Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Right, I'm back! Since I moved to Ballarat I've been struggling to find the time to do my blog. I have no idea why that is because I probably have more time on my hands than I ever have! That and I guess I don't have as many excuses to bake anymore. But anyway... I'm back and I hope to get back to posting regularly!

As promised - here are the Red Velvet Cupcakes I made for our Girls' Weekend in Daylesford. I didn't go with the traditional frosting (because I wanted to make them pretty!) so I'm not sure if these still qualify as Red Velvet or if they're just chocolate cakes coloured red!

Cute cupcakes for my girls!

This one is a Nigella Lawson favourite. Start by preheating the oven to 170c and lining 2 x 12 hole muffin tins. Combine 250g plain flour, 2 tbsp cocoa, 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb soda in a bowl. In another bowl (I used an electric mixer), cream 100g soft unsalted butter and 200g caster sugar. When the mixture is soft and pale, beat in 1 tsp red food colouring (I know it seems like a lot but that's what makes these so special!) and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Keep the beaters going and add 1 spoonful of the dry ingredients followed by 1 egg, then the rest of the dry ingredients and another egg. Finally, beat in 175ml buttermilk and 1 tsp vinegar. If you can't get buttermilk, just use normal milk, remove a teaspoon of it and replace it with another teaspoon of vinegar. Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for 20 minutes.

The colour of the mixture is incredible!
Make sure you let the cakes cool completely before you attempt to ice them. I made my own chocolate buttercream but like I said, you may want to use a cream cheese frosting to be true to the idea of Red Velvet Cupcakes!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sharing recipes

Some of you might have seen a comment that was posted here about me sharing 'copyrighted material' and how this may be considered unethical or even illegal. I just wanted to let you all know that I've done my research and there is absolutely no issue with me sharing recipes here from books and magazines I own because I'm not copying the recipes word for word and I attribute every recipe that isn't mine to its source.

For more information on the ethics and legalities around recipe sharing, see: http://foodblogalliance.com/2009/04/recipe-attribution.php

I've got some cute little cupcakes from our girls' weekend away to post soon- stay tuned!

Have a great day :)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Orange Cupcakes

I haven't been feeling well these past couple of weeks and I know that whenever I'm feeling flat or unwell, baking is always going to pick me up. So I grabbed my Nanny's orange cake recipe and made some delicious little cupcakes for my visitors on the weekend.

My Nanny makes this is a whole cake but there's something about cupcakes and decorating them that is so much more therapeutic and that's what I needed!


The thing that makes these cakes so moist is a bit different and I like to think a secret of my Nanny's - it uses a whole orange! So we start by chopping up an orange into small pieces and whizzing it in a food processor. Put the orange into a mixing bowl and add 185g melted butter, 3 eggs, 1 cup caster sugar and 1 1/2 cups SR flour. Mix until well combined and smooth.

Spoon the mixture into lined muffin tins (I got 15 cupcakes out of this recipe). Bake at 180 for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

The icing was just a basic butter cream with some orange juice in it for flavour. I just piped it on and sprinkled some grated rind on the top. Simple but pretty!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Donna Hay's Raspberry Spiked Brownies

My new workplace has this great little morning tea tradition. Every Wednesday the staff in the east wing of the Town Hall take turns cooking something to share with everyone. Two people are rostered on each week and usually one person will do sweet and one will do savoury. I made it very clear when I was first filled in on the workings of it that I could only do sweet!

Last week it was my turn so I thought I'd pull out a new recipe to go along with my apple crumble muffins (I'm told you don't have to cook two things but it's generally ok if that's what you want to do!). When we were on our girls' weekend in Warrnambool a few months ago I got a gorgeous little Donna Hay 'Chocolate' cookbook. I love the food photography that Donna Hay does - the rustic feel of it is just gorgeous. I took a quick look through it and quickly settled on this recipe - I'm sure by now you can understand why!

Donna Hay's Raspberry Spiked Brownies

Another quick and easy one! Preheat your oven to 180c. Melt 200g dark chocolate and 250g butter in the microwave, stirring every 40 seconds until melted and smooth.

