Tuesday 29 April 2008

Waiter There’s Something in My….. Breakfast!

WTSIM is a monthly event hosted alternately by Jeanne of Cook Sister, Andrew of Spittoon Extra and Johanna of The Passionate Cook. This month Johanna chose Breakfast as the theme and my entry is Crisp Cinnamon Granola.

Granola with a generous dollop of yoghurt has to be my favourite thing to have for breakfast. I just love how it’s crispy yet chewy. Fruity, nutty and oaty. Slightly sweet, lightly spiced and wholesome. I love to eat it in my pajamas curled up in bed on a lazy weekend. It must also be served in a mug (much easy to hold in bed) and eaten with a teaspoon to make it last (I hate eating anything using big spoons).

For this batch I used a base of jumbo oats, porridge oats, wheat flakes and …cornflakes. I added a mix of seeds, brazil nuts and hazelnuts along with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and vanilla. After toasting goji berries, dried blueberries and the must have classic of dried banana chips were stirred through to complete my granola.

I ate some whilst still warm form the oven and was intrigued to find that the cornflakes had become a little chewy rather than going crisp. However I think this is actually preferable as it adds another interesting texture and they ended up tasting remarkably like crunchy nut cornflakes after being baked in the syrup coating.

I added quite a bit of cinnamon to the mix, but there is just something about warm toasted nuts and oats and ground cinnamon that I adore. The aroma and flavour is (in my opinion) a match made in heaven.

Crisp Cinnamon Granola Ingredients
100g jumbo rolled oats
50g porridge oats
100g wheat flakes
100g cornflakes
25g linseeds
30g pumpkin seeds
35g brazil nuts
30g hazelnuts
2½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp natural oil
3 tbsp honey or 2tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp hot water
30g dried blueberries
30g goji berries
30g dried banana chips

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
In a large bowl weigh out the oats, wheat flakes, cornflakes and seeds.
Chop the brazil nuts into quarters and the hazelnuts in half and add to the oats along with the cinnamon.
Thin down the golden syrup in the water, stir in the oil and vanilla and then drizzle it over the oaty mixture.
Mix well, ensuring everything is lightly coated.
Scatter the mix onto the baking tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes until it’s starting to smell toasted.
Remove from the oven and give everything a good stir to ensure even toasting.
Return to the oven for 8-10 minutes more.
Remove from the oven. Crush the banana chips into large chunks and stir through the warm oaty mixture along with the blueberries and goji berries.
Leave to cool before storing in an airtight container.Eat in bed from a mug using a teaspoon – go on try it!
Click here for more info on WTSIM

Sunday 27 April 2008


I'm sorry to say that if you have come here in the hope of finding some yummy cheesecake pops from this months Daring Bakers challange you will be dissapointed.
I fully intended on making them, I really did, but what with being away with work, having people to stay and then travelling home for my birthday... whoosh the month has gone and I never managed to make them.
I promise to do better next month.

Thursday 24 April 2008

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

It’s my 21st birthday today and so for the Monday Munchers this week I wanted to try and bake something fun and a bit different. Somewhere in the back of my mind was an idea of baking cake in ice cream cones and then decorating them to look like ice creams. I think I probably got this idea from another blog, but I can’t remember which one. I baked one on its own to start with, to determine how full I needed to fill the cones with the cake batter. The cones I used had a little ridge in them, about an inch from the top, and this turned out to be the perfect measure of where to fill them up to allow the batter to rise to the top during baking.

It’s important to use flat bottomed ice cream cones, as they have got to stand up while you bake them. I wanted to make a choice of flavours and so made a plain sponge batter and then divided it in half and flavoured one half lemon and the other chocolate. Once baked the chocolate ones were topped with a layer of dulce de leche caramel and a whipped chocolate cream. The lemony ones were topped with lemon curd and a lemon and white chocolate cream. I also added sugar sprinkles for a fun party touch.

The cones turn a little chewy after being baked, but are still crisp and sturdy enough to hold the cake and stand unsupported. I was really please with how they turned out and they really did look like ice creams, although my chocolate ones must have been in the sun too long as they look a bit melted! (I didn’t beat the cream stiff enough before piping it on). I loved all the different tastes and textures you could get in one bite – creamy topping, sweet gooey sauce, fluffy cake and crisp wafer cone.

