Friday, 27 March 2020

Chocolate Chip and Orange Loaves

I baked two loaves to take one to each of my children, just before the Covid-19 lockdown measures became more stringent. At the time the food panic buying was at it's height and the supermarket shelves were empty of almost all baking ingredients, so I was relying on my store cupboard.


I wasn't sure when supplies would get back to normal so although I would usually use 4 eggs in this amount of cake batter, I decided to cut down to 3 and use the juice of the orange that I was zesting, in place of the 4th egg. That way none of the orange was left over either.

Ingredients
200g caster sugar
200g butter, softened
3 large eggs
250g SR flour
zest and juice of 1 orange
100 - 150g chocolate chips (I used about 30g milk chocolate chips and 100g of chopped plain chocolate)

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C, fan) and line 2 x 450g (1lb) loaf tins (I use the pre-formed liners for loaves).
This cake is made by the all-in-one method, so put everything, except the orange juice and chocolate, into a bowl and beat with a hand-held mixer until smooth, adding enough orange juice to give a dropping consistency. (I needed all the juice from the small orange I was using, but if more liquid is needed a little milk or water can be used too.)
Use a large spoon to fold in the chocolate, then divide the batter equally between the two tins and level the surface.
Bake for 60 minutes, or until a test probe comes out clean.
Cool in tin for about 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack.


I didn't get to see the insides of these cakes, or to taste them to see if the lack of egg was detrimental to the texture, but there were no complaints from the recipients. I asked my daughter if the cake was dry and she said that it wasn't, so I'm pleased about that.

Unfortunately I didn't get any good photos either, although you can see the bulging top!

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Fruited Banana Loaf

After deciding to leave two bananas to ripen enough to use in a cake, I realised that I've never made a basic simple banana bread/cake in the 10 years I've been writing this blog. It was definitely time to remedy that situation, even though I don't regularly have bananas available.

Of the two simplest recipes I could find, I decided to go with Mary Berry's, as she appeared to be cutting down on the fat and sugar content to compensate for adding the bananas rather than just putting bananas into a standard sponge cake recipe, as here. The other advantages of Mary Berry's recipe were that it was an all-in-one mixture, so really quick to put together and get into the oven, and would freeze well. Being able to freeze slices of cake is always a bonus for me!

After saying I wanted simple, I then changed my mind a little and decided that I would like some extra flavour, so I added the zest of a small orange, 70g of a mixture of sultanas and dried cranberries, and I used 2 tablespoons of orange juice instead of the milk in the recipe.

I folded the fruit into the batter after it had been mixed, rather than include it at the all-in-one mixing stage.

None of these changes affected the baking time - the cake was still cooked in the time suggested in the recipe.

The cake had a lovely texture, moist but not too heavy, and the extra ingredients boosted the flavour without masking the taste of the banana.

This is definitely a cake to remember when I'm baking for coffee mornings, and I can imagine other additions that would work well - chopped dates, for instance, or nuts and a little mixed spice.

I'd even go so far as to say it's a cake worth buying bananas for, if you can plan far enough ahead to let them ripen!


Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Mincemeat Loaf Cakes

It seems quite a long time since I tried a new recipe; I have a lot of favourites that I keep returning to at the moment, either because they are reliable (if I'm baking for someone else), or I know they freeze well.

I knew I wanted to make a mincemeat cake to use some of the Christmas excess,  so decided this might be the time to try a new recipe. Mary Berry's recipe appealed because it made two small loaves and she says they freeze well.

It's a straightforward recipe to follow - it's an all-in-one mixture, so you just need to make sure you have well softened butter before you start. I didn't have currants, so used dried cranberries instead, and topped the cakes with flaked almonds rather than split nuts.

The cake batter was very stiff, and with the benefit of hindsight, now that I've cut the cakes, I think I should have added a couple of tablespoons of milk to loosen it a little. The cakes were a little dry and crumbly, and didn't compare favourably, in that respect, to the recipe I usually use. They rose well during cooking, in terms of increased volume, but there was a definite dip in the middle of each one. I think I might have been guilty of not mixing well enough, as the batter was so stiff.

As always with this  sort of cake, the final flavour relies heavily on any added ingredients in the mincemeat. I used a Waitrose brand with their 'Christmas 2019 special' ingredients of plum, honey and ginger. Even after being diluted into the cake mixture, the plum flavour (provided by prunes and plum juice) was still evident.

I think this is a recipe to use again, as it uses mincemeat leftovers, rather than a whole jar, but I'll be more careful next time, and make sure the batter has a 'dropping' consistency, and is well mixed.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Lemon Bread and Butter Pudding

This dessert used up a panettone  bought for Christmas, in case of an unexpected need which didn't arise. I also had fresh lemons and an opened jar of lemon curd to use up, so as the panettone contained mixed peel, a lemon B & B pudding seemed the way to go.

I decided to make 4 individual puddings so that 2 could be frozen. I'm not sure how well they'll freeze, but I thought it was worth a try, rather than eating  a calorific dessert for 4 days running. I'd eaten one portion of the panettone, so I estimate there was about 425-450g left of the loaf.

I halved the loaf from top to bottom and sliced one portion into thin semicircular slices, which I sandwiched in pairs, spread with lemon curd. The rest of the panettone was cut into 4 slices to fit in the bottom of the dishes - I spread these with lemon curd too, and put into thickly buttered dishes curd side uppermost. Any trimmings and leftover pieces of panettone were crumbled and divided between the 4 dishes, then the semicircular sandwiches were cut and arranged neatly on top. I brushed the top of each pudding with more melted butter to help it crisp in the oven.

I hadn't realised until I started comparing recipes the wide range of egg:milk ratios used, as well as various baking times and temperatures, so the rest of the preparation went on a kind of average of the recipes I looked at.

I whisked together 3 large eggs, 50g caster sugar, the zest of 1 lemon and 500mls of semi-skimmed milk, and divided it between the 4 dishes. These were left standing for 30 minutes before baking, to allow the liquid to be absorbed into the bread - I pressed down with a fork occasionally to make sure the top pieces of panettone soaked up the custard mixture.

I added a little grated nutmeg and a sprinkling of demerara sugar to the top of each pudding, before baking at 160C (fan assisted) for 35 minutes. I intended to bake until the puddings were set, but still wobbling a little in the middle, but I think I baked for about 5 minutes too long.

These were lovely little puddings; adding lemon curd boosted the flavour nicely. I think adding some more dried fruit (such as a handful of sultanas) would have been an improvement and using a little more milk - another 100ml, perhaps - would have made the puddings softer and lighter, but I was pleased with them as they were.

As usual, with things that look their best straight from the oven, I didn't manage to get very good photographs of these. Not only were the light conditions far from perfect, they were visibly deflating as I watched them!

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Cider and 5-Spice Bundt Cake

Wow! I wish I'd tried this Nigella Lawson recipe for a Cider and 5-Spice Bundt cake years ago.  It was superb!

I tried a scaled down version of the recipe, one Christmas a few years ago, but used a different spice mix and ginger wine instead of cider. So I knew the recipe worked, but had no idea what the impact of using 5-Spice would be.

Nigella originally called this a Cider and 5-Spice Gingerbread, but changed the name because the ginger element (fresh root ginger) isn't particularly strong. The method of making the cake is essentially that of a gingerbread - combine sugar with the wet ingredients, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients - but because oil is used rather than butter, there's no melting or other heating involved.

Once the ingredients were weighed and measured out, the cake was really quick to put together. The most time consuming operation was grating the lump of root ginger!

Instead of buying cake release spray to use to prepare a bundt tin, I've started using a home-made version. This is partly because the Dr Oetker brand of cake release spray is no longer on the market, and none of the supermarkets stock a replacement product, but partly because it's cheaper.

The recipe I have seems to have originated from the 2014 GBBO winner, Nancy Birtwhistle. However I can't find it on her website, only on a few twitter videos.  There is something about it here, but basically, it's equal parts of Trex (white hard vegetable fat), plain flour and vegetable oil. I made up a small batch, using 50g of each of Trex and flour, and 50mls of sunflower oil, which is going to be enough for several cakes. It keeps in a jar in the fridge until the shortest 'best before' date of the products you've used (or use your nose - fat that has gone rancid won't smell very good).

I allowed it to warm up a little before use, and it was then easy to brush onto the bundt tin with a pastry brush. I think it works better than the commercial spray, probably because you can easily see if you've missed any areas, and can also put on a thicker layer if you've any doubts. My cake just plopped out without any assistance from me, after about 15 minutes cooling in the tin.

Because I was taking the cake to my local Cake Club (a legacy from the now defunct Clandestine Cake Club meetings), and the theme was Festive/New Year, I prettied up the cake with a lemon glacé icing and some sparkly sprinkles on top, but I wouldn't usually bother with anything more than a dusting of icing sugar.

The cake had a lovely close-textured but light crumb and  the 5-spice gave a unique flavour which emphasised the aniseed elements of the mixture - I used Bart brand which contained, in decreasing order, star anise, cassia, fennel,cloves and ginger - and the nutmeg. It was a very tasty alternative to a traditional gingerbread. Although it was an optional extra, the lemon glacé icing was a good contrast to the spice - Nigella says she likes this cake with a salted caramel sauce, but I think that would be too rich, and sweet, for me.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Lemon Curd 'Bakewell' Bars

I've recently started to donate baked goods to a monthly Coffee Morning run by the Friends of my local library. Not only is it giving me a much needed excuse to bake, but it's helping a good cause too. This month I made some date shortbread squares and these lemon and almond bars - similar to a Bakewell tart, but with lemon curd instead of raspberry jam.

Because the tart was going to be cut into individual portions before being put out for sale, I made it in a narrow rectangular tart tin, measuring 36 x 11.5cm. That way it could be cut into bars which would be easier to eat with fingers than a wedge from a round tart. Having a border of pastry on both short edges looked quite attractive too.


After lining the tart tin with sweet shortcrust pastry, I spread about 200g of lemon curd over the base - there's no need to blind-bake the pastry for this recipe. I used this BBC Good Food recipe for the frangipane mixture. It was exactly the right amount to fill the tart! The only changes I made to the recipe was to only use the zest of 1 lemon, and to add a few drops of almond extract, as I wanted the frangipane to taste more of almonds than lemon.

I baked the tart for 15 minutes at 200C, then lowered the temperature to 180C and continued baking until the frangipane was cooked to a golden brown colour - about another 25 minutes. When cool, I cut into bars about 3cm wide, although I discarded the first centimetre at each end, with the extra pastry (cook's treat!).


Saturday, 28 December 2019

Festive Desserts

I made two desserts for the Christmas period, as something chocolate is obligatory, but my daughter had also asked for a repeat of Dan Lepard's Mont Blanc Layer Cake.

The Mont Blanc Layer Cake recipe, based on meringue, is far too big for just three of us, particularly as it doesn't keep well, so I made a meringue roulade with only 3 egg whites, filled it with a half quantity of the chestnut and ricotta cream and drizzled melted chocolate over the top.

We decided, on trying the dessert, that although it was delicious, we all preferred the crisper meringue of the original recipe, which gives a better textural contrast with the chestnut cream than the soft meringue of the roulade.

For  the chocolate dessert, I made a half-sized quantity of Delia Smith's Chocolate Truffle Torte, which fitted nicely into a 7" (18cm) shallow cake tin. The only departure from the recipe was to use Amaretto liqueur instead of rum.

My daughter also contributed a batch of mince pies, which has become a tradition now. She uses this Mary Berry recipe, which adds dried apricots to the mincemeat and tops the tarts with grated marzipan.