Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Wholemeal Bread

I hope you've all been having fun and indulging in fine food over the festive period, as well as the occasional cake or two! However as the new year approaches I thought I would offer up something a little more wholesome. Also if you've never made bread before why not make it your resolution and give it a try!

Prep time: 25 Mins (Plus proving time)
Baking time: 20-25 Mins
250ml Tepid Water
12g Fresh Yeast (If you're supermarket has a bakery section have a word and they will supply you!)
1tsp Caster Sugar
315g Wholemeal Flour (Plus extra for dusting)
50g Very Strong White Bread Flour
1tsp Salt

Let's begin. Add the water to a jug, then mix in the yeast and sugar until blended. In a large mixing bowl mix together both the flours along with the salt, then tip in the water. Loosely bring together with a flat bladed knife, then tip out onto a floured surface. Bring together to a sticky dough then start to knead, stretching the dough apart, folding back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. Do this until the dough is smooth and elastic which will take around 10 minutes. Depending on the environmental conditions you may find the dough to be a little sticky, or even a little dry so you can add a touch more flour or even water as you're kneading if required. Please do this with care though.

Once the dough is smooth and elastic dust with flour, transfer to a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for around 90 minutes until doubled in size. Once risen remove from the bowl onto a fresh, lightly floured surface and press lightly all over with the ends of your fingers to knock any excess air from the dough. Divide into 8 buns and shape each into a round. As you can see I'm making buns here, but you can easily shape into a loaf or something else if you prefer. Leave the buns on a lightly floured surface and cover for 30 minutes. You don't want to cover with a tea towel this time as it will stick so I actually use an large upturned tupperware container, although you could lightly grease a sheet of clingfilm and use that instead.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7 and lightly grease a large flat baking tray with oil. Also place a tin half full of boiling water in the bottom of the oven, which should create a light steam. Uncover your buns and very gently transfer to the baking tray, evenly spaced apart. Place in the oven for around 20-25 minutes until the buns are a nice even brown then remove. The steam should have helped create a lovely crust on the bread but if you'd like it a little softer then just cover the buns with a tea towel as they are cooling. And there you go, all done!

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Vanillekipferl

Vanillekipferl are a light and crumbly Austrian biscuit that are popular all year round, but ESPECIALLY at Christmas. Crescent shaped and coated in vanilla sugar they are so very moreish and easy peasy to create, with only a few processes required. You can find vanilla sugar relatively easily these days, but you can also make your own by leaving a vanilla pod to infuse in a jar of caster sugar. Oh and you'll get about 24 biscuits out of this quantity of mixture!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 15 Mins
140g Plain Flour
50g Ground Almonds
100g Unsalted Butter (Cold and in tiny cubes)
1 Large Egg Yok
60g Icing Sugar

For sugar coating
20g Icing Sugar
1tbsp Vanilla Sugar

Let's get started! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line either one large or two medium sized flat baking trays with baking paper. Mix together the flour and almonds, then add the butter and rub together until no lumps remain. Add the egg yolk and icing sugar, start to bring together with a flat bladed knife, then get your hands in there and bring together to a smooth dough.

Break off small balls of the dough (about the size of a small walnut), shape into small tubes, then turn into crescents, pinching the ends to points. Place evenly spaced apart onto your prepared tray(s) then bake in the centre of the oven until golden brown. When you are happy the biscuits are baked remove from the oven and leave on the tray for 15 minutes to firm up slightly.

Combine the icing sugar and vanilla sugar. Toss each biscuit in the sugar and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. If any sugar remains after coating then you can sprinkle each biscuit as they cool. There you go, all done!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Carrot and Cardamom Cake

December is such a busy month with all the revelry, shopping and general merriment, so a sweetly satisfying treat is always welcome fortification. Carrot cake is usually spiced with cinnamon, but this time I've gone with cardamom to mix things up. The combination is thoroughly lovely but a word of warning, take care with the cardamom as a heavy hand can mean an overpowering perfume that is far from pleasing!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 60-70 Mins
The seeds from a few Cardamom Pods (I used 6 small ones)
175g Plain Flour
175g Light Muscovado Sugar
1tsp Baking Powder
165ml Rapeseed Oil
2 Large Eggs
200g Fresh Carrots (Peeled and grated)
125g Sultanas
50g Icing Sugar
A few teaspoons of Water

Let's get cracking! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper. Crush the cardamom seeds to a powder and add to a large mixing bowl with the plain flour, muscovado sugar and baking powder. Mix all together and set to one side. In a large jug beat together the oil and eggs then pour into your dry ingredients. Mix together to a smooth and consistent batter, then fold through the grated carrots and sultanas. Spoon into your prepared tin, even to the edges and bake in the centre of the oven for around an hour, until risen and a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted in to the middle of the cake. When you are happy the loaf cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for around 20 mins then turn out onto a wire rack.

