Saturday, 27 December 2014

Honeyed Apple and Almond Kugelhopf

I know, it's been a while. I've been busy with Christmas and all the eating and drinking that goes along with it.

Especially the eating. Trust me, there is very little I want to do less right now than write my baking blog.

Like last year, I didn't have much time off work before Christmas. I finished work at around 2pm on Christmas Eve, with just enough time to go for a quick drink with colleagues before heading to my parents' house in Surrey.

So to ease the pain of us poor souls who had to work right up to the time when Santa was readying his sleigh, I made a apple and cinnamon kugelhopf (or gugelhupf in Germany, I believe) for the office.

This gave me a welcome opportunity to road test my bundt tin, which I bought in Lidl a while ago. It worked marvellously. This was also the first time I made a yeast leavened cake and it was lovely, so well done me.

The only problem was, this being a yeast leavened cake, I had to get the thing to rise before baking it. In my very cold house in South West London.

But, as my good friend Taylor Swift would say: "bakers gonna bake bake bake bake bake". So I found a solution to my yeast problem. Don't think I don't know that you're sniggering about " yeast problem ". Get your mind OUT of the gutter.

I sat on the sofa, with my cling-filmed bundt tin containing the cake batter in my lap and wrapped myself in blankets, creating a kind of tent over the tin. The trapped heat from my body warmed the batter and it rose. Where there's a will, there's a way. I did feel a bit like a giant chicken incubating her eggs, but that couldn't be helped.

This is closely based on a recipe by Luis Troyano, a finalist on this year's Great British Bake Off and a baker I admire very much.

You will need:
60g unsalted butter (for greasing)
85g softened unsalted butter (to go in the dough)
60g ground almonds
200ml full fat milk
25ml water
400g plain flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
grated zest of 2 lemons
12g fast action/easy bake dried yeast
2 large eggs
2 green apples, peeled and diced
75g sultanas
a bundt tin (circular tin with a bit in the middle to make a ring-shaped cake)

Topping (optional):
50g butter
good glug of brandy
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
240g honey
1 tsp lemon juice
2 green apples, peeled, cored and cut into rings
50g flaked, toasted almonds

1. Grease the tin well with butter, getting it into all the corners. Put the ground almonds in the tin and turn the tin to ensure all the sides of it are completely coated in ground almonds.

2. Cream together the caster sugar and softened butter, then add the flour, cinnamon, salt, lemon zest and yeast. Don't add the salt and yeast together as salt kills yeast.

3. Warm the milk with the water until it reaches about 45C (if you don't have a thermometer it should be about halfway to boiling point). Add the milk and eggs to the other mixture and if you have a standing mixer, put on the paddle attachment and mix for 5 minutes at medium speed. If not, beating the mixture with a wooden spoon for 5-10 minutes should achieve the same effect. You're looking for a sticky, stretchy batter - about halfway between a bread dough and cake mixture.

4. Fold in the green apples and sultanas and pour the mixture into the greased tin. Tap the tin (not too sharply) on a hard surface to get the batter into all the corners. Cover the tin in cling-film and put it somewhere warm for 70 minutes, 25C is an ideal temperature.

5. Preheat the oven to 190C. The kugelhopf is ready for the oven when the batter has risen almost to the top of the tin.

6. Bake the kugelhopf for 35-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. While it is baking, add all the ingredients for the topping save for the apples and almonds to a large frying pan and bring to the boil. Add the apples and reduce the heat to produce a gentle simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes, turning the apples often until they have softened and the liquid thickened a little.

7. When the cake is finished baking, leave it to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then upturn the tin and shake it gently until the cake slides out. Pierce the top of the cake a few times and pour over half the liquid from the apples. Arrange the apples in a circle on top of the kugelhopf and drizzle with the remaining liquid, then scatter with the toasted flaked almonds.


Disclaimer: Taylor Swift is not my close friend, I merely admire her from afar. Unfortunately, she is yet to write any baking-based lyrics.

