Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Blood orange drizzle cake

It doesn’t get much more humiliating than having your last post be festive themed… Trees are blossoming and British men are shorts-clad in 10-degree weather. Then there I am, blogging an out of season drizzle cake. 
Cakes that require baking in rectangular tins get my vote. They can be iced, without all the fuss of splitting, straightening, filling, crumb coating and sweating. This is the sort of baking I want to do in the middle of the night because I'll wake up to a cooled cake which I can slice up and toast. It also requires just the right amount of elbow grease… i.e. not much at all. 

Blood oranges are tangier than your regular variety, adding their fresh juice to icing sugar makes for an addicting tangy topping. The sponge will taste as if it is an orange cake (a moist one at that, thanks to the ground almonds) but the flecks of blood orange zest are worth the change of fruit. 
Blood orange drizzle cake

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened 
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 blood oranges
  • 3 eggs
  • 75g ground almonds 
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder 

For the syrup 
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar 

For the icing 
  • 250g icing sugar 
  • Juice of 1 orange

This cake works well with 2 fat lemons or ordinary oranges. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Grease and line a 1 lb/500g loaf tin. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric whisk (or freestanding mixer) until pale and doubled in volume. Grate in the zest of the oranges and set them aside for the toppings. Add the eggs one by one, mixing after each addition until well combined. Pour in the almonds, flour and baking paper and mix until just combined, and then fold the mixture using a spatula until there are no white streaks.  Bake for 45/50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  2. Whilst the cake is baking make the syrup. Pour 1 tbsp boiling water over the sugar  and stir until the sugar dissolves, then add the orange juice. While the cake is still hot, poke holes in several places and carefully pour the syrup evenly over it, then leave to cool.
  3. Add 2 tbsp orange juice to the icing and stir vigorously, then slowly add a drop at a time, until you have a thick, pourable consistency (you may not need the whole orange). Pour the icing over the cooled loaf, garnish with sliced oranges then leave to set and serve immediately. 
  4. I hope my lack of posting doesn't deter you from swinging by, because I’m still baking like a maniac and feeling the need to share it. 

Love Em xx

Friday, 19 December 2014

Mincemeat and frangipane tart

As we get older, do our sweet-buds start appreciating the finer desserts in life, do we prefer treacle steamed pudding to whipped cream covered microwave brownie with toffee sauce? I’m 22 today and I cannot be bothered for birthday cake. Steamed pudding or mince pie tart? Pass it over. 

A couple of months ago I was kindly asked by the delicious. magazine team if I’d like to take part in their 2014 mince pie challenge. Of course I said yes, but not without crapping my pants a little. Richard Bertinet, Rebecca Smith – delicious.’ very own food editor and the managing director of The Guild Of Fine Food were to judge my clumsy baking? Have. A. Laugh. 

This Blogger was up against The Chef and The Gran. Gran’s mince pies deservedly came up trumps and won the judges over with her dreamily flaky pastry and suet studded mincemeat. To be honest, never trust a gran who can’t make a winning mince pie. 
I’m sharing the mincemeat recipe I used for my pies on here today, but these Almond Mince Pies are the ones I took with me to the challenge. 

I admit it is too late to start giving this mincemeat monthly feeds, but if you have any mincemeat knocking around, you could spread a layer of frangipane under a pastry shell and top it with mincemeat, so that all the juices from the mincemeat sink in to the un-toasted, slightly unflavoured ground almonds. As the mincemeat is cooked twice, you only really need to feed it if you can taste the difference between fresh and matured cognac (Side note: I cant). 

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas, and if I don’t see you before 2015, thank you all for stopping by and reading/making the recipes – you're all amazing!
Mincemeat and frangipane tart


For the pastry
440g plain flour
75g caster sugar
35g ground almonds
Pinch sea salt
220g unsalted butter
1 egg + 1 egg separated 
1 tsp almond extract

I used a 20cm deep tart tin, but the pastry in this recipes caters up to a 23cm tart tin of any depth. 

