Sunday, 26 February 2017

Eccles Cakes

Eccles Cakes are named after a town in Lancashire, England.  They are made with a flaky pastry, though some people use puff pastry, and have a spicy currant and chopped peel filling.  I really like Eccles Cakes, and especially the lovely flaky pastry.  I make mine with all butter, using a recipe from BBC Good Food, though varying the technique slightly.

The recipe above says it will make 8 but, depending on size, you can get more than that. Instead of cutting my pastry to 12cm circles I used a 10cm (4 inch) cookie cutter.  That allowed me to actually make 18 Eccles cakes, of a reasonable size.

As I had cut out smaller rounds than recommended in the recipe, I kept an eye on them as they baked in case i needed to remove them sooner than suggested for the larger ones, but 20 minutes was an ideal time for them to colour nicely and to cook the pastry right through.

They taste great, the lovely buttery and flaky pastry and the rich, fruity filling are ideal to be eaten whilst still warm.  But they are also great when completely cooled down.  They are not overly sweet either, since there is no sugar in the pastry, just in the filling.  I just love them and can hardly stop eating them.

Eccles Cakes
Eccles Cakes - Video
For the pastry
  • 250g block cold butter, cut in cubes and placed in the freezer to go very hard
  • 350g plain flour
  • juice ½ lemon
  • 100ml iced water
For the filling
  • 25g butter
  • 200g currants
  • 50g mixed chopped peel
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger and ground allspice
  • zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  •  3tbsp of orange juice
To glaze
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp preserving sugar, or granulated sugar if you don't have preserving sugar
  1. Melt the 25g of butter in a saucepan.
  2. In a bowl mix the currants and chopped peel together.
  3. Add the spices and the muscovado sugar and mix again.
  4. Add the lemon and orange zest, and the orange juice and mix again.
  5. Pour in the melted butter and mix for a final time until all is combined.  Then set aside until needed.
  6. Tip flour into the bowl of a food processor with half the butter and pulse to the texture of breadcrumbs. 
  7. Pour in the lemon juice and 100ml iced water, and pulse to a dough. 
  8. Tip in the rest of the butter and pulse a few times until the dough is heavily flecked with butter. It is important that you don’t overdo this as the flecks of butter are what makes the pastry flaky.
  9. On a floured surface roll the pastry out to a neat rectangle about 20 x 30cm. 
  10. Fold the two ends of the pastry into the middle , then fold in half . 
  11. Roll the pastry out again and refold the same way 3 more times resting the pastry for at least 15 mins each time between roll and fold, then leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 mins before using.
  12. Heat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/425F and line one or two baking trays with parchment paper.
  13. To make the cakes, roll the pastry out until it’s just a little thicker than a £1 coin and cut out rounds about 12cm across, use a smaller cutter if you dont want large ones, I used at 10cm cookie cutter. 
  14. Re-roll the trimming if needed, and cut out again.
  15. Place a good heaped tablespoon of mixture in the middle of each round.
  16. Brush the edges of the rounds with water, then gather the pastry around the filling and squeeze it together . 
  17. Flip them over so the smooth top is upwards and pat them into a smooth round. Flatten each round with a rolling pin to an oval until the fruit just starts to poke through, then place on a baking tray. 
  18. Cut 2 little slits in each Eccles cake and brush generously with egg white and sprinkle with the sugar .
  19. Bake the Eccles cakes for 15-20 mins until  golden brown and sticky. 
  20. Leave to cool on a rack and enjoy while still warm or cold with a cup of tea. If you prefer, Eccles cakes also go really well served with a wedge of hard, tangy British cheese such as Lancashire or cheddar.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Cherry, Lemon & Coconut Muffins

I saw a lovely recipe on My Favourite Pastime for a muffin with glace cherries, lemon and coconut.  They looked great and I love all those ingredients, so I decided I should make them and see how they turn out.

Muffins are so easy to make, just mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ingredients in another and then mix them together and that is it.

With these those there is the addition of a lemon syrup to be brushed over the tops when the muffins come out of the oven, while they are still warm.

Depending on the size of muffins made this recipe will make between 12 and 18.  I used rather large papers to line the muffin tin, so I got 12 there and with the left over batter I filled too cardboard cups to make a couple of even larger ones.

If using the usual muffin papers and filling to two thirds full you will easily get 18.

I am very pleased with how mine turned out.  As they baked I noticed that the cherry on top, of some, had been swallowed up by the batter, so I quickly placed another half cherry on those.

