Tag Archives: Baking

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

This is my kind of cake, a bit spiced and a bit dense and a bit squidgy.  This is my kind of baking, a few turns of the spoon and it’s ready.  My spiced sweet potato cake is a version of my carrot cake and was borne out of the fact I bought too many sweet potatoes and wanted to use them before they went a bit musty.  If you’re not used to baking both this recipe and the carrot cake version are a really good place to start.

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake Recipe

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8

For the Cake (You will need a 20cm baking tin)
150ml / 5 fl. oz. melted butter
225gr / 8oz.  self-raising flour
2 x tsps baking powder
150gr / 5 oz. light muscavado sugar
150gr / 5 oz. walnuts, chopped roughly
250gr / 9 oz. grated sweet potato
2 x large eggs
150gr / 5 oz. crème fraiche
2 x tsps cinnamon
2 x tsps ginger powder
1 x tsp nutmeg
Zest of an orange
Juice of half of the orange

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

For the Icing
200gr / 7 oz. cream cheese
50gr / 1.5 oz. icing sugar (or to your taste)
A few drops of vanilla extract
75gr Almonds, chopped roughly
75gr Walnuts, chopped roughly

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/360°F degrees and line your tin with baking paper.
  2. Place all the cake ingredients in a bowl and mix them together until everything is equally brought together. A few turns with a wooden spoon should do it – yes, this cake is that easy.
  3. Pour the mix into your tin, and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes. To check if it is cooked through, pierce with a skewer, which should come out clean, not with wet mix on it.
  4. Place your chopped nuts in a baking tray and put them in the oven at the same time as the cake. They should take about 7 to 10 minutes to turn golden brown, but watch them carefully as they can burn easily and every oven is a different so it can be difficult to say exactly how long this will take.
  5. When the cake is ready, allow it to cool for a few minutes, then remove it from the tin and allow to cool completely before icing. If you don’t allow it to cool, the icing will melt and slide off the cake.
  6. To make the icing, mix together the cream cheese and icing with the vanilla until smooth and creamy.
  7. Spread the icing over your cooled cake, sprinkle over the nuts and store in an air tight container in the fridge. The cake will keep for a few days.

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Tips and Variations

  • This is a dense cake and so it does take quite a while to bake.  If you notice that the top is becoming too dark, cover it with silver foil until the cake is completely baked through.

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Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Shortbread Fingers

Shortbread Fingers

Shortbread Fingers

If you’re new to baking or just not that confident, this is the best place to start.  The art of making a good shortbread is simple but that’s what makes it so delicious.  The secret is not to play around with the dough, but to get the job done.

Preparation: 20 minutes
Baking: 15 to 20 minutes
You will need a baking tray of about 19cm / 7.5in. by 29cm  / 11.5cm – I find that a brownie tray works well.

Makes: About 20 to 24 biscuits.

Ingredients
225gr / 8 oz. of softened unsalted butter
110gr / 4 oz. of sugar
285gr / 10 oz. of plain or whole meal flour
50gr / 2 oz. corn flour
A little sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Shortbread Fingers

Method

  1. With an electric whisk (or by hand with a wooden spoon if you feel you need the exercise), cream the butter and sugar together, this takes a few minutes (much longer by hand).
  2. Add the flour and the corn flour to the sugar and butter mixture, stir through with a wooden spoon, roughly, just a few turns to bring everything together.
  3. Turn the mix out onto a cool, clean surface and bring it together with your hands, it’ll be crumbly at first but don’t worry. Then take your dough and place it into your tray pushing it out to the sides, gently, evenly but with some firmness to the edges of the tray.
  4. To make sure the dough is evenly spread I take the tip of a knife and poke it in a few spots until it touches the bottom of the tray, this will show you if you have any areas that are too thick or thin.
  5. Once level, score out the biscuits then prick with a fork in rows, make sure the fork hits the bottom of the tray each time.
  6. Place in the fridge to cool for about 20 minutes.
  7. Set the oven to heat to 180°/360° and grease your tin. I always do this by wiping the inside of the tin with the butter paper.
  8. Remove the chilled shortbread dough from the fridge and bake for about 20 minutes, checking after 15. You can check this with a knife, if it comes out of the shortbread clean, it is ready.  The shortbread will be a very light golden brown in colour when it is ready.
  9. Remove from the oven and run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen it, then slice into fingers whilst still warm (at this stage is will be soft). When sliced and cooled, sprinkle some sugar over the top if you want.  Normally I don’t actually do this although it is part of the traditional recipe, I find the biscuit sweet enough.  If you do want to sprinkle sugar, a couple of teaspoons is enough.
  10. To remove the shortbread, turn the tray upside down and give it a tap on a hard surface to loosen your first piece, the rest will be easy to remove.

