Thursday, 26 November 2020

Apple and Cranberry Cake

I usually make this cake, which is two layers of a scone-like dough sandwiching a layer of fresh and/or dried fruit, as a dessert. I often make it when I haven't got time to fuss around with pastry, as the result is very similar to a pie, but much easier to make. 
This time, I wanted to capture some of the essential flavours of Autumn, which is one of my favourite times of the year for seasonal baking. So I used eating apples, dried cranberries and cinnamon in the filling, and some flaked almonds in the topping.


150g butter
150g caster sugar
1 large egg
300g SR flour
3 eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced* 
80g dried cranberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon
30g flaked almonds
icing sugar to dust
* I usually slice the apples into water to which I've added a little lemon juice or vinegar, to stop the fruit discolouring. When I'm ready to use the slices, I drain them well and pat dry on a clean tea towel. 

Preheat the oven to 180C, and line the base of a 20cm (8") springform tin with baking parchment; grease the sides with a little butter if your tin needs it.
Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl, in the microwave, or in a saucepan on the hob - if you do this in a large pan you can mix the dough in it too. The butter doesn't need to be really hot - just completely melted.
Stir in the sugar, then beat in the egg.
Add the flour and mix in thoroughly - it should give a soft crumbly dough.

Put 2/3 of the dough into the cake tin, and spread evenly with your fingers, building up a little wall of dough around the edge of the tin, to contain any excess fruit juices.**
Mix the flaked almonds into the remaining dough.
Mix the prepared apples, dried cranberries and cinnamon together and spread over the dough base.
Crumble the rest of the dough over the top, then press down lightly, spreading the dough a little to give good coverage over the top. The dough will spread more during baking, so don't try to fill all the gaps.
Bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is firm and golden. Cool for about 10 minutes, then run a knife between the cake and the edge of the tin, to stop and leakages of fruit juice sticking to the sides.
Dust with icing sugar before serving; I like this at room temperature, and I usually leave it on the springform base as it's quite fragile, but  it can be moved to a serving plate if you have a large cake lifter.
** There's a photograph here which shows how the cake is assembled.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Apricot, Cranberry and Ginger Flapjacks

Up until now, I thought my recipe for flapjacks was perfect. Over the years the ratios of sugar, syrup and butter were tweaked and the quantities adjusted until the flapjacks were thick and chewy.

One thing I have never done is add flour to my flapjacks, so I was intrigued to see that Lynn Hill of Traditional Home Baking is an advocate of doing so, maintaining that it helps to give the flapjacks the desired chewy texture. Although I like the texture of the flapjacks produced by my recipe, I'm not too proud to see if this suggestion is an improvement.

I followed Lynn's recipe for Fruity Flapjack, but rather than the fruits suggested in the recipe, I used 100g of chopped dried apricots, 50g of cranberries and 30g of chopped glacé ginger, which had been rinsed and dried to remove the syrup coating. I also added 2 teaspoons of ground ginger to make sure there was enough ginger to taste. The mix of apricots and cranberries is one of my favourite combinations in baking.

Our recipes are very similar in the quantities of ingredients used (apart from the flour), although Lynn's bakes in a slightly larger tin, so I was interested to see how much difference adding the flour would make. 

It was huge! 

The texture was completely different - much softer as well as chewy. I think adding the flour also helped absorb the butter mixture more completely too - my flourless flapjacks are usually a bit stickier.

Both recipes have their merits so I'll probably use both in future, depending on the result I want. Mine are chewy and sticky, Lynn's are softer and chewy. However, when I do use flour, I think that I will go back to baking in a slightly smaller tin, as I prefer a thicker flapjack.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Chai Swirl Loaf Cake

I've made this cake a couple of times before, with no problems, but this time the cake sank towards the end of the baking time - the only explanation I can give is that I may have been a touch heavy-handed with the baking powder. It did mean that the whole cake didn't make a very good photograph.

This time I was making the cake for a Halloween celebration virtual Cake Club meeting, so used a couple of props in the photograph. As I would be freezing most of the cake, I didn't want to use frostings or icing to give a Halloween look.

This Chai Swirl Loaf Cake is a Ruby Tandoh recipe, and the mix of spices used is delicious - none of them stand out individually, although the pepper gives quite a warming sensation!

The only thing I do differently to what's stated in the recipe is to layer the two different batters and allow them to marble naturally during baking, due to the convection currents within the heating cake batter. I think this gives a much smarter appearance than random dollops, and it looks as if the cake in the photograph with the newspaper article was made that way too.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

'Hodge Podge' Shortbread Squares......

 ...... or, clearing the store cupboard!

One of the reasons I keep returning to this recipe, besides how delicious it is, is that it is so quick to make, and doesn't require any fresh ingredients such as eggs or milk. The filling is very adaptable, as witnessed by the filling I used this time, in an attempt to use some of the remnants of my baking supplies, lingering in jars and packets. 

I followed the recipe here, including adding chopped toasted hazelnuts to the topping. This time the filling was:

the last of a jar of mincemeat - 200g
the scrapings from a jar of ginger curd* - 50g
currants - 50g
two balls of stem ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of syrup from the stem ginger jar

*the ginger curd was lemon curd with added fresh ginger, but it didn't taste strongly of either lemon or ginger, although it was tart. It was a disappointment, flavourwise, but I wasn't going to waste it if I could find a use for it.

Adding the other ingredients to the mincemeat toned down it's spiciness and sweetness, but I still didn't get as much of the ginger flavour as I'd hoped for. That didn't stop the shortbread squares being as good as usual though! The crumbly shortbread, subtly spiced filling and crunchy hazelnuts in the topping all blended together well. 

Friday, 2 October 2020

Garibaldi Biscuits, with a flavour twist

I don't often fiddle about with biscuits, although I have become a fan of tray-bake cookies, where the dough is baked in a tray and cut into bars after baking. However, this recipe,  for Garibaldi biscuits, from last year's GBBO winner, David Atherton, intrigued me because of the flavours used - barberries, hazelnuts and fennel seeds, in addition to the usual currants.

I followed the recipe exactly, but as I didn't need any extra milk for the dough, I brushed the biscuits with water before sprinkling on the final dusting of caster sugar. Saved me opening a carton of milk just to use a splash of it.

Overall the recipe, and the results, were disappointing. I found it really difficult to handle the dough once it had been rolled to a rectangle of the correct size - it was almost paper thin at that point. Once the filling ingredients had been added, it was impossible to roll out the rectangle to the correct size a second time, because the amount of the filling just wouldn't allow the dough to be rolled out far enough. I managed to get it large enough to cut out 12 biscuits, but they didn't look anywhere near as neat as in the photo accompanying the recipe, as I couldn't cut through the filling layer cleanly.

After baking, the biscuits proved a huge let down, apart from the flavour - I really loved the combination of the tart barberries, the crunchy hazelnuts and the aniseed warmth from the fennel seeds. However, the biscuit dough was brittle, and again, the amount of filling created a problem in that, in places, the layers separated because there was too much filling for the top and bottom layers of dough to make contact when rolled out. This was necessary to hold everything together.

After this disappointment I checked other recipes online. The ever reliable Delia Smith uses a very similar dough - a bit more sugar and more milk instead of egg - but less than half the filling. I think this would enable all the currants/filling ingredients to become properly embedded in the dough. 

David Atherton seems to specialise in 'healthy' recipes, judging by those published in The Guardian newspaper, so I can see why he reduced the sugar in the dough, added the egg and increased the amount of filling, but for me the change in proportions between the filling and the biscuit dough spoiled the recipe instead of enhancing it.

I won't be trying this recipe again, but now that I've tried barberries for the first time, I'll be using them again in my baking. I think they'd make a lovely addition to Christmas mincemeat.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Salted Caramel Brownies

 My children and I made good use of the unexpectedly good weather in the middle of the month, and had tea and cakes together in my garden. It was the day before the guidelines changed to the 'Rule of Six', after which we could have mingled our three households indoors, but we'd made the arrangement with the good weather in mind, so didn't change it. It makes Covid hygiene and cleaning simpler if no-one comes into the house too.

I made these salted caramel brownies, using a tin of caramelised condensed milk and a pinch or two of sea-salt crystals - some directly on the caramel layer, then just a little more sprinkled sparsely over the top. They weren't as successful as the original recipe, as the caramel didn't stay oozingly soft after baking, but they were still very good.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

Ginger, Oat and White Chocolate Cookie Squares

I think I've found a new favourite recipe for cookie bars or squares. It's another recipe from Lynn Hill at Traditional Home Baking. Lynn has published several recipes using this basic cookie dough, but the only one for which I had the 'add-in' ingredients already available was this one for Ginger and White Chocolate.

The recipe was simple to follow and easy to make. The only worrying moment was when it looked as if the beaten sugar and butter mix wouldn't take all the dry ingredients, but a little perseverance soon put that right!

I was slightly annoyed that I didn't have a baking tray anywhere near the right size for this recipe - I had to use my deep adjustable cake tin to make one which was nearly correct, but the deep sides made it a little more difficult to spread the dough easily. 

The texture of these cookie squares was very short, but made a little more substantial by the addition of the oats. It was this combination of 'melt in the mouth' but chewy which I liked so much!

As both white chocolate and glacé ginger are very sweet, I found these bars a little too sweet, but I'm looking forward to trying a version with dried fruits and/or nuts. Lynn has a recipe using apricots and almonds but there are many other variations that I can think of.