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My Golden Pear

Saturday, 10 August 2013

CHOCOLATE & RASPBERRY CREAM CUPCAKES

I woke up yesterday to the news that there was a family wedding taking place that very afternoon.  Now this wasn't your normal kind of wedding that takes 12 months to organise.  No this one had to be done in a day!  The bride, aka Puzzy and the groom, aka Fuzzy are bears that live with us and no they are not real bears - that's right - we were hosting a wedding for two stuffed bears.  My six year old son loves detail so I knew this would be a well thought out wedding.  I was right.  He made a red carpet out of cardboard which was the length of the living room floor.  All the other soft toys were laid out as guests.  A small lavender sachet became the ring cushion upon which lay a jewel any girl would be proud of.  The bride had a gorgeous fuchsia pink veil attached to her ears with clothes pegs.  The fact that she wore nothing else did not seem to concern neither my son nor my daughter.  The groom had a paper kilt made for him with a sgian-dubh attached to the front.  This was worn in typical Simon Cowell fashion - up round the armpits and again with no other clothes.  Super Monkey was brought in as the priest wearing only red briefs and a red cape.  Music was by Coldplay. 
 
 
My job in all this was Head of Catering.  The Groom requested chocolate cake and the bride wanted raspberries.  I thought I would go the extra mile and made some chocolate cupcases which once the cake was baked I placed into the chocolate cases and then decorated with cream and raspberries.
 
 
I also thought long and hard about a gift for the couple and so while all the preparations were taking place I made up this cute little cupcake holder in the shape of an oven.
I can't imagine many brides who wouldn't want a brand new pink oven to start off her new life of married bliss. 
 
This also leads me nicely into the fab competition which is being run by Rangecookers.co.uk.  All you have to do is make and blog about a cupcake to win a Select 90 dual fuel range cooker in stainless steel.  Now I may pretend to care what two stuffed bears would like for their wedding but in reality I'm thinking of a gorgeous new oven for myself.  Selfish, I know.
 
Anyway, back to the wedding.  The day was a great success - the bears are off on honeymoon to the Isle of Toyland, the kids had great fun, and I enjoyed watching the creativity that every 6 and 4 year old should be allowed to express.
 
If you would like to make these gorgeous, deliciously moist, fresh chocolate cupcakes served in their own edible chocolate cupcases and drizzled with tangy raspberry sauce (yes I really do want to win that oven) then here is the recipe ...

Chocolate & Raspberry Cream Cupcakes

For the printable version - click here

Ingredients
  • 65g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 70g raspberry jam
  • 25g self raising flour
  • 70g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 80 ml buttermilk
  • 250 ml whipping cream
  • 2 tsps icing sugar
  • raspberries for decoration
  • raspberry sauce for decoration
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C, (350F).
  2. Beat together the butter, caster sugar and vanilla essence until light and creamy.
  3. Add the egg and beat well.
  4. Add the jam and beat until smooth.
  5. Fold in sifted flours, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa alternately with the buttermilk until nice and smooth.
  6. Spoon mixture into cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the centre.
  7. Leave cakes to cool completely before decorating.
  8. Whip cream and icing sugar together until thick.
  9. Pipe cream onto cakes and decorate with fresh raspberries and raspberry sauce.
 
  Notes : I served these cupcakes in edible chocolate cases which I made by melting chocolate and coating silicone moulds before placing in the freezer to set.  Once set, peel off the moulds and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
I made the raspberry sauce by blitzing fresh raspberries with a touch of lemon juice and icing sugar to taste and then passing through a sieve to remove any seeds.
 

 
 Written by: Angela Darroch

 

 


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Saturday, 27 July 2013

BLUEBERRY & THYME CURD TARTS

These blueberry and thyme tarts were inspired by nothing more than my love for all things purple.  I had just seen Jen's gorgeous blackcurrant & vanilla eclairs and decided I wanted to make something as colourful and vibrant and came up with these little tarts.  There wasn't much of the thyme flavour noticeable so I would probably try adding a bit more next time.  The blueberry curd is finger licking good and would look and taste lovely on any sponge cake or just served with clotted cream and scones. 


