Saturday 28 April 2012

A Rather Red Loaf Cake - Random Recipes

For random recipe this month Dom is celebrating his second blog anniversary - Happy Blogiversary Dom! And so he has asked us to bake a cake to help him celebrate.

One of my more recent purchases (thanks to Sainsbury's having the 'My Kitchen Table' series of books (of which I have a few now...) for only £3.99 each) was Mary Berry's 100 Cakes and Bakes. Having watched a number of bakers participating in Amy's Weekly Bake Off I was suitably inspired to purchase the book when I saw it, having seen the success that other people have had with various of the recipes. 

And I've not been disappointed! The book is full of basic (but solid, reliable) recipes - the ones every baker should have in their repertoire - Victoria Sponge, Cupcakes, Coffee and Walnut Cake, Banana loaves and many, many more. It's my kind of baking - simply, straightforward and down to earth. The decoration isn't usually piled high and OTT, but is suited to the cakes in the book and many of them lend themselves to sharing with work colleagues, which is usually where most of my cakes end up! There are also lots of twists on classic cakes too - I would recommend this handy little book!

So it makes sense that the random reaching of my hand found this book - it has been close by for a while now. And the page that was opened was for Iced Apricot Fruit Loaf, on page 90-91. As is sometimes the nature of random choices I didn't want to use the fruit specified and so adapted the recipe slightly. It is still Mary's recipe so I won't be reproducing it here, but will note for my reference that the 75g of cherries specified became 60g and the 100g of chopped ready to eat dried apricots and 150g sultanas morphed magically into 100g dried cranberries and 100g raisins and the specified self raising flour was replaced with 175g plain flour and 1 3/4tsp baking powder.

I am always dubious when I see recipes stating that a 2lb loaf cake will be cooked in 40 minutes or so, and was relieved that Mary's instructions are to bake for 1hr 10 minutes, by which time the cake was cooked. You might want to check at an hour though. 

I was really pleased with the way this cake turned out. It was juicy and moist (I had been worried by the picture that accompanies the recipe as it looks a little dry to me) and perhaps most surprisingly tasted quite strongly of glace cherries. Given that only 60g had gone into the whole cake, and I'm sure there wasn't a bit in each mouthful, the taste was quite prominent. I hasten to add that this wasn't a problem at all - I like glace cherries! So with all of my red fruit substitutions this isn't quite Mary's recipe, but it turned out well. I'm not quite sure that it's a birthday cake, but I hope you enjoy this submission anyway Dom!

I'm sure there will be more cakes from this book appearing in my life (and probably this blog...) quite soon.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Chocolate Ricotta Scones - We Should Cocoa

Chocolate and Cheese - mmm, yes please?! This months We Should Cocoa challenge, set by Choclette of Choc Log Blog is to make something both chocolate-y and cheesey. And not cheesey as in just-a-bit-naff kind of cheesey. My first thought was chocolate cheesecake - yum! but I decided I was in a contrary mood and didn't want to go for something obvious.

My next thought was my rather lovely book Adventures with Chocolate by Paul A. Young. I really, really must start making things out of this book, because there are so many interesting recipes in there - really different too. Quite a few would have worked for this month's challenge too - Savoury sandwich ganache, Goat's cheese and lemon ganache, Sweet chocolate pesto or Dark chocolate and chilli gnocchi, with mascarpone and pecorino. I wish I were more adventurous!!!

However, I am delighted to present you with these rather gorgeous scones instead. They are based on my favourite recipe (original can be found here) and I have made them over and over again in a number of forms. This one obviously contains chocolate! My chocolate of choice here is something rather bitter - an 85% (I usually use Lindt) because it contrasts so well with the sweet sugar topping of the scone and the moist interior. I love biting down on a little piece of chocolate heaven.

An added bonus is that these are pretty easy and fairly quick to make, which is perfect when you're running out of time....

Chocolate Ricotta Scones
175g ricotta
100g caster sugar
200g self raising flour
50g butter
1-2tbsp milk
40g 85% cocoa solid chocolate, chopped
demerara sugar to sprinkle
I sometimes add a little vanilla extract too if I remember, which is always good.

