Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Banana Cake with a Cream Cheese Drizzle

I'm an unashamed banana fan. I love them on their own, sliced up with custard, blended into a milkshake, placed on a pancake, mashed into an ice cream - you name it, I love it! But as any banana fan will know, they have a notoriously small 'yummy' window between leaf green and mud brown. So much so, in fact, that across the internet, people are making various comics expressing their outrage at a banana's inability to stay at optimum yumminess for long enough.

However, not all is lost! Thankfully there is one recipe that is renowned for salvaging these now brown bananas - banana bread! Unfortunately I've often found banana bread to be quite stodgy and heavy, so I decided to instead make banana cake. I would attribute the recipe but a) I can't find where I found it, and b) I changed it a bit anyways, so I guess it doesn't really matter that much.

Also, funny story... actually not really that funny but oh well. Basically, when my cake came out of the oven, I was letting it sit in the tin for a bit, and I noticed that the hot air coming up from the cake was making the baking paper move, and it made it look a bit like it was breathing, so I took a video of it, pretty cool, huh?

On with bananas!!

Banana Cake with a Cream Cheese Drizzle
Bare Necessities

For the Cake:
140g Butter
140g Sugar
2 Eggs
140g Self-Raising Flour
1stp Baking Powder
2 Brown-ish Bananas

For the Icing:
55g Cream Cheese
30g Butter
175g Icing Sugar
1tsp Milk

1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C/Gas mark 4/340F.
2. Grease and line a loaf tin. I'd recommend letting the paper stick out of the pan a bit because it makes it easer to get the cake out afterwards.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
4. Slowly beat in the eggs.
5. In a separate bowl, mash the bananas. They don't have to be completely pureed, but just a bit liquidy.
6. Fold in the flour, baking powder and bananas until fully combined.
7. Pour the mixture into the tin and pop in the oven for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until it's golden brown and cooked through.
8. Take the cake out of the oven and let it sit for 5-10 minutes in the tin, before moving it to a cooling rack to cool down.
9. Whilst the cake is cooling, beat together the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and milk until they're fully combined and creamy.
10. Once the cake is mostly cooled down, but still slightly warm, move it to a plate, and drizzle the icing over the cake. You can choose to do only a little drizzle, but I chose to cover the cake with it.
11. Either leave the cake to cool down completely before serving, or take a sneaky slice before, and enjoy!!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Mint Choc Chip Cupakes

So my love affair with mint and chocolate is no new thing, but I had yet to transfer them from their classic ice cream form to a cakey alternative. I found this recipe whilst moseying through a pile of Usborne recipe cards which, though written for children, has some really excellent recipes in it! The recipe that I've used was actually for petit fours cases, and so I've adjusted the recipe accordingly (as well as making a few of my own changes as well. And yes, unlike my last cupcake bake, I actually bought the correct size cases!

Mint Choc Chip Cupcakes (makes 20)

Bare Necessities
For The Cupcakes:
80g Caster Sugar
80g Margarine
80g Self-raising Flour
3tbsp Cocoa Powder
2 Eggs
2tbsp Plain Chocolate Chips
2tbsp White Chocolate Chips

For The Icing:
250g Icing Sugar
3tbsp Water
1tsp Peppermint Essence
Green Food Dye
Large Chocolate Buttons

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F.
2. Place 20 paper cases onto the tray.
3. Beat together the sugar, margarine, flour, cocoa powder and eggs until fully combined.
4. Mix in the chocolate drops.
5. Evenly distribute the mix into the paper cases and pop into the oven.
6. Cook for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
7. Place the cupcakes onto a rack to cool.
8. In a small bowl, sift in the icing sugar, and then pour in the water, peppermint essence and a few drops of food dye.
9. Mix the icing until smooth and lump-free. I use a fork to mix it, as it helps get rid of the lumps easier. At this point you can add more food colouring to achieve the desired shade of green. Remember that it will affect the consistency of the icing though.
10. Once the cupcakes have cooled, drop a small dollop of icing onto each one. The cupcakes should come up a little bit shorter than the cases, so you can spread the icing right to the edges to get a clean effect.
11. Place a single button onto the centre of each cupcake.
12. Put the cupcakes in the fridge to let the icing set, and then tuck in!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Sweet Potato Crisps

So as I've mentioned in the past, I LOVE sweet potatoes, and everything with them. So when I
stumbled upon this recipe, I couldn't wait to try them. They are particularly moreish and taste just like the ones you buy in the supermarket, if not better! They are certainly a healthy alternative to crisps, and are especially delicious when they're still cooling down from the oven. Having said that, they only last a couple days at their optimum yumminess, so tuck in!

