Monday, 25 March 2013

English muffins

I am not a huge bread snob. I am not a fan of the sliced stuff but I do buy some types of bread, I simply do not always have the time, or the inclination to make it myself.

When I do buy bread it tends to be from local bakers so less chance of absolute rubbish. Bread can be so delicious but disappointing bread is really really disappointing!

After a week of being ill I wanted something nice for a Saturday brunch and decided on English muffins with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.

Still not feeling well I was going to buy the muffins, I had a quick nosey at the ingredient list and this is what I saw.

Wheat flour, water, yeast, maize, rice flour, salt, sugar, wheat gluten, vegetable oil, soya flour, emulsifier E472a, E471, Preservatives Calcium Propionate, E200, Acidity Regulator Tataric Acid, Flour Treatments Ascotrbic Acid (Vitamin C)

This seemed a lot of ingredients for a simple breakfast muffin. So I looked it up. This is what is in a homemade one.

Bread flour, water, milk, yeast, sugar, salt.

I do understand to make it to our shelves food needs certain preservatives but 3 times the amount of ingredients really put me off. So I dragged myself into the kitchen and actually these are really very very easy to make.

English muffins

makes 6

115ml milk
1 tsp dried yeast
1/2 tsp caster sugar
220g white bread flour
1/2 tsp salt

Gently warm the milk with 25ml water until warmed through. Do not heat it too much, you do not want to kill the yeast. If it does get a little too warm, leave to cool before adding to the yeast. 

Add the warm liquid to the yeast and sugar, whisk and leave for 10 minutes until frothy.

Mix the flour and salt then add in the frothy, yeasty liquid. You want a soft, not sticky, dough. You may not need all the liquid, or if your dough is really too sticky add a touch more flour.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and pliable. Put in a bowl, cover and leave in a warm place, until doubled in size. Mine took ~ 1 hour.

Take the dough and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out to about 1 cm thick. Use a cutter 7-8cm in diameter to stamp out rounds. The trimmings can be squished back together, re-rolled and more muffins stamped out.

Pop the muffins on a lightly floured baking sheet and leave in a warm place for ~ 1 hour to rise and puff up.

Melt a little butter or lard in a heavy based frying pan and pop in your muffins. Turn the heat down to low and cook the muffins for 6 minutes on each side. You will probably need to cook the muffins in a couple of batches.

I made these on Friday afternoon and on Saturday split and toasted them for brunch. They tasted fab as part of brunch. I imagine they are lovely warm and fresh but I cannot say for sure.. I will have to make them again to be sure.

Sorry for the lack of pictures, I was really not with it when I made these!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Jammy dodgers

The jammy dodger. A childhood classic. I like them if the biscuit is crisp and the jam chewy. I do not like slightly soft biscuit an mushy jam, it all gets a bit claggy

The homemade jammy dodger is a delicious thing. The biscuit is short and buttery and I like using a sharp raspberry jam, though of course traditional strawberry would work.

The ground almonds add a nice textural dimension to the biscuit as well as a subtle flavour. These biscuits are yum the day they are made but also remain good the day after, The second day the jam fuses to the biscuit slightly but the texture still remains crisp and distinctly non claggy, hurrah!

Jammy dodgers

makes ~15 depending on size

110g butter
45g golden caster sugar
100g plain flour
50g ground almonds
1/2 tsp vanilla paste/extract
80g raspberry jam (or other flavour)

Get ready a non stick sheet, if you are a little dubious about its non stick capabilities the grease it lightly with butter.

Put all the ingredients, except the jam, in a food processor and pulse until a dough starts to come together.

Remove the dough, using your hands to lightly bring it together. Shape into a flattish disk, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes to an hour. 

Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out to ~1/2 cm thick. Stamp out rounds and and equal number of rounds with a hole removed, or any shape of your choice. I did re-roll my trimmings once but I did not want to roll out the dough more than that.

Place the cut out biscuits onto the baking sheet and chill for 15-30 minutes. This will help stop the biscuits spreading as they cook. Preheat the oven to 140C/120C FAN.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, rotating the sheet(s) half way through for an equal bake.

