Raspberry bakewell tart

In my quest to learn how to make laminated doughs (think croissants), I picked up Murielle Valette’s Patisserie. It’s brilliant, I’ve even cooked more than one thing from it already (croissants, pain au chocolate, lemon tart, dense chocolate cake and the modified bakewell below). For my colleague’s birthday, I insisted on making her some cake, and made a bakewell as I had all the ingredients to hand (in fact, the pastry had been made and frozen the weekend before). Instead of the apricot and almond tart in the book, I went for a raspberry bakewell, which went down very well when I brought it into work on the Monday.

Slices of cake

Look at that beautiful layer of jam

I’d highly recommend the book if you like French pastries (and cake in general), it’s divided into a techniques section and various chapters based on particular doughs (puff pastry/brioche/choux) and I’ll certainly be making more from it. It’s a great way to fill your workmates with butter, as it’s a critical part of most of these tasty treats.

What a marvellous book!

What a marvellous book!

Pastry

  • 230g flour
  • 140g salted butter (normal butter in a gold wrapper, otherwise add salt)
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 egg

Rub the flour and butter together until it’s breadcrumblike. Don’t overwork it or the butter will melt and the pastry won’t be lovely and crisp. Mix in the sugar, add the egg and mix quickly until it forms a large ball. STOP WORKING THE PASTRY. Mash into a vaguely rectangular shape, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge, have a coffee and sit down for an hour.
Divide the dough in half and freeze a portion (you can use this for more cake in the future). Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it’s about 4mm thick. Gently lower it into your favourite pie tin and form gently into the corners. Trim the top of the pastry with a sharp knife and put the pastry into the fridge for another half hour. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C.
Put a load of baking paper into the pastry case and fill with baking beans (or uncooked rice or lentils, I use some red lentils I don’t care for). Bake for 40mins. Remove the baking paper and contents and put the pastry back in the oven for 5 more mins to brown the middle slightly. Take out of the oven to cool while you prepare the almond filling. Leave the oven on, you need it at 160°C in ten mins anyway.

Filling

  • 110g softened butter
  • 110g caster sugar (plain sugar or vanilla sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, if you use vanilla caster sugar, you can leave this out
  • 90g ground almonds
  • 25g flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 dessertspoons of good rasberry jam
  • a large handful raspberries, frozen is grand

Beat the sugar, butter and vanilla essence together. Add the ground almonds and flour and mix well. Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, mixing well.
Spread the jam on the bottom of the pastry case. Pour over the almond filling. Drop in some raspberries. Bake at 160°C for 45 mins. Cool in the tin. Turn out and serve with the best coffee you have.

Ready to go to work and get chopped up and devoured

Ready to go to work and get chopped up and devoured

Christmas Cookies, or anytime-spiced-iced-cookies

At the recent sugar craftnight in TOG (our annual Xmas party where the crafters eat too much cake and biscuits and hot chocolate), I had a go off proper icing, with an icing bag and all, and decorated a rather dapper velociraptor (raptor made by Becky).  It was also my first go off making royal icing for decorating, and I quite enjoyed the whole thing, so went out and got icing gear and a Christmas tree cutter so I could keep icing at home.

Cookies

Christmas jumpers are only for cookies, not grown humans

So far as I can tell, the only thing consistent between royal icing recipes is that it contains egg whites and sugar. The methods aren’t all consistent, and things like the addition of lemon juice or glycerine seem optional, even the eggs to sugar ratio varies from page to page.  If you’re using the icing to decorate a cake, there’s probably a lot more effort to be put into beating it to make it stiff, but for piping on to biscuits and doing a flood fill, things are a lot more flexible.  Also, use gel food colourings if you want proper colour, the liquidy ones only work when they’re what your using to hydrate the icing as you’d need to add to much for a vibrant effect.

You can buy bags of powdered royal icing in the shops, so you can make up as much as you need.  Thin it out with lemon juice so you can pipe with it, and thin it out even further for flood filling areas that you’ve piped around the edges (see the Xmas trees, the edge is the boundary to stop the flood fill rolling off thet cookie).  The advantage of the powdered royal icing is that the egg whites are dried and mixed already, meaning you don’t have to mess around separating egg whites and feeding raw egg to people who don’t want it (and may not recognise that it’s in icing).

