Sunday, 28 April 2013

Apricot and Chocolate Bread

This recipe is my adaptation of the Prune and Chocolate Bread recipe in Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno. I replaced the prunes with apricots because the word 'prune' makes me cringe (I just don't like the sound of it), and I remember an acquaintance being force-fed prunes as a laxative when they were little. Which will forever make me associate prunes with...well, you get the picture.

You will need:
2 ½ tsp dried yeast
350 ml water
500g strong white flour
1 ½ tsp salt
30g unsalted softened butter, plus enough to grease the tin
200g soft apricots, roughly chopped
200g plain chocolate, roughly chopped
1 egg, beaten

1. Sprinkle the yeast into 100ml of the water in a bowl (1 part boiling to 2 parts cold). Cover and leave for 5 minutes, then stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved. Leave again until surface is frothy. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted water.
2. Mix in the flour, either using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of a heavy-duty mixer. Add the water gradually to form a soft, sticky dough.
3. If using a mixer, replace the paddle with the dough hook as soon as the mixture starts to come into a dough. Then leave the mixer on a medium setting for 10 minutes. If kneading by hand, knead until smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes.
4. Leave the dough in the mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size. Grease a loaf tin with butter.
5. Knock back the dough, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Add the apricots, chocolate, butter and egg by gently squeezing in the wet ingredients, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in the chocolate and apricots. Knead until just firm enough to keep shape.

6. Flatten out the dough gently, then take one end of the dough and fold it into the centre, pressing gently to seal the fold. Fold the other half of the dough into the centre and press gently again to seal the fold.

7. Place the dough seam-side down on the work surface and roll back and forth as if shaping a baguette. Then, lift the loaf off the surface and fold both ends under and place in the prepared tin. Leave to prove for 30 minutes, until risen about 1 inch above the rim of the tin. Whilst it is proving, preheat the oven to 180C or gas 4.

8. Bake for 45 minutes until lightly browned and hollow sounding when tapped underneath.

9. Do not leave to cool! Eat warm! But not straight away, or the molten chocolate will burn your tongue.



Lemon and Blueberry Cake

Hi Bakelings,

It's been a little while, but I've been pretty busy with university work. Anyway I could blather on about that for ages, but if you wanted to listen to me moan you'd just ask me how everything's going.

So, as some of you will know, mainly because of my month-long countdown and constant refrain of 'Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday, partying partying YEAH', it was my birthday on Friday. And, because there is no rest for the wicked and also I love baking, I bake my own birthday cakes.

I made apricot and chocolate bread to take into uni on my birthday. I'll copy and paste the recipe from my old blog after I've finished this blog post, but please, if you never make another one of my recipes, make that one. It is sooooo good. Messy, but good.

This recipe, by contrast, is not a messy one. I made this cake yesterday for a dinner gathering I had at my house. The inspiration came from a cake one of the other girls made for the One Show, but I'm sure she won't mind me publishing this recipe.

You will need:
170g self-raising flour
170g caster sugar
170g butter or baking margarine such as Stork
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
3 lemons
granulated sugar to taste
8-inch sandwich tin x2

To decorate:
500-600g blueberries
edible glitter (preferably blue but if not gold or white will do)
150ml double cream
3 packets of white chocolate fingers

1. Grease the sandwich tins and line the bases with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and cream the caster sugar and butter together with a fork.
2. Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar until a smooth mixture is formed. Add the baking powder and the grated zest of the lemons.
3. Sift the flour into the mixture and fold it gently in. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and until a metal skewer inserted into the middle of the sponge comes out clean.
4. Leave the sponges to cool and juice the lemons. Add the granulated sugar to taste, then pierce holes into the top of each sponge with a cocktail stick and pour the lemon juice over the top and allow to soak in.
5. When the sponges have cooled, whip the cream to stiff peaks and spread the top of one of the sponges with cream (levelling both sponges off with a sharp knife unless they are already flat). Place the other sponge on top and then spread the sides of the cake with cream. Stick the chocolate fingers flat side down all around the cake, closely fitted together.
6. Wash the blueberries and line a sieve with 2-3 sheets of kitchen paper, then place the blueberries in the sieve to dry. Pour the blueberries on top of the cake and make sure they cover the top evenly. Sprinkle liberally with edible glitter.

Ta-daah. A showstopping but simple cake in a relatively short amount of time.