I sliced my potatoes by hand, but if you have a mandolin or the like, definitely use it to ensure consistently even and thin slices.

Sweet Potato Crisps
Bare Necessities:
2 Sweet Potatoes
dash Olive Oil
sprinkling Salt
(additional herbs and spices to your taste)

1. Preheat the oven to 120C/250F
2. Scrub the potatoes until clean. This is important, as you won't be taking off the skin
, and you don't want to have a bite of dirt in your snack!
3. Line a baking tray with parchment. If you have more than one tray, definitely use them, if not, just do several batches.
4. Thinly slice the potatoes. I sliced mine about 2 or 3 mm thick.
5. Place the slices in a bowl and toss with olive oil and any additional herbs and spices until all the slices are evenly coated in oil.
6. Spread the slices out on the baking tray. As these shrink dramatically in the oven, you don't need to put them too far away from each other, just not touching.
7. Pop in the oven for 1 hour.
8. Take the crisps out of the oven and turn them all over to ensure an even crisp.
9. Place the crisps back into the oven for another hour.
10. Take the crisps out of the oven and allow them to rest on some kitchen towel. This will allow them to crisp up, and the kitchen towel will absorb any excess oil.
11. Pour into a bowl and enjoy!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Beautiful Butterfly Cakes

So a bit of a blast from the past here. I don't know about you guys, but when I was little, pretty much every birthday party featured these yummy little treats. Even though they're essentially just iced cupcakes, there's something about the little 'wings' that makes them so much more than that.

The eagle eyed among you may have noticed that in the photos I only made 12 cupcakes but in the recipe I've said that it makes 24. This is in part to my determination do only do one batch of 12, but also due to the fact that I only had muffin cases which are much bigger than cupcake cases. Lesson learned - get the correct size cases. Alright, now onto the recipe!

Beautiful Butterfly Cakes
Bare Necessities:

For the Cakes
150g/2/3cup Margarine
150g/2/3cup Sugar
3 Eggs
2tsp Vanilla Essence
150g/1 1/2cups Self Raising Flour
1 1/2tsp Baking Powder

For the Icing
100g/2/3cup Butter
300g/ 2 1/2cups Icing Sugar
1tbsp Milk
1tsp Vanilla Essence

1. Preheat the oven to 170C/340F.
2. Place 24 cupcake cases in a cupcake tray.
3. Beat together the margarine, sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder until fully combined and light and fluffy.
4. Divide the mixture equally between the cases.
5. Pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
6. Place the cupcakes on a rack to cool.
7. Beat the butter until creamy and gradually add the icing sugar. (I added 100g a time, which helps make less mess)
8. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until thick and creamy. At this point you can gradually add more milk or icing sugar to achieve the desired consistency.
9. Once the cupcakes are cool, carefully slice off the top of the cupcakes.
10. Slice the tops in half. This will create the 'wings'.
11. Spoon a medium dollop of icing onto the cupcakes.
12. Slot the 'wings' into the icing.
13. Pop in the fridge to keep cool or enjoy straight away!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Lovely Lemon Sorbet

So last week my brother and his girlfriend came up to visit my mum and I for his birthday, and they were driving up to us on the hottest day of the year so far in the middle of the day. Crazy, right? However, seeing as I knew that they'd be boiling by the time they arrived, I thought I'd make a refreshing sorbet for them to have when they arrived, and what's more refreshing than a lemon sorbet?

