Monday, September 26, 2011

Pizza Sunday: Spinach and Ricotta

Yesterday's Pizza Sunday was a very delicious occasion. We decided to make Spinach and Ricotta pizzas.

Being the greedy fatties that we are, we had a pizza EACH this time and they turned out really big as well because the dough rose more than usual for some unknown reason. Bailey's was so big it barely fit on the pizza stone!

I used the usual recipe for the dough which I am getting pretty nifty at making, even if I say so myself. For the pizza sauce I mixed a bit of passata, salt and chilli flakes to make quite a simple tasting sauce to go with some of the more exiting flavours on the pizza.

I very quickly pan-fried some spinach with a bit of salt for a few minutes and took it off the heat as soon as it started to wilt.

To assemble the pizza I just put the spinach on then put wee blobs of ricotta all over the base and topped it with some mozzarella that I'd previously torn apart.

Our pizzas were really yummy and I loved the thin base and the subtle blend of flavours.

Bailey gave the pizzas 8.5 out of 10 and I agreed that they weren't 100% perfect. Due to the moistness of the ricotta and mozzarella which I hadn't anticipated, the base turned out a lot less crisp than it has done in the past few weeks. Bailey's less health-conscious pizza, which I made to be loads cheesier than mine, must have had a load more moisture floating around on it so was probably a bit on the soggy side.

I think next time I use ricotta blobs and moist mozzarella I will make sure I give the pizza base just a couple of minutes on the pizza stone in the oven before I pop my toppings on.

Stay tuned for next week's Pizza Sunday, when we will be making Sloppy Joe's Pizza! Have we gone mad? Quite possibly!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gluten-Free Mocha Cupcakes

Yesterday was Liz's birthday celebration in Sheffield and I decided I wanted to make her some nice coeliac-friendly gluten-free cupcakes.

I remembered how the Wheat-free Feta and Pea muffins I adapted from my Hummingbird Bakery book had worked so well, so thought I would use another recipe from there for Liz's pressie. I eventually decided on a batch of Mocha Cupcakes as I remembered how much coffee Liz and I used to drink when we were about 15 and thought we were really grown up.

I found this recipe really easy to follow, and mixing the ingredients together required a lot less elbow-grease than the usual cupcake recipes I use. Although I've made gluten-free recipes before, there were a few nervous moments before baking, as the mixture seemed super runny but once they were in the oven they rose like an absolute dream!

The cupcakes tasted really lovely - a lovely crispy top with a soft cakey centre and a nice smooth icing. The flavours were great - not sickly at all and the perfect combination of subtle coffee and chocolate. I could have eaten multiple cakes in one go, that is for sure.

Liz seemed really happy with her cakes and her sister Rosie was pleased too because she said she had wanted to bake something for Liz but didn't have a cake tin!

I definitely think that Hummingbird Bakery recipes are the way forward for all my future gluten-free baking adventures and am looking forward to doing some more baking for whichever one of my allergic friends' birthday comes up next!!

Recipe (makes 14 large cupcakes):

For the cupcakes:
240ml of milk
1 tablespoon hot-chocolate powder
1 teaspoon coffee granules
80g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
240g gluten-free plain flour
1 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs

For the icing:
25ml milk
1 tablespoon hot chocolate powder
250g icing sugar
80g unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C and prepare a muffin tin with muffin cases. Place the milk in a measuring jug and place in the microwave for around 30 seconds - 1 minute until warmed. Mix in the hot-chocolate powder and the coffee granules and mix.

Mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together until you have a breadcrumb-like texture.

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and add to the mocha milk mixture. Pour half of the milk into the dry ingredients and mix in.

Stir well, before adding the rest of the milk mixture and making sure there are no lumps. Don't panic if the mixture seems a little runny, mine did and it turned out fine!

Place the cupcakes into the hot oven and bake for around 20 minutes or until the mixture is firm and the cakes are golden.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Warm the milk in the microwave for around 20 seconds, keeping an eye on it and making sure it doesn't boil over. Add the hot chocolate powder to the warmed milk and stir. Add the butter and icing sugar to a bowl and cream them together.

Pour in the chocolate milk and stir well until light, fluffy and lump free.

When the cakes are cooled, ice them using a good palette knife, put the kettle on for a cuppa and voila, mocha-tastic cupcakes that won't make your coeliac friends poorly. Yummy!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes with Popcorn

As we were having a Movie Night last night, I decided I wanted to make some cupcakes that had popcorn on top - almost like a cake that could kill two birds / snacks with one stone as you ate it.

