Sunday, 31 August 2014

Blueberry sponge cake with cream cheese frosting




 

It’s all very well being selfless and baking to please others but sometimes you just need to be selfish and bake something to please yourself!  This week I had a hankering for blueberries baked in a simple sponge with cream cheese frosting.  Et voila!  I think blueberries are my favourite fruit to bake in a sponge – I love the way they break down, bleeding their juice into the sponge and also the magnificent pop of colour you get when cutting a slice.  It’s particularly effective when the outside of the cake is so plain and pale.




The cream cheese frosting is my favourite as it’s so smooth and creamy.  It’s great to team with a crumbly sponge because you can take some on the fork and use it to pick up all the crumbs.  This is one of my tests as to whether someone is a true cake lover or not.  (It may also double as a test for greedy guts! If so, I am guilty!)  A true cake lover will always gather their crumbs and eat them – after all, they are just smaller versions of the slice of cake.  An occasional cake eater will eat the slice and leave all the debris on the plate – it’s a total giveaway that this is not my kind of person!




I think this cake looks really good and could easily take pride of place on the afternoon tea table; don’t however assume that means it is difficult or time consuming to make – it is neither.  The sponge recipe and method is as basic as possible, as is the frosting.  It’s an example of great flavours and ingredients producing something simple but delightful.




Foolishly, I made double the amount of frosting.  I cannot explain what possessed me other than a greedy stupidity that the amounts set out in the recipe below didn’t look enough.  Hence, I was left with a large amount of cream cheese frosting.  We always joke that cream cheese frosting is so lovely we could just eat it by the spoonful so, eyeing the strawberries and left over blueberries I had sitting in a colander I threw together an impromptu dessert.  Serve it with some crisp biscuits if you want to look fancy.  Bonus dessert....the best kind!





Ingredients

For the sponge:
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
150g blueberries

For the frosting (this is enough to cover the top and sides of the cake):
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g cream cheese, at room temperature – I used Philadelphia

To decorate: 50g blueberries


Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Start by making the sponge: beat together the butter and sugar until pale and whippy.  Don’t be tempted to skimp on this stage – it needs a lot of beating.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding some of the flour if it looks like it’s curdling.  (NB. If you have beaten the butter and sugar for long enough it will not curdle – so if your mix does make sure you beat for longer next time)

Beat in the vanilla.

Stir in the flour.

Gently stir in the blueberries taking care not to burst them.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now make the frosting: start by beating the butter until it is pale and whippy.

Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth and well combined.

Add the cream cheese and beat until the frosting is smooth, thick and fluffy looking.  I like to take a small amount, place it on my tongue and then press it up against the roof of my mouth – if I cannot feel any sugar crystals and the texture feels smooth and uniform i.e. no blobs of cheese in there, then I know it’s ready.  If the beating has made the frosting too soft to comfortably spread refrigerate for 20 minutes or so.

Spread the frosting over the top and sides of the sponge cake.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.

Eat.


Monday, 25 August 2014

Almond and cherry slices




Mr CC has been muttering of late that I don’t make his favourite sort of cakes.  The poor thing is practically malnourished due to my neglect! When I asked him what were his favourite sort of cakes he replied: anything that Mr Kipling makes.  Now don’t get me wrong; I am not (ok, I try not to be) a cake snob and will happily enjoy a Mr Kipling cake if there’s one on offer…but the thought of choosing one over a nice home baked treat is something I struggle with; if Mr CC heard my dramatic in-take of breath at his comment he didn’t let on. 


Mr CC mentioned, in particular, almond slices so I pondered how to take the essence of a Mr Kipling almond slice and pimp it up a bit.  I decided on adding a pastry base, chopped cherries and some thick white icing.  It then dawned on me that what I had actually created was the lovechild of a Mr Kipling almond slice and
bakewell tart…and it tasted as good as you’d expect!


If you’re pushed for time you can forget the pastry and simply bake the filling; the result will be a very pleasing almond sponge.  The cherries work so well with almond.  Whilst I still can’t manage half a glace cherry on top of a cake, chopped into small pieces I rather like the fruity –almost jammy - chewy little pop they bring to proceedings.  The cake will keep for days - anything with almonds seems to get better day after day as the nut oil is released.

This basic recipe has some alternative options available – omit the cherries and replace with fresh fruit such as raspberries or blueberries; you could also add a layer of jam between pastry and filling.


