22 Dec 2011

Chocolate peanut butter cheesecake

Sorry for the long break between posts but it’s been a bit busy around here, we had a first birthday in the house ;0 for which I did lots of cooking and baking but more on that later……Now about this cheesecake… I am a sucker for all things peanut butter and chocolate related. Whenever I see a blog that has a significant amount of pb-choc recipes (like this one and this one) I am hooked.  A series of events led me to me making this cheesecake. When I first saw the recipe in Nigellas’ book Kitchen, I knew I had to make it, especially when I read that it was Reasse’s peanut butter cups in cheesecake form ( I love love LOVE those). Then I saw her make it on TV with hubby and absent mindedly agreed to make it for him. Over the next few months every time I was sitting on the sofa perusing through Kitchen again (indeed Nigellas books are as good to read from as they are to cook from) he would mention it again and then recently the Kitchen TV series was being repeated on the food network so we were watching it and he mentioned again that I said I would make it for him and I was like “yes yes I’ll make it”. It would have probably taken me another month or something to get around to making it. But that evening I happened to be reading a pb-choc recipe on one of those aforementioned blogs (yes doesn’t it look glorious, I don’t know what nutter butters are but I wanted to taste one immediately and I am definitely going to get around to making a peanut butter pie one of these days soon) and that post led to this sad one and this inspiring one and it made me want to get in the kitchen immediately and make the cheesecake for my husband. Bakerella and lots of others in the blogging community had made peanut butter pies to honor Jennifer perrillos (of In Jennies Kitchen) husband who had passed away suddenly. I loved her post titled “Another life is possible”.

So I made it the following weekend, It did taste great but I have to say I felt it was more snickers in cheesecake form –it wasn’t Reese’s peanut butter cup enough for me. Maybe next time I won’t process the choc chips in the base-I’ll just leave them whole, you might be able to taste the chocolate in the base a bit more then as I thought it got a bit lost. I would definitely make it again it was a hit with hubby and went down well with others too. Although I have so many things on my always exciting holidays to-bake list that I don’t think I will make it again anytime soon…. 

29 Nov 2011

Courgette, walnut and cinnamon layer cake

This cake is again from one of my new cook books the hummingbird bakery’s cake days. I made it for Eid. Having so many new cook books I was a bit spoilt for choice as to which cake to make as there were so many I wanted to try. I settled on this one as not everyone likes chocolate in the crowd that I was making it for (otherwise I would have gone for the Devil’s food cake from Nigellas kitchen which I have made loads of times-such a great cake-must manage to take pictures next time so can blog about it), um, anyway I digress, and also because it was quite straightforward to make but still quite celebratory. It’s quite a heavy rich cake so you definitely want to make it for a celebration when you have plenty of people to eat it. 

Some of you non-bakers probably made a face when you read courgette, but it’s similar to using carrots in carrot cake. The courgettes make the cake really soft and moist and you can’t taste them in the cooked cake (no one need know that it has courgettes in it at all). I found the recipe had far too much cinnamon and the icing was a bit too heavy despite having some Greek yoghurt in it. So I would add less cinnamon and loosen the icing with some milk. I give my recommendation in brackets below. I also found there was too much icing so would make ¾ the recommended amount next time. 

 The caramelised walnuts don’t really add much taste-wise but they do look pretty.

They have a short video of this cake on Amazon. It is quite straightforward to make and ice and looks very pretty. I did really like it but it’s not quite in the league of the above mentioned Devils food cake.

You will need three 20cm diameter loose-bottomed sandwich tins.
Serves 10-12 
3 large eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g soft light brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon (reduce to ½ or 1)
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
300g peeled and grated courgettes
100g walnuts, roughly chopped, plus 10-12 extra halves (caramelised if you wish) to decorate
For the frosting 
240g unsalted butter, softened
1½ tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting (reduce to ½)
750g icing sugar
75g plain Greek yoghurt (taste and add milk as needed)