I use the method detailed here so won't reproduce it again. However, when it comes to shaping the scones, I make a long rectangle, and mark into 10 scones because this suits my purposes better.

Perhaps not the most ground breaking introduction to the cheese and chocolate combo, but because these scones are just so delicious I keep on coming back to them again and again - soft, moist, crunchy with sugar and those little nuggets of bitter chocolate hiding from you in the midst of it all. Bliss is a chocolate ricotta scone!

Thursday 19 April 2012

Soft Wholemeal Loaf

I suppose you could say this loaf has been a long time in the making. Not, I hasten to add, because it takes an excessively long time to make (although this is no bad thing with bread) but because it is another step on my bread making journey.

There wasn't really very much bread on the blog prior to the autumn of 2009, and the few bread recipes I did post weren't all that great. These Spelt and Rosemary Rolls looked fine, but my memory of them is that they were rather denser than I wanted, and the crust rather chewy. I didn't make all that much bread. Around that time I think I started to make more successful bread by following Dan Lepard's recipes and reading the comments people were making on his forums. I can't say everything was always delicious or always 100% successful, but the loaves started to be good enough that I didn't really want to buy bread any more. Occasionally I ran out of mine, or spotted something in the shops I fancied, and then I bought it.

My bread making has come a long way since then and I rarely buy bread now - I am lucky enough to have time to make my own. I've picked up all sorts of tips and tricks that allow me to create the bread I want - soft, substantial, white, grainy, sourdough (well, that's very much a work in progress) I can now often (but not always) get the outcome I want. And I often know why something hasn't worked too, or can think how to tweak it. It always seems to me that it takes an age to acquire a skill, and when I look at other people's blogs with their fantastic photography and wonderful loaves I wonder why it seems to take so long for me to improve. I guess partly I'm hampered by lack of practice - I balance the bread I bake with the bread I eat and don't have hoards of people munching through my loaves to afford me more practicing space (I'm sure many of you would be grateful to have your bread last a few days without needing to rebake!).

So anyway, this loaf is a combination of many things, and it didn't turn out perfectly (it was a little soft and didn't rise up as much as I would have liked, more outwards). But when I look back on where I've come from with bread, this is a million miles from how I started.

Wholemeal, Oat and Mixed Flour Loaf
40g rolled oats
200g very strong white flour
150g wholegrain flours (I used about 130g wholemeal spelt, with about 10g wholemeal rye and 10g wholemeal, just because I wanted to use up odds and ends)
1 tsp salt
1 generous tsp fast action yeast

- Pour 300ml boiling water over the porridge oats in a large bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave to cool until comfortable to the touch.
- Add the flours, salt and yeast and mix to a soft dough.
- Leave for around 10 minutes and then gently and briefly knead the dough.
- You can repeat this kneading if you want, a couple more times at short intervals (10-20 minutes) but I don't think I did this time.
- Leave the dough until it has risen appreciably. Knead briefly and then form into your desired shape. I chose a baton/torpedo type shape.
- Leave to proove again until risen, but not doubled. (I think this is where I went wrong - the oven was occupied and the dough had to be left out too long. I was itching to get it into the oven, but there was a partially baked cake in there. Such is life)
- During this time, preheat the oven (if not already being occupied by a cake) to Gas 7/220C.
- Steam the oven, slash the loaf and bake at 220C for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200C/Gas 6 and bake for a further 30 minutes then turn upside down and bake for 10 minutes more.
- Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and enjoying.

This is one of the softest wholemeal breads I have made. The oats aren't a noticeable flavour at all (in fact I forgot they were there until I found a little piece of oat husk in my sandwich one day!) but provide moisture to the loaf (and some added fibre). Soft and delicious yet substantial too. Great for lunchtime sandwiches.

