Monday, 15 December 2014

Gingerbread Biscotti

Hello again! See, I haven't abandoned you forever. My final year of a MChem degree was never going to keep me away entirely. For those of you who have only just met me, I explained why I would be absent a lot of the time from my beloved blog in this post here for Tunis Cupcakes. I'm back for a bit though to squeeze in this post for Gingerbread Biscotti because I've looked forward to joining in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014 since I found out about it last year.
Gingerbread Biscotti - full of lovely warming spices. A crunchy texture perfect for dunking.
Have you heard of the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap? It's a really fun way to raise money for charity while simultaneously getting to discover new blogs and receiving surprises parcels in the post. You are assigned three blogs to send a batch of twelve cookies (biscuits to me) to and in return you receive three lots of mystery cookies yourself. The blogs assigned to me were Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding (I have my eye on that recipe for Maple and Candied Walnut Chocolate Celebration Cake), What Sass Says (lots of brilliant advice to be had there) and Digital Diva (the best mixture of recipes, reviews and all aspects of life). I really hope they liked their gingerbread biscotti. In return I received my one of my favourite combinations of chocolate and hazelnut cookies from Foodie Laura, Chocolate Dipped Earl Grey biscuits from The Vanilla Bean and Cranberry, Ginger and White Chocolate Cookies from Annie's Noms. I was spoilt. Don't ask me to pick a favourite. All I will say is that they disappeared helped with my revision.
Gingerbread Biscotti - full of lovely warming spices. A crunchy texture perfect for dunking.
Like I mentioned, I first cake across the Cookie Swap last year and I've been waiting since then to join in. What a fantastic way to meet new bloggers and get parcels of freshly baked goodies in the post. I had to pick my parcels up from the Post Office because I missed the postie man and it was all I could do to wait until I walked back to my house before ripping open the packaging. I'm sure I've mentioned before that I have no self control. It took me a while to decide what to bake for my contribution because I had so many ideas floating around my head. Then I remembered the breakthrough biscotti I had made, the ones that meant I had recently cracked biscotti making and I simply had to make my gingerbread version again. 
Gingerbread Biscotti - full of lovely warming spices. A crunchy texture perfect for dunking.
Previous to this I've had the same problem over and again with biscotti. I simply couldn't get them to go crunchy after their second bake. Now I've got a base recipe which work for me though so I'll be away with all my ideas. I would quite happily much these all year round but let me state right now that if you are looking for a truly seasonal biscuit then this recipe will deliver. Dunk them in tea, hot chocolate (yes!!!!) or coffee, pretty much any steaming hot drink you can think of and you will sink into a state of welcome bliss. Pre-dunking each bit brings a satisfying crunch reminiscent of amplified boots walking on fresh crisp snow. After dunking they biscuit hold itself together long enough to reach your taste buds where it will dissolve and release its warming, quilted sensation to wrap you up against the winter chill. Not a fan of ginger but love spices? That's ok, simply replace with your favourite spice or even some Speculaas spice mix. I've already proven how wonderful Speculaas shortbread is.
Gingerbread Biscotti - full of lovely warming spices. A crunchy texture perfect for dunking.
If you are a blogger then I encourage you to join in the Cookie Swap next year. If not, then I still encourage you to look over all the other entries and get yourself into a baking frenzy. You might wear yourself out making so many delicious biscuits and cookies but you will have to best of rewards at the end of it. Let me know which flavours of biscotti I should make next then go pop the kettle on.

Gingerbread Biscotti
Makes 124-28 biscuit
Crunchy, spicy, warming biscotti. Dunk them in your favourite hot drink for an extra special treat.











