Saturday 26 May 2007

I’m off

Well that’s it. I’ve finished all my exams and packed up my belongings and I’m moving to Leeds later on today. My course at university is called a sandwich course, very appropriate for a food degree. It basically means I have two years at university, then one year on a work placement and then a final year at university. I start my placement job on Tuesday; I can’t believe it’s come around so quickly, these last few weeks just seem to have flown by.

I am going to be working as a New Food Product Development Technologist for a fresh fruit company. I will help to come up with new products and improve upon existing ones in the development kitchens while keeping an eye on our competition. I’m really excited about it and yet also quite nervous. I have only ever had Saturday jobs before and suddenly I’m going to have a career – scary.

I won’t have the internet for the first week or so in my flat, which means there will no posts for a while. Hopefully, it should get sorted out soon.

Until then, enjoy the sunshine.

Friday 25 May 2007

Big Bunch of Bananas, Banana Choc Chip Cake

This last week I have been attempting to eat the entire contents of my freezer. I finish university today and will be leaving my accommodation tomorrow and moving up to Leeds where I will start a year long work placement as part of my course. I was aware that I had a few frozen bananas lurking in the freezer from when I picked up a bag of around 20 small very overripe bananas for a few pence. I thought I had eaten my way through most of them but after a short rummage I had unearthed nine bananas. Nine!

I couldn’t bear to throw them away and so I decided to make my favourite recipe for banana choc chip cake, and throwing caution to the wind, I decided to use all the bananas and to reduce the oil and butter content to compensate for the extra moistness. I also reduced the sugar as I thought the bananas would add a lot of natural sweetness themselves.

The batter turned out well and I eagerly placed the cake in the oven. The aroma as it baked was unbelievable. Really intensely bananary (hardly surprising really). Once baked I waited impatiently for it to cool down before slicing into it. The cake was incredibly soft, light and fluffy with a good scattering of dark chocolate chips. The flavour of the bananas is really intense and makes the cake very moist. The mixed spice really helps to bring out the flavour and adds a subtle spicy overtone. It’s not too sweet as biting into the occasional bitter dark chocolate morsel helps to balance it out. If you like bananas, this is the cake for you.

Bountiful Banana Choc Chip Cake
9 small or 4 – 5 large overripe bananas
50g softened butter
125g soft brown sugar
80g dark chocolate
300g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs
70ml vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line a deep 8inch square tin with baking paper.
Peel the bananas, place into a bowl and mash with a fork until very soft and mushy.
Put the butter and sugar into a separate mixing bowl and cream them together until light and fluffy.
Chop the chocolate into small chunks and beat into the butter and sugar mixture along with the banana mush.
Sift in the flour, mixed spice and baking powder.
Gently work the flour into the mix using a spatula, it will become quick thick.
Finally stir in the oil until well incorporated.
Pour the cake mixture into the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until well-risen and golden brown.
The middle should spring back when pressed and a skewer should come out clean, when inserted into the thickest part of the cake.
Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Immediately after baking the cake can be a little greasy but it seems to become reincorporated into the cake after a few hours.

I love this cake eaten just as it is. It’s so full of flavour that I don’t think it needs an icing. However, for a really indulgent treat its great gently heated and served with custard or even chocolate or caramel sauce. Replacing the chocolate with pecans or walnuts also works well.

Friday 18 May 2007

Substantial Cinnamon Oat Raisin Cookies

I was in a baking mood and fished out a recipe for oat raisin cookies that I had been meaning to try for simply ages. The recipe was originally Phoebe’s Fabulous Oatmeal Cookies from the Friends Recipe Book which I adapted to suit my own tastes. I reduced the butter and sugar content from the original, which seemed a little steep for my liking. I also decided to add a tsp of cinnamon to the mix to add an extra dimension. I used an old fashioned ice cream scoop to portion out the cookies and I was able to fit nine cookies on each baking tray.

