Monday, 28 June 2010

Super Moist Lemon Drizzle Cake

After that monstrous chocolate fix, I felt something lighter was in order, and my sparkly new loaf tin that I used for the banana bread was being severely underused, so I settled on this lemon drizzle cake (or lemon trickle cake as Hugh calls it.) it looks beautiful baked in a loaf tin (and somehow seems less bad for me than if it was a round cake shape!!), and it made me pine after some mini loaf tins so that I can make individual little lemon loaves, or carrot cake loaves, fruit loaves...the possibilities are endless! I just love the idea of individual little portions, it seems so much more special than a boring old slice...maybe it’s just me being odd though!!

Anyway, back to the loaf at hand. Another one of Hugh’s lovely recipes from his Everyday cookbook, this was easy to make (Mr. Colehill barely noticed it was being made, THAT is how quick and easy it is: a man who loves food, particularly cake, didn’t notice a cake being made!) and it’s one of those beauties of a recipe where you are almost certainly going to have everything you need already in the house. I swear I’m going to make my way through that book at warp speed; whatever I’m looking for, I seem to find it in there, and the recipes always turn out wonderfully. Buy it buy it buy it!!

Anyway, here is the recipe

Lemon Trickle Cake
175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
zest 3 lemons
3 medium eggs
175g self raising flour
pinch salt
splash of milk (optional)

Lemon Icing
75ml lemon juice
200g icing sugar

Beat the butter, sugar and zest until pale and fluffy, the add the eggs one at a time, alternating with a spoonful of flour per egg to stop curdling, then add the rest of the flour.
The mix should drop off a spoon easily with a little tap, if it’s a little stiff, add a splash of milk to loosen it.
Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Meanwhile to make the syrup, squeeze the zested lemons until you have 75ml of juice, then gradually whisk in the icing sugar.
When the cake is done, remove from the oven and pierce it deeply several times with a skewer (although not right down to the bottom) before pouring over the icing.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin.

The trick for this recipe is to beat the sugar and butter until either your arms just can’t take any more (if you are doing it by hand) or you are bored to tears (if you are using an electric whisk). The longer you beat and the paler and fluffier the butter and sugar become, the lighter your cake will end up being. This is something you definitely want: the combination of light sponge with the softness and moist texture from the icing is utterly divine.
This is a great afternoon tea cake, a lovely alternative to heavier flavours like chocolate or carrot. The lack of a heavy frosting is also refreshing, although I love a good helping of buttercream this cake really didn’t need anything like that to overpower it; the subtle lemony flavour and light sponge were elegant and delicate and deserve to be sitting on a dainty little plate next to a bone china teacup!!

I hope you enjoy this recipe, it really is a lovely one and I thoroughly recommend it; it may not look like much, but its testimony is in the tasting!!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Totally Wicked Chocolate Mousse Cake.

I’ve recently been on a bit of a chocolate hiatus, not for dietary reasons or any such noble cause, more because I was scrolling through my posts on this blog and noticed that almost a third of them were labelled with chocolate!! And it seemed a tad over the top to me.

How wrong could I be?! After perhaps rashly commenting in a previous post that chocolate can be a bit boring, a few of you disagreed (I take it all back!!) and I then suffered the grumpy wrath of Mr. Colehill, (a self confessed chocoholic) who demanded that the next recipe I use be chocolate based, and kindly offered up a suggestion from my ‘Bake and Decorate’ book by Fiona Cairns. The suggestion, as you can see, is probably the most rich and indulgent chocolate desert in the world; completely wicked, and completely delicious!!

This is a bake-less desert and so is really very easy to prepare, however it does demand an overnight refrigeration, which was quite the challenge let me tell you! The base is chocolate tiffin cake, and the top a surprisingly light chocolate mousse which is then sprinkled with cocoa powder to decorate. Is that enough chocolate for you?!

The recipe for the base is:

Chocolate Tiffin
100g butter
80g shelled pistachios (I used almonds because we are an almond-loving lot at Colehill Kitchen!!)
1 tblsp golden syrup
100g dark chocolate
100g biscuits (I used digestives)
80g dried fruit (dates were my choice!!)

Melt the butter, syrup and chocolate in a bowl over simmering water.
Meanwhile, chop the nuts and dried fruit, and bash up the biscuits until they are a fine crumb. Mix the fruit and nuts into the crumbs, then add the chocolate and mix well.
Press into the bottom of a springform cake tin, and leave to chill in the fridge for a few hours.

Next make the mousse topping…I say topping, but really this is the body of the desert. That’s right; the body of the desert is chocolate mousse. Cream and chocolate. On a base of more chocolate. I’m warning you, you’ll feel your arteries clogging up just looking at it.

