Sunday 26 February 2012

Sour Cream Vanilla Cake

A good storecupboard standby (if you can classify sourcream as storecupboard I suppose). This is one of Dan Lepard's recipes, minimally adapted to suit my fridge.

I remember making this in an adapted form a very long time ago, and not really being very enamoured of it (you can see my original post here) but circumstances dictated that I needed to use up the sour cream, wanted a cake at the end of the day and the two collided in this recipe.

You can find the version published in the Guardian here (I used the version in Short and Sweet) but there are changes in the quantities of butter, sugar and eggs, so although similar it's not exactly the same cake. As I mentioned I made a couple of change of my own. I only had a small (150ml) tub of soured cream, but did have some full-fat Greek yogurt too, so I used all the soured cream and made up the difference with yogurt. I also added 2tsp vanilla extract to the mixture too. I found my cake took about 70 minutes to bake, but it is a deep cake so this is to be expected. I think I recall covering it with foil after about 45 minutes.

I recently bought some parchment cake tin liners from Lakeland, having resisted for a long time. I'm not sure why I waited so long (well, I guess cash is part of the answer - they aren't cheap!) Well, they won't be suitable in all circumstances - they do give a pleated edge to your cakes, which is quite attractive in homely style cakes such as this, but wouldn't be any good if you want a smooth finish, but I'm very impressed! No bother of lining the tin, and saved a little on washing up too - always a bonus! In addition, once I had cut the cake, I simply lifted the liner with the cake contained inside into my cake tin for easy transport to work. 

Noted by Dan as a very buttery cake, best eaten cold I thought this was an absolute dream to cut - you can see how neatly the slices cut - no crumbling in the centre here, with beautiful sharp edges. I decided to make this cake more of a dessert for myself by serving it with stewed raspberries and blackcurrants, with just a little sugar. The contrast of the buttery cake and the sharp berries was lovely. I couldn't really taste the vanilla, perhaps it's such a large cake that it needed more than I used. I was definitely keener on this cake now than when I first made it. The texture seems finer than in my previous photos, and perhaps my tastes have changed too. One of my colleagues commented that it had a subtle flavour - I'd agree with this, but it provides the perfect foil for the berries.  

Thursday 23 February 2012

Butterfly kisses

This is my entry to Tea Time Treats, the blogging challenge run by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked. This month Kate is hosting and the theme is Romance. So how are the butterfly cakes you see here romantic then? Well, I suppose in a strict sense of the word romance they might not be, but for me these little buns represent love.

Why? Well, when I was little, my mum occasionally used to hold her face very close to my cheek and flutter her eyelashes. I loved the tiny little movements I could feel on my cheek, barely there and so delicate. These were my butterfly kisses and although she probably doesn't know it, I used to love it when my mum did this. It was special, being so close to someone that loves you so much, and for them to demonstrate that. I think that because they only happened occasionally, they never lost their special quality for me, and I loved them all the more. So love, rather than an adult understanding of romance is where these little buns come from. I made them and I thought of my mum and all the love she gives me.

Even though this challenge was set with Valentine's Day in mind, I think we should share love all the time. So, to make your own butterfly kisses to share with someone you love I'll share my recipe here. It's easy, which is sometimes just what you need...

Butterfly kisses (chocolate butterfly cakes with vanilla buttercream)
120g softened butter
120g caster sugar
2 large eggs
120g self raising flour
20g cocoa powder
scant 1/2tsp baking powder

- Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180C. Line 11-12 holes of a muffin tray with cases.
- Cream the butter and sugar until soft and well combined.
- Add the eggs, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and continue to mix until a smooth batter forms.
- Divide between your cases. I got 11 this time, but they were pretty generous - you could get 12.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until springy.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla buttercream
Beat 80g butter (I used unsalted) with 160g icing sugar and a tsp vanilla extract until very light and fluffy. Needless to say, I used an electric mixer for this.

