Monthly Archives: June, 2012

Good things come in small packages…

I hadn’t planned to write any more blog posts this week. After all, there hasn’t been any baking and I haven’t had the opportunity to go mooching in any lovely local cakeries.Then the postman came, and I had to share the joy the came in the mail…..

How cute are these little cake boxes?!

…. Yes people, these little beauties are boxes of cakey goodness. Our lovely friends who got married on Friday sent us each a piece of wedding cake as we were unable to attend their wedding. This is of course quite an old tradition, but not something that I’ve seen done myself. I was really touched – each box has a little message on the reverse – and it was lovely to think that after their wedding, they made the time to sit down and write those messages before they went away. Really I feel we should have sent them cake – after all, it was us who couldn’t attend their wedding!

So what do you think peeps? Is this a tradition that should be revived? I often get asked, jokingly, if I could just send some of my cake half way across the world. Well, clearly its possible! I thought it would be a lovely idea to stash away for our big day. We have a few elderly relatives who we’re pretty sure won’t actually attend, but who would really appreciate this little gesture.

Oh, and in case you were interested, the cake was delicious…..

BBx

A note about my mascot….

Anyone who knows me knows that there are two men in my life, one of whom I will be marrying next year. The other has four legs and a swooshy tail, and he’s called Harry.

Here’s Harry doing what he does best – looking a bit sleepy. I secretly think he’s a cat – no normal dog sleeps this much!

Now Harry is as much a fan of baking as anyone else I know. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Harry’s enthusiasm for food outshines even mine, which is saying something. When I bake, he is my constant companion. Ever optimistic, he waits by the kitchen door hoping that I’ll drop something and he can swoop in and get it. He’s always there, he’s my baking mascot.

Harry can usually be found trying to subvert the ‘no dog in the kitchen’ rule by letting a paw stray over the threshold. He thinks its a silly rule.

Now anyone who has a dog, especially a lab, will know how they luuuuurve to eat. So a while back I started making Harry dog treats. Now don’t get me wrong, he eats dog food normally and I also buy treats from the pet shop – he doesn’t get fed Kobe beef of a silver platter or anything. I make him biscuits because I’m a cheapskate and I can make enough dog biccies to last months for £2.50! That is worth 15 minutes of my time every few months.

So baking is something that can be enjoyed by the whole family – everyone likes to lick the spoon!*

Woofs and Cheers

BB x

* This is Harry’s spatula! All for him so that he gets a chance to lick the spoon when I’ve baked him something.

Lemon Curd Goes with Everything

Well, maybe it doesn’t go with EVERYTHING, but it is immense, and should be eaten as often as possible. Yesterday I posted a recipe for lemon meringue shortbread which used lemon curd and I commented on how I’d made my own. Now there’s a lot of good lemon curd available in the shops, but its so easy to make, and tastes way better homemade, so I thought I’d share this recipe. Now I realise its not strictly baking, but it can be used in so many recipes, including baking, that I thought it earned a spot on the blog.

Lemon Curd: 2 level tablespoons of cornflour, 100g golden caster sugar (you can use the refined white stuff if you like – that will give it a yellower colour), finely grated zest of 2 lemons, juice of three lemons (or two if you prefer it sweeter and less lemony), juice from a small orange, 85g of butter, 3 egg yolks and one whole egg.

  • Put the cornflour, caster sugar and zest into a saucepan with the lemon juice and heat gently. Add water to the orange juice to make it up to 200ml and then pour that in as well. Top Tip: pour the orange and lemon juice through a strainer to catch any bits or pips – you don’t want them messing with your lovely smooth lemon curd!
  • Cook and stir over a medium heat until the mixture smooths and thickens.
  • Take off the heat and beat in the butter, which you’ll need to cut into cubes.
  • When cooled a little add the eggs and beat that in too. It will still be hot, but too hot and the eggs will scramble, which you really don’t want.
  • Return the mixture to the heat and keep stirring. It’ll thicken up. Keep going until the mixture ‘dollops’ off the spoon. Then take off the heat and set aside to cool.

