So citrus season is upon us and I was tempted by some red grapefruits at the supermarket. [Read more…]
The Contented Baker turns ‘1’ today and to celebrate I thought cupcakes might be in order.
So what have I made of my first year of blogging? Well, it has been an incredible learning journey. To put it in perspective probably until 18 months ago I had no knowledge of blogs, had minimal contact with social media and my IT skills were stuck in the early ‘noughties’. Then, through my passion for home baking I stumbled across beautiful food and baking blogs. What better way to document your bakes, learn from others and share inspiration with like-minded folk? I wanted to try it! The Contented Baker came into being. [Read more…]
This is my kind of cake.
Super easy-to-make, no fuss, ingredients-in-the-cupboard kind of cake. The fresh thyme adds and enhances the lemon and is wonderfully fragrant and flavoursome. [Read more…]
I am not a huge fan of traditional Christmas cake so I decided to give panettone – the traditional Italian Christmas cake, a try. For me, I find the traditional cake a little too heavy, too fruity and too boozy (you probably think I am mad for not enjoying these things in a cake!). The super sweet marzipan and heavy icing are needed to compliment the richness of the cake and I just find them all a little too excessive.
Make way for the panettone! On the contrary, this type of light, sweet bread loaf is enjoyed on mainland Europe and South America during Christmas and the New Year. Typically it contains raisins with zest of citrus fruits and candied peel. I wanted to recreate this light, fluffy delight with purely candied peel, homemade candied lemon and limoncello for a truly zingy, lemon treat.
Having researched many recipes, this recipe is fairly straightforward and does not require any overnight proofing for a great result. If you are new to bread, or enriched dough, this may seem a little time consuming (not in intense ‘kitchen hours’) but in returning to carry out tasks. If you fancy the challenge and get excited by how dough reacts (I’m sure I am not the only one out there) – this one gets incredibly elastic, stringy and lucid, then definitely give this panettone a try.
This quantity makes two panettone (the cases measured 16cm diameter). I used special panettone waxed paper cases but you could use tins or moulds. Just ensure they have high sides – this doughy delight is meant to be tall. I also used panettone extract which consists of essential oils of bergamot, orange, lemon, tangerine and vanilla. This adds to my citrusy panettone but you could used lemon, or vanilla, extract instead.
I am no authority on the subject, but here are a few of my observations for making panettone (based on making this twice!):
Tip No.1 Do not overfill your case/tin. Do not underestimate how much this dough will rise. It will rise on the second proving in the panettone case/tin and again during the baking process.
Tip No.2 Cover the panettone with foil after the first 15 minutes of baking otherwise the top will bake too much.
Tip No.3 Invert the panettone as soon it comes out of the oven to cool. I did this by passing two wooden skewers through the bottom of the cake and hanging it upside between two containers. Allow to cool completely this way as it prevents the crust from sinking and helps retain the intended shape. If you use mini panettone or muffin cases, you do not need to do this. If you use a tin, allow to cool for 15 minutes in the tin, then remove and invert on a cooling rack.
Tip No.4 Wrap in plastic and foil for storage.
Enjoy this with a sweet liqueur, such as amaretto, or a thick Italian Hot Chocolate as I did (it was the middle of the afternoon after all). I think this is a great, sophisticated bake to start your seasonal baking. Wrap in cellophane and it will make a lovely gift…
- 75ml warm water
- 20g instant active yeast (10g, then 10g)
- 600g plain flour (100g, then 500g)
- 115ml whole milk, warm
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 4 eggs plus 3 egg yolks (2 yolks, then 1 for egg wash)
- 1 teaspoon panettone extract (or lemon extract)
- 6 tbsp. limoncello
- 165g unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 300g candied peel
- 50g homemade candied lemon peel (see separate post)
- 1 orange, zest finely grated
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated
- 1 tbsp. double cream
- sprinkling of sugar nibs (optional)
- If using the homemade candied lemon peel, make this first, ideally a day ahead. If not, substitute for a further 50g of ready-bought candied peel.
- Pour the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle 10g (half of the overall quantity) of yeast over the water. Stir with a fork until it dissolves. Set aside for 10 minutes to stand and once it starts to foam, add 100g of flour and mix with the fork. You should have a thick paste. Cover with food wrap and allow to prove for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour the warm milk into another bowl and again sprinkle the remaining yeast over it. Once again, stir with a fork to dissolve. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.
- In a further bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, 2 yolks, panettone (or lemon) extract and limoncello. Add the milk - yeast mixture and whisk.
- In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, mix the butter, salt and flour until it becomes a sandy consistency. Add the egg mixture and beat until smooth. Now add the proved water-yeast mixture and beat on high speed for about 10 minutes. The dough will become very elastic and stringy. Add the candied peel and citrus zest and mix until well combined. Tip the dough into a buttered bowl, cover and allow to prove for about two hours.
- If you are using tins or moulds, butter them thoroughly at this point. If you are using waxed paper cases as I have done, there is no need.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and lightly dust the top with flour so that the dough is not too sticky in the division process. Divide the dough equally in two. Place dough portions in each case and allow to prove for another hour at least.
