Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Fudge and Chocolate... oh c'mon, it's Christmas!

Sorry about the lack of updates lately, but as with most people, I suspect, the Christmas panic is setting in and I'm zipping off cards and worrying about wrapping and last minute gifts! However, I'm determined to get the most use out of my new Holiday Wreath bundt pan, as it won't see the light of day again until next December, so I knocked out a quick Chocolate Cinnamon Bundt. In addition I decided to spice things up with a marvellous new discovery for me - tiny fudge pieces!

I was going to Waitrose as usual last week, but went past a Morrisons supermarket and thought, why not give it a go... all I can say is, I've been spoiled by Waitrose... BUT, they do stock small packets of little fudge pieces for cooking, just like the chocolate chips all the supermarkets stock. I stockpiled five packets so I won't have to go back for a while, as I've not seen them anywhere else!

Sorry it's such a crap image, but I STILL haven't found my digital camera, so this was a quick phone shot while it was cooling on the kitchen worktop, so it's not the best (or even remotely good!), but you can see where all the fudge bits melted in to lovely gooey lovelyness and are glistening on the crust of the cake!
This recipe is great - it takes minutes to put together, you don't have to use the big stand mixer or Kenwood and can simply use an easy-clean-up handmixer, and all the ingredients are pretty much standard store cupboard items. I REALLY must post before Christmas my pimped Chocolate Oreo - it's the BEST chocolate cake recipe I've found... but for now, here's a tasty quicky:

Chocolate Cinnamon Bundt Cake
With Walnuts and Fudge Pieces

1/2 cup unsalted English butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups plain flour
2 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk (or plain yoghurt)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 free range eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 packet of Fudge pieces from Morrissons (in the cake ingredient section)
1 cup walnut pieces

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large bundt pan with cooking spray. Put butter, water, oil, and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, cinnamon, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well. Then, add the buttermilk and baking soda.

Mix together the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, and add to the batter. Add the fudge pieces and walnut and stir until well distributed in to the batter. Pour batter into prepared pan.

I cooked for about 45 minutes, but start checking after 35.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas

I really must find my digital camera... I know we took it with us on holiday in September, and I know I've downloaded the images from then, but don't ask me where it is now... anyway, until then I'll just have to keep taking blog snaps on my mobile phone camera, which isn't always the best quality... bear with me!

It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas at work - December 1st is always the day we put the tree up at work in our department, and Sue and I decided to bring some food in to make it more festive. I volunteered to do cake so I'd have an excuse to use my new Nordic Ware Christmas Wreath tin which I got on sale from Lakeland at a bargain £10.
Seeing as we had some over-ripe bananas sitting in the fruit bowl at home, I decided to make Dorie Greenspan's Banana Bundt, which is featured in her superb book, Baking: From my Home to Yours. Dorie actually credits the recipe to her friend, Ellen Einstein, who owns the Sweet16th Bakery in Nashville, Tennasee.
In addition to the recipe (below) which Dorie gives, I added two packets of white chocolate chips and at least a couple of teaspoons of scarlet food colouring - don't ask me why, at the time I thought the dye would make it redder and be really festive... actually, it just kinda looked weird and came out a bit orangey... one colleague kindly commented that it reminded him of a certain part of a lady's anatomy!

Be warned, this is a big old heavy and very dense cake - the taste is fantastic and it is beautifully moist, but I would suggest serving it more as a dessert with custard or ice cream than to go with a cup of tea or coffee.

Tip for the future, I would use three bananas instead of four, maybe substitute a bit of the plain flour for some ground almonds, and either go completely mad with the food dye or leave it out altogether! Recipe from page 190, Baking: From My Home to Yours

Ingredients: Makes 1 Bundt Cake (14 servings)
3 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 
8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large free range eggs, preferably at room temperature
About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you should have 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup buttermilk, sour cream or plain yogurt

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 180C. Generously butter a 9- to 10-inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. (If you use a silicone Bundt pan there’s no need to butter it.) Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet - you want the oven’s heat to circulate through the Bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don’t be disturbed when the batter curdles), all the sour cream/buttermilk or plain yoghurt and then the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to debubble the batter and smooth the top.

Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 30 minutes - if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.

If you've got the time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and allow it to sit on the counter overnight before serving - it's better the next day.

