Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Carrot Cake

Slack is probably an understatement for how terrible I've been over the last few months with posting! Whoops. Time. time, time time. It goes so fast, too fast sometimes, and certainly too fast over the past few months, everything has merged into one. One fun bubble however. The last few months have been filled with a 200km cycle tour around the Essex country side, festivals, weddings, camping trips, reunion retreats to country barns and so much more. In somewhat to my defence, we've got a broken mixer....I know a poor attempt.

I'll get back on form, and to do so, here is a fab fab fab carrot cake, and this isn't just any carrot cake, there's pistachios, there's walnuts, there's raisins, there's a silky cinnamon icing; there's mountains of flavour in this beauty of a cake!

It's taken me a long time to find a carrot cake recipe I can truly swear by, something that's completely delivered. I've always gone wrong somewhere and I've learnt the hard way - such as, never ever, under any circumstances use anything but full fat cream cheese, it just doesn't hold, and let's face it, we're not eating cake to not be indulgent. Cake equals indulgent.

One of my hugest passions is food science and history! Science geek alert; edible science is the best science though. I love how you got from the simplest form of raw ingredients and combine them altogether step by step and it all comes together to something amazing, that can be eaten! It's why I love baking so much it's science in it's most creative and tasty form.

I find it fascinating how our culinary world has gotten to where it is today and I'm always keen to learn about where things may have originated from, how it's been adapted over the years and trying out my own spin on cake history. So, carrots, in a cake, how did that become a thing? Well I believe it really came about as an alternative to sweeteners which were expensive and difficult to come across back in the 1800's, and so a readily available alternative was to use carrots, which have some of highest sugar contents within the vegetable world! 

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Icing
Carrot Cake
Adapted from Sainsbury's Magazine
400g carrots, grated
300g plain flour
275g light muscovado sugar
250ml light rapeseed oil
100g pistachios, roughly chopped
100g sultanas
50g raisins
50g walnuts
4 large eggs
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
zest 1 lime

Cinnamon Icing
400g cream cheese (Full-fat, holds itself much better than anything else)
500g icing sugar, sifted (add more as needed for the consistency)
100g unsalted butter, softened
3 tsp cinnamon

Carrot Cake

1. Preheat the 180C/160Cfan/gas4 and line two baking tins - I used 2 8-inch tins.
2. Sift together the dry ingredients - the flour, spices and baking powder and then add the eggs and oil to the mixture and whisk until combined.
3. In a separate bowl mix together the pistachios, walnuts, carrots, sultanas, raisins and lime zest and then fold this into the other bowl (egg, flour etc)
4. Divide the mixture into the cake tins and then bake for 30-35 minutes - keep an eye on them and testing with a skewer. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes when done before turning out onto a wire rack.

Cinnamon Icing
5. In a bowl whisk the butter until light and creamy.
6. Add the cream cheese and continue to whisk until combined.
7. Add the icing sugar and roughly mix in using a fork or spoon and then continue to beat using the mixer (mushing it all in together first will stop your kitchen getting covered in sugar). Add the cinnamon to taste - I went for 3 tsp.
8. Crumb coat the cake and chill for about 20 minutes and the ice the cake with the rest of the frosting. You don't have to do this, use any technique you prefer or just whack it all in if you cannae wait ;)
9. I covered the cake in crushed pistachios, walnuts, raisins, sultanas but do as you please and then eat it ALL!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Poached Pear's Ginger Cake

I still find myself constantly debating an age-old question; What is my favourite cake? I think I've settled on, this cannot be answered, for, I love all the cake (how poetic). I can certainly pick out the ones I'll always be drawn too - banana cakes, ginger cakes, pineapple cakes, I suppose I'm more of a changeable seasonal cake lover, summer, I want fruit, winter, I want spice. Nothing beats a classic ginger cake lets face it. They're warming and just like a cake-hug, and who doesn't love a cake hug right? 

