Red Velvet Glory.

Red velvet is an absolute wonder, it seems rather overrated but then you bite into it… and it justifies its exasperated, most loved, reputation. I made my first red velvet cake for a birthday and it was absolutely, beautifully red! Now I make it for another birthday (for a friend’s boyfriend), more of a lover’s cake really. So I prepared my ingredients and set to it. After my first attempt however my red velvet endeavours were not the beloved lustrous red that I once succeeded in, and its disastrous adventures made me take a back seat in future productions. Then of course I decided I had to master it!! I just had to; I needed to take the drivers’ seat and tour all the way around the world with a winning red velvet in the back seat, carefully lulled in its mighty delicate packaging of soft, fluffy cream cheese with a pit crew of white chocolate to defeat those prying flecks of dirt and those inevitably tempted finger-lickers.

But alas! Here in another world where things are morosely ordinary, I decided to embark on a kitchen escapade and made lumps and bumps of messes in every direction. I will never regret my joyful time. My mum saved me here, twice might I add. My mum was my saviour, she uses this crazy red-red when she makes tandoori chicken, and it really boots my red velvet cake into gear. You can add profuse amounts of red food colouring and copious heaps of gel but then you must consider the consistency, which suddenly drowns in the pothole of colour. The worst part is that even when you create such folly you aren’t left with the gleaming red you deserve, and I won’t lie I always accused the cocoa to be the culprit of my losing in the colour department here. The red that saved me is in the form of a powder, and regardless if you are booted in the sports car gear to match the challenge of the lustful red of velvet, you will not escape without a smudge of red somewhere on yourself – it’s that good!!

IMG_5167

So then I thought, I conquered my race with red, won it with one hand on the steering wheel and one on my mixing bowl, and I’m left pondering my new challenge. The velvet. Red velvet is not just known for its beauty, that is red, but it’s the moistness of the cake which makes it a cake worth driving round the world for. You could consider the moistness a defined feature of consistency, of colouring, of the flour, of the pinch of salt, or you could see that none of those are distinctive enough to leave something famous right in its name. Buttermilk is the moist factor in this beauty, beetroot was a has-been but we’ve come to see that not many recipes call for this as a necessity any more, it’s a shame really. I love to eat beetroot and I have seen and tasted the wonders it does to a cake but unfortunately it has a mighty fine substitute where food colouring takes a first for the red and the buttermilk running right next to it for a lick of moistness. I am never one to have buttermilk on hand however, I have never needed it for anything unless a recipe calls for it, and only then do I use it. In my case I have discovered countless substitutes so I make my mix of lemon and milk and throw that in instead, it always works.

red edit

IMG_5169

I used cooking rings to shape and bake them, but if you’re not someone who has a number of them on hand, like myself, then it just takes a bit more patience. I sliced them to smother the tiers with cream cheese and then piped over the whole of it. You can use any kind of technique, nozzle, or fancy artwork you like, the end result is brilliant.

IMG_5170IMG_5172IMG_5171

So these are the epitome of my win of the red velvet 2013 championship race, I hope you win yours this season!

IMG_5175 IMG_5177

Moistness irrevocably ingrained into its flesh.. Just as it should be.

IMG_5182

Recipe + Method

130ml butter milk

2 eggs

180g plain flour, sifted

2tsp white wine vinegar

280ml sunflower oil

1tsp red food colouring (powder)

1½ tbsp red food colouring (liquid)

1tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp baking powder, sifted

½ tsp salt

10g cocoa powder, sifted

230g caster sugar

Frosting

90g white chocolate, melted

180g butter, at room temperature

2 ½ tbsp milk

400g, icing sugar, sifted

To prepare, either butter the cooking rings or as I did, spray with cooking oil, then cover with baking paper and place on a baking tray lined with paper or a silicone sheet. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt together, then place aside till needed. After, cream together the sugar, eggs and oil, once its thoroughly combined,  add the buttermilk, liquid colouring and vanilla. Then fold in the dry ingredients and then the vinegar. Once this is complete, add in the powdered colour and gently fold, keep adding until it has reached the peak of red you desire. Pour into the cooking rings until ¾ full and bake in a preheated oven at 30-40 minutes on 160C (fan assisted). To make the frosting, beat together the icing sugar and butter, then add in the white chocolate and the milk as needed.

