Thursday, 28 April 2016

Chocolate Orange & Sweet Potato Bundt

This chocolate orange bundt cake with sweet potato truly is delicious and light.  Made with a relatively small quantity of refined sugar, the sweet potato adds a little extra sweetness as well as bringing vitamins and minerals to the baked treat.   It really has to be tried to be believed.
    
Chocolate Orange and Sweet potato Bundt Cake

Chocolate and orange is a classic flavour combination that we all know and love.  But sweet potato in a cake?  Surely not?  Well believe me, it really does work.  Rather than being heavy and stodgy as you may imagine a bake with potato to be, this cake is seriously light and packed full of delicious chocolate orange flavour. 

Baking with potatoes
I was first introduced to cakes made with potatoes a few short weeks ago when the lovely Sarah over at Tales From The Kitchen Shed shared her recipe for Chocolate Potato Muffins.  They truly looked and sounded amazing.  Like all of her recipes, her step-by-step instructions made it clear that the muffins were a doddle to make.  That week, before visiting my parents, I made a small batch in the form of mini bundts cakes.  My parents, like Sarah's tasters, certainly couldn't tell that the mixture included mashed potatoes.  As Sarah explains the inclusion of mashed potato in bakes is nothing new, it was widely used during the second world war when traditional baking ingredients were heavily rationed.  She goes onto say that the potato rich batter results in a beautiful bake, which I couldn't agree more with, that stays moist for two or three days when stored in an airtight container.

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Sunday, 24 April 2016

No-Knead Bread

Good things come to those who wait as far as this no-knead loaf of bread is concerned.  The bread is no-fuss to make and requires only a few short minutes of hands on time.  The long prove results in a flavoursome well aerated loaf which is lovely served alongside a salad, as a traditional sandwich or simply toasted.  

No-Knead Bread recipe

For many people, homemade bread is a real treat; a staple which is lovingly handmade filling the home with mouth watering aromas whilst it proves and bakes.  Homemade bread is always tastier and more satisfying than that manufactured using the Chorleywood Bread process which significantly speeds up the whole method and in doing so removes so much of the bread flavour.

This No-Knead Bread recipe really gives bread what it requires for a great tasting loaf - time!  And lots of it, though don't be put off by the length of time required to make this delicious well aerated loaf because the hands on time you need to give it is a mere 10 minutes from start to finish.

No Knead bread

This bread recipe has become an absolutely winner for us because it requires no kneading.  It's perfect for those who dislike the feel of dough against their hands or those who may lack confidence with the kneading process.  It's also great for me given that I've now had to retire my traditional bread making activities because of pain and stresses in my wrist which is aggravated by the repetitive kneading process.  

That is until now.  Homemade bread is now back on the menu!  

How to make no-knead bread

I first came across No-Knead Bread when I watched Paul Hollywood's new TV series, City Bakes on the Food Network channel.  I sat transfixed as the bread baker at Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, East Manhattan,  created loaves without any kneading!  Seriously no kneading!  And it wasn't even a soda bread!  I rewound the recording and watched again, making notes this time of what the baker did.  The baker, Jim, is by all accounts famous in the bread world for coming up with this simple way of making good bread at home. He even helpfully shared the quantities of the white loaf he made with Paul Hollywood!

easy bread recipe

Our version of that recipe includes some wholemeal flour, which not only makes it a little healthier but also introduces even more flavour to the loaf.  Unlike the original no-knead bread recipe, which is baked in a Dutch oven, our loaf is baked in a round cake tin and covered over with a couple of sheets of tinfoil.          

