Vanilla & Apple Cake

A couple of weeks ago a new branch of Norfolk St Bakery opened at the top of the street where my office is. I can only describe this place as having some of the best cake I’ve ever eaten, not to mention the insanely good bread. They have an amazing range of Portuguese treats, pastel de nata, bolinhos, etc etc. The first time I went in I bought a few different things to share with my colleagues, all of which were incredible. The next day I went back and bought more of my favourite, the vanilla roll. I feel pretty certain that I’m destined to put on some serious weight with this place two minutes from the office, but there will so much joy in gaining that weight from the deliciousness of the cake, maybe I don’t care?

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Anyway, having consumed all this cake, I realised that I’d never made any Portuguese cake, and that this clearly needed to change. I tried (unsuccessfully) to find a recipe for the vanilla roll, so decided to settle instead for a vanilla cake with caramelised apple topping. Maybe settling isn’t the best word, because, wow. Like, really wow. I think this might be just the beginning of a love affair with this type of cake. It has a load of egg in it, which creates a sort of denser sponge, but it’s not heavy, it’s just, great. Go find yourself a Portuguese bakery, or make some of this cake and indulge.

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Blackberry & Apple Loaf Cake

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Autumn is here. I tend to forget how quickly summer can end, how the chill in the air appears overnight and the nights start to draw in. The weather is wetter this year, but the same change comes, the trees are turning shades of orange and gold, which spells time for a slightly heartier cake that warms you on cooler days.

IMG_5185tThis is that cake. A wonderful nutty cake with warm fruit and a crumble topping. It’s basically two puddings combined into a joyous concoction that will warm your soul. There had to be some self-control to stop us demolishing the entire thing in an afternoon. IMG_5192t
I’ve rarely used hazelnuts in a cake before, almonds are usually the recommended nut of choice. After this, I will be making more cakes with hazelnuts in because, seriously, wow! Forget hazelnuts and chocolate in your cake, hazelnuts with fruit is where it’s at. This is destined to become a staple cake, one that I make again and again throughout the autumn and winter.  Continue reading

Gingerbread

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I realised last week that even though I feel like I talk about gingerbread a lot, I’ve never actually shared a recipe for it on here. It’s December tomorrow, which means Christmas is just around the corner, and I’ve started making preparations – I even wrapped my first presents the other night! Yet, bizarrely enough, as I was making gingerbread dough the other evening, I kept hearing the sound of an ice cream van going around near my house playing its jingle. Who buys ice cream when it’s late November and 6 degrees? I have no idea, but I see ice cream vans all the time in Norwich, so I guess someone must be doing it.

Gingerbread has many recipe variations, and I’ve amalgamated my own based on various recipes I’ve seen and tried over the last couple of years. It might not be the ultimate gingerbread recipe (if such a thing exists), but it’s the one I like. I think it’s pretty much up to you the amount of ginger and other spices you use, and whether you use treacle or golden syrup or both – it has slightly different results. I prefer to use a small amount of cinnamon and nutmeg along with ginger because I think it gives it a better depth of flavour.

Some of this gingerbread has a decorative role to play in what I’ll be making for next week – gingerbread cupcakes!

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Gingerbread

350g plain flour

1 & 1/2 tbsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp baking powder

100g butter

150g dark muscovado sugar

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp golden syrup

2 tbsp black treacle

1. Sift the flour, spices and baking powder together, and rub the butter in until you get a breadcrumb-like consistency. Stir in the sugar (if the muscovado has lumps in, try to get rid of them). Whisk the egg, syrup and treacle together and then add to the flour mixture. Knead together to form a dough.

2. Wrap the dough in cling film and put in the fridge for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

3. Remove the dough from the fridge, cut in two (it’s easier to roll out the dough in two batches, this makes it less likely to dry out). Roll out the dough onto a floured surface until it’s about half a cm thick. Cut out your gingerbread men, or whatever shape your gingerbread is going to take, place on the tray and bake for 10-12mins. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Allow them to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Ginger and Lemon Biscuits

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Uhhhhhh… I think I just found my favourite biscuit EVER. These are so beautiful. If you like ginger biscuits, these are even better. The hint of lemon is just wonderful, and it works really well. I’ve been drinking a lot of herbal tea recently, and when I was feeling a little under the weather the other week I bought some ginger and lemon tea (best mixed with honey). It made me feel so much better – pretty powerful flavour! But then I was flicking through my recipe books looking for Christmas ideas, and these stood out. I figured it was worth a try, and that ginger and lemon might be nicer together when mixed with sugar and flour and golden syrup instead of hot water. I was not wrong.

