Monday, 19 November 2012

Apple, Carrot, Almond and Sultana Shortbread

Catchy eh? When I went on Tastespotting recently, almost every other photo was an apple recipe. Particularly apple pie. Apple Crumble Bars, Blackberry Apple Tarts, Mini Apple Hand Pies, Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Icing…it went on and on. I took this as a clear (and hunger-inducing) sign to get baking and I have been – baked apples, stewed apples, apple crumb bars have all been made and thoroughly enjoyed, but for one reason and another not blogged. So it was out to the garden to pick some final rosy red apples, then back to the kitchen to continue on this Autumn baking bandwagon and finally get something appley on the blog.DSCF9170The name sounds overwhelming for what is an normally a very simple biscuit, but for some reason it works. It started off as Apple and Carrot shortbread, a Tamasin Day-Lewis recipe. I chucked in a handful of sultanas as I love the texture they bring to anything, and they emulated the flavours of carrot cake. I could have left it there, but when I tasted it they actual biscuit dough tasted quite bland –  perhaps as a result of the savoury carrot and relatively small quantity of sugar – and we didn’t have any vanilla, so in went the almond.DSCF9171My parents were quite snooty about these when I told them (me: I’ve made apple and carrot shortbread. My Dad: …was that a mistake?) but don’t be like them! I couldn’t really taste the carrot, and I think the apple just added extra sweetness and texture. Plus I like to think that the added fruit and veg makes these cookies ‘healthy’, meaning you can eat more! Enjoy :)

Apple, Carrot, Almond and Sultana Shortbread, adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis

200g wholemeal flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
100g light brown sugar
50g carrot, grated (about 2 small carrots)
1 small apple, grated
1/2 tsp. almond extract
75g sultanas

1. Preheat the oven to 180’C or 350F. Sift the semolina, flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl, and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the carrot, apple, almond extract and sultanas.

3. Add the the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until a dough forms and brings everything together. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least thirty minutes.

4. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to around 1cm thick. Stamp out shortbread biscuits, then place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown just a bit.

Makes about 20 cookies, depending on the size of your cutter.DSCF9169

Friday, 9 November 2012

Ruby Red Amaretti Crumble

Quite a fancy name for a crumble, but then it is a Nigella recipe and she is famed for her choices of phrase: chocolate digestives are crushed ‘until they look like dark Mexican mud’, chocolate cake is ‘a confection to exult in, not to regret’ and about peanut butter she says ‘Why, I feel the urge to just rub it all over my body!’ So in retrospect, she went pretty easy on this dish. Plus, this is so good it deserves a glamorous title. In essence, its a Plum, Orange and Amaretti Crumble but its probably the best crumble I’ve ever tried. Apple Crumble is good, the deep purple of Apple and Blackberry even better. Peach is nice in the summer and Pineapple for something a little bit different. But trust me, none are as good as this!DSC_0214The changes that make it stand out are small but effective. The plums are cooked lightly first in a bit of sugar, orange juice and zest to give it a little brightness, make the whole thing smell gorgeous and infuse it with orange. Crushed amaretti crumbs are sprinkled over the plums once they’re in the dish, and then a whole heap more are stirred into the crumble mixture. The combination works so well and smells absolutely intoxicating! We made another one for a friend shortly after ours was all gone, and it proved very tricky to give it away without diving in. With heaps of cream, a rainy evening and the finale of Downton Abbey this crumble made the perfect Sunday night. You can find the recipe here (as well as watch Nigella make it in her classic style) – try it and you might become like my family, planning to add amaretti to every single crumble in the future. Enjoy!DSC_0225

An Edible Mosaic's Virtual Book Launch Party

I’m so excited to be part of this online event, a virtual book launch for the wonderful Faith of the blog An Edible Mosaic and her new debut cook book, An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair. Middle Eastern cuisine is one I have very much enjoyed eating, but am yet to do much cooking of, and so I’m sure the 100+ recipes (mainly from the Levant) in the book will be fascinating and keep me busy for a long time! I always enjoy reading Faith’s blog and learning about new recipes and flavours, so I’m sure the book would be great, and the photos I’ve seen show its a pretty stunning one too. Can’t wait to get it and start experimenting. The recipe Faith chose for us all to make for the virtual book launch event was Saffron Rice with Golden Sultanas and Pine Nuts which I thought was a clever idea as then everybody can twist it up to suit them and pair it with a million different dishes. I skipped the golden sultanas, simply because I didn’t have any in the house, and my family had the dish with Green Chicken Curry. I know blending these dishes is quite unusual, not exactly a traditional combination, but they still both tasted good! I don’t think my photos of the rice could really do it justice, a sit was a classic dark November evening and my hungry family ate super quickly, so I’ll use the lovely one from the book:Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine NutsAs I expected, the rice was very tasty. I don’t often make interesting side dishes, sticking to plain rice and simple vegetables, so it was fun to make something a little bit different and more complex as an accompaniment.  I loved the deep nuttiness of the toasted pine nuts against the sweet onion and soft rice and this combination is definitely something I’ll remember in the future as it was so simple but effective. I definitely recommend heading over to the book launch to see what everybody did with recipe, and if you’d also like to learn more about Middle Eastern cooking the book is available on Amazon. I’ll leave you with the recipe…

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts


Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Serves 4 to 6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.

