Sunday, 28 August 2011

The end of summer & a rhubarb and strawberry crumble

Today is my second last day of summer before I return to school.Most of the year groups are already back in school so I'm enjoying my last few days of freedom.Looking back now,at the start of summer I felt like I would never have to return to school.However,gradually the days stretched into weeks and summer has sadly come to an end.The end of summer also means an end to many fruits and vegetables.For this reason I decided to choose some of these fruits to bake with for the last time this summer.I found this delicious recipe for Rhubarb & Strawberry Crumble in Donal Skehan's new cookbook.This recipe is an excellent use for the last batch of strawberries and rhubarb of the summer.
During cooking,the strawberries and the rhubarb release their juices and form a thick,syrupy liquid which complements the crisp,crumbly topping.The addition of jumbo porridge oats gives the topping a very satisfying crunch too!This crumble is deliciously fruity and light,perfect for an end of summer dessert.If you are looking for something delicious and easy to make,then I suggest you give this crumble ago before strawberries and rhubarb dissapear off the shelves of shop altogether.

This crumble was delicious served with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream or even just whipped cream.I know my pictures don't do this crumble any favours but forgive me as a crumble is not the easiest thing to present or make look beautiful.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crumble
200g(5 oz) plain flour
100g jumbo oat flakes
175g(6 oz) soft light brown sugar
200g(7 oz) cold butter,cubed

600g(1 lb 4 oz) fresh strawberries,hulled & halved
5 medium stalks of rhubarb
1 tbsp plain flour
60g(2 1/2 oz) soft light brown sugar
juice of half a lemon

To Serve
Fresh cream,whipped
Vanilla ice cream

1.This first step is optional and is not included in Donal's recipe in his book but I always do it no matter what crumble I'm making.Chop the rhubarb into 2.5cm(1 in) pieces and place in a pot.Add a small amount of water to the rhubarb and place over a medium heat to soften slightly for a few minutes.
2.Preheat the oven to 190C(375F),Gas mark 5.
3.Place the flour,oats,soft light brown sugar and butter in a large bowl.Using your finger tips rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles chunky breadcrumbs.
4.In a large baking dish,toss the strawberries,stewed rhubarb,juice of half a lemon,tbsp of flour and sugar together.Now spread the crumble mixture evenly over the top.
5.Place in the oven for 25-35 minutes until the crumble topping is golden brown and the fruit is soft and bubbling beneath.Serve with either whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Chocolate cake for a birthday

It was my dad's birthday a few days ago and I was in charge of making the cake as usual(not that I mind).I wanted to make a larger cake to give the day a bigger sense of occasion,so I settled for a three layer chocolate and caramel cake.I have had my eye on this recipe for a while now and have been only waiting for a reason to make it,so this seemed like the perfect oppurtunity!The recipe comes once again from The Hummingbird Bakeries new cook book,Cake Days.I only recently bought this book and so at the moment most of my posts are based on recipes out of the book.The recipe in the book is actually for a salted caramel chocolate cake.Now I've heard a lot about salted caramel and what an amazing combination it is and I have been dying to try it.However,my family thought it sounded like an odd combination and seen as I didn't want to have a whole three layer cake to eat for myself,I decided to leave out the salt this time and make a caramel and chocolate cake instead.The description in the book says that "the cake is worth the time spent in the kitchen".I have to say I couldn't agree more.Don't get me wrong;this cake takes quite a while to get finished,but it is a lovely,rich,moreish cake that also looks fantastic once iced.The first stage of the recipe involves making up the caramel filling.This is pretty easy,the only thing you have to watch is to make sure you don't boil the sugar syrup for too long as the caramel can quickly begin to burn(which by the way,burning sugar is the most awful smell!).This is set aside while you make the chocolate frosting.The frosting is probably the most lengthy process in the whole recipe.Firstly,a sugar syrup is made and mixed with bolied cream to make a caramel.Then a massive 450g of chocolate is chopped(my arm was practically falling off me after this)and added to the still warm caramel.This is stirred until it is completely melted.The mixture is then whisked for about ten minutes until the bowl feels cool,after which butter is added.The mixture is whisked again and then put into the fridge to set.Then the chocolate sponges are made.This part of the recipe came together very quickly.The book states that the cakes should be cooked in about 25 minutes.Now usually my fan oven cooks everything about 5 minutes quicker then what the stated time is.However,when I went to check the cakes after 25 minutes I found the the top of the cake were barely set and still completely raw underneath.As a result of opening the oven when the cakes were so raw,I think my cakes fell a bit but that's fine as you wouldn't notice once they are iced.I'd say I gave my cakes an extra 7 or 8 minutes to cook completely.The sponges are then left to cool completely.Once cool 2 tablespoons of caramel are spread over one of the cakes followed by a couple of tablespoons of the chocolate frosting.The remaining layers are placed on top and covered with the caramel and chocolate frosting in the same way.Once this is done a crumb coating is given to the cake,followed by another layer of the frosting.I then swirled the top of my cake with my palette knife and sprinkled chocolate curls on top et voila!Chocolate cake with a caramel filling and chocolate frosting.If anyone would like the recipe please feel free to leave a comment and ask! :)

