Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Delicious (Though I Say It Myself) Orange And Earl Grey Cake

Saturday, February 25th, 2012
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Homemade Marshmallows

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

It is not very often that I rip out pages from cookery magazines for use at a later date, so it was a surprise when the other day I found some pages I had ripped from a copy of the magazine, Delicious, from some years back.  In it, I had obviously fallen for some beautiful photography of brightly coloured and divine looking marshmallows.

I love marshmallows.  They are one of those things that I know I should dislike but really love – another guilty secret is Haribo sweets, which we used to buy as a treat when we went to Munich to visit relatives back in the 1970s, but which are ubiquitous nowadays.  Many years ago I tried to make my own marshmallows but they came out as a truly gloopy mix – a cross between a sweet and jelly cubes.  So I liked the idea of creating something really fluffy and delicious.

This recipe really does work and the key is getting the fluffy, bubblegum stage in the middle just right.  Interestingly, after a week, they had the texture and flavour of shop-bought marshmallows, which just goes to show how different freshly made is from manufactured foods.

I reckon that you could make deliciously flavoured versions with orange extract or rose water (or better rose oil), or matcha.  The bittersweet of matcha tea against the sugar syrup of the marshmallow would go well, and the colour would be weirdly enticing.

Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallows

Recipe for marshmallows

120ml /4¼ fl oz liquid, cool
23g / ¾ oz gelatine
440g /1lb caster sugar
160ml / 5½ fl oz golden syrup
115ml /4 fl oz warm water
Vegetable oil for greasing
Cornflour for dusting

Line a baking tray of rough dimensions that’s 2cm (½ inch) and 30cm by 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch).  You should use clingfilm for this that has been well oiled with the vegetable oil.

Pour the cool liquid into a mixing bowl, ideally the bowl for your mixer.  You can use this stage to get a good flavour into the marshmallows, for example we used citrus and berry smoothies.  You could use matcha tea or spice flavours (see notes later), but if you want to add cocoa powder or coffee or fruit liqueurs or spice extracts, these should be added later.  If you are adding flavours later, just use water at this stage.  Sprinkle over with the powdered gelatine.  Set aside to allow the gelatine to absorb the liquid; it may need a stir to ensure that any dry patches are fully dampened.

Put the caster sugar, golden syrup and warm water into a heavy bottomed pan, then over a medium heat dissolve the sugars to create a syrup.  At this stage, you should stir it gently to help with the creation of a sugar solution, brushing down any sugar crystals on the edge of the pan as these could burn later.

When dissolved, increase the heat and let the sugar syrup start to boil.  Let it boil pretty vigorously, but obviously without going over the top of the pan.  Do not stir, but check the temperature every so often.  When the temperature gets to 130C/266F, take off the heat and let cool for 1 – 2 minutes.  Do not let the temperature rise above 140C/284F, nor use below 130C/266F.

As it is cooling whisk the gelatine-liquid mix in a food mixer using a balloon whisk attachment.  Slowly drizzle the sugar syrup down the side into the mixing bowl; do not pour into the middle directly on to the whisk as this will crystallise out the sugar.  Whisk for some time to allow the mixture to cool down and to expand in size to an opaque bubblegum texture.  You can add flavours like coffee, chocolate, cocoa, fruit liqueurs or vanilla extract at this stage, or maybe rose oil or matcha tea.

Whisk Up Marshmallow Mixture To Bubblegum Texture

Whisk Up Marshmallow Mixture To Bubblegum Texture

Pour Marshmallow Mixture Into Tin Lined With Clingfilm

Pour Marshmallow Mixture Into Tin Lined With Clingfilm

Pour the mixture into the lined baking tray, then smooth over the top with an oiled knife or spatula.  Cover and leave to set for at least 2 hours by which time the top will be firm, but very sticky.

When set, dust a surface with some cornflour and turn the marshmallow on to this surface.  Gently remove the clingfilm, which will be pretty tightly stuck with the marshmallow.  Then with an oiled sharp knife cut into cubes and then dip into cornflour to counteract the stickiness.  Eat and enjoy.

