Monday, 24 August 2015

And the winner is...

....after a later surge of entries (thanks to all of you, I truly wish you could all have won!) I have just pulled a name from all the comments...not very scientific, I put them all into a bowl and picked one with my eyes shut! The winner of the fabulous Honey & Co - The Baking Book is:

GEORGIE!!!! Many congratulations, Georgie. I must admit that my heart did a little loop of joy when I opened the scrap of paper to find your name, as I know after recent events and traumas you are definitely due a piece of good luck! I will get it sent off to you and I really hope you enjoy it. Let us all know when it arrives!

Thanks to everyone who entered. Georgie, along with everyone else who owns this beautiful book, will now be able to recreate the cake above...which is a larger version (I doubled the quantities) of the Peach, Fennel Seed & Vanilla Mini Loaf Cakes in the book. This, along with many other delights, will be on the stall tomorrow at Aylesbury Farmer's Market. The forecast isn't great from lunchtime on, but the morning looks if you are in the vicinity, do pop down to see me and my fellow stallholders! We really love to see you! 9am - 2pm in the lower Market Square.

Hoping you have a wonderful week....x

Monday, 10 August 2015

Recipe for an August afternoon...& a giveaway!

 My newest acquisition in the vast library of cookbooks that threaten to take over our home is 'The Baking Book' from the fabulous Honey & Co . You may remember that I wrote about their first book 'Food from the Middle East'...and gave a copy away here too! Well, this one is just as contains some wonderful recipes - not all sweet - and I've been having such fun with it in my (not too copious) free time! I wanted to share the cake I made yesterday with you. As usual, I tweaked the original recipe. NOT because there was anything at all wrong with it - but just because I was giving it away to my family, and I know what they like! The 'real' recipe for Coffee, Cardamom & Walnut Cake has a rich coffee cream icing as a filling and on top. Delightful as that sounds, I knew that this wouldn't go down too well with 'my lot' as they prefer things less creamy and more fruity. So I followed the recipe for the cake, but added fresh apricots and finished it simply with the syrup from the original and a sprinkle of toasted walnuts after baking. The perfect marriage of flavours for a sultry August afternoon.

The cake itself is not difficult to make and has no weird ingredients...the only technique that may be new to you is making the 'burnt butter' that adds a deep, nutty note to the batter. This isn't difficult simply melt the butter over a low heat and then increase it slightly, 'cooking' the butter until it turns a rich brown. It will smell delicious...sort of caramelly & hazelnutty...and you'll notice little brown specks at the bottom of the pan. These are good! Don't leave it, though...or it WILL burn, and black is not the colour you need....
                              should look like the photo above, in fact! It will be really hot to start with, so it may help to make it first and then set it aside while you get the rest of the ingredients together.

Coffee, Cardamom & Walnut Cake with Fresh Apricots
Inspired by an original recipe from Itamar Srulovich & Sarit Packer from their book Honey & Co - The Baking Book 

For the cake batter:

330g icing sugar
120g ground almonds
130g self-raising flour
80g roasted walnuts (plus a few extra to garnish)
1 tsp ground coffee (I used ground espresso beans)
1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
3 whole eggs
150g egg whites (from about 4 eggs)
140g burnt butter (see above!)
Approx 4-5 ripe apricots 

For the syrup:
2 tbsp honey (I used runny orange flower honey)
60g/ml water
50g caster sugar
a double espresso (or 60g/ml strong black coffee)

Preheat oven to 190c/170cfan/gas mark 5
Line a 9"/23cm square pan with baking parchment (or circular if you prefer!)

Stir the dry ingredients and nuts together in a large bowl, 

then add the eggs and egg whites and mix really well until smooth (I used my Kitchenaid for this) Pour in the warm melted butter (scrape in all the nutty brown bits too!) and stir carefully, then transfer to the prepared tin...

...break the apricots apart gently using your fingers, remove the stones and arrange in rough pieces lightly over the surface of the cake batter. Don't push them down, just lay them on top...

