Orange & Walnut Shortbread

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This is really just an update on last week’s post where I baked Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread.

I mentioned that I’d like to try a version using orange and walnut instead of the chocolate.  And so I did! I tweaked the recipe slightly (you knew I would!!) and I have to say, I am happy with the result. So here follows my new version:

Ingredients:

250g room temperature butter (I used salted butter, but unsalted would be fine too)

110g demerara sugar

45g light muscovado sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Zest from a large orange

80g Walnut halves, broken into small pieces (unless you want larger chunks)

355g plain flour

20g rice flour

Method:

Using an electric mixer / whisk, beat together the softened butter, sugars and orange juice until light and fluffy.  With a spoon, mix in the orange zest and walnuts, and then fold in the flours until well combined.

Divide the dough into two, placing each half on a separate piece of clingfilm.  Fold the clingfilm over and gently roll the dough into a log shape with your hands so that it is about 5 cm in diameter.  Place in the fridge until firm (approximately an hour).

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Slice the cooled dough into rounds about 1.5cm thick and place on the baking tray about 3cm apart (they won’t spread much during baking). Bake for 12 – 20 minutes, keeping an eye on the cookies.  They are ready when the edges are just slightly turning brown.

Remove, and cool on a rack before eating.

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I find the addition of rice flour really helps with the texture, it keeps it light, and crumbly, yet not falling apart.  The orange flavour is subtle and the walnuts add good texture.  This can be baked in batches, or you can keep the extra dough in the fridge for up to a week.

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

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Salted Butter and Chocolate Chunk Shortbread

I have seen this recipe mentioned in various magazines and online.  Everyone (everyone) raved about it.  I love recipes that are not complicated, and, to be honest, you had me at “salted”…………..if you don’t get that salt/sweet thing, you are really missing out!

I got this in Sainsburys Magazine, but the recipe (see here)  was originated by Alison Roman.

I don’t have a free-standing mixer, or a mixer with a paddle attachment, and so whilst I could mix the sugars and butter well, and I could add some of the flour, I had to give up at some point and mix in the rest of the flour and chocolate with a wooden spoon, and eventually my hands (I couldn’t get the  mixture to stick together….)

Sugars, butter, and vanilla are whisked until light and fluffy and then the flour and chocolate chunks are added.  The dough is then divided in half and covered with clingfilm and rolled into a log shape.

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The recipe says this makes 24 cookies.  I couldn’t see how I would be able to get 12 cookies out of my dough. Anyway, onwards and upwards, so I put the dough in the fridge to firm up.  I decided to only bake half the dough this time, leaving the other half for another day.  I like that about cookie dough, once you’ve gone this far, it’s so easy just to bake a fresh batch of cookies with minimum effort whenever the need arises – just slice and bake!!

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I didn’t roll my dough in sugar.  Personal preference, just like my intolerance for rolling doughnuts in sugar……….I think it’s not necessary.  On slicing my rounds, I had problems with some of the dough “breaking away” because of all the chocolate pieces.  Strange as it is for me to say, I actually think there is too much chocolate………..(please don’t shoot me).  As a result once the dough rounds were on the baking tray, I ended up mashing some pieces of chocolate into the rounds, rather than throwing away the bits that had broken off.  I managed to get 7 slices from the piece of dough that I used.  I realise that in fact my estimation of 5-6 cm was somewhat out (no jokes please) and I should have rolled the dough out into a thinner log.  This too, will explain why I ended up cooking it for almost double the recommended time.

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The finished cookies are delicious.  I do love the sprinkling of sea salt on the top.

Would I do anything different next time?  I would form the dough into a thinner roll, I would add less chocolate.  I would love to try it with orange zest and walnuts instead of the chocolate. I definitely think there are plenty of options!

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

 

The “not quite” White Russian Tart

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I haven’t blogged in a while, and I haven’t baked.  Life has been somewhat challenging.  I keep looking at recipes and in between all life’s goings on, struggle to find time to actually make anything.  And, this heat…..oh! My! isn’t it hot?!! Lack of energy is a deciding factor here as well.

But, finally, here I am today.  Sadly it is with a “fail” rather than a success, but, hey, I’m not too proud to say when things didn’t work out right.  It happens!

