Monday, 17 March 2014

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - Saturday 1st March 2014

On the 1st of March the Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club returned to a previous venue, The Old Cannon Brewery which once again proved to be a great place for us all to meet.

This month the theme was "Beautiful Bundts" which gave us all the opportunity to try out a variety of Bundt and other ring-shaped cake tins (because of course it's not an official Bundt tin if it's not made by the cake tin specialists Nordic Ware). The result was a fantastic array of cakes which all looked, and of course tasted, amazing.

Here's a look at what we had to choose from...

Kate's Carrot & Apple Cake

Ruth's Treacle, Ginger & Orange Bundt

Helen F's Bakewell Cake

Rene's Hummingbird Cake

Lynda's Lemon & Ricotta Bundt

Trish's Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cake

Sam's Vanilla Sponge with White Chocolate, Cream Cheese & Lemon Curd Icing

Sophie's Italian Yoghurt Cake

Siobhan's White Chocolate, Strawberry & Black Pepper Cake

My Chocolate & Salted Caramel Cake

Thanks again to the Old Cannon Brewery for being such welcoming hosts.

For details of our next event have a look at the Clandestine Cake Club website.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake

The theme of the next Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club meet is "Beautiful Bundts" so I thought I would dust off my ring mould tin (technically it's only a Bundt tin if it's made by the kitchenware company Nordic Ware) and try out one or two recipes.

I found this particular recipe in The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. This book has had mixed reviews due to the reliability of some of the recipes (the Brooklyn Blackout Cake in particular) but so far, touch wood, I've had no problems. This recipe certainly didn't cause me any problems, in fact it was very straightforward and the resulting cake is truly delicious.

This is basically a lemon drizzle cake so you kind of know what to expect but I've never made one with poppy seeds before and I liked the tiny hint of crunch they added. This recipe also just uses egg whites, beaten until stiff, rather than whole eggs, which added an extra lightness to the texture of the cake. Lemon syrup is always a great addition to this sort of cake (although next time I'll poke more holes in the cake so it soaks in a bit more) and the lemon icing provides the perfect sweet-citrussy finish.

Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

85g/3oz unsalted butter at room temperature
245g/9oz caster sugar
grated zest of 1 1/2 unwaxed lemons
15g poppy seeds plus extra for decorating
165ml whole milk (I used semi-skimmed with no obvious side effects)
235g/8 1/4oz plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites

Lemon Syrup
freshly squeezed juice and zest of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar

Lemon Glaze
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
250g/9oz icing sugar, sifted

1) Preheat the oven to 170c/325f/gas 3. Grease a 24cm ring mould and dust with flour, knocking out any excess over the sink.

2) Put the butter, sugar, lemon zest and poppy seeds in a bowl and beat together with an electric mixer or freestanding mixer until well incorporated. Slowly add the milk until mixed in (don't worry if the mixture looks like it has split).

3) Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and then gradually add it to the butter mixture. Beat well until the mixture is light and fluffy.

4) In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff then, using a metal spoon, fold them carefully into the cake mix. Pour into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean.

5) While the cake is baking, put the lemon juice and zest for the syrup into a small saucepan with the caster sugar and 100ml water, and bring to the boil over a low heat. Raise the heat and boil until it has reduced by half or has a thin syrup consistency. When the cake comes out of the oven pour the syrup over the top. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

6) Make the lemon glaze by mixing the lemon juice and icing sugar together until smooth. It should be thick but spreadable. Add a little more water or icing sugar if necessary. When the cake is cold place it on a cake stand and decorate it with the icing and poppy seeds.

Makes 12-16 slices

Monday, 3 February 2014

Nigella's Chocolate Cheesecake

This is another of those can't-believe-I-haven't-written-about-it-before recipes as it's such a favourite of mine. Like so many of my most used recipes I love it because it's so simple to make and also completely heavenly to eat. Also, as with many cheesecakes, you need to prepare it in advance the day before to give it time to set, which makes it a perfect dinner party dessert.

Very little effort is required to put it together. Yes, you need to wrap the tin in cling film and foil and bake it in a waterbath which sounds like a bit of a faff, but as you will be doing this a day before you need it all the hard work is done in advance. The result is rich and creamy but, thanks to the cream cheese, not overly sweet. The chocolate sauce made to serve with it is a great addition and looks good drizzled over the top before serving. This needs to be made just before you need it but if you have the ingredients ready it only take a few minutes.

You can find the recipe on Nigella's website here. Don't wait too long to try it!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - Saturday 18th January

This month the Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club returned to a venue we visited in December 2012, although it has since been taken over by new owners and renamed. Cafe del Mar, run by Maria Crick, offers a wonderful, mediterranean-inspired menu which includes tapas and sharing platters aswell as paninis, soups and a selection of very tempting cakes. Maria also organises various themed events such as her upcoming Valentine's evenings.

I also discovered today that they were the first cafe in Suffolk to support "Suspended Coffees", a great way to give to charity. Have a look here for more details.

In the spirit of those virtuous New Year's resolutions that many of us make in January, the theme this month was "Healthy(ish) Cakes" with an emphasis on the ish. Obviously you can only take cakes so far down the healthy road but everyone came up trumps, bringing cakes that were both delicious and at least heading in the general direction of wholesome.

Here's what we tucked in to...

