Thursday, 20 June 2013

Tempting You With Cookies

I've started a new blog. It will be pretty similar to this blog, but all about food, rather than mostly about food. I've started cringing a little inside when I read my old posts - it was only two years ago but I guess I've changed a lot and a new blog feels like a good idea. Please head over and have a look - there will be cookies!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Lemon Meringue Pie

A homemade pie is something quite special, I think, especially something with as many components as a lemon meringue pie. It needs careful, time-consuming preparation, each stage requiring fairly meticulous construction. For me, it's the kind of thing I love to make because it combines so many of the different methods used in baking: whipping, cooling, rolling, sieving etc. 

I made this for a BBQ at the weekend, finishing making the lemon filing and meringue whilst chatting in the kitchen with Mum and my aunty. I'm always nervous about making meringue, but it turned out to be fine. Even though I'm not usually fond of lemon-flavoured desserts, I actually rather enjoyed this; the crumbly crispness of the pastry given way to the unctuous sweetness of the lemon filling, the meringue light and fluffy on top. And, crucially, there were no soggy bottoms. Mary Berry would be proud. I used the recipe found here.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Strawberry Crumble Cake

This cake was born more out of necessity than desire - I had a punnet of strawberries in the fridge (an impulse buy from Borough Market, they were going cheap) that needed using up, and I had this pie on the brain, and this cake was born. A pie is not something I feel I have the mental energy to whip up on a Monday morning, (I'm writing this post Monday evening) but cake feels more achievable. Less stress and more enjoyment, which is of course what baking should be all about. 
For me, my choice of what to bake is determined largely by the seasons. In the depths of frozen winter when sunshine and clear skies are so few and far between, I crave indulgent, warm, comforting puddings, served with a copious mass of custard. In summer, I want to make things that are lighter and fruity and more summer-like. This cake, I think, bridges the gap between the seasons. The strawberries are a vibrant red, bursting with concentrated flavour that to me just tastes like summer, but the crumble topping gives it a more pudding-y feel. I think it's probably nicest warm, but no less acceptable when cold. And you could also add a little rhubarb to the fruit topping, if you have some.

Strawberry Crumble Cake

75g unsalted butter, melted
125g caster sugar
40g natural Greek yogurt
3 eggs
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
pinch of salt

200g strawberries
2 tbsp cornflour

For the topping
50g unsalted butter
40g soft light brown sugar
75g plain flour
35g oats

Start off by making the crumble topping. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar with your fingertips until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Stir in the oats and set aside.

Next prepare the strawberries. Wash them, and then chop off the leaves. Chop thenm into quarters, or in half if they are small, then leave then to dry off.

Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Separate the eggs, placing the whites into a smaller bowl and the yolks into a larger bowl with the butter, sugar, flour, yogurt and vanilla extract. Beat together these ingredients until they are all combined and smooth, then beat in the milk. Add the pinch of salt to the egg whites and then, using a stand or handheld mixer, whisk the eggs whites until they form stiff peaks. Gradually fold the egg whites into the cake batter with a metal spoon. Spoon the mixture into a greased and lined 23cm lose-bottomed cake tin.
Toss the strawberries in the cornflour until they are all slightly coated in it, then scatter them on top of the cake. Tip over the crumble topping.

Bake the cake for about 50 minutes, although it may well need longer depending on your oven etc. When it's done it will no longer wobble in the centre and an inserted skewer should come out mainly clean, albeit with a few cake crumbs and some strawberry juice attached to it.
Once the cake is cooked, leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove the side of the tin and either serve straight away for leave to cool.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Today is World Baking Day. I don't really understand why, or more importantly who decides, but to me it just sounds like another perfect excuse to get in the kitchen and make something delicious. Like this chocolate cake. When I think of a cake I generally think of something light and crumbly, perhaps sandwiched with buttercream and served with tea. This cake isn't like this at all, so perhaps the name is slightly misleading as it's more of a dessert, but anyway that's sort of irrelevant because whatever you want to call it, it tastes fantastic: rich and dark, with a slightly firmer outer edge giving way to luscious squidgyness at the centre. It's everything you want a chocolate pudding of this kind to be, and although it would be lovely served unadorned, adding a few strawberries and a little softly whipped cream, flecked with black vanilla seeds, can only improve it.  
 This recipe contains no flour or butter, and whilst no-one in my family has an intolerance to these ingredients I'm sure everyone knows someone who does, so it's also a brilliant recipe to have in your repertoire. The only changes I made to the recipe was to leave out the vanilla extract, and use extra virgin olive oil instead of normal olive oil - I was worried that this would make the cake taste 
 strongly of olives, but as it was all we had in the cupboard I used it anyway and it seemed to be fine. The ground almonds gave a sort of graininess to the texture, which I liked, but the recipe also explained how you can substitute the almonds for regular flour if you wanted to. The recipe can be found here

