Courgette & Pistachio Cake with Lime Cheesecake Icing

I can’t believe how fast the last few weeks have gone. I visited my parents at Easter, met up with the lovely Claire from Claire’s Cake Bake, been back in work 2 weeks, wondered if my sister was ever going to get back from New Zealand…oh and resigned from my job. I’m leaving to become a freelance food geek specialising in kid’s cookery & Primary Curriculum; something I’m very excited about. It all came to me, randomly, during a Hairy Biker’s episode that featured a Food Historian. Fed up of waiting for the perfect job to come to me I decided to create my dream job and take it to the people. I just pray I manage to pull it off or we’ll be back to eating Value beans on toast before long. Good sign is that I already have clients lined up even before I’m officially trading. Most of my free time has been spent business planning and developing recipes to try with my pupils. With Jamie Oliver investing his own money to improve Food Education, I think he needs to call me…

With everything going on I’m cooking lots of quick simple meals with the odd cake to keep us going. I’m also working on quite a few recipes to make them more suitable for teaching. This recipe probably isn’t one of these recipes, but it is full of hidden vegetables!

After speaking to mum about my Mini Carrot Cakes she wondered how courgettes and pistachio would work together. I couldn’t see why it wouldn’t work as courgettes are often used in cakes not really for the taste, but because they give a fantastic moistness to the cake. Although they are not in season yet, as any grow-your-owner knows these vegetables have a habit of taking over the garden and there is only so much courgette you can eat in more traditional form. This I think is quite an edible alternative.

One thing I did find out when making this cake is that it works out cheaper to buy pistachios out of their shells. I spent far too long shelling 150g of pistachios only to be left with 75g of actual nuts. The resulting cake has beautiful green flecks throughout it due to the courgette & pistachio nuts. To complement this I grated lime zest into the icing. This cake keeps well in a tin for a few days.

Courgette & Pistachio Cake with Lime Cheesecake Icing
Makes 1x 2lb loaf

140ml vegetable oil or rapeseed oil, plus extra for greasing
2 eggs
200g muscovado sugar
300g grated courgettes, (Don’t bother peeling them. I blitz them in the food processor)
100g raisins
70g unsalted pistachios, chopped (optional)
180g self-raising flour
tiny pinch of salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg or mace ( I like mace as it has a hint of citrus)
½ tsp mixed spice

Lime Cheesecake Icing

50g cream cheese, chilled (full fat works best)
50g butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g icing sugar, sifted
1 lime, zest only

1) Preheat oven to 150°c. Line 2lb cake tin with liners or lightly grease.
2) In a large bowl beat the egg, then add the oil, sugar, courgette and pistachios. Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.
3) Fill the tin with the cake mix. Bake for 75 min, or until cake is risen and cooked through. Allow to cool before icing.
4) Beat together the cream cheese, vanilla, lime zest and butter then gradually add the icing sugar. The icing sugar will stiffen the icing the more you put in, but taste as you go along to make sure you don’t make it too sweet. Once the icing is ready, spread onto cake and leave for a few hours for the icing to harden slightly.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/04/23/courgette-pistachio-cake-with-lime-cheesecake-icing/

The Garden – 2010

The snow has gone, the days are warming up so it must be time for us to start our 2010 garden. After watching last night’s new series called Edible Garden, which is hosted by Alys Fowler, it would seem Hubs & I have been ahead of the trend.

In our tiny garden everything is grown in pots, hanging baskets or in the two small raised beds down the edge. As space is limited there are a few rules as to what  we plant 1) it has to be edible or useful 2) colourful  fruit/veg or flowers. Hubs very much concentrates on the fruit & veg and I do the herbs. First I must point out that Hubs & I are not exactly experienced with gardening. We’re the kind of chuck-it-in-and-see-what-happens type of gardeners. Every year we learn lessons and try not to make the same mistakes the following year. If your interested here are the links to The Garden – 2008 , The Garden – 2009 and the much toiled over Falstaff Sprouts.

The lessons we’ve learnt over the years:

  • Squashes – triffids in disguise. They quickly take over a small garden.
  • Globe artichokes – pretty but take up far too much room in a small garden for the amount you yield.
  • Rhubarb – impossible to kill. Shame I don’t like the stuff.
  • Brassicas – we are obsessed with planting them even though they can be  pain thanks to pests. Hubs is always on Caterpillar Watch when we are planting these.

