Sunday, 29 June 2014

Biscuit Barrel June 14 Round Up

Mercurial June has come to a close so that means it's time for another round up. 

Despite the ever-changing weather the Biscuit Barrel has been well stocked with lots of goodies that us bakers have linked to summer. There may have even been a little defiance in there that the mixture of rain/sun/wind/cold/clouds will not take away the season from us!

First up are these Pistachio Macaroons with Rose and Raspberry Cream from Kate at the Gluten Free Alchemist. Crunchy Little biscuits filled with an indulgent mascarpone cream, the complementary flavours epitomise summer.

Sometimes the heat (when we get it!) of cummer calls for cooling flavours which this Chocolate and Mint Biscuit Slice from Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker would be perfect for. A good old crowd pleaser containing chocolate, crushed digestives and refreshing Mint Aero Bubbles, the most difficuolt part of this recipe is not eating all the molten mixture before it has set!

Kerene from the Dream Baker sends these Lemon Cranberry Scones and as a result of baking these freshly flavoured delights has been told not to bother with store bought scones again. No surprise really and as they are quick to make from pretty much store cupboard items, these will satisfy taste buds when it is too hot to traipse about the shops looking for ingredients.

My entry this month are these Strawberries and Champagne Boozy Butterfly Cupcakes. I wanted to make traditional butterfly cakes that little bit more special with a soaking of alcohol and my favourite strawberries are the best definition of summer for me. They are very moist and flavoursome from the alcohol so best not to drive for a while after eating one.

Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary tells how she went from enjoying Jane's Ginger Cookies every summer after sitting around a nightly campfire to baking them herself which easily compounded that they are in fact the best ginger cookies out there. I'm not surprised - those sugary crackled tops look ready for someone to dive into.

Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog made these Whisky and Walnut Cakes for a summer event - Father's Day. Well flavoured with a good rise and texture, these might seem like man cakes but I know for certain, with this flavour combination, I wouldn't be able to resist one of two myself.

Stuart from Cakeyboi never fails to be inventive and has proven his abilities once again with these Top Hats. I must confess that I hadn't heard of them before now and it is possibly a good thing because these brilliantly named marshmallow and chocolate treats would be disappearing before they had set if left around me. The Smartie on top is the finishing touch to these goodies which remind Stuart of his summertime birthday.

Kerene from the Dream Baker is back again with these White Lover's Cookies. Ideal for an afternoon tea component, if the name is unfamiliar to you they are a layer of white chocolate sandwiched between buttery biscuits with a beautiful golden colour and something than more than one person would keep reaching for. 

Alexandra from The Lass in the Apron rounds us off our summer entries now with the flavours of these Rose-Almond Petit Fours. Jam and buttercream layered in between a light almond rose flavoured sponge, these miniature bakes are sliced into squares with a neatness I will always be envious of. Alexandra also provides a tutorial to achieve that pretty little piped rose petal adorning each of these cakes. 

That's it for now and I hope you have been inspired to baked some summer themed treats of your own. Pop back in a couple of days to see the new Biscuit Barrel theme for July which I look forward to seeing your entries for. In the meantime, can I tempt you to 25% off tickets for the all new BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show? It isn't until October but hurry because the special discount code over in this post here runs out at the end of tomorrow. I'll be going so I hope to see you there!

Pistachio Macaroons with Rose & Raspberry Cream
Pistachio Macaroons with Rose & Raspberry Cream

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Five Ingredient Dark Chocolate Gluten Free Fudgy Brownies

For my dinner today I tried out a recipe from one of my favourite blogs. It was was for a chicken and avocado quinoa salad with a healthy citrus dressing. I made enough to take for lunch tomorrow too only it turns out I don't like avocado. Or healthy salad dressings. Thank goodness for these brownies.

I had such high hopes for this salad. It was so healthy, packed full of protein and vitamins and supposedly very filling too. I still love the blog it came from which is why I'm not naming and shaming, and still want to make almost every recipe from it, but this salad is definitely one which will not be written down in my recipe notebook to be repeated. Unlike these brownies.

I don't care how good for my skin avocados are. I don't care how much fun it is to cut around the shape and twist the two halves until you feel the pop of one side coming free. Currently I only care how much of a success these brownies were.

Ever since I made these gluten free Chocolate Mousse Brownies (back in the days when I thought I could get away with iPad photos) I've wanted to use the egg and sugar whisking technique again. On the curse wonder that is Pinterest I've got pinned a number of other brownie techniques that I've also wanted to try and me being me I thought why not combine them all in one recipe. It was a gamble that paid off. Don't you love it when you get something right first time?

