Thursday, 30 June 2016

White Chocolate and Banana Fridge Cake

Well this cake was quite the surprise! Boy oh boy oh boy has it gone down a storm, with each fudgy slice raising both eyebrows and heart rates. There must be something about the combination of white chocolate, bananas and syrupy, sexy, stodge that gets all your pulses racing!

Prep time: 20 Mins
Baking time: 50-60 Mins
250g Unsalted Butter
200g White Chocolate
75g Ground Almonds
75g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
250g Light Muscovado Sugar
4 Large Eggs (Beaten)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Ripe Bananas (Mashed well)

To the kitchen! Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and double line a 20cm springform tin with baking paper. Melt together the butter and white chocolate either over a bain-marie, or in the microwave (if you're confident in your timings), then set to one side for 5 minutes to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl mix together the almonds, flour, baking powder and sugar. Add the melted chocolate/butter, mix briefly, then in goes the rest of the ingredients. Mix with vigour until you are left with a sticky batter. Pour into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 50 to 60 minutes. To see if it's done give the side of the tin a firm tap. If the cake wobbles it needs a bit longer, if it sits firm then you are good to go.

Once baked remove from the oven and leave to cool completely in the tin, before chilling for a good two hours prior to slicing. It will sink a little when cooling but that just means the fudge factor is at its maximum! Once chilled you can remove from the tin and serve. Y.U.M.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Maple Oaty's

Some days I will happily make do with a biscuit on the side of a cup of leaf tea. Today is not one of those days. Today I need a big biscuity hug, a thick wedge of something between a biscuit, a cookie and a slice of cake. Today I need a maple oaty, made with sweet golden syrup, soft mixed fruit and just a hint of spice. Good job I had a batch in the fridge ready for baking then!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus some chilling time)
Baking time: 16-20 Mins (Depending on size)
120g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
125g Light Muscovado Sugar
1 Medium Egg
75g Maple Syrup
125g Plain Flour
1tsp Mixed Spice
300g Mixed Dried Fruit
150g Oats

You may have to bake these in batches unless you have a large oven, but if time is short you can store these in the fridge overnight until you are ready. Start by lining two large, flat baking trays with baking paper. In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg followed by the maple syrup. Add the flour and spice, mix to combine, then toss in the fruit. I add the fruit at this stage as it's much easier to mix through. Add the oats to the mixture and mix to a stiff batter. Blob the mixture onto some cling film, wrap up and leave in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Take a ball of the mixture, slightly larger than a golf ball and with your hands, flatten to a thick disc (I would say around half an inch thick). Repeat for the rest of the mixture, placing the discs evenly apart on your prepared sheets, as they will spread very slightly when baking. You should get around 14-16 our of this quantity of mixture. Bake in the oven for around 16-18 minutes, even a bit longer if they are really thick, until just starting to colour on top, then remove from the oven. Leave on the trays for 20 minutes, then carefully peel each oaty from the baking paper and leave to cool on a wire rack. Your work is done. :-)

Friday, 17 June 2016

Lemon and Rhubarb Ripple Cheesecake

Rhubarb can be rather devisive but personally I LOVE it. When treated care and respect it can have the most beautiful flavour and just the right balance of sweet and sharp. Here I've rippled a simple lemon cheesecake with rhubarb, sweetened with a little caster sugar and poached in its own juice. If the ripple effect doesn't do anything for you though you can just top normally, just wait for the lemon layer to chill for a couple of hours before moving on to the rhubarb stage. :-)

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking Chilling time: 3-4 Hours (Minimum)
For the biscuit base
200g Digestive Biscuits
85g Unsalted Butter (Melted)

For the lemon layer
360g Full Fat Cream Cheese
150g Caster Sugar
The finely grated zest of 4 Small Lemons
The juice of 2 Small Lemons
150ml Double Cream
3 Leaves of Gelatin

For the rhubarb layer
350g Rhubarb (The pinker the better!)
Around 100g Caster Sugar
2 Leaves of Gelatin

I use a 23cm disposable foil tin for this, but failing that you can always just use a 23cm springform tin lined with clingfilm. For the biscuit base pulverise the biscuits, then mix through the unsalted butter. Press into the base of your tin and leave to one side whilst you prepare the cheese and rhubarb.

