Friday, 30 November 2012

Mini christmas cakes

I have to admit that I am not a huge Christmas cake lover, sometimes I will partake in a slice if I am in the mood, and I do quite like the Yorkshire way of an un-iced cake with a slice of Wensleydale cheese... yum.

Saying that I saw a recipe for mini Christmas cakes in jars in this months good food magazine. They looked so cute that I had to make them. I was already planning some homemade hampers as Christmas gifts and so decided that these would be perfect to go into them.

I have adapted the recipe from the magazine, is it just me or are raisins, currants and sultanas very similar once they have been soaked? So I took out the currants and substituted dried cranberries. Admittedly I had no currants in but did have cranberries so this helped the decision somewhat!

I also omitted dark chocolate chips, maybe I do not eat enough Christmas cake, but chocolate, in a Christmas cake, really?

Mini Christmas cakes in jars (adapted from good food magazine)

makes 2

65g raisins
65g sultanas
45g dried cranberries
35g stoned dates, chopped
15-20g glacĂ© cherries, quartered
zest and juice of an orange
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
75g butter
70g light brown sugar
1 large egg
75g plain flour
tsp cinnamon
tsp mixed spice
extra brandy to feed the cake (optional)

2x 500ml kilner jars, with clip lids

Place the raisins, sultans, cranberries, dates and glacĂ© cherries into a bowl, add the zest and juice of the orange and the brandy. Cover with clingfilm and allow to soak overnight. By morning the fruit should have plumped up and absorbed all the liquid.  

Preheat the oven to 150C/130C FAN. 

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the egg and a tablespoon of the flour and mix to combine. Add the remaining flour, and spices and stir by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Stir through the soaked fruit until evenly dispersed.

Divide the mixture between the two kilner jars. Place onto baking trays with the lids open, remember to remove the rubber seal BEFORE baking.

Bake for 90-110 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. 

Allow the cakes to fully cool. Prick all over with a skewer and drizzle each cake with an extra 1/2 tsp of brandy.

I am now going to feed the cakes twice a week with a little extra splash of brandy.

There is still plenty of time to get your cake made, including some feeding time! I will be decorating my cakes in a few weeks time, I would love for you to pop back and see what I do.   

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Macadamia, white chocolate and cranberry biscotti

These were a pre Christmas test, as I plan to put the refined products into hampers I am making. I have a few ideas for the hampers and will of course be having to test them all out before I give them away. As M says, its a hard life being cake tester!

Macadamia, white chocolate and cranberry biscotti

makes ~ 24

 140g plain flour
150g caster sugar
tsp baking powder
2 eggs
tsp vanilla paste
50g dried cranberries
50g white chocolate, roughly chopped
50g macadamias, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 150C/130C FAN and grease and flour a large baking sheet.

Mix the flour sugar and baking power together. Whisk together the eggs and vanilla and add to the bowl. Mix until it has all just about come together. Add the cranberries, nuts and chocolate and mix until they are well distributed and everything is incorporated.

Spoon the dough into a log shape on the baking sheet, about 20cm long and 5cm wide. It will spread so do not make it too wide, it does not spread length ways so much.

Bake for 35 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and using a sharp knife cut into slices 1cm wide.

Lay the slices baking on the baking sheet and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and turn the slices over. Put back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

These were deemed delicious as they were by M but I want to make a couple of minor tweaks before giving them away.

When I make them again I plan to soak the cranberries overnight in fresh orange juice for added zing. I am also going to increase the amount of macadamia nuts to 75g. I may also increase the white chocolate, still toying with that idea. I think its time to put the kettle on have a couple more and mull it over!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Oaty slices

I was going to call these flapjacks but they did not really turn out that way. Instead of a soft chewy flapjack with crunchy edges these were all crunchy, like a biscuit with only a slight chew in the very centre.

Not sure if I dropped the ball when weighing things out or if I knocked the temperature setting on the oven. Still the verdict all round was that they were yummy, and if only I knew whatt I did I could make them again.

