Friday, 21 November 2014

Cheddar, Cranberry and Honey Beer Bread

Recently I was invited to the BBC Good Food Show by Barber's Cheesemakers. I had the opportunity to meet with Charlie Barber where he told us about the history of Barber's cheese, how to judge a cheese award and anything you want to know about cheese but were too afraid to ask! 

The Barber family have been farming and making cheese at Maryland Farm in Ditcheat, Somerset since 1833. AJ & RG Barber is run by cousins Anthony, Chris, Charlie and Giles Barber, the sixth generation of the Barber family, and many other family members are still involved. Today the Barber farms comprise 2500 acres of prime Somerset dairy land and are home to some 2,000 dairy cows.

Charlie told us how they created their own specialist laboratory with their own microbiologist to grow their own natural starter cultures. These cultures are the friendly bacteria added to the milk to start the cheesemaking process and are the most important ingredient in creating the flavour and character of the finished cheese. Most cheesemakers nowadays use freeze dried starters and they are the only cheesemakers that currently make their own natural starters. They also supply the starters to artisan cheesemakers. They believe that it's the natural cultures that give their cheese a unique complexity of flavours and it's honourable that they are keeping this tradition alive.

We got to taste their signature cheddar cheese, cave aged cheddar, smoked cheese and goat's cheese. We were also introduced to his cousin who gave us a sample of Black Cow Vodka - vodka made from milk of their cows. It has a clean taste at the front and a subtle dairy taste at the end.

cheese awards 

 supergolden cheese awards table - one of their cheeses made it to this table! 

Before I tell you about my recipe, I'd also like to mention a honey beer that I tasted at the BBC Good Food Show. It's made by Hiver who source raw honey from independent British Beekeepers. I'm not a huge fan of beer but this is aboslutely delicious! Don't just take my word for it, try it for yourself and tell me what you think. At present, it's only available through Ocado.

Barber's gave me a block of their vintage cheddar to sample and to create a recipe with. I had a few ideas to start with and after tasting the honey beer, I decided to make a Cheddar and Honey Beer Bread. As it's approaching Christmas, I decided to throw in some cranberries for a festive touch. I based it on an old recipe that has been passed on from a friend who got it from another friend and so on. I've not used this recipe in many years and had to hunt for it! It's a very simple mix all in one recipe. No need for a yeasted dough, kneading or fancy equipment. I added in dried cranberries and chunks of cheddar cheese. 

This bread is best eaten fresh on the day it's baked. The crust was my favourite part and I could have eaten the whole crust in one go! You can definitely taste the beer in the bread but the honey notes were subtle. You can clearly taste the cheese as it has a rich and strong flavour which is not masked by the honey or bread. It also adds a lovely saltiness to the bread and the cranberries add a burst of sweetness and texture. You also get bits of crusty melted cheese on the outside. We couldn't finish the whole loaf between us in one sitting so I toasted a few slices 2 days later and it was still very good. In fact, I think I prefer the toasted version as you get lots of crispy bits. Make sure you turn your toaster on a low setting as you don't want to burn the cheese!  

 Barber's Vintage reserve Cheddar

 Pour beer into the batter in one go 

 add dried cranberries and chunks of cheddar 

add melted butter before baking 

 fresh from the oven 

 serve warm with butter 

An original recipe by bakingaddict

470g plain flour
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey (you can add another tablespoon if you want a sweeter bake) 
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 bottle Honey Beer, unopened and at room temperature
60g melted butter
60g dried cranberries (could add a bit more)
180g Barber's Vintage cheddar cheese, roughly cut into chunks
  • Preheat the oven to 190C.
  • In a large bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. 
  • Add in the honey.
  • Open the beer and all it all at once to the batter - it will foam up.
  • Stir briskly until just combined - be careful not to overmix.
  • Add in the dried cranberries and cheddar chunks and stir a few more times to incorpate it.
  • Pour into a loaf tin and drizzle with the melted butter.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  • Allow to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Best served warm with butter. 

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Cheese Awards by Barber's Cheese at BBC Good Food Show. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. This is not a sponsored post.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Parsnip Cake and a review

I watched a demonstration by Mich Turner at a cake show years ago and was really impressed. Jacqui Small offered me a review copy of Mich Turner's Cake School and I can tell you now that I will be referring to this book frequently from now on. First impressions are that it's a substantial book. It's a large hardback with 272 pages including index. It has stunning colour photography by Amanda Heywood. I love a recipe with photos and this definitely delivers on that count.