I love flowers and until now the only flowers had been on the veg/fruit plants or herbs but thanks to being influenced by Masterchef & James Wong I’m planning to grow edible flowers alongside my herbs. I’m starting with borage & marigolds. Borage – quite plain and simply I want to try it in Pimms. Marigolds – for various reasons from edible, medicinal and also companion planting as it helps to keep away aphids. Without realising it we already do quite a bit of companion planting. Chives for aphids & blackspot in roses; Basil for flies & mosquitos, Rosemary & Sage for cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies. To be honest I’m not sure if it works but given we haven’t had to use any pesticides on the garden may be a good sign.

The rest of the garden plans include:

To start quite a few of the seeds off we plant them in little biodegradable newspaper pots made with the ingenious paper potter . Not only is it a great way of recycling, the pots are gratis thanks to the amount of free newspapers we get through the letterbox. These little seeds are then germinated on either the windowsill or little greenhouses we managed to pick up in Ikea. Hubs also has got plans to build some fancy cloches to help protect some of our plants once they are in the ground.

The thing I love most about gardening is the experimenting and seeing all the wildlife it brings to the garden. Nothing beats the satisfaction of eating delicious fruit or veg straight from your own garden.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/04/08/the-garden-2010/

Long awaited Hot Cross Buns

I’ve been trying to bake the perfect Hot Cross Buns for the last few Easters and until now these doughy treats had eluded me. Past Hot Cross Buns have resembled rock cakes, the crosses had dribbled off or they were frankly inedible.

Deciding not to be beaten, this year I decided to consult my bread bible, Bread: River Cottage Handbook. I’ve used it for many recipes in the past including focaccia and bagels and never has it let me down. The reason I love this book so much is that not only does it produce great recipes, it isn’t patronising (like lots of bread baking books can be) and it advises how you can adapt the recipes and make them your own.

The one thing I accidently missed out of the recipe was the egg, this is added to enrich the dough. Given I forgot it, the buns still tasted delicious. Especially warm from the oven, split and slathered in butter. I think this recipe may be making appearance outside the Easter season minus the crosses. But then again, if the supermarkets are anything to go by it’s Easter all year round. Trust me, these homemade versions are worth waiting for.

Hot Cross Buns
From Bread: River Cottage Handbook – Dan Stevens
Makes 8 large buns

250g strong white bread flour
250g plain white flour
1 tsp mixed spice
125ml milk, at room temperature
125ml water, at room temperature
7g fast action yeast
10g fine salt
50g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g butter, softened
100g dried mixed fruit

For the crosses:
plain flour
water

For the glaze:
2 tbsp apricot jam (you could also use marmalade)
2 tbsp water

1) Combine all of the dough ingredients and knead for 10 minutes until you have soft, elastic dough. Shape into a round and leave to rise until doubled in size. In our house this usually takes 1-2 hours.

2) Once the dough has doubled in size knock back the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape into buns and leave on a floured board, covered with a clean tea towel, to prove for 30 min.

3) Preheat oven to 200°c. Transfer the buns onto a floured baking tray. Mix together a small amount of plain flour & water until you have a thick paste. Pipe the crosses onto the buns. Bake for 15-20 min until risen and golden.

4) While the buns are still hot, mix together the two glaze ingredients then brush over the buns. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/04/05/long-awaited-hot-cross-bun/

DIY Cheese Press

Given The Baker Jules has most of the say on the blog it was about time for me The Butcher & random stuff maker to have a go. As Jules has always let on I love any gadgets related to cookery and the quirky or more old-fashioned the better. Previous projects include a clay pizza oven, bread bin hot smoker, along with a meat/cheese safe suspended from the outhouse ceiling and restoring a clockwork spit (I’ve promised to blog about both of these  soon). The next project in the pipeline is a cold smoker. The burner has already been fashioned from an old gas bottle but I just need an elusive wooden barrel for the smoking chamber…And you thought Jules was a food geek!

My first attempt at cheesemaking was Basic Hard cheese. This was soon followed by an attempt at a basic blue cheese. All was going well until somehow Mr & Mrs Robin found their way into the shed and found this delectable fatty treat. It couldn’t be saved for human consumption, but certainly gave the birds a feast. After that hurdle the cheese safe was born. Since the beginning I wanted to make a cheese press that would form the cheese properly and give it its characteristic truckle shape. Not one to buy things like this, I wanted to make a press from scratch. It gives me the Engineer in me a challenge. It was more or less made of items I found in the outhouse or at the Aladdin’s cave of Dad’s garage. It’s not difficult, more of an easy/medium project, you just need some basic woodworking knowledge and tools. Hopefully the photos above help explain it better than I can.

