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The Elvis Bundt

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In the distant past this cake started off as Nigella Lawson’s Banana Loaf. Since I have been using this recipe I have fiddled with it a few times. Then, when my American friend sent me Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips, I decided that peanut butter would be a splendid addition. Of course, The King was famous for loving this combination; hence the title.

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This recipe doesn’t make a large bundt. It fills a 2lb loaf tin, if that is your preference, or a 6 cup bundt pan (about 1.5 litres). It’s an every day cake that is easy to portion and slice up.

And if you can’t get the peanut butter chips, then get the same weight in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and chop them into chocolate chip sized pieces.

First, make the cake.

Ingredients

175g of Plain Flour

2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder

1/2 Teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda

125g of Melted Butter

120g of Light Brown Sugar

2 Large Eggs

3 Ripe Bananas

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

150g of Peanut Butter Chips

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  1. Preheat the oven to 170C (150C fan) and coat the inside of your bundt tin in cake release or homemade goop (which is one part flour, one part flavourless oil, and one part shortening {I use Trex}).
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl and put to one side.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the melted butter and sugar together, then mix in the eggs.
  4. Stir in the vanilla extract and the bananas, followed by the peanut butter chips.
  5. Fold in the flour mixture in two batches and mix gently until all combined.
  6. Pour into your tin, gently tapping it on the worktop, then bake for 35-40 minutes. (If you are baking in the loaf tin, it will take over an hour, but check after 50 minutes). The cake is ready when a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Then gently shake the pan to make sure it is loose then turn out on to a cooling rack. Leave until completely cool.

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Whilst the cake is cooling, you can make the Peanut Brittle.

Peanut Brittle

15g of Butter

100g of Caster Sugar

70g of Peanuts (I used salted, but unsalted is fine if that’s your preference)

  1. Put the sugar and butter in a heavy bottomed pan and heat slowly on medium until the they have melted together to form a golden caramel.
  2. As soon as there are no sugar granules left, add the peanuts and stir quickly to coat them all in caramel.
  3. Pour the peanut and caramel mixture on to a silicone or paper lined tray and spread out.
  4. Allow to cool and harden before breaking up and chopping to the desired consistency. I made mine quite fine, but you might prefer big chunks, or even to pulse it in a blender for a super fine powder.

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Only when the cake is completely cool should you make the chocolate glaze.

Chocolate Glaze

200g of Dark Chocolate

4 Tablespoons of Golden Syrup

100g of Butter

Place all ingredients in a bowl over simmering water and stir until melted and well blended. Allow it to cool for 10-20 minutes (until it is about 40C), stirring every few minutes, before pouring it over the cooled cake. 

[If you decide to make this as a loaf cake, then only make a quarter of the quantity of chocolate glaze and simply drizzle back and forth across the top of the cooled loaf.]

Cover the cake in the glaze by leaving the cake on the cooling rack, but place some greaseproof paper underneath to catch the excess chocolate glaze. After putting the glaze in a jug pour it carefully over the bundt cake, making sure that it is completely covered and fairly smooth. Once you have covered it, give the rack a couple of taps on the work top to ensure a smoother finish. Allow is to rest for 15 minutes.

Move the cake as carefully as you can (without disturbing the glaze) with a palette knife and spatula to the serving plate or stand. Simply grab small handfuls of the chopped peanut brittle and press it into the bottom edge of the cake. It should adhere to the still soft glaze. Brush or blow away any excess.

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If you prefer, you could sprinkle it over the top, or use shards of brittle and decorate the top of the cake with them.

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The Elvis Bundt isn’t a fine dining dessert. It’s a ‘take a slice and have it with your morning coffee’ kind of cake.

The cake is moist and heavily flavoured with banana. But when you eat it you get the occasional chunk of peanut butter, and it just works as a flavour combination so well. The chocolate glaze adds a touch of decadence and the peanut brittle adds another layer of flavour with the addition of a little but of crunch.

And if it takes your fancy, go crazy with the decoration. Add sprinkles and edible glitter and take Elvis to Las Vegas.

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I hope you enjoy it as much as my colleagues did.

Bonfire Roulade

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If you are entertaining tomorrow night, with or without fireworks for Bonfire Night, and haven’t settled on what to serve for dessert, then I have the very recipe for you.

I made a version of this last Hogmanay, and it was a dream dessert. It was Tiramisu Swiss Roll Cake by Izy Hossack at Top With Cinnamon.

When I heard that Baileys were bringing out a Pumpkin Spice edition, I knew I had to incorporate it into this dessert, instead of the regular Marsala.

I take no credit whatsoever for coming up with the roulade idea, and my recipe is simply a tweaked version of Izy’s. I don’t feel too bad, however, because I know Izy adapted the sponge element from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum (Rose’s website), so all is good.

