Sunday, 29 January 2017

Mini Carrot Cakes

I love carrot cake, as it is moist, sweet and with a taste of cinnamon too.  I came across a recipe on Tesco Realfood for a mini version, and only 6 of them which is ideal for me, but doubling up the recipe would make 12 for those who need more.

The recipe is very easy and uses margarine, though oil could be substituted I think. In fact I used low fat spread instead of margarine and it worked very well.  

The recipe also uses sultanas but any dried fruit would be a reasonable substitute for those who are not keen on sultanas.

Everything is easily mixed together, so these take very little time to make and only 20 minutes to bake.  So in less than an hour you can be eating them fresh from the oven.

You could also top them with some frosting, buttercream or cream cheese frosting, for instance, but I like them just as they are.
Mini Carrot Cakes
Mini Carrot Cakes - Video
Ingredients:
  • 125g (4oz) carrots
  • 100g (3½oz) sugar
  • 75g (3oz) margarine
  • 100g (3½oz) plain flour
  • 5ml (½ fl oz) cinnamon
  • 5ml (½ fl oz) baking powder
  • 1 large egg(xl in USA)
  • 60g (2oz) sultanas
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180F/400F
  2. Line a 6 hole muffin tin with paper cases
  3. Peel and grate the carrots into a bowl.
  4. Add the sugar and margarine and mix all the ingredients together. 
  5. Sift the flour into the bowl, along with the baking powder and the cinnamon.
  6. Crack the egg into a bowl and beat it before adding it to the cake mixture.
  7. Add the sultanas and stir again. 
  8. Divide the mixture equally between the cupcake cases using two metal spoons. 
  9. Place the carrot cakes into the oven to bake for 15 to 20 minutes until they’re golden and piping hot throughout, a skewer poked into the middle should come out clean, and when pressed on top the cakes spring back  (mine took 20 minutes).
  10. Remove from the oven and from the muffin tin, onto a wire rack to cool.




Saturday, 21 January 2017

Owl Butter Cookies

I found a lovely recipe on etsy blog bt Heather Baird.  She used this a little gifts for people to take away after Thanksgiving dinner.  They looked so cute and I thought they would be something that children would enjoy helping to make.  I decided that I would give them a try too.

They are a simple butter cookie but decorated to look like owls.  So really the recipe itself is quite simple and it just takes a while to cut out and make the owl face.

I copied the recipe precisely, except that I converted to metric weights as that is how I preferred to work.

Mine turned out quite well, if not as professional looking as those done in the original recipe.  They also taste wonderful, so are well worth trying.
Owl Butter Cookies


Owl Butter Cookies - Video

Ingredients:
  • 227g softened butter(I used slightly salted but if not add a pinch of salt to the flour)
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 385g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 medium egg(large in USA)
  • 30 blanched almonds quartered length ways(or 120 slivered almonds)
  • 20 whole almonds with skins on
  • 40 dark chocolate chips
  • cocoa powder for dusting the wings.
Method:
  1. In a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar until combined(dont over mix)
  2. Add the egg, vanilla extract and almond extract and mix until combined.
  3. Add the flour(with salt if using) and mix on slow until it clumps together.
  4. Remove from the mixer, onto parchment paper.
  5. Remove about 150 grams of the dough and set aside.
  6. Shape the remaining dough into an oblong and place more parchment paper on top.
  7. Roll out into an oblong and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
  8. Meanwhile roll the remaining set aside dough into 40 small balls, this is for the owl eyes.
  9. Refrigerate the balls too.
  10. After an hour roll the main dough again, to make it just a bit more than 1/4 inch thick.
  11. Cut out the cookies, using a 3 inch diameter cookie cutter and transfer carefully to a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  12. One each cookie place two balls close together to be the eyes.
  13. Press a chocolate chip, pointed side down, into each ball.
  14. Place a whole almond  just below the eyes to make a beak.
  15. Using the cookie cutter again gently make a wing on each side of the cookie(don't cut all the way through the dough).
  16. Use a blunt edge to press line in a criss cross pattern in each of the wings.
  17. Using a small pastry brush dust some cocoa powder onto the wings to give definition.
  18. Use 6 slivered almonds in groups of three to make the owl feet.
  19. Refrigerate the cookies for a further 30 minutes, to help prevent them from spreading.
  20. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F.
  21. Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until the slivered almonds are beginning to go a golden colour.
  22. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cook on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Friday, 20 January 2017

