Saturday, 30 January 2016

Easy Salted Chocolate Brownie Cookies

I do love a chocolate cookie, from time to time, and came across a recipe on youtube from Cupcake Jemma .  She calls the Ultimate, rather than my Easy.  I had to adapt the recipe slightly, since Jemma uses rye flour and I used plain.  But the recipe is very easy to follow and works very well indeed.

I also cooked mine for longer than Jemma suggested, and they still turned out nice and moist inside, as well as having a nice crunch around the edges.

So I was very pleased with the result, a lovely chocolatey cookie, with a hit of salt as well.
Easy Salted Chocolate Brownie Cookies

                  Easy Salted Chocolate Brownie Cookies - Video

Update:  My sister in Canada, Margaret is her name, made these today too, and hers turned out very well indeed, in fact her family couldn't stop eating them.

  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 395g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 50g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • 270g light soft brown sugar(I used muscovado)
  • Sea Salt for sprinkling
  1. In a bain-marie melt the chocolate and butter together until it is a nice silky mixture.
  2. Whip the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer until the mixture has tripled in volume.
  3. Pour the chocolate into the egg mixture and mix on slow until combined.
  4. Add the flour and baking powder and mix on slow, until combined.
  5. Place the mixture in the fridge for about an hour to firm up.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  7. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
  8. Scoop the batter into 12 balls on the baking sheet and press to flatten slightly.
  9. Sprinkle a little salt onto each mound.
  10. Bake in the oven for 10-13 minutes until the tops have cracked nicely.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, on a wire rack.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Chocolate Financiers

Some while back I made some Chocolate Financiers, which were really lovely.  Then I made them again when I was in Canada.  My Great-nieces Grace and Claire, two really sweet girls, really loved them.  So, since I hadn't done a video I thought I would make them again, so that I could show them how it is done. So I have made a video that they can watch with everyone else as well.

In the original recipe I used trimoline, which is invert sugar.  The process to make invert sugar is quite long winded, and I have found that golden syrup works just as well.  So for this recipe I have used golden syrup, it still allows the moisture to be retained in the same way that invert sugar does.

Apart from the chocolate flavour these financiers retain all the main ingredients of the plain ones, almonds and beurre noisette being the main ones.  Beurre noisette is butter that is heated in a pan until it turns a light brown colour, and takes on a nice nutty flavour.

Once all the ingredients are mixed together it is necessary to chill the batter in the fridge, overnight or for at least 6 hours.  This allows the batter to firm up as the melted butter cools.  Then the batter is piped into financier moulds(though you could use other pans, including muffin tins) and baked.

What could be simpler?  Not only is this a simple recipe the resultant cake is simply wonderful, so moist and flavoursome that it is difficult to stop eating them.
Chocolate Financiers

Once baked the financiers may look a little dry, and also the outside may be slightly crispy.  But put them, when cooled, in an airtight container and they quickly take on a very moist appearance, and the crispy edges soften nicely.

Chocolate Financiers - Video
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 120g plain flour
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 305ml eggs whites
  • 340g butter(I used unsalted)
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 100g golden syrup(I am sure corn syrup will work just as well)
  1. Sift the flour, sugar and cocoa powder together, into a large bowl.
  2. Mix in the ground almonds.
  3. Add the egg whites and golden syrup and stir until everything is combined.
  4. In a pan melt the butter and cook until it starts to colour. Once the butter solids have turned a dark golden colour take of the heat.
  5. Immediately pour the butter into the batter mixture and stir until it is all combined.
  6. Cover the bowl with cling film/plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
  7. Preheat the oven to 220C/220C Fan/430F.
  8. Grease the financier moulds.
  9. Take the batter from the fridge and fill a piping bag with it.  You don't need a nozzle, just snip the tip off.
  10. Pipe the batter into each mould, filling to about two thirds full.  This mixture will make 36 financiers, so you may have to bake in batches, cleaning and cooling and then greasing the moulds again for each batch.
  11. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  12. Remove from the oven.  The edges will be slightly crispy and the rest will be soft and moist. 
  13. Remove from the mould and place on a rack to cool. As they cool down the edges will soften also.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Peek-a-boo Battenburg

I found a lovely looking cake on BBC Good Food and thought I just had to try it.  I love Battenburg cake, which is usually a square of four equal squares, two pink and two 'white', pasted together with apricot jam and covered with marzipan.  So this Peek-a-boo version, where you use four layers of cake to create a chequer board pattern inside the cake when the layers are placed on top of each other.  Then, of course it is finished off with a covering of marzipan.

