Sticky Toffee Cupcakes


The inspiration for this recipe comes from the classic desert, sticky toffee pudding. The sponge is very similar to the sticky toffee pudding sponge with dates and the buttercream is flavoured with an indulgent dulce de leche sauce. 

My family have been making these cupcakes for a few years and I would say they are our show-stopping, signature bake! These are perfect to make for special occasions because while being relatively simple, they have a big impact. Since my friend (and colleague) is returning to the office this week after 6 months away, I obviously had to bake these as a welcome back present! 

This recipe may appear to require a lot of ingredients but the majority of these are cupboard staples which any keen baker is likely to stock, such as flour, bicarbonate of soda and icing sugar. In fact the only ingredients I had to buy specifically for this bake were the dates and light muscovado sugar (as we had run out) so it was a very cheap bake.
  


Ingredients 
180g pitted medjool dates, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
180g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
80g unsalted butter, softened 
150g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs

For the buttercream:
160g salted butter, softened
200g icing sugar
4 tbsp dulce de leche 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1/2 tsp salt 

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases. 
2. Soak the dates in 180ml boiling water for 20 minutes. While soaking, gently break up the dates with a fork and stir in the vanilla extract. 
3. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and set aside. 
4. Cream together the butter and muscovado sugar for around 5 minutes until light and fluffy. 
5. Add the eggs gradually, beating between each addition, combined with a tablespoon of flour, to prevent curdling. Then add the remaining flour and the date mixture. 
6. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake for 15-20 minutes.

7. While the cakes are cooling make the buttercream. Cream the salted butter and icing sugar for 5 minutes. Then add the dulce de leche, salt and vanilla extract.
8. Scoop the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a star shaped nozzle and pipe onto each cupcake. 
 
 
Note to all the health conscious bakers out there – these are definitely not fat free (not by a long way!) but everyone needs an indulgent treat every now and again and these are worth the calories, I promise! 
 
I haven’t used buttercream for a long time (I usually use cream cheese icing) and I had forgotten how much easier it is to work with. I much prefer the taste of cream cheese frosting however it’s susceptible to becoming runny when not kept in the fridge. This is a particular problem at this time of year (it was 26 degrees this weekend and it felt even warmer in our kitchen with a massive AGA still on!) Buttercream, on the other hand, sets much firmer – which is surprising given that it has a high butter content! 
 
View from above
 
 
Hannah xx



Banana Soufflé


I didn’t have a lot of time for baking this weekend but there has been one technical bake which I have been wanting to try since I ordered one at my birthday dinner, back in April. That is a sweet soufflé. Soufflés have an unfounded reputation for being difficult to make. However they are relatively quick to make and use everyday fridge/cupboard ingredients. The key to a light and fluffy soufflé is to gently (but firmly) fold the egg whites into the other ingredients to keep as much air in the mixture as possible. 

Ingredients 
1 banana 
2 egg whites
55g caster sugar
butter, for greasing
icing sugar, for dusting

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.
2. Mash the banana to a smooth purée. 
3. Grease ramekin dishes with butter and dust with icing sugar.
4. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks
5. Gradually add the sugar and continue whisking until the mixture is thick enough to hold over your head! (But if you aren’t that brave it should be thick enough to leave a ribbon trail when the whisk is lifted)
6. Carefully fold in the banana purée in two stages, be careful not to over mix or the egg whites will turn watery

7. Fill the ramekins with the mixture. Run your thumb around the rim of the dishes to allow the mixture to rise evenly and prevent it from getting caught on the sides. 
8. Place the ramekins onto the hot baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, until the soufflés have risen by approximately 1 inch. Do not open the oven door during baking or they will sink.
9. Serve soufflés immediately with a dusting of icing sugar. 

As long as you follow a few simple rules, there is absolutely nothing difficult about making a soufflé  – but they appear very impressive.  Soufflés don’t feature on restaurant menus very often because they have to be made to order and served instantly. But I think this just makes them more special and impressive. How often do you see brownies and sticky toffee pudding on the desert menu? 

