Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Date and Orange Hot Cross Buns




Similar to its Easter-sweet-treat colleague, the Creme Egg, Hot Cross Buns are now available all year round in a myriad of different (and posh) flavours. It's easy to throw in the basket a pack or two during a weekly food shop or at the local bakers. But I promise shop-bought ones are incomparable to the reward of producing a tray of freshly baked homemade Hot Cross Buns, enjoyed warm with a cuppa over the long Easter weekend.

Yes, the bun dough is super sticky and requires the patience of Mary Berry when sifting through the hundreds of thousands of hopeful applications for the next series of The Great British Bake Off, determined to find the next Frances, John, Joanne or Edd. 


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Celebrating Three Years of What Kate Baked: Cherry Chocolate Biscuit Bars




The making of these bars involved a thirty minute walk to Waitrose, fourteen minutes perusing the aisles, ninety seconds of which was spent indecisively selecting the chocolate for the recipe and forty seconds chatting happily with the cashier as to what I was planning to bake. On return home, ten seconds was spent arguing with clingfilm as I attempted to line a loaf tin. One minute involved violently bashing digestive biscuits into smithereens in a plastic food bag, the clingfilm episode still fresh in my mind. Chocolate, syrup and butter was melted for three minutes into a lovely, sweet, rich gloop. The battered biscuits and a couple of bags of soured cherries were stirred for thirty seconds into the gloop before being spooned into the loaf tin. My husband and I then spent an increasingly impatient three hours waiting for the bars to set in the fridge before devouring with gusto. 

Friday, 21 March 2014

Peach and Almond Pie and Giveaway: Baking Set and Cinema Tickets for 'Labor Day'




Many a great film is defined by an iconic scene of food on the big screen. That moment in Lady and a Tramp when a clandestine kiss is shared over a bowlful of spaghetti. The 1961 Château Cheval Blanc quaffed in a Styrofoam cup in a burger joint in the final scenes of Sideways.  The sweet, tempting and ultimately deadly for poor, greedy Augustus Gloop, chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Those pies with their inventive names inspired by the life events of baker Jenna in Waitress. And of course THAT infamous scene at Katz's Delicatessen in When Harry Met Sally.


Thursday, 13 March 2014

Luscious Lemon Loaf Cake with Lime Drizzle



It's very tempting to bake with bright, zesty citrus fruits this time of year; the fresh, zingy lemons, limes and oranges brightening the last few days of Winter and representing the much anticipated longer, warmer Spring days. A cheery promise of what is to come. 

As I squeeze, juice and zest the lemons and limes for this cake I'm reminded of a family Easter holiday several years ago that found us in Sóller, North West Mallorca. An attractive market town, Sóller is nestled among miles upon miles of abundant, lush orange groves in the very aptly named 'Golden Valley'. Breakfast each morning would start with a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. The citrus flavoured ice creams in the local heladería became firm favourites, enjoyed each evening in the cobbled main square. Strolling through the surrounding area, we'd greedily inhale the heady scent of citrus blossom. I'd wager my favourite bundt tin that there isn't is a sweeter, sunnier perfume to be found. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Rhubarb and Stem Ginger Steamed Puddings


                           

Forced rhubarb tickles me pink. I love the thought of producers coaching and cajoling the rhubarb to make an appearance in the late winter months, a season certainly not known for its rich pickings or abundant crops.

Then there's the harvesting of the long, thick barbie-pink stalks in the flickering candlelight. To accompany this positively romantic setting do they play the rhubarb a little Lionel Richie, Etta James or Righteous Brothers in encouragement? 'Hello! Is it me that you're looking for' etc? 

Monday, 3 March 2014

Pear, Cinnamon and Walnut Pancakes



Frying pans at the ready...it's Shrove Tuesday and Pancake Day! 

Today traditionally marks the beginning of Lent, a time of abstinence. Cooking a batch of pancakes enables indulgent ingredients such as butter, flour and eggs to be used up in one glorious flip of the pan. Perhaps it's just as well a period of self-restraint occurs shortly after Shrove Tuesday; one of the earliest pancake recipes, from 1544, calls for a magnificently rich ingredient list including four to five egg yolks and two or three spoonfuls of ale with ginger and cinnamon. 

Last year over 40% of us flipped our way to pancake perfection using over 52 million eggs in the process. Here are a few tips to ensure you don't spend today pushing soggy lumps of lemon-drenched half-cooked pancake mixture around your plate....

                                       

After a few years of enjoying the more traditional, thin crepe-like pancakes, this year I thought to make fluffy breakfast American-style pancakes, complete with cinnamon, pear and walnut. And with a very generous pouring of maple syrup of course.

                           

Breakfast Pancakes with Cinnamon, Pear and Walnuts

135g self raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
30g light brown sugar
1 large egg
250ml milk
1 pear, peeled and grated

A knob or two of butter for the pan

A handful of walnuts and maple or golden syrup to serve

1. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, sugar and a pinch of salt into a large bowl.
2. In a jug, lightly whisk together the egg and milk.
3. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, whisking continuously to form a smooth batter. Stir in the grated pear
4. Let the batter stand for a few minutes.
5. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of butter. Carefully wipe away any excess butter with a piece of kitchen towel. Add a ladle of batter, cooking each pancake for 2-3 minutes until the top is bubbly, before flipping over. The pancakes will be fluffy and golden in colour when ready. They can be kept warm in a low oven while cooking the remainder.
6. Serve with a sprinkle of roughly chopped walnuts and a generous pour of maple syrup

Baker's notes...

  • The batter can be prepared the night before and stored in the fridge
  • Instead of pear, grated apple would work just as well
  • Happy flipping!
                              

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Happy St David's Day: Teisen Lap


St David's Day is celebrated in Wales on the 1st March each year, in honour of Dewi Sant (St David), our patron saint. Little is known about him for certain. Which makes me think he almost certainly slayed the dragon that stands proud on the Welsh flag*. 

You may already be celebrating with a brunch of melting, golden Welsh Rarebit, aka, 'World's Best Cheese on Toast'. Perhaps you're planning a tea of warm Welsh Cakes, lightly spiced and fresh from the griddle.  

Or perhaps you might enjoy a slice of Teisen Lap.