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P1030861

Poor Beth’s been off school with chicken pox, so we made these together as a spotty treat to keep her entertained.

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I made these to take along to the Green Man Festival. You always need some little treats when you are camping, especially when the forecast is for four days of solid rain. Luckily we had some serious sunshine between the serious downpours and I only had to queue for the toilets in a thunderstorm once. Anyway, these were lovely, and comforting and luxurious, and, like the weather, seriously moist.

P1030818

It takes a bit of confidence to bake a brownie. First of all there are just so many recipes out there to choose from. I have put this one together with a lot of agonising, testing and re-testing.

The perfect brownie requires the perfect length of cooking time to ensure it is moist, but not sloppy.  You want the finished brownie to be damp in the middle, but not undercooked. Also you need two different types of chocolate to ensure the right amount of gooiness. I don’t understand the science of this, but it has something to do with the way the fat content of the chocolate makes it behave differently during the cooking process.

Undercooking is better than overcooking. When you take your brownies out of the oven and shake the tray slightly, you want them to wobble rather than slop. Give the top of your tray-bake a little tap – it should sound just right  (unfortunately it takes practice and experience to know what this sound is, but my best guess is ‘phftut’).  I know this is a little vague, but the recipe that follows worked for me, and my oven.

Ingredients:

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 300g dark chocolate – I used 200g of chocolate with 70% cocoa solids and 100g with 35% cocoa solids
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • zest and juice of one orange
  • 85g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 150g tinned cherries, roughly chopped into quarters and coated in a little of the cooking flour
  • You could also add a splash of cherry liqueur.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Grease and line a baking tray – mine is about 27cm x 17cm.

Slowly melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of hot water. When it has melted, add the eggs and sugar and whisk together. Then whisk in the orange zest and juice.

Fold in the flour, then the cherries.

Pour the mixture into your prepared baking tin and cook for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool and slice into squares. If you like you can dust with cocoa powder.

Makes about 15.

 

 

 

P1030378

This is of course Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Malteser Cake from her book Feast. Chosen by my son for me to make for his ninth birthday. Despite the very liquidy batter this turned out a treat. Follow Nigella’s recipe with confidence. Happy Birthday!

A perfect pudding for a wintery day. Comfort food at it’s stodgiest, this is a really traditional British pud that we all remember from our school dinners.

P1030708

Ingredients

  • 8-10 slices of day-old white bread
  • spread with butter – about 50g in total
  • 350ml milk
  • 50ml double cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g sultanas
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • cinnamon and nutmeg

Set the oven to 200C.

Butter a small baking dish.

Cut the crusts off the bread. Spread butter on one side of each slice.

Arrange a layer of bread, butter-side up on the bottom of the dish. Add a sprinkling of sultanas, and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Cut the rest of the bread slices into triangles. Arrange beautifully on top of the sultanas/spices. Put sultanas and spices between each layer.

Then, put about half of the sugar into a large bowl. Whisk the eggs into the sugar.

Heat the milk and cream together in a small pan, until just under boiling point. Pour it onto the eggy sugary mix and whisk it well.

Pour the custard over the bread, grate a little nutmeg and sprinkle the remaining sugar over the top and leave it to sit and soak for about half an hour.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Serve hot with cream, or cold from the ‘fridge the next day.

Serves 6

Feed the crusts to the birds.

P1030100

One of my favourite things about Christmas is party food. I tend to get stressed about anything that requires too much effort at the last minute, so here are some that can be prepared in advance, and stored in the freezer.

I prefer salty to sweet, and these palmiers just hit the spot. I have three favourite flavours; anchovy, olive, and tomato, but you can choose any filling you like.

You basically need some 375g rolls of ready made puff pastry,  the fillings below, and a sprinkling of finely grated parmesan on each.

For the filling

Anchovy palmiers

Olive palmiers

  • kalamata olive tapanade

Tomato palmiers

  • 10 sun-dried tomatoes from a jar, and a little of the oil
  • some thyme
  • 1 fresh red chilli, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Whizz the tomatoes, thyme, chilli, garlic, sugar and salt together with a blending wand to create a tomato paste.

For the palmiers

Spread the filling thinly over the pastry. Add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Roll the pastry from the outside to the inside, meeting somewhere in the middle.

Slice – about 6mm thick.

You do not need to cook at this stage. Lay the palmiers out on a cling-film covered tray –  keep them separate from each other. Put into the freezer. When fully frozen you can throw them all into a plastic bag until you are ready to cook.

To cook

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Lay the palmiers on a baking tray – allow some room to spread.

It takes 25 minutes to cook from raw and frozen.

P1030642

I probably make banana bread once a fortnight, and I’ve posted some fancy schmantzy pansty banana breads here. But the recipe I turn to over and over again is this one: simple, basic, no booze, no nuts, no figs, no frosting. You can adapt it as you wish, add choc chips, cocoa, nuts or alcohol. We like this one just as it comes.

Ingredients

  • 3-5 ripe bananas
  • 50g melted butter
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 125g self-raising flour

Pre-heat the oven to 170C/150C fan.

Line a baking tray with tin-foil. Lay the bananas out on the prepared baking sheet. Make pricks with a fork, about 1 inch apart. Bake for twenty minutes. The skin of the banana will turn black and a lot of liquid will come out of the bananas. The idea is that this will intensify the flavour and sweetness of the banana. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile grease and line a loaf-tin.

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and whisk through.

Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking constantly, then add the vanilla.

Whisk in the bananas.

Fold the flour into the mixture.

Once all the ingredients have been fully mixed together, spoon into your loaf tin.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (at 150C), depending on the skewer test.

