Tuesday, 28 September 2010

MM4 Marmalade buttons


I've been meaning to make these for ages now, the combination of bitter marmalade, chewy peel and crunchy sugar against the background of a buttery melting biscuit was irresistible. Hmm, how did I manage to wait so long to make them?

It was partly thanks to Foodycat for bumping the thread discussing these little biscuits on Dan's forums that reminded me of their existence, in combination with an inventory of the cupboards that revealed more marmalade than one person can reasonably be expected to consume in a lifetime... ok, I exaggerate slightly but you get the picture. For this batch of buttons I chose 'Three fruit marmalade' boasting lemons, oranges and grapefruit. I complemented this by choosing lemon and orange peel to cut up. This would be my only proviso for making these; chopped mixed peel is bitter and nasty, mixed peel that you chop yourself is chewy and citrussy and sweet and delicious. It's more than worth the stickiness and time (little) that you will expend to chop your own peel for a far superior result. You know you want to...


I made the recipe exactly as specified here and used semolina rather than ground rice, because my semolina was open and the ground rice wasn't. Mine took 20 minutes to become golden brown. There are a few links to other people who've made them on the link above and Foodycat's version is here.


Were they worth the wait? Yes and no. They were delicious - buttery and crumbly, with a good orangey flavour from the marmalade and peel. But they were a little soft for my taste - I prefer my biscuits with more crunch than these gave. I don't feel that I could have cooked them any more though, as the more well-done ones were verging on overdone. However, I really did like the peel in them and the marmalade, so I might try applying this to a different base biscuit recipe. I was also quite pleased with the crunchy demerara crust. I have a feeling that this would have been even more successful if I'd read the instructions in the recipe that say to wet the dough log before adding the sugar to help it stick. D'oh!

Colleagues were pleased but I'll have to experiment further to find my favourite biscuit.

Friday, 24 September 2010

I should cocoa with Chocolate Raspberry Cake

I was really excited when Chele of Chocolate Teapot and Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog announced a new blog event involving, you've guessed it, chocolate! You can read all about the challenge here on Chele's blog. I was even more pleased to find that the added ingredient this month is raspberries. I may have mentioned (just once or twice...) that I really love raspberries - the sweet sharpness and the way they sort of pop in your mouth. Yum! Can't get enough of them, so the difficulty for this challenge was to think how to combine my two favourite ingredients. Eventually I decided to match bitter dark chocolate with the sharp sweetness of fresh raspberries. The cake I chose has quite a light sweetness; it's moist and delicious and sweet but isn't too rich or complex in flavour. I wanted the raspberry to shine as well as the chocolate and I think I achieved that with this cake recipe.
The recipe for the cake came from an Australian Women's Weekly cookbook 'Mix' and if you go to their website and search for 'chocolate cake', I'm sure you can probably find this recipe in there somewhere, but I'm not searching through 1003 recipes, 20 at a time to find it, so I'll give it here!

Chocolate Raspberry Cake
Ingredients
125g butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
275g caster sugar
2 eggs
200g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
160ml water
fresh raspberries to sprinkle, around 200g plus more to serve

Method
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line a 23 x 19 cm shallow tin.
- Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, extract, flour and cocoa along with the water and beat slowly until combined.
- Increase the speed of the mixer and beat until lighter in colour and smooth.
- Pour into the tin and sprinkle over the raspberries - some will sink but some will stay up.
- Bake for around 35-45 minutes (again I've forgotten to make a note of this time) until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Serve as you wish - as a dessert with more fresh fruit and creme fraiche or double cream, or simply on its own with a cup of coffee.

