Monday, 15 February 2010

Emily's famous chocolate biscuits

On Saturday, Emily showed me how to make the delicious chocolate biscuits, which she has perfected from a recipe her mum cut from a magazine years ago. They are yet another example of something really quick and easy to make; Em reckons she can have them done in half an hour!
More importantly, the results are seriously, melt-in-the-mouth, scrummy. This particular batch certainly went down well at Ella's flat-warming at the weekend.

I know a lot of people are going to be very pleased to have this recipe, so thanks Em for sharing! Enjoy.

10 oz butter, at room temperature*
5 oz icing sugar
11 oz plain flour
3 oz cocoa
1 oz ground almonds

*Yes, that's a lot of butter. You could use margarine or a combination of the two, but butter will get the best taste. If you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the dry ingredients.

Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C. Grease a couple of baking trays, or line them with baking parchment.

Beat the butter to a soft consistency, then sift in the icing sugar and cream them together. Unfortunately this process can be a bit arduous if you don't have a food processer. A hand mixer is one option, but you'll find the butter does tend to get all stuck in the whisks. If doing by hand, Em recommends using a normal knife, though you'll probably want to move on to using a wooden spoon when you add the sugar.

Simply mix all the other, dry ingredients together in another bowl (sieving the cocoa and flour). Then add them to the butter and sugar mixture, a small amount at a time. The mixture will get quite dry, but don't worry, just keeping adding until it's all combined into a kind of dough.

Roll the mixture into balls, about an inch in diameter, and space them out on the two trays. (You'll probably only fit about half, and will need to do another batch.) Then dip a fork in a little icing sugar, to prevent it sticking, and use it to press them down a bit. You'll get a sort of fat biscuit shape with nice ridges on top. (For Ella's flat-warming, Em and I decided to be a bit inventive and used a teaspoon to press them down and then an 'E' magnet to get an imprint.)

Put in the oven for only 5-8 minutes. Don't cook them too long! They will be starting to go slightly paler on top and will still be very soft. Leave them to cool on the trays for a few minutes, until they are firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

Then try to resist eating them all immediately!

Thank you Ben!

At our New Year's party one of the kitchen drawers collapsed and the porcelain handle on my cake slice smashed. Ben D took what was left and said he would make me a new handle. And look what he gave me on Friday! It fits to the hand perfectly, as well as looking good. And it's much more special than the old one, because it was made by a lovely friend!

Chocolate all-in-one cake

In the end I decided to make this for Dee’s birthday. I want to make some cupcakes soon, but they’re so difficult to transport without ruining, so I went for a normal sponge cake.

The ingredients and method are exactly the same as for the Victoria sponge. The only difference is that you replace 1-2 ounces of the flour with cocoa (and you don’t need vanilla extract). I also added about half teaspoon of baking powder to compensate for the fact that there would be less raising agent.

For the topping I used ganache, which is similar to making truffles. Break 200g chocolate (dark or milk, depending on your taste) into small pieces in a bowl. Heat 200ml of double cream in a saucepan, very gently, stirring occasionally, until it is just at boiling point. Then simply pour it over the chocolate and stir until mixed. You will need to completely cool this until it is the right sort of consistency to spread onto the cake. This time, I actually beat it with the electric whisk once it was cold, and this made it a really nice, more creamy texture (but it isn't essential). There should be enough to put in the middle and on the top, but if you want to be more restrained you could just do the middle and sieve a little bit of icing sugar on the top instead.

I also attempted some icing... My Tala icing syringe is brilliant, but I haven't used it much, so the results were rather dubious! I used some silver balls and little sugar flowers as well.

An alternative chocolate topping, which I also like, is from Delia's Complete Illustrated Cookery Course again. It has a nice fudgey consistency.

3 oz granulated/caster sugar (75 g)
3 fl oz evaporated milk (75 ml)
4 oz plain chocolate (110 g)
1 1/2 oz butter or margarine (40 g)
2 drops vanilla essence

Mix the sugar and evaporated milk together in a saucepan, then put it on a low heat and stir frequently until the sugar dissolves. Then bring the mixture to the boil and simmer very gently for 6 minutes, without stirring.

Take off the heat and stir in the chocolate, broken into small pieces. Keep stirring until the chocolate is melted and then stir in the butter and vanilla essence.

