This was another 'make room in the freezer' baking session. I had more grated pumpkin in the freezer,along with some 'shop damaged' bananas (6p for a bag). I defrosted them and made two cake mixes. My idea was to pour them in opposite ends of a baking tray, giving the middle a swirl so the ends were one type of cake and the middle had both combined.
The original recipe was based on the pumpkin cupcakes. I beat together 175ml of vegetable oil, 3 eggs and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, then divided the mixture in two.
In one half I added the pumpkin cake ingredients (but using cranberries instead of sultanas):
- 85g golden caster sugar
- 100g of grated pumpkin
- 50g cranberries
- 1 tsp cinnamon with ½ tsp of mixed spice
In the other half I added
- 85g of drinking chocolate powder, with an extra tablespoon of sugar
- 100g mashed banana
- 50g sultanas
Both halves also had
- 100g self raising flour
- ½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
I poured the two batters into a 10x6 inch tray. I expected the cakes to take about half an hour at gas mark 4 but it was well over ¾ hour before the middle stopped being liquid.
When the cake had cooled, I made a lemon juice icing, slightly runny so I could drizzle it over the top.
I took some of the cake to work to share (since that was where the hot chocolate powder came from, it was only fair to do that). People seemed to like it - I got favourable comments from people, someone even noticed that I had used an oil based recipe. Both cakes were definitely worth doing again.
Earlier this year I was watching Saturday Kitchen and they were showing one of the many regular clips from Rick Stein. This was from a series he did in Eastern Europe and it gave me the idea to try to do another alphabetical cooking challenge. I intend to take each letter of the alphabet and cook something from a country or region beginning with each letter.
Originally my plan was to cook a meal but we were recently at a barbecue where the husband was Algerian and his family had provided most of the food. There was a yellow bread which went down really well. When I got home I looked it up and found some recipes.
Khobz El Dar: Algerian Semolina Bread
I took inspiration from a recipe from food.com but I reduced the quantities a bit. Since the bread we ate didn't have seeds on or in it, I left those out.
My bread took a long time to rise (I think there were problems with the yeast) and the bread had a slight sourdough taste to it. I had baked with semolina before but this was the first time I had done a bread which was mostly semolina flour. My version wasn't as good as the one we had at the barbecue but it was my first attempt. If I try again, with fresher yeast, it might come out better.
When we scooped out the pumpkins to make Halloween lanterns, I grated and froze the flesh so I could try cooking something with it. The pumpkins which are sold for lanterns are usually a lower quality and aren't recommended for eating so I thought I would start with something where the pumpkin isn't the main flavour, so I could probably get away with a lower quality ingredient.
I found a recipe for cupcakes. It was pretty much a carrot cake but using pumpkin instead of grated carrot. The recipe called for grated orange zest but I didn't have an orange so I left that out.
I tried one of the cakes last night, when they were still a bit warm. It tasted ok but that was before I had made the icing. Tonight's cake, with a generous layer of cream cheese frosting, was definitely an improvement.
I carried on trying out different porridge recipes this week. A couple of highlights are below.
Apple and Blackberry Porridge
When I made the apple puree a few weeks ago, I bottled and froze the juice which collected in the bottom of the pan. I used it to make an apple and blackberry porridge.
Tropical Fruit Porridge
I used coconut water instead of milk, and added some tropical fruit mix.
I only had time to try 4 different porridges this week. I'm going to be away on Friday so won't have chance to make anything.
Monday: Bacon and Syrup
Yes, you read that right. I don't like mixing sweet flavours with meat and consider pineapple with gammon or on a pizza to be a very poor choice. I decided to be adventurous and try a sweet bacon porridge. Mistake. I could still taste it even after a cup of tea and brushing my teeth.
Tuesday: Apple and Blackberry
After last week's Apple and Cinnamon porridge, I decided to try an Apple, Blackberry and Cinnamon porridge, using extra cinnamon. This was better than the plain apple one, although the blackberry seeds added a bit of a crunchy texture.
Wednesday: Lemon Berry Porridge
This was inspired by a recipe from the World Porridge Making championships. I used a mixture of frozen berries (blueberries, blackberries, wild strawberries and red gooseberries) which were mostly picked in our garden, with about a tablespoon of added lemon juice. I cooked the porridge in water instead of milk then added the fruit.
I tried the porridge first, before adding any extra sugar. I don't think it needed any. The fruit were quite sweet and the lemon juice balanced it out with some added sharpness.
Thursday: Chocolate and Coconut
This was inspired by the flavours of the Bounty chocolate bar. Since dessicated coconut can be quite 'bitty', I microwaved some in water last night then added it to the porridge this morning, along with some drinking chocolate. The coconut still had a bit of bite to it. I have tried coconut in porridge several times before and there are always some hard bits so I probably need to boil or simmer it for quite a long time to stop that happening.
I have porridge for breakfast fairly often but now that the weather is starting to get cold, it's probably time to make it my regular breakfast now. Most mornings I just add some dried fruit and sometimes some honey but this week I thought I would try a different flavour each day.