When the cakes are baked leave them to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a rack and peeling away the paper. Once completely cooled, slice them horizontally and swipe with frosting (I used a plain piping nozzle) but coat as you wish.

Advertisements

Something simple, sinful and delightful!

This one here is just marvellous, it doesn’t require hours and hours slaving in the kitchen (as much as we love being those slaves); it doesn’t require expensive, fancy ingredients or even a hefty amount of them. I don’t make this often enough I think, especially since it hardly takes much time to put together and even less to eat!

IMG_5598

 

Just a quick fact, it’s not a Swiss roll! And not because roulade sounds much fancier but more so because it’s not rolled up from the shorter end, instead roulades are rolled from the longer (landscape) end. It’s absolutely perfect for Christmas, looks stunningly impressive, and the taste? Oh its ineffable!

,IMG_5599

This here uses lots of egg whites so the roulade has a delicate outer meringue-like layer – oh yeah, it’s that good! 

Recipe + Method

6 eggs

180g dark chocolate, melted

180g caster sugar

2 ½ tbsp cocoa powder

300ml double cream, whipped

Icing sugar, to dust

First separate the eggs and whisk together the caster sugar and egg yolks in one bowl until it’s all thick and creamy, do the same with the egg whites until they have reached stiff but not dry peaks. Then pour in the melted chocolate, which should be rather cool by now, and fold it into the creamy egg mixture gently, keeping the volume. Once combined thoroughly, fold in the egg whites gently and then sift in the cocoa powder and fold again. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined Swiss roll tin then bake for about 20 minutes in 160C (fan assisted). Once it’s cooked, let it cool and then turn over onto a baking sheet sprinkled with icing sugar, spread the whipped cream and roll up long-ways.

IMG_5600

Spices make extraordinary cakes extraordinary.

This cake is truly unique; it’s not an ordinary chocolate or pumpkin cake with flecks of spice. It’s got a kick like no other! The secret? Cayenne pepper! Cakes tend to call for the usual cinnamon, and though I love cinnamon, cayenne pepper adds heat in the most special toe-curling way possible! The pecans added in this cake have been roasted with cayenne pepper and then chopped up roughly. The pumpkin was finely grated and then folded into the batter with the roasted pecans. I will also mention for all you health-aware folk, that cayenne pepper is super good for your health, being super high in vitamin A it also supports a healthy energy balance. A little added bonus to the… Um active, is that it is also claimed to be an aphrodisiac!

nuts

What’s even better is that it’s so moist!! Incredibly moist that even I was surprised, and it didn’t last long till it was gone either. I was lucky to get a few snaps right after the dusting of the cocoa powder. I really hope you can see how moist it is in the pictures, though it doesn’t do it enough justice.

IMG_4520 IMG_4525

IMG_4526

I do adore a good old chocolate cake, so moist and fudgy, but I think it’s eventually deemed a tad ordinary as comforting as the ordinary is. Spice things up and I do mean more than the ½ tsp the recipe calls for. It’s a great combination, truly, especially with all the left over pumpkin waddling around.

IMG_4564

IMG_4566

Method + Recipe

100g grated pumpkin

3 eggs

230g dark chocolate

150g unsalted butter

255g self raising flour, sifted

130g pecan nuts

280ml water

280g dark muscovado sugar

1 ½ – 2 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on your taste)

3 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

3tsp vanilla extract

cocoa powder, sifted to dust

In a bowl mix in the pecans and sift in the cayenne pepper, then place on a baking tray and roast for about 10-12 minutes on 150C (fan assisted). Then roughly chop them after leaving to cool a little; place aside until needed. Melt the butter with the chocolate over simmering water. Then whisk the eggs and sugar together, once combined pour in the melted chocolate and then the vanilla extract and water. Fold the flour in and then the pecans and pumpkin. Bake for 1 hour 15-20minutes on 150C (fan assisted). Once Cooked, leave it to cool for 10-15 minutes before placing it to cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with cocoa powder to serve.

