Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ten Signs it is time to say goodbye to the Summer (with a Strawberry Cheesecake)

Ten Signs it is time to say Goodbye to the the Summer:

1. The shops are full of 'Back to School' paraphernalia, styled in a funky manner to make the kidz feel school as they shop for shoes, calculators and pencil cases.

2. The X Factor is back on the telly, soon to be followed by Strictly Come Dancing. Bye Bye social life on a Saturday, hello sofa.

3. You have a yearning for apple crumbles and plum cobblers, merrily drowning in lashings of warm sweet custard.

4. Chunky knits and woolly scarfs begin to appear a very welcome alternative to that flippy, floral sundress you bought in June with such hope it would be a sunny, hot British summer.

5. It becomes increasingly obvious that those still looking tanned have not acquired their tan from 'you know, lounging around in the garden and stuff'. It has been raining solidly for three weeks afterall.

6. The arguments about whose turn it is to clean the BBQ before it is shunted to the back of the garage begin in earnest ('Isn't it funny how it appears to be my turn every [insert chosen expletive] year?')

7. You no longer have to pretend to enjoy playing Frisbee (see Kate's Cakes and Bakes Rules of Picnics)

8. There is an eleven month reprieve before summer holiday snaps become the focus of dinner parties once again.

9. Mutterings about 'ohhh, isn't it getting dark so much earlier now?' and vague plans for Christmas start getting made

10. You hurriedly make the most of the last of the summery fruits to bake dishes such as this one:

Baked Strawberry Cheesecake
(adapted from BBC Good Food)

8 digestive biscuits
50g melted butter
600g full fat cream cheese
2 tbsp plain flour
175g caster sugar
a few drops of vanilla extract
2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
142ml sour cream
300g strawberries, washed and hulled
1 tbsp icing sugar 

1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4
2. Pop the biscuits into a food bag and using a rolling pin crush the biscuits into fine crumbs (this bit is well fun)
3. Remove from the bag and mix with the butter in a small bowl
4. Press into a 20cm springform round tin and bake for 5 minutes, then set aside to cool
5. Beat the cream cheese, flour, sugar, vanilla essence, eggs, yolk and soured cream until light and fluffy
6. Stir in half the strawberries and pour into the tin
7. Bake for 40 minutes
8. Leave to cool
9. Keeping a few strawberries aside to decorate the top, put the rest in a pan with 1 tbsp of icing sugar and heat until juicy. Squash with a fork and push through the sieve to form a sauce
10. When ready to eat decorate the top of the cheesecake with the leftover strawberries and serve with the strawberry sauce

Baker's notes...
  • It was a bit squidgy this cheesecake, perhaps I didn't leave it in the oven long enough? The instructions in the recipe stated it should be set but slightly wobbly in the centre. I think mine was possibly wobbly all over.
  • I actually LOVE the Autumn. Really, properly do. I can't wait to snuggle down with the two words Autumnal baking brings to mind: Comfort Bakes.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Fresh from the Oven: Pancetta, Sage and Potato Bread

There are certain events in most people's lives that are significant, and, as such, always remembered.

First day at school perhaps. Leaving home. Feeling oh-so-rich as you spend your first paypacket. That first date. The discovery of pre-cut (!) parchment paper. 

March 5th 2011 is one such date for us.

We tasted possibly the best soup we have ever had. 

It was a revelation. No soup has tasted the same since. 

The soup in question? Heston Blumenthal's pea and ham hock soup. Bray. The Hind's Head. 

I never thought I'd attempt it myself. What fool would attempt to recreate perfection?

Ahem... this fool.

You see, we were challenged by Sally from My Custard Pie to make a bread containing a vegetable for this month's Fresh From the Oven bread bake. Sally herself was inspired by the courgette bounty her garden had produced this year. And the bread I had in mind to bake was a Pancetta, Potato and Sage bread. It was a foregone conclusion that this mighty loaf needing to be dunked in a mighty soup. There was only one mighty soup that could deliver. 

