Thursday, 31 March 2016

8 Stranded Plait/Braid Loaf

I saw this 8 strand loaf being made by contestants on The Great British Bake Off a few years ago, and have often wanted to try it.  The recipe is one of Paul Hollywood's on BBC Food.  So I thought I would use that, except that my plaiting/braiding is different to how that recipe says to do it.  I saw a video from The Bread Kitchen, where Title Nihan showed many variations on plaiting dough, and her version for 8 strands looked good enough to me.

One of the problems, it seems to me, is that the strands need to be exactly the same thickness and length to be able to get a decent plait.  As with all dough it starts to rise very quickly and it also likes to shrink back after being rolled out into sausages, so I had to try to work quickly.  I wasn't entirely successful and a couple of strands shrunk more than I wanted.  But I did make a fairly good attempt.

Once plaited it is acceptable to chop off the last little bit of dough from longer strands and then pinch the strands together and tuck underneath.  But I decided just to tuck all the dough underneath.  That means that the end of mine is not exactly neat, but it is bread and tastes just as good as the rest of the loaf.

Although this bread takes a while to make, with two sessions of proving, and is a little complicated, I found it all rather therapeutic and am very pleased indeed with the resultantant loaf.  It tastes great and is ideal with soup, or something like some Brussels pate.  if you wish for a taller loaf you could roll the sausages to a shorter length and then plait them.  The loaf should then rise taller, but will not be so long.
8 Strand Plaited/Braided Loaf

                                      8 Strand Plaited/Braided Loaf - Video
  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong bread flour
  • 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
  • 10g/¼oz fine salt
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • extra flour for dusting
  • sunflower oil for greasing bowl
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten lightly with a pinch of salt
  1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast on one side of the bowl and add the salt on the other side. Salt should not be placed on top of the yeast, as it can kill it and make in in-active. 
  2. Stir the ingredients together until evenly mixed, this can be done in a stand mixer if you wish.
  3. Add the olive oil. 
  4. Measure out 340ml/12fl oz water and add three-quarters to the flour mixture, and mix together, then add the rest of the liquid.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead by hand until the dough looks silky and stretchy, or mix with the stand mixer, using the dough hook.
  6. This will take approximately 10 minutes by hand and 8 minutes with the stand mixer.
  7. Oil a medium sized mixing bowl and place the dough into the bowl. Cover with cling film and set aside to rise, for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.
  8. When risen, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, to knock the dough back. 
  9. Shape the dough into a ball.
  10. Divide the dough into eight equal pieces then roll out each piece into a strand about 40cm/16in long.
  11. Lay the strands out on the lightly floured surface like an octopus, fanned out from a central point at the top. 
  12. Stick all the touching ends  to the table with your thumb.
  13. For plaiting/braiding let's number the strands 1 to 8 from left to right. After each step the numbers
  14. of the strands will still be 1 to 8, from the position they the occupy. As you do each step you may need to just push the sides of the dough in to keep everything neat and the pattern will take shape.
  15. Step 1.Take strand 8 and place it across the dough and over strand 1.
  16. Step 2. Take strand 2 and place it across the dough and over strand 8.
  17. Step 3. Take strand 1 and place it between strands 4 and 5.
  18. Step 4. Take strand 7 and place across the dough and over strand 1.
  19. Step 5. Take strand 8 and place between strands 4 and 5.
  20. Step 6. Take strand 2 and place across the dough and over strand 8.
  21. Repeat Steps 2 to 6 as many times as necessary until all the dough is plaited.
  22. You may need to keep splaying the strands as you work, to make it easier.
  23. Tuck both ends of the loaf underneath to give a tidy finish.
  24. Place the plaited dough onto a floured baking tray, and leave to prove for another hour, until risen again.
  25. Preheat the oven to 200C/375F/Gas 5.
  26. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg wash and bake in the oven for 20-25mins.
  27. Remove from the oven and tap the bottom to ensure a hollow sound which indicates that the loaf is cooked.
  28. Place on a cooling rack and allow to  cool.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Steak & Mushroom Pie - Butter Shortcrust Pasrty

I  have a lovely book, Perfect Pies, by the Hairy Bikers.  They do a show on BBC and the recipe can be seen on BBC Food website.  I love a meat pie for dinner so this recipe was ideal.  However I did change how I made it. The original recipe has the filling cooked in a casserole dish in the oven, whereas I decided I wanted to cook mine on top of the stove, on a very low heat.  The result will be the same.  I also used Skirt which is a very tasty cut of meat, rather than Chuck, since that is not readily available in my supermarkets.  I have used Skirt several times and it never disappoints it has a wonderful flavour and cooks to a very tender state.

