Sunday, 21 October 2012

Banana and Date Loaf Cake

I made this classic beauty on Tuesday to celebrate the final of The Great British Bake off (I already miss it and it's not 8pm on Tuesday yet!). Whilst I'm on topic, what did everyone think of the final? I was so elated with the outcome and I think all three gentlemen did amazingly well. As James said, it didn't feel as though there were any losers or runners up.

This is essentially Mary Berry's banana loaf recipe (which can be found in her Baking Bible), but I made a few tweaks to be more tailored to my taste buds. I have made the loaf around three times, sticking strictly to Mary's instructions – I can't argue with her now can I? She is a legend and just such a lovely lady. She would be my number one dinner party guest or afternoon tea partner – I think she'd be fascinating.

I added one more banana than the recipe states and around 100g of dates as I believed they could evoke a lovely, toffee like edge in the cake. It tasted as I'd hoped and gave it a different texture, richness and depth. I was ridiculously pleased that the dates baked consistently throughout the cake and didn't sink. I embraced the classic technique of rolling them in flour first and it must really work. This method was truly a baking myth for me, as it had never worked in the past with some fruits, but worked beautifully in this instance.

I added a honey glaze and walnuts to the top of the loaf, as although the cake isn't dry in any way, I simply wanted more decadence.  Additionally, I know that dates and walnuts work in harmony just like mascara enhances our eyelashes for example. 

I made the glaze with around 4-5 tablespoons of Acacia honey and 60g of butter. All you have to do is melt the two together and it soon becomes thick and cloudy. Once you visibly see this sticky matter changing like this, take it off the heat and leave it set for about two minutes and drizzle accordingly.  Add as many walnuts as you like, I think the nuttier the better!

I could have easily devoured this all by myself, but I took most of it to work to share with my friends.  It received excellent reviews and certainly perked them all up at 3pm!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Welcome back Autumn

What does autumn mean to you? Me as a child says chestnut picking and walks in the woods with my family. Me as an adult here and now says, leaves on the ground, jumper dresses and dark lipsticks.

I seem to remember as a child having an unlimited supply of these wonderful nuts. Or a shopping bag full at least! Walks were an integral part of my childhood and I most definitely romanticise chestnuts. They make me gleam with happiness and nostalgia, but they aren't as they used to be. They appear to fall off the trees too early and haven't had the opportunity to become the huge tear drop esque nuggets that I remember fondly. Or were they ever that big? You know how things seem huge in your tiny child hands? Creme Eggs included! 

I wanted to bake something that both looks like autumn and has autumn in the ingredients (chestnut of course!).   I decided to bake something new to me, a torte. After flicking through a few baking books and searching the internet, I settled on Edd Kimber's Chocolate and Chestnut Torte. He describes it as basically a cooked mousse. I have been attracted to tortes in the past due to the lack of flour, but always picked something else as the ones I had seen on television always dipped in the middle. But then you see some fabulous tortes in Paris for example! 

I decided to show what's inside on the outside.  So me and Joe took to our park, which luckily we have just a few minutes away from our flat, to find leaves from chestnut trees to showcase on top of the torte.  We also picked various leaves to set the scene and mood of this autumn inspired blog.

This was a lovely after dinner dessert. Not too heavy, very rich and satisfying, so second helpings were not on the cards for me. It contains 70% cocoa Green and Blacks chocolate so I knew when I had had enough (my waistline was thankful for that for once!). The chestnut created depth to the torte in my opinion, similar to how coffee is with chocolate cake for example. You cannot necessarily taste it, but there is enough to create more depth and intensity. 

I bought a tin of chestnut purée from Waitrose, it wasn't sweetened like the recipe called for though, which I was a little apprehensive about. So I just added milk and icing sugar to the purée (which was stiff in and out of the tin, so needed to be loosened up) to hopefully make it sweeter. I did exactly the same to make the soft peaked cream.

Both cream and torte were delicious.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Grasshopper Pie, Hummingbird Style

A few weekends ago, Joe trotted off to London for the weekend to see his friends. As a result, I was at home with lots of relaxing to do. This meant three things - Americas's Next Top Model, Breakfast at Tiffany's and baking. I had to make something Joe really wanted - he needed rewarding since he did lots of washing up during the week when I couldn't be bothered or was too tired. What a star!

Grasshopper Pie was the obvious choice to me. Always a fan of mint chocolate, whether it's my mint choc chip cupcakes or After Eights. I made it the Hummingbird Bakery way set out in Cake Days minus the huge dollops of whipped cream on top. He's a lover of the cream, but I had a bit of a kitchen nightmare when my Kmix overwhipped the first 300ml of the cream, meaning I only had 300ml left for the filling! I got distracted with colouring my milky marshmallow mixture a perfect mint green. Mint is the main event and I thought that the extra whipped cream could have muted it. This was my convenient reasoning at overwhipping the cream anyway!

I made the biscuit base with humble bourbons (or you could use Oreos if you prefer). I'm so used to ginger or digestive biscuit bases and using bourbons is much better in many ways! For example, the melted butter in the processed bourbons made it look like soil (and I'd rather be in the kitchen with my 'soil' than in the garden!). I was a mucky mess by the time I had pushed the crumbs into the flan tin.

Melting the marshmallows into the milk was incredibly relaxing. I love seeing food melt, or change consistency right before me. This became a luscious velvety mixture after around five minutes of consistent stirring. The recipe tells you to fold in the cream to this minty mixture, but I had real trouble with this. I had to abandon this technique by just whisking it in. It seemed to work better for me than trying to fold it in. This green mass of matter was then dolloped into and completely filled my perfectly set soil case.

I loved the pie and so did Joe. The filling was light and the only thing I could compare it to is mousse, but it was a lot denser than mousse. The marshmallows must have given it the light texture. It had a wobble to it, like a baked cheesecake would. The bourbon base was addictive - I couldn't get enough of it! I would sit next to Joe, putting on my best eyes (like a cat would when they want something you have, almost stalking you until you give in) waiting for a morsel of the base. 

 I urge anyone who loves mint chocolate to make this.