Monday, 31 May 2010

Dark Chocolate Berry Cake

Another Dan Lepard recipe, for a chocolate cake with berry jam filling, with more jam mixed into a chocolate frosting. I'm afraid this one promised more than it delivered. It looked impressive, but the cake was on the dry side, and the jam didn't add much to the flavour of the frosting. Unusually for one of Dan's recipes, I also felt there wasn't enough frosting - usually you can get away with half of what he suggests!

On the plus side, it was an easy cake to make, with the ingredients added successively to chocolate, golden syrup and butter melted in a saucepan, although I found it took a few minutes longer to bake.

If I made it again, I would make double the frosting and use some for the filling too, rather than plain jam. However, I'm unlikely to make it again, as I've made much nicer chocolate cakes from some of Dan's other recipes!

Friday, 28 May 2010

Tropical Tiffin

AKA Chocolate Refrigerator Cake

This was another attempt to make use of some of the Dorset Cereal's Chocolate Granola which I received a few weeks ago, after winning a blog competition. We've been eating it as a dessert, sprinkled on top of yogurt, but we're not getting through it fast enough! I teamed it with some of the odds and ends in the store cupboard, such as dried exotic fruits, coconut and ginger, to make a refrigerator cake with a tropical flavour. Refrigerator Cakes are usually made with broken biscuits, but I couldn't see any reason why Granola shouldn't work instead.

300g plain chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
4 tablespoons golden syrup
100g unsalted butter
250g Dorset Cereal Chocolate Granola
200g exotic dried fruit*
30g desiccated coconut
50g chopped walnuts
3 nuggets of preserved stem ginger, chopped

* I used 50g dried apricots, 50g dried physallis and 100g of a semi-dried sweetened mix of papaya, mango, pineapple and melon

Line a 8" square shallow cake tin with one sheet of baking parchment, folding it into the corners so that it comes up the sides of the tin too.
Melt the chocolate, golden syrup and butter together, in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water.
When the chocolate and butter have melted, stir in all the other ingredients, then transfer the mixture to the tin and level out.
Cool a little then refrigerate until the chocolate has set. Use a sharp knife to cut into small squares and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

I found this very rich, so cut it into 2cm squares - smaller squares means less handling while eating too, so it's less messy! Although the Tiffin had a great flavour, I think it would have been better made with broken biscuits, as usual, as they would have added more crispness to the texture.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Fresh Ginger Coffee Cake

I debated with myself for about 5 minutes over this recipe for Fresh Ginger Coffee Cake from Dan Lepard! I had all the ingredients except pistachio nuts - would it be too much of a cliché to use walnuts instead? Probably, but in the end, that wasn't enough of a problem to stop me making it.

Not surprisingly, another slightly unusual method, but one which produced a really light sponge using less eggs and fat than you'd expect for the amount of sugar and flour used. The only point to note about the recipe, is that I whisked the eggs and sugar as if making a fatless sponge - for about 5 minutes using an electric mixer - to give a thick, pale foam.

As I didn't want to use the cream cheese frosting suggested in the recipe, I added a simple glacé icing flavoured with instant coffee, in a drizzle pattern.

The flavour of both the ginger and coffee in the cake were quite subtle; I'm not sure I'd have guessed either of them if I hadn't known what was in the cake. Because of this, it didn't seem like another version of a coffee and walnut cake, except for the icing I used which gave a strong coffee flavour. After tasting, I decided that my icing was probably a mistake - a plain or lemon icing would have been nicer and more in keeping with the subtlety of the cake flavour.

I was a little worried that using ground coffee would give a gritty texture, but that worry was unfounded, although it did give an unusual speckled appearance! I think Dan's suggestion of adding some finely chopped glacé ginger would be good, so when I try this cake with pistachios, I will make that change too.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Chocolate Chunk Cake with Almonds and Pistachios

This is another outing, in a different guise, for my basic cake recipe. It's based on a Madeira Cake, and this time some of the flour is replaced by ground nuts. I also added plain chocolate chunks, in the form of chopped bars, and chopped pistachio nuts. I really like the look of chopped bars of chocolate in a cake; the mix of sizes of the pieces, from specks to large lumps gives a more interesting appearance than regular chips. In this cake I used chocolate with 85% cocoa solids, which meant that the cake was not over-sweet, but rich and interesting in flavour, and kept moist by the ground almonds.

225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
220g SR flour
55g ground almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
milk to mix, as necessary - about 3-5 tablespoons
50g pistachio nuts - chopped fairly small
150g plain chocolate (I used 85% cocoa solids) - chopped roughly, not too many large pieces, which might sink.
25g flaked almonds

Heat the oven to 170C, prepare a 20cm (8") round cake tin.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, the beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a teaspoon of flour with each egg to lessen the chances of curdling. Add the vanilla extract.
Fold in the rest of the flour and ground nuts, using enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency, then gently mix in the chopped chocolate and pistachios.
Transfer the mixture to the baking tin, level the surface and sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly over the top.
Bake for about 70 minutes, or until done when tested with a probe.
Cool for at least 20 minutes in the tin before removing the cake to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Freeform Rhubarb Pie

This doesn't really have a recipe - roll out a piece of pastry, place on a baking sheet, pile in some sweetened fruit, fold in the edges, dampen the pastry, sprinkle lightly (or heavily if you prefer)with demerara sugar and bake at 180C until the pastry is golden and the fruit bubbling.

