Posts Tagged ‘Spice’

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Short & Sweet

November 4, 2011

I have been baking almost exclusively from Dan Lepard’s ‘Short & Sweet’ since it arrived a few weeks ago. A comprehensive compilation of recipes from choux to pita; muffins to meringues and tarts to tapenade dinner rolls. The ‘tips & techniques’ at the start of each  chapter – whilst present in any decent baking book – I’ve found more enlightening than usual. For example pointing out that ripe bananas are alkaline and may need the addition of more baking powder to stop the finished cakes turning out on the heavy side (noted Mr Lepard).

Dan writes a weekly column ‘How to Bake’ for the Saturday Guardian magazine. A regular cut-out-and-keep for me, my collection of his recipes are tucked between the pages of other baking books, and now they will have a place of their own. What I’m particularly pleased about is that the book isn’t just a collection of the recipes already available online and, as was recently pointed out in another review – the book stays open at the page required making life just a little easier.

 

 

 

I have now twice made the savoury choux pastry recipe and Black Olive Gourgeres (mini choux bites with thyme, garlic, parmesan and kalamata olives – divine). A chance to revisit the choux first attempted at River Cottage and to hone those skills. The gourgeres are a fantastic pre dinner party nibble as they can be made ahead and reheated easily before serving. They’re messy buggers to spoon onto a baking tray (line that tray with parchment) but they don’t need to be too uniform in shape as the their rough edges crisp up and add wonderful crunch.

 

 

 

The savoury choux paste with added parmesan and a hint of mace along with the cayenne (top spice tip from River Cottage – try it) was easier to work with although my quenelle-ing skills need a fair amount of work. I was able to try out my theory that a filling of horseradish creme fraiche would go well with the spicy buns. I can confirm it does make a lovely pairing; the light and crispy pastry, warm with gentle heat from the spices and parmesan compliments the smooth zingy and firey mixture of creme fraiche (I used low fat)  and horseradish (the English Provender Co makes a great substitute for the fresh stuff) lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Make your mixture and chill in the fridge before piping into the cooled buns. A great mixture that goes wonderfully well with beef or smoked fish too. Top tip of my own – remember to warn guests that the buns are filled. Chances are they will be eaten with glass in one hand and the eater’s focus on conversation – the spilling potential would seem to be moderately high.

 

 

 

From the sweeter end of the recipe selection I made the Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake for a neighbours birthday. A fine crumbed cake containing condensed milk it’s better for a day left well wrapped but pretty damn tasty straight away if it calls to you from the kitchen.

 

 

 

Another day found me looking at the collection of dried fruits in my baking cupboard. First off was a Cinnamon Honey Fruit Cake which I baked in a tray, all the better for portioning to share out (a suggestion made by Dan that I can confirm works well). This too benefits from sitting for a day or two and I really would leave it if you can, a far moister cake awaits you if you can resist. I used a mixture of prunes, figs and apricots as well as adding 100g of whole blanched almonds, which in the tray form didn’t have the opportunity to sink – mind you the batter is thick enough with chopped fruit that they should stay suspended even in a deep tin. The discovery of a nut adds delightful texture and interest to the bites of cake.

 

 

 

For me though the star of the show so far has been the Marrakesh Express Loaf Cake. Containing coffee, lots of walnuts and sesame seeds, rich sticky dates and pomegranate I felt sure I would enjoy it, but the layers of taste are amazing. Like a complex perfume it has a deep earthiness from the coffee and walnuts surrounded by the sweet dates and then the syrupy top notes of the pomegranate syrup float around your mouth. Dan says that treacle could substitute for the pomegranate syrup but I can’t believe the flavours would then dance around your palate in quite the same way. The syrup is worth getting if you can, a little goes a long way and if you enjoy middle easter food or follow the Ottolenghi column adjacent to Dan’s in the Guardian then you will find plenty of uses for it.

 

 

 

The recipe states half wholemeal or spelt flour and half hemp flour – I just used all wholemeal and it turned out fine, although I might just have to get me some spelt and hemp and see if the flavours can be any better.

 

 

 

There is still so much to try in the book and I know from last year that the Caramel Christmas Cake is a winner and sure to make another outing, or four, this year.

