Archive for February, 2010

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It’s a Date

February 24, 2010
Despite early mornings being the best time for me to bake, they’re not necessarily the best time to pick recipes. A certain amount of attention is needed for the basics, like checking you’ve got enough flour and sugar (and of the right type) that the berries you thought you had in the freezer are still in their packet; rather than spilling out and impossibly mixed in the drawer with the ever present escapee frozen peas. All this needs a relatively clear head lest you discover half way through that you’re out of some vital ingredient. It’s also not a good time to decide you’re going to take that loaf recipe and double it to fit a bundt tin and it’s most definitely not the best time to convert those doubled quantities from American cups to metric. Even if I manage all of the above at 5am the chances are something else will slip – like remembering to turn the oven on, or dusting that greased pan with flour.


In order to avoid moments of frustration part way through the baking process I’ve tried recently to plan just a little bit more, spend some time on a Saturday evening looking through my cupboards to check to see what I could bake. Seeing what I actually have in stock and then pick recipes from there, write out all my conversions and notes ready to go when I wake. I don’t go as far as to weigh out the ingredients ready – what if tomorrow morning was the one morning when I actually get to lie in? But I have a plan.


This past Saturday’s peruse of my cupboards revealed several packets of dates and a fruit bowl overstocked with oranges. Leiths offered up a Date and Orange Loaf, I doubled the quantities from those suggested for a 1 1/2 lb tin so I could fill three of my 1lb ones. It’s an easy recipe as everything is added to the date mixture after they’ve been simmered in water. Use a large pan and you can just whack it all in and save on the washing up.


Date and Orange Loaf

Leiths’ Baking Bible


Makes three 1lb loaves


450g chopped dates

250ml water

340g soft dark brown sugar

340g butter

Grated zest of two oranges

2 tbsp orange juice

2 large eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp all spice


Preheat the oven to 170C.

Grease the tins and line the base with baking parchment.

Place dates and water in a large pan and bring to the boil, cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add sugar, butter, orange zest and juice and beat well.
Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Add the eggs, beat well and then sift on remaining ingredients.
Bake for 60 – 90 minutes and then allow to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.



This is a tasty cake, the moistness from the dates and citrus zing make it perfect to eat as it is. It will improve for being wrapped well for 24 hours, and should it last long enough to dry out, I can imagine that a little spread of butter, perhaps to a toasted slice, would be lovely too.


As I’m not capable of buying just one of anything, of not having a back-up or spare, there were still more dates in the cupboard and having not made muffins for awhile I chose the recipe below, swapping walnuts for chocolate chips in order to make mocha muffins.



Mocha Date Muffins

Adapted from Leiths’ Coffee and Date Muffin Recipe


Ingredients for 12 Muffins


140g chopped dates (tip – snip into pieces with kitchen scissors rather than chopping, far easier)

1/2 Tsp bicarbinate of soda

1 tsp instant coffee

150ml boiling water

225g soft light brown sugar

115g melted butter

2 beaten eggs

250g self-raising flour

100g dark chocolate chips


Line your muffin tins with cases, or grease and dust with flour.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Place dates in a large bowl with coffee and bicarb, pour over the boiling water, stir and leave to soak for 10 minutes.

Add the butter, sugar and eggs into the date mixture, fold in the four until just combined (do not over mix, for light muffins you want it just mixed) and fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove muffins from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack (the original recipe suggests covering them with a clean tea towel as they cool to keep the tops soft).


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Early O’Clock

February 9, 2010

The other week I took a couple of days off work, and with nothing much planned other than rest, relaxation and a lie in, I made sure that the eggs and butter were out of the fridge before I went to bed in order for them to be at that all important ‘room temperature’ so I could bake the next morning. I didn’t really anticipate the morning starting at 3am, but when I realised sleep was not going to return, and the lie in was definitely not going to happen, I got up, put apron on, and got started.

I had oranges and buttermilk to use which provided a guide for the recipe search and I’d spent a little time at the weekend looking through my books and converting recipes from cups and sticks to grams (the most important part of my prep recently as it’s always a little too much for my mathematically challenged brain first thing in the morning – or even the middle of the night). The Orange Ricotta Pound Cake from Cake Keeper Cakes caught my eye as a good showcase for the rose bundt tin. I swapped the ricotta for buttermilk, but increased the butter from 168g to 220g in order to compensate for the reduced fat. I used wholemeal flour and once again reduced the sugar content. I also added a bag of dried cranberries as I’d had my eye on a couple of orange and cranberry loaf cakes recently an they seem to be paired frequently. I think all of that messing around might have been a little too much. It needed more … flavour. By using wholemeal flour and in reducing both the sugar and fat content there was too much taken away, wholemeal flour can also be quite bitter and a bit of additional sweetness might have balanced this. The texture was also affected it was a dense cake, again I’m not sure whether the culprit is the flour or fat – possibly both. I think using plain flour would’ve made a big difference, perhaps half and half? I would also add a touch more citrus, as I said previously the oranges I’ve been using recently haven’t had much of a zing to them. The cranberries were a nice touch, they hold their form so well and the little zing of sharpness when you bite into on is lovely.

