Friday, 29 June 2012

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf

The recipe for the Weekly Bake Off this week was Mary Berry's Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Loaf. Got to admit, this one was a bit of a revelation, as the recipe itself did not look very promising. No real chocolate in it, see? (You can tell I've become spoilt.) Instead, it relies on its chocolate flavour from  simply cocoa powder. I thought that, given the ingredients, it would be on the dry side. But I was wrong. It was deliciously moist, and the icing and white chocolate drizzle just added to this. Mike and I haven't had much of a look-in with this one, as Josh has somehow managed to polish off the lot himself.

Just as a reminder, the Weekly Bake Off is organised by the lovely Amy, and her challenge is to bake her way through Mary Berry's 100 Cakes and Bakes, one recipe (or sometimes more) every week. There is an open invitation to join in with her and bake along. I've lost track of where we are, and I haven't been able to take part every week. But on those that I have done, it has turned out to be a real voyage of discovery, and I have tried out lots of new recipes that I probably would never have touched otherwise. Anyway, the price the book is retailing for makes it a real bargain (I've seen it on sale previously for less than £4 - my copy was £3 at my local Asda). As the recipe for this particular cake, can be found online here, at the Telegraph's website, I'm not going to reproduce it.

The method is pretty simple. You just whizz up a batch of what is basically an all-in-one sponge recipe. Once the batter is ready, you split it into two bowls, one of which you then add the cocoa powder (which has been mixed with some boiling water to form a paste).This gives the chocolate sponge. You alternate dollopy layers of the sponge into a loaf tin, until the tin is filled, levelling the top carefully. The loaf bakes then for about an hour, and you leave it to cool before icing. It does seem a little greasy to touch, but this is what keeps it moist, and it certainly doesn't taste like that.

The icing is based on melted butter, to which you add cocoa and icing sugar, together with a little milk and vanilla extract. This is smoothed over the top of the cooled cake. Mine was probably a little runnier than it should have been, as it started to drizzle down the sides of the cake, too (clearly not what has happened in the picture of Mary Berry's version). But I guess that has its upside, as you get some on the sides of the cake then.

The finishing touch is a drizzle of melted white chocolate over the dark chocolate icing. Ta Daah. The finished cake is really chocolatey, and stays moist for days. Teenage boys permitting that is.

I'm not sure that I would have tried this recipe if it wasn't for the Bake Off, and I can't wait to see the other variations when Amy publishes the round up of entries for this one. It's a great way to have discovered a new family favourite.


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Vanilla Bean Scones with Strawberry Cream Filling

I know it's not terribly original, but when you're faced with the letter 'V' for Alphabakes, what can you do? There have already been some fab entries involving Vodka and Vinegar, as well as Victoria Sponges and Vanilla goodies galore. But I was in a total fug trying to come up with something. Then, I came across this lovely little recipe for scones in an Australian Women's Weekly publication 'Afternoon Tea'. I've never seen one which includes vanilla pod seeds before, so thought I would give this one a go.

As with all scone recipes, these are best eaten on the day of baking, and preferably while they are still fluffy and warm from the oven. That said, Mike and I were very happy to finish them off the next day, when they were slightly firmer but still had a lovely soft vanilla flavour coming through.

Vanilla Bean Scones with Strawberry Cream Filling

Ingredients (makes 9)

375g self raising flour
1 tbspn caster sugar
30g chilled unsalted butter, diced
pinch of fine salt
180ml milk
125ml water
1 vanilla bean

For the filling
300ml double cream
2 tbspns icing sugar
strawberry jam
fresh strawberries, sliced thinly

Preheat the oven to 200 Fan / 220 conventional / 425F and grease a baking tray.

Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a bowl. Add the chopped butter and rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Combine the milk and water in a jug. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the liquid and discard the pod (or add to a jar of caster sugar and leave for at least a week to make vanilla sugar).

Add the liquid slowly to the flour mixture using just enough to make a soft, sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until smooth. Press dough lightly to form a square, and then cut into nine pieces. Place the scones on the baking sheet, leaving a small gap between each one. Brush the tops with a little extra milk.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until risen and golden.

To make the filling, whip the cream with the icing sugar to the soft peak stage.  Cut a scone in half, and smooth a little strawberry jam over one side. Add a dollop of cream, and then some sliced strawberries.