To my knowledge.


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Mini Cranberry and Orange Panettones

I love a slice of panettone at Christmas - dusted liberally with icing sugar and accompanied by a cup of tea it's light enough to be the perfect follow up to a heavy meal.

So when I was invited to an international Christmas meal, I thought panettone would be perfect. Only this being me, I wanted to do a twist on the classic panettone by replacing the raisins and sultanas in a normal panettone with cranberries and orange peel.

And I kinda shrunk it too:

I've said it before, I'll say it again: small is cute. And I'm not just saying that because I'm slightly under average height and therefore have a vested interest in extolling the virtues in all things small. It's also a lot easier to serve a panettone if it already comes in individual servings.

If you have a standing mixer or a handheld mixer with a dough hook you will want to use it for this because it's a very moist dough and quite hard to knead by hand. If you are kneading by hand you will need to flour your hands very well to deal with this sticky mixture!

You will need:

400g strong white bread flour
7g salt
40g caster sugar
10g fast-action dried yeast
120ml lukewarm milk (semi-skimmed or full fat)
4 eggs, whisked
100g unsalted butter, softened
grated zest of 2 oranges
juice of ½ an orange
100g mixed candied peel
100g dried cranberries
100g flaked almonds
greaseproof paper 
12-hole muffin tray

For the topping:
2 egg whites
25g caster sugar plus extra for dusting
25g ground almonds
50g flaked almonds 

1. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and sugar on one side and the yeast on the other side.

2. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the milk, eggs and butter and mix. If you're using the standing mixer, mix on slow speed for 3 minutes before ramping it up to medium for 4 minutes. If you're kneading by hand, beat in the wet ingredients with a wooden spoon until a dough starts to form and then get your hands involved. Tip the dough into a bowl and cover with clingfilm then leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

3. When the dough has risen, knock it back by pushing down with your knuckles and knead in the orange juice, orange zest, candied peel, cranberries and flaked almonds. 

4. Cut out 24 squares of greaseproof paper about 8cm by 8cm and lay one across each of the holes in the muffin tray, then lay another on top at an angle to the first. Divide the dough into 12 portions and put one in each of the muffin holes. Wrap in clingfilm or tie inside a large bag and leave to rise for about 2-3 hours until doubled in size.

5. While the panettones are proving, preheat the oven to 200C. When they have risen, bake for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the egg whites, caster sugar and ground almonds for the topping together. Take the panettones out the oven, brush the topping across them and sprinkle with the flaked almonds and a little more caster sugar. Lower the oven setting to 180C and cover the panettones with foil if you think they are browning a little too much and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes.

6. When the panettones are golden brown, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

They don't resemble the traditional panettone, but I think they're lovely. And there's something about the greaseproof paper wrapping which is quite nice - simple but elegant.

Happy baking,


Monday, 8 December 2014

Mince Pies and Snowflake Biscuits

I haven't blogged in nearly a month and I'm sorry about that. But now I am breaking forth from my brief baking hiatus to bring you Christmassy delights.

Aren't you delighted? Shut up, you are.

I love Christmas, but this year I'm working right up until Christmas Eve, so I used my remaining annual leave to take a week off at the beginning of December and held a little winter soireé for assorted friends.

It was lovely. I lit all the candles, sprinkled snowflake confetti over the dining table, personalised everyone's wine glasses with their name on a gift tag and served mulled cider (and spiced apple juice for the non-drinkers).

I also served smoked salmon paté, filo mince pies and snowflake biscuits. Here are the filo mince pies and biscuits:

First I'll give you the recipe for the snowflake biscuits. This is a simply magnificent recipe - I've used it for years and it always gives me at least twice the amount of biscuits I'm intending to make. This time I made 60.

Let me tell you, icing 60 biscuits with snowflakes is not a task to be undertaken lightly.

Now, I was baking these at my parents' house. There are several problems associated with baking at my parents' house:

1. They never have the necessary ingredients;
2. They are poorly equipped for high quality baking on an industrial scale;
3. The equipment that they do have is without fail either broken or lost.