In a bowl, mix together 4 eggs and 1 3/4 cups brown sugar then add the chocolate mixture. Sift over this 1 1/3 cups plain flour, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1/3 cup cocoa. Mix to combine.

Pour the mixture into a lined square cake tin and top with 1 1/2 cups raspberries. The raspberries can be fresh or frozen, it doesn't really matter. It feels like a lot of raspberries but do put them all on because they shrink in quite a bit when they're cooked.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. The brownies should be quite fudgy so don't worry if they don't seem completely set. Let them cool completely in the tin before cutting into 16 squares. It's tempting to try and cut them while they're still warm but don't - it gets very messy!

My first offering for the traditional morning tea at work.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Two of the best - choc-chip biscuits

A good choc chip biscuit is one of life's simple pleasures. I'll admit that you can get good ones at the supermarket and bakery but there's something about a good homemade biscuit that you can't go past. For me it's getting them out of the oven, carefully transferring them to the rack and then watching them crisp up as they cool. All of that said, it's taken me ages to find a good recipe and I've learnt that you have to watch them like a hawk when you bake them - a couple of minutes too long and you can wreck a whole batch.

So here are two of my favourites - Janelle Bloom's condensed milk choc chip biscuits and Nigella Lawson's totally chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

Janelle Bloom's condensed milk choc-chip biscuits

These ones are from a recipe book I bought my Mum for her birthday one year. We had a bit of a tradition when I was doing uni of sitting down at lunch time and watching Ready, Steady, Cook and Janelle always made the most incredible baked treats and desserts. These biscuits are just one example!

Preheat your oven to 180c (170c if using the fan) and line four big baking trays with baking paper - we're making around 40 biscuits here, depending on how much mixture you eat on the way!

Grab your electric mixer and pop into the bowl 250g butter (softened and chopped), 1/2 cup caster sugar  and half a tin of condensed milk. Beat until pale and creamy. Sift 2 1/2 cups plain flour and 3 1/2 tsps baking powder over the top of the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Add 375g choc chips and stir until well distributed.

Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture into balls and place onto the baking trays, leaving a little bit of room for them to spread. Flatten a little with a fork.

Bake two trays at a time for 9-12 minutes. Stand for five minutes on the trays and then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Nigella Lawson's Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
 ( minus my good camera :(
Ok, so these biscuits right here are the definition of comfort food! You could not possibly get any more chocolate into them if you tried - even I had trouble getting through a whole one in one go (I did manage though - tough gig but someone has to do it). When I saw Nigella making them on her show, she was making them for a girlfriend who had just broken up with her man - like I said, perfect comfort food.

Preheat your oven to 170c (remember to lower it a bit if you don't have the option of turning the fan off in your oven - I forgot and had the fan on and they cooked a bit too quickly). Line two large baking trays with baking paper.

Melt 125g dark chocolate in the microwave and set aside to cool a little. Put 150g plain flour, 30g cocoa, 1 tsp bicarb and 1/2 tsp salt into a bowl. Use your electric mixer to cream together 125g butter, 75g brown sugar and 50g white sugar until pale and creamy. Add the melted chocolate and mix to combine. Then add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1 cold egg. It's interesting that the recipe calls for a cold egg because all good bakers know that all your ingredients should be at room temperature but the lady that taught Nigella this incredible recipe says the egg is to be cold, so cold it is!

Mix in the combined dry ingredients and then finally 350g dark choc chips. Scoop 12 equal mounds onto the trays - one of those ice cream scoops with the release handle works best but I just used my 1/4 cup measure. Don't flatten the mounds.

Place the trays into the oven. It should take around 18 minutes for the biscuits to cook - check them from time to time. You should get some fudgy cake crumbs sticking to the tester but no raw mixture. You'll have to try and avoid the hundreds of choc chips to get an accurate idea!

Remove from the oven, leave to cool on the trays for 5 minutes or so and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely (minus the one that you HAVE to eat while it's still warm - incredible!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nigella's Molten Chocolate Baby Cakes

So Nigella calls these Molten Chocolate Babycakes. The chefs would call them Chocolate Fondants. Some people call them Chocolate Lava Cakes or Soft Centred Chocolate Puddings. Whatever you call these little gems, they have one thing in common - they are incredible!