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees/gas mark 3, and line the bases of the sandwich tins with baking parchment.
Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the eggs, sunflower oil, sugar and vanilla essence until they are all combined.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the ground spices. With the mixer or electric whisk running on a low speed, add these to the eggs, sugar and sunflower oil in two batches, beating well after each addition until all the ingredients are incorporated. Lastly, add the courgettes and chopped walnuts to the batter, mixing them in thoroughly.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the three prepared cake tins and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden on top and springy to the touch.
Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for a few minutes before carefully turning them out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Mix together the butter, cinnamon and icing sugar using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment. Keep mixing until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture is sandy in consistency.
Add the yoghurt and mix on a low speed until the ingredients are combined, then increase the speed and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Once the cake layers have fully cooled, place the first layer of sponge on a plate or cake card and top with three to four tablespoons of the frosting, smoothing it out using a palette knife and adding a little more if needed.
Sandwich the second layer of cake on top and add another three to four tablespoons of the frosting, then add the final layer and use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.
To finish, you can make a swirled pattern in the frosting using the tip of your palette knife. Dust with a little ground cinnamon and decorate with walnut halves, caramelised if you wish.

24 Nov 2011

Chocolate Roulade

This delicious roulade is Mary Berry’s recipe from the Great British Bake Off that I have mentioned before. The chocolate roulade had been a technical challenge for the contestants in the series. At the end of the series they showed Mary Berry making it. I was watapping a friend as I watched and she was watching too and suggested I make this the next time they were over and the next weekend I had the opportunity to make it for her and a few other friends…..

Now mine looks nothing like Mary’s neatly rolled one. I was in a rush and didn’t follow the instructions as closely as I should have and forgot to use the paper when I was rolling it up-so I used just my hands and it promptly broke. I also forgot to add the cocoa powder (I know! I am still blaming any forgetfulness on having baby brain-I’m not sure how long I’m allowed to carry on using that excuse!) BUT it still tasted it great and I thought even the cracked appearance looked charming in a cracked homespun kind-of-way. I really liked it as it was but some smooth chocolate sauce made from a bit of cream and chocolate and sugar would be great and/or some berries or cooked cherries. The rush I made it in means there’s only a few pics taken with my iphone and none at the cooking stages.

12 Nov 2011

Blueberry yoghurt cake

This one is again adapted from the Hummingbird bakery cookbook. You can find the recipe here. I have added yoghurt instead of sour cream just because I always have Greek yoghurt in the fridge.

 It’s a dense rich plain cake studded with blueberries at the top and covered in a sweet tangy cream cheese icing. Make two thirds of the batter if you have a 23 cm ring tin as I do. I made the full amount and it overflowed.  It’s a moist but firm cake, more tea time than pudding, really good with a cup of tea….

I loved the icing but for those of you without a very sweet tooth or just if you want a slightly less rich cake you could  leave the icing out,  it’s still quite sweet. And make sure as with most cakes that you have serve it at room temperature, I tend to store cakes with cream cheese icing in the fridge and will only leave cakes with buttercream icing out overnight once. The cake is far too firm straight out of the fridge. 

3 Nov 2011

Books, books and more books.

I had a Birthday recently which has resulted in some new books. Hurrah. When it comes to cookbooks, that is usually a cause for celebration, rarely do they disappoint. Unlike Fiction, my other love, which is far more precarious and unreliable. Partly I suppose because you can more readily know what you’r going to get before you purchase it. So the ones I got were Cake Days by the Hummingbird Bakery –a very nice continuation of the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Right up my street, a lot of the recipes are very rich so I will have to wait for the right occasion before I try something from it (the dreaded post-baby waist watching is still ongoing). It is very cheerful reading material, the cover and actual book is gorgeous with lovely photographs. 

 The second one as I have already mentioned in my last post was The Great British Bake Off cookbook which I haven’t yet had a chance to read properly through from cover to cover, though I have made the chocolate roulade from it. More about that in another post.

And the third is Gwyneth Paltrows’ cookbook, Notes From My Kitchen Table. It’s good healthy inspiration even if it does have some whacky ingredients that need to be sourced from the health food shop. Not bad, I’m looking forward to trying the brownies from there. I have been reading her blog GOOP recently.  You will see the results of baking from the books soon-ish.

