Monday, 30 September 2013

Caramel Latte Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes for a friend’s Mum’s 50th at the weekend – her party involved many a game of spoof, lots of (even possibly a little too much) tequila, and the best sausage rolls I’ve ever had!
But back to the cakes… the hidden pockets of caramel and the booze in the frosting make them irresistible, but feel free to leave out the alcohol and replace it with more milk instead.

For the sponge:
6oz unsalted butter
6oz sugar
2 eggs
6oz self raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder
1tbsp boiling water
1tbsp instant coffee granules

For the topping:
1 small can caramel
120g unsalted butter
300g icing sugar
1tbsp milk
1tbsp Espresso vodka or coffee liqueur
Caramel biscuits to decorate

Pre-heat your oven to 180c and line a 12 hole muffin tin with cases.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale. Mix in the eggs, one at a time.
Next, sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and gently fold in until thoroughly combined.
Dissolve the coffee granules in the boiling water and gently stir into the mix.

Divide the mix between the cases and bake in the centre of your oven for 20 minutes, or until they are springy to the touch and a skewer inserted in the middle of a cake comes out clean.
Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before moving onto the next step.

Once the cakes have cooled, use a small knife to cut a well into the top of each cake, taking care to leave a border around the edge. You won't need to use the small pieces of sponge that you've removed so feel free to eat this as you go along!
Next, fill each of the wells with a generous teaspoon of the canned caramel.

To make the frosting, cream the butter and half of the icing sugar together in a bowl. Add the milk and vodka/liqueur and gently stir in before mixing in the rest of the icing sugar. Using a piping bag, spiral the frosting onto the cakes, making sure to fully cover the wells of caramel. Add a shard of caramel biscuit to each cake to decorate. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Homemade Pizzas

Everybody loves pizza, right? But when there's a group of you, do you find it hard to settle on the topping choice? Well, why not make your own?! It's a lot of fun, a lot cheaper than a takeaway and it means everyone can have the topping they want on their own individual pizza! This dough recipe makes enough for 6 individual pizzas but you can always make 2 larger ones, or even a dozen bite-sized ones for parties! Be careful not to overload your pizzas though - you don't want a soggy bottom!

650g strong white bread flour
7g dry active yeast 
2 tsp salt 
25ml olive oil 
50ml warm milk 
325ml warm water
Plain flour for dusting
A selection of toppings: sliced meats, cheeses, vegetables, tomato puree and sauces

Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a large mixing bowl and stir in the olive oil and milk. Gradually add the water, a little at a time, mixing well to form a soft dough.
Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and knead for about five minutes, until smooth and elastic. If it's still very sticky, add a little bit more flour until it's easier to work with. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for about 1½ hours, until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, knock it back, and knead again for 2 or 3 minutes until smooth.
(You can freeze the dough at this point if you don't need all of it - just divide the dough and wrap any you don't need now in clingfilm and chuck it in the freezer. It just needs defrosting over night when you use it, and then carry on with the rest of the steps as follows.)

Roll into a ball and set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour until risen again.

Pre-heat the oven to its highest setting.

Divide the dough equally into 6 balls (or more/less depending on what size you want to make) and roll each out onto a lightly floured work surface until it's about the thickness of a £1 coin.
Transfer the rolled dough to a sheet of lightly oiled tin foil - we found that cooking it on tin foil rather than a baking tray cooked the underside better.
Spread a little tomato puree or your favourite sauce over each base and add your selected toppings.

Bake the pizzas in the oven until the bases are crisp and golden-brown around the edges and any cheese on the topping has melted, then tuck in!

Friday, 20 September 2013

The 'Parsnip is the New Carrot' Cake

Parsnip cake. It might not be new to the baking world, but it’s the first time I’ve tried it, so it’s new to me. Parsnip does the same as carrot does in a cake – it keeps it moist. I’ve never been a fan of carrot cake, but I think it more because of the sometimes overpowering cinnamon in it than anything else. But that’s the beauty of making things yourself – you can leave out anything you don’t like! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this lovely, sticky teatime treat.

