Tag Archives: baking

Mince pies using sweet shortcrust pastry (Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

I was chatting to my housemate about making pastry the other day and she was telling me of a Hawksmoor pie recipe that used both eggs and suet in the recipe and it dawned on me that this would be a great way to make sweet shortcrust.  By making the pastry with suet it made the pastry beautifully light and more flaky than crumbly.

The concept of using two types of fat to make the pastry is not a new one, growing up the Delia Smith recipe that I used to follow for mince pies used equal amounts of butter and to make the recipe.  However I have found the in using suet you get a far better distribution of fat throughout the pastry which gives it a marbled look when rolled out and it helps to turn the pies a beautiful golden brown colour during cooking.

Now to the mincemeat aspect of this pie – there is absolutely nothing wrong with using shop bought mincemeat!  This is exactly what I do however I like to ‘pimp’ it up a bit by adding chopped walnuts, cranberries, glace cherries, plump sultanas and brandy.  So if you have some dried fruit or nuts in you cupboard that you would work chuck it in, not only will it add to the flavour it will add to the texture of your pies.  Enjoy!

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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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Ginger slab cake

Last Friday I went for drinks at a friend’s house with my parents, it was a normal affair up until the point that our host brought out some 6 ½ week old puppies.  I am what people might describe as a “soft touch” and have a complete weakness for all animals.  So when I was asked whether I would like to have one of the puppies I melted and it was a no-brainer!  The Old Man is of the opinion that the drinks were arranged as a great trap and believes that we were effectively sandbagged into taking the puppy (please note as I write this the puppy is sound asleep curled up in the Old Man’s arms as he takes his daily afternoon nap).  I have decided to name her Hetti, which apparently means – home leader/lord of the manor.  This is probably quite a fitting name as it is very likely that she will dominate Shadow (Belgian Shepherd) and Biggles (Springer Spaniel) despite the fact that she a Teckel (aka Dachshund) and positively diminutive compared to the boys! 

The recipe for the ginger slab cake is very straightforward to make as it uses the ‘all in one’ principle.  Consequently this cake can be made in no time at all and is very light and moist.  The stem ginger enhances the ginger flavour so if you prefer a milder flavour then don’t add it to the cake batter.  This cake keeps nicely in an air-tight tin or wrapped up in foil.

 

Ginger Slab Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 6oz butter
  • 6oz sugar
  • 7oz plain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • 1tsp ground ginger (or 2tsp if you prefer a slightly spicier cake)
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • ½tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp stem ginger, finely chopped (optional)

For the icing:

  • 100-150g icing sugar
  • 3-5tbsp water (or syrup that the stem ginger is stored in)
  • 1tbsp crystallised ginger pieces (for decoration)

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 170C fan.  Grease and line the bottom of a cake tin (15cm x 25cm).

2. Place all the ingredients for the cake in a bowl and beat to together for 2-3 minutes.

3.  Spoon the batter into the cake tin and carefully level out.  Place in the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean.

4.  Place the cake onto a rack and leave to cool.

5.  Whilst the cake is cooling prepare the icing by placing the water/syrup in a bowl and gradually in the icing sugar stirring all the time so that you get a smooth slightly runny icing (add more water/syrup if needed).

6.  Once the cake is cool pour over the icing and scatter over some crystallised ginger pieces.  Serve with a cup of tea/coffee.

 

Chestnut Cupcakes

A couple of days ago I tried out another idea I had for using fresh chestnuts since we had some sitting in a fruit bowl waiting to be used.  I had been wondering for the last couple of days how they would work in a cake.  So, after preparing my chestnuts, I gave it a go.  The resultant cake was delightfully crumbly and light.  It was much sweeter than I thought it would turn out but was just what I needed after an afternoon spent painting.

The one thing I would say if you do make these cupcakes is make sure there is no husk left on any of the chestnuts before you grind them up as it can make the cupcakes have a slightly gritty texture.  If you can’t find fresh chestnuts then using tinned or vacuum packed chestnuts would be fine.

 

Chestnut Cupcakes

Ingredients: (makes 12)

For the cake:

  • 4oz chestnuts (ground finely – see chestnut preparation)
  • 5oz caster sugar
  • 5oz butter
  • 6oz self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence

For the frosting:

  • 2oz chestnuts (finely ground)
  • 2oz butter
  • ½tsp salt
  • 6-7oz icing sugar

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 170C fan.