BLUEBERRY & THYME CURD TARTS
 

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
 
Yield: 6 individual tarts
 
Ingredients
  • 250g fresh blueberries
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 50g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 shortcrust pastry cases
  • 80mls whipping cream
Cooking Directions
  1. Put the blueberries, thyme, lemon juice and a teaspoon of water into a pan and bring to the boil.
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes until the fruit is very soft.
  3. Remove from the heat and push the fruit through a sieve set over a bowl to extract as much juice as possible.
  4. Put the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and blueberry juice into a pan and heat until the butter has fully melted.
  5. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool down slightly before adding the beaten eggs.
  6. Return to the heat and keep stirring for 20 - 25 minutes until thickened. The mixture will thicken further once cooled down.
  7. I prefer to strain through a sieve once thickened just to remove any lumps.
  8. Whip the cream until soft peak stage.
  9. Add the blueberry curd to the cream (reserving some curd for decoration) and mix well.
  10. Pour into the tart cases and smooth the tops.
  11. Stir some of the reserved curd through the mixture to decorate.
  12. Refrigerate until set.
I am entering these into this months Tea Time Treats challenge hosted alternately by Karen at Lavender & Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked as this months challenge is fresh fruit.
 

 
Written by : Angela Darroch

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

STRAWBERRY TARTS

 
This month's Classic French challenge is a French fruit tart.  Now, in all the times I have visited France I don't think I have ever been tempted to buy one of those glossy, sweet tarts that seem to adorn every French patisserie window that you pass.  I think it is the thought of cold custard that has always put me off.  So when Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes set the challenge I decided to give them a go.  They were quite easy to make and would make a delicious dessert that would go well with most menus.  They were not overly sweet and were very light.
Delicious!
 
 
STRAWBERRY TARTS

 

Yield: 6 small individual tarts
 
Ingredients
  • 6 individual sweet shortcrust pastry cases (recipe here)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 15g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • 350ml full cream milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 600g fresh strawberries
  • 1 tblsp seedless strawberry jam
Cooking Directions
  1. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add them, along with the pod, to the milk in a saucepan. Bring almost to the boil, being careful not to let it burn.
  2. Remove the milk from the heat, strain and set to one side.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until light in colour.
  4. Add in the flour and cornflour and mix well.
  5. Slowly pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture, whisking all the time.
  6. Return the mixture back to the pan and bring back to the boil and simmer for one minute, whisking continuously, or until smooth.
  7. Remove from the heat and cover with wax paper pressed directly against the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin forming.
  8. Refrigerate until chilled.
  9. To assemble the tarts - fill the pastry cases about 3/4 full with pastry cream and decorate the top with whole, fresh strawberries or sliced as I have done.
  10. To glaze the tarts - Heat the strawberry jam until just melted and brush lightly over the strawberries.



Notes :

When making custard I always use a balloon whisk to stir the mixture whilst it is in the pan.  This prevents any lumps forming but remember to not use your best non stick pans if you do this.  I don't know how many pans I have ruined this way!

If you think the custard has turned a bit lumpy then pour through a sieve and your problem is solved.

If you want to prepare the tarts well in advance it is probably best to seal the pastry cases before you add the pastry cream.  Brush the baked cases lightly with some egg white and then pop back in the oven for 1 minute to seal.  This should prevent a soggy bottom.



Written by Angela Darroch

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Sunday, 16 June 2013

STRAWBERRY & CREAM LAYER CAKE

In the build up to Fathers Day I asked my hubby if he had any preference as to how he would like to spend it.  "How about you do the barbecue this week" was the reply.  "Uh, ok if that's really what you want" was my less than enthusiastic response "but what if it rains?"  "Ok, then I would like a big juicy steak with mushroom sauce and roasted butternut."  Now that is more like it but I still wanted something a bit more extravagant.  "How about a dessert?" I tried.  "Nah, no thanks" and that was that.  No fun for me in the kitchen on Fathers Day.  Well, that is until I saw the theme for The Sunday Baking Club which is Summer Sunshine Week. 
 
 
Now I don't think I've seen the sun all week but summer to me is fresh strawberries and lashings of cream. I had bought this chocolate transfer sheet from Squires Kitchen a while ago and was desperate to try it out so what more of an excuse does a girl need.
 
  Into the kitchen I went and whipped up a four layer sponge cake but later decided that would just be completely over the top so only used three of the layers.
 I then blended some of the less than perfect strawberries together with some icing sugar and a dash of lemon juice to make a lovely, tangy strawberry sauce.
  I then whipped up some fresh cream and chopped up some fresh strawberries. I layered all this together and then moved on to the fun part.
  I melted some dark chocolate and spread this over the transfer sheet and placed it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so until it set.
I then removed it from the fridge and peeled the transfer sheet off and revealed the most beautiful piece of chocolate with strawberries on it.
  I broke this up into shards and placed them round my cake.
I added some whole strawberries on the top and drizzled with some more strawberry sauce and hey presto - a cake full of British Summer goodness.
 
