Friday, 31 July 2015

Fruitcake - With Apricot Buttercream Frosting.

I found a lovely recipe on BBC Good Food for a fruitcake, which is something I really love to eat.  So I decided to try the recipe and see how it turned out.  Quite easy to follow I did make a couple of changes, from the original recipe.  For the cake I used caster sugar rather than icing sugar, since I was sure it would mix with the butter easily, and it is not so messy to work with as icing sugar.  The other change was that I used ground almonds rather than whole almonds,  It makes a slight difference to the texture, since the almonds are finer when ground.  But it certainly doesn't affect the flavour.

The recipe is also quite simple to follow, and doesn't have too many ingredients.  Everything needed was already in my cupboard so I didn't have to shop at all.

It is quite important to wrap the sides of the cake tin in a couple of layers of paper, since this slows down the process of the tin getting hot, and allows the cake to cook evenly.  Without the paper the outside of the cake would cook quickly, and would inhibit rising, so the middle rises higher.  It also stops the outside edge from becoming too dry.

The end result is a delightfully fruity cake, which is quite light too.  The taste is wonderful and the apricot frosting just adds a little extra to complete a very nice cake.
Fruitcake with Apricot Buttercream Frosting

For the cake:
  • 200g butter, softened
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs(in US this would be large eggs)
  • 700g mixed dried fruits
  • 25ml brandy
For the icing:
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 150g apricot jam
  • 275g icing sugar, sifted
  1. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Grease a deep 20cm/8 inch round cake tin with a little bit of the butter, then line with greaseproof paper or baking parchment. 
  2. Wrap a couple of sheets of newspaper/brown paper around the outside of the tin, then secure with string.
  3. Mix the ground almonds and flour together and set aside.
  4. Beat the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. 
  5. Beat in the eggs, one by one.
  6. Fold in the flour and almonds, dried fruit and brandy. 
  7. Scrape the mixture into the tin, level the surface and bake for 1 hr 15 mins, until a skewer poked in comes out clean. Cool in the tin.
  8. When the cake is completely cold, make the icing quickly by beating the butter, jam and icing sugar until pale. 
  9. Don’t allow the butter to get too warm or overbeat as the icing might split. Swirl all over the cake, then leave in a cool place to set.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Brownies are an all time favourite, so when I saw a recipe for a cupcake version, with a buttercream topping, on Joyofbaking I just had to make some.  

This is another very simple recipe, and the end results are very pleasing indeed, a moist chocolate brownie consistency, with the added pleasure of the chocolate buttercream..  I can heartily recommend these.

My tip though is to bake them in cupcake/muffin cases.  I did the same as Stephanie of Joyofbaking and baked them straight in the muffin tin, having greased it, but I still had a bit of sticking when trying to take them out.  So next time I will definitely use paper cases, they make things so much easier.
Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes

For the Brownie Cupcakes:
  • 4 ounces (120 grams)unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsaltedbutter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/4 cup (250 grams) granulated whitesugar
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) purevanillaextract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature  (for UK medium eggs)
  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all purposeflour
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) salt
For the Chocolate Buttercream Topping
  • 3 ounces (90 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (120 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. 
  2. Butter (or spray with a non stick cooking spray) or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl (heatproof bowl) placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Then remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. 
  4. Whisk or stir (can also use a hand mixer) in the sugar. 
  5. Add the vanilla and then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  6. Mix in the flour and salt until well blended. 
  7. Evenly divide the batter between the muffin cups. 
  8. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 20minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake still has moist crumbs clinging to it. 
  9. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. 
  10. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
  11. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). 
  12. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). 
  13. Add the melted chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2 -3 minutes).
  14. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with the icing. You can either spread the frosting on the cupcakes with a small spatula or if piping, using a large plain or star tip.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding is a firm favourite of most people I think.  Certainly I love it and I had a, sort of, request to make it, in advance of my trip to Canada to visit family.  So I checked a good few recipes online to see the variations that people use, to try to find one suited me.

In the end I have arrived at my preferred recipe, using components from a number of different ones, since all use different quantities of the same ingredients.

It is a very simple dessert to make, and doesn't have too many ingredients.  The baked pudding, when coated with some of the sticky sauce, allowing it to soak in, and then with more poured over it when served is simply delicious.  Served with ice cream would be perfection.
Sticky Toffee Pudding

For the cake:
  • 130g pitted dates, finely chopped
  • 165g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 180 ml boiling water
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 75g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 100g dark brown muscovado sugar(you can use light brown if you prefer)
  • 2 medium eggs(In USA it would be large eggs)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
 For the sauce:

