Christmas this year has been a little bit unusual. I'm 7 months pregnant and the thought of waddling my freakishly large arse through a shopping centre made me want to cry and I wasn't quite organised enough to get everything online. The solution I thought was fudge. I'd had a little experiment in the autumn with mixed success. The ginger fudge was off the hook but the rum and raisin was appallingly bad. The main problem is getting the temperature right so that the fudge sets to the right texture. A sugar or jam thermometer is the way to go here. They are about £5-£6 for a simple one but it will save you so much hassle.
The biggest success was by far the Malteser fudge and a mince pie fudge, which unfortunately all got eaten or posted to friends before I got round to taking a picture. Anyway, they are both easypeasy to make and have a big wow factor.
What you'll need: A medium sized non stick sauce pan A silicone or wooden spatula A baking tray lined with non stick baking paper Sugar thermometer or nerves of steel
Basic fudge ingredients:
397g can Condensed Milk
150ml (¼pt) milk
450g (1lb) demerara sugar
115g (4oz) butter
1 tsp salt
For the Mince Pie Fudge:
3 tbls mincemeat
1 tsp mixed spice
chopped glace cherries
All butter shortbread biscuits broken into chunky pieces
For the Malteser Fudge:
100g chocolate (dark chocolate or milk, whatever your preference), broken into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
LOADS of Maltesers, some crushed, some whole
Making the fudge:
Heat the milks, sugar and butter in a large, non-stick saucepan over a low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely.
Bring to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring continuously and scraping the base and sides of the pan, if you are using a sugar thermometer bring the bubbling inferno up to 117oC. If you haven't got a thermometer then drop little fudge into a jug of ice-cold water, if the fudge sets into a soft ball them you should be at the right stage.
Remove from the heat and beat for 10 minutes until thick and grainy (I used my mixer for this as it is arm achingly hard work)
Now is where you make the fudge a work of art:
For the Mince Pie fudge - gently combine all the other ingredients, mixing the biscuits in last so they don't get all crunched up. Turn the mixture into the lined baking tray and push the fudge down until it is flat. Leave to cool and cut into pieces.
For the Malteser fudge - stir in the vanilla extract and the broken up chocolate, it should melt in the residual heat of the mixture
Turn the mixture onto a lined baking tray, push the fudge down until flat.
Take whole Maltesers and push them all over the still warm fudge, working quickly so the mixture doesn't get too cool. Pour the crushed Maltesers over the top and gently push them down. Leave to cool, cut into pieces.
I was thinking about this the other day because of a massive baking session I had undertaken to say thank you to people for helping out on our allotment.
I made a coconut and lime drizzle cake, an amaretto and chocolate layer cake and a lemon curd cake.
The chocolate cake was ok and unfortunately the only one I got a picture of but the star of the show was most definitely the lemon curd cake.
I had a go at making my own lemon curd and you know what? It was a total doddle. Utterly sublime lemonyness, smooth, gooey with a light sponge and fragrant lemon icing drizzled over the top. It was ace. My second attempt at making it (so I could take a photo for this post) was thwarted by my own impatience. The taste was still spot on but aesthetically not the prettiest. I know exactly where I went wrong and my lesson of the day is: Always wait until your curd is cold before trying to sandwich it between cake layers! Because I didn't wait it wasn't quite thick enough and just squidged out of the sides. School girl error on my part. Anyway we just ate it so there was no problem with taste but not good enough for photographs.
I'm going to write the recipe and hopefully some time in the future there will be pretty pictures to go with it.
Lemon Curd Cake (original recipe by Holly Sprake-Hill) Sponge: 8oz self raising flour (sifted) 8oz golden caster sugar 8oz Stork or similar baking margarine zest of 1 lemon 1tsp baking powder 1tsp lemon extract 2oz ground almonds 4 large free range eggs
You will need 2 7inch cake pans, oiled and floured Preheat the oven to 180c
Cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Add all the other ingredients and beat until smooth. Separate the mixture equally into the two tins, lightly spread the mixture so it is even. Bake until the cakes are golden brown and spring back to the touch. Turn the cakes out onto wire racks to cool. If you are a bit picky about presentation leave the best cake top side up so you don't get the wire marks on it.
The Lemon Curd 4oz unsalted butter zest and juice of 3 large lemons 6oz golden caster sugar 1tblsp cornflour (mix with a touch of water before adding) 2 large free range eggs.
Whisk the eggs in a pan, add all the other ingredients, stir continually over a low heat until the mixture thickens. Bring to a simmer and keep stirring for about a minute (to cook the flour out) Done! It really is that easy. Leave to cool completely.
Lemon icing Icing sugar Lemon juice
Mix the juice of half a lemon with a small bowlful of sifted icing sugar. Add more icing sugar or lemon juice until you get a thick, glossy mixture.
Assemble the cake by slathering a thick layer of the cold lemon curd onto the bottom cake layer, gentle place the top cake layer in place. Use the lemon icing to either cover the top of the cake or make patterns with it, whatever takes your fancy.
A couple of days ago I received a new baking book called British Baking by Peyton and Byrne from renewing my subscription to Olive. It is a bit pretentious but it had a lovely looking recipe for home-made chocolate digestive biscuits. It inspired a digestive baking fest. I have an unhealthy love of McVities Milk Chocolate Digestives, my tales of binging on them would make Dr Christian have a freak out. The thought of making a better quality home-made version that would be a treat rather than a self harm session was very appealing.
I compared the recipes from my favourite Baking Magic (by Kate Shirazi) recipe book and the British Baking book and decided the beginners recipe was very much the Baking Magic recipe. The recipe isn't the same word for word but is based on the original, I don't know where I stand with copyright as far as publishing the recipe here but as I have done nothing but gush about how brilliant this cook book is I'm hoping that Kate Shirazi won't mind.
So here it is: Ingredients 100g wholemeal flour (plus more for dusting) 40g plain flour 1/2 tsp baking powder 1 tbsp oats 120g softened butter 100g soft brown sugar 4 tbsp milk 200g good quality chocolate
Method Preheat the oven to 190o/ Gas Mark 5 and line 2 baking sheets. Mix the flours, baking powder and oats in a bowl. In another bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (I use a hand blender for this) Mix the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar with the milk. Turn the dough onto a floured surface (mine was very sticky and needed a LOT of flour)
Give a little knead until smooth and roll out with a floured rolling pin until about 3mm. Cut into discs. Place the discs onto the baking sheet, prick with a fork and bake for 15 mins or until golden. When baked let cool on a wire rack.
While the biscuits are cooling melt the chocolate then spread the chocolate onto the cool biscuits and leave to set.
Pimp My Digestive
As usual I couldn't leave the recipe alone and had to mix things up a little. Inspired by the bar of orange and spice dark chocolate in our treats drawer I added a few drops of orange extract and ground ginger to the dough then when baked and cooled smothered the biscuits in the melted orange and spice chocolate. The result was a very grown up warming chocolate orange digestive, bitter sweet, buttery and aromatic. Future versions might include flecks of chopped stem ginger and made pretty with slivers of crystallised ginger on the top.
Home-made chocolate digestives have been a total win, loved by my husband and very sweet toothed four year old. They stay crisp for a good 48 hours, as for more than that I couldn't tell you because they had all been guzzled. Have fun trying out the recipe and leave me a message about how you get on.
A good brownie is the ultimate chocolate combination of rich gooey fudge hiding below a crispy crust. You bake a batch and have to have a little nibble at the top, which leads to having a little piece and the next thing you are covered in chocolatey marshmallow nomminess, looking guilty when someone asks you where all the brownies have gone.
There are a million recipes for brownies and those folks in America are insane for them - I mean check this out for a brownie website.
This recipe is my own but takes its inspiration from the beautiful Baking Magic by Kate Shirazi, which is my favourite baking cookbook for basic but always successful cake and biscuit recipes.
At some point I will give it a review on here but for today just trust me that it is a wonderful book with lovely pictures, really accessible recipes and very much worth the money it is going for on the internet.