Leave to cool for ~ 1 minute on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Soften the jam by giving it a stir. Use the softened jam to sandwich together the biscuits. 

They are best left to set up a little before eating. This of course did not stop me inhaling one immediately... 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Orange marmalade cake

I don't like marmalade by itself, it has a bitterness that I am not a fan of. Nor am I a fan of wishy washy cakes. Adding marmalade to an orange cake results in a couple of fantastic things. The marmalade adds a fantastic depth of orangey flavour without any trace of bitterness.

I was a smidgen worried when I put this cake in the oven, as after the addition of marmalade my cake batter appeared to curdle. I need not have worried though. The texture of this cake is a delight, open and very soft. I have already mentioned that the flavour is fantastically deep too.

The icing in the top is not 100% necessary if you do not wish, but it does add another orangey hit.

Orange marmalade cake (from Nigel Slater)

makes 1 loaf

175g butter
175g golden caster sugar
1 orange
3 eggs
75g orange marmalade (fine shred or shred-less)
175g self raising flour
75g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN and grease a 950g loaf tin.  Line the greased tin along its length and short sides with a strip of greaseproof paper, this will make removing the cake easy.

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the zest of the orange. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well to combine, scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the marmalade until well incorporated.

Add the flour to the bowl and fold in gently with a metal spoon. Finally fold in the juice of half the orange.

Tip the cake mix into your prepared tin and level the top. Bake in the preheated oven for ~40 minutes.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing simply mix the icing sugar with some of the remaining orange juice. Add just a little juice at a time until it is a thick drizzling consistency. Drizzle on the cake and you are done!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Salted caramel cupcakes

The book for this months cupcake book club, run by Kelly from american cupcake in London, was 'Cupcakes at Carrington's' by Alexandra Brown.

The main character Georgie works at Carringtons and enjoys nothing more than sinking her teeth into a sweet creation from the cafe, run by her best friend. It was an enjoyable book and I would happily read the upcoming ones in the series.

Georgie's favourite cupcake is the red velvet. I have not made this for a couple of reasons. Firstly it is lent, so no chocolate for me. Secondly I love chocolate and the red velvet never really does it for me, I do not want mild chocolate flavour, I want full on chocolate!

Still there are plenty of other cupcakes and sweet treats mentioned in the book. One cupcake mentioned is a salted caramel cupcake. This is my sort of cake, I love salted caramel!

I made a vanilla cake with a spoonful of peanut butter in the batter to give a salty element. I filled the cake with salted caramel and topped the whole thing off with salted caramel buttercream. I think Georgie would approve of the clouds of buttercream!

Salted caramel cupcakes

makes 12

75g butter
50g peanut butter (no added sugar preferably)
125g golden caster sugar
tsp vanilla paste/extract
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
tbsp milk

75g white caster sugar
75ml double cream
sea salt to taste

80g butter
200g icing sugar
tbsp milk

Line a cupcake/muffin tin with liners and preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN.

Cream the butter, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla paste together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl in-between and beat for a further couple of minutes.

Add the flour and beat on slow until just combined. Finally add the milk and beat for a further minute. Divide the batter between the liners and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and springy.

Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.

To make the caramel gently heat the caster sugar in a pan until dissolved and deep amber in colour. Remove from the heat and, stirring quickly, add in the cream. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the caramel has thicken and coats the back of a spoon. Add sea sat a little at a time until the caramel is salted to your preference. Set the caramel aside to cool.

When the cupcakes and caramel are cool the assembly can begin! Remove a cone from the cupcakes with a sharp knife. Fill the cavity with a teaspoon of the salted caramel before replacing the cone, it may need trimming to fit. 

Finally for the buttercream beat the butter, icing sugar and milk together until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes or so. Beat in some of the cooled caramel a little at a time until the frosting is well flavoured with the salted caramel.

Pipe or swirl on the frosting with a palette knife.

I am pretty certain Georgie would approve of these cupcakes. The are sweet and salty, with plenty of buttercream. Mark certainly approves, declaring the frosting 'the best ever'.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Cookie ice cream sandwiches

As a child I remember the long rectangular blocks of ice cream that could be sliced. I remember my mum slicing off a wedge and sandwiching it between two thin wafers. It was absolutely delicious.