The recipe does take a while since you have to make the pie filling first and then allow it to cool completely.  This was not a problem for me since I made the filling one day, and allowed it to cool and then refrigerate until the next day.  Then I made the shortcrust pastry and put the pie together for baking. 

I do believe that the flavour becomes fuller for leaving the filling overnight, since all the stock and wine really come to the for, being fully absorbed into the meat and mushrooms.

This recipe will make a pie of 23cm, 9 inches in diameter, so is ideal to serve four people for dinner, which is exactly how mine was used.

It worked very well indeed, with a wonderfully rich filling inside a rich, shortcrust pastry.  Server with vegetable and gravy it is just ideal for dinner. Certainly it went down very well in my family.  The rich gravy, melt in the mouth meat and the mushrooms, together with the short and buttery pastry was sublime.
Steak & Mushroom Pie

                               Steak & Mushroom Pie - video
  • 750g chuck or skirt steak trimmed of thick of hard fat
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 medium onions halved & sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 150 ml red wine (or water)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 500 ml beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 25g butter
  • 250g small chestnut mushrooms halved or quartered if large
Cut steak into 3cm cubes and season. 
Heat 2tbsp of oil in frying pan and over a high heat fry meat till well browned all over. Do this in 2 batches to avoid 'steaming' meat add extra tbsp of oil if pan is dry. 
Place beef in a large saucepan orcasserole dish and toss it in flour.
Heat oven to Gas 2 150C/130C fan/300F if you wish to cook in the oven.
Add 1 tbsp oil to pan and cook the onions and garlic over a medium heat for 5-10 mins until golden and pour in the red wine and worcester sauce and bring to boil whilst stirring and lifting any residue from the pan. (ou can use water nstead of red wine if you wish)
Pour sauce and onions over the beef add stock and bay leaf. Bring to boil on top of stove then cover.with a lid.
Either cook in oven for 1.5 hours, or turn the heat down and simmer on the stove for the same time..
Meanwhile, melt butter in frying pan and cook mushrooms for 5 mins until lightly browned, then add to beef and return casserole for another 30 mins (2-hr total).
Remove from oven, or from the stove top and cool completely.
To make the pastry rub the butter into the flour with a generous pinch of salt and mix with fingertips until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. 
Stir in egg and water mixture, bring together to form a dough and knead very lightly. 
Divide the dough into 2/3'ds for base and 1/3'd for the top. Roll into balls, flatten slightly, wrap each ball in cling film and chill for 20 mins. If preparing dish early in day (or day before) you can prepare to this point and store filling and dough in fridge until next day or when ready to assemble. Remember to bring dough to room temperature before rolling.
Heat oven to gas 6 200C/180C fan/350F. 
Roll out larger ball of pastry and use to line a greased 23cm (9") pie dish. HANDY TIP!! To avoid a soggy base, sprinkle the pastry base with a spoonful of semolina then spoon in beef, onions and mushrooms using a slotted spoon, adding just enough of the liquid to be "saucy." Save remaining sauce and gently reheat and serve with finished pie. 
Brush the pastry rim with a little beaten egg. 
Roll out the smaller ball of dough for the pie top and gently lay it over the filling. 
Use a sharp knife to trim any overhanging pastry (you can use surplus to decorate top of pie). Crimp edges with fingers or fork, brush with beaten egg to glaze. Bake in oven for 30 mins until pie is golden brown and filling is piping hot. Serve with heated gravy.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Blackberry & Lemon Cheesecake

After the success of my Raspberry and Lemon Cheesecake I decided to try a blackberry version.  This time though I would use frozen rather than fresh berries.  In the UK frozen berries are much cheaper than the fresh ones and work very well in making sauces etc.   In fact mine turned out very well.  The blackberries may well have been grown on the planet Gargantua for all I know, they were absolutely massive, much larger than we see in the hedgerows in the UK.

Although I made my own blackberry sauce/jam for this recipe you could always buy some jam heat it up, adding a little water to thin it very slightly.

The cheesecake mixture was added into the springform pan in two parts, so that some of the blackberry sauce could be added and swirled around in the middle.  Then the remaining sauce was added to the top and formed into a rather loose spider web type pattern.  I am the first to admit that decorating and piping are not my forte, but I will always give it a go.