Friday, 12 April 2013

Carrot Cake on The One Show

One, one, one, ONE. *accompanied by One Show jingle*

Hi there. Guess what I've been up to this week. You'll never guess. Well, you might, given my blethering on about on The One Show. I was on that very show this very Wednesday, and I actually stood next to the George Clooney of baking, Mr Paul Hollywood.

That's me, just right of Paul, looking slightly uneasy. Well, wouldn't you? I was thinking things like: "What does he think of my cake? Am I really on TV? Are my friends watching? Are my parents watching? SHOULD I HAVE WORN LIPSTICK?!"

Anyway, given my constant wittering on about Mary and Paul and hunger for approval from real actual bakers, I am sure you appreciate how exciting this experience was for me. I mean, he actually spoke to me, permitted me to have a photo taken with him, and signed his book for me. 

It says: "Ellie, Happy Baking, lots of love, Paul Hollywood." Lots of love! *prolonged giggling*

You can probably tell from this photo how excited this all was for me, given how red and vaguely crazy I look.

Anyway, anyway lets get down to business shall we? Business being the recipe for the rather beautiful (if I may say so myself) carrot cake I made. No photos for the process I'm afraid as I was in quite a hurry:

You will need:

250ml sunflower oil
225g light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
large pinch of salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
250g peeled and coarsely grated carrots
50g sultanas
2 7-inch sandwich tins

For the icing:
170g caster sugar 
450g butter
450g icing sugar
170ml boiling water
3tbsp powdered egg whites
1 tbsp vanilla extract

To decorate:
12 chantenay carrots of equal size, halved 
500ml water
170g caster sugar
200g walnuts, chopped
50g green sugarpaste

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4, grease the two sandwich tins and line the bases with greaseproof paper.
2. Whisk the oil and muscovado sugar together, then whisk in the eggs one at a time.
3. Mix in the grated carrots and sultanas, then sift the flour and spices into the bowl and fold them in with a large metal spoon or spatula.
4. Divide the cake mixture between the prepared tins and bake for 30-40 minutes (it will be less for a fan oven, I only had to bake them for 20-25 minutes) until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave in tins for 10 minutes, before leaving to cool on a wire rack.
5. To make the icing, add the boiling water, caster sugar and powdered egg whites to a very clean metal boil, whisk a little then add the vanilla extract and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form.
6. Cream together the butter and icing sugar in a separate bowl, then combine the two mixtures and beat until they come together to form a shiny, fluffy buttercream that will hold its form when piped or spread. The mixture may curdle at first – keep beating and it will come together.
7. Level off the top of one of the cakes with a sharp knife and spread with buttercream. Put the other on top and spread the sides and top with buttercream. When you have smoothed the icing as much as possible, take the chopped walnuts and press them onto the sides of the cake until covered.
8. To make the carrot cake toppers, put the water and caster sugar into a large shallow pan and heat until sugar has dissolved. Add the carrots and heat gently, without stirring, until the syrup turns into caramel. Remove the carrots and leave on a sheet of greaseproof paper to cool and harden.
9. When the carrots have cooled and the caramel has set, arrange them on the cake as in the picture above. Then take the sugarpaste and roll out. Cut into strips lengthwise and then cut across at 1cm intervals. Take 3 of the small strips and press them together at one end, then tuck that end under a carrot. Repeat until all the carrots have a green topping.

And you're done! A cake fit for HD television. And I'm sure it was much enjoyed by the BBC staff on The One Show, where I left it rather than lug it back home on the tube. A one hour train journey followed by a half hour tube journey feels a lot longer when you are carrying a cake, an acute feeling of anticipation/gut twisting nervousness, and all your baking hopes and dreams.

Until next time, bakelings,


Buttercream icing

I usually find a non-slip icing bag fitted with a 1M metal star shaped nozzle works best for piping this. To fill the icing bag I usually put it in a cup and stretch the edges over it so I don’t have to hold it open and fill it at the same time. Pack the icing down firmly with a teaspoon to avoid air bubbles. Don’t be tempted to add too much colouring, it will make the icing somewhat sweaty and mottled in colouring.

You will need:

-         450g butter
-          450g icing sugar
-          170ml boiling water
-          1 tbsp vanilla extract or other flavouring
-          170g caster sugar
-          3 tbsp powdered egg whites (can be found on the internet as ‘meriwhite’ or Dr Oetker has a version that can be found in most supermarkets in the baking aisle)

1.       Add the boiling water, caster sugar and powdered egg whites to a very clean metal boil, whisk a little then add the flavouring and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form.

