Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Spicy Apple Rye Cake

Things are a little bit hectic in our house just now and there's not a lot of time for baking.  Let's not stop at baking, there's not a lot of time for putting on make-up, waxing legs, adult conversations - I could go on but no-one likes a moaner.  They say things get easier when the kids get a bit older - I'm not sure if  my personal hygiene (or my tolerance of Peppa Pig) can wait that long!

I decided to lock myself into the kitchen on Sunday morning while everyone ran feral around the house.  They'd have to find the breakfast cereal by their sense of smell.   I've had a packet of rye flour in the cupboard for far too long with a best before date fast approaching. I knew I wouldn't have the time, patience or inclination to make a loaf of bread with it so when I saw this recipe I figured it would do nicely - it's the "one pot wonder" of the baking world which was perfect before the wolves started banging down the door demanding food and clothes.
A little bit of tweaking here and substitution there and you've got yourself a Spicy Apple Rye Cake. The syrup is brushed onto the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven and it gives it a lovely moistness and a nice shiny glaze.

Spicy Apple Rye Cake adapted from this Waitrose recipe

For the cake
200ml sunflower oil
zest of 1 lemon
100g dark brown sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
3 large eggs
125g rye flour
75g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 apples (I used Pink Lady) peeled and cored. Chop 2 apples into chunks and the remaining apple into half moons

For the syrup
100ml apple juice
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line a 23cm springform tin with parchment paper. Gently whisk the oil, zest and sugars together. Add the eggs, one by one and whisk until fully combined. Fold in the flours and spices until well combined then add the apple chunks until well distributed.
Pour batter into prepared tin and place the half mooned apples into the batter and press down slightly. Bake for 50-60 mins, or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
20 minutes before the cake is cooked, start making the syrup. Place all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil gently for about 15 minutes until the mixture becomes syrupy. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush the apples and the cake with the syrup.
Allow to cool in the tin.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Oaty Coconut Nutella Secrets

I've always been a little smug that very little TV is watched by little people in our house.  Sometimes I'd give my right arm to sit them in front of Peppa Pig or Fireman Sam for an hour while I sit down and have a triple espresso and a can of Red Bull to kick start fading energy levels.  But in a vain attempt to be a martyr, instead I'll get them to help me bake a batch of biscuits.  What could be better for them than helping me mix all the ingredients, roll the dough into little balls, lick the bowl, then eat a biscuit as soon as they're cool from the oven - right?  I deserve a pat on the back or even a medal - hopefully the National Parents Council, or the like, will see this post!! 

It recently got me thinking that maybe I shouldn't be so smug.  Maybe sitting down to watch a little bit of TV might be better for their health (and weight) than tucking into a batch of sugary, buttery biscuits that we've just made. I think I should revisit my TV rule - I'm not giving my medal back though. In the meantime we'll just have to eat our way through these little beauties.

They are oaty, nutty biscuits that are crunchy on the outside and just a little bit chewy in the middle.  They have a dollop of Nutella on top and a spoonful of Nutella in the middle that's hidden away until you bite into them. I ran out of Nutella halfway through the process so had to use G&B's Chocolate Hazlenut Spread - delicious.  I made them first using a shortbread biscuit dough but I think they work better with the texture of the coconut and oats.

Makes about 15 cookies

140g (5oz) plain (AP) flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g (4oz) rolled oats
50g (2oz) dessicated coconut
125g (4.5oz) butter, softened
175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g (2 oz) hazlenut, roughly chopped (plus additional for decoration)
15 tsp hazelnut chocolate spread (plus additional for decoration)

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Measure out the flour, baking powder, oats and coconut and set aside.  Beat the sugar and butter together until creamy, then slowly beat in the egg and vanilla.  Beat in the flour, baking powder, coconut and oats, then fold in the hazelnuts.  Put the bowl in the fridge for about 15 mins to harden slightly.
After 15 mins, take the bowl out of the fridge and roll a tablespoon of dough into a ball and place on the parchment paper.  Use your thumb to mould out a hole in the cookie until you have what looks almost like an empty birds nest (don't make the hole all the way through the cookie).  Fill the hole with a teaspoon of hazlenut chocolate spread, then use a small piece of dough to put a lid on the cookie.  Ensure the filling is covered with the lid and use your fingers to attach the lid to the base of the cookie. 
Bake for 12-15 minutes or until just beginning to turn golden at the edges.
Cool on a wire rack.  When cool, smear 1/2 teaspoon of hazlenut chocolate spread on the top of each cookie and top this with a little chopped hazlenuts.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Raspberry and White Chocolate Rugelach

I'm turning into my mother.  Actually, it's worse than originally feared.  I AM my mother.   It wasn't meant to be like this, I'm too young for this to happen to me.  How has this manifested itself? 

1. I bring a "picnic" when we go out for the day so we don't have to spend money unnecessarily - who needs fancy food when you can have homemade jam sandwiches?

