Lemon Semolina Syrup Cakes

I’d dithered and hesitated about purchasing Ottolenghi’s Sweet. After all, to say I have enough baking books would be an understatement.

Of course, I eventually caved in.

Sweet is filled with pages and pages filled with delicious and intriguing variations, but first, I was going to make these gorgeously syrup-drenched lemon cakes. I couldn’t resist – their zingy citrus freshness bringing a much-needed pop of sunshine into the dreary almost-Spring months.

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I had a bit of a life crisis at the start of this year. I’m at a bit of a crossroads in my career, and not sure which direction I’m headed in anymore. So while I’m trying to make sense of that, I’ve returned to the familiar realms of what was has always been my comforting little corner of the internet, and back to pottering around in the kitchen as my form of therapy.

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The tart slices of lemon add a lovely mouth-wateringly sour note that contrasts deliciously with the sweet, syrup-soaked fluffy sponge. It adds that slightly unique element that makes them so much more exciting than your average lemon cake. Also no need for any icing, so that is another thumbs up in my book! The cakes do look a bit washed out in the photos thanks to the artificial light but I don’t really get a chance to snap pictures in natural light at this time of year so just imagine how vibrantly delicious they look and smell.

Recipe is in Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. Can’t wait to try my next recipe out – I’ve got my eye on the custard and rhubarb yo-yos and the pineapple tarts…

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Kouign Amann

I had heard about these Breton pastries several years ago, but they looked so unassuming and complicated to make I confess I put the thought of them to the back of my mind. Then A’s brother picked up a selection of goodies from Dominique Ansel including their infamous DKA. After tasting that I was absolutely sold.

This pastry packs a serious taste-bomb that only the luxuriant use of butter, sugar and flour can bring about.

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In fact, let’s ignore the flour because it is merely a vehicle for packing in as much butter and sugar as possible after all. Kouign Amann might not be photogenic, but they are deeeelicious.

The problem was that then the craving for more set in. I sadly don’t have a surfeit of French patisseries round here (read: none) so if I was going to get delicious buttery sugary pastries it was going to have to be done at home.

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I looked at a couple of recipes for reference. First, Paul Hollywood‘s version, as seen on GBBO. Then, Christophe Felder’s method in his baking bible, Patisserie. Finally I had a look at David Lebovitz’s post (from waaaay back in 2005! How time flies…)

The Paul Hollywood and Christophe Felder recipes used similar proportions of flour to butter, yeast and liquid, but the Felder version used an incredible 300g sugar compared with Hollywood’s more modest 100g. David Lebovitz’s recipe used considerably less butter at more of a 2:1 ratio of flour:butter compared with the almost 1:1 ratios of the Hollywood and Felder recipes.

In the end, I went with the Felder recipe. There were a lot of French food blogs that had tried it, with glowing feedback, plus he is a French pastry chef so he must know his stuff, right?

For the most part, the techniques are familiar and if you’ve made puff pastry from scratch it’s mostly the same process. However, there were points at which I felt uncertain about whether it was going to work out. For example, my laminated dough started to peel apart in layers when I was shaping it for the tin, and I only used up around a quarter of the sugar. Into the oven they went, and I watched their rise, suspicious, certain it would only end in catastrophe, and with me scraping caramel off the sides of the oven.

The first crisp, delicate pastry-shattering mouthful dispelled all doubts.

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I think that they rank as one of the most delicious baked goods I have ever made. Really not photogenic at all, but so, so tasty.

Kouign Amann

Somewhat adapted from the Christophe Felder recipe in his book, Patisserie

  • 275g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 200g butter + 10g butter
  • 165g water
  • 75-100g caster sugar

Put the flour in a mixing bowl, and add the salt and yeast.

Melt 10g butter and allow to cool. Add the melted butter and water to the mixing bowl and knead for 2-3 minutes until a smooth elastic dough is formed. Pat into a square, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Put the remaining butter inside a folded square of baking paper and flatten with a rolling pin until you have a square of butter around 3-4mm thick.

After 1 hour has elapsed, roll the chilled dough into a rectangle the same width as the butter square, but twice as long. Place the butter square in the middle and wrap the pastry around it, pinching to seal the edges so no butter is visible.

Turn 90˚ and roll out into a rectangle. Fold into three like a letter. Turn 90˚ again, roll out again and fold. Cover with clingfilm and chill for another hour.

Take the dough out, and sprinkle all over with caster sugar. Roll out again sprinkle with sugar, and fold. Turn, sprinkle with sugar, roll out again, and sprinkle with sugar and fold.

