Chewy Cornflake, Pecan and Chocolate Chunk Cookies: baking across the pond

cornflake cookies

I finally got to bake an american recipe, using american measurements in America. I know that, for some, that doesn’t sound remarkable; it was personally rather enlightening on a typical US baking environment and experience. I hope that any americans reading this don’t mind me saying that.

Let me fill you in quickly on the back story. This all came about when Chang-Bum op-pa*, a friend of the family, invited my mum and I to spend New Year with them in Southern California. My mum and his parents go way back; I think that the last time I had met our host was when I was the age of his youngest son, aged 9. I remember going to Loch Ness with him and his sister. (*Chang-Bum is his name but op-pa is how I address him. Op-pa translates into older brother in Korean in case you’re wondering)

I offered to bake them Fiona Cairn’s amazing shortbread for them, as a taste of Scotland, and it is a great recipe.

cornflake cookie helpers

Well, it isn’t that they turned me down. It’s more like they redirected my offer. Chang-Bum op-pa had already read my food blog. So, his question was, “Would I like to bake a cookie/biscuit*/scone* recipe with his family instead? It would be the first time for them and they are mad for cookies/scones/biscuits.” (*US and UK versions of biscuit and scones are different.)

“Absolutely!”

Alarm bells ring when I am given a negative to the question, “Is there a set of weighing scales?” That’s when I’m pushed out my comfort zone and my education into american baking culture really starts.

So, I search online specifically for an american recipe, and in doing so, introduce my friend’s wife to Smitten Kitchen’s reliable collection of recipes. The next part is a trip to a grocery store, where we put all purpose flour and butter measured in sticks into our cart. But my biggest culture shock moment is whilst gazing flummoxed at the spices rack. There are no jars of mixed spice! I’m a bit shocked. (Question: why don’t they sell mixed spice in american grocery stores?) I apologise to any Americans who have hunted for mixed spice on account of my recipes and been given a blank look from a grocery assistant. And at that moment, I appreciate why some american recipes are so particular on their spice measurements. E.g. ¼tsp of ground cloves; ¼tsp ginger; ½tsp cinnamon…

After that culture shock, the actual baking of the cookies seemed fairly unremarkable. I understand why american recipes list the number of sticks of butter, because that is how they are sold. Besides, sticks of butter are exactly what we needed in the absence of weighing scales. Having said that, now that I’m writing this back in the UK, I’ve converted the recipe to grams and ounces.

The original recipe is for an oatmeal, pecan and chocolate cookie. The cornflakes were a subsitute for the oatmeal that had gone off. I like to think that I was truly original and no-one had ever thought to put cornflakes in cookies before. Then a few days later I read the side of the cornflake packet: a recipe for cornflake and cranberry cookies. Perhaps, I was being innovative rather than original then, but I still think fondly of my ingenuity.

This recipe made between regular sized 36-46 cookies. We baked them ALL. I haven’t tested this yet, but if you wanted to, I guess you could bake the amount you wanted and freeze the rest. Freeze them, unbaked, in a baking tray and then once frozen, you can store them in a container. To bake from frozen: lay them out on a baking tray and let them defrost for an hour or so before want to you bake them. Once I try it out, I’ll re-edit this post with how it worked.

Ingredients

  • 110g/4oz butter
  • 100g/3½oz granulated sugar
  • 150g/5½oz light soft brown sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 225g/8oz plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 120g/4oz crushed cornflakes or 90g/3oz oats
  • 250g/8oz pecans, chopped (rough or fine depending on your preference)
  • 2tsps orange zest
  • 300g/12oz dark chocolate chopped into chunks or use chocolate chips, if you prefer

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. This recipe makes LOTS of cookies so line various baking trays with baking paper.

2. Measure out the flour, bicarbonate soda, mixed spice and salt in one bowl and sift together.

3. In a big bowl, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. It’s much quicker when done with an electric mixer (about 4-5 mins), which my hosts didn’t own unfortunately. So, I had to use arm power and it took much longer, but good for toning the arms.

4. Add the orange zest, vanilla extract, white and brown sugars and cream together with the butter until they are thoroughly mixed.

5. Now mix the eggs into the butter/sugar mixture, one at a time.

6. Add the flour mixture in two batches, ensuring that the first batch is well-combined with the butter/sugar mixture before adding the second. The reason for doing it like this is that it is easier on you to beat out any lumps of flour in the dough.

