Tuesday, 26 November 2013


I did have a recipe planned for this week which should have been on the blog since day 1 but I’ve been that busy that I didn’t get time to make them. They’ll be up soon. Not saying any more. This recipe is one I’ve had saved in times of madness, so technically it’s the understudy although it really deserves a prime spot. Everyone loves carrot cake but I personally didn’t like the idea of putting a load of sunflower oil in a cake, so thought I’d use browned butter instead for a subtle nuttiness. The other ingredients are pretty traditional because classics shouldn’t be messed with (adding orange seems popular) but I do add a tiny bit of orange flower water to the frosting to give it extra freshness.

150g butter
180g light brown sugar
3 eggs
3 carrots, peeled and grated
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
210g self raising flour
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
Good grating of nutmeg

For the frosting
250g soft cheese, room temperature
50g butter, room temperature
200g icing sugar
1 tsp orange flower water

Preheat the oven to fan160/180c/4. Line and grease a square brownie/cake tin.
Begin by brown the butter. Melt in a small sauce pan on a gentle heat. Once melted allow to bubble until it shows light brown when stirred and smells nutty. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

Mix together the sugar eggs and carrots, then pour in the melted brown butter. Zest in the lemon and orange, then squeeze in the juice of the orange and stir. Sieve in the flour then spike with the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Mix well then pour into the cake tin and bake towards the bottom of the oven for 45 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. It will be quite dense due to the carrots, and this is what a carrot cake should be like.
Once baked, turn out of the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat the soft cheese until smooth and silky, then beat in the butter. Add the icing sugar and mix, then spoon in the fragrant flower water. Spoon onto the top of the cake, and swirl around. Grate over some orange zest and nutmeg to finish.  

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


I’ve been wanting to make something which uses pink peppercorns for a while now. I think their perfume suits sweet treats more so than savoury recipes. Dark chocolate tends to go well with fragrant flavours, so I thought I’d put the pink peppercorns on a bark and make little sweets, sort of like firmer Turkish delight, to sit next to them. This is a really easy and charming looking confection which would be great to wrap up as a gift. I’m nowhere near as prepared in other means for the upcoming festive season.

100ml water
4 leaves of gelatine
3 tsp rose water
200g sugar
A few drops food colouring, (I used a little red and yellow)
200g dark chocolate
2 tsp pink peppercorns

Put the water in a small saucepan and add the gelatine leaves and allow to sit for about 5 minutes before turning on the heat, adding the sugar and rose water and brining to boil. Once boiling reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes. In this time line and oil a small tray. Turn off the heat and quickly stir in the colouring. Pour into the tray and leave to set overnight.

To make the bark, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (bain-marie). Once melted, pour onto a baking tray and smooth out until reasonably thin. Quickly chop up the rose flavoured sweets into random chunks and scatter over the chocolate alongside the peppercorns and leave to set. This can take about an hour.

Once set cut or snap into random pieces and enjoy, or wrap up to give as a gift. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Me and my mate decided to experiment with our baking the other week and chose to make cinnamon sticky buns, which neither of us had made. Despite the name, I'm not a massive bread expert. They turned out brilliantly, we were both shocked, and then I thought I’d make my own (probably the first time I've ever tested an actual recipe before then trying to make it original). I don’t know why vanilla and hazelnut sprung to mind, but it did, and I'm glad it did. The combination is a winner, and the result is a sticky, almost caramelised outer bun giving way to a soft, sweetened bread held together by a vanilla filling and crunchy hazelnuts. I prefer these to the cinnamon ones.

400g strong white bread flour
40g light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 ½ tsp fast action dried yeast
65g butter
1 egg (plus one egg yolk for glazing)
Around 200ml milk

For the filling
80g butter, room temperature
100g soft light brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
75g hazelnuts, chopped

For the topping
6 tbsp icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp water 

Makes 9

Mix together all of the flour, sugar, salt and yeast (keeping these two separate) then rub in the butter until the mixture roughly resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and crack in the egg. Slowly add the milk and stir until you get a sticky dough. Kneed for 10 minutes, or about 5 in a mixer with the dough hook attachment, until the dough is soft and springy. You need to be able to pull a little bit off, stretch it, hold it up to light and see your finger’s shadow through it, without it ripping.

Place into a lightly oiled bowl covered with a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1½ hours. Its good to make these at this time of the year, because the radiator tends to be on.

In the meantime make the filling. Beat together the butter and sugar and loosen with the vanilla extract until you have a sweet paste. Grease and line a square brownie tin, about 20cmx20cm.

Once the dough has rise, knock the air out with your fist and kneed for about 30 seconds. With a rolling pin, begin to roll lengthways to form a long rectangle. You want it to be the thickness of a one pound coin, so keep at it, it can be a bit tricky as the dough often wants to spring back. Once you have an even-ish rectangle, spoon over the vanilla paste and spread all over, getting right to the edges of the dough. Sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts, evenly distributed. Now the filling is done, begin to roll. You want to do it from the lengthways, so you end up rolling the longest side into a really long sausage and try to keep it as tight as possible. Once you have the roll, chop it into 9 equal sized swirls and place each into the tin, evenly spaced in rows of 3, with the swirl facing upwards. Cover with a damp cloth again and leave to rise for about another hour.

Heat the oven to fan180/200c/6. Once risen, brush the tops of the buns with the egg yolk and bake for 10 minutes in the top of the oven before dropping down to the bottom and reducing the heat to fan160/180c/5 and baking for a further 15 minutes.

Once baked, allow to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes before removing and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack. To finish, mix the icing sugar, vanilla and water until you have a thick icing and drizzle randomly over the top. I like to do this while the buns are still a little bit warm, and eat one straight away. 

Monday, 4 November 2013


Yep, I’ve gone and put beer in a cake again. This one is not so radical though, the flavour of ginger is hardly unfamiliar in baking, but I do use alcoholic ginger beer because it has an extra depth flavour and warmth, but you could easily use the soft stuff. This is a brilliant alternative to a parkin because you don’t need to let it rest for 3 days, just crack open a bottle, mix it in with other cake ingredients, drizzle with a spiky ginger beer icing and spruce up with some crystalised ginger and there you have it. A ginger beer cake just in time for bonfire night.
If you’d prefer a parkin, I have a recipe here.

100g butter, room temperature
180g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
280g wholemeal self raising flour
300ml alcoholic ginger beer (buy a bottle with a little bit more in, you need some for the icing and then can drink the left over)
½ tsp ginger
1 tbsp black treacle

6 tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp ginger beer
A few chunks of crystalised ginger for decoration (optional)

Preheat oven to fan180/200c/6. Grease and lightly flour a small loaf tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, with a little bit of the flour then begin to alternate adding the rest of the flour and ginger beer until you get a thick batter. Add the ginger and drizzle in the treacle and mix. Pour into the tin and bake at the bottom of the oven for about 40-45 minutes, lowering the heat by about 20°/1 gas mark half way through baking (not that necessary, but just stops the cake catching too much). If you cake does appear to be catching, put a piece of baking paper over the top of the tin. It should be golden and springy when baked. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before taking out and leaving to cool on a wire rack completely.

To make the icing, mix together the icing sugar and ginger beer. Drizzle randomly over the cooled cake then arrange the ginger in a line down the centre, or where the cake cracks a bit in the oven, because it will sit easier there. Enjoy in front of the fireworks.