I would still eat this ice cream sandwich in a heartbeat but there is nothing wrong with a little make over every now and then. 

Creamy ice cream sandwiched between two chewy cookies does not sound bad however you approach it! I had simple, but rich, vanilla ice cream so decided to pair it with a salty peanut cookie. What combination would you choose?

I am going to enter this into this months alpha bakes, for the tricky letter 'I'.

Peanut Cookies

125g Butter
100g Golden caster sugar 
75g Light brown sugar  
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
150g Plain flour 
½ tsp baking powder
100g salted peanuts (minus the few that will inevitably jump into your mouth...)

Preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease and flour two baking sheets.

Melt the butter over a low heat. Add the sugars to a bowl and stir in the melted butter. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.

Add the flour and baking powder and mix until almost combined. Add the peanuts and mix until thoroughly combined.

Drop spoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden around the edges.

Once cool sandwich together with plenty of ice cream! I think chocolate chips will work beautifully here but its still lent so no chocolate for me. I guess I will have to make them again in a few weeks. Its a hard life!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Jammy coconut squares

I made these for Mark to take to work. In the interests of research I decided to try one. It turns out they are addictive and very scrummy. I could not leave them alone and ended up polishing off at least half over the course of 5 days. Oops. There were still plenty for Mark though, he also declared them scrummy. I can see these being made again in the not so distant future and I would not change a thing.

The only down side is that they do take a little time and effort, though they are not complicated. It is not a bake that can be made and cooked in under an hour. But as they say, good things come to those who wait!

Jammy coconut squares

for the base

175g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
30g butter
50g caster sugar
2 large egg yolks

for the topping

200g raspberry jam
175g dessicated coconut
175g caster sugar
4 egg whites
50g plain flour

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C FAN and grease and line a brownie pan, or similar with baking parchment.

Mix the flour and baking powder then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, then mix the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of water. Add the egg mix to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

Press the base into the prepared tin. Do not panic, there IS enough mix, you do have to press it really thin to get it to cover the base but are rewarded with a decent base later on. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly golden then leave to cool completely in the tin.

When the base is cool you can assemble the topping. To a saucepan add the coconut, sugar, one of the egg whites and 2 tablespoons of water. Gently warm over a low heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and paste like. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Tip the mixture into a large bowl and let cool slightly.

Whisk the remaining 3 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir ~1/3 of the egg whites into the cooled coconut mix to loosen it. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, half at a time.

Spread the jam over the cooled base, then top with the coconut mixture, making sure to spread it out evenly.

Place in the oven (preheated, as above) and bake for 25-30 minutes until the coconut is golden and toasted.

 Cool the mixture in the tin before cutting into generous squares! 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Pecan slices

These were one of those pleasant baking surprises  One of those ones where you know you are going to like it, its not too experimental or controversial. Then you taste it and it is just wow?

These bars, for me, are one of those bakes and it is an exceedingly good job that I was taking them into work as I literally could have sat an eaten the entire pan.

Theses slices are similar to brownies, they do not have that really dense fudginess that comes from the chocolate, they are much lighter. They do however have a flaky top and an absolutely delightfully chewyness. The flavour is a very moreish butterscotch sort of flavour and the pecans add a nice contrasting nutty crunch.

They also take no time at all to make, so have I tempted you?

Pecan slices 

110g butter
350g light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
2 eggs
170g plain flour 
100g pecan nuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 170C/150C FAN and grease and line a brownie pan, or similar.

Gently melt the butter then combine with the sugar in a large bowl. No need for electric mixers, a good old fashioned spoon is perfect. Add the baking powder and stir to combine, follow with the vanilla.

Lightly beat the eggs and add to the bowl, stir until they are well incorporated. Add the flour ~1/3  at a time and make sure it is fully combined before adding the further increments. Finally stir in the chopped pecans.

Tip the mix into your prepared tin and smooth the top. It may not look enough in a standard brownie pan, but trust me it will rise up as it bakes.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, Keep an eye on it towards the end of cooking time. Mine took the full 25 minutes. Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into bars.