Transfer to a bowl and cool, then cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge, until is a spreadable consistency.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

No baking required (part 2)

When I was in Truro with Cheyanne last year I went into a cafĂ© that was selling Rocky Road. I hadn’t tried making it before and wasn’t sure what to use to soften the chocolate so I asked the guy behind the counter and he very kindly wrote out the recipe for me!

Unfortunately, (see banoffee pie post) the secret ingredient is again condensed milk! There are definitely other recipes that use golden syrup instead, so at some point I’ll do a comparison and post one of them too.

I made this for Tom and Mark’s birthdays at uni and it went down very well, despite taking hardly any time to make!

Rocky Road

180ml condensed milk
60g butter
125g dark eating chocolate*
150g digestive biscuits
85g marshmallows
55g raisins

I didn't actually didn’t use these exact quantities. A tin of condensed milk is about 300ml so I just used all of that and roughly matched the other amounts. You could of course use sultanas, glace cherries, whatever you fancy. And bear in mind some veggies don’t eat marshmallows!

Break up the biscuits into a bowl, add marshmallows (I cut them into quarters) and raisins.
Melt the condensed milk and butter together in a saucepan, then add chocolate broken into pieces and melt it all until smooth.
Simply add this to the bowl and mix it all together.
Put it in a deep dish lined with greaseproof paper or baking parchment and level it out a bit. Refrigerate overnight (needs at least 4 hours) and then in the morning you should be able to lift it out and cut into squares.

*If you have a Co-op nearby, they sell nice chocolate which is not too expensive and is also Fairtrade.

No baking required (part 1)

I may have been too busy to write any posts recently, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been making sweet treats! A lot of things I bake don’t really take much time (see chocolate all-in-one recipe to follow), but I thought I would share a couple of things I’ve made recently which are REALLY quick and easy, and don’t actually involve any baking. The only time factor you need to consider is chilling in the fridge.

Banoffee Pie
This recipe comes from my aunt Donna and is now an absolute must at any family gathering! It’s ridiculously easy to make but tastes divine (when you see the ingredients you’ll realise why!).

If you haven’t got a suitable flan dish you could improvise with a springform cake tin or even buy a large disposable foil one (or two little ones!)

digestive biscuits (about 250g)
butter (about 100g)
tin of condensed milk
2/3 bananas
cream (whipped)
bit of milk chocolate for decoration

Crush the biscuits to a sandy texture with a food processer (or if you don’t have one you can put them in a freezer bag and hit with a wooden spoon/rolling pin). Melt the butter in microwave or in saucepan and mix it really well with the crushed biscuits. Then put this mixture into your dish and press it down until it’s nice and compact and a fairly even surface. This will need to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

To make the topping all you need to do is caramalise the condensed milk. You can now actually buy it already caramelised (it’s called Caramel, Dulce de Leche), in which case all you need to do is spread it on the chilled base! But if you’ve got a normal tin of condensed milk then pierce two small holes in the top and put it in a saucepan. Fill the saucepan with boiling water so it doesn’t quite reach the top of the tin and then keep it simmering for about 2 hours. Don’t worry if a little bit of the contents seems to get in the water. After 2 hours of boiling pour out any water that might have got in the tin, then open it – you should have lovely thick brown caramel inside! Give this a little while to cool down, then spread it on your chilled biscuit base.

Cut the banana into slices and cover the caramel. Then cover with the whipped cream (have this whipped already so you can cover the banana before it browns). Use the small bit of a grater to grate some flakes of chocolate on top and you’re ready to go!

This picture shows my recent effort half demolished! I didn’t have any chocolate and had to improvise with red sugar sprinkles which went a bit weird…

Oh one last thing, the only thing I don’t like about this recipe is I have to break my usual Nestle boycott to buy condensed milk (see If anyone knows if it’s possible to get hold of any other brand then do let me know.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Chocolate Cloud Cake - it's cointreau-versial!

I made this amazing Nigella Lawson cake for Emily's birthday on Friday. It's a really intense chocolate cake containing no flour (so good for celiacs), with delicious Cointreau-flavoured cream on top. Really special and not difficult to make. You do need a springform cake tin and the skill for separating egg whites! Em has a picture of the result on her blog.

Coming soon...

