Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sour cream bread two ways

Something slightly less sweet for those days after Christmas when the last thing you want to think about is chocolate and rich desserts. Although I don't quite understand why I don't fancy rich desserts because I didn't particularly over-indulge over the festive period. I think it must be down to this nasty cold that is refusing to budge and is affecting my sense of taste too.... Anyway, this is one from the archives (there's a lot in there!) that I made shortly after Dan published the recipe. The choice of this bread was partly inspired by a tub of soured cream sitting unloved in the fridge, but also by the rave reviews of this bread on Dan's forums here.

I wanted to use my whole tub of sour cream, but for reasons of space in the freezer (i.e. I couldn't make this bread, plus another and fit them both in!), the bread had to make something suitable for lunchtime sandwiches, and for breakfast, when I like a slice of bread with added dried fruit for preference. I decided to make the whole recipe but split the dough in two and knead about 90g of dried sweetened cranberries into one portion of the dough. When it came to shaping I shaped each dough separately and left them to rise on the same baking sheet. You can see from the pictures that they joined together during baking - not really a problem though! Otherwise I pretty much followed the recipe as given apart from not needing to bake for as long as specified as my dough was in two smaller quantities.

Taste/texture? You can see that the texture was fabulous - very fine grained and moist. In fact, this bread kept very well in the freezer - suffering little from freezer burn. I wonder if this was to do with the fat content. The bread I usually make has very little added fat and is sometimes prone to freezer burn if I don't get through it fairly quickly. The loaf smelled lovely while it was baking and cooling - warm and creamy but I didn't find the loaf particularly creamy to eat.

It has to be said that this is not my favourite Dan Lepard bread recipe. I don't really know why - as you can see from his forums most people were raving about this bread, but although it was nice enough I didn't think it was anything special. I'm definitely in the minority here! I think that at the time I made it I was craving wholemeal bread more than pure white and this has perhaps tainted my memories of it. The part I liked least was the crust - again for no particular reason, but perhaps I overbaked it slightly or something like that. The recipe probably deserves another chance, when I'm in a white bread 'mood'. I will admit that the half with cranberries in was enjoyed greatly for breakfast and would have been delicious toasted, if work ran to providing a toaster!

I think if I make this bread again, which is a possibility if I have sour cream left over from something else, I'll bake in a tin rather than freeform, because I think this might help keep the crust from browning as it did. The crust was definitely my least favourite part of the bread and I can't really put my finger on why.

Because I baked two loaves and didn't space them apart sufficiently, I got a nice soft joining bit - yum!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas and an Igloo

Merry Christmas! I hope you're all having a wonderful Christmas, relaxing, peaceful and joyous!

Can you guess what it is yet? Well, obviously the clue is in the title of the post - an Igloo! This is why I don't generally bother to try and decorate my cakes with any degree of creativity - I am simply not creative! However, I fancied giving this a go after a discussion on a message board I read. I wish I had had time to make some little penguins or other decoration, but this week ran away with me.

The main cake was baked in a 1 litre (I think!) pyrex bowl and then some of the extra cake mixture was baked in a little loaf tin, to allow the entrance way to be cut out. I levelled off the top of the cake baked in the bowl to allow it to sit flat on the plate, cut a piece off the little loaf cake and shaped the entrance way and after cutting the main cake in half to put a generous layer of jam in the middle, I covered the whole lot with vanilla buttercream.

Chocolate evaporated milk cake
200g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
225g caster sugar
110g softened butter
2 eggs
6 ounces evaporated milk -- (a small tin)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

- Preheat oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease a 1 litre pyrex glass bowl and line with two strips of baking parchment, to form a cross to help the cake come out when cooked. Grease and line a small loaf tin too.
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, flour, cocoa powder, vanilla extract and evaporated milk and beat well until mixed.
- Divide between the pyrex bowl and the small tin. Don't overfill the pyrex bowl - the cake will rise as it cooks. I filled mine about 2/3 full.
- Bake the small loaf tin for about 35 minutes, but my pyrex bowl took nearly an hour - the mixture is quite dense. I ended up covering it after about 40 minutes to prevent the top burning - it caught a little, but as I was levelling the top off anyway, this didn't matter.
- Unmould when you can and then allow to cool.
- When cool, decorate as an igloo as described above.

The cake was a fairly basic, sweet chocolate cake, but was pleasant enough to eat if nothing special. It is a fairly robust cake, well suited to shaping for designs and I would use it again for that reason, but not particularly for its flavour. Next time I'll try and use fondant icing for the decoration to get a more professional finish, but feeling full of cold and under the weather wasn't inducive to attempting fondant icing on a dome shaped cake for the first time ever! It was enjoyed as part of our secret santa present swap at work and was well received.

