Saturday 30 April 2011

In my kitchen - April 2011

Inspired by the lovely Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, this is what's been in my kitchen over the month of April. Can't ignore the celebration of Easter and new life and beginnings. I have a whole family of bunny rabbits to celebrate - I love Lindt chocolate and I love the way they colour code their bunnies! 

Easter eggs haven't been forgotten either. I managed to find little eggs in three different sizes this year, which pleased me a disproportionate amount - small things and all that! You can see the three different sizes of yellow egg at the front of the picture. And for those in the UK in order of size from left to right - Tesco micro eggs (but I won't get them again, the chocolate isn't all that nice), Cadbury mini eggs (ah, true love) and Marks and Spencer (yum!). See here and here and even here for more Easter goodies from this year!

And because this post is inspired by Celia how could I resist buying this lovely little side plate with a chicken on it. As soon as I saw it, I thought of you Celia! (To paraphrase a UK post office advertising strapline!) And put to good use below, showcasing an Easter fruit cupcake.

J and I decided that we weren't going to get each other Easter Eggs this year, but I did mention that my wooden spoon had split, and requested a replacement.....

I've already started using one of these, a perfect present! And then finally, not in my kitchen at all, but in the local park and too beautiful to ignore, I love the pink snow under these blossoms.

Looking forward to what May brings to my kitchen.

Thursday 28 April 2011

(Easter) Light Fruit Cupcakes

A final Easter bake here, and then I'll try and move on... When I spotted that Dan Lepard had written a blog post for the BBC Food blog here, all about cupcakes for Easter this year, and leaving baking to the last minute, I thought that it was definitely a sign that I should investigate these recipes further!

I've already made two chocolatey treats for Easter this year, both of which were very well received, so I was glad to see that the choices that Dan gives are for Carrot Cupcakes (which look very tasty!), Simnel Cupcakes (no good for me...) and finally Easter 'bun' cupcakes. These last ones were the ones I opted to make.

I have to admit to being glad that I have a fair amount of cake baking experience behind me though. When I looked at the recipe my guess was that a four egg mixture would never fit into 12 cupcakes cases, and given that the pictures you see are of the twelve cupcakes I made using 3/4 of the specified mixture, I think I was right!

The amounts I used are given below. I also found that at 25 minutes the batter was still raw in the middle, so I added another 8-10 minutes to the cooking time, after which the cupcakes were done. I also chose to add a glace icing rather than a cross and used unrefined icing sugar to give the caramelly appearance you see in the pictures. I quite like this unrefined icing sugar, yes, it is still very sweet, but there are undertones of other flavours there too, which makes it more interesting.

Easter Light Fruit Cupcakes
75g butter
1 1/2tsp ground ginger
1 1/2tsp mixed spice
185g sugar
60ml oil (I used sunflower)
3 eggs
approx 75g eating apple
75g crystallised stem ginger
75g currants
75g dried cranberries
225g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the icing - 150g unrefined icing sugar plus a little boiling water to make a thick icing
Mini (or mico) eggs to decorate

I followed Dan's method as given here, but baked for longer, as mentioned above. I also decided to replace the specified mixed dried fruit with dried cranberries, because I like them, and because I have quite a few packets in my storecupboard at the moment!

These were a lovely moist cupcake, really easy to make, and definitely a light fruit cake rather than a hot cross bun type texture. Delicious for Easter, but also good for any time of the year when you want a substantial cupcake - these were not a light and airy confection, but packed a great flavour of spice, ginger and dried fruit, complemented by the sweet icing on top. There were lots of interesting textures and tastes here - one mouthful hot and gingery, then next sweet tart cranberry. Delicious. In fact, they would be a great recipe to make for wedding cupcakes if you wanted to go non-traditional and have lots of mini cakes rather than one big one - perfect portion control!

And finally, what would Easter be without crispy nest cakes. You don't need a recipe for these - melt chocolate of choice (these are Dairy Milk for the children), mix in crushed Shredded Wheat (aka straw mattresses in our family - I always use the full size ones, as I think you'd get too many edge/crispy bits from mini ones but I end up with half a packet of nasty Shredded Wheat to eat up - any recipe ideas other than more nests?) and form nests. Fill with eggs. The ones above are filled with micro eggs, something I spotted in Tesco, but actually, Cadbury's mini eggs taste oh so much nicer - I shall revert to those in future years. When you're making Easter nests which cereal do you use? Rice Krispies? Cornflakes? Shredded Wheat? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday 23 April 2011

Dark Chocolate Easter Mud Cake

Well, they say balance is the key to a healthy life don't they?! I thought I'd better balance out the white chocolate mud cake in this post with a dark version here. It wasn't actually my intention to use two mud cake recipes, but it's worked out nicely!

