A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: Baking

I’ve been ill all week and decided to try and cheer myself up by making this peanut butter cookie recipe I spotted on Pinterest. I really like the fact that the recipe mostly uses oats with little flour. It’s hard not to get swept up in all the anti-gluten sentiment there is at the moment. Here’s how they turned out.

I had been looking for a new recipe to replace my current peanut butter cookie recipe, which somehow gives inconsistent results. I think I’ve found it. The cookies are really tasty even without the peanut butter filling.

I used ordinary creamy peanut butter rather than the fancy peanut butter stated in the recipe. I also used salted butter and omitted the extra salt. I would say these cookies have just the right amount of salt. I might even go so far as to use unsalted butter in future.


My baking has declined massively over the past few years. The almost weekly bakes of my early twenties have reduced to making cake for my colleagues on my birthday, plus a handful of ad hoc cakes. This year I wasn’t feeling massively inspired. After looking through my ‘recipes’ Pinterest boards and rejecting most of the items, I settled on the Ultimate Vanilla cupcakes from the Cupcake Project, which I was super into about five years ago. I absolutely love their Ultimate Chocolate cupcakes.


I made a couple of changes that, in hindsight, weren’t a success. I replaced a cup of sugar with a cup of these neon giant sugar crystals I picked up a while ago.

Because the batter is very liquid, the sugar dissolved too quickly and did not produce the little neon flecks I had hoped for amongst the black-speckled vanilla cake. I also used coconut oil instead of vegetable, which was fine apart from the fact that I didn’t melt it fully. I knew the batter was too lumpy, but I couldn’t be bothered to get out my hand blender and blitz it. Mistake.

Overall, I probably would give these cupcakes a second chance. While I liked the Ultimate Vanilla Frosting (basically buttercream) from the same site, I don’t think it paired especially well with the UV cupcake. It’s just sweet on sweet. I think you need a bit of a contrasting flavour in there for balance.

My friend Anna gave me some very exciting National Trust spreads for my birthday, and I can see these being incorporated into bakes soon. If only to stop me from eating both jars by the spoonful.


I spotted this recipe on the Instagram feed of a yoga studio I frequented when I lived in west London. I was in the throes of the ‘new year, new you’ thing, so I decided to make it. Here’s how it turned out.


I didn’t make any changes to the recipe, apart from serving it with dairy Greek yogurt rather than coconut yoghurt.


To be honest I don’t think I’d make this again unless I was baking for someone with specific dietary requirements. While it’s perfectly nice, it’s still quite high in calories, and I prefer my sweets to be a bit naughtier than this. If I did bake this recipe again, I would probably throw in some chopped pecans or walnuts to add to the texture.


There’s nothing that makes you feel warm towards your colleagues like going on holiday for an extended period! Since I’m about to go away, I decided to bake for the last team meeting of the year, and I’ve had these chocolate and cream cheese cupcakes pinned for a while. I believe the non-PC term for these is black bottom cakes, but I decided against mentioning that in the office.

The recipe is available here. I did enjoy these cupcakes, but I found the eggless chocolate sponge a little dry and uninspiring. I DID like how easy it was to have two contrasting flavours and textures- much easier than faffing around with frosting. The little pops from the chocolate chips were lovely too. If I made these again, I would probably swap out another recipe (maybe the ultimate chocolate cupcake?) for the bottom part. However, if you’re after a quick recipe using mostly things that will always be in the store cupboard, this is a good’un.

I had enough batter for 24 mini cupcakes and four or five full-sized ones.

 


We who run according to the academic calendar are limping towards the end of the year with relief and exhaustion in equal measure. This means a few celebrations are in order, and I decided to bake for my team. I wanted a fairly simple recipe and decided on muffins. I had a chocolate and cream cheese recipe that I’ve had pinned for a while in mind, but then my uncle requested blueberry and I decided to go with that.

I’ve never made blueberry muffins before so I just googled a recipe and this one was very well reviewed. I made no changes except being very generous with the fruit. I used £5 of blueberries in 14 muffins. That’s the equivalent of nearly $1! I think it would also be wonderful with fresh blackberries.

Blueberry muffins

I found the sponge a little dry. Although it was hard to notice because of the juicy fruit, I might try a recipe with buttermilk next time.

I should have filled the liners up more (I got three extra cupcakes from the mix) but I was scared they would overflow. I needn’t have worried.