So for all the special Dads out there but especially for my Dad and my hubby
HAPPY FATHERS DAY
 
 
I used the sponge mixture from here but only because I like a dense sponge.  Any good Victoria sponge recipe will do.
 
 
 Tea Time Treats which is hosted by What Kate Baked  and Lavender and Lovage has a theme of layer cakes this month so here we go ....
 

I'm also submitting this to A Mummy Too's weekly blog hop

 

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Monday, 15 April 2013

BLUEBERRY & LIME ICE CREAM

There was a palpable excitement in the air.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the air was warm.  The kids swapped their socks and trainers for flip flops, summer shorts were donned and the water pistols were dusted off.  My hubby retrieved the barbecue from the depths of the shed and spent a couple of hours cleaning it ready for his first barbie of the year.  The ice cream was in the freezer, the salad tossed, the meat sizzling and the wine poured.  This was what we had all been waiting for - the start of our long overdue summer.  We raised our glasses to toast a long, happy summer and that's when we felt it.  Rain - not just a few drops but enough that we had to abandon our barbecue and dash indoors - wet and miserable once more. 
 Oh the joys of a British summer!!
 
I had made this blueberry and lime ice cream as a treat for the kids and we still managed to enjoy it but probably not quite the same as if the sun had still been shining.  The addition of lime makes it deliciously refreshing and it really is a quick dessert if you have an ice cream maker.   If you don't have an ice cream maker then it is still possible to make - it just takes a bit longer.  All you need to do is place your bowl of mixture into the freezer for an hour, remove and whisk until smooth.  Return it to the freezer again for another hour, remove and whisk again.  Transfer the mixture to a rigid container and return to the freezer.  Before serving, move to the fridge for 30 minutes to soften.  I save all the soft and squidgy blueberries that the kids refuse to eat by storing them in the freezer until I have enough to make this ice cream.  For this reason I am going to submit this post to Turquoise Lemons - No Waste Food Challenge which has a theme of fruit this month and is being hosted by Elizabeth over at the lovely Elizabeth's Kitchen
 
 

 



Blueberry & Lime Ice Cream

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes plus freezing time

Yield: 4 - 6

Ingredients
  • 2 limes
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 150g blueberries
  • 200ml coconut cream
  • 284ml double cream
 
Cooking Directions
  1. Finely grate the zest from 1 of the limes and squeeze the juice from both.
  2. Add the zest, juice and sugar to a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add the blueberries to the pan and heat gently for a further couple of minutes.
  4. Leave mixture to cool.
  5. Stir in the coconut cream and blitz quickly with a hand blender to mix thoroughly.
  6. Whip the cream in a bowl until it just holds its shape.
  7. Stir the cream into the blueberry mixture.
  8. Churn in your ice cream maker until thick.
  9. Transfer the mixture to a container and freeze until required.
  10. Before serving, transfer to the fridge for 30 minutes to soften.
Written by Angela Darroch
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food - May 2003
 
       

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Sunday, 3 March 2013

BLUEBERRY & ORANGE MUFFINS

My kids eat a lot of fruit.  3 kgs of grapes, 1kg of blueberries, 16 plums, 12 apples, 6 bananas, 4 pears, 2 pkts of strawberries and a couple of oranges – and that's just in a week!  The first thing people say (apart from our dentist) when you tell them is “you’re so lucky,” and I agree but it is so, so expensive.  And as much as they love fruit it has to be the freshest, crispiest, crunchiest fruit that you can buy,  so no bargain buys for me.  The problem I had this week was that a lot of the blueberries were a bit squishy and I have to admit that even I struggle with soft, squishy blueberries but at £4 a punnet I have to find a way to use them up.  I don’t necessarily want to turn them into a sugar and fat laden dessert just for the sake of using them up so the healthiest option for me is these muffins I found in Annie Bell's Baking Bible.  The kids still refuse to eat them because of the squishy blueberries but they are the perfect snack for me together with my much loved daily cup of coffee. There is no butter in them and I have used a blend of sugar and stevia to cut down the sugar content and of course my favourite ingredient of the moment is the delicious seeded spelt flour from Sharpham Park.  These muffins are not necessarily frugal if you have to go out and buy the ingredients but if like me you have some over ripe fruit to use up then it is preferable to throwing the fruit out. 
   These muffins are deliciously moist and stay fresh for a few days and like most muffins will freeze really well. 
 
