Sunday, 26 June 2016

Nutty Rhubarb Cake

This was going to be a rhubarb and almond cake, but I couldn't find the flaked almonds I was sure I had, so it became a cake with mixed nuts - ground almonds in the cake batter and chopped toasted hazelnuts on top. It's a recipe I've used many times before - a shortbread/scone-like dough sandwiching a layer of cooked rhubarb  - and it's become a family favourite. The dough is lighter than pastry but not as soft as a cake.

Ingredients
150g butter
150g caster sugar
1 large egg
a few drops almond extract (optional)
250g SR flour
50g ground almonds
about 400g of rhubarb (cooked with 50g sugar and drained of juice)
25g chopped toasted hazelnuts

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and base-line a 20cm (8") springform tin.
Melt the butter in a large bowl, in the microwave (or in a saucepan on the hob).
Add the sugar and stir until evenly mixed, then beat in the egg and the almond extract, if using.
Stir in the flour and ground almonds to give a soft dough.
Spread 2/3 of the dough into the bottom of the prepared tin, working the dough up the edge of the tin to make a shallow wall.
Put the fruit onto the base, making an even layer level with the top of the wall of dough.
Using fingers, break the remaining dough into small pieces and scatter over the fruit, spreading the dough to cover as much of the filling as possible, There will be gaps in the dough but these fill up as the dough spreads and rises during baking.
Sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts and press lightly into the dough.
Bake for around 50-60 minutes, until the dough is golden brown and feels firm; cool in the tin.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Malted Chocolate Cake

for We Should Cocoa

The added ingredient for this month's We Should Cocoa event, hosted by Green Gourmet Giraffe, is malt. The idea of We Should Cocoa, which originated from Choclette at Tin and Thyme, is to pair chocolate, in some form, with the added ingredient or theme chosen by each month's host.

My first (and only!) idea was to use malted milk powder in a chocolate cake, so I bought an individual sachet of Horlicks; it was then that I found that most recipes used upwards of a quarter of a cup of malted milk powder - more than I had.

After a lot of searching, I found two versions of a Peyton and Byrne cake on two of the blogs I read regularly - Tin and Thyme (a fitting coincidence) and The More Than Occasional Baker - which only used a tablespoon of malted milk powder, so I used this as my starting point. The sachet of Horlicks I had looked as if it contained about 2 tablespoons, and I used 40g of malt extract in place of 40g of the dark muscovado sugar in the recipe, to increase the maltiness. In the absence of any milk chocolate in the storecupboard, I used white chocolate.

I followed the method in the recipe I found on The More Than Occasional Baker, as it was so unusual that I thought it must be nearest to the original. It might have been that my loaf tin was too short and deep, but I found the cake took 60 minutes to cook, rather than the 35-40 minutes suggested in the recipe (something Choclette at Tin and Thyme found too).

Ingredients
70g light muscovado sugar
70g dark muscovado sugar
40g malt extract
140g SR flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
32g (1 individual sachet) Horlicks malted milk powder
125g softened butter, in small pieces
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g plain chocolate, melted
110mls milk
75g white chocolate, chopped

Method
Preheat oven to 170C and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
Combine the sugars, malt extract, flour, salt and malted milk powder in a large bowl.
Add the butter and beat with a hand-held mixer, on a slow speed, until evenly combined.
Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until light and fluffy, then beat in the melted chocolate and milk until evenly combined.
Stir in the white chocolate pieces and transfer the batter to the baking tin.
Cook until a test probe comes out clean. The original recipe suggested 35-40 minutes, but my loaf took 60 minutes.
Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

I really liked the flavour combination of malt and chocolate, but this particular recipe really didn't work out very well. Although the loaf seemed to rise well in the oven, it sank a lot while cooling and became quite dense. It also dried out a bit around the edges, due to the longer cooking time.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Berry and Cherry Cake

This was a hastily thrown together cake, using what was available in my storecupboard, just to make sure there was something in the cake tin, to get us through to the weekend. I used a pack of mixed dried fruit  -  cranberries, flame raisins, golden raisins, inca berries, tart cherries, bing cherries and blueberries - and added the last of a tub of candied peel and a few drops of lemon extract for a light citrus note.

