Monday, 30 May 2011

Raspberry Macarons Take 2

It's time for a rematch.

Let the battle commence.

As some of you may know a few weeks ago I attempted raspberry macarons. They were an unmitigated disaster. And have since become my baking nemesis.

But, stubborn old soul that I am, I am determined not to be beaten by a bunch of egg whites.

I prepared financially (bought a new electric whisk), mentally (positive thoughts and intense therapy sessions) and physically (up at 5am each morning for a brutal regime of squats and press-ups so my arms were tough enough for folding the meringue)*. I was all set.

And the conclusion?

A draw.

50% were a success, 50% are winging their way to the local rubbish tip.

The not-so-successful ones were all cracked and hollow on the inside, which I've since discovered is due to overbeating the meringue. So the egg whites did win after all.

The basic macaron recipe comes from Tartelette's brilliant blog, and can be found here. And I used the chocolate ganache from the chocolate macarons I made previously, found right here.

These were the survivors....:


...which I wrapped up in a little bag for a gift:



And this is the macaron perfection I had been aiming for, courtesy of Pudding Cook at Harvey Nichols:


Tune in next week for a post titled 'Raspberry Macarons: how they are utterly overated'.

Defeated and dejected? Oh yes.

* This last bit is perhaps a lie

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Foodies Festival

At the crack of dawn yesterday morning I dragged A out of bed and on a train to Hampton Court.

I hadn't suddenly developed an avid interest in the court of Henry VII.

Nope, it was the Hampton Court Foodies Festival. Billing itself as 'the very best food and drink can offer...' the festival is taking place across several locations throughout the UK this summer.

We sampled everything from curries to cupcakes to chedder to cognac to chocolate to cider to churros.

And many, many other foods and drinks not beginning with 'c'.


I went to a cupcake masterclass. And despite sitting right at the front, and despite leaping off my chair in eagerness to be chosen as a 'helper' in the demonstration, I discovered being eleven years old means you are far more likely to get picked. I consoled myself with getting my tongue all blue eating the free sample:


And then we trooped around getting slightly sleepy on all the free samples of liquers ('yessh, I'd loveee to try sshome. Cheers!') while admiring all the other cakes and bakes on display:


Above: a mammoth cupcake at Miriam's Munchies


Above: Pudding Cook at Harvey Nichol's Foodmarket


Above: Cupcake-a-licious

It also seemed rude not to have a proper lunch as well, so I did as the sign told me to:



and polished off a venison burger while keeping suitably serene.

It was much fun.

A and I headed home, satiated bellies and bags full of lovely produce. A grand day out as Wallace once said to Gromit.







Friday, 27 May 2011

Fresh from the Oven: Garlic Hedgehog Bread


Bread making, I love.

I've previously pontificated about the benefits of making your own bread, right here.

But, being a creature of habit, I'd happily carry on baking a farmhouse white every Sunday night for the week ahead til the end of time. Or at least, until I run out of bread flour. Whichever comes first.

Then I read about 'Fresh From The Oven', a bread baking blogging community full of monthly challenges that will drag me away from my farmhouse white quicker then you can say 'fancy foccacia?' or 'baking brioche?' or 'cooking up croissants?'

This month's challenge, hosted by Michelle from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families asked the 'Fresh From The Oven' community to share favourite savoury bread recipes that can be served at picnics or BBQ's.

A recipe I'd been meaning to try out for agessss is a 'tear n share' bread from 'Women's Institute: Bread' by Liz Herbert. Brilliant book. Best thing since sliced bread (badabum tsch!)*.

They seemed perfect for sharing when dining outdoors.

The original recipe has cranberry and brie in the middle which sounds awesome. But I didn't have any cranberry. Or brie. Slight problem no?

But I did have garlic! And with that, these little garlic bites were born. 

Upon whipping the baked bread out of the oven it struck me it resembled a sort-of hedgehog (it was late at night. You'll have to excuse me). So I re-christened the bread 'Garlic Hedgehog Bread' in honour of this late-at-night thought process of mine. 