So, as you would expect there is quite a bit to do, and I was not entirely sure how successful my attempt would be, since it is more than I had tried before.  But I thought I would give it a go.

Certainly my sponge cakes turned out well enough, even though one was sloping slightly.  I had to work out how to use it, since I needed all four cakes.  In the event it may not be perfect but I think it is not a bad effort.

The cake also calls for rose water to be used in the pink cakes and in the apricot jam.  I was a bit concerned that it may be too much rose flavour, since I bought a rather expensive bottle of the stuff.  Certainly you can taste it, and it might not be to everybodies' liking but for me it is fine.

Another thing used in the pink cake is colouring, and I bought a tube of shocking pink.  Well that hardly seemed enough at all, since I was aware that the colour would dissipate during baking.  So I added some red colouring from a bottle as well.

Once the cakes are baked and fully cooled and chilled to firm them up, they have to be cut up, into 3 circles each, with the middle circle of the pink cakes being inserted into the white cakes and vice versa.  That, when they are all placed on top of each other is what creates the chequer board effect.

The next issue was to roll out enough marzipan to cover the cake.  Rolling anything is not my forte, but I persevered and got there in the end.

All in all I am quite pleased with the result, and love the taste.

Peek-a-boo Battenburg

Peek-a-boo Battenburg - Video
For the almond sponge:
  • 225g very soft salted butter, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 85g ground almond
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1 tbsp milk
For the rose sponge:
  • 225g very soft salted butter
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 85g ground almond
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • a little artificial pink food colouring
To assemble and ice:
  • jar of apricot jam( I used jam with no bits, to save straining it)
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • a little icing sugar, for dusting
  • 2 x 500g packs white marzipan
  1. Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Grease and line the base of 2 x 18cm round sandwich tins with baking parchment.
  2. Start with the almond sponge: put all the ingredients in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until the mix comes together smoothly. 
  3. Weigh the mixture and spread exactly half into each tin. 
  4. Bake for 30 mins – when you poke a skewer into the middle, it should come out clean. 
  5. Cool in the tins for 15 mins, then carefully turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling while you make the second sponge.
  6. Clean the tins, then grease and line as above. 
  7. Beat together the butter, sugar, flour, ground almonds, eggs, vanilla, rose water and milk as above. When smooth, beat in a little pink food colouring, bit by bit, until you get a nice colour – it will fade a little during baking, so you can go slightly stronger than you want the finished sponge. 
  8. Weigh, divide between the tins and bake as above. 
  9. Cool in the same way.
  10. Once the sponges are cool, cover gently and chill for 30 mins – this will make cutting them easier and neater.
  11. Unwrap the sponges and, if they have domed in the centre, trim to flatten. 
  12. Cut a 6cm diameter circle out of the centre of each sponge (a 6cm biscuit cutter is ideal, or make yourself a paper template) and set aside. 
  13. Then cut a 12cm diameter circle from the centre of each sponge by tracing a knife around a plate of the same diameter (or use another paper template). So from each sponge you should end up with a 6cm circle, a 12cm ring and an 18cm ring.
  14. Swap the middle rings of the almond sponges with the middle rings from the rose sponges, and fit the cut pieces back together. 
  15. Handle the sponges very gently, to avoid cracking or crumbling up the edges too much. You should end up with 4 sponges that look like targets.
  16. Heat the apricot jam to melt, then sieve and stir in the rose water. 
  17. Brush some over the top of one of the sponges and top with an alternating sponge. 
  18. Repeat to stack up all the layers. 
  19. Sit the cake on a serving plate or cake stand.
  20. Dust your work surface with a little icing sugar and roll out your marzipan until big enough to cover the cake (use a piece of string to measure the cake; see tip below).
  21. Brush some more jam all over the top and sides of the cake. Use your rolling pin to lift up the marzipan onto the cake, then ease it down the sides, pressing to stick. 
  22. Trim the marzipan from the base, then decorate the cake as you like. 
  23. Cut into wedges and serve with tea. Will keep for 3 days in an airtight container.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Cranberry & Pineapple Tea Loaf