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Bonfire Roulade

Sponge

5 Large Eggs

100g of Golden Caster Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Gingerbread Syrup (If you don’t have any, use Vanilla extract)

75g Butter, melted and cooled

100g of Plain Flour

25g Cornflour

2-3 Tablespoons of Icing Sugar mixed with 1 Teaspoon of Pumpkin Spice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease and line a 40x30cm swiss roll tin.
  2. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Then whisk in 50g of sugar until stiff and glossy.
  3. Whisk the remaining sugar 50g of sugar into the yolks until pale and thick.
  4. Pour the yolk mixture, plus the gingerbread syrup, into the egg white mixture and whisk until just combined.
  5. Pour in the melted butter to the egg and sugar mixture and fold in gently.
  6. Sieve the flour and cornflour over the top and fold that in gently, trying to keep as much air and lightness as possible.
  7. Pour into the prepared tray, spreading it out as evenly as possible, and bake for 15 minutes. It should be springy and golden.
  8. Lay out a clean tea towel and sprinkle it generously with the icing sugar and Pumpkin Spice mix.
  9. Turn the sponge out onto the tea towel covered with the icing sugar, peal back the greaseproof paper, then trim the sponge to 24x36cm. Gently but firmly roll up the warm sponge in the tea towel and put to one side to cool completely.

Baileys Pumpkin Spice Soak

100ml of Boiled water

1 Tablespoon of strong instant coffee

75ml of Baileys Pumpkin Spice

  1. Dissolve the coffee in the boiled water and mix the Baileys through.

Whilst the roulade is cooling, make the filling and chill until it’s needed.

Filling

150ml of Double Cream

130g of Mascarpone

70ml of Baileys Pumpkin Spice

2 Tablespoons of Icing Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Gingerbread Syrup (again use Vanilla if you don’t have any)

  1. Whip the double cream until thick, then stir in the Mascarpone. 
  2. Pour in the Baileys and syrup, and sprinkle in the icing sugar, and whisk until smooth and thickened again. 
  3. Chill.

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Assembly

  1. Once the roulade is completely cold, unroll it carefully. Brush the Bailey’s Pumpkin Spice Soak all over it. You will need to do it several times until it is all soaked in. It seems like a lot of liquid, but use it all.
  2. Now spread the Mascarpone filling close to three edges, leaving a gap of about an inch on the far side.
  3. Roll it up as neatly as you can towards the edge with the gap, taking care to avoid cracks.
  4. Chill for at least half an hour.

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Glaze

30g of Butter

150ml of Double Cream

100g of Dark Chocolate

1 Tablespoon of Golden Syrup

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  1. Melt all of the ingredients for the glaze together in a bain marie. 
  2. Allow it to cool slightly.
  3. If you feel that the ends are a little untidy, trim the roulade with a sharp knife.
  4. Place the chilled roulade on a wire cooking rack and pour the chocolate glaze over it slowly, to ensure it covers it entirely.
  5. Sprinkle with whatever you fancy (I used various metallic sprinkles).
  6. Allow the glaze to firm up before moving to a serving platter.

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The roulade is moist and boozy, with the warm spice of autumn. It makes a great dessert rather than a cake to have with your morning coffee, but worth the effort if you are looking for something with a wow factor, especially if you serve it with some indoor fireworks.

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Cinnamon and Maple Doughnuts

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These started out as something quite different. I was aiming for a pumpkin doughnut, filled with a pumpkin pie type filling. I made a pumpkin dough, and made the doughnuts. I made a creamy pumpkin pie filling. I fried the doughnuts and filled them, but it just didn’t seem quite right.

So then I decided to make them small, unfilled doughnuts. And I moved away from the pumpkin in the dough (I didn’t feel it was adding anything in the way of flavour it texture) and stuck to the spices. These weren’t flavourful either.

I tried adding maple syrup to the dough and simplifying the flavour from pumpkin pie spice mix to just cinnamon. I kept the maple syrup glaze and chopped pecans but added cinnamon sugar. Bingo!

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Sweet Dough

200g of Milk, scalded then cooled

50g of Maple Syrup

15g of yeast

500g of Bread Flour

60g of Butter, softened

40g of Caster Sugar

10g of Salt

2 Large Eggs

2 Teaspoons of Cinnamon

 

