Saturday, 31 December 2016

Milk Bread Loaf

I have been thinking about making Zopf, which is a Swiss bread, introduced to me by my sister in Canada.  She had been given some and enjoyed it immensely.  But I decided that before I tried to make that, which requires the dough to be braided, that I would make a milk bread loaf.  This is probably very similar in texture and taste, since both are enriched dough, with milk and butter.  
I found a very good recipe in The Guardian, by Dan Lepard, from about 4 years ago.  This recipe called for a large loaf tin, which meant nothing to me, as it was rather imprecise.  But I was sure that the recipe amounts would make a much larger loaf than could safely fit in my 2 lb loaf tin.  So I decided that I would make the recipe, but would try to reduce the amounts to make a good sized loaf, that worked for my tin.

This recipe is unusual in that it doesn't really take much kneading.  Most of us think of bread as having to be kneaded  for quite a while, in order to get the right structure in the dough.  But for this recipe none of the kneading takes more than a minute at first and then 20-30 seconds or so each time.

I am very pleased with how my loaf turned out, it rose well and tastes simply wonderful.  Ideal just as bread with butter and jam, or marmalade, or for use in a sandwich.  The way I made it, forming two balls and placing them side by side in the loaf tin, means that it is easy to divide into two, for freezing half if required.

Milk Bread Loaf

Milk Bread Loaf - Video

  • 300ml whole milk
  • 80ml cold water
  • 12g fast action yeast
  • 500g stong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 60g softened butter
  1. Heat the milk to almost boiling point and pour into a bowl.
  2. Add the cold water to help cool the milk down.
  3. When the milk has cooled to a gentle lukewarm sprinkle the yeast over it and add a teaspoon of the sugar.
  4. Stir the mixture and set aside for 5 minutes, to activate the yeast.
  5. In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and remaining sugar.
  6. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture.
  7. Use a spatula to stir everything together.
  8. Once all the mixture has come together cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the plastic wrap and add the butter to the dough mixture.  
  10. Use your hands to mix it all together, giving a fairly vigorous knead for about one minute.
  11. Very lightly oil the work surface and tip the dough onto it
  12. Knead for about 10 seconds and form into a ball.
  13. Grease the bowl and place the dough in it.
  14. Cover with plastic wrap again and leave to rise for an hour, kneading for 20-30 seconds twice during the hour.
  15. Butter a 2lb loaf tin.
  16. Tip the dough out onto the work surface and shape.  Either divide in two and form into balls and place them side by side in the tin, or form into a single sausage shape and place in the tin.
  17. Cover and allow to prove until the dough has increased in size by about 50%(mine took 45 minutes)
  18. As the dough proves preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  19. With a sharp knife slice the length of the dough about .5 inch deep.
  20. Sprinkle the top with flour.
  21. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until the top has browned nicely.  
  22. Remove and tip the loaf out onto a wire rack.  
  23. Tap the bottom to make sure there is a hollow sound(if not hollow sounding bake for a little longer).
  24. Allow the loaf to cool before slicing.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Blueberry Upside Down Muffins

I saw a lovely video on Joyofbaking for Cranberry Upside Down Muffins, which looked very good indeed.  I am not a lover of cranberries as much as I am of blueberries.  So I thought I would try to make the same thing, but with blueberries instead.

Of course I had to adjust the recipe since blueberries are much sweeter than cranberries, and also have more liquid to them.  But having done that I was able to produce a very nice muffin.  Though I didn't grease my muffin tin entirely uniformly, so the muffins rose a little unevenly.  But it didn't matter too much as they look fine once they are turned out, upside down. 

The recipe is an easy one and delivers a very pleasing result.  So if you like muffins and blueberries this is a good recipe to try.
Blueberry Upside Down Muffins

Blueberry Upside Down Muffins - Video

For the blueberry sauce:
  • 300g fresh blueberries
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
For the muffins:
  • 260g plain flour
  • 240 ml whole milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA), lightly beaten
  • 56g melted butter

  1. To make the blueberry sauce place the blueberries, granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil
  2. Allow to boil until the blueberries have broken down and released their juices.
  3. Continue to simmer until the mixture reduces in volume and becomes thicker.
  4. Set aside to cool completely.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F
  6. Grease a 12 hole muffin tin.
  7. Melt the butter and allow to cool
  8. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together.
  9. In a separate bowl whisk the milk, butter, egg and vanilla extract together.
  10. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the wet mixture into it.
  11. Mix until just combined, but do not over-mix.
  12. Spoon the blueberry mixture, equally, into the 12 holes of the muffin tin, spreading over the bottom.
  13. Spoon the muffin batter onto the top of the blueberry mixture.
  14. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean(mine took 16 minutes)
  15. Allow the muffins to cool for one minute and then turn out, upside down, onto a wire rack, while they are still warm.  You need to do this after one minute to stop the sauce from setting and sticking to the muffin tin.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Pfeffernüsse - German Iced Spice Cookies