Garlic Hedgehog Bread
(inspired by Women's Institute: Bread by Liz Herbert)

Ingredients

225g strong white bread flour
25g butter
half a teaspoon sugar
half a teaspoon salt
three quarters a teaspoon fast action dried yeast
150ml hand hot water

2 crushed garlic cloves
25g melted and cooled butter
a squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper

1. Rub the butter into the flour
2. Stir in the sugar, salt and yeast and mix to a soft dough with the water
3. Turn out onto your work surface and knead for 8-10minutes until smooth and elastic
4. Leave to rest for 10 minutes in a large bowl covered with a teatowel
5. Grease a 23cm sandwich tin
6. Divide the dough into 24 pieces
7. Working with one piece at a time, shape into a ball and using your fingers press out a centre in the ball; brush with the garlic butter and 'reseal' the ball. Place in the tin and repeat with the rest of the dough
8. Brush any remaining garlic butter over the dough
9. Cover and prove in a warm place until doubled in size
10. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200C/400F
11. Bake for 20-25 minutes


Baker's notes...
  • If you do happen to have brie and cranberry and fancy sticking to the original recipe, you'll need 2 tbsps of redcurrent jelly and 115g/4oz of brie. Omit the garlic butter, and working with each piece at a time, press out the individual dough into a disc, place a quarter of a teaspoon of the jelly and a small piece of the brie in the centre and then bring up the edges of the dough to encase the filling
  • The bread tastes especially yummy warm from the oven but is also perfect for a picnic and dipping into some tasty dips and spreads

* So, so, so bad a joke I know. Yet so, so, so irresistible.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

White chocolate and cranberry brownies



It was 4pm in work and I was flagging a bit. I needed a boost. So when, on one of the wards where I was reviewing a patient, a box of Thornton's chocolates was produced from a grateful patient, I thought: 'Yesssssss! Gettt in!!!' in the manner of a rugby player scoring a try.

I delved straight in, without thought or consideration as to which one I was selecting. A fatal error, an amateur's mistake. Because even though I pride myself on being able to tell exactly what almost every chocolate in every chocolate box is, sometimes I make mistakes. Big ones.

For in my rush for a sugar-hit I popped in my mouth the one chocolate I abhore. I can't bear.

Turkish Delight.

Eurgh.

I have never, ever understood how the White Witch tempted Edmund in the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe with an endless supply of Turkish Delight. I scoffed at the thought of such foolish temptation; heck, I'd be running in the opposite direction from this most fearful of tyrrants brandishing Turkish Delight.

Very disappointed that I'd eaten what is really perfumed soap, I headed home and baked up a proper sweet treat: white chocolate and cranberry brownie. Not a White Witch in sight.

White Chocolate and Cranberry Brownies
(adapted from Jill Dupleix in The Times)

Ingredients

125g butter
200g white chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
100g sugar
½tsp pure vanilla extract
130g plain flour
Pinch salt
75g dried cranberries, chopped

1. Lightly butter a 20cm square straight-sided baking pan or swiss roll tin. Line the bottom with parchment or baking paper and butter the top of the paper/parchment
2. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4
3. Combine the butter with 100g of the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan containing boiling water, heat gently and stir until melted



4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla
5. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat, cool for a minute, then whisk in the egg mixture
6. Sift in the flour and salt, the remaining chopped white chocolate and the cranberries



7. Pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top
8. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until light golden brown


Baker's notes...
  • The brownies can be stored in an airtight container for up to four days
  • The cranberries can be replaced by a nut of your choosing, pecan nuts work particularly well

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Random Recipes Challenge: Nigella's Courgette Cake

Random Recipes #4 - May

This is officially only my second foray into the world of Food Blogger Challenges.

Cue a trumpet fanfare! Exploding fireworks! Rather a little bit of trepidation and terror...!

My second challenge comes courtesy of Dom at Belleau Kitchen's brilliant Random Recipes Challenge . I high fived myself: I'd joined as the Random Recipe wheel of fortune rested this month on all cake-related books. 98% of my books are about cakes and bakes. Don't judge me, we just eat very few savoury things.

So I got A to spread out all the books in a circle around me and spin me round in the style of a game of Spin the bottle (Spin the Kate? It'll never catch on). When I stopped spinning (and ahem, feeling dizzy and just a little bit nauseous), I was pointing to Nigella Lawson's 'How to Be a Domestic Goddess'. Bingo!

I opened the book randomly and it opened at Page 18: Courgette Cake.

Hmmm.

Trust me to open the page with a cake recipe with a bloomin' vegetable in it.

You see, I am inherently distrustful of vegetables and cake together*. It just doesn't seem right.

I remained very suspicious baking this cake, stating quite clearly out loud to the courgette in question that I simply didn't trust it in a cake and really I ought to making a nice frittata out of it.

And the verdict?

I take it all back vegetables. Sometimes, you and cake aren't a bad combination at all.

NB: I blatantly didn't leave the cake in the oven for long enough- the centre was most definitely not cooked. So I did what I always do when this occurs and I cut out the middle and pretended it was all part of the masterplan.

