Friday, 30 September 2011

Gluten Free Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake

I was a fussy eater as a little girl, for many years the only cake I would eat was Chocolate Fudge Cake. This rich scrumptious cake tastes of a chocoholic's paradise. Here's my easy gluten free adaptation of the classic recipe, and it remains one of my favourite cakes. If you're not gluten intolerant and would like to bake it with normal flour, just swop the the gluten free flour mix for the regular stuff. To my mind, the directional flicking of melted chocolate could be a favourite past time for kids and adults alike, just don't wear your best clothes!

Serves 10-12
Adapted from the lovely recipe by Mitzie Wilson and Caroline Russell at delicious. Magazine online. See their recipe here.
I've turned their recipe gluten free, and added the gorgeous triple chocolate topping.

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
250ml milk
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
100g plain chocolate
20g cocoa powder
2 large eggs, room temperature
225g caster sugar
300g gluten free self raising flour (Dove's Farm recommended)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160 fan), and butter and line a 20cm springform cake tin.

2. Break the plain chocolate into small pieces and heat gently in a heat proof bowl over a bain mairie ( a small pan of slightly simmering water). Once melted cover the bowl of chocolate with a plate and put to one side.

3. Combine the milk and red wine vinegar in a small bowl.

4. In a larger bowl mix the butter, eggs and sugar together. Sift in the flour, bicarb of soda and cocoa powder, and then stir in the melted chocolate.

5. Beat in the milk and vinegar, until the batter is well combined and smooth.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin, and bake for an hour. You'll know the cake's done when the top springs back under your finger, and a skewer comes out clean.

7. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, before transferring onto a wire rack or plate to cool further.

for the icing:
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
225g plain chocolate
142ml double cream
70g milk chocolate
70g white chocolate

8. To make the icing, break the plain chocolate into small pieces and melt with the butter in a heat proof bowl over another bain mairie as before.

9. Stir it carefully, then when all melted beat in the double cream with an electric hand whisk. Take off the heat and leave the mixture to cool.

10. To make this a layer cake, halve the cake when it's totally cool (I forgot to because I had to finish this cake in a rush before our friends arrived), and spread a quarter of the icing over one half of the cake. Top with the second half of the cake, and cover the top and sides with the rest of the icing.

11. To triple the chocolate decoration, break the white and milk chocolate up into small chunks. Melt in 2 separate bowls the 2 types of chocolate one after the other over the bain mairie. Flick first the melted white chocolate, and then the melted milk chocolate over the top of the iced cake using the end of a spoon. The wilder the flicking, the more Jackson Pollock style arty the topping. Enjoy licking out the leftovers.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Tom Waits' album Real Gone.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Autumn Fruit & Yoghurt Dessert

There are times when I'm either too busy, or too idle, to bake, but I never lose that craving for something sweet to eat. That's when I make this healthy and delicious little dessert, perfect if you're looking to create something in advance that can be thrown in the fridge and forgotten. I didn't have any, but this dessert would be even prettier if you added some blackberries. It may be ridiculously easy but it still packs a yummy punch.

Adapted from Joanna Weinberg's recipe called 'Paddy's Greek yoghurt with dark sugar' in her lovely book How to Feed Your Friends with Relish. Buy the book on Amazon here.
Serves 2

1 apple, washed
250ml greek yoghurt
2 teaspoons clear honey (such as acacia)
half a punnet of raspberries
2 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar

1.  Halve, quarter and core the apple, before slicing it as finely as you wish. In two medium sized tumblers, lay 5 or so slices of the apple into the bottom of each.

2. Spoon over enough yoghurt to cover the apple in each tumbler, before adding half a teaspoon of honey, and sprinkle over a layer of dark muscovado sugar.

3. Layer raspberries in each tumbler over the sugar.

4. Add another large spoonful of yoghurt to each tumbler, and top them off with a good sprinkling of dark muscovado sugar.

5. Place the tumblers in the fridge for a couple of hours, to allow the sugar to sink into the yoghurt and the flavours to mix. Serve to be eaten with a spoon from the tumbler.

This dessert was idly made while listening to Radio 4's A View Through A Lens, readings from the real diary of a wildlife cameraman alone in the arctic filming polar bears.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Apple & Honey Tart

This is a delicate and delicious cake, a glam way to use up a glut of apples. The recipe doesn't use any eggs, giving it a tart-like quality, and the honey creates a gooeyness perfect for showcasing those pretty glazed apple slices. It's one of those cakes that not only tastes and looks great, but also makes the house sing with the sweet smell of warm honey and apple.

