Tag Archives: Baking

Strawberry & Thyme Galette with Honey Ricotta (with bonus competition!)

Strawberry Galette

When I was a kid, I managed to convince myself that I was allergic to strawberries. I’m not entirely why I came to this conclusion – I think it was probably due to me becoming violently ill after greedily eating two punnets of the things at once. Either way, I spent a large portion of my teenage years refusing to touch the things for fear of a repeat performance, adding it to the litany of  food items (including bananas and grated cheese) that I developed bizarre phobias of.

Then I entered adulthood and decided to pull myself together. I’m not entirely sure when I decided I liked strawberries again. I just know that I decided to live dangerously and put a dollop of strawberry jam on my toast one morning and became hooked all over again. I love them in jams, I love them in cakes, and I simply adore them smothered in thick clouds of clotted cream. I love how the sweetness of strawberries plays off against so many other different flavours – the tang of vinegar, the sizzle and pop of pepper, and – as I’ve recently discovered – the punchiness of thyme.

This Strawberry & Thyme Galette is the perfect thing to bake if (like me) you still have a minor phobia of making pies containing soft fruits for fear that they will explode all over your oven, leaving you scrubbing bits of burnt on goo off it for the next six months. The dough comes together in minutes, it’s an absolute cinch to roll out and – joy of joys! – there’s no fiddling about with pie tins. Instead, you merely fold a deliciously scented crust over strawberries which have been macerated in lemon juice and a whole lot of zest. I think that the thyme adds a divine slightly savoury note, but if it’s not your bag, just leave it out. It’s the kind of bake which can stand up to a whole lot of fiddling (I’m already contemplating making a version where the strawberries are macerated in ginger cordial.)

The thing which brings it all together though is the honey ricotta. I’ve become slightly addicted to making my own ricotta at the moment (it’s all part of my five year plan to become the kind of woman who can bench press her own body weight and make her own cheese) and making it will make you feel like a super cool urban milkmaid. Something which I personally feel we need more of.

To celebrate the fact that I managed to make a pie and homemade cheese with no major incident, the nice folks at OXO kitchenwear have provided me with a free strawberry kit to give away to one lucky winner. It contains a strawberry huller, a set of berry bowls for all your Summer baking needs, and two punnets of strawberries from Berry World. They’ll also stick you in a prize draw to win a year’s supply of strawberries. Pretty sweet, huh? To enter, just leave a comment below saying what you’d bake with a punnet of strawberries. You’ve got until 15th July to enter, so good luck!

Strawberry Galette with Thyme Crust (Slice and jar)

 

STRAWBERRY & THYME GALETTE WITH HONEY RICOTTA (Serves 6 – 8 people)

Inspired by Food 52

You will need:

For the thyme pastry

  • 300g plain flour (plus extra for rolling)
  • 150g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme (add 1/2 tsp more if you are using fresh)
  • 2 tbsps demerara sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 50ml ice-cold water
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glazing the crust

For the strawberry filling

  • 1 punnet of strawberries
  • 35g demerara sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cornflour

For the honey ricotta

  • 2 pints full fat milk
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp good quality honey
  • You will also need a jam thermometer and some cheesecloth for straining (although you could probably use a clean tea towel for this at a pinch)

Make It!

  1. Preheat oven to 200° C/Gas Mark 6
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients. Rub the cubed butter in with your fingers until fully combined, and the butter has broken down into pea-sized pieces. (alternatively, if you have a food processor, just blitz the ingredients in this.) SLOWLY add the ice water until the dough JUST begins to come together. Turn the crust mixture out onto some clingfilm, wrap it up and flatten it into a disk. Refrigerate for 10 minutes while you prepare the strawberries.
  3. Hull and slice the strawberries, before combining them with the sugar, flour and cornflour. Add the juice and zest of the lemon and mix well (you’ll see the strawberries beginning to break down slightly, but they will be OK so long as you use them right away.)
  4. Lay a piece of baking paper which is just large enough to cover a baking sheet onto a flat surface. Remove the chilled dough from your fridge and unwrap it on this. Dust with flour, and roll it out until it is the thickness of your index finger. Spoon the strawberry filling into the centre of the crust, and spread it out, taking care to leave a 2-inch border.
  5. Carefully fold the crust border over the filling (don’t worry about making it look pretty, you want this to look a bit haphazard!) Brush the crust with beaten egg, and sprinkle well with the leftover demerara sugar.
  6. CAREFULLY slide the galette, still on the baking paper, onto your baking sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and leave to cool for ten minutes.
  7. While the galette is baking, make your ricotta following this method from The Kitchn. You only need to drain the ricotta for ten minutes, as you want it to be quite soft and fluffy. Once drained, add the honey and leave to one side until the galette is baked.
  8. Once the galette is cool, serve immediately with a large blob of the honey ricotta. Both the ricotta and the galette should keep for around five days.