Ingredients
  • 280g plain flour
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 0.75 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.25 tsp ground cloves
  • 0.25 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp black treacle or molasses
  • 55g butter, melted
Instructions
1. Set the oven to 180 C/160 C fan.  
2. Sift together, the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices. In a jug, mix together the remaining ingredients then mix into the dry ingredients.  
3. Knead together until evenly mixed then lay a piece of baking paper onto the kitchen surface. For the dough into two logs, roughly 30cm x 13 cm, on the paper.
4. Slide a baking tray under the baking paper and bake in the preheated oven for 25 mins (pat back into shape part way through if they spread too much for your liking) then remove from the oven and lower the temperature t 150 C/130 C fan. While the oven cools, slice each log into 12-14 pieces and lay them cut side down on the baking tray.
5. Return to the oven for 25-30 mins ( less/more depending on your oen), turning the biscuits over every ten minutes or so. They will firm up but remain slightly soft. Remove from the oven and trasnfer the biscotti to a wire rack to cool wherre they will ery quickly firm up to the desired crunchy state.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Mincemeat Christmas Pudding Cake

When Waitrose got in touch recently asking me if I would like to take part in their Waitrose Christmas Desserts campaign they are running at this festive time of year my answer was immediately yes. Everybody knows how obsessed I am with baking and baking in the run up to Christmas seems all the more special somehow. I was thinking of Christmas recipes all the way back in the summer though I managed to wait until October to publish my first Christmassy recipe. I've since followed that up with this suet free mincemeat galette, this Speculaas shortbread and these vintage Tunis cupcakes. All of them delicious and all of which I had fun baking.
Mincemeat Christmas Pudding Cake - a fun combination of Christmas pudding and Madeira cake. So very easy.
Waitrose have found out that the top five desserts enjoyed by people at Christmas are Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, mince pies, chocolate Yule log and trifle. My task was to bake one of these things and put my own personal twist on it. Challenge accepted. My favourite thing to bake will always be cake but I'm saving my Christmas cake bakeathon until nearer the big day. I really enjoy making Christmas pudding but I'm not a huge fan of eating it. I've had an idea in my head for a while now to combine the two and this was the perfect chance to see if it would work. The result? Brilliant.
Mincemeat Christmas Pudding Cake - a fun combination of Christmas pudding and Madeira cake. So very easy.
I wanted to create something that as many people as possible could enjoy. First of, the recipe had to come together quickly because practicall everyone is pushed for time towards the end of the year. Easy peasy - just use and all in one mixture like these Tunis cupcakes. Don't like Christmas pudding? No worries, this is a cake disguised as a pudding. For those who prefer something plainer, the base of this is a Madeira cake. For the chocolate lovers there is a thick slathering of white chocolate ganache instead of the traditional brandy icing used on Christmas pudding.  For those who like mincemeat there is a generous helping stirred through the mixture and baked right inside. Multiple factors of Christmas baking rolled into one recipe. I was mighty pleased when I first took a bite. And then another. Aaaaaand several more. 
Mincemeat Christmas Pudding Cake - a fun combination of Christmas pudding and Madeira cake. So very easy.
The taste is that wonderful richness that comes with using ground almonds. Not too rich though, just enough to leave you feeling pleasingly indulgent. Almonds add to the silky osft crumb texture too, clinging onto every bit of moisture for days after. The whisky from the mincemeat warms you slowly from the inside complementing the sweet creaminess of the white chocolate ganache as only the slightly dark hints of distilled spirits can. The fruit dispersed throughout gives an extra little pop of flavour each time you catch some in every bite keeping you alert so you can enjoy every last morsel. Fancy another slice? Go on, it is Christmas after all.
Mincemeat Christmas Pudding Cake - a fun combination of Christmas pudding and Madeira cake. So very easy.
I baked my Christmas pudding cake in a Pyrex bowl. If you don't have one you can easily use a deep bowl as long as it is oven safe though I would highly recommend buying one because they are so useful. Alternatively, Lakeland do a hemisphere cake tin if you want to add another bit of kitchen kit to your collection. Or get creative and carve the dome shape from a deep circular cake. Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy eating your masterpiece. And maybe enter it into the Waitrose #BakeItForward campaign too. You never know what might happen.

Mincemeat Christmas Pudding Cake
Makes 1 large cake
Buttery madeira cake with whisky mincemeat baked inside and finished with a layer of white chocolate ganache. Add piped chocolate decorations and sprinkles for an extra special touch to this quick and easy alternative Christmas cake.










