All 6 entries tagged Lemon
May 16, 2012
What’s my favourite chocolate cookie recipe so far? The recipe that came from a calendar of chocolate recipes and my then-housemate Claire baked, back in the day when I wasn’t very good at trying out new recipes. And, wow. Didn’t they smell gorgeous and taste incredible… with that wonderful chewiness that cookies should have, and a bit toffee-ish flavour (that’s the brown sugar talking)!! Lekker, lekker, lekker!
Without wanting to sound too much like a cookie monster, I decided to have a go baking them because I wanted to eat MORE! It turned out to be a really simple recipe (hurrah); a bit too simplified perhaps? I made quite a few basic mistakes when making these.
For instance, I discovered that cookies splay out in the oven, so if you don’t space them out enough, they can all meld into one big rectangular cookie, which you have to cut apart.
Next, I found out that if you don’t use baking paper, it’s hard to get the baked cookies off the baking sheet.
Then, there’s minutes in baking them so that they’re soft and chewy and them being rock hard. Err on the side of chewy caution, my friend and use a timer!
Finally, this is less of a mistake but a definite learning point. It was an eye-opener for me to realise how much sugar goes into making cookies. I kind of thought of them as a ‘healthy’ snack before then, but 500g of sugar doesn’t quite fit that category. Hmmm…. So, let’s say that you wanted to cut down the sugar a bit, then I’d try reducing the amount of white sugar you put in. I’ve not tried this yet, but I’d experiment with between using half or two thirds of white sugar. I’m not entirely certain how that will affect the chemistry and flavour. However, I would definitely not scrimp on the brown sugar because it’s the brown sugar that produces that more-ish nuttiness to the cookie’s flavour. That first time, I even asked Claire whether she’d put toffee in the cookies.
So, I’ve amended the method section so that you can build on my experience. Also, at the bottom of this post, I’ve listed some of different combinations that I’ve created by adapting this recipe.
This makes about 55 regular sized cookies (by regular, I mean 10-15 cm). Claire advised me later that she often halves the recipe so that there’s not an eruption of cookies. You can freeze them, if you have space in your freezer. I have rolled my spare cookie dough into ball shapes and frozen them in a ziploc bag. Later, all I’ll need to do is put the cookie dough balls out on some baking paper and sheet to defrost for an hour at room temperature, then pop them in the oven. A wonderful, ‘instant’ treat to have up your sleeve!Ingredients
- 250g soft dark brown sugar
- 250g white sugar
- 280g butter, softened
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 300g chocolate, roughly chopped into chunks (you can use dark, milk, white and in any combination)
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 500g plain flour
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Prepare 2 baking sheets/trays with baking paper or greaseproof paper.
1. Mix butter with sugar until creamy and fluffy, with an electric mixer. If you don’t have one, then use a wooden spoon and beat hard!
2. Add the eggs, chocolate chips and vanilla essence and mix well. Add the bicarbonate of soda and salt to the flour and add to the other ingredients. Sitr to form a thick cookie dough.
3. Take ping-pong ball size amounts of the mixture, roll it into a ball and place spaced apart on the baking sheet/tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes in the oven. The cookies should be slightly golden brown. Let them rest for a few minutes and then gently place on a rack to cool.
I’ve adapted the recipe a few times and substituted the 300g chocolate for:
- 100g dried cranberries, 100g roughly chopped macadamia nuts & 100g roughly chopped white chocolate chunks
- zest of 2 lemons & 300g dark chocolate chunks
- 100g roughly chopped brazil nuts & 200g dark or milk chocolate chunks
Kids love the lemon and dark chocolate one – or at least the kids I’ve baked with when babysitting them.
May 04, 2012
I am ready for the summer to begin... or at least the spring! What's with the hail and icy winds in Coventry... in May?!? Waaah! Where's the sun?
So here I've baked a little something to try and remind myself of the summer: figgy, lemon shortbread.