The heartbreak in my brownies could come from a couple of places. It could be something to do with the diabetes inducing ingredients or the tragedy associated with eating them all on your own in a wine and cruddy rom-com combination. It isn't any of these reasons though. It is about love and needing comfort and in the search for these engaging in the more socially acceptable act of self love - concocting a sweet baked treat.
The *heartbreak* ingredients in this recipe give a rich amaretti flavoured brownie with a praline crunch from roughly bashed hazelnuts and sticky goo from melted mini marshmallows but future brownie adventures will feature different *heartbreak* ingredients. I have been thinking about an exclusively hazelnut brownie with crushed Maryland hazelnut and choc chip cookies and big chunky nuts; I have also considered a peanut theme. The pictures of the brownie featured here actually have italian sponge fingers broken into little pieces and soaked in amaretti liqueur and almond extract as I didn't have any amaretti biscuits in the cupboard. Your *heartbreak* ingredients can be dependant on your personal tastes, tales of woe and contents of your cupboards.
Heartbreak Brownies (recipe by BooCakey)
Makes about 16
The boring bits:
Preheat the oven to 180oC
Use a silicone square tin or equivalent in metal about 9 inch
If you are using metal then line the tin with greaseproof paper
The yummy bits:
165g salted butter
150g good quality 70% cocoa chocolate
3 eggs, lightly beaten 330g golden caster sugar
75g sifted self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
10ish amaretti biscuits, roughly crushed
2 big handfuls of mini marshmallows
2 handfuls of hazelnuts, roughly crushed
Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Don't let the water boil or the chocolate will go bonkers. When it is all smooth and melted take off the heat and stir in all the "yummy bits" ingredients (don't put the eggs in first in case the chocolate is a bit warm, you don't want brownie scrambled eggs).
Now add the *heartbreak* ingredients and fold until they are combined. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and slide into the oven. Set a timer for 40 mins but try and check at 30 mins just in case your oven is a bit perkier than mine.
Don't leave them in there for more than 40 minutes though or you will have chocolate cake not goo-some delicious brownie. They will set as they cool. Honest. Serve with a big hug.
Part II of my rhubarb chronicle involves the search for the perfect portable crumble.
After researching the rhubarb cakes I realised there are a good many recipes out there for rhubarb crumble cake. All hail The Chap! Cake and crumble?
I was convinced that a layer of soft vanillary sponge, tart rosy rhubarb and sweet crunchy crumble could only be improved by the fact you can eat it with your hands. What could be better? Well, that I stole the rhubarb from my neighbour's allotment made it taste all the sweeter.
After comparing a couple of recipes mainly this Tamasin Day Lewis recipe for Rhubarb and Ginger Crumble Cake and this National Trust recipe for Sticky Rhubarb Cake I decided to just make up my own. It wasn't perfect but I think that was more about my oven than the mix (I have a double width range oven and it cooks slowly). If you fancy having a go here is the recipe:
Rhude-barb Crumble Cake(recipe by BooCakey)
You will need a big tin - this is a big cake (christmas cake sized or a 9 inch square tin)
Sponge cake base
6oz golden caster sugar
6oz Stork or butter
6oz self raising flour
3 eggs (free range - don't be a chicken torturer)
2 oz ground almonds
1tsp vanilla paste/ extract
1tsp baking powder
4-6 sticks of rhubarb chopped into 1cm widths
1-2 tsp golden caster sugar
5oz flour (self raising or plain)
5oz butter (real butter - no margarine for this)
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
Pre heat the oven to 180oC
Grease and flour your tin - this is a smashing tip from www.libertylondongirl.com because it helps cook the bottom of your cake too.
Wash and chop up the rhubarb, toss in the sugar and put to one side.
Make the cake batter. Chuck all the ingredients in a bowl (sieve the flower though you lazy bugger) and whizz with a hand mixer or if you are mixing by hand - cream the Stork and sugar first, then mix the eggs in one at a time with the flour, baking powder and almonds and vanilla.
