Sunday, 25 November 2012

Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding

I knew this month's We Should Cocoa challenge, to combine a yeast-raised dough with chocolate, was going to be difficult for me, as yeast doughs are not one of my strong points. By the time I'd got two thirds of the way through the month, and still hadn't had time to tackle a yeast dough, I knew it wasn't going to happen. So, in the spirit of not wanting to avoid the challenge (and in anticipation of my entry being rejected), I offer a Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding. It's made with yeast raised dough (white bread) - I just didn't make it myself - and plenty of dark chocolate!
Pudding before baking
My basic inspiration came from this recipe on the Schwartz spices site, but I made a few changes to the recipe. I liked the idea of chocolate rippling through the pudding rather than all the custard being chocolate flavoured, but I only used 150g of plain chocolate with a 20g knob of butter. Two thirds of this was spread over the first layer of bread slices and the rest was drizzled over the top, before the custard was poured on. I made my custard from 3 eggs and 500mls of milk (closer to Delia Smith's proportions for bread and butter pudding custard) and sweetened it with 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. I left out the cinnamon but added 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste and dotted the pudding with more butter before baking. I used a 9" square baking dish which is smaller than stipulated, but I like a deeper pudding!
The baked pudding
This was a delicious dessert, eaten warm. The top acquired the desired crisp top (desired by me, at least!) and was filled with a soft wobbly custard and gooey chocolate ripple. The lower amount of chocolate used still gave a good flavour. Using only a small amount of sugar and a good plain chocolate meant the dessert was not too sweet either.

The only thing missing was the traditional chewiness of dried fruit, and I really think this dessert would have been improved by a handful of sultanas or cranberries, plumped up in orange juice, and perhaps a little orange zest in the custard too.

This month's We Should Cocoa  challenge (rules here) was chosen by guest host Nazima of Franglais Kitchen, but the regular hosts are Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog and Chele from Chocolate Teapot. The idea of the challenge is to incorporate some form of chocolate into a dish along with the chosen ingredient or method. At the end of each month, the host choosing the ingredient to use in the challenge posts a round-up of entries.

Hermit Bars

This is a recipe from one of my most looked-at books, called The Ultimate Cookie Book. I've had the recipe bookmarked to cook for years but have never made it because CT didn't really like dried fruit in cakes or cookies. Now that I'm not cooking regularly for CT, I can branch out into different areas, although FB comes with her own set of things she doesn't like or won't eat!

These bars certainly look like the illustration in the book; they are basically a lot of dried fruit and nuts held together by a small amount of very moist, heavily spiced, cake batter. The moisture comes from the addition of a huge amount of black treacle! However, when they took more than twice as long to cook as the recipe suggested, I checked other recipes online and found that Hermit Bars (or Hermit cookies) are usually made from a stiff cookie dough which is either baked in one block, like biscotti dough, and sliced after baking, or made as individual cookies.

The main difference I could see between my recipe and the ones online was the amount of flour - nearly all the other ingredients were present in similar proportions. I think they would have been nicer as more solid, chewy cookies, rather than very moist, somewhat soggy, cake bars. The spice and treacle flavour was very strong and overwhelmed the mix of dried fruit I used - apricots, cranberries and raisins - which made me realise why raisins alone were used in the recipe, mainly for texture. The overall flavour and texture was like eating slices of a very moist cold Christmas Pudding - not really exciting, even if you like Christmas Pudding! Interesting, but not to be repeated, I think!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Delia Smith's Oat Slice (with Cherry Jam)

FB requested 'something jammy, like the oaty things you made a few weeks ago'. Well, I wasn't entirely happy with the recipe I used that time, as the slices seemed thin and crumbly, so I had another look around for more Oat Slice recipes. This time I decided that I ought to try a recipe from Delia Smith, the quintessential British cook, whose recipes seldom fail even the novice cook. Her recipe uses cooked fresh fruit, but it didn't seem too radical to use jam instead - this time, 250g from a jar of Morello cherry jam.

A slightly different method - melting the sugar and butter together - and different proportions of flour and oats produced a much better result. The base layer was firmer and thicker, even though I baked the slice in a slightly larger tin than stipulated (8 x 8" rather than 10 x 6"). There was less sugar in the oat mix too, which offset the sweetness of the jam nicely.

All in all, a great quick bake when time is short, as happens all too often at this time of year.

Because of this shortage of time, I'm going to have to abandon my original idea for this month's AlphaBakes, and submit these instead.   AlphaBakes (rules here) is a blogging challenge which is hosted on alternate months by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes. This month's letter, randomly chosen by Caroline, is J, so I'm using J for Jam.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Chocolate Almond Cake

with Chilli Chocolate and Marzipan Chunks

This was a hastily conceived cake, to replace the Salted Vanilla Oatmeal Cookies that were such a disaster.  Once again, I used this recipe as a guide for the ingredient quantities, as it always works so well, and used one recipe quantity to make two small loaf tins. Now that I'm not feeding CT, and Hubs and I are watching our weight, we find it difficult to get through a large cake before it gets stale, so a small loaf is an ideal size.

