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Friday, 31 October 2014

There's more to pumpkins than pumpkin pie...

Well as promised here's mine and my mum's combined creation  for spiced pumpkin soup. It's not spiced as in hot, hot fiery! But more a subtle warming hint and adds to the lovely flavour of the pumpkin. We've also added a can of chopped tomatoes and a couple of make it interesting. 

Hope you dare to have a go at it, and Happy Halloween! 

(Do you like my carved pumpkin?)

Ingredients (serves 4 greedy people):

450g peeled and seeded pumpkin (about 1 small pumpkin)
25g margarine or butter
1 cm cube peeled and finely sliced ginger
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
200g peeled and chopped potato (small pieces)
1 vegetable stock cube
400g can of chopped tomatoes 
½ teaspoon mixed spiced
a sprinkle of nutmeg
1 heaped tablespoon of crème fraîche plus extra for garnish
handful of chopped oregano 
salt and pepper


Dice the pumpkin into small pieces. Melt the margarine/butter in a large pan, add the pumpkin, garlic and ginger  and cook gently for 5 minutes. Next add the chopped potato and cook for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes, make up the stock by adding 1 pint of water to the stock cube, then add to the pan, season with salt and pepper, Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 1 hour until the pumpkin and potato is soft. 

Remove from the heat, then add the mixed spice and nutmeg to the pan along with the crème fraîche, liquidize with a stick hand blender or blitz in a food processor. Check for seasoning and then ladle into bowls, sprinkle over a little chopped oregano and swirl on more crème fraîche to serve.

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Coffee, Cinnamon and Walnut Cake

Hey there! If feels a good while ago since I last did a blog post, the main reason for this is that I’ve been rather busy lately, with weekends usually spare for blog baking – taken up by cake orders for friends and family. So I have still been baking- you just didn’t know it! (I’m talking about a mahOOsive cake to feed 80 people in the shape of Elizabeth Gaskells’s house!!) Pictures of this can be seen on my facebook and twitter page.

October and November is a busy time for me, sooo many birthdays – which means a lot of cakes to contend with! This very recipe is actually one that I made up for my Dad’s birthday cake, we love a good coffee and walnut cake in our household, so I thought why not throw in cinnamon too as the flavours complement each other so well.

The cake is light and airy because it is made a little differently from usual. Rather than creaming the butter and sugar, the eggs and sugar are warmed, then whisked vigorously until they increase in volume. So I must admit to you now, there is a bit more effort involved in this cake, but worth it for a special occasion to WOW your friends and family…who, let’s face it (you always want to impress the most!) 

I thought about doing this cake as a 3 layer, as it isn’t the tallest cake in the world, due to the only rising agent being the eggs, depending how much you whisk them! However, I thought most people (including me) can only fit 2 tins on one oven shelf at a time anyway, plus I only have two 20cm tins, which means a lot of faffing and waiting around! So after much deliberation it’s a NO to that idea!

Halloween is creeping up on us, so watch out for a scary pumpkin soup recipe coming soon…

Ingredients (makes a 20 cm round cake)

For the cake:
27g unsalted butter melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing
5 large eggs
190g light brown sugar
135g plain flour
13g cornflour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
70g chopped walnuts

For the buttercream:
350g icing sugar
175g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon boiling water

For the drizzle:
15g milk chocolate
15g dark chocolate


Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (160⁰C fan oven) gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of two round 20cm (8 inch) cake tins. In a large, heatproof bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and sugar together. Put this bowl with the whisked eggs over a medium pan of simmering water and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. You can tell when it is at this stage by getting a little mixture between your fingers, if you rub it together and it doesn’t feel grainy, then it’s done.  (I used my electric hand mixer, which makes life a lot easier). Remove the bowl from the heat and beat on medium-high speed (if you have one- a free-standing mixer is better), until the mixture forms a slowly dissolving ribbon of mixture, when the whisk is lifted out.

