Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nigella's Maple & Pecan Bundt Cake

This lovely Maple & Pecan Bundt cake marks my first exploration into Bundts!
My reasons for making this were threefold:
  1. As my inaugral entry to the Forever Nigella blog challenge
  2. In honour of my recent trip to Canada as it includes a good helping of maple syrup
  3. Because I have never made a bundt before, and fellow blogger @Dolly Bakes can often be heard singing 'I like big bundts' on twitter...and I have to say I often end up singing it all day!! Many apologies if you now spend the rest of today with this tune in your head!!!
The Forever Nigella challenge gives you a lot of freedom to pick a recipe. The only stipulation is that your recipe must come from the Domestic Goddess herself. So this maple and pecan bundt comes from 'Kitchen' by Nigella. This challenge is hosted by Maison Cupcake.

This recipe was really simple to make and the filling really lifted the sponge. A rather moreish cake which is ideal with a cup of tea! Your friends will also marvel at the impressive bundt moulding on the turned out cake! I did however, have to buy my rather expensive Nordic Ware bundt tin...but it is an investment for the future, as it really is a top quality tin...and there was absolutely no sticking!
Altogether now... 'I like big bundts and I cannot lie...when a baker walks in...'

Maple and pecan filling:

75g plain flour
30g unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150g pecans, chopped
125ml maple syrup

For the sponge:

300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarb of soda
125g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
250ml creme fraiche
Icing sugar for dusting

I preheated the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4 before using Wilton Cake Release to grease my 23cm bundt tin.

This was simple to make, it was just a case of making up the filling to start by mixing the flour and butter with a fork to make a crumble like mixture. To this was added the cinnamon, maple syrup and chopped nuts, before mixing again to make a sticky, nutty paste.

To make the sponge to surround the filling, weigh the flour, baking powder and bicarb of soda into a bowl. In a seperate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar to a light and fluffy texture. To this add a spoon of the flour mix, then an egg, another spoonful of flour and then the second egg, mixing as you go. Add the remaining flour and beat, before adding the creme fraiche. This will make a fairly stiff cake mixture.

Put half of the cake mix into the bundt tin and push it up the sides to make a little trough for the maple and pecan filling. Carefully add the filling in the trough and then add the remainder of the cake mix on top and gently spread it out using the back of a spoon. The cake should be baked for 40 minutes but mine was ready in 30 minutes.

Once out of the oven, cool the bundt in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out...et voila!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lychee, Rose & Raspberry Mousse Cake

This month a new baking challenge was launched - AlphaBakes. The idea is that each month a letter of the alphabet is randomly generated, your entry should then have a main ingredient beginning with this letter. The challenge comes courtesy of the The More Than Occassional Baker and Caroline Makes. This month's letter is 'L' which is fortunate as February is the month of Love. So therefore, here is my entry for AlphaBakes...made with Lychees and Love!
I went for an adventurous entry this month, using an ingredient I've never baked with before...Lychees. I made a Lychee, Rose and Raspberry Mousse Cake. The cake is inspired by Pierre Herme who created the Ispahan, which is a rose, lychee and raspberry macaroon. The recipe for my bake came from The Pleasure Monger.

This was certainly a labour of love and took several hours to make! I would definitely recommend giving it a go, however...just make sure that you like the person you're making it for... A LOT! :-)

First up was making the sponge base. This was made by making a meringue mix and then adding flour, egg yolks and flours. The base was then cut out using a ring mold and covered with a sugar syrup made with lychee juice. Next up was a lychee mousse, made with milk, vanilla paste and rosewater amongst other ingredients. This was made by boiling the milk and then whisking in the other ingredients.

