Sunday, 30 December 2012

Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies

What with the 'Merry Christmas' ribbon, I'm a little late with these, I know.

I made them on Christmas Eve as a last minute bake. I thought they would be perfect as a little home-made gift for some friends.

And as it happens, they taste really good.

So ignore the ribbon.

They are perfect at any time of year.

The cranberries meld beautifully with the pistachios and white chocolate. I suppose, with their red, white and green vibe, they could be the perfect Welsh cookie for St David's Day.

So maybe I'm in fact early?

Cranberry, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients (makes 16)

75g softened unsalted butter
75g golden caster sugar
75g soft light brown sugar
1 medium egg
1 tspn vanilla extract
175g plain flour
1/2 tspn baking powder
60g dried cranberries
60g pistachios, chopped
60g white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 Conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment (or just lightly grease them - I'm very lazy and find the paper saves on washing up!).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle, cream the butter and both sugars until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla; mix until incorporated.

Add the flour and baking powder and mix, slowly, until it is just smooth. Then, fold in the cranberries, pistachios and chocolate chips so that they are distributed throughout the mixture.

Scoop (or spoon) the mixture onto the baking trays so that there is sufficient space to allow for expansion. I use a 2 inch (size 30) old fashioned ice cream scoop, as it's a doddle to use and I find it makes for evenly sized, round (well, round-ish) cookies.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 - 12 minutes until golden. Leave them on the tray for a few minutes to cool, and then lift them onto a wire rack to finish cooling.



Friday, 28 December 2012

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

As much as I love typical Christmas fayre such as Turkey, Pudding and Mince Pies, pretty soon I reach saturation point. The richness of the usual festive treats seems to take its toll, and I feel sluggish. But there is still entertaining of family and friends to do. That won't really be over until after New Year's Eve. So there is still food to prepare and meals to organise.

Although pudding wise, I may still want something warm and comforting, I feel the need for something simple. The sharpness of blueberries in this cake, combined with a simple, not too sweet cake batter, is just what I'm after.

Warm from the oven, it's moist and soothing. With the barest drizzle of cream it's a perfect pudding.

If you have last minute guests, it's also quick and easy to put together. If you have a bag of frozen blueberries stashed in the freezer, it's a no fuss dessert. With 40 minutes baking time, and a little prep time, it was on the table in less than an hour.

Blueberry Upside Down Cake

Ingredients (for one 7 inch soufflé dish)

225g blueberries
4 tbspn melted unsalted butter
135g soft light brown sugar
105g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn salt
1 egg (weighing 57-64g in the shell)
60ml milk - at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Butter a 7 inch souffle dish. Separate the sugar into two batches of 50g and 85g, and the blueberries into 150g and 75g. 

Pour 2 tbspns of the melted butter into the soufflé dish. Sprinkle over 50g of the sugar, and then 150g of the blueberries.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, gently whisk the remaining 2 tbspns butter, 85g sugar and egg. Add the milk and mix well (as the milk is at room temperature, it won't curdle or solidify the melted butter). Add the flour mixture and mix until you have a smooth batter.

Gently, pour half the batter over the blueberries in the soufflé dish. Scatter over the remaining blueberries and then top with the remaining batter.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 40 minutes until risen and golden - a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean.

Immediately, turn out onto a serving plate. The best way to do this is to put your plate upside down over the top of the dish, then, using oven gloves as the soufflé dish will still be hot, grab both dish and plate and then quickly flip them over.

This is definitely best served whilst still warm from the oven, but I would give it about 10 minutes to cool slightly. You don't want it too hot.

The  blueberries on the top of the cake will have almost dissolved into a lovely, fruity topping. Those that are within the cake are like little pearls, just waiting to be discovered.



Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart - find the original here

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Everything is prepared.

The turkey is in the oven.

The veg is bubbling away.

The presents are wrapped and under the tree.

It's time to take a little breather from all the hustle and bustle.

All that remains is for me to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

I hope that wherever you are, whatever you are doing, you have a fantastic time.

And thank you for your lovely support during the last 12 months.

Best wishes,


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Cranberry Meringue Pie

I absolutely love cranberries. I can guzzle dried ones by the handful as a snack. But you know what? They're a bit two-faced.

The vibrant rosy cheeriness that hides that sharp pucker.

I guess that's why they can work so well in baked goods. They can help to balance out all that sweetness.

I've used dried cranberries in a number of recipes such as Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti, Cranberry Shortbreads and Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies. I've even been known to chuck a few handfuls into Chocolate Brownies. But I have never actually cooked fresh ones.

So, I was looking forward to seeing the first of the season's fresh cranberries appearing in the shops, as I had bookmarked this recipe a while back and wanted to give it a go.