 

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Spice Cakes

May 26, 2010


I’ve made two different spice cakes recently. The first was the Black Pepper Spice cake (see recipe below) from my favourite Cake Keeper Cakes. I’ve made this before and knew the intended recipient was a fan of black pepper so made it again. I often feel like it’s a bit of a cop-out using a recipe I’ve tried before when baking; there are so many recipes out there to try, why resort to something you’ve made before? But I have to say the cakes in this book are so delicious and the recipes so reliable that I go back to it frequently, especially when baking for a special occasion. I upped the pepper quota a little to ensure it’s presence was felt and also left in the walnuts which I’ve omitted previously and they provided a lovely bite to the soft crumb of the cake. This time I also added the glaze which I left off previously (out of laziness I suspect) and I’m glad I did. It really added another dimension, the zingy citrus offsetting the warmth of the spices. I resolve to pay more attention to suggested glazes in recipes from now on rather than viewing them with suspicion as just another way to add sugar.

I also made this Spiced Brown Sugar Carrot Loaf but wasn’t as enamored. I think I expected something moister having baked so much with courgettes recently, and bolder on the spice front. Having said that I tried it fairly soon after baking and it may be one that develops over time like so many. If I were to make it again I would definately play around, perhaps using half courgettes, half carrots and I would increase the spices, which to be fair the author does recommend – it’s also suggested you eat spread with butter which may get around the moistness issue, and be extra delicious I’m sure! I followed the recipe apart from using half wholemeal flour half plain, and reduced the sugars slightly (light brown from 262g to 225g and the caster from 112g to 75g). I also had to employ the use of my rolling pin to give the base of the tins a pretty good whack to help get the finished loaves out, I did grease and flour the tins, but if you might want to line them too if you give the recipe a go!

Black Pepper and Spice Cake
Cake Keeper Cakes

330ml Buttermilk
3 large eggs
1 Tsp vanilla extract
300g flour
90g walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
1 Tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinamon
1 tsp cardamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp black pepper
112g butter
225g sugar

I cup icing sugar
Juice of a lemon

Preheat oven to 180C, grease and flour a bundt tin.

Cream butter and sugar in a mixer on high speed for at least 3 mins until light and fluffy, meanwhile whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla in a large measuring jug and combine the dry ingredients, including nuts, in a large bowl.

With the mixer on low add a third of the four mixture beating until just incorporated followed by half of the buttermilk, scraping down the sides as needed, repeat – ending with the last of the flour mixture. Turn the mixture up to medium high and beat for one minute.

Scrape into the prepared pan, bake for 40 -45 minutes until a tooth pick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 mins before turning out onto a rack to allow to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the sugar with enough lemon juice to make a smooth mixture – it should be fairly thick to drizzle over the cake and allowed to run down the sides. Allow to set for about half an hour before serving.


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An Abundance of Bundts

May 12, 2010
How I love my Bundt tins.


To begin with I coveted these tins of beauty and mystery from afar via my laptop and all the food blogs – most of which are American – that I somewhat obsessively check daily. There was something so tantalising about them, cake in a brand new form, akin to seeing recipes familiar yet strange in their use of zucchini and arugula (an I still don’t understand the different forms of cocoa powder you can get in the US, nor which is the version we have here, but I have mastered converting from cup measures, once managed to make my own ‘cake flour’ and have grasped that a ‘stick’ of butter weighs 112g). Then I saw one for sale in Lakeland and discovered how amazing the cakes contained within these tins can be; both to bake and to eat. Versatile, simple, yet their presentation punches well above their weight. Plus (and this is a massive bonus for one not gifted with a delicate touch) their design negates the need for icing – even if a recipe calls for a glaze or ganache, perhaps a dusting of icing sugar, it can be drizzled over in a haphazard manner and most of the time it’s not needed at all. The beauty of these cakes lies in the flavour that can be packed into those beautifully designed tins.

Have I convinced you yet to go out and invest in one? If not, then just remember that most Bundt recipes can be divided into two 9×5 loaf tins.