My sister in Canada mentioned that she had bought some Pfeffernüsse, which are a German cookie that is iced(some recipes just roll the cookies in icing sugar).  They are also very popular, with different names in Denmark and The Netherlands.    I thought they looked very good and with all the spices they are quite unlike anything I have ever tried.  So I decided to look around to see what I could find, and then make some.

They are popular in Germany at this time of year, and I checked with a German friend as to how they are traditionally served.  He said that his family always had iced ones.  So that is what I wanted to make.   I found a very good recipe on daringgourmet. In that recipe the spices used are called lebkuchengewürz and that same website has a recipe to make your own here.  The mixture of spices is cinnamon, allspice, cloves, coriander, star anise, ginger, mace, cardamom and nutmeg.  So I made mine, folowing that recipe, but reducing the amount of cloves by half, since I find that cloves can be rather overpowering. Of course you can just add your own amounts of the various spices until you have two teaspoons full, trying to balance the flavours to your liking. It is quite important to include star anise(aniseed) and it is readily available in UK supermarkets, though you may have to grind it.  If you cant find star anise but you can find ground aniseed powder that will be fine.

Although the recipe takes quite some time to make, it can be done in three very short stages, the first is to make the cookie dough, then it has to chill in the fridge.  The second is to shape and cut the cookies, and then bake them.  The third stage is to ice them when they are cooled.  Altogether the actual work time should be less than an hour.

For my cookies I converted the recipe into metric measurements as best I could, since that is how I prefer to work.

The resulting cookies, and this recipe makes about 50, are very good indeed. 

                                         Pfeffernüsse - Video
for the cookies:
  • 290g plain flour
  • 25g ground almonds,
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 1/4tsp ground pepper
  • 2tsp lebkuchengewürz
  • 45ml double cream
  • 70g unsalted butter
  • 110g light brown sugar(I used muscovado)
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 80ml honey
for the icing:
  • 290g icing sugar
  • 60ml hot water
  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, Lebkuchengewuerz, white pepper and almond meal. Set aside.
  2. Combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, and cream in a medium saucepan and heat, stirring frequently, until melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture. 
  3. Once incorporated stir in the egg until thoroughly combined. The dough will have a nice glossy sheen. It will be very sticky and that's how it should be.
  4. Turn the mixture out onto some plastic wrap and wrap the dough tightly. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, and up to two days.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F
  6. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and immediately cut in half and oll it into two strands, each ¾ inch thick. 
  7. Slice the rolls into ¾ inch thick rounds and roll each round into a ball (each ball should be about ¾ inch large). Work quickly while the dough is still chilled.
  8. Place the cookie balls on a line cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. 
  9. Remove and let the cookies cool completely.
  10. To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and water until smooth.
  11. Dip each cookie in the glaze, letting the excess drip off, and place them on a wire rack positioned over a cookie sheet (to catch the drips) and let them sit until the glaze is fully hardened.
  12. Store the cookies in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for at least 2 weeks and the flavor only gets better over time.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Christmas Mince Pies

As Christmas approaches our minds turn to what treats we are going to enjoy.  High up on the list, in the UK at least, is always mince pies.  I read, only yesterday, that supermarkets sell 370 million of them each year, with the average person eating 27.  I find that average number rather high, but it is true that mince pies are a big favourite.

I made my mincemeat a couple of weeks ago and left it to mature.  So today I made the mince pies.  This is just the first batch, I will make the main batch nearer to Christmas.  Of course you can buy very good mincemeat in the supermarkets, so you don't need to make your own if you don't wish to.

The recipe for the pastry is very simple indeed, with just a few ingredients.  So if you want a delicious treat for Christmas you should try this recipe.

The recipe below will make about 18 mince pies, if you roll the pastry as thin as I did, and use patty or bun tins.

I used a food processor to make the pastry, for quickness, but doing it by hand is easy enough.  It just takes a little longer.

