Baking Book Gift Guide

It is the day after Thanksgiving. 

Sometimes it's also known as Black Friday. In the states after Thanksgiving people start getting ready for Christmas. A lot of families will be putting up trees and other decorations this weekend, along with starting their Christmas shopping.

It makes a bit of sense really, if the stores know that people are going to be shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend then why not entice them in more with some great savings? 

It suits both retailers and shoppers. One makes a lot of money while the other gets some great savings. I don't like the chaos and you will never find me going out on Black Friday, but I don't hate it either.

So, because a lot of people will be starting their shopping this weekend I though I would write up a quick "gift guide" based on baking and cook books that I own. Then at the end of the post I have included my book "wish list" for books I wold love to read!

I have chosen these books because I think they would make great gifts for bakers with particular tastes! Some are just because they are a good read! 

To me it's not just about the recipes, it's about what they have to say as well! I like a cookbook that I can read and get into too! 

Cake by Rachel Allen
This literally has every and any cake you’d ever want to make in it! A great book for cake lovers!

Cake Days and Home Sweet Home by Hummingbird Bakery
Cake Days is the book that really started my baking and blogging life. I can’t recommend it enough. It has amazing recipes perfect for every season. 
Home Sweet Home is just as good! Perfect for a new or experienced baker! 

Chocolat by Eric Lanlard
~ For the chocolate lover in your life! 

Crumb by Ruby Tandoh
It is one of the most informed baking books I have ever read. Perfect for a new baker! 

Fat Witch Brownies by Patricia Helding
I think this has some of the best bars and brownies I have ever come across! Perfect for brownie lovers!

Jamie Magazine
Not a book, but I love this monthly addition to my recipe collecting habit. I should probably get a subscription!

Kitchen by Nigella Lawson
 I find myself engrossed in this book whenever I read it. Perfect for any cookbook lover!

Leon: Family & Friends (book 4) by John Vincent & Kay Plunkett-Hogge
Great book for anyone who likes to cook for their friends and family! 

Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town! by Ms. Cupcake
Not just for Vegans, but a must this Christmas for the Vegan in your life!

Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Perfect gift for ice cream lovers! Make sure they have an ice cream maker!

Robicelli’s A Love Story with Cupcakes by Allison & Matt Robicelli
The funniest and most real cookbook I have ever read. For cupcakes biggest fan! 

Sprinklebakes by Heather Baird
 Need an artistic twist to your baking, then this is the book for you!

Sweet Treats for a Sugar Filled Life, Presented by Cakespy by Jessie Oleson-Moore
 This book is your guide to taking dessert above and beyond your wildest dreams!

The Vintage Sweets book, The Vintage Tea Party Book, The Vintage Tea Party Year by Angel Adoree
If you know someone who loves vintage, afternoon, tea, sweets, parties and more then this is the book for them! 

Warm Bread & Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra
Great read and recipes in this book! Great for someone who loves to learn about food from all over the world. 

Now for the books I wouldn't mind appearing under my Christmas Tree this year!

Bake to Baking: 200 Timeless Recipes to Bake, Share, and Enjoy by Anna Olsen
My Paris Kitchen: Recipes & Stories by David Lebovitz
Sweet by Valerie Gordon
Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan
Baked Elements: The Importance of Being Baked in 10 Favorite Ingredients
& Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking by Johnny Iuzzini & Wes Martin
Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from our Kitchen by Zoe Nathan
Marshmallow Madness!: Dozens of Puffalicious Recipes by Shauna Sever

What is your favorite baking and/or cookbook that you think would make a great gift? Any book that you think everyone you know should own? Just leave a comment below because I am always looking for new cookbooks!!

notes: To see my full list of baking books and a handful of my cookbooks check out the tab above! I really need to update it! All opinions and suggestions are my own I have in no way been compensated for this post by any of the publishers or authors. Please see my contact/policy page for further information. The black box on the top is intentionally a black box. 

Pumpkin Cake for pumpkin pie haters

When I was a child I hated Thanksgiving dinners, everything except the mash potatoes. Dry turkey with weird jelly sauce and cooked carrots, I abhorred cooked carrots! I could eat them raw, but never cooked.

