Banana and Walnut Loaf/Cake

So as a result of my poll a month or two ago about which recipe to try next, banana and walnut loaf received the most votes. I had actually tried out a different recipe of a banana and walnut loaf, however it didn’t turn out great thanks to my dumness in using unripe bananas and some lazy measuring… The Delia Smith recipe is worth trying if you like heavier fruit cake-type loaves, as it has cinammon (which I despise) and dark brown sugar and seems to last well. So after that attempt I hastily deleted my photos and tried another one. Although this one didn’t turn out too great either, but I thought I’d put off this post long enough and I should just get on with it. So here is the recipe for my second attempt.

I rather like this recipe. I searched for a non-butter loaf so my mother wouldn’t feel guilty about eating it and came across one which was sort of in between a cake and a bread loaf. So it is a little bland as it doesn’t have any fat and little sugar, but I think it has a nice fruity taste. So here goes.

Banana and Walnut Loaf, makes two small loaves

Preparation Time : 20 minutes

Baking Time : 40 minutes or so

 

– 300g self-raising flour (white)

– 70g brown sugar (although I used a combination of demerara and caster so it wouldn’t be so dense)

– 100g walnuts + (broken into pieces)

– 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

– 2 eggs

– 250ml milk

– 2 very ripe large bananas, mashed

– 1 tsp vanilla essence

 

First I cut up the bananas into a plastic bowl (so the fork wouldn’t scrape against it noisily) and used the fork to mash it up.

 

Then sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Add the rest of the dry ingredients (sugar and nuts) and stir around

Next crack the eggs one at a time, mixing in between. Pour in the milk and finally add the banana.

 

As you can see, at this point my mixture was rather runny. With hindsight I think I would have added a little more flour to firm it up a bit before pouring the mixture into the tins and baking. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes until ready. Cool on a wire rack.

 

Consume.

Passion Fruit Crumble Cake

This is a joyous cake which positively radiates yumminess. I absolutely love the crumble topping with a hint of coconut which gives the cake a little something extra. The passion fruit comes through well (3’s the magic number!) and makes the cake a glowing yellow with the crunchy black seeds to give some bite! It is very easy to make and guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. This recipe is adapted from Dan Lepard’s column with the Guardian and I really like the fact that the use of butter, sunflower oil and yoghurt reduces the fat content but also makes the cake lighter in texture. I hope you enjoy it!

Passion Fruit Crumble Cake, makes one cake of 22cm diameter or two small loaves (as in the photos)

Preparation Time : 30 minutes or so

Baking Time : 1 hour

Passion fruit cake

– 75g unsalted butter

– 25ml sunflower oil

– 175 golden caster sugar (you may to adjust this and add more according to the ripeness of the passion fruits)

– pulp from 3 passion fruit

– 25g cornflour

– 3 medium eggs, separated

– 100ml or so of plain yoghurt

– 200g plain flour

– 2tsp baking powder

Coconut crumble

– 50g unsalted butter

– 75g plain flour

– 50g golden caster sugar

– 40g desiccated coconut

Line the baking tin(s) with baking parchment. Gently melt the butter in a microwaveable pyrex glass bowl until soft. Add the oil, sugar and cornflour mixing thoroughly. Then mix in the egg yolks and yoghurt. Finally mix in the passion fruit pulp and have a quick taste! Sift and gently add the flour and baking powder. Finally in another bowl, whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy (just before meringue texture). This adds lightness and air into the cake – ensure the bowl and whisk are very clean otherwise your won’t get soft peaks. Lastly carefully fold in the egg whites into the passion fruit mixture slicing through the mixture so that the egg whites are fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin(s).

To make the coconut crumble topping, mix the butter, flour and sugar together. I find it easiest to use your fingers you can really make sure it is mixed well. Finally also mix in the coconut into the crumble. If you don’t like coconut you could substitute and experiment with different flavours (feel free to comment your ideas). I am not a huge fan of coconut but I think it subtly complements the passion fruit perfectly. Sprinkle generously over the cake mixture in the tin(s) – I like to leave some biggish lumps as I just adore crumble! Bake for an hour (my two smaller loaves took about 40 minutes) at 180 degrees.

