Thursday, 29 December 2011

Necessary Reading - Festive triple header!

Macarons are sweet, jewel like mini meringues sandwiched together with various delicious fillings and are a source of constant discussion (not to mention frustration) for both amateur and professional pastry aficionados. However the end result marries the aesthetic with the delicious in a way I've yet to see paralleled, so I was pleased as punch to receive the brilliant 'Macarons' by Pierre Herme this Christmas. To call this book comprehensive would be quite the understatement. I can confidently say this is only book you'll ever need on the art of the Macaron. The vast array of recipes range from the classic (Chocolate) to the unusual (Osetra Caviar and Walnut Brandy), are clear and easy to follow and are supported by detailed explanations of the appropriate techniques required. The illustrations are both beautiful and practical and do a great job conveying the sense of opulence and wonder associated with these colourful delights. All in all this really is a top book and one I'd highly recommend.


Speaking of Macarons, probably the most well known purveyor of these little treats is Laduree of Paris. Anyone lucky enough to visit one of their shops will testify to their extravagance, reminiscent of the classic luxurious french patisserie and it's good to see that this has been carried forward to their book 'Laduree: Sucre', by Phillipe Andrieu and Sophie Tramier. Housed in a crepe paper lined box, the book itself is beautifully made, padded and velvety with the pages edged in gold. There is a nice balance of recipes which are generally well described and illustrated and contain all the classics (Including the Macaron) as well as a few twists. All I will say is that the recipes themselves are definitely aimed at the more experienced amateur cook and beginners may need some patience getting to grips with some of the techniques. However I like this book a lot and think it would make a great gift.


'Wild Raspberries' by the artist Andy Warhol and Suzie Frankfurt is a 1959 'cookbook' like no other you'll find. The recipes themselves are humorous to the point of parody and include instructions such as ordering your chauffeur to pick up a suckling pig from the Plaza hotel's restaurant. The book is hand-lettered, mistakes and all (By Andy's mother) and contains 19 distinctive Warhol illustrations. Of course, this isn't really a serious cookbook, but it is funny, fanciful and a fantastic addition to any food lovers collection. It's not an easy one to find, but is definitely worth the effort!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Last minute fruit cake

Happy Christmas everyone! If you've left it until the last minute to make your fruit cake, don't fret! This fruit cake is quick and easy to make, not to mention moist, flavoursome and perfect any time of the year. It's actually one of the first recipes I ever tried out, but one I still use again and again.

Prep time: 10 Mins
Baking time 70-75 Mins

225g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
225g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
4 Large Eggs
A good splash of Sherry or Brandy
1Tbsp Mixed Spice
1 Heaped Tsp Baking Powder
275g Plain Flour
500g Mixed Dried Fruit (The best you can find!)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 23cm springform tin. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Splash in the alcohol, then sift in the mixed spice, baking powder and plain flour. Mix it all together until you are left with a thick but smooth batter. Fold through the dried fruit (Which will admittedly take a bit of elbow grease!) then spoon evenly into the prepared tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 70-75 minutes, until a metal skewer can be removed cleanly from the middle. You may need to cover it with foil for the last 15 minutes if it starts to colour too much on top. Let it cool for half an hour in the tin then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack. How easy is that!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Flourless/Dairyless Carrot and Almond Cake

I've been looking at flourless cake recipes recently and a trusted cake yoda recommended I give carrots a go. After a bit of tweaking I have to say what I've ended up with has far exceeded my expectations! The sponge is soft and almost syrupy, the flavours are delicate and fragrant and the added textures of the nuts and sultanas compliment the end result beautifully. Despite starting as an experiment I'll definitely be making this one again and again!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
200g Caster Sugar
4 Large Eggs
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 Tsp Mixed Spice
The zest of 1 Orange
250g Carrot (Grated)
100g Walnuts (Roughly Chopped)
150g Sultanas
1 Tsp Baking Powder
300g Ground Almonds

