Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Carrot Cake

A day ill at home, with an annoying cold. I'm not actually ill that often, which is fortunate, as I don't really cope with it that well. The house is still a little bare of food since I came back, so I scanned the books to try and work out what I could make to take my mind off the bunged-up nose. I'm hoping to be back in the office tomorrow, so something that was viable as gluten-free would be preferable.

The limiting factor was actually butter, so I eventually settled on a carrot cake. I found a basic recipe that used walnuts...didn't have any of those around, so swapped them for sultanas. I also added mixed spice and cinnamon (as I believe all carrot cakes should have this), and some orange zest...partially as I always associate carrot cake with citrus, and partly as I suppose Vitamin C is good for the immune system.

I did two was gluten-free in a 20cm cake tin, and the other in a 2lb loaf tin (useful to know...basically the same volume it turns out!) using wholemeal self-raising flour. They both came out quite well, nice and moist, though as always I think that more spice and cinnamon would not go amiss (this might be partly as my taste buds are probably dead right now!) Loaf cakes are a really nice format for serving, as you can easily produce even slices...though they can never be considered that pretty I guess...

Carrot Cake - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 160'C
  • Grease and line a 20cm deep cake tin OR a 2lb loaf tin


  • 150g muscavado sugar
  • 50g sultanas
  • 100g grated carrot
  • 2 large, ripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda 
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon


  • 215g plain, gluten-free flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder


225g wholemeal self-raising flour

1) Place the carrot, sultanas, sugar, eggs, zest and sunflower oil in a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attachment

2) Mash the bananas with a fork, and add to the bowl

3) Mix together until smooth (ish)

4) Sieve the flour, spices, bicarbonate and (if doing gluten-free) baking powder together

5) Mix the flour with a whisk to make sure that it is evenly mixed

6) add the flour mix to the stand mixer, and mix until combined

7) Pour the mixture into the prepared tin

8) Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean

9) Remove to a wire rack to cool

Topping Ingredients

  • 175g cream cheese (I used light Philadelphia, other brands are available)
  • 100g icing sugar (sifted)
  • 50g softened butter
  • Vanilla essence
1) Place the butter, icing sugar, cheese and essence in a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attachment

Note - really make sure you soften the butter, or your topping will be lumpy, and you'll end up forcing it through a sieve

2) Mix hard until smooth

3) Transfer to a clean bowl, and leave to chill in the fridge

4) Once the cake is cooled, spread the topping generously over the cake.

Caramel and Orange Brioche / Monkey Bread / Arangaluska - Attempt 1

I took a day off when I got back from Spain, so had a bit of spare time to do a slow bake. I haven't done a brioche for a while, so thought I'd do something a bit experimental. A while back I had something called monkey bread, which was made of balls of brioche covered in a caramel. I decided to see if I could make up the recipe, using just stuff I had in the house.

The brioche was fairly easy. As a base I used my normal bread recipe, then swapped out the water for eggs and milk, and then added in a healthy dose of butter instead of oil. I added a little citrus flavour with orange zest, and then whipped up the dough using the trusty (and these days slightly noisy) stand mixer).

I wasn't entirely sure on how to do the caramel in this context...I ended up forming about 15 balls of brioche, then coated them in melted, cooled butter, then rolled them in brown sugar, before placing them in a buttered bundt tin. I don't think was quite right, as the drier sugar tended to burn slightly (or I had it too hot!), and also it was nowhere near enough balls of brioche, the caramel was not spread evenly enough throughout the loaf., I'll be doing this again (probably at the weekend, or next week), with the following changes;
1) More brioche balls (a bit of investigation suggests more than 50)
2) Add cinnamon to the sugar. Possibly also bits of nut (based on the traditional Hungarian recipe)
3) A lower temperature...I did it at 180-190'C, however I think 160'C may be wiser, with a sugar formation.

As part of the post-baking reading, I found that monkey bread is actually a Hungarian recipe called Aranygaluska, so I may call it that to make it sound posher!

