Sunday 31 October 2010

Amaretti and Raspberry Muffins

A few days ago, I ended up walking home in the rain. I had a heavy bag over my shoulder, a big bag with a couple of kilos of brisket in one hand and a gorgeous bunch of roses in the other. By the time I got home I was very soggy and a bit miserable. Luckily my roses seemed to enjoy the shower.

I had been worrying about what to do with the leftovers of a box of amaretti. They had been sitting in one of my stack of tins for a week or two and lost their oomph. I searched around trying to find a good recipe to use them up in. Nothing really caught my eye until I hit upon a recipe by Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey?: she makes a wonderful Raspberry Lemon Amaretti Cake.

Instead of making a cake, I decided to use Meeta's flavours and make muffins. I used my favourite blueberry muffin recipe as a base and came up with these.  I decided to not complicate things by browning the butter as I do for the blueberry muffins - these are light and the gorgeous nuttiness would change that.

They gave my wet and miserable afternoon a touch of sunshine.

The amaretti and lemon gives the muffin a gorgeous yellow tone - these really are bright and sunny. The lashings of pink from the raspberries adds further cheeriness. They taste fantastic - I was really pleasantly surprised by how well they came out. They put a big smile on my face: I hope they do the same for you.

Amaretti and Raspberry Muffins
(Loosely adapted from this recipe which was from Joy the Baker. The flavours come from here.)

55 g butter
45ml milk
1 egg
zest of a lemon
90g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking power
50g caster sugar
35g brown sugar
100g raspberries
65g amaretti, loosely crushed

Preheat the oven to 190C. Melt the butter in a small saucepan then set aside to cool for a minute. Combine the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, and sugars in a bowl. Whisk the egg and milk into the butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix till just combined. Add the raspberries and 25g of the amaretti and fold in gently. Put six cases into a muffin tin and divide the mixture between them. Top with the remaining crushed amaretti.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

(Makes 6)

Wednesday 27 October 2010


I'm afraid I'm super busy at the moment so this will have to be a brief post about the Daring Bakers this month. The challenge was doughnuts...

I decided to try and make alphabet doughnuts and form words with them. I just had to think of the words. This took me ages - they had to be short, I wanted there to be a few and for them to have a theme and I just like words a lot and couldn't decide.  One of my first thoughts was an Alice in Wonderland 'Eat Me' ('Drink Me' doesn't make much sense when you're thinking about doughnuts!). In the end I went for a bit of a mix-up of the film title Eat Pray Love, changing it to Eat Play Love. 

I have a tendency to take things too seriously, especially when I'm stressed (read: once I'm back at Oxford). So this was a bit of a reminder to myself to remember to lighten up and mess about a bit. I even pushed past my normal dislike of sprinkle-type things to add silver balls to these. Thought I had better live on the wild side. I still don't really like them! 

To make the letters I cut out some templates and then cut them into the right shape with a sharp knife dusted with flour. 

Along with the alphabet doughnuts, I made some simple rings. I also made some filled with raspberry jam spiked with plenty of lemon juice. 

I rolled the 'eat' doughnuts in cinnamon and sugar, glazed the 'love' with the glaze recommended for the pumpkin doughnuts and topped the 'play' ones with chocolate icing. The plain rings were dipped in a simple sugar and water glaze. 

This was all from a half batch of one recipe - I don't even want to think how many there would have been if I had made the full amount. 

I have to admit that apart from the filled doughnuts, I wasn't really a fan. Even the filled ones weren't as good as I was hoping they would be. The recipe (the Alton Brown one) had rave reviews from other Daring Bakers so something must have gone wrong - or I just have a different taste in doughnuts!

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Friday 22 October 2010

Dark Chocolate and Almond Biscotti

My poor friend B has come down with a case of bronchial pneumonia. This is an illness I know well, as I had it a few years ago. I wanted to send her something nice in the post to put a smile on her face.

Biscotti has been on my list of things to try out for ages. They seemed like the perfect solution as they keep so well and would be able to stand up to being posted across the country.

The whole process of making biscotti is fascinating. I really didn't believe that the first dough would bake up into loaves - it was much wetter than I expected and almost like a cake mix. Then magically it doubled in size and became hard in the oven. I'm excited about all the possibilities.