Figs and lemons remind me of the mediterranean and the sun. I ate an abundance of both when I was in Turkey. It must have been the right season or something. And last summer, my friends and I picked sun-ripened figs on the sea-side town of Baynuls-sur-Mer, and snacked on the delicious fruits the entire week that we were there. To be honest, I think that Jenny tired of them towards the end, but Sarah and I couldn't get enough of them. Unless you grow the figs yourself, I've yet to buy fresh figs in the UK that taste remotely like the sun-ripened variety.
There's a couple of lemon and fig cookie recipes out there, but I've yet to come across any recipes that combine the two together in a shortbread. When I was thinking up with this recipe, I toyed with the idea of adding another flavour to it, like cardoman or black pepper. I didn't add any this time round, but I rather like the idea of experimenting with some finely-chopped fresh rosemary or dried lavender. Having baked and tested them out on my students and colleagues, I think that the two flavours work rather well together in a shortbread. The flavours aren't overpowering and the end result is a bit more of a delicate, crumble/melt-in-your-mouth experience. It's really interesting asking my colleagues for their feedback on what flavour hits them first, the lemon or the fig. The consensus is that it's a rather subjective experience.
So, let's get on with this recipe. It's a really easy one to make. Two things to prep the night before. 1. Take out the butter so that it's soft. 2. Put the figs in a bowl and cover with some water so that they're plumped up. I adapted Fiona's shortbread recipe, to come up with my own figgy, lemon shortbread. This time I substituted some of the cornflour for semolina. I was improvising, to be honest, because I ran out of cornflour in the middle of measuring out the ingredients. But why semolina? A friend of mine had mentioned the use of semolina in a shortbread before, so it wasn't an entirely new idea. I thought that it would add a bit of bite and crunch to the shortbread and I think, I think, I think that it does. Give it a go and tell me what you think.
Top tip: When it comes to making shortbread, use real butter and always take it out the fridge the night before to soften. If you try and cheat to soften the butter by zapping it in the microwave and causing it to melt, you'll affect the baking process. The end result is a biscuit that splays out all over the place when it's baking in the oven giving it a harder, brittle texture.
Ingredients for my Figgy, Lemon Shortbread. I used 5cm cutters and produced about 55 pieces of shortbread.
- 250g salted butter, softened and cubed
- 100g golden caster sugar
- zest of one lemon
- 100-115g chopped dried figs
- 250g plain flour
- 75g cornflour
- 50g fine semolina (if you don't have semolina then use cornflour, so in total you're using 125g cornflour)
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F/ gas mark 3. Line a few metal baking sheet with baking paper. Put the dried figs in a bowl and cover them with boiling water for at least 15 minutes to plump them up. I left them overnight and then chopped them up really finely with my pampered chef food chopper. I think that you could experiment with how finely (or not) you'd like your figs to be.
2. In a big bowl, cream together the sugar and the butter, then add the lemon zest. Finally add in the chopped, dried figs. I use an electric mixer, but if you don't have one, then beat it together with a wooden spoon.
3. Measure out the flour, cornflour and semolina in another bowl. Then sift the dry ingredients into the sugar and butter in 4 batches. I add it in batches to make sure that the flour doesn't fly out the bowl. Combine well until it's a sticky mixture.
4. At this point, it's best to flour your hands before gently kneading the mixture until it is combined into a smooth texture. I forgot this bit and ended up with sticky fingers. It's important not to overwork the mixture because it will make it a tougher, less crumbly biscuit. Once it has reached that just smooth texture, then wrap it up in a piece of clingfilm and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will make it easier to roll out later.
5. Roll out the shortbread mixture on a floured worktop so that it's about 0.5-1cm thick. I like to use a glass chopping board and have a large piece of clingfilm between my rolling pin and the mixture. I think that it makes it an altogether cleaner operation. No bits of dough sticking to the rolling pin, and less flour flying everywhere.
6. I then used 5cm round and daisy-shaped cutters to create my cookies. Maximise the space on the dough. Roll up what's left and start again. I may be wrong, but I found that the biscuit is a bit tougher when I roll out the dough a second and third time. I don't know whether it's because I've baked them in the oven for a bit longer accidentally or what... so I'll keep comparing.