For the recipe below I give the hand mixing method.  If you wish to use a food processor just put everything except the egg in the processor and pulse until it is fine breadcrumb-like.  Then add the egg and pulse until it comes together.
Mince Pies 

Mince Pies - Video
  • 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
  1. Place the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl and rub together to a crumb consistency. 
  2. Add 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 30 mins.
  3. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7/425 F. 
  4. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thick. Using a round cutter (about 10cm), cut out 12 bases and place them into patty/bun trays. 
  5. Put 1 1/2 tbsp mincemeat mixture into each. 
  6. Brush the edge of each pie with a little beaten egg. 
  7. Re-roll out the pastry to cut 7cm lids and press them on top to seal. 
  8. Glaze with the rest of the egg, sprinkle with caster sugar, then make a small cut in the tops.
  9. Roll out the pastry again to make more pies, after you have baked the first batch.
  10. 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. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Danish Pastries

I have been wanting to make some Danish Pastries for quite a while, but I have put it off as the process is quite time consuming.  However today I finally bit the bullet and made some.

The lovely puff pastry that is so redolent of Danish pastries, in various shapes and filled with any number of different things, is just delicious.  I have enjoyed them so often, from shops, cafes etc.  I thought that it was about time I tried to make some.

For the dough I used a Paul Hollywood recipe since I have found that his recipes usually work very well.  The recipe uses strong white flour, though I have seen lots of recipes that simply call for plain flour/all purpose flour.  That will work too, but the texture with strong white flour is a little softer and I think works very well with puff pastry as it helps to give more structure.

Having made the pastry, which takes a long time, it was then time to create the Danish pastries.  That is the point at which you can become inventive, using whatever shapes you care to create and whatever fillings you wish to use.

For mine I was sure I wanted some raisin swirls, so that would account for half my pastry.  Then I decided to try some pin wheels, with some pecan and maple syrup centres and one other shape, which I don't have a name for but which I saw someone do on The Great British Bake Off a couple of years ago. I filled that shape with passion fruit curd and apricot.

As I mentioned you can use any filling you want, even savoury fillings, though you may wish to eliminate the sugar from the dough in that case.

The result of my bake, as can be see below, isn't too bad.  The raisin swirls and the passion fruit and apricot one look fine.  The pin wheels had rather too much of the pecan paste and it spread more than I wanted.  But all three taste very good indeed.

I should say that I made too much of the pecan and maple syrup mixture, so in the recipe below I have now halved that amount.

Danish Pastries

Danish Pastries - Video

For the dough:
  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10g salt
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 10g instant yeast
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 90ml cool water
  • 125ml tepid full-fat milk
  • 250g chilled unsalted butter
For the fillings:
Raisin Swirls:
  • 50g raisins
  • 50g softened butter
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g icing sugar, if you want a simple glaze to go on top
Pecan and Maple Syrup Pin Wheels:
  • 45g pecan nuts ground finely
  • 13g softened butter
  • half tbsp maple syrup
  • 25g light muscovado sugar
  • chopped hazelnuts and muscovado sugar to sprinkle on top
Passion Fruit and Apricot Shapes:
  • 8 tsp passion fruit curd
  • 8 tinned apricots (halves)
To make puff pastry dough:
  1. Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. 
  2. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. 
  3. Add the eggs, water and milk and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for 6 minutes.
  4. Tip thedough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Dust with flour, put into a clean plastic bag, or a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap,  and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your chilled dough to a rectangle, about 50 x 20cm and about 1cm thick.
  6. Flatten the butter to a rectangle, about 33 x 19cm, by bashing it with a rolling pin. Lay the butter on the dough so that it covers the bottom two-thirds of it.
  7. Make sure that it is positioned neatly and comes almost to the edges.
  8. Fold the exposed dough at the top down one-third of the butter. 
  9. Now gently cut off the exposed bit of butter, without going through the dough, and put it on the top of the dough you have just folded down. 
  10. Fold the bottom half of the dough up. You will now have a sandwich of two layers of butter and three of dough. 
  11. Pinch the edges lightly to seal in the butter. Put the dough back in the plastic bag and chill for an hour to harden the butter.
  12. Take the dough out of the bag and put it on the lightly floured surface with the short end towards you. Now roll it out to a rectangle, about 50 x 20cm, as before. 
  13. This time fold up one-third of the dough and then fold the top third down on top. This is called a single turn. 
  14. Put the dough back in the plastic bag and chill for another hour. Repeat this stage twice more, putting the dough back into the fridge between turns.
  15. Your dough now needs to be left in the fridge for 8 hours, or overnight, to rest and rise slightly. It is then ready to use.
  16. Take the dough from the fridge and cut in half.
  17. Roll out one half to a 36cm square
  18. Cut the square into 16 9cm squares
  19. Make 8 pin wheels by taking 8 squares and cutting into each corner towards the centre but not going all the way.
  20. Dab some egg wash in the centre and take one corner of each cut piece and pressing it into the centre.
  21. Place on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.
  22. Take the other 8 square and fold each in half, into a triangle.  Cut from the folded edge up toward the point of the triangle, but not going all the way.  You need to do this about 1 cm from each edge, so two cuts.
  23. Unfold the triangle back into a square.
  24. Egg wash the centre square and fold one L shaped outer edge over onto the furthest edge of the centre square.
  25. Fold the other L shaped edge onto the other far edge of the centre square.  You will now have an elongated pastry with two layers forming a square in the centre.
  26. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  27. For the raisin swirls roll the second half of the pastry out to about 30x30cm. spread  the raisin mixture over the pastry, leaving a gap at the edge.
  28. Egg wash one edge.
  29. Roll the dough up into a sausage, pressing it down onto the egg washed egg.
  30. Cut into slices, as thick or thin as you wish.  I cut mine into 10 and discarded the ends.
  31. Place onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and press them down to flatten them.
  32. Egg wash all the pastries and leave to rest and rise a little, for two hours.
  33. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/350 F.
  34. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the pastries have gone a nice golden brown.
  35. Remove from the oven and brush immediately with heated apricot jam if you want a nice sticky shine.
  36. Take the icing sugar and add a little water and mix together until you have a thick dripping consistency and drip onto the raisin swirls.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Sultana Loaf Cake