So Bailey and I came up with the idea of a cupcakes with caramel icing that was topped with freshly popped popcorn to replicate the taste of toffee popcorn.

I whipped up a batch of my favourite Primrose Bakery vanilla cupcakes, that turned out delicious and soft - I was really happy with them.

Incidentally once I had made the sponges and was leaving them out to cool, I stupidly opened the door to a dodgy 3G salesman who, on spotting the cakes, told me he was a pastry chef by trade and thought he could secure a deal by giving me some of his "secret recipes". He was a real weirdo and after I had managed to get rid of him by getting Bailey to come downstairs and be rude to him, he had the cheek to say "Can I nick a cupcake on my way out?" Outrageous!

Anyway, after saving the cupcakes from the belly of the 3G man, I made up a milk chocolate and caramel icing which was really yummy. I iced the cakes with this before drizzling in toffee sauce before popping some butter popcorn and using the toffee sauce to stick pieces of popcorn to the cakes.

Although this seemed like a nice idea at the time I think it may have been a bit too wacky for it's own good. The popcorn was a very strange texture on top of the soft sponge and not long after having been put on top of the cakes, the popcorn went quite dry reminding you of those funky bits of popcorn you get at the bottom of your bag towards the end of the film.

I think the only way for this recipe to work would be if you used that glazed toffee popcorn you get from the video rentals shop, but even then I would much rather eat a Caramel Chocolate Cupcake topped with chunks of toffee or lovely bits of crushed up Dime Bars.

A lesson was learned here that popcorn and cupcakes should be kept separate, but at least I worked out a recipe for a yummy, soft caramel chocolate icing!

Recipe (makes 12 large cupcakes):

For the cupcakes:
110g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
2 eggs
150g self-raising flour
125g plain flour
120ml semi-skimmed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the icing and topping:
150g caramel milk chocolate
110g unsalted butter
1 desert spoon semi-skimmed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g icing sugar
Toffee desert sauce
Popcorn kernels... or even better, some chunks of fudge or Dime Bar or some other topping of your choice that isn't popcorn!

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C and get a 12-hole muffin tray ready with 12 muffin cases. Cream together the butter and sugar with a spoon or electric mixter until creamy and free of lumps.

Add the eggs one at a time and stir well. In a separate bowl, sift the two types of flour. Mix the milk and vanilla extract together in a jug. 

Add a third of the flour to the bowl with the eggs, sugar and butter and stir well.

Add a third of the milk and stir well. Repeat the process until all the milk and flour has been mixed in.

Using two teaspoons, place an even amount of cake batter into the muffin cases before putting them into the oven.

Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes or until the cakes look golden brown.

Leave the cakes in the tin to cool for around 10 minutes.

Remove from the tin and allow to cool before icing. While the cakes are in the oven and cooling, you will have time to make the icing and talk to annoying 3G salesmen.

For the icing, mix together the butter, milk, vanilla extract and icing sugar in a bowl, working out any lumps.

Melt the caramel chocolate in the microwave. Be more vigilant with this than you would be with normal chocolate as I imagine caramel could be a nightmare when burnt. Don't worry too much if the melted caramel chocolate has kind of a grainy texture - mine did and it turned out lovely and smooth once mixed with the rest of the icing ingredients.

Once all mixed together, leave to one side until the cupcakes are ready to be iced. Ice using a good palette knife.

Leave the icing to settle for a little while, ideally overnight. When ready to serve, drizzle with toffee desert sauce, before sticking a topping of your choice to the toffee sauce - I don't recommend using popcorn like I did unless you get the super sugary glazed toffee kind.

And voila, your cupcakes are ready to serve!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Broccolini and Blue Cheese Giant Soufflés

Yesterday for our dinner, Bailey and I had some rather yummy Broccolini and Blue Cheese Soufflés planned for our dinner. I was super excited as we were using the lovely free-range eggs we bought on our visit to Albion Farm Shop.

All was going well with the dinner preparations until the moment when I was about to put the soufflé mixture into the ramekins to put in the oven when suddenly I realised I couldn't find any ramekins. I hunted high and low, Bailey even rooted through the dresser in the dining room when it suddenly dawned on me... The ramekins were in the fridge, full of jelly....

So it was because of this lack of ramekin that Bailey suggested we use our new tapas dishes instead and the Giant Soufflé was born.

