Friday, 30 October 2009

Baking Tips 1: Flour

Whatever flour a recipe states, I tend to substitute a different one! This is mostly because I try to turn rather decadent baking offerings into something that can be as healthy as possible whilst still remaining delicious. I very rarely use plain old white flour when baking. Nor do I use self-raising flour as I prefer to add a good quality gluten free raising agent myself. Stoneground wholemeal spelt is my staple - see Ingredients are the Key. It's about the healthiest wheat flour you can get and can often be eaten by those who don't normally fare too well with wheat. However, I will often use a combination of flours depending on what I have to hand and what I feel like using at the time.

The best flour I have ever used was ground less than 1/2 an hour before I used it for baking bread - it was the most delicious bread I think I've ever eaten. Sadly, for most of us our flour is unlikely to be that fresh.

For most cakes I will use half wholemeal spelt and half white spelt as this gives a lighter texture than straight wholemeal. However, I often substitute some other flour for some of the white - buckwheat works particularly well as it is a very fine flour. These are the flours I use on a regular basis. All are, of course, organic.
  • Wholemeal Spelt - see Ingredients are the Key
  • White Spelt - used on those rare occasions when nothing but white flour will do. More often I mix it with wholemeal to lighten a cake or biscuit mixture.
  • Wholemeal - I grew up using only wholemeal flour and until I discovered Spelt, just over a decade ago, this is what I used for all of my baking.
  • Gluten Free - I use this if making cakes for anyone who is wheat or gluten intolerant and sometimes use it for lightening the wholemeal.
  • Quinoa - a white fairly grainy flour which has a particularly high protein content, is meant to be easy to digest and is gluten free.
  • Buckwheat - a very fine grey flour which works really well added to cakes and is also gluten free. Ysanne Spevack is more informative than I am on the subject.
I have just booked onto Baking for a New Food Culture with Andrew Whitley - the Real Bread guru - at Shumacher College in a few weeks time. I'm terribly excited about this and am hoping I will learn heaps more about flour and the best flours to use (as well as bread making of course).

The main thing is not to worry too much about what flour the recipe states, just use whatever you have to hand. If you've never tried using anything but traditional white, you could just try substituting a tbsp with an alternative flour the next time you are baking. See how it goes and if all is well, build on that.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Dark Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes


And here follows the other promised cupcake recipe. I have long been wanting to try a cake using chilli and as I was on a spicy cupcake role, I again used a recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess as my starting point - Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake this time.

This is what I did:
  • Cut a fresh scotch bonnet chilli into pieces and then brought to boil in a covered pan with 100ml water. Left to infuse for a couple of hours.
  • Melted 4oz unsalted butter with 200g muscovado sugar and 2oz 85% dark chocolate.
  • Sieved 4oz flour (1/2 wholemeal & 1/2 gluten free) with 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.
  • Made a well in the centre, poured in chocolate mixture and mixed together with 1 large egg.
  • Reheated chilli water then poured this into cake mixture through a sieve to catch chilli pieces (which I discarded) and stirred well.
  • Divided this mixture between 12 cupcake recipes and baked in a preheated oven at 180C for 22 mins.
  • Melted 90g 70% chilli chocolate with 50g unsalted butter.
  • Left to cool until thick enough to pour onto cooled cupcakes without running, but not so thick it wouldn't easily spread.
  • Decorated with remaining 10g chilli chocolate - grated.
I was really pleased with the outcome of these - just what I had been hoping for. Not so hot that they were overpowering, but enough of a residual heat left after eating to know the chocolate cupcakes were unusual. They were light, chocolatey and completely delicious - definitely one for the grown-ups though.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Cardamom & Orange Chocolate Cupcakes


Here is the first of the promised cupcake recipes. I'd recently indulged in some cardamom chocolate and it was so delicious and worked so well, I was keen to try it out in cake format. I took Nigella's Cappuccino Cupcakes recipe as a starting point and adapted it somewhat. This is how I did it:
  • Creamed 125g unsalted butter with 125g soft brown sugar
  • Ground seeds from 8 cardamom pods in a pestle & mortar then beat into butter mixture with grated zest of 1 orange.
  • Beat in 2 large eggs (had run out of duck eggs) one after the other.
  • Sieved in 125g flour (1/2 wholemeal, 1/2 gluten free) with 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tbsp cocoa powder.
  • Mixed in 3 tbsp milk.
  • Divided this between 12 cupcake cases and baked at 180C in a preheated oven for 18 mins.
Whilst these were cooking, I made the icing.
  • Melted 100g milk chocolate (35%) and allowed to cool slightly.
  • Creamed 75g butter with 75g icing sugar.
  • Mixed in chocolate and 1 tbsp orange liqueur.
  • Iced the cooled cupcakes and decorated with a Minstrel.
As I'd hoped the flavours here worked really well together. The texture was good although not quite as light as the chilli cupcakes. The icing was so good I could have eaten the whole bowl. Luckily for those concerned, I managed to restrain myself.

Friday, 16 October 2009

National Chocolate Week


I've had such a fun day. First making some chocolate goodies, then distributing them around town and seeing the delight on people's faces and finally trying them out myself. Well, it is Chocolate Week and I couldn't let it pass without doing something! So, I thought I'd make some cupcakes for the good burghers of Liskeard and brighten up their day. It certainly brightened up my day.