For the frangipane
60g unsalted butter, softened
50g ground almonds
50g caster sugar
1 egg 
2 tsp plain flour 
1/8 tsp vanilla extract 
Pinch of sea salt

For the mincemeat
550g of your favourite mincemeat or...
340g sultanas
250g raisins
140g currants
50g dried cranberries, finely chopped 
250g / 3 Pink Lady apples, peeled and cubed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 2 oranges, juice of 3
300g dark muscovado sugar 
1 ball stem ginger, finely chopped
3 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp cloves 
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp all spice
Pinch of sea salt
90g shredded suet
90g unsalted butter, melted
150g flaked almonds, toasted 
160ml Grand Marnier, or ordinary cognac

Generously serves 10


For the mincemeat, stir the dried fruit together in a large bowl. Dice the apples and add them to the bowl, grate over the lemon zest, squeeze in the juice and stir to coat the fruit.  Next add the orange zest and juice, sugar, spices, peel, salt and fat then stir until everything is evenly coated. If using ordinary cognac, add the zest of the 3rd orange.  Carefully fold through the almonds. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm spot overnight, stirring occasionally to agitate the flavours. 

Preheat oven to 110°C/90°C Fan. Transfer the mincemeat to a baking tray, cover the top with foil and bake for 2 hours. Set aside to cool slightly, and then stir in the alcohol. Lastly, transfer to sealable sterilised jars. The mincemeat will last for 2 years if stored in a cool and dark place, feed it with about 1 tbsp of brandy every couple of months for an added kick. The flavours improve a little over time, so these are perfect for a last minute mince pie knock-up.

For the pastry, place the flour, ground almonds and sugar in a food processor and blitz for 10 seconds to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse 3 to 4 times until rough breadcrumbs form. Put the processor on a slow blitz and pour in 1 egg, water and almond extract, as soon as a ball of dough takes shape, stop the mixer. If the mixture feels dry add a tbsp extra water. Pat the dough into two discs, making sure one is two thirds bigger than the other and wrap with clingfilm. Refrigerate until chilled, around 30 minutes. 

Prepare the frangipane. In a freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment (or with a bowl and spoom spoon), cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add ground almonds and mix for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, add the egg, then the flour and salt. Set aside. 

Remove the larger piece of dough from the fridge. Sprinkle a light film of flour over a work surface and roll the chilled dough to the thickness of a £1 coin, large enough to cover the inside of the tart tin. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and carefully unfold it into the tin. Brush the base of the pastry with some of the separated egg white, just enough to create a seal. Use a spoon or spatula to spread the frangipane across the bottom of the shell, then carefully dollop the mincemeat on top of the frangipane. Fill it up as far as you can, if you’re using a wet mincemeat, use a little less to prevent leakage. 

Take the remaining dough out of the fridge and roll as before, large enough to cover the top of the tart and to the thickness of a £1 coin. This time, press a star cutter where the centre of the tart is, and then roll the dough over the pastry shell. Trim the edges and seal the sides. Use the remaining dough to cut extra star shapes and place them around the centre of the star. 

Pop the tart in the freezer for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C Fan. Lightly brush the top with the egg yolk. Bake for 45/50 minutes, until the top is a light golden brown. Cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly.  Leave the tart to cool on a wire rack and then sprinkle with a generous dusting of icing sugar. Lasts for 3 days if kept covered. 

Love Em xx

Monday, 8 December 2014

Yeasted Almond and Sea Salt Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie

Inside our flat there is a seven-foot tree held in position by the ceiling. This year we chose a sparing selection of fancy shmancy £4-a-pop John Lewis decorations instead of 100 glittery baubles from the Pound Land.  The tree is leaning slightly to the left, but I suppose that’s what happens when you invest in something real. 

Baking cookies in a cake tin won’t add a touch of all spice to a Christmas baking repertoire, but it does add a barely cooked doughy middle to the modest sized batch this recipe yields. I think that adding some ground cloves or cinnamon, or a warming combination of both elevated with some fresh nutmeg, could work beautifully, especially if you’re finally in the festive spirit (festive spirit = continuous spice trip in the month of December). Let’s not forget that cookies are a bribe the kids might use on Santa so he doesn’t disappoint them with a lump of coal.  Not to be ageist, but the heaps of sea salt, whole nuts and bitter chocolate in this cookie tray bake are all adultly ingredients too.
My favourite recipe for chocolate chip cookies is the New York Times adaptation of Jacques Torres’ recipe, which is made with bread flour. Since discovering it, all of my cookies have had bread flour in them because it gives a chew, and a slight sturdiness on the outside that is difficult to forget. 