I must say they look very good and taste great too, with the lemon flavour from the zest and syrup and then coconut and cherry too.  What could be nicer?
Cherry Lemon & Coconut Muffins

Cherry, Lemon & Coconut Muffins - Video

  • 375g plain flour
  • 12g/1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2g/1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 400ml plain yoghurt
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 medium eggs(large in USA)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • 200g glace cherries, halved
  • 50g extra sugar
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F
  2. Line a muffin tin with paper cases
  3. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, caster sugar and coconut together.
  4. Make a well in the centre and set aside.
  5. In another bowl mix the yoghurt, eggs, butter and lemon zest until all combined.
  6. Add the halved cherries, keeping some aside to pop on top,  and mix until combined.
  7. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  8. Spoon the batter into the paper cases.  If 2 thirds full you should get about 18.  More mixture in each case will mean fewer muffins.
  9. Place half a cherry on top of each one.
  10. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the muffins have risen and a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean.
  11. Place the lemon juice and sugar into a saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  12. Let the syrup boil for a minute or two and remove from the heat.
  13. Place on a wire rack, over a baking tray.
  14. Remove the muffins from the oven and place on the wire rack.
  15. Whilst they are still hot/warm brush the lemon syrup over the top.
  16. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Bread Cones

Somebody suggested that I might like to make some bread cones.  I hadn't really thought about it until then, but set about looking to see some.  I watched a few videos and decided that they would be quite simple to make and a novel way to eat lunch.

As ever, with bread, the recipe takes a little time, but not too much effort, if you have a stand mixer.  The result is a very pleasing bread, in the shape of cones that you can fill with sweet or savory fillings of choice.

To create cones I used two sheets of A4 paper, rolled into a cone and then covered with aluminium foil.  I had to make 8 and found it quite easy, once I had the method sorted out.  The important thing was to roll the paper into the foil in such a way that the foil could be tucked into the top to ensure no loose edges.

I was very pleased with how the bread and the cones turned out, so a total success, in my opinion.

Bread Cones

Bread Cones - Video
  • 500g strong white flour( plain flour would be fine)
  • 8g dry active yeast (a 7g sachet is ok, just prove for a little longer)
  • 2 medium eggs(large in USA)
  • 60g butter, just about melted
  • 22g caster sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 220ml lukewarm milk
  • 1 egg for egg wash
  • sesame seed for sprinkling over the top
  1. Put a teaspoon of sugar into the milk and then add the dry active yeast and give it a stir.
  2. Leave the mixture to stand for 5 minutes, so the yeast starts to activate and become frothy.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer(you could do this all by hand, but it is more work) place the flour, salt and sugar.
  4. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs and the milk mixture.
  5. Beat, with the dough hook attached, until the mixture is combined.
  6. Add the melted butter and beat for 7 or 8 minutes until you have a soft, smooth and slightly sticky dough.
  7. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and form the dough into a ball.
  8. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover.
  9. Leave to prove for 1 hour, so that it doubles in size.
  10. While the dough is rising make the 8 cones.  Take two sheets of A4 paper and create a cone, starting at almost half way down the long side.
  11. Take a sheet of aluminium foil, slightly larger than the A4 paper.  As per my video, below, roll the cone into the foil and tuck in at the top, so you still have the cone shape, now covered.
  12. After 1 hour turn the dough out and knock back, to release the air.
  13. Cut into 8 roughly equal pieces and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
  14. Roll each piece into a length of about 30 inches.
  15. Then roll each length around the outside of a cone, pressing the end of the dough into the rest to keep it in place.
  16. Place the cones, with the pressed end downwards, onto a baking tray.  I got 4 on each tray.
  17. Leave to rest for 20 minutes, covered with a tea towel, while you preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F
  18. Brush each bread cone with beaten egg and sprinkle sesame seeds(or anything you like).
  19. Bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes until they are a nice shiny, golden colour.
  20. Remove from the oven and withdraw the cones from the middles and place the bread cones on a wire rack to cool completely.
  21. Fill with whatever filling you choose.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Almond & Coconut Cake

I am an avid viewer of very many Youtube channels, amongst them is Home Cooking Adventure and I saw a recipe on there for this recipe.  An Almond cake with a wonderful coconut and mascarpone cheese with double cream, white chocolate and coconut.  I then did a search for similar recipes and found quite a few of them.  But I came back to the one on Home Cooking Adventures as it looked so good.  

I made a couple of changes to the recipe, such as not using coconut milk to spread on the layers, rather I decided to spread a little raspberry jam, as I thought it would give just a hint of sharpness to a sweet cake.

I also didn't use any coconut extract, but that was simply because I found it impossible to find such a thing, at least in my local supermarkets.

My cake turned out very well, nice and light and it rose well.  

