Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Squashed Peanut Butter Cookies

I love peanut butter so much. With its super-rich roasted flavour it just seems so naughty, so decadent, so downright indulgent and needless to say I polish off jars and jars of the stuff, be it spread, melted or even eaten straight out of the jar. On the rare occasion I have any to spare I love to try out recipes and although this can occasionally prove a challenging endeavour, when I get it right the results are near irresistible.

With such an wonderfully unmistakable ingredient it's positively child's play to create beautiful sweet treats with the minimum of effort, such as with these cookies. Slightly soft but with a toasty, biscuity and of course nutty flavour they are so called due to being "squashed" part way through baking. They are as fun to make as they are delicious to eat and a perfect little pick me up with a cup of tea or coffee. So my friends, it's time to bake again!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: Around 15 Mins
55g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
75g Caster Sugar
55g Light Muscovado Sugar
110g Smooth Peanut Butter (Unsweetened, at room temperature)
1 Large Egg Yolk
1/2tbsp Milk
1tsp Vanilla Extract
85g Plain Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
100g Dark Chocolate (Finely Chopped)

We begin by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and lining two large, flat baking sheets with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and both sugars, then mix through the peanut butter. Beat in the egg yolk with the milk and vanilla extract, then sift in the plain flour along with the baking powder. Finally add the chocolate and mix to a soft, slightly sticky dough. Take a little handful of the dough (slightly smaller than a golf ball), then place on one of your baking sheets. Repeat for the rest of the dough, leaving a border around each cookie as they will spread when squashed.

Bake the cookies in the centre of the oven for ten minutes, then remove the trays. You will notice the cookies will have barely spread, so using a fish slice or palette knife squash each one flat. Return the trays to the oven and bake for around five more minutes, until each cookie is a light golden brown and just darkening at the edges.

When you are happy the cookies are baked remove them from the oven. Carefully slide each sheet of paper from the tray onto a wire rack or heatproof surface and leave for 20-30 minutes to firm up, before peeling each from the paper and returning to a wire rack to cool completely. And now the most important part...

...It's time to eat them!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Spiced Sultana Loaf Cake

One of the very best things about home baking is that even with a few basic ingredients a richly satisfying sweet treat is but an hour or so away. Some of my favourite recipes are those that are born from just playing around with what I have left over in the store cupboard and I've had no endless amount of fun challenging myself with only the ingredients available immediately to hand.

This sultana loaf may seem relatively inauspicious, but is definitely well worth the small amount of effort it will take to create it. With warm spicing, sweet citrus aromatics and a wonderfully rich texture, it's a great big hug of a loaf cake and perfect for the wet and windy days we've all been enduring. Although I'm sure I will find myself still making it when the summer sun eventually arrives!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 60-65 Mins
175g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
175g Light Muscovado Sugar
1tsp Cinnamon
1/2tsp Nutmeg
175g Vegetable Oil
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Lemon Extract
1tbsp Orange Juice
300g Sultanas

Let us begin you and I. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 23cm (2lb I think!) loaf tin and line completely with baking paper (or one of those handy loaf tin liners if you have one). Sift the flour and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl, then add the sugar and mix to combine, ensuring any lumps of sugar no longer remain. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg, then mix lightly.

Pour the oil into a fresh bowl or large jug, then add the eggs and beat together with a fork. Tip into the flour mixture along with the vanilla extract, lemon extract and orange juice, then mix together to a smooth batter. Fold through the sultanas, then spoon into your prepared tin and gently ease to the edges. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for around 60-65 minutes, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. It's worth checking the cake after 50 minutes and if it is nicely brown on top then just lightly cover with a sheet of tin foil for the last 10-15 minutes.

When you are happy the loaf cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for 20 minutes, then carefully remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Slice, serve and devour.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Life, etc...

The life of a trans-dimensional baking conquistador is one of wonder, whimsy and wholly invested in the pursuit of pure pleasure. However my passion is that of merely an amateur enthusiast and despite my fanaticism I bake and write for fun and fun alone. My alter-ego exists in the real world and works in a real job far removed from food or food culture. In the next few days he shall starting a new old job, before in a month or so starting a new new job which will put considerable demands on both his time and energy, meaning my own baking endeavours may be impacted and my output somewhat restricted. Despite this I am determined to continue with this blog and am resolute in my desire to bake as much as possible. This is why...

For me life is about finding joy in such simple pleasures, be it a slice of cake, a cup of tea or just a quiet hour reading the paper or watching a film. The big grandstand moments, from the spectacular accomplishments to the passionate embraces, are all there to be savoured and remembered, but to be able to take inspiration from the everyday is what life is all about. It is easy to dismiss baking as nothing more than an unnecessary indulgence, but it is so much more than that. Baking is a joyous, fulfilling diversion from the tedious, toneless and tiresome. A colour, texture and flavour filled bonanza of achievable and affordable luxury that not only seeks to gratify, nourish and comfort, but to tantalise, excite and inspire. It is something that means so much to me and if I could I would bake, write about baking and share my love of baking with others all day, every day. Alas, despite my efforts this is not the case and in the near future it will become more difficult to satisfy my baking urges. However if you will stick with me I promise I will do everything I can to continue with this adventure and together we shall journey on for years to come...

