Category Archives: cake

Banana and chocolate loaf

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I am not a huge fan of very ripe bananas so when I found myself with several fairly black looking bananas I had to think of something to do with them.  Fortunately one of my colleagues happened to mention fairly recently that their favourite cake is banana loaf so my decision was easy.

First up I should say that banana and chocolate loaf is definitely a cake and not a bread – it is a fairly dense cake and goes extremely well with a cup of tea.  This is the type of cake that doesn’t like to be rushed in the oven, don’t be over anxious and open the door regularly as you will cause the cake to sink and it won’t change the cooking time.  So my advice is be patient, put your feet up read a book and wait for your cake to be ready!

Banana and chocolate loaf

Ingredients :

  • 6oz bananas (peeled and mashed)
  • 4oz soft margarine
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1tbsp rum
  • 1 heaped tbsp crème fraiche
  • 4oz plain chocolate (broken into small pieces)

Steps:

  1.  Preheat oven to 150C (fan).  Grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Cream the soft margarine and sugar together in a bowl using an electric whisk.
  3. Slowly beat in the eggs (add a little flour if the mixture looks as if it might curdle).
  4. Whisk in the flour, salt and baking powder.
  5. Then add the mashed banana, crème fraiche, chocolate and rum and mix well.
  6. Pour the cake batter into the loaf tin.  Place in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean.
  7. Leave the cake to cool before serving.

Drop scones

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We grew up in an old farmhouse called Bluegates that was notorious for its draughts, and on the whole being freezing.  Friends used to come to our house armed with the clothes that they were allowed to get dirty in.  However, if they did not have sufficient layers to stay warm they were directed to the ‘jumper cupboard’ and often returned looking like the Michelin man. 

I have many fond memories of Bluegates but, I think one of my favourite memories was when my parents decided to get their first AGA.  Learning to cook on an AGA was a skill in itself, particularly if it is coal-fired and there was no way of governing the temperature.  Many cakes often came out slightly crispy and black around the edges.  However, there was one thing that I think we all quickly mastered – drop scones, cooked on a hob that has been lightly oiled.

Sadly, where I am staying in London there isn’t an AGA but, what it does have is a heavy bottomed non-stick frying pan that is perfect for cooking this tea time treat.  They are so quick and easy to make that you can have them on the table within a matter of minutes.  They are an ideal snack on a cold, slightly overcast day – definitely worth a go!

Drop Scones (makes 9)

Ingredients:DSC_0372 (2)

  • 1 egg
  • 3 heaped tbsp plain flour (roughly 100g)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 50-75ml milk

Steps:

1.  Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

2.  Whisk in the egg, then slowly beat in the milk until you have a consistency of thick pouring cream.

3.  Heat a little oil in a frying pan, then spoon in a little of the batter at a time, cook on each side for 30 seconds to a minute or until they are golden brown.

4.  Serve whilst they are hot with a little butter, jam and/or honey.

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Macaroons

Today is a sad day as I am leaving France and heading back to the UK to seek gainful employment once again.  I have had a cracking 15 months or so and here are a few of the things I have learnt along the way…

How to…

1.  … put turkeys to bed – swear at them profusely whilst waving your arms frantically.

2.  … catch a bee swarm – apply the following expression ‘if at first you don’t succeed try, try, again’.

3.  … birth a goat – keep calm and be prepared to get messy.

4.  … cover yourself in paint – paint the ceiling with a roller.

5.  … hang a picture– choose a picture that is big enough to hide all the errors behind particularly on plasterboard.

6.  … pronounce the final ‘t’ in chiot when asking how the puppy is – don’t (as I have learnt the somewhat embarrassing way it is silent).

7.  … construct and de-construct multiple items from Ikea – build the item instinctively and find you have bits left over when you’ve finished, then read the instruction booklet and then repeat the process correctly.

8.  … cut your finger – look away when you are peeling a quince.

9.  … make a chocolate cake that even the dog rejects – try a new recipe without flour and add several courgettes.

10.  … say ‘goodbye’ to a puppy – with difficulty.

As a way of saying thank you to a few people that I have met whilst I have been here I made some macaroons as a little ‘cadeau’.  As I have learnt over the last couple of months macaroons are not something that should be made if you are in a rush – if you don’t whisk the egg whites enough and mix rather than fold the almonds and sugar in, you run the risk of a runny mixture that does not work.

However, done right, macaroons are a real delight, they should have a crisp shell with a gooey middle.  The recipe below is just for plain macaroons, you can fill them as you wish with ganache or butter cream and jam to make them individual.

