Fruit Scones

I’m so very pleased when I can manage to fit in four runs a week, even though I never try and run very far. Now the weather is getting warmer, my favourite time of day is early morning, when everybody is still sleeping. The air outside is fresh and cool, the insects are gently humming in the background, and there are meadow flowers everywhere, looking particularly bright and cheerful.

Unfortunately, I never quite manage it at the weekends! That’s alright though because the other best time of day to be outside is in the evenings, when you can watch the spectacular pink and blue cloud formations in the sky, the sun is gold and soothing instead of scorching, and the grasshoppers are scraping away in the grass.

When the weather is so beautiful, I guess the last thing you want to do is be tied down to the kitchen trying to bake something complicated. Scones are one of those things that are perfectly synoymous with an English summer, whizzed up in the space of half an hour and perfect to sit out in the sun with :). You don’t want to be running around when the sun is high overhead, so sit down with a scone or two instead.

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I really like having dried fruit crammed into my scones. It’s hard, but I’ve got to resist the temptation to add too much as it becomes difficult to stamp out, and the fruit scorches in the oven too. A very small handful is plenty!

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Fruit Scones

  • 8 oz self-raising flour
  • 1 oz caster sugar
  • 2 oz salted butter
  • small handful of raisins or sultanas
  • 1 egg and a 2 tbsp milk, beaten together
  • Milk

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Mix the flour and caster sugar together. Rub the butter into the flour until fine and breadcrumby. Add the raisins/sultanas and mix them in well.

Mix in the beaten egg and milk roughly with a knife, and then add more milk to bring it together into a soft, but not sticky dough. Don’t overwork it or it will become tough, and lose the light texture that makes a good scone so moreish.

Onto a floured surface, gently pat or roll the dough out to 1.5-2cm thick, and stamp out rounds with a floured cookie cutter.  Glaze the tops with a little extra milk. Don’t let it drip down the sides as this will prevent the scones from rising. Bake for 12 minutes until golden and risen. Transfer onto a cooling rack, and allow to cool. Eat them slightly warm with plenty of cream and jam.

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Penne Carbonara

I was once told by an Italian that the way I pronounced penne actually sounded like pene, the Italian word for penis. And no matter how much I tried to correct my pronunciation, it always caused a riot of mirth whenever I started talking about pasta. So maybe I should only whisper the name of this dish in the vincinity of any Italian-speakers out there. Just in case.

I realise that this carbonara may be my first savoury recipe post of the year! Shock, horror! What a glorious thing it is too. As with most pasta-based dishes, it is surprisingly quick and speedy to concot, as well as being perfect for dinner à deux. I’d never cooked this before, so turned to Google for a quick skim. The sheer volume of different recipes out there, in all shapes, sizes and uctuousness, is quite mind-boggling.

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In the end, I went for a trusty James Martin recipe, which requires a rib-sticking quantity of double cream. I had only a dribble left over from making this summer berry cheesecake, so substituted the remainder with single cream. The quantity we made could easily serve 4, but you can adapt it for 2 just by halving the ingredients.

I realise that the way I’ve made this, it’s not strictly speaking an authentic carbonara anymore. However, the mushrooms and spinach do add a zazzle of colour, texture and some veg so I’m not complaining!

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By the way, the mirth I generated amongst Italians was not limited to pasta dishes alone. Chicken Katsu was thought to be very amusing too. I don’t think I should elaborate on this.

Penne Carbonara

Adapted from James Martin on BBC Food

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 150g pancetta, cubed
  • 150g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 25ml double cream
  • 75ml single cream
  • 50g finely grated parmesan (reserve some for sprinkling)
  • 350g penne
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a frying pan until hot, then add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Add the mushrooms and when almost cooked, throw in the spinach until just wilted. Set to one side.

In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks, cream and most of the parmesan, reserving some for sprinkling later. Season well with salt and pepper.

In a pan of salted boiling water, cook the penne until done. Drain, then add to the bowl of cream mixture, and stir continuously until smooth. Add the parsley.

Dish the pasta into bowls, and season again with salt and pepper. Garnish with a sprinkling of parmesan, and a little sprig of parsley. Serve outdoors in the summer sun, with a simple tomato salad on the side.

Summer Berry Cheesecake

I baked a variation of this strawberry cheesecake at the weekend. It’s based on this BBC Good Food cheesecake, plus some extra lemon juice, and a smattering of blueberries for some very patriotic colours (if you live in the UK, USA, France etc).

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At first, I was afraid it was too rich. But it just needed more time in the fridge to set properly, and for the flavours to mingle and settle. It was a little tricky to cut tidily.If you want to cut it into small slices for a crowd, it might be better to add the fresh fruit and coulis onto each slice after cutting. I’m keen on trying more no-bake cheesecake recipes out there, they’re just perfect for a sunny weekend.

Photo credits and Photoshop wizardry for this cheesecake again go to A.