The original recipe says to use freshly grated ginger instead of ground ginger, but I found the crystallised ginger to be so strong that I thought having fresh ginger on top of that would be too overpowering (it also meant I didn’t have to try and find ginger root from somewhere).

If you’re not a huge fan of ginger, then I think these can probably be adapted to be lemon and honey biscuits instead (another great tea). Swap the golden syrup for honey, and the crystallised ginger for candied peel, and either leave out the ground ginger or swap it for vanilla extract or something. I’m hoping to try this next week. Also, a lot of biscuit recipes say you should refrigerate the dough for a while, and usually I don’t bother, but in this case the dough is really soft, so that time in the fridge is pretty important.

I think I will be making many a batch of these in the run up to Christmas…and I’ll have to try not to eat them all myself.

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Ginger and Lemon Biscuits (adapted from ‘Scandilicious Baking’ by Signe Johansen)

125g softened butter

125g brown sugar

1 egg

50ml golden syrup

50g crystallised ginger, chopped

3 tsp ground ginger

zest and juice of 1 lemon

200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Mix the egg, golden syrup, ginger, lemon zest and juice together in another bowl and the flour and baking powder together in a third bowl.

2. Alternate between adding wet and dry ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing as you go until it starts to form a dough. Refrigerate the dough for 1-2hrs.

3. Preheat oven to 190C/Gas 5 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Using a teaspoon, place small lumps of mixture on the sheets, leaving about 4-5cm between each one. Bake for 8-10 mins until golden, and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Apple Week #2

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I made apple cakes this week! Now that I’ve handed in my essay and things are temporarily slightly less crazy, I managed to spend time baking, and it has been lovely. The first cake I made was a Peyton & Byrne ‘Discovery Apple Cake’ which was delicious and moist, with a hint of cinnamon. The second cake (which literally just came out of the oven) is a Nigel Slater recipe, with raisins and marmalade, which is richer and has a more fruitcake-y flavour, rather than overwhelmingly apple. My house smells of freshly baked cake. Nothing quite like it. Unfortunately my enthusiasm resulted in me taking it out of its tin too soon after it came out of the oven, and it split it half :(. But it is truly delicious, a proper autumnal cake.

I used whisky marmalade in the Nigel Slater cake, which gives it the slight hint of alcohol you get from Christmas cake. If you don’t have some whisky marmalade lying about (kind of unlikely…), then I can definitely recommend you soak the fruit in a shot or two of whisky or rum if you want that extra flavour. Also I find apple cakes are way better made with brown sugar or dark muscavado sugar, because it gives them a more caramel-y flavour that is great with apple.

Christmas is looming now, which means I’m starting to think about all the things I want to bake – I always make gingerbread, because it’s awesome, but I’ve just been looking through Peyton and Byrne and I saw a recipe for honeycomb I’d really like to try. I’m still a little weary of boiling sugar on the hob in this house after my experience making toffee sauce the other week, but maybe I’ll be brave and give it a go. There are a bunch of Christmas themed recipes in Scandilicious as well, which I might write about in the coming weeks.

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Cranberry-Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

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This week has been my reading week, which naturally meant that I got ill, because I needed to spend my time writing essays. Typical. On the bright side, Taylor Swift’s new album ‘1989’ came out, which I have been dancing to all week (in between sneezes). Time is flying by, and now that Halloween has passed, it feels like Christmas is just around the corner – which quite frankly is terrifying. The last 8 weeks of this year are going to be incredibly busy for me – I have an insane amount of work to do in the coming weeks, and I’m already tired.

Toffee Apples didn’t happen..I looked at the recipe, saw it (unsurprisingly) involved boiling water and sugar together, and I didn’t really have time for disasters this week, so instead I decided to look for more ways to use the pumpkin puree I have still. These cookies are really quick and easy, and I chose to do the cranberry pumpkin ones because they seemed the most autumnal, but you can add chocolate chips or other dried fruit or nuts or anything you want really! To be honest, the pumpkin doesn’t add much flavour (unless you add your cinnamon,nutmeg and ginger), but it does give the cookies a nice yellowy colour inside. The original recipe is for tiny tiny cookies, and suggests it yields about 48-60 cookies – I made mine slightly bigger, about 3 inches across, and got 26, which seems a more manageable number to me (and a more satisfying size of cookie).

This recipe is in cups, but if you need conversions into grams or ounces, this is the best place.

 

Cranberry-Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from Fall Baking – November 2011)

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 & 1/2 cups plain flour

3 cups oats

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large bowl beat together butter, brown sugar, caster sugar, baking soda, salt and spices. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Add flour. Stir in oats, pumpkin and cranberries until combined. Chill the dough if you want/if you have the time.

2. Drop heaped dessert spoons of dough onto lined baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Leave to cool on the sheets for a couple of minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

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.

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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.