To assemble the mousse cake, the sponge base was placed in the ring mold and a layer of mousse piped on top, followed by cut raspberries facing outwards and a layer of lychees inside this. Next up another layer of mousse, before making a raspberry jelly using rosewater, lychee juice, raspberries, sugar and gelatine leaves. This was poured over the mousse cake and left to set in the fridge.
As you can see, the result is a very pretty little dessert! It's not quite as perfect as I would of liked, but something to work on next time as you never know how it's going to turn out before it comes out of the mold!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Culinary Ramblings from Canada

This week's post is coming to you from snowy Canada. I'm in and around Tornoto, so in a bit of a departure from the norm, I thought it was a good opportunity to introduce you to some Canadian culinary delights.
Well the only place to start is with Tim Hortons coffee shops, a true Canadian institution. Strangely, the chain was started by an ex-ice hockey player...Tim Horton!  

Everytime I come to Canada a trip to Tim's is a must...to the unitiated this may seem a little unusual ...but 34 million Canadians can't be wrong...can they? My personal favourite...Tim Bits...these are the little balls of dough, supposedly the centres of ring doughnuts. They come in a variety of flavours which you can choose for your very own selction box!! :-)

So what else does Canada have to offer, obviously the obligatory maple syrup...I'm already planning a maple syrup recipe upon my return next week, however that shall remain under wraps for the minute. Canada produces 27 million litres of maple syrup a year and 75% of the world's maple syrup production comes from Quebec. That's a lot of sugar!

I had a delicious breakfast at Sunset Grill in Toronto, I had maple pancakes and an array of other breakfast goodies as you can see...

Another Canadian speciality...Butter Tarts. These aren't going to win any healthy eating awards but they are so tasty...although extremely sweet. You can get them in a variety of flavours, my favourite is the raisin. Butter tarts consist of butter, sugar, syrup and egg filled into a flaky pastry and baked until the filling is semi-solid with a crunchy top. They taste a bit like a butterscotch pastry. The tarts were common in Canadian pioneer cooking and are considered one of only a few recipes of genuinely Canadian origin.

Toronto also has a plethora of bakeries...sadly I only managed to visit a couple! My recommendation...The Wedding Cake Shoppe which is a pleasant stroll from downtown to Little Italy. The Wedding Cake Shoppe is a pretty little cakery where you can enjoy cupcakes and a drink, whilst admiring the beautiful wedding cakes they have on display. I enjoyed a vanilla cupcake with a passionfruit frosting, and I couldn't resist taking another one away...coconut! The cakes and frosting were really light and delicious, it was a meringue buttercream style frosting which contributed to the lightness!

I also went to a cupcake bakery called Dlish... the staff were very nice and I had a lemon cupcake. Again, the sponge was light but I wasn't so keen on the icing, a bit thicker, a bit more like traditional buttercream. The store was also rather sparse and the cupcakes lacking in the aesthetic appeal and girliness which is often part of the appeal. However, it was nice and I would certainly have eaten another one!

Does anyone remember Lucky Charms, these used to be my cereal of choice when I was younger but you can't seem to come by them anymore. So whilst in Canada I usually enjoy a bowl or two. They still taste the same as ever, although if possible the marshmallow bits seem even more flourescent than they were before!

In a mall about an hour north of Toronto I came across 'Old Time Confections', a store selling old fashioned candy of yesteryear from both the USA and Great Britain. It's an enormous store stocking every candy you can possibly think of, there were Sherbet Dip Dabs, Pez dispensers, fudge and much more! The picture below only shows a fraction of the size of the store.

Toronto also has loads of other great eateries. The chocolate apples below are from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, they offer a mind boggling number of chocolate apple flavours!

If you are ever in Toronto, the Richtree Market Restaurant in the Eaton Centre is worth a visit. Full of fresh food including fruit, bread, pastries, pizza and hot fresh meals, you can either eat there or take away...a little bit of light relief from the giant food court!

