April 25, 2013

HONEY CHOCOLATE CAKE

honey chocolate cake

This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, an event organised by Chele of Chocolate Teapot and, this month, Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog, is to bake something with chocolate and honey.  You can see the details here.

A browse through my collection of cook books left me uninspired but I found a recipe for a very simple honey chocolate cake on the internet.  I decided to give it a try even though it was written in cup measurements.

honey chocolate cake2

Cup measurements make me uneasy for some reason.  I find I somehow don’t trust myself to measure accurately and always wonder if I’ve got it right.  For example, if the flour or sugar is more firmly packed on one day compared to another the quantity is not going to weigh the same – is it?

I decided to convert the recipe to grams by weighing the ingredients as I measured them out using my cup measures, so that if I want to make the cake again it will be already written in grams, which I am much more comfortable with.  Once I had made the mixture there seemed to be quite a lot of it so I also used a slightly larger tin than suggested.

honey chocolate cake3

The cake was easy to make and turned out well - I added a few sprinkles, just for fun.  It was very chocolatey with a slightly chewy, almost brownie-like texture and the icing didn’t really set, staying wickedly sticky.   A nice change from my customary chocolate sponge with a buttercream filling and topping. 

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So well done Choclette for leading me to bake a recipe I would otherwise never have found.  It was well worth doing and I am sure I will use the recipe again.

Ingredients

(I give here my conversion into grams but if you want to check you will find the original recipe here.)

125g softened butter

50g soft brown sugar

2 eggs

225g runny honey (I used Sainsbury’s own brand mild honey)

225g self-raising flour

60g cocoa powder

150ml milk

For the icing:

140g icing sugar

60g cocoa powder

75g runny honey

1 tbslp hot water

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter and base line a 23cm square cake tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, by hand or in an electric mixer.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Add the honey and beat again until well blended.

Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and fold in.  Add the milk and stir in.

Tip into the prepared tin and level the top. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and firm.  Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, sift the sugar and cocoa into a bowl.  Mix the honey and water together then add to the sugar and blend well together.  Add a drop or two more water if necessary to get the right runniness for drizzling.

Cut the cake into squares and drizzle the icing over.  I did this by putting the cooling rack on a baking tray so as not to drizzle all over the worktop.

Add sprinkles, decorations, chocolate raisins, or anything you fancy before serving.

Cuts into 16 generous squares.

April 23, 2013

COCONUT CUSTARD PIE

coconut tartMy dad came round for his dinner one evening recently, which was nice.  We don’t see quite so much of him these days, now that he eats out two or three times a week with his lady friend.  Unfortunately he had had to have a tooth extraction so lunch out had been cancelled and he was feeling a bit down in the dumps. 

I decided to cook something which would be easy to eat and not require too much chewing, so we started with my Italian sausage casserole (minus the olives as he doesn’t like them), followed by this coconut pudding.

coconut tart2The true name of the pudding is “Impossible Pie”.  It is called this because you make a batter which separates miraculously into three layers when it is cooked – a pastry-like layer on the bottom, a custard layer in the middle and a lovely coconut crust on top.  I’ve made it before and wrote about it here but this time I used a slightly different recipe and thought it turned out even better.

coconut tart4This recipe comes from a Marks and Spencer book simply called “Baking” and the major difference between this and the previous one is the addition of some flaked almonds.  I omitted the almonds from the batter itself, thinking it might be wise in view of the dental problem, but sprinkled some on the top because it would look nice.  Which it definitely did.  I also used Stork Baking Liquid instead of melted butter.  I made a large pie and a small one in an extra dish, for my dad and his lady friend to enjoy together later.

The pudding puffs up a lot while baking but will shrink back down in a few minutes.  It also sets as it cools so it is better served only slightly warm rather than too soon after it’s out of the oven, because the custard can be slightly too runny or wobbly if it’s still very warm. 

It’s also very nice served cold and the last slice tasted lovely the next day.

coconut tart1

Ingredients

75g plain flour

220g caster sugar

60g desiccated coconut

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

125g butter, melted (I used Stork baking liquid and it worked fine)

40g flaked almonds (I used only a few for sprinkling on the top)

500ml milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a deep 25 cm pie or gratin dish.