I had a good amount of the blackberry jam left over, so that can be served on the side if required.

The cheesecake turned out rather well, and I am very pleased with the result.  It does take rather a long time to complete, but the effort is well worth, as you end up with a delicious lemon cheesecake  with the blackberry jam adding to the overall sensation.

Others have tried it now and confirm that it is delicious, so give this one a try.

Blackberry & Lemon Cheesecake

Here is a video of how to make this cheesecake:

Blackberry & Lemon Cheesecake - Video
  • 350g blackberries fresh or frozen
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 400ml water
  • 220g digestive biscuits(Graham crackers are fine too)
  • 85g unsalted butter, melted
  • 600g full fat soft cheese
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 150g natural yoghurt
  • 3 medium eggs, beaten (large eggs in the UK)
  • grated zest of 2 lemons and the juice of one.
  • 50g plain flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 180c/350F
  2. Grease a 9inch springform cake tin.
  3. Place the water and granulated sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  4. As the sugar dissolves add the blackberries and allow to boil, stirring from time to time, for about 30 minutes until the raspberries have disintegrated and the mixture has begun to thicken.
  5. Remove from the heat and strain to remove the seeds.
  6. If you don't think your jam is thick enough you can mix a teaspoon of cornflour in cold water and gradually add to to the boiling jam to thicken it a little more, though this should be done after straining the seeds out.
  7. Set aside to cool completely.
  8. Take the digestive biscuits and turn them into crumbs, in a food processor, or in a plastic bag hit with a rolling pin.
  9. Place the crumbs in a bowl and add the melted butter and mix together.
  10. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and spread all over the base, patting down to make it firm.
  11. Place in the oven for 6 minutes.
  12. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then place in the fridge to allow the base to firm up completely.
  13. Preheat the oven to 120c/250F
  14. In a stand mixer(this can all be done by hand if necessary) place the soft cheese and sugar.
  15. Mix until combined.  It doesn't need a lot of mixing as we don't want air in the mixture.
  16. Add the yoghurt and mix in.
  17. Add the eggs and mix to combine.
  18. Add the lemon zest and juice and mix to combine.
  19. Add the flour and mix again just to combine.
  20. Place about half the mixture in the cake tin and spread all over the base.
  21. Use a spoon to drizzle some of the jam onto the mixture and then use a knife or skewer to swirl it in a bit.  You don't want to mix it all in so the mixture is pink.
  22. Add the remainder of the cheese mixture and spread all over, using a spatula to level it off.
  23. Place the remaining jam into a piping bag and pipe four or five circles onto the cheesecake mixture.
  24. Use a skewer to drag lines from the outside ring into the centre, to make a sort of spider web.
  25. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to one hour.  The centre should just wobble a little..
  26. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in there for another hour. it will firm up during that hour.
  27. Remove from the oven and using a thin, sharp, knife run it around the edge of the cheesecake to loosen it from the edge of the cake tin.  This will help avoid cracks in the cheesecake as it cools and contracts.
  28. Allow to cool completely and then cover with clingfilm and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  29. In the morning remove from the fridge and take the cheesecake out of the tin and place on a plate for serving.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Butter Cookies - With A Cookie Press

I decided to bring my cookie press back into action today, with some butter shortbread cookies.  My recipe will make 72 cookies, so doubling the amount will make a good 144, which is ideal for a family.  Double pressing the cookie press also makes larger cookies, so a smaller number will be achieved.  But the usual size which pop nicely into the mouth are just about the perfect size.

For mine I did mostly the small size and a few of the double size and they all worked out very nicely.  I varied the shapes too, just for effect.

Some people like to sprinkle coloured sugar or other things on the top before baking but I resisted that, just putting some halved glace cherries in the middle of a few larger ones.
Everything worked well and I ended up with a nice selection of cookies that taste just wonderful.

Butter Cookies - made using a cookie press

They go very well indeed with a cup of tea.  They are also a nice size, for popping into the mouth.  So all in all I am very pleased with the result. 