 

 

 

 

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Chicory, Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart

Chicory

Because I have pretensions towards being middle class, I get a vegetable box from Abel & Cole delivered each fortnight. And, because I am horrendously forgetful – particularly when it comes to vegetable deliveries – I often neglect to take a look at their website to see what’s going to be in it each week. While this often leads to me opening my box to find delicious surprises inside, it also means that I’m frequently presented with vegetables which I have no idea what to do with (Kohlrabi, anyone?) This is how I found myself frantically googling ‘chicory recipes’ recently. I had a vague memory of eating it in a (frankly disgusting) gratin once –  the sprinkling of anemic looking breadcrumbs doing nothing to disguise its hideous slimy bitterness – so I wasn’t feeling too confident. And I certainly didn’t want to find myself spending an hour of my life slaving over a hot stove only to make something which looked vile, smelt like a foot and ended up being swiftly dispatched to the bin.

Then inspiration kindly decided to roll out of my kitchen cupboards in the form of my tart tin. I’m very fond of baking up leftover vegetables into various creations, and I’m even fonder of finding an excuse to wrap them up in pastry. I had a vague inkling that chicory and blue cheese went well together, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was eating gigantic slabs of this Chicory, Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart for my lunch.

Chicory Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart

Comprising of caramelised onions and chicory, and a larger-than-really-needed handful of blue cheese,  this is quite a robust little number. It’s helped in no small part by the delicious olive oil tart crust I used as a base. Taken from the delightful French food blog Chocolate & Zucchini, it’s a doddle to make, comes together in minutes and rolls out like a dream (although it can be a bit springy when chilled.)  I found this crust to be perfect for this recipe, although I’m sure that no one will complain if you use ready made shortcrust instead (and if they do, I suggest you throw them some serious side-eye.) This makes a fine lunch, a divine dinner and a seriously superb snack.  It goes very well with a crisp green salad and an even crisper glass of white wine. Alternatively, it also works well being eaten in the light of your fridge while listening to the World at One.

A slice of chicory tart

CHICORY, BLUE CHEESE AND CARAMELISED ONION TART

You will need:

  • One tart crust (either make your own, or use your preferred brand of shortcrust pastry)
  • 2 bulbs of chicory
  • 1 large red onion
  • 30g butter
  • 1tbsp light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50ml creme fraiche
  • 100g blue cheese (I used Cashel Blue), crumbled into lumps
  • Salt & Pepper

Make It!

  1. First, prepare your tart crust. Roll the pastry out to 3mm thickness, and gently lay it over a tart tin. Blind bake it for 15-20  minutes at 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool while you’re preparing the filling.
  2. Slice the onion and the chicory into rounds (making sure to discard the hard core of the chicory.) Heat the sugar and butter together until they are browned and bubbling slightly. Fry the onion and chicory for roughly 5 – 7 minutes until they are soft and golden. Remove from the pan, and set to one side.
  3. Beat the eggs and creme fraiche together, add the lumps of blue cheese and season well with salt and pepper. Layer the chicory and onions inside your baked tart case, and pour the wet mixture over the top, ensuring that the blue cheese crumbs are spread evenly.
  4. Bake at 200°C/Gas Mark 6 for 30 – 35 minutes until set. Leave to cool for fifteen minutes before serving.  This should be good for around a week, meaning it’s great if you want to cook it the day before taking it to a picnic or brunch. 

 

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Cornershop Chocolate Honeycomb Cake

Chocolate Honeycomb Cake (2)

You’d think that with nearly five years of living in Bootle under my belt, I’d have learnt by now. But every Easter it’s the same. The urge to bake something sweet will usually strike me somewhere between my first bacon sandwich and the 3.00pm football kick off, and I’ll realise with a sinking feeling that I’ve not got nearly enough ingredients in my cupboards and all the local supermarkets are closed. Praise be then to the heathen cornershop at the end of my road. OK, so the women behind the counter usually scowl at me for slouching in there in my leggings with unwashed hair, and the produce there verges somewhere between ‘ropey’ and ‘inedible,’ but they’re usually stocked with butter, milk and bread, and you can buy two gigantic bars of Dairy Milk for a quid.

Hence this ‘Cornershop Chocolate Honeycomb Cake,’ a total bastardisation of Nigella Lawson’s classic Honey Chocolate Cake. Made out of various odds and ends, and a jar of delicious citrus infused honey that I managed to sneak home from Florida in my suitcase (Take that Richard Dawkins!) this is a seriously impressive little number. In the wrong hands, the combination of chocolate and honey could be decidedly sticky, but here, the combination of ingredients is perfectly balanced. I also loved the unique chocolate honey ganache which threatens to overwhelm the cake with sticky goop, but hardens into a gloriously shiny glaze.  The original version calls for you to make tiny bees out of marzipan, but I seriously lack both the patience and sugarwork skills to pull that kind of decoration trickery off. Instead,  I just bashed a Crunchie bar to bits with a rolling pin and sprinkled it over the top.