So, on with the recipe:

Chocolate Mousse
300g dark chocolate
500ml double cream
Cairns suggesting adding a tablespoon of Kirsch or Cointreau if you like, but I completely forgot!

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water and set aside to cool.
While it’s cooling, whip the cream to a soft peak.
The trick here is to have the chocolate and the cream at the same temperature before combining them, this will stop it seizing, going grainy, curdling…all those nasty things you don’t want to happen!!
Transfer a spoonful of the cream into the chocolate and combine, then another spoonful. As the chocolate loosens up from these additions, add the rest of the cream and fold in gently until completely combined.
Pour on to the tiffin base and leave to set overnight…if you can!

When ready to serve, run a hot knife around the edge of the tin and gently open it. It may help to put a disk of greaseproof paper on the bottom of the tin so that lifting slices out is easier, but if you have a greaseproof tin (which mine is) you shouldn’t have too much trouble.

I’m going to be honest here, this is way too rich for my taste. However it went down a storm with the chocoholics in my life, and because it’s so rich it lasts a fair few servings. The soft and light mousse is beautiful alongside the more solid texture of the tiffin, especially with the crunch of the almonds you discover as you take a bite. On top of this the almonds just look wonderful, their pure cream colour speckling the rich, dark brown of the chocolate. The dates hidden in the base also give it an extra and different sweetness which offsets that flavour of the dark chocolate really well, and keeps the base from being too hard and completely solid. They also contrast nicely against the almonds, the old fruit and nut combo is an oldie but a goodie, and all this enclosed in a chocolate-y casing is heaven on my plate!

Health Warning: I do not advise trying to consume a slice this size, but hey, it’s fun trying!!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Sweet and Soft Chelsea Buns

This weekend Mr. Colehill bought me 'Julie and Julia' and I watched it for the first time. I know, I know, I should have watched it months ago but somehow it slipped through my fingers, until two days ago that is. It was such a lovely film, and it reminded me what I love about food and cooking, as well as why I write this blog. I love the escape that cooking provides for me. No matter how crappy your day is, or however heavy your shoulders feel with the weight of all the pressures of life, cooking is a haven. You can hide from the world and hole up in the kitchen for hours, and produce delicious creations. Something that has started off as a few humble ingredients becomes completely different and amazing because of you, and what you have done to them. I don't think I take pride in anything else as much as I do when something I have cooked comes out beautifully, there's nothing quite like the feeling. And as for writing about these moments of pride and satisfaction, well, I don't know how many people read these words that I send out into the blogosphere, but I love the idea that there is a community of people out there who are reading each others' blogs. We share recipes, successes, failures, and support each other and learn from other bloggers' words and pictures.
Anyway, I digress!!
Even better, the DVD came with a recipe book!! How great is that? How many DVDs have you bought that came with a book, let alone a selection of recipes from Julia Child's book Mastering the Art of French Cooking? Hands down the best DVD I have ever received!! And I adored the film. Not only was it a lovely story, but it had plenty of beautiful food to salivate over and scenes of Paris that made me long for a life in France; all set with plenty of butter, baguettes, multiple types of cheese and, of course, pastries!! Which brings me to my choice of baked good here: Chelsea Buns.

Fulham is Colehill Kitchen's home, which is right next door to Chelsea, so these seemed an apt choice of pastry! I've never tried them before, so I was quite nervous and excited for the outcome. The nerves turned out to be deserved since the first batch of dough didn't rise. I had something akin to one Julie's meltdowns in the film, which Mr. Colehill took great pleasure in mocking me for, however everything came good in the end when the second batch worked nicely and produced buns of delight!!!
The recipe is from the River Cottage Handbook No. 3 Bread. As I'm sure you know, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a firm favourite with me and this book by Daniel Stevens, Hugh's bread man, taught me so much about bread making. This little gem of a book not only includes invaluable information about baking loaves of bread, it also has recipes for other bread based treats, like cornbread, tortillas, summer pudding and so on. My next two trials from this particular book are crumpets and croissants. I'll be sure to let you know when I rise to the challenge!!
As for the Chelsea Buns, here is the recipe:
Chelsea Buns
For the dough:
550g strong white bread flour
50g caster sugar
5g powdered dried yeast
10g salt
150ml warm milk
225g melted butter
1 medium egg
For the Filling:
25g melted butter
100g caster sugar
200g currants
For the Glaze:
50ml milk
50g caster sugar
Mix together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt, then add the milk, butter and egg.
Knead until smooth and silky, then leave to rise for about an hour until doubled in size.
Brush the base and sides of a deep 30cm square (mine was rectangular and a little larger, but hey, not the ned of the world!) with a little of the melted butter and dust with a little of the sugar for the filling, shaking out the excess.
Roll out the dough to about 60cm x 40cm, brush with the butter, dust with the sugar and sprinkle over the currants, leaving a margin at the top. Roll the dough up to the margin, and moisten at the top with water to seal it.
Cut into 3cm slices, then flatten slightly on to the tray. Sprinkle a little of the sugar for the glaze on top and leave to prove for about half an hour, then bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Warm the milk and remaining sugar in a pan, and brush the buns with it when you bring them out of the oven while they are still warm.
These. Are. Divine.
Whatever you do, eat one fresh out of the oven. They are completely indulgent, completely naughty and completely moreish!! I had to resort to freezing a load so that I didn't eat them
all in one weekend. Completely delightful and well worth making.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Oat, Seed and Fruit Booster Bars, HF-W Style!!