“.. It’s a pumkin’s life for me!”

IMG_4730

IMG_4729

Pumpkins are the “It” factor right now, so I was in full procession of posting this lovely little recipe I cooked up the other day. It’s easy as any of the others I’ve posted so far and it will warm you to your twiddly toes!

Pumpkin soup was a primary dish served for prisoners of war in North Vietnamese prison camps during the Vietnam War. It’s so delicious I can imagine it going down a treat after a hard day’s work. I wanted to steer away from the lovely sweet dishes, and something perfect to warm you up after a long day or even after a much needed lazy one.

IMG_4744

Pumpkins are quite watery, so of course they disintegrate fairly easily. I’ve used this to my advantage by roasting them with drizzles of olive oil to soften them up even more. This is a brilliant recipe for anybody who is particularly keen on hearty soups, it’s slightly thick with enough spice to tingle the taste buds yet with a cool wisp from the lemon grass to tone it down. So here it is… (Please feel free to alter spice content)

Recipe + Method:

500g pumpkin sliced, 1inch strips (peeled + deseeded)

½ tsp mixed herbs

3tbsp olive oil

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 Green chilli, thinly sliced

1 lemon, juiced

1 ½ tbsp curry paste

1 lemon grass stalk, halved

500ml coconut milk

3tbsp soy sauce with a squeeze of lemon

600ml lamb stock, or chicken or vegetable if you’d prefer

Rosemary sprigs, to serve

Salt, to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C. After chopping up the pumpkin into slices, place it in a roasting dish and sprinkle on 1tbsp of olive oil and mixed herbs, and then cover with foil. This will prevent it from burning under the high temperature. It will need to roast until its soft, usually about 1 hour but check on it as ovens will vary in cooking times. Pour the remaining oil in a frying pan and throw in the lemongrass, curry paste, garlic and in a few minutes pour in the coconut milk too. Let this simmer for a few minutes before putting in the pumpkin and the stock. Set the heat low and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Once that’s done, sieve the soup and pick out the lemongrass and puree the pumpkin in a blender. Use some of the soup to ease the process of blending, then put it all in the pan with the remaining soup and the soy sauce. Serve it hot with rosemary sprigs to decorate, or even add some chilli or spring onions.

Also the pumpkins I have used as bowls are simply baby pumpkins and easily acquirable in local supermarkets, being in season of course.

Welcome Great Pumpkin!

This is a special little thing; I created this recipe recently keeping in line with the pumpkin craze. It’s incredibly moist, a cake super soft but so malleable, it’s easier to keep together when rolling. You can spend hours slaving over a masterpiece cake, a fool proof recipe, but if the finishing touches aren’t justifiable to that hard work then really, why bother?

It’s a superb recipe and it’s exceedingly easy to put together, so if your rolling is not quite so successful then remake and reroll! I should warn you though, I detest shortage of flavour in food, and rolling with that point, I wanted this cake to have a wee kick to it, not a subtle hint of it here and there. Therefore if you are a little on the bland side, or even average flavour side then please do be man enough to tone it down!

IMG_4660

I will gracefully add that though it’s got a kick, it comes with a cooler; a heavenly creamy filling in perfect balance with the flavour of the cake. I will recommend that if you’re not a big fan of rolling then lessening the filling will take some bulk out of the cake and make it easier to roll.

IMG_4684IMG_4672

Recipe + Method

For the cake:

130g plain flour, sifted

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp cinnamon OR 2 tsp for the lighthearted

3 large eggs, at room temperature

130g fresh pumpkin, pureed (add a few tablespoons of water to get it to the right consistency)

200g caster sugar

icing sugar, sifted (to dust)

For the filling:

180g icing sugar, sifted

65g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

250g full fat cream cheese

1/2 tsp vanilla, (optional)

After preheating your oven to 160C (fan assisted, or gas mark 3), ensure your Swiss roll tin is greased and lined with baking paper. To make the cake, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until pale and fluffy, shouldn’t take too long. Then sift the dry ingredients together (flour, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda) in another bowl and then add this to the wet mix of sugar and eggs. Whisk away until all the dry ingredients are combined, you may find a few lumps of flour floating around. Then pour the mix into the Swiss roll tin and bake for about 18minutes, depending on your oven. Once cooked, allow to cool completely in the Swiss roll tin.