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 20cm deep loose bottomed tin (You can use oil or butter for the greasing, depending on how dairy free you want to make it!). In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and the eggs for about a minute, until they are a nice pale yellow and bubbling a little on top. Add in the vanilla, mixed spice and orange zest, then give it one more quick whisk, until they are incorporated. Tip in the carrot, walnuts and sultanas, then fold them in gently with a spatula. In a separate bowl mix together the baking powder and ground almonds, then fold that through as well. Make sure you get to the bottom of the bowl as well as the sides so it's all properly combined. Spoon into the tin, then bake in the centre of the oven for about an hour until a metal skewer comes out clean from the middle. When you're satisfied it's done remove it from the oven, let it cool completely in the tin then carefully turn it out. You're all done!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Jamie's mince pie cookies

I found this brilliant recipe on Jamie Oliver's Christmas site. It's a nice alternative to the good old mince pie and a really easy one to do with the kids. I made mine with my little niece and we can both confirm it's a winner! Sweet and buttery, with a nice balance of fruit and spice, they would be great to eat all your round, so if you fancy giving them a crack you can find the recipe here


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Bread Pudding

Christmas is a time of nostalgia and tradition, so I thought it'd be nice to try an old school recipe like bread pudding. I asked my mother for her recipe, but unfortunately she doesn't bother with things like 'measurements' or 'timings' so I adapted one I found on the BBC website instead. Having never made it before I'm sure this is far from the textbook bread pudding recipe. However, I really like the result. Stodgy and satisfying, it has a nice background fragrance without being too sweet or spicy.

Prep Time: 10 Mins (Plus soaking time)
Baking Time: 75 Mins
500g White Bread
150g Soft Brown Sugar
500g Mixed Fruit
500ml Milk
Zest of 1 orange and 1 Lemon
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Large Eggs
100g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
A handful of Demerara Sugar

So to start, in a large bowl tear the bread up into small pieces and sprinkle over the soft brown sugar and mixed fruit. In a saucepan pour in the milk, add the cinnamon stick and the zest then bring up to the boil. Turn the heat off and let it sit for 10 minutes to infuse. Once it's cooled for a bit pour the milk over the bread, give it all a mix round and let it sit for a further 15 minutes, until it's all soaked in.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line base of a 20cm square cake tin (without a loose base if you can). Remove the cinnamon stick, then crack in both the eggs and mix it all around. Pour in the melted butter and give it a final mix until everything is incorporated. Spoon into the tin and sprinkle over the demerara sugar, which will give the final pudding a sticky, crunchy topping. Place in the centre of the oven for about 75 minutes, covering with foil if it starts to colour too much on top. When it's done remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin. You should be able to turn it out relatively easily and it's really nice served warm, especially on a wet and windy December evening!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Gift Ideas: Chefs Essentials


Continuing the Christmas gift trend, the Guardian recently published a great list of gadgets the professionals just couldn't live without. So if you're looking for a gift for a foodie friend or family member scoot over there and have a look!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Best cookbooks 2011


I am sitting here today, smug in the knowledge that all my Christmas presents are bought and wrapped. However if you still have a few bits to buy, or haven't even started yet you can't beat a good cookbook. The Huffington Post recently listed their favourite cookbooks of 2011, so if you need some inspiration you can check it out here.



Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Pistachio cookies

I had some pistachios left over from another recipe so I thought I'd give these a go. Macaroony in texture, they are soft and chewy with a lovely pale green colour. I've flavoured mine with some Sicilian lemon extract, but you can freestyle if you want. I'd have thought that vanilla, orange zest or even rose/orange flower water would work nicely too!

Prep Time: 10 Mins
Baking Time: 20 Mins
150g Shelled Pistachios
100g Ground Almonds
200g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1Tsp Lemon Extract

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large tray with baking paper. Put the nuts into a food processor and blitz as finely as you can. If you don't have a food processor you can grind these by hand, but you'll probably end up with a slightly coarser mix. Add in the sugar and whiz round one final time until it is all combined. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they have just turned white and become foamy, then add in the lemon extract. Fold through the dry ingredients until you are left with a slightly sticky dough. With damp hands roll the dough into small-ish balls and place, spaced apart on the tray (They will spread slightly during cooking). Place in the centre of the oven for about 20 Minutes, until the tops have just started to brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the tray. Very easy and delicious!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Tosca Cake

I recently found this recipe in the Nordic Bakery Cookbook and loved it. The book itself is a real winner, unpretentious, easy to follow and full of both sweet and savoury recipes. The bakery itself can be found in London, so next time I'm there I'll definitely pay it a visit!

