Saturday, 29 November 2014

Spiced Apple Crumble

I had a craving for apple crumble last weekend. It must be the drop in temperature, it makes me want warm cosy foods. I've already had my first (and second!) mulled wine of the season, and I wanted to add those winter flavours and spices to this crumble to make it extra cosy and perfect for Christmas time. The other great thing about crumble is that it is so easy to make, once assembled it's just a matter of snuggling under a blanket and waiting for it to bake.

I started by peeling and chopping 3 large cooking apple into small pieces. It was about 600g of apples, but 3 large Bramley apples should do the trick. I added 70g sultanas, 70g light brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp mixed spice, a pinch of nutmeg and the zest of 1 orange.

I mixed it all together and spread it out into a dish. My dish is 31x21cm (12x8 inches).

For the crumble I mixed 190g light brown sugar and 350g plain flour together. I then added 220g butter, cut into cubes and rubbed it with my fingers until it looked like breadcrumbs. This is quite a thick crumble topping, which is how I like it, so if you prefer a thinner layer take a third off the measurements.

I spread the crumble topping over the fruit and baked it on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 45 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Serve warm with custard for a warming and spicy winter treat!

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Spiced Apple Crumble
  • 3 Large cooking apples
  • 70g Sultanas
  • 260g Light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Mixed spice
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 Orange
  • 305g Plain flour
  • 220g Butter
Peel and chop the apples into small pieces. Add the sultanas, 70g of the light brown sugar, cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg and the zest of the orangeMix it all together and spread it out into a 31x21cm (12x8 inches) dishFor the crumble mix 190g of the light brown sugar and the plain flour together. Then add the butter, cut into cubes, and rubbed it with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbsSpread the crumble topping over the fruit and bake it on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 45 minutes until golden and bubbling

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.

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Mince Pie Bakewell Squares
  • 300g Butter
  • 225g Plain flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp Cold water
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 200g Golden caster sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Brandy
  • 1/2 tsp Almond extract
  • 100g Self raising flour
  • 100g Ground almonds
  • 1 jar of Mincemeat
  • A handful of Toasted flaked almonds
  • 2 heaped tbsp Icing sugar
Start by making the pastry. Rub 100g of the butter into the plain flour and salt. Add the cold water and bring the mixture together to form a dough. Wrap it in cling film and chill for 30 minutes in the fridgeRoll the pastry out to fit a lined and greased baking tin and prick it with a fork. Chill it again for 20 minutes, then bake it on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 10 minutesTo make the sponge cream 200g of the butter and the golden caster sugar together. Whisk in the eggs, brandy and almond extract. Fold in the ground almonds and self raising flourSpoon a jar of mincemeat over the part baked pastry baseGently spoon the sponge over the top and spread it out. Sprinkle over the toasted flaked almondsBake on 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 35 minutes until it is a lovely golden brownWhen fully cool, mix the icing sugar with some water and pipe it over the sponge in a zig zag pattern

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.

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Courgette, Linseed & Lemon Muffins
  • 1 Courgette
  • 115g Golden caster sugar
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Orange
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • 60ml Vegetable Oil
  • 25g Golden linseeds
  • 100g Self raising flour
  • 50g Wholemeal self raising flour
  • A pinch of Salt
Use a food processer to grate the courgette. Squeeze the water out of it then put it in a mixing bowl. Add the golden caster sugar, and the zest of the lemon and the orange.Then add the vegetable oil, eggs and greek yoghurt. Mix everything togetherIn a separate bowl measure out the golden linseeds, salt, self raising flour and wholemeal self raising flourAdd the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix togetherPut the batter into muffin cases in a tray and bake on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutes until golden brown

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!

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Golden Ale & Dark Chocolate Cake with Exploding Truffles
  • 187g Dark chocolate
  • 87ml Double cream
  • 30g + 1 heaped tbsp Cocoa powder
  • Popping candy
  • 275ml Golden ale
  • 450g Butter
  • 250g Self raising flour
  • 300g Golden caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 Eggs
  • 125ml Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 400g Icing sugar
To make the truffles gently heat up the double cream. Pour the warm cream into a bowl and add 112g of the darkn chocolate. Leave the chocolate to melt for a few minutes and then stir well until the cream and chocolate are fully incorporated. Refridgerated the mixture overnight or for several hours until solidMix the popping candy with the 1 heaped tbsp of cocoa powderScoop out the truffle mixture and roll it between your palms to make a ball, then roll it in the popping candy and cocoa powder mixture before placing on a chopping board covered in cling film. Put them in the fridge to firm up againHeat 250ml of the Duchy golden ale in a pan with 250g of the butter until the butter is completely meltedIn a large bowl I mix together the self raising flour, 30g of the cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and golden caster sugarIn a seperate bowl beat the eggs, milk and vanilla extractAdd the ale and butter mixture to the flour mixture and whisk well, then add the egg mixture and mix again. Pour the batter into two lined sandwich tins, bake on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 25 minutesMake the buttercream by mixing 200g of the butter and the icing sugar. When it comes together, mix in 25ml of the ale and 50g of the melted dark chocolate. Drizzle the remaining chocolate over the top of the cakeSpread the buttercream on the cakes, sandwich them together and place eight of the truffles around the edge

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

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Google Science of Food Event

I recently went along to a Google City Experts event themed around the science of food. To become a Google City Expert all you have to do is write 50+ high quality reviews on Google. You will then receive special benefits like contests to enter, and a invite to special events like this. The event was held at the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester. The perfect venue for a science themed event!

We started with a blue cocktail and some salted caramel ice cream made with liquid nitrogen in an edible chocolate cup. The ice cream is made by pouring the liquid nitrogen into the ice cream ingredients whilst they are churning. It is instant ice cream!

We were served some science themed canapes such as mozarella wrapped in parma ham served in a petri dish, and risotto balls with pumpkin sauce filled pipettes.

We listened to Professor Charles Spence tell us all about the science of food and the psychology behind the way we eat. He has done several experiments into how we perceive food depending on the environment we eat in. For example heavier cultery will make people willing to pay more for their food, and eating from a white plate makes food taste sweeter. The Professor works closely with Heston Blumenthal, who serves a beetroot jelly and an orange jelly in his restaurant. Except the colours are reversed because he uses orange beetroot and blood orange. A similiar experiment is performed with the chocolate pictured above. The yellow chocolate is actually mint in flavour and the green chocolate is strawberry flavoured.

Heston Blumenthal is known for his weird and wonderful experiments with food. He serves a seafood dish in his resturant that comes with headphones so you can listen to the sounds of the sea as you eat. This is meant to make the food taste better. I definitely needed these headphones when eating the french onion soup served in snail shells above - not pleasant! A lot of restaurants are using the technique, such as one in Singapore that projects rain on the wall and has a union jack tablecloth when serving fish and chips.

There were a selection of chillies to try which were labelled with there SHU numbers. SHU is the Scoville Heat Scale. A regular chilli you see in the shops is 2500 SHU. You may have also seen Scot Bonnet Chillis, which are 350,000 SHU. The chilli above is the hottest chilli around, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion! It even has a scary name. It is rated at over 2 million SHU! I didn't have any myself (I am not crazy) but a surprising amount of people did (I blame the free cocktails). And suffice to say from their reactions it was HOT.

It was a really fun evening and I learnt a lot. I will definitely think twice next time I'm eating out!