Wednesday 29 June 2011

Two birds with one stone - Strawberry Banana Smoothie

The last post for June this year, and I'm being a bit cheeky really, so I hope that the organisers of the blog events that I'm submitting this for won't mind that it isn't an exclusive!

I recently treated myself to 'Hungry?' which is the new cookery book by Innocent (they of the making smoothies fame). I haven't had a proper chance to look through it yet, but was vastly pleased that a quick (random, even - can you see where this is leading???) flick through landed me on the smoothie page containing this recipe. I rather like smoothies and rarely buy them from the shops because they're just so expensive, so I was pleased to see that I could easily follow Innocent's recipe to make my own version of their smoothie. Because I don't often buy them I can't really give a direct comparison, but this was yummy! Simply whizz strawberries, bananas and apple juice (I cheated a little here by using good quality bought apple juice rather than squeezing my own, I also missed out the orange juice specified by the recipe) together, pour into a glass and enjoy!

I know it looks like there's not much there, but my glass was wider than I anticipated, so it looks a bit mean. Next time I'll pour into a narrower glass. It also looks much pinker in real life than these photos show, but I think that's possibly also the case for the bought smoothie - it doesn't look as pink in the plastic bottle as it does in a glass.

So no prizes for guessing that the first challenge I'm submitting this to is Dom's Random Recipe challenge - this month he challenged us to use our newest recipe book, in my case 'Hungry?' as you see above.

The second challenge I'm submitting this for is Breakfast Club - because breakfast should be more interesting than tea and toast or coffee and cereal. This event is coordinated by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours, and this month is hosted by Nayna of Simply Food with the theme of Berries. I'm really pleased that my strawberry smoothie fits this event, because it'd make a perfect breakfast - full of goodness to get the day off to the right start. To make it a bit more substantial you could add a handful of oats, but I didn't! It's sweet, but not too sweet, and light to drink, with the perfect balance of strawberry and banana flavours with the apple juice being a perfect carrier for the other flavours to shine. I was surprised at how sweet it was, but then my banana was very ripe!


Tuesday 28 June 2011

Courgette Cake with Lemon Buttercream

This is an adaptation of a courgette loaf (mine isn't a loaf!) recipe I found in Sue Lawrence's book 'On Baking'. Courgette season is almost here, so when it really starts and all the home gardeners who are overrun with courgettes threatening to turn into marrows overnight start to despair of what to do with them all, I hope this recipe will help a little. Unfortunately I wasn't organised enough to plant any courgettes (or any seeds at all) this year, so my courgettes are from the shops.

The recipe looked really good as it was but I decided to swap in some more unrefined ingredients for flavour and fibre?!; light muscovado for some of the caster sugar, and wholemeal flour for some of the white.

Courgette cake with Lemon buttercream
110g caster sugar
110g light muscovado/light brown soft sugar
3 eggs
150g olive oil (yes, I did weigh it - the mixing bowl was already on the scales and it was quicker and made less washing up than measuring a volume in a measuring jug)
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g courgette, unpeeled
170g plain wholemeal flour (I'm determined to use this dratted bag of flour up!)
170g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp salt (I don't usually add salt because I tend to use salted butter, but here there is no other source of salt so I added the salt as specified in the recipe)
scant tsp ground cinnamon
85g walnuts, chopped (optional - obviously I didn't put these in!)
Lemon Buttercream
90g butter, softened
180g icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon

- Grease and line a 10 x 8" shallow tin. Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C.
- Whisk together the sugars, eggs, oil and vanilla until thick.
- Stir in the grated courgette (I grated mine coarsely)
- Stir in all the dry ingredients, including walnuts if using.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes.
- Allow the cake to cool a little before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

- For the buttercream, cream the butter until very soft, then add half of the icing sugar, cream (slowly at first to avoid a lungful of icing sugar) until light and fluffy then add the remaining icing sugar and cream again until very light. I added a couple of tbsps hot water (from the kettle) as the mixture was a little too stiff. Stir in the grated lemon zest.
- Spread the buttercream over the cooled cake. This will make a fairly generous layer. I had a little buttercream left over and had to try really, really hard not to just eat it off the spoon. I'm not sure what I'll do with it yet though... perhaps eating it off the spoon would have been better!