As alternatives, you could use an infusion of mug of matcha tea or perhaps 1 cinnamon quill infused in boiling water for 15 minutes, then allowed to cool.  It is important to let the liquid for the gelatine be cool, so place in fridge to make sure of this.  Then for a colourful outside, you could grind some freeze dried fruits or berries in a coffee grinder, or you could use desiccated coconut.

Give Some Time And Make Some Christmas Sweets

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

In this festive period, we have been asked out to various families for drinks, or the kids out to parties.  And the question always is what to give people in a period of giving.  So yesterday, the kids and I spent a happy day making sweets, much as we have done before.  So there was a kitchen full or sugar, ground almonds and the smell of chocolate.  Our clothes were covered in the light white snow of icing sugar and there was a healthy crunch of caster sugar beneath our feet on the kitchen tiles.

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

But why bother, when you can buy sweets in the shops.  And where they are way cheaper as well – excluding the ingredients, our time would cost each sweet at about 50p, and that’s sweet and not box of sweets.  The answer is in part that they taste much nicer as we use better ingredients like organic Fairtrade sugar, and are much more generous in the luxury components like chocolate and vanilla.  But also, it is the giving of our time.

In an age where everyone claims to be so time poor, giving excuses like I am far too busy to play with my children or cook a meal from scratch or to make sweets or bake, what is more generous than giving over some time to make something for friends and family.  And they taste pretty damn delicious as well.  Think if I were a hedge fund manager or big corporate fat cat, I could perhaps even get the cost per sweet up to £18 or more per chunk of fudge – think how generous my time would be then.

So I say, please give some time and make something for your friends and family and show how generous you can be by releasing some of your precious time to show how much you love and care.

Enough of that and down to the nitty-gritty, we made marzipan kugeln (or marzipan balls dipped in milk chocolate), peppermint creams (shaped as circles and stars and dipped in chocolate), milk chocolate shapes (Merry Christmas tablets, santas and stars), vanilla fudge and chocolate fudge.  There was something about the fudge that made it extra soft and velvety this year and less crystalline and tablet like.  I think it was the patience and extra diligence over the stirring, but it could just have been the recipe, which was tweaked for the ingredients I had to hand.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge

900g / 2lb caster sugar
100g / 3¼oz unsalted butter
1 large tin of evaporated milk (410g/ 14½oz)
¼ of evaporated milk tin of cold water
250g / 9oz milk chocolate

Prepare a tin, by lining the base with some baking parchment.  We use a 2cm (½ inch) deep pan that is 30cm by 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch).

Put the caster sugar, unsalted butter, evaporated milk and cold water into a heavy bottomed pan.  Put the pan over a medium heat and with a wooden spoon stir the mixture until it is fully dissolved.  While the sugar mixture is melting, melt the milk chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then when melted switch off but keep warm by keeping over the pan.

Turn up the heat a tad and let the sugar mixture boil rapidly, stirring consistently all the while.  When the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (114C/238F), remove from the heat immediately.  I reckon this part takes around 20 minutes, but many books seem to claim it is much quicker.  Now you need to vigorously stir the mixture until it starts to thicken and begins to become rough – this takes 10 to 15 minutes and is quite tiring on the old arms.

Pour the fudge mixture into the baking tray, smooth over with a spatula.  Then using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into whatever sized cubes you want.

Leave to cool for 3 hours, then turn out of the baking tray, break off the fudge pieces, eating a few along the way to ensure the taste and texture are spot on, then put into an airtight container or some pretty gift boxes for pressies.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Recipe For Nurnberger Christmas Cookies – German Lebkuchen

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Following on from the spekulatius blog, we have been having fun trying to make German lebkuchen cookies.

There really is something Christmassy about the spices used in these Christmas biscuits – it’s that glorious mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and that extra richness from the cloves.  Everything about Christmas smells seems to revolve around cloves whether it is the Christmas cake, lebkuchen cookies or making your pomander.  And cloves are such a tricky spice that can completely overpower many spice blends, but seem to conjur up the right flavour for this festive period.