Monday, 22 August 2011

A couple of things I want(but can't have)

I thought I would write a post listing a couple of things(baking equipment etc.)that I would like,but sadly due to a limited income(i.e none)can't have.Maybe once you have read the post you might leave a comment listing a couple of the things you would like but can't have.I think it would be interesting to see some of the things that people come out with!

1.A red Kitchenaid Artisan food mixer:I've wanted one of these for ageess now!I especially love the kitchenaid in the colour.It would make bread making and many other recipes seem much less daunting to attempt.It also wouldn't look too bad sitting on my counter ;)

2.An ice cream maker(preferably a Cuisinart ice cream maker):Lately I have grown a strong liking for ice cream,I particularly love ice cream that has something mixed into it such as chunks of cookies,nuts,marshmallows etc.I have seen some lovely recipes on many food blogs for ice cream and would love to make some of them,yet I feel to achieve best results an ice cream maker would be necessary.

3.A Waffle Iron:I was in a restaurant recently and it came to my favourite part of the meal,ordering dessert.There were many yummy sounding options on the menu such as chocolate fudge brownies,sticky toffee pudding,cheesecake etc.I chose banoffe pie in the end while my mum chose belgian waffles.When reading the dessert menu I never even gave the belgian waffles a second thought as I didn't really think they sounded all that amazing.The desserts came to the table and I immediately knew my mum had made the better choice.My dessert consisted of a slice of very average banoffe pie.In fact it was exactly how I don't like my banoffe pie i.e far too much bland tasting cream and not nearly enough caramal/bananas/biscuit base.My mum's dessert on the otherhand was a whole other story:Two warm,plump fluffy waffles,piled one on top of the other on a plate smothered with just the right amount of warm maple syrup,dusted with icing sugar and served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.I tasted the waffles and could hardly stop myself taking bite after bite.Ever since that,I have wanted a waffle maker in the hope that I might be able to recreate waffles like the ones in the restaurant.

4.Baking From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan:I spend a large portion of my time on the laptop looking at the website Tuesdays With Dorie.It's a baking group consisting of a large number of food bloggers.Each week one of the food bloggers chooses a recipe from the book and everyone in the group makes it and documents how they got on making the recipe.I think that this was a brilliant idea and I am dissapointed that the group is now closed.However,from what I have seen this book has some very delicious recipes and I will definitely be buying this one soon.

