WIAW #8 MAYDAY, MAYDAY!!

In one of my recent posts (the one with the yummy Biscotti recipe!)  I commented on how up until then I’d been so busy with my fitness, that I’d (almost) forgotten about cake….

How the tables have turned!

Since then, when I haven’t been baking, I’ve been either thinking about baking, or testing scoffing what I have already baked. It gets worse because I also haven’t managed to get my gym kit on since Saturday, which by my usual routine means I have skipped 3 workouts. Gah!

I wish I could show you what I have been working on, but as of yet, it’s not quite there…see I’ve been back on my quest to make the PERFECT Triple Chocolate Muffin. All I can say is that both types of Muffin Top are developing well – the cool kind…and the very uncool kind. Double Gah!

Me Vs. Muffin Tops

Me Vs. Muffin Tops

I feel that now I’ve come this far, I need to see this through to the end. I won’t rest until either I have the perfect muffin or I can no longer fit in my jeans. I really hope it’s not the latter.

On to What I Ate Yesterday…

Bored of my breakfast yet? Cos I’m not!

Oats, Yoghurt & Raspberries

Oats, Yoghurt & Raspberries

Lunch was a wrap made with some leftover roast sweet potato, houmous and salad made up of rocket, baby spinach and cucumber.

Wholemeal wrap filled with roast sweet potato, houmous & salad.

Wholemeal wrap filled with roast sweet potato, houmous & salad.

With my brain totally consumed with Triple Chocolate Muffins,  I’m sorry to tell you that dinner was out of a packet. A  Tesco Finest packet though! Smoked Haddock Fiscakes, served with spinach.

Smoked Haddock Fishcakes with Spinach

Smoked Haddock Fishcakes with Spinach

Guess I’d better confess the things I didn’t take a picture of…

A handful (or three!) of Chocolate Chips
A lick (or ten!) of the bowl (once the muffins were safely in the oven of course!)
A finished muffin (for research purposes you understand)
My very overdeveloped,uncool kind of Muffin Top 😦

If anyone has a tried and tested Triple Chocolate Muffin recipe, my jeans would be grateful if you could put an end to this relentless taste testing by telling me your secrets!

Me Vs. Soda Bread

Photo 27-04-2013 08 33 19

Soda Bread

Just how I love pretty much all kinds of cake, I also love all kinds of bread. Sourdough, roti, granary, flat bread, bloomer, wraps, focaccia – you name it, I eat it. All except that horrid plasticy stuff you get ready sliced at the supermarket that smells more like chemicals than bread. Yuck!

As patience is definitely not one of my virtues, I’ve sadly never baked my own bread before. I’ve always loved the idea, but I just can’t bear the thought of waiting around all that time for my dough to proof (prove?).

So when The Man’s parents presented a deliciously fresh loaf of Soda Bread the other Sunday and told me that it took only 40 minutes to make with no kneading, yeast or proofing – I was sold!

  • 170g self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 170g plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 290ml/½ pint buttermilk (I used a 284ml Pot and topped up with regular milk)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C – Gas 6.
  2. Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.
  3. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Add more or less milk depending on the consistency – you don’t want it too wet and sticky.)
  4. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.
  5. Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

As you can see, my first attempt was far from perfect. For starters I was much too timid when I cut the cross in the top, which not only ruined the look aesthetically but also compromised the bake ever so slightly. Still it was so simple and satisfying that I’ll definitely be trying it again soon.

 

 

 

 

Me Vs. Biscotti

Photo 27-04-2013 08 28 45

Pistachio, Orange & Choc Chip Biscotti

It seems to me that lately there has been way too much talk about fitness and not nearly enough talk about cake.

Although I’ve baked a few things here and there over the last few weeks, I haven’t really made anything that seemed quite special enough to share. Until today that is.

This biscotti is ahhhhmazing. There really is no other way to put it!

