21 March 2013

Chocolate Crunchie Cake

My dad used to eat the same breakfast cereal everyday for years. Always cornflakes. And when it comes to chocolate bars, its a mars bar or a crunchie. For his birthday a few years ago I made a mars bar based cake so I was left with little options to turn to this year....it had to be a crunchie.

Not that I'm complaining, I'll eat any kind of chocolate and you can quote me on that. This year I used the same chocolate cake recipe as before, but used a smaller tin. Its from the Primrose Bakery cookbook and it is without doubt the best chocolate cake ever. It uses dark chocolate not cocoa powder which accounts for a stronger chocolate taste, plus the light soft brown sugar adds a caramel-y taste.

The icing and filling for the cake came from The Art of Baking. The site, run by a couple from Melbourne, Australia, is packed with delicious recipes and beautifully shot images showing the process and final product. I literally spent hours lost in the pages, wishing the images were edible, and that I was back in Australia.

Rani of The Art of Baking says that the idea for her crunchie cake came about when they had 5kg of leftover crunchie chocolate bars...if there was that amount of chocolate in this house I suspect it wouldn't last long enough to be used in a cake.

The chunks of crushed up crunchie in the filling were my favourite part, closely followed by the icing - having two different elements to the cake meant it was like eating an enormous cake-y crunchie bar. Safe to say, if you couldn't tell, I loved this cake!

Chocolate Cake (makes 2 x 9" rounds)
230g dark chocolate
170g unsalted butter
350g soft light brown sugar
3 large eggs separated
370g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
500ml semi-skimmed milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

1) Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and line two 9" cake tins.
2) Break the chocolate into chunks and melt gently on the hob or in the microwave checking every 30 seconds. Once melted, set aside and allow to cool.
3) Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4) Beat in the egg yolks, followed by the cooled chocolate.
5) Combine the dry ingredients together and sieve.
6) Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a jug.
7) Add 1/3 of the dry mix and beat, followed by 1/3 of the wet. Continue to do this until all the flour and milk have been added - be aware not to overbeat the mix.
8) In a clean bowl whisk the the egg whites to form soft peaks - make sure the whisk you use is clean and free from grease or your whites will not whip!
9) Carefully fold the beaten egg whites into the cake batter using a metal spoon in a figure of 8 until just incorporated. Being overzealous and over folding will knock the air out of the egg whites and you won't get such a mammoth cake!
10) Bake for 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
11) Allow to cool inside the tins for 10 minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack.

Crunchie Filling & Chocolate Icing (makes enough to ice & fill a 9" cake)
Butter Filling:
125 g butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp milk
4 crushed up crunchie bars

1) Beat the butter with half the icing sugar until well mixed. Add in the milk and remaining sugar and beat again until the mix is smooth.
2) Stir through the smashed up crunchies.

Chocolate Ganache Icing:
375ml single cream
340g dark chocolate, broken up

1) Gently heat the cream and chocolate on the hob until the chocolate has melted.
* Do not allow the cream to boil and be aware the chocolate doesn't burn.*
2) Allow the icing to cool and thicken before use.

10 March 2013

Mother's Day: Lemon Loaf Cake

My mum loves lemon drizzle cake. Like, really loves it. I've never known anyone love it so much.

I think she has a point though, there is something refreshing about the tang of the lemon cutting through the softness of the sponge that is lighter lasting than my favourite coffee cake. So this Mother's Day I got up early and made her a lemon loaf cake for breakfast. Its a recipe by Raymond Blanc that I saw him make on his tv series 'Raymond's kitchen secrets' ages ago and have made once before a few years back.

The plan was to take a large slice of cake to her for breakfast in bed accompanied by the tiny puppy wearing a bow, but the universe conspired against me and my electronic scales ran out of battery before I realised, mid-bake, that we didn't have any bicarbonate of soda! Saved, not for the first time, by the co-op in the next village (the deli as we call it), I managed to produce the cake by half 10 by which time she was full dressed and hungry!

The cake itself is a bit of a labour of love, taking me around an hour and a half to make (not including emergency co-op trip and scale-directed anger) with its' double glazing and second short bake, but its worth it. 

The outside of the cake crisps beautifully like a crust, with added crunch from the double layer of glazing it gets when its out the oven - first comes a layer of melted lemon curd (the original recipe asks for apricot jam but I wanted to try out something different for taste) and the second is a delicious coating of a sugary lemon syrup dried in the cooling oven.

Lemon Loaf Cake (by Raymond Blanc)
5 large eggs
300g caster sugar
140ml double cream
3 lemons, zest only
1 1/2 tbsp rum
pinch of salt
80g unsalted butter, melted
240g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the glaze
3 tbsp apricot jam, warmed - I used lemon curd

For the lemon glaze
1 lemon, zest and juice
150g icing sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin measuring roughly 26cm x 9cm x 8/10cm.
2) Beat together the eggs, sugar, cream, lemon zest, rum, salt and melted butter.
3) Sift the flour and baking powder together in a separate bowl before beating into the wet mixture to make a smooth batter.
4) Pour into the tin and bake for about 50 minutes - the cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
5) When fully baked, remove from tin and allow to cool for 10 minutes before covering with the warmed jam glaze. Allow this to dry for about 5 minutes before the next step.
6) Mix the lemon juice and zest with the icing sugar and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved before brushing over the cake. After a few minutes, return the cake to the cooling oven for 5 minutes to dry the glaze to a glossy finish.
7) Slice and enjoy the soft lemony goodness.
8) Thank me later.

10 February 2013

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes

This year, the fabulous and delicious pancake day falls on Tuesday 12th February. I love big fluffy American-style pancakes, traditional English pancakes tend towards a runnier batter producing a thinner pancake that is rolled up to be eaten.

There are a plethora of pancake recipes around, the one I used for these came from Sophie at The Cake Hunter via the Company weekly edit which I get through my wonderful clever iPad which I love. Sophie has a great blog packed with recipes and  baking tips coupled with fantastic photos which is definitely worth checking out.

I managed to make 6 massive, thick pancakes from a recipe that should yield around 10....I suspect my additions to the batter didn't help.

Blueberries are a superfood and are packed with antioxidants, stick them in your pancakes and you get a huge health whammy, I promise!

Cover them in peanut butter and it ups the protein content....

For the second batch I mixed plain chocolate chips through the batter which was a brilliant idea. I am a food genius. I used agave nectar to top mine because I'm not a big fan of honey.

I did make a few changes to the original recipe, such as using coconut oil instead of vegetable oil for the batter and to fry the pancakes up, and using almond milk to thin the batter out as I'm cutting back on dairy. Use an alternative if you wish, they will still taste wonderful.

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes 
190g plain flour
60g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 large egg
284ml buttermilk
50ml coconut oil
glug of almond milk
fun things to add to the batter such as blueberries, chocolate chips, cinnamon or ginger.

1) Mix all ingredients together, add the almond milk slowly and mix through until batter becomes thinner.
2) Heat the pan over a medium/high heat and use 1 tsp coconut oil to fry the pancakes.
3) Blob 1 tbsp of batter into the pan and spread it to a pancake-shape; cook until top side bubbles before flipping and cooking the other side.
4) Eat warm and enjoy.
5) The next day, give up chocolate, sweets, smoking, alcohol and general fun for Lent.