All these brownies require is a short list of five ingredients. Incredible but true. I had intended to put a splash of homemade vanilla extract  in there too put I completely forgot even though it was out on the side ready and waiting. Feel free to add it yourself but it really isn't necessary. These brownies are prefect as they are.

Normally I'd describe my brownies as gooey. I have my perfect recipe for that sort which I based my Peanut Butter Brownies off, as well as the caramel loaded brownies which I need to revisit to photograph but this weekends bake would not be justified by such an epithet. Fudgy is the only word for these. Fudgy beyond heavenly belief. Profoundly rich and midnight dark, you need to be careful the sheer strength of such a chocolate hit doesn't send you over the edge into a fathomless abyss where there are no more brownies to be found. The only solution to that is a second helping. You might even want to scrape the lining paper to gather up crumbs clinging there. Don't ask me how I know that. 

You might think that the amount of cocoa used to replace the usual suspect of flour would turn these alluring beauties bitter but that isn't the case. The nuggets of milk chocolate raiating through the mixture and those scattered on top as soon as the tray comes out of the oven add just enough creamy sweetness to remove any such possibility. This minimal amount of added chocolate means they would be incredibly easy to make dairy as well as gluten free but if you have no such concerns then so be it. All the sooner you can be devouring the goodness. You senses will thank you.

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Five Ingredient Dark Chocolate Gluten Free Fudgy Brownies
Deep and dark chocolate brownies with an incredibly fudgy texture and studded with milk chocolate. Scatter more on top fresh from the oven to reward yourself with pools of molten chocolate.
  • 3 eggs, medium or large
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 120 ml oil, sunflower or olive
  • 125g cocoa powder
  • 50g + 50g milk chocolate, chopped
1. Set the oven to 170 C/150 C fan and line an 8" square baking tin.2. Whisk the eggs and sugar using an electric mixture until pale and mousse like and the whisk leaves a ribbon trail when lifted from the mixture. Gently mix in the oil.3. Sift and fold in the cocoa, followed by one portion of the chocolate chips - the mixture will be thick.4. Spread the mixture into the tin, level off and bake for about 30 - 35 mins in the preheated oven - a cake tester inserted into the middle will still have mixture clinging to it - this is perfect.5. Scatter the remaining chocolate on top and cool in the tin on a wire rack unless you want to eat warm, in which case cool for as long as you can wait.

Just to add, I'm sharing these with few challenges. I owuld like to thank Michelle at Utterly Scrummy Food for Families for choosing the theme of gluten free for this months We Should Cocoa, the creation of Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog. The theme gave me the push to try an idea I've had for ages. 

Also, Vardhini at Cooks Joy hosts Bake Fest, a monthly link up event for vegetarian and vegan recipes and one which I'm glad to be entering for the first time.

It's my first time sharing with Javelin Warrior's Made with Love Mondays where everything should be made from scratch as I usually forget to add my post so I hope these brownies are acceptable.
P.S. If you like this post can I suggest these ones too...

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Vinegar Cake - A Vintage Fruit Cake Recipe

Croque Madame. Cheese and ham toastie topped with a fried egg. So good, so simple and what I had for dinner tonight, loving every not particularly healthy mouthful - with a generous serving of tomato ketchup on the side for dipping of course. I'll forgive any student jokes on this occasion because it was so utterly yummy and something I've been wanting to try for ages. Admitttedly the thought of no vegetables with my dinner caused too much guilt so I had a small salad with it but I ate it seperately so as not to ruin the main attraction. It was worth the wait. Sometimes a person ought to give into these desires and just enjoy what they fancy.

Something else I've been wanting to make for ages is a fruit cake. I don't know why and even now I've satisfied that desire, I still can't explain it. 

Perhaps it was a memory of a certain cake I make at a certain time of year but I don't want to mention the word in the middle of June, the very same cake that I soak in rum and brandy then cover in marzipan and icing and everyone finds so delicious that it is a crying shame it only gets made once a year. It's such a good cake. If you find yourself in a similar situation, craving seasonal favourites but not not wanting to make to full blown affair, might I suggest this beauty as an alternative?

If you have managed to stay with me to this point, through the foul sounding title and my odd ramblings about my dinner then I know you are interested. 

A supersoft crumb with an almost sugar crust type exterior holding a mixture of dried fruits and topped with a delightfully sticky marmalade glaze with soaks into the surface, marrying the caramel flavours hidden inside giving an affectionate reminder that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

It might be expected that the removal of the eggs would result in a dry cake, or one which gives up all of its pleasing attributes on day two but nothing could be farther from the truth. This is one of those recipes that keeps on improving. It's also mega easy to make too. Rub butter into flour, stir in fruit and sugar, quickly mix in the rest of the ingredients to get the magic started, into the tin and bake.