Pretty trees

The trees were flood filled after piping around the edges. They were decorated when the flood was mostly dry, so the icings merged a little.

Of course, what’s the point in iced cookies without cookies! Many thanks to Carri for the recipe which I have duly modified by chucking in some spices.  I’ll probably be more heavy handed the next time, but at this ratio, people who normally don’t like cinnamon or ginger did their best to eat the whole batch. You could also use vanilla in place of the spices, though I think cinnamon should be added to every baked thing (within reason, maybe).  Leave some undecorated for the people who don’t care for icing.

 

  • 225g butter
  • 175g icing sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 450g flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line some trays with baking paper. Get the wire cooling rack ready and a plate for cooled cookies too, as the cookies will constantly be going in and out of oven and you’ll need somewhere to put them. This recipe makes a LOT of cookies.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the egg. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices and add to the mix. Knead briefly and roll out to about 5mm thick. Cut out with your preferred cutters, place on the baking tray (they don’t spread too much during cooking, but leave a little space between them anyway). Bake them for about ten minutes, until they are a pale golden colour. Let to cool for a minute before transferring to the wire rack (they’re a little fragile straight out of the oven). When they’re cold, move them off the rack to a plate, as the next batch will be out of the oven shortly.

showing off

The cookies should be golden before you turn them into instruments of sugar delivery

When the cookies are all made, make up the icing according to the pack. Take some of the icing into a new bowl and add the colour and thin with lemon juice until you can pipe it. If you want to floodfill, go round the outside of the area you want to fill, then thin the icing even further with more lemon juice so it’s pourable and you can fill the space on the cookie. The floodfill ends up paler than the outline if you simply thin the outline paste without adding more colour. Let the icing to partly dry at least before you move on to the next step. These cookies lasted about four days from baking, well they were finished within four days, so I’m not sure how long they’d last beyond it.

When Science goes bad, there’s always Cake

Many of the scientists at work are talented bakers, and the rest are pro’s at eating cake. Quite a few of us have the back up plan “if the science doesn’t work out, I’ll open a bakery/café/restaurant”, after all, baking is a sort of science…

During an experiment that wasn’t going very well, I started chatting with Laura about cakes that could represent various aspects of science, whether the experiment is working or not. So here’s some of my possible science-cake suggestions, and some examples of how science can learn from disaster cakes.

The device isn’t capturing cells at all:
Super rich dense chocolate brownie, with walnuts. Served sandwiched with a very good vanilla icecream and a dark chocolate and whiskey sauce poured over the top.  In a bowl, because you’ve learned your lesson about fluids misbehaving and a plate would make a mess.

A sadly batched tray of muffins, tasty but unbeautiful

Don’t buy the cheapest gloves, don’t buy the cheapest muffin cases. Science and baking have learned many similar lessons

The perfect micrograph using all those fiddly fluorescent stains
Summer fruits tart, with a rich, chewy batter half enveloping the fruit, and a very crisp yet crumbly base. Served with whipped cream with a hint of vanilla. The juicy fruits might stain the cream but it’s all terribly beautiful and neatly presented.

Even Linus Pauling gets it wrong
An orange drizzle cake, moist and delicious, with a scoop of lemony moussey curdlike stuff. No longer full of vitamin C after baking, but hey, megadosing vitC doesn’t work anyway!

Poor melty cinnamon rolls, but they went to a good home

The rolls have leaked in the oven? Still delicious. The PBS leaked in the autoclave? Still a sterile buffer.

Have you any science-cake suggestions? Could you happilly substitute science for cake in your every day life (or vice versa)?

Modifying the lemon drizzle cake, a little

I love lemon drizzle cake. It’s really wonderful, and not so hard to make, and in my experience, (almost) everyone loves lemony cake. As I make this cake often enough, I made some adjustments to it, to see if the people who like it a lot could find it in them to like it even more!

Inspired by my labmate’s love of lemon and poppyseed cake from the canteen (I’m impressed, they didn’t mess up the cake), I threw a teaspoon of poppy seeds into the cake batter and baked like normal. The seeds give a gentle bite to the cake, it’s really wonderful.

