27 May 2014

Rhubarb and Custard Cupcakes

I love rhubarb season, it's probably the only seasonal produce that I really get excited about.  Well, that and asparagus, but who doesn't get a jolly on for asparagus? 


I was visiting a local farm shop recently, picking up some bits and bobs for lunch when my eye was caught by a massive tub of the beautiful rosy stalks.  The lovely lady who worked their informed me it had just been picked from their fields that morning.  That's all I needed to hear, so I loaded up my basket with the pink stems and off I trotted. 


Sadly Kris isn't as much of a fan of rhubarb as I, claiming it's too tart, so all ideas of rhubarb crumble went right out the window.  After much deliberation I decided to create a rhubarb compote to fill some custard flavoured cupcakes, genius.  The best thing about owning a cake shop is I get to bake as many cakes as I want and they never go to waste, there's always a bustling crowd desperate to try out any experimental sponges.

Rhubarb and Custard Cupcakes

Ingredients:
175g butter, softened
150g self-raising flour
50g custard powder
175g caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

3 large, free range eggs
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract

For the compote:
450g rhubarb, cut into chunks
150g caster sugar
150ml water
1tsp vanilla extract 

For the frosting:
125g unsalted butter, softened
250g icing sugar
50g custard powder
50ml milk

For the compote place the rhubarb, sugar and water in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat.  Simmer for around 20 minutes or until the compote is thick and smelling delicious, add the vanilla extract then remove from the heat.  Set aside while you make the cupcakes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
 
Place all of your cake ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer and mix to combine.  Once all of the ingredeints are blended together, using an ice cream scoop divide the mixture between the cupcake cases.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the cakes are golden and spring back with touched.  Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out to finish cooling on a wire rack.

When the cakes are cool cut a hollow out from the middle of each sponge, this is easiest with an apple corer, and fill with the rhubarb compote.

To make the frosting place the butter, vanilla, custard powder, icing sugar and half of the milk into your electric mixer and mix to combine.  If your frosting is looking too stiff add a bit more milk until you reach a pipable consistancy.

Spoon the frosting into a piping bag fitted with an open star nozzle the pipe tall swirls of the icing on top of each cupcake. Top with a fondant flower or pink sprinkles to finish.

9 May 2014

S'more Bars

Growing up in the chilly North East of England means I was never introduced to the wonders that are s'mores.  Where American pre-teens were toasting marshmallows in the evening breeze I was licking a 99 on a drizzly pier somewhere in Whitley Bay.  As I grew I started to notice the sticky treats on TV, I yearned to try them but never really got around to it. 


Last year I was gifted a chimnea for my garden, my first thought was "S'MORES!" closely followed by "finally, I can drink beers in the garden without freezing my arse off".  We grabbed a six pack of Blue Moon and all the fixings for a s'mores party and fired up the chiminea.  I was underwhelmed, the digestives were too fat, the chocolate didn't melt and the marshmallow was just too damn small.  I guess it's just not in my blood.  That'll teach me for not hitting up the ludicrously expensive American isle in my local Tesco.


I gave up on s'mores, with my first experience tainted with sticky disappointment I cast them from my mind and focused on cupcakes and cookies instead.  That was until I came across this recipe nestled within my new American themed cookbook.  I simply had to give them another shot, and boy was I glad I did.  I tweaked the recipe to give me two large trays so I could share them with the customers of Pet Lamb, the recipe I have included below will give you enough for one tray of bars.


 S'mores Bars

Ingredients:
125g melted butter
200g soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
150g digestive biscuits, crushed to 'breadcrumbs'
75g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp cinnamon
300g mini marshmallows, white
350g plain chocolate, broken into small pieces
250ml double cream
1tsp sea salt flakes

Method:
Grease and line a 9" by 13" brownie tray, or use a disposable one.  Preheat the oven to 180C.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until creamy, add the eggs one at a time until everything is incorporated.  Add the flour, baking powder, crushed biscuits and cinnamon, stir to combine.  Pour the batter into your prepared tray and bake for 30 minutes.

To make the ganache melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bowl does not touch the water below.  Once melted whisk in the cream to make a thick ganache.  Pour over the cooled biscuit base and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes.

Tumble the marshmallows over the ganache liberally, you want the whole thing to be covered in snowy mallows.  Place the tray into a preheated grill for a few minutes, do not take your eyes off your bars as they will burn quickly.  Once the marshmallows have turned golden remove from the grill and allow to cool for 30 minutes.  Chill the bars for 1-2 hours before cutting.


