Category: baking

Baklava

I am so excited to finally write this blog post! As I said last week, baklava has been on my ‘To Bake’ list for a long time and after watching the Great British Bake Off contestants attempt them in the semi final it finally felt like the right time to do it. It also seemed appropriate to do a Middle Eastern themed bake since I am moving to Qatar next month!

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There are lots of variations of baklava depending on the country. Unlike the Bake Off contestants I decided to stick to a more traditional Turkish flavour baklava – pistachio and almond with a syrup infused with cardamom and orange. In Greece, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries ingredients such as walnuts, rose water and cloves are often used.   

I have a confession – I didn’t make the filo pastry because lets face it…ain’t nobody got time for that! Even the queen of baking Mary Berry admits she would never make her own filo now that you can buy good prepared filo in the supermarket. Also if you look in any modern cookery book at recipes requiring filo they will simply say ‘packet of ready-made filo’ in the ingredients list. I would like to try to make my own filo pastry one day but since this was my first experience using it I thought I would take the easy option. If it’s good enough for Mary, it’s good enough for me!


IngredientsIMG_0337

150g shelled pistachios
100g blanched almonds
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp mixed spice
125g unsalted butter
12 sheets filo pastry

For the syrup:
250g caster sugar
125ml runny honey
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
Zest and juice of a lemon
1 tsp orange blossom essence

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • In a food processor, pulse the pistachios and almonds until finely ground. Then add the cinnamon and mixed spice.
  • Melt the butter on a low heat. Meanwhile, lay the sheets of filo on a worktop and cover with a moist towel to prevent the pastry drying out.
  • Lightly brush a rectangular baking tray with butter. Lay the first sheet of filo directly onto the tray and brush liberally with butter.
  • Repeat this process with 3 more sheets of filo. Then spread half of the nut mixture over the pastry.
  • Continue to layer 4 more sheets of filo, buttering between each layer as you go.
  • Add the remaining nut mixture and cover with the remaining 4 layers of filo as before. Brush the top with the remaining butter.
  • Trim the excess pastry from the edges. Cut into vertical strips about 5cm wide and then diagonally about 5cm apart to create the diamond shaped pieces. (These can be made smaller or larger depending on personal preference – mine were big baklava!) Ensure you slice all the way down to the bottom of the tray or they will be hard to separate when baked.
  •  Place the tray on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 170ºC and bake for a further 30 minutes until golden brown.
  • Meanwhile make the syrup. In a large saucepan dissolve the sugar and honey in 250ml water on a low heat. Once dissolved, add the cardamom pods, lemon zest and juice and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for 15mins until it has turned slightly thicker.
  • Strain the syrup and add the orange blossom essence.
  • Remove the baklava from the oven and gradually pour over the syrup. It will take a while for all the syrup to soak in. Once cooled remove the baklava from the tray and enjoy!

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Although there are quite a few steps to this recipe I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was (I’m sure I wouldn’t be saying that if I had made the filo!)

They smelt and tasted so delicious. Not at all modest I know! The tops were slightly crispier than baklava that I have had in the past so if I made these again I might not bake them for as long but the syrup made the the layers perfectly sweet and sticky so this wasn’t a problem.

To make sure that I’m not extremely biased I shared these with my Greek friends who really enjoyed the revani I made a few months ago. They gave me so much positive feedback which was lovely. They keep telling me I’m in the wrong profession. So either they think I’m a really bad engineer or my baking is pretty good…

H xx

Oat & Ginger Cookies

This was a very impromptu Saturday morning bake. I woke up and had my usual breakfast of a cup of earl grey tea and porridge – which I have had almost every morning for the last 2 years without fail! Some people would say that’s boring but I am a porridge addict and proud! Afterwards I decided to have a look at one of my favourite food blogs, the Green Kitchen Stories, for some weekend recipe inspiration when a recipe for Thin Oat & Ginger Crisps caught my eye.

I love flapjack (my oat obsession continues) but unfortunately the traditional recipe contains loads of butter, golden syrup and sugar – not terribly healthy or good for your waist line! But these oat & ginger crisps sounded like a perfect healthier alternative and I was in luck because I already had all of the ingredients in my cupboards. So it was straight to the kitchen!