Courgette Cake
(Nigella Lawson; adapted a little)



Ingredients

250g courgettes, grated using course side of box grater
2 large eggs
125ml vegetable oil
150g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
200g full fat cream cheese
juice of 1 lime
100g sieved icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C/Gas Mark 4
2. Grate the courgettes with the coarse side of a grater, then turn them into a sieve over the sink to remove excess water
3. Beat the eggs, oil and sugar in bowl until nice and creamy
4. Sieve in flour, bicarb and baking powder and beat until well combined
5. Stir in courgette
6. Pour into tins and bake for 30 minutes until slightly browned and firm to touch
7. To make the cream cheese icing - mix the ingredients in a bowl, placing in the fridge if you like to firm up then spread over the cake

Baker's notes...
  • The cake was super moist and freezes very well wrapped tightly in clingfilm, then a freezer bag or two
  • Nigella adds a layer of lemon or lime curd to fill between the two layers and chops a bunch of pistachio nuts on top of the icing to decorate
  • Nigella also suggests you can turn the into muffins if you wish- cooking the same mixture in muffin tins and when they are cooked and cooled, cutting them in half, plonking a dollop of cream cheese icing in the middle and pouring hot curd over the top



* With the sole exception of Carrot Cake: doesn't count in my vegetable-and-cake-together hating ways. Infact, it is almost always in my Top 3 Best Ever Cakes Chart.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Yorkshire Ginger Parkin


I spent my student years studying up in the wonderful city of York and one Christmas time worked in Betty's Tearooms. Betty's is possibly more famous in York than the Minster or the Vikings. People queue for hours to taste the traditional cream tea, the pikelets or the Fat Rascals.

I worked in the shop and as part of my 'training' I was required to sample every single item on sale, from the mouth-watering cakes and patisseries, to the melt-in-your-mouth biscuits, the speciality breads and the delicate, delicious savoury tarts and pies. I thought I'd died and gone to foodie-heaven. No other job has, or will, match my brief, but illustrious time at Betty's.

And in honour of my time there, I've been meaning to bake a Yorkshire Ginger Parkin for yonks.

At work we work very closely with the local hospice, who are holding a Family Fun Day this weekend. I leapt at the chance to bake for their cake stall. I think you're on to a winner with a traybake, such as this Parkin, for a cake sale or stall. Easy to portion out, easy to make and great for batch baking. For more inspirational traybakes, check out BBC Good Food's traybakes.

Yorkshire Ginger Parkin
(by James Martin)

Ingredients

225g self raising flour
110g caster sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 eggs
200ml milk
55g butter
110g golden syrup


Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Line a 22cm/8in tin.
  1. Sieve the flour, sugar, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.
  2. In a small pan gently heat the butter and syrup until melted.
  3. Beat the egg into the milk.
  4. Gradually pour the butter and syrup into the flour and stir. The mixture will be thick.
  5. Pour in the egg and milk and stir until smooth and pour into the lined tin. Bake for 1 hour

Baker's notes...

  • It actually tastes better 2-3 days after baking, allowing you to make it nicely in advance if you are baking for the entire stall. After 2-3 days it becomes deliciously sticky, moist and syrupy.
  • I popped the squares of Parkin into little clear food gift bags I'd spotted in the homewares aisle of Waitrose from a company called 'Millie's Kitchen'

Thursday, 19 May 2011

We Should Cocoa: Chocolate and Amaretti Swiss Roll



I'm super excited to be joining the We Should Cocoa Challenge, a brilliantly chocolatey baking challenge devised by Charlotte from Chocolate Log Blog and Chele from Chocolate Teapot. Each month the challenge involves making a chocolate based bake with either a different special ingredient or a baking technique.

I love chocolate you see, so I've been greedily licking my lips in anticipation awaiting to hear what this month's theme would be.

And... drum roll please... it is a chocolate swiss roll or roulade!

Having snuck in some practice a week or so ago with the Lemon Curd Swiss Roll (totally intentionally, I'm a beginner at this challenge lark), I was pleased with the result from Peyton and Byrne's British Baking, so used their Chocolate Swiss Roll cake as the the base for this recipe.

I didn't really fancy the whipped cream filling. This was mainly because it involved going out to the shop in the pouring rain to buy it. Lazy so-and-so that I am, I decided instead to make an amaretti and chocolate filling. Party because it would add a nice biscuit crunch and also we had some still left over from Christmas. It's okay, they weren't all skanky, stale and mouldy, sitting forgotten at the back of the cupboard. The expiry date is next month and I've been saving them for a useful cake-baking moment such as this one. Honest.