I do love sultanas, they are nice and juicy and give a great texture and taste to almost any cake.  This loaf cake has sultanas that have been soaked in cold tea for at least 5 hours.  I have also added some mixed spice to give a wonderful additional flavour.

I saw the recipe, without the mixed spice element, on a number of different websites without any particular attribution.  But I did see on one site a reference to a Delia Smith cookbook.  So maybe the base recipe is originally one of Delia's.

The recipe has no fat in it, getting its' moisture from the plumb tea-soaked sultanas, with a residue of tea as well.  Also a large egg adds a little extra moisture.

This is a very simple recipe, and results in a very stiff batter/dough, but it bakes well and delivers a wonderful cake.  From my reading I see that the flavour deepens if left for 2 days in an airtight container.  Of course that was never going to happen in my case, as I am always keen to taste what I have baked.
Sultana Loaf Cake

Sultana Loaf Cake - Video
  • 225g sultanas
  • 175ml cold black tea
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 175g demerara sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten(extra large in USA)
  • 1.5 tsp mixed spice
  • inch of salt
  • extra demerara sugar to sprinkle on top(either before it goes in the oven or when it comes out depending on preference.
  1. Place the sultanas in a bowl with the cold black tea and allow to soak for at least 5 hours.  Overnight is good.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350 F.
  3. Grease a 2lb/900g loaf tin, or line with parchment paper or loaf paper.
  4. Place the sultanas and residue of the tea in a large bowl.
  5. Sift the flour, mixed spice and salt over the sultanas and stir in.
  6. Add the sugar and stir in.
  7. Add the egg and stir in.
  8. Spoon the thick batter into the loaf tin and spread evenly, pushing into the corners.
  9. Bake in the oven for 1 hour, checking after 50 minutes.
  10. As soon as a skewer, poked into the centre, comes out clean remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Bourbon Biscuit Dessert

Bourbon biscuits are a favourite in the UK.  They are two chocolate biscuits sandwiched together with a chocolate cream filling. 

I found a recipe for a dessert(he called it pudding) in Gary Rhodes' Step by Step Cooking.  It was for two large bourbon biscuits, sandwiched by two layers of chocolate brownie and a layer of chocolate ganache.  I rather liked the look of them so I decided I would try to make some, but with a few differences.

There are quite a few steps to making this recipe, but it is really quite simple, if a little painstaking.
In the Gary Rhodes recipe the amount of cocoa powder for the brownies was 115g.  I reduced this to 45g since I thought the rich ganache and the chocolate flavour of the biscuit would be more than enough.  I also changed the ganache to a simple cream and chocolate mixture, leaving out the sugar and egg yolks.  I also decided I wanted something to help the brownies stick to the biscuits, so opted for some raspberry jam.  Lastly the original recipe suggested a rich coffee syrup to complement the dessert but I didn't think this was necessary so I didn't bother with that.

First you make the biscuit, then the brownies and finally the ganache.  Then it is just a matter of assembling everything, using a little raspberry jam as well which helps to stick the brownies to the biscuits.