A lot still to learn, with baker's yeast and without, but if all my bread along the way can be this tasty I am happy to plod along at my own pace.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Honey spice 'Hun-ger' cake

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (from now referred to as HFW) is well known in the UK. He has a River Cottage 'empire' and a regular column in the Guardian. He has campaigned on a number of important issues (Chicken Out!, Hugh's Fish Fight among other) and has a number of books too. But this cake isn't really all that much to do with HFW. There is a series of River Cottage 'Handbooks' published by Bloomsbury, of which I have a couple. The one that this recipe came from is 'Cakes' by Pam Corbin. Pam appears to be a very talented lady; the other book I have by her is the 'Preserves' book of the same series - her nickname is 'Pam the jam'. You can find out a little more about Pam here and here.

The cake came about because I was browsing simultaneously through my (very disorganised, overflowing) cupboards and the aforementioned Cakes book. The unopened jar of honey and the recipe for a spiced honey cake coincided and this cake was baked. You may think this is a slight simplification of the process, and indeed it is, but this cake really isn't all that difficult to put together. Pam notes that it is a family filler type of cake from the 1950s remembered by her friend as a 'beach and picnic' type of cake. I love the Enid Blyton scene that this creates in my mind - jolly outings where the family pile into the car, Father driving, Mother supervising and children excitedley chattering in the back seats. No seatbelts of course. It's the kind of cake you can imagine being handed out after exploring the woods, swimming in a river and having fish paste sandwiches. Easy to make and easy to eat.

This is a lovely old-fashioned cake, the honey combining with ginger and helped along by a little cinnamon and a pinch of cloves. The yogurt in the cake makes it light and moist (I used full fat Greek yogurt as this is what I had in the fridge, but I think in future I'd just use a normal or low fat standard plain yogurt). Pam notes that the cake keeps well in an airtight container for a couple of weeks, which makes it handy to have around for if you are expecting visitors but don't know how long they'll stay or how much cake they'll eat, or for if you need to provide cake on a Thursday but need to bake on Sunday.

Light, fairly moist and with a more complex spicy flavour than just ginger, I have to admit that I couldn't really taste the honey in the cake, but it was delicious all the same.

I have also submitted this cake to Jac's Bookmarked Recipes event. It was bookmarked from Pam Corbin's  'Cake'.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Dark Chocolate Cake with Plums

Ah Chocolate Cake, I am forever seeking a new variation on the most desirable of cakes. This one came about because I wanted to try a recipe with a higher proportion of flour than normal, in the hopes that it would support the weight of a fruity topping. As you can see I am able to confirm that it did :-)

Dark Chocolate Cake with Plums
120g butter, softened
120g caster sugar
160g self raising flour
20g cocoa powder
2 eggs
40g 85% cocoa chocolate, chopped into little chunks
2 large plums

- Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180C. Grease and base line a deep 7"/18cm tin. I used my new PushPan from Lakeland.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the flour, cocoa powder and eggs and beat until well combined.
- Fold in the chocolate chunks.
- Spoon into the tin (it will be quite stiff) and level. Slice the plums finely and arrange neatly on the top of the cake.
- Bake the cake for around 35-40 minutes (but here my notebook fails me, these timings are from memory - the cake may need a little longer).
- Allow to cool a little before removing from the tin.
- Enjoy!

In all, a pretty delicious cake. It would be lovely served warm for dessert with some warm plum compote and a scoop of creme fraiche, but it was pretty good just eaten as it was for afternoon tea. As you'd expect the cake didn't taste of plums but they made for a good textural contrast to the top of the cake, and looked attractive too. The cake itself was soft and inviting, and the chocolate chips were well dispersed through the cake mixture. Biting down on a little piece of 85% cocoa chocolate in a cake is my idea of pleasure, so it was an excellent addition to the cake. Mmmm, chocolate cake!

Sunday 8 April 2012

White Chocolate Easter Cake

A sweet and simple cake to fill you and your family with sweetness and light this Easter.

The recipe comes from BBC Good Food and can be found here. It was originally intended to be a charity baking recipe to raise money for BBC Children in Need in 2010. I modified it only slightly by adding 140g chopped chocolate to the cake batter before baking, and then iced it with a different frosting.