Mich's introduction explains that this book is more than just about recipes, it's to help you understand the stages of baking, what is important, what to do, what not to do and offers lots of practical hints and tips. It has a nice large, easy to read font accompanied by pictorials.

The chapters are divided into

  • Lesson 1 : Making & Baking Cakes - ingredients, preparation, cake-baking methods
  • Lesson 2: Putting it All Together - fillings & frostings, covering & assembly
  • Lesson 3 : Decorating - hand piping, hand moulding, hand painting
  • Cake Templates
  • Tools
  • Index
Below is an example page of her monochrome lace tutorial with pictorial step by step guide and hand tips from Mich. 

She also has a tutorial on hand-moulding teddy bears. The bear looks really realistic!

There are a few recipes in the book for cakes, brownies and muffins. I chose to make her parsnip cake as I've tried it once before and it was delicious.  As Mich says, the cake is wonderfully moist, sweet and succelent. She's added in apples, walnuts and maple syrup all of which work well with the parsnips. Everyone was really impressed with the cake and could not tell that there were parsnips in the cake.

My verdict - This is really good book to have on your shelf whether you are a beginner or an advanced baker. It's full of practical tips and the book is beautifully laid out with plenty of colour photographs illustrating methods and recipes. It's very easy to read and the instructions are clear and simple. I would have happily bought this book for myself and will definitely make a great gift either for yourself or for someone else.

If you are interested in a copy, Jacqui Small are offering a discount to my readers.
To order Mich Turner's Cake School at the discounted price of £24.00 including p&p* (RRP: £30.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG212.
*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

 melt butter, sugar and maple syrup

 grated parsnip, apple and orange zest

 adding the grated parsnip, apple and orange zest

 adding in the walnuts

 Place one cake on a serving tray then smooth frosting on top 

 place the second cake on top and cover with the remaining frosting

 drizzle with maple syrup before serving 

 who wants a slice? 

Recipe extracted from Mich Turner's Cake School by Mich Turner, published by Jacqui Small - reproduced with permission

Makes a 20cm (8inch) round cake
For the cake
175g unsalted butter
250g demerara sugar
100ml maple syrup
3 large eggs
250g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons mixed spie
150g parsnips, peeled and grated
1 medium apple, peeled and grated 
grated zest of 1 small orange, plus 2 tablespoons juie
50g walnuts, roughly chopped

For the mascarpone and maple syrup frosting
250g mascarpone
3 tablespoons maple syrup, plus extra to drizzle

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
  • Grease and line two 20cm (8inch) sandwich tins with non-stick baking parchment. 
  • Melt the butter, sugar and maple syrup together in a saucepan over a gentle heat until dissolved and smooth. 
  • Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  • Whick the eggs into the mixture.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and mixed spice.
  • Stir this into the cake batter until smooth. 
  • Add the grated parsnips, apple, orange zest and juice and the walnuts and stir until well combined,
  • Divide the cake mixture between the prepared tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and the tops spring back when pressed lightly. 
  • Transfer the tins to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes in the tins before turning out and leaving to cool completely.
  • To make the frosting; just before serving, stir the maple syrup into the mascarpone.
  • Place one cake on a serving plate.
  • Spread half the mascarpone frosting over the base cake and place the other cake on top.
  • Spread the remaining frosting on top of the cake and drizzle with maple syrup as the cake is served.
  • Storage: Keeps for 3 days in an airtight container - preferably in the fridge.
  • Variation: Substitute half the parsnip with grated carrot. 
Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Mich Turner's Cake School for review purposes. A positive review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own. This is not a sponsored post. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Lemon and Poppyseed Cake

I had a craving for lemon cake the other day. I found the end of a bag of poppyseeds so I decided to add that in as well. I used my cake tin from Ikea and was really impressed by the pattern created by the icing after it cooled. It looks like a beautiful flower. The cake was moist and very lemony and received high praise at J's work. Fortunately, I managed to try a slice but I do wish I had more! Lemon cake is definitely one of my all time favourites. What's your favourite cake? 

 sorry the lighting is really poor this time of the year 

 adding lovely lemon zest and poppyseeds

 ready to bake 

 love the flower pattern 

Recipe adapted slightly from BBC Good Food

For the cake
175g butter
175g golden caster sugar
200g plain flour, sifted
Zest of 4 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
3 eggs
2 tablespoons poppyseed
150mls sour cream

