Thursday, 28 February 2013

Lemon and poppy seed loaf

Still continuing with non chocolate bakes considering I am off chocolate for lent. Sometimes my bakes can get chocolate orientated as it is so versatile  and I usually have some in the cupboard! Its good to break out and bake plenty of things that I have been eyeing up for a while.

This is a delicious loaf that goes well with a cup of tea. There is a nice lemon flavour throughout the cake with a fantastic lemon glaze that packs a nice citrus punch. The poppy seeds add a welcome crunch ad slightly savoury edge which I find particularly welcome in the this soft sweet loaf.

Lemon and poppy seed loaf

130g butter
200g caster sugar 
2 eggs
zest of 1 large lemon
235g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
165ml milk (semi skimmed or whole)
1 tsp orange blossom water
30g poppy seeds

Juice of a large lemon
50g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 170C/150C FAN and grease and flour a 900g loaf tin.

Gently melt the butter and set aside to cool. Put the sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a bowl and whisk until thick, moussey and pale in colour. Combine the baking powder and flour and add ~1/3 to the egg mixture and beat to combine, then beat in ~1/3 of the milk. Repeat until all the flour and milk has been incorporated. Finally beat in the orange blossom water and poppy seeds.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 65-75 minutes until golden brown in colour and springy when lightly pressed with a finger. 

While the cake is baking make the glaze. Put the lemon juice, sugar and 100ml of water into a saucepan and gently bring to the boil. Increase the heat and continue to boil until it is well reduced and thick and syrupy.

When the cake comes out of the oven brush with the glaze straight away. Add another layer of glaze 10-15 minutes later and transfer the cake to a wire rack. As it is cooling keep adding more glaze until you have used it all up.

This simple cake will keep well in a tin for up to 5 days and keeps its flavour and texture very well. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

French rhubarb tart

This is a very elegant dessert that does require a little more effort on your part. Its probably not one you would just knock up for a normal weekend dessert. Saying that I do urge you to try it before forced rhubarb is out of season, as it looks, and more importantly tastes, absolutely stunning.

Its a bbc good food magazine recipe but I have tweaked it just a little to suit my own tastes. For example I love rhubarb and all the tartness that comes with it and so I have reduced the sugar that it is poached in.

You will need a special long fluted tart tin with a loose bottom. I got mine from lakeland, it will be useful for lots of other tarts, both sweet and savoury.

French rhubarb tart

500g forced rhubarb
25g caster sugar
juice of half a lemon

250g plain flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
140g cubed butter
1 large egg yolk

250ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
Seeds from one vanilla pod
4 large egg yolks
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tbsp plain flour
60ml double cream

Cut the rhubarb into batons, each 10cm in length. You will need enough to go along the length of the tart tin plus at least one extra. Put the sugar, lemon juice and 250ml of water into a wide frying pan, add the rhubarb and simmer for 5 minutes. Leave the rhubarb to cool in the syrup for at least 1 hour or overnight.

For the pastry put the flour, sugar and butter into a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. With the motor running add the egg yolk and enough ice cold water for the mixture to come together. Tip onto a work surface and bring together with your hands. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

For the crème patisserie gently heat the milk and vanilla seeds until just below boiling. In the meantime mix the egg yolks, sugar and flours together until combined. Add a little of the hot milk to the egg mixture whisking constantly, gradually add the remaining hot milk continuing to whisk. Return the liquid to the pan and set over a lowish heat, stir continuously until the mixture thickens to the consistency of very very thick custard. This will take time, do not be tempted to turn up the heat.

Using a spatula transfer the crème patisserie to a clean bowl and cover the surface with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out into a rectangle, bigger than your tin, 1mm thick. Line you tin, making sure the pastry gets into all the corners. Leave any overhang for the time being.

 The pastry is very short and it may crack a little as you line the tin, if so use a little of the little extra overhang to do a patch job. I had to do this in two corners and it turned out completely fine.
Trying to show my patchwork job
Chill the lined tin for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C FAN. Line the tart with baking paper and baking beans (or rice etc) and blind bake for 20 minutes. Some of my overhang fell off after blind baking, nothing to worry about. Remove the baking baking and beans and continue to bake for another 8 minutes until golden in colour. Remove excess pastry with a sharp serrated knife and leave to cool in the tin.

Remove the rhubarb pieces from the syrup and set aside. Heat the remaining syrup until it has reduced in volume and is a thick sticky syrup.

Beat the cream until it holds soft peaks and then beat a little of this into your chilled crème patisserie. Fold the remaining cream through until no streaks of cream remain.
Ready to assemble

To assemble the tart. Remove the pastry tart form its case and place on a plate/board. Fill with the crème patisserie and smooth over the surface.

