Sunday, 29 December 2013

Baileys Fudge



The last in my trilogy of fudge posts for this Christmas, this recipe is a little more complex than the previous two, but still very manageable, even without a sugar thermometer.


Normally, I only make one type of fudge at Christmas time for gifts, but this year my mum mentioned a recipe for Baileys fudge she'd seen floating around on Pinterest. Not being one to embark on something so 'bold' (it's really not that difficult) herself (let's not even go there), I decided I would experiment myself. I'm so glad I did, it was a huge success! Because the 'setting agent' in this recipe is the icing sugar, this fudge has a softer, more 'traditional' fudge-like consistency that you might associate with the sweet treat.


This fudge is great, with a lovely Baileys taste that comes through very nicely. It's smooth and creamy, achieved through the vigorous beating in of icing sugar at the end. Great for a more grown-up taste than that of the previous plain chocolate versions.


I have to admit, I was dubious that my attempts without a sugar thermometer would be successful, but there's a very easy way to get around this, and if in doubt just add double the original recipe's amount of icing sugar, like I did...it all worked out fine.



Ditch the faff of a sugar thermometer by using the clever technique of a cup of cold water and your good judgement. The original recipe asked for the sticky sugar mix to be cooked until it reached 238 degrees Fahrenheit, otherwise known as the 'soft ball stage'. To achieve this with much less stress than with a thermometer, cook your mixture for about 7-10 minutes, until it has reduced a little and thickened. Take a teaspoon or so of the mix and drop it into a cup of cold water. Tip the water down the drain and scoop up the caramel mix with your fingers. Caramel at the 'soft ball stage' should be able to be shaped and rolled into a ball with your fingers, and should not just be a gooey sticky mess. For more, see pictures.

Add a few drops of fudge mix to cold water, then tip it out...
If ready the fudge should be able to be easily rolled into a 'soft ball'




Baileys Fudge
Make one 9''/10'' pan

120ml evapourated milk (or a combination of half Baileys and half evap milk, for a stronger Baileys taste)
220g light brown sugar
200g granulated sugar
170g butter
1tsp vanilla extract (optional)
60ml Baileys
500g (1 box) icing sugar, sifted (NB: the original recipe called for 270g, but to be extra sure the fudge would set firm I increased this to 500g)

1. Line a 9''/10'' square baking tin with grease proof paper. Stir the evapourated milk (or milk and Baileys mix), sugars and butter together in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook until the 'soft ball stage' is reached (see above) or 238 degrees Farenheight, about 7-11 minutes. Stir constantly to avoid burning. The mixture should be thicker and slightly reduced by this point. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in the 60ml of Baileys and vanilla extract if using. Pour the mix into a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer and either beat in icing sugar with a paddle attachment, or whisk with an electric mixer. Add the icing sugar in 3 additions, beating well in between. The mixing at this stage is what gives the fudge its creamy smooth texture, so take the time to beat it well. Pour into prepared tin and leave to cool and set completely.

Fudge will keep well in an airtight container for several weeks.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Chocolate Fudge



The eagle eyed among you will notice that this recipe is exactly the same as the recipe for white chocolate fudge. I would have combined the posts but I didn't want to overwhelm the one post with pretty pictures.

that blur.

Needless to say this fudge is just as delicious as the white chocolate version. It sets just as well, and is just as easy to make and prepare. Another perfect treat for Christmas.


This fudge is so well know and loved within my family, it's pretty much the only thing I'm asked for, year after year. And given how simple and cheap it is, I can hardly say no. Once again, you can quite easily make a batch of this for well under a fiver, just choose a good quality milk or dark chocolate to set your fudge, something you'd be quite happy eating plain.




Chocolate Fudge
Makes 1 8'' pan

350g granulated sugar
25g butter
175ml evaporated milk
400g milk or dark chocolate
beans of 1 vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

100g dried fruit, nuts, or chocolate (optional)

1. Line a square baking tin with grease proof paper. The size you use will determine the thickness of your fudge, but a 8 or 9'' is what I usually use. Chop chocolate into small pieces.
2. Place the butter, sugar, vanilla and sugar into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat on low until everything has dissolved, stirring regularly.
3. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce and let bubble (slightly more than a simmer) for 5 minutes, setting a timer.
4. Remove from the heat and add copped chocolate, stirring well and fast. The mix will begin to thickened immediately. Once all the chocolate is melted (ADD OPTIONAL EXTRAS HERE), pour the fudge into the prepared tin.
5. Tap the tin a few times on the work surface to level off the fudge. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then press any optional extras on top. Leave to cool completely, a few hours. Cut into squares once completely set and firm.

