Saturday, 16 May 2015

Olive Oil, Ricotta and Raspberry Cake

I was strolling home from work the other night, my mind filled with thoughts as to what to make for tea (admittedly, not the most exciting narrative to be running through my head despite it being a very close contest between a salmon stir fry and a spring veg risotto) when Simon Mayo and chums on Radio 2's Drivetime Show began discussing this cake.

Regular listeners of Radio 2, all 15,568,000 of us, may know that each week resident cook Nigel Barden makes everyone feel rather hungry on their way home as he describes and demonstrates a weekly dish. All thoughts of our supper swiftly disappeared as I listened to Nigel, Simon et al devour this very tempting sounding cake. And when they mentioned it was created by one of my all time favourite American cookery writers, the brilliant Debs from Smitten Kitchen, well, I was sold. And within ten minutes of arriving home, via a quick pit stop to pick up a pot of ricotta and a punnet of raspberries, the oven was on, the spatula sticky and egg shells were littering the work surface.

I was not disappointed. The ricotta adds a cheesecake-like creaminess, the olive oil a depth of flavour and the raspberries a tangy sweetness. And the best thing is the versatility of this brilliant recipe. The original suggests a red grape coulis, but I simply spread a layer of raspberry jam from the lovely Pen Y Lan Pantry and decorated with the fruit.

The full recipe can be found right here, I adapted it somewhat, as follows.

Olive Oil, Ricotta and Raspberry Cake

(adapted from Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen Cookbook- Recipes from a New York Kitchen/Random House)

For the cake:

250g full fat ricotta
80ml olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
190g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp table salt

For the decoration:

1 punnet raspberries
1 tbsp raspberry jam
Icing sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160fan/Gas Mark 4/350F
2. Grease and line a 23cm springform tin with parchment paper
3. In a large bwol whisk together the ricotta, olive oil, sugar and vanilla
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition
5. Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and fold in until just combined (be careful not to overmix)
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for thirty minutes until the cake is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean
7. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for ten minutes before removing onto a wire rack to complete cooling
8. Once cooled, spread the top of the cake with the jam, decorate with the raspberries and dust a over a little icing sugar

Baker's notes

  • No fresh fruit? Radio 2's Nigel suggests splitting the cake in two, dolloping the centre with a spoonful of jam and finishing with a dusting of icing sugar. The result: an intriguing, rather posh Victoria Sponge. 

Monday, 27 April 2015

Elderflower and Lemon Loaf Cake

Asked to write a post about technology in home, I turned to my husband and asked if he thought I had a good grasp of technology. He, very diplomatically, for we were making supper at the time and I presume he didn't want to spend the evening hungry, answered 'it's probably not one of your stronger points'.

On balance, a fair point.

An example: when it comes to technology not working - wifi on the blink or boiler pressure broken* - I'm definitely of the 'turn it off, then on again' school of fixing it. And if that doesn't work, well, I'll try turning it off and on again and again. And again. Until it either works or my husband to get home.

Of course technology has made an enormous difference to the home cook. No repetitive strain injury from attempting to rapidly beating the sugar and butter to create a light, fluffy mixture. Electric graters, slicers and shredders to take all the hard work out of preparing veg. And safe, reliable ovens rather than boiling and roasting pits used to cook a nice, tasty, erm, mammoth. 

Indeed, I'm very grateful to be writing this post on an ipad rather than pictographs carved onto stone. After all, I've always been crap at pictionary. And my kitchen wouldn't be complete without my lovely shiny fire engine red KitchenAid mixer. Plus, this scrumptious cake would have taken an awful lot longer to bake without the technology we have in our kitchens.

* events occured this week, causing me to repeatedly sigh with despair. A lot. 

With thanks to Legal and General for sponsoring this post discussing technology in the home 

For the loaf cake:

175g unsalted softened butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
50ml elderflower cordial
175g self raising flour
2 lemons

For the drizzle, icing and decoration:

85g caster sugar
50g icing sugar
Fondant Icing decorative flowers (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160 C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, this can take several minutes
3. Gradually beat in the eggs and elderflower cordial, adding a tablespoon of flour if the mixture looks like it may be curdling
4. Fold in the flour and zest of the two lemons
5. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until risen and the top springs back to touch
6. To make the drizzle: Mix together the juice of the lemons and the caster sugar. Prick the warm cake all over with a skwer and pour over the drizzle, allowing it to soak in.
7. Once the cake is cooled, mix together the icing sugar with a little warm water to form a thick icing and spoon or pipe over the cake. Decorate the flowers made from fondant icing  

Baker's Notes

  • This zesty, zingy cake shouts 'spring'- a perfect way to celebrate the gorgeous summery weather we've been enjoying of late

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Easter Egg Brownies with Waitrose #GoodEgg

Happy Easter!

Have a lovely weekend, whether you'll be contributing to the estimated £30 million pounds due to be spent at the nation's garden centres this long weekend, whiling away your down time on rail replacement bus services or spending the bank holiday trying to desperately interpret the weather forecast, which is currently predicting, depending on what you read, a heatwave, a washout and snow.