Also a big thank you to all my readers! This week, I finally crossed the 100 followers mark, and am so excited to have such a wonderful following of fellow cake enthusiasts. It means a lot to me. 🙂

Summer Berry Cheesecake

Adapted from BBC Good Food

For the base and filling:

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 125g salted butter
  • 600g cream cheese
  • 284ml double cream
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • the juice of 1/2 lemon

For the topping:

  • 400g fresh strawberries
  • sprinkling of blueberries
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar

Make the biscuit base first. Crush the biscuits to crumbs. Melt the butter and mix the two together so the consistency is like wet sand, then press into the base of a 20cm cake tin. Put in the fridge to chill.

Make the cream cheese filling next. Beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and double cream until thickened and able to hold its own shape. Beat in vanilla extract and lemon juice, adjusting to taste if needed. Spread over the biscuit base, smoothing the top, and return to the fridge to chill overnight.

Chop the strawberries into halves. Take one quarter of the strawberries and blend to a purée then sieve through to remove the seeds. Add a tbsp icing sugar, and set to one side.

Unmould the chilled cheesecake from the tin. Arrange the remaining chopped strawberries and blueberries on top, then drizzle with the strawberry purée and serve. Tada!

A Little Carrot Cake

Pah, after all my screw-ups with Reader and Bloglovin’ this week, dear readers, you deserve a decent recipe. So hooray for this latest acquisition into carrot cake territory!

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Originally I had grand plans. I was going to make a wonderful cake, and it would be stunningly cheap at under £1. However, I really failed at being economical. Gotta say, those free-range eggs aren’t cheap.

Fortunately, in the process, I discovered this dreamy cake recipe along the way!

First, I’ve got a confession to make. I previously tested out a bunch of carrot cake recipes to find the perfect one, and I thought I’d got that nailed. But hmmm, now I’m not so sure which one deserves the crown. But take it from me, both of these recipes are yummilicious in their own way. This one has no nuts, and proportionally less sugar, and more carrot – so the allergy-suffers, nut-haters, and ones pretending carrot-cake-is-one-portion-of-daily-veg may prefer this recipe.

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This is not a dense, heavy slab of cake that you could throw as a weapon. It’s light, fluffy, and full of bright flavours. I tested out both milk and yoghurt, and yoghurt definitely won for texture. There’s just a hint of cinnamon to let the other flavours jump in the limelight too, and I’ve topped it with my favourite mascarpone cheese for some zesty goodness.

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A Little Carrot Cake

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Serves 6

For the cake:

  • 133g light brown sugar
  • 120ml vegetable oil
  • 40ml yoghurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 166g self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 carrot, finely grated

For the icing:

  • 150g mascarpone cheese
  • 30g icing sugar, sifted
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 15cm cake tin. Sift the flour, cinnamon sugar, and salt together. In a jug, mix together vegetable oil, yoghurt, and eggs. Pour the liquid ingredients into the flour, and fold together, along with the grated carrots, just until no trace of flour is left. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, and bake for 40-50 minutes until springy and a knife inserted comes back clean. Unmould the cake from the tin, and pop onto a cooling rack to cool.

Trim the top of the cake flat with a sharp knife. Mix the mascarpone cheese together with the icing sugar and lemon zest until smooth, then add enough lemon juice to loosen the icing to piping consistency. Pipe onto the top of the cake in a swirl, then use a palette knife to smooth it out.

Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies

Now I am running a bit more, I’m trying to kick off with some healthier changes to my lifestyle. Salads are cropping up again, and with the glorious sunshine outdoors, it’s been no hardship eating all things juicy, crunchy, and fresh.

Now, I know. Baking cakes doesn’t really constitute healthy living. It’s been a while since the black bean brownies incident, but I’m still fairly traumatised by it. However, my interest was piqued by yet another “skinny” brownie recipe, which this time, had loads of rave reviews. And this time, no pulses were involved. Given my last experience, I had such low expectations about this recipe. I was expecting flat, cardboard-flavoured disappointment.

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I was so wrong.

These brownies are a full-on miracle. They contain no butter, no oil – but they are gorgeous. Sticky, fudgy, intensely chocolatey, and totally luscious. I practically licked a square off the sheet of baking paper, and my taste-testers gave the seal of approval too.

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The main alteration I’ve made is mixing the peanut butter into the batter instead of swirling it on top. I used crunchy peanut butter, so I got some tasty nuggets interspersed throughout. I’m so excited to have found this recipe, and I can’t wait to get experimenting with almond, cashew, and hazelnut butters, and other additions like freeze-dried raspberries and chopped white chocolate….yay!

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Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

  • 120g peanut butter
  • 170g plain yoghurt
  • 60ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 64g cocoa powder
  • 40g rolled oats
Preheat oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a square 20 x 20cm baking tin. Place all of the dry ingredients into a blender and whizz into a powder. In a jug, mix together milk, yoghurt, peanut butter and the egg. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and blend to combine into a smooth paste. Pour the batter into prepared baking dish. It will be thin, don’t worry. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool down completely before slicing into squares. It is a very squidgy brownie, so if you want very cleanly cut squares, first pop it into the freezer to get firmer.
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Cherry and Lemon Cake

I am utterly devastated at the bombshell that was the season finale of the TV series Revenge. Without giving away any spoilers, I cannot believe what the screenwriters made happen! If I could conjure up Emojis on WordPress, they would be crying floods of tears.