Cinnamon Sugar

3 Tablespoons of Caster Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon

  1. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and roughly rub in the butter.
  2. Add the eggs and maple syrup to the milk and blend.
  3. Add the liquid to the dry and work until you have a soft and moist dough. It will be quite wet to start with, so use a mixer if you don’t feel confident handling it yourself. If you have read some of my other bread recipes you will know that I don’t knead the dough but work it using the Slap and Fold method. I find this so much easier, especially with wet doughs.
  4. Once the dough is smooth and soft, shape into a tight ball and place in a lightly floured bowl, covered with a clean cloth, for one hour and a quarter.
  5. After the first prove, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and de-gas by bashing with the flat of your hand.
  6. Fold the dough in on itself and start to portion out 30g pieces.
  7. Form the 30g individual pieces into tight balls and shape with your hands, then allow them to rest on a baking tray for a further 45 mins.dsc_0152
  8. 10 minutes before their second prove it up, start heating up 1 Litre of flavourless oil in a medium sized saucepan. The oil needs to reach 170C.
  9. In batches of four or five, gently lower each dough ball into the hot oil on a long handled slatted spoon.
  10. They will cook for about two minutes before turning themselves over in the oil. Allow them to cook on the other side for two to three minutes. They will be a dark golden brown all over.
  11. Lift them out of the oil with the long handled slotted spoon and place each doughnut on some kitchen paper to absorb some of the oil. Be very careful as everything is very hot.
  12. Blend the sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and roll the slightly cooled doughnuts in the bowl to coat them in cinnamon sugar before putting to one side.
  13. Fry all the doughnuts balls and coat them in cinnamon sugar.
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Moose Maple Butter is a delicious blend of Canadian Maple Syrup and butter. 

Maple Glaze

70g Moose Maple Butter

50g Icing Sugar

To Finish

30g Pecans, chopped

  1. Melt the Moose Maple Butter then blend in the icing sugar until you have a smooth glaze.
  2. Drizzle over the doughnuts and sprinkle with the chopped pecans.

If you can’t find Moose Maple Butter then blend some Maple Syrup, melted butter and icing sugar until you have a thick pouring consistency.

Of course, the doughnuts are delicious warm, simply coated in cinnamon sugar, and you don’t have to glaze them at all. But, I am a sucker for Maple Syrup and I love all kinds of nuts, pecans being one of my favourites. So, this is the finish I prefer.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe. Maybe pumpkin doughnuts will eventually come good, but for now I am happy with these little sweet and spiced dough balls.

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Maple, Apple and Pecan Danish Pasties

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These Danish Pastries were inspired by being handed a bag of the cutest little apples from a friend’s garden a week before another friend and her family were due to visit. I thought they would make the perfect addition to a breakfast pastry and I could take the opportunity to use Moose Maple Butter again to make the most delicious glaze.

The day before I wanted to make the pastries I made a Crème Pâtissière and stored it in the fridge. And that evening, I made a batch of Danish Pastry dough. I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe, leaving it to chill and prove overnight in the fridge.

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In the morning I rolled out the dough to approximately 45cmX28cm then trimmed the edges with a pizza wheel. I then divided it into rough 8cm squares. I don’t think the pastries would work any bigger than this; as it was, they were rather substantial at that size.

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I decided to form this into a fairly simple Danish Pastry shape that would allow for a bigger area for the Crème Pâtissière and Apple to sit on. I simply folded in two corners to the centre and pressed down firmly. I covered the pastries with clean tea towels and allowed them to prove for two hours.

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I then prepared the apples, which I had originally planned to peel, but loved the colours of their skin, so keep them on.

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I halved and cored them.

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I decided to poach them for five minutes in a vanilla sugar syrup. I had one in the fridge from another bake, but simply warm one part sugar to two parts water with a vanilla pod (use the shell of the one you used for your Crème Pâtissière) until the sugar dissolves, then add the apples and poach gently for five minutes.

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Slightly wrinkly but still pretty

I then removed them from the saucepan and allowed to cool. Once cool I sliced them as carefully and evenly as possible. Of course, these apples were tiny, so I used half of one for each pastry. You will probably have bigger apples and decide to use only a couple of bigger slices instead.

I then preheated my oven to 200C (180C fan).

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After two hours proving

Once the pastries had proved, I gave them an egg wash, then put a generous dessert spoon of Crème Pâtissière in the centre before arranging the slices of apple on top.

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They went straight into the oven for 18 minutes until they were golden, risen and crisp.

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Once they came out, I allowed them to cool for ten minutes whilst I made the glaze, which I then drizzled over the still warm pastries.

Glaze

50g of Moose Maple Butter

60g of sieved Icing Sugar

Melt the butter and mix in the icing sugar until very smooth. I used a piping bag but you could easily use a spoon to drizzle it over the pastries.

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I then sprinkled them with 40g of Pecans, chopped fairly small.

If you cannot get Moose Maple Butter you could try making a glaze with Maple Syrup but if you do get a chance to try it, I thoroughly recommend it.

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I realise that making pastries like this is fairly time consuming, but if you plan well, and don’t expect them to be ready at 7am, then they are easily achievable. I think they make a weekend with friends staying a little bit more special.

Dulce by Helen Vass

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This image encapsulates Helen: she is friendly; fun; happy to share her knowledge and skills; and most relaxed when working in the kitchen with ingredients that she is passionate about.

If you are a fan of the Glasgow food scene, then you may know Helen Vass. She is pastry chef at 2AA Rosette restaurant, Number 16, in the West End of the city. You may also know her from being part of the winning team of professional pastry chefs, along with Samantha Rain, winner of UK Junior Chocolate Master in 2014, and Mark Tilling, established chocolatier and UK Chocolate Master, teacher and pastry chef, who competed in Bake Off: Crème de la Crème earlier this year.

