Mint Humbug Cupcakes

Old fashioned mint sweets are gradually going out of fashion in the UK. They are regarded as being a particularly old-fashioned sweet, and the new innovations in confectionary techniques and flavours have tended to drive people towards to newer types of sweets. Humbugs though, still have a particular vintage appeal to them, and one that still is appealing today.

Mint Humbug Cupcake

 

Mint Humbug Cupcake 3

Another Hummingbird Bakery recipe, this one takes the traditional boiled sweet, the mint humbug and develops this into a cupcake. I was dubious about this – I often find caramel very sweet, but in this recipe the peppermint goes someway to cutting through the sweetness. The recipe suggests topping them with crushed mint humbugs, but I used rice paper butterflies to top the cupcakes – I couldn’t face any more sugar in them!

Mint Humbug Cupcake 2

Mint Humbug Cupcakes

Instructions:

Cake:

  • 70g butter, softened.
  • 210g plain flour
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 210 ml whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint essence
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g tinned caramel

Frosting:

  • 500g icing sugar
  • 160g butter, softened
  • 50ml milk
  • 1/4 tsp peppermint essence
  • 20g tinned caramel

Ingredients:

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3, and line a cupcake tin with liners. Set aside for later.

Beat together the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until they form crumbs. Mix the eggs, milk and peppermint essence together in a separate bowl and when well-combined, start adding to the dry ingredients, slowly and mixing well after each addition. Beat the mixture until a smooth batter is formed. Add the caramel and mix in until well-distributed through the mixture.

Fill the cupcake cases to 2/3′s full, and bake for 30 minutes until form and well risen. Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Make the frosting by beating together the butter, icing sugar and milk with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the peppermint essence and caramel and beat until completely combined. Transfer to a piping bag and pip a swirl onto the top of each cupcake,before decorating as you prefer.

The United States of America: Chilli Cumin Cornbread

Cornbread s described by the Hummingbird Bakery (from which this recipe is taken) as the ultimate cheats bread – it’s quick, needs no rising and can be on the table in under an hour. I love standard cornbread, but this one is a step above. Flavoured with chilli and cumin, and with the addition of sweetcorn to add texture, this loaf is excellent to eat as an accompaniment to chowders or soup, with cheese as part of a salad lunch or just on its own, warm from the oven with melted butter.

Chilli Cumin Cornbread

Chilli Cumin Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 20g ground cumin
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 60g polenta
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of groud black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 90g sour cream
  • 100ml milk
  • 120g sweetcon (defrosted if frozen)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 and grease and line a a loaf tin with baking parchment.

Mix the dry ingredients together until well combined. In a separate bowl, mix together the sour cream, milk and eggs and then add to the dry ingredients. Beat the mixture together until a batter forms. Add the sweetcorn and mix briefly to ensure an even spread.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Take it out of the oven and cool briefly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack  and cooling further – if you can wait that long!

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

I am not always the most patient person in the world. Some things don’t bother me. Transport delays don’t really bother me – I’m generally hideously early so it’s rare that a delay is ever a real problem.

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However, when it comes to baking I have no patience. And that is a real problem. Baking is all about patience – waiting for bread to rise, waiting for pies to cook, waiting for cakes to cool in preparation for icing. There is no short cut, you’ve got to let it happen at its own speed. And sadly that’s where I fall short.

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Cookies are generally a quick thing to make – a great thing to make after work when you just need a quick fix, right? Well sort of. These are very simple to make, but they do require patience. You have to wait for them to chill, bake and then cool. And you have to let these cool. It may take all your willpower to do this but it will be worth it.

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Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3oz plain flour
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3oz caster sugar
  • 1oz butter
  • 1 egg
  • 10ml kahlua
  • 1 3/4oz icing sugar

Instructions:

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together before stirring in the sugar. Rub the butter into the mixture using your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Mix the egg and kahlua together and add to the butter and dry ingredients. Stir until a dough is formed – this will take MUCH longer than you think! It will come together though, so don’t feel the need to add any more liquid – it will make the mixture too loose. Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Take walnut sized pieces of the mixture and roll into balls, and then cover with the icing sugar. Be generous as this will give  the cookies the lovely crispy sugar coating. Place the round cookies onto the baking sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, until cracked on the top and firm to the touch. Cool the cookies before serving (if you can wait long enough!)