To amplify the bread-like flavour I used yeast as the raising agent and chilled the tray overnight, maturing the fermentation like this created a surprisingly subtle yeastiness. Bicarbonate of soda is fine to use as a replacement, but I’m sick of accidentally adding too much bicarbonate and ending up with a batch of soapy baked goods. Using fast acting yeast eliminates all possibilities of that, and it creates a crispy and crackly top layer caused from the swollen air pockets that rise to the top of the cookie overnight. Yeast and bicarbonate of soda both produce carbon dioxide that helps the cookie rise in the oven, but I much prefer the characteristics of bread in my cookies instead of, say, Imperial Leather.
Yeasted Almond and Sea Salt Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie

125g unsalted butter
125g light brown sugar
2 pinches sea salt
1 tsp coffee extract or brewed coffee
1 egg
200g strong bread flour
½ tsp fast action yeast
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
50g almonds, whole and roughly chopped

Serves 8 large pieces, or 16 slithers.

In a small saucepan melt the butter on medium heat. Let the butter sizzle in the pan for a few minutes. Keep an eye on it as it burns really quickly, you’ll know it’s browned when it starts to smell nutty. Pour the butter into a bowl and leave to cool slightly. Add the sugar, salt and coffee extract to the brown butter and stir to combine. Crack in the egg and briefly whisk. In a separate bowl stir together the flour and yeast and add to the butter mixture, mix until the flour is well combined, the mixture will be a little wet. Fold through the chocolate and almonds. Dump the dough into an 8-inch round cake tin and use the back of a spoon to press evenly into the tin. Tightly wrap the tin in cling film and leave in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 200 C and bake for 18 minutes, or 14 minutes for a squidgier centre.

Cookie lasts for three days if kept covered.

Waitrose might have nailed gingerbread this Christmas, but they also have a lovely collection of chocolate cake recipes on their website. I made their ganache covered red-velvet-like layer cake and filled it with tangy freeze-dried strawberries, which was dense and hit all the right choco-spots. You can find the recipe here, along with lots more chocolatey goodness.

Love Em xx

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Pistachio & Chocolate Biscotti + A Giveaway

mbakes turned three last month! We’re nearly out of the annoying toddler stage and hopefully; the recipes aren’t as clumsy anymore. Pair the diabolical explosions of sugar I used to post back in ’12 + 13 with my nighttime flash photography, and it makes me want to cry and murder every cupcake on the planet. 
Aaaaand then there’s Jane Hornby, she’s been writing recipes professionally for 15 years and her new baking book What To Bake & How To Bake It came out recently. If you have years of recipe writing under your belt and a whole book containing mostly quintessentially British recipes within, that’s enough to draw me in. The glorious book might be aimed at the amateur baker, but there's no harm in adding a collection of stable recipes to your collection (15 years = stable recipes, okay?). WTB&HTBI felt genuine, much more so than a book by a celebrity chef, whose home economist likely thought up/tested the recipes and then stuck a coy image of said celeb chef on the front cover to push the sale of copies, isn’t that annoying? 

What’s the USP, I hear you ask? (You’re not asking this), it might be the photography, which kind of reminds me of Ikea. Each recipe (there’s 50 of them, including pumpkin pie and JAFFA marble cake) comes with beautiful overhead step-by-step photographs from start to finish.  This recipe for pistachio chocolate chip biscotti is an adaptation from the pistachio and fig version in the book, every recipe in here is meant to be simple, so I chose the simplest of the lot, to see how good Jane’s ‘simple’ was, and my oh my, Jane’s simple is simply delicious, crunchy and not at all eggy. 
To celebrate three years, Phaidon have kindly offered two copies of What To Bake & How To Bake It for me to giveaway. To enter, follow the instructions on the rafflecopter below. You can only enter if you live in the UK, don’t hate me!
Pistachio & Chocolate Biscotti


2 tbsp melted butter
100g shelled pistachios 
100g dark chocolate chips
200g unrefined caster sugar 
3 eggs
300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting and rolling 
1 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp salt 
Zest from 1 orange 


Grease and line a large baking tray with baking parchment. Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F. 

