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Welcome!

 

macarons
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Macarons – a topic to breach around a festive period

Welcome to thatcookingthing. This blog was started in the summer of 2017 as I was about to enter my fourth and final year of university and was designed for students and those less comfortable in the kitchen. The posts were linked to the British academic year of September through to July and consist of weekly updates of recipes. The content will be split into two halves, there will be “Cooking From Basics” as well as a Baking section.

Cooking From Basics will follow the academic year and aims to teach skills in the kitchen. It will start off with simple meals requiring little effort and will progress to teaching new techniques as the year goes on. As it is aimed at students, I will be providing a cost estimate per portion (based on my local shop’s prices) and also, where possible, I will explain how to make the recipe both vegetarian and possibly vegan! For the simpler recipes, it is easiest to head to the Cooking From Basics tab and scroll down to the earlier recipes. They are provided in chronological order but if you are looking for a specific recipe, check out the master list where I will provide an index of all my recipes.

Bread
Herb fougasse inspired by the Great British Bake Off. These little loaves caused more trouble than expected when the oven went out of commission last minute and the dough had to be carried to a friend’s house to bake!

Baking has been a passion of mine for a long time now. I love the creativity and freedom that comes with it and I always spend far too much time baking than I really should. The baking section of this blog will follow the things that I have been making and will provide recipes and if possible, troubleshooting for them.

cake 2
Galaxy themed mirror glaze cake with devil’s food cake inside. Created for a Promenade concert and inspired by Mahler’s Seventh Symphony – Night music

I aim to alternate between the Cooking From Basics and Baking posts but obviously some recipes may just fall into both!

I hope you enjoy the blog and I will see you every Monday!

Chicken Foot Baba Yaga Cake

This cake marks the sixth in my series of Proms cakes. These are cakes inspired by pieces of music which performed at the BBC Proms, which is the largest classical music festival in the world. A lot of composers take inspiration from nature, life, myth and paintings and these cakes are designed to embody some aspect of a piece that makes it stand out.

The chicken foot cake is based on a movement from Pictures at an Exhibition, by Mussorgsky – an orchestral suite inspired by a series of paintings; the cake is specifically inspired by a movement based on a painting of a character from Russian folklore: Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga was a witch who lived in a hut on chicken legs (paintings disagree whether the hut was on one or two legs but that is beside the point). I did think after making the cake that maybe I could’ve based this year’s Proms cake on the movement Bydło or Cattle which depicts cattle pulling a cart and feels like it is pushing through thick mud – I could’ve made a Mississippi Mud Pie or something – but maybe that could be a different blog post. Interestingly, one of the Baba Yaga stories includes a character which was the basis for my first ever Proms cake as well the inspiration for a ballet by Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird.

When it came to designing the cake, I knew that the foot would have to look a little cartoonish, after all if you have ever seen a chicken leg you would have noticed how thin it is. A cake with proper proportions would not only be unable to stand up but would probably serve only two people. I knew that the cake would have to be a bit chunkier than the foot it was modelled on but one thing I really wanted to keep was a nod to the angles which a hen’s leg stands at – that is to say, I did not want the leg to be perpendicular to the foot. To give the leg some angle, I built it up in layers – sliding each layer about half a centimetre further towards the back of the foot than the one it was lying on. Of course this technique only works to a certain point before everything topples over but if you are careful, you can get a good inch of lateral direction on the leg without any disasters occurring.

I would classify the Proms cakes as some of the more creative things that I bake. In the past they have included mirror glazes, biscuits, a 3D gingerbread piano which opened, a cake where each slice looked like a piano keyboard and a giant marshmallow square hammer. I really enjoy making themed cakes because they give me the opportunity to sit down and plan out what I want the cake to look like. Do they always work? Well not always in the way in which I originally intended but they are still good fun and they have never not worked – to an extent……

Let me know if you try making this as I would love to see your creation!

 

 

Chicken Foot Baba Yaga Cake

 

Ingredients:

For the cake:

6 eggs

250g sugar

240g flour

2 tbsp freeze-dried raspberries

2 tbsp warm water or raspberry juice

 

For the fillings and icing:

100g raspberries

400g chocolate ganache (200g dark chocolate and 200g double cream)

200g unsalted butter

300g icing sugar

Yellow food dye

Vanilla extract

 

Make the ganache by heating the cream with the chocolate over a double boiler, whist stirring continuously, until they come together to form a homogenous, glossy mixture.

Remove the ganache from the double boiler and set aside to cool completely and harden up.

 

To make the cake:

Preheat your oven to gas mark 6.

Line the bases of two swiss roll tins with baking parchment and lightly grease and flour the edges of the tins.

Use a stand mixer to whip the eggs and sugar until super light and fluffy – this will take a few minutes. The mixture should be thick and slowly fall off the whisk when you lift it out of the bowl. If in doubt, give it another 30 seconds.

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Sift the freeze dried raspberries into the flour and then sift the flour and raspberry powder into the eggs.

Fold this through until it is almost completely combined.

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Drizzle the water or raspberry juice (made by squeezing about 50g fresh raspberries through a sieve) around the edge of the cake mix and fold it in until everything is mixed evenly. Be careful not to overmix and deflate the batter.

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Split the batter between the two trays and bake for 10-12 minutes until the cakes are risen and golden on top. They should also have started to come away from the sides of the pan if it was greased.

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Sprinkle a little icing sugar on the top of the cakes and turn them out onto another sheet of baking parchment.

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Remove the parchment which was lining the tins from the cake (this should’ve come out with the cake and be stuck to its base).

Cover the cakes with a damp tea towel and leave to cool.

 

Tip the raspberries into a sieve and use a wooden spoon to push them through. This will squeeze as much liquid out of them as possible. You should be left with a dryish looking pulp which can be discarded.

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Mix a tablespoon of water into the raspberry juice.

 

To assemble the first part of the cake:

Once your ganache has hardened, use a stand mixer to whip it until it is soft. The colour will lighten considerably during this. You may have to gently warm it a bit to soften it up but be careful not to fully re-melt the ganache!

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Take one of the cake layers and cut one third of it off (widthwise). This will become the base of your cake.

For the following section, before adding any layer of cake, brush the base of the cake to be added with the raspberry juice and spread a layer of ganache over it.

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Cut the remaining section of cake into moderately thick strips and lay it over the other piece to build it up in the chicken foot shape below (shown in blue).

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Cut the bottom right and left sections of cake off the base and add them on top for more height.

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Trim the edges of the cake to round off the hard corners.

Find a circular cutter the same size or slightly smaller than the intersection at the centre of the foot (shown in red on the diagram). Cut circles from the remaining cake and layer them on top of the intersection remembering to brush with raspberry and spread chocolate ganache over the top.

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You should now have a roughly chicken foot shaped cake.

Spread the rest of the ganache over the outside of the cake to create a crumb coat. You can use this to cover rough edges and smooth sharp angles.

Leave the cake in the fridge for at least an hour to set.

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To make the buttercream, beat the butter in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment for about five minutes. The butter will be super light and fluffy and shiny now.

Sift in half of the icing sugar and beat for another two minutes on high. Make sure to start your mixer off slow to avoid covering your kitchen in icing sugar.

Add the rest of the sugar and beat again.

Take a couple of tablespoons of icing and set aside to make the claws with.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract and yellow food dye until your desired shade is reached.

 

For black claws, colour your reserved icing with black food dye. For white claws, leave it as it is.

To make the claws, spit the reserved icing into four and make a pyramid coming out of the end of each of the spurs on the chicken’s foot.

Load the yellow icing into a piping bag and pipe on scales around the claws to cover up the base. Pipe scales all over the chicken foot or alternatively, add scales to the ends and a light layer of icing over the rest.

Use the back of a knife to make horizontal lines across the toes (are they called that?) of the foot and up the front of the leg.

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Your chicken foot cake is now complete!

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. The cake in this can also be turned into a swiss roll if you don’t fancy the whole chicken foot thing – check out my instructions on how to make this into a slightly simpler dessert!

Have a good one and next week everything will be back to normal food with a delicious savoury, vegetarian dumpling dish.

H

 

Satay Chicken Curry

There are three types of satay sauce that I have come across over the past few years: pure peanut, hoisin based and coconut based. The recipe in this week’s post, as you will see, is clearly the final one from that list. You get a much milder peanut flavour as the coconut milk tones it down a lot and the final sauce is super creamy and fragrant. A good satay shouldn’t be too rich so tamarind and lime juice are added to help cut through the fat from the nuts and coconut milk. The spices add extra flavour and, as always, homemade means that you can choose your heat level.

A true satay will be made with peanuts which are roasted and ground by hand. Few of us actually have time to do this and so the best replacement is peanut butter. While you can use a low quality peanut butter for this recipe, the better the peanut butter, the better the sauce. Good peanut butter doesn’t need extra oil or flavours added, it should be pure, blended peanuts. You will also have the choice of crunchy or smooth peanut butter. I will always choose crunchy. It just gives some extra texture to the dish and you get the peanut flavour from the pieces.

Traditional peanut sauce is from Indonesia – it was first recorded to have been made on Java. It is made by grinding up roasted or fried peanuts with various aromatics and then thinned out with water. Unlike hoisin based satay sauces, both traditional and coconut based ones are not overly sweet or too salty. The balancing of the sweet and salty and richness in a satay sauce can be difficult to achieve but when it works the resulting sauce is wonderful to eat (and to be honest, I would just use a spoon and eat it straight from the jar). Before cooking, the meat used in satay dishes is marinated in a turmeric based sauce which gives the dish its distinctive yellow colour (you may notice that I do not do that in the dish below but you are perfectly welcome to).

The best thing about the coconut based sauce is that you don’t have to use it just on chicken – or any other kind of meat. You can use this as a dipping sauce for raw veg or Vietnamese summer rolls. It is incredibly versatile.

 

 

 

Chicken Satay Curry

Serves 4

Time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts

1/2 onion

400g peanut butter

400ml coconut milk

Juice of half a lime

2 tbsp soy sauce

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp fresh ginger

1 finely grated medium chilli

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Vegetables of your choice: I use bamboo and water chestnuts. You could also use peppers or onion

Optional sauce ingredients: 2 tsp tamarind paste, ½ tsp ground coriander, ½ tsp ground cumin

 

 

 

Thinly slice the chicken and set aside.

