Saturday, 23 June 2012

Indoor S'mores!

I have been reading food blogs for a good while now and naturally they often are written by people from outside of Ireland.A lot of my favourite blogs are American so it wasn't long before I discovered s'mores,something I hadn't really heard much of before my food blogging days.S'mores are massively popular stateside but they don't seem to have made the jump over here to Ireland.This probably has something to do with the fact that we reallly never get the weather for campfire activities, and s'mores are definitely a big campfire activity in America.Almost every American food blogger that I have come across has made at least one reference to these delicious treats and after ogling many pictures showing marshmallows atop of gooey chocolate oozing out between graham crackers,it was only a matter of time before I tried to give these a go.But then reality hit me.Firstly graham crackers aren't available over here in Ireland.And secondly I don't have the facilities to set up my own campfire in my garden (I don't think my parents would be too pleased).That kind of put paid to my making of s'mores for quite some time until I spotted this post on one of my favourite blogs,likemamusedtobake.
The ingredient list for making s'mores is really quite basic and short.All you need is some digestives biscuits,marshmallows and some nutella/chocolate.I tried making the s'mores in two different ways.Firstly I placed a square of chocolate on a digestive biscuit,topped with a marshmallow and microwaved on high for 30 seconds.I used extra big marshmallows(superquinn if you're interested) and I found that these tended to spread quite liberally in the microwave,but then no one ever said s'mores were going to be tidy eating anyway.The second way I tried involved spreading nutella on one digestive biscuit topping with a marshmallow and toasting under a grill on a high heat.This was my favourite way as the marshmallow became all gooey underneath while it browned and crisped beautifully on the top.
There's no right or wrong way to enjoy a s'more.Whatever you decide to do,as long as it involves biscuits,marshmallows and chocolate and is ridiculously messy then you're guaranteed delicious results.Enjoy!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Gooey Chocolate Cake

After a week or two off I'm back this week with a recipe from Donal Skehan's new book.I had only returned from holidays a day or two and was craving something sweet yet simple to make.I spotted this recipe and was immediately persuaded to make it when I saw that the method pretty much involved dumping everything into a bowl and mixing with a spoon - simple!The ingredients are those ingredients that are always lying around in the cupboard or fridge - eggs,butter,cocoa and flour.The recipe promises an almost brownie like cake and it doesn't disappoint.Once baked,I allowed the cake to cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the tin as I wanted to have it warm.A quick dusting of icing sugar and voila,the cake was ready.
The cake had a lovely smooth,fudgy interior with a crusty top.I served the cake in slices with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and some summer strawberries(it is summer after all).I got nothing but good reports back about this cake despite how uncomplicated it is.This cake proves that sometimes the simple things are the best.I also feel the both chocolate lovers and non-chocolate lovers alike will both like this cake.This is just one of many great recipes in Donal's new book so be sure to check it out if you haven't already!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Sticky Toffee Banana Puddings

Hello There!
It seems the first true days of summer have finally arrived -well at least they have here in Ireland anyway.The past few days have seen the temperatures hitting the low twenties, which for a country renowned for its dreary,dull climate,comes as a very pleasant surprise.The only downside to this is the unfortunate reality that I (and many other people) still have a week of exams to do.There really is truth behind that whole "exam weather" statement that people throw around every year without fail.

Anyway,last weekend in an effort to keep me from going completely mad from being cooped up all day staring at the inside of textbooks (or outside the window),I decided to bake something from the newest addition to my recipe book collection Donal Skehan's Kitchen Hero:Great Food for Less.Short of living under a rock for the past year or two you can't have helped but have heard of Donal with his numerous books,newspaper/magazine articles and of course his television show.I always find hi recipes reliable,simple and tasty so when I heard his new book had been released, it was a bit of a no brainer as to whether I would buy it or not.

The element of Donal's books and articles that I love the most has got to be his photography.With every recipe there is always an accompanying photo which is sure to make your mouth water and I have heard that he does a lot of his food styling and photography himself.