2. I have absolutely no idea what is No. 1 in the pop charts.

3. When I come home from almost anywhere, I immediately take off my "good clothes" and get back into my jeans.

4. I say things like "When I was young" and "Ah, you'll have a cup of tea".

5. My kids think I look like a clown when I wear make up.

6. I don't know how, nor do I feel the urge to learn how, to download music from iTunes.

In an effort to appear less Mummsey (yes, it's a word!) and a bit more with it, I put on my Topshop jumpsuit, wedge heels, hoopla earrings and false nails (no I didn't) and decided to bake something that not only had I never baked before, but that I'd never even heard of before (yes I did). 

Rugelach is a pastry made with cream cheese then filled with a cinnamon sugar and a variety of other things which usually include jam, nuts and dried fruits.  There are a few stages to it but if you divide the stages between two days (Day 1-Make the dough, Day 2-Form the cookies and bake) it really isn't difficult.  And it's delicious - which is always a plus!

Rugelach, adapted from an Ina Garten recipe.


For the dough
100g (4oz) cream cheese
100g (4oz) butter, cold
150g (5oz) plain (AP) flour

For the filling
2 tbsp raspberry jam
2 tbsp demerara sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
50g (2oz) pecans, roughly chopped
50g (2oz) raisins
100g (4oz) white chocolate chips

For the glaze
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp demerara sugar
1/4 ground cinnamon


For the dough
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and pulse until it all begins to come together.  Divide the mixture in two, flatten each into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

For the filling
Gently heat the raspberry jam in a saucepan until it becomes runny.
Combine the sugar and cinnamon together in one bowl.
Combine the nuts, raisins and chocolate together in another bowl.

For the glaze
Combine the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl.
When you are ready to make the cookies, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Take both pieces of dough from the fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll each into a 12 inch disc.  With a pastry brush (or a spoon), divide the jam between each piece of dough and spread a thin gloss over the dough, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the jam and lastly sprinkle the nuts, chocolate and raisin mixture over each disc.
Using a pizza wheel or a very sharp knife, divide each piece of dough evenly into 16 triangles.  Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that it becomes a little crescent.  Place each piece on the baking sheets.  There is no need to leave much space between them as they do not spread very much.
Place in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  With a pastry brush, coat each cookie with milk, then sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 20 mins until golden.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.


Thursday, 16 February 2012

Lemon Thyme and Almond Loaf

I'm always afraid that if I add herbs to sweet baking, I'll end up with a quiche instead of a cake.  Something about "face the fear and do it anyway" made me make this cake and I'm so glad I did.  It's a zesty lemon cake but with an extra zing, almost a lemony fizz, from the lemon thyme.  I wouldn't have known the flavour was from the thyme, I would have possibly said the zest of a lime was used or perhaps a different variety of lemons.  The ground almonds keep the cake moist and the glaze (which sits on top of the cake and only slightly penetrates through the cake) is sticky and gooey.  Overall?  If you like Lemon Cake, you'll love this.

The original recipe is from "The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days".  I've made a few changes to it but the main difference is that I've added almonds which go so well with the lemon.

Lemon Thyme and Almond Loaf, adapted from "The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days"
190g (7oz) butter, softened
Zest of 2 lemons
3 tsp finely chopped lemon thyme leaves
190g (7oz) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
130g (7oz) plain (AP) flour
60g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp natural yogurt

For the soaking syrup
40g (1.5 oz) granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tsp finely chopped lemon thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F).  Grease a 2 lb (900g) loaf tin.
Beat the butter, zest, thyme leaves and sugar until light and fluffy.  This is easiest with a free standing mixer but a hand held one works fine too.
Add the eggs, one at a time, until well combined.
Sift the flour, ground almonds and baking powder into the creamed mixture in two batches and mix together on a low speed. 
Add the natural yogurt, then pour the batter into the tin and bake for 40-50 mins or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean (it took my cake 60 mins before I was happy that it was ready).
While the cake is cooking, make the syrup.  Put all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, allowing it to reduce by half and become slightly sticky.  Pour over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.  Allow the cake to cool in the tin.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Chocolate Digestive Biscuits

I never intended to post these biscuits.  They are  one of the plainest biscuits you can buy so why would you bother posting the recipe?  When you're in the supermarket and want to pick up an indulgent treat, you don't automatically think "I'd murder a packet of digestive biscuits".  Or when you're planning a dinner party, dessert is never a toss up between Chocolate Pudding and Digestive Biscuits.

But it was a wet Tuesday afternoon.  I was under pressure to keep some little people occupied, having gotten all we could possibly get out of painting, playdo, lego and hanging up wet clothes on a clothes horse (you can make an activity out of almost anything, just depends on how you pitch it to them!).  Anyway, I decided that a batch of semi healthy biscuits from a quick and simple recipe was needed.  I've made a few recipes from The Little Loaf website before and decided to go with this recipe that she posted some time ago.

