Saturday 27 February 2010

Marble Cake, Birthday Cake....

I made this gorgeous Sour Cream Marble Cake for our local coffee shop yesterday. Sadly, because it was an order, I can't show you inside! But the batter tasted so gorgeous...
I glazed it with a simple dark chocolate ganache. It made a really big, tall cake that would be wonderful for a special tea or birthday party - I can just see it with gold candles all over it!

It's adapted - once more - from Baked. I can't recommend this book highly enough, constant ideas & surprises. The original recipe was for a bundt cake, but my customers prefer plain round ones so that's how I made it. It probably took an extra half hour to cook this way, but I'll reproduce the recipe as it was originally and leave it to you!

Sour Cream Marble Bundt Cake
{from Baked - New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito}

For the chocolate swirl:
6oz good, dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

For the sour cream cake:
3 1/2 cups all purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup/2 sticks unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
16 floz (about 450ml) sour cream
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Grease the inside of a 10"(23cm) bundt pan & preheat oven to 350 degrees

To make the chocolate swirl, melt the chocolate over simmering water (again, I used a microwave but carefully!) and when completely smooth, whisk in the cocoa powder, remove bowl from heat & set aside

Sift flour, baking powder & soda & salt together and set aside.

Cream the butter until smooth (I use an electric hand mixer but a stand mixer - or wooden spoon if you're strong! - are also good) Scrape down the bowl & add the sugar, beating until the mixture is smooth & fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each in well & scraping down the bowl in between. Add the sour cream & vanilla and beat until just incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, scraping down the bowl in between & only beat until each addition is just incorporated. Don't overmix.

Pour 1/3 of the mixture into the chocolate swirl bowl & mix gently to make a smooth chocolate batter. Spread half the remaining cake batter into the prepared pan, then dollop the chocolate mixture on top of the plain, leaving some plain batter peeking through. Pour the remaining plain mixture on top & pull a butter knife through the whole lot, swirling gently to create a marbled effect. Bake in the centre of the oven for approx 1 hour, rotating the pan halfway through. Check by inserting a skewer or cocktail stick into the middle of the cake - it should come out clean when cooked!

Cool in the pan,on a wire rack, for 30 minutes then loosen the edges with a knife and invert onto the wire rack before leaving to cool completely.
I made my glaze from about 1 cup dark chocolate, 1/4 cup double (heavy) cream & 1/4 stick butter which I gently melted together over a very low heat until shiny & smooth. Again you could do this over simmering water or in a microwave.
This morning I went over to a local restaurant that I supply - Annie Bailey's to build an 18th birthday brownie cake for a party at lunchtime today...
It takes quite a while to build one of these, using chocolate sauce as 'mortar' - but I think you'll agree it's worth it. I love the roman numeral candles especially (found on our Autumn trip to the States) and the long thin ones are sparklers...
Wish I could see it all lit up....but after a quick cup of coffee with my friends up there, I was off home!
No more baking today....time to relax!
Enjoy your weekend xox

Thursday 25 February 2010

Polpo - Venice in London!

One of the nicest restaurants I've been to recently is this new one in London's Soho district.

Polpo is the most Italian restaurant I've ever visited outside Italy itself. It's small and takes no reservations in the evening - which may be a problem for some - but on a freezing cold Saturday in January it was just the place for us! We sat at the zinc topped bar, just to the right of the entrance. From here, you can feel the buzz and hum of the whole restaurant and get to chat to the friendly barstaff (the day we were there, a lovely Canadian girl who was really knowledgeable about Italian wines....very handy!) The menu , beautifully printed on the rustic paper mat in front of you, is the same throughout, whether you are at the bar or a more formal table...and changes regularly, sometimes daily according to what's good that day. It's made up of 'little dishes' or cichetti - the Venetian version of tapas, I suppose, together with more substantial meat or fish and what looked like amazing desserts including my favourite 'Affogato' or espresso poured over vanilla icecream. We got no further than the cichetti however, this time., You order as many as you like, when you want them...highlights for us were a divine white bean & sage puree on charred sourdough toast & 'sarde in saor', a Venetian speciality of fresh sardines, soused in an oniony sweet/sour vinegar marinade and served at room temperature. But it was all really, really good! Very reasonably priced too, especially for London. We left pleasantly full and just over £40 lighter...including tip.

Polpo has everything the best Venetian baccari do, except the amazing views and the Grand Canal outside it's door. But with a couple of glasses of good, chilled Prosecco and a plate of wonderful food I hardly noticed!

POLPO - bravissimo!  8.5/10

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Sweet treats for dark days....