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C, or gas mark 5. Once proved, brush the tops of the panettone with the egg wash - the egg yolk and double cream beaten together. With a pair of scissors, cut a cross on the top of the dough. The dough will deflate at this stage but it will rise again nicely during the baking process. Sprinkle with sugar nibs (optional).
- Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 170 degrees C, or gas mark 3 for a further 40 minutes. If the panettone are browning too quickly on top, cover with foil. To test to see if they are baked properly, tap the base. If you have a hollow sound, they are ready.
- Remove from the oven. You will need to invert the panettone for the cooling process. This prevents the crust from sinking into the light structure of the loaf. If you are using paper cases, take two skewers and pierce them through the bottom of the cake and rest on two containers. If you are using tins, allow to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes, then remove and place upside down on a wire cooling rack.
- Store at room temperature and wrap in food wrap and foil to keep them fresh.
Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart’s ‘Baking Handbook’
Candied lemon peel, orange or grapefruit for that matter, is super easy to make and tastes fantastic!
It can be enjoyed in cakes, breads, and used as decorations or finishing touches. You can also vary the size of the peel. Have larger strips, or smaller grated peel to suit your needs.
Well worth the effort to make, this is a useful method to add to your baking repertoire.
- 2 lemons
- 225g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- 225ml water
- Rinse the lemons. 'Top and tail' the lemons and with a sharp paring knife vertically peel strips between the top and the tail. Very finely slice the peel.
- Place the peel into a small saucepan and cover with water. Over a medium heat, bring the water to a simmer and blanche the peel for about 10 minutes until it becomes a little translucent. Drain and set the peel aside.
- In the same pan, add the sugar and the 225ml of water. Once again heat until the sugar dissolves and you have a syrup. Add the peel and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Prepare a drying area by placing some baking parchment under a wire cooling rack. Drain the syrup and place the peel, equally spaced on the cooling rack. Sprinkle with caster sugar to coat thoroughly. Allow to cool and dry out completely.
- Store in an airtight container or use immediately.
For variation you can use orange or grapefruit peel. You can also vary the size of the peel by having larger slices, or grating the peel.
Source: The Contented Baker
As we are coming to the end of August, the evenings are drawing in and the shadows are a little longer in the morning, can I still get away with an ice cream ‘post’?
Why not? The children are still on their ‘summer holidays’, the forecast for the next week is warm and sunny and the Bank Holiday weekend is approaching. Yes, it is still ice-cream-eating weather!
So my inspiration for this ice cream came purely by chance when I stumbled on a fabulous article in The Guardian, ‘The 10 Best Iced Recipes’. Originally a semifreddo dessert, I have adapted the main constituents of the recipe – the lemon, poppy seeds and blackcurrants – to a soft rippled ice cream. A soft scoop ice cream, in a waffle cone, being the iced dessert of choice in our house.
All the ingredients for this recipe are easy to come by. Admittedly, the blackcurrants are seasonal but they are still bountiful in the supermarkets and the ‘Pick Your Own’ farms. The blackcurrant ripple compliments the sweet, lemon ice cream beautifully. For my ripple I have just squashed the currants during the heating proctess. If you prefer a smoother ripple, you can always puree the ripple in the blender and put it though a sieve, whilst still warm.
This ice cream is very easy to make yet has a sophisticated taste and texure. It would be great addition if you are entertaining this weekend. The taste is just sublime.
- 150g fresh blackcurrants
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 397g tin of sweetened condensed milk
- 150ml whole milk
- 4 lemons, juiced
- zest of 2 lemons
- 1 tbsp. poppy seeds
- 300ml whipping cream
- 300ml double cream
- To prepare the blackcurrant ripple, rinse the blackcurrants and place in a saucepan with the sugar and the lemon juice. Over a medium heat, allow the sugar to dissolve. Allow to simmer and stir occasionally. The fruit should be softened, a little squashed and the juices becoming a little syrupy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- For the ice cream, in the bowl of a freestanding mixer, place the condensed milk, the whole milk, the juice of the lemons and the lemon zest and combine with the mixer. Then add the poppy seeds and combine further.
- In a separate bowl, whisk, ideally with an electric whisk, the whipping and double cream together until very light and fluffy and peaks form. Gently fold the creams into the lemon condensed milk mixture, ensuring that the mixtures are well combined.
- Pour the ice cream batter into a large plastic container, seal with a lid and place in the freezer.
- Remove from the freezer after about 1.5 hours. With an electric whisk, mix the ice cream mixture again until light and creamy. Next add the blackcurrant ripple. Divide the blackcurrant mixture into say, 6 spoonful's and space equally on the ice cream. With a fork, ripple the blackcurrant mixture through the cream ensuring that it covers most of the container but avoid too much mixing so as to achieve thick ripples.
- Re-seal the plastic lid on the container and return to the freezer for approximately 6-8 hours, or overnight.
- Before serving, allow the ice cream to ripen in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes so that it is the correct softness for serving.
Source: Inspired by and slightly adapted from ‘The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook’ (Yeo Valley) by Sarah Mayor, as seen in The Guardian’s ‘The 10 Best Iced Recipes’
I was in a dilemma with this cake.
