Monday, December 15, 2014

Banana Boston Cream Cake - Home Sweet Home Bake Along (9/100)

Firstly, I think the name of this cake is a complete misnomer - there's no cream, and (more importantly) there's no Boston.

I would like to propose a new name for it - Chocolate Banana Custard Cake. A more fitting, if less imaginative description, if I might say so.

Secondly, my cake looks nothing like the one in the book. Mostly due to Ganache Issues.

I don't like ganache - it usually splits, then doesn't come back together until it is far too solid to pour, it's lack of sweetener means that you need to use cheap chocolate for it to taste any good in the volumes required for this cake, and this cake has a lot of it! (So much so, that I covered it thickly, and there was still enough left over to make 7 good sized truffles. Humph)

Thirdly, overall, I don't think this is a cake I will repeat. The cake batter was so thick that it would barely spread in the tin, and the resulting cake was bumpy.Even though I baked the cake for the shorter than specified, it was dry, to the point where the custard couldn't offer much improvement.

And, as I've said, the ganache - because I used good, dark chocolate, it wasn't very sweet, it was rather bitter, and really didn't add anything to the cake - a chocolate butter cream, or a custard-whipped cream topping would have been better.

Even more telling was my colleague's feedback, "Not your best cake,"  they very kindly clarified by specifying it was the recipe not the cake, but to be honest, I wouldn't have minded, because they were right, and I like it when people feel they can offer good, honest, feedback!

So, not a great success, but given that we are 9 bakes in, that's not too shabby. Next week, we're back on familiar territory with Hazelnut and Chocolate Macaroons

100g unsalted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 medium banana, mashed
125g soured cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt (too much, in my opinion)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

250ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg yolks (save the whites for next week!)
50g caster sugar
15g plain flour
15g cornflour

400ml double cream
400g dark chocolate, chopped


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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spiced Cranberry Party Fudge

This recipe is so wonderfully easy, it makes for a perfect last-minute Christmas-y party snack.

Or just an indulgent treat to nibble with hot chocolate in front of a roaring fire.

Whilst a cat purrs contentedly on your lap, and the logs crackle and spark.


Inspired by Steph (Misplaced Brit)'s recent fudge recipes, and a Nigella Lawson recipe, this recipe requires less than 10 minutes of prep time, plus a couple of hours in the fridge, and makes a smooth, yummy fudge, with very little effort.

1 (397g) can of sweetened condensed milik
400g dark chocolate, broken into small chunks
50g butter
1 to 2 tsp ground ginger (I used 1 tsp, but could hardly taste it, I advise more)
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
50g dried cranberries, plus extra to decorate (optional)
gold balls, silver balls, sprinkles, mini marshmallows, cacao nibs, etc to decorate (optional)

1. Line a 7x10 inch deep baking tin with foil (I like Mary Berry's method - mould the foil over the outside of the upside down tin, gently remove, turn the tin over, and pop the moulded foil in)
2. Put the chocolate, condensed milk, butter and spices into a large microwavable bowl. Heat on full power for one to three minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the butter and chocolate have completely melted (mine took 2+1/2 minutes).
3. Stir in the cranberries, and stir until just smooth. (Don't panic if it looks a bit split/curdled, it will come out fine)
4. Acting quickly, scrape the fudge into the tin (it starts to solidify quite quickly) and sprinkle over the decorations to your heart's content.
5. Refridgerate for 1-2 hours until set, then slice into small squares.

Other treats for a Christmas party table: Mint Humbug Cupcakes, Parmesan Shortbreads, Linzer Cookies, Queen of Hearts Jam Tarts, Apple and Tomato Chutney (which would also make a nice Christmas present.)

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Edited (again) to add: I'm also entering this into Treat Petite December (Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer (hosting this month)) - the theme this month is Christmas!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Mint Humbug Cupcakes - Home Sweet Home Bake Along (8/100)

This bake fell conveniently near Christmas, and gives endless scope for Dickensian puns (see Bah-Humbug cupcakes.)

They manage to embody the toffee and mint of a traditional humbug in cake form.

They whip up easily in an evening after work. And judging by their rate of disappearance from the office, they are a popular choice amongst my colleagues.

Gill over at Tales of Pigling Bland made mini-cupcakes, which I think would be lovely for a dessert buffet table over the Christmas period, a festive bake for the office, or a make-ahead for Christmas Day or Boxing Day tea?

Having noted that cutting mint humbugs is tricky, I left mine wrapped, gave them a swift smack on each side with a meat tenderising hammer, and then unwrapped them.

Just don't hit them too hard, or the sharp shards of humbug go straight through the plastic wrapper and embed themselves in your worktop. Apparently.

I couldn't find dulce de leche for love nor money in the teeny-tiny independent supermarket I shop in, so we went with boiling a can of condensed milk in a water bath, topped up every 20 minutes, for 3 hours, and then resisting eating the entire contents with a spoon.

Other cupcakes that I've baked: Jaffa Cake Cupcakes, Devil's Food Cupcakes.

