After a very exciting day filming Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard yesterday, I came back to earth with a bit of a bump this morning. The school run was freezing, the washing mountain piled high and my baby boy not well at all. I still have a big smile on my face though and am so pleased that I went for it and enjoyed the experience. I feel even more inspired about my baking, which is amazing really given how much I loved it before. So today, to help with the reality blues I decided that a bit of baking was in order .
On Australia Day last week one of my Australian friends posted a picture of her lamingtons on Twitter and ever since I have been thinking about them. I have made them quite a few times before, but not for a while. If I had a Pinterest account I might have posted pictures of lamingtons on there, but I don’t (yet) so I made a mental note instead.
Lamingtons are essentially a plain sponge cut into squares, covered in chocolate and sprinkled with desiccated coconut. It’s not just any old sponge though, it is a sponge that is mostly eggs and flour, with a little bit of sugar and butter. The result is a sturdier sponge, (needed for the cutting into neat squares and then dunking in chocolate) that tastes amazing. A bit like a sponge/biscuit combo. The only thing that I can think of that compares is those little sponge fingers you can buy to make the base of your trifle with, except this sponge is not as crunchy as those by a long way.
There is no getting away from the fact that decorating lamingtons is a messy affair. Once dunked they need somewhere to ‘drip dry’ and the best place is on a cooling rack. My eldest daughter helped me with ours this evening. We had a lot of fun. It’s a great interpretation of messy play. As long as you don’t mind the licking of fingers, which will happen, my advice is to get stuck in and enjoy.
I should also mention that I have a special friend who moved to Australia last April for 3 years. I’m so proud of her for getting stuck into the Australian lifestyle and coping amazingly well with the change. So these cakes and this post is especially for Emily. I hope she makes some and can enjoy them too.
The recipe I use for reference is from Tanya Ramsay’s cookbook, Real Family Food’ (pg 224). I have made a few alterations for example, less chocolate icing because I had a fair bit left over when I made it to Tanya’s recipe, but that’s just my opinion. For tea time treat life saver, try making double the amount of sponge and freezing the extra squares until needed and icing them once defrosted.
What you will need
- 3 eggs
- 75g caster sugar
- 125g self raising flour
- 25g cornflour
- 3 tbsp hot water
- 25g unsalted butter, melted
For the chocolate icing
- 250g icing sugar
- 40g cocoa
- 7g unsalted butter, melted
- 110ml milk
- 25g desiccated coconut for sprinkling on top
Makes 16 squares
- Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
- Lightly grease a medium rectangle shaped tin (approx 18cm x 23cm) and line with greaseproof paper
- Mix the eggs together in a large bowl until thick and creamy and then add the sugar and mix until dissolved
- Sieve in the flour and cornflour, then add the water and butter and mix with until smooth
- Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 30 mins. Place on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Trim off any golden edges and then cut into medium sized squares. Though you might want to cut into smaller squares if you are making this mostly for kiddie consumption, or even use a cookie cutter for fun shapes, (although there will be some excess sponge with this option)
- For the chocolate icing sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl, add the milk, water and butter and stir together until smooth. Then, put the bowl over a pan of hot water and stir again until silky and glossy. Add a dash more milk if you think it is looking a bit thick or stiff.
- Use a fork to hold the sponge squares and dunk into the chocolate icing until completely covered. Pull out and let it drip for a few seconds over the bowl and then place on a cooling rack and sprinkle with the coconut. Leave to set and then tuck in. These are best eaten on the day you make them but can be kept for up to 3 days in an airtight container. As the letter for the first ever AlphaBake blog challenge is ‘L’ it would be rude not to enter this blog post. The Alpha Bake challenge is hosted this month by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker blog. Ros shares the hosting of this challenge with Caroline from Caroline Bakes blog. Looking forward to seeing all the other entries.
Only a quick post for you this week folks. For those of you that don’t know I and heading down to London on Monday to take part in Channel 4’s programme, ‘Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard‘. Filming is going to take place in Eric’s cake shop, Cake Boy and I will be competing with two other bakers in a mini bake off to win a masterclass with Eric afterwards. The theme is cheesecake, so as you can imagine I have cheesecake coming out of my ears at the moment with all of the practicing I have been doing. I have finally decided on what sort of cheesecake I am going to bake and am now concentrating on the decoration. I’m very excited and nervous all rolled into one!
I will be blogging the chosen cheesecake recipe in a few weeks, but today the recipe is for a fig, shallot and blue cheese tart. I made this tart a week ago as we were hosting a family party at my house and although I was not catering completely (everyone was bringing something) I was keen to try out something new. The other thing to say is that I LOVE figs, LOVE blue cheese and LOVE sweetly cooked onion so I was confident that this would get the big thumbs up from me. These flavours just go so well together. Sweet fig and shallot, against the salty blue cheese brought together with cream and eggs. Superb! But before I give you the recipe I wanted to list why I think savoury tarts are so special and definitely worth making from time to time.
