Archive for category Baking
The theme for this months #Twelveloaves is grains and seeds. Easy (ish) I thought, the possibilities were endless but those of you who know me will know that I bake cakes and not a lot of bread! Its taken most of October for inspiration to come to me! I had a bag of wholegrain spelt flour in the cupboard, so that took care of the grain part. I’ve had success replacing wheat with spelt in quite a lot of my recipes, I’m beginning to see that wheat is overrated and also not that healthy (see this article for more information on that) so I’ve been looking for alternative grains to use. Spelt is apparently a little easier to digest and remains true to its origins, its missed out on a lot of the science that is sadly behind the wheat of today. Spelt flour easily replaces wheat flour, I just swap spelt for wheat flour and it works fine, no taste difference and things still rise if they need to. I’m not sure if you could replace the flour in a bread recipe for spelt like I have with cakes as so many bread recipes call for strong flour. So feeling a bit lost with my bag of spelt flour I turned to the Dovesfarm website for inspiration where I found this recipe. Their recipe uses half spelt and half whole wheat bread flour, I stuck with that but may try just spelt flour next time. I didn’t think my loaf tin would be large enough for their recipe so I halved it, I also swapped the vegetable oil for olive oil as that is what I had. As it is almost Halloween pumpkin seeds seemed fitting and for an added health boost I added linseeds, also called flax seeds.
Well that was the most novel way of toasting pumpkin seeds that I have tried! How do you get seeds to stay on top of a loaf? Mine looked great before it went in the oven, indeed when I took it out it looked good but the little tapping sound of the seeds hitting the floor as I carried the loaf from the oven to the counter was the first indication that the seeds had not stuck on. When it came to tipping the loaf out of the tin the rest of the seeds fell off! Despite the seeds missing from the top I was still happy with my loaf, it tasted good! It was quite a hearty loaf, perfect for this time of year! Thanks once again to #Twelveloaves I made bread!
Wholegrain Spelt Loaf with Pumpkin Seeds and Linseeds (recipe adapted from this one)
- 250 gram wholegrain spelt flour
- 250 gram whole wheat bread flour
- 1 tsp quick yeast
- 1tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 200 ml hand warm tap water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 50 grams pumpkin seeds
- 25 grams linseeds
- In a large bowl mix together the flours, yeast sugar and salt.
- Mix in the water when it’s just about incorporated add the olive oil.
- knead until the dough is smooth, around 5 minutes. I used my mixer for this.
- Add the seeds to the dough, I found it easiest to scrunch then in with my hands.
- Put the dough into the bowl, cover bowl with cling film and leave to rest until it has double in size, around 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- When the dough has risen tip it onto a floured work surface and knead for a few minutes.
- Shape the dough into a fat sausage shape and place into a lightly oiled loaf tin.
- Preheat oven to 220 C, 425 f, Gas 7.
- Leave dough to rise in the tin for 30 minutes.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Remove from the tin to cool on a rack before serving.
Surely no one can disagree with the title I chose for the latest cake I made? I came across this cake a few months ago and thought it to honestly be one of the prettiest cakes I’d ever seen! There was even a tutorial on how to achieve this masterpiece. I stored all this information mentally, knowing one day I would have to make that cake.
Well that day arrived last week! It was my favourite 10-year-old girls birthday. Along with her two brothers, I have looked after this little girl since she was born. The last 12 years of my life not only have flown by but have been filled with these three wonderful children and what a blessing it has been. Sandwiched in between the two boys is Minnie, the sunshine of my life. That gorgeous birthday cake was my project for her 10th birthday cake.
Although I love baking, fancy cakes are not really my forte, I do like the cakes I make to look nice but I possess neither the patience or steady hand required to make delicate icing decorations. So this was a challenge for me!
Prior to making the cake I made up a batch of buttercream and following the tutorial video I practiced piping roses onto baking paper. I recommend doing this, if like me fancy icing is not usually your thing. On i am baker’s crusting buttercream page there are a lot of comments about changing shortening for butter. Concerns over melting and whether the butter would be able to hold its shape were worrying, but I have a problem with cakes that look nice but don’t taste nice and the thought of eating and feeding to the children raw shortening was not even a consideration so I made my roses with buttercream. It was a fairly warm day, at one point the kitchen got up to 25 c but the buttercream held its shape and even a couple of days later the last piece looked fine despite just been kept covered on the counter. So maybe if you live in a really hot climate and aren’t in an air-conditioned room butter may not be suitable but for me butter was no problem at all and definitely tastes better than shortening!