I served it with some more fresh raspberries and it would have been perfect with either a big scoop of raspberry sorbet, or a generous dollop of creme fraiche, but my planning ahead skills didn't reach to either of these accompaniments! This is quite a sweet cake on its own, but paired with the juicy tart raspberries it is perfect, the flavours compliment each other really well. I'm really looking forward to finding out what the next challenge will be!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

British Food Fortnight and Greengage loaf cake

It's the start of British Food Fortnight, running 18th September - 3rd October. I really feel that we are privileged to have such an abundance of fine food in the UK, passionate producers who care about their product, whatever that might be and a growing group of people who are equally passionate about what they eat - where it comes from and what it contains. As a baker many if not most of my core ingredients are not particularly seasonal; butter, flour, sugar. However, given the chance I love to bake with fresh fruit in season, and the UK plum season is currently in full swing. This cake would be great with any variety of plum or gage, or probably even damsons if you can locate them!

On an entirely different note, sometimes I worry about the things I remember. There are many things in my job that I could really do with memorising, learning, understanding and applying in practice. My brain retains very little of the information I fight so hard to push into it on a regular basis. This saddens me.... cake on the other hand seems to have found it's own little dedicated memory department. I had a vague recollection of a BBC Good Food recipe for a plum crunch cake. I seemed to recall that it was in one of my very first magazines. Not only do I still have this magazine, I could even locate it with little bother (those that have seen the disorganised state of my spare bedroom, where said magazine was located may not believe this, but honestly, it's true!) and there was the recipe I remembered, in a feature about plums and dated September 2001. Yes, my brain can remember recipes from nine years ago but struggles to remember T's phone number, various birthdays and inummerable other Important Things. I need help!

Sadly, because this is such an old recipe it isn't on the BBC Good Food website. However, I adapted it sufficiently to call it my own so here I present;

Greengage loaf cake
Ingredients
125g softened butter
175g light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
125g self raising flour
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
150g greengage flesh, chopped roughly (about 200g greengages)
demarara sugar for sprinkling (only I could only find caster sugar - demerara was my original intention!)

Method
- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C and grease and base line a 2lb (900g) loaf tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour and vanilla extract and mix well until combined.
- Spread about a quarter to a third of the mixture on the base of the tin. Mix the greengage flesh into the remaining mixture and spread it over. I did this to try and stop the greengages sinking. It didn't work, so it's probably not worth bothering with!
- Sprinkle the top of the cake generously with sugar and then bake for 55 min - 1hr 5 min until golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack before slicing and enjoying!
Not quite what I had in mind when I started making this recipe up! In my minds eye was a delicious loaf cake with a neat stripe of greengage slivers running down the top of the cake. Needless to say, they sank without trace and I think ended up on the bottom of the cake, along with most of the other greengages that were added to the mixture!


However, it was a good moist cake, with quite a complex sweetness from the muscovado sugar. I possibly won't make it again as there are many other things out there that I want to try, but it was an enjoyable enough cake.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Three chocolate squares?


The inspiration for these is another recipe from my recent purchase 'Easy baking' by Linda Collister. In the book they're called three chocolate squares - cocoa powder, dark and white chocolate, but I decided to ditch the white chocolate topping and just have the cake. I also didn't have the specified soured cream but did have creme fraiche lurking in the fridge. An adapted version was born! Ignore the uninspired title of the post, I just couldn't think of a good way to describe them!


Moist chocolate cake
Ingredients
60g dark chocolate, melted
120g soft butter
170g light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (the good stuff!)
1 large egg
220g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
25g cocoa powder
150ml creme fraiche

Method
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line an 8"/20cm deep square cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the chocolate and mix to combine.
- Add the egg, flour, vanilla, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and creme fraiche and mix well, until all is combined and no traces of flour remain.
- Spoon into the tin and level.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes until just firm. (The original recipe specified 25-30 minutes, but at this point my cake was still extremely wobbly and nowhere near done.)
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before turning out.
- Cut into 16 squares.

Wait for admiring comments!