Poppy seeded lemon drizzle cake

Lemon drizzle cake filled with poppyseeds and super tangy drizzle for my sister’s graduation

In addition, my beloved’s favourite part of the cake is the lemon drizzle part (and quite a few other people, I’ve found), so I doubled up on the lemons to make his face pucker up even more. I used the juice of two lemons for the drizzle but the same amount of sugar. The centre of the cake is the most dangerous for those of us who like moderately (rather than insanely) tangy cake, I have yet to master the art of getting the drizzle to hang around the edges. As the cake top is a bit wetter with the extra juice, only dust it with icing sugar right before you plan to show off.

The above pictured cake was dusted with icing sugar twice, once before heading to the university for my sister’s graduation (yay! she’s got a PhD now, in microbiology though, yucky), and then again when we got home and were about to eat the cake. The cake didn’t last long, but that’s ok, cause when you get a PhD, many people make cake, so there was carrot cake, caramel squares, and cheesecake too!

Peanutbutter Brownies

A number of members of my collaborator’s group are leaving for pastures new, so I have made cake as a goodbye-you’re-really-gonna-miss-it-here gift.

raw brownies

The brownies prior to baking. The peanutbutter and chocolate chunks sink into the hot brownie batter during cooking, so this method allows even distribution of filling.

The recipe is my usual brownies recipe (also found in the cheesecakebrownies recipe) with the addition of blobs of peanutbutter instead of nuts. I did have nuts, but it was a bag of hazelnuts, and would have needed roasting and skinning, but peanut butter is delicious with chocolate, so this “laziness” worked out well too.

  • 225g butter
  • 375g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs (orignal recipe called for 4 medium, but we buy ex large normally)
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 100g bar of chocolate (or “chocolate”, as I often use scotbar)
  • Peanutbutter (about 3 tablespoons, have more than enough anyway, there should always be peanutbutter in a kitchen)

Grease and/or line a cake tin (I used my 17cm tin and a small dish, the small dish is for have a small set of home brownies when the big tin is brought to work). Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (170° for fan ovens).

Melt the butter and add the sugar. Beat in the eggs one by one. Sift the cocoa and flour together, and add to the mix in three parts.

Divide between cake tin(s). Break up the chocolate bar and plop pieces around on the brownie. Get a teaspoon and a knife and plop 0.5tsp sized dollops about the surface. The chocolate and the peanutbutter will sink during cooking anyway. Put into the oven for 40 mins.

Cooked brownies

See? Allllllll sunk into the brownies. The greaseproof paper means the sunk/melted chocolate chunks wont glue the cake to the tin (trust me, voice of experience, chocolate glue is hard to get off tins without heating).

Let the brownies cool in their tin, then turn them out and cut them up. Alternatively, don’t wait for them to cool and attack them with a spoon… just mind yourself, they’re pretty hot.

spoon on a brownie

Too impatient to wait for them to cool…

Cheesecake brownies (bonus three recipes in one)

I’ve been meaning to make cheesecake brownies for a few years. I’ve a great recipe for brownies from Chocolate Cookery (you’ll have to look this one up on abebooks) and an equally great recipe for white chocolate cheesecake. Others have combined these before with much success, so it was my turn to have a go off them.

Slices of cheesecake brownies waiting to be brought to college

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My first coffee and walnut cake

I’ve been meaning to get around to making coffee and walnut cake for years, and what better excuse to make a big decorated cake than a party! So, today, I made one, finally! Taking inspiration from Darina (did I mention how much I love the Ballymalloe Cookery Course book?), I added walnuts to the basic coffee cake recipe and doubled the buttercream quantity so there’d be some to go on the top.

A beautiful coffee and walnut cake.

The cake speaks for itself. In the background: a lemon (we know I love lemon), an aeropress (for making coffee in college), and my favourite coffee tin (it has the sleaziest coffee bean on the back, I must show you some time).

In the unlikely event that you don’t like walnuts, you can leave them out. In the more probable event that you do, buy more than you need for the recipe, I find other halves are inclined to start gobbling the nuts before you realise.

The original recipe called for irel, which is a coffee essence sort of product. I think it’s a sort of chicory/coffee syrup that you can use for cooking or making hot drinks with. Instead I used some strong coffee and misused my mokka pot to make it. I half filled the water resevoir and filled the coffee part as normal, giving a shorter stronger coffee (this is not how you’re normally supposed to use them). I poured the coffee over ice into a jug when it was done and put it in the fridge to cool completely. I had some leftover coffee after the cake, so I stirred in some milk for a lovely iced coffee treat. (I love coffee, in case you didn’t know this :) ).