Monkey Bread / Arangaluska - Recipe (Attempt 1)

Dough Ingredients

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 4 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 75-100ml milk
  • 150g softened butter
  • 10g yeast
  • 10g salt
  • Zest of 2 oranges 
1) Place the flour, salt, yeast, zest and milk in a stand mixer with the dough hook attached

2) Begin to mix, and add the eggs in one at a time

3) Mix for 5 minutes until a smooth dough is starting to form

4) remove the dough, and wrap it around the butter. Return it to the mixer (I find this tends to help get the butter mixed into the dough...if you add it into the bowl by itself it gets more smeared around the outside)

5) Mix for 5-10 minutes until a smooth, glossy dough is formed.

6) Place in a slightly oiled container, cover, and leave to prove until tripled in size (this is an enriched dough, so this can take some time. Resist the temptation to place it somewhere warm, as this may cause the butter to melt, which will impact your bake)

Caramel Ingredients

  • 100g butter (melted and cooled)
  • 100g soft brown sugar
Note - I think adding cinnamon and nut pieces here would improve things!

1) Take a bundt tin, and brush the inside with some of the melted butter to coat it

2) Grease a work surface (I rubbed some butter into it), tip the dough out and knock it back.

3) Split it into smaller balls (I did about 15, however I think you actually want way more...60-50 at least)

4) Roll each chunk into a small ball, then coat in melted butter and roll in the sugar

5) Place the balls in the bundt tin to fill it up

6) Cover the bundt tin and leave to prove until the dough reaches the top of the tin (at least an hour probably)

7) Pre-heat the oven to 160-180'C (I did 180'C, I would recommend going lower)

8) Place the bread into the oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden

9) Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly. Place a baking tray under the wire rack, as when you turn it out, there may be some caramel coming out

10) Flip the tin over and remove the bread from the tin.

11) (optional) Once cooled drizzle with some melted white chocolate to decorate.

A week in Spain

My yearly escape to the continent to avoid the tail end of the British winter, I was off in Spain last week, getting in some quality miles on my bike, and generally not being cold and wet. The training camp is run my my coach Tom Kirk from Custom Cycle Coaching, and it's a great way of transitioning from winter training to summer riding. This year (I've been out for the last 4 years now) we were also able to watch a stage of the Vuelta Andalucia, and got to watch the pro's smash it up a climb just outside of Granada.

In total I racked up just over 650km of riding, and over 13,000 metres of climbing. I'm now fairly shattered, but hoping for my energy levels to come back before the weekend, when the local reliability rides begin.

Only downside is that I've come down with a mild cold, with a bunged up nose and a sore throat. I'm throwing various drugs and chemicals don me to try and clear it as fast as possible!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Carrot and Orange Loaf Cakes

More loaf cakes...they are a great format for large meetings at work, as you can quickly give a lot of people slices to go with their mid-morning coffee, when the brain is just starting to crave a hit of carbs to keep it going. The original recipe was for a single 1lb loaf cake, however I've gone for 2 x 1lb loaf tins, reducing the cooking time a little to compensate.

It's another classic flavour, and I very nearly threw in some sultanas, as it's crying out for it. Once again I've done a gluten-free batch, and it was notably different in cooking. The wet mixture was drier, and it's risen more evenly. The recipe I based this on had some humorous omissions...notably no mention of grating the carrot (I mean, I sort of assumed the carrot was grated, but maybe you're supposed to chuck the thing in whole?)

The only thing I'd change is to make the mixtures a little larger...perhaps 10-15% more on everything, to fully fill out the tins.