7. Now, obviously if you had to use a wooden spoon/spatula all this time because there wasn’t an electric mixer then you don’t have to switch over. But if not, with a wooden spoon/spatula, mix in the chopped pecans, chopped chocolates. Finally add in the crushed cornflakes or oats and mix well.

cookie doughbaked cornflake cookies

8. Using a tablespoon to measure it out, dollop out the cookie dough onto the baking tray, making sure that each of the tablespoon sized dollops are evenly spaced out. The high fat content in them means that they will spread out while baking, so don’t worry – they will flatten out!

9. Bake them in the oven for 12-14 minutes. Take them out when they are golden brown in colour and still soft in the middle. They will harden more in the cooling process. Let them cool for 2 minutes on the baking tray and then let them cool on a wire rack. If you’re limited on space, you’ll be itching to get the next batch onto the baking tray and in the oven as soon as possible.

And yes, since I was in America, I can confirm that they are perfect when they are still warm, with a glass of milk and the house has that wonderful smell of freshly baked cookies. Deb (from Smitten Kitchen) rates these as the perfect balance between chewy and crispy and that the combination of the spice and orange zest give it a grown up feel. I agree. Adapt it with milk chocolate, if you prefer. Next time, I think that I’ll try baking it with oatmeal or muesli, just to see how it turns out.

cookies and milkchewy cornflakes, pecan and chocolate cookies

On reflection, nowadays, I get the impression that kitchens on both sides of the Atlantic, make allowances for each other cultures. Most UK kitchens have US style cups, and lots of recipe books will give a glossary list of US and UK terms. Having majoredspecialised in cultural history, I find this all rather fascinating. (self-conscious note on my choice of vocabulary. A relic of my sojourn in the States.) Nevertheless, having grown up in the UK, I personally consider it normal to:

  • weigh out ounces and grams vs cups;
  • use plain and self-raising flour vs all-purpose flour style;
  • differentiate types of sugars, such as caster, granulated, demerara… vs white, brown or molasses;
  • and buy a jar of mixed spice in the supermarket!

But I am partial to the cookies and milk combo.

A Cake for Sarah: White Chocolate, Cardamon and Rosewater Cake

a cake for sarah

“cheers” my friend Sarah on a recent holiday to Baynuls-sur-Mer

The other night I made a surprise cake for my friend Sarah who is going to Mozambique for 6 weeks to volunteer with Iris Ministries, set up by Rolland and Heidi Baker. She’s going to two of their ministry bases, one in Pemba and the other in Muputu, to serve as a willing pair of hands. Giddy with excitement at the prospect of getting involved with the work out there, she’s not quite sure what’s in store. She leaves on Tuesday and I’m excited for her and the stories of her experiences that she’ll bring back with her.

Well, naturally I felt it was appropriate to mark the occasion with food, and I really wanted to make her a cake that was, a) personal to her b) I could decorate and c) a delicious new recipe. But suddenly (de repente!), I was overcome with all these mini moments of doubt when I forgot what flavours she liked and didn’t like. (I felt like such an awful friend!) After several hours of poring over Fiona Cairns and Nigella recipes, it got to the point that all I knew for sure was that – she likes chocolate. Especially white chocolate. So, I picked this White Chocolate, Cardamon and Rosewater sponge from Fiona Cairns, Bake and Decorate.

The story doesn’t stop there. I confess that I had many anxious thoughts ready to trip me up and stop me from baking this cake:

  1. The biggest, most glaring, thought that rang alarm bells in me, was – does Sarah like cardamon and rosewater..? Both are pretty strong, unusual flavours. And will the rest of the small group like it? Because if you don’t like either of those flavours, then I’m done for!
  2. Secondly there was a step involving a food processor and adding hot water to white chocolate to melt it… this is a new technique and I wasn’t sure whether my old food processor and I were up to the task.
  3. My lack of a real pestle and mortar to ‘grind the [cardamon seeds] into a powder’ (I do love Fiona’s writing).
  4. I have never ever made ganache before.

So there you go. This cake almost did not happen. However:

  1. Firstly, I had this vaguely reassuring feeling that Sarah has pretty much liked every flavour of cake that I’ve baked her. And my small group are happy to venture out and try new flavours.
  2. Then, I thought that I could only give it a go and see what happens with the white chocolate, food processor and hot water.
  3. And I improvised a pestle and mortar with the end of a rolling pin and my trusty small stainless steel pampered chef bowl. Then, it was Alex who did the hard work of bashing the cardamon seeds into a powder and sifting out the husks later.
  4. I love video tutorials!

