Sunday, 17 December 2017

Spiced Cupcakes For Christmas

Having made my speculaas last week I was so enamoured of the flavour of the spices that I wanted to make something else with them too.  I decided to make some cupcakes and was all set to go when I discovered a recipe on Bakingmad for ginger and cinnamon cupcakes.  Although I wanted to use the speculaas spices I just loved that recipe.  So I decided to use that, but to substiture my spices.  

The cupcakes are topped with a buttercream that has a caramel sauce mixed in and drizzled over the top.  I think that is what I found so appetising about this particular recipe.

As ever with cupcakes they are easy to make and then it is simply a little extra work to make the buttercream and the sauce as well.  

It is well worth the effort since mine turned out wonderfully well.  The flavour of the spices is simply wonderful and the cupcakes so light and soft mixed with the sweet and flavoursome buttercream.  Of course, you can use any combination of spices you wish, as long as you don't put too much in.  1 1/2 teaspoons seems to be an ideal amount, giving a nice hit of spices but not too over-powering.

I made more spice mixture than I needed for the recipe, so that I would have some left over to use at a later date. So here I detail my particular mixture, but you can whatever you like.
Spiced Christmas Cupcakes

Spiced Cupcakes For Christmas - Video

Spice Mix:
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 150g self rasing flour
  • 150g softened unsalted butter
  • 150g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 3 medium eggs(large in the USA)
  • 15ml milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp of spice mix(or 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp ginger and a pinch nutmeg)
Frosting and Sauce:
  • 200g softened, unsalted butter
  • 50g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp of spice mix
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  2. Line a muffin tin with paper cases
  3. In a large bowl whisk the butter and sugar together until nice and creamy
  4. Add the eggs, one at at time with a little flour, and whisk until fully combined.
  5. Add the milk and mix until combined.
  6. Put the spice mix into the remaining flour and mix together.
  7. Add the flour and spices into the wet mixture and gently mix until just combined.
  8. Spoon the mixture, in equal amounts, into the paper cases.
  9. Bake in the oven until risen and golden, about 15 to 20 minuntes, and a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  11. In a small saucepan place 50g of the butter and the 50g muscovado sugar together with 2 tablespoons of mik. 
  12. Heat until it starts to boil and the sugar is fully dissolved. The sauce should thicken slightly.
  13. As the sauce cools place the remaining butter in a bowl whisk the butter to ensure it is nice and soft.
  14. Add the icing sugar and mix into the butter, carefully to avoid big clouds being released.
  15. When they are mixed together, even without being creamy, add the cooled sauce retaining 2.5 tablespoons for drizzling.
  16. Mix the sauce into the butter and sugar mixture until it is all smooth and creamy, adding milk only if required.
  17. If the consistency seems a little too soft for frosting add some more icing sugar until you achieve the consistency you wish.
  18. Place the frosting into a piping bag and pipe on the top of all the muffins(or just spoon it over if you wish).
  19. Drizzle a little of the remaining sauce on the top of the frosting.
  20. Allow to sit for a while for the frosting to firm up.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Cherry Madeira Cake

I decided to make a cake with Morello glace cherries in.  I have done a similar cake before a few years back.  But for this one I decided upon a Madeira cake, though flavoured with some almond extract rather than the more traditional lemon.  Almond flavour goes so well with cherries that I was sure it would be good.

The recipe is quite simple, so the cake is easy to make.  Just mix the ingredients and put them in a loaf tin, then bake for an hour.

For me, Madeira cake is ideal with afternoon tea, so this cherry version will be a welcome change to the normal cake.

Mine turned out very well indeed, and the taste is so very good.  The almond flavour in the cake comes through and then the occasional bite of cherry too.  This cake is very moreish and is a welcome change to all the rich food we shall all be eating over the holiday period.
Cherry Madeira Cake

Cherry Madeira Cake - Video

  • 240g softened unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 210g self raising flour
  • 90g plain flour
  • 20ml milk
  • 5ml almond extract
  • 3 large eggs(XL in USA)
  • 150g glace cherries, washed, dried and halved.
  • Extra flour to toss the cherries in.
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/325F.
  2. Grease and line a 2lb/900g loaf tin.
  3. In a large bowl place the butter and sugar and cream together until nice and fluffy(I used a hand mixer).
  4. Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time with a little flour to prevent curdling, and mix until combined.
  5. Add the milk and almond extract and mix to combine.
  6. Add the flours and mix until just combined, don't over mix.
  7. Toss the cherries in a little flour to coat them.
  8. Add the cherries to the batter and gently stir in.
  9. Place the batter into the prepared loaf tin and level off.
  10. Sprinkle with a little caster sugar if you wish.
  11. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, until the cake has risen(it should split on the top, that is normal) and a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.
  12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for ten minutes, then remove from the loaf tin and take off the paper.  
  13. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Spiced Cookies - Speculaas

Getting ready for Christmas and the holiday season I thought I would try out another cookie, from the low countries, Belgium and The Netherlands(and elsewhere too I suspect).  Speculaas are a crunchy cookie that are usually made with the dough being pressed into moulds to create a shape.  They are eaten on St Nicholas Eve and Day, which is around December 5th and 6th.  They are spiced cookies with four main spices cinnamon, nutmeg(or mace) ginger and cloves.  But other spices are very common, added to that standard set.  It is possible to buy a speculaas spice mix but for mine I mixed my own combination, using suggestions from various recipes that I read. I also read that cinnamon is usually about 50% of the total amount of spice, so I made sure that was the case with mine.

So as well as the four standard spices I used coriander, cardamom, mace and white pepper, as well as a little salt.

The aroma from mixing the spices was phenomenal and made me wonder whether I had actually made too strong a combination.  But when they were baked the flavour was fantastic, very subtle, maybe I could have used just a little more ginger, but other than that the cookies were really great.  

I made a large amount of dough and have frozen half of it so that I can make the cookies again specifically for Christmas.  This bake today was more to check that the cookies would turn out fine with my recipe and that the flavour would be fine. 
Spiced Cookies - Speculaas

Spiced Cookies - Speculaas - Video
Ingredients:(for a double batch as I froze half of it):
Although I include all the spices I used if you want to use just the standard ones that is fine, just use the larger amounts I include below:

For the cookies:
  • 380g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds (mine were finely ground)
  • 225g softened unsalted butter
  • 300g light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4-6 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger (1 tsp if only using standard spices)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (1 tsp if only using standard spices)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves )1 tsp if only using standard spices)
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander, if desired
  • 1/2tsp ground cardamom, if desired
  • 1/4 tsp ground mace, if desired
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper, if desired
For icing:
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 to 3 tsp water, with a little lemon juice if you like.
  1. Mix all the spices and the salt together in a small bowl.
  2. Place the vanilla extract butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until they are creamy and all combined.
  3. Add the spices, baking powder and almonds to the flour and mix to combine 
  4. Add the flour mixture to the butter and stir until you have a stiff dough, adding just enough of the milk to make that happen.  Use a hand to help the mixture come together until you have a dough.
  5. Shape the dough into a thick sausage and, if you wish to freeze some, cut in two and wrap half in plastic wrap and place in the freezer.
  6. Cut the remaining dough in two and form each part into discs, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for two hours.
  7. Lightly flour the work surface and roll out one disc of dough to a thickness of about 5mm, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.
  8. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters of choice and place on a baking tray line with parchment paper.
  9. Repeat the process with the second disc.
  10. Chill in the fridege again while you preheat the oven to 165C/145C Fan/350F.
  11. Place the cookies in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the have changed colour and are just beginning to darken at the edges. The longer you bake them the more crunchy they will be.
  12. Remove from the and cool on a wire rack.
  13. Mix two teaspoons of water into the icing sugar and mix to a stiff paste.
  14. Add more water until the mixture is a thick piping consistency.
  15. Then drizzle or pipe the icing, in zig-zags over the cookies and allow to set.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Almond Stuffed Cookies - Gevulde Koeken

I have been reading a lot lately, and viewing videos, of Dutch baking.  The Dutch love almonds, they use them in so many of their baking recipes and I really liked the look of Gevulde Koeken, which means 'stuffed cake', or cookie.  These are very popular and the same ingredients are used to make Kano or Rondo which are canoe shaped or round cakes filled with almond paste and covered in a very light pastry.  I am able to buy the Kano, as Almond Fingers in my local supermarket and simply love them.  So I decided I had to try to make something along those lines.  Finding it impossible to buy the moulds for Kano I opted for this simpler version 'stuffed cakes.

Basically it is a lovely pastry filled with almond paste.  Almond paste is similar to marzipan, but has a different ratio of almonds to sugar.  Marzipan is much sweeter.  It could be used but making my own almond paste seemed the best idea.

Since I also intend to make Gevulde Speculaas, which is a traditional Dutch cake for St Nicholas day or eve, heavily spiced, I made double the amount of almond paste.  But in the recipe below I simply give the amounts needed for these Almond Stuffed Cookies.

The recipe is simple, make the pastry, make the paste, assemble and top with almonds as necessary and then brush with egg.  What could be easier.  

The resultant cookies, or cakes, however you wish to call them are simply delicious, with a lovely crisp cookie exterior and the soft paste inside, with a hint of lemon.

