Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Red Velvet Cake

This spooky cake is ideal for Halloween.... It has a luscious red interior, with white ghostly icing, and decorated with cobwebs.   The first time I tried it, I used liquid colouring, which wasn't a success, so I tried again using Dr Oetker red gel/paste, which gave the desired spooky effect!   I made this for a lovely friend, Lucie, and we had to try it early, just to see how red it was!

Update:  The Dr Oetker paste gel now doesn't work, so you need to find a proper paste - Squire's Kitchen, or one on-line.  See my brown velvet muffins post!

Red Velvet Halloween Cake

Red velvet cake

21oz/600g caster sugar
8oz/250g softened butter
6 eggs
2 tbsp red food colouring (or 2 small tubes of paste)
1tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cocoa powder
13oz/375g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
8floz/250ml buttermilk
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tbsp vinegar

2x 7oz/200g packs cream cheese
12oz/350g white chocolate, melted
8oz/250g softened butter

Preheat the oven to 170 deg C and spray 3 8"loose based sandwich tins with release agent, or grease and line them with parchment.

Cream the butter and sugar, adding the eggs one by one, beating well.  Add a small quantity of flour to prevent the eggs from curdling.   Add the colouring and vanilla.
Sieve the flour, salt and cocoa together and add to the mixture, alternating with the buttermilk.    Mix the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar together, stirring the fizzy mixture into the cake.  Don't over-beat at this stage.

Tip the mixture into the three tins and bake for approx 25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, melt the chocolate and allow to cool.  Beat the cream cheese until fluffy, then add the chocolate and butter gradually, beating all the time.  Spread over the cake and decorate.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Saffron Poached Pears

Another autumn recipe taking advantage of the glut of beautiful fruit around at the moment.  This is a delicious pudding, and very simple to prepare.  The cardamom and saffron give a lift to the pear syrup, and the whole dish looks beautiful too.   I served it with passion fruit ice cream and Greek yoghurt.  I am indebted to James for this recipe, who found it in the Metro newspaper and recommended it to me.  I am doubly thankful to him, as the recipe arrived with his order for my book!

Saffron poached pears

Saffron Poached Pears  

6oz/180g sugar (the original quantity was 7oz/200g, but it was very sweet)
¾ pt/425ml water
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed 
¼ tsp saffron
3 tbsp Lemon Juice
4 or 5 firm pears

Put the sugar, water, cardamom pods, saffron and lemon juice into a pan wide enough to take the pears side by side.   Stir until the sugar dissolves, then bring to simmering point.  Peel and halve the pears, removing the cores.  As you prepare each pear, drop it straight into the simmering syrup, cut side up.

Cover the pan with a circle of greaseproof paper and put the lid on top.  Simmer away gently until the pears are tender, approximately 20-30min, spooning the syrup over them every now and then.

Once the pears are cooked, lift them out of the pan using a slotted spoon and arrange them in a single layer, cut side down, in a serving dish.   If the syrup is quite thick, pour over the top.   Alternatively, you can reduce the syrup by boiling it for longer so it thickens slightly.  Don’t cook it for too long, or the syrup will caramelise.  Serve chilled.  This compote keeps for several weeks, covered, in the fridge. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Cinnamon Nutella Cake

This is the season for Kentish Cobnuts, a beautiful elongated kind of hazelnut, traditionally cultivated in Kent.  Freshly cracked from their shells, they are almost milky and have a delicious softness and bite.  Paired with this gently spicy cinnamon and Nutella Cake, they are quite special.   You can use hazelnuts, but don't use old ones from the store-cupboard as they smell rancid and affect the taste of the cake.

I found this recipe on-line, I think originally a BBC Good Food recipe, and it gave me a great opportunity to use up some Nutella at the same time!  The Nutella, despite being put into the cake 3/4 the way up, dived to the bottom, but it may have been because I was a bit generous with the spoonfuls....  Whatever... it was delicious.

Cinnamon Nutella Cake
Cinnamon Nutella Cake

8oz/225g self raising flour
6oz/175g  butter or spread at room temperature
6oz/175g  caster sugar
3 large fresh eggs
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
4tbsp milk
4 rounded tbsp Nutella or similar spread
2oz Kent Cobnuts or hazelnuts, chopped roughly

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.  Line an 8” cake tin with parchment and grease the sides.

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients except for the Nutella and nuts together and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Pour ¾ of the mixture into the tin, level it and add the spoons of Nutella.   Pour on the last of the mixture, swirl it with a skewer or knife, and add the chopped nuts.

