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Category Archives: Small Baked Things

Ottolenghi Strawberry and Vanilla Mini-Cakes

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65A6C6F5-BF69-48B7-819F-A414FCDB6DC0I love little cakes, and I’m always keen to find recipes for something other than cupcakes.

Yotam Ottolenghi in his lovely book Sweet, written with another great cook Helen Goh, has a number of recipes for all kinds of little cakes. Many of the cakes are made with ground almonds, making them moist and delicious.

These Strawberry and Vanilla Mini-Cakes are very fragrant with fresh strawberries and vanilla. The cakes are quite dense and would be great on their own. The strawberry icing however, adds piquancy, but be careful as it’s quite runny!

Here’s the recipe from Sweet. Ottolenghi suggests making the cakes in a pop-over or giant muffin tin, giving you 12, or if you make them in regular muffin tins you will end up with 18.

I decorated the cakes with freeze dried strawberry powder instead of freeze dried whole berries.

Ingredients 

1 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp/ 250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups/250 g granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

scraped seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod

4 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup/120 g self-rising flour, plus extra for dusting

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/3 cups/140 g almond meal

7 oz/200 g fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/3 inch/1-cm dice

Strawberry Icing

2 oz/55 g fresh strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

2 1/2 cups/300 g confectioners’ sugar

1 tbsp light corn syrup

scraped seeds of  1/4 vanilla pod

6 whole strawberries (or 9 if using a regular muffin pan) cut in half lengthwise, or 2 tbsp freeze-dried chopped strawberries, to garnish

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Grease and flour the molds of your chosen pans.

Place the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium speed until light, then add the eggs, a little at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times as you go. (Adding the eggs gradually should prevent the mix from splitting, but don’t worry too much if it does, it might look a bit curdled, but this will not affect the final result.)

Continue to beat until fully combined. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then stir in the almond meat. Turn the speed of the mixer to medium-low, then add the dry ingredients in three batches and finally fold in the diced strawberries.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared molds – it should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides (about two-thirds in a regular muffin pan). Bake for about 22 minutes (about 20 minutes in a regular muffin pan), rotating the pan halfway  through, until a skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before easing the cakes out of the molds. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the strawberry icing, place all the icing ingredients in a food processor and process together until smooth.

Drizzle the tops of the upside-down cakes with the icing, allowing it to drip down the sides. If desired, garnish with half a strawberry on each cake, cut side facing up, or a sprinkle of dried strawberries.

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Nutty Praline Slice

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I love nuts! I will put them in all kinds of recipes, sweet and savoury, just to get that lovely crunch when you bite into something yummy.

I made this Nutty Praline Slice when I had some left over sweet pastry and lots of hazelnuts. I made some hazelnut praline as a topping, and incorporated hazelnut praline paste into the slice.

Ingredients 

Sweet Pastry Base

200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

60g icing sugar

Pinch of salt

130g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

1 free range egg yolk

10ml water

Hazelnut Praline Filling

60g butter

60g caster sugar

50g praline paste*

35g plain flour

Lemon Icing

Juice of half a lemon

Enough icing sugar to make a runny icing

Hazelnut Praline  

3 tbls caster sugar

75g hazelnuts

Method

To make the pastry, put the flour, icing sugar and salt into a food processor. Add the butter and lemon zest, then pulse a few times, until the mixture is the consistency of fresh breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg yolk and water, then add to the mix. Process once more, just until the dough comes together, then tip on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough into a ball, wrap in cling wrap and press gently into a flattish disc. Put the dough in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven (fan-forced) to 160 degrees C. Grease and line with baking paper a 27cm x 17cm baking tin.

Roll out the pastry into a rectangle and ease into the baking tin.

To make the hazelnut praline filling, blitz the butter and caster sugar in a food processor, add the praline paste, then add the flour and pulse until the mixture come together into a smooth filling.

Spread the filling on top of the pastry base, smoothing the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven until the filling and the shortbread underneath is cooked.

