Thursday, 20 October 2011

Christmas, Already?!?!

I realised with a massive shock this morning that there are only 65 days until Christmas!!!! I am a real sucker for this lovely Holiday and get completely sucked in by the twinkle lights, strands of tinsel, jingle bells and classic Christmas songs. As you can imagine, I also go absolutely crazy in my kitchen and always make hampers filled with all sorts of lovely home-made goodies to give to friends and work colleagues as presents. I bake oven loads of spiced cookies, make trays full of chocolate truffles and caramel candies, bottles full of dried fruit chutneys and then there's Christmas Lunch of course. I get all excited just thinking about it!!!

Amazingly enough, my Christmas baking already starts in October, with a traditional fruit cake. You have to bake it well in advance as it has to be matured to make it extra special and ever so delicious come Christmas. Having left it ever so slightly late this year and therefore having no time to spare, I got my chopped dates, sultanas, raisins and apricots soaking in brandy last night, ready to bake my cake this morning. It is a wonderfully luxurious cake, filled to the brim with dried fruits, nuts and glazed cherries and made intensely dark and rich with molasses and sticky brown sugar and then slowly fed with a bottle brandy over the next 9 weeks.

My cake is now snugly wrapped up in thick layers of parchment paper, mellowing out in a dark cupboard and waiting for it's next brushing of brandy. When our tree is up and decorated, my house is filled with the smells of cinnamon and mixed spice and Frank Sinatra is singing Let It Snow on our radio, I will cover the cake with golden marzipan, royal icing and let it sit proud in the middle of the Festive table. I can hardly wait :)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Don't Beet around the Bush

I wasn't going to say anything, but it was my birthday last Tuesday. I was supposed to celebrate the day with my family in the gloriously sunny South African bush. Unfortunately, due to issues with my passport, this did not happen and instead I spent the day in grey old London. Don't get me wrong, most of the time I'm happy to be here, but my heart was set on going Home. I did however decide not to wallow in self pity and feel sorry for myself (for too long), and instead baked something delectable and chocolatey to cheer myself up.

One of my favourite cakes to eat at my favourite little bakery is a beetroot chocolate cake. It is no ordinary chocolate cake as it is as soft and airy as a cloud, flecked with tiny little gems of crystallised beetroot and decorated with generous swirls of silky smooth, dark chocolate ganache. Luckily I had beets in my fridge and was feeling a little adventurous, so I was more than willing to try and bake my own, with a little help from my old friend, Google :)

Apart from my red stained fingers, the cake was a complete success. It's light and fluffy and crumbles softly into your mouth and leaves you with that sweet, earthy after taste that only beetroot can offer. But most importantly off all it made me forget that I was terribly home-sick for a moment or two!

So, if you are in need of a chocolate cure for heart-ache, home-sickness or just simply the Monday Blues, then go and make this cake right now!! As for me, I have eaten all of mine and have to admit that I am still longing to be in my gorgeous South Africa. Therefore I won't give you pictures of the cake that made me forget it for a while, but will instead give you a picture that reminds me of the place I will always call Home :)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Use Your Nut

For a while now, I have been interested in flourless baking. I have no medical reason to omit gluten or wheat from my diet, but am just simply mesmerised by the vast array of nut, rice and grain flours available on the supermarket shelves. So, when I stumbled upon this Lemon Polenta cake from Nigella, I just had to try it out for myself.

I have baked her traditional lemon drizzle cake more times than I can actually remember and have adapted it using all types of citrus fruit and incorporating it in some delicious desserts. I was therefore very curious how substituting the flour with ground almonds and polenta will change this firm favourite of mine, and got to baking it as soon as it was nap time for a certain someone :)

It felt a bit strange not adding flour to the cake and for the life of me, I could not imagine that this was going to work. How wrong was I? The cake came out beautifully risen, golden brown and as light as a feather. With my first bite, I knew that there is no going back to the traditional recipe. It's moist, intensely lemony and has the most incredible texture, it just melts in your mouth! Topped with gorgeous, dark purple Turkish figs and huge dollops of Crème fraiche it truly is Heaven on a plate.

This may have been my first, rather safe adventure into the wonderful world of flourless baking, but I will be heading to the supermarket very soon to try out Buckweat flour, Gram flour, Brown Rice flour, Xantham Gum, Rye grain, Spelt grain, kibbled wheat... I could go on, but I have to run before the shops close!!!!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Looks who's back!

So, I don't know if I'm breaking the rules here by coming back to a blog after such a long time of nothingness. If I am, let me say, I'm sorry. If I'm not, let me say, I'm back!!!!

Big changes have happened in my life in the past year and a half, I have gone back to working 9-5 in an office and a few months ago, I became mummy to a gorgeous, cheeky little baby boy. I have welcomed these changes, but they have unfortunately meant that I have had very little time for being creative in the kitchen and keeping up with this blog. However, now that my life has settled back into some sort of normal, I have taken my kitchen by storm again and I hope to share some of my creations with you once again. To give you a taster, I recently baked a deliciously moist and dense sour-cream chocolate cake, topped with my first attempt at making sugarpaste roses. I adapted my favourite cheesecake recipe to make a massive batch of mini cheesecakes to take with me when I went to husband's work to introduce them to our little guy.

I also baked several batches of flapjacks, choc-chip and oatmeal cookies and dulce de leche filled banana muffins, I just didn't take pictures of them before they vanished into hungry tummies. I also took on the challenge to bake a traditional Polish Sernik Wiedenski (Vienna cheesecake), which involves milling a boiled potato with sweet, white cheese (specially purchased at out local Polish deli) and then mixed with crazy amounts of eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla and baked to create a crumbly and fluffy cheesecake. Again, no pictures of this one, sorry!

Now that I'm back in the wonderland that is my kitchen, there will be no stopping me and I can hardly wait to share what I'll be baking next!
See you soon...