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Rhubarb Curd

The only curd I've ever made before was the classic lemon flavoured curd: buttery and golden, sweet but sharp, and frankly, even for a someone who doesn't usually like lemony things, irresistible. A curd flavoured with something that I absolutely love should then in theory be twice as delicious. And the method used for making the curd looked interesting too: unlike other recipes I've seen online this one uses raw rhubarb, instead of cooked, which is blended to a pulp and pressed into a sieve to extract the juice, which is bursting with tangy rhubarb flavour. 
The finished product did not disappoint: it was sweet and unctuous but unmistakably rhubarb-flavoured. A little too much cornflour, perhaps, but next time I'll add less and it should be just perfect. 
I was a little disappointed with the dull beige hue of the finished curd, so I tinted it with a little pink gel food colouring - it felt almost sacrilegious but resulted in a pleasing shade of pale rose which didn't quite come out right in the photos. I also discovered that of the many things you could do with this curd - swirl through natural yogurt, layer between sponge cakes in lieu of jam, dollop into sweet pastry cases or eat from jar with spoon- possibly the best way to eat it is smeared thickly across a toasted english muffin with cream cheese. 

Rhubarb Curd

250g rhubarb, washed and sliced
2 eggs
100g butter, diced
85g caster sugar
1.5 tsp cornflour - the recipe says 2 tsp I found it tasted to prominent, so I reduced the quantity slightly

Using a blender or food processor, blitz the rhubarb until it is fine and pulpy. Tip it into a sieve over bowl or jug and use a spoon, or even your (clean!) hands to push as much juice as possible into the bowl or jug beneath. Discard whatever remains in the sieve. 
Put 125ml of the rhubarb juice, along with all the other ingredients into a saucepan over a low heat, whisking constantly whilst the butter melts and the ingredients start to slowly amalgamate. Keep stirring - either with the whisk or a wooden spoon or spatula - until the curd starts to thicken. This will we take about 10 minutes, so be patient and don't be temped to turn up the heat, or the curd will split. 
A good test for the curd is that it is ready when it holds to trails left in it by a fork or whisk - it should be thicker than a custard but not pasty, as it will set a little more as it cools. 
Once it has reached this stage remove the curd from the heat and pass through a sieve again to remove any eggy bits. Stir in 50ml more of the rhubarb juice, or more if you prefer a tangier flavour.
Once cooled, spoon into a jar and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Buttermilk Cookies

Sometimes a food-related idea pops into my head and I just have to make it. That was the case with these cookies - I've never made or even eaten a buttermilk cookie before but once the concept of a buttermilk cookie with a fudge/caramel frosting was in my head, I really wanted to try it. I think it's safe to say that they were a success! The cookies themselves were fluffy and well-risen and the icing was really delicious - it had that faintly grainy, caramel taste of proper homemade fudge. 

The cookies weren't that sweet so a very sweet icing wasn't overpowering - I think they would be a just as tasty topped with other flavours like chocolate or lemon.
This recipe was the one I used for the cookies themselves, and I sort of made up the icing as I went along. (although what I did looked pretty similar to the icing method given the in cookie recipe) I found that this recipe made more cookies than it said, I got about 45 out of the mixture. 

Monday, 8 April 2013

Baked Apples

Apples are the basis for many great desserts, from the classic French tart tatin to the humble crumble. I wanted to make something with apples this weekend, but I also wanted to try something a bit different.  The answer came whilst I was flipping through my recent copy of the Good Food magazine and came across this recipe, which I used as the basis for this dessert.
Baking apples really seems to transform their texture, making them softer but somehow retaining their slight graininess. The custard added creaminess (although we still found we had to serve the apples with cream as the custard-to-topping ratio wasn't perfect) and the crunchy oats on top where for me the best thing about the whole pudding. It's like an apple crumble, but cooked differently.
The oat topping is basically a granola - you don't have to make it, but you might as well. The quantities I've listed make more than you'll use for this dessert, but that's probably a good thing - it's addictive. The custard, again, you could make yourself, although I didn't. 

Baked Apples with Custard and Crunchy Oat Topping
Serves 6

For the oat topping
250g oats
55g olive oil
60g honey
30g brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

6 apples (use a fairly sweet eating variety, and make sure they aren't too large. In fact, I would say the smaller the better)
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp brown sugar
20g butter
500g custard
100g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Measure all the topping ingredients into a large bowl. (I prefer to weigh ingredients when possible, rather then measure them out in jugs etc - it creates less washing up!)
Mix them together until well combined - often using your hands is the easiest way to go with this.
Spread the mixture out onto two baking trays and pop in the oven for about 15 minutes. You'll need to turn the mixture with a fish slice or something similar a couple of times just so that it doesn't burn.

The granola topping can be made several days in advance and kept in an air tight container.

For the apples, preheat the the oven to 180°C.

Half the apples through the middle and remove the core using an apple core remover or a sharp knife. Place them cut side up in a baking dish and scatter over the orange zest and juice and the sugar. Dot with the butter and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

Take the baking dish out of the oven and remove the apples. Pour the custard into the dish, put the apples back on top and them sprinkle over half the granola topping and the flaked almonds. Cover the dish with foil and return to oven for a further 10 minutes, until the apples are soft and the custard is heated.

Serve with double cream.