Since that initial Lakeland tin my collection has grown, so much so that I’ve just arranged for extra shelving to be put up in my increasingly cluttered kitchen, lest the current cabinets detach from the wall under their collective weight (although the uncontrollable baking recipe book fetish may pose more of a risk).

Family and friends are grateful, not only for there now to be an entry under the heading ‘hobby’ with which to aid their gift buying, but also as recipients of the finished products. Everyone’s a winner, from the dairies that provide the many cartons of buttermilk I get through in a month, via the supermarkets that provide the rest of the ingredients, to the neighbours, friends and colleagues who receive their share of the finished goods, to Weight Watchers et al who probably owe a week or two subscriptions to the products of my insomniac Sundays. Bundts even allow me my guiltiest pleasure – their cracked and domed tops, fresh from the oven can be tested and tasted whilst warm as this will soon become the hidden base. I tell you, there’s little that these tins can’t do – including helping you to make your Sunday Roast.

My recent obsession has been baking with bananas. I’ve discovered a couple of local shops that sell perfectly ripened bananas reduced in price as they’re too perfectly ripe for most consumers, but for a baker they’re just perfect. Supermarket bought bananas can take weeks to reach this stage so I’ve taken to walking round these various shops on a Saturday collecting fruit bursting with flavour (and occasionally out of their skins – I always take a plastic bag with me now) in order to bake on a Sunday morning. I’ve tried several recipes over the weeks and I think my adaptation from Dorie Greenspan’s Classic Banana Bundt recipe is not at all bad. I’m not sure when you can claim a recipe as your own, there are plenty of additions and a couple of substitutions in this recipe, but she certainly gave me the start I needed. I’ve added spices, reduced the sugar, swapped some of the flour for wholemeal and, of course, used buttermilk. This last Sunday morning was spent with this bread’s latest incarnation prompted by the gift of some amazing miniature tins – how great are these?

I can’t tell you the fun I had, the only problem was trying to choose which of my neighbours would get which shape and size cake. I hope you enjoy this recipe, and I really hope you get to try baking Bundt soon.

Banana Bread

(adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in ‘Baking From My Home to Yours)

 



225g butter
100g light muscavado sugar
150g caster sugar
450g (approx 4-5) mashed, very ripe bananas
Squeeze of lemon juice
225g wholemeal flour
225g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk ( I use one 284ml carton)

Preheat oven to 180C, grease tin(s) and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl
Mash bananas and squeeze over a little lemon juice
Beat together sugars and butter till light and fluffy – about 5 minutes with a stand mixer on medium high speed.
Beat in vanilla and eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary
Reduce mixer speed to low and add the banana (batter may curdle, don’t worry), then half the dry ingredients followed by the buttermilk then the remaining dry ingredients.
Once incorporated scrape into tin(s) and smooth the top(s) and place in the oven.

For one large Bundt bake for 64 – 70 minutes, but be sure to check after 20 minutes or so to see if the top is browning too quickly, if it is, cover the top loosely with foil. For the mini Bundt pans I baked for 25-30 and the teeny and tiny loaf tins, 20 -25 mins.

 

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Crack Open the Cardamom

January 31, 2010


I bookmarked this recipe for a Cardamom Citrus Cake on Good Life Eats before the new year, I’ve used cardamom a few times recently in various cakes and am quite taken with it. I’m always on the lookout for Bundt recipes and I had yet to use the new rose tin my sister gave me as a Christmas gift.


I also came across a Nordicware Sunflower tin in a sale whilst on a trip to the Cotswolds and seeing as the pestle and mortar were going to be in use to grind the cardamom I wanted to make the most of it and so chose the Black Pepper and Spice Cake from Cake Keeper Cakes to christen this one. My post Christmas baking lull was broken by an early Sunday morning and I set about greasing the tins. This is not easy with the patterned Bundt tins – particularly the Rose. I learned for later use to melt a small about of butter and brush over the tin to ensure you get into all the ridges and don’t end up with globs of butter stuck to the outside of the finished cake.

