Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 - the highlights

It's been a pretty tasty year round here (as far as baking goes!), so I thought that I'd recap some of the best bits of the past year in one post (yes, another of those 'here's what I made last year, wasn't it great!' posts!!!). These are my favourites of 2011, roughly one a month, but with a couple of bonus ones I just couldn't leave out.


This was such a tasty bread - perfect to eat with soup, it was filling and I loved the roasted new potatoes in the bread, great with the olives.


For a recipe that I stumbled across accidentally, these were extremely tasty. I do love a good old fashioned biscuit, and these are gently spicy and nice and crunchy.


This one has made it into the regular rotation - if I ever have spare soured cream in the fridge, this is one of the most delicious ways to use it up that I have found. I do think that it needs to be baked as a loaf in a tin though, it just doesn't seem to work with more crust.

What would Easter be without a celebratory chocolate cake, and this cake was certainly good for celebrating! Moist and fudgy and rich with a delicious chocolate icing and yummy chocolate mini eggs. There is one thing about it being the new year now - surely the mini eggs can't be far from the shops now! (I usually hate most of the commercial eggs and rubbish that is marketed, but mini eggs are the exception!)


If only world peace were so easy to come by. 2011 sadly hasn't been the most peaceful year, but thanks go to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for introducing me to these cookies and countless other delights through the year.


Another bread that has been added to the regular rotation. In fact I enjoyed this bread so much that I didn't really eat much else in the way of bread for a couple of months - slack times for trying new breads, but that's what happens when you stumble across a gem! After making it in a round tin a few times I eventually decided it was better in a square tin - easier to cut into even pieces. Goes perfectly with cheese, and is great for breakfast too. An all round winner, and very adaptable to the variety of flours I have used in it over the months.

I had a lovely holiday and although I did some baking it wasn't as prolific as other months. These spelt and corn batch rolls are worth a revisit now the weather is colder and I am wanting a slightly heavier bread. They were delicious and I remember thinking how good they'd be with a soup or stew.


I never thought I would find a scone recipe to replace my old trusty standby, known by heart and well practiced. This is that replacement recipe. I have made this so many times now, with lots of variations and I'm in love with all of them. My love of scones may have gone unnoticed, but it is a true love and I am so happy to have found this recipe. Citrus, cherry vanilla, double chocolate, chocolate chip, vanilla raisin, however they come this recipe is always moist, light and utterly delicious. These are mine, all mine!


A really inspired idea led me to substitute the tahini called for in Dan Lepard's halva flapjacks with peanut butter. Adding chocolate and cranberries created a real winner!


A simple recipe, but this reminded me how good a basic cake can be. The raspberry flavour came through well, the chunks of chocolate in the chocolate cake were delicious and I really enjoyed eating this one.


These were so delicious. I haven't remade them yet, but they are certainly going to be made very soon. Just looking at them makes me sad that they're all gone. A stunning recipe from Dan Lepard.

Another excellent recipe from November

These were utterly stunning. So light and fluffy and moist. I'm definitely going to make them again and explore vegan baking further in the future!


Such a simple cake, but so delicious. And still a couple of pieces left in the freezer. This makes me happy.

And my final recipe, also from December:

These were a surprise hit - so moist and delicious, Christmassy but also suitable for other times of the year too - I love flapjack (with two in the round up of the year you've probably guessed this!) and this was a great twist on the humble oaty slice.

A good year for new bread recipes, very much inspired by Dan Lepard and a few good cakes, flapjacks and cookies in there too!

Many thanks to all my blogging friends, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blogs this year, getting inspiration and help from you, and more recently chatting too. I look forward to doing all of these things more and more next year. Happy New Year to all my lovely readers for 2012, I hope that you all have a peaceful and prosperous new year and that it is filled with good things. 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Buttermilk loaf - Breakfast Club #17

I love it when unplanned baking works out for the best! As I'm sure regular readers will have gathered by now, I have a very bad habit of buying ingredients with no plans for them. They sit in the fridge, all the while I'm wondering what to make and the expiry date is advancing upon me. Finally I have to either use the item or shamefully dispose of it.

This bread is the result of one such occasion when my conscience got the better of me and a tub of buttermilk was the item in question. I recalled making buttermilk baps ages ago, to a Dan Lepard recipe published in the Guardian in August 2009 and although I didn't want rolls, I wanted a loaf I thought I'd use the same recipe as I recalled that it seemed to be a good one.