I made the sponges the day before I intended on decorating them, using Delia Smith’s basic sponge recipe. The buttercream I made on the day. I separated a little of the buttercream and mixed in some purple food colouring which I used to sandwich the two sponges together. I liked the idea of making the vertical layers seen on i am bakers blog and one day I will but for this time it really was too much for me to attempt along with the roses! So I settled on just adding a little colour to the buttercream in the middle of the cake. When the cakes were sandwiched together I gave them a thin coating of buttercream, spreading it as smoothly as possible. I then put the cake into the freezer for 30 minutes, this was an important step for me as it allowed any roses that I wasn’t happy with to be easily scraped off without damaging the crumb coat. It also allowed me time for a much needed coffee! To decorate with the roses I started on the side of the cake then did the top. This really gets easier as you go along, after the first 3 roses I knew it was all going to be ok and relaxed, getting speedier at piping the roses.
I was delighted with the results of this cake! It really wasn’t difficult to decorate, the tutorial video is brilliant, if I can do this then anyone can! This was a wonderful cake for visual impact but importantly it tasted good too, and the birthday girl? After blowing out the candles and staring at the cake for a while she turned to me and said ” I love you”.
The Most Beautiful Birthday Cake (adapted from this Rose cake from i am baker)
For the cake
I used this recipe from Delia Smith but instead of using a 7 inch cake pan I used an 8 inch cake pan and put all of the cake mix into it, I then repeated this, resulting in 2 larger sponges. I decided not to double up the ingredients as I’ve heard that by doing that you may get a heavier cake. So I made one sponge and while it was baking I prepared the other one.
For the frosting
I based the frosting on this recipe from i am baker, it is sweet and there is a lot but I wanted to be sure that I had enough for any mistakes! This makes more than enough, with some left over. I tried to keep it slightly drier by adding less butter and milk than the recipe which seemed to work well for me.
- 200 gram (7 oz) butter at room temperature
- splash of vanilla extract
- 500 gram (18 oz) icing (confectioners) sugar
- 60 ml (2 fl oz) milk
- Using a mixer or food processor cream together the butter and vanilla until well softened.
- Add the icing sugar in a few stages, stopping every now and then to scrape the sides of the bowl
- Add the milk a little at a time when the mix becomes too stiff.
Follow the video tutorial to decorate the cake
Vanilla must be one of the most popular flavours and aromas ever. When cooking I always use vanilla extract rather than essence. Extract as the word suggests is extracted directly from the vanilla pod while essence is merely a whiff of vanilla in amongst chemicals. That explains the higher price of extract. A friend of mine, Vanessa Kimbell went to visit to a Ugandan vanilla farm earlier this year and in her blog post she explains just how valuable and special vanilla is.
Making homemade vanilla extract may not be news to you but I seem to live under that rock that means you find all the best things out after everyone else! Rewind to this time last year, I saw this post and what a revelation it was to me! I had no idea you could make your own vanilla extract!
Of course since my eyes were opened to homemade vanilla extract I have come across other vanilla extract posts, confirming my living under a rock theory! Well better late than never I’ve since made my own vanilla extract and it’s really easy and very successful, it’s just like the store-bought vanilla extract! I’ve been using it all of this year, whenever vanilla is required in a recipe. There are many recipes for making your own vanilla extract, some say to heat the vodka, some make large quantities but buying so many vanilla pods is quite spendy and not knowing how happy I would be with the results I kept my quantities small, bearing in mind that the bottles of vanilla extract one buys are around 100 mls or less I still felt like I ended up with a good amount of vanilla. Of course it turned out to be wonderful so I could have made more!
I’m posting this now in case anyone is inspired to make their own vanilla extract, if you start now it will be ready for Christmas and would make a fabulous gift for that foodie in your life!
I’ve had trouble finding small bottles that are sold individually so for now I have saved the small bottles that store-bought vanilla comes in for refilling with my vanilla.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 4 vanilla pods
- 350 mls vodka
- I made my vanilla in a clean 500 ml size jar.
- Split your vanilla pods down the middle and place in your chosen jar.
