Sunday, 30 November 2014

Carrot cake tray bake with mascarpone icing

Nearly December and the Christmas shopping has begun! I love Christmas and all things festive! We saw some good lights around Covent garden yesterday with one of the biggest Christmas trees you will see! You can never hear Mariah Carey too often and even the festive adverts are good this year!

This is a recipe I made during the week. I really like carrot cake but had yet to find a great recipe. This one is fairly easy to make and turns out deliciously moist and full of fruity flavour. I was a bit nervous about adding pineapple AND apricots but it gives a lovely light flavour and a perfectly textured cake. It was taken from British Bake Off book (still working through it) and one I will be doing again.

For the cake: -
100g pineapple
40g dried apricots
50g sultanas
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
150g unsalted butter
270g caster sugar
2 eggs
275g Plain flour
1 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Topping: -
250g mascarpone
150g icing sugar
50g flaked almonds (This is just what I had in the cupboard, you could use chopped hazelnuts / walnuts)

1. Heat the oven to 180C. Grate the carrot and put into a bowl. Add the pineapple and apricots (cut into small pieces) then the sultanas. Squeeze in half the half the juice and zest and stir well.
2. In another bowl, add the butter and sugar and beat well with a wooden spoon. Gradually add the eggs beating in between. Sift  the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon and fold in. Add this mixture to the carrot mixture and put into a tin lined with baking paper. Spread evenly.

3. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes when the cake has turned golden and a knife comes out clean when when tested.
4. To make the icing, put the mascarpone in a mixing bowl then sift in the icing sugar. Add the left over orange zest and and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add some orange juice if the mixture is too stiff. Put in the fridge to chill until the cake is cold.
5. Spread the icing sugar mixture over the cake and sprinkle the nuts on top. Slice to your desired size.

Enjoy the festive season!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Gluten free salted caramel oreos

So, the gluten-free brother and family were coming round for my nephew's fifth birthday which meant novelty fairy cakes and a new gluten free recipe. The simple Bake Off fairy cake recipe worked well with butter icing and pirate flags but I had only made one gluten free recipe before (brownies) so I had to seek out another. As the first was a success, I went back to the same blog that the recipe was from: After scrolling through the delicious ideas, I stuck with these 'salted caramel "oreos"' and they were a good choice. It turns out that rice flour is quite hard to find in usual supermarkets but the Whole foods store at Piccadilly Circus (London) served its purpose. These oreos were worth the effort as they were a great flavour and popular with the brother. I had never successfully made caramel before (head shakingly poor caramel figs) so this recipe was a winner all round.

Ingredients: -
"oreos" -
210g rice flour
50g corn flour
90g cocoa powder 
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g unsalted butter, softened
150g granulated sugar
1 tsp sea salt

Salted caramel buttercream -
115g caster sugar
80ml double cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
155g unsalted butter, softened
160g icing sugar


1. For the cookies, whisk the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. In another bowl, beat the butter, sugar and salt until it is fluffy. Add half the dry ingredient sand beat until incorporated then add the other half and beat agin until smooth. Wrap in cling film and put it in the fridge for an hour or so.
2. For the caramel in the buttercream, heat the sugar in a pan on a medium-low heat until melted (don't stir and be patient!). Cook until it starts bubbling and turns light brown then quickly add the cream, vanilla essence and salt. Stir until just combined then leave to cool. 
3. Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and roll gently (this is a fragile mixture) until 1/2 cm thick. Then cut out circles using cookie cutters (the size depends on your biscuit preference). Put onto a baking tray with baking paper on and chill again for 15minutes.


4. Cook for 1minutes on 150C. Take out and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before moving to a wire rack. 
5. to finish the buttercream, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the cooled caramel sauce and beat again. Spread the buttercream between two of the cookies. 

There is a good bit of mixing which I regrettably did by hand with a recovering sprained wrist. All worth it though. Mission completed. Thank you for another recipe.


#londonbakes #oreos #chocolatebiscuits #saltedcaramelbuttercream 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Bakewell or bake, well?

Cherry bakewells have to be one of my all time favourites so when I saw this recipe in th British Bake Off book, I thought I've got to give it a go. I did cheat with the pastry by buying it pre-made but, one thing at a time in this cooking learning curve. While this recipe takes a little longer due to the pastry, it was still quite simple. The pastry ended with a nice crunch; there was a sweetness from the cherry jam and a delicious wholesome flavour from the almond mix. I would love to try this again with mini versions as well. 

