Stollen moments

Over the festive period I had fun making stollen. I made three different batches using this basic recipe. Each time however I changed the final construction.

Mmmm, stollen
Mmmm, stollen

For my first batch, which I took into work, I followed the recipe exactly. Basically you create an envelope with the dough and place the marzipan inside.

The second batch I made were for a pre-Christmas gathering at my sister’s house. She doesn’t like marzipan, so I made stollen bites. Half with marzipan. Half without. These didn’t really turn out that well. The marzipan stayed as a hard lump in the middle of each bun.

My final batch (pictured) was, I think, the best. This time I rolled the stollen like a swiss roll which distributed the marzipan evenly throughout. With the marzipan rolled much thinner it almost melted into the dough, which was delicious.

A feast

Halloumi burgers This afternoon I spent four hours making tonight’s tea. And boy was it worth it.

I began by baking black olive and sumac rolls using Dan Lepard’s recipe for carrot and sesame sandwich bread. Prior to baking I hadn’t really thought what I might eat them with.

Then I remembered that I’d had a pack of halloumi in the fridge for a couple of months waiting for just such an opportunity to use it. Searching for recipes on BBC Good Food I found one for halloumi and aubergine burgers.

A quick trip to the supermarket and this is the result. Delicious.

Four hours to make, 10 minutes to devour!

Ginger beer scones

One of the tea houses in Newcastle (yes, we’re lucky enough to have more than one place dedicated to selling a wide variety of teas) offers an array of interesting and delicious cakes. On one occasion I saw they had ginger beer scones and from that moment on was possessed with a desire to try making them. I found this Dan Lepard recipe and last night finally gave it a go.

Oh. My. God. They are brilliant. And I’m not just saying that because I baked them. Two independent tasters have said that they are the best scones they’ve ever had. EVER!

They’re much lighter than regular scones, but somehow more dense and less cakey. My mixture came out a little wet and so I added around 25-35g more flour. As I was falling asleep I realised why this was – I added some of the syrup from the stem ginger as I was spooning it in. This is not a bad thing. I think it helped to intensify the ginger flavour. So I’ll be modifying the recipe to include this.

I’ve also got an idea for how to modify the recipe to create similarly light and less cakey plain scones. So watch this space.

Adventures in gluten free baking

This weekend I tried gluten free baking for the first time. I needed to make a gluten free cake for an event today, and wanted to do a test run. The advice I had been given was that any recipe that uses standard flour and produces a moist product would work.

For my first attempt I used this recipe for banana muffins. I replaced the self-raising flour with Dove’s gluten and wheat free white self-rasing flour blend. Because I seem never to be able to follow a recipe directly I also added choc chips and chopped nuts. I was really pleased with how the muffins came out. They were moist, even in a smaller fairy cake size, and if you weren’t told I doubt you’d know they were gluten free.

The next task was the cake for today. I chose one of my favourites, coconut and carrot slices. Again I replaced the standard flour with gluten and wheat free blend from Dove’s. It baked exactly as it would normally. I lost a little of the bottom to the cake tin when it turned out, but this gave me the chance to taste it ahead of today’s gathering. It’s bloody good!

So at the end of all this I’d say I can now do gluten free baking. The trick is in selecting the right recipe.

My week in recipes

I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen this week. During the working week I usually make meals I’m familiar with, where the recipe (or at least my version of it) is in my head. This week however I’ve made a couple of things on top of my meals and also been trying some new recipes based on the ingredients I’ve had in stock.

It all began on Tuesday, I had a couple of lemons that needed to be used in something. At work two colleagues were discussing lemon curd, I’d made it before and knew how easy it was, so decided to give it a go again. Fortuitously in my veg box that day I received a lemon as a freebie, so I was able to use this recipe from the Hairy Bikers and cut the quantities in half.

Homemade lemon curd doesn’t keep as long as the shop bought stuff, so next I needed to make something with lemon curd in it. A quick search found this recipe for Almond and Lemon Curd Biscuits and what better way to pay my colleagues back for putting the thought of lemon curd in my head than to make some biscuits to share? The baking process for this was quite therapeutic. I was amazed that none of them split whilst in the oven and the lemon curd didn’t seep into the biscuit. The hardest thing about these biscuits was deciding whether to eat the lemon curd pocket in your first or last mouthful.

Friday night came round and I had a feast planned. I got a cauliflower in my veg box that was screaming out to be made into aloo gobi. I also had a surfeit of mushrooms so I set out to find a mushroom bhaji recipe. The majority I found were simply onion, mushroom and some pre-made curry paste. I wanted something to make from scratch and eventually found this recipe on foodgeeks. It was divine. Every ingredient came through subtly and it wasn’t too wet, even though I added a few extra tablespoons of water then the recipe required.

Finally to round up the week I’ve made Lamb Sausages in Proscuitto for my tea today. I’ve just taken the sausages from this recipe and I’m going to have them with roast potatoes and turnips (the remaining vegetables from my weekly box). I’ve also substituted the proscuitto for pancetta simply because that’s all I could get hold of. The sausages are currently sitting in the fridge waiting to be cooked. I’ll update the post with my verdict later on.

Cinnamon and cardamom pulla

Laura recently came back from a trip to Finland with an addiction to cinnamon and cardamom pulla. In the days immediately afterwards we made a half-hearted attempt to make our own from a random recipe we found online. It was a disaster. The dough was way too runny and instead of rolling them with cinnamon butter we ended up baking it in a cake tin and applying butter and cinnamon afterwards.

Earlier this week Laura was reading Falling Cloudberries, the food biography of Greek-Finnish writer Tessa Kiros, and she discovered a recipe for cinnamon and cardamom buns. So, with some time on my hands this Bank Holiday weekend I decided to give them a go. The recipe is a multi-stage process and I thought it would be interesting to document the process, and here is the result: