Sunday 30 January 2011

Golden raisin bread - Mellow Bakers

I have the lovely Joanna over at Zeb Bakes to thank for this bread (via gentle encouragement and support!), and hopefully many more in the coming months. I've admired her baking for many months now, and have followed her Mellow Bakers posts with great interest - they all look so good, and it's really interesting to see how many different kinds of bread you can make and which ones appeal to different people. You can see all of Joanna's Mellow baking here - inspiring stuff, and the Mellow Bakers forums are here.

Anyway, just after Christmas I decided to take the plunge and order the book - Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread, so that I could join in the action. After far too long a wait (I'm impatient when it comes to receiving things through the post) the book arrived and I jumped straight in with one of the January Mellow Bakers recipes.

The book itself is quite thick and I confess to not having read any of the preamble - it feels almost like I'm a small child with a new toy - I want to just play straightaway and not read the instruction book first! However, I'm really looking forward to reading all the technical detail behind the bread making process soon. This bread must have been pretty forgiving because it still turned out well!
It's a sourdough/yeast hybrid (and yes, whisper it quietly - that means I've got my sourdough starter going again....) and I think that the yeast probably did most of the work in this bread. I could detect a faint sourdough tang, but it was very much in the background. I suppose this was a good thing really, given that I've been eating this buttered for breakfast - I wouldn't have wanted it to be too assertively sour! I halved the quantities given for home bakers and converted them to metric too, for the next time I decide I want to make this. Next time I work with a bread that requires additions, I'll mix them in by hand - my mixer didn't really distribute the raisins all that well - as you can see in the top photo, though further through the loaf the distribution was better - see photo below.

I really enjoyed this bread as a first foray into the book and am looking forward to baking more from it - there are so many different breads I want to try. It's a good job that the group is mellow - there are more breads for this month that I'm not going to get round to making (though this is partly because I didn't receive my copy of the book until pretty late in the month - excuses, excuses!) so it's great that there's no pressure to make them all.

Saturday 29 January 2011

Chocolate chip buttermilk cake

One of my colleagues had very generously given me some baking ingredients, so I thought it would be a good idea to make the most of these. She had given me various sugars, cocoa and chocolate chips so I decided to adapt an old favourite Nigella recipe to use these ingredients. The recipe in question is the buttermilk birthday cake recipe. Luckily I can find a copy of the recipe on the internet already, as Nigella seems to have removed quite a lot of recipes from her new website (not that I can complain really - they're her recipes after all!) but this one is in the Guardian newspaper, so the link is here. The alterations I made were to add 30g cocoa powder and 38g each of white and dark chocolate chips (it was meant to be about 50g each, but I didn't measure them beforehand, just tipped about half from the packets. Apparently I'm mean in my estimates!). I also used 1 1/2 tsp baking powder rather than the 1/2 tsp mentioned, explained below! I baked the mixture in two 8"/20cm sandwich tins for 35 minutes.

I was really surprised by how much the cakes rose. Quite annoying really because I was planning to sandwich them together, which is difficult when they've got massive peaks on them! Although I've just noticed that in the recipe in the Guardian there's 1/2 tsp baking powder, whereas in my copy of How to be a Domestic Goddess there's 1 1/2. That would probably do it...

Anyway, I forged ahead in my plan to sandwich the cakes together - slicing the top off the less peaked cake and turning it upside down created a smooth and relatively stable surface to start icing the cake. Keeping with the two tone theme started by the chocolate chips I decided to have both chocolate and vanilla buttercream frostings, and wanted the vanilla on the top to contrast with the decoration - I used lovely shiny Minstrels, another Christmas leftover. In all honesty I'll probably be using things I bought at Christmas in April so although I can barely remember Christmas now its legacy lives on....

This is a lovely, tasty, moist chocolate cake. It isn't too sweet, which works well with the sweet buttercream frosting and my colleagues had no trouble in dispatching this cake in double quick time!

Thursday 27 January 2011

Blueberry orange yogurt scones

Inspired by Johanna's recent post about her scones, and by Choclette's recent chocolate chip scones, I decided it was long overdue for me to make some more of these delicious treats. I particularly enjoy scones because they're so good for snacks and seem a good way to have a sweet treat without too much fat or sugar.

