Colossus

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My collections of recipes is getting a little out of hand. I think I have a problem! The truth is I cannot resist collecting those magazines from the supermarkets or the food supplements from the papers or the recipe cards strategically placed in the shopping aisles. The temptation is just too much. You will be familiar with the terms sugar mountain and colossus, well that sums up my ever growing pile of magazines that I vow I will go through on a rainy day

.In my mind I have all sorts of systems in place in which categories they should be collated in……….Seasonal, fruit, vegetables, healthy snacks, chocolate, biscuits, muffins, vegan, the list goes on and on. What if I have a recipe that crosses over? a seasonal fruit vegan muffin? Oh no! You see my dilemma? Then the other day whilst I was rummaging through the generic ‘cake folder’ my fingers hovered over a recipe that mentioned ricotta. Oh that will be a cheesecake I hear you say out loud. That is where you are wrong.

This is a recipe that says ” it keeps cakes tender without weighing them down, it’s fresh, bright and mellow ” so my dilemma, which category does this get filed in? You see, if I do have any other recipes including ricotta, surely they will be in the dessert folder? Except this is definitely a cake, the recipe says so! A coconut ricotta loaf cake with a zesty lime glaze.Maybe I will just pop out to a well known stationery suppliers and buy another batch of coloured cardboard folders, cover them with post its and stick the ricotta recipe in one labelled ‘unsure – cakes or desserts’.

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Ideas welcome on a post it please

Nicola x

Bakes take II

Another day, another search for another flapjack recipe.I had kept this one in my pending folder as it sounded different. It included carrots, the title may have been a give away “carrot flapjacks” and anyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for anything remotely connected to carrots. A quick scan of the ingredients and yes I had everything. Oh hang on a sec – no nutmeg. I am sure I could leave that out. Ah walnuts,I have never been very keen on those, except in a carrot cake.Yes I know this is carrot flapjack but  hey I just don’t fancy them . I always find them a little too strong . Now give me pecans or almonds any day and you are talking.

I decided to double the ingredients to bump it a little and everything was going swimmingly. The recipe said they will become firmer and chewier once they had cooled, so now was just a waiting game.

That is where the metaphorsis began. It smelt like flapjack, it looked like flapjack but remember those words “firmer and chewier “. Well, er no, not this flapjack.

I had promised both my husband and son that there would be more flapjack in the tin but it wasn’t to be.

Then a quick rethink . What was in the flapjack? oats, maple syrup, cinnamon, raisins, carrot. These ingredients sounded very familiar. Yes of course this was the beginnings of a granola recipe. I searched out my folder labelled ‘breakfasts’ and lo and behold, with a few adaptations the carrot flapjack take I became granola take II.

And if you would like the original granola recipe you can check out an earlier blog I shared titled Anytime of day granola.

Nicola x

Rhubarb and thyme (time)

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Another day of leafing through my cuttings. A quick glance at the calendar.Oh no, surely not.How did we get to 26th March? Then the panic sets in.

How am I going to possibly bake all those rhubarb,ginger & yoghurt muffins, rhubarb,almond & polenta cakes, rhubarb,yoghurt & clementine cakes and rhubarb,white chocolate & thyme traybakes before the season draws to a close.

The window of opportunity is quickly closing in .Every year January arrives and I make a promise to myself that the recipes left by the wayside the previous year will make another appearance this year.Just as the rhubarb emerges from the darkness of the rhubarb sheds, every year.

Except my multitude of forced rhubarb recipes will also be returned to the darkness of their folders for another year, as once again, I didn’t quite get to them in time .

So as I hastily scribble a note in the back of my diary

“January . Look through rhubarb recipes. Don’t forget !”

I am already looking forward to next year!

Nicola x

Mix with your fingertips

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There is a weekly food publication called Feast in one of the weekend national papers , you may even have come across it. Every week I religiously go through it hanging off each and every word of the writers contributions.Their descriptions take you on a visual journey and the imagery awakens 3 of the 5 senses, sight, smell and taste, so much so that you are stimulated and eager to read to the end .