2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.

3. Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.

4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

5. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Keeping it Simple

Sometimes, simple is just what the doctor cook ordered. Simple because you’re tired, simple because you’re ill, simple because the cupboards are bare. Maybe simple because that’s all you need to evoke a happy memory. This summer, my family went to Cornwall for a week. It rained pretty much the whole time – a bit of a shock just back from sunny Italy – but whilst it was exasperating I don’t think it mattered that much. It was a rare occasion for us all to be together: no friends, no parties or shopping. The whole week we were craving scones, but kept missing the opportunity to buy ingredients and the rain kept us out of teashops. On the penultimate day of the holiday we finally caved and bought some, and the wait was worth it. Thick layers of jam and cream – and a hearty debate about which should be spread on first – and the rain was all but forgotten.DSC_0070As a result of the Guild of Food writer’s competition, I recently spent a wonderful afternoon at delicious. magazine. The office is rammed with food, and they were kind enough to give me some samples for me to take home, including a big pot of clotted cream. I’m sure there are lots of adventurous recipes involving this sinfully rich product, but I was only ever planning scones. They’re a classic! DSC_0092I used this Ballymaloe White Sweet Scones recipe, but halved it as it makes a massive amount and I still managed a decent 12 and some of these were huge. Fittingly, it rained for the whole duration of making and baking these, but then again would I expect anything different in London in October? Enjoy!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Apricot Mascarpone Tart

I think it’s time to face up to the fact that summer is ending. It probably already ended a while ago to be fair. Looking back at my blog posts for the summer months, it may not massively look like I’ve been embracing the bounty of fruit summer offers. The truth is like I’ve said before, my family generally just eats the fruit really simply rather than baking with it. There’s also things I never got round to photographing and blogging, such as my first attempt at jam making with Apricot and Almond Jam: one little tester jar that was delicious (if very sweet) and eaten quickly, like all the best things are. But as the nights get darker, the final raspberries on the garden cane ripen and my final (!) school year is well underway, I get a little nostalgic about the summer that has just passed. So to celebrate the end of Summer 2012, I made a sunshine filled Apricot and Mascarpone Tart. DSCF9137My Mum is not the biggest fan of rich cheesecake type things, so I was looking forward to being able to use mascarpone for once in this tart. As expected, it gave the tart an extra creaminess and richness, but you couldn’t really taste it in a sense that you would be able to identify what it was if you didn’t know. The combination of apricots and almonds is a classic and so was delicious, and I particularly liked the slightly tart roasted apricots offsetting the sweetness of the rest of the dish. The pastry was a method I hadn't seen before – creaming the butter and sugar together before beating in the flour – and I think this resulted in a slightly different texture to normal sweet shortcrust but it was equally as tasty! The recipe came from Lucas Hollweg's recipe section in the Sunday Times Style magazine a few weeks back, which is behind the paywall currently but visible at the weekends. Enjoy :) Apologies for the photo quality – dark rainy nights aren’t the easiest conditions, especially with a hungry family waiting!DSCF9134

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Coffee Break Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for the people in my office on my last day of my internship at the start of August, as I had wanted to make something a little bit more special than muffins for my last bake. I had found these on the always perfect blog, raspberri cupcakes, a few weeks before and bookmarked them on the off chance I would find a situation where they would be suitable. With a few adaptations they became the perfect treat.DSCF9124Originally, I stayed pretty faithful to the recipe on raspberri cupcakes. I made both the condensed milk icing and the cookie dough…and used neither. The condensed milk icing was gorgeous, but insanely sweet. Properly sweet. I don’t normally find things too sweet, but even I could only manage a miniscule spoonful. It was probably as close to eating pure butter as you can get! It still tasted good, but I thought it would be pretty over powerful to pile it on top of a chocolate chip cupcake. Bearing this extreme sweetness in mind, I also chose not to stuff the middle with cookie dough and baked this into cookies another day instead. So in the end I had: coffee cupcakes with dark and milk chocolate chips, coffee buttercream, mini HobNobs and milk bottles. I couldn’t find mini chocolate chip cookies, and the HobNobs seemed appropriate after an embarrassing day at the office when the the rest of the team noticed how I ate a ridiculously large amount in one day… These are fun to personalise too: I swapped in cola bottle sweets on one cake for my boss with the Diet Coke habit, and added an extra shot of coffee to the cake of the boss who drank copious amounts of black coffee throughout the day. They went down a treat at the office – I hope you like them too :) DSCF9125