- Pour the vodka in and swirl the beans around.
- Store in a cool, dark place for around 3 months, giving it a swirl every now and then.
Thats it! So easy! When your vanilla starts running out just keep topping up with vodka and add a new vanilla bean.
Making bread is something I don’t do often enough. I’m not sure why, I bake often and I love bread, really love it! If there was such a thing as a bread diet I would happily try it! I guess I tend to think of making bread as time-consuming and dare I say I guess I’m a little scared of bread baking!
Well its said that one should face their fears so when I saw that my Twitter friend Barb was part of a blogging event called #TwelveLoaves, a monthly bread baking blog event I knew immediately that I wanted to take part. Now I’d make bread at least once every month. Not only does this challenge involve baking bread but different kinds of bread which will really challenge my bread making fears! Somehow I missed the first couple of months of 12 loaves, organised by Barb, Jamie and Lora but I’ve discovered it now and I’m up for the rest of the challenge!
The #TwelveLoaves September challenge is bread with cheese. I’ve left this right to the end of the month so I needed a recipe that wouldn’t be too challenging! I thought focaccia would be a relatively easy choice so I made one with mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes, scattered with tiny leaved Greek basil. It was easy, and didn’t take too long, I loved the melted mozzarella and slightly crisped sun-dried tomato topping! So there, I made bread!
I based my recipe on Gennaro Contaldo’s garlic and rosemary focaccia from his Passione book.
Mozzarella and sun-dried Tomato Focaccia for #TwelveLoaves
(recipe adapted from Gennaro Contaldo’s Focaccia with rosemary and garlic)
- 300 gram strong plain white flour
- 200 gram semolina, I used fine cornmeal
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 2 x 7 gram sachets of fast action bread yeast
- 350 ml lukewarm water
For the topping
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 125 gram mozzarella pearls or one mozzarella ball torn into pieces
- 5-6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil.
- few basil leaves torn
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 240 C, 475 F, Gas 9.
- In a large bowl mix together the flour, semolina and salt.
- Measure the lukewarm water into a jug and add the yeast, stir to combine and pour into the bowl with the flour.
- Mix until ingredients are combined and knead for about 5 minutes, I use my mixer but if you don’t have one just knead the dough with your hands on a floured work surface.
- If using a mixer leave the dough ball in the bowl, if kneading by hand form the dough into a ball and place back into the bowl then cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes or until the dough has double in size.
- Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll to a rectangle approximately 15 x 11 inches ( 37 x 27 cm).
- Put a similarly sized baking tray into the oven for about 10 seconds (I’m not sure why, this is what Genaro said!).
- Remove tray from the oven and sprinkle with a little semolina.
- Place the already rolled dough onto the tray, pour the olive oil onto the dough and with your fingers spread all over.
- Rest the dough for 5 minutes then using your fingers poke little indentations all over the dough.
- Remove the sun-dried tomatoes from the oil and snip into small pieces with scissors, place on top of the dough.
- Push the mozzarella pearls (or pieces depending on what you are using) into over the dough.
- Scatter the basil leaves and grind some fresh black pepper over the dough.
- Leave the focaccia to rest in a warm place for a further 30 minutes.
- Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or until it is golden brown.
- Once cooked remove from the oven and drizzle with a little olive oil. When slightly cooled cut and serve.
While summer was a little shy here this year, Autumn has been more than happy to put in a punctual appearance so using apples and plums were the perfect seasonal choice for me when taking part in this months #Baketogether, the monthly blog event organised by Abby Dodge, inviting us to take one of her recipes and put our own spin on it.
This months #Baketogether recipe was for Brown Butter Apple Hand tarts. I’ve heard a lot about brown butter but only made it once before and wasn’t convinced that I’d done it correctly so this month I didn’t want to change the recipe too much as it sounded perfect as it was! The only changes I made was to make apple plum filling, I also halved the recipe as the original recipe is for 18 hand tarts which was far too many for 2 of us!
I loved these pies! The brown butter crust was so good I admit to trying some of it raw! It’s the brown butter! It’s so good and the smell is amazing! The aroma of the brown butter mixed with the apple, plums and cinnamon in the filling was wonderful, I’m surprised Yankee Candle didn’t come knocking on my door for a new Autumn fragrance! I was really happy with my filling and only wish I hadn’t halved the recipe as the pies disappeared far too quickly!