I love Emma Freud’s food columns in the BBC Good Food magazine, and had an eye on her recipe for a White Russian Tart for ages.  Named after the cocktail, of course, it looks delicious.

It is made with, amongst other things, marshmallows, which are melted, and mixed with milk, cream, vodka and coffee liqueur.  I have made a few puddings involving melting marshmallows and it gives a lovely texture, so I was quite confident this would be a winner.

I did (honestly) follow the recipe to a “T”.  I made the base first, which consists of crushed biscuits and butter, and left it in the fridge to set.  I melted the marshmallows with the  milk, added the alcohol (breathe deeply!!) and left it aside to cool.  I whipped the cream and added the melted marshmallow mixture.  But……the mixture had separated…..I ploughed bravely on, hoping it would somehow be okay, but it was far too thin and runny to pour into the crust to set.  I put the bowl in the fridge, hoping that it would thicken a bit on cooling, but an hour later it was still too liquid. Urgh, how frustrating. But…..light-bulb moment, I thought I’d whisk in some extra cream, maybe that would thicken it.  It didn’t.  Instead I managed to spray myself and most of the kitchen in a white Russian marshmallow splatter (got carried away with the electric whisk).  I couldn’t bear to give up (crazy lady, huh!) so I grated some dark chocolate and mixed that into the marshmallow mixture….then I remembered the base.  I had used chocolate chip Hobnobs, so they are crunchy, oaty, chocolate-chippy biscuits.  It was death or glory…..I broke up the base and mixed it in as well, gritted my teeth and put the bowl back in the fridge to cool.

An hour later, I took the bowl out – it had actually “set” (whoop, whoop!!!).

So, dear reader, my botched pudding ended up not as intended, but instead it was a delicious boozy, moussey, crunchy mixture……and no, tasty as it was, I will NOT be making it again!

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

 

Sourdough Bread aka a work in progress

Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly baked bread?!  And, let’s be honest, nothing, nothing beats home-made bread.  Apart from the fact that it just tastes so much better, you also control what you put in it – no chemicals or preservatives.

I enjoy baking bread – I don’t have a bread-maker, I don’t have a food processor with a dough hook, I enjoy kneading the bread, that feeling when it goes from no longer being a lump of dough, to something that has the start of life in it, and, of course, kneading is so therapeutic!  I have never wanted to bake sourdough bread though, until I came across this recipe for sourdough bread  in the BBC Good Food magazine, which also involved creating your own starter. Yes!  None of this cheating nonsense for me!  I would create a starter and bake the bread.  I am woman, hear me roar…. To be honest though, I was more interested in the process than the end result.

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The idea of creating this “living thing” out of just flour and water fascinated me.  I did have a moment of panic, thinking what if this recipe is wrong and there should be some additional ingredients in the starter……and so to Aunty Google, only to find there are numerous different recipes for starters and I was more confused than ever.  I decided to stick with this recipe, and see it through.

And so began day 1.  A mix of white and wholemeal bread flours and a bit of water, and wait for the natural airborne yeasts to dive in.  That was it. The recipe called for the starter to be left open, before sealing and setting aside for 24 hours.  I kept looking at it.  You know how when you get a new washing machine you feel you have to watch the laundry tumbling around inside? Silly, isn’t it! 24 hours later I started to have doubts – there was some condensation on the inside of the jar.  This didn’t seem right to me, it would encourage the wrong stuff to grow.  I threw it away and started again.  This time I just covered the top of the jar with a cloth, I didn’t seal it.

Each day I threw half the starter into the compost heap, and replaced with the same quantity of flour and water.

A few days in on starter number 2 and a layer of clear light brown liquid had developed on the top.  Back to Aunty Google…..this liquid was hooch, and indicated that my starter was needing a feed – one recipe called for a twice a day feed, or that the feed I was adding each day to the starter was too wet.  Urgh…there was no one definitive answer.  I figured it wasn’t lack of feeding that was the problem, and decided to stick with once a day.  At “feeding time” I made sure the new mixture was drier.  A couple of days later there was a small dark patch on the top of the starter.  Was this mould?  Was it an optical illusion??? I decided to sod it, binned the starter and started once again from the beginning.

This time I was moving  house and took my starter with me to my new home.  And so the process continued.