Now roll the pastry out until it is around 4mm thick and cut into 12 equal sized squares. Dust each square liberally with sugar, and pinch the edges together into the middle. Place the kouign amann in a muffin tray, cover with clingfilm, and leave to prove for around 45 mins – 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C and bake the kouign amann for around 20-25 minutes, cover with foil if they look like they are starting to catch. Turn out immediately upside down onto a cooling rack or they will stick in the tin. Tuck in while they are fresh but don’t burn your tongue!

 

Keeping it Classic with Sausage Rolls

I’m settling into that soporific period that is the period between Christmas and New Year.

There is a carpet of shed pine needles scattered around the living room. Christmas cards cluster in every available space. The chocolate and biscuit boxes have been torn through and mostly eaten (just the horrible ones left, looking at you, the pink Roses/Quality Street).

Most of all, I’m looking forward to settling down for a week ahead of Christmas TV, plenty of gluttony and hibernating under my duvet for more hours than could be possible. It’s also the perfect time of year to make puff pastry – that time consuming process of attempting to disguise as many packets of butter into flour as possible. It’s probably thanks to a fortunate combination of general seasonal greed, cold kitchen and free time.

Whatever they say on TV/in cookery books, I don’t think anything rivals sausage rolls made with proper homemade puff pastry.

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I love the process of rolling out the butter and flour, folding over the course of the day, and turning something craggy and impossible-looking into smooth, beautiful sheets, that magically rise to form crisp pillows of delicious pastry.

Nowadays I use the Ottolenghi rough puff pastry recipe, which uses less butter than many other classic puff pastry recipes, but still produces a really fabulous lamination. It is also one of the only ones where I’ve managed to bake it with NO butter leakage at all.

Right, off to watch some more Christmas TV and pop a few more of these in my mouth. Happy New Year all!

Classic Sausage Rolls 

  • 500g puff pastry
  • 500g sausagemeat (I usually buy it pre-seasoned and add a little extra ground pepper)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 220ºC.

Roll out the pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin. Lay the sausagemeat in a line down the pastry, maybe two depending on the shape of your rolled out pastry.

Wrap the pastry around the sausagemeat to form a roll. Brush a little beaten egg on the edge and trim the excess pastry away with a sharp knife. Seal by pressing the tines of a fork firmly along the edge.

Cut the pastry roll into 1 inch long pieces, and lay on a baking tray, well spaced apart. Stab the top of each sausage roll twice with the fork, then brush the tops with beaten egg. Place the tray into the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 200˚C.

Bake for around 25 minutes until golden and puffed up. Leave on the tray for a few minutes, then transfer onto a cooling rack. Best eaten warm out of the oven but you can eat them cold, or pop them back in for a few minutes to reheat them the next day.

I’ve posted about other variations that you can peruse here:

Pork and Mustard Sausage Rolls

Chorizo and Pepper Sausage Rolls

 

 

Chocolate Silk Cake

I have this idea of a chocolate cake in my head that I can’t quite find the recipe for. It’s rich, chocolatey, not too heavy nor light. A Goldilocks of chocolate cake if you will. Nigella’s recipes have gotten close, but not quite there. My go-to chocolate sponge cake is great but it’s a lightish cake and not the Bruce Bogtrotter behemoth I’m after.

So I saw this recipe on the Waitrose recipe and thought I would give it a go after the heavy sugar-fest that was the Konditor and Cook Curly Whirly Cake.

I’m a bit out of practice with decorating layer cakes so I went for straight and simple. I also had some dark chocolate truffles in the cupboard so popped them on top for a bit of extra flair.

So what was the verdict?

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This chocolate cake is delish! It falls firmly into the sponge cake category, but it is a bit richer than your standard chocolate cake flavoured with cocoa powder alone. I could definitely see myself making this again for birthday cakes and other celebratory cakes in the future.

It’s been so long since I regularly blogged that I forgot to take a photo of the cake being sliced, by which time it was so late in the evening it was dark outside and I was having to rely on the horror that is indoor lighting. So I cut a second slice just for a quick photo so you can see what it looks like inside. Sorry about the yellow appearance!

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Whether it’s the chocolate cake of my dreams…well perhaps not quite there. This cake was great, and definitely one to bookmark, but I’m still searching for the one! ❤

 

Curly Whirly Cake

Thank goodness January is over. It’s definitely is a month where everybody goes a bit nuts. The gym is suddenly full, the streets are full of joggers. I end up going absolutely mental for online shopping. There’s no explaining it, I just want to buy EVERYTHING. I also spend many hours fantasising about my perfect duvet day, waking up when it’s light outside, and spending the whole day snuggled up in my pyjamas reading novels and chocolates. Seriously, old lady proclivities rule.

