Summary

Give me cake or give me death cookies.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Apple Cake

A buttery sponge base, with thinly sliced cooking apples and a generous amount of demerara sugar sprinkled on top, served warm with ice-cream.


The expected spice that's always paired with apples is, of course, cinnamon. However my mum isn't so keen on cinnamon, so, unwilling to just leave the cake completely plain, I added nutmeg instead. This was a very, very good decision.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Cherry Frangipane Tart with Chantilly Cream- Recipe


I'm having great difficulties not going back for seconds of this stuff at the moment. The pastry alone is to die for (you could just bake it and eat it as shortbread, which is essentially what it is- in fact, this is exactly what I did with the leftover pastry dough...). Paired with the aromatic, dense-but-not-cloying frangipane, juicy cherries and lightly sweetened vanilla cream? Asdfhweriusngkjsasdk.

Ingredients for Sweet Shortcrust Pastry:

- 1 Cup plain flour
- 2tbsp Cornflour
- 2tbsp Icing sugar
- 125g Cold unsalted butter, cubed/ chopped

(You'll also need an 8" or 9" pie or tart tin, some baking parchment and some baking beans/ dried beans/ dry rice for when it comes to baking the pastry case).

Ingredients for Filling:

- 125g softened unsalted butter
- 125g caster sugar
- A pinch of salt
- 3 eggs
- 150g ground almonds
- 1tsp almond extract
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- About 300g cherries, stoned (I bought a simple cherry pitter for £1.50. It's one of the best kitchen gadgets I've ever bought, and works sort of like a hole punch)

Ingredients for Chantilly Cream:

- 300ml Double cream
- 1tbsp Caster sugar
- 1tsp Vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Method:

Right, first thing's first: preheat your oven to 180 degrees C and grease up your pie dish or tart tin with butter or margarine to stop the pastry from sticking to it later. Don't overdo it though, you don't want to be getting the infamous 'soggy bottom' that the revered and experienced baker Mary Berry (Great British Bake Off, anyone?) is quite hot on.

Now that's over and done with, start by making the shortcrust dough. Put the flours and sugar in a bowl, dump your cold, chopped up butter in and begin 'rubbing' the butter in with your fingertips: you should start getting a breadcrumb-like texture. Keep at it to evenly incorporate the butter, and after a while the dough should start coming together by itself: when it reaches this stage, stop rubbing and start kneading until you have a smooth dough.

If your kitchen is quite cool, you can roll it out straight away- but if you have a hot kitchen and your dough is becoming too soft, cover your bowl of dough with clingfilm and stick it in the fridge for about 20 minutes so let it firm up. In any case when your dough is workable, you can now turn it out onto a well-floured surface and roll it out with a rolling pin so you have a sheet of dough a bit bigger than your tin (you'll also need to flour your rolling pin to stop sticking).

Now a slightly trickier part- getting the dough from the work surface to the tin. Sprinkle a bit of flour onto the surface of the sheet of dough. Place your rolling pin on one side of your sheet of dough, pick up the edges of the dough to curl around the rolling pin, and start rolling inwards, wrapping the dough sheet lightly around the rolling pin as you go until you've picked up the whole sheet around your rolling pin (the flour you sprinkled on the sheet should stop it from sticking to itself). Now carefully unroll it over your tin, and gently ease it into shape with your fingers to get the dough neatly into the tin's corners and ridges. It can take a little bit of practice to do this without tearing the dough, but if you do, don't worry- you can patch it up with bits of the spare dough you'll cut off from the edges of the tin.

Oh, and about that spare dough- don't throw it away once you're done with your patchwork. Roll it into a few biscuit shapes and put it aside for the moment.