I'd have to say this is my favourite dessert. The first time I made these, my sister and I talked about them for days. They were so delicious; I think I made them three nights in a row!

So here I go again with my chocolate and raspberry combo. For me, you just can't go past it. It's the bomb. End of story.

For something so tasty, these things are fairly easy - I don't do difficult! Start by getting 6 ramekins, greasing them and lining the bottoms with some baking paper. Preheat the oven to 200c. Melt 350g dark chocolate using spurts in the microwave. Nigella says to use the best quality dark chocolate you can get but it can be pretty expensive - I get one block of the good stuff and mix it with the cadbury old gold. Set it aside to cool.

Cream together 50g butter and 150g caster sugar then add 4 large eggs, beating well between each addition. Mix in a pinch of salt and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Add 50g plain flour, mix until smooth and then scrape in the chocolate and mix gently to combine.

Resist the temptation to eat the mixture!

Divide the batter between the ramekins and sit them on a baking tray. Nigella doesn't do it in her recipe, but I learnt somewhere that you should put them in the fridge at this stage for half an hour or so. It helps them to set a bit and hold their form. The whole idea with fondants is that they're still squishy in the middle so putting them in the fridge helps that outer crust to sit a little firmer. From the fridge, pop them into the oven for 10-12 minutes. I sometimes leave them a little longer because I get scared that they won't come out of the moulds properly but if you want a true fondant, 12 minutes will do it!

Now, you can serve them however you want - cream, ice-cream, some mascapone with vanilla would be nice. You know me though... I put some vanilla ice-cream and some raspberries with it! I used to cook the raspberries up with caster sugar and sieve it to make a coulis but now I just pop the raspberries and sugar in the microwave for a minute or so and pour them straight over the top - just as tasty and much less effort!


P.S - first recipe in my new house! The oven works well :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Cupcakes

I find Easter really stressful. All the people and the crowds and the existence of traffic in our quiet little town - it's all just a bit much for me! That said, I love that all my friends are home and we all get to catch up with people we haven't seen for a while. Anyway, when my friend Jess organised her usual catch up barbie on Easter Saturday I quickly put my hand up to make something sweet to share. I knew instantly that it would help with the stress levels getting ready to head out on Saturday night - pity it didn't save our night when things got crazy but that's another story!
What would Easter be without some baked chocolatey goodness!?
As usual, it's really easy! I got the recipe from taste.com.au

Preheat the oven to 180c and line two 12 hole muffin tins with paper cases. Melt 200g milk chocolate in the microwave (use one minute zaps, stirring in between with a metal spoon). Using electric beaters or a mixmaster, beat 200g butter and 1 cup caster sugar until pale and creamy. Add 3 eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the slightly cooled chocolate and mix until combined. Add 1 1/4 cups plain flour, 1/4 cup cocoa, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb soda and mix in using a spatula or wooden spoon (it can get a bit messy if you do this bit in the electric mixer - I get impatient, turn it right up high and end up with flour all over me!). Once that's all mixed in, stir in 1/2 cup milk until combined. Put the mixture into the cases, filling them about two thirds full so that you get a nice even top to ice. Pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them - I had mine in for right on 20 minutes and they were a bit overcooked.

Try and resist the temptation to eat them as is - the frosting makes them even better!
To make the frosting, beat 100g butter with an electric mixer until really pale. Gradually add 1/3 cup cocoa, 3 cups icing sugar and 1/4 milk in batches, beating well between each batch until combined. Spread the frosting over the top of each cake and top with a little Easter egg. And you're done!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lemon Shortcake

This is one I've been sitting on for a while, waiting for an excuse to make. I promised Aunty Trace she could choose any cake she wanted for her birthday and this is the one she picked. I was really excited to try it out and very happy with the result!

Happy Birthday, Traco!
Ok, so mine didn't turn out anywhere near as neat as the picture in my book but it still tasted pretty good! Before you set out on this one, be aware that it does need to set overnight so you'll need to start a day in advance.

The first step is to cut 8 x 20cm circles out of baking paper (just use a cake tin to trace them out) and preheat your oven to 180c.