Put all the ingredients (except for the flaked almonds) into a food processor or mixer and beat together to make a smooth batter.  Add half the almonds (I left them out) and mix thoroughly.

Turn the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 35 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the other half of the almonds over the top.

Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes or until risen and golden. 

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Serve just slightly warm, with cream, custard or ice-cream. 

Serves 6-8 people.  Also nice cold, by itself.

April 13, 2013

CARDAMOM FRIANDS / FINANCIERS à la CARDAMOME

Dom’s Random Recipe Challenge this month involves using a random number generator to choose a book from your collection.  You can read the details here.  As we were in France when I decided to take part that meant I had a lot fewer books to choose from, most of them being duplicates of favourites from home.

The random number generator turned up the Women’s Institute book “Cakes”, written by Liz Herbert.  It’s a lovely book full of very cookable recipes.  I flipped the pages and came up with a recipe for “cardamom friands”. 

friands1 Friands are little cakes made with whisked egg white, icing sugar and ground almonds.  You can flavour them with all kinds of things, or add fruit before baking and they are a delicious little treat to have with a cup of tea or coffee.

Traditionally they are baked in special tins or moulds to produce the classic oval shaped cake.  I have one at home in the UK which I use for friands but this time I was in France so I had to use what was to hand in my little French kitchen.  They work perfectly well in a muffin tin or bun tin but I happened to have a mould for making little loaf cakes that I picked up cheaply when they were on offer in a French supermarket so I used that.

Thanks to Susan for reminding me that making them into little oblong cakes effectively turns them into “financiers”, the French name for the friand.  Apparently “financiers” were created in the late nineteenth century in a bakery in the financial hub of Paris.  They were made crumbless and in the shape of a gold bar to appeal to the financiers who frequented the baker’s shop!

friands2 friands3

They are incredibly quick and easy to make and these were lovely and slightly unusual with the hint of cardamom. 

friands4 friands5

I would definitely make them again, especially now that I have my rather expensive French jar of cardamom seeds in stock – it always amazes me that something that might cost very little in the UK can cost such a lot in a French supermarket.  It was the first time I had used cardamom in a cake and it worked really well.

I was also pleased with the loaf cake mould.  The cakes came out clean as a whistle leaving no bits stuck to the mould, which is always a relief. 

randomrecipes So thanks again to Dom of Bellau Kitchen for once more leading me to bake a recipe that I might otherwise have overlooked.  Which is the real purpose of his monthly Random Recipe Challenge I think.

I am also entering these little cakes into this month’s Alphabakes Challenge.  The challenge is hosted this month by Ros (otherwise known as Baking Addict) of The more than occasional baker and alternately by Caroline of Caroline Makes. You can read more about this month’s challenge here.  The letter this month is “A” and with almonds being a major ingredient of the cakes they fulfil the criteria perfectly I think.  Their buttery, almond flavour is the main characteristic of the cakes.

Ingredients

175g unsalted butter

5 egg whites

225g icing sugar

65g plain flour

115g ground almonds

zest of 1 lemon

6 cardamom pods

Method

Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and crush them in a pestle and mortar.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan and use some of it to butter a muffin tin, bun tin or friand tin.  Put the remainder aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until foamy, which should take about 30 seconds.

Sift the icing sugar and flour into the egg whites and fold in.  Stir in the ground almonds, lemon zest and cardamom, followed by the butter.  Combine to make a smooth batter.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin so that each hole is ¾ filled.  Bake for 20 minutes until risen, golden and firm to the touch.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Makes 8-12 friands, depending on the tin you use.

April 11, 2013

CROQUE MADAME MUFFINS

croque1 The first time I attempted to make these it was a total disaster.  I constructed the muffins then as I put them in the oven I caught the muffin tin on the oven shelf, the whole thing fell out of my hands and landed upside down on the oven door !!

You can read about it here if you want to see how the disaster turned out.

Yesterday we had a visitor at lunchtime chez nous and I decided to try making them again.  It was either grim determination not to be beaten by mere muffins, or misguided optimism.  As it happened, they turned out fine.  In fact they were yummy.