I choose to believe it was the delicate scent of freshly baked muffins that enticed an exotic visitor to join our party.


Though he seemed more interested in eating our excess strawberries.


I seem to be slightly obsessed with baked cream cheese lately. Which is understandable, because it’s bloody delicious. I’ve been looking for a recipe to use up 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree that’s been hanging around in my freezer, and this pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust really fit the bill.

I’m not actually the world’s biggest fan of cheesecake. I think that’s because most British cheesecakes aren’t baked, and I think it’s the baking that transforms the cream cheese into the silky, luxurious texture you get in an American-style cheesecake. I also think that digestives are the most boring biscuit on earth, so any recipe that uses something else for the base gets points from me.

I got quite a few cracks in the top of my cheesecake, as you can see in the pics. I wonder if baking it in a water bath would reduce this problem.

Ingredients- for the base

  • 230g (2cups) ginger nuts, finely crushed
  • 40g (1/4 cup) pecans, finely chopped
  • 60g (1/4 cup) butter, melted

For the topping

  • 3/4 cup pumpkin purée- you can use around 1/4 cup less if this is all you have
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4tsp ground cloves
  • 680g (24oz) full-fat cream cheese
  • 3/4 to 1 cup sugar, depending on taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Line bottom and sides of 9″x13″ baking pan with dampened parchment paper or foil, letting it overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  3. Blend biscuits, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor until finely ground
  4. Add pecans and butter. Combine.
  5. Transfer crumb mixture to prepared baking pan, and press into the bottom until even.

Bake until fragrant and a little firm, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl stir together pumpkin, flour and dry spices until combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, using mixer or by hand, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until combined.

Stir about a cup of the cream cheese mixture into the pumpkin mixture and stir until smooth.

Pour the remaining cream cheese mixture over your crust.

Place spoonfuls of pumpkin mixture randomly over the cream cheese. 

Using a knife, gently swirl the two together to achieve a marbled finish


Bake for 25-30mins, until centre is just set.


Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Cover and refrigerate for 4-24 hours before lifting the cheesecake out of pan and cutting. Store in the fridge until serving.


I found the recipe for this cake ages ago on Pinterest, and decided to have it as my birthday cake this year. Honestly, this was the most stressful baking experience I’ve had in ages. So many things went wrong and the cake ended up looking a mess. Here is a picture I managed to snap before I mostly destroyed the cake trying to transfer it off the baking parchment. However, this experience was also a reminder of how rubbish it is to be a perfectionist. Everyone in the office loved the cake.

I rediscovered the awesome combination of caramel, chocolate and pecans, kicked up a notch by salting the caramel. Next time I bake, I will most likely make salty turtle cupcakes or brownies.

Once again this post will be various process pictures. Hopefully I’ll have a better baking experience soon.

Ingredients

  • 2cups (280g) plain flour
  • 1.5cups ( 340g) sugar
  • 1/2cup (60g) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (140g) melted butter
  • 1 cup (250g) buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1tbsp baking soda
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh coffee

Frosting

  • 1 cup (220g) sugar
  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
  • 6 tbsp (90g) butter
  • 12oz (350g) dark chocolate
  • 1-2 tsp hot coffee (optional)
  • 1 1/2 pecan halves

Salted caramel

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted
  • 1/2 cup double (heavy) cream
  • Extra salt to taste

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter bottom and sides of three 8- or 9-inch cake pans and line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper; dust pans with unsweetened cocoa powder and set pans aside.
In a small bowl, stir together egg, buttermilk and oil
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
Slowly add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, beating until combined.

Gradually beat in coffee

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; layers will appear shallow.

Bake until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes. Remove towire racks for 10 minutes. Loosen sides from pans, then invert cakes on racks. Remove cakes from pans. Peel off paper and cool completely.

Salted caramel

I’ve made caramel twice recently and it has come out slightly greasy, but still tasty. I will look for a new recipe. I used the one from Sally’s Baking Addiction.





Frosting

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and milk. Add butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate pieces. Using a wire whisk, stir until smooth. If frosting is too thick or grainy, stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly brewed coffee. If necessary, let frosting stand for several minutes before using.

Assembly

I forgot to toast the pecans, which definitely makes a difference.

This post is reminding me that perfectionism spoils my enjoyment of my cooking as well as my making. This cake tastes fine. Just because it doesn’t look like something that costs £4 a slice shouldn’t diminish that.