The necessities of war rationing meant that the eggs had to go and bakers had to rely on the chemical reaction between acidic vinegar and alkaline bicarbonate of soda to provide lift. Plus, it is one of those adaptable recipes which can be tailored to suit individual tastes (caster, soft brown, muscovado sugar instead of demerara) or to use up the almost finished packets of fruit gathering in the back of cupboards, those that all bakers confess to having at some point or another. War is always a bad time but one thing is for sure, British resourcefulness shone through and this must be one of the best culinary creations to come from such times.

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Vinegar Cake
A vintage recipe originating from the war era using vinnegar and bicarbonate soda as the raising agents in place of eggs. A lovely soft crumb and fully of flavour, this is perfect for using up ends of packets of various dried fruits.
  • 175g butter, chilled
  • 340g self-raising flour
  • 175g demerara sugar
  • 350g dried fruit - a mixture of your favourite tossed in 1heaped tbsp flour
  • 175ml milk
  • 25ml cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 scoop marmalade thinned with a small splash of water
1. Set the oven to 170 C/150 C fan and grease/line a 9" loose bottomed deep cake tin.2. Rub the butter into the flour, stir in the sugar followed by the fruit. 3. Mix the milk and vinegar then quickly stir in the bicarbonate of soda and very quickly pour into the dry ingredients, mix until evenly combined (it will be a fairly stiff mixture), transfer to the tin and level off.4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hr 15 mins, lowering the temperature as necessary, and covering the top with foil if it looks like it is browning to quickly. A cake tester inserted into the centre will come out clean when ready.5. Leave in the oven with it turned off for five mins then place on a wire rack and gently poke with a skewer to create fine holes. Heat the thinned marmalade in the microwave then spread over the top. Cool in the tin for 15 mins then remove and cool completely. 

Recipe adapted from World's Best Cakes by Roger Pizey

There are a few challenges this month that this Vinegar Cake recipe would be perfect for. The dried fruit makes it suitable for the chosen letter of D for Alphabakes, hosted this month by Caroline from Caroline Makes, alternatively with Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker.

Ness from JibberJabber UK has set the theme of Love Cake this month as Vintage Cakes. It took me a while to choose from a long list I had gathereed but my eventual choice of a wartime recipe fits the bill nicely.

Michelle at Utterly Scrummy Foof for Families is hosting the No Waste Food Challenge on behalf of Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary this month. I finished off the sultanas, raisins, cranberries and glace cherries in my mum's cupboard to form the mix for this cake which had been opened for a while. It is a perfect base for using up whatver fruit you have to hand and fits in with the wartime ethics too of using what was available. 

I was tempted to add chocolate chips to the mix as well but I helf off on this occasion. If you want proof that chocolate in fruit cake is a god idea then check out this post here (still not mentioning that word!)

Also, I have cakes on the brain at the moment and even though it is five months away, I can't wait to attend the BBC Good Food Bakes & Cakes show. Have a look at this post to get your own 25% discount before June 30th. Or spread the word to someone you know who loves cake that much too!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Strawberries and Champagne Boozy Butterfly Cupcakes

I'm not entirely sure what insppired this recipe but as soon as the idea came into my head I knew I needed to make them. 
You all know that need-want versus need-need thing? Well making these was definitely a need-need thing. My desires must've been a prediction of the future because Strawberries and Champagne Boozy Butterfly Cupcakes are definitely a winner.
I don't even like alcohol. Not to drink anyway. I can't say why but I simply don't like the taste of it. Put it in cake or chocolates though and I'm all over it. I may have mentioned this fact once or twice before hence my recipes for Chocolate Whisky Bundt Cake and Rum & Raisin Muffins amongst several others. These butterfly cakes are so good that they may just be my new favourite alcohol-in-cake recipe.
And they make use of the food that is my all time favourite right next to chocolate - strawberries! Alright so there are only strawberries in the jam to keep things simple but if I'd had any homemade strawberry jam left over from last year I would've used that but it was far too popular for that to happen so I had to make do with the M&S champagne infused strawberry jam Mum gave me from a seasonal hamper she got last year. Oh, the struggles!
You can just about see the jam peeking out here where I got a bit enthusiastic with filling the cupcakes.
I tried really hard but in the end this one had to be sacrificed before it's time.
An all in one sponge mix made with a buttermilk created from mixing the champagne and milk gives the most exquisitely tender cake capable of holding all the desirable moisture of a perfect bake in balance with the heavy dousing of more champagne fresh out of the oven. Filled with such a flavourful strawberry jam, the butterflies each rest on a rose of champagne cloud buttercream whipped into a frenzy of ethereality to finish. It was never a question of willpower.

