Archive | February, 2012

Sea-salted Caramels : 2nd attempt

26 Feb

After the disastrous 1st attempt, this time was a lot more successful.   It may have a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t substitute double cream for clotted cream (who would have thought?!!).

One small failing, however, is that the caramels aren’t as hard as the recipe suggests.  I tried a different recipe to the first and both said that you have to break the caramel into pieces once cooled.  My caramel could be cut into pieces with a large kitchen knife.  Which probably made it easier to handle, but I do not know what I did wrong for this difference.  I was quite meticulous this second time round – so anyone that is a caramel expert, I would love to know the trick!

Anyway, I’ve given most of them away – as they are quite addictive and I could just snack on them throughout the day.  All recipients have been well pleased, which is always a good sign.

I will say that a candy / jam thermometer is a must if you want to attempt this as you have to watch the temperature quite closely while cooking.

 150 gr caster sugar
150 gr light muscovado sugar
100 gr unsalted butter
200 ml double cream
3 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon of sea salted flakes (this does only give a hint of saltiness.  I really like a strong salty flavour, and if you do as well, I would definitely add another 1/2 teaspoon)

Grease a 15 – 17 cm (6″) square tin with sunflower / vegetable oil.  In a small bowl, mix the muscovado sugar, butter, cream, golden syrup and salt and set aside. 

Place the caster sugar in a deep pan with 2 tablespoons of cold water.  Set the pan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and continue to cook until the sugar has turned to a deep amber-coloured caramel.  Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the remaining ingredients and stir straight away until smooth.  You have to do this really quickly so the melted mixture doesn’t go hard.

Return the pan to the heat and bring back to the boil.  Continue to cook until the caramel reaches 121 C / 250 F on the thermometer.  This can take quite a few minutes.  Make sure that you use your hottest burner on the stove so that you can get up to this temperature.  Remove from the heat and leave to settle for 30 seconds.  Resist the temptation to taste test, as this stuff is hot!!  Pour in the prepared tin and leave until cold before turning it out of the tin and break into pieces or like me, slice into squares.  Wrap each individual piece in greaseproof paper.  Enjoy!


How to make Baklava

20 Feb

This recipe is from Food Wonders of the World.

My partner and I with a few friends managed to devour half the tray on the weekend and I just had to take the rest to work today, otherwise I would need to diet for a month. It’s that good….!

20 filo pastry sheets
250 gr unsalted butter, melted
30 gr (approx 1 tablespoon) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
375 gr ground mixed almonds and walnuts
3 1/2 cups water
3 cups sugar
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Make the syrup first, as you want to pour cold syrup over hot baklava.  Simply stir all the ingredients over a very low heat for at least 20 minutes until it’s slightly syrup.  Leave to cool.

Turn the oven to 180 C / 350 F.  Grease the sides and base of a tray that is large enough for one piece of filo pastry laid out flat (approx 33 x 23 x 5 cm).  Lay one sheet of filo pastry on the base of the tray.  Brush it relatively generously with melted butter.  Repeat 9 times until you have 10 sheets of filo pastry in the tray with melted butter brushed in between every sheet of pastry (I did say it wasn’t healthy!  But it is amazing!)

Combine the sugar, cinnamon and ground nuts together.  Pour half of the mixture on top of the 10 sheets of filo and spread it out evenly.  Top with two sheets of filo pastry, brushing the melted butter on top of each sheet, like before.

Pour the remaining half nut mixture into the tray and evenly spread.  Then with the last 8 sheets of filo pastry, continue to lay one at a time brushing melted butter on each sheet, just as before.

Once completed, cut into squares or diamond shapes, whichever you prefer.  Pour any leftover butter over the top.  Sprinkle a few drops of water over the top.  Bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes.  Then reduce the temperature to 160 C / 320 F and bake for a further 45 minutes.

Then pour the cold syrup prepared earlier over the top of the hot baklava.  Serve cooled.  Enjoy!

Easy Chocolate Cake

16 Feb

After the failed attempt at baking pastry, I decided to go back to basics for my next recipe.

 As I have mentioned previously, my bookcase is bulging with cookbooks and much to my partner’s disgust, I chose a recipe from the BBC food website instead.  Problem is that most cookbooks don’t have a basic chocolate cake recipe.  They all have fancy frosting or 4 layers or some other difficult technique and I wanted something very basic to start with.  So this simple chocolate cake is what I went for.