Tips and Variations

  • Store in an air tight tin in a cool dry place and the shortbread will stay fresh for about 10 days to 2 weeks.

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Shortbread Fingers

Fig Filo Tart

Fig Filo Tart

Fig Filo Tart

I’m a huge fan of a puddingy type of tart.  What’s that?  Well, there probably isn’t a correct definition because I made up the word, but what I mean is something that’s got a custard or a nice soft filling.  I’ve always loved a good pudding or custard and this is a more grown up version of that kind of dessert.  This recipe is really easy to make, a gentle mix of the custard, some chopping of fruit and the oven does the rest.  So far I’ve only tried this with figs, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be really nice with other soft fruits like peaches or plums – think I’ll give them a try too.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 50 minutes to an hour

Serves 6 to 8
3 x sheets of filo pastry (I use 40cm / 16in. x 40cm / 16in.), if frozen, thaw them out first.
4 x tbsp of unsalted butter – melted
6 x medium figs, each cut into 6 or 8 wedges
50gr / 1.7 oz. plain flour
50gr / 1.7 oz. caster sugar
4 x eggs
400ml / 13.5 fl. oz. milk (full fat)
The seeds of one vanilla pod
A little icing sugar for dusting

 Method

  1. Set your oven to heat to 190°C / 375°F.
  2. Brush a baking tray (29cm / 11.5in. x 19cm / 7.5in.  ) with the melted butter and lay the sheets of filo in it, brushing each layer with butter.  With the size of sheets I use I normally cut about a third off, and layer it up that way so that I get about 6 layers in total.  Cut any large pieces excess filo off with scissors.
  3. Place the figs evenly over the filo base.
  4. Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, then add the eggs and about ¼ of the milk. Whisk until smooth and then whisk in the rest of the milk and the vanilla until everything is incorporated evenly.
  5. Pour over the custard mix over the figs and place in the oven.
  6. Bake for an hour or until the filo is brown and crispy and the custard is golden and has set. This time may vary depending on your oven, so check after about 45 minutes.

 Tips and Variations

  • Ripe figs give the tastiest result.
  • Remember not to leave your filo lying around as it will dry out very quickly and you won’t be able to use it. If you need time, lay it out and keep it covered with a damp tea towel.

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Fig Filo Tart

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Lemon Drizzle Cake :

I’ve been looking for the perfect lemon drizzle cake for years.  You might think that’s a bit over the top when you see the simplicity of this recipe, but that’s exactly the point.  It has to be simple, but perfect.  I was looking for the perfect balance of sweetness with sharpness not only in the cake but in the drizzle too.  I wanted to get the right consistency of cake so that it would soak up all that delicious drizzly topping and leave a little crunch on the crust of the cake.  I think I’ve found it.

 Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Baking Time:  45 to 50 minutes 

Ingredients
For the Cake
225gr / 8 oz. unsalted, softened butter cut into small cubes
225gr / 8 oz. caster sugar
225gr  / 8 oz. of self-raising flour
4 large eggs
Finely grated zest of 2 ripe lemons

For the Lemon Drizzle
Juice of 2 lemons
85gr / 3 oz. caster sugar

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C / 360°F  and line a loaf tin with baking paper.  I find the easiest way to do this is to first scrunch the paper and run it under the tap.  This makes it easier to work with.
  2. Beat the butter and caster sugar together with an electric whisk until it becomes a pale yellow colour.
  3. Add the eggs, mixing them in one at a time. You can do this by hand with a wooden spoon or with the electric mixer.
  4. Add the flour and the lemon zest, bring everything together into a smooth batter by mixing with a wooden spoon.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. Check after 40 minutes just to be sure.  The cake is ready when you can insert a skewer and it comes out clean.
  6. When the cake is ready set it aside in its tin.
  7. Mix the lemon juice and caster sugar together. Prick the cake all over with a skewer or fork and almost right to the bottom of it – do this whilst it is still in the tin.  Pour the lemon drizzle over the cake evenly whilst it is still warm.
  8. When completely cool, remove the cake from the tin and serve.

Tips and Variations

  • Store in an air tight container – it’ll keep fresh for 3 or 4 days like this.
  • To get the most juice from your lemons, roll them on a hard surface to loosen the insides before cutting them open.