Well that's my wish list for the moment,feel free to leave a comment with your wishes! :)

Chocolate Cupcakes With Malteasers

Yesterday I decided I wanted to make something quick and easy so I settled for cupcakes from Cake Days.As you can see in the picture the cupcakes I made look sort of like the malted chocolate cupcakes from the book but I actually just made another recipe for chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate frosting from the book and decorated it so that they would look like the malted chocolate cupcakes.The main reason I didn't just make the malted chocolate cupcakes was because the frosting called for milk powder which I wasn't totally sure about.I don't recall ever seeing milk powder in my supermarket and I'm not sure exactly what it is(I would be thankful for any comments telling me what it is).I found the recipes very easy to make up.The recipe states that you should get about 12-16 cupcakes from this recipe but I was using smaller cupcakes cakes and therefore I got more like 30 ;)I did however have one or two slight problems with this recipe.The first was that when I took the cupcakes out of the oven they had risen nicely and had nice tops.However after one or two minutes cooling a dip formed in the middle of a good few of the cupcakes.I have absoulutely no idea why this happened as I have made many cupcake recipes before and this has never happened( once again I would be greatful for and comments suggesting what may have went wrong here!).My second problem was that I found that the 50ml of milk used to loosen the frosting wasn't enough so I added a good bit more I would say nearly double,to get an easy to spread consistancy.I thought these cupcakes tasted lovely as did everyone else who had one and I think the decoration of the malteasers was a nice touch.

Chocolate Cupcakes With Chocolate Frosting And Malteasers

80g(3oz) unsalted butter,softened
280g(10oz)caster sugar
200g(7oz) plain flour
40(1 1/2oz) cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
240ml(8 1/2 fl oz) whole milk
2 large eggs

400g(14oz) icing sugar
100g(3 1/2 oz) cocoa powder
160g(5 1/2oz) unsalted butter,softened
50ml(1 3/4 fl oz) whole milk
Malteasers,to decorate

1.Preheat the oven to 190C(375F),Gas mark 5,and line a muffin tin with cases.
2.Using a hand held electric whisk or a freestanding mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,beat together the butter,sugar,flour,cocoa powder,baking powder and salt on a low speed until all the ingredients are well incorporated and resemble fine breadcrumbs.
3.Pour the milk into a jug,add the eggs and whisk together.Pour three quarters of this mixture into the dry ingredients and beat on low speed to combine.Raise the speed to medium and continue to mix until smooth and thick,scraping down the sides of the bowl every now and then.Pour in the remaining milk mixture and keep mixing on a medium speed until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth once again.
4.Spoon the batter into the cases,so that each case is about two thirds full.Put in the oven to bake for 18-20 minutes or until well risen and spring to the touch.Leave to cool slightly before removing from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
5.To make the chocolate frosting,whisk the icing sugar with the cocoa powder and butter on a low speed in a freestanding mixer or using an electric whisk,until the mixture is sandy in consistency.Pour in the milk,still mixing on a low speed,then increase the speed to high and whisk the frosting until soft and fluffy.
6.Once the cupcakes are cool,add the frosting,smoothing and swirling with a palette knife,then decorate with the malteasers.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Carrot & Ginger Cake From Cake Days

I love,love,lovee carrot cake.It is easily one of my favourite cakes to eat!When I saw that there was a recipe for a carrot cake in Cake Days I knew I would have to bake it soon.I then got a request from someone to make a cake and I decided I would make this Carrot & Ginger Cake and see how it turned out.This recipe makes a massive four layer cake and therefore is only really suitable when catering for a large group of people.Alternatively you could half the quantities and make a smaller two layer cake which is what I think I will do when making this for my family.I found this recipe very easy and had no trouble with it at all.When the cakes came out of the oven they smelt divine and I wanted to have a slice right there and then but unfortunately this cake wasn't for me so I couldn't.While the cakes cooled I made up the cream cheese frosting and set it aside while the cakes cooled completely.When the cakes were cool I placed the first one on a plate and spread a small layer of frosting on top.I then placed the next cake on top and spread a small layer of frosting on it.I continued doing this until all four cakes were stacked one on top of the other.I then coated the whole four layer cake with a light covering of the cream cheese frosting.known as a crumb layer.This was suggested in the back of the book as it makes it much easier to frost the cake evenly.When I finished the crumb layer I then spread the rest of the frosting all over the cake and smoothed it out with a palette knife.I added a decorative swirl on the top of the cake using a palette knife as suggest in the book.I finished the cake off by topping with pecans.The cake was whisked away the next morning and as I didn't get to taste the cake myself I can't really comment on its taste.However,I did recieve rave reviews for this cake and was told not a crumb of it remained by the end of the day :P I think I will definitely be making this one again soon so I can taste it.

