Sunday, 6 November 2011

saint clement's star cake

Now listen, the 'star' element of this cake really only comes from the shape of the tin.  I was in Ikea yesterday and couldn't help myself to some of their seasonal gimmicks.  A couple of snowflake lampshades, a felt christmas tree and a star shaped cake tin later, I found that I had everything in my home to bring out the christmas spirit in even the most grinch like of characters.  Alas, it is still November and I have not seen the coca-cola advert on television yet, so christmas is not as close as Ikea may suggest.

In the south of England the summer refuses to relocate to the southern hemisphere and it has been muggy for the past month.  This weekend, however, I have seen an increase in hats and scarves on the streets of south-west London and for that reason, I felt it relatively reasonably to utilise the star tin.

On this occasion, as with many others, I look to lemons to form the focus of this culinary endeavour.  I have some oranges to spare and I think about combining them, something I have never done in a simple sponge before, reserved only for the likes of heavy fruit cakes and my spicy christmas carrot cake recipe.
So here we are.  A light autumnal sponge with orange, lemon and ginger to encourage Christmas along at a more appreciated speed.

6oz butter
8oz golden caster sugar
3 medium free-range eggs
1 tbsp of golden syrup
1 tbsp lemon curd
1 lemon
1 orange
1tsp grated ginger
8oz self-raising flour

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 and grease the inside of our tin thoroughly.  You can line it with baking parchment instead, if you prefer.
Cream together to butter and 6oz of the sugar, in an electric mixer if you have one.
In a separate smaller bowl, lightly whisk the 3 eggs.  Add these, a little at a time, to the cake mixture and Bring together in mixer until combined.  Add the golden syrup and the lemon curd and mix once again.
To stop the mixture from curdling when the rest of the wet ingredients are added, mix in 2oz of the flour at this stage to hold it together.
Zest both the lemon and the orange and add to the mixture with the grated ginger.
Juice half the lemon, add and mix once again.
Now mix for two minutes until fully combined.
Sift in the remaining 6oz of flour and gently fold it in, with a wooden spoon, to keep the air in place and until it resembles a luscious cake batter.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and place in the oven for 35-45 minutes until golden and a clean skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 2oz of sugar, lemon juice and the juice of the orange, to produce a thick syrup.
Using a skewer, or sharpe knife, make some small holes in the top of the cake and spoon over the syrupy mixture.  With the tin I am using, the cake is baked upside down so I thought I would use this drizzle on the underside of the cake and leave it to cool completely in the tin.

Turn the cake out, dust with icing sugar and serve.
(I've chosen coffee rather than tea to accompany this cake.  But then again, I've not fully recovered from Friday night).

Katie xx

Sunday, 23 October 2011

chocolate pollock flapjacks

Today marks the first day back in my flat after a 3 week absence.  The feeling is divine.
I've missed everything about this place, but particularly the Kitchen.  The flowery tablecloth, the cakeless cake stand, the empty vase and the breeze across the terrace when the french doors are open.  All of these things make this one of the best kitchens to cook in.  OK, so it isn't the greatest layout.  The kitchen area is big but the 'cooking' area is in a broom cupboard.  There is plenty of crockery, but nowhere to put the pans!  This place is all prep and no bake.  But you know what. I don't care.  It's home.

My baking station is just how I left it.  Plenty of pots containing different types of sugars, rolled up packets of 'almost finished' flours, half full old catering tins storing various shaped cutters and my kitchen aid.  Oh, kitchen aid, how I've missed you.

Having spent the best part of a month back at my mum's house, the recent distance between myself and my kitchen makes it seem a rather daunting process to embark on a recipe.  Especially on a Sunday afternoon.  But I know it must be done.  So, after reacquainting myself with my bedroom, unpacking my bags and separating my whites from my darks for a wash load, I contemplate the idea of something sweet.

The fridge is empty.  Crap.

On my walk to the shops I absorb everything about the day.  The sun is shining, but it definitely isn't warm.  The sky is clear, but there is a frosty mist desperate to hover about the streets.  Winter is on the way.  That means root vegetables, spices, citruses, alcohol and....mince pies.  Oh god no!  Don't panic, I haven't returned to my flat in late October to make some of the good ol' deep filled numbers, I'm not a lunatic.  Debatable.

My mind wanders to recipes that will be a 'good to go' in about a months time.  Carrot cake, gingerbread and, perchance, mince pies.  But for now, for today, I think I fancy something with chocolate.  Of course, I'm only human.  And, as usual, I am missing Scotland.  So I'll have some oats with that please.

350g butter
150g muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
150g good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
500g oats (rolled / porridge)
100g finely chopped nuts - pecans or walnuts are the best

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 2.
Grease the base of a large baking tray or tin.
Place the butter, sugars and syrup in a large saucepan and slowly warm until melted.  Turn off the heat.
Break up 100g of the chocolate and add to the pan.  Stir the chocolate into the melted sugar and butter until combined.

Add the oats and nuts to the chocolate sugar mix and stir in thoroughly until all those delicious oats are covered in the glorious chocolate syrup!  Makes sure you take the wooden spoon into every edge and side of the pan to coat every oat.
Spoon the mixture into the baking trap and, using the back of the wooden spoon, press the mixture firmly into the corners and edges until evenly spread.
Place on the top shelf of the oven for 30minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the tray from the oven.
You may find that the mixture appears very fluid, possibly with some bubbles in the centre of the tray.  Don't worry, this is how it should be.
Leave the flapjacks to rest for 30minutes.  Then, leaving them in the tray, divide into portions with a sharp knife.
Melt the remaining 50g of chocolate in a non-stick pan or bain marie. Using a small spoon, flick the chocolate over the flapjacks as random or patterned as you like!  Place the tray in the fridge for 30minutes, then remove the slices and serve, with a smile, to a friend in need.

Katie x

Monday, 3 October 2011

peachy bundts . . .

