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Nigella flourless chocolate and lime cake

November 15, 2010

Having bought the new Nigella Kitchen book a few weeks ago and indulging in watching the accompanying TV show, I thought it was high time I actually gave one of the recipes a go. All it took was a quick flick through the book for this to catch my eye. I was having friends over for dinner, and everyone loves chocolate.

Now lime and chocolate aren’t two ingredients I’d have naturally thought of putting  together, but much like Nigella herself, perhaps it shouldn’t work, but it does. This recipe would be suitable for anybody with a gluten intolerance as it replaces flour with ground almonds to great effect – I wouldn’t have guessed in a blind-taste test that is.

The only thing I would have to say about the taste is that the lime was very subtle. The occasional pockets of lime zest aside, it could really do with being oomphed up a bit. Perhaps it’s my fault, the lime was quite small, but I think if I make this again I’d add the zest and juice of another lime to really give it some zing.

This cake also lasted wonderfully well, and was perfect heated up in the microwave for just a few seconds and served next to a delicious scoop of melting ice cream. Delicious. Alternatively, grabbing a quick, decadent slice was also great as it tasted beautiful cold too. If you wanted to add some extra oomph to this, you could serve it with a raspberry or cherry coulis, something faintly sharp to set off the sweetness of the chocolate.

Whichever way you have it, this is an indulgent treat for those with or without allergies, and one I’d highly recommend to anyone and doubly highly recommend to any sufferers who believe you can’t find a tasty gluten free cake.

The usual:

Taste: 4/5 If only the lime was a bit more noticeable, this would score higher, but with only the odd burst of it, it feels like it’s a mistake rather than an intentional ingredient.

Difficulty: 2/5 Not difficult at all – I thought these might be as tricksy as the brownies I’ve previously cooked, but not so. The only thing here was the oven timings were slightly off. Nigella said to cook for 45 minutes but check after 35, by 35 mine was perhaps a little overcooked if anything – so something to watch out for.

Amendments: None.

Chance of remake: 3/5 I’ve been looking for a good, simple, chocolate cake recipe – maybe this will be my go-to recipe of choice in future.

You can find Nigella’s flourless chocolate and lime cake recipe in her latest book, Kitchen. For more of her recipes, visit the Nigella website or check BBC Food.

Coming up soon: traditional apple pie!

Halloween baking: scary sculls biscuits recipe

October 31, 2010

I wanted to be seasonal with this week’s baking challenge, and so when I came across these sweet looking biscuits, I just couldn’t resist. Handily, I still also had some morello cherry jam left over from one of the food festivals I went to last month.

These were probably the simplest biscuits I’ve ever had to make, I didn’t even had to crack out the electric whisk for these. Simply put butter, sugar, vanilla essence and an egg yolk into a bowl and use a big spoon to mix it all together. Slowly add the flour and voila you have the basic mixture. It’s a wondrous work out for the arms though – it really is shocking they don’t include it in gyms isn’t it?

Anyway, after chilling for a while, it was time to roll out the dough and create the shapes. Believe it or not, I didn’t have a skull shaped cookie cutter, but rather I just rolled these in the palm of my hands, squashed it onto the baking tray then pinched the bottom of the circle to make a jaw line. I don’t have an apple corer to make the eyes either, as recommended in the recipe, so I made do, as you do, with the ‘other’ end of a whisk.

A few ticks later and the biscuits were ready, all I had to do was pair them up as best as I could to and insert the lovely glistening cherry jam in between. Next was the really tricky part, the icing. I’ve never been particularly prestigious at icing neatly, especially when I don’t have the appropriate piping bags.

On this occasion I made do with sandwich bags pricked with only the teeniest of tiny holes and squeezed the decorations on with due care. This is the part the took the longest and was trickiest, but I think they’ve turned out well in the end, are suitably spooky.

Usual nonsense:

Difficulty: 1/5 Easy as pie, except for the icing bit, then you’ll need a little more patience.

Taste: 4/5 I’m a sucker for simple flavours, so I love these. Others may find them a tad basic.