Tranche Noix de Coco

French term for coconut biscuits. This recipe is taken from the patisserie textbook for Le Cordon Bleu and the biscuits are described as having  influences from Southeast Asia and India (due to the use of coconut), but the overall style is definitely French Classical regardless of the ingredients.

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It also includes several techniques including the  making of a sweet pastry and a Swiss meringue. However, the most stressful aspect had to be dipping the biscuits in chocolate – Oh my goodness. They just kept falling apart! However, even if they do, the end result still tastes good!

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Tranche Noix de Coco

Ingredients:

Sweet pastry:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 125g icing sugar
  • Apricot (or Raspberry) jam, melted.

Swiss meringue:

  • 5 egg whites
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 200g dessicated coconut
  • 15g plain flour
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 300g dark chocolate, melted.

Instructions:

Mix the powdered sugar and salt together and make a well. Add the softened butter to the centre of the well and start working the sugar into the butter with your fingers until the mixture is creamy. Using a wooden spoon, mix the egg yolks and vanilla essence into the butter/sugar mix and beat to combine. Start adding the flour gradually until a smooth paste is formed, mixing to create a loose dough. Smear the dough away from yourself (against the side of the bowl) until no lumps are left in the mixture. Wrap the mixture in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer.

Roll the dough out on a lined baking sheet, pricking all over with a fork and bake in an oven preheated to 180°C for about 20 minutes (until just starting to turn golden brown). At this point, remove from the oven and spread with the melted fruit jam. Leave to cool and then brush with another layer of the jam. Reduce the oven to 130°C.

Make the Swiss meringue by placing the sugar and egg whites in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and beat until the mixture is hot to the touch (about 55°C if you have a sugar thermometer). remove from the heat and continue whisking until cool. Mix the coconut, flour and vanilla essence and then fold into the meringue mixture, then spread onto the pastry base. Bake in the cooler oven for 30 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, cut into bars or shapes and dip into the melted chocolate.

 

Mexico: Ricotta, Lime and Vanilla Cake

This delicious cake was taken from the book Wahaca: Mexican Food at Home by the brilliant Thomasina Miers.  One of my favourite restaurants to eat at when in London, she focuses on fresh and simple Mexican street food. This recipe traditionally would use a curd cheese called requeson, however Miers suggests ricotta as a good equivalent. The cake is moist and dense, but surprisingly light and fresh – definitely one to make again!

Ricotta cake 2

Ricotta Cake 1

Ricotta, Lime and Vanilla Cake

Ingredients:

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 65g plain flour
  • grated zest and and juice of six limes
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 300g ricotta cheese

Icing:

  • 75g ricotta cheese
  • 30g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp grated lime zest

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 2 (300°F/150°C) and grease a 24in springform tin ready for use later. Line the base of the tin with greaseproof paper.

Combine the ground almonds, flour and lime zest in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together, before beating in the vanilla essence. Mix in the egg yolks one at a time before stirring in the flour mixture. In a different bowl, combine the ricotta and lime juice, before adding to the cake mix and combining well.

Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then start to fold into the mixture. Use a spoonful to loosen the mixture before folding in the rest, being careful to not take out too much of the air. Place in the cake tin and bake for an hour, until the cake is just set and slightly golden brown. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

To make the icing, beat the butter and ricotta together before beating in the icing sugar and lime zest. Beat with a mixer for several minutes until thick and smooth. Smooth over the cake, and decorate with extra lime zest as required.

Happy Blog-Day

Today is one year to the day since this blog began. A lot has happened in this year, and oddly enough this post finds me in a similar situation to that in which the blog started. Starting as an academic exercise (when I was too ill to get out of a chair), this challenge developed into a project to keep me sane, and one that even now keeps me calm and allows me to gain a sense of perspective when I am in need of such.

More importantly, it has produced a lot of cakes, all of which have been enthusiastically sampled by Max, myself and whichever lucky people (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) have been around at the time. As  result, to celebrate one year, this post will revisit some of the most popular cakes to have been created over this period.

Turkish Delight Cupcakes

Turkish Delight Cupcake 1

Hands down, the most request and popular recipe on this site – a complete winner!

Coconut Dream Cake

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Another favourite with everyone , and surprisingly easy to make – foolproof hopefully!

Blueberry and Espresso Cupcakes

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These beauties got me a place in the National Cupcake Championships! Sadly no prize but there is always next year!