70g unsalted butter, softened
210g plain flour
250g caster sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
210ml whole milk
1/2 tsp peppermint essence
2 large eggs
50g dulce de leche
500g icing sugar
160g unsalted butter, softened
50ml whole milk
1/4 tsp peppermint essence
20g dulce de leche
6 mint humbug sweets, smashed, to decorate

Next up: Banana Boston Cream Cake (ooh-err missus!)


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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Parmesan Shortbreads - Home Sweet Home Bake Along (7/100)

I have a confession to make.

I really don't like Parmesan.

In my opinion it smells like something unmentionable and tastes even worse. I spent most of this recipe going "this is gross, this is gross."

However, there must be some strange reaction that occurs inside the oven, because these are delicious.

Little, savoury, more-ish bites. They'd make excellent Christmas canapes, or as Gill suggests a Christmas gift.

Needless to say, these were quickly eaten by my colleagues. Definitely one to repeat.

125g plain flour
125g finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp Maldon sea salt (rather specific!)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg yolk

Bake Off Style Instructions:
Mix all ingredients except butter and egg yolk together. Rub/cut butter into dry mixture. Use egg yolk to bring together in a dough. Chill. Roll. Cut.


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Monday, November 24, 2014

Raspberry Jelly Roll - Home Sweet Home Bake Along (6/100)

I made a Swiss roll.

I made a Swiss roll and it didn't crack.

I made a Swiss roll, and I didn't push him down a hill. (Come on, you knew that was coming!)

I was unduly worried about this recipe, having seen how contestants struggle with swiss rolls on Great British Bake Off, as if you followed the instructions exactly, it was a doddle. After serving this to my boss, there was a long pause before he passed judgement, "it's very good," when I enquired as to the cause of this pause, he informed me, "well, the first thought that went through my mind was, 'it's not chocolate'!"

Anyway, it rose nicely, rolled nicely, and stuck slightly to the tea towel (more icing sugar next time I think.) I filled it with a blend of raspberry puree and apple butter, as I didn't have any homemade raspberry jam, and didn't think damson jelly would quite cut it. The raspberry-apple combo was very good, and cut nicely through the sweetness of the sponge.

4 eggs, separated
180g caster sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract
120g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
icing sugar, to dust,
160g raspberry jam.

Bake Off Style Instructions:
Make fatless sponge (whisked sponge)
Roll up sponge, whilst hot, on tea-towel dusted with icing sugar, leave to cool
Unroll sponge, spread with jam, re-roll.
Dust some more with icing sugar


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chocolate Custard Squares - Home Sweet Home Bake Along (5/100)


I have to say, hats off to Fred (of Tales of Pigling Bland - for more info on why she is "Fred," you'll have to go here and here (and read the comments)) for suggesting baking through a Hummingbird Bakery book. So many things I would have missed out on - the number of bakes in this book I would have skipped over, without a second glance, if it wasn't for the discipline of a bake-along.

This one is an excellent example - a bizarre combination at first glance, that somehow all comes together into a chocolate-y-vanilla-y-deliciousness.

I made a couple of substitutions: I replaced the cashew nuts with an equal weight of almonds because I realised too late I didn't have any and couldn't be bothered to buy more felt almonds were a nice alternative.

I also substituted amaretto for the Kahlua, because, despite finding 3 bottles of Chartreuse (seriously! What even is it?!) in the ancient family liquor cabinet, there was no Kahlua, and I ain't buying an entire bottle for the sake of 3 tablespoons. Plus, with the almonds, it complimented the base nicely.

These are seriously rich - the recipe suggests cutting into 12-15 squares, I cut into 16, and that still seemed an awfully big portion to me! However, they disappeared mighty fast at both PCC and work.

Base (smooshed up in the food processor, then baked at 170C for 15 minutes):
100g amaretti biscuits
60g unsalted cashews (I substituted unblanched almonds)
40g cocoa powder (the recipe specifies, "sifted," I did not sift, as it then tells you to blitz it with the other ingredients in a food processor, and if a food processor cannot get out the lumps in the cocoa, then we have bigger problems)
100g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter
80g desiccated coconut
2 large eggs
Custard filling (basically a thick buttercream):
200g unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons custard powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
500g icing sugar
4 tablespoons whole milk
Chocolate topping
150g dark chocolate (I used a blend of ~75g 85% and ~75g ~70% - the filling is so sweet you need a nice bitter chocolate to cut through)
25g unsalted butter
3 tablespoons Kahlua (I used Amaretto instead)

In other news - the Laduree bake along is on hold, as it turns out finding barquette moulds and savarin moulds in the correct sizes is a) difficult and b) being debated as to its value - I'm not keen to buy things I will only use once/have one use for - kitchen space is limited, and likely to need packing up and moving at some point. I am sad about this, as I was enjoying learning patisserie, so will definitely return to it at some point. Now to find something else for the twice weekly baking...

Next up: Raspberry Jelly Roll (Swiss roll!)


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