For the lemon layer whisk together the cheese, sugar, zest and juice. Place the double cream in a pan on a low heat, stirring often and at the same time soak the 3 leaves of gelatine in cold water. When the cream is just starting to steam remove from the heat. Remove the gelatine from the water, squeezing out any water and stir through the hot cream until dissolved. Pour into the cheese mixture and whisk until combined. Pour over your biscuit base.

For the rhubarb layer, chop the rhubarb into knuckle sized piece and add to a pan along with the caster sugar. Place on a medium heat, stirring occasionally and at the same time soak the 2 leaves of gelatine in cold water. After a while the rhubarb will release its juice and start to bubble. Keep gently moving the rhubarb around, taking care not to break it, then when the rhubarb is entirely soft remove from the heat. A fair amount of sweet syrupy juice should have been released at this point. Remove the gelatine from the water, squeezing out any water and stir through the rhubarb. Spoon over the lemon layer and muss up a little with the handle of the spoon. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 3-4 hours until set firm and you are ready to serve. Yummmmmmmmmmm!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Pate Buns

It's lovely to have a home made bread on the side of some pate and chutney, so I've come up with an easy recipe for little baked buns just for such an occasion. I bake mine in dariole moulds, but if you don't have any you could just shape into rounds and bake normally. You could even try in little flower pots if you have small clay ones, just make sure you give them a rinse first!

Prep time: 20 Mins (Plus proving time)
Baking time: 15 Mins
175ml Tepid Water
10g Fresh Yeast
A pinch of Caster Sugar
260g Very Strong White Bread Flour
A good pinch of Salt
A tablespoon of dried herbs (I tend to use sage or thyme)
15g Olive Oil or melted Lard

Making bread is such a therapeutic activity, but it can take some time so make sure you leave yourself a few hours on and off to get everything done. :-)

Grab a large mixing bowl and pour in the water. Add the yeast and sugar, then blend until combined. Tip in the flour, along with the salt, herbs and fat, then bring together to a sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, bring together to a ball of dough then knead, stretching the dough, folding back on itself, turning and repeating. Do this for around 7-8 mins until the dough is smooth and elastic. As long as your surface is clean and dry you shouldn’t need to keep dusting your surface, but the surrounding environmental conditions may dictate this. Just try and be as stingy as you can if you do have to add more flour!

When the dough is nice and smooth dust with a little flour then return to a clean bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for around 75 mins, until doubled in size. Once risen, turn out onto a lightly oiled surface, divide into eight and shape into little balls. Place each ball into a lightly greased dariole mould, place in a sealed container (I use a big cake tub) and leave to rise again for a further 25 mins. At the same time preheat the oven to 230C/fan 210C/gas 8.

Once the dough has risen place your moulds on a flat baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for around 15 mins, until golden brown on top. When you are happy the buns are baked remove from the oven and leave in the moulds for around 5 mins. Run a flat bladed knife around the edge of each bun and coax out. You can serve these hot, wait until cold or they freeze brilliantly too, handy for when needed!

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Memoirs of a Gentleman Baker - Chapter 2, Coco the Burlesque Baker

When Coco wasn’t selling her stunning breads in the markets of Paris she danced burlesque in some of its more exotic of nightspots. I was 17 when we met on the Pont Alexandre, both soaked from the midnight rain. I learnt more in that summer than any other, although I was far from the Gentleman I am today and certainly no baker. Coco’s skill with dough, her firm yet delicate touch, her instinct for when to apply pressure and when to be gentle was lost to me, still a graceless and impetuous boy. I had studied the theory and practiced the techniques, yet something was missing.

Outside the evening was warm and sultry as I furiously tugged and folded a batch of brioche dough in Coco’s tiny apartment kitchen. Coco sat across from me, perched on the counter, dabbing beads of sweat from her chest with an old scarf. “No no no Benedict...” she scolded “you must be firm with the dough, but sensitive to how it responds to your caress. It will tell you when it is ready”. I responded with a sigh as I dusted flour from my fevered brow. “I’m sorry ma chère, I don’t think I’ll ever understand”. She sat there for a moment in silent contemplation, before her eyes narrowed and she gave me a look that seemed to raise the temperature even further. She reached out her hand. “Come monsieur, I will show you”...