Rene's Lime, Yoghurt & Olive Oil "Happy Cake"

Jane's Fresh Orange and Passion Fruit Cake

Sophie's Raspberry Sponge Cake

Amelia's "Healthy" Chocolate Cake (made with oil instead of butter)

Megan's Chocolate & Beetroot Cake

Tamar's Wholemeal Banana Loaf

Trish's Greek Honey, Yoghurt & Pistachio Cake

My Overnight Tea Loaf

Thanks again to everyone at Cafe del Mar for making us feel so welcome. Don't forget to check out their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

For more details of the Clandestine Cake Club have a look at the website here.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Paul Hollywood's Rye, Ale and Oat Bread

Every so often, if you spend enough time in the kitchen, you produce something that makes you nod your head and say "wow, that it really good". Today, that thing was one of Paul Hollywood's bread recipes from his book of the same name.

Ever since the Beaters Hut Bakers Club held a bread themed event I've been inspired to improve my breadmaking skills. I haven't had successes every time but I just find the whole process so enjoyable that it doesn't really matter. And even the densest loaf can taste pretty good when warm from the oven and slathered with butter. I've made two or three of Paul H's recipes so far and the instructions have turned out to be pretty reliable. I've never quite managed to create a loaf with the super lightness of the ones you can find in the shops but, as I mentioned above, I don't mind too much and they all tasted pretty good.

The recipe in question today has to be the best so far partly because it's the most unusual I've tried. I often resort to a standard white loaf but I had a leftover bottle of ale in the fridge so thought I'd give this one a go.

The recipe tells you to expect a sticky dough and it wasn't wrong. The dough was really hard to work with at first but perseverance paid off and after lots of kneading (I gave it 20 minutes rather than the 5-10 suggested in the recipe) the dough lost some of it's stickiness and became a little bit easier to handle.

Slathering the dough with a mix of ale, flour and sugar prior to it's second rise was also a new experience but it paid off. The final loaf rose to perfection and had the most amazing, beery smell and flavour. As with most fresh loaves, I could have eaten the whole thing sliced and spread with butter but I resisted and enjoyed it with some Broccoli and Stilton soup.

You can find the recipe here. Interestingly, it's slightly different to the recipe in the book which suggests adding 200ml of the ale initially. This results in a very wet dough (and I did add a little bit more flour to mine) so maybe starting off with a bit less ale is a good idea. It also gives 2 hours for the first prove whereas the book says it can take up to 4 hours. I left mine for about 3 and half hours.

If you've ever thought about making your own bread but haven't quite got round to it then I say go for it! I think you'd be surprised how much easier and how much less time consuming it is than you might think.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - Saturday 9th November

The November meeting of the Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club was held at another new venue for the group - The Old Cannon Brewery which is tucked away among the backstreets of the town centre. The Old Cannon is a great venue for food and drink and even makes it's own beer on the premises. The lunch and dinner menu looked very tempting and I've made a note to go back soon when I'm not so full of cake!

This month's theme was Fall, Phantoms and Fireworks and we had nine delicious cakes inspired by these autumny themes to choose from...

My Spiced Gingerbread Bundt Cake

You can find the recipe here.

Trish's Harvest Apple Cake

Ruth's Chocolate & Vanilla Cake with Honeycomb Topping

Teresa's Halloween Chocolate Cake

Lynda's Warming Cider Bundt Cake

You can find the recipe here.

Nathalie's Spooky Spider Ginger Cake

Jane's Devils Food Cake

Sophie's Pear & Hazelnut Cake

Rene's Pumpkin Roll with Maple Cream Cheese Filling

Thanks again to Hannah and the really helpful staff at the Old Cannon Brewery. We all had a lovely morning tucked away in the cosy snug. Oh, and the hot chocolate was delicious!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Jamie Oliver's Greek Chicken with Herby Vegetable Couscous & Tzatziki

I try very hard to limit myself to two new cookbooks a year - one at Christmas and one in the summer. I  already have way more than I need but not buying any new books is, obviously, unthinkable! Having said that, I had already failed by mid-March thanks to the new Clandestine Cake Club book and Paul Hollywood's Bread (both brilliant). Nevertheless, I still allowed myself my summer purchase and invested in Jamie Oliver's recent book, Jamie's 15-Minute Meals.

Both with this book and it's predecessor, 30 Minute Meals, there has been plenty of comment about how the titles are misleading. I would ignore any negativity, however, and buy this book because, so far, I've had nothing but success with it and if you get organised in advance then the timings aren't too far out. You have to have everything ready before you start the clock, pans heated, kettle boiled etc, so you will be in the kitchen longer than 15 minutes but even taking that into account you can get some great dishes on the table in a relatively short space of time.

Jamie uses some clever techniques to speed things up. In this recipe, for example, the chicken is flattened to decrease the cooking time and vegetables are finely chopped in a food processor, rather than by hand.

It's also clear that a lot of time has been spent making the recipes well balanced and relatively healthy so even the pasta dishes are served with a salad or something similar. Big flavours are also a key feature with various herbs and spices being used in most recipes to add interest.

On the negative side, Jamie does like to use a wide variety of ingredients that will leave you with leftovers to find a home for - half a bunch of dill, 2 teaspoons of harissa, 40g feta etc - so you might find you need to do a little extra research to find other recipes to use up what's left. He also uses chillis and coriander in a large number of the recipes, neither of which I like, however I've had no problems with leaving them out or replacing the chillis with a few dried chilli flakes.

This particular recipe was a real hit when I made it. The oregano and all spice gave the chicken an amazing flavour and the tzatziki was the perfect match with the warming heat of the peppers and chilli in the couscous. Once I had everything ready it took me around 20 minutes to get it on the table. I took a bit longer because I didn't want the pepper mix to be raw so fried it for a couple of minutes and I also didn't flatten the chicken quite enough so it took a little longer to cook.

I made half the recipe for two of us and the portion size was pretty much spot on.

I'll definitely be making this again and I urge you to try it too! You can find the recipe here.