Tuesday, 31 May 2011


I'm having trouble staying logged in to Blogger - even on my own Blog. This means I can't easily post comments on all the delicious food I'm reading about on the Blogs on my reading list. Sometimes I can post if  there are facilities for leaving just a name to the comment, but this isn't always the case. So apologies to you all; I just wanted you to know that I'm not ignoring you! Hopefully someone at Blogger will realise there's a problem (if it's happening to others too) soon, and sort it out!

Thanks to C for trying to help, but I only have one web browser, and I'm not on IE9 yet!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake - Take 2

With the last bank holiday for a few months looking like being a long wet weekend, FB decided to spend a little time in MY Kitchen! I'm not sure how I feel about this; I don't like others in the kitchen when I'm cooking, and I certainly don't like Hubs leaning over my shoulder giving 'advice', when the last time he cooked was about 15 years ago! But FB can cook properly, and theoretically wouldn't need me around, once she had all tools and ingredients to hand. In the event it all went smoothly, with minimal input from me; she cleared up after herself properly, and in addition to other things, produced this gorgeous cheesecake for tonight's dessert.

I've made this Gordon Ramsay recipe before, but I had trouble swirling the chocolate topping, as the chocolate was too hot and liquid, as you can see here. FB works more slowly than me, and benefitted from my advice to melt the chocolate first and give it time to cool. By the time she was ready to add the chocolate to the top, it was thick enough to stay in place when piped, and she managed to make this beatiful spider's web design. In a slight change to the recipe, she used plain chocolate digestive biscuits for the base, to give an extra dimension of chocolate, and left out the almonds.

Once again, the cheesecake had a lovely clean flavour and light texture, while still tasting quite rich. It also didn't crack while cooling, cofirming it's status as my favourite baked cheesecake recipe!

In case the Times link ever disappears, I'm going to make a brief note  here of the filling ingredients and method - 600g cream cheese (full fat Philadelphia), 250mls sour cream, 2 eggs, 150g caster sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat everything together and pour onto a 23cm base, bake at 140C for 30-35 minutes. Cool in switched off oven, then chill.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Honey and Treacle Cake

Three of the four of us looked at this Dan Lepard recipe for a loaf cake full of spices and glacé peel, in last week's Guardian Weekend magazine, and said, without prompting from others, that it looked a really good cake. So what could I do, except bake it as soon as possible?

I followed the recipe quite closely, using large pieces of glacé peel which I chopped myself - there was more lemon and citron peel than orange - and making only one minor change. I reduced the amount of ground cloves to 1/4 teaspoon, as I find it quite overwhelming in large amounts.

There is one small point to note - Dan says to use a 'small' loaf tin, but the uncooked cake batter more than half filled my 2lb loaf tin (which was 17cm long, as stipulated); I would call a 2lb tin a large one! You can see from these photos that although the cake doesn't rise a huge amount, using a smaller tin could possibly have been a mistake.

The finished cake was a sturdy but moist loaf, with subtle flavours. None of the wide range of flavours - honey, treacle, spices, orange, glacé peel - were predominant, but blended together to give a very unusual, but delicious, spicy flavour to the cake. Although Dan suggests varying the spices to suit your preferences, I'd say definitely leave in the black pepper, as this gave a suggestion of heat which you wouldn't get from the other spices.

Even the glacé peel, which some people find a difficult ingredient to like, didn't stand out as a particularly strong flavour, adding more to the texture than the taste. The sweetness of the peel and honey was balanced by the bitter edge to the treacle and muscovado sugar. The orange flavoured glacé icing added a burst of fresh flavour, but wasn't really necessary, especially if you wanted to use the cake in a lunchbox, or other situation where the icing might spoiled while travelling.

All in all, this is a really delicious cake, whose flavour is difficult to describe - you'll have to try it for yourself!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Marmalade Flapjacks

After making a batch of Halva Flapjacks for FB, which she didn't like, I felt obliged to make amends by baking her favourites - Dan Lepard's Marmalade Flapjacks.

I've said before that these are too soft for my taste, but they have a really good fresh taste, which isn't often found in flapjacks. Although they contain quite a bit of sugar, the bitterness of the marmalade cuts through this and also counteracts some of  the richness of the butter too. Soaking the raisins also makes sure you're not biting down on hard lumps which would detract from the general softness of the bar when you eat it.

I followed the recipe exactly, with no problems. The only thing I'd change is the baking time - they were a little too fragile, so I'd give them 5 minutes longer next time.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Spiced Applesauce Cake

Adding fruit purée to cakes is said to be one way of reducing fat in cakes, but many reputable baking websites argue with this point of view, saying that fat is still necessary to get a good flavour and texture. Either way, this recipe for Applesauce Cake has both - I used sunflower oil and homemade applesauce made from two medium sized Bramley apples cooked to a purée with a tiny amount of water.

This is one of those simple recipes, where the wet ingredients are mixed together, then the dry ingredients are beaten in - nothing could really go wrong. My only argument was with the size of cake tin used. The stipulated size produced a very shallow cake - less than 1" high. I'll use a much smaller tin if I make this again!

