Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hazelnut and Coffee Cake with Nutella Frosting

Phew! A successful cake after what seems like a stream of disappointments. It's not really that long since I baked something that I was (almost) completely happy with, but it seems like it when you're having to eat second-rate cakes!

This is my first attempt at adapting the Annie Bell recipe for a Lemon Drizzle Traybake, which I tried recently. I left out the lemon (obviously!), dissolved some coffee in the milk and substituted ground hazelnuts for some of the flour. The batter was baked in two sponge tins and then sandwiched and topped with a soft Nutella and plain chocolate frosting.

Ingredients - cake
180ml sunflower oil
270g caster sugar
3 large eggs
100ml milk
1 tablespoon instant coffee
50g chopped toasted hazelnuts
1 teaspoon cocoa (see note)
220g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

60g plain chocolate
30g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons milk
roughly 100g Nutella*

Pre-heat the oven to 190C, and prepare two 8"(20cm) sandwich tins.
Dissolve the coffee in the milk. Put the hazelnuts, cocoa and 20g of the flour into a food processor or mini-chopper and process until the nuts are very finely ground, but not turning greasy (the flour helps prevent this).
In a large bowl whisk the oil, sugar, milk and coffee, and eggs until emulsified. Sift in the plain flour and baking powder, then add the ground nut mixture; whisk together until just combined.
Divide the mixture between the two sandwich tins and bake for about 20 minutes, or until done when tested.
Cool in the tins for ten minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.
When cool, sandwich with half the frosting and top with the other half.

While the cakes are cooking make the frosting - melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl, over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and beat in the other ingredients. Allow to cool to a spreading consistency before using.

* I tried to add an extra 50g of Nutella and the mixture started to split. I rescued it by adding a little extra milk, but this meant that the frosting didn't set as firm as I'd hoped. If you like thicker layers of filling and frosting, I suggest increasing all the ingredients by 50% (or even more!).

note - adding a little cocoa to cakes containing nuts is a tip from Dan Lepard to increase the nuttiness of the flavour.

This was a really well-flavoured and textured cake. The coffee flavour was a little overwhemed by the Nutella frosting, but I think the amount of coffee I used was enough - any more would have been bitter. The flavour of the nuts in both the cake and the frosting was very good.

With a differently flavoured  frosting - perhaps a vanilla or coffee buttercream - this would make a good coffee and nut cake with the coffee flavour more predominant. I'm really pleased that the recipe adapted as well as I'd hoped, and will be experimenting further with this.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

Another quick and incredibly easy recipe from Eating Well, and again, the result was a bit of a mixed bag. The flavour of the cake was fine but the texture was bordering on unpleasant - it felt like a dense bath sponge which needed wringing out.

I like dense moist chocolate cakes but not those that are so moist that they could be called wet! I'm not sure where, or if, I went wrong, but there was definitely too much liquid in the recipe - even after 45 minutes in the oven a test probe showed the cake was still damp in the centre. I'm pretty sure I didn't make any mistakes in measuring or weighing the ingredients, but my experience was nothing like that of those who commented on this recipe online.

At least it wasn't a large cake - we'll only get 6-8 portions out of it! My next bake is going to have to be a cake I know will work, or my family will rebel against my experiments, but I'm going to give Eating Well another chance, I think.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Ginger Citrus Cake

I don't know why I haven't come across the Eating Well website before now - it's certainly full of recipes which suit my current style of baking. I think my baking mojo is back after a very lacklustre couple of weeks, but it's getting increasingly harder to find new recipes which are low in saturated fat ie made with oil. Which is why I found Eating Well somewhere around page 25 of a Google search! I don't understand why it doesn't come up sooner - I guess my search terms are wrong.

This Ginger Citrus Cake came from there, and was a very interesting cake. It didn't rise as much as I expected and had quite a dense, and slightly dry, texture, but the flavours were really complex.

I used the zest of a large orange and the juice of 1 lemon and half the orange in the cake, with a Spanish Citrus Blossom honey. I chopped the crystallised ginger quite small and this added a good extra flavour and texture. The honey didn't seem to make the cake as sweet as an equivalent amount of sugar would have.

