Thursday, 29 October 2015

Brown Velvet Muffins

Anybody can make a red velvet cake... at least, that's what I thought, until my red colouring let me down, so I decided they were spooky brown ones instead, just perfect for Halloween!   The problem is that the easily available red colouring has changed its formula, so the mixture doesn't retain its glorious redness when baked.  Instead, you get a brown colour.  It tastes just as good, but only a colour blind ghoul would be fooled!   (the best colour is from paste which you can get on t'internet)

So, especially for colour blind ghouls everywhere.... here are some Brown Velvet Muffins!   These ones were tested on my non-ghoulish choir, and went down very nicely thank you, in the hungry gap between rehearsal and concert.   The standard cake recipe uses a lot of ingredients, so I halved it for these muffins.  Even then, there was a lot of icing on each muffin, but only one person complained...
(it's always the tenors!)
Brown Velvet Muffins
(Brown) or Red Velvet Muffins

11oz/300g caster sugar
4oz/120g softened butter
3 eggs
1 tbsp serious red food colouring (or brown/black!)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder
6.5oz/190g plain flour
1 pinch salt
4floz/125ml buttermilk
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 dessertspoon vinegar

1x 7oz/200g packs cream cheese
6oz/1750g white chocolate, melted
4oz/120g softened butter
small quantity dark chocolate for dusting

Preheat the oven to 170 deg C and line a large 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases. 

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.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and bake for approx 20 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.   Pour the mixture into a piping bag with a 1/2 inch pipe and ice each muffin lavishly.  Grate some dark chocolate over the top.  Chill to set the icing.   

Friday, 16 October 2015

Brandy and Ginger Sponge Cake

The advent of cold weather brings out the warming instinct, the hibernating instinct and the drive for spicy comfort food.   Fear not, help is at hand with this delicious brandy and ginger sponge.   A little warmth of alcohol, the smoothness of the whipped cream and the kick of ginger pieces in syrup - it's guaranteed to beat any form of autumn sadness!    I made this for my choir's "Tea and Cake" rehearsal, so it was savaged before I got a chance to photograph the whole thing - this is what was left after the gannets had gone...

This would work with a good gluten-free flour blend.

Brandy and Ginger Sponge

Brandy and Ginger Sponge Cake

3 large fresh eggs
6oz/170g  sieved self raising flour or sponge flour
6oz/170g  caster sugar
6oz/170g buttery spread
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger

½ pint double cream, whipped, combined with:
1 tbsp brandy
4 pieces (or more) of stem ginger plus 1 dsp syrup

icing or caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line two 8” loose bottom sandwich tins with parchment (or spray with a “cake release” agent), and grease the sides.

In a food processor or Kenwood, blend the cake ingredients together and then beat until pale and fluffy.   Divide between the tins and cook for 15-25 minutes (depending on the heat of your oven) until risen and golden brown.  To test, they 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.

Tip the cakes out of the tins onto a wire rack and leave to cool.  When cool, whip the cream with the brandy until it forms soft peaks. Chop the stem ginger into chunks (or elegant pieces if you feel so inclined), and mix the ginger and syrup into the whipped cream.   Spread this thickly over one of the cakes, then sandwich the cakes together and dredge the top with icing or caster sugar. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Carrot, Walnut and Cardamom Loaf Cake

So what's in a name?  I put together this loaf cake from a range of ingredients, partly with an eye to using up a lone banana but also because I was inspired by a recent trip to Turkey.  We stayed in the most adorable boutique hotel in Ephesus, where there was fruit in glowing heaps available all day, and, at tea time, little cakes would appear (and disappear!).  The most delicious banana, walnut and carrot cake made an appearance, so I've attempted to recreate the cake as my thanks and homage to the staff of the Cella Hotel, Ephesus, who made us feel so welcome.