Friday, 31 August 2012

Chocolate Owl Cake

My Mum is really good at birthday cakes. When I was little I had an ice cream cake, treasure chest cake, my name written in Smarties, a teddy bear, a princess cake and more over the years. So for her birthday this year, it was time to return the favour! She requested this owl cake, purely for its cuteness, and my sister and I obliged.It took us a couple of read-through’s of the recipe to fully understand how the cake gets carved up into the adorable owl shape, and I may or may not have cut it wrong initially but that’s nothing a bit of chocolate buttercream gluing couldn’t save! It’s actually not too complicated to make, with a round sponge making the main body of the owl and then a square cake carved up for the rest.

It was really fun to do something different and it felt pretty indulgent – chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream, marzipan, white chocolate buttons, milk chocolate buttons, Cadbury Flake’s and chocolate fingers all together, but hey, when better to indulge then a birthday? Especially when the result is this adorable. I don’t have any pictures of the inside of the cake as it felt a little morbid and also we didn’t use the original recipe. The suggested cake was made with melted chocolate and we wanted it to be a little bit lighter so used the chocolate version of this. The cake was huge when finished, and lasted a good few days, but happily it stayed moist even after being cut into lots of pieces. The link for the original instructions (with helpful step by step photos of the cake carving) is hereenjoy!!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Rhubarb and Custard Tart

In American cooking, rhubarb and strawberries seem to be a majorly popular flavour combination. Here in England, its rhubarb and custard. Sharp bright pink rhubarb and creamy yellow custard – it’s definitely a strong rival to rhubarb and strawberry. Whether in two bold stripes in a hard boiled sweet, hot custard poured over a rhubarb crumble or both flavours combined together in a huge luxurious tart like today, it’s always a winner.IMG-20120722-00626I’ve been wanting to make  a rhubarb and custard tart for a while now and had several different recipes saved in my ever expanding Sweet To Make file. I was reminded of this idea when I came across an amazing looking Custard Tart in the fabulous book Street Food Revolution but decided to save that for a special occasion due to the 12 (!) egg yolks it requires. I eventually chose a John Torode recipe, because surely the co-juduge of Masterchef will have trustworthy recipes (and also something in me always trusts BBC Food recipes). It also was not extravagant with eggs, seemed simple and intrigued me as to how the 300ml of double cream would ever set into a firm filling.DSCF9095But I needn’t have worried, it all turned out ok. More than ok! This tart was so good. I seem to be loving the mix of tart and creamy flavours at the moment, first the pannacotta, then this combination of the rich custard and vanilla poached rhubarb that still has a hint of its sharpness. I know it’s a bit past the rhubarb season now as I made this a few weeks ago, but I didn’t want to let a whole year go by without posting this. You never know, some lucky people might still have some growing or have been clever and frozen some for the winter. If not, I’m sure the combination of raspberries or blackberries with custard would be just as delicious. Enjoy!DSCF9099

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Raspberry Panna cotta

Note to self: don’t try and transport panna cottas. It proves rather stressful. I had to transport these, precious glasses and all, on a car journey to my Granny’s as I was providing the dessert at lunch. They were placed in a shoebox, wrapped in tissue paper, padded with tea towels and strapped in to the car with a seatbelt. Probably unsurprisingly, they and the precious glasses got there unharmed but perhaps next time I’ll stick to cake!DSCF9082I was inspired to make these after having these from M&S and loving the combination of rich creamy panna cotta and bright raspberries. I’ve made a vanilla pannacotta before, so I chose to combine the two layers of the supermarket version into one delicious raspberry panna cotta. I was nervous this would be too bouncy and jelly-like in texture because of the two sheets of gelatine, but I needn’t have worried as they set nicely but still stayed delightfully creamy and rich. The results were summery, absolutely chock full of raspberry flavour and a really pretty shade of pink. DSCF9080The recipe is from Nigel Slater’s fruit volume of Tender, but it can also be found here. You don’t taste the rosewater, it’s just there to stop the raspberries being too tart, although I suppose you could up the amount to make it a key flavour but I wanted to let the raspberries shine on their own. Enjoy!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Triple Chocolate Cookies