I urge you to give it a try…

Pistachio, Orange & Choc Chip Biscotti

200g Caster Sugar (preferably golden caster sugar)

2 eggs

zest of 1 small orange

200g plain four, sifted, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

100g pistachios (shelled)

50g macadamia nuts (halved)

100g Chocolate Chips (milk, plain or dark depending on your preference)

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C – Fan 160°C – Gas 4 and line a baking tray.
  2. Beat together the eggs, sugar and orange zest in a bowl. In a separate bowl, sift together the baking powder and flour. Combine the dry and wet ingredients together along with the nuts and chocolate chips. Mix to a sticky dough.
  3. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead. Using floured hands divide the mixture into 2 portions and roll each into a 30cm log then place on the lined baking tray. (Be warned, it really is very sticky, but persevere because it will all be worth it!) Bake for 30 minutes, until lightly browned.
  4. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, turn the oven temperature down to 160°C – Fan 140°C – Gas 3.
  5. Cut the logs into 1cm slices diagonally and place back on the baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes until golden on top. Turn over and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

 

The Great Birthday Bake Off

It was The Man’s birthday this weekend and as my most trusted taste tester, I thought I’d spoil him with a selection of goodies. Carrot Cupcakes, Melting Moments, a Chocolate & Salted Caramel Layer Cake (and cupcakes – I’ll explain in a minute!) and not forgetting his breakfast of choice – american style pancakes topped with crispy bacon. I spent the majority of the weekend in the kitchen. All well and fun, except for the 22,000 loads of washing up!!!

Then there was the other downside. I am of the opinion that all raw mixtures/doughs/icings should go through a thorough testing process before being served up, and who better to test than me. This weekend however, I might have bitten off more than I chew in terms of bowl licking. Yep, 6 packs of butter, 3 blocks of dark chocolate, a large pot of double cream and a kilo of sugar later  and I am officially caked out.  I don’t even want to think about cake…Well for today at least.

Me Vs. Carrot Cupcakes

Carrot Cupcake

Carrot Cupcake

I’m usually hyper critical of everything I bake. Always finding a flaw, no matter how many people rave about my creations. But these Carrot Cupcakes left me lost for criticism, in fact, I’d go as far as to say that these are the best cakes I have ever baked. What’s more, The Man (a self-confessed chocolate fiend who generally believes carrot cake to be too healthy to be considered ‘real’ cake) agreed!

 

Of course, I can’t take all the credit. I took the recipe from The Primrose Bakery Cupcake Book, and followed it to the letter.

The mixture uses carrots (well, durrr!) raisins, orange zest and cinnamon, is easy peasy to make and turns out the moistest little morsels of cake you have ever eaten. The topping is cream cheese icing with orange zest – deliciously smooth and creamy yet also zingy – totally moreish!

Me Vs. Melting Moments

Melting Moments

Melting Moments

Also known as Viennese Swirls. For these, I used a recipe from the Series 1 Great British Bake Off book.

The biscuit is made by first creaming butter and sugar, then adding flour, cornflour and vanilla essence. Then, in theory, you pop the mixture into piping bag and effortlessly pipe out  32 pretty little swirls. In reality however, it went something like this…both hands on piping bag squeezing, twisting, pushing, grimacing, shouting, shaking, swearing, sweating, grrrrrrrrrr… until eventually I gave up. This mixture was IMPOSSIBLE to pipe. Determined not to give up,  I scooped the sticky mixture out of the piping bag and back into the mixing bowl, and beat in some milk to make it more ‘pipeable.’ Then I clumsily piped out 24 misshapen and inconsistently sized swirls. After 15 minutes in the fridge to set, I put them into the oven to bake with little hope.

When the timer went off I despondently took them out the oven and set them on the side. Imagine my shock when I look down to see 24 pretty little, neat, golden, crumbly looking biscuits sitting proudly on the baking tray….

It was a total ‘here’s some I made earlier’ moment, except there was no one in the house to see.