Carrot and Orange Loaf Cakes - Recipe

  • Grease and line 2 1lb loaf tins
  • Pre-heat the oven to 160'C


  • 1 orange
  • 150g butter - softened
  • 150g muscavado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour OR 190g gluten-free flour and 10g baking powder
  • 1tsp baking powder (yes, you need this as well with the gluten-free...carrot-cake is heavy)
  • 1tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp honey

1) Zest the orange, and place in a stand-mixer bowl with the paddle attachment

2) Add the sugar, eggs and butter to the stand mixer

3) Mix until as smooth as possible (the butter will clump a little, but get it as soft and smooth as possible)

4) Grate the carrot, and place in a large mixing bowl

5) Add the flour, baking powder and mixed spice to the carrot, and mix with a spatula. If it's very stiff, add a spalsh of milk (the gluten-free option may well need this)

6) Pour the wet mixture onto the carrot mixture, and stir using a spatula until smooth

7) Split the mixture between the 2 prepared tins, and level

8) Bake in the oven for 45 minutes

9) While the cakes are baking, cut the pith off the orange, and slice thinly

10) Take the cakes out of the oven, and decorate the top with the sliced orange

11) Drizzle the honey over the top, and spread around with a pastry brush

12) Return to the oven for 15 minutes

13) Remove to a wire rack to cool

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Pain de Savoie - Miniatures - Attempt 3

Everyone loves a trier!

I've been putting a lot of thought into these, and decided to go outside the tin, and rather than do a loaf, do a bun. I was still keen to make it look fancy, so I went for a single knot roll (which is simpler than it looks). One issue I've had previously is cheese leakage (I clearly worry about serious items!). A traditional pain de savoie has layers, which cheese in-between, however this is not really viable for a knotted bun.

After some consideration, I decided to nix the layers, which moves a bit away from the original concept, but I think it maintains the flavours and textures. There were other changes I did as well;
  • Previously I've used lardons or pancetta, which was already in chunks. Going smaller meant these chunks were too large, so instead I used smoked bacon (180g of wet weight, or half a pack), which I chopped and fried, giving me smaller chunks, making it easier to shape.
  • I chopped the cheese (still comte) into small chunks (5-6mm cubes). Grating forms too much lamination,  while large chunks would be out of scale.
  • I went for 9 rolls, which meant each had ~100g of dough, and fitted well onto a single baking sheet. After some experimentation, about 15-18g of cheese per roll was about right.
Leakage was still an issue, though I think this was partially about how I formed the dough sausage. I took the dough, hand-rolled a sausage about 30-25cm in length, then flattened it with the palm of my hand. I then sprinkled the cheese down the middle, and tightly rolled the dough around this. I then (and I'm not sure why, it seemed a good process at the time) folded it in half and re-rolled it out to about 35-40cm, which gave me a decent length to form the knot. The folding caused seaming in the bread, which displayed during the baking. I also had some leakage, probably due to dough being too tin in areas.

What I will do next time is initially roll the dough to a shorter sausage, then add the cheese and roll back into a sausage...I'll then roll it out to 35-40cm (no folding over). Hopefully this should also limit thin spots for the cheese to break out!.

Having the bacon in there made the bread slightly saltier, so I shall reduce the amount of salt in the dough.

Finally came the decoration. As a general rule of thumb, I have 3 ways of dressing bread;
  • Black poppy seeds
  • White sesame seeds
  • water and flour
There is also egg washes, however I've tried this previously, and wasn't keen on the effect. This time I did 3 of each of the above decorations. I was happiest with the poppy seeds (which I think on balance is my favourite generally). Before they went in the oven, I brushed each with water, a couple of times, then stuck on the dressing. There was a small amount of water put in the oven (1 ramekin) to help a bit of crust form, however I didn't want too much.

Finally, the baking time was 20 minutes at 210'C, but I rotated them at 12 minutes to allow them to bake evenly.

