27 November 2008

Daring bakers

Caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting

(and optional caramels)

This months challenge was co-hosted by Dolores from Culinary curiosity, Alex from Blondie and brownie and Jenny from Foray into food.

The recipe this month was caramel cake with caramelized butter frosting, this recipe comes from Shuna Fish Lydon from Eggbeater.

This recipe involved making a caramel syrup, cake and frosting and to be honest I felt it was sugar overload but I went with it. The Caramel syrup freaked me out a little, it involved making a syrup with sugar and water and when the syrup was ready adding cold water to it, I was surprised actually that the syrup was a success, I imagined it seizing and setting in a big candy ball.

It looked like maple syrup and was tooth achingly sweet.

I decided to make cupcakes instead of a individual cake. The cake was a doddle to make, pretty much a regular cake recipe but with some of the caramel syrup added to the mix. The uncooked batter tasted divine.

The cooked cake was more like a sweet bread than a cake, very dense, but delicious.

When the cupcakes were cooked and cooled I prepared my frosting. I've done a caramelized butter frosting before and loved it. First you need to cook your butter until it is brown, pour it through a sieve and leave to cool. The cooled butter is then used to make a butter icing with icing sugar and the caramel syrup, a little salt is added and believe me this icing is so sweet you need that salt.

It was a dream to work with and made a pretty cupcake but anymore than one of these and I'd be in trouble with my dentist.

Optional caramels:

Golden vanilla bean caramels recipe from Alice Medrichs.

This was a optional extra and I wasn't going to do it, I've made caramels very successfully before and I can't leave them alone, for the sake of my waist I was going to leave this recipe out. Then I had a brainwave and although it is this worse for my waist I still gave it a go.

Caramel hokey pokey ice cream, yum.

I followed the recipe provided, but I didn't take it so far so that it would set into caramel, I made the syrup and let it cool, basically I made caramel sauce. It was delicious, I ate a lot of it straight from the pan, so creamy and, well, caramell-y, lol.

Usually when doing something like this I would make my own ice cream, today I cheated and did something Dorie Greenspan suggests in her book, dressing up shop bought ice cream. I bought some very good quality vanilla ice cream and let it go softish, I mixed some crushed cinder toffee through and swirled with the caramel. The caramel went to toffee as it froze but melts again as the ice cream comes out of the freezer.

Very quick, such a cheat but so, so delicious. Any ice cream lover has to try this, I have hidden it in the depths of the deep freeze for Christmas.

The original recipes can be found on the hosts blogs. Thanks to this months hosts Dolores, Alex and Jenny, don't forget to check out their blogs and the other Daring bakers blogs on the blog roll.

14 November 2008

Beanz Meanz ....Christmas?

Boston baked beans.
I have to admit that I adore good old baked beans, on toast with bacon chopped through it, heaven, not much beats it for comfort food. This recipe comes from Nigella Christmas, Nigella's newest gorgeous offering and I love, love, love this book.
This recipe was one of the first that really caught my eye, yes, in a book filled with luscious, decadent food I fall for baked beans. I was slightly mystified at first, why on earth would baked beans ever be classed as Christmas food? Hardly up there with turkey, stuffing and bacon wrapped chipolatas is it....yet still, I knew this was the first thing I would cook from this book.
Baked beans are not something I have ever cooked myself from scratch, they are one of the few things I am quite happy to open a tin for, my OH was mystified when I told him I couldn't go swimming as I had to spend the next 3 hours making baked beans, in fact is actual reply was "havent you heard of Heinz?" this was a adventure into the unknown.
Boston baked beans
Serves 8
500g haricot beans
2 x 15ml garlic oil
125g smoked streaky bacon, chopped somewhere between finely and roughly
1 onion, peeled and chopped
100g grainy mustard
2 x 15ml tablespoon tomato puree
100g dark muscovado sugar
1 litre of water, plus 60ml
1 x 15ml tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Maldon salt or 1 teaspoon table salt, or to taste.
The night before you want to make this recipe, soak the beans in plenty of water for 24 hours.
Once the beans are soaked, drain and rinse them and put aside. Preheat the oven to 150c / gas mark 2 and heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole or a ovenproof pan with a lid.
Fry the chopped bacon briskly in the hot oil and, after 5 minutes, turn down the heat and add the chopped onion. Cook alongside the bacon for about another 10 minutes.
Add the mustard, tomato puree and sugar and 500ml of the water, stirring everything together well.
Stir in the rinsed beans, and add a further 500ml of water. Bring to the boil and let it bubble for 10 minutes.
Put a lid on the casserole or pan and transfer to the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours or until tender.
Remover from the oven and add the remaining 60ml water along with the vinegar and, after tasting carefully (don't burn your mouth), the salt if wished.

The beans were a doddle, quickly flung together and then left to bubble away for hours, the aroma of these beans was amazing but when would sugar, bacon and mustard not be amazing. We ate these beans as Nigella suggested with sausages, they were the perfect match. The were far superior to any tinned bean, slightly to firm for my OH's taste but I suppose that is to be expected when using dried beans, they weren't hard, just firmer than tinned beans. My daughter absolutely loved them as did I, although they didn't convert my son, baked bean hater, we can't please everyone.