Fudge will keep well in an airtight container for several weeks.


Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Gifts



Gifting food or sweets is one of the easiest, and cheapest ways of tackling that age-old dilemma - 'what on earth do I get for *insert relative/friend/neighbour*?' Christmas is a renowned time of indulgence, and everyone appreciates the effort of some delicious goodies wrapped up all pretty. All you need is some grease proof paper and some ribbon, maybe a cardboard label or two and a decent pen, and you're well on your way to creating a gift that looks like you spent hours crafting lovingly.

These are just some pictures of what I did this year. (Really this post is just an excuse to use the DSLR while I can...) You can fill your parcels with whatever you like, make them big or small, and hand them out to friends, family, or anyone, really!





White Chocolate Fudge



I've been making this fudge for Christmas and Birthdays for a good few years now. Cheap, quick, and really easy, (not a sugar thermometer in sight!) a few batches of this around the festive season are bound to go down a treat.


After years of unsuccessful attempts at fudge using various sugar craft contraptions, I was so pleased to come across a recipe that actually works. Like, that actually works. Every time. Made from only 5 ingredients, the white chocolate in this recipe helps the fudge set up beautifully, to a firm block, making cutting and wrapping a breeze. Decent quality chocolate is a must but don't go mental, choose something you'd be happy to eat plain. If you're thrifty about the other ingredients, though (because who's going to be able to tell the difference between carnation evaporated milk and ASDA's own?) you can make a huge block of this wonderful stuff for well under a fiver, and it'll do quite nicely for at least 4 or 5 gifts. Because this fudge (like any fudge) is quite sweet, you can also get away with cutting it into small pieces, giving you more bang for your buck.



Taste wise this sweet is delicious, creamy, smooth and chocolatey, with a gorgeous hint of vanilla. You can also 'pimp' your fudge with any number of added extras - I always use the base recipe on its own but let your imagination run wild! Chocolates, candies, fruit or nuts, the possibilities are endless...simply press into the finished tray, or stir in when the fudge is finished in the pan.





White Chocolate Fudge
Makes one 8'' pan

350g granulated sugar
25g butter
175ml evaporated milk
400g white chocolate
beans of 1 vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

100g dried fruit, nuts, or chocolate (optional)

1. Line a square baking tin with grease proof paper. The size you use will determine the thickness of your fudge, but a 8 or 9'' is what I usually use. Chop chocolate into small pieces.
2. Place the butter, sugar, vanilla and sugar into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat on low until everything has dissolved, stirring regularly.
3. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce and let bubble (slightly more than a simmer) for 5 minutes, setting a timer.
4. Remove from the heat and add copped chocolate, stirring well and fast. The mix will begin to thickened immediately. Once all the chocolate is melted (ADD OPTIONAL EXTRAS HERE), pour the fudge into the prepared tin.
5. Tap the tin a few times on the work surface to level off the fudge. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes, then press any optional extras on top. Leave to cool completely, a few hours. Cut into squares once completely set and firm.


This fudge will keep well in an airtight container for a number of weeks.


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Chocolate Brownie Cheesecake


Now here's a recipe that might just break the internet...


This came about when I was taking desserts to a family gathering (I see you sensing a theme from previous posts). Occasions like this are always a fun opportunity to experiment with new recipes and to go a little crazy, as I know my relatives will appreciate and give very satisfying reactions to my efforts, no matter how successful they are. One of my most outlandish creations to date, but definitely one of the most fun to construct, this dessert went down a storm.



I'm sure you've seen stuff like this around on your Pinterest wanderings before, the invention of some crazy genius American who thought that a squidgy brownie or a nice slice of cheesecake just wasn't quite enough on its own to satisfy that sweet sweet craving. If there wasn't enough sugar for you then, then follow my beautiful example and sandwich this monstrosity and top it with a rich ganache. WARNING: copious amounts of this pudding may well kill you...





Make two brownie layers (do this first!), slap a vanilla bean cheesecake in the middle, using ganache as a rich chocolately glue, and top with more of the shining goodness. Lush.





