This is how baking tends to happen in my house:
- I decide that I want to make … something. In this case, a classic Bakewell slice that the Toot Hansell W.I. would nod knowingly at, with the recognition of one home baker for another.
- I start searching for recipes. After falling down several rabbitholes (and often changing my mind entirely about what I want to make), I decide on anywhere from about three to five (or more) recipes that I like. Apparently I’m incapable of liking just one.
- I mash all the recipes together to create one Franken-recipe that I think should work, then randomly change things, usually because I don’t have the right ingredients, or just don’t like something.
- Oven on, bowls out, flour starts flying … and about halfway through I realise I don’t have all the ingredients needed for my Franken-recipe or any of the actual recipes.
- Shrug, then substitute with varying degrees of success.
- Wonder why the resulting dish is completely unlike the photos, and has taken less/more time to bake.
- Eat it anyway, because it’s usually really good, even if it’s about as closely related to my initial idea as I am to a puffer fish.
I did have good intentions with the Bakewell tart, mind. It feels very Women’s Institute, perhaps because of the dollops of lovely jam and neat pastry work that goes into it. And while I’ve never been a fan of the Cherry Bakewell, which is the one you normally run across in shops in the UK (they’re topped with tooth-achingly sweet almond icing and – ugh – a glacé cherry), the classic Bakewell is a delight of soft frangipane and tart jam, all supported by a sturdy yet tender shortcrust pastry shell.
And while they’re simple, they’re also very pretty, with their soft dome of almondy filling and a tasteful scattering of flaked almonds to finish them off. Plus, of course, if you want to go down the icing route, you can get very fancy on the top, such as in the example from (who else) Mary Berry below.
I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you that my Bakewell is not Mary Berry standard.
Firstly, I wanted Bakewell slices, not a tart, because the latest Beaufort features a certain amount of hiking and picnicking, and I didn’t feel a large tart was best suited to that. Or little tarts, for that matter, although a certain amount of that is to do with the fact that I don’t like lots of pastry, and it’s quite hard to get that proportion right in little tarts.
I’ve now said tart far too much, and can’t even find the right Bake Off GIF to accompany it, so I’ll move on.
Obviously, the next problem was my baking process. Well, ‘process’.
First, that bit about not liking pastry? Yeah. I mean, I don’t hate it, but mostly I like nice flaky puff pastry on a lovely pie or something. Sweet pastry is for mince pies and not a lot else, in my mind. But I do like shortbread. And shortbread isn’t so far from shortcrust, no? Plus shortbread-style bases work well for lemon squares and ginger slices, so …
Also, I like almonds, but I don’t like almond essence, because it’s just a bit too marzipan-y for me. So that was out.
Then there was a small issue with the bag of frozen berries looking like it had a lot more in it than it actually did (much of the bulk was that mysterious accumulation of ice every bag develops in the freezer, like a virulent growth of some sort), and the ground almond bag having exactly as much ground almond in it as it appeared to, but my guesswork on how much I actually needed being a teeny bit off.
You can see where this is going. Changes were made. Guesswork was rampant. Substitutions were flagrant. But I have to say that I would happily serve the end result up to a brew of hungry dragons, and would even offer a plate around at a W.I. meeting (particularly if Jasmine was there, because you know you can’t do worse than her. Sorry, Jasmine).
I probably wouldn’t call it Bakewell slice, though. It needs to be slightly off-brand. Bakewill? Bakwell? Wakebell?
I’ll just have another slice while I consider the possibilities …
Kim’s Bakebad Slice (heh)
- 120g / 1 cup flour (you could use gluten-free to make the whole dish GF)
- 35g / 1/3 cup ground almonds (or desiccated coconut if you’re running low on almonds…)
- 20g / about 2 Tbsp soft brown sugar
- 30g / 2 Tbsp sugar
- pinch salt
- 100g / 7 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- splash milk
- berry jam (traditionally raspberry). You can do this recipe with just jam, if you’re low on fruit or just really like jam, but I like how the fruit gives it a bit more contrast with the top and base. If using just jam, simply slop in enough to give a nice thick layer over your base when you reach that step.
- 150g / about 1 1/4 cups frozen berries – use raspberries to stick to the theme, or, upon discovering you don’t have enough of any sort of berry, cook up some apples to completely abandon the theme (add a bit of lemon juice if you do)
- 125g / 9-ish Tablespoons / just over a stick of butter
- 60g / 1/4 cup soft brown sugar
- 65g / 1/3 cup sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- lemon zest
- 150g / 1 cup ground almonds
Pre-heat oven to 180C / 350F (160C / 325F fan). Grease and line a slice tin – mine’s 22 x 22 cm, so around 8 and a bit inches square? It doesn’t have to be exact, but if you’re worried about the size and your tin’s rectangular but roughly the right dimensions on the shorter side, you can just build a little wall of foil to make it square. This isn’t a runny recipe, so nothing’ll get past your fortifications.
