Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Maple and Pecan Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing

Flour and butter are two of the bakers best friends, but for those who simply cannot tolerate either here's a recipe that is both gluten and dairy free. I've used both ground almonds and ground pecans in the sponge mixture, along with a little maple syrup and vanilla to add further depth to the flavour. On top I've adorned the cake with a rich and indulgent peanut butter icing. The two combine to make a terrifically toothsome afternoon tea treat, so why not indulge yourself and give it a try.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 45-50 Mins
100g Pecans
200g Ground Almonds
75g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
1tsp Baking Powder
125g Maple Syrup
5 Large Eggs (Beaten)
1tsp Vanilla Extract

For the icing
150g Smooth Unsweetened Peanut Butter
200g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
Around 5-6tbsp Water

Begin by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and greasing a 23cm springform tin, lining the base with baking paper. Grind the pecans finely, either using a pestle and mortar or mini food processor, then mix them in a bowl along with the ground almonds, sugar and baking powder. Pour in the maple syrup, eggs and vanilla, then mix it all together until you're left with a smooth, evenly combined batter. Pour into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45-50 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you're happy it's cooked take it out of the oven, leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then carefully remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Once the cake is cool you can make the icing. Beat together the peanut butter and icing sugar, gradually adding the water as you go. You may use less or more than the 5-6tbsp but you ideally want the icing to be thick, but smooth and spreadable. Once it's got to that stage spread it all over the cooled cake and ta-dah, you're done!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Chocolate Tiffin Squares

Baking baking baking, it's all I want to do. It's what I did today, it's what I'll do tomorrow, but stop the press, it's NOT what I did yesterday. Yesterday I made little squares of chocolate tiffin, which consists of a buttery biscuit base topped with melted chocolate. Instead of baking these beauties all you need to do is squash the mixture all together, drizzle over the chocolate and let it set. It's that easy, so no excuses for not giving it a go! This recipe below is a great base to add in other things, such as nuts or sultanas, or you could even play around with different flavours such as vanilla and orange. Let me know your spin and I'll give it a try myself!

Prep time: 10 Minutes (Plus a couple of hours setting time)
Baking time: Zero!
150g Unsalted Butter
100g Maple or Golden Syrup
300g Digestive Biscuits
50g Cocoa Powder
150g Dark Chocolate
150g White Chocolate

First things first, line a 21cm square tin with baking paper. Put the butter in a small saucepan with the syrup and let them both melt together slowly on a low heat. Whilst it's doing its thing crush the biscuits in a large bowl. I used a rolling pin for this and obliterated them relatively comprehensively, but don't worry if a few biscuity lumps remain. Tip in the cocoa powder and mix the two together.

Once the butter has melted remove from the heat and pour into the biscuit mix. Stir it together then tip the lot into your prepared tin. Squash it all down with the back of a spoon, evening it out to the edges, then leave in a cold place for an hour or two to set. The fridge is the best place for this, but with the weather like it is you can probably get away with leaving it a cold room!

Once it's firmed up you can sort out the chocolate. Melt the two chocolates separately over a bain-marie or in the microwave, if you're confident with your timings. Drizzle both over the set base, making swirling patterns as you go, them pick up the tin and carefully tilt it each way to ensure the chocolate reaches the edges. Don't be tempted to use a knife or anything for this or you'll end up mixing the two chocolates together and it'll spoil the final look. Place the tin back in a cold place for a couple more hours, until the chocolate sets on top.

To finish just take a large sharp knife and slice into small squares (I usually do about 16). A final tip about slicing. If you have a big enough sharp knife press it straight down in a line before moving the blade back and forth, which should stop any of the squares breaking. And that's it, done!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Steamed Maple Puddings

Brrrr! When it's this cold I find the best thing to do is fortify oneself with a piping hot pudding. This steamed sponge is the perfect antidote to wintery weather and an absolute doddle to make. You should get two prodigious puddings out of the mixture, each one more than adequate for sustaining you and whoever you snuggle up with after eating them. I make no apologies for their near gargantuan heft. It's important to insulate in these conditions!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking (err I mean steaming) time: 60 Mins
75g Shredded Suet
75g Light Muscovado Sugar
75g Plain Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
1 Large Egg (Beaten)
2tbsp Milk
6tbsp Mixed Fruit (The nicest you can afford)
6tbsp Maple syrup

No preheating this time, although it's probably best to put the kettle on. In a large bowl mix together the shredded suet and sugar, then sift in the flour with the baking powder and do the same. Make a well in the middle, then pour in the egg and milk. Beat the mixture together until evenly combined. Fold through 3tbsp of the mixed fruit and set aside whilst you sort out the ramekins.