I decided to try out a new tea loaf recipe today.  I so enjoyed the Bara Brith - Welsh Tea Loaf that I made last week that I wanted to do it again.  But this time I wanted a variant, that didn't include candied peel, since some people don't like that.  Mixed dried fruit, in the UK, always has candied peel included so I had to come up with a different mixture.  To do that I opted to stay with sultanas and raisins, but to reduce the amount of those so that I could include dried cranberries and then to include some soft dried pineapple diced quite finely.  

So I still ended up with 450g of dried fruit to soak in warm black tea with 250g of soft brown sugar.  That, I thought would give me the correct consistency for the tea loaf batter.

Soaking the fruit in the dark tea for a few hours allows it to plump up so that it is nice and juicy. So the baked tea loaf should be amply full of lovely soft fruit.

Also with Bara Brith the recipe calls for 2 tsp of mixed spice, but I wanted to maximise the chances of fully tasting the fruits so I only used 1tsp, just to give a hint of the spice flavour. 

This recipe makes one large loaf, enough to fill a 2lb loaf tin and rise up above the top.  Indeed just the flour and the fruit weigh just about 2lbs, so the egg and black tea take the weight to well over that.

Another thing to mention is that this recipe, as with Bara Brith, has no butter, oil or other fat in it, so it is quite a healthy option, apart from the sugar.

Having cut a slice and tasted it, both with and without butter I can only say that I think this is even better than the Bara Brith I made last week.  It is simply wonderful, the juicy fruit really comes through perfectly.  A slice or two for afternoon tea would go down very well indeed. Give this recipe a try, soon.
Cranberry & Pineapple Tea Loaf

Cranberry & Pineapple Tea Loaf - Video
  • 300ml of warm black tea
  • 200g sultanas
  • 150g dried cranberries
  • 100g raisins
  • 50g soft dried pineapple, diced finely
  • 450g self raising flour
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  1. In a bowl place all the fruits and mix together.
  2. Add the sugar and stir in.
  3. Add the warm black tea and stir again.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to soak for at least 2 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/325 F.
  6. Grease a 2lb/900g loaf tin and line with baking parchment.
  7. Mix the mixed spice into the flour.
  8. Unwrap the soaked fruits and pour into a large mixing bowl.
  9. Add the beaten egg and the flour mixture and stir in until fully combined, without over-mixing.
  10. Transfer the batter into the loaf tin and level it out, making sure you get right into the corners.
  11. Bake in the oven for 80-90 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the centre comes our clean. If the top looks to be baking too quickly, and burning any fruit poking through, place a sheet of aluminium foil lightly on the top to stop further browning.
  12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes.
  13. Remove the loaf from the tin, taking off the baking parchments and place on a cooling rack to cook completely.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Morning Glory Muffins

Morning Glory Muffins are not something I have encountered before.  But my sister Margaret, of Ottawa, suggested them so I imagine she rather enjoys them.  I did some research on the internet and looked at a few videos.  It seems that there are many variations of these muffins, but the constant is grated carrot and grated apple and some nuts and raisins.  So for mine I included all of those, choosing chopped walnuts for the crunch factor.  I also decided upon some dessicated coconut and crushed, drained pineapple.  That seemed to me to be a nice selection of flavours, enough to tempt even the most ardent doubter.  Some recipes also included nutmeg, mac and allspice as well as cinnamon but I decided that cinnamon would probably be enough of a spice flavour.  I didn't want to overpower the other ingredients.