Well, I think I can safely say that this post is a bit of a culinary rambling but there were so many delights to try! And the culmination of my week of eating...a diet!!! If you ever visit Canada, I hope you get to try some of these favourites too!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Champagne & Raspberry Cupcakes

As Valentines is drawing near, here is another super stylish cupcake to share with your sweetheart! Alternatively, if you're single...or just plain greedy (like me) then you can enjoy this luscious sweet treat at anytime!!
It was my birthday recently and I was lucky enough to receive a bottle of Champagne, so I thought I would put it to good use with these cupcakes...a few glasses may also have been consumed in the making...for quality control purposes of course!!
The actual cupacake was made as normal with 3 tablespoons of Champagne added. For this recipe I used an ice cream scoop for the first time to put the mixture in the cases...it worked amazingly well, highly recommended! Once cooked and cooled, an apple corer was used to take a core out of the middle of the cake, which was then filled with a mixture of raspberry jam and Champagne before placing the core back in!
Finally, the frosting is buttercream with the addition of...yes you guessed it...Champagne!! I piped it on using a star nozzle and then as a finishing touch I made my own filigree chocolate hearts and added a raspberry to give a stylish and romantic finish! I've been wanting to make the chocolate hearts for a while and will add another post with instructions soon.
The recipe for these cakes came from Stylist magazine and can be found here. Also check out Cakeboule's blog for another baking recipe using Champagne Why not make some for your Valentine...if you can resist the urge to eat them all yourself before they get to the intended recipient!

These cupcakes are also my entry for Tea Time Treats hosted by What Kate Baked and Lavender and Lovage. The theme this month is Romance, so these cupcakes fit perfectly with the pretty chocolate filigree hearts and with the champagne and raspberry!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love Heart Cookies

Following my recent hidden heart cupcakes I thought I'd continue with the heart theme with these really sweet love heart cookies. They're easy to make and you can give them to your loved ones as well as your best girlfriends! For those of a more modern disposition, love hearts have also been updated for the 21st century with messages such as 'text me' now included!

Everyone knows love hearts but you may not be aware that you can actually buy anti-love hearts too... so just in case you want to send a different type of message this Valentine's, here's one for you! As for me I'll stick with cutie pie!
To make these you just need a basic cookie dough recipe, check out BBC GoodFood's recipe here. Once you've made and cooled your cookies, make up some royal icing which you can buy in just add water form at the supermarket. Make it relatively stiff to start and use a 1.5 or 2 nozzle to pipe an outline on top of your cookie.

Once the outline has set a little, make your royal icing a little more runny and make up different colours as required. Fill each cookie with the runny icing using small piping bags with the end sniped off, you don't need a nozzle and you can use the end of the bag to push the icing up to your outline. To add little contrasting hearts, immediately drop spots of a different colour into the wet icing and then quickly drag a cocktail stick through each one... et voila... you have hearts!!
Finally, for added embellishment or to write your message, go back to the stiffer icing and mix it up in quite a bright colour and pipe away!! Who knows, as it's a leap year you may even wish to propose to your other half via the medium of cookies!! ;-)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

And the Winner of the Ultimate Bake-Off is...

Drum roll please! Having baked both Mary Berry's very best chocolate and orange cake and Paul Hollywood's ultimate carrot cake, the verdict's in. The cakes have been ‘deliberated, cogitated and digested’ by a select panel of experts...which didn't include Lloyd Grossman as it happens and a decision has been reached.

The winner of Delicious Magazine's 'Ultimate Bake-Off' is...

Paul Hollywood's Ultimate Carrot Cake

Check out the cakes on my first Ultimate Bake-Off post here. So what did the taste testers have to say?

Well the votes were 8 for the carrot cake and 3 for the chocolate cake, so the carrot was a clear winner. Blog voters you went for chocolate, 4 to 3!

Most of the taste testers liked the chunky pecans in the carrot cake, although one said it put them off. The main selling point of the carrot was the interesting textures, it was also moist and full of different flavours. Most but not all were also partial to the cream chesse frosting!

For the chocolate cake, it was seen as a good all round cake with a faint taste of orange. The frosting was described as finger-licking good and the taste tester also felt that it wasn't over rich.