Don't you just love the fudgy gooey-ness of that chocolate icing.... It never really set solid and so you ended up with chocolate icing all over your fingers, face, clothes. Just me that's a messy eater then? I think children would love this, but their parents probably wouldn't.

The recipe comes from Sue Lawrence's book 'On Baking' here. It's not the same as her more recent publication 'Book of Baking' but if you ever see a copy, snap it up, it's a treasure trove of delicious recipes. I can't find a link online to this recipe, so don't feel able to reproduce it here but chocolate mud cake is a fairly common recipe.

The cake was quite cracked when it came out, but never fear, the delicious fudge icing will fill in all those cracks without a problem!

Chocolate fudge icing
55g butter
3tbsp milk
200g icing sugar, sifted
25g cocoa powder (I used Green and Blacks)

This is easy - just place all ingredients in a bowl and place over a pan of hot/simmering water until all melted. Leave to cool (the recipe says completely) before using. I found that if I left it to cool completely it formed a bit of a crust if I didn't stir, so I poured it onto the cake when it was still pourable rather than completely set.

Sprinkle generously with mini eggs.....

Why are Cadbury's Mini Eggs so addictive? I'm a confirmed 70% chocolate fiend and I think that these are pretty much the only milk chocolate I just cannot resist...

This is just such a moist delicious chocolate cake - I love the way this little egg is being dragged down into the chocolately depths of the cake.... Cake and fudgy icing are sure to be adored by all the sweet of tooth this Easter and this definitely goes on the 'tried, tested and delicious' recipes list!!!

Friday 22 April 2011

Easter Cake Bake 2011 - White Chocolate Mud cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream frosting

When I saw that Julia over at A Slice of Cherry Pie had announced her annual Easter Cake Bake, I knew that these rather delicious cupcakes would be the perfect entry! I've been meaning to make a white chocolate mud cake for ages now, in fact, I think I did make this recipe ages and ages ago, but couldn't remember what they tasted like, so now seemed a good time for a repeat.  

The recipe comes from the ever reliable Australian Women's Weekly.

White Chocolate Mud Cakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
125g butter, chopped
80g white chocolate, chopped
220g caster sugar
125ml milk (I used semi-skimmed 2% fat)
75g plain flour
75g self raising flour
1 egg

Buttercream frosting
100g butter, softened
220g icing sugar
vanilla extract to taste

To decorate - mini sugar coated chocolate eggs, as desired

- Preheat the oven to Gas 3/170C. Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases.
- Combine butter, chocolate, sugar and milk in a small saucepan.
- Melt over a low heat until smooth. Unfortunately my white chocolate refused to behave and melt properly so I decided that the best thing to do was get my immersion handheld blender and whizz until all the white chocolate had gone. This left the mixture a little frothy, but got rid of the lumps (large!!!) of white chocolate.
- Leave to cool for about 15 minutes (but I didn't).
- Whisk in the sifted flours and egg.
- Divide between the cases. Bake for about 30 minutes.
- Allow to cool.

- Make the buttercream frosting by beating the icing sugar into the softened butter, adding vanilla to taste and a little milk or water if required to get a pipe-able consistency.
- Pipe baskets of buttercream onto your cupcakes, fill with eggs and wait for admiring comments!

Mmmm, luscious, soft buttercream, just ready to dive into! The cake is quite sweet, as is the buttercream, but I think that the celebration of Easter demands a little richness, after all, those with stronger wills than I will be breaking a period of frugality and celebrating the joy that Easter represents. The cake is soft and moist, and the flavour of the white chocolate comes through surprisingly well - creamy and vanilla-y richness. The tops of the cupcakes were a little crisp rather than being very soft, but this actually worked really well with the soft buttercream and soft cakes, so I was a happy (Easter) bunny!