Amendments: Used cherry jam instead of raspberry, I’d recommend using whatever you have to hand.

Chance of remake: Maybe at Christmas I’ll do Santas or Christmas trees…

You can find the scary scull biscuit recipe on BBC Good Food.

Blackberry lemon cakes with cheesecake topping – BBC Good Food

October 25, 2010

This week’s bake was, by all accounts, a bit of a weird one. It was two cakes in one, normal sponge cake on the bottom with a cheesecake style topping. Except the cheesecake part wasn’t made from cheese, but rather sour cream, an egg and icing sugar.

Anyway, this required messing about with fiddly strips of paper that you would need later on to pull the cakes out of the muffin tin, but if you wanted to save yourself the hassle you could probably just use tall cupcake or muffin cases to similar effect.

Another reason why this bake was odd is that when the cake part has barely cooked, you have to take them out of the oven and squash them into the base of the muffin holes so that you can pour the cheesecake mixture (at this point runny) to fill up the holes. I got the feeling that this wouldn’t work because the cakes had already risen quite a lot, but it’s amazing what you can do with a spatula isn’t it?

Anyway, after pouring the cheesecake mixture on, they go back in the oven for a bit and then when they come out they do look ever so sweet with the luscious blackberry glistening out from the top. The recipe actually called for blueberries, but at this time of year they are so expensive and carry so many food miles I just couldn’t bear to use them and found these blackberries on special offer instead.

Now for the inevitable problems with this week’s bake… The recipe commands you to take the cakes out of the oven when they are only partially cooked in order to flatten them slightly and pour the cheesecake topping on. You wouldn’t be able to do this at the end as they’d be too hard to push down and there would be no room for the topping. The problem is that the resulting cakes (or at least mine) remained pale and not quite cooked enough for my liking at the end of it. They weren’t light and airy like normal sponge, but a lot more dense. It wasn’t a bad cake, but you can see why cheesecakes are normally accompanied by biscuit and not sponge…

The taste of the cheesecake part was light and somewhat refreshing, and the sponges just lemony enough. Still, I don’t think I’ll be rushing to make these again, even if they were a little more interesting than usual.

So here we go:

Taste: 3/5 Nice enough, but they don’t really have the wow factor, unfortunately.

Difficulty: 3/5 The tricky part here is the laying of the baking paper strips into the muffin holes to allow you to pull out the cakes at the end. It was a lot of faff for not a fantastic reward – if you had a silicon baking tray you might want to use one of those instead. It was also a bit weird having to push down part baked cakes with a spatula.

Amendments: Subtituted blueberries for blackberries, you could probably use whichever fruit you liked here, although a berry of some kind would work best I think.

Chance of remake: 1/5 Nice enough, but with so many other wonderful treats I can’t imagine I’ll be rushing to the kitchen for these any time soon.

You can find the lemon cake with blueberry lemon cakes with cheesecake topping recipe on the BBC Good Food website.

Special thanks to Emma for the props and ‘rustic’ table 😉

Cranberry and white chocolate Blondies

October 21, 2010

After the recent success of the Brownies, I thought it was only natural to turn my hand to their polar opposite – Blondies.

If you’ve never heard of a blondie before, you’re not alone. But basically imagine a brownie without the cocoa powder and milk/dark chocolate, instead substituted for vanilla and white chocolate and you have a blondie.

I had found some dried cranberries in my local deli so I was all good to go. These were fairly easy to make, a bit of hefty mixing and a little bit of fiddly chopping of the chocolate were the only hurdles to stand in the way here.

Once again however I had a bit of an issue with cooking times. This time I even used the tin that was recommended in the recipe and they still didn’t cook through enough after the supposed required time. To get round this quicker I cut the blondies into squares and laid them out on a baking sheet just to get the edges to firm up but still leave a lovely fudgy consistency behind.

So in the end I was left with a gorgeous concoction of chocolate, cranberries and cake. The tartness of the cranberries offset the white chocolate well, which otherwise might have been a bit sickly. I’d recommend anything tangy to go with the chocolate but avoid something sweeter like strawberries.

