Friday, 11 May 2018

Date Crunch

Baking and healthy eating are not words that are normally associated with each other. It is possible to enjoy delicious baked sweet treats with some clever twists and baking methods. My latest cookery book purchase, Weight Watchers Seriously Satisfying has two chapters dedicated to sweet treats. I made the chocolate flapjacks a few weeks ago, but my new favourite is the date crunch. The crunch reminds me of a shortbread and the gooeyness from the dates reminds me of the cornflake tart I baked a few weeks prior.





Ingredients
Low fat cooking spray
150g pitted dates
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
125 g self raising flour
125g semolina or cornmeal
75g low fat spread
75g light brown sugar
3 teaspoon of strawberry jam (optional).

Method
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190C/Fan Oven 170C. Spray the baking tin with the cooking spray. Place the dates in a small pan with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of water. Simmer gently for 5 minutes until soft and mushy. Beat or mash to a smooth paste and set aside to cool.
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and stir in the semolina. Place the low fat spread and sugar in a small pan over a low heat and gently, then stir in the lemon zest. Pour over a low heat and melt gently, then stir in the lemon zest. Pour over the flour and mix to a stiff dough. Press half of the dough into the tin. If using the strawberry jam, spread this over the dough mixture. Spread the date mixture over the dough, then top with the remaining dough, passing down gently. Bake for 30 minutes until golden.
Remove from the oven.  Cut into squares. Leave to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

xxx
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Sunday, 22 April 2018

Everyday Coffee Loaf Cake

I had a strong craving for a coffee and walnut cake for the last few days and I finally resisted by making this loaf cake recently. I have a thing for coffee and walnut cake, alongside coconut cake, in that I can easily eat the whole cake by myself. To stop myself eating a whole cake, I simply don't make these cakes on a regular basis and try to treat myself to a slice when I'm at a coffee shop.  I wanted the full hit of a coffee and walnut cake but didn't want to make a traditional sandwich cake held together by copious amount of buttercream. So,  I decided to make a loaf cake instead, which requires minimal effort and has maximum flavour.
The recipe is adapted from my baking book: National Trust Cakes, Bakes and Biscuits. I simply reduced the amount given for a sponge cake, however, I should of let the icing set before I poured it on the cake - my impatience to taste the case was the reason for this. Nevertheless, the coffee and walnut loaf cake was moist, soft and moreish.



You will need a 2lbs/900g loaf tin.
Ingredients
100g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g soft margarine
2 large free eggs
4 heaped teaspoons instant coffee granules
2 teaspoons boiling water

For the topping
75g butter
125g icing sugar
8 - 10 walnut halves

Method
Preheat the oven to 160C, 325F, gas mark 3. Beat together the flour, caster, sugar, margarine and eggs until they are very light and fluffy, preferably in an electric mixer. Put the coffee granules in a cup or  small bowl and add about 3 teaspoons boiling water. The coffee should be very, very dark and just runny - if it's a bit stiff, add a few drops more water, but it certainly shouldn't look like ordinary coffee. You want a liquor that will give a huge hit of coffee without adding too much volume of liquid.
Add 1 teaspoon coffee mixture to the cake mix and beat in. Taste, and add more coffee if needed. Don't throw away any remaining mixture.
Pout the batter in the loaf tin and smooth the tops. Bake for 45 minutes until the cake is firm and springy to the touch.
Remove from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
To make the topping beat together the butter and  icing sugar until pale and soft. Add 1 teaspoon coffee mixture and taste. Add more, to taste.
When the cake is cooled frost the top of the cake with the coffee icing. Place the walnuts around the edge of the loaf cake and leave the icing to set, which should only take about an hour.

xxx
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Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Spiced Chocolate Christmas Cake

I own only one, yes one Christmas cookbook. For me, no Christmas cooking or baking is complete without a visit to Nigella Lawson's Christmas cookery book. Bursting with recipes, I'm always inspired to try a new festive recipe. Whilst many may enjoy the traditional Christmas cake with marzipan and lots of fruit, I've been brought up on the rum laced Jamaican fruit cake which is what I always prefer. I do however have a soft spot for chocolate and when I rediscovered this spiced chocolate Christmas cake, I just had to bake it. With all the lovely Christmas spices cinnamon, cloves and zest of clementine complimented with chocolate, this cake is a perfect alternative to a rich fruit cake. What I found surprising is how gooey the chocolate was when cooked, almost similar to a brownie in texture, but with a warm hint of Christmas with every bite. It's surprisingly quick to make and can be made from start to eating within 1.5 hours. 