 Let the batter rest in the tin for about 10 minutes, then bake for about 35 minutes until set and golden brown...this may take a little longer depending on your oven. Meanwhile, bring the syrup ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and remove from the heat. Once the cake comes out of the oven, brush the top generously with the syrup while still hot and let it absorb...
 ...sprinkle with the remaining toasted walnuts and allow to cool in the tin...
...before you dive in...(although it's lovely slightly warm, too...I'd eat it like that, with a big spoonful of labneh or creme fraiche...)
 Totally divine!
To celebrate this beautiful book, I'm giving away a copy to one of you loyal readers of this blog! 

All you need to do is leave me a comment on this post to qualify. I'll send it anywhere in the world, so don't worry that you'll miss out if you don't live in the UK. I'll make the draw two weeks from today, on Monday 24th August...good luck...and thanks for reading! Have a great week x

Monday, 13 July 2015

All-New Granola Bars

Firstly, my apologies for the lack of posts recently. My father died recently...expected, but very sudden at the end...and I found that amongst other things, the immediate grief really sapped my creativity. I've been ok just keeping things together...baking brownies as usual...keeping up with orders and even the Farmer's Market. But any new ideas just didn't seem to flow at all. Happily, this was a temporary state and I now feel more myself a couple of months on - so expect to see plenty of updates !

Granola/energy bars are one of those troublesome things to bake, I find. Not because they're difficult to make at all....throw a load of ingredients into a bowl, mix, bake and they always taste delicious! But cooking professionally is different. At home, no one minds if their cake disintegrates on the plate into a heap of long as it can still be scooped up and eaten, it's all good. But if you're buying that piece of cake, you expect it to look perfect all the way through - quite rightly, when you're spending good money on it. And here is where the problem lies. Flapjacks and granola-type bars are notorious for falling apart when cut and crumbling into an oaty heap. It's something I've battled and puzzled over for years!

Well, at last, I think I've found the way forward. I have done so much research on this topic and found  useful information in posts by Heidi Swanson on her fabulous blog 101 Cookbooks & Deb Perelman on hers, Smitten Kitchen (both are wonderful for so much more too...if you love cooking in general and have a few hours to spare, visit either or both and get lost in them!) These, together with my original and much tweaked recipe has given me All-New Granola Bars that are luscious, chewy, fresh-tasting and - most importantly - stay together when cut!! The secret is that I made the mistake of increasing the fat content, believing that this would stick the ingredients together. This is, in fact, what makes them crumble, so too much is fatal! Water is the magic ingredient...

The measurements are a bit of a combination at the moment...when they are standardised for the book I'm planning, they will be one or the other...but at the moment they are a combination of cups and metric (I have a plain metal set of US cups, which I'd really recommend you invest in if you love baking...they open up a whole new world, literally!) so do forgive me.

All-New Sugar Moon Granola Bars

1 & 2/3 cups porridge oats
1/3 cup oat flour (just whizz porridge oats in a food processor until they become a powder)
1/2 cup bran cereal (I use All Bran)
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g pumpkin seeds
50g sunflower seeds
1/4 cup broken pecan pieces
3/4 cup whole almonds, roughly chopped (skin-on or blanched are both fine)
3/4 cup pitted dates, soaked in boiling water (I just use enough to cover them)
50g flaked coconut (you can use desiccated if that's all you can find, but the unsweetened flakes are in many supermarkets and give a more interesting texture)
1/2 cup rice malt syrup OR honey
1/4 cup soft brown sugar (you can omit this if you like...I find they are sweet enough without)
1 tbsp pure organic coconut oil
60g unsalted butter
2 tbsp water (I use the soaking water from the dates)
1 tsp pure vanilla powder, or natural extract

Line a 23cm/9"square baking tin with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 170c/325f

In a large bowl, combine the oats, oatflour, bran cereal, salt and cinnamon.

Put the seeds, nuts and coconut flakes onto a large flat baking sheet and toast in the preheating oven for 10-15 minutes until starting to turn golden brown.You need to keep an eye on them to check they don't burn, and stir a few times to distribute the heat. Remove from the oven and add to the dry ingredients in the bowl.

Gently melt together the butter, coconut oil, syrup or honey & sugar - if using - either in a small saucepan over low heat or in a microwave. When the fat has melted, remove from the heat and pour over the dry ingredients. Add the drained dates and the water and mix really well.