These went down very well at work. I would suggest making them to share unless of course you have more self control than me and can bear to keep them in an airtight tin for 5 days or so. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Apple breakfast bars

I mentioned a few posts back that I had made Nigella's breakfast bars with minor tweaks.

I loved these bars and thought they had real potential to be really modified to create some lovely new bars for breakfast and snacks.

These have a very English autumnal feeling with apples, raisins and hazelnuts. I also spiked the condensed milk with a little honey that pairs beautifully with the other flavours.

Apple breakfast bars

1 tin condensed milk (395g), light is absolutey fine
1 tablespoon honey
250g oats
75g dessicated coconut
60g mixed seeds
100g whole blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped
80g dried apple, chopped
50g raisins

Preheat the oven to 120C/100C FAN and grease and line a brownie pan (or similar) with baking paper. 

Gently, so that it does not catch, warm the condensed milk and honey in a pan. It does not need to be boiling  just warmed through to loosen it a little. 

Meanwhile mix all the other ingredients in a large bowl. Tip the warm condensed milk and honey into the bowl and make sure everything is well combined.

Tip the whole lot into your prepared tin and level. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes. Keep an eye on it at the end of cooking time the honey in it means it can get a little too brown in a matter of minutes.

Leave to cool for 15 minutes then, using the baking paper to help you, remove from the pan and cut into bars. Do't leave it too long or they will be much harder to cut! Leave the cut bars on a wire rack to cool.

These bars take no time at all to whip up. keep for a week in a tin, and are the perfect on the go breakfast or snack, what's not to love?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Lazy rhubarb and custard cupcakes and a thank you

Huh. I have just realised my blog is just over a year old. That one kind of slipped me by. So much for a happy birthday blog post. This post is definitely not one of those. These cupcakes are tasty enough but not at all creative and doomed from the start! Certainly not birthday worthy.

I would like to say a HUGE thanks to anyone who has dropped by at any point during the last year, it is truly appreciated. Hopefully it has inspired you to get baking in your kitchen, and if you have made anything from here I hope you have had success.

Back to the lazy cakes. In my defence they were going to be a little more luscious than they turned out.. I was going to fill them with a creamy homemade rhubarb curd. So I baked my cakes, hollowed them out, then retrieved my curd from the fridge. Alas the curd that had only gone into my fridge a few days earlier was no longer the creamy delight it initially was. No. It was lumpy with bits in and not very nice.

The cakes and frosting were already prepared so a dollop of Rhubarb and ginger jam went in the cavity. Not even my homemade jam, which you can find here, shop bought as I realised I had already devoured the jam I had made.

I am probably not being fair to these cakes, The custard flavour comes through the frosting, the cakes are light and the jam does add a fruity tang. So as the lazy girls rhubarb and custard cupcakes, they are in fact perfect!

Lazy rhubarb and custard cupcakes

(makes 12)

125g butter
125g caster sugar
tsp vanilla paste or extract
2 large eggs
100g self raising flour
25g custard powder
2 tbsp milk

Rhubarb or rhubarb and ginger jam

100g butter
250g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
20g custard powder
2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN and line a cupcake tin with liners.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together for 5 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at time and beat until well incorporated. Scape down the sides of the bowl after the addition of each egg.

With the whisk on slow beat in the flour and custard powder until there are no visible streaks. Scape down the sides of the bowl and add the milk. Beat the mix for a further minute.

Divide the mix equally between the cupcake liners and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. The cakes are done when lightly golden and springy when pressed gently with a fingertip.

Set the cakes aside on a wire rack to cool. 

To make the frosting beat the butter with the vanilla until creamy, Add the icing sugar and beat for 5 minutes so it becomes very light. Mix the custard power with the milk and add it a little at a time to the bowl, continuing to beat as you do so.

At this point you may need to refrigerate your frosting to allow it to firm up a little.

When the cakes are completely cool use a knife to remove a cone from the cake. Fill the cavity with jam and then replace the cone, it may need trimming to fit (YOU, the baker, get these off cuts!). 

Pipe the frosting on top of the cakes and voilĂ , lazy rhubarb and custard, done.

I decided to jazz up my cakes with little stars I found in my baking cupboard. I am aware stars have nothing to do with rhubarb!