 


Blueberry & Orange Muffins
 
For the printable version - click here
 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
 
Yield: 8 - 12 depending on size
 
Ingredients
 
  • 80 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 180 ml orange juice, no bits (approximately 2 large oranges)
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 medium eggs (I used 2 large eggs)
  • 275 g plain flour (I used Sharpham Park Seeded Spelt Flour)
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 200 g golden caster sugar (I used 100g Tate & Lyle's Stevia & Sugar blend)
  • 150 g fresh blueberries (I used 200g)
 
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 190C (170C fan).
  2. Whisk the oil, orange juice, zest and eggs lightly in a bowl.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and sugar and stir until just combined.
  4. Fold in two-thirds of the blueberries.
  5. Spoon the mixture into your muffin tray, two-thirds full.
  6. Scatter over the remaining blueberries and a little extra sugar and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
 
As these muffins contain blueberries and have no butter in them they are perfect for A Kick at the Pantry Door's first Feel Good Challenge.
 
Recipe adapted from Annie Bell's Baking Bible   
Written by Angela Darroch    

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Sunday, 17 February 2013

CHOCOLATE & RASPBERRY TARTS

This month’s Classic French challenge over on Blue Kitchen Bakes  is chocolate ganache.  I always find this incredibly rich so this time I decided to add a bit of raspberry sauce to the bottom of each tart to counteract the richness.  I thickened my normal raspberry sauce with a touch of cornflour to stop it running out once we cut into the tarts and it worked well.  There is nothing difficult about making the ganache and it is really quick to prepare.  The only time consuming process to these delicious tarts is making your own pastry but if you are short of time then a good quality store bought pastry would speed the process up giving you an elegant and decadent dessert in just over half an hour. 
 

CHOCOLATE AND RASPBERRY TARTS
 

Prep time: 2 hours, including resting time for pastry shells
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 2hrs, 25 minutes
 
Yield: 6 individual tarts
 
 
Ingredients
  • Sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 150ml double cream
  • 190g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 300g raspberries
  • 2 tblsp icing sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
 
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 200 deg C.
  2. Make up one batch of sweet shortcrust pastry and prepare 6 small individual tart cases.
  3. Bake blind for 15 minutes.  Remove paper and baking beans and return to oven for a further 5 - 10 minutes to dry out.
  4. To prepare raspberry coulis, puree raspberries (leave some back for decoration), icing sugar and lemon juice using a stick blender.
  5. Pour through a sieve to remove all seeds.
  6. If you prefer the raspberry sauce to be slightly thicker you can mix 1 tsp of cornflour with some of the puree. Heat remaining puree in a saucepan and then stir in the cornflour mixture and stir until thickened.
  7. Set to one side.
  8. To make the chocolate ganache, heat the cream in a saucepan until just boiling.
  9. Add the chopped chocolate and stir with a spatula until fully melted and smooth.
  10. Remove from heat and leave for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
  11. To assemble tarts, spoon some raspberry coulis into the bottom of each pastry shell.
  12. Fill the shells with chocolate ganache ensuring a nice smooth finish on top.
  13. Decorate with whole raspberries.
  14. Serve at room temperature.
Recipe by Angela Darroch 

    

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Sunday, 3 February 2013

LEMON 'PING' PUDDING

No time to make a pudding? – 14 minutes from start to finish is all you need …..

It was while I was reading through the list of requirements for the Credit Crunch Munch Challenge that I remembered this super quick pudding that I used to make many (many) years ago.  It was back when microwaves were still quite fashionable and we used to cook a whole meal in about 12 minutes, unlike nowadays where we tend to use them more for reheating and defrosting food.  I had just started out on my own and only had a microwave and an electric frying pan with which to do all my cooking.  This lemon ‘ping’ pudding was a firm favourite both because it was so quick and it could be used so many different ways.  I don’t think you’d win any prizes for the best sponge pudding if you were to enter a competition but once you add a sauce over the top and serve with custard, cream or ice cream – well who cares about perfection. I’ve even cooked some apples with sugar and lemon juice, put them in the dish with the sponge mixture on top and cooked for 4 minutes to give me a super quick Eves Pudding.  Add some cocoa powder and chocolate and you have a quick chocolate pudding which is great with a bit of chocolate sauce over the top. It is also a really easy pudding for kids to make because they don’t have to use the oven and it’s ready before you’ve even had a chance to tidy up their mess. 
 



Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 4 minutes
Total time: 14 minutes

Yield: 4 - 6

Ingredients
  • 100 g butter
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 100 g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 large eggs
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tblsp lemon curd
 
Cooking Directions
  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
  2. Add the flour, baking powder, vinegar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.
  3. Spoon into a microwave-proof baking dish.
  4. Microwave on High for 3 - 4 minutes until set and a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Leave to rest for 1 minute.
  6. Turn out onto a serving plate.
  7. Meanwhile, heat the lemon curd in the microwave for 30 seconds..
  8. Pour over the top of the sponge pudding and serve with vanilla ice cream.
 