Banana and Walnut Loaf Cake
Carrot, Walnut and Cardamom Loaf Cake

2oz finely chopped walnuts
2oz carrot, grated or blitzed with the walnuts
1 tsp cardamom pods (or ½ tsp seeds)
3oz/75g butter at room temperature
6oz/150g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 ripe banana, mashed
6oz/150g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
Zest of a lemon

Preheat the oven to 170 deg C and line a large loaf tin with baking parchment. 

If you have a small magimix/mini chopper, cut the carrots into rings and blitz with the walnuts so you have small pieces but don’t go so far that they become dust!  Break the cardamom seeds out of their pods (discard the pods) and grind the little seeds with a pestle and mortar. 

Beat together the sugar and butter, then add the eggs, a little at a time, plus a tablespoon of flour every time to stop it from curdling.  Add the banana.   Fold in the walnut and carrot mix, the cardamom and lemon zest, then the flour and baking powder. 

Tip it all into the baking tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about ¾ hour or longer – until a heated knife or skewer comes out clean.  You will probably need to put a little hat of foil on the top to stop it from burning. 

Cool slightly in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack.  

Monday, 5 October 2015

Rhubarb and Rose Baked Cheesecake

This is a take on a recipe I found in a Waitrose booklet, slightly tweaked as the original wanted you to buy shortbread for the base (why?).  Also, the original recipe sieved the rhubarb to purée it, but I decided that life was too short....

 It was the first time I have tried to make a baked cheesecake, and I was pleased with the result, although it would look better if I had made it with beautiful pink spring rhubarb instead of the greener garden rhubarb!   Tested on the Army, it was eaten to the last crumb...   The recipe calls for the cheesecake to be left in the oven for some time with the oven turned off, so the actual cooking time is quite long as a result.   My oven runs hot, so I cooked it at 180 deg C instead of the 200 deg suggested, as I was concerned that it would burn on the top.  

If you used gluten free digestive biscuits, the recipe then becomes suitable for coeliacs.

Rhubarb and Rose Baked Cheesecake
Rhubarb and Rosewater Baked Cheesecake

8oz/225g crushed digestive biscuits (or Hobnobs)
4oz/120g butter, melted

1lb/450g rhubarb cut into 1-1½”/3cm lengths
5oz/125g jam sugar
½ tsp rose water (Nielsen-Massey is the best of the supermarket ones)

1 ½ lbs/700g soft cheese (I used a mixture of mascarpone and cream/soft cheese – all high fat content)
1oz/25g cornflour
4oz/120g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
4floz/100ml double cream
½ tsp vanilla essence (and I added another ½ tsp rose water)
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange

Line the base of a 9” spring clip tin with baking parchment.   Mix the crushed biscuits and melted butter, press into the tin and chill until set. 

Heat the oven to 200º C.   Put the rhubarb, jam sugar and 2tbsp cold water into a shallow pan/frying pan and cook it gently until it is soft.  If you try not to stir it, you should keep the individual pieces of rhubarb.   The poaching liquid should become quite syrupy – if it gets too dry, add a little more water, but you are aiming for a thick texture.    Sprinkle ½ tsp rose water over it and allow it to cool.  When cool, remove half of it (the less attractive pieces!) and beat them up to form a rough purée. 

Beat together the cheese, cornflour and sugar until the cheese has broken down in texture.  Then add the eggs and cream and stir in the lemon and orange zest.  Beat until the mixture is smooth, with no residual lumps of cheese.  Pour half of the mix onto the biscuit base, then add big spoonfuls of the rhubarb purée.  Finally, spread the remaining cheesecake mixture over the top, before giving it a brief stir to marble the cheesecake with the rhubarb.  

Bake at 200 deg C for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 120 deg C and cook for 55 minutes.  Turn the oven off, leave the cheesecake for 1 hour, then open the door slightly and leave it for another hour. 

Remove from the oven and cool before chilling, preferably overnight.    To serve, place the remaining rhubarb on the top and pour over the last of the cooking liquid.