Whenever I eat a bare banana cake, I can’t help thinking it could do with some icing.
As we had loads of bananas, slowly turning black, in the fruit bowl, it was time to inflict another banana cake on my work colleagues. Rather than leaving bare, I decided to top it with some sort of salted caramel icing; I couldn’r decide on buttercream or a plain glaze.
The other issue, was deciding on whose banana cake to make, in the end I decided to go for Signe Johansen’sBanana spice cake, from Scandilicious Baking. This was under the incorrect assumption that I hadn’t already made this one for my work colleagues.
If I’d bothered to look at my spreadsheet of previous bakes, I’d have baked Dan Lepard’sDark banana ginger cake instead. I’d baked it the weekend before, we had friends round for fika, and thought that it could handle some icing.
I decided to go with a simple salted caramel glaze. I can’t remember which recipe I used for inspiration, but it’s pretty simple; make a caramel, add some salt, pour over cake, eat. As it turns out, banana cakes are generally bare for a reason. The topping didn’t quite work, it was nice, but jarred with the cake a bit too much.
If I was going to attempt to top a banana cake again, I think a buttercream based topping would be a better choice.
I’ve made these once before, they were lovely. Not sure why its taken me so long to make them again.
These Iced London Buns are from Justin Gellatly’s excellent book, Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding. You can tell they’re going to be tasty, before you mix the dough. Even the caraway seeds, which at first glance seem a bit odd, smell right when they’re in the bowl with everything else.
Both times I’ve made these I’ve not been too happy with the shape of the buns. They don’t turn out like the iced buns you buy from the shops, which are generally touching and have to be pulled apart. This is no bad thing, depending on your point of view.
I’m not sure what happened when they were in the oven, as they didn’t colour up very well. Even with an egg wash, they came out slightly anaemic and patchy, rather than the stated golden brown. Maybe if I’d just brushed them with egg yolk, rather than whole egg, they would have been less patchy, who knows.
While my icing skillz leave a lot to be desired, I was relatively happy with how the icing on these turned out. I can’t help thinking that the icing would’ve looked better if I’d used a letterbox type icing nozzle, rather than just chopping the end of the icing bag. I might have to invest in some bigger icing bags and some nozzles and try that next time.
If you fancy making some iced buns, then you could do a lot worse than these. I’d definitely recommend giving them a try.
I loved Millionaire’s Shortbread as a child. Mum used to make it occasionally and I’d sneak downstairs and nick slices out of the biscuit tin.
It’s a wonder that I’ve not attempted to make it before now. I think I’ve always been put off by making the caramel layer, and the fact that it’s a three step process with gaps between each step. You need to plan ahead, which is something I always seem to forget to do. As I had all the ingredients and I was off work (ill again), I decided I had the time to make it.
When the base was cool, I made the caramel, which as it turns out wasn’t that hard. Although I think it’s one of those things that you get better with experience, as it’s all about knowing when to stop the cooking. Once the caramel was cool, I melted the chocolate and slathered it on top.
I always remember Mum cutting her millionaire’s shortbread into fingers. This was so chunky and rich, that I’m not sure you’d have been able to finish a finger. With the office being half empty again, and the fact that you didn’t need that big a chunk, it didn’t get finished. My wife loves millionaire’s shortbread, as do the kids, so I luckily managed to avoid a tricky situation by brining some home.
If I was to make it again, I would make the shortbread and caramel layers slightly thiner, they were both just a bit too thick. This might require a bit more chocolate on top, which is hardly a problem.
Pommes Lyonnaise, or Lyonnaise potatoes are a French dish of sliced potatoes and onions, sautéed in butter and sprinkled with parsley.
I’d been trying to decide on what potato recipes to cook for myself, so I could buy the correct sort of potato. Having decided to cook patatas bravas, which require a waxy potato, I needed to find another recipe to use up the rest of the bag. Step forward Pommes Lyonnaise, mainly as I had the rest of the ingredients at home.
I par-boiled the potatoes for about ten minutes, then dumped them into a colander to drain. After sorting out the kids, I got on the rest of the dish, which didn’t take that long. For some inexplicable reason, I added some dark brown muscovado to the sautéed onion, evidently to help caramelise them. I should definitely have used a little caster sugar, rather than the muscovado, as that brought far too much flavour and sweetness to the end result.