Perhaps cake decoration should be one of my new years resolutions for 2011 - please feel free to laugh loudly at my amateur cake decorating 'skills'!!!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Banana, caramel and date cookies

I'm afraid that this is another case of the finished product looking rather less than it tastes. These small, round brown blobs looking distinctly unfestive are probably one of the best things I've made this year, which is pretty high praise given the amount of baking that I've done over the past few months! I can't put my finger on what makes them so tasty, but I will share the recipe so that you can share my joy at the taste of these biscuits. I would wholeheartedly recommend you make them for loved ones, or just for yourself this Christmas time as a real treat. You won't regret it!

The recipe for these lovely cookies comes from a recently acquired book 'Biscuits & Macaroons' published by ACP publications and bought from Marks & Spencer. It contains so many delicious looking biscuit and slice recipes that I am having trouble deciding which ones to try first. What decided it for this recipe was the presence of a manky ripe banana and some dates left over from the I should Cocoa challenge a while back. I'm so glad I had these ingredients to hand because this recipe is a keeper. I have altered it slightly from publication, and will give my instructions for making them too.

Banana, date and caramel cookies
125g soft butter
220g light muscovado sugar
1 medium banana, very ripe (about 140g with skin)
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g finely chopped dried dates (I snipped mine with scissors)
18-20 chewy toffees (I used Werther's chewy toffees - a 135g packet gave just enough with one left over as cook's perk!)

- Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line two large baking sheets with silicon parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and sugar until combined and light. Add the banana, mashing it against the side of the bowl and then mix it in.
- Mix in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and then when combined, the dates.
- Chop the toffees in half (I did this with scissors again). Form balls of the mixture (about walnut sized) and push half a toffee into the centre of each, moulding the ball closed with your fingers.
- Place on prepared trays and then bake for 20-25 minutes. I baked for 25 minutes, but wished that I'd taken them out after 20 because the edges were a little too crisp. They did soften after a couple of days though, which was delicious!
- Allow to cool a little on the trays - this is important because otherwise the toffee sticks to the paper, pulling the cookies apart when you try to lift them (....speaks the voice of experience!) then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
Yeah, try and contain the piece of caramel in the middle of the biscuit dough when shaping. I clearly didn't manage it and some tried to escape..... still delicious though! The edges of the cookie were slightly crisp, but softened after a couple of days. They were lovely and sweet but with the caramelly and slightly complex edge that the muscovado sugar and dates give, and deliciously chewy in the middle from the toffee. I would like to try them again, perhaps pushing a piece of bitter chocolate into the centre with the toffee to add a different flavour note to them. I seem to have found another way to enjoy dates, the dried fruit of which I never think that I'm very fond, and equally good, a way of using up just one overripe banana.

My colleagues loved these, and quite a few people commented on how good they were, a sentiment with which I can only agree.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Starry vanilla cranberry cake

This is based on Nigella's Spruced up vanilla cake and was purely an excuse for me to use my new star shaped baking tin. Well, if you can't use it at Christmas, when can you!

I followed the recipe as given here, but made 1/3 of the quantity, as my star isn't nearly as big as Nigella's trees. (I would like the tree mould just for the novelty value. Mind you, I'd like most of the Nordicware moulds - they're all fab!) The only change I made to the recipe was to add about 35g of chopped dried cranberries to the mixture - I just prodded them into the cake mixture once it was in the tin, in an effort to prevent them getting stuck in the more intricate details of the star. This tactic worked well, and despite me not greasing the (admittedly nonstick) tin at all, it turned out beautifully! There's luck for you!

The shape was much admired by colleagues, but quickly destroyed as the cake was eaten up! The cake smelled lovely when it was made, but unfortunately I've since developed a particularly horrible cold (before getting the chance to try a piece) and lost my sense of smell and taste. I've saved a piece for myself in the freezer though and am looking forward to trying it when this cold is better. Appearance wise, the cake looked deliciously moist and the cranberries mostly stayed near the bottom, which was the plan. I'll update when I've tasted it, but I was really pleased with the way my new tin performed!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Chocolate drizzled cranberry shortbread

A quick to make but delicious to eat last minute Christmas gift idea. Shortbread is always well received around Christmas time (who am I kidding - any time!) and adding dried cranberries seemed a good way to turn it into a festive treat. I'm really on a cranberry kick at the moment! The chocolate drizzle was meant to add decoration, but in all honesty some of it fell off. The flavour combination of the chocolate with the sweet sharp dried cranberries and buttery, rich shortbread was really good though - especially the dark chocolate (but I would say that as a dark chocolate fiend!) so next time I'll try adding the chocolate to the dough.