These muffins are, apparently often eaten at breakfast time.  I am sure that would be good, though I usually stick with my muesli, so I shall be eating the muffins at another time of day.  Of course I will include my obligatory cup of tea to accompany them.

As with all muffins this is an easy recipe and takes no time to put together, once you have assembled the ingredients.  The most time taken, in fact, is the grating of the carrots and apple.  As these muffins seem to be a North American thing all the recipes I found had measurements in cups but I have stayed with metric measurements since I am more comfortable with those, and they seem more accurate.

I had the option, with the amount of mixture, to make 14 or 15 muffins, or to go with larger muffins and just make 12.  In the event I opted to make just 12 large ones.  This also meant that the baking time was slightly open-ended.  I thought 20 to 25 minutes would be enough.  So I checked them after 20 minutes and although a skewer came out fairly clean it was a little be wet.  So I left them in for a further 5 minutes and then checked again.  They were still a little wet and this time crumbs attached to the skewer.  So a further 5 minutes, making 30 in total, was allowed and they came out perfectly cooked.

They looked great and I could hardly wait for them to cool before tasting them, but I held off, as I watched England beat South Africa in the fourth Test Match(cricket) at The Wanderers in Johannesburg, SA.

Once they had cooled I removed the paper case and broke one in half,  a lovely moist centre appeared, full of that fruity goodness.  I am glad I didn't opt for more than just cinnamon, that flavour compliments all the others just perfectly. These are a tasty treat indeed, and deserve to be more widely known about.

Morning Glory Muffins

Morning Glory Muffins - Video
  • 260g plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 60g raisins
  • 35g dessicated, shredded or flaked coconut
  • 170g grated carrot
  • 1 grated apple
  • 100g crushed pineapple, drained
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 240ml vegetable oil
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  2. Grease a 12 hole muffin tin, or line with paper cases. (you can do 15 if you don't want large muffins)
  3. Place the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda in a large bowl and stir to distribute evenly.
  4. Add the walnuts, raisins, coconut, carrot, apple and pineapple and mix together until all is evenly distributed.
  5. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, vanilla extract and oil together to combine.
  6. Pour the wet mixture into all the other ingredients and stir until all is combined, but do not over mix.
  7. Fill the muffin cases to the top(if you want 12 large ones) or two thirds full(if you want about 15 muffins),
  8. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes, check with a skewer to see if they are down, with the skewer coming out clean.  If not leave for a few more minutes until the skewer comes out clean.  Mine took exactly 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

English Madeleines

English Madeleines are what, years ago when I was a child, were known in England as Madeleines.  That single word name has been assigned, it seems, to the little French cake which is baked in a scallop shaped mould or tray.  But English Madeleines, as I shall call them, though it sticks in my clack to do so, are a larger cake made of sponge and coated in jam, rolled in coconut and topped with a glace cherry.   They aren't to be found much these days, in cake shops at least.  But my sister Margaret, who lives in Canada suggested that I make some.  So, ever the one to rise to the challenge I procured some mould and set about the task.  Now my moulds may be larger than some, at 120ml, but recipes that I saw suggested that size.  

The recipes, all of which were much the same, suggested that I would get 8 or 10 madeleines from teh mixture.  In the event I only got six, which is good enough for a trial.  

The moulds I used are dariole moulds, a slight cone shape, so wider at the top than at the base, even though that doesn't seem apparent from the photo below.

The recipe is simple, since it is only a few ingredients, and they all go in the bowl together to be mixed.

Then it is just a case of dividing the mixture between the moulds, baking, cooling and decorating.  What could be easier?  Nothing much I don't suppose.

Mine turned out very nicely and look very edible, I think.  I am saving them to be shared with others tomorrow, but it is difficult to resist eating one right now.

Just as as aside, I am sure you could make these in a muffin tin, if you don't have dariole moulds, they will look just as good and taste the same.