Ever since her success in Bake Off, Helen has been in demand to share her desserts and expertise. And one of the routes that she has taken to reach this demand is to host dessert pop-up events in her home town of Glasgow. How she has manages to fit the preparation for such events into her schedule as a restaurant pastry chef is quite remarkable.

I was fortunate to buy a ticket for her most recent pop-up, held in Studio 93 is Glasgow: a beautiful venue, tucked away beside the River Kelvin, with a state of the art demonstration kitchen and photography studio space.

My friend who was initially chumming me couldn’t make it at the last minute, but my dear friend, Barry, met through the Glasgow Cake Club, jumped at the chance to sub Mhairi, and off we went. And what a wonderful afternoon we had.

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The Spanish wines brought from Spain by Helen, especially for Dulce

Despite arriving horrible late, we were greeted very warmly by Helen, and immediately offered a glass of Perelada Brut Rosé Cava D.O Cava. She then explained a little bit about the menu and how she would be assembling and demonstrating each course.

Helen is very influenced by her experiences working in Barcelona. After completing her HNC in Patisserie at the City of Glasgow College in 2014, during which she worked weekends at Blythswood Square Hotel, she moved there to hone her skills further. She had previously learned a great deal from World Champion Pastry Chef, Jordi Bordas, whilst working in his patisserie in Barcelona in 2011. Spanish World Chocolate Master, Hans Ovando, has also been a large influence and inspiration in her pastry career.

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Sourdough Toast with Chocolate Cremeux, Olive Oil and Vanilla Sea Salt

The Amouse Bouche consisted of Sourdough toast with Chocolate Cremeux, olive oil and vanilla sea salt. The texture of the cremeux was like satin. Helen explained that she relies, like many pastry chefs, on her hand or stick blender to ensure the smoothest of textures in many components of her desserts. This was a revelation to me, and I think I will follow her advice to invest in a much better, sturdier version than the domestic blender that knocks about my kitchen.

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Pistachio, Raspberry and Pink Cava Verrine

Next, she presented us with one of my favourite flavour combinations: raspberry and pistachio. The Pistachio, Raspberry and Pink Cava Verrine consisted of three delightful layers of different flavours and textures. She explained that many boozy desserts lose the flavour hit, and promised that this Cava rosado mousse would be true to the Castell Perelada cava from which it was made, and it really was. It was light and creamy, balanced well with the tart Scottish raspberry compote and sweet pistachio crumble. She passed round the Italian pistachios for us to smell their aroma and observe their vivid, green colour.

As part of her explanations about her style of cooking, Helen emphasised how she is keen to balance the levels of sugar in her desserts and only uses whipping cream. This is not for health benefits, she was quick to point out, but for mouth feel and lightness on the palate. And truly, as we progressed through essentially four desserts, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by a cloying sweetness or creaminess. She had judged the balance and order of everything perfectly.

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Chocolate Entremet

Next up was probably my favourite course and the thing I want most to learn to make (I did ask her once last year if she would be running classes on this very dessert), the Chocolate Entremet.

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Layers of smooth and crunchy lusciousness

It consisted of a chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise sponge; chocolate, praline and salted fried corn (Kikos in Spanish, and an absolute new favourite for me) crunch; Praline cremeux; dark chocolate mousse (54% cocoa solids); covered in a chocolate mirror glaze; whole Kikos; and Arribas origin milk chocolate discs, from Ecuador. This was my perfect dessert: smooth and creamy chocolate with a nutty and salted corn crunch to lift it to another level of delight. It wasn’t too rich or heavy like many chocolate desserts can be: it was perfect.

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Liablis Muscat 2015 D.O Valles de Sadacia, slightly out of focus, but what a pretty bottle!

And it was perfectly paired with this delicious muscat: Liablis Muscat 2015 D.O Valles de Sadacia. It also wasn’t overly sweet, but light and brought out the salted corn, or Kikos, very well.

Our last course was so imaginative and fun. Helen explained that it would normally be a surprise, but as she was assembling in front of us, we would understand the process and see the components as she went along. I, personally, really enjoyed this aspect to the session. We were free to ask questions and Helen was so good at answering freely whilst expertly assembling in front of us.

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Helen putting the finishing touches to the Chocolate Entremet

I love it when professionals aren’t precious about their “secrets” and are comfortable enough of their own skills that they can share advice to those who are interested. And Helen is one of those generous souls.

 

The last dessert was Helen’s take on Lemon Meringue but consisted of a lemon shaped chocolate exterior, filled with a lemon cremeux, meringues and sablé biscuits. Again, it was well balanced and combined fruitiness, sharpness and sweet chocolate. And we all had fun breaking in to our lemons when they were presented to us.

