Sunday, 23 December 2007

Daring Bakers December Challenge – Buche de Noel / Yule Log

Its nearly Christmas and all around the world the Daring Bakers have been busy with our latest challenge, a Buche de Noel or Yule Log. This month’s challenge was chosen by Ivonne and Lis, the two founders of our group, and was a perfect festive choice, as traditionally a real large log is burned in the hearth as part of the Yule Tide / Christmas celebrations. Over time this became known as a Yule Log or “Log of Christmas” which has subsequently turned into a dessert by the French in the 18th century.

I have always wanted to make a traditional Yule Log and yet for some reason never done it, so I was thrilled when this month’s challenge was announced. At first I was a little daunted by the length of the recipe and number of components that it seemed to include, but upon reading I found it not to be half as difficult as I imaged, and the length of the recipe is purely down to detailed descriptions.

All the different components came together easily and I spent a very enjoyable afternoon, whisking numerous egg whites whilst dancing round the kitchen to Christmas songs.

I chose to make my genoise chocolate and also added cocoa powder to my coffee buttercream as I love this flavour pairing.

Everything was going fine until it came to the buttercream. After adding the alcohol, it seemed quite soft and runny. I mixed half a jar of sweetened chestnut puree with some of the buttercream and used this to fill my log, which worked well and gave a wonderful flavour. However, the rest of it I felt was too thin to spread over the log and so I decided to place in into the fridge to firm up. This worked well and I very pleased when I brought it out again, but upon giving it a quick mix I was horrified when it started to split into horrible shiny globules. Argg, no! (I think I was a little over generous with the Brandy). I had heard that a fellow Baker had experienced the same problem but had rectified it with a little cornflour. I quickly tired this and although it stopped splitting it was by no means smooth. As I had already made my buttercream chocolaty by adding cocoa powder, my mum suggested adding melted chocolate. This worked like a dream. I watched in relief as it transformed into a lovely dark smooth light fluffy cream before my eyes – phew!

After another short rest in the fridge I covered my log with the buttercream. It had gone lovely and thick from its rest in the fridge and created a great bark effect when I spread it on. I decorated the log was a few fungi and some holly leaves that I cut out of sugarpaste. While I was taking a few photos, a robin appeared and perched upon the log. He seemed just as happy with the Yule log as I was. It really must be Christmas if the robins are making an appearance.

I don’t know what the finished log tastes like as its being saved for Christmas Day but I tasted some of the leftover buttercream and its amazing, so light and smooth, it just melts on your tongue. The chocolate, coffee, Brandy combination is also to die for. Thank you so much Lis and Ivonne for choosing such a wonderful recipe challenge, I can’t wait to see what challenges will we be faced with next year.

Yule Log – Buche de Noel
Chocolate Genoise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup cocoa powder

You will need one 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered againSet a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 200C.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch). Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cocoa powder. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Chocolate Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy
50g melted dark chocolate

Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee and cocoa powder in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.
Melt the dark chocolate and stir through.

Filling and frosting the log
Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

Meringue Mushrooms
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Preheat the oven to 110C. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.
Check out the Daring Bakers Blog Roll to read about fellow Bakers challenges.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Festive Mince Pies

Christmas is nearly here, the tree is up, the decorations are displayed and thick fluffy jumpers are making an appearance. The festive baking is well underway and along with it come mince pies. Those little pastry cases full of boozy fruits, sugar and spice that everyone seems to feel must always be on hand to feed unexpected guests and well wishers. They have become associated with the last few days before Christmas, in my family at least. This year I had the added bonus of being able to make mince pies using my own homemade mincemeat (fruitmince) that I made a few weeks previously.

Its had time to mature, the flavours have mingled and its sweet sticky fruitiness has developed. I found another bonus to making my own mincemeat, which was because my mixture was heated before being jarred, the suet had dissolved throughout the mixture meaning that when I baked with it, it didn’t bubble over the edges of the pastry, making the pies stick to the tin as I have found with other mixes. This is because when the suet is left raw, it creates extra ‘liquid’ when it melts and often bubbles over the top of the pies. Having the suet already melted also means you can fill the pastry cases with even more mincemeat without the fear of it bubbling over.

I decided to make a batch for this years last offering to the Monday Munchers. I decided to make them more festive by cutting out Christmassy shapes of pastry for the tops, rather than using a round disc of pastry like most store bought ones. I used a star, holly leaf and a Christmas tree cutter. I also dusted them with a snowy shower of icing sugar before serving which made them look extra festive.

