Archive for November, 2010

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Crammed with Cranberries

November 29, 2010

For my birthday, which fell on the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I decided to honour the theme and the season with two cranberry laden cakes to take into work. As a great deal of my baking inspiration comes from the blogs I read, most of which are American, there was no shortage of potential recipes to be found in the weeks leading up to the 25th. I always have frozen and dried cranberries in the house but bought two bags of fresh that have appeared in the shops recently to use in the recipes below. I would imagine frozen would work just as well with b recipes, you might just need to extend the baking time by a couple of minutes and give them a quick toss in flour to help with the additional moisture.

I had to bake a bundt as they’re my favourite type of cake and I’m glad did as on the morning of my birthday I received my ‘I Like Big Bundts’ badge from Mary the Food Librarian  which I earned by baking on National Bundt Day on the 15th of this month you can see the round up of all those bundts baked in honour of the day, including mine, over at her site. Thank you Mary for taking the time to post one of these all the way over to the UK, I actually squealed with delight when I opened the envelope, along with my birthday cards, on the morning of the 25th.

Both recipes are courtesy of Joy the Baker, chosen for their main ingredient of cranberries, and also because I thought the two together offered a nice contrast of flavours and choice for my colleagues; the richness of a cake laden with fruit, spices and bourbon offset by the zing of lime zest in a light muffin. The original muffin recipe states whole milk, but I had buttermilk to be used. I worried initially that it might be a little too sharp a flavour on top of the cranberries and  lime zest, which is why I kept in the sugar topping, a step I often leave out. I really don’t think it was too sharp, these muffins were light and tasty and possibly my favourite thing for a long time. However,I have a confession, I didn’t manage to brown my butter. It’s not something I’ve done before and it just didn’t seem to be happening.  I’ve no idea how long it actually takes to brown butter but I seemed to be standing over the pan for ages. I had my iPhone and googled hints and tips but my impatience won out and I just used un-browned melted butter. On a positive note, this means I will have to make them again once I’ve established what I was doing wrong.

For the bundt, the apples and bourbon go together nicely, but I think I would perhaps try using a brandy next time, I even have some orange flavoured rum that I need to experiment with. I just used apples I had in the fruit bowl which were British coxes

Browned Butter, Cranberry and Lime Muffins

Joy the Baker

for 12 Muffins:

100g melted butter

1/3 cup of buttermilk or whole milk

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Grated zest of a lime

225g plain flour

140g caster sugar

3.4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups / 162g fresh or frozen cranberries

40g muscavado sugar for topping

Pre-heat your oven to 180C and line a muffin tin with cases.

Brown the butter by melting over a low heat until brown bits appear, once the cracking has subsided it will brown quickly so remove from the heat (or just stand stirring for a while then remove melted, un-browned butter from the heat)

Whisk together the milk or buttermilk, whole egg and additional yolk, vanilla and lime zest in a large jug. Add the browned butter and whisk in.

Whisk together the flour, sugar baking powder and salt in a large bowl and then add the wet ingredients, gently but thoroughly combining.

Fold in the cranberries, spoon into muffin cases, sprinkle with a little of the extra sugar and bake for 18 – 20 minutes. Allow to cool in the trays for 15 mins.

The batter seemed very cranberry heavy – almost as if there wouldn’t be enough muffin to encase them all once cooked, but I needn’t have worried, the cranberries were perfectly encased in the batter although they did need a little over the 20 mins to brown nicely.

Apple, Cranberry and Bourbon Cake

Joy the Baker

450g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups of vegetable oil

3 large eggs

337.5g granulated sugar (I used caster)

87.5g muscavado sugar

1 tbsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon dark rum/ bourbon /orange juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 apples; peeled, cored ad cut into 1/4″ pieces (approx 245g) and a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent them browning

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease a large (12 cup) bundt pan.

Whisk or sift together the flour, bicarb and salt.

Whisk together the oil, eggs, sugars, spices rum and vanilla in a large bowl.

Fold the dry ingredients in to the wet and then fold in the fruit. Joy points out that the batter will be thick and heavy and it’s definitely one that needs to be spooned in the pan rather than poured.

