Tuesday, 3 January 2017

The 12 Bakes of Christmas #9 Asimov Cake

The Ninth day of Christmas falls on a very important day, Isaac Asimov's Birthday! Oh, and mine too. What better thing to eat on this day, than this malty chocolatey cake, topped with Maltesers, like little naked suns. The cake you can eat between meals!

140g Softened Butter
175g Golden Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
225g Wholemeal Self-Raising Flour
50g Cocoa Powder
50g Malt Drinking Powder e.g. Ovaltine
1/4 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
250g Natural Yoghurt

300g Golden Icing Sugar
2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
1 tbsp melted butter
3 to 4 tbsp boiling water
1 bag of Maltesers

1. Preheat Oven to 180C & butter and line an 18 by 27cm baking tin.
2. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl till fluffy with a whisk then beat in the eggs one at a time. Unless your name is Barry Allen I'd recommend an electric whisk. It'll be ready in a flash!
3. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder, Bicarbonate of Soda and Malt powder to the bowl.
4. Add the Yoghurt and gently stir till well mixed.
5. Pour into the baking tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Stick a knife a couple of times in the middle of the baked cake, if it comes out clean it's done, if not then bake it for a few more minutes & try again. Repeat until done.
6. Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes then tip it onto a wire wrack and leave it to cool completely.
7. Make up the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl, adding the boiled water and melted butter and stirring until smooth.
8. Spread onto the top of the cake.
9. Cut the cake into 12, one for each of the days of Christmas.
10. Cut the Maltesers in half with a sharp knife and use them to decorate each of the pieces of cake. Some will disintegrate in the cutting and will need disposing of .

This cake with a glass of wine will form the foundation of a very nice Christmas feast.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

The Twelve Bakes Of Christmas #4 Porter Cake

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a slice of fruitcake, eaten on its own or with a nice plate of cheeses. This one foregoes the usual festive icing, which you can add if you want, and has a moist richness to it that Santa would slay for.

175g Butter
450g Mixed Fruit
Grated Zest & Juice of an Orange
175g Light Muscovado Sugar
200ml of Stout, I wanted to use Harviestoun brewery's Ola Dubh, but couldn't get it and had to use Guinness instead
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
3 Eggs Beaten
300g Plain Flour
2 tsp Mixed Spice

2tbsp Flaked Almonds
2tbsp Demerara Sugar

1. Butter & line a 20cm Round Cake Tin.
2. Put the butter, dried fruit, orange zest, orange juice, stout and sugar in a pan
3. Slowly bring it to the boil, stirring then simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Cool for 10 minutes then stir in the Bicarbonate of Soda, which should get it fizzing like Dr Jeckyll's potion
5. Sift in the flour and spice then stir in the beaten eggs, mixing well.
6. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter on the topping.
7. bake at 150C for an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half.
8. Leave in the tin to cool for another 15 minutes
9. Turn it out and put it on a wire rack to cool.

Try and leave it in a cake tin for a couple of days before eating, this will improve its flavour and make it even scrummier. A nice one to bake in readiness for New Years Eve.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Twelve Bakes Of Christmas #3 Mozart Cake

Many years ago I got into the habit at Christmas of drinking a glass of Cointreau, while listening to Mozart's operas, this Christmas the addition of this wondrous orange liqueur to a spiced cake made with orange juice seemed like a good idea. The holy trinity of mixed spice, ground cinnamon and ginger make for a nice Yuletide cake. Time to have a slice and break out the Marriage Of Figaro.