5 May 2014

The Best Sweet Potato Fries

In my humble opinion sweet potato fries will always kick normal fries square in the backside.  Why have a plain old potato when you can have its creamy, tastier and downright healthier little brother?! Surely this means I can eat twice as many... right??


For years I have been searching for the perfect recipe and finally I think I'm there.  This is an amalgamation of tips and techniques I've picked up from friends and recipes galore.  Get these in your life and say no to the boring old potato!


First of all make your 'rub'.  This will give your fries a delicious flavour as well as adding to the crispiness.  Combine 1tbsp cornflour with 1/2tsp paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic granules.  Add a good pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.


Chop your sweet potato into chips, around one medium potato per person.  Once chopped plop them into a plastic freezer bag and drizzle with oil.


 Twist the bag closed and give it a good shake to ensure all of your fries are evenly coated in the oil.


Throw in your 'rub' and shake again.  Take a baking tray with a grate or line a baking tray with parchment and line your little chips up making sure they don't touch, this is essential to the crisping.


Bake at 180C for 35 minutes.  Enjoy with your favorite dish and thank me later.  



13 Feb 2014

Nutella Stuffed French Toast

What better way to surprise your love on Valentines Day than with breakfast in bed.  I'm not just talking cereal and orange juice, don't even think about it.  I'm talking super tasty french toast stuffed to the brim with Nutella and strawberries.  This is the breakfast of kings, the brownie points you'll receive for this bad ass meal will keep you out of trouble for weeks!



Nutella Stuffed French Toast

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
50ml milk
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Nutella
4 large slices of bread, preferably brioche
knob of butter
Handful of strawberries, sliced
Icing sugar, for dusting

Method:
In a small bowl mix together the milk, eggs, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla.  Set aside.  Heat a large knob of butter in a large frying pan while you prepare your toast.

Spread two slices of bread with a thick slathering of Nutella and sandwich together with the plain slices.  Dip the sandwiches in the egg mixture, one by one ensuring each side is soaked in the egg mixture.  Transfer the sandwiches into the hot frying pan and cook on each side until golden brown.

Remove from the pan and scatter with the sliced strawberries before dusting with icing sugar.  Best served in bed with a mug of tea and a big kiss.

2 Feb 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Birthday Cake

One thing about being a baker is you're always expected to supply a showstopping cake for any upcoming Birthdays.  Not that I mind baking for my nearest and dearest, the hard thing is coming up with something to top your previous offering.  That's where this off the hook chocolate peanut butter number comes in.  I'm dreading next year because this cake is going to take some topping!


I decorated the top of my cake with some leftover frosting and Miniature Reeses Pieces but it looks just as good left plain.



Ingredients:
200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
3 large free range eggs
200g self-raising flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
100ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:
250g good quality dark chocolate
3 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter
3 tablespoons of golden syrup
150ml double cream

For the frosting:
500g icing sugar

200g unsalted butter, softened
150g full fat Philadelphia
 

200g smooth peanut butter
3-4 tablespoons full fat milk

Method:

Preheat the oven to 170 C.  Grease and line three 8" cake tins with baking parchment. 

Cream the butter and sugar for around 5 minutes until pale and creamy. Whisk in the eggs, one by one, until combined.  If it starts to curdle just add a table spoon of your flour while mixing.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and add to your egg mixture. Stir the dry ingredients through before adding your milk and vanilla extract.

Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Leave to cool for ten minutes before removing from the tins and continuing to cool an a rack.

While cooling make the glaze.  In a heavy bottomed pan over a low heat melt together the chocolate, peanut butter and golden syrup until smooth and combined.  Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the double cream.  Leave to cool while you frost the cake.

To make the peanut butter frosting, beat the peanut butter with the icing sugar and cream cheese for a few minutes, adding the milk when it feels too still, you want an easily spreadable texture. Using a large pallet knife frost the middles of each cake, stacking as you go.  Frost the cakes all over, smoothing as you go.  This is a great guide to getting super smooth frosting. Leave to set for twenty minutes in the fridge.
Now the fun bit.  Once your frosting has set a little simply pour the glaze over the cake, allowing it to ooze down the side of the cake helping it along with an offset pallet knife.  Pop the cake back into the fridge for an hour before decorating the top as desired.