These were really delicious and a perfect summer tea time treat.

As they are definitely a 'V' bake with the vanilla, I'm submitting them for this month's Alphabakes challenge, organised  (and hosted this month) by Ros, of the More Than Occasional Baker, and Caroline, of Caroline Makes. A round up will be published after 25 June on the More Than Occasional Baker.

As delicious summer strawberries comprise the filling, I'm also going to submit them to this month's Tea Time Treats challenge, organised by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked. This month's theme is summer berries, and so I hope these will fit in  with all the other gorgeous entries. Kate is hosting this month, so a round up of the entries will be available after 28 June on her lovely blog.



Friday, 22 June 2012

Chocolate and Coffee Cake with Espresso Buttercream

This month's We Should Cocoa challenge is to produce something using chocolate (of course) and coffee. One of my favourite flavour combos, I must admit I didn't know where to start with it. Cupcakes? Muffins? Choux buns? (Yes, I know that's pushing the envelope a little for me, but still, one day I'll make them again, eh?) Anyway, I turned to the interweb thingy for inspiration, and found it in a  fantastic recipe from Ken, of Hungry Rabbit via a guest post he did last year on My Man's Belly.

I was immediately  taken with the simple beauty of the cake, and that it came from a straightforward buttercream icing, carefully applied, with just a few chocolate covered coffee beans as a simple garnish. I immediately realised I wanted to give it a go. My presentation isn't as good, but then that's a great reason to practice a bit more (so I think you can probably expect more iced cakes in future!).

Anyway here it is. I've converted the original recipe (which is an American one) into UK measurements, and I substituted a couple of ingredients where necessary. I also used a slightly different method to make the cake batter.

Chocolate and Coffee Cake with Espresso Buttercream


115g plain chocolate, chopped finely
25g cocoa powder
2 tbspn espresso powder
120ml freshly boiled water
280g plain flour
3/4 tspn baking soda
170g soft unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
130g soft light brown sugar
3/4 tspn fine salt
4 medium eggs (each 57-64g weighed in the shell)
1 tspn vanilla extraxt
140ml buttermilk (the original recipe uses 3/4 cup soured cream but I didn't have that so I used a lesser amount of buttermilk - as it was runnier)

Espresso Buttercream
280g soft unsalted butter
5 cups icing sugar
1/4 tspn fine salt
4 tbspn espresso powder
1 tspn vanilla
4 tbspn double cream

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 175 conventional / 350F / Gas 4. Grease and base line two 23cm (9 inch) loose bottomed sandwich tins.

Place the chocolate with the cocoa and espresso powder in a small bowl and pour over the water. stir to melt and then whisk for a minute or so until you get a smooth mixture. (At this point my inner baking diva was screaming 'but water and chocolate don't mix!?!', but in this case they did - see the piccie below!)

Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer along with the sugars and salt until soft and creamy. Mix the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract in a small jug. Sift the flour and baking soda together. Add a third of the flour to the butter and sugar mix, and then mix briefly. Add half the liquid, and then alternate with a third of the flour, the final half of liquid, and then the final third of the flour, mixing each time briefly until incorporated.

Add the chocolate mix and mix again briefly until it is evenly distributed. Turn the batter into the sandwich tins (half in each one) and gently level the surface.

Bake in the oven for about 25 - 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to continue cooling. Allow to cool completely before assembling the cake.

To make the buttercream, mix the espresso powder with the cream and vanilla . Set aside. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat briefly so that it is smooth. Add the icing sugar, salt, and the coffee/cream mix. With the mixer on low at first, beat to combine the sugar with the butter, then turn up to medium high and beat for a good few minutes until the buttercream is soft and fluffy.

Crumb coated
Cut the cakes in half to give four layers. Layer each with a little of the buttercream. Smooth a thin layer of buttercream over the whole cake to give a crumb coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes so this firms the crumb coat, then ice the cake using the remaining buttercream. I used a decorative scraper to get the lines on the side. I then chilled the cake for another 30 minutes to allow it to firm up slightly before cutting.

