We have been making a lot of pancakes recently, mostly variations on the extra-fluffy pancake recipe I discovered a few weeks ago. I went back to the original recipe, which used plain flour instead of self-raising:
- 2 1/2 cups of plain flour
- 1/2 tbs baking powder
- 1/2 tbs sodium bicarbonate
- 2 tbs sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups of milk with a few splashes of lemon juice
- 2 egg yolks
The egg whites are whisked first until they become white and fluffy but I realised that it's possible to over-whisk them. If they become too firm and almost meringue-like, they won't mix into the rest of the batter properly.
The rest of the ingredients are mixed together then the egg whites are folded in. I find it easier to cook the pancakes using two frying pans: start them off in a small pan then lift them onto a plastic turner and flip them over into the larger pan to cook the other side.
My most recent pancake experiment was to make crepes. The recipe was based on one by Nigel Slater:
- 50g butter
- 100g plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- 2 medium eggs
- 350ml milk
Melt the butter then leave it to cool slightly. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, add the eggs then gradually whisk in the milk. Finally mix in the melted butter.
It took a couple of goes to get the technique right. For the first pancake I tried to turn it over in the same pan but it tore and folded over. Eventually I managed to find a way which worked for me, which uses two pans a bit like above.
Put half a ladle of batter into a small 7-8 inch pan, give the pan a gentle swirl so the batter covers the pan. After a minute or so, when the batter has started to set, loosen the edges of the pancake so it moves freely. Hold the second pan over the top then turn the pans over so the crepe falls into the second pan, uncooked side down.
For a first attempt, we were very happy with the results. We had them as sweet pancakes but next time we might do some with a savoury filling, possibly covered with sauce or melted cheese and baked for a few minutes in the oven.
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I can't remember where I first came across this cake but while doing some research I kept finding two different versions of the recipe. One uses egg whites and is baked in a loaf tin whereas the other is a yeast cake and is formed into 'lady' shaped buns.
I started by following the latter recipe but it came out as a very sticky batter instead of the expected dough.
After leaving it to rise overnight I put half in a loaf tin then worked in extra flour until it was a bit easier to handle. I then shaped into the lady shapes as described in the recipe. Unfortunately none of the recipes on the Internet had photos so I don't know if mine looked anything like the originals. One of the cakes looked more like an Owl.
They were probably more like Two Fat Lady Cakes. We tried one and it was a fairly decent light bun with a hint of spice. When we tried a slice from the loaf version. It was light and crumbly and would make a good sponge cake.
- 1 cup of milk
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- pinch of salt
- 3 tbs oil or melted butter
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 2 eggs
- between 3-4 cups of flour
Mix everything together and leave to rise overnight. Knock it back then make into buns.
This version of the recipe from the same site as above has a drier dough and gives better instructions on shaping the cakes:
Divide into 12 equal balls about 2 1/2 inches across. Cut each ball in half. Flatten one of the halves and shape into an oval for the body. Divide the other half of dough in two; make a round ball for head. With remaining dough make pencillike ropes 4 inches long. Cut in half for 2 arms. Press head and arms to body. (There are no legs.) Press raisins or currants deeply in place for the eyes and nose.
I could not find any pictures of the final cakes anywhere so I don't know how authentic mine look. Some web pages have recipes taken from books and refer to illustrations which aren't reproduced on-line.
Update: I've just been sent another version of the recipe which is very similar to the one I followed but mentions crossing over the arms. Like the others, the page contains a history of the cakes copied from a book and again, there is no picture of the finished cakes.
Many years ago, on the way home from a holiday Up North, we stopped at the village of Goosnarg. I think we mainly went there because of the unusual name. I remember that we took a photos in and around the churchyard but don't remember anything of the village itself.
The Goosnarg cake is another variation on the shortbread recipe. At first I thought it was the same as Aberffraw Biscuits with the addition of caraway seeds but upon a closer look the recipes use different proportions of butter, sugar and flour (2:3:6 sugar, butter, flour, whereas the Aberffraw biscuits are the easier to remember 1:2:3).
These biscuits came out crunchier and a bit darker. I may have slightly over-baked them but the colour may have been down to the mixture of regular and dark sugar I used (since one of the recipes I found called for golder caster sugar).
