Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Pear and Caramel Cookies

Another outing for the 'cookies made with olive oil' recipe from Cookie Madness. I jotted down the quantities of ingredients on a small piece of paper before going into the kitchen, then in my rush to get them into the oven, forgot to use brown sugar. This resulted in a rather pale cookie but as I'd added fudge chips there was still plenty of flavour.

As the additions to the dough, instead of nuts and chocolate, I used 50g of soft dried pears, cut into small pieces, 50g fudge chips and half a teaspoon of ground ginger.

This recipe is different everytime I use it! This time the dough was very dry, so that I could shape it by hand and the cookies also didn't spread very far when baked. Unfortunately, the fudge chips on the outside of the cookie melted in the oven, and left little blobs of caramel sticking to the cookies. Not very nice looking, but no-one really worried about it!

The fudge chips even managed to burst open the cookie in this photo on the left. Because of all the oozing caramel, it was hard to get three good  looking cookies for the top picture!

Never mind - the flavour made up for any shortcomings in the appearance. Chewy and fudgy with just a hint of spice to compliment the flavour of the dried pear. CT didn't notice the pear, but that's not surprising - sometimes I think his palate only recognises chocolate and chilli! FB thought chocolate would be a good extra addition, and I thought some nuts would be good. But we all liked them as they were, too! Must remember the brown sugar next time!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Dark Chocolate and Orange Cake

I'm really not in the mood for cooking at the moment. Or, rather, I'm not in the mood for deciding what to cook! Once the decision is made I'm quite happy to get on with it, but I'm finding it difficult to make those decisions. FB suggested this Dark Chocolate and Orange Cake form '101 Cakes and Bakes', a Good Food book (also available on the website). This fitted in with the low saturated fat baking I'm doing at the moment, so I went along with her proposal. Her alternative suggestion was a healthy oat muffin from the same book, which didn't sound so good!

The cake itself was simplicity to make although I was a little concerned about the amount of oil in the recipe and had to check the book against the website, in case it was a misprint. I didn't have a Seville orange (who does at this time of year?) so I used an ordinary medium sized eating orange instead. There was also a delay while I boiled the orange for 30 minutes, so this really isn't a cake you can make on the spur of the moment.

No problems with a sinking cake this time, either, even though the method was quite similar to the previous cake, which collapsed so spectacularly.

I didn't have any cream to make a ganache, so used my fall-back recipe for a chocolate glaze, which just gave a thin coating to the top of the cake. Hubs thought the cake looked like an Artexed ceiling, but I'm not listening to that sort of criticism - the glaze did the job, quickly! The glaze is made by heating 100g plain chocolate and 20g butter in a bowl over simmering water. Once melted remove from the heat and stir in 1 rounded tablespoon of golden syrup and 1 tablespoon of milk. Cool to a spreading consistency before using.

The cake  had a dense, moist texture with just a hint of orange. I think a Seville orange would have given a stronger flavour than the eating orange, although adding the grated zest from a second orange might have upped the orange factor a bit.. This is a good 'everyday' cake to add to my 'baking with oil' repertoire.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Hazelnut and Orange Olive Oil Cake

I nearly didn't post about this cake as it looks such a mess, but it has such a lovely flavour and texture that I'd really like to find out what went wrong with it, and be able to make a cake which looks like the one in the recipe photo here on

I followed the recipe exactly, using Amaretto Disaronno instead of either Frangelico or orange flavoured liqueur. Everything looked fine until about 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time; when I tested the cake, I could see that it was beginning to sink in the middle. This sinking turned into a spectacular collapse as the cake cooled. Despite this the texture was light and fluffy, even in the centre - so it wasn't underbaking which was the problem. Could it have been overbeating? Too much baking powder?

The mix of orange and hazelnut, plus the liqueuer, gave a very delicate flavour which complimented the light texture really well. Although I used quite a strong tasting extra virgin olive oil, I'm not sure how much it contributed to the final flavour. The coarsely chopped hazelnuts on top were a mistake - I think they should have been much more finely chopped and perhaps reduced to 50g, so that they all stuck to the cake. this would have kept the cake looking as delicate as it tasted.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Sue Lawrence's Bulging Chocolate Muffins

I'm letting the author of this recipe take the blame for the misnomer; there's quite a lot of chocolate in this recipe but it hardly makes the muffins bulge with it! They might have looked more bulging if they had risen better, but I think this was another case of me and muffin recipes not getting on. I'm trying to find a reliable muffin recipe using oil, and chose this Sue Lawrence recipe because it was the first I came across, in my cook books, from a cook who is considered reliable. I haven't baked a lot of her recipes but those I've used have been OK, and she usually gets good reviews on other blogs. I guess it's my curse not to be able to make muffins.

