Thursday, 30 April 2015

My baking adventures - April 2015

Here's what I've been baking, making and eating over the last month. I love to hear all your questions and comments so if you have any, you know where to find me...

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Chocolate Banana Beasties

I need say no more.

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 40 Mins
100g Dark Chocolate
100g White Chocolate
185g Unsalted Butter (Cut into cubes)
200g Light Muscovado Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs and 2 Yolks
2 Bananas (Ripe and mashed)
100g Ground Almonds
65g Plain Flour
A handful of Banana Chips

This one is very easy, so let's get cracking! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a small-ish baking tin with baking paper. The one I use is around 26x20cm. Melt together the chocolate and butter, either over a bain-marie or in the microwave (if you are confident in your timings), then set to one side for 5 minutes to cool slightly.

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar and vanilla. Fold through the mashed banana, followed by the chocolate and butter, before adding the almonds and flour and repeating the folding process until you are left with a smooth, consistent batter. Pour into your prepared tin, arrange the banana chips on top and bake in the centre of the oven for around 40 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out with a few sticky crumbs attached.

When you are happy the mixture is baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once cool, carefully remove from the tin and slice into squares with a sharp knife. Lovely cake time!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Pistachio Olive Oil and Orange Blossom Cake

Maybe it's the recent sunshine but this week I've had an irresistible hankering for something entirely exotic. This bad boy certainly fits the bill, with a beautiful balance of unusual flavours and fragrances that I guarantee will really get the tongues wagging when served to your lucky guests. You can ice or glaze if that floats your boat, but personally I think a light dusting is all the embellishment it needs. Just don't forget the leaf tea, as that is nothing short of a necessity!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 50 Mins
100g of Shelled Pistachios
100g Ground Almonds
2tbsp Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
4 Large Eggs
200g Golden Caster Sugar
The zest of an Orange
1tsp Orange Blossom Extract
150ml Olive Oil
1tbsp of Icing Sugar

To the kitchen once more! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, lightly grease a 21cm square baking tin and line with baking paper. Grind the pistachios as finely as you can, then mix together with the almonds, plain flour and baking powder. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, zest and orange blossom extract until light and frothy. Add the dry ingredients, along with the olive oil then keep whisking until you are left with an even, consistent batter. Pour into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 50 minutes, until golden brown on top and a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin.

When the cake is cool carefully remove from the tin, lightly dust with icing sugar and boom, you're all done! Now how easy was that? 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Rhubarb, Orange and Almond Cake

We could learn a lot from our old friend the rhubarb. For you see, the rhubarb is supposed to be a vegetable, a plain old vegetable. But the rhubarb doesn't want to be a vegetable, no siree. The rhubarb wants to be a fruit, a deliciously tart and tangy fruit and it's not going to let something as trivial as genetics stand in it's way. Be it a cake, a pie or a toothsome tart when it comes to a sweet treat, the rhubarb has earned a place amongst the very best of ingredients and I love it to bits. So next time you feel your spirits dampened by normality take a leaf from the rhubarbs book and try being something different, if only for a little while. I promise it'll be just the tonic you'll need!

Prep time: 30 Mins (Plus cooling time)
Baking time: 60 Mins (Plus 30 Mins roasting time)
For the Roasted Rhubarb
350g Rhubarb
25g Caster Sugar
The juice of half an Orange

For the Cake
200g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
200g Golden Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1tsp Almond Extract
The zest of 1 Orange
100g Ground Almonds
125g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1tbsp Icing Sugar

The first task is to roast the rhubarb. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Chop the rhubarb into little nuggets, about the size of the last knuckle on your thumb and place in a bowl. Add the caster sugar and orange juice, then toss together to coat. Arrange the roasted rhubarb across the base of a large oven proof dish and cover with tin foil, taking care to not let the foil touch the rhubarb. You don't need any juice leftover in the bowl. Roast the rhubarb in the centre of the oven for around 30 mins until soft, then transfer to a fresh dish, along with any roasting juices and leave to to cool.

Once the rhubarb is at room temperature you can start on the cake. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a deep 20cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, the beat in the eggs one at a time along with the almond extract and orange zest. Add the ground almonds, then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix to a smooth batter. Add the rhubarb, along with it's juice and mix with vigour to combine. You want the rhubarb to start to break up as you mix. Once the rhubarb has been evenly combined spoon the mixture into your tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 60 mins, until a metal skewer can be cleanly removed when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

When the cake is cool carefully remove from the tin, peeling the paper from the base. Dust all over with icing sugar and the cake is finished. Time to slice it, serve it and (my favourite part) eat it!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Cola Bread Buns

I am such a devil for tinkering at times and as you can imagine the results can often be described as 'mixed'. Now and again though I do stumble upon the odd gem or two, such as this loony little recipe for bread made with (yes that's right) cola. Using the syrupy soft drink gives the finished bread a lovely light, yet soft texture and as you'd expect a light caramel sweetness that works wonderfully with tangy mayonaisse, mustard or coleslaw. I admit this recipe may sound rather bizarre but trust in your old friend TGB and give it a try!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus cooling and proving times)
Baking time: 20 Mins
215ml Cola
7g Fast Action Dried Yeast
300g Very Strong White Bread Flour
1/2tsp Salt

The first task is to let the cola go flat. If you have the luxury of time you can leave this to happen naturally. However I just heat the cola to just before boiling, then leave to cool to room temperature, which does the trick well enough.

Frequent flyers will spot that the bread recipe is pretty standard fare, but I will still go through the process for the uninitiated. Pour the cola into a large bowl and add the yeast. Stir to dissolve the yeast, then add the flour and salt. Briefly mix, then turn out onto a clean dry surface and bring together to a sticky dough. You can lightly dust your flour if you are concerned about sticking, but try to avoid this as much as possible.

Knead the dough, stretching it, folding it back on itself, turning by a quarter and repeating. Once the dough is smooth and elastic (which should take around 7 mins) form into a ball, dust lightly with flour then place in a clean bowl. Cover with a tea towel and place somewhere warm (such as an airing cupboard) for around 90 minutes to prove.

Once the dough has proven it should have risen nicely. Turn out onto a freshly floured surface and press lightly all over. Divide into four, then shape into big buns. Leave on your floured surface, lightly covered for a further 20-25 minutes to rise again. I actually cover mine with a large square cake container.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7 and lightly grease a flat baking tray. Uncover the buns, very carefully transfer to the baking tray, evenly spaced apart and bake in the centre of the oven for around 20-25 minutes, until a light golden. You can also tap the base of each bun to check for a hollow sound. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven. Now if you like a more crusty crust you can leave them as they are, however if you like a soft crust (as I do) then just cover the buns for 10 minutes with a tea towel. Finally, it is time to eat them. Huzzah!