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!

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Orange spice shortbread bites - an early taste of Christmas

I've been inspired by seeing various spicy biscuit and cake offerings recently on my meanderings around peoples blogs and decided to make my own variation of something warming and spicy for the longer nights. Shortbread appealed, and after seeing the Caked Crusader's brown sugar shortbread that was decided. I also decided to add a little orange zest to the mixture, for extra delicious smells whilst baking and enjoyment whilst eating.

I adapted a basic shortbread recipe found in a little book I bought in Marks and Spencer recently. I think the recipes are Australian Womens Weekly ones, but since I changed it and there must be countless shortbread recipes I'll reproduce my version here. I made 33 tiny bites.

Orange spice shortbread bites
125g softened butter
30g light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp mixed spice
grated zest 1/2 unwaxed orange
165g plain flour
about 2tsp demerara sugar for sprinkling

- Preheat the oven to Gas 3 1/2 ish so about 170C. Line a baking tray with silicon parchment.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the spice and orange zest (I zested directly into the bowl to catch all the fragrant oils too) and mix well.
- Sift over the flour in two batches and mix well to combine. You will have a lovely soft silky dough now.
- Pinch off little pieces of dough, about a tsp worth in size and roll into a ball in your hands. Place on the tray, spacing a little apart (I did mine in two batches) and then gently squash with the back of a fork.
- Sprinkle with demerara sugar and bake for 15-18 minutes.
- Remove to a wire baking rack and allow to cool.

I think these would be perfect with a good cup of earl grey or lady grey tea or would make ideal Christmas gifts, packaged up daintily in cellophane. The spice and orange flavours were fairly subtle but the biscuits were lovely and crumbly in texture, as you can see from the photograph above. These disappeared really quickly - one just isn't enough and it's all too easy to keep dipping your hand into the biscuit barrel for just one more little one.....


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