First bake: ginger and chilli biscuits

Ginger and chilli biscuits

Ginger and chilli are two excellent flavours that go together extremely well – in curries, that is. So I was rather intrigued when I came across this recipe for ginger and chilli biscuits on the Caked Crusader blog a while ago – done right, I thought, these are surely the perfect biscuits for me!

I took the advice to make the dough in advance and chill it overnight. It was really easy to make – just cream the butter and sugar together and mix everything else in. I didn’t have any cayenne pepper, so I gingerly (ha!) threw in a little of my mum’s fiery hot red chilli powder. I did think about using paprika, but thought the flavour may be a little too subtle.

Ginger and chilli biscuit dough

Ginger and chilli biscuit dough

I followed the recipe to the letter, and got 55 (!) little biscuits out of the dough in the end. Unfortunately, as is usually the case these days, I had a mini disaster when I realised towards the end of baking the first batch that the oven dial had mysteriously turned itself down from 6 to 3 (or I was my usual absent-minded self and didn’t turn it up far enough). I whacked the heat up and left the biscuits in for a few minutes longer, and they seemed to look fine, albeit a bit more domed than I would have liked.

The second batch went in at the right temperature, but came out a little too brown, even though I took them out after the minimum 12 minutes. Doh! I was beginning to feel a bit like Goldilocks at this point, but soldiered on with the third batch (just 5 biscuits), which again came out a rather dark brown.

Ginger and chilli biscuits

I was desperate to try the finished product, and the biscuits cooled very quickly thanks to their small size. Despite all the browning, they turned out pretty perfectly – very gingery, with a hint of chilli that builds up the more you eat (and I had a lot of biscuits yesterday). They were pleasingly biscuity too, with a buttery taste and a good crunch to them.

I would definitely make these again, but perhaps either turn the oven down a touch or take the biscuits out sooner. I would also make them a little bigger to avoid the temptation of popping 5 or 6 in my mouth in quick succession, but, to be honest, I would probably do that regardless of their size!

The recipe

On the Caked Crusader blog here: http://www.thecakedcrusader.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/ginger-and-chilli-biscuits.html

First bake: spiced beetroot, apple and hazelnut muffins

Spiced beetroot, apple and hazelnut muffins

Beetroot has recently become one of my favourite vegetables. I’ve always liked it, but I’ve tasted or used it in a few recipes over the last few weeks and am amazed at how versatile it is. So, today, I decided to bake this recipe that I’ve had my eye on for a while to see just what else the beetroot can do.

The recipe seems fairly simple on first glance, but be warned: it takes longer than you think to grate a pile of apples and beetroot! The effort is well worth it, though. Once you’re at the point where you can throw the grater into the sink/dishwasher, it’s just a matter of whipping up the dry and wet mixes and folding them together. Then, the rather wonderful crunchy hazelnut topping is made – this is sprinkled over the muffins in their cases before baking.

Spiced beetroot, apple and hazelnut muffin mixes

Left: hazelnut topping, right: raw muffin mix in cases

The recipe calls for 3 heaped teaspoons of mixed spice and 1 tsp of cinnamon altogether, but I found out too late that I didn’t have any cinnamon, so I just added more of the mixed spice. Another substitution I made was ready-packed toasted chopped hazelnuts for the blanched hazelnuts, just to save time.

The muffin mix seemed pretty wet to me; I think this is because of the amount of beetroot. The recipe rather unhelpfully calls for ‘a pack of cooked beetroot’, which could mean anything! I used a 250g pack, which I now think is a bit too much, so I would recommend you use 150-200g if you make this recipe. There also seemed to be LOTS of the topping mix, but it turned out to be just the right amount!

Spiced beetroot, apple and hazelnut muffins

I left the muffins in the oven for a few minutes longer than the 20 specified in the recipe, because of the wet mix. I had one warm not long after taking them out of the oven, and it was scrumptious! As I suspected, the muffin itself is very moist, but flavoursome nonetheless; I think it would be spicier if less beetroot had been used, however. The topping is what makes the muffins really sing, though – the sweet, nutty crunchiness complements the fruity apple and beetroot perfectly!

This really is a brilliant autumn recipe and one I would recommend if you have a hankering for something comforting but a bit different for your next bake. Just make a note of my changes to the original recipe to make the muffins really perfect!

Spiced beetroot, apple and hazelnut muffin

The recipe

From Vegetarian Living magazine here: http://www.vegetarianliving.co.uk/recipes.php?do=view&recipe=541

First bake: hazelnut wafer cake

Hazelnut wafer cake

My boyfriend is a bit of a hazelnut fiend, especially when said nuts are combined with chocolate, so I knew I had to make this recipe as soon as I spotted it in Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet. It’s quite a summery bake, what with the meringue-style wafers and dollops of whipped cream, but it’s by no means unsuitable for the colder months!

I had to make this in two stages – the wafers on one day, and the chocolate cream on the next. The wafers are made with a meringue-like mixture of whipped egg whites and sugar, with flour, butter and hazelnuts stirred into it. I have to say it took me a loooong time to get the egg whites and sugar to a suitable consistency; I’ve never had to spend so long whisking before (and this was with an electric whisk)! To my relief, the mixture eventually came together and it was then just a matter of adding the other ingredients, spreading them into circles on the baking trays and sticking them in the oven.