White Chocolate Icing
150g white chocolate (I used Lindt)
40g unsalted butter
vanilla - see below
- Melt the chocolate and butter together over a pan of hot (or simmering) water. Do not allow to overheat.
- Allow to cool to spreading consistency, and spread over the cake.
- Decorate with mini eggs. Cadbury's are my all time favourite.

The frosting wasn't really a particular success - there wasn't quite enough to go around and I had to leave part of the cake bare. I'd use 200g at least in the future. Or use the recipe supplied by BBC Good Food!!! I added a little vanilla to the melted chocolate and butter mix, but I don't recommend this because it caused the previously smooth mixture to seize and go grainy. It still tasted good, but didn't look great. I used it anyway.

Chocolate mostly at the bottom of the cake....

Quick and easy (well, if you've remembered to soften your butter sufficiently, I hadn't really!) and therefore perfect to whip up at the last minute to feed a houseful of visitors over this Easter weekend. It will be much appreciated by the small, sweet loving people in your life. This is a lot of white chocolate and is therefore really quite sweet! Moist, light and chocolatey this was appreciated by my colleagues as a pre-Easter treat. Expect to find most of the chocolate at the bottom of the cake (annoying!). I had to very carefully prise the cake off its parchment lining and still lost a fair amount of the chocolate on the way.

Happy Easter everyone, I hope you have a peaceful time with family and friends, celebrating and eating chocolate.

I'm entering this cake into TeaTime Treats, run by Kate of What Kate Baked (this month's host) and Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

Saturday 7 April 2012

No-Knead Mini Hot Cross Buns

Can I confess to a little secret? My favourite hot cross buns are were from Marks and Spencer. I predominantly love the softness of them. I think this is mostly confined to hot cross buns, because I'm more than happy with my delicious homemade crusty bread, sometimes with a soft crumb, and sometimes a sourdough with a sturdier crumb. But when it comes to hot cross buns all I really want is a soft bun, and sometimes that's hard to achieve at home.

I think it's years since I actually bought hot cross buns, so at least I am trying to make my own! My hot cross buns from 2010 and 2009 were really excellent, and whilst they tasted lovely, they didn't quite achieve the desired softness that I'm seeking.

I decided to take the recipe from 2010 and tweak it a little more to try and achieve that elusive combination of utterly soft crumb with the excellent taste that comes from homemade breads. This is what I've come up with. I think it helps that this must be pretty much the easiest sweet dough I've ever made. These really are pretty much effortless - no kneading at the beginning and just the tiniest amount to gently remove some of the air before shaping the buns.

I think that in the past my efforts towards the perfect hot cross bun have been hampered by baking for too long, and at too high a temperature, worrying the crumb would be undercooked. This time I decided to cook lower and shorter. I also decided that whilst making this a milk based dough to add richness I would also add a little cornflour - a technique that contributes to the supersoft texture of these soft white baps.

Crossed and ready to bake

No-Knead Hot Cross Buns
150g extra strong flour (Canadian)
175g plain soft flour
25g cornflour
1tsp salt
2tsp mixed spice
generous tsp fast yeast
25g caster sugar
zest of one lemon
180ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
100ml water (see method below)
30g butter
85g raisins
40g dried cranberries

- Soak the raisins and cranberries in some boiling water (just to cover) for about an hour. You can skip this step if you want, but it just makes the fruit soft and juicy in the final buns.
- Scald the milk (i.e. bring almost up to boiling point), add the butter, allow it to melt and the milk to cool until it is just warm (so as to not kill the yeast).
- Mix all flours, sugar, salt, yeast, mixed spice and lemon zest together in a large bowl.
- Add the milk/butter mixture, 100ml of water (I used the water that had had the raisins and cranberries soaking in it) and mix to a soft dough. The dough will be very sticky - don't worry, you don't need to knead it!

After mixing, before rising

- Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave the dough for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (I left mine about 2 hours while I went out to do some shopping).
- The dough will have grown significantly.