Orange Buttermilk Pound Cake

Based very loosely on a recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes

Cake

450g flour (I used wholemeal)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarb

1 tsp salt

220g butter

270g sugar

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

3 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

zest of two oranges

Glaze

1/2 cup orange marmalade

2 tsp water

Preheat oven 165C, grease bundt tin and dust with flour.

Beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping side of bowl periodically

Add eggs one at a time, scrape bowl again

Add zest, juice and vanilla

Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl

Add one third of flour mixture to mixing bowl with mixer on low speed, followed by half the buttermilk, another third of the flour, buttermilk and last of flour mixing well after each addition and not forgetting to scrape the bowl

Fold in cranberries

Place batter into tin, bake until golden brown approx 1 hour 10 minutes

Cool in the pan for 15 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely

Once cool make the glaze by stirring water and marmalade in a saucepan over a low heat until the marmalade melts then brush the glaze over the cake

Second on the list was a whole-wheat honey nut cake again from Cake Keeper Cakes (I really can’t recommend this book enough). I wanted to make another cake that has a layer of filling running through it, in a more suitable tin than the rose bundt that I used for the Cardamom Cake. I reduced the sugar again but the layer of honey running through with the nuts and the caramel glaze added plenty of additional sweetness. It was a favourite of a few of the tasters.

Whole-wheat and Honey Nut Bundt Cake

Cake Keeper Cakes

Filling

75g flour

28g softened butter

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 1/4 cups walnuts or pecans coarsely chopped (I used walnuts)

1/2 cup honey

Cake

1 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

300g whole-wheat flour (original recipe 200g plain flour, 100g whole-wheat)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarb

1/2 tsp salt

112g butter

150g light brown sugar (reduced from 175g)

Glaze

56g granulated sugar

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Grease bundt tin and dust with flour

Preheat oven to 180C

Make the filling by combining the flour, butter and cinnamon in a bowl until crumbly then add the nuts and honey.

Whist together buttermilk, vanilla, and eggs

Combine cake dry ingredients

Beat together butter and sugar in mixer or with electric whisk on medium high speed for 5 minutes

Lower the speed on the mixer, add one third of flour mixture to mixing bowl with mixer on low speed, followed by half the buttermilk mixture, another third of the flour, buttermilk and last of flour mixing well after each addition and not forgetting to scrape the bowl

Beat on high for one minute

Scrape half the batter into the prepared pan, spoon the filling as evenly as possibly over the base layer then add the rest of the batter, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Bake for 50 – 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely

Make the Glaze by bringing the sugar, honey and buttermilk to boil in a small pan, reduce the heat and cook for 7 – 9 minutes until caramel coloured, stirring occasionally

Remove from the heat, stir in vanilla and allow to cool for 10 minutes before pouring over the cake letting the glaze drip down the sides

Allow to cool for about half an hour before serving

Lest the sunflower tin feel left out I also made the Pumpkin Spice Cake that I’ve made previously, I wanted to play around a bit with the spices – basically by being more generous with them all which I think worked, it can take it – and it also took care of the last of the buttermilk.

My sister paid an impromptu visit later that day, so I knew that between her, my dad and various neighbours and colleagues I could easily offload todays output – so I carried on.

Finally I made a Pumpkin and Ginger Spice Cake from Katrina of She’s in the Kitchen. Now this is just lovely, I’ve had several requests for the recipe and will definitely make it again – the original is for ‘Texas’ muffins which I had to google and discovered that they’re just very large muffin tins, some of which I happened to have (probably the result of yet another compulsive Lakeland shopping trip). Katrina suggests that this recipe will make two 8” cakes or one 8” and six muffins. I used a bundt tin and also got six muffins.

