Friday, 28 September 2012

Daring Bakers' September 2012 Challenge: Empanada Gallega

As I type, this post is already one day late (DB challenges are supposed to go up on the 27th), and since it's 23:30, there's a fairly high chance it will actually technically be 2 days late. And that's before you start trying to fathom out time differences. But I'm telling myself better late than never!

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers' hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family's favourite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

I was lucky enough to enlist the help of my brother and his Spanish wife for this challenge. They came round and were soon kneading dough and chopping onions, then waiting patiently for it to cook so we could try it out. I think it passed the test!

You can find full details of the challenge, the dough recipes and some filling ideas here. I made the first dough, and used about 1/3 plain flour and 2/3 seeded white bread flour.

We made two fillings, and separated them by sticking both sides of the dough together to make a barrier. One was a more traditional tuna, tomato and egg version, and the other was a 'randomly using up what's in the fridge' bacon, caramelised onion and red chard version. Both were delicious!

Mr P the perfectionist even peeled the cherry tomatoes - I'd have chucked them in whole!
Basking in the halogen glow...
Kneading so fast everything was a blur
Bacon filling 
Tune filling 
Lining the tray with the bottom layer of dough 
Two sets of hands = two fillings going in at once!
Ready for the top layer
About to be baked
Ready at last!
Bacon and chard in front, tuna in behind.
They were both delicious - thanks for a very tasty challenge!
(And the time on the clock... 23:41!)

Monday, 24 September 2012

Tea Time Random Recipes: Not cherry oatmeal cookies

This month's Random Recipes challenge hosted by Belleau Kitchen has teamed up with Tea Time Treats hosted by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked to create a hybrid Tea Time Random Recipe challenge.

We were allowed to randomly select any recipe that seemed 'tea-timey' to us, be it sweet or savoury. I decided to go down the sweet afternoon tea route, after ending up with '500 cookies' by Philippa Vanstone from my bookcase as my randomly chosen book.

I then randomly picked a recipe, which turned out to be 'Cherry & Oatmeal Cookies' from page 201 in the Wholesome Cookies section. Since I didn't have dried cherries in the cupboard I immediately headed off piste, and what with having to adapt it to being dairy free, I'm pretty sure what I ended up with was a fairly long way away from what the original recipe would have created. But please forgive them (and me) because at least they turned out pretty!

And so to the question of what I substituted in place of the dried cherries. I'll give you 3 guesses... Raisins? No. Chocolate chips? Nope. Nuts of some sort? No, no, no. What's that you say - one more chance - OK! Candied melon? Yes!!! You're spot on.

Best not to ask really how I somehow manage to have candied melon in my baking cupboard - hint, it's got a lot to do with working far too close to one of the Edinburgh Real Food shops, and repeatedly finding myself there during lunch break wanders...

Anyway, these actually tasted really lovely. I gave the chocolate drizzled, butterfly adorned ones to a friend for their birthday, and kept some naked ones for eating at home. I think I may be a candied melon convert! On the subject of naked, Mini-M cracked us up yesterday by rolling her trouser legs up then running round exclaiming "My having naked knees!".

I digress - back to the recipe...

Candied Melon Oatmeal Cookies (makes 18-24)

  • 45g soya margarine
  • 50g demerera sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 small pot soya yogurt (I used strawberry)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g plain flour
  • pinch bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 100g candied melon chunks

Preheat the oven to 160C and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
In a large bowl, beat together the soya margarine and demerera sugar.
Once soft and well combined, beat in the egg, vanilla and soya yogurt.
Stir in the flour, oatmeal, bicarb, salt and lastly melon chunks.
Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets (they don't spread too much so you can put them fairly close).
Bake for 15 mins then remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes on the sheets before removing to a cooling tray.

This recipe is seriously versatile - use any flavour of yoghurt you like (or plain). Chuck in 100g of pretty much anything in place of the melon chunks. Decorate however you like. It's an oatmeal cookie - it will still taste good (or that's my hypothesis anyway!).