Let me give you a couple of examples. When I decided to weigh my ingredients, I discovered that the electronic scales had run out of battery power. So I had to use these:

At least they can't run out of battery. 

Then, I discovered that the biscuit cutters were missing, presumed lost. This was a great shame, as we have several lovely Christmas-themed cutters in the shape of Christmas trees, stars, bells and the 3 kings (don't ask).

I called my mum's mobile, but it was, predictably, switched off. So I called her office, but she wasn't available and her business support team seemed very confused when I told them the biscuit cutters were missing and could they get her to email me and tell me where they were.

It might not have helped that I didn't tell them who I was, so they probably thought I was a local madwoman.

In the end I had to borrow a circular biscuit cutter from a friend and ice snowflakes on the biscuits. Without further ado:

You will need:
285g plain flour
170g butter
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla essence
biscuit cutters
a lined baking sheet
grazest of one lemon
285g caster sugar
1 piping bag with a fine nozzle

To decorate:
250g icing sugar
juice of one lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Beat in the egg, egg yolk and lemon zest. Add the flour and mix in with a spoon until a dough starts to form, then knead together until you have a smooth dough.

3. Roll out the dough to about 3mm thick and cut out as many biscuits as you can, placing them on the baking sheet. Knead together the offcuts and roll them out again.

4. Bake for 8-10 minutes until very lightly browned.

5. Leave the biscuits to cool. Beat together the icing sugar and lemon juice until runny enough to pipe but stiff enough to keep its shape. You may not have to use all the lemon juice. Once the biscuits are cooled, pipe snowflake shapes on the biscuits and leave to set.

Now for the filo mince pies. These are very easy and quick to make - providing you don't make the filo pastry yourself.

I'll tell you a secret - no one in their right mind makes filo pastry themselves. I know they make contestants do it on the Great British Bake Off. But even Mary and Paul don't make filo themselves. Do you own Paul Hollywood's Pies and Puds book? If you do, flick through to his "Hollywood's Temptation" (a salmon and filo pie) and cast your eye over the ingredients list. HE USES READY-MADE FILO.  So should you.

I make my own mincemeat - but don't feel you have to. If you want to, I loosely (very loosely) based mine on Delia's recipe, which is available online. If you don't, jars of mincemeat are not expensive. If you're vegetarian, like me, check the mincemeat is you-friendly. I make mine with vegetable suet.

You will need:

250g mincemeat
1 packet of filo pastry sheets
melted butter and pastry brush or sprayable cooking oil
24-hole mini-muffin tray, greased

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and cut the filo sheets into 8 x 8cm squares. Place one square in each mini-muffin hole, grease with melted butter or spritz with cooking oil. Place another on top at an angle on top and grease again.

2. Place a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat in each pastry case.

3. Fold down the corners of the second pastry layer and grease to secure them.

4. Place a final pastry layer on top and grease once more. Bake for 10 minutes until light golden brown in colour.

5. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

I have one final recipe for you - traditional mince pies, which I made the morning after my soireé to use up the remaining mincemeat. This recipe makes 12.

You will need:
175g plain flour
75g butter
pinch of salt
cold water
250g mincemeat
2.5 inch round pastry cutter
3 inch round pastry cutter
12-hole muffin tray

1. Rub the flour, butter and salt together with your fingertips in a large bowl.

2. Add enough water to be able to mix and then knead the ingredients into a smooth dough.

3. Roll out the dough to around 3mm thick and cut out 12 3 inch circles and put into a muffin tray, pressing in with a lump of excess pastry. Add a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat.

4. Cut out 12 circles of pastry with the 2.5 inch cutter and place on top of the mincemeat, then crimp together the edges of the pastry with your fingers or a fork. Prick the top of each pie with a fork. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and serve dusted with icing sugar.

That's it for now, but there'll be more to come soon, I promise (almost).

Tata for now,