Sunday, 22 February 2015

Fluffy Scotch Pancakes

This recipe isn't quite baking. Like the crumpets I made a few weeks ago, it involves making a batter, using bicarbonate of soda as a raising agent and then cooking said batter in a frying pan.

"But this is supposed to be a baking blog," is what you're saying now, in a rather whiny tone. Look at my face. Is this the face of a woman who cares about your narrow definition of the word 'baking'? No, this is the face of a woman who wants to eat pancakes.

Usually on Pancake Day I would go for the humble crepe, no questions asked. A French style pancake, crisp round the edges and dressed in lemon and sugar is still my favourite. But it's also what I have every year, so I decided to make scotch pancakes this year. I'm glad I did, even if it means I didn't get to showcase my skills as a champion tosser.

A tosser of pancakes, that is.

There are the last of my batch of pancakes, which I finished Friday morning with a drizzle of honey, blueberries and my daily americano. They very nearly made up for getting up at 6:30 to do the early shift at work. Nearly.

Like crumpets, scotch pancakes are something you can either eat warm from the pan or keep and refresh in the toaster before serving. I'd recommend eating them with maple or golden syrup, honey, fruit or just butter. This recipe makes 6 and is based on a recipe by Nigella Lawson.

You will need:
110g plain flour
150ml milk
half a tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Put the milk and vinegar into a jug and whisk in the egg and oil.

2. Weigh out the flour and whisk into the wet ingredients along with the bicarbonate of soda.

3. Leave uncovered for 20-30 minutes, then whisk again.

4. Heat a large frying pan over a medium flame without oil and use a ladle and the jug to ladle large dollops of batter into the pan, spreading them quickly into 6-8cm circles with the back of the ladle.

5. When bubbles appear in the pancakes and the undersides are golden brown, flip them with a spatula and cook until the other side is the same golden brown.

6. Serve.

Easy, quick and results in pancakes that are crisp on the outside with a warm fluffy centre. Lovely!

I will bake 'properly' again soon, promise.


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Raspberry Mousse Heart Cakes

I rather think I aired my grievances about Valentine's Day a couple of years ago on this same blog, so I won't go into it now.

Let's just say I never pass up an opportunity to make cake. There's a charity bake sale at work tomorrow so I have dutifully churned out nearly 20 of these little cakes.

Aren't they cute? You know they are. And surprisingly easy to make. You may in fact recognise some of this recipe from my raspberry and chocolate entremets, which I made for French patisserie week of the Great British Bake Off. Bake smart, not hard.

I ended up with a lot of raspberry mousse left over - it is lovely by itself or with the remaining cake bits after you've cut out your heart-shaped sponges.

You will need:

For the sponge:
250g softened butter
250g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
200g plain flour
50g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
A splash of milk, if needed
2 shallow rectangular baking trays, lined
small heart-shaped biscuit cutter

For the mousse:
225g raspberries
1 sachet gelatine or vege-gel
500ml double cream
70g icing sugar
1 piping bag or cone of greaseproof paper

To decorate:
handful of raspberries
icing sugar, to dust

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream together the butter and caster sugar with a wooden spoon.

2. Weigh out the cocoa, flour and mix together with the baking powder. Begin beating the eggs in one at a time, adding a tablespoon of dry ingredients with each egg to stop the mixture from curdling.

3. Fold in the remaining flour and if the mixture is slightly stiff (it should ribbon off the spatula or spoon) beat in a little milk to loosen the mixture.

4. Split the batter across the two baking trays and spread it evenly with a spatula or palette knife. The mixture will look thin but don't panic - we want that.

5. Bake the sponge for 8-10 minutes until risen and cooked through (check the middle particularly carefully) and leave to cool.

6. While the sponge is cooling, mix together the raspberries, gelling agent and icing sugar for the mousse together in a own and leave to simmer for 10 minutes over a medium heat.