To assemble, cut a cone of cake out of the top of each bun, and cut it in half. Spoon or pipe (I piped this time, but without a nozzle, so I just got a thick blob) the buttercream into the hole in your cupcake. Replace the wings of the butterfly and dust with icing sugar.

Share them with the one, or ones, you love. Sweet, light, gently chocolate-y and with a little vanilla, and just like a butterfly kiss.

Monday 20 February 2012

Overnight wholemeal sourdough, quick and easy

A colleague was kind enough to share his rye sourdough starter with me recently. I accepted gratefully (and with some embarrassment that I couldn't get my own going - he had no trouble whatsoever!) and started thinking of all the different kinds of sourdough I could make.

It is the most active sourdough starter I've ever seen - tonnes of bubbles and probably takes about six hours to double in volume. It smells pretty good too - when it's just been refreshed I reckon it smells more like apples, but when it's due for feeding and refreshment again there's a much stronger smell of acetone. Not so nice!

My colleague used the instructions in Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters book and it reminded me that I haven't really opened this book for ages. It's the first bread book I bought, a number of years ago now (in fact, I think I had it around the time I left home!). The only bread I remember making from it was the sundried tomato, which I was a little disappointed with for all the faff it took. However this is an old memory, and perhaps with the bread and yeast experience I have gained over the intervening years I would find it less hassle. (But if you're looking for a fine tomato bread I can thoroughly recommend this one). Time to revisit this book.

As we were talking at work I decided to have a quick search on the internet (in a break I hasten to add!) and see if there were any Andrew Whitley recipes out there before getting home and looking in my book. I struck lucky and came across this recipe in Country Life. Elisabeth Luard has apparently chosen it as one of her greatest recipes ever. It's certainly one of the simplest bread recipes I have ever come across. There is not much kneading to speak of (well, not in my world anyway, because I don't tend to knead very much, and this dough was pretty soft and didn't seem to want me to knead it much) then a quick shape and into the tin, to be left alone overnight to rise..

I used a 1lb loaf tin, and fully lined it with baking parchment, without using any fat to make the parchment stick - I didn't want to risk my loaf sticking, and I didn't want to grease the tin so that the crust became oily. I covered with clingfilm and left it overnight (about nine hours) expecting to have to leave it a little longer in the morning. The next morning it was fully risen, sticking to the clingfilm (which I hadn't expected - next time it will be going into a plastic bag, puffed up to keep the dough moist but away from plastic) and asking to be baked. I quickly preheated the oven, and then gingerly peeled off the clingfilm, expecting collapse. I certainly didn't expect (or get!) any oven spring, but since I thought it had already been left too long I didn't hold out much hope.

Thankfully I was wrong. It rose a little, didn't brown too much, didn't stick to the tin, and although I didn't slash it (too soft) it hasn't torn either. And what's more, it's delicious. Only a little loaf, but that suits me perfectly and I think it would lend itself to some experimentation with different flours and perhaps added flavours. I made a couple of other things and in comparison to rye, this wheat based sourdough seems sweeter. I'm happy - I have sourdough, and am very grateful to my colleague who can manage a sourdough starter when I can't!

Friday 17 February 2012

Super fudgy brownies

I think that these are the best brownies I have made yet - the name says it all really, fudgy, chocolatey and delicious. I can see lots of tweaks being made to these - imagining peanut butter brownies and mint chocolate brownies - yum!

I came across these brownies on the rather delicious looking blog Maple Spice, and Deb in turn got them from the (now gone) blog Not a Rabbit, but they have been reposted at Cooking Vegan Food Up North too. As the recipe has already been converted into grams and mls for those of us who prefer metric, it was an absolute doddle to make them.

This is the recipe, reproduced with permission from Deb at Maple Spice. The only alteration I made is to substitute light olive oil for the specified veg oil.