The flavour of this cake is really good. I wasn't going to blog about it due to the lack of attractive photos (the photo at the top makes it look far more dense and brownie like than it actually was, an artifact of poor lighting) but it really does deserve a mention. I took a couple of chocolate cakes into work in close succession and the opinion was that this one was better. I'm not sure about better, but I can understand the comment. This cake is moist with quite a rich, deep sweet flavour given by the muscovado sugar. The other cake was made with white sugar, which has a much lighter sweeter flavour. I'm sure the creme fraiche also made a contribution to the moistness of the cake, even though I had to cook it for much longer than specified.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Lemon syrup cake with passionfruit icing

I love lemon drizzle cake, or lemon syrup cake, whatever you want to call it - you know the one, where you bake the cake and as it comes out of the oven, stab it all over (remarkably therapeutic!) and pour a simple syrup of lemon juice and sugar over the top, pouring on more than you think can possibly be absorbed and then leaving it in the tin to cool. Delicious. I don't make it often enough. However, the presence of lemons and a desire to make this cake made me wonder if I could tart it up a little, perhaps make it a little more presentable and fragrant? And much as I adore all out lemon for the flavour, I thought passionfruit and lemon might be a good combination too. So the cake was born.

Lemon syrup cake with passionfruit icing
Ingredients
100g softened butter
120g caster sugar
135g self raising flour
2 large eggs
grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
2-3 tbsp milk curdled with the juice of 1/2 lemon

For the syrup
100g icing sugar
juice 1 lemon

For the icing
200g icing sugar
15g butter
pulp of 2 passionfruit

Method
- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line a small, shallow baking tin 9 x 6 1/2" (23 x 16cm) with parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs and flour and mix well to combine. Add the curdled milk and mix in.
- Fold in the lemon zest (I find if I use my electric handwhisk at this stage all the zest wraps itself around the beaters, losing the point of adding it!)
- Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes until light golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, heat 100g icing sugar and the juice of a lemon in a saucepan until boiling and clear.
- Stab/skewer the cake all over and then carefully pour over the hot syrup.
- Allow to cool in the tin.

- For the icing, mix the icing sugar, butter, 2tsp water and the pulp of two passionfruit in a bowl sitting over a pan of hot/simmering water, until the butter is melted.
- Allow to cool a little before pouring over your cake.

The icing does set a little, but is still very sticky. I also found that the icing sort of came away with the surface of the cake when I was trying to cut it up, making it a sticky, messy sort of job!

Yum! Really good! The cake was deliciously moist and lemony from the zest and syrup, but light too and the passionfruit icing was sticky and perfumed in a really good way, adding a different flavour to the lemon. Lemon seems to be a universally liked flavour (apart from for the Caked Crusader!) and colleagues were really impressed with this cake, with a couple of new 'No, this one's my favourite' comments being heard!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sun dried tomato bread

The last time I made tomato bread was years and years ago, before I started baking bread properly. I used a recipe from 'Bread Matters' by Andrew Whitley and although very good it was undeniably complicated for a bread making novice, involving as I recall, rolling a puree of cooked onions and tomatoes into the dough (though my memory could be wrong!). This recipe on the other hand would be excellent for beginners! It's Dan Lepard's latest Guardian recipe - seen early on Saturday morning, baked by Saturday lunch and blogged by Monday, pretty good turnround for me!

I made the recipe pretty much as stated (here) bar not being able to locate sundried tomatoes in oil. Stupid supermarket! So I subbed normal dried tomatoes and soaked them for 10 minutes in boiling water to compensate for their lack of moisture. I didn't bake at gas 7 though, because when I've tried that in the past everything comes out like charcoal. I baked for 10 mins at gas 7, 30 at gas 6, then turned upside down and a further 10 at gas 6. I then ignored the timer, forgot to check the loaf and left it another 10 minutes, resulting in over-browned loaf. Not really a problem, but I did find the loaf a little dry - entirely my fault for not checking sooner. I think this will always be a well coloured loaf as the sugars in the tomatoes will caramelise quite quickly. I might bake it slighly lower next time, and obviously for less time!

I even managed to use a sprig of rosemary from my garden in there (it's the only productive thing in my jungle, sorry, garden, at the moment!). Great flavour, don't know why artisan bakers don't like sundried tomato bread, I can't be a proper baker then, because I thought it was lovely, as did J!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Blackcurrant and apple creme fraiche cupcakes - an apology and a thank you!