To make the filling, beat the butter and icing sugar together, then gradually add the cream cheese and then the vanilla extract and whisk on full speed until smooth.

Lay out a tea towel or some baking paper, a few inches larger than the Swiss roll tin itself and sift icing sugar on the surface. Then invert the cake onto the surface and gently peel away the paper, first from the edges and then work your way to the centre. Slather on the filling evenly and tightly roll up the Swiss roll. It helps to get a knife and line the cake about 2cm from the long end all the way across in a straight line to the other end, not quite cutting through the cake. Then use this to start you off. Once its all rolled up, sift icing sugar on top and serve!

IMG_4692

Quand la vie vous donne des citrons…

If you’d rather slice, chop or juice your lemons in to something else, then by all means, do, but you will miss out on this. And let me tell you, it. Is. Sublime! The thing with the famous tarte au citron is that the flavours will differ in the filling wherever you buy it or make it. It will either be very sweet, sour or just right. This is one of those tarts that hits all the right spots, believe me it was like a fruity disco in my mouth. My taste buds really had a spring in their step after this.

IMG_2834

The effort comes in when making the pastry, it is fair to say I struggled, but hey sometimes it’s just a bad day. Anyway, the taste was in no way compromised by my rolling complications, it was, if anything, maximised. The dough for the pastry actually has a small hint of icing sugar in the mix, so it was subtly sweet and I picked at it after it was cooked like a darn pigeon! But it was soooo good! I’m considering just making the pastry actually… Maybe dipped in some whipped cream? Maybe some raspberries as well? “ahem”, wipes drool*.

I made the pastry and then the filling to go inside, it was easy! It didn’t even take long and regardless that my first attempt wasn’t a showcase masterpiece, it was decadent and absolutely refreshing to the palate.

It’s a piece of summer, and just like in London it goes away just as quickly..

“Yer oot yer face!”

Though the origins are easily given away in the name and the title of this post; a tipsy laird is essentially a Scottish dessert and it is simply a good old British trifle! Except instead of sherry they use whisky! It is traditionally a dessert which is served on Burns Night, in celebration of Robert Burns, of his life and poetry. Recently we went on a trip to Scotland and stayed in this lovely remote cottage in Glasgow. During this stay we decided to explore a famous whisky distillery, called Glengoyne.

IMG_4218

Glengoyne has been around since 1833 and are exceptionally unique in producing a lovely Highland single malt whisky matured in the Lowlands. What’s even better is that they are resting right upon the Highland line! So whilst Glengoyne’s stills lie in the Highlands they leave their whisky to mature in the Highlands, across the road from them! Well, isn’t that the best of both worlds?!

IMG_4215

Now these barrels look cool right? I like the words, though they aren’t just anything random. If you haven’t noticed the words on these barrels are actually units/volumes of alcohol. So a butt (last one on the right) is actually about half a tun of whisky, which is about 105 gallons!

IMG_4219

Now the thing is, during the process, I believe around 70% or so of the whisky is lost to the “heavens” as they say, well isn’t that a shame..

Anyway the tipsy laird is super easy and quick, it’s also a very impressive little dessert because it looks bloody good to the eyes as well as leaving you feeling nice and satisfied inside. That’s what it was like for me anyway, but I didn’t hear anyone else complaining either? In fact they all looked pretty darn sated to me!

Here’s how it goes, firstly make your sponge! Do not cheat and buy it. To make my sponge, I used a square cake tin (easier to slice into fingers). Once it’s cooked and cooled, slice the sponge to reduce its thickness and slather with butter and top with brown sugar, demerara or any other will do. Then dollop some jam on to the unbuttered side and sandwich them together (sugar-side-out) , I used Scottish raspberry preserve for mine.