The end result is tasty, tangy and decidedly moreish – you need a lot of willpower to stop at just one slice.  It’s a testament to how good Nigella’s original recipe is that I made this with crappy chocolate and it still managed to be one of the best cakes I’ve baked in a very long time. With good quality ingredients, it’s sure to be sensational.

CHOCOLATE HONEY CAKE (Makes roughly 9 – 10 pieces)

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

You will need

For the cake:

  • 100 g chopped milk chocolate (My preferred brand is Green & Blacks)
  • 275 g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 225 g soft butter
  • 125 ml runny honey
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (again, I prefer to use Green & Blacks, but any good quality cocoa will work well here)
  • 250 ml boiling water

For the icing:

  • 60 ml water
  • 125 ml runny honey
  • 175 g milk chocolate
  • 75 g icing sugar
  • 1 Crunchie bar

Make It!

  1. Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature. While that’s happening, melt the chocolate from the cake part of the ingredients list in a good-sized bowl. You can either do this by zapping it in the microwave for a minute,  or by suspending the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350ºF, and butter and line a 23cm / 9 inch springform cake tin. (Alternatively, I used a silicon baking tray I got from my local ASDA, and the cake turned out perfectly.)
  3. Beat together the sugar and soft butter until airy and creamy, and then add the honey. Add one of the eggs, beating it in with a tablespoon of the flour, and then the other egg with another tablespoon of flour. Fold in the melted chocolate, and then the rest of the flour and the bicarbonate of soda. Add the cocoa and last of all, beat in the boiling water. Mix everything well to make a smooth batter and pour into the prepared tin. Cook for up to an hour and a half, though check the cake after 45 minutes and if it is catching cover the top lightly with foil and check every 15 minutes. (As a guide, mine was ready after an hour.)
  4. Let the cake cool completely for 45 minutes – 1 hour. While it’s chilling on the side, bash your Crunchie bar into small pieces. I find it’s quite cathartic to wrap it in a tea towel and beat the living daylights out of it with a rolling pin/EMPTY wine bottle.
  5. To make the glaze, bring the water and the rest of the honey to a boil in a small saucepan, then turn off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate, swirling it around to melt in the hot liquid. Leave it for a few minutes then whisk together. Sieve in the icing sugar (don’t skip this step, otherwise your icing will be horribly lumpy) and whisk again until smooth.
  6. Pour the icing over the chocolate cake and smooth it down the sides with a palette knife. Sprinkle the bits of crunchie bar over the top and leave to set for an hour – 2 hours prior to serving. This cake should last for seven days in an airtight container, but you’ll be lucky if it lasts for five minutes.
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The winner is…. (and a recipe for Lemon Curd & Ginger Loaf Cake)

Random org winner

So remember last week where I decided to hold my FIRST EVER BLOG GIVEAWAY to win a fantastic pancake hamper from Abra-ca-Debora? Well, via the application of rigorous internet science* (*entering a load of numbers into random.org), I’m pleased to say that the winner is….Victoria!

Winner's comment
So, massive congratulations to Victoria! I’ll be sending you an email today to get all your details so that a hamper wings its way out to you ASAP.

Outside of competitions and pancakes, it’s been a week frayed at the edges with minor annoyances. For example, did you know that if you experience a moment of madness while running a competition on your blog where you decide to change its WordPress URL, it can – and will – screw everything up? Well, neither did I before last week! You would have thought that – as someone who has a job where she works with the internet all day – I would know this. But no. Cue lots of swearing, and more than one trip to the fridge to bury my face in the jar of lemon curd I had in there.

Lemon curd

I love lemon curd. In fact I can’t really control myself around it. I love how it tastes like a burst of spring sunshine bursting inside your mouth, and how the really good stuff has the texture of velvet. On more than one occasion I have been found hunkering next to the light of an open fridge door, spooning great tablespoons of the stuff into my mouth in lieu of dinner.  But with a two week holiday on the horizon, and the knowledge that I really needed to use up a load of perishable ingredients before I left, I decided to do the honorable thing and stick the leftover half a jar of it that I had into a loaf cake. 