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My starter was beginning to look really healthy, with textbook behaviour.  At last, I was on the right track!  Although I could have used it earlier, in the end I baked on day 12.  I was somewhat nervous – would this new starter really work?

I mixed the two flours, a bit of salt, some water and some of my starter and began the therapeutic knead.  Slowly, I could feel the dough becoming more pliable and elastic. The process required two 3-hour rises. I am not usually patient enough, but I’d committed myself to this and followed it through.

The second rise called for a linen cloth to be dusted well with flour and put in a proving basked or a bowl.  I had to settle for a bowl.  So far, so good….until the time to take the dough out and put it in the oven to bake.  The dough had stuck to the linen cloth (cue weeping and wailing from me). In my effort to extract the dough from the cloth and put it on the baking tray, the dough deflated, leaving me convinced I would end up with a thick pancake instead of bread.  I’m guessing I could have just given it a light knead and left it to rise again before baking.  In addition, it had a crease in it from the cloth, which meant that the “design” I had hoped to cut onto the top of the loaf wasn’t an option.  Instead I had to improvise.  Lack of experience led me to cut the dough too lightly – I know now that I can create much deeper slashes in the top of the dough to create a pattern.

Into the oven my dough went…..halfway through the cooking time I peered through the oven glass….my dough had somehow risen quite significantly – a bit puzzling but at least it wasn’t going to be a pancake.  And finally, the end result.  My loaf was a bit mis-shaped (that “home-made look”) and my slashes could have been deeper.  The true test was when it had cooled and I could cut it and taste my sourdough bread.

The bread smelled lovely, it tasted lovely, but…..you guessed it, there’s a big but….I discovered the reason for its sudden rise in the oven.

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A huge air-bubble.  It looks like Batman flew through the center of my loaf……or is that a sad face I see…..my research tells me the oven could have been too hot, I could left my dough to prove for too long, I could have just inadvertently folded a huge air-bubble into my dough…..I just don’t know.  I am very disappointed, but the bread itself is perfectly edible.  I still have the starter on the go, and so I will definitely make this bread again soon, and I have more confidence in what to expect.  I am determined to get it right!

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

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

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I am still looking for different ways to use the leftover ground almonds I have (remember my marmalade loaf cake?)  I will probably end up adding it to my muesli mix in the end, but I did manage to use up some of it in these cupcakes.

I found this recipe for chocolate and almond cupcakes on the Sainsbury’s recipes website.  What’s not to love about a chocolate cupcake, eh!!  I wanted to do something slightly different for the frosting though, and peanut butter came to mind.  Chocolate and peanut butter?  Win-win.

Ground almonds in a cake batter always gives a different texture to a standard sponge mixture.  It works very well in a lot of cases.

The recipe itself is the ‘standard cream the butter and sugar, add eggs and then add dry ingredients’ format. Although the recipe didn’t call for it, I added a teaspoon of vanilla paste to the cake batter, because after all, what’s life without a bit of deviation!!

I really do need a holiday.  My focus is not strong and I found myself thinking what the hell and being just a bit too casual about the whole process.  I have made cupcakes plenty of times, and more than enough times to know things can and do go wrong.

This recipe claims to make 12 cupcakes, but I only managed to eke out 10 from the mixture.  You know when you read the ingredients and think….surely not, there’s not enough here….and then you find it really only stretched to 10 cupcakes after all.  I shouldn’t complain because the cupcake recipes I most often use claim to make 12 cupcakes and I get 18 out of them (smug face).

I looked up different recipes for peanut butter frosting but they all had ingredients I didn’t want to use.  In the end I decided to wing it.  I was so convinced the cakes would be a disaster that I didn’t measure what I did.  Dear reader, I put some softened butter in a bowl, threw in some icing sugar, some vanilla essence and whisked it until it was light and fluffy.  Dust cloud alert:  mix well with a spoon before applying the electric whisk! Then I threw in a large quantity of peanut butter and whisked again.  Quantities?  I don’t know.  But it worked.  You can’t go far wrong with a frosting.