25g Butter chopped
25g Demerara Sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
75g of chopped nuts, I used a mixture of pecans & walnuts

Cake Mix
170ml of Orange Juice
5ml Cointreau
175g Raisins
175g Butter
175g Light Muscovado Sugar
250g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3 eggs beaten

200g Icing Sugar
Zest of an Orange

1. Lightly grease a 23cm ring tin or round cake tin.
2. Make up the topping mix an scatter over the base of the tin.
3. Pour the Orange Juice, Butter & sugar into a pan and bring to the boil stirring and simmer for about 5 minutes.
4. Pour it into a large bowl and leave to cool for at least 10 minutes.
5. Sift the flour and three spices into the bowl, add the eggs and gently mix.
6. Pour into the cake tin and smooth the hop.
7. Bake at 160C for 45 minutes.
8. Leave it to cool completely in the tin, then flip it onto a chopping board where it should fall out.
9. Make up the icing with a couple of tablespoons of water and drizzle over the Cake.

Eat with a glass of Cointreau, with a slice of Don Giovanni on the side. Enjoy!

Friday, 23 December 2016

The 12 Bakes Of Christmas #2 Christmas Buns

Christmas is coming and there's a bun in me oven, what ama gonna do?

500g Strong White Flour
7g Fast Action Dried Yeast
300ml Milk
50g Unsalted Butter
1 Egg
Sunflower Oil, for Greasing

For the Filling

25g Unsalted Butter
85g Soft Brown Sugar
2tsp Ground Cinnamon
100g Dried Cranberries
100g Chopped Dried Apricots

For the Icing

200g Icing Sugar
Zest of an Orange or a Lemon

And it's off we jolly we'll go.

1. Sift the flour & yeast into a large bowl with a teaspoon of salt.

2. Warm the milk & butter in a pan over a low heat, until the butter melts. Leave it to cool until it's lukewarm.

3. Beat the egg and add it with the milk/butter mix to the flour.

4. Stir until you have a soft dough.

5. Knead the dough for five minutes, until it isn't sticky any more, and tip it into an oiled bowl covered with oiled cling film. Put it somewhere warm and leave it until it doubles in size.

6. Kneed the dough for another 30 seconds and roll it out into a 2cm thick rectangle.

7. Melt the remaining 25g of butter and brush it over the dough.

8. Sprinkle over the sugar, cinnamon and fruit.

9. Roll it up like a Swiss roll and cut into 9 pieces.

10. Put the pieces face up in a greased or lined baking tray and cover with a wet towel, leaving them to rise for a further 30 minutes.

11. Heat the oven to 190C and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden, with the fragrance of cinnamon filling your house.

12. Leave to cool on a rack.

13. Add 2tbsp of water to the Icing sugar along with the zest and mix.

14. Drizzle your Icing over the cooled buns.

Tuck in and enjoy with a nice cup of tea!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

The 12 Bakes Of Christmas #1 A Midwinter Night's Brownies

Cranberries, mincemeat, pecans and chocolate, the perfect ingredients for a Midwinter Eve.

100g / 4oz Unsalted Butter diced
200g bar of Dark Chocolate, broken into squares
3 Large Eggs
250g / 9oz Golden Caster Sugar
100g / 4oz Plain Flour
3 tbsp Cocoa Powder
50g / 2oz Dried Cranberries
100g / 4oz Pecan Nuts, roughly chopped
175g / 6oz Mincemeat
Icing Sugar to dust (optional, but you'd be mad not to)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C.

2. Line and grease a deep 20cm square baking tin.

3. Put the chocolate & butter in a heatproof dish, like a Pyrex, and warm, stirring over a pan of boiling water, till it has melted. Leave it to cool a little.

4. Beat the eggs & sugar in a bowl until thick enough to hold a trail when the whisks are taken out.

5. Gently fold in the chocolate mix.

6. Sift in the flour & Cocoa Powder then gently fold that in.-

7. Gently fold in the Cranberries, Mincemeat & Pecans.

8. Pour the mix into your cake tin.

9. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The brownies should be crisp on the outside but sof in the middle.

10. Cool & dust with icing powder, like a sprinkling of midwinter snow.

11. Sit down with a copy of Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising, which opens on Midwinter's eve, a warm drink and tuck in!

Sunday, 5 August 2012


Prior to pancake day a few years back, I discussed the relative merits of the English pancake and the French crèpe with my good friend Geraud. In the course of this we exchanged recipes. Here's his contribution on the art of the perfect crèpe. I'll post mine tomorow on the good day itself.