Lemon Curd & Ginger Loaf Cake

 

Lemon Curd & Ginger Cake with Jam

This was my breakfast this morning

This isn’t the prettiest cake in the world (my notoriously temperamental oven decided to do a number on it and cook the outside to an alarmingly dark shade of brown), and when I pulled it out of the oven, I was slightly alarmed that it looked more like a well fired brick than a delicious tea time treat. However,  when I cut into it, I discovered a sponge which is as pale and bright as a Spring morning. The yoghurt keeps it tender and moist, and the ginger glaze adds an extra shot of zing. While it may not be gracing the pages of any twee food websites any time soon, it is the perfect cake for the season – a little scraggy, not as pretty as it could be, but with lots of beauty right underneath the surface.

LEMON CURD & GINGER LOAF CAKE 

Adapted from BBC Good Food

You will need:

  • 175g softened butter or baking margarine
  • 150ml natural yogurt
  • 3 (large) tbsp lemon curd
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 tbsp ginger cordial
  • zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 175g golden caster sugar

For the glaze

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp ginger cordial

Make It!

  1. Heat oven to 160C/gas 3. Grease a medium sized loaf tin and line with baking paper.
  2. Cream the softened butter and caster sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a wooden spoon before adding yogurt, lemon curd, eggs, lemon zest and 1tbsp flour. Mix until combined. Then, gently fold in the rest of the flour and mix until the batter just comes together. Bake for 55 minutes – 1 hour until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  4. Cool in the tin, before making the glaze. Combine the ginger cordial with the icing sugar (and some of the lemon zest if you have any left over), and mix together until a thin glaze is formed.  Brush over the top of the cake with a pastry brush, ensuring that you get the glaze into every tiny crevice.  Serve in slices with extra lemon curd (or strawberry jam if you’ve eaten all the leftover lemon curd while waiting for your cake to bake), leftover yogurt and a nice cup of tea.
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Chocolate Brown-Butter Muffnuts

Chocolate brown butter muffnut

One of the things I like best about my new working-from-home regime is the fact that I can act on my impulses. If I want soda bread for breakfast, I can just walk into the kitchen and make soda bread for breakfast. If I fancy a curry for lunch, all I need to do is avoid being knocked out by the jar of Madras paste when I attempt to dislodge it from the top of my (overstuffed) cupboard and whip one up during The World at One. So, when I was gripped an overwhelming urge for donuts on Monday afternoon (brought on by the sight of a Dunkin Donuts box in an episode of Orange is the New Black) I knew what I needed to do.

I am too much of a wuss to deal with bubbling pans of boiling oil on a weekday afternoon, so I turned to a baked doughnut recipe from Joy the Baker to cure my cravings. While some may see baked doughnuts as being a bit of a cop-out – particularly as they lack that delicious artery-clogging hit of hot fat and white sugar you get from the fried versions – they’re great for people like me who like to kid themselves that they are a ‘healthy option’. The only snag in my glorious plan was that Joy’s original recipe calls for a ‘doughnut pan’. I do not own a doughnut pan. I do not know anyone who owns a doughnut pan. In fact, prior to reading that recipe, I wasn’t even aware that doughnut pans existed. And I certainly wasn’t going to schlep all the way to Lakeland for a very specific item of bakeware. It was time to put my thinking cap on.

Muffnuts

So, I used what few lateral thinking skills I have retained from my time in the Girl’s Brigade, and decided to improvise. If you’ve been keeping abreast of the food media over the past week or so, you’ll have seen a lot of press about the ‘duffin,’ a doughnut-muffin hybrid which was created by Bea’s of Bloomsbury and has (rather naughtily) been trademarked by Starbucks.  I’m not going to say that this donut-muffin mishmash is my version of a ‘duffin’ as a) I don’t want to be sued by Starbucks and b) I much prefer the portmeanteau of ‘muffnut’ (plus, ‘muffnut’ just sounds dirtier.) What I will say is that these muffnuts are the perfect vehicle for a chocolate glaze and a shedload of sprinkles, and make a perfect 3pm high-tea treat. Oh, and if you have an incredibly childish sense of humour like me, they provide you with ample opportunity to make loads of jokes about your ‘muff’. Sorry Mum.

Topped Muffnuts

CHOCOLATE BROWN-BUTTER MUFFNUTS (Makes six ‘muffnuts’)

Adapted from Joy the Baker

You will need

For the Muffnuts:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 75g white sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 100ml buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

For the Chocolate Glaze:

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder (I used Green & Blacks)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Make It!