For the icing 
200g icing sugar
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Cream butter and sugar until smooth.
  • Add in the eggs, one at at time, mixing well between each addition. 
  • Stir in the lemon zest and poppyseeds.
  • Add the sour cream, lemon juice and flour. 
  • Pour into a greased baking tin and bake for approximately 50-60 minutes (depending on size of tin) until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  • As soon as the cake is out of the oven, use a fork to prick holes all over the cake. Pour 3-4 tablespoons of the icing (see below) on top of the cake and leave it to absorb. 
  • Turn the cake out after about 10 minutes onto a serving plate.
  • Thicken the icing slightly by adding more icing sugar and pour over the top of the cake. 
  • to make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a large bowl. Slowly add the lemon juice and stir until smooth. Initially, make the icing a little runny to spread over the cake then thicken with icing sugar for the glaze.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes and a review

I am hosting this month's AlphaBakes which is the letter "H". Frankly, it's a bit of a relief as the last 2 letters have been slightly tricky being "K" followed by "I". In case you missed the late announcement, there is a lovely prize for 1 lucky winner selected at random this month. It's a copy of 500 cupcakes by Fergal Connolly & Judith Fertig sponsored by Quarto Publishing. 

I decided to select a recipe from the 'H' index for my Alphabakes entry this month. There's 21 recipes under 'H' some of which are variations on the same recipe. There were a few interesting ones but in the end I decided on these hot chocolate cupcakes as I've been craving chocolate.

The book is a lovely sized hardback with 288 pages including index. It starts with a brief introduction which covers basic equipment and ingredients, making and decorating cupcakes, serving ideas and cupcake gifts. The chapters are then divided into

  • Classic Cupcakes
  • Fragrant and spiced cupcaes
  • Chocolate cupcakes
  • Decadent Cupcakes
  • Celebration Cupcakes
  • Cupcakes for Kids
  • Cupcakes for special diets
  • Designer Cupcakes
All the cupcake recipes fit onto 1 page with a one line summary followed by ingredient list and methods. The instructions are simple and succint.  Most of the main recipes include a picture but there isn't a picture for each recipe. Each recipe has variations listed on a separate page. For example, these chocolate orange cupcakes pictured below are a 'main recipe' 

The variations page looks like this and the variations for chocolate orange cupcakes include chocolate orange marshmallow-centred cupcakes,chocolate orange & vanilla centred cupcakes, white chocolate & vanilla cupcakes and chocolate crystallised orange-centred cupcakes. I particularly like that there is a little picture at the top corner of the basic recipe the variations refer to just in case you're not sure.

The hot chocolate cupcake recipe that I chose was actually a variation of their morning latte cupcakes. The instructions were to prepare the basic cupcake recipe (for morning latte cupcakes) but to omit the coffee flavouring in the icing and to sprinkle chocolate sprinkles on top of each cupcake.

The cupcakes themselves were delicious. It's a plain vanilla sponge topped with a thick chocolate icing. It's quite a fudgey consistency which  was easy to spread. It was then topped with marhsmallow fluff and finished with a dusting of cocoa powder. I couldn't find my mini mallows which would look good on top. Initially I thought the cupcake should be a chocolate cupcake but it works better this way as you can taste the chocolate and the marshmallow separately. It's quite messy to eat as the marhsmallow fluff is extremely sticky but it's really tasty.

My verdict - This is a cute little book which is perfect if you are new to baking but there's also some lovely recipes for the advanced baker. I like the layout and presentation of the book. There is also a large variety of recipes and I know I will be using this book again and again. My only negative as always is that there isn't a photo for each recipe. It will make a great gift for a baking friend and I would have happily bought this book for myself. 

As mentioned I'm entering this to AlphaBakes hosted by myself this month and co hosted by Caroline from Caroline Makes. The letter is 'H' for Hot chocolate cupcakes. Remember to email your entries by 25th November and you will be in with a chance to win a copy of this book. 

I only managed 11 cupcakes with my batter 

 ready to be iced

 the icing looks a little messy but it's quite thick so it's difficult to spread evenly.

delicious marshmallow fluff 

Update 17/11/14
Recipe from 500 Cupcakes by Fergal Connolly & Judith Fertig. Published by Apple Press. Reproduced with permission. 