As I followed the recipe as given (albeit with slightly less kneading at slightly longer intervals!) I won't reproduce the recipe here. I was doing other things whilst making this bread and forgot to check on it while it was prooving. When I did remember it looked over-prooved, and was slumping onto the edges of the tin. I had mentally written it off as being a flat topped disaster, but thankfully the dough was very resilient and still had some life left in it, giving a pretty excellent oven spring that lifted the dough off the edges of the tin and into a proud dome. I was really pleased as I seem to time baking my loaves wrongly quite often and rarely get such good oven-spring! This was a truly enormous loaf, and I haven't really managed to capture that with my photos.

It has a beautifully even texture and has a moist and light crumb with a delicious chewy crust - just perfect for a few slices of hot buttered toast or a fabulous lunchtime sandwich. Just looking at the pictures now is making me hungry!

I'm sending this to Krithika for Breakfast Club - the theme this month, hosted by Krithi's Kitchen is Bread! Although this might look like quite a boring bread it tastes anything but boring, and given that half of the UK population will probably be eating cereal (yuk!) for breakfast, surely the other half will be eating toast (yum!) and this loaf is the ideal one for toasting.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sherry, raisin and apricot cheesecake

I'm not very keen on traditional Christmas pudding, and my very kind family gave me free rein to create this year's Christmas dessert. I honestly have no idea how I decided to make this particular thing, because I don't like sherry either!

J mentioned to me that she really likes baked cheesecakes, and had previously mentioned that she likes the kind of cheesecake with dried fruit baked in it, so I went with that as an idea.

I searched a few sites for a cheesecake recipe, and eventually decided to adapt this recipe on the BBC Good Food website. It seems to have pretty much universally positive reviews and as a relative cheesecake novice, especially with baked ones, I wanted a pretty foolproof recipe. My adaptations were to add the flavours I wanted and to change the tin size - there weren't going to be many of us, and an 8" cake would have been too big. I wanted to halve the recipe and bake in a 6" round, but although being convinced I had one somewhere, couldn't find it and ended up with a 7" springform tin. Calculations told me that I should do 3/4 of the recipe, but I actually ended up with nearer 2/3 of the recipe, which gave a deep enough cheesecake for us.

I made this on Christmas Eve, to allow it to sit overnight in the fridge for Christmas day. I was travelling to family during the day, and so put the raisins and apricots to soak in the morning, making the cheesecake in the early evening.

Sherry raisin and apricot cheesecake
For pre-soaking
100g raisins
70g dried apricots, chopped to be about the same size as the raisins
approx 100ml Amontillado Sherry (I have unsophisticated tastes in alcohol, feel free to substitute something you like!)
For the cheesecake
100g ginger biscuits
50g butter
400g cream cheese (I used 250g full fat and 150g half fat cream cheese from Tesco)
10g plain flour
120g vanilla caster sugar
small splash vanilla extract
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
100ml soured cream

- In the morning, put the raisins and chopped apricots in a small tub and cover with the sherry. Leave to soak. The liquid will not all be soaked up.
When ready to make the cheesecake
- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
- Melt the butter over a gentle heat and crush the ginger biscuits.
- Combine the two and press onto the base of a 7" (18cm) springform tin.
- Bake for 5 minutes.
- In the meantime put the cream cheese, flour, soured cream, sugar, vanilla extract, egg and egg yolk in a large bowl. Beat well until combined. Mine did not go fluffy as the website recipe suggests. I just mixed until it was smooth.
- Tip the soaked fruit into the creamy mixture and mix to combine, but don't tip in the remaining liquid sherry - this is cook's perk - drink it if you want!
- Pour over the ginger biscuit base, trying to ensure the fruit is fairly evenly spread.
- Wrap the tin in foil to contain any leaks, unless you're very sure of your baking tins. I'm glad I wrapped mine because it leaked just a little.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes - see notes below. I think I probably left mine in for about an hour.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin.
- Refrigerate overnight before serving.

- I completely forgot to grease the tin, but it didn't seem to matter too much. I ran a knife around the edge to release the cheesecake.
- I overbaked my cheesecake - it cracked fairly deeply, but I'm never sure how much 'wobble' to leave and I would rather over than underbake it. None of us minded the texture (and in fact, I'm not sure how the texture should have been!)