175g unsalted butter
100ml maple syrup (or golden syrup)
200g demerara sugar
3 eggs
250g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
2tsp mixed spice
250g parsnips, peeled and grated

For the buttercream:
100g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

Pre-heat your oven to 170c and grease two loose bottomed cake tins.

In a large saucepan, melt together the butter, syrup and sugar over a moderate heat until smooth.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.
Next, beat in the eggs before adding the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and mix well.
Finally, add the grated parsnips and stir until thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter equally between the two tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the sponges are springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
Remove the sponges from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.

To make the buttercream, put the butter and icing sugar in a microwavable bowl and heat in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, until the butter is just starting to melt. Gently mix together until it’s lightly and creamy.

Once the sponges have cooled, sandwich them together with the buttercream and sprinkle a little icing sugar on top.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Gingernut and White Chocolate Tart

I was looking for a quick and easy dessert for a mid-week get together and came across this tart in John Whaite's book. I guess it's a bit like a cheesecake, but without the cheese. It's got a crunchy ginger biscuit base, with a layer of creamy white chocolate ganache - simple, delicious and very moreish!

400g gingernut biscuits
100g butter, cubed
400g double cream
400g white chocolate, chopped
2 eggs

Pre-heat your oven to 150c and lightly grease a loose bottomed cake tin with deep sides.

Put the gingernut biscuits and butter in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the biscuits are fine crumbs, and it looks like a buttery ginger sand.
Tip the mix into the cake tin and press it down firmly on the base and a couple of centimeters up the side of the tin. Place in the fridge while you make the ganache.

Heat the cream in a saucepan over a high heat until bubbles begin forming at the edges. Remove from the heat, and using a balloon whisk, whisk in the chopped chocolate until it's completely melted and the mix is a smooth creamy ganache. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes before whisking in the eggs until smooth. 

Tip the ganache mix onto the cold biscuit base and bake for 40 minutes, until it's just set around the edges and is starting to turn a golden colour. It will still be wobbly in the middle but this will set as the tart cools. Leave to cool in the tin, then once it's reached room temperature, out it in the fridge and leave it over night to fully set.

Remove from the tin once it's fully set and bring to room temperature before serving with even more cream!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Three Cheese and Bacon Cheesecake

I can't remember exactly when I first made this, or where I got it from, but it's been a firm favourite of mine for the last few years. You can easily make it vegetarian by leaving out the bacon, and if you're not a fan of 'mouldy' cheese, you can also substitute the Roquefort for something more to your taste. Great warm or cold, served with salad and new potatoes.

For the base:
3 bags of cheese and onion crisps
100g crackers/water biscuits
Handful of breadcrumbs
75g butter, melted

For the filling:
100g bacon lardons
Small red onion, thinly sliced
1 fresh chili, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 eggs
200g soft cream cheese
100g Roquefort cheese
75g mature cheddar
200ml single cream
Pepper to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 160c and line a loose bottomed cake tin.

To make the base, put the crisps, crackers and breadcrumbs in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until they form crumbs.
Stir in the melted butter, and tip the mix into your tin. Use the back of a spoon to press the mix down so it evenly covers the base of the tin.
Leave to the fridge until you're ready to use it.

In a small frying pan, fry the lardons, onion, chili and garlic for 5 minutes, until the lardons are cooked and the onions are soft. Leave to one side while you prepare the filling

Put the eggs, cheeses, and cream into a blender and blitz until it's well mixed but still has a few chunks of cheese in it.