                  Butter Cookies - made using a cookie press - Video

Ingredients:  This is recipe for 72 cookies(you can easily double the amounts for more)
  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 250g plain flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170C Fan/375 F
  2. Sieve the flourand salt together
  3. Cream the butter, then add the sugar and cream it again.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until all combined.
  5. Gradually add the flour mixture and fully combine.
  6. Load the batter into a cookie press, with the plate of your choice.
  7. Press out the cookies onto baking sheets which have been cooled in the fridge and  that are neither greased or lined with paper.
  8. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes until fully cooked.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for two minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Hot Cross Buns

Easter, and specifically Good Friday is the traditional day for eating Hot Cross Buns.  In fact it wouldn't be Easter in the UK if there were no Hot Cross Buns. They are a deliciously fruity and spicy bun, with a cross on the top.  I have made them before, but today I used a recipe from Mary Berry, on the BBC Food site.  I adhered fairly closely to the recipe, except that for me currants are more traditional than sultanas, so I made a substitution.  This recipe also has a slight difference from most, in that the glaze is golden syrup rather than the more usual apricot jam.  This gives a lovely sticky top and so nice and sweet as you bite into the bun.  Mary's recipe uses mixed spice, whereas in her video she mentions that all spice is more traditional.  So I used all spice.

Double proving of the dough means that it takes a while to make the buns, but it is well worth the effort, since they turn out wonderfully well.  

If you aren't in the UK you may not have heard of Hot Cross Buns before, but I can assure you that you will surely enjoy them. 

Of course you don't need to eat them only on Good Friday, they are fine at any time.  They are also good toasted, so if you have some left and they are starting to go stale they will still taste wonderful toasted with some butter on them.  

Although traditionally mixed candied peel is used in the buns it would be fine to substitute some other dried fruit, such as glace cherries or cranberries, if you don't like the peel.

Mine turned out very well and tasted great so I urge you all to give these a try.  If you do them now you will be in time for Good Friday.
Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns - Video

for the buns:
  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 75g/2¾oz caster sugar
  • 2 tsp all spice powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 lemon, finely grated zest only
  • 10g/¼oz salt
  • 10g/¼oz fast-action dried yeast
  • 40g/1½oz butter
  • 300ml/10fl oz milk
  • 1 free-range egg, beaten
  • 200g/7oz pinhead currants
  • 50g/1¾oz finely chopped mixed peel
  • oil, for greasing
for the topping:
  • 75g/2¾oz plain flour
  • 100ml cold water
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup, for glazing
  1. Put the flour, sugar, spices and lemon zest into a large bowl of a stand mixer and mix together. Then add the salt and yeast, placing them on opposite sides of the bowl. This can all be done by hand rather than in a mixer.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan and warm the milk in a separate pan. 
  3. Add the butter and half the tepid milk to the dry ingredients. 
  4. Add the egg and use your hands to bring the mixture together,  
  5. Gradually add the remaining milk, to form a soft pliable dough (you may not need all of the milk).
  6. When the dough is a good silky and elastic consistency add the currants and mixed peel and continue to kneed to combine.
  7. Oil a bowl and place the dough in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
  8. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and divide into 12 balls. Line 1-2 baking trays with paper and place the balls on the tray, placing them fairly close together and flattening them slightly.
  9. Cover each baking tray and eave for 40-60 minutes until the buns have doubled in size.
  10. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.
  11. For the topping, add the flour to a bowl with 100ml/3½fl oz water. Mix together to make a paste and spoon into the icing bag.
  12. When the buns have risen uncover them and pipe a cross on each bun. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pale golden-brown, turning the baking trays round halfway through if necessary.
  13. Melt the golden syrup in a pan and while the buns are still warm, brush the buns with a little syrup to give a nice shine, before setting aside to cool on a wire rack.

Easter Nest - With Mini Eggs

I often watch videos from Sorted Food, which is a group of guys having far more fun that should be legal, whilst cooking.  One of their latest videos was for an Edible Nest, that looked so easy and would be a lovely presentation piece on a table.  So I decided I would make one too.  If you click on the link in the previous sentence you can see how they did it.  My version is pretty much the same, but I didn't employ a tractor, or even venture outdoors, for mine.

Quite simply it has chocolate, pretzels, shredded wheat and some seeds, nuts and berries, in whatever combination you might wish.   Mixed together and formed into a nest shape it is then chilled to firm up and mini eggs are placed in the middle.

Really, nothing could be simpler, so why not give it a try.