After a few goes at this recipe, this is where we have gotten to this year, but just like for the spekulaas I need to invest in some festive cookie shapes for next year.  Also, I think it would work well with a light chocolate glaze as an alternative to the icing sugar glaze.

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Lebkuchen Cookies

Lebkuchen Recipe

Working On The Lebkuchen Recipe

Working On The Lebkuchen Recipe

The ingredients bit:

250g / 9oz / 1¾ cups plus 1tbsp organic plain flour
85g / 3oz / ¾ cup ground almonds
2½tsp Steenbergs lebkuchen spice mix*
1tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
175ml / ¾ cup clear honey (or golden syrup)
85g / 3oz softened unsalted butter
½tbsp lemon juice (this is lemon from ½ lemon)
½ lemon, finely grated zest (or combine to 1 lemon zested)
½ orange, finely grated zest
Some flaked or half blanched almonds (optional)

For the icing:

100g / 4oz / 1 cup icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
1 egg white, beaten

The recipe part:

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Warm the honey and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter melts, then pour these into the flour mixture.  Add the lemon juice and lemon & orange zest.  Mix well with a hand held whisk until the dough is throughly combined.  Cover and leave to cool overnight, or for at least 2 hours. to let the flavours meld together and work that festive magic.

Heat oven to 180C/ 350F / Gas Mark 4.

Roll the lebkuchen dough in your hands into around 25 balls, each 3cm wide (1 inch wide), then flatten each one slightly into a disc.  Into the centre of the discs, place an almond flake. 

Divide the lebkuchen mixture between 3 baking trays lined with baking parchment, or ideally with an edible baking paper, with a decent amount of room for them to expand into.

Bake for 13 – 15 mins, or until when touched lightly no imprint remains, then cool on a wire rack.  While still warm, glaze the lebkuchen with the icing glaze, made as below.

Brush The Lebkuchen With Glazing Icing

Brush The Lebkuchen With Glazing Icing

While the cookies are baking, make your glazing icing: mix together the icing sugar and egg white to form a smooth, runny icing.

Brush the top of each biscuit with the glazing icing.  Leave to dry out.  I then glazed the top of the icing to give the lebkuchen a shinier lustre, but this is optional.

For the glaze, I took 100g (½ cup) caster sugar and 50ml (¼ cup) of water, melting these in a pan.  Then, I boiled the mix to 90C/200F, when I added 15g (1 tablespoon) of icing sugar.  This glaze was then bushed over the icing.  Granted that it is extra fussy, but then it is Christmas.

You should ideally, allow these Christmas cookies to mellow.  To do this, you should store the lebkuchen in an airtight container for a day or two to allow the flavours to mellow and the cookies to become softer.  To improve the flavours, you could include a few pieces of sliced orange or lemon, but make sure that they are not touching the lebkuchen as this will make them soggy and change the fruit every day to stop them going stale or mouldy.

* To make your own lebkuchen spice mix: ¼tsp ground cloves, ½tsp allspice powder, ½tsp nutmeg powder, 1¼tsp cinnamon

Recipe For Speculaas Biscuits – A Dutch Christmas Treat

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

One of my favourite Christmas cookies are spekulatius biscuits, or speculaas as they are called in the Netherlands.  I remember we always used to get a special parcel from Lebkuchen Schmidt in Nürmberg from my Granny.  In amongst all the beautiful tins and lebkuchen would be a few packs of their spekulatius cookies.  I loved their different shapes.

Then yesterday, our children had friends around before the School Christmas Disco, so to give them something creative to do between the pronouncements of “we’re bored – when is the party”, I made some spiced cookie dough using our Steenbergs koekkruidden spice mix and left the kids to cut out shapes.  Here are the recipes we tried; they are remarkably simple to make and the spice mix brings on those classic clove heavy aromas of the festive season.

Speculaas recipe – version 1

A Few Speculaas On A Plate

A Few Speculaas On A Plate

Ingredients

200g / 7oz self-raising flour
100g / 3½ oz light brown caster sugar
100g / 3½ oz softened butter
2-3 tbsp full milk
3tsp koekkruiden spices*
½ tsp baking powder
Zest of half an orange

For the top:

1 egg white, beaten
3tsp light brown caster sugar
2tbsp flaked almonds 

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Grease a baking tray.