Despite being slightly temperamental, in many ways soufflés they are very versatile because they can be pretty much any flavour you desire, sweet or savoury, and as such could be served as a starter or desert. In the future I would like to experiment with savoury soufflés. 

Hannah xx 


Revani

 

I loved my family summer holidays when I was growing up. For many years we went to Greece and I have really happy memories from these holidays – we all learnt to waterski, I began scuba diving and we experienced a large earthquake! Greece is such a beautiful country, with some amazing food. So this week I decided to make a Greek cake called Revani. This is a moist and delicious semolina cake flavoured with orange and sweetened with a syrup flavoured with lemon and vanilla pods. 
 
To make the cake you will need to following ingredients:
 
 
5 eggs, separated 
100g caster sugar
50g plain sugar
100g  semolina
pinch of salt
1 orange, zest
50g unsalted butter, melted
50g no-peel marmalade 
 
For the syrup:
250g caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 lemon, zest
vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
 
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 24cm spring form cake tin and line the sides and base with baking parchment. 
2. Beat the egg yolks and caster sugar in a mixer until light and creamy. While the machine is running on a low speed, add the flour & semolina followed by the salt, orange zest, melted butter and marmalade. Beat until smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks and gently fold into the batter in 3 additions being careful not to knock the air out. 
4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. 
5. While the cake is in the oven, prepare the syrup – put all of the ingredients, including the vanilla pods, in a small saucepan with 300 ml water and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and summer gently for 10 mins. The syrup will thicken slightly but won’t be very thick. Leave to cool slightly. 

 

6. While the cake is still warm and in its tin, cut into triangles. Strain the syrup, removing the vanilla pods, and slowly pour over the cake. 
7. Leave to cool and serve with Greek yoghurt and chopped pistachios. 

The photos do not do this cake justice at all! It was beautifully moist and sticky from the sweet syrup with a subtle orange flavour from the cake. I loved the texture of the semolina, it’s so different to a fluffy flour cake. It’s amazing how smells or tastes can remind you of happy memories. I’m positive they served this desert in the hotel restaurant all those years ago because the taste was very familiar and immediately transported me back to my Greek holidays.

 
I asked two of my Greek friends if they would like to try it and give me their opinion, since they know what real Greek Revani should taste like. I was a little nervous but they loved it and said it was exactly how it should be! So it was a successful first attempt at Greek baking – my next challenge will be to make baklava. 
 
Hannah xx

Earl Grey & Cardamom Tea Loaves

There is nothing I love more than baking recipes with unusual ingredients to surprise people. So when I found a recipe which combines my love for tea and a spice commonly found in Asian dishes I knew I was onto a winner. 

To look at, these mini loaves appear very simple and could be an ordinary sponge cake. But then you’re hit with the most amazing aroma of cardamom which makes your mouth water; that’s when you know these are much more than a just an ordinary cake. 

This recipe is taken from Pippa Middleton’s food column in the March 2014 edition of the Waitrose Kitchen magazine. I have to say, up until now, I haven’t been hugely impressed by Pippa’s column but this recipe makes up for it!


Ingredients:
100ml whole milk
1 tbsp loose leaf Earl Grey tea
8 Cardamom pods
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g light brown soft sugar
3 eggs
175g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder 

For decoration:
Pinch loose leaf Earl Grey tea
110g icing sugar
Rose petals (optional)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat the milk and tea in a pan until steaming. 
2. Meanwhile split open the cardamom pods. Crush the seeds in a pestle and mortar, discard the pods.
3. Take the milk off the heat, add the cardamom and set aside for 20 minutes.
4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes using an electric beater, until pale and fluffy. One at a time, beat in the eggs.
5. Strain the infused milk into the creamed butter mix and beat in well. 
6. Mix the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt together and then fold into the wet mixture until combined. 
7. Divide between 8 mini loaf cases and place on a baking tray. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 


8. Leave to cool on a wire rack before icing. 
9. To decorate, steep the tea in 1 1/2 tbsp. boiling water for 10 minutes, then strain and mix into the icing sugar. 
10. Pipe the icing over each loaf
11. Serve to friends or family who have been salivating over the smell in the kitchen for the past hour!



