Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Chocolate Oat Cakes

Christmas is over and I am back to trying to find some nice items to bake.  I decided on oat cakes.  Now they are usually a biscuit(UK biscuit not US biscuit), and quite plain.  But I stumbled across a recipe for a chocolate version, which is more of a small cake than a traditional biscuit.  I got the recipe from The Food Network. I didn't follow it precisely, as I dont have mini muffin tins.  I do have a shallow bun pan and decided to use that for 12, and to 'drop' the remainder onto a baking sheet.  I also used slightly more of the mixture than the prescribed table spoon, so I had 16 rather than the suggested 20.  I also substituted oat bran for the wheat germ as I couldn't find the latter in the supermarket.  Research on the internet suggest oat bran as a good alternative and I had that in my cupboard already.

The mixture was rather dry and I was tempted to add a little milk to moisten it somewhat, but I resisted the urge.  I also adjusted the cooking time to 20 minutes.

The result is a very tasty biscuit, which is crisp on the outside, and slightly soft on the inside, with a lovely flavour of cardamom and chocolate.

I reproduce the original recipe and instructions below.


 Chocolate Oat Cakes

Ingredients:
  • 35g hazelnuts, finely chopped
  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 25g wheat germ
  • 45g rolled old-fashioned oats
  • 0.5 tsp freshly ground cardamom
  • 0.25 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp fine salt
  • 110g unsalted butter, softened
  • 165g granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
Method:
  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Line 2 mini muffin tins with mini muffin cases, or set out 20 mini muffin cases on a baking sheet. Lightly spray liners with nonstick spray and sprinkle the hazelnuts into the bottom of each muffin liner.
  2. Whisk the flour, cocoa, wheat germ, oats, spices and salt together in a medium bowl.
  3. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar in another bowl until combined, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and beat together. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Scoop a tbsp of dough (about 20g) into each mini muffin case, on top of the nuts. (Alternatively, drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and top with chopped nuts.) Bake until the biscuits are cooked through and the nuts are toasty, about 15 minutes (drop biscuits will bake slightly faster). Transfer to a rack to cool.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Kouign Amann - once again

I made Kouign Amann a few months ago, and it was the first time I had tried them.  Having never heard of them until the Great British Bake-Off. The result was a wonderful tasting confection. All puffy, buttery and sugary. It was like something I could never have thought of, truly delicious. I have done a lot of research online since then and have found that it is very common to make it rather like one large cake, in France.  I have found French recipes for individual ones too, particularly in some cook books.  I cannot work out quite what the texture of the cake version is.  I rather like the crispy, puffy texture of the individual ones that I made, as per Paul Hollywood's recipe. The one thing I was not quite so happy about was they they didn't come out uniformly shaped.  But, again, I have read that this is quite common and is to be expected.  

During Christmas, discussing some of my bakes, I had a request to do these again, so that is what I  decided to do, and to try something slightly different when putting them in the muffin tins,.  That is to try to have the centre pushed together, rather than the fly-away corners I had last time. I did consider a different recipe, but thought it best to stick with the tried and tested. Although I did press the pulled together corners into the centre, they still opened up somewhat during baking.
Kouign Amann
Ingredients:
  • 300g/10½oz strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 5g fast-action yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200ml/7fl oz warm water
  • 25g/1oz unsalted butter, melted
  • 250g/9oz cold unsalted butter, in a block
  • 100g/3½oz caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Method:
  1. Put the flour into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Add the water and melted butter and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes.
  2. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour.
  3. Sandwich the butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14cm/5½in square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20cm/8in square. Place the butter in the centre of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.
  5. Roll the dough into a 45x15cm/18x6in rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.
  6. Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns.
  7. Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40x30cm/16x12in rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares.
  8. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover. Sprinkle with caster sugar and leave to rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for 30 minutes until slightly puffed up.
  9. Preheat oven to 220C/200C(fan)/425F/Gas 7. Bake the pastries for 30-40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelised sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long, or the caramelised sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin.
  10. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Soft White Rolls

As it is Christmas time I thought I wouldn't be baking for a week or so, but I had the urge.  At first I was going to try to make some pretzels, but having read the recipes I decided that was just too much work for today.  So I opted to make some soft white rolls.  I usually only eat wholemeal bread, but sometimes I have a hankering for some white bread.  So these rolls will be ideal.  I can freeze  them in twos, and just take them out when the fancy takes me.