Unlike most other fruit sorbet, this one doesn't require any blending or pureeing of fruit, so much less mess! It's also got a pleasantly short ingredient list, so it's not a particularly complicated recipe.

N.B My mum isn't too good with sour stuff, so this sorbet isn't particularly sour. However, if you prefer as slightly zingier sorbet, just use 50g less sugar.

Lovely Lemon Sorbet
Bear Necessities:

625ml Water
200g Sugar
2 Lemons
250ml Lemon Juice

1. Zest the two lemons.
2. Add the zest, sugar and 125ml of the water to a saucepan and gently heat whilst stirring until all the sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Once dissolved, remove from the heat and add the remaining 500ml of water.
4. Place in the fridge for about half an hour or until thoroughly chilled.
5. Once chilled, mix in the lemon juice. For this, I squeezed the juice from the two previously zested lemons, and then just used lemon juice from a bottle, but if you do this, make sure it's actually 100% lemon juice and not from concentrate or made of chemicals and what have you.
6. Pour the mixture into your ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
7. Serve up and enjoy!

Iced Sugar Cookies

These are such a good staple for any celebration, rainy day or general get together! You could cut them into any shape you wanted, and ice them with more or less any type of icing you felt like! I just iced them with a simple water and icing sugar recipe, but you could just as easily replace the vanilla extract for lemon juice, or use royal icing if you wanted more of a distinctive glaze.

When I set about cooking these, I wasn't expecting to make so many, but they certainly went down well with my friends and family, and will last a couple weeks if stored in an air tight container - though I'd be surprised if they weren't all eaten by that point!

Post a picture in the comments section of your creations, I'd love to see what shapes you cut and what colour icings you use!

Iced Sugar Cookies
(makes about 50 cookies)

Bear Necessities:
For The Cookies
225g/1cup Butter
150g/2/3cup Sugar
1 Egg
1tsp Vanilla Extract
250g/2 1/2cups Plain Flour

For The Icing
250g/2cups Icing Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
4tbsp Water
Food colouring

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy.
4. Beat in the egg and vanilla until fully combined.
5. Gently fold in the flour until fully combined and the dough forms a ball of dough. Don't worry if it looks as if it won't combine at first, it will eventually! Don't be tempted to add any extra flour, as the dough will absorb more when it's being rolled out.
6. Gather the dough into a ball and then wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge to cool for at least 20 minutes. You could easily leave it overnight if you wanted to, though you'd need to let it warm up and soften a bit when you took it out.
7. Once cooled, lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll out the dough until it's about half a centimetre thick. As there is quite a lot of dough, I did this in several goes, re-flouring the surface and my rolling pin as necessary.
8. Cut the cookies into any shape you want either with a cookie cutter or by hand with a knife if you're feeling more creative!
9. Place the cookies on the baking tray and pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden.
10. Once cooked, leave the cookies on a rack to cool.
11. Whilst they're cooling, gradually add the water and vanilla to the icing sugar until you reach the desired consistency.
12. At this point, if you want to have more than one colour icing, separate the icing equally into different bowls so that you have 1 portion per colour.
13. Slowly add the food colouring until you've reached the perfect colour.
14. Once the cookies are cool, set about decorating them! I just haphazardly covered them in icing, but if you have gone for a thicker consistency you could put it into a squeezy bottle to have a bit more control. You could also add any other decorative items you want, go wild!
15. Leave the icing to set. The waiting time will depend entirely on how thick the icing is, so try and be patient!
16. Place the cookies on a big plate and enjoy!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Rainy Day Madeira Cake

Well that's the British summer over and done with! And now on to endure the perennial British rain. Lovely.

And so I've found myself on a typical rainy day, wanting to bake something, but having two major problems:
1) I didn't have any inspiration
2) I didn't want to go outside in the rain to get any extra ingredients

But then I stumbled upon this recipe, a simple, yummy Madeira cake. Perfect. What it lacks in a speedy baking time, it makes up for in simplicity. A great addition to a cup of tea when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and wait for the rain to stop.