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The finished Lemon Meringue

This was served with another Spanish sparking wine; Seguar Vivdas Aria Brut Nature D.O Cava.

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Inside the chocolate case was Lemon Cremeux, Meringues and Sablé Biscuits

Once we had completed this course we moved to the studio space where tea, coffee and macarons were served, though the Cava still flowed for those who still fancied fizz.

This was an even more relaxed environment, and Helen took the opportunity to talk to all of her guests. No diva here!

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Helen in conversation with very satisfied guests

Barry and I absolutely loved our afternoon with Helen. We were delighted with the food; curious and questioning of her knowledge; and overwhelmed by her approachable and friendly manner.

At £50 a ticket, it’s something that you have to plan to do in advance, but for the quality of ingredients, finished desserts and wine, it is exceptionally good value. If you are interested in eating world class desserts, and are interested in how they are made and knowing more about the ingredients and components, then get yourself along to one of Helen Vass’ future Dulce events. You won’t be disappointed.

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The courtyard at Studio 93

Thank you, Helen, for a fabulous afternoon.

Dulce by Helen Vass

Studio 93

Toasted Pecan and Pumpkin Rolls with Maple Syrup Glaze

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If you have read my posts at this time of year, you will already know that autumn is my favourite season, and, I think, my most creative in terms of recipes. I love the spices and caramel flavours that are so abundant in our cooking and baking as the weather gets colder. And the fruits and vegetables that we eat are hardier and can withstand some spice.

This post and recipe is indicative of that and I hope that North American friends will be flattered by my obsession with their Fall flavours and bakes, and that my recipe will secure a thumbs up from at least some of them.

A word of warning, however, this is a very wet dough to start with, so don’t be alarmed. I use the Bertinet method or “fold and slap” to work the dough, and in only 5 minutes, the dough is smooth and manageable. But this dough will be very happily made in a mixer with a dough hook, just remember to finish it off by hand and form it into a smooth ball of dough before it proves.

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Sweet Dough

400g of Bread Flour

200ml of Milk (scalded but brought back to lukewarm or room temperature)

1 Large Egg

12g of Yeast (fresh or dried)

40g of Butter (if you can get Moose Maple Butter then it adds another delicious maple note)

8g of Salt

30g of Light Brown Sugar

  1. Put all of your ingredients (except for the milk and egg) in a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the egg to the milk, gently whisk, then add to the bowl and work the dough. It will be very soft and wet: do not be tempted to add more flour. [If you worry about such a wet dough it can easily be made in a mixer with a dough hook. Add all the ingredients and mix on slow for 2 minutes, then medium for 5 or 6 until it forms a smooth dough. Finish by hand.]
  2. Scrape the smooth dough together and put back in the bowl and cover with a clean cloth for 45 minutes.
  3. After 45 minutes scrape the dough out onto a floured worktop, keeping the top worktop side and the bottom facing you. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and fold it in on itself, then turn over to form a neat ball of smooth dough again.
  4. Return to the bowl, cover and leave for a further 30 minutes.

Pecan and Pumpkin Filling

60g of Pecans (actually only 40g for the filling and the other 20g are for sprinkling on top of the finished buns.)

1 Large Egg Yolk

120g of Light Brown Sugar

50g of Soft Butter (again if you can get Moose Maple Butter then use that)

100g of Canned Pumpkin

2 Teaspoons of Cinnamon

1 1/2 Teaspoons of Nutmeg

1 Teaspoon of Ground Ginger

1/8 Teaspoon of Ground Cloves

These spices are probably the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of Pumpkin Spice, so if you have that and it’s easier to measure that out, then go ahead.

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  1. Toast the pumpkins lightly in the oven at 180C for 5 minutes. Be careful as they burn very easily, as I found out to my cost.
  2. Once cooled, leave 20g of pecans to one side (to sprinkle on top at the end of the bake) and finely chop the remaining 40g.
  3. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk or mix together until well blended.

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Now to assemble.

  1. Remove the dough from the bowl and de-gas with the flat palm of your hand as before, and fold into three as you would a letter.
  2. With a well floured surface and rolling pin, roll it out until it  measures approximately 12″ by 14″.dsc_0056
  3. Spread the pumpkin and pecan paste over the dough, leaving an inch gap along one of the long sides.
  4. Carefully roll it up. It is a very soft dough so handle gently.
  5. Once rolled, trim little off of each end, then cut into 9 evenly sized pieces. Lay them in a 3 by 3 pattern on a lined baking tray and prove for an hour under a cloth.dsc_0059
  6. Preheat your oven to 200C (180C fan) and give the now risen buns an egg wash before baking for 20 minutes.
  7. They are baked when golden in colour and sound hollow when tapped.dsc_0068

Maple Syrup Glaze

40g of Maple Syrup

40g of Icing Sugar

  1. Make the maple syrup glaze by mixing the maple syrup and caster sugar together.
  2. Drizzle the glaze over the buns once they have cooled a little (or it will simply run off) and scatter the remaining 20g of pecans, chopped as finely as you prefer.

