Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Tropical Chocolate Cookies

With the spectacular failure of the cake which was meant to be my entry to this month's We Should Cocoa challenge, a busy weekend ahead, and a holiday at the end of the month, I've had to amalgamate two baking challenges in order to get them done.

These Tropical Chocolate Cookies, flavoured with cocoa, vanilla, dried mango, flaked coconut and glacé ginger, are going into both the We Should Cocoa challenge (to pair chocolate and mango) and the Tea Time Treats challenge, which is to bake biscuits and cookies for tea this month.

These aren't dainty biscuits for a posh tea party, but hunky, chunky, chewy-centred cookies, for when you're sitting with a mug of tea and feeling guilty about watching day-time TV, or for handing out to the builders working in the yard as they take their umpteenth tea-break.  But they are still a treat for whatever sort of tea-time you have!

As FB was visiting again, and would be taking some home, I used my oil-based recipe from Cookie Madness. I substituted 25g of the flour with cocoa and added 30g flaked coconut, 80g chopped dried mango and 15g glace ginger, (which was in very small pieces) instead of the nuts and chocolate chips in the recipe. The total weight of additions to the basic dough was the same in both cases.

Despite the strong flavours of each individual ingredient, these cookies were quite subtly flavoured - everything seemed to blend together to give an overall flavour which was quite delicate, with nothing being dominant. The mango and coconut flakes made the texture quite chewy too. All in all, these were very good - although they could probably have been improved by adding a handful of chocolate chunks!

We Should Cocoa is a baking challenge started by Chele from Chocolate Teapot, and Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog. Each month a different ingredient is chosen to be paired with some form of chocolate in our cooking.  This month the choice of mango was made by guest host Shaheen of Allotment to Kitchen, who will be posting a round-up at the end of the month.

Tea Time Treats is a monthly challenge co-hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and Kate at What Kate Baked. Karen chose this month's theme of cookies and biscuits. The name of the challenge is self explanatory, but more details can be found here.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

What might have been

This was on course to being a spectacular cake, and a worthy entrant for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge, which is to pair chocolate and mango in the same dish. That was, until it stuck in the bundt tin. The relics of the cake were very crumbly too, so I think my adaptations may have destabilised the recipe.

I was a little concerned about the low number of eggs in this recipe I found for Whole Orange Bundt Cake with Chocolate Ganache, as cake batter recipe of this size would normally have a minimum of 6 eggs, rather than the three used here, but assumed the puréed oranges would make up for this. As it turned out, I had to add milk to the batter to give a dropping consistency and allow all the flour to be incorporated.  My mini-chopper didn't purée the oranges to a smooth liquid, either - it was a coarse paste with little pieces of peel still visible, which I thought would add to the visual appeal of the cake. These factors combined with the addition of 100g of dried fruit may have meant the cake batter was still too dry if the fruit absorbed some of the moisture during cooking. This could explain the cake being very crumbly, and being in a bundt tin only made that problem seem more obvious, as it was easier for the cake to pull apart than be released properly from the tin.

The only reason I'm bothering to write up the cake is that it had a wonderful flavour. I added 60g dried chopped mango, 50g dried chopped mandarins and 100g chopped 74% chocolate to the basic recipe. The puréed raw orange gave the cake a fresh taste and the little pieces of dried fruit added texture and intense fruit flavours which married well with the chocolate.

Obviously I didn't waste chocolate ganache on the ruins of the cake, but had it been more successful, I think I would have added some sort of chocolate frosting to increase the chocolate hit.

This is a fantastic combination of flavours which I will carry on working with, together with the concept of using puréed raw orange in the cake for a fresh, strong flavour. Watch this blog!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Oatmeal Brownie Bars

I'm very fond of oat bars, both filled bars and flapjacks, so imagine my delight on finding a recipe which put brownie batter between the oat layers! I can't remember now what I was looking for when I found this recipe at Land O' Lakes, but it was immediately bookmarked to be made as soon as possible.

The chance came when I needed something to share with CT, who was having a meal with us. We haven't seen him as much as expected since he moved into his new home, which is a Good Thing, as it means he's managing better than I expected, but I miss baking for him, and I'm sure he misses home cooked treats too. I thought these Oatmeal Brownie Bars would be ideal as they would be fairly sturdy when wrapped for him to take home.