You could use the mixture now as a filling for a lemon tart of meringue pie, or you can store it for later. If you want to store it, it’ll need to go in the fridge. Sterilise some jars (it filled two small ones) and pop it in. When the jars are completely cool pop them in the fridge. Because of the fresh ingredients, the curd will only keep for about 1-2 weeks. Frankly, that’s long enough for it all to go in our house!

Homemade lemon curd isn’t as yellow as the stuff from the shops. But its super scrummy!

Here are some ideas of things to do with the lush new addition to your fridge:

  • Have it for breakfast! It goes on toast or crumpets, but also lovely swirled into yoghurt with some fruit
  • Put it in a cake! Makes a change from a strawberry jam Victoria sandwich, just spread in the middle of a sponge layer cake and then cover the cake with lemon butter icing.
  • Have it with ice-cream! Made a great sauce.
  • Give it away! Wrap a circle of brown paper around the lid and tie with a ribbon. Hand it to someone else who loves lemon curd.
  • Stick a spoon in the jar when no one is looking! Ssssshhhhhh. I won’t tell if you don’t.

Love and Lemons,

BBx

Sweets for Your Sweets: Lemon Meringue shortbread

Today I had the pleasure of visiting my lovely friend and her extra scrummy new baby girl. I wanted to take a present that was as sweet as her sweet baby, so yesterday I had a lovely afternoon concocting in the kitchen. I turned up the radio and made a LOT of mess.

These little treats are based on Mr. Bandit’s love of lemon meringue pie. I wanted to find a small and pretty way of getting that taste without having to make a full-blown dessert. Whilst I’m a fan of the biscuit base for the pie version, these little mouthfuls needed something less crumbly, so I’ve gone for a shortbread base. Here’s what I did….

Shortbread base: 75g butter, 125g plain flour, 25g ground almonds, 25g icing sugar, one egg yolk (hang on to the white!)

  • Sift the flour, almonds and icing sugar into a big bowl – big enough to get your hands into!
  • Cut the butter into small cubes – it should be straight out the fridge and cold. Plop the cubed butter into the bowl and using your fingers start squidging the butter into the flour until you get a mixture like breadcrumbs. I find that rubbing the mix between my hands is very effective. Just make sure you’ve got really clean hands!
  • Break up the egg yolk and then plop that into the bowl too. Use your hands to work the egg into the mix. It’ll form a dough quite quickly. Keep going until its smooth and forms a nice ball.
  • Flatten the ball of dough a bit and wrap it in clingfilm. Pop it into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Get the oven ready by heating it to 150 (for a fan oven, maybe a tad higher if you don’t have a fan oven). Once you have your shortbread chilled, you need to work quickly. As soon as it warms up it gets much harder to work with. Roll it out to about 1/3 to 1/2 a centimetre (not too thin or you won’t be able to get them onto the backing tray), and then use your cutter of choosing to cut them out. I used a fluted round 4cm cutter, but anything that will produce a similar size will work. You could even cut the dough into strips rather than circles. Place all your cut out pieces on a baking tray, on baking parchment, and then stab them all over with a fork (not too violently!).

When you have all your cut out shortbread, get dolloping with the lemon curd. I made my own lemon curd (I’ll post the recipe for that too) but you can use a good quality bought one if you don’t fancy making it. The cheap stuff out of the squeezy bottles is no good because it runs, rather than sets, in the oven. You should have something like this….

Spread the lemon curd over the shortbread. This is what makes the meringue stick, so if you just leave it dolloped in the middle, the meringue ‘hats’ will come off. Be as generous as you like. I think I was a little mean with this batch – I’d up the lemon curd content next time.

Meringue hats: whites from two eggs and 100g of caster sugar.

  • Put the egg whites in a clean bowl that’s big enough to get a hand mixer or a whisk into. Whisk them until they form stiff peaks.
  • Now SLOWLY add the sugar as you continue whisking, and keep going until the mixture goes all glossy and the peaks stiffen again (oo-er).
  • Top Tip: don’t try and add the sugar before you’ve got the egg whites to stiff peak stage and don’t try and add the sugar all at once. Both of these things will leave you with a gooey mess that won’t stand up.