Tosca Cake is a delicate buttery sponge adorned with a crunchy praline-like almond topping. It's a lovely one to have when you just fancy something sweet with a cup of tea or coffee!

Prep Time: 20 Mins
Baking Time: 45 Mins (ish!)
4 Medium Eggs
170g Caster Sugar
200ml Double Cream
100g Unsalted Butter (Melted and Cooled)
2tsp Vanilla Extract
260g Plain Flour

For the topping...
75g Unsalted Butter
75g Caster Sugar
50ml Double Cream
25g Plain Flour
75g Flaked Almonds

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and grease/line a 29cm springform tin. In a large mixing bowl whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk for about ten minutes, until the mixture is a thick foam and very pale in colour. Fold in the cream, butter and vanilla very gently. Sift in the flour and baking powder and again fold in gently. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.

While the cake is baking you can get on with the 'Tosca' topping, which is surprisingly easy! Just put all the ingredients into a pan and stir over a low heat until it all comes gently up to the boil. Remove the baked cake from the oven, then spread the topping evenly over and return for a further 10-15 minutes. When it's golden and slightly caramalised on top you're good to go!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Clementine and Pistachio Cake

It's on grey and gloomy days like today that it's nice to be able to turn to a sweet and zesty treat like this one. Pistachios marry really well with citrus so I've used clementines, which are abundant at this time of year. Try and buy ready shelled pistachios if you can, otherwise it's a bit of a chore getting them out of their shells. Also, grind them as well as you can but it's not a big issue if they are relatively coarse. A few chunks of pistachio here and there will give the cake a nice change of texture.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 45-50 Mins
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
175g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
100g Ground Almonds
100g Pistachios (Ground)
Zest of 4 good sized Clementines
50g Plain flour
1Tsp Baking Powder

50g Roughly Chopped pistachios
Juice of 4 Clementines
50g Caster Sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 20cm loose bottomed tin. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add in the pistachios and almonds, followed by the clementine zest. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then mix it all together and spoon into the tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden brown and a metal skewer can be removed cleanly from the centre.

When the cake is done put the clementine juice, chopped pistachios and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring it to the boil and leave it rumbling away for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. When it has started to thicken and become syrupy remove from the heat and spoon over the hot cake. Let the whole lot go cold in the tin, then carefully remove and enjoy at you leisure!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Sour Cherry Stollen Biscotti

Stollen, a fruit loaf similar to the Italian Panettone, is a real festive favourite and a treat as it is. However I think this spin on it is a really nice option if you just fancied a snack with a hot drink. A few points of note though. I've included the seeds of six cardamon pods, which won't look like much but you need to be a bit careful with a spice like cardamon, as go too far and it takes over. I've also stated in the recipe to chop the marzipan into small cubes. This is really important, as large lumps of marzipan really compromise the structural integrity of the biscotti themselves. You might find it easier to chill the marzipan before you chop it up, as it'll firm up and make it easier to work with.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins (ish)
250g Caster Sugar
250g Plain Flour
1/2Tbsp Baking Powder
Seeds from 6 good sized Cardamon pods, crushed to a fine powder)
1Tsp Mixed Spice
1Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
Zest of 1 Orange
200g Dried Sour Cherries (Roughly Chopped)
150g Marzipan (Chopped into small cubes)

Right, start off by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line 2 large trays with baking paper. In a large bowl combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, cardamon, mixed spice and orange zest. In a separate small bowl beat the egg with the vanilla extract. Add the sour cherries and marzipan to the dry ingredients, give them a mix round then make a well in the middle. Pour in the beaten egg, mix for a bit with a wooden spoon until it starts to come together, then get your hands in there and work until it forms a dough. Drizzle a little water on your hands, then split the dough and form into two long sausages, about 5cm in diameter. Lay each sausage in the middle of a tray and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until they've spread and the top is a nice even golden colour.