Once the cake is cool you can ice. Mix together the icing sugar with a few drops of water until smooth and glossy, then drizzle all over the cake. Leave to set, then slice and serve. Yum yum yum!

Monday, 30 November 2015

Treacle Date Traybake

With the weather so cold and blustery it would be heaven to indulge in a spot of treacle sponge pudding and custard all of the time, but alas that is not always practical. This traybake echoes the sweet deliciousness of a syrup sponge but has the added bonus of being readily available whenever a cake break is required. I've drizzled mine with lashings of golden syrup after baking, but if you want them REALLLLLLLLLLY sticky then cover the base of your tin with a thick layer of golden syrup prior to spooning in the mixture. Soooooo sticky, so sweet, so yummy!

Prep time: 25 Mins (Plus steeping time)
Baking time: 45-50 Mins
For the Dates
50g Golden Syrup
300ml Black Tea (Hot)
9 Plump and pitted Medjool Dates

For the sponge
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
150g Light Muscovado Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
175g Self Raising Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
25g Golden Syrup

Lashings of Golden Syrup (For drizzling)

Let's begin. For the dates mix together the hot tea and 50g of golden syrup. Halve the dates and lay over the base of a container. Pour over the sweet tea, so it comes just over halfway up the dates, then cover and leave at room temperature. After an hour turn the dates over and cover again. Repeat this act twice more, until the dates are soft and thoroughly steeped, then they are ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a smallish baking tin (around 27x22cm) with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs on at a time along with the vanilla. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then add the golden syrup and mix to a smooth, consistent batter. Spoon the batter into your prepared tin and even to the edges.

Take a date half an press into the surface of the batter. Repeat for the rest of the dates (Don't worry if a drop or two of steeping juice comes with them!) evenly spaced apart. Place the tin in the centre of the oven for 45-50 minutes, until risen, golden brown on top and a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the baked mixture. When you are happy the sponge is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out upside down onto a wire rack. Peel off the paper then drizzle all over with golden syrup. Leave to soak in for an hour, then repeat. Slice and serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Tart Cranberry Compote Focaccia

It's the cranberry season so thankfully they are relatively easy to get hold of at the moment. If you are lucky enough to find a bunch (is it called a bunch?) then why not try out this recipe which tempers the tartness of the fresh cranberries with maple syrup to make a delicious compote. But oh no, that's by no means the end of the story. You could leave it there if you wish, but if you want to go a step further your old friend The Gentleman Baker has you covered with a sweet focaccia recipe to go with. Well it is nearly the season of giving after all!

Prep time: 30 Mins (Plus some proving time)
Baking time: 15 Mins (Compote), 20-30 Mins (Focaccia)
For the Compote
300g Fresh Cranberries
The juice of 1 Clementine
100g Maple Syrup
25g Caster Sugar

For the Focaccia
100g Tepid Water
12g Fresh Yeast
2tbsp Caster Sugar
115ml Milk (Warm)
300g Plain Flour
1tsp Salt
Maple Syrup (To drizzle)

Ok compote first! Add the cranberries, clementine juice, maple syrup and sugar to a small saucepan and place on a low/medium heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved then bring the heat to a medium. Keep stirring occasionally until the berries begin to burst, which you will hear before you will see! When they have softened whack the heat up high just to thicken the juices, then tip out to a bowl and leave to cool.