As I am not a regular pastry maker I thought these pies would be more difficult to make but as usual Abby’s instructions are easy to follow and give great results, therefore I have linked to her page for the making of the dough and the putting together of the pies.
Apple and Plum Brown Butter Hand Tarts ( makes 8 hand tarts)
For the brown butter pie dough
- 4 0z unsalted butter
- 3.5 oz (1/2 cup) sugar, I used unrefined
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 7 1/4 oz ( 1.5 cups) plain flour
For the Pie filling (more than enough for the pies with some left over to enjoy as a compote)
- 8 oz apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped.
- 8 oz plums, stoned and sliced
- 1 tbsp sugar, I used unrefined
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
To Finish off
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp water
- demerara sugar for sprinkling
- To make the dough for these tarts follow Abby’s expert instructions here
- To make the filling, place the apples, plums, sugar and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently until the apples are soft but not mushy.
- Remove from the heat and allow to completely cool.
- Preheat oven to 190 c, 375 f, gas 5.
- To assemble the pies follow Abby’s instructions here
Its National Cupcake week here! If ever there was a week to take part in and celebrate surely this is it! I can only imagine the fancy cupcakes people are going to make this week!
I too have books filled with decorative little masterpieces. I wish that was what I am sharing with you here but truth is I’ve found the cupcake craze kind of demoralizing over the last couple of years. I’ve tried but my piping skills are lacking and so is my time and patience, I wish could make fancy little cake toppers but I give up! What I have here are quick to make, simple to decorate, very easy to eat chocolate cupcakes!
Oh and the secret ingredient is courgette! This is the last courgette recipe this year, (I think!) I still have lots to get through so they are making an appearance in everything! A problem I sometimes have when making chocolate cakes is that the cake can be rather dry. Well the courgette is my secret weapon, it keeps the cake nice and moist without adding any taste, and it doesn’t even show! I gave them to 3 children who ate them with a chorus of “mmm”s and not one of them spotted anything green!
Chocolate Cupcakes (with courgette)
- 125 gram (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 175 gram (6 oz) caster sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 175 gram (6 oz) plain flour
- 100 gram (3.5 oz) cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 125 ml ( 4.5 fl oz) milk
- 250 gram grated courgette
- Cream together the butter and sugar, I use my mixer.
- Add the eggs, one at a time beating after adding each egg.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda.
- Add the dry mix to the creamed butter, sugar and eggs, I find it mixes easiest adding a 3rd at a time. After each addition of dry ingredient mix add a 3rd of milk.
- Add the grated courgette and mix in.
- Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 15 minutes or until cooked.
- Wen cooked cool completely on a cake rack before icing.
I ran out of cocoa powder but did have chocolate chips so a quick internet search took me to this icing, which worked great! It has a lovely toffee hint and is deliciously sweet which works well with the cupcakes as they are not overly sweet.
- For the recipe for ‘“Never Fail chocolate Icing” see here
- I used icing sugar.
I can not believe that I have not put this recipe on my blog before! Its been my go to Summer cake recipe ever since the regular gluts of courgettes have come my way.
I have no childhood memories of courgettes, not one! I don’t think they made it into our house, my parents must not have liked them. I only seem to remember discovering them after I came to the UK, therefore I usually call them courgettes. I use the word zucchini for this loaf however as when I first started looking for inspiration for the courgette glut it was American recipes for zucchini cake that first caught my eye and the name has stuck!
This is a light cake with no taste of courgette, lets face it they are a rather tasteless vegetable aren’t they? The courgette do however lend a lovely moistness to the cake. Think carrot cake, only easier! Another thing I love about this loaf is that it uses olive oil rather than butter, a blessing for last minute cake making, no waiting for butter to soften! Finally as if I couldn’t sing this loaf’s praises enough, it freezes very well so when I have loads of courgette and I’ve got the food possessor out I shred more and make extra cakes to store in the freezer.
This loaf also works well with wholemeal flour.
- 180 gram plain white flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- 180 grams sugar ( I like to use unrefined)
- 125 ml olive oil – mild flavoured
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 200 grams grated zucchini (courgette)
- Pre heat oven to 170 c, 325 f, Gas 3. Prepare a loaf tin by greasing with a little olive oil and lining with baking paper.
