Friday 26 June 2009

Chocolate Chip Cake

Well, the reason for making this one was really simple. I fancied chocolate cake. What more can I say? I wanted a simple, yet delicious cake that would be good to eat as a dessert, and was inspired by this chocolate chip cake that I saw on the Caked Crusader's blog. The CC does good work and the CCBF is a lucky man!!! I have to admit that the CC's cake looks far more spectacular than mine - it's two layers high, it's covered in a rather delicious looking Swiss meringue buttercream. However, I cannot realistically eat an entire two layer cake with frosting on my own. So the decoration (which is fab on the original!) had to go.

You can see how lovely and moist this cake is, and you can just see the little chunks of chocolate peeking out from the middle of the cake. I did take a picture when they were still all melty and delicious, but the light wasn't good enough. Pity, the melt-y bits looked really yummy!

I'd seen (somewhere, on somebody's undoubtably lovely blog - must learn how to bookmark things I've seen) a cake using custard powder as a replacement for some of the flour, and decided to give it a go. I have to admit that this wasn't really the recipe to try it with - the cocoa/chocolate flavour is quite intense and so any subtle flavour from the custard powder was always destined to be lost. I didn't really notice any difference in texture, but I'm going to try again in a cake where I'll be able to see the difference.

Chocolate Chip Cake
110g butter, softened
110g caster sugar
2 large eggs
70g self raising flour
20g custard powder
25g cocoa powder
50g 70% chocolate, chopped fairly small (or use chocolate chips)

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and base line an 8"/20cm sandwich cake tin. I think I used a deep, loose bottomed tin, because that's what came to hand. I didn't lose any mixture though, so it worked quite well!
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Gradually add the eggs, flour, custard powder and cocoa powder until well combined and of dropping consistency. If the mixture is a bit stiff, add a couple of tablespoons of milk to make it slacker.
- Spoon into the prepared tin and level off.
- Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until the sponge is springy to touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean (but watch out for hitting pockets of melted chocolate - they'll never come out clean ;-))
- Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I took some of this into work, where it was well received. My current colleagues aren't very vocal about cakes, which is somewhat disappointing!!! but I assume it was well received, because I took it into work the same day as this chocolate chunk banana slice, and both of them had disappeared by the end of the day. It isn't a very big department!!!

I served my pieces with strawberries, which was a really lovely combination. The dark chocolate cake, which was quite intense due to the cocoa powder and dark, bitter chocolate that I used contrasted perfectly with the sweet, juicy strawberries. A drizzle of cream or a dollop of creme fraiche would have been a great accompaniment, but I didn't have any available. Next time.

Saturday 20 June 2009

Banana and chocolate chunk squares

I'm back with another way to use up ripe and squishy bananas. You know, the ones sitting boldly in the fruit bowl that no-one in the family will eat. All the yellow bananas go, and you're still left with that ripe one, eyeing you balefully and reproachfully, saying 'use me up, I'm nice and sweet'. No? Just me?

I'm beginning to suspect that the bananas I buy multiply in my fruit bowl overnight. But in all honesty I know that it's the combination of disorganisation and bad memory that leads to the squashy bananas in my fruit bowl. However, this is another way to use them up. I spotted the recipe on Delia Smiths website a while back, but had forgotten about it until now. Searching for something new to bake with over-ripe bananas I came across it again and decided now was the time to try it. Banana and chocolate chip slice. As ever, I've made the recipe slightly differently - I left off the topping because it was for work and there's no-where to store cakes that need to be refrigerated, and it makes it difficult to transport..... (and I'm lazy - but lets forget that last point shall we.....).

Banana and chocolate chunk squares
2 large, ripe bananas, peeled and chopped into 1cm chunks (I halved mine lengthways and then sliced in the required size)
75g dark chocolate, chopped (I did larger chunks, you could go smaller if you want to)
250g self raising flour
150g butter (I softened mine a little, because I find it easier to rub in - I don't know how Delia expects me to rub in fridge cold butter!!!)
150g golden caster sugar

- Preheat the oven to Gas 4, 180C. Grease and line an 8" square tin (or a 6 x 10" rectangular tin)
- Sift the flour into a large bowl.
- Add the butter and rub it into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (you can do this stage in a food processor, if you like - perhaps that's how she uses fridge cold butter then!!!).
- Next, stir in the sugar, chopped bananas and the chocolate (it will look like a crumble mix at this stage).
- Press the mixture evenly into the greased and lined tin and bake it on the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes or until it is firm to touch in the centre and lightly golden. Mine took longer than 40 minutes, by quite a bit (but unfortunately I can't remember exactly how much longer.....) and it was never firm in the middle, but it didn't dry out or suffer really, so that's ok!
- Leave the slice in the tin until it is cold, then remove and carefully cut into squares. I did 16.