They are also very simple to make, so that is a bonus as well.  They just take a while, as they rest for a total of about 2.5 hours.

You can dust the rolls with flour before putting in the oven.  But I don't bother as I don't like excess flour making a mess.

Ingredients:

  • 500g/1lb 2oz unbleached strong white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 30g/1oz butter or lard, softened
  • 75ml/2½fl oz milk, warmed
  • 225ml/8fl oz warm water
  • Rice flour for dusting

Method:

  1. Add the flour, salt and dried yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix with the paddle attachment for a few seconds.  You can do this manually in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the softened butter  into the flour mixture and beat until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  3. Mix the warm milk with the water.
  4. Change the paddle attachment to the kneading attachment, if you are using a stand mixer.
  5. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and beat until the dough is well combined. If doing by hand bring the dough together into a ball.
  6. Knead the dough in the stand mixer for about 13 minutes. If doing manually knead on a floured work surface for 20 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and smooth. If necessary add a little more warm water to loosen the dough.
  7. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with clingflim.  Allow to prove for 90 mins in a warm place.  The dough should double in size.
  8. When the dough has risen, return it to a floured work surface and knock it back.
  9. Separate the mixture into eight parts and roll each into a ball. Flatten each slightly with the palm of your hand and transfer the rolls to a baking tray, placing them close together. Cover the tray with cling film and set aside for another hour, or until the rolls have doubled in size again.
  10. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/425F/Gas 7.
  11. When the rolls have expanded, dust them with the rice flour(if you wish)  and transfer them to the oven. 
  12. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden-brown and cooked through.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Chocolate Victoria Sandwich

This is actually a repeat recipe, from a few months ago.  I enjoyed it so much and thought it was time for another attempt.

I am posting a photo of the latest version.

A Victoria Sponge, or Victoria Sandwich is a very popular cake in the UK.  It is one of my favourites, when baked correctly, as it has a lovely lightness to the sponge and a very tasty jam and buttercream filling. 

I made one such cake which turned out well, but I then went one step further and made a chocolate version.  For this I found a Paul Hollywood recipe, on Waitrose's website .  

Happily it turned out well and certainly was enjoyed by the tasters when I delivered it to them.  In fact it was devoured very quickly indeed.  That's always a good indication of how it tasted.
Chocolate Victoria Sandwich

  • Preparation time:20 minutes
  • Cooking time:20-25 minutes
  • Total time:45 minutes 
Serves: 10
Ingredients

For the cake:
  • 4 medium eggs – weighed in their shell (about 245g)
  • The weight of the eggs in butter, softened (about 245g)
  • The weight of the eggs in caster sugar (about 245g)
  • The weight of 3 eggs in Waitrose extra fine sponge flour (about 185g)I USED SELFRAISING FLOUR
  • The weight of 1 egg in cocoa powder (about 63g)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Splash of milk


For the chocolate butter cream filling:
  • 75g softened butter  THIS WAS NOT ENOUGH, I  ADDED MORE
  • 225g sieved icing sugar
  • 60g Waitrose Belgian dark chocolate – melted
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar mixed with 1 tsp cocoa powder to dust the top of the cake.


Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4. Grease and base line two 21cm loose bottom cake tins. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs together. Gradually add to the creamed butter and sugar until well incorporated.
2. Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder together.  Fold into the mixture. Add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture if it’s too stiff.
3. Divide the mixture between the two prepared tins. Smooth over the surface so it’s level. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The cake should be springy to touch and have shrunk from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes, and then remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.
4. To make the filling, beat the butter with the icing sugar until smooth. Pour in the melted chocolate and stir. Add 1tbsp milk if needed to make more spreadable.
5. When the cakes are completely cold, sandwich together with the chocolate butter cream. Place the icing sugar and cocoa powder in a sieve and dust over the top of the cake. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Mince Pies

Today I made my mince pies. You may recall that I made the mincemeat a couple of weeks ago, and stored it in sterilised jars.  The mincemeat will keep for at least 6 months in an airtight jar, and I have more than I needed for today's recipe, so I can repeat it in the months to come.