I’ve gone all out girly for the photographs here with pink, pink and more pink. But I recently had a bit of a spending spree on the hunt for new photo backgrounds so look out for some exciting colours, shapes and patterns in the future.

For now, the usual gubbins:

Taste: 4/5 These got a big thumbs up from most, and were almost on a par with the raspberry brownies from the other week, I’d nudge them slightly under though as I prefer a more intense chocolate flavour overall.

Difficulty: 2/5 If you go in prepared for disaster then the outcome will surely be pleasing.

Amendments: This called for macadamia nuts, so I substituted for Brazil nuts – much cheaper and I think just as tasty (especially for someone like me who is slowly trying to train myself to like nuts).

Chance of remake: Simple to make and using much cheaper ingredients than their brownie cousins, could be a good go-to recipe in times when a quick bake is required.

This blondie recipe comes from Sainsbury’s Magazine, but you can find a great raspberry and white chocolate blondie recipe on BBC Good Food.

Lemon drizzle and cherry cupcakes

October 12, 2010

I love making cakes with only store-cupboard ingredients. I feel thrifty and all domestic-goddess like. “Oh these, just something I whipped up” I can say. And it was so, with these lemon drizzle and cherry cakes. The only thing I needed to buy was a lemon – and even then I could have done without it (as I had lemon juice in a bottle), but wanted to add the zest to the sponge for extra special lemonyness.

This bake also made a nice change as there wasn’t ridiculous amounts – just 12, perfectly formed cakes. A lot of recipes I make, you tend to end up with far too many leftovers that you’re sick of by the time you’ve been guilted into eating the 15th one.

Everyone loves cupcakes, or fairycakes, or whatever you want to call them, and these were no different. I mostly like them because they are so easy to make. Yes, it’s a bung-em-all in method again. I got these quirky cases from Ikea, so everyone’s probably got them by now. I felt slightly paranoid after watching The Great British Bake Off that my cakes weren’t all exactly the same size – but at the end of the day, I think only Mary Berry would disapprove, nobody else seemed to mind.

The props for this bake have all come from my recent foodie outings. Cases from Ikea, plate from The Pumping Station and even the blue card from an Abergavenny art shop. I love the bright colours, and how the modern stylings of the cases clashes with the old-fashioned plate.

The usual:

Taste: 3/5 I loved the lemony drizzle, but I think this could work potentially work better with fresh cherries.

Difficulty: 2/5 The most difficult part is trying to make sure you keep your cakes roughly the same size – and I always find chopping glace cherries a little tricky.

Amendments: It called for only the juice of one lemon for the icing, but I love lemon so much that I added extra from my storecupboard – the result was very tangy (but still sweet).

Chance of remake: I’d like to give it a go with fresh cherries, or perhaps raspberries and see what the difference is.

You can find a good lemon cupcake recipe on the Waitrose website. My recipe came from an advertorial in an old issue of BBC Good Food. You can adapt the waitrose recipe and include a “surprise cherry” in the middle of the cake by poking one into each cake before you put them in the oven.

Marmalade and ginger cream cookies – Sainsbury’s magazine

October 2, 2010

A well-made biscuit really is a thing of beauty. A perfect, delightful snack to indulge in for elevenses or accompanying a cup of tea. And they somehow, to me at least, always seem slightly less naughty than a full-blown cake.

It was with that in mind that I decided on this week’s challenge bake. These marmalade and ginger cream cookies looked superb in Sainsbury’s magazine, and, what’s more even contained oats in (everyone knows anything with oats in can’t be bad for you).

I came over ever so slightly Paddington Bear when I opened the jar of marmalade. To see that glistening, orange, gelatinous substance sparkling away was mesmerising, and I couldn’t wait to see how these biscuits would taste.