They went down very well and were full of flavour. My only small disappointment was that the mincemeat was not that boozy. You could tell there was some there, but it wasn’t overly obvious, but then again this allowed the flavour of the fruits to shine through so I suppose it depends what flavour you want. I’m sure a blob of brandy butter would help enhance the boozy aspect.

These are a must have in my family at this time of year, even for people who don’t like mice pies, they still expect to see them on the table. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the site and smell of baking mince pies.

Mince Pies

½ jar mincemeat
500g sweet shortcrust pastry
Milk, caster sugar and icing sugar to decorate

Preheat the oven to 190C and place a baking tray in the oven to heat up. Make sure you have a bun tin to hand.
Flour a work surface and roll out two-thirds of the pastry until around 4mm thick.
Cut out circles of the pastry and place into the bun tin, ensuring the circles are wider that the top of the bun hole in order to fit properly.
Spoon heaped teaspoons of mincemeat into each pastry cup.
Roll out the remaining pastry and cut out festive shapes and add to the tops of the pies.
Brush the pies with milk, cream or egg wash and dust with a lightly sprinkling of caster sugar.
Place the mice pies into the oven onto the hot baking tray (this helps ensure the base of the pies get crisp too) and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire wrack.
Serve when still warm with a snowy dusting of icing sugar.
Makes around 14 mince pies

Monday, 17 December 2007

Poinsettia Christmas Cake

Some of you may remember that a couple of months ago I mentioned I had started attending a cake decorating and sugar flower class. The course ran for 4 months and the last 5 weeks of this was spent planning and completing our very own projects – a Christmas cake, iced and decorated using our new skills. The best part was we were free to choose whatever design we liked, meaning that everyone’s cakes turned out very differently. Some people went very modern with red and gold swirls, others made little penguin figurines or piped on Christmas tress. I decided to go quite traditional and make a classic Christmas flower – the poinsettia.

There is quite a lot of thought, planning and patients required to make a Christmas cake, but as the saying goes ‘good things comes to those who wait.’
We spent one week looking through books and designing how we wanted our cakes to look. Then we made the actually rich fruit cake at home and kept it for two weeks, feeding it with brandy. After this it was marzipaned, iced and then decorated over consecutive weeks. In-between these times we worked on our decorations. In total it took 6 weeks from idea to finished cake. The actuall cake itself is not that difficult and if you didn’t want to ice or decorate your cake you would be able to have made and be eating your Christmas cake in just two weeks, but it always tastes better if allowed to mature for a few weeks.

The following recipe is my favourite for a rich fruit cake. Its one I make every year for Christmas, but its also good for special celebration cakes or even as the bases of a wedding cake. It chock full of fruit, moist and full of rich spicy flavours. A rich fruit cake such as this one can be kept for several months, happily getting older and maturing gracefully before being consumed by a bunch of hungry happy people on Christmas day.

Rich Christmas Fruit Cake
175g raisins
175g sultanas
175g currants
80g dried apricots
100g glacé cherries
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
225g plain flour
1½ tsp mixed spice
45g ground almonds
150g light soft brown sugar
150g butter or margarine
1 tbsp black treacle
3 eggs
2 tbsp brandy
45g blanched almonds
Extra brandy for feeding

Grease and line the base and the sides of an 8inch/20cm tin.
Weight out the currants, raisins and sultanas and then gradually sort through them, a handful at a time, removing any stalks attached to the fruit before placing into a large bowl
Weigh out the apricots and cherries and cut into small pieces using a pair of scissors. Grate the zest from the lemon and the orange and add it all into the bowl along with the raisins.
Pour over the 2tbsp brandy, stir and then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave for at least 12 hours or preferably overnight, to allow the fruit to soak up the brandy.
The following day, preheat the oven to 140C. Grease and line the base and the sides of an 8inch/20cm tin.
Chop the blanched almonds into small chunks and add to a clean large bowl along with the remaining ingredients. Beat for 3 minutes until mixture is smooth and well combined.
Add the soaked fruit to the batter mixture and stir together using a spatula until all the fruit is well coated and distributed.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, level the surface and then create a dip about 2cm deep in the centre of the cake. (This compensates for the usual dome/rise when baking and results in a flatter cake) Place the cake in the oven and bake for 2 hours and 45 minutes. After the 2 hours you may want to quickly add a sheet of foil over the top of the tin to prevent it from over browning.
Ensure that a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean before removing from the oven and allowing to cool in the tin.
Prick the top of the cake all over with a fine skewer and then slowly drizzle over another tablespoon of brandy.
Remove the cake from the tin and wrap in clingfilm, leaving the greaseproof paper attached to the cake. (This helps keep it moist).
Place the cake in an airtight container and lave in a cool dark place for a minimum of two weeks to mature. Unwrap it once a week to ‘feed’ with an extra tablespoon of brandy before re storing until required.
The cake can be made anything from 2 weeks to 6 months ahead of time. The brandy preserves it. (Although I have never kept a cake longer than 3 months myself).