Onto the focaccia! Pour the water into a large bowl, then add the yeast and sugar. Mix to blend in the yeast, then add the warm milk, flour and salt. Using a flat bladed knife briefly bring together to a loose dough, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough, pulling the dough apart, folding back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. Do this for around ten minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, then lightly dust with flour and return to a clean bowl. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for around 80 minutes, until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen you can turn it into a focaccia. Lightly grease a small-ish baking tin and preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Tip your risen dough into the greased tray then generously spoon over your compote. Using your fingers press the dough to the edges of your tin, flattening as you go. Really work the compote into the dough with your fingers as you are pressing it. Place the tin in the centre of the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the bread has risen and just starting to darken. When you are happy the bread is baked remove from the oven and generously drizzle with more maple syrup. Serve!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Easy and Nut Free Light Christmas Cake

Baking cakes, baking cakes, I love baking cakes,
Oh what fun it is to bake a lovely Christmas cake, ohhhh,
Baking cakes, baking cakes, I love baking cakes,
Oh what fun it is to bake a lovely Christmas cake!

Prep time: 25 Mins (Plus soaking time)
Baking tine: 2 Hours 20 Mins
Maturing time: Many many weeks...
200g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
185g Light Muscovado Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Orange Extract
1tsp Lemon Extract
1tsp Vanilla Extracts
2tsp Mixed Spice
225g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1tsbp of Golden Syrup
500g Luxury Mixed Fruit (Soaked in Rum, Sherry or Brandy)
150g Pitted Medjool Dates
Rum, Sherry or Brandy

Making a Christmas cake can seem quite daunting, but honestly this one is so very easy and perfect for anyone with a nut allergy (who can be quite tricky to cater for with shop bought Christmas cakes). You can buy really good mixed dried fruits pre-soaked these days so feel free to use some if time is short, otherwise just soak your fruit overnight in a couple of tablespoons of alcohol, stirring occasionally.

Onto the cake! Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2, grease a 20cm deep springform tin and double line with baking paper. Also double line the outside and secure with string. It's worth doing this so you end up with the lovely soft, even texture as opposed to a thicker cakey crust of a more traditional fruit cake. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time, along with the extracts and spice. If you don't want to use orange and lemon extract you can use zest, although I find the extracts give a much more rounded flavour as the cake matures.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, then drizzle in the golden syrup. Mix to a smooth, consistent batter, then fold through the fruit until evenly combined. Spoon into your prepared tin, even to the edges and bake in the centre of the oven for around 2 hours and 30 minutes, until the cake has risen and a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, poke the surface all over with a skewer, then drizzle over 2tbsp of alcohol. Personally I prefer brandy, but rum or sherry also work very well indeed!

Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then remove and double wrap in clingfilm. Leave tucked away in a relatively cool place, then every fortnight unwrap, drizzle over another 2tbsp of booze and cover once more. Some advise to add alcohol more often, but personally I think every fortnight leaves the finished article potent enough!

Once the cake has matured and Christmas has nearly arrived you can think about icing (although you don't have to if you don't want to). To do this just brush over with a little warmed apricot jam and lay on some marzipan, royal icing or a combination of the two. Ho ho ho!

Friday, 13 November 2015

White Chocolate Biscakes

If like me you are often undecided between indulging in a piece of cake or a biscuit (or both), then this one is for you. With but a few minor adjustments to what is a relatively standard recipe you will find yourself with a sweet treat that will suitably satisfying your cake cravings whilst also tickling any hankering you may have for a biscuit or cookie. And before you ask yes, you can even dunk them!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 30-25 Mins
200g White Chocolate (Chopped)
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
210g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Large Egg plus 1 Yolk
1tsp Vanilla Extract
225g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
A drizzle of Golden Syrup to finish.

We start as usual. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a smallish baking tin (around 27x22cm) with baking paper. Take 100g of the white chocolate, melt gently over a bain-marie or in the microwave (taking care with your timings as white chocolate scorches rather easily), then set to one side to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and yolk, along with the vanilla extract. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then drizzle in the melted white chocolate and mix to a smooth, consistent batter. Fold through the remaining white chocolate and spoon into you prepared tin. Even to the edges, which you will need patience doing as the mixture will be thick and stiffer than normal, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 30-35 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the baked biscake mixture.

