Tag Archives: jubilee baking

Sweet scones for Wimbledon

8 Jul

So, rain delayed play in the Federer v Murray final this afternoon. And I decided it was probably a good time to make some scones, so there would be scones and strawberry jam with a nice cup of Earl Grey tea to help us get through to the end of the game.

Apologies that this is partially metric and partially old school. But it’s just how it is.

Sweet scones

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 2oz cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 130ml milk
  • another egg and a slurp of milk to make an eggwash
  • a couple of TBsps granulated sugar
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 9, or as hot as you can get in whatever oven you own
  1. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a nice big wide bowl
  2. Cut the cold butter into it, in wee chunks
  3. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour till it resembles sand. As you rub in the butter lift the mixture up high, and let it fall through your fingers, getting lots of air into the mixture
  4. Now make a well in the centre of the mixture
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and the milk, then pour the combined mixture into the well 
  6. Now you’re going to get your hands dirty. Make your fingers ‘stiff’ so your hand is like a wee shovel and use your hand to quickly mix all the ingredients together
  7. Once they are all combined stop mixing and go and wash and dry your hands
  8. Sprinkle flour on a board, and tip out the scone dough
  9. With your hands bring the dough together into a neat round, about 1.5″ thick
  10. Use a cutter to cut into rounds and set aside
  11. Whisk together the egg and milk for the egg wash and put the sugar in a bowl
  12. Brush the eggwash on each scone and then dip their tops into the sugar to give them a scrunchy sugary top
  13. Place spaced a wee bit apart on a baking sheet 
  14. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes
Eat warm with butter and homemade strawberry jam. Or that tasty gooseberry and elderflower jam I made last weekend… Or clotted cream and blackcurrant jelly. Or rhubarb compote with whisked cream. Or perhaps some lemon curd and a mini scoop of vanilla icecream.
And if you don’t eat them all straight way then pop them in the freezer. They’ll only need about 20 – 40seconds in the microwave to defrost and reheat them. Delumptious.

Shiny cake

24 Jun

Bear with me here.

This cake isn’t especially shiny, but it is possibly the most delicious cake I’ve ever made. It also can pretend to be healthier than some cakes, as it is chock full of pineapple and banana. So, I think that means I can call it shiny cake if that is what I want to call it, or just because an old girlfriend could never remember that its real name was Cookie Shine Cake, and it was always referred to as the Shiny Cake.

A cookie shine is what Scots used to call a tea party. I’m a Scot and don’t recall ever hearing of a cookie shine, but Sue Lawrence tells me it is so, so it must be true. She does mention that it was mostly used in the 19th century and that it is now pretty much obsolete, so perhaps I’m forgiven for never having used it; I’m not THAT old.

The cake is moist and sweet, like a luxurious, tropical carrot cake, covered in luscious creamy cream cheese icing. Go on, it’s simple to make, uses up that desiccated coconut and the tin of smushed pineapple you have in the cupboard. Oh? Is it only me who has a random tin of crushed pineapple in the back of the cupboard?

This recipe comes from Sue Lawrence’s Scottish Kitchen. She’s a great cookery writer providing foolproof baking recipes for all manner of classic scottish homebaked goods, such as shortbread, bannocks and scotch pancakes. But there is so much more to her books than classic scottish high tea fare – not only does she provide a bit of social history around her recipes, and her travels around Scotland, but she also has great go-to recipes for almost every occasion, from quick weekday suppers to outdoor eating (yes, in Scotland!) and smart dinners. Go on, buy one of her books and see what I mean.