After flicking briefly through the book I found myself,as usual, in the dessert section where I happened upon the recipe for Sticky Toffee Banana Puddings.Sticky Toffee Pudding is without doubt one of my favourite desserts and along with the aforementioned beautiful picture,I really needed to convincing to attempt this recipe.The method was really quite simple and making the caramel sauce,which as anyone knows can often result in a hard mass of sugar stuck to your pan,was a breeze!The recipe also makes ten portions,so can easily feed a large crowd - or serve as dessert for a family of five for two days ;).The end result was,as I'm sure you have guessed,delicious.In the past I have found sticky toffee puddings can turn out disappointingly dry but these were right on the money.Moist and sticky indeed.Floating in a puddle of caramel sauce with a scoop of vanilla ice cream,these were the perfect weekend treat.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I love chocolate cookies(who doesn't?),but I definitely fall into the chewy category.I have made quite a few batches of cookies in the past only to be disappointed when they have cooled and become hard and crispy.However,I am always on the lookout for a new recipe which promises to produce a chewy cookie and when I read the description for these cookies on David Lebovitz's site,I was instantly persuaded to give these a go.The pictures also promised greatness and I have yet to be disappointed with any of the recipes on his site.
Scanning down through the recipe,there was a line which state that the dough should be "allowed to rest for a couple of hours or overnight".Now this wasn't the first time where I have read this in cookie recipes and in hindsight I should have known that this would make a difference to the end result.But eager as ever to get baking (and eating) I ploughed on and began making the cookies.When it came for the time to bake the cookies,I realised just home much dough this recipe makes.I got two large cookies sheets of eight 50g balls of dough and I still had a mountain of dough leftover.It was then that an idea struck me.I decided I would bake half of the cookies in their present,unrested state and bake the other half the next day when they had spent a night in the fridge.
So to the results.The smell coming from the oven as these cookies baked was promising.However,when I took the (unrested) cookies out of the oven,I already knew that these were not of a chewy nature.After a few minutes cooling,I took a bite and my suspicions were confirmed.Crispy.Delicious yes,but crispy.The following day I baked up the second batch of cookies and this time I was delighted with the results.A chewy,chocolaty cookie.Just how I like them.One thing I did notice was that the cooking time given in the recipe is,in my opinion,too long(I have a fan oven).I think this lengthy baking time did little to help the desired chewiness and on the second,rested batch I only baked my cookies for roughly 15 minutes,after which some people may say they were still slightly undercooked.For me though,after cooling they were perfectly chewy,just how I like them.
Definitely worth a go if it's a chewy cookie you're after.You can find the recipe here.The original calls for raisins but I substituted with chocolate chips instead.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Apologies and "Baked" Brownies with a Peanut Butter Swirl

Hello again! I know it has been centuries since I have posted on the blog so I should probably explain my absence.Unfortunately to begin with,my laptop decided to call it a day and hasn't been replaced since.Without a laptop I am reduced to using the family computer which is difficult to get hold of at the best of times.This really put me off blogging for a while,however I still checked in on all my favourite food blogs almost daily,annoyed that I too couldn't blog about the delicious things I had baked.In the end,I decided that blogging-if even just occasionally- was better then not blogging at all.Hopefully, I won't be disappearing again any time soon and I will be able to keep you updated with all my baking adventures!
And so to my first recipe now that I'm back blogging - and what a recipe it is indeed!If you have any kind of a serious interest in baking and indeed food blogging,then you are sure to have heard of "The Baked" brownie.This recipe hails from the very popular "Baked:New Frontiers in Baking" and has been touted all over the web as one of if not the best brownie recipes around.As a chocoholic and brownie lover,naturally,I was interested to try this recipe.Truth be told,my expectations were high for this brownie with such acclaim.Now,I don't know about you but I always find it very hard to abide by that rule in brownie recipes which states to "let the brownies cool completely before cutting".That to me is pure torture and I usually can resist no longer than half an hour before the temptation becomes too much.However,as my hopes were set so high for this recipe,I decided to do everything by the book (even if that did mean leaving the house to busy myself while the brownies cooled).Imagine my utter joy then, when I finally sliced into the slab of brownies resting on the kitchen counter.The top had that characteristic papery crust, while beneath lay some of the most deliciously fudgy brownies which I have encountered,possibly ever(16 years is long enough to have tasted more than my fair share of brownies).Although I deviated slightly from the original recipe by adding a peanut butter swirl,which,if you're wondering was delicious,I think these brownies would be best left as pure,unadulterated chocolate.
Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle - or possibly a drowning - of chocolate sauce,these were the perfect dessert.These are definite contenders for my go to brownie recipe and I can't recommend them enough.If you want the recipe,then you can find it here.I just omitted the crushed mints and the mint extract,and added a swirl of peanut butter.Happy baking,oh and I hope everyone has a nice long weekend!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Carrot Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

I'm in a rush today so I'm going to keep this post short and sweet!Was browsing through Lorraine Pascale's first book Baking Made Easy at the weekend and I came across this carrot cake which I made last Easter.I instantly remembered how much of a hit it was with the family so I decided carrot cake would be on the cards for that evening.Lorraine's recipe make a massive three layer 9 inch cake and even though everyone loves this cake I knew that would simply be too big so I scaled it down to a 2 layer cake.The cake comes together very quickly,the only bit of work required is for grating the carrots.I doubled the frosting quantities as I like to frost the sides of my cake as well as the top and middle.In a nutshell,this cake was delicious.The sponges were so soft and moist and the frosting was to die for!I also found the cake lasted for days and still retained its flavour and moistness.The recipe given below is for the original 3 layer 9 inch cake and the frosting recipe given makes just enough to frost between the layers and the top of the cake.