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These buns are pillowy soft, but not too sweet. The pumpkin and nuts bring them back from being too cloyingly sweet, as some cinnamon buns can be.

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Enjoy them warm for a weekend late breakfast (you can easily put them in the fridge, covered in clingfilm, for their final prove and bring them back to room temperature for half an hour in the morning, whilst your oven heats up).

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I hope that you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed inventing and testing them.

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Truly Fallen

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Despite all of my grumblings in the past about the American influence upon our traditional British Hallowe’en, I confess to having fallen head of heels with the way that North America embraces my favourite season, Autumn.

By the beginning of this month I found myself heading to TKMaxx (the British version of North America’s TJMaxx) in the hope that there were decorations in reds, browns and golds a plenty, and the greatest hope of all, to find a Nordic Ware “fall” baking pan, and at a bargain price.

As you can see from the photograph above, I was successful in finding a modest and seasonal wreath, but the pan was to prove elusive.

Enter Jersey Jackie: my dear, dear friend that I made on Instagram; lover of bread baking and pasta making; fellow food nerd; woman of curious mind; and demonstrator of precision skills in all that she does. We had planned for her to come to Scotland for a holiday. We would be meeting for the first time when she landed at Glasgow airport for a week filled with a million questions, comparisons, kitchen adventures, eating, sight seeing, and great laughter.

Jersey Jackie (her nickname in our house, but to most people she is just Jackie) arrived laden with the greatest array of American produce that I have ever seen; NJ hats, t-shirts and baseballs for the kids; and the most beautiful Nordic Ware fall-themed loaf tin. We were overwhelmed by her generosity and thoughtfulness.

She came with an assortment of baking chips, or morsels, which I had been keen to sample as most are not available here. I have so many recipe ideas for these ingredients, but the first I used were the Butterscotch chips, which leads me to today’s recipe. And I think it’s pretty autumnal.

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Banana, Pecan & Butterscotch Loaf

190g of Self Raising Flour

1/2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder

1/2 Teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)

125g of Melted Butter

120g of Light Brown Sugar

2 Large Eggs

3 Large ripe Bananas, mashed.

80g of Pecans, toasted

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

150g of Butterscotch Chips

2 Tablespoons of Caramel

  1. Preheat the oven at 170C (150C fan) and line a loaf tin.
  2. Mix the Flour, Baking Powder, and Bicarbonate of Soda together.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter and the sugar. Then add the eggs, one at a time, whisking in between. Now add the mashed banana.
  4. Stir in the vanilla extract, 60g of the Pecans, chopped, and the Butterscotch Chips.
  5. Fold in the dry mix, one third at a time, until fully incorporated.
  6. Pour into the lined loaf pan and bake for 1 hour. Test if it is ready by inserting a skewer: it should come out clean.
  7. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack and cooling completely.
  8. Decorate as you wish, but I drizzled over some warmed caramel (I used Carnation’s ready made, but you may prefer your own or buy Dulce de Leche) and sprinkled the other 20g of pecans over the top.

The loaf was very sweet and very moist.

I have to say, I was in two minds about the butterscotch: it was very nearly the peanut butter chips, which I think would make an excellent addition to any banana loaf. Maybe next time.

So, expect more recipes with some of these North American ingredients. Expect me to get a little bit giddy over pumpkin recipes (I have my cupboard stocked with canned pumpkin already). And expect me to praise the season that I most love, with its orchard fruits and berries, spices, nuts, caramel flavours, and hearty food. Before we can excited about Christmas, we have Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night to cater for; crisp, sunny (I hope) mornings for walks with our puppy; and the perfect excuse to enjoy a Sunday roast with the family. It all sounds pretty perfect to me.

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Cookies and Cream for my boy

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Some people call this Hump Day; others, Wednesday. But for me, it’s like Friday. It’s my last paid working day of the week working as a teacher. But I figured that some of you who work all the way through to Friday could do with a little cheer, so I thought I’d write up the recipe for this Cookies and Cream cake quickly.

I made it for my son’s 9th birthday on Monday. He asked for a Cookies and Cream Cake (I think because he loves that flavour of ice-cream), so I googled a few recipes, but, in the end, I went with our family favourite: Nigella Lawson’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake as the cake base and decided to come up with the icing myself. (I used half of her chocolate icing to sandwich the two cakes together, but you could easily make more of the cookies and cream icing and use that if you prefer).

Cookies and Cream Buttercream Icing

300g of Soft Butter

300g of Icing Sugar

80g of White Chocolate, melted

2 Tablespoons of Double Cream

4 Oreo biscuits, chopped finely (I was warned about processing them, as they can become mushy and lose their crunch)

  1. Cream the butter and the icing sugar until pale and fluffy then mix in the melted white chocolate. 
  2. Add the double cream and give a very short whisk.
  3. Finally add the Oreo crumbs and mix in with a spoon so as not to make the icing too muddy a colour.