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Welcome to Martha Town

2 hrs, 1 piece of IKEA kitchen unit, bought for £1 from the bargain corner, and 4 sharpies.
Welcome to Martha Town!

Hopefully it will soon be inhabited by Playmobil residents, and no doubt some very dangerous toy car drivers...

Tonight was a fairly rubbish night on TV, so I scribbled whilst watching (I kid you not) a documentary about funeral directors, because that seemed like one of the better options!

 Hmmm I spy a bottom left hand corner lens smudge!
It's a well equipped little place...

3 houses and a cat
A semi-detached hospital and bank (perhaps to make it easy to get cash for the extortionate car parking)
Nursery with waving windows and a robin on the roof
A zebra crossing that seems popular with duck and snail families

And a perspective boggling play park
I want to go and live there!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Quick & Dirty Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Cake

Last week, Dom at Belleau Kitchen posted sophisticated and delicious looking Pumpkin Cake with Chestnut Cream and Almond Meringue Topping.

I had a tin of pumpkin puree in the cupboard, courtesy of my fantastic 30th birthday present from Mr E, (which will be the subject of another yet-to-be-written blog post), and as usual cake wasn't far from my mind, but without quite the time required to create a nutty, pumkinny, merninguey masterpiece. (Yes, yes, I know that they're not really adjectives... but I'm using them anyway!).

So at the opposite end of the sophistication spectrum, here is my pumpkin cake offering... baking purists look away now!

Quick and Dirty Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Cake (serves 10)

  • 1 box of marble cake mix - making it both quick and dirty!
  • 1 400g tin of solid pack pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
Ignore the instructions on the cake box.
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan).
Grease and base line a 9" round cake tin.
Instead of adding the oil, water and eggs as specified on the cake box, add 1 egg, the pumpkin puree and cinnamon and beat until well combined.
Put most of the mix into the tin, keeping back about 1/2 a cup of the mixture, then adding the chocolate flavouring and a tbsp of water.
If you can't find a marble cake mix, use plain vanilla, and add 2 tbsp cocoa powder and 1 tbsp water to the remaining mix.
Dollop the chocolate mixture on top and swirl around a bit, then level.
Bake for around 30 mins until cooked.
Cool in the tin for 5 mins then turn out onto a wire rack.

I used a box of Betty Crocker Marble Cake mix, which happens to be dairy free. I topped it with some chocolate icing, made with dairy free margarine, icing sugar and melted dark chocolate.

The pumpkin makes the cake really moist - I was surprised how nice this was, since it is primarily packet cake - it doesn't taste weird and chemical. If you want a chocolate pumpkin fix in a hurry, the I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Daring Cooks' September 2012 Challenge: Paella

The conversation in our house on Thursday evening went like this...
Me "What day is it today?"
Mr E "Thursday"
Me "Okay, but what date?"
Mr E "?......"
Me "It's OK, I'll look it up on the computer - phew the 13th. That means I'm not late for posting my Daring Cooks' paella"
Cue an evening of NOT writing the post, because it's OK, I could do it the next night.
Yet somehow, it's now the 16th, and I'm posting my paella more than a little bit late!

Our Daring Cooks' September 2021 hostess was Inma of la Galletika. Inma brought us a taste of Spain and challenged us to make our very own delicious Paella!

Picturesque (?!) Paella
She has provided some fantastic recipes and instructions on her website, so I'm not going to repeat it here, in my own less eloquent fashion!

I'm really not a big fan of seafood, so I followed the veggie paella recipe, using up the goodies from our weekly veg box from East Coast Organics - carrot, courgette and cauliflower.

It took all my willpower not to keep stirring it, but on the exhortation of the recipe, which was reinforced by the shop assistant in the ever-bountiful Real Foods shop where I bought my rice and saffron, I exercised restraint and willpower and avoided the potential pitfall of making paella flavoured risotto, which would be a very easy trap to fall into.