 Line the rhubarb up along the length of the tart.

 To finish glaze the rhubarb with some of the syrup. Chill the tart for 30 minutes before serving. To serve use a sharp serrated knife to cut slices from the tart.

This tart was absolutely lovely and the perfect dessert for a special meal. It kept well in the fridge and was lovely the next day too. BBC said it would keep for up to 3 days but I suspect it is better much sooner.

The only downside is I now have 5 egg whites. I sense some macarons may be made very soon...

Friday, 22 February 2013

Honey Madeleines

I was very excited to receive a Madeleine tin for Christmas  I had been craving one, bearing in mind I had never even tried a Madeline it was an odd tin to crave.

As it turns out my cravings were spot on, I fell in love with Madeleine's after my first bite. I am not usually a honey fan, finding it a bit sweet, but I love its flavour and it works beautifully in these.  I have actually made them a couple of times but without access to my camera so its taken a while for me to share them here.

For the uninitiated a Madeleine is of French origin (so I believe, feel free to correct me if I am wrong), traditionally flavoured with honey and made in a special Madeleine tin, giving the cake a shell-like shape.

There does not seem to be a hard and fast way to make these and so the recipe below is my take on the basic Madeleine. Apologies for the photos, my oven is a hot oven and I forgot to compensate and my Madeleine turned a wee bit darker than I would have liked. Still yummy though and there is a  photo to prove that the inside is light and fluffy!

Honey Madeleine

makes ~15

75g butter
1 egg
120g caster sugar
83g plain flour
15g honey

Preheat the oven to 170C/150C FAN and lightly grease your Madeleine tin. Gently melt the butter, then side aside to cool. 

Whisk the egg and sugar until thick, moussey and very pale in colour. Add the flour and gently fold in with a melted spoon. When the flour is almost incorporated add about a tablespoon of the melted butter and fold in. Add half the remaining butter and continue to fold in, once it is incorporated add the remaining butter and fold in. Add the honey and fold in until there are no swirls of butter or honey remaining. You should be left with a lovely glossy mix.

Fill each Madeleine mould ~3/4 full. Don't worry it the batter does not spread to fill it, it will do this as it bakes.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. 

When completely cool dust with icing sugar.

These are at their most delicious on the day that they are made. They will however keep in a tin for a day or so, they will become slightly more dense and sticky but still taste good.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Cardamom and orange blossom loaf cake

I absolutely love cardamom in bakes, it has a hint of spice and adds a unique flavour and fragrance. This cake keeps well and is robust enough to wrap up and take to work as a fantastic mid afternoon 'pick me up' with a cup of tea. The orange blossom is a last minute addition and it just adds to the fragrant nature.

Cardamom and orange blossom loaf cake

190g butter
Seeds from 10 cardamom pods, crushed with pestle and mortar
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
190g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
25ml crème fraiche or natural yoghurt
1 tsp orange blossom water

Preheat the oven to 170C/150C FAN and grease and flour a 900g loaf tin.

Beat the butter, crushed cardamom seeds and caster sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

Add half the flour and baking powder and beat on slow until just combined. Add the second half and once again mix until combined. Finally add the crème fraiche and orange blossom water and mix for a final time.

Pour the mix into the prepared tin and level the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Elderflower and poppyseed cake

Once again it was my turn to take cake/biscuits in to work for the lab meeting. There is nothing to say it has to be homemade, any cake or biscuit is a welcome addition to a morning meeting, however I like to make something. I either bake old favourites I have not had in a while or else my workmates get to play guinea pig as I try out new bakes.

I did not have much time at all so my bake had to be something very speedy to whip up. This loaf cake from Peyton and Byrne was just the thing. It also contains elderflower which begins with 'E' and so I can enter it in this months alpha bakes!

Elderflower and Poppyseed cake (From Peyton and Byrne, British baking)

makes one loaf (900g loaf tin)

For the cake

165g butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
30g poppy seeds
1 tbsp elderflower cordial
1 tsp orange blossom water
200g self raising flour
140ml milk

For the glaze

125g icing sugar
3 tbsps elderflower cordial
poppyseeds for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 170C/150C FAN. Grease and line the base and short sides of a 900g loaf tin. This will help the loaf to be removed from the tin with ease.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each egg. Add the poppy seeds, orange blossom water and elderflower cordial and combine. 

Fold in half the flour, followed by half the milk. Fold in the remaining flour and then milk before spooning into the prepared loaf tin and levelling with the back of a spoon.

Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes until turning out onto a wire rack and allowing to cool completely.

To make the icing whisk the icing sugar and cordial together with a fork. Spoon over the cooled cake, pushing the icing to the edges and allowing it to trickle down the sides. Sprinkle with poppy seeds if you wish.

