Thursday, 24 November 2011

Classic Bakes: Banana Loaf

I have good intentions towards fruit. I do. We always buy it when we do our food shopping. I plan having it on cereal, and making fruit salads. This doesn't always happen. And for the times when you're left with over-ripe bananas, there's a saving grace in banana loaf!

It's something I've enjoyed many a time but for some reason haven't ever made myself. I've given it a go tonight. It's cooling at the moment and smells DELICIOUS!

Fresh out of the oven and smelling good!

You will need:

  • 115g butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large/3 medium bananas
  • **OPTIONAL EXTRAS** 115g of walnuts or 100g of chocolate chunks
To make:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°c and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin

Mash the bananas in their own bowl and keep to one side

In your mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar. Once it is nice and fluffy add the eggs and mix

Mix in the bananas (and walnuts or chocolate if you're using either) and then stir in the flour

Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and put in the oven

Bake for 40 minutes then turn the oven down to 150°c and bake for an additional 30 minutes

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

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A bit of luxury for £1!

Grocery shopping on Sunday and spotted this 2 pack of creme brulee for £1. Just given one a whirl and it was good! You get two glass pots, two sachets of sugar and you pop them under the grill to form the hard sugar layer.

Worth a try! Little bit of a treat for a quid!

Classic Bakes: Victoria Sponge

One of my favourites is a classic Victoria Sandwich. I always associate this with National Trust Tea Rooms and British class.

Nice and easy to make and a great one for tea parties, and taking to friends' houses!

A British classic!

You will need:
  • 200g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2tbsp milk
  • 150ml pot double cream
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g strawberry jam
  • Icing sugar, for dusting
To make:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°c and grease two 20cm non-stick, round sandwich tins with some butter

Line the tins with baking parchment and lightly grease the parchment

Sift the flour and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl. Then tip in the butter, 200g of the sugar, the eggs and the milk

Use an electric mixer/whisk to beat everything together until smooth

Divide the mixture between the two sandwich tins and bake for 20-25mins until the sponge is golden. Don't give in to the temptation to open the oven door and check the sponges before the 20mins is up as this may cause them to sink

Lightly press the top of both cakes, when they're done they will spring back immediately

Once the sponges are cool enough to handle, turn them out of their tins and leave them to cool completely on a wire rack

To make the filling, whip the cream, the remaining 50g of the sugar and the vanilla extract together until the mixture holds its shape

Put the cake together by spreading one sponge with cream and the other with jam. Join the sponges together by their fillings and dust the top with icing sugar to serve

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Crunchy Lemon Syrup Loaves

This Mary Berry recipe is a classic from my upbringing. We as kids enjoyed the "Series of Unfortunate Events" and so this cake will forever be "Lemony Snicket Cake" to us.

It's a very simple recipe which makes a beautifully soft lemon sponge which is topped with a lemon syrup to give a delightful crunch! This recipe will fill 2 x 1lb loaf tins or 1 larger tin.

Just as the syrup is put on the warm loaf

You will need:

For the cake
  • 100g soft margarine or butter
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4tbsps milk
  • Finely grated rind of one lemon
For the syrup topping
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g of granulated sugar
To make:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°c/Gas 4

Lightly grease and line the bottom of your loaf tin(s)

Put all the cake ingredients into a bowl and mix well for 2 mins

Pour your cake mixture into your tin(s) and smooth the top

Bake for 30mins

While you're baking your loaf/loaves, make the syrup by combining the lemon juice and sugar and stir them together

Pour the syrup over the loaf/loaves whilst they're still hot from the oven

Leave in the tin(s) to cool completely before turning out

Monday, 14 November 2011

Easy Dinners: Baked Potato with Houmous and Feta

Simple but tasty dinner! 