These were easy to put together, but I would really recommend chopping the dried cranberries finely, as I did because otherwise I think they would be too big in the finished biscuits and make the rounds difficult to cut. I do wish I knew how to make the demerara sugar stick to the outside of the roll though - it did in some places but not in others. Very annoying! Any tips most welcome!

Cranberry shortbread
125g butter, softened
30g caster sugar
165g plain flour
40g dried sweetened cranberries, chopped finely (I snipped mine with scissors)
demerara sugar for rolling
chocolate for drizzling

- Preheat oven to gas 4/180C. Line baking trays with baking parchment.
- Beat butter until very soft then beat in caster sugar.
- Fold in flour and cranberries until well combined. Shape into a log and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for an hour or so.
- Roll in demerara sugar then slice into chunky slices. Place on baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden around the edges.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack then drizzle with melted chocolate if you so desire.

Packaged up as a Christmas Cracker, all ready for giving as gifts. Cellophane would be good too, but I didn't have any and as they say - necessity is the mother of invention. Or perhaps it's just me that says that....

Tasty shortbready treats, rich and buttery but with lovely cranberries and chocolate too - what's not to like?

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Cranberry and stem ginger buttermilk scones

A festive take on one of my favourite tea time treats, and a little lighter than some of the richer fare around at this celebratory time of the year. Dried cranberries for their sweet tartness and ginger for warmth during the cold part of the year.
Still perfect with butter, but even better with butter and ginger preserve!

Cranberry and stem ginger scones
225g self raising flour
55g butter
25g golden caster sugar
50g cranberries
3 balls of crystallised stem ginger in syrup (about 40g), chopped
150ml/g buttermilk

- Preheat the oven to gas 6 1/2 ish (about 210C). Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
- Rub the butter into the flour until it forms a breadcrumb type texture.
- Stir in the sugar, cranberries and chopped ginger, trying to break up the ginger as it tends to stick together.
- Add the buttermilk and bring together into a soft dough.
- Tip onto a work surface and pat out to a fairly thick blob. (Around 1 1/2" high)
- Cut out scones (I used a 2" cutter and got about a dozen little scones), reforming the dough as necessary. Dust with flour.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Best enjoyed the same day, freeze any leftovers. Fabulous warmed in the oven or microwave - I'd really recommend warming them up - the ginger flavour seems to be magnified and infuse the whole scone with warmth! These are light and tasty morsels - helped by the use of buttermilk the crumb is really tender and just delicious. (No comments from colleagues - scones are one of the treats I make exclusively for my own enjoyment!)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Chocolate Date Crumble Bar - I Should Cocoa

It's time for I should Cocoa again, with Choclette hosting this month. Her choice is dates and this month I have managed to not leave it until the very last minute! It didn't occur to me to use fresh dates, although I suppose that would have been good, given that they're in season, but instead I used the widely available dried dates.

These bars, recently published (though not as recently as I thought!) by Dan Lepard had intruiged me and Suelle at Mainly Baking gave the recipe a good review too. I made something with dates a while ago and wasn't exactly sure whether I like the flavour of dates, so the idea of combining them with orange sounded good to me. I halved the recipe and cooked it in a 2lb loaf tin (having worked out surface areas etc and found that this would be the closest thing to half of the specified tin size) and obviously, left out the hazelnuts. I'm sure they would have been delicious, but not for me!

The resulting bar is deep and generous looking - you can see the thick layer of dates in the picture above - really moist and delicious. I really, really enjoyed these, far more than I was expecting to. I know the point of the challenge is to make the dates the star, but in all honesty they aren't my favourite dried fruit - I think it's the combination of flavour and slightly stringy/fibrous texture that disturbs me. So I was really pleased to be able to find a way to enjoy the dates so much. The texture of the dates is lovely and soft and melting inbetween the two layers of crunchy crumbly bar. The predominant flavour was orange, with a very background date/chocolate flavour (oops, not quite in keeping with the challenge!!!) I added possibly a little more water than I should have to the top layer of crumbs, making the mixture a little wet but all turned out well after I dropped little bits onto the date layer. I also left them in the oven a little longer than specified, but this was deliberate as I wanted a really crunchy topping - which I got!

