Sunday 31 March 2013

(Not) Hot Cross Buns

Last year's buns with crosses and glaze - very pretty

A little late I know, but I did actually make these on time (i.e. before Good Friday) this year. I decided not to do the traditional crosses, making them into Not Cross Buns and therefore perfect for any time of the year, because these little beauties should definitely not be confined to the celebration of Easter!

I used the same recipe as last year, which can be found here: No Knead Mini Hot Cross Buns. The minor changes I made were to use all raisins rather than a mixture of raisins and cranberries, to use whole milk rather than semi skimmed (2%) and to use normal bread flour instead of extra strong. I got 17 50g balls of dough from the recipe.

This year's buns - not so pretty but equally delicious

It's perfect as far as I'm concerned - a little forethought for the soaking of the raisins to make them beautifully plump and juicy, no kneading of the sticky dough, minimal intervention on my part, and the loveliest soft, juicy buns at the end of the process. The only thing it requires is time really - I find sweet (enriched) yeasted doughs take much longer than you think to rise and I know this is where I've made mistakes in the past - not letting the dough rise enough has led to bullet like buns. The spices also retard the action of the yeast, so here patience is a virtue. I also like to arrange my buns to proove so that they batch together, maximising the softness.

Soft crumb with juicy raisins

I am the first to admit that these are not the most picture-perfect round, glazed hot cross buns but oh wow do they make up for that in taste and texture. J was chief taste tester for these and her first comment after finishing one (interspersed by comments such as 'Ooh, these are really good') was 'Have you brought any more for me....?' Make them, you won't regret it!

I'm entering these not cross buns into Calendar Cakes, where the theme this month is Easter Extravaganza. The host this month is Laura of Laura Loves Cakes, and the challenge is also hosted by Rachel of Dolly Bakes.   

Sunday 24 March 2013

Dan Lepard's Chocolate Lamingtons

Lamingtons with successful glaze - mark 2

Well, sort of. Last year, Dan's recipe for double chocolate lamingtons was published in the Guardian, ahead of ANZAC day. I made them at the time, and used the glaze that he recommended for coating them. However, since I avoid coconut (as one of those things to which I might be allergic but don't fancy finding out about) I didn't want to actually coat the lamingtons and dip them in desiccated coconut, I just wanted to glaze the cakes. 

Lamingtons the first time round - with a rather runny glaze used in the middle and on the top

I rather fancied Suelle's take on the cake, which you can find here Chocolate and Coconut Layer Cake. She had the rather brilliant idea of halving the coating quantities and splitting the cake in half, sandwiching it together with the glaze and spreading it across the top. I decided to go for this too but unfortunately I was in a bit of a hurry to get the cake iced and my glaze was steadfastly refusing to thicken, which as a coating I think you'd probably expect. My lamingtons were good, but rather messy to eat and the glaze wasn't really what I wanted. I think I possibly used a different chocolate to Suelle and that's why my glaze took so long to set. I refrigerated a little of it and it did eventually thicken up. 

As with many cakes I make that end up turning out not quite right, I intended to remake the cake (very successful) and ice it with a different icing. But as usual, time slides and I didn't get round to remaking the cake. Then as part of the step-by-step baking series that Dan is now doing for the Guardian, he published a more conventional lamington recipe recently, for Australia Day (26th January) and also a twist on this recipe,  Macadamia Ginger cake with lamington icing. These two recipes reminded me of how successful the chocolate lamington cake had been and how I had intended to give it another go. And so I did.

I used the double chocolate lamington cake recipe, as stated here and then taking inspiration from the macadamia ginger cake with lamington icing, used an approximation of the lamington icing from that cake to ice mine with. As with my first attempt, the cake was successful. I did note that it took longer to bake than stated (about 10-15 minutes longer) and the top surface seemed a little darker than I would have liked. However, once the icing was on not only was this not noticeable, there was no hint in the taste of the cake that it had caught at all, so the dark surface was obviously just in my mind.

Dan states for the lamington icing that you need a half batch of the lamington icing, plus 75g dark chocolate. I used the quantities stated below (which are approximately 1/3 of the amount stated, plus 30g dark chocolate) , which gave a generous covering for an 8" (20cm) square cake, as you can see in the pictures. 