The important thing was to make sure that the cake was cooled completely before trying to cut it into three layers.

The frosting is very rich indeed, but it is very tasty.  In fact the entire cake is, at least to my mind, a triumph.  So I am very pleased indeed.

It does take a while to make, as there are many steps, but all the effort is worth it, as you will find out if you try it yourselves.

Almond & Coconut Cake

Almond & Coconut Cake - Video

For the cake:
  • 6 medium(large in USA) eggs, room temperature, separated in to yolks and whites)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g sugar
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp (5g) almond extract
For the frosting:
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 45g canned coconut milk
  • 250g Mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 500g double creaam
  • 30g powdered sugar
  • 40g unsweetened dessicated coconut
For assembly and topping:
  • 2 tbsp of raspberry jam( I used seedless)
  • chopped almonds - to sprinkle of top (optional)
  • dessicated to cover the frosting.
  • Rafaello white chocolate truffles (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 170C/150C Fan/340F Grease and line bottom and sides of a 9 inch (23cm) pan with parchment paper. 
  2. Separate egg whites from yolks. Add a pinch of salt over the whites and start mixing until foamy. 
  3. Gradually add sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. 
  4. In a small bowl mix egg yolks with almond extract and fold them into the whipped whites. 
  5. Mix the ground almonds and the flour together and gradually(in three parts) fold into the egg mixture.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. 
  7. Bake for 40-45 minutes until lightly golden. 
  8. Rmove from the oven and let it cool for about 10-15 minutes. 
  9. Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack. 
  10. Meanwhile prepare the frosting. Place chocolate and coconut milk in a heatproof bowl and let it melt over a pan with simmering water.  Then allow to cool but not enough to set.
  11. In a large bowl mix Mascarpone cheese until smooth. Add melted chocolate and mix until combined. 
  12. In another large bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Incorporate powdered sugar and dessicated coconut during mixting.
  13. Gradually incorporate whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture. 
  14. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 
  15. Divide the sponge cake in 3 layers. Place one cake layer on your serving plate. 
  16. Spread half of the jam over the cake layer, leaving a gap all around the edge.
  17. Spread evenly with a bit less than a third of frosting. 
  18. Repeat, with the second layer of cake. 
  19. Add the third layer of cake and spread the remaining frosting on top and sides of the cake.
  20. Sprinkle dessicated coconut on the top and sides of the cake and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  21. Decorate as desired, I’ve used Raffaello truffles, and chopped almonds.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Garlic & Thyme Bread

I have an Aerogarden hyrdoponic garden and am growing salad leaves and some herbs in it.  One of the herbs is Thyme which is flourishing so I needed to find a recipe to use some of the leaves.  I came across this recipe for Garlic and Thyme Bread on Goodfood and it is very simple to make.  I have already made it once, so I know that it turns out well and tastes great.

I have varied the recipe slightly, in the amount of thyme used.  The recipe on Goodfood says a 'bunch' of thyme.  I think time has a very strong flavour and 'bunch' is a rather imprecise measure.  So I chopped enough leaves to make a tablespoon full.  That was easily enough to impart a great flavour into the bread.  But, of course, using more would be fine for those wanting a stronger flavour.

The recipe can be done entirely by hand, which is probably best as this is only a small loaf, and doesn't take too much time, apart from the 2 hours of resting/proving time.

The result is a very pleasing bread that is ideal, buttered, with soup.  It would also work well made into rolls I am sure, but I stuck with the loaf format.
Garlic & Thyme Bread
Garlic & Thyme Bread Video
  • 250 g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 150 ml warm water
  • 1 tsp (4 grams)dry active yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch thyme, chopped ( chopped mine and used 1 tbsp)
  1. Put the flour into a mixing bowl and mix in the salt, then make a well in the centre. 
  2. Dissolve the dried yeast in the warm water and add the sugar and leave for 5 minutes. 
  3. Pour the water and yeast into the well,
  4. With a wooden spoon, start mixing the flour with the yeasted water, gathering the flour in from the sides, working outwards and make a firm dough. 
  5. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 8 minutes. 
  6. Flatten the dough into a circle and add the chopped garlic and thyme. 
  7. Fold the dough over and then knead for a further 2 minutes until the garlic and thyme are mixed through. 
  8. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove for 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. 
  9. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/gas 7/430F, and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  10. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes and shape into an oval loaf. 
  11. Make 2.5cm slashes in the dough with a very sharp knife and leave to stand for 10 minutes. 
  12. Dust with flour and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes. The bread is ready when you knock the bottom and it sounds hollow.
  13. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Chocolate Marshmallow Teacakes.