 And simple it was.  Just everything in a bowl, mix and bake.  This is the kind of baking I can do!  For the actual cake, I was really proud, as I didn’t change one single ingredient and I measured everything – which is a first for me!  Probably why it worked…..

It was really moist as well.  A fantastic cake recipe.

 225 gr plain flour
350 gr caster sugar
85 gr cocoa powder
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
2 eggs
250 ml milk
125 ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
250 ml boiling water
For the chocolate ganache (icing / frosting)
200 gr chocolate (I used a mixture of dark & milk)
200 ml double cream

Turn oven on to 180 C / 350 F.  Grease & line two 20cm / 8 inch sandwich tins.  I just used butter and greaseproof paper.

Mix all cake ingredients, except the boiling water.  Whisk together and then slowly add in the boiling water.  The mixture will be very liquid.

Divide the mixture into the two tins and bake for 30 – 35 minutes.  Allow to cool.

For the ganache melt both the cream and chocolate together in a pot over a very low heat until the chocolate is melted.  Ensure it is mixed well and glossy.  Allow this to cool for a couple of hours until it’s become a spreadable consistency.  Once it had cooled somewhat, I actually put it into the refrigerator for a while.

Spread a good amount of the ganache over the top of both the cakes.  Place one on top of the other on a serving plate and cover the rest of the ganache over the entire cake using a palette knife.  Enjoy!

Leek Quiche and a failed shortcrust pastry

13 Feb

Being quite chuffed about the bread, I stuck with the savoury theme and branched out to savoury pastry.  The filling I was quietly confident about, as I knew I could just make this up as I went along, but I’ve never made my own pastry and I was a little nervous.

Shortcrust pastry, I’ve learnt, is a temperamental mixture that I know I will have to practise quite a few times before getting it right.  This first attempt was not a success.  Thankfully, the rest of the leek quiche was and we had something to eat for dinner.

I used the food processor method and in hindsight, I should have added more water than I did.  I was too nervous of messing it up.  The recipe said 1 – 4 tablespoons of water, but it’s better if you don’t add any.  I added 2 tablespoons and when I brought it out of the fridge, waited for it to warm up again (which feels like an eternity!) and started rolling it out, it turned into a big mess of crumbs.  So I just pressed the crumbling mess into the quiche tin.  Not a great start.

I also don’t think I blind baked it for long enough.  After taking it out of the oven, the bottom still looked quite raw and the butter glistened.  Again being too nervous to ruin it, I didn’t return it to the oven.  Second error.

So we ate the quiche and most of the pastry for dinner.  These parts were very tasty, but I may have to keep some shop bought shortcrust for emergencies until I get it right.

Leek Quiche

Shortcrust pastry (shop bought in my case, homemade if you can)
4 leeks, sliced
Good sized knob of butter
½ cup water
Good pinch salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
4 slices prosciutto, sliced (can use bacon or ham instead)
Pinch grated / ground nutmeg
Black pepper
Grated cheddar cheese for topping

Turn the oven to 180 C / 350 F.

In a saucepan, add the leeks, butter, water and salt, bring to the boil and then simmer until the leeks are soft.  Drain and then cool.

Blind bake the shortcrust pastry by pressing into a quiche / tart baking tin, cover in baking / parchment paper and pour in baking beads or raw rice/beans to cover the base well.  Bake in the oven for about 8 minutes or until the pastry looks half-baked.  Remove the paper, rice / beads.

In a bowl, mix the eggs, milk, prosciutto, nutmeg and pepper and mix well.  I didn’t add any extra salt as the meat is already quite salty.  Add to the leeks and mix well.

Pour this mixture into the prepared pastry, top with grated cheese and bake for approx. 30 min or until the cheese is nice and golden.  Enjoy!

Simple White Loaf of bread

9 Feb

In 2012, I’ve had more sweet baked goods in my house then I have ever had in my life. I have signed up to a half marathon, which should help the waistline during training, however I feel that I may need to add in a few savoury baked goods into the mix to trim the fat, so to speak.

So, I have started with a very basic white bread recipe. It was a really simple recipe and is ideal for weekend baking, it was an absolute success and I’m really happy with it.