The Slicing
The Jamming
The Sandwiching
The Sandwiching

Then you want to thinly slice each sandwich about one millimetre each and line them up in your dishes. I decided to add an extra treat and patted a few smudges of clotted cream on the end of my thin sandwich fingers; this also helps them to stay in place. Then you want to thinly slice some leftovers of sponge on top, I mean tiny sponge pieces. Then we add the raspberries and the special Scottish touch of whisky (a sprinkle or drizzle, do not soak the sponges). Obviously considering I have basically been citing Glengoyne’s short version biography here so it’s no mystery I used their 15 year bonny concoction.

After the scattering of the raspberries, drizzle or coat in custard, I made a custard and then let it cool before pouring onto the raspberries because after that it’s the cream, ensure you avoid piping the cream onto not-entirely-cooled custard. And if using tinned custard, warm it up and let it cool so the custard is more of a drizzle-like consistency.

Then finally to top, add a raspberry or two and sprinkle with toasted almonds! About a handful is enough. Be warned, the almonds will burn almost immediately if you preheat the oven to anything over 180 C (fan assisted). Keep it low and do not leave the oven!

And there you have it, a good ol’ tipsy laird! It will blissfully warm the cockles of yer heart!

Don't forget the whisky!

Bamerican Mini banoffee pies

Caramel. Yes I said it. Caramel! Did you also feel that shiver run through your body? It’s the best thing yet! I love its sweetness, its stickiness. It’s one of those hedonistic pleasures, like toffee… you just want some more! In fact I wanted a shot of caramel soo much I made a late night stop to my little local store (walking might I add) to bring home some cream (not for the caramel but for the whipping cream – if it wasn’t for my local store being open 24 hours, I would have eaten the caramel straight from the heat of the pan. To be honest I’d go even further than a 10 minute walk if needed and if all the stores had no cream… Then yes I would eat it straight from the pan anyway.

Anyway these little pies are a really lovely combination aren’t they? Like apple and custard. Perhaps both simply have the fruit around to put a healthy note on its unhealthiness?  Maybe not, but still, it’s not exactly recommended by your personal trainer is it? Banoffee is something us Brits take the credit for, and if you’re after the original banoffee pie recipe first ‘evolved’ (as he would say) the man who bought us this pleasure to our lives then turn to Ian Dowding! He created this dessert in 1972 (calling it ‘banoffi’). I guess, though it is a British invention he was inspired by an American recipe… So would this be Bamerican?

The ones I’ve made here are super caramelly, just the way I love them with a hefty dollop of whipped cream!! The trick is to make sure you do not over-whip the cream, this makes it easier to mold, plus it’s creamier in consistency this way! Then drizzle the pies in dark chocolate to get that bittersweet twist into the mix!

Recipe + Method

For the biscuit base:

250g Crunched and squished digestive biscuits (or any other sweet biscuits you fancy)

130g unsalted butter (melted)

For the caramel:

200g caster sugar (it’s a lot I know, but sugar is also part water, therefore its the moist factor, think twice before reducing it in your cakes!)

100g unsalted butter

120ml double cream

The rest of the concoction:

300ml double cream (for whipping)

2/3 ripe bananas

100g dark chocolate to decorate + flavour

First you want to smother together the crushed biscuits with the melted butter and preferably leave to set in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Then make the caramel, this is where the tricky part comes in and I have an odd feeling that many will end up with shop bought caramel sauce, but its just more special hand made, folks! I know it seems like a lot to do but it’s not so bad if you get the temperature and consistency right. First you want to put just the sugar in a heavy bottom pan to let melt until it turns rather dark brown in colour. Then remove the pan from the heat and add your butter and then the double cream whilst whisking away, eventually (very soon) you will have made a very wonderful caramel sauce! (TIP: if you dare to try salted caramel, then just add a teaspoon of sea salt once its cooked)

Once the caramel has cooled completely, pour it onto the tart bases, and layer on some sliced bananas. Then top with whipped cream (not over whipped, until it reaches soft peaks) and drizzle with melted chocolate!