I had a large pot of yogurt in the fridge that really needed to be used up and recalled that a few months ago Sainsbury's magazine had a feature written by Dan Lepard for scones. There's a basic recipe and then various sweet and savoury variations; blueberry clementine, triple-chocolate pecan, double ginger and apple, almond cherry and then savoury red chilli and tomato, onion, herb and bacon. I can't say the savoury ones are anything I'd usually want to try but the tomato based ones look really good! So, taking inspiration from the blueberry clementine recipe, I decided to make blueberry orange flavoured scones.

I've adapted the recipe a bit to suit what I had available (who has 25ml of double cream hanging round? and what do I do with the rest of the pot once it's open? that ingredient went pretty quickly!). The original recipes can be found in the November 2010 issue of the Sainsbury's magazine.

Blueberry and orange yogurt scones
175g wholemilk yogurt
75g caster sugar
400g plain flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g cold diced butter
zest of 1 large orange plus 50ml juice (but see below)
100g dried sweetened blueberries

- Preheat the oven to gas 6 1/2/210C. Put a piece of baking parchment on a tray.
- Stir the sugar into the yogurt and leave for a few minutes to dissolve.
- Sift (and I actually did - normally too lazy) the flour, bicarb and cream of tartar into a large bowl.
- Rub in the butter, then add the dried blueberries and stir to mix.
- Zest the orange into the yogurt mixture and add the juice to this.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and bring together to form a dough. At this point I thought it looked a little dry, but persevered, turning the dough out and trying to form it, but ended up putting it back in the bowl to add some more liquid. I think it needs about 2tbsp more liquid than stated in the ingredients above.
- Pat out to about an inch and a half thick and cut out scones in the size you choose. I used a small cutter (2 inch) and got 19 normal scones and a massive offcut scone!
- Moisten the tops a little (I used water here) and sprinkle with demerara sugar.
- Bake for about 12-15 minutes until lightly golden brown.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack, or eat warm if you really can't wait!

This recipe differs quite a bit to my usual recipe. I usually use self raising flour rather than plain plus raising agents and more butter but less sugar. They were reasonably successful but I didn't think they were quite as light as my usual ones. However, this could be due to me overworking the dough with it being initially too dry and having to add more liquid. The flavours were great though - dried blueberries are delicious, it's just a pity they're so expensive usually, and the orange flavour made them interesting enough to eat without butter, although served slightly warmed and with butter would be my favourite way to eat these. I ought to give the recipe another go, perhaps the apple and ginger variation - two of my favourite ingredients!

Saturday 22 January 2011

Wholemeal apple and marmalade cake

It's seville orange season now, time to make marmalade (more on this in a future post...) and therefore, time to use marmalade in baking. When I was thinking how I could use some of my newly created marmalade lake (actually that gives the wrong impression; I do have a lot of marmalade now, but it isn't a lake because it has successfully set!) I looked through a couple of my newer cookery books and lo and behold, found this recipe in Nigel Slater's Tender Volume II, page 684 for those who have the book. I'm trying to make more of an effort to get inspiration from the many cookery books I own and this cake was definitely inspired by the apple chapter of Nigel's book. There are lots of other lovely looking recipes in there too - mmmm, apples!

I first made this cake last year when the recipe was published on the Guardian website, here (scroll down past the fish pie recipe) and have even noted down that I made it on the day it was published. Sadly, almost year later it remained unblogged, but all is well as I'm correcting that now! I remembered to take photos of it, but didn't get a piece to eat - it was popular and all got taken before I managed to get a piece for myself. This should really have been a clue to how good it is, and I did keep meaning to make it again (the road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that...) but the opportunity never really arose again until now.

I was slightly worried that the relatively small amount of baking powder in the recipe wouldn't give the cake enough lift, but I'm glad I trusted Nigel's judgement on this one, because it was fine. I think the wholemeal flour added to the flavour and moist texture of the cake too, and complemented the other fruity flavours. Although the top looks quite dark, it really didn't taste overdone at all, it was just right. The only change I made to the recipe was to omit the orange zest, simply because I didn't have an unwaxed orange to hand.

I used a mixture of demerara sugar and the sugar crystals you see above to sprinkle on the top of the cake - don't miss this step (I'm terrible for remembering final steps like this - once the cake is in the tin my mind just says oven straight away usually).