Naked!

The apology and the thank you are, oddly enough, to the same person. No surprises that it's Dan Lepard, who originally published this recipe in the Sainsburys Magazine in the February edition this year. I've already blogged about it here, but really didn't do justice to this lovely cake. So with a tub of creme fraiche (it was a full fat, French DOC Isigny Ste Mere type, I'm not sure how other types would work) in the fridge about to expire I decided to substitute this for the specified clotted cream. I also chopped up the apple more finely, and because I found the mixture quite stiff, added a fair amount of milk to slacken it (a good few tbsp). I made the cakes in muffin rather than bun tins, which meant that I could add a blob of jam, blackcurrant this time, (which I left alone, not adding any water as last time) and it stayed put with more cake mixture on the top. I used the new season Discovery apples, but only used two rather than three and this time just added extra flour rather than semolina in place of the specified ground almonds. So the apology is for playing fast and loose with Dan's original recipe, but on the other hand it's not as if I'm complaining that the recipe didn't work, after not following it and making my own adaptations!


I had some fantastic feedback about these buns - one person said they were 'messy to eat, but absolutely amazing' and a couple of people said they were the best thing I've brought into work yet. I was really pleased that the jam stayed put in a blob, and the soft gooey cake around the jam blob was really delicious. The cake has a close moist texture and the apple had sort of almost dried out during the baking, becoming slightly chewy in the final cake, which was a great contrast to the soft cake and gooey jam and icing. The icing doesn't set at all, remaining sticky without any kind of crust or hardening, which is great, but really, really messy to eat! I tried to get a photo of the inside of the cakes but it was too dark when I was eating them to be successful.



I'm glad I tried the creme fraiche as a substitute for clotted cream though, because it's more readily available for me, and more affordable too, and that'll encourage me to make them again, which is good because they were really, really good, and I definitely want to make these again. I'm wondering if other combinations of fruit and jam would work - chopped pear and cranberry jam or jelly perhaps for autumn? Or apricots and raspberry jam in the summer? So many possible combinations!

Friday, 10 September 2010

MM3 - Chocolate, raisin and spelt cookies


These cookies are from another relatively recent acquisition, the Popina Book of Baking, which is stuffed full of markers for recipes I really want to make, both sweet and savoury (which is quite unusual for me!). I was intruiged by the use of wholemeal spelt flour in this recipe, having fairly recently made this wholemeal honey cake with great success, and I wanted to know how it would work in a cookie too.

Unfortunately I can't find the recipe online anywhere to share with you, but if you would really like it, get in touch via e-mail and I'll type it out. You can read more about the Popina bakery on their website here.


These cookies suffered slightly from my tendency to overbake, but not to the degree where they were inedible. They were quite a crisp cookie, rather than chewy, which is probably partly down to my cooking time. The dark chocolate was a good contrast to the sweet biscuit and the raisins were nice and chewy. They went down well at work, but a couple of people commented that they preferred Dan Lepard's Blueberry and chocolate chip cookies, and I have to say that I agreed with them. These were definitely more crunchy - different but lovely too.


Changes to the recipe (to jog my memory) - instead of hazelnuts I used raisins and I made more than the specified 17 from the amount in the recipe. They did spread quite a bit in the oven, so leave space between them.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Fresh raspberry scones

I love scones. If I'm out and about and happen across a tea shop at the right time for a little nibble then the chances are that a scone will be my bake of choice, above all of the chocolate or other fancy cakes out there (I think it's partly that the other cakes are more likely to disappoint, and I hate being disappointed!) and spreading with good butter and dolloping with jam both increase the enjoyment immensely. I don't make them nearly often enough, but was recently reminded of how good they are by Foodycat who had made some delicious looking cultured butter and some rather divine looking fresh buttermilk cherry scones to go with it. The gorgeous picture of the scone, all crusted with crunchy demerara sugar and smeared generously with butter was enough to send me to the kitchen to make my version. I loved the idea of fresh fruit in the scone, almost like a self jamming scone!


