Friday, 27 January 2012

Chocolate and Black Pepper Cake.

Chocolate and black pepper cake! I KNOW. Why have I not done this befoooooore. Chocolate and chilli: genius. Chocolate and sea salt: wondrous. Chocolate and black pepper? Of course, it's fabulous.

I even wish I'd have peppered it up more, I was playing it safe and only just putting in what the recipe said because to be honest, pepper and chocolate makes way less sense to me than chocolate and chilli. With its heat chilli has an almost flowery fragrance and sweetness, where as pepper has something deeply savoury about it.

But really I should have stopped fretting and kept grinding because the 'deeply savoury' goodness, with a hint of heat, makes a nice dense chocolate cake; lovely, but nothing to write home about, something to write home about.

Expect to see this combination popping up here again soon. Maybe truffles, oo or shortbread. OOor how about....I could go on forever. With Love and Cake.

Chocolate and Black Pepper Cake
Adapted from The Acorn House Cookbook by Arthur Potts Dawson.

A few notes:
  • Of course if you're not into the chocolate and....thing, you could leave out the pepper and you'd have a lovely grown up chocolate cake.
  • I served mine with mascarpone and cream, on different occasions I might add, but ice cream would be brill too, especially as the cake gets a few days old and is best served after being warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds.
Serves at least 8
You will need

a 23cm cake tin, greased, dusted with flour and chilled

180g butter
240g dark chocolate
6 eggs, separated
70g caster sugar
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
icing sugar for dusting

  • First it's the usual. Preheat the oven to 150 °c.
  • Now melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of just simmering water. It'll take longer than you thing, but be patient and just let it slowly get on with it, no poking or proding.
  • Now in a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and fluffy looking. 
  • Stir through the pepper and chocolate mix carefully and gently.
  • Now take a little taste, chef's perks, and check for pepperyness. Add more if you fancy,
  • In a new, spanking clean bowl with a spanking clean whisk, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and you can tip the bowl upside down without any disaster occuring.
  • Then gently fold a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, followed by the rest in 3 batches.
  • When everything is just combined, pour the mixture into your cake tin and pop into the oven, baking for 20-25 minutes. The cake should be puffed up with only the slightest hint of wobble.
  • Leave to cool for in the tin until it's cool enough to handle, then remove from the tin.
  • You can serve now or a bit later...with whatever you fancy, just enjoy.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Banana Breakfast Muffins.

Moooorniiiing. Mmmm homemade muffins. A nice crunch at the crust, the hintiesthint of warm squodge in the middle, and oh so simple that they can be knocked up for an impromptu breakfast treat before you've even put the kettle on. 

The thing is though, whenever I do make muffins at home, I end up just a teensyweensy bit disappointed. It's those MUHHHHmungous coffee shop muffins that do it, with their mountainous muffin tops; the bit that I pull off and save til last.

It's not so much the size I'm after; I've heard people say such enormity in a muffin is rather vulgar (ridiculous I know, more cake, more fun surely). It's more the overhanging mushroom shaped, over the trousers bit of flesh which is so synonymous with a muffin and sort of separates them from other more cakeycakes, that I'm after.

I do NOT know how Starbucks and Co do it, and I'm afraid it might be best to remain in ignorance. It's probably some chemical with a name that looks like someone's fallen asleep on their keyboard. So I fear I may just have to get over it, and console myself with these lovely little breakfast chaps. Delish, easy and the perfect way to use up the blackest of black bananas. Though if you do know the secret...please let on. With Love and Cake.

Banana Muffins
From Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess

A few notes:
  • The secret to a good bouncy muffin is speeeeed as soon as the wet and dry ingredients are combined. That's basically when the rising begins so you want it in the oven asap after that point.
  • Nigella's original recipe was meant to make 10 muffins, but in my never ending muffin top quest I filled my cases upupup so only got 6, you do as you fancy.
  • Muffin cases are not the same as cupcake or fairy cake cases; muffin cases should be around 5 cm deep whereas the others, although the same diameter are more like 4.
Makes 6 large large-ish or 10 smaller 
You will need

A 6-12 hole muffin tin, lined with muffin cases

30g butter
2 big tbsp runny honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 large, uber-ripe bananas, mashed

  • Preheat the oven to 190 °c.
  • Now pop the butter, honey and vanilla in a pan over a low heat and leave to melt together.
  • Meanwhile mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • When the butter is nice and melted, stir the bananas into the pan. 
  • Now it's speedy time. Quickly combine the contents of the pan with the dry ingredients.
  • Divide the (unappetising looking) mixture equally between the muffin cases and get them straight in the oven.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, after which they should be golden and proud looking.
  • Leave them to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then remove to cool completely. Or eat I'm afraid I did, well one anyway. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

'Perfect Night In' Smoked Cheddar and Rosemary Whirls.

