28 Jul 2009

Stolen food always tastes better

A few weeks ago both Kris and I both found ourselves with a rare day off, together, at the same time! Normally our days off are filled weeks in advance by our high maintenance (in the best possible way) but much adored chums, but this one was all for us! After a well earned lie in we decided to have a leisurely stroll along the seaside and check out the untouched array of charity stores and cute boutiques. During our shopping expedition hunger struck and we dipped into a lovely little cafe, adorably named Sugarloaf, and ordered ourselves a feast of tea and cake! While waiting for our order I found myself perusing a lifestyle magazine when I came across a recipe for the most delicious looking cake I ever did see. Sneakily, I checked out the waiters position and that of the other customers, making sure no one was in my line of sight. As quietly and discreetly as I could (ignoring the very slow grrrriiiiiiip, sounding like someone trying really hard to open a pack of bonbons silently in the cinema) I tore the page from the magazine and hurriedly stuffed it into my bag. I was like James Bond, with girl parts.



The thing I loved most about this cake, and actually went out of my way to explain to everyone before allowing them a slice, was how the chocolate portion contained only dark chocolate chips while the vanilla contained only white. Add this to the beautifully tart raspberries dotted throughout the batter and you're in tray bake heaven. I actually believe it was fated, written in the stars even, that I was to go into that cafe, pick up that magazine and stumble upon this, this masterpiece of cakery! I beg you, dear readers, to make this cake as soon as possible!

Very Berry Chocolate Tray Bake

175g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
175g butter, at room temp
3 organic, free range eggs, beaten
2-3 tbsp milk
100g white chocolate chunks
150g raspberries
2tbsp cocoa powder
100g dark chocolate chunks

Heat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin. Sieve flour and baking powder into a bowl, and stir in sugar. Add butter and eggs, and beat together until the mixture is light and falls from the beaters. You may need to add the milk for the right consistency.

Spoon half the batter into another bowl and add the white chocolate and 100g of the raspberries; mix until the berries begin to break, then set aside. Sift the cocoa powder into the remaining plain mixture and fold in dark chocolate chunks.

Spoon the mixtures into the prepared tin, alternating colours. Drag a fork through the mix to marble the colour. Scatter over the remaining berries and press lightly into the mix. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, remove and leave to cool completely.

26 Jul 2009

Sweet Melissa Sunday, Jam again

I still haven't eaten my way through the last batch of jam I made and here I am, making more. Not that I'm complaining, I love jam. It has so many delicious uses. Bake it into cupcakes, slather it on toast, dollop it in a huge bowl of steaming rice pudding or use it to fill cookies. Since I have a cupboard full of jam, I chose the latter as a way of using some of it up. I've never made linzer cookies before but darn it, it sure won't be the last time!


The jam was super easy to make, the apple provided a natural source of pectin so there was no need for preserving sugar, which I believe to be a little too sweet. The citrus provided such a lovely tang to balance the sweetness of the strawberries. Delicious! Thank you to Margot of Effort to Deliciousness for selecting this beautiful recipe and as always, check out the other SMS ladies for more jammy goodness.


Linzer Cookies:

225g unsalted butter , softened
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks , beaten
250g plain flour
110g ground almonds
raspberry jam, for spreading
icing sugar , to dust

Beat the butter and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg yolks and mix thoroughly. Gradually add the flour and ground almonds. Lightly knead the mixture until it comes together in a ball. Wrap and chill for 1 hour.


Heat the oven to 170C/fan 150C/gas 5. Roll the dough out to the thickness of a £1 coin on a lightly floured surface and stamp out biscuits using a 6-7cm cutter. Reshape leftover dough into a ball, re-roll and cut out more biscuits. Stamp out a smaller circle from the middles of half the biscuits.


Put the biscuits on lined baking sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. You may need to do these in batches. Rest for a minute then transfer to a cooling rack. When completely cold, spread the whole biscuits with either jam. Dust the ring-shaped biscuits with icing sugar. Put a sugar-dusted ring on top of a jam-covered biscuit and press lightly together.