English Madeleines

English Madeleines - Video
for the cakes:
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 100g softened unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • a few drops of vanilla extract
for the coating:
  • 3 tbsp raspberry jam, melted and allowed to cool slightly
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • glace cherries
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160c Fan/350F
  2. Grease some dairole moulds and line the bases with parchment paper(6-10 moulds depending on size)
  3. Place all the ingrediets into a mixing bowl and mix until fully combined and there are no lumps.
  4. Divide the mixture into the moulds, filling each one until half full.
  5. Place the moulds on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack, the base of the cake becomes the top of the madeleine.
  7. When cool level the bottoms of the madeleines, if uneven, so they stand straight.
  8. Place the coconut onto a plate ready for rolling the cake into it.
  9. Insert a fork into the base of a cake then brush all over the top and sides with the warm raspberry jam.
  10. Roll the sides and top in the coconut until evenly covered.
  11. Place on a plate and top with a glace cherry.
  12. Repeat the same process for all the cakes.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Bara Brith - Welsh Tea Loaf

Bara Brith is very popular in Wales, a traditional treat, a fruit tea loaf.  Having been intrigued as to just how it tasted, since I have never had any before, I set about making a loaf.  I used recipe from BBC Food it appeared in the Hairy Bikers program, with a lady called Mary Hamilton making it.  Having checked various different recipes Mary's was the one that seemed very simple and was likely to be so tasty.

This really is the simplest of recipes, even thought the elapsed time is rather long.  Basically you have to soak mixed dried fruit in tea, overnight.  Then you are ready to make the loaf, which only takes a few minutes of preparation from that point.

The resultant loaf is just great.  The kitchen fills with the heady aroma of mixed spice and when the loaf is cooled and cut you see the full fruity goodness inside. Then, of course, comes the tasting and it is delicious just by itself.  I am sure some butter spread on it would make it even better for some people.
Bara Brith - Welsh Tea Loaf

Bara Brith - Welsh Tea Loaf - Video
  • 450g/1lb dried mixed fruit
  • 250g/9oz brown sugar( used 125g light brown and 125g dark brown)
  • 300ml/½ pint warm black tea
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 450g/1lb self-raising flour
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  1. In a large bowl soak the fruit and sugar in strained tea and leave overnight.
  2. Next day preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. 
  3. Line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
  4. Mix the mixed spice into the flour.
  5.  Add the eggs and the flour mixture into the fruit mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
  6. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake the oven and bake for 1½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Leave for a few minutes and then remove it loaf from the tin and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Cheese Shortbread With Ground Chilli Flakes

I saw a few recipes for a savoury shortbread, using cheese.  They were all just a little bit different to each other, so I came up with a mix and match version of my own, though based on one from Bruno whose video is here.  I decided to use Cheddar cheese, though almost any cheese would probably work quite well.  Then, as an added flavour I thought I would add some chilli flakes, but then decided they were slightly too large, so I ground them down into a powder.

So that would be the basic shortbread, but then with some Parmesan grated on the tops, for a different cheesy hit.

If you want perfectly formed biscuits the best way is to roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter to make the shapes.  But much quicker, easier and just as tasty, is to roll the dough into a sausage and cut it, once chilled.

Now the one thing I really dont like is cooked cheese, so no cheese sauces, pizza etc for me.  The cheese, when heated takes on a much stronger flavour that I just don't.  But I have made cheese scones and cheese straws in the past, which I enjoyed, maybe as the are eaten cold.  So I thought it worth giving these shortbreads a whirl.  I know they will be enjoyed by my tasters, so even if I decided I don't like them they will be gratefully accepted.

Oh wow! I they have cooled down and I just ate three.  They are simply wonderful.  As you put one onto your tongue and close your mouth the biscuit seems to dissolve right onto the tongue giving a wonderful cheesy taste.. Then after you have swallowed it the back of your throat gets the hit of chilli and your tongue tingles slightly.  From someone who doesn't like cooked cheese that is praise indeed, even if I did bake them myself.