- Weigh the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into a bowl, whisk together.
- In another bowl, or in your mixer bowl beat together the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla.
- Add the flour mix and combine well.
- Gently stir in the zucchini/courgette.
- Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes.
- When cooked cool in the tin for about 20 minutes the turn onto a rack to cool completely.
Unbelievably July 4th is almost upon us. I often have a family barbecue to celebrate, I love having it, I put up my “stars and stripes” decorations and I just love planning my menu. This year for one reason or another I’m not having my barbecue, a decision I regret but the year has gone by so fast I just wasn’t organised enough. Another decision I regretted was not taking part in this months baketogether, this months recipe is Very Berry Mini Pies and it marks the one year anniversary of baketogether! However as my husband is not the biggest sweet pie fan and I can’t be trusted not to eat all the pie (and it shows!) I decided not to take part. I may seem to be jumping from one subject to another but they end up connected!
I got to thinking how it was almost July 4th and I often make a pie of some kind and the baketogether recipe is for mini pies, maybe I could make the recipe “mini” by halving it. That was it, the idea was planted and I had to quickly make these pies before I changed my mind and before June ended, along with the challenge! The next decision was how to change the recipe for baketogether, I never can decide what pie is my favourite, its between cherry, peach or blueberry. For these mini pies I decided on using both cherries and blueberries, which are both plentiful right now. It would be kind of a red, white (the pastry) and blue pie!
The results were great! I really like the cherry blueberry combination, I used vanilla sugar and topped the pies with pastry stars as I was short on time, also stars seemed July 4th appropriate.
Cherry Blueberry Mini Pies ( adapted from Abby Dodge )
makes 6-7 muffin tin sized pies
For the dough – use Abby’s recipe here
For the filling
- 200 grams cherries, pitted
- 150 grams blueberries
- 45 grams caster sugar, vanilla sugar if you have some if not use 1/4 tsp Vanilla essence
- 1tbsp plain flour
- pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5 and lightly grease a muffin tin.
- Make the dough following Abbys instructions save some of the dough to roll out and cut 12-14 star shapes for the pie tops.
- To make the filling mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a bowl.
- Add half the fruit and using a fork stir into the floured sugar mix, crushing the fruit lightly as you mix.
- Add the remaining fruit and vanilla if using, mix well.
- Having lined the muffin tin with the pastry rounds spoon the filling mixture evenly into each pastry lined muffin cup.
- Top each mini pie with 2 stars, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry looks golden and the pie filling is bubbling hot.
- Remove from the oven and run a knife around each pie to loosen from tin, after 20 minutes carefully remove the pies and cool on a cooling rack.
My friend Charlotte is hosting a blog event this month called River Cottage Rocks on her blog Charlotte’s Kitchen Diary. To participate you simply make a recipe from one of the River Cottage books, following a theme, the theme this month was Baking Bliss. Baking is one of my favourite themes for any occasion so of course I wanted to participate! With the hope that summer will arrive here some time soon and the hope of fitting into my summer clothes I have a self-imposed a ban on cakes at the moment, not so good when taking part in a baking themed blogging event! Silly me! While perusing the many River Cottage recipes I came across these Honey and Peanut booster bars from the River Cottage Every Day book. Packed with oats, dried fruit, honey and peanut butter a more healthy than cake option I thought and even better I had all of the ingredients in my cupboard, I love it when a plan comes together!
The were incredibly simple to put together, melting some of the ingredients in a pan then adding the rest. When making them I thought there was a lot of sugar considering there is also honey in the recipe but I followed the recipe including raisins as my dried fruit as that’s all I had. With peanut butter already in the recipe I didn’t see it necessary to add more calories by way of nuts or seeds. I love granola and granola bars but the fat and calorie content often have me leaving these items well alone, sometimes you are better off just having the cake you were avoiding! Where the sugar was concerned I wish I had listened to my gut, these bars are incredibly sweet, I would recommend using at least 50 grams less sugar. There is also an option to use banana rather than peanut butter which I think I will try. Despite the sweetness they were very tasty and so easy to make. If you made the version with banana rather than peanut butter and avoided including any other nuts they would make a good kids school snack.
Honey and Peanut Booster Bars from River Cottage Everyday.
I didn’t change the recipe and just added raisins.
I would recommend adding less sugar