Pumpkin and Ginger Cake/Muffins

Adapted from Katrina’s recipe – She’s in the Kitchen

1 tin of pumpkin puree

275g soft brown sugar (reduced from 2 cups/350g)

225g melted butter

4 eggs

1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (Katrina suggests cider or apple juice)

525g flour (wholemeal)

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp bicarb

1 tsp salt

4 1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cloves

1 1/2 cups crystalised ginger, chopped

1 cup currants (optional, but I still have loads left from Christmas and so added them)

Mix together the melted butter, pumpkin and sugar

Add eggs and mix well

Add fruit juice

Sift together the dry ingredients and then and to wet mix

Fold in the ginger and currants

Fill the pans/muffin cases half full and bake the cake for 40 minutes for the cake and 25 for the muffins at 180C.

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Fruit Cakes

February 2, 2010




I love the request for a cake – a guide to help me whittle down the recipes I obsessively bookmark from other blogs and flag in my recipe books. Choice paralyses me, I want to use the tin of pumpkin I have in the cupboard; I have buttermilk nearing its use by date. The half full pack of wholemeal self-raising flour at the back of the cupboard nags at me. How fresh are the lemons in the fruit bowl?

So, when someone simply says in passing ‘I just love ginger cakes’ or ‘have you ever made a coffee cake?’ then I have a starting point, a purpose from which a plan can be formed, and I do love a plan.

My father specifically requesting ‘a cake’ provided the impetus for this particular Sundays early morning – into mid afternoon – bakathon. He is a frequent recipient of the fruits of my kitchen labours, but he asked and I baked. My dad loves fruitcakes and with the post Christmas overstock of dried fruit languishing in my cupboard, I set about choosing one. It felt good to reacquaint myself with the British books in my collection and the bags of blanched almonds left over from decorating the Christmas Cakes meant a Dundee Cake was an obvious choice. I waivered between a recipe from Leith’s Baking Bible and a Delia but in the end settle on Delia’s and you can see the recipe here (although the instructions for lining a tin from Leith’s were most useful).

Of course I can’t make just one cake, can’t be that decisive, but I didn’t anticipate the five that came out of the oven on this day. I added ‘Jane’s Fruit Cake’ and ‘Cherry Cake’ both from Marry Berry’s Baking Bible. I also baked two Marmalade Loaves but because of my lax blogging and the delay between baking and writing this I now can’t find the recipe. I know I made it and I know it was tasty (sorry to taunt) I know the recipe is there somewhere and will update soon (ish).

I’m not sure what my father made of the stack of foil wrapped cakes that I presented him with that evening but I have to say I enjoyed the Marmalade Loaf and Dundee Cake enormously. I’m not a fan of candied peel so would probably reduce this in the Dundee and up the citrus zest to compensate. The fruitcake initially tasted a little bland to me, perhaps the memory of the extraordinarily rich Christmas Cake is still fresh and spicy in my mind, but I found that after a day or two the flavours had matured and it was quite lovely. The Cherry Cake was hit with lots of people, which surprised me, I had many comments saying it was a favourite out of them all.


Jane’s Fruit Cake

May Berry’s Baking Bible

200g softened Butter

350g light muscovado Sugar

3 large eggs

450g wholemeal self raising flour

150ml Buttermilk

350g sultanas

350g currants

50g flaked almonds for sprinking

Preheat oven 140C, grease a 23cm/9” deep round tin and line the base and sides with parchment.

The directions in Mary’s books sometimes seem a little brief; often just mix all the ingredients till combined. As I use my Kitchenaid (but the principle is the same with a handheld electric whisk) I follow the sequence dictated in many US recipes, although admittedly these tend to be for pound cakes rather than fruitcakes. Anyway, my method of mixing below:

Beat the sugar and butter until creamed – approx 3 mins on high speed

Add flour and buttermilk in alternate batches, ending on the flour and mix until incorporated

Fold in the fruit and mix well

Spoon into the prepared pans and sprinkle with the flaked almonds

Bake for 3 – 3 ½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

Wrap in more parchment and foil to keep moist.



English Cherry Cake

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

200g glace cherries

275g self raising flour (I used wholemeal)

75g ground almonds

2 tsp baking powder

225g softened butter

225g caster sugar

4 large eggs

Oven 160C/Fan 140/GM3

Grease and line 8” deep round cake tin

Quarter the berries and wash and dry thoroughly

Beat sugar and butter until light and creamy, add the eggs one at a time scraping the bowl after each addition.

Add in the flour and mix well

Fold cherries into the mixture and spoon batter into the tin, leveling the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 1 ½ -1 ¾ hours

Leave to cool for 10 mins in the tin then turn out, peel off the parchment and allow to cool completely on a rack.