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I have a love/hate relationship with banana. It’s the same with butter. I put it in mash, use it in sauces and bake to the high heavens with it, but a smear of the stuff on my sandwich is enough to make my toes curl. As my friend Nicola puts it “You have butter in everything except on your toast”. Which I think is a fair observation.  My aversion to banana is similar in this way; I love bananas and chocolate on the barbeque, frozen bananas whizzed into a smoothie and in a small slice of banoffee pie. But ask me to peel and consume one right then and there will no doubt have me reaching for the nearest bin. I find it sad that at the ripe ol’ age of 21 there are still some foods I cannot stomach, but I always find a way around it. Case in point, these banana pops. Freshly peeled, I find them the devils fruit, but frozen they are a pretty alternative to ice cream pops to cool me down in the sunshine.

What’s even more beautiful about these pops is their simplicity. Cut a banana, add a stick and freeze. Melt some chocolate and dip in smashed frozen berries. Refreeze and you have a pretty little summer coolant on a stick, much like a fancy Magnum, but with banana insides. These pops would be a great project for little hands; give them a pair of scissors to snip the banana, let them smash the berries and break up the chocolate. Of course, adults can devour them just the same. Purely for tasting purposes of course.

 

Makes 4 pops

You Will Need

2 bananas

Wooden skewers, carefully cut into 5-6cm pieces

100g good quality white chocolate

A large handful frozen berries

 

Peel the bananas and on a chopping board, cut in half to create 4 pieces. Place a wooden skewer in the flattest end of the banana and push in 2cm. Lay on a sheet of baking parchment and freeze for 1-2 hours.

Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and add the chocolate to the bowl. Slowly melt, then remove from the heat and place on a tea towel to cool slightly. Meanwhile, place the berries in a freezer bag and use a rolling pin to smash the berries into small pieces. Pour onto a plate.

To make the pops, you will need to work quite quickly, as the chocolate will begin to set as soon as it hits the frozen banana. Dip each banana lolly in the chocolate to completely coat, then roll in the smashed berries. Place back on the parchment paper and repeat until all the pops are covered in chocolate and berries. If there are any gaps, simply drizzle over more chocolate and dip in the berries. Place the pops back in the freezer and freeze for 1 hour or until set. Enjoy in the fleeting summer sunshine.

 

The general consensus about scones it would seem, is that they should be slathered with jam and accompanied with a cup of tea. Add a cake stand, teacups and a string of pearls and you are dangerously close to the twee notion of afternoon tea. Does anybody actually partake in this tradition who isn’t swathed in furs? Normally, if I am feeling somewhat peckish between lunch and dinner, my usually port of call is a black coffee and a kit kat. I don’t tend to turn to scones as a means of refuelling unless I’m expecting company, baking for a Flower Show or having a scone-off with my Mam (yes, this does happen).

Yet savoury scones are a lovely alternative to the sickly sweet, but are often an afterthought in the scone devouring world. Of course, a little sweet treat is nice now and again, but a punchy cheese scone with a cup of tea is more ‘working afternoon break’ than simpering ‘teacups and cake stands’. This is hardy fodder, but do not mistake strong flavours for rock hard buns; these scones are light, fluffy and best of all, require very little effort on the baker’s part. So much so, they can go from bowl to plate in well under half an hour. Now that’s what I call fast food.

These scones are an altogether more grown up version of the classic cheddar savoury scones. The saltiness of the parmesan marries perfectly with spicy pepper and the fragrant thyme gives little splashes of colour. Finished with a topping of parmesan, these little beauties bake into gorgeous puffs of flavour with a crisp hat, like little tiger loafs. These savoury treats are are perfect served with a steaming bowl of soup, stacked with cream cheese and ham or simply slathered with butter. So much so, I think I fancy another one…enjoy!

 

You Will Need

225g self raising flour

55g unsalted butter (Stork will work fine with this recipe, but butter does make for fluffier scones)

2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan, plus extra to top the scones

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

125ml milk, plus extra to brush the scones

Preheat the oven to 200oc/190oc fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease a baking tray with butter and set aside. In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips, until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the parmesan, pepper and thyme leaves until well mixed. Pour in the milk and mix with a round bladed knife and then your hand, to form a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1cm thickness. Cut 9 scones using a 2-3cm round cutter, rerolling scraps until all the dough has been used.