Allow to cool and enjoy each slice with or without butter. (Butter’s better.) Great for school lunchboxes.

My favorite banana bread is this one, with figs and ginger. You might also like this one with rum and walnuts, but my children definitely prefer it plain.

P1030575

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is take part in my local Parkrun; a free, timed, 5k run around our hilly park. It has a great community, and for some reason there is always a lot of cake. Each week over 70,000 runners take part in various Parkrun events across the world.  A few Saturdays ago it was my home Parkrun’s second Birthday, so we celebrated with… cake. My contribution was these lovely little carrot and orange cakes.

Ingredients

For the cakes

  • 150g unsalted butter, melted
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • a squeeze of orange juice
  • 200g self-raising flour, sieved

For the frosting

  • 300g cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia cheese)
  • a squeeze of orange juice
  • 50-60g icing sugar

The cakes

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Prepare a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and whisk together in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, a little at a time and continue whisking.

Fold in the carrots and a little orange juice.

Fold in the flour. Make sure all the ingredients are full combined.

Divide the mixture between the  paper cases, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Test with a skewer.

Allow to cool.

The frosting

Whisk together all the ingredients until nice and smooth, you may need to add a little more icing sugar depending on how much orange juice you have squeezed in.

Spread a little over each cake.

Decorate as you like – I used these little coloured stars, but you could use orange zest, or a mini fondant carrot, or whatever.

The top tip

I made my cakes the night before the Big Event, but I was worried that if I iced them they would get soggy overnight. As an experiment I iced and decorated a couple of cakes the night before. The icing was fine but the colour in the decorations ran a little, so perhaps save the final touches until just before the big cake reveal.

Helen Walton & her picnic table

Photo: Lisa Power.

P1030571

I always feel a little sad at the end of the summer, especially as the nights start drawing in. However, I can console myself with all the lovely comforting foods that come with the beginning of autumn – soups and stews, and of course a return to home-baked bread. Soda bread is the easiest, and quickest to make of all. There is no kneading, or waiting to rise. Just quickly mix together the ingredients and it is ready in 40 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 250g spelt flour
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 250ml buttermilk or 250ml milk soured with the juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sprinkling of seeds and dusting of flour to finish

Pre-heat the oven to 230C

Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Traditionally this recipe would use buttermilk. But if you can’t pick up buttermilk in your local store it is perfectly fine to improvise with the milk/lemon combination – just add the lemon juice to the milk and give it a good stir.

Mix together the flours, salt and baking soda in a large bowl.

Add the buttermilk/soured milk.

Work the mixture through with a knife until the ingredients are fully combined into a dough.

Roll the dough into a ball (you might need to flour your hands for this) and place onto your prepared baking tray.

If you like you can sprinkle some seeds, or a dusting of flour over the uncooked bread.

Using a sharp knife or a kneading blade, mark the bread with a cross.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Eat warm with plenty of butter.

P1030393

This is a very, very rich pudding, but delicious served with whipped cream, a handful of soft fruit and a drizzle of icing sugar. You won’t need to eat for three days afterwards.

Ingredients

For the base

  • 250g digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 150g unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

  • 750g full-fat cream cheese
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornflour
  • 110ml sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • zest of two lemons
  • juice of one lemon

The base

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Line a loose bottomed tin with baking paper. I line the sides as well – leaving the paper a two or three centimeters higher than the sides of the tin.

Melt the butter in a large pan.

Whilst the butter is melting, smash the biscuits into crumbs. A food processor is good for this, or put the biscuits into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling-pin.

Add the biscuit crumbs into the butter and stir until completely coated. Pour the buttery crumb mixture into the loose-bottomed tin and press in well. Bake for around ten minutes then allow to cool.

The filling

Turn the oven up to 200C.

Whisk together all the ingredients and pour onto the cooled biscuit base.

Place on a baking tray – the cheesecake does rise a little during cooking and this will catch any overflow.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Turn the oven off, open the oven door and allow the cheesecake to cool slowly in the oven. This will stop the top from cracking.

The little tarts in the picture were made with some leftover ingredients. I didn’t get a picture of the main event unfortunately.

 

 

P1030370

Well, I thought this was the loveliest banana cake that I have ever made – but my family have other ideas. I’ve been reading a few posts recently where people have been roasting their bananas before baking them into cakes, so I had to give it a go. I had five bananas slowly browning in the fruit bowl, so this was the perfect moment.

Ingredients:

  • 5 ripe bananas
  • 50g melted butter
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 100g soft, ready-to-eat rehydrated figs, chopped
  • A couple of pieces of preserved ginger (the kind you get in syrup), very finely sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 170C/150C fan.

Line a baking tray with tin-foil. Lay the bananas out on the prepared baking sheet. Make pricks with a fork, about 1 inch apart. Bake for twenty minutes. The skin of the banana will turn black and a lot of liquid will come out of the bananas. The idea is that this will intensify the flavour and sweetness of the banana. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile grease and line a loaf-tin.

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and whisk through.

Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking constantly.

Whisk in the bananas.

Fold the flour, figs and ginger into the mixture.

Once all the ingredients have been fully mixed together, spoon into your loaf tin.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour (at 150C), depending on the skewer test.

Allow to cool and enjoy each slice with or without butter. (Butter’s better.)

My children did not like this banana bread. I loved it.

Here's one I made earlier

Here's one I made earlier

Hi, my name's Helen and I live in London with my husband and two children. When I started piping the potato on my shepherd's pies, my husband suggested that it might be a good idea for me to find an outlet for my creativity, so here we are. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, the extra twist is that I don't eat meat (I do eat fish though) and Jim, who loves meat, is always on a diet. Here are a few recipes that I have enjoyed making for my family.

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