Result:

white chocolate cardamon and rosewater cake

I didn’t tell you that I decorated the cake to look sort of like Mozambique. I don’t do decorating cakes. However, as I had to do something(!), I got this idea of using sweets to creating Mozambique from Jen, a friend of mine in my small group, because it is fun and colourful. Kind of what I hoped Sarah’s trip would be for her. (Whenever one of Jen’s funny, creative ‘face birthday cakes’ turn up in our small group, there is a lot of laughter. I wish I had some photos to illustrate how funny they are to you! “John, your face is delicious.”)

Later on, I put candles on it to mark Pemba and Muputu when we presented the cake to her at our church small group. By way of imagery, the candles also represented that she’d be a light where she was going. Corny isn’t it, I know!

When the cake came in with its lit candles, Sarah said, “but whose birthday is it?” and she made us all sing a song.

And what about the flavours and the cake? Well, I’d forgotten that she’d previously made a lime and cardamon cake so she was already a cardamon fan. So, she really liked the cake, as did everybody else. It truly is a delicious cake. Although 20 cardamon pods sound like a lot, I don’t think that their flavour was so overpowering that you couldn’t taste the white chocolate or the rosewater. I’m wondering when I can make this recipe again.

Now that the cake has been eaten and loved… I can let those stomach knots untie themselves as I wonder whether some of the anxiety around the cake was really to do with wondering, “How will I manage without Sarah for 6 weeks?

In the meantime, here’s Fiona Cairn’s white chocolate and cardamon sponge

Ingredients

  • 130g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 20 green cardamon pods, deseeded* (see method 2.)
  • 170g self-raising flour, sifted to add lightness to the sponge
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line with baking paper, a 20cm cake tin. I used a 23cm cake tin and it was probably a bit too wide. I’ll use a 20cm next time, so that the ganache can be a bit thicker.

2. Deseed the cardamon pods using the point of a sharp knife. Empty out the seeds and grind them to a powder in a pestle and mortar. (Or as I improvised, a stainless steel bowl and the end of a rolling pin). Sift the cardamon powder in order to remove the husks that inevitably remain.

3. Well, my old food processor happily stood up to the challenge of this next bit. Place the chopped white chocolate and half of the caster sugar into the food processor and pulse for a few minutes, until it is as fine as possible. Then take 2 tbsp of hot water (important that its hot, not boiling, otherwise the white chocolate will seize up and go firm). Keep the processor going and add the hot water slowly (Fiona describes it as, ‘dribble it’) to the chocolate, until most of the chocolate has melted.

4. Add in the remaining sugar and butter to the food processor and process it so that it is well mixed. Finally, add in the eggs, ground cardamon, flour and vanilla extract and mix it well. The end result won’t be entirely smooth as there may be some white chocolate that hasn’t melted and manifests itself as little lumps. Don’t worry about it. The baking will sort it out.

5. Transfer the batter into the baking tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean. Rest the cake in the tin for a few minutes, then turn it out to cool completely, onto a wire rack.

Then we move onto making a white chocolate ganache. Can I just say,

“This is the first time ever that I have made ganache!”

I was a bit anxious about it and even a year ago, I think that I would have been too scared to attempt a ganache. However, whilst I’ve been watching the Great British Bake Off, I’ve been inspired to try out new techniques. I still searched online to learn a bit more before I tried it and build my confidence. I’d like to say that this was fairly simple to do. But I’m not sure that my ganache looked entirely right. I think that I might have whisked it for too long.

Top Tip: Still feeling nervous about making ganache? I’d recommend watching this, to help ease your nerves. It is a really good video tutorialon making white chocolate ganache.

So, the ingredients for a white chocolate and rosewater ganache

  • 100g good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2tsp rosewater

Method:

1. Place the finely chopped white chocolate in a heat proof bowl.

2. Heat the double cream and the rosewater in a saucepan until it boils. You want it to be ‘scalding’. Then pour it into the heat proof bowl with the white chocolate.