I think I'm nearly there with these...hopefully one more batch and I'll have a final recipe

Apple and Cinnamon Loaf Cake - Take 2

While I was reasonably happy with the first attempt,  wanted to give it another go with a couple of tweaks;
  • A bit more cinnamon
  • A different apple

Due to some allergies at work, I also challenged myself to do a gluten-free version. I'm not normally keen on gluten-free flour, and once had a nightmare attempting pastry (it had the same consistency as a brick, and was impossible to shape), however as this recipe rubbed the flour in without really activating the gluten, I thought this would be a reasonable recipe to use it in. I use Doves Farm gluten-free flour, which I tend to find is a little thirstier, but otherwise produces OK results. The gluten-free version of this was indeed a little drier, however unless you tried both you wouldn't know, as the apple content means that both cakes have a moist, dense texture.

For the apple I used a Braeburn, something I first used when I was mucking around with apple tarts last carries a decent acidity, and keeps a good texture when baked. I was really happy with how it came out in this recipe, and I'd definitely recommend it.

Cinnamon volumes is always a tricky one, some people are quite sensitive to it, others can't get enough. I think about 15 people had a bit of these cakes, and opinion was roughly mixed...half said it was OK, half said they would want more, and one notable exception didn't realise there was cinnamon in it. You can't win!

Finally, I tried to do an alternate pattern (nominally to identify the gluten and non-gluten versions), however the rise of the cake meant that the herringbone pattern I attempted went somewhat to pot.

I won't go through the entire recipe again, but rather note changes. I did 2 separate batches, prepared in parallel, ending up with 4 1lb loaves (a good oven-full!).

  • For the gluten-free version, it was 1½ tsp of baking powder, and sieved gluten-free flour upto 200g. I then mix it with a whisk to spread the baking powder evenly.

  • I added 1½ tsp of cinnamon to each batch.

  • I used 3 braeburn apples in each batch, with 2½ apples chopped up in each cake, and another ½ sliced on top (it's normally 8-9 slices, so you may have some left over)

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Apple and Cinnamon Loaf Cake

I randomly saw this on TV (I had it on as background noise while I was doing something rather dull), and it looked rather nice...I dug the recipe up online (it's a Mary Berry one), and it turned out I pretty much had all the ingredients in the house. I was out for a bike ride the next day, so got up a bit early and baked up a couple of loaves (Mary suggests you can freeze one, however it's less than 12 hours later and both have disappeared!)

I used golden delicious, however I think you definitely want a slightly tarter, more acidic apple (I'm thinking Braeburn). Otherwise it was a nice simple recipe, and it gives a firm, robust texture which is still nice and moist. I was trying to make this quietly (it was quite early in the morning), but I reckon you could also speed this up using a food processor to rub in the butter... Finally, I think a handful of sultanas would not go amiss either...and possibly more cinnamon (which I don't think you can have too much of).

Apple and Cinnamon Loaf Cake

  • Grease and line 2 1lb loaf tins
  • Pre-heat oven to 160'C


  • 75g butter
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 100g muscavado sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon (or more!)
  • 3 eating apples (I used Golden Delicious, however I would recommend a tarter-flavoured one)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • Apricot jam (to glaze)
1) Place the flour and butter in a large bowl (or a food processor with a blade attachment)

2) Rub the butter into the flour (as you would with pastry) until you have a rough breadcrumb texture

3) Stir in the sugar and cinnamon. I find that muscavado sugar will clump, you it's worth rubbing these chunks in.

4) Peel and core the apples

5) Take 2 and a half of the apples, and chop them into large'ish chunks

6) Crack the 3 eggs into a jug, and beat them together

7) Add the chunked apple and eggs to the flour mixture, and stir to combine.

8) Split the mixture into the 2 loaf tins (it's about 400-420g per tin...or was for me)

9) Take the remaining half an apple and slice in thinly

10) Use these slices to decorate the top of each loaf

11) Sprinkle 1tbsp of demerara sugar over each loaf

12) Place in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until risen, golden, and a skewer comes out clean

13) Remove to a wire rack

14) While still hot, brush apricot jam over the top to glaze

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Jaffa Torte - New and improved!

An early birthday cake for me... When I did my first jaffa torte, there were positives and negatives, and I had a list of things I'd like to tweak and change. Whipping up a self-congratulatory birthday cake seemed the perfect opportunity.

