Thursday, 28 May 2015

Mini Fruit Loaf

I love making whopping great loaves as much as the next transdimensional baking chevalier, but sometimes a little treat is all that's required. This loaf is perfect for one or two people to enjoy and keeps well for a couple of days, particularly if you are toasting thick slices (and you should toast thick slices). You can pick up fresh yeast very inexpensively from most bakeries, or even from the baking counter at supermarkets. If you're lucky you might even be gifted a generous block for free!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus proving time)
Baking time: 30 Mins
7g Fresh Yeast
140ml Tepid Water
25g Caster Sugar
200g Very Strong White Bread Flour
1tsp Mixed Spice
Half a tsp of Salt
1tbsp Unsalted Butter (Melted and cooled)
A small handful or two of Mixed Dried fruit and Peel (depending on how fruity you like it)

First we make the dough. In a bowl crumble the fresh yest into the tepid water, then add the sugar. Mix to blend, then add the flour, spice, salt, butter and fruit. Using a flat bladed knife bring the mixture together to a loose dough, then tip out onto a floured surface. Bring the dough together, then knead for around 10 mins, stretching and folding the dough until it's smooth and elastic. It will start off rather sticky, but try and avoid adding too much flour if you can. Once the dough has been kneaded place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour to prove.

Once the dough has risen remove from the warm place and turn out onto a clean, lightly greased surface. Knock the air from the dough, then gently shape into a fat sausage. Place in a small loaf tin (also lightly greased) and return to your warm place for a further 30 mins, preheating the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 halfway through. Once the dough has risen again in the tin place in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes, until the bread is a dark golden on top, then remove. Leave for at least 20 minutes before serving, which will be challenge as this little loaf is hard to resist!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Almond and Coconut Cream Sponge Squares

These squares may sound rather unassuming but have received some of the most universally positive feedback of anything I've baked before. Maybe it's the soft and yielding coconut cream sponge, maybe it's the sweet buttercream perfumed with almond and dusted with sweetened, shredded coconut. I suspect though it's the combination of the two, presented in a little bite-sized package and perfect for a mid morning indulgence or afternoon tea treat. I recommend you try them for yourself at the earliest available opportunity!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins
100g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
200g Golden Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs and 1 Yolk
115g Ground Almonds
160ml Coconut Cream
90g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder

For the Almond Buttercream
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
300g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
A dash of Almond Extract
A handful of Sweetened, Shredded Coconut

Let us begin! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a small rectangular baking tin with baking paper. The one I use is around 27 x 22cm. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk, then add the eggs one at time. Continue whisking to combine, before adding the almonds, coconut cream, plain flour and baking powder. Whisk away until you are left with a smooth, consistent batter, then pour into your prepared tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes until light golden and a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the sponge. When you are happy the sponge is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for about 30 mins, then (very) carefully remove and leave to cool on a wire rack. Don't worry if the paper comes with it as you can peel this off when cool.

Once the sponge is cool you can prepare the batter. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and icing sugar, before adding the almond extract and mixing until smooth. You can add as little or as much of the almond extract as you like, but I would advise caution, at least initially. Spread the buttercream all over the top of the sponge, sprinkle over the coconut, then slice into little squares and serve. Time to enjoy! 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Little Ginger Cakes

There's nothing like a naughty little cake to brighten up ones day and even the simplest of creations can be just the tonic to the everyday blues. These little ginger cakes only require a modicum of effort to prepare, but with a deep rich flavour and soft, yet still biscuity texture they are oh so satisfying to devour. I personally like mine served just with a cup of leaf tea, but you could also try them warm with cream, custard or cold ice cream. Nom nom nom!

Prep time: 15 Mins
Baking time: 20-25 Mins
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
190g Dark Muscovado Sugar
2 Large Eggs
1tsp Baking Powder
200g Plain Flour
3tbsp Milk
2tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Jar of Stem Ginger in Syrup

Here we go! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the baking powder and 100g of plain flour, then give it a mix. Splash in the milk, followed by the other 100g of plain flour along with the ground ginger, then mix together to a smooth, consistent batter. Take the ginger from the syrup, chop finely and fold through the batter. Spoon equally into your prepared cases and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of one of the cakes. When you are happy the cakes are baked remove and transfer each to a wire rack. Brush over the stem ginger syrup and leave to tool. All finished!

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Rhubarb and Custard Cheesecake

Rhubarb is one of my very favourite ingredients, so when it is in season I try to use it as much as I can. Here I've contorted the familiar rhubarb and custard pairing into a diabolically decadent (and not to mention delicious) cheesecake. Setting with gelatin gives the cheesecake a silky smooth texture, which bounces beautifully off of the spikey, yet still sweet rhubarb and using ginger nuts in the base brings just the merest hint of spice to the party. And what a party it is!

Prep time: 30 Mins
Baking time: 30 Mins (For the rhubarb)
Setting time: At least 6 Hours
400g Rhubarb
A good handful of Caster Sugar
The juice of 1 Lemon
200g Ginger Nut Biscuits
100g Unsalted Butter (Melted)
400g Cream Cheese
350g Custard
1/2tsp Vanilla Paste
6 Sheets Leaf Gelatin
100ml Boiling Water

The first job is to cook the rhubarb, so preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Chop the rhubarb up into little batons, then mix together with the sugar and lemon juice. Tip into a large ovenproof dish, evenly space across the base, then cover with foil. Place in the centre of the oven for around 30 minutes, until the rhubarb is blushing pink with just a tinge of green and soft to the touch. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, before tipping the rhubarb (juice and all) into a heatproof container. Once cool cover completely and set to one side until you are ready to make the cheesecake.

Speaking of which, line the base of a deep 20cm cake tin with baking paper. Pulverise the biscuits to fine crumbs, then mix through the melted butter. Tip into your prepared tin, then press evenly to the edges. In a fresh bowl beat the cheese until smooth, then mix through the custard and vanilla. Soak 4 sheets of gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes (you can use 3 if you want a softer set), then drain and place in a small dish. Add 1.5tbsp of boiling water, mix to dissolve, then tip into you cheese mixture. Mix until smooth then spoon into your tin, over the biscuit base. Even to the edges, then place in the fridge to chill for 2 hours.

Tip the cooled rhubarb into a large bowl. Take the last two sheets of rhubarb, soak again in cold water for five minutes, before draining and placing in a dish with 100ml of boiling water. Mix to dissolve, then add the rhubarb (juice and all again!) and mix to combine. Spoon evenly over the semi-set cheesecake mixture and return to the fridge for at least another 4.5-5 hours, ideally overnight.

Once set take the cheesecake out of the fridge, run a flat bladed knife around the edge, then carefully remove from the tin. All done!