  • 160g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup(corn syrup is a good substitute)
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 180 ml double cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Grease an 20cm/8 inch square cake tin.
  3. Place the chopped dates in a bowl and sprinkle over the baking soda.
  4. Pour the boiling water over the dates and stir to mix well.  Set aside for 20 minutes.
  5. In a stand mixer(you can do this by hand if you wish) beat the butter and dark brown sugar until combined and creamy.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat into the mixture until combined.
  7. Take a whisk and mix the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  8. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and beat until fully combined.
  9. Add the dates, and the water they are soaking in, to the cake batter and mix until combined.
  10. Pour, and scrape, the mixture into the prepared cake tin.
  11. The top should level quite naturally, but if not level it off with the back of a spoon.
  12. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
  13. In a saucepan place the light brown sugar, golden syrup, 80g of butter and double cream.
  14. Heat gently until the butter is melted, stirring all the while.
  15. When the mixutre is fully combined allow to simmer for a couple of minutes and then remove from the heat.
  16. Remove the cake from the oven, after 25 minutes, testing with a skewer to ensure that it is cooked.
  17. Use the skewer to make holes all over the cake.
  18. Take about 125ml of toffee sauce and pour over the cake, allowing it to soak in.
  19. Allow the cake to cool in the tin.
  20. Cut into about 8 pieces and serve on a plate, pouring over some of the remaining toffee sauce.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Oat & Raisin Cookies

The soft texture of cookies is a nice departure, sometimes, from the more traditional British biscuit.  So I decided to try some cookies, with oats and raisins.  The idea was to come up with something that had a little bit of crunch on the outside, but was still soft and moist in the centre.  

Keeping things very simple, having looked at a few recipes, I decided to keep the ingredients to a minimum.  So, for instance, I didn't soak the raisins in rum, as was suggested in some places.  Straight out of the packet is really quite good enough for these cookies.

The end result makes about 40 cookies of a very good size..  The important thing to remember is that these cookies will spread during baking, so at least 2 inches of space needs to be left between each one.  This means that they have to be baked in batches, unless you have an oven that can take large baking trays.

As soon as the cookies had cooled I sampled one and was very impressed with the texture and the taste.  I will be making these again, for sure, and it will be sooner rather than later, if I don't stop eating now.
Oat & Raisin Cookies


  • 250g plain flour
  • 255g rolled oats
  • 225 raisins
  • 225g softened butter
  • 225g dark muscovado sugar
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 medium eggs


  1. Preheat the oven to 180c/160c Fan/350F
  2. In a bowl place the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk together to mix in all the elements together.  Set to one side.
  3. In another bowl cream the butter, both sugars, eggs and vanilla extract until all are nice and creamy.
  4. Add the flour mixture and stir in until just combined.
  5. Add the oats and raisins and stir in until combined.
  6. Take about 2 tablespoons of mixture and form into a ball.  Place on the baking tray and press down to flatten slightly.
  7. Repeat the process with the remaining mixture, making sure to leave at least 2 inches between each cookie, to allow for spreading.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 12-14 minutes, until the cookies have spread and flattened are beginning to go slightly crispy around the edges.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Carrot & Sultana Cake with creamy orange frosting

I do love a nice moist cake and when I came across this recipe, on BBC Food, by The Hairy Bikers, I thought it sounded ideal.  Carrot and sultanas in a cake sound very good, but add in some pecan nuts and things get even better.  Then to top it off with a creamy frosting flavoured with some orange juice and zest seemed to me that it would be delicious.

The recipe is quite straightforward, even though there are quite a few ingredients.  It is just a question of mixing the dry ingredients, then mixing the wet ones, and combining the two before finally stirring in the grated carrot.

I am very pleased with how my attempt turned out, though I did cook it for slightly longer than the recommended 35-40 minutes, since I wasn't convinced that it was fully cooked in the middle.

Once cooled and topped with the frosting and some pecans I cut it into squares and ate just one.  I have to say it tastes fantastic, and the topping really is very creamy.  I had to stop myself from eating a second square right away.

Carrot & Sultana Cake, with creamy orange topping

For the cake
  • 200g/7oz self-raising flour
  • 75g/3oz sultanas
  • 75g/3oz pecans, broken into rough pieces
  • ½ large orange, zest only
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ whole nutmeg, finely grated
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch fine sea salt
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 175ml/6fl oz sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 175g/6oz soft light brown sugar
  • 200g/7oz carrots, grated
For the cream cheese icing:
  • 100g/3½oz icing sugar
  • 100g/3½oz unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp fresh orange juice
  • 200g/7oz full-fat cream cheese
  • ½ orange, zest only
  • 25g/1oz pecan nuts, roughly broken, or whole
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C (fan)/Gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm/8in square loose-bottomed cake tin.
  2. Place the flour, sultanas, pecans, orange zest, cinnamon, grated nutmeg, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl and mix until well combined.
  3. Beat the eggs until smooth. Add the sunflower oil and sugar and whisk until well combined.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and beat in the egg mixture until smooth. Stir in the carrots. 
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is well risen and feels springy to the touch. (Test the cake by inserting a skewer into the centre. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done.)
  6. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool in the tin for five minutes. Remove the cake from the tin and set aside to cool on a wire rack.
  7. For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter and orange juice. Beat together with a large wooden spoon until light and creamy. Add the cream cheese and orange zest and beat until smooth. Cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm enough to spread.
  8. Spread the icing over the cake and sprinkle with the pecans. Cut into squares to serve.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Sticky Lemon Rolls

I found a very nice recipe for some Sticky Lemon Rolls at TheKitchn (no spelling error).  That recipe included a cream cheese topping, but I decided not to use that particular aspect of the recipe.  Still, if you want that you can find the full recipe, including the cream cheese topping at the link above.