Homemade biscotti taste a lot nicer than the ones you get in chain stores. They're also not so rock solid. I don't think the brown butter is a normal inclusion in biscotti but the recipe said to cook until 'golden' so I thought I might as well keep going for a moment longer as the nutty flavour adds so much to baked goods.

Dark Chocolate and Almond Biscotti
(adapted from Leith's Baking Bible)

80g unsalted butter
75g whole almonds
185g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
big pinch of fine sea salt
125g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
135g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line two baking trays with baking parchment. Put the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and melt. Keep heating until the butter foams up, starts to form golden brown speckles and has a wonderful nutty smell (see here if not familiar with making brown butter). Pour into a mixing bowl and place in the fridge to cool. Toast the almonds in the oven on a baking tray for 5 minutes, then roughly chop them. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl. Add the sugar and vanilla to the brown butter bowl and whisk to combine, then whisk in the eggs. Stir this wet mixture into the flour, followed by the chopped chocolate and nuts. At this point it seems quite wet for a cookie dough.

Divide between the two baking sheets, spooning into two log shapes roughly 30cm x 10cm. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown, puffy and firm to touch. Remove and leave to cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack.

Preheat the oven to 160C/320F. Carefully slice the logs with a serrated bread knife into 1cm slices (you can use a 45 degree diagonal to get longer biscotti). Place the biscotti back onto the baking sheets (cut side up) and put back into the oven for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn over. Bake for another 3-5 minutes. They should be golden brown but not too dark (I take them out a touch lighter than the pictures now). Cool on a wire rack and then store in an airtight container. They keep for at least a week, by 2 weeks they're starting to get stale.

(Makes about 35-40)

UPDATE 10/09/17: Made these again and really enjoyed them. I made a 2 egg mix as it seemed simpler (previously I'd used 1 1/2) - I've changed the measurements above too. I also used hazelnuts instead of almonds and toasted them first, which was lovely. My logs took more like 20 minutes for the first bake, so I've adjusted the time.

UPDATE 20/11/17: Rewritten in several place to clarify. I'm using a lower temperature for the second bake now. Again I used hazelnuts.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Snickers Brownies

Om nom. Nom. Nom. 

These are the best brownies I've ever made. I used my favourite Delia recipe as a base and then added sliced snickers and some deep dark 85% chocolate to counteract the sweetness. 

I made these for a friend's birthday. I had one that fell apart to check I wasn't poisoning him (essential, obviously). I really didn't want to give them away.

I adore the chewy edges, especially where the snicker has melted. They're fudgy, soft and rich inside. The flavours are gorgeous: sweet chocolate, caramel, peanuts and then the complementary dark chocolate and a hint of fleur de sel. 

I'll be making these again very soon. 

Snickers Brownies
(adapted from Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course)

110g unsalted butter
50g dark chocolate (I used 70%)
2 eggs
110g light brown sugar
100g golden caster sugar
50g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 snickers bars
40g dark(er) chocolate (I used 85%)
sprinkle of fleur de sel

Preheat the oven to 180C. Fairly thinly slice the snickers bars and chop up the darker chocolate.  Line a 7" by 11" tray with foil or parchment. Put the butter and the broken up dark chocolate into a big heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted and smooth. Beat the eggs and add them to the bowl, followed by the sugars, flour and baking powder. Beat to combine. Stir in the snickers slices and dark(er) chocolate bits. Pour into the tin and smooth over.  Sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the tray after 5 minutes, then wait until they are cool to slice. 

(Makes 15)

Thursday 14 October 2010

Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Hazelnut Meringues

I've been on a bit of a meringue mission in the past few days. We had an excess of egg whites hanging about in the fridge after my pasta making mission and the lovely Spiced Apple Cake. I made a pavlova for some friends (I always manage to make pavlova in situations where I can't photograph it but I will post one eventually), but I still had another four egg whites sitting there. 

I found this recipe while browsing through Ottolenghi's Cookbook. It was the first thing that really jumped out at me. As you will know if you read this blog regularly, I'm a bit mental about brown sugar. I've made meringues with golden caster sugar before, but this is just so much better.  I'm very excited about Swiss meringue generally - next on my list is Italian. 