Hazelnut wafers

Hazelnut wafers

The wafers ended up being quite meringue-y in appearance and texture, yet very wafer-like in taste. I assume this was the flour and butter coming into play, but it was a still a little odd! There’s no picture in the recipe book, so I just had to hope that’s what they were supposed to look like. Unfortunately, the wafers stuck extremely fast to the trays (even though I’d slathered them in butter), so there was a fair bit of breakage around the edges, which is why the finished cake looks pretty untidy!

So, the next day it was on to the cream. This was surprisingly faffy – I had to heat some sugar, cocoa and egg yolks together, leave it to cool for exactly 2 minutes, stir in some chopped chocolate and then stir a whole mess of whipped double cream into and it and chill it in the fridge. I ended up with chunks of chocolate in the cream where it didn’t manage to completely melt as I stirred it in, but this was no bad thing in my opinion! I then had to make a smaller batch of vanilla cream and proceed with the tricky business of layering the wafers and cream together.

I say tricky, because I am notoriously bad at making layer cakes look neat. The irregular shape of the wafers and the huge amount of cream didn’t help my cause with this bake, but I did my best! I spread the chocolate cream on three of the four wafers, then dolloped the vanilla cream on the same wafers, before piling them on top of each other, finishing with the ‘clean’ wafer. A quick sprinkling of icing sugar and voila! One very messy, calorific and delicious cake.

Hazelnut wafer cake

The cake was truly scrumptious – the wafers were chewy in the middle yet with a decided crunch to the outside, and the two types of cream combined wonderfully with the nutty and cocoa-y flavours. The wafers did soften after a day, but the cake was still lovely to eat! It disappeared in record time (and that’s saying something for my household), which is testament to just how moreish the cake was.

The recipe

From Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard and also in his column for the Guardian.

First bake: parkin

Parkin

Parkin. It’s something I should bake all the time considering how much I love ginger flavours, but I only had my first ever go at it this week. And it’s definitely something I will make more frequently!

I may have mentioned that I’m trying to work my way through BBC Good Food’s 101 Cakes & Bakes book (which is why so many of my bakes are from that book!). Parkin appears early on, but I reached it in spring/summer, and felt I should save it for autumn/winter.

It’s one of those recipes that you should make correctly, or not at all, due to its traditional Yorkshire roots. I started off in the right way (very enthusiastically), but things went a little awry quite quickly – although I didn’t realise until the cake had been happily baking away in the oven for a good 30 minutes. You see, even though I’d methodically got out all of my ingredients before I started, I somehow managed to completely forget to add the light muscovado sugar.

Parkin mix, sans sugar

Parkin mix, sans sugar

Luckily, there was enough treacle and golden syrup to prevent it from tasting absolutely foul! You’re supposed to keep the cake wrapped up for a few days to make it even better, but I couldn’t resist trying a small piece to make sure it didn’t taste disgusting. It’s actually pretty good – it’s nicely dense thanks to the oatmeal, the ginger flavour packs a punch (probably due to me always throwing in more ginger than called for) and it’s generally satisfying. Phew!

I will, of course, remember the sugar the next time I make it, and see if that makes it taste even better. Funnily enough, James Martin baked parkin on Saturday Kitchen the day after I made mine. Aside from wincing slightly when he casually threw the sugar in, I was intrigued by his use of more spices in addition to ginger and the fact that he turned it into a dessert with poached pears and ice cream, something I’d certainly like to try too!

The recipe

From BBC Good Food 101 Cakes & Bakes.

Re-bake: lemon drizzle cake

Lemon drizzle cakeI’ve talked before about how I love a good classic cake. As well as my all-time favourite, madeira cake, one bake that’s pretty much at the top of my list is lemon drizzle cake.

Who can resist the combination of lots of sweet sugar and tangy lemon, all in a buttery cake topped with more juice and sugar in a crunchy crust? My friend Mrs Hicks also loves this cake with a passion, so I decided to make it as a birthday present last week.

I’ve made this recipe a few times before, but the last time I made it, it didn’t cook at all in the middle and I was left with a soggy, eggy mess. This time, I was very careful with my mixing and made absolutely sure the oven stayed at the right temperature. When I put the skewer in and there was still a bit of mix clinging to it, I quickly shoved it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.

I was very grateful when it didn’t sink after I took it out of the oven, and did an extra test after it had cooled the next day by partially slicing it from the bottom to make doubly sure it was all cooked inside. Of course, the ultimate test was whether my friend would be presented with a decent cake or the aforementioned soggy mess when she cut into it properly, and as you can tell from the picture, it was definitely the former!

I can’t comment on the taste as I wanted to give the whole cake, but from the previous (successful) times that I’ve made it, it *should* be extremely lemony, nicely moist and perfectly sweet. I would recommend this as an afternoon tea cake, or perhaps a Mother’s Day or Easter bake. It really is lovely!

The recipe

On the BBC Good Food website here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/4942/lemon-drizzle-cake