I think these would be ideal with a glass of wine in the evening.
Cheese Shortbread With Chilli Flakes

Cheese Shortbread With Chilli Flakes - Video

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 60g grated cheese(I used cheddar)
  • 200g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • parmesan cheese for grating
  • egg white for egg wash
  1. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer(or a food processor or by hand) beat the butter with the chilli powder and salt until it is nice and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and ground almonds and beat again until fully combined.
  4. Add half the flour and beat until combined
  5. Add the remaining flour and the grated cheese and beat for a final time until combined and clumping into a dough.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide in half. 
  7. Form a sausage shape, about 8 inches long, with each portion of dough and wrap them in cling film.
  8. Refrigerate the dough until it is firm, so about a couple of hours. It can be left longer, of course, even overnight, or for a couple of days.
  9. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F.
  10. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut each sausage into equally thick slices, about 3/8 of an inch(1 cm).
  11. Place them on the baking sheets leaving a space around each in case of spreading.
  12. Egg wash each slice and grate some parmesan over them.
  13. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until a nice golden colour.
  14. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. They will firm up as they cool.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Basque Cake/Gâteau Basque

Pottering around on the internet, as one is wont to do, I saw a recipe for something called Basque Cake or Gâteau Basque , of which I hadn't heard before.  So I set about improving my, clearly lacking, knowledge.  In that endeavour I found the recipe which I have used, at Bruno's Kitchen, where Bruno Albouze made one that looked so very delicious. The cake is something new for me, with a custard inside the cake.

There are a lot of steps in the making of the cake, but luckily I was able to watch the video, which was of great assistance.  I also researched other recipes, and watched a few other videos, but Bruno's was the one I though would work best for me.

So I set about the making and found it all rather simple.  I had never made a creme patissiere, or custard, before so I was somewhat apprehensive, thinking I would end up with a curdled mess.  But happily I can report that all worked well.   Once the custard was made it was simply a case of allowing it to cool and then to set about making the cake batter.  I confess to having a little taste of the custard and it was very good indeed.

Once the batter was made I just had to put everything together, chill it, and then bake it.

The resultant cake looks good, at least to me, and having allowed it to cool and cut a small slice I can say that I am very pleased with the result.  I am so glad I decided upon this recipe, and will probably be making it again, very soon.

My big error was in the video, when I took the cake from the fridge, to bake it, I forgot to turn my microphone on, so if you watch the video you can see all the preparation, and then the baked result, but not the little bit of decoration.
Basque Cake/Gateau Basque
                               Basque Cake/Gateau Basque

For the Custard Filling:
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 20g soft brown sugar
  • 20g semolina
  • seeds from one vanilla pod + 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • zest from one lemon
  • 3 medium egg yolks
  • 40g soft brown sugar
  • 10g cornflour
  • 1 tbsp dark rum
  • 80ml double cream
For the Cake Batter:
  • 250g unsalted butter, very soft but not melted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 160g soft brown sugar
  • seeds from one vanilla pod + 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 3 medium eggs(large in USA), at room temperature
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten, as an egg wash
  1. Grease a 9inch/23cm springform cake tin, or pie tin, and line the base with greased parchment paper.
  2. Line a baking tray with clingfilm/plastic wrap.
  3. In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla, 40g sugar and the cornflour.
  4. In a saucepan mix together the milk, 20g sugar, lemon zest and semolina.
  5. Cook the milk mixture over a medium heat until it just comes to a boil
  6. Take off the heat and, whisking the mixture all the while,  slowly add the milk to the eggs.
  7. Once all the milk is incorporated into the egg mixture place it back in the saucepan and onto the heat.
  8. Keep whisking all the time as the custard comes to the boil.
  9. In a separate pan, at the same time, bring the double cream to a boil and turn off the heat.
  10. When the custard has thickened nicely allow it to boil, still whisking, for one minute.
  11. Add the boiled cream and the dark rum and whisk to combine.
  12. Scrape the custard onto the baking tray and cover with another layer of clingfilm, spreading custard out, and allow to cool completely.
  13. When the custard has cooled to room temperature you can make the cake batter.
  14. In a stand mixer(can be done by hand too, of course) fitted with the paddle, cream the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and ground almonds until nice and fluffy.  This should take about 3 minutes at high speed.
  15. Add the eggs, one at a time, and combine completely.
  16. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and beat until just combined.  Do not over-mix.
  17. Pipe the cake batter into the cake tin, from the centre outwards, in a spiral.
  18. Pipe one more circle of batter on top of the first layer, just around the perimeter of the cake tin.
  19. That give you a two layer edge and a single layer base.
  20. Pipe the custard, which you may have to stir first, onto the single layer of cake batter, inside the circle of batter which is around the perimeter.
  21. Pipe the remaining cake batter, in a spiral as before, over the top of the perimeter circle and the custard.
  22. Place clingfilm onto the cake batter and use a gentle hand motion to level and smooth it, so that the spiral shape has disappeared.
  23. Place the unbaked cake into the fridge to chill, until it has firmed up nicely. ( I left mine for a couple of hours as I had other things to do.
  24. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  25. Remove the chilling, unbaked cake, from the fridge and take off the clingfilm.
  26. Brush the egg wash over the top of the cake, applying two layers.
  27. Take a fork and lightly scrape a pattern into the top of the cake batter.
  28. Place in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until cooked and a nice golden brown colour on the top. Check it from 40 minutes onwards, until you think it is done.
  29. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the cake tin.
  30. Place the cake on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Koláče - Kolache