Side note: I've recently move house and so am still getting used to the oven. As a result, I cooked my cake at too high a temperature, causing it to sink in the middle. i have since adjusted the temperature and cooking time accordingly, so please let me know if it works.

Rainy Day Madeira Cake
Bare Necessities:
110g/4oz Butter
11og/4oz Sugar
2tbsp Golden Syrup
2 Eggs
175g/6oz Self Raising Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1tsp Vanilla Extract

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/320F.
2. Grease and line a loaf tin.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
4. Beat in the Vanilla extract, syrup and eggs until fully combined (don't worry if it curdles at this point).
5. Fold in the flour and baking powder until fully combined.
6. Pour the mixture into the tin and pop in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
7. Leave to cool on a cooling rack.
8. Slice up and enjoy with a nice cup of tea!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Mint Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream

Summer is here! And what better way to enjoy the sun than to stay inside and make ice cream?

Since I was a child, my favourite ice cream has always been mint choc chip, and so when I was having a peruse through my two ice cream books, I happened upon a fresh mint ice cream that I all too readily decided to adapt to make into an all-time favourite. (I adapted the mint ice cream recipe from the latter book)

Even though I prefer to make ice creams in the Philadelphia style, as it means you don't have multiple egg whites left over at the end, I thought I'd make an exception for this one, as the use of egg yolks gives a slightly deeper flavour. I gave the leftover egg whites to my dog with his dinner, but they can just as easily be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or for even longer in the freezer.

One thing I was really quite surprised about when I made it was the difference between ice cream made with fresh mint and store-bought mint ice cream. The flavour is much more subtle and soo much nicer!

A quick note about the mint: the recipe asks for 80g of fresh mint leaves. Bear in mind that if you're buying them in a shop and they're still on the stalks, the weight written on the packet will incorporate that weight as well. I know it sounds pretty obvious, but it's a good thing to bear in mind, as I bought a 100g packet of mint and got about 70/75g of actual mint leaves.

Mint Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream
Bare Necessities:

250ml Whole Milk
150g Sugar
500ml Double Cream
pinch Salt
80g Fresh Mint Leaves
5 Large Egg Yolks
50g Dark Chocolate

1. Warm the milk, sugar, salt and 250ml of the cream in a saucepan.
2. Add the mint leaves, and stir in until all of the leaves are submerged or at least wetted.
3. Place a lid on the saucepan, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for an hour.
4. Strain the minty mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Make sure that you really press down on the leaves with a spoon, you'd be surprised how much more mixture comes out!
5. Discard the mint leaves, you won't be needing them any more.
6. Separate the 5 yolks from their whites and gently
whisk the yolks.
7. Pour the yolks into the minty mixture, all the while whisking to make sure that the yolk is thoroughly combined.
8. Pour this custard back into the saucepan and gently heat on a low to medium heat, continuously stirring. Make sure that you scrape the sides and the bottom regularly to make sure that it doesn't burn or stick.
9. Once the custard starts to thicken to the texture of a thick cream or custard, remove it from the heat. This took me about 10 minutes, but it will differ from hob to hob, so make sure you're always watching it.
10. Strain the custard through a sieve into a bowl. The lumps tend to be at the bottom, so keep stirring the mixture in the sieve to speed up this process.
11. Put the bowl into an ice bath to cool down the custard. Keep stirring at this point, as even though it's no longer on the heat, it's still hot and will curdle if you don't stir it.
12. Once cooled (or at least at room temperature) mix in the remaining cream and stir until thoroughly combined.
13. Pour the mixture into the ice cream machine and follow the
manufacturer's instructions.
14. Once the mixture is starting to thicken and look a bit more like ice cream, melt the chocolate chips. Normally I'd do this in a Ban Marie, but a) I was out of pans, and b) it was only 50 grams, so I just melted them in the microwave.
15. Whilst the ice cream is churning away, slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate, stopping periodically to let it mix in a bit before continuing. As the ice cream will be very cold at this point, the chocolate won't combine with it, but instead instantly cool and mix in as a hard chocolate drizzle!
16. Once it's ready, serve up and go and enjoy the sun while it lasts!