I made these using the remaining ingredients from Frances, as part of the seasonal ingredient swap, (I also made spiced fruit and nut shortbread)

Oaty slices

makes 16

175g porridge oats
70g cranberries
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
tsp cinnamon
tsp mixed  spice
130g butter
35g golden syrup
105g light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C FAN and grease and line a brownie tin , or similar.

Mix the oats, cranberries, walnuts and spices in a large mixing bowl.

Gently heat the butter, golden syrup and sugar over a low heat until the butter has melted.

Add the liquid to the dry ingredients an mix until thoroughly combined. Press into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until lightly golden. 

Leave to cool in the tin for 15-30 minutes then use the lining paper to transfer onto a wire rack. Cut into 16 pieces while slightly warm and then allow to finish cooling.

If anyone makes these can you let me know if they turned out like flapjacks or biscuits!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Jarlsberg twist bread

A massive thank you to alpha bakes this month, my bake was delicious! J is a very tough letter it has to be said, and I did not want to make something with Jam until I had really put my thinking cap on.

And then I found it... in my hairy bikers bakation book. Jarlsberg twist bread. I had actually wanted to make this a few months ago but was thwarted when I could not get the cheese.

Jarlsberg cheese is a lovely Norwegian cheese that has a slightly nutty flavour and melts really nicely.

This is a lovely bread and I urge you to try it. M declared after a bite it was quite possibly his favourite bread that I have made. The taste is fantastic, I really love the flavour of this cheese,  and the texture is lovely and soft with a good crust and a melty centre from the cheese. Not to mention it looks pretty!

Jarlsberg twist bread

makes 2 small loaves

7g packet of fast action yeast
tsp caster sugar
125ml warm water
250g bread flour
5g salt
135g Jarlsberg cheese, grated
50ml milk
25g butter
1 egg

Put the yeast and sugar in a bowl and add half of the warm water, Mix and leave for 10 minutes, until frothy. 

Mix the flour, 50g of the cheese and the salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

Put the remaining water, the milk and the butter in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter is just melted. Stir the melted mix and the egg into the yeast mixture. Gradually incorporate the liquid into the flour bowl, mixing with a wooden spoon, and then your hands, until a soft dough is formed.

Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave for ~ hour until doubled in size.

Lightly flour a surface and knock back the dough. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each into a rectangle roughly 25 by 20cm. Mix the remaining cheese with thyme (as much or as little as you like) and sprinkle evenly over the rectangles, leaving a 1cm gap around the edges. Roll up tightly form the short edges and squeeze the ends to seal.
Place one roll vertically in front of you and cut up the middle, leaving ~ 1cm at the top.

 Braid the two halves over each other, trying to keep the exposed cheese and thyme centre on the top. Place on a baking sheet and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes or so until increased in size. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C FAN . 

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and hollow sounding when tapped on the base. 

Leave to cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack and then dig in!

This bread is lovely on its own, with soup or split and used in a sandwich. On a final note, the bikers use parsley, but I am not its biggest fan, especially not with cheese.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Spiced fruit and nut shortbreads

Ruth over at Makey-Cakey  has set up a seasonal ingredient swap. I missed her previous swap and so it was with some interest I read the principle behind it. Anyone who expresses an interest is paired up by Ruth and each person sends their partner an ingredient, preferably an interesting one, not a staple like flour! You then bake something with your received ingredient and Ruth posts a round up of everyone's creative bakes.

This time it was a seasonal swap, mind you the season is autumn, encompassing Halloween  bonfire night and thanksgiving, so the range of ingredients you could possibly send is very broad!

I was paired up with Frances. Frances does not have a blog herself but enjoys baking, looking at others blogs and taking part in baking challenges such as these.

Frances pointed out that it was the 200th anniversary of  the birth of Charles Dickens, and sent ingredients inspired by a passage from The mystery of Edwin Drood, one of Charles' works that I must confess that I have not read.

She sent me walnut pieces, dried cranberries and cinnamon (also some fab chocolatey sprinkles but I have other ideas for these!)

So I put my thinking cap on and slowly an idea began to emerge. When many people think of shortbread they think of clotted cream, strawberries and cream and ice cream. All very summery things. I decided to bring the shortbread biscuit into Autumn by using my sent ingredients.