Leave in the tin until cool.

For the lemon icing, mix the lemon juice with enough icing sugar to make a runny icing. Spread or drizzle the lemon icing over the slice.

For the praline, spread the nuts onto a piece of baking paper on baking tray. Put the caster sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy based frying pan. Carefully melt the sugar over a medium heat, being careful not to stir the sugar or it will crystalize. Once the sugar has melted and turned a tea colour, carefully pour the hot toffee over the nuts and allow to set. Once set, bash the praline into small pieces.

Scatter the crushed praline over the top of the slice, and cut into squares to serve.

*You can buy hazelnut praline paste from specialist food supply stores. I actually had to buy the praline paste in Melbourne, not sure why I couldn’t get it in Sydney!

I know it’s readily available in the UK from Callebaut.

You can also make your own – I found this recipe works well: https://snapguide.com/guides/make-hazelnut-praline-paste/

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Macadamia White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

The search for cookie Nirvana continues! So close and yet so far…But the journey is so much fun and so yummy!

This recipe comes from Queen Fine Foods, makers of lots of lovely flavourings including classic vanilla. I’ve been baking with Queen vanilla all my life.

These cookies are right up there in my search. They are nice and fat and very satisfying. Readers of others of my cookie recipes may remember that I’m looking for substance not splat! That’s fat cookies not thin ones.

The baking powder gives these cookies a bit more substance, plus there seemed to be quite a lot of flour in the mix making it quite stiff.

And I really like the chunks of white chocolate in the cookies instead of chocolate bits.

Here is the recipe from Queen Fine Foods, with a couple of my tweaks:

Ingredients

125g butter at room temperature

110g brown sugar

55g caster sugar

2 tsp Queen Cinnamon Baking Paste

1 tsp Queen Natural Organic Vanilla Extract

1 large free-range egg

300g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

180g white chocolate, coarsely chopped

120g macadamias, coarsely chopped*

Method

Preheat oven to 160 C degrees fan-forced. Line two large baking trays with baking paper.

Put the butter, sugar, Cinnamon Baking Paste and Vanilla Extract in a food processor and process until pale and creamy. Add the egg and blitz until well combined.

Add the flour and baking powder to the butter/sugar mixture and blitz for until just combined. Stir in the  chocolate and macadamias and mix with a big spoon. You don’t want to process the chocolate and macadamias as they will just go crumbly.

Roll slightly heaped tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls and place about a few centimetres  apart on each baking  tray. Use fingertips to flatten each ball to about 1cm thick and 6cm in diameter.

Bake in the preheated oven, swapping the trays halfway through baking, for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through. I prefer to cook each tray one at a time, I think it makes for a batter bake.

Cool cookies on the trays.

* I used salted macadamias. The original recipe says unsalted, but I’m a huge fan of salted nuts in cookies and trybakes.

Plum Muffins

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1720FAD7-FD24-44B8-9585-17636C82AAC5 I’m still celebrating late summer fruit in Sydney. Berries are still good, especially raspberries which are plump and juicy, and well priced. But the standouts for me are the last of the stone fruit – peaches and nectarines, and gorgeous super sweet plums of all colours.

So here is a recipe which celebrates plums, baked in the muffin mixture and also as plum pieces on top of each muffin.

The basic recipe is Matt Stone’s from his book The Natural Cook Maximum Taste Zero Waste, adapted here using smaller quantities and of course the star ingredient, plums!

Ingredients

2 free-range eggs

140g raw sugar

1 Granny Smith apple unpeeled and grated

1 plum, diced

75ml vegetable oil

10-12 pecans, chopped (optional)

150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp salt

3 plums of various colours, cut into segments, to decorate

A few pecan halves, to decorate (optional)

Method

Whisk the eggs together in a large mixing bowl and when  the mixture is foamy, slowly pour in the sugar. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has doubled in size.

Whisk in the apple, diced plum and oil. Stir in the chopped pecans, if using. Use a spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger  and salt.

