Thursday, 18 September 2014

Salted Caramel Pecan Kouign Amann with Stork

Kouign what ... I hear you say?

Unless of course you were glued to your telly screen last night with this week's episode of The Great British Bake Off, you would be forgiven for thinking the Kouign Amann was the name of a piece of flat pack furniture from IKEA. But no. As the Bake Off contestants discovered, a Kouign Amann is a delectably decadent buttery, pastry cake from the Breton region of France. Yes, there is a lot to like about this bake. 

Now normally each Wednesday night will find me, feet up, cuppa and cake to hand, captivated by Mel-n-Sue's innuendos, Paul's judgments and Mary's fashion choices. Oh, and the baking 'course. But this week I baked-along-a-bake-off with Stork as I tried to recreate the technical challenge, the Kouign Amann.

Similar to the bakers, I too HAD ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING. There was proving. And chillin'. And an awful lot of super sticky dough. And figuring out the faffy folding. And great sprinklings of sugar from high. And all that was before I got terribly muddled reading the recipe instructions while watching contestants shout out random baking instructions on the telly. When Luis discussed adding paprika, oregano, chorizo and beef I became ever so confused and dismayed, thinking I'd missed out over half of the ingredients. It then dawned on me he was discussing his savoury Spanish pastries signature bake. Phew.

But, ta-dah, here's my attempt at a Kouign Amann! With a bit of twist, this version includes pecans and salted caramel. And it tasted really, really rather good. Certainly, I imagine, way better than the taste of IKEA flat pack furniture. 

Salted Caramel Pecan Kouign Amann

275g plain flour
1.5 tsp fast action yeast
0.5 tsp caster sugar
0.5 tsp table salt
180ml water, lukewarm
200g soft brown sugar, divided into 4 x 50g portions
110g Stork block, diced
100g pecans, chopped
1.5 tsp sea salt flakes
30g melted Stork block

1. Combine the flour, yeast, caster sugar and table salt. Add the lukewarm water and mix to form a dough. Knead for 3 minutes until smooth and place in a clean bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for 1hr to rise
2. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle. Add one portion of the brown sugar and the diced Stork block to the middle and scatter over a little of the flaked seasalt
3. Fold in the left hand side, followed by the right hand side to form a parcel
4. Scatter over the top another portion of the sugar and a little seasalt
5. Fold down the top and then the bottom up
6. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for one hour
7. Scatter the work surface with brown sugar and top the dough with one further portion of brown sugar, a pinch of seasalt and roll out to a rectangle again
8. Sprinkle over the pecans, reserving 2 tbsps and roll lightly to indent them into the dough
9. Repeat the double folding process, as above
10. Wrap in clingfilm and chill again for a further thirty minutes
11. Brush a 8inch round tin with the melted Stork
12. Gently roll out the dough to the shape of the tin and carefully transfer across to the tin
13. Add the remaining sugar, melted Stork, pecans and sea salt to the top of the pastry
14. Bake for 40-45min until darkly caramelised on top
15. Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve

Baker's notes...

  • Paul reckons we should be aiming for a structured, sweet puff pastry and clearly defined, delicate layers. I reckon just aim for a tasty, sweet flaky pastry pudding
  • Perhaps not the simplest bake to make (there are more folds than a pleated skirt) but do try; it's like an absolutely massive indecently buttery, sugary croissant! 

With many thanks to Stork for the lovely hamper of goodies to make this Kouign Amann. Follow Stork on Twitter @bakewithstork. Recipe published with permission from Stork and The Pink Whisk

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sticky Plum and Ginger Upside Down Cake

For some people the end of the summer is marked with prepping the kids for a return to school, brand new squeaky, shiny shoes and the latest Disney lunch boxes in tow. For others, it's Saturday evenings on the sofa with Strictly and X-Factor as the nights draw in. And for me, it's delving into the deepest recesses of our cupboards for darker sugars and warming spices, ingredients that herald a return to Autumnal baking. The dregs of the summer fruits, the tart raspberries and tasteless strawberries, are finally put aside in favour of juicy plums, ripe blackberries, dusty blue sloes and crunchy British apples. Recipes for summery, frozen puds discarded for the next ten months as taste buds turn to wholesome, comforting cakes and bakes.  

Such as this one. An Autumnal, sticky gingery cake studded with golden plums. 

Sticky Plum and Ginger Upside Down Cake 

For the plums: 
butter, for greasing
2 tbsp light brown sugar
500g plums

For the cake:
175g butter
175g dark muscovado sugar
70g golden syrup
70g treacle
2 large eggs, beaten
200ml milk
300g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
Two balls of stem ginger, drained and finely chopped

1. Grease and line a 25cm round cake tin with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sprinkle with the light brown sugar. Halve the plums, removing the stone and place in the bottom of the tin, cut sides down
2. To make the cake: melt together the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle over a gentle heat, stirring until smooth. Cool for ten minutes then add in the eggs and milk. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices, folding the mixture until smooth. Stir in the chopped stem ginger
3. Pour the batter over the plums and bake for 45-55 minutes until firm to touch
4. Cool in the tin for ten minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Bakers notes...
  • I've adapted this from a BBC Good Food recipe. I used a round tin, added treacle for a dense, sticky sponge and upped the ginger with the addition of the stem balls. 
  • I appreciate that Sticky Plum and Ginger does found like something you're more likely to find on a Chinese take away menu than a baking blog (!)
  • What are your favourite Autumnal bakes?