Wheat Beer and Chocolate Cake

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The favourite of the men folk – beer and chocolate! Can’t go wrong as far as they’re concerned!

The S’Mores Cupcakes

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After taking these into work, they didn’t even make it past morning break. Success guaranteed.

Baklava

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Made for an adorer of Baklava, despite having never really eaten it before. It went down a treat, and was requested again.

Cranachan Cupcakes

Cranachan Cupcakes

Creamy, fruity and boozy – what could be better?

I hope that these select few give you some nice ideas – there are many more that I could have put in here but otherwise the post would have been a little long… Here’s to another year of baking.

The (Baking) Development of 2014

[Note: this started off life as a post about the potential trends of 2014 in the baking world, but t the end of February, it's a little late. Therefore this should not be viewed as a prediction, but rather as a running commentary.]

As in all disciplines, baking [(as well as food in general!) goes through trends. We all remember the Great Cupcake Extravaganza of 2011, the rise of homemade bread (pun completely intended) and the Surprise Cronut Frenzy of 2013, which sent downtown Manhattan almost to standstill, as hundreds queued around the block in order to taste this delicacy.

The question is then, what will be the next trends to hit us?

As you may expect, predictions vary. I read one article that claimed both that big cakes would be in, tapping in to the family-style, and them almost immediately afterwards claiming that the trend for big cakes was over. Logically that argument seems a little flawed to me. However, there are many others which deserve a mention, and some that I’ll be developing my thoughts on, not to mention giving you my own suggestions.

Naked Cakes

Image here

The natural trend has been developing in the culinary world for some years now, particularly focusing on the twin issues of sustainability and organic produce. Taking this trend to an aesthetic level, the end of last year saw a development of stripping cakes back to their most basic elements (and not in my lazy method of just not decorating it!). This rustic trend has reached substantial popularity in wedding cakes – thankfully taking over from the cakes of cheese – and the focus on fruit and spices (such as lavender and rose) creates a lighter, less sugar-filled cake.

Choux Pastry

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Apparently this is going to be the next development in French Patisserie, and the displays in many noted Parisian shops seem to confirm this. The previous macaroon trend was beautiful – however, many of the macaroons I tried were almost sickeningly sweet – one shop almost left me in a (albeit delicious) sugar coma! Now whilst I cannot comment on the development of choux pastry in British Bakeries across the country,I can comment that I have eaten more choux pastry this year than in all of last year, and that this trend is one that I hope will continue to wind its delicious way through 2014.

Baking Mash-ups

Cronut – Image here

The Townie – Britain’s contribution to the baking mash up! Image here

A continuation from last year, suggestions have been mooted regarding the combinations of two desserts, or adding a new spin onto an old classic. Suggestions from Good Food Magazine include the ‘Sticky Toffee Pie’ and ‘Party Dodgers’ – what I can only assume is a cross between a party ring and a jammy dodger.

My personal opinion – Britain isn’t going far enough. At the moment, as with many of the trends, the USA is the pioneer, from the ubiquitous cronut to the townie (brownie-tart) and the duffin (doughnut-muffin). Compared to these delicious treats, turning a lemon drizzle cake into a roulade is simply playing it safe.

Increased Complexity in Baking

Charlotte Royale – the infamous brain cake! Image here

When the Great British Bake-Off began, the level of technicality in the baking challenges was far simpler than in the previous series. I dread to think what dastardly challenges have been thought up for this years competitors, but one result of this is that the previous mystery that surrounded patisserie has dissipated somewhat. No longer seen as overly complex, amateurs are now far more likely to use techniques such as tempering. I would expect that this will develop through this year, though due to a probable plateauing of abilities and equipment availability I would suggest that this would not extend past this.

Biscuits

Image from Bubble and Sweet -Pinterest again delivers some beautiful biscuits!

Sweet Ambs Cookies - Ideal Wedding Favours 7

These from Into the Wildwood are also rather stunning.

I’ve not seen this one written down anywhere, but this is a trend which I feel should come back soon. Biscuits are a ridiculously undervalued baked good – capable of endless variation, easily portable and completely beautiful when decorated appropriately (See the examples below!) All of the other baking trends seem to have found some form of resurgence during the past few years except the biscuit, and I think it is about time the humble biscuit got its due!

How about the rest of you then? Any comments or omissions?

(This post references the Good Food article as a predominant source. There are several other articles which suggest baking trends, though many are similar to those mentioned in this article).