Using an electric beater, mix 180g butter at room temperature, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind and 1 egg at room temperature until pale and creamy. Sift together 2/3 cup plain flour, 1/4 cup self raising flour and 2 tbsp cornflour and mix gently into the butter mixture. Divide the mixture into 8 eight even portions.

Grab two baking trays and put a baking paper circle on each. Now, this is where it gets tricky! You need to spread a portion of mixture onto each circle. I used my flat icing blade and kept dipping it into warm water to prevent sticking. Make sure the mixture is spread evenly and right out to the edges and then pop the trays into the oven for around 4-6 minutes. I found that I was getting carried away spreading the mixture onto the discs and almost forgot a couple of times that I had them in the oven so make sure you keep an eye on them because they can go from not-quite-ready to I've-stuffed-the-whole-thing very quickly! Once they're golden brown, remove them from the oven and cool on a wire rack then repeat until you've got 8 big biscuits.

Once the biscuits have all cooled (it won't take long) you can put it all together! For the filling, whip 600ml of cream until soft peaks form and then gently fold through 175g lemon curd. You can just use store bought stuff but I made my own - it's really easy. Just pop 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, 3/4 cup caster sugar into a saucepan and whisk them together. Then add 1/3 cup chilled unsalted butter and the zest and juice of 2 lemons and whisk over a low heat until it boils and thickens. Place one biscuit on a plate and spread with 1/2 cup of the lemon cream filling. Top with another biscuit and repeat until all the biscuits are used, finishing with a layer of the filling. Pop it into the fridge to set overnight.

Then we make a lovely lemon syrup to go over the top! Peel 1 lemon and cut the rind inro thin strips. Juice the lemon. Place the rind in a saucepan, cover with boiling water, bring to the boil and drain. Repeat this another two times. Place the drained rind into the saucepan and add 1/2 cup caster sugar, the lemon juice and 1/2 cup water. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, turn the heat up to high and boil for 2-3 minutes or until the syrup thickens. Set aside to cool and then pour over the cake.

And you're done - enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Muffins and more muffins

It was back to basics in the kitchen today. I had a thumping headache but I'd planned to make some muffins - some for me and some to pop in the freezer for Claire to take back to uni next time she comes home - and thought it an easy enough task. As I'd expected, the measuring, mixing, and sugary smells coming from the oven were all I needed to shift the headache and the dread of the weekend ending.

Double Choc Chip and Apple Crumble muffins - simple but delicious!
I have a real love of baking muffins. They're so easy but so satisfying and I've been baking them forever. I'm sure that my first ever cookbook was a Family Circle 'Muffins' book from my beautiful Nanny. Over time I've tried all sorts of different muffin recipes but I don't think you can go past the classics which is why I chose these ones today - double choc chip and apple crumble.

From my experience, pretty much all muffins are made the same. You mix together the dry ingredients, make a well, pour the wet ingredients in and mix until just combined. So, dry ingredients first...

Double Choc-Chip
1 and 3/4 plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tbsp baking powder (I was a bit alarmed at this big amount but it all turned out ok!)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup choc chips (a. I used dark choc chips b. the recipe said 1/2 a cup but...!)

Apple Crumble
1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda

Mix it all together, make a well in the middle and then add the wet ingredients and mix until just combined (overmixing will leave you with tough muffins and nobody wants that!)

Double Choc-Chip
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Apple Crumble
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

The choc chip ones are ready for the oven now. Divide the mixture amongst the cases in a 12-hole muffin tin and put them into the oven at 180c.

For the apple crumble muffins you'll need to peel and chop two medium sized apples and stir them through. Divide the mixture amongst cases in a 12-hole muffin tin and top them with the crumble mixture. To make the crumble you just need to put a 1/3 cup plain flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp brown sugar and 30g chilled butter into a food processor and whiz to combine. Then just sprinkle the crumble generously over the 12 muffins and slide the tray into the oven.

Both of the trays will need about 20 minutes. Use a cake tester just to be sure.

And it's as easy as that!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Raspberry Ganache Cake

So first things first. This little gem comes from one of my fav baking blogs 17 and Baking. Make sure you check it out - this girl is a whiz! And I know... berries and chocolate again but can you blame me!?