Cook for 1 hour to 10 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, the cake should have come away from the edges slightly, and if you put a (heated) knife or skewer into the middle, it will come out clean.   If it looks too brown, cover with foil. 

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before tipping the cake out of the tin onto a wire rack, peeling off the paper and leaving it to cool.   

Friday, 18 October 2013

Brioche and Butter Pudding with White Chocolate and Apricots

Composer Edward Elgar had his Enigma Variations, I have my pudding variations!   This is a little tweak of the very popular Brioche and Butter Pudding, made especially for my white-chocolate loving husband...

The recipe is, as before, extremely simple, and white chocolate chunks and apricots are inserted into the pudding before cooking.   You could used tinned apricots, but not dried ones.  The picture below is of a small pudding, but I have done a 6 person size recipe below - that's the beauty of it, as it is infinitely flexible.

Brioche and Butter Pudding with White Chocolate and Apricots

Brioche and Butter Pudding with White Chocolate and Apricots

¾ a brioche loaf


white chocolate cut into big chunks

6 apricots (roughly!), halved
3 eggs

2oz/50g sugar

1 pint whole milk

Oven 180 deg C

Cut the brioche into thick slices and butter them.  Arrange in a buttered oven proof dish, slipping chunks of chocolate and apricots in between and around the slices. 

In a jug, beat up the eggs, sugar and milk, and pour it over the brioche.  If you have time, allow to soak for about 10 minutes or more.  Otherwise, simply bung it into the oven.   It takes 20 minutes or so to cook, and will puff up nicely. 

Serve with cream or yoghurt.    Serves 6. 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Chelsea Buns

Currently (ha ha) we are in the throes of the Great British Bake Off, where contestants have to produce some amazing cakes or pastries every week.  Recently featured were Chelsea Buns, one of my favourite childhood recipes.  I don't know what Mary and Paul would say about these ones, as I decided to put them to rise overnight, and they didn't like it, but they still tasted great!  They were also too far apart in the tin - they should nestle closer together.  Oh, well, it's all about experience...

Chelsea Buns

Chelsea Buns

5oz/140g mixed dried fruit (fruit with mixed peel)
5oz/140g sugar, ¼ pint/150ml water
½ lb/225g strong plain flour (bread flour)
½ oz/12g fresh yeast or 7.5ml ½ tsp dried yeast
4 floz/100ml milk, just warm
½ tsp salt
½ oz/13g butter
1 beaten egg
2oz/50g melted butter
2oz/50g soft brown sugar

In a mixing bowl, put 2oz (50g) of the flour, adding the yeast and
milk, beating until smooth.  Leave in a warm place until it is foamy – 10-20 mins. Grease a tin approx 8” square.

This part is optional, but makes for better fruit - Boil together the sugar and water for a few minutes, then add the mixed fruit and simmer for 5 minutes until the fruit is plump.  Drain off the fruit (if it is soggy, the buns will be soggy too).    Carry on boiling the sugar and water mix until it is thick and syrupy.  Set aside for later. 

Mix together the remaining flour and salt, rub in the fat.  Mix this plus the egg into the batter to make a soft dough.   Turn onto a floured worktop and knead it until smooth, approx 5 minutes.  Put back into the bowl, cover with a cloth, and leave to rise until doubled in size – about 1 – 1 ½ hrs.  After that, turn the dough out again, and knead it again before rolling it out to an oblong shape about 12” x 9”.  

Brush the dough with melted butter, covering it with the sugar and the fruit.  Roll it up from the long side, sealing the edge with water before cutting it into 9 chunks.  Put them into the tin and leave the dough to prove for about 30 minutes.   Bake at 190 deg C for about 25 minutes or so – watch them!
When you take them out, glaze the buns with the thick sugar syrup.   If you don’t have time to steep the fruit, glaze the buns with a brush dipped in honey.  For best results, do this twice, then leave them to cool…. if you can resist them for that long.   Dust with caster sugar before serving.  

Friday, 11 October 2013

Gipsy Tart

Gipsy Tart is a traditional pudding from Kent, and either totally beloved, or absolutely hated, by generations of sweet-toothed children...   Not coming from Kent, I was introduced to this sticky confection relatively recently.  Remarkably, I still have a full set of teeth...   The only secret to this tart is, like all great comedy, timing.  You have to whisk the milk and sugar for 15 minutes, otherwise it simply doesn't work.   Also, the milk beats up much better if it has been in the fridge for at least five hours.  I keep a tin in there permanently - you never know!  The quantity below is for at least 10 people.