Lamington icing
130g dark chocolate (I used G&B 72% cooking chocolate)
10g cocoa powder
100g caster sugar
65ml milk

- Bring the milk, caster sugar and cocoa powder to the boil in a small pan, whisking.
- Add the chocolate, stir until melted, allow to thicken if necessary and then use to spread over your cake.

* I found that it was difficult to beat all of the small lumps of cocoa out of the icing, therefore I would recommend sifting it first. I also ended up transferring the sugar/cocoa/milk mixture to a small bowl to try and beat some of the lumps out of it before adding the chocolate. The mixture thickened quickly when I added the chocolate and was easily spreadable - I could happily spread the mixture right to the edge of the cake without fear that it was going to run off.

The actual cake was lighter than I expected and as you might expect from the ingredients, really quite sweet. I'm not sure why, but the top 1/3 of the cake seemed to be more aerated than the lower portion - you can see this in the picture above. The icing was very successful - it was less sweet than I was expecting and I would definitely use it again (I'm not that keen on super sweet icings as a rule). The icing doesn't dry to a gloss, but to a matt finish. I also decorated my cake with hundreds and thousands, and these needed to be added quickly while the icing was still wet enough to hold them, otherwise they just rolled off....

I'm entering this into We Should Cocoa, the monthly chocolate blogging challenge set up by Choclette of Choc Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Teapot. The host this month is Lucy of The Kitchen Maid and she has chosen 'Fame' as the theme. Lamingtons are a famous Antipodean treat and Dan Lepard is a famous baker so I think these qualify!

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Not Quite Edd Kimber's Cinnamon Buns

Way, way back in October there was a feature in the Waitrose Kitchen magazine about baking books. Presumably to round up the books that were released last autumn in time for the Christmas present buying. There are quite a number of books featured, one of which is Edd Kimber's second book, 'Say it with Cake'. The recipe given from this book is his Cinnamon Buns.

I had a desire to make something different (and a little indulgent) for breakfasts at the time and decided to give the recipe a go. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to get round to writing these up, because they're actually very good! I've had a quick look around the net and can't find an authorised reproduction of the recipe, but it is a reasonably standard enriched milk dough, with a little butter and a little sugar added along with an egg. 

After proofing

The recipe was for 16 buns and I can see from my photos that I only made nine, so I'm assuming I halved the recipe. And since the recipe for the dough contained an egg, I'm certain I missed this out. The filling in the recipe consists of butter, light brown soft sugar, currants and cinnamon, 3 tablespoons of it! I have a bit of an on-off relationship with cinnamon and am usually more off it than on. The thought of three tablespooons (or even one and a half for my halved recipe) was rather a lot and I decided to switch for mixed spice, which I am really very fond of. It does contain cinnamon, but tempered with the flavours of other spices too, which just makes it much more appealing to my tastebuds. I also decided to leave out the currants (I never claimed to be following the recipe exactly!).

There is a topping of cream cheese, icing sugar and milk given to drizzle across the buns, but because I was going to be freezing these I decided that I would use a simple glace water icing instead, which worked just as well. 

Soft and super sticky

These were gorgeous - the enriched dough was soft and sweet and I was really taken with these buns. I was glad I used mixed spice for the filling and missed out the currants (they're another thing I can take or leave) and the incredibly sticky filling and sticky icing on the top made these a very delicious breakfast indeed. An excellent recipe and one I should return to.

Sunday 17 March 2013

Red nose day? Soured Cream Chocolate Cakes

Or should that be Pink Nose Day? Well, as I'm sure you can probably guess from the title (and the fact that in the UK it was Red Nose Day on Friday with a staggering, record breaking £75 million raised on the night alone) these were supposed to be red noses. I always forget (not being someone who uses food colouring very often, if at all) that adding food colouring to buttercream is never really very successful in creating bright primary colours such as red. I actually did use gel food colouring here, so was expecting a redder red, but was probably too reticent to add enough colouring to achieve the colour I was after.