 It should look something like can add another tablespoon of water if you don't feel it's damp enough...
 Tip into the prepared tin...
 Pack down well using a flexible spatula...
 and smooth the surface...
 Bake for approximately 30 minutes. The top should be golden brown and fairly firm to touch, but not have a 'dried out' feeling. Remove from the oven and leave to cool thoroughly in the tin. You can refrigerate once cool, to really firm them up. Remove from the tin using the parchment paper to help you and,with a sharp knife, cut into approximately 12 bars (or as many as you like!)
 Store in an airtight box in the fridge for best results...but anywhere cool will do. They'll keep for at least a week like this.
Brilliant for lunch boxes, picnics or - as my great friend Charlie does - as the ultimate running fuel!

Hope you enjoy them....thanks so much for reading, and visit again soon for more Sugar Moon magic!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

One big catch-up!

 I haven't posted in way too apologies for has been very hectic in all sorts of ways ...mostly work but others which I won't go into here (there's more personal stuff on my other blog should you so wish!) Anyway, back to the cake!
As you know, Sugar Moon has a stall on our monthly Farmer's Market and I thought you might like an updated look at that? I posted about it a few years ago but due a fresh look I think!
 The market takes place on the last Tuesday of the month, between 9-2...although in practise we all get there much earlier to arrange our wares and we often have customers from at least 8.30am, on their way to work. the actual stalls are supplied and put up by the council...we just have to bring tables and produce!
 I have been on the market for almost 9 years now and have built up a lovely group of regulars. It takes time and patience to do this. And much standing about in the freezing cold of winter. But it reaps rewards and friends. I have a core of cakes that I MUST bring to avoid disappointment - these always include 3 types of brownie (Double Chocolate, Walnut Fudge & Salted Caramel), Dark Sticky Gingerbread and Almond Bakewell Slice as well as a mountain of Cheddar Scones...

 But it's also a great opportunity to try out new recipes and ideas. The feedback is immediate (I provide generous bowls of samples!) and I love this aspect of it. I also have a Brownie of the Month...below you will see the divine Hazelnutella!
 Preparing for the market is hard, hard work. Of course, there is other baking to fit in too. And due to the nature of the beast (cake) it's impossible to make too much in advance. I like everything to be fresh so that the customer can freeze if they wish...which means a couple of 18 hour days in the kitchen to fit everything in. Presentation is also really important I find....I try and make my stall pretty and seasonal...daffodils and easter chicks in April, carved pumpkins in October, bunches of garden flowers in the summer months and oh-my-goodness lights and tinsel trees at Christmas!! But it's all worth it in the end. And I've made many good friends in my years here (mostly I know only their first names!)
This is Chris from New Creation Farm...who brings beautiful home-made apple juice and gorgeous English apples in season....
 And my favourite of all stallholders is one of the newest! One of my very best friends...Charlie Massey...the Coffee Man but also one half of the fab Grumpy Bakers who bake probably the best sourdough loaves I have ever tasted... well as stunning viennoiserie...french baguettes...rye bread...