What you do next all depends on how much of a faff you can be bothered with. I put the mixture into a piping bag with a large star-shaped nozzle and swirled the meringue onto the top of the shortbread. You could just snip the corner off a freezer bag and use that as a home-made piping bag (I’ve done it many times, its very effective) or you can use two teaspoons and put a blob of mixture on each shortbread.

Put your little treats in the oven and leave to bake into wonderful goodness for 30 minutes. You should be left with something that looks a bit like this….

These would make a wonderful gift at any time of year, although they are particularly summery. The lemon could be swapped for all sorts of things, and if you have a favourite shortbread recipe, just use that instead. This recipe makes about 25 of these little beauties. They are quite delicate, so if you’re giving them away maybe put them in a small bowl and then wrap that in brown paper – looks lovely! I love these so much, I’m thinking about using them at the wedding….

Bake well my friends

BB x

Something for all the senses: ginger cake with fudge icing

The proof of the pudding (or cake) is in the eating. That said, sometimes its good to get the other senses involved. Its been a right old miserable weekend and when its wet and cold, its nice to fill the house with the nice warming smell of baking, followed by the all important eating!

So today I made a ginger cake. I’ve made it before, its an excellent cake, which I previously made without icing. But I also have a recipe for ginger cupcakes with fudge icing so I thought I’d try a bit of a recipe combo and see what happened. The verdict? Well, according to my chief taster (Mr. Bandit) it was ‘mmmmmmmm nomnomnommmmm’. I think that’s a thumbs up. Personally, I think its rather nice without any icing too, and its so moist and sticky that it doesn’t need any icing. But then again, when is icing really a necessity? Either way its very yummy!

The best thing about this cake (other than the taste) is the amazing smell as its cooking; a heady mix of ginger, golden syrup and cinnamon. Eat it still warm and a little squidgy and it’s a delight for the fingers and the taste buds. And before I get all Nigella on you, I’ll pass on the recipe…..

The most critical part of this cake is the tin preparation. The cake is sticky and fragile, so make sure you grease and line the tin (base and sides). I ran out of baking paper and only lined the base so my cake sides didn’t come out as smooth as I would have liked. If you’re icing it, its not such a big deal but if you want to serve it plain, its worth making the effort to keep it looking nice.

  • heat the oven to 150c (fan oven). Grease and line your tin/s – I make two 20cm cakes and freeze one but you can make one bigger cake (26cm) and just adjust the cooking time.
  • Then melt a 250g block of margarine, 50g of butter and 400g of golden syrup in a pan on a low heat. You don’t want it to cook, just melt all together. TOP TIP: Brush some oil round the bowl and spoon you use for measuring the golden syrup. The syrup will then run off the spoon/out the bowl easily without the mad sticky mess that usually comes with golden syrup. Also, you can make this entirely with margarine, in fact the original recipe I used didn’t include any butter, but I like it. Don’t try and use all butter though, it’ll be far too rich. Don’t worry, the cake doesn’t come out tasting margarine-y.
  • Use a food mixer and throw into it/a bowl 130g plain flour, 225g self raising flour, 110g of light brown sugar (caster sugar would work fine and dark muscavado sugar would make it a darker and richer cake) a pinch of salt and a big teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger. Give it all a mix!
  • Beat an egg and then throw that into the mix and give it another whizz round in the mixer.
  • With the mixer running, poor in the melted marg/butter/syrup mixture and keep whizzing!
  • Poor 175ml of warm water over 1 and a half teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda and then poor that into the mixer as well.
  • When everything is thoroughly mixed poor it into the tin/tins. Don’t worry about the consistency – its a very runny mix!

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While its cooking it looks a bit like an aero as the light mixture cooks in all those lovely air bubbles. This is after about 20 minutes. The smell is amazing.

