Friday, 27 January 2012

Spelt Bread

Continuing my bread odyssey (I think I'm getting better, honest!) I thought I'd try out some spelt bread for the weekend. Spelt is an easily digestible form of wheat that, despite being used in parts of Europe for centuries has only recently come to prominence here. Higher than other wheats in essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals it has a lovely nutty, almost malty taste. The lower gluten content also means it's easier to mix and has a shorter proving time.

Prep Time: 2 Hours (ish!)
Baking time: 40 Mins
500g Spelt Flour (Plus extra for dusting)
1/2tsp Salt
1tsp Sugar
1 7g Sachet Yeast
1tbsp Olive Oil
400ml Warm Water

Start by grabbing a large mixing bowl and tipping in the flour. Add the salt and give it a mix around, then sprinkle in the sugar followed by the yeast and do the same. Pour in the olive oil, then water and work it around with a wooden spoon until comes together to a lumpy dough. Tip it out onto a floured surface and knead it for 5-8 minutes, pushing it apart and folding the far end towards you. Keep at it and you'll find the dough will become drier and more elastic. Give the ball of dough a dusting of flour and sit it back in the mixing bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove for about an hour, until it's doubled in size.

When it's risen, tip the dough back out onto a floured surface again, then gently knock the air out of it with your fingers. Gently shape the dough into an oval, dust the top with flour, then cover with the damp tea towel for another 30 minutes until the dough has risen once more. After about 15 minutes or so you can preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Remove the tea towel then carefully transfer the dough to a floured baking tray. Slash the top a few times with a sharp knife, give it a final light sprinkling of flour on top then bake in a preheated oven for about 40 minutes, until the loaf is a nice even brown. Ta dah!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Rhubarb and custard tart (And more!)

Working on a new carrot cake recipe, which I'll try and post later in the week. In the meantime I'd advise everyone to check out some of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's seasonal comfort food recipes that were featured in the Observer this weekend. My favourite is the rhubarb and custard tart, but there are several other crackers featured and together it's a great selection.

If you know a regular Observer reader then you can try and get hold of the recipes cards, otherwise you can find them all here

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Parsnip and Caraway Bread

Parsnips seem to be the vegetable of the moment right now, which is good news as I love them. Earthy, but with a sweet, almost fruity flavour they make a great addition to many a savoury dish (and even a few sweet ones). With that in mind, I thought it'd be good to try them out in this interesting bread recipe. Now, I wouldn't say I'm the greatest bread baker in the world (although I do love the process), so please forgive me if I break with convention here and there. All I can say is what came out in the end was delicious. Soft in texture with a crisp dark crust, the flavour of the parsnips just sits nicely in the background without overpowering the lovely traditional bread flavour. The notes of caraway just give it an extra dimension, teasing the palate with nutty, aromatic undertones.

Prep Time: 4 Hours (Although most of that is spent boiling, proving and resting!)
Baking Time: 30-40 Mins
250g Peeled and Chopped Parsnips
325g Strong White Bread Flour (Plus extra for dusting)
1tsp Salt
1 7g Packet of Yeast
1tsp Sugar
1tsp Caraway Seeds (Plus a little sprinkle for the top of your loaf)
1tbsp Olive Oil (Plus a little extra for greasing)
200ml of the Parsnip Water

Right let's get cracking! Boil the parsnips until soft, then drain (retaining the boiling liquid) and set both aside for half an hour or so. In a large bowl grate in the cooked parsnips, then mix in the flour and salt with a big wooden spoon. Add in the yeast, sugar and caraway, give it another thorough mix, then pour in 200ml of the parsnip water and the oil. Mix it all around until a dough begins to form. If for whatever reason you think the mix is too dry or too wet you can add a little water or flour accordingly, but these measurements worked out fine for me. Dust a surface lightly with flour then tip out your dough and begin kneading it until it comes together completely. Be careful how much flour you use as too much will dry out the dough. You'll find after a few minutes kneading the dough will become less sticky and easier to work with and after around 7-10 minutes it'll be smooth and elastic. Lightly grease another large bowl with oil, put your dough in, then cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for around 2 hours (Until it's doubled in size).