I occasionally have a go at making fluffy american-style pancakes and while they are usually good, they never come out as thick and fluffy as shop bought ones. I decided to look into how to make them softer and thicker and the secret seems to be egg white.
The recipe starts off similar to our old pancake recipe:
- 2 1/2 cups of self raising flour
- 2 tbs sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups of milk
- 2 egg yolks
Mix everything together then take the egg whites and whisk them until they increase in volume and start to become meringue-like. Gently fold the egg white into the batter mix.
The mix made quite a lot of batter so I had enough to try different ways of cooking the pancakes. First I poured some into yorkshire pudding tins and cooked them in the oven at gas mark 4. The pancakes came out a very soft, very fluffy but a bit pale. My next attempt was also in the oven but at a higher temperature. The pancakes had a better colour but they also had a slightly hard crust. Next I tried cooking them in the traditional way, in a frying pan. These came out looking much better, but was slower since I could only cook one at a time.
The next step is to probably try some flavoured pancakes. Chocolate or fruit will probably work well.
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I struggled to find a recipe for the letter F but eventually found the Felton Spice Loaf, which is a quick and easy spiced fruit cake.
Felton is a village in Northumberland, just off the A1 between Morpeth and Alnwick. Many years ago I had a long weekend in Northumberland, which started off with a stay in a hotel in Alnwick. I stopped at a cafe in Morpeth on the way, so while I haven't been to Felton itself and the place has no significance for me, at least I know I have driven past it.
The recipe is another simple 'pound cake', with equal weights of self raising flour, butter, sugar and eggs, with added ground almonds, sultanas and chopped mixed peel. Since I usually find that spiced cake recipes don't have enough spice for my liking, I added the given quantity of mixed spice and then an extra teaspoon of cinnamon.
The cake takes about half an hour to cook at gas mark 5 and is delicious when still warm and spread with a bit of butter. The sugar and dried fruit meant that the cake was a bit sweet so if I make it again I will reduce the amount of sugar slightly, probably to 3/4 of the original amount.
In Victoria Wood's TV series dinnerladies she described Scotland as somewhere where everywhere was spelt Ecclefechan but pronounced Kirkcudbright. I've never been to Ecclefechan but I have been to Kirkcudbright so that's enough of a tenuous link for this recipe
The Ecclefechan tart is a version of the Border Tart, with a filling of dried fruit and chopped nuts. Most of the recipes for the former seem to be walnut based with the latter being almond based although there is some overlap in the recipes.
The version I made was based on this recipe. I made a cross between the two, using chopped mixed nuts and ground almonds. We usually have several bags of dried fruit in the kitchen which we dip into regularly for snacking so I had sultanas, cranberries, apricots and cherries available.
I recently discovered a hot milk pastry, which is similar to the hot water pastry traditionally used in pork pies but with milk instead of water and butter instead of lard. It's easy to mix but needs to cool down slightly before rolling out or pressing into a pie tin.
To make the pastry you'll need:
- 2 cups/450g of flour
- ½ a cup/120ml of milk
- 125g of butter
Bake the pastry blind for 10 minutes
For the filling:
- 125g of butter
- 200g light brown sugar (or 100g each of white and dark brown)
- 2 eggs
- 50g chopped mixed nuts
- 300g mixed fruit
- 1tbs wine vinegar
Bake at gas mark 5 for 25-30 minutes. The filling will look cooked on top but still be a bit soft. It will firm up when it cools.
Many years ago we went to a family holiday to Scotland. We went to Dundee for one day and I remember seeing Captain Scott's ship 'Discovery'.
The Dundee Cake I made was based on a recipe from the BBC website. I topped the cake with a mixture of blanched almonds, hazelnuts and dried cherries.
The cake was quite sweet but had a good texture and flavour.
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I've been living in Coventry for 10 years so it's only appropriate that I chose a local recipe for the letter 'C'. The Coventry Godcake is a triangular pastry filled with mincemeat but it's also a local name for the triangle of grass you get at a road junction.
I first encountered the `grass triangle' version of the godcake in a book a couple of years ago and I've since been noticing them everywhere. There are many in the countryside surrounding the city and beyond, including one well known example outside Kenilworth Castle. I know of one in the city itself, at the junction of Stoke Green and Binley Road.