While the onions were cooking, I sliced the potatoes. I threw away all the end bits, leaving only slices that had no skin on both sides. After removing the onions from the pan, I sautéed the potato slices in some more butter. This was done in two batches, as even our big skillet wasn’t big enough to fit all the slices in one go. Finally a bit of chopped parsley was sprinkled over the top, then the whole lot dumped onto a plate.
If I was to make it again, then I’d probably use a slightly bigger onion and definitely not add any muscovado. As a plate of food on its own, I’m not sure it really worked. I think it’s definitely in the side dish category and needs to be served as an accompaniment to something.
Clapshot is a traditional Scottish dish, made with mashed neeps and tatties. One of those winter comfort dishes, where it’s almost impossible to overdo the butter and pepper.
Clapshot is, technically, really easy to make, just boil some neeps¹ and tatties², mash with loads of butter and pepper, stir through some chopped chives and away you go. It’s just as easy to get it wrong though, too much turnip can overpower the potato and if the turnip is too wet, it can make the whole lot too sloppy. Like most things, it’s all about finding the balance.
I simmered the potatoes with a bay leaf, some fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and a few halved garlic cloves, similarly, I simmered the turnip in milk, with a bay leaf and some green peppercorns. This was to try and get some extra flavour into what can be two pretty bland vegetables. One thing though, just make sure you simmer the turnip for long enough, especially if you’re going to try and force it though a ricer, as it wouldn’t quite all go through mine; I should probably have used the mouli, rather than the ricer.
I think a ratio of around 3:2, potato to turnip, is probably around where you want to aim. Anymore and it can become a bit too skewed in favour of the turnip, in my opinion. Similarly, about two thirds to three quarters of a 25g bunch of chives is about right, as they can be quite potent when raw. One thing is for sure though, don’t skimp on either the butter, or the ground pepper.
Then crack open some oatcakes, but chunky ones rather than the poor excuses I used here, sit back and stuff your face.
I was watching MasterChef: The Professionals the other night, when some of the competitors were tasked with making an omelette Arnold Bennett as a skills challenge. A flat omelette, topped with poached smoked haddock, parmesan and then slathered in hollandaise sauce, what’s not to like?
As a vegetarian, the omelette Arnold Bennet has a couple of obvious drawbacks, namely the smoked haddock and parmesan. Vegetarian hard cheese is easy, but what do you replace smoked haddock with? I didn’t think that smoked tofu would really fit the bill, especially not that Cauldron stuff you get in the supermarket. It just so happened that we had some spare Jerusalem artichokes in the fridge, so I decided to replace the smoked haddock with those and make one for my dinner one evening last week.
There just happened to be some milk in the fridge too, so I slowly poached the Jerusalem artichokes in that until they were cooked. Rather than going all out with a six egg omelette and four egg yolk hollandaise, as Marcus Wareing appeared to on MasterChef when demonstrating the dish, I decided to go with half quantities. Which I’m rather glad I did, as this is one hell of a rich dish.
So once the artichokes were done, I whipped up a flat omelette, topped it with the artichokes, veggie hard cheese and then drowned the whole lot with a hollandaise sauce, before flashing it under the grill. It looked pretty good sitting in the frying pan, slightly less good when it had slopped out onto the plate though.
It was as you’d expect, utterly delicious, but bordering on the unfinishable; I could feel my arteries furring up as I ate it. I did feel the need to sit down for a bit after polishing it all off, I’ve no idea how Arnold Bennett, or anyone else for that matter, managed to get anything done if they ate one that was twice the size, for breakfast.
The only disappointment was the Jerusalem artichokes, they were pretty anonymous. I can see why a smoked fish, like haddock, would be perfect in a dish like this, just providing a layer of lightly smoked flavour to counter all the richness. If I ever make one again, I’ll have to think of some way to treat the artichokes so they don’t get lost, or maybe some smoked tofu would do the job…
After watching the final episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread, I really wanted to make his Savoury Brioche Couronne, but as it’s not vegetarian, I wanted to use a different filling. Step forward Yotam Ottolenghi and his Taleggio and Spinach Roulade from his new book Plenty More.
Making the brioche dough was pretty straight forward and it went into the colder of our two fridges to spend the night. Unlike the brioche that I’d made a couple of weeks before, I put this dough into a large enough container. Even so, it still ballooned enough to touch to the clingfilm that I’d placed over the top of the bowl.