I do like lemon and a love a nice, soft roll, so what could be a better alternative to cinnamon rolls, or chelsea buns, than this.

Having read lots of comments on TheKitchn site, about the recipe, it seems that many people had a slight issues with the lemon filling oozing out of the bottom.  I discovered this after I had already made the filling, so to try to combat that I simply added a tablespoon of flour into the filling and mixed it in, hoping that it will absorb some of the moisture and thereby prevent it all oozing to the bottom.

As I didn't want to use cream cheese for the topping I just made a simple icing to drizzle over the top, which worked out very nicely, as it doesn't make the rolls too sweet.

Straight from the oven and iced, they taste wonderful, a true lemony delight.

Sticky Lemon Rolls
Sticky Lemon Rolls - In Baking Tin

For the dough:

  • 7g active yeast
  • 185g milk, warmed to about 35c.
  • 113g butter, softened
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 2 medium eggs(in US this would be large eggs)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • 576g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the lemon filling:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 56g very soft butter
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 60ml lemon juice

For the icing:

  • 75g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the warmed milk and let it sit for a few minutes or until foamy. 
  2. Using the mixer paddle and with the mixer on low speed, stir the softened butter, eggs, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and 1 cup of the flour into the milk and yeast mixture. 
  3. Stir in the salt and nutmeg. 
  4. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft yet sticky dough. You should need all the flour, or just about all of it.
  5. Switch to the dough hook and knead at low speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, pliable, and stretchy.
  6. Lightly grease the top of the dough with vegetable oil, and turn the dough over so it is coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let the dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  7. While the dough is rising, rub the lemon zest into the sugar with the tips of your fingers until well combined. 
  8. Add the butter and beat together with a hand mixer (or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until it is thick, whipped, and creamy. 
  9. Add the ginger and nutmeg. 
  10. Slowly add the lemon juice and whip. It should be a thin yet still creamy mixture of butter and sugar. If you think the mixture has become too thin you can add a tablespoon of cornflour so that it thickens somewhat.
  11. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour, or until you are ready to assemble the rolls.
  12. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch baking dish with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface, pat the risen dough into a large yet still thick rectangle — about 10 x 15 inches.
  13. Spread the dough evenly with the sticky lemon filling. Roll the dough up tightly, starting from the top long end. Stretch and pull the dough taut as you roll, to keep the lemon filling inside. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even rolls and place each in the prepared baking dish.
  14. Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for 1 hour or until puffy and doubledin size.
  15. Preheat the oven to 350F/180c/160c Fan
  16. Place the risen rolls in the oven and bake for 35 minutes.
  17. While they are baking make the icing.
  18. Add a little of the lemon juice to the icing sugar and stir until combined.  Add enough juice only to make a thick, dropping consistency.  If it gets too thin and runny add more sugar.
  19. Remove the baked rolls from then and pipe the icing in zig-zags over the rolls.
  20. Allow to cool and removed from the baking tin.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal & Pecan Muffins

I have come up with a nice recipe for a muffin, instigated by an email from one of my Sisters.  She had made some Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal muffins in the past for one of her lovely granddaughters, who I rather suspect wanted them again.  

So that set me searching on the internet and I came up with a number of recipes there, from which I have cobbled together this recipe.

As with all muffins they are quite simple to make and the results are very pleasing, both to my eyes and my taste buds.  

I am sure the would be very acceptable to eat at any time, though many people might like to try them for breakfast.  Personally I like them with a nice cup of tea, Marks and Spencer's Gold, of course.
Chocolate Chip, Oat and Pecan Muffins


  • 100g rolled oats
  • 125g dark chocolate chips
  • 100g chopped pecan nuts
  • 1 medium egg(US would be a large egg)
  • 295ml milk
  • 155g plain flour
  • 20g baking powder
  • 6g salt
  • 120 ml vegetable oil
  • 110g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 50g demerara sugar


  1. Mix the milk and the oats together and leave for about 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 205C/185C Fan/400F.
  3. Mix the egg, oil, chocolate chips, muscovado sugar and 65 grams of pecan nuts into the milk and oat mixture.
  4. Mix the flour together with the baking powder and salt.
  5. Add that mixture to the wet mixture and stir until combined, without overmixing.
  6. Fill twelve muffin cups or cases with mixture, until about 2/3s full.
  7. Mix the remaining pecan nuts with the demerara sugar and sprinkle over the top of the muffins.
  8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean, when inserted into the middle (except that coating with melted chocolate will be fine).
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Almond Biscotti

I love almonds, and after the success of my Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti, I decided to make some Almond Biscotti.  These twice baked biscuits are really lovely with a cup of tea(or coffee for those who prefer that).  They are also very simple to make and take no time at all.

