Mary Berry cookies with a twist

Guess the twist?

I have made Mary Berry’s mega chocolate chip cookies from her Ultimate Cake Book many times. Sometimes I add nuts for a nice crunch. But yesterday I was feeling a bit crazy (a.k.a. sleepy) and made a few changes to it.

I remember back in the day when I started trying this no sugar thing and all recipes for cookies omitted normal baking ingredients like flour, eggs and butter. Since I wasn’t avoiding these, it was a bit annoying as other things were called for which I wasn’t necessarily going to use up. I was happy to move to wholemeal flour but I wasn’t going dairy or gluten free. So I attempted a fructose-free cookie, based on a normal cookie recipe.

To start with, I only made half the recipe and therefore half the cookies. Second, I used wholemeal plain flour and subbed some for cornmeal as an experiment – my mum gave me some at the weekend and I haven’t really thought about how to use it yet. Thirdly, I used dextrose instead of regular sugar. I added a splash of milk to help the dough come together as it seemed very dry. Finally, I only had a very small amount of dark chocolate so I also added the rest of the chopped fudge pieces I used on our son’s birthday cake.

And guess what? They taste ok! Not very sweet as I used exactly the same amount of dextrose as the recipe stated in sugar – dextrose isn’t as sweet as sugar so normally you’d add more. But hubby is happily gobbling them up. One tray came out like cookies and the other tray came out more cake-like. They also really spread out! This might be down to our son’s squashing down technique.

But hey, I’ve made edible no fructose, nut free cookies using slightly crazy ingredients but not so crazy that hubby won’t eat them. Hurrah. Let’s get back on the no sugar wagon!


Trying a friend’s recipe – ‘quin and cheese’

I am slowing down. I have random surges of energy but generally I’m doing things slower. Even putting my socks on is becoming something of a chore at almost 8 months pregnant. I’m also getting clumsier – I broke a glass and a plate in less than 24 hours over the weekend.

I’ve been batch cooking one meal a week so that, in our little freezer, we have about 3 meals for after the baby is born. And I’ve washed baby clothes up to 3 months so we’re kind of ready.

Whilst I am still relatively ‘with it’, I thought I’d try a new recipe. I tried a friend’s recipe which she recently wrote up on her blog and uses up some of the quinoa in the cupboard which has been neglected since we moved house. It’s called butternut squash ‘quin and cheese’.

Butternut squash 'quin and cheese'
Butternut squash ‘quin and cheese’

I thought I was making half the recipe just for the three of us but it made enough for the three of us plus two portions of leftovers for lunches! This could easily have been due to baby-brain. It was really yummy and nice the next day, too. There were a few variations, such as I used cow’s milk and cheddar in the cheese sauce as we had no parmesan, and I used frozen spinach. I also attempted to make the cheese sauce in the microwave on recommendation from another friend, but it doesn’t quite work if you don’t measure your ingredients first!

GBBO – The Final

So it’s all over for another year. Hubby knew who had won when we watched it on Thursday evening and told me that apparently it was a very ’emotional’ episode. And there were a lot of tears from the bakers and even Mary Berry!

We felt it was a disappointing final. I think the right person won, but the challenges weren’t that challenging really. I’m sure that in previous series’ the bakers have had to make several items for their final showstopper rather than just normal cake made pretty. But hey, it’s still good TV.

Dairy free chocolate tart

Onto the chocolate tart that I wanted to make and, for a change, have actually made. We had friends coming over on Saturday night and one is lactose intolerant so I thought I’d look for a dairy free chocolate tart, and BBC Good Food did not let me down! Unfortunately I’m still getting used to the oven in our new house so the pastry was a bit overdone and the filling was probably a bit overdone too, but it tasted nice with some cream and none of the guests were Bake Off judges.

I’ve also had a go at making a sugar free banana bread using up some coconut milk, based very loosely on a Mary Berry banana bread that I normally make. When I say very loosely, I used it to find out how much flour and how many eggs would normally go into banana bread. It doesn’t have any honey or maple syrup, so is really sugar free. All the sweetness comes from the bananas, so make sure they’re over ripe.

It turned out ok. It’s not very sweet and I omitted butter for some reason. I chucked in some desiccated coconut as I had it leftover from making coconut macaroons for after dinner on Saturday. The nuts give a nice crunch. I think chopped up dark chocolate would make it pretty scrummy. Here’s the recipe in case you’re feeling brave:

banana bread
Sugar free banana bread

Banana Bread with Coconut Milk

175g wholemeal plain flour
50g oats
2 tsp baking powder
150ml coconut milk
2 eggs
2 bananas, mashed
50g chopped almonds
handful desiccated coconut (optional)
chopped dark chocolate (optional)

Preheat oven to 175C. Line a loaf tin.