Speaking of which! Grease two ramekins (9cm diameter) and drizzle 1.5tbsp of maple syrup into the base of each. Take the fruit you have left over and scatter 1.5tbsp into both ramekins. Spoon your sponge mix into your ramekins, ensuring it's evenly divided. Cut out two squares of baking paper and two squares of foil, both equal in size and larger than the base of your ramekins. Lay a sheet of paper over the foil, then pleat (fold over, then back on itself) in the middle. Lay over the top of the ramekin, baking paper side down, fold over the edges and tie with string to secure. Repeat for the other ramekin. Place the ramekins in a large saucepan or casserole pan, then pour in hot water from the kettle, about halfway up the ramekins. Place the lid on the pan and let simmer on a low heat for 60 minutes, checking every 15 minutes and topping up the water if necessary.

After an hour, turn off the heat and leave in the water for five minutes, before carefully removing (They will still be hot!). Dry the ramekins off, then untie the string and gently remove the paper and foil. Run a flat bladed knife around the side of each pudding, before turning out onto a place or into a dish. Spoon over a final 1.5tbsp of maple syrup onto each pudding and they are ready to go. Don't forget the custard!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Blueberry and Coconut Crumble Slices

I've gone a bit crumble mad at the moment, crumbling cakes, crumbling cookies, crumbling tarts and so far I've yet to find something that doesn't benefit from it's crumbly deliciousness. These slices are no exception, packing a big flavour punch that belies their size. I've used coconut in the crumble which I think works brilliantly with the blueberries and flavoured the sponge with one of my favourite flavour trifectas, vanilla, orange and lemon extract. They go in the oven for what seems like an excessive amount of time but fear not intrepid baking adventurer, the ground almonds in the sponge will ensure the slices are mouth-wateringly moist. Over to you!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 55-60 Mins
For the crumble topping
25g Dessicated Coconut
25g Unsalted Butter
25g Caster Sugar

For the sponge mixture
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
150g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2tsp Orange Extract
1/2tsp Lemon Extract
100g Ground Almonds
1/2tsp Baking Powder
75g Plain Flour
200g Fresh Blueberries

Start off by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and greasing a 30cm loaf tin, lining the base with baking paper. In a small bowl rub together the coconut, 25g of butter and 25g of sugar until evenly combined, then set aside whilst you get on with the sponge mixture.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir through the extracts, then fold through the ground almonds. Sift in the baking powder with the flour and mix together to a batter. Spoon into your prepared tin and spread evenly to the edges. Scatter the blueberries over the top of the sponge mixture, then sprinkle over the prepared coconut crumble mix. Bake in the centre of the oven for 55-60 minutes, until deep golden on top and a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the sponge.

When you're happy it's cooked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. You might need to gently run a flat bladed knife around the sides before turning out, just to release any burst jammy blueberries that may have stuck to the tin. Slice them up and it's time to enjoy. You're all done!

Friday, 18 January 2013

What I've been baking - January 2013

Here's a selection of what I've been baking, making and eating this month. All questions and comments welcome!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Honeyed Orange Flapjacks

I can never seem to settle on a flapjack recipe, it really does depend what mood I'm in. Sometimes I like them squidgy and thick, so sweet and syrupy they barely hold together, sometimes I like them thin and crunchy, closer to a biscuit than anything else and sometimes I like them just as they are here, light and chewy with other little flavour notes bouncing around. I've used honey this time instead of the more traditional golden syrup as well as the juice and zest of an orange, as I think the two compliment each other beautifully. You can experiment with other combinations if you'd prefer, perhaps with some nuts or maybe even chocolate chips, whatever floats your boat!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins
225g Unsalted Butter
100g Honey
125g Light Muscovado Sugar
250g Jumbo Oats
125g Plain Flour
250g Mixed Fruit (The nicest you can find)
The zest and juice of 1 large Orange