Chocolate version of all-in-one sponge
Two ginger cookie recipes
Documentation of whatever I decide to make for Dee's birthday this week...!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Victoria Sponge (All-In-One)

Right, I'm going to kick things off with a recipe for Victoria Sponge. It's an absolute classic that pleases pretty much everyone and it's also one of the easiest recipes I know, so it seems the perfect start.

This recipe is my slightly adapted version of Delia Smith's All-In-One Sponge from her Complete Illustrated Cookery Course. Incidentally, this is my cooking bible; a fantastic book which gives you lots of general tips and know-how, not just recipes.

3 eggs
self-raising flour
caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

double cream, whipped
icing sugar

*You could use butter, at room temperature, but I find cheap margarine is perfect. Avoid low-fat ones, though, as they can have too much water content.

Pre-heat the oven to 170˚C/gas mark 3.
Grease the inside of two 7-inch circular cake tins with a little bit of margarine and cut a circle of greaseproof paper/silicon paper/baking parchment for the base of each.

First of all weigh the eggs (just in their shells). This is the exact weight you want of flour, sugar and margarine. (If you're using large eggs it will probably be between 6 and 7 ounces.)

Sieve the flour into a big bowl, holding the sieve quite high so you get lots of air into it. Then simply add all the other ingredients and mix them together using an electric hand mixer. (See previous post on equipment. If you don't have one of these then I think you'll need to use the traditional method of adding ingredients gradually, like this) The mixture should be nice and smooth and will drop off a wooden spoon easily if you tap it on the side of the bowl.

Divide the mixture between the two tins and push it to the sides of the tin so you've got a fairly level surface. Then put them on the centre shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes, though it will depend on your oven. The secret to a lovely moist sponge is not to overcook it; it's ready when the top springs back when you lightly press it. Having said that, it's not good to keep opening the oven door - you'll let cold air in! So resist the temptation to check it until at least 20-25 minutes have passed.

Take the tins out of the oven and, after a few seconds, run a knife around the edge to check the cake isn't stuck and give the tin a sharp tap on the side. The cakes should then turn out easily onto a cooling rack and you can carefully peel off the paper. It's really important to cool the cakes on a rack or they will go soggy. Don't try to put any topping on them, or move them to a plate or tin, until they are completely cold.

Finish with a good spread of whipped cream and jam between the two cakes and, finally, sieve some icing sugar on the top. See picture of one I made earlier (a year ago, in fact).

Photo by Laura Bevan


Before I start proper, I wanted to make a few points about equipment. Of course specific recipes are going to need specific tins, cutters etc., but this is just a brief list of the things those who bake really can't do without!
  • Wooden spoon
  • Sieve
  • Large mixing bowl - bigger is generally better, less chance of the mixture ending up outside the bowl!
  • Kitchen scales - baking is a science and precision can be crucial!
  • Cooling rack - it's important to cool things properly or they can end up soggy. You can always improvise with a grill rack though.
  • Electric hand mixer - this might seem like a big expense but it is SO worth it. Saves a lot of time whisking things like cream and egg whites, and you can do 'all in one' cakes which are much easier than combining everything by hand. I have this Kenwood one and it's great.

It's Punderful

A lot of effort went into thinking of a suitable name for this blog. As I live with two of the keenest punners ever, the brain storming became quite obsessive for a few hours last night.
It seems only right to list some of the others we came up with, including some late-night ones which were really starting to stretch things...

With many thanks to Fi and Em.

I Sing for Icing
One in the Oven
Notes on a Spoon Handle
One Night Cake Stand
Happiness is a Warm Bun
The C-Word
All By My Self-Raising
The Bake Escape
Life is Butter Cream
All the World's a Cake
Rock Cake and Jam Roll
Like A Rolling Pin
Bake Your Mind Up

Bake Me, I'm Yours

Bake Me Out

Bake Me Up Before You Go-Go

Bake On Me

Boom Shake Shake Shake the Spoon

Don't Bake That, Bake This!

How to Bake Friends and Influence People

Bake My Advice

Here goes...

There are two main reasons why I am starting this blog (other than it being yet another excuse for procrastination!). One is that it’s an easy way to share recipes with friends who already bake; I’m forever promising to email them to people and never get round to it. The other reason is to pursue my obsession with convincing non-bakers that it is a lot easier than they think and they should give it a try. After all, Good Things Come to Those Who Bake!