Optional Lemony White Icing:
Sift 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar into a bowl and squeeze in enough fresh lemon juice (start with 2 teaspoons and add more by drops) to make an icing thin enough to drizzle down the Bundt's curves.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Mmmmm.... Iced Bundt Cake

Just a quick update for you as I wanted to share a Bundt that a colleague of mine, Nicola, created over the weekend. We'd been having an-over-the-coffee-machine chat when we discovered our mutual love of baking, but Nicola was a Bundt Virgin... but not for long lol!

We had a quick scan online for some example pans, with me giving it all "got that one", "got that one", "want that one" and Nicola asked to borrow one my Nordicware Heart tins.

A couple of days later a very proud Nicola came back in to the office with her first Bundt, which was a delicious Vanilla sponge, but covered and decorated in glorious tasty icing, which really made the whole thing much moister, as well as sweeter!
I'm really interested in learning more about how to do the icing and colouring (it doesn't show up clearly on the photo I took on my phone, but even the eye of the daisy in the middle is coloured differently).
Nicola said she used some kind of powder you just paint on, and she got it from Squires in Farnham, Surrey, and seeing as they're about 4 miles down the road from me, I must make the effort to get down there one weekend.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The search for the perfect Red Velvet Bundt recipe!

From what I read online and hear, one of the signature cakes of the home-of-the-bundt - the Southern United States - is a wonderfully lurid creation called Red Velvet Cake.
The pictures in American cook books and online show these amazing and vibrant red cakes frosted in an innocent brilliant white icing, giving the interior of the cake, when sliced, even more of an impact. I've only had one go at creating my own Red Velvet cake, so far, which, to be honest, I was really disappointed with.

It tasted absolutely fine, but the presentation was not what I wanted - rather than a shocking red, it came out a muddy red-hued brown, and the lack of icing made it a touch on the dry side (although served with cream or ice cream, it was fine!).

I've even resorted to asking my good friend in Atlanta, Ben, to ask his brother for the recipe, as Matty runs a neighbourhood bakery (www.mattycakes.com) and Red Velvet Cake is part of his menu. I was really excited until the recipe came through - all in American imperial sizes and in catering quantities - ie enough to make about 15 cakes!

Anyway, the reason I was pondering this today is a work colleague bought me her copy of Harry Eastwood's Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache - "the ultimate feel-good book of natural cakes that taste naughty". The basic premise seems to be that you can still eat "naughty" cake without losing any of the treat-factor if you substitute some of the ingredients for more natural ones - such as beetroot, aubergine, rice flour, and so-on. As well as being in the book title (and cover - see pic!), the recipe is included and is described as being "the food equivalent of watching your mother put on her lipstick"! All the ingredients are pretty standard but includes 200g of finely grated beetroot, although to my mind it still cheats a little as it uses 1tsp of red food colouring.

I'm not sure it's going to be my next attempt recipe for Red Velvet Cake, as I want that truly shocking vibrant red, which I think only man-made food colouring is going to give, but I wondered if anyone else had a killer Red Velvet Cake recipe they could share, or if they'd tried Harry Eastwood's version and how they got on?

Catch you soon! Andy

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Maple Syrup Bundt Cake

My work colleague, Janet, had a recent trip to America and, after lots of badgering, she agreed to sacrifice a bit of shoe-collecting-luggage-space and visit the Williams-Sonoma store in Tampa, Florida and pick up a couple of Bundt tins for me, as they won't ship to England (even after I wrote an email to their customer services pleading with them!).

I went online to their site and selected two of their exclusives - the Autumn Leaf Bundt Pan and the Sandwich Cookie Cake Pan (more on this one later) - as I figured these would take the longest to filter out to eBay and Amazon and I'd have to wait a while to get hold of them.

Anyway, on Saturday I was having a bit of a bake-a-thon and decided to christen the new pan and used the maple syrup recipe that comes with the pan (courtesy of the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen):

345g Plain Flour
1 3/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Grated Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ground Ginger
125ml Milk (I used semi-skimmed)
260ml Maple Syrup
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
250g Unsalted Butter
220g Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
125g Granulated White Sugar
4 Free Range Eggs

75g Firmly Packed Light Brown Sugar
115ml Maple Syrup
4 tsp Bourbon

Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat your oven to 165C and brush the inside of your Bundt tin with shortening or butter (I use Wilton's Bake Easy Spray, available in the UK from Amazon).

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger together and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, maple syrup and vanilla and set aside.