I'm really pleased with how this came's pretty much as it looked in my head. My timings were still all over the place, and I could have made it quicker (took ~3 hours, probably could have done it in 2 had I been a bit more organised, rather than making the various components one after the other).

Things I tweaked;
  1. It's bigger (21cm sponge diameter compared to 18cm diameter of the original), so a larger sponge mixture, and more icing mixtures as well.
  2. Added an orange syrup, which was brushed onto each sponge layer
  3. More dramatic decoration, which used a lot more icing and ganache up (a good thing)
  4. More gelatine in the jelly, making it slightly firmer
  5. Made the jelly in a cake frame, making it marginally easier to handle. 
  6. Gluten-free! This was to be eaten at work, and a couple of people are coeliac. As such, I used a gluten-free flour, with baking powder added.
  7. I used a higher percentage chocolate in the buttercream, which I think it needed.
Only downside is that with the larger diameter, I could only fit one layer in the oven at a time (using 1 shelf...probably could use 2, but to be honest the sponge baking is not the time-consuming part of this, it's the prep for the meringue buttercream and the ganache).

Jaffa Torte  (v2) - Recipe

Jelly Ingredients

  • Juice from one orange (~75g)
  • 50g tap water
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 5 gelatine sheets
1) Line a swiss roll tin with foil, with a flat base

2) Place a cake frame in the tin, and then bring the foil sides up so that any overrun sits against the foil

3) Place the juice, water and sugar in a small saucepan

4) Place the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water to "bloom" for 4-5 minutes

5) Heat the orange juice mixture over a low heat until it is shimmering (just shy of boiling)

6) Wring out the gelatine, and add to the orange mixture

7) Remove from the heat and stir in until the gelatine is fully dissolved.

8) Pour the jelly mixture into the cake frame, and place in the fridge to set

Sponge Ingredients

  • 5 large eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • ½tsp cream of tartar
  • 200g gluten-free flour (I used Doves Farm stuff)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
  • Zest of 2 oranges
1) Pre-heat the oven to 200'C

2) On a sheet of baking parchment, draw a circle 21cm in diameter using a dark, black pen. This will be your template which you place under blank sheets of baking parchment (then pull out before baking). Cut 6 other sheets of baking parchment to the same size as your preferred baking trays.

3) Place the eggs and caster sugar in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment

4) Whisk until starting to foam, and add the cream of tartar

5) Continue to whisk hard until the mixture reaches the ribbon stage...this can take 7-8 minutes.

6) Sieve the flour and baking powder together into a bowl, and use a dry whisk to mix it together (you want the baking powder evenly distributed throughout the flour)

7) Sieve the flour into the whisked egg mixture half at a time, along with the orange zest, folding it in  each time until there are no dry pockets left. You should have a smooth, light pale mixture.

8) On a baking sheet, place your template, and a sheet of plain baking parchment on top (you should be able to see the circle through it)

9) Spoon ~100g of the cake mixture onto the baking parchment, and using the back of the spoon carefully smooth it out to just overlap the template circle on all sides. once done, pull out the template

10) Bake for 6 minutes

11) Remove to a wire rack to cool, then peel off the baking parchment

12) Repeat 8-11 for 5 more sponge discs (I had 2 baking sheets on the go at once, and prepared one while the next was baking).

13) Once cool, trim the sponge discs to the same size as each other (the best way to do this is use whatever you drew round to make your template, and trim the edges with a sharp knife).

Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Icing - Ingredients

  • 150g dark (70% chocolate), chopped up
  • 3 egg whites
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 330g butter (room temperature)
1) Prepare a bain-marie steamer (or, as I call it, a colander over a saucepan of simmering water)

2) Place the chopped-up chocolate in a small heatproof bowl

3) place the bowl on the bain-marie, and stir until the chocolate is 3/4's melted

4) Remove from the heat and continue to stir until the chocolate is fully melted

5) Place to one side to cool

6) Place the icing sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl

7) Place the bowl on a bain-marie, and use an electric hand-whisk to whip the eggs gently until the sugar has fully dissolved, then increase to whisk harder.