The cake is very much like a gingerbread cake in texture - it's even getting stickier on top as time goes by. The spicing is very light, and could be beefed up a bit, but it's quite pleasant to eat something with gentle flavours occasionally. The molasses and unsweetened applesauce keep the sweetness down and give a moist texture too. All in all this is probably a cake which I will make again!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake

The halva flapjacks I made recently left me with half a tin of condensed milk to use up, and the recipe thread on Dan Lepard's forum suggested this Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake as one of the uses for such leftovers. It was a reminder, really, as I have made this cake once before, way back before this blog started.

The problem this time was the butter in the recipe, but as this was a slightly unusual method which didn't rely on creaming the butter and sugar together, I decided it was time to take the plunge and see if substituting oil for butter would work. I think, although a trawl through all the recipes using oil might prove me wrong, that this is the first time I've made a substitution, rather than choosing recipes which use oil right from the start! I used 80g of oil instead of 100g of butter, as butter is usually just over 80% fat. After re-reading the discussion about this cake, I also decided to reduce the raising agent a little, by using 100g plain flour and 50g SR flour, instead of all SR flour.

Other than those two changes, I followed the recipe and method exactly. I found it needed about 10 minutes more baking for me to be sure it was cooked right through - the cake was still very wobbly at 40 minutes, which made me worry that using oil wasn't going to work, but seemed to set properly after that. The cake sunk a little while cooling, but nothing too disastrous.

The cake was light and moist, but I felt there was something wrong with the flavour. The overwhelming flavour and smell was cocoa, which strangely, tasted raw too! I don't remember complaining of this the first time I  baked it, so either the lack of butter, or reducing the raising agent, may have affected the balance of flavours. It's a shame as I was very happy with the texture of the cake, and pleased that using oil hadn't seemed to have an adverse effect. Back to the drawing board!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Halva Flapjacks

This Dan Lepard recipe for flapjacks using tahini and condensed milk had a mixed reception. Hubs and I both really liked it, but I had made it primarily for FB's lunchboxes, and she didn't like it one bit! Which left us with a lot to eat, when we are both watching our waistlines, in a bid to stop further expansion. FB is not happy with lots of nuts, and, although I used mixed seeds instead of the nuts in the recipe, to her, the combination of tahini and the seeds tasted 'too nutty'.

The point of using the tahini, if you look at the link, is to reduce the amount of butter used, but there is still an awful lot of sugar in this recipe - so it's not for the calorie conscious! As usual, I made a few changes to the recipe, out of necessity - to replace the walnuts I used 50g each of pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and in place of 100g dates I used a mix of equal parts of dates, sultanas and cranberries. I used the full amount of oats mentioned and baked the flapjack in a 20cm tin, but think a slightly larger one would have been better - perhaps 22cm.

As I said, Hubs and I really liked this flapjack - the basic flavour was exactly like the sesame halva which my mother-in-law used to put in food parcels when she visited us*, with the added bonus of more textures and flavours from the oats, dried fruits and seeds. The fudginess produced by the tahini, sugars, butter and condensed milk makes these much different to most flapjacks

* My nominally Jewish MIL, with whom I had a very good relationship, was a fantastic cook and inspired me to cook properly when Hubs and I first married. She insisted on giving food parcels on visits - some delightful goodies like smoked salmon, salami, halva, biscuits and homemade cheesecake, but also nasty chocolates imported from Israel and manky over ripe fruit bought cheap at her local markets. We had to thank her nicely, wait until she had gone, and then ruthlessly throw a lot of the stuff away!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Golden Gingerbread

I've found another good recipe using oil instead of butter, which is just as well, as CT's diet is working really well at reducing his cholesterol - but that means he's got to stick to it!

I've called this golden gingerbread to distinguish it from the darker cakes which include black treacle - there was only light muscovado sugar and golden syrup in this recipe. I used this recipe, but made a few changes, because I didn't want to add a frosting. I included the zest of a large orange in the cake, and added 4 nuggets of stem ginger and about 50g of candied orange peel, both finely chopped. These changes were good for the flavour, but the pieces of ginger and peel mostly sank to the bottom, so were not such a good idea!

Translating the recipe from cups to weights gave me - 180g plain flour, 90g SR flour, 200g brown sugar, 180mls olive oil and milk, and 300g golden syrup. That's 500g sugar in one small cake - it sounds much less as 2 cups!!

I baked the cake in a 10" (25cm) square tin but think it would have been nicer as a deeper cake in a smaller tin. This was a pleasantly flavoured cake, with the right amount of ginger, but I think I still prefer the dark gingerbreads, where the black treacle adds a bitter edge to the sweetness.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A Roulade for the 'We Should Cocoa' Challenge for May

Hazelnut Meringue Roulade with Chocolate Olive Oil Mousse Filling

My first thought on seeing the May challenge for 'We Should Cocoa',  set by Chele at Chocolate Teapot, was "No way!". Instead of asking us to bake with a specific ingredient, Chele wanted us to make a specific chocolate product - a roulade! I can't remember the last time I made a swiss roll, and I don't think I've ever made the more modern sounding roulade!

