Posts Tagged ‘Syrup’

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Great British Bake Off

October 7, 2010

Did you watch The Great British Bake Off? I did, and true to form bought the tie-in cook book straight after the first episode. I loved the series but the book is a little odd. A fairly random selection of recipes seem to have been chosen, including some that didn’t work on the show or were criticised by he judges but with no notes to show amendments or updates. Other recipes are not from the series at all and it’s not clear who authored them. However I have Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and find it reliable, although having head her declare in the final that she’d never baked using fresh ginger (and worse seemed sceptical at the thought of it) I feel a little less confident in her.

I’ve only tried one recipe so far, although several tags flutter from the page edges and I think it was a success.  A recent early morning coupled with a return of the much missed baking mojo led to a recipe for a Sticky Marmalade Tea Loaf. Perfect for two reasons; one I could finally use the jar of marmalade that was bought for guests and has since been languishing in the fridge. I know it will keep – but unused jars pain me – I feel sorry for them, as if they’re aware of their wasted potential and berate me with every opening of the fridge door. Reason two is that the recipe needed really soft butter, as in – blast in the microwave for a bit – so the fact that I was unprepared and the butter was still sat in said fridge was not a problem. The reason for the soft butter is that all the ingredients are combined in one bowl with a trusty wooden spoon (I have a wooden spoon that I trust – do you? In fact I have two trusty wooden spoons, one for curries and one for cakes, plus many other wooden spoons that have yet to be elevated to trustworthy status). Having baked so much with the Kitchen Aid and beating together butter and sugar for many minutes until light and fluffy, I was wary of combining in this way, but needn’t have worried.

If you didn’t watch the series this was one that didn’t work, it sank in the middle and led to the contestant, Mark, being eliminated in the first week, it did also earn him a hug from Sue Perkins. I doubled the recipe and made one regular loaf and two smaller ones in part because of my compulsion to double any batter recipe but also because I wanted to make one nut free version.

Mine did not sink in the middle, however the full-sized loaf was over baked at the recommended 60 minutes so I would check earlier – and I did need to cover with foil. I can’t be certain of the baking time for the smaller loaves as I managed to leave the oven door ajar! I’d suggest checking after 30 minutes to see if they need any foil and check after 40 with the trusty toothpick to see if they’re done. The result was a tasty, moist cake that might benefit from a dash of whisky perhaps to add a little zing to accompany the spices? The amount of marmalade in the cake and sticky glaze mean there are ample opportunities to play with taste depending on the type of marmalade used and you can play around with your choice of nuts I used a mixture of walnuts, brazil nuts, pecans and hazelnuts, all roughly chopped in a processor.  There are spices in the cake, but I think a little stem ginger either in a marmalade or separately. Definitely one to make again.

 

Mark’s Sticky Marmalade Tea Loaf

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 175 light brown muscovado sugar
  • 100g chopped mixed nuts (*optional as the cake works wonderfully without should you need a nut free version)
  • 175g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 3 medium free range eggs
  • 140g marmalade (preferably home-made)
  • 900g Loaf tine, grease and the base lined.

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gm 4
Sift together flour, baking powder and spices, stir in sugar and nuts (if using).
Add the softened butter and eggs and then all but 1 tablespoon of the marmalade that you will need later for the glaze
Mix all the ingredients well using a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined and then spoon into the prepared tin and smooth the top.
Bake for 60 – 75 minutes (I would check earlier) until a skewer comes out clean. You may need to cover the top of the cake after 40 minutes to prevent over browning.
Carefully remove from the tin and leave to cool for 5 minutes while you make the glaze by heating the reserved marmalade with a couple of teaspoons of water in a small pan over a low heat.
Brush the glaze over the still warm loaves – allow to cool before slicing

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The Anxiety of Birthday Baking

April 23, 2010
I have made several cakes recently for colleagues and friends that have been for birthdays (or on one occasion a leaving do) and I think I may soon stop. Usually, I bake, allow to cool , then cut and portion the cakes at home before leaving on the doorsteps of neighbours or taking into work to share. But when, for a particular person or occasion, I take the cake into work whole, without cutting into it, so I can’t tell how it’s turned out. I’ve had a couple of baking fails where the finished product looks and smells divine – the batter was tasty and enjoyed from the bowl – but when I’ve cut into it the inside has been leaden, dense and uncooked – inedible. The image of these stays with me, as does the disappointment at the waste of the time, effort and ingredients. Then there’s the confusion over what went wrong, or worse the frustration at realising the stupid, and avoidable error.