Super fudgy brownies
150g granulated sugar - must be this type, not caster
60ml light olive oil
125ml chocolate soya milk
160g dark chocolate -I used a 150g bar of Green and Black's Cooking Chocolate
80g plain flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-Line a 7 or 8 inch square baking tin with baking paper (I used a 7" tin) and preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
- Place the sugar in a blender and whizz until it's a fine powder and tip into a large bowl (I did this in a small handheld whizzer in two batches). As the original poster states, do not omit this part, it's what gives the brownies their crackly topping. Having read Deb's comments on Maple Spice I knew this step, although sounding odd, was important. Granulated sugar blended comes out somewhat in between caster and icing sugar - wierd!
- Mix together the flour and sifted cocoa powder and set aside.
- Pour the oil, chocolate soya milk and vanilla into the sugar and mix well.
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave and quickly whisk into the oil/sugar mixture.
- Quickly stir in the flour/cocoa mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon until it all comes together.
- Pour/scrape into the prepared tin and bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Mine took much longer than I was expecting. At 20 minutes the centre was still liquid and in total I ended up giving it 40 minutes, although it was probably done a bit sooner. I will try and take it out earlier next time.
- Leave to fully cool then refrigerate for a couple of hours before cutting. It wasn't explained why this is. I followed the example of Maple Spice and refrigerated before cutting and they were great. I also stored mine at room temperature.

Oh yum. Fudgy deliciousness! And just look at that crackly top too... mmmm! I will make these again (and again, and again) and I will try taking them out of the oven a little sooner too for even more fudgy goodness. I cut them into 12 pieces, which I thought was a good size. My only note would be that these are best eaten on the day of making - after that the cut edges go a little drier (but I think this is true of many brownies) but they are still utterly, utterly delicious!

Saturday 11 February 2012

Potato and Dill bread

I was very interested to see that Dan Lepard's Saturday Guardian recipes this week focussed on using potatoes in baking. There is an interesting introduction to the recipes where he discusses the qualities that potatoes bring to a recipe, either raw or cooked. I have baked with potatoes in bread before on a couple of occasions and had quite good results so I was keen to try the recipes this week. The loaf appealed more than the potato cakes (although they sound pretty good too - for another time I think) so I added dill to my shopping list for the weekend, already having the rest of the ingredients to hand.

As is often the case, I halved the recipe. As I was making it, the dough was very wet and sticky - but kneading on plenty of olive oil made the dough easier to handle. I was concerned that it was sufficiently wet that I'd end up with a frisbee of bread - not quite my intention, so I decided to bake it in a 2lb loaf tin. This was a little large for the quantity of dough, but the dough just about reached the top of the tin. I had trouble slashing the loaf as it was quite wobbly as I put it into the oven (I don't think my dough would have stood as a loaf) and I didn't really get any oven spring, but then I wasn't careful with timings and had probably left it too long before baking. My own fault.

When the loaf had had about 40 minutes (I think I baked at Gas 7 for ten minutes then Gas 6 rather than Gas 7 all the time - I prefer a lighter crust) I turned it over to brown the base of the loaf. At this point I was rather worried because the crumb felt very, very soft, and indeed, the bottom of the loaf did sink a bit when it was finishing the baking upside down.

I had visions of cutting into the loaf and the middle squidging out at me, but thankfully my fears were not realised! The crumb is quite open and very, very moist (but not in a 'wet' way, which would be bad). I did use quite a bit of dill (and you can see it in the crust) but my tastebuds must have been killed by years of sugar or something because I didn't really taste the dill. It isn't  a herb I've used much before though, so I probably missed the subtlety of the flavour. Though on reflection as I've eaten more of it, there is a distinct flavour, it's just a new one for me. I think this is the kind of bread that grows on you. At first I wasn't all that impressed, but I am getting to like it more the more I eat it.

I think, all in all that this was a good bread, but it isn't quite to my personal taste. The volume of potato is quite big and this affects the crumb significantly. I'm sure that I could get used to this style of bread, but life is about choices, and although a good recipe, this one isn't for my tastes.