I filmed some time lapse videos of me icing and decorating the cake for a bit of fun: I hope you enjoy them and find them useful. I chilled the cake for an hour once I had covered it in buttercream so that I had a firmer base for the glaze and piping.

Covering the cake in the cookies and cream buttercream.

Drizzling the chocolate glaze down the sides of the cake.

Piping and decorating with mini oreos.

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Chocolate Glaze

50g of Dark Chocolate

30g of Butter

1 Teaspoon of Golden Syrup

  1. Melt all of the ingredients gently over a bain marie.
  2. Allow to cool to room temperature before using. As you will see from my video, I put my glaze in a disposable piping back and snip the tip off just before I am about to use it.

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I decided to pipe and wiggle the nozzle at the same time to get this more ruffled effect. I also opted for the mini Oreo for the cuteness factor, though, of course, regular Oreos will do just as well. I have to say the kids took great delight in stealing them from the cake whilst I portioned it up for them.

My son loved the cake. I hope my icing and decoration inspires you to give it a try too.

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Blueberry and Orange Breakfast Bread

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I have been desperately trying to find the time to make this recipe for a few months now. I had the idea after my son saw a similar tear and share bread in a book, but I wanted to come up with my own recipe using Gilchester’s Organic Unbleached Flour.

But we have been busy with school holidays and the important business of getting to know our new puppy, Florence.

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The first time I attempted it, I made far to much, and the rolled up dough didn’t come close to fitting in a 10″ tin. So, I reduced the quantities and tweaked the ratios and came up with this. I really hope you like it.

Ingredients

250g of Bread Flour

125g of Milk 

1/2 Teaspoon of Orange Blossom

8g of Dried Instant Yeast (by all means use fresh if you have it but I know many people can’t get hold of it easily)

30g of Caster Sugar

25g of Softened Butter

5g of Salt

1 Large Egg, beaten.

Plus an beaten extra egg to glaze the dough.

For the filling:

40g of Softened Butter

50g of Caster Sugar

Zest of 2 Oranges

100g of Blueberries

To decorate:

The juice of half an Orange

150-200g of Icing Sugar

50-100g of Blueberries (it’s really down to personal choice how many you wish to put on the top).

A few strands of Orange Zest (leave a little of the oranges used in the dough ungrated and grate it now)

  1. Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and quickly rub the butter in, but don’t be too precise about it.
  2. Add the milk, eggs, and orange blossom water and start to mix. If you are using a mixer, allow the dough hook to do the work for you (it should take 6-8 minutes). If you are doing it by hand, slowly incorporate the ingredients together using a dough scraper before turning on to a surface in order to work the dough. It will be very sticky but do not add extra flour. Keep working the dough, using the Richard Bertinet method and it will become less sticky. Once it is springy and scraped together in a merely tacky ball of dough, allow it to rest, covered with a cloth, for 45 minutes.DSC_0005
  3. Scrape the dough on to a very lightly floured surface and fold it in on itself, before forming into a ball again and returning to the bowl, covering once more. Leave it to prove and develop for 1 hour.DSC_0001
  4. Flour your work surface and de-gas the dough (bashing it with the flat of your hands to remove any air bubbles). Roll it out to about 12″ by 6/7″.DSC_0828 (1).jpg
  5. Mix the soft butter, sugar and orange zest together and spread it evenly over the dough, leaving a half inch gap along the top (long) edge.DSC_0829
  6. At this stage most people would scatter the blueberries then roll up the dough and divide. But I find it easier to portion up the dough with a pizza wheel, then scatter the fruit and roll. You tend not to get in such a mess and the rolled up dough is more uniform (apart from the edge pieces). Use whatever method you are most comfortable with.DSC_0831
  7. Place the rolled up dough in a greased and lined baking tin. I used a 9″ but an 8″ would also accommodate the bread.
  8. Allow the bread to prove, under a cloth again, for another hour.DSC_0837
  9. Heat the oven to 190C (or 170C fan), glaze the bread with beaten egg and bake for 20-25 minutes. The bread will have risen and filled out the tin and be golden.
  10. Allow it rest in the tin for ten minutes before inverting on to a cooling rack. I then placed it on a serving plate, right way up, but this side is so pretty.🙂DSC_0825
  11. You can leave your bread like this and serve warm. Alternatively, you can allow it to cool a little, make up the orange icing and drizzle it on to the bread with the fresh blueberries and extra orange zest.

The bread is soft and sweet, but not too sweet, so is a perfect breakfast and brunch bread.

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And the texture is light and fluffy (persevering with a much wetter dough and taking more time to allow the bread to prove pays off in this way).

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If you are pushed for time (and not many of us can get all this done for breakfast time, even at the weekend) then start the bread the night before. When you get to the second prove (stage 3) cover the bowl with clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight. In the morning allow the dough to come up to room temperature, 30-60 minutes, then carry on with stage 4.

