Summary

Give me cake or give me death cookies.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Tea Bread- Recipe


This is officially the easiest thing I've ever baked, ever. It's so, so delicious too, and the name 'tea bread' doesn't do the wonderful, crusty, chewy, richly scented and richly fruited thing justice.

This is a kind of 'quick bread' rather than a true bread: it doesn't need yeast, but it's not really a cake either since it's not made with any fats (no butter, oil or vegetable fat). It's a slightly bread-y, slightly cake-y loaf of deliciousness, made moist by plenty of dried fruits that have been soaked overnight in a good, strongly brewed cup of tea. Slice it, eat it as it is, spread it with butter, or toast it. Best of all, serve it alongside a cup of the same tea you used to steep the fruits in: it's pure nirvana.

I like my tea bread lightly spiced, so I used a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ground ginger. As for the tea itself, feel free use any tea you like- ordinary black tea, earl grey, fruit teas... go nuts. I used Russian caravan tea, which has become my recent favourite in the black tea division after a recommendation from a friend. The dark, malty smokiness of Russian caravan works incredibly well with the spices. If you're using a fruit tea, I'd suggest swapping the spices for vanilla or a drop or two of rosewater to complement the fresh flavours.

Ingredients:

-250ml hot, freshly brewed tea
-375g mixed dried fruit (usually found in the baking section where all the raisins and nuts are)
-250g self-raising flour
-125 dark brown soft sugar
-1tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp ginger
-1/4 tsp cloves
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-1 egg, beaten

Method:

1) The night before you want to bake your tea bread, soak your dried fruits in the hot tea overnight in a bowl. No need to put it in a fridge: just cover the top with some clingfilm.

2) On the day, grease and line a loaf tin with some baking parchment and preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (10 degrees lower than if you were baking a sponge- I think this is to stop the fruit on top from burning, but don't quote me on this).

3) Measure out all the dry ingredients into a large bowl, and stir in your soaked fruits, unabsorbed tea and all, and the egg.

4) Scrape the firm, sticky dough evenly into your prepared loaf tin, drop the filled tin on the counter a few times to bash out any air bubbles, and put it in the oven to bake for an hour.

5) Cool on a wire rack, and enjoy sliced up and still slightly warm- and of course, don't forget that complementing cup of tea to drink alongside it.

 

Possibly originally adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe- I can't remember. I think the original recipe had bicarbonate of soda and plain flour instead of self-raising flour and baking powder, and no spices. I secretly think my take is better.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Rainbow Meringue Gems- Recipe

God I've been DYING to use some crazy colours. It's been about two months shy of a year I posted my rainbow sundae cupcakes, and as my readers know, I'm a sucker for garishly coloured food.

My latest entry for Mothercare's blog was Eton mess in honour of St George's day, in which I made some swirly red meringue bites to echo the colours of the Flag of England. Once I'd made it, I thought to myself, 'Tash, you made this with just red and you have six pots of gel food colouring. THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES.'

So here we are, then.


Aah, I feel better now.

I used the technique of painting stripes up the insides of a piping bag with wooden skewers- and gel food colouring, since the bottled stuff is too runny to stick to the bag. The purple is brighter in real life (looks kind of grey here), but then purple is a notoriously tricky colour to capture on photo.

And here are what the red ones look like:


I'll admit these are more elegant- but they don't have the crazy win factor of their rainbow counterparts.

I made them using the Swiss technique of making meringues, which makes a more stable raw meringue to work with. It's really easy:

1) Mix an egg white with three tablespoons of sugar over a water bath (basically in a Pyrex bowl sat over a pan of hot water) until all the sugar has dissolved

2) Then take it off the heat, whisk it with an electric beater until stiff white peaks form

3) Add a teaspoon of rosewater or vanilla (optional), two teaspoons of cornflour, and whisk some more

4) Fill your piping bag and pipe on lined baking tray which has been lightly dusted with more cornflour

5) Dry out in a very low oven (about 80 degrees C or Gas Mark 1/4) for an hour to an hour and a half to dry out

And that's about it! For a more detailed blow-by-blow tutorial check out my entry How to Make an Eton Mess on Mothercare's blog.