The recipe for Spiced Chocolate Christmas Cake can be found here. I added a sprinkling of icing sugar over the cake.
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Sunday, 10 December 2017

Jumbo Oat and Raisin Cookies

I haven't baked cookies in a very long. The last amazing cookie I ate was in New York, I can't say that these are remotely close but they managed to hit my desire to have a moerish and gooey cookie. I remembered that many moons ago, I brought a baking book which was dedicated soley to baking cookies. I didn't fancy making an extravagant cookie but something which had incredibly easy to make, soft and gooey in the middle such as these oar and raisin cookies.




Ingredients
85g rolled oats
100g plain  flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
60g unsalted butter, softened
soft light brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
175g raisins
Optional 1 tbsp coco powder

Method
Preheat the ocean to 190C/37F/Gas Mark 5. Place the oats in a food processor and pulse briefly, then tip into a bowl and sift in he flour and bicarbonate of soda and salt and stir together.
Place the butter and sugars in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Place the egg and vanilla extract in a separate bowl and whisk together, then add to the butter and mix well. Add the flour mixture, into 15 balls and place on 2 large non-stick baking sheets, spaced well apart. Press the cookies into rough rounds. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

xxx
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Saturday, 11 November 2017

Brownie Pudding

I'm a sucker for any pudding which contains chocolate. Smooth, rich and gooey, this brownie pudding is perfect for tantalising your taste buds. I found this incredibly easy to make and even easier to eat. This brownie pudding is more gooey that a normal chocolate brownie and would go well with custard, for those crisp winter nights. 

Brownie Pudding

Brownie Pudding

Recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery, Life is Sweet.

Makes 23x32cm (9x13in) tin, to scoop or serve as desired.

For the pudding
245g plain flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
295g caster sugar
30g cocoa powder
250ml evaporated milk
2tsp vanilla extract
50g butter
200g chopped pecans

For the topping
275g soft light brown sugar
60g cocoa powder
750ml hot water (boil then let cool slightly)

Method
Preheat the oven to 175C (350f), Gas mark 4. Grease the tin with butter. To make the pudding, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa in a bowl.
Using a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment or a hand held electric whisk, beat the evaporated milk, vanilla and melted butter into the dry ingredients until smooth. Fold in the pecans by hand and spread the mixture evenly in the tin.
To make the topping, mix the brown sugar and cocoa together and sprinkle over the mixture in the tin. Pour the hot water over the entire pudding.
Bake for 40-45 minutes before serving.

xxx
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Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Spicy Potato Quiche

I've been on a mission to cook and bake from my almost 200 cookery books this year. The recipe for the Spicy Potato Quiche is from one of the first baking books I brought, Readers Digest Baking Bible. I often visited WH Smith back in 2011 at Birmingham New Street when I was studying for my Masters degree. Flicking through the array of baking recipes I was amazed by the eclectic range of recipes, many were distinctively American, others were incredibly retro and many more, such as this recipe, were very inspiring.  I have probably blogged about quiche and it's variant more so than other savoury bake. The French inspired bake has so many variants, from the simple egg and bacon filling to the more adventurous sort such as this spicy potato and leek variant. I wasn't sure whether the weight of the potato make the quiche heavy as I much prefer a light and airy quiche.





For the pastry

170g plain flour
2 fresh red chillis, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 egg
80ml sunflower oil
1 tablespoon lukewarm water

For the filling
350g waxy new potatoes
250g leeks, cut into 1 cm slices
65g gruyere cheese
2 tablespoon chopped chives
55g rocket, roughly chopped
2 eggs
150ml milk

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus 30 minutes resting
Cooking 40-45 minutes

Method
Use a baking tray and a 20cm round, flutter loose-based quiche tin. Sift flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add the chilli and thyme, then make a well in the centre. Whisk the egg, oil and water and add to the dry ingredients; mix quickly with a fork to make a dough.
Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface; knead briefly just until smooth. Place in a dry bowl, cover with a damp cloth towel and leave to rest about 30 minutes before rolling out.
For the filling, cook potatoes in boiling water for 10-12 minutes or until almost tender. Steam leeks over the potatoes for 6-7 minutes, until tender. Drain thoroughly and leave until cool enough to handle.
Preheat oven to 200C (gas mark 6) and put the baking tray in to heat. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out pastry thinly to line the flan tin. Scatter half the cheese in the case.
Thickly slice the potatoes and toss with the leeks, remaining cheese and chives. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange half the potato and leek mixture in the pastry case. Scatter rocket on top then add the rest of the potato and leek mixture.
Lightly beat eggs in a jug. Heat milk to just below boiling pint then add to the three eggs; whisk gently to combine.
Place tin on the hot baking tray. Pour the warm egg custard into the case. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 180C gas mark 4. Bake a further 30-35 minutes or until the filling is lightly set. Leave quiche in the tin for 5 minutes. Serve warm.