Definitely a successful cake. I have made courgette cake once before and not blogged it because it wasn't hugely successful, but that was using a different recipe. This cake was light and moist, but not oily at all. Some of my happy testers noted that it was odd to see strands of green in the cake, but I quite liked this, and the courgette wasn't noticeable as a flavour, it just added moisture. The olive oil wasn't intrusive either. I only added a scant tsp cinnamon to this cake, and on balance it could have done with more, but I was concerned that I would overwhelm the cake with cinnamon. I think next time I'll make it with a generous tsp of mixed spice and 1/2 tsp each of nutmeg and cinnamon to give more of a spice hit.

The lemon buttercream wasn't in the original recipe, but I think it complemented the cake well, adding a little fresh hit to the spicy cake. The contrast would have been better had the cake been a little more spiced, but it worked well anyway! Colleagues all pleased - quite a few of them had a little sliver of this cake and one of the chocolate orange cake, and happy noises were heard all round!

Sunday 26 June 2011

Lemon cupcakes with lemon curd filling and icing

I've seen a couple of recipes around recently using cream as an ingredient, not surprisingly, Dan Lepard is behind a couple of them, but Suelle started a discussion on Dan's forums about using cream as an ingredient in baking which was very interesting. I decided that I really ought to do some investigating into this..... well, seemed only right to have to try out a recipe and see what the texture was like for myself.
Baked and ready to be filled

I decided to make Dan's Orange custard cream cupcakes, fairly recently published in the Guardian How to Bake column. Except that I was planning to be lazy and not make the orange cream filling - I wanted to fill them with curd. I meant to go to Waitrose because they do a Jaffa orange curd, but I didn't make it so decided to switch all the flavours to lemon, lemon curd being much easier to get hold of (yes, my lemon curd is from Waitrose, I'd already bought it on a previous occasion!) The only other change I made was to use self raising flour instead of plain plus baking powder, which is just my personal preference.

I don't have posh lemon oil, mine is from Sainsbury's and the label tells me that it's only 12% lemon oil, not pure lemon oil, so I decided to use 2tsp rather the specified 1tsp. I'd love to try the real deal here though!

It was rather therapeutic, digging out a little mound of cake, and lopping most of it off (mmm, baker's treat!) before filling the hole with lemon curd and replacing the lid.

Lids all replaced, ready for the final icing.

You can see that some of them showed their secret a little more than others... over-generous hand with the lemon curd, or insufficiently deep hole!

Anyway, nearly enough photos now, what did they taste like? Very good! The texture (see picture below) was extremely fine grained, they were very delicate cupcakes. The lemon flavour was good, but I bet it would be stunning if I'd used the extract Dan recommended. I really must repeat the recipe with that extract! The lemon curd filling worked well with the cake - it contrasted nicely as a rich, smooth texture against the slightly drier, yet still moist cake crumb. The sweet lemon icing on the top was good too - another contrast. Next time I'll use a finer grater than my coarse microplane, and I might add a little of the lemon extract/oil to the icing too, just for a further flavour boost!

Saturday 25 June 2011

Chocolate orange cake

I like to think of this cake as an 'everyday cake', a snacking cake, something to be there in the cake tin for when the urge for a little something sweet strikes. There isn't a gooey rich icing or frosting, but that's what I mean by an everyday cake. The cake is good enough not to need any embellishment, it can stand on it's own merit.

This is an adaptation of a recipe in Linda Collister's Easy Baking. I've already made a version of this cake here and so I knew that it was delicious anyway, but this time, my adaptations of the recipe were slightly different. I wanted to use up some yogurt rather than creme fraiche, and I fancied orange as the flavour - chocolate and orange are a match made in heaven (along with chocolate and mint). I also used some 90% cocoa solids chocolate that I had hanging around - it seemed too bitter to eat on its own (although I haven't tried this yet) and so a cake seemed like the perfect opportunity to allow its cocoa flavour to shine through.

Ah, the ubiquitous brown square - or, how many angles can you take a photo of brown squares from?!?