Then there was the desserts pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and so on. I disliked those too. They were too weird and too nutty.

It’s amazing how our tastes change as we grow up. I can tolerate roasted carrots, if I have too. I have learned to enjoy homemade cranberry sauce, still do not like the caned or jarred stuff.

However I didn't have to wait until I was all “grown up” to fall in love with pumpkin pie. 

When I was about 10 we were at a family friend’s Thanksgiving feast and it was there that I was persuaded to try pumpkin pie again.

I am glad that I did because who knows how long it would have taken me to learn that I love pumpkin pie.

Now this post isn't for pumpkin pie, but for a delicious pumpkin cake for those at your Thanksgiving dinner who, like a younger me, hated pumpkin pie.

It has a nice spongy texture with a comforting spicy flavor. The whipped cream and caramel drizzle I added on top complemented nicely! 

Pumpkin Cake

425g pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
200g soft unsalted butter
300g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
300g self-rising flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
150g currants

Heat the oven to 180C and line a 8x11 inch (20x28cm) tin with grease proof paper, allow a bit of an over hang so you can get the cake out of the tin.
Cream the butter and sugar together until lighter in color and a bit fluffy. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until combined. It doesn't look pretty; add the eggs one at a time. It still doesn't look pretty all curdled like, but keep beating. Mix the flour and spices together and sift into the weird curdled mixture. Beat until just combined. Then fold in the currants. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour (60minutes) or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before taking out of the tin and cutting into squares. Serve with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle! Tastes best when warm out of the oven!
You could add some cinnamon to the whipped cream or instead serve with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream or vanilla if you prefer or even caramel ice cream.... I am getting a bit carried away. I will stop now. Enjoy!

notes: recipe was adapted from Rachel Allen’s book Cake, if your pumpkin pie haters hate pumpkin pie because of the spices then chances are they will hate this cake too, but if it's because of the texture then it's a safe bet they'll love it! For homemade cranberry sauce check out my previous post here

Morphy Richards Slow Cooker GIVEAWAY (ended) & Quorn Cheesy Ravioli

Today I have a brand new Morphy Richard’s slow cooker to giveaway to one of my readers!

It is an oval shaped slow cooker, with a 3.5 litre removable ceramic pot, and a toughened glass lid.

I don’t know how I would survive without my slow cooker! It is not like I use it every day, but it is very useful when I have a busy day a head of me. Which usually happens at least once a week.

There are so many things you can make in a slow cooker! Soups and stews are a given, but you can also make curries and puddings and gammon and pulled pork and so much more!

My girl’s favorite slow cooked meal is this Cheesy Ravioli! I make it with Quorn, a meat alternative, but please feel free to use beef or lamb mince with whatever choice of sausages you prefer. Just cut the casings off before chopping them up.

The thing is with this time of recipe you can easily make it your own. I generally use cheddar cheese, but mozzarella works just as well!

Cheesy Ravioli:

200g Quorn mince
250g Quorn sausages, sliced
1 jar, tomato sauce
1 can, chopped tomatoes
dried basil, to taste
salt & pepper
1 package, cheese ravioli
shredded cheese

Brown off the mince and sausages for a few minutes in a little bit of oil before placing in the bottom of the slow cooker top with the jar of tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes. Season according to taste I sometimes add a little bit of garlic salt instead of regular salt gives it something different. If not using garlic salt add a pinch of salt and pepper. Leave to cook on low for 4-6 hours. This will depend on the slow cooker. It can be left for longer if need be. Before serving stir in some grated cheese, but leave a little to top it off with!

The possibilities are endless when it comes to what you can make in the slow cooker! If you'd like a shiny new slow cooker of your own follow the instructions below for your chance to win this Murphy Richard's slow cooker!

UPDATE: Giveaway has ended a winner has been chosen!