 
As this pudding only takes 4 minutes to cook in the microwave I am going to enter it into the Credit Crunch Munch Challenge which is hosted by the lovely Camilla over at Fab food 4 All and Helen over at Fuss Free Flavours.


 
I have also used up some left over lemon curd (I had to check with Mrs Beeton to find out if this was a preserve) so I can enter the same pudding into the No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Kate over at Turquoise Lemons
 
 
 
As this is also a perfect pudding albeit not a very glamorous one I can enter it into the Tea Time Treats Challenge which is being hosted this month by Kate over at What Kate Baked and Karen over at Lavender and Lovage on alternate months.
 
 
 
 
Written by : Angela Darroch 
    

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Thursday, 31 January 2013

LIGHT AT HEART PANCAKES AND BLUEBERRY SAUCE


As a family we do not use large quantities of refined sugar. The only time I ever use it is in my baking and that is usually for a treat rather than the norm. Over the years I have tried several artificial sweeteners in my baking but have never been converted and always revert back to the normal household brands of sugar. While I was out shopping last week I came across a new product by Tate & Lyle called Light at Heart. This is a combination of Brown Sugar and a Stevia Blend and has 50% less calories. I shook the container and could tell that the sugar was granulated (I hate the powdery substance of artificial sweeteners) so in the trolley it went.

Since buying the product I have done a bit of research into Stevia and I think it would be fair to say that there is a divided camp when it comes to the safety of consuming Stevia products. The plant has been used for centuries in South America as a natural sweetener, it has almost zero calories and studies have shown that it significantly inhibits the development of dental plaque. On the flip side it has negligible nutritive benefits (but then neither does refined sugar) and there is this small camp who maintains that more research needs to be done before allowing Stevia to be used in food products. For me the positives outweighed the negatives and I know we will not be consuming large quantities so I was keen to try it out.

I decided to try it out on something simple first so went for these easy pancakes and a blueberry sauce. Now what I didn't notice on the packaging was something it said on the back *as it's twice as sweet, only use half as much* My blueberry sauce was very, very sweet so I would definitely have been able to use half the quantity. By the time I made the pancakes I was a bit wiser and only used half my usual quantity of sugar and this time the taste was perfect. More to the point - there was no artificial taste normally associated with low calorie sugars/sweeteners.

The next step now is to try baking one of my tried and tested cakes to see how it compares. I will let you know how I get on.
  
 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
 
Yield: 2 - 4
 
 
Ingredients
  • Juice and zest from 1 large orange
  • 70 g sugar or 35g Light at Heart sugar
  • 125 ml water
  • 2 tsps cornflour mixed with a small quantity of water to form a paste
  • 350 g fresh blueberries
  • 115 g self rising flour
  • 30 g butter
  • 50 g sugar or 25 g Light at Heart sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 80 ml milk
 
Cooking Directions
  1. Add the orange juice, zest, 70g (35g) sugar and water to a pan and heat until simmering.
  2. Stir in the cornflour paste and continue to stir until mixture thickens slightly.
  3. Add the blueberries and stir gently to combine.
  4. Leave to simmer for approximately 5 minutes.  The blueberries should still be whole.
  5. Remove from  heat and leave to one side.
        To make the pancakes
  1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl.
  2. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.        
  3. Add the sugar.
  4. Add the egg and stir lightly to mix.
  5. Add enough milk at this stage to make a thick pouring batter.
  6. Lightly grease a heavy bottomed frying pan with butter.
  7. Using a tablespoon, pour a spoonful of the mixture into your heated pan.
  8. When the surface of the pancake begins to bubble turn it over to cook on the second side.          
  9. Serve with natural yoghurt (or a dollop of cream) and blueberry sauce.
 