Tally ho! Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3 and grease/line a good sized baking tray (I used a 35x25cm one). In a large saucepan melt together the butter, honey and sugar on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Whilst that's doing its thing mix the flour and oats in a large dish. Once the butter, sugar and honey have melted together turn off the heat, add in the orange zest/juice and fruit, then stir for about 30 seconds. Tip in the flour and oats and mix until evenly combined, then spoon into your prepared tray pressing to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes, until golden on top, then remove and leave to cool until warm in the tray. Remove, peel off the paper, slice and boom, you're all done!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Lemon Pie

I love the refined, intricate and artistic side of baking as much as the next man, but sometimes you can't beat something entirely more uncultured. There is nothing particularly sophisticated about this lemon pie and it's all the better for it, with a slab of flaky pie crust on top and a proper lemony slap in the chops underneath. I was lucky enough to find Meyer lemons this time, which are slightly sweeter and more floral in taste than a regular lemons, but if you can only get the normal variety then don't worry, it's still delicious!

Prep time: 30 Mins (Plus some macerating and resting time)
Baking time: 45 Mins
For the filling
3 Unwaxed Lemons
325g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg, plus 2 Yolks
25g Plain Flour

For the pie crust
100g Butter
150g Plain Flour
8-10tsp Cold Water

Milk (To brush)
Caster Sugar (To dust)

First thing you need to do is sort the lemons out. Slice them as thinly as you can, the thinner the better (use a mandolin if you have one) and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the 325g of sugar and mix together. Set to one side and leave to macerate for two hours, stirring occasionally.

After about an hour you can start on the pastry. Wrap the butter in foil and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes to harden. Remove from the freezer and grate into a large mixing bowl. Sift in the 150g of flour and mix together with the blade of a butter knife. Add a couple of teaspoons of the water, start to bring the dough together with your hands, then keep adding water, a teaspoon at a time until you are left with a smooth dough. Tip the dough out onto a clean surface, knead for 1 minute, then wrap in cling film and place into the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

By now the lemons should be nice and syrupy so it's time to get the whole thing ready. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and get out a medium sized oven proof dish (I used a 24cm enamelware one). Take the pastry out of the fridge and break off about a quarter. On a lightly floured surface roll out the quarter to a thin strip and press around the edge of your oven proof dish. This will help the lid stick to the dish. In a bowl beat the eggs and yolks, then sift in the 25g of flour and whisk, breaking up any lumps. Tip into the macerated lemons and mix together, then spoon into the prepared dish. Take the rest of the pastry and roll out on a lightly floured surface, until its big enough to fit the top of the dish. Lay on top of the lemon mixture and press the edges, marrying the pastry lid to the edge. Make a small hole in the middle of the lid, brush with milk and sprinkle liberally with caster sugar.

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 45 minutes, until the lid is golden brown. It's probably best to let the pie cool for 15 minutes before serving, as the filling will be very hot, but then you have my permission to dive right in!

Friday, 11 January 2013

Baked Berry and Ricotta Tart

Here is a little recipe that appeared in my brain one sleepless night. I admit I'm not a big cheese fan, so my repertoire is somewhat limited but this combination of soft sweet ricotta, sharp fruity berries and crisp biscuity pastry is definitely the real deal. As visually stunning as it is delicious you'd think it would be a proper palava to make, but I kid you not it is so easy. I promise you'll have as much fun making it as eating it!