Greek red saffron and paella rice from Real Foods
Add the rice... stop stirring... leave the room if necessary!
This was lovely - we all enjoyed it, including Mini-M. I particularly loved the fact that the rice was cooked, but the veg weren't overdone. I'd never cooked with saffron before, but had a little culinary splurge, and not have a packet of Greek red saffron for future experimentation. It added a lovely flavour.

Fussy toddler approved!
The real proof of the pudding - or in this case paella - would have been to get the verdict of my Spanish sister-in-law, but she was away on holiday, and I have to say I breathed a tiny sigh of relief - I'm not sure it would have quite been up to authentic Spanish standard!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Identity Crisis Bread

Today I baked, and I'm feeling rather proud of the result, which is why it's jumping the posting queue and making its appearance tonight, rather than languishing indeterminably in my 'unblogged food' folder as happens more often than not!

As I type I can hear a variety of hissing sounds from the kitchen, and I'm trying not to envisage our kitchen blowing up, since Mr E is trying out the new pressure cooker. Hopefully I'll at least get to the end of the post!

So back to the baking... this is indeed identity crisis bread. It's wholemeal bread that really really wants to be cake. And before anyone gets excited, it is most definitely not healthy. Nothing with icing on it is in my book! However... if you eat it instead of cake, it is arguably marginally better. If you eat it instead of bread it most definitely isn't!

Whilst it may be catchy moniker, Identity Crisis Bread is fairly unhelpful in the description stakes, so let's call it Wholemeal Almond Blueberry Pull Apart Bread. It's wholemeal bread, layered with cinnamon, sugar almond and blueberries, baked and drizzled with almond icing.

Icing puddles!
Before we get to the recipe bit, I should credit my inspiration - Peach Cinnamon & Brown Butter Pull-Apart Bread by The Craving Chronicles. And also provide a pressure cooker update - apparently the soup is now made and I can imagining worst case scenarios - Mr E, the pressure cooker and the kitchen are all unscathed - phew!

Un-iced layers indicating pull-apartness
Wholemeal Almond Blueberry Pull Apart Bread (Makes 1 loaf)
For the Dough

  • 2 and 3/4 cups wholemeal multi seed strong bread flour
  • around 1/4 cup plain white flour
  • 1/4 cup demerara sugar
  • 2 and 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
  • 4 tbsp soya margarine
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs

For the Filling

  • 150g blueberries
  • 1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp soya margarine

For the Icing

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp almond milk
  • Few drops almond extract

Higgeldy piggeldy sugar crusted loveliness
Firstly, get the dough started - mix together the flour, sugar and yeast.
Melt the margarine and almond milk together in the microwave until just melted, then add the water, eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until well combined.
The rough will be quite sticky at this point.
Add 1tbsp of the plain flour and mix again.
Repeat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Tip out onto a floured work surface and knead for a couple of minutes, then form into a ball and put into an oiled bowl.
Cover, and leave somewhere warm for about an hour, until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
Once risen, knock back, cover and leave for another 5 mins whilst preparing the filling.
Melt the soya margarine.
In a separate bowl, mix together the dark muscovado sugar, almonds and cinnamon - don't worry about sieving the sugar - the lumps will melt when baking - just mash it up a bit with a fork!
Grease a 9" loaf tin.
Flour the worktop again and roll the dough out into a large rectangle, approx 12*24".
Brush with the melted margarine then sprinkle all over with the sugar and almond mixture.
Taking a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough into 6 equal strips.
Scatter 1/5 of the blueberries over one strip.
Carefully pick up another strip and place it on top (don't turn it over - the sugar side should be up)
Scatter another 1/5 of the blueberries on the new top strip and repeat until you've used all the strips and all the blueberries.
Cut into squares/rectangles approx the width of your tin, and stuff them in vertically.
Cover with a clean tea towel and leave somewhere warm again to rise for about 40 mins.
Preheat the oven to 180C (165C fan).
Bake for about 45 mins, covering with foil after 20 mins or so, to stop it browning too much on top.
Remove from oven, cool in tin for 5 mins, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack or serving board / plate.
Beat together the icing sugar, almond milk and almond extract for the icing - it should be runny but pretty thick.
Spoon over the still-warm bread and allow to set before eating.