To post, or not to post?
To be honest I was a little disappointed with it’s appearance. I have made it a couple of times before with much visual success. But considering this was my second attempt of the day, as I was experimenting with quantities and cake tin sizes, we would have been swimming in lemon cake at home had I gone for a third attempt!
Instead, I reminded myself of the purpose of this blog, indeed it is a ‘baking journey’ and also my words in my ‘About’ page…’This Blog is not about picture perfect bakes that look far too good to eat. It’s about a range of fare that anyone can bake at home, to share and enjoy.’
So where do you think you went wrong? I hear you say, (apart from ‘catching’ the bake slightly on the bottom layer). Well, I think this cake should have been a three layer, instead of a two layer cake. Some cakes need to be served in two layers and cut into large wedges, like a Victoria Sponge Sandwich (you would never see that appear as three layers). But I think this Lemon Sponge Cake would work well in three layers, served with a pastry fork.
Appearances and preferences aside, this cake is incredibly light, moist, sweet and tart. I like to use just egg whites to give the sponge added whiteness. In terms of finish as well, it is very much open to personal choice. I have put lemon frosting and lemon curd in the sandwich and topped with frosting and candied lemon peel. You could use a raspberry, or blueberry jam for the filling and top with fresh berries. Alternatively you could just top with freshly grated lemon zest.
However many layers, or however you finish this cake, you won’t be disappointed, especially with the flavour.
- 240g plain flour
- 300g caster sugar
- 3 tbsp. baking powder
- 80g unsalted butter
- Zest of 3 small, unwaxed lemons
- 4 egg whites
- 240ml milk
- 500g icing sugar
- 160g butter
- Zest of 2 small, unwaxed lemons
- 50ml milk
- 6 tbsp. lemon curd
- Zest of 2 small unwaxed lemons
- 100g sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 100ml water
- 3 x 20cm (8inch) round baking tins
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.
- In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, put the flour, sugar, butter, baking powder and lemon zest and mix until everything is combined and you get a sand-like consistency. Slowly add the milk and beat until incorporated.
- Add the egg whites, one at a time and mix until all combined and you have a smooth mixture.
- Spoon the mixture into the three prepared (greased and lined) baking tins.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool slightly and then turn out of the tin and cool completely on a wire rack.
- Sieve the icing sugar into the bowl of a freestanding mixer. Add the butter and gently fork through the icing sugar until it is roughly combined. Add the lemon zest and mix with mixer until the frosting comes together.
- Slowly add the milk and once all combined, mix the frosting on a high speed until it becomes very light and fluffy.
- Spoon the lemon frosting onto one cake and spread evenly. Drizzle 3 tbsp. of lemon curd over the frosting. Add a second layer of sponge and repeat with the frosting and lemon curd. Add the final sponge layer and finish with the remaining frosting.
- Decorate with either candied lemon, fresh berries or lemon zest.
- Put 100g of sugar and 100ml water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, add long lengths of grated lemon zest. Allow to simmer for a further 5-10 minutes until the sugar/water mixture becomes syrupy.
- Turn off the heat and drain the lemon zest on a piece of kitchen towel. Toss the peel in sugar (either caster or granulated) and allow to cool.
Source: Adapted from ‘The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook’ by Tarek Malouf and The Hummingbird Bakers
I was pretty certain that today I would bake something with blueberries and lemon. Blueberries because I had a punnet in the fridge that have probably seen fresher days and lemon, well, I just think is it a great compliment to the blueberries. My dilemma was to bake muffins or tea cake…
Muffins won today…
Its been a while since I have baked muffins. To be honest, I had forgotten how quick and easy they are to make. They have the added bonus of not requiring a knife for cutting and serving!
I usually use muffin cases when baking these but often feel a little cheated when peeling back the wrapper only to find half the muffin (particularly fruit ones) clinging to the sides of the paper. Anyhow, on this occasion I omitted it altogether, as per the original recipe. I have to say, I liked the wrapper-free option. No such feelings of disappointment. The muffins came out of the pan easily and not a morsel went to waste.
Sometimes my children procrastinate over whether they want to try one of my bakes or not. Without hesitation, these muffins were a hit and a perfect after school ‘tide-me-over-until-dinner’ snack.
A definite hit…
- 110g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
- 280g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 150g fresh blueberries
- 200g caster sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract)
- 120ml buttermilk
- Granulated sugar for sprinkling (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.
- Prepare a 12 cup muffin pan by greasing with butter and dusting with flour, tapping out the excess flour.
- Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. With the sieve over the bowl, toss the blueberries in a little flour. This will prevent the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of the bake.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add one egg at a time. Continue to beat and add in the vanilla paste/extract. Follow with mixing in the lemon zest.
- Gently stir the flour mixture into the batter mixture until just combined.
- Add the buttermilk and continue to combine. The mixture should be a little lumpy as this will the give the muffins a good texture.
- Fold in the blueberries and divide equally into the muffin cups.
- Sprinkle batter with granulated sugar, if desired.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Allow to cool a little in the pan before cooling on a wiring rack.
Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart’s ‘Baking Handbook’