So not really the most inspiring or successful decoration really and I wasn't going to bother talking about these, but it's always worth talking about Comic Relief - it's an excellent way of putting fundraising for charity into people's minds. 

The other reason it's worth talking about these cakes is because the sour cream chocolate cake is delicious. Really good. The recipe is Nigella Lawson's, from How to be a Domestic Goddess and so I won't reproduce it here. However, her recipe for Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake is very similar and can be found on The differences are that the Sour Cream Chocolate Cake uses only 3/4tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda, adds a little salt and uses 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. There is also 25g less butter in the web version. Not massive changes.

As I wanted cupcakes I divided the mixture, unsure of how many it would make and got 17 reasonable sized cakes that baked in 22 minutes. I was surprised that the baking time was so quick - the ingredients were pretty much fridge cold when they went into the oven (cold sour cream and cold eggs) but they rose beautifully. I'll definitely use this recipe for cupcakes again if I want a rich, chocolatey base. They were deliciously smooth and very chocolatey. 

The icing was a (pink) white chocolate buttercream - 100g butter, 140g icing sugar and 70g white chocolate, melted and cooled. Cream the butter until light, add the icing sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy then beat in the white chocolate. Colour as you desire. I did overwork the icing a little as it wasn't as creamily smooth as the last batch I made, but still worked well.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Soured cream, raspberry and blackcurrant mini cakes with white chocolate buttercream frosting

Candles omitted - I'll leave you to guess the age...

Well, that's a bit of a lengthy title for some very diminutive cakes. It was J's birthday recently and for various reasons I wanted to make small cakes rather than a giant centrepiece. I decided to use my straight-sided 12-hole mini cake tin from Lakeland (sadly this is not sponsored by them, I paid for it myself, hence the desire to get plenty of use out of it!) and use a soured cream enriched cake mixture to provide a richer cake, suitable for a birthday.

I was also experimenting with some freeze dried raspberries I bought recently. My theory was that if I squashed them into powder they might provide enough colour to tint some of the sponge pink. It was quite a reasonable theory, but I probably didn't use enough of the raspberries, and didn't pulverise them enough and the sponge remained resolutely un-pink. Next time I want a coloured sponge I guess I'll just have to resort to food colouring.

The filling was a white chocolate buttercream (another slight experiment for me) and blackcurrant jam. Raspberry would have been more complimentary, but blackcurrant was available.

Soured cream, raspberry and blackcurrant mini cakes with white chocolate buttercream frosting
65g butter
65g caster sugar
65g self raising flour
1 egg
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
25g soured cream
freeze dried raspberries (optional - I didn't measure these and probably used about 1/2-1tsp)
Ingredients for white chocolate buttercream - see below
Blackcurrant (or raspberry) jam

- Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease five of the mini tin holes. These would work in regular muffin tins too, just make sure they're well greased, and realise you'll get sloping sides.
- Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg, flour, baking powder, vanilla and soured cream. Beat until well combined.
- Spoon half the mix into two of the holes.
- Add the raspberries (pulverised or not) if using to the remaining mixture and divide between the other two holes. The fifth prepared hole is for if you've got a little more batter than you think will fit into the other holes. I did have and ended up making a half-height mini-mini cake too.
- Bake for around 30-35 minutes until risen and golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

White chocolate buttercream
This amount is too much for these cakes, but since I was just playing to see how it turned out I wasn't worried about how much I was making.
50g unsalted butter, softened
70g icing sugar
30g white chocolate, melted and cooled
- Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat. Add the chocolate and beat to combine. 

To assemble
- Cut each cake into three. Spread a little buttercream onto each of the two lower layers then dollop on a little jam and spread out. 
- Reassemble layers.
- Dust with icing sugar. Although if you wanted to, you could use more of the buttercream to add to the top of the cakes.

Admire and then eat.

These were very much appreciated and I had the mini one for myself. The cake was rich and smooth and not very strongly raspberry flavoured. The white chocolate buttercream is definitely something I'll be doing again. It wasn't as sweet as the usual buttercream I make and was very smooth and rich without particularly tasting of white chocolate. I used Green and Black's white chocolate, so it's interesting that even a relatively strong tasting variety didn't seem to come through.

