It’s been a long time, everything has, so I’m slowing easing myself back into the world. With a vile set of exams upcoming that transition is slower than I might like. A week ago there was something refreshing about being able to maintain a distance from the world in order to immerse myself in revision; now, I’m bored of it. I’d like a holiday, thank you very much, from lectures to projects to (an epic and surprisingly enjoyable) fieldtrip to revision and exams, this course has been non-stop for so long now.
My level of distraction has meant that I found myself reaching for the beaters and making brownies. I found this amazing picture of chocolate-cheesecake marbled brownies on BBC Good Food years ago, yet I’d never made them. The picture looked fabulous and while I didn’t believe I’d quite be able to replicate it, my failure was greater than I’d expected. The brownie mix all sunk to the bottom of the tin and the cheesecake rose to the top. I’m not quite sure where I went wrong, I’ve double and triple checked the recipe, they tasted pretty good though, so I might be trying it again, with some tweaking.
I halved this recipe, maybe that’s where the problems lay.
From BBC Good Food
200g plain chocolate
250g caster sugar
125g plain flour
400g cream cheese
Beat together cream cheese, vanilla and eggs, set aside.
Melt chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Beat sugar and eggs together.
Stir chocolate mix into sugar and eggs.
Fold in flour
Pour 3/4 of the brownie mix into a greased and lined 20x30cm tin. Pour cream cheese mix ontop, add dollops of remaining brownie mix and marble.
Bake for 35 mins.
I was terribly excited when I saw the Daring Baker’s Challenge this month only to then start reading the recipe and find that it wasn’t ‘coffee cake’ at all, just a brioche style bread stuffed with meringue and other sweet things. Very disappointing.
My first attempt at this was disastrous, I was out of bread flour, so I used plain flour instead and I was being highly impatient so I didn’t let the dough rise for long enough and I was halving the recipe in my head so I think I might not have had the right amount of liquid. After all that, the filling came pouring out of the bread while it baking in the oven. Needless to say it went straight into the bin. My second attempt was a little more successful, I didn’t bother with the meringue again and kept it simple with a banana and chocolate filling. This worked, it was at least edible, it is, though, just a brioche recipe and not a particularly good one at that. When I find a good brioche recipe I will be making banana and chocolate brioche, they, after all, work so well together.
The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.
Sometimes things are just the way they should be, seeing old friends in whose company you can completely relax and forget about the world. Forgot about the world indeed, forget about the relentless pounding that is doing a Master’s course. So while everybody else was working hard at uni, I did what is best done with a Sunday and spent it with friends.
Tea and cake, classic and simple. My mum just happened upon a copy of the Good Housekeeping cookbook in Oxfam after I’ve been stopping in every secondhand bookstore that I’ve passed by for more than a year, in search of a copy. I’m in love with this cookbook, I have been for a very long time, I used to have a copy but it got lost somewhere along the way. The spine is peeling off my mum’s copy, which is held together by tape. It’s that kind of cookbook and that’s the reason I couldn’t buy a new copy. In time I’ve seen various editions of it and there’s something rather charming about the older ones. This one is of the most recent edition but the recipes are still classic, so I knew where to head when I wanted a good, basic carrot cake recipe.
(I’m not going to go into my cream cheese icing issues…)
Adapted from ‘The Good Housekeeping Cookery Book’
6oz light brown sugar
3 eggs, seperated
4 1/2 oz SRF
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 oz ground almonds
1 tsp mixed spice
2 carrots, peeled and grated 9with water squeezed out)
1 apple, peeled and chopped into tiny cubes
Cream butter and sugar together, beat in egg yolks.
Stir in flour, ground almonds and baking powder
Whisk egg whites until stiff, fold into mixture with carrots, apples and sultanas.
I cooked it in two 8-inch sandwhich tins at 180˚C for 40 mins.
a large handful of sultana, chopped
Yesterday I saw fields and blue skies for the first time in a while. London has a habit of being so grey; so I was very excited when today I woke up to brilliant sunshine and that first feeling of spring in the air but now its pouring with rain, once again. The birds, though, continue to chirp through it all.
I don’t much like pannacotta; I thought that might change if I made it myself. It didn’t at all, considering I’m a great fan both of cream and of sweet things this is rather surprising (or it is to me, I’m surprised by many of my own dislikes). True I misjudged the gelatin hugely and ended up with a very solid pannacota, which I may hasten to add, my flatmate ate very readily but it most certainly didn’t have the texture it should have had. The florentine cookies were good, I fancied trying them again and making fancy shapes out of them but I never ended up getting round to it. I used wholemeal flour because I was out of plain flour and significantly reduced the amount of sugar, but they still came out exceedingly sweet, I also felt they were too buttery (I know, right?), so the recipe could do with some tweaking. I left out filling them with chocolate, which may have tempered the sweetness slightly.