Ingredients: -
Puff pastry (pre-rolledpack)
2 eggs
150g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
1tbsp double cream
2 tsp morello cherry jam
1 tbsp flaked almonds
2 tbsp strawberry jam

Method: -
1. Roll out the puff pastry onto a floured surface and line a round tin with it by rolling it onto a rolling pin then into the tin.
2. Heat the oven to 190C. Fill the pastry tin with cling film and rice or baking beans and blind bake for 12-15 minutes. Then remove the cling film and rice / baking beans and bake again for another 12 minutes at 180C. Leave to cool hen it is taken out of the oven.

3. Put the eggs and sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk for 5 minutes until thick and mousse-like. Fold in the ground almonds and cream using a metal spoon. 
4. Spread the jam onto the bottom of the pastry. Pour the almond mixture over the top then sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly. 
5. Bake for 40 minutes until firm when pressed in the centre. Remove form the tin and brush a thin layer of warm jam on top as a glaze. Leave to cool before cutting.

This would also be good with icing sugar stripes to add some extra sweetness. A perfect treat with an afternoon cup of tea.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Brussels - Chocolate and waffles galore

Brussels! What a lovely city - great architecture, great vibe and great food. We started our trip by trying chocolate. It had to be done. The birth place of praline and famous or it's dark and rich delicacies. Brussels is spoilt for choice for chocolate shops. Some are divine and others are a rip so it's best to watch out. We tried Neuhaus first. This was the inventor of praline so that is what we have to try. It was richer and more velvety smooth than any chocolate I've had before. 

We also tried chocolate in Godiva and Passion Chocolate in the Sablon area (the passion fruit chocolate is the perfect balance of a sweet centre complimented by an encasing of dark luxurious chocolate. Pierre Marcolini do a very delicious macaroon in passion fruit also. Most of these are chains and can be found in several places but versions of them can be found around Royal Place. This is a cobbled square where flower stalls and street performers all come to create a lively atmosphere day and night. If the chocolate shops weren't enough, it is surrounded by grand buildings adorned in gold and lit up by night. 

The waffles are another reason to visit Brussels. There are two main types: the Brussels wafle which is lighter and more rectangular; and the liege waffle which is richer and denser and made using an American panckae style batter. Simply delicious. We tried them with chocolate sauce and caramel. Both were a treat. There are a lot of waffle stalls / shops around but we really liked 'Dandoy'. There are a couple of them but the most popular was on a small cobbled street off of Grand Place. 

The other dish we had to try was the unspoken national dish of 'moules frites'. Not traditionally something I would eat but when in brussels... The chips all seem to be similar - smaller than UK chip shops but bigger than fries. We went to La Bonne Faumeur which was a bit out of the centre and in a residential area. They came in a garlic brith with a lot of celery and overall were petty good. 

The Sablon area was a small old style triangle with a church on one edge and an antiques market in the middle. It had all the favourite chocolate shops and a few cafes. A lovely place to be. There is a good flea market at Place Du Jeu Deballe and a few good parks to stumble across interspersed between the abundance of museums. I was also impressed by some of the graffiti. Being the home of the beloved comic 'Tin Tin', a lot of the artwork around the city was based on him. Walking down the narrow streets, your eye would catch on someone hanging out of a window or climbing down an escape route but on second glance you would see that it was artwork. It was clean and fresh and untouched by others. 

One of lunch spots was near Sablon, on Rue de Namur, and called 'Jat'. It was full of baguettes, salads, milkshakes and coffee in a retro style mismatch of chairs and triangular tables. The kind of interior that makes me excited to be in a coffee shop. I was impressed. My baguette with raisin and nut fresh baked bread, goats cheese and rocket was delicious. 

We also tried a bar / restaurant called cafe Belga in Place Eugine Flagey, a large interior full of locals with laptops, groups of friends chatting or tourists like us. I had an unusual but very tasty cauliflower cheese soup. It was off a square with another of the cities many markets. 

Our second dinner was at a more lively restaurant in a quieter neighbourhood called 'L'ultime atome' on Rue St Boniface. It had another large interior and was the closest thing to a pub restaurant but with a reasonably priced menu. It had a lovely front terrace with lot sof seating. 

Overall , Brussels was a hit and a great place to go for a couple of days.