These might be nice with some mixed spice added to the date layer too, for a more festive treat, and I think they might make a nice change to mince pies for when you've had your fill of those during the festive season!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Ginger and spice buttermilk cupcakes

I did a little survey at work recently and ginger came out as a particularly popular flavour for cupcakes. Well, who am I to ignore my colleagues preferences? Ginger it would be. I had some buttermilk left over from a different recipe and a vague recollection of many interesting cupcakes in one of my many baking books that called for a small amount of buttermilk - far less than it's worth buying commercial buttermilk for. This seemed like an idea opportunity to make one of these recipes and luckily, the ginger one called for buttermilk. Serendipidy!

The closest I can find online is this recipe. It's identical to the recipe I followed, except to make my version you'll need to omit the 50g chocolate. Or you could leave it in and follow the recipe as given. I was tempted to (this is another of the recipes in my book) but decided that I didn't want chocolate. If you do want to follow that recipe and are UK based, I believe the nearest thing to violet crumble bars in the UK are Cadbury's Crunchie (or similar, but not branded eg supermarket own, although a quick browse on the web shows that you can definitely get supermarket own mars bars, snickers, bounty and milky way but not crunchie, hmmm....) but perhaps one of my Australian readers could confirm that?

They were pretty flat when they came out of the oven, which provided a good surface to start decorating on. I would have preferred a bit more lift for the decorations I had in mind though, so next time I'll use all self raising flour. I had planned a swarm (apparently this is the correct collective noun for butterflies! - loads of other really random ones on this website) of butterflies but they all flew away (?!) and I could only photograph this one lonely one. Still it gives you an idea of how they turned out. The filling is a ginger buttercream. Well, a buttercream made with ginger syrup added from a jar of stem ginger. I have to admit that I couldn't taste the ginger flavour in the syrup at all, even though I knew it was there! and next time will add some chopped stem ginger to it for a real ginger boost.

In spite of coming out slightly flatter than I would have liked, these cakes were really light and delicious but still very moist - I think this must be the buttermilk in the cake. Using the different spices was really good - the flavour was more rounded than just using ginger. The quantities given in the recipe give a fairly mild spicy flavour rather than anything very hot or obvious. I might increase the quantities next time.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Cinnamon Apple Crumble cake

This cake was made at the end of a marathon baking session at the weekend and I had various ingredients that needed to be used up. These included three eggs and an unspecified amount of buttermilk. I also had too many Bramley (cooking) apples and a desire for a bit of autumnal spice to warm up a cool evening. And so this cake was born.

Most of my family are less than enthusiastic about cinnamon so I assumed that this would also be the case for my work colleagues. I therefore sprinkled cinnamon on only 2/3 of the cake before baking it (as you can see in the picture below), but then discovered that at work, cinnamon seems pretty universally popular. All of the cinnamon portion of the cake went first (although all of it did go!) so I think it's safe to say that cinnamon is popular!

Cinnamon Apple Crumble cake
200g softened butter
200g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
110ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
130g self raising flour
130g plain flour
2 large bramley apples
For the crumble
100g butter
110g demerara sugar
140g plain flour
1tsp cinnamon

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line a traybake tin, 12x8" (20x30cm).
- First make the crumble topping so it can cool slightly while you make the cake. Melt the butter gently in a pan, then add the sugar, stir to mix and finally add the flour. It will look like a ball of dough, not crumbly at all. This is fine.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and then the buttermilk and vanilla, adding a little flour if it looks curdled. Add the rest of the flour and beat to combine. (I didn't follow this method - I just dumped all the eggs, buttermilk and flour in at once and the whole lot curdled. Yuk. I ended up adding more flour to try and pull it together again, which is why there's quite a lot of flour in the ingredients list. I suggest following a more gradual approach and also not having fridge cold eggs and buttermilk would probably also have helped.... I'll never learn)
- Spread the mixture into the tin.
- Peel and core the apples and cut into cubes. I did this directly over the cake in the tin to save having to prevent the apples going brown if prepared earlier. Sprinkle over the cinnamon.
- Put the crumble topping on the top. The best way I found of doing this (and it sounds a little odd) is to sort of 'chop' the mixture out of the pan, so that little lumps of it end up evenly distributed over the cake/apple mixture. I guess you could also crumble it on with your fingers, but my method is less messy!
- Bake for around 50 minutes to an hour, but keep checking. Mine actually took just over an hour, but I tend to err on the side of caution in making sure things are cooked through - it might have been done a good 15 minutes earlier!

I can't thank Suelle over at Mainly Baking enough for posting this crumble topping ages ago - I've used it a few times now and it always comes out really crunchy, the perfect contrast to soft cake. It's not a crumble I'd use on top of fruit, but here it really is great - thanks Suelle!!!