The guys at Sorted Food used just dark chocolate whereas I decided that a mixture of milk and dark would suit my purpose better.
Easter Nest With Mini Eggs

Easter Nest With Mini Eggs - Video

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 8 shredded wheat, weight is about 180g
  • 100g salted pretzels
  • 200g seeds, nuts, berries(I used sunfllower seeds, pine nuts and goji berries)
  • Mini eggs(I used a packet of white chocolate eggs, some shiny coloured eggs and some matt shelled eggs).
  1. Melt the two chocolates in a bain marie(double boiler), or in the microwave(be careful to watch it to ensure no burning).
  2. Split the shredded wheat in half along their length and break into shreds as long as you can.
  3. Crumble the pretzels into pieces.
  4. Add the pretzels, shredded wheat and most of the nuts, seeds and berries into large bowl and mix together.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate over the top and mix to combine everything.  There will be some parts that wont be fully coated in chocolate.  That is fine, it makes the nest more realistic.
  6. On a silicone mat, or some greased foil, use about 70% of the mixture to form a large, flat, base for the nest.
  7. Use the remaining mixture in a ring on top of the base, leaving the hole in the middle, for the eggs.
  8. Sprinkle the remaining seeds, nuts and berries over the top, pressing down slightly to make contact with wet chocolate.
  9. Place the nest in the fridge for at least an hour to chill and firm up.
  10. Remove from the fridge and fill the nest with mini eggs.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Chocolate Hazelnut Brioche Flower

I saw a recipe for a Brioche Flower that was quite impressive, so I took a look around and found several recipes and videos, all on a similar theme.  The all use Nutella, which is something I had never even tasted.  But I was intrigued, so I bought a jar and had a little taste and was immediately somewhat smitten.

So I decided that I would have to try my hand at the brioche flower.  I have made brioche before, though in a more long winded way, proving the dough overnight etc.  But for this I decided to do it in a quicker fashion, just proving for an hour and then again for 35 minutes later on.  

The recipe isn't difficult, but it does take a while and is a little fiddly to put everything together.  However the end result is certainly worth all the effort.  It looks like a flower, at least to me, and the aroma both when baking and as it cooled down was simply wonderful.  I could hardly stop myself from tearing into it before I even had a chance to take a photo, or to finish making the video.

But my British stiff upper lip held firm and I waited the requisite time before tasting it.  I have to say it really was a delicious treat. Such an good tear and share bread that goes so well with a nice cup of tea, or even coffee( though I cannot attest to that since I don't drink it).

If you have some time to spare and want to make something to impress family and friends this is one recipe that is sure to fit the bill and it will turn out so well.
Chocolate Hazelnut Brioche Flower

                       Chocolate Hazelnut Brioche Flower - Video
  • 600g strong white bread flour
  • 7g dried active yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 120ml lukewarm milk
  • 200g softened butter, in cubes
  • 1 400g jar of nutella( or other chocolate hazelnut spread)
  • flour for dusting
  • one egg for eggwash
  1. Place half the sugar into the milk and add the yeast.  Set aside for a few minute to let it ferment.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer(you can do it all by hand if you wish) place the flour, salt and remaining sugar.
  3. Mix to combine the ingredients.
  4. Add the eggs and beat with the dough hook until combining nicely.
  5. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl and continue to mix for 3 to 4 minutes until it has all come together.
  6. Add the butter and beat again, on medium speed, until the dough is fully formed and is slightly tacky to the touch.
  7. Now cover the dough and allow it to prove for an hour, until it has doubled in size. You can do this in a greased bowl if you wish or leave it in the mixer bowl.
  8. Place the jar of Nutella into a bowl of hot water, to allow it to soften and be easier to spread.
  9. When the dough has doubled in size flour the work surface and remove the dough from the bowl and knock the air out of it.
  10. Form the dough into a ball and cut it into four equal pieces.
  11. Take the first piece of dough and roll it out into a circle, just larger than a dinner plate.
  12. Place an upturned plate on to it and press slightly to make a circle.
  13. Spread nutella onto the dough, keeping it within the circle.
  14. Set aside on a parchment lined baking sheet, ready to have further layers placed on top.
  15. Roll out the remaining piece of dough in the same way and spread Nutella on to two of them.
  16. Place the nutella coated layers on top of the first one and then top with the remaining layer of dough.
  17. Take an upturned plate and place it onto the dough layer, then cut around it to remove excess dough.
  18. Take an upturned glass and place it in the middle of the dough.
  19. With a knife cut from the glass outwards to divide into 16 equal sized segments
  20. With your right hand take hold of one segment of dough and then do the same with the segment to the left, with your other hand.  
  21. Twist outwards with both segments, twice.
  22. Then twist again, pushing the ends together and ensure they stay together.
  23. Repeat the process with the remaining 14 segments.
  24. Now you have your flour shape.
  25. If you wish you can poke a toothpick into the join of each pair of segments to hold them together.
  26. Cover the dough with a towel and allow to prove again for another 30-45 minutes.
  27. While the dough is proving preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F.
  28. Whisk the egg and use a brush to gently brush it over the dough.
  29. When the dough has proved place it in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until it has turned a nice golden colour and is fully baked.
  30. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Coconut Cupcakes

I love coconut and cupcakes are a favourite too, so the two together seemed like a natural combination.  I had some coconut milk left over from a previous recipe, that I needed to use.  So that formed the basis for the recipe.