However, the point of joining in with a 'challenge' is to be challenged at times - it would hardly do to drop out this month because it was too difficult! Another challenge ahead for me is hosting a lunch for friends, including one guest who is both gluten- and dairy-free. It's always difficult to provide a dessert which she can eat alongside everyone else, particularly as she doesn't like acidic fresh fruit either. This seemed a chance to kill two birds with one stone - create a roulade which was dairy and gluten free.

Meringue fitted the criteria of being gluten free, but the filling was a little more problematic, especially if I wanted it to be a chocolate one - most recipes use ganache, or include dairy products such as butter or milk. As I'm getting used to using olive oil, instead of butter, in a lot of my baking, I decided to see if there were any recipes around to make chocolate mousse with olive oil. Of course there were!

I eventually decided to use Delia Smith's recipe for a Hazelnut Meringue Roulade, and fill it with chocolate olive oil moussse, made using this recipe.  As I was using hazelnuts in the meringue, but didn't have the hazelnut liqueur specified in the recipe, I replaced three tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil with hazelnut oil.

The recipe for the roulade was fairly straightforward to follow, but I was a little alarmed to see how the meringue puffed up and buckled as it cooked, although this could have been because I used the fan oven. The meringue seemd to settle down as it cooled, although it was a little flaky on the surface.

The chocolate mouse was easy to make too, with none of the danger of seizing that you get when making a traditional mousse with just chocolate, eggs and butter (see footnote). The only difficulty was deciding when to add it to the roulade - too set and it would be difficult to spread, while using it too soon might mean it just oozed everywhere. In the event, I think I should have waited a little longer - it was still a little too runny.

Fortunately, I managed to roll up the meringue without cracking it too much! Most of the cracks you can see are just on the surface, and don't go deep into the meringue.The hardest part was over!

I decorated the top of the roulade with drizzles of melted chocolate and chopped toasted hazelnuts. I only used half the quantity of mousse for the filling, so the rest was spooned into small glasses and decorated with more chopped toasted hazelnuts.

The chocolate mousse was surprisingly rich tasting, but lighter than a mousse made with butter. It blended well with the meringue, which was still chewy inside, to produce a rich dessert, which didn't seem too sweet, despite the large quantity of sugar in both the meringue and mousse.

Although I'm pleased that I have tackled something which I've avoided up to now, I found the rolling stage of the roulade a bit too nerve wracking, so I'm going to chicken out of it and produce a layered meringue and mousse dessert for my guests next week. Although the process worked this time, it seems the sort of thing which you can't guarantee to work every time, and I can't afford a failure in front of others.

Note (added 15th May) - when I made the Chocolate Mousse the second time, the chocolate/oil mixture was a still little too hot when I added it to the egg yolks and sugar, so that it started to seize. I remedied this by quickly beating in a couple of tablespoons of the whisked egg white, before folding in the remainder, but I'm adding this as a note to remember - cool the chocolate a little, if necessary, before adding to the egg yolks.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Lemon Cake

This recipe is from the second series of Raymond Blanc's Kitchen Secrets, recently shown on BBC TV. Raymond Blanc has come across as a very likeable personality during these two series, and a lot of the recipes, especially from the second series, haven't seemed too daunting for a home cook.

However, some of the online recipes haven't matched up with what he was seen to do on the programme and this recipe is a case in point. I didn't see the programme myself, but while searching for lemon cakes in general I came across a couple of blogs, including Poires au Chocolate, which mentioned lemon juice added to the cake batter. As I only had three lemons in total to play with, I decided to add the zest of all three, plus the juice of two, to the cake batter and use the juice of the third lemon, and no zest, in the lemon glaze.

The ingredients of the cake are a little unusual, but the method is very simple - whisk everything but the flour and baking powder together, then fold in these last two ingredients. I chickened out of using all the batter in my loaf tin, as my instinct is to never fill a cake tin more than 3/4 full. The cake didn't rise a lot, so I think I could have got away with putting all the batter into the tin - instead I ended up with 6 extra cupcakes! The unconvention of taking the cake out of the tin as soon as it came out of the oven required a leap of faith, but all was well!

The only letdown was the complicated method of glazing the cake. After all the fiddling around with warm apricot glaze and warm sugar syrup, when the cake went back into the oven to dry out, most the glaze just ran off the cake and ended up on the baking tray. I think it would be better to build up thin layers of the glaze on the warm cake, letting each one set a bit before adding the next. Fortunately I had some glaze left over and was able to improve the appearance of the cake a little.

The texture of this cake was superb - close and tender, without being too heavy. The lemon flavour of  the crumb was quite delicate, and the sharpness of the glaze made a good contrast. The small amount of added rum wasn't noticeable; without baking, and tasting, two cakes side by side - one without rum and one with - we'll never know what difference it makes, but I trust M. Blanc had good reason to add it!

This is the sort of lemon cake you would add to an old-fashioned afternoon tea spread - perfect texture, delicate flavour; nothing too extreme to put people off - not too sharp, or moist, or dry, or sweet - a good balance of flavours. For my taste it was a little underflavoured - I like my lemon cakes to sing with sharp lemon flavour, but anyone a little wary of too sharp a lemon flavour will love this cake!