Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Chocolate Gingerdead Men

I love Halloween - I wish the UK did Halloween as big as the US do it. I found this cookie cutter/stamp a few weeks ago, and couldn’t resist, I had to buy it to make Halloween gingerbread!
I must admit, I wasn’t that impressed with the product as a cutter or a stamp… the cutter didn’t leave nice crisp edges, and the stamp, that supposedly leaves little wells to fill with icing, served more as just guidelines for icing the skeletons freehand. You’d be better off using a metal gingerbread man cutter and then just icing the skeletons on yourself. That said, I do still think that they look pretty cool, if a little misshapen, and I made little gravestones for them too!

250g unsalted butter
100g light muscovado sugar
100g demerara sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
540g plain flour
60g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp ground ginger

250g royal icing sugar to decorate

Preheat your oven to 180°C and grease/line your baking trays.

In a small saucepan, over a low heat, melt the butter, sugars and golden syrup. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

In a large bowl, mix the plain flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and ginger. Add the cooled melted butter to the flour mix and stir until it forms stiff dough.

Use your hands to shape the dough into a ball, scraping down the sides of the bowl, and knead for a couple of minutes. If it’s still sticky, add a little more flour, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to knead until it’s ‘rollable’. And if it’s too dry, add a splash of milk while you’re kneading the dough.

Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour, and roll the dough out to 5mm thick.
Use your cookie cutters to cut out your shapes, re-rolling the off cuts, until all the dough is used up.

Space the shapes out well on your baking trays and if you’re using a cookie stamp, press this into the gingerbread when they’re on the trays.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 8-10 minutes, until just firm. Leave to cool slightly on the trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies have cooled, make up your icing.

Add 40ml of luke warm water to the royal icing sugar, and use an electric whisk to beat the icing until it forms soft peaks. You can add colouring at this stage if you want to.
Transfer the icing into a piping bag and go to town with your decorating!

Once you’ve decorated all your gingerbread, leave it over night for the icing to set, then tuck in!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Spring Onion and Chive Bagels

Bagels are totally underrated. I love them; sweet or savory, I'm not fussy. These didn't last long in our house, being eaten for breakfast and lunch. The spring onions give a subtle taste to the dough but if you want something a little stronger, try adding a little chopped garlic and chilli to the dough 0 it'll give it a good kick then too!

1 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp (one package) active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
8-10 spring onions, halved lengthways and chopped
4 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1 egg
Black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the water and sugar and stir to dissolve. Pour in the yeast and allow this to sit for 6-8 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt. Once the yeast mixture has had time to activate, pour it in to the flour mixture and stir until a crumbly dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. Scatter the chopped spring onions and chives over the dough and knead these in for a further 5 minutes, until the dough begins to become elastic-like. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

After it has risen, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into eight equal pieces. Shape the pieces into a ball and press your finger through to form the centre hole. Once you have shaped all the bagels, allow them to rest for 10 minutes or so.

Pre-heat your oven to 220c and bring a large saucepan of water to the boil on a hob.

Place the rested bagels into the boiling water, a couple at a time. They should float. Let them cook for 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side, then remove to a lined baking sheet.

Whisk the egg plus 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl and brush this over each bagel before sprinkling with a little black pepper baking for 20 minutes.

These are great sliced and toasted then topped with cream cheese!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

(Batman) Marble Cake

Yesterday it was my little sister Amber’s 21st birthday… She specified months ago that she wanted a superhero birthday cake, and then earlier this month, that she wanted marble cake – so that’s how this Batman marble cake came about! I’m not so great with modeling icing and decorating novelty cakes, but it actually turned out pretty good! You can just dust the top of the sponge with icing sugar, but I will give instructions on how to make the icing should you wish to do so. James actually helped me make this (I think just so he could lick the bowl afterwards) so a special thank you to him, and a very happy 21st birthday to Amber!

For the vanilla sponge:
5oz unsalted butter
5oz caster sugar
2 eggs
Few drops vanilla essence
5oz self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder

For the chocolate sponge:
5oz unsalted butter
5oz caster sugar
2 eggs
4oz self raising flour
1oz cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder

For the buttercream filling:
2oz unsalted butter
4oz icing sugar

Pre-heat your oven to 180c and line/grease two loose bottomed cake tins.

First, make the vanilla batter. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and vanilla essence, and mix briefly before sifting in the flour and baking powder. Fold this into the mixture until its smooth.
Put this to one side while you make the chocolate batter.

In a second bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, and mix briefly before sifting in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Fold this into the mixture until its smooth.

Take 2 spoons, one for each mix, and dollop the mix into the tins, alternating the colours. Make sure to get the same amount in each tin.
Gently tap the bottom of the tins onto your work surface to get rid of any bubbles and to level out the mix in the tin. Next, take a skewer and swirl it around the mixture in the tin a few times to create a marbled effect.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the sponges are springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean, then remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.

While it’s cooling, you can make the buttercream filling. In a small mixing bowl, gently cream together the butter and half of the icing sugar. Once this is soft and creamy, add the rest of the icing sugar and continue to mix until smooth.