Anyway, here we go:

Shiny Cake

  • 250g / 9oz SR flour
  • 275g / 9.5oz light muscovado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 225ml / 8 fl oz sunflower or rapeseed oil
  • 1 432g can of crushed pineapple, in natural juice, drained
  • 2 small ripe bananas, peeled and squished
  • 50g / 1.75oz desiccated coconut
  • 75g / 2.75oz chopped roasted hazelnuts
 Icing
  • 100g / 3.75oz butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g / 7oz cream cheese (full or low fat, you decide)
  • 300g / 10.5oz golden icing sugar
  • 1 TBsp chopped roasted hazelnuts

Prepare two 8″ cake tins (or one deep loose-bottomed tin) and preheat the oven to 280C / 350F / GM4

  1. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a big bowl
  2. Add the eggs and the oil
  3. Add the pineapple, bananas, coconut and hazelnuts and mix well together
  4. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin/s and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. You’ll need slightly longer if you are using one cake tin, so do check it’s ready by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean, it’s ready. If not, give it another few minutes and test again.But remember if you are opening and shutting the oven door on your cake, do it gently – you don’t want to blast in any cold air into the oven, or the cake will flop.
  5. Leave to rest in the tin for about 30minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. While it’s cooling you can get on with the icing.
  7. Cream together the butter, vanilla extract and cream cheese, using an electric beater, till smooth.
  8. Start adding the icing sugar a little at a time and keep beating till all the icing sugar is added and the icing is smooth and luscious.
  9. If you had one cake, split it in two. Sandwich the two halves together with icing and then cover the top with icing too. Sprinkle toasted hazelnuts round the outside edge of the top, or all over. Or not at all.

Now, get yourself a nice cake plate and serve your cake, preferably with a pot of Earl Grey tea and proper porcelain tea cups.

I have to say that Sue Lawrence is very particular about her half ounce measurements – I am not. I still prefer to cook in ounces and pounds. I know what 4oz of butter looks and feels like; I can measure out an ounce of flour just using spoons and hardly need to use the weighing scales. This recipe, I’m pleased to report, seems to be fairly forgiving – so if you want to round up or down with your ounces please do so. But don’t blame me (or Sue Lawrence!) if it doesn’t quite work.

Gin and tonic muffins

12 May

It was bound to happen one day. I have a bottle of Caorunn Gin on the counter in my kitchen. And it was inevitable that one day while I was baking, the urge would become too great and I would end up with gin and tonic flavoured baked goods.

Yesterday was that day. But first of all let me tell you a wee bit about Caorunn Gin. It’s Scottish, and it’s delicious. That’s almost all you need to know, but not quite. It’s a small batch gin, and infused with the most deliciously delicate array of botanicals: rowanberry, heather, bog myrtle, dandelion and coul blush apple. And you drink it with a slice of apple, not lime or cucumber or even lemon. And preferably Fentiman’s tonic. It’s my gin of choice these days, although I’m sure I could be persuaded to drink almost any other brand if necessary.

But back to the baking. I’d decided on muffins. And then I had narrowed it down to lemon muffins. With poppy seeds. Well, I thought I’d narrowed it down to that, but clearly I hadn’t… my baking muse was still playing with me. As I grated the lemon zest into the mix it dawned on me that gin and tonic was what these wee muffins really needed (I had already decided they were going to be mini muffins).

And so the gin and tonic muffin was born. I really do fear that this could start a whole load of crazy cocktail themed baking. Ah well…

Gin and Tonic Muffins

Prepare muffin tins (I used teeny weeny ones, and regular ones, and this batter made 24 wee ones plus 6 regular) and preheat oven to 375-400F / 190-200C / Gas 5-6

  • 9oz plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of Maldon sea salt
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 2-3 TBsp poppy seeds
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp grated lemon zest
  • 3 fl oz sunflower oil
  • 4 fl oz cloudy apple juice
  • 4 fl oz gin and tonic (mostly tonic, but a good slug of gin)
  1. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl. 
  2. Stir in the poppy seeds
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg
  4. Add in the lemon zest, oil, apple juice and gin and tonic, and beat together
  5. Pour the wet mix into the dry stuff and mix all together – you don’t want to beat it, but just bring it together, making sure there are no pockets of flour
  6. Spoon into tins and bake for 20 – 25 mins (slightly less for the mini ones)
These would work well with a wee cream cheese icing (with some gin and tonic in it) or with an icing glaze, made with icing sugar and apple juice and a hint of gin. They seemed to rise more than usual almost like a souffle which I think must be down to the fizzy tonic.
And if you’re not using Caorunn, you might want to use a different fruit juice, such as orange or perhaps grapefruit. Mind you, the grapefruit might do weird things to the raising agent? I’ve not tried it, so don’t blame me if it goes wrong!
You might want to look at some of my other recipes, there’s lots of homebaking, and a bit of preserving, and various main courses. Anyway, have a browse here and if you have any questions, just get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

Orange almond and chocolate cake

12 Mar

Baking for colleagues is incredibly rewarding. Baking for colleagues and asking them to make a donation to charity is even more rewarding. And when the charity is the organisation we all work for, it feels like some kind of virtuous (although slightly insane) circle.

I wanted to make a chocolatey almondy cake… and when I came across a chocolatey, orangey almondy cake recipe I knew it was The One.  I’d never tried a recipe where you boil the orange in water for half an hour and then smoosh it up in a food processor (or liquidiser in my case) and add the whole thing to the cake mixture. But I have now!  And so can you, it makes for a deliciously moist and tasty cake.

The other brilliant thing about this recipe is that it is ridiculously simple – it doesn’t need any elbow grease, beating butter and sugar till fluffy. In fact it is like a carrot cake recipe in that it uses oil instead of butter. Try it and see – but make sure you have lots of friends who want to eat it, it’s a big beast of a cake!

Chocolate truffle icing on the orange almond chocolate cake

Orange almond and chocolate cake

Pre-heat oven to 180C / GM4

Prepare a 24cm deep (or springform) tin

  • 2 oranges
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 5 eggs
  • 400g vanilla caster sugar
  • 350g sunflower oil
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  •  3-4 TBsp grand marnier or cointreau

for the icing

  • 350g dark chocolate
  • 225ml double cream
  1. Put the whole oranges in a pan and cover with water. Bring tot he boil and simmer for about 30 mins.
  2. Whizz them to a pulp in a food processor or a liquidiser (if you go down the liquidiser route you may have to cut them up into chunks before you put them in the goblet)
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
  4. In a very large bowl (this is the bowl the cake batter will all end up in) beat together the eggs, sugar and the oil (I used a balloon whisk)
  5. Gradually beat in the orange puree, then the melted chocolate
  6. Sift the dry ingredients together (or whisk together with another balloon whisk) and then mix into the egg mixture
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes (a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean)
  8. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool, and spoon over the orange liqueur to soak in while it is cooling
The icing
  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly
  3. Stir in the cream and keep stirring till smooth and glossy
  4. Set aside to cool and firm up slightly then spread over the cake with a palette knife

Serve with creme fraiche if you have any, if not, just eat it. In small slices, with a fork. It’s a VERY rich cake. But deliciously tasty – and usually I don’t approve of orange and chocolate together but this is my exception to that rule.

Nom nom nom – really moist chocolate cake

Cheese and onion tart

14 Feb

Cheese and caramelised onion tart

I bought one of those value bags of onions the other week.

And I still seemed to have a huge bagful of onions in the kitchen this morning. What to do? Well the first obvious recipe was french onion soup. I have several recipes for french onion soup, but for some reason went for a new recipe: Nigel Slater’s Onion Soup with Madeira and Gruyere Toasts.  The picture of it looks oozingly and unctiously dark and delicious.  But mine wasn’t. He uses chicken stock instead of the traditional beef. I have no problem with this – I’ve often made onion soup with chicken stock. But I’ve no idea how he managed to get his soup so dark in colour, without a beef stock, as mine is light in colour, as you’d expect.

But, we didn’t have onion soup for lunch. And the dough for the baps remained in the bread machine till later in the afternoon.

And I got started on a better lunch solution: Cheese and Onion Tart.  This was clearly a far more sensible lunch, as it made use of not only a whole load of onions, but also some leftover cream, leftover pastry and a lump of cheese from the fridge. I love a fridge-sweep to make something new, delicious and unexpected. Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner?

Cheese and caramelised onion tart

  • Shortcrust pastry made with 4oz flour
  • a big glug of olive oil
  • a big slice of butter, about 25g
  • 4 large onions, cut in half from end to end, and then thinly sliced into half moons
  • 2 soupspoonfuls of muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg, plus 2 extra yolks
  • about 200ml cream
  • about 50ml whole milk
  • 2 soupspoonfuls of cream cheese
  • 50g mature cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat your oven to 200C or GM7. Butter a sponge sandwich tin (well, that’s what I used, a 23cm round tin with a loose bottom).

  1. Roll out the pastry and line the tin with it. Place the tin on top of a baking sheet – it’ll make everything so much easier later on. Put back in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  2. Prick the base with a fork, then cover the pastry with some baking paper and baking beans. Put in the hot oven for 12 minutes.
  3. Remove the baking beans, turn the oven down to 180C / GM4 and return the pastry to the oven for 5 minutes.
  4. While the pastry is in the oven (for the first time) put the oil, butter and onions in a heavy bottomed frying pan and heat on an oh so gentle heat for 25 minutes with the lid on. You might want to stir them from time to time, but not too often, as you need to keep the lid on to retain their liquid. After 25 minutes they should still be pale in colour, but have a certain sticky gloopiness about them.
  5. Now remove the lid from the onions, stir in the sugar, and cook the onions for a further 10 – 15 mins, till nicely caramelised, and the liquid has all but evaporated.
  6. Whisk the egg and the yolks together in a big bowl. Add the cream cheese, the cream and the milk and mix. Add the grated cheddar, and season with lots of freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Spread the base of the pastry case with the dijon mustard.
  8. Pick the thyme leaves off the stems and fold them through the onions, then spread on top of the mustard
  9. Pour the cheesy, eggy, creamy mix over the top of the onions and carefully slide the whole thing into the oven.
  10. Bake for about 35 minutes – the tart should still have a wee bit of a wibble wobble about it.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and a salad. It’s best at room temperature, or a wee bit warmer.

Yeah... it tasted good

A midweek tart

9 Feb

If you have a notion to make a tart mid-week, and you don’t get home till about 7pm then you really need to use bought pastry.

And if your rolling pin is in the country and you are in the city, then you need to use pre-rolled bought pastry.

So, I swallowed my pride and bought pre-rolled shortcrust pastry tonight. I think it may be a first. And now that my pride is well and truly swallowed, I can admit that it probably won’t be the last!

My notion was to make a rich chocolate tart. I’d been thinking of rich chocolate tart since before breakfast (I know, I know, this isn’t healthy behaviour) and then I went out to lunch with the lovely PAtothecity and she told me all about her fabulous Hotel Chocolat experience yesterday evening, including chilli hot chocolate. She asked how to make chilli hot choc, and I have a sneaky feeling I read a recipe for it just the other day, but have NO IDEA where, probably somewhere on this world wide web. Anyway, I suggested she split a chilli in half longways, de-seeded it and then popped the chilli in a pan with the milk. Warm it up and steep the chilli milk for a few minutes (depending on desired heat). Then remove the chillis, and add the chocolate, and warm to the right temperature for your hot choc.

With this in mind, I decided my chocolate tart would be a chilli chocolate tart. A RICH chilli chocolate tart. A rich chilli chocolate tart with sea salt flakes.

Rich chilli chocolate tart with sea salt flakes

Rich chilli chocolate tart with sea salt flakes

Preheat oven to 180C or Gas Mark 4. Grease a 23cm/9″ tart tin.