It has started me thinking about potato in dough though - and I am wondering what effect substituting a small part of the flour in a bread dough with potato starch/potato flour would do. Hmmm. I feel some experimenting coming on!

I'm linking this up to Herbs on a Saturday, a blog hop run by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Raisin and cinnamon cake

After seeing the Caked Crusader's recent sultana and cinnamon sandwich cake (looks amazing!) I was inspired to make something with similar flavours myself. It's quite scary how easily I can be influenced by seeing something delicious on someone else's blog.

I only wanted a small cake so decided that making up my own recipe was the way to go here. So, inspired by the Caked Crusader here is my raisin and cinnamon cake:

Raisin and Cinnamon Cake
65g butter, softened
65g light muscovado sugar
1 egg (66g)
65g self raising flour
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon and vanilla extract
50g raisins

- Preheat the oven to Gas 4. Grease and line the base of a 6" round tin.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg, flour, cinnamon and vanilla and beat to combine.
- Stir in the raisins and spread into the cake tin.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and springy.

Well, the cinnamon and raisin combo was as good as ever, and this was a yummy, quick to mix and make cake. Quick to eat too!

I think partly what attracted me to the Caked Crusader's cake was the generous amount of buttercream filling in the middle. I found my cake lovely to eat on its own, but very slightly on the dry side - I think I left it in the oven a little too long, I find it hard to judge with smaller cakes when they're done. So to combat this I decided to serve it with some custard. Except I was too lazy to make custard so just spooned one of those caramel desserts you can buy over the top. It may not look the best, but it tasted good. Custard would have been better though! And custard combined with cinnamon and raisins is perfect comfort food for cold weather.

Monday 6 February 2012

Sherry and Craisin Cake

I was searching through various recipe books this weekend, looking for inspiration to bake for a cake sale being held at work today. One of the books in my pile for inspiration was Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet. My criteria for baking were that the item needed to be (relatively) cheap to make, not too time consuming to mix and bake, be sturdy enough to transport without falling apart (getting the bus to work is a pain when it comes  to transporting delicate items or anything involving buttercream!) and have an interesting twist. After all, although I wanted it to sell well I wanted to make something new and different too!

After much flicking of pages, I eventually decided on the Sherry and Cherry cake. I had always skipped past this recipe in the past, assuming (wrongly) that it was a cherry cake using glace cherries. I already have a recipe for a cherry cake that I'm very happy with and didn't see the need for a new one. But when I looked more closely, this was made using dried cherries and as I happened to have (a little) sherry in the house this recipe looked very appealing.

I didn't use cherries though - I used sweetened dried cranberries, sometimes known as Craisins. Simply because I appear to have bulk bought them at some point in the past when they were on special offer, and they now need using up. My sherry (of which I used a touch less than specified because I'm running out!) is a fairly standard supermarket amontillado (the same one as I used for my sherry raisin cheesecake). This is labelled medium dry, rather than the sweet specified in the recipe. Ah well!

The slightly unusual method of layering half of the batter into the tin, then topping with half of the cranberries then repeating worked well to stop the cranberries all ending up at the bottom of the tin. Along with the batter being slightly stiffer than cake mix sometimes is, and tossing the cranberries in a bit of flour, my cranberries floated! In fact, the ones on the top of the cake barely moved at all, in spite of me gently pushing them down a bit as specified. The only (very minor) down side to this was that the cranberries tossed in flour that stayed put on the top had a tendency to be a little on the dark side, and looked a little 'floury' in places. Minor quibble. Next time I might only toss half of the cranberries in flour and push the ones on the top in a bit more! A version of the recipe can be found here on the Guardian website. You'll have to buy the book for this version!