Mix the flour, cornflour, cinnamon and nutmeg into another bowl. Sift a third of the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and gently fold, being careful not to knock out too much air. Repeat twice more with the remaining dry ingredients, folding lightly until there are no more air pockets full of flour and all is just combined.

Beat a large spoonful of cake batter into the melted, cooled butter, then fold this mixture back into the remaining batter. Divide the batter among the two cake tins and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a cocktail stick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool in their tins. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes and invert onto wire racks. Peel off the baking parchment.

For the buttercream, beat the butter with an electric hand mixer, or in a free-standing mixer for a few minutes, so that it looks creamy and light. Next, add the icing sugar and dissolve the coffee granules with 1 tablespoon of boiling water, add this to the creamed butter and beat again until smooth.

To assemble the cake, spread a generous amount of buttercream on top of one of the cakes, then sprinkle 35g of the chopped walnuts on top of the buttercream. Place the second layer on top, like a sandwich and top with more buttercream, covering the sides so that you can’t see any cake peeking through, smoothing the edges with a palette knife. Sprinkle the remaining 35g of the chopped walnuts round the edge of the cake. Melt the milk and dark chocolate together and then with a teaspoon drizzle over the cake to finish. 
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Friday, 10 October 2014

Italian Breakfast Banana Muffins with Cinnamon Glaze

Well -  first off you might say, hang on a second...I'm sure banana bread can't be classed as Italian! Your sort of right there, however there is an  'Italian' element in this - the hint of espresso powder, and even though there seems quite a lot in there it actually doesn't overwhelm the flavours. It's more of a hint, and the subtle bitterness of the coffee really undercuts, most charmingly, the creamy sweetness of the banana's characteristics. 

Apparently, it's hugely popular in Italy right now, as are many recipes that spiral from the baking canon of North America and the UK.  It's also cleverly named a breakfast muffin because the Italian's are traditionally known to have a coffee at breakfast time, and then, often or not for some Italians it's common to have a quick breakfast snack during the middle of the morning. voilà (I know that's French but who cares?) that's where my breakfast banana muffins step in!! (WELL technically Nigella Lawson's muffins, as it's her recipe after all, but I've still added a glaze as always!) 

In Nigella's recipe she says to make it as a loaf, yet sometimes I just can't be bothered to cut a slice in the early hours of morning, so it's a lot handier if they're already portioned for you. Plus- they look a whole lot prettier, bonus! Or if your the sort of crazy person to eat your breakfast on the go...then this breakfast recipe is perfect for you! (Just remember to make the night before.) 

It's actually better if you can bear to let it stand for a day or two after baking, and it also makes life alot easier as you have a batch of muffins to last you the whole week (if your not TOO greedy that is!) plus they will still taste alright - unlike some other cakes. 

But, just because the title has 'Breakfast' in it, doesn't mean to say you can't have them at any other point in the's a lovely teatime treat! You don't even have to put the cinnamon glaze on it, you could just smear them in lovely nutella if you wish. Or how about some mascarpone dusted with cinnamon if we are feeling adventurous?! 

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins):

150ml flavourless vegetable oil
3 medium bananas, very ripe
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch salt
2 eggs
150g caster sugar
175g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder

For the topping:
60g icing sugar
¼ ground cinnamon
½ teaspoons milk
35g chopped walnuts


Preheat your oven to 200°C/ gas mark 6 / 400°F. Line your muffin tray with cases.

Mash the bananas with the vanilla and salt and then beat in the oil. Now, beat in the eggs, one by one, followed by the sugar. Mix in the flour with the bicarb and espresso powder, and beat these into the runny batter.

Pour the batter into muffin cases, I use an ice cream scoop for each muffin as a guide, and bake for 20 minutes until golden and cooked inside when a skewer is inserted and comes out clean. 

