Tuesday, 30 August 2011

End of Summer holidays = Cake for fortification!

As I have now waved goodbye to my gorgeous great nephew and his mummy (and a fair amount of blueberries!) my mind has turned to the 'back to school' organisation that is needed as soon as humanly possible. The list of jobs to get done seems to grow by the minute and my resolve to get on and do it seems to wane equally quickly!

My son is making the most of the last days of the summer holiday. Currently he is dividing his time between helping the farmer move sheep, riding his bike around the makeshift bmx track he and his friends have built in the field, and playing football. Therefore he is out of my hair whilst I tackle the mountain of jobs. He just comes in ravenously hungry requesting cake or biscuits on a regular basis.

So before I knuckle down and start working through my list I figure I should make some cake as fortification for the tasks ahead and to keep the youngest member of the family quiet!

Chocolate sponge with chocolate butter cream filling.
This chocolate cake is a variation on my fall back sponge recipe. It is a butter cake recipe which never ever fails and is really easy to make.
Please note:  The measurements are imperial as its a very old recipe and converting it to metric gives some very strange quantities!

Pre heat the oven to 180c
You will need 2 x 18cm round  deep cake tins, lined, base and sides (I cheat and buy cake tin liners from Lakeland).

6 oz butter (softened)
1.5tsp vanilla extract
8 oz caster sugar
3 eggs
3 oz plain chocolate (melted)
8.5 oz plain flour (sifted)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2tsp baking powder
6 fl oz milk

For the butter cream:
3 oz unsalted butter
6 oz icing sugar
2 tsp cocoa mixed with a small amount of water to make a paste
1-2 tbsp of milk

Place butter and vanilla in a bowl and beat in the electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, beating well until creamy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and then add a tbsp of the flour if the mixture looks like it will curdle.

Beat in the melted chocolate.

Sift together flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Alternately fold the flour mixture and the milk into the butter mixture.

Spoon the mixture into prepared tins and bake for 30 minutes until well risen and a cake testing skewer comes out clean.

Once cooked remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

To make the butter cream.
Beat together the butter, cocoa powder paste and  icing sugar until smooth, then add milk until a correct  spreading consistency is reached (sometimes the mixture seems to need 1 tbsp other times 2tbsps )

Spread the butter cream on one of the sponges and sandwich together. Sift icing sugar over the top for a pretty effect.

And now have a slice with a cup of tea before tackling those name tags and PE kit assembling!


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Egg supply confirmed....Time to get baking!

For sometime I have been sporadically getting my eggs from Lavender Cottage, which is just round the corner from our house . I pop up there regularly hoping to see the blue cool box and honesty box on their garden wall . Some days it's there, sometimes it's not . If the box is not there my heart sinks because if I am honest I am a little bit addicted to the lovely blue, white and brown eggs fresh from the Lavender Cottage hens . Their eggs are so fresh and totally free range and make my cakes so rich .
Today I decided to take matters into my own hands and spoke to the lovely people who own the hens and have now made an agreement to get a regular delivery of eggs on a weekly basis . Hooray !

So I better get baking to use some of these eggs !

My Son loves breakfast breads and muffins. One of his favourites is banana muffins. He requested these muffins today and as it is the school holidays i decided to add an extra surprise to the banana muffins. Chunks of 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate . These muffins freeze well .

Chocolate Chunk Banana Muffins

250g plain flour
3tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
A pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
115g caster sugar
75g melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp honey
2 large ripe bananas
2 medium eggs (free range)
125ml Milk
100g 70% cocoa solids plain chocolate

Preheat oven to 190c .

Mash the bananas well .

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl .

Add the sugar and mix well . Stir in chocolate chunks .

In a second bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla extract, honey, butter and milk .

Add the bananas to the egg mixture and stir.

Make a 'well' in the dry mixture and add the egg mixture . Stir with a metal spoon until the flour mixture is just incorporated (don't stir too much - its meant to be thick and lumpy!)
place mixture into muffin pan lined with paper cases .

Put in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Once golden brown and firm remove from oven and place on cooking rack .

Enjoy Fresh . If you have any left over just pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds each to refresh them .

Viennese Whirls and fingers

I tried many years ago to make viennese whirls and just made an absolute mess and never tried again until today!
I have to say, with the aid of my food processor and a piping bag, these biscuits were so easy to make and so yummy!

250g unsalted butter
55g icing sugar
225g plain flour
75g corn flour
25g plain chocolate

Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

Place all the ingredients into a food processor with the metal blade . If you don't have a food processor then a mixing bowl with an electric mixer.

Mix the ingredients to a paste and then stop. You don’t want to add too much air.

For the classic look of the biscuit place the paste into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe the mixture out onto non-stick baking parchment .

Pipe the biscuits on the tray they will be baked on and make sure they are spaced sufficiently apart because they do expand.

Bake the biscuits at 170°c for 15 minutes until lightly golden brown, then place them onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature .
Melt the chocolate and drizzle across the biscuits leave to set .

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The best way to say Thank you is with Double chocolate cupcakes!

As we have been away for a week, the task of looking after the family pet rabbit was given to our very lovely next door neighbours. As a thank you for feeding and fussing our bunny I decided to make and deliver some double chocolate cupcakes (I have missed baking while on holiday!) to the neighbour along with a pot of the blueberry jam I made yesterday.

This recipe is a mixture of my mum's classic bun mixture along with the chocolate frosting recipe given to me by one of my baking buddies Kate who says the recipe comes from the Hummingbird bakery cupcake book. This is now on my Amazon wishlist. I do love a good cook book! The cakes and frosting both freeze well but I would freeze them separately and then assemble when defrosted.