One of my colleagues asked me to bake a larger piece of shortbread next time... like you get on the pettitcoat tails. I'll try another time and let you know how that turns out.
7. Place them on sheets of greaseproof or baking paper and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, turning them round half-way through baking. They will be a light golden colour when they're done, like the colour of golden caster sugar, rather than a darker brown, like the colour of demerara sugar. Take them out the oven and immediately sprinke some granulated or demerara sugar on them. Leave them to cool for a few minutes on the tray before transferring the shortbread onto a wire rack to cool completely. Put them in an airtight container and they'll probably last
3-4 days. Monica assures me that they'll keep for a month.
These ones that I baked have pretty much all gone within 24 hours. I took some freshly baked shortbread to my students to test it out on their discerning tastebuds. I don't know whether they were just being nice, but here are their thoughts on the recipe:
"It's like shortbread." (10/10!)
"I wouldn't change a thing."
"They just melt in your mouth."
"Maybe a bit more lemon and fig, but I like my biscuits to be really fruity." - if you think that this would be you, then add a bit more lemon zest and try chopping the figs into bigger chunks to see whether that helps.
I await to hear your verdict.
October 11, 2011
Saturday, Week 1:
I've indulged myself with a lie-in this morning and at midday, I'm lounging in my pj's with my dressing gown wrapped around me for warmth on this rather chilly October day. I have a to-do list as long as my arm, and I should have been out and about at least an hour ago... However, yesterday my legs were shaking as I got out of bed. The fresh intake of students, the start of the academic year, all that energy and effort, lack of sleep, adrenalin are taking their toll on me. Somewhat sheepishly, I also admit that some of it is my own fault for staying up and baking a cake.
I confess that I am a baking addict. When I have been putting off baking for some time, there comes a point when I just have to bake something. The urge starts in my stomach and emanates out to the rest of my limbs. My fingers drum nervously on the desk, my legs crisscross, and I keep fidgeting in my seat. I am physically twitching to just get on and bake something. I don't get this about cooking food. This is purely related to baking, baking, baking. And so this is how I realised that I am a baking addict.
Earlier this week, 4 sad, brown bananas on top of my fridge kept asking me to bake them in Dorie Greenspan's Banana Bundt Cake. (I've been wanting to bake this cake since I saw it here as a Secret Agent Cakein Ari's blog six months ago.)
"No brown bananas," I said, "I don't have time to do anything about you now."
"But you must, you must." They sang back, "In a day, we will be too far gone for even a cake to rescue us."
So, I made a date with them for Wednesday evening. Which is how, after walking around my block and talking about freshers stuff with students, at 11pm on Wednesday evening, I eventually started baking Dorie Greenspan's Banana Bundt Cake (from Baking: From My Home to Yours).
By the way, I noticed that every blog post about this cake only uses cup measures, which rather irritates me as a UK baker, used to measuring things out in grams or ounzes. So, I've measured it out in grammes in this version of the recipe. Instead of plain flour, I substituted self-raising flour for all-purpose flour. I know that all-purpose flour is the US equivalent of plain flour. However, I read on some forum that the results are better with self-raising when baking cakes.
- 4 very ripe bananas, mashed up in a bowl
- 225g butter, cubed and softened
- 300g golden caster sugar (I decided on golden caster sugar for a richer flavour, but 3/4 of the specified amount.)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 450g self-raising flour, sifted
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 225ml sour cream or yoghurt (in the absence of sour cream, but wanting the richness, I had some leftover double cream which I mixed with yoghurt)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and generously grease a 12 cup/23-25cm bundt tin. I used a pampered chef oil spray to coat it liberally with oil.