So tasty! And barely and preparation required

You will need:

  • 2 baking potatoes
  • Sea salt
  • 2tbsps olive oil
  • 1/2tsp smoked paprika
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • 1/2 pot of houmous
  • 50g feta
To make:

Wash and dry the potatoes and prick all over with a fork. Rub with salt

Bake at 200°c for about an hour or until soft when squeezed

Meanwhile, mix together the oil, smoked paprika and cumin with a pinch of sea salt

Split open the potatoes as soon as they're cooked

Top each with houmous and some crumbled feta

Drizzle with the paprika, oil and serve with a big mixed salad

Boozey Toffee Apple Upside-Down Cake

I've just tried this recipe and it makes a perfect autumnal accompaniment to a hot drink. Or great on it's own! Any excuse really.
Not only tasty, it's beautiful too. Sticky, sweet, with a dense sponge and a kick of brandy. A perfect treat for this time of year.

The apples and toffe which eventually become the topping

The finished product. Toffee a little crispy around the edges!

You will need:
For the cake
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 300g plain flour
  • 50ml brandy
  • 1tbsp golden syrup
  • 1tsp cinnamon
For the apple topping
  • 2 eating apples, sliced finely
  • 50g unsalted butter cut into small pieces
  • 50g caster sugar
To make:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°c

Line a 20cm tin. **Do not use a loose bottomed tin as this will cause the toffee to leak out whilst baking!**

Cream the butter and sugar together

Beat in the eggs, one at a time

Add the flour, cinnamon, brandy and golden syrup

Once the cake mixture has been thoroughly mixed, put it in the fridge to settle whilst you make the apple mixture

Put the sugar and butter into a frying pan and put on a low heat. Stir regularly until it forms a dark brown caramel. Don't let it turn black. **Be very careful!** Do not get any mixture on you, and definitely do not lick the spoon. This mixture gets exceedingly hot and will burn.

Take the pan off the heat. Add in the apple slices. Be careful as the mixture might spit. Stir them around until they are coated.

Arrange the apple slices in the bottom of the cake tin however you want and pour the caramel over them.

Top with the cake mixture, smooth until it covers all of the apple slices.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the cake has risen, is golden and is cooked through. Ensure the cake is ready before removing from oven.

Leave it to cool in the tin before turning upside down onto a plate. The apples will now be the cake's topping. 

It's particularly nice when warm!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Something truly indulgent: Luxury hot chocolate

Something for the weekend perhaps? This recipe just popped up on my Facebook new feed from BBC Good Food. It makes a truly deluxe hot chocolate. Perfect for a one-off treat.

Photo from BBC Food, my photo didn't show it off well!
You will need:
  • 600ml of milk (your choice what kind)
  • 142ml pot double cream
  • 100g chopped chocolate - milk chocolate works best
  • Mini marshmallows and grated chocolate to top
To make:

Put the milk, cream and chocolate into a saucepan.

Bring to the boil gently, whisking until it is smooth.

Serve in mugs or cups topped with marshmallows and grated chocolate.

This should make 4 mugs worth (dependent on the size of your mugs!)

Good Food recommends making it a little more "grown-up" by adding 2 or 3 tablespoons of brandy to the mixture on the hob.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Just for fun!

Baking relaxes me and it didn't take too long to do these!

If they wouldn't spoil, I'd use stands full of cupcakes to decorate my flat!

Chocolate and banana cupcakes

I realise there has been somewhat of a bias towards chocolate based bakes here so far. I blame personal cravings. But this is a classic at my house and one that's definitely worth sharing! The banana sponge stays so moist and full of flavour for days! And I can always kid myself that if it has fruit in it, it must be good for me! So a batch of these never lasts very long...

Banana cupcakes with chocolate frosting.....*Homer SImpson-like gargle*

You will need:

