Monday, 24 November 2014

Mince Pie Bakewell Squares

This Christmas, Waitrose are running a campaign called 'Bake It Forward'. It's all about baking something for someone who you want to thank, sharing it on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #BakeItForward, then tagging your someone and asking them to continue the good deed by doing the same for someone else they know. Together we can all start a chain of baking joy! And maybe win some Waitrose goodies too. Here's Heston Blumenthal to tell you a bit more about #BakeItForward...

I joined in the campaign and decided to make these squares after discussing a mutual love of mince pies with a colleague of mine. I made Apricot Bakewell Squares earlier this year and they were delicious. We both agreed that replacing the jam with mincemeat would be a fantastic festive twist! Seen as she loves mince pies so much I am baking these for her as she is supportive and helpful colleague who certainly deserves these tasty treats!

I started by making the pastry. I rubbed 100g butter into 225g plain flour and 1 tsp salt. I added 2 1/2 tbsp cold water and brought the mixture together to form a dough. I wrapped it in cling film and chilled for 30 minutes. Alternatively you can buy a 375g pack of shortcrust pastry.

I rolled the pastry out to fit my lined and greased baking tin and pricked it with a fork. I chilled it again for 20 minutes, then baked it on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 10 minutes.

To make the sponge I first creamed 200g butter and 200g golden caster sugar together. I whisked in 4 beaten eggs, 1 tsp brandy and 1/2 tsp almond extract. Finally I folded in 100g ground almonds and 100g self raising flour.

I spooned a jar of mincemeat over the part baked pastry. I always use a good quality mincemeat and one with brandy or cognac in it because I think it tastes nicest, or you can make your own, Waitrose have a good recipe for it.

I gently spooned the sponge over the top and spread it out. I sprinkled over some toasted flaked almonds.

I baked on 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 35 minutes until it was a lovely golden brown.

When it was fully cool I mixed 2 heaped tbsp icing sugar with water and piped it over the sponge in a zig zag pattern.

The squares were really delicious and certainly improved by the good quality mincemeat - hello brandy! I was really pleased with them and so were my colleagues, I got a lot of good feedback. Although sadly the colleague these were aimed at was off sick today. Fingers crossed she is better and back in tomorrow as I have saved her one! They are certainly an interesting twist on mince pies and a great way to feel festive.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Courgette, Linseed & Lemon Muffins

A few weeks ago when attending the BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show I watched Cathryn Dresser, a former Bake Off contestant, make these muffins on stage. Now I don't like courgette, I dislike the taste and texture of it when cooked into a stir fry or pasta dish for example. But strangely I was intrigued by the idea of it in cake. I thought it was a great way for me to eat a vegetable I don't like by hiding it! I have altered Cat's original recipe slightly as I wanted to make these more healthy (she tops hers with buttercream!) and more suitable for an 'on the go' breakfast or quick snack.

I started by grating one courgette. I used a food processer to make this easier but you can grate by hand too. Squeeze the water out of the grated courgette then put it in a mixing bowl. This gave me about 150g courgette. I also added 115g golden caster sugar, and the zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange.

I then added 60ml vegetable oil, 2 eggs and 2 tbsp greek style yoghurt. I mixed everything together.

In a separate bowl I measured out 25g golden linseeds (also called flaxseeds), a pinch of salt, 100g self raising flour and 50g wholemeal self raising flour.

I added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mixed together.

I put the batter into muffin cases in a tray and baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes until golden brown.

I've been enjoying these muffins from breakfast and have made a couple more batches since. My boyfriend really loves them too and handing him a couple of these in the morning stops any unhealthy McBreakfasts!

I'm entering into myself and Cakeyboi's monthly baking challenge Treat Petite, he is hosting this month and the theme is 'Thank you'. Baking is one of the ways I thank my boyfriend for all the wonderful things he does for me and this bake in particular was to help him save money and also be healthier.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Golden Ale & Dark Chocolate Cake with Exploding Truffles

I was recently approached by Waitrose to make a chocolate cake from a list of Ultimate Chocolate Recipes that they have compiled. They told me that there are 90,500 searches online every month for the phrase 'chocolate cake recipes'. We sure like our chocolate cake! Being a cake and chocolate lover there was no way I wasn't getting involved. Even when I heard about the additional element to the challenge... they were going to send me an extra surprise ingredient that I had to incorporate into the recipe somehow.

And this is the surprise ingredient I got - popping candy! Heston Blumenthal has brought popping candy back into our lives. I remember making his chocolate ganache cake a couple of years ago that has popping candy in the biscuit base. I had to go to a small local newasgents to buy sachets of it. It is also known as 'pop rocks' and I've seen it a lot more readily available recently in supermarkets. However, popping candy is very difficult to use in baking because the minute it comes into contact with any kind of moisture (i.e. cake batter, buttercream) it pops! So you can't mix it into batters or buttercreams. I did a lot of internet research on popping candy and then decided on the Waitrose Ultimate Chocolate Recipes I was going to use. I picked two recipes in order to incorporate the popping candy. Firstly I chose the Duchy Golden Ale & Dark Chocolate Cake, and secondly I chose the Dark Chocolate Truffles, which I was going to roll in the popping candy and decorate the cake with.

I started making the truffles by gently heating up 87ml Waitrose extra thick double cream. I used half the original recipe quantities as I only needed 8 truffles to top the cake, but you could double or even treble the recipe for extra truffles! I poured the warm cream into a bowl containing 112g plain chocolate. I left the chocolate to melt for a few minutes and then stirred well until the cream and chocolate were fully incorporated. I refridgerated the mixture overnight.

For the truffle covering I mixed about half the tub of popping candy with 1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder. As moisture causes the popping candy to pop, I decided the cocoa powder would be an extra barrier to reduce the level of popping before the truffles were eaten.

I scooped out the mixture and rolled it between my palms, then pressed and rolled it in the popping candy and cocoa powder mixture before placing on a chopping board covered in cling film. I recommend rinsing your hands in cold water between each truffle roll. Keeping your hands clean and cold gives the best results when rolling. I put them in the fridge to firm up again. You will hear some popping!

 To make the cake the recipe called for Duchy Organic Golden Ale.

 I heated 250ml of the ale in a pan with 250g butter until the butter was completely melted.

In a large bowl I mixed together 250g self raising flour, 30g cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 300g golden caster sugar.

In a seperate bowl I beat 2 eggs and added 125ml milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

I added the ale and butter mixture to the flour mixture and whisked well, then the egg mixture and mixed again. I poured the batter into two sandwich tins, using a ladle for an even split. I baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes.

Whilst the cake was cooling I made the buttercream by mixing 200g butter and 400g icing sugar. When it came together I mixed in 25ml of the ale. I also melted 50g dark chocolate and mixed in only slightly to created a marble effect, but this was lost when I spread the buttercream on the sponge so I just drizzled some of the chocolate over the top of the cake instead.

After spreading on the buttercream and sandwiching the cakes together I placed eight of the truffles around the edges. They really gave the cake that extra wow factor!

This cake is deep, dark and delicious, with a fantastic exploding surprise! The sponge is really moist and reminded me of the Chocolate Guinness Cake I have made several times now. It went down a storm with my boyfriend and colleagues. I was very happy with it too, both in appearance and taste!

I am entering this cake into Jibber Jabber UK's November Love Cake challenge, this month's theme is 'In With A Bang!' and this cake certainly fits with it's exploding popping candy truffles!

NB. I was supplied with the ingredients to make this cake by Waitrose, all opinions are my own.