Cranberry and Orange Loaf Cake

Saturday, 20 December 2014



Catkin, aged eighteen and a half years young, decided to take his leave last week.  Having faced a scare in November last year, he enjoyed his last thirteen months, spending a last summer in the sunshine, and seeing the beginnings of Christmas.  This year, for once, we were organised, and I think now I know why.  

We had a tree, gifts bought and at least half wrapped, cards being written, and most of the classic Christmas films on rotation.  He watched slept through Elf, Home Alone (1 and 2!), and While You Were Sleeping; gave Mouche his final orders (we're not sure what those were but are hoping they were something along the lines of behave yourself); loved his cupboard fort (he adopted a cupboard filled with blankets as his new bed); all before quietly letting us know that he was tired, and that perhaps it was time.  We weren't ready, but he was.

I made this cake last Wednesday whilst he was sleeping soundly on the sofa.  It's quite fitting, in hindsight.  My Dad always used to call him 'Orange Job' because he was the most beautiful shade of ginger, and, well, this is a wonderfully orange cake.


CRANBERRY AND ORANGE LOAF CAKE
Yield: one 2lb loaf            Time: 1 hour


INGREDIENTS

for the streusel
30g (1/4 cup) plain flour
30g (2 tbsp) golden caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
45g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter, cold

for the cake
250g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
110g (1 cup) cranberries (fresh or frozen - unthawed), chopped
65g (1/2 cup) pecans, chopped
1 large egg
105g (1/2 cup) light brown sugar
100g (1/2 cup) golden caster sugar
240ml (1 cup) buttermilk
80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil (or melted coconut oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange zest (approx. two oranges' worth)

for the glaze
120g (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted
1-2 tablespoons orange juice
orange zest


INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oven to 160C fan / 180C / 350F.
Line a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.


  1. First, make the streusel: In a medium bowl, toss together the flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  Cut in the cold butter and rub the mixture between your fingers until you have a breadcrumb consistency.  Set to one side.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, baking soda, cranberries and pecans.  Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, brown sugar and golden caster sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the buttermilk, oil, vanilla extract and orange zest.  
  4. Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour into the prepared loaf tin.  Top with streusel mix, pressing down to make sure it sticks.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes - 1 hour until a knife comes out clean.  I topped mine with foil at the 30 minute point to avoid it burning!
  6. To make the glaze, use a fork to gently mix together the icing sugar and orange juice.  Once combined, stir in the orange zest.  Drizzle over the cooled cake, and leave to set before serving.


NOTES

Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.

***


Catkin, 1996-2014

Gingerbread Men

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


When Jo emails and asks if I could possibly make some gingerbread men for her stall at the art market, I, of course, say yes.  One: it's an excuse to make gingerbread men for this blog; two: she said she'd make me a fun sign (see below); and, three: I've actually never made gingerbread men before.  I know, I can't believe it, either.

I bought some black treacle for this as the original recipe asked for, but disliked it so much on taste that I poured it back into the tin and used molasses instead.  I think it made for a subtler flavour, too!  The spices come through beautifully, the biscuits aren't too sweet, and, through trial and error, I eventually found the correct amount of time to bake them for. They really don't take very long! Mine took seven minutes in a fan oven.  I had some Shimmer Stars from Marks & Spencer that I used as buttons, stuck on with a little dab of honey, but you could decorate these any way you like!


GINGERBREAD MEN

Yield: 25 regular size, double that miniatures    Time: 1 hour, plus overnight chilling

INGREDIENTS


400g plain flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g soft dark brown sugar (or dark muscovado sugar)
1 medium egg
125g molasses (or black treacle, if you prefer)


INSTRUCTIONS


  1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and ground spices, and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg and molasses until fully combined - you may need to scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Add the flour mixture two tablespoons at a time, again scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary, until fully combined.  You should have a manageable, but soft, dough.  Divide the dough into three chunks, wrap in cling film, and place in the fridge to chill - preferably overnight.
Heat the oven to 150C fan / 170C / 375F / Gas Mark 3.
  1. Remove the dough from the fridge and leave to soften for ten minutes or so.
  2. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour (or cover your work surface with greaseproof paper and scatter some flour onto that!).  Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper, too.
  3. Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 4mm.  Cut into shapes, and arrange them on the lined baking trays.
  4. Bake for 7-10 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly on the trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

NOTES


Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, p140.


***



My biscuits - Gingerbread Men and Stars!  // Red Velvet hot chocolate = amazing!
Doris Inked earrings
The Redgate Collective artwork 
If you wear a wolf hat, people will walk past you and go 'Rawwwr!' - as Jo found out!

Salt-Flaked Vanilla Fudge

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Happy December!  Can someone tell me how we got here so quickly?  I blinked and November happened.  I haven't even started on my Christmas baking.  I feel like October was one of those perfect months, blogging-wise, and now I'm back to wondering how on earth I managed to fit it in with everything else going on!

I've been doing a lot of baking recently, but mostly recipe-testing for my cousin who is writing her first cookbook!  It's all very exciting, and I can't wait to share the details soon.  Just know that every weekend I've been surrounded by the most delicious brownies, vanilla biscuits and other treats, and that soon you will be able to make them, too!