Getting back to the edible Godcake. My version was made using rough puff pastry and home made mincemeat. It was my first attempt at rough puff pastry and I was happy with the result.
I rolled the pastry out before cutting it into squares then the squares into triangles. I put a teaspoon or so of the mincemeat in the middle of one triangle then brushed the other piece with milk and pressed it down to form a seal. I made 3 cuts in the top, brushed with milk and sprinkled brown sugar on top. They were baked for about 15-20 minutes at gas mark 7.
We used to occasionally go to a Hamster Show just on the edge of Bath. I would take the bus down into the city centre to explore and do a bit of shopping. One time I went around the Cathedral, another time I walked along the river. There are a few things I would always do though: I would go to the fudge shop and buy a few bars, then to the market where I bought a couple of cakes from one stall and some loose tea from another.
I don't remember ever buying a Bath Bun so I can't compare mine to the ones sold in the city but I don't think that will be too much of a problem since the recipe has changed over the years and there are several different versions of the recipe around today.
There is a bit of controversy over the origin of the Bath Buns, with some people claiming they were invented by a physician while the Sally Lunn tea shop people claim their eponymous buns are the originals and were brought over from France by Sally herself. This has been called into dispute though, with claims that Sally Lunn is a corruption of the French 'Soleil et Lune', or Sun and Moon.
My Christmas recipes continue with Panettone. I am a couple of days late with this because we didn't finish the stollen until today and I didn't want too many half eaten cakes in the house.
The recipe I followed was based on several different ones and was also modified based on the ingredients I had open in the kitchen.
The dough was made by sifting 500g of flour, 100g of caster sugar, a teaspoon of yeast and a teaspoon of salt into a bowl (I used 400g of bread flour and 100g of plain flour
200ml of warmed milk, 1 tsp of vanilla essence and 2 medium eggs were beaten together then mixed with the dry ingredients to make a fairly sticky dough. This was left for several hours to rise until it had roughly doubled in size.
It was then time to mix in the butter (215g, a mixture of salted, unsalted and baking margarine) and dried fruits (240g, a mixture of sultanas, dried cherries and mixed fruit and peel).
I lined two round cake tins, with a round disk in the bottom and baking paper up the sides of the tins, standing at least 2 inches taller than the tin itself. This was an improvised panettone paper liner to support the cake as it rose.
I spooned the dough into the cake tins until it was level with the tops of the tins. I did not preheat the oven and put the cakes into the cold oven, on the middle shelf, and left them to rise, undisturbed, for several hours.
When they had started to rise again I turned the oven on to gas mark 7 and left them to bake for 35-45 minutes (the smaller one was ready first). Halfway through cooking, I brushed the tops of the cakes with melted butter and sprinkled some brown sugar on top. I then turned the oven down to gas mark 5 until the cakes were cooked and a skewer came out clean.
This recipe was another success. It was trickier to make than the stollen, since lining the cake tins was a bit fiddly and the dough was sticky and difficult to work with, but the flavour and texture of the finished cake was good.
I don't think I'll be buying any supermarket stollen any more. While I have been a fan of stollen for several years, most bought ones tend to be a bit dry. When I decided to make one this year, I looked around for recipes and found several similar ones. The one I followed came from the River Cottage Cake handbook.
I actually started making this yesterday but didn't get chance to bake it so it went in the fridge overnight. I took it out this morning and let it get to room temperature before putting it in the oven at gas mark 4 for 25-30 minutes.
The first thing to do is to make the enriched dough. This had 500g of bread flour, 100g of melted butter, 175g of warm milk, 125g of caster sugar, 2 eggs and some yeast. This was mixed together, kneaded for a few minutes then left to double in size.
Meanwhile, 100g of dried cherries and 200g of sultanas were put in a bowl and mixed with a few tablespoons of sloe gin and the zest from an orange.
When the bread has risen, it was knocked back and flattened to a rectangle. Some of the fruit was spread over it along with some flaked almonds. These were kneaded into the dough then the procedure was repeated until all the fruit and nuts were mixed in.
The dough was divided into 3 portions. The larger one had two marzipan 'sausages' in the middle, the smaller round ones had marzipan balls inside.