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My chief taste testers, the kids, loved it, especially Gabriel, who had asked for a Blueberry and Orange bread all this months ago. I hope you like it too.

Pistachio and Chocolate Cake

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I have a confession to make. Well, not so  much a confession but a disclaimer. This recipe isn’t entirely original and mine. To be honest, I am fed up of seeing people posting their alleged “new recipes” when they have clearly been reworked from someone else’s and have not given them credit.

So, I want to be clear, that this cake is a re-working and scaling of other people’s recipes, with a minor element being mine.

The sponges that make up this cake are a scaling up of Annie Bell’s Chocolate and Pistachio cake in her Baking Bible.  I have long been a fan of hers since I picked up a very reduced copy of her Gorgeous Cakes in a discount book shop. To this day I have no idea why she isn’t a household name: the woman knows her stuff and her recipes are great.

I opted to make my own filling of Pistachio Buttercream, mainly because I had some leftover. But I think it really works and adds to the pistachio flavour.

The chocolate icing over the cake is a scaled down version of Nigella Lawson’s icing from her Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake, which is a staple in my house.

As for the decoration on top, it came about by good timing on the part of the delivery guy who brought my first order from Sous Chef. I had ordered a few bits and pieces on top of the magnificent emerald Iranian pistachios (after seeing them on my friend’s Instagram feed), including some edible flowers.

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When the order arrived I had literally just put the chocolate icing on top and had started to cut up my paler, supermarket pistachios. Once opened, I realised that I could use the edible Mallow flowers in my order as a great accent to the vivid green of the pistachios.

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Anyway, enough of that. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients for the Sponge:

6 Medium Eggs

240g of Caster Sugar

1 1/2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder

120g of Pistachios, ground in a blender

250g of Ground Almonds

  1. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites until stiff. 
  2. In another bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar for only a minute.
  3. Fold the whites in to the yolk mixture in two parts, then fold in the baking powder and a teaspoon of Kirsch (or almond extract).
  4. Divide the mixture into one third and two thirds. Add the ground pistachios to the third, and fold in gently.
  5. Add the ground almonds to the two thirds, and fold in gently.
  6. Pour the respective mixtures into lined 8″ tins, at 200C (180C fan) and bake for 20 minutes (for the pistachio cake) and 25 minutes for the deeper cake. They should be springy when cooked and a skewer will come out clean.
  7. Allow to cool.

Ingredients for the Pistachio Buttercream:

40g of Pistachios, ground

75g of Softened Butter

120g of Icing Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Kirsch of Almond Extract

  1. Cream the butter and the icing sugar, tasting to check for a sweetness that is to your taste.
  2. Add the Kirsch and ground pistachios and mix again.

Ingredients for the Chocolate Icing:

50g of Butter

115g of Dark Chocolate

200g of Sieved Icing Sugar

2 Teaspoons of Golden Syrup

85g of Soured Cream

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract or Paste

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and golden syrup.
  3. Mix in the soured cream then add the icing sugar. I find it best to use a metal whisk to ensure there are no lumps in the finished icing.
  4. Put it to one side until it has firmed up enough to spread on the cake. Depending on the temperature of the day, this could take 30 minutes.

Whilst the chocolate icing is cooling down and firming up, turn your attention to the sponges. Split the almond sponge in two and place one half on a cake stand or plate.

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Spread one half of the Pistachio Buttercream on it, then place the pistachio sponge on top. Spread the rest of the buttercream on that. Top with the other half of the almond sponge.

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Once you are happy with the chocolate icing’s consistency, spread it around the sides and over the top of the cake. I didn’t bother to be especially careful in creating a super smooth finish on this occasion, as I wanted a more natural finish, but do as you fancy. You may even want to pipe it.

I made a very small amount of water icing with a heaped tablespoon of icing sugar and enough water to make a fairly runny paste. I coloured it a vivid green with some paste food colouring, then put it in a small disposable piping bag. I snipped off the end and swirled the icing in loose circles shapes around the edge of the top of the cake.

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I very carefully cut the pistachios in to slivers, which was actually quite easy given the quality of the ones that had just arrived in the post. I scattered these on top of the green circles of icing. I then sprinkled a small amount of the gold sugar from the supermarket that I use so often. Finally, I added a few of the deep purple Mallow flowers from Sous Chef. I was delighted with how it looked.

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Now, this cake is actually a sponge and has no butter in it. This, of course, means that it is light and airy, but has a much shorter shelf life than a cake made with a fat in it. Therefore, I suggest that this is one of those cakes that you make, assemble and eat on the same day. It really is at its best on the day it is made, and loses a lot of its light texture when left overnight.

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Having said that, the flavours are still great, with a good balance between the rich chocolate and the boozy nutty interior.

I do hope you enjoy making this cake and eating it as much as I did.

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