I should say that I used cake and pastry flour, which is a very soft and finely ground flour, similar to Zeeland flour from Holland,  but plain flour(all purpose) flour would be very good too.
Almond Stuffed Cookies

Almond Stuffed Cookies - Video

For the pastry:
  • 300g cake & pastry flour(or plain/all purpose flour)
  • 200g softened unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 6g baking powder
  • 1/2 a medium egg, whisked(25g) (large in USA)
For the almond paste:
  • 150g ground almonds(as finely ground as you can)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, whisked(large in USA)
  • a little water, if needed
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • a drop of almond extract, optional
For the top:
  • Remainder of the pastry egg, for brushing
  • Blanched, peeled, almonds for decoration
  1. Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and cream together until light and fluffy(I used a hand mixer).
  2. Add the 1/2 egg and beat to combined.
  3. Add the flour, with baking powder mixed into it, in two additions and gently work into the wet mixture until all is combined into a soft paste.
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
  5. Place the ground almonds and sugar into a bowl(if the ground almonds are not very fine process them with the sugar in a food processor to make the grains smaller).
  6. Mix together and add the lemon zest and mix in.
  7. Add the eggs and a drop of almond extract if using it, a little at a time, mixing until you have a soft paste it needs to be of the consistency that could be piped from a bag but still hold its' shape.  You may not need all the egg, or you may need a little water to achieve the consistency.
  8. The paste can be made the day before and chilled in the fridge(don't eat the paste raw as it has uncooked egg at this stage).
  9. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  10. Roll the pastry out to 1/8 inch/3 cm thickness and cut out 10cm round circles, re-rolling as necessary.  I got 14 rounds, so 7 cookies.
  11. Place a mound of almond paste in the middle of half of the pastry circles.
  12. Brush around the edges with egg.
  13. Place the other half of the pastry circles on the tops and gently press down to seal the edge, leaving a mound in the middle which encases the almond paste.
  14. Brush the tops with egg and decorate with 1, 3 or 5 blanched almonds as required.
  15. Brush again with egg and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are lovely dark golden brown.
  16. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Sultana Scones

Scones are one of my favorites, especially with sultanas or raisins in them. So I decided to make some.  The texture of the English style of scone is different to the North American one, it is less cake-line, and should be light and fluffy and slightly crumbly as well.  Best eaten fresh they can be heated in the oven to refresh them if not eaten on the day of baking. 

I made a mistake with my cookie cutter, using 8cm rather than 7cm so my scones were larger than I intended, but they still turned out very well indeed.

Once cold I opened one up and spread it with butter to eat with a cup of tea.  Of course, clotted cream and jam is a very traditional way of serving scones, so that would be very good too.  

Mine tasted very good indeed and, eaten fresh, were very soft just as they should be.  After the first day the texture will become drier and harder, but that is easily remedied with a liitle heating in the oven as I mentioned earlier.

The recipe is very easy, if a little time consuming, the important thing is not to work the dough too much.  Having cut out the first tranche the remaining dough can be pulled together and more can be cut out. But after a second cutting the excess dough will still be ok to use, but the resultant scones are likely to be more cakey in texture.
Sultana Scones

Sultana Scones - video

  • 450g plain flour
  • 20g baking powder
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 70g sultanas(or other dried fruit)
  • 250ml milk
  • 2 medium eggs (large in USA)
  • 1 egg, salted lightly for brushing over the top.
  • Extra flour for the rolling out.
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/430F
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl place the flour and baking powder and mix to fully combine.
  4. Add the butter and rub it into the flour using your finger tips. (A pastry cutter/blender can be used too), until you have a breadcrumb-like texture.
  5. Add the sugar and mix to combine.
  6. Add the sultanas and mix in.
  7. Add the eggs and most of the milk, holding back a couple of tablespoons.
  8. Using a knife stir the mixture to combine everything, you don't want to overwork the dough.
  9. Add a little more milk if required to get the dough combined and to a sticky texture.#
  10. Tip out onto a well floured work surface and turn to coat in flour.
  11. Form the dough into a rough oblong and then fold it in half, turn 90 degrees and fold again, and do the same two more times.
  12. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 2cm, about 1 inch, and cut out round shapes using a 7cm cookie cutter(just under 3 inches). Don't twist the cookie cutter, press straight down.
  13. Place the circles of dough on to the baking tray.
  14. Re-roll the dough, not working a lot, and cut out more.
  15. Re-roll again if you wish, but the resultant scones will be more cake-like.
  16. Whisk the egg and salt and brush over the tops of the scones.
  17. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  18. Remove from the oven and place the beautifully browned scones on a wire rack to cool down before serving.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Rum Balls

As we approach the holiday season I wanted to make some easy but tasty treats.  One of my ideas was rum balls and I checked on the internet and saw that Joyofbaking had a very simple recipe that looked good.  So I decided to make mine using that recipe as the basis.  