For the pastry I made a simple sweet pastry, which is quite short, and crumbly.  I bought a patty/bun tin to use for the pies too, as I thought a muffin tin was just too deep, the danger would be over-filling the pies.  What you need is a good balance between mincemeat and pastry.

The final result has turned out very well, and I have already eaten one, so I can report that they taste very good too.  I already knew the mincemeat was good, as I used some a couple of weeks back, but in the form of pies, the traditional way to eat, it is even better.

The recipe for the pastry will actually make enough for at least 16 pies. I only made 12, as I only wanted to open one jar of my mincement.  The weight of mincemeat in one jar was 574 grams/20 ounces.  As I filled the pies as full as I could I used every single gram from the jar.  

In the photo I have broken one pie open so you can see the inside as well.


Mince Pies
Ingredients:

574g mincemeat,( if you are buying it then 454g/1lb jar will be enough, if you slightly reduce the amount for each pie)

For the pastry:

  • 375g plain flour
  • 260g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 beaten egg for glazing

Method:
  1. Place the flour and butter in a bowl and rub together to a crumb consistency. Add the sugar and the egg, and mix together. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and fold until the pastry comes together, be careful not to over mix. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 10 mins.
  2. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick. Using a round cutter (about 10cm), cut out 12 bases and place them into patty/bun trays. Put 1 1/2 tbsp mincemeat mixture into each. Brush the edge of each pie with a little beaten egg. Re-roll out the pastry to cut 7cm lids and press them on top to seal. Glaze with the rest of the egg, sprinkle with caster sugar, then make a small cut in the tops.
  3. Bake mince pies for 15-20 mins until golden brown. Leave to cool before releasing them from the patty/bun tray and dusting with icing sugar. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas Cake Updated

This Christmas cake has been 3 weeks in preparation.  I could actually have started it a couple of months ago, but I knew I was going away and wouldn't be here to feed it for a couple of weeks, so I delayed starting.

Christmas cake is a particular favourite of mine, as it is rich with fruit and has the marzipan and royal icing cover that I so love.  I remember it fondly from my childhood.  These days most icing seems to be that rather insipid stuff that you can roll out, and has no flavour, but a multitude of colours.

My one cheat on this cake is that I bought marzipan, rather than make it myself.  Naughty really, but it is not a big thing.

The cooking takes a while and I wrapped the outside of the tin in a double layer of brown paper, to try to avoid any excessive browning on the top.  I did end up with some rather crusty fruit and a slightly crusty top though, which I cut off.  I think that left one side slightly higher than the other, but it is no great problem.

There are many recipes online for Christmas cake, and different types of fruit and proportions of one fruit against another.  I opted for my trusty BBC Food site for this cake.  On the site they also have links on how to put the marzipan on and how to do the icing.

Now I am not very good at the artistic touches, so I have just made peaks on my icing, rather than skimming it flat and writing Merry Christmas on the top. Although I have included glycerine in the recipe I didn't actually use it myself.  My understanding is that using glycerine keeps the icing from setting hard.  Since my childhood memories are always of rock hard icing that is what I wanted for my cake.

Although presentation is important much more so is the taste, and I am confident this will be just as scrummy as a cake can be.

Well this is an update. The cake has now been sliced and I can report that it tastes delicious.  It is so moist and full of that lovely, plumped up dried fruit and just the right amount of brandy.  All who tasted it said it was very good.  I must warn though, it is very rich and a small slice will suffice for most people.

This is the first time I have reposted an item, but I just had too so that I could include the photo of the cake after it was sliced.


Christmas Cake Sliced



Iced Christmas Cake
Ingredients:
225g/8oz plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
200g/7oz butter
200g/7oz dark brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp marmalade
¼ tsp vanilla essence
4 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
800g/1¾lb mixed dried fruits
100g/3½oz chopped mixed peel
150g/5oz glacé cherries, halved
100g/3½oz blanched almonds, chopped


To decorate:
200g/7oz marzipan
1-2 tbsp apricot jam, warmed

For the royal icing
3 free-range egg whites
600g/1lb 5oz icing sugar, sieved
1½ tsp liquid glycerine - optional
1 tbsp lemon juice