Chocolate and Amaretti Swiss Roll

Ingredients:

Cake:

3 eggs, separated
130g caster sugar, plus 35g
100g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
25g cocoa powder
Pinch of cream of tartar
Icing sugar for dusting

Filling:

100g chocolate (I used 70% dark chocolate)
100g double cream
2 tbsps amaretto liqueur (optional)
50g crushed amaretti biscuits, plus 10g to sprinkle



1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/Gas Mark 4
2. Grease a 32cmx23cm baking or swiss roll tin with butter and line the tin with baking paper. Butter the paper and dust with flour, tapping out any excess
3. Beat the egg yolks with 130g of the caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour and cocoa powder and fold into the egg and sugar until well incorporated
4. In a new, clean bowl whisk the egg whites with 35g caster sugar and the cream of tartar until they form soft peaks
5. Stir a third of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites
6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, spreading evenly and smoothing the top
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes
9. Dust the cake with icing sugar and the cover with a piece of clingfilm
10. Place a chopping board on top of the clingfilm and carefully invert the cake onto the board
11. Take the short end of the clingfilm and carefully roll up the cake, incorporating the film with each turn
12. Set aside to cool
13. To make the filling, break up the chocolate into small chunks and place in a bowl. Gently heat the cream in a small pan over a low heat for a few minutes, then add to the chocolate. After two minutes, stir the cream and chocolate together to create a thick but spreadable filling. Add the liqueur at this stage if using.
14. When the cake is cooled, carefully unroll and spread the chocolate filling over it, and add the amaretti biscuit crumbles
15. With the aid of the clingfilm, but this time not incorporating, roll the cake around the filling
16. Sprinkle the icing sugar and remainder of the crushed amaretti biscuits on top



Baker's notes...
  • For an extra treat you could whip up extra whipped cream, say 100ml to add to the filling.
  • For even more of a chocolate hit, but 100g chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, add 200ml double cream when the chocolate is just beginning to melt and stir together until smooth. Drizzle this chocolate sauce over the roll
  • Instead of icing sugar you could dust the roll with a combination of cocoa powder and crushed amaretto biscuits
  • The roll lasts for 2-3 days, kept in the fridge

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Flourless orange and almond cake

We've just returned from a super weekend in Portugal with A's family. Aka 'The A Team'.

I've never been to Portugal before. And while I promise this won't turn into an excerpt from Lonely Planet: Portugal, please humour me while I tell you how great the country is. If you get through my gushing-travel-talk there are pretty pictures of cakes at the bottom for your perusal. And an inspired-by-Portugal cake recipe.

For why is Portugal worth a visit? Well...

1. It is beautifully sunny and gloriously warm. That kind of sunny warmth you feel giddy with joy from, while your pale white limbs feel overexposed after a winter of jeans and jumpers




2. The beaches are long and sandy, crying out for you to run along them, white limbs flailing, straight into the sea. Or, of course, you can do a 'Baywatch' if you so wish.



3. The Orange Juice is like a sweet nectar made from pure gold




4. The Portuguese are super friendly and welcoming

5. The cakes mostly involve almonds or egg custard or both. I've taken it upon myself, in the greedy, cake monster eating way I do, to sample all the cakes I came across to sort-of prove this theory of mine. All in the name of 'research' of course.

Portuguese Custard Tart


Almond and egg custard cake


Strawberry and egg custard tart


Almond cake


And inspired by the trip, I present to you a flourless Orange and Almond cake

Flourless Orange and Almond Cake

(Jill Dupleix, The Times)


Ingredients

3 large oranges
225g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
6 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
Icing sugar to dust

1. Clean the oranges and place in a large pan. Add boiling water and bring to roughly half way up the sides of the oranges. Bring to the boil. Turn the heat down so the oranges simmer for approximately one and a half hours or until soft

2. Once soft, remove from the water, cut in quarters and remove any large pips. Place the quarters-skin, pith, juice and all-in a food processor and whiz until pureed. Cool.

3. Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Separate the egg yolks and whites. Pop the yolks and sugar into a large bowl and beat until pale

4. Beat in the oranges, almonds, and baking powder. Beat the egg whites until softly peaky and fold gently into the mixture.

5. Pour into a 23cm (9in) springform cake tin and bake for an hour, until firm to the touch (cover with a loose sheet of foil if over-browning)

6. Cool in the tin and dust with icing sugar to serve



Baker's notes...

  • The recipe here is based on the Sephardic orange-and-almond cake in Claudia Roden’s  A New Book of Middle Eastern Food.
  • You could serve it with double cream, creme fraiche or for an extra treat mascarpone cream (add 2 tbsps of vanilla sugar to 250g mascarpone and combine)
  • This cake isn't terribly sweet. To reduce the bitterness of the oranges I've since read the following about boiling the oranges, from the website taste.com.au:
'Place the oranges in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain. Return to pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes (this will reduce the bitterness of the peel). Refresh under cold water. Drain.'