Mix your flour, ground almonds, sugar, and salt, then rub the butter in until it’s got a crumb-like consistency (you can use a food processor if you want). Add the vanilla, and the milk if needed, until you can squeeze a handful and it kind of stays together.
Press the mix into your tin firmly, and use the back of a spoon to really pack it in there. If your tin is bigger than mine you’re going to get a thinner base, which isn’t a problem – it’ll just cook a bit quicker. If it seems too thin, though, as in the jam may seep through, you’ll want to add more flour, almonds and butter to your base mix and work it all together again until you can get a decent base – mine was a bit over half a cm thick (around 1/4 inch), but you could definitely go thinner and still get a good result.
Bake for 10 minutes or so, until it’s juuust starting to brown. Pull it out and let it cool for ten minutes or so.
Just slap the jam on there in an even-ish manner. You could go really thick with it, if you were a jam fiend, or use just a light scraping for flavour, then chuck the fruit on top.
Cream your sugars with the butter, then chuck the salt, egg, vanilla, and lemon zest in and give it a quick whirl to combine. Add the ground almonds, mix to combine.
Dollop your topping in little spoonfuls on top of the filling, then spread it gently so that the fruit and jam stay put as much as poss. Top with a handful of flaked almonds (unless you forget).
Shove it in the oven and give it 35 – 45 minutes – start checking every five minutes from around the thirty minute mark. You want the centre of the top to look softly brown and mostly dry – the edges may start to brown too quickly, in which case pop a bit of foil over the top to stop things getting out of hand.
Cool in the tin, top with a drizzle of icing if desired (just icing sugar mixed with water or lemon juice to drizzle consistency) then slice and prepare for picnics!
Note: This is one of those ones where the flavours develop – I actually think it’s better a day or so later, so you can get your picnic provisions sorted ahead of time 😉
Note the second: Feel free to play with flavours. It’d be lovely with apricot jam and lightly cooked stone fruit, or if you’re a marmalade person you could add extra citrus zest to the base and topping, and just go for a thick whack of marmalade in the centre there.
Oh – and curious about those dragon picnics? Beaufort’s seventh cosy mystery, Beast Laid Plans, is out on the 15th of September! Grab your ebook pre-order at all your favourite retailers now – paperbacks will be coming closer to release date.
Now, over to you, lovely people – do you substitute and mess around with recipes? What have your best successes (and worst disasters) been with that? Let me know below!
Gilbert is missing.
A Beast stalks the Dales.
And the hunters are coming …
DI Adams’ missing person is a human, not a dragon. But the trails for both lead straight to the village of Eldmere, where glimpses of a mysterious Beast have drawn the attention of the nation’s monster hunters.
And where, of course, the Toot Hansell Women’s Institute and the Cloverly dragons are in hot pursuit of Gilbert. They’re not letting a valley full of weekend Yeti hunters and Nessie-loving cryptozoologists stand between them and the young dragon.
But nothing is as simple as it seems. Something strange is happening in Eldmere, and the dragons, the Beast, and the ladies of the Women’s Institute are right at the heart of it. As are the hunters, some of whom are more serious – and more dangerous – than DI Adams ever imagined.
She’s in a race to find Gilbert before the hunters do, because someone out there doesn’t just want to see a dragon. They want to finish them.
There’s more than dragon secrets at stake in Yorkshire this summer …
bakewell tart, baking, Beaufort Scales, books, recipes, W.I., writer's life
What do you think I could use in place of almonds or coconut? My daughter is allergic to almonds and hates coconut. I know-weird right? I’d love to bake this when I lose just eight more pounds, so around October-ish. I will definitely be using apricots ❤️
Hmm. That’s tricky! I would leave the almonds/coconut out of the base and just add a bit more flour to get to the right texture, then for the topping you might have to play around a bit. Any ground nut (or even seed) would work, I imagine, but getting the flavours balanced might be tricky. I’d be inclined to go in a different direction and make a crumble topping with walnuts, brown sugar, flour, butter, that sort of thing.
That’s a crumble I could go for
I do like eating almonds but I’ve never managed to like the frangipane which is a shame as the Bakebad slices look so good. Still, what’s the point of recipes if you follow them slavishly? Substitute away
Substitute with wild abandon. It’s what makes cooking fun 😉 I’m often not a fan of frangipane because of the almond essence, which is why I left it out of this – that way you just get the proper almond flavour. I tend to find the essence is what makes it all marzipan-y and ick. But I think this would work just as well with all coconut, if that’s a better flavour for you?
