28 March 2016

Carrot and Walnut Loaf

Sometimes it's the simple things, right? The things that keep you going. The things that make you step back and take a breath and just be. I needed this bake as much as I needed a break, a breather, a catch up this weekend. 

One word. Chocolate.

The chocolate was everywhere. It still is everywhere. Now don't get me wrong, I am a massive fan of chocolate but... Ugh... The kids get so many Easter eggs, you can't get away from them. 

So this loaf came out of some sort of sugar coma guilt complex.

It's an easy one-bowl-great-for-breakfast-loaf. It's filled with brown flour, ground almonds and walnuts. Packed with orange, juicy carrots, a hint of spice and a little bit of brown sugar. It's probably the healthiest thing I bake and it's soooo good.

I love it toasted, smooshed with some real butter and a hot coffee. It's the simplest thing in the world to make. You can't mess this up and it's a real deal cake for breakfast notion. 

Carrot and Walnut Loaf
50g self-raising flour
250g brown flour
75g ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
150g soft brown sugar
250ml vegetable oil
100ml buttermilk
4 large free range eggs
2 medium sized, grated carrots
100g chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C, 350F or Gas 4. Line a loaf tin with some parchment.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, cinnamon, and baking powder and then add the sugar. Stir in the almonds. Add the oil and eggs, mix until blended, then stir in the carrots and nuts. Pour the mix into your prepared tins.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in your preheated oven. Check for done-ness before removing from the oven, a skewer inserted into the cake should come out clean. Allow the loaf to cool in the tin before removing it. 

It doesn't make me feel bad about eating it and it's definitely not chocolate. This cake is super moist, packed with good flavour! Try it toasted, you won't regret it!

A treat I think the Easter bunny would approve of I think!

21 March 2016

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake

There was no competition this month.

Before I had even read the recipe I knew that this was my choice with the Cake Slice Bakers. It had all the promise of being something spectacular... Brownies, Baked Cheesecake.. am HELLO! Where have you been all my life? I read the description, Maida Heatter always provides some little description of the cake, and chuckled.

"It is fascinating to eat both cheesecake and Brownies in the same bite. And it is gorgeous." 

Such sweet simplicity right. What could go wrong?

I remembered that the book was first published back in 1982 (I have the 2011 reprint) and while I am thoroughly enjoying baking through the book, I think it can feel a tad outdated sometimes. Methods have evolved and so too has kitchen equipment. The recipe for this cake I found to be convoluted and yielded very mixed opinions.

There was no doubt that it was tasty. But for me, the laborious nature of the recipe made it lacklustre. The brownie recipe turned out way to dry. That's not a brownie as I understand it. There was no chewy, gooeyness. Just a dry, softness. But they stayed firm and held together during the bake.

The cheesecake was gloriously creamy. I don't own an 8 inch spring form (What the actual?? I know right?) so used a 9 inch and it made a huge difference. The cake didn't puff up like I am used to in a baked cheesecake- but that one is on me. The mix itself contains A LOT of sugar. The top of the cheesecake coated itself in this rather delicious crisp sugar shell, almost creme brulee like. Not a bad thing per say, just not expected.

I have adapted the recipe below to make it more convenient, an updated version for you to try. The flavours all meld together to make it a very worthy bake, but there is no need for it to be so tedious. I am going to help you cut down on all of that "hard work"!!

Chocolate Brownies
adapted from Maida Heatter's Cakes, pg 152.

180g self raising flour
3 tbsps coco powder
125g butter
60g dark chocolate
1tsp instant coffee (powder or granular)
1/2 tsp vanilla
200g sugar
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F or Gas Mark 4.
Line and 8 inch square pan with tin foil, shiny side up. Spray with some cake release spray or brush over with some melted butter.
Sift the flour and the coco powder together.
In a sauce pan, over a low heat, put the chocolate and butter. Stir occasionally until melted.
Stir in the coffee and vanilla. Add the sugar and stir thoroughly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition until incorporated.
Finally fold in the flour and coco mixture.
Pop the mixture into the prepared tin and then into the oven for about 20 minutes. Just check with a skewer in the middle, if it comes out clean, you are good to go.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
Once cool, flip the brownies out and wrap them in cling film. Pop them straight into the freezer to go cold and to make them easier to chop up into little bits.

Once you have chopped them up, keep them cold in the fridge.

You will have a lot of brownies.. cut them up any size you want. I went with chunky for this cheesecake and we used the rest in ice cream. And we just ate them out of that bowl, as we passed them on the counter. And because they are so small, you just keep popping them your mouth.

Uuuuggghh... Bite size brownies are the worst.

Cheesecake Base

300g digestive biscuits
100g butter

Preheat your oven to 180 C, 350 F or Gas Mark 4.
Smash the the biscuits into smithereens whatever way you know how. I use the therapeutic Ziploc bag and rolling pin method.
Melt the butter.
Add the butter to the biscuits and mix until all together.
Press gently into a spring form pan, ideally an 8 inch round and bake in a preheated oven for 5 minutes. Keep the oven on.