3. Leave it for a about 30 seconds to begin the melting process, and then begin stirring the mixture gently so that the melting white chocolate and the hot cream are completely mixed together. Once done, leave it to cool completely, then pop it into the fridge to chill slightly.

4. Then take it out and whisk until it thickens.*

*This is where I think that I may have gone wrong. However, since then, I have wondered whether using a more expensive white chocolate would produce a better ganache, rather than Sainsbury Basic.

To finish off…

Fiona suggests that you split the cake into two layers, spread the ganache in the middle and sandwich the two layers together. I modified this to compensate for my poor decorating skills and needing to decorate this cake into something that resembled Mozambique.

On the day, I raced back home during my lunch break to decorate the cake. I spread the ganache on the top of the cake, as a frosting. Then I used haribo men and jelly tots to create a shape that resembled Mozambique, chilled it in the fridge for a few hours, while I went back to work and voila!

Sarah and Cake

Baked Oreo Cheesecake

oreo_cheesecake

This is the first ever cheesecake that I made solo.

I’d never made a cheesecake before until I was sous-chef for my friend Meagan when she made this dessert. Since she isn’t into baking yet made it look so easy, I thought that I’d have a go. Two years later, I finally got round to it and by then I’d forgotten the recipe and so had Meagan. Told you she isn’t much into baking. I made it again the other night to remind myself of what recipe I’d chosen.

Funny moment related to this, the first time I made this, I bought so many oreos and cartons of cream cheese that the lady in the checkout told me off. She said that to watch out because I’d get fat! She’s right, you know. If I ate it all tonight then I’m sure I’d have to be rolled out of bed in the morning because I’d have grown 3 spare tires, given the amount of cream and sugar in this.

So, this Oreo Cheesecake… It tastes pretty special. If you like oreos and you like baked cheesecake, then I can guarantee that you’ll like this dessert. I’ve adapted the recipe from the Krafts website.

Ingredients

  • 38 (or 3 packets of) Oreo biscuits, 1 packet roughly broken to add into the cream cheese mixture.
  • 900g soft cheese
  • 60g melted butter
  • 180g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 150ml sour cream (original recipe said 100ml, but as sour cream is sold in 150ml cartons in the UK, I added in the remaining 50ml as I didn’t have anything better to do with it.)

Method

1. You’ll need to preheat the oven to 325F/160C/Gas Mark 3. The first time I made it, I used two 20cm deep loose-bottomed cake tins and then I experimented with a 23cm stoneware square baker. The stone works brilliantly, but I’m pretty biased with stoneware. This time, I used the traditional 23cm springform cake tin and made 6 mini cheesecakes as tasters, naturally, as well. They all work well.

2. In a bowl, set aside the packet of Oreos that you’ve roughly broken by hand.

3. Take 22 biscuits (2 packets minus 6) for the biscuit base. Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor. Or if you prefer it a bit rough, then do what I did and bash them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Make sure that all the air is let out first, otherwise there’ll be a mini oreo explosion.

4. Add in the melted butter and mix well before emptying the crushed biscuits into the springform cake tin. Spread the biscuits out somewhat evenly, then press the biscuits down firmly to the bottom. I found that the end of the lid stopper of my food processor doubled up conveniently for the task. For the mini cheesecakes then my mini tart shaper works beautifully.

5. In a BIG mixing bowl, as there is rather a lot of cream cheese involved, beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer. Add in the vanilla extract and the sour cream. Make sure that it is well combined and the mixture doesn’t have any lumps. The first time I did this, I didn’t have an electric mixer so I remember using a pampered chef mix ‘n’ scraper. What doesn’t work, and I share this from experience, is a whisk. I don’t know what possessed me to try that one out…

6. Add the eggs in one by one. Gently beating them into the mixture until they are just about combined before adding the next one…

Top Tip: I read somewhere that in order to stop the top from cracking, you have to treat the mixture much more gently once you start adding in the eggs. Something about coagulating and air bubbles.

ps. It didn’t stop mine from cracking. Then again, I could have done a number of things wrong to make that happen.

7. Add the oreos that you set aside in 1. into the cream cheese mixture and stir gently.

oreos in cheesecake mixture

8. Pour the mixture into the biscuit base. Crush the remaining oreo biscuits and scatter them on top. I had a thought, too late, that I could have arrange oreo biscuits so that it looked prettier. It doesn’t matter really.

9. Pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes with an oven proof bowl of water. The bowlful of water helps to keep the cheesecake moist whilst baking. I chose to do that, rather than double wrap the cake tin with foil and pop it in a deep baking dish filled with water, for the sake of ease really. I think that it is also supposed to help the top from not cracking too. Given that my last one did, maybe I should have used a water bath.

10. You’ll know it’s done when the top wibbles a bit when you touch it. It’ll set more whilst cooling. Run a knife round the edges to immediately so that the edges don’t cling to the sides whilst cooling. It also makes getting the cheesecake out of the cake tin much cleaner later on. Leave it to cool completely in the oven, with the oven door ajar.

11. Then wrapped in clingfilm or foil, refridgerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours. This is really important for allowing the flavours to mature. Serve it up and enjoy.

The verdict? A smashing dessert and as it is a cheesecake, perhaps a good one for the summer. The eggs give it a slightly yellowy appearance and I might experiment with using one less egg in future. It’s not as elegant as the lemon and ginger cheesecake, but it’s not meant to be. Who minds if it has a few cracks on the top; my tasters certainly didn’t.

My Favourite Chocolate Brownies: Chocolate Brownie Hunt

ChocolateBrownie1

I really like this Chocolate Brownie recipe.  The end result is densely chocolate, moist and good.  The ingredients and the method is ever so simple and you can’t go wrong with it¹.  I’ve even forgotten to add eggs to it once and it was just extra gooey and went wonderfully well with icecream.  I found the recipe in my Usborne First Cookbook, which I bought when I was in primary school.   Now, when I think about it, it is my first ever cookbook.  So, the newer editions (which Amazon tells me there’s a few) may not have this recipe.  Anyhow, my mistake was not making them until I was about twenty.  By this point, I had passed from a nine-year old who disliked brownies (in the ’80s British brownies were more like a boring chocolate cake) to a twenty-year old who had spent a year in the US and wanted to recreate that dense chocolate experience.  The brownies were an instant hit and I gained a reputation as a Chocolate Brownie Queen.  This is the recipe that I go back to all the time, even though I’m on an Ultimate Chocolate Brownie Recipe Hunt.

What I love about this recipe is that it is a fantastically easy basic brownie recipe and I’ll often add things to suit the ocassion.  I’ve listed a few that I’ve tried below.

Ingredients for Dark Chocolate Brownies adapted from Usborne First Cookbook.

  • 4oz/100g dark chocolate
  • 4oz/100g butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4oz/100g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 6oz/160g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 or 2 tbsp of milk if the mixture is too firm.

And the secret ingredient?  Well, this is when you make it your own and add in something extra. Here’s a starter for 5:

  1. My favourite – a 200g packet of maltesers/revels etc.
  2. 50g of roughly chopped walnuts/pecans/brazil nuts etc.
  3. 100g celebrations
  4. 2 tbsp Baileys or any Irish Cream liquor.
  5. Zest of one orange and 1 tsp of mixed spices and 1 tsp of cinnamon.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.  Line a square baking dish with baking paper. The dish be between 20 – 25cm.

Top Tip: I’ve found that stoneware, pyrex or ceramic dishes produce better results that a baking tin.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl in the microwave. 

3. As the chocolate and butter is being zapped in the microwave, measure out the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into another bowl.  Sift the flour if you want to, but it’s not necessary.

4. Add the vanilla extract and sugar to the chocolate melted goodness and mix well.

5. Add the beaten eggs and keep mixing to combine it all.  Don’t worry – they won’t scramble.

6. Gradually add in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder so that the whole mixture is well combined.

7. Let your imagination go wild and add in your extra ingredients.  In the top photo I used maltesers and hazlenuts.

8. Bake in oven for 20 mins.  The secret is to take them out when the top is firm to touch but still wobbles when you shake it.

The verdict? Yummmm…. simple and delicious.  I really like the brownie that it produces.

Happy Hogmanay 2010.

¹However, I did get it wrong.  Once.  Very badly.  I added in cointreau, orange zest and mixed spices, which lent it a lovely Christmassy feel.  It would totally have worked, except I had run out of some ingredients so I substituted:

flour with wholemeal flour
eggs with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda

As I took it out the oven, the bubbling mistake was unrecognizable as a brownie, in looks or taste.  A complete disaster in the brownie front but as I explained away the disaster and said it tasted a bit like a Christmas flapjack, it all went.  What a laugh!  But – don’t repeat my disaster.  Some ingredients are irreplaceable.

