Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Pumpkin and Ginger Cake Treacle Tarts



i was working in the kitchen late one night
when my eyes beheld an eerie sight
for my ginger cake began to rise
and suddenly to my surprise

we did the bake
we did the monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
we did the bake
then there’s pastry to make
we did the bake
we did the monster bake

from my laboratory in the chateau east
to the master bedroom where the vampires feast
the ghouls all came from their humble abodes
once the smell of treacle reached their nose

they did the bake
they did the monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
they did the bake
then there’s pastry to make
they did the bake
they did the monster bake

the zombies were having fun
the recipe had just begun
the guests included the wolf man
dracula and his son

the kitchen was rockin’, making these tarts
with each ghoulish gastronome doing their part
the coffin bakers were about to arrive
with their baking group, “the crypt-caker five”

they did the bake
they did the monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
they did the bake
then there’s pastry to make
they did the bake
they did the monster bake

out of his coffin, drac’s voice did ring
seems he was troubled by just one thing
he opened the lid and shook his fist
“don’t forget the pumpkin, you fiends” he hissed

it’s now the bake
it’s now the monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
it’s now the bake
then there’s pastry to make
it’s now the bake
it’s now the monster bake

now everything’s cool, drac’s one of the gang
and my monster bake is the hit of the land
so now it’s your turn my unearthly upstarts
to make my pumpkin and ginger cake treacle tarts...

then you can bake
then you can monster bake
the monster bake
starting with ginger cake
then you can bake
then there’s pastry to make
then you can bake
then you can monster bake!

prep time: 30 mins (plus chilling time)
baking time: 30-35 mins (ginger cake), 40-45 mins (tarts)
for the cake
125g unsalted butter (softened)
125g caster sugar
1 large egg and 1 yolk
1.5tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp baking powder
125g self-raising flour

for the tart cases
150g unsalted butter
275g plain flour
2tbsp icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1-2tsp cold water

for the filling
300g golden syrup
the zest of an orange
300g pumpkin (finely grated)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a single 20cm loose bottomed baking tin and line the base with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar, then beat in the egg along with the yolk. Sift in the ginger, baking powder and self-raising flour, then mix to a smooth, consistent batter. Spoon into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 30-35 minutes, 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, leave in the tin for 15 mins, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the tart cases rub the butter and flour together, making sure there are no big lumps of butter left, then add the icing sugar and egg yolks. Using a flat bladed knife mix the dough to combine, then add a teaspoon or two of cold water. Get your hands in there and bring together to a smooth dough. You can add a little more water if the mixture is too dry, but do this with caution as you will not need a great deal. When the dough is smooth and soft wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to chill for around 20-25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and lightly grease a twelve hole muffin tray. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into twelve balls. On a lightly floured surface roll each ball into a round and press gently into each greased muffin hole. If you can, try to leave a little pastry overhanging and make sure there are no cracks. Cut a large sheet of baking paper into twelve squares and line each pastry case, very gently easing the paper onto the pastry. If you screw and rustle up each sheet of paper prior to lining you will find fitting them into each muffin cup much easier. Fill each lined tart case with a small handful of baking beans, then blind bake in the centre of the oven for around 10 minutes, before removing from the oven, carefully taking out each paper liner (along with the beans) and returning to the oven for a further minute to dry out. Remove from the oven and set to one side whilst you prepare the filling.

Speaking of which, add the golden syrup, orange zest and grated pumpkin to a large saucepan and place on a medium heat. Whilst the syrup is warming take your cooled ginger cake and in a large bowl break three quarters of it down to fine crumbs (the other quarter is a treat for you to enjoy with a cup of leaf tea). When the syrup is just bubbling at the edges remove from the heat and stir through the crumbs. Fill each tart case with the pumpkin and ginger cake syrup and return to the oven for a final 30-35 minutes. Once baked, remove the muffin tray from the oven, leave the tarts in their holes for 15 minutes, then very very carefully coax each tart from it’s binding and serve. You may need a small flat bladed knife to assist you with this task, but your biggest friend here will be patience and a steady hand.

Finish by serving these warm to your salivating guests with vanilla ice cream, cream or even crรจme fraiche. Congratulations, your work is done.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

This Year's Oatmeal and Sultana Cookies

Some may have you believe that when it comes to baking, if you don't follow recipes and rules BY THE LETTER then your efforts will only end in disaster. Nothing could be further from the truth. Tinkering with recipes and making them your own is one of the joys of home baking and I'm always playing around, even with recipes that have been tried, tested and tasted over and and over again.

I love an oatmeal and sultana cookie recipe, especially dunked in a cup of tea so I never need an excuse to try out a new version. With this one I've left out the spicing so you get the full hit of biscuitiness, but you can throw in some cinnamon or mixed spice if it takes your fancy. I've also used jumbo rolled oats and I'd recommend this over a finer grain. However as I've already said if you want to play around yourself then have at it!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 14-16 Mins
120g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
120g Light Muscovado Sugar
80g Caster Sugar
2 Large Egg Yolks
150g Plain Flour
1/2tsp Baking Powder
75g Jumbo Rolled Oats
300g Sultanas

As (nearly) always we begin by preheating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Take two large baking trays and line with baking paper. You might actually need more than two but these can be baked in batches so it's all good.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the two egg yolks. Sift in the flour and baking powder, mix together, then add the oats and sultanas. Get your hands in there and bring together to a loose cookie dough. Take small handfuls of the dough, shape into a ball, press into a fat disc and place on the prepared baking trays evenly spaced apart (they will spread a little in the oven). I like making big cookies, for no other reason than I like big cookies, but you can ahead and make smaller ones if you prefer. You'll just need to adjust the baking time slightly. 