I didn't have cherries, but since my favourite fruit at this time of the year is raspberries and I had those ready to go, I wasn't too upset! I used my usual scone recipe with a couple of tweaks, outlined below. If I had previously wondered why fresh fruit scones aren't more popular it could be that it was really, really difficult to work the fruit quickly (time is of the essence) into the dough without them mashing it a pulp, which wasn't really the intention. On this note, cherries might have been easier, or I might use frozen fruit next time to stop it breaking up so much.


Fresh raspberry scones
Ingredients
225g self raising flour
55g butter
25g caster sugar
150ml fat free greek yogurt (needed to be used up!)
about 2-3 tbsp milk to loosen the yogurt (mix this in before you start rubbing in)
125g fresh raspberries
demerara sugar, to sprinkle

Method
- Preheat the oven to 210C/Gas 6 1/2 and line a tray with baking parchment.
- Rub the butter into the flour and then stir in the sugar.
- Working quickly, add the yogurt and milk mixture to the dry ingredients and bring the dough together.
- When nearly together, add the raspberries and try to gently mix them through.
- Tip onto a floured surface, flour your hands and pat down, you don't want it too thin.
- Cut rounds from the dough, squashing together the remnants to form the remaining scones.
- Place on the baking tray and brush with milk, then sprinkle generously with sugar.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, or split open, slather with butter and devour!!!

Freeze any scones not eaten the same day and either defrost in the microwave, or heat through in the oven (sorry, no directions as I don't often do this to them!)

I made quite a lot out of this (14 I think) but they really are diddly. I usually make much bigger scones, but I'm happy to eat three of these little ones instead ;-) I think on balance that I prefer dried fruit but it's not going to stop me experimenting further with fresh fruit and other scone flavours!

Thanks, Foodycat, for the inspiration!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A party, a mess, some chocolates and a Chocolate Pear Crumble Tart


Well, it's really all about the tart... But let's talk about the party, the mess and the chocolates first. I went to my Gran and Grandfather's house for my Gran's birthday party and even though there is practically zero chance of her finding this (they aren't on the internet!) I'm not going to be the one to divulge her age (and to be honest I'm not 100% certain what that age is). It was a lovely chance to meet up with family and catch up on the gossip, although in reality this means listening to my family's (often rather forthright!) opinions on various subjects. It's good fun though, and to celebrate we had a lovely meal together.

But you can't visit the birthday girl and not take presents, so along with some wine and flowers I thought it would be nice to take chocolates. My Gran likes dark chocolate and inspired by Celia's post here about making chocolates I thought it would be nice to make an effort rather than just buying a box. I have to confess that I didn't temper my chocolate though (it seems an intimidating thing to do) as I was short of time so my chocolate was slightly dull when it set, but I don't think that it really matters too much. All I did was melt some dark chocolate carefully in the microwave and then spoon little puddles of it onto baking parchment. I added a variety of dried fruit and nuts to each little puddle, allowed it to set then drizzled with a little white chocolate to decorate. I was really pleased with how they turned out and they were easy and fun to do - I can see me doing this again, but more importantly, my Gran was really pleased with them too!


The mess was Eton mess - chopped strawberries, whipped double cream and broken meringue. Super easy and quick to make and I cheated with bought meringue because I have meringue fear and cannot make them..... I think I went a bit light on the strawberries though, but everyone else loved it, even adding extra cream to theirs!



And finally, the chocolate pear crumble tart. I've wanted to make this for ages (well, since it was published here, last September) and I can't remember what reminded me about its existence in the dark recesses of my mind, but when I volunteered to make desserts for the party, this just popped into my head! I followed the recipe fairly well but forgot to chill the pastry (or, more honestly, ran out of time to chill the pastry....) which may well, in combination with my poor pastry making skills, account for the huge shrinkage of my crust. I'm glad I used baking beans to weigh it down though, otherwise I don't think there would have been any space to put the pears in. I must conquer pastry.... Anyway, the pears smelt delicious while they were cooking, and I was seriously tempted to just eat them all on their own, yum, pears in buttery alcoholic caramel sauce..... and even though I probably only used about 600g pears, it was enough to cover the base of my 20cm cake tin. I used the cake tin as my tart tins are all shallow and I didn't want to lose the crumble mixture when I added it on top. I chose a smaller tin after reading Suelle's comments about the tart when she made it, here, and I was pleased because there was quite a lot of shrinkage. I also added a few tbsps water to the crumble mix to make it less crumbly.