Oh. My God.
Dad's workmate Chips has been working for him for 25 years this year - a pretty awesome feat- so we decided to chuck him a bit of a do (not a surprise one like we did for his 20 years... not sure that went down too well!) on Friday night. I had the day off work after going to the footy the night before (go the blues!) and realised at about 3pm that Mum hadn't organised the cake that she said she was going to. I was stoked because it gave me an excuse to have a go at this beautiful cake that I'd been eyeing off for weeks!

I cut out the numbers in cardboard, sat them on top and dusted with icing sugar.
I didn't have a lot of time so it was a quick but cute way to decorate it!
 The recipe is massive and Elissa explains it perfectly on her blog so I'll let you get it from there but I do have some hints/tips/learnings from this baby:
  • Elissa isn't joking when she says in the recipe that the cakes are soft. You have to be so so careful with them. I handled them really gently and still ended up with each of them in about three pieces! It doesn't matter once you put it all together but it does make things a bit tricky.
  • I only had just enough cocoa so I lined the entire tins with baking paper and then buttered them again and sugared them.
  • I only had olive oil so I used that and it seemed to work out ok.
  • It is incredibly rich so you'll only need tiny slices for everyone (unless you're a chocaholic like me - I could have eaten the whole thing!) 
It's a bit of work but so worth it. Keep this one in mind for the next special occasion you've got coming up - nobody will be disappointed!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hot Cross Buns

I was home alone a couple of Sundays ago and I decided the best way to spend the day was baking. With Easter getting closer and hot cross buns appearing everywhere I thought I'd better take a stab! I remember cooking these with little Claudy J a few years back and it was so much fun. I don't actually eat hot cross buns but my family love them so we ended up with some for now and some in the freezer for later.

Bit of an explosion on the end there but I'm told it still tasted good!

Whisk 2x8g sachets dried yeast, 1 1/4 cups warm milk and 1/4 cup caster sugar in a medium sized bowl until the sugar dissolves and then set aside for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, sift 4 cups plain flour, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice and 1 tsp salt. Use your fingertips to rub in 60g butter until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Into this mix add 1 cup sultanas, 1 cup dried cranberries, 2 eggs and the yeast mix and stir to combine. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes. Place the kneaded dough into a large greased bowl, cover and leave in a warm spot for 3/4 of an hour.


Give the dough a good punch and then knead again until smooth. Shape into 12 balls and place side by side into a greased baking tray like this...

Set the buns aside for 1/4 of an hour. Preheat the oven to 200c. Combine 1/4 cup SR flour and 1/4 cup water, place the mix in a freezer or snaplock bag, snip off the corner and pipe crosses on.

Bake for 10 minutes, reduce the oven to 180c and bake for a further 15 minutes. Brush the buns while they're still warm with warm and sieved apricot jam.

Tah dah!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Homemade Pasta

That's right, peeps. Get excited... I got a pasta machine! After the pasta making challenge on My Kitchen Rules this week I got super excited and headed down to ye old Mitre 10 to get me some o' that. It was a day and a half until I actually got to use it and it seemed like forever - I was like a kid at Christmas. So, this is the story of how it all played out :)

Okie dokie! We start by sifting 2 cups of 00 flour (you can use just plain flour but they reckon the 00 stuff is the go so I decided it was best not to risk it!) onto a clean working surface (ie the bench) and make a little well. You need to fit 4 eggs at room temperature in there so make sure the sides are pretty tall... the recipe stressed that the eggs shouldn't be able to run out of the well but mine definitely did and I freaked out a bit! Anyhoo... gently give the eggs a whisk with a fork and then start working the flour into the eggs with your fingertips. Keep working it until it forms a dough. And then the fun part begins - you gotta knead it for 6-7 minutes until it all comes together and is nice and smooth.

After 6-7 minutes kneading. Ergh... but so worth it!
 Then we cut it into 4 pieces and wrap it in glad wrap to rest for a little while. The recipe says 10 minutes but I left it for about an hour and a half while I went and Zumba-d so I could enjoy my carbs good and proper!