Well, I'm not sure it would pass muster with cheesecake experts but I thoroughly enjoyed this dessert! Which is saying something really, because I really am not keen on sherry or alcohol much in general. Both T and J enjoyed this too, and there were leftovers for a couple of days too, which were very welcome. I will definitely have to experiment further with baked cheesecakes, I had forgotten just how much I love the taste and texture and this was utterly gorgeous. Yum, yum, yum!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I hope your day is filled with peace and joy,
happiness and fun

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Cream cheese chocolate orange cake - We Should Cocoa

After last month's apple chocolate challenge, this month Choclette has been kind to us and given us orange to pair with chocolate, a classic combo. Chocolate and orange work so well together that this month the challenge has been to come up with something different. Well, I haven't really done something different, but I have made a really rather good cake, and that should be counted a successful challenge I think!

It came about as I found I had half a tub of cream cheese in the fridge with no immediate plans. Trawling round I found that I had made a cake containing cream cheese relatively recently. It was a good cake and deserved another outing, but in a modified form.

This is based (heavily) on Dan Lepard's Ginger chocolate chip pound cake, modified to suit my requirements.

Cream Cheese Chocolate Orange Cake
100g unsalted butter, melted
200g caster sugar
125g full fat cream cheese
3 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
220g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate, chopped,
grated zest of one large orange

Chocolate fudge frosting
100g dark chocolate, chopped
50g unsalted butter
1 rounded tbsp golden syrup

Sprinkles to decorate

- Preheat the oven to Gas4/180C. Grease and line an 8"/20cm square cake tin.
- Mix together the butter and caster sugar. While the butter is still warm, beat in the cream cheese. This was really satisfying, and gave a beautifully creamy, glossy mixture.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined then add the vanilla and orange zest.
- Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and beat until combined.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Spoon into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer/cake tester comes out clean or with only a few crumbs remaining.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack and in the meantime, make the frosting.
- Melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup over a pan of hot water.
- Allow to cool until spreading consistency, this will take a couple of hours.
- Spread the frosting over the cake and sprinkle with decorations as desired.

My cake took 45 minutes to bake, and then I partially covered it with foil and gave it another 5 mins or so to finish cooking the centre.

This was a lovely cake and the orange flavour came through really well without being overpowering or artificial, which is something I sometimes find with orange flavoured chocolate items.

It was a little dry though, and would probably have been better eaten with either a big blob of vanilla ice cream, or some pouring cream as a dessert, or perhaps even better than both of those, with some orange flavoured custard - hot enough to make the topping go all gooey. Mmmm, yum! However, there were no complaints, and it disappeared rapidly enough when taken in to work!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

'Spruced' up Vanilla Cake - Forever Nigella

I was wondering what I could make to use my star shaped mould (well, I need to use it when I can, and Christmas is definitely that time!) and looked back through my archives to see what I had done with it last time. You can see the results here.

Because it was so successful, I decided to repeat the cake pretty much the same as last time. It then occurred to me that with a Nigella recipe in a Nigella-esque type cake tin, and with it fitting the Christmas theme, this would be perfect to enter Forever Nigella this month, hosted by Sarah from the lovely Maison Cupcake blog. The theme this month is Christmas Presence, and you can find the announcement post with rules and so forth here. Sarah has also promised that Forever Nigella will be making a reappearance in the new year in a new format - looking forward to finding out what that might be!

I have made some changes to the recipe, and will write out what I did in my own words, so hopefully not contravening the challenge rules. You can also find the recipe here, on the BBC Food website, or here on Nigella's own website.

Mine obviously isn't 'spruced' up, but a starry/snowflake version is lovely and festive too!

Starry clementine cake
75g butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
120g plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g fat-free greek yogurt
1 1/2tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 clementine

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease your tin very well. I actually didn't grease mine at all - it's still very new and the non-stick seems to be working well so I chanced it. I think a spray would be easiest for greasing with as the shape is so intricate.
- Cream together the butter and sugar.
- Add the eggs, with a spoonful of the flour to stop it curdling.
- Add the remaining flour, bicarbonate of soda, yogurt, vanilla and clementine zest and stir well to combine.
- Pour/spoon into the mould and bake for 35-40 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

I was lucky that my cake didn't stick at all, and turned out beautifully. The thing that amazes me about this cake is that it rises at all - the flour is plain flour, and there is only 1/4tsp bicarbonate of soda in there, but I suppose that's all that is needed in combination with the acidic yogurt.