Spiced Autumnal Orange Drizzle Cake with Dark Chocolate Embers

 

spiced autumnal orange drizzle cake
 

It’s autumn on campus. I love going for walks with friends around the fields on the beautifully bright days that we’re lucky to have. And with the dark nights drawing in and the leaves falling off the trees, it is the perfect time to brave your face to the brisk night at a bonfire, or turn in early and watch the flames lapping the wood in the fireplace.

leaves falling off treesleaves turning yellowsilhouettes
When I came up with this cake 2 years ago, I had both types of fires in my mind as inspiration. I had also been watching Masterchef and one of the contestants had created a dish using charcoal to recreate the fiery taste of a bonfire. I decided to use dark chocolate, not feeling quite knowledgeable enough about charcoal flavouring (perhaps leave that for another time). My idea being that the chocolate would visually recreate the burning embers of a fire, and the orange and spices would add the warmth in the flavour.

I used the Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe as my starting point for bringing to life a perfect autumnal treat.

Ingredients for Spiced Autumnal Orange Drizzle Cake with Dark Chocolate Embers

  • 125g/4.5oz butter
  • 75g/3oz caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 150g/5oz self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp mixed spice
  • zest of one orange* see top tip.
  • 2 tbsp (or 30 ml) of Cointreau or milk if you don’t want to use alcohol
  • 85g/3.5oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Top Tip: wash the fruit with a wee bit of washing up liquid to take the wax off, unless you can buy unwaxed oranges (I find them harder to source compared to lemons and limes). It will make the zesting of the orange much more effective and easier.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and line a 2lb loaf tin.

2. If you don’t have an electric whisk, like me, then mix the butter, sugar, orange zest together first before adding in the eggs, then the flour, spices and baking powder. If you have an electric whisk, then add in all of the above ingredients and whizz them up until the mixture is smooth.

3. Stir in the Cointreau/milk so that the mixture falls softly off the spoon – that’s my interpretation of ‘a soft, dropping consistency’.

4. Stir the chocolate into the cake mixture. I wanted the chocolate to sink to the bottom of the cake, so didn’t coat the chocolate with flour.

5. Spoon the cake mixture into the loaf tin and smooth the top. Pop it into the oven and let it bake for about 40 minutes, or until the tester/knife comes out clean.

6. While the cake is in the oven, prepare the orange drizzle. (if you prefer it a bit sweeter, then increase the sugar)

Ingredients for Orange Drizzle

  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 tbsp of Cointreau
  • 30g golden caster sugar

7. I normally use a chopstick to poke wholes in the cake for the drizzle to pour into. This time I experimented with a cocktail stick in case they make smaller holes. Nope. I’ll return to the chopstick next time.

8. Slowly pour the drizzle evenly over the cake when it is fresh out of the oven. Ta da!

Verdict – Mmmmmmmm…. Moist and flavoursome. The chocolate, orange and spice mix is a winner with adults and children alike. The added bonus is that this is a simple and quick cake to bake (especially if you have an electric whisk).

Chocolate Chilli Brownies

It has almost been a year since I started this blog and I began it with a poem.  Coincidentally, I’m celebrating it’s first anniversary with another one.

I put up a twitter post asking people to guess the mystery ingredient in one of my brownies.   They came back with chestnuts, courgettes, chillis… all great ideas… but incorrect.   (it was maltesers).  The chilli suggestion, however, reminded me of the time I experimented with brownies by adding in chillies.  My friend Jen ate one.  This was her reaction.

Jen spits it out. Eugh!

“What did you put in this one?”

Chilli Brownies.

chocolate_and_chilli

Lemon Drizzle Cake with Sunken Dark Chocolate Chunks

Lemon Drizzle Cake with dark chocolate chunks

This was the first, and only, cake that I baked to be entered into a baking competition. One of the subwardens at Leicester was raising money for a good cause related to cancer research and ran a cake bake sale. I was really excited about contributing a cake towards it and got to enter the competition too.

I think that this was the moment when I started to realise that I could bake cakes that tasted yummy enough to win prizes. Being a tad competitive, I set my eyes on 2nd place – a bottle of wine. (First prize was some sort of subwarden duty cover, I think, and didn’t interest me. Now, I’d consider that prize slightly differently. How things have changed!) I wanted to try out a new recipe from Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes because it is such a good recipe book. I haven’t yet found a dud recipe in there yet. The Lemon Drizzle Cake with it’s sunken dark chocolate chunks sounded so moody yet light that it stood out to me (and won me 2nd prize – hurrah!)