Was so happy with these biscuits.  They taste exactly as you would expect Digestive Biscuits to taste but with a little bit more texture from the wholemeal flour.  I made this batch a little bit thicker than shop bought biscuits but they were still as crunchy as they should be.  They taste so good and are so simple to make that I thought it would be a shame not to let everyone know.  For something less indulgent than you're used to making, these are the biscuits to make.  Well done Little Loaf for coming up with this one.

Digestive Biscuits taken from The Little Loaf blog

100g oats
100g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g light soft brown sugar
Pinch salt
100g salted butter, softened & cubed
1-2 tbsp milk
50g milk chocolate (optional)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Blitz the oats to a fine powder in a blender then mix in a large bowl with the wholemeal flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt.
Add the butter and mix until crumbly. Add the milk and mix to form a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and pop in fridge to firm up for about 15 minutes.
Remove your dough from the fridge and roll out to around 3mm thickness. It will be very crumbly so you’ll need to be very careful when rolling. Cut out circles of about 6mm diameter – I used a water glass to stamp out the shapes. Decorate with a pattern of your choice then bake in the middle of your oven for about 15 minutes.
When lightly golden but not too brown, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water.  Smooth over the biscuits when cool.
Store in an airtight container.  They will stay crunchy for up to a week.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Liebster Blog Award

The Liebster Blog Award is to blogs what the Oscars is to film and the Grammys is to music.  And guess what, my blog has just won one.  Wooooooooo Ooooooooooooooh!  I have my dress sitting in the wardrobe, my acceptance speech written and I'm ready for the awards ceremony - promise I won't cry when I'm up on stage.  Ok, so maybe I'm blowing it totally out of proportion, but it's just that I'm chuffed that anyone would even bother ready my blog, not to mind giving it an award.

Thank you to The Baking Addict from The More than Occasional Baker for giving me the Liebster Award for my blog.  These awards give small bloggers with less than 200 followers some well deserved recognition.  The Baking Addict is one of my "go to" baking sites when I'm looking for a specific or some inspiration.
Here are the rules:
  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog.
  • Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you.
  • Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
  • Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed.
  • Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog.
It's very similar to "chain letter" that we used to have when we were in school.  Since it's bad luck to break the chain,  it's up to me to nominate 5 blogs that I follow and really like to dip into.  Here are my 5 award winners:
1. Adrienne at Cross My Apple Tart - Beautiful writing and amazingly elaborate goodies to drool over.
2. Amee at Warm & Snug & Fat - Her photos trick you into believing you love cauliflower.
3. Colette at Cakes Bakes and Other Bits - for when you're looking for wholesome food.
4. Mona at Wise Words. A refreshing American slant on her writing and her recipes.
5. Kate at What Kate Baked. Why does everything on her blog have to look so damn tempting?

Monday, 6 February 2012

London Calling

Armed with an oversized bum bag, my "I Heart London" sweatshirt, a rain poncho, camcorder and guide book, my sis and I headed for London for the weekend.  As someone who has been brainwashed by little people into thinking that going out to post a letter is actually getting out, I'd been looking forward to this trip for months.  Too sophisticated (or so we thought!) for tours of Buckingham Palace or Tower of London or photos outside Big Ben, we decided the trip would be mostly foodie related.  So off we go.

First stop was The Hummingbird Cafe in Notting Hill.  The praline cupcake and Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie was absolutely delicious but I  was a little bit disappointed with the cafe.   I was expecting more of a selection of sweet things other than tray after tray of cupcakes.

Chocolate Praline cupcake in the Hummingbird Cafe

Raspberry Cheesecake Brownie in the Hummingbird Cafe

Shopfront of the Hummingbird Cafe

After that, we spent the afternoon pottering round the market in Notting Hill.
Notting Hill market

Photo encapsulates the banter at Notting Hill market

After an hour or two walking through Kensington not being able to feel my hands or feet because of the baltic cold, we took refuge in a lovely store called Whole Foods Store.  It's basically a massive supermarket of nutritious, healthy foods, some of which are organic.  The best part?  Loads and loads of free food.  Felt it only right that we left after 2 hours just in case we started looking suspicious on CCTV!

Perfectly packed vegetables at Whole Foods Store

Next up was Borough Market, stall after stall of quality food, the nicest and best stocked market I've ever come across in the world.  Was it not for the Siberian weather that morning (despite looking like the Michelin Man with all my layers of clothes!), I'd have stayed there all day.

Onions and garlic at Borough market

Main ingredient for tomorrows burgers!

Bread stall at Borough market

Next stop was Primrose Cafe at Primrose Hill.  Two dry, tasteless cupcakes later and I will definitely not be going back.
Cupcakes at Primrose Cafe

My sister took the photo below as we left the restaurant on Saturday night.  To say it was pouring snow is an understatement. 

Covent Garden in the February snow