Ingredients
 For the cake:
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 125g very soft butter or buttery margarine
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Zest of one lemon or orange, finely grated
  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 150-200g good quality mincemeat
To finish: 
  • 100g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 25g dark chocolate, melted
Instructions
1. Set the oven to 170 C/150 C fan and grease a medium sized Pyrex bowl with butter, then dust with flour. Set on a baking tray.
2. Place all the cake ingredients into a bowl, apart from the baking powder and mix together with an electric mixer until just smooth. Sprinkle over the baking powder and mix again to evenly distribute. (if you think you'll forget it this way, just add with the other ingredients instead. It will still work fine.)
3. Transfer the mixture to the bowl, level off then create a shallow dip in the centre with the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, depending on your oven and the depth of your bowl,  untill  a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. If the top of the cake looks like it is getting too dark before it has finished cooking, gently place a disc of foil over the top of the cake to prevent it browing too much.
4. When the cake is cool, gently invert the bowl onto the wire rack and remove the cake. If it needs encouraging, carefully run a knif round the edge of the cake to loosen it.
5. For the ganache icing, place the white chocolate and milk in a bowl set over a pan of inch deep simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Stire frequently until melted and smooth - it looks horrible at first but then comes together beautifully. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, stirring every so often so it doesn't set. Meanwhile, place the melted dark chocolate in a piping bag with a narrow hole in the end and pipe shapes onto some baking paper or a silicone mat. Leave to set fully.
6. Once the ganache has thickened to your desired consistnecy pour/spread over the cake and add sprinkles. Gently press the piped chocolate shapes into the top of the cake before the ganache completely sets.


Disclaimer: Waitrose sent me some goodies and a voucher to cover the cost of ingredients and my time. I was not required to write a positive view and all thoughts expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tunis Cupcakes

Sometimes you have an idea that you really really want to carry out, but you know the idea must wait until it is just the right time. So you keep it tucked away, never forgetting it for a moment and every once in a while you take it back out to examine it and decide if now is the time. Finally, after maybe three years of waiting, last weekend was the right time for these cupcakes and I couldn't be more pleased about them.
Tunis Cupcake. Mini versions of McVities classic Tunis Cake - a Madeira cake alternative to Christmas cake.
Have you ever heard of a Tunis cake? A lot of people haven't which I think is a shame because really they are divine. Vintage Tunis cakes are a non-fruit cake alternative to traditional Christmas cake. I believe McVities used to make them at Christmas time though I've no idea why they stopped. To me a Tunis cake seems like the perfect choice to go alongside the super indulgence of fruit packed, alcohol soaked, spiced laden Christmas cake shrouded in marzipan and sugar paste. The simplistic Madeira cake base topped with chocolate icing and topped with marzipan fruits (if you wish) is the ideal cake to turn to in times when you want to calm down over the festive period and enjoy something a little plainer. In between handfuls of Quality Street.
Tunis Cupcake. Mini versions of McVities classic Tunis Cake - a Madeira cake alternative to Christmas cake.
Tunis cakes are supposed to baked as one big cake, which I was very tempted to do. Then I thought, well seeing as I never follow the original recipe anyway, I might as well bake them as fun and cute cupcakes. It will give me a chance to make a start on the 230 cupcake cases I bought at the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show and make it easier to transport them to uni for sharing. The beautiful marzipan fruits I bought from M&S were just the right size to fit on top. I was also feeling quite lazy and thought I'd try out an all in one method for the Madeira sponge to save all that creaming butter and sugar to produce the lightest of cakes. I'm pleased to present the evidence of the idea working perfectly but if you prefer, my favourite Madeira cake recipe is more traditional and just as gorgeous. 
Tunis Cupcake. Mini versions of McVities classic Tunis Cake - a Madeira cake alternative to Christmas cake.
Even with my, ahem, meddlesome adaptations (I blame the scientist in me) these cupcakes were perfect. When the cake tin lid was lifted in the office there were sounds of 'oooo' and 'ahhhh' and 'so pretty!' each time. The all in one method makes the bake time super quick and gives a wonderful airy height to such a little cake. Each cupcake is soft and tender, smacks of buttery flavour and the moist, silky smooth crumb which tells of the use of ground almonds. A hint of freshness from lemon zest makes these lightly sweet treats not too heavy to enjoy post celebration meal while richness of flavour is maintained and rounded off by a thick layer of ganache (Terrys dark chocolate orange is ideal) and the classy adornment of a marzipan fruit. The arisocracy of Christmas cupcakes.
Tunis Cupcake. Mini versions of McVities classic Tunis Cake - a Madeira cake alternative to Christmas cake.
Now for the sad part, which I've been avoiding writing. The time has come for me to take a step back from my blog. The workload is building for my final year of uni and I want to give it my all so I can achieve that first. Blogging takes a long time and as much as I love it, I don't want it to become a pressure and so a chore. I've been there with other hobbies and now they are ruined for me. I'm not giving up, simply vastly reducing the frequency of my post and in the meantime continuing to bake like crazy purely to relax so when the blog starts back up in earnest, I have a million and one ideas to share with you. When I made this decision I spent a day moping over it and now I'm nearly in tears again telling you all this. I've loved every minute of this up to yet, appreciated every single share and comment and will look forward to the day when I can be hammering excitedly at my keyboard at the same frequency as before. Would you do me the hugest of favours and follow me in some way so I can keep you up to date with what I can and when I', coming back full time? There is bloglovin, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or sign up for email updates. The choice is yours. I love you all. And thank you.