When the cakes were cooked, and while they were still warm, they were brushed with melted butter then dredged with icing sugar.
When I put the cakes in the oven I realised I had forgotten to add the cardamom but they tasted fine without. They certainly had a better texture than any shop-bought stollen I've had.
I was unable to post a new recipe last week because I was too busy at the start of the week, and too ill at the end, but I managed to catch up today. Since we are now in december, I have decided to do some festive recipes in the run-up to Christmas.
The first is a nice quick one from the Hairy Biker's European baking book. Janhagels are a kind of spiced shortbread topped with nuts and brown sugar. I decided to have a go at making this using our new food processor, to speed up the mixing a bit.
I started with 300g of flour, 200g of light brown sugar, 200g of cold diced butter, a generous pinch of salt, a generous teaspoon of cinnamon and ½ a teaspoon of mixed spice. This went in the food processor and was pulsed until it had mixed together to form breadcrumbs.
This then got tipped into a bowl and a beaten egg was mixed in to form a dough. This got pressed into a greased and lined baking tin. The topping was made from 50g of sliced almonds and 50g of brown sugar, which was mixed together and pressed into the top.
The mix was baked at gas mark 4 for about 35 minutes. I'm not sure how similar these are supposed to be to traditional shortbread (which I do really like) but these had a slightly softer texture. The spice mix did give them a nice christmassy taste.
Now I've got last week's recipe sorted, I can start thinking about this week.
I've made ordinary sponge cakes before but this is the first time I've tried making a Genoese Sponge, where beaten eggs are used instead of baking powder to rise the sponge. I've felt that I should try making one since it's probably another cake method I should add to my repertoire.
The recipe I used came from the River Cottage Cakes Handbook. It started with 125g of caster sugar and 4 eggs and these were beaten with an electric whisk in a bain marie until they had trebled in size. 125g of sifted flour was then folded in, followed by 75g of cooled melted butter.
The cake was baked for 25-35 minutes at gas mark 4 (the top layer was thinner and cooked faster). I think I should have reduced the cooking time because the cake had a slightly crunchy edge to it but, when eaten with the buttercream, it all went together well.
I think most people agree that the crumble topping is the best part of a fruit crumble, so a cake which is mostly crumble should be very good. My interpretation was based on two recipes but as usual I made a few changes.
To make the crumble mixture, I put the flour, brown sugar and butter in a food processor and blitzed until they formed breadcrumbs. I then mixed in some ground almonds and dessicated coconut.
The fruit layer was made using a tub of berries from the bushes in our garden. This was a mixture of blackberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and alpine strawberries. I put them in a pan with a tablespoon of water and slowly heated them to a simmer. I then added a couple of tablespoons of sloe gin mixed with cornflour and stirred this in until the fruit mixture had thickened.
I put half of the crumble layer in the bottom of a lined 8 inch tin and pressed it down. I then spread the fruit layer and finally topped with the rest of the crumble. The tin then went into the oven (gas mark 4) for about 45 minutes or so, until the top looked cooked.
I left the cake (or is it a biscuit?) to cool before slicing it and removing it from the tin.
I think that fruit crumbles work best when the fruit has a slightly sharp taste. This is probably why one of the most popular uses of rhubarb is in a crumble. Since my fruit mixture contained alpine strawberries and gooseberries (and no added sugar apart from the small amount in the sloe gin), the fruit layer had a good amount of sharpness to balance the sweetness of the crumble layer.
It's very hard to eat just one.
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Now that we are approaching winter, I have started making porridge for breakfast. My usual approach is to put 1 cup of oats in a jug, add any dried fruit or other flavours (such as flaked almonds or shredded coconut), followed by 1½ cups of milk. I then leave this in the fridge overnight, ready to cook in the morning.
The porridge takes about 3 minutes to cook in the microwave. I don't add any sugar but I sometimes add a bit of honey.
I had spare porridge left over today (dried mango and coconut flavour). I thought I'd have a go at making a cake from it, following the same idea as the rice pudding cake. I had some 'cereal dust' from the bottom of a couple of boxes of cereal so I put that in too.
The end result was surprisingly similar to the rice pudding cake, with a moist, chewy and cakey texture. It's a good way of using up leftover porridge.