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 6 dessert spoons strong coffee (you could probably substitute in instant or irel if you prefer)
  • 100g of walnut halves (keep the 8 best looking halves for the top of the cake, and roughly chop/crush the remainder)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line two 20cm cake tins (a bit of butter under the baking paper helps to keep it in place.

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Then beat in the eggs one by one, beat them thoroughly, the first one is the hardest. Add the (sifted) flour and mix well. Add the coffee and walnut pieces and then divide the mixture between the two tins. Bake for 30 minutes until the cakes are firm and the sides start to come away from the edges of the tin.

Turn out on to a wire and remove the baking paper and then you can flip them over if you don’t want to have lines on the cake. Wait until they’re cool before you begin to ice them.

  • 125g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 4 tsp instant coffee in 1 tsp of hot water (I know, the shame of having a jar of instant, had to buy my first jar in years just to make the cake, ruining my coffee snob credentials)

There are two ways to make the icing, the easy way and the hard way. The hard way is to cream everything together by hand (I tried this at first). The easy way is to bung everything into a food processor, or in my case, a chopper and blitz till it’s smooth. When it’s all creamed together by either method, place the bottom piece of cake on the plate you’ll be showing the cake off on, then spread half the icing on. Place the top part on top and put the remainder of the icing on top. Decorate with the remaining walnut halves. If you want enough to cover the sides, increase the quantity of icing by at least half (I always make a mess of the sides of cake so extra icing is handy for patching holes).

NOM WITH A BIG MUG OF COFFEE AND SOME FRIENDS! (after everyone’s admired your icing skills of course).

Chocolate biscuit cake experimentation

I’ve had half a pack of digestives staring at me for the last week and a bit. Shocking stuff I know, but as a caffeine half-intolerant (none after lunch) coffee drinker and someone who doesnt like tea, I don’t have much opportunity for chowing on digestives in the evenings. The other half of the packet was sacrificed to the noble cause of being a cheesecake base (I’ll write it up soon, honest). I’ve never made chocolate biscuit cake before and got the idea into my head earlier that that’s how I’ll use up the biscuits.

A Slice of Chocolate Biscuit Cake

A squidgy slice of chocolate biscuit cake, and a butterknife covered in squidge

I couldn’t find a recipe in one of my books, so armed with duckduckgo I did a quick search. The one I settled for is roughly based on the odlums recipe, except for a few changes due to what I had to hand. I can vouch for maltesers being great in biscuit cake, but I dont usually have them lying around the house.

  • 200g chocolate digestives (broken up, not pulverised)
  • 140g butter
  • 80g golden syrup
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 1 dessertspoon cocoa powder

Put the butter, chocolate, and syrup in a pyrex jug and microwave on full for 40 seconds. Stir, and put it in for another 40 seconds. Stir and decide if it’s no longer lumpy or not, if needed give another short nuke/stir cycle. If the mix is smooth, mix in the cocoa powder and then throw in the biscuits. Smush into a lined springform tin or cake tin and chill in the fridge (honestly, the lining is essential, I poured straight into my springform tin with a nubbly-cheesecake-holding base, whoops).

After chilling for two hours, I took the squidgy slice shown above, despite being imperfect it’s still lovely with a big glass of milk. I reckon it’ll set better by the morning (I’ll let you know if it doesn’t). Changes to be made in the future: increase biscuity content (quantity AND type, eg. rich tea), add malteasers, line the base of the tin, learn to wait for it to chill overnight.

Lemony delight (where “y delight” = bars)

For Easter my lovely fella’s lovely mammy invited me over for dinner, so I had to bring something tasty. I’ve been meaning to make something lemony for a while, and so lemon bars were made. Unfortunately, they’re awful tasty, so I had a couple for breakfast, leaving not quite enough to go round after dinner….

The base is a sort of lightly crispish base, like that of the caramel slices, and the topping is a lovely sweet lemon curd. I’d imagine dropping some of the sugar or increasing the amount of lemon juice should increase the tang, or making icing using the juice of another lemon should get a proper wince going.

Lemon Slices

A tray of lemon bars after some had been taken away for *cough* ehhh, testing....