Cut the dough into 4, wrap and rest
And then it's time for the fun part! I pulled out the pasta machine, attached it to the bench (with my Mummy's help!), dusted the rollers with some flour and got to work. You'll want some better advice than mine to try it yourself but basically you have to roll it out a couple of times on each setting until you get down to number two... they say the last setting can be a bit too thin and the pasta can get stuck - messy!

This part was so much fun!
Then we lay it out on a cloth while we do the other sheets and then get to cutting it. I couldn't get a photo of that part unfortunately! Dad helped me with this... for those of you who know my dad - can you imagine!?!?! I fed it into the machine as dad cranked the cutter and away we went.

Oooo my goodness. I was so incredibly excited!
My first batch of homemade pasta :)
I boiled a big pot of salted water and dropped it in. It only took about 5-6 minutes to cook (excellent because Rosie and I were starving after Zumba!). I made a pretty simple bacon, tomato and rocket sauce and folded it through the pasta and then topped it with some parmesan. Perfect post exercise food!

Tobie Puttock's Apple Tea Cake

Dad came home from the paddock the other night with buckets and buckets of apples from our little orchard. Given that I don't get my braces off for another month, I had to find another way to enjoy them and what better way than in a cake (hey - that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!)

So I went looking for a a nice little apple tea cake recipe and thought I'd take it in to my lovelies at work. There's a heap of them around but when I saw this one by Tobie Puttock, I knew I couldn't go wrong.

The crunchy sugar and cinnamon on the top is
an oldie but a goodie... there's a reason they've
done it this way for years!
This one is easy peasy! Preheat your oven to 180c and grease and line a springform tin. Grab out your mixmaster or the electric beaters to save some effort. In the bowl put 95g butter at room temperature and 1/2 cup caster sugar. It's really important that the butter is at room temperature else you'll end up with a flat and tough cake. Beat the butter and sugar until they're creamy and then add 1 egg (also at room temperature) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Sift 1 and 1/4 cups SR flour three times. Turn the mixer on low and gradually add the flour, alternating with parts of 1/2 cup milk until it's all mixed in. Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared tin. Peel, core and quarter 2 large or 3 smaller apples then slice them thinly and arrange over the top of the cake. Pop it into the oven - it should take about 30-35 minutes but just keep an eye on it. When it's cooked grab it out and sprinkle it with 1 tbsp sugar combined with 1/2 tsp cinnamon. And you're done!

I really enjoyed baking with homegrown produce - most satisfying!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My Nanny's chocolate mud cake

Our office is notorious for its ability to eat all sorts of bad stuff in record time! We LOVE food. So when it came to light that I'd been baking all weekend and none of it got to the office, I was in big trouble! I knew exactly what I needed - my Nanny's chocolate mud cake. It is so incredibly easy and very rich and moist. It is honest to goodness my favourite cake of all time. Nobody makes it quite like Nan but I try my best :)

Nanny's chocolate mud cake - the best! The top always seems
to crack but it doesn't affect the taste... actually the crunchy
bits on the poppy-up bit are really good!

In a microwave safe bowl place 250g dark chocolate (broken into pieces), 250g chopped butter and 2 and 1/3 cups of strong black coffee. Microwave a minute at a time until you stir it and it all comes together (it should only take two or three goes). Transfer the mix to a bigger bowl and cool to room temperature - I usually let it sit but give it a whisk every now and then to help get some of the heat out (it may not actually do anything but it appeases my neurotic tendencies!)

Transfer mixture to a bigger bowl to cool
Once the mixture has cooled you can add the dry ingredients. Unless you've got a mega sieve, I find it easiest to get a small bowl and put in it 1/2 cup SR flour, 1 and 1/2 cups plain flour and a 1/3 cup cocoa then slowly sift it all into the bowl. Mix together with a wooden spoon until there aren't any lumps and add 3 eggs, mixing until it's smooth and glossy. Pour the mixture into one big or two smaller lined and greased tins and put into a preheated 150c oven for 1 and 1/4 hours. Keep an eye on it throughout this time - you know it's ready when a cake tester comes out with some cake clinging to it but no runny mixture.

I used two small tins - one for my friends
at work and one to pop in the freezer
for a rainy nintendo-playing day!

