Baked Cheesecake with Gingerbread

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Ho! Ho! Ho! I bring you a somewhat belated Christmas Celebration dessert.

The week has escaped me and Christmas Eve is here before I know it. [Read more…]

Cranberry, White Chocolate and Orange Biscotti

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So, the 1st of December is upon us. The start of the season for giving is here. What better way to start the festivities than embarking on a super easy, but no less satisfying bake than biscotti. These Cranberry, White Chocolate and Orange Biscotti make a wonderful homemade gift for friends, family or a host.  [Read more…]

Orange and Poppy Seed Cake

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Gosh, it has taken me over three days to write this post!

Do you ever have tasks that you set about doing that seem to take an age to complete?

I have been a little distracted, to be honest. Now that it is February, I have set about visiting the gym so the ‘slimmer, fitter me’ can emerge from it’s rather long, slumber. I avoided the gym in January intentionally (cough, cough) as the tread mills are far too busy. Better to embark on a new regime when the fainthearted have already exhausted their resolutions in January, I say.

I really have to make a concerted effort on this fitness front in order for me to enjoy my bakes with a clear (or clearer) conscience…

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So ‘HURRAH’ for February!

I, for one, am very pleased to see the back of January, the wettest on record here in the UK. We seem to be experiencing extreme weather all around the world of late. So what better way to lift ourselves out of the gloomy grey, wet skies and floods than to put the kettle on and enjoy a glorious syrupy, orange and poppy seed cake. An instant ‘sunshine’ fix, if ever there was one.

This cake is a ‘gem’ according to friends and family and trust me, they get to sample a fair few. Adapted from one of my most favourite books of late, ‘The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook’ – each and every one of their recipes I have tried is superb – this cake is easy to make.

Fundamentally, it is an orange flavoured sponge cake with added poppy seed for ‘crunch’, which is steeped in a fragrant orange syrup, topped off with a simple orange glaze. Baked in a single round tin means you are able to maximise the syrup content so it is a beautifully moist cake. I have suggested you use an 8 inch / 20cm round tin (most people own one of those, correct?). This will give you a slightly deeper cake than mine shown. I used a 9 inch pan and would have preferred it to be a little deeper. Don’t be put off by the syrup. I know it seems like extra work but it really is simple and can be made whilst the cake is being baked.

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This cake goes perfectly well with a fresh cup of tea or coffee, but equally works well as a dessert. If any cake can chase away the winter blues, this one can!

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Orange and Poppy Seed Cake

Ingredients

  • 280g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (I used ground, course sea salt)
  • 150g buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 260g granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • Zest of 4 oranges
  • 150ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. poppy seeds
  • For the syrup
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 120ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • For the icing
  • 200g icing sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 an orange
  • For the decoration (optional)
  • Freshly grated orange zest or orange candied peel ( see separate post for recipe)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4. Prepare an 8 inch round tin by greasing and lining with baking parchment.
  2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. In a jug, beat together the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, cream together the butter and sugar for approximately 5 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk mixture, incorporating well each time. Repeat the process again and finish with the final third of flour. Add the orange zest and juice and mix well. Finally, add the poppy seeds and ensure they are thoroughly combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  5. Whilst the cake is baking, prepare the syrup. In a small saucepan, add the granulated sugar and orange juice. Over a medium heat, allow the sugar to dissolve. Once dissolved, cook for a further 5 minutes until it is slightly reduced and resembles a syrup. Set aside.
  6. Once baked, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool a little in the pan. Turn onto a wire rack to allow to cool completely. Place a sheet of baking parchment under the wire rack to prevent syrup spills. With a skewer, pierce holes all over the top of the cooled cake, ensuring you do not punch all the way through - we want the syrup to settle in the cake, not seep out of the bottom. Spoon the syrup over the top of the cake ensuring it seeps down into the holes. Spread the syrup over the cake with the back of a spoon. Leave for a few minutes and then repeat until all the syrup is absorbed into the cake.
  7. Prepare the icing by mixing together the icing sugar and orange juice until completely smooth. Pour over the cake.
  8. To decorate, grate orange zest over the icing or add candied orange peel (optional).
http://thecontentedbaker.com/orange-and-poppy-seed-cake/

Source: Adapted from Cheryl Day & Griffith Day’s ‘The Back In The Day Bakery Cookbook’

 

Fortune Cookies

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When I saw these in one of my mother’s recipe books some six months ago, I was desperate to try them out and broaden my baking experiences.

