Saturday, 30 March 2013

Hot Cross Buns (Delia Smith's)

Happy Easter!
Easter and you think of sun and blue skies; April Showers (rain); young lambs frolicking in the fields; fluffy chicks; new beginnings; lots of chocolate and my favourite of all - Hot Cross Buns.
My mum enjoys these too and I remember making these when I was younger - they often turned like rocks the next day though.  Large supermarkets have in-store bakeries that churn out stacks and stacks of these buns so it's cheap and easy to buy them these days.

I saw something intriguing on another blogger's post, it was Cook Like A Star where a celebrity chef is chosen and participants cook any dish by the said chef.  This occasion it's the turn of Delia Smith in the spotlight.  I have watched Delia Smith on TV cookery programmes from when I was a child and some of my favourite cake recipes are in fact from one of her books.  So what better excuse to look up recipes to cook and join in the blogging and cooking fun!
(Thank you Anncoo for your delicious post on Chocolate Drop Mini Muffins with Red Noses - as that is where I saw the Cook Like A Star blog hop event!)

Hot Cross Buns (recipe adapted from Deliaonline - Hot Cross Buns)

450g strong bread flour
50g caster sugar
5g salt
7g easy-bake yeast
125g dried mixed fruit (raisins, sultana, currant & mixed peel)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g butter
1 egg
50ml milk
150ml water
3 tsp plain flour
3 tsp water
1 tsp honey
2 tsp warm water

Sift flour, salt and cinnamon into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, yeast and dried mixed fruit. Stir to mix everything together and make a well in the centre.

Melt the butter in a jug, add the milk, crack the egg in and mix together.  Pour this into the dry ingredients, add most of the water (saving a couple of tablespoons back in case dough gets too wet), mix with a spatula until a dough begins to form, then put your hand in to squeeze and bring everything together.

Transfer dough to a clean surface and knead until it feels smooth and elastic - about 6 minutes.  Pop it back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a lightly oiled sheet of cling wrap and leave in a warm place to double in size (it will take about an hour).

Turn it out and knead lightly until it has returned to original size.  Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into balls.  Place them on a lined baking sheet leaving room for them to rise.  Cover with the oiled cling wrap and leave to rise again (about 25 minutes).

Preheat the oven to gas 7 / 220 C / 425 F.

Mix the plain flour with the water in a small bowl to a smooth paste.  Use this to gently pipe crosses onto the risen buns.

Bake the buns for about 15 minutes.

Mix the honey with the warm water and brush the buns when they are hot from the oven to make them shiny and sticky.

Transfer to a rack to cool.

This is my submission to the blog hop event Cook Like A Star (March 2013) organised by: Zoe (Bake For Happy Kids), Baby Sumo (Eat Your Heart Out) and Mich (Piece of Cake)

Friday, 15 March 2013

Chocolate Sandwich Cake with Chocolate Butter Icing

This cake is quick to whip up and is extremely light and crumbly.  Bit too crumbly but not dry.  I made a Victoria Sandwich Cake this afternoon as we were going to pop over to a friend's and say "Hello."  I had told Mr Leaf (hubbs) we would have the cake to look forward to when we came home.  I actually changed my mind, wrapped it up and gave it away to friends.  I thought the boys would enjoy chocolate cake more anyway.

Chocolate Sandwich Cake

Ingredients (Cake)
115g margarine (I used Stork)
100g caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs
25g cocoa powder
90g self raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
30g butter (soft)
15g cocoa powder
60g icing sugar
2-3 teaspoons milk

2 x 7" sandwich tins, greased and base lined with baking parchment

Pre-heat oven to Gas 4/180C.

Beat the margarine in a large mixing bowl for a few seconds until it is soft and smooth.  Add the caster sugar and cream until pale, light and fluffy.

Crack an egg into the mix and sift in the cocoa powder, lightly mix until it is all combined.  Add in the remaining egg and sift in the flour and baking powder.  Fold it all together until combined.  Do not beat the mixture as you may make the cake tough and dense.

Spoon into the prepared cake tins and level.  

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes.  (Mine took 18 minutes.)  The cake should begin to shrink from the edges of the tin when it is ready and the centre feel springy to the touch when pressed lightly with your finger.  A skewer (or toothpick) should come out clean when inserted in the cake.

Turn out on to a wire rack to cool. 

To make the chocolate butter icing, put the soft butter in a bowl and beat until smooth.  Add in the cocoa powder and icing sugar.  Slowly cream the butter with the sugar and cocoa until it has all combined.  Beat until it is smooth and fluffy.  If it seems to stiff and dry add a little milk to the mix and beat well.

When the cake has cooled place one layer onto a plate flat side up.  Spread the chocolate filling on the base before topping with the other cake (domed side up).  Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Happy Mother's Day (UK)

Happy Mother's Day!

Mother's Day differs around the world.  Here in UK it usually falls in March and before Easter.  Some countries have Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May - no idea why there is a difference in dates.

Anyway, thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you both my babies...

We had an addition to our "Leaf Family" on 21st Februrary.  Chung was born at 2:10pm at a weight of 3.080kg (6lb 12.5oz).  He was 6 days early and was considerably lighter than his big brother when he was born.

Now I REALLY have my hands full! :p

Happy Mother's Day to you all Xxxx

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Tea Loaf Cake

I don't often buy shop-bought cake whether it is a mass-produced branded one or supermarket own brand. I find them a bit dry, a bit sweet for my liking.  Hubbs (Mr Leaf) likes them though.  When they come individually wrapped in slices they are convenient for him to take to work and on special offer - well, I treat him :p  They do a light fruit cake one which has notes of mixed spice and is rather delicious if I may admit!  I tried creating my own...