It's really tempting to cut it while it's hot and enjoy it straight away but it really is best to wait until it cools. You can always heat it up later... and perhaps add some ice-cream!

One for now and one for later!

Rustic onion bread

This is one we made over the weekend to go with risotto (more carbs, anyone!?) Our beautiful apprentice chef friend Sophie was visiting and I got to learn lots of little tricks from her. She did all the hard work with this so I can't take the credit but it was super tasty so I have to share the recipe.

We did things a little differently to the recipe because we were in a bit of a hurry but it all worked out fine (thanks to Sophie!). We used our big mixmaster and the bread attachment but you could just use your hands to bring the dough together - that's what the recipe suggests. So we chucked (literally - we were starving) into the mixmaster bowl 2x 7g packets of yeast, 1 tsp caster sugar, 1 cup warm water, 2 tsp salt and 2 tbsp olive oil and mixed it until it came together. Soph kneeded it for about 10 minutes until it became soft and elastic-y and then put it into an oiled bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and set it aside for an hour until it had doubled in size. Meanwhile, I sliced 1 large onion and cooked it off in 30g butter for about 15 minutes. After the hour has passed, grab the dough and give it a good whack to deflate it (fun!). The recipe suggests that you mix the onions through the dough at this stage - we didn't, being in a hurry - but I think it would be really yum. Soph rolled out the dough (it's rustic so no need for perfection here!), put it on a piece of baking paper on a big tray, brushed it with olive oil, shoved some sprigs of rosemary from my mum's garden into it, spread the onions over the top and seasoned with sea salt and cracked pepper. We then set it aside for around 15 minutes before putting it into the oven at 200c (turn the over on while the finished product is resting, no earlier). It took around 20 minutes to cook then we took it straight out of the oven, carved it up into big triangles and enjoyed!

Our rustic onion bread with chicken, leek and prosciutto risotto

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nigella's chocolate cloud cake

I saw Nigella cook this on her TV show while I was home sick recently and knew I had to try it! The end result didn't disappoint - my sister honestly ate a half of it and the rest disappeared very quickly!

It lasted just long enough for me to get a photo...

This one is surprisingly easy. Nigella gives it an orange twist with zest and Cointreau but I've never been a fan of the whole choc-orange thing so I left it out and just used vanilla extract instead.

As usual, preheat your oven to 180c and line your cake tin (I used a springform tin).

Melt 250g of dark chocolate in the microwave, being careful not to let it burn. I used one block of good quality 85% cocoa chocolate and made the rest up with Old Gold (the good stuff is damn expensive!) Get 125g unsalted butter and stir it into the melted chocolate until it's smooth and glossy and looks delicious!

Place two whole eggs and four egg yolks (save the whites for later) into an electric mixer with 75g caster sugar and beat until the mixture is light and creamy then slowly add the chocolate mixture and 1 tsp vanilla extract and keep beating until combined. In a separate bowl beat the four egg whites until they're foamy and then gradually add 100g caster sugar. Beat until the whites are holding their shape but not too stiff.

Add a third of the whites mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir in to stabalise the mixture. Then add the rest of the whites and fold very gently to keep in as much air as possible. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until the cake has cracked and isn't wobbly in the centre. Pop it onto a tray to cool. This is the part where I would have freaked out if I hadn't have read the recipe right through before I started - because the cake is flourless it will sink in the middle quite a bit as it cools. But it's all good!

Once the cake has cooled, whip up some cream and vanilla and fill the crater of the cake with it. Nigella sprinkles the top with a bit of cocoa through a fine sieve but I got some gorgeous fresh raspberries (surprise!) from the supermarket and popped them on top instead.

So we ate half of it straight away and then put the rest into the fridge. The next day it was even better - the cold had made it nice and fudgey in the middle - delicious!

Swiss roll bombe alaska

This one is a creation of mine... ok, so I didn't completely do it myself but I adapted this one from a magazine recipe. I made it for my girls one night at one of our wonderful dinner and movie nights (I usually get dessert duty - very willingly!) and it went down very nicely indeed.

I left it a little long before taking the photo!