2. Mash up the bananas in a bowl and put them to one side. In another bowl, sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter for about 5 minutes, until the colour is pale and it looks fluffy. Then add the sugar and cream again for a few minutes. I used my Sainsbury Basic electric mixer but I had total KitchenAid Mixer envy because it would have come into its element with this cake. Indeed, Dorie recommends using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
4. Add in the vanilla extract. One by one, add in the eggs and give it a good whizz with the mixer after each egg. Add in the bananas. Give it another whizz with the mixer.
5. Next, add in half of the dry ingredients (flour, salt and bicarb of soda) and mix well. Then pour in the sour cream or yoghurt and mix it in. Finally, beat in the remainder of the dry ingredients and finish it off with a good whizz with the mixer to make sure that everything is beaten in.
6. Pour the cake batter into the bundt tin and spread it out evenly on top. Firmly bang it on a work surface to release any trapped air bubbles.
7. Bake in the oven for 65-75 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean. However, check on it around the 35 minute mark and cover with foil if it looks like it is browning too quickly on top, so that the bottom doesn't burn.
8. Let it cool in the bundt tin for 10 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a wirerack to reveal a beautifully turned out bundt cake and allow it to cool completely.
I made the suggested lemon drizzle icingwhich perfectly complements the cake and is simple to make.
- 150g icing sugar, sifted
- lemon juice. Start with 2 teaspoons. I ended up using juice of half a lemon.
1. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add in the lemon juice, starting with 2 teaspoons. Mix. Keep adding the lemon juice, one teaspoon at a time, until the icing reaches the consistency you desire for a drizzle.
2. Drizzle the icing over the cake. Ta Da.
my sliver of bundt cake for breakfast
The verdict? Oh, I need to be careful to make sure that I hold myself back and don't come across as OTT at this point because this cake tastes even better than the reviews promised it would be.
Can a cake be described as soft and velvety? Because that's how I would describe the texture of this cake. Each mouthful is an utter joy and delight to eat. The flavour is rich and deep. The lemon drizzle lends a subtle sharpness to the richness of the cake. My colleagues had some the next day and they loved it.
Top Tip: I'll let you into a secret. This is one of those cakes that gets even better if you leave it a day (at least!) if you can resist it. I dare you. Sure, the icing will become more opaque over time, but you can store it in an airtight container for at least a week. The flavours mature and become even softer. MMmmmmmm.....
March 01, 2011
I have a newest favourite ingredient. Buttermilk. Who would have imagined that buttermilk would hold that honoured position? Not only is it my current fad, but learning how to make my own buttermilk has felt liberating. I no longer feel like there's a barrier stopping me from baking a recipe because buttermilk is 'another ingredient that I don't have' or 'where can I buy that from?' when I come across it in a list of ingredients. Since discovering how to make my own cultured buttermilk, my oven has been turning out soda bread, raspberry and buttermilk cake and vast quantities of Allinson's Banana Cake.
I first came across it when baking scones for an international tea party for 300 students. A friend of mine recommended Delia's buttermilk scone recipe to me and every single batch turned out great. They rose perfectly and were springy in the middle. Then, I made the banana cake that was on the back of the self-raising flour packet with the leftover buttermilk. Wow - that turned out to be a winner too.
Buttermilk is the liquid that is leftover from the butter making process. Cultured buttermilk that is commonly sold in supermarkets today is curdled, sour milk. I know... I'm really selling it to you, aren't I? Appetising, it does not sound. However, it is a lovely ingredient when you use it in baking because you're pretty much guaranteed lightness and a good rise. When I researched the chemistry, I was told that the acid in the buttermilk reacts with the sodium bicarbonate to release carbon dioxide. Those large bubbles help the mixture to rise quickly. Oh, and means you can bake soda bread within an hour from start to finish.
There are two ways that you can make it:
1. Shake double cream really, really hard for a long time and not only will you have butter (and a new muscle-toning exercise) but you'll have buttermilk from the leftover liquid, or
2. Add 1 tbsp/15ml of white or cider vinegar or lemon juice to 225ml/8fl oz of milk (preferably whole, or at least semi-skimmed) and wait about 10-15 minutes for it to curdle. This is the much easier way. Essentially, buttermilk is curdled, sour milk. I prefer to use lemon juice because the smell is that wee bit more safer when baking a sweet cake, but it doesn't matter really.