Press File Print Murphy Richards Slow Cooker

The giveaway is in association with Press File Print. Press File Print can provide a wide range of products and services for further information please visit the website or email 

notes: Just remember the glass lid can not go in the oven, my friend placed hers in the oven for some reason and it melted the plastic handle. T&C's are listed in the widget, but please note you must have a UK mailing address. A winner will be picked by random and will be notified by email, please take note of the ending date and check your email. If you do not respond within 7 days a new winner will be chosen.

Bread & Butter Pudding {recipe review}

When it comes to baking I am one of two extremes. I love crazy flavor combinations, once I had pepper and caramel on top of vanilla ice cream. It was amazing!

Yet, I love simple classic food combinations too, like strawberries and cream. So, basically I am the most contradictory person I know. That about sums it up really.

Recently I was approached and asked if I would like to try a recipe from Sunrise Senior Living. It’s a company that provides assisted living for the elderly. With an aim to encourage independence, preserve dignity and enable freedom of choice for all their residents.

Of course I said I’d love to try the recipe for Bread & Butter Pudding! Desserts are my thing, clearly!

The recipe was clear and easy to follow and to top it off it tasted great! Especially with the suggested vanilla custard!

Simple ingredients, most of which can be found in any cupboard, and a clear instructions you can’t go wrong with this recipe! Anyone any age could make this Bread & Butter Pudding. 

I have never made Bread & Butter Pudding in layers like this before, which I thought was an easier way to make it really. Just butter the bread and layer it up!

Because of the size of my baking dish I only had two layers, I would have liked at least three. That was the only thing not stated in the recipe - what size of baking dish to use. I could have done another layer I suppose, but then I would have had to adjust the rest of the recipe as well. 

Overly all the pudding was a real hit with my family! It is a classic for a reason! 

notes: This post is an association with Sunrise Senior Living and the recipe can be found on their site here along with many other recipes that are easy and sound delicious! All opinions are my own for more information please see my contact/policy page. 

Christmas Chocolate Brownies

Christmas is the season for giving!

One of the easiest gifts to give is a box of chocolate. It’s an easy gift to bring to any party or for that awkward relative you only see at Christmas.

Sometimes you will be the one throwing the party and sometimes you will be the awkward relative and you will end up with a lot of boxes of chocolate.

There is only so many boxes of Celebrations, Roses, and Quality Streets that one person or even one family can consume.

The thing is you can’t even re-gift them because everyone has so many of them! Chocolate may be an easy gift to give, but also very easy to incorporate in baking! 

My favorite way to use up chocolates is in brownies. Especially the chocolates that you don’t like, because the flavors just sort of blend into the brownies. However, you still add in the good ones so you get a good surprise when you get a bite of your favorite, like a strawberry cream. Yum! 

I discovered a brownie recipe last summer and have used a variation of it since then. Here is one such variation! 

Christmas Chocolate Brownies

150g dark chocolate
150g milk chocolate
250g salted butter
400g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
140g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
200-250g leftover chocolate box chocolates, chopped up

Heat the oven to 180C. Line a brownie pan or 8 in square cake tin. Melt the chocolate, butter, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Once completely melted, whisk in the eggs one by one until completely incorporated. Then sift the flour and cocoa powder together and fold in. Pour in prepared pan and sprinkle the chopped up leftover chocolates on the top gently press them into the batter, but not so they sink completely in. Bake for 30-35 minutes depending on preference of gooeyness.

If brownies don’t appeal to you check out some of the other ways I have used up chocolate for different holidays:

Creamy Cranberry Pie with a Pretzel Crust

This is an awkward post to write. The pie looks beautiful and it tastes good. However it’s not what I was expecting.

Expectations can make or break anything.

If there is a movie that has great reviews saying it’s the funniest movie in a decade; naturally the expectations will be high for a hilarious movie. Once the movie has been viewed and there was only a laugh here or there, disappointment will inevitably follow.

If reviews hadn't been seen previous to viewing the same hypothetical movie, the laughs may have been the same, but as there were no expectations there wouldn't be any disappointment.

I wanted this pie to be more cranberry and less cream cheesey. There was a lack of tartness that I was expecting from the cranberries to balance out the cream cheese and whipping cream.