One trip to the butchers, a purchase of a ham hock and four hours of cooking later and Heston's Ham Hock and Pea soup was right there infront of us. The recipe, which I followed word for word can be found right here.

As for the mighty bread, the recipe is taken from The Women's Institute 'Bread', my go-to bread book.

And the recipe goes exactly like this:

175g (6oz) floury potatoes, peeled
350g (12oz) very strong white bread flour
Three qaurters of a teaspoon fast acting dried yeast
freshly gorund pepper
175ml hand-hot water
105g (3 and a half oz) smoked pancetta slices, snipped
15g fresh sage, chopped plus leaves to decorate
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Put the potatoes in pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender
2. Drain well and mash until smooth. Then place a piece of clingfilm over the mash to prevent the potato drying out
3. Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Season with pepper
4. Rub in the potato. Make a well in the centre and add the water. Mix to a soft dough
5. Turn out onto an unfloured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth
6. Oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in it and cover with a damp tea towel
7. Prove in a warm place until doubled in size
8. Heat a saucepan and cook the pancetta for two minutes until the pancetta becomes crispy and any fat runs out. Stir in the sage and cook for a further thirty seconds. Set aside to cool
9. Grease a baking sheet
10. Knead the pancetta and sage into a dough and form the dough into a circular shape and place on the prepared baking sheet
11. Cover the dough and prove until in doubled in size
12. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/220C/425F
13. Dip each sage leaf in oil and arrange a pattern on top of the loaf. Drizzle the remaining oil over the surface of the dough. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack

Baker's notes...
  • The dough can be very very sticky, but bear with it, it'll be worth it. I promise.
  • The bread tastes best on the day it is baked, but will last for up to 72 hours in an airtight container
  • As for the soup? A's verdict: 'Can we have this for tea every day please!?'

Thursday, 25 August 2011

If you had a dish named after you, what would it be? Nellie and Peach Melba Meringues

I strongly suspect mine would contain chocolate. Infact, I know this. I've previously addressed how much I love the stuff and pontificated about this problem/addiction/greed of mine. (Heck, I eat chocolate by osmosis sometimes. I find chocolate wrappers everywhere, without the tiniest recollection of when I've eaten them. In coat pockets, bags, cupboards, down the back of the sofa. Yes, my life is effectively a rubbish tip).

I think the idea of having something named after you is that you've inspired someone. Rather than in my case, whereby I'd automatically qualify to have a new chocolate item named after me because of the sheer quantity I devour. 

Nellie Melba definitely falls into the former category when it comes to having things named after you. Nellie, an Australian Opera singer inspired the French Head Chef of The Savoy,  Auguste Escoffier when she performed Wagner's Lonhengrin in London in 1892. He celebrated her performance by promptly naming his new peach and raspberry dessert in Nellie's honour. 

But, get this, not only did Nellie Melba have a beautifully summery, fruity dessert named in her honour, Auguste also named Melba Toast after Nellie. This thin, dry toast was created by Auguste for Nellie following an upset tummy the great Soprano was suffering from. That's right, not one but two famous food items named after Ms Melba. I can only conclude that Auguste was a huge fan.

(FYI: I know which of the two I prefer)

Anyways, I'm off to lobby Cadbury's: Kate's Chocs anyone?

(Makes six)

For the meringue:

2 egg whites
100g caster sugar

To decorate:
200g creme fraiche
Punnet of raspberries
3 peaches

1. Preheat the oven to 110C/100c fan/Gas Mark 1/4
2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper 
3. Pop the egg whites into a clean, large bowl and beat with an electrical hand whisk until the mixture stands in stiff peaks
4. Adding one spoonful of sugar at a time beat the mixture at a higher speed until each spoonful is incorporated before adding the next
5. The mixture should  now be all nicely glossy and thick- let's be honest, resembling shaving form
6. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag and gently pipe the meringue on the parchement paper, creating six circles
7. Place the meringues in the oven for one and a quarter hours to one and a half hours or until the meringues are crisp when gently tapped underneath
8. Dollop a spoonful of creme fraiche onto each meringue and slice the peaches into eighths, placing four slices on each meringue. Decorate with the raspberries

Baker's notes...
  • The meringue can be spooned onto the parchment paper rather than piped if preferred
  • Best eaten immediately when decorated otherwise the meringue has the tendency to get a little soggy with the creme fraiche smothered all over it
  • Egg yolks left over? Check back next week for a recipe for lemon curd muffins
  • What foodie item would be named after you?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Great British Bake Off and Raspberry Mousse Meringue Kisses

The Great British Bake Off returned this week to the BBC.