For the cupcakes
  • 120g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • A pinch of salt
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 120ml milk (for best results use whole milk)
  • 2 egss
  • 120g banana, peeled and mashed
  • 12 hole cupcake or muffin tray lined with paper cases
For the icing
  • 300g sifted icing sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 40g sifted cocoa powder
  • 40ml milk
To make:
  • Preheat the oven to 170°c (Gas mark 3)
  • Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and butter in an electric mixer using the paddle attachment (alternatively, use a handheld electric whisk) and beat the ingredients together on a slow speed. Continue until the mixture has a similar consistency to sand and everything has been combined.
  • Slowly pour the milk into the created mixture. Continue beating well until everything has been blended well. 
  • Add the eggs and again, beat well. Ensure you scrape any mixture from the sides of the bowl with a spatula and stir in.
  • Stir in the mashed banana by hand.
  • Spoon the mixture into the waiting cases. Try not to fill beyond about 2/3 capacity. If you have extra mixture, make extra cupcakes rather than over-filling!
  • Bake in the oven for approx 20 minutes. Or until the sponge is lightly golden and a skewer comes out clean.
  • Whilst the cupcakes are cooling on a wire rack, make the icing!
  • Put the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together and use the mixer (or handheld whisk) on a medium speed.
  • Turn down to slow speed to add the milk one spoonful at a time.
  • Once the milk has been fully mixed, turn up to high speed and beat until the icing is fluffy. This can take up to 5 minutes, so be patient!
  • Once done, top the cupcakes with the icing and decorate however you wish. I find simple grated chocolate works best.

This recipe is from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. It is full of easy, professional looking and beautiful tasting recipes. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Winter Warmers: Red lentil, chickpea & chilli soup

As winter approaches, my kitchen (and my stomach) is calling out for winter comfort food! My other half and I enjoyed this soup for dinner tonight. It was quick and easy to make, and used things we already had in the cupboards. It's vegetarian, full of goodness, and low in fat. The other half added chilli paste to his serving as he's a spice fiend, but it all comes down to personal preference.

Mmmmm....home-made soup!

You will need:

  • 2tsp cumin seeds
  • Large pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 5oz red split lentils
  • 1.5 pint vegetable stock, or water
  • 14oz can of tomatoes, whole or chopped
  • 8oz can of chickpeas, or 1/2 a can (up to you!)
  • Small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped (alternatively, use ground coriander)
  • 4tbsp 0% Greek yoghurt, to serve
To make:

Heat a large saucepan and dry fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for a minute. Or until they start to jump around the bottom of the pan and start to release their scents.

Add the onion and oil to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes and bring it all to the boil.

Simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils have softened.

Use a hand blender on the mixture, or pop it into a food processor until it reaches the consistency you want.

Pour the soup back into the pan to heat, add the chickpeas and season.

Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and some coriander leaves (if using).

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A Rich Chocolate Cake

This is my go to chocolate cake. Actually the first thing I baked solo. The recipe is originally from a Dorling Kindersley book for children and was intended to be cut up, rearranged and iced as a dinosaur.

I find it's quick and easy to make, tastes great and the sponge stays moist for days! This should be a staple for any baker!

A slightly uneven and hastily decorated version. But tasty nonetheless!

You will need:

  • 100g softened butter or margarine
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 50g cocoa
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 250ml milk
To make:

Preheat oven to 180°c

Grease and line a 22cm deep cake tin

Stir lemon juice into the milk and put aside

Put the butter and half the sugar into a mixing bowl and beat it until pale and fluffy

Beat the eggs into the mixture one at a time (add a small spoon of flour with each egg)

Stir in the rest of the sugar

Sift the flour, soda and cocoa together

Beat in half the milk and fold in half the flour. Add the rest of the milk and flour

Mix until smooth

Pour into the tin and cook for one hour (50mins in fan assisted ovens). Keep checking the cake near the end of the time to avoid a crunch!

Leave on a wire rack to cool

Now this cake could be iced in a variety of ways. Any chocolate icing will to. I usually tend to use a Nigella recipe which makes a really creamy and smooth topping! The quantities below will cover the top and sides of the cake, leaving enough to create an icing layer in the middle. To reduce leftovers, and/or avoid any fuss with creating an inner layer, use half of what's specified below.

You will need:

  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 500g sieved icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1tbsp dark rum (optional!)
To make:

Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Avoid letting the bottom of the bowl touch the water

Beat in the eggs, then the sugar

Add the extract and the rum (if using)

Leave to cool a little before using.

Any leftover icing can be refrigerated and used on another baking projects!