2.       Cream together the butter and icing sugar in a separate bowl, then combine the two mixtures and beat until they come together to form a shiny, fluffy buttercream that will hold its form when piped or spread. The mixture may curdle at first – keep beating and it will come together. Set the buttercream aside until needed, but do not refrigerate it. The icing can be frozen.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns

So, it's Easter. Or at least it was, but I was in Norwich over the weekend and only made these yesterday. And then I was too busy to write this up yesterday. Anyway I'm almost sure you can buy these all year round, so now you can make them all year round too.

Look at that - soft, slightly spiced, packed with fruit and glazed with sticky apricot jam. This is a very special recipe from the George Clooney of baking, the lovely Paul Hollywood. However, I also find it quite a tricky recipe. I had a lot of problems with getting my hot cross bun dough to rise last year, and this year I had the same problem again.

I'm not entirely sure what caused this problem either time, but if it happens to you, the main thing is not to panic. More than once I've angrily thrown unrisen dough into the food bin of an evening, only to find it's risen beautifully in the morning (probably helped along its way by the heat generated by decomposing vegetable peelings).

If your dough doesn't rise, turn it over, you may find that gluten strands have started to develop at the bottom of the dough, which means that the rising process is starting but it's just happening a bit slowly. Give it a squeeze - if it feels spongy and some air squidges out then your dough isn't irrecoverable. Try kneading your dough again and leaving it to rise again - I did this and mine rose beautifully.

To try and avoid problems with your dough rising, I'd advise you to knead it in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment on a medium speed. If you don't have such fancy gadgets then just knead it good and proper and make sure you leave it to rise in a warm place. I usually use the airing cupboard.

This recipe will make 15 buns. I halved it and made 8. If you have trouble with any of the steps in this recipe then Paul is here to help. Check out this video of him teaching Mary how to make hot cross buns.

You will need:

For the buns:
300ml milk
50g butter
500g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
75g caster sugar
7g sachet fast-action or easy-bake yeast
1 beaten egg
75g sultanas (raisins will also do)
50g mixed peel
zest 1 orange
1 finely chopped apple
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the cross:
75g plain flour , plus extra for dusting
one piping bag or icing syringe

For the glaze:
3 tbsp apricot jam

1. Bring the milk to the boil, then take it off the heat and add the butter. Set aside and leave until lukewarm. Meanwhile put the flour, sugar, cinnamon, yeast and salt in a mixing bowl, being careful to put the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl.

2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and butter then add the egg. Stir with a wooden spoon until it starts to come together, then get your hands in there and bring it all together until you have a sticky dough.
3. Tip onto a floured surface and knead well for 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Pop in an oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film (oiled on the underside OBVIOUSLY - or it'll be messy when you try to get it out) and leave to rise for 1 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.
4. When the dough has risen, knock it back and knead in the mixed peel, orange zest, apple and sultanas. Put back in the oiled bowl, re-cover and leave to rise again, this time for an hour.
5. When the dough has risen, split it into 15 equal pieces. Roll them into balls (Paul shows you how in the video) and place on the baking tray close enough so that they will touch when risen. This is what makes the lovely torn soft edges on the bun. Leave to rise for an hour, and while they are rising preheat the oven to 200C (Paul says 220C but I found that too hot). 
6. When the buns have risen, mix the flour for the crosses with 5 tbsp water, adding the water a tbsp at a time as you may not have to use all of it. You're looking for the mixture to just hold its shape but still be runny enough to pipe. When it does this, spoon it into your piping bag or syringe and slowly pipe a line across each row of buns, following the curve of each bun carefully. Then pipe lines perpendicular to the first ones, until each bun has a cross on top. 
7. Bake for 20 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven until golden brown. Meanwhile, heat the apricot jam on the hob until melted, then sieve to remove any lumps. When the buns come out of the oven, glaze them straight away, using a pastry brush.
 And there are your hot cross buns, done! Let them cool briefly and then slice them open and spread with butter. And devour.

If you don't want to glaze with apricot jam then honey, golden syrup or a sugar syrup could be used. The apple is Paul's addition so feel free to leave it out if you don't fancy it. And feel free to experiment with spices too - nutmeg might make a nice addition.