This is the Burnt Sugar Cake I made looked and smelt delicious! I actually called it 'Caramel Cake' for the customers as the British don't like the word 'Burnt' I've discovered (even though I think that Burnt Sugar sounds intriguing & delectable!) I must write about the psychology of food & menu writing one of these posts - it's a fascinating area!
Anyway, whatever you want to call it, the cake is adapted from a recipe in another favourite book: Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott.

I use this book a lot for ideas and the cakes always turn out brilliantly - moist (I hate that word, but can't think of another that describes so well!) close textured and tall!

Burnt Sugar Cake
{adapted from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott}

First make a burnt sugar syrup by heating 1 cup sugar & a tbsp cold water in a heavy pan until the sugar melts & turns a rich, golden brown colour. DON'T STIR the mixture, just shake or swirl the pan if you need to, or it will crystallise! When it's a good colour, pour in (carefully, it will spit & hiss!) a cup of boiling water & stir with a wooden spoon to create a smooth, brown syrup. Remove from the heat & allow to cool.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees & line a 10" baking pan with parchment (sides & base)

3 cups all purpose (plain) flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 sp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
1 cup/2 sticks/ 1 250g pack butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs

In a large bowl, beat the butter & sugar at high speed until well mixed. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary. Pour in 1/2 cup of the cooled burnt sugar syrup & beat well. Add the dry ingredients & milk/vanilla alternately beginning with a 1/3 flour mixture, then half milk/vanilla etc. Beat only until each mixture is incorporated. Scrape batter into pan & bake approx 1 hour. I set my timer for an hour, but then turn the cake tin 180 degrees & bake for another 15 mins or so, testing with a skewer to check it's done in the middle. Ovens vary so much in strength! Cool in the tin for about 15 mins, then turn onto a cooling rack until completely cold.

Caramel frosting:

3 3/4 cups icing (confectioners) sugar
1/2 cup burnt sugar syrup
1/4 cup/1/2 stick/1/4 pack butter, softened
2-3 tbsp evaporated or regular milk (I used double/heavy cream)

Beat first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until incorporated. Add milk or cream a tablespoon at a time to make a smooth, spreadable frosting. Add more sugar or cream to adjust the consistency until just right.

Split the cake into 2 layers, use half the mixture to frost inside & the rest for the top. I drizzled a little reserved syrup on top to decorate, but you could also use fudge bits, butterscotch chips- or leave it plain!

A lovely cake to eat with a cup of strong coffee to cut the sweetness.

My other creation, baked this morning, was my own recipe for

Cookies & Cream Muffins
{recipe by Rachel Lucas!}
makes 9 large muffins

300g self raising flour
150g sugar
200ml whole milk
100ml sunflower or other tasteless oil
2 free range eggs
2 tbsp cocoa (unsweetened)
1 tsp baking powder
4 Oreo cookies, crumbled
Icing (confectioners) sugar to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius & line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.

Combine all dry ingredients in a  large bowl. Whisk together milk, oil & eggs until well combined. Pour wet ingredients over dry & mix lightly with a fork until incorporated but still craggy & lumpy. Don't overmix or the muffins will be tough! Divide mixture between cases, filling right to the top. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pan & bake for 10 minutes more. Dust with icing sugar & serve while still warm - although they're also good when cold!
As with all muffins, they're best eaten the day you make them.

A really quick & easy recipe - about half an hour from start to stomach if you have all the ingredients to hand!

So I hope you try at least one of these recipes. We sure need something to get us though the final, dark, wet, cold days of the Northern hemisphere winter! Soon it will be time for light, healthy food again - but for now I say: Eat cake, drink tea & be cosy!

Enjoy your day & your sweet things xox

Friday 12 February 2010

Baked Honeycomb Bars

We're having a late Valentine's Lunch for friends on Sunday, so I'll post about that soon...planning it now, sifting through favourite part, almost!

But today, I wanted to let you have another fabulous recipe from my other baking book of the moment:
the wonderful Baked - New Frontiers in Baking. Even though I've had it for a while now, this book still inspires me every time I pick it up!
For our local coffee shop this morning, I made a tray of Honeycomb Bars...luckily, when I cut them up there were some 'rough edges' that I got to try....oh wow! had to eat ALL those trimmings with a cup of strong black coffee at break time! So I wanted to share it with you here - although I strongly recommend hat you buy the book too if you don't have it already, it will transform your baking!