You will need:

Piece of  hardwood for the base (hardwood won’t swell with the whey)
2 blocks of hardwood for inside tube
Broom handle (for holding the parts together)
Suitable lengths of wood for the sides
Modified G-clamp
Piece of drain pipe
Large baking tray
muslin/cheese cloth
Screws

1) First construct the base. Router a gully into the hardwood to allow the whey to drain from the curds easier.

2) To make the uprights at one end cut out a suitable sized notchfor the cross bar to sit in. Secure the two uprights to the base with screws.

3) For the cross bar you have two options. Fashion yourself a screw mechanism or, like me, chop down a g-clamp and  embedded it in the cross bar. It works perfectly. With the cross bar in place drill the holes for the broom handles through both uprights and crossbar at the same time to ensure the holes line up. The cross bar can then be held in place with short lengths of broom handle.

4) Cut a round piece of hardwood to match the internal diameter of the pipe that will for the truckle (This needs to be a snug fit)

5) Below the screw place the piece of piping and line with cheesecloth. Fill the tube with the curd. Place the round block of hardwood in the pipe. Screw down the screw onto the block, squashing the curds (If the screw isn’t long enough use a block of wood as a spacer). Keep turning until the screw becomes tight. Tighten the screw each day until the desired density is achieved.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/03/29/diy-cheese-press/

Fresh from the Oven – Kringel

This month’s Fresh from the Oven challenge was hosted by Jo from Jo’s Kitchen. In the UK this recipe was brought to our attention by a Hairy Bikers programme where they gathered recipes from mothers throughout the country. As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to make it so I was glad Jo chose this recipe.

The technique of shaping dough was simple and effective. Not a method I had thought of using before and may use again with other breads. One thing I did find about the bread although there was lots of sultanas and sugar sprinkled over the dough I would have liked the dough to have been a bit sweeter. In typical me style I made a splattered mess all over the kitchen when applying the chocolate topping. I’m tempted to try the cheese version at a later date.

Given there is only two of us living here we were struggling to eat it all before it went stale so yesterday the remnants were reincarnated into a bread & butter pudding. And a very good kringel & butter pudding it was!

Kringel
(Makes 1 Loaf)

Dough

  • 40g fresh yeast
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 250ml milk, lukewarm
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 600-700g flour

Filing

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 3 handfuls of raisins
  • 10 tsp sugar

Topping

  • 150g dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa solids)
  • 75g butter

Method

Mix the yeast and sugar in a bowl. Add the lukewarm milk and egg yolks, then mix in the flour and melted butter and knead well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200°c/Gas 6. Dust your work surface with flour. Take the dough out of the bow, knock it back and roll out to a thickness of 1cm. Spread the softened butter evenly over the rolled sheet of pastry, then sprinkle with raisins and finally sugar.

Roll up the dough like a swiss roll and cut it in half with a sharp knife. Starting from the uncut end, plait the dough, lifting each half over the other in turn. Finally, shape the plaited bread into a B shape and transfer to a buttered baking tray. Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.

In the meantime, prepare the chocolate topping by melting the chocolate and butter in a bowl over boiling water. Once out of the oven, let the bread cool down a bit, place on a serving plate and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Cheese Kringel

To make a savoury version, leave out the raisins and sugar and sprinkle the Kringel with grated cheddar instead. Add more grated cheese on top instead of the chocolate sauce.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/03/28/fresh-from-the-oven-kringel/

Mini Carrot Cakes

Given my love of all cakes and all things vegetable it’s taken me nearly 28 years to accept that they can work really well together. I blame far too many dry, over sweet, mass-produced carrot cakes of the past. Hugh F-W inspired me to put beetroot in brownies and squash in cake.

About a month ago I had the sudden urge to bake carrot cake. After some recommendations on Twitter I landed on an adapted Rachel Allen recipe on TheMadHouse. I made the cake a few weeks back and it went down very well so for Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea wanted to adapt it to make mini fairy cake sized carrot cake.  The mindset is that it has carrots in it so it must be good, ahem, we’ll just ignore all the other ingredients. Inspired by a flavour combination my mum suggested to me I’m going to try this cake in a couple of weeks time replacing the carrots and walnuts with courgette & pistachio. We’re planting some unusual varieties of carrots in the garden this year, Purple Haze & Red Samurai. I’m not sure if they will make it into cakes, but they could inject some interesting colour into baking.