Moist chocolate orange cake

60g dark chocolate, melted (I used 90% cocoa solids)
120g soft butter
170g light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
220g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
20g cocoa powder
120g yogurt (I used full fat Yeo Valley)
Zest and juice of one large orange

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line an 8"/20cm deep square cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the melted, cooled, chocolate and mix to combine.
- Add the egg, flour, vanilla, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and yogurt and mix well, until all is combined and no traces of flour remain.
- The mixture seemed very stiff at this point so I added the juice of the zested orange and mixed well to make the mixture slacker.
- Spoon into the tin and level.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes until just firm. (The original recipe specified 25-30 minutes, but at this point my cake was still extremely wobbly and nowhere near done.)
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before turning out.
- Cut into 16 squares.

Just as delicious as I remembered from last time, but more delicate and crumbly than I remembered. It was an extremely moist cake, and very delicate indeed - it fell apart as I picked it up to eat! The flavour was lovely though - really orange-y. I'm not sure about the texture of the zest in there though, I used a microplane grater (coarse) to grate the zest and next time I think I'll use something finer. But that was my only minor niggle, and colleagues thought it was lovely!

Sunday 19 June 2011

No Croutons Required - Roast veggie mozzarella couscous salad

I've been meaning to participate in No Croutons Required, run by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa of Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen for ages and ages now, but because the deadline is before the very end of the month I always end up missing it. I'm also not the world's biggest fan of soup really, so winter months are difficult to think of a salad. I'll have to be more creative in the future!

This month, Jacqueline is hosting and has asked for soups or salads incorporating grilled or roasted vegetables. I love roast veggies so this one really appealed to me. I turned my veggies into a more substantial meal by adding giant couscous and some lovely mozzarella cheese. If you're somewhere chilly, this salad warms up beautifully and the mozzarella goes all gooey and melting... yum!

I roasted peppers, baby tomatoes, red onions and aubergines (almost had a red theme going there!) in the oven until tender then mixed them with some cooked giant couscous (another thing I'm quite keen on!). Season with a little salt, pepper and olive oil to taste, and there you have your simple roast veggie couscous salad. 

Saturday 18 June 2011

We Should Cocoa - White chocolate and strawberry muffins

June seems to be whizzing by rapidly and I haven't made much of a start on all of the challenges I want to participate in, but it always seems to happen that way - I'm very much a last-minute type person. Anyway, I have at least managed to get this month's We Should Cocoa entry made. This month Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog is hosting the challenge and she felt that after some pretty difficult ingredients and last month's roulade challenge that we all deserved something easier and picked strawberries.

I think strawberries and chocolate do go well together, but of the summer berries strawberries are not my favourite - I much prefer raspberries (guess how excited I was that raspberries were the first pick for We Should Cocoa way back last September!). But not everything can be my favourite and strawberries are lovely too so I set about looking for a recipe that combined cooked strawberries and chocolate. I'm not a massive fan of cooked strawberries, but I needed a cake that would keep for a day or two, and while there are millions of recipes where strawberries are incorporated as a decoration I wasn't sure how well my strawberries would keep out of the fridge, so I decided to go the cooked route. After much searching I ended up adapting a recipe designed for raspberries.

These are based on Nigella Lawson's Lemon Raspberry Muffins in 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'.

White chocolate and strawberry muffins
60g butter
200g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g caster sugar
juice and grated zest of one lemon
approx 120ml milk
1 large egg
175g strawberries, washed, dried, hulled and chopped
100g good quality white chocolate, chopped

- Preheat the oven to gas 6/200C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
- Melt the butter and set aside to cool.
- Stir together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, sugar and zest in a large bowl.
- Pour the lemon juice into a measuring jug and make up to 200ml with milk. This will curdle which is fine.
- Beat the egg and melted butter into the curdled milk mixture.
- Combine the wet and dry ingredients gently but thoroughly to ensure no flour pockets remain but don't overmix.
- Briefly mix in the strawberries and white chocolate.
- Spoon into prepared cases and bake for 25 minutes.
- Allow to cool in the tin and then after 10 minutes move to a wire rack.

It may not come as a surprise to you that I was really disappointed with the way these looked. I was envisaging beautiful peaked muffins and what I got was a flat top that had barely risen at all. I don't really know why this is - the cases were nearly that full when I put them into the oven. My tsps of baking powder were scant as I was running out, perhaps that made all the difference? Perhaps substituting strawberries for raspberries was a mistake - strawberries are 'wetter' than raspberries. Maybe the mixture couldn't hold the extra chocolate? Who knows! I do know that all of the strawberries and chocolate chunks sank to the bottom during baking, which again, I wouldn't have expected of a recipe labelling itself 'muffin' - muffin recipes are generally quite good at holding 'add-ins' in suspension in the batter. I feel betrayed.

