Squidgy Lemon Ginger Cake – aka Declan’s Cake

I’ve decided to revisit some of my previous recipe posts in the hope that somehow my mojo will be rekindled.  I got this recipe here from my ever trusted source of BBC Good Food, and in spite of me not being overly fond of fruit cakes, this one really is lovely. 

This cake was given a different name by Declan, because we all have that one friend…. anyway give this recipe a go, don’t be put off by the fruit – in fact, think of it as a salad (like Christmas cake, there’s so much fruit in it, is just has to be healthy!!). It is a damp cake with lemon and ginger flavours perfectly complimented by the white chocolate topping – almost like a lemony-ginger sticky toffee pudding taste!

Ingredients:

  • 200g stoned dates
  • 200g butter
  • 300g dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g fresh ginger, grated
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 or 2 large Bramley apples (you need approx. 250g weight total) peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 50g white chocolate

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan 140°).  Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

Put the dates into a small bowl and cover with boiling water.

In a small pan heat the butter until melted, stir in the sugar and allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl beat the eggs and add the ginger and lemon zest.  Beat in the butter and sugar mixture.  Mash the dates and add to the egg mix.  Stir in the flour and apple, and spoon into the cake pan.  It is quite a runny batter.

Place the cake pan on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for around 1hour and 15 minutes, until well risen and a skewer stuck into the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin.  Be patient.  Once cooled, melt the white chocolate in a bowl over hot water and drizzle over the cake.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Mint Nanaimo Bars

The first time I saw a recipe for Nanaimo Bars I was intrigued.  The name intrigued me, and the photos – they looked delicious, I knew I had to eat them!  These bars are, I believe, Canadian in origin and therefore something different to the standard fare I’ve come across so far.  Nanaimo Bars are not baked, so they are a wonderful easy treat to make, no risk of burning or overcooking.  There was, however, a stumbling block – eggs – not just eggs, but raw eggs.  The recipes I saw contained eggs in the mix and raw eggs and I do not belong together.  Fast forward too many years to think about.  When scrolling through the food blogs I enjoy, I saw this recipe from Naomi of Knead Some Sweets.  This is a mint version of the traditional Nanaimo Bar, and, contains no egg (loud cheer from the gallery!).

If you’ve read any of my posts you’ll know I find it difficult to read a recipe and not to think “what if I try this instead of that….” and so I did the same here. I tweaked.  For the base, I used Bourbon Cream biscuits instead of Graham Crackers, and skipped the sugar and cocoa powder.  For the filling the only change I made was adding extra peppermint extract because you can never have too much mint!  For the topping I used Lindt Mint Intense dark chocolate because….read above re mint.  This is my version:

Base: Mix together 100g melted butter, 200g crushed Bourbon Cream biscuits and 40g unsweetened desiccated coconut.

Line a 9×9 inch pan with foil or baking parchment and press the base mix into the bottom of the pan.  Refrigerate whilst you are making the filling.

Filling: with an electric whisk mix together 120g softened butter, 2 tablespoons custard powder, 240g icing sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, 3 teaspoons peppermint extract and enough green food colouring to give the colour you want.  Whisk until the mixture is well blended and light and fluffy.  Spoon carefully over the base mixture and smooth it flat.  Refrigerate for an hour.

Topping: In a bowl over a pot of hot water slowly melt 120 Lindt Mint Intense dark chocolate with 2 tablespoons of salted butter.  Let this cool slightly before spreading over the top of the filling.  Place back in the fridge until set – about 1 to 2 hours.

Slice into small squares and enjoy!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Having not been allowed out to shop for more months now than I care to remember (thanks Covid19) I finally was given a bit of freedom and went to the supermarket on Saturday.  I went at the crack of dawn to avoid crowds of people, but oh, to be able to select my own shopping!!  To be honest it was a bit stressful, trying to remember to be even more careful etc, but it was good to do something relatively normal.  My baking mojo has mostly vanished (thanks chemo) but every now and then I think how nice it would be just to lose myself in baking once again.  During those brief moments I make a note of what I might want to bake so I don’t forget.  I have a long list, most of which I suspect I will never accomplish, but it’s the thought that counts isn’t it…..

Anyway, I decided to be kind to myself and not start with anything too complicated and so millionaire’s shortbread it is.  There are lots (many /plenty / an abundance of) recipes available for this, with many variations on the theme, but I stuck to basic here and used the as always reliable BBC Good Food as my source and here is their recipe.