Makes one 3 layer 9inch(23cm)cake

For The Sponges
525ml(18 1/2 fl oz) vegetable oil
9 eggs,lightly beaten
525g(1 lb 3 oz)soft dark brown sugar
420g(15oz) carrots,peeled & grated
Grated zest 3 large oranges
525g(1 lb 3 oz)self raising flour
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tbsp mixed spice
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod or 2 drops vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting
200g(7oz) icing sugar
40g(1 1/2 oz)butter,cubed
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
Seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod or 1 drop vanilla extract
115g(4 1/2 oz)low-fat cream cheese,chilled
Handful of pecans or walnuts to decorate

1.Preheat the oven to 180C(325F),Gas mark 4.Prepare the tins by oiling the insides and lining the bases with baking parchment.
2.Put the oil,eggs,sugar,carrots and orange zest in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon.
3.Mix the flour,salt,bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice together,then sift into the wet mixture.Add the vanilla and lightly mix until the mixture is uniform but still soft and runny.
4.Pour into the prepared tins and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes.Check after 30 minutes as ovens vary(mine were done in 30 minutes).The cakes are ready when the sponge springs back when lightly pressed.A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.Leave to cool for 5 minutes or so,then turn out onto a wire rack and peel off the baking paper.
5.For the cream cheese frosting,mix the icing sugar,butter,lemon zest and vanilla together in a bowl,then whisk well to combine.Stir in the cream cheese.If the mixture looks a little runny put it in the fridge to firm up for 10-12 minutes.
6.When the cakes are cool,place one one a serving plate and top with some of the cream cheese frosting.Place a second cake on top and spread some more of the frosting on this.Finally top with the third cake and spread the remaining frosting on top.Finish with walnuts or pecans if desired.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Simple Victoria Sponge

I love watching food programmes,they're really the only thing I watch on tv anymore.One of my all time favourties has to be The Great British Bake Off which is unfortunately now finished.When I saw that a book had been realeased to accompany the series I knew I had to get it.I ordered it on Amazon and within a few days I was leafing through the hundreds of recipes choosing which to make first.
The book is packed full of recipes many of which are detailed and long.I normally love to challange myself with a more difficult recipe,but when I saw that the first recipe was for the perfect Victoria Sponge,I changed my mind.There is something about a Victoria Sponge that is so appealing.If made correctly,it's light,moist and most importantly declicious.
I followed the method exactly for this recipe,taking my time beating the butter and sugar and when folding in the flour.Even with taking extra care to do everything to the letter,this cake still comes together in no time.Before I knew it,the smell of a freshly baked sponge was wafting through my kitchen.Once cooled,I whipped some double cream until stiff.I spread one sponge with a generous amount of raspberry jam and then topped with the thick cream,and finally the second sponge.Dusted with icing sugar and the cake was complete.I couldn't wait to dig in and thankfully I wasn't dissapointed.The sponge combined with the cream and jam was just perfect.

225g butter,softened
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
225g self raising flour,sifted
1 tbsp milk

300ml double cream
30g icing sugar
Raspberry/Strawberry jam
Icing sugar,to finish

1.Preheat the oven to 180C.Grease and line the bases of two 20cm(8in)sandwich tins.
2.Beat the softened butter for a couple of minutes,until creamy and light in colour.Gradually add in the sugar and continue beating for 3 to 4 minutes until fluffy and light in colour.
3.Break the 4 eggs into a bowl with the vanilla extract.Beat briefly with a fork just to break the eggs up.Gradually beat the eggs into the butter and sugar mixture.If the mixture begins to look curdled add a tablespoon of the sifted flour and continue as before.
4.Take the previously sifted flour and sift again,this time over the sponge.Add the tablespoon of milk and fold these through the mixture,taking care not to knock out any air you have incorporated.
5.Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins and place in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes.The sponges are cooked when they are a good golden brown and spring back lightly when pressed.Insert a skewer into the middle cakes and make sure it comes out clean.
6.Allow to cool for a minute or two and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.Beat the cream with the icing sugar until quite stiff.
7.Once the sponges are cold,place one onto a serving plate.Spread with a generous amount of jam and then top with the stiffly whipped cream.Place the other sponge on top and finish with a dusting of icing sugar.