They are a bit messy (yet fun) to eat and after the first bite it’s a good idea to spread some of the topping down the side of the cake for ease of eating or else you might end up squishing your nose it in! They were a hit at work and were a novel twist on the traditional birthday cake with a fun party feel.
Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
For the plain batter

110g butter
100g caster sugar
110g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
2 eggs
12 flat bottom wafer ice cream cones

For lemon cakes (1/2 plain batter mix)
40g lemon curd
Zest of ½ lemon
For lemon topping
150ml double cream
60g white chocolate
1 tbsp lemon curd
6 tsp extra lemon curd
Sprinkles to decorate

For the chocolate cakes (1/2 plain batter mix)
2 tsp (10g) cocoa powder
For the chocolate topping
150ml double cream
60g dark chocolate
6 tsp dulce de leche (caramel/toffee sauce)

Method – plain batter
Preheat the oven to 175C.
Place 12 ice cream cones in the wells of a muffin tin and set to one side.
Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and beat again.
Sift in the flour and baking powder and beat until well incorporated.
Divide the cake batter equally into two bowls.
Flavour the batter as you wish and bake for 18-22 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Leave to cool before topping.

For the chocolate cakes
Sift over the cocoa powder and beat well, adding a drop of milk if needed.
Spoon into 6 of the ice cream cones, but leaving a 1 inch gap at the top to allow rising.
Once cooked, spread a teaspoon of the dulce de leche over the top of each of the cakes and top with the chocolate cream.

For the chocolate cream
Heat the cream gently until it begins to simmer but not boil.
Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate and stir until smooth.
Leave to cool before whipping into a thick cream.
Pipe onto the tops of the chocolate cakes.

For the lemon cakes
Add the lemon zest and lemon curd and beat well.
Divide between the 6 ice cream cones leaving a 1 inch gap.
Once cooked, spread a teaspoon of lemon curd over the tops of the cakes and top with the lemon and white chocolate cream.

For the lemon cream
Heat the cream gently until it begins to simmer but not boil.
Remove from the heat and pour over the white chocolate and lemon curd.
Stir until smooth.
Leave to cool before whipping into a thick cream.
Pipe onto the tops of the lemon cakes and decorate with sugar sprinkles.

Makes 12 cone cupcakes

Sunday 20 April 2008

Mini Walnut Cake Pies

A few weeks ago I read a post on Bake or Break about mini pecan pies in the form of cupcakes. They looked great and I was so intrigued by this pie/cake combo that I decided to try them out for myself.

I halved the recipe as I didn’t want to make too many and as I didn’t have any pecans to hand I substituted walnuts. The recipe came together in a flash and I was excited when they went into the oven. They came out looking like miniature pies but with a slightly spongy top. I decided to let them cool in the tin for a while as they looked a little fragile, but I think I left them too long as they got quite stuck. Thankfully most of them made it out of the tin intact.

I’m not sure if I undercooked mine, but they still had soft and sticky centers, definitely more pie than cupcake but by no means a disappointment. They were very sweet but this worked well with the buttery walnuts and as they are quite small they didn’t come sickly. They were a hit with friends and I loved how quick and simple they were to put together, no messing around with pastry required and yet you end up with yummy little pies.

Mini Walnut Pies
Recipe from Bake or Break blog
115g walnuts
55g plain flour
200g soft brown sugar
140g butter
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 180C.
Grease a muffin tin with oil and set to one side.
Finely chop the walnuts and melt the butter.
Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
Fill each well ¾ of the way full with the batter.
Bake in preheated oven for around 18-20 minutes.
Allow to cool for only a few minutes before removing from the tins.
Great eaten hot or cold.
Makes 8 - 10

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Chilli Chocolate Muffins

I really like muffins. I love there soft and tender texture and their tall puffed up appearance, almost as if they are trying to burst out of their cases with self importance. However, you may have noticed that there are very few muffin recipes on this blog, for even though I love muffins, they do not love me, or rather they do not like being baked by me. More often than not I end up with a hard dense rock, a flat muffin with a crispy top or just cake. After trying quite a few recipes over the years I admitted defeat and accepted that I was one of those people that just couldn’t bake muffins.

All that changed when I happened upon a recipe for dark chocolate muffins on Baking Bites. They just looked so perfect, that I was longing to eat one and decided it was time to give muffins another shot.

I had been asked to make something using chilli and chocolate for the Monday Munchers this week and so decided that not only was I going to try making muffins, but that the muffins would come back with a kick.

I kept the muffin batter plain chocolate but added a little chilli powder and also stirred through some chunks of chilli chocolate to provide little pockets of spice. I tried to follow all the rules I have learnt about muffin making e.g. not over mixing the batter and allowing a few clumps to remain etc. Yet I was apprehensive when it came to filling the muffin cases as the batter looking a little thinner than I was expecting but I went ahead and baked them.

I didn’t dare look in the oven until the time was up and when I opened the oven door I couldn’t believe the tall muffins that greeted me. They had high domes and soft tops and smelt amazing. I kept expecting them to collapse while they were cooling, but they stayed standing proud.