In case you missed last year's series, this agreeable, warm-hearted baking programme is as far removed from other foodie television programmes as fish fingers are from sushi. 

Take Masterchef. Greg, in brilliant amateur dramatic stylee announces: ''COOKING DOESN'T GET TOUGHER THAN THIS!!' in the manner of an old fashioned rather fierce home economics teacher.

In 'The F Word' Gordon Ramsey slams down a steak, theatrically proclaiming 'DONE!!' having used as few words as possible to describe the recipe.

In contrast, The Great British Bake-Off is a genial, affable and good-natured look at all things baked. While there is the competitive element, and, new this year, a judge's technical challenge section, it really is all about the sweet creations. Salivating, open mouthed at the screen as gooey chocolate ganache is generously and glossily spread over a rich torte. Practically being able to smell the heavenly scent of freshly made bread through the TV*. The presenters Mel and Sue have possibly the best job on television: spoons at the ready, they have the enviable task of getting to taste every single cake and bake. 

Whether these particular raspberry meringue kisses would have passed the Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood taste test I can't be sure, but I enjoyed making them, and much enjoyed eating them, which really is what baking is all about. 

Raspberry meringue kisses
(Makes twelve)


For the meringues:

2 egg whites
100g caster sugar

For the raspberry mousse:
(adapted from Waitrose Recipes)

100g raspberries
25g caster sugar
1 egg white
75g natural yogurt
2 sheets gelatine

To make the meringues:

1. Preheat the oven to 110C/100c fan/Gas Mark 1/4
2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and using an upturned glass or any small circular item to hand, pencil the outline of 24 circles onto the paper
3. Pop the egg whites into a clean, large bowl and beat with an electrical hand whisk until the mixture stands in stiff peaks
4. Adding one spoonful of sugar at a time beat the mixture at a higher speed until each spoonful is incorporated before adding the next
5. The mixture should  now be all nicely glossy and thick- let's be honest, resembling shaving form
6. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag and gently pipe the meringue into the pencilled circles on the parchement paper
7. Place the meringues in the oven for one and a quarter hours to one and a half hours or until the meringues are crisp when gently tapped underneath

To make the mousse:

1. Pop the raspberries in a pan with half of the sugar and cook, stirring gently the entire time, for roughly five minutes until the fruit becomes nicely squidgy
2. Pass the fruit through a sieve to remove the seeds and cool. Pop in the fridge until needed
3. In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites with the rest of the sugar until stiff peaks form
4. Dissolve the gelatine as advised on the packet
5. Mix the raspberries with the yogurt and beat together. Add the gelatine and beat in a third of the egg whites. Fold in the rest of the egg whites
6. Chill the mixture for at least 4 hours

To assemble

1. Stir the mousse until creamy
2. Using a small spoon, place a dollop of the mousse on one of the meringues and sandwich with a second meringue
3. Repeat until all the meringues are sandwiched together

Baker's notes...