Gipsy Tart
Gipsy Tart

10oz/275g plain flour
5oz/140g butter
pinch salt
1 egg, beaten, plus a little cold water

14oz/400g tin of evaporated milk
12oz/350g muscovado sugar

Preheat the oven to 200deg C.     Make the pastry in a 10” flan tin and bake blind. 

Whisk the evaporated milk and sugar together for 15 minutes.   Pour into the pastry case.  Bake for 10 minutes.   Serve cold, when it will have set.   Resist the temptation to have a second piece!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Baked White Nectarines with Redcurrant Sauce

The lovely Indian summer weather has brought out the last of this year's crop of nectarines, including the beautiful white flesh ones.   Simply baked, with butter (or dairy-free spread) and redcurrant jelly, this is a really quick and easy pudding, and the perfect goodbye to summer days....  If I were being pretentious, I'd describe the sauce as a redcurrant coulis, but I won't!

Baked Nectarines

Baked Nectarines with Redcurrant Sauce

fresh nectarines – 1.5 per person, approx
small quantity butter (or dairy free spread)
1 jar (approx) redcurrant jelly

Heat the oven to 180 deg C, cut up the nectarines, and put a small blob of butter in each.  Bake for 10 minutes, then add a teaspoon of redcurrant jelly before returning to the oven for another 5 minutes or so.

In a small pan, melt and simmer some of the redcurrant jelly, whisking to remove the lumps. 

Remove from the oven, arrange on a plate and pour over the redcurrant sauce.  Serve hot with ice cream. 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Plum Fool with Slow Roasted Plums

Home grown fresh plums are one of life's luxuries, and they don't last long!   This is a delicious way of using fresh plums - a creamy fool topped with slow roasted cinnamon plums.    October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I thought this pink pudding would be very suitable!  The slow roasted plums are delicious on their own, with Greek yoghurt or custard, too.   Plum fool can be made with fresh plums, or those bullets that inevitably end up lining the freezer!

Plum Fool with Slow Roasted Plums

Plum Fool

2lbs/800g fresh plums, halved, stones removed
(or you can pick them out later but risk losing a tooth!)
4oz/110g jam sugar to taste, approx
splash water and Framboise
1 pint in total double cream and Greek yoghurt  
(the yoghurt improves the texture and cuts the cream)

Slow Roasted Plums
6 plums

Simmer the plums in a little water, sugar and Framboise until they are soft.  Bash up with a fork or potato masher, so they are mostly puréed, but still have a bit of texture.   Allow to cool.  

Whip the double cream, add the Greek yoghurt and then the plums.  Taste and add more sugar if desired – it is easiest to add caster or icing sugar at this stage as it dissolves faster.   Divide into six glass dishes/wine glasses. 

To roast the plums, halve them and put them cut side up on a roasting dish, top with a little piece of butter and a dusting of cinnamon.  Heat the oven to 160 deg C and roast the plums until they are cooked and bubbling.  Dust with caster sugar while they are still hot, and allow to cool.

Assemble the pudding and decorate with a sprig of fresh mint. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Apple and Almond Cake

The amazing Mary Berry's Apple and Almond Cake.  In her intro, Mary says it works with any apples, even shrivelled ones (though I haven't tried those yet).  I made a couple for a local Farm Walk and Kentish Tea, where we were walking around the apple orchards before enjoying a full cream tea with lots of cake.   I also made a totally gluten and dairy-free version for a dear friend and her daughter who don't normally get to enjoy cakes!  It looked and tasted just as good as the original, and only they could tell it wasn't the full dairy version.  A useful cake indeed.  Like all Mary Berry's cakes, it works!

Apple and Almond Cake

Apple and Almond Cake

8oz/225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
8oz/225g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp almond essence
5oz/130g melted butter
12oz/350 apples, peeled, quartered and cored
1oz/25g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 160 deg C .  Grease an 8” cake tin, preferably one with a loose base, and put in a disc of baking parchment.  Put all the ingredients except for the apples and flaked almonds into a processor and beat for about a minute.  Pour half of the mixture into the tin, then chop the apples into rough pieces and put them on top.  Finally, add the rest of the mixture and cover with the flaked almonds.

Bake for approx 1 ½ hours until it is golden brown and starting to shrink from the sides of the tin (I find it doesn't usually take this long).  Dust with icing sugar before serving.   Serves 8, warm or cold.