This is such a lovely cake - moist soft base with lovely soft apple (cinnamon flavoured or not!) and then the really crunchy crumble topping. It would be pretty perfect with custard (Bird's if you please, and thick too - none of this proper stuff with eggs in!) but was great without. In fact I have a couple of pieces stashed in the freezer for those cold nights when you want comfort food without effort... mmmm!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Chickpea cob loaf

I was just starting to think that I'd like to try a different bread from my usual semi-wholemeal one, when Dan decided to publish this bread! Happy coincidence. Chickpea (gram) flour was added to my shopping list for the week and the bread was underway.

I halved the recipe so that I didn't end up with a huge loaf to work my way through but intended to otherwise stick to the recipe as given. My memory let me down though - I ended up forgetting to put any fat in with the flours - how can I forget that from looking at a computer screen to walking into the kitchen? Worrying! However, I don't think that the texture of the loaf suffered too much for it. I was interested in Dan's technique for kneading - essentially to mix the dough and leave it for an hour, knead briefly, leave for a while longer, then shape and leave to proove. This is what I've gradually been doing with my doughs anyway. Instead of doing three short kneads over about 40 minutes I've been lazily doing just one after leaving the dough for a while, then another brief one before shaping. It's generally because this is what suits my day and the other things I'm doing in the kitchen, and to prevent having to keep washing my hands to get them oily to wash them again (my skin hates the winter enough as it is without constant washing!).

I was really pleased with the way this lovely golden loaf turned out - the colour is a gentle yellow, with a fairly thick chewy crust - I think this is how it was supposed to turn out, as Dan's picture here is very similar. I found it a little dry, but perhaps I slightly overcooked the loaf as it's quite a dark crust. I can't recall ever having eaten chickpeas so I have no idea what they taste like but this loaf reminded me slightly of the smell and flavour of cashew nuts. I can imagine that this bread would make fantastic toast, and Dan's serving suggestion of a soupy stew would also be great because it's a very robust loaf and the slices would be great for soaking up gravy.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Jammy oaty slice

As most of the country is covered in snow, even here in the north west of the UK where we rarely get snow, let alone enough for it to stay for almost a week I thought it would be a good time to post these yummy jammy oaty treats. They're perfect for this kind of weather because they use entirely storecupboard ingredients yet taste delicious and warming. Perfect for if you're stuck at home and can't get to the shops, or if you've just had a long walk in the cold and want a tasty treat to eat with your warming mug of hot chocolate.

I was especially pleased to be able to finish off not one, not two, but three jars of jam lurking in the depths of my fridge in these bars. My mixture was strawberry, raspberry and blackcurrant.

I followed the recipe exactly as given here, one of Xanthe Clay's recipes but left mine in a little longer than specified because I wanted a crispier top. The bars aren't as sweet as flapjack, nor as chewy - they're a little more crumbly due to the addition of flour but still with that warming, delicious oaty flavour. the jam in the middle gives a nice hit of sweetness - just choose your favourite jam or do as I did and use up leftovers.

Keep warm in this weather and enjoy some tasty treats. I'm sending these over to Julia over at A Slice of Cherry Pie, who has asked for snow day treats. I think these would be perfect!

My snow picture was taken last year as I ventured across the Pennines to visit family. I had to stop at the summit as the snow ploughs did their work and made Woodhead Pass safe for cars to pass again. I'm not sure I'll ever get a chance to take a photo like this again - it's not a place cars usually stop!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Cinnamon and apple tea bread

One of my colleagues recently remarked that I must spend a fortune on ingredients with all the baking I do. This is true, but since I regard it as my hobby I don't really mind - there are worse things to spend my money on and generally quite enjoy baking. And although blog activity doesn't really reflect this, I have been doing quite a lot of baking recently. Anyway, my lovely colleague gave me some ingredients that she thought I might be able/like to use. (I can't quite tell if it was motivated by the desire to eat these ingredients in cake form, but even if it was, I don't mind in the slightest - any gift is welcome!!!)

One of these ingredients was a bag of mixed dried fruit that needed to be used quite quickly. I have to admit that I don't usually buy mixed dried fruit bags. One of the reasons is the inclusion of the hideous chopped mixed peel that you usually find (candied peel that you chop yourself is a whole different matter, and quite delicious) but luckily this mix didn't include that. And before you ask, yes, I probably would have sat and picked it all out if there had been peel in there! This one was sold as 'American Style Fruit Mix'. I'm not quite sure what that means but perhaps somebody kind from over the pond will tell me whether or not a mix of chopped dates, raisins, sultanas and sweetened dried apple with cinnamon is a typical mix? Anyway, that's what this one contained.
Edited to add: It's this fruit mix here, I think my colleague must shop in Morrisons!