- They are a great winter supper cooked with a jacket potato and your choice of veg
- Fantastic summer lunch served with salad and garlic bread
- Versatile – eaten all year round
- You can make double and freeze one (very handy mid week)
- Great party food (mine did not last 2 mins)
- Perfect for experimentation depending on what is in season and what your preferences are
- Easy to make, especially if you use shop brought pastry which is perfectly acceptable and totally allowed
Now that you are all convinced that savoury tarts are a good thing to make, have a go at this. You wont be disappointed.
This recipe was inspired from one I found on the BBC Good Food website, but I have made a few subtle but noticeable changes.
What you will need:
175g plain flour
75g wholemeal flour
150g unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp salt
400g shallots, peeled and finely chopped
few springs of fresh thyme
dash of olive and a small knob of butter
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200ml crème fraiche
200ml double cream
140g blue cheese (your choice)
3-4 fresh figs, cut in half
A 20-23cm tart tin, greased
How to make:
I’m going to explain how I make my pastry in the food processor. You can of course make it by hand, (or buy it) but this is so easy. In fact, I would argue that it is much less effort than getting out the house and going to the shop…or maybe that is just me with 3 kids in tow.
1. Put the flour, salt and butter into the food processor and mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix until a soft smooth dough is formed. Wrap in cling film and put into the fridge for at least half an hour. This pastry can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen so a good one to make in advance.
2. Put the butter and olive oil in the saucepan, then add the shallots and thyme and start cooking on a low heat. After about 5 mins add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a further 10 mins stirring regularly until soft
3. Preheat you oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface, transfer to the tart tin, gently press the sides of the pastry into the tin, (to prevent it folding over in the oven) prick the base with a fork and blind bake with baking balls on top of greaseproof paper for 15 mins
4. Mix the eggs and cream in a large bowl, season and add the blue cheese. Once cooled add your shallot mixture and stir together.
5. Once pastry is blind baked, take out of the oven and turn oven down to 170c/325f/gas 3. Remove baking balls and greaseproof paper, then pour in your filling. Place your cut figs, inside up around the tart. Cook in the oven for about 50 mins – 1 hour until it as started to brown. It should still have a bit of a wobble when you take it out. It will continue to set as it cools.
PS: I also did a review of some Valentines Chocs this week. Worth a read if you fancy putting some chocolates on your wish list for 14th Feb.
I’m an old romantic at heart. My husband and I literally met by bumping into each other on the street. It was fate that he got off the bus just as I was walking past with my pal, and for our eyes to meet. It could of easily been a ‘sliding doors’ scenario as a minute later and we would have been heading off in different directions, lost in the crowds having never seen each other. Obviously, I’m so glad it wasn’t, as 13 years later we have been married for nearly 7 years and have 3 wonderful children.
Our household is a pretty busy place as our children are still young and as a result I think it is easy to forgot the romance when real life gets in the way. My husband and I are like ships in the night sometimes. He works long hours and as a result so do I. It can be a struggle to find time for one another when we are both exhausted at the end of the day, but its so important. This is why I try and do something special every year for Valentines. I’m not a fan of the commercial side of Valentines day so it won’t be anything big or costly. Just a little token of love.
This year there was no doubt that anything I do for Valentines was going to be homemade. After making 6 Christmas hampers and being a self confessed baking addict, it was also going to be edible. It had to be unique but also useful. Cupcakes look pretty but were just not going to cut it, I’d make 12, he’d eat 1 and then have a sandwich! Same with most other treats. Then the idea of a valentines packed lunch came to me. At the moment my husband buys his lunch spending far too much on a dry sandwiches, but he has no incentive to make his lunch and I don’t have time ordinarily either. A packed lunch made with love would be perfect. I spent quite a while working out what I would make him. A number of criteria had to be met including portability, deliciousness and thoughtfulness. Below is what I came up with. I hope it inspires you to do the same for your partner or for someone you care about this valentines.
For all the recipes I am giving you enough to make more than just one packed lunch. No point going to all that effort if you can’t enjoy some of it too. You could even invite a friend over for lunch on the day you make it all to join in with the enjoyment and impress by pretending that this is the sort of lunch you eat every day!
You can be as creative as you like in packaging it all up. A ribbon and a tag would be a nice finish I think.
Blood orange, walnut and goats cheese salad with avocado hearts
This salad uses ingredients that I love and means you can justify buying lots of blood oranges which are amazing but only in season now for a short few weeks.