Honeycomb Bars
{from Baked - New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito}

For the base:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp heavy (double) cream
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose (plain) flour
pinch salt

Cream the butter & sugar until combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, cream & vanilla. Add this to the butter & sugar mixture and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the flour & salt until just combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface & form into an oblong disc. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap & refrigerate for 30 mins. ** {I actually skip this seems to work out fine, but you may want to follow the recipe exactly!}**
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180c). Butter the bottom & sides of a 9 x 13" glass or light coloured metal baking pan {I just lined mine with baking parchment paper}
Transfer the dough to the pan & press into the bottom (not up the sides) Bake blind for 10 mins (ie. cover the dough with a sheet of parchment paper & weight with dried beans or pie weights) Remove weights & paper and bake for another 5 mins. Remove from the oven & cool while you make the filling.

3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/2 cup diced, candied orange peel
2 tbsp cake flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy (double) cream
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
shot of brandy or bourbon (optional but good!)
2 1/2 cups sliced (flaked) almonds, toasted
{I also used 1/2 cup dried cranberries}

In a medioum bowl, toss together the dried fruits & cake flour.
In a large saucepan, over medium heat, stir together the sugar, cream, butter & honey. Bring the mixture to a slow boil & simmer to the soft ball stage (approx 240 degrees f on a candy thermometer) Don't stir the mixture while it's getting to this stage.
Add brandy/bourbon if using and remove from the heat.
Fold the dry ingredients & the almonds into this hot sugar mixture and pour onto the sweet tart crust....

smooth the top and bake for about 15 minutes until the top is brown & bubbly (you may need to rotate the pan halfway through).

Remove from the oven & allow to cool completely before cutting. I like to leave them overnight to really firm up! The can be stored for up to 4 days, covered and sealed at room temperature.

There we have them....beauteous, delicious Honeycomb Bars. I hope you make them and enjoy them as much as my customers have today (& me, of course ;-) )
Enjoy xox

Wednesday 10 February 2010

New blog, old favourite...

I wanted to start this new, all food blog with a very favourite book that transformed my enthusiasm for baking last year....paving the way for Baked later on. Now don't get me wrong...I adore, and I hope I always will adore, baking - cooking in all it's forms, really. But when it's your job, and you're trying to find ideas for something different 6 days a can get a little repetetive. I'd been to Ottolenghi's Islington branch in London a few times and felt excited by the beautiful, fresh, vibrant colours & flavours of it's food...especially the salads & the gorgeous bakery offerings placed tantalisingly by the door. The decor, too ,was innovative...shiny ,white walls and surfaces that further enhanced the glowing bowls around me. This was a seriously different place to the usual french-inspired, scrubbed-wood-floor rusticity of so many cafes around today....although I love many of those too!

When the book was published, to a fanfare of fantastic reviews, I ordered it straight away - and I was entranced immediately! The colours, freshness & vivacity were now MINE! And the baking section at the back of the book made me turn my oven on, button up my kitchen coat & plunge in straight away!! The first recipe I made, is the first that I shall post here...and it tastes as spectacular as it looks. So beautiful & celebratory in these long days of Winter. And with their ruby syrup decoration, they'd be perfect for a Valentines Day brunch or tea I think...
Plum, Cinnamon & Marzipan Muffins
{from Ottolenghi the Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi}
Makes 10/12

480g plain (all purpose) flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1tsp ground cinnamon
pinch salt
200g caster(superfine) sugar
2 free-range eggs
110g unsalted butter, melted
280ml milk
grated zest of 2 oranges
120g marzipan (almond paste) -preferably natural & organic
icing (confectioners) sugar to dust

Plum Compote
700g ripe, red plums, stoned & quartered
60g caster (superfine) sugar
1 cinnamon stick

Make the compote first. Preheat oven to 170 degrees /Gas Mark 3. Place the plums in a shallow baking dish, add the sugar & cinnamon stick & mix. Place in the hot oven & bake for 10-20 mins until the plums are very soft & the skins are starting to separate from the flesh. Remove from the oven & set aside to cool.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt into a bowl. Put the sugar & eggs in a large mixing bowl & whisk together. Add the milk & butter (make sure it isn't too hot) and whisk to combine.
Grate the marzipan on the coarse side of a grater (I have also just pulled small bits off with my hands!) and add to the batter, together with the orange zest. Now add 80g of the plum compote - flesh & juice - and stir to combine, setting the remaining compote aside for later.
Using a rubber spatula (or fork), gently fold the flour mixture into the batter until just combined. DON'T overmix - if there are a few lumpy or floury bits, that's what you want!
Line muffin tin with paper liners & spoon in the mixture, filling all the way to the top. Bake 25/30 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean. When cool enough to handle, remove from tin & leave to cool on a wire rack. Just before serving, dust with a little icing (confectioner's) sugar & top with the reserved cooked plums.

I especially love them slightly still warm...the flavours are divine, with the sweet almond paste & the slightly sharp contrast of the syrupy plums.
Gorgeous! Enjoy xoxo