With an electric mixer (I use a Kenwood Chef with K-Beater attachment), beat the butter on a medium speed until creamy, light and smooth (about 1-2 minutes). Add the brown sugar and granulated white sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy (about 4-5 mins). Scrape down the sides, and with the mixer still on add the eggs, one at a time.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat each addition until just mixed in, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Spoon the cake batter in to your prepared tin, spreading the batter so the sides are higher than the centre. Bake until the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in to the centre comes out clean, approx 60-65 minutes. Put the cake tin on a wire rack and leave it with the cake in it to cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out on to the rack and leave to cool completely.

Now at this stage, the recipe instructs you to make the glaze, but I have to admit I didn't bother, but if you want to... in a small saucepan over a medium-high heat, stir together the brown sugar, maple syrup and bourbon and simmer until the mixture has reduced slightly and is a bit tacky, should be about 3-5 minutes, then remove from the heat. While the cake is still cooling, put a but of baking or waxed paper under the cake, and use a pastry brush to apply over the warm cake.

I wrapped the cake up well in silver foil and bought in to work yesterday (so four days old by this stage) and we all had a generous slice, and it wasn't dry at all, and a really great flavour - the maple syrup or sweetness wasn't overpowering, and the spices gave a really nice depth to the flavour. As I said, I left the glaze off, and the cake was wonderfully moist, but maybe next time I'll use it as I'd be interested to see what effect the bourbon would have on the taste, and it would give a really nice sheen and help highlight the decoration.

Definitely a keeper!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Breaking News - Nordicware release new Bundt tin!


Nordicware have released a brand new Bundt tin through upmarket US retailer Williams-Sonoma - the Snowy Village Cakelet Pan is retailing at a whopping $36 (that's £21.43 to you and me!)

Only available in the US and Canada at the moment, no doubt coming to eBay or Amazon soon.

While I can see this would make a great Christmas Tea table centre piece, I'm not sure if this will be going to the top of my must-have list - it seems quite expensive for what it is, and I'm not sure what else you could use it for during the rest of the year - any ideas?

Bundt cake? What the hell's that???

Virtually unheard of in England until recently, Bundt cakes are part of the culture in the United States where they rose to popularity during the 1960s, and at last these wonderful baked goods are making their way across the Atlantic to our shores!

The cakes themselves are usually based on good old fashioned Pound Cake recipes and are most often dense and moist - the kinda cake you enjoy with a mug of coffee, or with a dollop of ice cream as an indulgent pudding!

What gives Bundt cakes their WOW factor is the finely detailed cake tins used to produce them, delivering the most amazing intricately shaped cakes - with designs for virtually every occasion, ranging from the fun such as fairy tale cottages and Christmas trees, to sophisticated cathedral and fleur-de-lis, to the homely shortbread and pineapple upside down cake. Whichever shape you choose, the result will look as though you've spent hours in the kitchen, when all you need do is mix your cake, bake and turn out, then sit back and take the glory!

'Bund' (which is German for a gathering of people) cakes originated in central Europe hundreds of years ago with the kugelhopf tin, when a baker discovered that if a metal tube was placed in the centre of the tin, the cake cooked more evenly and rose higher.

The technique was widely copied and probably taken to America by European immigrants, but it was H. David Dalquist of Nordic Ware in Minneapolis who created the first aluminium 'bundt' tin in 1950 and added a 't' to the end of 'bund'. Bundt is now a registered trademark of the company who continue to proudly make these "made in America" tins.

If you would like to start making Bundt cakes, tracking down the tins (or pans as they're called in America) is becoming easier all the time, mainly, but not only, thanks to the internet. In addition to eBay and Amazon always having stock (just do a search on either for bundt or nordic ware), specialist cook shops are also starting to stock these. If you or friends are heading out to America, make sure they bring you back one of the Nordicware exclusives carried by upmarket US home retailer, Williams-Sonoma (who don't, despite asking, ship to England, the buggers!).

A possible English "breakthrough moment" may have just started with the extremely popular Lakeland store stocking a small range, including the giant cupcake and Christmas wreath tins (the Christmas wreath is currently on sale at the bargain price of £9.99).

£9.99!!!!! Are you mad...

Which brings me on to price... Be warned, these cake tins are definitely not cheap - averaging around £25-£30 each... BUT... they are absolutely excellent quality, really heavy gauge, with a quality non-stick coating and, if you buy Nordicware brand, guaranteed for 25 years. These really will last you a lifetime and be heirlooms of the future. And £25 really isn't that much to pay to make someone's face light up when they get their first Bundt cake, is it?!?!