The cake was very soft and moist, but as you are supposed to cut each in half horizontally, it made it a little difficult to handle and had a tendency to crumble easily. It was really delicious though. The espresso buttercream is very strongly coffee flavoured. The original recipe uses coffee extract as well, but as I didn't have any, I used the full 4 tablespoons of espresso powder, despite cutting the butter (I do that as I find US recipes tend to be too runny if I use the full amount stated). I would cut the espresso if I make it again, maybe just using half. 

All in all, a delicious chocolatey, coffeeish hit of a cake. I'm submitting it to We Should Cocoa, the brainchild of Choclette and Chele, which this month is being hosted by Lucy at the Kitchen Maid. This month's roundup will be published sometime after 25 June, so why don't you check out the other entries then?

As this is an American recipe, I'm going to be cheeky and also enter it into the United Bakes of America challenge, hosted by Gem at Cupcake Crazy. Gem will publish the round up of this month's entries sometime after 30 June. Well worth a look, especially if you're into your American baking!



Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Apple Crumble Cake

I don't tend to bake all that often with fruit. Unless my lovingly produced goodies contain some form of chocolate, they don't tend to be well received by certain quarters of the household. Apple is one of the few exceptions, as I know that at least Mike will be receptive. A few weeks back I bought some cooking apples, with the intention of using them to make the selected recipe for the Weekly Bake Off. But I ran out of time, so never got around to it. Pretty soon, every time I opened the fridge, the apples would glare at me. I began to feel guilty for what I feared would be yet another example of  profligate waste. That is, buying something intending to use it for something specific and then having to throw it out as it has gone off before I've actually got around to doing it.

But then I remembered this recipe, which some years ago, I used to often make for Mike. I don't really know why I stopped, as it a gorgeous cake, which is perfect either as a warm dessert or as elevenses to accompany your morning coffee. It's quite simple, but you do need to get your hands mucky. That's actually good fun, and before you know it, your home will be filled with the delicious aroma of baking apples and cake. 

I suppose it's quite an autumnal recipe, but as the weather in Cardiff was pretty horrible last weekend, it made the perfect treat for Father's Day.

Apple Crumble Cake (adapted from Gary Rhodes' Food with Friends)


350g cooking apples (about 3 medium sized)
225g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg
115g butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
115g soft light brown sugar
2-3 tbspn milk
1-2 tbspn demerera sugar

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 conventional / 350F / Gas 4.

Lightly grease a 23cm (9 inch) sandwich tin and place on a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, salt and nutmeg into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

Peel, core and chop the apples and mix them with the soft brown sugar.

Fold into the flour mixture and add enough milk to make a soft batter. The mix should not be sticky though.

Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and level it, pushing into the sides.

Sprinkle with the demerera sugar. This will give the cake a lovely crunchy top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.

This is lovely when it is allowed to cool a little, but served while still warm.

I love it with a splosh of cream; Mike loves his with some vanilla ice cream. Either way, the crunchy top and soft fluffy cake littered with melting chunks of apples can't fail to please.



Friday, 15 June 2012

Coconut Raspberry Ruffle Macarons

I had one of those moments the other day. The boys and I were out shopping and popped into our local Cadbury shop. We hadn't been in there for a while, and usually buy a treat when we do go, so had a good look around. I was absolutely amazed to see a blast from my past there. Jameson's Raspberry Ruffles. I hadn't seen these anywhere for years. They are, if you don't know, little chocolates made from raspberry-flavoured coconut fondant enrobed in dark chocolate. They taste (to me, anyway), sublime.

One of my grandfather's favourite sweets, too, a fond childhood memory of mine is of him and I going on expeditions to his allotment, and returning, his bike laden with home grown veggies for tea. Of course, what he didn't tell my nan, was that we had had a brief detour via his bookies, and my reward for silence was a few of his treasured raspberry ruffles. Not that I'm easily bought, of course ...

Aanyways, I hadn't seen them in ages and so just had to get a bag. They tasted just as I remembered, and it got me thinking that raspberry and chocolate is such a classic combination, how else could I use them? The coconut gave me the idea to try out some macarons, as I have plenty of coconut flour amongst the ingredients in my 'curry cupboard'. So I wondered about replacing some of the ground almonds with some of this coconut flour which is already finely ground. I'd heard also, that the best thing to use if you want fruit macarons is dried fruit powder, and so in order to get the raspberry flavour, I managed to source some raspberry powder. So what I was intending was the coconut-raspberry flavour to come from the macaron shells, with a dark chocolate ganache to sandwich them together. A bit of a reverse raspberry ruffle, but I figured you would still get the taste.