  1. Heat your oven to 200 degrees c/gas mark 5. Lightly grease a muffin tray, and set to one side.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. The butter will begin to crackle and pop as it melts. Once the water has evaporated, the butter will begin to brown quickly and smell nutty. Make sure that you keep an eye on it, as it can easily burn at this stage. Once it’s turned a rich brown colour, remove from the heat and immediately transfer (brown bits and all) to a small bowl.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, brown butter and vanilla essence.
  5. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir together until no flour bits remain and all of the ingredients are well combined. Try not to overmix the batter, as that will lead to rubbery muffnuts (and no, that’s not a euphemism.)
  6. Portion out the batter into each section of the muffin tray until they are all evenly filled. This batter should give you six large ‘muffnuts’.
  7. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until they have turned a rich golden colour.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan before gently (!) removing them and placing them onto a wire rack. (If you don’t have rack, a large plate will be fine.)
  8. While the doughnuts cool, make the glaze.
  9. To make the glaze, sift your icing sugar into a medium sized bowl to remove any lumps. Then, whisk it together with the cocoa powder, and salt.
  10. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and vanilla essence, and whisk to combine. If it looks too thick, add a touch more milk. You want the glaze to have a relatively thick consistency.
  11. Once the muffnuts are completely cool, dip top-side-down into the chocolate glaze. Return to the wire rack/plate. If you’re artistically minded, this is the time to cover them in sprinkles. Allow to set for about 30 minutes before stacking or serving. The muffnuts should last for 2 days, but quite frankly, you’ll be lucky if they last two hours.
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Chocolate Chip Muffin Loaf

Chocolate chips

Last Wednesday, I was having an exceedingly bad day. It was raining, my train to work was late, the Virgin Trains wi-fi connection that I paid £6 for was so slow that I seriously wondered if it was being powered by a hamster wheel, my laptop decided not to save the presentation I spent an hour working on, and  – perhaps worst of all – I ate a disappointing muffin.

In fairness, I should probably have known what I was getting myself into when I decided to buy the aforementioned ‘skinny muffin’ before heading onto the train. Skinny muffin. Was there ever a more contradictory sounding food product? This one claimed to be filled with blueberries, but instead it tasted of artificial sweeteners and sadness. While I may have eaten the whole thing in a fit of hunger and self loathing, I vowed that I would not repeat the experience. And, that when I returned home, I would create a vastly superior product that would knock the socks off all who tried it. (I may have been watching too much Breaking Bad.)

Chocolate Chip Muffin Loaf (1)

So, behold this Chocolate Chip Muffin Loaf. That’s right. Muffin loaf. Because why have just one measly muffin when you can consume an entire loaf made out of the stuff? In terms of baking, this is about as simple as it gets – one bowl, lots of butter, and a shitload of chocolate chips (although, if you wanted to gussy it up a bit, this would probably be even more delicious if you added some chopped dried apricots to it.) It takes less than ten minutes to assemble too, meaning that you can go from no muffin – ultimate muffin within the space of an hour. And while this may not be the best muffin you’ve ever tasted, I’d argue that it’s pretty damn close. But seeing as I managed to eat half a loaf of this stuff within twenty minutes of it emerging from the oven, I guess I would say that.

Chocolate Chip Muffin Loaf (2)

CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFIN LOAF

Based loosely on this recipe from Abel & Cole

You will need:

  • 100g unsalted butter, melted
  • 200g plain white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 130g golden caster sugar
  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • 120ml milk
  • 100g dark chocolate chips

Make It!

  1. Heat your oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Oil a medium sized loaf tin and line with baking paper (this will stop it sticking.)
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Whisk the egg, milk and butter together and add to the dry ingredients until a smooth batter forms (take care not to overmix your ingredients!)
  4. Mix in the chocolate chips. Eat a few while you’re doing this.
  5. Pour into the prepared baking tin and bake for 45 mins, till golden and a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Devour immediately with a cup of tea.
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Butterscotch Cake

A slice of Butterscotch cake

There’s been a serious lack of cake around here recently. Although, if I’m being perfectly honest, there’s been a serious lack of anything around here recently. Despite a New Year’s Resolution I made to myself to post here once a week, I’ve been suffering a serious bout of ‘cooking block’ recently (it’s a bit like writer’s block, only with more washing up at the end of it.) While I’ve attempted to alleviate this by baking cake-after-cake-after-cake, none of them have been right. A Blood Orange and Lemon cake which involved simmering the fruits whole before blending them into a pulp resulted in a concoction which was lip puckeringly bitter. (It ended up being dumped in the bin while myself and Mr. McMc attempted to whistle the last post.) A Red Wine and Chocolate cake was OK, but slightly too chalky and dry to share with the class, while the hastily snapped pictures I took of it made it look like a gigantic disintegrating doorstop covered in splooge.

Finally, in a last ditch attempt to create something anything which was vaguely dessert-based for Easter dinner, I hit upon the idea of a Butterscotch Cake comprising of an ethereally light vanilla sponge coated in a layer of thick butterscotch.  It was simple, it was delicious and it didn’t require me to grate, boil or pulp anything that could fly out of my mixer and hit me right between the eyes (you may laugh at this, but – real talk – the other day an uncrushed lump of muscovado sugar flew out of the bowl of my KitchenAid and whacked me right in the forehead. I would have found it hilarious if I hadn’t been so shocked.) It was perfect – an addictive slice of buttery, caramelised sweetness which might just be one of the best things to ever come out of my kitchen.