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Macaroons (makes 50-60)

Ingredients:P1020258

  • 3 egg whites
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 6oz icing sugar
  • 2½oz caster sugar
  • a few drops of food colouring (optional)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan.
  2. Whisk the egg whites to the ‘soft peak stage’.
  3. Continue to whisk the egg whites adding the caster sugar slowly (if you going to use food colouring add it at this point).  Continue whisking until you have a smooth ‘glossy’ mixture.
  4. Place the almonds and icing sugar into a food processor and blitz until you have a finer crumb.
  5. Sieve the almond and sugar mixture into the whisked egg whites (don’t worry if some of the almonds don’t pass through the sieve, put it in a small bowl to be used in a crumble, cake etc.).
  6. Gently fold the almonds into the egg whites.
  7. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, put it in a piping bag with a large circular nozzle.
  8. Pipe the mixture in 1” circles onto baking sheets that have been lined with baking paper.
  9. Once all of the mixture has been used, tap the trays firmly once to release any air bubbles then leave to form a skin for 20-30 minutes.
  10. Bake for 12-14 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on wire racks. 

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Making biscuits

biscuits

Sometimes you can’t beat a good biscuit, particularly a biscuit that can withstand being ‘dunked’ in a cup of tea.  I don’t often make biscuits, however this week I have made two batches.  Firstly a slightly more ‘grown up’ biscuit involving ground almonds that are great if you are having a coffee morning.  The second batch was my take on a childhood favourite, the bourbon.

Both of the biscuits are very straightforward to make.   It is a bit faster and less messy if you can use a food processor to mix the ingredients due to the golden syrup in the recipes.  However, if you are prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in then it is just as easy to make the biscuits by hand.  For me the test of a good biscuit is if it stays crunchy on the second day, this largely depends on how long you leave them cooking in the oven.  This can be a little tricky as the golden syrup means that the biscuits can catch and burn quite easily due to the high sugar content.  My advice to prevent this is – watch your biscuits like a hawk whilst they are in the oven and turn the oven down if you think they are cooking too quickly.  When the biscuits come out of the oven they will feel a little soft, but they should harden up nicely if they are left to cool completely on a cooling rack before eating.


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Almond Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 6oz plain flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 1oz sugar
  • 1oz golden syrup (roughly 2 heaped tsp)
  • 1oz ground almonds
  • a pinch of salt

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 190C fan.

2.  Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and crumb together using your fingers, after a few minutes the ingredients should come together.  Alternatively, place the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for a minute, tip crumbs onto the surface and shape into a ball.

3.  Dust a piece of baking paper with sugar and roll out the dough till it is about 2-3mm thick.  Then cut out the biscuits using a cutter or a glass.

4. Continue to roll out scraps of dough until you have used it all.

5.  Place the biscuits on baking trays that have been lined with baking paper.

6.  Bake for 7-10 minutes, make you keep an eye on them as they can burn easily if necessary turn your oven down slightly.

9.  Once cooked, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool completely.  Serve with a cup of tea/coffee.

 

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My Chocolate Bourbons

Ingredients:

For the biscuits:

  • 6oz plain flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 1oz sugar
  • 1oz golden syrup (roughly 2 heaped tsp)
  • 1oz cocoa powder

For the buttercream:

  • 2oz butter (at room temperature)
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • 4-6oz icing sugar
  • 1tbsp milk

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 190C fan.

2.  Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and crumb together using your fingers, after a few minutes the ingredients should come together.  Alternatively, place the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for a minute, tip crumbs onto the surface and shape into a ball.

3.  Dust a piece of baking paper with cocoa powder and roll out the dough till it is about 2-3mm thick.  Then cut out the biscuits using a cutter or a glass.

4. Continue to roll out scraps of dough until you have used it all.

5.  Place the biscuits on baking trays that have been lined with baking paper.

6.  Bake for 7-10 minutes, make you keep an eye on them as they can burn easily if necessary turn your oven down slightly.

9.  Once cooked, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, whilst you prepare the buttercream.

10.  To make the buttercream, beat the butter until soft, then gradually add the cocoa powder and icing sugar until you have a smooth consistency adding the milk if needed to loosen the mix slightly.

11.  Spoon a little of the buttercream onto half of the biscuits and then sandwich them together by placing a biscuit on top of each of them.  Enjoy!

Fondant icing

First off I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas – I hope you all stuff yourselves silly with good food and drink over the course of the next couple of days.  I shall be eating roast goose and gammon (because one meat on the big day just isn’t enough) along with all the trimmings…

Secondly, I need to apologise for not blogging about how to ice your Christmas cake (see recipe) sooner.  Sadly, over the course of the last two days we have been moving into our barn conversion – consequently I have been between two kitchens and I only finished icing my cake about an hour ago…  Just in time to let it dry slightly before eating it with a cup of tea tomorrow.

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Icing your Christmas cake

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 tbsp apricot jam
  • 350-450g marzipan

For the fondant icing:

  • 650-750g icing sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp glycerine
  • food dye (optional)

Steps:

1.  Use the bottom of the cake as the top – make sure the bottom is even by slicing off any excess cake.

2.  Cover the cake in apricot jam (sieve it if the jam contains pieces of fruit).

3.  Roll out your marzipan until it is 2-3mm thick and large enough to cover your entire cake.  Lay the marzipan over the cake and gently smooth over trimming off any excess marzipan.  (Ideally leave the cake now for 2-3 days to dry out but if you haven’t got the time then don’t worry).