Enjoy. You're welcome.

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Strawberries and Champagne Boozy Butterfly Cupcakes
An amazingly moist classic cake drenched in champagne, filled with strawberry jam with a twist and finished with a swirl of infused buttercream and butterfy wings.
For the cupcakes:
  • 120g soft margarine or softened butter
  • 145g caster sugar
  • 185g self-raising flour
  • 95 ml champagne or wine mixed with 30ml milk + extra champagne/wine to drizzle
  • 2 large eggs
  • Strawberry jam (with champagne if you can get it) to fill 
For the buttercream:
  • 75g butter, softened
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp champagne or wine
1. Set the oven to 180 C/160 C fan and line a muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases.2. Add all the cake ingredients to a bowl and mix with an electric mixer for 60-90 seconds until well blended. Scrape down the sides as required.3. Divide the mixture between the cases and bake in the preheate oven for 15-20 mins until a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean. 4. Immediately on removing the cakes from the ove, gently poke the cakes with a thin skewer and brush the tope liberally with champagne or wine. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.5. When cold, use a sharp knife to slice a circle of cake from the top of each one. slice in half and set aside. Fill the hole with a little jam.6. For the buttercream, beat the butter with an electric whisk until really creamy then gradually sift and beat in the icing sugar followed by the champagne/wine. Beat on high speed until really light and fluffy then pipe onto the cupcakes, covering the jam and top with the halved cake circles to create wings.

Adapted from My Little Afternoon Tea Book by M&S

I'm sharing this recipe with a few baking challenges this month. Initially the recipe was my Random Recipes choice, selected from M&S' My Little Afternoon Tea Book (gorgeous book full of things I want to usual). I'm hoping Dom from Belleau Kitchen will still accept my entry even though I changed the recipe slightly by adding alcohol. I couldn't help myself!
Next is Baking with Spirit, created by Janine at Cake of the Week but currently guest hosted by Craig at The Usual Saucepans who has tasked us with reinventing a classic.
My own baking challenge, the Biscuit Barrel, has a summer theme this month and as these cakes contain strawberry jam and strawberries are the most important thing about summer for me, I'm entering them.
Hopefully Karen from Lavender and Lovage, who shares the hosting duties for Tea Time Treats with Janie from The Hedgecombers, will believe me that the buttercream is supposed to be in a rose shape so they fit in with the June theme of flowers. 
Four Seasons Food has a red theme for June. The strawberry jam is definitely red which is also my favourite colour! FSF is a joint venture between Louisa from Eat Your Veg and Anneli from Delicieux but is guest hosted this month by Tina at The Spicy Pear.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Childhood Smarties Cookies

After the length of my last post for Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Coookie Dough Icing this is going to be  much quicker and shorter post. I think. Maybe. Anyways, I made cookies!

I'm not going to pretend this recipe for Smarties cookies produced the ultimate cookie or anything like that. I do have one of those recipes which is my favourite chocolate chip cookie and the one I based these Aero Bubbles Chip Cookies off but for this bake I had the craving to make something just like from my childhood so that meant a different version.

I rang my mum up and made her go in search of this particular recipe. I've no idea where it came from but I do know that I used it, and its listed variations, loads as a child and while my mum was at work an I wanted to surprise her. I can't be 100% certain that it is the same recipe I used to make Smarites cookies as a kid but I think it must be because I remember one time I was left to bake on my own and I didn't know what tsp meant so I ended up using a tablespoon instead and I distinctly remember adding 2 tbsp of baking powder. Yep, imagine the taste. And yet my wonderful mother still ate them AND let me loose again in her kitchen after that semi disaster.

Many years later and I'm now quite sure that tsp means teaspoon and tbsp means tablespoon. I never made that mistake again! This recipe is so easy it's plain to see why I was left along to get on with them in my happy bubble. Literally bung everything in a bowl, quickly mix, stir in the Smarties and bake in balls. A perfect recipe for children of all ages. It's no wonder I fit these in after uni one day. Admittedly I couldn't really be bothered with photos this time because it was more about the bake. They were still delicious though! 

