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Chocolate Almond and Ginger Bark {with Guittard}

10 December 2017

I write this from my sofa, where I have resolutely collapsed after my first two-wedding-cake weekend. Wow. The last few days have been a blur of sponge layers, buttercream, brownies and mini mince pies and, despite some moments of heavy fan work, my poor little oven managed to tough it out for two days and nights. You can see some snaps of the finished articles on my Instagram here.

And with those done and dusted, attention turns to Christmas. Yay! My poor friends and family will - for another year - receive homemade gifts from my kitchen. Christmas is synonymous with so many fantastic baking flavours and ingredients. Rich citrus, nuts, dried fruits, coconut and chocolate are too special not to be celebrated. Last year, I gave jars of salted caramel sauce. This year, I've got quince membrillo, homemade mincemeat and chocolate bark in mind.

The recipe for the later comes courtesy of Californian chocolatiers, Guittard. Now in it's fifth generation, Guittard make chocolates for specifically for eating, drinking and baking. This recipe - by Amy Guittard - was inspired by a familial love of chocolate covered ginger. My godfather Alan, who will celebrate his 88th birthday this year, also adores chocolate ginger, so this will be on the gifts list just for him.
230g flaked almonds
30g icing sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp warm water
50g candied ginger, or other candied fruits, cut into 2.5cm pieces
340g Guittard 74% bittersweet or 60% semisweet chocolate baking wafers

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a rimmed baking tray with parchment.

Combine the almonds, icing sugar, golden syrup and water and mix until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the almond mixture onto the prepared baking tray and spread it thinly.

Toast the almond mixture for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the almonds are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the mixture cool in the pan. Once cooled, add it to a medium bowl along with the candied ginger and mix to combine. Set aside. 

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until it is melted and smooth. Allow to cool a little. Add the chocolate to the bowl with the almond-ginger mixture and stir until the almonds and ginger pieces are uniformly coated. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking tray, and spread out evenly. 

Let the bark cool at room temperature for 30 minutes then refrigerate until the chocolate is hard. Break the chocolate bark into pieces. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to two weeks, or wrap up in cellophane and tie with ribbon, string and labels for Christmas gifts. 

Guittard kindly sent me the ingredients for this post. All praise - and gluttonous ravings - entirely my own. 

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Rhubarb Syllabub Doughnuts {from Comfort by Candice Brown}

25 November 2017

The original start to this post - when I began drafting it over a week ago - was Hello November! But alas, as I sit here furiously typing on 25th November, it feels a little late for such a beginning. December is well and truly in sight and, as shop windows begin to glitter and my efforts to cross Oxford Street every evening become increasingly futile, I feel a little overwhelmed at how quickly this year has passed.

2017 has been quite a year - more on that, I promise, in my annual days-in-between post (which I had better start drafting, yikes!). After a mad few months, it is comforting and cathartic to be back at my keyboard, and back in my little corner of the internet. I try to avoid apologising on Pudding Lane - if you can't run a dictatorship on your own blog, where can you? - but I am sorry that I've not been able to post as frequently this year. It is hard to articulate what this little space means to me, and to post half-hearted recipes and write scrambled introductions would feel, to me at least, a disservice (to me and to you!).

What can I say? Conceptualising, testing, perfecting, styling, shooting and typing up recipes takes time - and time is something that I have not felt very on top of lately. A year of spinning plates has led to so many fantastic things, but has also sadly been to the detriment of my blog, my social life and at times, my sanity! And so, when I met the fabulous Candice Brown last weekend, I felt as if she was speaking to my soul.

I'm sure Candice needs little introduction - GBBO winner, Sunday Times columnist, author and soon to be ice-dancer - it's safe to say that Candice is spinning plates too (about twice as many as I am, in fact.) I was so delighted to be invited by the wonderful teams at The Happy Foodie and Penguin Random House to the first iteration of their new Cookbook Club. Held at the beautiful Rye Studios in Dalston, the book in question was Comfort, with Candice discussing the process of writing the book, her inspirations, and her journey since being crowned GBBO winner in 2016.

All I can say is - what a woman. She describes herself as lucky, which I found an interesting concept. If this is true, I'd wager that my mum has had it right all along in telling us that luck is what happens when hard work meets opportunity. Candice is certainly testament to that.

I left feeling inspired, empowered and - perhaps most importantly - full to burst following a veritable feast of all the delicious cakes and bakes from the book. It was such a delight to meet some of my fellow bloggers (Instagram friends no longer!), and Candice of course. Here is one of my favourite recipes from Candice's books - rhubarb syllabub doughnuts. I'll let you take a minute to digest quite how delicious a recipe title that is.

For the dough 
270g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting 
10g instant yeast 
10g salt 
20g caster sugar, plus optional extra for dredging 
finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
120ml lukewarm whole milk 
40g unsalted butter, very soft 
1 egg 
rapeseed oil 

For the filling
200g fresh rhubarb, chopped into small pieces 
2 tbsp medium/sweet white wine 
1 tbsp golden caster sugar 
grated zest of 1 orange 
150ml double cream 
150g mascarpone cheese 
1 tbsp icing sugar 
½tsp vanilla bean paste

To finish (optional)
100g icing sugar, sifted

Put the flour in the large bowl of a free-standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a small well in the middle. To one side put the yeast and on the opposite side put the salt, sugar and lemon zest. Pour the lukewarm milk, the very soft butter and egg into the well.

Mix on a low speed for 2 mins until everything is combined. Turn up the speed slightly and mix/knead for 5 mins until you have a smooth, soft dough. (You can also make the dough by hand, kneading on a lightly oiled surface for 10 minutes.)

Turn out the dough on to a lightly oiled work surface and shape into a smooth ball. Place in a lightly greased large bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours until at least doubled in size.