Rosette/Kaiser Bread Rolls

Today I decided to make some bread rolls.  I have bought a few items from an Italian company, including a cutter with a rosette pattern, similar to a Kaiser Roll cutter.  So, having eaten Kaiser rolls for years when I was in Prague I decided to make those, albeit with my rosette cutter.  I also decided that I should make some manually, knotting the dough, so that people can see how to do that too if they watch the video.

This roll is fairly basic, as far as ingredients are concerned, with most recipes only varying slightly.  I used strong white flour, though most recipes call for plain flour/all purpose flour.  Either is fine, the strong white just has slightly more gluten.

Having made the dough it was just a question of rolling into balls and using the cutter to make the pattern.  Then with a couple of the balls rolling them into sausages and knotting them to make the kaiser roll shape.

I topped mine with sesame seeds, though they can be left plain or have any number of things, such as salt or poppy seeds added.
Kaiser(left) and Rosette Rolls

Kaiser and Rosette Rolls - Video
Ingredients:
  • 500g strong white flour(plain is fine)
  • 300ml water, warm but not hot
  • 30g softened butter
  • 20g sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7g fast action dried yeast
  • beaten egg for a wash
  • sesame seeds for sprinkling
Method:
  1. Place the water, half the sugar and the yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer(doing all by hand is fine, but harder work) and leave to activate for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the butter, remaining sugar and 300g flour.
  3. Using the dough hook mix the ingredients together until combined.
  4. Mix the salt with the remaining flour and add most of it to the bowl.
  5. Mix again on medium until the dough becomes smooth and slightly tacky.
  6. Only add more flour to achieve that texture.  When the dough comes away from the bowl and is smooth it should be ready.
  7. Remove the dough and form into a ball.
  8. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, ensuring that the dough is turned to coat in the oil.
  9. Cover and allow to prove until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  10. Remove the dough from the bowl and knock back to remove the air.
  11. Cut into 8 equal pieces.
  12. Roll each piece into a bowl.
  13. If using a cutter, Kaiser or Rosetter, press it down on each ball, almost all the way through, but not quite.
  14. Place each roll, pattern side down, on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  15. If doing manually roll each ball into a sausage of about 12 inches/25cm and tie into a loose know, with two loose ends.  
  16. Take the end that is under the knot and pull up and over, poking it into the middle of the knot.
  17. Take the end that is on top of the knot and push underneath, poking it into the middle of the knot.
  18. Place the manual Kaiser rolls onto the baking tray.
  19. Cover with a tea towel, or plastic wrap, and allow to rise again, until doubled in size.
  20. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F.
  21. If using the roll cutter turn the rolls pattern side up.
  22. Whether using cutter or manual, brush the rolls with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  23. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rolls are a nice golden colour.
  24. Test that the rolls are done by tapping the underside and you should hear a hollow sound.
  25. Place on a wire rack to cool.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake

It was suggested to me that I might like this Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake from America's Test Kitchen.  I watched the vided and decided that I would give it a try.  It is a fairly complicated recipe, in that it has a number of different elements to it.  But certainly it promised to be wonderful, if it turned out ok.

So I decided that I would try it.  

Making the cake is quite simple.  The caramel filling is, in theory, easy enough,but it does require close attention or the caramel can easily burn during cooking.  It also needs to reach specific temperatures to make the correct consistency and flavour.  The third element is a lovely rich ganache which is also very easy to make.