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  • If you’re cooking two 20cm cakes cook them at 150c for 50 minutes and then poke them with a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, they’re done! Otherwise give it another 5-10 minutes and then check again. The very centre of the cake will still look a bit undercooked and will be very springy, but it hardens as it cools. If you’re cooking one big cake, give it an hour and then check. The cake goes a very dark brown and the top will be very sticky.
  • When they’re done, leave in the tin/s on a rack for 10 mins. I would suggest that, unless you’re going to freeze the cake, keep it/them on the base of the tin. Its a fragile cake and getting it off the base is tricky. I suggest getting a small upturned bowl on the worktop, place the cake tin on top and then push the sides of the tin down, rather than trying to push the cake up. If you don’t fancy icing the cake, its rather nice still a bit warm, maybe with some ice-cream. Otherwise, leave it to cool ready for icing.

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  • If you are very greedy (and I am very greedy so I can attest to the fact that there is nothing wrong with that!) then here’s a recipe for a fudge icing. This is very sweet, so I haven’t made too much. The following ingredients are for icing one 20cm cake. Just double it for a bigger cake.
  • Melt 25g butter and 50g light brown sugar in a pan. Unlike with the cake, you do want this to boil. When its boiling add 2 generous tablespoons of single cream and turn it down to a simmer. Give it the occasional stir but let it simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and beat in 100g of sifted icing sugar until smooth.
  • Now, the important thing about this icing is speed. As soon as its make you need to get it on the cake. It starts setting the minute it leaves the warm pan. I suggest taking a big spoon and spreading it a dollop at a time round the cake, rather than pouring it all on the cake at once, because you’ll just get an icing mountain in the middle of the cake.
  • Before it goes completely hard you can sprinkle on some chopped nuts (I used walnuts – I’m still trying to get shot of my passover stash of nuts) or chopped up stem ginger to cut the sweetness of the icing and add another gingery hit.

This recipe is based on one I found in Good Food magazine, which apparently is a wartime cake – hence the use of margarine rather than butter.

Finally, eat, smell, enjoy.

Happy sunday baking one and all.

BB x

Happiness is…. Chocolate Banana Bread.

So, this weekend we were supposed to be going to Holland for my brother’s 10th wedding anniversary but, as we are very silly people, we discovered at 1am this morning that we’d lost our passports! So no trip away for us. Majorly disappointing, not only because we’ll miss the party, but because we had planned 2 days in Amsterdam, and I was looking forward to lots of yummy food – including sampling some nice cake!

The upside is that I had time to do something with the bananas that were slowly going off in the fruitbowl. The result is chocolate banana bread, which smells amazing and has already cheered me up immeasurably. Sort of based on the Primrose Hill Bakery version, but I prefer less sugar and some added extras.

So if anyone wants to give it a go, here’s what I did:

Beat 130g butter (soft) with 220g caster sugar until its all nice and soft. Mix in a slurp of vanilla extract and two eggs (best to do them one at a time). You should have an amazing sugary mixture. I tasted it just to make sure, but I realise this isn’t always the approved tactic. Get 4 small ripe bananas and mash them up, then mix that its the sugary eggy mixture too. Sift 250g plain flour with two teaspoons of baking powder into a separate bowl and then add it to the wet mixture a bit at a time until its all mixed in. I also added a dash of water. Finally, get 200g dark chocolate and 60g of walnuts, pop them in a bag and beat the living daylights out of it with a rolling pin. I left the pieces all different sizes, so that you never know what you’re going to get in a mouthful. Shove it all in a greased loaf tin and put it into an oven at 180 degrees for 40-50 mins (poke it with a skewer to check).

I would also recommend adding some butterscotch pieces instead of the chocolate.

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The results, whatever additions you make, are delicious. Its particularly nice served warm with ice-cream, or toasted under the grill with butter. nomnomnom….

Have a lovely long weekend one and all – I’m not really one for bunting and street parties but I always like an excuse for a nice bit of cake.

Cheerio,

BBx