I’d suggest serving it for afternoon tea accompanied by genteel finger sandwiches and tea served out of china cups, but I found that it was best eaten messily with my fingers while watching episode after episode of Community in my pyjamas. And while I’m not entirely sure my blogging mojo has fully returned, it was certainly nice to welcome its brief return with a saucepan full of butterscotch.

Butterscotch Cake (Slices)

BUTTERSCOTCH CAKE (Makes 8 generous slices and 16 slim ones)

For the sponge, I used a mixture of demerara and golden caster sugar which added a nice caramel note. If you don’t have any demerara sugar, just use 150g golden caster sugar. The butterscotch recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen (have you bought her recipe book yet? You really should you know.)

You will need:

For the cake

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the butterscotch sauce

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 109g muscovado sugar
  • 1118ml double cream
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract, plus more to taste

Make It!

  1. Bake your cake: Heat your oven to Gas Mark 4/150°c. Grease a medium sized springform cake tin and line it with baking paper.
  2. Beat the softened butter and sugars together until they look light and fluffy. (You can do this with a wooden spoon if you have super-strong arms, but you might prefer to use an electric mixer for this bit.) Add the eggs, milk and vanilla essence and whisk again. The mixture should be thick enough to drip off a spoon and leave a trail in the bowl.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together. (I always use a trick I learned from Delia for this which involves holding the sieve at chest height to ensure that the flour gets a good airing as it falls down into the bowl.) Add the flours to the wet ingredients and gently fold the mixture together until everything is just combined. You don’t want to do this too roughly as then the sponge will lose some of its light airiness.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and smooth out with a spatula. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the side while you get on with the important business of making the butterscotch sauce.
  5. Make the butterscotch sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the sugar, double cream and salt and whisk together until well blended. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of the vanilla extract, stirring to combine. Dip a spoon in the sauce and carefully taste the sauce to see if you want to add additional pinches or salt or splashes of vanilla. Tweak it to your taste, whisking well after each addition.  Leave the sauce to cool for a minute until it has thickened slightly.
  7. Remove the cake from the tin and place on a (large) plate. Pour the butterscotch sauce generously over the cake until it is fully covered. If you have any sauce left over, I highly suggest eating it straight from the pan with a large spoon until you feel a bit sick.
  8. Once the cake is cool and the butterscotch sauce has hardened, slice the cake and serve with coffee. Leftovers can be kept in an airtight tin for up to five days (but trust me, it probably won’t last that long.)
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Toffee Apple Cake

No one likes it when people moan about how busy they are (because hey, isn’t everyone incredibly busy? It feels like half of the people I know are currently ill from stress induced lurgy) but – real talk – life feels ever so slightly chaotic at the moment. I feel as though I live in a world of deadlines, stress and poor sleep patterns occasionally disrupted by the occasional visit to the pub. I’ve found myself desperately inhaling gigantic portions of spinach in an attempt to keep my iron levels up so I don’t fall asleep underneath my desk. It’s come to the point where I’m actually looking forward to my eight hour flight to New York (#humblebrag) next Tuesday as it will be eight hours where I can read, watch crap TV and drink cheap wine without worrying that I should be somewhere doing something.

I’ve mentioned before that when life gets too much for me to handle, I head to my kitchen to indulge in a bit of displacement-therapy baking. Baking-hell-hath-no-fury like a woman who’s on a deadline and is procrastinating by making a gigantic cake. This was the case in my kitchen last Saturday where I was putting real life at bay by closing the door and attempting to cook with every perishable ingredient I could find. The nice people at Fruitdrop, an office fruit delivery service, had recently sent me a box stuffed full of apples, plums, oranges and bananas. After eating a fair amount of the fruit (and forcing giant carrier bags full of bananas onto my colleagues), I decided to make a Bonfire night inspired Toffee Apple Cake.

I’ve adapted this recipe from one I saw on the Great British Bake Off. While the cake on there is an exotic creature full of caramel crowns and orange zest, this is a slightly more homely offering. However, looks aren’t everything, and this is full of squidgy toffee flavour (helped in no small part by the demerera sugar used in the sponge), warm, sweet wintry spices and a good whack of booze (I used Courvoisier, but any brandy will do. If you’ve got any Calvados hanging around, I’d suggest throwing that in there.) The proof of any pudding is in the eating, and when I took this cake to a party on Saturday night, it was quite gratifying to see it all gobbled up. If you want to get fancy, you could always smother it in custard, or a butterscotch sauce, but I preferred to just eat chunks of it whole while standing by my stove and basking in the radiance of a bit of much-needed-me-time.