Remove and turn the oven down to 140C/2755/Gas 1. After 15 minutes, peel the cooked dough off of the baking paper and on a large chopping board slice the biscotti at an angle, about 1cm thick (Or you can go a bit thicker if you like them chunky!). Place the sliced biscotti back on the tray and put back in the oven. After about 14 minutes remove, carefully turn each biscotti over, then put back into the oven for a further 14 minutes. When done remove and place on a wire rack to cool. Done done done!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Mincemeat Cake

Although there is nothing wrong with a delicious mince pie, I thought it would be nice to try out something else with mincemeat. I've added orange zest, which I think adds to the heady spice, but you can try other things if you want. It really depends on the mincemeat you use. If you think it needs some bolstering, you could try some mixed spice, lemon, or even some more booze if you think it needs it. Feel free to experiment!

Prep time: 10 Mins
Baking time: 50-60 Mins
200g Unsalted butter (Softened)
150g Soft Brown Sugar
3 Large Eggs
Zest of 1 Orange
200g Mincemeat (About half a jar)
1Tsp Baking Powder
225g Plain Flour

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 20cm deep loose bottomed tin. Cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold through the orange zest, followed by the mincemeat. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then mix it all together and spoon in the tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 50 - 60 minutes, or until a metal skewer comes out clean from the middle. You might find you have to cover it for the last 10 minutes if it starts to brown too much on top, so keep some baking paper or foil handy just in case. When it's finished baking remove the cake from the oven, let it cool for about 20 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. When it's completely cool slice and enjoy, ideally with a nice cup of tea!

Friday, 18 November 2011

(Baci di dama) Ladies' Kisses

These Italian biscuits are so easy to make and perfect for a dinner party or just to share with that special someone! So-called because the two sandwiched biscuits resemble a kiss, you can make them with ground almonds or ground toasted hazelnuts. Also I add a dash of vanilla, which may not be that traditional but I think gives them an added depth of flavour.

Prep Time: 10 Mins
Baking Time: 20 Mins
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
115g Caster Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
1/2Tsp Vanilla Extract
115g Ground Almonds or Ground Toasted Hazelnuts
175g Plain Flour
50g Good Quality Chocolate (You can use dark, milk or even white if you prefer!)

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk. Add the vanilla then mix in the nuts and flour. Spoon the mixture onto some cling film, wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and line a couple of large trays with baking paper. Take the mixture out of the fridge, then break off small pieces and roll into balls. You should be able to get about 40 out of this quantity. Making sure you leave a decent gap between each ball, place them on the baking paper. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden, leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then let them cool on the tray.

When the biscuits are cold melt the chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave then sandwich together the biscuits in pairs and leave to set. Easy!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blondies

Blondies are a great alternative to brownies and I've recently tried these out using peanut butter. The end result is delicious, slightly fudgy with notes of vanilla, butterscotch and of course peanut. I've used smooth organic peanut butter in this version, but you can use crunchy if you want some added texture.

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 25 Mins
100g Unsalted Butter (Plus extra for greasing)
200g Peanut Butter
200g White Chocolate
2 Large Eggs
200g Light Muscovado Sugar
1Tsp Vanilla Extract
150g Plain Flour
1Tsp Baking Powder

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line base of a 20cm square tin. Put the butter and peanut butter into a saucepan and stir over a low heat until melted. Break the chocolate up into a bowl and pour over the melted butters, stirring until combined, then set aside. Now is a good time to get your hooter in and have a sniff. It smells amazing! In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla, then pour in the white chocolate mixture and stir it all together with a wooden spoon. Sift in the flour and baking powder then beat vigorously until the whole mixture comes together. It has a slightly unusual, doughy consistency but do not fear! Spoon into a tin and spread evenly to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden and just firm. Leave to cool in the tin for 30-45 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Slice into squares and munch until your heart's content!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sachertorte

Sachertorte is a rich chocolate cake originating from Austria. It’s delicious eaten the same day you bake it, but even better a couple of days later. I found this version in the Green and Blacks cookbook, but personally I prefer using Valrhona. My advice would be to use whatever you prefer, but don’t be afraid to experiment!

