Category Archives: baking
Due to my poor maths skills, I miscalculated the amount of fruit I’d need for my Christmas cake and pudding by around 250 g (I don’t know quite how). My Christmas fruit was a mixture of glace cherries, candied peel, dried cranberries, currants, raisins and sultanas steeped in cherry brandy, Cointreau and Amaretto.
I’d been hankering after a carrot cake for a while, so I thought I’d combine the two ideas and cook a fruity carrot cake. Unfortunately, the only recipe I liked the look of was in American cups and had some spices I didn’t have in (ground cloves, nutmeg) so I altered, substituted and below is my metric rendering of the cake:
- 175g brown sugar
- 85g butter
- 200 ml milk
- 2 eggs
- 225g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsps cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 140g carrots
- 250g steeped Christmas fruit
How to Make it
Cream the butter and sugar together (the better you do this, the better a cake seems to come out), then add the milk and eggs alternately with the flour and dry ingredients. Then add the carrots and Christmas fruit, pour into a 8 or 9 inch tin (I had a 9 inch which is why it’s a bit flat!) and bake for 45 mins to an hour.
For the icing – I used 100g cream cheese and 100g butter and just added icing sugar until it looked like the icing I’ve seen before on carrot cakes. Not precise, I know, but it worked OK.
I promised to make TLM a cake for graduation. He grew up in Yorkshire and munched rhubarb straight from the garden, sometimes dipped in sugar. When he saw the rhubarb in the greengrocer’s he knew he wanted some sort of rhubarb cake…
I’ve been wedded to my Marguerite Pattern sponge recipe for many years, as it provides a very light but modest Victoria sponge. I was tempted to switch to Nigella Lawson’s skyscraping Victoria Sponge as it claimed to work well with sugary, orangey rhubarb. I needed no more convincing. I cooked down 400g of rhubarb, chopped into pieces roughly an inch long, with 100g of sugar (I baulked at the amount, but apparently it was necessary) and the juice of a very big orange. The rhubarb was strained, the syrup cooked down further and then all set aside to cool.
Ingredients – makes two 21cm sandwich tins
- 225 g unsalted butter, very soft
- 200 g self raising flour
- 25 g corn flour
- 225 g caster sugar
- 4 large eggs
I added a tablespoon of Cointreau so the orangey zing would go through the sponge too.
How to Make it
Cream the butter and sugar (this is why it helps for the butter to be very soft) and then add the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour and corn flour mixture between each. Divide the mix into the two tins and bake for 25 minutes at 185 Celsius, or until the cakes begin to come away from the edges. and a cake tester comes out clean. (I found this to be slightly too long, and would change it back to 200 degrees for 20 minutes myself)
Assemble the sponge and rhubarb when everything is suitably cooled. The recipe called from cream in the middle, but we dolloped it (with some of the reduced rhubarb syrup) on the side.
TLM was given a bran spanking new Canon 400D digital SLR camera (phwoar!) as a graduation gift, so I have purloined it already and am trying to get to grips with it. These are my first pictures, taken on the first day with it. Hmmmm, still lots to learn (especially keeping it straight, as the other camera projects little lines on the LCD screen)
One of the main reasons I like food blogging is the potential to experiment and still feel that something productive came out of something that didn’t go perfectly. This entry to A Slice of Cherry Pie’s In The Bag event (this month’s ingredients: strawberries and white chocolate) was one of those imperfect, but valuable cooking experiences.
I knew I wanted to cook a cheesecake, but I wanted to not follow a recipe strictly as it seems all the cheesecake recipes I try to follow don’t work. This is probably due to differing oven temperatures, but many times I’ve found the cooking times specified to be either far too short or far too long, with me having to slice a burnt top off. So today I wanted to try one that has been much hyped, Nigella’s London Cheesecake, but I wanted to do it a bit differently. You can find the original recipe here.
I started my departure from the recipe by doubling the amount of biscuit and butter required in order to make a cheesecake with a base and walls. (Probably more accurately termed sides, but I think they look like a rather craggy fortress myself) Although working against gravity to create the walls, they didn’t cave in and it was all A-OK.