I made Nigella’s Quadruple Chocolate Cake (although mine technically is only a triple version as I didn’t finish with the chocolate curls, but hey there’s still plenty of chocolate in there) in bundt form for a colleagues birthday a while ago. I’m fairly confident that doubling loaf cake recipes makes for a good large bundt (and the reverse) and have made this cake before, albeit in loaf form and did my usual of substituting the sour cream for buttermilk. I have no idea what I was doing when making this but I did think, as I spooned the batter into the pan, that the recipe direction of ‘pouring’ was a little off but it wasn’t until the cake was in the oven and I was reviewing the recipe to check baking times I realised that I had missed out an entire step; adding the boiling water. 250ml of boiling water, not a tablespoon or a piffling amount, but 250ml.


I stared at the cake in the oven a fair amount whilst it was baking, trying to imagine what this error might mean. The cake came out of the oven fine, it felt a little heavy, but it’s a chocolate bundt, not a chiffon cake, it was hardly going to be a light and airy thing that I held in my hands. I couldn’t work out how this might have affected the finished cake and spent an evening of anxiety, trawling the net for advice, asking the question on the Serious Eats Talk board (a great resource and an enjoyable and compelling read, there are some great threads on there and some very knowledgeable, helpful and amusing people on there). I eventually cored out a small section of cake from the underneath, which whilst dense seemed ok – in fact it tasted great. It was cooked all the way through which was my main fear, so I decided to risk it. Everyone commented on how rich and moist the cake was, and whoever got the slice with the missing section didn’t say anything!


I have also made Smitten Kitchen’s lemon cake twice recently. I’ve had this cake in my ‘Cakes to Make’ folder for months and when you look at the recipe and photo’s you’ll understand why it’s a cake to make. I have yet to come across a recipe from Deb that hasn’t not only been reliable, but also absolutely delicious. She has such a loyal and proactive following that reading the comments below her posts in full is always worth it for the revisions and suggestions. The reason this cake had remained in the folder rather than in my oven was due to the quantity of lemons needed. I usually have a couple of lemons in the fruit bowl ready to lend their zest to a cake (or, of course, to contribute to a Saturday evening G&T) but to have 8 at one time takes planning. I discovered that a colleague, due to leave work, liked lemon cakes so I had time to plan and purchase enough lemons. It was more than worth it.



So much so that I made another later the same week, with the frosting, for a good friends birthday. The syrup should brushed on slowly over a cake pierced multiple times with a toothpick or skewer – it’s worth the effort of taking the time to make sure as much as possible is absorbed as the difference it makes to the taste and moistness of the cake is considerable.


Another, more recent citrusy, request was for a Tart au Citron. For the recipe I reverted to the trusty Leith’s Baking Bible as I’m anxious about the technicalities of pastry and despite the success of December’s Gin Mince Pies was still hesitant. The recipe for the Pate Sucree was for one to be made by hand and there were no tips on converting to be made in a food processor, an essential adaptation as these hands were not for pastry making made. Once more Serious Eats helped me out and I ended up with pastry that came together well. I suspect I didn’t quite leave it to chill for long enough before trying to work with it, or perhaps it was because I was trying to bake in the evening rather than the morning, so unbalancing the natural order of things, but I didn’t have the time to leave it for that long and the recipe was vague, with only the direction to ‘chill’. When I came to roll it out it cracked and split and was an absolute disaster. I tried to rescue it by putting it back in the fridge but was too tired and frustrated too leave it long enough. I toyed with the idea of using to make little mini jam tarts but to be honest I had lost the will to bake and just gave up. I went to bed intending to nip to the local French Patisserie to buy one of their spectacular tarts to give along with the story of my disastrous effort. However, I woke at 5, and decided to have a go at another lemon recipe from Smitten. Not something I would usually make, but when searching the site for a lemon cake it had come up. Oh the anxiety! It’s been a while since I made shortbread, I’ve not made lemon curd before and to top it all off the pictures of the finished recipe weren’t displaying properly so I couldn’t see how it should turn out. And of course I had to take the bars in the tin they were baked in as they would not have travelled well so I had no opportunity to taste to see what they look like. In my anxiety to get this ready in time to take to work I didn’t manage to take a photo, but I have a plan to make them again in the near future and will make sure there are pics. Oh, and it was enjoyed.



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Citrus Cakes for Birthdays

November 29, 2009
The past week has seen the creation of two citrus themed birthday cakes. The first followed a request for a lemon birthday cake and I went with another Mary Berry Recipe. Her Crunchy Top Lemon Cake is a lemon infused sponge with a sugar and lemon glaze pasted onto the piping hot cake, as usual I substituted the milk in the recipe with buttermilk, I really need to start making comparison cakes to see exactly what difference this makes.

