Sunday, 30 December 2012

Cinnamon Crumble Cake

Reproduced from Joy Wilson 

I have no photo of this cake due to the fact that it got baked and eaten in a flurry of craziness that was a socialable post Christmas Friday. At Christmas you have to squeeze visitors and visits into your days stuffing your face with foodie delights along the way. Working over the holidays has seriously limited my social interaction but I was off Friday and managed to pop around to the cousins for dinner before dashing off for a more-civilised-than-our-usual-gatherings dinner with my friends. The fabulous host is more than capable of baking up a storm but I can never come empty handed to a party so I made this cake. When asked what is was I described it as an apple crumble, with sponge instead of apples. Yeah I have mad descriptive skills clearly....

If you love cinnamon you'll love this cake. Ripples of treacle-y cinnamon bursts through a moist sponge topped with crumble- delicious with tea and totally beautiful heated with ice cream or cream. I only made half of the crumble topping, finding that I had plenty. Don't skimp if your a crumble fan, I find it slightly drying. The cake mix could also easily be halved, I made a grill tray full of cake, around 38 x 28 cm.

From Joy of Baking by Joy Wilson

For the topping
4/5 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup butter (56g)

For the filling
1 cup brown sugar
1.5 tblspoon cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt

For the cake
3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
1.5 cups sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3 3/4 cups plain flour
1 1/4 salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/4 milk

1. Make the topping. Rub the butter into the flour using your finger tips until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a fork. Set aside.
2. Make the filling by mixing all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
3. Heat the oven to 175oC. Sift flour in a big bowl and add the salt. Beat sugar and butter together until soft with an electric beater, around 4-5 minutes. Add the egg one at a time with a heaped tablespoon of the flour. Beat until all traces of egg is gone. Add the vanilla extract and beat briefly.
4. In a jug mix the sour cream and mix together. It will be lumpy but that's OK. Add 1/3 of the flour and 1/2 of the milk/sour cream at a time beating on slow. Add another third of flour and the other half of the wet ingredients. Continue with the rest of the flour mixing until only just incorporated.
5. Spread half the cake batter on a baking pan (Joy recommends 9 x 13 inches, it made slightly more for me). Sprinkle over the filling. Dollop the remaining batter over the filling. Use a knife to make just a few cuts marbling the cake. Smooth without bringing the filling to the surface as it will burn in the oven. Sprinkle over the crumble topping evenly.
6. Bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Gateau San Honore

Oh my my my. If Christmas isn't a time to get your fancy on I don't know when is. And no one does fancy baking like the French. To use a cliche they have it down to a fine art, an art of shiny glazes, intricate pastries and light as a feather cakes. The Gateau San Honore is an essential part of any French pastry shop window display and apparently every good French pastry chef has his own version. Every gateau must have a puff pastry base and caramel covered choux pastry buns. The typical fillings include cream, chantilly cream, creme patissiere and sometimes fruit.

For this particular gateau I used creme patissiere and vanilla bean chantilly cream and I have to say it is definitely one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. The choux and puff pastries were light and fluffy and the vanilla beans brought a beautiful depth to the cream. The caramel gave the choux buns a lovely sweet crunch. I could have coloured my caramel a bit darker but it smelled and tasted beautifully sweet and I didn't want to be too ambitious and end up with a bitter burnt caramel as can so easily happen in a few short seconds. My relationship with making caramel is still in its tentative stages. If you love eclairs or profiteroles you will go mad for this gateaux. It is not whipped up in a hurry but well worth the effort!

For the choux pastry
See recipe here!

For the puff pastry
Either buy a good quality puff pastry or use my rough puff recipe here!

For the chantilly cream
350ml cream
one vanilla bean scraped
5 tablespoons of icing sugar sifted

For the creme pattisiere
150ml milk
seeds from half vanilla pod
2 egg yolks
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp cornflour

For the caramel
200g caster sugar
50ml water
1/2 tablespoon of glucose (optional)