8) Continue to whisk until the mixture reaches a firm peaks stage. Place to one side to cool (you're going to mix it with butter, and you don't want it melting it)

9) Place the butter in a stand mixer bowl with the paddle attachment

10) Beat until the butter is very light, pale and soft. You'll need to scrape the sides down a few times.

11) Add in the cooled meringue, and mix on a medium speed until combined.

12) Add the melted, cooled chocolate, and beat on a medium speed until smooth

Orange Syrup Ingredients

  • Juice from 1 orange
  • 50g caster sugar
1) Place the juice and sugar in a small saucepan

2) Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved

3) Turn up to a medium heat, and stir until just before it starts to boil

4) Remove from the heat and allow to cool


I strongly recommend using a display board (23cm) and a decorating turntable with something non-slip. it makes the decorating way, way easier!

1) Space a sponge disc in the middle of your display board

2)  Brush approximately 1/6th of the orange syrup over the sponge layer using a pastry brush

3) Spoon approximately 1/7th of the meringue buttercream on top, and using a small palette knife spread evenly to the edges (don't worry if you go over the edge, but make it even)

4) Place a second sponge disc on top, and repeat 2-3 for this.

5) Repeat for the remaining sponge discs. You do want to coat the top of the cake as well with the meringue buttercream.

6) Using a palette knife and the remaining meringue buttercream, smooth off the sides, filling in any gaps and getting as clean an edge as you can. You're going to ice it, so don't spend forever, but the cleaner you can make it, the easier the decorating will be

7) Place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the icing.

Ganache Ingredients

  • 150g dark (50%) chocolate, finely chopped 
  • 85g full-fat milk
  • 25g butter
1) Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl

2) Put the milk in a small saucepan over a low heat

3) Heat the milk until it's shimmering (not quite boiling), and remove from the heat

4) Pour the milk onto the chocolate. DO NOT STIR. Leave it for 3-4 minutes to melt all the chocolate (I put the bowl on top of the saucepan to give it a bit more warmth without overdoing it)

5) Stir the mixture to form a smooth, lump-free liquid.

6) Add in the butter and stir until melted in.

7) Leave to cool until in a pipeable consistency. Stir it occasionally to keep it smooth.

8) Transfer to a piping bag with a small star nozzle

Orange Buttercream Ingredients

  • 100g butter (room temperature)
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 orange

1) Put the sugar, butter and zest in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Beat slowly until a smooth mixture is formed, then increase the speed to slacken it. You might need to scrape the sides down a couple of times.

3) Add the orange juice sparingly while continuing to mix until a smooth, pipeable consistency is reached. You may not need all the orange juice.

4) Transfer to a piping bag with a small nozzle attachment


1) Take the jelly sheet, remove from the cake frame, and turn upside down onto a sheet of baking parchment

2) carefully peel the foil off the back

3) Flip back upright (yeah, it's fiddly, try not to tear it...I haven't quite got the knack of this yet)

4) Cut the largest circle you can...this will probably be just within the diameter of your cake, which is perfect

5) Place the jelly slice centrally on top of the cake

6) place a suitable circular object in the middle of the cake to act as a piping template. I used a 13cm cake tin.

7) Take the ganache piping bag, and pipe small rosettes equidistant around the template, leaving a gap roughly the size of the rosettes in between each

8) Pipe a second circle outside this, piping level with the gaps to form a chequer-board pattern.

9) Continue this down the side of the cake, resulting in a chequerboard of ganache rosettes all over the cake (expect the bit under the  template object at the top)

10) Take the orange buttercream piping bag, and repeat the process, but filling in all the gaps you left. This should result in a brown/orange chequerboard of rosettes over the entire cake.

11) Remove the template from the top to reveal a large circle of jelly on top