Friday, 26 August 2016

Vegan and Gluten Free Banana Blondies

As soon as one mentions specialist diets such as gluten free or vegan many are quick to scoff or turn up their noses. This is of course nonsense, as there is still a cornucopia of delicious treats available to those with dietary restrictions. Just take these naughty banana blondies for instance, which are absolutely delicious! So even if you are a wheat freak or a stone cold carnivore then why not give them a try, you might just be converted. ;-)

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 40-45 Mins
200g White Chocolate
275g Ripe Bananas (Mashed)
25g Vegetable Oil
100g Light Brown Sugar
50ml Hazelnut Milk
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Ground Almonds
1tsp Baking Powder (Gluten Free)
100g Chocolate Chips
100g Chopped Pecans

There's a fair few ingredients in this but I promise it's a doddle to prepare. Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave (taking care as white chocolate scorches VERY easily). Once melted set to one side for 5 minutes to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a small sized baking tin with baking paper (The one I use is around 22x27cm). In a large mixing bowl mix together the banana, oil and sugar. Add the milk and vanilla extract, followed by the melted chocolate, then in go the almonds and baking powder. Mix together to a smooth batter, then fold through the chocolate chips and chopped pecans. 

Pour your mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 40-45 minutes, until golden brown on top. You can test it's baked by inserting a sharp knife. If it comes out with a few sticky crumbs attached then you are good to go. 

Once you are happy the blondies are baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin, before chilling for a good 90 minutes prior to slicing. Once chilled remove from the tin, slice and serve. Woohoo!

Friday, 19 August 2016

Chocolate Orange Cookies

It feels like AGES since I last made cookies, so I quickly cobbled together this recipe that turned out rather nicely indeed. You could buy orange flavour chocolate, although I find it tends to have little hard orangey pieces in which I find a tad gritty. So I use orange extract, which gives just the right depth of flavour and fragrance.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 15 Mins
125g Unsalted Butter (softened)
185g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg
1.5tsp Orange Extract
160g Plain Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
300 Dark Chocolate (Broken up into little pieces)

So here we go! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. I forewarn you, you will need to probably bake these in batches so unless you have a MASSIVE oven ready a few sheets! In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and orange extract. Sift in the plain flour and baking powder and mix to a sticky dough. Fold through the chocolate and the dough is ready.

Take a small handful of the mixture and form into a loose ball, around the size of a golf ball. Space your balls evenly apart (as they will spread) and bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 minutes, until light golden brown and darkening at the edges. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven and carefully slide the paper from the tray onto a wire rack. Repeat for the rest of the mixture. When the cookies have cooled for around 20 minutes carefully peel each from the paper and they are ready to eat warm, or served at room temperature. Nom nom nom!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Memoirs of a Gentleman Baker - Chapter 3, SIZO-1

Following a somewhat regrettable incident involving a hamster, two litres of liquid nitrogen and the Dutch embassy I spent an unfortunate six months as a guest of the Belarusian prison service. After no short amount of negotiation I was able to avoid the unimaginable and enjoy a few short hours a week baking in the sparse prison kitchens. Even armed with the most meagre of tools (a single loaf tin, basic utensils and a few scavenged dishes) I found it surprisingly elementary to create a surfeit of satisfying slices which, when shared resulted in a markedly more comfortable stay. As with you I was happy to share my recipes with my fellow inmates and even now the SIZO-1 Detention Centre’s coffee mornings are quite the highlight of the Minsk social calendar...

Friday, 5 August 2016

This Months Bread Pudding

There is no such thing as a perfect recipe. Nothing is the ultimate or the best ever. Everyone is different and everyone is looking for something different, in cakes just as in anything else if life. Therefore you should never worry about tinkering with recipes, trying out new ingredients and testing new techniques. I've published bread pudding recipes before, but this is my current favourite. I used an day old cinnamon loaf, but if you just have normal white bread then that will work fine too, as long as it's not too fresh. Maybe steer clear of throwing in garlic bread though!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus 60 mins soaking time)
Baking time: 75 Mins
500g Leftover White Bread, Brioche or Sweet Loaf (A day old, torn up)
600ml Milk
1tsp Cinnamon
500g Mixed Dried Fruit
100g Shredded Suet
125g Light Brown Sugar
1-2Tbsp Dememara Sugar

This is actually a realllllly easy recipe! Start by greasing a large, rectangular ovenproof dish and line the base with baking paper. Add the torn bread to a large mixing bowl and cover with the milk. Squelch it altogether and leave to soak for around 60 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Add the rest of the ingredients (aside from the demerara sugar) to your soaked bread and mix until thoroughly combined. Spoon into your prepared dish and evenly press to the edges. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar and bake in the centre of the oven for around 75 minutes, until just springy to the touch. When you are happy the pudding is baked remove from the oven and leave in the dish to cool until warm.