Arrange on the prepared baking tray and brush with milk. Sprinkle over a little parmesan and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Remove from the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack before serving. These scones are perfect with a lick of cream cheese and a scattering of honey ham as an afternoon treat, without a cake stand in sight!

Ombre is everywhere at the moment. You cannot pass a pinterest pinboard without seeing Alexa Chung’s trademark graduated colour bob or dip-dyed hairstyles in a range of colours on beautiful surfer-chic models. Clothing is in a range of light to dark hues, eyeshadow graduates across eyes like blended rainbows and even nails are sporting the trend. Of course, in my (non-ombred) eyes, a trend isn’t a trend until it has hit the food boards, and now bakers have started to create cakes that have beautiful colourful layers hidden beneath swaths of creamy frosting, like a hidden cake paradise.

I chose to jump on this cake bandwagon in order to celebrate 24 years of my parents’ marriage and thought the extra surprise of the ombre insides might be a pretty addition to the delicate rosewater and white chocolate frosting. I chose pink as my colour scheme, as a sad little cliché to the romance of it all, but this cake is far from sickly sweet. A simple vanilla sponge is the starting point for this cake, coloured to graduate from peachy pink to a dark fuchsia, sandwiched with raspberry jam and wrapped in a fragrant cuddle of smooth cream coloured frosting. Add a homemade bunting banner and this is a celebration cake that oozes style.

Of course, you can adapt this recipe to suit your own celebration, such as blue for a summer party or orange with a dark chocolate frosting come Halloween. And if the bunting cake topper isn’t to your taste or celebration, try unsprayed flowers, toys or an edging of sprinkles for a simple yet effective finishing touch.

 

Recipes Adapted from Gizzi Erskine – Kitchen Magic and Kitsch-en Column in Company Magazine November 2009

Idea inspired by Pinterest

 

You Will Need

For the Cakes

340g softened butter or Stork

340g caster sugar

6 eggs

340g self raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons milk (more if required)

2 teaspoons vanilla paste

Red food colouring

 

3 tablespoons raspberry jam, to sandwich cakes together

 

For the White Chocolate and Rosewater Frosting

200g good quality white chocolate

200g double cream

1 tablespoon butter

2-3 teaspoons rosewater

100g icing sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 170oc/160oc fan/gas mark 3. Grease four 20cm sandwich tins, line with baking parchment and set to one side. In a large bowl whisk together the butter and caster sugar using a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add each egg one at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined. It may split slightly, but the flour will bring it back together.

Sift together the flour and baking powder, then fold into the butter, sugar and egg mix until fully incorporated. Stir through the vanilla paste and 2 tablespoons of milk to loosen to a dropping consistency, then spilt the cake mix into four bowls. Carefully colour the first bowl with a small drop of colouring to a peachy pink colour, the second to a light pink, the third a strawberry pink and the final bowl a deep fuchsia. Remember, it is easier to add more colour than to take away, so colour each bowl carefully and keep comparing – you don’t want two bowls exactly the same, rather a colour scheme that will gradually get darker down the layers. Spoon each cake mix into the tins and label accordingly with stickers –1 for the lightest colour and 4 for the darkest. Each cake will be golden once they come out the oven and it will be difficult to tell which is which without labelling!

Once labelled, place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool in the tins for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool, remembering to remove the cake labels from the tins and placing next to the corresponding cake to keep track of which is which.

Once the cakes have cooled, you can make the frosting. Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and melt the chocolate slowly, taking care not to let the bowl touch the water. Once melted, remove the bowl from the heat and leave to cool. In a saucepan, add the double cream and butter and slowly bring to a simmer, whisking all the time. Once simmered, pour over the chocolate and whisk immediately. Add the rosewater and icing sugar, whisk again, then leave to cool.

