of both milk and white chocolate on to swirl with a knife and create a marbled effect.

I treated friends at a picnic yesterday to a few and brought the rest in to work for my colleagues to try.  The verdict… YUM!!  A perfect Millionaires Shortbread.  Huraah!


Week 28, recipe 23… Apricot and Walnut Sandwich Bars



I was very excited by the recipe for these bars… apricots, walnuts, wholemeal flour, oats. Yum – I imagined a crunchy granola’sh outer with a soft sweet middle. Unfortunately the recipe doesn’t deliver this dreamy idea of a snack bar, instead I landed up with quite crumbly,  not terribly wholesome, mildly tasty apricot’sh bars. Needless to say I am disappointed.  If I have the time or any inclination to do these again, I will definitely try to modify the recipe to make them more chewy and flavoursome.