31 Oct 2012

Coffee, Walnut and Raisin Cake - Recipe

I've always enjoyed coffee and walnut cake, and this recipe by Tana Ramsay from her book I Love to Bake! is perfect.  I particularly liked the addition of raisins and used huge plump raisins. It's best to dust the raisins with flour before stirring into the cake otherwise they may well sink to the bottom, which is exactly what happened to me.  I turned my cake over, and now the raisins are at the top of the cake, and I then happily slathered over the buttercream and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. I wasn't too sure about the coffee, walnut, raisin combo before I made the cake, but it works beautifully.

The cake doesn't need dressing up with a circle of neatly placed walnut halves, a scattering of walnut pieces is the way to go.  After all, the best dressed cake doesn't necessarily mean the cake is a winner.

Fortunately, not an overly sweet cake because the coffee butter cream is only on top, it is best not to be  tempted to cut it in half.  I used half the amount of butter cream suggested in the original recipe and found it was ample, and light brown sugar instead of caster sugar in the recipe, to give the cake more depth of flavour.

I've eaten the good, the bad and the disappointing coffee and walnut cake in coffee shops - this is the perfect coffee shop cake, it is moist, has a tender crumb, not too much topping and keeps well too. I cut mine into slices and popped it into the freezer and then kept going back to the freezer and taking out another slice, it is that good!  Hubby thought this was a great cake too, he isn't very keen on cakes buried beneath a mound of sweet buttercream, and he said the cake/buttercream ratio I used was perfect for him. Phew!

Many of the bakes in I Love to Bake! are cooked at 200ºC or 220ºC which is something to be aware of - the suggested temperature for this cake is 200ºC and the timing is 35 minutes - if I cooked a deep cake at this temperature my cake would burn, peak and the batter would be a horrible volcanic mass.  A few years ago I went on a Patisserie Course at the local college and they cooked everything, including cakes, at almost maximum temperatures. A Victoria Sandwich at college in commercial grade ovens cooked in 10 minutes!

Adapted recipe.

You will need:  a 20cm round cake tin 5cm deep (I used a springform tin), greased , floured and base lined with parchment paper.

For the sponge:

175g softened butter, 175g light brown sugar, 3 large eggs beaten, 3 tbsp room temperature milk, 175g sifted self-raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water, 80g walnut pieces chopped, 60g plump raisins dusted in flour.

1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC.
2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and milk gradually whilst continuing to beat. Sift the flour and baking powder over and fold into the mixture. Stir in the dissolved coffee granules.
3. Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. If it isn't cooked through cover with foil and pop back in the oven for 10 minutes or until cooked. Cool the baked cake for 5 minutes, turn out onto a cooling rack.

For the topping you will need:

125g softened unsalted butter, 150g sifted icing sugar, 4 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water(cooled a little), 30g chopped walnuts.

1. Place the butter into a bowl and beat until soft, add the sifted icing sugar and the dissolved coffee granules. Beat with a mixer for 5/10 minutes until light and fluffy.
2. Spread the butter cream over the top of the cake and decorate with the chopped walnut pieces.

26 Oct 2012

Slow Cooker Recipe: Lamb Cooked in Red Wine

Slow cooker love - simply take a half shoulder of lamb or a leg of lamb joint and brown in a large frying pan.  Add to the slow cooker.  Throw a few quartered red onions into the slow cooker, and you needn't even peel them, because you will be straining all those fabulous slow cooker juices afterwards.  Add a few cloves of crushed garlic, bay leaves, sprigs of thyme and rosemary.  This is herb love too - my pots of herbs have been very kind to me and seemed to thrive on a poor summer, well - it's good to know some things like poor summers.

Deglaze the frying pan with red wine, I used Shiraz but any full bodied red wine is ideal, bring to the boil and add to the lamb. Season with freshly ground salt and pepper.  Cook on high for 5 hours or until falling off the bone, this way you don't need to use any butchery skills but can use two spoons to pull the lamb apart into reasonably sized pieces.  Strain the slow cooker juices over a saucepan, add some redcurrant jelly to sweeten and thicken with a a few instant thickening granules, which are available from most supermarkets.

No photograph of the cooked lamb, because it never looks very photogenic when cooked, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for with taste, it is so delicious.  You can use lamb shanks and these are equally delicious.

9 Oct 2012

Chocolate and Pecan Muffins

These muffins are full of chocolatey goodness, they have a great pecan and chocolate crumble topping, but the plain chocolate sponge needs something extra. I wish I had read 'Sweet Surprises' at the end of the recipe, it says to add chopped chocolate, sour cherries or cranberries to the muffin mix, I think raspberries would be good too.

The microwave comes in very handy for refreshing and warming muffins, and I am going to serve mine for dessert topped with a scoop of ice cream.  Or, Gu suggest making their ganache, and serving this as a warm dip for the muffins, this sounds delicious too.

A selection of recipes from the new GU Chocolate Cookbook including these chocolate and pecan muffins, were featured in You Magazine last Sunday and details can be found on the Mail Online website.

This week is Chocolate Week and National Baking Week is 15th to 21st October - I have no idea which 'week' it is after that - I'm looking forward to National Tart Week.......

1 Oct 2012

Apple Muffins

Annie Bell writes for You Magazine which is part of the Sunday Mail.  The first thing I do is to go to the back of the magazine and look for her recipes, the food styling is always wonderful too.  I have always liked Annie Bell, her recipes work, they are always straightforward and her books never disappoint.  I was really pleased to find out that she has a new book coming out this month - Annie Bell's Baking Bible.

Raisins are mixed into the muffin batter and the apples used are Cox's. I gave the recipe my own twist by using Cawston Press Still Apple and Ginger Juice instead of the apple juice suggested in the original recipe,  the apple and ginger came through perfectly.  A sprinkle of demerara sugar gives a crunchy topping. I find Lakeland muffin cases stay white after cooking, whereas some makes look greasy after a batch of muffins have been made.

I hope you will have a go at making these delicious muffins and any that are left over should freeze perfectly.  To warm through, simply pop into the microwave.