I used what has become my normal recipe for macarons as a base, and then played around with the quantities. I was really pleased with the end result as far as taste went, but there were a few hiccups which disappointed me. I still have not managed to create macs that have the bold colour I'm looking for, without being tinged brown by the oven. On this occasion, I think it's due in part to the fact that I actually needed to bake the macs for far longer than normal, and had to take a pretty radical approach. I did my normal 15 minutes (but at a slightly lower temperature - 130C) and as they felt dry to the touch, took them out to cool. After about 30 minutes, I easily peeled them off the silicon liner. While they looked OK at first, after cooling for a few hours on parchment, the outer shell had also become slightly soggy. So I reheated the oven, and then put them again in for 5 minutes. After that, I flipped them over and put them in for another 5 minutes. This allowed them to mostly dry out while still retaining a hint of chew in the centre. However, the colour of the macs suffered as they became increasingly tinged brown with the longer cooking. I'm not sure what caused the extra moisture in the macs, but presume it was either the lower oven temp, or the fruit powder. Otherwise, I'm at a loss to explain why this batch was different to previous. I don't think it affected the taste though, and they were pretty reminiscent of Raspberry Ruffles.

So, here you go. Raspberry Ruffle Macarons.

Coconut Raspberry Ruffle Macarons

Ingredients (makes approximately 40)

175g icing sugar
65g ground almonds
60g coconut powder
5g freeze dried raspberry powder
3 large egg whites
75g caster sugar
Pink gel food colouring (I used Wilton's Pink)

Dark Chocolate Ganache
100g 70% dark chocolate
50ml double cream

Clockwise from left - Coconut, Almond and Raspberry
Preheat the oven to 130 fan / 150 conventional (next time I would go back to 140 fan, as I think this  slightly higher temp would have helped dry the macs out properly first time and minimise browning). Prepare some baking trays with either silicon macaron mats or baking parchment.

Place the almonds and coconut into the bowl of a food processor. Add the icing sugar and powdered raspberry. Pulse a few times until well mixed and ground finely. Sieve this mixture twice to remove the larger pieces of nut left. Put on one side.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, but they do not go dry. Add the caster sugar bit by bit, while you continue whisking. Add the pink colouring to get a deep raspberry shade, and then continue whisking until you have a smooth meringue.

Gently fold into this half of the almond/coconut mix. The mixture should start to loosen a bit. Add the remaining dry mix, and continue folding until the mixture flows from your spatula in a ribbon (see below). I suspect that on this occasion, I didn't quite mix it enough, and so could have done with a few more folds to loosen it a bit more.

Transfer the mix to a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round tip. Pipe into rounds. Allow the macs to sit on the counter top for at least 30 minutes until they feel dry to the touch and are no longer tacky (it may take a bit longer - up to an hour). This is an important stage, as it is what allows the feet to form when the macs enter the heat of the oven.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Remove, and immediately slide the mat onto a cooling rack. (The picture below shows macs of two slightly different colours - I'm not sure why this is at this stage, as they had both been cooked in the oven for the same time, on the same rack.

Fresh from the oven
The brown silicon mat is the one I use from Lakeland - see my Pistachio Macaron post for a full explanation of the two mats I use).  Allow the macs to cool completely, and then sort into same size pairs.

Make up the ganache by melting the chocolate, with the cream, in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir well to mix, and then allow to cool slightly to thicken. Place in a piping bag, and use to sandwich the macaron shells together.

It looks like I still have to find the magic formula, colour-wise, but these were a lovely little treat, full of raspberry ruffle flavour. You could definitely taste the raspberry, and the coconut came through well, too. In truth though, maybe a little too well, and I think I would probably use slightly less coconut next time (so 40g coconut to 85g almonds) to temper it slightly.

As I've now returned to work after a period of maternity leave, I'm finding  it a little difficult to manage everything I want to do, so I'm sorry but blogging - and baking -  have taken a bit of a back seat for the last few weeks. I've got some great things planned though, and can't wait to try them. They just might be a little less frequent as I'll need to be super-organised while I sort out my routine!