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Finely chop the onion and two cloves garlic.

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion.

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Sautee until the onion is translucent and then add the garlic. Stir fry for another minute.

Add the chicken and spread it over the pan so it can all cook evenly. Remember to stir regularly.

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While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the peanut butter, coconut milk, chilli, lime, honey and honey. Mince the remaining clove of garlic, grate the ginger and add those to the sauce.

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After about five minutes, pour the sauce over the chicken and heat until the sauce is bubbling. It will slacken up as the peanut butter melts.

Add the veg and cook for another few minutes to ensure the chicken is fully cooked. Serve with rice and garnish with fresh lime and coriander.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. The sauce is amazing and can be used for far more than just chicken and it is so easy to make!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with an amazing decorative cake.

H

Baked Alaska

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday to you,

Happy birthday That Cooking Thing,

Happy birthday to you!

Hey guys, That Cooking Thing turned two years old yesterday and this post marks the third year for recipes from this blog. I just want to extend a massive ‘thank you’ to those who have been following me since the beginning, a few of you have liked every single post and I feel so honoured that you guys are still here after all this time. To those of you who have joined more recently, welcome and I hope you stay around for a long time to come!

I thought it would be appropriate to make something super celebratory to mark this bloggiversary so this week I have made a Baked Alaska. No corners have been cut in this recipe (although I wouldn’t judge if you bought the ice cream because making it fresh takes time). This baked Alaska is vanilla flavoured with a little bit of chocolate. A layer of vanilla sponge with a dome of creamy, delicious vanilla ice cream with a centre of chocolate chip ice cream all topped with peaks of French meringue and then baked in the oven. The homemade ice cream is certainly the star of this dessert and you do not want to detract from it by jazzing everything else up too much. You can tailor your flavours though, why not coffee ice cream and a brownie base? Or strawberry ice cream and chocolate cake?

When it comes to baking your Alaska, you have three options: the oven, the blowtorch or fire. Traditionally (and as I have done in this recipe) the entire dessert is placed into a maximum setting oven for five minutes to caramelize the outside and give the beautiful golden crust you associate with a baked Alaska. The blowtorch method is most likely the best thing to use if you are piping on your meringue as the blowtorch will crisp any edges (such as those left by a star tipped piping bag) and really bring out the definition of the meringue. If you use a blowtorch, I would recommend using a Swiss or Italian meringue where the egg whites have already been heated during the cooking process. For a classic baking in the oven, you could still use these meringues if you want but there is no need to expend the extra effort as a French meringue will work just fine! The final method – the flambé – is obviously the most theatrical but is the hardest to control. Once you have set the alcohol on fire and poured it over the Alaska, you cant stop the cooking if it goes too far. It might even be worth a practice run on a separate Alaska (just for you of course) to work out the correct quantity of rum to use for the flambé.

 

If you try this for yourself, let me know how it goes – maybe even give me a tag on Instagram so I can see what you have made. Have a fab one and hopefully the next two years will be as successful as the last two.

 

 

Baked Alaska

Work time: 1 hour

Cooling time: overnight

 

Ingredients:

1 tub vanilla ice cream

OR

4 egg yolks

300ml double cream

300ml whole milk

1 vanilla pod

100g caster sugar

 

For the cake:

2 oz. butter

2 oz. caster sugar

2 oz. self-raising flour

1 egg

½ tsp Vanilla extract

½ tsp milk

 

For the meringue:

4 egg whites

8 oz. caster sugar

¼ tsp cream of tartar or ¼ tsp white wine vinegar

 

 

For non-homemade ice cream:

Allow the ice cream to soften a little until it can be scooped easily.

Line a 600ml bowl with a double layer of cling film.

Scoop the ice cream into the bowl, press it down and wrap the clingfilm over the top.

Place back into the freezer until completely solid (probably best to do this overnight).

 

For homemade ice cream:

Follow churning instructions on your ice cream maker – mine requires the bowl to be cooled for 24 hours in the freezer prior to use but other varieties may differ.

Pour the cream and the milk into a heavy based saucepan.

Split the vanilla pod down the middle and scrape out the seeds. Add both the seeds and the pod into the milk mixture.

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Gently warm the milk until it is hot to the touch but not boiling. You do not want to scald the milk.

While the milk is heating, lightly beat the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until they have lightened in colour and you have a homogenous mixture.

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Once the milk mix has begun to steam, take one cup of it and slowly pour into the egg mixture whilst whisking. This will temper the eggs.

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Stream the rest of the milk into the egg mix whilst stirring continuously.

Return the mixture to the pan and gently heat, constantly stirring in a figure of eight, until the custard begins to thicken. The custard will coat the back of a metal spoon when it is ready. The mixture will start to steam quite a lot before it begins to thicken so don’t worry if you start to see wisps rising from the surface. Once the custard begins to thicken, it will do so very fast and you will be able to see that it is far more viscous.

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Pour the custard through a fine sieve and into a jug. Leave this to cool completely before the next step.

 

If using an ice cream maker, follow the instructions on your machine. Some will have an internal freezer, others will require freezing prior to use. The following instructions are for my brand of ice cream maker: the Magimix 1.1.