To marzipan the cake – this must be done one week in advance of putting on the icing.
600g marzipan
2 tbsp apricot jam
Icing sugar

2-3 weeks ahead of wanting to eat the cake, it is time to cover it in marzipan.
To do this unwrap the cake, carefully peel off all the greaseproof paper and discard.
Turn the cake upside down and place it onto a sturdy cake board, 2inch wider than the cake. (If you cake rose into a very high peak, carefully cut the cake to a level surface before placing upside down).
Examine the cakes top and sides carefully. Fill any tiny holes or crumbled edges with small pieces of marzipan until all edges are flat and smooth, you don’t want any small gaps for the icing to sag into later.
Then dust a work surface with icing sugar and roll out the remaining marzipan into a large circle, ensuring it is quite a bit wider that your cake as it has to drape over the sides as well as cover the top.
When the circle is wide enough, heat the apricot jam with 2 teaspoons of water in the microwave until melted. Quickly brush the hot jam over the top and sides of the cake which acts as glue.
Pick up your circle of marzipan with the help of the rolling pin, centre it over the top of the cake and place it down, allowing the excess to drape over the sides of the cake.
Use your hands to smooth the draped marzipan neatly over the sides.
Cut off any excess marzipan from round the bottom edge, allowing a ½ cm rim with which to push back against the cake to ensure there are no air holes.
Place the cake in a container and allow the marzipan to firm up and dry out for at least a week before attempting to ice it.

To ice the cake using fondant icing
500g fondant icing
Icing sugar
White alcohol e.g. vodka

After allowing the marzipan to dry out you are now ready to ice the cake.
Roll out the fondant icing in the same way as the marzipan, ensuring once again that it is wider than the cake. A good tip is to make it once inch/2.5cm wider that the cake board, which is already wider than the cake.
When the icing is rolled out, brush the cake with the white alcohol and cover the cake with the icing as before, carefully smoothing down the sides and cutting away any excess.
You can then use a cake smoother to rub over the top and sides to remove any fingerprints or untidy folds, but this is not essential.
After icing, place the cake in a large cardboard box and leave for a further week before decorating.
The cake needs to breath, and the icing will sweat if kept in an airtight container. If you do not have a cardboard box large enough, place in your normal container but leave the lid offset to allow the air to circulate. However, if you wish to crimp the edge, as I have done with my cake, you will need to do this immediately after icing the cake while the icing is still soft.

One week after icing, your cake, you are free to decorate it as you please. I chose to crimp the top of edge of my cake to add an interesting border, which requires a crimping tool that you can buy from cake decorating shops.

During the times the cake was setting, I made my poinsettia sugar flower. This has to be done by cutting out each leaf from special sugar flower paste and attaching them onto florist’s wire before being twisted or draped into shape and allowing to dry out. The leaves and petals of the flower are then taped together, one by one, using florists tape until the complete flower is formed. The ends are cut and they are placed into a small plastic flower folding tube (called a flower pick) which is then pushed into the cake to display your flower.
For me, this was the most difficult and nerve wrecking part of the cake. Making the petals was fine, but when it came to taping them together, three of my petals broke off from their wires! Luckily I managed to reattach two of them so all was not lost. The petals were so fragile that I held my breath every time I accidentally knocked two of them together. I was so relieved when it was finished and displayed on my cake, but then my next challenge was driving it home. I winced every time I went over a bump in the road, imaging the leaves knocking together and breaking. I drove slowly (thankfully it was quite late and no one else around on the roads) and amazingly it made it home in one piece – phew!

I also cut out tiny holly leaves of sugar flower paste (although fondant would work just as well for flat decorations) and used them to decorate the edge of the cake. I then tied a thin red ribbon around the centre and piped shells in royal icing around the base and piped small red dots of royal icing in-between each shell.