Himself won’t touch coconut. (Still, that would mean more for me and the dragons)
I see no downside here 😉
Just think of sad face opposite………
I need more dragon books, I have 4. Started with Baking Bad and the three following, but can’t find any more, I now have withdrawal symptoms, please send a cure, your recipes are great too. Xx
Hi Kay – if you look on the books page of this site, or at Amazon, you’ll find the next two in the series (A Toot Hansell Christmas Cracker and Coming Up Roses). And, of course, Beast-Laid Plans will be out in just a few weeks! I’m so glad you’re enjoying them! ❤️
This looks so yummy! I’ll pay for postage if you can ship one right away. Or, maybe, I’ll have to bake?
I fear the shipping process might not add an awful lot to the flavour (or appearance …!), so I hate to say it, but the oven may need to go on 😉
Mmmm! I think I’m drooling a little just looking at the pictures. They look amazing 😻 I’m very partial to any kind of bar recipe so these are right up my alley.
I’ve never met a recipe I didn’t want to change 🙂 Which has led to some spectacular failures and some incredible baked goods. The problem is that I never write them down, so it’s difficult to duplicate them😏 I must, foolishly think I’ll remember!
My copy is already pre ordered and I’m anxiously waiting for it to pop onto my kindle 😉
I’m really getting into bars/slices. I’ve always been partial to cookies and brownies over cake, mostly because one can cut them into nice small portions then pretend that having three (or five) or them isn’t at all the same as an entire slice of cake … I recently stumbled across a couple of interesting recipe books that embrace the whole slice concept, so I can see more butchering of recipes in my future!
And thank you for the pre-order! I’m so excited – I’ve got the cover to share in a few days, too!
Were you (or a dragon) peeking in my window while I was baking?? Add to the rabbit hole of recipes at least 2-3 cookbooks and my recipe file….then write the different recipres, halve or double the quantities (same thought as never grocery shop when hungry) making sure to almost, but not quite, keep them in their correct columns, then lastly, misread columns adding who knows how much from which recipe and taste the batter til it seems about right. It’s not just a recipe, it’s an adventure! Alice wouldn’t approve of the process but would like the result. Can’t wait to try your version, I never thought of apples. And Fall is right around the corner!
My baking twin! I’m glad I’m not the only one who takes such a cavalier approach to such things. I fear neither of us would do too well on Bake Off, but I always feel that half the fun in baking is being able to be a bit experimental and just see what happens. There are many tasty accidents waiting to happen! (Although, the flip side is that one can never recreate said tasty accidents, but …)
as Baking Twins (squuueee moment) oughtta make a game, Pick a dish, post recipie, ingredient list, time ,and equipment needed and photograph of finished dish. 4Teams get all the same info. Then we make it & see what WE end up with, Points for using MOST % of ingredients, points for using 10% or less of ingredients, Pts for coming up 180 degrees …….It would be a ball!! just coming up for ways to win points would be a hoot! And Extra Credit if they wrote down all changes, deletions, substitutions, and changes.and could make it again! Assuming anyone wants them to. BakeReal Challenge, Anywho – hope it makes some sense, very tired and late but my friend and I were talking and just HAD to type this out now.
Oh, I LOVE this! I think this could be such a fun thing to do – are you in the FB group? Because I could really see that being so popular in there. We could have periodic cooking challenges – rather than teams, just whoever wants to join in has a go, and we could even rotate through who wants to pick a dish and set the challenge, or take votes on what dish to do next!
Not on FB, but if there’s baking and Dragons I just might create an account. Noticed you’re reading the Sam Applewhite series. Liking it? Read the first & couldn’t get into it. LOVED their Clovenhoof and Oddjobs series though.
I do enjoy the Sam Applewhite series! I’ve only read the first in each of the others – I liked Oddjobs but wasn’t as sure about Clovenhoof. They’re on the list to keep reading, though!
I know one time I was making cookies, but discovered, Halfway thru that I didn’t have the next few ingredients. I had to find a cookie recipe that had the same amount of flour (since the flour part was mixed up with other stuff) and use the rest of that recipe with what had been started. Turned out just fine, but never duplicated. Oh well.
Excellent recovery! And, of course, this is the problem of inventive baking. One rarely makes the same dish twice …
“too marzipan-y”?? Does not compute…
I will happily give you all my marzipan. I am the person who peels it off fruitcake and leaves it abandoned in plasticine piles on the edge of the plate …
I went to a biker wedding which was held in a pub but the weather was lovely and everybody stood on the pavement chatting and drinking. The wedding cake was duly brought round for us all to have a slice. When we left much later the pavement was covered in marzipan where practically the whole crowd had dumped it.
Well, it’s probably more biodegradable that confetti, but I wouldn’t be certain … 😉 I always felt it was best used as modelling clay rather than actual food.