1. To make the creme pat, place flour, sugar and eggs in a bowl and beater with a mixer until lighter in colour and sugar has dissolved, around 3-4 minutes. Add the cornflour and beat until just incorporated.
2. Heat the milk and vanilla in a pan until just at boiling point. Take off the heat immediately and pour onto the egg mixture beating continuously. Pour back into the pan at a low heat and beat until thickened, like shop bought custard. Don't stop beating until you take it off the heat. Allow to cool.
3. Make the choux pastry according to link above and pipe 10-12 small profiteroles. Bear in mind that they will puff up bigger so pipe small. I would make mine smaller next time.
4. Bake for 15 minutes at 220oC then reduce and bake for 10-15 at 190oC. Take out of oven and allow to cool.
5. Roll out puff pastry into a 10 inch circle. Use a plate or the insert of a cheesecake pan. Prick with a fork and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill. Otherwise it will shrink.
6. Take out and pipe a swirl of choux on the puff pastry leaving a 5mm border because the choux will rise and fill the gap. This video by Michel Roux is great for giving you the idea of assembly. I just copied him really!
7. Bake the puff pastry at 180oC for 25 minutes until risen and golden. Allow to cool in a turned off oven for 10 minutes. Take out and cool completely.
8. Beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff. Fill the profiteroles with the cream.
9. Make the caramel. Put water, sugar and glucose in a heavy based (not non-stick pan). Give it a good stir so that the water and sugar are incorporated and bring to a medium heat until it starts to bubble.  Do not stir once the sugar has dissolved. Cook to 176oC or until it smells sweet and is amber coloured.
10. Spoon the creme pat around the puff pastry base in an even layer leaving the very outside clean.
11. Being very careful dip the profiteroles in the caramel and then place in a circle around the puff pastry circle on the creme pat. The caramel is very hot, run your fingers under cold water immediately if you are burned.
11. When the profiteroles are finished filling the circle, pipe the chantilly cream into the centre hole on top of the creme pat until full.
12. Decorated with angel hair/spun sugar from the rest of the caramel.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Stained Glass Cookies

Dear Luas Passengers,

I am sorry I'm such a messy fellow passenger. I'm no ballerina and by that I mean that I have no balancing ability. Unless I have a good grip I will fall on you/step on your feet. You know this. And yes I do drink weird green stuff out of a takeaway coffee mug. Its a smoothie and there is cabbage in there. I feel I have probably completely lost your respect now... I'm sorry I have so many small bags. I could put them all in one big bag yes but that would involve owning a big bag. And you know I like to rummage. I'm a rummage-r. I'm only double checking for my phone, oh and my keys.... oh and for snacks  I threw in a few days ago. Mostly for snacks.

I want to make you some of these cookies. They taste good and they look so cute! I think you might only think I'm weirder than you currently do if I started randomly handing out cookies.... More for me.

I followed this Martha Stewart Recipe. Here are some tips:
- Don't overfill the candy but it won't spread very much so fill it in every corner, you don't want holes.
- Use a large egg or the recipe will be too dry.
- Refrigerate twice- once after making and then when the cookies are rolled.
- Make a hole for the ribbon and put a skewer through as soon as they come out of the oven as they are still soft.
- Allow to cool completely before moving.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


Not everyone likes Christmassy food fare, mince pies and the like. It shocks me. What is Christmas without the dried fruit soaked to plump perfection with old man booze or those classic old time spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. But hey different strokes for different folks. As a baker you have to accept that not everyone has the same taste as you.

No one dislikes profiteroles, at least no one I know. But I've had my fair share of choux disasters, soggy mostly or not rising. Finally in the last few batches I've had sweet success. Deirdre 1, Tricky French pastry 0. Long may it last... The profiteroles are filled with sweetened whipped cream and drenched in a delicious chocolate sauce that would also be amazing over ice cream.

50g butter 
150ml water 
70g plain flour, sieved 
2 medium eggs 

1. Preheat the oven to 220oC. Put a roasting dish with cold water onto the lowest rack of the oven. Put the butter and water in a medium sized saucepan and allow to melt gently. Have your electric beater at the ready beside the stove. 
2. Bring quickly to the boil, remove from the heat straight away and add the flour. Beat until incorporated. 
3. Put back on a low heat for around 1 minutes, beating at the same time but gently. The mixture will be done when it leaves the side of the pan. 
4. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Lightly beat the eggs in a cup and add a little at a time, beating all the time. The mixture should be glossy and thick enough to hold its own shape. 
5. Pipe with a 1/2 inch nozzle (or spoon with a dessert spoon) onto a greased baking sheet. The mixture should make around 12 profiteroles. 
6. Bake for 15 minutes then lower the heat to 190oC and bake for another 15 minutes. Do not open the oven door. The buns are done when golden and puffed up nicely. 
7. Remove from the oven and make little slits on the side. Allow to cool fully on a wire rack. 
8. Beat 270ml of cream and fold in 3 tablespoons of icing sugar to make Chantilly cream. 

For the sauce 

100g milk chocolate 
15g butter 
3 tablespoons of cream

1. Melt the chocolate and butter together. Add the cream mixing all the time until glossy and smooth. The cream will thicken the sauce. Add more cream if too thick. Allow to cool slightly and drizzle over the profiteroles. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mint Marshmallows!

Homemade Christmas gifts are all the rage these last few years. Mix it up this year by gifting homemade mint marshmallow. It is a lot easier to make then it looks, will impress the heck out of everyone and tastes like fluffy clouds of sweetness. I used food colouring to add a red ribbon to the marshmallows. You do need a thermometer though and liquid glucose, although it is available in tesco's for less than €2.