  • A packet of ready rolled short crust pastry, or if you have time, make your own pastry
  • 300ml double cream
  • a couple of fresh red chillis
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • a big glug of full fat milk
  • some maldon sea salt
  1. Line the prepared tin with your rolled out pastry. Cover the pastry with a large piece of baking paper and fill the paper with dry chick peas, or baking beans* or rice, or whatever you can find in a packet or jar to weigh down the pastry.
  2. Bake for 10-15 minutes
  3. Take the pastry out of the oven and remove the paper and the baking beans
  4. Return the pastry to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, till golden brown
  5. While it’s in the oven you can get going on the rich chocolatey-ness
  6. Cut the chillis in half longways, and de-seed. Put them in a saucepan with  the cream and warm up to not-quite-boiling
  7. Leave to steep for a wee minute or two, and then remove the chillies (and throw them away)
  8. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt to the cream and heat back up till it boils. Remove from the heat immediately, and add the butter and chocolate (broken into chunks) to the pan
  9. Beat with a wooden spoon till all melted and glossy and nummy
  10. Put aside for a wee minute or ten (depending on how cold your kitchen is – mine is freezing, so I just left it for a couple of minutes and it had cooled down quite a bit) and then add a glug or two of milk (about what you’d add to a mug of coffee.
  11. Keep beating till it comes all glossy again
  12. Now, if your pastry shell has just come out of the oven you’ll need it to cool a wee bit before you go any further
  13. Once both shell and chocolatey goodness are cool-ish pour the choc mixture into the shell.  Cool at room temperature, and then sprinkle with sea salt flakes
* Please do NOT use baked beans. It will get messy and will taste disgusting

If you have a hot kitchen, or if you like really cold things, cool it further down in the fridge. But personally, I’d serve it at room temperature, with a scoop of creme fraiche.

Now, all I have to do is work out how to get it to the office tomorrow morning.

And, given that St Valentine’s Day is next week, this might be an appropriate recipe for wooing your loved one. It would certainly work for me, but then I’m particularly susceptible to that chocolatey, salty, hot chilli combo of flavours. And not too sweet.  All I need to know now is what wine to serve with it, as I suspect that it won’t work with fizz. Better ask Convivium Wine.

Beetroot cheesy muffins

2 Feb

I owe some colleagues some home baking. I’d promised one muffins and another doesn’t eat sugar, so it was clearly time to make another batch of  savoury muffins.  It would have been the Parmesan and Courgette Muffins again, if Tesco’s had any courgettes. But at 7pm I wasn’t about to go traipsing round town hunting down a courgette, so beetroots became a worthy substitute.

Now, if only I’d consulted with the facebook fairies before  I went shopping – the recipe could have been enhanced with feta cheese, goats’ milk, smoked salmon and creme fraiche. But there’s always next time.

Pink savoury mufflets

Savoury beetroot mufflets (a mufflet being a mini muffin)

8oz plain flour

1tsp baking powder

4 small beetroot, cooked and coarsely grated

2oz parmesan, finely grated

2oz mature cheddar, finely grated

200ml milk

about 1/3 tub of plain yoghurt

1 egg, beaten

75ml olive oil

about 3 -4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

Line a muffin pan with paper muffin cases.

  1. Mix together flour and baking powder in a big bowl (everything else will be poured in here eventually)
  2. Add beetroot and cheese and mix – try to get rid of the claggy lumps of beetroot
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the oil, milk, yoghurt and egg together. Add the herbs
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix quickly together. Don’t over-mix, just bring everything together so the pink colour suffuses the whole mixture and it has no lumps of flour. The mixture needs to be quite soft and wet, but not runny
  5. Spoon a large soup spoonful of mixture into each muffin case
  6. Bake for 20 minutes (or until golden) in a medium hot oven (Gas Mark 5)

OK – they are out of the oven now. They are more like mufflets than muffins, slightly on the wee size, and not quite enough oomph in the flavour. So this is what I would do differently next time:

  1. Use baking powder that wasn’t past its best
  2. Use the correct size tin for the muffin cases
  3. Swap the milk and yoghurt for goats milk and yoghurt (thanks cousin!)
  4. Add some salt and pepper
  5. Use more sage or some nutmeg, or possibly orange zest, or dill, that would work
  6. Add some finely chopped scallions
  7. Cut some of the milk by volume, as the mixture was a bit too sloppy

Go on, have a go yourself – they are too easy.