The dry ingredients (175g SR flour, 11/2 teaspoons baking powder, 75g ground almonds, 25g cocoa and 140g caster sugar) were mixed together in a large bowl. The wet ingredients (2 large eggs, 225g natural yogurt, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 75mls sunflower oil) were lightly whisked together in another bowl, then the wet mix was gently stirred into the dry mix. Finally, 100g diced white marzipan (with a high almond content) and 100g of chopped chilli flavoured plain chocolate were folded in, before dividing between two 1lb loaf tins and baking at 180C for 40 minutes.

This was a really tasty cake (we all love marzipan!), although the chilli flavour of the chocolate didn't come through strongly. Maybe slightly on the dry side - it could have benefited from a little more yogurt, I guess. Because of the small scale of the loaf, the chunks of marzipan and chocolate looked huge, which was quite attractive.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I have to report that the second recipe I choose to make from the book, Pure Vanilla, which I reviewed recently, was a total disaster. Firstly,  the flavour wasn't to my taste - the cookies were far too sweet, and the vanilla salt topping didn't help to offset this. If the recipe had worked well, then I would have just put this down to differences in taste preferences, but the recipe was a complete failure too, and initially I couldn't see anywhere in the method or ingredient quantities where I might have made a mistake.

The cookie dough spread in the oven, as far as it was possible to spread - the cookies were almost thin enough to make tuiles! In addition they didn't cook properly;  it appeared to me that the oats hadn't absorbed any of the dough ingredients, leaving the cookies raw-looking and greasy. They were neither crisp nor chewy, just a mess of half-baked goo which fell apart when handled. I left the cookies in an airtight tin overnight and this morning there was just a heap of damp cookies which had slumped and melded together.

The only thing I can see that might have caused the problem, rather than the recipe itself, is that I used whole rolled oats, rather than oats labelled porage oats, which is what I usually use for baking. The recipe itself suggested 'old-fashioned rolled oats'. It might be that in a short baking time these whole oats couldn't absorb enough of the butter, sugar and egg mix, leaving only the smaller quanity of flour to do this, unsuccessfully. Unfortunately, given the cost of the ingredients, and the fact that we didn't really like them, I don't feel inclined to repeat the recipe with different oats. If anyone wants to try the recipe for themselves, get in touch and I'll send you a copy.

At the moment, I'm trying to dry out the cookies in a low oven, in the hope that I can use the broken morsels for something such as 'compost' cookies, which often use remnants of broken biscuits, potato crisps(chips) and breakfast cereals for added flavour. I do have a photo, but it doesn't really do justice to how bad these were!
I'm really disappointed that this recipe went so badly, but I do realise that I may have used an ingredient which wasn't going to work. I hope this is the case, as the first recipe I tried worked so well, and I want to try other recipes in the book.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake

This recipe was a the winner of a Good Food competition to create a birthday cake for the magazine's 20th birthday in 2009. I've been wanting to bake this cake since then, but haven't had the coincidence of both maple syrup and parsnips available at the same time, until this weekend. It's true, I could have made the effort to get the ingredients together, but it's only been a passing thought whenever I notice the cake in a recipe search.

As this month's Tea Time Treat's challenge was to celebrate it's first birthday by baking a cake, this recipe seemed quite appropriate, as it was created with celebration in mind.

I didn't want a layer cake, though, and also didn't want a fresh cheese frosting, so I baked the cake as a traybake, in a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12") tin, and topped with a light buttercream recipe. The only change I made to the recipe was to use 50g chopped toasted hazelnuts instead of pecans, to suit my daughter's dislike of some nuts. Because the tin size I chose made a deeper cake than if it was baked in two sandwich tins, it took a little longer to bake - about 40 minutes in total. My buttercream recipe was based on that in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which uses only 80g butter to 250g icing sugar. I added two tablespoons of maple syrup and a teaspoon of vanilla extract as a flavouring, and then sprinkled the frosted cake with maple sugar crystals.

This cake was very moist and quite dense (but not in a bad way!). I'm glad I baked it as a traybake, as I'm not sure that I would have liked it as a layer cake - I think it was a bit too moist for that. FB reckoned she could taste the parsnips, but I'm not so sure - to me, the grated parsnip and apple added moisture and texture rather than specific flavour. Even the maple syrup wasn't a strong flavour in the cake, although I could taste it in the buttercream. In the cake, the parsnip, apple, mixed spice, maple syrup and orange seemed to blend into a unique flavour, rather than any one of them being separately identifiable. The unique flavour was a very good one, however!
Tea Time Treats is a monthly baking event co-hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked. Each month the challenge is to produce something which celebrates the (almost) lost ritual of the tea-time; this month the host is Karen, who has chosen cake in celebration of a whole year of baking for Tea Time Treats! She will be publishing a round-up at the end of the month.