Prep time: 15 Minutes
Baking time: 60 Minutes

For the cake
Butter (For greasing)
200g Dark Chocolate (60-70% Cocoa Solids)
6 Eggs
310g Granulated Sugar
150g Ground Almonds
1.5Tsp Freshly Ground Coffee
6Tbsp Apricot Jam

For the icing
100g Dark Chocolate (60-70% Cocoa Solids)
40g Unsalted Butter

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line a 23cm springform tin. To make the torte start by melting the chocolate over a bain-marie (Or use the microwave if you’re sure of the timings), then remove from the heat and set aside. Separate 5 of the eggs, then whisk the egg yolks with the whole egg you have left and the sugar, until creamy. In another bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add the ground almonds, coffee and melted chocolate to the egg yolk mixture and mix it all together. Fold in the egg whites then pour into the tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 60 minutes, covering for the last 20 minutes to stop the top browning too much. Let it cool for 20 minutes or so in the tin, the remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Once it has cooled, melt the apricot jam over a low heat, then strain and brush over the top.

For the icing, again melt the chocolate over a bain-marie. Add the butter and stir in until it resembles the thickness of double cream, then remove from the heat and pour evenly over the cake. Smooth over the top and sides using the back of spoon then leave to set. Done!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Sticky Date Cakes

Man alive it's really gloomy round here today! Chilly and cloudy and generally pretty dreary all round. It's days like this when a nice warm cake recipe really hits the spot and this one is both easy to make and delicious to eat. You should get about 12 out of the mix and can serve them on their own or with cream, ice cream or even custard!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 20 Mins
270g Pitted Dates (Chopped)
250ml Water
1Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
150g Unsalted Butter (Plus a bit extra for greasing)
185g Self Raising Flour
265g Soft Brown Sugar
2 Eggs (Beaten)
2Tbsp Golden Syrup
185ml Single Cream

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease a 12 cup muffin tray. Place the dates and the water in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda then add 60g of the butter and continue stirring until it's melted. In a large bowl sift in the flour, then mix in 125g of the sugar. Make a well in the centre then pour in the date mixture, followed by the egg. Mix it all together, then spoon evenly into the muffin holes and bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of one of the cakes.

For the sauce, put the golden syrup, cream, the remaining sugar and butter in a small pan and stir over a low/moderate heat for about 4 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil then simmer for a further 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. To serve turn the warm cakes out, pierce them a few times with a skewer then pour over some of the sauce. Mission complete!

Friday, 4 November 2011

White Chocolate and Orange Muffins

I think white chocolate and orange work really good together, but if you fancy another combination this is a really good basic muffin recipe. Also, I've used orange extract, which you can pick up in the supermarket these days, but if you struggle to get hold of that vanilla works great as well. This mix will make about 12 muffins.

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 20 - 25 Mins
125ml Vegetable Oil
200g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1Tsp Orange Extract
250g Plain Flour
1/2Tsp Baking Powder
250g Plain Yoghurt
150g White Chocolate (Chopped up roughly)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and line 12 cup muffin tray with cases. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and the eggs then slowly pour in the oil, followed by the orange extract. Sift in half of the flour and baking powder, stir in half the yoghurt, then sift in the rest of the flour and baking powder followed by the rest of the yoghurt. Fold through the chocolate then spoon evenly into the muffin tray. 

Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 mins, until a skewer or sharp knife can be cleanly removed from the centre. Leave to cool on a wire rack. How easy is that!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Nigel Slater Pear and Chocolate Crumble

Found this recipe in the Observer last Sunday and just tried it out. It's fantastic, rich and sumptuous, with a beautiful marriage of flavours and textures. Really easy too!



Friday, 28 October 2011

Halloween Weekend!

Halloween is a great excuse to get creative with your baking. With a little imagination you can easily transform standard recipes into dastardly delights, that will thrill (or even terrify) any trick or treaters knocking at your door!

If you need some inspiration check out these deliciously diabolical creations from some of the UK's best cakeries...







Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Cakeballs

With Halloween and Bonfire Night fast approaching, not to mention the festive season I thought it'd be good to post something that's great for parties and especially kids. Cakeballs are basically spongecake bound with butter icing and usually coated in chocolate. What's really good about them is you can mould, decorate and flavour how you want. Also, although this recipe uses butter icing you can bind them with whatever you like (Lemon curd is really good!). 

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 45 Mins
200g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
200g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1Tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Self Raising Flour

For the Butter Icing and Topping
100g Butter (Softened)
150g Icing Sugar
50g Cocoa Powder
1Tbsp Milk
100g White Chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line base of a 20cm tin. In a bowl cream together the butter and sugar then add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla extract, sift in the flour then mix it all together until you get a smooth batter. Spoon into the tin and bake for 40-45 mins, until a skewer comes out clean from the middle. Leave to cool, then remove from the tin.