Monday, 25 August 2014

Blueberry and Coconut Crunch Cake

I don't half love the August bank holiday. It's the grown-up equivalent of six glorious weeks of school holidays as a child. Except, obviously, far shorter, with fewer Screwball ice creams, Wagon Wheels and sandy tuna paste Mighty White sandwiches.

With the exception of my husband forgetting to switch off his usual Monday morning work alarm which merrily rang out at 6.20am this morning (we had to have very strong words), today has been a day of doing nothing. I've read the paper, flicked through a few recipe books, drank endless cups of tea. Oh, and baked this. Marvellous.

Biting into the plump, soft crumb of this cake, dotted with juicy, squishy blueberries and topped with the crunch of coconut makes this a rather delicious bank holiday bake.

Blueberry and Coconut Crunch Cake

For the coconut crunch:

75g plain flour
50g chilled butter, cut into cubes
40g brown sugar
40g desiccated coconut

For the cake:

175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon
4 tbsp soured cream
150g (1 punnet) blueberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C (fan)/Gas Mark 4. Butter and line a 20cm square cake tin. For the crumble: rub together the butter and flour to form gravel sized pieces. Stir in the sugar and coconut until evenly mixed together and set aside.
2. For the cake: beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, one at a time.
3. Mix together the flour, baking powder and lemon zest and stir half into the butter-sugar mixture with half of the soured cream. Beat well together. Add the remaining flour mixture and soured cream and mix well.
4. Stir through the blueberries and spoon into the prepared tin, leavening the top.
5. Sprinkle over the crumble mixture evenly and bake for 50 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of cake comes out clean. Cool for ten minutes then remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack to cool completely

Baker's notes...

  • I reckon the blueberries could be easily substituted for other summer fruits such as raspberries or chopped plums
  • The recipe for the cake has been adapted from BBC Good Food. Originally, it had a cream cheese icing

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

'Purple Pansies' at The Peggy Porschen Academy

Not unlike a small child seeking your approval and praise after learning a brand new skill for the first time, I'd like to present these Mini Violet Chocolate Pansy Cakes.

To utterly misquote Thomas Edison, these beautifully elegant little chocolate cakes were 15% perspiration and 85% terrific tuition from Penelope, Masterclass Tutor at the Peggy Porschen Academy. I was invited to join one of the new floral classes, 'Purple Pansies' hosted by the Academy in celebration of the Peggy's new book 'Cakes in Bloom'.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Peaches, Cream, Almond, Honey and Crumble

It's been a great week for my sweet tooth. 

A large supermarket chain had my favourite Green and Blacks chocolate half price (cue unashamed whooping and greedy purchasing). The Great British Bake Off is back and, with it, a new spin off show and the inevitable rise in sales of featured baking gizmos and gadgets. That'll be the non-stick rounded fluted tin used in the Mary Berry's Cherry Cake Technical Challenge rather than Stormin' Norman's Swiss Roll skateboard presentation platter.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Great British Bake Off 2014

 Image courtesy of BBC/Love Productions

Cancel all plans, clear your diaries, turn off your phones, in just over 72 hours The Great British Bake Off is back!

The BBC has been teasing us with trailers over recent weeks, including, my favourite, The One Where Mary Berry Cartwheels Across The Lawn. Forget cooking; hand that woman a Commonwealth Gymnastics Gold Medal.

But what to expect from Series Five?

Well, #GBBO has a brand sparkling new home on BBC1. And a brand new spin-off show, An Extra Slice, hosted by the brilliant Jo Brand, who, in one of my favourite ever Bake Off moments, elected to perch her derriere on several packs of butter to bring them to room temperature.

The contestants range from the oldest ever to the youngest ever with a speech therapist, business consultant, fashion designer and construction engineer in the middle. Then there's the contestant who became a WI judge at the tender age of twenty, the contestant who invented a croissant-pretzel mash up (the cross-zel?) and the contestant who doesn't bother weighing her ingredients. We haven't got long to imagine the look of probable horror on Mary Berry's face when she discovered that little nugget.

 Image courtesy of BBC/Love Productions

After last year's 'bitterness and bile', the Raymond rows and social media storm over Ruby's tears, this series promises to be cuddlier, softer and less competitive. Does that mean no more Squirrel Nuts or custard-gate? Thank goodness Mel and Sue are still bouncing around the great white tent providing their constant cheeky flow of baking puns. Here's a sneaky peak as they fight over a gigantic bowl of chocolate mousse from the very first episode.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Cherry Chocolate Fondants

Remember when all it took to win a television cookery show such as MasterChef was an unburnt scallop, a thin slice of black pudding and a decadent chocolate fondant? The glory days of twitter hashtags such as #ScallopWatch and 5 million viewers watching with bated breath to see if the centre of a fondant was appropriately, gloriously, gooey?

For the last five years, every time I've made a chocolate fondant I've envisaged a miniature Gregg Wallace on my shoulder simultaneously licking his lips while jovially repeating the one line he will forever be associated with: 'Cooking doesn't get tougher than this'. I've laid siege at the oven door, crossing fingers, toes and spatulas for a soft, molten middle and a risen sponge. I've wanted to play a recording of the sweaty-palm, racing-heart MasterChef Countdown music as I serve the puds (erm.... in my defence, Monday nights can be quite slow around these parts).