Serves 8-10

Adapted from Tessa Kiros' recipe for Honey Tart, in her lovely book Piri Piri Starfish: Portugal Found. Buy the book on Amazon here. I've turned that simple recipe into a more complicated and pretty apple tart, with a sweet apricot glaze.

250g clear runny honey
125ml milk
100g butter
150g plain flour
3 medium apples or 2 large
juice of 1 lemon

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160 fan ovens), and grease a 20cm springform tin.

2. Core and cut the apples into thin slices, then toss in lemon juice to stop them browning and put to one side. Being an idle sort, I didn't cut my home grown apples that finely, because I like the rustic look, so just slice them thinner than this if you want yours to look more cosmopolitan! 

3. Gently mix the honey and butter together with a little milk.

4. Pour in the rest of the milk, before adding the flour and mix slowly until well combined.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin.

6. Place the apple slices in concentric circles over the cake batter, starting outside and working in. Press them gently into the batter.

7. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, then place foil over the top to prevent the apples from burning, and bake again for approximately 15 minutes more. You'll know it's done when the batter is brown and a skewer comes out clean.

8. Take the cake out of the oven, remove the foil, and leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before carefully placing on a plate or wire rack to cool further.

for the apricot glaze:
4 tablespoons apricot jam
2 teaspoons lemon juice

9. Warm the jam and lemon juice gently over a medium heat for 5 minutes.

10. Strain the warm glaze through a sieve, to get rid of any lumps, then using a pastry brush very gently brush the thin glaze over the top and sides of the cake, being careful not to dislodge any of the apple slices as you do so. Serve with icecream or cream.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Goldfrapp's album Seventh Tree

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cranberry, Apple & Hazelnut Loaf

This crunchy topped country cake is scrumptious, a light crumbly fruit loaf made from the delicious autumn fare of juicy apples picked from the garden, sweet dried cranberries and oven roasted hazelnuts. Being so fruity it's postively healthy, so a slice can count as 1 of your recommended 5 a day. The difficulty, as we've discovered, will be stopping at just one slice....

Serves 8-10

Adapted from a recipe given at BBC Good Food Online. See their recipe for blackberry & apple loaf here. I've changed the fruit and added some extra touches such as the hazelnuts to make a loaf with a slightly earthier, rustic taste.

2 medium eating apples
2 large eggs
80g dried cranberries
80g hazelnuts
175g light muscovado sugar
175g unsalted butter
250g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
half a teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C Fan ovens). Grease and line a 2lb / 1.7 litre loaf tin.

2. Beat the eggs in a bowl until fluffy.

3. When the oven is up to temperature, place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for approx 5 minutes, until golden and the skins are splitting. Check on them at 4 minutes, making sure they don't burn. Once roasted, take the baking tray out and leave the nuts to cool.

4. As if you were making a crumble topping, using your fingers rub the butter, muscovado sugar and flour together in another bowl, until the consistency of crumbs. Transfer 4 tablespoons of the mixture into a smaller bowl, then stir into that smaller bowl the cinnamon and demerara sugar and put to one side.

4. When the hazelnuts have cooled a little, quarter them, chopping finely.

5. Meanwhile give the eggs another quick beat, before grating the apples and orange zest over them. 

6. Add the egg, apple and orange mixture and a teaspoon of baking powder to the large bowl containing the rubbed in flour, sugar and butter. Stir the ingredients gently together.

6. Tip in the chopped hazelnuts and dried cranberries, again stirring gently.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin. Spoon the reserved topping mixture onto the cake evenly.

8. Bake in the oven for approx 1 hour 15 minutes, checking it after 50 minutes and covering the top with foil if it's browning too quickly. You'll know the cake's baked when a skewer comes out clean.

9. Leave to cool in the tin for at least half an hour before carefully transferring onto a wire rack. This cake is delicious warm or cool, but bear in mind that it's extra crumbly and difficult to cut when still warm, as I impatiently discovered.