Recipe for ganache can be found here


Chocolate Brownie

200g dark chocolate, chopped (at least 70% cocoa solids)
150g butter, plus extra for greasing
125g dark muscovado sugar
125g caster sugar
4 eggs
85g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4. Grease and line two 8 or 9'' baking tins, or tins the same size as your cheesecake.
2. In a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water!), melt the chocolate and butter. Remove once melted to cool slightly.
3. Whisk the sugars into the chocolate and butter mixture, then add the eggs and mix again.
4. Sift dry ingredients together and mix into wet mixture until just combined. Do not over mix.
5. Divide the batter between the two cake tins and bake for 20-25 mins. A knife inserted should come out with some crumbs attached, as the brownies will continue to cook a little once removed from the oven and you want your brownies to be squidgy and fudgey, rather than dry and crumbly.
6. Leave to cool for 10 mins in the tins, then remove to cool on a wire rack and let cool completely.




Vanilla Bean Cheesecake

900g cream cheese
200g caster sugar
200ml soured cream
3tbsp plain flour
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk, all lightly beaten
Beans from one vanilla pod (you can use 1tsp vanilla extract instead)

1. After making the brownie layers, reduce the oven down to gas mark 2. Grease and line a 8 or 9'' springform cake tin (make sure it is the same diameter as the tins you use to make the brownies, so everything is the same size).
2. Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth, add the sour cream and flour and mix again util combined. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla, mixing slowly and gently, mixing well after each addition. Do not whisk as this will incorporate too much air and will increase the likelihood of cracks in your cheesecake when it bakes.
3. Pour the cream cheese mix into the prepared tin and bake until set (NOTE: the original recipe said to bake for 45 minutes, but mine took more like and hour and 15). The cheesecake should be just set with a slight wobble in the middle, and a slight golden colouring around the edges. For more detailed assistance, I'd suggest consulting google or youtube!
4. Once the cheesecake is done, turn off the oven and open the door slightly. Leave the cheesecake in the oven to cool. Remove only once completely cool.
5. Remove the cheesecake when it is completely cool and you are ready to assemble your dessert.





Assembly

1. Once everything is completely cool, you can assemble your dessert. Remove any linings or papers.
2. Place one brownie top side down on a serving plate. Spread a little chocolate ganache that has been cooled so it's thick onto the brownie. Place the cheesecake on top of the brownie. Spread a little more ganache on top of the cheesecake.
3. Place the second brownie top side up on the cheesecake.
4. Warm remaining ganache in the microwave until pourabe but not hot, then pour over the top of the brownie cake, letting it run down the sides.
5. Store in the fridge until ready to serve, and keep any leftovers there, too.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Rick Stein's, Falmouth



One of the first things my Mum said when I confirmed my offer at the Exeter Penryn campus was 'oh, Rick Stein has a restaurant in Falmouth'. Being just a little interested in cookery (could you guess?), I've watched my fair share of cooking programmes, and so did have a bit of a fangirl moment when I found out I would be living a mere bus ride away from such a cool place. I'm told that Mr Stein only has a handful of restaurants in the UK, and Falmouth is the only one that is specifically seafood, so it's quite special to be living so close.


Apparently, you can tell when Rick is visiting because he parks his white Porsche outside. Unfortunately he wasn't around when I went out for a meal a few weeks back. Shame, we were hoping he'd be able to whip up something special just for us, but the experience was still lovely. One of the best meals I've had in a while. Probably the best since Cafe Citta...

Not being the biggest seafood fan I was a little skeptical that I'd find the food great (even if it was Rick Stein's). In fact, I was tempted for a moment to order a vegetarian pasta dish, but it was pointed out that seeing where we were, that would be insulting to both Rick, and to Falmouth, a fishing town. I got the point. I ended up ordering cod and chips, classic and simple, but at the same time easily one of the nicest meals I've ever had. Ever. We couldn't get over how nice it was. Every so often we'd stop our conversation just to point out how unbelievably good the food tasted...


Obviously, it was a tad more expensive than your local chippy's fare, but you certainly get what you pay for. my date, insisting YOLO, went for three courses for just under £20, I ordered the same main, and we shared both the starter and the dessert. From my memory my fish and chips main was around £12 or £13.

