I have so much blogging to catch up on it’s ridiculous. There are cakes, breads, Band of Bakers, wedding bake offs and some glorious dinners to tell you about, but I’ll start with a belated round up of all the food & drink I documented on my Instagram in April. Follow me here if you so wish.
Recipes from this month’s Instagram recap: spiced stout sourdough hot cross buns / chocolate & Guinness sourdough hot cross buns / chocolate & Guinness sourdough cake with whiskey caramel glaze.
It’s time for another challenge from Sourdough Surprises – a group for bakers who want to experiment with making more than just bread with their sourdough starter. March’s challenge was cake – a challenge I’m always happy to take on.
Checking out the Sourdough Surprises Pinterest Board I immediately repinned this recipe for a sourdough chocolate cake from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures. I was given a bundt tin for Christmas, so this seemed as good a time as any for it’s first outing. I also did a little research on the Herman The German Friendship Cake that is doing the rounds at the moment. It’s essentially a sourdough starter maintained specifically for cake, which you’re supposed to keep splitting and passing on to friends. However the recipes didn’t seem to use the sourdough to enhance the flavour or volume as there was no resting time for it to develop, it was just added for the sake of it. It got me wondering if all those people with Herman’s living in their cupboard realise his full potential…
In the end two things heavily influenced the way I adapted the sourdough chocolate cake. #1 – I had been making a lot of stout hot cross buns, and had an open can of Guinness on the kitchen side and #2 – this recipe for Guinness brownies with a whiskey glaze cropped up in my Google Reeder (more on my heartache at the demise of Google Reader on my social media blog). I am obsessed with Guinness & chocolate cakes, I’ve made several variations in the past, one of which won me a prize at a cake competition! So it was decided, I would make a Chocolate & Guinness Bundt Cake with a Whiskey Caramel Glaze.
I refreshed my rye starter with water and white bread flour and left it for 6 hours before mixing up the cake – next time I think I’ll use Guinness at this stage as well to deepen the flavour. Then I mixed a cup of this starter with Guinness & flour and left it for 2.5 hours to ferment, you can see the before and after above. After that it was just a case of putting all the ingredients into the stand mixer to create the most bizarre consistency cake mix I have ever seen. It clearly couldn’t decide if it was dough or batter. At one point it looked a lot like blancmange, but it turns out that is no bad thing. The resulting cake was dense and moist, the Guinness isn’t so much a seperate flavour as a boost to the rich chocolate flavour.
The next day I went to make the whiskey caramel glaze, but wasn’t entirely happy with the recipe. I googled a few other caramel sauce recipes and came up with my own version. As you can see from the photos, it was still a bit runny! If you prefer your glaze thicker then keep adding icing sugar, a little at a time, until you get to a consistency you’re happy with. The glaze was to die for. I couldn’t stop eating it. I’m not ashamed to say I even spread it on toast.
Sourdough Chocolate & Guinness Cake with Whiskey Caramel Glaze
1 cup sourdough starter fed approx. 6 hours ago
1 cup Guinness
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp double cream
1/4 cup Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 tbsp Guinness
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup icing sugar (to reach my consistency – add more as required)
Mix together the fed starter with the Guinness & plain flour. Cover with clingfilm or a damp tea towel and leave to ferment at room temperature for roughly 2.5 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C fan & grease your bundt tin with butter.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachement (or by hand), combine the caster sugar, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder & espresso powder. Beat on a low speed to combine, and don’t worry about it being grainy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between.
Add the Guinness leaven to the batter and beat on low until well mixed. At this stage the batter goes through a range of textures (it’s very elastic!), just keep going until it’s nice and smooth. Scrape down the paddle & bowl a couple of times to make sure it’s all mixed in evenly.
Transfer the batter into the bundt tin and level the top. Bake for around 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, mine took 47 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Now for the glaze.
Combine the caster sugar with 2 tbsp water in a heavy saucepan over a medium heat. Stir briefly until the sugar dissolves and then leave it, any more stirring will cause sugar crystals to form and you’ll have to start again. Continue to cook until the sugar has turned a dark amber colour, keep a close watch on it as it can turn quite quickly once it gets to the right temperature.
Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the butter and double cream until combined. Add the whiskey, Guinness and salt, whisk and return to the heat, cooking until the caramel is smooth.
Cool the sauce for 10-15 minutes, it will still be a little warm. Using an electric mixer, or by hand add the icing sugar a bit at a time, until you get to the consistency you like, then drizzle over the bundt cake. Pop the cake in the fridge for half an hour to set the glaze, then enjoy!
Check out the other Sourdough Surprises entries here, and don’t forget – the leftover glaze is cracking on toast!
I treated myself to Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen last autumn but I’ve only baked a couple of things from it so far. Having sent that I’ve learnt things just from those couple of uses. Like the delight of using spelt flour in cakes… delicious indeed.
We get our fruit and veg delivered every week from Abel & Cole which means that sometimes we get the same thing in consecutive weeks we end up with a stash that we need to use up, and that usually means that I need to find something to bake with them. Luckily, bananas are easy. This time I tried Signe’s banana bread.