There were a few details which might be useful
* I used SR flour for the pastry, as I wanted the softer, shorter type of pastry this gives. I used 200g SR flour, 100g butter and no sugar for this basic shortcrust. This made a pie which gave 4 generous portions
* I sprinkled about 3 tablespoons of ground almonds over the area of the pastry to be covered with fruit, to absorb some of the juices.
* I added a tablespoon of orange flower water to the rhubarb and sugar.
* I guesstimate I used about 500g of fruit - a little too much , as I would have liked more pastry 'lid' and a smaller hole in the middle.
* If holes appear as you gather up the pastry, just break small pieces off the edge , dampen one side and use it damp side down over the hole, gently pressing it into place and smoothing the edges.

The revelation of this dessert was the accompanying Creme Fraiche - it was made by a Cornish company called Rodda's and was so thick that it held it's shape as it was spooned out. Despite being only(!) 30% fat, it tasted as rich as whipped double cream, and not as sharp as many brands. (I'm not advertising for the company - I happened to pick up a small pot from the 'reduced to clear' shelf in the supermarket - 16p instead of 66p!)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Chocolate, Stout and Raisin Slice

A bit of a misnomer, this, as I left out the raisins! This is one of Dan Lepard's recent recipes, originally published in Sainsbury's Magazine, which has received much acclaim from bloggers such as Choclette and Joanna at Zeb Bakes. As with many of Dan's recipes, it's an unusual method, starting with making a sort of porridge by cooking oats and cocoa in stout. However it's a simple 'mix in the pan' recipe which isn't difficult to follow. The cake tin size isn't mentioned in the online recipe, but the original recipe states a 20cm (8") square tin.

I left out the dried fruit because the Chief Tester (and biggest eater!) doesn't really like it in cakes, and added my own stout-flavoured frosting, as the one in the recipe looked far too sweet and over-generous for our tastes. I didn't have Guinness available, so used Murphy's Irish Stout, which I keep in stock for winter casseroles. For the frosting, I melted 175g plain chocolate with 30g butter in a small saucepan, then removed the pan from the heat and stirred in 2 tablespoons of golden syrup and 3 tablespoons of stout. I cooled this until it just held it's shape, then spread it over the cold cake.

The recipe produces a dense, moist, and (dare I say it?) chewy cake, which might not be to everyone's taste. It doesn't taste very sweet, as the sugar is counterbalanced by the flavour of the stout, so the very sweet looking frosting from the recipe may not have been as OTT as it first seemed on reading the recipe - in retrospect, a few moist, sweet, plump raisins or cherries dotted around might be an improvement too (although not from CT's point of view!). That reads as if I didn't like the cake, which isn't the case. I enjoyed it a lot and would like to try it again with the dried fruit added; I'm just trying to be objective about it. As it is such a robust cake, it would probably travel well (without the frosting), so would make a good addition to a picnic.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Chocolate Marmalade Brownies

During my last baking session, I intended to soften some butter in the microwave, but inattention made me programme minutes, not seconds, into the timer. I ended up with a bowl of melted butter which was no use for that particular cake recipe. Once butter has been melted, it doesn't set into the sort of butter that can be used for creaming in the future (some water separates out), so to use this up I needed a recipe which used melted butter. As I seem to be alternating chocolate and non-chocolate recipes at the moment, brownies were an obvious answer. I also found half a jar of shredless orange marmalade hiding in the fridge, so Chocolate Marmalade Brownies looked like a possibility.

After a bit of searching, and discarding recipes which used much more marmalade than I had, and those which only added a tablespoon or two - how much affect would that have on the flavour? - I decided that this recipe from Best Ever Cookie Collection best suited my purpose. I used the butter I'd already melted, which was a fraction under a cup, and what marmalade was left in the jar, which may have been a tad less than the amount required, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. No, wait a minute - I used light brown sugar and 100g of chopped pecans, which is more than specified, because the pecans were getting old and the light brown sugar was bought in mistake for muscovado sugar, so I wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible in recipes where it wouldn't make much difference. I also baked in a 8 x 12" pan lined with baking parchment, as I didn't have the size of pan mentioned, and prefer deeper brownies anyway. The smaller pan did not affect the baking time; in fact 30 minutes was a bit too long, so if you try them, check on yours a few minutes sooner.