Once the sponges are cool, sandwich them together with the buttercream and dust the top with icing sugar.* And you’re done!

*If you want to make the icing to go on top here are the ingredients and instructions. Sorry these instructions aren’t great, it’s hard to explain. I only covered the top of this cake and left the sides bare so you could see the marbling in the sponges, but you could use this to cover the whole cake if you wanted to.

4 tsp unsalted butter, melted
8 oz icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
Food colouring

It’s best to plan your design before you start – you may need to make two batches if you’re covering the whole cake and then making layers on top of that, and you may need to cut out some stencils for your designs.

Once you have all this – you can get started.

In a large mixing bowl, gently mix together the melted butter and icing sugar, first with a spoon, and then with your hands. It should not be sticky, so add a little extra icing sugar if you need to. Form the icing into a ball with your hands and knead until it’s smooth.

Here, I separated the icing – half for the grey background, a quarter for the yellow oval and the last quarter for the bat – and put them in separate bowls.

For each different colour, add a few drops if food colouring to the bowl and knead into the icing until it’s evenly distributed. You can add more colouring, a few drops at a time, kneading well, until you have your desired colour. Make sure you wash your hands well between each colour to avoid mixing them.

Once you have all your icing separated and coloured, dust your worktop and rolling pin with icing sugar and roll out your base colour. If you’re just covering the top, use the bottom of the cake tin as a template to cut around, and if you’re covering the whole cake, you’ll need an extra couple of inches all the way around the base of the tin.

You can stick the icing onto the cake with a little buttercream if you have any left over, or just a little icing sugar mixed with a few drops of water to make a thin paste.

Once the cake is covered (whether in full or just the top) you can add any extra layers. Roll out the other colours and cut out your desired shapes, and stick onto the cake with a bit of icing as before.

It is a bit time consuming, but it’s fun too!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Cheats Strawberry Lemonade Trifle

A proper retro dessert! I don't know why we don't have trifle more often at home - it's always the first thing to be demolished at family dinners, and is not too heavy on the stomach, making it perfect for following up a roast dinner. You can of course make your own jelly and custard, but this cheats trifle uses Hartley's jelly and Ambrosia's ready made custard. And likewise, this has home-made sponge square, but you can buy ready made sponge fingers too if you're really feeling like a cheat! 

For the sponge:
4oz unsalted butter
3oz caster sugar
1 egg
4oz self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 pack of Hartley's strawberry jelly
3/4 pint of lemonade
500g carton of Ambrosia custard
300ml extra thick double cream
Strawberries and sprinkles to decorate

First you'll need to make the sponge. Pre-heat your oven to 170c and grease/line a round cake tin.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg, and then the flour and baking powder. Lastly, add the lemon zest and juice and mix well. 
Pour into the tin and bake for about 12-15 minutes, until firm to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the middle of the sponge comes out clean.
Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Once cool, cut into 1.5" squares and arrange them in your trifle bowl to form a layer on the bottom. You may not need all of the sponge, so feel free to eat any that won't fit! The sponge will be a little dry, so that it soaks up some the liquid jelly better.

Break the jelly into cubes and place in a heat proof measuring jug. Add 1/4 pint of boiling water and stir until all the cubes have dissolved. Add the lemonade to make up 1 pint of liquid, stir, and pour over the sponge layer.
Leave this in the fridge, preferably over night, until the jelly is set.

Once the jelly has set, pour over the custard, spreading to an even layer.
Next, add the cream; carefully spoon this on top of the custard, taking care to keep the layers separate.
Top with halved strawberries and sprinkles and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Peppermint Creme Sandwich Cookies

I made these cookies this weekend as a little birthday present for my Nan. I've made peppermint thins a few times before, but I thought they'd be even better as sandwich cookies! It does get messy covering them in chocolate, but it's totally worth it. You can easily substitute the peppermint extract for orange instead and make chocolate orange sandwich cookies too.

For the cookies:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 egg white
1/4 cup light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

For the peppermint creme:
2 cups icing sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 tsp milk

300g plain chocolate to cover

Pre-heat your oven to 160c and grease/line your baking tray(s).

Combine all the ingredients for the cookies in a large mixing bowl, and mix together to form a dough. You may need to use your hand to do this and the dough should be roll-able and not sticky. Add more flour, a tablespoon at a time if it's too sticky to roll.

Dust your work surface with a little flour and roll the dough out until it's 3-4mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut our your desired shapes, re-rolling any off-cuts, until all the dough is used up. Remember you will need an even number as you need two layers per cookie. 

They won't spread when the bake so you can put them quite close together on the baking sheets, but still make sure they aren't touching. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are firm to the touch.

Move the cookies to a wire rack and leave to cool while you make the peppermint creme.

In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for the peppermint creme and mix together. Again, you will probably need get your hands dirty, pressing and kneading the crumbly dough together to form a thick, roll-able creme.

Dust your clean work surface with a little icing sugar and roll the creme out to just a little thicker than the cookies. Using the same cutter you used for your cookies, cut out your desired shapes. You will need one creme layer to two biscuit layers. You can use any left over creme to make after dinner mints*.