Monday, 10 February 2014

Pineapple and Cherry Right Way Up Cake

What do you call a spin on a classic when the classic is a spin in itself? Well with this one I've turned the classic upside down cake on it's head (or should that be back onto its feet?), studding a light sponge with little jewels of chopped glacé cherries, topping with pineapple and finishing with a rich and indulgent toffee glaze. It's a really simple recipe and fantastic cake to serve at any time of the day, be it on its own or even warmed through with vanilla ice cream or custard. To conclude, make this cake immediately!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 40 - 45 Mins
85g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
85g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg plus 1 Yolk
1/2tsp Vanilla Extract
120g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1.5tbsp Milk
200g Glacé Cherries (Roughly Chopped)
200g Chopped Tinned Pineapple (Drained of its juice)

For the glaze
40g Unsalted Butter (Chopped into small cubes)
80g Light Muscovado Sugar
1tbsp Golden Syrup

To the kitchen! Begin by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, greasing a 20cm deep loose-bottomed cake tin and lining completely with baking paper, or one of those handy cake tin liners readily available from most supermarkets. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and yolk along with the vanilla extract. Sift in the flour and baking powder, then add the milk and mix to a smooth, consistent batter. Fold through the cherries, then spoon into the prepared tin and even to the edges. Arrange the chopped pineapple on top of the cake, pressing each piece gently into the surface, then bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes.

After the cake has baked for around 15 minutes you can prepare the toffee glaze. In a small saucepan add the butter, sugar and golden syrup. Leave on a low/medium heat, stirring occasionally until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Once the cake has baked for 30 minutes remove it from the oven, quickly pour over the toffee glaze and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until the glaze has soaked into the surface and is a deep golden brown. When you are happy the cake is baked remove it from the oven, leave in the tin for around 15 minutes, then carefully remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. All done!

Friday, 7 February 2014

My Baking Adventures - January 2014

Here's a little look at some of the treats I've been making and baking over the last month. As always the recipes should be buried in the blog, but if you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to get in touch...

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Crushed Cornflake and Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am often asked where I get my ideas for recipes and things to try. Well, some of my inspiration of course comes from existing and established recipes, traditional combinations and the near infinite number of highly skilled and talented individuals that choose to share their enthusiasm and passion online. Sometimes it comes from what is available, in season at the time or even just from what I have left over in the store cupboard or refrigerator. Occasionally it is something as simple as an aroma, a texture, even a colour that grabs my attention and sparks my imagination. However, a surprising amount of my recipes begin as merely a thought, a curiosity that nags at me and keeps me awake at night. Usually it's just a single ingredient or concept, that sits there in my mind, teasing me and daring me to explore its possibilities. As you can imagine more often than not my exploration and experimentation ends in little more than total failure, but every now and again my efforts are rewarded spectacularly, such as with these fantastic cornflake cookies.

Replacing much of the flour with well crushed cornflakes adds an amazing dynamism in both the texture and flavour of these charming cookies. They are soft and chewy, but with a light crunch and deep in their biscuity, almost toasted flavour. Add to this a dash of vanilla and a couple of handfuls of dark chocolate chips and you have what I can confidently declare as not only one of the best cookie recipes I've ever made, but one of the best I've ever eaten. And I've eaten a LOT of cookies!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 14 Mins
150g Cornflakes
85g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
115g Caster Sugar
1 Large Egg plus 1 Yolk
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2tsp Baking Powder
3tbsp Plain Flour
200g Choc Chips

The first task is to crush the cornflakes. A food processor will make light work of this, but I just use a large bowl and a rolling pin. After ten minutes of gentle pounding they should be relatively finely pulverised, with a few large crumbs and flakes remaining. This is PERFECT!

When the cornflakes are crushed you can make the cookies. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line two large flat baking sheets with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and yolk along with the vanilla extract. Sift in the baking powder and flour, then toss in the crushed cornflakes and chocolate chips. Mix together lightly with a wooden spoon then get your hands in and bring together to a firm, but sticky dough. Take a small amount of the mixture, roll into a golf ball shape, then flatten very slightly between your hands and place on one of your trays. Repeat for the rest of the mixture, making sure each squashed ball is evenly spaced apart (as they will spread during baking). You should get about 14-15 cookies from this quantity of mixture. Place both trays in the centre of the oven and bake for around 14 minutes, until the cookies have spread and are a deep, even golden brown. When you are happy they are baked, remove from the oven and carefully slide the paper from their trays onto a wire rack of heatproof surface. Leave for 20 minutes to firm up, before gently peeling each cookie from the paper and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack. Congratulations, you have finished!