You can see just how deliciously moist this cake was - chunks of soft apple, strands of contrastingly bitter orange marmalade peel and juicy raisins all set against a delicately spiced soft moist crumb. The finishing touch was the crunchy sugar on the top - it was such a good textural contrast to the rest of the cake that I wished there had been more. This isn't a rich fruit cake in the sense of wedding cakes or Christmas cakes, but it's certainly one of the nicest fruit cakes I've eaten for a long time. I will definitely be making this again.

The final picture here is from last years cake - the crumb is a much lighter colour because I used white self raising flour rather than plain wholemeal flour plus baking powder, but much the same delicious moist texture. I can also see from other photos that I forgot to sprinkle last years cake with demerara sugar, which is a pity because that added a lot to the pleasure of eating this cake.

Friday 21 January 2011

We Should Cocoa - Chocolate Box Cake

One of the Christmas gifts I received this year was quite a large box of Thornton's classic chocolates - yum! Except I can't eat some of them, so what better way to share the generosity shown to me by the giver than to share the bounty of these chocolates?! Chele set the challenge this month, and specified that the added ingredient in addition to chocolate was to be leftovers.

I really wanted to incorporate them into a cake of some kind, after all, cake making is what I enjoy the most and I had other ingredients that also needed to be used up. I considered making a compost cake type cake, or a type of fridge cake where the chocolates could become part of a larger whole, but then decided that I wanted my colleagues to be able to choose their favourite chocolate from the 'menu'. The cake I chose to make therefore needed to be delicious, but not the main event. I made a standard vanilla cake, topped it with vanilla buttercream and then added the chocolates.

Vanilla cake
200g softened butter
215g caster sugar
215g self raising flour
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2tsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream
100g soft butter (I used 125g, which was too much)
about 200g icing sugar (possibly a little more)
1 tsp vanilla extract

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line a traybake tin, 8x12" (20x30cm).
- Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food mixer and turn on. Mix until well combined.
- Spoon into the tin and spread out. Next time I'll try and spread more out of the middle and towards the edge, as my edges ended up a bit thin.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until risen, golden and springy.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack before decorating.
- For the buttercream, beat the butter on its own until very soft indeed. Add the icing sugar fairly gradually unless you want to choke on sugar.... Add the vanilla extract and a little water or milk to make the mixture more spreadable.
- Frost the cake, mark your portions (I did 24) and place on your chocolates.

The eagle eyed amongst you will spot that a few of the chocs made it into me rather than onto the cake, leaving three spaces. I filled these with Galaxy minstrels. My colleagues absolutely loved this cake - I received so many compliments about it, and yet the decoration was so easy to do. I must try making more of an effort with decorations in the future because they really do seem to be appreciated! And as you can see T, I did leave the foil wrappers on those chocolates, otherwise how can you find them on the little menu card?

Thursday 20 January 2011

White chocolate and fig biscuits

When I made these biscuits, they were destined to be this month's We Should Cocoa entry - they certainly fulfil the criteria; chocolate - check, leftovers - check... again in the form of the packet of unloved dried figs. (See also, Chocolate fig cake). But while nice enough, they just didn't do it for me. I don't seem to be very good at baking biscuits - these didn't turn out how I was expecting at all, they are described as 'super indulgent biscuits - soft, chewy and fruity, with creamy white chocolate chips. Heavenly' - no wonder I couldn't resist giving them a try. I'm more inclined to blame myself and my habit of overbaking biscuits, than I am to blame the recipe, which looks fine to me. I also don't think that the white chocolate (also left over from Christmas) complemented the figs very well. I find it very difficult to bake successfully with white chocolate - I tend to overbake it and it scorches, which isn't very successful really. So a combination of poor ingredient choice for my taste and overbaking the biscuits means that these probably won't be repeated.

The recipe came from the Popina Book of Baking, which is a really lovely book, with lots of good ideas and I've got lots bookmarked to make, it just doesn't seem like this was one of the most successful for me to choose. There were no complaints from colleagues (not that I was expecting them!) but no particular compliments either.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Chocolate and Dried Fig Cake

Another one of my 'everyday' type cake recipes. It may not be much to look at, but this is a tasty cake, and perfectly complements a cup of coffee at morning break time. This cake follows the frugal theme and is not my recipe for We Should Cocoa this month (although it was for a while... for my submission see here), making the most of Christmas left overs. Chele set the challenge for this month and specified that our chocolate submission should also include leftovers. For me this was a packet of dried figs, bought with no specific purpose in mind. I quite like dried figs, but never seem to get around to eating them, so thought that incorporating them into a chocolate cake seemed like a good way to go.