Tea Loaf Cake

150ml boiling water
1 Earl Grey Tea Bag
250g mixed dried fruit
200g soft butter
75g caster sugar
75g soft light brown sugar
3 large free-range eggs
1 zest of an orange
40g ground almonds
210g self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1.5 level teaspoon mixed spice

Put fruit into a small bowl, tuck in the tea bag and pour on the boiling water.  Leave the fruits to swell and soak up the liquid.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4

Grease and line 2 small loaf tins.  I used a rectangular aluminium foil container and a 2lb loaf tin.

Cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy.

Add an egg into the mix along with a spoonful of your measured flour, mix until the egg has been incorporated.  Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Tip the fruits along with any liquid into the cake mix, give the tea bag a good squeeze. I emptied the bag of it's leaves into the cake mix as I thought it might improve flavour.  Add the grated orange zest and the ground almonds and fold in.

Sift the flour, baking powder and spice into the bowl, fold to combine.

Spoon into the greased tins and bake.  My loaf tin took 45-55 minutes and the smaller aluminium container took 35-45 minutes.  If the cakes brown too much, lower the heat slightly.  When you are checking the cake, give the tin a shake.  If the mixture wobbles, cake is not ready and may need another 10 minutes before you check.  Use a skewer to test the cake in the centre any gooey wet mix indicates cake is not ready and may need a further 5-10 minutes.
Sprinkle a little caster sugar on top of the cake when done, or dust with icing sugar.  Leave cake in tin for 10 minutes before cooling on rack.

*** Verdict
Not the same as the mass produced one which is lighter in colour (I suspect the tea leaves in my cake give it a richer colour) and I think if I stuck with one flavour instead of Earl Grey Tea and orange with the mixed spice it might resemble the bought-cake.  Nevertheless, my mummy friends all enjoyed the cake and at least I am happy eating something I know I made (even if hubby eats the plastic wrapped version!) :)

Friday, 15 February 2013

Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza

Taken From "Healthy Food Guide" Sep 2012
(serves: 4)

Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza
250g passata
275g plain flour (or gluten-free plain flour)
7g sachet fast action dried yeast (easy bake yeast that does not require reconstituting in water)
1 tsp caster sugar
1 medium egg, beaten
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sugar
Handful of basil leaves
2 x 125g reduced-fat mozzarella balls, drained, sliced
350g large vine tomatoes, sliced and drained on kitchen paper

Put flour, yeast, 1 tsp caster sugar in large bowl
Mix egg with 125ml warm water and pour into the dry ingredients. (* I add about a tbsp of olive oil in as well)
Mix well and knead lightly to make a soft dough, adding more water if needed.
Divide in two and roll out thinly. (* I try not to use too much extra flour and use a little veg oil to spot it sticking - and roll as big as the tin/tray I'm cooking it on)
Transfer to baking trays, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 30min (*GREASED TRAYS! or they stick!)
Preheat oven to Gas 6 / 200C / Fan 180C. 
Heat passata, oregano and 1 tsp sugar in a pan for 5 mins until thick. Add torn basil reserving a few leaves
Top each base with the tomato sauce, then the mozzarella and tomato slices.Season with black pepper and cook for 25-30min until crusts are golden and the cheese has melted. Garnish with the reserved basil.
*** I make my own tomato sauce.
1 400g tin toms (can be chopped or whole)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
dried herbs
tom puree
1 tsp sugar
salt, pepper
Put the onion, garlic in a pan with 1 tsp (or so) oil and cook gently for a few mins until soft.
Add the tinned toms (if whole, chop up with spatula/wooden spoon - I don't mind chunks of tomato), add in the dried herbs (oregano / basil / mixed herbs - whatever is in cupboard), add in sugar and a squeeze of tom puree (about a tbsp). Cook on a gentle blip until excess water has evaporated and sauce is thick. Season. Cool slightly before topping pizza.
Does make extra sauce which you can freeze and use in pasta sauces...etc...

I made the above dough and made 3 pizzas:
a small 6" Cheese and Tomato pizza for my son (watch it when cooking as it may not need as long in oven - I think I cooked for around 15 mins).
a medium sized Pepperoni and Red Onion Pizza for Mr Leaf
a medium sized Veg Pizza for me (red onion, green pepper, mushroom, fresh sliced tomato and once cooked,  topped with wild rocket leaves) 

The dough is quick and easy to prepare, and is wonderfully light and crispy.  I have made it using gluten-free flour too and it works brilliantly!

You can adapt the pizzas anyway you like, Ham & Pineapple; Cooked Chicken and Pesto Sauce; Goats Cheese and Red Pepper; Bacon, Mushroom & Tomato....the permutations are endless :)

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day !

Almost didn't have one - both boys been terribly ill here past 2 weeks and although it was nice to prepare what I wanted to eat to begin with.  Watching the boys hardly eat, drink and just nap all day soon sapped my appetite from me.
So hard to find inspiration to cook when people have diminished appetites :(

Hoping they are now on the mend and so I cooked Mr Leaf's favourite food - Duck Breast.  As we were going to have it on rice, I made the sauce a Chinese inspired one with Chinese 5-Spice and Honey.

Both my boys are chocoholics.  What better dessert than Hot Chocolate Sponges?

Hope you had a good evening with your loved one if you celebrate Valentine's Day :)

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Happy Chinese New Year!

Wishing you all a very Happy Chinese New Year!

May the Year of the Snake bring much prosperity, happiness, success and good health!!!