"We'ello there Rachel" (oh I MISS Friends). Today I have for you a wonderously yumptious, wonderously easypeasy, party nibble. Now I know it's not exactly party season: been there, done that. But it IS the season of going home, your own or another's, after a long, perhaps tiring, perhaps dull, day and spending a cosy but oh so jolly night in with brilliant people. Well it is for me anyway.

These nights have strict requirements if they are to reach the desired heights of fun; fun that means although you weren't even remotely tipsy, by the next morning, the memories are a blur of chatter, gaaffoooors and that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from spending time with people that make you smile.

  • Food to nibble on while dinner is cooking; you're probably rAVenous from speeding about all day.
  • Beverages that are delicious and fancy feeling while being gloriously low-maintenance; current fav = fizz and cordial. English Cox's apple is a recent discovery. 
  • A deliiiicious tea, or dinner if you prefer, which requires no effort. Don't tell the food-police but take away or shop bought is ok, in fact it makes it feel even more like a treat.
  • Banterbanterlaughterlaughter.
  • And finally, a nice hot cup of tea and PJs.

These cheesy whirls satisfy requirement #1, in fact satisfy doesn't cover it in the slightest. They went down a STORM, and to be honest, I was a bit worried that they might be a bit divisive; they have a superstrong flavour. But no, perfect 'after work, dinner's cooking, lets have chats' food. And soso simple for go on, PJs on. With Love and Cake.

Smoked Cheddar and Rosemary Whirls.

A few notes:
  • This is so straight forward that it would be easy to chop and change the filling to what you fancy; other cheese, other herbs, you could even go sweet and do cinnamon and crunchy brown sugar.
  • To make things easier still, I used a shop bought pastry, mainly because I found a couple of packets reduced to 15p because it was their 'going off day'. Brill. Though do feel free to make your own and do feel smug about it.
Makes around 20
You will need

A large baking sheet, greased

250g shortcrust pastry, bought or with a little help from Delia, found here. I would double the recipe, freezing any leftovers, and replace the lard with butter
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
around 50g (a nice chunk) Applewood Smoked Cheddar
1 egg
  • Roll out the pastry to a neat rectangle; the size isn't really inportant but make sure it's around 1/2 cm thick.
  • Brush egg all over the pastry, then scatter over the rosemary and grate over the cheese.
  • Roll the pastry up like a swiss-roll from one of the long edges of the rectangle and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the roll, with a serrated knife, into swirls, about every 1.5cms...or as thick as you want them.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°c.
  • Bake the whirls for 20-25 minutes until golden and lovely looking...let the fun commence. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Chocolate Chestnut Tart.

Do you still have Christmas hanging around a bit? I do- mainly kitchen-wise. I have mooost of a Christmas cake, a WHOLE stollen, a Terry's chocolate orange (well, half), chocolate, chocolate, treats and chocolate. 

Now don't get me wrong, this is in nooooo way a bad thing. I love to feel stocked up, especially in treats, and I love Christmas so much that it can linger for as loooong as it likes. But this week I had a GIANT spring clean, well it started off giant, and with giant intentions, but I ran out of steam by the time I'd finished the by the time I got to the bathroom...well, anyhoo, it still feels kind of fresh and like it's a 'starting over' time of sorts. In Christmas leftover world, this translates to 'munch all the treats' time. *Happy Days*

First stop-chestnuts. Not strictly Christmas leftovers; I've had chestnut puree lurking at the back of the freezer for far too long, but they belong to Christmas and space in the freezer belongs to New Year's fresh start.

So Chocolate Chestnut Tart it is. Who knew leftovers could be quite so fancy. With Love and Cake.

Chocolate Chestnut Tart

A few notes:
  • Serve with brandy cream, or even scrummyer, brandy mascarpone.
  • If you have sweetened chestnut puree, you don't need to add the sugar to the mix. And if you want to up the chestnut factor even further you could add some chopped cooked chestnuts, or even some marron glace, maybe Granny left some lying around.
Makes 1 18cm tart
You will need

1 18cm tart or cake tin, well greased and floured

250g shortcrust pastry, I'm afraid I used shop bought but if you fancy making your own, pop on over to here and Delia will sort you out

For the filling
150g cream cheese
300g chestnut puree
2tbsp icing sugar
1 nice splosh brandy (optional)