My friends always complain that I hardly ever bake for them. If they come round to my house they know I’ll definitely bake something for them, but I hardly ever take bakes into school. Even on birthdays it tends to be someone else who brings the cake in. I’m not sure why – I think it’s the pressure? And all the different tastes, likes and allergies to bear in mind! With my four week internship this summer, I wanted this to be different and so every Friday I’ve taken something in for the office. Blueberry and lemon cupcakes one week, nectarine and coconut muffins last week, and these triple chocolate cookies the week in between. There is definitely less pressure and fear that people won’t like something when it involves chocolate!DSCF9085The original recipe is from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet book, a fabulous book and one where my list of ‘To Make’ recipes is pretty much the whole book. I feel like I can trust Dan Lepard’s recipes too – I’ve made many of his ones from the Guardian and they’ve always gone down well. I did make a slight change to this recipe – just making half the chocolate chunks white chocolate rather than all dark as I simply love white chocolate and thought it made more interesting. And triple rather than double chocolate can never be a bad thing!DSCF9091I loved how these turned out – they were so perfectly round! They had those moreish crispy edges, a soft middle, plenty of cocoa flavour and a generous helping of chocolate. I overuse this word so much but seriously – these really are addictive. I may or may not have eaten one for breakfast. Or even more than one…Anyhow! The office liked them, I liked them, my family liked them. The only people still waiting are my friends! You can find pretty much the same recipe here – the only difference is the book had 300g of chocolate and I didn’t freeze them. Enjoy!


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Gooseberry Flapjacks

I've had this bake and news ready for a while now, I just haven't blogged because I didn't know how to say it. Which is silly really, because its good and exciting news. To cut the waffle: I've won a competition! It was the Guild of Food Writers WriteIt! Competition, a food writing competition with a fab prize of 14 amazing cookbooks, publication on delicious magazine's website and a trip to delicious magazine HQ! I'm super excited and honoured to have won - you can read my piece here if you like. Now for cheesy photo alert...DSC_1827Look at my prize books! I won a copy of each book shortlisted for the Guild of Food Writers Awards which I’ve been working my way through and they’re all so interesting and varied – my favourites so far have been Street Food Revolution for being inspiring and making me want to start up my own food company, and Peyton & Byrne British Baking for being full of delicious classic bakes with little twists. Rest assured my baking in the near future will be heavily influenced by these and all the others. The President of the Guild of Food Writers came for brunch to bring that massive pile of books you see there and I made these gooseberry flapjacks for us to munch as we chatted. I love flapjacks for the way a good one can taste so caramelly and delightfully chewy, yet you can still claim some element of health due to the oats… although I'm pretty sure the golden syrup goodness cancels any nutritional value out...which is why you add fruit! The gooseberries keep the flapjacks moist for longer than they may last otherwise, and also add a sharp element to stop the treat becoming too sickly. DSCF9073The recipe comes from the British Larder, a great restaurant in Suffolk which has had a blog long before the restaurant opened in August 2010. I tweaked the recipe only by taking out the seeds and nuts – a virtuous addition I’m sure but I’m still yet to develop a liking for seeds of any kind other than poppy. Gooseberries have such a short season we need to take advantage of them while you can and this recipe appealed because to me it was original - previously it has always been so easy to simply pair the fruit with some elderflower in a crumble or pie and have a winner so I was interested to try something new. The end result was crumbly and delicious, perfect for afternoon tea or elevenses. Enjoy!DSCF9072

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Tomato and Pesto Tart

Recently I’ve been getting more into savoury cooking. As this blog quite clearly shows, I’m always more of a sweet than savoury girl. I don’t like popcorn but I know if I did I’d be sweet or toffee rather than salt. I’m one of those people who never finds anything too sweet and always makes room for dessert no matter how big the main course. Case in point: in France recently, after ordering the very innocent-sounding ‘steak’ from the menu, what arrived was one of the best but biggest meals of all time: a humongous steak, an onion tart tatin, a pile of garlicky gratin dauphinoise, three different types of vegetable and fries – all on one plate! It was incredible and I severely regret not taking any photos but I still ordered a tiramisu for afterwards…which also turned out to be on the large side. It came in one of those kilner jars, but whereas often desserts are served in mini versions of these, this restaurant served it in full size ones. Full to the brim. Needless to say, it had been a case of eyes larger than stomach and I couldn’t finish it all but I think it proves my dedication to my sweet tooth. However, like I say, I’ve recently become more into savoury cooking.DSCF9036This tart has been a summer staple in my family for a long time and so was a perfect way to begin my savoury journey. When I was younger, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this but now I totally cannot understand why – it is so simple, so addictive and so perfect for summer! Ok, so the weather here at the moment is still a little resistant to admit that it is summer now (it’s July!) but even in the rain this combination is delicious. This recipe was one of those family ones that I’ve always seen my Mum make but never a recipe and as I was home alone I just made it up using a combination of recipes. To be honest, this is so simple it hardly needs a recipe – if you were to use ready made pastry it would just be an assembly job but homemade is often so much nicer.DSCF9043

Tomato and Pesto Tart

Ingredients: 125g butter

190g plain flour

40g grated Parmesan

50ml water

150g pesto

6 plum tomatoes, sliced

1. In a food processor blend the butter, flour and parmesan until it resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water until it forms a smooth dough. Shape into a disc and chill for at least an hour until firm.

2. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Roll the dough on a floured surface to fit a 20-cm buttered fluted loose bottomed tart tin and place in the tin. Line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or dry rice. Bake for 15minutes, remove the paper and beans and bake for 5-10minutes more until golden. 3. Spread the pesto over the base of the tart case in an even layer. Arrange the sliced tomatoes in rings on top of the pesto, and bake for a further 15minutes until the tomatoes are cooked slightly – keeping an eye on the edges of the pastry so it does not burn. Enjoy!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Raspberry Almond Cake

I’m back! Schoolwork and weeks of important exams, followed by a much needed holiday to France and then a computer switchover have meant I’ve been away from not just my blog but reading others too, so I’m looking forward to catching up on all the delicious things I have missed. May was clearly quiet on my blog, but I’m back with a delicious summery cake to resume my June blogging.DSCF9012One of the best things about summer is the fruit – strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries and peaches and more. So much of this is perfect just eaten as is, or only manipulated lightly – such as marinated strawberries in an (always rich but addictive) Eton Mess. If I do bake with it, the flavour of the fruit still needs to be the main star and this cake does exactly that with its thick layer of jammy raspberries in the centre.DSCF9014The original recipe is called Bakewell Cake, just as anything with almonds and fruit is so often labelled Bakewell Tart style. Regardless, it’s really simple to make as all the ingredients other than the raspberries are whizzed together at once – which means it is dangerously easy to have an addictive cake in record time! The cake also works well with frozen raspberries, so it can be a staple right all year round – even when warm summer days can feel a long way away. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Mini Marble Cakes

Once I realise what I want to bake, I tend to become quite stubbornly specific about that idea. I have to hunt through the indexes of cookbooks, trying to see if they have the recipe I have in mind. Unsurprisingly, today I didn’t find a specific recipe for mini marble loaf cakes that I wanted. Guess I'll just have to write my own book one day! The inspiration came from a link I’d bookmarked, but on closer inspection that used 3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks and I didn’t want the faff of using up the egg whites. Many of the marble cakes I saw seemed quite dry or difficult to downsize to my little batch. In the end, I heavily adapted a Mary Berry recipe (how can you go wrong?) and ended up with exactly what I’d cakesI’ve wanted to make a marble cake for a long time and it seemed the perfect way to use up odds and ends of chocolate. Using mini loaf pans made the marbling process a little bit more fiddly, but it was worth it in the end. The chocolate cake part is made using cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips, which means it isn’t too sweet against the light vanilla cake. The cakes are probably a little bit bigger than a cupcake (although some shop-bought cupcakes can be huge!) but seeing as they don’t have any icing they are not too rich and are the perfect teatime treat! I’d definitely like to experiment further with marble cakes when I have more ingredients in the house – a chocolate orange version, a coffee version, a version with dried fruit…so many ideas!mini cake

Mini Marble Cakes, adapted from a Marble Traybake recipe from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book

Ingredients: 110g butter
110g caster sugar
140g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1tbsp cocoa powder
1tbsp hot water
50g dark chocolate, chopped
50g white chocolate, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line 6 mini loaf tins with a strip of greaseproof paper.

2. Put the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs and milk in a food processor and beat until everything is well blended together.

3. Measure out half the cake mixture into another bowl. Add the vanilla essence and white chocolate chunks to the remaining mix in the food processor and stir to incorporate.

4. Mix the cocoa powder and hot water to a paste in a small bowl, then add to the other half of cake mixture along with the dark chocolate chunks.

5. Place a small teaspoonful of vanilla mixture into the bottom of each loaf tin, with a spoonful of chocolate mixture next to it. Layer up the two mixes in the tins, with alternating mixes on top of each other. Briefly marble with a thin cake skewer.

6. Bake for around 15-20minutes, until risen and set in the centre. Leave to cool before running round the edges of each tin with a knife and turning out.