This cake disappeared exceedingly quickly and I heard good feedback. If I am totally honest though the elderflower was not quite prominent enough for me. I think I would like to try adding in another tablespoon of elderflower cordial and taking out a tablespoon of milk.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Sticky maple apple tray bake

Here is a yummy tray bake from The Great British Bake off book, 'How to Bake'. I needed something non chocolatey that would quell my cake craving, this little lovely does just that, and with all the apple in it I can  feel a little virtuous when eating it.

I made a few tweaks, the main being to the frosting. The book says to use cream cheese, I had no cream cheese but had mascarpone, which is just Italian cream cheese, right? The result is luscious and I am going to find a way to put this frosting on a cupcake so I can get more of it in each bite. I suspect that if conventional cream cheese were used to frosting would be tangier and perhaps a tad looser.

Sticky maple apple traybake (Adapted from the Great British Bake off)

For the cake

400g (prepared weight) bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1cm cubes
1tsp mixed spice
2 tsp maple syrup
150ml groundnut oil
125g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
275g plain flour
2 large egg whites

For the frosting

75g butter
50g light brown sugar
3 tablespoons maple syrup
175g mascarpone cheese

Grease and line a traybake tin. I used my brownie tin and it worked just fine. Preheat the oven to  180C/160C FAN.

Prepare the apple and mix with the mixed spice and maple syrup, set aside. Whisk the ground nut oil, sugar and whole eggs until thick and mousse-like. Add the apple and combine. Add the flour and fold in with a metal spoon. 

Whisk the two egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add a third of the whisked egg whites to the cake batter bowl and fold in with a metal spoon. Add the remaining egg white a third at a time and gently fold in. 

Tip the batter into the prepared tin and level with a spatula. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes then, using the lining paper to help, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the mascarpone cheese and maple syrup and beat to combine. Spread over the cooled cake and cut into generous chunks. 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Nigella breakfast bars

So that is it. Lent has begun and so has my abstinence from chocolate. I would not call myself a complete and utter chocoholic, yes I love it and yes, if I am honest I have it most days, however I do not have it multiple times a day and occasionally turn it down (!) so therefore do not feel a complete addict...

The lovely Mark has decided to abstain too which makes both out lives easier, I do not have to watch him chomping it and he does not get biffed on the nose for wafting it in front of me one too many times.

A mini problem arises as I realise that he takes his breakfast to work everyday. His favourite cereal bar. His favourite chocolate cereal bar.

With this thought in my mind I began to think more about the commercial cereal bar. Most of which are full of sugar and not much goodness, and do not keep a man, or woman for that matter, full till lunch time.

I had heard a few people rave about the Nigella breakfast bars so decided to see if I these would be a more nutritious, more filling and chocolate free breakfast.

They are full of good things, oats, plain nuts, mixed plain seeds, dried fruit, a little unsweetened dessicated coconut and condensed milk. These seemed to me a much better thing to eat for breakfast regardless of whether or not they contained chocolate.

The exact recipe can be found here. The beauty of this recipe is that it is adaptable to suit your own tastes. I made a few tweaks myself. Firstly I used light condensed milk, it tastes the same and gives the same baked result. I also altered the amount of nuts and seeds slightly, purely based on the size of the bag the shop sold. Mark also requested prunes instead of apricots.

I had a couple of these myself as snacks before dance classes when tea was going to be late. They really kept me going, are very filling and most importantly delicious.

In the coming weeks these bars will be tweaked a number of ways for new exciting breakfasts and snacks. I have an idea involving apples, raisins and hazelnuts, if they turn out well I will be posting that recipe here very soon.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Apple and mincemeat crumble

When the weather is cold you cannot bet old fashioned comfort food. One of the most comforting has to be crumble and custard.

I had a jar of home-made mincemeat lurking in the cupboard from Christmas and so decided to jazz up a plain apple crumble with it. Result? It was delicious.

Crumble may not necessarily be the prettiest thing to look at but who cares when it tastes this good.

Apple and mincemeat crumble

(serves 4-6)

300g of cooking apples, prepared weight
200g mincemeat
100g butter
110g plain flour
70g caster sugar
30g oats

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN. Prepare the crumble topping first. Rub the butter ito the flour until it ressembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar and oats. 

Peel, core and slice your apples, you will need 300g of prepared apples in total. Mix the apples and mincemeat together and place into you baking dish (I used a casserole dish) in an even layer. I like my crumbles quite tart and so did not add any sugar to my apples, considering the sweetness of this mincemeat, feel free to add extra sugar to cater to your own personal tastes.

Sprinkle the crumble mix over the top of the fruit in a nice even, deep layer. Press down lightly with your hands. 