The end result:  the cupcake is light and fluffy.  I personally would have preferred a slightly more deep chocolatey flavour, but it’s fine as it is.  I don’t know if that would have been the difference between using cocoa powder versus melted chocolate in the batter.  The frosting is delicious (of course I licked the bowl) it has a good peanut butter flavour, but not overpowering and is not over-sweet.

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

 

Coconut & Lime Drizzle Cake

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I love lime and I love coconut, and together they make a heavenly combination.  I saw this recipe for a lime and coconut drizzle cake in Sainsbury’s Magazine, and knew I had to try it.  I have always fancied substituting lemons for limes in a lemon drizzle cake and here was my chance, with the addition of coconut.

This is a fairly standard loaf cake recipe, easy to follow and easy to do. I followed the recipe for the most part, other than not using coconut flakes for the topping, and I used 4 limes for the drizzle instead of 3.

The recipe calls for the addition of coconut milk and I used slightly more than called for.  I was mixing the butter and sugar with my electric whisk but instead of becoming light and fluffy, it had the consistency of gritty bread crumbs.  I didn’t want to add more butter to the recipe, so I added a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk to the butter and sugar, and that helped create the right texture.

Personally I find that when adding zest to the mixture and whisking it, the zest seems to collect on the whisk in great big clumps instead of being mixed into the batter.  So although the recipe called for the butter, sugar and zest to be whisked together, I added the zest when I folded in the flour.

The cake baked nicely, rising well and had a good colour.  I like the “drizzle” element of a cake to be nice and sharp, and so I added extra lime juice, and poured the drizzle over the warm cake.

The end result?  It is a lovely cake – please check out the recipe from the link at the beginning of this post. Personally though, I didn’t feel it had enough “zing”.  I guess because it is a drizzle cake, I had wanted (as happens with lemon drizzle cake) a lovely sharpness.  In this cake the coconut softens out the sharpness of the lime.  Both flavours are there, and the combination is lovely though.  Maybe next time I will use the lemon drizzle cake recipe and just use limes instead.

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

 

Marmalade Loaf Cake

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Have you ever had one of those days (times, lives??) where you feel like you’re 97 years old and decide to bake, and you fling ingredients in with a pretty much WTH attitude, but all the time believing you’re doing fine….but at the same time you have a sinking feeling that it’s not fine…..Oh, welcome to my life.  Except, I’m not 97.

My baking mojo has gone AWOL, I keep trying to recapture it, but I’m not that successful.  Am I just going through a “phase”, is it because I am exhausted, permanently.  Welcome to insomnia. Or that over the last few years there have been more major life stresses which I have not yet had a chance to deal with, and every so often, the emotion resurfaces and flashbacks happen, and I’m drained and stressed.  I don’t know.  This post is not supposed to be about all that.  I am just frustrated that I am having more failures than successes in my baking.  Let’s move on…..

Remember my post on Chocolate Orange Pudding Cake? I had leftover marmalade.  I could have made that pudding week after week until I’d used all the marmalade, but really, I need to try different things.  So, on to Aunty Google, where I came upon this recipe for Marmalade Loaf Cake.  And here we are today!

Believe it or not, I didn’t deviate from the recipe at all.  Not one tiny little bit.  This cake has, amongst other ingredients, orange zest, orange marmalade and ground almonds.  The addition of ground almonds to cake batter makes for a lovely textured cake.

The recipe was simple enough, and the basic technique of whisking butter and sugar, before adding eggs and then the dry ingredients and flavourings is pretty standard.

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The cooking time was 40 to 45 minutes, and so I set my timer for 43 minutes.  I got my skewer to test if the cake was done, and within a split second of opening the oven door, my beautifully risen loaf cake sank, leaving a deep valley through the centre.  I swear it did that on purpose….I left the cake in for another 5 minutes, by which time it was properly cooked, but sunken in the middle. Grrrr….snarl….

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After cooling in the tin for 5 minutes, I took it out and left it on a rack to finish cooling.  I decided not to add the marmalade glaze which the recipe calls for, though it probably adds a lovely finish to the cake, both in appearance and taste.

My sunken cake passed the taste test. The texture is lovely and it has a really nice orange flavour.  I would make it again, definitely.  I might even drizzle some dark chocolate over the top instead of using the glaze.  I just hope next time my cake stays beautifully risen!!

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, I wish you all a peaceful day 🙂