  • The meringues themselves will last for up to two weeks stored in an airtight container
  • Have a whole bunch of egg yolks to use up now? Try this recipe
  • Did anyone apply to be on The Great British Bake Off? I'd love to hear your stories

* Smell-a-telly? Dragon's Den I'm coming atacha!!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Random Recipes Challenge: Ginger and Lime Cake

For Belleau's Kitchen Random Recipes Challenge this time last month I was being a bit of a


as I hadn't quite followed the rules. This

view details

I was determined to be the best in 

and play by the 

_ _ _ _ R _
Hopefully, Dom will agree and I won't be sentenced to twenty years of doing the dirty

view details                                                   
The theme this month is 

Man massaging the tension in his back with his hand           

to basics. The Random Recipe Generator did its thing. And here's my bake:

(Hand by yours truely). From this book:

What do you think? Do I come up smelling of 


Or I am still in the

Dog portrait                          
architecture,builds,businesses,businessmen,constructions,Fotolia,homes,houses,investments,invests,loans,miniatures,models,Photographs,properties,purchases,real estate,real estate agents,residential,sales                                                  

Ginger and lime cake
(Fiona Cairns, Bake and Decorate)


120g unsalted butter
125g black treacle
100g golden syrup
150ml milk
120g light muscovado sugar
225g plain flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten

For the icing:
150g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter, softened
finely grated zest and juice of a lime

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 170C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
2. Butter a 20cm square tin and line with baking parchment
3. Place the treacle, syrup, milk, sugar and butter in a pan, melting these ingredients gently together
4. Once melted (do not let it boil) remmove from the heat
5. In a large bowl sift the flour,. ginger and bicarb together
6. Add the treacle mixture and fold together
7. Add the beaten eggs and mix well
8. Place the batter in the prepared tin and knock the tin against a work surface a couple of times to release any air bubbles
9. Place in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until firm to touch
10. Cool in the tin for fifteen minutes then turn out onto a rack
11. To make the icing beat the icing sugar and butter with an electric mixer for five minutes. Add the lime zest and juice and beat for a furtehr thirty seconds
12. Spread the buttercream over the cake

Baker's notes...

  • The cake, minus the icing, can be stored for up to five days in an airtigether tin
  • In actual fact it tastes even stickier, and more moist and lush, if you leave it for a day or two before serving
  • All photos from Microsoft Office Images
  • Dom, do I get a
Close-up of a test paper that has a grade of an A+ 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

We Should Cocoa: Rose, Pistachio and Apricot Tiffin

I couldn't for the life of me choose what to bake for this month's chocolaty We Should Cocoa Challenge.

The theme, chosen by Choclette, was rose. 

And if this theme wasn't keeping me up in the small hours, tossing and turning with indecision, then rose themed bakes would be chasing me in my dreams.

I had the ideas, I just didn't have the decision making skills. At one stage I reminded myself of Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who simply does not know where to start eating in the magnificent Garden of Chocolate; I just did not know where to start baking. Although I do have his insatiable appetitie for chocolate, that is where the comparison ends. Thankfully, I've yet to fall into a rose flavoured lake. 

Perhaps my indecision relates to my complete absence of baking experience with rose. I'm not sure why this is the case. Heck, rosewater and essence have been around for centuries, and can be found in many Middle Easterm Cheinese and Indian dishes. Distilled from rose petals, it can be added to jellies, flavour icings and of course, provide that distinct rosey sweetness to Turkish Delight.

After strict words with myself, and as Bucks Fizz once sang, I finally made my mind up. I made these: 

Rose, Pistachio and Apricot Tiffin
(makes approximately twelve 4cm x 4cm squares)


Half a tablespoon golden caster sugar
1 tbsp rose water
100ml double cream
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
Ten- twelve dried apricots, chopped into quarters
125g shelled pistachios

1. Lightly grease half of a 12inch x 9inch and line with clingfilm 
2. Melt the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water until the chocolate has completely melted. Once melted remove from the heat.
3. Warm the cream, sugar and rosewater in a small saucepan over a gentle heat, stirring with a wooden spoon the entire time until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and add to the melted chocolate, stirring until all ingredients combined
4. Add the pistachios and apricots to the melted chocolate and cream mixture and fold until completely combined
5. Pour into the prepared tin and using a spatula, smooth over the top
6. Chill in the fridge for a minimum of five hours
7. When ready to cut, remove the tiffin from the tin and clingfilm, place on a chopping board and cut into squares

Baker's notes...
  • Best stored in the fridge, especially this time of year
  • I can't really tell you how long these last for- we ate the whole lot in one evening
  • Yes, we then felt like two Augustus Gloops.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

If a lemon needed a wingman, a raspberry would be it: Lemon and Raspberry Mini Cupcakes

There is a well-known chain of French bakeries and communal tables that have jars of chocolate spread available for your delectation.