On the plus side, they smelled fantastic while they were baking, and in spite of appearances they tasted pretty good too. They were a little too sweet for me - probably should have reduced the sugar a little, given that I was using strawberries and masses of sweet white chocolate, but adding the lemon was a revelation - it really lifted the flavour of the muffin/cake without being too lemon-y. That's definitely something I'll do again. The flavour combo was good, but the recipe just didn't work for me. A pity, but I still enjoyed my muffin!

You can see how all the strawberries and white chocolate have sunk to the bottom.

Thursday 16 June 2011

Somerset Apple Cake

Sometimes there really is no good reason for making the cake I end up making. I guess this is pretty much one of those times! My only criteria for the cake I wanted to bake was that it needed to use three eggs. That's it. I didn't want to carry out an extensive search through various recipe books, umming and ahhhing over which cake to make, weighing up pros and cons, deciding if I could be bothered to go to the shops and get extra ingredients.... The book I chose to find my recipe in was Sue Lawrence's On Baking, a book that regular readers will recognise, as I have mentioned it a few times here. I find this book really inspiring, and often get it down from the shelf just to browse - there are so many recipes I'd like to make in it, and so little time! She didn't let me down this time either, with this delicious recipe for Somerset apple cake.

As I said, I wanted something that I had all the ingredients already in the house for, and so I have adapted the recipe slightly. As a slight aside, why does my local supermarket currently have an offer on Bramley apples? They are British apples, according to the bag they're sold in, and given that it really isn't apple season at the moment, all I can think is that they're selling off all of the apples that remain in cold storage as they must be reaching the limit of their cold-store life. Probably not too many nutrients left in them then.... but to be honest I don't really eat cake for the nutrients so I don't mind too much!

Somerset Apple Cake
175g butter, softened
175g light muscovado sugar (or light brown soft)
3 eggs
1tbsp black treacle
225g self raising wholemeal flour
1 tsp each mixed spice and cinnamon (though I have a feeling that I added a touch of ginger too, wish I'd written down what I added!)
450g bramley apples

- Preheat the oven to gas 3/ 160C. Grease and line the base of a 22cm springform cake tin.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, beating well after the addition of each one, and adding a little of the flour if you think the mixture is going to curdle. Add the black treacle and beat in well.
- Add the remainder of the flour and mix well to combine.
- Peel and core the apples and cut into small chunks. Add these to the mixture. The original recipe specifies adding a little milk (up to 3tbsp) but I didn't because I forgot.
- Bake for about 1hr 15mins until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in the tin, brilliant served warm.
- Enjoy with a cup of tea, or with a dollop of creme fraiche, or even some custard if you're somewhere cold enough!

The mixture was slightly stiff (but this is probably due to me forgetting to add the milk specified in the original recipe) but I wasn't too worried as I reckoned that the apples would release some moisture as they cooked.

This was a gorgeous, soft, moist cake. The moist juicy apple paired perfectly with the soft cake which had a lovely gently spicy flavour, and a depth of flavour from the light muscovado sugar. I loved the way the apple pieces at the top of the cake had slightly dried out in the oven and become a little chewy! This would make a perfect dessert with some apple puree and a blob of creme fraiche or a ball of vanilla icecream. Or if you're in the middle of autumn/winter, custard would be a perfect partner. A great, versatile cake!

Sunday 12 June 2011

Citrus Olive Oil Cake (Dairy free)

Although I read lots and lots of different blogs, there are some that I find myself coming back to time and time again. The recipes are appealing and it seems as though I'm on the same wavelength as the author of the blog. One of these lovely blogs is Mainly Baking, written by Suelle. I think that part of the reason is that we both enjoy Dan Lepard's baking recipes from the Guardian newspaper, but there are lots of other recipes that Suelle posts that I find myself thinking I'd really like to try. She has recently had to change her style of baking for health reasons and has been doing a lot of low-saturated-fat baking (note: not necessarily low fat, but low saturated fat). I've been so impressed by the range of baked goods that use oil instead of butter and they all look just as delicious as those made with butter! It's always good to know that there's an alternative to butter laden cakes, and Suelle is building up quite a collection of tried and tested ones. I also really appreciate the honesty that she reviews her recipes with - if it's not quite right or there are receommended changes to a recipe I'd rather know before starting!