This loaf was idly baked while listening to a recording of the Aquinas Piano Trio playing Maurice Ravel's Piano Trio 1914

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Autumnal Upside Down Plum Cake

Some autumns creep up softly, cautiously, with stealth. This year the turn of the seasons here in the westcountry has been much more out and proud. Most early mornings now a mist hangs over the garden, and despite continuing sunshine the wind begins to bring down leaves from trees all around us. Our fruit trees have been heavy with produce, wild boulis plums vying for attention with the large eating and cooking apples. We managed to pick much of the fruit just as it was starting to fall, drooping heavily on the trees ready to be blown down in the rain.

Fresh fruit in the basket means fresh cake for the idle baker. I've focused my attention here on the plums, as they don't keep as well as apples, and the delicate sweet-sharp flavour comes out best of all when they're a little underripe. Our boulis plums were so tiny, I turned them into syrupy compote, using larger ones from the neighbouring farm shop to create the gorgeous top of this upside-down cake. It's a delectable recipe that is best served warm as a dessert cake, and will have those of you that way inclined calling for the double cream.

Serves 8-10
Adapted from the recipe given by Madalene Bonvini-Hamel. See her recipe on her great website here. I just made a few changes to the ingredients and scaled it down to fit my cake tin.

for preparing the cake tin:
about 9 medium sized or 6 large plums, slightly underripe
60g unsalted butter, room temperature
60g light muscovado sugar

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C Fan ovens). To make the upside-down top of the cake, cover the base of a 20cm round springform baking tin with the softened butter, spreading it so that it's evenly covered. Next throw the sugar ontop, again covering the entire base.

2. Prepare the plums by washing, coring and halving them. Carefully lay the plum halves with their cut side face down over the butter and sugar mixture, trying to pack them in close to eachother, and gently pushing them into the mixture. Then cover the baking tin with a plate and leave it to one side while you make the cake base.


for the base:
180g light muscovado sugar
180g unsalted butter, room temperature
140g plain flour
3 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
40g ground almonds
zest of half a lime
half a pinch of salt

3. Mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy and creamed.

4. Next beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.

5. Throw in the lime zest, ground almonds, flour, baking powder and a tiny half pinch of salt, and mix gently into the batter until combined.

6. Pour the cake batter over the prepared plums, sugar and butter in the cake tin. Smooth down the batter with a spatula, and bake in the oven for approx 40-45 minutes. You'll know it's done with the cake base bounces back under your finger and a skewer comes out clean.

7. Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, before very carefully, slowly and gently turning the cake out of the tin and sitting it upside down (plums at the top, base at the bottom) on a wire rack to cool a little more. To prevent staining your work surface it's worth placing a kitchen towel under the cake tin as you turn the cake out, because the buttery sugary plum top will be hot sticky and liable to drip.

for the plum syrup:
3 large plums or approx 9 small boulis plums
70g caster sugar
1 stick of cinnamon

8. Prepare the plums for the syrup by washing, coring and halving them as before. If you're using large plums then cut them further into 8.

9. In a small saucepan, melt the plums, sugar and cinnamon stick over a low heat.When it's melted, let the mixture boil gently for a further 5 minutes before taking off the heat leaving to cool for about 20 minutes.

10. While syrup and cake are still warm, pour generous spoonfuls of the syrup over the plum top of the cake and serve with more of the compote syrup.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Tricky's album Maxinquaye

Fruit picking in the garden


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Double Chocolate Biscuits

If you're looking for a gorgeous rich and chewy chocolate biscuit, then this is the recipe for you. These beauties are the Rolls Royce of choccy biccies, but cheap and easy to make, and can be tasty presents piled up ontop of eachother and wrapped in ribbon. So very moreish.

Makes 25-30, so serves a greedy 8 if you ask me!
Adapted from a recipe from a tiny book by Marks and Spencer called Easy Baking.

140g caster sugar
225g plain flour
225g unsalted butter, softened
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
55g cocoa powder
200g dark chocolate, 70% solids
pinch of salt
90g sugar sprinkles or chocolate vermicelli

1. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg yolk and vanilla extract.

2. Next sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into the creamed mixture. Mix until well combined.

3. Split the dough in half, before wrapping each part in cling film and placing in the fridge for an hour.

4. Meanwhile turn the oven to 190C (170C fan ovens), and get out 2 large baking sheets (or if you're like me and don't have any, normal baking trays will do). Butter the sheets and line with baking paper.

5. After an hour, take out the biscuit dough. Place the dough between 2 sheets of greaseproof or baking paper (this stops the rolling pin from the touching the dough therefore preventing tearing), and roll out to about a quarter of an inch thick. Using a two and a quarter inch round cookie cutter, carefully cut out about 30 biscuits.

