Sunday 25 November 2018

Pumpkin soup

This year the supermarkets seemed to stock pumpkins for eating rather than just carving which meant I just had to buy some. The only thing is, pumpkins are pretty big and take a long time to eat on your own. Thankfully my sister came over for dinner, so a pumpkin soup seemed to be a perfect starter.

This was one of the best pumpkin soups I have ever made. It's got a triple chilli threat (red chilli, pepperdews and chipotle flakes) which would normally scare me, but it works really well. The olive oil gives another type of complimentary pepperiness but the pumpkin can take it.

It is a very deep and warming soup - perfect for a cold and blustery winter's day. As always the garnish(es) are critical from turning a good soup into superb one. I think I hit paydirt this time. I had roasted the pumpkin seeds in smoked paprika and chipotle flakes, which added add a good crunch. Then rings of pickled pepperdew peppers added a real spark, much like a citrus kick.

Altogether a thing of edible autumnal (winter?) beauty.

One thing I thought would make it even better, was if I had reserved some small chunks of pumpkin for the bottom of the bowl. I thin thee need to be deeply caramelised and tender. Probably fried in butter for a few minutes to give a bit of bite.

Anyway, on to the recipe.

Pumpkin and chilli soup recipe

Note: This was very much made by eye, so quantities are rough.

Pumpkin, cut into chunks/slices
11/2 onion, sliced thinly
Red chilli, chopped (seeds removed)
1/2tsp cinnamon
Vegetable stock
Double cream, if liked
For the seeds: sea salt, smoked paprika, chipotle chille flakes
To serve: cream, olive oil, sliced pickled pepperdew peppers

1. Slather the pumpkin chunks in oil and season. Bake until soft (try 200°C for 30min and go from there).
2. While the pumpkin is roasting, bake the seeds too. Toss in oil, sea salt, smoked paprika and chipotle chilli flakes. Spread out on a roasting tray and bake until dried out and crisp. This will take about 10min but keep an eye out and check regularly.
3. Sweat the onion and red chilli in oil.
4. Once the onion is soft add the cinnamon and fry for about a minute.
5. Scoop the soft pumpkin flesh from its skin and add to the pot.
6. Add enough stock to just about cover.
7. Bing to the boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook for about 10minutes.
8. Blend the soup until smooth. Manage the thickness to your liking adding more stock to thin. You can also add double cream for richness too. Season to taste - go easy on the pepper!
9. To serve ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and cream. Scatter the slices of pepperdew and pumpkin seeds across the top.

Sunday 11 November 2018

Cider Cake

I was thinking about this cake when I made the toffee apple cake, the other week. This is another seasonal autumnal cake, but in complete contrast it could not be easier. It takes about 10minute to know-together the batter and only about 30min to bake.

This is a really satisfying cake. There's just more than a hint of apples with a pleasant warmth. It's not too rich nor too moreish: a decent chunk leaves you completely satiated.

It did make me think that actually combining this with the toffee apple cake, such as boiling the dates in cider rather than apple juice, really would result in an absolute cracker-jack of a cake.

When I finally finished it off a week later, I may have slightly embellished with some caramelised apples. Yes, it was goooooooood!

Cider cake recipe (taken from Paul Holywood's receipe on Baking Mad)

100g butter
100g unrefined light muscovado sugar
2 eggs (large)
225g plain white flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
150ml dry cider

1. Heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a deep 18cm/7" round cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
2. Beat the butter and sugar together with a handheld electric whisk until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon together.
3.Fold about a third of the flour mix into the whisked mixture, then fold in half of the cider, with a large metal spoon or spatula. Fold in another third of the flour, then the rest of the cider. Finally fold in the remaining flour until evenly combined.
4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin and gently level the surface. Bake for 30–40 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and set aside to cool completely.

Tuesday 30 October 2018

Toffee apple cake

I recently helped make a friend make toffee apples (yes, they turned out well - toffee that was very crisp and pleasingly "snap-ful" - although not quite the scarlet red orb that had been desired) and this obviously made me think about a toffee apple cake.