Double chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 18 cakes approx.
Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start.
For the cakes:
150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar (I use golden caster sugar but you don't have to)
3 free range eggs
150g plain four
2tsp baking flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder preferably Green & Blacks as it gives a richer flavour, mixed into a paste with 2 tsps
of water

For the frosting:
270g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter
30g  cocoa powder
45ml whole milk (I have used semi skimmed before when I haven't had the whole milk which tasted fine)

Preheat the oven to 180c.  Line 2 cupcake tins with paper cupcake cases.

Cream together butter and sugar. I use my Kenwood chef mixer (which is my favourite bit of kitchen kit!) but you can use a electric whisk or even a wooden spoon.  Keep mixing until the mixture is light and fluffy.
This will take a good 5 minutes or more.

Next beat in the eggs one at a time with your mixer on continuously. If the mixture looks like it is going to curdle then add in a spoonful of flour.

Sift the flour and baking powder into the creamed mixture and fold in gently.

Mix the cocoa with 2 tsps of water to make a paste, fold this paste into the cake mixture until evenly distributed.

Divide the mixture between the cake tins.

Bake for around 15 minutes until springy to the touch.

Remove from the tins immediately and place on a wire rack to cool.

To make the frosting beat together the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder. This mixture will look quite crumbly. Add the milk and beat until smooth.

Once the cakes are cold either spread the frosting or pipe the frosting onto your cupcakes and Enjoy!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Blueberries overflow!

Having just arrived back from a week away in sunny spain, I headed into the garden to pick some blueberries ready for my Great Nephew's arrival on sunday. He is a blueberry fiend and when he came to visit last year he quicky worked out what was on my bushes in the garden were the same thing as he gets out of a box from the supermarket.  He couldn't be kept away from my blueberry bushes!  But....even he would not get through the mountain of blueberries now ready for picking, so it was time to dust off my blueberry recipes and get baking!

Blueberry Jam
I always thought jam looked really difficult to make with jam themometers, muslin squares and jam sugar. So after a chat with my Dad (who always makes the jam at home) he gave me a quick jam recipe that he makes with his blackberries. I just swopped the fruit to blueberries!
I make this jam with our homegrown blueberries when they are in season and then keep it in the fridge to give me a bluberry hit in the depths of winter!

•550g blueberries
•300g sugar
•75 ml water

Put the blueberries in a pan with the water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the berries burst and release their juice. Make sure you stop and inhale the gorgeous scent of the bubbling berries.

Add the sugar, stir until dissolved, then boil for 10 minutes.

Pour into 1 large and 1 small sterilised jars, leave to cool, then cover and chill.

Blueberry Crumble Cake
This recipe is a bit of a hybrid cake recipe taken from an old american muffin recipe book with a  scrumptious crumb topping added. I particularly liked this recipe because of the large quantities of blueberries used! This can be served warm with a bit of clotted cream or ice cream. Yum! It also freezes well.

10 oz (275 g) blueberries
 ½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
 10 oz (275 g) plain flour
 1 level tablespoon baking powder
 ½ level teaspoon salt
 2 large eggs
 3 oz (75 g) caster sugar
 6 fl oz (170 ml) milk
 4 oz (110 g) butter, melted
For the topping: 
 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
 3 oz (75 g) plain flour
 1 oz (25 g) butter, at room temperature
 3 oz (75 g) demerara sugar
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C).
You will also need a loose bottomed cake tin approx 23cm across which is greased and lined.

Sift the dry ingredients twice, place the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a
sieve and sift them into a bowl and repeat!

In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and milk together.
Pour the melted butter into the egg mixture, whisking once again.

Now sift the flour mixture in on top of the egg mixture and fold it in, using as few folds as possible (ignore the lumpy appearance at this stage and don't be tempted to over-mix). Fold in the blueberries and spoon into the tin.

To make the  crumble topping I always put all the ingredients into my food processor with the metal blade and pulse until a 'bread crumb' mixture is achieved (if you havent got a food processor you can rub the flour and butter together until you get the breadcrumb mix then stir in demerera sugar and cinnamon).  Next sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of cold water, then press the mixture loosely together.

Now sprinkle this mixture all over the cake. Bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 1 hour 15minutes or until the cake feels springy in the centre. I have a fan oven and it was done after 1hr and 5 mins.

After all this baking I now need to think about dinner. I think it will be Nigel Slater's sausage and mustard pasta for us. Nigel is a bit of a god as far as I am concerned. His "Real Food" book is so well used, some of the pages are a bit "scratch and sniff" now. (I am not the tidiest of cooks!)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

1st time blog better be better than my 1st time baking!

My Earliest foray's into baking were under the guiding hand of my mum, an old fashioned Yorkshire woman who made all manner of cakes and biscuits to feed me and my four siblings. Mum made basic cakes and buns all the time. Nothing fussy or with posh names. In fact I grew up calling cupcakes "Buns" and it took me some years to work out that mum's bun recipe was the same as other peoples cupcake recipes.

I count myself lucky that I had a Mum who taught me to cook the basics because from the basics I have been able to branch out and get a little more adventurous over the years!

My first cooking sessions with my mum were not the greatest successes, but I did persevere and over the years I like to think I improved! The story of my best friend and I making Rock cakes is family legend. We were 10yrs old and  the mixture was so sticky our hands looked like rocks and the results were probably on a par with Hagrid's Rock cakes!  

All of the recipes in this blog will have been tried and tested by me and occasionally some of my baking buddies. Some of the recipes will be Gluten and Lactose free as one of my best friends is a Coeliac sufferer with a lactose intolerance and I enjoy the challenge of creating good food that she can enjoy when she visits me here in the back of beyond!

My husband is a bit of a gardener and we try to grow some of our own fruit and veg so some recipes will include our home grown produce, so I apologise in advance if I post a lot of blueberry recipes in the next few weeks!!