When the cake is ready and an inserted skewer is removed clean, leave the cake(s) to cool a little in the tins. Serve up warm soon after. I’m on the hunt for any ways to improve the presentation of these cakes so if anyone has any suggestions, please comment below.

Happy Eating!

Cupcake vending machines

What a lovely idea to imagine that you could get a cupcake from a vending machine. Though I’m not sure the practicalities of it are entirely reliable. The Sprinkles bakery in Beverly Hills who opened a machine outside their shop restock the cakes every few hours as needed to maintain their freshness. In my opinion though, it’s just as easy to step inside the shop to order a cake, or better still – make your own from home!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/mar/20/cakehole-in-the-wall-machine

Deliciously chocolatey brownies

I love brownies. But there has been much debate about what the best kind are. Felicity Clarke’s post http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/sep/09/how-to-make-perfect-brownies discusses just this very topic. Personally, I like them crisp on the top but slightly gooey inside, flooded with nuts and enveloped in dark chocolate so that they are  decadently rich to bite. But that means I have a limit of one (two if starving) a day. In my opinion, brownies are supposed to be incredibly rich, they are not like any ordinary snack bite which you gulp down. You have to savour them. Especially when made by your own fair hands.

Homemade Brownies, makes 16

Preparation time : 30 minutes

Baking time : 20-25 minutes (depending on oven strength)

Brownie pile up!

– 180g unsalted butter, at room temperature

– 100g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

– 75g assorted nuts (macadamias, hazelnuts, walnuts are all good choices), roughly chopped

– 4 eggs

– 250g golden caster sugar

– 1tsp vanilla essence

– 100g plain flour

– 25g cocoa powder

– 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt (this brings out the flavour of the chocolate even m0re)

First put the chocolate and butter into a large heat-proof bowl. Place on top of a saucepan of hot water. Simmer gently on the hob.

Stir gently until all the butter and chocolate has melted completely into a silky ‘liquid’. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

  

Beat the eggs, golden caster sugar and vanilla essence together in another bowl.

 

(I can count to four by the way, but I was only making a small batch of brownies, hence only two eggs) This mixture should be quite elasticky (I’m not sure that’s the write word), but basically the texture raw egg normally is but thickened with some sugar. Now that your chocolate mixture has had time to cool, you can mix these two together. I find a spatula really useful for scraping the thin chocolate mix together.

Add the flour and cocoa powder, as well as that pinch of sea salt to really enhance the rich chocolate.

Finally, stir in the chopped nuts.

Pour into a lined baking tray (add a sprinkle of extra nuts) and put in the oven at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes. The cooking time depends on the strength of your oven and how you like your brownies baked. Change baking time accordingly. When they are cooked, remove from the baking parchment and leave to cool on a wire rack. Slice into squares ready for eating.

Delicious!

Apple and Walnut Loaf

I think that this is a hearty warming loaf ideal for this time of year, between harsh Winter and early Spring. It is lovely and moist because of the sweet apple but that means it doesn’t keep long unfortunately – so be sure to eat within 2-3 days! (that shouldn’t be a problem though) It is complemented with a good dollop of custard – ours was shop-bought, Madagascan vanilla custard really is the best (and saves time making it). Here’s how to make it. The cake, not the custard.

Apple and Walnut Loaf, makes 2 small loaves

Preparation time : 20 minutes

Baking time : 45-60 minutes

-150g soft butter

-175g golden caster sugar

-1tsp vanilla essence

-2 eggs

-225g self-raising flour

-4tbsp plain Greek yoghurt

-2 eating apples, skinned and chopped

-50g walnuts, plus extra for topping

I like to prepare the apples and nuts first. Skin, core and chop 2 ordinary eating apples. Here I used a deliciously sweet Fuji apple (my favourite) and a green Granny Smith to contrast. Try to leave the chunks a decent size, about 1-2cm cubes – this ensures there is still some structure to the apples once cooked and stop them from turning into apple mush. Chop or simply break the walnut pieces with your hands – they are ideal for this recipe as are quite a soft nut but provide enough crunch alongside the apple. I added in some spare macadamias and hazlenuts but found that walnuts worked best.

Grease or line loaf tins with baking parchment. Cream the butter and sugar together until thoroughly combined.