This recipe was slightly unusual in using some semolina with the flour - about 1/3 - but other than that it was an ordinary looking recipe - put dry ingredients into a bowl and lightly mix in the wet ingredients without beating. But these muffins rose strangely while cooking and looked neither like muffins nor cupcakes; this could have been an effect of the fan oven, which I don't usually use for baking.

The ingredients were - 170ml milk, 2 eggs, 85ml sunflower oil, beaten together, then mixed into 145g plain flour, 2 tablespoons cocoa, a pinch salt, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 55g caster sugar, 85g semolina, 145g chopped chocolate (I used a mixture of roughly equal quantities of plain, milk and white). This makes 12 muffins which are baked for 20 minutes at 200C.

To taste, the muffins were richly chocolately, but a little stodgy and not sweet enough, even with the milk and white chocolate. Not a recipe to use again, I'm afraid

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Double Chocolate Ginger Cake

I found this recipe on a blog which is new to me - Coconut and Lime. I have a feeling this is a blog I'm going to be reading regularly - it's very clearly written and there are some great photos (often of stages within the recipe). As all the recipes are original, the cook/writer, Rachel Rappaport has asked that they aren't copied out onto other blogs, and I'm happy to comply with this request, as it's the way I usually write anyway. Here's the link to Double Chocolate Ginger Cake on her blog.

I usually convert cup measurements to weight before I cook, and did the same here. I use this conversion list on Recipes4us, although I generally use a conversion of around 120g for 1 cup of flour, rather than the 100g suggested in the list. I couldn't find a conversion for crystallised ginger, so used 100g, and I also used a 100g bar of 74% chocolate, roughly chopped, instead of a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

I only had the sugar coated crystallised ginger in stock, and chopped it with brief pulses in a mini-chopper to give randomly sized pieces. The processing made the ginger quite sticky, so I added a tablespoon of flour from the recipe weight, and worked it in with my fingers to make sure the ginger pieces were separated and well coated. The carton of buttermilk contained 285mls, which was a tablespoon or two short of what was needed. I had intended to add a little milk to compensate, but forgot when it came to making the cake - it didn't seem to have an adverse affect, the cake was still moist enough.

This is another recipe using oil instead of butter (I used sunflower oil), and this makes the mixing really simple - dry ingredients in one bowl, mix in all the wet ingredients, beat until smooth then stir in the lumpy ingredients. The batter fitted nicely into my 10-cup bundt tin and the cake baked in the time given in the recipe. It slipped out of the bundt tin easily - I don't know if this was a feature of the cake or whether I've got better at greasing and flouring the tin!

This was a very good cake - the crumb was moist and quite open, and a good chocolate flavour for a cake with only a little cocoa added to the batter. The pieces of ginger added a lovely flavour, although some of the larger pieces sank. In a bundt cake this doesn't matter too much, as the bottom becomes the top when the cake is presented, but I think I'll chop the ginger a little finer next time.

I finished the cake with a dusting of icing sugar, although a drizzle chocolate glacé icing would make the cake prettier for special occasions - it's certainly good enough for that!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Blondies with Strawberries - for 'We Should Cocoa'

You might think this is cheating, but eating something with strawberries on the side is the only way I'm going to be able to put an entry into this month's 'We Should Cocoa' challenge. I can't incorporate strawberries into a cake or dessert because, believe it or not, not everyone here likes them!

I'd been thinking carefully since the June challenge was announced, about flavours which go well with strawberries, and had decided on white chocolate and orange before I saw this recipe for White Chocolate Blondies from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Talk about providence - his blondies contain white chocolate in abundance, coconut, orange and cardamom and he recommends eating them with strawberries! What could be better? I could argue that the strawberries are part of the recipe, not just an afterthought!

The recipe was a little complex to follow, and seemed to use lots of bowls and spoons, but  it wasn't difficult. The only part which might prove a problem is the difficulty of melting some brands of white chocolate properly, but here it is melted with the butter in the recipe, and Hugh warns not to let it overheat. I used Menier White Chocolate, recommended for  baking and desserts. For once, I followed the recipe exactly!