Beware the chocolate eggs if your teeth aren't the best though - one of my colleagues crunched down a bit too enthusiastically on a mini egg and his teeth weren't too happy about it!

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Oat and maple syrup scones

I love scones, they make a great snack - not too heavy but substantial enough to fill a gap. And even better when topped with butter (preferably melted) and jam. So when I saw this recipe at Smitten Kitchen I couldn't wait to try it. I loved the idea of including oats and a proportion of wholemeal flour in the recipe, and having enjoyed these maple syrup cupcakes, I wanted to see how the maple syrup flavour worked with the scones.

I didn't want too many scones, so halved the recipe and made them slightly smaller than specified.

Oat and Maple Syrup Scones (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)


130g plain white flour

40g wholemeal flour

20g oats

2 level tsp baking powder

55g butter

40g maple syrup

90ml milk


- Preheat the oven to Gas 6/200C. Put a piece of parchment paper onto a baking tray.

- Rub the butter into the flours, baking powder and oats.

- Add the maple syrup and milk and bring together to a dough.

- Pat out on a floured work surface and then cut out your scones (my cutter was 5cm/2" diameter and I got 8 scones I think). Place on baking tray and brush with milk to glaze.

- Bake for around 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

- Remove to a wire rack to cool.

I added more milk to my adaptation because otherwise I can't imagine them coming together as a dough at all, these weren't particularly sticky to work with and I added quite a bit more milk than specified. I also forgot to add sugar, relying solely on the maple syrup for sweetness.

I'm afraid these really didn't work for me at all. They rose fine and were fairly attractive and I could appreciate the oats had added a nice chewy texture. Sadly the amount of baking powder used was sufficient to give that horrible 'behind the teeth' feeling that I hate - I don't know why it seems to happen if I use plain flour + baking powder, but not with just self raising flour (which after all is just plain flour and a raising agent...) but it was nasty. I couldn't taste maple syrup at all, and found the scones quite dry, perhaps I overbaked them. Anyway, I wouldn't bother with this recipe again, although if you want to try sticking more closely to the Smitten Kitchen recipe perhaps it would work better. Disappointing.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Lemon and elderflower cupcakes plus Dr Oetker

I was recently contacted and asked if I would like to receive some of Dr Oetker's baking products to experiment with and use in my baking. I replied in the affirmative and received the basket of goodies in the photo at the end of the post. There are some interesting products in their range for bakers like me who are essentially a bit rubbish when it comes to creating homemade decorations for baked goods and it was interesting to receive some of them. I have to admit to being surprised that Scotbloc is still produced, and more surprised to be sent it as a food blogger - not a product I would use, although I recognise it has its place (T can vouch for this - he put it in that place in my house....)
I decided to use the delicate wafer daisies to decorate some little spring inspired cupcakes, baked in some of their pretty cupcake cases. When I think of spring, lemon always springs to mind, and shortly after that, elderflowers. This is partly because there is a large elderflower in my garden and I am watching it with a beady eye to see when it starts to flower... until then elderflower cordial from Bottlegreen is excellent!
The recipe for these is adapted from a couple of sources - I sort of made it up as I went along. I was pleased that the wafer daisies had survived transit related traumas - there were 11 whole and 2 broken ones. Lemon and elderflower cupcakes Ingredients 60g softened butter 110g golden caster sugar 80g self raising flour 60g plain flour 2 eggs
3tbsp elderflower cordial
zest 1/2 small lemon

For the icing
120g icing sugar
elderflower cordial, plus a little water


- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Place your cupcake liners in a bun tray (smaller than a muffin tin).

- Cream the butter and sugar until well mixed.

- Beat in the flour, eggs, elderflower cordial and lemon zest until well mixed.

- Divide between the cake cases.

- Bake for 20-25 minutes until pale golden.

- Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

- When cool decorate using the glace icing (mix icing sugar with enough elderflower cordial to make a thick icing) and place a daisy on the top.

They were pretty successful, although the elderflower flavour didn't come through very strongly in the cupcakes. It was strengthened by the elderflower in the icing though, and overall they worked well, reminding me that spring is well and truly on its way. Yippee!!!

With thanks to Sarah at Brando for Dr Oetker.

Friday 15 April 2011

Spring Blossom

I love spring, the promise of summer to come, the freshness of all the new green in the world....