You might think the cookie balls are too greasy but trust me they don't feel like that once bake. They produce a beautifully light vanilla-caramel flavoured cookie with just that little bit of resistance on the outsides before entering the soft crumb underneath. The ideal base for the bright and crunchy suagr shells of Smarties. The best bit? As an adult nobody can tell mem off if I eat too many of the Smarties before they reach the mixing bowl! 

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Childhood Smarties Cookies
An all in one method recipe to bring out the nastalgic feelings of childhood or to pass along to little ones of your own. Add in as many variations as you want!
  • 115g plain flour
  • 45g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 25g dark soft brown sugar
  • 80g caster sugar
  • Dribble of vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tubes of Smarties (approx 115g)
1. Set the oven to 190 C/170 C fan and line 2 baking sheets with baking paper (only bake one tray at a time if your oven doesn't haven an even temperature at the top and bottom.)2. Place all the ingredients (excpet the Smarties) into a bowl and mix briefly until small clumps form with an electric mixture. Stir in most of the Smarties, saving some for decoration. 3. Form the cookie dough into balls approx 30g each and place on the baking trays. Bake for 12-14 mins until light golden brown. On taking them from the oven press a few reserved Smarties into the tops then cool on a wire rack.
I'm sharing these with Treat Petite this month where Stuart from Cakeyboi has set the theme of Childhood Memories. Hosting duties are shared with Kat from The Baking Explorer. It's going to be interesting to see what bakes everyone links with their childhood!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Icing

Today I'd Much Rather Bake Than... is two years old - my official blogiversary. As an excuse to extend the celebrations and bake more cake though I decided to have an eight day blogiversary and which I started to rejoice over with this Cherry and Chocolate Orange Weetabix Cake. The post also in part explains my reasonings behind going overboard on an occasion which most people pass by with a brief regal wave, yet one in which I'm making a huge fuss over - namely in year 1 I didn't keep up blogging for very long but in year 2 I embraced it as wholeheartedly as time allowed. The other reason is that I'm still amazed my how much I have learned and all the support I have received from other bloggers - it all makes me gushily happy and there is only one way to make merry over it all. With cake.
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
I'm pretty pleased with this cake for a number of reasons. First, a beautiful, even rise. I'm of the unhumble opinion that it even looks good uniced.
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
I adapted a my mum's chocolate cake recipe, the one which is brought out time and time again, and I think I managed to make it that tiny bit better. The secret? I used oil instead of tub margarine. I tested the theory out a while back just as unadorned cupcakes and they turned out brilliantly, so much so that Mum actually said to me she might have to try it herself. My mother never plays around with recipes she thinks are good as they are. That speaks volumes in itself. Next I added icing. Chocolate chip cookie dough icing (alright, frosting, whatever you prefer). Yes I did.
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
Finally I crumbled up a Cadbury Twirl (a Flake would be just as goo) and sprinkled it into my mouth over the top and added some Maltesers. I might have eaten a few or more of those too in the process.
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
I was so pleased with my Cherry and Chocolate Orange Weetabix Cake because Weetabix Cake was my first ever post and it finally gave me the chance to revisit a recipe and make the adaptations I suggested at the time. That rarely happens with me. Too many other recipe ideas come along before I get the chance!
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
But this cake is something else. I couldn't let my such a date go by and not make something extravgent with chocolate. Just consider that this is actually the reigned in version. It was going to be chocolate wasted cupcakes until I realised just how many of the ingredients I would eat during the construction.
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
I wasn't going for neat and tiday with this bake. To be honest I never am because I'm always too eager to get down to the eating of the cake without the fuss of making things picture perfect. That would be too much time wasted when I could be enjoying my efforts.
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
The result was everything it ought to have been. A moist and airy base with none of the bitterness that usually accompanies such a deeply brooding chocolate spirit.
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
Reverberating caramel tones and a lushiously creamy, feathery light icing which provides a legitimate excuse to eat all the chocolate chip cookie dough you can manage.
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough FrostingFinally, adorned with  a heavy sprinkling of crumbled flaky chocolate ribbons and bold Maltesers.
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
What's more, the whole recipe is fun create and quick to produce. An all in one method in a traybake form requires only the minimum of mixing to combine ingredients then a swirling sheet of icing and a flourishing finish of chocolate. I promised cake at uni this week and I'm pretty sure this delivered. 
All in one Chocolate Traybake with Chocolate Chip Brown Sugar Cookie Dough Frosting
Judging by how many people came back for seconds and the gentle rattle of crumbs in the tin as I walked home I made a lot of people happy,  including myself and that can only be a good thing. Here's to the next year. May cake reign strong.