Once the dough has risen tip it out onto another floured surface and deflate it with your fingertips. Shape it into a nice round ball and leave it on the floured surface, covered with the tea towel for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile you can preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7 and dust a large flat baking tray with flour.

VERY carefully transfer the risen loaf to the floured tray. Score the top a few times with a sharp knife, then give it a final light sprinkling of flour and caraway seeds on top. Place it in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the loaf is brown and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom. When you're happy it's cooked take it out and leave it to cool for a bit on a wire rack. One little tip (Which might be sacrilegious!), if you like your loaf soft instead of crusty, cover it with a damp tea towel whilst it's cooling. You can serve this warm or cold, either way it's grrrreat!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Gluten/Dairy Free Spiced Coconut Cake

As I continued to clear my store cupboard of ingredients I stumbled upon a bag of dessicated coconut I bought a few weeks ago. Now, I love coconut cake as much as anyone else, but it got me thinking if I could maybe spice it up a bit, so I've come up with this. I think the spices really compliment the coconutty flavour and the sponge is dense, sweet and moist. I've given mine an extra hit of ginger but you can balance it however you like. I also used some orange zest for fragrance but you can substitute some orange extract, lemon zest, even a bit of booze if you'd prefer! Oh and finally although not initially intentional this one is both dairy and gluten free, so if you are anti either of those you can fill your boots!

Prep time: 10 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
A little oil for greasing
400ml Tin of Coconut Milk
225g Dark Soft Brown Sugar
3 Large Eggs
2tsp Mixed Spice
2tsp Ground Ginger
The Zest of 1 Medium Orange
1tsp Baking Powder
250g Dessicated Coconut
200g Ground Almonds

Right, so to start preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 23cm springform tin. In a large bowl whisk together the coconut milk and sugar (Probably best to use a hand whisk for this), then crack in the eggs and continue whisking until combined. Add in the spices, zest and baking powder then whisk until nicely combined. Using a wooden spoon mix in the coconut, followed by the ground almonds then pour the mixture into the tin, giving it a little jiggle to even out the mixture. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 60 minutes, until the top is a nice even brown and a metal skewer can be cleanly removed from the middle. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then turn out onto a plate ready for serving. One final point of note, be extra careful when turning the cake out as the moist sponge is a little more fragile than normal!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Maple and Ginger Loaf

I was pottering around the kitchen today, thinking of ways to use up some store cupboard ingredients and came up with this. I admit I wasn't overly confident, but it turned out really really nice. Beautiful actually! The flavours are delicate and the sponge is light, with a biscuity crumb around the edge. As this was kind of slapped together I'm sure you guys could refine it, maybe by playing with the spicing or syrup, adding some orange zest or even some fresh ginger to give it a zing. As it stands though I'm chuffed to bits with this one and definitely recommend you give it a try!

Prep time: 10 Mins
Baking time: 60 Mins
100g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
100g Dark Brown Sugar
175g Maple Syrup
2 Large Eggs
3Tsp Ground Ginger
1Tsp Baking Powder
150ml Milk
200g Plain Flour

To start, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 22cm loaf tin. Give the tin a thorough greasing, especially the corners as otherwise there's a risk it'll stick when you try and turn it out. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. You want to make sure you get all the lumps out of the butter and sugar at this stage, so give it a good creaming! Pour in the maple syrup and continue mixing, then beat in the eggs one at a time followed by the ginger and baking powder. Tip in half the flour, give it a mix, then pour in the milk followed by the remaining flour and mix it all together until you are left with a smooth batter. Pour into the tin and bake in the centre of the oven for an hour, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed from the middle of the loaf. It's probably worth checking after 50 minutes and if it's colouring too much cover with some foil. Leave it to cool for 15 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack until completely cool. Finished!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Bakewell Macaroons

I'm not putting this one up as a proper recipe (so please forgive a few vagueries) as I think it still needs some refinement. I'm trying to think of ways to incorporate more jam and I'm considering adding a pastry or biscuitty base. However as it stands, I think it's still a good idea and a lovely alternative to bakewell tart or a normal macaroon.

A few days ago I was thinking about interesting recipes to try out. I'm in a bit of a dairy/flour free phase at the moment so macaroons seemed like a good choice, but I'd made a lot in previous weeks so wasn't feeling doing more of the same. After a bit of pondering, not to mention some discussion I decided to try out a play on the traditional bakewell, retaining the beautiful fragrance and jammy sweetness whilst introducing the chewy nuttiness of an almond macaroon.