The crèpes you get with this one are thicker than those you can get in Britany for example, although it has to do with the fact that I just poor the liquid into the pan rather than flatten it with the special tool they have over there.

Now, how to prepare some good crèpes quickly :

in a pot, poor :
- one liter or milk (I use full fat milk, but half works as well),
- 6 eggs (yes, six),
- a tea spoon of salt,
- eventually a small pack of Vanilla sugar, if you plan to eat your crèpes sweet only,
- eventually a small pack of the chemical powder than makes the cakes grow (that's where my english is very limited...). That's not mandatory though
- 8 dL (that is, 400g) of white flour
- a small cup of sunflower oil (or any tasteless oil)
- if for sweet ones only, you can add a drop of orange flower essence, but that's strong, and not everybody like it, or a lemon or orange skin shredded, that's more subtle

Just mix the whole thing with a mixer (I told you, it's simple),
If you are patient enough, leave it alone half an hour, although it's not really needed,

use some wide flat pans (20-30 cm of diameter), and poor the content of a (replace by: the big deep spoon you use to serve soup) into a very hot pan. Use a bit of oil for the first one, and a tefal pan, if you don't have any, buy one, it's worth it just for that... some special pans exist for crèpe, extra flat (one centimeter of heigt, called crèpière ?)
I use two pans to make it decently quick. Turn them over once the first side is done, one side will be uniformly yellow, and the second side moon-like, that's normal ! The sun and the moon in your plate...
Turn them with a flat-wooden-spoon-you-see-what-I-mean, or make them twist !

One trick : if you eat them just once they are done, you'll still taste the raw taste a bit (which you may like), while if you pile them up, they'll finish cooking from the heat of each other.

Now you can serve that with all you can think about. I tend to put the garniture as a line in the middle, accross a diameter, fold in two over the line, and roll the whole thing like a cigar. Olga fold them in 4, so your choice !

Some of my favorite ones are :
-- salty ones:
- a spoon of thick cream (warm or cold, depends on what you like), some shredded gruyère, some minced mushrooms, and a bit of pepper
- simple red (salmon) caviar (yes, she's russian, they eat that like we eat nutella...), or lump eggs
- a spoon of cream, a slice of salmon, a bit of aneth (northern herbs)
- any variation on the above !
- any other thing you can think of ! you can go up to a burrito-like one...

-- sweety ones:
- sugar ! one small spoon, that's all, these are some of the best ones..
- any marmelade : orange, redberry, strawberry, apricot, plums, whatever
- Nutella, or melted chocolate
- butter and sugar (straight from Britany, you'll see it straight on the scale though !! they are solid folks over there ! ). the butter will melt
- mappled syrup or butter, if you can find some (like syrup, but more concentrated)
- honey !
- fruits (whatever you want)
- ice cream (again, whatever), with chantilly or hot cholocate on top of the roll
- a great one : a bit of sugar, a bit of lemon juice, roll it, cover with a soup spoon of rhum, and light it up, watch out !


Inspired by my earlier dialog on pancakes, I decided to make up a batch of ham and cheese galettes. The recipe for them follows: -


250 gr [9 oz] buckwheat flour
1 egg
1/2 liter [17 fl oz] water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt


Put the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the oil and the egg to this well. Gradualy fold in the flour from the sides using a wooden spoon to begin
to gradually add the water. Turn gently until the flour has disappeared. Finish with a whisk to make a smooth batter which should be left for at least one hour before cooking.


Give the batter a turn. Heat a pan, and put a small knob of butter in (swirling to distribute). The pan must be ho but not too hot that the butter browns. Pour a small laddle of batter into the pan, while swirling it to distribute the batter evenly. Cook until golden, turn the galette upside down and add any filling you'd like, such as ham and gruyere cheese. Continue to heat untill the topping has melted and the underside is also cooked. Serve imediately.

Repeat until you've used up all the batter.