Despite adding beaten egg whites, there was very little rise  - this could have been due to the relatively small amount of baking powder, or the fact that there were only two eggs in the recipe, for 200g+ of flour. This was an effort to keep the cake healthy, I suppose, although eating eggs seems to be no longer a problem for those trying to keep cholesterol levels down. This recipe was written before the health guidelines on eggs were rewritten!

My only mistake was to try to turn it into a 'tea' cake rather than a dessert. I used some of the leftover orange juice and some honey and icing sugar to make a glacé icing, and decorated with some more chopped crystallised ginger. Once the cake was cooked, however, I realised that it would have made a much better dessert, served with fruit, so that the juices could soak into the cake.

This is certainly a cake to which I will return, although I suspect I will be trying to make it a little lighter. I will be checking out more recipes on the website too - I'm just a little worried that trying to make cakes healthy sucks all the joy out of them when several aspects of healthy eating are addressed in one cake!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Another Low Fat Brownie Recipe

I wasn't sure whether to even bother writing about these brownies. The flavour was good, although CT didn't really like the tang from the sour cream, but the texture was nothing like a brownie. The crumb was moist, but very delicate, so it was difficult to even pick up a piece without it crumbling, and the pieces wanted to cling to the baking parchment. This wasn't helped by the brownie being less than 1cm high -  twice the amount of batter in the same sized tin would have just about made a decent batch.

Additionally I couldn't get a good photograph because of our current grim Autumnal weather, even with Hubs holding a light source for me, so I can't show you a decent photograph of what I'm complaining about!

I decided to include them in the end, because it's the first time I've baked with a lower-fat butter replacement spread. The recipe can be found here, at Joy of Baking.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged

I've been tagged by Kate at What Kate Baked to take part in Food Bloggers Unplugged, a little exercise started by Susan at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate as a way of getting to know fellow food bloggers. The idea is that we answer 10 questions about ourselves, then tag five other food bloggers to take part, if they want to.

So, here are my answers:

What, or who, inspired you to start a blog? Other bloggers! I'd been reading food blogs for a while, and decided that it might be fun to join in.

Who is your foodie inspiration? I'd have to say my late mother-in-law. Until I got married food was just fuel. My mother wasn't a great cook, although like me, she was quite a good baker. However my M-i-L was a fantastic cook and showed me that there was more to food than just eating it.

Your greasiest, batter - splattered food/drink book is? The first cookbook I bought which was just about baking - Cakes and Cake Decorating by Zoe Leigh. It was published in 1974, which was probably the year I bought it, and I still use some of the recipes in it. Not only is it batter-splattered, it's so worn out that it's falling apart. The start of a well-travelled road!

Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?  I've travelled a lot over the last ten years, with good memories of the food in many places, including Japan (which had worried me a bit before we went) but the single dish that stands out as the best thing I've eaten was a dish of fried rice with chicken, lobster and egg, at a Thai restaurant in Montreal. We ate it with a whole fish served with sweet and sour sauce plus another dish I've forgotten, but the whole meal showed us that Thai food could be much more delicately spiced than we'd experienced up until then. That rice was sublime!

Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is? Foodycat, without a doubt. She is so knowledgeable about all aspects of food, an adventurous cook and even a food producer, having tried her hand at such things as cheese-making.

What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)? As I get older I'm beginning to realise the benefits that a dishwasher would bring. Does that count?

Who taught you how to cook? I taught myself with a little help from Delia Smith and Good Housekeeping, although as a child I had learned basic baking techniques with my mother.

I'm coming to you for dinner what's your signature dish? I'm not sure I have one, as I don't like to serve the same thing twice to guests, but you're very likely to get a chocolate dessert!  Probably a variation of this one - Chocolate Ginger Torte

What is your guilty food pleasure? The first crusty slice from a loaf of white bread, thickly spread with lots of butter. And even the last slice, if it's still fresh!

Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn? Despite using it so much in my baking, I don't really like the smell of hot chocolate.