For my own records, I'm going to list the metric weights of the ingredients I used - 225g unsalted butter; 300g light brown sugar; 3 eggs; 150g marmalade; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 140g plain flour; 75g cocoa; 1 teaspoon baking powder; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon cayenne; 100g plain chocolate chips; 100g chopped pecans.

I liked this recipe a lot, even though the marmalade flavour didn't come through strongly - I think this was down to the mild flavoured marmalade I was using. Using a more strongly flavoured marmalade, or adding the grated zest of an orange to accentuate the orange flavour, would be ways to get round this.

It's nice to have one or two chocolate recipes which just use cocoa powder, rather than a massive amount of melted chocolate, yet still achieve a rich flavour and moist texture. Here, the marmalade gave the moistness, and I think the brownie would have been quite rich in flavour even without the added chocolate chips. These brownies weren't as dense as the best brownies, but reducing the baking powder would remedy that. The small amount of cayenne pepper added gave a gentle warm after-taste which was just noticable.

This recipe will go on my list as a keeper, although I don't seem to get round to repeating recipes often at the moment. It might also be good to try it with jam and a complimentary dried fruit instead of nuts - cherry jam and dried soured cherries, for instance.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Lemon Curd and Pistachio Ripple Cake - Take 2

The second attempt at this recipe was much more successful. I altered the recipe by adding the zest of a lemon to the whole cake batter, as well as the vanilla extract, and a few drops of green colouring to the pistachio and lemon curd part of the batter. Other than that, I followed the same recipe as before. Once again, I made the lemon curd myself, to this recipe but using more lemon zest; I looked at commercial lemon curd but even the most expensive brands had added gelling agents and I wasn't sure how they would react to heat.

This time the lemon flavour was stronger and adding some food colouring showed up the ripple effect much better, as well as proving that the lemon curd portion of the batter had stayed separate. I'm a little dubious about the green colouring; it used to be said that people didn't like to eat food which had been artificially coloured blue or green, because those colours are associated with mould, but I'm not sure that's true these days.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Ginger Chocolate Squares

This is an adaptation of Martha Stewart's recipe for White Chocolate-Gingerbread Blondies. I'm not going to call them blondies, because even baking the mixture in a tin only 2/3 of the stipulated size, the result was no thicker than a cookie. I halved the ingredients in the recipe, then baked in an 8" square tin, for 35 minutes. Instead of 5 oz (150g) of white chocolate I used 100g of dark chocolate chips and 5 nuggets of stem ginger, chopped into pieces. I also doubled the ground ginger in the recipe.

Here's my ingredient list, 'translated' to metric weights:

190g plain flour
1/2 + 1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
150g butter
155g light brown sugar
70g caster sugar
1 medium egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
55g black treacle
100g plain chocolate chips
5 nuggets stem ginger, chopped to a similar size to the chocolate chips.

The result was a dense, gooey, cookie-like chewy bar, with crisper outside edges where the mixture had risen during cooking, then collapsed back when cooling. Despite the use of treacle, which has a bitter edge to its flavour, the bars were very sweet; if I bake these again I will use a better quality plain chocolate bar which is lower in sugar than the chocolate chips. From the point of view of our personal tastes, I was right to increase the ground ginger.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Rhubarb, Almond and Orange Cake

Once the depths of winter are over and the days are warmer and longer, we don't always want hot fruit desserts. This is my favourite summer dessert using rhubarb, and I can't believe that I haven't made it since starting this blog. It's a moist, dense almondy sponge, packed to bursting with small pieces of rhubarb and subtly flavoured with the addition of a little orange zest and juice. It's a dessert, rather than a tea-time cake, and is best eaten at room temperature, with a swirl of whipped cream or a scoop of creme fraiche, depending on your preference. The recipe for Rhubarb and Orange Cake, with Flaked Almonds, is from the Waitrose website.

It's not a cake which is easy to photograph, particularly when using unforced rhubarb, as the fruit cooks to a green rather than bright pink colour, which doesn't show up against the sponge. (My heavy hand with the icing sugar didn't help either!) However, I cook for flavour, not what will look good on the blog, and this is one of the best rhubarb desserts I've found anywhere.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Sea Salt Fudge Brownies

I'm in two minds about this Waitrose recipe for Sea Salt Fudge Brownies; it gave a lovely textured brownie - rich, gooey and moist without being too heavy or sugary - but the fudge and white chocolate pieces added to the batter completely melted into it, and the salted peanuts added a note which was just a little too salty, especially if you ended a mouthful chewing on just a nut. The fudge and white chocolate sprinkled on top was still evident after baking, but that was only half the ingredients. To me it seems a waste of quite expensive ingredients if they disappear into the bulk of the batter, and it unbalanced the brownies, as the peanuts were then too dominant.

I had intended to follow the recipe faithfully, but I didn't buy enough fudge - I just assumed only one pack would be needed - so I made up the weight with white chocolate. I've never had problems with chunks of white chocolate melting during cooking, but haven't tried this brand before. Now I know to avoid Waitrose Belgian White Chocolate when I want to keep chunks!