Mix together all the ingredients in a mixer or blender until throughly mixed together.  Shape the dough into a ball and cover the dough ball with clingfilm and set aside for 1 hour in a cool place.

Flour a work surface and press the dough into an even, flat layer.  Using a cutter, cut shapes from the dough and place on the greased baking tray.

Brush with the egg white, then sprinkle with light brown caster sugar and flaked almonds on top of each speculaas biscuit.

Bake for 14-18 minutes and the biscuits are turning a slightly darker shade of brown. Remove from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Speculaas Recipe – Version 2

This recipe for St Nicholas Spiced Shortbread is based on a recipe from Elisabeth Luard’s excellent book – “European Festival Food”.  In it, Elisabeth Luard writes “Speculaas moulds themselves are made of wood – traditionally beech, pear, or walnut – shallow and relief-carved on the same principle as those used for Scottish shortbread.  They are usually 6 – 12 ins/15 – 30cm long and feature the Bishop himself, his donkey, or his servant Black Peter.  Smaller ones might be evergreen leaves and Christmas wreaths or little figures of children.”  We had none of these so just used normal cookie cutters, but I might invest in something for next year as these are really easy to make.

Round Christmas Cookies

Round Christmas Cookies - Speculaas

Ingredients

250g / 8½ oz self raising flour
125g / 4½ oz light brown caster sugar
3tsp koekkruiden spice mix*
50g / 1¾ oz ground almonds
100g / 3½ oz softened butter
1 egg, lightly whisked
1tbsp full milk

For the top:

1 egg white, beaten
3tsp light brown caster sugar
Flaked almonds
 (I bashed them a bit in a mortar and pestle to make them a better shape)

Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Grease a baking tray.

Mix together all the ingredients in a mixer or blender until throughly mixed together.  I used the “K” blade on the Kenwood Mixer.  Shape the dough into a ball and cover the dough ball with clingfilm and set aside for 1 hour in a cool place.

Flour a work surface and press the dough into an even, flat layer.  Using a cutter, cut shapes from the dough and place on the greased baking tray.

Brush with the egg white, then sprinkle with light brown caster sugar and flaked almonds on top of each speculaas biscuit.

Bake for 14 – 18 minutes and the cookies are turning a slightly darker shade of brown. Remove from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

* To make your own koekkruidden spice mix: ½tsp ground cloves, ½tsp allspice powder, 1tsp cardamom powder, 1tsp cinnamon

Mint Choc Cupcakes

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Weren’t we all brought up on the luxury of After Eights or Elizabeth Shaw Mint Crisps or Matchmakers, those quintessentially 1970s pieces of sophistication?  Or was it just me?  So using our new mintier Organic Peppermint Extract, I decided to create these Mint Choc Cupcakes that bring together the luxury of chocolate cupcakes with a 1970s feel of mintiness coming from the peppermint flavours in the cake, chocolate topping and then sprinkled Matchmakers over the top.

Simple, delicious and so retro.

Mint Choc Cupcakes By Axel Steenberg

Mint Choc Cupcakes By Axel Steenberg

Mint Choc Cupcakes

80g / 2¾oz organic butter (at room temperature)
175g / 1 cup / 6oz Fairtrade caster sugar
1 large free range egg (at room temperature)
170g / 1 cup / 6oz organic self raising flour
1tbsp Fairtrade organic cocoa powder
100ml / ⅓ cup full fat milk
1tsp Steenbergs organic peppermint extract
150g / 5¼oz Fairtrade milk chocolate
50ml / ¼ cup double cream
¼tsp Steenbergs organic peppermint extract
Some Matchmakers or other crispy mint chocolate

1.  Preheat the oven to 160C / 320F.  Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake papers.

2.  Using an electric hand whisk cream together the butter and caster sugar until light.  Add the large egg and mix well.

3.  Add the self raising flour and cocoa in two halves and mix in thoroughly.  Add the milk and Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract until well mixed in.

4.  Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake papers.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until firm to touch.  Allow to cool for a couple of minutes then cool on a wire rack.  They must be totally cool before putting on the topping.