The mixture seemed to lend itself well to a tea bread and instead of the ones I have made here before, I decided to go with a tried and trusted favourite, one that J has been making for years. It was originally clipped out of the Guardian many, many years ago (and is by Katie Stewart in its original form) and has now been much modified and well used and loved. So here is the latest incarnation.

Cinnamon and apple tea bread
250g 'American Style Fruit Mix'
(or 75g chopped dates, 62g raisins, 62g sultanas, 50g dried apple, chopped)
200g glace cherries, chopped
425ml cold tea (although I used hot tea, couldn't find time to wait for it to cool!)
300g light muscovado sugar *** see note below
2 eggs, beaten
420g self raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon (or more if your dried fruit mix doesn't already contain cinnamon)

- Make up tea (I used two tea bags and squidged them about a bit - you want strong tea here). Add the sugar and dried fruit, mix, cover with cling film and leave overnight.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C and grease and line two 2lb/900g loaf tins.
- Add the glace cherries (though you could do this the night before if it's easier) and mix well to mix the cherries through and redistribute the sugar, which tends to settle at the bottom of the bowl overnight.
- Add the flour and beaten eggs and beat well to combine.
- Divide between two tins and bake for 55 minutes. A wooden cocktail stick inserted should come out clean.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

*** I realised as I was typing this up that I had decided when soaking the fruit that I would make the original quantity of mix (2/3 of the quantity stated) but then changed my mind and went for J's option of 1.5x mix quantity. I forgot to increase the sugar though. This is why it's never a good idea to write down recipes with 1.5x at the top and not amend the amounts, or decide half way through to amend the recipe without thinking the whole thing through. D'oh. Last time J made this she forgot to increase the flour and realised just after pouring the mix into the prepared tins that this was the reason it was so runny. She salvaged it fine, but I didn't realise until far too late about the sugar!

Great served buttered (see above!!!) but good all on its own. This type of (virtually, if you're being fussy about egg yolks and flour containing some fat) fat free tea bread always goes down well round these parts and this one is no exception. Lovely and moist and perfect at morning tea break. I have to admit that I couldn't really taste the dates as an individual flavour and wouldn't have known the dried apple pieces were there unless you'd told me. Nevertheless, the cinnamon flavour was great and made a bit of a change from my normal flavours in this recipe.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Semi wholemeal cinnamon raisin bread

I tend to have bread in some form (usually buttered - everything is better buttered, aside from cheese sandwiches...) for my breakfast and occasionally have a desire to change the flavour of my bread - I went through a long period of dried apricots, and then a long period of dried cranberries and decided it was time to branch out and ring the changes again. As you can see, there is a dried fruit theme running through my favourites and I thought that a return to basic raisins was definitely called for. However, there is currently a little bag of cinnamon sitting on my counter top, influencing everything I bake it seems. So a little of that had to go in. And in a nod to healthy eating (and fitting in with my current love of crunchy wholemeal breads) it wasn't difficult to make this bread partly wholemeal. It isn't an enriched or particularly sweet dough, other than the sweetness provided by the raisins and the 'sense' of sweetness given by the cinnamon (as someone who only ever eats cinnamon in sweet dishes, it tricks my mind into tasting sweetness even where there isn't really any!)

I'm sending this bread over to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours (what an amazing blog - be sure to visit!) for Breakfast Club: Because breakfast should be more interesting than tea & toast or coffee & cereal. The theme this (extended!) month is bread.

My kneading pattern happened to fit in with what I was doing that day - I'm sure other kneading patterns will work just as well as this, just make sure the dough is well risen before baking.

Raisin and cinnamon bread
75g strong white flour
75g strong wholemeal flour
75g plain white flour
60g raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
scant tsp salt
scant tsp instant yeast

- Place all flour in a bowl with raisins, cinnamon, salt and yeast. Mix well to combine.
- Add around 160ml warm water and mix well to combine. You may need a little more water.
- Abandon the dough for about an hour.
- Knead the dough briefly for about 20-30 seconds on an oiled surface, shape into a ball and leave again for around 30-40 minutes.
- Shape into your desired loaf shape - I'm liking the stubby loaf shape pictured at the top of the post.
- Leave to rise for around 40-60 minutes, depending on temperature.
-When it's nearly time to bake, preheat the oven to gas 7/220C and put a tray of boiling water onto a low shelf.
- Dust the loaf with flour, and slash with a sharp (or bread) knife.
- Place in the oven and bake at gas 7 for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to gas 6/200C and bake for a further 20 minutes before turning upside down to crisp the base for the remaining ten minutes. The loaf should sound hollow when cooked.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