Carrot Cake
450g(1lb) peeled,finely grated carrots
2 tbsp peeled,grated root ginger
80ml(3fl oz) buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
350ml(12fl oz) vegetable oil
420g(15oz) caster sugar
500g(1lb 2oz) plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
80g(3oz) pecans,roasted & chopped

100g(3 1/2 oz) softened unsalted butter
600g(1lb 5oz)icing sugar
1 tbsp grated orange zest
250g(9 oz) full fat cream cheese
Pecan halves to decorate

1.Roast the pecans by heating over a medium heat in a saucepan for two to three minutes until they start to turn brown.Remove from the pan,chop and set aside.
2.Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325F),Gas mark 3,and line 4 20cm(8in) diameter cake tins with baking parchment.
3.Using a hand held electric whisk or freestanding mixer fitted with the paddle attatchment,mix together the carrots,root ginger,buttermilk,eggs,vanilla essence,vegetable oil and sugar until the ingredients are well combined.
4.Sift together the flour,baking powder,bicarbonate of soda,salt and ground spices,then slowly beat these into the egg and carrot mixture,adding the dry ingredients in three batches.Mix well after each addition,scraping down the sides of the bowl.Stir in the chopped pecans into the batter and mix until the cake batter is smooth and even.
5.Divide the batter between the four prepared sandwich tins and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top of each sponge bounces back when lightly pressed.Allow the cakes to cool completely,on a wire rack,while you make the frosting.
6.To make the frosting,using an electric whisk or freestanding mixer fitted with the paddle attatchment,mix together the butter and icing sugar on a low speed until combined but still powdery in consistency.Add the orange zest and cream cheese,increase the speed to medium to high and mix well until the frosting is smooth,light and fluffy.
7.When the sponges feel cold to the touch,spread some of the frosting between each layer and sandwich all four together.Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and outside of the assembled cake,then decorate with the pecan halves.

Blueberry Crumble Loaf

The next recipe I chose from The Hummingbird Bakery book Cake Days was the Blueberry Crumble Loaf.I usually bake quite rich,chocolatey things so I decided to bake something light and fruity for a change.This loaf was very quick to make.I first made up the crumble topping and set it aside.I then moved onto the loaf mixture itself.I tried to find the right size loaf tin for this recipe but couldn't find one in any of my local shops so I instead settled for a disposable foil loaf pan.I poured the loaf mixture into the pan and sprinkled the crumble mixture on top.It went into the oven to bake for 50 minutes.The only slight problem I had with this was in fact the loaf pan that I used.I think there was slightly too much mixture for the loaf pan to support and therefore when the loaf rose in the oven some of the topping spilled out over the sides of the loaf pan.I took the loaf out of the oven and allowed it to cool slightly before tasting.I thought this was really delicious,as did the rest of my family.They liked it so much that it had been gobbled up completely before I even remember to take a picture so unfortunately I have no picture of this one!I thought the loaf itself was lovely,moist and sweet.The crumble topping was also delicious and I loved the use of the light brown sugar in the crumble which has a lovely flavour.I think after making this loaf I will definitely be making loaf cakes more often :)

Blueberry Crumble Loaf
190g(7oz) unsalted butter
190g(7oz) plain flour
190g(7oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
25ml(1fl oz) whole milk
100g(31/2 oz) fresh or frozen blueberries
50g(1 3/4 oz) chopped pecans