Or, perhaps like me, you'll simply squeezing an entire year's worth of novelty chocolate consumption into four days?

In between unwrapping another very cute Easter chocolate hedgehog, there is a lot of brilliant Easter baking to be enjoying. A fruity Simnel cake perhaps, juicy, spicy hot cross buns or these scrumptious Easter Egg Brownies.

And if you are baking this bank holiday weekend (and with four WHOLE DAYS OFF there really isn't an excuse not to) share your Easter photos with the Waitrose #GoodEgg campaign to support Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity. Waitrose will be surprising lucky participants with Easter gifts including Heston’s Golden Easter Eggs, hampers, cases of wine, Waitrose vouchers and Waitrose Cookery School vouchers. And there's lots of lovely Easter inspiration on the Waitrose Easter website

To take part, simply upload your Easter themed pictures to twitter, instagram or vine, from the delicious food you're enjoying to Easter Egg hunts, using the hashtag  #GoodEgg to support Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

Easter Egg Brownies

185g unsalted butter
185g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
3 large eggs
250g golden caster sugar
100g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
10-12 mini solid chocolate eggs*
50g melted white chocolate to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 20cm square tin. 
2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a small, heat proof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering hot water. Stir occasionally and remove from the heat once melted
2. Whisk together the eggs and sugar until thick, pale and doubled in volume, which may take several minutes. Gently fold through the melted chocolate, avoiding overmixing 
3. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and fold together. Add in the mini eggs
4. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes or until the top of the brownies has developed a thin crust
5. Allow to cool in the tin. Once completely cooled use an egg shaped cutter to cut out the Easter Egg shapes

Baker's Notes

  • *The mini-eggs are an optional extra. And should you have any spare Easter Egg chocolate (!) you can add 100g roughly chopped chocolate to the mixture
  • One advantage of the Easter Egg shapes is that you'll have a fair bit of leftover Brownie edges, or 'Baker's Bonuses' as I refer to them 
  • The Brownies will  keep in an airtight container for a good two weeks (as if in our household... a good two hours more like) and in the freezer for up to a month.

With thanks to Waitrose for sending me a voucher to cover ingredient costs and an Easter themed box of goodies

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Poor Knights of Windsor

 Happy Mother's Day to Mums everywhere!

Fancy earning some crucial brownie points this weekend and living up to the card you bought by making Mum breakfast in bed?

Great! Because this tasty treat is exactly how you'll remain in Mum's good books for the next 365 days:

With a big thank you to Oxo who sent a few products to help in the making of this delicious dish to celebrate Mother's Day

Poor Knights of Windsor

2 large eggs
160ml milk
30g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
0.5 tbsp Grand Marnier (optional)
4 slices stale bread
25g butter
Icing sugar for dusting
Orange slices to decorate

1. Whisk together the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and Grand Marnier in a large shallow dish
2. Soak and saturate each slice of bread in the eggy mixture, this may take up to a few minutes if the bread is very stale
3. Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan or cast iron griddle and drop in the butter
4. When the butter is sizzling, lift the slices of bread into the pan. Brown each side of the bread until crispy
5. Remove from the pan, dust over a little icing sugar and serve to Mum with orange slices and a smug smile

Baker's notes

  • 'Poor Knight's of Windsor' is a fancy name for eggy bread or French toast with an indulgent boozy twist. The name is thought to be a reference to the impoverished military gentleman who were given lodgings and pensions in Windsor Castle by Edward III...
  • ...but what a fine breakfast they enjoyed each day!
  • Any bread will work well, but the traditional bread to use is a white loaf that won't overpower the taste of the eggy mixture. No stale bread? Leave the slices out overnight to dry out

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Hummingbird Cake

Mum is a brilliant baker, properly brilliant. Although she definitely is far too modest to say so herself. So this week, in the lead up to Mother's Day next weekend, I thought to celebrate Mum's baking brilliance. See, this was the cat cake Mum made for my third birthday:

Just look how happy I am at the thought of a ginormous pink cat cake!

Mum also made our scrumptious wedding cake and virtually single-handedly baked the Cake Table at the Wedding:

So, as a huge thank you to my Mum in a million, I thought to bake this Hummingbird Cake.

This indulgent cake, which hails from the Southern states of the USA, is packed full of juicy pineapple, banana and cinnamon and topped with a delicious cream cheese icing and roasted pecan nuts. It is inspired by one of my all time favourite puds as a child, Mum's Pineapple Upside Down Cake, which we'd often have on a Sunday following a roast dinner. Once I'd carefully extracted the unwanted cherry and catapulted into my brother's bowl, I'd tuck in with gusto and be requesting seconds within, erm, seconds.

I'm also contributing this recipe to Beko's blogging challenge for Mother's Day. Beko have just announced the launch of a new page on their website celebrating their unique oven induction hob technology. Induction hobs work like a gas hob, but are easy to clean and have special technology to heat up the surface of a magnetic metal pan, minimising wasted energy and the potential risk of injury.