How hard you have them, once baked twice is up to you, dependent on how long to you baked them once sliced.  The longer they are baked the harder they will become.  They also keep very well, in an airtight container, since there is very little moisture left in them after the baking.  Personally I like them very hard, so that they are best dunked in tea as part of the process of eating them.

You can use a stand mixer to make the dough, but it is quite easy to do it just in a bowl, and it will certainly exercise your arms.  The list of ingredients is straightforward too, so why not give these a try, I promise you will not be disappointed.

Finally, before we get onto the recipe I want to say thanks to all the people who looked at my Lemon Macarons, that I posted two days ago.  That recipe has had, by far, the largest number of views of any post since I started this blog.
Almond Biscotti


  • 180g blanched almonds
  • 260g plain flour
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 medium eggs(in US that would be large eggs)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract.


  1. Preheat the oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4/350F
  2. Place the blanched almonds on a baking tray and roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and allow the almonds to cool, then roughly chop them into pieces.  I prefer large pieces, so I can clearly see them in the biscotti, but smaller is acceptable.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 150c/Gas Mark 2/300F.
  5. In a large bowl place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and whisk to mix.
  6. Add the chopped almonds and mix them in too.
  7. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract together until fully combined.
  8. Add the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until a dough has formed and all the flour as been absorbed.
  9. Lightly flour your work surface and place the dough onto it.  
  10. Form it into a ball and cut in two.
  11. Roll each half into a sausage shape, about 7 inches in length.
  12. Place each roll onto your baking tray and press to flatten to about 4 inches in width. They will spread in the oven, so leave enough room between them.
  13. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes and remove from the oven.
  14. After 15 minutes take a sharp knife, or a serrated knife, and slice each baked dough into 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch slices.
  15. Place the slices back onto the baking tray and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
  16. Then turn the slices over and bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes.
  17. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  18. The biscotti are now ready to serve, with a lovely cup of tea.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

French Macarons with Lemon Buttercream

I decided to try to make some French Macarons, though I call them macaroons.  From all that I read these are quite tricky to perfect and, as you will see from this first effort, I didn't quite manage it.  But I shall persevere and have another attempt later today.

I thought I should let you see this first try anyway.  Then, hopefully, my next attempt will look better.
It seems, from looking at several recipes, that there are different opinions on what to do with the egg whites.  Some people say they should be aged in the fridge for a day at least and for up to 5 days.  Others say that as long as the eggs are at room temperature they will be fine.  So for this attempt I just used eggs at room temperature. 

The consistency of the mixture is also very important, and it will take some practice to get it quite right.  My mixture was probably just a little too thick, or hadn't been mixed to exactly the right consistency.  As you mix in the dry ingredients the air begins to come out of the beaten egg whites and when it is just right the piped result will settle into a smooth top.  Mine didn't quite settle like that.  So I know for next time.

I will also know to use more colouring, since my mixture looked very yellow when I piped it, but in baking the colour mellowed significantly.

I think for the next batch I will try raspberry or strawberry, since any hew of pink will suffice.

The end result is quite delicous though, crisp on the outside and a lovely soft interior, with a tasty lemon buttercream.  

The experts also say that macarons are best eaten 24 hours after being made, since the flavour from the filling seems to infuse into the macaron.  I wont know if that is true until tomorrow, but they taste great just as they are.
French Macarons - Lemon
for the Macarons:

  • 100g eggs whites at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 180g icing sugar

For the buttercream:
  • 125g softened butter
  • 250g icing sugar (plus more if needed)
  • 2-3 teaspoons double cream
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest

  1. Beat the eggs whites until they become frothy and start to thicken
  2. Add the cream of tartar and the caster sugar
  3. Continue to beat until very stiff peaks have formed.  Don't beat until the egg starts to break up.
  4. As the eggs are beating place the icing sugar and ground almonds together and sieve.
  5. Then fold those dry ingredients into the egg whites until the mixture is combined and drops from the spatula in thick ribbons, and settles back into itself. But it should take a good few seconds to settle back.  If it does it immediately you have overmixed it.
  6. Line two or three baking trays with parchment paper.
  7. Pipe the mixture into rounds, about 1.5 inches in diameter, leaving at least the same amount of space between each one.
  8. The mixture will spread slightly and should level off on top.
  9. Take each baking tray and lift it and tap in on the counter a few times.  This will allow air to escape.
  10. That is very important, as without doing this step the macaroons will probably crack.
  11. Preheat the oven to 160C
  12. Leave them sitting on the baking trays for at least 30 minutes, until they are not sticky to the touch.
  13. Place the trays in the oven and bake for 14-16 minutes, until the macaroons can be lifted, gently, from the parchement paper.  Try it with one only, and if it doesn't lift without sticking they are not quite done.
  14. Allow the macaroons to cool completely.
  15. Beat the butter, lemon, cream and lemon zest together until it is fluffy.
  16. Add the icing sugar and beat some more, until it is all combined.  If it is not thick enough you can add more icing sugar until the desired thickness is achieved.
  17. Turn over half the macarons and pipe some buttercream onto them.
  18. Place the remaining half of the macarons onto the piped buttercream and press slightly to affix.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Chocolate Truffle Cake

What a lovely dessert is a Chocolate Truffle cake.  Mine is a Genoese sponge(but only half of it), lightly brushed with some rum to give a little extra moisture, and topped with a chocolate truffle ganache.