There is no baking required, it is simply a case of mixing various ingredients together and then forming into balls, coating with any variety of coverings available.

For mine I used some sweetened coconut flour to coat some balls, and then icing sugar, cocoa powder and ground hazelnuts for others.  I also opted for some melted chocolate for about half of the balls to give an even more decadent treat.

These balls are very easy to make and delicious to eat.  They can be served at any time and will be enjoyed by most adults.  The recipe can also be varied, with different flavours of alcohol or even using fruit juices if you want something that doesn't have alcohol in.  I have already to do a cherry and kirsch variant in the next few days, so that will appear on this blog very soon too.
Rum Balls
Rum Balls - Video
for the rum balls:
  • 150g finely ground hazelnuts(or any nut that you like, walnuts, pecans etc)
  • 125g finely ground biscuits, such as digestive, graham crackers, shortbread
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 60ml dark rum
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup(or corn syrup)
For the coating, any mixture you like will be fine. Depending on how many balls you wish to coat with each flavour you will need differing amounts, but small amounts only are necessary. I used:
  • sweetened coconut flour(dessicated coconut would be good too).  
  • cocoa powder
  • icing sugar
  • finely ground hazelnuts
  • melted dark chocolate(with some white chocolate or milk chocolate piped over later)
  1. In a large bowl place the hazelnuts, biscuits crumbs, icing sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Mix until they are all evenly combined.
  3. Add the golden syrup and dark rum and stir until the mixture comes together into a clump.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  5. Remove the mixture from the fridge and form into 40 one inch balls.
  6. Roll each ball in one of the coating mixtures and set aside.  If using melted chocolate chill the balls in the fridge for about 15 minutes before dipping in the chocolate, draining the excess and placing on parchment paper for the chocolate to set hard.
  7. If desired pipe a little melted white chocolate or milk chocolate over the chocolate balls, in a zig-zag pattern and allow to set.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Crispy Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Today I made some wonderfully crispy biscuits and sandwiched them together with a chocolate ganache.  I got the idea when I saw some pictures of a French biscut Prince Chocolate.  They are a two thin biscuits/cookies that are sandwiched with chocolate, with a pattern imprinted on them..  The biscuit has to be hard and crispy giving a crunch when eating, and then the rich chocolate flavour in the middle.  For mine I decided to make some patterned and a few plain too, just to see if there was a difference in how they baked, as much as anything else. 

The recipe is simple, but patience is needed to get as many biscuits out of the dough, since having cut out as many as you can it is necessary to chill the remaining dough before cutting out more.

Then it is just a case of baking and waiting for them to cool as you make a simple ganache with dark chocolate and a little double cream and then filling the biscuts and allowing the ganache to firm up before serving.

Mine turned out very well indeed, they have a wonderful crunch to the biscuit and the firm ganache that softens in the mouth releasing the intense chocolate flavour.
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies/Biscuits

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies/Biscuits Video

For the biscuits/cookies:
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 80g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, in cubes
  • 50ml cold water.
For the ganache:
  • 15g dark chocolate chopped into small pieces.
  • 60ml double cream.
  1. In a large bowl place the flour and baking powder and sift in the icing sugar.  
  2. Mix together with a whisk to combine.
  3. Place the butter and water into a pan and heat until the butter has melted.
  4. Allow it to cool for a few minutes then pour the butter mixture into the flour and stir to combine and form a dough.  Keep mixing, using a hand if necessary, until all the flour mixture has combined and the sides of the bowl are clean.
  5. Form the dough into a disc(I actually halved it and made two discs) and wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for two hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  7. Lightly dust the work surface with flour, or icing sugar and roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch(3 mm).
  8. Using a 2 1/4inch(6 cm) cookie cutter, with the scalloped edge facing down, cut out  the cookies and place them on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper.
  9. If you wish to use the off cuts of dough make sure you chill it thoroughly first.
  10. Make some patterns on them if you wish, little dots with a skewer, for instance.
  11. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, the tops will start to colour and the edges may slightly brown.
  12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, on a wire rack.
  13. For the ganache either heat the cream to boiling point and pour over the chopped chocolate and stir until all has melted and combined, or melt the chocolate in a bain marie, or microwave and pour in the cream, stirring until all is combined.
  14. Turn half the cookies upside down and spoon, or pipe, a good amount of ganache on. 
  15. Take the remaining cookies and place on top of the ganache, gently pressing down to push the ganache to the edges.
  16. Allow the ganache to firm up before eating.