Following the banana heavy theme from my Banana Bread post, to finish using up my nine blackened bananas I made what I think may be the most tasty thing ever to have come from my kitchen, and it’s all thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I’ve said before how I pretty much idolise him and everything he stands for, and his book River Cottage Everyday has to be one of my favourite cook books, hands down. This time I made his Booster Bars to continue using up the bananas and generally because they look so absolutely scrumptious, and in typical fashion, Hugh delivers another delicious recipe.

These are also wonderfully simple to make, and so so so satisfying when they’re done!! The recipe is as follows:

Booster Bars
125g unsalted butter
150g soft brown sugar
75g runny honey
1 orange zest
1 lemon zest
200g porridge oats (not jumbo)
150g mixed dried fruit
150g mixed seeds
1 mashed banana

Melt the butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan on a low heat. I substituted half the honey for golden syrup merely because I ran out of honey, but I think it gave the bars an even more indulgent texture and taste, and would thoroughly recommend it if you have any syrup in the house!

In a separate bowl combine the oats, orange and lemon zest, dried fruit and seeds. I used raisins, chopped dried apricots and chopped dates, along with pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Pour the melted mixture over the oats and fruit and combine thoroughly, mixing in the mashed banana at the end.

Flatten the mix into a lined baking tray and drizzle with a little more honey or syrup if you're feeling indulgent!! Then bake at 180 degrees for about 20-30 minutes or until the top begins to go golden.

The next step tested every shred of willpower and self discipline I had, and I almost broke a couple of times: leave in the tray until it has completely cooled!!! It is almost impossible to get the whole thing out of the baking tray when it’s warm (trust me, I tried) so hold back and leave it until it has had time to harden slightly, before tipping out onto a board.

Then comes the fun part, slice into whatever size bars you want, and be sure to devour any crumbs or edges that may not make the final cut!! This recipe is more delicious when freshly baked than a few hours or days later so make the most of it and scarf down whatever falls off the board before anyone else catches on! The ever so slight warmth when they’re fresh allows the orange and lemon zest to really come alive, and the bars have an ever so subtle festive taste to them that reminds me of Christmas…this is definitely a recipe I’ll be digging out in December!

The oats are soft and yielding when you take a bite, contrasted with the crunch of the seeds and the gooey dried fruit chunks. A truly spectacular recipe that is so easy it defies belief, I urge you to throw together a batch – they are perfect for a breakfast on the go, a snack for a boost of energy you need during that mid-afternoon slump (hence the name!!) or just as a treat that thanks to all the fruit and seeds isn’t completely guilt-heavy!!

Monday, 14 June 2010

A slice of the traditional, a slice of Bakewell!!

Let me begin by saying, I love chocolate. When you need a chocolate fix nothing else will do, no matter how tasty it is. But let’s be honest here, chocolate can get a bit boring after a while and recently I have found myself all chocolate-ed out. So as I’ve been looking through my mountain of cook books for ideas and inspiration I’ve vetoed every chocolate based recipe in search of alternative delicious-ness, and this time I settled on a traditional recipe that have never tried before: Bakewell Slice. I was actually kind of horrified to realise that I’d never made this most British and traditional of tasty treats before, but now I’ve remedied that, and it was definitely worth doing!!

I used a Nigella recipe from her Feast book, partly because I adore Mrs. Lawson and every recipe of hers that I’ve ever used has been a success, (probably due to the copious amounts of naughty ingredients that go in to them, and this recipe is no exception!!) and also because the recipe looked so simple and easy!!

Bakewell Slice

225g butter
60g icing sugar
Pinch salt
225g plain flour

150g butter
150g ground almonds
150g caster sugar
4 eggs
325g raspberry jam
100g flaked almonds (Nigella says 60g, but I’m a big fan of these so I whacked the whole packet in the pan to toast!)