Friday, 13 April 2012

White Chocolate Crème Brûlée with Passion fruit

I had quite a lot of inspiration to make this crème brûlée. Firstly, an article in the Times for a similar recipe which had passion fruit infused in it but no eggs – it was a simple ganache style recipe. Secondly, a random abundance of cream in my fridge that needed using up. Thirdly, it is my sister’s 20th birthday today and she loves white chocolate. As part of her birthday present I made her a book of 20 white chocolate recipes – truffles, cheesecake, tart, cake, mousse – every bake you can think of! A white chocolate crème brûlée was recipe number 16 and so I decided to combine the flavours of this brûlée with the Times passion fruit ideas. creme bruleeI’d never tried making a crème brûlée before but it is a dish I have often ordered at restaurants and enjoyed. I was apprehensive about doing it – visions of cream and eggs turning into a scrambled mess, slight concerns about setting the kitchen on fire with  a blowtorch – but it was actually easier than I thought. In this version, the white chocolate adds extra rich and creaminess to the custard that always contrasts so well with the dark caramel crunch of the topping. The tropical passion fruit works really well in cutting through the richness, preventing the dish becoming sickly and making it fresh. In a lot of white chocolate recipes the specific chocolate flavour gets lost, but happily in this recipe it is clearly distinguishable despite the actually rather small amount involved.white chocolate (2)White Chocolate Crème Brûlée with Passion fruit, adapted from a BBC recipe
Ingredients: 284ml double cream
50g white chocolate, broken into pieces
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp caster sugar , plus extra for topping
4 passion fruit

  1. Preheat the oven to 160'C/140'C fan. Heat the cream, chocolate and vanilla bean paste in a saucepan until the chocolate has melted. Take off the heat and allow to infuse and cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale, around 5 minutes. Pour in the chocolate cream. Strain into a jug and pour into 4-5 ramekins.
  3. Place in a roasting tray and pour boiling water halfway up the sides. Bake for 20-25 minutes until just set with a still wobbly centre. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hrs.
  4. To serve, sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar on top of each brûlées and caramelise with a blowtorch or briefly under a hot grill. Leave caramel to harden and cool for a few seconds. Halve the passion fruit and scoop the pulp of one onto the top of each crème brûlée, then serve.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Apple Cinnamon Raisin Bars

My ‘Recipes To Make’ file of bookmarked links in my Favourites is getting a little out of control. 153 recipes, just in the ‘Sweet’ section – so not including a a ‘Savoury’ section or a notebook full of bits cut out from papers and magazines. Considering I bake roughly once a week, it would take me around 3 years to complete everything! Just reading the list makes me hungry. Peach Shortbread anyone? Lemon Rhubarb Bundt Cake? Blackberry Cream Cheese Pie?Almond Chocolate Tart? And so much more goodness yet my bookmarked file gets forgotten. Not any more! The ‘Sweet’ section is organised alphabetically (get me) so one of the first recipes I see every time I add something was these Apple Cinnamon Bars. A revision break yesterday called for a quick bake and these fitted the bill nicely.DSC_0505Essentially, this recipe turned out to be simply apple cake cut into squares but it was still delicious and smelt unbelievably good whilst baking. It has a good combination of classic flavours to complement the apple – vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg which make it more interesting than. It’s good with custard or cream, hot or cold, even for breakfast – whenever! DSC_0522The recipe is quick and simple to make too, so these bars can be whipped up whenever you need some cake fast. The flavours may be quite autumnal, but England has just experienced some snow (it’s April! Snow? Really?) so I think that’s excusable. You can find the recipe here and as for my favourites: 1 down, 152 to go.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Mini Bakewell Tarts

I made these tarts a few weekends ago when I had the day spare and kitchen free. When I initially read the recipe properly, I was worried about the pastry because it contains no sugar. When I ate my first finished tart, that completely made sense. Sweet strawberry jam, fluffy almond sponge, smooth lemon icing and a sticky glace cherry – if the pastry had been sweet as well these could easily go into overload and become sickly. As it is, I was more than happy with them.DSCF8966 I saw these on Jo’s lovely What do you make of my cake? blog, and was severely tempted straight away. I can’t believe I managed to wait so long before making them myself! They look so dainty and cute and very much reminded me of a bake suitable for Red Nose Day or Comic Relief with their bright red cherry. I love bakewell tarts, having made a whole one before, and also tried the Mr Kipling ones but I knew these would be so much better. As I’ve shown previously, shop bought baked goods often contain all sorts of crazy ingredients and the Mr Kipling Mini Bakewell Tarts (which look pretty much identical to mine) are no different, with over 30 ingredients…
Really, these Mini Bakewell Tarts are not that hard to make and you can be safe in the knowledge that all ingredients are pronounceable. Also, seeing as you’ve gone to the trouble of making them yourself you definitely deserve more than one :) You can find Jo’s original post with the recipe here – definitely give them a try. Even though they aren’t tiny and are quite sweet, I still found these quite addictive – enjoy!DSCF8965