They were very chocolaty and had a closely knit and tender crumb attributed to a muffin. The thing that pleased me most was how they didn’t develop a hard dry surface, but stayed soft and moist. The chilli flavour was quite subtle, but left a nice warm sensation in the back of your throat. Next time I may try using melted chilli chocolate in the muffin batter for more of a kick.

If you are in need of a good muffin recipe then use the one below and hopefully your muffin hunt will be over. You can of course leave out the chilli and use plain chocolate for a normal muffin. Thanks Nic for the recipe.

Chilli Chocolate Muffins
Adapted from Baking Bites blog
125g dark chocolate
110g butter
230g plain flour
100g soft light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp chilli powder
2 large eggs
165ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g chilli chocolate

Preheat oven to 175C.
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
Melt together the butter and dark chocolate either in the microwave or a small saucepan.In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, chilli powder and baking powder.
Make a well in the center and the add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla extract.
Give a quick stir and then pour in the melted chocolate. Fold everything together using a large spatula until all the ingredients are incorporated. It’s ok for a few lumps to remain.
Chop the chilli chocolate into chunks and fold into the batter.
Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling three-quarters full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool.
Store in an airtight container until required.
Makes 12-14

Saturday 12 April 2008

An Award and A Six Word Memoir

Firstly I would like to thank Gigi for awarding me a ‘E for Excellence’ award. Thanks Gigi, I’m really touched.

I wish to pass the award on to Naomi from Straight Into Bed Cakefree And Dried. She has an amazing gluten free blog full of delicious and creative recipes. Her wide knowledge and use of alternative flours always amazes me.

I was recently tagged by Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe for a Six Word Memoir. This involves trying to sum up my personality and capturing the essence of ‘me’ in just 6 words. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. Below are my six chosen little words.


I am now passing the challenge on to six other bloggers who have to write six words about themselves, pass the tag on to six others and link back here.

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Gingerbread & Date Cake

I started out planning to bake a date and ginger cake, but as always, I tweaked with the recipe and this cake was the result. The cake itself requires very little added fat as the main binding ingredient is a boiled date mixture. This not only adds a great flavour but also provides a wonderful stickiness which goes hand in hand with the ginger. By substituting wholemeal self raising flour for the white flour stated in the recipe and adding oats in place of breadcrumbs give it a lovely wholesome and slightly toasted/nutty flavour. I also included a little crystallized ginger for extra spice.

I had a little slice of it warm with custard when it was straight out the oven after lunch and it was gorgeous, warming, spicy and fruity. I had a little bit later on that night and was a bit disappointed that it seemed a little dry. I wrapped it up and left it until the following evening when I was overjoyed to discover it had developed a sticky surface and become quite moist and slightly dense but without being heavy. So it seems as though it ages like a traditional gingerbread, getting better with age. If you don’t want to eat it straight away as a hot pudding I would strongly recommend keeping it for 1-2 days before eating.

I consider this cake to be relatively healthy, quite low in fat and full of fibre from the wholemeal flour, oats and dates. You could almost justify it for breakfast.

Gingerbread & Date Cake

45g butter
120g caster sugar
180g wholemeal self raising flour
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
2tsp ground ginger
15g crystallized ginger
225ml water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g dates (stone removed)
50g raisins
60g rolled oats

Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a deep 8inch/20cm round tin and set to one side.
Chop the dates into small pieces and add to a small saucepan along with the water.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and then add the bicarbonate of soda. Stir while the mixture bubbles and froths up.
Allow to cook for 3 minutes until the dates have turned mushy and then remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
Add the egg and beat again.
Add the flour, baking powder, and ground ginger into the bowl. Pour the date mix, water and all, over the top and stir until all combined.
Chop the crystallized ginger into small pieces and stir though the batter along with the raisins and oats.
Spread into the greased tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and springy when pressed.
Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling completely.
When cool, wrap in cling film and leave for 24hours – 2 days before eating for best results. (Although can be eaten straight away, when warm and served with custard).

Sunday 6 April 2008

Ganache Truffles

Over Easter I bought a chocolate mould, and to keep things simple, I decided that the first batch of truffles I made should be plain ganache truffles. Ganache is just a mix of cream and chocolate, melted together until smooth. It produces a wonderful silky mouthfeel with a melt in the mouth texture.

To start with I melted the chocolate and gave the moulds two coats to act as a casing, then added the leftover chocolate to the heated cream to make the ganache. I then filled the moulds with the ganache, waited for it to set and topped each one off with a little extra melted chocolate to form a base.