Once the cookies are cool, place a creme layer on top of half of the cookies, then sandwich that with the other half of the cookies. 

Break up the chocolate and place in a microwavable bowl. Heat the chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring regularly until all the chocolate is melted. Take care not to burn it though! 

Leave the melted chocolate to cool slightly before the next, messy step!

Roll out a length of tin foil on your work top ready to put the covered cookies on.
Dip each sandwich in the chocolate, one side at a time, making sure it's well covered. Allow any excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl before placing it on the tin foil. Once you have done all of the cookies, leave them on the foil until the chocolate has set, then peel off and enjoy!

* If you want to make after dinner mints with any left over creme, divide the creme and roll into balls, around the size of a Malteaser. When you coat the cookies, use any left over chocolate to coat these by rolling them around in the bowl and placing on the tin foil with the cookies.

Lemon Meringues

I had a few egg whites left over after making ice cream, and rather than have very boring scrambled egg whites for lunch, I thought I'd use them to make meringues instead! Now, lemon meringue pie is always a good choice, but as this was a last minute bake I didn't have everything I'd need to make the pastry, so I figured I'd just try making lemon meringues instead - and they turned out brilliantly! They've got an almost pearly sheen to them, and they're lovely and chewy in the middle - just how a meringue should be! This mix makes 12 meringues, the same size as meringue nests that you can find in the supermarkets.

4 egg whites
225g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vinegar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Pre-heat your oven to 120c and line your baking tray(s) with greaseproof paper.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric handheld whisk to whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
With the whisk on low, mix in the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time.
Turn the whisk to high and whisk until the mixture is thick and glossy. It should form stiff peaks and if you hold the bowl upside down, it should stay put!
Once it reaches this stage, add the vinegar, lemon zest and juice and give a final whisk until you're happy it's well combined.

You can put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe the meringues if you'd rather, but you can just use a tablespoon to put heaped dollops of the mix onto the lined trays and spread them into circles with little peaks.

Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the cooked meringues to cool in the oven for 30 minutes before taking them out and transferring to a wire rack. Serve with fresh fruit and cream, or yoghurt and lemon curd.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Sticky Peanut Butter and Jelly Buns

After watching the sweet dough episode of the Great British Bake Off a couple of weeks ago, I really wanted to adapt my recipe for Cherry Bakewell Swirls to make something different and this is what I came up with. An American inspired sticky sweet bun - great with double cream or custard!

3 tablespoons warm water
4 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
3 1/3 cups bread flour

Pinch salt
3 tbsp peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
50g chopped peanuts
Raspberry jam
3 tbsp icing sugar

First, mix together the water, sugar and yeast and leave to one side for 5 minutes to activate.

Put the butter and milk in a small pan and warm gently until the butter is melted.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt. Add the yeast and milk mixtures to the bowl and mix using your hand to form a doughy ball. Using your knuckles, knead the dough around the bowl until it becomes slightly elastic. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, add the peanut butter and chopped peanuts and knead for a further 2 minutes until the nuts are evenly distributed. Leave in a warm place to rise for one hour in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a damp cloth.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 1cm thick.
Spread the raspberry jam evenly over the dough. Not too thickly though, as it will all ooze out when you try and cut it!
Roll the dough up like a swiss roll, and cut into rolls about an inch thick. Place these in a greased oven-proof dish, cover and leave to rise for a further 30 minutes.

Once they have risen again, pre-heat your oven to 190c and bake in the centre of your oven for 30 minutes. Leave to cool in the dish.
Once cool, make up a very runny icing with the icing sugar and a little water and paint the tops of the buns with this to glaze them.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Iced Jammy Muffins

Ok, I must admit, I've gone back to basics with this one a bit, but trust me. This muffin recipe will make the lightest muffin you have ever eaten. Fact. And it's great because you can substitute the raspberry jam for any other flavour jam, or even lemon curd, Nutella or thick custard - what ever takes your fancy! What's more, they're quick and REALLY easy, perfect for when you're not feeling particularly adventurous in the kitchen!

130g caster sugar
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
100ml natural yoghurt
Few drops vanilla essence
140g unsalted butter, melted
12 tsp raspberry jam
200g icing sugar
1 heaped tsp coco powder

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

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour and bicarbonate of soda.
In a separate jug, whisk together the yogurt, eggs and vanilla before tipping it into the bowl. Lastly, add the melted butter and fold the mixture together until smooth.  

Place a generous tablespoon of mixture into the cases. Carefully add 1 tsp jam into the centre of each, then cover the jam with the remaining mixture. Bake for 16-18 minutes until risen, golden and springy to touch. 

Move the muffins to a wire rack to cool. Once cooled completely, make up the icing in a small bowl with the icing sugar and enough water to make a thick paste. Spread a teaspoon of icing onto the muffins, pushing up to the edges. Add a heaped teaspoon of coco powder to any icing you have left and add a few more drops of water, it should be thin enough to drizzle, but it not so watery that it spreads. Use a spoon to drizzle the chocolate icing in lines over the white icing. Leave to set before eating.