I crave these jars.

Infact, I'm so greedy when it comes to these jars of chocolate I'm afraid to name this well-known chain. I suspect that if I do I will be banned for life for gluttony and my photo-fit, with my face smeared in chocolate, will be on the kitchen walls in the style of the US Most Wanted list.

I have been known to spoon the entire contents of the white chocolate version into my mouth in the time it takes my friends to peruse the four page menu. I can't meet the disapproving waitresses' eyes as they come to clear the table and remove the empty jars. And I feel so full afterwards sitting upright is no longer an option.

And now, here at home, I find myself doing exactly the same (clearly the sugar induced headaches mean nothing to me) with a jar of lemon curd I made at the weekend. As Delia notes: '[lemon curd] is something that is never the same when shop-bought'. And, just like making a rissotto, there is something very calming and comforting continuously stirring the mixture.

Mini Lemon and Raspberry Cupcakes

(makes twelve; recipes adapted from Peyton and Byrne: British Baking for the lemon curd and Rachel Allen: Bake for the cupcakes)


For the lemon curd:

225g caster sugar
Zest and juice of three lemons
5 egg yolks
300g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 x 600ml jar, sterilised

For the cupcakes:

125g (4 ½ oz) butter, softened
125g (4 ½ oz) caster sugar
Finely grated zest 2 large lemons
2 beaten eggs
150g (5oz) plain flour, sifted
¼ tsp baking powder
Half a punnet of raspberries

To make the curd:

1. Put the sugar, lemon zest and egg yolks in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and warm gently, stirring constantly with a whisk for ten minutes
2. Add the butter, one cube at a time, ensuring each cube is fully melted before adding the next cube
3. The mixture should be smooth and thick by the time all the butter has been incorporated
4. Strain the curd through a sieve to remove the zest and spoon into the sterlised jar

To make the cupcakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
2. Cream the butter in a large bowl until soft
3. Add the sugar and zest and beat again until the ingredients are combined and the mixture fluffy and light
4. Gradually add in the beaten eggs, continuing to beat
5. Fold in the flour and baking powder
6. Divide the mixture between your cases/silicone moulds
7. Bake for 8-12 minutes or until the cakes spring back to touch, the cakes are golden yellow in colour and your kitchen smells delicious
8. Allow to cool on a wire rack

To decorate:

1. Spoon a teaspoon of lemon curd on top of each mini cupcake
2. Slice the raspberries in half and place one on each cupcake

Baker's notes...

  • A lemony scrambled egg can result from overheating the lemon curd when warming
  • The lemon curd, if runny, can run, well, everywhere: it might be worth decorating the cupcakes just prior to serving them
  • Store the curd in a cool, dark place for up to one year
  • The above recipe does make plenty of lemon curd (you'll only need 12 teaspoons for this recipe) but as well as shoveling the lemon curd straight from the jar into my mouth I'll also re-make this recipe: Lemon Curd Swiss Roll
  • This has been entered into Fabulicious Food's brilliant Simple and In Season Challenge 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Picnic Rules and Cornish Pasties

Kate's Cakes and Bakes Rules of Picnics

1. Never Plan Ahead

The Universal Laws of Picnics (Subsection 2.1) states that if you will plan ahead, it will rain on your picnic. Subsection 2.1 Part III, which provides a little more weather-related detail, advises no more than twelve hours planning ahead and these twelve hours should be spent glued to the weather forecast, updating the screen at least every two minutes while cautiously saying 'I think it might not rain'.

2. Picnic on Flat Ground

Picnic on an angle greater than 1 degrees and you'll spend the entire time convinced you are falling backwards. And that'll be before you've started on the Pimms and the world inevitably becomes more  wobbly.