Susie :)


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Poached Salmon, Soured Cream and Dill Tart

I'm turning savoury today, as I wanted to put into practice again the things I learnt at Eckington Manor back in March (see my post about it here). I made this last week when the weather was still vaguely summery, so a tart chock full of poached salmon, with a sour cream, dill and paprika filling seemed like a good idea. It was perfect for lunch on the day that I made it, as the sun was shining, the air warm and all seemed well with the world.

The pastry was crisp and buttery, and the filling delicate, as there was no cheese giving it heaviness. It took me a little longer to put together than I'd originally anticipated, as I wanted to poach the salmon first and allow it to cool, before making the rest of the tart. All together, with chilling time for the pastry as well, it probably took around two hours to get to the stage where the finished tart was sitting on the table. It was well worth it though!

Poached Salmon

Two salmon fillets, 240g in total
5 black peppercorns
sprinkle of salt
sprig of fresh parsley
two strips of lemon peel
one bay leaf

Check the salmon for bones and remove. Place the salmon with the remaining ingredients into a small frying pan. Pour over some boiling water to just cover the fish. Bring to a simmer and allow to gently poach for 10 minutes until the fish is just cooked (this depends on the thickness/size of the fillets - mine above took just about 10).

Gently remove from the water and drain, on some kitchen paper, allowing to cool. I used the kitchen paper as I wanted to make sure that as much of the water as possible came away, so the filling wouldn't be too soggy later. Once cooled, remove and skin from the fish and flake into bite sized pieces.

Savoury Shortcrust Pastry
(makes plenty for a 6 inch flan ring / 4 servings)

200g plain flour
100g butter, chilled and cut into small dice
pinch salt
60g iced water

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the chilled butter. Rub the butter in, using the tips of your fingers, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and there are no large lumps of butter left. Add the chilled water and mix in until the dough comes together. Try to do this as briefly as possible, otherwise you may overwork the pastry, causing it to be tough when cooked.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a round, again handling it as little as possible. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes in the fridge. The pastry can be used in other recipes of course, such as my delicious Chorizo, Feta and Butternut Squash Tart.

Poached Salmon, Soured Cream and Dill Tart

shortcrust pastry, made up as above
a little beaten egg

240g poached salmon
120ml (1/2 cup) soured cream
1 tblspn milk
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
1 tspn chopped fresh dill
1/4 tspn paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

First, preheat the oven to 140 Fan / 160 conventional / 325 F / Gas 3. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and lightly grease the inside of a 15cm (6 inch) flan ring (or use a same size tart pan).

Remove the pastry from the fridge and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a depth of about 1/4 inch, and line the flan ring. Pinch the pastry gently so that the edge rises above the level of the tin. This will allow for some shrinkage when it cooks.

Prick the base to stop it bubbling up while it cooks, and then line the pastry with two sheets of cling film and baking beans - bring the edges of the cling film up over the beans to form a small parcel you can easily lift out. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the base looks dry and feels it to the touch (you will need to lift the beans up and have a look - if it still looks uncooked in places, just replace the beans and give it a few more minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven, remove the beans and cling film, and brush the base and insides with a little beaten egg. Return to the oven for 2 minutes until the egg looks shiny. The egg will form a seal on the pastry to prevent it going soggy when the filling is added. Once ready, you can carefully trim the edge of the tart shell to level it

To make up the filling, place the eggs, soured cream, milk, paprika and salt and pepper into a jug and mix well. Chop the dill finely, and add that to the soured cream and egg mix.

Layer the salmon in the base of the tart. Add the filling slowly, so that you do not go above the edges of the pastry, or the tart will leak and go soggy. I did this in two layers, so that I could make sure it was as full as possible. I then added a sprig of dill to the top for decoration.
Bake in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes until golden and puffed. Serve warm.

This would be lovely for a summer lunch and, as you can leave to cool a little once it is out of the oven, is great if you have tardy guests.

As Dill is included in the tart filling, and Parsley and Bay in the poaching liquid for the salmon, I'm submitting this recipe to the Herbs on Saturday challenge for June, hosted by the amazing Karen at Lavender and Lovage. The closing date this month is 30th June, after which Karen will prepare a round up of the herbilicious entries. Why don't you pop over and have a look?