Opinions from the recipients on the cakes were divided – but only in so far as which was their favourite. I think the Cardamom was mine, but the shape of the tin made the filling layer difficult to distribute easily and it ended up being too thick in places, a more regular shaped tin would’ve been better for this particular cake. I may also up the zest a little, the oranges I’ve been using recently haven’t had that much a zing. As I’ve been doing with most cakes recently I’ve reduced the sugar, I’ve put the original amounts in brackets, but I really don’t think it needs it. I’ve put in metric weights for the dry ingredients but find it easier to continue to use cups when measuring wet ingredients.

Citrus Cardamom Bundt Cake
Adapted from Good Life Eats

450g flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking sodaBulleted List

3/4 teaspoon salt

175g (225g) granulated sugar

90g (112g) brown sugar

zest of 1/2 large orange

150g butter, softened

1/2 a vanilla bean split open and seeded or 1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 eggs

1 1/2 cup buttermilk (original recipe called for sour cream)

Filling

zest of 1/2 large orange

100 (112g) cup brown sugar – I used a mixture of light and dark brown as this was all I had

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 180C, grease and flour your tin.

Place the ingredients for the filling in a small bowl and rub the zest through the sugar and spice mix so that the oils from the zest release.

Put flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom in a bowl and set aside.

Beat Sugars and butter till fluffy – about 4 minutes in a stand mixer then add the vanilla and eggs. Continue beating for two minutes scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.

With the mixer on slow add a third of the flour, followed by half the buttermilk, then repeat, ending with the last of the flour.

Spread half the batter into your prepared pan, sprinkle with the filing mixture and then cover with the remaining batter.

Bake for 50 – 60 minute, cook for 20 minutes in the tin on a cooling rack before turning out to cool completely.

Black Pepper and Spice Cake

Cake Keeper Cakes p106

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

3 Large eggs – room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

300g flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground black pepper (I would use more next time)

112g unsalted, room temp or softened butter

225g sugar

(The original recipe also has 1 cup of toasted walnuts, cooled and chopped which I omitted. There’s also a lemon glaze – 1 cup icing sugar and 2 tbsp lemon juice, combined and drizzled over the cooled cake which I didn’t bother with so I added the zest of a lemon to the creamed butter and sugar)

Preheat oven to 180C, grease tin and dust with flour.

Whisk buttermilk, eggs and vanilla in a large jug.

Combine flour, nuts if using, baking powder, bicarb, salt and spices.

Cream butter and sugar for about 3mins on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides a few times.

On low speed add 1/3 of the flour, half the buttermilk mixture and repeat, ending with flour, scrape the sides of the bowl between additions and mix for 1 minute after the last addition.

Add to prepared pan and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

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Much Christmas Baking was Done

December 28, 2009


There’s nothing quite like having a purpose and a plan, and Christmas provided ample opportunity for both. The lists I’ve made, the recipes I’ve collated and the baking that my kitchen has seen have filled many an hour.

Mary Berry’s Christmas Cakes were handed out amongst friends and family


Work colleagues were treated to the large Christmas cake which I sliced small and topped with icing stars along with a Ginger and Chocolate Bundt Cake from Martha from my new festive tin



There were also tins of Swiss Cinnamon Stars to nibble on with morning coffee



An evening of gin was had at mine where I served the mince pies with the gin mincemeat (the leftovers of which have also been making an appearance in my morning porridge)



Along with Panfote all’Inglese made with gluten free flour and an additional hint of cloves and orange zest



And some spiced, candied nuts, from the ever reliable Smitten Kitchen, to nibble on – these will be making an appearance as gifts next year, the mix and the nuts presented in a festive jar (top tip to be included along with the mix; use baking parchment rather than foil to line the pan)



The day itself was a lovely one, the timings of roasts scare me but a plan was drawn up



The timings adhered to, even through the warm glow of a festive G&T and the end result, on the table at 2pm sharp


I hope everyone had a lovely break, whatever they did, whatever they ate and whoever they shared it with.
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Gin in the AM (and another bundt)

December 6, 2009


Not hair of the dog but an ingredient in the mincemeat I made this morning in preparation for mince pies.

Another Sunday, another 4am start and another few hours spent in the kitchen. The idea for gin and the base recipe I used came from a friend who kindly gave me a taste of her batch earlier in the week. I am a little scared of mince pies as pastry is my baking nemesis. Last year, full of good intentions, with family coming to visit, my Christmas Eve baking session ended up in the bin. Luckily I had some shop bought ones in the cupboard and when people arrived the house at least smelled of fresh, home-baked mince pies (and no, I didn’t try and pass them off as my own!).