The mixture can be baked straight away but Matt suggests leaving it in the fridge overnight. This will give the flour a chance to hydrate and the baking powder to activate, resulting in a more consistent muffin texture. Even leaving the mixture for a few hours in the fridge is beneficial.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan-forced, 180 degrees C non fan-forced.

Grease a standard muffin tin and line 6 holes with squares of baking paper. Spoon in the muffin mixture, adding as many plum segments as you like on top to decorate, and pecan halves, if using.

Put the muffin tin in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Check the muffins at 15 minutes and every 5 minutes from there, using a skewer to check if cooked. From my experience, in my oven, they take about 20 minutes.

Remove the muffins from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes. Remove them from the tin and place on a wire rack. I leave the baking paper on as the muffins are easier to store.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Great on their own, as they are so moist, but also good with butter, or Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey!

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Raspberry Meringue Twists

 

Meringues are a lovely gift to make for friends and are so simple to create. I’m fond of all kinds of egg white and sugar concoctions – meringues, pavlova, vacherin and dacquoise. I sometimes make Italian and Swiss meringue, but unless there’s a real need for a more stable structure, French meringue is the easiest option.

I  have always used a recipe from the Australian culinary legend Margaret Fulton, but this time I thought I would try a recipe from another culinary legend from another hemisphere, Mary Berry.

It’s always interesting to try a slightly different approach to our usual recipes, and this recipe I found very successful! The link to Mary’ s original recipe is here.

I wanted my meringues colourful and pretty to look at, so I used rose pink food colouring to create swirls of colour.  I scattered some freeze dried raspberry powder over the meringue before baking. With hindsight (which is a wonderful thing), cooking the raspberry powder made it too dark. I think next time I would scatter the powder over the cooked meringues to maintain the vivid raspberry colour.

I’ve called the meringues raspberry twists because of the raspberry pink twists of colour.

Ingredients

3 egg whites

175g  caster sugar

A few drops of pink food colouring

A teaspoon or two of freeze dried raspberry powder

Method

Preheat the oven to 120 degrees C  fan-forced. Line a large baking sheet or two smaller ones with baking paper.

Put the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer. I always use my KitchenAid for meringues.

Whisk on high speed until white and fluffy, like a cloud. Still whisking on maximum speed, gradually add the sugar, a teaspoon at a time, until incorporated and the meringue is stiff and shiny and stands upright on the whisk.

Take a piping bag and attach a large plain nozzle or star tipped nozzle, and using a paint brush or pastry brush,  paint stripes of pink food colour inside the bag.

Using the piping bag, pipe the meringue mixture into different sized meringues – some quite large, others smaller, onto the baking sheet. It’s up to you what size you want!

Scatter some freeze dried raspberry powder randomly and artfully over the meringues before baking.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for one hour.  Turn off the oven, and leave the meringues in the oven for at least a further 1/2 hour or until dry – longer is better.

Once cool, remove from the baking paper and put on a wire rack until completely cold.

Little Ginger Caramel Cheesecakes

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31CFED5D-F980-41F1-9953-28FE10746308Cheesecake! A big favourite, but an indulgence I enjoy in moderation, as it’s SO moreish I can eat too much…

So mini cheesecakes are the perfect sweet treat to end a meal or a as little pick me-up at afternoon tea time.

The recipe is my go-to recipe for baked cheesecake, blogged here many times. I substituted mascarpone for cream cheese, for no other reason than I had some in the fridge and thought it would go well in cheesecake!

I added crystallized ginger to my little cheesecakes as well as ginger caramel, but plain caramel would be fine too.

To serve, I put some chunks of fresh pineapple on the top of each little cheesecake. This complemented the ginger flavour beautifully!

Ingredients

Crumb Crust
230g sweet biscuits (half plain, half ginger nut)
1/2 level teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 level teaspoon cinnamon
85g butter

Mascarpone Filling
500g mascarpone
2/3 cup sugar
1 tbls ginger or plain caramel or dulche de leche (jar or tin is fine, don’t bother making it)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 free-range eggs
6 pieces crystallized ginger (a small handful), chopped finely  + extra for decorating

Pineapple chunks to decorate

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 170 degrees fan-forced.