The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.
Florentine Cookies, the way I made them, Daring Baker’s PDF recipe here:
45g wholemeal flour
30ml golden syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients to the butter and stir. Place teaspoonfuls very far apart (5 cm or so) on a lined baking sheet. Bake at 190˚C for 6-8 minutes until golden brown.
A friend told me recently that he’d been making no-knead bread. He thought I’d consider it sacrilege. Sacrilege? hardly. Its homemade bread, from scratch with less effort (though more time, which in my opinion equates to more effort). The New York Times recipe for no-knead bread has been sitting in my ‘recipes to keep’ menu in my bookmarks for a long time now. I’ve only made it once before but it was brilliant. That comment made me remember that the recipe was sitting there, ready to be tried again.
Its been a long time since I’ve made bread, even soda bread I’ve only made once in the past few months. So I pulled out a packet of a mixed seed bread flour that’s been sitting around my cupboard for a little too long and decided to try out the no-knead recipe with it.
Only one thing: I couldn’t resist kneading the dough, even if just for a minute… it is the best part of making bread.
As others stood in line, with their parcels in special red and white postal boxes held together with lashings of parcel tape, I felt a little special knowing that, at least in my life, brown paper parcels tied up with string still exist. There was sellotape in the house somewhere but I couldn’t find it and pritt stick was never going to hold, so I decided hold together my brown paper wrapped parcels the old fashioned way, with string. I wonder that the custom ever died out, sellotape may now seem the obvious choice but string works so well. Saying that, my parcels are yet to arrive intact and in the Royal Mail I certainly do not trust.
The first, and the last, time I made these cookies was almost exactly 3 years ago. I made them for exactly the same reason I make them now: because their history speaks of their potential. Look up ANZAC biscuits on Wikipedia, there it will tell you of their association with the Australian and New Zealand Army corps, the same story is told above the recipe in my cookbook. ANZAC biscuits are so called because they were made by the wives of the Australian and New Zealand Army corps and sent to the soldiers when they were stationed in Galopilli (or so the stories go…).
Recipes surprising rarely tell you how long biscuits are likely to last or how easily they can be packaged and posted. While my past experiences of sending cookies in the post have been successful, I have only ever made a limited number of attempts. One of those attempts involved Canada Post and whilst I was reliably informed that the cookies were well enjoyed they did arrive 3 weeks after posting and rather stale. The lack of ability of Canada Post to get parcels to their destination in a reasonable amount of time means Canada will forever remain blacklisted as a country to and from which one cannot send cookies; to all my friends in Canada I apologise and send recipes instead.
So, if these biscuits were good enough to be sent around the world during the First World War, then they are certainly good enough to be sent around the world now. To top it off, they take little more than 5 minutes to make and are quite delicious.
from BBC Good Food
85g dessicated coconut
100g plain flour
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Melt the butter and stir in the golden syrup. Add the bicarb to 2 tbsp of boiling water then mix into the butter mixture.
Roll desertspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and flatten slightly onto a lined baking tray, an inch apart or more apart, they spread quite a lot.
Bake at 180˚C for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
I should be writing a presentation right now but this is the first weekend in many that I’ve simply sat at home doing nothing and it feels like I have all the time in the world. Though when presentations, piles of washing and a house in desperate need of cleaning call that time will surely evaporate. While baking, has, as always, been on my mind recently I have been reading food magazines on trains rather than spending time in the kitchen. Last weekend was my brother’s 21st, I arrived home to find my mother had made a giant devil’s food cake and 2 days before my brother’s party it was sitting on the side along with the meringue base for a pavlova. My mum’s pavlovas are superb and she knows it, they are her fail safe, the thing she makes if she doesn’t want to worry about desert or needs something quick and easy. Meringue is one of the few baked goods where an Aga helps rather than hinders, baking it at home is easy, or so it should be, I can’t remember if meringue is just not my thing or if I’ve never really tried making it.
I had brought red food colouring and a piping bag home with me so I could make Arsenal themed cupcakes for decorative purposes. Just a simple easy, basic cupcake, with lots of good vanilla and a little cheating on the icing. While I was home over christmas a box of fondant icing sugar and one of royal icing sugar had made their way into the cupboard, so I pulled both out and iced the cupcakes with white fondant icing and piped 21s onto them in red royal icing.