The batter was fairly sturdy, meaning they didn’t spread out too much during cooking. They stayed lovely and thick, unlike a lot of cookies I make, which usually spread out into thinner cookies. I really liked the fact these stayed so substantial. I was expecting them to be dense and sticky, a bit like flapjacks but I was pleasantly surprised at how light the texture was. Crisp and slightly crumbly on the outside with little pockets of chewy raisins and texture from the oats. The vanilla and cinnamon complimented each other wonderfully and the whole cookie was a joy to eat. They have a slightly craggily surface, with the raisins peeping through, giving them a very wholesome appearance. Utterly moorish, these are definitely on the ‘keepers’ list.

Substantial Cinnamon Oat Raisin Cookies
150g butter
120g light soft brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
170g porridge oats
160g plain flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
200g raisins
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 190C and get two baking trays ready but leave them un-greased.
Cream the butter together with both the sugars until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.
Add the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon into the bowl and beat together until all incorporated.
Fold in the raisins.
Using an old fashioned ice cream scoop, dollop level spoonfuls onto the baking trays. (I’m sure a tablespoon would work just as well)
Gently press the tops down to form thick level discs.
Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
Cool on sheet for only 1 minute before transferring to a rack with the help of a palette knife. Repeat with any leftover dough.
Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.
Makes 21 cookies

Thursday 17 May 2007

No Prove Pizza Dough

My cousin came to visit me a couple of days ago and we decided we wanted to make pizza for lunch. We used a recipe for pizza dough that doesn’t require any proving time. This makes it perfect for when you haven’t planned very far in advance, as it means you can be eating pizza made from scratch in under an hour. It produces a good thin, crisp base and although I think the traditional proven pizza dough does have slightly more flavour, this is a very satisfactory second.

Our pizzas turned out looking very different. I topped mine with spinach and butternut squash, and my cousin topped hers with lots of tomato and cheese. They both looked very attractive after baking and tasted delicious.

No Prove Pizza Dough
30g dried yeast
½ tsp caster sugar
250g strong plain flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
125 warm water

Preheat the oven to 250C and place two baking trays or pizza stones into the oven to heat up.
Crumble yeast into the warm water, add the sugar and stir until relatively smooth.
Add the flour and salt to a large bowl and make a dip in the centre. Pour over the yeast mixture and the olive oil.
Bring the mixture together into a dough, before turning out onto a lightly floured surface and kneading for around 3-5 minutes until smooth and soft.
Divide the dough into two and roll each piece out into a 9 inch round, directly onto a square of greaseproof paper.
Spread a layer of tomato sauce over the base and top with the ingredients of your choice.
Remove the baking trays or pizza stone from the oven and holding them level with the countertop, pull the greaseproof paper/pizza onto the tray.
Return to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and golden brown around the edges.
Makes two 9inch pizzas

Spinach and Multi Veg Pizza
Spread the dough with a thin layer of tomato sauce (a reduction of oregano and chopped tomatoes) and top with a double layer of fresh baby spinach leaves. Scatter over thin strips of orange pepper, sweetcorn, sliced mushrooms and 1cm square cubes of butternut squash. Top with a few slices of fresh mozzarella if desired and bake.

Cheesy Tomato and Onion Pizza
Spread a thick layer of tomato sauce over the dough and top with thin slices of onion. Top with a few mushroom slices and a scatter of sweetcorn before adding a generous layer of sliced fresh mozzarella. Bake until golden and melted. (See above for photo)

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Dash, Pinch and Smidgen

Have you ever been reading a recipe when it calls for a ‘pinch of chili powder’ or a ‘dash of paprika’ and you are left thinking ‘well how much is that?’
Well, thanks to these incredibility cute, mini measuring spoons your worries are over. The spoons are used to measure a dash, pinch or smidgen and unlike some measuring spoons, are guaranteed to fit inside the narrow necked spice jars. They really are teeny tiny, the spoon next to them in the second picture is a teaspoon!

Thursday 10 May 2007

Lemon Buns Take Two

For a while I have had the thought of sticky lemon swirls formulating in my mind, a lighter version of cinnamon swirl buns. I loved the soft, light, workable dough I used to make the Light Lemon Fruit Buns a while ago, and so I decided to use it as the base to create these lemon swirl buns.