Hummingbird Cake

For the cake:
350g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
150g soft brown sugar
200g golden caster sugar
2 large bananas
1 x 425g tin of pineapple chunks, drained and chopped
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml olive oil
50g finely chopped pecan nuts

For the icing and decoration:
100g softened butter
250g full fat cream cheese
100g sifted icing sugar
50g pecans finely chopped and lightly roasted

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line 2 x 23cm round cake tins.
2. Sift the flour and cinnamon into a large bowl:

3. Stir in the sugars and a pinch of salt.
4. In a second bowl mash the bananas and mix in the chopped pineapple, eggs, extract and oil:

5. Fold into the dry ingredients until smooth. Gently fold in the pecans:

6. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and bake for 35-40 minutes or until risen, golden and the sponges spring back on light touch. Leave to cool for ten minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
7. To make the icing: beat the butter until soft, then add in the cream cheese and icing sugar, beating to form a smooth icing. Spread half of the icing over one of the sponges and top with the second spread. Spread over the remaining icing and decorate with the roasted chopped pecan nuts

Baker's notes
  • This is adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe for Hummingbird Cake
  • For a zesty icing, grate a lemon and add to the frosting
  • The origins of the name of the hummingbird cake remain a bit of a mystery. I love the thought that it was named 'Hummingbird' because it makes you 'hum with happiness' when you tuck in!
  • With thanks to Beko who sent me vouchers as a thank you for baking this recipe 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Double Chocolate Cookies- my version of Ben's Cookies

A couple of good friends set me a challenge the other day. After breathing a rather mighty sigh of relief that the challenge had nothing to do with running a marathon (Gagh!) or lying in a bath of cold baked beans (Urgh!) or giving up cake for a month (What?!), it turned out the challenge was to see if it was possible to replicate the Ben's Cookies Cookie recipe.

Ben's Cookies have several stores in and around London and Oxford and make rather heavenly soft cookies with delicious, melting chunks of chocolate dotted throughout. But my friends live rather a distance away. And until Ben's Cookies develop mail order a home baked version would have to do.

After a little trial and error in the kitchen, watching marvellously decadent videos such as this Luke Evans one (WARNING: do not watch if hungry) and perusing articles entitled 'The Science Behind the Perfect Cookie' this is my version of the Ben's Cookies Double Chocolate Chip Cookie:

Add caption
Double Chocolate Cookies- my version of Ben's Cookies

Makes 10-12

100g unsalted butter
75g golden caster sugar
75g soft brown sugar
1 medium egg
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1.5 tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate, chopped into small and large chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas Mark 6. Grease and line two baking sheets
2. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined.
3. Fold in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Add a little milk if needed if the mixture appears dry
4. Stir in the smaller chocolate chunks. Form the mixture into 10-12 small balls and place, well separated, on the baking sheets. Insert the larger chocolate chunks into the centre of each cookie, which will give a lovely gooey centre when baked
5. Bake for ten minutes and allow to cool completely on the trays once removed from the oven

Baker's notes...

  • These were really, really, really good. Like, really good. My husband made my promise not to give any away.
  • A variety of chocolates, nuts and dried fruit can be added to create a lovely twist. Cranberry and Macadamia anyone? Peanut Butter maybe? A Spring like Lemon? 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day: Pear and Almond Crumble Cake

Ah, Valentine's Day.

The annual celebration of either:

a. the tacky greeting card industry, red rose growers and restaurants that double the cost of their set menu while popping up a couple of heart-shaped helium balloons that inevitably, depressingly, deflate into the chocolate fondants by ten pm


b. loved up couples everywhere wanting to demonstrate their undying devotion through a romantic card (such as this one), an extravagant bunch of hand-tied, over-sized roses and dinner a deux in the city's best restaurant

However you celebrate, and with whomever, make sure there's a cake involved. Because (WARNING: cheesiness alert!) cake makes every day better, not just St Valentine's.

Like this one.


Pear and Almond Upside Down Cake

For the crumble:
50g unsalted butter
75g plain flour
50g light brown sugar

50g flaked almonds

100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp almond extract
150g self raising flour
a little dash of milk, if needed

3 pears, peeled, quartered and cut into cubs 

1. Grease and line a 8 inch round tin. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180C /160C fan/350F

2. Prepare the crumble: place the flour into a bowl and add the butter. Using the tips of your fingers rub the butter and flour together until the mixture forms bread crumbs. Add the sugar and flaked almonds and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Set aside

3. For the cake: cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy, then gradually add the eggs and extract. Fold in the flour. Add a dash of milk if required to achieve a thick consistency. 
4. Dollop the cake mixture into the prepared tin, smooth over the top and place the pear over the top. Sprinkle over the crumble and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The crumble should be golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean
5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before placing on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar prior to serving

Baker's notes...

  • Eat as pudding, warm from the oven, drowning in custard. Or serve a slice or two as part of afternoon tea
  • We can partly blame the commercialization of Valentine's day on Richard Cadbury, a member of the infamous chocolate dynasty who introduced heart shaped packaging for his chocolates in the 1800s for Valentine's Day. But then again, his company also introduced the world to the Fruit & Nut Bar, so I reckon all is forgiven. Plus everyone ( loves a nice box of chocolates on Valentine's Day.