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4.  After the marzipan has dried out, make your fondant icing.

5.  Place 650g of the icing sugar in a food processor, along with the lemon juice, glycerine and egg whites.   Blitz until it comes together in a ball adding a little more icing sugar as required (you don’t want it to be too sticky, but you do want it to be malleable).  Wrap in cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes.

6.  Take a piece of baking paper, dust it with sugar then roll out your icing till it is 3-4mm thick and large enough to cover your cake (this will make it far easier to get onto your cake and stop it sticking to your work surface).

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7.  Carefully place the icing in the centre of your cake then peel off the baking paper.  Smooth the icing gently over the cake, easing it down the sides.  Trim off any excess and keep it to decorate your cake.  (Tip:  I tend to use a palette knife and the back of a metal spoon that I have heated in a little hot water, and then dried to help me smooth it down.)

8.  Once your cake has been iced, decorate it with the excess icing (which you can colour with food colouring) or with old Christmas tree decorations!  Enjoy!

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Mince pies

Well it is that time of year and Christmas would not be Christmas without a mince pie.  Mince pies do not last long in our house especially when all the boys are at home.  I tend to vary how I make my mince pies over the course of Christmas sometimes using plain pastry (a combination of 2 parts flour to 1 part butter and a pinch of salt brought together with a little water) sometimes I make sweet pastry (by adding an egg and some sugar to the pastry mix).  However, today I decided to make almond pastry which is lovely and crumbly and goes very nicely with the mincemeat.

Nothing can really beat a homemade mince pie, particularly when it is served with a little cream or brandy butter (a combination of softened butter, icing sugar and a splash of brandy).  If you have the time, do make the pastry by hand as it will make it far more crumbly and it won’t run the risk of being ‘overworked’!

If you think you are going to be short of time over Christmas, you could always prepare a batch of mince pies in advance and freeze them – if you do this, don’t glaze them with egg and sugar before placing them in the freezer, do it just before you put them in the oven (make sure you take them out of the freezer at least an hour before cooking so that they can come up to room temperature beforehand.

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Chelsea buns with a marmalade glaze

My Chelsea bun recipe requires you to make an enriched dough (meaning that it has milk, sugar, butter and/or oil in the recipe).  The process is identical to making a standard dough, however the dough is wetter.  I have a plastic dough scraper/cutter that I use to help me stop the dough from sticking to the work-surface – it is a handy little tool but not absolutely necessary.

Do not be put off by the number of steps there are in this recipe, making Chelsea buns is very straightforward and is very worthwhile.  The buns are light and fluffy and have a lovely sharp zing from the marmalade.  By soaking the sultanas in boiling water they become much juicier and they stay plump even after cooking.


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Chelsea buns with a marmalade glaze

Ingredients:

For the dough:DSC_0629

  • 250g wholemeal flour (Type 80)
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 50g butter (melted)
  • 200ml milk (warmed)
  • 25g fresh yeast
  • 50g sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 2 eggs

For the filling:DSC_0631

  • 25g butter (melted)
  • 75g sultanas (put in boiling water to plump up, then drain)
  • 25g mixed peel
  • 2-3tbsp brown sugar

For the glaze:

  • 1 heaped tbsp marmalade
  • 1 heaped tbsp caster sugarDSC_0632
  • 1tbsp water

For the icing:

  • 2-3 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 1-2 tsp water

Steps:

  1. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix together.
  2. Place the yeast in a bowl, add the milk, butter and eggs and mix together well.
  3. Add the wet mix into the dry mix and combine using your fingers.  The dough will be fairly wet.
  4. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes.
  5. Place the dough into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 2 – 2½ hours (until it has doubled in size).
  6. Knock the air out of the dough, place on a floured surface and flatten into a square shape.
  7. Brush the dough with the melted butter, scatter over the sugar, mixed peel and sultanas.
  8. Roll the dough up into a long cylinder shape then, cut into 12 equal-sized pieces.
  9. Place the pieces in a greased and floured tin, then leave to rise until they have doubled in size.
  10. Once they have risen, bake in an oven at 180C fan for 15-16 minutes, turning the oven down to 160C fan after 8-9 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and place the buns on a cooling rack.
  12. Make the marmalade glaze by heating the marmalade, sugar and water together in a saucepan
    and heat until the sugar has dissolved and you have a syrupy liquid.
  13. Brush the glaze over the buns, making sure the tops are well covered.
  14. Finally make the icing by mixing the icing sugar together with a little water until you have a smooth but slightly runny icing.
  15. Drizzle/brush the icing over the tops of the buns.

 
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