And yes, they would be just delicious with a dollop of creme fraiche and some smoked salmon on top. Thanks Barry Bryson.

Tollhouse cookies

30 Jan

Tollhouse Cookies are a memory from my childhood. I had a recipe written in my childish hand-writing, which if memory serves me correctly had the list of ingredients but no instructions. I made them so often I didn’t need instructions and so I knew that they were the most delicious of cookies.

I’m pretty sure the recipe came from my Aunt Joyce, the Queen of Baking in my world. And I’m also fairly certain that the recipe is in my mother’s recipe book. So, if I really wanted I could no doubt get back the original, and make them exactly as they were in those eternally sunny summers back in the mid 70s. But I also recall that they had half lard, half butter (or even marg) … and I know that using half lard can make pastry beautifully short, but I don’t think I want to use lard in my biscuits any more. So, if I’m going to play about with the recipe anyway, I may as well just find a new one, and adapt from there.

So, this weekend I did some internet research, so you don’t have to.  Although if you really want to find out more, you can do worse than starting out here on my friend wikipedia.

Now, a bit of background for you. One of the reasons I feel quite so strongly about Tollhouse Cookies might be because my father’s office was in the original Tollhouse in our town.  I know it’s purely circumstantial, and literally hundreds of towns must have their own historical tollhouses, so clearly my recipe was no more authentic than any other. But, my recipe had choc chips AND nuts and I am not about to mess with my memory by either making a Tollhouse Cookie with no nuts, or re-naming the biscuits of my childhood Choc Chip n Nut Cookies.

But anyway, the research revealed a few things about 21st century tollhouse cookies: the butter should be melted and the sugar needs to be a mixture of brown/muscovado and caster – this will give a more caramelly taste and chewy texture, which works for me. And the cookies should be left on their baking sheet once nearly cooked so they complete the cooking out of the oven. No-one seemed to want to put nuts in them though, so feel free to omit them if you want. But then please just call them choc chip cookies.

Tollhouse cookies

Preheat oven to 170C or Gas Mark 3. Grease at least two baking sheets. Or I guess you could line them with baking parchment instead.

170g unsalted butter

250g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarb of soda

1/2 tsp salt

200g dark brown or muscovado sugar

100g light brown sugar (or caster)

1 TBSp vanilla extract

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

200g dark chocolate, chopped into wee chips

125g mixed nuts, chopped into wee chips. I’ve not tried it, but you could probably use salted nuts if you’re a fan of the sugar-salt-choc thing.

  1. Melt the butter in a big bowl (this is the bowl that the whole mixture is going to end up in so make it big enough). I use a microwave to melt the butter, but of course you could melt it in a pan and then tip it into the bowl.
  2. Sift the flour, bicarb and salt together in a different bowl – this is really just to mix it together, as most flour these days doesn’t need sifting – but it’s an old habit with me, so I like to sift it all
  3. Add the sugars to the melted butter and beat with an electric beater (or a wooden spoon if you want to work off those bingo wings) until you have a light fluffy mixture
  4. Now add the vanilla essence and the eggs and beat some more
  5. Mix in the flour and stuff with a wooden spoon, then mix through the nuts and chocolate chips
  6. Depending how warm your kitchen is, you’ll either have a soft-ish batter, or a much stiffer dough… my kitchen was baltic this weekend, so the butter cooled down quickly and I had quite a stiff dough
  7. Now, how big do you want your cookies? I use about a soup-spoonful of mixture in a big lump, and they spread out to around 3-4 inches diameter.  But you might want to make ENORMOUS cookies like those ones you get at train stations… you’d probably need about 4 TBsps of cookie mixture for that size.
  8. Remember to leave gaps between each dollop of mixture – the larger the dollop the bigger the gap required. For the enormous ones you’ll need at least 3″ I’d say.
  9. Bake for about 16 minutes, but this will depend on which shelf they are on in your oven, how hot the oven actually is and what size you’ve made your cookies. Ideally you need to take them out when they are golden around the edges, but not toasted in the middle. Leave them on the baking tray to cool down, they will continue to cook. Then remove them to a cooling tray. This will give you a slightly chewy cookie, if you prefer them crisper, just keep them in the oven a wee bit longer, till they are uniformly coloured.
  10. Once they are cool, transfer them into two separate airtight containers. Keep one lot at home, and take the rest to your colleagues, or to someone you love (not mutually exclusive).