It could have been because I used homemade cranberry sauce or it could just be the recipe? Plus the recipe for the filling made way too much. Almost enough for a whole other pie!

I saw the recipe in a Better Home and Gardens magazine I picked up when I was in America and immediately knew I wanted to make it. It looked like the perfect addition to any Thanksgiving dessert menu. My expectations were high being a Better Home and Gardens recipe as my sister swears by them.

Saying that this isn't a bad pie, it is definitely creamy so it delivers on the title. It also reminds me more of a cranberry cheesecake than that of a cranberry pie.

Plus, the salty pretzel crust is amazing and it does help balance the sweet creaminess of the pie.

It’s not bad! I just wanted it to be something different!

The recipe is available on the Better Home and Gardens site here, if you are interested in making it for your holiday season. Hey, you never know after reading this your expectations may be extremely low and therefore it will taste pretty darn good.

If I were to tweak it I would start by possibly halving all the ingredients. Then I think I would eliminate the sugar from the pie filling. The reason being that there is a lot of sugar in the homemade cranberry sauce and I don’t know that the pie actually needed it.

notes: If you are interested in this recipe in grams and milliliters instead of ounces and cups let me know I did convert it! 

Cranberries! Cranberries! Cranberries! {sauce, butter, sugared}

The only time I have used cranberries in my baking was for granola bars and I think once in cookies. They aren't a berry I tend to think of very much. I thought now, with Thanksgiving and then Christmas around the corner, it would be as good as time as any to change that.

Here are 3 ways I used fresh cranberries in preparation for my holiday dinners! 

Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without a side of cranberry sauce. When I was young, the very look of the stuff put me off even wanting to try it. It was a weird red jelly like subsistence that came from a can. And even weirder people ate it with turkey. My younger self thought that very odd. Since I have started cooking my own Thanksgiving dinners I have understood better what the side dish could really add to a turkey dinner! Or to a turkey sandwich... umnum! 

I thought this Thanksgiving I would try making my own cranberry sauce from scratch. It is a very simple process and the cranberries themselves contain enough pectin to thicken without having to add any gelatin.

Cranberry Sauce

454g fresh cranberries
400g sugar
450ml water

Wash and rinse the cranberries removing any smooshie cranberries or stems.
Weigh out the sugar and add the water into a medium saucepan and heat on a low/medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves.
Add the cranberries. Turn up the heat slightly and watch as the cranberries start to burst! Once they are all burst and the sauce is slightly thickened, then take off the heat and chill for at least 3 hours. I jarred the sauce in 4 old jam jars. It makes quite a bit, but all the more to share with friends and family! Or just half the recipe!

Instead of offering a side of cranberry sauce with your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner why not offer a slice of cranberry butter! It works great on any dinner roll or spread on turkey! Or even better for those leftover turkey sandwiches! 

This cranberry butter makes a great gift too! If you don’t think you will need as much as this recipe please feel free to half it. It will keep in the fridge for a week and frozen for about 6 months as long as it’s properly wrapped and stored.

Cranberry Butter

250g unsalted butter
150g cranberry sauce

Beat the butter and cranberry sauce together for a few minutes until fully combined. It may look like it won’t come together, but keep beating it, it will come together!

Another way to use fresh cranberries is to make them all sugary! It works as a great way to top pies and cakes and other baked treats!! This is a little sticky and I used light corn syrup, which isn’t readily available in the UK. If you have a big Tescos near you that has a world food section, they sell it there. It’s where I found mine. You could try using golden syrup, but it has a yellowy tint, so not 100% sure how it would work?

Sugared Cranberries

light corn syrup
sugar, granulated

The amount of each depends on how many you need or want for the baked treat you are making.
Lightly brush with a pastry brush a cranberry with the corn syrup and then immediately roll in the sugar. Set aside or unto your baked good!

Up next week Creamy Cranberry Pie! 

Monkey Bread

No one really knows where the name for this cinnamon sugar covered bread came from. It is possible it got its name because it resembles the fruit from a monkey-puzzle tree.