I will certainly make the beans again the salty, sweet, smoked flavour was to die for, but not for a quick midweek supper. Perfect for posh sausage, chips and beans.

10 November 2008

Finnish rye bread

It seems I spend a awful lot of time baking bread these days, who can blame me, it is so therapeutic, but I mainly keep it up as I prefer to know what is in my food rather than buying ready sliced shop bread full of preservatives to ensure a long shelf life. I usually have three or four different loafs sliced and well wrapped in the freezer ready to use at any time.
I eventually stumbled across rye flour which it seems is scarily hard to find around here....well it was, funnily enough as soon as I tracked it down in a health food store I noticed that Asda had stocked it all along.
I prefer to make healthier loafs using wholemeal flours and adding seeds or grains, every little helps after all. As soon as I spotted the rye flour I knew what I was going to bake, Finnish rye bread from Nigella's How to be a domestic goddess. Nigella describes this bread as dense, dark and aromatic in a extraordinarily comforting way, she isn't wrong. I couldn't stop myself from eating this rustic bread, it is wonderful, I served it along side ham and pea soup, it is perfect for mopping up soup.
Finnish rye bread from How to be a domestic goddess.
225g rye flour
300g strong white flour
7g easy-blend yeast or 15g fresh yeast
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
2 tsp salt
300ml warm water
45g unsalted butter, melted
1 baking sheet.
Put the flours, yeast, sugar and salt into a large bowl and slowly add the water, mixing with your hands or a wooden spoon, until you've got a messy but vaguely cohesive lump of dough. Add a tablespoon of the melted butter and mix just to incorporate it. Start kneading, either by hand or with a dough hook, until the dough comes together smoothly to form a dense ball, adding more water or flour as necessary.
Use some more of the melted butter to grease a bowl and turn the dough ball in it so that the top is oily (and won't therefore dry out), then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for a hour or so.
When the dough's doubled in size, punch it down. Give a good few kneads, and then form into a round loaf. Sit the loaf on the baking sheet, cover it with a tea towel and leave to get puffy for about 30 minutes, during which time preheat the oven to 190c/ gas mark 5. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the loaf is cooked through.
Brush with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter and leave on a wire rack to cool.
I forgot to brush the remaining butter over the top of the cooked loaf, I found the melted butter on top of the microwave a hour after I had cut into the bread. I don't think it suffered for it. This bread kept very well, it made great toast the next day.
I used leftover bread we had to make croutons. I cut the bread into cubes, drizzled with olive oil
and salt and pepper and baked for 10 minutes,they were the best croutons ever.

06 November 2008

Goodbye Pistachio

Yesterday many of us received the tragic news that our dear friend Pistachio had passed away.

Pistachio was known to many on the Internet from Nigella.com and later helping Violet's with the job of keeping us in line on Violet's pantry a fabulous foodie forum, and a great job she did too. A avid blogger, who's recipes could always be depended on and became a regular in many homes across the world.
Pistachio was a warm, elegant and eloquent woman and she will be sorely missed.

Goodbye Pistachio, sleep well.

04 November 2008

Date and walnut flapjacks

I am always looking out for ways to boost my fibre intake and like most people would like the fibre filled food to taste good. As far as a snacks go "healthy" doesn't always equal tasty. Everyone knows that flapjacks, full of oats, are better than a bar of chocolate for a quick sweet fix but I still find most flapjacks just too sweet, most are made with sugar and added golden syrup, soon your healthy snack is turning into another fat filled treat.
Looking for healthier flapjack recipes I came across lots using dried dates, I was intrigued as in baking dates can give a lovely fudgy, softness such as in sticky toffee pudding.
The original couple of recipes I looked at didn't do it for me mainly because of unusual measuring method i.e teacups (?) and 'half tubs' of stuff....so I combined a everyday flapjack recipe with a inspired date and walnut flavouring. It worked.

Date and walnut flapjacks

125g butter
1 tbsp runny honey
100g dried dates, soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained well and chopped
50g broken walnuts
50g caster sugar
a handful of raisins (optional)
125g oats

Heat oven to 180c, grease a 8in square baking tin.
Put honey, butter, dates and walnuts into a pan, heat until the butter melts. The dates will turn fudgy and almost melt into the butter.
Stir in the caster sugar and raisins if using.
Stir in oats and mix well.
Bake for 20minutes, cut into bars as soon as you take them from the oven but don't try to remove them from the tray until cooled.

I have to say I adored these flapjacks and will bake them for myself again and again, my daughter, flapjack queen, wasn't impressed so we'll stick to usual flapjacks for her.
The dates did give a lovely fudgy, toffee flavour to the flapjacks and were complimented beautifully by the walnuts. They weren't however chewy flapjacks I suppose that is down to the lack of refined sugar, so they had a more cakey texture, either way they were delicious.
Although dried fruit itself is quite high in sugar I feel better about eating these flapjacks than a everyday one, plus the dates go toward your 5-a-day.....well, you might have to eat a few flapjacks to reach that but I'm willing.