So, when I was making it again tonight, I was reminded about how easy this cake is to make. You pretty much whisk all the ingredients together, add chocolate, add it into the oven et voila.

So, Lemon Drizzle Cake with sunken dark chocolate chunks, adapted by yours truly from the amazing Green and Black’s ‘Chocolate Recipes book.
Ingredients
125g/4.5oz unsalted butter
60g/2.5oz caster sugar
2 large eggs (except this time I used one egg and the vinegar + bicarb of soda trick)
150g/5oz self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
grated rind of 1 large lemon
3 tbsp milk
75g/3oz dark chocolate, chopped

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line the loaf tin with baking paper.
2. Whisk the butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and lemon rind together for about 2 minutes with an electric whisk, longer if you’re doing it by hand.

Zest and Batter. Prepare

sift, sift, sift

3. It says in the recipe book to ‘Whisk in the milk to make a soft dropping consistency’. When do you know it is a soft dropping consistency? I pretty much guess each time and kept adding a bit more milk in. The original recipe says 1 tbsp of milk by the way. However, I’m sure that I ended up adding in 3 to achieve that ‘soft dropping consistency’.
4. Stir in the chocolate.

stir in the chocolate

5. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. I always use my pampered chef spatula now for this part. It gets all the cake mix out of the bowl so that I can eat that wee bit more cake. Smooth the surface and bake for 40 minutes or until the centre of the cake springs back when gently pressed. Remove from the oven.

I love Lemon Drizzle it does make the cake. Mmmm…
Mix 50g/2oz golden granulated sugar and the
Juice of 1 lemon

Prick lots of holes in the cake where you’d like the lemon drizzle to soak into the hot cake to make it refreshing and moist. I use metal chopsticks to do this but you could also use a cake testing skewer or bamboo skewers.

using metal chopsticks to prick the holes

Then pour the lemon drizzle over the cake when it is just out of the oven. I find it useful to use a teaspoon towards the end to ensure that the sugary syrup spreads evenly on the cake and into the little holes. Remove the cake from its tin and place it on a wire rack to cool. Ta da!

ta da

Chocolate Brownie Hunt: Coco and Me’s Luxury Chocolate Brownie

Before I got distracted by baking with vegetables, I was on the hunt for the ultimate chocolate brownie recipe.

As a child, I really disliked brownies until the day I tasted one baked by some American friends. Since then, it’s all about baking fudgy brownies. As I’ve discovered the world of food blogs, my interest has grown into a preoccupation about trying out and hunting down the ultimate chocolate brownie recipe.

What I love about brownies is the sheer simplicity of the recipes that produce such gorgeous mouthfuls of gooeyness. So on top of that, I’ll also be considering the incredible fudginess, intensity of the flavour and the moistness. Mmmm… So, let the ultimate brownie challenge begin!

Coco and Me Luxury Chocolate Brownie

The first one I’m trying out is Coco and Me’s luxury chocolate brownies recipe and I’m definitely learning a few tips from the expert on the baking front. She has a fabulous brownie recipe and guide which I won’t copy out here (just follow the link above). Instead, some snippets from my thoughts whilst trying it out.

  • Coco’s luxury one’s take much longer prep time than my usual recipe mostly due to the fine chopping of the chocolate. However, I’m liking the step of melting the butter in a pan and then adding sugar. Just realized that if I kept at it then I’d be making some sort of caramel. Question – does that add to the fudginess?
  • Coco wants me to add the eggs into this hot mixture – won’t they scramble..? No, they don’t! Then I add it to the chocolate so that it melts it all. Hmmm… that worked really well. I’ve changed my method to do this now for my recipe.
  • Coco also uses, proportion wise, almost double the amount chocolate and butter to flour…. My normal recipe is same amount of butter, chocolate and flour. Will this reflect in the intensity of the flavour?
  • Coco asks for a mixture of nuts. For good measure, I’ve added brazil nuts, walnuts, hazlenuts and pistachios with pecans to decorate the tops.

So, prep wise – Coco’s took longer to prepare. But the real test will be in the testing.