I've been enjoying this bread greatly for my breakfasts - it's so nice to feel like you have a treat to look forward to at breakfast time instead of dusty museli or boring cereal and the juicy raisins are a real treat - even the caramelised ones on the crust of the bread add to the flavour!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Chocolate caramel cupcakes with caramel buttercream - I should Cocoa

It's time (well, just in the nick of time actually!) for this month's I should Cocoa entry. The host this month was Chele over at Chocolate Teapot and her choice of ingredient to combine with the requisite chocolate was caramel - yum!
All sorts of lovely ideas sprang into my mind, but as is ever the case at the moment time ran away with me and I ended up making cupcakes for this challenge. Not that this is a bad thing in it's own right, but hopefully next time I'll branch out into something different.

This is my own recipe so here goes:

Chocolate and caramel cupcakes with caramel buttercream
110g softened butter
120g light muscovado sugar
105g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self raising flour
125g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g/ml caramel sauce
50-60ml milk, at room temperature
80g dark chocolate, chopped (well, the rest of the bar was nibbled.....)

For the buttercream
40g butter
60ml/4tbsp milk
145g light muscovado sugar
about 200g icing sugar

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with liners and do the same for a mini muffin tin. You may not get quite this many, it depends how large you make the big cupcakes as to how much mixture is left for little ones.
- Cream the butter and sugars until well combined.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the flour and mix to combine then add the vanilla, caramel sauce and chopped chocolate and mix in well.
- Divide the mixture between the cases and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.
- Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

- For the buttercream melt the butter, milk and light muscovado sugar in a saucepan over a low heat.
- Bring to the boil and allow to boil for 1 minute. Add half of the icing sugar and allow to cool a little.
- Add the remaining icing sugar and immediately use to frost your cupcakes. If you don't use it straightaway it will set pretty solid and be impossible to spread!
- Decorate with chocolate as desired.

I tried to marble the caramel syrup in, rather than mixing it completely but as this isn't obvious from the final cupcakes, I wouldn't bother, it's easier to just mix it in well.

My slight confession with these cupcakes is that although it's possible to make your own caramel to use in them, I had a jar of bought caramel half used up and wanted to continue to use that up. However, I did make the caramel for the frosting and it's such a lovely thing to make - the smells wafting up from my pan as I boiled the sugar and butter to make the caramel were luscious - I'm sure it would have been delicious poured over icecream just as it was. Luckily for my cupcakes, colleagues and this challenge I resisted the temptation to devour it all and turned it into icing. Because it's made with light muscovado sugar it's a lovely dark caramelly colour too. I couldn't decide whether to make chocolate or caramel frosting (after all it is a chocolate and caramel challenge!) but decided to major on the caramel aspect this time. Yum, glad I did because I much prefer this frosting to chocolate buttercream.

My colleagues loved them. As for me, well, they're ok. I'm just not sure about the texture of the cupcakes this time round. They're not as light and moist as I had hoped but good all the same.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Earl Grey Cupcakes

I can't believe I haven't updated for so long - I really am still alive and have actually been baking quite a lot recently, but being busy at work has put paid to having any time to blog about any of it! I now have an enormous backlog of things to blog, so decided to make a start with these.

I mentioned a while ago that I had bought the Primrose Bakery Cupcake recipe book (at a bargain price) and I'm so glad that I did - I've made lots out of it (possibly more than any other book I own, certainly for the number of recipes in it) and there are lots more bookmarked to make. I don't know what made me decide on Earl Grey as the next flavour to make after the Lemon Cupcakes - I don't drink tea as I don't really like it! I had, however, bought a mixed packet of tea bags for the odd occasion when a desire to make teabread strikes, and in the mix there were earl grey teabags. This recipe seemed as good a time as any to use them up and see what tea in a cupcake is like.

The recipe is very similar to the vanilla cupcake recipe here, the introduction of the earl grey tea flavour is via steeping tea bags in warm milk and allowing to cool before adding to the cake mixture. I found with the lemon cupcakes that they were quite large and so decided to see if I could get more out of the mixture by making mini cupcakes too, which was a successful tactic - I had a dozen full sized and a dozen mini cupcakes and none looked as though I had skimped on the batter.

Good? Yep! I was really pleased with these. The tea flavour was really subtle and as I had expected this to be the case I went with an unflavoured glace icing so as not to interfere with the flavour. Good decision as the icing added the necessary sweetness without masking the subtle flavour. I think if you didn't know what the flavour was it would be hard to guess, but there was just a hint of perfumed aroma more than anything I suppose. Hard to describe but delicious to eat.