It’s also been a time for heart-warming puds. I baked this sticky toffee pudding and discovered the deliciousness that is this cake, which had gone a bit stale in the tin but was utterly delicious gently warmed through, and poured all over with hot sticky toffee sauce. It is sooo tasty, try it with any plainish cake that’s gone a bit dry and old and you will see miracles happen. I wish I had taken more photos but to be honest, the cake was deeply unphotogenic, and we ate it straight out of the pyrex dish in around 1 minute flat.

I’ve also been on the hunt for a brand-new delicious chocolate fudge recipe. This one from Konditor and Cook looked incredibly promising. Unfortunately, when I baked it, it turned into an absolute stodge-fest.

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Just look at how claggy that sponge looks!

I’m sure I probably did a few things wrong in the making of the cake, but even so, it just didn’t taste of much either, just sugar. Disappointing, because Konditor and Cook’s Curly Whirly Cake seems to have a cult following, but perhaps it’s just not for me.

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I’ve seen another recipe on the Waitrose website for a chocolate silk cake that looks like it has a similar method, and I might give that one a whirl next time.

If you want to give the Curly Whirly Cake a go, the recipe is all over the internet and can be found on the The Guardian here.

Cranberry, Pecan and Chia Seed Granola Bars

I haven’t jumped onto the healthy eating bandwagon, but that’s not to say I haven’t had a deep curiosity about the fuss associated with superfoods such as chia seeds, avocado and coconut oil. Perhaps it was when Nigella Lawson started using these ingredients in her TV show that I realised this is no longer a niche market, and has started to become much more mainstream.

So yes, last year I succumbed to temptation, and bought an enormous packet of chia seeds. Fast forward a few months later and it was still sitting in the cupboard unopened, and I was scratching my head in perplexity, wondering how on earth to use it up (I must add that the same situation occured several years ago with a giant bag of cocoa nibs, and I’m still working through them – obviously I don’t learn from my mistakes!).

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After a lot of googling, I couldn’t say I was hugely inspired by most of the online recipes out there for using up chia seeds. Eventually, I decided to heavily adapt an Ottolenghi recipe to incorporate ingredients I desperately wanted to use up.

It seemed to do the trick. These aren’t exactly what I’d call healthy, but they aren’t quite as bad for you as, say, flapjacks, and taste along the same sort of spectrum. Next time I’d probably leave out the flaxseeds which had a bit of an earthy aftertaste I wasn’t hugely enamoured of.

Cranberry, Pecan and Chia Seed Granola Bars

Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

  • 190g rolled oats
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 40g chia seeds
  • 40g flaxseeds
  • 60g dried cranberries
  • 40g pecans
  • 80g coconut oil, solid at room temperature
  • 80g brown sugar
  • 80g maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 140˚C and toast the pecans for around 8 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 160˚C.

Soak the dried cranberries in hot water for 10 minutes then drain with a colander.

Toss all the ingredients minus the coconut oil, sugar and syrup together in a bowl.

In a saucepan, heat together the oil, sugar and syrup until bubbling then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly together to combine, then pat down into a lined 20cm square tin. Bake for around 20 minutes, then leave to cool before slicing into squares.

 

Salted Caramel, White Chocolate, and Cocoa Nib Brownies

Happy Valentine’s Day y’all. Not that I’m planning on doing anything exciting, probably just an evening of curling up with sticky, gooey brownies, bemoaning the end of War and Peace.

I’ve got major War and Peace withdrawal symptoms. My Sunday evenings just won’t be the same without those stunning costumes and James Norton’s brooding silhouette. The only cure for my BBC period drama-itis will probably be the eventual return of Poldark, but in the interim, brownies instead.

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For the past year, A has gotten a huge hopeful grin on his face every time I suggest baking salted caramel brownies again. Unfortunately for him, talk has never turned into actual baking of the aforementioned brownies, until now. Behold, salted caramel heaven!

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These are supposed to be a homemade version of Paul A Young’s famous salted caramel brownies from his veeerrrry expensive chocolate shop. I had the pleasure of finally sampling this illustrious brownie, and boy it was good. Mightily expensive at £5.95 a brownie but I can quite honestly say it was one of the most delectable brownies to have passed my lips.

The homemade version are a bit squidgier than the official version, and I can’t quite replicate the exact chocolate flavour – probably because Paul A Young uses a particularly fancy chocolate. I used a combination of Waitrose continential, and my stash of Valrhona.  The recipe is pretty much lifted directly from Poires au Chocolat, this time I sprinkled on some white chocolate chunks before baking.

They are really rich brownies, so a small square goes a long way. They have a smooth, dense texture that with each mouthful slowly melts in the mouth, releasing an intense shot of chocolate and caramel flavour.