Ingredients
225g SR flour
110g butter
85g caster sugar
100g mixed dried fruit
2 tablespoons candied peel, finely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
few drops lemon extract,
1 egg
milk to mix - about 100mls
2 tablespoons demerara sugar for topping (optional)

Method
Preheat the oven to 175C and line a small (1lb/450g) loaf tin.
Rub the butter into the flour, then stir in the sugar, dried fruit and candied peel.
Add the egg, vanilla and lemon extracts and 3 tablespoons of milk. Mix to a smooth batter, adding more milk, as necessary, to give a dropping consistency.
Transfer the batter to the loaf tin, level the top and sprinkle with demerara sugar, if using.
Bake for about 60 minutes, until a test probe comes out clean and dry.
Cool on a wire rack

Because this is a rubbed-in cake, rather than starting with a creamed mixture of fat and sugar, there isn't a really fine crumb, and small holes can often be seen, but for a quickly put together fruit cake, I think this is acceptable. The unusual combination of dried fruits in the mixture, together with the background citrus flavour, made a really tasty cake.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Rhubarb Streusel Cake

Another recipe from Sue Lawrence's book 'On Baking' - this was the one I'd originally planned to bake, before I turned the page and saw the recipe for Date and Ginger Shortbread Squares, which I couldn't resist! I haven't added many rhubarb recipes to the blog this year, as my husband's favourite dessert is rhubarb crumble, which is so easy to prepare that I'm happy to make it regularly during the rhubarb season. This cake made a nice change from crumble, but to be honest, it wasn't as good!

Sue bakes this recipe in a 20cm (8") square cake tin, but it wasn't clear from the recipe how deep the tin needed to be, so I played safe and used a 22cm (9") round tin instead, then cut the cake into wedges to serve. It would have been OK in a shallow square pan, of the type used for brownies, as it wasn't a very deep cake, so now I'll know if I want to make it again. The dough base was quite scone-like after baking, and quite dry, rather than a light cake, but this was balanced by the moistness of the rhubarb layer on top. To enjoy this cake at it's best, it really needs eating fresh, on the day it is made.

The only change I made to the recipe was to roast the rhubarb and sugar, rather than cook it in a saucepan on the hob. I find the rhubarb is more likely to keep it's shape this way. I also drained off the juice formed during cooking.

Filling - 450g rhubarb, chopped into 3cm lengths, roasted with 50g light muscovado sugar at 180C for about 20 minutes, until tender, then cooled and drained.

Base - 85g ground almonds; 170g SR flour; 85g light muscovado sugar; 115g butter; 1 egg; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Streusel Topping - 2 heaped tablespoons porridge oats; 2 tablespoons plain flour; 3 tablespoons light muscovado sugar; 1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger; 2 tablespoons sunflower oil.

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and base-line a shallow cake tin  - 20cm square or 22 cm round.
Put the flour and almonds into a bowl and rub in the butter. Mix in the sugar, then the vanilla and the egg until everything is evenly mixed. This will not be a soft batter at this stage, more like pastry to handle.
Tip the dough into the baking tin, and use dampened finger tips to spread evenly over the base.
Carefully spoon the rhubarb over the base, leaving a small margin around the edges.
For the topping, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit.
Bake for about 50 minutes, until well-risen and golden. Cool in the tin.

Overall, this was a pleasant cake, but nothing special. If I made it again, I think I'd double the amount of topping, and perhaps add some flaked almonds, as the cake seemed a little unbalanced with such a small amount of streusel, although it was nice to see the pink rhubarb poking through.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Chocolate-topped Coconut Flapjack

When this recipe, for Bounty Flapjacks, popped up on my Facebook page, I was instantly smitten. As I have a reliable recipe of my own for flapjacks, I decided to adapt that, rather than follow She Who Bakes' recipe, but I want to acknowledge where the idea came from!

Ingredients
100g butter
60g coconut oil
100g light muscovado sugar
70g golden syrup
240g porridge oats
70g desiccated coconut

Topping - 150g plain chocolate and extra desiccated coconut (about 25g) for sprinkling

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a shallow 20cm (8") square baking tin with baking parchment.

In a large bowl, in the microwave, melt the butter, coconut oil, sugar and syrup together and stir until the the mixture is smooth. It doesn't need to get to boiling point, just hot enough to dissolve the sugar. Alternatively use a saucepan on the hob.

Stir in the oats and coconut and mix well to coat everything in the butter mix. Spread evenly in the baking tin and press down firmly. Bake for 25 minutes, until just beginning to colour.