There was something very therapeutic about chopping the apples whilst listening to yet more torrential rain. The high point of the morning was adding a little of the cooling (pre-gin) mixture to my porridge. The finished product is sat, in jars, maturing and waiting for me to be brave enough to attempt the pastry.

This weekend I also put my Christmas decorations up, fed the Christmas cakes again and had a little slice of the test cake – delicious. I love this time of year.

As the mincemeat didn’t call for me to use the kitchenAid I of course had to bake something else too. I went with Dorie Greenspan’s ‘All-in-One Holiday Bundt’ crammed full of cranberries, pumpkin, apple, nuts and spices, it’s just delicious.

Mincemeat

Makes about 1 1/2 large kilner jars
200g muscavado sugar
175g butter
Juice and Zest of 3 oranges (approx 200ml)
Zest of 1 lemon
Heaped tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

750g Bramley Apples finely diced (approx 4)
340g currants
340g raisins
200g dried cranberries

Put butter, sugar, orange juice and spices in a pan, heat slowly until smooth, add apple, zests, dried fruits and bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer for 10 – 15 mins or until the apples are soft. Allow to cool then add the gin …. and a bit more … and go on just a bit more. I added a lot of gin … I will let you know how it turns out in a few days!



All-in-One Holiday Bundt Cake
from Dorie Greespan’s ‘Baking, From my Home to Yours’

300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarb
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tps freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
135g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar (I reduced to 3/4’s)
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar (I used reduced this too, to about 1/3 cup, not packed)
2 large eggs at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved
1 cup pecans roughly chopped (I used walnuts).

Butter and flour your bundt tin and preheat the oven to 175C
Mix flour, spices and raisin agents in bowl
Mix butter and sugars until light and fluffy (approx 5 mins) at medium speed
Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 min after each addition
Add vanilla
Reduce speed and add pumpkin and apple – Dorie points out at this point not to worry if your mixture looks curdled – mine did!
On low speed add the dry ingredients but do not over mix
using a spatula stir in cranberries and nuts – spoon into pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 60 – 70 mins, leave to cool in tin for 5 mins before turning out onto a wire rack.





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Shiny New Thing

December 1, 2009
I’ve not had a good week. Well, some bits have been fantastic; my birthday was spent with friends, I felt loved and I had lots of fun – along with a fair amount of gin. I’ve been to the cinema several times; seen good films, bad films, barely watched one film at all because it was too scary and had rather a lot of damn fine popcorn. I have all but finished my Christmas shopping, eaten and baked cakes, drunk good wine and tasted Marmite Truffles for the first (but not the last) time. When I write it out like that it seems wrong to sum up the past seven days as poor, but the things that have gone wrong, whilst not taking away from all the lovely things I’ve done and shared, still make for a sum total of a pretty bad week.

So I shopped.

And I bought a shiny, new, lovely thing that I have been resisting for so long.

Todays inaugural baking session took place pre-dawn once again and I just can’t imagine how I’ve managed without (a bit like when I finally capitulated and ordered Sky+). I’m not one for the personification of inanimate objects but this may need to have a name as I can see a meaningful relationship developing (not the type to feature on a Channel Five documentary you understand).


To pair with the most American of kitchen equipment I went with the most American of cakes and baked a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Icing from Epicurious, found via the recent Bundt Fest over at the Food Librarian. She did a recent round up of all the Bundts baked on National Bundt Day and my contribution features. I reduced the sugar slightly, 1 1/4 cups of caster sugar equals about 280g but I used 250g, I read somewhere recently that a lot of US recipes can cope with less sugar so I’ll be giving it a try. This also had a sugar and buttermilk glaze which added an great sweet and sour element.

I really enjoyed the finished cake, quite simple in terms of taste but unusual to a palate not raised on the taste of pumpkin. There is a comment section on the Epicurious site and there are plenty of hints and tips about adjusting the spices and ways to get a better glaze. The initial glaze on mine went translucent, but I added more once the cake was cold.