Sunday, 23 December 2012

Upside down Pear and Almond cake

This glorious, moist pudding cake was adapted from 'Saved By Cake', which was given to me by the lovely blogger Helen last year... The book is by Marian Keyes, who you may be more familiar as a popular fiction writer, however this book came about following Marian's battle with depression, and how she learned to bake and get on the road to recovery. 

Depression, afflicts a lot of us at points during our lives, and it took me a long time to realise I actually was under its grey thumb, thinking I was just a little ‘off colour’ following some pretty life changing events, and I was not realising how much it was affecting both me and those around me. Thankfully I sought help, spurred on by Helens enlightening post about her own challenge with it and my life is considerably better now for it and life is looking up again. I urge anyone suffering from this horrible illness to seek help of their doctor and don't be afraid to speak to your friends and family even when all you want to do is batten down the hatches and hide!

The original recipe was for a mango upside down cake, however I make a pretty mean version myself but this recipe was different enough and as I had some pears that had become very ripe after buying far too much fruit after a small spending spree in Aldi’s super six – honestly forget I only buy for one sometimes, and knowing from a previous experiment with some lush almond extract, I knew how well the flavours marry together so well, and thus the cake was born! 

2 ripe pears, peeled cored and sliced into 1/4cm slices
50g butter
50g light muscovado sugar

100g butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 180o/ gas4

Liberally grease a 20cm cake pan – don’t use a loose bottom one or it will leak (apparently so anyway!). I can definitely assume this would happen! I used my sealed bottom tin and a cake liner to doubly ensure no leakages!

For the topping beat the butter and sugar and spread over the base of the pan, top with the pear slices in an even fashion.

Cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs and a ¼ tsp almond extract (mine is from Bakery Bits and pretty intense so judge your own accordingly). Fold in the sieved flour and baking powder

Spoon over the pears evenly and bake for approx. 35 minutes, cool slightly for 5 minutes in the tin and turn quickly and carefully onto a suitable pretty cake plate. Serve warm with custard or cream

Unfortunately my camera was out on loan, and my old camera just doesn't do it justice - it was a lot more photogenic than the image suggests!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas with Knorr

Over the past year I've been working with Knorr to bring you an array of recipes I've developed and exclusive content and features, and this year Christmas came early for me when a gigantic parcel, and I mean the delivery driver had to lug it up the stairs gigantic - and he very kindly placed it in the hallway  for me, arrived direct from Forman and Fields last Friday! A far more joyous affair for a day that involved hideous weather and a wasted journey which I won't go into here, and a temporary loss of very important cards, needless to say I was just a teeny bit annoyed...this and a very nice takeaway was friends was a welcome diversion!

This Christmas, I will be working throughout - joy of shift work, so it will be relatively low key affair spread between parents. On boxing day, its my turn to cook our late lunch, and we will be having from the parcel a rather gigantic Turkey, which after logistical issues is now safely stored in my mum's freezer! Keep posted of 101 ways to use leftover Turkey in 2013! I have the tiniest freezer where I live, is not geared up to storing much more than some frozen spinach and a few UFO's so it proved a challenge! Within the hamper, were some other goodies, some which are being eaten before then due to freshness - tonight is some gorgeous smelling pork stuffing, and later in the week I plan to use the orange to bake something nice...! I have not fully decided how the Turkey will be cooked yet, partially as my mum is doing the hard part but included in my box was a really good sounding bacon baste recipe, so it might well involve that!

So have you had a mince pie yet? I was shocked this year as only had my first one last week but I have made up for it since - the ones that came within my box are absolutely gorgeous! I keep meaning to make a batch myself for work but just have been too busy! If I am lucky in the new year I hope to pick up some reduced jars of mincemeat, last time I got some for 25p!

Many thanks to Golin Harris and Knorr

Monday, 10 December 2012

Chai Fruity Tear and Share Bread

Oh oh oh..

Is it a cake? Is it a bread? Pudding. Breakfast. Snack? Who knows apart from its super bloomin good!

I have polished off my ‘feeder’ crown. I think on behalf of other food bloggers I can quietly and confidently confirm there is a little feeder within us all. This bread got shared with two close friends who live within walking distance (mainly as I didn’t trust myself alone with it) and it didn’t last very long! One of the texts did involve the quote ‘sharing the fat’!

Come into my lair said the fruit to the belly!

Whoever said baking is an exact science obviously didn’t get out much. A little knowledge can be dangerous, but only to the hip to waist ratio. I think once you master the basics, the cookery world is your oyster, to explore and enjoy! I rarely stick to a recipe and this one was plucked from various inspirations, partially previous experience with other breads; seeing another blog and her sumptuous Swedish buns, plus above all having a curious mind and discovery of a love for chai tea thanks to the lovely Jenny. Oh and for some reason of late (hmm maybe Christmas...) I have recently seen lots of use for ground cardamom (have since purchased), one of my favourite spices and it must have tattooed its fragrant imprint upon my brain cells it appears!