The tricky part is getting the Genoese sponge right, and I think I managed it quite well.  Making the truffle is quite straightforward and putting it all together should be too.  However I encountered a problem, not of my making.  Having made a 20cm in diameter sponge I thought that my 20cm diameter cake ring would fit it quite snugly, to allow me to top it with the truffle.  But no, as ever with these things the 20cm cake tin is smaller than the the 20cm cake ring.  Go figure!  If I could get hold of the manufacturers of these things short shrift would be given to them, I can tell you.  But ever the trooper I improvised. I made a ring from aluminium foil,over some brown paper, and wrapped it around the sponge.  Then I places the cake ring over that and then back filled with some more foil, to make a snug fit.  The big issue was then to be how to take it off without messing up the edge.  Normally a blowtorch on the cake ring would allow it to slide off nicely.  But I couldn't do that, so I snipped the aluminium foil all around the top edge.  Then I removed the cake ring which freed the handmade ring, leaving just the inside edge of foil against the cake.  Then I carefully removed that.  It was a lot of messing about but worked, after a fashion.

Oh, and I should say it tastes delicious, very rich and chocolatey, and very nice with some raspberries, coulis or cream.

In the recipe below I just give instructions for how it should be done, rather than include all my messing about.
Chocolate Truffle Cake

For the Genoese Sponge:
  • 30g melted butter, allowed to cool slightly
  • 75g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder(unsweetened)
  • 4 medium eggs (for US it would be large eggs)
  • 125g caster sugar
For the truffle:
  • 475g dark chocolate ( I used 70% cocoa solids)
  • 475 ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp dark rum(optional)
  • cocoa powder for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c Fan/Gas Mark 5/375F
  2. grease and lightly flour a 20cm cake tin
  3. Place the sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk them immediately. Keep whisking until you have achieved a thickened mixture of a ribbon consistency.Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the egg mixture and gently fold it in, until fully combined.  Be careful not to overwork.
  4. Add the melted butter and fold in until combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for thirty minutes, until the top is springy.
  6. If you listen carefully, once you have taken it out of the oven you will hear the cake squeaking a little.
  7. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack for cooling.  Turn after about 10 minutes or so to avoid it sticking.
  8. Let the cake cool fully, at least 2 hours.
  9. Once it has cooled take a serrated knife and cut the cake, horizontally into two.  You will want a layer about half to threequarters of an inch for the truffle cake.  The other layer can be used for something else, or just eaten with a cup of tea.
  10. Gently melt the chocolate in a bowl, over a pan of hot water, and allow to cool a little, but not below about 25c.
  11. As it is cooling you can whisk the cream until it thickens and forms ribbons.
  12. Then gently fold the chocolate into the whipped cream until it is a uniform colour.
  13. Place the cake layer on a board or plate.
  14. Place a 20cm cake ring around your sponge cake layer and pour/spoon the truffle mixture into it. 
  15. Smooth the truffle mixture out over the cake, up to the sides of the cake ring.
  16. Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to firm up.
  17. Remove the firmed up cake from the fridge and dust the top with cocoa powder.
  18. Remove the cake ring from around the cake.  You may need to use something like a blowtorch to apply some heat to the ring to allow it to slide off.
  19. The cake is now ready to serve.  Use a knife dipped in hot water, to slice into portions, this will keep the edge of each portion nice and sharp.
  20. It can be served with anything, but I like raspberry coulis and some chantilly cream.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Apple Pie

I love apple pie and so I thought it was about time I made one. For the recipe I relied on the wonderful Joyofbaking website .

The recipe was different from what I had thought.  In the past I have just placed the apples in the pie. For this recipe the apples are allowed to release juices, which are then caramelised and reduced before being poured on top of the apples.  It sounded too good to miss, so I set about making it, using Braeburn apples which are my absolute favourite to use in baking. They taste great and don't disintegrate in cooking as some others do.

The pastry is a breeze to make, even if it is a little fragile to handle.  Mine was slightly thinner than it would have been,  as I forgot to increase the ingredients to take account of a slightly larger pie dish than is recommended.  I think I probably overworked it a littel as well, and didn't properly level the apple in the pie as the pastry sank a little in the middle.  Happily that doesn't affect the flavour one iota. 

The resultant pie is very pleasing, with a wonderful taste of caramel, apples and spices.  With a nice crisp pastry.  Simply ideal served with some cream or ice-cream, or even eaten by itself.  