The second was for my 35th Birthday and I recently bookmarked a recipe for a lemon cake with gin drizzle from Madalane of The British Larder (not sure if I was searching for cake or gin at the time – either is likely). I think because this cake was going to be for me I felt able to be more adventurous and decided to play around a little more than I usually do. Having made a fair few lemon cakes over the year I didn’t really want one for my birthday but the gin was fitting. My mother had a recipe for a Gin and Grapefruit Sorbet that was part of every Christmas celebration I can remember and one of my favourite party dishes. It’s a wonderfully sharp and refreshing way to cut through the richness of any feast, whilst ensuring that your alcohol levels remain topped up – and no feast is complete without gin in my opinion. Deb from Smitten Kitchen has a recipe for a Grapefruit Yoghurt cake so I went about combining the two. I baked it for about 35 mins and this was a little too long, the edges had started to brown so I will check earlier next time. The ‘drizzle’ is just that, however the original recipe had more icing sugar (100g) and less gin (10ml) so was more of a glaze, it was poured over the cakes after they’d been turned out of their tins (after 5 mins, so while still warm), I may try this next time as the photos of the originals look so pretty.

Gin and Grapefruit Cake
120g butter
170g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
170g caster sugar
2 large eggs
60mk buttermilk
Zest of 2 grapefruit
Juice of half a grapefruit
1/4tsp of salt

Grease and flour a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180C
Mix butter and sugar until light and creamy, combine buttermilk and eggs in a jug then add to batter in stages.
Add zest and juice then sift in flour, baking powder and salt and combine without over mixing.
Bake for 30 – 35 mins

The Drizzle
Juice of one grapefruit
70g of icing sugar
15ml (ahem) gin, I used Tanqueray of course

Keeps well for a couple of days wrapped in greaseproof paper and stored in an airtight container.

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The Cake That Nearly Beat Me

August 20, 2009

I couple of months ago I bought the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and one of the first cakes I made (due to a fruit bowl full of lemons and a shiny new loaf tin – thank you Lakeland) was the Lemon Loaf. The recipe calls for whole milk which I didn’t have so I substituted with buttermilk – that’s allowed isn’t it?

The cake was an unmitigated disaster.

I can’t remember how long it actually took to bake but I know I had to reset the timer in five, then ten minute intervals several times before the skewer had any hope of testing clean. The cake was so heavy that a section of the top sheared off straight from the oven revealing a centre so stodgy that I just stood staring in disbelief.

After cooling it was obvious this was not fit to be dished up, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. I donated it to a colleague under the guise of a potential trifle ingredient, but accept that it probably ended up in her bin rather than mine.

I really didn’t think that making such a minor substitution would’ve had such a disastrous effect, but in the end it was my novice baking status, rather than instinct, that let me down. There’s an error in the original recipe; 560g of flour should actually read 350g. I imagine this error would be a glaring one to someone with more experience but it passed me by, it was only a chance visit to their website and a click on the innocuous sounding link for ‘further tips and revisions’ (ahem!) lead me to a PDF document with a page of tips and revisions to three of their recipes. A proof reader is in trouble somewhere I fear.

So, a Sunday waking of 4am meant several hours of baking time and the Lemon Drizzle was in my sights.

I was tempted to try again with the buttermilk substitution just to see exactly where the blame for the original failing lay, but decided that the frustration of another cake fail would be too much to bare, especially at that ungodly hour.

The baking time is 1hour 15 minutes, which is a little on the long side for a loaf tin and should’ve made me think ahead a bit, but I’m not that good at seeing the bigger picture and so placed the tin into the oven, set the timer, and popped off to clean the bathroom, as you do. I came back downstairs about 40 minutes into baking to a concerning hint of ‘burnt’ in the air. The cake had risen way above the top of the tin and was touching the element at the top of the oven. A few minutes of panic later and I’d extracted the cake with only minor damage to it and myself (and it’s never a proper baking session without an injury of some sort). After picking the smoking debris off the element and repositioning the shelf the cake was returned to finish cooking. I couldn’t believe this bloody recipe had nearly beaten me again.

The end result was a little on the ugly side because of the damage to the top, luckily it was destined to be sliced and distributed at work rather than presented whole – good job too.

An additional tip – should you want to bake this for yourself – is that I remembered from disaster no 1 that pouring the syrup over the cake resulted in a lot of the syrup being lost of pooling around the sides, so I made good use of a skewer and spent a long time drizzling slowly in intervals to ensure as much of the syrup as possible got into the cake.

Was the whole thing worth it? Well, I can’t see beyond the second near miss, and I feel that the authors couldn’t been more detailed in their instructions (error aside) but the resulting cake was moist and tart and seemed to go down well. It keeps, wrapped, for a coupled of days and would no doubt make an excellent base for a trifle!