Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Caramelised Baked Apples with Almonds and Sultanas

Why does food baked and eaten whilst camping taste so much better than the average weeknight supper?

I have my hypotheses. Now there's a word I haven't used such I was approximately 14 years of age and regularly attending Mr Stewart's science class.

Anyways, my hypotheses:

1. The Great Outdoors seems to add an extra layer of flavour. Think of fresh air as a complex seasoning.

2. More often that not, picnics/BBQs/campfire meals are social occasions. And more often than not, food tastes better eaten in company.

3. Food outdoors is a bit of an adventure. Trying to figure out how to cook a roast dinner/souffle/croquembouche on a camping stove with a plastic cutlery set is no doubt described as some as an adventure...

By now you are probably wondering why I'm writing about camping food in the middle of one of the stormiest spells of weather this winter. Well, I was contacted by Thompson Al Fresco and asked to develop a healthy eating recipe that could be baked whilst camping.

(I like a challenge I do)

Harking back to my childhood camping experiences, in the main experienced through the Girl Guides and Duke Of Edinburgh Award, our camping diet consisted almost solely of packed flavoured-pasta that a drop of boiling water would bring (sort of) to life and Mars Bars. In later years the Mars Bars would be carefully chopped, added to a banana, wrapped in foil and baked in the campfire. The height of sophisticated camping food West Wales circa 1994. 

Determined to be a little more ambitious this time round I've baked a nice-n-easy, super tasty, healthy treat. I give you:

Caramelised Baked Apples with Almonds and Sultanas

Six nice, big as you can find 'em eating apples
75g unsalted butter
75g soft brown sugar
50g chopped almonds
50g sultanas
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp of cinnamon

You'll also need:
Six segements of foil approximately 20cm x 20cm
Frying or saucepan for use over the campfire or camping stove
1 sharp knife and a pair of tongs 

Cream to serve

1. Using a sharp knife remove the core from each of the apples, being careful not to split the apples when doing so. Score a line around the middle of each apple to prevent the skin from splitting and place each apple in the centre of a piece of the foil
2. Mix together the dried fruit, nuts, zest and 
cinnamon in a small bowl 
3. Heat the butter and sugar gently on a camping saucepan or frying pan until melted and nicely caramelised. Stir in the fruity, nutty mixture
4. Pour the nutty caramel mixture into each of the cored apples, drizzling any extra mixture over the top of each apple
5. Carefully wrap each apple in foil and place the apples on the coals and, after 10 minutes, roll them over using a pair of tongs. Roll them out of the coals after 20 minutes, letting cool for a few minutes before unwrapping and serving.

Bakers notes...

  • It may be helpful to weigh out the ingredients beforehand and store in reusable plastic containers to save faffing around trying to figure out exactly how much 75g of sugar weighs...
  • Although I've used almonds in this recipe, pretty much any nut with do!
  • Chopped raisins, cherries, apricots, dried mixed fruit would also be lovely additions.
  • If baking at home, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and bake for 20-30 minutes in the centre of the oven.
  • What's your favourite camping recipe? Roll on the summer please, so I can be putting them all to good use!

This post was sponsored by Thompson Al Fresco (self catering mobile home and family camping holidays in Europe) who sent a selection of cooking utensils and products for use in the development of this recipe. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Chocolate Orange Cake...and not making Marmalade

Baking is over. Finished. Kaput.

(Ohh, now there's a somewhat dramatic start to a blog post).

But apparently it's very sadly true.

According to Stylist Magazine instead of baking, 2013 is the year of pickling, preserving and smoking food. Inspired by the farmer's market mentality and in a bid to eat seasonally and locally, 'instead of baking or blogging, this year we’ll be turning our hands to smoking our own food (meat, fish and vegetables), pickling and preserving'. 

Tom Parker Bowles describes humankind advancing thanks to pickling:  'empires were built on brined meat and pickled fish'. And it appears Britain has gone confiture crazy. Last year saw sales of jam thermometers rise by 17 per cent, jam jars by 37 per cent and jam funnels by 61 per cent at John Lewis.

(Just in case you're in the process of double checking the name of my blog, I promise I'm not about to suddenly move in a brand new, somewhat unexpected non-baking direction with posts discussing the pros of various embalming vinegar and debating on the merits of various flavourings).

While I've experimented with jams and chutneys here on What Kate Baked, each new year I promise myself I will make marmalade. January of course is seville orange season. In Nigel Slater's ode to marmalade, he describes the 'pot or two of bright, shining happiness', adding seville marmalade is 'a taste of the sun on toast'. 

And yet here we are, four days before the end of the month and my preserving pan remains shut away at the back of the cupboard, the jam jars I'd saved up continue to gather dust and work, life and generally hibernating has got in the way again.

Instead of a lovely marmalade recipe I'd hoped to post I give you the next best thing- a lovely, easy-peesy to bake chocolate marmalade cake. Which you can make with or without home made marmalade.