After rising, before shaping

- Tip onto an oiled surface and knead very briefly and gently to remove the air.
- Divide the dough into buns of your chosen size. I made 10 buns of 40g and 8 of 50g, but you could obviously make them bigger if you want.
- Space them on a baking tray - close together to maximise the soft edges (batch effect) or further apart for separate buns. A no-brainer for me - close together for maximum softness!

Before proofing

- Allow to proof for around 45-60 minutes until they have grown together. During this time preheat the oven to Gas 6/200C.
- Make a paste from a little flour and water, transfer to a plastic food bag and snip off a tiny (and it really does need to be tiny, especially for mini hot cross buns such as these) corner to form a piping bag. Pipe crosses over your buns.

Half way

Piped and ready to go into the oven

- Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes. I used steam in the oven for these. Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool.
- To glaze, warm the golden syrup in a small pan and brush over the buns.
- Split, butter and enjoy! Or toast if you prefer.

Before glazing

Fabulous hot cross buns. I'm so,so happy with this dough and the way they turned out. I think this will definitely be my go-to recipe now. I can see it being very happy to accept all sorts of variations - different spices, different dried fruits (apple, pineapple, cherry, whatever you care to use) and perhaps even fresh apple too. I meant to add candied peel this time round and forgot - I'm not usually much of a candied peel lover (in fact the pre-cut stuff is revolting, only the stuff you chop yourself is nice) but I think it'd definitely be a good addition here, and if you like another tsp of spice these buns would take it.

Soft, spiced buns spread generously with butter, with a sticky glazed top - an utterly amazing way to start the day! I don't think I can sufficiently express how good, and easy these are. Give them a go, it doesn't really matter that Good Friday has been and gone, you won't regret making these.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Mixed Granary Bread

I wanted a quick(ish) everyday loaf, predominantly based on white flour, yeasted and with a little interest added in the way of a proportion of granary flour. This is what I came up with. I'm not sure why I bought the potato flour but I thought I'd add a bit here and see what it did to my loaf, as adding cornflour (in combination with other ingredients admittedly) creates a very soft crumb, adding milk makes the crust colour and the crumb softer, so I was interested to see what potato flour does.

Mixed Granary Bread
100g granary flour
280g strong white flour
25g potato flour
300ml lukewarm water
8g salt
1 generous tsp fast action yeast

- Combine the flours, salt and yeast. I used my danish dough whisk for this.
- Add the water and whisk this in. You will have a wettish, sticky dough. Leave for 10 mins or so.
- Knead briefly (30s-1min) using oil on your surface and hands to prevent the dough sticking.
- Leave for a while (10mins, 20 mins, not too important). Knead again briefly.
- Leave for a bit longer (probably about 20 mins)
- Dough looked very active so now was a good time to shape. I made a stubby sort of loaf shape.
- Leave in a warm-ish place to allow to increase in size.
- Preheat the oven to Gas 7/220C.
- Bake for 12 minutes at Gas 7 then reduce the heat to Gas 6/200C and continue to cook for a further 25 minutes, turn upside down and leave for 10 min more.
- Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

For the second proove, I only had to give this loaf about 35 minutes - yeast was very active, perhaps I'd put a little more in than usual, perhaps my yeast loves granary flour, I don't know. I think I picked almost the right time to bake - the slashes opened up beautifully. It could perhaps have been prooved a little longer though, there is some ripping around the base of the loaf (see picture above). It makes a change from my usual mistake of leaving the loaf for far too long, and then being disappointed that there is no oven spring!

The pictures don't seem to show the granary nature of the loaf - I promise it is in there! This was a very good loaf - an everyday loaf with a slightly chewy rather than crispy crunchy crust and a soft interior. I'm not sure what, if anything, the potato flour added to the loaf. I wonder if it made the crust chewy rather than crispy, but I'm not sure. Quite a bit of potato flour to use up now though!