I liked the contrasting textures in this - the topping was sort of crunchy and crumbly, whereas the interior was squashy and banana-ry with nice chunks of slightly bitter chocolate to counteract the sweetness of the banana and shortbready cake.

My colleagues loved it and it rapidly disappeared. I have to confess though, that this isn't my favourite way of using up bananas - I found the interior too squashy. I think I was the only one though - all my colleagues liked it, as did J!!!

Saturday 13 June 2009

Apricot upside down cupcakes

Sorry about the absence. I'm still here, but on a different job rotation, which for no good reason seems to be sapping my energy somewhat. I seemed to have lost my baking desire, but hopefully it's coming back. And what better way to start than with some of the glorious summer fruits that are just becoming available at a price which doesn't require you to remortgage your house (not sure that's even possible at the moment - mine certainly doesn't have any equity in it, but that's another story......yawn). So anyway, yes, apricots - yum!!!

However, I do find apricots a deceptive fruit - beautifully blushed and ripe and looking stunning. Then the let down of the first bite as the flesh is woolly and tasteless. My solution: cook them! This recipe was a take on the Hummingbird bakery vanilla cupcake recipe. I bought the apricots and thought how lovely they'd look on the base of cupcakes - like little sunshines to brighten up the dull day I made them on. I then looked in the book again and was surprised to find a recipe along very similar lines, but using tinned sliced peaches, chopped up. I like my version, but tinned apricots would be great in the winter - I might come back to that idea!

The first thing I did was to halve and roast the apricots until tender. I wanted them to dry out slightly so as not to release too much juice and make the cake soggy. It worked quite well, but I might do them longer next time. I can't really remember how long they took - I was cooking something else at the same time. I allowed them to cool before placing rounded side down in the muffin cases, as shown in the picture above.

I then made up the vanilla cupcake recipe:

Hummingbird Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch salt
40g soft unsalted butter
120ml semi-skimmed milk
1 egg
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

- Preheat oven to 170C/Gas 3. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a large bowl and beat on a slow speed with an electric hand mixer (or put into a stand mixer - oh for a stand mixer!!!) until well combined and a sandy consistency. This was messy and got all over the work top. I found the best way of doing it was to cream the butter and sugar together manually with a fork just until they seemed to be combining slightly.
- Whisk the egg, milk and vanilla extract together in a jug and add half to the dry mixture. Beat slowly to combine and then more quickly to beat out any lumps.
- Add the remaining liquid mixture and beat slowly to combine. Do not overmix.
- Transfer (I found semi-pouring/semi-spooning the best way to go as the mixture is quite slack) the mixture into the cake cases until 2/3 full and bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven until they spring back to the touch. A skewer inserted should come out clean
-Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
- When cool, carefully remove the cases, revealing the delicious apricot at the bottom.

I really enjoyed these, as did my work colleagues. They were just the right size for a mid morning or afternoon snack without putting you off the next meal. The contrast of the wonderfully light and sweet vanilla sponge with the slightly tart (as I didn't sweeten the apricots when I baked them) and juicily moist apricot was truly delicious, and I will be making these again!
My current colleagues are on the Weightwatchers diet and so I used semi-skimmed milk, which together with the small amount of butter in the recipe mean that these were only 2 or 2.5 points each (I can't quite remember - sorry!). So that made them popular too!!!

Monday 1 June 2009

Lemon Curd Muffins - Sweet and Simple Bakes

Yep, it's the first of the month again, and that means it's time for the Sweet and Simple Bakes monthly recipe!!! (Although I have to admit that having made these a while ago, because they sounded so delicious, I subsequently forgot all about posting them until the last moment - d'oh!).

The Sweet and Simple bakes blog can be found here, along with all the rules and guidelines if you want to take part, and the recipe for this month's bake can be found here.

These really were simple to make, as the name of the challenge suggests. I'm not going to reproduce the recipe here, but recommend you check out the blog for the recipe. You can see an 'in process' picture above with the lemon curd in the half filled cases. Yum, lemon curd!!! It was hard to resist transferring the lemon curd straight to my mouth with the spoon, although I did take the lazy route and buy rather than make my curd. Homemade lemon curd would be even nicer.

These went down really well with colleagues, disappearing pretty quickly!!! They were very light, and the gooey centre provided a really yummy contrast with a good citrus kick. The topping was good too - another texture with a lemony crunch that topped off the muffin perfectly. Thanks for another great recipe Rosie and Maria.

Any suggestions for my leftover lemon curd, other than on bread with butter???


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