Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Courgette and Apricot Cake

This was a last ditch attempt to make a light and sponge-like courgette cake. After the numerous attempts I've made, I've always said that I wanted a cake which was as light as the 'Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake' (I can't bear that name!) on the Good Food site, and that each particular version I tried wasn't quite right!

Finally the light dawned - why not use that recipe, with courgettes instead of carrots?

As I've often thought that the problems with courgette cakes are down to courgettes being a much more watery vegetable than carrots, I grated about 30% more courgettes than the recipe required and squeezed out as much excess water as possible, using a clean tea-towel, before weighing the 140g needed. I replaced the raisins with chopped dried apricots and used 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg as the only spice, leaving out the cinnamon. Everything else followed the recipe!

Surprise, surprise - it worked! I'm sure that part of the reason this recipe was more technically successful was that it used a smaller proportion of courgettes than other recipes I've tried, and the other part was probably down to squeezing out excess water. The flavour of the cake was less successful -  I didn't feel that the dried apricots and nutmeg worked well together - but that's easily remedied in the future.

I'm happy to find a courgette cake recipe which gives me what I've been looking for, although it isn't one that will make a huge dent in the usual summer glut!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Spiced Chocolate Gingerbread

This Spiced Chocolate Gingerbread made a welcome change from the delicate summer cakes made with seasonal fresh fruit. I always look forward to the more robust flavours of Autumn baking - apples, blackberries, pears and even quince if I'm lucky enough to find any - and the feeling that dried fruit and spices are seasonal ingredients once again.

This gingerbread, an adaptation of this Green and Black's recipe, contains spices and chopped prunes as well as chocolate. I didn't have any Maya Gold chocolate, so used plain dark chocolate and added orange zest and mixed spice, instead of cinnamon to try to replicate the flavour as near as possible.

Although the method followed that of a classic recipe for gingerbread, the flavour of the chocolate was strong, and the use of black treacle gave a good bitter edge to the cake. It made me wonder why the  melting method and similar ingredients (without the spices) is never used to make a plain chocolate cake - it's something I'm going to try soon!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Blondies

The classic combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and a recipe from Green and Black's website. I have one of their chocolate recipe books (Unwrapped), but this recipe isn't in it. I found this while checking whether another of the recipes from the book was online, and decided it looked worth trying

I made these blondies primarily for my son, who doesn't get home-baking very often now that he's away from home. Of course, I had to make sure they were OK before passing them on to him, so after dividing the tray into 16 pieces, he got 12 and we had two each! I liked them a lot, although it looked, in the couple of pieces I tried, that some of the white chocolate had melted into the batter, rather than staying in lumps. He liked them enough to email me to say how good they were!

I only made one change to the recipe - I didn't have crunchy peanut butter, but wanted to add the crunch of nuts, so I used 125g of smooth peanut butter and 30g of finely chopped  roasted (but unsalted) peanuts.

Blondies nearly always turn out more cakey than brownies, because you don't have melted chocolate to give a fudgy texture, but this recipe was on the dense end of the spectrum, rather than the light and sponge-y end. This is definitely a recipe to make again!

Because these were so good, I'm adding them to September's We Should Cocoa link-up. After 6 years, Choclette at Tin and Thyme has changed the format of WSC; instead of setting a theme each month, anything containing some form of chocolate can be added. I'm a little sad to lose the challenge that WSC gave me - I baked many things, and used many odd combinations of ingredients, that I wouldn't have thought of trying without needing to bake for WSC.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Lemon Cake

made with whole lemons

This recipe, from Martha Stewart,  for a lemon cake, starts by slicing two lemons thinly and cooking them in boiling water for 15 minutes. This is certainly speedier than cooking them whole - that can take up to an hour!

Cooking the lemons like this cuts out a lot of the sourness of the fruit and gives the cake a very delicate lemon flavour. For me, this was the sort of lemon flavour that is best in a dessert cake, served with fresh fruit and cream, where you don't want the lemon to overwhelm the flavours of the fruit. Eaten as a cake, the taste was decidedly underwhelming, although it had a good light texture and I liked the little pieces of lemon zest spread through the crumb (my mini-food processor didn't reduce the cooked lemons to a smooth purée).

If I made this again, I would use the zest from the third lemon in the cake too - I thought at the time that it was a shame not to use it. This might boost the lemon flavour to something more in line with my tastes, although if you like a more subtle lemon flavour this recipe is well worth trying as written.