When warm to the touch you can carefully remove from the dish, peeling off the paper as you go. Slice into squares and leave on a wire rack until completely cool. Boom, you're done!

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Sweet Cinnamon Bread

Here's my recipe for a sweet cinnamon bread dough that can be used for buns, a big loaf or even something more creative like a babka. The dough is incredibly fun to make and surprisingly easy to work with, so is also an excellent introduction to bread making in general. If cinnamon isn't your thing though (and know it's not everyone's cup of tea) then feel free to experiment with other flavour combinations. Vanilla, chopped fruit, even chocolate chips would all be marvellous alternatives or additions!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus proving time)
Baking time: 35 Mins (For a loaf), 20 Mins (For buns)
7g Sachet of Fast Action Yeast
35g Light Muscovado Sugar (Plus a small handful for sprinkling)
250ml Tepid Water
1hpd tsp Cinnamon (Plus extra for sprinkling)
450g Strong White Bread Flour
75g Unsalted Butter

Let's get baking! Mix together the yeast, sugar and water until the yeast has blended in, then add the cinnamon, flour and 50g of the butter, melted. Mix together until a dough starts to form, then tip out onto a clean, dry surface. Bring the dough together with your hands then start to knead, pulling the dough apart, folding back on itself, rotating by a quarter and repeating. Keep kneading the dough for around 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic, then lightly dust with flour and return to a clean bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel and place in a warm place for around an hour, until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen remove it from the bowl and place on a lightly greased surface. Shape into a loaf or buns and place on a lightly greased tray or tin. Cover or place in a sealed container and leave to one side somewhere relatively warm for another 45 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. This is a bit cooler than usual for bread, but with a high butter content you need to be sure it'll bake before over-colouring (Do you like how I try and disguise burning as 'over-colouring'?). Remove your tray or tin from its warm place and return to the kitchen. Melt the last 25g of butter and brush over your risen dough. Sprinkle with a final dusting of cinnamon and sugar, then place in the over for around 35 mins (loaf) or 20 mins (buns). When you are happy the loaf or buns are baked remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. This one is best served warm though so don't leave them too long! ;-)

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Easy Millionaire's Chocolate Tart

I'm refuse to tolerate those who class using ready prepared ingredients as 'cheating'. We all work hard and time is a precious commodity, so as worthy (and fun) as it is to prepare every detail of a sweet treat from scratch, sometimes it's just not possible. On such occasions I have no qualms about using a ready prepared alternative, such as here with this millionaire's chocolate tart. In fact everything about this tart is easy! I shall however, leave the telling of your guests to your discretion. ;-)

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking (Well, chilling) time: 120 Mins
1 Sweet Pre-baked Shortcrust Pastry Case (200-220g)
250g Dulce De Leche or Caramel Sauce
A couple of pinches of Sea Salt
200g Dark Chocolate (Or 100g of Dark and 100g of Milk if you like things less bitter)
150ml Double Cream

This is so easy it barely needs a recipe! Place your pastry case on a plate then spread the dulce/caramel sauce over the base. Sprinkle over the salt. Gently melt the chocolate over a bain marie, or in the microwave (if you are confident in your timings), then set to one side to cool slightly. Whisk the double cream until you can form soft peaks, then fold through the melted chocolate. Spoon over the salted caramel, then coax to the edges with the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to chill for around 120 minutes, until the chocolate has set. You're all done. See, so easy!

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Fresh Fruit Genoese

With so few ingredients this light and fluffy genoese is so simple to make. The key is to treat your mixture with love and with care. Don't be tempted to rush and be gentle when folding through the egg whites and flour. If you do this you'll be rewarded with a beautiful base for whipped cream and all sorts of fresh fruits. I've used strawbs, but you can replace with whatever you fancy!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins
4 Large Eggs (Separated)
225g Caster Sugar
1/2tsp Orange Extract
1/2tsp Lemon Extract
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
150g Self Raising Flour

200ml Double Cream
25g Icing Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
300g Fresh Fruit (Sliced accordingly)

You'll need two clean mixing bowls for this, as well as a 23cm cake tin. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and completely line your tin with baking paper. In one of your bowls whisk the eggs whites until fluffy, then add 25g of the sugar and whisk again until you are left with soft peaks. In the other bowl beat together the yolks with the sugar and extracts. Add a third of the whites to the yolks, fold through to combine, then add a third of the flour and do the same. Repeat for the next two thirds, then pour into your prepared tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 mins, until well risen, golden brown on top and just springy to the touch. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for around an hour, then very carefully remove from the tin, gently peeling off the paper as you go. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Whisk the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla extract until thick, then spread over the top of the cake. Decorate with fresh fruits and you are all done! Woohoo!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