In a bowl sift in the icing/cocoa then beat in the butter, followed by the milk until smooth and creamy. Crumble the cake into a separate bowl then add the chocolate icing and bind it together. Roll into balls, or shape how you like (You might find this easier if you dust your hands with a little icing sugar), then place on a tray and leave to set.

Once they've set melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie (Or use the microwave if you are REALLY sure how long to do it for!), then drizzle over the set cakeballs. You can also decorate with anything else you like at this stage (E.g. Sprinkles, icing flowers, etc)! Let them set one last time and you're done!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Chocolate Stout Cake

I forget where I found this recipe, but it's a really good one and very easy to make. The stout gives the cake a lovely depth of flavour and you can use whatever brand you like, including the popular Dublin one!

Prep Time: 10 Mins
Baking Time: 75 - 90 Mins
225g Butter (Softened)
350g Soft Brown Sugar
4 Eggs
115g Cocoa Powder
225g Plain Flour
1Tsp Baking Powder
400ml Stout

Right, so you can start by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line a 23cm springform tin. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy then add the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl mix together the cocoa, baking powder and flour. Pour about a quarter of the stout in with the butter/sugar/eggs, mix it together then sift in a quarter of the cocoa/flour and do the same. Repeat until all of the stout and flour has been combined. Pour into the tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 75-90 mins, until set and if it starts to brown too much on top you can cover with some baking paper until it's done. Let it cool in the tin, then remove and eat!

Monday, 17 October 2011

National Baking Week - 17th ~ 23rd October 2011

Not that you should all need an excuse, but it's national baking week this week so get out there and get baking!



Friday, 14 October 2011

Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake

This one comes from a Nigel Slater recipe. You can find it online, although the recipe does seems to change slightly depending on the source. I know this version works really well and is a lovely one to have with a tea or coffee. I use a large pestle and mortar to bash together my chocolate and nuts, but if you don't have one you can use a sturdy bowl and rolling pin, or even a food processor.

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 45 - 50 Mins
250g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
250g Golden Caster Sugar
4 Large Eggs
125g Self Raising Flour
4Tsp Strong Hot Dark Coffee
120g Dark Chocolate (70% Cocoa if you can)
75g Toasted Chopped Hazelnuts (You can pick these up pretty easily from most supermarkets)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 20cm deep loose-bottomed cake tin. In a large pestle and mortar bash together the chocolate and hazelnuts until they look like loose gravel (You might have to do this a bit at a time), then set aside. In a bowl mix together the softened butter and sugar until light and creamy, then incorporate the eggs one at a time. Mix in half the flour, add the coffee, then the rest of the flour. Add in the choc/nut mixture and fold it through until the whole lot is fully mixed together. Pour into the tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 45 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out moist but clean. It's probably worth checking about 35 minutes in and if it's looking dark enough on top, then you can cover with some foil to stop it burning. When your happy that it's cooked remove it from the oven, let a cool for a bit in the tin, then remove and peel off the baking paper. Done and done!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Pineapple upside-down cake

To commemorate the legendary Thomas Keller 'popping up' with his French Laundry at Harrods, I thought I'd put up a really great and easy recipe I found in his book Ad Hoc at Home. Again I've anglicised it a bit, but still think you get a really lovely result. Although this uses pineapple you can substitute for whatever you fancy!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 40 Mins
For the 'Pan Shmear'
115g Unsalted Butter (At room temperature)
1 1/2Tbsp Honey
1/2Tsp Dark Rum
220g Light Brown Sugar
1/4Tsp Vanilla Extract
Salt

1 Extra Sweet Pineapple

For the cake batter
180g Plain Flour
2Tsp Baking Powder
115g Unsalted Butter (At room temperature)
125g Caster Sugar
1/2Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
1Tbsp plus 1Tsp Milk

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease a 23cm cake tin. In a bowl combine the butter, honey, rum, sugar and vanilla then beat until smooth. Using a spatula spread the schmear over the base of the tin until it's covered, then sprinkle lightly with salt. You will have some left over, so you can keep that for next time in the fridge (up to a week) or freezer (up to month) until you need it again. Peel/Core the pineapple then slice into pieces a few mm thick. You can freestyle here and make them whatever shape you fancy. Lay the sliced pineapple, slightly overlapping on top of the schmear.