xxx
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Friday, 13 January 2017

Sally Lunn French Toast

I visited Bath last year as I was on a mission to visit new cities in the UK. I discovered the infamous Sally Lunn, the infamous original Bath Bun located in one of the oldest houses in Bath, was a joy. I brought a few Sally Lunn buns to take home with me and to store in my freezer for when the occasion arose. I discovered a lovely recipe for French toast using the enriched brioche bun which was perfect for a luxurious breakfast. If you are unable to make the Sally Lunn loaf from scratch, you can use brioche bread. You can eat the French Toast on its own or do like me and top with warmed fruits, the choice of mine being sharron fruit and pomegranate seeds. 



Sally Lunn Loaf
Makes one 25cm (10inch) ring cake, to slice as desired.
235ml lukewarm milk
1tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp dried active yeast
540g plain flour
95g caster sugar
1tsp sat
3 large eggs, light beaten
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
120ml warm water
110g unsalted butter.

Method
Grease the tube pan or ring mould liberally with butter
Stir the milk, sugar and yeast together in a large jug an leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Whisk the flour, caster sugar and salt together in a large bowl and stir in the eggs, bicarbonate of soda and warm water until well blended. Add the yeast mixture and the melted butter and stir until well incoportated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared tube pan or ring mould and cover with cling film. Let the doughy batter rise in a warm place, such as an airing cupboard or near a radiator, for 45 minutes - 1 hour until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F), gas mark 6.
Carefully put the pan into the oven, making sure not to move the dough about too much or knock the air bubbles out of it. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving.

For the Sally Lunn French Toast
Serves 4
8 sliced of Sally Lunn Loaf or brioche or thickly sliced white bread
2 large eggs
115ml whole milk
115ml single cream
pinch of salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
30g unsalted butter

Method
Place four slices of Sally Lunn or other bread in a baking dish.
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, sat, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
Pour half the liquid mixture over the four Sally Lunn slices in the baking dish. Allow to soak in.
Melt half the butter in a frying pan on a medium heat.
Put the soggy Sally Lunn slices in the hot frying pan and cook until golden brown on each side. Repeat the steps above with the remaining four slices of Sally Lunn and rest of the egg and cream mixture.

xxx
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Monday, 21 November 2016

Cakes, Bakes & Biscuits - review

When I think of the National Trust, I think of imposing stately homes, rich English culture and stunning countryside views. Until last year, I didn't realise that The National Trust released cookery or baking books until I reviewed the fabulous The Picnic Cookbook. Well there's another book from The National Trust specialising on baking. There's a strong emphasis on English baking as per expected as there is an historic love affair in Britain and cakes. The majority of the recipes are beautifully illustrated and all the recipes have clear instructions. 
My favourite chapter in this baking book is Regional Cakes, not only are the cakes look delicious, many of the recipes are historical and unique to that particular region.With so many baking books on the market, I like the feel of this book: accessible, compact and informative. The rrp is £9.99, but it's currently on Amazon for £7.99. I also think this baking book would make a great Christmas present for all your baking friends. 



This baking book is split into the following chapters:
  • The Basics: Classic recipes include Maderia cake, Lemon Drizzle Cake and All-in-one chocolate cake. 
  • Traditional Favourites: Recipes to try include Victoria Cake, Everyday Coffee Cake and Carrot Cake with Lime Topping. 
  • Regional Cakes: Stand out recipes to try include: Suffolk Fourses, Bath Buns, 18th Century Pepper Cake, Kedleston Marmalade and Norfolk Tart. 
  • Scones and Slices: Delicious recipes include: Florentine Slice, Ginger and Treacle Scones and Cherry Almond Scones. 
  • Teabreads and Loaves: luscious recipes to try include: Date & Wanut Loaf, Barm Brack and Marmalade & Apricot Teabread. 
  • Bite-sized treats: recipes to try include: English Madeleines, Espresso Express and Battenburn Cupcakes. 
  • Fun for Little Ones: Stand out recipes to try with your little ones: Jam donuts, Cheery Buns and Rocky Roadsters. 
  • Savoury Treats & Breads: Recipes to try include: Courgette, Feta & Spring Onion Cupcake and Beautiful Bread. 
  • A Lighter Bite: Luscious recipes to try include: Upside-down Polenta Plum Cake, Cranberry, Pecan & Maple Syrup Flapjacks, 
  • Sweet Something: A lovely selection of jams & preserves including: Apricot Jam and High Dumpsie Dearie. 
I baked the Date & Walnut Loaf, which I adapted to Date & Cashew Loaf as I didn't have any walnuts at hand. I think you could use whatever nuts you have at hand. I found this cake incredibly moreish, I didn't think the combination of dates with nuts would work, but it did superbly. 