For the cupcakes
225g unsalted butter
115g caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the icing & decorations
100g plain chocolate, roughly chopped
60g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
215g jar Marshmallow Fluff or 200g mini marshmallows, melted
18 craft pipe cleaners or chenille sticks (I didn't use these) 

  • Preheat the oven to 175C/350F/Gas Mark 4. 
  • Place 18 paperbaking cases into muffin tins. (I only managed 11 cupcakes of size shown)
  • Combine all the cupcake ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with an electric whisk until smooth and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Spoon the batter into the cases.
  • Bake for 20 minutes.
  • Remove the tins from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the cupcakes and cool on a rack.
  • To make the icing, gently heat the chocolate and butter in a small, heavy saucepan, stirring until melted.
  • Remove from the heat and beaat in the icing sugar.
  • For each cupcake: Ice the top. Pipe or spoon marshmallow fluff on top of each cupcake. Double the pipe cleaner and insert both ends into the side of each cupcake handle to form a 'handle'. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of 500 cupcakes. A positive review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own. This is not a sponsored post. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Chocolate dipped granola bars and a review

Do you like surprises? I'm generally a little wary about surprises particularly when it comes to food as I'm a bit of a picky eater. Degustabox sends you a monthly surprise box with 9 to 14 surprise products, most of which are new to the market. A monthly subscription including delivery costs £12.99 which is less than what you would pay if you were to buy the items individually. They also give you a chance to feedback directly to the brands about whether you like the products or not. 

I thought it sounded like a good idea so I was pleased to be offered a box to review. The box is simple and tasteful and the products were well packed so they all arrived in pristine condition. There's a cute sticker which says" Open me, eat me... enjoy me!" when you open the box which is a nice little touch.

The contents of the box vary from month to month. I received this box in October but have not had a chance to write a review until now. My box consisted of :

  • 3 x Burt's Lentil Waves in 3 different flavours - sour cream & chive, Thai sweet chili and Lightly Salted. 
  • 1 x Jordans Simply Granola. 
  • 2 x Pick up! - Milk chocolate sandwiched between 2 crisp biscuits and white chocolate sandwiched between 2 cocoa biscuits.
  • 2 x Crabbie's alcoholic fruits - Raspberry and Rhubarb and Black Cherry. 
  • 2 x Little Miracles- organic tea and fruit juice with ginseng and acai.
  • 2 x Carnation Cook with It!
  • 1 x Elixabeth Shaw's dark chocolate Mint Thins
  • 1 x La Vieja Fabrica marmalade 

It was a good mix of snacks, drinks and cooking ingredients. I used the Carnation Cook with it! to make a chicken and leek stroganoff which turned out beautifully. The drinks and snacks were handy for our lunch boxes. I also decided to bake something with some of the ingredients and found this recipe by Edd Kimber for Honey Nut Bars.  The only change I made was to use simply granola which is what I had instead of the Super Nutty Granola in his recipe. I also added some mixed dried fruit.  I actually baked this recipe twice as the first time the granola bars stuck to the paper as I didn't spray the paper after lining the tin and I just couldn't peel the paper off no matter what. I then found my silicone individual tray bake tin which was perfect apart from the giant sized granola bars that it produced! However, they were very tasty and the chocolate added extra indulgence. 

My verdict - This is quite a fun and interesting way to try out new products for a reasonable price. Everyting is readily 'usable'- nothing gets relegated to the back of the cupboard to be forgotten. It would make a good gift for a foodie friend or relative. As I've only had 1 box, I'm not sure if items get repeated in future deliveries but looking at their website it looks like they have new products each month. Some brands are repeated but the products are different. The products are all of a reasonable quality and there's some money off vouchers in the box for certain brands. There's also a handy leaflet reminding you what's in the box with the RRP for each product. 

 mix the dried fruit and granola

 melt butter, sugar and honey 

 First attempt with a square tin

 second attempt with my silicone tray 

 no problem getting them out of the tin bu they are huge!

 dipped in chocolate for extra decadence 

Recipe adapted from Edd Kimber's Honey Nut Bars

300g Jordans simply granola
50g mixed dried fruit
125g clear honey
50g butter
25g light brown sugar
200g dark chocolate

  • Mix the granola and dried fruit in a bowl and set aside.
  • Heat the butter, sugar and honey in a small saucepan until completely melted.
  • Pour the honey mixture over the granola and stir well.
  • Press into silicone tin or a lined baking tray after using lots of cake release spray.
  • Bake for 25-30 minute or until lightly golden.
  • Allow to cool completely then place in the fridge if you want to dip the bars in chocolate.
  • Melt the chocolate and dip half the bars in chocolate and place on parchment paper to dry. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a Degustabox for review purposes. A positive review was not required. All opinions expressed are my own. This is not a sponsored post.