I am a regular visitor to Prague and have often seen Koláče in the bakeries and in the supermarkets.  I ate one, about 10 years ago, but haven't had one since.  So I thought I would like to try to make them.  Doing some research on the internet I discovered that they are quite popular with some people in the USA, where they are known as Kolache.

Basically they are a sweetened dough with a filling. The fillings vary, and often use farmer cheese, or Tvaroh(which is a curd cheese)which is not available to me, though I could make my own, if I had the inclination.  But since it is very much like cottage cheese and ricotta, I decided to use ricotta as my filling.  Other fillings include a poppy seed one, where the poppy seeds are ground to a paste and mixed with milk and sugar.  Another popular one is ground walnuts with milk or evaporated milk.  In fact you can use just about any filling you want, including some delicious preserves or jams.  But I opted just for a basic ricotta filling, with egg, butter, vanilla and lemon zest.  

Since I decided to make these I have discovered that Quark is probably the same thing as Tvaroh, it is an acidic set cheese.  But I haven't seen that in my supermarkets, though they probably have it, if I look in the right place.  So maybe another time I will try quark.

Often Koláče also have a crumble mixture sprinkled on top before baking.  I decided not to do that, but I did sprinkle some freeze dried raspberry powder on some of mine, once they came out of the oven.  

I am very pleased with the result of the bake, they turned out just as I thought they should.  
Koláče - Kolache

Koláče - Kolache Video
For the dough:
  • 500g plain flour
  • 7g dry active yeast
  • 240ml milk
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 1 egg for egg wash

For the filling:
  • 250g Ricotta, or cottage cheese, or quark, or farmer cheese
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 tbsp softened butter

  1. In a saucepan heat the milk until almost, but not quite, boiling.  
  2. Remove from the heat and add the 50g of unsalted butter.
  3. As the butter melts in the milk it will reduce the temperature.
  4. When the temperature is such that the mixture is lukewarm add one teaspoon of the caster sugar and sprinkle the yeast over the top.  Stir it in and leave it to start fermenting, for about 10 minutes.
  5. In a bowl mix the flour, sugar and salt.
  6. Add the yeast mixture and the egg and mix until you have a rather sticky dough.
  7. Scrape the bowl to get all the flour mixed into the dough and work gently until it is smooth and not too sticky.
  8. Sprinkle some flour into the bottom of the bowl and place the dough on top of it.  Then sprinkle a little more flour over the dough.
  9. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and allow the dough to prove for two hours, or until it has doubled in size.
  10. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  11. When the two hours is almost passed make the filling by incorporating all the ingredients into a creamy mixture.
  12. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  13. Take the risen dough and place on a lightly floured work surface.
  14. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts.
  15. Form a ball of each of the 8 parts of dough and place on the baking sheet, leaving room for them to spread.
  16. Use a glass with a flat base, about 2.5 inches across, dip it into some flour and press into the centre of each dough ball to make a firm indentation with a nice ring of dough around the outside. 
  17. Use an egg wash to brush over the rings of the dough(you don't need to eggwash the indentation).
  18. Fill the indentation of each piece of dough with the ricotta mixture, it should take about 2.5 tablespoons to fill each one.  Don't overfill, so let the mixture just reach the top of the ring, or slightly over.  If you overfill it then the mixture may spread too far during cooking.
  19. Place the Koláče into the preheated oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the dough is a nice golden brown and the filling has set.
  20. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack until cooled.