Mix dry ingredients together. Add eggs and coconut milk. Mix well, then stir in the bananas. Add almonds, coconut and dark chocolate, if using.

Pour into loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour.

Another trip to Unico

This seems to be a theme… hubby has a day off for a good reason like our son’s birthday or going away for a few days, it happens to coincide with a day our son is in pre school and we end up visiting Unico!

Unico 2
White chocolate and Nettuno

On Thursday we visited for the second time and tested their outdoor seating, as well as a few new flavours. Hubby tried the white chocolate gelato and nettuno which is almond and amaretto. I had mixed berry and bacio, which contains whole hazelnuts! All very yummy. The mixed berry flavour was so intense. Really good. And it was nice sitting outside in the sunshine at the beginning of October!

We are yet to take our son to Unico. Partly because it would mean that every time we walk past it he’d be desperate to go in (he has good taste!). But partly it’s nice that it’s our little treat once in a while (or twice in two weeks…).

Unico 1
Mixed berry and bacio

They have a new website that is up and running. It shows exactly where they are and there is a list of their flavours.

Whilst we were away at the weekend we visited Morelli’s in Broadstairs. Morelli’s is a pretty famous gelateria as they were probably the first to bring the wonder of gelato to the UK. They’re even in Harrods. However we think Unico tastes even better! Hubby had blood orange and chocolate and I just had one scoop of Nutella. Unico tastes more genuine, so come to Bromley and visit Unico!

GBBO – Episode 9, Ramsgate and Chetna!

We went away for a few days at the end of last week so I only watched episode 9 of GBBO on Sunday night, but I already knew the outcome as I attended a food demonstration by Chetna from last year’s GBBO at Broadstairs Food Festival and of course GBBO was discussed.

A quick overview of episode 9 before Chetna…

Mmm chocolate. I love chocolate. I find it hard to resist anything with chocolate in it or on it. Mmm. Chocolate tart. Mmm. I really want to make chocolate tart. Well done to Flora for winning the technical but I already knew she left so I knew her showstopper wasn’t going to be as good as the other bakers’. I was really impressed with her though because all the way through she has handled criticism pretty well and didn’t cry. On camera, at least. I think the final tomorrow will be a close run between Tamal and Nadya.

Ok, onto our holiday and seeing Chetna. Before we moved we agreed we would try to get away for a few nights before the baby arrives so that we could have some quality family time and be away from house stuff. Originally we were planning to stay in Broadstairs as we had a lovely holiday there two years ago, they have gelato shops and it’s by the beach. However, it was Broadstairs Food Festival so it was hard to find somewhere to stay that was available and within budget. Instead, hubby found a lovely flat for us in Ramsgate which overlooked the beach and we could watch the boats in the harbour from the window. It was amazing!

Broadstairs Food FestivalWe had wonderful weather and quite a packed few days. We arrived on Thursday afternoon (after another tasting at Unico… more to follow), went to Dover Castle on Friday, spent the day in Broadstairs on Saturday at the Food Festival and on the beach, and after church on Sunday stopped off at the Hornby Visitor Centre. There were also trips to the harbour in Ramsgate to watch the boats and eat fish and chips.


Hubby had said I could go to the Broadstairs Food Festival to see Chetna as she was doing a demonstration at 10.30am. It was £5 so hardly breaking the bank, plus it was an hour of being on my own doing something I enjoy. Lovely!

I wasn’t as excited as I thought I would have been, perhaps because I woke up in one of those slightly sad and grumpy pregnancy moods. It was a small group, maybe 80 people and it was fun listening to her talk about GBBO, the application process, what she’s been up to and of course watching her make mango cupcakes.

Unfortunately I hadn’t clicked that there would be some discussion about the current GBBO series and so episode 9 was spoiled for me. Having said that, I thought Flora would probably be leaving in the semi-finals so it wasn’t too much of a surprise.

The rest of the Food Festival was made up mostly of local produce stalls. At 10.10am when I arrived it was fairly quiet and the ideal time to take a look around. Later on in the afternoon when we returned as a family it was packed and not much fun to look around. Most people seemed to be drinking local cider! Hubby bought two bottles of local apple juice but we didn’t buy anything else. We actually went to the bakery in Broadstairs to buy some cake!


GBBO – Episode 8

I watched episode 8 with my mum last week but have been so busy with a small boy’s birthday that I am only just writing up my thoughts now.

My mum is supporting Tamal, and I think I am too. It’s interesting that none of the bakers have been consistently brilliant, and of the remaining bakers only Flora hasn’t won a technical or achieved star baker. I wonder what that means for who will win?