When you are happy the biscake mixture is baked remove from the oven, drizzle the surface all over with golden syrup, then leave to cool completely in the tin. Once cool remove from the tin, peeling from the paper, then slice and serve. Oooooh pass one of those bad boys my way please!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Gluten Free White Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blowies

Sitting somewhere between a traditional fudgy brownie and the soft, syrupy blondie these little beasties are super indulgent and a very naughty treat indeed. You’ll have to take a little care melting the white chocolate itself as it can burn rather easily, but aside from that they are a doddle to make and can be knocked up in just a few minutes. You should get around 18, maybe even 20 out of the quantity of mixture, although it obviously depends on how generous you are feeling with your portions!

Prep time: 20 Mins 
Baking time: 40-45 Mins
300g White Chocolate 
100g Unsalted Butter
175g Peanut Butter 
325g Light Muscovado Sugar
4 Large Eggs 
1tsp Vanilla Extract
200g Ground Almonds

Baking time! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a smallish baking tin (around 27x22cm) with baking paper. Melt together 200g of the white chocolate and the unsalted butter, either over a bain marie or in the microwave (if you are confident in your timings). Set to one side to cool slightly for 5 minutes and at the same time melt the other 100g of white chocolate separately.

Cream together the 125g of peanut butter with the muscovado sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract. Mix in the 200g of melted chocolate and butter, then add the ground almonds and mix together until evenly combined. Spoon into your prepared tin, evening out the mixture to the edges.

With the remaining 75g of peanut butter dot small dollops all over the top of the mixture, then drizzle over the remaining 100g of white chocolate. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 mins, until a metal skewer comes out with a few sticky crumbs attached. When you are happy the blowies are baked remove from the oven and leave to cool entirely in the tin. Once cool, remove from the tin, peeling off the paper, then slice and serve. Yum yum yum! 

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Pumpkin and Ginger Cake Treacle Tarts



i was working in the kitchen late one night
when my eyes beheld an eerie sight
for my ginger cake began to rise
and suddenly to my surprise

we did the bake
we did the monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
we did the bake
then there’s pastry to make
we did the bake
we did the monster bake

from my laboratory in the chateau east
to the master bedroom where the vampires feast
the ghouls all came from their humble abodes
once the smell of treacle reached their nose

they did the bake
they did the monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
they did the bake
then there’s pastry to make
they did the bake
they did the monster bake

the zombies were having fun
the recipe had just begun
the guests included the wolf man
dracula and his son

the kitchen was rockin’, making these tarts
with each ghoulish gastronome doing their part
the coffin bakers were about to arrive
with their baking group, “the crypt-caker five”

they did the bake
they did the monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
they did the bake
then there’s pastry to make
they did the bake
they did the monster bake

out of his coffin, drac’s voice did ring
seems he was troubled by just one thing
he opened the lid and shook his fist
“don’t forget the pumpkin, you fiends” he hissed

it’s now the bake
it’s now the monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
it’s now the bake
then there’s pastry to make
it’s now the bake
it’s now the monster bake

now everything’s cool, drac’s one of the gang
and my monster bake is the hit of the land
so now it’s your turn my unearthly upstarts
to make my pumpkin and ginger cake treacle tarts...

then you can bake
then you can monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
then you can bake
then there’s pastry to make
then you can bake
then you can monster bake!

prep time: 30 mins (plus chilling time)
baking time: 30-35 mins (ginger cake), 40-45 mins (tarts)
for the cake
125g unsalted butter (softened)
125g caster sugar
1 large egg and 1 yolk
1.5tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp baking powder
125g self-raising flour

for the tart cases
150g unsalted butter
275g plain flour
2tbsp icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1-2tsp cold water

for the filling
300g golden syrup
the zest of an orange
300g pumpkin (finely grated)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a single 20cm loose bottomed baking tin and line the base with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar, then beat in the egg along with the yolk. Sift in the ginger, baking powder and self-raising flour, then mix to a smooth, consistent batter. Spoon into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 30-35 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for 15 mins, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the tart cases rub the butter and flour together, making sure there are no big lumps of butter left, then add the icing sugar and egg yolks. Using a flat bladed knife mix the dough to combine, then add a teaspoon or two of cold water. Get your hands in there and bring together to a smooth dough. You can add a little more water if the mixture is too dry, but do this with caution as you will not need a great deal. When the dough is smooth and soft wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to chill for around 20-25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and lightly grease a twelve hole muffin tray. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into twelve balls. On a lightly floured surface roll each ball into a round and press gently into each greased muffin hole. If you can, try to leave a little pastry overhanging and make sure there are no cracks. Cut a large sheet of baking paper into twelve squares and line each pastry case, very gently easing the paper onto the pastry. If you screw and rustle up each sheet of paper prior to lining you will find fitting them into each muffin cup much easier. Fill each lined tart case with a small handful of baking beans, then blind bake in the centre of the oven for around 10 minutes, before removing from the oven, carefully taking out each paper liner (along with the beans) and returning to the oven for a further minute to dry out. Remove from the oven and set to one side whilst you prepare the filling.

