2014 – a year of baking

Well, once again this is a bit late due to essay writing. But now I am finally done, and apart from having to go to work the next three days, my Christmas break has officially started!

I didn’t manage to bake anything new or exciting this week though (predictably), just more gingerbread, and some brownies for my housemate’s birthday. So instead, I thought I’d go through all the stuff I’ve baked this year and talk about some of my favourites. 2014 has gone quickly, but looking back to January feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed since then – not least that I have proven to myself that I can post regularly on a blog for a year (well, I’ve still got a couple of weeks until its officially a year, but let’s call it that anyway).

So without further ado, here are my ten most favourite things I baked this year…

10. Plum Cupcakes – a celebration of all things autumnal!

9. Gingerbread Cupcakes – brought festive deliciousness

8. Rhubarb and Almond Loaf – this was a really good late spring bake, which I made multiple times because it was so tasty.

7. Suksessterte – perhaps the tastiest thing that I didn’t get to eat, but was made in celebration of my lovely friends getting engaged ❤

6. Peanut Butter Cookies – there should always be peanut butter cookies

5. Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels – these are the best breakfast you will ever had. And best snack you will ever have.

4. Peach Jam Scones – peach jam is the best jam ever, and it’s even better when you put it in a scone.

3. Walnut, Chocolate and Honey Tart – I can’t even. Every time I think about this I want to  make it and eat it all by myself

2. Caramel Walnut Upside Down Banana Cake – see above. Also, the tastiest thing I didn’t write a proper post about.

AND THE WINNER IS….

1. The Pancaken!!! – literally nothing will ever beat this – the most frustrating and rewarding thing I have ever baked. I don’t know if I’ll bake another one for Pancake Day 2015. Part of me wants to, and the rest of me is horrified at the prospect of spending hours making pancakes and burning myself repeatedly.

I hope you all had a great 2014, and have a Happy Christmas!

Advertisements

Sticky Chocolate Pudding

IMG_3329tI ate too much today. Since I moved I don’t get the chance to cook for anyone but myself very often, which is kind of miserable because it’s more difficult to do big extravagant meals for one person. But this weekend Oli was visiting, so I made Sunday roast and chocolate pudding today, which was glorious and made me feel slightly sick afterwards. We ate about 7 hours ago, and I’m still not hungry. I think the chocolate pudding really finished it. Definitely one of the richest things I’ve ever eaten (which seems less surprising considering it’s originally a Nigella Lawson recipe – woman of excessive amounts of chocolate). There’s probably enough there to last me the rest of the week – it must be consumed in small portions with plenty of cream to dilute the chocolate.

It’s an unusual recipe, in that, pouring half a litre of water on top of the mixture before putting it in the oven seems like a strange thing to do, but somehow during the cooking process it transforms into a glossy and delicious chocolate sauce. So rich. If you’re looking for comfort food on a cold autumn evening (especially now the clocks have gone back) – this is a good bet, just make sure you’re not eating it alone!

Next week, it’s Halloween! So I will be making toffee apples. I hope. My last encounter with toffee didn’t go too well, so I’m hoping this time it fares better.

IMG_3326t

Nigella Lawson’s Sticky Chocolate Pudding (from ‘Real Food’ by Nigel Slater)

150g self-raising flour

25g good quality cocoa powder

200g caster sugar

50g ground hazelnuts (I used almonds which work just as well)

75g dark chocolate, chopped

180ml full-fat milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

40g butter, melted

1 egg

for the sauce:

180g dark muscovado sugar

120g good quality cocoa powder

500ml very hot water

1. Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, ground nuts and chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the milk, butter, vanilla extract and egg. Pour into the bowl containing the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

2. Pour the mixture into a large, buttered soufflé dish, about 20cm in diameter. Mix the muscovado and cocoa together and sprinkle on top of the pudding. Pour the hot water on top – there is no need to stir – and put into an oven preheated to 180C/Gas 4. After 35-40 mins the pudding should be firm and springy. Serve at once with cold double cream.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

IMG_3311t

I love sticky toffee pudding. It’s one of those joyously warming autumnal puddings, like syrup sponge pudding, that I could basically eat all day. I’ve never made either of them before though, I’ve only had shop or restaurant versions, and that seemed a shame. So when I saw a recipe for sticky toffee pudding in Peyton & Byrne, I was like ‘game on!’

Unfortunately, it was almost a disaster. Twice. I made the pudding without a hiccup, and then ruined the toffee sauce whilst I was on the phone to my old housemate talking about how terrible letting agents are (because they are awful, horrible companies who pride themselves on taking people’s money for no reason). So that went in the bin. Then I tried again the next day – and the same thing happened. This is the second time now that Peyton & Byrne has let me down, and I’m not sure if it was me doing something wrong, or the hob was too hot (trying to get used to electric instead of gas), or whether the recipe was just wrong. I decided on the latter. Trying to boil water and sugar together just resulted in it drying out and crystallising in the bottom of the pan. I think the water to sugar ratio was wrong, but after it doing it for the second time, I decided that rather than throwing away another 300g sugar, I would attempt to salvage it. So I added cream and golden syrup and butter, and it got better! It took a while of me slowly heating it trying to get the sugar to break down, and also scraping it off the sides of the pan – my housemate found this hilarious. But after a while, it became toffee sauce. And I got to eat sticky toffee pudding, and it was good. Most other sticky toffee pudding recipes I looked at didn’t involve boiling sugar and water, so I don’t know what that was about.

The bodged sauce that I ended up making certainly isn’t ideal though. When reheating the sauce to eat with later portions, it was very grainy (probably due to earlier crystallisation) and FAR too rich. And I really like sweet stuff that’s kind of sickly. But this was just too much. So below is an adapted, untested, but hopefully good recipe for it!

Next week: Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

Sticky Toffee Pudding (adapted from Peyton & Byrne’s ‘British Baking’)

100g chopped dates (or raisins)

80ml hot water

1 tsp bicarb of soda

85g unsalted butter, softened

140g dark muscovado sugar

2 eggs

180g plain flour

for the sauce:

250g caster sugar

75g butter

150ml double cream

3 tbsp golden syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin. Mix the dates, hot water and bicarb together and leave for a few minutes to soak.

2. In another bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well each time. Add the date mixture and mix well. Gently fold in the flour.

3. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 30-40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven and leave to cool whilst preparing the toffee sauce.

4. Put half the cream, sugar and butter into a pan over a moderate heat. Stir regularly, until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil for a few minutes until the colour starts to darken and the sauce thickens. Mix in the golden syrup and the rest of the cream. Cut the pudding into squares and pour the sauce over. Reheat when necessary.