Slice of Apple Pie

Pie Crust:
  • 2 1/2 cups (350 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon (30 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup (60 - 120 ml) ice water
Apple Filling:
  • 2 1/2 pounds (1.1 kg) apples(about 6 large), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups (2 L))
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch(corn flour)

  1. In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds).
  2. Pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water. Do not process more than 30 seconds.
  3. Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball.
  4. Divide the dough in half, flattening each half into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour. 
  5. After the dough has chilled sufficiently, remove one portion of the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry into a 12 inch (30 cm) circle. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the centre of the pastry outwards).) 
  6. Fold the dough in half and gently transfer to a 9 inch (23 cm) pie pan. Brush off any excess flour and trim the edges of the pastry to fit the pie pan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. 
  7. Then remove the second round of pastry and roll it into a 12 inch (30 cm) circle. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. 
  8. In a large bowl combine the sliced apples with the sugars, lemon juice, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to three hours. 
  9. Then, place the apples and their juices in a strainer that is placed over a large bowl (to capture the juices). Let the apples drain for about 15-30 minutes or until you have about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of juice. Spray a 4 cup (960 ml) heatproof measuring cup with a nonstick vegetable spray, and then pour in the collected juices and the 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of unsalted butter. Place in the microwave and boil the liquid, on high, about 5 to 7 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to about 1/3 cup (80 ml) and is syrupy and lightly caramelized. (Alternatively, you could place the juices and butter in a small saucepan and boil over medium high heat on the stove.) 
  10. Meanwhile, remove the top pastry crust from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes so it has time to soften. 
  11. Transfer the drained apples slices to a large bowl and mix them with the cornstarch (corn flour). Then pour the reduced syrup over the apples and toss to combine. Pour the apples and their syrup into the chilled pie crust. Moisten the edges of the pie shell with a little water and then place the top crust over the apples.
  12. Tuck any excess pastry under the bottom crust and then crimp the edges using your fingers or a fork. Using a sharp knife, make five- 2-inch (5 cm) slits from the center of the pie out towards the edge of the pie to allow the steam to escape. 
  13. If you wish you can brush the top of the pie with some milk or cream, to help it brown nicely, and sprinkle some granulated sugar over the top as well.
  14. Cover the pie with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill the pastry while you preheat the oven.
  15. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Place the oven rack at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on the rack before preheating the oven. Place a piece of aluminum foil on the stone (or pan) to catch any apple juices. Set the pie on the stone or pan and bake for about 45 to55 minutesor until the juices start to bubble through the slits and the apples feel tender (not mushy) when a toothpick or sharp knife is inserted through one of the slits. Make sure to cover the edges of the pie with a foil ring to prevent over browning after about 30 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 3-4 hours before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream. Store at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.
  16. Makes one 9 inch (23 cm) pie.

Cornish Pasties

The Cornish Pasty is a very old, savoury recipe.  Originally thought to have been made by the wives of the Cornish tin miners, for them to take to work.  The pastry would protect the meat and vegetable filling as the men took it down the mines with them.  It also had a crust around the edge, thought to have been for the miners to hold, with their dirty hands,  so they could eat the pasty and discard the crust.  These days the recipe is basically the same, meat, potato, swede(rutabaga) and onions.  Some people vary the recipe but they are really the traditional ingredients.

For my attempt at making them I used a recipe found on youtube, from Steves Kitchen .  Fairly simply to follow my only comment is that the pastry had to be rolled quite thin, to make it stretch far enough to make 3 pasties.  So I had to do a bit of patching, where the pastry broke or cracked.  Not ideal, but it doesn't affect the taste.

I also had some of each ingredient left over, so either I didn't fill them enough or that is how it is meant to be.  The left overs will do very nicely for a nice lunch tomorrow.

Meanwhile I am most pleased with the results, a peppery, lovely savoury dish just as I remember from my childhood.

I must confess that I am not good at this pastry crimping malarkey so didn't bother too much with that.  The important thing is to make sure the pastry is sealed.  Some recipes have an air hole, to let out steam but I dont think that should be necessary, unless they have added some moisture rich ingredients.  I sealed one around the edge and two along the middle.  Each way can be used satisfactorily.

Cornish Pasties
The Pastry:
  • 195g  of Plain Flour
  • 60g Butter
  • 60g Lard
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 3 -- 4 Tablespoons of ice cold water
  • beaten egg for sealing and washing the top.
The Filling:
  • 1 Potato Diced Into Small Cube
  • 1 Brown Onion Diced Into Small Cube
  • 1 Small Swede Diced Into Small Cube
  • 400g Stewing/Skirt Beef Diced Into Small Cube
  • Salt and Pepper
Start by dicing the vegetable into about one quarter inch cubes. 
Do the same with the meat
Preheat the oven to 180c/160c Fan
Place the flour, salt, lard and butter into a mixing bowl and rub through the fingers until you have a fairly course crumb.
Gradually add the water, and cut in to the flour with a knife, until it forms a dough.  Make sure not to use too much water.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill, for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and cut into three equal pieces.
Roll each piece into about a ten inch circle.
Layer potato, swede and onion on one half the the dough circle, leaving at least an inch around the edge.
Pepper and salt the vegetables.  You can be quite liberal with the pepper.
Cover the vegetable with the some of the diced beef.
Brush egg around the edge of half of the pasty and fold the other half over the top of the mixture and seal against the egg washed pastry.
Once sealed you can crimp the edge to improve the look and the seal.  A fork is adequate for this too.
Repeat the process to make two further pasties.  
Brush the pasties liberally with egg so that they will have a nice shine on them when baked.
Place in the oven, on a baking tray and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before eating.  These are also ideal eaten cold.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Fig Newtons