Ingredients
For the pastry:
175g plain flour
85g unsalted butter – straight from the fridge
30g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water

For the filling:
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
150g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
50g ground almonds
100g glace cherries, chopped quite small
1 tablespoon milk
A couple of handfuls of flaked almonds

For the icing:
100g icing sugar
Enough warm water to make a thick, glossy icing - add it a teaspoon at a time

Method
Start by making the pastry: place the flour and butter in the food processor and blitz until you have fine crumbs.

Add the sugar and blitz briefly.

While the machine is still running pour in the egg yolk and water.

Stop the processor when small clumps of pastry start to form.

Tip the clumps out onto a sheet of clingfilm and, using your hands, bring together into a ball of pastry.

If you wish to make the pastry by hand rub the butter into the flour until you have crumbs.  Stir in the sugar, egg and water and, bring together to a ball of dough.

Roll the pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm – this saves having to add any extra flour and changing the make up of the pastry.

Line a 30cm x 20cm traybake tin with the pastry.  I like to use a disposable foil traybake tin as I find it easier to get the cooked traybake out! 

Use any spare pastry to patch the tin – it’s good natured and will patch easily.

Prick the base of the pastry with a fork.

Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour. (Note that the pastry is rested after rolling – not before).

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

Cover the chilled pastry with non-stick foil or baking paper and weigh down with baking beans.

Bake for 10 minutes before removing the paper and beans and cooking for a further 10 minutes or until golden.

Put to one side to cool while you make the filling.

Now make the filling: beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and whippy.

Beat in the eggs.

Stir in the flour and baking powder.

Fold in the ground almonds and chopped cherries.

Stir in the milk to slacken the mixture.

Spoon into the pastry case and flatten well to ensure there are no air pockets.

Level the surface and scatter over the flaked almonds.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the almond sponge comes out clean.

Leave to cool, in the tin, on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool make the icing: add warm water, a teaspoon at a time, to the icing sugar and mix until you have a thick, white, glossy icing.

Use a spoon to drizzle over the almond sponge.

Leave to set.

Cut into generous finger-shaped slices – I got 18 fingers.

Eat on its own with a big cup of tea.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.

Eat.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Anzac biscuits



This is a recipe that has been on my ‘to bake’ list for far too long.  Before baking them I had never eaten an Anzac biscuit but I knew I would love them as they contain three of my all-time favourite ingredients: oats, coconut and golden syrup.




Anzac biscuits originated in war-time and were, so the story goes, a popular biscuit sent by Australian and New Zealander wives to their soldier husbands serving overseas.  The biscuits are egg-free (like so many war-time recipes), keep well and are robust enough to withstand transportation.  There are stories on-line that the military-issued Anzac biscuits were quite different to these lovely home-baked treats; made from hard tack – a long life bread substitute made from flour, water and salt – the soldiers referred to them as ‘dog biscuits’, ‘tooth dullers’, ‘sheet iron’, ‘molar breakers’ and I suspect several other names that I wouldn’t be able to include on my nice, family friendly blog!




I made two batches of biscuits; the classic version and a chocolate chip version.  The latter is identical to the former but for the addition of some chocolate chips, which melted due to the hot butter.  Both were lovely!  The biscuits were crisp and chewy with a lovely buttery taste.  These aren’t tiny, thin little biscuits that you eat without knowing; these are substantial hearty biscuits – perfect with a big mug of tea.





This recipe came from the BBC Good Food site (I love that site!); some of the commenters said the mix was too dry and they had to add milk.  To combat this, in my chocolate batch, I added 2 tablespoons of golden syrup which is why they spread much more than my plain batch (which used 1 tablespoon).  You don’t need any extra liquid and I think I twigged why people may have had a problem.  The key to shaping these biscuits is to do it while the butter is still warm; as soon as it starts to cool the mix becomes crumbly.  Work quickly and it’s fine.




Ingredients

100g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
85g porridge oats
85g desiccated coconut
100g plain flour
100g caster sugar

Optional: 100g milk chocolate chips


Method


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line two baking sheets with baking paper or non-stick foil.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan making sure it doesn’t burn.

Remove from the heat and mix in the golden syrup.

In a bowl (use a larger size than you’d think based on the quantities as it will froth up!) mix together the bicarbonate of soda and boiling water.

Add the bicarb liquid into the butter syrup mix and stir together.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, coconut, flour and sugar.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the butter mixture.