Monday, 15 April 2013

Treslechesblaubeerrosemarmeladehaselnusssahnekuchen

This is quite possibly the best accident I've ever had in the kitchen.

I visited my friend Vicky in Berlin this weekend. Originally we were just going to bake a Victoria sponge, but things got kind of out of hand, and we ended up creating Treslechesblaubeerrosemarmeladehaselnusssahnekuchen.


Basically it was a tres leches cake with a mixture of blueberry and rose jam, sweetened whipped cream and hazelnuts- but Vicky told me about how in German several words are often combined to make one whole word, and so Treslechesblaubeerrosemarmeladehaselnusssahnekuchen was born. In fact, the soaking syrup was made with white chocolate, so it should probably be Wei├čechokoladetreslechesblaubeerrosemarmeladehaselnusssahnekuchen, but obviously that would just be silly.

It became a tres leches-style cake (traditionally made by soaking a sponge cake with a thinned down condensed milk) when I messed up my intended white chocolate ganache glaze by adding too much milk. Vicky suggested we use it anyway, and we ended up spoon-feeding the resulting mixture over the top and around the sides of the assembled cake.


The resulting cake was surprisingly light and fluffy, moist and, also surprisingly, not too sweet. It was very, very good. Too good: we ended up having seconds.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Guest Entry: Victoria Sponge for Dogs

My colleague Eleonora recently adapted my Victoria sponge recipe to bake a birthday cake for her dog, Leo.

Happy birthday, Leo!

She and her friend made two layer in baking sheets and cut out the shape of a bone using a printed out paper template. Instead of jam mixed in some marshmallows into the cream filling. They decorated the cake with rolled fondant icing and some pink-tinted icing sugar (because there wasn't any blue food colouring).


I love how they outlined the cake with pink marshmallow and icing borders, and look at how neat the writing is:


I love the cute paw print detail in the corner, too!

Eleonora said that maybe they should have used jam in the middle as it didn't taste as good without it- I guess the filling of a VS needs that added sweetness or the sponge will be taken over by the cream. Marshmallows were a great idea though, and I'll definitely try it out one day.

As for the Birthday Boy himself? He was reported to have been uninterested in the cake, but thoroughly enjoyed the flavour of his party hat.


Well done Eleonora and friend!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Parmesan Shredded Wheat Biscuits- Recipe

I had lots of Shredded Wheat left over from making Easter nests, and after a few breakfasts with them I decided to get creative: not because I don't like them, I just wanted to see if there was a recipe besides chocolate nests I could use them in.

I found this recipe online for chocolate chip Shredded Wheat cookies using the frosted kind that was apparently originally printed on a cereal box. It certainly looks amazing, and I'll definitely make it one day. However today, I was in the mood for something savoury (I know, I know: who am I, and what have I done with the real Tash?)

So I cheese-ified it.



(Makes about 16)

Ingredients:

- 4 x Shredded Wheats
- 150g plain flour
- 1 x egg, beaten
- 150g melted salted butter
- 50g grated parmesan cheese
-  1/2tsp baking powder
- 1/2tsp baking soda
- pinch each of nutmeg, cayenne pepper and oregano

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

2) Crumble up the Wheats into a large bowl with your hands and make finer crumbs out of them by bashing them a bit with the end of a rolling pin.

3) Stir in the flour, baking powders, spices/ herbs and cheese.

4) Stir in the egg and melted butter until well-combined.

5) Roll large tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls, flatten slightly between the palms of your hands and  place on the baking sheets.

6) Bake for 10-15mins until golden brown.

7) Cool on a wire rack.

8) Enjoy!

How easy is that?


These are really crunchy, crispy and light, and pleasantly cheesy without being overpowering. They're also quite dry, like cheesy crackers: I think they'd be a great accompaniment to a stew, or even dipped into soup like you might dip a sweet biscuit into tea.

Edit a few days later:

I just tried one crumbled into large chunks in my soup. It's gorgeous, soaking up the soup while staying a little crunchy. Definitely recommended.