Again in the frugal vein I was using up some low fat creme fraiche that was hanging around the fridge (leftovers from the banana cake recipe) and also wanted to see how the combination of creme fraiche, a relatively lower egg content and wholemeal flour would work in combination.

This was quite a light chocolate cake - it was moist from the creme fraiche, and sank very slightly on coming out of the oven, which I guess is due to the wholemeal flour. However, it did stay level, without a dip, which is encouraging - I hate it when cakes sink after coming out of the oven, it's really depressing! So this is my recipe, created as I went along...

Fig and chocolate cake
120g butter, softened
120g caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
120g self raising wholemeal flour
100g low fat creme fraiche (I used Yeo Valley, which doesn't have any added stabilisers or other ingredients)
50g dried figs, chopped small (about 4 dried figs)
40g 70% dark chocolate, chopped small

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and base line a shallow 8"/20cm round cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour, cocoa powder and creme fraiche and beat again until well mixed.
- Fold through the figs and chocolate and dollop into the cake tin, spreading the mixture out.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until springy and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack, then cut and eat.

You could also add a chocolate frosting or glaze of some sort, but I was too lazy, sorry, frugal to do this!

Some of my colleagues really enjoyed this cake, but personally it's probably not one I'll make again. I think there are probably better ways of using dried figs up, and better chocolate cake recipes but you don't know until you try do you? I'm glad that I chopped the chocolate and figs very small - they stayed suspended in the cake rather than sinking to the bottom. I was pleased with the use of wholemeal flour, I should definitely do it more! The fig flavour wasn't obvious at all until you bit into a piece of fig, unsurprising I suppose. I wonder if you could stew the figs, make a puree of them and fold this in, modifying the flour content to account for the moisture - I'm sure this would make the cake more figgy. An evolving recipe I feel....

Sunday 16 January 2011

Crunchy banana spice cake

I like to think of this kind of cake as 'everyday cake'. It's the kind of cake that is fabulous to have in the cake tin for when your kids come home from school starving hungry and wanting a sweet treat - but you want to feel that they aren't eating rubbish. Or the kind of cake that will stave off the biscuit cravings - perfect with a cup of tea, but whereas a small slice of cake seems to be sufficient and even a treat, two biscuits just won't hit the spot - it needs to be a small pile (or half the packet....). This way you can feel virtuous - you're getting some of your five a day (OK, there are better ways to do it, but humour me) and it's full of wholegrains too.

The recipe came about because in an attempt to waste less food (an ongoing task made difficult by my inability to resist buying things in supermarkets...) I wanted to use a tub of low fat creme fraiche approaching its 'use-by' date and I had a banana too ripe for me to happily consume it on its own. The wholemeal flour was idle curiosity rather than New-Year-health-kick - I'm interested to see how cakes turn out with wholemeal rather than white flour. I should say that Choclette over at Chocolate Log Blog has definitely made me think about using more interesting flours in my baking - she's got some inspirational ideas on her blog using loads of different flours, and Katie over at Apple and Spice, who has embraced gluten-free baking (having recently been diagnosed with coeliac disease) with a speed and success rate that I'm totally in awe of - spectacular baking apparently doesn't need wheat at all if, like Katie, you know what you're doing and enjoy experimenting!

As I was spooning the cake batter into the tin, I spotted a packet of large grained sugar sitting on the side, calling to me to be used. I think this sugar was possibly the making of this cake. It would have been delicious without, but the layer of sugar on the top added a great contrasting crunch to the moist, soft cake. The picture above shows the brand of sugar I used, and below is a comparison between the size of the grains of sugar that I used, on the left, and demerara sugar (turbinado sugar for US readers), on the right. The grains are much, much bigger than demerara.

So to the recipe...