2.  Grease and flour a muffin tin or cupcake tin.

3.  Place all of the ingredients for the cake together in a bowl, beat together using an electric whisk for 2-3 minutes.

4.  Spoon the cake batter into the muffin tin.  Place in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes (or until a skewer comes out of the cupcakes cleanly).


    

5.  Run a knife carefully around the sides of the cupcakes then tip them out onto a cooling rack.

6.  Whilst the cupcakes are cooling prepare the frosting.  Combine the butter, chestnuts and salt in a bowl.  Gradually add in the icing sugar stirring continuously until you have a fairly stiff frosting.

7.  Spoon a little of the frosting onto each of the cupcakes and smooth it over using the back of the spoon.  Serve with a cup of tea or coffee.  Enjoy!


White bread baps – perfect for a lunch, brunch or BBQ

We don’t often eat brunch at home but when we do it normally involves an English breakfast.  However, today as we lacked some of the vital ingredients for this so we had to settle for bacon baps (buns).  Consequently, I decided to make the baps this morning as there is something quite special about having freshly cooked bread for any meal.

At the moment I am making bread in some form or other at least twice a week – every time I make it the process gets easier and easier and I find it incredibly relaxing. These baps are very soft both inside and out and would make great sandwiches to use in packed lunches or for picnics or for burgers at barbecues.

Fresh yeast and dried yeast

It has dawned on me recently that I am in an incredibly fortunate position to be able to get fresh yeast from my local bakery here in France.  However, I do appreciate that not everybody has this luxury so, if you only have dried yeast available, then work on the following principal:

  • Where a recipe uses 25g fresh yeast, use 7g dried yeast in its place.  (The reason that you need less of the dried yeast is due to the moisture content in fresh yeast.)

 

 

White Bread Baps

Ingredients:

  • 400g white flour (type 55 or equivalent)
  • 25g fresh yeast
  • 25g melted butter
  • 200ml milk (tepid)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Steps:

1.  Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix together.

2.  Place the yeast and sugar in a measuring jug and stir together until the fresh yeast is crumb like.

3.  Add the milk and butter to the measuring jug and stir.

4.  Pour the wet mix into the dry mix and combine using your fingers.

5.  Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for a good 10 minutes (you will notice that the texture of the dough will change during this time, once you have finished kneading the dough should spring back after being pressed lightly).

6.  Place the dough into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 1 ½ – 2 hours (until it has doubled in size).

7.  Knock the air out of the dough.  Place the dough onto a floured surface and roll into a long sausage shape then cut into 12 equal sized pieces.  Shape the pieces into small balls and placing it in an oiled and floured tin leaving it to rise for the second time for another 1 ½ – 2 hours.

   

8.  Place the dough in an oven that you have preheated to 190C fan and cook for 18-20 minutes.  Turn the oven down slightly if you feel it is cooking too quickly and browning too much on the top.

9.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before eating, the baps are best stored in an airtight tin.

   

A Fruit Tea Cake

I know what you are thinking, another fruit cake!?  Well I promise that this one is very different from the last fruit cake.  This cake is incredibly light, moist and isn’t overly sweet.  I personally enjoy a good fruit cake though I know they are not particularly popular but, for me, fruit cake is the perfect tea time treat on a cold autumnal afternoon.  I have found over the years that fruit cakes tend to taste better on the second and third day of eating – I am not sure exactly why this is but I guess it has something to do with the flavours maturing as the days pass.

Mumsy has been talking about wanting a fruit cake for some time.  I was fully aware that she was after Delia Smith’s recipe for tea cake. However, I was in the mood for experimenting so I decided to do my twist on a tea cake.  I started preparing the cake in the morning by soaking the dried fruit in a bowl of tea so that the fruit would be completely rehydrated and ready for adding to the cake batter.  The resultant cake was not what Delia would consider to be a traditional tea cake, but, Mumsy enjoyed it and that was the most important thing.

