Monday 31 December 2012

A Ginger Rocky Road

I have been meaning to make Rocky Road for years and years now, and like so many things have only just got round to it. I don't think I've ever even eaten Rocky Road before, it just seems like a jumble of random things melted together and set, but actually, it's pretty tasty! I should really have known that I was going to like it because in essence, it's very similar to these Chocolate Fruit and Nut Cases - a Delia Smith recipe that I've made countless times and enjoy very much indeed.

There are certainly plenty of recipes out there for Rocky Road, it appears to have increased in popularity over recent years. I decided that I would adapt a recipe from a recipe card I received as part of a set called 'The Food Files'. There are quite a few interesting looking recipes in this collection, which is comprised of recipes from a number of famous faces of the celebrity/cooking world (Rose Elliot, Fay Ripley, Richard Corrigan) and a few from food companies (Innocent, Gu, Hummingbird Bakery) and span a range of sweet and savoury cooking. It's not the kind of thing I'd choose to buy, but I ordered some (ahem..) books from The Book People a while ago and they had an offer whereby if you bought two cookery titles you were sent a set of recipe cards free of charge. 

Anyway, enough about where the recipe came from and more about the food. I adapted the recipe slightly to allow for the ingredients I had in my house and my tastes so here I give you

Ginger Rocky Road
400g dark chocolate (70%), broken into small pieces (but see below)
100g milk chocolate (34%), broken into small pieces
75g unsalted butter
30g (1 1/2tbsp) golden syrup
100g ginger biscuits, broken into pieces but not smashed
50g mini marshmallows
50g raisins

- Grease and line an 8"/20cm square baking tin.
- Melt 300g of the dark chocolate and all of the milk chocolate with the butter and golden syrup. The recipe method was to melt the butter and syrup and pour it over the chocolate, stirring until it melted, but this really doesn't work as there is so much chocolate. I did as I was told, but then ended up microwaving it in short blasts until the chocolate had actually melted. I'll leave it up to you how you go about melting it. In a pan over hot water would work too.
- Add the broken biscuits, marshmallows and raisins to the melted chocolate and mix well so everything is coated.
- Pour into the prepared tin, level off and leave to set in the fridge (I left mine overnight). The recipe suggests a couple of hours.
- Melt the remaining chocolate and spread it over the biscuit/chocolate base. Place back in the fridge to harden and then cut into pieces.

- I found that the remaining 100g of chocolate was not enough to cover the whole surface area of the rocky road, and certainly not to cover it and give the depth suggested by the accompanying picture (don't you hate it when the pictures lie to you...). I'd suggest at least 150g extra for the topping, and more if you want a decent layer.
- To cut the hard rocky road into neat squares, boil a kettle full of water (or use hot water from the hot tap) and pour over the blade of your knife. Working quickly, dry the blade and make the first cut. Wipe the melted chocolate off the blade and you may have enough heat to make a second cut. Again, wipe the blade, and then run more water over it to heat it up again and repeat the process until your rocky road is cut up.

Were they yummy? Yes. I think it goes without saying that the end result here is the product of the quality of the ingredients you use and I used Green and Black's Cooking Chocolate for both the milk and dark parts. Obviously, use your favourite, I happen to like G&B! Infinitely customisable - use your preferred biscuits, dried fruit and ratio of dark:milk chocolate to suit your tastes. I liked the different textures - melty chocolate, crunchy biscuits, soft marshmallows and chewy raisins - it all worked really well together. I think cranberries would work well too, or crystallised ginger.

Would I make it again? For myself, probably not - I'm lazy and it's easier to just have a few squares of chocolate, a handful of raisins and a couple of biscuits by my side and graze on them all simultaneously. Or I might make Delia's Fruit and Nut cases again - they're very tasty and less faff (and they are delicious straight out of the freezer). However, these would probably make a good gift and were very tasty!

Since this rocky road is based on ginger biscuits I'm going to enter it as a rather last minute entry for the One Ingredient challenge, which this month is Ginger. Yum, I do love ginger! One Ingredient is hosted by Laura of How to Cook Good Food and Nazima of Franglais Kitchen. Nazima is the host this month.

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Christmas Chai Inspired Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

One of the best things about festive baking is using all of the warming spices that just seem to fit in so beautifully at this time of the year. I love using mixed spice, ginger, cinnamon and allspice to create that heady Christmassy aroma but this time I wanted to combine them in a light cupcake recipe with chocolate .

I had seen a recipe for chai cupcakes in the BBC Good Food magazine (October 2011) by Edd Kimber that used chai teabags to give the flavour but as I didn't want to use teabags I decided to adapt the recipe. I think I've not really used chai spices at all, simply my own mix using what I know I enjoy (and what was available in my baking stores!) but I'm going to stick with the name anyway. I think you'd need to use cardamom and perhaps a pinch of cloves to make them more authentically chai.

If you look really hard you can just about make out my Christmas tree cupcake cases....