I remember from years back a nice biscuit(cookie) which we called Fig Rolls.  It seems that they are now known as Fig Newtons.  I have found a number of recipes for these, all of them different in some ways.  Some are very basic, just with figs and sugar in the pastry, where others are more elaborate in flavourings.  I decided to try a recipe I found at Ouichefnetwork and it is one reproduced there, from a book by Nick Malgieri.  He calls them Sicilian Fig Rolls apparently, though my research shows that fig rolls really emanate from Asia, and are very popular there.

This version has cinnamon and cloves as spices and rum to add a frisson of naughtiness.  I don't know how authentic they are, compared to what most people may have tasted, but I can certainly say they do taste delicious.  The pastry is so light and short and the filling so sweet and rich that it is hard not to eat too many, with a nice cup of tea.

Now the recipe shown in the link above had ingredients measured for a US audience, since it talked of cups, and sticks of butter.  I had to convert these to metric measurements for my attempt.  Not a great problem, though the butter was a bit confusing.  The original recipe stated 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter.  There is an inconsistency there, since 12 tablespoons equates to 180 grams whereas 1 1/2 sticks is 170 grams.  I used the latter in my version and it worked fine.
Fig Newtons
for the fig filling:
  • 1 1/2( pounds(680g) soft dried figs
  • 250 ml water
  • 125ml  apricot preserves
  • 62ml dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
for the cookie dough:
  • 420g all-purpose flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 170g cold, unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  • 3  eggs (UK medium/US large)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Line 2 cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with parchment or foil.
  2. Use kitchen scissors to snip the stems from the figs, and snip each fig into 5 or 6 pieces. 
  3. In a large sauce pan, combine the figs, water, apricot preserves, rum, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir to mix well.
  4. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low and let the filling simmer until thickened, but not extremely thick, about 10 minutes. 
  5. Cool the filling and purée it in a food processor with a metal blade. You can refrigerate both the filling a dough for a couple of days if you're preparing in advance.
  6. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
  7. Add the butter and pulse repeatedly until the butter is finely mixed in, but the mixture is still cool and powdery. 
  8. Add the eggs and vanilla and pulse repeatedly until the dough forms a ball.
  9. Invert the bowl onto a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Briefly knead the dough 2-3 times to make it smooth.
  10. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll each into a rope about 12" long. 
  11. Place 1 rope on a floured work surface and press and roll it to make a rectangle of dough about 4' wide and 12" long.
  12. Pipe or spoon about 1/6 of the filling down the middle of the dough, spreading it about 2" wide with a small offset spatula. Use a pastry brush to paint the exposed dough with water, then lift up the dough all around to enclose the filling within a tube of dough.
  13. Pinch the seam closed where the 2 edges of the dough meet. 
  14. Turn the filled piece of dough over so that the seam is on the bottom and transfer it to one of the prepared pans. 
  15. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing 3 filled dough cylinders on each pan. Gently flatten the cylinders of dough with the palm of your hand.
  16. When you are ready to bake the cookies, set the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat to 350F/180C/160C Fan
  17. Bake the cookies until the dough is set and golden, 15-20 minutes. About halfway through the baking, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper and vice versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time.  (if using fan assisted oven you shouldn't need to swap them around).
  18. Cool the cookies on the pans. When they are cool, trim the edges and use a sharp knife to cut them into 2 1/2" lengths.

  19. Makes about 30 cookies

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Peach Muffins with Cinnamon Streusel Topping

Peach Streusel Muffins seemed like a good idea, when I found a recipe for them at Sallysbakingaddiction. So I just had to try them, and I am so glad I did.

The idea of a muffin with a taste of cinnamon and allspice and containing juicy junks of peach really appeals.  The result of my effort is most rewarding too.  Although there is a fair bit of work, to make the streusel and then the muffins, it is no too arduous, since muffins are quite simple.  For my peaches I tried to choose ones that didn't feel too ripe, so that they had a bit of firmness to them as I chopped them into pieces.  I didn't want the peach pieces to totally disintegrate during baking.