A croque madame is essentially a toasted ham and cheese sandwich with with some béchamel sauce and an egg in it – croque monsieur being the same thing but without the egg.  The idea for the muffins came from the totally charming series that was on TV last year featuring the cook Rachel Khoo.

To make six muffins you take six slices of thin white bread – the Mother’s Pride type of sliced bread that my dad used to have for his sandwiches every day of his working life.  Much to my amazement you can buy this stuff in French supermarkets and in fact you can even buy it with the crusts already cut off, which is perfect for the recipe as that’s exactly what you need.

First you make a fairly stiff béchamel sauce by melting 1 tablespoon of butter in a small pan, stirring in 1 tablespoon of flour and cooking for a minute until the mixture (roux) is smooth, then stirring in 200ml of milk.  Cook until it thickens and add a good pinch of grated nutmeg and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.

Next you melt some butter in a small saucepan and then brush it over both sides of the bread, having first made the bread thinner by rolling it with a rolling pin.  Use each slice of bread to line a hole of a muffin tin.

Put a bit of ham in the bottom of the muffin and add the yolk of an egg with a little of the white.  (If you use a whole egg the muffin will be too full of egg and there will be no room for the sauce.)

Spoon about a tablespoon of the béchamel sauce on top and sprinkle some grated cheddar, gruyere or comté cheese on top of that.  Brush the edges of the bread with more melted butter if you have any left.

Bake for 15 mins at 180°C if you like your egg runny or 20 mins if you like it cooked.

One muffin per person makes a small snack – it is after all only one egg and one slice of bread.  Two muffins with a little salad makes a nice lunch.  Two muffins each with chips makes a really good treat !!

If you want to see how it’s done properly here’s Rachel Khoo herself showing you how :

April 9, 2013

RHUBARB AND HAZELNUT HONEY CAKE

A little while ago I entered an “ingredient swap” baking challenge.  This is an every-so-often event organised by Ruth of the blog Makey-Cakey.  The idea is that Ruth pairs you off with another person, you exchange mystery ingredients via Royal Mail and bake something.  You can read all about it here.

This time I was paired with Jono, who has his own blog Four Ingredient Recipes and also happens to be Ruth’s other half, and he sent me this:

rhubarb cake 2

I had never seen or heard of dried rhubarb before.  He also included 100g of ground hazelnuts.

I did some internet research and drying is an alternative way of preserving rhubarb, the other popular methods being freezing and bottling.  There were however very few recipes for using dried rhubarb, only plenty of instructions on how to rehydrate it.  So I had a bit of head scratching to do in order to come up with something.

rhubarb cake 1And this was it !!

I wanted to make something that used the dried rhubarb as a dried fruit rather than just rehydrating it and using it as if it was a fresh fruit, such as in a pie or crumble.  There are plenty of recipes around for fresh rhubarb with hazelnuts but that was not the point, I thought.

After a good deal of happy research (time spent browsing my cookbooks is time well spent and thoroughly enjoyed) I found a suitable recipe for a date and almond honey cake in the Rachel Allen book “Cake”.   So I decided to use that, following the recipe exactly but substituting the dried rhubarb for the dates and the hazelnuts for the almonds.  You can see it for yourself here – go to page 27 – this is the only place I could find it on the internet – and it’s just as well I did because I dropped a clanger when we came to France for Easter – I brought the mystery ingredients with me to do the baking but forgot to bring the cookbook !!

rhubarb cake 3 rhubarb cake 4

The recipe uses wholemeal flour and honey instead of sugar.  The mixture was stiff and sandy and I was expecting the cake to turn out rather dense.  I was therefore very pleasantly surprised to find that although the cake didn’t seem to rise very much it was incredibly light and moist.

rhubarb cake 6 The flavour of the honey and nuts came through beautifully and the pieces of rhubarb tasted just like……rhubarb !!

rhubarb cake 7 It went down well with our guests who had been warned to expect a different sort of cake – this is not your average chocolate cake or Victoria sponge and indeed not for the faint-hearted.  Nick said it was the sort of cake you would find at the little tearooms patronised by fell-walkers and folk singers !!

