Tag Archives: baking

A Pie In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Mouth

I spent yesterday evening hanging out with my good friend Allen, who will soon be departing for Colorado, and what better way to say farewell than to make some awesome food. Allen is the world’s biggest fan of Smitten Kitchen, and so the recipes we used came from there. For dinner we had pasta with sugar snap peas, lemon and ricotta, which was super tasty – recipe here. Then came the rhubarb and cream cheese hand pies.

Hand pies. Who knew such a thing existed? When I saw the picture I was like, hey they’re kind of like pasties. But no, no they’re not, they’re like 100 times better than any pasty you have ever eaten. Okay, so maybe you’ve had some really good pasties, but trust me. The beauty of these things is that they’re hand-sized (no s**t), so you can have one as a snack or you can eat three…I ate three. Also, awesome for picnics. I think I might eat them all summer.

We formed a kind of production line where I was responsible for rolling out and cutting the pastry into squares, Seb was on egg-wash duty and Allen did fillings and put the tops on. And then we all switched about a bit, because I can’t cut straight – anyone who has ever seen me cut a slice of bread will attest to this. Allen took over and suddenly the pies became much more square. I videoed a bit of Allen constructing, so you can see how delicious they are:

They’re pretty straightforward to make (even more so if you have 3 of you assembling them), and only take 15-20 mins to cook. You can find the recipe here. I think if Peyton & Byrne is my favourite book, Smitten Kitchen might be just about to become my favourite website.

Also a quick shout out to the lemon curd cupcakes I made the other day for Father’s Day – AMAAAZING. For a more extensive post on this subject, click here.

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On Cookies and Cookery Books

By day, I am a bookseller. My love of reading means that I already buy more fiction than I even have time to read, and there are still more that I have to restrain myself from buying (the staff discount makes it even more tempting). The problem only grows when I start flicking through cookery books when I’m lost for ideas for dinner or looking for something different to bake. My cookery book collection has grown substantially since I began working with books, and the worst part is… I never use them.

Never is a strong word, and perhaps somewhat inaccurate. But considering I make myself dinner every day, and bake at least once a week normally, the frequency with which I open any of my large number of cookery books in no way matches the amount I cook. Cooking for oneself tends to become a matter of convenience, of sticking to what you know when you’ve got other things to do in the evening and can’t be bothered messing about with a recipe that has far too many ingredients and takes three times as long to prepare as anything you’d normally cook. So why can I not resist?

In order to stop myself from buying even more books, I sometimes borrow recipes from books. I like to think of it as a test, where if the recipe is good enough, I might just buy the book. Or not. Maybe. So the other day I was flicking through Green and Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes (I know, the title immediately says BUY ME), and I came across this recipe for cookies. The best cookies ever. I’m willing to start a cookie contest with anyone who dares to enter, my cookies would pretty much definitely win. Just saying.

30g plain flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

100g milk chocolate

100g white chocolate

100g blanched hazelnuts

250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)

2 eggs and 1 yolk

110g caster sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4/350F.

2. Chop the milk and white chocolate and the hazelnuts into small pieces, and combine with the flour and baking powder.

3. Melt the dark chocolate, and let it cool for a few minutes.

4. Whisk the eggs and yolk with the sugar until light and fluffy, add to the dry ingredients and then pour in the cooled chocolate. Mix.

5. Spoon cookie-sized lumps of mixture onto a greased baking tray, and then bake for 10 mins. No more than that, because after 10 minutes they are awesomely gooey.

So I haven’t bought the book yet, but there’s a pretty good chance I will, just because, who doesn’t need loads of chocolate-based recipes they will probably never actually use.

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The flip side of this woeful tale of my unused cookery books is that there is one book that I do always use, which is Peyton and Byrne’s British Baking. In fact, I am just about to go and make the carrot cake from it right now. It is the best carrot cake I have ever consumed, and if you want to know more about that carrot cake, you can see here where I wrote about it last year. Anyway, any cookery book that tells me I can actually make crumpets has my vote (no, seriously, before I got this book I just kind of assumed that crumpets were a factory-made supermarket item. I wish I was kidding). All I can say is, if you only want to have one cookery book in your kitchen, have that one. At the very least it means you’ll be eating cake all year round (and crumpets).

