Monday, 24 October 2011

Sticky Apple, Ginger and Maple Syrup Cake

Come Autumn, I think I could easily bake apple cake every single weekend. We have three apple trees, all producing continuous fruit for several weeks. One counter in our kitchen is currently just a pile of apples in various bowls, baskets and bags – it’s like living in a farmers market. We have several types of apples – from small, sweet red ones to big green cooking apples. And this excess apple supply means getting a touch inventive with our fruit! Grated apple and yoghurt is my new favourite food. Sausage rolls with apple and onion make a perfect packed lunch. Baked apples stuffed with mincemeat or sultanas served with cream are best eaten slowly in front of Downton Abbey on a Sunday evening. But, sometimes, a good old hearty apple cake is just the thing._DSC0566I’ve made apple cakes before but there seem to be so many variations out there I know this won’t be my last. This cake is different because of the two flavours that share the stage with the apple – the maple syrup and fresh ginger. The maple syrup adds a caramel flavour and richness to the cake, whilst the ginger adds spice and warmth._DSC0565The recipe originally stated that the maple syrup should just be poured on top of the baked cake, but I have an issue with ingredients in the title of a dish not actually being in it. Also, the cake batter was really dry – practically a dough – so I wanted to loosen it, so I added around 2tbsp of maple syrup to the cake. This cake is versatile as it keeps well and is good warm out the oven with crème fraiche but also sturdy enough to be eaten cold in your hand the next day. Overall, I liked this cake as a sweet treat but would not say it was the best apple cake ever. Which means that I still need to bake more apple cakes to find that winner! Well, those apples won’t cook themselves…_DSC0572

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Brandy Snaps

One of my major weaknesses as a baker is baking times. As my Mum will happily tell you, I burn things. A fair bit. Mainly cookies. I like to blame it on my oven, but I’m not too sure what the reason really is. Generally I start by putting whatever it is in the oven for 5-10 minutes less than suggested, but then I just spend the last ten minutes putting the timer on for two minutes more, then two minutes more, then two minutes more etc etc. So I knew when I attempted brandy snaps it would be a good challenge for me because they rely so much on perfect timing. And yes, I did burn the first mini batch – but who’d want to break a tradition?DSCF8813Before last weekend, I’d seen but never eaten a brandy snap, let alone made them, so it was definitely a learning experience all round! I was inspired to make them after seeing them on the Great British Bake Off and then thoroughly explained on a follow up programme, the Masterclass. The idea of crisp, caramelly biscuit filled with softly whipped cream definitely appealed so it wasn’t long before I started baking.DSCF8817I was nervous about making them but once you’ve started the process is fairly simple and repetitive so you can get a little system on the go. My mixture went very strange and not at all like what it was meant to be like – you’re meant to drop it off a teaspooon in to the baking tray whereas mine was pretty solid and had to be rolled into balls. However, I don’t think this affected the final product and was probably down to inaccurate liquid measuring because I think digital scales are really important in this recipe and I don’t have any – yet! Overall, despite the mishaps, I was pleased with how these turned out for my first time. I flavoured my whipped cream with Cointreau which worked really well with the crisp biscuit. Definitely a bit of a fancy biscuit – perhaps for a treat with coffee after a dinner party – but the taste is well worth it! You can watch the masterclass and get the recipe here – enjoy :)DSCF8819

Monday, 10 October 2011

Parmesan Biscuits

Before we get onto these exceedingly moreish bsicuits, I have to announce the winner of my 10,000 Cupcakes book competition. I used a random number generator to pick a comment…image

which was Amee! Congratulations! Please email me with your address and that lovely little book will be finding its way to you very soon. Now, back to those biscuits…DSCF8836I first saw these on Simon Hopkinson’s television show a few weeks ago and was instantly struck by their simplicity. In just a few minutes and a few pulses of the food processor – the dough is made! My family loves anything cheesy – cheese scones, cheesy pasta or cheese soufflé (although that’s just my parents – I can’t stand it!) so I knew these would go down well. And they definitely did! Whilst I was photographing them we just kept wanting to eat more and more. It is categorically impossible to eat just one of these, I promise. DSCF8835 The dough is full of parmesan and cheddar, then sprinkled with more parmesan, plus the dough has a pinch of cayenne pepper. The parmesan gives them a salty edge, the cayenne a touch of heat. The teaspoon of mustard powder that goes into the dough emphasises the flavour and I’m sure the mix would be very adaptable to whatever hard cheeses you have or like. The biscuits get crisp, lacy edges and slightly chewier tops where the cheese topping melts. They also make the house smell divine after their just six minutes of baking. Tempted yet? Here’s the recipe – enjoy!DSCF8839