Cream horns. Not something I plan to bake soon (I’m seeing a theme…). I loved that Mary said she wanted them filled all the way to the bottom, just like she wanted the vol-au-vents well filled. But it did seem a bit like the first round was more about flavours than baking.

I’m also sure that in previous series of GBBO, bakers haven’t been so sure about puff pastry and yet this year they can all produce it with their eyes closed! GBBO has clearly taught the nation more about baking.

Ok, seriously, making an eclair tower?! At least there was some room for error as they were given a two-hour lunch break in which they would see whether or not their creations would stay standing. I appreciate that they were a little mean in doing this but as they said, the real ones are expected to stay standing for a few hours.

And moving onto my baking experiences in the last week. I made a simple traybake which baked in a disposable tray and attempted to decorate it by icing digger for our son’s third birthday last week. Decoration is definitely not my strong point. Admittedly I could have tried harder by printing off a picture to use as a template!

Digger cake - from a safe distance
Digger cake – from a safe distance

He saw the cake in the morning, blew out the candles and then I cut it in half and sent half to pre-school for him to share with his friends. This was such a simple way of providing cake for pre-school! I couldn’t be bothered with icing lots of little cupcakes and this way we had some cake for home, too.

We had a family gathering on Saturday to celebrate his birthday again and for this I made his ‘proper’ birthday cake, a Thomas cake, which was surprisingly easy if a little time consuming although that might be due to my present state.

Thomas cake
Thomas cake

I’d seen a few photos online of this idea and made up how I would do it. I made two 4-egg Victoria sponge cakes. One became the base and was sliced horizontally and filled with jam to sandwich it back together. The other was sliced vertically, one half put to one side, and the other half sliced horizontally and filled with jam to be sandwiched together. I also spread jam on half of the cake so that I could stick the top part on. Then it was a case of smothering the cake in buttercream icing as I find it far easier to put it on a cake than fondant icing.

I was pretty chuffed with the outcome given I’m not very good at decorating cakes. I carefully cut a chocolate digestive biscuit to make the tunnel and used tiny pieces of fudge I found reduced in Sainsbury’s as rocks or boulders. Thomas and Harold were on lollipop sticks so that they didn’t get too much icing on them and my mum suggested putting cocktail sticks around them so that they didn’t fall off when we moved it! Simple but effective.


Unico Gelato & Caffe Bromley

Fancy a good gelato? Head to Bromley!

Ever since visiting Sicily four years ago we have been in love with gelato. If we go anywhere, we check to see if there’s a gelateria nearby. We have been known to plan holidays based around the fact that there is a gelateria in the nearby area, such as a holiday to Broadstairs two years ago.

It is hard to find genuine gelato in the UK. If you go to Pizza Express, for example, they advertise their ice cream as gelato but it isn’t gelato. It’s ice cream. Places like Broadstairs and Folkestone have gelaterias which sell yummy genuine gelato. And now we have a gelateria right here in Bromley. This is amazing and also disastrous! The gelato is so good that we think it is the best gelato we’ve ever had outside of Italy. Now that is a bold claim.

Unico Gelato & Caffe

Unico Gelato & Caffe opened at the end of August. They sell coffees, a few bakery items but mostly gelato. We visited on Monday morning, a quiet time on a wet day. They make the gelato fresh so we actually ended up wandering around Bromley for 10 minutes so that we could have fresh pistachio gelato, always our number one choice, when it was ready. Another flavour we wanted to try wasn’t ready and whilst we were sitting eating the gelato we had bought, they brought us a free taster scoop once that flavour was ready!

So I chose pistachio for one scoop and ‘tortino’ which is chocolate with small pieces of chocolate cake in for my second scoop. Hubby chose mascarpone with melted hazelnut chocolate (which is at the bottom of the cup) and ‘bologna’ which is vanilla, egg and something else.

The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable and you can taste before you buy. Two scoops of gelato in a cardboard cup or a wafer cup is £3. The flavour combinations available sound delicious and there is often a sign outside advertising their gelato flavour of the week. They also sell gelato cakes. Yes you read that right. And you can buy tubs of gelato to take home.


A normal gelateria does not have any seating as you buy the gelato and then wander off. At Unico, however, there are a few stools and tables so that you can enjoy your coffee and gelato indoors. Obviously thinking about the English weather. But they are putting some seats outdoors soon.

It’s a shame they weren’t able to open earlier in the summer as that would obviously be prime time to buy gelato. Not that that will stop us dropping by in the middle of January! We really hope they will be successful and stay open.

If you’re in Bromley, go and try some yummy gelato. It is worth every penny.