Some other books I have been reading (in addition to the fiction which is always on the go) are on writing, as there are some other writing projects I am working on in addition to this blog. One of these is Anne Lamotts Bird by bird and another is Natalie Golbergs Writing down the bones. It is refreshing to read some contemporary writing on writing by authors that are alive! Particularly good after months of reading and rereading Dorothea Brande and EM Forster, as good and trusty as they are, the language is very dated.  I am getting lots and lots of inspiration from all of them though. The Guardians recent book season was also great.

And finally another little foodie titbit, as I was writing this I had a mug of hot chocolate going on the side. I love my hot chocolate and have tried quite a few in my time, I had settled on Green and Blacks as my favourite but recently I found this dark chocolate powder which tastes great and has 70% cocoa solids (from Waitrose). I'm hoping to try it in some brownies soon.

Have a good weekend peeps. Eid Mubarak to all those that are celebrating! 

27 Oct 2011

Wedding biscuits

Here we have two biscuits, the classic melting moments and then some rather lovely coffee, chocolate and vanilla hearts.

I made this on a meltingly hot day in June; I didn’t yet know the tip of putting melting moments in the freezer before baking, so they lost their shape during the bake. It was so hot they were already incredibly soft when piped. 

The freezing before baking is one of many nuggets of baking wisdom that I picked up from The Great British Bake Off. Ahh how much do I love that programme? lots and lots I can tell you.  Anyway I hadn’t made melting moments in a few years and henceforth I think I shall try out lots of designs when I do make them. They are so easy to make and to pipe. And you can have a field day with decorating once you have piped them into whichever shape you like. Pipe fingers and dip in chocolate and sprinkle with edible decorations like glitter.  One of the contestants on The Great British Bake Off did a strip of food colouring down the side of the piping bag before putting the dough in so that when you piped the biscuits you got a pink swirl in the biscuit which looked very pretty. She also sandwiched two swirl biscuits together with a different buttercream icing to usual; one involving flour and milk cooked first and then adding this to the usual buttercream. I know this because, happily, I got The Great British Bake off Book for my recent birthday.

The other biscuits are double heart cookies. 

They are from a great tome of a baking book that my husband bought back for me from one of his post-work supermarket trips (all sorts come back from those hungry trips!). The book is called 1001 cupcakes, cookies and other tempting treats and it is absolutely packed full of great biscuit recipes. (It was £5 in the supermarket, obviously my husband, rightly so, thought bargain!) It is the first thing I have made from there though are lots of pages marked with coloured tabs just waiting to be opened and cooked from and splattered with ingredients. Is that not one of the most fun things to do when you get a new cookbook-the leisurely reading through and marking of what you want to make?! More about that soon in another post about my latest cookbooks I promise!

The coffee part of the biscuit comes from a sachet of instant latte of all things, yep no upmarket espresso powder here, thought I suppose you could substitute with that if you were you wanted to make a more sophisticated biscuit for your other half, say to go with a chocolate mousse for  desert after a romantic meal…..
You use two different sized heart cutters to cut them out and be careful to not roll the dough out too thin. I didn’t unfortunately take pictures mid-process but here is a pre-oven picture. You have to keep an eye on them once they are in the oven, they get done very quickly and all it takes is a few minutes extra for them to be overdone. I speak from experience, I over baked my first batch-note to self –don’t go about baking hundreds of biscuits on a super-hot summers day with a 7 month old who decides to wake up just as the biscuits are due out of the oven…. Yep, I had trays and trays of biscuits that day and ran out of baking parchment, hence you can see in the pictures I am using my cake tin baking parchment rounds…..Anyhow we had lovely biscuits to eat at the end, even the crispy overdone ones got eaten one pre-wedding day dunked in tea as we took a break from wrapping the 10 thousandth wedding present for the bride…..