Oh, and I almost forgot to add. This is my first Sweet Melissa Sunday post as a graduate. Yup, I'm now Katie Deacon BA (hons). Hurrah, although I found the fact I graduated in gryffindor colours far more exciting than actually graduating! (also, please excuse my hair, it was raining awfully heavy on graduation day!)



23 Jul 2009

Goin vegan with a chocolate and avocado cake

Not really. I personally couldn't live without cheese, or milk, or meat for that matter. Saying that, I've always wondered about vegan baking, the taste, the look, how it would come together and would I be able to tell the difference. When I saw this cake on Joy the Baker I was amazed, obsessed even. I couldn't stop thinking about the unusual ingredients, the amazing colour of the frosting, how it would taste. In the end it all became too much, I had to make this cake.


Although Joy's cake looked utterly fantastic, I didn't have high hopes for mine. I envisioned two rock hard discus' emerging from my oven, smoldering gently. I thought if I kept my thoughts low I couldn't be disappointed when I inevitably fail. Well, I didn't fail (or I did a little, we'll get to that later) the cakes came out better than most of my normal chocolate cakes. So tall, so chocolatey, so beautiful. I stood looking at them, cooling on the windowsill with love in my eyes. I was so proud.

Next came the frosting, with just avocado, icing sugar and lemon juice I was dubious. On its own it tastes a little odd but as Joy stated, once paired with the cake it will blow you away. It really is important to use the ripest avocados you can get, mine were still a little hard so rather than attempting to mash them I threw the flesh into my blender and hit puree. Sorted!

My failure came when constructing the cake. Due to me over handling one half while still warm, it developed a small crack. No biggie I thought, it'll be fine. Well, once frosted the tiny crack turned into the grand canyon, half of the top layer cascading off the waterfall of beautiful green filling. I fought back the tears, struggling manically to piece the sticky chunks back together. Never use a cracked cake as the top layer, I learned the hard way!

While the cake was good, it wasn't good enough for me to be forever converted to the vegan cake. It was kind of like a chocolate carrot cake in texture. Yummy, but not super duper yummy ;) My search continues.

18 Jul 2009

Lemon and Poppy Seed cake

Boy, I sure do love a lemon drizzle cake. I'd even go as far to say it's my very favorite kind of cake. When I'm in a bakery, faced with an array of multi coloured cakes and cookies I'll always opt for old reliable lemon drizzle. I'd grow old with that cake, love and cherish it for always, Katie & LDC 4eva!


When I saw the variation at the end of the Whole Orange Poppy Seed Cake recipe that replaced the orange with lemon, I was over the moon. I mean, I'd already decided on swapping the citrus siblings but this means I'd have something to work from.

The cake was delicious, the glaze was so super tart it pulled your gums over your teeth, but that's how I like my lemony treats. Painfully tangy. I think I'm going to give the orange version a try next, just for comparison.

A big thank you to the fantastic Melissa of Lulu the Baker for choosing this recipe! It's been one of my favorites to date. Go have a browse through the good old SMS bakers for more citrusy poppy seed fun.

12 Jul 2009

Apple Crumble Custard Creams

Everyone loves custard creams, they're the ultimate English biscuit perfect for tea dunking. Combine this with a much loved English desert, apple crumble, and you're onto a winner! I discovered this recipe in a book I picked up in Marks and Spencer a few weeks ago, out of the dozens of wonderful cookie recipes this one simply jumped off the pages, begging me to make them.


The dough is a little tricky to work and tore quite easily when cutting out shapes but it really was worth the extra time and care. The bran in the biscuit gave a wonderful hearty crunch and complimented the creamy custard center perfectly. An utterly delightful biscuit, perfect for your morning cup of tea!

Apple Crumble Custard Creams

1 medium apple, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
2 tsp water
125g butter, softened
75g brown sugar
2 tbsp apple juice
150g self raising flour
110g plain flour
30g oatbran (I used wheat bran)
20g dessicated coconut
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp icing sugar

Custard Cream:

1 tbsp custard powder
1 tbsp caster sugar
125ml milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
125g cream cheese softened

Stew apple with the water in a small saucepan with the lid on until tender. Mash with a fork and leave to cool.

Beat butter, sugar and apple concentrate in a small bowl till creamy.