A quick note on tin sizes. I have 2lb loaf tins that have internal measurements of 11x22x7cm at the top of the tin, and two sizes of loaf tin that I regard as 1lb loaf tins. These are a squat tin (traditional style) with measurements 15x9x7.5cm and finally, a broader tin with measurements of 19x9x6cm. It was this final size of tin that I used, with the recommendation being a 'deep, 17cm long loaf tin or similar'. I was pleased with this choice - the cake mix would have been dwarfed in the big tin, and the little tin would have taken ages to cook through. I left my cake longer than specified (about 10-15 mins) but it would have taken longer still in the smaller tin.

What a lovely cake! The crumb was quite sturdy - making it idea to transport into work for the cake sale and perfect to accompany a cup of tea or coffee. I found the flavour here really intriguing - I didn't really think that the cake tasted obviously of sherry (and wasn't expecting it to - there isn't that much sherry in the recipe!) but there was a lovely, lovely background note of something I couldn't quite identify but which blended really well with the sweet crumb of the cake and the slight sharpness of the cranberries. Overall very successful indeed.

Saturday 4 February 2012

Lemon Buttermilk Cake

There seems to be an abundance of beautiful, perky fresh lemons at the moment, just bursting with zingy flavour and juice and asking to be made into something delicious. I couldn't resist picking some up and then wondered how to make the most of their fresh flavour.

Inspired by a tub of buttermilk in the fridge I decided to visit my bookshelf and pull out one of my purchased-long-ago much-neglected books as I recalled seeing a recipe for a buttermilk cake in it. The book in question is Bill Granger's 'bill's food' and is such a beautiful book. The layout is clean and simple and the photography is gorgeous, making you want to eat all of the dishes in the book, even the ones containing ingredients you detest! I think the only other recipe I've made from the book is the buttermilk pancakes (buttermilk obviously being a theme here!) many years ago, for breakfast once. I seem to remember they went down well!

The picture for this particular recipe is lovely - a gorgeous wedge of pale cake with raspberry syrup running over it, served with extra raspberries and a blob of whipped cream - divine!

Because I wanted to use lemons rather than the specified vanilla and raspberry combo, I have adapted the recipe slightly and give it here:

Lemon Buttermilk Cake
125g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
2 eggs
250g buttermilk
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
grated zest 2 large, juicy lemons

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line an 8"/20cm square shallow tin.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. It will seem that the mixture is not changing, but it does after a while.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add the buttermilk, continuing to beat slowly. Here my mixture curdled in a most disgusting way, I think probably because my buttermilk was fridge cold.
- Add the lemon zest and stir to distribute it.
- Sift in the flour and baking powder, and fold in. At this point my mixture didn't look too bad again!
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for around 50 minutes until risen and golden. I think I may have left mine a few minutes longer.
- Allow to cool for a while in the tin, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

When cool ice with a simple lemon glace icing. I used about 250g icing sugar and the juice of one large, juicy lemon to do this. Simply spread over the cake, trying not to allow too much to run off the edges!

This was a gorgeous cake. The crumb was so soft and tender and gently flavoured with lemon, which was accentuated beautifully by the sharp sweet lemon icing. I was very pleased that the curdling that happened when I mixed the cake didn't seem to affect it adversely after baking. It certainly satisfied my lemon craving in the most satisfying way, and my colleagues seemed equally taken with it as a rapid disappearance will testify!

I will definitely bear this cake in mind again when I next have buttermilk to use, and think it would make a beautiful birthday cake if decorated with fondant etc. But on the other hand, the recipe is too good to save for special occasions - it deserves to be enjoyed everyday.

I am sending this Lemon buttermilk cake to Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker. She is co-hosting a new event - 'Alphabakes' with Caroline of Caroline Makes. The idea is that a random letter will be generated each month and we must bake something involving that letter. The first letter to be generated is 'L' hence my submission!

I am also submitting this recipe to Jac's (from Tinned Tomatoes) Bookmarked recipes linky. This month's linky can be found here. This recipe is one of those that has languished in a cookery book that has been on my shelf and at the back of my mind for years and years now!


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