 ...and focaccias topped with seasalt & rosemary or caramelised red onion...
 He is a breath of cheerful fresh air and we've known each other and our products for so long that we can look after each other's stalls with no problem at all (important if you want a loo break!) I'm lucky to have a similar relationship with the lovely Barry...
 King of Honey from Parslow Apiaries . He is a second generation honey man (his  Dad, John, mans the stall in the busy summer months while Barry tends the hives) and keeps 6 hives on my parents farm, so it's personal too!
 His beeswax polish and hand cream are brilliant, as well as the home-made candles and the honey, of course...
My friend Debbie Grant makes wonderful ready-meals which are particularly popular with older customers... well as cracking sausage rolls, scotch eggs, savoury mini quiches and bread puddings!
 My brother-in-law David has just stopped coming to Aylesbury market, sadly...but here he is on his last one!
 He and my youngest sister, Lucy, raise home-bred rose veal calves (do think about buying rose veal if you don't already...very different from the continental milk-fed crated calves which have rightly attracted so much protest. These are free to roam the fields and have lovely lives full of sunshine and grass!) as well as beef and lamb...
 They live at my Mum and Dad's can read about them here and see where to buy their amazing meat...and Lucy also makes a range of ready meals and gorgeous pasties too!
 Caroline sells vegetables, eggs and fruit from her family's farm...
 ...and beautiful jams and preserves that she makes herself...
 ...there are other stalls too...some of them come and go quite quickly. It's proved important - certainly for me - to plug away and stick it out, through cold, rain, wind and - sometimes - snow! It can be difficult to stand there, watching people stream past with not even a glance at us and our hard's easy to be cheerful on the ancient cobbles when the sun shines and the breezes gently ruffle your apron! But the tenacity builds loyalty and it's the only way I've found to guarantee that the takings increase each time. And that, in the end, is why we're all there!
 These Valentine brownies were bestsellers in February....
...and Sugar Moon bakes and sends five delicious flavours all week to your door with free first-class UK postage! But you are also more than welcome to come and see the other delights on offer on the market on April 28th.....!

Keep watching the blog because the next post will contain a brilliant giveaway as well as a recipe to try...until then, have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Giveaway results and exciting news!

Winter moves has many of us in an icy grip right now, I know. But not here, thankfully! It's cold, blustery...but bright and not a hint of snow at the moment. Still, it's chilly enough, and it's the perfect time of year to be huddled in the kitchen with the ovens on, baking up a storm! As well as brownies , I've been making a few birthday cakes for friends and family (LOTS of birthdays here in January!)

 This was a simple one that we took to a supper party last week. I made it a plain vanilla victoria sponge, as I thought everyone would have had enough richness over Christmas...and although it was a 'significant' birthday the recipient didn't want any fuss... i just made it simple and celebratory! And it was delicious I'm thrilled to say...

Now, before the giveaway results...some exciting news! Sugar Moon has been nominated in the 'Best Newcomer' category of the...
Yay! Even though I've been baking and cooking professionally for years and years, Sugar Moon is a new business, and we're absolutely thrilled to have been put forward for this award.
If you'd like to, I'd be so grateful if you'd vote for me! Voting is open until March...and it's so easy. You can vote from anywhere, too...lots of you have tried our brownies, I know...even some in Australia!! So if you want to, please click here ! Under 'categories' you will find 'Best Newcomer' and from there you can select Sugar Moon from the dropdown menu. Thanks so much! It would be fabulous to at least make the final round of nominations...

Ok, down to the most important business of this post...the winner of our giveaway!

CONGRATULATIONS to...............mcammuso2000! I'm sorry that I don't know your actual name! If you can send an email to the address at the top of the blog, telling me who and where you are I'll make sure that your fabulous copy of Honey & Co  begins winging its way to you!

Thanks so much to everyone who entered. I love reading your thoughts and comments...

Hoping that 2015 is being good to you so far. I'll post a recipe next time...perhaps you'd like to leave a comment requesting a particular type? Biscuit, cake, pudding? It's in your hands!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The End of our first Sugar Moon Year - and a Giveaway for 2015!

 Christmas in the world of commercial baking needs time. Time to plan...time to bake...time to mature! These Christmas cakes were made in September...the fruit macerated in brandy, rum & port for 10 days....
 ...and after baking, were fed with more rum for the months leading up to the celebrations. The decorations were completed in late November, when many of them were sold at the last Farmer's Market of the year. Others were packaged up as gifts to be bought nearer to the time...they are all, hopefully, merely crumbs and happy memories by now! Festive brownie packaging takes a bit of thought and planning too...
 At Sugar Moon we like things to look beautiful and inviting...
 ...with a few quirky touches! I think we succeeded. Love these stickers from Moo, a company I highly recommend for their quality and service.
 Mince pies were baked and consumed in quantity also...we receive orders from family and friends for these, usually all delivered on Christmas it's a hectic time. But we wouldn't want it any other way...
In early December, I went up to Nottingham with my great friend Charlie Massey (one half of the fabulous Grumpy Bakers, who bake a brilliant range of 'real' breads from their base at Twyford Community Stores near Buckingham) to the School of Artisan Food ....
 ...where we took a two-day intensive course in baking laminated breads and pastries with french master baker extraordinaire Mickael Jahan.
 Here I am, glazing some of our beauteous baguettes...
 ..and pointing out (helpfully) a special decoration!
 The sense of achievement was amazing...this is a field in which I was fairly inexperienced, although I used to bake croissants and viennoiserie many years ago...
 Michael's teaching was brilliant - and the course was great fun too....we shaped and baked all manner of breakfast goods - croissants, of course...
 danish pastries ( these were pains aux raisins mainly, but some with chocolate creme patissiere too...)
 and pains aux chocolate too. The dough needed much resting and folding and an initial overnight prove..
 But the results were stunning and definitely worth the wait!
 We also made much brioche in different & lemon plaits...