The resulting blondies were delicious, with the orange and cardamom giving a subtle flavour which cuts through the sweetness; despite 300g white chocolate, desiccated coconut and more sugar, I didn't find these oversweet. I'm not usually a great fan of white chocolate, but I really liked these. Eating them with macerated strawberries added another dimension - the fruit really complimented the flavours in the blondie.

My only criticism comes from calling them a Blondie - they were really light in texture and I like my blondies and brownies to be dense and chewy. I think I would really describe these as squares of cake, but then the name White Chocolate and Coconut Squares doesn't sound half so glamorous, does it?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Chocolate Chunk and Hazelnut Cookies

There's so much to do in the garden, and elsewhere, at the moment, that at times it's difficult to fit in any baking. I had to put aside what I planned to cook today and make another batch of these ultra-quick cookies, made with oil.

They were in the oven in about ten minutes from getting the scales out of the kitchen drawer. I used dark muscovado sugar, increased the chocolate (85% cocoa solids) to 110g and used 50g chopped toasted hazelnuts.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Stone Fruit Yogurt Cake

The scare over E. coli carried on Spanish fruit and veg has had one benefit for me - loads of 'reduced to clear' peaches and nectarines in the supermarket, as well as salad stuff. Now that the Spaniards are deemed not to be at blame, I have no worries about using their imported produce - well washed of course, if eaten raw.

This Stone Fruit Yogurt Cake from Dan Lepard was the starting point for using some of the peaches I bought. This is a cake which is very much liked by C at Cake, Crumbs and Cooking, and every time I saw a version there it made me want to try it, but this is the first opportunity I've had to bake it using what I had in stock, rather than having to buy fruit especially for it.

If there's a choice of peaches or nectarines to eat raw, the nectarines, with their smooth skin, always win out over fuzzy peaches, which meant that the peaches were getting past their best. I skinned four small peaches for this recipe, using three sliced for the fruit topping, and one chopped and added to the cake batter. To improve the colour and flavour, I added about 50g of frozen raspberries to the topping and another 50g to the cake batter.

The instructions say to line the cake tin with foil, and then oil the foil. I cannot stress how important this is, especially if using a springform tin, and how important it is to make sure there are no holes in the foil. Despite using extra thick foil, and treating it really carefully, I must have torn it somewhere, as there was an escape of sugary fruit juices which burnt onto the oven floor during cooking, with a quite unpleasant smell. The foil also needs to be well-oiled, as I left some of the fruit behind, stuck to the foil, when I turned out the cake, and had to quickly put the pieces back into place on top of the cake - talk about a tough jigsaw! The sticking might have more to do with losing the juices during baking than not oiling the foil well, but it's a point to note for the future

This is a really lovely cake, moist and lemony with the fruit adding extra flavour and texture. The frozen raspberries had thawed by the time they were mixed into the batter and the juice gave little ripples of pink throughout the cake, as well as concentrated bursts of flavour from the fruit. The peaches alone did not have a strong flavour, but adding the raspberries gave a complimentary boost to the overall flavour.

I didn't get the really fine, close texture that C got with her cake, but I suspect this was because I hurried the mixing process, and didn't let my butter warm up enough before creaming it with the sugar. Because I've been baking with oil a lot, recently, I'd forgotten how important this stage is. And don't worry that I'm sabotaging CT's diet, he wouldn't eat this sort of cake anyway - fresh fruit is not one of his greatest loves! He's finishing up the previous chocolate cake while the rest of us eat this one.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Vanilla and Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

I wasn't intending to post about this, as I made it in a hurry and didn't think the idea had worked very well. However, when I cut into the cake, it looked so pretty that I thought it was worth writing about it.

This cake was an adaptation of the Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake I made a while ago, but I made a plain vanilla flavoured cake by leaving out the cocoa and increasing the flour. Then I stirred a cocoa paste made from 30g cocoa and some boiling water into one portion of the batter (a bit less than half, by weight).

At this point I realised the two batters were too thin to marble properly, so I poured the vanilla batter into the cake tin, added the chocolate batter on top, and attempted to swirl the two together with a fork. I had no idea how much (or little) the two batters had mixed until the cake was cut, but I was pleasantly surprised by the result!

This didn't turn out to be a spectacularly good cake - it's more the sort of thing you have on hand for people who expect a daily portion of cake, rather than something you bake for guests - but it is a moist, tasty sponge cake, with an acceptable chocolate flavour. I don't think anyone would guess it had no butter in it!