Toffee Apple Cake

TOFFEE APPLE CAKE

Adapted from a recipe originally seen on the Great British Bake Off

You will need:

For the toffee apple topping

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into medium-sized wedges (they should be roughly the thickness of a pound coin)

For the cake

  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g demerera sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 medium free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 60ml tbsp whole milk
  • 2 shots of brandy (I used Courvoisier)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Make It!

  1. Thoroughly grease a medium sized springform cake tin (I like to spray the tin with spray oil for this – it works a treat.) Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
  2. For the topping, put a small saucepan over a high heat. Add the sugar and three tablespoons of water and cook until it the sugar melts and turns amber – do not stir at any point, although you may want to give it a quick swirl towards the end to ensure that all the sugar is browned. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the toffee into the lined baking tin, taking care to cover the base completely. BE CAREFUL – hot molten sugar can burn you quite badly, and it’s also a bugger to get off surfaces once it’s cooled. Place the apple wedges in three rows on top of the toffee.
  3. For the cake, beat the butter, demerera sugar and soft brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda and add a tablespoon of this to the butter mix along with one egg. Mix until combined and repeat the process until all the flour and eggs have been used. Stir in the milk, brandy, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour into the cake tin and gently smooth with a spatula.
  4. Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Using oven gloves, place a cooling rack over the tin and flip the cake over, making sure that you take care not to burn yourself on any hot caramel that may leak from the tin. Leave to cool for five – ten minutes, then remove from the tin and set aside to cool completely.
  5. Cut yourself a big slice of this bad boy and enjoy.
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Mushroom & (Smoked) Garlic Quiche

Mushrooms

I’ve been taking packed lunches to work with me recently. Ostensibly, this is because I am trying to save money (and the amount of money I’ve been spending on disappointing sandwiches recently is frankly ludicrous). However, it’s also because I am a giant glutton. If I had my way, I’d be gorging myself on huge slabs of brownies and bowls of pork-laden ramen noodles each day. While these are always wonderful, woman cannot live on bowls of soup which contain deep fried eggs alone. Especially when said woman is attempting to train for a 10k. Ever tried to do a five mile run after eating your own bodyweight in Mexican food? I really don’t recommend it. Turns out that gyms aren’t fond of you threatening to do sneaky voms behind the rowing machine.

However, as anyone who has ever worked in an office will know, microwave space is at a premium at lunchtimes. By the time you’ve waited for a giant queue of your colleagues to heat up their Super Noodles at 12.30 each day, you’ve only got ten minutes to gulp your food down before you have to head back to your desk. So, I’ve taken to bringing my own pre-made lunches to work, much like the ones my Mum used to lovingly pack for me when I was a kid. However, instead of ham sandwiches and mini rolls, I’m feasting on giant tubs of salads and baked products like this Mushroom and (Smoked) Garlic Quiche.

Mushroom & Smoked Garlic Quiche

Making quiche always fills me with a sense of pride, like I’m Bootle’s answer to Delia Smith.  It’s the kind of baking endeavour that you do on a rainy Sunday afternoon while listening to a crap play on Radio 4, just losing yourself in an orgy of chopping, and sweating and pre-baking. I used smoked garlic for my quiche, mainly because I’d recently bought a bulb of it from the Manchester Food and Drink festival and was looking for a use for it which didn’t just involve sticking it up a chicken’s rear end. However, if you can’t find smoked garlic, ordinary garlic will do just as well. As always when you’re making anything involving pastry, the key is to keep everything REALLY REALLY cold. Use cold butter and ice water, and if it starts getting a bit messy, just bung it back in the fridge. Yes, it means the whole process takes that little bit longer, but at least you’ll be left with a pastry case that actually looks and tastes good, rather than one made out of tears and fail.

To make this into a lunch to remember, serve with a bowl of hot soup, or a nice salad. Do pair it with something substantial though. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself scoffing a giant slab of it for elevenses at work and be left wondering what you’re going to have for lunch now. Much like me. Oh well, at least my intentions were good anyway.

P.S. I’m off to the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards tonight to represent ‘Little Red Courgette’. I have nails the colour of a Disney villain and I’m wearing a dress which makes me look like a sexy witch with a fox on her crotch. Wish me luck!

P.P.S. I’ve also been nominated for a Blog North award which is doubly exciting. I find out the results on the 17th October, and will keep you posted. Wish me double luck!