This recipe is based on a Mark Hix recipe, found in the Independent newspaper quite a number of years ago now. I followed the recipe as given (using all flour as stated, rather than Suelle's adaptation of cornmeal), apart from using the zest of a lemon and just the juice of the orange (it had already had it's zest taken for something else!). I baked it in an 8" square tin and found that it didn't sink at all on baking or cooling. I'm fairly sure it took longer than 45 minutes though, probably about an hour, and at that stage it was still perfectly moist and hadn't overbrowned on the top. The other change I made (and the one that renders this cake dairy free) was a simple substitution of rice milk for the milk specified in the recipe. I rarely drink milk and it's a pain to have to go and buy milk especially for recipes, so when I found I didn't have any dairy milk I opened a little carton of rice milk and used that instead. It's a fairly light flavour and so I don't think it either enhanced or detracted from the citrus and olive oil flavours in the cake.
I have avoided making cakes with oil as the main fat element for a while now, I think possibly because I sometimes think that muffins made with sunflower oil aren't as nice as those made with melted butter - there seems to be an aftertaste that I don't like, but perhaps this is just due to the sunflower oil and I should try a different oil instead. The other reason I haven't really made olive oil cakes before is that I had always assumed that the cost would be prohibitive. I was surprised though, that this was probably cheaper than a similar cake made with butter. I managed to buy 500ml of extra virgin olive oil (not single estate or anything amazing, but perfectly acceptable) for £1.74 on half price offer. 250g of butter is now at least £1.10, and that's for a supermarket's 'basics' range. Most seem to be around £1.30-£1.50, which is massively expensive. I'm sure that about five years ago butter was about 60-80p for 250g, and that wasn't even basics ranges! So I shall be looking at olive oil cake recipes more closely from now on!

I really, really enjoyed this cake. The flavour of the olive oil wasn't overpowering, but there was a definite 'something' extra to the flavour. The citrus and oil were well balanced, but if anything, I would add the extra grated rind that I missed out to enhance the citrus flavours more next time because the citrus didn't quite come through strongly enough for me, which is entirely my own fault! The cake wasn't oily, but was beautifully moist and close textured, and I can imagine it marrying perfectly with soft summer fruits. I'm glad that I've got a couple more pieces in the freezer to enjoy at a future date!

Saturday 11 June 2011

MM7 - Lemon butter cake

This is the fourth and final post in my mini series on baked goods using condensed milk - the others are double chocolate blueberry cookies, brown sugar chocolate cake and blueberry and cranberry condensed milk oat cookies. It's also another in my 'Marked and Made' series - all of the things that I've had bookmarked either physically or on the t'internet as being things that I should really get round to making at some point. That point has arrived!

Dan Lepard (who else!) first published this recipe for Lemon butter cake in August 2006. Wow, I really am digging into the archives aren't I!

I followed the recipe pretty much as given here, but I don't think I had quite enough lemon juice - I think that some of the volume of my lemon juice was made up with lemon segment bits, so next time I'd add the full amount of lemon juice for even more tang. I can't link to Dan Lepard's forums on this cake at the moment because he's doing maintenance on them (hoping to have them back soon, as they're an invaluable source of hints and tips!) but Suelle at Mainly Baking has made this cake (before she started blogging!), and mentioned that she had trouble whisking the egg white to the required consistency. I was unsure what to do about this, but decided to go with Dan's instructions as I had an electric hand whisk to do the hard work (which Suelle didn't have) and I think that they turned out ok - see pic below:

I haven't done much work with egg whites, but these are fairly shiny and probably soft peak stage? I'm not sure if that is correct, but the cake seemed to work well. The only other change I made was to cook the cake a little longer (if you look carefully you can see it's a little overdone on the edges) and I omitted the lemon juice in the icing topping. I really wish that I had used it though, because I think it really would have added to the overall lemon-yness of the cake.

Such a lovely, lovely cake. I wish I hadn't waited this long to try it for the first time. I will certainly be making this one again. The cake has a close crumb, and wasn't really what I was expecting - I suppose I was expecting it to be similar to the lemon syrup cake I often make (a Nigella recipe) although there's no reason to think it would be. The lemon flavour is beautiful - not absolutely in-your-face, but very definite and almost builds in intensity as you chew the cake, going back for one mouthful after another. I think that a lemon icing would have just finished this off and I'm very annoyed at myself for having not used lemon juice in my icing. A real success, and a great use of condensed milk! I think that overall, the two cakes I made with condensed milk were more successful than the cookies, but then I'm not great at making cookies I guess!