In turn, I would like to tag these 5 bloggers, although I hope they won't feel obliged to join in if they would rather not!
Foodycat, at Foodycat
Snowy, at Cookbooks Galore
Anne, at Anne's Kitchen
C, at Cakes, Crumbs and Cooking
and the entity that is hungryhinny

Friday, 18 November 2011

Lemon Drizzle Traybake Cake

I think this cake might be my Eureka! moment - I think I've found a well-textured sponge cake made with oil, which could be varied in flavour. I have baked other cakes with oil, which have been wonderful, but it hasn't been easy to see how to adapt the best of them so that I can use different flavours. For instance, this Chocolate Swirl cake is almost perfect, but will always be a  chocolate swirl cake because of the way it's made!

However, this Lemon Drizzle Traybake Cake recipe, by Annie Bell, looks as if it could be adapted to other simple flavours such as coffee or chocolate. I need to experiment further to see if the batter bakes as well in other shapes such as loaves or deeper tins, and I'm not sure that it's dense enough to take solid additions such as chocolate chips and chopped nuts, but I'm hopeful that it will prove to be a really useful recipe.

As is often the case with oil based recipes, this was really simple to make - mix the sugar with the wet ingredients and the flavourings, then sift in the flour and baking powder and combine. However, I've had other similar recipes collapse after baking - I'm beginning to think that the proportions used in oil-based cakes are much more important than with buttery cakes. Fortunately we can  trust an Annie Bell recipe to be as reliable as always!

The flavour wasn't anything special - just a pleasant lemon flavour - and the topping didn't add a lot, but I was so pleased with the texture! It's not quite as light as a traditional Victoria Sandwich, but I'd say it's almost as good - somewhere between a sponge cake and a Madeira cake. Watch out for more cakes based on this recipe.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Guinness Gingerbread - from Tea with Bea

This recipe comes from the gorgeous new baking book 'Tea with Bea', which I received in the post this week from  Dom at Belleau Kitchen, after winning one of his generous give-aways. I could happily cook and eat any of the recipes in the book - they all sound delicious and are really well photographed. Thanks Dom - that's another few inches on the hips!

I decided to start with a recipe using oil instead of butter, to be in keeping with my current scheme of baking with less saturated fat. The recipe for gingerbread Guinness cupcakes suggested variations to make it into larger layer cakes, so I decided to make a larger tray bake (25 x 25cm) in a single layer, and not use the cream cheese topping. You can read about Tea with Bea, the author, Bea Vo, and see this recipe here, on the publisher's blog.

Despite it being a relatively simple recipe, I still managed to make a mistake which I worried would spoil the cake - I added a whole tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to the Guinness and treacle mixture - no wonder it frothed so much! You really do need to heed the warning to use a tall saucepan, even with the right amount of soda. However, this extra soda couldn't be tasted in the finished cake, which was my main worry, and didn't appear to affect the cake adversely in any other way.

Another point to mention, which I didn't notice until after I'd cooked the cake, is that the temperatures given in the recipes are for a fan oven - I find this quite unusual, as most recipes are still written either for conventional ovens, or give both temperatues in the text. This didn't seem to have any effect on my cake, even though I cooked it on a lower than specified temperature.

I decorated the cake with a drizzle of glacé icing and some slices of crystallised ginger, as a the cream cheese frosting in the recipe is too rich for an everyday cake, and doesn't fit in with the less saturated fat effort! The cake itself was very light but still managed to be moist and sticky. The combination of spices used was really good - the cloves and allspice  gave a good depth of flavour and the amount of ginger gave a real kick to the flavour! We all liked this cake a lot, so I'm sure the recipe will be used again, with no mistakes next time, and a slightly smaller tin, I think, to give a deeper cake.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Orange and Pinenut Frangipane Tart

We've been having a bit of an Italian themed weekend, as far as eating goes. Tonight's meal is the star of the show, as we are using some pretty striped sombrero pasta and extra virgin olive oil brought back from FB's recent working holiday in Italy. She spent two weeks helping with the olive harvest and learning about olive oil production; the oil she brought back was produced by the organic farm where she was picking.

