Tuesday, 24 February 2009

A lot going on…

My latest bake has a LOT going on. It has sharp plum compote. It has sugary sweet marzipan. It has hard-hitting cinnamon. It has vibrant zesty orange. It can only be…Plum, Marzipan and Cinnamon Muffins!

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These muffins were verrrrryy good :) Even though they do have lots of components, they worked together and were tasty. The compote was an absolute, total, 100% success :D . I couldn’t find a cinnamon stick so I sprinkled over 1tsp of ground cinnamon and it was lovely. The sweet sticky sauce, the soft plums and sharp cinnamon – mmm! There wasn’t quite enough and next time I would probably double it as there was hardly any in the muffins and not quite enough for the top of each muffin. I didn’t put the compote on each muffin straight away as they would go soggy, everyone just helped themselves when they had their muffin. I have since made the compote again without the muffins to have with Greek yoghurt – scrummy!

The thing I would say though, is that the method of grating the marzipan is a new one and I don’t think it really worked. The marzipan melted into the muffin and was not noticeable. Its a shame because I chopped up a few squares of marzipan and put them in the last muffin, and they were delicious! I would definitely do this next time.

Muffina 003 The muffins without their pretty toppings.

The recipe comes from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook. Ottolenghi is a food shop with four different branches around London – in Kensington, Belgravia, Islington and Notting Hill. I haven’t yet been to one but from their website it looks such a gorgeous place! Each branch is slightly different, but they are famed for their patisserie and huge meringues. They also have a blog. The two men who run it: Yotam and Tami, are from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the cookbook is totally lovely. Filled with beautiful photographs and lots of tasty recipes – I can’t believe I have never cooked from it before. A very good read too – I would strongly recommend it! Yotam and Tami also run cookery classes at Leith’s Cookery School. Now, for the recipe...

Plum, marzipan and cinnamon muffins, from Ottolenghi

makes 12

for the compote: 700g ripe red plums, stoned and quartered

60g caster sugar

1cinnamon stick/ 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

for the muffins: 480g plain flour

1tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

200g caster sugar

2 free-range eggs

110g unsalted butter, melted

280ml milk

grated zest of 2 oranges

120g marzipan

icing sugar, for dusting

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1. Make the plum compote first. Preheat the oven to 170’C/gas mark 3. Place the plums in a shallow baking dish, add the sugar and cinnamon stick and mix together. Place in the oven and bake for 20mins, until the plums are soft and their skin starts to separate from the flesh (the cooking time varies, depending on the ripeness of the fruit). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Put the sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk together. Add the milk and butter (make sure it is not too hot) and whisk to combine.

3. Grate the marzipan on the coarse side of a grater and add this to a the batter, together with the orange zest. Now add 80g of the plum compote (pulp and juices) and stir together. Set the rest of the compote aside for later.

4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour mixture into the wet mix until just combined – there may still be a few lumps and bits of flour, this is what you want.

5. Line your muffin tins with paper cases and spoon in the mixture, filling them all the way to the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean. When cool enough to handle, take the muffins out of the tins and leave on a wire rack until cold.

6. Just before serving, dust the tops with a little icing sugar and top with the plum compote.

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Thursday, 19 February 2009

Petra’s Snickerdoodle’s

Just like in the last post I was saying how everyone has a favourite cookbook they return to again and again, I also think everyone has a favourite childhood food memory they always remember. I’m only thirteen, but even I have them from when I was little – and these cookies are one of them.petra 016
Petra was my amazing Nanny when I was much younger, and she often used to make these cookies. I remember her constantly having to write the recipe down for us on scraps of paper which we always lost, so she wrote it over and over again. Then in my last year at primary school the Mums decided to write a little cookery book together combining all their favourite recipes. My Mum included these cookies and now we always know where to find them.
To us then they were simply honey & cinnamon cookies, but it seems that in the blogging and food world they have become known as “snickerdoodles”. There are some different origins of the name snickerdoodle, some saying it comes from as far back as the early 1900’s, after a hero called Snickerdoodle. A snickerdoodle cookie is a simple cinnamon cookie which is rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking. Petra’s cookies are similar because of the cinnamon, but slightly different because of the sweet honey.
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Although I remember Petra’s cookies being much rounder, and staying closer to their ball shape during baking – I still very much enjoyed these cookies! They are very soft and cakey inside but have a lovely crunchy outside. The cinnamon is very strong and tasty, even with only 1tsp – i was quite surprised! They were also very moreish! (Although, I say that about all the cookies I post – I think it may just be me and my cookie addiction :) )
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Petra’s Cookies (Snickerdoodle’s)
100g butter
100g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
200g plain flour
2tbsps honey
1tsp cinnamon
caster sugar and cinnamon to coat
1. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the egg yolk and teaspoon of cinnamon. Gradually add the flour, and then the honey.
2. Make little ball shapes of the mixture and roll in a mixture of the sugar and cinnamon, to coat.
3. Bake for 12 minutes at 170’C/gas 3 or until golden brown.
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Sunday, 15 February 2009