I experimented, as you'd expect me to, with whether the fat content of the milk makes a difference. I think it does. Full-fat milk will curdle better. My results with skimmed milk were disappointingly watery. Those of you who are lactose intolerant or vegan will be pleased to read that you can make it with unsweetened soya milk too. It just needs a bit more vinegar/lemon juice.
I'm still chuckling to myself, as I write this, because it is a random ingredient to get excited about. Oh, I should also add that Miss Buttermilk comes as a pair with Mr. Bicarbonate of Soda.
July 26, 2010
So, when you hold
of a cut lemon
above your plate,
a universe of gold,
a yellow goblet
I love lemons. My friends will testify to my love affair with lemons. 'A yellow goblet of miracles' beautifully describes my imaginations of what I could create with them. I particularly love that zing that lemons add when I use it in baking.
My timing of trying out this recipe was a bit silly really. It was three days before the removal men were coming. My two tubs of soft cheese in my fridge were almost at their expiry date, the sun was out and I needed an excuse to do something other than pack boxes! This lemon and ginger cheesecake seemed like the perfect summer dessert.
I've since made two versions of this cheesecake. Version One lacked the lemony zing. It may appeal to the finer palette; I love robust flavours. So, I cheated the second time and added lemon curd to the mixture, which brought out the lemon and complemented the ginger perfectly.
Lemon and Ginger Cheesecake adapted from the Good Food Channel
Ingredients and Method
Ideally use a 25cm springform cake tin and double wrap the outside of it with foil. This is to protect the cheesecake when baking it in a water-bath. I didn't have a big enough cake tin at the time of baking the cheesecakes. Instead, I made a 20cm and 10 mini cheesecakes. Very cute!
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4/350F
...For the biscuit base
225g digestive biscuits (or if you really like ginger, then substitute it all or partly with ginger biscuits)
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp caster sugar
75g unsalted butter, melted
- Pulse the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs, or bash them up in a bag with a rolling pin. Whichever method suits your mood.
- Add the ground ginger, caster sugar and the melted butter and mix it all up. I've already reduced the amount of butter from the recipe so that there is enough butter for the biscuit base to stick together.
- Transfer the biscuit mixture to the cake tin and press it down firmly. If you would also like to make mini ones too, then use a tablespoon of biscuit mixture per cupcake case. I discovered that my mini-tart shaper is perfect for pressing down the biscuit base.
...For the filling
570g cream cheese
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
4 large eggs, beaten
grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons
380ml sour cream
2 tbsp lemon curd, beaten so that it's a little bit runny, optional but highly recommendable
- Beat the cream cheese and the caster sugar together until smooth in a big bowl.
- Mix in the cornflour.
- Slowly mix the eggs into the mixture, one at a time, so that they are thoroughly mixed in. Don't worry that the mixture always looks a wee bit peculiar at this stage.
- Pour in the sour cream and add the lemon zest. Gently mix them into the mixture.
- Lemony zing lovers could also add the lemon curd into the mixture at this stage. I put blobs of it on top of the mixture once I had poured the filling into the cake tin. Then I worried that the lemon curd would burn in the oven if it was left on top, so I took a metal chopstick and mixed the lemon curd into the mixture. I've since thought about putting 3/4 filling in, putting in a layer of lemon curd, then topping it with cheesecake filling. Essentially you can do whatever you like with it, and I'd really love to hear what worked for you.
- For the mini cheesecake fans - I used 2 teaspoons of the filling for each case.
- Pop it into the oven for about 45 minutes. I think that I baked the mini cheesecakes for 20 minutes. Bake until the middle of the cheesecake is just set. I test it by gently resting my finger on it and the cheesecake is ready when there is no (or barely any) mixture sticking to it.