Tonight we'll be eating the pasta dressed with the oil and parmesan and bruschetta made with the oil and garlic, followed by roast chicken.

The dessert, which was made yesterday, and eaten after salmon coated with pesto breadcrumbs and Nigella's Rapid Roastini, will be the rest of this Orange and Pinenut Frangipane Tart from Giorgio Locatelli.

I followed the filling recipe and the baking method exactly, but used my own sweet shortcrust pastry recipe, which isn't quite as sweet as the pastry used in the recipe (200g plain flour, 110g butter, 30g icing sugar, 1 egg yolk + water as necessary). The recipe was quite straightforward to follow; I chopped the candied peel really small (smaller than the pinenuts) because I wasn't really sure how the rest of the family like it as it's not something I use very often. The only snag was that it took about 25 minutes before I was satisfied that the filling was set, but I turned down the heat to 150C after 15 minutes as the tart was already quite brown.

The tart was delicious - the flavour of both the pinenuts and the candied peel was very subtle and neither overwhelmed the delicate flavour of the frangipane. I served it with Chantilly Cream or vanilla pouring yogurt for those watching the calories. I'm sure the cream would have been tastier!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Chocolate Chip, Hazelnut and Orange Cake

I'm not sure if this cake was a result of lack of time, lack of ingredients, lack of imagination or lack of enthusiasm for baking. Although I enjoy baking 90% of the time, I hate having to bake when I'm not in the mood! To produce something quickly for CT's daily slice of cake, I went back to this foolproof cake made with yogurt and oil, loosely based on this recipe from Ina Garten. I've simplified the recipe, and now mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, and mix them until just combined, before folding in any lumpy additions. This time, I was limited by a rather sparse storecupboard and a wish not to repeat flavours used recently (except chocolate, of course!)

So here, I mixed 200g plain flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 200g caster sugar and the zest of a large orange in a mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, I whisked 150ml low fat yogurt, 100mls sour cream, 3 eggs and 110mls sunflower oil until smooth. After mixing the wet ingredients into the dry, I folded in 100g of chopped 74% chocolate and 50g chopped toasted hazelnuts.

The cake mixture was baked in a 20cm(8") round tin for 50-60 minutes (or until a test probe comes out clean) at 180C.

This time the cake was a little heavier than usual, which may have been due to using sour cream in place of some of the yogurt. - I just scraped together enough by using a mixture of the two! It didn't seem to affect anyone's appetite for it - even FB, who isn't much of a cake eater, had a slice (although she may just have been hungry!)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Date and Apple Squares with Chocolate Crumble Topping

When Chele, at Chocolate Teapot, announced that apples were to be the added ingredient for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge, I can't say I was surprised that this fruit has cropped up at last, although I did think that Choclette would be the host to suggest it, as she has quite a few recipes on her blog using the apple and chocolate combination.

However, it's not a combination that has ever appealled to me, which is strange, as I do think that chocolate goes very well with so many other fruits. Judging by the number of recipes I could find in my recipe books and on websites with recipes from professional food writers/cooks, it's not a combination that many other people find appealing either!  My books yielded two recipes - both for pies with chocolate pastry - and the internet sites I looked at weren't much better. But I rarely shirk from the We Should Cocoa Challenge and I've never actually cooked anything combining apples and chocolate, so I shouldn't let my prejudices stand in the way of possibly startling revelations!

What to cook was a problem; having made the decision to take part in the challenge I then realised that I wanted to cook something where the apple was going to be noticeable, not fading into the background, masked by chocolate and other flavours. I thought this would give the combination a proper test! I also needed to cook something that would be eaten, as I can't afford to cook just for the sake of cooking - it has to fit in with the likes and dislikes of the people who would be eating it.