A nice light sponge is what sets a cupcake apart, so I needed that too, but I wanted to ensure a coconut flavour and couldn't find any coconut extract, so I used a combination of home made cake flour and coconut flour.  

I also had some square cases, so rather than use my muffin tin with paper liners I decided to use the square card ones.  They hold more batter, I think, than a muffin case so I got 9 cakes from the recipe, but with a muffin tin I would expect to get 12.

This is a fairly simple recipe and the batter, as it cooks, gives off a lovely coconut aroma.  They don't take long to bake, about 25 minutes, and the result is a lovely light cake.

To finish them off, after they have fully cooled they need to be topped with a coconut milk and cream cheese buttercream, and then sprinkled with some sweetened coconut.

In the UK buying shredded coconut and sweetened coconut is very difficult, so I used dessicated, and sweetened it myself.  Basically 60g of dessicated coconut mixed with a teaspoon of icing sugar, a teaspoon of water and three quarters of a teaspoon of flavourless oil, and then left so that the moisture is absorbed into the coconut gives the ideal sweet topping.

So all in all I am very pleased with how these cupcakes have turned out.  The cupcake has a wonderfully light texture, with the lovely coconut flavour.  Then the moist creaminess of the buttercream topping and the sweet crunch of the sprinkled coconut. They are very easy to eat and I could easily consume several in a day.
Coconut Cupcakes

Coconut Cupcakes - Video

For the batter:
  • 113g softened unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs(large in USA)
  • 170g cake flour(plain flour is ok)
  • 20g coconut flour(this is finely ground coconut flesh, if you dont' have any you can put dessicated coconut in process to grind it down.
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the topping:
  • 112 cream cheese
  • 56g softened unsalted butter
  • 15ml coconut milk
  • 128g icing sugar
  • sweetened coconut to sprinkle on top.
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F
  2. Line a muffin pan with paper liners( I used cardboard cases without a muffin tin)
  3. Cream the butter and the sugar together, by hand or in a mixer.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs, one at a time, and continue mixing until fully combined.
  5. Mix the flour, coconut flour, baking powder and salt together.
  6. Add one third of those ingredients to the butter mixture and beat to combine.
  7. Add half the coconut milk and beat to combine.
  8. Add another one third of the flour and beat to combine.
  9. Add the second half of the coconut milk and beat to combine.
  10. Add the remaining flour and beat until fully incorporated.
  11. Pour the batter into the paper liners, until about 2 thirds full.
  12. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch, and a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  13. Place on a cooling rack and allow the cakes to cool completely
  14. For the topping place the icing sugar, cream cheese, softened butter and coconut milk into a bowl and whisk to combine completely.
  15. Spoon over the top of the cupcakes and spread out evenly.
  16. Sprinkle sweetened coconut on top of the buttercream topping.
  17. Refrigerate to let the buttercream firm up a little before serving.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

I saw a recipe for something I had never considers, a chocolate avocado mousse.  So that set me off checking on the internet for further recipes for such mousse.  There were a number of recipes that I checked, and all were very similar.  I came up with mine based on most of those.

It is very simple, and easy to make, and requires no baking.  In fact it can be made in about 15 minutes from start to finish and results in a rich chocolate mousse, with the mellow background flavour of avocado.

I recommend this to anyone who would like to try a different way of making mousse.

Mine turned out very well, it tastes delicious and is great with some fresh raspberries.
Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Chocolate Avocado Mousse - Video

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk(any milk is ok)
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup(or honey, agarve, corn syrup)
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  1. Cut the avocados in half and remove the flesh(I got 220g of flesh).
  2. Place the flesh into a food processor.
  3. Add all the other ingredients.
  4. Blitz until all are combined into a smooth paste.
  5. Divide into to ramekins dishes, or similar, and chill in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Abbey Crunch Biscuits/Cookies - Once More

Years ago McVitie's used to have a wonderful biscuit called Abbey Crunch.  They don't seem to make it any more, and it is such a shame.  They tasted so good, with a crunchy at texture and a lovely flavour of golden syrup.  I made them a while back and still get quite a few hits on the recipe.  So I know that there are good few people out there searching for how to make them.