Now to assemble the cheesecake: take the tin out of the fridge and tip the contents of the frying pan onto the base. Pour the cheese mix over the lardons and sprinkle a little pepper over the top.
Bake for 40 minutes. After the 40 minutes, turn the oven off, and leave to cool in the oven for an hour with the door ajar before removing from the tin.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Melting Moment Cookies

These are the perfect cookies to make if you don't have a lot of ingredients left in your cupboard - they only use basic ingredients but you certainly wouldn't know it when eating one. You can also swap the almond essence for vanilla essence or lemon juice if that's more your thing. Or even drizzle them in chocolate. In fact, this recipe is pretty easily adaptable - try adding ground ginger or cinnamon too! There you go, you've got half a dozen variations there to try now!

40g unsalted butter
65g vegetable shortening
75g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
Few drops almond essence
150g self raising flour
Rolled oat for coating
Glace cherries, quartered to decorate
Icing sugar, for dusting

Pre-heat your oven to 180c and dust your baking tray(s) with a little flour.

Cream together the butter, vegetable shortening and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg yolk and almond essence and mix well.
Sift in the flour and stir to make a soft dough.
Take tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls. Roll these balls in the oats to coat before placing on your baking trays. They don't spread too much, but you'll still want to space them out a bit. 
Use your thumb to flatten each ball a little, and push a quarter of a glace cherry into the centre of each cookie.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Leave to cool on the trays for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Once completely cool, dust with icing sugar.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Shallot, Thyme and Garlic Cheese Muffins

I’ve been feeling pretty lousy for the last week, tired and achy with a cough that has now left me pretty much voiceless. So after a busy few days, including Pilton Party and a shopping trip to Camden Town, I wanted to spend the day relaxing, which means: baking. I think I got a bit carried away though, so I have a few recipes to share with you over the next week or so, starting with these amazing savoury muffins. They’re best warm from the oven, served with extra cream cheese and onion chutney, but we had these for dinner tonight with quiche and salad, and they were perfect for mopping up the salad dressing!
230g shallots, peeled
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp unsalted butter
2tbsp fresh thyme
225g self raising flour
Pinch of baking powder
2tbsp golden caster sugar
Salt and pepper to season
120g garlic and herb cream cheese
175ml whole milk
2 eggs
75g butter, melted
Pre-heat your oven to 180c and grease a 12 hole muffin tin with a little butter.
Bring a small pan of water to the boil and add the shallots. Blanch for 2 minutes, drain and cut each shallot into quarters.
Melt the butter in a saucepan with the oil. Add the blanched, quartered shallots and sauté them until golden on all sides. Stir in the thyme, fry for a further 2 minutes and then turn off the heat and leave to cool while you make the batter.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper.
In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, milk, eggs and melted butter until smooth.
Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
Tip the contents of the frying pan, including any liquid, into the batter and fold in gently, taking care not to break up the quartered shallots.
Divide the mixture evenly between the holes and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are firm to the touch, golden in colour and a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool (or eat straight away!).

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Blackberry Sponge Traybake

It's blackberry season! My colleague Sheila brought a big bag of blackberries to work yesterday that she'd picked from her garden, and naturally I had to bake something with them! This tray bake is amazing warm from the oven with a layer of squirty cream on top, and perfect for elevenses (and various other coffee breaks) at work! ;)
For the base:
100g unsalted butter, cubed
2tbsp caster sugar
200g plain flour
1 egg
For the sponge:
150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
30g blanched almonds, finely chopped
170g self raising flour
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
Few drops almond essence
300g fresh blackberries
Pre-heat your oven to 180c and line a deep tray/dish with grease proof paper.
To make the base, put the butter, caster sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and blitz again until it starts forming bigger lumps.
Tip the crumbly mixture into the base of your dish and press down with your hands, making sure it's pushed into the corners.
Place in the fridge while you make the sponge.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until there are no lumps of butter visible.
Stir in the eggs, one at a time, before adding the almonds.
Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and gently fold it into the mixture. Lastly, add the almond essence and stir in gently.
Spoon the sponge layer over the base, levelling it out with the back of a spoon. Scatter the blackberries over the top and bake for 40 minutes.
Leave to cool slightly in the dish before cutting into squares.