While the flapjack is cooking, finely chop the chocolate. Remove the cooked flapjack from the oven and turn off the heat. Sprinkle the chocolate fairly evenly over the oat base and pop back into the oven for 5 minutes. After this time, spread the melted chocolate right to the edges of the flapjack, with a spatula or the back of a spoon and sprinkle heavily with desiccated coconut.

I usually cut my flapjacks into squares while still warm, and did the same this time, but that meant the chocolate topping dribbled down the sides of the squares a little. I wasn't sure how well the flapjack would cut when cold, and was also worried that the chocolate would crack in the wrong place if I left it until set, but that meant I didn't get the clean looking squares that are shown with She Who Bakes recipe!

Once cut, the flapjack needs to be left until the chocolate has set before removing from the baking tin - this can take a surprisingly long time!

These were delicious! I wouldn't go so far as to call them Bounty Flapjacks as the chewy, oat-packed flapjack, with it's typical caramel-like flavour from the butter and brown sugar is more dominant than the Bounty Bar characteristics, but the combination of plain chocolate and coconut is always a winner with me, and adding it to flapjack is a brilliant idea.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Date and Ginger Shortbread Squares

After trying many different recipes for layered bars with a filling of jam or softened dried fruit, I think I've at last found the perfect recipe for the dough layers. This recipe for Date and Ginger Squares, from Sue Lawrence's book 'On Baking' uses an easy shortbread dough made from equal parts of SR flour and semolina, which makes a really crisp, but melt-in-the-mouth biscuit. I adapted the recipe slightly by adding a little lemon zest to the filling, and adding the stem ginger in pieces, rather than blending it with the rest of the filling.

Filling - 175g dates, roughly chopped to check there are no stones left in
60g currants
1 tablespoon of ginger syrup from a jar of stem ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of half a lemon
good pinch of ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons water
2 balls of stem ginger, finely chopped

Dough - 175g SR flour
175g semolina
175g butter
85g caster sugar

For the filling, place all the ingredients except the stem ginger into a small pan and simmer together, for about 10 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and the dates soft. Purée with a stick blender or in a food processor, then stir in the chopped stem ginger.

For the shortbread dough, melt the butter and sugar together on a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then  tip it over the flour and semolina, and combine well. The mixture will be crumbly, not a smooth dough. Put 2/3 of this mixture into a 8" square shallow baking tin lined with baking parchment, spread evenly and press down firmly.

Spread the filling over the base, leaving a small margin around the edges. Crumble the rest of the  shortbread mixture over the filling, then press down lightly with the palm of your hand. There may still be a few gaps where the filling shows through, but this is fine!

Bake at 190C for 25 minutes, until the shortbread is golden brown. Cut into 16 squares as soon as the  tin comes out of the oven, but cool completely in the tin before trying to move the squares - they will be too fragile while still warm.

Although the biscuit dough for these squares was perfect, and the filling was very tasty, these squares didn't really live up to the name of 'Date and Ginger'. There certainly wasn't enough ginger in the recipe and I'm not sure the currants added anything to the taste experience. Next time I will try several things to increase the ginger flavour - more stem ginger, some ground ginger as well as cinnamon, and more ginger syrup instead of honey. I will also leave out the currants and increase the amount of dates.

I'll also be using the shortbread recipe in other types of bars - it would be interesting to see how the crisp biscuit stands up to using fresh fruit in the filling, which often produces a 'soggy bottom' result.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Marmalade and Spice Cake

Opinions were divided about this cake. Although we both agreed that the cake crumb was too dry, I liked the subtle blend of orange (from marmalade) and mixed spice in the body of the cake. Hubby, on the other hand, didn't like much about the cake at all - he thought the marmalade glaze and glacé icing drizzle was the only redeeming feature.

I used this recipe from Waitrose's website, substituting mixed spice for the cinnamon and nutmeg used in the recipe. You can see from the proportion of flour to other ingredients that it's not supposed to be a rich cake, but a plain cake needn't be as dry as this was. I think, with a little more butter, and another egg in place of 50mls of the milk, this could be a very good cake. The aim would be to get the texture of a good Madeira cake - denser than a sponge cake but still tender and moist. If that could be achieved I think the flavour of the cake would seem much better.

The cake didn't go to waste though; I roasted some rhubarb to serve with it and drizzled the slices with the cooking syrup from the rhubarb. With vanilla yogurt on the side, this made a tasty dessert. The spiced orange flavour complimented the rhubarb very well.