I’m not sure I quite understand what he means but it was delicious in its own way, not too sweet and definitely tasted as if it would be good for you.  If I ever see dried rhubarb for sale I would buy it and use it again, and I would certainly try the recipe again using the dates and almonds as per the original.

So thanks to Jono for providing me with a really inspiring challenge this time and for leading me to bake something rather out of the ordinary.  If you would like to see what he made with the mystery ingredients I sent to him, click here.

Ingredients

100g chopped dried rhubarb (or dates)

200g softened butter

200g runny honey plus 2 tblsp for drizzling

3 eggs, lightly whisked

100g ground hazelnuts (or almonds)

125g wholemeal flour

1½ tsp baking powder

25g flaked almonds

Method

Put the rhubarb (or dates) into a small saucepan with 50 ml water.  Bring slowly to the boil and cook for a few minutes until the fruit is soft.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a 20cm round, deep cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.  If you are using a springform tin it would be wise to put it on a baking sheet to catch any leaks.

In a large bowl or food mixer, cream the butter and honey until soft.  Add the eggs, beating all the time.

Add the fruit, including any liquid in the pan, and mix well.

Fold in the ground hazelnuts (or almonds), then the flour and baking powder.

Tip into the prepared tin and level the top.  Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.  Bake for 45-50 minutes.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack.  Drizzle the 2 tblsp of honey over the cake and leave to cool.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

April 4, 2013

BANANA MUFFINS

banana muffins1

A friend who lives a few doors away from us had a mishap with her Tesco delivery the other week.  She ordered five bananas and they delivered five bunches of bananas instead.  So she shared them out amongst her neighbours and I qualified for two bunches.

banana muffinsWe ate a few but when we came to France for Easter there were still quite a lot of rapidly ripening bananas left so I brought them with me, thinking I would have more time to do something creative with them.

So I decided to make some banana muffins.  The recipe comes originally from a Weightwatchers cookbook that belongs to a work colleague – she gave me a copy of the recipe but I have never actually seen the book. 

It makes great muffins and they keep quite well for a day or two so there’s no urgency to eat them up on the day they are made.  You can of course freeze them but I don’t have a freezer here in my tiny French kitchen.

 banana muffins2 banana muffins3

I made some full size muffins and a tray of mini muffins.  A whole muffin can be a bit too much at times, especially for visitors who might already have had their breakfast or lunch when you plonk a plate of muffins in front of them.  However, most people can’t resist a couple of mini muffins and they are gone in two bites so then they can manage a couple more !!

banana muffins4

The brown sugar in the recipe gives them a lovely rich flavour and I always think that the next time I make them I will put in half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon – but then I usually forget.  I think it would be worth a try though.

Tea_Time_Treatrs_logo

Tea Time Treats is a monthly baking event put on by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked.  The theme for April is “fairy cakes, cupcakes and muffins” and is hosted by Kate – you can see the details here.  Banana muffins are just right for an afternoon in early spring, sitting by the wood burning stove and enjoying a cup of tea because it’s wet and chilly outside.  Which is what it is today !!

Picture

Using up my bananas also means my post qualifies to enter April’s No Waste Food Challenge, created by Kate of Turquoise Lemons.  This month the theme is “fruit” and is hosted by Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Kitchen.

Ingredients

250g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

1 egg

5 tblsp water

80g soft brown sugar

3 medium, very ripe bananas (peeled!)

4 tblsp corn oil (I used sunflower oil as I didn’t have corn oil)

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 170°fan / gas mk 5.  Put muffin cases into a 12-hole muffin tin, or grease two 24-hole mini muffin tins, or do half of each.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a large bowl.

In another bowl, mash the bananas to a pulp.  Add the egg, water and sugar and beat until well combined.  Add the oil and stir well.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake until firm and springy.  The mini muffins will take 15-20 minutes and the full sized muffins 20-25 minutes.

Remove from the tin and cool on a rack. 

Makes 12 regular muffins, 40 mini muffins, or 6 regular and 20 mini muffins.  Each regular muffin is 3 Weightwatchers points – you will have to calculate the points value of the mini ones for yourself !!