I woke up late Saturday morning, with thunder rumbling on overhead. With not much inclination for an early morning run whilst the rain was sheeting from the skies, I decided to head off to the shops, and go dress-shopping. With a wedding to go to later on the Saturday, I’d decided last minute that I didn’t like any of my existing dresses, so hey presto. Luckily, it didn’t take long, which is unusual for me, as I’m not one of those people who manages to go clothes shopping and find a lot of things I like. Particularly as I like dresses that are slightly fitted, and show off some collar and a smidgeon of chest. Everything in the shops these days is really boxy and goes right up to your neck. Eh, unflattering.

Anyway, dress sorted, and off to the wedding. The sun came out, and everybody had a glorious time doing Gangam Style.

Today’s bake isn’t even remotely wedding themed but is based on a really scrummy recipe I saw on foodbeam a few weeks ago, and was desperate to test out. With a bag of fresh cherries waiting to be used, I knew they had to go in.

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Cherry Cake by itself sounds oh so English, but it’s been zazzled and franglaised by adding in lemon zest and replacing most of the butter with double cream.

The cake had a really good rise, despite me opening the oven twice during the baking process. It did take a lot longer to bake through than expected, but I know this is often the case when you’ve added fresh fruit to the cake batter.

My cherries weren’t good at standing still, I’m afraid they all migrated to the bottom of the cake, but still they looked beautiful, in delicious pinky-red contrast with the soft yellow crumb of the cake. Perhaps fruit might disperse more successfully in a thicker cake batter.

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Cherry and Lemon Cake

  • 4 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 200g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150g double cream
  • 50g butter, melted
  • handful fresh cherries, stoned and halved
  • softened butter, extra for piping

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Butter and line a loaf tin. Put the extra softened butter into a piping bag, and cut a small hole in the tip.

Whip the eggs and sugar together until thick and doubled in size. In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt and baking powder. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Then pour a little of this into the cream and melted butter. Mix well, and transfer this back to the main batter mixture, and fold together gently. Gently fold in half the cherries. Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin. Sprinkle the remaining cherries on the top of the batter.

Pipe a line of butter across the cake; and bake for 55 minutes, until the cake is springy, and knife inserted comes back clean.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Quatre-Quarts au Citron

I’m starting to sound like a broken record. If you haven’t guessed already, I kinda have un petit fixation with French baked goods.

So when I saw that Beurre d’Insigny was being stocked on the shelves of my local Tesco, I actually jumped for joy. And maybe squealed too. You know, just for good measure. I think A already knows he’s going out with somebody a little weird, but it doesn’t hurt to give him an extra reminder every now and again ;).

So with the butter at hand, I needed to make something good to showcase it in. In the end, the internet as usual came to the rescue. How about that classic buttery French pound cake, le Quatre-Quarts?

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It is more or less the same as my recipe for a Victoria sponge. I baked it in a loaf tin to be traditional, but added the zest of 2 lemons for extra fragrance. I also borrowed a tip from French blog foodbeam, and piped a line of butter down the centre of my cake before it went into the oven, to see if that would achieve the perfect crack down the centre. It did work beautifully, although you can’t see it in the photos, because I had a little mishap when flipping the cake out of the tin, and a little bit of the crust came away.

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The urge to turn my French quatre-quarts into an English lemon drizzle cake was quite overwhelming. I didn’t quite give in to temptation, but I did add a little syrup to the finished cake for extra flavour and delicious zing.

Forgive me for sounding giddily over-enthusiastic, but this cake is THE BOMB. It’s really, really delicious. The crumb is soft and pillowy, the flavours delicately buttery and fragrantly citrus, with a melty, crunchy crust. It’s not too sweet, and there’s a definite sharp tang from the lemon syrup. Scrummy yum yum.

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Quatre-Quarts au Citron

Makes one loaf cake

  • 3 eggs, weighed in their shells
  • The weight of the 3 eggs in butter, caster sugar, and plain flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • a little milk
  • the juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 dsp caster sugar
  • extra butter

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Butter and line a loaf tin with overhanging strips of paper. Squidge a extra few spoonfuls of butter together into a piping bag, and set aside until later.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

Beat the measured butter until soft and creamy, then add the sugar and continue to whisk together until pale and creamy.  Slowly dribble into the creamed mixture the egg, whisking all the while, and then the lemon zest. Finally fold in the flour.

Add just enough milk, and a squeeze of lemon juice to loosen the mixture up to dropping consistency, then dollop the cake batter into the loaf tin, and level the surface. Pipe a thin line of soft butter down the centre of the cake.

Put the cake into the oven and bake until springy and a skewer comes out clean. Cover with foil around 30 minutes into baking so the top doesn’t get scorched. It takes around 45-50 minutes in total.

While the cake is baking, put the remaining lemon juice and the two spoonfuls of caster sugar into a saucepan, and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. Using a pastry brush, brush the warm cake with the syrup.

Cool the cake in the tin for 5 minutes, then use a knife to loosen the cake from the tin, and turn it out onto a cooling rack.

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