As an aside, I also made a coffee layer cake for a colleague's (significant) birthday recently from the book. It differed slightly from my previous coffee cakes because the recipe says that at the end, just before spooning the mixture into the prepared tins, you marble through the extremely strong coffee mixture, creating a beautiful marbled cake. When the cake is cooked and cool it is drenched in a coffee syrup, making it incredibly moist before being sandwiched and topped with a coffee buttercream icing. I decorated it with chocolate coffee beans (very popular at work!). I wish I'd managed to get a photo of it because it looked incredibly light and moist and very pretty with the marbling, but I was too embarrassed to photograph it at work... The birthday girl was delighted though, and many compliments were received from the assembled crowd at work when it and the other presents were given. Definitely a make again recipe and I might borrow the idea of the syrup for other cakes too.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Gently spiced caramel apple cake

Perhaps I should have called this one 'Lumpy bumpy cake' because that's certainly what it looks like! I didn't realise when I was taking the photographs that this cake would turn out looking so non-descript or I might have made more of an effort to make it look good. Never mind though, taste is what counts!

An invention using what was on hand, autumnal flavours to celebrate the season and with the intention (yet again) of using up ingredients before they expired due to old age.

Spiced caramel apple cake
175g butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
225g self raising flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 large eating apple (I used a Cox)
50g caramel syrup

- Preheat the oven to gas 3-4 (175C)
- Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin, plus another much smaller tin. I only lined the 2lb tin initially, but correctly guessed that there was too much mixture for it, and quickly made up another tiny tin (less than 1lb).
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour, cinnamon and caramel syrup and beat well until all is combined.
- Cut the apple into small dice (I left the peel on my apple to add texture) and fold this through the mixture.
- Pour/spoon into the prepared tins and place in the oven.
- Bake for 1hr 15-30 minutes. This seems quite a long time, but is what I've written in my notes. I think I'd check earlier, especially for the smaller cake.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy with a cup of tea or with custard as a lovely pudding.

I really enjoyed this cake although not the most attractive cake ever! It was light and moist from the apple with a hint of spice from the cinnamon, but without being overpoweringly cinnamon-y. I was also pleased to find that the apple stayed suspended in the mixture well, rather than sinking; I did cut it quite small. Would make again (which would please my colleagues who also enjoyed this cake!).

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Marbled chocolate and vanilla bundt cake

A quick and easy cake for a worknight to deal with a surfeit of eggs. I had been wondering all day what to bake when I arrived home. I knew it needed to be something fairly quick and easy - I generally don't have a lot of energy left by the evening, and preferably something that would not require decoration to look good. (Although even things that could really do with some sprucing up often go into work as is - no one seems to mind that their cakes don't look amazing!)

Luckily, Suelle at Mainly Baking had just posted a chocolate orange cake, with a delicious looking marbled appearance. It was just the inspiration I needed to make this marbled cake. Without the time to look for a novel recipe, this is just my standard cake recipe. As I mentioned, the primary purpose was to use up eggs so I decided to dust off my bundt tin as it takes quite a large capacity without taking an age for the cake to bake. A half used packet of white chocolate also caught my eye, so chopped and in it went!

Marbled chocolate and vanilla bundt cake
225g butter, softened (I love my microwave!)
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
4 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g white chocolate, chopped

- Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180C. Grease your bundt tin well.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs and flour and beat well to combine (I know that I should add the eggs first, one at a time, beating well after each addition, but these were fridge cold, and I never have any luck when it comes to cake batters curdling. To avoid curdling, I add the flour and eggs at the same time. My palate isn't sophisticated enough to be able to spot any loss of texture suffered by using my cowboy methods!).
- Spoon half of the mixture into a small bowl, add the vanilla and mix it in well.
- To the remaining mixture, sift in 4 tbsp cocoa powder and then add 4 tbsp milk; beat well to combine then add the chopped white chocolate.
- Dollop alternate blobs of mixture into the tin, then swirl with the back of a table knife. You don't want anything too narrow or too wide.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin for a while. I didn't and it's quite a delicate cake.

Decoration was too much effort for a work night, so I left it plain. I'm sure a chocolate glaze drizzled over it would have been very well received too.

As you can see, I was a little cack-handed getting the cake out of the tin, so it cracked, but this didn't matter when it was all sliced up and ready to eat! I was pleased with my marbling this time - it seems to be a bit hit and miss but this was a hit occasion! Very well received - I had thought that there would be some left as a few of my colleagues were away on Friday, but never fear, it all disappeared. Good and moist, with a light texture and chocolate flavour, you can just see a little piece of white chocolate peeping out in the top picture. A reliable favourite!


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