Note:  I sprinkled some dried raspberry powder on some of mine.  But they can be left plain, or sprinkled with some cinnamon or whatever you like, if you have not put crumble on top before baking.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Chocolate Fudge, Raisin & Hazelnut Cookies

For my last bake of 2015 I decided on a deliciously indulgent cookie.  Chocolate Fudge, with rum soaked raisins and hazelnuts.  I found a few recipes on the internet and decided to use one from Joy Of Baking, though I made a few changes to suit my taste.  

The basic idea of a chocolate cookie with a soft, fudge-like centre was very appealing.  Using a 55% cocoa solid chocolate instead of my usual 70% turned out to be a good idea, making the end result rich, but not too rich.  For the additions to the cookies I decided upon some milk chocolate chips and some raisins and hazelnuts.  I remember from years ago that Cadbury did a rum and raisin chocolate bar, or at least I think it was Cadbury,  They also do a hazelnut and chocolate bar.  So both of those seemed ideal ingredients.  I soaked my raisins in rum and then drained them so that they would absorb some and swell slightly, but not be overpowering with the flavour of rum.

Although the recipe takes a while and can get you a little bit messy it is well worth the effort, since the resultant cookies are a triumph, in my opinion. They take only about 10 minutes to bake, and outside cracks to reveal the soft inside.  The crispy outside collapses as you bite into the cookie, and your mouth fills with the soft fudge interior with the juicy raisins and the nice crunch of hazelnuts.

I highly recommend anyone to try these, varying the fillings as you wish.  I also made another batch, with milk chocolate chips, dried cranberries and chopped pecans.  They, too, turned out very well.  So be inventive and you will be pleasantly surprised.
Chocolate Fudge, Raisin & Hazelnut Cookies

Chocolate Fudge, Raisin and Hazelnut Cookies

Chocolate Fudge, Raisin and Hazelnut Cookies - Video
  • 450g dark chocolate, chopped(or chips) - I used 55% cocoa solid chips
  • 350g sugar
  • 4 medium eggs(large in USA)
  • 60g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1tbsp vanilla extract
  • 150g milk chocolate chips
  • 80g hazelnuts, chopped in half
  • 120g raisins, soaked in some rum, or cold tea, and drained completely

For a variation swap hazelnuts and raisins for the same amount of pecans chopped and dried cranberries.

  1. Melt the dark chocolate and butter in a bain marie(double boiler), stirring until a silky smooth consistency. Set aside to cook to room temperature.
  2. Mix the flour, salt and baking powder together and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer(can be done with a hand mixer) place the eggs and sugar and whisk together until you have a pale, thick mixture, which is of ribbon consistency when lifted with a spoon and allowed to drop back into the bowl.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and mix in.
  5. Fold in the flour mixture, being sure not to over mix, as you dont want to lose the air in the egg mixture.
  6. Add the milk chocolate chips, raising and hazelnuts and stir in gently.
  7. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for about an hour, so the mixture firms up.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  9. Spoon the mixture onto baking sheets, lined with parchment paper, about 3 tablespoons for each cookie.
  10. Form into a ball and flatten slightly.  The cookies will spread, so leave enough space to allow for that.
  11. Bake in then oven for 10 - 14 minutes, until the tops just start to crack and the cookie is set.
  12. Remove from the oven and leave on the baking tray for 10 minutes to allow them to firm up as they start to cool.
  13. Carefully remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
  14. Eat one the same day, or store in an airtight container for a few days.  These cookies can also be frozen.

Makes about 28 delicious cookies.