 Ingredients: 

4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp spelt flour
2 tbsp milk (soy/oat/almond/cow)
100 g rolled oats

1 tsp ground ginger
a drop of vanilla extract

Method:

1.Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.

3. Spoon 8 pieces of the dough onto a baking tray. Use the back of a spoon to flatten them out to whatever thickness you would like (mine were quite thick)

4. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they start to turn darker around the edges.

Note – When warm they will still be soft, but they become crispier as they cool down. Let them cool on the sheet for about a minute.

IMG_0312Yes, that little one in the middle is half eaten…oops

The Green Kitchen Stories recipe has these as ‘crisps’ so they are quite thin, however I decided to make them slightly thicker so they look more like cookies.

The method for these is so simple, it really only takes 5 minutes, so I hadn’t planned on blogging it and didn’t take many pictures. But as soon as I smelt them in the oven I knew I couldn’t not blog about them!

The smell of them in the oven, the warm maple syrupy, gingery and coconuty smell. Oh. my. gosh. If I could only bottle that smell – words cannot describe the smell of my house on Saturday morning. Better than freshly baked bread.

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There’s not much else to say on these little beauties; the smell says it all really. Easy to make, easy to eat!

On another note, it’s the Great British Bake Off final on Wednesday! Eee! I’ve been backing Richard since day one so fingers crossed he wins.

Next weekend I’m going to attempt to make one of my favourite sweet treats which I’ve been wanting to try for a long time so check back next week for a slightly more planned blog post!

Love H Xx

 

Carob & Fig Muffins

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At the beginning of September I went on holiday to Carvoeiro in Portugal. One of my favourite things about Portugal, apart from the beautiful scenery, is the amazing fish dishes. Portugal is not particularly known for it’s traditional deserts or cakes so I wasn’t really expecting to get any baking inspiration while I was there. I suppose the only sweet treat would be the Portuguese custard tart or Pastel de Nata. However, there was one rainy day during the week so we decided to take a drive to a nearby town of Ferragudo where we found an amazing little bakery down a narrow side street. They made all their bread and cakes on site and had quite an amazing range of cakes. I chose to try a carob and fig cake and words cannot describe how amazing it was. It was very moist and sticky from the fig and dense – but in a good way. I am drooling just thinking about it now…If I had known how good it would taste I would have taken a picture before devouring it.

So as soon as I was able to get wifi I started to research fig and carob recipes so that I could try to recreate these amazing cakes. I had heard about carob but knew very little about it. Many people claim that it can be used in baking as a healthy alternative to chocolate because it’s free from caffeine and other stimulants and contains half the fat of cocoa. Personally I don’t think carob is really a substitute for chocolate because it doesn’t taste all that similar but nevertheless it is still delicious in cakes! It is good timing as well since figs season is in full swing and there is a bit of a fig frenzy in food magazines and supermarkets at the moment.

Other than fig and carob I have no idea what the Portuguese lady used to make her dreamy cakes but this was the recipe I decided to try first –

Ingredients:

200g ground rolled oatsIMG_0236
1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
25g carob powder
75g coconut sugar

zest of 1 orange
½ cup milk
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. chia seeds + 6 Tbsp. water

1 cup chopped figs (about 5 figs, reserve 1 for garnish)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Soak the chia seeds in the water and leave to one side until they have formed a gel-like consistency.
  3. Combine the oats, coconut sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, carob powder and salt in a large bowl.
    In a measuring jug combine the wet ingredients – milk, orange zest, applesauce and vanilla extract. Then stir in the chia seed gel.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Then fold in the chopped figs.
  5. Spoon then mixture into paper muffin cases, filling each about 2/3 full. Add a slice of fig on top of each muffin to decorate before placing the muffins in the oven.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on size) until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool on a rack completely before enjoying.

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Now for the taste test. They were very pleasant but unfortunately they did not compare to the Portuguese version. I wish I could go back in time and ask the lady for her recipe. Darn it!