The day of baking I hadn’t planned to make this recipe at all, but having my lovely beef stew simmering away on the hob, the smells were so good and triggered thoughts of lovely bread….

On went the kettle, out came the dried fruit mix, enroute spotted the box of chai teabags and voila! I pretty much made it up as a I went along and to be honest I don’t think I would change a thing. It barely made it 24 hours from birth to death. And that was with some restraint.

A sweet slice of heaven:

It’s the first time I’ve properly experimented with a sweet yeasted dough, and a lot of cross fingers went on but I couldn’t ask for more. Its slightly sweet, soft, light and full of plump fruit scented with cloves and hints of sweet spice. Oh and it looks rather pretty too! The mix smelt rather festive too, a gentle reminder of the approaching festive season…

Requires love and a 23cm springform tin

450g strong white flour
50g caster sugar
200ml milk – I used soya
25g butter/ margarine
½ tsp vanilla extract
Sachet fast action yeast
300ml boiling water
100g dried fruit
25g glace cherries roughly chopped
2 tbsp unrefined sugar
1 chai teabag
Egg wash – I swear by the spray one from Lakelands! If not just use a little beaten egg

1) Cover the fruit and cherries with 300ml boiling water and add the teabag. Allow to sit for a good hour or more before doing the next bits

Gleaming like jewels:

2) Meanwhile gently warm the milk with the butter till just melted, allow to cool to just above room temperature

3) Sieve together the flour and caster sugar. Add the yeast to the milk along with a heaped spoonful of the flour mix, mix well then rest for five or so minutes

4) Stir the milky liquid gently into the flour, along with a couple of spoons of the soaking liquor to get a sticky dough, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes – try not to add any further flour as you want a dampish dough, just enough so it doesn’t stick entirely to the counter top! It should all be lovely, smooth and elastic. Place in a floured bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm until doubled in size.

5) Knock back the dough, smooth out into a long baguette shape and cut into around 14 or so chunks. I love my metal dough slicer! Use your fist to flatten each chunk – trust me it’s the best way and quite stress relieving – and fill roughly with a spoon of the drained fruit mix, pinch over stretching into sort of ball shaped – don’t be too precise, you want a few bits sneaking out and place in the centre of the tin and repeat until all the dough is used up in one layer – sprinkle over and press in any remaining fruit mix. Glaze with egg and sprinkle over the unrefined sugar. Allow to rest for a further 10 minutes or so whilst the oven preheats to 200o/ Gas 6.

6) Place the tin in the middle of the oven, throw half a cup of water into the bottom, close the door quickly and bake for thirty minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap the sides – don’t try to turn it upside down like you would with a loaf – it will be very hot and it’s not the kind of bread!

7) Once your beautiful beast is out of the oven, allow to stand for a couple of minutes then undo the tin clip, carefully loosen and slide onto an airing rack, cool for a good thirty minutes before brandishing your bread knife and losing your dignity as you make strange noises in earshot of your flatmate mumbling ‘oh its so good’ and realise instincts are the best thing in baking. And life.

Nb: I hold no responsibility for weight gain.

Thanks to Paul for helping me with the final name for this!

Don't forget I am also on facebook and its comments like these 'P.s. Best bread ever' makes my heart go all squishy happy so fire away with your thoughts! I love hearing from you!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Jam and Coconut Microwave Bundt cake

Some time back whilst perusing the homeware’s selection in the local hospice shop my eyes settled upon a microwaveable bundt cake pan! My heart did a little skip and I swiftly grabbed it and handed over my shiny £1 for it! A pound very well spent as after it sat in the cupboard for a good year, I recently had a want for cake but lacked energy to put the oven on etc and remembered it was stashed away, following a quick wash its now been used several times and no longer gathering dust in the recesses of the cupboard!

One of the cakes I most frequently bake is jam and coconut. It is my favourite of cakes and so it was an obvious choice to test the bundt pan out! My mum recently put me onto Sainsbury's basics mixed fruit jam – is perfect for cakes and a bargain at around 27p a jar and ideal for this cake.

I was a little wary of how the microwave cake would taste for something so quick but it really does hit the mark and thanks to the pretty jam and coconut flake topping it doesn’t look anaemic at all and is so quick and easy. A little custard doesn't go amiss either!


2 large eggs (at room temperature)
125g soft butter/ stork margarine
125g self raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp dessicated coconut
3 tbsp coconut chips
3 tbsp mixed fruit jam

1) Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, beat in remaining ingredients to make the cake batter

2) Sprinkle the coconut chips into the bottom of the bundt pan and dot over the jam. Spoon over the cake batter, smooth over and microwave on high for 6 minutes in a 700w oven or until it bounces back and a skewer comes away clean.

3) Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then turn onto a plate, gently tap to loosen and serve warm 

01 09 10