Speaking of which, add the golden syrup, orange zest and grated pumpkin to a large saucepan and place on a medium heat. Whilst the syrup is warming take your cooled ginger cake and in a large bowl break three quarters of it down to fine crumbs (the other quarter is a treat for you to enjoy with a cup of leaf tea). When the syrup is just bubbling at the edges remove from the heat and stir through the crumbs. Fill each tart case with the pumpkin and ginger cake syrup and return to the oven for a final 30-35 minutes. Once baked, remove the muffin tray from the oven, leave the tarts in their holes for 15 minutes, then very very carefully coax each tart from it’s binding and serve. You may need a small flat bladed knife to assist you with this task, but your biggest friend here will be patience and a steady hand.

Finish by serving these warm to your salivating guests with vanilla ice cream, cream or even crรจme fraiche. Congratulations, your work is done.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

This Year's Oatmeal and Sultana Cookies

Some may have you believe that when it comes to baking, if you don't follow recipes and rules BY THE LETTER then your efforts will only end in disaster. Nothing could be further from the truth. Tinkering with recipes and making them your own is one of the joys of home baking and I'm always playing around, even with recipes that have been tried, tested and tasted over and and over again.

I love an oatmeal and sultana cookie recipe, especially dunked in a cup of tea so I never need an excuse to try out a new version. With this one I've left out the spicing so you get the full hit of biscuitiness, but you can throw in some cinnamon or mixed spice if it takes your fancy. I've also used jumbo rolled oats and I'd recommend this over a finer grain. However as I've already said if you want to play around yourself then have at it!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 14-16 Mins
120g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
120g Light Muscovado Sugar
80g Caster Sugar
2 Large Egg Yolks
150g Plain Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
75g Jumbo Rolled Oats
300g Sultanas

As (nearly) always we begin by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Take two large baking trays and line with baking paper. You might actually need more than two but these can be baked in batches so it's all good.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the two egg yolks. Sift in the flour and baking powder, mix together, then add the oats and sultanas. Get your hands in there and bring together to a loose cookie dough. Take small handfuls of the dough, shape into a ball, press into a fat disc and place on the prepared baking trays evenly spaced apart (they will spread a little in the oven). I like making big cookies, for no other reason than I like big cookies, but you can ahead and make smaller ones if you prefer. You'll just need to adjust the baking time slightly. 

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 14-16 minutes, until the cookie are golden brown, then remove from the oven and leave to cool for 30 mins on the tray. When the cookies are cool enough to handle peel them from the baking paper and leave on a wire rack to cool completely. Your work is done.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Beetroot and Pumpkin Pudding Cake

As the season of the ghostly, the ghastly and the ghoulish approaches I thought it appropriate to come up with a mildly macabre recipe using our old halloweeny friend, the pumpkin. I've paired it with beetroot, which gives the finished mixture a rather grisly appearance and flavoured with just a touch of warm cinnamon and nutmeg, although feel free to try out your own spicing. The texture of this one is very unusual, some might even say otherworldly (not me I'd just say unusual) and is almost closer to a pudding than cake. However topped with sweet vanilla buttercream it is definitely more of a treat than a trick!