Method:
  1. Heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2. Grease a 20cm/8inch round or an 18cm/7inch square cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
  2. Sieve the flour, salt, mixed spice and cinnamon into a bowl.
  3. Cream the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the treacle, marmalade and vanilla essence until light and fluffy.
  4. Mix the eggs a little at a time into the mixture adding a tablespoon of flour mixture with the last amount.
  5. Fold in the remaining flour mixture until well mixed and then mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, glace cherries and the almonds.
  6. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and make a slight hollow in the centre.
  7. Bake in the oven for 3 hours and then test with a skewer. If not ready bake for up to another hour testing every 20 minutes until the skewer comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes.
  9. Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  10. Once cool, make a few holes in the cake with a skewer and pour over 3-4 tbsp of brandy. Let the brandy soak into the cake.
  11. Store the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, holes side up.
  12. OPTIONAL: For a rich and moist cake, spoon over a few tablespoons of brandy every week until you are ready to ice and decorate your cake.
  13. To decorate the cake, place the cake on a foil board or cake plate.
  14. Dust your hands and the work surface with a little icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft.
  15. Roll out half the marzipan to fit the top of the cake and roll out the rest in strips to fit around the sides of the cake.
  16. Brush the cake all over with the warmed apricot jam and then place the marzipan on top and around the cake.
  17. Cover the cake with a clean tea towel and then leave in a cool place for at least one day.
  18. To make the icing, lightly whisk the egg whites adding the sugar at intervals. Beat well until the icing reaches soft peaks. Add the glycerine if using and the lemon juice.
  19. Spread icing all over cake either flat iced using a clean ruler or by forming soft peaks. Decorate with Christmas ornaments.

Oatie Biscuits

I thought I would try to come up with a little concoction, very simple, but hopefully quite tasty.  Just some flour, butter, sugar and oats, to make some biscuits, similar to hob nobs.

Some spare glace moreno cherries, quartered and popped in the middle of each biscuit should give an extra hit of flavour during eating.

They taste delicious and simply melt on the tongue, so they are very more-ish, be careful.

This mixture will make 12 large biscuits, you can reduce the size of the balls you roll, to make 18 quite good sized ones.

Ingredients:
  • 125g butter
  • 95g sugar 
  • 160g sr flour 
  • 1 egg yolk 
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract, 
  • 40g porridge oats plus extra to sprinkle on top
  • quartered moreno glace cherries, one quarter for each biscuit
Oatie Biscuits
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/Gas Mark 3
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together
  3. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix in
  4. Add the flour and mix in
  5. Add the oats and mix in
  6. Take about 34 grams of mixture each time and roll into a ball
  7. Place on a greased baking sheet and flatten slightly
  8. Sprinkle extra rolled oats on top
  9. Place a quartered glace cherry in the middle of each
  10. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the biscuits are a golden brown.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Christmas Cake

This Christmas cake has been 3 weeks in preparation.  I could actually have started it a couple of months ago, but I knew I was going away and wouldn't be here to feed it for a couple of weeks, so I delayed starting.

Christmas cake is a particular favourite of mine, as it is rich with fruit and has the marzipan and royal icing cover that I so love.  I remember it fondly from my childhood.  These days most icing seems to be that rather insipid stuff that you can roll out, and has no flavour, but a multitude of colours.

My one cheat on this cake is that I bought marzipan, rather than make it myself.  Naughty really, but it is not a big thing.

The cooking takes a while and I wrapped the outside of the tin in a double layer of brown paper, to try to avoid any excessive browning on the top.  I did end up with some rather crusty fruit and a slightly crusty top though, which I cut off.  I think that left one side slightly higher than the other, but it is no great problem.

There are many recipes online for Christmas cake, and different types of fruit and proportions of one fruit against another.  I opted for my trusty BBC Food site for this cake.  On site site they also have links on how to put the marzipan on and how to do the icing.

Now I am not very good at the artistic touches, so I have just made peaks on my icing, rather than skimming it flat and writing Merry Christmas on the top. Although I have included glycerine in the recipe I didn't actually use it myself.  My understanding is that using glycerine keeps the icing from setting hard.  Since my childhood memories are always of rock hard icing that is what I wanted for my cake.

Although presentation is important much more so is the taste, and I am confident this will be just as scrummy as a cake can be.

When the cakes is cut I will post this again, but with a photo of the cake, sliced, and a report on the taste.