Bake for 60 – 74 minutes (it was 60 for me) and then allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before turning out onto a wire wrap to cool completely.

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National Bundt Day

November 16, 2010

Mary, The Food Librarian is a dedicated baker. For the month leading up to the 15th November, National Bundt Day in the States, she has baked bundt cakes. One a day, for thirty days, that’s thirty cakes. I can only imagine her shopping bill and the looks she must have recieved from fellow shoppers when spying her trolley full to the brim with ingredients. Never mind the sheer volume of sugar, butter and eggs (including quail’s eggs for one recipe)  but the randomness of the additions to those base ingredients, ranging from stout to butternut squash; from pears to melons; from  jelly to minced beef and garlic. Had her fellow shoppers know what these ingredients were intended for it would surely have raised a few eyebrows.

I am grateful for her dedication and if you want to see how she incorporated all the ingredients into the wonder that is a bundt cake, head over to her blog  and take a look at her recipes and photos.

I decided to recreate the bundt she baked on Day 12, Libby’s Sour Cream Pumpkin Bundt. I have quite a stock of Libby’s pumpkin puree as there was shortage last year and Waitrose stopped stocking it, so as soon as the tins reappeared on the shelves I bought a fair few (yes, I may have over done it slightly, there will no doubt be more in the way of pumpkin themed recipes heading this way in the near future). I followed the recipe on Mary’s site as listed other than substituting buttermilk for the sour cream which results in a slightly lighter cake in my experience. I also just gave the cake a light dusting of icing sugar rather than the glaze.

I will be taking this cake into work today, along with some muffins (recipe later) to feed colleagues in return for a donation  for Movember. This month many men will be growing a moustache to raise awareness, and money, for prostate cancer charities around the world. My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. He’s well and we wait to hear if the radiotherapy he’s received will have done it’s job and nuked the tumour into oblivion. If you know someone who during November has sprouted some additional facial hair please sponsor them or donate a little money to this great cause.

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Sharing the Love: Part II

November 12, 2010

As a continuation of a theme, what could be better to share than dips? As one with a savoury rather than sweet tooth, I would rather sit around a dish like the one above than a platter of sweet things, and by their very nature they are to be shared in the true sense – communal snacking. A friendship with a neighbour, cultivated in part through the aforementioned cake sharing, led to an invitation to a bonfire night party last week. The horrid, wet weather prevented any actual firework display but good company and wine made for a lovely evening and this trio of dips were a tasty accompaniment.

I recently spotted a recipe for a black bean dip  courtesy of the LA Times that I wanted to try, and added to this two other dips to use up some of the stocks of chick peas and tahini in the cupboard, the pumpkin and beetroot were a colourful nod to autumn, although the pumpkin was from a tin and the beetroot pre-cooked rather than freshly roasted. All three took no time at all to blitz in a food processor, the most time-consuming part was washing the bowl and blades in between making each dip.

I think my favourite has to be the beetroot and walnut, although I adapted the quantity/ratio as I only had a small pack of beetroot in the fridge. With all of them feel free to add more citrus if needed and if the consistency isn’t quite right for you add more olive oil or water until you’re happy. Serve with something crunchy and ‘scoopy’ (you know what I mean) my preference is for some wholemeal pitta tossed in olive oil and sea salt then toasted.

Spicy Pumpkin Dip

Food Network

1 tin of pumpkin puree (Waitrose stock Libby’s brand)

1 tin chickpeas – drained and rinsed

3 tbsp tahini

1 garlic clove

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp cumin

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Blend the chickpeas and pumpkin in a food processor until smooth, add the remaining ingredients and process. Season with salt and pepper to taste

 

Beetroot and Walnut Dip

Good Food Channel

250g cooked beetroot (not the kind in vinegar!)

100g toasted walnuts

50ml olive oil

25ml water

1 tbsp tahini

1 tbsp lemon juice

salt to taste

Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped and the beetroot until a paste forms.

Add oil, water and tahini, lemon juice and pulse again.