I made these in two sizes: the original large ones and some miniatures. I prefer the small ones - I can't quite deal with the sugar overload of a big one.

Another revelation was the cinnamon. It hadn't occured to me that you could give meringue such distinct flavour. Now I think about it, it's just like flavouring macarons or making chocolate pavlova. Still, it opened up a whole new world of ideas.

Those moments of expansion are one of my favourite parts of cooking. There's something so incredible about literally feeling your horizons expand to include a new technique or ingredient. 

I got a little bit overexcited about taking photos of the inner caverns of the meringues below. Though technically they're not the best photos, I like them. 

These taste fantastic and incredibly complex considering the short ingredient list. Nutty, rich, sweet and spicy. There's the crisp outside that snaps to reveal the soft, pillowy but also chewy insides which is all topped off by the crunch of the hazelnuts. 

I can't describe these without going into adjective overload. 

Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Hazelnut Meringues
(Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook)

4 egg whites
130g golden caster sugar
70g light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
handful of hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 110C. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Pour a few inches of water into a medium saucepan and bring it to a simmer. In a heatproof bowl, mix the egg whites and sugar. Place over the saucepan and heat for about ten minutes or until the sugar has totally dissolved (rub a little between your fingers - it shouldn't feel grainy).  If you have a thermometer, it should reach 40C. Get your stand mixer ready while it heats with the whisk and bowl attached. Pour the mixture into the bowl and whip on high for 6-8 minutes or until very thick, glossy and cool. It should hold shape. Gently fold in the cinnamon. 

Use two spoons to create either big blobs or small blobs of meringue on your baking sheets. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts. Put in the oven for about 70 minutes for small ones and 90 minutes for big ones or longer if you like them crisp in the middles. Check the base is firm and the outside is crisp. Leave to cool in the oven.  Can be stored in a dry place for up to a week. 

(Makes about 12 big meringues or 36 small ones, depending on how big you make them)

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Spiced Apple Cake

A few days ago, a friend's mum gave him a big bag of home grown cooking apples. He gave me half of them to make something nice with. Aside from apple crumble, my first thought was this great spiced apple cake I spotted on Joy the Baker.

This is a great recipe. It's quite unusual - it only has egg yolks, for instance. There's a lot of sour cream too.

I adored the sauteed apples. I hadn't thought of cooking them like that before.

This was a great success. We ate about half at tea time - it's very moreish. I then served the rest as dessert  after supper with some fresh raspberries and some cream.

I bought the pasta making attachment for my new kitchen aid a week or so ago and finally got to make some for the dinner I served this at pudding at. I made some tagliatelle (rolled out a setting thinner than normal) with a roasted pepper and tomato sauce and it was yummy. I have so many pasta plans - it's very like making pastry. I have to admit I got a little bit overexcited when I was making it. I squealed when the first set of tagliatelle came out of the cutter looking all gorgeous. I don't often get that excited about savoury food!

Spiced Apple Cake
(Barely adapted from Joy the Baker)

For the sauteed apples:
2-3 tart/cooking apples (about 450g before peeling etc)
30g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Peel, core and dice the apples. Melt the butter in a big saucepan/saute pan/frying pan until it starts bubbling. Add the apples and cook for one minute. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for 2 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

For the cake:
180g unsalted butter at room temperature
180g light brown sugar
4 egg yolks
200g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
275ml sour cream
few tablespoons demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease and flour a bundt tin or line a springform tin. Cream the butter sugar AND spices in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment for 5-6 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one by one, mixing well and then scraping the bowl down between each one. Measure out the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and stir to combine. Add half these dry ingredients to the mix and beat until combined. Add all the sour cream and beat again. Finally add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix again. Drain any excess juices off the sauteed apples and fold into the batter. Spoon into the prepared tin and spread out. Sprinkle with the demerera sugar. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning out/unclipping the springform.

(Serves about 8-10)

Sunday 10 October 2010

Brownie Gateau

Only Jamie Oliver would call something an 'Epic Brownie Gateau'. What a name. 

I made this for a big dinner last night - I finally had enough people to feed this half recipe to. It's quite a dessert. I served mine with either some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The honeyed almonds were gorgeous and really rounded the flavours out. 

