Monday, 30 December 2013

Chocolate Sausage

I seem to be swimming in leftover ingredients at the moment, be it a handful of dried fruits, a few nuts or the dregs from a bag of sugar or a packet of butter. It's always good to have a few recipes for such occasion, particularly when they are as easy and as flexible as this one. There is no baking required, in fact for once your oven gets a break entirely, as to make this cheeky chocolate sausage is just a case of mixing a few basic ingredients, then letting your imagination take over as you decide what tasty nuggets to fold through at the end. As I mentioned above I've gone for a variety of nuts, along with some plump raisins and sweet, syrupy glacé cherries but when it comes to your own sausage the choice is yours...

Prep time: 25 Mins
Chilling time: 120 Mins
250g Digestive Biscuits
125g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
2.5tbsp Light Muscovado Sugar
2 Egg Yolks
50g Golden Syrup
1tsp Vanilla Extract
3tbsp Cocoa Powder

100g Glace Cherries (Chopped)
100g Raisins
75g Flaked Almonds
75g Pecans (Chopped)
75g Salted Peanuts

Begin by crushing the biscuits. Try to be as thorough in your pulverisation as you can, although it is fine if a few lumps of biscuits remain. In a separate large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg yolks, followed by the syrup and vanilla extract. Finally add the cocoa powder and mix to a creamy, chocolatey paste. Add the nuts and fruits, begin mixing with a wooden spoon then using your hands to combine the mixture entirely. Lay out a large sheet of foil on a flat service, then spoon the mixture lengthways along the middle. Wrap the mixture, making a large sausage and twist to secure each end. Squeeze your sausage (boom!) all around to compress the mixture inside, rolling the wrapped sausage on your surface until you are left with a firm cylinder. Place in the fridge for 2 hours to set.

To finish, unsheathe your sausage (double boom!) and slice with a sharp knife. I think this is a really fun one to serve after dinner with a blob of ice cream, as a party treat or on the side of a cup of leaf tea or coffee. It's really up to you, just like the ingredients!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Cherry and Almond Bread

I love a slice of lightly toasted sweet bread for breakfast, particularly when spread with peanut butter and home made jam. This one is a real treat, both to make, to eat and particularly to serve to any guests fortunate enough to enjoy your company, with tasty, toasty almonds, syrupy cherries and finished with a sticky glaze. It can also be mostly made the evening before, meaning you are free to rest easy in the knowledge that a delicious treat awaits you but an hour or so away the following morning.

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus some proving time)
Baking time: 30-35 Mins
14g Fresh Yeast
2tbsp Caster Sugar
125ml Tepid Water
300g Very Strong White Bread Flour (Plus and extra 10g)
1/2tsp Salt
2 Egg Yolks
100g Glace Cherries (Roughly Chopped)
75g Flaked Almonds
75ml Warm Milk

For the glaze
2tbsp Unsalted Butter (Melted)
1tbsp Icing Sugar
1tsp Almond Extract
2tbsp Flaked Almonds

Roll up your dressing gown sleeves, as it's time to get your hands doughy. Crumble the fresh yeast into a large mixing bowl, along with the caster sugar. Add the tepid water and mix with a fork or mini whisk until the yeast has started to dissolve. Add the 300g of flour, salt, egg yolks, cherries and almonds, then pour over the warm milk and mix lightly with a flat bladed knife, until a loose dough starts to come together. Tip the loose dough out onto a surface that has been lightly dusted with flour and begin kneading. The dough will start off sticky but should come together as you knead. You can add some of the additional 10g of flour if it is just too sticky, as this will depend on how big your egg yolks are, the temperature/humidity of your kitchen, etc, but be brave and try not to add too much. After around 7-8 minutes of kneading the dough should become smooth and elastic, so at this point shape it into a ball and place in a large, greased mixing bowl. Cover with a sheet of clingfilm and leave in the fridge for around 8 hours, ideally overnight.

Once the dough has risen in the fridge, turn it out onto a lightly greased surface and press all over gently with your fingers to knock any excess air out. You can know shape your dough accordingly, my preference being a dainty plait! Carefully transfer you shaped dough to a lightly greased flat baking tray, place in a large bag and leave in a warm place for 45minutes, to prove again.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Remove the dough from your warm place (said the baker to the bishop!), take it out of the bag and bake in the centre of the oven. At the same time make the glaze by mixing together the melted butter, icing sugar and almond extract. After 15 minutes of baking remove the bread, brush the glaze all over, scatter over the 2tbsp of flaked almonds and return to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes until dark golden all over. When you are happy the bread is baked, remove it from the oven and place on a chopping board ready for slicing. Congratulations, your work is complete.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Coconut Iced Clementine Cake

I currently seem to be eating around my own bodyweight in juicy clementines, so thought it would be a good idea to have a go at a new recipe using these little round rascals. I've infused their sweet citrus flavour into a light sponge, then topped with a coconutty butter icing. I think the two marry beautifully and provide a charming alternative to all the stodgy and highly spiced treats on offer at this time of year (not that there's anything wrong with stodgy and highly spiced). You can also play around with your own ingredient ideas if you fancy a change. A lovely lemon version would really hit the spot when the sunny season eventually returns!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 45 Mins
5 Clementines
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
175g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
40g Ground Almonds
1.5tsp Baking Powder
150g Plain Flour