Prep time: 30 Minutes (Plus some chilling time for the pastry)
Baking time: 77 Minutes (in total)
For the pastry
200g Plain Flour
100g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
25g Icing Sugar
1 Medium Egg Yolk
2tsp Cold Water

For the filling
500g Ricotta (Strained of any liquid)
150g Caster Sugar
The seeds from 1 Vanilla Pod
3 Medium Eggs plus 2 Yolks
500g Mixed Berries (I used raspberries, blueberries and blackberries)

Off we go! In a large bowl rub together the flour and butter, until it resembles breadcrumbs then with a wooden spoon stir in the icing sugar. Make a well in the middle, then tip in the egg yolk and water. Bring the sides of the well in towards the middle, give it a brief mix with your wooden spoon, then get your hands in there and work together to a dough. You can do all this in a food processor if you like, but I like getting my hands dirty! Wrap the dough in cling film and leave in a cold place to firm up for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5 and lightly grease a 20cm round sandwich cake tin. Unwrap the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a big circle, big enough to fill the tin. Don't be tempted to use too much flour, or it'll dry out the the pastry. Carefully lay the pastry into the tin, gently pressing to the edges and making sure it overlaps the edge by about half a centimetre (as it'll shrink during baking). If the pastry breaks or cracks don't fret, as you can use any left over pastry from the edges to repair. You honestly won't notice after it has baked! Line the tart with some baking paper, fill with baking beans and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans, return to the oven for 2 minutes to dry the pastry out, then remove and turn the oven down to 170C/325F/Gas 3.

When the pastry is done you can start the filling, which is sooooooo easy! In a fresh bowl mix together the cheese, sugar and vanilla seeds. Beat in the eggs, then fold through the berries. It doesn't matter if some of the soft berries break up, in fact it's a good thing! Spoon the berries into the pastry shell and top up with any of the leftover cheese mixture. You may have a little left over, but I say it's always better to have too much than not enough! Place back into the oven for 45 minutes, which will set the mixture, then turn up again to
190C/375F/Gas 5 and bake for a further 15 minutes, just until the top is starting to catch and turn brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin, then carefully remove, slice and serve. You're all done. Well done you!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Butterscotch Apple Cake

I just fancied a proper piece of cake this week. No glazing, no icing, just a nice piece of old school cake with a cup of tea. I settled on this easy apple cake recipe, with a sponge flavoured with white chocolate and vanilla, which I think adds a lovely rich note of butterscotch. It'll keep for a couple of days, but in my humble opinion it's best freshly made and warm, with a little cold cream and (as you can guess) a lovely hot drink.

prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 45-50 Mins
75g White Chocolate
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
175g Light Muscovado Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Baking Powder
200g Plain Flour

3 Dessert Apples (I just used some golden delicious I had left over)
2tbsp Light Muscovado Sugar

Start off by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and greasing a 23cm springform tin, lining the base with baking paper. Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave (if you're confident in your timings), then set aside to cool a bit whilst you get on with the sponge.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the vanilla extract. Sift in the baking powder and flour, tip in the melted chocolate and mix it all together to a smooth batter. Spoon into your prepared tin and level out to the edges.

peel and core the apples and slice thinly. Toss them in a bowl with the 2tbsp of sugar, then carefully arrange on top of the cake, laying the edges of each slice over one another to cover any gaps. Place in the centre of the oven for 45-50 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you're happy it's cooked remove it from the oven, leave in the tin for about 15 minutes, then carefully turn out and leave to cool until just warm on a wire rack. Slice and put the kettle on!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Late Night Chocolate Cake

Happy New Year everyone! I had a shocker of a day yesterday and despite not getting in until late I had to do some baking to cheer me up, so came up with this recipe which is perfect for both night owls and early birds alike. It's a proper fudgy chocolate cake, studded with more chopped chocolate and lightly perfumed with vanilla. You can top with some butter icing if you want to really crank up the fudge factor, but I'm happy enough with it straight out of the tin!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 50-55 Mins
200g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
225g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
100g Ground Almonds
200ml Milk
2tsp Baking Powder
100g Cocoa Powder
100g Plain Flour
100g Chocolate (Chopped finely)

Put on some music, make sure your jim jams are properly covered with an apron and let's begin! Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3, grease a 20cm deep loose bottomed tin and line with baking paper. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time with the vanilla extract. Fold through the ground almonds, then pour in the milk and stir around until combined. Sift in the baking powder, cocoa powder and flour and mix together to a smooth batter, then fold through the chopped chocolate. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 50-55 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out sticky with crumbs when inserted into the middle of the cake.

When you're happy it's cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin. You can even do this overnight, which is precisely what I did! To serve, carefully remove from the tin and slice. Just in time for breakfast!