Stir to incorporate all the ingredients.

If using, stir in the chocolate chips.

If the mixture is very dry and won’t hold together when you squeeze it, add the milk – only use if necessary.

Take scant tablespoons of the mixture, roll into balls, flatten and place onto the baking sheet – leave them 3-4cm room to expand on baking.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden.  I like to rotate the baking sheets halfway through cooking time to ensure a nice even bake.

When I checked on them after 8 minutes they had puffed up a bit so I poked them to let the air out.  Brutal, but it works!

They will be soft straight from the oven so leave them for 10 minutes to firm up before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

The biscuits will store in an airtight tin for several days…given the chance!

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Eat.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Pine nut and honey tart




A lot of my baking recently has been selected based on the limited time I had available and how low faff the recipe was.  Rather gloriously, this weekend I was able to accommodate a bit of faff, which was fortuitous as I had a hankering for pastry.  I’ve adapted this recipe from the BBC Good Foodwebsite and used dates and sultanas instead of glace fruit.  I still find glace fruit hard to love and had a box of dates a friend had bought me back from Oman (thanks, Jasmin!) so the stars seemed in alignment to make this happy substitution.



Normally, when a recipe gives the option of soaking fruit in either rum or orange juice I will ALWAYS pick rum.  But I fancied a change this time so surprised myself by opting for orange juice.  It did a nice job of plumping up the fruit and added a fruitiness to proceedings.



The filling is reasonably runny pre-baking so, although you mix the fruit into it do not be disheartened when you cut into the tart and see the fruit has settled at the bottom.  This is what’s meant to happen.




Fruit aside, the tart filling is virtually identical to a bakewell tart.  If you’re fed up with jam or berries in your bakewell this recipe provides a nice variation.  The pine nut and honey topping also makes a tasty change.  I don’t use pine nuts very often in my baking but they work very well and take on a lovely toasted flavour.




The flavours in this tart are gentle and harmonious.  There are many different influences in this recipe and I struggled to think how to describe it.  If you like bakewell tarts, baklava, Eccles cakes, marzipan and sticky toffee pudding you will love it!





Ingredients

For the pastry:
175g plain flour
85g unsalted butter – cold
30g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon water

For the filling:
100g raisins
40g sultanas
100g dates – chopped so they are a similar size to the raisins and sultanas
3 tablespoons or either rum or orange juice
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g golden caster sugar
50g plain flour
175g ground almonds
5 eggs
85g pine nuts
2 tablespoons clear honey
 To serve: thick cream


Method

Start by making the pastry: place the flour and butter in the food processor and blitz until you have fine crumbs. 

Add the sugar and blitz briefly.

While the machine is still running tip in the egg yolk and the water.

Stop the processor when clumps are starting to form.

Tip the clumps out onto a sheet of clingfilm and, using your hands, bring them together to form a ball of pastry.  Handle only enough to achieve this – you don’t want to overhandle the pastry and make it tough.

If you wish to make the pastry by hand rub the butter into the flour until you have breadcrumbs.  Stir in the sugar, egg and water and, using your hands, bring together to a ball of dough.

Roll the pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm so it is large enough to line a 23cm round loose bottomed tart tin.  Don’t expect lots of spare pastry overhanging the tin – this recipe makes just enough!

Prick the base of the pastry with a fork.

Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour.

While the pastry is chilling, start the filling: place the raisins, sultanas and dates in a bowl and add the orange juice or rum. 

Stir so all the fruit is covered with liquid and leave to soak, stirring occasionally if you happen to pass by.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

Cover the chilled pastry with baking paper or non-stick foil and weigh down with baking beans.

Bake for 10 minutes, before removing the paper and beans and baking for a further 5 minutes or until the pastry is just starting to turn golden.

Remove from the oven and put to one side while you make the filling.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Now make the tart filling: beat together the butter, sugar, flour, almonds and eggs.

Stir in the soaked fruit, including any liquid left in the bowl.

Spoon into the pastry case and level the surface.  It will look full but don't worry - it doesn't rise much on baking.

Scatter the pine nuts over the top.

Drizzle over the honey.

Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the filling comes out clean.

If your tart browns too quickly (I’d check after 40 minutes) cover it loosely with foil and continue baking.

Leave to cool, in the tin, on a wire rack and de-tin for serving.

Serve at room temperature with thick cream.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Eat.