Now that you've got the pastry in the tin, lightly grease some baking parchment, and line the pastry with it GREASE SIDE DOWN (I've learned the hard way that skipping this step brings half the pastry up with the baking parchment when it's time to remove it). Fill with baking beans to weigh the pastry down and stop it from getting puffy, and bake it in your preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes. Depending on what your oven's like, it may take less time- just watch out for when the edges of the pastry goes a nice light brown colour (not dark brown- it still has another trip in the oven left!).

Once the edges of the crust are light brown, take your newly-made tart crust out, and lift up the baking parchment (beans and all- put this in a large heatproof bowl and don't touch for a good amount of time- those baking beans get red hot). Leave to cool. (A lot of recipes say you should return the crust to the oven for 5-10 minutes after removing the beans, but I didn't bother with this one).

I'm putting this bit in a different colour because it's a step I don't think you really need, but I did it for this tart because I wasn't sure how juicy the cherries would be and if they'd cause the tart to have a 'soggy bottom' when they went in the oven- but as it turned out the cherries held onto their juices quite well. Anyway, feel free to omit this part.

Grab any jam you have (I had strawberry on hand) and melt about two tablespoons of it in the microwave. Lightly brush this onto the bottom of your cooled tart case, and leave this to cool and set to create a seal against any juices leaking from the cherries. Now sift two teaspoons of plain flour evenly onto the bottom of your 'jammed' base, which will help to absorb any stray juice.

To make the frangipane, cream together the softened butter, sugar and pinch of salt, and then beat in the eggs one at a time (just like you would if you were making an ordinary cake). Stir in the ground almonds and the extracts thoroughly.

Arrange your cherries on the bottom of your tart crust, and spread the frangipane over evenly. Now put the whole thing in the oven, again at 180 degrees C, and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. (Put your shortbread leftover biscuits in at the same time on a separate baking sheet- these should only take about 10 minutes to brown.)

Now the hardest part of all: removing it from the oven and letting it cool for a few hours, and not eating it. You could console yourself with your delicious shortbread leftovers during this time, but the chances are you probably ate them soon after you took them out of the oven- so find a way to distract yourself for a while. Let it go completely cold- pop it in the fridge when it's cool enough to go in.

When your tart is cold, whip up your cream with the sugar and vanilla until stiff, and pipe it on as you like. I went for fancy-schmancy roses here. Refrigerate your tart for another 20 minutes to let the cream firm up for easier cutting, if you can bear it.

All done? Ready, steady, eat!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cheesy Corn Muffins for Breakfast

I'm still tweaking this recipe- I'm slowing fine tuning it, like my awesome chocolate cake (but that's another story for another time!)

This is a savoury muffin, with subtle cheesy tones, polenta and creamed corn, with a hint of nutmeg.



Sunday, 16 September 2012

Challah for Rosh Hashanah

Today I made challah, a bread enriched with eggs and sugar.

Usually shaped in a long four-strand braid, for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) challah is traditionally round-shaped to symbolise the world.


Delicious enough by itself with just a bit of butter.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Low Fat (Yes) Cheesecake

I've just discovered quark, a really low-fat cheese. Combined with low fat crème fraîche and fromage frais, and using light margerine with almost anything instead of digestive biscuits for the crust (I used ginger snaps here), a slice of this cheesecake is about 300 calories instead of near 600 like its full-fat sister. Don't get me wrong, nothing can beat a full-fat cheesecake and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise- but this creamy, tangy-sweet thing is definitely a gorgeous alternative.

I baked this baby in a bain marie, which made the cheesecake part wonderfully smooth.


Saturday, 1 September 2012

Vanilla and Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

When in doubt, add more food colouring.


I got rid of a lot of old stuff at a car boot sale this morning, and made a small handful garishly coloured cakes to try and attract people in the hopes that I'd get rid of even more stuff. They gathered quite a few admirers- one or two people couldn't believe they were real cupcakes because apparently they looked like decorations- I'm not sure if I should be worried or flattered! Probably worried. They do look kind of scary. At least more people bought my random things and freed up my bedroom space.


Roller skates and a cupcake, anyone?