There!  How easy was that? And according to my colleagues, they’re a winner.
But before you run off to bake cookies, a top tip for you. Some of you will know this already, but if you’re not a baker you might not. Don’t keep opening the oven door to check your cookies, and when you do open the door, be sure to shut it gently afterwards, as slamming it shut will blow in cold air, and mess with the cooking. This is even more important when you’re baking cakes, or anything you expect to rise. If you slam the door, it’s like slamming a big weight onto your delicate cake.

Banana goodness

3 Jan

So, most weeks I’ll buy some bananas at the supermarket, as I know he’ll take a banana to work each day, and it’s a way of getting towards that 5-a-day of fruit and veg.  I hadn’t really thought through the whole Christmas/New Year thing and how it might interrupt his banana consumption.  So, this morning I decided to do something with the three blackening bananas left on the side in the kitchen.

Banana loaf was the obvious choice.  Or I have a good foolproof and adaptable banana muffin recipe. But if I’m going to make muffins in the next 24 hours, it’s going to be vodka-soaked-cranberry muffins, using the cranberries from my vanilla cranberry vodka which are currently in the freezer waiting to be enjoyed.

So, I turned to the internet for inspiration and good old Nigel Slater came up trumps again. He calls it black banana cake.  And I’m not sure if that is a reference to the state the bananas are in before you start, or the fact there is plenty chocolate in there, so the cake will be darker than you might expect for a banana cake.  I figure it’s probably the former.  As ever, I vaguely modified the recipe as I went along, but you can find his original here.

Banana choc nut cake

175g/6oz unsalted butter, softened in the microwave as it’s so cold in the kitchen.  In fact it was softened so much that some of it was melted, and I had to beat it back together again

175g/6oz sugar (half golden caster, half light soft brown muscovado type sugar)

75g/2 ½ oz mixed nuts (Nigel wanted hazelnuts but I had mixed in the cupboard so that’s what I used)

2 free range eggs

175g/6oz SR flour

2 very ripe bananas (Nigel asks for about 250g/9oz in weight, but all I know is I used two ENORMOUS bananas)

About ½ tsp vanilla essence (Nigel only wanted a single drop)

175g/6oz good quality dark chocolate chopped into rough chunks

A little Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 170C/325F/GM3

Line the base and sides of a 20cm x 12cm / 8in x 5in loaf tin.  I used a 1lb loaf tin – cake is still in the oven so I’ll find out soon if it was big enough (it was!)

  1. Toast the nuts.  Rub them in a tea towel to remove their skins if you can be bothered (I didn’t) and then grind them in a food processor, or with a zizzer or whatever implement you have to grind nuts. You’re looking for a pretty fine consistency – a bit like sand. I used a hand held zizzer, you know the kind of thing you’d usually use to blend soups.
  2. Beat the butter with the sugar till light and fluffy
  3. Add the eggs one by one and beat into the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Mix in the nuts and SR flour.
  5. Peel the bananas and chop them into small pieces into the bowl with the sugar/butter/egg mixture.
  6. Gently fold in the vanilla, bananas and chocolate nuggets into the cake mixture. Don’t overmix.
  7. Shlop into the prepared loaf tin. Dust with a little Demerara sugar (I forgot to do this, and doubt it will matter too much).
  8. Bake for 1hr – 1hr 10 mins, covering the top with foil if the top looks like it’s about to burn.

Oh my world, it’s amazing!  Lovely light texture, strong zing of chocolate when you get a nugget of it.  And gentle banana flavour running through it all.  Scrum.  Eat with a cup of Earl Grey tea, in a china teacup of course.

Banana choc nut cake anyone?