3. Always Take a Rug

Or something to sit on. Even a Tesco carrier bag will do. Otherwise the grass stains on your new summer frock will make it appear as though you've been partaking in far less innocent pastimes than spending two hours eating your body weight in scotch eggs.

4. Make Friends with Wasps

Subsection 6.8 entitled 'How to Care for Wasps and Other Bothersome Insects' suggests making friends with wasps, bees and other irksome insects by providing goodies for them. Pile small portions of each item of food you're tucking into on a plate at a distance of at least ten metres for their delectation. Make sure to include a few drops of a drink, preferably an alcoholic one- the wasps will soon begin to enjoy themselves too.

5. Bring bitesize foods

Picnics are not the place for Michelin-style fifteen course taster meals, fancy-pants foodie creations or any food item you can't eat in two bites in a civilized fashion with your fingers. Unless you happen to live the life of say, the Crawley family living at Downton Abbey and your picnics are constructed by your cook, served by your Butler and cleared up by your Head Housemaid while your Second Footman.....actually what does your Second Footman do?! If this is you, please can you let me know what your Second Footman does and please may I come along to your picnic?

6. Any Organised Fun Should Take Place After Eating

Organised Fun, such as frisbee, rounders or ball games should always take place after the food has been consumed. Otherwise your enjoyment of your cocktail sausages may be impaired somewhat by the fear of Frisbee Face, a rather self-explanatory condition.

Apologies for sounding like the Anti-Picnic-Fun Police in that last rule, but I've had Frisbee Face. It was a traumatizing experience. What are your picnic rules?

These Picnic Rules are in honour of this month's Forever Nigella blogging challenge, hosted this month by  Helen from Fuss Free Flavours. The brilliant theme, you may have guessed, is food for picnics. After a happy read of Nigella's backcatalogue I choose to attempt to make Nigella's Cornish Pasties, which she describes eating at a picnic on the Helford River in Cornwall with some crisps, cold beer and a jar of spiced apple chutney.

I ate them in the rain in Maida Vale with out of date brown sauce while dodging frisbees.

The recipe can be found in Nigella's How to Be a Domestic Goddess.

Baker's notes...

  • I swopped the swede for carrot. Which may be highly illegal in Cornwall, I'm sorry.
  • This is the perfect picnic food- like an entire meal in a few yummy bites
  • Although they are a bit fiddly to make. As you can see from the pictures, mine turned out rather crumbly
  • Other Ginger Beers are available to buy
  • Rather than play Frisbee (yes, I'm scared of them and really don't like them) try the following Organised Fun: a Cornish Pie eating contest!
  • No further sightings of Nigella to report I'm afriad. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Guest posting: A Greedy Tribute to the Welsh Cake

When Nicki off of the lovely Cardiff Bites blog asked for guest posts to celebrate her fifth blogging anniversary this month I thrust my hand in the air and exclaimed 'oh, oh, me! me me!!!' in the manner of a small overexcited schoolchild who knows the answer in class. I just about resisted adding 'miss! miss! miss!' as I leapt up from my small plastic chair. 

Nicki has very kindly just published my post on her blog: a tribute to the unassuming Welsh Cake. This led to a brilliant twitter exchange last Sunday full of lovely people debating who's Mam/Nain/Mamgu (Mum/Nana/Granny) makes the best Welsh Cakes.  

To summarize this most tasty of debates: Welsh Cakes rock. Indeed, it is an unassuming, humble and unpretentious cake. No snazzy, rich icing and razzle-dazzle decorations here, thank you very much. My hungry testimonial to this mighty Welsh baking icon continues right here over on Nicki's blog but here's the recipe:

Welsh Cakes

125g butter (unsalted, softened at room temperature and cut into small pieces)
250g self-raising flour
75g caster sugar
Half a teaspoon mixed spice or cinannamon
100g currants
1 beaten egg
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp milk (if needed)