I remembered that during GBBO17, Prue tried Kate's toffee apple cake and declared it the "best cake I've ever had". Now normally, I'd work out my own "ultimate" recipe, but given this intel, I broke with precedent and simply followed the recipe (once I found it online). Having said that, I did make one tweak, which was to replace the internal toffee apples with an apple compote care of Michel Roux.

The cakes turned out pretty well. It's very interesting technique based on a sticky toffee pudding. Very tasty but they did seem a little dry (based on the trimmings from levelling them). And sticky toffee pudding usually comes with lashing of toffee sauce (and cream!). The combination of these factors prompted me to use the compote.

This is the cake equivalent of a warm hug on an autumnal evening in front of the fire, whilst leaves blow outside and drizzle patters against the windows.

The cake is incredibly satisfying and rounded, if you get a bit of everything in one go - the icing, the cake and the apple compote. The spices are gentle and warming. The icing is good and light, I'd prefer a bit more of a toffee hit. Also you don't get hit round the face with apple, but you know it's there providing background depth and sweetness.  Although the apple balls on top didn't quite turn out right, they added a great sharp contrast.

Next time to make it an even more cosy night in, I think I would:
  • Try and get the toffee right for the decorative apple balls
  • (At least) double the amount of apple rings
  • Use a calvados and honey syrup on the cakes

Saturday 6 October 2018

BFG - not Dahl's giant but a Black Forest Gateaux

I think I spend too much time working at the minute (the 1h45 commute each way may be a factor too) which means I spend less time cooking and baking and have even less time to blog when I do.

I did a German evening tonight which was borne out of an aborted trip to the Black Forest to find the ultimate black forest gateaux. I don't have any photos of any courses but the BFG. Mind you the menu did seem to go down quite well:

Sharing pretzel with cheese and beer dip and a mustard dip
Rouladen with home-made sauerkraut and spaetzle

The cake turned out pretty well. I think the best comment was "this reminds me of the cakes of my childhood".

It was very satisfying combination of chocolate, cherry and cream. Amazingly my guests didn't take any home, so I was left eating a slice a day for the next week. Tough gig.

It was incredibly difficult trying to get hold of the right cherries. I wanted morello cherries but could not find them for love nor money. Fortunately, Waitrose came to the rescue where Aldi and Lidl had failed.

The cakes (care of the ever-reliable Felicity) were soaked with a combination of kirsch and the syrup from the cherries. Then a thick layer of rich dark cherry jam was added. Next was Chantilly cream spiked with the kirsch/syrup. I put nearly a whole jar of cherries on top of the cream before the next chocolate sponge layer. Repeat again. The third and final layer of cake was covered with a thick ganache and crowned with glace morello cherries

Sunday 1 July 2018

Blackcurrant mousse cake

After a ridiculously successful Pick Your Own session, I found myself with nearly a kilogramme of black currants to find a use for. I was thinking about a mousse cake, but because I've been watching Bake Off - The Professionals, I thought I'd turn up the pressure and have a go at an entremet.

The cake had a coffee genoise sponge base, a milk chocolate "mousse" (I'll explain the inverted commas momentarily), caramelised almonds (as a substitute for a feuilletine layer), a blackcurrant mousse topped with a  blackcurrant glaze.

It wasn't half bad. It had a very long flavour. My mouth was constantly excited with each bite. The crunch of the almonds was an excellent foil to the luxurious mousse. The blackcurrant mousse and coffee cake combination is both complex and complementary. The bitterness of the coffee contrasting with the sweet fruit. The chocolate layer helped to seamlessly transition from one to the other. The glaze was intense and provide a real hit of fruitiness.

The only bit that didn't really work was the chocolate mousse. This was supposed to be a ganache, but had added egg yolks and sugar. I think the problem was that I didn't whisk the egg yolks and sugar together enough to form a sabayon, so when combined with the melted chocolate and cream, it didn't really for a mousse.

It's a very complicated recipe with many components, that I ended up making over night. I also wished I had a ring mould rather than a springform tin. De-moulding would have been much easier! I'm actually quite pleased with myself.

I'll give the chocolate ganache another bash and see if I can improve it. Maybe this is the start of an obsession with multi-layered desserts...