Although not specifically eaten at Chinese New Year, if there was ever a ‘season’, or excuse for me to make them, it is now, in preparation for the forthcoming celebrations. Besides, I have never made a tuile-style biscuit before and was eager to try them out. Okay, if we want to be technical about this, it is not a tuile but it does have similar characteristics.

These fortune cookies are fundamentally a thin, crisp, sweet wafer which are shaped while hot. The batter consists of icing sugar, flour, melted butter and in this case, egg whites. I have adapted this recipe from ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks – Biscuits and Slices’. Their recipe is coconut flavoured but I have used orange extract here.

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In most of my posts, I sound like a broken record, constantly reminding you that this ‘is really quick and easy to make’. Be under no illusion, these are not quick, they take a bit of concentration, you need to act with speed and heat proof fingers would be a bonus. That said, if like me, you like to experiment in the kitchen, these are a fun little challenge. Like anything, practise makes perfect and even just making these 20 or so cookies, they ‘improved’ the more I made.

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 Other than the batter which is very straightforward, here are my tips for making these: –

  • Place a heaped teaspoon of batter in each marked circle on the parchment.
  • Spread the batter with a knife right to the circle line. Spread the batter thinner than you think it should be. If the batter is too thick, it will not bake, or it will break when folding and bending.
  • Have a glass on hand, ready for bending as soon as the cookies come out of the oven.
  • Act as quickly as you can as soon as the cookies come out of the oven. Fold quickly, bend quickly over the glass rim. Repeat quickly for the second cookie.
  • Bake only two at a time. You can get a little system going whereby you have two in the oven and you are spreading the next two, ready to bake.
  • Be prepared for sore fingers (albeit temporarily). The dough is hot, hot, hot to the touch for folding and bending!

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I would say these turned out okay for a first attempt. Even if they are not visually perfect, they are sweet, crispy, orange-fragrant crackers. They have a definite ‘snap’ when broken. Rather nice actually…

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On this occasion I haven’t included little ‘fortunes’ or messages in the cookies. There are many websites with a host of sayings that you could use, if you need inspiration. Just write, or print, the message on small pieces of paper and roll, or fold up, small enough to push into the cookie once it is cool.

Although these take a little effort, there is a lot to be learnt from this bake. I am already thinking about variations.

They are great for sharing at a party, or they make a special gift. How about boxing them up and personalising the messages? A unique Valentine gift, maybe?

Burnt fingers aside, Happy Chinese New Year!

Fortune Cookies

Makes about 20

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites
  • 60g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 60g plain flour

Instructions

  1. Line two baking trays with parchment. Turn over the parchment and mark two circles, approximately 8cm in diameter, on the underside of the parchment and then turn back over.
  2. Preheat the over to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.
  3. Whisk the egg whites briefly until they become foamy. Add the icing sugar, orange essence and the melted butter. Beat until combined, then add the flour. Mix further until completely smooth. Place a heaped teaspoon (approximate) of mixture into one of the marked circles on the parchment. Spread it evenly with a knife to cover the completely circle. Repeat for the remaining three circles. (Spread it as thin as you can).
  4. Have a large glass on hand (for bending the cookies). Bake one tray at a time for approximately 5 minutes, or until the edges of the rounds become slightly browned.
  5. Once removed from the oven, work very quickly. Lift the cookies, one at a time, from the tray, fold in half and then bend over a glass. Repeat quickly with the second cookie. Allow the cookies to cool on a wire rack completely.
  6. Repeat with the remaining cookie mixture.
  7. Store in an airtight container once completely cooled.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/fortune-cookies/

Source: Adapted from ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks – Biscuits and Slices’

Homemade Mincemeat

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Homemade mincemeat is easy to make and has the advantage that you can tailor-make it to your exact taste.

This version has a very citrus, orange flavour as I soaked all the fruit in freshly squeezed orange juice and Cointreau (optional).

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Stored in sterilised jars, the mincemeat should ideally be made about 4 weeks ahead of use to allow the flavours to mature and infuse. All the ingredients are mixed together and then lightly baked in a cool oven to allow the suet to gently melt, covering the fruit and preventing the apples from fermenting in the jars.

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Mincemeat is a useful store cupboard favourite. Perfect for mince pies!