Very successful - Happy Birthday J xxx

Sunday 10 March 2013

Golden Syrup Banana Cake

I frequently pick up the recipe cards that are available in the supermarkets. I think I must have picked up over a hundred over the years, and due to my squirrelling tendencies they don't tend to get culled very often. In my defence, however, occasionally, I will recall a recipe card with something I thought looked particularly good, but for whatever reason didn't get made at the time of picking up the card. That's the case with this recipe.

It was on a card from Waitrose (who do tend to have particularly interesting looking recipes - to my mind at least) and was for 'Sticky honey, almond and banana cake'. There was the immediate problem of having to substitute for the almonds - both ground in the cake and flaked on the top, but that was easily solved by substituting plain flour for the almonds and leaving off the topping.

You can find the original recipe here on the Waitrose website, and apparently I've been meaning to make it for a year now, having first seen the recipe in March last year. I also thought that since I was already adapting the recipe I'd make it cheaper by using golden syrup instead of honey (and for bonus points my golden syrup was on offer when I bought it!). I decided to use an 8" square tin (20cm square), which is about 15% smaller than the stated tin size, so I was prepared to give it a little longer in the oven than the stated 30-45 minutes.

So here is my adapted version...

Golden Syrup Banana Cake
125g self raising flour
50g plain flour
100g butter
100g light muscovado sugar (or light brown soft sugar)
100g golden syrup
1 very ripe banana, mashed
2 medium eggs, beaten

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line an 8"/20cm square tin with parchment paper.
- Melt the butter, sugar and syrup. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly (I didn't leave mine very long at all).
- Mix together the flours in a bowl and add the melted mixture followed by the mashed banana and beaten eggs.
- Beat well (I did this by hand) to give a smooth mixture (well, smooth aside from the lumps of banana...) and pour into the prepared tin.
- Bake for around 35-40 minutes until risen and golden and a cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow to cool on a wire rack.

I served mine cut into 12 fingers.

This is a really useful recipe for when you need to use up just one banana that is well past it's eating best (in my opinion at least). Although it doesn't look anything special the cake was good - fairly moist (although it doesn't really look it) and with a subtle banana flavour. I didn't really get much flavour from the syrup, I'm sure the combination of honey and almond would have been much more flavoursome, but I did enjoy the cake as it was. I'll make it again, but now I know that the syrup flavour isn't particularly strong I think I'll add some spice next time - perhaps mixed spice, nutmeg or ground cardamom.

A very quick and easy bake, and I bet children would love to help with this one!

I'm going to send this to Credit Crunch Munch. It helpfully uses up that last overripe banana in the fruit bowl attracting fruit flies, uses syrup instead of expensive honey and is quick and easy to make. Credit Crunch Munch is hosted by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla of Fab Food for All. The host this month is Helen.

I'd enter it into Dom's Random recipes too as the theme this month is cuttings, memories and clippings and I guess recipe cards would count. But I be lying if I said that the selection was random - I needed to use up the banana!

Saturday 2 March 2013

Simple and In Season Round-up February

Thank you to all of the lovely people who have entered their seasonal dishes into this edition of Simple and In Season, there is a fantastic range of recipes here and lots and lots that I will have to bookmark to try. Thanks too to Ren of Fabulicious Food for letting me host her event. 

So without further ado here are this month's entrants:

First is Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes with a delicious looking vegetable cobbler with chestnut and sage scones. This looks like the perfect winter warmer to me.

Jen's second entry is a lamb, leek and mint risotto. I love risottos but haven't often used leeks in them. Another delicious winter warmer.

Next up is Janet of The Taste Space with a delicious and healthy way with brussels sprouts: Spaghetti squash with roasted brussels sprouts and chickpeas. Janet has also given us some hilarious cat videos to while away a few spare moments....

Janet has also entered her Roasted orange veggie noodle bowl, a beautiful looking bowl of goodness with something Janet hasn't tried before, roasted oranges. Like me she often roasts vegetables but fruit is a new venture. This looks delicious and fresh.