Top Tip! Cheescakes are best when baked in a moist oven. To achieve this, you can bake the cheesecake in a water-bath by placing the cake tin in a roasting tin and filling the roasting tin with enough hot water so that it reaches about half way up the cake tin. Alternatively you can place a small oven-proof bowl full of hot water on the bottom level of the oven. I've used both methods and haven't noticed any difference to the texture of the cheesecakes. But perhaps a more experienced cheesecake baker could enlighten me?
...Meanwhile, start the topping
250ml sour cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
80g stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon mixed with 1/2 tbsp of sugar
- Mix the sour cream and the caster sugar together.
- Take the cheesecake out of the oven when it's ready and pour the topping on, arrange the stem ginger on top. The mini cheesecakes appreciate a thin layer of sour cream topping.
- Pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes, so that the sour cream topping can set.
- When it comes out, immediately run a knife round the edge of the cheesecake. This will help stop the cheesecake from cracking. Also, helpful for when taking the cheesecake out of the tin when serving it up.
- Let the cheesecake cool down for about an hour before popping it into the fridge overnight.
- Sprinkle the sugary lemon zest on top before serving.
Verdict - The combination of lemony zingyness with gingery warmth produces lots of 'Mmmmms'. It does take some effort but it is a really simple summery dessert to make that is a crowd-pleaser. I'm pleased to say that my friend's children ate some and then asked for seconds. Winner! The cheesecake is best eaten a day or two after it is made so that it stays soft. But I always seem to make too much cheesecake in one go, so I'd appreciate any tips on freezing it.
October 11, 2009
This was the first, and only, cake that I baked to be entered into a baking competition. One of the subwardens at Leicester was raising money for a good cause related to cancer research and ran a cake bake sale. I was really excited about contributing a cake towards it and got to enter the competition too.
I think that this was the moment when I started to realise that I could bake cakes that tasted yummy enough to win prizes. Being a tad competitive, I set my eyes on 2nd place – a bottle of wine. (First prize was some sort of subwarden duty cover, I think, and didn’t interest me. Now, I’d consider that prize slightly differently. How things have changed!) I wanted to try out a new recipe from Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes because it is such a good recipe book. I haven’t yet found a dud recipe in there yet. The Lemon Drizzle Cake with it’s sunken dark chocolate chunks sounded so moody yet light that it stood out to me (and won me 2nd prize – hurrah!)
So, when I was making it again tonight, I was reminded about how easy this cake is to make. You pretty much whisk all the ingredients together, add chocolate, add it into the oven et voila.
So, Lemon Drizzle Cake with sunken dark chocolate chunks, adapted by yours truly from the amazing Green and Black’s ‘Chocolate Recipes book.
125g/4.5oz unsalted butter
60g/2.5oz caster sugar
2 large eggs (except this time I used one egg and the vinegar + bicarb of soda trick)
150g/5oz self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
grated rind of 1 large lemon
3 tbsp milk
75g/3oz dark chocolate, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line the loaf tin with baking paper.
2. Whisk the butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and lemon rind together for about 2 minutes with an electric whisk, longer if you’re doing it by hand.
3. It says in the recipe book to ‘Whisk in the milk to make a soft dropping consistency’. When do you know it is a soft dropping consistency? I pretty much guess each time and kept adding a bit more milk in. The original recipe says 1 tbsp of milk by the way. However, I’m sure that I ended up adding in 3 to achieve that ‘soft dropping consistency’.
4. Stir in the chocolate.
5. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. I always use my pampered chef spatula now for this part. It gets all the cake mix out of the bowl so that I can eat that wee bit more cake. Smooth the surface and bake for 40 minutes or until the centre of the cake springs back when gently pressed. Remove from the oven.
I love Lemon Drizzle it does make the cake. Mmmm…
Mix 50g/2oz golden granulated sugar and the
Juice of 1 lemon
Then pour the lemon drizzle over the cake when it is just out of the oven. I find it useful to use a teaspoon towards the end to ensure that the sugary syrup spreads evenly on the cake and into the little holes. Remove the cake from its tin and place it on a wire rack to cool. Ta da!