Iced Christmas Cake
Ingredients:
225g/8oz plain flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
200g/7oz butter
200g/7oz dark brown sugar
2 tbsp black treacle
1 tbsp marmalade
¼ tsp vanilla essence
4 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
800g/1¾lb mixed dried fruits
100g/3½oz chopped mixed peel
150g/5oz glacé cherries, halved
100g/3½oz blanched almonds, chopped


To decorate:
200g/7oz marzipan
1-2 tbsp apricot jam, warmed

For the royal icing
3 free-range egg whites
600g/1lb 5oz icing sugar, sieved
1½ tsp liquid glycerine - optional
1 tbsp lemon juice

Method:
  1. Heat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas2. Grease a 20cm/8inch round or an 18cm/7inch square cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking parchment.
  2. Sieve the flour, salt, mixed spice and cinnamon into a bowl.
  3. Cream the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and then mix in the treacle, marmalade and vanilla essence until light and fluffy.
  4. Mix the eggs a little at a time into the mixture adding a tablespoon of flour mixture with the last amount.
  5. Fold in the remaining flour mixture until well mixed and then mix in the dried fruit, mixed peel, glace cherries and the almonds.
  6. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and make a slight hollow in the centre.
  7. Bake in the oven for 3 hours and then test with a skewer. If not ready bake for up to another hour testing every 20 minutes until the skewer comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes.
  9. Turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool.
  10. Once cool, make a few holes in the cake with a skewer and pour over 3-4 tbsp of brandy. Let the brandy soak into the cake.
  11. Store the cake wrapped in foil and in an airtight tin or plastic container, holes side up.
  12. OPTIONAL: For a rich and moist cake, spoon over a few tablespoons of brandy every week until you are ready to ice and decorate your cake.
  13. To decorate the cake, place the cake on a foil board or cake plate.
  14. Dust your hands and the work surface with a little icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft.
  15. Roll out half the marzipan to fit the top of the cake and roll out the rest in strips to fit around the sides of the cake.
  16. Brush the cake all over with the warmed apricot jam and then place the marzipan on top and around the cake.
  17. Cover the cake with a clean tea towel and then leave in a cool place for at least one day.
  18. To make the icing, lightly whisk the egg whites adding the sugar at intervals. Beat well until the icing reaches soft peaks. Add the glycerine if using and the lemon juice.
  19. Spread icing all over cake either flat iced using a clean ruler or by forming soft peaks. Decorate with Christmas ornaments.

Mini Shortbread Treacle Tarts

Well what a lovely recipe I have today, very simple and really quite delicious.

The story around the recipe is that I was searching for a recipe for mince pies, that I will be making in the next few days.  I saw one that claimed it was very easy.  However from reading the recipe I thought the pastry was more shortbread that shortcrust that you usually get for mince pies.  Some comments also indicated that the pastry was too crumbly to remove from the tin, so I decided that I should experiment, before I really needed it.

To that end I decided not to create mine pies, with a top, but I would use the pastry as the base of a tart, and fill it with something nice and easy.  I settled on a treacle tart.

The result was absolutely wonderful.  It came as a big surprise to me, the combination of shortbread and treacle with breadcrumbs and a little lemon really works very well indeed.

As the pastry is very short, and it has no water to help it bind together, the photo's don't show perfectly symmetrical tarts, but who cares about that?  Little home made tastes of pure delight don't care how they look. 
Mini Shortbread Treacle Tarts
Ingredients:
For the base:
  • 180g plain flour
  • 112g butter (cold)
  • 50 grams caster sugar(I used golden caster sugar).
For the filling:
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 225g golden syrup
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200c/Gas 6
  2. cube the cold butter and rub into the flour. 
  3. Then add the sugar and mix that in, with rubbing motions.
  4. Bring it together into a ball, squeezing it so that it stays together.
  5. Divide into 12 portions, and create a ball of each portion. 
  6. Use a 12 hole patty/bun tin( that is like a muffin tin but not so deep)
  7. push one ball into each hole, spreading it out across the base and up the sides
  8. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. 
  9. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 180c/160c fan/Gas Mark 5
  10. While the pastry is baking some prepare the filling
  11. Mix the breadcrumbs and golden syrup together and stir in the lemon juice.
  12. If the pastry has bubbled up gently press it down again, without making a hole in the base. It will be quite malleable as long as you do it quickly.
  13. Fill each tart case to just below the rim, with the treacle filling
  14. drop a little lemon zest on the top of each one
  15. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the tart has firmed up.
  16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes.
  17. The shortbread crust should firm up nicely and then it will be easy to remove each tart from the tin.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies, with Streusel Topping