The whole thing does have rather a lot of sugar in it, and for my taste was rather sweeter than I would like.  But it still tasted very good indeed.  The sweetness simply meant that I didn't eat too large a slice, which is no bad thing. 

For my attempt I converted the ingredients into metric measurements.
Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake


Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake - Video

Ingredients:
Cake:
  • 213g plain flour
  • 75g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 180ml  buttermilk
  • 120ml water
  • 60 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 medium eggs (USA large)eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Caramel Filling:
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 60ml golden syrup(or corn syrup)
  • 60ml water
  • 113g  unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Frosting:
  • 227g unsalted butter, softened
  • 90g icing/confectioners' sugar
  • 50g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 120ml golden syrup(or light corn syrup)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 170g bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt(optional)
Method:
FOR THE CAKE: 
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. 
  2. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pans. 
  3. Sift flour and cocoa into large bowl. 
  4. Whisk in sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 
  5. Whisk buttermilk, water, oil, eggs, and vanilla together in second bowl. 
  6. Whisk buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until smooth batter forms. 
  7. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and smooth tops with rubber spatula.  
  8. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 22 to 28 minutes, switching and rotating pans halfway through baking. 
  9. Let cakes cool in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and let cool completely on rack, at least 2 hours. 

FOR THE CARAMEL FILLING: 
  1. Lightly grease 8-inch square baking pan. 
  2. Combine sugar, golden syrup, and water in medium saucepan. 
  3. Bring to boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring, until mixture is amber colored, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, swirling saucepan occasionally, until dark amber, 2 to 5 minutes longer. (Caramel will register between 190C-195C/375F and 380F degrees.) 
  4. Off heat, carefully stir in a little of the cream  (mixture will bubble and steam). 
  5. Add the remaining cream, and the butter, vanilla, and salt.
  6. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until smooth and caramel reaches 115C/240F degrees, 3 to 5 minutes. 
  7. Carefully transfer caramel to prepared pan and let cool until just warm to touch (38C/100F degrees), 20 to 30 minutes. 

FOR THE FROSTING:  (I did this in a bowl with hand mixer)
  1. Process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. 
  2. Add golden syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. 
  3. Scrape down sides of bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. (Frosting can be made 3 hours in advance. For longer storage, cover and refrigerate frosting. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.) 

ASSEMBLY:
  1. Using long serrated knife, score 1 horizontal line around sides of each cake layer; then, following scored lines, cut each layer into 2 even layers. 
  2. Using rubber spatula or large spoon, transfer 1/3 of caramel to center of 1 cake layer and use small offset spatula to spread over surface, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. 
  3. Repeat with remaining caramel and 2 of remaining cake layers. (Three of your cake layers should be topped with caramel.) 
  4. 8. Line edges of cake platter with 4 strips of parchment to keep platter clean. 
  5. Place 1 caramel-covered cake layer on platter. Top with second caramel-covered layer. 
  6. Repeat with third caramel-covered layer and top with final layer. 
  7. Spread frosting evenly over sides and top of cake. Carefully remove parchment strips. 
  8. Let cake stand for at least 1 hour. (Cake can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated. 
  9. Let stand at room temperature for at least 5 hours before serving.)
  10.  Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, if using.
  11. Cut and serve.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Almond Shortbread Cookies/Bisuits

Everybody likes shortbread and this recipe is really delicious.  A crisp, light, crumbly shortbread with the added pleasure of the flavour and texture of ground almonds.

Very easy to make and even easier to eat this is one that everyone can try.