Bake in the oven for 25-20 minutes util golden and piping hot.

Serve straight away with lashings of custard, cream or ice cream.

Any leftover crumble will keep till the next day. Let it cool completely then cover with foil and put in the fridge. Reheat in the oven for ~10 minutes. Interestingly I found the crumble topping even more crisp the next day.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Marbled chocolate cheesecake biscuits

Sadly one of my last chocolate bakes before lent starts I think. Though I may be able to sneak one more in on Sunday if I put my mind to it!

The reason I call these cheesecake biscuits and not mini cheesecakes is that I believe my recipe has a typo somewhere. The ratio of base to filling is definitely askew. There seems to be lots of base compared to filling and in the end I did not use all the base mix that I made.  I have altered the recipe to account for how much base I did use. In my final version base to filling is 50/50, hence the name.

Saying that they are absolutely delicious and actually I quite like them like this, a cheesecakey biscuit to have with a cup of tea instead of a full on dessert. The recipe below is for the cheesecake biscuits. If you wanted to make mini cheesecakes I would simply suggest doubling the filling recipe. Keep the base recipe the same as below (the original really was too much).

Marbled chocolate cheesecake biscuits

(makes 8) 

You will need a mini cheesecake tin, mini victoria sandwich tin or similar with loose bottoms.

For the base

75g digestives
30g butter

For the topping

75g cream cheese, room temperature
100g caster sugar
seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
1 medium egg, beaten
35g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN. Gently warm the butter until it is just melted. Meanwhile pop the biscuits in a bowl and bash with the end of a rolling pin until breadcrumb like. Pour the butter over the biscuit crumbs and combine well. Press the base into the the bottom of the tin. The filling will only make about 8 so it is possible you will not need all the holes in the tin. 

Bake the base in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Check after 10, nobody wants burnt biscuit base. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. 

Reset the oven to 160C/140C FAN. To make the filling, use a wooden spoon to beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla seeds together until smooth. Add the egg slowly, using the wooden spoon to combine well. 

Spoon the filling over the cooled bases. Reserve about a table spoon of the filling. Melt the chocolate with a tablespoon of water in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. When melted and smooth add to the reserved filling, It needs to be at a drizzling consistency so in all likelihood you will have to let the chocolate mix down with hot water to get to this stage, Just add a little at a time until it drizzles nicely. 

Drizzle the chocolate in a zig zag or blobs, however you wish, over the filling. use the handle of a teaspoon to lightly marble, don't go to mad or the pattern will be lost.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the edges puff up but the middle is still a little soft. Leave to cool and then put in the fridge for at least two hours before eating. Gently loosen the edges with a knife and gently push on the base to release the cheesecake.

Monday, 4 February 2013

White chocolate and raspberry cake

When asking Mark what cake he would like for his birthday the answer was 'something with chocolate or something like a Victoria sponge'. I was not sure what to do with such wide scope. Then as luck would have it, just a few days later, this months good food magazine popped through my door.

Inside was a cake recipe by John Whaite, the winner of this years Great British bake off, a sort of Victoria sponge with raspberries in and sandwiched together with white chocolate ganache. Perfect.

Simply it is a Victoria sponge but white chocolate is added, the butter and chocolate are melted first. Raspberries are added to the mix before baking and once cool the whole thing is sandwiched together with white chocolate ganache.

I do appreciate that he won and I should not mess with a master but I made a few tweaks to suit my own personal tastes and because I did not want to waste the leftover raspberries.

With the leftover raspberries I made a quick soft set jam. I used this as well as the ganache to sandwich the cake together. You could use bought jam or leave it out, as per the original recipe.

White chocolate and raspberry cake (adapted from John Whaite and good food magazine)

For the cake

200g butter
100g white chocolate
175g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
4 eggs
200g self raising flour
175g raspberries, fresh or frozen

For the ganache

180ml double cream
200g white chocolate

For the quick jam

leftover raspberries, I had 175g
jam sugar, I used ~30g

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN. Grease and line two 20cm loose bottom cake tins, If like me you only have one half the cake batter and bake one cake at a time.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of barely simmering water.

When melted allow to cool for 1-2 minutes the beat in the sugar, vanilla and eggs. Fold in the flour and the raspberries. Spoon into the cake tins and level the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile to make the ganache melt the chocolate and 80ml of the cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Oncemelted allow to cool and thicken. Once cool beat the remaining cream into the ganache until light (er).

If you wish to make the quick jam simply put the raspberries into a pan with the sugar (no need for any water) and bring to a simmer. Once simmering boil for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time and then set aside to cool. 

Sandwich the sponges together with the jam and ganache then enjoy!