This bake was, for the most part, simple. Combine oats, sugar, flour, an egg yolk, butter, and of course the marmalade together for the biscuit part. The trickiest part here was getting the mix off the spoon and onto the baking sheet in a vaguely sensible shape. Of course, the point here isn’t to make the roundest biscuit, so it doesn’t really matter if they’re not very neat.

The recipe stated that cooking time would be around 15 minutes. I upped this to 20, since I like a crispy, crunchy biscuit. If you leave it at 15, I imagine the result would still be delightful though, so this part is up to you.

Now for the ginger cream part. I didn’t have any crystallised stem ginger. Funnily enough, my teeny tiny local shops don’t sell it, and I couldn’t even find any in the market. I read on a forum that you could try and recreate the same kind of texture with ground ginger and golden syrup, two ingredients I have in abundance. I added more ginger than was strictly necessary, but I am a gingerholic of course. The result does somewhat relegate the marmalade flavour into second place, so you might want to bear this in mind should you try the recipe yourself and aren’t quite so obsessed with ginger as I.

With these not being the prettiest things I’ve ever baked, the challenge in this week’s photography was to try and keep them looking appealing. I think I acheived that, but you can judge for yourself.

The usual rigmaroll:

Taste: 3.5/5 I like these, they’re a satisfying afternoon treat, but they’re not something that is going to have you screaming wow from the rooftops.

Difficulty: 2/5 Some pretty hefty stirring here, and be careful with your timings depending on how crispy you want your biscuits.

Amendments: I didn’t have any stem ginger, so golden syrup and ground ginger did the trick nicely, I cooked them for slightly longer than the recipe suggested.

Chance of remake: 3/5 These were yummy, I can’t deny that, but I don’t think I’ll be in a huge hurry to make these again, that said, there is a lot of marmalade and oats left, so it wouldn’t be a chore!

This recipe came from Sainsbury’s Magazine, February 2010. Delia has a good preserved ginger and oat biscuits recipe, which you could adapt to include marmalade.

Nigella Kitchen (TV) Review – Episode 1

October 1, 2010

I’d been looking forward to Nigella Kitchen appearing on TV ever since buying her book around a month ago. After an initial setback thanks to BBC2Wales daring to show rugby instead of Nigella, I finally managed to catch up 90 minutes after England. And, while I can see why some people may get extremely irritated by her (constantly smiling, cooking in her nightie, the accent), I really liked it. Here’s why.

– Whether her constant grin annoys you or not, you can tell she genuinely does love cooking, and food, and eating, and feeding people. I don’t think you can fake that, even if you do go OTT with the pearly whites.

– So what if she does cook in her silk dressing gown? I’m not sure I should be admitting this in a public forum, but I’ve cooked in much worse before – she’s a vixen and she knows it. What I found more bizarre was the cooking in the coat thing, but I guess it was to prove a point that you could knock up her Thai curry before you’ve even had time to settle in yet.

– She does give the impression of always being ever so slightly drunk. I know in the coat-cooking segment (See abobe) she’d “just been out on the town”, but she couldn’t even get a can of coconut milk open, bless her.

– Is that her real house? Who cares? She implied it was, she seemed at home in it. I know the tricks TV producers like to play on us, but even if it’s just a recreation of her real home, I like it. Fairy lights everywhere, giant store cupboard, vintage plates knocking about? In short, my dream kitchen.

– It’s indulgent. Yeah, OK, the show is not really about serious cooking, but she’s never claimed to be a chef. She bangs on about it enough in her books that she’s a cook, not a chef, so how can anybody surprised when it’s more about the eating, and the enjoying, than the processes of cooking?

– It’s only 30 minutes long. Even I would probably start to tire of her jollity if it went on for much longer, but much like the great woman says herself, everything in moderation.

You can catch Nigella Kitchen on Thursdays at 8pm on BBC2 (times may vary if you live in Wales, apparently), and 11.30 on Saturdays. Visit Nigella’s website for more information.

I’ll be doing a review of her book once I’ve finished it too – I’ve been devouring it slowly at bedtime since I bought it, and it’s such an epic tome that I’m only about half way through.

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