5.  Over a pan of boiling water, melt the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Allow to cool a little, then thoroughly mix in the cream, the Steenbergs organic peppermint extract and allow to cool and thicken.

6.  Spread the chocolate frosting neatly over the cupcakes, then decorate with broken Matchmakers or other peppermint crisp.

A Couple Of Simple Recipes Using Steenbergs Peppermint Extract

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Using Steenbergs relaunched organic peppermint extract, I made a few peppermint flavoured sweets the other evening for a Diwali meal that we were treated to by some good friends.  They are really simple and quite delicious; the hostess loved the Peppermint Chocolate Biscuit Cake the most, but none of these sweets was left over by the end.

Peppermint Creams

Peppermint Creams

Plate Of Peppermint Creams

450g / 1lb organic icing sugar, sifted
125ml / ½ cup condensed milk
4-5tsp Steenbergs Organic peppermint extract
200g/ 7oz dark chocolate

Sieve the icing sugar into a mixing bowl, then add the condensed milk.  Mix the condensed milk thoroughly into the icing sugar.  To mix it in use a spoon and your fingers to mix it through.

Then add the Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract and work the peppermint flavour thoroughly through the mix.

Roll the peppermint cream mix out on a clean surface until about 4mm thick.  Using a small circular cutter of around 1.5cm in diameter, cut out circles and leave these on a plate or piece of baking parchment.  Leave to dry out for about 1 hour.

Melt the dark chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then dip the peppermint circles into the melted chocolate to half cover the peppermint.  Place onto some baking parchment to let the peppermint creams cool down and harden.

Peppermint Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Peppermint Flavoured Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Peppermint Biscuit Cake

160g / 5½oz butter
4tbsp golden syrup
16 digestive biscuits
200g / 7oz milk chocolate
1tsp Steenbergs Organic peppermint extract

Grease a small baking tray then line the base with some baking parchment.

Break the digestive biscuits into crumbs (easiest to do this in a plastic bag tied at end, then bash with rolling pin).

Put the butter and golden syrup in a heavy bottomed pan and melt together over a low heat.  Add the broken biscuit crumbs to the butter syrup and mix well.  Scoop into baking tray and press into the tray.  Chill in fridge.

Break the milk chocolate into a bowl and gently melt them over a pan of simmering water.  Remove the bowl from the pan carefully (it will be hot).  Allow the melted chocolate to cool for 5 minutes, add the Steenbergs Organic Peppermint Extract and mix into the chocolate and then spread over biscuit base.  Chill in fridge.

Turn out the biscuit cake, then cut into 2cm x 2cm squares.

Two Simple Chocolate Traybakes Made For Village Royal Wedding Tea Party

Saturday, April 30th, 2011
Raise A Glass For The Royal Toast

Raise A Glass For The Royal Toast

Like much of the country, and the world, we spent yesterday using the excuse of the Royal Wedding for a village party on the green and a day off the daily grind.  The weather behaved, raining during the wedding ceremony forcing my son and I from the garden to watch the pageantry, look at the dresses and see the kiss, then glorious sunshine for games and tea on the green in the afternoon.  Much fun was had by all ages and the familiar discourse of conservative, village life in rural North Yorkshire was reaffirmed, so that we can now spend the intervening time diluting this partiotism down again with more liberal & progressive ideas until our next celebration of Englishness or Britishness or Northerness comes along sometime in the very near future.

But the question was what to make for the tea party.  Everyone else had been making masses of sandwiches, sausage rolls and cupcakes; in fact, the tea tables groaned with far too much food.  We were told not to make a cucumber or egg mayo sandwich, which was fine by me, and asked to make some biscuits or such like.  As it was for the Royal Wedding, I recalled that Prince William had requested a tray bake for his stag party, being one of his favourites, so there was the hook – a simple chocolate traybake.

Sack Race On Green

Sack Race On Green

Chase The Yellow Chicken

Chase The Yellow Chicken

I trawled the web for ideas to find whether anyone had leaked the secret recipe but no such luck, but I found a few thoughts and from those have created my own ersatz Royal biscuity, chocolatey “no cook” tray bakes.  They were very good and went down a treat.