So MMmmm-ometer (all out of 5Mmm’s)
Simplicity – MMMm (i think that with practice this will go to 4.5 Mmmms)
Fudginess – MMMM
Intensity of Flavour – MMMM
Moistness – MMMMM
Reviews from tasters/testers – won lots of votes this one, especially because of the mixture of the nuts and the moistness.
Verdict – A definite contender with 16.5/20 (possibly 17.5)

I’m interested to hear your verdicts too on this recipe.

There’s a wee ps. to this entry. Coco and Me has a stall in London’s Broadway Market and she sells these brownies and more chocolate delights there. Sadly, each time I’ve been down to visit, she has been away… 🙁 If you get the chance to go down there – please taste a brownie for me.

Nigella’s Clementine Cake

Nigella

I had 6 crinkly clementines which had definitely gone past their prime!  Shrivelled clementines, tangerines, oranges… are so ucky to eat, yet it seemed such a waste to throw them away.  At the back of my mind I knew that I’d seen a cake recipe using clementines before in Green and Black’s ‘Chocolate Recipes‘.  When I opened the recipe book, I discovered that I’d even photocopied the recipe for a shopping trip.  So, I must have wanted to make it at some point a few months ago…  I wonder what stopped me… hmmm… maybe it was the expense of buying ground almonds?  Anyway, I had some ground almonds leftover from a Lemon Polenta Cake baking moment, which was a good start.

So first, I had to boil and simmer the clementines whole for 2 hours.  2 hours!  Perhaps I should have read through the recipe first before starting… (ah! maybe this is what put me off before).  I covered the clementines with cold water, brought it to boil and then simmered it for 2 hours.

clementines

While the clementines were simmering away, I started to put the other ingredients together and realised two things.  Firstly, I had run out of baking powder and secondly, I didn’t have 6 large eggs.  Oooops…  Quick trip to the Co-op sorted out the baking powder.  For the second thing, though, I already had 5 eggs and didn’t want to buy more eggs.  So, I thought maybe this would be a good opportunity to try out a friend’s suggestion for substituting a spoonful of vinegar for an egg (see baking tip: substituting vinegar for an egg).  Admittedly, in the mixing stage, I was still wondering whether it would work and how it would it affect the overall taste of the cake.  The cake mixture definitely smelt like vinegar; the baked cake tasted divine.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for Nigella’s Clementine Cake adapted from ‘Chocolate Recipes’. 

Ingredients
4-5 clementines (I used 6), skin on to weigh 375g (13oz)
6 large eggs (well, you know what I did when I only had 5)
100g/4oz sugar (I tend to halve the sugar so do add more if you’d like it even sweeter)
250g/9oz ground almonds
1 heaped tsp of baking powder
100g/4oz good quality dark orange chocolate (grated)

Method

1. Cover the clementines with cold water in a saucepan and bring it to boil.  Then let the clementines merrily simmer away for 2 hours.  I kept checking up on it to make sure the pan didn’t boil dry, because I do that quite often when I’m hardboiling eggs – ooops!  Then cool them down by covering them with cold water again in the pan for about 10 minutes.  Drain them and then cut the clementines in half to take out any seeds.  Put them in a food processor and whizz them up so that the clementines are reduced to pulp – skin, pith and all.

2. At this point, preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 and grease and line the cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Getting ready to mix

3. Mix the ground almonds, sugar and baking powder in one bowl.

4. Beat the eggs in another bowl.

5. Add 3. to the eggs and mix well.

6. Stir in the pulped clementines to 5.

pour mixture into tin

7. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour.  At 40 mins, cover the top with foil or greaseproof paper so that the top doesn’t burn.  To test whether it is ready to come out the oven, pierce the middle of the cake with a clean, cold skewer and when it comes out clean you know the cake is ready.

grated chocolate on cafe

8. Remove the cake from the oven and immediately put the grated chocolate on top of the cake while it is still in the tin – watch the chocolate start melting and smell gorgeous!  Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then remove from the tin to store it in an airtight container.

The verdict?  This cake is sooo simple to bake.  Also it’s made with ground almonds and there’s no butter so, it’s gluten free and dairy free.  The cake tastes better when it’s been left for a day and it gets really moist and gooey.  The flavour of the clementines and almonds have also had time to develop too.  So, let it rest a while and enjoy every mouthful.  Mmmm… Mmmm….