Tunis Cupcakes
Makes 12+ cupcakes depending on case size
Buttery madeira cupcakes topped with a layer of dark chocolate ganache and a charming marzipan fruit. The perfect alternative to a heavy Christmas fruit cake. Inspired by the McVities Tunis Cake.









Ingredients
 For the cupcakes:
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g very soft butter or buttery margarine
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Zest of one lemon, finely grated
  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
To finish: 
  • 125g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Marzipan fruits
Instructions
1. Set the oven to 180 C/160 C fan and line a 12 cup muffin tray with cupcake cases.  
2. Place all the cake ingredients into a bowl, apart from the baking powder and mix together with an electric mixer until just smooth. Sprinkle over the baking powder and mix again to evenly distribute. (if you think you'll forget it this way, just add with the other ingredients instead. It will still work fine.)
3. Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes untill well risen, golden and a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean. Carefully remove the cakes from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
4. For the ganache icing, place the chocolate and milk in a bowl set over a pan of inch deep simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Stire frequently until melted and smooth - it looks horrible at first but then comes together beautifully. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, stirring every so often so it doesn't set.
5. To finish, slice any domed tops off the cupcakes so they are level then spoon on a layer of ganache. Smooth out so it reaches the edge of the cupcake to meet the paper case. Before the ganache sets, add a marzipan fruit to decorate.


I'm pleased to be able to offer these Tunis cupcakes to CookBlogShare, run by Lucy from Supergolden Bakes before I cut back on blogging temporarily. Also, to Helen's Bake of the Week at Casa Costello. Thanks for having me each time.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Chilli Mayonnaise Brownies

At one point or another most bakers will set out on a search for their perfect recipe for certain groups of bakes. I know I certainly have through my endless experiments. I've found a fair few of my favourites already too. There is the muffin recipe which I based these and these on. My favourite chocolate cake recipe is so versatile like this traybake and this bundt cake shows. I even have a favourite Madeira cake recipe for a plain but still richly flavoured cake while my base brownie recipe will be gloriously decadent whatever I do to it. It is my favourite brownie recipe which I am most proud of. Made out of an act of defiance when I didn't want to follow the recipe, it was perfect first time and has been ever since, however I choose to adapt it.
Chilli Brownies. The secret ingredient is mayonnaise to make these brownies a healthier alternative!
But I still want to compare other methods to my favourites just so that at the end I can have the satisfaction of having tried something new and wonderful and delicious before returning to my old faithfuls. You never know, I might find a new favourite. But I doubt it. My brownies RULE. 
Chilli Brownies. The secret ingredient is mayonnaise to make these brownies a healthier alternative!
If you have managed to read this far I thank you, for giving me a chance and not being put off by the title. Maybe I should call them secret ingredient brownies. I did after all refuse to tell people that there was mayonnaise in them until after they had eaten one and said 'ooo, that's good!'. I've heard of putting mayonnaise in brownies before to give the perfect texture and I must say, although I am still loyal to my ultimate brownies, these are a close second. Especially if there is some mayonnaise to use up. The chilli? Well, just because really. I wanted to. Nothing wrong with that.
Chilli Brownies. The secret ingredient is mayonnaise to make these brownies a healthier alternative!
The dark chocolate pulls you into a deep cocoa pool while the chilli kick wakes you up before you sink too far, leaving you wide awake and ready for a second helping. The texture is deliciously moist with that level of stickiness that makes you feel terribly, enjoyably naughty. Their density belies the floaty feeling of bliss you will experience upon sinking your teeth into the perfectly fudge-cake like squares each time. But they are not cakey. Oh no, not at all. Cakey brownies will never feature on this blog
Chilli Brownies. The secret ingredient is mayonnaise to make these brownies a healthier alternative!
Healthy alternatives to indulgent treats are so often a disappointment, people trying to convence themselves that there is no loss of flavour or satisfaction. These brownies do not let that happen. The mayonnaise replaces a lot of the fat and some of the eggs of a typical brownies so you can cut out a lot of the calories that way, if you are really interested. I even managed to convince a friend who is using a Slimfast liquid diet to try one after saying they have approximately less than 150 calories in each square. She had no regrets.

Chilli Mayonnaise Brownies


Makes 16 small brownies or 9 normal sized ones
Deliciously sticky and chewy, these dark chocolate brownies hide a bit of chilli kick and are made healthier by using mayonnaise to repllace some of the fat and eggs.









Ingredients
  • 85g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate, chopped and melted, cooled slightly
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g dark soft brown sugar
  • 0.5 tsp instant coffee granules
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk (or milk mixed with a sprinkling of vineger)
  • 1 egg
  • 100g light or extra light mayonnaise
  • 85g plain flour
  • 0.25 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder or chilli paste
  • 50g white chocolate, chopped
Instructions
1. Set the oven to 180 C/1600 C fan and line an 8" square tin with baking paper.  
2. Mix the sugars into the melted chocolate, followed by the coffee granules, vanilla, buttermilk and egg. Mix in the mayonnaise until well incorporated.
3.Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and chilli powder. Stir through the white chocolate then mix in the wet ingredients unitl only just combined.
4. Pour into the tin and level off. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out with a few gooey crumbs on it. 
5. Cool on a wire rack completely before removing from the tin.

These mayonnaise brownies were my random choice, using a random number generator to pick the page number from a magazine I recently bought so I'm sharing them with this months Random Recipes run by Dom from Belleau Kitchen. As luck would have it I've had the recipe bookmarked for ages when I printed it out from here so I'm sending it off to Bookmarked Recipes run by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours this month on behalf of Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes. I used Hellman's mayonnaise to make these so hopefully Ros, The More Than Occasional Baker, will allow them at a push into Alphabakes this month. Carline of Caroline Makes shares hosting duties. If like me, you open a jar of mayo and then it sit in the fridge for ages, you'll be looking for ways to use up leftover mayonnaise and these brownies are the perfect solution. That's why I'm sending them off to the No Waste Food Challenge, this month hosted by Manjirichitnis at Slice of Me for Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. They also couldnt be any more perfect for the chilli themed We Should Cocoa, this month hosted by Shaheen from Allotment 2 Kitchen for Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Orange Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Muffins