The pastry is actually more of a shortbread that you squidge into a tray.
Sieve the flour, icing sugar and salt into a mixing bowl, then add the butter (it helps if it’s cubed) then combine with your fingers until it becomes a crumby mixture, just about coming together. Nigella suggests using a food mixer to do this which is even easier!

Then tip the mix out onto a lined baking tray (mine was about 30cm by 25cm and about 1-2cm deep) and patiently push it into an even layer. Nigella admits to using throwaway tin trays for this recipe so I lined my tray with foil rather than greaseproof paper, which I think made the base extra buttery and sumptuous.

Bless Nigella, she warns that this will take some time and you will feel like you don’t have enough pastry (both true) but stick with it and you will end up with plenty of mix to cover the entire tray.

Bake this in the oven at 180 degrees, until it starts to turn a pale golden colour.
Meanwhile toast the almonds in a pan and then make the frangipane filling.

Melt the butter and set aside, and combine the almonds, flour and eggs in a separate mixing bowl. Then add the melted butter to the almond mix gradually, mixing as you go.

Remove the pastry from the oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes before slathering on plenty of jam!

Pour the frangipane mix over the jam then sprinkle with the toasted almonds before putting back in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until it is golden brown.

As a side note, if you toast the almonds fairly close to when you need to sprinkle them, careful of your fingers!! The oil in the nuts gets very hot, so let them cool a little before diving in!!

Allow the giant slice to cool completely before removing from the tray and slicing into whatever size you fancy!!

I iced about a third because it was requested by a certain high maintenance person (you know who you are!). I prefer it un-iced though, I think the sweetness of the icing overpowers the almond flavour and the jam, and in any case, the golden flakes of almond on the spongy soft pillow of frangipane is a far more aesthetically pleasing than plain white icing!!

Nigella never fails me; I’m so so so pleased with this recipe!!! Pressing the pastry in takes a little extra time and effort, but the end result is a light buttery base filled with a sweet and soft almondy delight, perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon with a nice cup of tea!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Dense and Sticky Banana Bread

I have just looked at when my last post was written, and I’m horrified to see it was over two months ago!! I have no idea where that time went…actually, I know exactly where it went; straight to the library where a cavern full of books awaited me and several essays to write for the end of term beckoned. And that is why food and cooking has taken a massive back seat, which makes me really, really sad. On the bright side university is now over for the summer, which means I have plenty of time on my hands to dedicate to cooking. I celebrated by getting stuck into lots of time in the kitchen!!

This weekend I baked a couple of loaves of bread with a shiny new loaf tin; one packed full of seeds and one covered in oaty goodness, which were absolutely delightful. There is nothing quite as homely and comforting as the smell of fermenting dough and the subsequent aroma of the loaves baking in the oven, which fills the house. Following in the bready theme I made a loaf of banana bread, using a recipe from Sophie Dahl’s
cookbook. It’s a beautiful book and I love to flick through it from time to time, but this is the first time I’ve actually used one of her recipes. This is quite the norm for me: I buy books and books and books, and spend hours perusing the pictures and recipes before I finally settle on one to actually make. There are usually far too many to choose from to make a quick decision!!! Anyway, we had a glut of overripe bananas in the house, so my mission was to use them all up (nine in total - why we had managed to collect nine overripe bananas is beyond me but there you go!) and Banana Bread seemed the obvious first choice.

It’s a wonderfully easy recipe, quick to assemble before waiting patiently for an hour as the bananas caramelise and the batter becomes a soft, sweet and sticky delight! The recipe calls for:

Banana Bread
75g soft unsalted butter
4 overripe bananas, mashed
200 soft brown sugar
1 egg
170g flour (I used self raising flour and forfeited the baking powder she lists as it was all I had in the cupboard)
I also added a sprinkling or cinnamon, just because I like it!!

Combine the butter, mashed bananas, sugar and egg, then add the flour and cinnamon (if you decide to add some) until it’s just combined.
Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake at 180 degrees for an hour.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

This recipe produces a dense banana loaf…rather more like a heavy cake than a bread-like end result. I impatiently (as is tradition!) tipped it out of the tin and cut a slice as soon as I could, with a little dab of butter smeared over it. The smell of bananas infused with cinnamon saturated the kitchen, and it was all I could do not to eat slice after slice of this deep caramel coloured indulgence!!

This recipe really is best when you use completely black skinned bananas, as the more overripe they are the better the mashed banana will caramelise while it bakes, resulting in a toffee sweet luxury that will have you sneaking slivers every ten minutes!!