Monday, 19 March 2012

After 10 Chocolates

Doesn’t Christmas seem a whole world away now that spring is evidently on its way? Shortly before Christmas, Jamie Oliver had a festive special on television and one of his ideas, After 10 Chocolates, really stuck out to me. So often with cookery books or shows the same recipes keep appearing over and over again. Chocolate cookies, treacle tart, Victoria sponge, lemon cupcakes – there are endless recipes in nearly every recipe book you buy. The After 10 Chocolates were really refreshing because it was an idea I hadn’t seen before and hopefully its new to you to!DSCF8870
Flavoured sugar soaking before being arranged in stripes The idea is you roll out a long piece of parchment paper – over a metre. Then you get five or six (although you could do as many flavours as you wanted) bowls and add a small amount of demerara sugar to each. Then you flavour each sugar bowl differently with a few drops of extract – I used almond extract, orange blossom water, lemon extract, rose essence and vanilla extract. These form pastes, and you spread these in separate vertical strips down sections of the paper. You can add non sugar flavourings as well – I did a strip of coffee and a strip of salt. It helps to label the different strips before the best part: going crazy drizzling a whole lot of melted dark chocolate all over the sugars. Write your name, write a secret, draw a picture with the chocolate – it all merges together into one long, lacy piece of chocolate with all the different flavours hidden inside…DSCF8874You can either go Russian Roulette with your chocolate – break it all into shards and jumble them up so nobody knows what flavour they’ll get, or keep all your flavours separate. It is so much fun to make – especially when you’re mixing up the sugars and your kitchen suddenly feels like a science laboratory. Favourite flavours in my family were the rose (although be careful not to add too much as it can become overpowering and taste like strong Turkish delight) and the surprise hit – coffee granules. I think this would be a fun, different talking point at a dinner party instead of normal shop bought mints especially as its so easy to do. You can find Jamie’s proper recipe here, enjoy!DSCF8877

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Orange and Passion fruit Cake

Today I planned my summer holiday. It made me dream of a beach – scorching sand that gets everywhere, paddling and swimming in the sea. I imagined exploring a new city with my friends – shopping, eating, seeing, sampling. It reminded me of sunny days – when its warm and you wear flip flops instead of boots, T-shirts without coats. This tropical cake properly transported me and made me feel like I was already there. Only three months to wait!DSCF8979This loaf cake is from Edd Kimber’s (Great British Bake Off series 1 winner) new book, The Boy Who Bakes. The sponge is like a pound cake, dense and full of orange citrus flavour. The cake is also soaked with an orange sugar syrup which helps keep it really moist and heightens the flavours. My favourite part of the cake, however, was the passion fruit icing. Ahhh. I’ve spoken before about my love of passion fruit and this icing was just pure passion fruit flavour – bright and tropical and summery and zingy and aromatic: I could go on! For me, it completely made the cake and took it to a whole new level.DSCF8976If you are sick of the grey weather, and are loving the start of March and the gradual arrival of spring then this is the cake for you. Just don’t be like me and be impatient, causing you to put the icing on whilst the cake is still faintly warm – melting the icing a tad and causing a cake-stand covered in icing instead of the actual cake… Cut yourself a generous slice, close your eyes and dream of the Caribbean!DSCF8990

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Chicken Pasties

As this blog clearly shows, savoury cooking is not my thing like sweet cooking and baking is. I do cook and enjoy savoury food, of course, but it rarely features on this blog because I don’t often stretch myself or try new things as often as I do with desserts. Something I rely on in savoury cooking quite often is chicken as it’s an easy staple we always have in our house and there’s so many ways to cook it. As this is a baking blog, I also often use pastry in my savoury baking. Today I combined the two to make jumbo chicken and carrot pasties.DSCF8925I’d had these saved in my Savoury To Make file for a long time, and one blustery day I just really had a craving for a properly hearty dinner. I made them in a few stages – the pastry and filling one day, and then basically cooked them to order the next day whenever somebody wanted one, just rolling out a wodge of pastry and forming the pasty and cooking one or two for that meal. I originally found them on this blog here where I think they were made for a picnic but I made mine much bigger. They were perhaps a bit too big – but they were filling and delicious! I added a slosh of cream to the filling and think perhaps they could have done with another small chicken breast, but overall I was pleased with how easy and successful they were. They have piqued my interest in savoury explorations! Enjoy :)DSCF8929