Crunchy Banana Spice Cake

100g butter, softened
120g light muscovado sugar
120g wholemeal self raising flour
1 medium size ripe banana
1 tsp mixed spice
1 egg
85g low fat creme fraiche (I used Yeo Valley brand which doesn't have any added stabilisers or other ingredients)

Sugar for dredging - see above!

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and base line an 8" round cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the banana, broken into chunks, and beat again until well amalgamated.
- Add the egg, flour, spice and creme fraiche and beat until well combined.
- Spoon into the prepared tin, level the surface and dredge with the grain sugar.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cake is springy and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Cut into generous wedges and enjoy!

I would definitely make this again but next time, I'd double the recipe and make two cakes so that it was a layer cake, perhaps with a buttercream filling, to make a more spectacular looking cake. Popular with colleagues, this one went quickly in spite of its relatively frugal appearance. It was light but still moist and I think that the combination of wholemeal flour and muscovado sugar gave it a depth of flavour that I don't usually get. The spice was fairly subtle, as was the banana flavour. No one flavour dominated, and it was a lovely, balanced cake.

Saturday 15 January 2011

Forever Nigella - Cranberry and Orange Jam

The fabulous Sarah of Maison Cupcake announced on the 8th December that she was going to start hosting a blog event to encourage us all to explore Nigella's vast repertoire of recipes. What a fantastic idea! I have (as I'm sure many of you have) many of Nigella's books but don't cook from them nearly often enough. I think my most used one is 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' but this is probably because I've had it the longest. I really must flick through my other Nigella books and mark some of the recipes I want to try - I'm absolutely sure there are loads of them!

The first theme is 'Seasonal Sensations' giving us a wide choice of what to make. As usual I'm posting just before the deadline (last minute lifestyle!) but when I made my entry for the event there couldn't really have been anything more seasonal..... fresh cranberries! They're only around for a short while in the UK, appearing just before Christmas and being gone from the supermarkets just before Christmas. Although I was out and about today and spotted them in a couple of smaller greengrocers near me, so they are still available should you have a yen to make this jam now! The other great thing about cranberries is that they freeze very successfully so you can buy the berries now, and then store them for when you've got more time to make jam.

Googling for the recipe showed me that although not readily available in an official format (hence no link!) many, many bloggers have made this as an edible Christmas gift. Not me, I'm keeping all of mine greedily for myself - I think Nigella would approve!

I've made this recipe before, and the original is from Nigella's 'Feast', naturally in the Christmas section of the book. It must be the easiest jam ever to make - equal quantities of cranberries and sugar with a little water. I decided to add my own twist by grating the zest of an orange in with the cranberries. There is never any problems with a set here because cranberries are high in pectin.

The resulting jam is not too sweet at all - the sharpness of the fresh cranberries comes through quite clearly, and my addition of orange adds just a subtle citrus twist as a background note. It's perfect on hot toast dripping with butter....

Next time I think I might try making it as a more traditional jam - stewing the cranberries in a little more water before adding the sugar and bringing to a rolling boil for the set. I think this might break the cranberries up a little more - this is a chunky jam. Nigella's way is perfect, but I can't resist tinkering! Thanks to Sarah for organising this fabulous event, I can't wait to see what the theme for next month is.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Roasted potato olive bread

Another of Dan Lepard's fabulous bread recipes, recreated fairly accurately this time (well, with respect to ingredients anyway!). You can find the recipe here. The changes I made were to halve the recipe and omit the dill as I didn't have any. My plan was to make this for lunch on a day that J was visiting, but my plan was set awry as she arrived early and had to leave earlier than anticipated too. This meant that we didn't want to hang around the house waiting for bread to prove and bake. I'd managed to get the dough to the prodding out stage, so I stuck it in the fridge and hoped for the best. On our return about 90 minutes later I removed it from the fridge while the oven heated up and baked from cold. Luckily the dough was forgiving of my misdemeanors and the finished loaf was still lovely. I gave half to J, who took it home and shared it with a couple of friends over the next day or so, all of whom reportedly enjoyed it greatly.