This bake was also inspired by Dom from Belleau Kitchen's monthly Random Recipe challenge. This month's theme involves randomly selecting from someone else’s books rather than our own. My friend, a huge Nigella fan, who openly admits to not feeling the need or desire to own any other cookbook, randomly selected Nigella's Storecupboard Chocolate Orange Cake. Complete with a healthy 300g of marmalade. 

Baker's notes...

  • I didn't deviate greatly from the original recipe, which can be found in Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess. Page 170 to be exact. My only changes were to add in a couple of teaspoons of ground ginger and decorate with clementine segments and dusting of icing sugar.
Random Recipes #23 - December

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Hazelnut and Coffee Cream Biscuits

I have had a thirty year love affair with French supermarkets.

On annual family camping holidays to France as a child I would love the weekly visit to the local supermarché. Wondering from aisle to aisle mesmorised by the unfamiliar packaging, the exotic sounding products and, invariably trying to sneak in at least six extra boxes of La Vache Qui Rit ('Laughing Cow' cheese) and a few extra CaremBars into the trolley.

Not a huge amount has changed in the intervening years. I just try and persuade myself that the boxes of Laughing Cow are for nostalgia's sake.

Really, I would happily survive on the stuff for the rest of my days. 

And even in possession of a GCSE French 'A' grade I continue to stare, somewhat baffled, at the various packages, attempting to guess the contents on the basis of the pictures.

Course, with all the baking, I'm obliged to factor in extra time in the home baking aisle. Not that Andrew minds, he gets extra time in le vin aisle.

I'm currently eking out treasured bottles of various baking essences and extracts from a trip 18 months ago. Meanwhile, returning from the recent trip to France my suitcase contained at least four mysterious French baking ingredients to every sock.

Here's a little of the recent booty*:

And centre-right is a little bottle of extract de café which inspired these biscuits.

Hazelnut and Coffee Cream Biscuits 

150g whole peeled hazelnuts, toasted

125g unsalted butter
150g soft brown sugar
Zest 1 orange
1 large egg
125g plain flour
0.5 tsp baking powder

Decoration and filling:

Egg wash made by lightly mixing 1 medium egg with 1 tbsp water

75g butter

125g icing sugar
1 tsp coffee extract
A tbsp or two of milk, if required

1. Grease and line two baking sheets with parchment paper
2. Set aside approximately a dozen of the hazelnuts for decoration. Place the remainder in a food processor and pulse until just finely ground. Set aside

3. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the zest and egg and continue to beat until fully incorporated. 
4. Gradually beat in the flour and baking powder and then mix in the ground hazelnuts, taking care not to overmix
5. Using your hands roll the dough into a long, thin roll, approx 2-3 inch in diameter. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm
6. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/170C fan/Gas Mark 4
7. Remove the dough from the fridge and slice the dough into biscuits rounds. 

Alternatively roll out the dough on a floured worksurface and use a biscuit cutter to cut into rounds. Half of the biscuits will now become the top layer: place a hazelnut into the centre of each 'top' biscuit and lightly brush with the egg wash. 
8. Place all the biscuits onto the prepared baking trays. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. 
10. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
11. To make the coffee cream filling: beat together the butter, icing sugar and coffee extract until smooth and glossy. Add a tbsp of milk if required. Use a piping bag or teaspoon to sandwich together the biscuits with the coffee cream

Baker's notes...

  • You can use 2 tsp instant coffee mixed with 2 tsp hot water as a substitute for the coffee extract
  • These are lovely, nutty little biscuits with a subtle hint of creamy coffee 
  • The biscuit bases freeze well for up to one month. The recipe should make approximately 12-14 sandwiched biscuits
  • This recipe calls for peeled hazelnuts. Sitting peeling hazelnuts is not the most scintillating of baking jobs. However, I used the following method which led to the skins practically dissolving off the hazelnuts in front of my eyes:

1. Bring 500ml of water to the boil. 
2. Add 2 tbsps bicarbonate of soda. At this stage the water will foam up in the manner of a mad-cap science experiment. This is okay, I promise:

3. Add the hazelnuts and watch while the water turns black. Again, in the manner of a mad-cap science experiment. Again, this is okay, I promise. Really.
4. Meanwhile, fill a second pan with ice cold water
5. After 3-4 minutes use a slotted spoon to remove the hazelnuts and plunge them into their cold water bath

6. Remove from the cold water pan one by one and peel with ease. Honestly. Dry with a teatowel or kitchen towel

7. To toast place on a baking tray in an oven preheated to 180C/350F for 10-15 minutes being careful not to burn them after all your hard work peeling the hazelnuts

(The other alternative, most definately worth considering you may feel, is buying ready skinned, toasted and chopped hazelnuts from the supermarket)

* On a trip to my local Waitrose yesterday I discovered that at least half of these products can be easily purchased there. At half the price. Ah well, at least I did my bit for the French economy.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Coconut Cakes with Lime Drizzle

I have spent the last seven days skiing. 

Having not been for over three years I was a teeny bit apprehensive I might fly off the side of the mountain on the first day shrieking 'Swoosh....swoosh......Gaggghhhhh!!!!'.