Epic Brownie Gateau
(Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Magazine)

For the cakes:
200g unsalted butter
200g 70% chocolate
40g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1.5 tbsp cocoa powder
125g whole almonds
4 eggs, separated
150g golden caster sugar

Grease and line two 6" tins. Preheat to 180C. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whizz the almonds up in a food processor until they are fine. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder together. When the chocolate mixture is melted and smooth, take off the heat and set aside. Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks, then add the caster sugar and whip again until combined. Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture.  Lightly fold the chocolate mixture into the whites until there are no streaks lefts. Add the flour/cocoa and the ground almonds and fold in. Divide between the tins and bake for 25 minutes. Leave to cool before removing from tins. 

For the honeyed almonds:
50g flaked almonds
2 tbsp honey

Line a small tray with some greaseproof paper, then sprinkle the almonds onto it. Drizzle the honey over them and then use your hands to coat them fairly evenly. Pop into the oven when you take the cakes out.  Bake for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool then smash up and pile on top.

For the ganache:
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream

Chop the chocolate finely and put it in a medium bowl. Heat the cream up until it is nearly boiling then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes then stir until smooth. 

To assemble:
Place one cake on a plate then spread with ganache. Top with the other half and the remaining ganache. Top with the honeyed almonds. 

Monday 4 October 2010

Chocolate Fudge Cake Tart

The weather has turned grey. Damp, heavy clouds keep showering us. The light never turns up from a gloomy glow. Here comes winter.

I found this recipe in Ottolenghi's first cookbook. I've tried a few wonderful savoury recipes and thought it was about time to make a sweet one. Unusually I didn't pick any of the ones that caught my eye, but settled on this chocolate fudge cake. This may or may not be because I've just received a kilogram bar of Valrhona (a.k.a. a thing of extraordinary beauty) in the post and wanted to play with it.  

Unfortunately it wasn't as wonderful as I was hoping. I'm certain that it is my fault, not the recipe. I've been making a lot of rookie mistakes in the kitchen in the past few weeks. I'm not entirely sure why - perhaps a new kitchen, perhaps just a little dip in self confidence. Whatever the reason, it has been very frustrating (and embarrassing in the case of a very dry and not that nice birthday cake). Worse, it makes me question myself and my choices. Can I do this? 

There are a lot of things that were slightly off with the way I made this recipe. First of all, my brown sugar syrup didn't really work - the sugar wouldn't melt into a smooth syrup properly. This gave it all a slightly grainy texture. I didn't chop the chocolate quite fine enough so there were some tiny lumps left. I halved the recipe, which I don't think really worked - I also didn't have the right tin with me though this tart tin did give it a pretty shape. I've put the full recipe below.  My egg whites were tending towards dry (the new mixer is just too effective!).  I didn't wait till it was totally cold before adding the second layer and a lot of the air had been squished out of the extra mixture by that point. My new oven is also pretty dodgy. I then forgot to dust it with cocoa powder. 

Despite all this, it still tasted good. I served it with some strawberries and softly whipped cream or creme fraiche.  I'd love to make this again, properly, and see the difference. I just wish I hadn't used all that Valrhona!

My photos for this were taken later in the day than normal. I haven't worked out the light spots and places to shoot in my house yet. I still like these - I think they have quite an Orangette feel about them.

Chocolate Cake Mousse Tart
(Adapted from Ottolenghi's Cookbook)

240g unsalted butter
360g dark chocolate (about 60% to 70% to taste)
290g light brown sugar
4 tbsp water
5 large eggs, separated
pinch of salt
cocoa for dusting (I forgot)

Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and fully line a 20cm tin. Chop the butter up into small pieces and place in a big bowl. Chop the chocolate up very finely and put that in the bowl too. Weigh out the sugar and water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. When you have a syrup, pour over the chocolate and butter and stir until smooth. Add the yolks of the eggs one by one. Leave to cool to room temperature. Whisk the egg whites and salt together until you have stiff peaks. Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in three batches. Spoon two thirds of the mixture into the tin and lightly spread. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave to cool completely.

Press the crust down slightly (I left a rim as I was worried it would spill out of my shallow tin) and pour in the rest of the mixture. Bake for a further 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool and then dust with cocoa to serve.

(Serves about 10)