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Lemon Curd Swiss Roll


I can't sing.

Genuinely, 100% can't sing. Want proof?

My experiences of singing in choirs is all the evidence you need.

The first, my school choir. During one rehearsal, I was warbling away when my Choir Teacher stopped the entire choir, came over to me and said 'I really appreciate your enthusiasm, but I wonder how you feel about miming?'

After clarifying I was to mime not just for the song we were singing that moment, but for our entire programme of songs I duly departed the school choir. And promptly took up drumming. But that's another story, for another time.

After many years, and a move to the Big Smoke, I joined a choir called the 'Can't Sing Choir'. That's right, it was for people who, erm, 'can't sing'. But I was so bad, even for a choir of such a name, that I had to stay behind for extra one-to-one lessons.

So, while my choir experience is very chequered, I do still enjoy the odd sing-song, especially when baking. There's nothing quite like the radio blaring, mixing away and singing at the top of my voice. Dusty, Dionne and Dolly (Springfield, Warwick and Parton respectfully) all helped in the making of this bake: a lemon curd swiss roll

Lemon Curd Swiss Roll

For the Cake:
3 eggs, separated
140g caster sugar, plus 35g
1 tsp lemon juice
100g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
Pinch of cream of tartar

Filling:
100ml whipping cream
Quarter of a jar good quality lemon curd (roughly 150g)

Topping:
3 tbsps lemon curd
2 tbsps water
Icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/Gas Mark 4
2. Grease a 32cmx23cm baking or swiss roll tin with butter and line the tin with baking paper. Butter the paper and dust with flour, tapping out any excess
3. Beat the egg yolks with 140g of the caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon juice and fold in the flour
4. In a new, clean bowl whisk the egg whites with 35g caster sugar and the cream of tartar until they form soft peaks
5. Stir a third of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites
6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, spreading evenly and smoothing the top
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when touched
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes
9. Dust the cake with icing sugar and the cover with a piece of cling film
10. Place a chopping board on top of the clingform and carefully invert the cake onto the board
11. Take the short end of the clingfilm and carefully roll up the cake, incorporating the film with each turn
12. Set aside to cool



13. To make the filling: in a bowl whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Stir the lemon curd into the cream
14. When the cake is completely cool, carefully unroll and spread the cream and curd mixture over it
15. With the aid of the clingfilm but this time not allowing it to become incorporated, roll up the cake around the filling. Wrap in a fresh sheet of clingfilm and pop in the fridge
16. When ready to serve, remove the clingfilm. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the reserved curd and drizzle over the top of the cake and dust with icing sugar

Baker's notes...
  • The ingredients for the filling above are half the ingredients in the original recipe, which, for my cake was wayyyy too much filling
  • When spreading the filling try not too spread too close to the edge, otherwise it will just spurt out when you roll the cake
  • The cake may crack a little on the second roll- I'm no construction supervisor but I used cocktail sticks as scaffolding to prevent it cracking further and then 'glued' it with lemon curd...it seemed to work!
  • You could omit the whipped cream and simply fill with lemon curd
  • My next post will be all about curds and jams, including a home made lemon curd- yummmm!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Raspberry Bakewell Cake


I have a new bike.

Just in case you think I'm in the habit of buying very expensive items on a daily basis (see MagiMix), I had a bike accident a couple of months ago and my previous trusty-partner of a bike was sadly no more.

So, while still rather nervous of mini-cab drivers, the insurance money has finally came through and my new bike is....

...pink.

Fluorescent, intense, bright-as-you-like fuchsia pink. Even Barbie would turn to Ken and comment: 'Maybe, Ken-dearest this is a little too shocking-pink of a colour, even for me! Shall we try the grunge look?' and promptly dress head to toe in black.

I've been thinking for a few weeks it is too bright a colour. I think of myself as a reasonably dedicated, serious all-weather commuter-cyclist. I wear lycra. I have wrap-around sunglasses. I have cycling shorts with 'go-fast' stripes (really).  I look the part. Yet, when I stop at traffic lights I look down, in horror: it is just so pink! I've tried cycling through puddles to get the worn-in, muddy look to cover the pink up but to no avail- this bike is proud of being pink*.

And then I read in The Guardian last weekend that pink 'stands for arrested development, where princesses represent the pinnacle of ambition'.

And when I was cycling home this evening I passed a little girl with her Mother, who upon sighting me and my bike, exclaimed 'Mummy look! That lady has a bike like mine!'