In the meantime, let's talk fudge.  Definitely make sure you have people around to help you eat this, because it is so addictive.  I balked at the amount of sugar that went into it (not to mention an entire slab of butter), but the result is so delicious.  I added the salt flakes as I found the finished product to be too sweet on its own, and the contrast between salt and sweet is just perfect.  It doesn't take long to whip up, either - just be careful not to burn yourself as boiling hot fudge is, well, hot!  Luckily I emerged unscathed having followed Nigella's instructions to the letter.  She advises that you make the experience a phone/distraction-free zone - something I completely agree with.  Spend some quality time with yourself and your fudge.  Maybe hum some Christmas songs to yourself.  Get unreasonably excited that it's only three weeks and one day until Christmas!!!

In fact, this would make for a perfect gift for Christmas, packed up into little bags - a legitimate reason to pour a ridiculous amount of sugar into a pan alongside more sugar and two different types of milk.  We all know someone who loves fudge...  Make them some fudge from scratch and surprise them with it on Christmas Day.  I guarantee it'll leave you both feeling jolly!


SALT-FLAKED VANILLA FUDGE


INGREDIENTS


250g unsalted butter

800g golden caster sugar
1 x 397g can of condensed milk
2 tablespoons golden syrup
175ml whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
a few pinches of salt flakes (I use Maldon)


INSTRUCTIONS

I used three 12x8cm (7x4.5in) foil tins (these ones), but you could also use a 30x20cm (12x8in) foil tin, or a 25cm (10in) square foil tin.  Whichever you're using, grease with a little butter before you begin, and set to one side.


You'll also need to set a jug of ice water to the side of your hob (to drop fudge into to test if it's ready!) - unless you're using a sugar thermometer, in which case don't worry.
  1. Place all of the ingredients, apart from the vanilla, in a large saucepan.  Bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Boil for 12-20 minutes, continuing to stir constantly.  The mixture will turn golden.  If using a thermometer, wait until you reach the 'soft ball' stage.  Drop a little bit of the mixture into the jug and if it turns solid (but still squidgy) then it's done!
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  4. If you prefer a more solid, toffee-like consistency, simply pour into your waiting trays and leave to set.  If you like it softer (more like the traditional Scottish fudge), whisk (preferably with an electric whisk) for five minutes or so, then pour into the waiting trays.  Once they've cooled slightly, sprinkle them with salt and place them in the fridge to chill for an hour or two - any longer than that and they risk setting too hard.

NOTES


Adapted from Nigella.


(I am incapable of cutting anything in a straight line.  See: fudge, above.)

Cheesecake-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Friday, 21 November 2014

These are the best cupcakes I've ever made.  No word of a lie.  I spent a while with the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, flicking through the different recipes and figuring out which bits of each I wanted to try to pull together.  This is a mixture of two cupcake recipes and a frosting recipe, and I am delighted with the result.  The flavours marry perfectly. These are definitely the cupcakes to make if you want to impress people - I brought them to my friend Julie's housewarming a couple of weeks ago and my friends are still talking about them now!  These would be perfect for a Christmas party, too.

Speaking of Christmas, we are less than five weeks away!  Despite it being my favourite time of year, it never ceases to surprise me just how quickly it sneaks up once you hit September.  There's plenty of time - Halloween and November 5th still to come - and then suddenly they're over and November is a flurry of social activity (because everyone wants to catch up before Christmas and then lock themselves indoors until Spring) and suddenly it's almost December!  I love this time of year.  With that said, I must get back to developing my Christmas recipes!  Happy end-of-November, everyone. It's almost Christmas!!!


CHEESECAKE-FILLED CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
Yield:  12 cupcakes     Time:  45 minutes


INGREDIENTS


for the chocolate cupcakes

100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
140g golden caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120ml whole milk
1 medium egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g milk chocolate chips

for the cheesecake filling

140g cream cheese
60g caster sugar
1 medium egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g milk chocolate chips

for the cream cheese frosting (optional)
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter, room temperature
125g cream cheese, fridge cold
cocoa powder, for dusting


INSTRUCTIONS


Heat the oven to 170C.

Line a 12-cup muffin tray with muffin cases.


  1. Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder in a bowl.  Add the sugar and butter, and mix until combined and you have a sandy consistency.
  2. Whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla in a jug, and slowly pour half into the flour mixture until combined, then repeat with the second half.  Be careful not to over mix.
  3. Mix in the chocolate chips by hand.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy with a handheld whisk.  Be careful not to over beat.
  5. Spoon a tablespoon of the chocolate mix into the waiting muffin cases and top with a heaped teaspoon of cheesecake mix, and then a teaspoon more of the chocolate mix. (If you aren't frosting them and would like the marble-looking top, add another small spoonful of cheesecake mixture to the top!)
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the sponge springs back when you press your finger to it.  The cheesecake mix will have turned a golden colour - watch them closely in the last few minutes as the cheesecake mix can dry out if cooked for too long.  Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. To make the cream cheese frosting, beat together the icing sugar and butter with an electric whisk.  Add the cream cheese and beat until fully incorporated.  Turn the mixer to a medium-high speed and continue beating for a few minutes until light and fluffy.  Top the cooled cupcakes with frosting.

NOTES


Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, p11, p17 + p27.
 

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