Here’s the recipes:
Double Heart Cookies: makes 30 if using large cutters, more if using smaller cutters
1 sachet Instant latte
1.5 tsp hot water
225g/8oz softened butter
140g/5oz caster sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
250g/9oz plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt

Place instant latte in a bowl with hot (not boiling water) to make a paste. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk. Divide the mixture in half, beat in the latte paste, sift in 140g/5oz of the flour with half the salt and stir until combined. Shape the dough in to a ball, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.  Beat the vanilla extract into the other bowl, then sift together the remaining flour, cocoa powder and salt into the mixture. Again form a ball, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate. Preheat oven to 190◦C/ 375◦C . Line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Roll out each ball of dough between baking parchment. Cut out cookies with a large heart cutter and place on baking sheet well apart. Then use a smaller heart cutter and cut out the center of each heart and remove from baking sheet. Place a small chocolate flavoured heart in the center of each large coffee-flavoured heart and vice versa. The book specifies 7 cm and 4-5 cm heart cutters but my cutters were smaller. Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. You could vary the design by tinting one dough with food colouring for example pink! Also I used an instant latte that was vanilla flavour.

Melting moments:
Makes 64,32 if you sandwhich them together.

350g/12oz unsalted butter softened
85g/3oz icing sugar
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
300g/10.5 oz plain flour
50g/3/4 oz cornflour

Preheat oven to 180◦C/350◦. Line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until light and fluffy, then beat in the vanilla extract. Sift over the flour and cornflour and mix thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag filled with a large star nozzle and pipe 32 biscuits onto each baking sheet spaced well apart. Put into the freezer to frim biscuits up for about 15 minutes. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool on the baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 mnutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool on baking sheet.

18 Sep 2011

Wedding cupcakes

I have been waiting awhile to blog on these cupcakes, I was waiting to get some pictures that others took but still haven’t gotten hold of them so have decided to post anyway with the pictures I have ….I have had not one but three family wedding this year, which is one of the reasons for the low frequency of posts. Being Asian, our weddings are roughly speaking a week-long, not to mention all the planning beforehand. It was my first time doing the whole wedding thing with a 5/6/7 month old baby, quite an achievement to have survived! 

Anyhow the weddings provided ample exciting opportunities for baking! The ones with the heart decorations were a present done as part of red-heart themed present collection given to the bride from the grooms’ side! The other cupcakes were done for a pre-wedding party. I had them displayed in some very cute stands at the party but have not got those pictures yet, I will upload them at a later date when I get them. 

I used the hummingbird bakery’s recipe for plain vanilla cupcakes. You get to skip the creaming butter and sugar stage which seems quicker and easier though actually in retrospect maybe it just felt like that as the last few times I made cupcakes it was from that book .  I may return to my standard recipe next time. The hummingbird bakery ones are a bit denser than cupcake recipe that I have been using forever, but are still nice and soft and keep very well for quite a few days in an airtight container. I give both recipes below. I use a 1M Wilton tip (available from most cakes decorating  online stores) for doing the swirl icing and large disposable icing bags from Lakeland.  I used buttercream here but fresh cream is also lovely. The icing recipe below is for twelve cupcakes if you’re doing a normal palette-knife covering but you need 1.5 times that if you are going to the classic swirl icing. ebay have some great stores for cake decorations which is where I got my red sugar paste glitter hearts from, though these would not be hard to make if you had the time….I hope you enjoy the pictures!
Both cupcakes recipes are for 12 cupcakes:
Hummingbird bakery vanilla cupcakes
120g plain flour
140g castor sugar
1.5 tspn baking powder
A pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter at room temp
120ml whole milk
1 egg
¼ tspn vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 170◦C (325 ◦F), Gas mark 3
Put the flour sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or freestanding electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated. Whisk the egg, vanilla extract, and remaining milk in a separate bowl and then pour into the flour mixture until combined, scrape down sides of bowl and beat for a few minutes but do not overmix. Spoon mixture into cases until  two thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until inserted skewer comes out clean. Ice when cooled.

Standard cupcakes

100g self-raising flour
100g unsalted butter softened
100g sugar
2 eggs
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 190◦C, cream together sugar and butter, then add the eggs 1 by 1 and then the flour.

Buttercream icing

250g icing sugar
80g unsalted butter softened
12-25 mls of milk
A couple of drops of vanilla extract