Mushroom and Smoked Garlic Quiche (S)

MUSHROOM AND (SMOKED) GARLIC QUICHE   (Serves Four)

You will need:

For the pastry

  • 50g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 120g plain flour
  • 25g parmesan cheese, grated
  • A pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 1 punnet of mushrooms, chopped into slices
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 100g crème fraiche (the full fat stuff please – go hard or go home)
  • 1 tsp of thyme
  • 25g cheddar, grated
  • 25g parmesan, grated

Make It!

  1. Rub the butter into the flour, then add the parmesan and salt. Add a tablespoon of ice cold water and combine until it forms a dough. (Alternatively, if you have a food processor, pulse all of the ingredients together with some water until it forms a slightly sticky dough). Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
  2. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, and then line a tart tin with it. Make sure that you press the dough firmly into the tin – you can use a small ball of spare dough to press it into all the nooks and crannies. If the dough starts getting a bit sweaty and floppy, just pop it back in the fridge for a few minutes to set. Line the dough with some baking parchment and baking beads, and then pre-bake in the oven at Gas Mark 4/200 degrees C for 20 minutes. To get a nice golden crust, paint the inside with a little beaten egg (you can use this from the filling ingredients) and bake for another five minutes.
  3. While the pastry case is baking, sweat the mushrooms in some butter until they turn brown. Remove from the pan and place to one side. Then, sweat the onion in some more butter and oil for 15-20 minutes until it has caramelised (it should have taken on a golden brown colour). Add the garlic, and cook for another five minutes or so.
  4. Mix the beaten eggs and crème fraiche together until fully combined. Add the grated cheddar to the tart case, then the mushrooms, then the onions and garlic. Pour the egg-crème-fraiche mixture over the vegetables, then top with the grated parmesan. Bake the tart at 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 4 for 30-40 minutes until the golden and fluffy, and the centre feels firm.
  5. Serve with a crisp salad, and a large glass of something equally crisp and alcoholic.
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Honey Spice Cake

I didn’t get Easter eggs this year. Don’t worry, I wasn’t too miffed about the situation – I’m more a savoury than sweet kind of girl, and Easter eggs just don’t taste the same if they’ve not been shattered by my younger brother headbutting them into little chocolatey shards. Instead, I spent my Easter doing what I do best. Baking. I’d like to think that if Jesus was around nowadays, he’d be less interested in people gorging themselves on chocolate, and more interested in people gnawing on delicious looking cakes and gigantic legs of lamb. Then again, if Jesus was around now, I’m sure he’d be a massive hit at cocktail parties with that whole ‘turning water into wine’ trick of his.

And so, on Sunday, I rolled my sleeves up and pootled off to ASDA on my bike for baking supplies. I originally intended for this to be a spiced stout cake, if only to attone for the Humingbird Bakery Chocolate Stout cake which I attempted to make (with a cracking hangover) for Mother’s Day, and which resulted in an overly sweet pile of crumbs which was only held together by a heart-attack-inducing amount of cream cheese. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Mainly because ASDA was closed, so I had to turn to the heathen cornershops of Bootle for salvation.

When life gives you a major supermarket-unfriendly-bank holiday that you’ve forgotten about because you have your head in the clouds, you have to improvise. So, I decided to replace the stout with some Hobgoblin ale, the black treacle with some honey, and glazed the bugger with a combination of icing sugar, and my old friend Mr. Ginger Cordial. What resulted was a beautiful, golden coloured cake, full of toffee flavours and a good whack of warming, zingy spice – like a giant toffee mince pie. It’s also wonderfully moist, a huge squidgey slice of comfort.

OK, so it may not have been particularly seasonal, but (if my poor recollection of my R.E. lessons from school serves me well), Jesus was more likely to relax with a delicious snack of honey when he wasn’t hanging out with his disciples than he was a giant chocolate egg…

HONEY SPICE CAKE (Makes one medium sized cake, containing 10-12 slices)

You will need:

  • 360g self raising flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 pods cardamom – seeds ground in a pestle and mortar
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 150g firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 350ml ruby ale (I used Hobgoblin)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten lightly

For the glaze

  • 3 tablespons milk
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ginger cordial

Make It!

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°c/gas mark 4. and butter a medium sized springform cake tin.
  2. Into a large bowl sift together the self raising flour,  salt,  and the spices.
  3. Combine the ruby ale, butter and honey in a medium sized pan, and heat gently until the butter has melted and is foaming slightly. Take off the heat, add the brown sugar and leave to cool.
  4. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, and add to the cooled honey-butter-beer mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until a firm, gloppy batter has been formed. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave it to cool completely before turning the cake out onto a cooling rack.
  5. In a small bowl whisk together the icing sugar, milk and ginger cordial. Pour the glaze carefully over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Brush the glaze over the the surface area with a small pastry brush until the entire cake is covered. Allow to stand for 30 minutes, or until the glaze is set.
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