Put the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and whisk for one minute, until the mixture is frothy and paler than when you started out. Whisk in the butter. 

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and add them to the eggs. Use a spatula to fold together to make a dough. Add the zest, nuts and chocolate and stir into the dough using the spatula. 

Scatter a generous amount of flour on the work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Split the dough in two and dust each one with more flour. Shape and lightly pat each piece into an 8-10 inch sausage, taking care not to overwork. Gently lift each piece onto the baking tray, bake for 30 minutes then leave to cool on a wire rack and reduce the oven to 160 C / 320 F.

Use a serrated knife to slice into 1cm pieces, then spread the cookies on the lined baking tray and bake for another 30 minutes, turning them over half way through so both sides are golden. Cool the biscotti on a rack, or eat warm, they'll last for 2 weeks in a cookie jar.
Love Em xx

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Chocolate Meringue Cake

Okay, I underestimated the ‘working blogger’ and I overestimated my capabilities as a human being, it seems I was born lazy.  
Mum and I have been scrolling through range cookers from Argos, to replace our clumsy, tepid oven. Ours is a baker’s nightmare - it’s so inaccurate that even oven thermometers are confused by it. Sponge cakes come out with domed tops or they barely rise, and beating butter and sugar until the mixer's on the verge of combustion or a new bag of flour doesn’t always work. Most of the layered cakes on here were lucky escapes (face palm). 

Homemade meringue has always made me feel a bit uneasy because it always comes out just a bit too eggy to stomach. But last week I had a thought, what if I add meringue on top of a cake, purposefully over-baking it by baking the meringue for as long as the dense chocolate cake that will be at the bottom? Perhaps the secret to abolishing the raw egg aftertaste was to over-bake it. It seems, my incompetent oven could finally be put to good use.

By the time the cake is such that a skewer inserted won't be all gooey from the mucus of an egg, you’re left with a crunchy and weightless meringue topping. There’s nothing marshmallow-y about this one, but if that’s what you’re after (and I’m not judging) top the cake with meringue 20 minutes in to the cake’s baking time. 
Chocolate Meringue Cake


Chocolate cake
200g dark chocolate
300g unsalted butter, softened
300g light brown sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp coffee extract
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

Chocolate swirl meringue
4 egg whites
225g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
30g cocoa powder

Cream filling
300ml cream
Pinch of salt
Cream of tarter
A few pomegranate seeds

Lasts for three days if covered. 


Preheat the oven to 180 C and line two 6” round cake tins with baking paper.

Start by whisking the egg whites until froth appears, then slowly add in the sugar whilst whisking. Keep whisking until white and glossy, then add the cornflour and mix to combine. Spoon two heaped tablespoons into a small bowl and sift over the cocoa, then whisk vigourously to combine – don’t worry if the mixture deflates. Set both bowls aside and make the cakes.

Melt dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water and set aside to cool. Cream the butter and sugar with a whisk or beater until a light shade of yellow. Whilst beating, slowly pour in the eggs. If the mixture curdles add a tablespoon of the flour, then add the rest of the eggs. Fold in the dry ingredients and equally divide the mixture among the pans. Pour in the melted chocolate and stir through until there are no white streaks. Spoon the white meringue over the tops of each raw cake, using the spoon to roughly level the tops. Spoon small blobs of the chocolate meringue all over then take a cocktail stick and swirl both meringues together.

Bake for 40/50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle is a little damp. The tops will crack in the middle as they bake and then collapse slightly when cooling. Whip the cream with the salt and tartar until soft peaks, and then sandwich the cakes together with the cream and pomegranate seeds.

I was contacted by Argos to talk ovens. I grew up with this brand, and we use them to buy many, many things (thank god for the store card). 

Love Em 
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