For the topping
100g dark chocolate
1 tbsp double cream
1 level tbsp golden syrup
  • Preheat your oven to 180°c.
  • Roll out your pastry to a nice thin few mm and press tightly into your tin.
  • Trim off the excess and prick all over the base with a fork.
  • Now you need to blind bake, which means bake the pastry case without any filling, so put a big piece of baking paper over and inside the pastry case so you can fill with baking beads, or dried rice or beans; just something nice and heavy, without them touching the pastry.
  • Bake the pastry for 20-25 minutes, until starting to turn golden and firm. If any parts of the base have risen and puffed up poke them back down again by pricking with a fork.
  • While that cools you can get on with the filling. It's easy, just beat all the ingredients together and pour into the pastry case. 
  • Bake for 45 minutes, when the filling should look just set, with still a hint of wibblewobble left.
  • While the tart is cooling you just need to melt together the topping ingredients, either in a double boiler or slowlyslowly in a microwave.
  • Pour over the chestnut layer and leave for a little bit to set.
  • In fact, if you can resist it for a bit, this tart, well the filling at least, seems to get a little better after a few hours chilling in the fridge. Good luck.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Chilli Chocolate Shortbread; a Revelation.

So today, I have for you a revelation. I'm not God or anything but I feel I have come up with something which warrants some form of worship. Say hellloooooo to Chilli Chocolate Shortbread.

I mean, I'm not saying that such a thing has never been done before, most things have, particularly when it comes to baking, but I pay attention to food a lot, I read about food a lot, so I assume that if something exists, I'd have come across it...and I haven't come across this, not ever. Well, I hadn't before I Googled it to research this recipe.

I therefore come to the 'divine revelation' conclusion, considering how bloomin' lovely it is. It's either that or the fact that I am generally driven by greed towards chocolate, towards shortbread and towards anything vaguely sweet.

If it is the latter though, I'd prefer it if you play it down for now, and let me bask in my glorious 'discovery' for just a little longer. Thanks. With Love and Cake.

Chilli Chocolate Shortbread
Adapted from Avoca Tea Time

A few notes:
  • It might be best to have a tiny taste of your chilli before you use it, either fresh or dried, so you can tweak the amount, using more if it's mild or less if it's 'head-pop-off' strong.
  • These perhaps aren't the daintiest looking biscuits, a pretty shape cutter helps, use whatever you fancy. For extra prettyness you could also drizzle over a thin stream of melted chocolate....ooooh melted 'chilli chocolate' perhaps. 
  • These are a lovely prezzie tied up nicely in a box or bag, I gave mine as a ' it was your birthday and I haven't given you your proper prez yet so have these in the meantime' gift.
  • If you don't have a food processor, it might be easiest to combine all the dry ingredients and  rub the butter into this mixture.
Makes a good biscuit tin-full
You will need

a lined baking tray
cookie cutters of any shape, around 5-10cm diameter

225g butter, cold from the fridge, cubed
280g plain flour
30g corn flour
110g icing sugar
25g cocoa powder
1 small fresh chilli, finely chopped, or 3/4 tsp dried chilli flakes

  • This is a simple one really, just put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until just combined.
  • Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 110 °c and prepare a clean surface, dusted with icing sugar and/or cocoa, to roll out your mixture onto.
  • I found it easier to deal with the dough in 2 halves, but either way, roll out to a thickness of around 1cm.
  • Cut out your shapes and transfer to the baking sheet. 
  • Bake for 1.5 hours and then leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes or so, then cool completely on a wire wrack.
  • Worship.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

'Reason to Get Out of Bed' Waffles.

Oh hello, how are you getting on with the whole 'waking up in January' thing? I've got a tad better since I last updated you, I fiiinally managed to drag my lazy beeehind out for a run. High five. Still need some strong incentive though, so I thought I'd give us a hand and add something delicious to the 'reasons to get out of bed' list; still ever so slightly weighted against by the 'reasons to stay tucked up and cosy' list.

We have Jamie Oliver; my imaginary bestie friend, to thank for this one. As soon as I saw him make these waffles and Dunk. Them. In Hot. Chocolate. *swoon* on his Christmas show (watch it if you haven't already, it's brrrilliantly bonkers, I love him, I love him), I text Mum to say Dad could keep his scrambled eggs and salmon, I had Christmas day breakfast sorted.

Jamie's recipe is for one great big waffle, made in a griddle pan, which is what I did on Christmas day. But home alone in my humble 'sans griddle pan' abode, I twiddled with it so I could make a little one in my mini Le Creuset. And really, it was JUST as spongely good, if not a smidgen better, and soooo much easier to handle.