I am very happy with how mine turned out.  They are quite large and quite rich, so I think they are definitely best eaten as a dessert.
Bourbon Biscuit Desserts

Bourbon Biscuit Desserts - Video

For the bourbon biscuits:
  • 115g softened, unsalted butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 275g self raising flour
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • pinch of salt
  • 45g cocoa powder
  • 30-40ml milk
For the brownies:
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 45g cocoa powder
  • 3 medium eggs(large in USA)
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 115g plain flour
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp strong coffee
  • 2 tbsp raspberry jam tor sticking(I used seedless)
For the ganache:
  • 250ml double cream
  • 230g dark chocolate(chips or finely chopped)
  1. Start with making the biscuits by creaming the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  2. Add the egg and sift in the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
  3. Mix together until combined, adding the milk until you have a soft dough.
  4. Put the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  6. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. For the brownies line a large baking sheet that has a lip with parchment paper.
  8. Melt the butter and whisk together, in a bowl, with the coca powder.
  9. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and fluffy.
  10. Pour the butter/cocoa mixture into the egg mixture and whisk together.
  11. Add the flour, vanilla extract and coffee and mix to combine.
  12. Pour the brownie imxture into the baking tray and spread evenly, to a thickness of about 1 cm(use two baking sheets if one is not large enough, I used a standard UK one and a small one).
  13. Bake in the oven for about 10-11 minutes, until cooked but still very moist.
  14. REmove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
  15. Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 3mm.
  16. Cut out 16 oblongs 10cm by 6cm(4inches by 2.5 inches).
  17. Place  the cut out dough on the parchment paper and just gently press the corners to round a little.
  18. Take the dull end of a skewer and poke ten hole, in two rows of 5 on each piece of dough.
  19. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes and then take out and place on a rack to cool.
  20. Place the cream in a saucepan and heat until almost, but not quite, boiling.
  21. Pour over the dark chocolate and stir until the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture has formed a smooth, runny ganache.
  22. Set aside to cool, in the fridge if you wish.
  23. The ganache will thicken as it cools, then whisk it to become a little fluffy.
  24. Cut out 16 oblongs from the brownies, just a little smaller than the biscuits.
  25. To assemble each bourbon dessert spread a thin coat of jam onto one side of two brownies.
  26. Place a biscuit, hole side up, onto the raspberry jam.
  27. Turn one biscuit brownie over and spread a thick covering of ganache all over. 
  28. Place the other biscuit/brownie on top and press down slightly.
  29. Repeat for the other seven.

Tip:  you may have enough dough, brownies and ganache to make more than 8 desserts.  So be clever how you cut out and you can then make more.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Homemade Mincemeat

In preparation for making mince pies, just before Christmas, I have made my own mincemeat.  I actually posted this recipe on my blog two years ago, but today I have done it again, this time with a video.  

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.  

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.

This recipe will make about 2 1/2 pounds of mincemeat.

Mincemeat, top of jar

Mincemeat - Video
  • 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
  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, 22 November 2016

Cheddar Crackers

I came across some great looking cheese crackers, made with Cheddar cheese.  They looked so good so I wanted to make some to see if the taste was as good as the look. 

Having checked all over the internet I came across several sites and videos with precisely the same recipe, so I was unable to determine the origin.  I usually like to say where I have found a particular recipe, but in this case since I can't pin down the source I can't do that.

The recipe itself is very simple, with only three, or four ingredients and a little water.  Flour, butter and cheese are the main ingredients, with some optional flavouring if desired.

The pastry dough needs to be quite short, and not worked very much, so that the cheese stays in very small lumps, giving a strong flavour and allowing the pastry to be crispy and flaky.

You can make them whatever size you wish.  I opted to cut mine into roughly 1 inch square, so very easy to pop into the mouth for the lovely crunch and heavenly flavour.

I must say mine taste so good.  I could hardly stop eating them so quickly took them over to family.  Needless to say they were devoured in a very short time.  
Cheddar Crackers