I recently saw these cookies on my Google+ page, and on the World Baking Page. So the original recipe came from here. They seemed to have been made to test out a branded baking sheet.  I thought it might be nice to try the recipe myself, but first I had to convert the ingredients to metric, from cups of this and cups of that.  I found a website that gives conversions, but wasn't entirely convinced by some of the quantities mentioned. I decided to trust the site and, at least at first glance, things looked to have worked out quite well.

As I type I can smell the sweet aroma of peanut butter, as the cookies cool.  I am not sure how akin to streusel my topping turned out to be, but certainly there is a topping, which I am sure will taste good.  The cinnamon added to the topping should surely enhance the prominent peanut flavour.

Ingredients: as converted by me.

for the cookie dough:
170 g plain flour
180 g peanut butter
120 g butter
90g brown sugar
100g white sugar( I used granulated)
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

for the streusel topping:
45g brown sugar
30g plain flour
60g peanut butter
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp melted butter

Method:

Preheat Oven to 180 C. 
To make the streusel topping, melt butter in microwave. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugars and cinnamon. Add peanut butter and mix with a fork or hands. Pour in butter. Mixture should be clumpy and crumbly. Add more butter or flour to make more crumbly if needed.

In a mixing bowl(you can use a stand mixer), beat together butter, peanut butter and vanilla extract. Beat in both sugars, salt and baking powder.  
Gradually mix in flour and continue mixing until well incorporated.
Beat in eggs, one at a time. 
Roll into 1½ in balls(I weighed mine to about 90g each) and slightly flatten with fork making a crisscross. 
Top cookies with streusel topping and bake for 10-13 minutes. Let cookies completely cool before moving to cooling rack.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Victoria Sandwich

A Victoria Sandwich is a sponge cake, in two layers, filled with a cream or butter cream and with jam.

I used a recipe from Funky Foods, courtesy of an article by Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall.  In this recipe he says to weigh the eggs and use that weight as the basis to determine how much butter, sugar and flour to use. 

It works very well indeed. The only difference, for my attempt, is that I put rather more batter in one tin than the other.  The reason for this is that I wanted to try to ensure a flatter rise on one cake, so I didn't have to cut the top off when using it as the base. This worked well, I just had to make sure that both were cooked through, which was certainly the case.

I also used buttercream, rather than fresh cream,  for the filling, as this allows the cake to be left out of the fridge, in an airtight container.


Victoria Sandwich

Ingredients:
  • Unsalted butter, softened, plus a little more for greasing
  • 4 eggs
  • Golden caster sugar
  • Self-raising flour, sieved with a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • A little milk, if necessary 
  • Raspberry jam
  • Whipping cream (if you want a cream filling) or Butter Cream – 100 g of butter and 100 g of Icing sugar, beaten to a fluffly texture.
  • Icing sugar or caster sugar, for dusting

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Lightly grease two 20cm sandwich cake tins with butter, and line the bases of each with baking parchment.
  2. Weigh the eggs in their shells and weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour.
  3. In a bowl, beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the sugar until light and fluffy. 
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, adding a tablespoon of sifted flour if the mix looks as if it's going to curdle.
  5. Beat in the vanilla extract
  6. Gently but thoroughly fold in the flour. Now check the consistency of the batter. Scoop up a tablespoon of the mixture and hold it over the bowl. If it drops down fairly easily, it's just right. If it sticks stubbornly in the spoon, fold a tablespoon or two of milk into the mixture.
  7. Divide the batter equally between the two tins and gently smooth the tops with a knife. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Spread Jam on the top of one cake and then top that with whipped cream or butter cream.
  9. Place the second cake on top to complete your sponge cake.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Nectarine and Pistachio Tart

I found a very nice recipe in The Telegraph, for a Peach and Pistachio Tart.  However my local supermarket has been out of peaches for at least a week, so I resorted to using nectarines instead, as well as making a couple of other minor changes to the recipe.  