Our starter was fish cakes with a small salad and a Thai dipping sauce of garlic, chili and ginger (I think!) which was great. We shared the 4 cakes so got 2 each, which was just the right amount. Any more and I would have been too full to enjoy my main properly, which would have been a tragedy, because it was stunning.


Anyone who like fish and chips even a little bit should try them from Rick Stein's if they get the chance, it's totally worth the extra price, you can even takeaway your gourmet meal like you can from a normal chippy, but why would you when you can enjoy it in the lovely modern, friendly restaurant? But back to the food. The chips were perfect, crispy but fluffy, and not greasy at all. The fish was the same, it was nice to not get that really heavy I've-just-ingested-too-much-oil feeling that you get with normal fish and chips. The meal also came with a small serving of mushy peas, and a wonderful horseradish mayonnaise that was heaven with the chips.


Dessert was a sticky toffee pudding with ice cream, delicious as well, but the highlight was definitely the main.

Drinks were kind of expensive, but if you go to a restaurant like that I think you have to expect that.

The atmosphere in the restaurant was great; the kitchen was open to the seating area, which I really liked, and the staff were super helpful and nice. The place had the feel of a very very high class fish and chip shop as there were bar stool tables lining the glass walls, meaning we were looking out across the lit marina as we ate, which I thought was unusual but a great idea.


We both agreed that we'll be returning soon, but probably when we have our parents to pay!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Sugar Apple Cake


Another apple post. I told you we'd collected a lot.



I found this recipe online in the hunt for a apple-y dessert for a family meal a few weeks back. This cake is delicious. Rich, buttery, sugary, caramely, topped with apple, it's wonderful served warm with ice cream or cream, but is equally as delicious cold. It looks impressive and is really easy to make - the perfect dessert for autumn.

I don't know whether it was my oven, or the fact that I used a round, deeper tin than the one in the original post that was square, but my cake ended up a little different from what I was expecting from the pictures. It also took a lot longer to cook, over two hours, compared to the 1.5 that the recipe suggested. Because of this extra cooking time, the crust of the cake turned more buscuity and crunchy than soft, but gave the dessert a really interesting contrast of textures, everyone commented on it, so I think the cake was all the better for it.

The middle of the cake stays moist and soft, because juice from the apples seeps into the cake while it's cooking. 

I was doubtful at first of trusting such a thick batter, normally I find that thicker batters work best for my cakes, and stay fresher and nicer for longer, but this was almost a dough. I had to add some milk to get it anywhere near a pourable consistency. The original poster mentioned that the mix would seem unusually thick, but promised that the cake would turn out well. Which it did, luckily! I suspect the thick batter had something to do with the delicious crust that formed as well.



This cake is a really lovely autumn dessert, perfect for when cooking apples are in season. It's not overly sweet, and gives a welcome change to chocolate cakes and heavier puddings. It's just as good cold the next day as it is straight from the oven, and needs little else but a scoop of ice cream or some cream to finish it off wonderfully.

Next time I make this I'll experiment with adding different flavours to the cake batter. I only had vanilla on hand when I made this but I know cinnamon would be lovely as well for a spicy warm kick. You also have the option of adding sultanas and almonds to the batter, both of which I left out from the original recipe, becausue I wanted the focus to be on the apples, not other flavours (plus, I'm not that keen on almond flavour anyway).



Sugar Apple Cake

125g butter/margarine
2 large eggs
225g caster sugar, or a mix of caster and brown or demerara for a more caramely taste
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Milk, for thinning
350g Bramley apples
demerara sugar


1. Preheat oven to gas mark 3. Grease and line a 8'' loose bottomed cake tin. Peel, core and slice apples into thin wedges
2. Mix all cake ingredients together in a large bowl. The batter will most likely be very thick. Add a few splashes of milk until you get to the right consistency - a thick but smooth batter that will pour, but that will not be self leveling. It will also smell incredible!
3. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, and arrange the apple slivers on top. You can be neat and pretty about this or you can just dump them on - it all tastes the same at the end of the day.
4. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of demerara and bake until cooked through. The original recipe says this will take about and hour and a half but it took over two hours for me. If the cake is taking a really long time reduce the temperature slightly to prevent burning.A knife inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean, and the top will be golden brown.
5. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and serving. 

Store leftovers in the fridge once the cake has cooled completely.