Sunday, 19 January 2014

Hen do goodness

It was my future sister in laws hen do yesterday and being preggers, she organised afternoon tea at her house with an evening of pamper treatments for herself and the hens.

But what's afternoon tea without cakes and scones?

And do you pronounce scone as rhyming with gone or phone? :D

I've made hundreds of scones over the years. They're often a Sunday afternoon requirement when I'm round at my parents and dad demands scones. But as they're really simple to make, with only a few store cupboard ingredients and I can whip up in 15 minutes, then I usually oblige. It's at that point they realise they only have butter and jam. Mmmmmm clotted cream.

I use Delia Smith's recipe as I've always used it. It doesn't make for a really high scone but we love them and I'm loathe to change to be honest.

Plain scones
40g soft butter/margarine
225g self raising flour
1 1/12 tablespoons of caster sugar (I actually use 3 sometimes)
110ml milk
Makes 5-6 depending on size of the cutter.

Preheat the oven to 220c/200 fan

Rub the butter and flour together until it looks like crumble and stir in the sugar. Using a knife, mix in the milk adding a little more if required and bring the dough together quickly. Try not to mess with the dough too much. Roll out to a thickness of about 3cm and using a cutter (I prefer fluted) cut out circles and place on a baking tray. Bring the rest of the dough together to cut extras out and when there's only a bit left, I roll it into a round shape and cook that too. Pop into the oven for 12-15 minutes until going golden brown.  A bit like bread, they sound hollow when tapped to let you know they're done. Ideally they need to be eaten the same day.

I do have to admit that the batch I made yesterday weren't my best looking and I forgot to take a photo (honestly not on purpose). I think it was because I used a plain round cutter and this is the first time in probably ten years that I've used a conventional oven and not an aga. As I don't own an aga (my parents do, which is where I normally bake them), then my lovely oven at home had to do.


Other cakey goodness was also required and despite discussing with the hen, what I was going to make, I changed my mind lol. I did however still do the devil's food cupcakes as discussed. I've already blogged about these when I made them for halloween last year but this time instead of cream cheese frosting, I made the original fudge topping that comes with the Nigella recipe. I didn't actually follow the exact recipe (OH here I go again!) because I didn't have enough chocolate and this recipe is actually to fill and cover a cake. But what I did end up with was the perfect amount to top 12 cupcakes so here's the original recipe. I just reduced the quantities slightly, but it wouldn't be an issue to make this amount and just put more onto the cupcakes then I did. Then they'd just be extra devilishly good:

Devils food fudgy topping
125ml water
30gram dark brown muscovado sugar
175g butter
300g dark chocolate

Put the water, sugar and butter in a pan and bring to the boil. As soon as it boils take off the heat and add the chocolate broken into pieces. Stir when it's melted. Then every 10 or 15 minutes or so as you go past, just give it a stir. As it cools, the mixture thickens and when the cakes are finished and cooled you will have the perfect gooey chocolately topping for them which you can just spoon on and swirl round the cupcakes.


Veering off from the original plan, I decided to do what my mother calls my signature bake. Lemon drizzle loaf cake. I love this recipe. It makes a sticky lemony slice of cake which lasts a week (if you stay away from it). And of course, it's a Nigella recipe (I love Nigella, always have, always will). Because I make quite a lot of these, I invested in some 2lb loaf tin liners from Lakeland.

Lemon syrup loaf cake:
125g butter/margarine
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
175g self raising flour
4 tbsp milk
Juice from the lemon
100g icing sugar

Line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof if you don't have a liner and preheat the oven to 180c

Cream the butter and sugar together then add the eggs one at a time, beating after adding each one. Add the lemon zest then mix in the flour. Finally add the milk and mix to a smooth batter before pouring (I spoon) into the loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.
As soon as the cake is ready, add the lemon juice and icing sugar together in a pan and heat. Stir until the icing sugar has dissolved, then prick the cake all over and pour over the icing glaze. It will sink into the holes and the cake sponge will draw the icing glaze into it making it all moist inside. I then leave the cake overnight but if you want to eat it the same day, then I suggest making it early morning then taking out later that afternoon. It doesn't look like an enticing cake, but trust me, it tastes lovely.


I had some puff pastry that needed using by the end of the month so I also suggested using it to make some kind of pinwheel. There was a vegetarian there so my sister in law suggested a vegetarian pinwheel. I came across a page on google which had about 30 different pinwheel recipes and is where I got the idea for these:

Mushroom, Gruyère and thyme pinwheels:
1 sheet puff pastry (block or ready rolled)
2 packs chestnut mushrooms
Block Gruyère cheese coarsely grated
1 tbsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp crème fraiche
Makes approx 25 pinwheels

Preheat the oven to 200c/180 fan. Line baking sheets with baking/greasproof paper.
Slice the mushrooms and add to a large frying pan with a little oil and cook until they've lost their water and are cooked. Season with salt and pepper and add the dried thyme and crème fraiche. Roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle about 40 x 25cm (or just open the packet if it's pre-rolled) and cover the pastry with the mushroom mix, leaving a one inch edge spare on one of the long sides. Sprinkle over the cheese then with the longest side nearest to you and the spare edge at the top furthest away from you, begin to roll into a swiss roll. Now you'll see why you needed to keep an edge free from food! Gently slice the roll to make the pinwheels, about 1cm thickness and lay them flat on a pre-lined baking sheet. You definitely need to pre-line the sheets or the pinwheels will stick. Leave space between each one as they spread a little as they bake. Bake in the oven for approximately 12 minutes until turning golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack. I always have to cook these in batches as I only have two baking sheets.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

New Year catch up

It's the 8th of January and I've not baked one thing yet. My fingers are twitching so I can feel it coming on soon as I sit here looking at sourdoughs in my Paul Hollywood book.