It’s a super easy recipe where pretty much everything is combined in one go, using wholemeal flour, spelt flour & oats to create a really thick, comforting quick bread. Not too sweet (I’d add more syrup if you’re looking for more of a cake) it was perfect with a little butter. We demolished the first half of the loaf in about 15 mins and then forgot about it. A week later I retrieved it from the tin and aside from being a touch stale round the edges it was still delicious. It just needed a slightly thicker smear of butter. No complaints here.
I’ve left it far too late to go into any real detail about my baking activity over Christmas, but I photographed everything so it seems a shame not to share at least a few with you.
The Christmas Cake
I stuck with what I knew and made Nigel Slater’s Christmas cake again this year, but this time the Christmas cake was fed for four weeks on Whyte and Mackay whisky, and smelt even more incredible this time for being fed a decent alcohol! Last year I didn’t ice my cake, but this year I decided I was going to, the only problem was I hate marzipan. Hate. But then I stumbled upon this Christmas cake recipe from Dan Lepard, where he ices it with pecan marzipan. Problem solved. The pecan marzipan was delicious, I could have eaten it totally on it’s own in quite large quantities (and did, if I’m totally honest). After the marzipan came the icing and I cut stars out of the leftover icing to decorate the top, a simple but I think beautiful finish to a classic cake.
The Christmas Pudding
I had stored this in my cupboard since I made it back in November, and then boiled it again for 3 hours on Christmas day. We flamed it with brandy because it would be rude not to, and then tucked in. I don’t normally eat Christmas pudding, but I had to try this one and I wasn’t disappointed. Light and soft and slightly sweet. Perfect with a dollop of extra thick double cream. It got the thumbs up from both my mother and grandmother (I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mum eat so much pudding!) and my grandmother’s only criticism was that she prefers a darker, heavier pudding, but that’s just a matter of preference – I know I wouldn’t have liked it like that! I’ve still got the second pudding in the cupboard, so that’s one thing off the baking list for next Christmas!
I baked a selection of biscuits and sweets for my family & friends again for their Christmas presents. On the menu this year were Florentines, Chocolate & Hazelnut Macaroons, Pecan Marzipan Balls dipped in chocolate & Honeycomb. I was staying with my mother over Christmas and her kitchen became a bakery on the Sunday before Christmas, with biscuits and sweets on every surface. I managed to rope The Boy into helping and he became chief chocolate dipper for the Florentines, which helped speed things up rather! Once completed and cooled, I boxed the biscuits & sweets up in cardboard boxes and made them look suitably festive so they could be given away at the numerous family gatherings over the following few days!
One of my friends at work left last week. She’d not worked with us for very long, but we’d had such a lot of fun since we started sharing an office that I’m going to miss her! I have no doubt that her leaving was definitely not goodbye, she’ll only be working a couple of tube stops away and us booze-hounds have got to stick together. She has the most incredible sweet-tooth and eats sweet things like I’ve never seen sweet things eaten before (there was a frightening instance with two chocolate bars and 30 seconds that I think will haunt me for a long while to come!), so it seemed appropriate to bake something to celebrate/commiserate her leaving.
As I mentioned before, I received a ludicrous number of cook books for Christmas and the one that’s really caught my eye is the Lily Vanilli cookbook. I love Lily’s bakery off Columbia Road & the cookbook doesn’t disappoint. It’s a beautiful book, with a great balance of basic recipes and tips and really unusual twists and flavour combinations. I thought I’d start with the first recipe in the book, a vanilla sponge, but to make it easier to transport into work I made them as cupcakes. I topped them with chocolate buttercream and honeycomb. I am totally obsessed with honeycomb at the moment. I’ve made it repeatedly over Christmas and it’s ace, (which reminds me there’s still some in the cupboard, I might need a mid blog post snack…).
This was a bizarre sponge recipe. First you mix the dry ingredients with the butter until it’s like a crumble mix and then you add eggs, vanilla extract & milk. I’ve never made a cake recipe using this method before, so I was intrigued to see the outcome. The result was a thick but light sponge, which one of my colleagues described as ‘like a muffin, but not as heavy’, which I think summed it up quite well. I would definitely use this method again.
Now I should get something straight: I am not a cupcake baker. I like cake. I am also not about pretty decorative cakes with lots of icing and pretty coloured sponge. I am about big flavour. So as someone who bakes as much as I do, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first time I’ve ever piped icing onto cupcakes. What can I say, I’m normally more of a palette knife kind of girl! That’s probably a lie too. I’d probably usually just use a teaspoon or a fork. And not only are they piped but they have decoration! The shards of honeycomb look awesome spiked into the top of the cupcakes!
Then. The next morning. I opened the tin and much to my horror and confusion, the honeycomb had disappeared. Gone. Disintegrated into a puddle of syrup on the cupcake! The leftover honeycomb was fine (I’m still eating it now), but all of the cake honeycomb had gone. Every piece. Luckily my friend Google is never far away, but even he wasn’t yielding many answers. Eventually I cobbled together an answer. Honeycomb disintegrates when exposed to moisture. This will happen if left out in the air, but stuck in a cake, it sucks up the moisture like no tomorrow and eventually melts. Lesson learned: honeycomb cake decoration must be added just before serving. Not the day before!
I love a stack of tins after a productive evening’s baking!