Rich Tea Tray Bake

Rich Tea Tray Bake

Crunchie Chocolate Traybake

60g / 2 oz plain chocolate
60g / 2 oz milk chocolate
100g / 3½ oz / 1 stick unsalted butter
2tbsp golden syrup
200g / 7oz digestive biscuits
100g / 3½ oz sultanas
100g / 3½ oz Crunchie bars (honeycomb, cinder or sponge toffee)

Topping

100g / 3½ oz dark chocolate
100g / 3½ oz Crunchie bars (honeycomb, cinder or sponge toffee)

1.  Lightly grease a 17cm x 26cm (7 inch x 10 inch) baking tray and line the base with baking paper.  Set aside.

2.  Firstly, crush the digestive biscuits and cinder toffee.  Put the digestives into a clear freezer bag and tie the end without much air in it.  Then with the end of a rolling pin smash the digestives into small pieces.  Do the same for the cinder toffee, but I like these in larger chunks for the texture; you can either do these in two batches or as one and then halve the amount – your proportions do not need to be precise, so don’t get hung up on the details.  Mix the Crunchie bar with the sultanas.

Crunched Up Cinder Toffee And Sultanas

Crunched Up Cinder Toffee And Sultanas

3.  Secondly, place the plain and dark chocolate for the base in a heatproof or metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  Add the golden syrup and butter.  Melt these all together, stirring occassionally with a metal spoon.

Chocolate, butter and golden syrup

Chocolate, butter and golden syrup

4.  When melted, add the digestive biscuits, sultanas and honeycomb and mix all thoroughly together.  Make sure that everything has been coated with the chocolate mix.

5.  Spoon the mixture into the tray and put into fridge to set  while you prepare the topping.

6.  For the topping, melt the dark chocolate, then mix in the remaining crushed up Crunchie bars.  Take the tray out of the fridge and cover the base evenly with the chocolate topping.

7.  Leave in the fridge for about 1 hour to fully set, then turn out onto a chopping board.  With a sharp knife, cut into small rectangles of about  1½ cm x 2cm (½ inch x 1 inch).

Crunchie Chocolate Traybake

Crunchie Chocolate Traybake

Rich Tea Chocolate Traybake

225g / 8 oz rich tea biscuits
50g / 1¾ oz / 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
125g / 4½ oz golden caster sugar
1 free range egg, lightly beaten
100g / 3½ oz dark chocolate

Topping

125g / 4½ oz dark chocolate
75g / 4½ oz milk chocolate
50g / 1¾ oz white chocolate

1.  Lightly grease a small round cake tin (15cm, 6 inch in diameter), with a removable base.  Place a circle of baking parchment in the base.  Set aside.

2.  Crunch up the rich tea biscuits into small pieces, leaving some that are larger at about 1cm / ½ inch.  Cream the butter and caster sugar together, then add the egg and whisk again.

Crushed Rich Tea Biscuits

Crushed Rich Tea Biscuits

3.  Break the dark chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl and melt over simmering water.  When melted, add the sugar-butter-egg mix to the chocolate and stir in until melted and thickened to a light custard texture, which will take a couple of minutes.

4.  Stir up the broken biscuit pieces until throughly coated.  Transfer the chocolatey biscuit mix into the cake tin, making sure that the pieces are squashed right into all the gaps to make a firm, continuous base.  Put into the fridge for about 1 hour until thoroughly set.

Take The Crunchy Chocolate Base From The Fridge

Take The Crunchy Chocolate Base From The Fridge

5.  Remove the base from the fridge and leave at room temperature while you do prepare the dark chocolate.  Break the dark chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl and melt over simmering water.  While it is melting, gently slide the prepared biscuit base out of the cake tin.  Spread the melted chocolate over the base. smoothing until nice and even.  Put into the fridge for about ½ an hour.

6.  For the final flourish, melt the white chocolate and then drizzle over the top of the dark chocolate.  Place it all back into the fridge again for 2 hours to set fully. With a sharp knife, cut into small shapes of about  1½ cm x 2cm (½ inch x 1 inch); I know that it it is a circle so it doesn’t quite work but that gives the cook loads of scraps to test for deliciousness.

Drizzle White Chocolate Over Base

Drizzle White Chocolate Over Base

Cut The Cake Into Small Pieces

Cut The Cake Into Small Pieces

Bake A Coffee Cake To Put A Spring Back Into Your Step

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

I am going through one of those slow patches with an enthusiasm level akin to the doldrums, full of periods of calm, then storms, but all interspersed with light winds.  Nothing much seems to be working, with nowt falling into place.  It is as if your legs are moving but you are not actually getting anywhere or doing much of any consequence.

But the sun has come out and spring is here, so I have managed to take a few photos of spring and been for a few walks along the Ure with my daughter, chatting about this and that, while watching the white flowers bloom on blackthorn bushes, promising of sloes in the autumn.  And the rabbits hopping around undisturbed by the oak tree in the pasture.

Springtime = Coffee Cake

Springtime = Coffee Cake

While Pam Corbin has managed to keep me from mischief as I continue to play with recipes from her delightful book, “Cakes“.  I had a good go with her Wholemeal Orange Cake with Earl Grey Icing, which has a delicate orange citrus flavour, and made an amended version of her Coffee and Walnut Cake, morphing into a coffee cake for Sophie’s birthday (21 again) as I am not the greatest fan of walnuts, finding them bitter with a yucky aftertaste.

So here’s my Coffee Cake, based on Pam’s Coffee & Walnut Cake:

For the cake:

200g/ 7 oz organic plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
200g / 7 oz unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and left to soften
200g / 7 oz golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
2tsp coffee extract or 1tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1tbsp boiling water or 50ml Camp coffee  essence
25ml / 1¾ tbsp milk

For the filling:

60g /2 oz unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and softened
125g /4¼ oz icing sugar, sieved
1tsp coffee extract, or 2tsp instant coffee in 2tsp boiling water or 10ml Camp coffee essence

For the icing:
200g / 7 oz icing sugar, sieved
1tbsp strong fresh coffee

Preheat the oven to 220C/350F.  Prepare two 20cm/ 8 inch round sandwich tins by lightly greasing them both, then lining the bases with baking paper.

Sieve The Flour

Sieve The Flour

Sieve the plain flour and baking powder and set aside.

Put the butter into a large mixing bowl, then with an electric hand whisk beat to a cream, then add the sugar and beat until light and creamy.  Add the eggs, then 2tbsp of flour and beat together.  Add the coffee essence and beat until light and fluffy.

Now fold in the flour in 2 halves.  Add the milk and stir carefully to keep the consistency.

Divide the mixture between the 2 prepared cake tins, spreading out evenly with a spoon.  Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the tops are a light golden brown and springy to touch.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Prepare the buttercream filling by beating all the filling ingredients together until light and creamy.

Make the coffee icing, by mixing the ingredients together, adding perhaps 1-2 tbsp boiling water to get the consistency smooth, but still thick.

Put one of the cooled cakes onto a plate or cake stand.  With a sharp knife carefully slice the top off the cake to make it flat, enjoying eating this as chef’s perks.  Spread the top over with the buttercream, then sandwich the other cake over the top.  Now, spread the coffee icing over the top.

Prepare The Coffee Buttercream For The Coffee Sandwich Cakes

Prepare The Coffee Buttercream For The Coffee Sandwich Cakes

Coffee Cake

Coffee Cake

Enjoy with tea or coffee and the cake will last a week in an airtight tin.

Then you could enjoy Pam’s orange cake next…

Brownies Recipes From Cakes By Pam Corbin

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

We have just been at the International Food Exhibition 2011, IFE 2011, at Excel in London, where we have been exhibiting. 

