4 Apr 2016

Butternut Squash, Pecan and Chocolate Cake

I said I would not stay quiet, and then I did just that. I am sorry, but I had a good excuse: I am pregnant!
I am really lucky and am enjoying what can be considered as an easy pregnancy so far. 

Sure, I had some morning sickness. 
I do need an enormous amount of sleep which limits the extravaganza of my social life quite a bit. 
My back hurts and at the end of the day I feel as big and heavy as an old truck with a flat tire.
But, I'm also having a blast. 

I can go for days without washing my hair and it still looks great.
I don't have most of the horrible sounding pregnancy side effects that I read about regularly.
I was able to cycle to work and back home until my 27th week of pregnancy. Since then, I've swapped cycling for a bit of walking, but I am still in pretty good shape.
Every kick and turn in my belly, however painful it may be, brings me a ridiculous amount of joy.  
Yes, in the end I'm one of these annoying, glowing pregnant ladies who walk around with an almost constant silly smile on their face.

Butternut squash, 
Pecans and Chocolate cake

I discovered with this cake that butternut squash are like carrot in the carrot cake. It does not bring masses of flavour to a cake, but a lovely moist texture.
This cake is simply delicious. Give it a try!

For the cake
150 g pecan nuts
300 g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
275 g light muscovado sugar
250 ml groundnut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
250 g peeled, deseeded butternut squash, coarsely grated
100 g dark chocolate, chopped

For the chocolate icing:
200 g dark chocolate
200 ml double cream
50 g icing sugar

1/ Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease 2 x 20cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking paper.

2/ Bake the nuts for 8-10 minutes. Tip the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a food mixer. Mix in the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the squash and chocolate. Chop the nuts and add to the mixture.

3/ Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool for a few minutes, then turn on to a wire rack and leave until cold.

4/ For the icing, break the chocolate into pieces in a bowl. Heat the cream and sugar, stirring, until just below simmering point. Pour the cream on to the chocolate; stir to melt. Cool, then chill the icing for 20 minutes.

5/ Sandwich the cakes with the icing. Sprinkle the top layer with a dust of icing sugar.

Recipe from Homemadebyyou.co.uk

29 Jan 2016

Linzertorte (Austrian almond and raspberry jam tart)

Baking is famous for being a therapeutic activity. I find that there is nothing better than focusing on measuring and mixing ingredients, and stuffing myself with a delicious homemade cake while bingeing on a good TV series, to forget all my worries. 

My friend Chrissy and I are also big fans of baking as a social acitivity. We often meet up and cover ourselves head to toe with flour while indulging in our second favourite social activity: gossiping. 
As Chrissy gets to choose what we bake when we meet, and as my favourite crazy girl is half Austrian, we had a go at baking Linzertorte together.

Almond and raspberry jam tart

Thanks to its high almond content, the pastry of this torte lends somewhere between and soft biscuit and pastry. It is absolutely divine and makes it well worth fiddling a little with the pastry (which is quite fragile). Don't be mistaken, this is not just your average jam tart. This torte is stunning.

Ingredients (serves 6 to 8)

150g caster sugar
150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
150g ground almonds
good pinch ground cinnamon
150g cold butter, cut into cubes
1 egg, beaten
300g good quality raspberry jam


1/ Put the sugar, flour, almonds and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and stir until well combined.

2/ Add the cubes of butter and rub them into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. It should feel quite moist.

3/ Add the egg and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together, then knead lightly into a ball. Weigh the dough and take a quarter away to use for the lattice topping. 

4/ Roll the rest into a ball and turn it out on to a well-floured surface.

5/ Flatten the ball with your hands, or a floured rolling pin, until it is about 2.5 cm thick. 

6/ Place the dough in the centre of a 24cm in loose-based (I made small tarts with mini tart moulds), fluted tart tin and press it with your fingers over the base until it is about halfway up the sides of the tin and the tin is evenly covered.

7/ Spread the jam over the dough as evenly as possible.

8/ Shape the reserved dough into a fat sausage and roll it out on a well-floured surface to make a rectangle 3mm thick – about the thickness of a £1 coin. Cut the dough into strips. 

9/ Place the strips over the jam, first in one direction and then the other, to create a criss-cross pattern over the filling. Press the edges to seal, pinch off the excess pastry and smooth the joins down with your fingertips. Chill the tart in the fridge for 30–60 minutes.

9/ Preheat the oven to 190°C. Put the tart on a baking tray and bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes or until the almond pastry is pale golden brown. 

10/ Cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes, then slide it on to a serving platter or board.

Recipe from The Hair Bikers

15 Jan 2016

Lemon Steamed Pudding

Happy New Year!
I have never been one for making New Year's resolutions, but if I was, it would be to try and find more time to bake and keep working my way through the history of British baking and food. 
The more I discover about British food, the more I realise how rich it is and how much it deserves being explored deeper. If Great Britain lacks anything, it's pride in its food heritage. 
With the British government’s recent launch of the five-year Great British Food campaign to increase the number of EU Protected Food Names from a mere 64 today to around 200 (which is what you find in countries like France or Italy), and many artisan producers working towards gaining recognition for their traditional foods, I hope the general public in the UK and abroad will get more and more opportunities to discover how great British food is.

Lemon Steamed Pudding

When I think British baking, I think steamed pudding. We don't have anything similar in France, and on top of being quintessentially British, this steamed pudding is delicious!
It look me a long time to dare make my very first steamed pudding, because I feared it would be difficult to make. It actually is very easy to make.  
This pudding will keep in an airtight container for a few days. I almost think it gets even better after a day or two!

For the pudding: 
1 lemon
1 vanilla pod
140 unsalted butter
60 caster sugar
65 golden caster sugar
3 eggs slightly beaten
200g plain flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
125ml milk

For the syrup: 
Zest of 2 lemons, juice of one
150ml water
150g caster sugar, 50g golden caster sugar

A couple our lemon slices, to line to pudding mould 
Double cream or plain greek yogurt, to serve

  1. Heat the oven to 160
  2. Butter a medium size (1 litre) pudding basin
  3. Grate the zest of the lemon et the seeds from the vanilla pod et set aside
  4. Cream together the sugar, butter, vanilla seeds and zest until light and fluffly (I do that with an electric whisk). Add the eggs gradually.
  5. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and fold them in until combined. Fold in the milk until combined. Set aside.
  6. To make the syrup: in a small pan, put the sugar, lemon juice and zest, water and vanilla pod. Heat gently, sitrring until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and simmer until the mixture has reduced to a syrup. Remove the vanilla pod, clean it under fresh water and leave it to dry (once dry, you can then put in and leave it in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar)
  7. Place the lemon slices and place them at the bottom of the pudding basin (that's optional and just for decoration). Pour 3/4 of the syrup into the basin and cover with the pudding mixture. Set the rest of the syrup aside.
  8. Cover the pudding basin tightly with two layers of baking parchment or foil and tie a string arong the edge of the basin to secure the cover tightly. Place the basin in a deep roasting tin or oven-proof pan. Fill the tin/pan with hot water to halfway up the height of the basin, and bake for about 2 hours (remember to keep the water topped up). 
  9. To check if it's ready, uncover the pudding and if well risen and slightly firm to the touch; it's ready. 
  10. Leave to cool for about 5min, run a sharp knife around the edges of the pudding and turn out onto a shallow plate and pour the remaining syrup on top. Serve slightly warm with yogurt or cream.
Recipe adapted from Leon's St Clement's pudding.