  • 175g plain flour
  • 125g butter
  • 50g granulated sugar (though I used caster and it was grand)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour (I used self raising even though recipe called for plain)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Juice and grated rind of one lemon
  • Whatever you’d like to top it with (icing sugar/icing/fresh air)

Preheat your oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin (mine was 18cm, first time I’ve ever bothered to measure).

If you have a food processor/chopper, you can use it here or you can do it by hand. Rub the butter into the 175g of flour until it’s like breadcrumbs, and then mix in the sugar (the 50g lot). Pour the crumbs into the tin and press down firmly. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.

While that’s cooking, prepare the curdy topping. Into your food processor/chopper/big bowl, add the sugar, flour, baking power and salt. I like to leave the wet ingredients until the base is nearly ready to come out of the oven. So you can use this time to get the rind off the lemon (this is a damned fiddly job, and I keep meaning to upgrade my zester). When the zest is off (add it to the dry mix above), roll the lemon firmly on the counter, and then juice over a sieve into a bowl (apparently rolling is supposed to get extra juice out by breaking up the insides a bit, either way rolling gets extra lemon smell onto your hands). Beat the eggs and add to the mix along with the lemon juice and whizz/beat well.

When the 20 mins for the base are up, it should be a nice light golden colour. Pour on the curdy mix and put back into the oven for another 20mins. The recipe reckons the middle of the cake should have a slight wobble and then it’s done, but I overcooked mine (25mins instead of 20) so no wobble (still tasted good though).

Leave to cool in the tin. You can dredge with icing sugar, or put a nice lemon icing on top, or you can do nothing like I did (I was running late, I’d probably have tried harder if I got up earlier). Slice into bars and serve with a bucket of coffee. The recipe claims 24 bars, but I think about fifteen good size bars is more like it.

Caramel Slices (or, Diabetes in a Mouthful)

One of my favourite things to have with a cup of coffee is a humble caramel slice. They also make excellent treats to bring in to work (if you try to eat the whole tray at home on your own, I am not responsible for hospital bills). So, when I finished my second PhD rotation, I brought in caramel slices, to make doubly certain everyone would miss me….

Lunchboxes of Doom (and caramel slices)

That's a lot of caramelly goodness

Beware that the caramel is a) pretty intimidating to calorie counters, and b) somewhat tedious to make, but it totally pays off.

First you make the base. This base is nice and crumbly, but you can do a different type of biscuit if you prefer. I’ve been using this base since I first got the recipe for the slices more than fifteen years ago from my neighbour (hi stella! thanks!).

Biscuity base

  • 8oz plain flour
  • 4oz butter
  • 2oz caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Prepare a baking sheet by putting some greaseproof paper on top. Rub the flour and butter together until it has the appearance of breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Tip the crumbs onto the papered tray, and push around a bit until it’s level, but dont press it hard. Bake until golden around the edges (takes about 20 minutes). Leave aside to await its caramelly topping.

Biscuity base

Biscuity base (this also doubles up as a crumble topping, just bake on top of fruit instead of on a tray).

The good stuff (caramel)

  • Can of Evaporated milk (400g I think, also note EVAPORATED, not the other sort)
  • 8oz of butter
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup
  • Vanilla essence

For the caramel, combine all ingredients apart from the vanilla in a pot. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly. When everything has melted together, bring the caramel to a simmer, and stir constantly, for about forty to fifty minutes, until the caramel coats the back of a spoon. You’ll see it start to thicken and look more like caramel. Also, I’m serious about the stirring, CONSTANT STIRRING. Either farm off some of the stirring time to a younger sibling, or bring a book to hold in your other hand…

Caramel on the back of a spoon

The caramel should coat the spoon nice and thickly when you dip it in the pot.

Pour the thick caramel on to the base and let to cool. Get a big glass of milk to drink while you scrape out whatever is left stuck to the pot (sometimes I leave a bit in the pot instead of pouring it all out, and make myself sick trying to eat ALL THE CARAMELS). When the caramel is cool, you can pour melted chocolate on top. I’m going to assume (never assume etc…) that you can melt chocolate, if not ask someone (me or another adult).

Once the chocolate is set, you can cut it into slices, pop it in a lunchbox, and make yourself a workplace hero!