Overall, I was pleased with how the tart turned out. The pastry bottom wasn't crisp (but I'm sure that's down to my lack of pastry prowess combined with pear juices) but the combination of pear and chocolate was good. Glad that I made it, very pleased that my Grandfather went back for seconds, but probably not one to repeat!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Soft white ricotta loaf


I've had my eye on this recipe for a while and a tub of ricotta in the fridge really needed to be used up, so I finally got round to making it.

Since I followed the recipe as written, I'm not going to reproduce it here, but will suggest instead that if you're interested in bread you should really buy The Handmade Loaf - there are some fantastic looking loaves in there, and almost everything is bookmarked to make at some stage, hopefully soon... I should point out that I'm not on commission here!!!



The only change I made was to pinch off a portion of the dough (probably about 1/6) and knead a few dried cranberries that I had left in the bottom of a packet into it to make a tiny loaf for a couple of breakfasts. This worked well, and I do enjoy having a fruity loaf for my breakfast! I baked this tiny loaf in my tiny loaf tin!!!



However, whilst searching the internet to see if the recipe was already out there, I saw that fellow 'Dan fan' Celia, at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial (fab, inspiring blog, check it out!) has made the loaf already, in a slightly adapted form, here. Celia, your loaf looks fab, and I wish I had fresh ricotta to use up, but here I can only get it from the supermarket.




The crumb of the loaf is fine and close and the loaf is nice and moist. I think it would make good toast, but haven't tried that yet. I know it makes good sandwiches though - there is enough substance to the bread to prevent it falling apart under the weight of fillings. I can't say I particularly noticed the ricotta flavour, but then ricotta is mild at best and mine was supermarket ricotta, not fresh.

Thanks Dan, for another great loaf. I'll remember this one next time I have ricotta left over.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

MM2 - Chocolate Shortbread

Who doesn't like shortbread? Crumbly, buttery and utterly delicious it's a fine treat in its original state. Add chocolate, both cocoa powder and chunks and you'll get something even better!


This recipe is one from a fairly recently acquired book; Easy Baking by Linda Collister. There are so many amazing looking recipes in this book that it's already bristling with post it notes marking the pages of the recipes I want to make. But you have to start somewhere and here seemed as good a place as any. The recipe has also been published online in the Independent (in 1998!!!! years before I started baking with any degree of seriousness!) and is about halfway down the page, here. Ignore the ounce measurements, they've forgotten some vital spaces and / signs!!! I decided to add more chocolate to my version and some semolina for a little added crunch, and I resized it for a smaller tin. My version is given below.

Chocolate shortbread
Ingredients
150g softened butter
75g golden caster sugar
15g cocoa powder
15g fine semolina
195g plain flour
45g dark chocolate (72% cocoa solids is my preference), chopped

Method
- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and base line an 8"/20cm round tin.
- Beat butter in a bowl until very soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat again until well combined.
- Add cocoa powder, semolina and flour and mix well until no flour remains visible.
- Mix in the chocolate then tip into the tin and press until smooth.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes. Do not allow to brown or it will be bitter.
- Remove from the oven, sprinkle with more caster sugar, mark into 12 and allow to cool completely in the tin.


This was lovely, but I wasn't sure that the middle was cooked properly even though I probably left it in for nearer to 30 minutes. Lovely and buttery and crumbly though, and the added chocolate chunks had a delicious bitter contrast to the main sweet body of the biscuit. One to be repeated but just cooked a little longer I think.
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