Chai Inspired Spiced Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream
225g butter
225g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
225g self raising flour
110g buttermilk
1 1/2tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice

Chocolate Buttercream ***makes tonnes, far more than you need - see below***
200g butter
200g icing sugar
150g milk chocolate
50g dark chocolate
1/2tsp vanilla extract

- Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180C. Line at least 18 muffin holes with paper cases - see comment below.
- Melt the chocolate (either in the microwave or over a bowl of hot water) and set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour and spices and beat until well combined.
- Add the buttermilk and beat again until the mixture is uniform.
- Divide between the cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and golden.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack. 

- Cream the butter until very soft and fluffy. Add the (cooled) chocolate and half of the icing sugar and keep creaming. Add the remaining icing sugar and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Add a little milk or (boiled) water if necessary to make the frosting softer.
- Pipe or spread onto your cupcakes. Decorate as desired.

- There was too much mixture for 18 cases (I was using cupcake rather than muffin size cases - i.e. bigger than fairy cases but smaller than muffin cases - if you used muffin cases I guess it would have been ok). I ended up using three silicon cases too to take the excess. Which worked fine.
- There was far, far too much buttercream. If I'd been piping it there probably wouldn't have been quite such an excess - making swirls always takes more buttercream than you think - but if you're just spreading them like in my photos I think half the amount of buttercream would be ample.

Rudolph makes a festive appearance...

These were lovely - the spicing was quite delicate and the chocolate buttercream worked well with the cakes. The original recipe specified soured cream but I didn't have that - the buttermilk substitute worked very well in my opinion and gave lovely, soft, moist cakes. A winner, just that the quantities were a little off!

Since this recipe contains both chocolate and cinnamon, I am going to submit it to We Should Cocoa, founded by Choclette of Choc Log Blog (this month's host) and Chele of Chocolate Teapot. The theme for December is, of course, cinnamon. Yum.

As a Christmas-scented recipe I'm also submitting this to Calendar Cakes hosted by Rachel at Dolly Bakes and Laura at Laura Loves Cakes. The theme this month is (unsurprisingly!) Christmas!

Saturday 22 December 2012

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

The theme for this month's Teatime Treats is Chocolate. A pretty wide theme really, so I'm sure there will be lots and lots of delicious submissions to browse when the round up is published. There are lots of chocolate-y things that I've made that I could share for this event, but it seems rather appropriate to share this one. The recipe for the chocolate cake came from Karen at Lavender and Lovage  (one of the co-hosts for TTT which is being hosted this month by Kate at What Kate Baked) and has become one of my favourite chocolate cake recipes. 

It's quick and easy to make and the only ingredient that you might not already have around is the creme fraiche. I've made this cake twice already - once as little cupcakes (quicker than waiting for larger cakes to bake) and once as a two layer cake. Both times were very successful and I think the cakes look very pretty too.

Karen gives the recipe as an all-in-one recipe but I often find that my butter isn't soft enough for an all in one method using a Kitchenaid stand mixer (although it is usually ok with an electric hand mixer) so I have adapted the method slightly. The recipe is reproduced with Karen's permission:

Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream
140g creme fraiche (I used a French style one, it's very thick, solid in fact)
125g unsalted butter
200g light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
170g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder (I think mine was fairly generous)

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas4 . If making a large cake, grease and line two 8"/20cm shallow round cake tins. If making cupcakes, place liners in muffin tins (I made 18 using this recipe).
- Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture has changed colour and is light and fluffy.
- Add the creme fraiche and continue to mix.
- Add the vanilla, eggs, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and mix, starting slowly to prevent a cloud of flour enveloping your kitchen.
- When fully mixed divide between the prepared tins/muffin cases and bake for 20-25 minutes for small cakes and 30-40 minutes for larger cakes.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla buttercream
90g butter
200g icing sugar (plus extra to get desired consistency)
1 tsp vanilla extract

- Beat the butter until very soft (using electric mixers unless you particularly feel in need of a work out) and then add half of the sugar. Starting slowly, beat it until well combined. Add the rest of the sugar and the vanilla extract (or more to taste) and continue to beat until very soft and fluffy. You may need to add a little milk or do as I do and add a little warm water from a boiled kettle.
- Spread or pipe your buttercream as desired.

I love this cake, and the vanilla buttercream complements is beautifully. It isn't that often that I make one recipe twice in close succession but this is a fab recipe and may become my go-to chocolate cake recipe. Yes, it needs creme fraiche, but it isn't a hardship to have creme fraiche in the fridge - it has a long shelf life and if you don't end up using it for chocolate cake it has a multitude of other uses (or a spoon may suffice, perhaps with a chopped banana to assuage lack-of-fruit-and-vitamins thoughts....). It's moist, light and chocolate-y and is very easy to throw together at the last minute. Thanks for a great recipe Karen!

Saturday 8 December 2012

Little Maple Banana Cakes

Each year at least one of the magazines that I subscribe to (yes, I subscribe because I'd only end up buying them each month, and so it works out much cheaper this way!) has a freebie calendar, which is usually really useful. I don't actually use a calendar on the wall that much any more, preferring an electronic means of keeping track of where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing, but I still like to have the calendar on the wall. (I think this harks back to my childhood, where all events were meticulously recorded on the calendar lest we forgot something...)