Stir in sifted flours, oatbran, stewed apple, coconut and cinnamon in two batches.

Knead dough on floured surface until smooth. Roll dough between two sheets of baking paper till around 3mm thick. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pre heat oven to 180C/160C fan assisted. Grease oven trays and line with parchment.

Using a cutter cut around 40 shapes from dough. Place shapes around 3cm apart on oven trays and bake for around 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

While the biscuits are in the oven, make the custard cream. Blend custard powder, sugar, extract and milk in a small pan; stir over a medium heat until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from heat, cover surface with clingfilm and leave to cool. Beat the cream cheese until smooth then add custard mixture and beat til combined.

Sandwich cookies with custard cream and serve dusted with icing sugar.

Sweet Melissa Sunday, Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake

I've never really been that keen on cheesecake, something about it just never appealed to me. With this in mind I was planning on giving this week a miss but in a fit of utter boredom I threw caution to the wind and decided to give it a shot. Unfortunately, and not down to a lack of searching, I simply couldn't find course cornmeal, if I'm honest I'm not even sure I know what it is. So, my cheesecake is made with a plain digestive crust and rather than making the blueberry sauce I decided to bake them right into the cake. Another obstacle I hit was my lack of a Bain Marie, in other words my roasting pan isn't big enough so I reduced the cooking time by 30 minutes and just stuck it in the oven. I actually prefer the look of a baked cheesecake to those done in a Bain Marie, it's those delightfully golden sides that do it for me.



The result was absolutely delicious and has totally changed my previous opinion on the humble cheesecake. I'll defiantly be baking this one again, trying different fruits according to the season.

Please, don't forge to check the SMS blogroll for more fabulous cheesecake and if you want to give this one a try the recipe is over at Elianas A Chica Bakes.

9 Jul 2009

Caffeine isn't a drug, it's a vitamin

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely despise coffee. I just can't abide the taste, the smell however is out of this world. So, whenever I'm asked to bake with the stuff I'm elated that I get to inhale the beautiful scent while participating in my favorite pastime, baking.


As it was the birthday of my father in law to be, I was asked to whip up a batch of coffee cupcakes to celebrate his 53rd year. Pretty basic and as I've been making a lot of cupcakes recently (it seems I'm baking for pretty much everyones birthday at the moment) I thought I'd try something different. I've always fancied the sound of Swiss Meringue Butter Cream but never got round to trying it, so today was to be the day. A little bit fussier than normal butter cream the SMBC requires constant whisking over a double boiler to thicken up the egg whites, but boy is it worth the extra effort. So silky, so creamy, the most sophisticated frosting I have ever experienced.


Recipe for Coffee Swiss Meringue Butter Cream (from how to eat a cupcake)

170g caster sugar
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt

170g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tbsp hot water
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee


Put sugar, egg whites and salt into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees). Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes total. Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, stir 1 1/2 tsp instant coffee into 1 tbsp hot water until dissolved, then put it in the fridge or freezer until it comes down to room temperature. Reduce mixer speed to low and add coffee mixture. Continue beating 1 minute to reduce air bubbles.

3 Jul 2009

River Cottage Jam

After months of waiting, my local pick your own farm finally reopened its doors offering up a bounty of delicious locally grown berries. After watching the latest episode of River Cottage, the very episode I watched getting filmed, I was inspired to take a trip to my favorite farm shop to pick some Strawberries and Gooseberries for Hugh's wonderful Strawberry and Gooseberry Jam!


So, off I went, trudging through muddy fields in pursuit of the ripe berries ruining my shoes and coat in the process but the finished product sure was worth the effort! Hugh's preserving method was much shorter than those I've seen before, opting to boil the fruit for only 8 - 9 minutes making this a super quick and super easy jam for first timers like me.


The resulting jam was amazing, sweet and juicy strawberries with the sharp tang of the gooseberries, a perfect combination. I'm dying to try his strawberry jam with sweet scented geranium leaves which apparently tastes like a fine wine!


I'd advise anyone who is a bit nervous about jam making to give this recipe a try. Quick, easy and delicious.


Many thanks to my ex graphic designer boyfriend for the label. He even drew the lil fruit himself <3