Crumble Topping
25g(1oz) plain flour
10g(1/3 oz) unsalted butter
15g(1/2 oz) soft light brown sugar
20g(3/4 oz) chopped pecans
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1.Preheat the oven to 170C(325F)Gas mark 3,then grease one 8.5 x 17.5 cm(3 1/2 x 7in)loaf tin with 7.5cm(3in) sides.
2.First make the crumble topping.In a bowl ,rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.Stir in the remaining ingredients and set aside.
3.Now make the sponge.Using a hand held electric whisk or freestanding mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Break the eggs in one at a time,mixing well on a medium speed after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl.
4.Sift together the flour,baking powder,salt and ground cinnamon,then add in three stages to the creamed butter and eggs,pouring in the milk after the second batch has been added.Mix well on a medium speed after each addition scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is mixed in.
5.Increase the speed to medium to high and continue mixing until the batteris smooth and even,then add the blueberries and chopped pecans,stirring them into the batter by hand and making sure they are evenly distributed.Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle the crumble mixture on top.
6.Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until the sponge feels firm and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean,with no cake batter clinging to it.Allow it to cool a little in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely.Once cool cut into slices.

The Hummingbird Bakery:Cake Days & Chocolate Whoopie Pies

I recently got The Hummingbird Bakery's book Cake Days and have been longing to bake from it since I got it.Nearly every recipe in the book is accompanied by a delicious looking picture.The first recipe I tried from the book was the chocolate whoopie pies.I have made whoopie pies many times before and have always found them easy to make.However,I found this recipe different.Firstly I found the batter was very stiff once I had added all the flour.The batter is supposed to be left in the fridge for half an hour before it is baked but I only left it in for fifteen minutes,partly because I didnt want it to become any more stiff than it already was and partly because I didnt want to wait any longer ;)I spooned out the batter onto baking sheets and into the oven the whoopie pies went to bake.While they were cookin I made up the frosting.When I too the whoopie pies out of the oven I noticed that they had grew quite large while in the oven.The top of the whoopie pies was also very cracked with deep ridges.These looked nothing like my usual whoopie pies which have smooth tops.I presume it must be down to something I did while making the whoopie pies and would be greatful of any comments suggesting what might have went wrong.I allowed these to cool and then took a taste.I found the flavour of the whoopie pies was definitely different to ones I have made before.I thought that the chocolate taste was actually quite bitter and the pie itself not very sweet.The filling on the other hand was very sweet thanks to the marshmallow fluff used and therefore I thought it worked very well with the pie.Overall I thought these whoopie pies were just okay but if I was making them again I would definitely try to make them sweeter and also less cracked once cooked.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies
1 large egg
150g(5 1/2 oz) caster sugar
125g(4 1/2 oz) plain yoghurt
25ml(1 fl oz) whole milk
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
75g(2 1/2 oz) unsalted butter,melted
200g(7 oz) plain flour
80g(3 oz) cocoa powder
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

170g(6 oz) softened,unsalted butter
280g(10 oz) icing sugar
220g(8 oz) vanilla marshmallow fluff

1.Using a hand held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,cream the egg and sugar together until pale and fluffy.Pour the yoghurt,milk and vanilla essence into a jug and stir together,then add to the beaten egg and sugar.Add the melted butter and mix in thoroughly on a medium speed.
2.Sift the remaining sponge ingredients together,then add to the creamed mixture in two batches,mixing well on medium speed after each addition.Place the batter in the fridge to cool and set for 20-30 minutes.
3.Meanwhile,preheat the oven to 170C(325F)Gas mark 3,and line two baking trays with baking parchment.
4.Once the batter has cooled down,spoon it on to the prepared baking trays,(dividing the mixture into 16-20 mounds(8-10 per tray),each 3-5cm(1 1/4-2in) in diameter and spaced 2-3cm(3/4-1 1/4 in) apart.Bake in the oven for 10-13 minutes or until springy to the touch.Remove from the trays and place on a wire rack,allowing them to cool completely before sandwiching together.
5.While the sponges are cooking,you can make the filling.Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment,mix together the butter and the icing sugar on a low speed until well blended.Add the marshmallow fluff,and lightly mix it in,then increase the speed to high and continue mixing until light and fluffy.Place in the fridge and leave for about 30 minutes to firm up slightly.
6.To assemble the whoopie pies,take one of the sponges and spread about one tablespoon of filling over the flat side,adding a little more if needed.Then stick another sponge with the flat side facing down on the filling to make a sandwich.Repeat with the remaining sponges and filling.