 

Then add the eggs on at a time, as well as the vanilla essence. Aim for a maintain a smooth consistency without obvious lumps (I can’t say I succeeded terribly well).

Stir in the self-raising flour and yoghurt. This should bulk up the mixture and at this point, it will be relatively thick and tough to stir. Don’t worry – that’s how it should be!

Finally add the chopped apples and nuts and try to incorporate into the mixture so that they are spread evenly. As you can see from the photo, this is quite difficult in the thick mixture but persevere!

Now dollop the mixture into the lined tins. Aim for an even spread and then sprinkle some more walnuts on top just for luck! Bake at 160 degrees for between 45-60 minutes. A knife inserted into the middle should indicate that the loaves are done.

After removing from the oven, allow to cool in the tins whilst you prepare warm-up the custard.

Getting the custard ready - can't wait to gobble it down!

yum yum for my tum!

It really is that simple. Enjoy!

Eat it up quick!

Mocha Macadamia Nut Cake

I found a recipe for chocolate and macadamia nut pots a few years ago at the library in James Martin’s ‘Desserts’. You may want to browse through the first few sample pages here for beginner pastry recipes… http://www.amazon.co.uk/James-Martin-Desserts/dp/1844004635

This is an easy and quick recipe to whip up as the ingredients are all fairly standard, apart from the macadamia nuts. They have a deliciously mild and subtle flavour but add a great crunch to the cake. The original recipe in the book was for 8 chocolate pots, but I have adapted it to my tastes into one share-friendly and yummy cake. Enjoy!

 

Mocha Macadamia Nut Cake, makes one 22cm diameter cake

Preparation time : 30 minutes

Baking time : 45-50 minutes

– 100g macadamia nuts, toasted

– 190g unsalted butter, at room temperature (OR a healthier option of 110g butter and 80ml vegetable/sunflower oil)

– 120g golden caster sugar

– 60g demerara sugar

– 4 eggs

– 45g cocoa powder

– 70g self-raising flour (OR 70g plain flour and 1/4 tsp baking powder)

– 1tsp vanilla essence

– 4tsp instant coffee mixed with a little hot water

First, line a 22cm round cake tin with baking parchment. This makes the cake super-easy to remove from the tin afterwards. Alternatively, if you don’t have any, you can grease the tin generously with butter or oil to spot the cake sticking. Now I always find it a little tricky to line round tins, but here is how I attempted it.

Now with the preparation done, onto the actual baking. Forward march!

Ingredients lined up up at the ready!

Next measure out the butter and sugar.

I use golden caster and demerara to give the cake some texture and greater flavour. Normally golden caster sugar is used for light sponges as is one of the least granulated sugars, therefore creates a smooth consistency. Demerara sugar is only partially refined and is therefore made of larger crystals and darker in colour. Use in the ratio of 120g golden caster sugar and 60g demerara sugar. If your butter is a little hard, zap it for a minute of two in the microwave to soften. If you are also using oil, make sure you add this after microwaving. The oil substitutes some of the fat in the butter and helps to bind the mixture together.

After a zap in the microwave

Mix together so that the sugar is well incorporated with the butter and there are no visible lumps. Now crack in the eggs one at a time and mix well.

x 4

The mixture should have increased in volume now after adding adding all the eggs and be a gloopy consistency.

Next add the flour and cocoa powder and carefully fold into the mixture. If you only have plain flour, be sure to put in 1/4 tsp of baking powder to act as a raising agent.

 

Now prepare the strong coffee mixture by adding four teaspoons of instant coffee with just enough hot water so that it dissolves. Add the teaspoon of vanilla essence and coffee into the cake mixture. Finally, prepare the macadamia nuts. Coarsely chop 50g of the nuts and finely chop the other 50g. The larger pieces give the cake some ‘bite’ whilst the finely chopped nuts add to the flavour. Toast lightly in a hot pan before mixing into the cake.

  

Finally pour carefully into your lined cake tin and decorate with some more coarsely chopped nuts or some macadamia halves. It’s ready for the oven now!

Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 45-50 minutes. An inserted skewer or knife into the top which comes out clean is a good indicator your cake is ready for consumption. Yay! Remove from cake tin and leave to dry on a wire rack.

Now for a well-deserved bite!