Sunday 5 June 2011

Honey and Treacle cake

I seem to be on a bit of a Dan Lepard baking spree at the moment. The latest cake I made was one of his more recently published recipes, this honey and treacle cake. When I looked at the ingredients I had everything in my storecupboard (in almost sufficient quantity!) so it was fairly inevitable that I would end up making this, especially as I love this type of ginger cake and am currently trying to use up a bag of rye flour that seems to be never ending. I think I have quite a few recipes that require rye flour, but not as the main component, so the bag seems to last quite a long time, and I'm fed up of seeing it, sitting there, staring back at me and taunting me with it's everlastingness. There are a couple of bags of wholemeal flour doing the same thing - expect to see recipes to use those up too, if I have my way (not likely, I'm not very organised!).

Anyway, back to the recipe. It was also very pleasing because it allowed me to use up some candied peel that was hanging around (although I didn't have enough, so just used half of the required amount) and most pleasingly of all, some honey. I don't normally have a problem with using up honey particularly, but this was a runny honey in a squeezy bottle, and had crystallised. I'm pretty certain there's nothing inherently wrong with crystallised honey, but it's pretty near impossible to get it to come out of the squeezy bottle once it's crystallised. And yes, I know I could warm it up and melt it, but in my experience it just recrystallises. This recipe handily allowed me to use up my honey in one fell swoop, so I cut the top of the bottle off to allow me to spoon out the honey inside.

You can find the recipe here. As stated above, the only changes I made were to use half the amount of candied peel (I used lemon) and as I didn't have mace, I used nutmeg instead, mace being the lacy tendril that covers the nutmeg as it grows. I also forgot to ice the cake, oops!

It was a lovely gingerbread type cake. As Dan says, the crumb is moist and chewy from the rye, and as Suelle has noted, it's actually quite difficult to define the flavour of all the different spices. They all seem to meld together, and the black pepper is identifiable by the gentle heat that it provides in the finished cake. Really delicious. It probably would have been even better if I'd remembered the icing, but never mind! The only diappointing thing was that all of my peel sank to the bottom. I had high hopes for it staying suspended in the mixture, as pictured in both the Guardian photograph and Suelle's picture, but sadly it was not to be for my cake. Definitely one to bear in mind for ginger cake lovers who are after something a little different because although this isn't really a ginger cake I think it'd appeal to the same group of people!!!

Thursday 2 June 2011

Maslin Soda Bread

The trouble with starting to revisit lists of things you meant to make, and things you meant to do, is that there was obviously a reason for the item to go onto the list in the first place. When I was making the brown sugar chocolate cake, I was browsing through the many pages in Dan Lepard's forum, specifically the board where the Guardian recipes are posted. The brown sugar chocolate cake was a few pages in, and it took me a while to find it, taking me past lots of the other recipes that I really did mean to make, but just haven't got round to. This is one of them.

I recently found myself with a freezer full of cake and fruit, but no bread (how does that happen?!) and with lunchtime rapidly approaching (and being rather too lazy to leave the house for the shops) I thought it would be a good plan to test this recipe out now! I have to confess to not entirely following Dan's recipe. I looked at all the different flours I had lining up in the cupboard and decided to do a bit of a mix and match. I kept in the rye flour and the amount of oatmeal, but mine was medium rather than fine. For the 350g wholemeal flour I used a mixture of 100g strong white flour, 100g barley flour and 150g wholemeal spelt flour. I kept the proportions of everything else the same.

I decided to follow Joanna's idea (on the forum discussion) of making the bread in a tin, and used an 8" deep, loose based tin, well greased with butter and then covered with more oatmeal - the intention being to have a slightly crunchy crust to the bread when it was baked, and hopefully to stop it sticking.

