Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Apricot and Lemon Bread and Butter Pudding

I made this 2-portion pudding in individual dishes, but if it was made in one dish it could easily feed three people; I was a little too greedy! The ingredients list is a bit vague, because the only thing I measured accurately was the milk.

Ingredients
*4 thick slices of brioche, each about 10cm square
butter, softened
apricot jam
a handful of soft dried apricots, chopped
a small chunk of glacé lemon peel chopped finely (optional)
2 medium eggs
225mls semi-skimmed milk
zest of half a lemon
1 tablespoon caster sugar, plus a little more for sprinkling on top
freshly grated nutmeg

*or use plain white bread from a small loaf  - slightly stale bread can be used for this sort of pudding

Method
Thickly butter two individual baking dishes, which have roughly 350mls capacity each (or use one larger dish).
Mix the apricots and peel together, if using.
Use more butter and some apricot jam (fairly thinly spread), to make two sandwiches with the brioche.
Cut the sandwiches into suitably sized pieces to fit into your chosen dishes - I cut mine into 8 tiny triangles to get a tight fit.
Share half the pieces of sandwich between each dish and sprinkle with 2/3 of the fruit.
Arrange the rest of sandwiches on top, trying to keep the top fairly level and sprinkle over the rest of the fruit.
Mix the eggs, milk, lemon zest and caster sugar together in a jug and divide equally between the two dishes. Leave to stand for up to an hour to allow the custard mixture to soak into the bread.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C (160 fan). Sprinkle a little more sugar over each pudding and then grate over some nutmeg.
Cook for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on top. One large pudding might take a few minutes longer.

This was a tasty version of the standard B & B pudding - the touch of lemon, and the tartness of the dried apricots, cut through the sweetness added by the jam.

I apologise for the awful photo - I wanted to get the puddings fresh from the oven, as they deflate as they cool and don't look so attractive, so had to use flash.


Sunday, 5 November 2017

Carrot and Feta Loaf

 I have a great fondness for savoury cakes - in the summer they make a good addition to a meal based on salad, and in the winter they are great with vegetable soups and even hearty meat stews, if you are careful about using complimenting flavours. This delicious Carrot and Feta Loaf, from this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe (last recipe of the three), fed me for four days, without any need to cook extra carbohydrates for my evening meals. It was good with both a potato and leek soup and a vegetable chilli, amongst other things. Hugh suggests that savoury cakes make good pre-dinner nibbles with the first glass of wine, and these recipes can also be cooked in muffin tins, making them suitable for lunch boxes.

I followed the recipe exactly, although the loaf need another 10 minutes on the baking time, before I was satisfied that it was completely cooked through (I was using a colour-changing probe to test). The only thing I would do differently, in the future, would be to bake it in a smaller tin, to get a better loaf shape. The recipe specified a 1.5litre loaf tin, but I think a standard 900ml (2lb) tin would have been better, or the 20cm tin mentioned at the top of the recipe. As you can see from my photos, I got a very shallow loaf from my baking tin, which was 30cm long and 10cm wide.


The cumin in the loaf came through quite strongly, but blended well with the dill and cheese to give a well-balanced flavour overall - both the onions and the carrots were there as background, rather than principle, flavours. The loaf was quite close textured but didn't seem too stodgy; this is definitely something to repeat.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Spelt Flour Gingerbread

I've alluded to health problems within the family in a few of my recent posts, which have cut down on my free time and resulted in very little baking taking place. I'm sad to say that I'm now entering a new phase of my life - living on my own for the first time ever. My husband was diagnosed with a brain tumour in June, after becoming ill while on holiday in France; an operation failed to halt its aggressive growth and he passed away last week, just 4 months after diagnosis.

I'm not sure what this will mean in terms of this blog - I love baking, but a small cake suitable for two to eat over a few days is too much for me to get through, especially as I'm prone to gaining weight easily. I could bake things suitable for freezing, but if I'm taking slices of cake, or rolls of biscuit dough, out of the freezer, that still means fewer opportunities to try new recipes. We'll have to see how things work out!

This gingerbread was baked when I was expecting family to visit over the weekend; what wasn't eaten was taken home by my children. It is as good as a traditional gingerbread, which gets a sticky top over time, but uses oil instead of butter. My original recipe uses plain flour, but this time I used a mixture of plain wheat flour and spelt flour - only because I haven't managed to keep my storecupboard well stocked lately, and didn't have enough plain flour. Because of the strong flavours of the spices and treacle in the gingerbread, I don't think the flavour of the spelt was evident at all, but it's nice to know the recipe worked with one of the more 'fashionable' grains.

Ingredients
150g plain flour
200g spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
3 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sunflower oil
150g caster sugar
1 large egg
250mls of roughly equal amounts of golden syrup and black treacle, mixed with 250mls hot water (ie 500mls liquid in total)

Method
Preheat oven to 170C (150C fan), and line a 20cm (8") square deep cake tin with baking parchment.
Put the flours, bicarb, spices and salt into a medium sized bowl and whisk together to distribute the spices evenly.
In a large bowl whisk the oil, egg and sugar to a smooth emulsion.
Add alternate portions of the flour mix and the syrup mixture to the emulsion in the large bowl, stirring just enough to blend the mixture together - no need to beat.
Transfer the batter to the cake tin and bake for 50-55 minutes until a test probe comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the baking tin.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Date, Apple and Walnut Cake

I bought walnuts for my last bake - Nigella's Emergency Brownies - and I know that they don't keep fresh for long, so decided to use them in this cake too. I added a twist to the traditional British autumnal flavours of dates, apples and walnuts by using date syrup in place of some of the sugar and adding a little rosewater too.