The following morning the dough came out of the fridge a few hours before I knew that I was going to need to bake it. If I’m being honest, I could probably have got it out a little earlier, as the couronne didn’t see to rise that much once it was made. The dough was still quite soft, even though it had been in the fridge all night. The top had formed a little bit of a skin, so I might need to oil it a bit more next time, although it didn’t seem to affect the dough once it had been rolled out.
I had to use quite a bit of flour to stop the dough from sticking to the work surface and the rolling pin. It wasn’t as easy to handle as Paul made it look on the telly either, every time I tried to pick it up to turn it round I nearly put my fingers through it, as it was quite floppy. For some reason I didn’t get my measuring tape out, so I definitely rolled the dough out too large. It was supposed to be a 40cm x 50cm rectangle, but I went over on both dimensions, especially the width. This made the dough a bit on the thin side, which became a problem when it came to rolling up.
I was a bit worried about Yotam’s filling, as you have to slather some crème fraîche over the dough before adding the rest of the fillings. I was a bit worried that this would stop the dough from cooking properly, but given Paul’s recipe calls for four mozzarella balls, which are renown for outputting large amounts of liquid when melted, I figured that a little crème fraîche would be probably be fine. It was.
As I’d made the dough a little on the thin side, rolling it all up meant that the tomatoes and lumps of taleggio wanted to burst through the dough. In retrospect, I could have squished both flat with my hand, before scattering them across the dough. Eventually though, it was all rolled up and rolled out into long thin sausage. As I don’t own a Scottish Scraper, I just used one of my big Global knives to shop down the middle of the dough and split it in two.
When you see Paul twisting the two sausages of dough together on the telly, it looks relatively easy. In reality it wasn’t quite that simple, as the two sausages of dough just weren’t robust enough to be picked up and thrown about like that. You picked up and end and the dough just started to stretch, there was no way it was going to wrap itself into a nice looking twist with just a few flicks of the wrist.
Not to be deterred, I somehow managed to twist the two strands together and form the whole thing into a kind of ring shape. I did struggle trying to join the two ends, as can clearly be seen in the photos. Once it was successfully on a baking sheet, it was put into a polybag and left to rise for about an hour. I think it would have benefitted from a slightly longer prove, as it didn’t seem to have risen that much at all. After a bit of an egg wash, it was into the oven.
While it was cooking, I knocked up a couple of salads to go with it. One was just a simple rocket, olive, tomato and feta affair with a simple white wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette. The second, was a chicory, mulled pear and taleggio salad, with a honey mustard dressing.
I was a bit unsure about the chicory salad, as it’s not something we really use. As we don’t have a griddle pan we can use on our induction hob, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to char it enough to soften it. I needn’t have worried though, a stinking hot frying pan did the job and the salad was really nice. A perfect use for one of the Kilner jars of mulled pears that didn’t seal.
So what was it like? It was really nice, if maybe a touch on the doughy side, in my opinion. I’m not sure if I thought it was doughy because that’s just what’s like, or if it would have benefited from a longer final prove, or slightly longer in the oven. Never having made one before, it’s hard to know what the outcome is actually supposed to be like.
It appeared to go down well with everyone though and the leftovers I had for the lunch the following day were pretty tasty too. It’s definitely something I would do again, maybe with a slightly longer final prove though.
I had some left over double cream, and as I hadn’t made Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise for a while, decided to use it up making some.
Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise, otherwise known as gratin dauphinois (not to be confused with pommes dauphine), has to be one of the richest and most decadent ways of serving the humble spud. Sliced potato which is slathered in nutmeg and garlic flavoured double cream, before being baked until meltingly soft, what’s not to like?
As I don’t really have a dish small enough to make Pommes de Terre Dauphinoise for one, I decided to use one of the frying pans I use for making tortilla española. Even though it’s non-stick, I still buttered the inside, as that’s just what you do. Rather than also rubbing a garlic clove over the inside, which you’re supposed to do, I crushed as small one and added it to the double cream along with some freshly grated nutmeg.
Then it was into a relatively moderate oven, 150°C for 25 minutes. I then raised the temperature to 180°C, for what was supposed to be only a further ten minutes, but I didn’t think the top had taken on the correct look, so left it in for a further ten minutes.
I ate it along with a simple salad of rocket, olives, halved cherry tomatoes and crumbled feta, which was left over from the previous day. The peppery leaves and salty cheese certainly helped to cut through the richness of the cream. I’m not sure I could have eaten any more of it on my own though, it was getting a bit much by the time I got to the end. Utterly delicious though and perfect for an autumnal or wintery evening meal.