Chocolate Marshmallow Teacakes are a firm favourite in the UK.  They are readily available in all supermarkets.  Basically a chocolate marshmallow teacake  is a shortbread type biscuit with a dome of a marshmallow type meringue and then covered in chocolate, either dark or milk.  The usual size is big enough for two or three bites.  For mine they will be larger, as I am using a recipe from BBC Food.  This calls for silicone moulds 3 inches in diameter, but the only one I could find was 2.5 inches in diameter, so I had to adapt things a little.

I did make them the other day as a trial and they turned out well, but the process turned rather messy.  So for the video I changed things slightly.  One thing was that the biscuits may shrink in baking, so making a biscuit the same diameter as the moulds may mean they will be slightly too small  In today's effort I actually cut out biscuits that were 3 inches in diameter, and then halfway through baking them I took them out and used a 2.5 cookie cutter to reduce the size.  That worked well, so I had exactly the right size.

The other change I made was that instead of putting the biscuits in the melted chocolate and coating them all over I actually placed them on a wire rack and coated the top and sides and let them harden, then I turned them over and spread melted chocolate on the bottoms.  That worked well too, and was less messy than previously.

The eventual outcome was very pleasing, with the sweetness of the marshmallow, the texture of the biscuit and the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate all working together to give a wonderful treat.
Chocolate Marshmallow Teacakes

Chocolate Marshmallow Teacakes - Video
  • 400g/14oz dark chocolate with around 40% cocoa solids
  • 50g/1¾oz wholemeal flour
  • 50g/1¾oz plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 25g/1oz caster sugar
  • 25g/1oz butter
  • 2 tbsp milk
For the marshmallow:
  • 3 free-range eggs, whites only
  • 150g/5½oz caster sugar
  • 6 tsp golden syrup
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ vanilla pod, seeds only
  1. Melt 300g/10½oz of the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a simmering pan of water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Melting the chocolate over a soft heat stops the chocolate from discolouring later on. 
  2. Leave aside to cool slightly - you can’t line the moulds if the chocolate is too runny.
  3. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
  4. To make the biscuits, put the flours, salt, baking powder and caster sugar into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips. 
  5. Add the milk, 1 tbsp at a time and stir everything together to form a smooth ball. (you may not need the 2nd tablespoon of milk).
  6. On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 5mm/¼in thick. 
  7. Cut out six rounds with a 7.5cm/3in straight sided round cutter.
  8. Place the rounds on a flat plate or board and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  9. Make sure the biscuits are perfectly round and well chilled, otherwise they might spread or shrink when baked.
  10. Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes. They do need to be hard, not soft as they form the base of the teacake. If your moulds are smaller than 3 inches then half way thru baking cut the biscuits down to size using a smaller cookie cutter.
  11. Remove the biscuits from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
  12. Coat the inside of the moulds with the melted chocolate. The thickness of the chocolate should be enough to make them sturdy but not too thick. This is best done with a spoon, using the back to run the chocolate around the moulds. If the chocolate is too runny it will mean that the top of the dome is too thick and the side too thin.
  13. Set aside to set. Do not put the domes in the fridge as the chocolate will lose its shine.
  14. Meanwhile dip the cooled biscuits in the remaining melted chocolate, covering them completely (you may need to melt more chocolate). You can either dip the biscuits in the chocolate or spread the chocolate onto the biscuits with a palette knife. Place the coated biscuits onto parchment paper.
  15. For the marshmallow, place all of the ingredients in a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water), and whisk with an electric hand whisk for 6-8 minutes, making sure it is smooth, silky and doubled in volume. Make sure it is very stiff, the consistency of whipped cream, so it will hold when piped - you don’t want it runny.
  16. Spoon the marshmallow mixture into a piping bag.
  17. Melt the remaining chocolate, and place into a disposable piping bag with a sealed end. Set aside to cool and stiffen up a bit, but not harden.
  18. Peel the biscuits off the parchment and place them onto clean parchment, flat side down.
  19. Pipe the marshmallow into each chocolate-lined mould just up to the top.
  20. Snip a 2cm/¾in end off the piping bag with the chocolate in it.
  21. Carefully pipe some chocolate on the marshmallow and a rim of chocolate around the biscuit base and swiftly place the biscuit on top of the marshmallow filled dome. Smooth the join with a knife.
  22. Leave the teacakes to set until completely cool and sealed together.
  23. Very carefully remove the completed teacakes from the mould – be careful of fingerprints on the glossy dome.
  24. Place on a plate and keep cool – but do not refrigerate, to make sure the chocolate keeps its glossy shine.