6. Place the dough biscuits onto the prepared baking sheets, making sure to leave plenty of space between them to allow them to spread.

7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, then leave to cool on the sheets for another 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

8. When the biscuits are completely cool, break up the dark chocolate into small pieces and melt carefully in a bain mairie, a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.

9. Once the chocolate is melted, remove it quickly from the heat, and spread a spoonful over the middle of each biscuit. Let the spread chocolate cool briefly on the biscuit, before sprinkling the sugar sprinkles or chocolate vermicelli ontop. Leave to set for half an hour.

These biscuits were idly baked to the sounds of Wild Beasts' brilliant album Smother

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Gluten Free Banana & Chocolate Layer Cake

This little layer cake is deliciously naughty, and as you can see from the banana chocolate icing smeared on my cake stand, gloriously messy to eat. Considering how darkly sweet the cake is, you might be surprised to learn that this westcountry recipe comes from the National Trust baking book; it seems old ladies have been tucking into this teatime treat at stately home cafes for decades, lucky things. I've adapted the recipe to make the cake gluten free, just switch to normal flour instead if you prefer.

Serves 8-10
Adapted from the Cornish Banana Cake recipe in The National Trust Teatime Baking Book by Jane Pettigrew. Buy the book on Amazon here.

for the banana sponge base:
225g peeled ripe bananas
200 gluten free self raising flour (Dove's Farm or M&S recommended)
90g caster sugar
90g unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon whole milk
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan ovens), and grease and line two 17.5cm round sandwich baking tins.

2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork and then mix with the caster sugar.

3. Next add the butter and beat until combined.

4. Sieve in the flour and stir well, before adding the beaten egg.

5. In a small bowl, combine the milk and bicarbonate of soda, and then pour this into the batter and beat in.

6. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 prepared baking tins, and bake in the oven for approx 35-40 minutes. You'll know they're baked when the tops bounce back under your finger and a skewer comes out clean.

7. Once out of the oven, leave the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

for the filling:
1 large ripe banana, mashed
50g unsalted butter, unsoftened
50g caster sugar

8. While the cakes are cooling, mix the banana, butter and caster sugar, beating well until the filling is well combined. If you find the filling isn't sticking together enough, as I did, then stir in a tablespoon of cornflour to thicken it.

9. Once cakes are completely cool, spoon the filling over the bottom one, and then sandwich it gently with the top one.

for the banana & chocolate icing:
225g icing sugar
1 large ripe banana, mashed
25g cocoa powder, sifted
1 large handful flaked almonds

10. Combine the icing ingredients, beating until smooth and chocolate black.

11. Spread the icing with a spatula over the top cake, then scatter with flaked almonds. Leave the icing and almonds to settle on the cake for 20 minutes before serving.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Bob Dylan's album Blood on the Tracks

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Nigella's Rosemary Madeira Loaf

This rosemary madeira loaf tastes surprisingly complex for such a simple recipe. The cake, an old favourite of Nigella Lawson's which demands minimal ingredients, is delicious proof that baking your own cake is cheaper, healthier and so much tastier than buying one. You can use lavender if you prefer a softer, milder taste; personally I love the woody dusky sweetness the fresh rosemary brings to this madeira.

Serves 8
Taken from Nigella Lawson's recipe from her wonderful baking bible, How To Be A Domestic Goddess, a call to bake if ever there was one. Buy the book on Amazon here.

200g golden caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
210g self raising flour
90g plain flour
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons milk
approx 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary needles, chopped small
1-2 tablespoons golden caster sugar or rosemary sugar

1. Turn the oven to 170C (150C fan oven) and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.

2. Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth and combined, then add the eggs one at a time, with a spoonful of flour after each one, whisking them in.

3. When all the egg has been beaten, add the teaspoon of vanilla extract, and stir before adding the rest of the flour. Gently stir with a metal spoon until well mixed in.

4. Add the milk to the batter, stirring again gently until combined.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin, and sprinkle some caster sugar or rosemary sugar ontop.

6. Place in the oven and bake for approx 1 hour. You'll know it's done when the top bounces back under your thumb and a skewer comes out clean.

7. Leave to cool for 15 mins in the tin, before removing the cake and leaving it on a wire rack to cool.

This cake was idly baked to The Black Keys' album Brothers