Spiced fruit and nut shortbread biscuits

makes 10, easily doubled

100g butter
50g light brown sugar
115g plain flour
15g rice flour
heaped 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
25g of walnut pieces, roughly chopped
25g dried cranberries, roughly chopped

Cream together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add all the other ingredients and bring together, using a spoon, hands or combination of the two, until a dough is formed.

Divide the dough into two, wrap each in clingfilm and chill for 15-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C FAN. Roll out one piece of dough at a time a cut out what ever shape you like. Re-roll the trimmings and cut out more shapes. Its up to you but I do not like to roll more than twice as it makes the shortbread much less short. Place the shortbread shapes onto baking sheets. Repeat with the second piece  of dough.

If you want really sharp edges to your shortbread chill in the fridge or freezer for 15-30 minutes, this will help prevent the shortbread spread whilst baking. I did not really have time and as I made shortbread rounds it was not as important.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

These shortbread are genuinely one of my favourite shortbreads that I have made. Its highly tempting to use the leftover ingredients for more shortbread but I have another idea, so watch this space!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Banana and cardamom bread

This banana bread was a little bit if an experiment, I normally follow recipes, sometimes it is just a basic recipe that I use for inspiration, other times it is a hash of a few recipes but still, a recipe is involved somewhere.

This banana bread was a worry the whole time it was in the oven as I have to admit I went totally off piste and made it up as I went along.

The reason for this is that I love banana bread but find it can often be quite heavy, I wanted to lighten the cake, BUT in lightening it I did not want to make it too dry, banana bread is most definitely meant to be moist and lovely. So I used a ratio of roughly 65% butter, 35% 0% fat greek yoghurt.

I also find some banana breads overly sweet, I think the bananas are sweet already, especially if they are nice and black! So not too much sugar, though it is still needed for the cakes structure.

Finally I love cardamom and thought adding some would add a lovely warmth and go well with the banana.

Although I created this I do not claim to be original, if I searched google long enough I am sure other people would have similar ideas to me!

My main concern was that there would not be enough fat, and maybe it would not hold together or be too dry and crumbly. I need not have worried so much. The resulting banana bread is a perfect loaf, it is not dense at all but light and still very moist. I love the cardamom in it but this is of course personal preference and could be omitted or replaced with cinnamon or nutmeg.

Banana and Cardamom bread

3 medium bananas, overripe
70g butter
200g light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
2 eggs
40g greek yoghurt
75ml buttermilk 
275g plain flour
tsp bicarbonate of soda
Seeds from 5 cardamom pods crushed in a pestle and mortar

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN. Grease a 2lb loaf tin, loaf tin sizes confuse me but I mean the bigger one. 

Mash the bananas well and set aside. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla (if using). Due to the the ratio of sugar to flour it will not cream to a light and fluffy mass like other cakes. However persevere as it will become uniform in colour and texture with no lumps of butter, then it is ready.

Mix together the eggs, greek yoghurt and buttermilk, add to the butter and sugar and mix well. Mix in the mashed banana.

Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and crushed cardamom seeds and fold through the wet ingredients until everything is well incorporated.

Tip the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and level the top. Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes, it could take up to an hour so keep an eye on it.

When a skewer comes out clean it is cooked, leave to cool in the tin for ~10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

This cake keeps for about 3 days and is delicious as it is, in my opinion it does not need spreading with more butter. Mind you if that's how you like it who am I to argue?

Friday, 9 November 2012

Garlic Bread

This is not a garlic bread for the faint hearted nor any vampires out there! It is from Paul Hollywood's book 'How to Bake'. Whole cloves of garlic are baked into the bread and it is absolutely fantastic.

The crumb is soft and light and the garlic is present but less strong then you may think, an added bonus is the sweet caramelised cloves dotted through.

It is amazing with soup, keeps nicely and is very nice a few days later toasted.

Garlic bread

makes 1 loaf

250g strong white bread flour
5g salt
5g instant yeast (I used dried active and it was perfectly risen too)
15g unsalted butter, softened
160ml cool water

1 1/2 bulbs of garlic, broken into cloves
1/2 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 tsp pcaster sugar
pinch of salt

Put the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Add the butter and ~3/4 of the water and mix the dough around with your fingers, keep adding splashed of water until you have picked up all the water from around the sides of the bowl. 