  Lemon Drizzle Cake

Leek and Bacon Quiche

Leek And Bacon Quiche

Leek and Bacon Quiche

I have this thing about ‘Having Something In’.  Sounds vague I know, but what I mean is I get nervous at the thought of having visitors and nothing to feed them.  I’m sure it’s about how I grew up.  I heard the words ‘Oh, I’ll need to make sure I’ve got something in’ so many times it has stuck in my brain.  It could be said when we knew people were coming, then it was with purpose, or it could be more of a mused thought of the knowledge that people always seemed to be popping in and out as mum scribbled down her shopping list.  It has left me with a slight panic if I have ‘nothing in’ and a feeling of contentment when I know I have ‘something in’.  Then there’s what you should have in.  It could be something you buy, biscuits, snacks etc.  But, that really is a cop out.  In our house the rules were that there had to be a pot of soup on the go, or at least soup that could be heated up (home made broth of course).  Then there had to be enough things like tins of salmon, cold meats and cheese, chutneys and pickles  to make up sandwiches.  And most important of all, baked goods.  This would normally come in the form of a of some kind of sweet tea loaf.  I carry on this tradition to some extent, although I must confess, I don’t always have ‘something in’ but I do my best.  And as my mum did, it is very often a tea loaf, but sometimes I like to have other options, and one of my favourites is quiche.  Great to eat fresh from the oven or to have as a bit of lunch when somebody pops by.

Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour
For this recipe I use a springform cake tin that has a diameter of 28cm / 11 in.  and is 6cm / 2.5 in.  in height.

Ingredients for 6 to 8 servings
For the Pastry
A little unsalted butter, a couple of tsps should do it, just to grease the tin.
400gr / 14 oz.  ready made puff pastry.

For the Filling
1 x tsp olive oil
2 x medium sized leeks, cleaned thoroughly and chopped finely
2 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
250gr / 0.5 lb smoked bacon chopped into small cubes
8 x large eggs
200ml / 6.5 fl. oz. crème fraîche
2 x tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp nutmeg
200gr / 7 oz.  grated mature cheese like cheddar, gouda or gruyere
2 x medium tomatoes, sliced thinly
Some salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Not too much salt as the bacon can be quite salty.

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200°C/400°F.
  2. Roll out the pastry until it more than fits your cake tin. Grease the tin with the butter.  I find the easiest way is to take a bit of the paper in which the butter is wrapped and use this to wipe around the inside of the tin.
  3. Lay the pastry into the tin gently, and still being gentle but firm make sure it fits neatly into the edges. Make sure you have enough pastry to hang over the top of your tin a little.  Don’t press it over the rim, just let it hang loosely.  This gives a rustic finish and allows for shrinkage of the pastry during cooking.
  4. Blind bake the pastry for about 20 minutes. I do this by placing some baking paper on top of the pastry and then pouring over dried beans to weigh it down.
  5. Whilst the pastry is having its first bake you can make the filling. Add the oil to a frying pan and heat it on a medium high heat.  Fry off the bacon for a couple of minutes until crisp.  Add the leeks and garlic with a little salt and pepper, stir through, set to a medium low heat, cover with a close fitting lid and cook until soft.  This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.  Stir from time to time just to check that the mix is not sticking – if the heat is not set too hot, it should be ok.  Check for seasoning and adjust if need be.  The amount of salt you need will depend on how salty the bacon is.
  6. Mix the eggs, crème fraîche, nutmeg and thyme, salt and pepper in a bowl – I use a metal whisk for this.
  7. Once the pastry has been blind baked, remove the beans spread the leek mix gently and evenly over the pastry base. Sprinkle over the cheese, also evenly.   Hold back about a little of the cheese to sprinkle over the top of the quiche.  Pour over the egg mix carefully – you don’t want to splash it in as it will disperse your leeks and cheese making some areas a little sparse on the tasty filling.
  8. Lay the sliced tomatoes carefully over the top and sprinkle the remainder of the cheese.
  9. Cover the quiche with tin foil and put it back in the oven to back for about 45 minutes or until it is almost set.
  10. Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes to brown the top and completely set the filling.

Tips and Variations

  • If you want to avoid the pastry shrinking, once you have lined the tin, place it in the fridge for about half an hour. As I go for a rustic look with this quiche I don’t bother with this step.
  • You can use this method with almost any sort of vegetables. Some need a bit of cooking, others for example spinach (works really well with goats’ cheese) you can just add raw.  It’s a great way to use up leftover vegetables.
  • When cooking or sweating down the leeks, try not to get too much colour on them, ie. don’t turn them brown. It doesn’t matter that much if you do, but it is nice to keep the pale green colour.