However it soon came flooding back to me: Attempting each morning to put on the ski boots proving to be a very effective warm up. The careful retrieval from an obscure ski jacket pocket, unwrapping and eating of a mars bar on a chair lift, desperately hoping the gloves/goggles/chocolate/myself won't end up falling twenty meters to the ground. The glory of the mountain air and breathtaking alpine scenery. 

The walking like a drunken cowboy in ski boots. The après ski four course meals. The warming chocolat choud half way up the piste after an energetic mornings ski. 

The fresh air and enchanting snow. The discovery that after several vin chauds that black run doesn't seem so tricky after all ('weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee'). 

The going to the loo in full ski gear being an Olympic sized mission. Post-slope afternoon tea and cake.

(As you may be able to discern, ski trips I attend are as much about the food as they are about the actual skiing.

But I'm sure you wouldn't expect anything less).

These simple but tasty little cakes I baked today to celebrate the end of the glorious week:

Coconut Cakes with Lime Drizzle

For the cakes:
125g self-raising flour 
1 tsp baking powder
50g dessicated coconut
150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 tsp finely grated lime rind
3 beaten eggs
100ml natural yogurt

For the drizzle and decoration:
8 tbsp icing sugar
juice 2 limes
1 tsp lime zest

1. Line a twelve hole muffin tin with paper cases and preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas Mark 5. In a bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and coconut and set aside. 
2. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter, sugar and lime rind until pale and creamy. 
3. Gradually add the eggs, continuing to beat well. 
4.  In alternate batches stir in the flour and coconut mixture then the yogurt until just combined
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden in colour. Cool on a wire rack
5. Make the drizzle by combining the icing sugar and lime juice. Drizzle over the upturned cooled cakes and decorate with lime zest

Baker's notes...

  • The intense, zesty lime and sweet coconut are a classic match (made on a tropical island far, far away from our cold, soggy shores)
  • With the inclusion of lime these bakes are perfect for this month's Tea Time Treats theme, Citrus Fruits, presented by my fellow host, Karen from Lavender and Lovage

Tea Time Treats Challenge Logo

Saturday, 5 January 2013

How to Survive January and Warming Winter Brownies


How to Survive January

1. Make a New Years Resolution that you already do. A bit like adding an item that you've already done onto a to-do list for the instant smug satisfaction of immediately crossing it off again. Resolution could be: Go running (you completed the London Marathon in record time last year) or Bake a Cake Each Day for 2013 (not a problem my friend!).

2. Set yourself the challenge of cooking every single recipe from the cookbook(s) you received at Christmas. And if you received Jamie's '15 Minute Meals' try cooking at least one recipe within the fifteen minutes without:

a) the house burning down 
b) making your own, simplified alternative ('cheese on toast' is not 'Camembert Parcels') 
c) ordering take-away and requesting an express delivery

3. Pretend it's still Christmas. Turkey sandwich and leftover Christmas pud anyone? ....Hello?



(Apologies for the somewhat aggressive capital letters of the last two points but strong emphasis is much needed)

6. Reorganise the cooking utensils drawer (This is a survival list, not a fun list).  

7. Watch a highlight package from the Olympics. Remember the summer of glory? Of Jess and Mo? Relive the joy! The excitement! That 2012-y feeling! 

8. Go for a lovely long walk. Take a flask of tea, a tasty piece of cake and have a winter picnic. With our soggy weather, you may also need waterproofs, thermals and a bivvy bag:

Hampstead Heath, New Year's Day

9. Enter this month's Tea Time Treats baking challenge: Citrus fruits for a zingy January

10. Bake some Warming Winter Brownies:



30ml brandy (optional)
50g cherries
50g dried cranberries

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

1 tsp mixed spice
100g blanched almonds or pecans

1. If using the brandy, place the cherries and cranberries into a small bowl. Gently heat the brandy before pouring over the dried fruit. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4.
3. Line the bottom of a baking tin, approximately 23cm x 23cm, with baking parchment. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and mixed spice in a bowl and set aside
4. Put the sugar and butter into the bowl of a food mixer and beat for several minutes till light and fluffy
5. Meanwhile, break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a pyrex bowl suspended over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. As soon as the chocolate has melted remove it from the heat. 
6. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork
7. With the food mixer running slowly, introduce the beaten egg a little at a time, speeding up in between additions
9. Remove the bowl from the mixer to the work surface, then mix in the melted chocolate with a large metal spoon. Mix in the almonds and dried fruit and brandy
10. Lastly, fold in the dry ingredients, without knocking any of the air out
11. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top and bake for 30 minutes
12. Once cooled, cut into squares and dredge with icing sugar 

Baker's notes...

  • Complete with brandy, chocolate and lots of juicy dried fruit, this really, really does not fit the category of 'simplified, healthy New Year bakes' that you may expect to see in a January blog post
  • I'm off skiing today. My answer to surviving January. As I write this I have packed my ski insurance, my helmet and a week's supply of emergency mini mars bars. Essential packing sorted I think.