So either a) I have a magic oven or b) some elves/fairies/sprites took pity on me and sneaked into my kitchen whilst I wasn’t looking and replaced the tray of dodgy ones with these beauties.

I whipped up the buttercream-esque filling in a flash and waited impatiently for the biscuits to cool. Seriously though now, why do baked goods take so damn long to cool?!

These were a big hit and I can understand why, I mean, look how cute they are!

However, I do think that perhaps the milk made them just slightly softer in texture than they should be. Still, I’ll be trying these again so watch this space…

Me Vs. Chocolate Caramel Layer Cake

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake

Chocolate and Salted Caramel Cake

I’m all for a towering cake, but when I found the recipe for this online and read the ingredients list (yikes!) I felt that, maybe,  just maybe, 3 layers might be a tad too much. So instead of messing around with reducing the mixture, I filled 2 cake tins, then used the rest to fill 12 cupcake cases.

To begin with, you have to make 2 batches of caramel sauce. Attempt number one resulted in a kitchen full of noxious smoke and an old jar filled with what I can only describe as black tar. Whoops! Fortunately though I managed to save the sauce pan. A little bit of research (better late than never hey!) confirmed my mistake – you shouldn’t stir the syrup whilst it is boiling. Armed with this information, my next two attempts were a success. I added sea salt to one batch and set aside to cool for later.

The other batch is used to make the chocolate caramel buttercream icing. You add no less than 450g of quality dark chocolate to the hot caramel sauce to melt, then whisk continuously for 10 minutes or until the mixture is cool. Then, as if this icing isn’t naughty enough already, you add 450g of butter!!!! The finished result is absolutely mountains of buttercream icing. Although, I have to confess, I’m not totally sure it was worth the effort….Good old fashioned chocolate buttercream is probably just as good. Lesson learnt the expensive and time consuming way.

Once the cakes have cooled, you spread with salted caramel sauce and buttercream icing and sandwich together. The recipe suggests covering the entire cake in the icing, but again, I decided to scale things back a bit. I topped with more salted caramel sauce, one layer of buttercream, a sprinkle of sea salt and some chocolate chips, then called it a day.

The verdict from The Man was that it was good, but not the best. The sponge was tasty and moist, though next time I might turn the oven down a touch as the edges were just slightly more done than I would have liked. I just felt a little let down that the salty taste didn’t come through as much as I had hoped. Luckily, there is a jar of the stuff sitting patiently in the fridge, just screaming out to be used in another recipe!

Now to avoid the scales for a couple of days….

Me vs. Cookies

Tonight after work we will be driving to the coast to stay with some friends for the weekend and nothing says ‘Thank You For Having Us’ better than home-baked cookies.

So last night, determineCookies and Milkd not to let the previous nights muffin failure discourage me, I set about making two different batches.

One of the friends is again lactose intolerant (grrrrr) so I decided that I would make one batch that she could eat, and another that was full of butter and chocolate!

First up, Oat and Raisin cookies made with corn oil rather than butter. I began with a Rachel Allen recipe but switched the butter for the same amount of oil, added a tsp of cinnamon ( I looooove cinnamon)  and a tbsp of golden syrup to make them a bit gooier.  On a healthy(ish) whim, I also decided to change the  flour to wholemeal flour. Once I’d mixed everything together, I was a bit worried that there were too many oats and the mixture was more like flapjack than cookies. Indeed, the finished result was a little more oaty than I had expected, but delicious non the less. I deemed them a success and the man agreed.

Next,  I went with a recipe from the queen of indulgence Nigella Lawson, called Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies. I stuck to the recipe pretty rigidly, except for the chocolate chips. Nigella recommends 350 grams of dark chocolate chips. For starters that seems like a hell of a lot of chocolate chips, and secondly when I tasted the mixture (you have to!!) I decided it needed a little extra sweetness. So I went with 100g of Milk Choc Chips and 100g White Choc Chips. These looked pretty fantastic when they come of the oven, and taste great too. Nigella wasn’t kidding when she named them! The only downside is that they are a little bit cakey in texture, I think I would prefer either a bit of crunch or soft gooeyness. Still, paired with a glass of milk they are pretty divine! I asked the man his opinion, but I didn’t get an answer because he was too busy munching down his second. Think that tells me all I need to know!