The thing I loved about the moulds is how I was able to pour the soft ganache into each indent, rather than trying to roll them into balls by hand. The moulds also resulted in a wonderfully glossy shine to the truffles.

If you don’t have a chocolate mould you can still make the truffles by allowing the ganache to set and then rolling it into balls using your hands and then dusting them in cocoa powder or dipping into melted chocolate. In the past I have also brushed mini petit fours paper cases with melted chocolate and used these as moulds, which work well, as you can easily peel away the paper once they are filled.

Making sure to use good quality chocolate is essential – as the quality of chocolate you use will determine the quality of the finished truffle.

Ganache Truffles

150g dark chocolate 60%-74% coco
50g milk chocolate
170ml double cream
½ tsp vanilla
35g extra dark chocolate for the bases.

Melt the 150g dark chocolate and the milk chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water until melted and smooth.
Brush the insides of your moulds or paper cases with the melted chocolate, ensuring there are no gaps. Turn the moulds upside down to allow any excess chocolate to dribble down and coat the sides of the mould where it is most needed.
Repeat once again when the first layer has set.
Heat the double cream and vanilla in a pan set over a low heat until small bubbles begin to appear, but do not let it boil.
Remove the cream from the heat and pour over the chocolate leftover from brushing the moulds (It will probably have reset but this is fine.)
Stir gently until the chocolate melts into the cream and it becomes smooth, thick and glossy.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before pouring into the moulds, making sure to leave a 2mm gap at the top of each one.
Allow the truffles to set for about 30-60 minutes.
Melt the extra dark chocolate and then spoon a little over each of the truffles, sealing the ganache inside a case of chocolate.
Place somewhere cool for 3-4 hours to ensure the truffles and properly set. Then either tap out from the moulds or carefully peel away the paper cases.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Honey & Orange Creams

For the Monday Munchers this week I really wanted to give them something a bit different that I hadn’t made before. I was flicking through one of my favourite cook books for inspiration when I suddenly found the perfect thing – sandwich cookies! And not only were they sandwich cookies, they were honey and orange sandwich cookies topped with crushed walnuts and filled with honey buttercream. Problem solved.

The recipe for the cookies was really intriguing as it involved making a very light and airy dough that had to be rolled into small balls and flattened before baking – I had thought sandwich cookies would have to be rolled and cut out into discs, but it appears not as the cookies baked into perfect circles. Another curious thing was that they had a crisp surface and yet remained quite soft and tender on the inside. I was initially disappointed by this when I tasted a little of the cookie on its own, but once assembled with the cream filling I think its actually better this way as it means you can take a bite easily without the cream oozing out the middle. I was also quite startled by how orange the cookies looked when I took them out the oven, curiously this lessened to become a golden brown colour as they cooled. I’m not sure why this happened, all I can think is that it’s something to do with a chemical reaction to the bicarbonate of soda in the mix. Anyone have any suggestions?

The flavour of the cookies was also very good. The honey and orange made it taste quite zesty and delicate. The walnuts of top became lightly toasted and provided a wonderful nutty flavour and a slight crunch. I feel they are quite an elegant little cookie and would be the ideal thing to serve your mum or grandmother with a cup of afternoon tea, but that’s not to say there weren’t equally enjoyed by the guys at work.

Honey & Orange Creams
(Recipe from The Cookie Book by Catherine Atkinson & Joanna Farrow)
250g self raising flour
2 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g caster sugar
110g butter
Zest of 1 large orange
115g clear honey
25g walnuts

For the cream filling
50g butter
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp honey

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and set to one side.
Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl with sugar. Grate in the rind from the orange.
Add the butter and rub the ingredients together using the tips of your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Heat the honey until it’s runny and warm, but not hot. (Either in a saucepan or the microwave). Pour over the crumbs and stir with a spoon until it begins to form clumps and then use your fingers to bring it into a sticky dough.
Take small heaped teaspoonfuls of the dough and roll it between your hands to form balls the size of a large marble.
Place the cookie balls onto the baking tray and flatten slightly using your fingers. Leave a 2inch gap between each one to allow for spreading.
Finely chop the walnuts and press a few pieces into the top of half the cookies. Leave the other half plain.
Bake the cookies for 8 minutes until puffy and golden brown (or orange!)
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes before transferring to a cooling wire. Repeat with any remaining cookie balls.
When cool, spread the honey cream over the base of one of the plain cookies and top with a cookie embedded with walnuts.
Makes 40 cookie discs or 20 sandwich cookies.

To make the cream filling
Beat the butter until smooth and soft. Gradually sift over the icing sugar and beat until well incorporated.
Stir through the honey and leave at room temperature until required.