Assembler the ice cream maker and turn on the paddle.

Stream the custard into the maker and then leave for 25 minutes to half an hour until the ice cream is very thick and frozen. If you are unsure, and your ice cream maker is still churning away happily, give it another five minutes as this can’t do any damage!

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Before you turn off the ice cream machine, double line a 600ml bowl with cling film.

Scoop the ice cream into the bowl, cover the top and leave to freeze solid overnight.

 

 

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3.

Grease and line an eight inch tin.

In a bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy.

Add the sugar and vanilla and beat again.

Add the egg and beat to combine.

Finally, add the flour and slowly mix until just combined.

Add the milk and mix one last time.

Pour the cake batter into the baking tin and spread it out.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

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Leave to cool.

 

 

To prepare the Alaska for serving:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 9.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.

Add the cream of tartar and whisk again.

Slowly sprinkle in the caster sugar a spoon at a time until it has all been incorporated.

Continue to beat until you have a glossy meringue. The sugar should be completely dissolved.

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Assembly:

Remove the ice cream from the freezer.

Cut the cake to the same size as the base of the ice cream dome.

Place the ice cream on top of the cake on a baking sheet.

Spread the meringue all over the ice cream and the cake. Make sure the meringue covers everything.

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Use the back of a spoon to make peaks in the meringue.

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Bake for five minutes turning halfway through to ensure it is crisped up evenly around the outside.

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Transfer the Alaska onto a plate and serve.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. This was one of more complicated things I have made for the blog but only because I made the ice cream from scratch. The final result is absolutely delicious and it is sure to wow anyone you make it for. You could always make mini ones too if you want to do single portions.

 

If you would like to know a little bit more about the different types of meringue, check out my usual recipes for both swiss and French meringues. If you are just interested in the cake element, why not make yourself a Victoria sandwich?

 

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a delicious savoury snack.

H

Decadent Mushroom Pasta Bake

This post marks the end of the second year of That Cooking Thing’s existence. When I started back in August of 2017 I had no idea that I would still be creating weekly recipes two years later. Many blogs seem to fizzle out within a few months of their inception and, to be honest, that is kind of what I expected to happen with this one. I was going into the Master’s year of my undergraduate degree and really didn’t have the time to spend writing weekly posts and making pretty dishes for the Instagram but here we are – procrastination is a powerful motivator for things you do not have time to do. I am now coming towards the end of my second degree and even with the working life looming ahead I hope to continue this blog for the foreseeable future.

I thought that it would be nice to revisit an old recipe and jazz it up for the final post of the year. This recipe was the second savoury one I posted: a chicken and mushroom pasta bake. I like to think that I have come on in my techniques and cooking ability since then, and this updated recipe hopefully shows that. The biggest difference from the original recipe is that this one is vegetarian; there is no chicken to be found in this dish. You could, of course, add chicken if you so wished and it would still taste excellent, but with the growing number of vegetarians and vegans in the world I like to make sure that my recipes are as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. I still eat meat (although with the current political climate and possibility of a significant change in the UK’s food standards, I cannot say that this will not change in the near future) but lots of people don’t and I like to make recipes which do not come across as meaty ones that have just had the chicken or beef etc. removed. Vegetarian recipes should not need meat to be delicious!

Instead of a stock and cornflour-based sauce, the sauce for this bake is based around mushroom paste. The first thing you do is blend mushrooms until they are almost a puree (a far finer chop than you would use to make a duxelle) and then cook them to drive off all the liquid and really intensify the mushroom flavour. This mushroom paste, when mixed with cream cheese, will become the base of the sauce. It should be noted that this sauce can be put on anything you like – it doesn’t have raw egg or cornflour so you can just eat it as it is. You could even serve it as a mushroom pate! The remainder of the mushrooms are then cooked down and the liquid they release is collected and stirred into the sauce to slacken it. All this liquid will be absorbed into the pasta when it cooks in the oven giving it a far stronger mushroomy flavour. I went a bit wild and bought some posh woodland mushrooms for this as I wanted it to be a bit celebratory and didn’t want to use just the standard mushrooms but obviously the recipe does work just as well with those.

Cheese is an important part of this dish. Whilst most pasta bakes have a crust of cheese on top, this one also has chunks of mozzarella stirred into it so when the bake comes out of the oven and is served, all of the stringy goodness can be seen and it is really satisfying finding a big blob of cheese in the middle of your portion. Other cheeses could be added too: goat’s cheese works well with mushrooms, parmesan is always welcome in this kind of dish and cheddar is good too if you don’t want to go out and buy special cheese just for this. The final decoration on top of the cheese crust – finely chopped parsley and basil – is sprinkled over the bake after it comes out of the oven. This prevents the herbs from burning but also means that the aroma isn’t driven off during cooking. The heat from the pasta bake will wilt the herbs and cause them to release their fragrances before propelling the smell of fresh basil through the room as the herbs heat up.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog so far and that you use the recipes. If you do, let me know in the comments or tag me on Instagram @thatcookingthing – you could also use #thatcookingthing because I seem to have commandeered the hashtag. If you have friends who would like these recipes, let them know about the blog because I would love to help and inspire more people in the kitchen.