I followed the recipe exactly, except that I baked it in a slightly smaller tin (a 12" x 8" tray) and I added about 100g of small fudge chunks to the topping. This added a nice butterscotch flavour, but wasn't really necessary as the bars were rich and sweet enough - I only added the fudge bits to clear the store cupboard of at least one half-used package. It was hard to judge when the second baking was enough. I left them for the whole 18 minutes, as I was using a smaller pan, but 15 minutes would have been better, as the edges of the brownie had cooked a little too much and had lost some of the moist fudginess of the centre. You can see what I mean in the photograph above

The bars where the brownie was still gooey were fantastic - both for flavour and the fudgy texture - although the pieces where the brownie had overcooked were still delicious. The combination of the oaty layers and the brownie was good too - a base layer of solid oaty biscuit made the whole bar more substantial than a brownie on it's own, while not detracting from the depth of the chocolate flavour. This is definitely going to be a recipe I use again!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Kentish Pudding Pie - for AlphaBakes

There are times when taking part in blog challenges stretches my family's tolerance a bit too far and I think that might have been the case here. K was never going to be an easy letter to use for this month's AlphaBakes Challenge, as there are very few ingredients beginning with that letter. Going for geographic Ks was just as difficult - I had to reject Kentucky Derby Pie, even though it sounded delicious to me, as being just too nutty for FB to want to eat.
Closer to home, Kent showed more promise, and I eventually settled on this traditional English pie, also known as Kentish Lent Pie, which is basically an enriched ground rice pudding baked in a pastry case. This sort of pudding dates back to the time when fat and flour was a major source of energy for many people, and eggs and milk were readily available for country dwellers.  Some sources suggest it was eaten during Lent, when meat was forbidden, as it would be quite nutritious, but to me it seems to be in the same class as pancakes, which were eaten just before Lent to use up excess eggs and milk, which wouldn't be eaten during the abstemious period leading up to Easter.  

This dessert is described in some places as similar in taste to a baked cheesecake, but to me, with the added nutmeg, it was more like a baked egg custard tart, with a less delicate texture. The flavour was very bland, and I'm glad I included the lemon zest and extract, as suggested in the recipe I eventually followed for the filling. Without it, I don't think anyone would have wanted to eat more the next day.

I made my own pastry recipe, using SR flour for a little extra lightness, and followed the Baking Mad recipe for the filling, using sultanas instead of currants. The pie tin I used was a little larger than the 20cm (8") suggested in the recipe, and I think an extra half quantity of filling would have made a better balanced pie.

This was a pleasant enough dessert, improved by a helping of roast rhubarb, but it's not going to make it's way onto the list of things to repeat any time soon. (I haven't even dared tell my husband that there's ground rice in it - rice pudding is anathema to him!)

AlphaBakes is a monthly baking challenge hosted alternately by Caroline of Caroline Makes, and Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker. It's name speaks for itself, but more information, and the rules, can be found here. Caroline is hosting this month, when the random letter to use is K, and she will post a round up of entries at the end of the month.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Rhubarb and Ginger Cake

Not a pretty cake, especially when the batter overflows the cake tin, but a very tasty one. The combination of warming ginger with fresh fruit helps bridge the gap between the rich flavours of winter and the lighter summer flavours. The availability of early season rhubarb from my garden is one of my culinary joys of spring, too!

Even though I used the same sized tin as stipulated in the recipe, it was almost full of cake batter. I reasoned that ginger cakes don't always rise a great deal, and Good Food recipes are usually reliable, so everything would be OK! The cake didn't rise a lot, but it rose quickly, while still liquid, so a little spilled over the sides, before setting to give a curious looking overhang! That's the problem with loaf tins - stipulating the length and breadth doesn't help if your tin is much shallower than the one used in the recipe. It would be much more reliable to go by a volume measurement!

Ginger and rhubarb is one of the classic flavour pairings and works quite well this way, although the flavour of the ginger together with treacle is very strong and almost overwhelms the rhubarb.

This was a very useful cake - it kept well and was equally good eaten as a cake or warmed as a dessert and served with more cooked rhubarb and vanilla pouring yogurt.