Homemade Mincemeat

4 x 450g Jars

Ingredients

  • 225g vegetable suet
  • 225g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and grated
  • 125g candied peel
  • 225g sultanas
  • 225g raisins
  • 225g currants
  • 175g Demerara sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • Zest of 2 oranges
  • 100ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 100ml Cointreau (50ml, plus 50ml after heating)

Instructions

  1. Mix all the ingredients together (just 50ml of Cointreau at this stage) in a large bowl. Cover and leave overnight.
  2. Pour the mixture into a large, glass oven proof dish and cover with foil. Place in a cool oven, 100 degrees C, or Gas Mark 1/4 for 3 hours.
  3. Remove from the oven, allow to cool completely. Stir in the remaining Cointreau.
  4. Spoon into sterilised jars, cover with waxed discs and seal.

Notes

To sterilise the jars, wash the jars and lids in soapy water. Place upside down in the oven, directly onto the rack. Heat oven to 120 degrees C, or Gas Mark 1/4. Allow to sterilise in the oven for 30 minutes.

http://thecontentedbaker.com/homemade-mincemeat/

Source: Adapted from BBC Food Recipes. Method adapted from Delia Smith’s ‘Complete  Cookery Course’

 

 

 

 

Granola with Cinnamon, Orange and Cranberries

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Granola.

How easy  is this to bake?

So often when I am in the supermarket and am looking for new breakfast inspiration, I look at shop-bought granola, review the contents on the box, raise my eyebrows at the cost and return it to the shelf. More often than not, it contains food items that don’t agree with us, so I leave with the intention of making it at home.

I have finally got around to doing it and will waste no more time lingering in the supermarket cereal aisle!

It is so easy to make and has enormous variation potential. Breakfast need not be dull anymore and can include, or exclude, whatever ingredients you choose. This granola is nut free but full of healthy seeds – pumpkin, sunflower and golden linseeds.

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There are numerous recipes for granola but I stumbled on Ottolenghi’s when I was referring to their Passion Fruit Jam which I made earlier in the week (sublime, by the way). I planned on adapting by excluding the nuts, but adding more seeds and rice flakes. The recipe also called for maple syrup, of which I didn’t have any in the house so I used Demerara sugar as a substitute.

Coincidentally, I received my Amazon delivery from the US (earlier than I than I was expecting – yippee!) of ‘The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2013’. I managed to have a quick browse through the book and, low and behold, found a sub section on granola. I have used these tips with this recipe, and method, and am very pleased with the results.

Whilst you can, more or less, add what you like to your granola, you must always ensure that it contains fat – or vegetable oil, in this case. This prevents the ingredients from drying out too much in the oven and helps with a crunchy granola, as opposed to a saw dust-dry type. To achieve a chunky, cluster type granola, as I have done here, simply flatten the granola on the baking tray with a spatula, prior to baking and do not stir during the baking process. Once baked, allow to cool a little before breaking up into bite sized chunks and then add your dried fruit of choice. Such straightforward advice from America’s Test Kitchen and a wonderful result.

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As the Festive Season is nearly upon us, this granola includes some seasonal flavours – cinnamon, orange zest and dried cranberries.

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Packaged up nicely in a jar, this makes a lovely unusual gift to add to any hamper, or to offer your host if you are a house guest over the holiday season.

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This wholesome granola is meant to be enjoyed with yoghurt and berries at breakfast but there are no real rules. It is rather moreish, so you may constantly be picking at it…

Granola with Cinnamon, Orange and Cranberries

Makes approximately 1kg

Ingredients

  • 400g porridge oats
  • 50g rice flakes
  • 80g pumpkin seeds
  • 80g sunflower seeds
  • 40g golden linseeds
  • 120g Demerara sugar
  • 120g honey
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tbsp. water
  • 2 tbsp. freshly grated orange zest
  • 150g dried cranberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C, or Gas Mark 1. Arrange the oven racks to the middle of the oven. Prepare two baking trays (preferably with edges) by lining with baking parchment.
  2. Place the oats, rice flakes and seeds into a large bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, add the sugar, honey, oil, cinnamon, salt, water, and orange zest and place over a low heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is combined. Add the hot syrup mixture to the oat and seed mixture. Stir with a spatula and ensure that the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated.
  3. Divide the mixture equally over the two baking trays. Make sure that the mixture is evenly distributed and with the spatula flatten certain areas of the granola (this will make sure you have some very crunchy clusters).
  4. Bake for a total of 40 minutes, until the oats turn a light, golden colour. Ensure that you turn the trays and swap shelves after 20 minutes to ensure a very even bake.
  5. Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool a little on the trays before stirring in the cranberries.
  6. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
http://thecontentedbaker.com/granola-with-cinnamon-orange-and-cranberries/

Source: Adapted and inspired by ‘Ottolenghi The Cookbook’ and ‘The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2013’