See you next week for the third year of That Cooking Thing!

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Decadent Mushroom Pasta Bake

Serves 5-6

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

 

Ingredients

750g mushrooms

1 large onion

50g cream cheese

20g parmesan

400g mozzarella

1 mushroom stock cube

4 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic

30 ml milk (optional)

250-300g pasta

5 grinds black pepper (or more to taste)

3 large basil leaves & a few sprigs parsley

 

 

In the bowl of a food processor, blend 250g of the mushrooms with half an onion, two cloves of garlic and 60ml water until it is a thick paste (it doesn’t have to be fully pureed).

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Pour this out into a large pan and cook until the majority of the liquid has boiled off (about 10 minutes). It should be rather sludgy at this point.

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Tip the mushroom paste into a bowl and add the cream cheese. Stir to combine.

Finely chop the rest of the onion and sauté it in a pan with the remaining oil.

While the onion is cooking, chop the remaining mushrooms into quarters (or sixths depending on their size).

Once the onion turns translucent, add the mushrooms and another 60ml water. Cover with the lid of the pan and leave to simmer for five minutes. Give the mushrooms a stir and let them cook for another five minutes.

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While the mushrooms are cooking, start cooking the pasta. You want to take it off the heat and drain it about two minutes before the packet says it will be done as it will continue to cook in the oven and you don’t want it turn mushy.

Drain the liquid from the cooking mushrooms into the mushroom paste and stir it through. Taste and season with salt and pepper. This will become the sauce.

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Once you are happy with the seasoning, stir in the cooked mushrooms.

Grate two thirds of the mozzarella and chop the rest into 1cm cubes. Finely grate the parmesan. Set the cheese aside.

Drain the pasta and stir through the sauce.

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Allow to cool for a minute and then stir through the chunks of mozzarella, the parmesan and half of the grated mozzarella. Do not stir it too long as the heat of the pasta will start to melt the cheese. You just want it evenly distributed.

Tip the pasta into a greased dish and top with the rest of the mozzarella.

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Bake for 40 minutes at gas mark 6 (200°C) until the top of the bake has turned golden and crispy.

Finely slice some fresh basil and parsley and sprinkle this over the top once the pasta bake is removed from the oven. The heat of the bake will cause the herbs to release their oils and the aroma will come out without the herbs drying and burning as they would in the oven.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. I have made this several times recently because it is just so good! I also take it for lunches because it tastes fab cold as well as hot. If you like mushrooms, you should have a look at my mushroom carbonara dish as it is amazing – you could even make your own fresh pasta for it.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with an amazing recipe for a truly celebratory cake.

H

 

Mocha Cake

With this cake, I have finally cracked two problems I have had whilst baking: how to get a level cake (which doesn’t dome) and how to get the cake to fill up the tin fully. Obviously these two problems are linked. The answer to how can you make the best cakes includes a healthy amount of chemistry along with a substantial quantity of thermodynamics.

In order to understand how to get the best end result, we must first ask ourselves the question: why do cakes rise? For a standard sponge cake (which is what I am addressing here) there are two raising agents. One is a chemical one (that is: baking powder) and the other is the air beaten into the cake. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to start with the baking powder. Traditional baking powder contains two ingredients: bicarbonate of soda and a weak acid (commonly tartaric acid which is also known as cream of tartar). There will normally be some kind of buffer (like cornflour) which will prevent the acid and the bicarbonate of soda from reacting with each other until the cake is in the oven. Once the temperature hits 60°C the baking powder activates. The acid and the base react to produce carbon dioxide and this gives the cake lift causing it to rise.

Most baking powders today have a second acid added to them. This causes a fast-acting reaction at room temperature with the bicarbonate of soda when they are mixed into the cake batter. The ratio of ingredients in the baking powder is designed so that there is a second reaction in the oven (like the traditional baking powders). These are known as “double acting” baking powders. This first (room temperature) stage is what helps give an even rise in the oven. When gas gets hot, it expands. In this case, if your cake goes from 20°C at room temperature into a hot oven, the gas will expand a lot. By the time the cake has reached 60°C and the second stage of gas release occurs, the gas produced by the original reaction will have expanded by 10%.

Flour begins to thicken and cook at 52°C; if you have a single stage baking powder the cake will dome in the oven massively. This is because the flour in the mix at the edge of the tin cooks before the baking powder releases gas so all of the rise is forced towards the centre of the cake. By using a double acting baking powder the gas in the cake mix at the edges of the tin will have already expanded quite a bit as it heats up, in the oven, before the flour begins to cook. By the time the flour has finished cooking, the gasses will have expanded by just over 20% giving a good rise to the cake.

When you take a cake out of the oven, you can see it steaming, so clearly if the steam is escaping, we can conclude that not all of the gas in the cake is trapped inside, some of it will escape which is why you want as much as much as possible in there at the start of the baking process. As well as using a chemical leavener, the other method to ensure a large cake rise is by beating the butter and sugar into oblivion. During the creaming stage, you beat in lots and lots of air which will expand in the oven when the mixture is baked. You want to do this with a K-beater and not a whisk attachment because it is very difficult to over beat the butter and sugar with the former. If you use a whisk and beat in too much air, then the cake will expand and rise in the oven too quickly as it will puff up, the gas will escape before the flour cooks and traps it and the cake will deflate in the middle and collapse. This is possibly the only thing worse than under-beating and ending up with a domed cake.