For the icing
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
300g Icing Sugar
50g Dessicated Coconut

Thinking about it, this is a good one if you're a beginner, as many of the processes are baking fundamentals. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm deep loose bottomed baking tin and line the base with baking paper. Zest four of the clementines and set to one side. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and caster sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time, along with the clementine zest. Fold through the ground almonds, then sift in the flour and baking powder. Add the juice from 2 of the clementines and mix it all together to a smooth and consistent batter. Spoon the batter into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 45 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake.

When you are happy the cake in baked remove it from the oven, leave in the tin for 10-15 minutes, then carefully remove, peeling off the baking paper and place on a wire rack. Pierce the top with a skewer or toothpick, then brush over the juice from the other two zested clementines (leaving one left). The juice is usually very sweet so I don't bother adding any sugar to it. You don't have to brush over all of the juice, as long as you've brushed it all over the top. Once that task in complete, leave the cake on the wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing cream together the butter and icing sugar, then add the juice from the remaining clementine along with about half of the coconut. Spread all over the top of the cake, then sprinkle with the remaining coconut. And there you have it, all done.  

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Festive Squashed Slices with Almond Buttercream

I'm sure you'll all be indulging in your fair share of baking this festive season and I'm equally sure you all have a wealth of Christmas recipes primed for use. So here's a little spin on a Christmas classic, that you can nestle in your lunchbox ready for whenever you need a little necessary festive cheer. It's pretty standard stuff, from the basic spiced sponge to the sweet buttercream, but there are a few interesting little twists when it comes to its construction (and destruction). As always, try to use the finest ingredients you can afford (or find), but don't go crazy. You need to save your pennies for all those presents!

Prep time: 30 Mins (Plus an hour or so to chill)
Baking time: 50 Mins
150g Plain Flour
150g Light Muscovado Sugar
1hpd tsp Mixed Spice
1tsp Baking Powder
150ml Sunflower Oil
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
250g Mixed Fruit and Peel

For the buttercream
300g Icing Sugar
150g Unsalted Butter
Around 1.5tbsp Brandy
2tsp Almond Extract

Ready, steady, go! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 2lb loaf tin and line with baking paper, or ideally one of those loaf tin liners you can pick up relatively easily these days. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, spice and baking powder. In a separate bowl or large jug beat together the oil, eggs and vanilla extract, then pour into the dry ingredients and mix to a smooth batter. Pour the batter into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 50 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you're happy they are baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for around 15 minutes, then carefully turn out and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake has cooled break it up in a large mixing bowl until you are left with small crumbs. It doesn't matter if there are a few larger lumps left, but be as vigorous in your destruction as you can. Mix in the fruit and in a separate bowl, cream together the icing sugar and butter. Decant a third of the buttercream into a separate bowl and mix through the brandy. You can use more or less brandy depending on how boozy you like it!. Mix the brandy buttercream into the cake crumbs with a large spoon or ideally your hands, then press the mixture firmly into a 21cm square cake tin that's been lined with baking paper. Add the almond extract to the remaining buttercream, then spread on top of the pressed cake mixture. Place in the fridge for at least an hour, ideally two then carefully remove from the tin. With a sharp knife, slice into individual slices or squares. There you go, all done. Ho ho ho!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Franzijam Tarts

Here's my tribute to the trusty jam tart, a childhood teatime favourite that was always enough incentive for me to finish even the most vegetable-laden of dinners. Although I am now (sort of) a grown up I still find the allure of buttery and biscuity shortcrust pastry along with sweet, sticky jam almost irresistible, so thought I'd try and come up with my own version, albeit with a nifty nutty twist.

There are a few different ingredients and processes involved in creating these little gems, but I assure you they are still very simple to make. In fact they are a great introduction to pastry if you are new to the joys of making it from scratch and richly satisfying to make, as well as to munch on. Just try to use the highest quality of jam you can afford, as it will make a big difference to the finished tarts and be generous with your fillings. 'Tis the season of giving after all!

Prep time: 30 Mins (Plus 30 Mins resting time for your pastry)
Baking time: 30-35 Mins
For the pastry
100g Plain Flour
65g Unsalted Butter (Cut into small cubes)
1/2tbsp Icing Sugar
1 Egg Yolk

100g Marzipan (Cut into four cubes)
Around 6-7tbsp Jam (I used blueberry jam)

For the frangipane
50g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
50g Caster Sugar
50g Ground Almonds
1 Egg Yolk

So if you're ready, let us begin. Rub the flour into the butter, until you are left with a breadcrumb like consistency and no visible lumps of butter. Add the icing sugar and egg yolk, mix lightly with a knife, then get your hands in and bring it together to a loose dough. Tip out onto a clean, dry surface, then continue bringing the dough together with your hands until smooth. Try not to overwork the pastry or it will become too elastic. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge to chill for around 30 minutes.