I decided to take these into work for my colleagues to sample, as I often do (much to the disappointment of my family!) Rather than tell them what flavour they were, I decided to make it more interesting by asking them to guess. It was great fun for me listening to them um and ah over what it could be. I didn’t think it would be too difficult as cardamom has a very distinctive smell and taste and quite a few of my colleagues have Middle Eastern or Asian heritage. However it took quite a while before anyone guessed correctly. Two people guessed ginger and one person guessed pistachio but eventually two of the guys guessed correctly. It definitely brightened the mood in the office on a rainy Monday morning. 


Hannah xx


Classic Lemon Tart

I think there is only one food that I really don’t like. Well, one common everyday food that is- not including strange things like snails! Lemons. I’ve always thought they tasted like washing up liquid – Lemonade, lemon sweets and lemon cakes. However my family do not share my dislike. In fact, lemon tart is one of my Dad’s favourite deserts and he often orders it when we go out for dinner. 

I haven’t had a lot of experience making tarts so this weekend I thought I would try a ‘technical bake’ (to quote the Great British Bake Off!) and treat my Dad at the same time; Fathers Day is only a few weeks away after all!  

This week was also quite exciting as my parents’ kitchen is in the process of undergoing a refurbishment. So far the hob, sink and work surfaces have all been changed (as you may be able to tell from comparing the pictures in this blog with previous weeks) and it looks amazing. 

This recipe is taken from a baking book my Grandpa bought for me recently called Cake O’Clock by Good Housekeeping.  

Ingredients 
For the sweet shortcrust pastry – 
150g plain flour
75g unsalted butter
50g icing sugar
2 large egg yolks

For the filling –
1 large egg, plus 4 large yolks
150g caster sugar
grated zest of 4 lemons
150ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
150ml double cream

Method
1. Make the pastry by combining the flour and icing sugar and then rubbing in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then add the egg yolks and a drop of water (if necessary) to bring the mixture together until it holds. 
2. Knead the dough lightly to form a ball and wrap tightly in cling film. Then chill for 30 minutes.
3. Grease and flour a deep, loose-based flan tin. 
4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured worksurface into a circle large enough to line the tin (including the sides) and then carefully transfer the pastry to the tin. Perform any surgery patch ups and trim the excess.
5. Prick the base with a fork and chill for a further 30 minutes. 
6. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Bake the pastry case blind (using baking parchment and baking beans) for 15-20 minutes before removing the parchment and baking for a further 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Reduce from the oven and reduce the temperature to 170 degrees. 
 

7. Meanwhile, to make the filling put the whole egg, egg yolks and caster sugar into a bowl and beat together until smooth. Then carefully stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice and cream.
8. Ladle 3/4 of the filling into the pastry case. Then position the tin on the oven shelf and ladle in the remainder of the filling. 
9. Bake for 30 minutes until the filling bounces back when touched lightly in the centre. 
10. Cool for 30 minutes to serve warm or cool completely and chill. 
11. Serve with a big dollop of clotted cream and a dusting of icing sugar!

Despite my lifelong dislike for all things lemony, I had to try a tiny slice for my baking development. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve been converted, the lemony flavour was very nice – not at all like washing up liquid! The pastry was cooked perfectly if I do say so myself, no soggy bottoms, and the lemon filling set perfectly. 

I was very pleased with my first technical bake – I think Mary and Paul would be impressed and there were certainly no complaints from my family who wolfed it down within 24 hours! 

Until next week,
Hannah xx