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking time: 60-65 Mins
175ml Golden Syrup
100g Light Brown Sugar
100g Unsalted Butter
225g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
2tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2tsp Ground Nutmeg
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
200ml Milk
250g Pumpkin (Grated)
250g Cooked Beetroot (Finely chopped)

For the buttercream
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
300g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
1tsp Vanilla Extract

Mwahahahahaha! Ahem, sorry. Add the syrup, sugar and butter to a saucepan and heat gently, stirring until melted together. Set to one side to cool slightly whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm deep baking tin and line with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and spices, then make a well in the middle. Pour in the syrup and mix until no flour remains, then add the eggs and milk and whisk by hand until evenly combined. Fold through the pumpkin and beetroot, then pour into your prepared tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 60-65 minutes, until the cake has risen and a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave to cool in the tin for around 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake is cool you can go ahead and prepare the icing. In a bowl cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract, spread liberally over the cake and you are finished. Right, where were we? Oh yes... Mwahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Fruity Fruit Cakes


I would like to say this recipe was born from a place of great and profound inspiration, but in reality I was just trying to use up an ageing packet of dried fruit found in the back of the cupboard. You know the sort I mean, with sultanas like bullets and peel like rubber. To breathe life into such sorry ingredients I’ve steeped the fruit in a strong and sweet black tea, then added notes of lemon and vanilla to perk the whole thing up. Finally I’ve used a lovely light olive oil in place of the more conventional lubrication to inject even more fruitiness into the whole concoction. I think the finished cakes are rather splendid indeed and the perfect antidote to the dull days we must all get used to over the coming months. So have at it!

Prep time: 15 Mins (Plus steeping time)
Baking time: 30-35 Mins
275g Mixed Dried Fruit
A pot of strong, hot Black Tea
25g Golden or Maple Syrup
175g Light Brown Sugar
200g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
2 Large Eggs and 1 Yolk
175ml Olive Oil
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Lemon Extract
A drizzle of gold or maple syrup to finish

The first task is to steep the fruit. Place the fruit in a large heatproof container and cover with tea. Add the 25g of syrup, stir together and leave to steep for an hour until the tea has cooled to room temperature. Once steeped drain the fruit, retaining a little of the liquor then it’s onto the cake mixture.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases. Add the sugar, flour and baking powder to a large mixing bowl, then mix together and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, oil and extracts, mix until evenly combined, the add the fruit, along with 1tbsp of the steeping liquor and do the same. Spoon the mixture equally into each paper case and bake in the centre of the oven for around 30-35 minutes, until the cakes have risen, are golden and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of one of the cakes. When you are happy they are baked remove the cakes from the oven, carefully remove from the tray and place on a wire rack. Drizzle with a little syrup to and leave to cool. Fin.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Breakfast Bacon Soda Breads

These breakfast soda breads are so called for two reasons. The first is that they contain many of the ingredients that make up a hearty breakfast, including yoghurt instead of buttermilk, honey, oats and even a little crispy bacon! The second is that they are so quick and easy to make you can actually have them on the table, freshly baked and ready for a delicious breakfast treat. I'd recommend shuffling down to the kitchen first thing, knocking a quick batch of dough together then popping it in the oven whilst you ready yourself for the day ahead. By the time you return to the kitchen your lovely loaves will be ready to be devoured!

Prep time: 10 Mins
Baking time: 25-30 Mins
300g Plain Flour
1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
A handful of Smoked Bacon (Cooked until crispy, then left to cool and chopped)
A handful of Oats
300g Plain Natural Yoghurt
1tbsp Runny Honey

Rub the cobwebs from your eyes fellow baking adventurer, as it's time to begin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, bacon and oats to a large mixing bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon. With regards to the bacon, you can cook it the night before as you'll want to use it cold. Add the yoghurt and honey to the dry ingredients, mix loosely, then bring together to a dough with your hands. You don't want to knead this dough too much so once the dough has formed break into two balls and shape into rounds. Place the rounds, spaced apart on the tray and slice a deep cross into each. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes, until each loaf is risen and a deep golden brown. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven and serve straight away, as these are at their most yummy hot. The loaves should generously feed four people, but you can easily halve the ingredients if you're just baking for one or two. Yum yum!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Chocolate Chip Brioche Bread Pudding

My mother makes a delicious bread pudding with leftover white bread, dried fruit and brown sugar, but here I dare to say I've taken things a step or two further. Using rich chocolate chip brioche, double cream and just a hint of vanilla this is definitely a luxury version, highly indulgent but more importantly, entirely gratifying. I make my own chocolate chip brioche but you can pick it easily in most supermarkets these days. Failing that you can always use normal brioche with a handful or two of chocolate chips.