To make the glaze, mix the icing sugar with the cinnamon and milk, add more milk if it isn't a gloopy, pouring consistency for drizzling, or add some more icing sugar if it is too runny. Drizzle over the muffins whilst still slightly warm and then scatter over some chopped walnuts before the glaze sets. Enjoy! 

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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

C is for Cinnamon

We are officially in October guys! I love this time of year, when the leaves turn golden and drench the paths, making a crunch noise as you walk over know that Autumn is finally here!

There is something about cinnamon which just screams Autumn at me, maybe it's because there are so many Christmas recipes which include the lovely spice that is cinnamon. But I don't quite want to think that it's nearly Christmas just yet, or else it will be the new year before we know it!!

I fancied making this cinnamon bun recipe from the Hummingbird bakery book - Home Sweet Home:

These cinnamon buns are also known as sticky buns in the South and it's not hard to see why with the sweet sticky icing drizzled over! Just make sure you eat them when fresh and warm (preferably for breakfast! yummm! Possibly the best start to the day you could ever have.)

It's quite an easy recipe really, just make a sweet enriched dough, leave it rise, roll out, sprinkle over the cinnamon sugary goodness and then roll up. I love how the cinnamon rolls make a nice round shape of continuous swirls when they are all tightly packed together in their tin, and then drizzled generously with an abundance of white glace icing.

The best bit of all though has got to be the fun of tearing them all apart!! Don't be afraid of placing the buns too close together in their tin, just pack as many as you can into your biggest loose-bottomed round cake tin. The recipe tells said to use a 10 inch tin but I only had a 9 inch so if you have a couple of extra buns that you can't put in, then just place them into another small round tin like I did.

I changed the recipe a bit because I didn't want to make the cream cheese glaze that you melt over the buns, so instead I just made my own glace icing which I have included in my adaption of the recipe
below. I was also quite cautious, mainly due to the memories from 'advanced dough week' on the Great British Bake Off - and the dangers of beaten egg as a glaze!! Ahhh....will it or won't it be cooked inside?! So due to this worry of the beady eyes from Mr Hollywood haunting me like he did to poor Martha I decided on a brushed milk glaze instead. I changed the baking times stated in the recipe too, (I know what your thinking...and yes I do fiddle around with recipes alot! I just can't help myself)  as I felt that 10-15 minutes is definitely not enough time to bake the buns.

I was right y'know, they were still raw after 10 minutes and we don't want that do we?

Ingredients (Makes 16-18 buns):

For the dough:
300ml (10½ fl oz) lukewarm whole milk
25g (1oz) caster sugar
1 ½ tsp dried active yeast
500g  (1lb 2oz) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
85g (3oz) unsalted butter, cubed

For the filling:
80g (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
80g (3oz) soft dark brown sugar
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp milk for glazing

For the icing glaze:
100g icing sugar
and enough water to mix to a drizzling consistency.


In a jug, mix together the lukewarm milk, caster sugar and yeast. Sir well and then set aside until it becomes frothy -  this takes approximately 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Add the butter cubes and rub into the dry ingredients to form a crumb-like consistency with no large lumps of butter. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and yeast. Using a spoon, bring the mixture together to form a soft, wet dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes or about 6 minutes with a dough hook in a mixer. Place the dough back into a large, lightly floured mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise for approximately 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, knock it back in the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead it gently to get the dough smooth and then roll out into a rough rectangle, about 1.5cm thick.

Gently spread the soft butter evenly over the dough. In a small bowl mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the dough. Roll the dough up length-ways like a swiss roll. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 16-18 slices.

Line the cake tin with baking parchment, and very gently place the slices, flattest side down , into the tin, arranging them snugly. Wrap the tin with cling film and then allow the dough to rise again for approximately 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ Gas mark 4. When the cinnamon rolls have risen again, gently brush the tops of the dough with milk. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly then mix up the glace icing by simply adding enough water to the icing sugar to form a glaze. Drizzle over the top of the buns whilst still warm in the tin. Enjoy!

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