Monday: Peanut butter and Cranberry
Since it is World Porridge Day, I decided to do a different porridge each day this week. I only decided this after I had already left for work so this morning I used what I had available: a tub of dried cranberries and a small pot of peanut butter.
Tuesday: Dried raspberry
While I like raspberries, the taste didn't get into the porridge and they were very 'bitty' to eat.
Wednesday: Apple, cinnamon and brown sugar
I have mentioned before that most cake recipes don't use enough cinnamon. Unfortunately I made the same mistake myself and didn't add enough to the oats. Next time, I will add more and possibly use sweetened cooked apple instead of chopping a fresh apple into the porridge.
Thursday: Strawberry Porridge
We have a bag of frozen strawberries so I put some in a tub to defrost in the fridge overnight and added them to the porridge after I had cooked it. I then gave it another 20 seconds in the microwave to make sure the strawberries weren't too cold.
Fresh strawberries don't always have much flavour and I could probably have added more but this was ok.
Friday: Nutella and Peanut Butter
This used to be a favourite of mine but I hadn't had it for a while. We recently bought a jar of nutella so I made it again today. This was possibly my favourite of the week.
A few weeks ago I decided to try somewhere different for lunch. I found a website called wheeldecide.com which can randomly choose from nearby restaurants or take-aways. I decided to use it to choose where to go for lunch.
Week 1: Full Stop Sandwich
This place was a bit of a walk. I didn't know where 'New Town Row' was and had to look it up on a map. When I got there it was almost empty but while I was paying for my sandwich it started to fill up. I chose their 'sandwich of the day' which was pork and stuffing. It came with a very thick gravy and a few pieces of crackling.
Week 2: Tuckers
I walk past this place, in the Minories, fairly regularly. It does sandwiches and hot food. I decided to try the all day breakfast for £5 which had bacon, egg, sausage, black pudding, beans, toast, hash brown and tomatoes. It also came with a cup of tea. It was good value and very filling.
Week 3: Wasabi
I needed to walk to the shops to pick up something I had ordered from PC World so I put the postcode for the High Street into Wheeldecide. It kept coming up with places in the Palisades, which is closed for refurbishment, so I decided to go to Wasabi, in New Street Station, instead.
I had been wanting to go there since it opened. I chose one of their salmon sushi boxes, which came with a couple of spicy chicken skewers.
They have a wide range of sushi and bento boxes, with rice and noodles. I'll have to revisit to try something else.
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I made a second batch of the apple sauce and drinking chocolate brownies. This time I added a handful of dried cherries to the mix. I also used half apple pureé and half olive oil, since I only had half a cup of apple pureé in the fridge (the rest is in the freezer).
When the brownies came out of the oven, I sprinkled 50g of plain chocolate over the top and waited for it to melt before spreading it over the top.
I took the cakes to work the share out and the everyone seemed to like them.
We have been fans of the Great British Bake Off since it first started and occasionally I cook something inspired by the programme. This week they did a Fougasse, which I hadn't heard of but looked good. The version on the programme was flavoured with herbs but I thought I would start with a plain version then try flavoured ones another time.
I followed the bread part of the recipe precisely, scaling it down a bit since I didn't need two loaves.
- 300g (2¼ cups) of bread flour
- 6g salt
- one sachet of yeast
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 200 ml warm water
The method involved adding ¾ of the water at the start, then slowly adding the rest, using a food mixer with a dough hook. I followed it to the letter, including the 8 minute mixing time.
I actually split the dough in 2, adding extra flour to one half to use for a pizza base. The other half I left as-is and shaped into an approximate leaf shape and cut down the middle and diagonally from the centre.
After about an hour or so proving, I transferred the bread, still on the baking paper, onto the pizza stone and baked it (at gas mark 7) for 15 minutes.
It looks a bit irregular (or informal as Mary Berry might say) but that was mainly because it slid off the tray while I was getting ready to transfer it to the pizza stone. We ate it with some dips. I made the cheese and courgette dip again, but this time using cream cheese and pecorino instead of goats cheese. The fougasse was good. The outside was crispy while the inside was soft and fluffy. The dip was cheesy and went well with it.
Next time, I will add some extra flavours to the bread. Possibly garlic and chilli or parmesan/pecorino. We have some fresh herbs in the garden (and more chopped in the freezer) so I could also do Paul Hollywood's herb version too.
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We have a glut of hot chocolate powder in work, left over from when we used a different drinks machine. I was talking to a colleague in the kitchen and I wondered whether I could use some of it to make cakes. I decided to take some home to make an experimental batch of chocolate brownies. If they were any good, I would make some more to take back to work to share.
Every now and then I use apple sauce in recipes, since it can be used to replace some or all of the butter. We recently bought an Instant Pot, which we use several times a week as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, bread proving pot, or sometimes just a giant saucepan. It is very useful and I fully intend to blog a bit more about it in the future.