Written by : Angela Darroch       

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Thursday, 24 January 2013

CHOCOLATE AND APPLE CAKE

For my next January challenge I decided to enter Random Recipes over at Belleau Kitchen. Dom, who is the guy behind Belleau Kitchen, asked if we could choose a recipe from someone else's kitchen for this challenge. My initial thought was to ask my Mum but as most of our cook books are the same I knew I was unlikely to get something new. My second thought was to ask my friend Sam. I have known Sam for a few years and we meet up once or twice a month for coffee and a catch up. We have many similar interests but one thing we don't share is my love for food and cooking. Sam eats to live, I live to eat. For this reason I have never told her that I have a food blog, conscious of not wanting to be a food bore and to witness the slight glazing over of eyes that I see from my husband when I start to talk about food. I sent her an email along the lines of "Hi Sam, would you mind choosing a recipe from one of your books and sending it over to me. It can be anything you want. Tks." Now Sam has been in my kitchen and knows I have 100's of books so I kind of anticipated her answer. The replay back was "What do you mean? Why are you asking me when you have so many recipe books?” I knew this was going to be hard to explain but I went with it anyway. I replied back, "I know it sounds weird but I am cooking something random for a guy called Dom.” The reply back was quick, "Who is Dom?” I was now having fun and decided to go with the flow. "Well he is a guy on the Internet.” Another quick reply, "You're talking to a guy on the Internet and cooking for him? What's going on?”  "Don't worry about it," I said. "Nothing untoward is going on. Just send me a recipe and I'll tell you all about it next time I see you.”  Not long after I received an email back with a recipe from The Fairtrade Everyday Cookbook for a Chocolate Apple Cake. She closed the email with "Can we meet for coffee this week?”

  I feel slightly mean for keeping her in suspense and I know she won't fully understand why I'm cooking something completely random for a guy I've never met but that's blogging for you.

 I made the cake a couple of days ago and loved it. I still had a couple of apples from our apple tree lurking in the back of my fridge and so made my own apple puree. There is something oddly satisfying about using home grown produce. I even had Fairtrade cocoa and Fairtrade chocolate so felt I was doing the recipe justice. The raw cake mixture was thick and fudgy and quite different to any other chocolate cake mixtures I've made before. Once cooked, the cake was beautifully moist and had the slightest hint of apple to taste. I was running out of time to finish it off, so wrapped it up in tinfoil and only took it out to ice today (2 days later). It was still moist and fudgy. I topped it off with the chocolate topping which I have to say set really quickly and had a nice crispness to it. If anything the topping slightly overpowered the taste of apple in the cake but it is still good. This is not a showstopper of a cake but more a family favourite and so much better for having some fresh apple in it. 

Now I really must get back to Sam about that coffee date.
 
 
 
 

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hr 5 minutes
 
Yield: 16 squares
 
 
Ingredients
  • 120 ml vegetable oil
  • 225g Fairtrade sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 175 g plain flour
  • 40g Fairtrade cocoa
  • 1.5 tsp Fairtrade ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 225g apple puree (from 2 med apples and 125 ml apple juice or water)
  • 75g Fairtrade plain chocolate
  • 25g butter, softened
 
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C (350 deg F). Grease and flour a 20 cm square baking tin.
  2. Peel, core and chop the apple up into small chunks.
  3. Place the apple juice and apple in a saucepan and simmer gently until the apple breaks up easily.
  4. Puree the apples, measure out 225g and set aside to cool.
  5. Beat the oil, sugar and egg in a large bowl until pale in colour and fluffy and set aside.
  6. Sift the flour with the cocoa powder, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda in another bowl.
  7. Stir alternate spoonfuls of the flour mixture and the apple puree into the egg mixture.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and place in the oven.
  9. Bake for 35 mintutes, or until a fine skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  10. Turn onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  11. Melt the chocolate for the icing in a bowl set above hot water in a saucepan over a low heat. Remove it from the heat and stir in the butter making sure there are no lumps left.
  12. Spread over the top of the cake to decorate.
 
 
 
Written by : Angela Darroch

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Saturday, 19 January 2013

PEAR SOUFFLE

When I first discovered the Classic French challenge over on Blue Kitchen Bakes I was more than happy to participate. I have strong ties to France and love everything about their whole way of life. When January's theme was announced I knew it would be a good chance for me to try out the classic souffle - something I haven't made since my early days of cooking. My last attempt was a bit of a disaster. I can remember we had some friends over for dinner and I had prepared everything for the souffle up until the addition of egg whites. We had our first and second course along with copious amounts of wine. The time came to finish off my souffles. Disaster - they were as flat as a pancake. The taste was still good and everyone very kindly finished them off. It was only when we went to tidy up and I found the bowl of egg whites that I realised my mistake. A souffle with no egg whites does not a souffle make.
 