I was absolutely thrilled with how the cake turned out. Despite making many Christmas cakes in the past, I have never attempted to decorate one properly before, but my cake decorating course has really given me the confidence and skills I needed. It took a lot of time, effort, nerves and planning but I really feel the end result was worth it. It will look so special displayed on Christmas day and will be my oven special contribution to the foodie festivities, which if I’m honest, are usually left to my parents. I had such a lot of fun at my cake class and met a lovely group of ladies. It has inspired me to keep on practising and trying out new designs for future celebrations.

Happy Christmas to you all!

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Mocha Mud Cake

Chocolate and coffee are one of those flavour pairings that work brilliantly together. Neither flavour overpowers the other, while each contributes its own qualities. The chocolate is of course chocolaty and already full of flavour but the addition of coffee deepens the flavour, making it seem more intense while adding its own rich, almost smokey taste and aroma. Just wonderful.

I used this pairing in a mud cake I made last week for my cake decorating/sugar class Christmas party to celebrate finishing our Christmas cakes (post to follow). The cake is moist yet sturdy and full of the rich, intense mocha flavour. Its dense and fudgey texture makes it resemble more of a brownie than a cake, as I always think of these as being light and fluffy. It’s not that sweet, the rich dark chocolate being the star of the show.

The cake rose into a dome and the surface cracked whilst cooking, but once out of the oven, the dome subsided and the cake turned out almost perfectly flat on top. I served it with some crème fraiche, as its creamy, slightly acidic flavour cut through some of the cakes richness. It was quickly gobbled up along with the mince pies and oat slices that some of the other members bought. It would make a wonderful celebration cake covered in silky ganache or as a dessert for a dinner party, served with crème fraiche and fresh berries.

Mocha Mud Cake
(Adapted from ‘Kitchen Wench’ blog)
200g butter
200g dark chocolate
25g cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant coffee granules
60ml water
1 tsp vanilla
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
115g self raising flour

Grease and line an 8inch/20cm springform cake tin and set to one side. Preheat the oven to 160C.
Put the butter, chocolate, cocoa powder, water and vanilla into a saucepan and place over a low heat to slowly melt. Stir from time to time to ensure even melting.
When completely melted, remove from the heat and set to one side to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar together for 3-4 minutes until pale, thick and creamy.
Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture in a thin stream, beating all the time. Then beat for a further 30seconds until light.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 55-65 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out relatively clean.
Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing and storing in an airtight container until required.
It will keep well for 4-5 days. If any leftovers turn a little dry, heat gently in the microwave and serve with custard.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Peanut Butter Balls

Last week I received a fantastic Christmas food parcel from my friend Gigi of Gigi Cakes and amongst the goodies were Reese’s peanut butter cups, a chocolaty peanut treat I have heard lots about and longed to try. These cups were extra special as they also contained a layer of banana. I eagerly unwrapped them and took a bite and.. mmmmmmmm delicious. I adore the combination of the crumbly sticky peanut butter and the smooth sweet chocolate, the banana added an extra interesting note that worked really well. They got demolished pretty quickly I can tell you. Only problem was I was left craving more. After a quick browse through some of my favourite trusty blogs, I found a recipe from Joy of Baking that looked ideal and without further ado I reached for my peanut butter.

These peanut butter balls were so quick and easy to put together. I thought at first they weren’t going to turn out right as the peanut mixture was quite dry and crumbly but the minute I started to mould the mixture into balls, the heat from my hand transformed them into smooth, soft balls. After a short rest in the fridge they were coated in dark chocolate and in just over an hour I had my own stash of peanut butter chocolaty goodness. Yay!

I handed a few out to friends and got rave reviews, so much so that I am planning on making some more and giving them out as gifts as part of the little truffles boxes I make at Christmas. If you know someone how is a fan of peanut butter and chocolate, make a batch of these for them and they will love you forever. Thank you Gigi for introducing me to these great treats.

Peanut Butter Balls
For the peanut centers

250g smooth peanut butter
30g butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
125g icing sugar