If you follow the recipe below, you will not have any problems with your cakes. You may need to alter baking times/temperatures a little for your own oven but I trust that you will know how to adjust that better than I would! Let me know how these cakes turn out for you if you have a go at them.

 

 

Mocha Cake

Work time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25-35 minutes

Serves: 12

 

For the Cake:

8oz. (225g) unsalted butter

8oz. (225g) caster sugar

8oz. (225g) self-raising flour (or plain flour with 2tsp baking powder added)

4 eggs

2 tbsp instant coffee mixed with 1 tbsp boiling water

1 tbsp milk

Pinch salt

 

For the icing:

5oz. (140g) unsalted butter

7 ½ oz. (210g) icing sugar (sifted)

4oz. (115g) dark chocolate

1 shot espresso (optional)

 

 

To make the cake:

Preheat your oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

Grease and line two eight-inch sandwich tins.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the K-beater attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (at least five minutes). It is really important to cream these properly as the air incorporated now will help the cake rise. DO NOT SKIMP ON THE BEATING TO TRY AND SAVE TIME.

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Counter-clockwise from the bottom left: just after the butter and sugar come together, after two minutes of beating, after five minutes of beating.
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Look how obscenely light and fluffy this butter and sugar is!

Add the eggs one at a time beating each one until it is fully incorporated. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature as this will help them mix in. After the fourth egg, the mixture may split and curdle – this is fine as everything will come back together I promise.

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This is what curdled looks like…..

Add the flour (and baking powder) and mix together on slow until the batter is homogenous. You do this slowly to avoid overmixing the batter which would cause gluten build up from the flour and also knock the air out of the mix.

Pour in the coffee and milk and slowly beat again until it is mixed through.

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Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25-35 minutes. My oven at home is a little temperamental so baking times can vary a lot. Knowing your oven will help will this but sometimes, you will just have to play it by eye. The cakes will be golden on top, nicely puffed up and a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake is cooked through.

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You can see that the batter still looks a little bit curdled – THIS IS OK. It will sort itself out in the oven.

Remove the cakes from the oven, leave to cool in the tins for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.

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For the buttercream:

Melt your chocolate and set aside to cool to room temperature (don’t worry, I assure you it will not go hard).

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer for five minutes until it is super light and fluffy.

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I contaminated my butter with a little chocolate which is why it is pale brown but imagine it being white in this picture. You can still see how creamy the butter has become.

Add half of the icing sugar and beat for another few minutes.

Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat in for another three minutes to make a super light and fluffy buttercream.

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With the beaters on slow, mix through the chocolate and then beat on high again once the chocolate is added to ensure it is mixed through evenly.

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If you want to add a little coffee, now is the time.

 

To assemble, sandwich the cakes together with half of the buttercream.

Spread/pipe the rest on the top of the cake to decorate.

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If you want, you could add a few coffee beans on top of the cake to jazz it up a little.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of coffee, you have to try my coffee and walnut cake – it is wonderful.

The next two weeks mark the two year anniversary of this blog so expect some amazing food!

Have a good one,

H

Black Bean Burgers

Veggie burgers have a bit of a mixed reputation. A lot of the time they pretend to be meat and I always find that they are slightly disappointing as a result. The best veggie burgers I have eaten have always presented themselves as exactly that: veggie – not “beef style” or anything like that – just “veggie”.

The most common problem faced by homemade bean burgers is that they become mushy. This is usually caused by over mashing the beans. The best way to combat this is to pack the burgers full of different vegetables with different textures. Make sure not to use a food processor as this will puree the ingredients – especially the beans – which will cause a lot more liquid to be released. I have found that the best way to mix everything together is with my hands which is a little messy but it prevents anything being mixed too aggressively. Precooking the onion and carrot will also cause some of the liquid in them to be cooked off, which again reduces the moisture content of the final mix. The flour which you add will help to bind the burger together and dry it out. Some people will also add tapioca starch or cornflour which thicken when cooked, and again these will help bind the burger and give it some texture.

When it comes to cooking fresh bean burgers, you want to avoid overcrowding your pan. If you are cooking for a lot of people the best thing to do would be to bake the burgers in the oven and then take them out a few at a time to crisp up the outside in a frying pan. After crisping the outside, the burgers can be kept warm in the oven while the rest are fried so everyone can be served at once. Adding a thin layer of flour on the outside provides a surface to fry and helps dry out the outer layer of the burger. This drying is what eventually makes the outside crispy as heating in oil drives off more and more water. The same result can be achieved without the flour but it really does speed up the process and give a much more even cook.

These burgers are not only vegan but can easily be made gluten free too so everyone can eat them. Instead of frying the burgers you can bake them in the oven for about 25-30 minutes at gas mark 6 (200°C) flipping them halfway through. This will not give you such a crunchy exterior but is obviously a little more healthy (although in my opinion, there is so much goodness in these burgers that it more than makes up for the oil that is absorbed during frying). As always, if you choose to fry the burgers, never leave the pan of oil unattended and, if you do end up with a fire, for the love of god do not pour water on it! Turn off the heat and if you can get close enough, lay a damp (but not dripping) tea towel or fire blanket over the pan. I don’t expect there to be an issue with this recipe because the oil shouldn’t be getting so hot that it reaches its flashpoint but it is better to be safe than sorry.