Rudolph is getting all over the place isn't he! This is a truly delicious cake - really moist, buttery and slightly dense, but in the best possible way. The clementine flavour was slightly subtle, but definitely there, really delicious. I can understand why Nigella recommends this toasted and buttered for breakfast on Christmas day - a true Christmas treat, and I think Nigella would approve of my addition of clementine zest to add a little more Christmas zing to this delectable treat!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Orange and Cranberry Stollen Bars

I don't often bake things that I cannot eat (for obvious reasons of greed!) but J loves marzipan, Stollen is a very festive and seasonal bake and I was intrigued by this recipe (it's the second one down), recently published by Dan Lepard on the Guardian website. I had previously thought that Stollen was always a yeasted treat, but this was a non-yeasted version of Stollen. I have made a more traditional version (also to a Dan Lepard recipe) in the past, and you can see it here. I was interested to see how this one turned out and how it was received, given that rich, fruited, spiced, buttery eggy doughs take an age to rise, especially in my chilly kitchen.

As I've been browsing all the Christmas goodies popping up on people's blogs recently, I noticed that Jules over at Butcher, Baker had made a Stollen and she notes that both yeasted and non-yeasted versions are widely made in Germany, with a yeasted version probably being more traditional.

I followed the recipe fairly closely, but made one fairly major change. I didn't have pistachios and when I went to buy them found that they are horrendously expensive. I'm sure this will not come as a surprise to the nut-eaters of you out there, but as someone who never looks at nuts I was horrified at the price I was going to have to pay, and (rather selfishly) more so because I'd never get to enjoy these bars or note the difference that the pistachios made to it. So apologies Dan, I substitued dried cranberries for the pistachios - totally different texture and flavour, but cost an awful lot less! I did however, splash out on some better quality marzipan. If you read the packets of supermarket marzipan most of them only contain around 25% almonds, but the Anthon Berg brand (bright pink/purple packet in the UK) contains 60% almonds - big difference!

I needed to cook these for much longer than 30 minutes. I think it was nearer to 50 minutes, and may even have been a little longer. I used a fairly shallow 8" square tin, so I'm not sure what, if anything I did wrong, but they definitely weren't done at 30 mins.

I made these for a staff lunch at work where we all brought something in, and these were really popular, with people commenting on how nice they were, which is very gratifying. I also sent a piece to my chief taste tester, J, and thanks to Royal Mail it arrived in one piece. She absolutely loved it, and so all of my taste notes are thanks to J.

The stollen is really moist and almondy - no doubt due to the ground almonds in the dough and the chunks of marzipan spread throughout. J thought this better than having one long chunk of marzipan down the centre, but I think that perhaps the marzipan had become a little lost from her description. However, she said that the orange flavour was subtle, and it was moister than a traditional stollen, which is what I had expected. The texture is like a very enriched bread dough, but without the problems those doughs tend to have of not rising very well in my cold kitchen - probably a more forgiving stollen to bake. I think, all in all, that she loved it, and was possibly disappointed that only one piece found its way to her in the post!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

In my (festive) kitchen - December 2011

Using the same format as Celia, of the fabulous Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, I'm going to show you just a little of what is happening in my kitchen this December. I'm probably more festive than you'd guess from my recent posts, it's just that I'm running out of time to blog all the things I've made!

Anyway, to start I'd like to introduce you to Rudolph. As a child I was so obsessed with fluffy animal toys - I saved all of my pocket money until I could buy a new one, and I loved to play with them. Christmas weakens my adult resolve to not buy these toys anymore, and suddenly I found that Rudolph had jumped into my shopping basket and I didn't have the heart to tell him that he belonged with his friends on the shop shelf rather than at home with me, so home he came.

In my kitchen is a big box of clementines - obviously these are only some of them. Christmas for me always means satsumas, tangerines and clementines. As a child I wasn't allowed oranges, but had a special one in my stocking each year. I loved feeling down to the bottom of my stocking and getting that rough skinned fruit out, along with a shiny pound coin, and of course, all the other bounty contained in the stocking!

The card is one made by my gorgeous mum, and I think she's very clever. I love the simplicity, and how it says Christmas, but in an understated way. Thank you J! The tealight holder is a recent acquisition - I think it'll make a lovely festive table decoration for this season, and a great place to put a Christmas scented tealight. 