Actually the Giant Soufflés came out pretty well. I was kind of worried that they wouldn't cook properly but they turned out lovely and toasty on top and a bit gooey in the middle with lots of yummy flavours. The blue cheese we used was ace too as it wasn't too strong and was really creamy, which isn't bad seeing as I only bought it because it was on offer at Asda.

Recipe (makes 2 giant soufflés):

200g broccolini
4 spring onions
6 eggs
110g creamy blue cheese
Half a teaspoon mustard powder
Half a teaspoon dried dill
A small bunch of chives, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Fill a deep oven tray up with water and place in the oven to heat up. Finely chop the broccolini and spring onions and cook in a hot frying pan for 5 or 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites up into stiff peaks in one bowl. Beat the egg yolks together in another.

Crumble the blue cheese into the egg yolks and add the broccolini, spring onions, mustard powder, dill and chives before mixing well.

Gently fold the egg whites in with the rest of the ingredients using a metal spoon. Take two large ramekins and spray with cooking spray. Transfer the soufflé mixture to the ramekins and place the ramekins in the bain-marie. Put into the oven for around 20 minutes until the soufflés are risen and golden. 

Serve with a salad of red onion and tomato dressed in freshly squeezed lime juice. Soufflé-tastic!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Toblerone Cheesecake

I have always been very pleased to hear that Bailey's boss Kate is quite the fan of my baking. I haven't baked her anything recently though, so when Bailey asked if I would make her something to thank her for the number of lunches she has bought him lately, I was very excited. I wanted it to be something really yummy.

Bailey always stresses that Kate is a big fan of all things chocolatey, but I always think making someone a chocolate cake or chocolate cookies is really boring. Trawling through my cake books for inspiration, I suddenly remembered a conversation Bailey and I had had a few weeks ago about how ace it would be to make a cake that contains all the lovely flavours of the almighty Toblerone.

Our theory was that there isn't anyone who doesn't like Toblerone and if there is, they are rubbish. Toblerone is such a great chocolate bar because you only really have it as a rare treat when someone gets you one for Christmas or from the duty free. Also it is mega tasty.

So we started to design our Toblerone cake. At first it started off as a torte, then became a tart, but finally we decided on a cheesecake because we thought that would be easier for Bailey to take to work in a cake tin without arousing the suspicion of his other colleagues wondering where their Toblerone cheesecake was.

We had to have a look on the Toblerone website to find out what those divine flavours in Toblerone actually are - they are Swiss chocolate, honey and almond nougat. So we decided we would make a honey biscuit base, make the cheese mixture unexpectedly almondy and crunchy as well as throwing quite a bit of Toblerone itself in there for good measure.

The cheese cake was very easy to make but looked really yummy and fancy. We didn't try the cheese cake as obviously it was a gift, but I did rather craftily put a bit of the cheese mix into a ramekin for us to try and that was smooth, rich, chocolatey and really Tobleroney.

Kate was really pleased with the Toblerone cheesecake when Bailey gave it to her, in fact it turns out that's her favourite chocolate bar of all time! What a coincidence!

I think Toblerone cheesecake would be a great dessert to present to your Toblerone loving pals at a dinner party as everyone loves a good bit of Toblerone and it does have that reputation of being something of a classy chocolate bar. Maybe next time I will take it that one step further on the classy scale and make a Ferrero Rocher based pudding.


185g digestive biscuits
75g butter, melted
2 tablespoons clear honey
300g cream cheese
250g mascarpone
15 whole almonds
300g Toblerone Milk
200g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate

Start by preheating the oven to 200 degrees C and covering the bottom of a spring form tin with grease-proof paper. Get the digestive biscuits in a bowl and start crushing them with your fingers to make a fine powder. This can we quite a big job and starts to hurt your hands a bit so maybe do it in stages.

Add the honey to the biscuit crumbs and mix.

Add the melted butter to the biscuit and honey mix, before pressing down evenly onto the bottom of the spring form tin and putting in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until slightly toasty. Take the tin out of the oven and put in the fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone together in a large bowl.

Roughly chop the almonds up nice and small and mix into the cream cheese mix.

Bring a pan of water to the boil on the stove and break up 200g of the Toblerone, the milk chocolate and the dark chocolate into a bowl. Place the bowl containing the chocolate over the pan of water and melt the chocolate, stirring frequently.

Add the melted chocolate to the cream cheese mix and stir well, before pouring onto the cooled biscuit base.

Chop up the remaining Toblerone and sprinkle over the top of the warm cheese cake before placing in the fridge for at least 3 hours to chill.

Take out of the spring form tin and serve. A Toblerone treat!


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