Little peachy treats, perfect for a Sunday evening...

4oz butter
4oz golden caster sugar
2 medium free-range eggs
4oz self-raising flour
1-2 ready ripe peaches (or nectarines if you prefer)

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4.
We're going to make a basic sponge for this cake!
Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer, if you have one, with a wooden spoon if not.
Lightly whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and then add, a little at a time, to the butter and sugar mixer until combined.
Sieve the flour into the mixture, a little at a time, and fold in with a wooden spoon until fully combined.
Set this cake mixture to one side and prepare your bundt tin.

I am using a mini bundt tin to make 6 mini cakes, for individual consumption!
Grease all sides of the bundt tin.
Sprinkle the inside of each cake tin with golden caster sugar.
Thinly slice the peaches and line the outside edges of each tin.
spoon the mixture into the tins, so they are around half full.

Place on the middle shelf of the oven for 15minutes, until golden brown, or until a clean skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.  Turn the cakes out onto a wire rack whilst warm and allow to cool before eating.

Katie x

Saturday, 24 September 2011

sweet pastry / sweet tarts

After creating a series of tarts and encountering ok but not amazing pastry bases, I thought I would change tactics.  Although simple to establish, a pastry can make or break any work of baking art.  So after consulting various books, websites, aunties, friends and reflecting on past failures, I think this sweet pastry really hits the spot!

4oz (115g) unsalted butter at room temperature
3oz (85g) icing sugar
3 egg yolks
9oz (255g) good quality (organic preferably) plain flour
2 tbsp of cold water

Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl so that it is consistent and smooth.  A little at a time, sift in the icing sugar until the two are combined.
Crack two of the eggs into a small bowl and little whisk for a minute or so.
Add the eggs to the butter and icing sugar, roll up your sleeves, hit play on your iPod and beat the mixture until your favourite song has finished.
Sieve the flour into the mixture and, using your fingertips, rub the mixture together.  You will create a crumbly mixture, but not fine breadcrumbs - as similar recipes that use the method might produce - because the ratio of flour to butter is not quite right, and with the eggs involved, it is simply too wet.
Add the water and press the mixture together until it comes together to form a ball.
Lightly flour (plain flour) a clean, dry work surface and knead the pastry for a minute, no longer - we want to keep the pastry as cool as possible, as this keeps its elasticity low, which is the key to a good pastry.
Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, making sure you flatten the pastry slightly with the palm of your hand, as this will make it easier to roll later.


This quantity of pastry will be sufficient to line the base of a 23" tin.  To do this, roll out the pastry out on a floured surface - remember to flour your rolling pin too, otherwise it will stick - to around 3mm in thickness.  To get the pastry into the tin, roll the pastry onto the pin and then lay and un-roll over the tin.  Gently lift the pastry and press into the edges of the tin.  Once in place, run your rolling pin over the tin to remove any excess pastry.  Whatever tin you are placing the pastry into, remember to refrigerate it for 30 minutes, in its tin, before baking.  The third egg should be whisked and brushed over the base, to seal it, after the pastry base has been blind-baked.

When you are ready to blind-bake and fill the pastry base, follow the recipe of your choice - lemon tart, pecan pie, treacle tart and pumpkin pie would all work perfectly with this sweet pastry base!

Katie x

Thursday, 22 September 2011

the good life

fresh from the garden of nan and grandad . . . delicious!


Monday, 29 August 2011

upside down pineapple and pecan cake (gluten free)

Upside down pineapple cake is one one of my families favourites!  The cake is baked with the pineapple on the underside, so that when it is flipped out of its tin the pineapple is revealed in all its gloriously citrus wonder.  And even though you know it is there, there is still the odd 'oooo' and 'ahhhh' and 'yipee' when the flip is a success.

This recipe is adapted to be gluten-free, however, you can use regular self-raising flour.  It will work just as well and will probably rise a lot better too.  The gluten-free flour blends, although decent, do not always result in a light and fluffy cake, however, for this particular recipe, dense and moist is just how it should be!  Alternatively, i think that a wholemeal flour could work well, especially as its two favourite companions - fruit and syrup - make an appearance.

The pecans and ground almonds are optional.  I just like the combination of pecans with fruit, and the almonds create that nutty flavour all the way through the cake.  A much simplified version of this recipe would be to make a 6oz sponge mixture (6oz butter / 6oz caster sugar / 3 eggs / 6oz s-r flour) and pour over the pineapple, as the recipe details below.

1 small tin of pineapple rings, in fruit juice
6oz / 170g self-raising flour
6oz / 170g golden caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
3 medium free-range eggs, lightly whisked
6oz / 170g gluten free self-raising flour blend (you can use regular self-raising if you prefer)
2 tsp baking powder
2oz / 55g ground almonds (optional)
1oz / 30g pecans, roughly chopped (optional)

for the glaze, when the cake is baked....
pineapple juice (from the tin of pineapple rings)
3oz / 80g of golden caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180 and line the base of a 23" clip cake tin.
Drain the tin of pineapple rings into a small bowl, making sure you keep the juice.
Arrange the rings on the bottom of the cake tin.  You can chop them into pieces if you prefer - be as artistic as you like with the arrangement, remembering that they will be on top of the cake once it is turned out from its tin.
Cream the butter in an electric mixer, if you have one, with a wooden spoon if not.
Add the golden caster sugar (6oz) and mix again until combined.
Add the golden syrup and mix again.
Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl and then add them to the mixture, a little at a time, mixing in between until combined.
Sieve the flour, ground almonds and baking powder into a separate bowl.
Using a wooden spoon, gently fold the flour mixture into the cake mixture, a little at a time, until smooth and combined. 
Add the pecans and fold until they are through the mixture.
Pour the cake mixture over the pineapple pieces in the cake tin and place on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the skewer test is successful!

When a skewer, inserted into the middle of the cake, comes out clean the cake is done.
Leave the cake in its tin and place on a wire rack.
Mix together the pineapple juice and the golden caster sugar (3oz) in a small bowl, until thick(ish) and glaze-like.  You may need a little less or more sugar depending on how much juice was in the tin, just add a little at a time until you are satisfied.
Skewer the cake several times, whilst it is still warm in its tin.  Pour this sugary glaze over the cake.
Leave the cake to cool for and hour or so in the tin.  This will give the glaze a chance to harden as well.
Once cooled, unclip the cake tin and turn it out onto a cake stand or plate.  The method of completing this flip can be entirely your own, but i find the easiest way is to place the cake stand or plate, upside down on top of the cake, grab the two together and flip it towards myself.
Gently lift the base of the tin from the top of the cake and peal off the greaseproof / parchment lining.
Et voila!
Serve with warm custard, cream or ice cream depending on your mood and the weather.

Katie x

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Cake Bakers Dozen!

13 ingredients that I always make sure I have in the kitchen cupboards. Planned, or in an emergency, I'm ready to rustle up the perfect cake at the first opportunity!

the classics...
1   slightly salted butter - pastry, sponge, cakes and biscuits - this guy does 'em all
2   golden caster sugar - a personal preference, light brown soft works just as well
3   free-range eggs - I don't want my yolks coming from any old barn!
4   self-raising flour - when you want it to rise
5   plain flour - when you don't want it to rise
6   bicarbonate - for baking and household cleaning...

for that little kick...
7   ground almonds - mmm, nutty!
8   golden syrup - for when sugar just isn't enough
9   vanilla extract - to complete the perfect sponge

for making the right impression...
10 dark chocolate - minimum 70% cocoa solids
11 unwaxed lemons - ooooo zest me up!
12 chopped nuts - usually pecans
13 icing sugar - because a little dusting makes everything look charming!

Katie x

Sunday, 21 August 2011

fiery ginger biscuits (and lemon cream filling)

For many people, late night drunken journeys home consist of trying to stay awake and refraining from sending lewd text messages to past lovers. Not me! My night bus journey home on Friday night passed all too quickly, as I made frantic notes on what to bake in a hungover state on Saturday afternoon....the results are these delicious ginger biscuit gems, which are the perfect antidote to that groggy feeling that I like to call a 'sauvignon state of mind'.... Enjoy!

biscuit ingredients
8oz butter
5oz golden caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2tsp (heaped) grated fresh Ginger
10oz plain flour

filling ingredients
2oz softened butter
1oz lemon curd (1tsp lemon juice if you have no curd)
1/2 tsp grated ginger
4oz icing sugar

Cream the butter and sugar together, in an electric mixer if you have one - with a wooden spoon if not, until fluffy and pale.  Separate an egg and add the yolk to the mixture.  You do not need the white for this recipe, but perhaps you can save it to be used in another recipe in the next day or two.  Mix for a couple of minutes until combined.  Grate the ginger and add to the mixture, mix again.  The amount of ginger is for guidance only - if you like your ginger biscuits really fiery then add more - remember, the ginger will taste stronger once it has caramalised inside the biscuit as it bakes in the oven.  Sieve the flour and then stir into the rest of the mixture, a little at at time, until combined and a biscuit dough is formed.  Cut this into two parts, hopefully fairly equal in size.  Wrap the two halves in cling film, or place in a freezer bag, and allow to cool in the refrigerator for an hour.
Remove the dough from the fridge and lay one of the halves on a lightly floured surface.
Pre-heat the oven to gas Mark 5.
Press down lightly on top of the dough to slightly flatten the surface - this will make it easier to roll.  Now take your floured rolling pin to the dough and roll to your preferred thickness.  If you are making ginger biscuits without the filling, then perhaps make them a little thicker.  If, as I have you done, you would like to sandwich two together with the lemon filling between, then roll the dough to a thiner thickness.  The thiner the dough a) the more biscuits you will get out of the mixture and b) the quicker they will cook.  Remember though, too thin and they will burn very easily.  I suggest no less than 3mm - whatever their thickness, they will not rise very much at all.
Now select your cutting implements!  Depending on the cutter you choose, you may get anything from 10-20 biscuits from each half of the dough.  I have chosen a medium-ish fluted cutter and, in respect of the ginger, I am going to cut out a wee gingerbread man from the centre of each of the biscuits.  This will also provide a lovely viewport to that delicious lemon and ginger filling.  Cut out your biscuit shapes and lay on a lined (with parchment) baking tray - allow a little space between them as, although they won't rise, they may spread a little.

Repeat the above with the other piece of dough, however,  If you have cut out a shape, like my gingerbread men, from the centre of the biscuits made from the other half of dough, make sure you don't from these ones, as they will be the back of the biscuit sandwich and we don't want all that lovely filling to fall out!
Place each tray of biscuits in the oven, on a middle shelf, for around ten minutes - a little longer (say 10-15) if they are thicker and a little less (say 5-7) if they are thin.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for a minute on the tray, then transfer them onto a wire rack to cool completely - the biscuits are likely to be a little floppy when they come out of the oven. This does not mean that they are not baked through, they will harden as they cool.
Now for the filling.  Cream the butter and add the lemon curd and ginger.  Mix together well.  Sieve the icing sugar and add a little at time to the butter mixture until it is all combined.  I'm using my mums  homemade Lemon curd, but any would do of course! The amount created from the ingredients above should be enough filling to fill all your biscuits, but it will also depend on how thinly / thickly you rolled them, so be prepared to make a little more, if required.
Once the biscuits have cooled completely, start creating your biscuit sandwiches!!
Lovely, as ever, with a cup of tea and a filum.

Katie x

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

dark chocolate and pecan loaf

In the mood for something nutty and easy?  Try this one....

4 oz softened butter
4 oz golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp golden syrup
3 oz self-raising flour
2 tsp of baking powder
1 oz ground almonds
1 oz pecans, chopped
2 oz dark chocolate, chopped

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 5.
Cream the butter and sugar together in an electric mixer, or with a wooden spoon and some elbow grease if you haven't got one.
Lightly whisk the eggs in a small bowl and add a little at a time to the butter / sugar mixture until blended.  If you add too much at once the mixture may curdle, so take care.  It a curdle does occur, simple beat a little harder and for longer and the mixture should put itself right.  Panic not!
Add the Golden syrup and mix again.
sieve the flour, ground almonds and baking powder into a separate bowl.  Fold the flour into the mixture, a little at a time, and be patient to make sure that you don't knock too much air out.
Chop the pecans and dark chocolate into small chunks, add to the mixture and fold until combined.
Grease (with a little butter) and line the base of a 2lb loaf tin with parchment or greaseproof paper.
Pour the mixture into the tin and place on the top shelf of the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean / dry.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the tin.
Serve warm, I suspect, for a melty chocolate opportunity.
I, however, will have to wait until it is cooled as it won't be cut until elevensees tomorrow at work!
Photos to follow.

Katie x

Sunday, 31 July 2011

berry and chocolate cheeseless chesecake

Yes, yes, I know.  "A cheeseless cheesecake?" I can hear you all saying.  Well it is true.  With a biscuit base, cakey middle, creamy chocolate topping and berries somewhere in between, this cake resembles every kind of cheesecake in texture and composition.  But without the cheese.  So tell me, when something is neither cake nor tart, nor pie nor loaf, nor biscuit nor muffin, what is it?  Well on this occasion it is a cheeseless cheesecake - and that is the best description I have come across.   All other suggestions are welcome!

Three layers, each with their own texture and taste to contribute, this hearty and rich dessert is an ensemble of super flavours and, if you're lucky, it may just count as one of your five a day!
This is not the easiest cake to make, but it is exceptionally worth it.

Ingredients for the base
200g digestive biscuits
85g melted butter

Ingredients for the cake
30g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
100g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
35g butter
30ml double cream
4 eggs (to be separated)
75g soft brown sugar, or golden caster sugar
250g of raspberries, blueberries or a mixture of both

Ingredients for the icing
100g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
50g butter
50ml double cream
25g icing sugar (sifted)

Line the base of a 23" clip cake cake with parchment or greaseproof paper.

Biscuit Base:
Place the biscuits in a plastic freezer bag, or similar, and prepare yourself for a pounding!  loosely hold the open ends of the bag and bash the biscuits with a rolling pin, or some other heavy object - but not a glass.  Do not tie a knot in the bag, as it will explode when you hit the air inside.  Once obliterated into something resembling bread crumbs, place the smashed biscuits into a mixing bowl.  Add the melted butter and mix until combined and the crumbs have soaked up all the butter.  Spoon the biscuit mixture into the cake tin and press down firmly to form an even base, with either the back of a wooden spoon or your hands (I find making a fist and pressing down firmly does the trick).

Place in the fridge to allow the biscuit base to firm up.

Cakey middle bit:
Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 2.

Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into a small bowl and set to one side.
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bain-marie or over a low heat in a non-stick saucepan - keep a close watch to make sure it doesn't burn.  Once melted, take off the heat and add the butter.  Let the butter melt in slowly, then add the cream and mix together until combined and delicious in appearance.

Separate the eggs.  You want the whites in a mixing bowl, ready to whisk (electric mixer if you have one) and the yolks in a large mixing bowl as this is where all the ingredients will be bought together.
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks (much easier and quicker in an electric mixer).  Add the sugar and mix again until stiff peaks are formed.

Beat the egg yolks, add the melted chocolate and lightly beat until combined - the mixture will start to thicken so don't over beat it.  Fold in the flour and cocoa, a little at a time.  Add a dollop of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture to lighten, mix until combined.  A few dollops at a time, add the remaining egg whites, gently folding them in as you go - we don't want to knock all that lovely air out of them!

Once fully combined set to one side, for a moment or two whilst we deal with the berries.  Remove the biscuit base from the fridge.  Sprinkle the berries of your choice over the top of the biscuit base.  I like to make sure that no berries meet the edge, so that they are a surprise when the cake is cut and served.  If you feel that there are too many berries, then save some for the topping.  Delightful either way.

Once the berries are in place, slowly and gently, pour the cake mixture over the top of them and smooth with a spatula.  Take extra care to make sure that no berries are popping out of the top, otherwise they might burn in the oven.

Place the cake in the oven for 40-45minutes of until a skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean.  Leave to rest in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the icing:
It is best to prepare the icing once the cake has cooled completely, otherwise it will not harden.
Melt the chocolate as before, in a bain-marie or non-stick saucepan.  Once melted, remove from the heat.  Add the butter and allow to melt of its own accord.  Mix the icing sugar with the cream and pour onto the chocolate.  Mix together until everything is combined and the chocolate is glossy.  Have a little taste. If you think it is too bitter (which may be the case if you have used a high percentage cocoa chocolate) then add a little more icing sugar.  Do be careful not to make it too sweet though - the cake provides the sweetness in this recipe.  Once you are satisfied.  Pout the icing over the cake and allow to harden, at room temperature, for an hour or so.  Do not refrigerate as the chocolate will turn from glossy to matt.

Serve with cream or ice cream, lavender if you have some.  Vanilla if not.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Apple and Rum Frangipane Tart

"make a cake with rum in it" said a comrade,
"aye" said I.
And so, I did.

A frangipane is much like a sponge, and in fact the ratio of ingredients is exactly the same.  The only difference is that instead of flour, you use ground almonds.  This gives the tart filling incredible depth, flavour and texture.  It is dense, but not rich, and sticky, but not sickly.  The shortcrust pastry holds the frangipane in place, the rum provides a reassuring scent, whilst the apple gives a soft, sweet and utterly welcomed intermission to this heavenly tart!

Ingredients for the pastry base
6oz plain flour
3oz butter, room temperature
1 1/2oz of icing sugar
pinch of salt
1 free-range egg

Ingredients for the frangipane filling
4oz butter
2oz golden caster sugar
2oz light muscovado sugar (or other soft brown sugar)
2 free-range eggs
1 tbsp of dark rum
4oz ground almonds

Other Ingredients
1 large cooking apple
a little lemon juice
knob of butter, melted
golden caster sugar to sprinkle

First, we start with the pastry - the recipe for which I have used before in the pumpkin pie recipe.
Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl.  Dice the butter and add to the flour.  Rub the flour and butter together, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.  It may take a few minutes to get to this stage, but trust me, it will happen.  Sieve in the icing sugar and mix with a wooden spoon.  in a separate small bowl, lightly whisk the egg and a pinch of salt.  Make a well in the flour mixture, pour in the egg and bring the mixture together, using your hands, until you form a round dough.  Place on a surface a flatten slightly with your hand.  Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 1-hour - overnight if you are able to.

When ready to make the tart, pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4.  Unwrap the cooled pastry and place on a floured surface.  Sprinkle flour onto a rolling pin and roll out the pastry to an even thickness and large enough to fit the base and sides of a 23" fluted loose base tart tin.  Once rolled, roll the mixture onto the rolling pin and then place over the tin.  Push the pastry into the corners of the tine, lightly using your fingertips.  If the pastry falls apart, don't panic - this happens to me all the time - a little too much icing sugar, not enough patience with the cooling process.  Just arrange the broken pieces in the tin, no one will know and I won't tell anyone, promise!

Poke the pastry base with a fork a few times and place a layer of grease proof paper over the pastry.  Fill the pastry with ceramic balls.  If you don't have any of these, you can bake the tart blind, as it is.  The ceramic balls help the pastry to bake evenly and stop the sides from falling in, but they are not essential.  Consider them a future investment!

Place the pastry base in the oven for 20 minuntes, remove and leave to cool on a wire rack.

1,2,3......lets frangipane!  In an electric mixer, if you have one, or with a wooden spoon if you don't, cream together the butter and sugars.  In a separate small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs with the rum.  Don't get too enthusiastic with the rum, if you add to much the mixture will be too wet and won't rise.  With the mixer on a slower setting to begin with, add the egg, a little at a time, to the butter and sugar mix.  Once started to combine, turn the mixer up to a higher speed to get as much air into the mixture as possible.  Whilst it is whizzing, sieve the almonds into a bowl.  Turn the mixer to a slower speed, add a tablespoon of the almonds and combine.  Then, by hand with a wooden spoon, add the remaining ground almonds, a spoonful at a time, to the mixture, gently folding in to combine between additions.

Pour the fragipane mixture into the pastry base and spread to an even level with a palette knife or spatula.  Slice 1 large cooking apple into slices, sprinkle a little lemon juice over it, to stop it going brown, and arrange as you wish on top of the frangipane mixture.  Brush a little melted butter over the apple and dust with golden caster sugar.

Place the tart back into the oven, on gas mark 4 for 30-35 minutes until the frangipane is set and an inserted skewer comes out clean.  Dust with a little more golden caster sugar and leave to cool completely in the tin before serving with, my preferred accompaniment of greek yogurt.

Katie xx

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Butterfly Cakes - Torta Farfalla

Butterfly Cakes (also known as fairy cakes) are an absolute classic in my opinion.  Perfect for little kids (and big kids!)
Deliciously light sponge, a smooth butter cream icing and wings to help your blues fly far far away.

What I particularly love about Butterfly Cakes is that they make their own wings.  They enter the oven as caterpillars, cool as chrysalis and are then decorated to become butterflies.  If you ever see them in a shop where the wings have been made separately and stuck on top then they've got it all wrong, they're just being lazy.  This is the equivalent of balancing a rock on a slug and calling it a snail.  Nasty business.

The wonderful thing about making any sponge based cake recipe is that it is so easy to remember.  There are four ingredients and the quantities of each are based on the weight of the egg.  Before electric scales, equal amounts of butter, flour and sugar were weighed against the appropriate number of eggs.
An average, a medium egg weighs 2oz and so these days we use this as the measure, rather than a balance with eggs on one side and dry ingredients on the other!

This recipe should make 12 large butterfly cakes or 24 smaller ones

4oz / 250g unsalted butter, softened
4oz / 250g golden caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4oz self raising flour - premium sponge flour if you can find it!
A few drops of vanilla essence

For the Buttercream Icing
3oz unsalted butter
6oz icing sugar
splash of milk

Other items
You will need some cupcake cases - choose a pretty pattern - every cake is worthy of it!
A little icing sugar for dusting

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 5.

Place the butter into a large mixing bowl and cream with a wooden spoon, or beat in an electric mixer for a couple of minutes.  Beating the butter in this way starts to break it down, soften and lighten it.  It is also less likely to result in a lumpy batter!  If you are using butter straight from the fridge, cut it into cubes first and place it in a microwave for 10 seconds or so, until soft - be careful not to melt it completely as it will make the mix too runny to bake properly.  Add the sugar to the bowl and mix the two together until combined well.

Break the eggs into a separate smaller bowl and lightly whisk.  Add half a teaspoon of vanilla essence and mix together.  A little at a time, add the whisked egg to the butter and sugar mix.  Mix well between adding the egg otherwise the mix may curdle.  If it does curdle, panic not(!) it can usually be rescued!  Just mix well before adding any more egg.  Once all the egg is added, beat thoroughly for 5 minutes.

Sieve the flour into a separate bowl (to save on washing up I use the eggy one).  Add a couple of spoons of flour to the cake mixture and mix in thoroughly.  Now, the next bit can only really be done successfully by hand, with a wooden spoon.  Add a couple of spoons of flour at a time, enough to cover the top of the cake mix, and fold the flour into the mixture, rather than beating it in.  By doing this you retain as much air as possible in the mixture and this is what will help the final cakes to rise nicely and be super light!  Be sure to check the bottom of the bowl as you fold, as flour has a habit of making small pockets of itself within the mixture.  Once all the flour is added and folded in, move the mixture to one side.

Prepare your cake tin.  I use a 12-hole cupcake tin.  These can be found in pretty much every cake shop and most supermarkets if they have a home-ware section and you shouldn't have to pay more than 7 or 8 squid for one.  Select your cupcake cases and place one in each hole.  There is no need the grease a cupcake tin, the paper cases do the job for you.

Now, take a mug and half fill with cold water.  Place two dessert spoons in the cold water - you will use these to spoon the mixture into the paper cases.  By placing the spoons in cold water between uses, the cake mixture will fall clean off them into the cases.  Skills!

Spoon the mixture into the cases, equally dividing it - you should find a heaped dessert spoon is about right, but if you are unsure, add a little at a time.  I will usually use one spoon, then place it in the water and use the other spoon for the next spoonful - in case you were wondering why you need two spoons!

Don't worry about smoothing the mixture out, it will partly melt in the oven and self-level.

Place the cakes on a middle-top shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  If you are not sure whether they are cooked or not, insert a skewer into the centre of one.  If the skewer comes out clean then they are done!  If it is a little wet of covered in cake mix, then leave them in for a little longer. Try not to open the oven door too often as this makes the oven temperature drop and the cakes won't rise properly.

Whilst the cakes are in the oven you can prepare the butter icing.

Again, cream the butter in a mixing bowl.  Sieve the icing sugar into the butter, a couple of spoonfuls at a time, and mix well.  Add a splash of milk at the end to make it that extra bit fluffy and delicious!

When the cupcakes are done, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting and decorating.  Once cool, you can cut a cone from the centre of each cupcake to make the wings.  Place your knife about 5mm in from the edge of the cake and point it towards the centre of the cake, so it is at around a 45degree angle to the worktop.  Insert the knife and spin the cake to create the cone of sponge.  Remove the cone, cut it in half and there you have your two wings.  Fill the hole in the cake with buttercream and pop the wings back on top!  As you practice this, you will find that a shallower angle will create a nicer wing and will also save on buttercream.

Dust with a little icing sugar and serve over a brew.  ahhh-delicious!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Firstly, I feel deeply obliged to state that this is primarily a Nigella recipe.
Other than the size of the tin, the cooking time and a few quantities here and there, very little has changed from the fantastic recipe on page 47 of 'Nigella Bites' - a must have if you don't already own it!

I would whole heartedly agree with the Queen of the Kitchen herself that this cake is perfect for a little focused baking post break-up, to be consumed by one.  However, it is also a show stopping cake to mark the end of a Birthday party or family get together.  On this occasion I am baking it for the later and it would be a vast understatement to say that my family have something of a sweet tooth.  Between the nine of us this cake was demolished for pudding and with cups of tea less than an hour later.  It is also worth mentioning that one of those nine people is only 6 months old, and as such, took no part in the consumption, but one day he will!

Bake this cake and all will be right in the world.

Ingredients for the cake
400g plain flour
259g golden caster sugar
100g light muscovado sugar
50g best quality cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
150ml of sour cream (or there about's)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
175g unsalted butter, melted and allowed to cool
125ml corn or vegetable oil
300ml chilled water

Ingredients of the topping
100g dark chocolate, min 70% cocoa solids
130g unsalted butter
150g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 (180C)
Line the base of a 23" spring-form cake tin and grease the sides with a little butter

You will need 3 bowls;
Bowl 1: Mixing bowl - Dry mix - sieve the flour, baking powder, bicarb, cocoa and salt into a large bowl.  Add the sugars and mix together
Bowl 2 : Jug - Egg mix - In a jug or mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla extract
Bowl 3: Electric mixer - Liquid mix - beat together the melted butter and oil until blended.  Add the water and beat again.

Add all of the dry mix to the liquid mix and mix together on a slow setting on the electric mixer.  Pour in the egg mixture and mix again until everything is combined a yummy looking.

At this point, Nigella would split the mixture between two smaller sandwich tins, however, I like this cake as one beast of a pudding, so I use a larger tin and less chocolate topping - as there is none between the two layers, which i sometimes find excessive about fudge cakes.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake on a middle to high shelf on Gas Mark 4 for an hour.
Don't be tempted to check the cake before 45mins as a sudden drop in temperature can lead the cake to fall in the centre.  If the cake wobbles as you remove it from the oven then it isn't done, pop it back in for another 10 minutes or so.  If you think it is done then the cake should be firm to touch and a clean skewer, inserted into the centre, should come out clean.

Leave the cake in the tin, on a wiring rack, to cool for 15 minutes or so.  Then remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely before icing.

Now for the topping.
melt the chocolate in a bain marie, which is to place the chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  The glass bowl should not touch the water, as the chocolate might burn.
Whilst the chocolate is melting, cream the butter in another bowl by beating it together.  You can use an electric mixer to speed up the process.  Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and then a spoonful at a time, add it to the butter and continue to mix until smooth and fluffy.  Slowly add the melted chocolate and th vanilla until you have a thick glossy mixture that you feel the urge to jump into!

Once the cake has completely cooled ice it to perfection.  I like to stand the chocolate cake proudly on a doilie topped cake stand and spread the topping to within a centimetre or so of the stand.  This is purely aesthetic, you can do it how you like!

Now.  Stick the kettle on, find your copy of Bridget Jones Diary and grab a fork.  Dinner is served.


Monday, 2 May 2011

Scones....oh yes please!

As May marks the start of the British strawberry season, I thought it only appropriate to dedicate a suitably accompanying recipe.

The humble scone is a crucial part of afternoon tea, with which I am very acquainted.  Sandwiches, oatcakes with scottish smoked salmon, scones with strawberry jam and cream of course, and a selection of cakes, or sometimes petit four.

Although very early in the season to be making jam, as the fruits are perhaps not as sweet as by the time Wimbledon approaches, you may have some jam hanging around the house from last years crop.  Neither? not to worry - the supermarkets stock it all year round! hoorah!

400g self-raising flour
2tsp of baking powder
2 tbsp of golden caster sugar
80g softened butter, diced
1 egg
250ml buttermilk
Cream and Jam to serve

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 and line a large baking sheet or tray with baking parchment.

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.  Add the sugar and stir together.  Dice the butter and add it to the flour blend.  Use your fingertips to rub the butter and flour together, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Unlike some other recipes, where this 'rubbing' technique is used, there is a low flour to butter ratio, and so you will find that the mixture is not as breadcrumby as, say, the banana loaf recipe.

Once the butter is rubbed in, make a well in the centre of the mixture.  Break the egg into the well and lightly whisk it with a fork.  Add a little of the butter milk mixture to the well and bring it together with a knife.  Add the rest of the buttermilk, a little at a time until fully incorporated.  If you have an electric mixer, with a dough hook attachment, then use this instead, pouring a little of the buttermilk in at a time, until the dough is slightly sticky and combined.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough lightly and then roll it to a thickness of 2-3cms.  Using a cutted, I like to use a fluted round one, cut your scones from the rolled dough.  You might like to use a fun shape, like a star or heart - these can work just as well.  Place the scones onto the baking tray, brush them with a little milke - on the top only - and pop them into the oven, on the middle shelf, for 10-15 minutes, until they are golden on top and hollow to a rat-a-tat-tat on top.

Let them cool on a wire rack.  I like to serve them with jam and whipped cream.  Others prefer clotted cream, or just butter and jam.  Personally, I am a jam first and cream on top kind of a girl, but the order of assembly is entirely your own choice!


Little lemon-topped delights!

These little bundles of lemony goodness are, to all intents and purposes, a form of cupcake.  However, unlike  muffins or cupcakes, this sponge is ultra light.  This lightness is entirely down to the type of flour I use.  I don't like to pick one brand over another, but one this occasion, I must.  There is one brand (perhaps scottish) that makes a self-raising mcflour variety that is sieved to utter perfection prior to packaging.  This means, that after the one final sieve as dictated within this recipe, you will have yourself some of the most delicious sponge cakes.

This is the recipe that I use as a foundation for all sorts of cakes; Cupcakes, fairy cakes, sponge nibbles and victoria sponge.  It is very simple and it never fails.  On this occasion I am making a lemon flavour topping, however, you can replace the lemon with pretty much anything (and get some fun colours too).  Raspberry, Orange, Blueberry and Honey are excellent too!

Ingredients (makes 12)
4oz (115g) of softened butter (do not melt it, just leave it out of the fridge for a couple of hours)
4oz (115g) of golden caster sugar
2 medium free-range eggs
4oz (115g) of premium self-raising sponge flour
few drops of vanilla exract

Icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180)

Place the softened butter in a large bowl and cream with the sugar until the mixture is smooth and consistent.

Whisk together the eggs and vanilla extract lightly, in a small bowl, and add a little and time to the butter / sugar mixture.  Beat well each time you add some egg, otherwise the mixture may curdle.  If the mixture does curdle, it is not the end of the world, be persistent and beat firmly until combined.  Once all the egg has been beaten into the mixture set the bowl to one side.

Weigh the flour into a small bowl.  Place a sieve over the large bowl (containing the sugar, egg and butter mixture) and sift the flour into the mixture, a little at a time.  Gently fold the flour into the mixture, do not mix or beat it otherwise you will knock all of the air out.

Once all of the flour is folded in, place the mixing bowl to one side and prepare your cake tray.  A cupcake tray has 12 dips in it, one of each cake.  You could purchase plain white cupcake cases for a traditional look, or perhaps polka dots, or flowers, it is up to you.  Place one case in each hole.

Get yourself a mug of cold water and two dessert spoons.  Places the spoons in the cold water, this will stop any mixture sticking to the spoons.  Use the spoons to distribute the mixture into the cupcake cases.  Return the spoons to the cold water between each use.  One good dessert spoon should be enough in each case.  Remember that the mixture will rise so do not fill to the top, and do not worry about spreading the mixture evenly in the cases, this will happen naturally in the oven.

Place the try in the top of the oven for 12-15mins, or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cupcake, comes out clean.  Leave in the tin for 5 minutes to cool slightly then place on a cooling wire rack, until completely cooled.

Whilst the cakes are in the oven you can make the topping.
Sift some icing sugar into a bowl and, a few drops at a time, add some of the lemon juice, until the mixture is glossy and slightly runny, like a syrup.

Once the cakes have cooled, spoon some of the icing sugar onto the top of each cake and smooth out as desired.  Leave the cakes in a cool place, until the icing is set.  You can also decorate, like I have, with ridiculous flowers and other silly items, as you see fit for the occasion!


Monday, 14 February 2011

Lemon Glaze Sponge Cake

I decided to embark on this cake to mark the occasion of a colleague leaving work.  It is difficult to decide what kind of cake to make, if any, when baking for someone with a nut allergy.  It is not as thought every cake I bake contains nuts, but sometimes the ingredients themselves do...and that can lead to awkward moments and pangs of guilt....

So I played it safe with a lemon sponge.

I gather the ingredients from the cupboards.  The usual; eggs, flour, sugar and butter...I prepare my workstation and then I remember.....I've just moved house and I don't actually own my own set of scales.  I have, dear reader, always relied on the scales of a flatmate or relative.  How embarrassing.  I'm not fond of guessing weights when it comes to cake baking because it can be disastrous, but on this occasion, I have no choice.

Upon tasting the finished cake, the following day at work, I realised that what I had actually created was a sort of ultra moist Madeira Cake - I'm not complaining, it was lush.

Unfortunately I was unable to take any pictures before the cake was completely and utterly demolished.

4oz golden caster sugar
2oz light brown soft sugar
6oz unsalted butter
3 medium eggs
6oz self raising flour, sifted (or premium self-raising sponge flour)
2 tbsp golden syrup
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1/2 lemon

2oz light brown soft sugar
juice of 1 and 1/2 lemons

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4. Grease the base and sides of a 23" round clip cake tin.
Cream together the butter and two types of sugar for 5 minutes.
Break the eggs into a seperate bowl and whisk lightly.
Slowly add the eggs to the butter / sugar mixture, a little at a time, mixing the ingredients together until combined.  Don't worry if there are any little lumps, these will work their way out in the oven.

Sieve the flour into the mixture, a little at a time, gently folding it in.  Use a spatula to get to the edges of the bowl as flour has a habit of creating little pockets in cake mixtures.
Add the Golden Syrup, lemon juice and lemon zest and gently stir in.  Try not to knock too much air out.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and pop it into the oven, on a middle/top shelf, for 35-45 mins until golden brown.  If the cake wobbles when you remove it from the oven then put it back in for 5-10 minutes until a skewer inserted into middle of cake, comes out clean.

As soon as the cake is finished in the oven, place it on a cooling rack, but leave it inside the tin.
Skewer holes all over the cake.  In a small bowl mix togther the glaze ingredients and then pour or brush them over the surface of the cake, whilst it is still hot.  This glaze will fall down the holes and make the cake deliciously moist.

leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before serving
Delicious with natural yogurt 

Katie  xx

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

chococlate brownies (gluten free)


185g milk chocolate (good quality)
185g butter
90g Plain Flour - a gluten free flour blend works just as well
40g Cocoa Powder
3 medium free-range eggs
185g soft light brown sugar (golden caster sugar works well too)
50g dark chocolate (70% minimum cocoa solids)
50g white chocolate


Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4.
Line the base of a large roasting tin or deep baking tray with parchment.

Break the milk chocolate up into smaller pieces and place them into a heatproof dish, over a pan of simmering water - this arrangement is commonly known as a bain marie.  Add the butter to the chocolate and leave to melt.  This should take 5 minutes or so.

Whilst the chocolate is melting break the eggs into a separate bowl and add the sugar.  Whisk until the mixture is pale in colour and around twice the size.  It is easier to achieve this consistency with an electric mixer as it can take some time by hand.

Once the chocolate in the bain marie has melted, stir together with the butter.  This creates a wonderfully glossy chocolate.  Pour the chocolate into the egg and sugar mixture and fold to combine.  Be careful as you fold as you don't want to knock out the air that has already been whisked into the eggs.

Sieve the flour and cocoa into the mixture, a little at a time, and fold until completely combined.  Flour and cocoa have a nasty habit of creating little pockets of themselves and not mixing in so you may wish to use a spatula, running it along the sides and bottom of the bowl to check for pockets!

Once all of this is mixed together you should have a wondefully thick, glossy mixture.  Chop up the white and dark chocolate into chunks (like the picture).  These will melt slightly in the mixture but will mainly add variety to the texture of the final brownie.  You could also add some chopped nuts, like macadamia, pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts if you wish.

Once everything has mixed in, pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place on the top shelf of the oven for 30minutes. 

When you remove the brownies from the oven the top should be crisp and the inside gooey.  Don't worry if you think they are undercooked, they are probably fine.

Leave the brownies to cool completely in the tin before removing and cutting up into portions.

Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.  Yummy!!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Haggis sausage rolls

Normally I would only blog about something sweet, but having lived in Scotland for 6 years I feel compelled to bake something special for the Burns night celebrations this week.

I shall of course be indulging in a full haggis, neeps and tatties supper and inflicting it upon my family, but in addition I have made some of these simple haggis sausage rolls - some of which I have given to friends as a small token and others have been presented to my colleagues at work.

This recipe makes approx 48 sausage rolls

1lb (454g) Haggis
500g Pork Sausagement
Sage or other herbs of your preference
Puff pastry (2 packs of pre-made block or 4 rolls of pre-rolled pastry)
1 egg (for sealing / glazing)

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4 (180)
If using pre-made pastry that is not pre-rolled then roll the pastry to approx 3-5mm thickness, retaining the square shape.  I use pre-rolled pastry as it saves a job.

The common Haggis will typically be sold as 1lb (454g) and so this recipe uses a whole average haggis.  Remove the haggis filling from the case and place in a large mixing bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, or possibly a knife if the haggis has been refrigerated, break the haggis up so if is in smaller pieces / lumps.  Add the sausage meat and mix together well so there is an even consistency of sausage meat and haggis.  

Season - probably a pinch or two of salt and a 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper.  Fresh or dried herbs are nice to add into the mix.  Sage works particularly well, but thyme or a selection of herbs will work too.

Cut the rolled pastry into strips approx 3cm wide and then each strip.  So from a pre-rolled sheet you should get 6 strips.  Then cut these strips into 2 - so you get 12 rolls from each pre-rolled pastry sheet.  Take a dessert spoon of the sausage mixture and roll it into a sausage shape in the palm of your hand.  The sausages need to be slightly longer than the width of pastry.  Place the sausage along the narrow end of each strip of pastry and roll into a sausage roll shape!

Use a little beaten egg to seal the pastry and brush a little on top of the roll to give it a nice glaze.  If you like you can score your haggis sausage rolls before glazing them.

Cut a piece of baking parchment and place it on a baking tray / sheet.  Place the sausage rolls onto the baking sheet (you should fit 12-15 on one sheet) and place in the top of the oven for 30-35mins or until the pastry is golden brown and puffed up.  Repeat this process with the remaining bathes.