They are really simple and fun to make. It involves rolling out the dough and slathering over a layer of zingy lemon curd before rolling them up and cutting into buns. The dough stayed very soft and moist and they were finger licking sticky thanks to the lemon curd which oozed out slightly during cutting and baking.

These are great for a mid morning snack or afternoon tea. Pull off a swirl, nibble around the edge towards the gooey centre, before licking the sweet lemony stickiness off your finger – bliss. Feel free to drizzle them with some lemon icing for extra indulgence.

Sticky Lemon Swirls
350g plain flour
50g caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
25g fresh yeast
50g butter
200ml milk
1 egg
Zest of ½ lemon
1/3 jar (110g) lemon curd

Grease a 20cm x 30cm, high sided baking tin. Line it with greaseproof paper and leave two strips overhanging the edges to aid removal after cooking.
Combine flour, sugar, salt, yeast and lemon zest in a large bowl.
Cut the butter into small pieces and add to a jug along with the milk and heat gently until warm but not to hot. (It shouldn’t get hotter than body temperature).
Whisk the egg into the milk and pour over the flour.
Using your fingers bring everything together and then kneed with a dough hook or by hand, for 5 minutes until soft and stretchy.
Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave to prove for 25 minutes.
Knock back the risen dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out into a long rectangle and around 5mm thick.
Spread the lemon curd over the surface of the dough. Roll up the dough as tightly as possible, starting at the longest edge until you have a long sausage shape.
Cut the dough into 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces, the lemon curd may ooze slightly, but don’t worry.
Place them into the tin, cut/swirl side up. Leave around 1cm gap between each piece to allow them to rise.
Leave to prove for a further 20-30 minutes until doubled in size.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 230C.
Place the swirls into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown and springy when pressed.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing the entire lot to a cooling wrack, still attached to the greaseproof paper. Dust with icing sugar.
Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container for around 3 days. Leave them attached to the greaseproof paper, as this will help keep them, moist.

Monday 7 May 2007

Sunshine Smoothie

This smoothie is a wonderfully bright and vibrant shade of yellow. I made it in order to contribute to the event hosted by Barbara from Winoes and Foodies called ‘A Taste of Yellow.’ I’ve left it rather late, I hope I can still contribute.
It is designed to bring attention to LIVESTRONG Day in the US, which is organized by Lance Armstrong Foundation and helps to raise awareness of people living with cancer and cancer survivorship.

The aim of ‘A Taste of Yellow’ was to make a dish containing some type of yellow food. I decided to create this smoothie which contains three types of yellow fruit. It turned out a very sunny, cheerful colour with a very tropical taste.

Mango, Pineapple and Peach Smoothie
1 mango
½ pineapple
2 peaches

Peel the pineapple and remove any of the ‘eyes’ from around the sides. Slices into cubes and place into a blender.
Remove the skin and pip from the peaches and slices into similar chunks. Add to the pineapple and blitz until you get a puree.
Peel the mango and remove the flesh from the stone. Slice into chunks and add to the puree and blitz everything together until smooth.
Makes 1 litre smoothie

I pureed the pineapple and peaches first as the mango was quite fibrous and I wanted to first create some liquid to help it blend together smoothly.

Update: The roundup of everyones posts can be found here. Barbara recieved an amazing 148 enteries.

Sunday 6 May 2007

Basil and Sun Dried Tomato Waffles

I have been having a lot of fun making experimenting with different sweet varieties of waffles recently, but it suddenly occurred to me yesterday that there was no reason why I couldn’t make savoury waffles as well. My first thought was to add some grated cheese to the batter mixture, but I wasn’t sure if this would ooze out of the waffles during cooking and make a greasy mess and so I decided instead to use the classic combination of tomato and basil. I have used sun dried tomato paste which you can buy from most supermarkets in jars, usually besides the pesto. However, it is not pesto, nor tomato puree, but simply pureed sun dried tomatoes. It gives a wonderful intense flavour to whatever you add it to.

These waffles worked really well and the fresh basil flavour really came through. They were very light with a slightly speckled red-ish tinge to them. I am longing to try out some more variations.