White flowers, green leaves. I don't know what these are though - anyone out there recognise them?

Blue sky, happiness.

Sunday 10 April 2011

Raisin, cinnamon, cranberry bread scrolls

More pictures than words this time I think. Inspiration by Joanna, recipe by Dan Lepard, resulting bread scrolls courtesy of a very little skill, some patience and an oven.... Dusted with sugar and good to go. These are made using the lovely soured cream dough - see here for original recipe.

I made up the full amount of dough, and then used just over half for these rolls. The other half went to make a standard loaf. Stretch the dough, keep stretching, it'll get there eventually. Half cranberry, half raisin and cinnamon.

Roll up tightly and then cut into slices. Place in lined tin and allow to proove.

This will happen eventually - longer if your kitchen is chilly, shorter if you sit the tin on top of the cooker when you're cooking something else.... I can't quite remember how long I baked them for - try about 30-35 minutes.

All dusted with icing sugar and ready to eat. Curiously these weren't the best example of bread scrolls I've made. I preferred these owl rolls. I think it's to do with the ratio of crust to crumb with this dough. They were great, but not amazing. Good to grab for breakfast on the go, even better dipped into hot chocolate....

Sunday 3 April 2011

Kedleston Marmalade Cake

This recipe has a slight confession attached. When I was Christmas shopping last year I was rather disorganised and bought presents without people in mind. Present first, recipient later approach (this is an expensive, rubbish approach and I'm not doing it next year - I always end up with presents left over that aren't appropriate for any of my recipients...). Anyway, I could tell you that the book that this recipe came from was one of those leftover presents. And in a way, it was. But truthfully, I saw the book, thought that I'd love to have it, but if I could give it as a Christmas present I would. And so I justified the purchase of another, unnecessary, cookery book for myself. Please tell me I'm not alone (if you even understood what I was saying there!)
Anyhow, the book in question is The National Trust Teatime Baking Book by Jane Pettigrew and it's full of lovely, old fashioned recipes - none of your cupcakes with buttercream frosting piled a mile high here thank-you-very-much. Instead, recipes for such delights as Boxty Bread, Barm Brack, Kentish Huffkins, Singin' Hinny, Secretary Tarts, Boodle Cake and a whole host of other delicious cakes, breads, biscuits and so forth. Don't the names make you just want to whip them up as soon as possible? In fact, probably the only thing holding me back from making more of the recipes in here is the lack of pictures. There are some pictures in my version of the book, but not every recipe is illustrated and I tend to like to know what I'm aiming for. But a jar of marmalade prompted me to search for a suitable cake in which to include it, and this is what I came across. The recipe can also be found online here or here.

Kedleston Marmalade Cake (adapted from The National Trust Baking Book)
175g butter, softened
25g light muscovado sugar
25g dark muscovado sugar (I ran out of light muscovado...)
4tbsp (70g) golden syrup
2 eggs
140g orange marmalade
275g wholemeal self raising flour
2 tsps baking powder (I only used one, but it needed the second)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
60ml apple juice (but orange was specified - I didn't have any open)

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line an 8"/20cm deep round cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the syrup and beat again.
- Add the marmalade and beat in, then add the eggs, flour, baking powder and ginger.
- Beat to combine then add the apple/orange juice and stir in to achieve a soft, dropping consistency.
- Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Leave to cool for 15 minutes or so before turning out to cool completely on a wire rack.

The notes with the recipe say that the cake would go well with Ceylon or Assam tea. I assume you wouldn't want anything too delicate due to the bitterness provided by the marmalade.
This was such a tasty cake. I wish I had used my own homemade marmalade though, which is more bitter than the bought version I used. The marmalade could be tasted, but was quite subtle and I think my own would have been better. The ginger wasn't really obvious and I'm pleased to have found another cake that works really well with wholemeal flour. The crumb was so soft and moist and crumbled beautifully when you ate it. Just delicious, I can imagine the inhabitants of Kedleston Hall partaking of this cake in the middle of the afternoon, seated on the rolling lawns and sipping tea from delicate china cups and saucers. Or perhaps retiring to the drawing room to prevent the ladies from being exposed to the sun. You can read a brief history of Kedleston Hall here, on the National Trust website. The National Trust are now looking after this imposing looking Hall, and having discovered that it's not too far from me I'd really like to visit now!


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