 

 

Black Bean Hummus

LA Times

1 tin chickpeas – drained and rinsed

1 tin black beans – drained and rinsed (on closer inspection the original recipe said 2 tins, but I used 1 and it was fine although I didn’t use as much water as was suggested)

4 cloves garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp tahini

juice of a lemon

1 cup of water (240ml) plus more if needed

1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I would start with one – it was fiery with 1 1/2 but maybe that’s where the other tin of black beans would’ve been useful!)

2 1/2 tsp cumin

2 1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp pepper

Blend the beans, oil, garlic, tahini and lemon juice to a paste. With the motor still running on low speed, add the water.

Add the spices and blend, taste and adjust seasoning.

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Sharing the Love

November 9, 2010

I’m under no illusion about the reasons behind my baking, there is absolutely nothing altruistic in my providing treats for those around me. It is a fair and equal exchange between me, the baker, and those that receive the finished goods (bakee?).  If I didn’t live near such lovely people, or work with those whose company I enjoyed, I would bake far, far less. Or weigh far, far more. But I’m lucky. I have good neighbours, friends and colleagues and they enable me to indulge in my hobby and I know that they are lovely people, whose company I enjoy through, my baking.

The rewards extend beyond the pleasure I get from the recipe books I hoard, the planning and baking and even beyond watching others enjoy what I have created; my relationships with neighbours especially, have developed in part because I needed people to offload the products of my kitchen onto, which in turn has led to some good friendships.  At work, the baking provides a framework for connections and small talk, leading what can be odd office dynamics to develop into something more genuine.

Last week a colleague shared with me more apples from her garden, these apples have been a real bonus and  have provided a wonderful autumnal theme to recent baking sessions. I won’t repost the recipes in full, but this weekend I took the latest batch of apples and made a stock of apple sauce as per Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen. Most went into the freezer for future use, but one batch was saved for Sunday’s pre-dawn (I’m looking forward to spring already) baking session and her Spiced Applesauce Cake. I didn’t bother with the frosting and I really don’t think it needs it. It’s so easy to bake and only takes 35 minutes in the oven, there’s a tartness and moistness from the applesauce that I really enjoyed especially against the toasted nuts.

If you read here with any regularity you’ll know my affinity for courgettes and spotting Nigel Slater’s cake that combined the two was the highlight so far of his latest book.

This is a wonderfully easy cake to make, and the moistness from the courgettes and apples are offset by the crunch of the nuts. I used a mixture of walnuts and pecans and you could play around to your heart’s content with the nuts and dried fruit combinations. Having baked so much recently from American recipes the ‘pinch’ of cinnamon seemed overly cautious, and you could add nutmeg or mixed spice quite happily I think. I hint of citrus might not have gone amis either, the zest of an orange would do wonders to lift it slightly – perhaps judge on the tartness of your apples? I would avoid any juice as additional liquid content might cause problems with the water from the courgettes and apple (top tip only discovered after I’d made this, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness is to put the apples and courgette in a salad spinner to remove the excess water – might have to make this cake again to try it out – let me know if you use this method).

So, whilst autumn makes its presence known with the reversion to GMT and leaf-blocked guttering, step into your kitchen and bake this to share with your family and friends. Or perhaps make new friends and connections by wrapping up to give to neighbours and colleagues.

A Cake of Apples and Courgettes

Nigel Slater; Tender Vol II

200g butter

200g caster sugar

2 large eggs

150g/2 small courgettes

1 small apple

200g plain flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of cinnamon (be generous)

60g pecans, roughly chopped

60g sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare a 20cm x 12cm x 9cm loaf tin (I doubled quantities and made several smaller loaves – all the better for sharing and also gave me chance to try out the tin liners from Lakeland)

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – about 5 mins in a stand mixer

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl

Beat the eggs and add slowly to the butter and sugar mixture

Coarsely grate the apple and courgettes (I used a processor – far quicker and less messy, especially if you have juicy apples) and then squeeze in a clean tea towel to remove excess water

Fold the courgettes and apples into the mixture then slowly add the flour mixture until just combined

Add the nuts and sultanas, scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for oner hour or until it is golden and firm to the touch.

Allow to cool in the tin