Occasionally you come across a recipe and your heart starts beating as you look at the ingredients more closely .You start to wonder where you can buy them but then become impatient and reach for the Google ap on your phone and then wonder if you have all the other ingredients in your baking drawer and whether you have the correct size tin and what if it doesn’t work and what if your chief critics (husband and son) don’t like it and what if you substitute an ingredient and it goes horribly wrong and what if you use the wrong size tin and what if you miss out a vital ingredient and what if the method described is a method you haven’t tried before and what if and what if and the heart is still beating faster in anticipation of the end result . Except at this stage you have only scanned the ingredients .

Milled chia seeds √ I have them , well chia seeds maybe not milled

Oat milk X I am sure I can substitute coconut milk for this

Semolina X Memories of school tapioca , a different thing entirely

Rose petals X where is my phone , I need my google app !

Then the method, another quick scan, yes that all seems in order. What , hang on , what’s that ? ” mix with your fingertips ” . Er no , I draw a line there .

Where is my spoon ?

If I do manage to slow my heart beat down enough I will let you know how I get on when I do make the Basbousa with orange and rose syrup cake .Now where can I buy those rose petals google ?

Nicola x

Sticky pear & ginger cake with a cinnamon frosting

Sticky pear & ginger cake with cinnamon frosting

I was delighted to be invited back as a guest onto BBC Radio York for Bake of The Day. The theme was a traditional cake with a twist and so I began to think about which recipe I could use and how I could adapt it. The time of year was relevant , as even though people had probably over indulged at Christmas ,I felt there was still a desire to have cake that was warming and satisfying .

So what cakes are seasonal for January ? I knew I wanted to incorporate pears and I remembered my son’s favourite recipe  , a pear and cinnamon tray bake . After much researching I came up with multitudes of gingerbread recipes and that led me to thinking about how I could incorporate the pears . After all , pears and spices go hand in hand in baking , like a hand in a glove . The pivotal moment was the recipe for the cinnamon frosting , wow I had nailed it  and the result is this recipe , an amalgamation of 3 recipes rolled into one .

What you need :

A baking tin 31cm x 17cm ( this is the size I use but as long as the overall size is near to 527 cm square it doesn’t matter if the tin is square or rectangular )

Ingredients

241 g plain flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 level teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger

pinch of ground cloves

¼ to ½ teaspoon salt

3 ripe pears (I used Conference pears)

2 eggs

226g light brown sugar

90g black treacle

118ml whole milk to make up the 125ml soured milk needed for the recipe

7ml lemon juice (approx. ½ lemons) to add to the milk above for the soured milk

100g unsalted butter, melted

For the cinnamon frosting:

115g softened butter

170g cream cheese

60g icing sugar

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

What to do:

  1. Prepare the tin first. Line the tin , sides and bottom with greaseproof paper
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark
  3. Weigh out the plain flour , bicarb .of soda, ginger, cinnamon,cloves and salt and sift into a medium size mixing bowl

 

4.Prepare the pears – peel them, core them and then cut into small dice. They will keep their shape during cooking so they do need to be quite small. Keep them aside in a small bowl

5.To make the soured milk measure out 118ml of milk into a measuring jug then squeeze ½ lemon and measure out 7ml of the juice . Add this to the milk in the jug, whisking thoroughly. Leave to stand for 5 mins. When you lift the whisk out after 5 mins it should look like it has curdled , this is exactly what you want

6.Melt the butter in a small pan and once melted leave to cool otherwise it may curdle the eggs when added at the next stage

7.In a large mixing bowl, put the sugar, eggs and treacle (there is no easy way to measure out the treacle. I use my electronic scales and place a small bowl on them and weigh out the treacle then pour this into the other ingredients, it will be sticky! ) and then add the melted butter and then give the soured milk a final whisk and add this to the other ingredients

8.Beat all the ingredients together , I use a hand held electric whisk , and beat for about one minute , until they all well combined

9.Add, a third at a time , the flour, bicarb of soda, ginger , cinnamon,cloves and salt , folding in gently

10.Finally , add the pears , again folding in

11.Carefully pour into the baking tin and level out , don’t worry if there is the odd pear sticking up

12.Bake for approx. 40 to 45 mins depending on your oven, mine took 44 mins. A skewer needs to come out clean though when inserted in the centre

13.Leave to cool completely in the tin on a wire rack before lifting out and icing

For the cinnamon frosting

14.Beat the butter until smooth , this needs to be done before adding the cream cheese to prevent any lumps forming ( I do this in my food processor)

15.Add the cream cheese and mix again

16.Sift the icing sugar and cinnamon and add at intervals until all combined

17.Spread the frosting on top of the cake

18.Cut into portions

Enjoy!