I did a few minor tweaks – with the shortbread base I replaced 45g of the flour with rice flour.  I like the texture it gives to shortbread and am definitely glad I did this.  I baked the shortbread at a higher temperature for longer than the recipe suggested because I like a nice toasty shortbread, but please don’t follow my lead on this.  I used a 23cm square baking tin, and used probably about ¾ of the shortbread mix because I prefer a thin base to my bake.  I sprinkled some sea salt flakes on top of the caramel, but honestly can’t say I notice it in the taste of the finished product, maybe I’ll use a bit more next time, because I love salted caramel.  I did put some edible gold leaf on the chocolate topping, because life is always better with a bit of sparkle!

Ingredients:

For the shortbread base: 180g plain flour, 45g rice flour, 175 butter, 75g caster sugar.

For the caramel topping: 150g butter, 1 x 379g can condensed milk, 100g golden syrup.

For the chocolate top: 350g dark chocolate

Method:

Preheat the oven to 170C (fan oven) and grease and line a 23cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

Chop the butter into small cubes. Combine the flours and add the flour, rubbing in until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and mix in well.  Put the shortbread mix over the base of your baking tin, press down well and bake for 30 minutes (or until browned to your liking!).   Once done remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Mix the butter, condensed milk and golden syrup in a pan over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth and the butter is melted.  Turn the heat up, stirring continually and bring to a boil.  You want the caramel to thicken and turn a golden brown colour, this may take a few minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Pour the caramel mixture over the shortbread base and leave to cool completely.

Break the chocolate into small pieces in a bowl and melt slowly over a low heat.  Pour over the top of your caramel and leave to set before cutting into squares.  Enjoy your creation!

Next time I might try it with peanut butter somewhere in the mix………..

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Sweet Potato, Orange, Ginger & Cranberry Cake

I’m always curious when I see something quirky, and so this recipe caught my eye – the mystery ingredient it has is sweet potato.  I first made this recipe for Sweet Potato & Cranberry cake from the Good Housekeeping magazine.  I have no idea what I did wrong, but mine took 20 minutes extra to cook.  In any event, it turned out fine, and had a lovely light texture too – I was expecting it to be slightly dense with the potato, but no, there was no clue to its stodgy ingredient.   The cranberries go very well in the mix, and I think adding more would work well too. The original recipe also has a streusel topping, but I didn’t think it brought anything to the party (maybe I did something wrong there too).  However, I did think I could tweak the recipe slightly, by adding orange and extra ginger.  In the original recipe the ginger is only in the topping, not in the cake itself.

This time – with my tweaked recipe – it cooked in the allotted time, and my taste testing panel and I all agreed the orange was a good addition, but it could use even more ginger.  I used fresh ginger and added what I thought was a lot, but it wasn’t obvious at all, and I think just a bit more to give a hint of warmth would be nice.  But that will be for another time. 

This is my tweaked recipe, but please check the link above for the original version too.

Ingredients:

300g sweet potato (peeled weight)

125m vegetable oil

325g plain cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

200g caster sugar

3 eggs

100ml milk (I used almond milk, but dairy milk is fine)

100g dried cranberries

Zest of 1 orange

Large piece of fresh ginger (size of your thumb) grated.

Method:

Chop the sweet potato into 1cm pieces and simmer until soft.  Drain, allow to steam dry for 5 minutes then mash and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180° C (160° fan) and grease and line a 22cm x 30.5cm baking dish.

Whisk the eggs lightly and add in the oil, milk, orange zest, grated ginger and mashed sweet potato.

In a large bowl sift in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.  Add the caster sugar and dried cranberries.

Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix gently just to combine.  Scrape into the baking dish and spread to level.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the baking tin and then remove and cool on a wire rack.

Slice and enjoy.  Kid yourself that you’re eating fruit & veg 😉

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Jarrolds Cheese Scones

Yes, I’m back, well not really, only intermittently.  The last few years have been a nightmare, ‘nuff said.  We’ve all had a terrible time in different ways, it’s not a competition.  Baking opportunities have been limited, but if I get one, I grab it, because for that short time I can forget about everything else.  It is my rare break back into a bit of normality.

I kept thinking I need to break this mental block I have about baking scones in the traditional way (rubbing the butter into the flour).  I have a good recipe, and it’s super easy, for scones made with oil instead of butter, but the other difference is that these are dolloped on to the baking tray, not cut out, and the end product whilst very light and tasty, is also very crumbly and falls apart a bit too easily.  A traditionally baked scone looks so much better and holds together well.  You could give someone a plate of traditionally baked scones and say smugly “there you are” and feel proud of your creation – looks are everything in this case.  Whereas I feel I have to apologise for the appearance and crumbly texture of my scone recipe.