I will produce, below, the recipe as I amended by me.  It is quite simple to follow.  The only major issue I had was that I needed 100 grams of ground pistachios.  I think I would have more chance of finding a needle in a haystack that finding ground pistachios.  Neither the supermarkets, nor the health food shops sell it.  Not only that, but they don't seem to sell pistachios without the shell.  I therefore had to buy 2 x 200gram packets of the nuts with shells on.  Then I had the laborious task of shelling them, and trying not to eat too many as I worked.  Then I had to grind the nuts to a find crumb before use.  It took some time, but I got there in the end.  

One thing I forgot, was to remove the excess pastry after the blind baking.  I only realised I hadn't done it once the tart was back in the oven.  So I had to let it cook and then try to remove the excess. However as the pastry had cooked, and shrunk slightly from the edge of the tin it was a delicate operation to do, and the result is a little bit untidy.  That is not going to affect the flavour, so I am not unduly worried.

The pastry is a simple, egg free one, so blind baking can be down without beans, as it is not likely to rise.  One little tip, in that respect, is that when you have lined the tart tin with the pastry it is pressed against the side and lays flat against the base.  When you cook it, using a loose bottomed tart tin, you may find that the base starts to bubble or balloon.  That is because air is getting under the base of the pastry, so just take a tooth pick, or something similar and make a single hole.  The pastry will immediately deflate.  Then when you have blind baked you can use a bit of the excess cut from the rim and fill the little hole.  A little egg wash will make sure it is sealed, if you pop it back in the oven for about 30 seconds.


Nectarine and Pistachio Tart
Ingredients:

Pastry:
  • 100g/7oz plain flour
  • 100g/3 ½ oz butter
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp cold water
Filling:
  1. 125g/4 ½ oz butter
  2. 125g/4 ½ oz caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp extra
  3. 50g/2oz ground almonds
  4. 100g/3 ½ oz ground pistachios
  5. 50g/2oz plain flour
  6. 3 eggs, beaten
  7. 3 ripe nectarines, quartered
Method:
  1. Put the flour, butter and sugar into a large bowl. Using a fork, mash the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs (or use a food processor).
  2. Stir in 4 tbsp cold water and quickly bring the pastry together into a sticky ball of dough. 
  3. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. 
  5. Put the pastry on a floured surface and roll it out to 3mm thickness, then press it into a 24cm tart tin using your fingers. 
  6. Cut away any pastry that hangs over the edge. 
  7. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes, then bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool.
  8. In a food processor or by hand, beat the butter and sugar together until light, then stir in the nuts, flour, eggs and ½ tsp of salt. Mix well. Spoon over the cooled tart base and spread evenly.
  9. Toss the peach slices in the vanilla seeds and a tbsp of sugar and arrange in concentric circles on top of the pistachio mix. 
  10. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the peaches are just coloured and the pistachio frangipane is firm.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Mince Tart, with Meringue Topping

Having produced rather more mincemeat than I needed, yesterday, when I doubled the ingredients in a recipe,  I decided to just use some to try out a mince tart.  

I used a tried and tested recipe for shortcrust pastry, and then filled it with the mincemeat that I didn't have jars for.

Finally I decided to top it with some meringue.

At this stage I cant comment on how it all tastes, since it will be eaten later, but I can confirm that the mincemeat tastes wonderful, as I sampled that yesterday.

The common thought is that mincemeat should be stored for at least two week, before use.  But having read up on that, I think it is only when the ingredients have not been cooked.  I cooked mine yesterday, so it is ok to use now. I am also sure that using the uncooked version straightaway will be fine, just that the full flavour of brandy, sugar and spices will not necessarily have been absorbed into the fruit.

Anyway, I will post two photos, one of the tart without the meringue topping, and one with the topping, cooked.  You will therefore get the chance to laugh at my piping, or lack thereof.
Mince Tart, topped with Meringue

Mince Tart, without the meringue

I still have jars of mincemeat, so will make the traditional mince pies in two weeks.