Friday, 17 February 2012

Rose Pink Macaroons

I’m kind of in love with almond this year, it seems. This is my third almond dish of 2012 and I actually made it a while a while ago now but felt that I should spread out the almond-based desserts a bit as obviously not everyone is a fan (you crazy people) and some people will be allergic. I also have several more almond recipes that I really want to make but ground almonds aren’t the cheapest of ingredients so I’m going to hang on to those ideas for a bit. Are there any ingredients you can’t stop using? These macaroons are a little bit different, at least, due to a secret ingredient…_DSC0865  I’m not a big fan of desserts which are really artificially coloured, because sometimes this takes away from the natural flavours in the food and just clearly looks very fake. Sometimes they can look really pretty, but generally I avoid desserts dyed bright green or blue if there is no reason. With these macaroons the secret ingredient adds a pretty pink colour that is easily controllable and contains no crazy ingredients that you can’t pronounce or contains numbers as well as letters. The ingredient? Beetroot._DSC0867I admit I was a little bit scared when I first saw this recipe. I like beetroot, but I’m not a massive fan and I didn’t want the lovely almond and delicate rosewater flavours to be overpowered by this crazy hot pink vegetable. The idea is that you whizz up a few chunks of beetroot with the sugar before adding the ground almonds, egg whites and rosewater. Due to my apprehension, I used a very small amount of chopped beetroot and this meant my macaroons had a very gentle blush pink colour as the colour fades slightly whilst baking – you can’t even really tell in the pictures. There was no beetroot flavour (great!) so in the future I’d be braver and add a larger chunk, like the recipe suggests, just to make the pink slightly more noticeable but still pretty and not brash._DSC0872 The final cookies were so cute and very difficult to stop snacking on. The rosewater flavour was definitely there, perhaps a little bit too strong for some tastes but I quite liked it. The whole almond on top added some necessary crunch and the nuttiness nicely distracted from the very sweet macaroon. The tin disappeared very quickly and I have to admit that was largely down to me! The recipe is here, it’s another Dan Lepard one from the Guardian – like the coconut meringues and cherry chocolate cookies. These recipes always work and it’s taking a lot of resistance not to buy his new book! Enjoy :)

Friday, 10 February 2012

Blondies and Brownies In One

What shall I make this weekend…Cake or biscuits? Pie or tart? Delicate mini meringues or generous billowing pavlova?Such are the decisions faced by baking bloggers. Flavours are another decision to be made – nuts, fruit, spices, citrus, white chocolate, dark chocolate? Well, worry and dither no more as my bake today solves this last decision. Phew. ;)DSCF8939 Instead of having to choose between sweet white chocolate blondies or classic, rich dark chocolate brownies – combine the two. Even better, combine the two using heart-shaped cut-outs. Why? Just because you can, because its cute, because it’s nearly Valentine’s Day and because these are my entry to English Mum’s Valentines Day Baked With Love Bakeoff.


I have embraced Valentine’s baking before but I didn’t last year so it felt good to be back with all things heart shaped, although I drew the line at pink or glitter this year. I’ve had this recipe from Smitten Kitchen bookmarked for a year, but this was finally the excuse I needed to bake them. I’ve tried blondies before but it’s always really hard to find a good recipe that lets the white chocolate shine, so I was keen to give this recipe a go. As I was making them I wasn’t convinced there was enough chocolate involved (you can never have too much!) so I added chocolate chunks as well and it was definitely worth it – they added bursts of chocolate flavour and caramelised slightly which was delicious. Both the brownie and blondie recipes worked very well, particularly the brownie which stayed really moist and fudgy. DSCF8933Some of my blondies ended up being a bit small for the heart cutter, so I used my smallest circle instead. It was quite a delicate process swapping the brownie circle centres as they were so moist, and it was definitely easier with the bigger hearts. Overall though they turned out really well – quite the treat! The combination of blondie and brownie at once was intriguing as the two chocolates worked really well together. DSCF8934I know the amounts in the recipe are a bit strange, (the recipe was converted from American measurements and then halved) but if you have a digital scale then it should be no problem. It makes a small batch of 12 finished combined brownies as well, so if you’re feeding a crowd definitely double it. I’ve just put the amounts once, so just switch the chocolate after you’ve made the first batch.  I’m thinking these could work with any other cut-out shape for other times of year: pumpkin cutters at Halloween, Christmas trees at Christmas etc etc. For now, embrace the slightly cheesy aspect of this idea, and enjoy!

Blondie and Brownie Hearts, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

80g chopped white chocolate, split into 45g and 35g
56g butter
88g sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
smidge of salt
40g plain flour

1. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line a 8x8inch square tin. You will not fill the whole tin, so screw up some tin foil and place it in the tin to prevent the brownie mixture eventually spreading into a thin layer across the whole pan.

2.Melt the 43g of white chocolate and butter together in a bowl, over a saucepan of boiling water.

3. Take off the heat and whisk in the sugar (the mixture will look like it really wont work at this stage – carry on!). Whisk in the egg and vanilla and then finally fold in the flour, salt and remaining 57g of white chocolate chunks.

4. Pour the mixture into the tin, and bake for 15 minutes. Cut the brownies into six even squares (judge the sizes compared to your cutter – ensure there will be a decent border around the cut-out) and leave to cool. Use a heart cutter to cut a heart out of the centre of each brownie.

5. Repeat the whole recipe from step 1, but using dark chocolate throughout instead of white chocolate.

5. Put blondie hearts in brownie gaps and vice versa. Embrace the cute factor and enjoy!