Janet's final delicious looking entry is a Turkish freekah pilaf with chickpeas and wild greens. It contains chicory greens which were a new taste and one that didn't particularly suit Janet, but I'm sure this would be fantastic with Janet's recommended substitution of Swiss chard.

Alida of My Little Italian Kitchen has entered her Butter free almond and orange muffins. A perfect use of the lovely oranges available at the moment and some lovely pictures of her little one too.

Alida's second entry is Baccala (salted cod) with leek and potatoes. This healthy and light dish is the perfect way to showcase seasonal leeks and it looks very inviting indeed. Hop across to Alida's blog for a step by step of how to make this dish.

Anneli of delicieux has entered her Cannelloni stuffed with leeks and brie. Another fabulous use for leeks here and one I will certainly be bookmarking to try as soon as possible. I love the filling idea for these cannelloni - a winter take on the spinach and ricotta I'm used to.

Simple and In Season founder Ren of Fabulicious Food has entered these delicious looking Courgette (Zucchini) boats with bolognese sauce. Ren is currently following the Paleo diet, where grains are not recommended (there is some more information about the diet on Ren's blog) but I think everyone would love this recipe! 

Shaheen of Allotment 2 Kitchen has entered these absolutely gorgeous looking Vegan parsnip, raisin and walnut cakes. This seems like the perfect way to use parsnips and the combination of flavours sounds amazing. Shaheen's blog is full of inspiring vegetarian and vegan food and I'm sure everyone would enjoy these cakes.

Shaheen's second entry is Beetroot 'love heart' hummus. A lovely combination of earthy beetroot and chickpeas and a pretty presentation too.

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe, one of the blogs I have happily followed for a long time has entered her Cranachan this month. A combination of yogurt and cream sounds perfect to me as I am not a big fan of straight whipped cream. 

Helen from Fuss Free Flavours has entered her Strawberry and coconut smoothie with winter berries, educating me as to the availability of strawberries in the UK in the middle of winter! This fruity smoothie is packed full of goodness including coconut oil and chia seeds, an ingredient I have yet to try.

Louisa of Chez Foti has entered her Parsnip, pecan and maple syrup cake. I am a big fan of parsnip cakes and this one looks delicious! Louisa is a fan of baking with veg and there are lots of other recipes for veg cakes on her blog.

Louisa's second entry is a Sausage, bean and veggie hotpot, which looks so delicious for the cold weather we've had recently. This is also an entry into another blogging challenge looking for recipes for a Somerset based charity called Swallow - check out the post for more details.

Choclette of Choc Log Blog was lucky enough to receive some delicious limes and has been putting them to good use in her amazing looking cakes and bakes. The first entry she has sent for this month's challenge is a Mexican Chocolate Pudding with chilli and lime mango slices. It sounds utterly delicious although Choclette says it doesn't look as good as it tastes, describing it as very rich, very dark and not too sweet.

Her second entry is this Lime, coconut and cardamom loaf cake which looks deliciously moist. I love the sound of that flavour combination!

Next is Rita from Rita Cooks Italian with her take on a classic Italian soup, Minestrone. This looks amazing and what a good way to use our seasonal vegetables. Rita even gives us an idea for using the leftover soup the next day. Yum! 

Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen gives us her Roasted garlic and tattie and leek soup. A perfect winter warmer making use of potatoes - often overlooked in favour of more exotic veg. Although it uses a whole bulb of garlic Elizabeth reports that it isn't overpowering.

Kate from Turquoise Lemons gives us a perfectly seasonal Blood orange drizzle cake. This looks gorgeous and I must make it while the oranges are still in season. 

Our final entry this month, making 21 in total is from Belinda at Focus on Flavour, and is a Jerusalem artichoke and Goat's Cheese Gratin. Using seasonal Jerusalem artichokes and leeks this is a lovely final dish to finish our round up.

Thank you to everyone who entered their delicious recipes into Simple and in Season this month. It's been a pleasure to host the challenge and I've found lots of lovely new-to-me blogs to peruse. I hope you've enjoyed this round up and will hop across to the participant's blogs to read their posts. Please let me know if I've missed anyone out of the round up...

Simple and in Season is being hosted by Louisa of Chez Foti for the next month so do enter any of your seasonal dishes!


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