So I decided to make another batch, and this time to do it on video so that people can see just how easy it is to make such a great biscuit.  I also made these when I was in Canada last summer and they went down very well indeed.

It only takes a few minutes to assemble the ingredients and then to mix them altogether to come up with the dough you need.  So why not give these a try, I know you will not be disappointed.  In fact I think you will be making them regularly from now on.

If you cant get golden syrup you can always use corn syrup, though the flavour will be a little different.  You can also make golden syrup very easily.  There is a very simple recipe for it here.

Abbey Crunch Biscuits

                                     Abbey Crunch Biscuits - Video
  • 140g Butter
  • 140g Caster Sugar
  • 140g Self raising flour
  • 112g Rolled oats
  • 15 ml Milk
  • 10 ml Golden Syrup
  • 1tsp Baking Soda
  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Mix in the milkand syrup.
  3. Mix the flour, baking soda and oats together and then stir into the butter mixture
  4. Roll into about 24 small balls and put on greased baking tray
  5. Cook for 25 mins on 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2 until golden brown in colour.
  6. They may dome slightly during baking, so half way through you can just tap them down a little with a spatula to flatten the top (or you can do the same once you have taken them out of the oven).
  7. Allow to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack until fully cooled and hardened.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Chocolate & Raspberry Friands

Having recently discovered friands and made some with lemons and blueberries, which were very well received, I decided to try a variation on the recipe to include chocolate.  Thus I came u p with Chocolate and Raspberry Friands.

Heavy on almonds, these lovely cakes taste great, with the chocolate flavour and the hit of sharpness that raspberries give.

Friands are usually oval in shape, made in a special tin,  but they can equally well be baked in a muffin tin so it isn't necessary to spend money on a special tin.  In fact they are not that easy to find, so muffin tins works very well.

My little experiment with the flavors worked very well indeed, so I am extremely pleased with the results.

Do try this recipe, I am sure that you won't be disappointed.
Chocolate & Raspberry Friands

Chocolate & Raspberry Friands - Video

  • 185g melted and cooled butter
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 20g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 6 medium(USA large) egg whites
  • 200g raspberries(fresh or frozen is fine)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F.
  2. Grease a twelve hole friand or uffin pan.
  3. Sift the icing sugar, cocoa powder and the flour into a large bowl.
  4. Add the ground almonds and stir in to combine.
  5. Whisk the egg whites until they are light and frothy but have not reached soft peaks.
  6. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg whites. 
  7. Mix until combined into a batter.
  8. Pour the melted butter over the top, then mix it in until it it fully combined.
  9. Divide half of the mixture equally into the 12 cups of the pan.
  10. Drop2 or 3 raspberries to each cup.
  11. Divide the remaining batter over the raspberries.
  12. Drop 2 more raspberries onto the top of the batter.
  13. Bake in the oven for 20 to 22 minutes until the friands are springy when the tops are pressed.
  14. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then gently remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Roasted Ground Oatmeal Muffins - with Crunchy Orange Topping

My sister Margaret, known in some quarters as Lala, sent me a link to a video from America's Test Kitchen where they made some oatmeal muffins.  To do this they used old fashioned rolled oats and toasted them in a pan  and then ground them in a processor.  This is different to other oat muffins that I have made so I thought I would give them a try.  

Getting the recipe wasn't entirely straightforward, since I had to register with ATK, but then I had the recipes.  The only changes I made were to convert from cups/ounces, to metric weights and to replace the cinnamon for the topping with orange zest.  I have been using a lot of cinnamon lately so I decided to ring the changes.

As the muffins were baking I tasted the remainder of the topping and it was delicous, so I know my substitution will be fine.

The process is a little long winded, as most muffins are very quick to make, but with these the batter has to rest a while for the moist to be absorbed by the ground oats.  Other than that it takes no time at all.

The resultant muffins are wonderful, they rose well in teh oven and have a lovely crunchy orange flavoured topping with oats and nuts and the inside is the wonderful moist muffin texture flavoured with the nutty flavour of the toasted oats.