It doesn't take long either.  Mine turned out very well indeed, just as hoped, and they tasted fantastic.
Almond Shortbread Cookies

Almond Shortbread Cookies - Video
Ingredients:
  • 125g softened butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g caster sugar(I used golden caster sugar)
Method:
  1. In a bowl whisk the butter to make sure it is uniformly soft.
  2. Add the sugar and whisk again, until fully combined and the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. In a separate bowl mix the flour, cornflour and ground almonds together.
  4. Add the dry ingredietns to the butter mixture and mix in until almost combined.  The mixture will start clumping together.
  5. Use a hand to pull the mixture into one large piece.
  6. Form a disc with the dough and warp in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 160c/140c Fan325F
  8. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
  9. Flour the work surface and a rolling pin.
  10. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out to a thickness between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.
  11. Use a cookie cutter, about 2 inches in diameter, to cut out shapes from the dough.
  12. Place the cut out shapes on the baking tray, leaving a gap of at least at inch between each one.
  13. Re-roll the remaining dough and cut out more, placing them on the baking tray too.
  14. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are just beginning to colour slightly.
  15. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes on the baking tray.
  16. Then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  17. As soon as the are cooled completely store them in an airtight container, unless they are to be eaten straightaway.


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Lemon Icebox Cookies

I love the idea of refrigerator, or icebox, cookies.  Making dough and then just baking as many cookies as you need at the time and storing the dough in the fridge or freezer to bake later, as you need them.

For mine I decided upon a lemon flavour, and tried something a little different when making the dough.  I had been reading about using hard boiled egg yolks when making dough, as a means of making a very tender cookie, or pastry, or cake.

Apparently passing a hard boiled egg yolk through a sieve and adding into the mixture when making the dough actually stops some of the gluten from forming, resulting in a more tender bake. 

So I decided to try this, though really as an experiment I should also have made some cookies without the hard boiled yolk to be able to measure any difference.

Nevertheless I made my cookies that way, and they turned out very well indeed.  A lovely, almost, melt in the mouth cookie with the lemon flavour and some caramel flavour from the demerara sugar.

The recipe is easy to follow and doesn't take up much time, apart from chilling.  So this is an ideal recipe to make, when you need a few cookies, as you can store the dough in the fridge for a few days and then bake more, or in the freezer for much longer.

I used plain flour and cornflour in combination, but if you are able to buy cake and pastry flour that works just fine too.
Lemon Icebox Cookies


Lemon Icebox Cookies - Video

Ingredients:
  • 200g plain flour
  • 25g cornflour (or 225g cake flour instead of these first two ingredients)
  • 1 hard boiled egg yolk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 egg white
  • 140g softened unsalted butter
  • 70g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste(or vanilla extract)
  • 1/4 tsp salt(omit if using salted butter)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 50g demerara sugar
Method:
  1. In a stand mixer, with paddle attachment, beat the butter to a smooth mix.
  2. Add the icing sugar and beat into the butter until all is nice and fluffy.
  3. Pass the hard boiled egg yolk through a fine sieve to break it all up.
  4. Add the egg yolk, vanilla bean paste and lemon zest and mix all together.
  5. Add to the butter mixture and beat until combined.
  6. Mix the cornflour, salt and flour together and add into the butter mixture.
  7. Beat until just combined into a thick dough.
  8. Remove the dough from the bowl and form into sausages/logs about between 1 and 2 inches in diameter(I made mine about 1.5 inches in diameter and 16 inches long, but thinner is fine, there will just be smaller cookies).
  9. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours, until the dough is nice and firm.
  10. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/325 F
  11. Line a couple of baking trays with parchment paper(if baking all the dough, or only one otherwise).
  12. Remove the cookie dough from the fridge and remove the plastic wrap.
  13. Lightly beat the egg white and brush it all over the cookie dough.
  14. Sprinkle the demerara sugar onto the used plastic wrap and roll the cookie dough in it, to coat the outside.
  15. Cut the dough into slices, about 1/4 inch in thickness.
  16. Place each slice on the baking tray, leaving a gap(about 1 inch if using 2 inch in diameter cookies).
  17. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the dough is cooked, the underside will be lightly browned.
  18. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a while on the baking trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.