It’s really as good as it looks!

Ehh lets not be so vanilla!

Vanilla custard? Yeah yeah we’ve tried, tasted, and owned it about a gazillion and 5 times! So why do we still insist on its sheer old classic vanillaness as a side to most of our sweet things?!

Well, vanilla custard has been one of the European ultimate inventions and it was the famous custard tarts which bought us this weird word, custard. That, and that it was an all-time favourite in the Middle Ages, therefore I guess it sort of carried on. To give it some credit, the vanillaness of the dessert is sort of thrown by adding a dash of starch which then reinvents itself into another classic, best known to us as crème patisserie (or pastry cream), but let’s face it, we know that the former sounds tonnes fancier.

Following the main theme however, isn’t it weird that by adding custard to something, anything, makes it perfect. It makes it, how would you put it..? Less vanilla? Oh yeah, that’s it. It’s definitely less vanilla. Therefore I’ve made this not-so-vanilla vanilla custard, to go with this more sticky, moist, and just more-interesting-than-custard cake!

I picked these figs, every single purply one of them from a little fruit and veg shop I discovered near the city, it was stocked with only the best most exotic fruit, and I guess you could say the prices matched that. These figs were insanely delicious and oh my were they nice and ripe for the baking! (How to know when they are ripe? They will be firm and hold their shape when you slice into them).

ffffff

The figs were then paired up with caramel. Ahh caramel, this is one of my favourite things ever!!! Caramel. Just one word brings oh soo much joy….. But back to the present, I made this delicious caramel to drown the cake in and give it that lovely moist and sticky factor; one of my favourite factors!

ccc

Such a lovely transformation. You chuck everything in and there you have it. Caramel…

firrrst first firsttt

Then you pour the caramel into the baking tin and layer the figs on top. (A bite of advice… put a baking tray underneath to capture the escaped few drops of caramel, because they will escape and it will be messy).

fig fiig

On top of that you coat the figs and caramel with the cake mixture and bake!

h hh

With this cake, you turn it out inverted again, so somehow you have to manage to flip it over, I topped the cake (after releasing) with a plate and did just that, flipped. And just so you know it didn’t turn to shambles.

d dd

Oh yeah and don’t forget the not-so-vanilla vanilla custard!! It was sooo divine! The custard hit the spot just right with the warm cake and the saccharine sweetness from the caramel all topped off with the fig. Yes it was a not-so-vanilla dessert with not-so-vanilla vanilla custard. Branch out now and again I say!!

Sugar me down, roll me up and serve me hot like the best “Schnecken” you’ve ever had!

Also known as sticky buns!! They are delicious, somewhere between the cinnamon swirls and something a bit stickier yet subtly sweet. Sticky buns are of German origin, hence “Schnecken“, which is the German name for them. However, though the Germans have earned credit for creating these modern day classics, it was the Egyptians who first started glazing pastries with honey and shaking things up with some chopped nuts.

Sticky buns are made up by rolling out a rectangular dough and then brushing on melted butter and sprinkling muscovado sugar and cinnamon, then of course rolling it up and slicing them up. It’s a tad different from the famous cinnamon swirls because the pan is smothered with a mixture of butter, maple syrup and walnuts to give it that distinct mapley sweetness.

This is all after we get handsy with the dough of course!

hands

Once you’ve released all that pent up frustration… the rolling out and sprinkling begins! I think, don’t slice it too thin, you want that thick mouth filling sensation, not little nibbles, but something more satisfying.

IMG_3111

IMG_3121

And finally after the beating, the slicing and the baking you get these tasty, sticky, sweet and nutty buns!

 IMG_3175

I love tearing them apart, and seeing them for what they truly are, gloriously sticky!

IMG_3178

The trick is to turn them out (inverted) with the baking paper so its covered with that nutty gooeyness. Simply delicious! One is never enough, I could easily have a few for a breakfast with a cup of tea or as my something sweet after dinner.