This year's batch of mincemeat. Made to Delia Smith's classic recipe, but with a few little tweaks of my own. I ought to post this separately, but probably won't get round to it!

Well, this is my most festive baking tin. I can't decide whether it's a snowflake or some sort of exotic flower, or what, but I really like it. There should be an upcoming post making best use of this festive beauty soon.

I recently bought these rather lovely star shaped cutters, perfect for creating festive decorations. I used them to make the peppermint creams below, and have used them for another bake, to be posted soon. I particularly love the little storage tin they come in, which has the shapes cleverley and prettily printed on the base of the tin so that you can fit them back in again without crushing them or resorting to naughty words!

Peppermint creams. The first time I've tried these and they were delicious - well, how can icing sugar combined with condensed milk and peppermint extract not be delicious? But no recipe because I think I got the icing sugar/condensed milk proportions wrong - they crushed rather easily. It's such a shame that I'm going to have to keep making them until they're right....

Chocolate mendiants - so easy to make (although mine aren't with tempered chocolate - a skill I have yet to even attempt, let alone aquire!) and disproportionately well received. They look very impressive when packaged in a cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon. Easy to adapt - just pick your favourite chocolate and your favourite dried fruit and nuts!

Check out what is other people's kitchens at this festive time of the year by visiting Celia's lovely blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, and looking to the panel on the right where there are links to other people's kitchens.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Rudolph's flapjacks

Well, it seems that I am finally feeling more festive (not that I've got things sorted or organised - far from it but hey!) and anyway how could you resist such a name for this lovely treat? Why are they Rudolph's flapjacks? Well, because the contain carrot of course! Don't worry, this isn't an unwelcome intrusion - just think of carrot cake (and we all know how delicious that is!) and you'll be working on the right lines.

I came across the recipe when I was browsing on the BBC Good Food website, you can find it here. I would never have spotted it in the actual magazine - it's hidden away as a tiny little list of instructions on a page containing five other ideas for quick bakes for the holiday season. It really caught my attention though, because I had all the ingredients in and haven't made flapjack for a while now. I'm a big fan of carrot cake and these are all the flavours of carrot cake in an easy-to-make flapjack form. Sometimes you just see a recipe and know it's going to be right - this was one of those times. 

I made only minor changes - the zest of two clementines instead of one orange, a tsp of mixed spice instesad of the specified cinnamon, because I prefer the more rounded flavour of mixed spice over cinnamon, and I left out the seeds because I'm not keen on them. I also soaked my apricots (which were very dry) in the juice of one of the clementines, about 40ml, for about 20 minutes whilst I did other things. I grated my carrots finely as I didn't want them to be too prominent. I also wanted flapjacks that weren't as deep, so I decided to use an 8"/20cm tin, rather than the specified 18cm tin.

Edited to add: as Suelle points out in her comment, 2 carrots is a bit vague. I forgot to weigh the ones I actually used, but finding two similar ones, they weighed 100g before peeling. I hope that's more helpful if you're planning on making these (and do, it's really worth it!).

I baked mine for at least 45 minutes in spite of using a larger tin. I just kept checking them until they were a light brown on the top. Even so, they're very fragile so be careful turning them out - I wasn't careful enough and my flapjack broke in half.

Oh so delicious - so moist in a really good way and the combination of flavours from the dried apricot, orange zest, spice and oats is just divine. You can't taste the carrot, but I'm certain it adds to the moistness of the flapjack. As I suspected, these fell apart a little on eating, but actually, this is no bad thing. I will definitely be making these again, they were so easy to put together, feel so festive and are the perfect sustaining snack for the busy times leading up to Christmas but when you don't want yet another mince pie or chocolate from the tin (yes, I believe it actually is possible to have too many mince pies and chocolates!!!) I think my colleagues must have agreed because these disappeared with record speed!

I'm submitting these for the December Teatime Treats challenge, hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked, two lovely ladies with lovely blogs! This month's host is Kate and she has rather appropriately chosen Christmas as the theme.

I think this is a great bake for Christmas, and perfect for the children to leave out either for Father Christmas or Rudolph - after all they both have a busy night on the 24th December, delivering all those presents (and I'll be tracking Santa here), so a good sustaining piece of flapjack would be very welcome and make a change from all the mince pies and carrots they usually get :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...