Hilda Gerber’s Chocolate Sauce

20 Dec

Hilda Gerber’s chocolate sauce is amazing.

It’s amazingly naughty and amazingly rich and for me an amazingly strong memory of Christmas and Hogmanay from my childhood.  It’s also ridiculously easy to make.  And once you can make Hilda Gerbers (the sauce is always just called Hilda Gerbers in our family) you can make the infamous Meringue Mountain, all gloriously seventies.

Hilda Gerber was a cookery writer in the 30s and 40s in South Africa.  But I knew none of this back when I was a child. A quick google and I discover that her manuscript for Traditional Cooking of the Cape Malays was found and published after her death in 1954. The Cape Malays were the descendents of slaves and political exiles, mostly from Indonesia and Bengal, who were brought to the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th and 18th century by the Dutch East India Company.  Their name derives from the trader language they spoke, called Malayu.  During the apartheid years any Cape Malay who converted from Islam to Christianity was reclassified as Cape Coloured. Their spices and condiments from the East, which arrived on the ships on their way back to Holland, pepped up the blander Dutch recipes in their colonial kitchens.

I intend to seek out some Malay recipes – I think the only one I have is Bobotie from my Aunt Joyce.  But surely I can get a Bredie recipe from my Aunt Astri?  And I’ve wanted to make mebos (delicious nuggets of salty-sweet dried fruit) for AGES but I suspect Scotland does not have the climate for drying fruit.

Anyway, allegedly Hilda Gerber used to ask local Malay women for recipes, so she could record them for posterity and compile a recipe book.  Some of the Malay women silently sabotaged her efforts to create an indigenous cookbook, and would miss out a key ingredient, such as the milk in potato pudding, so any efforts to make it will end up with potato scrambled eggs.  Hmmm, I’ll bet you’re not wanting to make this chocolate sauce now?

Anyway, all of that I have discovered in the last 24 hours, but Hilda Gerbers (the sauce) has been known to me all my life.  I wasn’t exactly weaned on it (although if I was it would go some way to explaining my current size) but it was always there on special occasions.  I suspect the recipe came via my grandmother who lived for many years from the 30s through to the 80s in South Africa.  So, here we go:

Hilda Gerbers Rich Chocolate Sauce

4oz dark chocolate

4oz icing sugar

4 eggs

8oz butter

  1. In a bowl over a pan of water, melt the chocolate.  Make sure the bowl is big enough to take everything, as all the other ingredients will be added to this later.
  2. Once melted, add the icing sugar.  You’ll think it’s all gone badly wrong, when it turns into rubble, but trust me, it’s ok.
  3. Add eggs and beat in, one by one.  Keep warm, but do NOT boil. It’s looking a bit better now, huh?
  4. Now take off the heat and cut the butter into chunks into the mixture.  Stir a bit, but leave to melt in and then stir a bit again
  5. That’s it.
  6. Leave it somewhere cool. Then eat.

Or, instead of just eating it by the spoonful, make a Meringue Mountain.

Make some meringues, the more the better.  Big ones, little ones, medium ones.  Crunchy ones and chewy ones.  Just lots.

And beat some cream, with a wee bit of sugar and vanilla if you want, but it’s not really necessary.

Now make the mountain. Stick some meringues to the bottom of your dish with a dab of cream.  Now squidge some cream on top of the meringues, so you can add another layer.  And keep going with layers of meringue and cream until you have a mountain.  Then pour the chocolate sauce over the top.  You’ll need to have taken it out of the fridge a while before pouring, or it just won’t pour.  Think about it, it’s mostly butter and chocolate which are quite solid in a fridge.

You can do all manner of other things with it other than the Meringue Mountain, but remember it is incredibly rich – so you won’t need much of it.  I suspect it would be good with a teeny tiny chocolate brownie and some vanilla icecream.  Or have I just gone too far?

Oh, and don’t even think of giving this to pregnant women. Or getting pregnant while you’re eating it.  DANGER.

I’m about to go make a batch to have on Christmas Eve.  Nom nom nom.

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