Cheddar Crackers - Video

  • 128g plain flour
  • 56g unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 225g mature cheddar cheese(grated)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Flavouring, such as seasoned salt, aromat or whatever spice you like(optional)
  • 3-4 tbsp ice cold water
  1. Place the butter and then the flour into a food processor, with a dough blade or normal cutting blade fitted.
  2. Sprinkle over the seasoning if using. (if you aren't using you may wish to sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt).
  3. Add the grated cheese.
  4. Pulse repeatedly until everything is combined and like a breadcrumb with a few larger lumps.
  5. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time and pulse, until it looks as though the dough is going to clump into a large ball. - I used 3.5 tbsps of water.
  6. Before it clumps like that tip out onto a work surface and use your hands to push the mixture together into a ball.  Do not knead.
  7. Flatten the ball into a disk or a square and wrap in plastic film.
  8. Refrigerate for one hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/375 F
  10. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
  11. Take the dough from the fridge and roll out, on a lightly floured service, into an oblong, about 1/8th inch thick(I actually cut my dough in half and did the rolling out in two parts).
  12. Once rolled out use a pastry/pizza cutter, or knife, to cut into squares of about one inch.
  13. Use the flat end of a bamboo skewer, or any other implement, to pierce a hole in the centre of each square.
  14. Place the squares onto the baking sheets, they can go quite close together since they wont spread much.
  15. Bake in the oven for 15 mins, or until a lovely golden brown colour.
  16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for two minutes on the baking trays.
  17. Then scoop up the crackers and put onto a wire rack to cook completely. They will be nice and crisp.
  18. When cool place in an airtight container until required.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Sausage Rolls - A Christmas Favourite

As we approach Christmas I am thinking of things that I can bake that are traditional at that time.  Sausage rolls certainly fit that bill.  Not large ones, rather, small almost two bite sized ones.  For mine I used a flaky pastry recipe from Delia Online.  These days many sausage rolls are made with puff pastry, and shop bought at that, which is not bad at all.  But I wanted something slightly different and wanted to make my own pastry.

Shortcrust pastry is also very good for these, but I do like flaky pastry, so that is what I wanted to do.

The recipe is very simple, with few ingredients, either for the pastry or for the sausage filling.  

I am very pleased with how mine turned out, they are so tasty, with sausage, onion and sage as the filling and the delicious, buttery pastry.

I urge you all to try these and then I am sure you will want to make some more for Christmas.  Once baked you can freeze the sausage rolls, provided you used fresh sausage meat(not frozen).  Then you just need to take them out of the freezer and allow them to defrost and pop them in the oven to reheat them.  So you can make them in advance of Christmas and have little to do to serve up a tasty treat.
Sausage Rolls

Sausage Rolls - Video

  • 110g plain flour
  • 75g unsalted butter in a block, placed in freezer for 45 minutes
  • 1-2 tbsp cold water
  • pinch of salt.
  • 225g high quality sausage meat(at least 80% pork)
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 2 heaped tsbp of sage leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg lightly beaten to use as an egg wash
  1. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl and toss the butter in it.
  2. Then grate the butter into the flour, turning the block to stop the butter from melting on your fingers.
  3. Using a small spatula or a table knife turn the flour and butter over until all is mixed together.
  4. Add the tablespoon of water and continue to mix with the spatula.  
  5. Use your hands to pull the dough together, using a little more water if necessary, until the side of the bowl is clean.
  6. Place the dough into a plastic bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. In a mini chopper, or hand blender with chopping attachment finely chop the onion and sage together. If you dont have a gadget to do it you can finely chop each by hand and then mix together.
  8. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/430F/Gas Mark 7
  9. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper(I used two baking sheets)
  10. In a bowl, using your hands mix the sausage meat and the onion and sage together until all combined.
  11. Divide the sausage mixture into two and on a floured work surface gently work each half into a sausage of about 30cm/12 inches in length.  
  12. Place on a piece of parchment paper until needed.
  13. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out, on a floured surface into a rectangle 30cmx20cm(12 inches x 8 inches.
  14. Cut into two, lengthwise to have two 30cmx10cm rectangles.
  15. For each  length of sausage place onto one rectangle.
  16. Brush one long edge of the pastry dough with egg wash.
  17. Take the other long edge and pull it over the sausage, continuing rolling the pastry onto the egg washed edge.
  18. Turn the whole thing so that the exposed edge is on the bottom.
  19. Take a sharp knife and cut the long sausage roll into 6 pieces.
  20. Take a pair of scissors and snip each sausage roll in three place along the top.
  21. Place the cut sausage rolls onto the baking sheet.
  22. With a pastry brush wash each sausage roll with egg wash.
  23. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is a nice golden brown and the sausage meat is cooked through.
  24. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before serving.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Christmas Cake 2016 - 3 Part Video

As we approach the Christmas Holidays it is time to think about what we will be eating.  In the UK we do love our traditional Christmas Cake.  So, although I have posted this recipe on my blog before, I am going to be making my Christmas Cake.  This needs to be done in advance of Christmas, to give time to feed the cake with brandy over a few weeks and then to add the marzipan and royal icing.

The cake will keep, in an airtight tin for many months, and even years, so making it in advance is a good idea.  In fact many people make theirs at the end of summer and keep it until Christmas to enjoy.