No-Knead Bread

This No-Knead Bread is literally that - it requires no kneading at all.  Once the ingredients are weighed and mixed together (you can use a wooden spoon if you don't want dough over your hands), which takes no more than 5 minutes, the dough is covered and set aside to prove in a cool place to do its thing.   Now I must say here, that 'thing' takes at least 24 hours before it can be shaped and baked!  I know it sounds like an inordinate amount of time but as the old saying goes, 'good things come to those who wait' and you will be rewarded with an amazing loaf of bread which is easy to make, perfect served with salad or a soup, made into a sandwich or simply toasted. 
       
bread with salad

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Friday, 22 April 2016

Side-by-Side Baking, Butter Quality

A side-by-Side Baking experiment looking at how three different butters can affect the flavour and colour of a basic sponge. 

A side by side baking experiment

I'm sure that you've read in many recipe books and food magazines the phrase 'buy the best you can afford'.  It's a phrase used to refer to all manner of ingredients; flour, chocolate, butter, and other general food stuff.  But does more expensive actually mean better quality and flavour?  Or are those extra pennies simply paying for fancy packaging and marketing?  It therefore occurred to me to undertake a little side-by-side baking experiment to look at a commonly used baking ingredient, butter, to try to determine if the extra money spent on a more expensive brand is actually worth it.

Now to be honest, I usually purchase the supermarket's own mid-range unsalted butter for my baking.  Not only is there quite a difference in price compared to branded butters but as my mum said, when she assisted in my taste test, "surely butter is butter", meaning aren't they all the same anyway?  This particular Side-by-Side Baking experiment is designed to, hopefully, help me decide if there is any appreciable difference in a baked product when using a more expensive butter.    

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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Butterfly Buns with White Chocolate Wings

The butterfly bun is a firm favourite at any children's party.  In this version of the classic, I have used giant white chocolate buttons which were liberally coated with sprinkles to replicate the colourful symmetrical wings.

Butterfly Buns

The classic butterfly bun has a special place in my heart.  I fondly recall making these little cupcakes when I was a wee girl with my lovely Mum.  Standing on a chair to help me reach the work bench I'd assist my Mum by positioning the wings into the buttercream before finishing them with a blob of strawberry jam to represent their eyes!

A few months ago I came across a baking blog which had shared a recipe for these beautiful buns.  They looked absolutely delicious, but it fascinated me that she hadn't given her butterflies any eyes ;-)   Having done a little search on the web, it appears that although some dress their decorated butterfly buns with a jam eye, like Mum & I do, the vast majority don't.  It appears that even Mary Berry is in the 'without eye' camp.   To be honest, I rather like my butterfly cakes to have an eye in the form of a small amount of jam positioned next to their wings.   This is the style Mum always showed me and I'm not going to change that.

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Monday, 11 April 2016

Vegetarian Chicken & Leek Pie

Made with a meat substitute,  these creamy individual chicken and leek pies are housed in a hot water crust pastry shell making them a lot quicker and easier to prepare. 
  
Vegetarian Chicken and Leek Pie

Savoury pies are perfect comfort food, being ideal for those early spring days when the weather is still a little chilly.   Mr E and I really enjoy generous deep filled pies served with new potatoes and a mixture of vegetables.
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Sunday, 3 April 2016

Side-by-Side Baking, Tea Flavoured Sponge

Continuing my mini Side-by-Side Baking experiments I explore three different ways of how to make a beautiful tea flavoured sponge.  You may be surprised by the results!

Creating a tea flavoured sponge

Way back in January you may recall I shared a recipe for Russian Caravan cupcakes.  These were generous sized buns which had been infused with my favourite blend of tea, the Russian Caravan.  As I mentioned in the post, I wasn't too sure how to go about encapsulating that wonderful tea flavour into my sponge other than infusing it into some milk.  The vast majority of sites I came across suggested infusing the tea bags into some warm melted butter and then allow it to solidify again before baking.  Although this technique worked well giving a delicate tea flavour, it occurred to me to carry out one of my Side-by-Side Baking experiments to see which method carried the tea flavour in the bake most effectively.

Creating a tea flavoured sponge by infusing in butter, infusing in milk, and simply adding the tea leaves to the batter

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