Ingredients:
for the pastry:
  • 165g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 120g chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
for the meringue:
4 eggs whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar( can be omitted)
130 g granulated sugar

for the mincemeat:
follow the recipe in yesterday's blog post found here:

Method:
  1. Stir in the flour and ground almonds together in a large bowl, then add the butter and rub in your fingertips until the mixture looks like crumbs. Stir in the sugar.
  2.  Break in the egg and work into the mixture with your fingers, breaking it together to form a soft dough.
  3. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a ball. Flatten with your fingers to a disc and wrap in cling film. Chill for at least 3 hours before using.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180c/160fan
  5. Grease a flan tin and roll out the pastry to line the tin.
  6. Blind bake of 15 minutes,
  7. Remove the bean and paper from the pastry and bake for a further 10 minutes
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  9. Fill the tart case with mincemeat and place in the oven for a few minutes, while you make the meringue.
  10. Reduce the heat in the oven to 170c/150fan
  11. Beat the egg whites until frothy
  12. add the cream of tartar and continue beating until you achieve soft peaks
  13. gradually add the sugar, beating all the while until you have stiff peaks
  14. Pipe or spoon the meringue onto the mincemeat and bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the top has browned nicely.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Mincemeat, for Mince Pies

In preparation for making mince pies, just before Christmas, I have made my own mincemeat.  

Some may wonder why I have posted this on a baking blog.  But of course, it is a precursor to another post, on 18th or 19 December, when I will make the mince pies.  They are definitely baked items. I have taken inspiration from a variety of recipes, using suet and a little butter.  Some recipes suggest only suet, and Mary Berry's recipe uses only butter.  I have used three quarters suet and one quarter butter.  The simple reason for that is that I messed up the measurements, and didn't have enough suet.  I not only messed up with that.  But I thought the recipe amounts seemed a little small, so I doubled them all.  What a mistake that was.  I now have a massive amount of mincemeat.  But it will not be wasted, since it keeps in sterilised jars for up to 6 months.  Of course my next mistake was not having enough jars.  So tomorrow I have to go and buy more.

Also, having more than I need means I can give some away.  I will also, in the New Year make a large mincemeat tart, that can be eaten with custard.

Now with this mincemeat you need to keep it, in the jars, for at least two weeks before using it.  Hence making it now, so that I can make the mince pies just before Christmas.

The recipe below is for half the amount I made, so I estimate that it will fill 2 one pound jars.
Mincemeat
Mincemeat, top of jar
Ingredients:
  • 250g raisins
  • 375g currants
  • 100ml brandy
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 300g shredded suet
  • 250g dark brown sugar
  • 85g chopped mixed peel
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 large Bramley apple, peeled and grated
Method:
  1. Soak the currants and raisins in the brandy, for 30 minutes.  Then drain them, keeping the brandy.
  2. In a saucepan mix all the ingredients, except the brandy, together and heat on a low temperature, until it starts to simmer. Stir the mixture from time to time.
  3. Allow it to simmer for 10 minutes and remove from the heat.
  4. Stir in the brandy which was saved from the strained fruit.
  5. Allow to cool completely.
  6. When cooled decant into sterilised jars and seal the tops.  Leave a small gap, so the mixture is not touching the lid.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

For a simple bake, that tastes very good indeed there is nothing like a Chocolate Chip Muffin.  The difference with this version is that it has two types of chocolate, firstly some very good cocoa powder in the batter and, secondly, 70% dark chocolate chips.

The batter is very loose so care is needed when tranferring to the muffin cases, but once in the oven they cook quickly and the result is just perfect.

These can be eaten whilst warm, if you like.  I must admit that I ate two, like that, even before I took the photos.  Hence only 10 are shown.

Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:
  • 250g/9oz plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • half tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp best quality cocoa powder
  • 175g/6oz caster sugar
  • 150g/5oz chocolate chips (then some more to sprinkle on top)
  • 250ml milk
  • 90ml vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to /200C/180c fan/390f/Gas Mark 6
  2. Line a muffin pan with 12 cases
  3. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, sugar, and the chocolate chips into a large bowl and mix well.
  4. Place all of the liquid ingredients, including the egg,  together in a bowl or jug and mix well.
  5. Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir together slowly until everything is combined. Stop stirring once the last traces of flour disappear. Don't over mix.
  6. Spoon the batter into paper muffin cases. An ice cream scoop is perfect for this, though I used an 80 ml measuring cup.
  7. Sprinkle 5 or 6 chocolate chips on the top of each muffin
  8. Bake for 18 minutes or until the muffins are dark, risen and springy.
  9. Allow to cool in the muffin tray for a few minutes, then transfer each muffin to a cooling rack.