Monday, 27 July 2009

Blondies

I adapted this recipe for white chocolate brownies from one of Nigella's. Here's how:
  • Melted 3oz unsalted butter with 100g white chocolate (I used my favourite Green & Black's).
  • Whisked 2 duck eggs with 6oz granulated sugar until thick and creamy.
  • Beat in the cooled chocolate and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Folded in 6 oz plain flour (1/2 wholemeal spelt & 1/2 gluten free) with 1 tsp salt.
  • Stirred in 4oz chopped walnuts.
  • Turned this into a buttered 25cm x 20cm tin and baked at 170°C (gas 4) for 20 mins.
The results were lush and sumptuous. Pleasingly squidgy in the middle with a light and crisp top and the sweetness tempered by the generous helping of crunchy walnuts.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Birthday Cakes


It's my birthday next week and in true birthday tradition I have to bring in cakes to work. What to make? Last year I think I did a strawberry and cream cake along with Expresso cupcakes. Cupcakes are good because they travel well, don't need cutting and are easy to eat in a work situation. This time I plumped for Night & Day cupcakes from How to be a Domestic Goddess.

This year there is the added challenge of having a vegan in the team. It just so happens there is a recipe I've seen in Divine that I've been saving up for just such an occasion - Balsamic and Chocolate Cake. I'm a little bit nervous about this - a cake without eggs?

Vegan Chocolate Cake
  • Sifted 175g flour (used 1/2 wholemeal spelt and 1/2 white spelt) with 50g cocoa, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  • Mixed in 175g granulated sugar & made a well in the centre.
  • Poured in 100ml sunflower oil, 25ml cold pressed olive oil and 150ml warm water.
  • Combined liquid and flour then mixed in 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar.
  • Spooned mixture into a 21cm cake thingie and baked at 180°C (gas 4) for 30 mins. Turned oven off and left for further 5 mins. Cooled in container.



I needn't have worried, the cake was delicious. It rose well, had a moist yet light texture and had a rich chocolatey taste with a slight balsamic twist. It was just as delicious two days later! I was advised by my vegan colleague that silken tofu mixed with melted dark chocolate makes a good cake topping so I might try that next time.










Night & Day Cupcakes
  • Creamed 75g granulated sugar, 50g muscovado sugar with 125g unsalted butter
  • Beat in 2 duck eggs alternately with 125g flour (1/2 wholemeal and 1/2 white spelt), 1 tsp baking powder and 2 level tbsp cocoa.
  • Stirred in 1 tsp vanilla extract with 1 tbsp milk and 2 tbsp warm water.
  • Divided into 12 cupcake cases and baked at 180°C (gas 4) for 20 mins.
  • Sieved 100g icing sugar.
  • Mixed in 100g cream cheese and 1 tbsp lemon juice.
  • Spooned onto cupcakes and decorated each with a chocolate coated coffee bean.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Orange and Chocolate Cupcakes


Off on a journey and need something that travels well so can still be presented with some aplomb to family on arrival. Still not as well equipped for carrying cakes as I'd like to be, so guess it has to be cupcakes! The fair trade orange spice dark chocolate from the co-op was still on offer and having liked the results of the last cake I made with it, I wanted to use it again. So I made up the following recipe.
  • Melted 50g of dark orange spice chocolate.
  • Creamed 125g unsalted butter with 125g muscovado sugar
  • Mixed in chocolate with 2 duck eggs
  • Sieved in 125g flour (1/2 wholemeal and 1/2 gluten free) with 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tbsp cocoa.
  • Mixed this in with grated zest from 1 orange and 2 tbsp milk.
  • Divided mixture into 12 cupcake cases and baked for 17 mins at 180°C (gas 4).
  • Melted another 50g of orange spice chocolate.
  • Creamed 60g butter with 100g sieved icing sugar.
  • Beat in chocolate together with 1 large tbsp sour cream.
  • Spooned this onto cooled cupcakes and decorated with sugar flowers.
Vanity may be a deadly sin, but I have to say these are pretty damn good. The texture is good - light but substantial with a very pleasant, though hardly unexpected, flavour of spice and orange. I know we should have taken the full complement of 12, but hey, you've got to have one for the road!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Duck Eggs

People keep asking me why I use duck eggs for baking. Well, when it came down to it, I knew that duck eggs were meant to be much better than chicken eggs, but didn't exactly know why. Where did I pick this up? I couldn't exactly say, it's just something I seem to have always known. Having been asked the question, I've had to think about it. Is it because the duck yolks seem to be much bigger in proportion to the egg whites? Cakes do seem to be a little richer, a little lighter. Am I imagining this? I think some investigation is called for.

It turns out I wasn't far wrong, the yolks are larger and richer with a higher fat and nutrient content. To boot, duck eggs also have more protein in the white, which gives cakes a bit more structure and a higher rise. They have the added bonus of a longer shelf life as the shells are much thicker. For a complete nutritional comparison take a look at this website.

I'm very fussy about eggs and will only use eggs from poultry that are truly free ranging and are preferably raised organically (see Ingredients are the Key). I'm lucky enough to have several outlets for local organic eggs where I live and I've seen the birds scratching about more than happily on the farm where most of the ones I buy come from. Bright yellow or orange yolks are what you need to look for - these are usually a sign that poultry have access to fresh grass. For further information about the benefits of eating products from grass-fed animals try reading Jo Robinson's Pasture Perfect.

If you can't get access to good duck eggs, just substitute large hens eggs instead. If you find the concept of duck eggs novel and challenging, how about trying goose eggs? This picture comes courtesy of Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm in Vermont. Goose eggs are meant to be the real business when it comes to baking - I haven't tried them yet!

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