Valentine’s Day Hearts

Yesterday, of course, was Valentine’s Day! Lots of love all over the country, and lots of red and pink heart-shaped foods!
Valentines Day originates from the Roman times, when the Roman Emperor Claudius II was having trouble getting men to join his army, because the men didn’t want to leave their girlfriends or wives. Aww :) So the Emperor broke and forbid all marriages. The priest Valentine secretly married people in secret, and when the Emperor found out he killed Valentine – and so he became a saint! (That is a very cut down version of the story learnt from Fridays assembly, there are lots of other beliefs too)
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Of course I too made a heart-shaped food for the occasion, and knowing me, I made heart cookies :). They are from 30 Brilliant Baking Recipes, which is a small book that came from Olive Magazine – and a book I have not baked from before! Olive is a great magazine for all foodie-lovers, it is one of the places I would love to work at when I’m older! They often give out these little books with the magazine. There has been 30 Comfort Foods, 30 World Recipes, 30 French Classics, etc ! In the book, the cookies have small circles cut from the middle, but I did hearts for Valentines Day.
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They are very simple and easy to make although the recipe makes a lot so you have to do a lot of batches! It is best to use a smooth jam, without lots of big lumps of fruit. Unlike me, who used blackberry jam with a couple of whole blackberries in so the biscuits were a bit wobbly…but still yummy! The smoothness just helps the biscuits stick together a bit flatter – if that makes sense! So now I have made my own digestives, my own sort-of-jammy-dodgers today, what’s next – custard creams? Hehe :)
Hope you all had a lovely Valentines!
Jammy Biscuits, from 30 Brilliant Baking Recipes
Makes 20
225g unsalted butter
150g golden caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
3 beaten egg yolks
250g plain flour
110g ground almonds
thin jam for spreading – flavour of your choice
icing sugar to dust
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1. Beat the butter and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg yolks and mix thoroughly. Gradually add the flour and ground almonds.
2. Lightly knead the mixture until it comes together in a ball. Wrap and chill for 1hour.
3. Heat the oven to 170’C/fan 150’C/gas 5. Roll the dough out to the thickness of £1 coin on a lightly floured surface and stamp out biscuits using a 6-7cm cutter.
3. Reshape leftover dough into a ball, re-roll and cut out more biscuits. Stamp out a small circle/heart from the middles of half the biscuits.
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4. Put the biscuits on lined baking sheets and bake for 12-15minutes or until golden. Rest for a minute then transfer to a wire rack.
5. When completely cold, spread the whole biscuits with jam. Dust the ring-shaped biscuits with icing sugar. Put a sugar dusted ring on top of a jam covered biscuit and press lightly together.
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Thursday, 12 February 2009

It’s All In The Name…

When looking through my cookery books, there are some things inside them that scream out at you to make them – just through their name. Culprits of this form of persuasion include desserts such as “Molten Chocolate Cake with Rich Chocolate Sauce” or “Self-Saucing Lemon Pudding” and anything with “Best Ever….” at the beginning. Orlando Murrin’s “No-Fail Cake” is also one of these.

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Thankfully, this cake definitely lived up to its name, even when I accidentally added double the pineapple and pineapple juice! In essence, this cake is a light fruit cake. The difference is the pineapple, which makes it lovely and moist and juicy. One reason that it is a no-fail cake, is that the method is so simple: just put all the ingredients minus flour and eggs in a saucepan, wait until the butter has melted and then just fold in the remaining ingredients!

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This was a cake I had wanted to make as part of my Advent Series, but for a while I couldn’t find the book it is in – The Clever Cookbook by Orlando Murrin (I think sold with the Express recently, and of course another cookbook I hadn’t cooked from before). Murrin got the recipe from one of his readers in Wales who found it at Bangor Cathedral. The name of the cake in Welsh is “Cacen byth yn methu” aka, of course, never-fail cake. In the introduction above the cake, Orlando Murrin says “I received several dozen letters from readers saying it was the best cake they had ever made, letters from all over the country – not just Wales!”. Whilst I may not go that far, it definitely was good! The only change I might make would be too reduce the amount of mixed fruit just a little bit so the highlight was more on the pineapple and cherries. Although it was a mistake to begin with, I would still keep the double pineapple and juice (just add an extra tbsp of flour).

