Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Healthy Cinnabon anyone?

Every month I go home - and every month as I finish church, I find myself walking in a wonky line into the local T. K. Max.  Unusually though, their clothes hold no interest for me, but their homeware department on the other hand... oh my.  I can happily float around the store and lovingly look at their Le Creuset range, or their farmhouse crockery ranges, flirting with the idea of buying a set of oven dishes or a large earthenware casserole pot; sadly though I do not have my own place and so space is an issue.  As I walk around the store I continue to furnish my future home in my head.  This time though I broke the mould a bit and found myself gazing at their book selection - naturally the cookbook area.  Fingering the slightly dusty spines, a hardback - beautifully photographed popped out at me.  At first the initial cynicism kicked in, whereby I thought that if the poor book made it to a discount store it was bound to be fussy with recipes a mission to follow, ingredients impossible to get hold of even if I knew what they were, and I could go on, but I won't - because this book is truly a gem of a cookbook.  As one review said, it gets respect straight away just by not featuring a single cupcake anywhere - don't get me wrong though, I love a cute cupcake as much as the next person - it's just refreshing to find a baking book which doesn't bank on the fact it contains cupcakes to appeal to its audience.

Are you wondering what this amazing book is called yet? Probably not, but if you are curious, it is called Warm bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra.  It is a rich book containing history, life anecdotes, and wonderfully simple recipes of baked treats from around the world.  I must say the selling point for me was the in depth feature on the Red Bean Paste cakes commonly enjoyed as mooncakes which is eaten once a year by the Chinese community during the mid-autumn festival where friends and family join together to enjoy watching the moon in its full glory.  The whole book is filled with similar enchanting treats along with a highly fascinating history on how they came to be.  For my house mate's birthday a gluten-free version of her chocolate slice cake was made with ground almonds - although there was enough to serve a small army, this cake disappeared alarmingly fast between 4 chocoholics!  Today though I will leave you with my fruity adaptation of Gaitri's chocolate and hazelnut buns.

Fall Buns
(Makes 8-9)

  • 125g wholemeal flour
  • 125g plain white flour
  • 1.5tsp Dried active yeast
  • 2tsp Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 55g/2oz/0.5stick Butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 Egg, beaten
  • About 150ml/5fl oz/2/3C Milk, lukewarm

  • 2 Medium/200g approx. Bramley/Tart Apples, chopped into 5mm chunks approx.
  • 50g Raisins
  • 2Tbsp Honey
  • 1Tbsp Cinnamon

  • Whisk together all the dry ingredients, then mix the butter, milk and egg together, add to the dough and mix to bring together into a ball of dough.  Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic ( I find I do not need extra flour in the worktop).  If the dough is too sticky, add a sprinkling of flour, if too dry, add a few drops of water.
  • Oil a the bowl, return the dough and coat in the oil then cover with cling film and leave to double in bulk in a warm area - about 1-1.5 hours.
  • Before rolling out the dough, chop up the apples, mix with the honey, and cinnamon and raisins then set aside.
  • Roll out the dough to a rectangle roughly 40cm x 30cm or 16" x 12", then spread with the apple mixture - but leave about 2cm clear all round.
  • Roll up the dough into a sausage starting from the longest edge.  Cut along at 4cm intervals into 8-9 spiralled buns and tuck into a greased round or square cake tin, about 20cm in diameter/width.
  • Cover loosely with a damp tea towel or cling film and leave to rise again for another 30-60 minutes in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk.
    NB: The juices from the apples may leak out into the tin, don't worry about this, it shouldn't affect the bread!
  • Roughly in the last 15 minutes, pre-heat the oven to GM4/180C/350F
  • Bake the buns for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Leave to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely - or enjoy warm!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Hazelnut Fudge

This weekend, my rock n' roll friend celebrated her birthday in a pub situated (to me anyway) in the middle of nowhere, and it was a fantastic night - what with a skittle alley, giant connect four, friendly people and of course, dancing! If you want to check this dinky pub out, it is called The Red Lion situated in Islip, Oxford.

I was having one of these "I keep losing time to do things" day, and needed to rustle up a quick birthday present. Luckily for me, I was looking up gift ideas last night and remembered a favourite easy fudge recipe which can be found on the Waitrose website in their handy recipe archive. Below is my adaptation of their fruit and nut version. I decided on a gift-packaged batch of homemade fudge with a homemade birthday card containing the recipe.  As the fudge is really rich, I cut the slab into small cubes and wrapped them in tissue paper, tied with a bow and placed into a box made from arty paper - which I then promptly threw into my handbag as was late and had to find said friend's obscure habitat! Typical... Anyway, this recipe makes lots, and I had to freeze the remaining condensed milk.  I hope it will be OK! I feel the outcome of it will probably warrant another post.  In the mean time though I leave you with a quick and easy fudge recipe which does not require the faff of a sweet thermometer! 

Hazelnut Fudge
(Makes lots)

  • 200g Good dark chocolate
  • About 200g Sweetened condensed Milk
  • 100g Icing Sugar, sifted
  • 50g Hazelnuts, finely chopped
  • 1Tbsp Frangelico/Hazelnut liqueur (Optional)
  1. Line a 21x21cm tin or similar with baking parchment.
  2. Heat up about 1cm water and place a heat-proof bowl over the pan, making sure the base does not touch the water.  Melt the chocolate pieces and condensed milk together gently and stir until all melted.
  3. In the mean time, if hazelnuts are whole, either crush or chop with a knife or pulse blitz in a processor, but make sure you do not over-process!
  4. Remove the melted chocolate mixture from the heat and stir in the liqueur if using then add the nuts and icing sugar and mix until well combined.
  5. Spread the mixture into the lined tin, level out and dust with sugar and cocoa then chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours preferably until firm. 
  6. Cut into cubes, re-dust with sugar to avoid sticking and enjoy!