Bake in the centre of the oven for around 14-16 minutes, until the cookie are golden brown, then remove from the oven and leave to cool for 30 mins on the tray. When the cookies are cool enough to handle peel them from the baking paper and leave on a wire rack to cool completely. Your work is done.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Beetroot and Pumpkin Pudding Cake

As the season of the ghostly, the ghastly and the ghoulish approaches I thought it appropriate to come up with a mildly macabre recipe using our old halloweeny friend, the pumpkin. I've paired it with beetroot, which gives the finished mixture a rather grisly appearance and flavoured with just a touch of warm cinnamon and nutmeg, although feel free to try out your own spicing. The texture of this one is very unusual, some might even say otherworldly (not me I'd just say unusual) and is almost closer to a pudding than cake. However topped with sweet vanilla buttercream it is definitely more of a treat than a trick!

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking time: 60-65 Mins
175ml Golden Syrup
100g Light Brown Sugar
100g Unsalted Butter
225g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
2tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2tsp Ground Nutmeg
2 Large Eggs (Beaten)
200ml Milk
250g Pumpkin (Grated)
250g Cooked Beetroot (Finely chopped)

For the buttercream
150g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
300g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
1tsp Vanilla Extract

Mwahahahahaha! Ahem, sorry. Add the syrup, sugar and butter to a saucepan and heat gently, stirring until melted together. Set to one side to cool slightly whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 20cm deep baking tin and line with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and spices, then make a well in the middle. Pour in the syrup and mix until no flour remains, then add the eggs and milk and whisk by hand until evenly combined. Fold through the pumpkin and beetroot, then pour into your prepared tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 60-65 minutes, until the cake has risen and a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave to cool in the tin for around 30 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cake is cool you can go ahead and prepare the icing. In a bowl cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract, spread liberally over the cake and you are finished. Right, where were we? Oh yes... Mwahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Fruity Fruit Cakes


I would like to say this recipe was born from a place of great and profound inspiration, but in reality I was just trying to use up an ageing packet of dried fruit found in the back of the cupboard. You know the sort I mean, with sultanas like bullets and peel like rubber. To breathe life into such sorry ingredients I’ve steeped the fruit in a strong and sweet black tea, then added notes of lemon and vanilla to perk the whole thing up. Finally I’ve used a lovely light olive oil in place of the more conventional lubrication to inject even more fruitiness into the whole concoction. I think the finished cakes are rather splendid indeed and the perfect antidote to the dull days we must all get used to over the coming months. So have at it!

Prep time: 15 Mins (Plus steeping time)
Baking time: 30-35 Mins
275g Mixed Dried Fruit
A pot of strong, hot Black Tea
25g Golden or Maple Syrup
175g Light Brown Sugar
200g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
2 Large Eggs and 1 Yolk
175ml Olive Oil
1tsp Vanilla Extract
1tsp Lemon Extract
A drizzle of gold or maple syrup to finish

The first task is to steep the fruit. Place the fruit in a large heatproof container and cover with tea. Add the 25g of syrup, stir together and leave to steep for an hour until the tea has cooled to room temperature. Once steeped drain the fruit, retaining a little of the liquor then it’s onto the cake mixture.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases. Add the sugar, flour and baking powder to a large mixing bowl, then mix together and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, oil and extracts, mix until evenly combined, the add the fruit, along with 1tbsp of the steeping liquor and do the same. Spoon the mixture equally into each paper case and bake in the centre of the oven for around 30-35 minutes, until the cakes have risen, are golden and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of one of the cakes. When you are happy they are baked remove the cakes from the oven, carefully remove from the tray and place on a wire rack. Drizzle with a little syrup to and leave to cool. Fin.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Breakfast Bacon Soda Breads

These breakfast soda breads are so called for two reasons. The first is that they contain many of the ingredients that make up a hearty breakfast, including yoghurt instead of buttermilk, honey, oats and even a little crispy bacon! The second is that they are so quick and easy to make you can actually have them on the table, freshly baked and ready for a delicious breakfast treat. I'd recommend shuffling down to the kitchen first thing, knocking a quick batch of dough together then popping it in the oven whilst you ready yourself for the day ahead. By the time you return to the kitchen your lovely loaves will be ready to be devoured!

Prep time: 10 Mins
Baking time: 25-30 Mins
300g Plain Flour
1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
A handful of Smoked Bacon (Cooked until crispy, then left to cool and chopped)
A handful of Oats
300g Plain Natural Yoghurt
1tbsp Runny Honey

Rub the cobwebs from your eyes fellow baking adventurer, as it's time to begin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, bacon and oats to a large mixing bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon. With regards to the bacon, you can cook it the night before as you'll want to use it cold. Add the yoghurt and honey to the dry ingredients, mix loosely, then bring together to a dough with your hands. You don't want to knead this dough too much so once the dough has formed break into two balls and shape into rounds. Place the rounds, spaced apart on the tray and slice a deep cross into each. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes, until each loaf is risen and a deep golden brown. When you are happy they are baked remove from the oven and serve straight away, as these are at their most yummy hot. The loaves should generously feed four people, but you can easily halve the ingredients if you're just baking for one or two. Yum yum!