Now for the cake mix. In a fresh bowl mix together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time. Beat in the milk, then sift in the flour and baking powder about a third at a time. Spread the batter over the pineapple and bake in the centre of the oven. After about 15 minutes rotate the tin, then bake for another 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the tin for about half an hour, then comes the tricky bit!

Run a palette knife around the edges of the cake, then invert onto your serving plate and remove from the tin. This is a really nice one to serve warm, but you can keep the leftover cake for a few days in an airtight container and devour at your leisure!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Friday, 7 October 2011

Things I want...

I don't like Valrhona chocolate, I love it. In my opinion it's by far the best chocolate available, rich and complex in flavour with a wonderful near organic texture. A luxury product, up there with white truffle and foie gras, it's used by the worlds best chefs, yet relatively affordable and easy to find. As far as I'm concerned there's chocolate and then there's Valrhona, so to find out about this new book has filled me with great excitement!

Once I've got hold of a copy I'll give it a proper review, so watch this space!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Necessary Reading - Short & Sweet


Alright I admit it, my cookbook collection is big and looking at it you'd have thought there's no way I needed any more. However, it's books like the fantastic Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard that helpfully illustrate that it will never be too big. This book is brilllllllllllllliant, choc full of wonderful recipes. Practically everything the home baker needs is covered, be it savoury, sweet, traditional or exotic. The illustrations are clear, unpretentious and enticing, exactly like the recipes themselves and there is wealth of helpful tips and techniques included. What I really love about this book is all the extra information accompanying the recipes, which show the author not only knows his stuff, but really cares about each and every recipe. Considering there are more than 280 of them included in this bumper tome, that's no mean feat. So, even if you're convinced you have no more room in your bookcase find a space to cram this one in. I promise you will not regret it!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Pistachio and Almond Tart with Orange and Cardamom

I got this recipe out of the wonderful Casa Moro Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark. The Moro cookbooks are exotic yet unpretentious and I can't recommend them highly enough.

This tart is beautifully fragrant and aromatic, perfect for these warm days of late summer. You can make the tart case well in advance and if you struggle to find blanched pistachios you can substitute with the shelled, unsalted kind. Also if you don't have a food processor you can grind everything by hand, although you'll be there quite some time!

Prep Time: 20 Mins (Not including chilling/freezing time!)
Baking Time: 60 Mins
For the pastry case
225g Plain Flour
1/2Tsp Fine Salt
50g Caster Sugar
12 Green Cardamom pods (Just the black seeds, ground finely)
250g Unsalted Butter
1 Egg Yolk

For the filling
200g Blanched Almonds
300g Blanched Pistachios
250g Caster Sugar
15 Green Cardamom pods (Just the black seeds, ground finely to about 1/4Tsp)
150ml Orange Juice
4 Egg Yolks
Zest of 1 Medium Orange

For the glaze
1 Egg Yolk
2Tbsp Milk or Cream

To make the pastry case, combine the flour, salt, sugar and ground cardamom in a food processor with the butter. Pulse it together until only small lumps of butter remain. Add in the yolk, then process for a further 20 seconds. Turn it out into a bowl then finish bringing it together by hand. Press the dough out until about 2cm think, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour. Roll out the dough on a cool, lightly floured surface, until about 5mm thick and use to line a 24cm tart tin (Don't worry if it cracks a bit). Prick the base and freeze, which can be done well in advance.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Take the tart case out of the freezer, line with baking parchment, fill with baking beans and bake for 20mins (Until the pastry has set). Remove the beans and parchment then return to the oven until the pastry has an even light golden colour. Whilst it is cooling you can start on the filling. In a food processor combine the nuts, sugar and cardamom, then grind as fine as possible. You'll find the nuts start to release their oil and go a bit cakey, which is what you want. Slowly add the orange juice until you are left with a smooth paste. Let the paste cool for a few minutes as all that processing will cause it to warm somewhat, then add the yolks and zest and process again until incorporated.