7. When the mixture has simmered down to a fruity red liquid, force it through a sieve to remove all the pips.

8. Meanwhile, whip the cream for the mousse to soft peaks.

9. Once the raspberry mixture is lukewarm, fold it into the cream until fully combined.

10. By now the sponge should be cold. Use the biscuit cutter to cut heart shaped sponge layers out of it. 

11. Place the biscuit cutter on top of a sponge heart and use the piping bag or greaseproof paper to fill the space with mousse, then smooth it down with the back of a teaspoon and carefully lift off the cutter. Repeat until half the sponge hearts are topped with mousse.

12. Put the remaining sponge hearts on top of the mousse layers on the other sponge hearts, forming sandwiches with mousse as the filling. Scatter around some raspberries on the serving plate and dust with icing sugar.

There you have it. A perfect romantic treat and if you're single, all that means is there's no one to judge you when you scoff three in a row.

As this recipe contains fresh cream, remember to refrigerate your cakes if you're not eating them straight away and eat within a couple of days. If they hang around that long. 

Happy Valentine's Day,


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Orange Blossom and Pistachio Madeleines

Those of you who know me well will know that I have a weakness for baking equipment. Is that cake tin an inch smaller/bigger than all my others? I want it. Did I see that spatula on the Great British Bake Off? Gimme. Does that implement fill a need I never knew I had? Mine.

So when I went into Lakeland with a £5 voucher that required me to spend £30 to use it, there was only one way it was going to end.


I bought a duo icing set, which allows you to pipe 2 colours at once (2! There is a God!), a small cake tin, a cake lifter (don't ask), some posh flavourings, a madeleine tin and some other bits and pieces.

I won't tell you how much it all cost, but rest assured it was too much. Reeling out of the shop in slight shock, I decided I'd better start making use of my new equipment straight away. I promptly went home and made a batch of madeleines.

They were a great success - light, fluffy with the distinctive shell shape of a classic madeleine.

But I love to meddle with things that already work. My motto is less "if it ain't broke don't fix it" than "if it ain't broke cover it in icing. It is broke? Cover it in more icing!"

So I have meddled around a bit in the kitchen and this is what I came up with - orange blossom and pistachio madeleines. That's the recipe I'm giving you, if you want to make plain madeleines I used Michel Roux Jr's recipe. If you aren't lucky enough to own a madeleine tray then use a muffin tray.

Quick tip for skinning the pistachios - cover them in boiling water, leave for 2 minutes then drain and rub with kitchen towel - the skins should slip off. If your madeleine tray is the same as mine this will make around 30 madeleines.

You will need:
150g butter, melted and then cooled slightly (still fully liquid) plus extra to grease
100g plain flour plus extra to dust
100g caster sugar
100g pistachio nuts, skinned and chopped finely
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp orange blossom essence
2 medium eggs
icing sugar, to dust

1. Prepare your tray by greasing it with melted butter and dusting liberally with flour, tilting the tray to get flour into all the corners.

2. Whisk together the caster sugar and eggs until frothy.

3. Whisk in the remaining ingredients (except icing sugar) and leave to stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C.

4. Whisk the mixture again then drop a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into each madeleine mould.

5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and risen. Dust liberally with icing sugar and serve.

How easy was that? I'll show you the other side of the madeleines too, which should have a little peak in the centre.

Apart from their elegance, simplicity and tastiness there is another reason I enjoy madeleines. The eating of madeleines allows me to make a literary allusion. In his book "In Search of Lost Time" Marcel Proust refers to an incident when the sensory experience of eating a madeleine dipped in tea suddenly and involuntarily makes him remember doing the same thing during his childhood.

I had to read this book for my English literature undergraduate and although I found it pretty boring, I have since always enjoyed referring to eating a madeleine as a Proustian moment, when I know full well that a Proustian moment is actually a moment of involuntary memory. It allows me to show off about being well read while wilfully using a well known phrase for my own, wicked, cakey means.

And now, I am off to have a Proustian moment with one of these madeleines and a cup of tea.

Au revoir,