1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
2. Add the sugar, spice, currants and mix together
3. Mix in the beaten egg and bring together to form a soft dough with a fork, using the milk to bind further if required
4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and using a rolling pin roll out the mixture to about 1cm thickness
5. Using a cutter or upturned glass cut out the circles
6. Heat an ungreased griddle or heavy frying pan on a medium heat
7. Place the cakes onto the surface one or two at a time and cook one side before gently turning over to cook the other side
8. Cool on a wire rack. 
9. Tuck in with gusto

Baker’s notes....
  • Each Welsh Cake takes approximately 2-3 minutes to cook on each side; you should be aiming for a caramel, light brown colour
  • If the cakes turn a darker colour, quickly, your pan may be too hot. Turn down the that better?
  • Dust with a little caster sugar to serve
  • For the more adventurous Welsh cake baker out there try using honey instead of sugar to give a subtle sweetness. A Christmassy festive version could include a few spoonfuls of mincemeat. Replacing the currants with cranberry and adding a handful of chopped white chocolate would also work a treat
  • Never add jam. You'd be committing blasphemy. Adding jam is one short step from adding cream, which in turn, is one short step from effectively eating a scone
  • Bendigedig!!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mint Chocolate Brownies and How to Stay Cheerful when Baking

Phrases I definitely, absolutely, 100% did say during the baking of these Brownies

(or How to Stay Optimistic in Face of Potential Brownie Disaster):

1. 'I'm so pleased I have all the ingredients and don't have to make multiple separate trips to the overpriced corner shop in my slippers every ten minutes'

2. 'I do love it when I beat my not-quite-softened-enough butter and it splatters all round the entire kitchen and most of the living room. Removing congealed butter from the ceiling is such a satisfying job'

3. 'Of course experimentation is vital for Brownie advancement. Even when I have the best ever Brownie recipe and up until this moment of madness altering the recipe would have been absolute sacrilege, its still very important, and certainly not remotely foolish to experiment'

4. 'I'm sure half an hour of nervous pacing up and down infront of a hot oven, wringing the teatowel in despair,  is equivalent of a thirty minute gym session'

5. 'Hey, A, if  everyone gets drunk on Sangria no one will notice the unexpected and not entirely welcome Aero bubble effect on top of the Brownies right?'

Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies

(inspired by Nigel Slater and Dan Lepard, whose original recipes can be found here and here)


300g golden caster sugar
250g butter
100g dark mint chocolate
200g dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids) 
3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
1 tsp natural peppermint essence  
60g flour
60g cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4.
2. Line the bottom of a baking tin, roughly 23cm x 23cm, with baking parchment
3. Put the sugar and butter in a deep bowl and beat for several minutes until white and fluffy
4. Meanwhile, break the dark chocolate into pieces and melt in a pyrex bowl suspended over, but not touching, a saucepan of gently simmering water. Remove from the heat once melted
5. Chop the 100g dark mint chocolate into small pieces
6. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork
7. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix in a pinch of salt
8. With the mixer running slowly, introduce the beaten egg a little at a time until completely combined
9. Mix in the melted chocolate and mint essence with a large metal spoon
10. Fold in the flour, baking powder and cocoa, gently and firmly, without knocking any of the air out
11. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth out with a spatula and insert the chopped dark mint chocolate, evenly spaced throughout the mixture
12. Bake for 30 minutes. A skewer when inserted may have a little Brownie on it (it is a gooey and sticky recipe) but if it has raw mixture attached, pop the brownies back in the oven for a couple more minutes.

Baker's notes...
  • By inserting the mint chocolate pieces at the end, they should more or less retain their shape through the cooking resulting in little explosions of chocolatey mint as you munch your way through the Brownies. Brownies plural because you will need to have more than one. 'tis the law.
  • I only added a teaspoon of peppermint which added a subtle minty taste, but do add a little more if you wish for more of a kick
  • Allow to cool before cutting into squares. In 2-3 days, stored in an airtight container they'll still taste good
  • They weren't an absolute disaster but three jugs of Sangria really help the enjoyment of these.