If you can cope with the washing up, get out your food processor and make the crumble by whizzing together the butter and flour (put the flour in first - it helps stop the butter from sticking to the blades of the processor) then add the sugar. It should look bread crumby. If you are a by hand type then get messy and rub the flour and butter through your fingertips until you have a bread crumbs type consistency. Stir in the sugar.
Bring it all together
Pour the cake batter into the greased and floured tin, next comes the rhubarb, then a blanket of crumble topping. Stick in the the oven for about 45 mins. It will be cooked when it stops wobbling and the top is golden brown.
Now here is the bit where I messed up. In my wisdom when I realised the cake was cooked but the top not quite brown and crunchy enough for my liking I turned on the grill and left it to *crisp up.
School girl error, I took my eyes off it for a second and over browned the topping. Fortunately, picking the worst bits off and sprinkling with icing sugar saved the day and less than 24 hours after its creation the whole lot has been eaten. This one is best served room temperature I think and when I make it next time I may get a little crazy and add some demerara sugar to the crumble topping for extra crunch.
Rhubarb! It is all over our allotments. Well except for our plot where it is struggling to get established due to some little git of an insect nibbling and leaving the fruit of its loins all over the underside of the leaves. Rhubarb is much beloved of my BaBFF (my baking and best friend 4eva, Audrey - keep up that maybe the first and last time I explain that acronym) and I. She makes the most delicious rhubarb crumble I have ever tasted. Nothing fancy, no sprinkle of ginger or oats in the topping, just perfect tart rhubarb with a spring duvet of buttery crumble, crisp and squidgy all at the same time. I plan on getting the recipe for BooCakey as soon as I can.
I have been trying out new things to do with rhubarb, my current obsession being rhubarb cake. I had a go at a Good Food recipe for rhubarb spice cake (the official picture is the one below) last week although I can quite honestly say it looked nothing like the picture when it turned out. It was like a golden syrup cake but with bits of rhubarb floating about. The cake was lovely but the combination was not great if I am completely honest.
The success of the week was using the rest of the rhubarb to make a lemon and rhubarb drizzle cake. Tart and unctuous, wonderfully simple and very quick too. I used some stewed rhubarb from my freezer (a take away sized tub full). I don't have a picture but here is the recipe;
Lemon and Rhubarb Drizzle Cake (Recipe by BooCakey)
Cake batter: 6oz self raising flour 6oz golden caster sugar 6oz Stork or butter 2oz ground almonds 3 large eggs 1 tsp baking powder Cooled, drained rhubarb The zest of one lemon 1 teaspoon of lemon oil (optional)
The rhubarb: 4 sticks of rhubarb chopped into inch pieces 1-2 tbsp golden caster sugar 4 tbsp water
You will need a 9 inch square baking tin or silicone equivalent or a christmas cake sized round tin. Something big basically as this cake makes 12 to 16 portions. Grease the tin.
Method: Lightly stew the rhubarb by chucking the ingredients in a pan and boiling until the rhubarb softens ever so slightly and juice starts to be released. Leave to cool. Pre heat the oven to 180oC Once cooled, strain the rhubarb through a sieve, keeping the juice- this will be the drizzle part of the finished cake. Pour the juice into a pan and simmer until reduced by half.
While the syrup is reducing make the cake. This bit is a doddle. If you have a food mixer (hand held or otherwise) this will make your life easier, if you don't it will give your beating arm a good work out.
Cream the butter/ Stork and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the ground almonds, eggs, lemon zest and oil, sieve in the flour and baking powder and whizz until all mixed together (about a minute with an electric mixer). Don't over mix or your cake will be tough. Gently fold in the strained rhubarb and pour the mixture into the greased tin. Pop in the oven and set a timer for 45mins.
The cake is cooked when it feels firm to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
Take the cake out of the oven (keep in in the tin) and use the skewer to poke holes all over it. Spoon over the warm rhubarb syrup over the the warm cake, be gentle. Leave to cool and let the syrup sink in. Best served in your mouth.