Ingredients
225g self-raising flour 
50g walnut loaves (I used cashew nuts)
1 tsp mixed spice
75g butter
100g light or dark soft brown sugar
225g whole dates
150ml water
2 large free range eggs, beaten
2 tbsp sesame seeds

Method
1) Preheat the oven to 180C, 350 F , gas mark 4. Grease and line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin.
2) Mix together the flour, walnuts and mixed spice.
3) Place the butter, sugar, dates and water in a pan and bring gently to the boil. Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes. Add to the flour, spice and nuts with the beaten eggs and beat well.
4) Turn into the prepared tin, hollow the centre a little and sprinkle the top with the sesame seeds. Bake for 1-1 1/4 hours until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
5) Remove from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve sliced with butter.

Many thanks to Pavillion books for the review copy. 

xxx
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Friday, 7 October 2016

Seasoned Creative Baking Class Review

I recently received an invite from the lovely people over at Seasoned Cookery School to visit the school and participate in one of the cookery classes. I instantly jumped at attending a class as I love learning new cuisines and techniques. Having attended a few cookery classes from different schools already, I had high standards. Scouring through the website, there is a comprehensive range of classes such as Italian, Chocolate Courses, The Best of British Meat, Middle Eastern Cookery Class and Fish and Seafood Class. I chose to attend Creative Baking Class by Season 1 Great British Bake Off Ruth Clemens. During this class, I learnt to master three essential bakes: bread, cakes & pastry. I'm more of a cook than a baker and when I do bake, I tend to stick to what I know: chocolate cakes, quiches and well, that's about it. I was more than excited to expand my somewhat receptive baking repertoire with three new bakes: 6 Strand Plaited Loaf, Raspberry and Rose Batternberg and Leek Potato and Cheese Mini Pasties.



I was a little nervous attending in a baking class with someone who was from the Bake Off and worried that everyone participating in the class would be like professional bakers. I need not to worry, Ruth was lovely and all the participants were very friendly too.

Bake to the baking, the class started off with the classic Battenberg cake but with a raspberry and rose twist. Now, I have eaten many a slice of a batternberg cake but I haven't actually baked one myself. Why? I had an overwhelming fear that the cake is too tricky, plus I never had a special tin. Thankfully, Ruth showed attendees a trick on how to separate the the cake batter in a normal square tin. It basically involved folding baking parchment a few ways to create a wall in the tin. The batter was easy to make, as it is a sponge batter. The flavour from the rose extract was quite strong, a tad to strong for my liking (I've never baked with rose) but other attendees appeared to really enjoy this exotic twist. I found the assembling of the cake, to make the iconic chequered pattern to be quite difficult. Not because the method was difficult, but after we made the cakes, we moved onto the other bakes and returned to assemble later on in the day. This meant that my brain was slightly frazzled, so by the time I layered up, I layered the cakes wrong meaning their was two vanilla squares on the top and two rose squares on the bottom. However, I must say that although I made a slight error, this was completely forgotten about by me and my family once I had a slice. The sponge was super light, the lightest I've made and I loved the raspberry.



After we baked the batternberg we mastered the notoriously difficult 6 plaited loaf. I actually made a 3 plaited loaf before, it was a disaster, so I was hoping that this would be much better. With this bake, you need to have patience and a lot of time too but once you get the hang of it, it's quiet easy to do. This loaf needs to be left to prove on two occasions. There was a handy technique that Ruth shared to make it easier to plait the loaf. I will definitely be making this again.






Most importantly, Ruth was there to answer the attendees including mine many questions and was also able to provide a helping hand when needed. I now can upgrade my pastry and bread game and implement these techniques at home.

The leek and potato pies was another wonderful bake, perfect to serve  as a party appetiser or to make one large pie. After we made the pies, we began to plait the loaf. Although it was recommended that we work in pairs, as I wanted to recreate this at home, I attempted to make this on my own. I got slightly confused and thankfully Ruth was on hand to guide me through the tricky plait.


As the course ended, we were able to ask any additional questions and take back our recipe cards.






The Creative Baking class costs £175 and is a full day (10am – 4pm).

Disclaimer: I attended as a guest of Seasoned Cookery School.

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