It is one of those strange and massive events, where you can be treated to delicious, lovingly made cheese from the Wensleydale Cheese Company with their Jervaulx Blue through to the tasteless, sweaty industrial cheese of AB Technologies Alimentaire, who initiated me into the delights of chocolate flavoured cheese strings (revolting) and wasabi flavoured cheese strings (not great but strangely I think it is a possiblity, but you would need more wasabi for a kick and tastier cheese).  The other weird flavour from the show was Purbeck Ice Cream’s Horseradish and Beetroot Icecream, which was intriguing and would work well as an amuse bouche.  The Steenbergs (our) stand was quite busy, but opposite us was Higgidy Pies – now they have done massively well and are now in most of the major multiples which from a start about 7 years ago is truly immense. 

In fact, most of the businesses around us at the IFE trade show were all in Boots, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose etc, so it was slightly weird being one of the few to hold out and say “No thank you” to the big multiples, and long may we be able to resist the temptation even if it means we are all the poorer for our positioning.  It is also interesting to note that inspite of the fact that customers are always telling us “Don’t got into the multiples” and so on, they were happily swarming around Higgidy Pies despite the fact that they are listed in Asda, Boots, Budgens, Ocado, Sainsburys and Waitrose.

And just round from us was Thursday Cottage, which is now part of Tiptree, but was founded by Pam Corbin.  Pam now does courses in jam making and writes books for River Cottage.  She is one of the world’s beautiful people – lovely nature, light and fresh manner and a great cook, as well as a real fan of Steenbergs ingredients.  Pam has just finished her book from River Cottage on Cakes and she has kindly mentioned Steenbergs spices on more than one occasion, for which we are so grateful.

Anyway to the book.  The aptly-called “Cakes” is number 8 in River Cottage’s series of indispensible handbooks, covering the basics of core areas like jam making, baking cakes etc.  They are hard-backed but the size of a normal paperback, so they are handy and convenient rather than big and bulky.  What’s more they make difficult topics, really easy.  There are masses of cakes – real cakes as this is full of lots of delicious-sounding flavour combinations, but they are classic British-style cakes and not the flouncy, airy and chic cakes of the superchef catwalk scene.

Chocolate Brownies

Chocolate Brownies

So I have chosen a couple of recipes to try: firstly “My chocolate brownies” in this blog, followed (perhaps) by “Wholemeal orange cake“, “Simnel cakelets“, “Cut and come again” in subsequent blogs.  But please make sure you go out and buy her books, because Pam is really lovely.

Ingredients
(Adapted from Cakes by Pam Corbin)

185g / 6½ oz plain chocolate (60-70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
185g / 6½ oz unsalted butter
3 large eggs
275g / 9¾ oz Fairtrade golden caster sugar
85g / 3oz plain flour
40g / 1½ oz Fairtrade cocoa powder (even Cadbury’s is Fairtrade these days)
50g / 1¾ oz white chocolate, roughly chopped (I tried out Morrisons Best for this)
50g / 1¾ oz milk chocolate, roughly chopped (I used half a bar of Cadbury’s Fairtrade Dairy Milk, then ate the rest)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.  Put the plain chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the unsalted butter.  Place over a barely simmering water on a low heat and leave until melted.  Stir to blend together and take off the heat.

Whisk the eggs and Fairtrade golden caster sugar together with an electric whisk or mixer until pale and quadrupled in volume, which takes 5-10 minutes.  According to Pam, this is the key bit as it increases the volume massively and makes the whole brownie more succulent.
Whisk The Eggs And Sugar To Much Bigger Volume

Whisk The Eggs And Sugar To Much Bigger Volume

Fold the chocolate mixture into the mousse-like egg mixture.  Sift the flour and cocoa powder and fold into the mixture as gently as possible.  Then fold in the chopped chocolate pieces.

Fold Chocolate Into Egg-Sugar Mix

Fold Chocolate Into Egg-Sugar Mix

Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake for 35 minutes, or until the top has just stopped to wobble and then take out and leave to cool in the tin.  You are trying to leave the brownie partly uncooked and stop it becoming a chocolate cake.

When thoroughly cooled, turn out the brownies onto a tea-towel and then place onto a chopping board.  Cut into squares.

The brownies can be stored for 4-5 days in an airtight container, but brownies never last that long in our household and these are truly scrumptious.  The ones from the centre of the cake tin are the best as they have that delicious, moist mouthfeel.