Cookies were out, as I couldn't see how to get much apple in without making them too wet and I didn't want to make a cake, as in my experience, apple tends to melt into the texture of a cake and I thought it would be overwhelmed by any chocolate in the recipe. Cheesecake crossed my mind, but I didn't really want a dessert, as they usually have to be eaten quickly and so are too calorific and indulgent. Once I started thinking about apple as a separate layer it didn't take long to remember traybakes and slices, but it still took a lot of research to find something which I was confident would take the addition of chocolate in some form. Eventually I decided to adapt a date slice recipe to use apples in the filling and chocolate in the top layer of dough. I chickened out of using apples on their own, as I thought they might be too moist, so I kept some dates in the mixture which I hoped would absorb the apple juices. Thus Date and Apple Squares with Chocolate Crumble Topping was born!

It was then that I found that I didn't have a date slice recipe! I was amazed, especially as I was sure I remembered at least one in some of my old books. Of all the recipes I found online, I decided that this recipe from Joy of Baking looked most like what I wanted to achieve, with the added benefit of a properly tested recipe too.

I followed the basic dough recipe exactly, but  I added 75g of very finely chopped 85% chocolate to the 1/3 of the dough which was put aside for the topping. I intended to grate the chocolate but had to chop it in a mini-food processor in the end, as grating was going to take far too long.

For the filling, I used 200g of chopped dates, 120ml apple juice, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and two apples, each weighing about 200g, peeled and cored and cut into 1cm cubes. One apple was a Bramley which would cook down to a purée, and the other was an eating apple which I hoped would stay in cubes. These ingredients were cooked together until the juice was absorbed and the dates softened.

I then continued with the recipe - pressing the plain dough into the base of a 9 x 9" tin, spreading over the filling and then crumbling over the chocolate topping - before baking at 180C for 40 minutes.

After chilling and cutting I could see that part of my plan had worked - there were still visible cubes of apple within the filling. The filling was quite moist, but the base was nicely crisped and solid, so I hope that the squares don't become soggy during storage, as it will take at least three days to eat them all. The apples were still evident as a separate flavour when tasted too, but although we all liked the squares I'm not convinced that adding the chocolate was any improvement. I think using the original plain dough, with it's slight cinnamon flavour, in both layers would have been just as good.

So although  I'm pleased I tried the apple-chocolate combination, I'm yet to be convinced that they are better together than apart. It will be really interesting to see what other entrants to the challenge come up with! 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Alchemist's Chocolate Cake

This is another recipe from Dan Lepard's new book Short and Sweet. I remember making it when it was first published in the Guardian, and not being too impressed with it, but that was back before I needed to reign in my baking extravagances and try to cook with less saturated fat. The book also amends the recipe to use three eggs rather than just one, which would make a richer cake, so I was interested to see if I liked it better this time round.

The cake uses tinned pears and some of the juice as a means of reducing both added sugar and fat. There is only 50mls of oil in the recipe which is a  really low amount - the recipe stipulates walnut oil, but I used hazelnut - I'm sure light olive oil would be OK to use too. The recipe was quick and easy to follow - I  used a stick blender to purée the pears with the chocolate mixture, as I don't have a large processor or blender - but the cake didn't rise as much as I'd expected from the photograph in the book.

I intended to decorate the cake with squiggles of chocolate, as suggested in the book, but my plan to mix white and plain chocolate together to give a two-colour mottled effect bombed when the white chocolate failed to melt properly. I ended up just spreading the chocolate (about 80g in total) over the top of the cake, to try to hide the small white lumps which prevented me piping the squiggles properly.

Cutting the cake revealed quite an uneven texture too - a dense layer at the bottom which might be uncooked batter, several holes and some peculiar pale patches. The flavour of the cake was better than I'd remembered; it was quite dense and moist, and not very sweet, but, on the downside, it wasn't very chocolately in flavour either. I'm sure the faults in the texture are mine -  you just need to check out the photograph of the cake Dan made to see that - but I'm not sure what I could have done differently. I can't imagine that using a stick blender rather than a blender on a processor makes that much difference, and everything else about the recipe was followed to the letter!

It was interesting to make this again, and compare with my memory of making it before, and it's quite a nice plain everyday cake, but I have better recipes for that sort of cake, so can't see this being repeated!