So I grabbed a swiss roll from the supermarket and cut it into 5 pieces (there were only 4 of us so I ate the extra one while I was cooking!). I popped them onto a lined baking tray and then topped them all with some chopped up cherry ripe. I then got some big scoops of good chocolate ice cream and put them on top of the swiss roll and cherry ripe pieces and then put the tray into the freezer for a while to harden. While they were in the freezer, I whipped up some meringue using a couple of egg whites and caster sugar. I took the rolls and ice cream out of the freezer, quickly covered all of them with the meringue mixture and put them in the oven (my memory isn't great but I think it was at 150c). Then we watch!!! From memory, the recipe said 12 minutes but you really just need to watch until they're a little golden. If the ice cream starts leaking out onto the tray, it's time to get them out! Quickly pop them into a bowl each and you can eat them straight away as is. Loving raspberries like I do, I heated some up with a bit of sugar and put them on top. Yum!

Nigella's Swedish Summer Cake

My sister and I got my Mum Nigella's latest book for Christmas. If I'm being entirely honest, I think we've used it more than she has so far! I just love what Nigella does... everything she makes looks incredible and this was one I couldn't flip past.

It was surprisingly easy to make. I must admit, I did get a little freaked out by the photos and Nigella's comment that it didn't matter if you couldn't slice it perfectly in three - it would taste just as good if it was falling apart - I can't work like that!

The cake was absolutely delicious! It disappeared very quickly and was just the cake I needed... I happened to be going through a fairly difficult time when I made it. The only thing I would do differently next time is to use plain thickened cream (still beaten though of course) on the top instead of double cream. I found that after it had been in the fridge for a little while the double cream went a bit hard and wasn't that pleasant to eat - a shame on day two when the rest of the cake tastes even better with the strawberry flavour having gone right through!

I'm going back to put this one up - these are just photos I took on my phone because I was so impressed with the end result - but in the future I'll be sure to take photos of the steps as well.

                                                              The finished product!


1/ The custard
(You can do this in advance, even the day before. It needs to be completely cold before you use it).
Throw into a medium pot 2 egg yolks, 2 tbsp caster sugar, 2 tsp cornflour and 1 cup of full-fat milk. Stir non-stop until it starts to thicken but don't let it boil. Once the mixture has thickened (it will take between 3-5 minutes) take it off the heat and add 1 tsp vanilla essence. Transfer the custard to a cold bowl and keep stirring until it cools a little more. Cut and wet a piece of baking paper and sit on top of the custard, cover with cling film and pop in the fridge :)

2/ The cake
Preheat the oven to 180c and prepare your tin (a springform tin, just line the bottom and grease the sides). In an electric mixer, whisk 3 eggs and 250g caster sugar until 'pale, moussy and more than doubled in volume' (I found it took about 10 minutes). Turn the mixer down and gently add 90ml of hot water. Slowly whisk in 1 1/2 tsps baking powder and 150g plain flour - you might need to stop the mixer a couple of times to scrape down the sides and there shouldn't be any lumps in the mixture. Pour it all into the tin and pop it into the oven for about 30 minutes (you'll know when it's done!) Take it out of the oven, leave it to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes and then carefully take the outside of the tin off. Then let it rest and cool before moving onto the next (and most fun part!) - the assembly.

3/ The assembly
You want 750g of strawberries (a little pricey but SO worth it!). Set aside 250g of these. With the rest, hull them and chop them up - some in halves, some in quarters depending on how big they are. Put them in a bowl and sprinkle with a little caster sugar. They'll need a little time to get juicy and glossy before you put them in the cake - an hour is perfect. Take 500ml double cream and whisk it until it holds its shape. Fold 1/3 of the cream into the custard that you made earlier and set the rest aside. Grab a serrated knife and carefully cut the cake into three (not as hard as it sounds - I promise!) and put the bottom layer onto your serving plate. Top this with half of the custard cream and half of the sugared strawberries. Repeat with the next layer of cake, remaining custard cream and remaining sugared strawberries. Pop the last layer of cake on top, cover with the double cream and put the whole strawberries on the top - you can hull some of them and keep some whole (doesn't sound overly practical to leave the green on but it looks so pretty!)

Tah dah! Looks pretty impressive and tastes even better!

Inside of the cake - yum!