Being completely incapable of sticking to a recipe I couldn't just make gingerbread muffins. Instead my mind wandered to what sweeties I had still in my chocolate stash. Amonst the various types of mini eggs (Daim, Cadbury, Milky Bar...) I remembered I had some Terrys chocolate oranges hiding away. I recently made some blondies with the popping candy one so that was out and the dark is earmarked for something coming soon so that left the standard milk chocolate orange. Would the orange flavour match the gingerbread spices? Um, do I like chocolate?
Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Muffins made with Terrys chocolate orange. Christmas in a muffin.
Inspired by the wonderful Nigella Lawson and her book Feast (a charity shop treasure) and using my favourite muffin base from Sally's Baking Addiction I whipped these up in no time one Sunday evening after a really rubbish weekend. It was one of those times when only baking woould help me relax before tackling the next day. I don't know how I managed to not eat one fresh for my supper but somehow I did. The mixture wasn't so lucky - but that is how I know it was super delicious.
Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Muffins made with Terrys chocolate orange. Christmas in a muffin.
Baking these gingerbread muffins helped me to solve one problem but then presented me with another. I needed to get rid of them fast. If I didn't, I knew I owuld eat three in one day then three the next just to use them up. This is glory to my tastebuds but not so much to my clothes. There wasn't enought to take in for the office for everyone to try them but thankfully a couple of my friends came to the rescue. I even apologised to one of them for feeding her family sugar and promised not to off load my baking onto her again. I shouldn't have said that. Promises are actually pretty important to me. 
Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Muffins made with Terrys chocolate orange. Christmas in a muffin.
 Of course orange chocolate went well with the gingerbread spices. Blissfully so. Eat bite of super soft muffin was tender and moist, the orange oils from the Terrys swirling round releasing flavour to encompass the warmth of the classic spice mix that everyone loves in gingerbread. The sweet chocolate tempers the spiciness letting the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of molasses do what they are good at. Wrap yourself in a quilt and you'll get the same effect surrounding your whole body but with these gingerbread muffins you'll get it bit after bite. A hug in cake form. 
Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Muffins made with Terrys chocolate orange. Christmas in a muffin.
A few hours after dropping these off I received a text from one of the friends who helped remove these from my path. They taste like Christmas she said. Coud you ask for any more of a recommendation? I started grinning like a Cheshire cat. This base muffin recipe has always done my proud whether they are holding iced coffee, bonfire toffee and apple or even savoury flavours. There are many more to come, I just know it. For now, I hope you enjoy these Christmas muffins.


 Orange Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Muffins


Makes 6 muffins
A soft, tender muffin hiding chunks of Terrys milk chocolate orange to complement the classic gingerbread spices assocaited with autumn, fall and Christmas.








Ingredients
  • 190g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tbsp ground ginger
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.5tsp nutmeg
  • 0.5 tsp mixed spice 
  • 75g Terrys chocolate orange, chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 40g granulated sugar
  • 40g dark soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp black treacle or molasses
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 60ml sunflower or olive oil
  • 120ml buttermilk (or milk + 1tsp vinegar)
Instructions
1. Set the oven to 220 C/200 C fan and line a muffin tray with 6 paper muffin cases.  
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and spice in a bowl. Toss in the chopped chocolate. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, sugars, treacle, golden syrup, oil and buttermilk. 
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and gently stir together until only just mixed. Lumpy batter is fine. Divide between the muffin cases. 
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes then without opening the oven door, reduce the temperature to 180 C/160 C fan and bake for another 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. 
5. Cool on a wire rack (five mins in the tin, then until cold out of the tin) and decorate with extra chocolate if you wish.

P.S. If you like gingerbread, you might also like these speculaas shortbread biscuits or this treacle cake with speculaas icing.

I'm sharing these muffins with CookBlogShare run by Lucy from Supergolden Bakes. Also, I hope I can squeeze them into the In With A Bang themed Love Cake run by Ness from JibberJabber UK because the gingerbread spices give a lovely kick.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Speculaas Spiced Shortbread Biscuits