I highly recommend this recipe as one to try as soon as possible.  I am sure you will love it.
Roasted Oatmeal Muffins with Crunchy Orange Topping

     Roasted Oatmeal Muffins with Crunchy Orange Topping - Video
for the muffins:
  • 250g plain flour
  • 170 old fashioned rolled oats
  • 165g light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 90ml melted butter, unsalted
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 2 medium eggs(US large) beaten
  • 420ml milk
for the topping:
  • 45g old fashioned rolled oats
  • 48g plain flour
  • 40g chopped pecans
  • 65g light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 60g melted butter
  • zest of one orange
  1. Grease and flour 12-cup muffin tin. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add oats and cook, stirring frequently, until oats turn golden brown and smell of cooking popcorn, 6 to 8 minutes. 
  2. Transfer oats to food processor and process into fine meal, about 30 seconds. 
  3. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to oats and pulse until combined, about 3 pulses.
  4. Stir 6 tablespoons melted butter and sugar together in large bowl until smooth. 
  5. Add milk and eggs and whisk until smooth. 
  6. Using whisk, gently fold half of oat mixture into wet ingredients, tapping whisk against side of bowl to release clumps. 
  7. Add remaining oat mixture and continue to fold with whisk until no streaks of flour remain. 
  8. Set aside batter for 20 minutes to thicken. 
  9. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 190C/170C fan/375 degrees.
  10. Combine orange zest with the sugar in a medium bowl.
  11. Add the oatoats, flour, pecans, sugar and salt. 
  12. Drizzle melted butter over mixture and stir to ­thoroughly combine; set aside.
  13. Using ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (about ½ cup batter per cup; cups will be filled to rim). 
  14. Evenly sprinkle topping over muffins (about 2 tablespoons per muffin). 
  15. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 18 to 25 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking.
  16. Let muffins cool in muffin tin on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove muffins from muffin tin and serve or let cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Honey Oat Bread

I checked out a number of recipes for Honey Oat Bread and I did try one that didn't need much time to prove the dough, as it used easy bake/instant yeast.  That loaf was very tasty indeed, but it didn't rise as much as I would have liked.  So I decided I needed to have another go, with a different recipe. I found just what I was looking for on Laurainthekitchen, so I decided I must give it a try.  Laura Vitale also has a video on her site on how to make the loaf.

Now this is a bread that doesn't have many ingredients, flour, oats, hoeny, and yeast being the main ones.  I made an error in my recipe, leaving out the salt but for me that was just fine.  It was unintentional, but I cant say I found the omission to be too bad.

I converted the ingredients to the metric measurements that I am more used to.

It takes a while to make the bread, just because of the time the dough has to prove, but it is most rewarding when you take the baked loaf out of the oven, to that amazing baked bread aroma.  Mine, which I baked using the fan in the oven, flattened out a little during baking.  Maybe if I hadn't used the fan and used 180C it would have retained the slight curve on the top.  But when I buy bread in the supermarket I often find a slight dip in the top so I am not overly concerned.

After letting it cool I cut into the bread and found a beautifully baked loaf that tastes just wonderful.

Honey Oat Bread


                                      Honey Oat Bread - Video
  • 7g dried active yeast
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 60ml of honey
  • 45ml of unsalted butter, melted
  • 320ml of warm water 
  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 35g skimmed milk powder
  • 2 tbps honey, warmed up a bit so it’s runny
  • 2 or 3 tbsp oats
  1. In a small bowl, add the water, honey and yeast. Let it sit for a few minutes until the yeast is activated.
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a dough hook attachment, add flour, milk powder, oats, salt and the yeast milk mixture.
  3. Knead the dough for just a few minutes or until it comes together. 
  4. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and continue to knead until the dough is nice and smooth.
  5. Lightly grease a large bowl, place the dough in the greased bowl, brush the top with a little oil and cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Place in a warm draft free spot and let it rise for about an hour and a half to two hours or until doubled in size.
  7. Grease a 9x5” loaf pan with some vegetable oil and set aside.
  8. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead it for a minute just to pull it together. Form it into a loaf, place it in the greased loaf pan (seam side down) cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise for another hour or so or until doubled once more.
  9.  Preheat your oven to 180C/160F Fan/350F degrees, brush the top of the bread with the warmed honey and sprinkle the oats all over the top. Bake your bread for about 40 minutes or so or until lightly golden brown. If you see the bread turning brown too quickly, tent it with a little foil to stop it from getting too dark. Allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.