But it's 8pm and not time to bake so I'll catch up on my Christmas baking.

I decided eventually not to make my own mince pies as our local bakery makes the most amazing mince pies with cream cheese and orange pastry. I've made my own version (I'll hunt out my recipe later) but decided to cheat this year. I did make a cake though, a gingerbread house and some Lebkuchen (see previous blog posts) 

I did decide however to make some cake pops as a practice for my brother's wedding (but a Christmas theme) which turned out ok. They're very very sweet but since you only get one/two mouthfuls then that's fine by me. They're one of the trickiest things to make. You have to have more candy melts than you require so you can get a good dip. You have to roll the cake pops to the right size (with trial and error mine were 20g each). They need to chill before you coat so the stick won't slide out but you can't let them get too cold or the coating will crack as the cake pops warm up.........etc etc. but I was pleased for my very first attempt. 

Christmas Dinner in our family is always followed by puddings. Most of my family don't like fruit puddings like Christmas pudding so I always choose a new dessert to try each year. This year I decided to make vanilla pannacotta, ginger ice cream and a cake my mum found in a magazine in September which she demanded (politely) I make. It's a salted caramel chocolate ombré cake made of five layers of different coloured sponge filled with salted caramel and chocolate ganache. 

Salted caramel chocolate ombré cake:
425g plain flour
25g baking powder
200g butter
300g icing sugar
6 large free range egg whites 
275ml milk
4 tbsp cocoa powder
5 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp gel black food colouring 

400g dark chocolate 
400ml double cream

Salted caramel:
150ml double cream
125g dulce de leche or Carnation caramel
1 tsp sea salt 

Heat the oven to 180c (160 fan)
Beat the butter and icing sugar until pale and creamy. Beat in the egg whites a little at a time mixing well. Fold in the flour and baking powder then add 150ml of the milk. 

Now the interesting part! You need to split the mixture into 5 portions. I did this by weight in 5 different bowls

Bowl 1: add 25ml of milk and mix to incorporate 

Bowl 2: mix 25ml of milk and 1/2 tsp cocoa together and mix in to incorporate 

Bowl 3: mix 25ml of milk, 1 tsp cocoa and 1 tsp coffee and mix in to incorporate 

Bowl 4: mix 25ml of milk, 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa and 1/2 tbsp and mix in to incorporate 

Bowl 5: mix 25ml of milk, 2 tbsp cocoa, 1tbsp coffee and the black food colouring and mix in to incorporate 

Spoon into the cake tins, smooth the tops and bake for approximately 12 minutes 

To make the ganache, break up the chocolate, heat the cream until it just reaches scalding point then add in the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes then whisk to make the ganache. It will still be quite runny but leave to cool and it will thicken. Don't leave for hours though or it will be too thick to spread!

For the salted caramel, whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks then mix in the caramel and the salt. I could only get Carnation caramel but oh my!!! This was amazing stuff. I could eat a bowl of it.

Now you need to assemble the cake. 
Place the darker coloured sponge on the bottom of your plate and spread with some caramel cream. Add the next darkest sponge and spread with ganache. Keep doing this, adding the next lightest sponge and cream/ganache. Then cover the whole cake in the remaining ganache. Decorate if you wish like I did. Leave to set. Because it's made with cream it ideally needs to be eaten within a couple of days. You only need a small slice as it's quite dense. But it was Christmas 😁😁

I decorated mine with these tiny sugar gingerbread men I found in Sainsburys and a failed Christmas present I attempted to make - my salted caramel filled chocolate gingerbread men. The mould I was using was too deep and I couldn't get half of them out without breaking them. I was so upset. But at least I had a use for them.

So I could have used that same salted caramel that I made for my chocolates, for my cake but there wasn't enough left over and I decided to stick with the recipe (ie be lazy and buy caramel). But this salted caramel that I made was delicious and I'll use this recipe again for other things 

Salted caramel:
175g caster sugar 
150ml double cream
10g unsalted butter
Large pinch of flaked sea salt 

Put the sugar into a medium saucepan over a medium heat and cook until the sugar melts and caramelises. Mane sure you don't let it go too dark, nor do you want it too light. It needs to be a rusty colour. Take off the heat and add half of the double cream and the salt. It will splutter so take care. Add the rest of the cream then the butter and stir until smooth.

Pour into a jar and leave to cool. It will eventually go to a very sticky caramel so if you want to use it to fill anything or spread you'll need to warm it up a little or use it before it goes too dense.

I'll be back later with the panna cotta and ice cream recipes