Having drizzled some icing over the tops and allowed the muffins to cool I had to sample one.  Happily I am very pleased with the result, a moist, tasty muffin with a big hit of peach.  
Peach Streusel Muffins


Crumb Topping

  • 1/3 cup (67g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (15g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup (84g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, if in UK(in US use large eggs), room temperature preferred 
  • 1/2 cup (120g) yogurt1
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) milk (any kind)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups peeled, chopped peaches (3 peaches) You can use chopped frozen peaches, but don't thaw before use.
  • 1 cup (120g) confectioners' sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons (45ml) heavy cream (or milk for a less creamy texture)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. First, make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, combine both sugars, the cinnamon, and melted butter. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the flour. The crumb topping will be thick and crumbly. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425F/220C/200C Fan degrees. Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  3. Make the muffins: In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat on high until creamed, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, then turn up to high speed until the mixture is combined and uniform in texture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, all-spice, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and slowly mix with a whisk. Add the milk, gently whisking until combined and little lumps remain. Fold in the peaches with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
  5. Spoon the muffin batter evenly between all 12 muffin tins. There may be enough to make a 13th muffin in a 2nd batch, depending if there were a few extra peach chunks thrown in. Fill the muffin tins until they are full all the way up to the top. Press a handful of the crumb topping into the top of each; crumble it with your hands to make some big chunks.
  6. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F/220C/200C fan degrees, then keeping the muffins in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 350F/180C/160C Fan degrees and bake for 15-19 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Make the glaze: whisk all of the ingredients together and drizzle over warm muffins.
  8. Make ahead tip: Muffins stay soft, fresh, and moist at room temperature for up to 5 days. Muffins freeze well for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and heat up (if desired) before enjoying.

Friday, 3 July 2015


On my way home from Prague I was at Ruzyne airport when I saw some Palmiers for sale. They were very large and looked scrumptious.  So I bought one and just loved it. Crispy, crunchy and nice and sweet too.

So I decided I would try to make some.  They are also known as Elephants's Ears and other such names. Made with puff pastry and sugar, though you can make savoury ones as well, or add cinnamon as a variant. You can use shop bought puff pastry, but if you do it is best to use  an 'all butter' one.  I made my own, using the same recipe as I have used for mille feuille in the past.

That is the time consuming element of the recipe, since everything else is quite straightforward.

But I must say I am very pleased with the results of my attempts, they are very crunchy and taste delicious.

  • 500g plain flour
  • 200g butter at room temperature
  • 225ml water
  • 10g salt
  • 200g butter, straight from the fridge.
  • 150g caster sugar
First you must make the puff pastry( or you can move to step 26 if you are using shop bought pastry)
  1. Sift the flour and salt onto a work surface.
  2. Make a well in the middle and add the water and softened butter.
  3. Mix the wet ingredients together, pulling in the flour gradually.
  4. Use a pastry scraper to cut in the flour until a rough dough is formed. and all the flour is incorporated.
  5. Make the dough into a ball and cut a deep cross into it.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill overnight.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it warm up for a few minutes, to make it easier to roll.
  8. Place the 100g of cold butter between two pieces of parchment paper and bash it with a rolling pin until is it similar in consistency to the pastry
  9. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a cross shape(this is why you cut the cross in the dough earlier)
  10. Make sure that the centre of the dough is thicker than the cross sections.
  11. Mold the butter to the same size and shape as the centre of the dough and place it on top
  12. Fold over each of the arms to the cross onto the butter, and each other.
  13. press down at the edges to make sure the butter is sealed in.
  14. Now to do the first 'turn'
  15. Turn the dough so that the folded edges are pointing away from you, and a sealed edge is facing you.
  16. Roll the dough out until it is about 6 inches wide and 20 inches long.
  17. Fold one third of the 20 inches over onto the rest of the dough, then fold the remaining third up onto it.
  18. Turn the dough one quarter turn and roll out again to 6 inches by 20 inches, folding it over then, as before.
  19. That has completed two turns.
  20. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  21. Remove from the fridge and do two more turns as described above.
  22. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c Fan
  23. Wrap and refrigerate again for 20 minutes.
  24. Then remove and do the final two turns.
  25. Wrap again and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  26. Sprinkle a good covering of sugar onto the work surface and place the puff pastry on it.  Sprinkle more sugar on the pastry and start to roll into a an oblong with the short side about 13 inches.
  27. Keep covering with sugar as you roll, making sure that there is enough sugar underneath to stop it sticking. 
  28. When you have an oblong about 13 inches by 20-24 inches you can sprinkle more sugar over the top and gently roll  it in.
  29. Fold over one of the long sides, one quarter of the way in and pat down so it sticks to the remaining pastry.
  30. Fold the other long side in the same way.
  31. Fold both sides in again, until they are just touching in the middle.  Pat down again.
  32. Now fold one half over onto the other half.
  33. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes(if your fridge is not wide enough you can cut the long sausage of pastry half)
  34. Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut into slices about 1 cm thick.
  35. Dip each slice, on both sides, into the remaining sugar and place on a lined baking sheet.  Make sure you leave a couple of inches between each slice, to give it room to expand.
  36. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is cooked and crispy and the top is slightly caramelised.
  37. Remove from the over and allow to cool on a wire rack.