Overall, everybody enjoyed both and it was a tough call...it was actually closer than the votes suggest. My personal favourite was the carrot...mainly because I didn't try the chocolate as I don't eat it...so there was really only ever going to be one winner! I would say however, that it's rather difficult to compare carrot and chocolate cake, it is also down to people's personal tastes.

Fancy making the carrot cake yourself, here's the recipe! After all two tasters even said it was the best carrot cake they'd ever tasted!

155ml sunflower oil,
230g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
230g light brown muscovado sugar
1 satsuma - zest finely grated
100g pecans, halved
260g carrots, grated
3 medium eggs, beaten

For the icing

50g butter
200g full-fat cream cheese
150g icing sugar
2tsp orange juice

Heat your oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4 and then grease and line the bottom of an 18cm round tin, preferable it should be loose-bottomed. It really is an easy recipe, place the baking powder, flour (sifted), cinnamon, ginger and mixed spice in a bowl before adding the sugar, zest, grated carrots and pecans. Mix until combined and then add in the eggs, which should be beaten first, and the oil.

Once it is all well combined pour it into the tin and bake for 1 hour. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before cooling on a rack. For the icing, put the butter in a bowl and beat it with a mixer and then add the cream cheese and mix. Finally add the icing sugar and orange juice and beat until smooth.

The suggested icing method is to use a piping bag and pipe lines back and forth before scattering with satsuma zest. Alternatively, if you'd prefer not to pipe just apply in the usual way. You might also want to consider making double and splitting your cake in two and filling it as well, to make it double delicious!!!

* Adapted from the March 2012 edition of Delicious Magazine.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Liebster Blog Awards

Liebster awards are reputed to have started in Germany to give small bloggers recognition for their efforts. So I was thrilled to receive one from the lovely Anna over at Crunchy, Creamy, Sweet. Check out her blog here. I, like Anna am always amazed that anyone actually reads my blog!

Once you receive the award, you should then pass it on to 5 fellow bloggers. It's like a big game of tag but more importantly it recognises some fantastic blogs and the efforts of their creators. So I'd like to recognise the following 5, as blogs I enjoy reading...and hopefully you will too!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Ultimate Bake-Off

Cue the Rocky music, cue the movie voice-over guy...this is the 'Ultimate Bake-Off'. It's a clash of the titans, Mary Berry versus Paul Hollywood.
This month Delicious magazine has challenged these two star bakers to submit their ultimate cake recipe, readers must then make both cakes and host a tasting session. We have Mary's very best chocolate and orange cake versus Paul's ultimate carrot cake.
Once taste tested the results will be reported back to Delicious magazine to help determine the winner of the 'Ultimate Bake-Off' and the nation's favourite cake!

First up is Mary's chocolate cake. This was made using the all-in-one method and the chocolately taste comes from cocoa powder. The orange mentioned in the title comes from the zest of one orange. The cooked sponges were then brushed with apricot jam before spreading over the ganache, made as specified using Bourneville! Finally, for the curls on top, melted chocolate was spread on a baking tray and cooled, before being scraped off with a sharp knife... I wouldn't recommend using your best baking sheet for this!! :-o

Next up, Paul's carrot cake cake made with sunflower oil, copious amounts of carrots and light brown muscavado sugar. It also has halved pecans in it. This was easy to make, just mix it all in! The frosting is cream cheese frosting with a little butter, cream cheese and icing sugar, as well as 2 teaspoons of orange juice. It was then piped on the top in an unusual line pattern, before sprinkling with strips of orange zest. 

Both cakes were easy to make and they look delicious but there can only be one winner!

If you'd like to join in then please leave a comment and let me know which cake you would choose and why and I'll take your opinion into account when deciding on the ultimate cake! Why not vote in my current poll too on the top right of this page.

Once the cakes have been tasted I'll post the results!