Saturday, 31 October 2020

Chai Swirl Loaf Cake

I've made this cake a couple of times before, with no problems, but this time the cake sank towards the end of the baking time - the only explanation I can give is that I may have been a touch heavy-handed with the baking powder. It did mean that the whole cake didn't make a very good photograph.

This time I was making the cake for a Halloween celebration virtual Cake Club meeting, so used a couple of props in the photograph. As I would be freezing most of the cake, I didn't want to use frostings or icing to give a Halloween look.

This Chai Swirl Loaf Cake is a Ruby Tandoh recipe, and the mix of spices used is delicious - none of them stand out individually, although the pepper gives quite a warming sensation!

The only thing I do differently to what's stated in the recipe is to layer the two different batters and allow them to marble naturally during baking, due to the convection currents within the heating cake batter. I think this gives a much smarter appearance than random dollops, and it looks as if the cake in the photograph with the newspaper article was made that way too.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

'Hodge Podge' Shortbread Squares......

 ...... or, clearing the store cupboard!

One of the reasons I keep returning to this recipe, besides how delicious it is, is that it is so quick to make, and doesn't require any fresh ingredients such as eggs or milk. The filling is very adaptable, as witnessed by the filling I used this time, in an attempt to use some of the remnants of my baking supplies, lingering in jars and packets. 

I followed the recipe here, including adding chopped toasted hazelnuts to the topping. This time the filling was:

the last of a jar of mincemeat - 200g
the scrapings from a jar of ginger curd* - 50g
currants - 50g
two balls of stem ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of syrup from the stem ginger jar

*the ginger curd was lemon curd with added fresh ginger, but it didn't taste strongly of either lemon or ginger, although it was tart. It was a disappointment, flavourwise, but I wasn't going to waste it if I could find a use for it.

Adding the other ingredients to the mincemeat toned down it's spiciness and sweetness, but I still didn't get as much of the ginger flavour as I'd hoped for. That didn't stop the shortbread squares being as good as usual though! The crumbly shortbread, subtly spiced filling and crunchy hazelnuts in the topping all blended together well. 

Friday, 2 October 2020

Garibaldi Biscuits, with a flavour twist

I don't often fiddle about with biscuits, although I have become a fan of tray-bake cookies, where the dough is baked in a tray and cut into bars after baking. However, this recipe,  for Garibaldi biscuits, from last year's GBBO winner, David Atherton, intrigued me because of the flavours used - barberries, hazelnuts and fennel seeds, in addition to the usual currants.

I followed the recipe exactly, but as I didn't need any extra milk for the dough, I brushed the biscuits with water before sprinkling on the final dusting of caster sugar. Saved me opening a carton of milk just to use a splash of it.

Overall the recipe, and the results, were disappointing. I found it really difficult to handle the dough once it had been rolled to a rectangle of the correct size - it was almost paper thin at that point. Once the filling ingredients had been added, it was impossible to roll out the rectangle to the correct size a second time, because the amount of the filling just wouldn't allow the dough to be rolled out far enough. I managed to get it large enough to cut out 12 biscuits, but they didn't look anywhere near as neat as in the photo accompanying the recipe, as I couldn't cut through the filling layer cleanly.

After baking, the biscuits proved a huge let down, apart from the flavour - I really loved the combination of the tart barberries, the crunchy hazelnuts and the aniseed warmth from the fennel seeds. However, the biscuit dough was brittle, and again, the amount of filling created a problem in that, in places, the layers separated because there was too much filling for the top and bottom layers of dough to make contact when rolled out. This was necessary to hold everything together.

After this disappointment I checked other recipes online. The ever reliable Delia Smith uses a very similar dough - a bit more sugar and more milk instead of egg - but less than half the filling. I think this would enable all the currants/filling ingredients to become properly embedded in the dough. 

David Atherton seems to specialise in 'healthy' recipes, judging by those published in The Guardian newspaper, so I can see why he reduced the sugar in the dough, added the egg and increased the amount of filling, but for me the change in proportions between the filling and the biscuit dough spoiled the recipe instead of enhancing it.

I won't be trying this recipe again, but now that I've tried barberries for the first time, I'll be using them again in my baking. I think they'd make a lovely addition to Christmas mincemeat.