I wasn’t entirely sure how to combine the figs into the mixture; how small to chop the figs, if I should leave the skin on or if I should only use the flesh. I opted for small chunks but I think I used too many as it made the batter quite wet resulting in a longer bake and dried out the tops of the muffins. Nobody likes a dry muffin top!

I’m sure this recipe is a more healthy version than the original as I can’t imagine chia seeds and applesauce were used in the traditional Portuguese bakery . They were also more grainy, which I should have expected given I was using ground oats, and I suspect a regular flour was used.

Alas, my quest continues! If I master the fig & carob cake I will be sure to post the recipe on here. But I look forward to experimenting with carob in other recipes.

H Xx

Mini Courgette Cakes

Carrot cake is a common coffee shop favourite up and down the U.K. Everyone seems to have accepted that carrots can be enjoyed in cake form. And yet when I mention courgette cake I often get some funny looks. But why should it be any different? It’s just another root vegetable after all. 

My family have been enjoying courgette cake for a few years now so this is a tried and tested, fool proof recipe! However in the past I have always made it in a bunt tin and this weekend I decided to use a new mini sandwich tin with individual loose bottoms. 

 
Ingredients 
150ml vegetable oil
250g self raising flour
50g  pistachios, roughly chopped plus extra for decoration
3 eggs
175g caster sugar
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
225g courgette, grated
125g icing sugar
 
Method 
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease the tin well (very important) and lightly dust with flour – tap out the excess. 
2. Chop the pistachios or pulse in a food processor and grate the courgettes. 
3. Whisk oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together in a large bowl. Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and stir well to combine. Finally, add the grated courgette and pistachios. 
4. Spoon the mixture into the individual tin moulds and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. 
I filled the moulds to the very top so when they were baked it created cakes with domed tops, similar to muffins. If I was to make mini Victoria sponges, or cakes which traditionally have a flatter top, then I would only half fill the moulds. 
5. Once cooled remove the cakes from the tin. Then drizzle icing over each cake and sprinkle with chopped pistachios while the icing is still wet. 
 

I have been thinking about what other root vegetables could be incorporated into baking. Obviously ginger cake is another common flavour and beetroot goes really well in chocolate brownies. I wonder what sweet potato or parsnip would taste like in a cake? Maybe that’s one for a future experimental bake!

On another note, The Great British Bake off has started again – my TV highlight of the year! Crazy to think I almost applied to be on this season. After the first episode I’ve decided that Richard is my favourite, I think he is going to do very well! I’m hoping I’ll get some inspiration from the Bake Off for some future bakes so stay tuned!

Hannah xx

Grandmas Bread: American baking

I’m back! I didn’t have a lot of time to bake in July as I was on holiday in America for two weeks. However being on holiday didn’t stop me from baking! 

My Grandma who lives in America makes the best bread I have ever tasted. The recipe was passed down from her Grandma and is incomparable to any other bread, it’s just mouth wateringly delicious and I was desperate to be able to recreate it for myself! 

For Christmas she put together a hamper of all the ingredients I needed to make her special bread, known as Grandmas Bread. Bread is renowned for being very difficult to master and my first attempt didn’t go very well; I ended up with two bricks – rock solid. My error was that I had killed the yeast by using water that was too hot so it didn’t rise during proving. So she kindly offered to give me a master class in Grandmas bread baking while I was visiting. 

She made it look so simple. So I decided to try it again on my own, while the master class was still fresh in my mind. I’m pleased to say that this time was significantly better and the bread was actually edible, which is always a good sign when baking! I didn’t kill the yeast so the dough more than doubled in size. 

It still isn’t perfect because it didn’t rise over the top of the bread pans as it should. I think this might be because I didn’t wait for the yeast to activate for quite long enough. Also the room temperature and humidity has a big impact on bread. My Grandmas kitchen has air conditioning but obviously in England that is rarely needed. Although at the moment the weather has been unexpectedly warm and so I was baking with the door open, who knows what impact that will have had! 

This is what the perfect loaf of Grandmas bread should look like…













And this was my attempt…












Mine doesn’t have the same curl over the top – No muffin top. But bread will not defeat me!

 Hopefully third time lucky! Until then I will enjoy it with some peach jam. 

Xx