 So fast forward to 2013 and with lessons learnt I'm ready to master the souffle. My Mum had been raving about these pear souffles so I knew what I would make. When she sent me the recipe she put a little note at the bottom telling me that I had about 2 minutes to photograph them before they would collapse. 2 minutes - are you serious? I have only just progressed from taking my camera off its Auto setting. Exposure, Aperture, ISO etc. are all new terms to me and do not come naturally. We also have absolutely no decent natural light at the moment which makes things even harder. I thought I would give it a try and with everything set up close at hand I made my first batch. One click, two clicks, three clicks, flat souffles and of course no decent images. Next batch in the oven, one click, two clicks, three clicks, flat souffles, lighting has changed and exposure settings wrong. Next batch in the oven, perfect souffles, lighting much the same, this time it's going to work, trip over my tripod, flat souffles. Next batch in the oven (yes I really do have that much patience), souffles even better than the last, manage to avoid the tripod, lighting as good as it's going to get, press the button, nothing happens, press again in desperation, nothing happens, check the camera, battery flat.
 Accept defeat.
 
 So after all that - were the souffles good?
Yes, they were.
 
They had much more flavour than I ever imagined they would. As expected, they were light and airy and this is my only problem with them.  I don't often get to eat desserts so when I do I want something with a bit of substance, something that I can savour over time. These souffles were delicious but gone in a flash, leaving me wanting more. 
 
So here we have my shaky, rather dull photo of what is a delicious pear souffle.
  

For the printable version - click here

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
 
Yield: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 6 large ripe pears
  • 50 ml granulated sugar
  • 125 ml pear juice (I used Copella Apple & Pear juice )
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • small amount of butter and caster sugar for the ramekins
 
Cooking Directions

Preheat oven to 190 deg C
  1. To prepare your ramekins, brush with melted butter and coat thoroughly with caster sugar.
  2. Peel, core and chop the pears.
  3. Poach with the sugar and pear juice until liquid is reduced by half.
  4. Puree.
  5. Add cornflour and egg yolks to the puree and warm through to thicken, stirring constantly.
  6. Beat egg whites to medium peak stage.
  7. Add a 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the pear custard and mix in well.
  8. Fold the remaining egg white mixture into the egg custard.
  9. Fill your ramekins with your mixture and smooth over the top with a pallet knife.
  10. Run your finger round the edges to make a small indent.
  11. Bake for 9 - 10 minutes.
  12. Sift over some icing sugar and serve immediately.     
 
I am going to enter this into the Classic French challenge run by Jen over at Blue Kitchen Bakes.
 
      
 
Written by : Angela Darroch

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Monday, 14 January 2013

LEMON MERINGUE CUPCAKES

I had a tiny bit of lemon curd left over from whoopie pies which I had made last week.  Normally I would treat myself to some hot buttery toast with the lemon curd but as I have decided to try and enter some challenges this year I decided to be a bit more creative.   As I didn't have very much lemon curd I only baked half the quantity and ended up with 3 gorgeous little cupcakes for today's treat. 
I used a meringue cuite mixture only because the kids would eat one and I wanted to make sure the eggs were cooked.  It is a little more work than normal because you have to whisk over a hot stove for 10 minutes but if you ever need meringues to hold their shape whilst cooking then this is the perfect solution. 
 You can also keep this meringue mixture in the fridge for up to a week and it will still pipe beautifully.
 
 
 
 
 
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
 
Yield: 6 large cupcakes
 
 
Ingredients
  • 110 g butter
  • 110 g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 110 g self raising flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp custard powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 50 ml lemon curd
  • 2 egg whites
  • 115 g icing sugar
 
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C (160 for fan oven). Place 6 large paper cases in a cupcake tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and stir in the vanilla.
  3. Sift in the flour, salt and custard powder and lightly fold into the mixture alternately with the eggs until well blended.
  4. Spoon into the paper cases and bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch.
  5. When the cakes have completely cooled, cut out a hole the size of a 2p coin from the centre of each cake. Fill with lemon curd.
         To make the meringue cuite           
  1. Sieve the icing sugar into a heat resistant bowl with the egg white.
  2. Place your bowl over a half-full pan of simmering - not boiling - water, whisk with an electric mixer until the mixture is thick and glossy, approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Place the meringue mixture into a piping bag and pipe on top of the cupcakes.
  4. Increase the oven temperature to 230 deg C and bake the cupcakes for a further 5 minutes or use a cooks blowtorch to brown the tops.
 