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Returns

So, remember that time when Jordi came back to England and we stopped transatlantically baking? So do I…. It was a year of joy, where we baked and ate together and…mostly drank a lot?

Sadly, the UK Border Agency had other ideas for my dear friend, and as a result, her, and her fantastic husband Robbie are returning to Canada. “But wait!” I hear you say…”does that mean that The Royal Moose is no longer defunct?”

YES.

In fact, I just baked a pretty awesome loaf of bread.

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Probably the Chocolatiest Cake Ever Baked (TM)

SO. There’s been rather a delay in updates. The main news that has occurred over this three month silence is that one Jordi Wieler is returning to England! Hurrah! So perhaps this will continue in a slightly less transatlantic way.

The main baking news of the last three months is that I started making peanut butter pies, which have become wildly popular with my boyfriend. No one else really gets the chance to eat them, because he demolishes them so quickly – a whole 10″ pie within 24 hours. I’m not sure impressive is the word I want to use, but it’s definitely something like that.

Anyway, to the topic today, which is chocolate! It was my dear friend Laura’s birthday on Monday. Laura loves chocolate in a way that most people love their pets…or maybe even more than that. It’s hard to say. She heroically gave up chocolate for Lent, and to many people’s surprise, managed to stay strong and go the whole 40 days without caving in (so proud of Laura). So even though she’s been able to eat chocolate for a few weeks again now, I vowed to make her the chocolatiest cake I could find.

A Chocolate Brownie Gateau.

This cake is not for the faint-hearted. Or the easily sickened. The cake itself contains 1lb of chocolate, and the icing is made from even more chocolate and double cream. The slice I had was at the widest end not much more than an inch, and I had difficulty finishing it. So if you’re feeling extravagant, or you just love chocolate as much as Laura does, here is the recipe:

450g plain chocolate

225g unsalted butter

3 eggs

225g light muscavado sugar

75g self-raising flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

175g chopped walnuts

For the filling:

150ml double cream

100g plain chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 190C or Gas Mark 5. Grease 2 7″ cake tins and line with baking paper. Roughly chop 115g of the chocolate and set aside.

2. Break the remaining chocolate into pieces and melt with the butter, in a bowl set over a pan of lightly simmering water. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Stir in the melted chocolate, sift in the flour and add the vanilla extract, chopped nuts and chopped chocolate.

3. Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for around 30 mins, until the surface has a sugary crust and feels firm. Loosen the edges with a knife and turn onto a cooling rack, leaving the cakes in the tins until cool, then remove.

4. Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a pan with the cream, heat gently until the chocolate melts. Allow to cool, then whisk until stiff and use to sandwich the cakes together.

This recipe came from Easy Everyday Desserts.

Finally, a picture of Laura and Julian cutting the cake as if it was their wedding day.

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(Laura just texted me saying she had some of the cake for breakfast. Seriously.)

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A Merry (Khaki) Christmas to you all, and a Happy New Year

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

I finally got to do some baking the other day, after weeks of work stress, my first choice was to spend some time making red and green velvet cupcakes. Normally you just get red velvet cupcakes, but I’ve been thinking about doing green ones as well for a while because, well, it seemed more festive. My downfall was not having the foresight to realise that when you mix green food colouring and cocoa powder you get… khaki. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t affected the taste, but they are slightly less exciting looking than the bright deep green I had envisioned, as can be seen here:

Oh well.

The recipe came from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and can be found here (but a word of advice, you might not want to make as much icing as it says – all Hummingbird recipes have far too much icing…unless you want more icing than cake)

The lovely display stand the cupcakes are on was given to me by my friend Ffi. The result of me displaying the cakes in this way was that my Dad didn’t want to eat them because they looked too pretty. I have made a mental note to set anything I make for anyone else out this way to stop him eating it – honestly, it’s the only way. 