 

Fruit Tea Cake

Ingredients:

  • 150g mixed dried fruit
  • 50g currants
  • 50g cherries (cut in half)
  • 1 cup of strong tea (boiling hot)
  • 200g soft margarine
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 100g plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1 heaped tsp black treacle

Steps:

1.  Place the mixed fruit and currants in a bowl with the cup of tea, cover with cling film and allow to soak for 2-4 hours.

2. Once the fruit has had time to soak, cream together the sugar and margarine together in a bowl.

3.  Slowly add the eggs to the mix adding a little flour to prevent the mixture from curdling.

4.  Sift in the flour and beat well.

5.  Strain the fruit, then add to the mixture along with the remaining ingredients.

6.  Pour the batter into a lined square tin 25cm x 25cm.  Bake in a preheated oven at 170C fan for 35-45 minutes (or until a skewer comes cleanly out of the cake).  If you are concerned the cake is browning too quickly turn the oven down slightly or cover the cake with a piece of baking paper.

 

Fruit and Cider Buns

As a result of making ‘rabbit in an apple, mustard and cider sauce’ the other day, I found myself with ½ a bottle of cider left over.  Normally I would just drink it, but as I had some fresh yeast in the fridge that I also needed to use up, I decided to try and make some buns with them.  I had heard of beer bread before, so I guessed that there should be no reason why cider wouldn’t work.

As I wanted the buns to be sweet, I added both fresh and dried fruit to the dough after the first rising.  I’ve never put fresh fruit into bread dough before, but on the basis that you can add weird and wonderful things to focaccia I thought I would give it a go.

I took two of the buns up to ‘the mountain’ (a local village with a wood fired bread oven) for them to try this morning.  I have had many discussions with the bread makers up there about the difference between English and French breads and this morning I was able to give them an example of a bun that was very similar in consistency to that of a Hot Cross Bun.  The buns were divided up and given out.  There were some wary looks at this foreign bread, followed by much sniffing before the eventual consumption.  To my relief they all seemed to enjoy it remarking that it was similar in texture to that of a brioche and demanding to know what spices were in it.

Enthused by their reaction, I decided to ask if I could cook in their oven next weekend after they have made their own bread.  The answer was positive, however there was one condition – I have to help them prepare their loaves next Sunday, which means a 5.00 am start.  Whilst I am not looking forward to getting up before the cock crows, I am looking forward to trying a traditional French bread oven and seeing how they make their pain de campagne which we tend to buy every Sunday.

 

Fruit and Cider Buns

Ingredients:

  • 400g white flour (type 55 or equivalent)
  • 25g fresh yeast
  • 25g melted butter
  • 225 – 275 ml medium dry cider
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 50g sultanas (that have been rehydrated in a little boiling water – then dried)
  • 2 medium apples (peeled, cored and cut into small chunks)
  • sugar glaze (3tbsp sugar dissolved in 2tbsp water)

Steps:

1.  Place the flour, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix together.

2.  Place the yeast and sugar in a measuring jug and stir together until the fresh yeast is crumb like.

3.  Add the cider to the measuring jug and stir.

4.  Pour the melted butter and the wet mix into the dry mix and combine using your fingers adding a little more cider at this point if it is needed.

5.  Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for a good 10 minutes (you will notice that the texture of the dough will change during this time, once you have finished kneading the dough should spring back after being pressed lightly).

6.  Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise for about 1 ½ – 2 hours (until it has doubled in size).

 

 

 

 

 

 

7.  Knock the air out of the dough and add the sultanas and apple pieces.

8.  Knead the dough until the fruit is evenly distributed. Then cut the dough into 12 equal sized pieces.  Shape the pieces into small balls and placing it in an oiled and floured tin leaving it to rise for the second time for another 1 ½ – 2 hours.

9.  Place the dough in an oven that you have preheated to 190C fan and cook for 18-20 minutes. Turn the oven down slightly if you feel it is cooking too quickly and browning too much on the top.

10.  Whilst the dough is cooking make a sugar glaze by placing 3tbsp of sugar in a saucepan with 2tbsp of water and heat until the sugar has dissolved and has a syrup-like consistency.

11.  Once the buns are cooked remove from the oven, tip out onto a cooling rack.  Using a pastry brush glaze the buns with the sugar glaze and leave to cool.  (Best stored in an airtight tin).