Recently I went on an adventure to London for the BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes Show. I had a fantastic time and thought that for a Yorkshire lass who doesn't get chance to travel far very often I did London like a pro. The only thing that made me look like a tourist was the tube. Let's save that story for another day. This is the time to talk about shortbread.
Speculaas Spiced Shortbread made using the historical traditional Dutch spice blend. AKA speculoos biscuits.
While at the show I managed to buy lots of lovely bits and pieces at really good prices including a total of 230 cupcake cases. Then the first thing I baked inspired by my adventure didn't need a single one of them. What?! They will keep! The galette was worth it. Also while I was there I wandered over to a little stall which turned out to be run by none other than Steven Dotsch from the Speculaas Spice Company. Surely you've heard of speculaas spices, otherwise known as speculoos, which can also take the form of Biscoff spread, cookie butter or Lotus spread. It's ever so popular and makes a fantastic quick icing but has absolutely zilch on the real deal which is this spice mix. 
Speculaas Spiced Shortbread made using the historical traditional Dutch spice blend. AKA speculoos biscuits.
For those who dodn't know, speculaas spice isn't just cinnamon. It's a mixture of spices and different recipes will give you a different blend. The beauty of buying it ready prepared in this mix though is that the hard work of investingating the best combination has already been done for you. It has even stood the test of time, this blend being a secret recipe of nine spices, passed down through the generations. Taken directly from the Speculaas Spice Company website "the vandotsch speculaas spice mix of nine organic spices delivers deliciously warm, sweet and spicy ‘layers’ of taste taking any simple cinnamon taste to another level."
Speculaas Spiced Shortbread made using the historical traditional Dutch spice blend. AKA speculoos biscuits.
That's no joke either. I decided to make shortbread with the little packet of spice magic I picked up after mentioning I was a blogger. I wanted something classical and simple to really show off the spice blend and this seemed the thing over the other options swirling through my head. I was right. Butter and a brown sugar combine in a little elegant treat that will sit comfortably on your saucer edge waiting for the moment when it can melt into submission, releasing it's warming beauty onto your senses. Hints of cinnamon, ginger and cloves amalgamate with other heady flavours, possibly nutmeg, cardamom and...pepper? I've read a few speculative ideas but Steven is keeping quiet on the subject. The mystery is part of the charm.
Speculaas Spiced Shortbread made using the historical traditional Dutch spice blend. AKA speculoos biscuits.
 It was a pleasure to meet Steven and equally a pleasure was baking with such a traditional spice blend. I've made many a shortbread before right from a twist on the classic in the form of chocolate fingers, through a fruity apricot and walnut version, to the master of indulgence Millionaire's shortbread. I've even iced a ginger shortbread and experimented with brown sugar which I again used this time to add a caramel undertone. Never though have I combined two heritages - the historical spice blend of the Netherlands and the sweet simplicity of much loved Scottish shortbread. I was beaming when I got my hands on the spices - I hghly recommend them to all. Oh, and that bossy biscuit cutter? Another find at the show. I couldn't resist.

Speculaas Spiced Shortbread Biscuits

Makes up to 20 biscuits depending on size
Buttery sweetly spiced classic shortbread biscuits made using the traditonal Dutch speculaas spice mixed, passed down through the generations.








Ingredients
  • 4oz butter, really soft but not melted
  • 2oz dark orlight soft brown sugar
  • 5oz plain flour
  • 1oz cornflour, semolina, rice flour OR ground rice
  • 1 scant tbsp Speculaas spice mix
Instructions
1. Set the oven to 180 C/160 C fan and line a baking sheet with baking paper.  

2. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until really soft then beat in the sugar until well combined, but not fluffy like for a cake. Sift in the flour, cornflour/semolina/rice flour/ground rice and the spices. When evenly combined bring together into a soft ball by hand.

3. Dust a work surface or sheet of baking paper with a little flour and roll out to a few mm thick. Use your favourite cutter to cut out biscuits, recombining the trimming to roll out and cut more biscuits. Arrange on thr tray with enough of a gap to allow for slight spreading. Alternatively press the mixture into a greased 7" round cake tin and mark into triangles.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 mins (35-40 mins at 170 C/150 C fan for the cake tin shortbread) until the biscuits are dry to the touch and very slightly golden brown but still pale. 

5. Cool on the tray for five minutes then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack. Allow the circular shortbread to cool in the tin as this will be more prone to breaking.

I'm linking this to my own Biscuit Barrel challenge this month where I've set the theme as Winter Warmers. I enjoyed these with a hot drink each time and the spices themselves are perfectly warming. I'm also sending them off to Treat Petite, this month hosted by Cakeyboi Stuart, alternatively with Kat, the Baking Explorer. I took these home for my mum instead of sharing them at uni because my mum always deserves something she will enjoy as a big Thank You. Karen at Lavender and Lovage has set the theme for Cooking with Herbs as Sugar and Spice and speculaas is a classic sweet spice mix. Finally, I'm sharing them with Helen at Casa Costello for her Bake of the Week.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Pecan, Pear and Mincemeat Galette