Cacen byth yn methu – no fail cake, from The Clever Cookbook by Orlando Murrin

Cuts into 8-10 (we got more!)

100g/4oz glace cherries
220gtin of pineapple in juice (or double :D)
100g/4oz butter
350g/12oz mixed fruit
175g/6oz soft brown sugar
225g/8oz self-raising flour
2 eggs

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1. Chop the cherries and pineapple (a very fiddly job), but keep the juice. Put in a pan with the pineapple juice, butter, mixed fruit and sugar.

2. Heat to melt the butter but do not boil.

3. Leave to cool, then beat in the flour and eggs.

4. Preheat the oven to 170’C/fan oven 150’C/Gas 3. Line a 20cm/8inch round tin with baking paper, punt in mixture and bake for about 1 1/2 hours, till firm and skewer comes out clean. (I put mine in for just over an hour and it was fine, possibly could have done with even less!)

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Monday, 9 February 2009

One hundred and seven…

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There are big ones, small ones, fat ones and thin ones. There’s Delia to Jamie, Nigella to Nigel, Rachel Allen to Darina Allen.
There is Galton Blackiston, Dorie Greenspan, Prue Leith, Sophie Grigson, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Lindsey Bareham and many more! There are books just about soups, just about Asian food, just about cupcakes, just about fish. There are old ones, new ones, my Dad’s ones, my Mum’s ones and my very own ones!
The fact is – we have a lot of cookery books! The problem is – they are not all used as often as they should be…Probably most cooks have a select few cookery books they always turn to, a few they couldn’t really live without. My family is no exception. Certain Nigella Lawson ones hold recipes brought out over and over again. Rachel Allen is one I bake from a lot – as you can probably tell from my previous bakes! You can tell which ones are used (flour on the pages, the odd page stuck together, the cover a touch scrumpled) and which ones aren’t (shiny new covers, stiff to open). It was when we moved our cookery books from dotted all over the house to their new shelves in the kitchen, that I realised just how many of the 107 (!) I had read and enjoyed from cover-to-cover (and many not even that), but not actually baked from. Well not anymore! A new resolution is to leave the well-used ones on their shelf for a bit, as I know how good they are, and work through some of the ones which I have declined. Beginning with The Chocolate and Coffee Bible.
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The Chocolate and Coffee Bible does exactly what the name suggests – gives you lots of information all about chocolate (first half) and coffee (second half) and then gives you lots of delicious recipes using either chocolate or coffee – all accompanied with scrumptious photos! It is the perfect book for curling up with and reading all the way through, which I have done many a time! Having now cooked from it, I don’t think there is any other cookbook needed for a chocolate/coffee recipe – it has just about everything in here! Bizarrely, I maybe managed to pick the least chocolatey recipe from this book – chocolate dipped shortbreads.
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Originally, these biscuits were meant to be like long Viennese biscuits which used a piping bag to pipe the biscuits out into long lines, and then you dipped them in chocolate at either end. My dough was a bit too thick to pipe, but perfect for rolling so I did that and cut them out instead. They still taste just as nice – crumbly biscuit and the rich chocolate covering. These are also very moreish!
Choc-dipped biscuits, from The Coffee and Chocolate Bible
115g/4oz soft margarine (I always use butter) 15ml/3tbsp icing sugar
150g/5oz plain flour
few drops of vanilla essence
75g/3oz plain chocolate, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 180’C/350’F/Gas 4 and lightly grease two baking sheets.
2. Beat the margarine and icing sugar together in a bowl until very soft. Add the flour and vanilla and mix in well. (I needed a few drops of water to loosen the dough a bit)
3. Put the mixture in a large piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Pipe 10 neat lines, each 13cm long. (Or, put some icing sugar on the work surface and roll the dough out quite thinly. Cut with a cutter of your choice).
4. Bake for 15-20minutes until the biscuits are a light golden brown.
5. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water. Stir, then remove from the heat. Dip both ends of each biscuit in the chocolate (or half of the circle!), put on a wire rack and leave to cool and set. (I popped mine in the fridge for a while to set, but took them out when immediately when they were set because they taste better when they aren’t straight from the fridge).
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