Turn out the risen dough on to a lightly floured surface. Slightly knock out the air, then divide equally into either six large balls or 12 mini balls. Gently pinch and pull the outside of each ball into the middle so you get a nice smooth, round shape. Arrange the balls, not touching each other, on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Place this in a clean plastic bag and leave for 45-60 mins until doubled in size.

Heat 10-15cm of rapeseed oil in a high-sided medium-sized saucepan or deep-fat fryer until the oil reaches 150C. Deep-fry the doughnuts in batches – no more than 3 at a time – and check the oil temperature between each batch. Carefully place the dough balls into the oil. If they are large, fry for 3 minutes on each side; fry small balls for 2 minutes on each side. When done, the doughnuts will be puffed and golden brown. Lift out with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain.

At this point you can roll the warm doughnuts in caster sugar if you like. Put the rhubarb, white wine, golden caster sugar and orange zest in a small saucepan. Set on a low/medium heat and cook until the rhubarb is softened and the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup. Transfer 1tbsp of the syrup to a small bowl. Set the pan of rhubarb aside to cool.

In another bowl, combine the double cream, mascarpone, icing sugar and vanilla and whisk together until the mix is just thickened and will hold its shape. Spoon the cream mixture into a piping bag fitted with a fairly large round nozzle. Fill a second piping bag fitted with a fairly large, round nozzle with the rhubarb mix.

Using a chopstick, poke 2 holes side by side into the side of each doughnut – give the chopstick a wiggle around so you create space inside the doughnut. Pipe the cream mix into one hole and the rhubarb mix into the other hole (be careful as this mix is a little thinner and may run).

If you haven’t rolled the doughnuts in caster sugar, then make a glaze with the reserved rhubarb syrup and the icing sugar. Drizzle this over the top of the filled doughnuts.

Recipe from Comfort: Delicious Bakes and Family Treats by Candice Brown. (Ebury Press, £20). Photography by Ellis Parrinder. This post was written in collaboration with The Happy Foodie but all views are, as always, entirely my own. 

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Cobnut blackberry cake and my John Lewis gift guide

20 September 2017

I am painfully aware of my tendency to wax lyrical about how much I love autumn. What can I say? This season of changing hues, dappled light and cold sunshine is just so special. I'm a creature of habit and September marks the start of the school year (a ridiculous justification I know, given that I am now 25 and my school days are little more than an increasingly foggy blur of anxiety and bad hair days). I'm an October baby and - despite nursing a futile fear of getting older - the child within me does still rather look forward to all the excitement and attention that birthdays bring.

Autumn also sees the hedgerows weigh heavy with produce, which ignites new ideas and brings new recipes to my kitchen every year. I can wear my favourite thick jumpers and cashmere socks without bursting into flames and, at the risk of losing readers for jumping the gun a little here, the C word starts to slip into day-to-day dialogue which fills me with that wonderfully warm feeling of the familiar and the delicious. Yes, I went there - I can only apologise.

On the subject of Christmas, I often get asked for gift recommendations for bakers. I am quite picky about baking-ware. I only want to have things in my kitchen which I like to look at. As I've grown older, I've consciously moved away from the pastel pinks, polka dots and bunting prints that you so often see used in baking designs. Instead, I am slowly building up a selection of ceramic tableware and good quality, beautifully designed cookware. Neither of these things come cheap, but I think it's worth playing the long game. And so, let me present my gift guide for bakers, which I'm delighted to be partnering with John Lewis to bring you!

John Lewis is where my Mum bought our school shoes. It's where my granny bought my sewing machine, and the dress patterns which she used to teach me to sew. It's where I have bought all of my kitchenware, and where I seem to find myself when I've had a tough day and just want to feel happier. I can't put my finger on it, but John Lewis seems to do just that.

John Lewis have an extensive baking range (take a look here), so are a good place to start when buying for bakers. I find that most shops seem to either have style or substance - John Lewis really does have both.
John Lewis Craft Collection
Copper has certainly had a renaissance in the kitchen. Copper and rose gold are two of my favourite tones in kitchenware - I love the peachy, warm notes they bring without being overly girly. These Craft Collection measuring spoons and measuring cups make a great practical present - and look picture perfect hanging from display rails or pegs in the kitchen.
Meri Meri for Liberty 
Perfect for stylish cake bakers. I am obsessed with the gorgeous range of cupcake cases, toppers and flags by Meri Meri. They are cute without being cutesy, which I find a delicate line to walk and one that few brands quite get right. The party pick toppers are playful yet stylish, the neon tones keep the palette current and the limited edition Liberty range is - let's be honest - to die for.
Robert Welch Radford 'Time For Tea' Collection
Essential kitchenware for everyone: a cake slicer and a set of cake forks. And I mean essential. These stainless steel sets are worth the investment for the perfect tea time spread.

And on that note - cake! This cake is so easy to whip up and is perfect for teatime. Cobnuts are one of my favourite autumnal ingredients. They have a wonderfully intense flavour which works beautifully in sweet and savoury recipes alike. Swap the blackberries for raspberries, currants or slices of mirabelles, greengages or early season pears.

100g cobnuts, dehusked
120g unsalted butter
60g caster sugar
60g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
120g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
100g blackberries

Heat the oven to 170°C and line the base of a 7" cake tin with a disc of baking paper. Butter the sides of the tin. 

Roughly chop the cobnuts, then set aside. Place the butter, caster sugar and dark brown sugar in a bowl and cream together until pale a fluffy. Beat in the eggs, mixing well after each addition. Sieve in the flour, baking powder and salt, and fold to combine. Add the blackberries and stir through.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, and level with the palette knife. Top with the cobnuts, then baking in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

This post was written in affiliation with John Lewis, but all views are - as always - entirely my own.

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