For the coating
150g dark chocolate
20g butter

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and set to one side.
To make the centers, place the peanut butter, butter and vanilla in a bowl and heat gently in the microwave until the butter has melted, but do not overheat.
Beat the mixture until the butter becomes absorbed and the mixture becomes smooth.
Sift in the icing sugar, about a third at a time, mixing well until it is all combined. (The mixture will turn very crumbly and stiff at this stage but this is ok.)
Using a teaspoon, take small amounts of the peanut mixture and using your fingers, squish it into a ball shape.
Use the palms of your hands to roll into a ball, about the size of a small walnut or large marble. (The mixture will become soft, smooth and more workable as you mould it.)
Place the balls on the lined baking tray and place into the fridge to firm up for 20-30 minutes.
After the peanut balls have chilled, melt the butter and chocolate together until smooth.
Drop each peanut ball into the melted chocolate and use a teaspoon to help coat it completely in the chocolate.
Remove the ball from the chocolate by scooping it up with a fork. Allow the excess chocolate to dribble off and scrape off any excess using the teaspoon.
Place the ball back onto the sheet of greaseproof and repeat with the remaining balls.
Return the peanut butter balls to the fridge to set, for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Transfer each ball into a small paper case and serve, or store in the fridge until required.
Makes around 25 peanut butter balls

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Date & Ginger Flapjack

Sorry for not updating for a few days but I have spent the week working at another site in a different part of the country which means I have been without my computer for 5 days. I really enjoyed seeing how the different site operated and I got to stay in a nice hotel, travel around in taxies and order room service for the first time in my life which was quite fun and made me feel rather important, however I really missed reading my collection food blogs that I check daily. I have come home and feel so out of touch with what everyone’s been up to.

Anyway, back to flapjacks. These flapjacks were last weeks work treat. They only took 10 minutes preparation work and then they were in the oven and baked in under an hour, making them perfect for when you are short of time and want a sweet treat. Flapjacks are very versatile and take well to a wide assortment of additions, but are also great left au natural. I chose to add dates and ginger to mine, two flavours I always associate with this time of year. The ginger added a lovely warmth and the dates resulted in little pockets of sticky treacley fruitiness that worked really well. I chose to use a mixture of jumbo and regular oats as I like the more wholesome texture they give, but using just rolled oats is fine.

I like my flapjack with a crisp surface and a soft sticky centre, but if you prefer very crisp flapjack then just increase the baking time by 12-16 minutes. They went down very well at work and have the added bonus of being gluten free. They could also easily be made Vegan or dairy free, meaning they are ideal for almost everyone.

Date & Ginger Flapjack

110g light soft brown sugar
110g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
75g jumbo porridge oats
100g rolled porridge oats
½ tsp ground ginger
60g dates

Grease and line the base of an 8inch/20cm circular cake tin and set to one side. Preheat the oven to 150C.
Chop the dates into smallish pieces and place into a saucepan along with the sugar, butter, golden syrup and ground ginger.
Heat gently until the butter has melted, the sugar has dissolved and everything has become smooth and well combined.
Immediately tip the oats into the pan and stir so that the oats get evenly coated in the sticky mixture.
Quickly press the flapjack mixture into the prepared cake tin, pressing down so the surface is even.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until lightly golden.
The flapjack will be soft when you remove it from the oven but firms up on cooling.
Leave for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the tin to prevent it from sticking to the sides and mark the flapjack into triangles.
Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin and cutting into the scored segments.
Makes 8 – 12 pieces depending on size.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Leek & Potato Soup

Another simple yet tasty soup recipe. I love taking soup to work now it has got so dark, cold and miserable outside. It’s so nice to have something warm and comforting for lunch as apposed to sandwiches.

I used the whole of the leeks in this soup, green tops and all, rather than just the white ends and it’s this, along with some dark coloured vegetable stock, which have resulted in a light brown coloured soup compared to the creamy whiteness of some potato soups. This way I have no wastage and it makes the soup more of an appealing colour. It also gives more of a contrast to the potato cubes I saved to garnish the top. I served it with some of the potato and pesto bread I recently made for the last daring Bakers challenge.

Leek & Potato Soup
2 large potatoes
3 large leeks
1 large onion
1 tbsp olive oil
Small knob of butter
2½ pints vegetable stock
1 tbsp cream
Dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the oil and butter into a large pan and allow to melt.
Meanwhile, peel and roughly dice the onion. Add the onion and mixed herbs to the pan, stir to coat in the buttery juices and cover with a lid to allow to sweat.
Wash and slice the leeks, making sure to remove any dirt that has become trapped between the leaves.
Peel and slice the potatoes into batons and add to the pan along with the leeks. Give everything a good stir to ensure it’s not stuck to the base of the pan and replace the lid.
Cook for 10 minutes before stirring in the vegetable stock and allowing to simmer until the potatoes are completely cooked, around 30 minutes.
Remove a few of the potato batons, slice into small squares and set to one side to garnish the soup later.
Puree the rest of the soup using a hand blender or liquidiser until smooth. Stir in the cream and season to taste.
Serve, scattered with the potato cubes and some nice chewy bread.