I think this bread may cause differences of opinion. I thought it was really, really delicious. J didn't really like it though - the addition of potato to bread was just too odd for her, and she isn't the world's greatest fan of olives anyway. I hadn't had a bread containing chunks of potato before but I thought it worked really well - the contrast of textures was really nice. The potato was really soft and smooth. The actual dough was great too - it had a really good chewy texture. This was quite a dense, substantial bread, but that made it perfect for lunchtime, with a good chutney on the side and a good chunk of well flavoured cheese. I think the next time I make it I'll reduce the amount of potato slightly, and increase the olives, because I didn't quite get enough olive flavour for my liking.

Sunday 9 January 2011

Mulled poached pears

A good dessert for the post Christmas cleanse retaining the flavours of the season, but in a more delicate way. One of the gifts I received for Christmas was a little selection of food from Fortnum and Mason - I'm looking forward to the chutney and ginger conserve but I really wasn't sure what to do with the four sachets of mulled wine spices. I'm not really a mulled wine person and can't imagine wanting mulled wine four times before the best before date of these sachets - next October.

I think most people can identify with a post-Christmas glut of goodies around the house - cakes, nuts, chocolates and so forth, but for some reason I also have a glut of fruit. I have no idea why, perhaps I bought it to offset the seasonal goodies, but buy it I clearly did, and it needed using up. Part of this glut was pears. Then inspiration struck - pears poached in a light sugar syrup, with mulled wine spices.

The little sachets contain cinnamon, dried orange peel, allspice and cloves - a lovely warming mixture of spices that I'm sure would be ideal for mulled wine, but are also perfect for these poached pears. I peeled my pears, halved and quartered them, then put them in a pan, covered them (just) with water, added 50g caster sugar and tied the mulled wine spice sachet around the pan handle. I brought the water to a simmer, and poached the pears until tender. I allowed them to cool before refrigerating. I served mine with a generous dollop of fromage frais - a delicious, fresh end to a meal.

I guess you could reduce the syrup further and make more of a coating consistency with it, but I just wanted a light syrup. These were lovely, I'm not sure what it is about the texture of cooked pear, but I really love it, and I'll do this again - perhaps the spice sachets could be used to flavour an apple sauce.... I still have three to use!

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Chocolate fudge cake

A post from the archives, but this cake is so good that I've made it twice now - I didn't manage to get very good pictures of the first round, but the second time I was more organised. This is such a good chocolate cake - really rich and fudgy and utterly delicious. Yum is all I can say. Forget the January healthy eating plan and start the new year the way you intend to carry on - by enjoying what you eat!

When the June issue of BBC Good Food magazine came out, I flicked through it and as usual spotted a couple of things I wouldn't mind making at some point in the distant future (i.e. I almost certainly won't make those things, but they took my fancy as I looked through) and wondered to myself why I continue to buy these magazines. Then I came across this recipe for chocolate fudge cake. Wow, yum! It added itself immediately to the 'to bake' list and somehow jumped to the top, ahead of other (worthy) recipes that have been languishing on this (metaphorical) list for far too long! You can now tell how far behind I am with my posts!!! (And I originally wrote this paragraph at the end of June....)

I didn't fancy the frosting/icing recipe that was given in the recipe though, and reverted to one I've used before a couple of times, which worked really well with the cake - definitely recommended!

Was it worth it? Yes! I thought this was a really fab cake - moist and rich and chocolately - more so than the standard cake I'd make, but less fudgy than a brownie. In my book this is a good thing - I don't actually like the sort of uncooked feeling I always get with brownies and so this was a great cake - moist and rich but definitely cooked through! As usual I was icing at the last minute and so the icing was a little warm when I sprinkled the vermicelli on resulting in them being slightly melted the first time I made the cake. The second time I made it I used cheery coloured chocolate buttons to cheer myself and my colleagues up in the middle of winter. No matter, the cake tasted excellent and was well received. Make again, oh yes - and indeed I have done!
Well received both times it was made - now is that really a surprise? This is a lovely treat-y cake - I think it would make a fantastic birthday cake for the chocolate lover in your life!

Sunday 2 January 2011

New bread for a new year - Hamelman's Corn Bread

I wanted to try a new bread recipe - it seems ages since I've had something new (bearing in mind that the soured cream loaf I posted recently was made in October or something ridiculous like that!) and after reading about the Mellow Baker's group on Joanna's lovely blog, Zeb Bakes, I decided that as a new year treat (I can justify anything if I try hard enough) I would order Jeffrey Hamelman's book, 'Bread'. I'm not sure yet if I'll bake along with the Mellow Bakers, or just pick and choose what I fancy from the book, but it clearly has some interesting and different recipes in it.