White Chocolate and Banana Fridge Cake

Well this cake was quite the surprise! Boy oh boy oh boy has it gone down a storm, with each fudgy slice raising both eyebrows and heart rates. There must be something about the combination of white chocolate, bananas and syrupy, sexy, stodge that gets all your pulses racing!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 50-60 Mins
250g Unsalted Butter
200g White Chocolate
75g Ground Almonds
75g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
250g Light Muscovado Sugar
4 Large Eggs (Beaten)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Ripe Bananas (Mashed well)

To the kitchen! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and double line a 20cm springform tin with baking paper. Melt together the butter and white chocolate either over a bain-marie, or in the microwave (if you're confident in your timings), then set to one side for 5 minutes to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl mix together the almonds, flour, baking powder and sugar. Add the melted chocolate/butter, mix briefly, then in goes the rest of the ingredients. Mix with vigour until you are left with a sticky batter. Pour into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 50 to 60 minutes. To see if it's done give the side of the tin a firm tap. If the cake wobbles it needs a bit longer, if it sits firm then you are good to go.

Once baked remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin, before chilling for a good two hours prior to slicing. It will sink a little when cooling but that just means the fudge factor is at its maximum! Once chilled you can remove from the tin and serve. Y.U.M.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Maple Oaty's

Some days I will happily make do with a biscuit on the side of a cup of leaf tea. Today is not one of those days. Today I need a big biscuity hug, a thick wedge of something between a biscuit, a cookie and a slice of cake. Today I need a maple oaty, made with sweet golden syrup, soft mixed fruit and just a hint of spice. Good job I had a batch in the fridge ready for baking then!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus some chilling time)
Baking time: 16-20 Mins (Depending on size)
120g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
125g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Medium Egg
75g Maple Syrup
125g Plain Flour
1tsp Mixed Spice
300g Mixed Dried Fruit
150g Oats

You may have to bake these in batches unless you have a large oven, but if time is short you can store these in the fridge overnight until you are ready. Start by lining two large, flat baking trays with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg followed by the maple syrup. Add the flour and spice, mix to combine, then toss in the fruit. I add the fruit at this stage as it's much easier to mix through. Add the oats to the mixture and mix to a stiff batter. Blob the mixture onto some cling film, wrap up and leave in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Take a ball of the mixture, slightly larger than a golf ball and with your hands, flatten to a thick disc (I would say around half an inch thick). Repeat for the rest of the mixture, placing the discs evenly apart on your prepared sheets, as they will spread very slightly when baking. You should get around 14-16 our of this quantity of mixture. Bake in the oven for around 16-18 minutes, even a bit longer if they are really thick, until just starting to colour on top, then remove from the oven. Leave on the trays for 20 minutes, then carefully peel each oaty from the baking paper and leave to cool on a wire rack. Your work is done. :-)

Friday, 17 June 2016

Lemon and Rhubarb Ripple Cheesecake

Rhubarb can be rather devisive but personally I LOVE it. When treated care and respect it can have the most beautiful flavour and just the right balance of sweet and sharp. Here I've rippled a simple lemon cheesecake with rhubarb, sweetened with a little caster sugar and poached in its own juice. If the ripple effect doesn't do anything for you though you can just top normally, just wait for the lemon layer to chill for a couple of hours before moving on to the rhubarb stage. :-)

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking Chilling time: 3-4 Hours (Minimum)
For the biscuit base
200g Digestive Biscuits
85g Unsalted Butter (Melted)

For the lemon layer
360g Full Fat Cream Cheese
150g Caster Sugar
The finely grated zest of 4 Small Lemons
The juice of 2 Small Lemons
150ml Double Cream
3 Leaves of Gelatin

For the rhubarb layer
350g Rhubarb (The pinker the better!)
Around 100g Caster Sugar
2 Leaves of Gelatin

I use a 23cm disposable foil tin for this, but failing that you can always just use a 23cm springform tin lined with clingfilm. For the biscuit base pulverise the biscuits, then mix through the unsalted butter. Press into the base of your tin and leave to one side whilst you prepare the cheese and rhubarb.

For the lemon layer whisk together the cheese, sugar, zest and juice. Place the double cream in a pan on a low heat, stirring often and at the same time soak the 3 leaves of gelatine in cold water. When the cream is just starting to steam remove from the heat. Remove the gelatine from the water, squeezing out any water and stir through the hot cream until dissolved. Pour into the cheese mixture and whisk until combined. Pour over your biscuit base.

For the rhubarb layer, chop the rhubarb into knuckle sized piece and add to a pan along with the caster sugar. Place on a medium heat, stirring occasionally and at the same time soak the 2 leaves of gelatine in cold water. After a while the rhubarb will release its juice and start to bubble. Keep gently moving the rhubarb around, taking care not to break it, then when the rhubarb is entirely soft remove from the heat. A fair amount of sweet syrupy juice should have been released at this point. Remove the gelatine from the water, squeezing out any water and stir through the rhubarb. Spoon over the lemon layer and muss up a little with the handle of the spoon. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 3-4 hours until set firm and you are ready to serve. Yummmmmmmmmmm!