The ridges of the griddle pan weren't deep enough to create the syrup trapping gorges of traditional waffles anyway and this way you don't have to 'rock the rustic look', which is how Jamie consoled my rather homemade and scrappy looking large one which was kind of a nightmare to flip messy edges here. You can just stand back and feel puffed up and neatly proud, just like your waffle, especially if you've managed a run beforehand. With Love and Cake.

Tweaked from Jamie Magazine

A few notes:
  • I served mine with my (read Nigella's) trusty blueberry syrup; simmer a few frozen blueberries in a splosh of maple syrup for a minute or two. Oh yes, that, and shed loads of butter.
  • Like pancakes, the possibilities of tweaks and twiddles are endless- hows about adding chocolate chips to the batter, or going savoury and serving with bacon and eggs??
Makes enough for 3 or 4 breakfasts
(edited 16/03/12: recipe halved)
You will need

a little heavy bottomed frying pan

1 egg
150ml milk
pinch of salt
110g self raising flour
1 1/4 tbsp baking powder
50g butter, melted

  • First things first lets whisk the eggs and milk together in a large bowl.
  • Then add the salt, flour and baking powder and beat to combine.
  • Finally beat in the cooled melted butter until just about combined and then STOP stirring and fiddling. The mix needs to be left alone now for at least 30 minutes to swell and puff up.
  • When the resting time is almost over, heat your pan so it is very hot, and swirl a knob of butter around in it so it's greased all over.
  • Pour in the batter, smooth over the top and leave alone for a good 5 minutes.
  • Now the fiddly part, the flipping. So the easiest way I find to do this is to slide a palate knife around the edges of the half cooked waffle so you know it's all loosened from the pan. Then sliiiiiide the waffle onto a plate so the cooked side remains on the bottom. Then hover the pan upside down over the waffle, hold the plate with an oven gloved hand and flip, so the uncooked side is on the bottom in the pan. Done.
  • Stick the pan back on the heat and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Check both sides are golden brown and the centre of the waffle feels firm to the touch, if not give it a few more minutes on each side, flipping should be much easier now.
  • Now you're ready to cut into wedges and take on the day, however dreary it may be.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Chocolate Malty Biscuits; A Food Hug.

Hiiii Intrepid it's that time of year again, well it is for those of us not swanning around across the other side of the world. It's the time when all the Christmas festivities have slowly dwindled away; the decs are tucked-up away for another year and the big pile of annual treats is quickly diminishing. 

It's the time when doing all the things that seemed totally normal and routine before it all kicked off now feel just that bit more difficult. This week, I've set my alarm early so I could run 3 times, and 3 times I have opened my eyes to such a lack of light peeking through the blinds that I've turned over and decided that it wasn't such a good idea. To be fair though, one of those days involved 102mph winds...I'll let myself off that one.

So I thought we could all do with a food hug; a concept I inadvertently invented the other day when I miss-spelled a text to a friend...she wasn't in the slightest bit confused though; it was me after all, and I like food a lot, and hugs. It made perfect sense.

I guess we all have our own versions of food hugs: mac and cheese, Heinz tomato soup, beans on toast, but a gooey, chocolatey, maltyey biscuit seems like a fairly universally pleasing place to start. Hope you're not on a New Years diet, because you need these, or you will when you're back in the real world, with a cup of tea and chats. So call any time and I'll join you. With Love and Cake.

Chocolate Malt Biscuits
Adapted from Nigella Christmas

A few notes:
  • These would look extra lovely drizzled with some melted chocolate or if you wanted to be super fancy how about squishing some crushed Matlesers on top of the uncooked biscuits.
  • When I say the biscuits should look underdone when you take them out of the oven, I mean really underdone- like not even remotely ready. Just trust me though, follow the steps and they'll come good and be wonderfully gooey in the middle.
  • I think these are really the sort of bikkies that need eating fresh and warm. They will keep for longer of course but the most yums will be had then.
Makes around 24
You will need

a large baking sheet, lined

250g soft butter
150g caster sugar
10g cocoa powder
30g Ovaltine
300g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder

  • Preheat the oven to 170 °c.
  • cream the butter and sugar together with an electric hand whisk until light and whipped.
  • Now beat in the rest of the ingredients and you should have a firm but fairly sticky dough.
  • No need to get out the rolling pin or anything, just tear off blobs, about the size of a walnut, and roll into a ball in your hands.
  • Press each ball onto the baking sheet so it's flattened a little, leaving a good gap for expansion between each one.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, they will look like they need longer but just go with it.
  • Leave to cool on the hot baking sheet for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Put the kettle on, give me a ring and lets have a hug.