Ingredients
100g softened butter
75g caster sugar
3 tablespoons date syrup
*1 teaspoon rosewater
2 large eggs
150g SR flour
50g chopped soft dates
50g chopped walnuts
1 small eating apple, peeled cored and chopped
a sprinkle of demerara sugar for topping (optional)

*or to taste, depending on the strength of the brand you are using

Method
Preheat oven to 180C (fan 160C) and line a small 450g (1lb) loaf tin. I used a loaf tin liner, but baking parchment can be used too.
Put the butter, sugar, syrup, rosewater, eggs and flour into a large bowl and beat together until the mixture is smooth and light. If the batter seems too thick, add a little milk or water to give a dropping consistency.
Stir in the dates, walnuts and apple pieces.
Transfer the batter to the prepared tin, level the surface and sprinkle on the demerara sugar, if using.
Bake for about 60 minutes, until a test probe comes out clean.
Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Using the date syrup intensified the date flavour, and deepened the colour of the cake crumb, which I was pleased about. I liked the flavour combination of dates, apples and walnuts with rosewater, but it became a summery cake rather than an autumnal one. Probably fitting, as we seem to be having a bit of an Indian summer at the moment, but for a really seasonal cake a little cinnamon or other spice would have been better than the rosewater.


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Nigella Lawson's Emergency Brownies

Many people I know are at a stage of their lives where they don't need to cook for large numbers; for whatever reason most of their cooking is done for only one or two people. This is something that makes baking particularly difficult, at least for me - a standard sized cake can take 4 or 5 days for 2 people to eat. I could freeze slices of cake, but my freezer organisation is notoriously bad so I'm sure I'd end up with a drawer full of slices that had dried out and grown ice crystals, so would have to be thrown away in the end.

It seems that Nigella Lawson may have found herself in the position of craving cake and/or chocolate, but being unwilling to bake something large, as her new book, At My Table, contains a recipe for these Emergency Brownies - a recipe based on one egg and making only 4 generously sized brownies (or even fewer if your craving is really strong!).

I can't link to the recipe as it's not online anywhere yet, but I'm sure it will be soon appear once the TV series accompanying the book is shown, and the book is being more vigourously promoted. Suffice to say that butter, sugar and syrup (I used Maple) are melted together gently to dissolve the sugar. Then a mixture of plain flour and cocoa is beaten in, an egg and vanilla extract added, and finally chopped walnuts and chocolate chips added (I used chopped plain chocolate with orange pieces). The batter is baked in a foil tray which is approximately 18 x 11cm (I couldn't find that exact size, but it's roughly the same as a 1lb loaf tin, or this size of container from Lakeland).

20 minutes baking left these brownies still slightly gooey in the centre even when completely cold. They were very rich - I ate two pieces and felt I had reached my limit - and quite heavy; not the best brownies I've ever eaten but a really good small-scale recipe. I'll certainly be using it again. The orange flavour from the chocolate I used was a nice note alongside the walnuts, but I can see this recipe working well with all the flavour variations I use in brownies - different nuts, spices etc

Friday, 22 September 2017

Autumn Glory


I'm really looking forward to harvesting these 4 quince, in about a month's time. My fruit growing book says they should be left on the tree until the end of October.

I think I will peel, core and slice them, then poach until tender and freeze in small batches, so that they can be added to things like pear or apple desserts over the winter.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Raisin and Coconut Flapjack

Various family issues have meant that baking time has gone out of the window at the moment. I haven't really baked much since sometime in Spring, when Hubby said he wanted to cut down on cakes and puddings to lose a bit of weight. Nearly all my posts since April have been clearing a backlog of things which hadn't been written about. However, I did want to make something for the Bank Holiday weekend, as a little indulgence seemed acceptable.

I've said before that flapjacks are a really good way of using up ends of packets in the baking storecupboard, and this sometimes leads to exciting flavour combinations that work really well. This time I also had a pack of granola breakfast cereal that needed using up - it was just a basic granola containing raisins and almonds, so I added some golden raisins and desiccated coconut to up the flavour a bit. Granola already contains quite a lot of sugar, and often some fat too, so my basic flapjack recipe had to be adjusted a little to compensate for this.

Ingredients
140g butter
50g golden syrup
80g light muscovado sugar
165g granola breakfast cereal
100g porridge oats
35g golden raisins
35g desiccated coconut

Method
Line a 20cm (8") square shallow baking tin with parchment, folding it so that the sides of the tin are lined too. Preheat the oven to 180C.
Melt the butter, syrup and sugar together. I usually do this in a large mixing bowl in the microwave, but a saucepan on the hob is fine too. The mixture doesn't have to boil, just get hot enough for the sugar to dissolve.
Stir in the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Transfer to the baking tin, spread evenly and press down firmly.
Bake for 25 minutes, until just turning golden brown. This timing gives a chewy flapjack - if you like it crunchy, then bake for a little longer.
Cool for a few minutes, then cut into fingers or squares, but don't remove from the tin until completely cold.