You won’t miss the meat when you try these burgers. They are filling, flavourful and look amazing. Let me know if you try them for yourselves!

Black Bean Burgers

Cook time: 20-30 minutes

Prep time: 15 minutes

Resting time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 can black beans – 400g

1 medium carrot

1 medium onion

1 small tin sweetcorn – about 200g (frozen sweetcorn will also work)

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground chilli (you can reduce or increase this to your personal tolerance and enjoyment of spice)

½ tsp salt

Pepper to taste

1 cup flour + extra for dusting (you can use any flour for this – buckwheat flour will make these gluten free)

 

 

Finely chop the onion and the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and lightly sauté the onions and garlic until translucent.

Whilst the onion is cooking, finely grate the carrot.

Add the carrot to the onion and cook until it starts to soften. Remove the pan from the heat.

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Drain the black beans and tip half of them into a big bowl.

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Lightly mash them with a fork until all of them are broken up but not completely pureed.

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Drain the sweetcorn if you are using the tinned variety

Add the rest of the beans, the onion and carrot mix and the sweetcorn.

Mix well.

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Sprinkle over the spices, salt and pepper and stir through.

Add the flour and mix until combined.

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Split the mixture into quarters – these will become your four burgers.

 

Take one quarter of the mixture and shape it into a patty with your hands.

Place it into a small bowl of flour to dust the outside and lay it on a lined baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining mixture.

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Place the burgers in the freezer for half an hour to firm up before cooking.

(The burgers can be frozen at this point.)

To cook the burgers, heat half a centimetre of oil in a large non-stick pan and add the burgers – you may have to cook them two at a time as you do not want to overcrowd the pan.

Allow the burger to fry on a medium heat for about five minutes until it has turned a deep golden brown on the base.DSC06003

Flip the burger and repeat. If you like a bit more colour on the burger, continue to fry on each side for a little bit longer.

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Serve in a lightly toasted bun with your choice of relish and salad. Here I have used a spicy tomato relish and added some fresh coriander.

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You can jazz these things up with any veg you fancy, I have seen many recipes for Mexican style burgers with lots of peppers and fajita seasoning. You could swap out the black beans for another type too if you prefer.

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If you are a fan of pulses, why not check out my recipes for falafel and hummus?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a nice and easy sweet recipe.

H

 

 

 

 

Orange Swiss Roll

Now I know that I always say my recipes are delicious (it would be appalling self-advertising if I didn’t…) but this one is genuinely incredible. This super fluffy cake with a light orange flavouring rolled up around a creamy orange mascarpone filling and decorated with bright orange shapes turned out to be one of the most popular things that I have baked. It was originally a bit of an experiment when I was practising decorating swiss rolls as I had already made a tiramisu swiss roll with chocolate stripes and I wanted to do something that would display a beautiful swirling rainbow around the outside. Clearly a white background would be best for this to get a good contrast and so a plain swiss roll was the first choice. At the last minute, I chucked in some orange extract (zest is better but I wasn’t properly thinking as anything with whipped eggs is time dependent so long deliberations are not something you have time for) and then I baked the cake. I knew I was going to use a mascarpone filling and thought ‘why not make it super orangey?’. Luckily, the final flavour is easily identifiable but isn’t too much. It balances really well.

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The original orange swiss roll.

When you use citrus in baking, you traditionally only use the zest and the juice. The zest is the outer later of the skin which contains a lot of flavour and aroma carrying oils. You can see these spraying out when you zest the fruit so I would always do this directly into a bowl as then all the oils are collected and used in the final product. Directly beneath the zest is the pith. This is the thick, white layer before you get to the segments of the fruit. The pith does contain flavour however it is incredibly bitter and so you do not want to include this in your baking. When you make marmalade you use the entire orange, pith included. The fruits are juiced and the juice strained to catch all of the pips and fibres. A spoon is used to scrape out the remains of the pith (there will be some which comes out easily but there will also be a layer of white left behind – this is ok) which is combined with the pips and fibres from before. These contain a lot of the pectin which will be extracted during the cooking process. Don’t worry, these bits are normally wrapped up in a thin cloth or muslin (we use a J-cloth) so the pectin can be utilised but the unpleasant pithy flesh can be easily removed from the final product. Marmalade is different from jam as it usually contains chunks of peel. After juicing, the peel is sliced up thinly and boiled for a couple of hours before being added to the pot with the juice, pith and sugar before boiling commences.

Different types of citrus are used for different things. Seville oranges are usually used for marmalade as the pectin content is higher than other varieties so the marmalade will set better. Other varieties have been selectively bred to have super thin skins, making them easier to peel. Oranges themselves are a hybrid plant between the pomelo and the mandarin – pomelos being large, thick-skinned and a little bit bland which helps cancel out the sweetness of the mandarin. Lemons are far more tart than most other citrus so work in both savoury and sweet foods whilst grapefruit – the most acidic of the citrus fruits – can go to hell and stay there. OK… maybe grapefruit isn’t quite that bad and actually, it too is a hybrid (this time of the sweet orange – which we just call oranges – and the pomelo – again). There are sweet varieties grapefruit but usually they are rather bitter. This has led to its use in salads and as an accompaniment to seafood, and bizarrely avocado as the sharpness of the fruit cuts through the richness of the avocado. Grapefruit is also known to interact with drugs because of the enzymes it contains so make sure to check any prescription medication you have before you eat one!