So if you're looking for the super tasty warming cake to get you through the last stint of winter, this is the one! Poached pear have literally become my favourite thing - I don't know if you've noticed.....but this works! Ah this works so well! The pears, they're moist, they're juciy, they're little pockets of happiness given an extra va-va-voom with some ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg to get those taste-buds going!

Poached Pear's Ginger Cake
Poached Pears
3 pears, peeled
800ml water - or enough to cover the pears
200g sugar
2tbsp orange juice
1 cinnamon stick

Ginger Cake
Made in a 2lb loaf tin & adapted from Delia Smith
I like to go heavy on the ginger but decrease/increase as needed
175g plain flour
75g brown sugar
75g unsalted butter
75g black treacle
75g golden syrup
75ml water
2 1/2 tbsp ginger
1 1/2tsp cinnamon
1tsp nutmeg
2tbsp milk
1/2tsp bi-carbonate of soda
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Poached Pears
1. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan - have enough water so that the pears are totally submerged - they'll float so just jig them around every so often. 
2. Bring to a boil and stir gently to help the sugar dissolve and then reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. You don't want the pears to disintergrate so you may need to vary then time you simmer going on how ripe they are, if they're super soft, simmer for a shorter amount of time and then allow them to cool in the juices.
3. When they're firm and not soggy, remove the pan from the heat. Remove the pears and allow them too cool before whipping them into the batter. Just dab them down with some kitchen roll when ready to go in the batter

Ginger Cake
4. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3 and either line or lightly grease a non-stick 2lb loaf tin
5. In a bowl sift together the flour and spices. In a jug or cup, mix the milk and bicarb together
6. In a saucepan melt and blend together the sugar, treacle, golden syrup, water and butter. This only needs to be one unified mix, not boiled!
7. Add the warm syrup mix into the flour and spices and beat together - serious elbow grease needed
8. When it's coming together and smooth, add the lightly beaten egg gradually and continue to beat and then start to add the milk and bicarb mix
9. When you've got a nice smooth texture pour the batter into a loaf tin and then take the pears and gently press them into the batter. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 to 1 hour 30, checking that its well risen and firm to touch. Allow to cool before moving onto a wire rack to cool

The pears add a delicious moisture to this cake so you don't need to accompany it with anything, but if you do want something, so simple vanilla ice cream would go a treat with this desert -cake!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Almond Cookies

These biscuits really are something else! The texture, the spice, the melting, they're super tasty and even better they literally take 10 minutes to whip up, a short bake and they're good to go. Perfect. Literally perfect. Super chewy texture just makes them so scrummy, the kind of cookie you could accidentally eat a whole load of!

So I can't believe we're already a full month into the new year! Time is just whizzing on and how exciting! But one thing I cannot wait for, is some warmth, I'm already eagerly awaiting the longer, brighter nights, the warm evenings, the picnics, the long walks! Aaaah, I should stop getting ahead of myself, it actually snowed down South to, we've got a long way to go before any of that warmer weather! Don't get me wrong, I do love winter, but I love it in the mountains, and the rain, that's not for me at all!

So, though the weather might be a little cold and dreary, these little cookies are warming and just like an edible hug, and well, who wouldn't love one of those right?! So, get making and baking!

Almond Cookies

200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
40g stem ginger, drained, finely chopped
2 egg whites
zest of 1 orange
1/2tsp ginger
2tbsp plain flour
12 glacé cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4 and line a baking sheet with baking paper. You may want to make these in two batches as they'll spread a little, so perhaps two baking sheets if you have them will do.
2. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks
3. In another bowl mix together the ground almonds, orange zest, half the ground ginger and then the stem ginger
4. Fold in the egg whites to the dry mix to form a sticky dough
5. Roll the dough and split it into 12 balls as evenly sized as possible
6. In a small bowl take the plain flour and rest of the ground ginger and then lightly coat each dough ball and then shake of the excess
7. Put the balls well space apart on a baking sheet and then flatten each a little and then place a cherry into the middle
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden. Once done, cool on a wire rack.