Remove the pan and allow to cool. Boil the kettle.

Baked Cheesecake

450g cream cheese (ideally Philadelphia but really the best you can afford)
1 tsp vanilla
275g sugar
4 eggs

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and then the sugar. Beat again until smooth.
Add the eggs one at a time, just until the yolk has disappeared.
Add the wet mix in on top of your biscuit base.
From the fridge plop in your bite size brownie chunks and give it a quick swirl if you want to.
Put the spring form tin into a oven proof pan with a high ridge. Pour the just boiled kettle water around the spring form pan, up as far as your supporting pan will allow, and bake the cheesecake in the oven for about 1 hour.

After an hour, turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon. Allow the cheesecake to fully cool in the oven.

You could then pop it in the fridge. It'd make cutting portions easier but the creaminess is more apparent at room temperature.

I figured the cheesecake would spill up over the brownies and almost encase them, but alas the 9 inch pan was just that little too big for this mix to do that. Not a big deal. But you know yerself now, aesthetically it would have been nicer I think.

Like I said, there is no argument. What I baked was tasty. The brownies added that chocolate flavour layer and broke through the cool, creamy vanilla of the cheesecake. The biscuit crumb cut through all the sweet, providing that hint of crunch. It was a great idea bake, just not what I was hoping it would be like.

Go see what the other bakers whipped up this month... I know there are a few more cheesecakes to behold! I wonder how they fared out?

17 March 2016

Green Velvet Cupcakes for St. Patrick's Day

In case you ever reach the end of  rainbow and meet the elusive Leprechaun guarding his pot of gold, remember I once told you this. Dropping some Irish folklore knowledge bombs on you, so listen up.

Leprechauns are little scheming, tricksters. They don't want to give you their gold. And when you get to the end of the rainbow, the innocent looking little shoe menders will be none too pleased you are there. If you can catch him, he has to grant you three wishes. But instead of capture, he might offer you one of two options; his pot of gold or one silver coin in a drawstring purse.

Looking at that gleaming, big ol' pot of gold sparkling at the end of the rainbow you might be tempted to scoff at the drawstring purse, but consider yourself warned.

The correct option is the purse.

A Leprechaun is full of mischief so keep your eyes on him. As soon as you have chosen the gold, he will disappear over the rainbow and the pot will turn to dust. Leaving you empty handed...

The one silver coin in the drawstring purse is what you need to be choosing. The purse itself, is self replenishing. As soon as you take the silver coin out, another magically appears. That's the gold you're looking for. And if you are lucky enough to get hold of such a magical item, use it wisely. Like buying all your friends something nice... and me a bakery (seeing I was the one who told you about it in the first place!!).

Until then though, keep chasing the rainbows. It's the only way you're going to catch up with the little scamp in the first place.

Green Velvet Cupcakes (Makes 12)

125g salted butter
225g caster sugar
275g self raising flour
1 tablespoon coco powder
2 large eggs
200ml buttermilk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking powder
couple drops of green food colouring- depending how dark you want them.

Cream your butter and sugar until light and fluffy and pale, I usually leave my mixer on for about 5 minutes. 
Add in an egg, one at a time until the yolk has been disappeared.
Dry whisk or sieve your flour and coco powder together.
Add the vinegar to the baking powder and make a paste, then add this to the egg/sugar/butter combination. Fold in.
Add half your dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg/vanilla mix and then half the buttermilk. Mix until combined and repeat. Add the food colouring.

Be careful not to over mix the batter here as you want them to stay light and fluffy. The buttermilk helps with that too. Just make sure all the ingredients have been mixed together.

Fill your cases to two thirds full and bake in your oven at 350/180 or Gas mark 4.
Bake for 18-20  minutes. You'll know when they are done as the tops are a little crisp, have a slight spring in them when you gently push down on the top or a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clear!

You will find the vanilla buttercream recipe HERE.

Buttermilk Pancakes
American style (as in not thin and crepe like)

This recipe makes about 12 medium pancakes. I used it to make 24 little ones and still had some left over for breakfast!

225g plain flour
1 tablespoons baking powder (you could just use self raising flour/all purpose here if you didn't have plain or baking powder)
1 teaspoon sugar
30g melted salted butter
300ml buttermilk
2 large eggs

Green food colouring as above...

I dump all the ingredients in the bowl, melt the butter in the microwave and pour that in. I mix with an electric hand mixer until all the ingredients have been combined. Pour it out into a jug and let it sit in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes before cooking.

I use real butter to fry up little tiny pancakes, transfer them to a plate, pat them dry with a bit of paper towel and let them cool completely before putting them on a cupcake (otherwise it'll melt the buttercream!). 

I then just drizzle maple syrup over the top of the pancake and let it run down the side of the cupcake. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all my family friends and to you my lovelies! 

Thank you as always, for stopping by and gracing this little corner with your presence. I hope that whatever part of the world you are in, it's green and happy and that the luck of the Irish spreads your way...

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