We had recently been given a bag of apples from the tree in Emma's Auntie Val's garden. I peeled them, cut them into big chunks and put them in the instant pot with a splash of water. I cooked them on the 'Soup' programme for 15 minutes and they had cooked down to a smooth pureé, there was no need to mash or liquidize afterwards.
I looked up some brownie recipes to get a feel for the quantities, then decided to use the hot chocolate powder to replace both the sugar and cocoa powder.
- 1 cup of apple pureé
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cup of hot chocolate powder
- a pinch of salt
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 50g of plain chocolate, broken into chunks
- Heat the oven to 180C or gas mark 4. Grease and line a 9 or 10 inch cake tin.
- Mix the apple pureé, eggs and hot chocolate powder together
- Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and sift into the wet mixture. Fold in.
- Stir in the chocolate pieces.
- Pour into the tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Unfortunately I had to leave the house before the brownie was fully cooked so I turned the oven off and left it in while the oven cooled. When I got back, the brownie was properly cooked though, possibly a bit over-cooked because it wasn't moist and squishy inside.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with the flavour though. Chocolate cakes do need a lot of cocoa powder or they just end up like brown sponge cakes. This was probably about right. I tried a square, then remembered that I needed to take a photo to put here. After taking the photo, I made a coffee and ate the second piece. If there is any cake left on monday, I'll take it to work, but I'll probably have to make another one to make sure there is enough to go round.
I recently bought another jar of malt extract, to replace the one I bought back in 2013 which had gone mouldy. I have started adding a tablespoon of it to bread or pizza base.
Last week we had some milk in the fridge which was about to go out of date so I thought I'd have a go at making a malted drink, a bit like horlicks or ovaltine. I put a spoon each of cocoa powder and malt extract in a jug, added the milk and gave it a whisk before warming it in the microwave. It probably needed more cocoa but it was good.
Tonight I had a go at making a spiced hot chocolate. I put sugar, ginger, cinnamon and a cardomom pod in a jug of milk and heated it before whisking it into some cocoa powder. I guessed at the amounts of spice and got the balance about right. I didn't write down the quantities but it was about a quarter of a teaspoon of each.
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The barley bread was one of the recipes I wanted to try during the main run of the A-Z of baking but I had difficulty tracking down the barley flour. I eventually managed to find some in a vegan/health food shop in Digbeth in Birmingham but by then I had already made the Nottingham Apple Pudding.
The only versions of this recipe on-line seem to be more like a savoury scone than a bread, made with buttermilk and baking powder. I thought I would try to make a more traditional bread, using yeast. Since baking powder was only invented in the mid 19th century, if the barley is a genuine traditional food, then early versions would have used yeast.
I used a mixture of barley flour and bread flour, added yeast and salt and then enough milk to make a soft dough. It rose quite slowly so I left it overnight. I only made a bread roll sized loaf as an experiment but it came out ok. I will have another go sometime in the future and try a few other variations on the recipe.
I've been hearing a lot about the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte recently. It's been hard to walk down the street without seeing a poster or advertising board announcing their availability. I thought I should try one to find out what all the fuss was about.
I popped into a Starbucks on the way to work and ordered a 'tall' one, using their hilarious nomenclature of calling the smallest size tall. First impressions were promising. There was a very pleasant cinnamon aroma coming up from the cup.
Then I tasted it.
First impressions can be very deceptive.
Ewww, that's very sweet
The cinnamon smell was purely there to deceive the senses. It was sprinkled on the foam. There was no warming cinnamon flavour in the coffee. There was no warming coffee flavour in the coffee. There was a horrible sweet flavour masking everything else.
I couldn't finish it and half of it got poured down a grid.
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When I was compiling the list of recipes for my 'Cakeathon', there were some letters where I found several recipes which I wanted to do. I decided to go through the alphabet once then revisit any remaining recipes.
A couple of days ago I blind-baked a couple of pastry cases, with the intention of making a Chester Pudding. While I had the ground almonds out, I thought I should make a bakewell tart too. I know that the Bakewell Pudding is the genuine traditional item and that the tart is a more modern version. I intend to try the pudding at some point but here is my attempt at a Bakewell Tart.
On to the Chester Pudding. While I was researching recipes, I found the there were two completely different puddings with the same name. One was a suet pudding, the other was a version of a Lemon Meringue Pie. I decided to make the latter. This was the same recipe which featured on the TV programme Terry and Mason's Great Food Trip, where Terry Wogan got driven around the country, eating local recipes.
When I read a few recipes, I realised that the lemon and almond layer was actually just a lemon curd with ground almonds and almond essence added. I decided to take a bit of a short cut and mixed a few tablespoons of lemon curd with almonds and spread that on the pastry base.
Apart from the pastry base being a bit thick and dry, both puddings/tarts came out well. The almond filling for the bakewell tart was really good for a first attempt. The lemon and almond layer in the chester tart could probably have benefited from more almonds or almond essence but that's a minor quibble.
A few months ago, a load of decorated owls popped up in and around Birmingham. I managed to find and photograph a few of them on my way to work and during my lunch break.
Click on the thumbnail to view the image