When the dough has rested in the fridge, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease four of the cups of a muffin tray with a little butter. Lightly dust a clean, dry surface with flour and place the chilled dough onto it. With a floured rolling pin, roll the pastry out into a large thin square (no thicker than a pound coin). Divide the square into four and place each into the greased muffin cups. Work the pastry into the cups so they are completely lined, ensuring there are no crack or splits in the pastry and you have around 1-2cm of pastry overhanging the edge (although it doesn't really matter if it overhangs by more). Don't worry if you have to break some of the pastry off of one side to repair another. You won't even notice it once they are baked.

Take one of the small cubes of marzipan and roll it into a small disc, the size of the base of the muffin cup. I just do this with my hands. Place the marzipan disc onto the base of pastry then cover with around 1.5tbsp of jam. To make the frangipane, cream together the butter and caster sugar, then add the almonds and egg yolk and mix until evenly combined. Dollop equal amounts of the frangipane on top of the jam then place the tarts in the centre of the oven for around 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top. You may find the overhanging edge of the pastry darkens considerably, which is not a problem at all.

When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven, leaving the tarts in the tray for around 20-30 minutes. Gently remove each tart from the tray and place on a wire rack. With a sharp knife carefully trim the excess pastry from the edge of each tart and leave to cool. Your work is now done and it's time to try one. Enjoy!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Dark Chocolate, Rum and Banana Loaf

With such grey and dreary days it is hard for one not to feel as gloomy as the weather outside, so here's a rather lovely recipe guaranteed to brighten up your kitchen at the very least. With exotic ingredients evocative of sunny, far away shores it is deliciously rich in flavour and a cracking cure for the winter blues. So if you're feeling glum head to the kitchen, put on some music and indulge in some welcome baking therapy!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 65-70 Mins

175ml Vegetable Oil
3 Large Eggs
175g Dark Muscovado Sugar
150g Plain Flour
2tbsp Cocoa Powder
1tsp Baking Powder
1.5tbsp Dark Rum
1tsp Vanilla Extract

2 Ripe Bananas (Mashed)
250g Dark Chocolate (Roughly Chopped)
3tbsp Golden Syrup

To the kitchen! Begin by preheating the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Grease a 23cm (2lb I think!) loaf tin and line completely with baking paper (or you can use a handy loaf tin liner if you have one). In a medium bowl or large jug mix together the vegetable oil and eggs with a fork. In a separate large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, then pour in the oil and the eggs, along with the rum and vanilla extract and mix to a smooth batter. Fold through the mashed bananas, then spoon around a third of the mixture into the base of the tin. Scatter over half of the chocolate, spoon over another third, scatter over the last of the chocolate and finally spoon over the rest of the mixture. I do it this way as I find if you mix the chocolate into the batter itself it tends to sink during baking. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 65-70 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake, then remove and leave in the tin for 10 minutes, just until the tin is cool enough to handle. Carefully remove the cake from the tin, then place on a wire rack. Drizzle over the golden syrup and leave to cool. You can serve this one cold, but it is also fantastic warmed through in the microwave and served with vanilla ice cream! Yum!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Razelnut Rock Cookies

The only thing that beats a delicious cup of leaf tea is a delicious cup of leaf tea accompanied by something sweet. From rich and indulgent cakes to cheeky little cookies and biscuits there is so much satisfaction to be had from such simple pleasures. I always try to have a steady supply of treats available for when the need arises, so inevitably often seem to have a few surplus stocks of ingredients left over. This recipe originated from such a situation, but despite being made from leftover ingredients is a great little recipe in its own right. The basic ingredients of hazelnuts and raisins have such a dynamic depth of flavour and all it takes is just a dash of vanilla to make them sing. They may look a little agricultural, but as with the best things it is what lies beneath the surface that is the most important.

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 14-15 Mins
100g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
100g Caster Sugar
85g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Large Egg
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2tsp Baking Powder
100g Plain Flour
100g Ground Hazelnuts
150g Raisins
100g Blanched Hazelnuts (Roughly chopped)

Begin by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and lining a large flat baking tray with baking paper. In a large bowl cream together the butter and both of the sugars, then beat in the egg along with the vanilla extract. Sift in the baking powder and flour, then tip in the ground hazelnuts and mix to a loose cookie dough. Add the raisins and chopped hazelnuts, then fold through to combine.

Take a little of the mixture and roll into a small ball, slightly smaller than a golf ball, then place on the baking paper. Repeat, ensuring each little ball is evenly spaced apart as they will spread during baking. As always, my temperamental oven means I bake these in batches and the mixture will happily sit to one side in a cool place if you wish to do the same. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 14-15 minutes, until light golden and darkening at the edges, then carefully remove and slide the paper onto a wire rack or heatproof surface (whilst you get on with the rest). Leave them on the paper for around 30 minutes, then carefully peel off and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. You have finished!