My face turned the colour of the bike and I rode home, shamefaced thinking 'Gagh! There's clearly a four-year old girl inside me clambering to get out'.

So in need of embracing being a 4-year-old-Barbie-Princess, I made this Raspberry Bakewell Cake. It kinda matches the bike in a way.

Raspberry Bakewell Cake
(From Good Food Magazine, August 2009)

Ingredients


140g ground almonds
140g butter
140g golden caster sugar
140g self-raising flour
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g raspberries
2 tbsp flaked almonds
icing sugar, to serve

1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and base-line and grease a deep 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin
2. Pop the ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract in a food processor and blitz until well combined
3. Spread half the mix over the cake tin and smooth over the top with a pallet knife
4. Scatter the raspberries over, keeping them about 1 cm from the edge
5. Spread the remaining cake mixture on top
6. Scatter with flaked almonds and bake for 50 mins until golden
7. Cool, remove from the tin and dust with icing sugar to serve

Baker's notes...
  • This is a dead easy, very tasty cake
  • You can use frozen raspberries, just make sure you have defrosted them fully and using kitchen towel, patted away any juice
  • When spreading the second half of the mixture of top, this can be a bit tricky as it can be a little sticky- I used a small teaspoon to do this
  • The cake keeps nicely for up to 3 days in an airtight container and can also be frozen





*You must be wondering what on earth possessed me to purchase such a pink bike. Well, the type of bike I have normally has a waiting list of 3-4 months and it was the only one they had left I could take away there and then.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Pitta Bread



Two savoury posts in a row?

Yes, this extremely sweet toothed baking enthusiast is well. Nope, no discernable fever. No night-time alien visitors transforming my candy-coated soul. No sugar-induced coma resulting in a lifetime ban on the sweet stuff (Imagine! That thought will pervade my nightmares for evermore!).

Normal service will resume in the next post but in the meanwhile let me tell you a little about my afternoon making pitta bread.

This morning A turned to me and he said:

'I know you can happily eat a cake for breakfast, another for lunch and a final one for supper, but I actually quite like savoury stuff. In fact, and this may be hard for you to believe, but a lot of people in this world do. Can we give it a go?'

Aghast and slightly disbelieving (I mean, who wouldn't want cake to form 90% of their diet??*), we agreed that providing I got to show off my new MagiMix, this 'savoury' baking would be happening.

And this is what we ate: Lamb, hummus and pitta bread. And this is how it got made.



Pitta bread

(adapted from Jill Dupleix, The Times)

Ingredients

450g white plain flour
1 tsp fine-ground sea salt
1 tsp white sugar
2 sachets (14g) fast-action dry yeast
300ml tepid water
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast together in a bowl
2. Make a well in the middle and stir in the warm water and olive oil
3. Using initially a knife, then your hands mix until it comes together as a dough
4. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic
5. Place in a large, clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for one to two hours in a warm place until doubled in size
6. Punch the dough down and knead for a further one to two minutes
7. Cut the dough into 12 pieces, shape into balls, and, using a rolling pin or stretching with your fingers shape into oval, pitta shapes


8. Set aside for 10 minutes
9. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6




10. Bake on a lightly floured tray for 6 to 10 minutes until puffy, soft and pale

Baker's notes...
  • The pitta breads, although tasty when warm straight from the oven, tasted quite doughy initially and were actually crispier the following day
  • When rolling, stretch them a little bigger than you want them as the dough tends to spring back
  • They will last 2-3 days before going pretty dry but freeze well
  • The above recipe makes 12, but is easily halved

Hummus

Ingredients

200g canned chickpeas
juice of two lemons
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste
75ml tahini/sesame seed paste (optional)
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp papika

1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas
2. Combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt, tahini, and water in a food processor, and blend to a creamy purée
3. You may wish to add further lemon juice, garlic, cumin or salt to taste
4. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and scatter with a few leftover chickpeas





A's lamb kebab marinade

Ingredients

Diced lamb (we used approx 14 little pieces to fill two pitta breads each)
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsps olive oil
half a teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well
2. Cover and pop in the fridge for one hour, longer if you have the time
3. Heat a frying pan and add the ingredients, frying the lamb on each side for about two minutes. The onion will likely cook quicker, remove before the lamb if so. It may also be worth cooking in batches. Easier this way


*I quite like carrots. They form the other 10%.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Magimixed Pizza


I have a new toy.

Its a Magimix 4200.

As those of you who followed my macaroon catastrophe may recall, my trusty handwhisk went up in smoke this week. Literally. I'd been thinking for a while to purchase me a posh mixer/processor item and with the sad demise* of the handwhisk, I found myself happily perusing the Kitchen Department of John Lewis.