Butter individual molds with a removable base, see photo. If you don’t have these molds, you could use ordinary muffin or cupcake  molds. You would just need to be careful easing them out of the molds.

I filled 8 of my removable bottom molds. You would fill at least 8 or even 10 ordinary muffin molds.

Crush biscuits very finely in a food processor and add the nutmeg and cinnamon. Melt butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and quickly stir in the biscuit crumbs.

Press firmly into greased molds, covering the bases with a good layer of biscuit crumb.

Put mascarpone, sugar and caramel in the food processor and mix well. Add eggs one at a time, whizzing after each addition.  Stir in the crystallized ginger pieces.

Pour mixture into the individual molds on top of the biscuit crumb bases.  Fill each mold to about 3/4 full.  Place in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the cheesecake is just set. Remove from oven and leave to cool completely.

Carefully remove each cheesecake from its mold. Store in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight to completely firm up.

Serve cold, with chunks of pineapple on top of each cheesecake, and extra slivers of crystallized ginger. You could drizzle a little warmed caramel over the top too, for a truly caramel experience!

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Jamie Oliver Sweet Glazed Carrots and Gnarly Peanut Chicken

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Dinner last night – and this this post –  was supposed to be all about the chicken, with the carrots as the supporting act. Well, I have to say that the carrots upstaged the chicken and were the starring act!

It’s a fantastic Jamie recipe, in which heirloom carrots are cooked in the pan with butter and honey or brown sugar, and thyme, resulting in a luscious dish with lovely flavour and texture. However, with the gnarly peanut chicken, they made a great side dish and definitely enhanced the eating experience of the chicken.

The link to Jamie’s Sweet Glazed Carrots is here. Jamie’s Gnarly Peanut Chicken recipe can be found in his great new book 5 Ingredients.

So here are the recipes, with my tweaks , starring those wonderful carrots. I halved the carrot recipe as a kilo of carrots seemed excessive!

Sweet Glazed Carrots

Ingredients
500g small heirloom carrots
30g unsalted butter
3 cloves of garlic
A handful of fresh thyme sprigs or to taste
1 clementine or mandarin or small orange
1 tablespoon runny honey or soft brown sugar

Method
Trim most of the leafy green stalks off the carrots, then peel them. (I didn’t peel mine as they were fine as is).
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Crush the unpeeled garlic with the flat side of a knife, then add to the pan turning after 1 minute.
Pick and sprinkle in most of the thyme sprigs, reseving a few to scatter over at the end. Squeeze over the clementine or mandarin or orange juice, then add the honey or sugar and a splash of water.
Add the carrots in a single layer, season with sea salt and black pepper, then jiggle the pan to coat the carrots. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender.
Remove the lid, then cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the glaze has reduced, and the carrots are sticky and caramelised, turning often. Serve straightaway, or reheat when needed. Sprinkle over the reserved thyme sprigs just before serving.

Gnarly Peanut Chicken 

Ingredients
2 skinless chicken breasts
2 limes
4 cloves of garlic
2 heaped tablespoons peanut butter
1-2 fresh red chillies

Method
Turn the grill on to medium-high. Score the chicken breasts in a criss-cross fashion, rub with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and black pepper and the finely grated zest of 1 lime.
Place criss-cross side down in a cold non-stick ovenproof frying pan and put it on a medium-high heat, while you peel and finely grate the garlic into a bowl.
Squeeze in the juice from 1 1/2 limes, stir in the peanut butter and loosen with enough water to give you a smooth consistency. Finely slice the chilli, then mix through the sauce, taste and season to perfection.
Flip the chicken over, spoon over the sauce, then transfer to the grill, roughly 10cm from the heat, for 5 minutes, or until gnarly and cooked through. Finely grate over the remaining lime zest, then drizzle with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with lime wedges, for squeezing over.

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