It is great to make when you’re at home, pottering / faffing about. With a recipe I found, you don’t actually have to give it much attention, and there is hardly any kneading involved, which I loved.

I followed a recipe that has all the usual ingredients for white bread, however instead of kneading the bread for ages, which tends to be the norm, I used this other method whereby after leaving the bread for 10 minutes, then on an oiled bench / table area you knead the dough, up to 10 times (the dough is turned a quarter, and then knead with one hand, turn a quarter and knead again, etc). Leave for 10 minutes in the bowl under the cloth and repeat twice more.  A little time-consuming, but very easy with not too much effort.  Then you let it raise like you normally would.  I might see if this method works with other recipes.

(Apologies for not being able to keep the recipe within this post – however the editor of the book I used – which I did disclose, asked me to delete it.)

Sea-salted caramels: 1st attempt

6 Feb

As the heading suggests, this was only my first attempt at making sea-salted caramels and I’ll need to try again.  It doesn’t look very difficult, but unfortunately it wasn’t a success.

They tasted, pretty good – and really in my book this is usually all that matters, but I’ve worked out texture and presentation is also very important when baking or making desserts.

Caramel is simply sugar, water and golden syrup, bring this to boil and then add butter and cream.  According to the recipe – this needs to be brought to 121 C or 250 F and then poured into a pre-prepared baking tray.

I think the first thing I did wrong was substitution.  Something I’m brilliant at when cooking dinner.  I never, ever follow a recipe and always substitute ingredients.  This is perhaps not a wise decision when baking – especially when I’m still very much a beginner.  I needed 225 ml cream, but I only had 180 ml and as it was snowing outside and therefore I wasn’t keen to venture far from our front door, I decided to top up the difference with the leftover clotted cream from the scones.  Hindsight is such a powerful thing.

Secondly, I’ve read another recipe that suggests 130 C for caramel and I did take it off the flame the second it hit 121 C, so perhaps leaving it for a touch longer may help with the texture.

As I said, they tasted amazing but that’s only if you can get it off the baking paper.  It’s totally gooey which generally isn’t a bad thing, except when it’s supposed to be hard.  Fingers crossed the 2nd attempt works and then I’ll publish the recipe.

Red Velvet Cupcakes: it’s hard work when you don’t have any gadgets

2 Feb

Over the last couple of weeks, I have made quite a few purchases for baking.  Cookbooks a plenty, cupcake liners, muffin tins, spatula, etc.  However, I believe that there are many more items that I need to fill the kitchen cupboards with and this was made quite clear while attempting my first batch of cupcakes.

When choosing which type of cupcakes to bake first, I had to go Red Velvet.  They feature in every cupcake cafe in London and I can never resist them.

The initial “red” paste was fun to make.  Being a cook for over a decade (as opposed to a baker), I’ve never created something that really looks like blood in the kitchen before.  It was a relatively childish amusement.

The tricky part, however was trying to beat ingredients until they’re fluffy and continuing for many, many, many minutes while adding all the other ingredients one by one…. by a hand held whisk.  Not an egg beater that you wind by hand, or even better an electronic egg beater, or better still a kitchenaid (every baker’s dream gadget, I’m beginning to learn), but something that I use to lightly whisk eggs for scrambled eggs.  I had to beg my boyfriend to help share the burden, 1 minute of whisking each.  In front of the TV, as it took AGES!  So my advice is to, beg, borrow or buy if you don’t already have an electric gadget to help you.  Unless of course, you really want to get rid of those bingo wings.

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 24)

2 1/2 cups sifted cake / plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
30 ml red food colouring
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb soda)

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).  Line two 12 cup muffin tins or silicone pans with cupcake liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.  In a smaller bowl, mix food colouring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps and set aside.

In a large bowl, using (NOT a hand whisk) a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go.  Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of buttermilk.  Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk.  End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda – it will fizz up.  Add this to the cake batter and stir well to combine.  Fill cupcake cups with cake batter until they’re 3/4 full.  Place muffin tins in your preheated oven.  Bake for approx 20 min.  They are cooked when you are able to pat the tops and the cake springs back.

Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting / icing.

Frosting ingredients

1 package light cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup icing (confectioners’) sugar

Mix all ingredients together and ice the cooled cupcakes.  Enjoy!