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Cheesecake brownies

I made this cheesecake-brownie mash-up because of a number of reasons:
  • I quite enjoy Paul Hollywood's City Bakes on the Food Network and I caught a repeat of the New York episode where he made these.
  • Last week I made an amazing baked cheesecake (I should have taken photos. I was surprised at how smooth it was: remarkable!).
  • I had a block of chocolate sitting in the cupboard.
  • At work, JW has declared his love of cheesecake on numerous occasions and I thought these would be a good way of sating that appetite.
They turned out pretty well. They are very rich and very chocolatey. They are more of a dessert than a brownie; at room temperature a plate and fork are definitely required. They are incredibly satisfying - you get a big chocolate hit. These do not leave you wanting.

I made some slight alterations to the recipe, based on my successful cheesecake the week before and instinct. I added a little cocoa and substituted in white chocolate chunks.

I think they could do with fewer chinks of chocolate and more cheesecake. I think I'd like the contrast between the brownie and cheesecake to be more pronounced, which I think you'd get if you upped the cheesecake content by 50%. I think it might be better to make them bigger pan thus making the brownies thinner and emphasising the contrast.

Recipe for cheesecake brownies (based on Paul Hollywood's original)

For the brownie:
200g plain chocolate, 45% cocoa solids
200g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
200g caster sugar
75g plain flour
15g cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
175g white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the cheesecake:
180g full fat cream cheese
1tbsp cornflour
15g caster sugar
1 medium egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
60ml ready-made custard

1. Line a brownie tin 22x29cm, 8 ½" x 11" with baking parchment. Heat your oven to 170°C.
2. Break 225g of chocolate into small chunks and place in a heatproof bowl with the butter. Place over a pan of simmering water and heat until melted. Leave to cool.
3. Beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and the mixture has thickened. Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs and stir until thoroughly combined. Fold in the flour, cocoa, salt, chocolate chunks and vanilla extract. Pour into the prepared in.
4. Using an electric whisk on a slow speed, beat the cream cheese with the custard, sugar, vanilla extract and cornflour. Mix until smooth and all the ingredients are combine.
5. Drop spoonfuls of cheesecake mix onto the brownie then using a spatula fold through the brownie to create swirls. Bake for 25 minutes. A little mixture should still stick to a skewer when inserted in the middle of the brownie.
6. Leave to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Sunday 8 April 2018

Coffee and cardamom cake

This cake came about with a need to provide cake for a cocktail party, which turned into a desire to produce a cake version of an espresso martini (although things took a bit of a turn when I started researching, especially when I read a James Martin recipe) and the need to provide a fiesta of buttercream.

It turned out really well. It's very delicate in flavour and the cardamom makes it incredibly fragrant. It's well balanced, not too sweet, and very long on the palette. It leaves you with a very satisfying hit of cake.

I was toying with making a white chocolate and coffee ganache for the top, or perhaps serving with a chocolate sauce (which would make it more of a dessert) but I think both of these would be over-powering. You could forgo the icing on the side, as well (but that depends on your predilection for buttercream...)

It's especially good with a cup of coffee the day are after baking. On to the recipe...

Coffee and cardamom cake:

8oz butter, softened
8oz caster sugar
4 eggs
3tbsp strong coffee
Cardamom seeds, ground from 10 pods
8oz plain flour
2tsp baking powder
2oz ground almonds
Coffee liqueur
For the buttercream - this is enough to cover the sides:
9oz butter, softened
18oz icing sugar
Coffee/coffee liqueur, to taste, approx 6tbsp
Chocolate, to decorate

1. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale.
2. Beat in the eggs, one by one.
3. Stir in the coffee and ground cardamom seeds.
4. Fold in the flour, baking powder and ground almond.
5. Split the cake mix between two greased and lined 8" cake pans, and bake at 180° for 25 mins (or until done).
6. While the sponges are cooling, make the butter cream.
7. Beat the butter, icing sugar and coffee together until smooth, adding coffee/liqueur to taste.
8. Once the cake are cool, split each cake in twain and drizzle with your choice of coffee liqueur.
9. Slather each cake with buttercream and stack.
10. Cover the top and sides with butter cream (if wanted) and decorate with grated coffee.
11. Grab a fresh mug of coffee or shake up an espresso martini, sit back and enjoy a slice.
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