So my ingredients list is as follows:
75g rye flour (mine was wholemeal rye)
75g medium oatmeal
100g strong white flour
100g barley flour
150g wholemeal spelt flour
14g dark muscovado sugar
1tsp salt
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
43g (don't ask!) butter
150g fat free greek yogurt
300g water

The method is simplicity itself. For Dan's original version see here, but because it's so simple I'll reproduce my version of it here.
- Preheat the oven to gas 6 1/2 / 210C. Grease an 8"/20cm deep round tin, either springform or loose based (mine was loose based) with butter and then generously dust with either flour, or in my case, more medium oatmeal.
- Place all dry ingredients in a roomy bowl and mix well.
- Rub in the butter until no lumps remain.
- Combine the yogurt and water in a jug and then pour the mixture into the dry mixture.
- Mix well with a spoon, and then dollop into the prepared tin. The mixture is very sticky, and I didn't attempt to knead it at all. This isn't a traditional bread dough.
- Place in oven and bake for 35 minutes (I left mine 50, but it was probably done after 45, and my oven was cooler than Dan specified).
- Remove as soon as possible and allow to cool on a wire rack.

This is absolutely divine fresh and still slightly warm, which is how I enjoyed it, with a roast tomato and goat's cheese salad. I would thoroughly recommend this recipe, I've previously made Delia Smith's recipe and although I like it, this trumps it without question. (I've tried to find a link to Delia's recipe, but it doesn't seem to be on her site, it's not the soured cream soda bread recipe there. The original is from her How to Cook Book 1, published about 10-15 years ago). This maslin soda bread is surprisingly light - the crust is chewy and crunchy from the oatmeal on the edges but the centre is delightlyfully soft and moist, without being too crumbly or dry at all. I know that a quick style non-yeasted bread like this will never have the complexity or sourness of other loaves, but it does have quite a distinct and interesting flavour, due to all the different flours, and a slight sweetness almost, possibly from the interaction of the yogurt with the flours. Writing that seems wrong, I would expect yogurt to add tang, but to me, soda bread always tastes slightly sweet.

Oh, just writing about it is making me want to go and grab another piece to butter and enjoy! I'm very glad that I made this long bookmarked recipe, it will definitely replace Delia's recipe as my go-to for soda bread from now on!

Edited to add: I'm also going to submit this to 'Bookmarked Recipes'. This event was originally founded by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments, and has recently been revived by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes, as a vegetarian event.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Blueberry and Cranberry Condensed Milk Oat Cookies

These cookies are the third in my mini series of things to make with a can of condensed milk. (The first two are these double chocolate blueberry cookies and this brown sugar chocolate cake.) I was looking on the Carnation website, browsing through all of the things I could make with my can of condensed milk (and there are a lot! it's a pretty good website for ideas) and came across this cookie recipe. Although it was the double chocolate cookies in the Sainsburys magazine that first caught my eye, I wasn't particularly happy with the way I baked them (waiting for a re-bake I feel) so a different cookie recipe was just what I wanted. These have a much higher proportion of condensed milk to the other recipe and I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

I decided to halve the recipe, because I had other plans for the remaining portion of condensed milk left in the tin (recipe to follow soon!) and the ingredients I used are listed below. I also decided that having enjoyed the dried blueberries in the last batch of cookies I'd use those again, with the addition of dried cranberries (which are cheaper than dried blueberries, but almost as nice!). The recipe says it makes 12, but they must be 12 absolutely enormous cookies because after halving the recipe I still got about 15 or so!!! In fact, if you're planning to get only 12 out of the full amount, I'd suggest cooking only 4 to each tray because they do spread quite a bit.

110g (4oz) butter, softened
110g (4oz) caster sugar
85g Carnation Condensed Milk
100g (3.5oz) oats
75g (3oz) self raising flour
40g each dried cranberries and dried blueberries

For the method, see the original recipe here. The dough is very sticky, and it wasn't really possible to roll the cookies, it was more a case of mushing them into a cookie-appropriate shape and trying not to lose this shape whilst transfering them onto the baking tray. Mmmm, sticky!!!

As you can see, my cookies don't really look like those on the website. Mine have spread quite a bit more, and I can only think that the amount of flour is slightly different or something like that, because I followed their ingredients and method pretty closely. Anyway, it didn't really matter because these were yummy! They were fairly crisp on the edges and nicely chewy in the middle - a combination of the condensed milk and the chewy oats. I still like dried blueberries and cranberries, which is pretty much what I expected! Very more-ish indeed and definitely one to remember for a fairly small amount of condensed milk.


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