I am submitting this for Tea Time Treats hosted by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked     
 
 
 
Written by : Angela Darroch

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Saturday, 1 December 2012

CRANBERRY, ORANGE AND CHOCOLATE PAVLOVAS

I have to confess to never having eaten fresh cranberries before.  Up until recently they have never been grown commercially in the UK so we very rarely see them in the shops and if we do they are normally quite expensive.  Now that they have started growing them in Kent I'm sure they will play a bigger part in our seasonal cooking.  When I spotted them for sale in our local grocery store I decided to try them out.  This dessert was featured in the December issue of Food & Travel and just looked and sounded too good not to try.  It is not a quick dessert to make but it is one that can easily be prepared in advance and would then only take a couple of minutes to plate up.  I did cheat a teeny weeny bit and used tinned mandarins instead of fresh orange and I think it probably added more flavour.  You could of course also use shop bought pavlovas but the chocolate in these make them extra special.  I used a good quality chocolate http://www.lindt.com/swf/eng/products/excellence/orange-intense/
and I think it definitely makes a difference to the end result. 
 
 When I came to make the topping I thought I would taste a couple of the berries to find out what they were like but Oh My Goodness did I get a shock.  They were truly awful and left such a bitter taste in my mouth that I was very dubious about how the topping would taste once cooked.  Once cooked, though they were delicious.  The finished dessert was really delicious and the different textures and flavours were just heavenly.  Although not light in calories it feels light to eat and would be perfect for after a heavy Christmas meal.
 
  Definitely one of my favourites.
 
 


Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes
Total time: 80 minutes
 
Yield: 8
 
 
Ingredients
  • 100g orange flavoured chocolate
  • 4 large egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1 tblsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g fresh cranberries
  • 4 tblsps orange flavoured liqueur such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier
  • 1 large orange, zested then peeled and segmented
  • 300 mls double cream
 
 
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 190 C (325 F) and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  2. Break the orange flavoured chocolate into a small bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water.
  3. Place the egg whites and a pinch of salt in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk until soft peaks form.
  5. Add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time and whisk well between each addition, reserving 2 tsps of sugar for later.
  6. Once the sugar has been added, the meringue should be very stiff.
  7. Sift the cornflour over the meringue and fold through very gently.
  8. Mix the remaining 2 tsps of sugar with the vinegar and vanilla essence and fold into the meringue until well mixed.
  9. Take a tablespoon of mixture at a time and place 4 piles on each tray. Spread out into individual 9cm circles.
  10. Drizzle a little melted chocolate over each and swirl gently through the meringue using a toothpick.
  11. Place small spoonfuls of meringue mixture around the edge of each circle to build up slightly.
  12. Drizzle some more melted chocolate over the meringue mixture and swirl gently with the toothpick.
  13. Cook for 5 minutes.
  14. Lower the oven temperature to 110 C (225 F) and cook for a further 45 minutes.
  15. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
  16. Store in an airtight container until needed.
      To make the topping
  1. Put the cranberries in a saucepan with the sugar, orange liqueur, orange zest and any juice left behind from segmenting the orange.
  2. Heat gently, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar.
  3. Cook until the cranberries just start to burst.
  4. Cool completely before assembling the meringues.
  5. Whisk the cream until it just holds its shape but is still a bit floppy.
  6. Pile some of the cream into the centre of each pavlova.
  7. Place the orange segments and the cranberry mixture on top of the cream.
  8. Top with some chocolate shavings and dust with icing sugar.
       

 
 
WWritten by : Angela Darroch

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Sunday, 25 November 2012

BANANA MUFFINS


We all have recipes that we turn to time and time again.  The ones that never let us down, the guaranteed crowd pleasers, the ones that just make us feel good.  These banana muffins are one such recipe.  I hate to think how many I have made over the years.  They freeze beautifully so there is no excuse to not have some freshly made muffins on hand when those unexpected visitors pop in.  I normally let my bananas ripen until the skin is black and really soft.  They look terrible but have so much more flavour than their yellow and slightly under ripe partners.  If I am not ready to make the muffins I'll peel and mash them up and freeze the pulp until such time as I am ready to bake. 
 Today was such a grey, miserable day with the rain lashing down from early morning that I could think of nothing nicer than putting a fresh pot of coffee on to brew and having some fresh home cooked banana muffins to cheer us up.
 


Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
 
Yield: 12 (large)
 
 
Ingredients
  • 240g plain flour
  • 125g butter
  • 250ml (1 cup) soft brown sugar
  • 4 very ripe bananas (peeled and mashed)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2ml (1/2 tsp) salt
  • 5ml (1 tsp) bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 tblsp water
  • 7ml (1.5 tsp) baking powder
 
Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  3. Stir in the mashed bananas and beat to combine thoroughly.
  4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well.
  5. Sift flour and salt onto mixture and stir well.
  6. Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in water and stir into mixture.
  7. Add baking powder and stir well.
  8. Pour batter into muffin moulds and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.
  9. Cool in tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
 
Written by : Angela Darroch       

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