One of the more exciting results of Christmas was that I received many many new cookery books. I sat on Christmas morning looking through them all thinking “I don’t want to go back to work…I want to stay at home and bake”.

 

My favourite book so far is the Peyton & Byrne, which is the best British baking cookbook ever, and everything just looks beautiful – I think it’s something you really need to own Jordi. I always choose cookery books by the way they look – there have to be plenty of photos and the food has to look reaaally good – which is at least partly why I love Nigel Slater so much, because Jonathan Lovekin, who does all his food photography, is brilliantly talented. 

On New Year’s Eve I made Nigel’s potato and mushroom pie, and chocolate truffles for my friends. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of those, and the truffles didn’t really set enough because we wanted to eat them, which ended in us consuming very squishy truffle mixture (which is melted chocolate and cream mixed together in case you’re wondering).

Incidentally it is one of my new year’s resolutions to bake more – which is starting this evening, as I am going to bake lots of exciting things (salted caramel tart included) with my friends, so there will be more to follow this in the next few days…

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Maple Cheesecake with Maple-Glazed Pears & Cranberries

A while ago Jordi sent me a copy of ‘Fall Baking’ (which incidentally is the best baking magazine ever). It contains lots of maple recipes – this cheesecake being one of them. I thought I’d give it a go this weekend, after being told by Jordi that the response it got was ‘freakishly awesome’ when she made it. 

There are always one or two things that are likely to go wrong when you’re baking. Even more so when you’ve woken up late after spending the evening before with lovely people watching Scott Pilgrim, and are feeling too tired to bother doing anything more productive than making cheesecake. 

Maple-Glazed Pears & Cranberries

I’ve only just taken the cheesecake out of the oven – it smells glorious – but I’ve yet to taste it, fairly convinced that I overcooked the base. It’s unlikely that the packet of ground almonds that fell in the mixture as I was trying to get flour out of the cupboard will have caused any long-term impairment to the cheesecake (the downsides of having a small kitchen and disorganised cupboards – but at least the packet was sealed). I also ran out of maple syrup when making the maple-glazed pears, so decided it would be a reasonable equivalent to mix some sugar with water to make up the little bit more syrup I needed. I’ll let you know how that turned out. For reference, Sainsburys is not a reliable source of maple syrup – I spent ages wandering around trying to find it with no success. I did however find cupcake cases with snowflakes on them. This probably doesn’t make up for the sugar + water = “maple syrup” thing… 

So now for the agonising 2 hour wait for it to cool down before I can taste it. I really do hope it’s freakishly awesome…

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (or self-raising as I know it)

3 tbsp brown sugar

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

3 x 8oz packs of cream cheese

1x 8oz pack of mascarpone

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 light cream (or half and half if you know what that is)

2 tbsp all purpose flour

1 tsp vanilla (extract)

3 eggs lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350F (170C). For crust, in a medium bowl combine the 3/4 cup flour & 3 tbsp brown sugar. Cut (or rub) in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in pecans. Pat onto the bottom of a 10in springform pan. Bake for 10-12 mins or until lightly browned. Cool crust while preparing filling.

2. In a large bowl combine cream cheese and mascarpone, beat with an electric mixer (or use brute strength if you don’t own one, like me) until smooth. Add the brown sugar, 1/2 cup maple syrup, cream, flour and vanilla – beat until well mixed. Add all the eggs at once, stir until just combined.

3. Pour filling into the crust-lined pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 35-40 mins or until a 2&1/2-3 inch area around the outside edge appears set when gently shaken (centre will be soft, but will set up as the cheesecake cools).

4. Cool for 15mins, then using a thin knife loosen the crust from the sides of the pan. Cool for 30 mins more, then remove the side of the pan. Cool for 2 hours.

5. To serve, top with maple-glazed pears and cranberries.

Maple-glazed pears and cranberries

In a large skillet melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat. Add 4 medium peeled, cored and thinly sliced Bosc or Anjou pears. Cook for 4 mins, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon. Cook 2-3 mins more or just until pears are tender, stirring occasionally. Serve warm over cheesecake.