 traditional brioche loaves...
 and some containing hazelnuts and chocolate chips, or rum-soaked fruits....
 ...these had a macaronade topping, made from ground almonds, egg white and sugar...which gives a beautiful cracked appearance and extra texture.
 We got to pack up and take home all our produce at the end, too...over 300 items managed to squeeze into Charlie's little white Skoda...
 ...the fragrance on our long drive home was fabulous!
 There are many courses available at the school...for professionals or novices...and we'd highly recommend them!

So...a new year is almost upon us. I thought you might like a beautiful cake recipe to brighten these dark winter days (or add a deeper glow to your summer ones, if you're in the southern hemisphere!)

Probably my favourite new cookbook of 2014 has been Honey & Co by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer. I've written about it in greater depth in a previous post, but this cake is a fabulously easy and delicious one...
 In the book (and this recipe) Sarit uses only lemons...but in mine (and the pictures) I often use oranges too...or a mixture!

Saffron & Lemon Syrup Cake 

For the cake:

200g butter
270g sugar (I use golden caster)
4 eggs
200g ground almonds
a pinch of turmeric
140g semolina (I use polenta to make the cake gluten-free...either is fine!)
2 tbsp plain flour (or GF flour)
1 lemon, juice & zest
1/2 tsp baking powder (GF if applicable)

For the syrup & topping:

2 lemons, really thinly sliced
enough water to cover x 2, plus 400ml
250g caster sugar
a pinch each of turmeric & saffron (or just use turmeric if saffron is unavailable or too pricey for you)

Grease & line a 23cm cake tin with baking parchment (I use a loose-bottomed one)

Place the lemon slices for the syrup & topping in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil over a high heat.

 Drain the slices, re-cover with water and bring to the boil again. Drain for a second time (this process removes any bitterness), then cover with the 400ml water. Add the saffron, turmeric and sugar & bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 6-8 minutes until the peel is soft & the syrup has thickened.

Remove from the heat.
Use a fork to lift the lemon slices out of the syrup and layer them, just slightly overlapping, all over the base and a little up the sides of the lined baking tin....
Pour over 2 tbsp of the syrup and reserve the rest for later.

Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/Gas Mark 4

Cream the butter and sugar together (I use a stand mixer)....

 ...until they are well combined but not fluffy, as you don't want to aerate this mixture. Stir in the eggs, ground almonds and turmeric, then fold in the semolina, flour, lemon juice & zest, salt & baking powder. Mix well and scrape into the cake tin.
 Bake in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes, then turn the cake tin round to ensure even baking and bake for a further 10-15 minutes (I find that my oven needs a little more time...up to 30 sometimes!) The cake should be golden and firm. Remove from the oven and pour over the remaining syrup to soak in. Allow to rest for 20 minutes before turning out. Place a plate over the top of the tin and invert, then gently remove the tin and paper....
 As Sarit says..."Now,turn off the lights and watch it glow...."
 Stunning! And so, to celebrate the beginning of a sparkly New Year...we're giving away a copy of this fabulous book to one lucky reader!
We'll send a copy anywhere in the world. To enter, just leave a comment on this post. That's it!
Good luck....the winning name will be drawn on January 15th.

Until then....thanks so much for reading, and for supporting Sugar Moon this year. Hoping that 2015 is filled with good things for all of us! x