There are three distinct steps in making this cake, the first is the cake itself, which is full of fruit, chopped peel and nuts.  Then fed with brandy as well.  The second step is to cover the top and sides of the cake with marzipan(almond paste) which can be home-made or bought from a shop.  The third step is to ice the cake.

Traditionally the icing should be royal icing. As it says on wikipedia, Royal icing is a hard white icing, made from softly beaten egg whites, icing sugar (powdered sugar), and sometimes lemon or lime juice. The use of raw egg whites is of concern to some people as there is a slight risk of salmonella in eggs. This fear can be allayed in two ways, firstly by using pasteursed egg whites that can be bought in most good supermarkets, or by pasteurising the eggs whites yourself.

If you decide you wish to pasteurise your eggs you can do it following the methods : How to pasteurise eggs

I shall be making three videos for the recipe and will update this blog each time I post a video, so you can make your cake along with me.

I have to say that this is a truly wonderful cake, so rich with fruit and so moist too. The marzipan with the delicious almond flavour is a treat too and the crunch of the icing is so much better than fondant icing, at least in this instance. A little glycerine can be used in the icing too, if you don't want it to become too hard.

Even when you have started to eat the cake the remainder can be kept for months in an airtight container and it will still be wonderful to eat.

Below is the complete recipe, for all steps in making the cake. As I said above, the videos will be added as I complete each process over the next few weeks, in good time for you to be able to make this for Christmas.

For this cake I fed it after one week and then after two weeks with another two tablespoons of brandy each time.  Then I left it a week, wrapped up, before applying the marzipan.   After that I left it for three days for the marzipan to set up before applying the royal icing.

Christmas Cake 2016 - Part 3

Christmas Cake 2016 - Part 2

Christmas Cake 2016 - Part 1

Christmas Cake 2016 - Part 1 - Video

Christmas Cake 2016 - Part 2 - Video

Christmas Cake 2016 - Part 3 - Video
  • 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
For the Marzipan topping on the cake:
  • 400g/14oz marzipan(use more if you want a thicker marzipan layer)
  • 1-2 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 tbsp water
For the royal icing
  • 3 free-range egg whites
  • 600g/1lb 5oz icing sugar, sieved
  • 1½ tsp liquid glycerine - optional
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Heat the oven to 150C/130C Fan/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. ( I will do this twice, next week and the week after).  
  13. After the final feed of brandy leave the cake for another week, in the foil and airtight container.
  14. To decorate the cake, place the cake on a turntable, foil board or cake plate.
  15. Dust your hands and the work surface with a little icing sugar and knead the marzipan until soft.
  16. If the top of the cake is uneven turn it over so that the bottom becomes the top.
  17. You can then, if you wish, fill the gaps between what is now the bottom of the cake and the turntable with marzipan pieces, pushing it in to make the whole thing level.  That will give you a level surface for the marzipan layer.
  18. Place the apricot jam and the water in a small pan and bring to the boil.
  19. Remove from the heat and strain to remove any bits.
  20. Brush the cake all over with the  apricot jam.
  21. Roll out the marzipan to a thickness of 3-4 mm.
  22. Carefully pick the marzipan up, rolled over the rolling pin and gently lay on the cake, centering it so that the sides will be covered.
  23. Use your hands to flatten the marzipan on the top of the cake, sticking it to the apricot jam.
  24. Gently, using your hands again, flatten it against the sides too, lifting and pressing again to ensure no crinkles. 
  25. Cover the cake with a clean tea towel and then leave in a cool place for at least one day, to allow the marzipan to set firm enough for the icing.
  26. 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.
  27. Spread icing all over cake either flat iced using a clean ruler or by forming soft peaks. 
  28. If you are doing a flat icing you can add it in layers and let it set before adding the next layer.  But you need to keep the icing sugar in an airtight container, preferably with plastic film touching the surface, between layering.  You can also sand the icing once it has set to make it entirely smooth all over.
  29. Decorate with Christmas ornaments, or however you wish.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Raspberry & Cream Cheese Brownies

Having read an article in a magazine about brownies topped with cream cheese and raspberries I decided I would try it out.  The magazine suggested buying a brownie mix, but I prefer to make things from scratch whenever possible.  So I came up with my own interpretation.

A rich, moist brownie that was to be topped with the cream cheese and raspberries before being baked.  

To add a little extra to the brownies I also incorporated some white chocolate and milk chocolate chips.

The baking time was a bit of a guess, but I started with 45-50 minutes.  However after that time I tested with a skewer but the mixture still seemed rather too  wet.  So I baked for a further fifteen minutes, by which time the cream cheese was still a little wobbly when the cake tin was shaken, but not too much.  