I'd heard some pretty darn good things about the Magimix over the years. So the saleslady, it was fair to say, didn't have her work cut out selling it to me. I did enjoy her demonstration: when I asked how it worked, a carrot suddenly appeared in an extremely-efficient-John Lewis type of way and we both stared, fascinated, as the Magimix swiftly decapitated and annihilated the carrot. I, or rather it, was sold.

It proved a bit of a mission to get it home, being very bulky and heavy. Mental note to self: do not buy large, heavy and bulky electrical items from the UK's busiest shopping street and expect it to be easy to get home. I dragged it though John Lewis, heaved it along Oxford Street, kneecapped several tourists in my way and lugged it on to the No 6 bus home.

Upon setting the Magimix (or 'chopper box' as A refers to it) up I was itching to recreate the carrot massacre of earlier. Nothing in the kitchen was safe. Everything and anything that was remotely edible went in. We have no item of food left in the entire flat that hasn't been sliced, chopped, grated, diced, whipped, mixed etc etc.

So, with thanks to our special guest, the Magimix, tonight Matthew for tea we're having chilli, courgette and chicken pizza. Here's how:

Chilli, Courgette and Chicken Pizza
(adapted from Olive Magazine, June 2011 and Women's Institute 'Bread' by Liz Herbert)

Makes two small round pizzas or one large rectangle pizza

For the pizza dough:
225g strong white bread flour
half a teaspoon of salt
three quarters teaspoon fast action dried yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
150ml warm water

For the tomato sauce:
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 crushed garlic clove
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon olive oil
half a teaspoon red wine vinegar
half a teaspoon dried oregano

For the topping:
1 medium courgette, sliced (in a Magimix!)
2-3 tablespoons basil pesto
115g cooked, diced (in a Magimix!) chicken breast tossed in 2 teaspoons of olive oil and a quarter of a teaspoon of chilli flakes
3-4 tablespoons grated (in a Magimix!) Parmesan cheese
Basil leaves to decorate

1. Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil and water. Using a knife then your hands combine to a soft dough
2. Knead on a work surface for 10-12 minutes until smooth and elastic
3. Cover and let it prove in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size
4. Combine all the tomato sauce ingredients in a small pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered for approximately thirty minutes until thickened
5. Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8. Grease and pop some greaseproof paper on one or two baking sheets depending on how big you'd like your pizza
6. Roll out the dough into two small circles or one large rectangle and brush lightly with olive oil
7. Spread the tomato sauce on top of the dough
8. Scatter over the courgette and the chicken
9. Dot over the pesto and sprinkle over the Parmasan
10. Bake for 10-14 minutes until the dough is crispy and sprinkle over the basil leaves



*Well, not that sad. I got my Magimix out of it. I love the Magimix. You may already know this.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Macaroon disasters and emergency fairy cake substitutes

It was a good friend's birthday, and following the reasonable success (which may have possibly gone to my head) of the chocolate macaroons I made the other week, I decided to make my friend some raspberry macaroons as a present. This decision was supported by a timely recipe for raspberry macaroons by Edd from The Great British Bake Off  in this month's Good Food magazine. Easy peasy I thought.

 How wrong could one person be?

Very. They were, as Craig Revell-Horwood would say of Ann Widdecombe's dancing in 'Strictly Come Dancing' *:

'an absolute disss-arrrhh-sstarr darling'.

I even tried them twice to see if they would work. A whole bunch of egg, the entire local shop's supply of ground almonds and a very, very messy kitchen later, my postmortem on the macaroons revealed that:

a) When, during the first batch I made, my electric handmixer started making an awful clunking noise, followed by smelling strongly of smoke and then, indeed, billowing black smoke, I should have, erm, stopped. Gallantly continuing with the first batch, and then the second, with the rather pathetic strength of my right arm and a non-electric whisk was not terribly successful.

b) Rather than simply guessing what 118 C feels like ('oww, that is very hot') I should have probably invested in a sugar thermometer

c) Crossing my fingers, sending a prayer up to the Gods of Baking and hoping for the best as I shoved a baking sheet full of congealed pink liquid into the oven most definately doesn't work



So, a bit like John Sergeant in the aforementioned Strictly, after one too many failed attempts, I finally gave up.

However, being rather a stubborn sort-of-so-and-so I am rather determined to attempt raspberry macaroons once again. Indeed, I stated quite clearly to the failed macaroons: 'I WILL NOT BE BEATEN BY YOU MACAROON! I WILL BE BACK!'. They didn't respond.