It’s maddeningly tricky photographing brownies (and in fact, most chocolate/brown baked goods) so they appear photogenic, but I think I just about managed to refrain from making them look like somebody scooped them up from the soil outside. I think my next bake will definitely have to be something iced and pretty! Got to get round to using my stash of flowery cupcake cases after all.

I don’t tend to bake especially for Valentine’s Day, but if you are feeling particularly romantically inclined, I’ve stuck a couple of luuurvely (haha) links underneath to dive into:

Felicity Cloake makes the perfect chocolate pots for two.

Date and rum cookies, just perfect for wooing and twoing.

If you want to get out and about, biscuit icing classes for two with the Biscuiteers.

Or if you’ve been on a January diet, and are still somehow managing to avoid all things biscuity and carb-filled, how about buying the love in your life this custard-cream cushion? 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Hello folks!

I’ve been a bit remiss with blogging in the run up to Christmas as a dodgy oven does not a good bake maketh. So I’ve actually not had the chance to do any baking until now, with these mince pies whipped up in my parents oven.

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It’s the same recipe from last year, some sweet shortcrust pastry, and a jar of mincemeat that I’ve doctored with extra cranberries, chopped apple, raisins and a shake of speculoos spices.

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Unfortunately, whilst taking these photos, the dome of my cake stand, which was sitting on the sofa, fell onto the carpet and smashed into smithereens. It’s a lovely new cake stand with dome from M&S that I had been saving for that special occasion to take photos with, so really quite gutted!

At any rate, despite my longish break from baking, these mince pies turned out pretty well. I think I rolled out the pastry a little too thick for some of them, although that does mean a nice sturdy pie with a good pastry to filling ratio for those that prefer their pastry!

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The mincemeat is much less sweet than normal, which I really like, and packed full of fruity flavours. Although it’s unlikely I’ll be making my own mincemeat in the future, I do like the idea of throwing in some extras to make the supermarket stuff a little more special.

Hope everybody is enjoying spending a little bit of quality time at home with friends and family, and see you in the New Year! Roll on 2016!

Chocolate Loaf Cake

These colder, darker nights are perfect for staying indoors, warmed by the heat of the oven, baking simple cakes. Loaf cakes, where all you need is a knife to cut out a sturdy, soft-crumbed slice, and take it away to a cosy corner to nibble away. Sometimes with a slick of icing on top, to pick away, savour, and get fingers sticky.

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With a craving for chocolate to satisfy, I pottered around the kitchen throwing flour and sugar over most of the kitchen counter before popping into the oven a chocolate loaf cake. It’s draped in a lusciously tasty chocolate fudge icing.

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I’ve moaned at length about my flat’s gas oven, and getting good results from my baking is a heck of a lot more difficult than it used to be. This cake didn’t rise quite as nicely as it has done in the past, but the plus side of the gas oven is the top heats so poorly that I never have to cover any of my cakes for fear of scorching. Like most chocolatey bakes, it also seems to improve with a rest, well-wrapped, overnight.

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Chocolate Loaf Cake

For the cake:

  • 170g softened butter/margarine
  • 170g muscovado sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • splash of milk

For the icing:

  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 40g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line a 2lb loaf tin.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then whisk through the eggs one by one. Sift together the cocoa powder, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda, then fold into the mixture gently. Add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture to dropping consistency. Spoon into a lined loaf tin, and bake for around 45 minutes until cooked through, springy, and a sharp knife comes out clean.

Set to one side to cool down.

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder together. Then heat the butter, caster sugar and milk together on the hob until melted together, and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix together until well combined, cool until spreading consistency, then ripple over the top of the cake.

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

I woke up this morning to the white blankness of thick mist, and sight of hundreds of dew-jewelled spiderwebs that had been spun overnight. Very fitting for the morning post-Halloween.

With the refreshingly brisk November air (it’s November now, how time flies!) is the comforting contrast of the sweet warmth that comes from cookies baking away in the oven. Magical how a bowl of ingredients transforms into a pile of freshly baked cookies, crunchy outside with just the right amount of chew, interspersed with lightly toasted milk chocolate chunks.

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My crappy oven doesn’t do this delicious batter justice, and the cookies baked looking somewhat anaemic, so I baked a second batch in my parents’ (much better) oven and snapped a few photos afterwards.

P1070198I tried a few variations with the basic batter – one with white chocolate and cranberry, another with toasted ground hazelnuts – and really, my favourite has to be this milk chocolate version. I’m a milk chocolate girl through and through, and although there’s a time and a place for dark chocolate, this cookie isn’t one.

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Eat whilst admiring adorable fuzzy plushies online. I’m in denial about being a mature, fully-fledged adult, yes I know. Seriously, how could anybody say no to this?

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