So I turned off the oven and left the the brownies in to allow the cream cheese to set just a little firmer before removing and allowing to cool completely.  As you would expect with all that extra chocolate added at the last minute this is very moist and must be left to cool completely to firm up before cutting.

The recipe itself is relatively straightforward and doesn't take too long to prepare.  The result is a a rich and moist brownie, so full of chocolate and topped with the delicious cream cheese and the sharp hit of raspberry.
Raspberry & Cream Cheese Brownies

Raspberry & Cream Cheese Brownies - Video

For the brownies:
  • 185g dark chocolate
  • 185g unsalted butter
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 275g golden caster sugar(caster sugar or granulated would be fine too)
  • 50g milk chocolate chips(optional)
  • 50g white chocolate chips(optional)
  • 3 medium eggs(large in USA)
For the topping:
  • 400g cream cheese
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 20g plain flour
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Raspberries to poke into the top(I used 12 as I wanted to divide the baked brownies into 12)
  1. In a bain-marie(double boiler) heat the chocolate and butter until melted and mixed together into a silky smooth sauce.  
  2. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  4. Line a 20cm/8 inch square cake tin with aluminium foil.
  5. In a stand mixer(or with a hand mixer) whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick, pale and doubled in size.
  6. Pour the melted chocolate and butter into the eggs and gently fold in, trying not to knock all the air out.
  7. Sift the plain flour and cocoa powder onto the top of the wet mixture and gently fold in to combine.
  8. Add the milk and white chocolate chips, if using, and gently fold in.
  9. Pour the batter into the cake tin and gently spread into the corners and level off.
  10. With a hand mixer, in a large bowl(can do this by hand too), Beat the cream cheese, egg, vanilla extract, flour and sugar together until well combined.
  11. Spoon the cream cheese mixture onto the top of the brownie mixture and gently spread all over.  Be careful not to spread too vigorously of you may mix the cream cheese into the brownie mix.
  12. Place raspberries on to the top and push into the cream cheese until almost level.
  13. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes and then check with a skewer, if it is very wet bake for a further 15 minutes or so, until the top wobbles only slightly when the tin is shaken.
  14. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven for a further 30 minutes.
  15. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely efore removing from the tin.
  16. Cut into squares to serve.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Black Treacle/Molasses Cookies

I saw a lovely sounding recipe on Joy of Baking for molasses cookies.  So I thought I would try it out, but using Black Treacle instead of molasses.  The reason for that is that I had black treacle, and it is very similar indeed to molasses, being made from raw cane sugar.  Indeed in it much more common in the UK than molasses, though I have used that for several recipes in the past.

This cookie has some strong spicing too, with cinnamon, ginger and cloves, as well as dark brown sugar, which also has a molasses flavour.  Now I have a feeling that dark brown sugar in the UK is actually darker, with a more intense flavour than dark sugar in the USA.  So maybe I could have used light brown sugar, but no matter as my cookies turned out very well indeed.

Although this is a simple recipe it does take quite some time, from start to finish since the cookie dough needs to be firmed up in the fridge for about 3 hours.  But you could easily make the dough one day, put it in the fridge, and then roll into balls and bake the next day.

As I mentioned my cookies turned out just great, full of the rich molasses flavour with the lovely mixture of spices.  When first baked they are nice and crisp on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. I will surely be baking these again in time for Christmas.

This recipe will make 36-40 cookies of 20 grams each.

Black Treacle/Molasses Cookies
Black Treacle/Molasses Cookies - Video

  • 260g plain flour
  • 113g softened butter
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 80ml black treacle(or molasses)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • granulated sugar for rolling
  1. In a stand mixer, with paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the sugar and eggs together  until fluffy.
  2. Add in the egg, vanilla extract and black treacle into the butter mixture and beat to combine fully.
  3. Add the oil and beat to combine.
  4. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves baking soda and salt.
  5. Add to the cookie mixture and beat until just combined.
  6. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 3 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/375 F.
  8. Line two baking trays with baking paper/parchment paper. (you will need to bake two batches of two trays).
  9. Roll the cookie dough into balls weighing about 20g and then roll each ball into granulated sugar until coated.
  10. Place the balls on the baking trays, leaving a gap of about 2 inches to allow spreading.
  11. Use the bottom of a glass to flatten each ball slightly.
  12. Bake in the oven for 9 to 10 minutes until the cookies have spread and cracked a little.
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes then gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack and allow them to cool completely.