The dough needs to be soft but not soggy, you may not need all the water or you may need a splash or two more.

Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth and silky. 

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave for 1 hour or up to 3 hours until at least doubled in size. 

In the meantime roast the garlic. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C FAN. Peel the cloves and pop them in a roasting dish, sprinkle with the salt, sugar and olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes util golden brown and soft to the touch. Watch them, I found they can get too brown too quickly, you may need less time and if you know that you have a hot oven it would probably be best to turn the temperature down. Leave the garlic to cool.

Add the garlic cloves to the risen dough and knead in well., Stretch the dough into an oblong ~22cm long and place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.  
Put the baking sheet into a clean plastic bag (I made a clingfilm dome instead) and leave to prove for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C FAN, sprinkle the loaves with olive oil and oregano and bake for 25 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped on the base. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Toffee apple cupcakes

Bonfire night makes me think about, among other things, toffee apples. I have not been to many bonfires, but I seem to remember toffee apple from the ones I have.

In honour of this I made toffee apple cupcakes. The exact recipe is in the love bakery cookbook.

It is an apple and cinnamon cupcake with a toffee frosting and a chunk of fudge on the top.
I will admit I had major issues with the frosting, my fudge did not really want to soften and the second it hit my frosting it solidified again and did not blend in.
So what I actually have is an apple cake with a vanilla frosting studded with chunks of fudge. Its not really the end of the world, it still tastes yummy.

If I were making this frosting again I would either use dulce de leche or find some softer fudge to begin with.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Salted caramel victoria sponge

This is a simplified mini version of a cake in the newest book to accompany the Great British bake off series.

I did not want a big cake for the two of us but I have to say a big one would be a hell of a lot easier to decorate! Mine are a little scratty but I am going to claim that I am going for the home baked rustic look!

In the book they have a salted caramel layer and a chocolate caramel layer. I did not want to even attempt to cut my little cakes into 3 and so I just made the salted caramel. Although I also coated the top of the cake I did not coat the sides, as I would a big cake, as the cake to caramel ratio would be not right.

Little salted caramel victoria sponges

makes 5

for the cakes

75g butter
75g caster sugar
tsp vanilla paste/extract
1 large egg
75g self raising flour

for the salted caramel

55g butter
110g light brown sugar
45 ml double cream
90g icing sugar
sea salt, to taste
dark chocolate for decoration

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN. Lightly grease a mini victoria sponge tin with loose bottom (available Lakeland).

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until very light and fluffy, it will lighten in colour, this will take about 5 minutes. Beat the egg and add about half to the creamed mixture, beat gently to incorporate. Add a tablespoon of the measured flour and mix until no longer visible  This will stabilise the mix and should prevent curdling when the rest of the egg is added. Add the remaining egg ad beat gently. Fold in the remaining flour by hand.

Divide the mix between the greased cake moulds and level the top. Bake i the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and springy when lightly pressed. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

To make the caramel melt 40g of the butter, all the light brown sugar and the cream over a gentle heat until the butter is melted and the sugar dissolved. Bring to the boil with continuous stirring then turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes with frequent stirring.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a heatproof mixing bowl. Beat in the icing sugar a little at a time until the mix is light and fluffy and cool. Finally beat in the remaining g of butter and sea salt to personal taste. Leave to thicken for 10 minutes or so.

The top of the cakes will need levelling if they are not already (guess who gets to eat the off cuts!)
Divide the cakes into two, as level as you can, otherwise the cakes will slide a bit (yes talking from personal experience!).

Spread a good layer of the caramel onto the bottom layer then gently place the top layer of the cake on top. 

Spread more caramel on top of the cake. If you wish melt a little dark chocolate and pipe circles on top of the cake and then drag a cocktail stick through the circles, from the centre out, to decorate.
Maybe not quite the neatest work but these cakes are truly delicious  and have convinced me that it is definitely 100% worth making the full sized version next time I need a decadent celebration cake.