In my last post I promised to start on the Christmas recipes soon and for once I have! I might not do too good at posting things specifically for Easter or Halloween or other holidays but there really is something special about Christmas baking don't you think? And hey, I did make a very successful speculoos iced spider web cake after all.
Pecan, Pear and Mincemeat Galette - the ideal alternative to mince pies this year. A very boozy Christmas recipe.
I'm feeling inexplicably Christmassy this year. I shouldn't be. I should be feeling ohmygodfinalyearexamstestsdeadlinesIcan'tdoit! But I'm not. Yet. So I'm enjoying the feeling while it lasts and making a start on all the Christmas recipe ideas I have, several of which feature this mincemeat. I probably should have let it mature for slightly longer but I really couldn't resist.
Pecan, Pear and Mincemeat Galette - the ideal alternative to mince pies this year. A very boozy Christmas recipe.
This bake was inspired by my recent trip to London for the BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes show (loved it!) where I bought an awful lot of cupcake cases. I also got a BBC goody bag and one of the magazines told me that galettes would be the next big baking trend. Now I'm not one to follow trends deliberately but galettes really appeal to me because  I love making pastry but I'm pretty lazy so the fact that I can just fold up the edges around my choice of filling and be done with it. I knew I didn't want to make standard classic mince pies but couldn't decide on an alternative. Then I saw a bashed pear in my fruit bowl and thought why not? And so this fruity boozy Christmas galette was born.
Pecan, Pear and Mincemeat Galette - the ideal alternative to mince pies this year. A very boozy Christmas recipe.
A buttery crumbly shortcrust pastry, enriched with a sprinkling of demerara sugar and a dash of whisky, generously wraps itself around the filling, folding itself to fit like a blanket. A thick layer of drunken Christmas mincemeat resides within, waiting to pounce with its fiery demeanour beneath chunks of soft yielding pear, oozing their own fruity sauce. The sweet, slightly creamy, pecans provide the toasty crunchy that finishes off the volcano like setting that is a rough hewn, homely galette.
Pecan, Pear and Mincemeat Galette - the ideal alternative to mince pies this year. A very boozy Christmas recipe.
This recipe will satisfy the make and the eater just as much as a pie would. I'd go as far to say even more so because you get the results to enjoy quicker. Serve hot with a pool of vanilla custard or a snowy ice cream ball, or serve cold with a cup of tea to finish of a meal. I'll even make a guess that a curl of maple syrup sweetened mascarpone cheese would be a delightful accompaniment. Any more serving suggestions let me know. For now I'll get to work on crossing more Christmas recipes off my list.



print recipe

Pecan,  Pear and Mincemeat Galette

Cuts into approximately 6 slices
Buttery cinnamon scented pastry filled with a layer of luxury suet free mincemeat and juicy pears, topped off with crunchy pecans bursting out of the centre.









Ingredients
  • 150g plain flour
  • 75g butter, chilled and cubed
  • 0.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar
  • 1 large egg, mixed
  • Splash of whisky
  • Approx 150g quality mincemeat e.g. Suet Free Whisky Mincemeat
  • 1 large pear, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • Handful of pecans
Instructions
1. Set the oven to 200 C/180 C fan and place a baking tray inside.  

2. Sift together the flour, cinnamon and sugar then rub in the butter until in looks like breadcrumbs. Reserve a little of the egg and use the rest, and a splash of whisky if necessary, to bind the pastry together into a soft but not sticky ball. 

3. Lay a sheet of baking paper on the work surface and dust with a little flour. Roll out the pastry into a rough circle a few mm thick and trim to neaten the edges if you wish. 

4. Spread the mincemeat into the entre of the circle leaving 1.5-2" around the edges. Toss the pear slices inthe cornflour and lay on top. Fold up the sides of the pastry aver the filling - it shouldn't come all the way into the centre. Sprinkle the pecans over the filling which is showing and brush te whole lot with the remaining egg, making sure it doesn't drip down the sides. 

5. Lift the baking paper onto the hot baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for 30-35 mins until golden. Cool on a wire rack.


I'm sending this galette off to Lucy's CookBlogShare at Supergolden Bakes - have a look, there will probably be other Christmassy recipes shared there too. As well as being festive, this galette is just about suitable for the Bonfire Night themed Tea Time Treats, this month hosted by Janie from The Hedgecombers, alternatively with Karen from Lavender and Lovage. My reasoning is that the whisky it contains is very warming, perfect for a chilly night. For the same reason I hope that Janine from Cake of the Week will accept it for her Baking with Spirit.