Basil and Sun Dried Tomato Waffles
60g self raising flour
45g butter
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 heaped tsp sun dried tomato paste
6 basil leaves

Heat your waffle iron whilst preparing the batter.
Melt the butter in bowl. Add the flour and egg and beat until smooth and thick.
Beat in the sun dried tomato paste and milk.
Tear the basil into shreds and stir into the batter.
Pour into the waffle iron and cook until pale golden.
Serve with any topping of your choice.
Makes 4 waffles

I actually turned my waffles into a sandwich, using the waffles in place of the bread. I spread a waffle with some spicy roasted red pepper houmous and topped it with some crispy lettuce. It made for a really delicious sandwich as the waffles were a lot lighter than normal bread. The tomato, basil and spicy red pepper combination also worked really well together. I think they would also make great toasted cheese ‘sandwiches’ too or even topped like a pizza and then grilled.

Tuesday 1 May 2007

3D Cupcakes

No I have not lost my marbles. Even though these cupcakes are in 3 dimension, that’s not what the 3D stands for. It really stands for the name I have given to these cupcakes – Dark and Delicious Devil’s food cupcakes. You see, it makes sense really!

At the moment I am on exam leave, preparing for my exams later on this month. I have spent the last 5 days practically glued to my desk, preparing my revision cards for my first exam, Food Technology. Yesterday I finally finished making the cards - all 81 of them! Now it’s just a matter of learning them, but it felt such a relief to be able to move away from my desk, at least I can take the cards and go and revise out in the sunshine now. In order to celebrate I allocated this morning to baking a Devil’s Food Cake that I have been meaning to try out for some time. I found a very yummy looking recipe on Martha Stewart’s website. Her cake involved 3 large layers, which I thought was a bit much just for myself (and no doubt Chris) to eat and so I halved the recipe and turned them into cupcakes instead.

I have never made a Devil’s Food Cake before and was quite amazed at the amount of liquid which went into the batter. The recipe, although fairly straightforward does involves a few bowls and a very precise way of mixing the ingredients together, but this just added to the fun of making them.

Once baked the cakes had lovely even surfaces and were a very deep chocolaty brown colour. On lifting the cakes out of the tin, they felt a little heavy and dense but I need not have been concerned. The cakes do have quite a close texture but they are in no way heavy. They had a very moist, damp, almost silky texture to them that was simply delicious. I topped them with a rich glossy icing of my own creation which worked very well. I think I can safely say this cake recipe has become my new favourite chocolate cake. I intend to try out the whole three layered cake as soon as a suitable opportunity arises.

Dark and Delicious Devil’s Food Cupcakes
(Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
For the cakes
150g butter
35g cocoa powder
60ml boiling water
100ml milk
170g plain flour
¾ tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
25g dark soft brown sugar
2 eggs

For the icing
100ml milk
110g dark chocolate (I used 70%)
10g butter
1½ tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
Measure the boiling water into a jug and whisk in the cocoa powder until no lumps remain. Then stir in the milk and set to one side.
Weigh out the flour and baking powder into a small bowl and set to one side.
In a large bowl, cream the butter with an electric whisk until pale and smooth. Then beat in the two sugars until fluffy.
Beat the eggs into the butter mixture one at a time. Don’t worry of the mixture looks a little curdled, it will come together when you add the flour. Add one third of the flour mixture to the batter and whisk until well incorporated. Then add a third of the cocoa liquid.
Repeat this process until all the flour and cocoa has been used. The batter should be smooth, glossy and fairly runny.
Divide between the 12 paper cases, you can add more batter to each case then you might normally as they do not rise that much.
Bake for 20 minutes, they should spring back when gently pressed.
Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool.
Makes 12 cakes.

To make the icing, add the milk, butter and chocolate to a small saucepan.
Stir over a low heat until everything is melted and glossy looking. Then bring the mixture to a gentle boil and whisk using a small hand whisk until thickened.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for half an hour.
When still slightly warm, beat in the icing sugar until thick and glossy.
Place the icing into a piping bag and swirl over the tops of the cooled cakes.