Sunday 1 April 2012

Black Bread - Short and Tweet

This week's selection included suggestions for a number of different breads from @EvidenceMatters - you can find the Short and Tweet schedule for April here. You can find out more about the challenge and how to participate here. So this week's selection included Spelt and Ale loaf (I've just finished my spelt flour!), Walnut loaf (out for obvious reasons round this way), Soya and Linseed Loaf (I have recently baked, but not blogged about a soya containing loaf so didn't want to duplicate the bread in my freezer), Multigrain and Honey loaf and Black Bread. Both of these remaining breads included ingredients I'm really not sure that I'm keen on. I don't really do seeds very much and the Black Bread is full of slightly weird and wonderful ingredients.

Having recently aquired some caraway seeds I decided that it would be the Black Bread for me. Helpfully it didn't require the sponge stage that the multigrain and honey loaf needs. Helpful because I am not organised and have only just finished baking this loaf!

The loaf derives the intense black colour from a mixture of rye flour (although you can choose rye, spelt or wholemeal), black treacle, cocoa powder and instant coffee powder, plus there are additional flavours from the seeds - caraway, fennel and cumin are the suggestions so I decided on caraway. There is also an option on the starchy root vegetable too - carrot is suggested and is what I used, but I'm sure that parsnip, swede, turnip or even potato would work equally well. I guess that with all of these variations each loaf of black bread will be fairly unique to the baker making this particular recipe.

I halved the recipe - partly due to storage issues (again) and partly because I'm not sure that I'll like the end result! Having said that, when I halved the ingredients I was mean with the seeds, using just a scant tsp, mean with the coffee, using just over a half a tsp instant espresso powder (I really don't like coffee at all, even as a flavouring in cakes, but having successfully made Dan's Black Pepper Rye Bread that has coffee as the liquid component, I suspect that the coffee will add to the complexity of flavours rather than overwhelm the loaf), and used about 20g butter.

Cooked rye, muscovado sugar and yeast.

Leaving the yeast to sponge briefly with a portion of the rye that is cooked.

The same mixture after being left for almost an hour.

Lots of random ingredients, ready to be heated.

All in, now to mix...

Mixed up dough, rough and ready before kneading.

Just before shaping. I chose a baton shape rather than the specified round.

After prooving.

Dusted and slashed. I didn't coat mine with the specified sesame seeds, because as I mentioned above, I don't really do seeds.

Just out of the oven.

The crumb is so, so soft. I'm really pleased with the way this has turned out - I chose the right time to bake and was rewarded with oven spring and my slash opening out well, and the crumb is moist and even.

I baked for 10 minutes at Gas 7/220C, then 30 minutes at Gas 6/200C, followed by a further 10 minutes at Gas 6/200C upside down to crisp the base of the loaf.

Amazing looking bread - I haven't had any of it yet, but will update with tasting notes as soon as I can.

Edited 02/04 It's a stunning bread to eat - soft and moist but not pappy soft. The flavour is certainly unusual. The combination of rye, coffee, cocoa and treacle all sort of magically meld into one seamless complex whole - of those flavours I could probably have identified treacle as one but the others were mingled. I'm sure this is just how it is meant to be - after all, the coffee in the Black Pepper Rye bread isn't noticeable as coffee either. I'm glad about this as a non-coffee lover. The next thing I say may sound obvious to many of you, but bear with me, because I've only ever used caraway seeds once before in my life! The choice of seeds in the recipe is caraway, fennel or cumin and I chose caraway, simply because I had them available. The caraway flavour is still very prominent after baking. I thought that this may be the case, because it is a strong flavour, but wondered if it would be tempered by all of the other flavours in the loaf - not so much is the answer! This is fine and great if you love caraway, but I'm still not so sure. I guess this means I'm perching on the fence with this loaf. So it's a stunning loaf - visually, texturally and flavourwise, but use seeds that you know you like the flavour of. Next time I'll make it without seeds I think! I had mine with hard cheese, but think it would actually be much better with a cream cheese.

I'm also entering this into Alphabakes, hosted by Caroline at Caroline Makes and the host this month, Ros at The More than Occasional Baker. The Letter this month is B. So I think my Black Bread qualifies there! 


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