This is a real knock-your-socks-off holiday treat. It's a brilliant alternative to the stodginess of Christmas pudding, and even the usual variation of lemon meringue pie. The cranberry curd filling is so light and refreshing, and the meringue topping is perfectly balanced so it doesn't overly sweeten the pud.

The pie crust is delicious in itself - and I had one of those 'zen' moments when making it. You know how I was talking about making pastry with my mum in my post on Starry-eyed Mince Pies? Well although I have tried, I have never been able to recreate exactly the taste of it. Making this pie, I realised why. I could never remember the amount of salt in the pastry. I guess the salt police had got to me, so I was adding the merest hint instead of the 1/2 tspn in this recipe. Honestly, I feel a bit foolish now, but the taste of the raw dough (yes I nibble), when it hit my tongue was so evocative I felt eight years old again, sneaking bits of raw pastry when my mum wasn't looking! 

Anyway, the idea for this pie came from the wonderful Baker Chick blog, written by Audra. The original recipe, which you can find here, uses US cup measurements. I've tinkered a little, and translated the measurements into grammes.

Cranberry Meringue Pie

Ingredients (Makes one 9 inch pie)

For the pie crust
175g plain flour
113g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn caster sugar
30 - 60ml chilled water

For the filling
340g fresh cranberries
240ml orange juice
160g caster sugar
1 egg (57-64g weighed in the shell) lightly beaten with an additional 3 egg yolks (from eggs 57-64g each - reserve the whites for the meringue topping)

For the meringue
3 egg whites (see above)
1/4 tspn cream of tartar
pinch salt
75g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 Conventional / 350 F / Gas 4.

If you are using a ceramic pie plate, there is no need to grease it as there is enough fat in the pastry so that it won't stick.

First make the pastry, as it will need at least an hour to chill before you roll it out. Place the flour, salt and sugar into a processor and whizz for a few seconds to thoroughly combine. Add the cubes of butter and whizz for no more than 10 seconds, until you have what looks like coarse breadcrumbs. With the motor running, slowly add the water to the mix and whizz until it begins to come together, but isn't yet in a big lump. Don't process for more than 30 seconds though. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gently bring it together with your hands. Form it into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for at least an hour.

While the dough is chilling make the cranberry curd filling. Place the cranberries in a saucepan along with the orange juice. Bring to a boil and simmer for about five minutes until the cranberries have popped - you may need to assist them a bit with a spoon. When it's ready you'll have a thick, pulpy liquid. Press the cranberries through a sieve, collecting the pulp in a bowl. Discard the skins.

Return the pulp to the saucepan, and bring to a simmer over a lowish heat. Whisk in the beaten eggs and continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and bubbling - up to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl and cover the top with clingfilm, so that it touches the curd and prevents a skin forming. Set aside.

To make the meringue topping, place the egg whites in a stand mixer and whisk until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and salt, and whisk to the soft peak stage. While continuing to whisk, slowly add the caster sugar and whisk until you get to the stiff peak stage, and you have a thick, glossy meringue. At this point, you could (just before you get to stiff peaks) add in 1 tspn of vanilla extract. I didn't bother with this.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to a depth of 2mm. Line your pie dish, pushing the pastry down gently into the base. Prick the base with a fork. Trim off the excess from the sides of the dish.

At this point, I followed the original recipe and baked the crust straightaway. It shrank from the dish a bit, and I think it would have been better to have rested it for 15 - 30 minutes in the fridge before baking. Anyway, once you are ready to bake it, you need to line it with some greaseproof paper and baking beans, so that you bake it blind for about 15 minutes. Then remove the paper and beans, and bake it for another 10 minutes, until the base is golden and cooked through. Remove from the oven.

Fill the crust with the cranberry curd and level it (hopefully it's still a bit warm at least, as this will apparently help the meringue stick to it).

Carefully spread over the meringue topping, and make sure that it goes right to the edges of the crust. Level it, and then using the back of a spatula (if you like) pat it to make some small peaks. Bake the pie in the centre of the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the meringue is golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before chilling. I left mine overnight in the fridge.

Slice and serve with a big, fat grin on your face.

The cranberry curd will give up a little juice as it rests. The meringue may also pull away from the base and crust a little (at least that's what happened to mine). This is why Audra suggests placing the filling in the pie crust while it is still hot, so that it helps set the meringue from the bottom, too. Mine had cooled though, so although it did pull away a little, the pie still tasted gorgeous.

It's a great way to use fresh cranberries.



Saturday, 22 December 2012

My First Birthday - and a Giveaway

Wow, it seems amazing to think that I hit 'publish' on my first blog post a year ago today!

The year - and the baking that has accompanied it - has been incredible.  