Now back to the orange. As it is a sweet fruit, orange is usually used in sweet dishes as I have done in this case. It is very easy to make the swiss roll and I’m sure you will enjoy this recipe just as much as I have.

 

Swiss Roll with Orange Mascarpone

Time: 1 hour – 1 hour 30 minutes depending on decorations

 

Ingredients:

3 eggs

125g caster sugar

120g flour

1 tbsp water

Zest of half an orange

 

Syrup:

30g sugar

30ml water

25ml triple sec (or other orange liqueur)

 

Filling:

250g mascarpone

100ml double cream

15g icing sugar

Zest of one and a half oranges

 

Optional: stripes

1 egg white

25g butter

25g icing sugar

30g flour

Orange food colouring

(technically you want to use equal weights of all of the ingredients so the best thing is to weigh your egg white and use that weight of the others)

 

 

Optional:

To make the stripes:

Cream the icing sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

Beat in the egg white.

Beat in the flour.

Add food colouring until the desired shade is reached.

If necessary, add a little more flour to bring the mix together if the liquid from the dye causes it to split a little.

Cut a sheet of baking parchment to the size of the base of your swiss roll tin.

Version 1:

Lay the parchment onto a flat worktop and criss-cross it with Sellotape – you can make whatever pattern your heart desires but remember, the final design will be where there is no Sellotape.

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Use an offset spatula to spread a thin layer of the orange cake mix onto the exposed areas of parchment.

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Remove the Sellotape to reveal your pattern.

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Version 2:

Pipe the orange mixture into whatever pattern you desire across the baking parchment. Remember that any pattern will be reversed on the final cake!

 

Place the sheet in the freezer for twenty minutes.

 

To make the cake:

If you are doing the orange stripes/pattern, start this about ten minutes after the decorative pattern goes into the freezer.

If you are not doing a decorative outside for the cake, cut a sheet of baking parchment the same size as your swiss roll tin and lay it in the base.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Tip the eggs and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment.

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Beat until light and fluffy – it will get really, really light and fluffy and voluminous.

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Turn the mixer off and zest half an orange straight into the bowl. When you zest an orange, lots of oils are sprayed into the air and if you do this directly into the bowl, the oils and flavours aren’t lost.

Beat this for another 30 seconds to make sure the orange is distributed evenly. The mixture will probably gain an orange tint when you do this.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and sift the flour directly into the bowl.

Fold the flour through until it all combined.

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Add the water and fold this through too.

If you are using the frozen decorations, remove the baking parchment from the freezer and place it into the base of your swiss roll tin ensuring that it is flat.

Tip the batter into the lined swiss roll tin and spread it out with an offset spatula. Be gentle and bake sure not to scrape the bottom of the tin as this will disrupt any pattern you may have created there.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cake is lightly golden on top and slightly springy.

Remove the cake from the oven.

Loosen the edges from the side of the pan and sift a thin layer of icing sugar over the top of the cake.

Lay out a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface and flip the cake over onto it.

Remove the parchment from the base of the cake to reveal your pattern.

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Take a tea towel and soak it in cold water. Wring out as much as you can and then lay this over the cake to stop it drying out as it cools. This will take about half an hour. If the towel seems like it is drying out, you can remoisten it.

 

While the cake is cooling, make the syrup.

Place the sugar and water into a pan and heat whilst stirring until the sugar is all dissolved.

Leave to cool and just before using, add the triple sec.

 

To make the filling, beat the zest from one and a half oranges into the mascarpone for at least thirty seconds – I do this with an electric hand whisk.

Beat in the sugar.

Pour in the cream and slowly mix together. At first this will slacken the mixture but as you beat it, the cream will begin to whip up and thicken again.

Stop when you have a filling that is spreadable but will hold its shape.

 

To assemble:

Flip the cake onto another piece of parchment so the pattern is on the base. Make sure that the nice end of the patter is away from you as the edge furthest away will become the outside.

Spread the top of the cake with the orange syrup mixture.

Spread the filling over the top of the cake in an even layer making sure to get all the way to the edges.

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Using the parchment paper, roll up the swiss roll from one of the short sides. You may have to get your hands in there at the start but once it starts to roll, the paper will do the rest of the work.

Tightly wrap the roll up (I use the parchment I rolled it with) and leave it in the fridge, seam side down, for fifteen minutes to set it fully in position.

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Remove the cake from the fridge, trim the ends and serve!

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This cake works wonderfully as a dessert but a slice of it is also always welcome with a cup of tea as a snack. If you fancy trying the tiramisu swiss roll I mentioned earlier, I have a great recipe for one or if you aren’t a coffee fan, why not have a go at the chocolate swiss roll wrapped in ganache to make a yule log?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a great pulsey dish.

H