Photos of the completed cheesecake to follow….

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Salted Caramel & Chocolate Tart… or, the first ever post

hello.

I’ve just realised, as I was about to write out the recipe for this lovely salted caramel and chocolate tart that units of measurement are quite arbitrary on a global level – so to assist with any confusion that grams, ounces or cups may cause, I hope you’ll find this of some use. With one English writer, and one Canadian writer, both of us are regularly subjected to the difficulties of converting measurements (I only bought my first set of cups about a month ago), so hopefully having that will be of general use to everyone. Now, on to the talk of baking…

With Christmas drawing near, I have invested in my Christmas themed baking magazines, my star-shaped cutters that will enable me to build a biscuit Christmas tree, and vague plans for gingerbread houses. However, I put all of those things aside temporarily to make this salted caramel and chocolate tart. 

375g pack of sweet pastry

150g butter

150g caster sugar

2 tbsp agave syrup

1x 397g tin condensed milk

1 tsp sea salt flakes

150g dark chocolate

150g milk chocolate

– Roll out pastry and line a 20-22cm fluted tart tin. Trim and remove the pastry edges (save to make stars for later!). Prick the base with a fork all over and chill for 30 mins. Cut out a few star shapes from the remaining pastry

– Heat the oven to 190C/Gas Mark 5, put the case on a baking sheet, line the pastry case with parchment and baking beans or dried rice and bake blind for 20 mins. Put the stars on the baking sheet and bake at the same time. Remove the paper and beans and continue to cook for another 10-15 mins or until pastry is light golden.

– When the pastry case is cold, make the caramel. Gently heat the butter, sugar, agave syrup and condensed milk in a medium saucepan until the butter has melted. Increase the heat and stir continuously until the mixture comes to the boil.

– Reduce the heat slightly and allow the mixture to bubble for 8-10 mins. Stir all the time until the bubbles become larger and less frequent and the mixture gets thicker. Stir in the salt. Cool a little, then pour into the pastry case and leave to set for 1 hour.

– Melt the dark and milk chocolate in separate heatproof bowls over a pan of simmering water.

– Flood the top of the tart with the dark chocolate, spreading it to the sides, then put small spoonfuls of the milk chocolate and using the end of a teaspoon swirl together to give a marbled effect.

– Chill for 30 mins, adding pastry stars to the top after 15 mins. Don’t leave for too long as it will become too hard to slice.

I’ve written out the original recipe just for accuracy, but when baking I always adapt recipes for convenience – e.g. I went to the supermarket in search of agave syrup to find that it cost £2.43. I wasn’t going to spend that for 2 tbsp of something, so golden syrup it was. I don’t know if golden syrup exists in Canada. Please answer this for me Jordi. 

Unfortunately due to the misleading nature of the picture in the magazine, I used a much too shallow case (approx 3cm) – so I ended up having to make two, because all the caramel I had wouldn’t fit in one – you can make two (which I recommend because then you can bring baking happiness to your family and your colleagues), or use a deeper case. You’ll need more chocolate if you’re making two though…like, 50g more or so. 

Finally, a note on pastry. I never buy readymade shortcrust pastry – my dad has passed some serious pastry-making abilities on to me. So the ultimate pastry recipe is:

12oz flour

3oz margarine

3oz lard

small amount of cold tap water

Rub the margarine and lard into the flour, until it looks kind of like breadcrumbs, then gradually add water, mix with a knife (yes!) until it starts to gather together, add a bit more water until it all comes together in a ball. It should be a bit sticky, so make sure it’s not too dry!

The tart recipe asks for sweet pastry, which I didn’t bother with – I think it’s nice to have plain pastry, because the caramel and chocolate create enough sweetness. It’s quite a time consuming recipe overall, but completely worth it, because the outcome is so good. It is going to be one of those recipes I just keep going back to. 

L.

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