What I’ve also learnt recently is although I’m not a big icing fan, to transform a good carrot cake into an amazing carrot cake is that it must have cream cheese icing. The slight tartness of the icing makes all the difference and brings the earthiness out of the carrots. Depending on how thick you want the icing will depend on the type of cream cheese you use. If you use the full fat variety it will make icing you can pipe, the lower fat version (which I used) is not as stiff and can sometimes collapse if piped so if using the lighter version spread it onto the cake rather than piping. These cakes have transformed me and even my cake-hating Father-in-Law to the wonders of a perfectly moist & delicious carrot cake. For an interesting twist on this recipe see my Courgette & Pistachio cake.

Mini Carrot Cakes – adapted from The Best Carrot Cake
Makes around 10 mini cakes

70ml vegetable oil or rapeseed oil
1 eggs
100g muscovado sugar
150g grated carrots, (Don’t bother peeling them. I blitz them in the food processor)
50g raisins
35g pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)
90g self-raising flour
1 tiny pinch of salt
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg or mace
¼ tsp Mixed spice

Orange cream cheese icing

25g cream cheese, chilled
25g butter, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
125g icing sugar, sifted
½ orange, zest only

1) Preheat oven to 150°c. Line a fairy cake tin with liners or, like me, set out the silicone fairy cake cases on a baking tray.
2) In a large bowl beat the egg, then add the oil, sugar, carrots and nuts. Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.
3) Fill the cases 2/3 full with the mixture. Bake for 30 min, or until cakes are risen and cooked through. Allow to cool before icing.
4) Beat together the cream cheese, vanilla, orange zest and butter then gradually add the icing sugar. The icing sugar will stiffen the icing the more you put in, but taste as you go along to make sure you don’t make it too sweet. Once the icing is ready, spread onto cake and leave for a few hours for the icing to harden slightly.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/03/20/mini-carrot-cakes/

Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea


It’s quite a well-known fact I have a penchant for Afternoon Tea and other quintessential traditions. Who can say no to unlimited pots to tea, dainty sandwiches and all the cake you can eat? We’ve eaten Afternoon Tea in various places from Little Bettys in York to Michelin Starred tea at Northcote but I have never attempted to bake Afternoon Tea at home. Mother’s Day provided the perfect opportunity and willing participants in the form of Grandma and Mother-in-Law.

As any Afternoon Tea aficionado will tell you, there are a few essential elements – fine china, cake stand, crisp white tablecloth and sugar tongs. China I could do along with sugar tongs and cake stand but shockingly a tablecloth was harder to come by. After trawling every shop in town that could feasibly sell one, I settled on possibly the naffest 100% polyester £7 table cloth I have ever seen. It was horrible and shiny, which thankfully doesn’t show in the photos. I’m planning to replace this shocking piece of table covering with a nice cotton one in the near future.

The menu was loosely based on various Afternoon Teas we’ve eaten.

Finger Sandwiches served on homemade white bread with various fillings:
Egg & Cress
Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese
Beef & Horseradish
Honey Glazed Ham & Mustard

Freshly baked Sultana Scones served with jam & Lubcloud Extra Thick Cream
Chocolate Buns
Bara Brith
Mini Carrot Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Champagne
Selection of teas including:
English Breakfast, Cranberry-Elderberry Green Tea, Pure Rooibos and Darjeeling Earl Grey

The advantage of this menu was that quite a bit of it was able to be made the day before with just the sandwiches being made up last minute and scones being quickly baked. The cream I served with the scones is amazing stuff. It comes from a dairy just over the border in Leicestershire. So thick it’s almost like butter and a perfect pairing with jam.

It turned out to be the perfect way to spend Mother’s Day. Everyone appeared to enjoy themselves and both Grandma & Mother-in-Law took home doggy bags of cakes.

As Aleena Naylor mentioned on Twitter a few nights ago the quality of Afternoon Tea in Derby is slipping, no self-respecting institution serves afternoon tea with tea bags. Maybe it’s about time teach Derby how Afternoon Tea should be done.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.butcherbakerblog.com/2010/03/15/mothers-day-afternoon-tea/

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