The tale sort of has a happy ending. Lacking a present for my friend, I turned to one of the new baking books I'd received for my birthday, the quite brilliant 'Peyton and Byrne: British Baking' and, raiding my emergency chocolate stash, made their double chocolate fairy cakes instead:



Peyton and Byrne Chocolate Fairy Cakes

Ingredients

100g good quality dark chocolate
110g unsalted butter at room temperature
100g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
2 eggs
140g plain flour
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
100ml buttermilk

For the chocolate fudge icing

60g good quality dark chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp boiling water
90g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
half a teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3 and line a 12 hole bun tine with paper cases
2. Melt the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over a small pan of boiling water, then set aside
3. Cream the sugars and butter together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well.
4. Fold in the melted chocolate
5. Sift the flour and bicarb and gently fold into the creamed butter mix until well combined
6. Add the vanilla and buttermilk until just well combined
7. Fill the cases three quarters full and bake for 15 minutes or until they spring back to touch. Cool on a wired rack
8. To make the icing: melt the chocolate in a pyrex glass bowl over a small pan of boiling water
9. In a jug dissolve the cocoa powder into the boiling water, then add the melted chocolate and stir
10. Cream the softened butter, add the icing sugar, vanilla, salt and chocolate mixture and beat for about another two minutes until soft and creamy
11. Spoon, spread or pipe the icing on top of the cakes. Decorate.

Baker's notes...

  • I actually only had enough ingredients to make half the icing and I found this sufficient to cover almost all the cakes (I'd already eaten a 'test' one before giving the rest to my friends)
  • These were decorated with little white chocolate stars. As you can probably see. 
  • The cakes will last you 2-3 days in an airtight container. If there are any left after the first day that is.



* I adore this show and feel totally bereft between the months of January to September when it isn't on my screen every Saturday night.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Mini Spring Cupcakes





As you may have gathered from recent postings I am rather partial to chocolate. Other people may call it an addiction. In fact, I reckon it would take a full frontal lobotomy and lifetime stint in rehab to wean me off the stuff. So there was considerable temptation to make little chocolate mini cupcakes to give to friends as little Spring gifts.


However, I resisted. With Spring in the air, temperatures rising, flowers blooming and lambs frolicking (admittedly there are very few lambs frolicking in Central London but you get my drift), I felt a more zingy, citrusey lemon flavour would be more seasonal. And so these little beauts came about.


Zingy lemon mini cupcakes
(Recipe adapted from Rachel Allen: Bake)


Ingredients


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


For the icing:
100g icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp lemon juice


Sugared lemon quarters to decorate


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
9. To make the icing pop the icing sugar into a bowl and very gradually add the lemon juice, stirring constantly until you have a thick icing 
10. Gently spoon the icing on top of the cakes and decorate




Baker's notes...

  • This recipe will either make approx 24 mini cupcakes or 12 'normal' sized cupcakes. If making the 'normal' sized cupcakes, simply bake at the same temperature for 7-10 minutes
  • I used mini muffin silicone moulds for this version
  • A lemon buttercream icing would work just as well as the icing above
  • The sugared lemon quarters are made by Silver Spoon and available in most large supermarkets
  • The cupcakes last for 2-3 days in an airtight container
  • Most cake recipes can be adapted into mini cupcakes, but be wary of cake recipes with large pieces of fruit which would not work so well





Sunday, 1 May 2011

Happy Birthday!


...to me!

Yes, twenty (ahem) nine years ago to this day, while the HMS Conqueror was sinking the Argentine cruiser The General Belgrano in the Falklands War and Paul McCartnery and Stevie Wonder were riding high at the top of the charts, two weeks later than originally intended, this sweet-toothed baking enthusiast popped into the world.


And to celebrate my guest-blogger-sister Beth (off of Simnel Cake fame a week ago) extremely kindly baked these beautiful cupcakes for my enjoyment. Its okay, I did share them, even though A says I don't do sharing when it comes to cake.


The recipe is from Jamie Oliver's book,  'Cook with Jamie'

Ingredients

225g/8oz unsalted butter, softened
225g/8oz self-raising flour
225g/8oz caster sugar
4 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
50g fresh berries (e.g. raspberries, strawberries, blackberries)
150g icing sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
2. Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until fluffy and light
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each one in well
4. Fold in the flour and lemon
5. Divide equally between 18 paper cases
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until the tops spring back to touch
7. To make the icing, mash up the fruit, and sieve if required to remove any pips
8. Mix in the icing to the fruit until you have a smooth paste
9. Spoon on top of the cooled cakes and add extra berries to decorate



PS: I also had a whole host of lovely baking goodies from my brother and sister, some of which were wrapped in pink wrapping paper with recipes on them that Beth made! How amazing?!