This year, the calendar is from the BBC Good Food magazine, and it's a good one. I have sometimes found that when the calendars are sponsored by certain companies every single recipe contains their ingredient. This is fine if they've got a reasonable range to choose from, but it gets a bit old to have 'X-brand' cheese in every single recipe. Anyway, this year the sponsor is Dr Oetker, but happily almost none of the recipes have a sponsored ingredient in them, they're just good BBC Good Food recipes.

Anyway, this is leading somewhere, I promise. I have spent most of the year walking past this calendar and seeing the recipes each month (January - Frosty yogurt orange cake, February - Passion fruit cupcakes, March - Sultana tea loaf) and haven't made any of them yet. Until now. Turning over the page just over a month ago I was greeted by Little banana cakes with maple pecan frosting. So far so unexciting. Not really a recipe for me as I can't eat pecans. But then I realised that adapting this recipe would be perfect for some of the ingredients I had around needing using up. Maple syrup and a very ripe banana (just the one lonely one - not helpful for the majority of recipes, which require many very ripe bananas; I'm sure I'm not the only one out there to only get one small ripe banana left over...) called my name.

An adapted recipe ensued:

Little Maple Banana Cakes
50g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
80g light muscovado sugar
105g self raising flour
40g maple syrup
1 large egg
1 very overripe banana, mashed (mine weighed 70g after removing the skin)
30g raisins

Usual method for making buttercream, if you want (i.e. about half butter to sugar - I'd be tempted to use about 40-50g butter for six cakes and therefore about 100-140g icing sugar)
Flavourings as desired (orange, lemon, maple syrup etc)

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease a 6 hole muffin tin well with butter (or, obviously, use 6 holes of a 12 hole tin...)
- Cream the butter and muscovado sugar (if you don't want to do this step separately then either use a hand mixer, NOT a stand mixer or make sure your butter is super, super soft - I thought mine was, but clearly not - the butter wouldn't mix into the rest of the ingredients using a stand mixer and I ended up decanting into a different bowl and blitzing with a hand mixer).
- Add the rest of the ingredients except the raisins and beat well until combined.
- Stir in the raisins and divide between the prepared tins.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool.

If topping with buttercream, make up as usual (beat butter until soft, add icing sugar in a couple of batches, beating until well combined, light and fluffy - I usually add a splash of water to make the mixture easier to beat) and add flavourings as desired. Maple syrup might be good here.

I love, love, loved these. They aren't too sweet, they aren't too banana-ry and the flavour of the maple syrup doesn't come through strongly. That makes them sound a failure doesn't it, none of the constituent flavours being readily identifiable. But in fact, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The cakes are moist and deliciously dense, sweet but not overly so, and the maple syrup adds undertones and is subtle. The raisins are plump and juicy and really add to the overall cake by providing a contrasting chewy texture. They develop a delicious sticky top after a day or so and soften slightly around the edges, really, really good. So successful in fact that I have made second and third batches for myself already. In the second batch I added about 50g dark chocolate, and this was one of those occasions were the chocolate was an intrusion, unwarranted and detracted from the deliciousness of the cakes as they were. Needless to say, the third batch didn't contain chocolate and was much the better for it.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Mango and Chocolate Flapjack

Sorry about the silence round here, I've been a bit preoccupied of late. However, a little while ago I volunteered to take part in a blogger ingredients swap, hosted by Ruth of Makey Cakey. Ruth partnered up all of the participants and then we got in touch with each other, discussed likes/dislikes and allergies and then sent off a parcel containing swap ingredients. 

I am a little late posting this, as Ruth asked us to blog about our makes by the 30th November but hopefully it'll be worth waiting for.

I was paired up with Jono, Ruth's husband, who blogs about his adventures with four ingredient cookery here. Check out his inventive recipes and find out what he made with my parcel to him. My swap ingredients were fab - some lovely fudge and a packet of dried fairtrade mango. I have to confess that it seemed a crime to bake with such special fudge so I took it in to work and we all shared it - it was very well received, and utterly delicious.

For the mango I decided to make mango and chocolate flapjacks:

Mango and Chocolate Flapjack
175g butter
120g light muscovado sugar
200g golden syrup
350g rolled oats
150g dark chocolate, chopped into fairly big pieces
60g dried mango, chopped

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line an 8x12" (20x30cm) rectangular tin with parchment paper. 
- Melt the butter, sugar and syrup and when all gooey and melted, add the oats and mix well. 
- Add the chocolate and mango, mixing as quickly as possible because the warm oats will melt the chocolate, spoon into the tin, spread out and bake for around 30 minutes until golden.
- Allow to cool slightly then mark into pieces.


The chocolate melted as I was mixing the flapjack before baking it, so there weren't any chocolate chunks, but the taste was still there, and still good. This went down very well indeed - I received many compliments on it, so thank you Jono for the delicious ingredients you sent, they were very much enjoyed.


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