I made 24 cupcakes in total, 12 dark chocolate chilli cupcakes and 12 cardamom and orange chocolate cupcakes. I gave 20 away, but managed to hang on to 4 of them so my chief taster and I got to try one of each. So, here's my route around town.


First, to our most wonderful Book Shop, which we are so lucky to have in a small market town like ours. For a small bookshop they have a great selection, including a good food section. But if they don't have it in stock they can get pretty much anything you care to ask for.

Then to one of our alternative practitioners in Dean Street where I get some wonderful treatments which allows me to cope with the on-going stresses of work.


Our fantastic Organic Shop had to come next. Again we are so lucky to have this and it's where I get the majority of my supplies including my duck eggs and Bacheldre stoneground spelt flour.


Sunshine Delicatessen for the little luxuries I can't get anywhere else.













Taste Cornwall is yet another shop we are lucky to have. It sells local food, all grown or made in Cornwall. It is here I'm able to get our lovely organic unhomoginised milk from Helsett Farm. Raw milk is what we really want, but this is an excellent product and is the tastiest milk we know of around here. Taste Cornwall is where we get our locally grown and stoneground wholemeal flour which is produced at Cotehele Mill in the Tamar Valley. We also get local cheeses and other delights.


The Library with their dedicated staff, unsung heroes of small town life.






On to Power Quip, our local tool hire shop - it's worth hiring a strimmer for the pleasure of being served by such nice people.


Finally, The Loft, the best cafe in Liskeard where I was meeting a friend for lunch. Great homemade food, reasonable prices - it's always difficult to make a choice from the rather tasty menu and even harder to resist the excellent almond tarts. My friend also managed to snaffle one of the cupcakes at this point.










The cupcake recipes will follow in subsequent posts.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Apple & Cider Chocolate Cake


Having adapted one apple and cider cake last week, I was keen to make the most of the apple glut and have a go at another this week. This time I thought I'd adapt my own version of apple and cider cake - substituting chocolate & cinnamon for the walnuts, mixed spice and orange zest.

This is how I did it:
  • Melted 4oz butter with 100g 70% dark chocolate and 1 tbsp honey.
  • Sifted together 6oz flour (5oz wholemeal spelt & 1oz buckwheat), 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp cinnamon.
  • Stirred in 4oz demerara sugar.
  • Peeled, cored and chopped 1 large cooking apple (unnamed Cornish variety) into smallish pieces and stirred this into the flour.
  • Made a well in the centre and poured in chocolate mixture.
  • Mixed this in together with 2 duck eggs.
  • Poured in 2 fl oz cider and mixed well.
  • Poured this into a 20cm silicone cake thingy and baked at 180C (gas 4) for 40 mins ( which was a few minutes too long as the top got a little bit burnt).
As you can see, couldn't help tucking into this one before I had a chance to take a picture. It was good and the cinnamon worked well, but I have to say it wasn't enjoyed as much as last week's adaptation. Burning the top didn't help as I do not like the taste of burn and lean towards overly moist rather than overly dry. Don't let me put you off though, it had a good texture and tasted pleasant.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Cocoa Nibbed Muesli


In a bid to have a slightlier healthier breakfast in the mornings than our normal toast, I thought it was time to make muesli again. This time though I wanted to add some highly nutritious cocoa nibs which have the added bonus of giving a nice chocolatey crunch.

Here's how:
  • Toasted 1lb of rolled oats in oven 175C until very slightly brown and smelling nutty - left to cool.
  • Toasted 6oz mixed nuts (walnuts, brazils and hazelnuts) chopped into pieces in oven at same temperature for about 10 mins - left to cool.
  • Toasted 4oz mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds in oven at same temperature for about 5 mins - left to cool.
  • Spooned these into a large jar, then added: 2oz cocoa nibs, 1 tbsp pollen, 2oz raisins, 2oz dried papaya chunks, 2oz dried pineapple and 2oz goji berries.
  • Gave jar a jolly good shake until all nicely mixed together.
Delicious eaten with yogurt or with kefir, especially if left to soak for a while. As you can see from the, admittedly not so great picture, inroads have already been made on this batch!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Apple Cider Chocolate Chunk Cake


With the Somerset Cider Apple Cake very much in mind from last week (see previous post), I did some cider shopping this morning! Nothing lacking this time, I set to and started baking. I adapted the recipe to include chocolate - in fact I substituted chocolate for the sultanas as I thought having both might be rather overwhelming.

This is what I did:
  • Creamed 6oz unsalted butter with 8oz light brown cane sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in 2 duck eggs - one by one.
  • Sieved 10oz flour (5oz wholemeal spelt & 5oz white spelt), 1.5 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp mixed spice and mixed this in alternately with 1/4 pint cider.
  • Peeled, cored and chopped 2 cooking apples (3/4 lb of Cornish unnamed variety) into smallish pieces.
  • Finally mixed these in together with 100g of good quality milk chocolate (34% green & black's) chopped into chunks.
  • Spooned this into a 22cm cake thingie and baked at 180C for 35 mins.
The result was as good as I had hoped it would be. The chocolate chunks made a good substitute for sultanas, giving that additional sweet hit - and they melt in the mouth better than the average sultana. I shall be making this one again. Thanks go to Giles's mum for this one.

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