Adapted from a James Martin recipe
455g granulated sugar
1 tbsp liquid glucose
200ml water
2 free range egg whites
9 sheets gelatine
2 drops peppermint essence
icing sugar

1. Beat the egg whites until stiff in a clean non-metallic bowl. In a smaller bowl soak the gelatine leaves in 140ml water. Line a 30cm x 20cm tin with clingfilm and then dust evenly with cornflour and icing sugar.
2. Put sugar, glucose and water in a heavy based pan and boil rapidly until it reaches 127oC on the thermometer. This may take around 5 minutes.
3. When the syrup is up to temperature, slide the gelatine leaves into the syrup. It will fizz, be careful.
4. Pour the syrup and gelatine mix into egg whites, beating all the time. Add the peppermint essence. The mixture will become shiny. Beat for 5-6 minutes until the egg white holds its shape and is thick but still pourable.
6. Pour in the marshmallow. Leave for at least 2 hours to cool.
7. Turn out then cut into squares. The marshmallow will keep for 3-5 days in an airtight box.

Joy the Baker Cookbook and Christmas Marshmallow

There are so many great blogs out there, especially foodie blogs. The photographs are stunning, the recipes beautiful, they are full of new ideas that you are just dying to try out. But there are only a few blogs where you begin to feel that you know the person behind it all, where their personality is half the reason that you happily click the link in your emails. Joy Wilson is definitely one of those bloggers. Her blog has won tons of awards and thousands of followers. She writes in a way that makes you wish she was your best friend, wish that you could pop around to her house and drown your bad day in salted caramel and peanut butter.

But what about her book? It has Joy the Baker written all over it- the same humorous girl-next-door style, filled with touching family anecdotes and stellar recipes. I've made a few already and am very impressed. The banana coconut cream pie is like a dream on a Caribbean beach. The kale and spinach smoothie has changed the way I breakfast. Banana and pumpkin feature strongly and comfort is a big theme. If you are a breakfast person, you'll find a whole chapter of lazy morning options. There are some weird ones in there, parmesan seaweed popcorn and zucchini pound cake but joy knows what she's doing. The recipes are not complex, most can be whipped up quickly with great results. in sum: a great baking cookbook.  

Marshmallow recipe to follow!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Spinach and Kale Smoothie

Does it ever happen to you that a song comes on the radio or your mp3 and you feel that right in that moment, for as long as the song is on, your life could be a scene in a movie? It has happened to me a few times this week. I think its the kale I've been sneaking into my breakfast. Before you tut tut in disgust of cabbage based breakfast I will tell you that the most cynical of all persons, Mr Mushroom Hater gave this smoothie an enthusiastic seal of approval after initially expressing his revulsion in no uncertain terms. It tastes sweet and fruity, the peanut butter giving a light nutty flavour. There is no way you would guess there was kale or spinach in it! Think of all that iron, vitamins, anti-cancerous properties etc. you are getting into your step.

This is slightly adapted from Joy the Baker Book which I bought recently. I love her blog- more on the book later!

1 cup kale, thick stems removed and roughly chopped
1 cup spinach leaves
1/2 cup low fat natural yogurt
1/2 cup low fat milk
1 tsp honey
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 banana

1. Blitz the kale and spinach with the milk until smooth. It will take a while.
2. Add the honey, banana, yogurt and peanut butter and blend until smooth.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Quick White Chocolate Cake Pops

The Late Late Toy Show is an Irish institution. It holds a place in the Irish psyche, a comforting prequel to the season itself. It is hard to explain to people who are unfamiliar with it. I mean can you imagine Jay Leno or Graham Norton dedicating a full show to performing kids and showing off toys and books? Adults and children alike stay up eagerly in anticipation of ridiculously talented children dancing and singing, 'kids say the darnest things' moments and a guaranteed fuzzy heart warming feeling. Some people take it more seriously than others, including the two "children" I live with who insisted on dressing up in their Christmas jumpers (Santa Claus and an Elf). They are in their twenties. But the maturity of Irish men is in my experience a mathematical equation of true age minus ten years...

Anyway I got home from work at 8pm and just was not feeling starting a baking expedition but also recognising that the Toy Show required goodies. I spied a battenberg which someone had brought over. I never eat shop bought cake but didn't want to see it go to waste so I pulled out some white chocolate, sprinkles and these new cake pops I bought a couple of weeks ago. I melted the chocolate, crumbled the cake and threw both into a bowl. After mixing well I rolled it into balls, then let them dry before inserting the pop sticks and dipping them in more melted chocolate and rolling in sprinkles.  If you want a recipe Rachel Allen has one here, I just played it by ear adding more chocolate slowly... A quick fix for that tingling sweet tooth!