So many things I thought I would never get around to trying, but the blog has helped me to focus.

I started the blog by making my first fruit cake for Christmas, even if it was from one of those festive, Christmas Cake mixes.

Many, many cupcakes, have been made, including these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes which were my first experiment with fillings.

I've baked my first batch of macarons, and made different kinds since, experimenting with different nuts.

Pistachio Macaron with Dark Chocolate Ganache
I've made a chocolate roulade.

I've made Red Velvet CupcakesBlue Velvet Cupcakes and a Red, White and Blue Cake for the Jubilee.

I've made Sourdough Bread, with a little help from Dan Lepard.

I've got my pastry mojo back, and even tried choux.

Chocolate Profiteroles with Raspberry Cream
For Sam, I've been proud to make my first, First Birthday Cake.

I've become much more confident in my baking and have loved developing some of my own recipes.

I've had so much fun and met so many lovely people (yes, that means you!).

It's been a blast.

So to mark the occasion, and to say 'thanks' for your interest and support over the last twelve months, thought I'd run a little competition.

You may recall that I'm a bit of cook book addict (and with that I've probably won the award for understatement of the year).

And I have a really bad habit.

Sometimes I can even buy a book without realising I've already got it.

Or, probably more often, other people buy me a book without realising I've already got it. So in the last twelve months, I've managed to get duplicates of three of my favourite baking related books. I decided the best use for them is to package them up as a giveaway.

First up is Ina Garten's latest, 'Foolproof'. Not strictly a baking book, as it covers many different, yummy things, but I love her baking recipes and this is where the inspiration for Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting came from.

Next up, is the Pink Whisk's, aka Ruth Clemens' 'Busy Girls Guide to Cake Decorating'.

Thirdly, is a great chocolate reference for a chocoholic 'Green and Black's Ultimate Chocolate Recipes'.

Finally, to add to this little haul, the lovely people at Quirk Books also sent me a copy of Marshmallow Madness by Shuana Sever to review, but as I had already bought it, we thought it'd be great to pass on as part of this prize.

To enter you need to do one - or all three - of the following (you get one entry for each one):

(1) Follow the blog in some way, either with Friends Connect or by email for example, and leave a comment below telling me you do and how; or

(2) Like me on Facebook (Fold in the Flour) and leave a comment below telling me you have  and what your username is so I can find you; or

(3) Follow me on Twitter and send me (@FoldintheFlour) a tweet about the competition using #foldintheflourblogiversary, and leave a comment below letting me know that you have done so.

For each entry to count, you need to leave a comment below so that I can pull them all together. I know it's a bit of work, but it should only take a few minutes.

The final thing you should note, and I'm sorry about this but the four books together are pretty heavy, you must have a UK postal address for me to arrange postage to.

The competition will close at midnight on 31 December 2012.

I'll be asking Mike to pick a winner at random from the entries on 1 January, and will contact the winner to arrange postage (hopefully so I can post on 2 January and you can start the New Year in style with some lovely baking ideas!).

I'll update the blog on 1 January with the name of the winner - in case for some reason I can't contact them any other way. They'll have until midnight on 8 January to let me have a postal address. Otherwise, we'll pick another name at random.

Good Luck!


* Cupcake and candle photo copyright (c)

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Chocolate-glazed Gingercakes

It's Random Recipes time again, and for this month, Dom asked us to pull out any cookbooks we received for Christmas last year, and to randomly select a book, then a recipe.

My little pile of books from last year were all baking related ... (I was deep in the throws of my US baking frenzy, too) ...