In Norwich there is a fabulous department store called Jarrolds.  Mention Jarrolds and a lot of people will mention their delicious cheese scones….luckily for us, during lockdown Jarrolds published their cheese scone recipe in social media, and in the absence of being able to go into the store to sample them, I felt obliged to try the recipe.

I have made this a few times, each time thinking next time I will do better.  I do feel a bit more confident baking these now, but I wouldn’t say I’ve aced it yet.  My best is yet to come!  Having said that, each time I’ve baked these scones, they’ve been delicious, I’m just critical of my own efforts.  With this recipe I have upped the quantity of paprika and mustard powder, and omitted the cayenne pepper – this is a matter of taste, but they really do make a difference.  I have (once out of necessity) substituted almond milk for the dairy milk.  I tend to use a mixture of mature cheddar and Gruyere cheeses (I don’t like parmesan).  Do what works for you.  These really are delicious scones.  I actually think the egg wash doesn’t bring anything to the party, the scones are so cheesey, that they look beautifully golden brown on the top without help.  But that’s just me.  Do yourselves a favour and bake these 😊

Makes 6 large / 12 small scones

Ingredients:

300g self-raising flour

65g butter

2 medium sized eggs

135ml milk

120g mature cheddar

35g parmesan

Pinch of paprika, cayenne pepper and mustard powder (adjust to taste)

Large pinch salt

Method:

Preheat oven to 220 degrees (200 fan).

Mix together dry ingredients.  Add in the butter and rub together til mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the grated cheese and mix in well.

Combine the milk and eggs, make a well in the centre of the dry mixture and pour in enough of the liquid to create a soft but firm dough.

Place dough on floured surface, using a rolling pin to roll out to approx. 1 ¼ inch thick.  Cut out scones with a circle cutter and place on lined baking tray.  Brush with egg wash.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

Leek & Bean Soup

My baking mojo has disappeared.  The will is there, but the inspiration has vanished – if that makes any sense at all. But here we are, it’s November and whether we like it or not, autumn is in full swing, and the urge for comfort food gets even stronger.  Lacking in energy the idea of soup (minimal effort required) was very appealing.  My soup repertoire is quite limited – tomato, butternut squash, celeriac, chicken noodle and pea & ham are my go-to options when I make it myself but in reality soup is not difficult to make, and is very forgiving if you change ingredients. I saw this recipe in the BBC Good Food magazine and it was different enough to my other soups, that I decided to try it.

Heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil (I used olive oil) in a large pot, and add 600g finely sliced leeks (about 4 large chunky leeks) and fry gently until soft.  Add one litre of hot vegetable stock (actually chicken stock would work fine here too) and 2 x 400g tins of cannellini beans, drained.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add 2 finely diced cloves of garlic and 100g of spinach.  Cook for 5 more minutes.  Add 150ml whole milk, season and blitz to smithereens, so you end up with a lovely smooth soup.

It’s good and healthy, but I think that some crispy bacon or pancetta crumbled on the top would be lovely too…. 😊

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing a wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Cape Seed Loaf

We’ve had three days of non-stop, soaking rain and now my roof is leaking.  Isn’t life infuriating at times?! 

I needed to distract myself by baking and decided to bake a recipe I haven’t baked for ages.  I don’t know where the original recipe came from, but it is based on a loaf of bread called “Cape Seed Loaf” which I used to buy regularly in Cape Town.  It is a rough, chunky, hearty loaf of bread, and super easy to make as it requires minimal kneading.

Things to remember:  this dough is wet and sticky, which is why it is kneaded in the bowl.  Kneading time is short, all you really do is moosh (technical term!) the dough around for a while.  There is only one rise needed, and it is a much shorter time than for most bread doughs.

Ingredients:

500g strong wholemeal bread flour

50g pumpkin seeds

85g sunflour seeds

25g poppy seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon caster sugar

7g packet easy-blend yeast

2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil (or olive, or sunflower oil)

350ml lukewarm water

1 egg, beaten

Sesame seeds to decorate

Method:

Mix together the flour, seeds, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl.  Drizzle over the oil and then stir in the water to make a soft dough.  This will be a wet, sticky dough, unlike other breads.  Knead this in the bowl for around a minute.  This really does need minimal kneeding, and you’ll see what I mean about the dough being wet………

Lift the dough out of the bowl and plop it into an oiled 2lb loaf tin.  Press in with your knuckles to fill the tin and make a shallow dent down the length of the middle of the loaf so that it will rise evenly.

Cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place until almost at the top of the tin – approximately 30 – 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180°C (160° fan).  Brush the top of the loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle over the sesame seeds.

Bake in the oven for 45 – 50 minutes, and cool on a wire rack when done.

I didn’t bother with the egg and sesame seed bit at the end here, and I used a pack of omega seed mix instead of the seeds in the recipe, but it all works anyway!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing a wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Torta di Testa di Prosciutto e Formaggio

My poor sourdough starter is no more.  Well mostly no more.  A hot night, an open window and a moth flew in, it managed to get under the loose cover on the jar and drowned in the starter.  I had no choice but to empty it all onto the compost heap.  I still have a small amount of the original starter which I did not revive, but I’ll wait until next year before trying to get that working.  A bit frustrating, but that’s life.  I was leafing through “Bread” by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno and saw a recipe for a savoury enriched bread.  Why not, eh, I thought, that sounds delicious.  It doesn’t matter that I can’t think straight, I can do this….and so, dear reader, I baked “Torta Di Testa Di Prosciutto e Formaggio” (otherwise titled Golden Cheese & Ham Bread.

It is an enriched bread dough, with eggs and butter included, and the addition of Emmental cheese and Prosciutto to make it a lovely savoury loaf.   Unfortunately I over-proofed the dough and so it collapsed, making it a broader, flatter loaf than it should have been.  It was complete stupidity on my part, I accept the blame!  I can however say that it still tastes wonderful!  This would be a lovely picnic bread, or a great accompaniment to a hearty bowl of soup.  And of course, spread with cold salty butter it is a delight.

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons dried yeast

100ml water

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

125g softened unsalted butter

4 eggs, beaten

150g sliced, chopped prosciutto

150g diced Emmental cheese

Method:

Put the water in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast in, leaving for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve.

In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, nutmeg and pepper.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted water, butter, eggs, cheese and prosciutto.  Mix together to form a soft sticky dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until silky and elastic, about 10 minutes.  Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size – about 2 hours.

Empty the dough out of the bowl, knock it back and leave to rest for 10 minutes.  Shape the dough into a round loaf, place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove until doubled in size – about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 180°C (160°C Fan).

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 ½ hours until golden brown.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Would I bake this again?  Yes, most definitely.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing a wish you a peaceful weekend 😊

Biscoff Cupcakes

I made a chocolate and peppermint cheesecake last week. I searched everywhere but couldn’t find a recipe that I liked, and so instead I tweaked a cheesecake recipe which I’ve tweaked countless times before. It worked, it was delicious, but not quite right. It needs a bit more tweaking, and so you’ll have to wait.

Maybe I should avoid cheesecakes for a while……… I haven’t baked cupcakes for ages so I need to do this instead. I saw this recipe on the wonderful Bitches That Bake blog and decided this had to be done. Check out the blog for the exact recipe. Apologies, BTB, for the 50,000 views of your blog while I made sure I followed your recipe!!

Ingredients:

150g butter, softened

150g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

150g self-raising flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon mixed spice

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160° fan)

Beat together the butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla extract and fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground cloves and mixed spice.

Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

For the buttercream beat together 150g butter, 175g Lotus Biscoff spread, 300g icing sugar until light and fluffy.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of milk so that the buttercream is of a pipeable consistency.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, smother them in buttercream (would you like a bit of cupcake with your buttercream?) Enjoy and feel smug at your creations 🙂

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 🙂

Sweet Rosemary Tomatoes

Yes, yes, I know this is not a bake, it’s not even cake in any form.  But hey, it’s hot, we’re all tired, and I’m struggling for inspiration, so you get a tomato instead.  But it’s worth it 😉

I saw this recipe years ago in a newspaper.  I can’t for the life of me remember who wrote it, it might have been A.A. Gill, but I’m not sure.  In any event, do yourselves a favour and try it, it’s sublime.

Ingredients:

450g cherry tomatoes

3 sprigs rosemary

10 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons water

50g caster sugar

75ml olive oil

Sea salt flakes, and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

In a medium sized saucepan heat the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Ad the rosemary, garlic and oil.  Cook gently over a low heat, approximately 5 to 10 minutes stirring regularly.

Once the garlic has started to soften, add the tomatoes and stir so that they are well coated.  Cover with a lid and cook for a few minutes until they start to burst.  When they do, take the pot off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature in the pan.

This is a dish best served at room temperature rather than cold.  The quantities can easily be doubled.  Serve with a large salad, or with lamb, or with chicken………..this goes with so many things, just do it!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you a peaceful weekend 😊