I was under the impression that a Gugelhupf was made from an enriched bread dough, with the addition of booze soaked dried mixed fruit. Some of the recipes I stumbled across though, had you separating the eggs and whisking up the whites, before folding in all the other ingredients. Sorry, but that’s a cake, not an enriched bread. One of the problems with something like a Gugelhupf, is that everyone has their own recipe and they’re all subtly different. What I was after was a reference recipe, one based on some tradition, that would give a known good result. I’m still looking.
Getting a bit frustrated with the internet, I asked my wife if she could pick me up a bread book from the local library while she was there one day. I was hoping that she’d come back with one that happened to have a Gugelhupf recipe in it, lo and behold, the only one in the local library, just happened to have one. I’ve no idea how authentic the recipe in The Bread Book by Sara Lewis is, but as I didn’t really have another one, I decided to give it ago. I was a bit disconcerted by it taking about the dough as a batter, as that’s more of a cake thing as far as I’m concerned.
I wanted to go with a mix of dried fruit, but only had some old mixed peel and sultanas. I remembered that I’d bought some barberries as Yotam uses them in his new book. I was a bit worried about them being too sharp and clashing with the other fruit, but as I didn’t have anything else, into some brandy they went. The dough, sorry batter, was pretty easy to make, bung everything into the KitchenAid and mix, then prove, knock back, shape into the bundt pan and leave to rise.
After baking, I left it too cool and the following morning, liberally doused the top with some icing. As you can see from the photo at the top of the page, I maybe should have made the icing a bit thicker, but I quite like that effect. The colour on the outside was quite strong, which I think might be down to me buttering the inside of the tin before adding the dough, it’s what the recipe said to do.
I’ve also cooked Mary Berry’s cherry cake in this bundt pan and it too had significant colour on the outside, even though it was only just cooked. Again the pan was buttered before the batter was added. Both the cherry cake and the Gugelhupf fell out of the pan when it was inverted, so I may not butter it next time, just to see what happens. The pan does has a rather heavy non-stick coating on it, so I’m assuming that buttering it as well is maybe a bit too much.
The only problem with the bundt pan, is that it’s not really a Gugelhupf pan, it’s too wide and not deep enough, so you don’t get that classic Gugelhupf shape. That’s not to say that what came out of it wasn’t tasty though, it was and the whole thing disappeared in a couple of days. The next step with this kind of enriched bread, utilising the bundt pan, is a friends Rosinenstuten (raisin bread) recipe.
My all time favorite pudding, Autumn isn’t complete without one every weekend.
I’ve loved Apple and Bramble Crumble for as long as I can remember, I used to request it as part of my birthday meal every year when I was younger. No other crumble will suffice, it’s just not right if it doesn’t contain the jewel of the Autumnal hedgerow. I can’t walk past a bramble bush without stopping to stuff my face, it’s one of lifes great pleasures. It’s always a sad day when the last packet of frozen brambles are used up, knowing that it’ll be months and months before the next chance to pluck one from it’s thorny home.
I think one of the beauties of making Apple and Bramble Crumble is how you can tinker with it, but still retain the very essence of the dish. It doesn’t really matter if you use the bog standard recipe from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, go all Raymond Blanc and cook the crumble and filling seperatley, or spice up the filling like Tony Singh, the essence of the dish remains.
So last time I made it, I decided to go a bit off piste and rather than just following the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book recipe, I decided to follow Tony’s lead and get the spices out. In with some jaggery, rather than plain white sugar, then a cinnamon stick and a star anise were added and left to infuse while I chopped the apples. Eaters of course, as you want your apples to stay chunky and solid and not turn to mush, like a cooker would. I also used a variety of apples, so each mouthful would yield a slightly different taste and texture.
I’ve found that I need my hob on nearly full whack to get any sort of colour on the apples within the few minutes the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book recipe says to cook them for. In this instance, that meant the aromas coming out of the pan were immense, jaggery certainly makes for a tasty caramelisation. I think maybe a couple more star anise next time though, or a longer infussion, so that flavour comes through a bit more.
All in all, it was a very tasty pimping of an otherwise bog standard Apple and Bramble Crumble and one that warrants a bit more experimentation. Maybe next time I’ll cook the filling and the topping separately and see how that works. Always serving it with ice cream mind, none of this double cream nonsense…