What you will need:
- packet of ruby gem lettuce, or any other lettuce with red in
- 100g goats cheese
- 4 blood oranges
- 50g walnuts chopped
- 1 avocado (needs to be fairly large)
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp blood red orange juice
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp walnut oil
- 1 tbsp runny honey
- Small heart cookie cutter
How to make:
- Wash and chop your lettuce and arrange in the bottom of a Tupperware dish.
- Cut the ends off your oranges and then use a knife to cut off the peel and pith working from the top down and round the orange. Cut into chunky slices and arrange on top of lettuce.
- Crumble a portion of the goats cheese and sprinkle on top of salad, then add some of your chopped walnuts onto the salad.
- Cut your avocado in half, skin and take the stone out then cut thin slices. There should be the fat bottom bit on each slice. Use this to cut out your hearts and place on top of the salad.
- Finally, to make the dressing mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl or dish then pour over the salad using as much as you think it needs
Keeping with the theme of valentines, I thought these rolls would be perfect as when the lucky recipient cuts into them they will find a gorgeous red inside.
Makes about 8 large rolls (freeze any you don’t use)
What you will need:
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 200g strong wholemeal bread flour
- 7 sundried tomatoes chopped
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 sachet of 7g dried yeast
- 75g grated cheddar cheese
- 450ml hand hot water – not too hot or it will kill the yeast
- Sunflower seeds for top (optional)
- Put the flour, salt, tomato puree and yeast into a bowl
- Add water and mix with hands until a dough is formed. Remove from bowl and knead for 10 mins. Alternatively, use a dough hook on an electric mixer for 5-6 mins
- Use your hands to push the dough out flat onto your work surface and put cheese, sundried tomatoes and basil in the middle on top. Fold the edges of the dough back over the cheese, tomatoes and basil and then lightly knead for a few minutes until you think everything has been incorporated into the dough. You might find that bits fall off as you go but don’t worry just pick up and place back into the dough and you will soon start to see that most it has been mixed in
- Once you feel the cheese, tomatoes and basil had been evenly mixed into the dough, put it back into the bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size
- Gently take you dough out of the bowl and gently knead to punch the air out of it and then make 8 or so small rounds of dough and place on a baking sheet. Cover with cling film again and leave for another 30-40 mins somewhere warm.
- Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. The small balls should have grown into bigger rolls. Don’t worry if they are slightly misshapen, I think this adds the homemade appeal. At this point I put a sunflower seed heart on top of my rolls and then placed them in the oven. Feel free to miss out the sunflower seeds if you wish
- Bake for about 20-30 mins. Timings will depend on the size of your rolls but you are looking for a crusty top and a hollow sound if you tap the bottom
I adapted this recipe from my Hummingbird Bakery cook book. I used natural red colouring (mine was Dr Oetker), and found the silicone heart shaped bakeware in my local Sainsburys, (and I was extremely chuffed too). If you cant find the heart moulds, small round cake tins would be fine as well. I hope you are getting the red theme here folks 🙂
Makes 4 small cakes
What you will need:
- 60 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 10g cocoa powder
- 20 ml red food colouring
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 120ml butter milk
- 150g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
- 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 300g icing sugar
- 50g butter, room temperature
- 125g cream cheese
- 1 tsp orange extract
- A few sprinkle decorations of your choice. I used white chocolate stars and mini chocolate stars, both found down the baking aisle of my local Sainsburys
How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 170c/325f/gas 3). Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the egg and mix until incorporated
- In a separate bowl mix the cocoa powder, red colouring and vanilla extract to make a paste
- Add the paste to your butter, sugar and egg mixture and mix well
- Then add half the buttermilk and mix, then half the flour and mix, then the remaining buttermilk and mix and the remaining flour and mix
- Add the salt, bicarb of soda and vinegar and beat well for a couple of minutes.
- Pour mixture into your cake tine and bake for 25 mins until the top is slightly firm to touch and a knife comes out clean. Take cakes out of their tins and leave to cool on a wire rack
- To make the frosting mix the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric whisk. Add the cream cheese and orange extract and beat until smooth
- Ice your cakes with the frosting using a palette knife if you have one and then sprinkle our chosen decoration on top
Present on Valentines morning, and expect a few ‘nom, nom, nom’ texts throughout the day…for the sake of my lovely blog readers, my husband got his packed lunch early!
I’m also entering this into Cakeboule’s virtual valentines craft and bake competition 2012. Looking forward to seeing all the other entries too.
This week has been quite exciting. The people at Bakingmad.com were looking for food bloggers to take part in a new year healthy baking challenge. Always up for a challenge, especially a baking one I got in touch and they sent me a list of low calorie baking recipes and asked me to choose one to make and review. So I picked low calorie blueberry muffins because I was interested to see if a low calorie version would be just as good as the real thing.
A link to the recipe I used is here.