Now, you must be thinking, this girl does a lot of baking and eating, but not so much sweating! Well, this morning I trotted off to the gym at 7:00 for an hour of circuits including mountain climbers, jumping pulls ups, press ups, clean and presses, burpees, dynamic lunges and much more. PHEW!! It must be time for my elevenses….

Anyone got any fantastic cookie recipes? 

Me Vs. Muffin Tops

Last night, I was overcome by an urge to bake chocolate muffins. You know the giant sort you see in cafe’s, high risers if you will.  The kind of muffin which looks like it tried to squeeze itself into a size 10 case even when it knows that it’s really a size 12. Rich, super moist and deeply chocolately.

So I began the quest for the perfect recipe, starting first with my shamefully modest collection of books, and then reluctantly heading to the internet.

Finding the perfect recipe is always a challenge for me. I love baking, and I’d go as far to say that a few disasters aside I am generally pretty good at it. My offerings are always well received and disappear quickly, and requests for birthday cakes are at an all time high. Mostly though, the reason for this is that I find a good recipe and I follow it precisely. I do not yet have the skill or knowledge to create my own successful baking recipes, or to confidently make substitutions. That’s not to say that I don’t have any gut instincts at all, it’s just that I am not yet confident in them. In part, this probably comes down to not enough testing. I tend to bake for occasions – birthdays, dinner parties, baby showers etc. Which means that the pressure is on to deliver. I do not want to risk testing out my whimsical substitutions on 20 eager guests!

I already know the answer to this problem. Bake more. Test recipes. Get creative. It’s just, that there are a few things that stand in my way…

Clue number one is in the title of this blog. If  I bake cake then I eat cake. Even if it is bad cake (case in point, last night – but we’ll get on to that.)

My question is, when you live with only one other person, if the baking turns out well, what on earth do you do with 20 delicious giant chocolate muffins?! I mean, sure, I can find a place for them EASY PEASY but then there is no place for my expanding gut in my jeans!!!   Even people at work start to get fed up if you bring in cakes every week, complaining that they are getting chubbier.

And, conversely,  if they turn out badly then that brings about a whole other problem. I can’t take bad cakes into work. I can’t even bring myself to take them round to the interfering old woman who lives across the road. I don’t like wasting food as a rule anyways, but wasting green & blacks chocolate and an hour (or more) of my time feels like sacrilege!

Anyway, I digress. Back to finding this ‘perfect chocolate muffin’ recipe.

On this occasion, my usual troubles were further complicated by a lactose intolerant friend who would be visiting the following evening. So the recipe not only had to promise towering, rich, moist muffins – but also had to contain no butter or milk.

Fortunately there are many muffin recipes out there which call for corn oil in the place of butter. During my research, someone suggested substituting the milk  for coke, which would apparently give them a light but slightly gooey texture. So that was settled. There was no pressure, no one was expecting these muffins (except me!!!) so it was the perfect time to try out something a bit different. Except, then I decided to make another change too. Worried that the coke would make the muffins too sweet, I added more cocoa powder. Well actually, I doubled it. Eeeek.

Long story short(ish) they turned out terribly. The batter was not runny enough and the finished item was bitter and tough. In the interests of learning from my mistakes, both the man and I scoffed one each anyway. WHY?!?!

I knew what I needed to do, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. So I asked the man to do my dirty work, and take them straight out to the bin. SOB. The outside bin, because well (ahem) you never know…

All I know is,  there were no winners this round.

So pretty pretty please with a chocolate chip on top, I am begging someone to send me the perfect chocolate muffin recipe!

What do you do with your leftovers – good or bad?