Spread the filling into the pastry shell and smooth over the top (Using a wet spatula will help). Do this carefully, as to not damage the pastry. Bake in the oven (Same temperature as before) for about 15 minutes, just to dry the top. Then brush on the glaze (Just mix the egg yolk and milk/cream together) and bake for 10 minutes more until golden. Yum yum yum!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Lemon Cake

There are looooaaadddss of good lemon cake recipes out there and there isn't one in particular I favour. However, at the moment I quite like this one as despite being lovely and lemony it still retains that nice deep sponge cake flavour.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 45 Mins
200g Butter (Softened)
200g Caster Sugar
225g Self Raising Flour
3 Large Eggs
1Tsp Baking Powder
5 Medium Unwaxed Lemons
50g Caster Sugar (For syrup)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the zest of three of the lemons, followed by the juice of two (But keep the third as you'll need the juice from that one later!), then sift in the baking powder and flour. Mix it all together then spoon it into the tin. Place in the centre of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
When cooked remove the cake from the oven. Zest two lemons into a small saucepan, then squeeze their juice into a measuring jug. Follow that with the juice of that third lemon you have left, then top it up with cold water until you have 100ml of liquid. Pour that into the saucepan, add the 50g of caster sugar and bring the whole lot up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a fast simmer and leave it for a few minutes, then when it starts to thicken remove from the heat. With a metal skewer make holes in the top of the cake (Not all the way to the bottom), then pour over the hot syrup. Let the cake cool in the tin, then remove it and devour at will. 

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Undergrowth Design

I heart Undergrowth Design. Their products are elegant yet contemporary and evoke a real sense of wonder. I demand that you check out their site immediately!



Tina Tsang graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2005 in illustration and animation.

Her diverse background that includes film, painting, animation,photography, costume design, fashion design and trend forecasting has enabled her to have a broad understanding of aesthetics and trends within the design world. She uses an interdisciplinary approach to designing and feels that her experience in many design disciplines helps enrich the quality and depth of her work.

She enjoys making products that interact with the user on an emotional level making objects of desire of an heirloom quality that we can keep and treasure. She works with both catering and retail clients both in UK and internationally. We are happy to take on bespoke projects for companies and individuals.

All our products are handmade in London, England.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Monday, 19 September 2011

Shortbread

There are lots of shortbread recipes out there, using various ingredients. This one is by far the easiest and the end result is delicious. Basically it's one part sugar, two parts butter and three parts plain flour. Literally as easy as 1-2-3!

Prep time: 10 Mins (Plus a bit of chilling time)
Baking time: 15 Mins
100g Caster Sugar (Plus a little extra for dusting)
200g Unsalted Butter (Chilled and cut into small cubes)
300g Plain Flour (Plus a little extra to flour the surface)

In a large bowl rub the flour into the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add in the sugar. Mix it all by hand until you get a smooth dough. Don't fret if it doesn't come together straight away, it just needs a bit of elbow grease! Once you're happy with it wrap it in cling film, then place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and line a large tray with baking paper. Take the dough out of the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll out until just under a centimeter thick. Cut them out in whatever shape you want, as long as they aren't too big. Place them on the tray, leaving a gap between each one as they'll spread a little but when cooking, then bake for about 15 minutes. You'll want them to still be pale so don't let them brown, then take them out and let them cool on the tray. After about half an hour of cooling I dusted them with the caster sugar, but you can leave it a bit longer if you want. I'm just impatient!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Necessary Reading – Leon: Baking and Puddings


I’ve been waiting for this book for weeks and now it has arrived, wow it does not disappoint. As expected it’s beautifully presented and sumptuously illustrated. Tools, techniques, ingredients and of course recipes are all comprehensively covered. The explanations are detailed but easy to follow and it’s full of wonderful little touches such as conversion charts and ‘first aid’ (What to do when it all goes wrong). The recipes themselves range from everyday savoury staples to elaborate sweet celebration treats and include practically everything the home baker could ever wish for. Be it cakes, breads, jams, even ice cream, you’ll find it here.

However, by far my favourite part of this book is the small personal touches dotted throughout. Stories, experiences and tributes are all lovingly shared and you get a real sense that the authors are not just experts in the subject matter, but have a love for all that accompanies it.

This may not be the only baking book you’ll ever need, but if you had to buy just one you’d be hard pressed to top this. It’s a really, really brilliant book.