Mike randomly chose number 4, which was Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, and the pages fell open at these Chocolate-glazed Gingercakes.
I wasn't sure what to make of this. The boys already felt a little overwhelmed by ginger recently, what with Gingerbread Cupcakes and my Gingerbread Cottage. And as much as I love the stuff, I was thinking that it wouldn't provide much variety for the blog. But, then again, there was the chocolate!
So in honour of one of the tenets of Random Recipes (ie no cheating), I pushed on. These little cakes are the result.
I did have a bit of trouble with the recipe. First as it's in US cups, and one of mine broke the handle off during measuring the ingredients out, I had to do a bit of juggling. Then, Martha's includes molasses, which I just didn't have to hand and although you can probably find it on line somewhere, I wasn't going to go to those lengths. I just used treacle. I didn't have any fresh ginger, so used a little ginger extract from the store cupboard (I got this at Lakeland). Despite greasing and flouring the pan, some of the cakes were a little reluctant to come out. Although most did eventually, I had to strong arm one of them, and he got a little beaten up in the process. The ingredients remind me of a more traditional gingerbread recipe than I've tended to bake. And I don't know whether the baking soda was responsible, but the baked cakes tasted to me a little astringent.
The chocolate ganache was supposed to trickle elegantly down the sides of the cakes (you can just make this out in the snap of the book above), but mine didn't want to do this. No sirree. It just clumped together. The ganache above is actually the second batch I made, and I still wasn't totally happy with it. I began to think that it might just have been better to use melted chocolate on its own, without cream.
Chocolate-glazed Gingercakes (adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)
75g softened unsalted butter
225g plain flour
1 tspn bicarbonate of soda
150ml warm water
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn ground ginger
3/4 tspn ground cinnamon
1/4 tspn ground cloves
14 tspn ground nutmeg
1/4 tspn salt
112g dark brown soft sugar
1 medium egg (57 - 64 g in the shell)
95g treacle
1/4 tspn ginger extract
100g dark chocolate
50g double cream
crystallised ginger, chopped, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 160 Fan, 180 Conventional, 350 F, Gas 4.Grease and flour a 12 cup muffin tin.
In a small bowl, stir together the bicarbonate of soda and water, then set aside. Sift together the flour, baking powder, spices and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix, Add the molasses, ginger extract and bicarbonate of soda. beat until combined - it'll look a bit curdled at this stage (see above) but will come together as you next add the flour mixture. Again, beat until combined. Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out the cakes by inverting the pan over the rack, so the cakes come out upside down. Leave to cool completely.
Make the ganache by melting the chocolate with the cream , stirring gently. When it's pourable, drizzle over the cakes (it's easiest to put them on some baking paper before you do this - and less messy!). Top with a little sprinkling of the crystallised ginger.

So, there we have this month's Random Recipes entry. Dom will be posting a roundup around the end of the month, so why don't you pop over to Belleau Kitchen and have a look. I can't wait to see what books people had for Christmas!

As the theme for this month's Tea Time Treats, organised by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked is chocolate, I'm also entering them for that challenge. This month's host is Kate, and the round up will appear at the end of the month.

Finally, as this month's We Should Cocoa challenge is cinnamon, and there is cinnamon and chocolate in these, I'm entering them to Chele of Chocolate Teapot and Choclette, of Chocolate Log Blog, who is hosting this month.

Hope you are having fun with your Christmas baking!


Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Manchego and Fig Jam Tostados

I'm a sucker for easy recipes - particularly when the finished product, sounds, looks and (more importantly perhaps) tastes impressive.

So a few weeks back, when I was unexpectedly off work with a poorly Sam, and the TV had found it's usual home on Food Network, something called 'fig jam' caught my attention.

Giada de Laurentis was making this concoction by simple simmering some figs - dried ones  - with some water, sugar and brandy. The mix was then pulverised in a processor with some toasted hazelnuts.

I guess it's an Italian recipe, which Giada demonstrated by serving it as crostini, with a slice of Pecorino and a slice of apple. It's available from Food Network on line here. But when I made it, I used Calvados rather than ordinary brandy. I was also in a tapas frame of mind, so gave it a Spanish twist and served it with thin slices of Manchego. Although I also served thin slices of a Granny Smith's apple, I must admit I preferred it with just the cheese on a really crunchy slice of oven-toasted baguette. They reminded me of the ginormous packets of pan tostados we used to buy on holiday in the Canary Islands - they are like miniature bread slices but really crunchy. I used to bring a packet back every holiday and it would keep me going for a month.

Manchego and Fig Jam Tostados

For the Fig Jam

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tbspns Calvados
12 dried figs (approx)
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted in a 180C oven for 8 mins and skins rubbed off

Place the sugar, water, Calvados and figs in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring gently so that the sugar dissolves. Leave to simmer gently for about 5 minutes until the liquid is syrupy and the figs have softened (I could cut them in half with the side of my wooden spoon when I felt they were ready).

Place the hazelnuts into a food processor and pulse until they are ground (not too finely but with no big lumps either).

Pour the contents of the saucepan into the processor and blitz again to break down the figs. You'll end up with a thick, sticky purée.

Decant into sterilised jars (this amount made about 2 x 250g jars).

Serve with sliced baguette which has been drizzled with olive oil and baked in a 180 C oven fro about 8 minutes, until golden and crispy. Add slices of cheese if you like - Manchego was lovely but I can imagine Pecorino working just as well. You want something that has that sharpness of sheep's cheese, and is firm.

This was seriously yummy, and the perfect appetiser with drinks. I think it was quite festive, too, with the figs. Using the dried figs felt a bit of a cheat, but it really worked well, and gave a lovely, syrupy stickiness to the finished jam.

The true sign of how yummy it is, is that the slices I had left after taking these photos - and had earmarked as a snack later - were polished off by Mike. And he can take or leave figs. Just not in this form, clearly.