Once you've tasted it you won’t really care where the name came from only where you can you get some more!

It first appeared in women magazines in the USA back in the 1950’s. It has recently become popular because of the blogging world! It seems I have quite literally seen it everywhere in the last year or so.

Therefore it was no surprise when I saw a recipe appear in Ruby Tandoh’s book Crumb. I thought it was about time I tried it out for myself.

Monkey Bread reminds me a lot of a cinnamon roll, it’s the same components just differently executed. Chopped pecans or almonds could easily be layered between the dough balls before the second rise.

It’s super easy to make, like all yeast type bakes it’s more just the time. My kitchen is particularly cool so unless I move it into the lounge to rise sometimes it feels like it takes forever to rise properly.

But it’s well worth the time invested! It is a great way to get a sugar fix!

Monkey Bread

250ml full-fat milk
400g strong white flour
7g instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
30g unsalted butter, softened

Gently heat the milk in a small saucepan until it’s warm to the touch. Stir the flour and yeast together, then stir in the salt. Pour in the warm milk and add the soft butter. Mix with a wooden spoon until it’s combined enough to use your hand to bring it together to form a soft dough. Very lightly dust the work surface and knead for 10 minutes. It should become elastic and have a smooth shine to it. Leave in a bowl to rise for at least an hour.

80g unsalted butter, melted
2 ½ tsp cinnamon
100g light brown sugar

Grease a bundt pan with some of the melted butter. If it’s not greased the bread won’t come out of the tin. Mix the cinnamon sugar with the brown sugar and leave aside in a bowl. Once the dough is raised, break into small balls the size of a walnut. Then dip in the melted butter and then the light brown sugar, before placing in a very well greased bundt pan. Don’t worry about how they are placed in the bundt pan. Once all the sugar coated dough balls are in the pan leave to rise for another hour or until doubled in size. Heat the oven to 180C and once it’s heated and the dough has risen bake for 30 minutes.
Once it’s done tip it out on to a plate immediately and only wait a few minutes until it’s cool to the touch to start ripping off pieces! 

notes: Adapted from Ruby Tandoh’s Crumb, which I reviewed here.

Baking For the Love of It {book review Crumb by Ruby Tandoh}

Every time I write a book review I always feel it important to say that I don’t buy baking books any more. But that’s just not true; I do still buy baking and cook books.

The truth is I’m just pickier about which ones I buy. My shelves really are straining from the weight.

I hadn't known that Ruby Tandoh from the Great British Bake Off had written a book. When I had wondered into my local Sainsbury’s and saw it on the shelf curiosity got the best of me and I had a look through.

It visually appealed to me and after I read the intro I found myself putting it in my basket. I tend to stalk and contemplate a book with great scrutiny until I finally buy it. It’s like my husband when he’s deciding on some electronic gadget. However with this book it just felt right in my hands.

That probably sounds weird, but it’s true.

Once I sat down with a nice cup of coffee and started to read I was very impressed. It is more then just recipes; it’s a genuine intro to baking. If I were teaching Baking 101 I would have this on top of my list for recommended reading.

It’s informative not only of the how to of baking but of the why. Which is refreshing after the amount of baking books that to no fault of their own can leave a lot to guessing.

The book covers the basics of basic baking with the ability to take what you've learned and experiment on your own. The chapters include: Cake, Bread, Sweet Dough, Biscuits, Puddings & Desserts, Pies & Tarts, Pastries, and Extras.

There are quite a few recipes I wouldn't mind having a go of for instance the Orange & White Chocolate Loaf Cake or her Cornish Splits and I have always wanted to make Monkey Bread! I think I will have a lot of fun experimenting with this book!

There is a wealth of first hand experience in this book and I really enjoyed reading it! 

notes: I bought this book for my collection at Sainsbury's for 9.99 it came with an exclusive Sainsbury's booklet with a handful of extra recipes. All opinions are my own please see my contact/policy page above for more information. Stay tuned for the first recipe I tried from the book!