Freshly baked bread… you can’t beat the smell and the taste!

I have been given a sourdough starter a while ago and it’s a bit like having a plant you need to water and feed. In the beginning I fed and watered it every day. Then I started to read up on sourdough and discovered that I don’t have to do that every day, I can keep it in the fridge and it even can be frozen. I bought the Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3 and it has been very useful. It has made me quite confident in baking bread. The page Sourdough has sourdough splattered all over it, even though I actually know the recipe by heart now. But I feel if I don’t have the book open on that page I might forget something. Stupid, I know.

I have had a few mishaps in the past where my dough didn’t rise as much as I hoped for, but the last two weekends my bread turned out wonderful, probably due to the warm weather as I just plonked my big bowl with the dough in it into the sun (covered with a damp towel) and it rose beyond expectation!

Last weekend I tried out wholemeal seeded flour and made three small loaves. It was tougher kneeding the wholemeal dough than the normal strong flour dough which irritated me and I ended up pummeling the dough quite a bit and also bashing it onto the kitchen counter. I think that also helped with how the bread turned out!

I should have listened to Hugh though, make the sponge the night before and not in the morning of the day you want to bake bread. It’s quite time consuming as you need to let the sponge develop over night (ideally), then in the morning you add the rest of the ingredients, kneed it for 10-15 minutes and then let it rise for an hour at least. Then you need to shape it and let it rise again and for best results you need to repeat this process a few more times. But I didn’t. I got up Saturday morning to make my bread and that’s the reason why I ended up having a slice of still warm bread with butter and homemade jam at midnight instead of hours earlier.

Baking bread is so satisfying, everyone can do it and it doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Go for it!

Wholemeal seeded sourdough bread

Wholemeal seeded sourdough bread

Dark Chocolate and Ginger Cake

Ginger and chocolate cakeI  wanted to try out a new baking tin I recently bought (Alan Silverwood loose base tin) and was going through my larder trying to figure out what kind of cake to bake. I saw a bag of candied ginger that had been there since last year before Christmas and I never got round to doing anything with it so I thought something with ginger…. trusty google gave me thousands of recipes. But I didn’t want just ginger, I wanted something with it. Why not chocolate? I found several different recipes with ginger and chocolate, but I didn’t have all of the required ingredients at home (ground almonds? No, only flaked. Fresh chilli? No, only dried. Fresh ginger? Used the last bit up for dinner! And so on!).

So this cake is really based on a concoction of recipes I saw online and I mentally filed the cake under “experimental cakes that might need improvement!”, but it turned out better than I thought.

Here’s what I used on ingredients:

50g dark brown sugar

2 tbsp black treacle

75g golden sirup

85g unsalted butter

100ml milk

75g chopped candied ginger

1 large free-range egg, beaten

225g plain flour

¼ tsp sea salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

80g of dark chocolate

20g of milk chocolate

Heat your oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Put the sugar, treacle, honey, milk and ginger into a saucepan and slowly melt it all together. Let it cool down to room temperature while you measure out the dry ingredients. Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Add the beaten egg to the saucepan and stir it in. Then add the dry ingredients. Lastly add the chocolate pieces and fold them in. Don’t overbeat the batter.

Spoon it into either a loaf tin (450g) or into a 7inch round cake tin and put it in the oven for approx. 40 minutes.

I wanted to make a buttercream with it and by searching for “fluffiest vanilla buttercream ever” I came across this blog and reading “believe me when I say this is the lightest, fluffiest buttercream frosting you will ever make” convinced me to give it a go.

The frosting is very unusual as it contains flour. Here are the ingredients from the website:

1/2 cup whole milk (I used semi-skimmed because that’s all I had)

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla (I used vanilla paste)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used caster sugar)

Here’s how I made it:

I added the flour to the milk and whisked it in while over a low heat. Once it had thickened I took it off the stove to let it cool. Then I whisked the butter with the sugar in my trusty kitchenmixer until it had a soft creamy consistence. I added the vanilla paste to my cooled down milk and added it to the sugar/butter mixture. Turn your mixer up to high speed. And as the original blog post says, it’s true, you will look at this buttercream mixing in the bowl and think “that’s not going to work out” and then “how much longer does it need whipping?” That’s when you need to step away from it. Make yourself a cup of tea (or in my case, I opened a bottle of wine, seeing that it was evening!) and set my timer to ten minutes. When I came back I had this wonderfully creamy, merengue like, shiny, fluffy and light buttercream in the bowl.

It may take more than ten minutes to beat the hell out of this buttercream and you may also see it split/curdle… don’t despair, just whisk it longer and it will be alright in the end.

For the ginger and chocolate cake I added half a teaspoon of Sicilian Orange flavour to the buttercream.

Pulled lamb shoulder with sticky pomegranate glaze

I came across this recipe in an old magazine at my Doctor’s surgery and thanks to 21st century technology I didn’t have to sit there and carefully try to rip out that page without making any noise but I could simply search for it on my iPhone!

I decided to make this yesterday and luckily I looked up the recipe on Saturday morning and saw that I had to marinate the lamb for 24 hours! The recipe is really easy and takes no effort whatsoever and it turns out beautifully sticky, moist, tender and oh so delicious!

Pulled-Lamb-Shoulder-with-Sticky-Pomegranate-Glaze-440x262

The only thing I changed was I added chilli flakes into the glaze and extra stock as we like sauce on our meat. And next time I make this again, I will add fresh chilli peppers into the marinade and add more cumin and cinnamon, it can do with a bit more flavour. Not that there wasn’t enough, it was just a bit on the quiet side I thought.

Overall a fantastic recipe. I made potato wedges with it, green beans and of course the yogurt dip as mentioned in the recipe. Go and make this recipe, I can totally recommend it.

And aren’t I lucky? I get to eat this again tonight as there was enough leftover!

Cakes galore

Yes, shame on me, I have neglected this blog. Life got in the way. And work. Which is part of life. Then Christmas. And then a few cakes.

Update 18.03.2013 … for some reason none of the pictures made it when I published the post! Here they are!

German Christmas Biscuits

My mother’s German Christmas Biscuits. Which she sends over every year! She makes about 20 different kinds … and some of them she makes twice because my dad eats them when he thinks nobody is watching!

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This is a four layer Victoria Sponge with raspberry jam.

Cricket

As small as the ball is, I am particularly proud of the stitching on it. I am not proud of the cricket bat. It looks wrong.

Make Up Cake 2

And lastly, here was the cake a 9 year old requested for her birthday party. This was a chocolate cake with chocolate fudge, the rest is simply sugarpaste.

Make Up cake

Apple Cinnamon rolls

I am already in Autumn mood; the weather is cold and rainy and damp and hardly any sunshine anymore and it’s so windy that I am fearing for my five apples on my apple tree. The tree is only in its second year so I’m very pleased with how many apples it grew.

They still need a bit (I think? I’ve no idea when it comes to apple trees, I don’t even know what variety it is as I threw the tag away when I planted the tree, I was just so excited to have my own apple tree in my garden) so on Sunday I thought what could I do with five apples? I was looking through many recipes trying to find one that appealed to me. I am not keen on too much apple in or on a cake, the apple can’t be puréed, it still has to have a bite. And no raisins either in my baked goods, yuk, raisins freak me out.

I came across these Apple Walnut Cinnamon Rolls and don’t they look tasty?

I followed the recipe but I used half roasted walnuts and half roasted hazelnuts as I wanted to use up an open pack of hazelnuts. The rolls turned out fine, but the next time I’ll be using less flour (6.5 cups = ca 815 gram) as I felt there was too much flour in my dough. I will also make more of the filling. Since there was so much dough I had to roll it out quite big in order to get the thinness of it. Now that I think of it, I could have just rolled out less dough. Duh! Anyway, I’ll still make more of the filling as it tastes divine. I used one and a half Granny Smith Apple and one Braeburn Apple.

And of course, every oven is different. Mine was hot from dinner so I should have known better and left the rolls in for less than 20 minutes as I think they are a teeny-weeny bit overbaked. Not that they don’t taste nice, they are gooey and sticky and cinnamonny and the sharpness of the apples cuts through the sweetness beautifully. All in all I still count them as a success!

For the glaze I simply used powdered sugar and some water and a few drops of rum flavour as I had drunk all the cider a few days before. The rum flavour goes very well with the cinnamon and the apples!

Have a go at them, they are time consuming as you have to let the dough rise twice but nobody forces you to do anything during that time, so you can just chill out while the yeast does its magic!

 

Cupcakes for book lovers

 

I had come across some pictures of book cupcakes on facebook a while ago and thought that these would be perfect for my sister, who lives and breathes books (she’s a bookseller) and even better, her birthday was coming up! I enquired if I could buy just the books as I would like to bake the cupcakes myself but the answer was no so I ended up looking at these sugary books a bit longer and then decided that they aren’t that difficult to make and I might as well do them myself.

The first few books were quite chunky but once you’ve done a few books you get the hang of it. I made 24 books without the titles in about three hours and then left them to dry for a couple of weeks. The book titles were down sized and printed on sugar paper and then cut out with scissors and simply glued on with edible glue. I made some simple discs out of sugarpaste for the books to rest on and so that they could be taken off before eating the cupcakes; even though the books are all made out of sugarpaste I wouldn’t want to eat them… a) they don’t taste like anything, just sweet and b) they are simply too good looking to be eaten!!!

 

 

Sweet foods as main course?

I remember from my childhood that we often had sweet things as a main dish for lunch. Like semolina pudding with sugar and cinnamon on top. Or yeast dumplings (Dampfnudeln) baked in milk in the oven until they have risen and have a nice crusty top. Usually served with vanilla custard and berries, like red currants or raspberries. Or cold sweet soup, which is made out of berries and served with zwieback. I never questioned if this was a normal thing to serve for lunch or dinner or if it was odd. Well, when I suggested to make yeast dumplings for dinner a couple of days ago my other half rejected the idea saying it was very odd, like we skipped the main course and went straight to dessert.

Sigh.

Yesterday lunch time I had such a craving for something sweet that I decided to make Nigella’s Doughnut French Toast. I had sour dough bread and rye bread at home and thought, why not use both and see which one tastes better.

Oh. My. God. The rye bread was definitely better than the sour dough bread. It added another flavour dimension to it… it’s difficult to describe, it tasted darker and richer… just good. So so good.

The doughnut french toast is so easy to make (I used vanilla sugar and cinnamon) and is the best fix for when you need something sweet that also fills you up and keeps you going. Serve it with some fresh fruit (I had strawberries at home which I threw into my little food chopper) and it counts as your five a day ;-)