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 50-55 Mins
355g Chocolate Chip Brioche
200ml Double Cream
175g Caster Sugar
1/2tsp Vanilla Paste
4 Large Eggs (Beaten)

You should all know the drill by now! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a smallish baking tin (around 27x22cm) with baking paper. Roughly tear up the brioche and toss flamboyantly into the large bowl. Add the cream, sugar, vanilla paste and eggs, then get your hands in there and mix together until evenly combined. Tip into your prepared tin and press to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 50-55 minutes, until firm and a little to the touch and deep golden all over, then remove and leave to cool in the tin.

When you are happy the pudding is baked remove, slice and DEVOUR.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Dairy and Gluten Free Bitter Lemon and Almond Cake

I've made a many cakes similar to this one before, but none quite as unusual and exotic. Using whole lemons may sound strange, even unpleasant but the acidity really does work, particularly when paired with a thick layer of white icing and with but a few ingredients, the whole thing is a doddle to prepare. Just one point of note, you can hand chop the lemons but if you have a mini food processor it will make your life a darn sight easier!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus 40-45 Mins boiling time)
Baking time: 60 Mins
3 Whole Unwaxed Lemons
210g Caster Sugar
5 Large Eggs
200g Ground Almonds
1tsp Baking Powder

For the Lemon Icing
300g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
The juice of around 2 Juicy Lemons

The first task is to boil the lemons. Place the lemons in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and leave with the lid on for around 40-45 minutes, until soft. When a sharp knife cleanly passes through one of the lemons with ease turn off to heat, leave to cool in the water, then drain.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a deep 20cm cake tin and line with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the sugar and eggs until light and frothy. Add the ground almonds along with the baking powder and whisk again to combine. Blitz the whole lemons in a mini chopper, or chop to a juicy pulp by hand, then add to the mixture and fold through. Pour into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 60 minutes until golden brown on top and a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool you can prepare the icing. For the icing just mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice until white and glossy. Be careful not to add too much liquid as you want this icing quite thick. Remove the cake from tin, spoon over the icing and you're good to go. Well done! 

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Liquorice Cakes with Salted Butterscotch Icing

Liquorice seems to be as divisive as it is distinctive and I concede that I’m not a huge fan of it myself. However I was recently tasked with coming up with a recipe using the tricky devil and ever the gentleman, I always try to oblige.

I would have liked to have used powdered liquorice for these sponge cakes, but alas I was unable to source it locally. Instead I gave traditional soft eating liquorice a go, which despite requiring a small amount of palaver, still ultimately did the trick. I’ve topped each with a butterscotch icing and a sprinkling of sea salt and even if the prospect of salt on sweet things doesn’t float your boat, I’d still recommend you do the same. The slight tickle of salt on the tongue proves most welcome with such a saccharine treat.

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking time: 20-25 Mins
200g Soft Liquorice (Chopped)
Around 2tbsp Water
75g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
125g Light Muscovado Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Baking Powder
200g Plain Flour

For the Butterscotch Icing
60g Unsalted Butter
120g Light Muscovado Sugar
3tbsp Milk
200g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
A sprinkling of Sea Salt

Cake time! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases. Add the liquorice and water to a saucepan, place on a low heat and leave to melt, giving it a vigorous stir every now and again to help break up the liquorice. Whilst the liquorice is melting cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then sift in the baking powder and flour and mix to a consistent batter.

When the liquorice has melted to the consistency of sticky toffee remove from the heat and beat into your cake mixture. It should mix in evenly with a little elbow grease! Spoon the mixture into your prepared cases and bake in the centre of the oven for around 20-25 minutes, until lightly risen, golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into one of the cakes. When you are happy the cakes are baked remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack until cool.

When the cakes are cool you can start on the icing. Add the butter and sugar to a small saucepan and bring to the boil on a medium heat. Leave to bubble for two minutes, then remove from the heat, stir in 2tbsp of milk and return to the heat for a further 1 minute. When golden and glossy remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. Add the icing sugar to a large bowl, then pour in the butterscotch mixture along with 1tbsp of milk. Mix until smooth, then spread a light layer over each of your cooled cakes. I am rather sparing when it comes to the icing as it’s sooooo sweet. Sprinkle each cake with sea salt and your work is done. Hooray!