A few days later the postman knocked on my door and gave me a little cardboard box. Inside was a packet of Allinson’s nature friendly flour and packet of Silver Spoon half spoon sugar. When reading the small print on the packs I was pleasantly surprised at the reasons why the flour is branded nature friendly. It uses conservation grade wheat which is where farmers actively manage their farmland to promote bio-diversity and conditions where wildlife can flourish. I like the sound of that. But reading the back of the silver spoon half spoon sugar pack I was a bit disappointed to see that it contained artificial sweetener. Not something I really like to use if I’m honest, but then there is half the sugar required in this recipe to a normal blueberry muffin recipe (I checked) and so that is quite a bonus especially if you are on the dreaded new year diet.
So today was the day I decided to complete the challenge. I set everything up and called my 6 year to see if she wanted to help. There is no electric mixer involved, just a little whisking and stirring, so she could pretty much do everything, which I think she found very rewarding. She took ages putting the batter in the cases and it was lovely to see her take care to do it properly and really get into the task.
They came out of the oven looking beautiful. Nicely risen with a few gorgeous purple blueberries bubbling at the surface. And I have to say they tasted pretty good too! They would certainly hit the mid afternoon ‘snack attack’ spot and I definitely did not feel quite as guilty eating one of these in comparison to a normal muffin or slice of cake. Might even pack one in my gym bag tomorrow as a treat for afterwards. I’m going to freeze a few too as I think they would be nice as an alternative to breakfast at some point in the week, especially if I’m running late and need breakfast on the go. My 6 year old loved them! She came through to the kitchen after eating one and said they were delicious! This is quite a compliment as she has a sweet tooth, so I guess she did not notice the fact that these had a lot less sugar in which is great.
Overall, I would say these are a quick and easy muffin recipe which is certainly worth a try. Next time I’m tempted to swap the flour to wholemeal self raising and to try it with the same amount of normal sugar to see how that tastes and turns out. Anyone gets there before me let me know.
Disclaimer- I do not work for Baking Mad nor did not get paid to write this review.
So it is back to school tomorrow for my eldest. I have loved having all of my children at home throughout the holidays and not having to do a school run is bliss, especially in the current windy and rainy weather. However, I think we are all ready to get back into the school routine. My girls have been bickering more than usual the last few days and I think it is because they have seen rather a lot of each other recently.
I’m lucky in a way because I don’t have to think about packed lunches at the moment. My eldest daughter has school dinners and my middle daughter is home from pre school in time to have lunch with me every day. This does not save me the chore of cooking a hot meal for them in the evening though because I know that the school dinner is not consistently eaten and I have to do a hot meal for the rest of the family in any case. So the norm each day is for my eldest to come home pretty hungry. I can tell within 5 mins of collecting her whether or not she has eaten well at lunch time or not by the mood she is in. It’s quite simple:
Bad = little hot lunch or sandwiches eaten
Good = most of hot lunch eaten (normally only on a Friday when its fish and chips)
I can’t say I blame her. I get in a bad mood too if I am hungry, so when we get home an after school snack is most definitely needed to save the otherwise inevitable melt down. I want to try and provide something relatively healthy and avoid anything loaded with sugar or other baddies as this ends up making matters worse. Over excited children after school – not good. One of their favourites is a chocolate and banana marbled loaf cake that is so easy to make you could probably do it with your eyes shut, and that is no exaggeration! It is also an excellent way to use up over ripe bananas or indeed half eaten bananas (with mushy end cut off obviously) which always seem to be hanging around my house. The list of ingredients is simple too, and I’d be surprised if you needed to buy much. I normally get at least one child involved in the making too. It’s a very good kiddie friendly recipe and they will be pleased as punch with the result. It is easy to eat, beautifully moist and perfect just by itself . When I give this cake to my children I feel good for two reasons; a) it has fruit in it, b) I made it, so I know exactly what they are eating. I should also mention that after a long day with the kids, this tastes amazing with a cup of tea.
What you will need:
- 225g self raising flour
- 100g butter, room temperature and cut into small cubes
- 100g caster sugar
- 350g (peeled weight) banana, mashed
- 2 large eggs
- 20g cocoa powder
- Small loaf tin, greased
How to make:
- Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
- Put all the ingredients apart from the cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl and combine with an electric mixer until a thickish cake batter is formed
- Put half the mixture into a separate bowl. Sieve the cocoa powder into one half and fold in with a large metal spoon
- Pour the chocolate cake batter back into the first bowl and fold the two batters together very gently, just 3-4 turns should do it so that a marble effect is created.
- Transfer the batter into the cake tin, gently smooth over the top and place in the oven for about 50 mins until a knife comes out cleanThis loaf cake should also do nicely for Karen and Kate’s January Tea Time Treats Challenge, which this month is sweet pastries and bread.