I then made up a strawberry syrup from a punnet of berries, some caster sugar and a touch of water. I boiled it up, then down, then mushed it and spread all over the biscuit base and let the whole lot cool. So far, so good.
The white chocolate was simply melted and stirred in with the cream cheese of the original recipe, and I adjusted the cooking times up a little to make up for the 200g of white chocolate I’d added but cooked it in a vat of water just as with the original. Well, I evidently didn’t adjust enough because it was still wibbling at me after a good hour. I can’t quite tell with cheesecake how much it’ll firm with cooling (once I had a rather amazing disaster where I undercooked a cheesecake and took it out of its tin without letting it cool. Result: cheesecake avalanche, followed by a number of spoons scooping and eating from the table and a mortified me!) so I bunged it in for another half hour. I eyed it suspiciously once more, removed it from the water, let it cool.
As it was cooling, I fanned some strawberries for the top (apparently very retro, but novel for me).
I promised to make The Little Medic a cake for finishing his finals and his request was not much of a surprise. His favourite cake I make is marzipan fruit cake (the marzipan is mixed in and turns into chewy nuggets), but anything with cherries is his second choice. As a result, I have a cupboard full of morello cherry jam, natural glace cherries, maraschino cherries, bottled morello cherries, tinned black cherries…
This time, he pointed out a cake from a book I’ve not trusted for some time. I looked at the recipe and the quantities for the sponge seemed complete nonsense. By the time I read the final instruction to cut the sponge in half to make a sandwich I had lost all faith. However, he argued that maybe a gateau was different to a sponge cake (I was unconvinced) led me to follow the recipe. As I predicted – and maybe as a result of my prediction – the ‘sponge’ was flat and RUBBERY?!! I threw a small wobbler in the kitchen, stomped around saying I should have trusted myself and defiantly lobbed the sponge into the bin (it made a retaliatory thud at the bottom). I flung the un-trustworthy recipe book on the floor, and turned to my fail-proof Marguerite Pattern sponge cake recipe.
- 75 g self-raising flour (I use supreme sponge because I see no reason why not)
- 25 g cocoa powder
- 100 g butter
- 100 g sugar
- 2 eggs
How to Make it
Preheat the oven to 190 Celsius, and get someone with patience to line two 6-7 inch (15-18 cm) sandwich tins. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add an egg, mix. Add half the flour and cocoa powder, mix. Add the remaining egg, mix. Add the remaining flour and cocoa powder, mix. Split the mixture between the two sandwich tins. Cook just above the centre of the oven for about 15-20 minutes. I usually swap them round half way through. To tell if it’s cooked you can initially use the finger-impression method (i.e. if it leaves an indentation it’s not cooked yet) and back it up with the skewer method (i.e. if you test it in the centre with skewer and gooey bits stick to it, it’s not done). When cooked, let the cakes cool in a rack for 2 or 3 minutes, then turn them out carefully. If you leave them in their tins they will overcook and dry out.
I actually made the cherry filling before the sponge to let it all cool down.
Ingredient – Cherry layer
- 450 g fresh cherries, then stoned (I looked like a murderer after stoning these and my fingers are still dyed now)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 100 ml of water, cherry brandy or … fruit cider (which I used and it worked well)
How to Make it
Put the cherries, sugar and liquid in a pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cherries. Add the syrup back and cook for a minute or two longer to thicken, as you want the syrup to soak slightly into the sponge and not make it soggy.
After adding the cherries, I whipped the cream for the centre. I took on board what Nigel Slater had to say on “A Taste of My Life” that cream should not be overwhipped, and should look like an unmade bed. This proved very sound advice.