It is admittedly a fairly messy loaf to make!
Peepo blueberries

Warm melting icing

And of course, it's dairy free - Enjoy!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Orange Carrot Jelly

This post will be brief - hoping to squeeze it in before Mini-M's nap finished and we head out for some birthday party fun this afternoon. Quite probably there will be some emergency waking-up-therefore-snack-required grumps, and multiple explanations that it is birthday party and not a wedding we are going to. Since the Wedding of Many Cakes last weekend, there seems to be general excitement about the concept of weddings, belying a complete lack of understanding of what they are, and the fact that they can't be arranged on a whim. In fact as we were leaving the wedding last Friday night, Mini-M proclaimed "My liking wedding. Maybe having 'nother one on Sunday? Uh huh. Mmmm hmm. Yes".

Anyway, I digress.

This post isn't actually supposed to be about weddings, or birthdays, but about jelly - another of Mini-M's favourites.

I'm under no illusions that jelly is healthy. It's not. But to be honest, neither's soya yoghurt particularly (as opposed to real yoghurt which has more going for it and less weird stuff in it!). So jelly features fairly regularly in our pudding rotation. And whilst chucking carrot in it doesn't cancel out the sugar, it doesn't make it any unhealthier either - so that's what I did.

Of course, you could make this a lot healthier by making the jelly using real fruit juice and gelatine. But a) I had some orange flavour jelly in the cupboard, b) I didn't have any orange juice and c) you'd not be able to see all the carrot strands.

Orange Carrot Jelly

  • 1 block orange jelly
  • 1 large carrot
  • Water

Finely grate your carrot.
Dissolve the jelly block in a measuring jug with about 150ml boiling water.
Add the carrot to the jug, then make up to 500ml with cold water.
Stir to combine then pour into your dish of choice - or individual serving dishes.
Allow to cool then put in the fridge until set

And the proof of the pudding (which in this case is jelly...)


Saturday, 1 September 2012

It's been a little quiet on the blogging front this month...

That's because I've been up to my eyes in icing sugar. And I'm not just talking in metaphors - I'm sure my kitchen now has a fine coating after I turned the electric mixer on too high whilst making industrial quantities of butter icing.

August has been a month of evening baking, filling the freezer with layers of sponge cake, followed be a couple of days of frantic icing to finish the 'wedding cake' from some lovely friends. I'm putting 'wedding cake' in quotes, since whilst it was most definitely cake for a wedding, it wasn't a traditional wedding cake. of the three tiers of ivory flowery fruitcake variety.

Nope, it was 9 separate cakes, each one different in flavour, icing and decoration, creating a kind of cake buffet. I caught up with the bride before the wedding to talk cake, and we brainstormed ideas (whilst eating cake, naturally!). I left the cake chat with a list of decoration ideas, a list of cake flavours, and a list of dietary requirements, and fairly free reign to combine those as I wished - a scary responsibility! Hopefully it turned out as they'd hoped...

Recipes for some may follow later, but for tonight, here's some pics and brief descriptions.

6 Layer Rainbow Cake with Lemon Buttercream (Gluten Free)
Chocolate and Rose Vertical Stripe cake with Strawberry Buttercream (Gluten Free)
Spiced Chocolate Beetroot Cake with Fondant Icing (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)
Vanilla Sponge with Chocolate Icing (Vegan, Gluten Free)
Banana and Strawberry Cake with Lemon Icing (Vegan)
Baked New York Cheesecake with Chocolate and Marshmallows
Banana Rum and Pecan Fruitcake with Marzipan and Fondant Icing (Gluten Free, Dairy Free) 
Chocolate and Coconut Cake with Fondant Icing (Gluten Free)
Lemon Almond Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream (Gluten Free)
So after mixing my way through about 5kg icing sugar, I'm going to take a little break from making buttercream for a while. Any cakes I make will be of the not-requiring-icing variety!!!!


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