Notes : this is best made a couple of days in advance but the cake ,without the frosting, can also be frozen , defrosted then topped with the frosting

 

 

Toffee apple crumble squares

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This is the recipe I shared on BBC Radio York for the Bake Of  The Week and when I was thinking about which recipe to share I wanted one that would reflect the time of year.

I chose this one because I thought it was a perfect seasonal recipe for the beginning of Autumn, when the mornings are a little cooler and the days are  becoming shorter. The squidgy caramel, sharp apple and buttery crumble are fitting for Halloween and Bonfire night celebrations but also served with a heap of custard , ice cream or even lashings of crème fraiche for a pudding

What you need:

A baking tin 20cm square or 16cm x 26cm

Ingredients

For the shortbread base:

175 unsalted butter ( cut into cubes )

225g plain flour

75g golden caster sugar

For the toffee apple filling:

150g unsalted butter ( plus a little extra to fry the apples )

400g condensed milk

150g light brown soft sugar

2 apples ( I used Red Pippins , also known as Fiesta as they have a superb aromatic flavour and are crisp and sweet )

For the crumble topping:

165g plain flour

100g chilled unsalted butter (cut into cubes )

45g light brown soft sugar

What to do:

  1. Prepare the tin first. Line the tin with greaseproof paper, leaving an inch of paper sticking up around the edge so you can lift out the squares later
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 Bake for 5 mins then reduce the heat to 150C/300F/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 35 mins.
  3. For the shortbread base: If you have a food processor pulse all the ingredients together until they resemble breadcrumbs. Press them down evenly in the tin and prick all over with a fork.
  4. Set aside to cool and turn heat up to 200C/400F/gas mark 6
  5. For the crumble topping : pulse the topping ingredients in a food processor into crumbs , set aside 
  6. For the toffee apple filling: Peel and cut the apples into chunks . Fry them in a pan with a little butter until soft.
  7. Melt the butter with the condensed milk and sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat then bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 mins. Stirring occasionally so it doesn’t burn and whisk gently to keep the caramel smooth
  8. Spread the toffee filling onto the shortbread base then carefully spread the apple on top.
  9. Then spread the crumble topping evenly over the toffee and apples , making sure that the toffee is covered by all the crumble so that it doesn’t burndav
  10. Bake for 25 to 30 mins. until the crumble is golden dav
  11. Cool completely before lifting from the tray. Some of the toffee filling may have stuck to the paper but this can be peeled away carefully
  12. Cut into portions

Enjoy !

 

 

The Art of Mindful Baking

 

 

Mindful Baking

My birthday is later this month and I have never liked having a January birthday. As a child I always seemed to be getting presents for my birthday which were ‘part of my Christmas presents’. Would that have happened had my birthday been later in the year ? I doubt it !

Last year, my sister in law sent me this book for my birthday and as January always seems to be about new beginnings , reflecting on the previous year and what and how you are going to do things differently, I have taken it off the bookshelf , of where I have many delightful books about all sorts of foodie things and thought I would start reading it .

Oh my ! The Art of Mindful Baking,  wow !

This is exactly what I keep shouting about , the simplicity of my baking , the result of my bakes is in the taste, the use of as few ingredients as possible, connecting to the foundations of baking………..so I would just like to leave this  quote from the book with you,  as it really resonated with me .

Hestia , the ancient Greek Goddess of the hearth and home who’s accountability for nurture still allows us today to be drawn to the hearth when we are hungry , cold or even bored. This representation of the hearth “enables us to take nature’s offerings and transform them into baked goods, which are perhaps the most tempting of all the foods that we have the pleasure to eat. When we bake with our modern ovens we are in essence using the same primordial fire of old, and it requires respect, skill and mindfulness about what we are making”

 

Happy mindful baking

Nicola x