I didn’t bother to cream or decorate the top because it would be eaten in a few sittings and some fresh cream each time drizzled would spruce it up, rather than have it going claggy on top. TLM said it was delicious (and he says it tastes even better today – funny how that’s the case with a lot of cakes) and tucked in to a very messy, but very decadent, slice:
As requested, here is the recipe for this hurts-your-teeth sugary chocolate cake that featured on The Little Medic’s blog. It is better known as Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake from ‘Feast’ (copied below)
FOR THE CAKE
200g (8 oz) plain flour
200g (8 tbsp) caster sugar
5ml (1 tsp) baking powder
2.5ml (½ tsp) bicarbonate of soda
40g (1½ oz) best-quality cocoa
175g (6 oz) soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
10ml (2 tsp) real vanilla extract
150ml (¼ pint) sour cream
FOR THE ICING
85ml (3 oz) unsalted butter
175g (6 oz) best-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g (10 oz) icing sugar
15ml (1 tbsp) golden syrup
125ml (4fl oz) sour cream
5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
Take everything out of the fridge so all the ingredients can come to room temperature. Heat oven to 180°C and line and butter two 20cm sandwich tins. Mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.
Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester, or a thin skewer, comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. Also it might make sense to switch the two cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don’t worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the icing later.
Do not even contemplate icing the cake until the sponges are cold. To make this icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don’t want any burning or seizing. While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl. Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla, and then, when all this is combined, whisk in the sieved icing sugar.
Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking parchment to form a square outline on it (this stops the icing running onto the plate). Then sit one of the cakes, uppermost (i.e. slightly domed) side down. Spoon about a third of the icing onto the centre of the cake half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the two together. Spoon another third of the icing onto the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining icing and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.
Today was our third anniversary. Unfortunately, there was a completely distressing head-on collision that we were first to come across as we were going on our joyful business. I wrote a blogpost on my personal blog as soon as I came in to try and deal with my feelings. I still feel like I shouldn’t have seen what I did when their families didn’t even know anything was wrong. We came home, after having eaten nothing or hardly spoken all day. We decided that although we were subdued, we mustn’t let the event disproportionately affect us.
I don’t knock up chocolate cookies after tragedy. But we must eat, and this was the most convenient and thoughtless thing I could throw together just for calorie intake as I’d made the mixture last evening and left it in the fridge. When we finally got home it was just easy to mindlessly scoop out the mix, cook it, and try to move on with a glass of the pink fizz we’d set aside for our intended evening ‘celebrations’
The recipe is a shameless copy of nigella’s, pasted below:
150 g light brown sugar
100 g soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 g flour35 g cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
200 g chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the sugar and butter (I use a freestanding mixer for ease), then beat in the egg and vanilla. Mix the flour, cocoa, and baking powder in a bowl, and gradually beat into the creamed mixture. Finally, fold in the chips. Using a rounded tablespoon measure, spoon out scoops of cookie dough and place on baking sheets lined with baking parchment, leaving a little space in between each one. Bake for 12 minutes and then let them sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving them to a cooling rack, with some newspaper on the surface underneath.
The cookies taste best warm, and refridgerate no problem for a few days so cook in batches as needed. They proved a standby for us today.
We haven’t stopped thinking about those who were in so much suffering today, and their families. I hope today will prove to be an anniversary, for them, of a lucky escape.
I have been left with a HUGE bunch of over-ripe bananas on my hands. Why? Well, as you may or may not know, my fiance The Little Medic (TLM), is in his last year at medical school and is in the throes of revising for finals. Part of that revision is practising his skills, so we went and bought a whole heap of bananas for him to practise his suturing on. After dissecting one, it became apparent that banana skin is nothing like human skin and evidently useless to practise on. With neither of us overly keen on bananas, they were left in the fruit bowl.