To assemble, firstly trim the tops of the cakes so they are level and will sit straight. On a serving board, place the darkest cake (number 4) right way up. Spread over 1 tablespoon of jam and place cake number 3 on top, upside down (this keeps the cake as flat as possible). Repeat the jam layer and add cake number 2 right side up, a final jam layer then cake number 1 upside down. Quickly scan round the cake to make sure it is as level as possible, and then you can start frosting.

For an even finish, I did three layers, but if you are short of time, a quick slathering of this frosting will still look beautiful. Firstly add about a third of the frosting to the top of the cake with a palate knife and tease across the top and sides of the cake. With this first layer, you want to fill any gaps between the cakes. If the jam starts to mix in with the frosting and it begins to get a bit crummy, don’t panic, this is only the first layer! Once smoothed round the sides, leave to set for 15-20 minutes, then build up a second layer with another third of the frosting. This is to begin to hide the signs of the cake layers and will be easier now you have a smoother starting point. Leave to set for another 15-20 minutes, then go back to finish your final layer with the remaining frosting.

The cake should now be smooth, with a good layer of frosting and will be a pretty impressive height with its four secret layers. To finish, decorate according to your chosen celebration. I made a string of paper bunting from the Joy the Baker blog, and a tutorial for this can be found here. However you decide to decorate, you will not be able to hide your joy from the initial wow factor of this cake and the secondary wow factor of the layered insides. Happy Celebrations!

Rhubarb is one of those seasonal gems like asparagus that disappear from the shops just as rapidly as they appear. One moment, you can grab a large bundle for pittance in the supermarkets, and then it’s like gold dust; hiding in gardens across the country and you have to beg, borrow or steal to get a stick. Living up in the midst of the central belt of Scotland, I am sadly out of reach of the deliciously pink forced variety from the Rhubarb Triangle down south (yes, it is a thing) that appears far earlier in the year. However, that doesn’t mean to say the regular crop is less exciting with its more rapid tinges of green rippled through the rose coloured stalks.

Regularly grown rhubarb can stand up heartily alongside a decent dose of sugar, without losing the tart taste of the fruit that can be lost with the forced version. Crumbles and cocktails are wonderful with a dash of stewed rhubarb, but cakes need a little more inspiration. True, you can turn this fruit into a wonderful cake filling for a Victoria Sponge, but running through the actual cake, or rather, on the bottom, is a fantastic alternative.

There is something altogether retro about upside down cakes, but I think this one is rather more elegant than canned pineapple rings with glace cherry centres. Rhubarb is macerated with sugar, and lined up regimentally in the bottom of a cake tin, then topped with a delicious orange scented sponge mix. Baked and then upturned onto a serving board, it is the height of upside-down cake sophistication. Add a scoop of ice cream and perhaps a gin and tonic, and it’s a jubilee cake that celebrates the best of British without resorting to bunting, red white and blue themes or flag interpretations with sliced fruit. This is baking without cliché and it’s all the better for it. So raise a toast to those hardy sticks of rhubarb, before they disappear for another year.

 

You Will Need

For the Topping

140g rhubarb, cut into strips

1 and a ½ tablespoons of caster sugar

 

For the Sponge

100g caster sugar

100g softened butter (Stork is fine)

2 eggs

1 orange, zested

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

100g self raising flour

Extra caster sugar and butter to coat the cake tin

 

Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/Gas Mark 4. Place the sliced rhubarb in a bowl and sprinkle over the caster sugar. Toss to coat each piece and leave to macerate. Grease a sandwich tin with a little butter, then sprinkle over caster sugar and shake round the tin to coat. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer for about 3-4 minutes until creamy. Whisk in the eggs until smooth. Don’t worry if the mixture splits at this point, it will come together with the flour. Mix in the orange zest and vanilla paste, then fold in the flour.

In the bottom of the sandwich tin, arrange the rhubarb strips in a circular shape and drizzle over the sugar syrup that will have accumulated at the bottom of the bowl. Spoon over the cake mix and smooth with the back of a spoon. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Place the tin on a wire rack and leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out onto a plate or a wooden board. Cut into wedges and serve with ice cream.