I asked Joanna which recipes she'd found particularly good from the book and she gave me a little list of yeasted breads that she had found very successful. I decided to make the Corn Bread. I've previously made Dan Lepard's Semolina BBQ buns and wondered if this would be similar in any way. I followed Joanna's instructions here, using fine semolina as this is what I had available. I think I probably left my bread for longer than 45 mins x 2, but I don't think it suffered too much. I think it might be overproofed a little, as there wasn't an awful lot of oven spring. The slashes have opened quite nicely, but they're quite deep and I was probably expecting more rise, however, I did leave the loaf to proove for about 90 mins which is possibly why!

The bread is nothing at all like Dan's Semolina BBQ buns, but is just as delicious. The overnight poolish definitely adds a good tang and flavour. The crust is nice and thin and well flavoured with a close grained crumb making it really excellent for sandwiches. A really good loaf to start with (and I haven't even received the book yet!) so thank you to Joanna for recommending it and I'll look forward to looking at all the other breads the Mellow Bakers have made and deciding what to go for next!

Saturday 1 January 2011

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all of my lovely readers. I've really enjoyed blogging over the past year, and have especially enjoyed reading all your comments - all feedback and suggestions are welcome!
I hope 2011 is a good year for all of you.

Here are a few of the highlights of my baking in 2010, in no particular order really...

It seemed to be a slow start to the year, because the first really memorable cake I made was this rich, buttery apple and ginger cake back in April.

April was clearly a good month though (I'm sure T would agree with that - this was his birthday cake!) and I had fun playing with biscuit cutters to make and decorate some yummy custard cream biscuits after J made them from a friend's recipe.

This cranberry oat loaf recipe, from the ever-reliable and inventive Dan Lepard earns its place in this round up not only for its delicious taste and twist on a traditional raisin loaf, but because I've made it so often this year - with cranberries, raisins, plain and it has been a staple breakfast loaf in this house. Delicious, thanks Dan.

Next up is another bread recipe - these lovely owl rolls, inspired by two of my favourite bloggers, Joanna over at Zeb Bakes, and Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial - you both inspire me constantly. These little babies were delicious and great fun to make - hopefully 2011 will contain many more adventurous and different bread recipes.

As summer started I was inspired by all of the delicious berries available in the shops to make lots of fresh berry cakes. These went down well at work, but this banana blueberry cake was one of my favourites for it's delicious melting soft texture and beautiful blueberry flavour.

The next cake was one of my best inventions this year - a low fat fresh fruit cake, and changing the fat content didn't seem to impact the delicate texture of the cake, which had well balanced flavours.

For someone who adores chocolate there is remarkably little of it in this round up, in fact I think this cake has the honour of being one of only two to make it. I love ginger and chocolate in combo and I think that being able to bite into big chunks of both chocolate and ginger against a background of yummy chocolate cake was the winning factor for this cake.

I want to try baking more with wholemeal flours in 2011, this wholemeal honey cake, whilst admittedly not being the best looking cake in the world was a revelation to me - it was light and moist and not how I imagined wholemeal baking to be in the slightest.

This spelt loaf was another standby recipe over the past few months. I love making bread and spelt is a really delicious grain to work with, as far as I can tell - almost slightly sweet. I was really pleased with the way this bread consistently turns out well using a sort of 'cooked flour' technique, inspired by Dan Lepard (well, who else!).

Penultimate are these Earl Grey Cupcakes. I definitely had a love affair with the Primrose Bakery cookbook in the latter part of the year (and yes, most of what I baked is in the archives, patiently waiting to be published when I get round to it) because every recipe I made was delicious. That book rocks!

And finally, 2010 saw the start of I should Cocoa, hosted alternately by Chele of Chocolate Teapot and Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog. I was dubious when Choclette announced that dates were the ingredient of choice for December, but luckily Dan Lepard came up trumps with an amazing date bar recipe with a delicious chocolate crumble topping.

I can't believe how many delicious things I've had to miss out of this round up, and just looking through the archives to do this post has reminded me of how many truly amazing things I've baked over the past year. I hope 2011 holds as much baking fun as 2010 did!


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