So to start I preheated the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and lined a large flat tray with baking paper. In a large bowl I whisked together 2 egg whites with 1tsp of vanilla extract and 1tsp of almond extract. You could leave out the almond extract if you like, although I think it helps bring out that real traditional bakewell flavour. I then added 100g of caster sugar and whisked again until it was nicely combined, then mixed in 200g of ground almonds until the whole thing was a loose dough. From the mix I rolled out 12 balls and placed them on the tray, then flattened out each ball so they looked like thick-ish flat discs. I then blobbed about half a teaspoon of raspberry jam on six of the disks, placed another on top and moulded carefully until they were biscuit shaped (Taking care to ensure as little jam as possible leaked out). I was then left with six macaroony biscuits, which I evenly spaced out on the large tray. For each biscuit I pressed a few flaked almonds around the edge and popped half a glace cherry in the middle. 

In the tray went, centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until they were evenly golden on top. Once done I left them on the tray for about half an hour, then placed them on a wire rack to cool completely (whilst I went for a run). To finish, I took a small amount of icing sugar, mixed it with a little water and drizzled it on top.

They are very very lovely, although I am still trying to think of ways to get more jam inside. So any suggestions or ideas for improvements are more than welcome!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Angelina's Maple Flapjacks

My lovely friend Angelina sent me some delicious Vermont maple syrup this Christmas and it's inspired me to come up with this maple flapjack recipe. I've added pecans and dates, which I think work really well with the deep, almost burnt butterscotch flavour of the maple syrup. However you can mix it up a bit if you want to try other things. Some ginger, lemon zest, dried fruits or even chocolate chips would also work beautifully. You can even try other syrups and types of sugar, it's up to you!

Prep Time: 10 Mins
Baking Time: 25 Mins
200g Maple Syrup
150g Light Muscovado Sugar
200g Unsalted Butter
200g Dates (Pitted and roughly chopped)
150g Pecans (Roughly chopped)
350g Jumbo Rolled Oats

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 line a 22cm square tin (or similar) with baking or greaseproof paper. Pour the maple syrup into a large saucepan then add the sugar and cubed butter. Stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the butter is completed melted. Throw in the dates and nuts, stir for another 30 seconds or so, then remove the pan from the heat and tip in the rolled oats. Mix the whole lot together until combined, making sure you get right to the bottom of the pan. Tip the mixture into the lined tray and press the mixture down, compacting as much as you can and ensuring it's worked right into the corners of the tray. Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes, until the top is golden and the edges are just starting to darken. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then tip out, carefully remove the paper and cut into equal squares. Done!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Peanut Butter and Banana loaf

Happy new year everyone and hope you all had a good Christmas. I thought it would be nice to start 2012 with a more wholesome recipe and although I wouldn't go as far as to say this one was healthy, it's certainly better for you than most of the sweet treats we've all been indulging in over the festive period! I've used smooth peanut butter but you can try chunky if you want some more texture. You can also leave out the spicing if you're not feeling it, or try other flavourings if you'd prefer (Just cinnamon, some rum or maybe even throw in some chocolate chips)!

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Baking Time: 70-75 Minutes
4 Ripe Medium Bananas
125ml Agave Nectar Light Natural Sweetener
200g Natural Peanut Butter (The kind with no added sugar)
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Mixed Spice
1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
200g Plain Flour
A little oil or butter to grease the tin

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease/line the base of a 22cm loaf tin. In a large bowl mash the bananas roughly with a fork then stir through the agave nectar, followed by the peanut butter. I do it in this order as it means the bananas are nicely incorporated, yet still retain some texture which works out nice in the final loaf. Mix in the eggs and vanilla extract, followed by the mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda, then mix the whole lot together until you are left with a smooth batter, bejeweled with lumps of delicious banana!

Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 60 minutes, until the top is nicely golden and a metal skewer can be removed cleanly from the middle. You might find you have to cover with foil for the last 10 minutes if it starts to brown too much. Leave it to cool in the tin for 20 minutes or so, then turn it out onto a wire rack and let finish cooling on there. Yum yum all done!