I’ve never made a banana loaf before, something about the thought of it never appealed to me, but after seeing the banana goodies made by Astra Libris over at Food for Laughter I thought it would be the best way to put them to use. I used Nigella Lawson’s “Banana Bread” as a starting point, but didn’t have many of the right ingredients or right sized loaf tins, so I just muddled along. I didn’t have any greaseproof paper, but thankfully buttering and flouring the tins worked perfectly. I also forgot to look at the clock when I put it in – but I’m more of an instinctive than timer cook so it was OK – you can see the skewer holes in the picture below. The following recipe used up 3 large bananas (woop) and produced two of these loaves:
- 200 g raisins
- 175 g plain flour (I used self raising by mistake!)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 125 g margarine
- 150 g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 300 g of overripe bananas (weight after skins removed)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
How to make it
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a bowl. In a bigger bowl, pour in the butter (melted) and the sugar and beat them together. Add the eggs and the vanilla essence, then the mashed up bananas. Stir in the flour mixture. Pour into the tin/s (makes one big tin or two smaller tins worth – fill 2/3 full, no more because it puffs up a treat). Bake for 1 – 1/2 hours – it is ready when a skewer comes out clean.
It tastes really good, I had 2 slices for breakfast and another slice at lunchtime – eep. I imagine it could be really nice to fiddle around with – walnuts, honey, cinnamon…mmm.
p.s. wow what a difference taking pictures in the natural morning light makes! Alas, not all cooking is conducive to taking photos at the right time!
TLM got me a ‘cake and bake’ recipe book at Christmas, and eagerly pointed out the “Chocolate Caramel Slice” recipe. To me that’s always been known as Millionaire’s Shortbread, but the recipe looked a bit weird, so I change it. When I made these, because they have oats in, the name Millionaire’s Shortbread didn’t seem right. I took these babies round to a friend’s house as the pudding offering and they immediately dubbed them ShortJack. Amazing!
There was a bit of a drama with the cooking of these, in that the oven started to work again but gave out half way through so I had to just leave them in the warm oven and hope the shortbread would cook with the residual heat. The shortbread is a bit crunchier than I would expect, so I think that may be the reason (although everyone commended the crunch, so maybe I’ll continue the turning off the oven method!) It was also the first time I made caramel, and it was viciously hot!
- 150 g butter
- 120 g brown sugar
- 180 g plain flour
- 80 g oats
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 400 ml can condensed milk
Ingredients (chocolate topping)
- 200 g chocolate (dark/milk mix)
- bit of honey or golden syrup
How to make it
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Make sure the butter is really soft and beat the butter and sugar together. Mix in the oats and flour and incorporate together with your hands. Press the mix into the bottom of a 24cm baking tin (I use a silicone baking thingy because it ensures you can just pop the finished article out). Cook for 25 minutes.
Place the ingredients for the caramel in a pan, bring to the boil slowly, and gently stirring all the time let it boil for 4 minutes until it goes thick. Pour over. Let go cold.
Melt chocolate, pour over. Voila!
The secret of making these is to 1) keep the dough cold 2) not over cook them. They look really pretty and taste great. This dough makes about 20.
Ingredients (Shortbread 1)
- 150 g plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 50 g caster sugar
- 125 g unsalted butter
Ingredients (Shortbread 2)
- 125 g plain flour
- 25 g cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 50 caster sugar
- 125 g unsalted butter
- 100 g dark chocolate
How to make it
Preheat the oven to 150 celsius.
To make the first shortbread, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Rub in the butter (you really need to have taken it out of the freezer or it will take FOREVER!). Knead it, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge for a good half hour. Do the same for the second shortbread, including the cocoa (it’s messier!)
When the doughs have been in the fridge for long enough to become managable, lay out a piece of greaseproof paper and roll the plain shortbread out into a rectangle type shape about a centimeter thick (and so about 25-30cm long). The brown shortbread is always stickier, so I squidge it into a cylinder then spread it out over the plain base using my fingers (you can see where I’ve done it below). Chop up the chocolate and sprinkle somewhere in the middle. Use the greaseproof paper to help you roll the dough up like a swiss roll. Try and do it as tightly as possible, it doesn’t matter if the chocolate pokes through.
If the dough has got warm, put it back in the fridge as it makes cutting it up a lot easier. Use a sharp knife and slice the roll into about 1cm slices. Lay onto greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Bake for 25 minutes in the middle of the oven. It’s better to undercook them than overcook them. Lift the greasproof paper off from the baking tray and put onto a wire rack. Don’t try and pick them up before they’re cold or they will fall to pieces.
There were two batches like this: