Thursday, 4 July 2019

Coconut and Lime Drizzle Cake

Another small loaf cake, inspired by this recipe on the Waitrose website. I intended to make the large cake but forgot to buy the extra eggs I needed, so had to aim for a half-sized loaf. I also increased the proportion of flour in the recipe to give a slightly sturdier cake - more like a Madeira than a sponge cake.

Ingredients
Cake:
100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
80g SR flour
40g desiccated cocomut
30g ground almonds/almond flour*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
zest of 2 limes
2 large eggs
a little milk, if necessary
Topping:
30g caster sugar
juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons demerara sugar

* I used a USA brand of superfine almond flour made from almonds ground with the skins still on, which explains why the cake is slightly darker in colour than you might expect.

Method
I made the cake by the all-in-one method, so all the cake ingredients, except the milk, were put into a large bowl and beaten until well mixed and fluffy. I needed to add about 1 tablespoon of milk to give a dropping consistency. The batter was transferred to a small (1lb) loaf tin lined with a pre-formed liner, levelled off, and baked at 180C for 55-60 minutes, or until a test probe came out clean and dry.
When the cake was almost ready I heated the lime juice and caster sugar together to dissolve the sugar. After taking the cake out of the oven, while it was still in the tin, I used a cake tester to pierce holes all over the cake. I drizzled over half the lime syrup, then sprinkled the demerara sugar over the top of the cake before adding the rest of the syrup - this ensured that the sugar stuck to the top of the cake and gave a crunchy topping.

The cake tasted as expected - a tangy mix of lime and coconut, with the almonds keeping the crumb of the cake moist and tender. The amount of lime juice from two limes gave just the right amount of drizzle for my tastes - I don't like drizzle cakes to be too wet!

Monday, 24 June 2019

Rhubarb Streusel Muffins

This isn't a new recipe to me, but I wanted something quick to put together and bake, to take to the local Cake Club meeting. Whatever I made also needed to fit in with the theme of 'Summer', and as the recent heavy rain has given my rhubarb patch a late surge in growth, using some of that seemed the most obvious way to go.


I followed this recipe from Smitten Kitchen almost to the letter - the only changes I made were to use all white flour, rather than some wholemeal, and just demerara sugar in the crumble topping, for an extra bit of crunch.


The muffins were light, not too sweet and very subtly spiced. I used 200g of diced rhubarb but I think the recipe could have taken a little more, although you do have to be wary of the amount of fruit juice produced when the rhubarb cooks, which could make the muffins too damp and heavy.


Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Double Chocolate Brownies

Gluten, dairy and nut free.

Looking back over my brownie recipes, I was surprised to see that I've never made a basic gluten and dairy free brownie. I've made one using coconut flour and oil but wanted a recipe just using the standard sort of baking ingredients which most cooks would have available. The only 'speciality' ingredient is a commercial gluten-free flour mix - I use Dove's Farm.

I decided on one of my favourite recipes, which uses oil instead of butter and substituted the gluten-free flour mix  for the flour in the recipe. I would usually add a flavoured chocolate, or nuts to this recipe, but as I wanted to be sure it was allergen friendly, I stuck to adding more of the same 70% chocolate which I'd melted for the brownie batter - making sure it was dairy-free.

Ingredients
250g plain 70% chocolate
120ml sunflower oil
3 eggs
130g caster sugar
100g light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
105g plain gluten free flour

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180C, fan 160C and line a 20cm (8") square brownie pan with non-stick baking paper.
Melt 150g of the chocolate in a medium sized bowl, over a pan of simmering water. Chop the remaining 100g, as finely as you like, and set aside - I like to keep about half the chocolate in quite big pieces.
When the chocolate has melted remove from the heat and whisk in the oil.
Beat the eggs, both sugars and vanilla extract together, in a large bowl, until lighter in colour and increased in volume - depending on the power of your whisk this could take from 3 to 5 minutes.
Fold in the chocolate and oil mixture.
Sift the flour into the bowl and fold in, then fold in the chopped chocolate.
Transfer the batter to the baking pan and bake for 25 minutes - a test probe should still have a few damp crumbs sticking to it.
Cool completely before cutting into pieces of your chosen size.

I think my opinion about these brownies was influenced by the fact that I don't need to eat gluten or dairy free. I could definitely taste the difference between gluten-free flour and regular wheat flour - it wasn't unpleasant, just not as good - but if you've no choice, it's something you obviously learn to live with. (My gluten and dairy-free friend had no complaints!) My biggest gripe was that although the brownies looked moist and fudgy when freshly cut, they dried out around the edges after a couple of days. This obviously isn't a problem if they're eaten fresh, but not so good if you're expecting a batch to last a few days for a smaller family, or just one person in the household. They were actually better eaten warm, as a dessert, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream - not something I treat myself to very often!

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Date and Banana Loaf

With a wet afternoon ahead of me, and some over-ripe bananas in the kitchen, I was looking for a recipe which I could make using just my storecupboard ingredients. This recipe for Easy Date and Banana Loaf, on the Waitrose website looked promising, and used my favourite storecupboard sweetener - date syrup - which was an added bonus.

Following the recipe exactly didn't quite work out, as I didn't have Medjool dates or enough butter and SR flour, but my substitutes worked well, producing a well-flavoured moist loaf with a firm but not heavy texture. I used cream cheese in place of the missing amount of butter, light spelt flour and some extra baking powder in place of some of the flour, and basic soft dried dates instead of Medjool dates.

Ingredients
100g butter, softened
75g full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
100g SR flour
100g light spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
3 tablespoons date syrup (plus extra for drizzling)
2 large ripe bananas, mashed roughly
100g chopped soft dried dates
demerara sugar for topping (optional)

Method
Line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with baking parchment or a pre-formed liner. Pre-heat oven to 160C.
Put all the ingredients except the bananas, dates and demerara sugar into a large bowl and beat until smooth, then beat in the bananas. Finally, fold in the dates.
Transfer the batter to the loaf tin, level the surface and sprinkle over the demerara sugar, if using.
Bake for about 75 minutes, or until a test probe comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and drizzle with a little more date syrup.

The resulting loaf was moist enough to eat as a cake, although butter spread on this sort of loaf is always an option worth considering. The subtle spicing enhanced the overall flavour of the cake, but it was the dates which stood out as the strongest flavour.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

This is a really good cheesecake recipe, in so many respects, that it's a pity the topping lets it down a little. The base has just the right proportions of plain chocolate digestive biscuits and butter, so that it isn't too crumbly nor does it set too hard to cut. The cheesecake mixture is light and delicate in texture and flavour, and doesn't crack while cooling (although I did run a knife around the edge as soon as it came out of the oven to help prevent that).

The idea of the topping, which is a mixture of orange flavoured chocolate, and chocolate with almonds in it, is lovely, and it tasted delicious, but the chopped (or grated) chocolate melted on the hot cheesecake, then set to a crisp brittle layer, which made it difficult to cut and serve neatly. What is even more annoying, is that this didn't happen the first time I made the cheesecake - then the tiny pieces of chopped chocolate stayed as a 'rubble' across the top and didn't hamper cutting it at all. I suppose I must have used a different brand of chocolate this time.

I didn't experience any problems with the recipe for this Chocolate and Orange Cheesecake, apart from the issue with the topping. I don't have a large food processor, so mixed with a hand-held electric beater, on a slow setting, after the eggs has been whisked thoroughly. As usual, even a double layer of foil failed to prevent a little water getting between the foil and the springform tin - perhaps it was condensation, as I was using extra-strong foil, which shouldn't have got holes in it with my careful handling.

I've been trying to think of a different way to top the cheesecake. Piped and set chocolate shapes or a thin layer of ganache, left to drip down the sides, are two options to keep the chocolate flavour. Another possibility is orange curd swirled into lightly whipped double cream or mascarpone. Overall, though, this is a recipe worth repeating.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Easter Shortbread Squares

Another outing for my favourite 'biscuit bar' recipe - what could be better than a crisp, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread filled with a luscious fruity filling? The original recipe is from Sue Lawrence's book 'On Baking' and has a date and ginger filling. I stick to her recipe for the shortbread layers but have experimented with many different fillings.

This time I was aiming to get the flavours of  the traditional Simnel cake (marzipan, dried fruit, spices) into the little shortbread squares. As I was using some mincemeat left over from Christmas to get the fruit and spice into the filling I added the tang of citrus flavours (in the form of marmalade) to brighten the flavour and make it feel fresher and more Spring-like. For the final step, I grated marzipan into the topping.

Ingredients
170g SR flour
170g semolina
170g butter
85g caster sugar

250g mincemeat
100g marmalade (I used three-fruit marmalade for a sharper flavour)

100g white marzipan

Method
Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan. Line a 20cm (8") square tin with parchment.
Weigh the flour and semolina into a large bowl. Mix the mincemeat and marmalade in a small bowl.
Put the butter and sugar in a small saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
Pour this mixture onto the flour mixture and mix well to combine.
Put 2/3 of the dough into the prepared baking tin and spread evenly. Press down firmly as you level the mixture and smooth the surface.
Spread the mincemeat mixture over the dough, leaving a small margin around the edges.
Break up the remaining portion of dough into crumbs, still in the bowl, and coarsely grate the marzipan into the bowl. Gently mix the marzipan and dough crumbs together, then sprinkle them evenly over the filling. Press the topping down very lightly.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 16 squares while still hot. Cool completely in the tin - they will fall apart if you try to move them while still hot.

Mixing marmalade and mincemeat for the filling worked really well. The marmalade added the fresh zing that I wanted and also muted the level of the spicing in the mincemeat, so that it didn't taste as if I was eating a Christmas mince pie. The marzipan flavour in the topping didn't come through as strongly as I had hoped for, but I'm not sure how I could remedy that. Introducing almond extract would be difficult in this particular recipe, without flavouring all of the shortbread dough. Altogether it was an harmonious blend of flavours and textures.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Apricot, Prune and Almond Cake

This was a small loaf cake, using just store-cupboard ingredients. I've been trying to avoid home-baking as there's so much pressure to 'eat up' before the cake gets stale, but if there's no cake I find myself eating chocolate and biscuits anyway!

A friend gave me a pack of ground whole almonds, which hadn't had the skins removed before they were ground. They were much darker in colour, but not much different in flavour, so I still added a few drops of almond extract, to make sure the almond flavour came through properly. I also had the remains of a bag of dried apricots, and some prunes bought for breakfast when my sister was staying a while back.

I used the 'all-in-one' method, which is absolutely fine for even these type of loaves, which have a higher proportion of flour than sponge cakes. For speed, the butter can be softened (gently) in the microwave, or you can use baking spread.

Ingredients
100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
100g SR flour
50g ground almonds
2 large eggs
a few drops almond extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
50g soft dried apricots, *chopped into small pieces
50g soft dried prunes, *chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons flaked almonds

*easiest to do with scissors

Method
Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a small (1lb, 450ml) loaf tin - I used a pre-formed non-stick liner.
Put all the ingredients, except the dried fruit and flaked almonds, into a bowl and beat until well mixed and smooth. You may need to add a tablespoon or so of milk or water to get a dropping consistency.
Stir in the dried fruit and transfer the batter to the prepared loaf tin.
Level the top and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a test probe comes out clean
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container when completely cold.

The ground whole almonds made the cake much darker in colour, and to be honest, I didn't find that very attractive - I think the rest of the almonds will be saved for things like gingerbread and chocolate cakes, where the colour doesn't matter. The cake tasted fine, though - the little pieces of dried fruit kept the cake moist, and gave a good blend of flavours with the almonds.