Sunday, 1 November 2009

A tidy recipe for fruit cake

Back to the Welsh recipes, and this is a classic: Bara Brith. However, as that basically means it's a recipe for fruit cake, I think its Welshness is a little spurious. Added to that, my recipe for it is out of a book. That's probably because I've only started eating fruit cake in the last couple of years - and I don't tend to cook things that I really don't like to eat (how can you taste test things if they're always going to taste bad to you?). But this is a very tasty, very easy recipe - and it fills the house with the smell of toffee. I should plug the book: Traditional teatime recipes by Jane Pettigrew. It's a National Trust book and it's full of recipes that make me nostalgic for things I've never eaten. Powerful stuff...

Bara Brith (900g/2lb loaf)

350g (12oz) mixed fruit
350ml (12 fl oz) tea
100g (4oz) butter
100g (4oz) light soft brown sugar
50ml (2 fl oz) milk
1 tbsp black treacle
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
2 eggs, beaten

Soak the fruit in the tea overnight.
Grease and line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin.
Put the fruit, butter, sugar, milk and treacle in a pan (I like to use a large casserole so I can use it for all the mixing), bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (GM4).
Add the flour, mixed spice and beaten eggs to the fruit mix and beat well with a wooden spoon. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake (just below the middle of the oven) for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes and to cool completely on a wire rack.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Soda bread is easy

I baked some bread this week and was reminded of how easy it can be. Which is lucky, because I was reclaiming my evening - knackered from running induction sessions for freshers, I was determined not to snooze away my free time. That, and the buttermilk was already past its date. Anyway, this is a recipe I adapted from Best of Irish Home Baking (because the buttermilk I can get locally tends to come in half-pint pots). The weights of flour are approximate - you'll need to judge the consistency of the dough once it's formed.

Brown soda bread

300g (11oz) wholemeal flour
120g (4 oz) plain white flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp wheat bran (or try oatmeal or seeds or a combination)
284ml pot of buttermilk

Preheat the oven to GM 6 (200°C). Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the buttermilk and mix lightly to combine. If it's too dry, add a little water - but the dough should not be sticky. Bring the dough together with your hands - you can knead a little if necessary, but don't handle it too much - and form it into a ball. Place it on a baking sheet and flatten it slightly. Cut a cross in the top (I find a table knife is best for this). Bake for 35-45 minutes (until the loaf sounds hollow if you tap it). It needs to be eaten the same day - though it also freezes well.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Infallible muffins

Okay, so I'm setting myself up for a fall with that title, but Susan Reimer's muffin recipes are idiotproof (try complaining now). A former colleague recommended Muffins: fast and fantastic, and I've been spreading the good word (and dishing out the baked goods) ever since. A recipe that's honestly 10 minutes from thinking it might be nice to bake them to putting them in the oven. If the recipe works for you, please buy the book - there're lots more ideas in it and this woman deserves her reward.

Here is the basic recipe:

9oz (250g) flour
3 tsp baking powder (1 tsp if using self-raising flour)
4oz (110g) sugar (+/- 1oz/25g)
pinch of salt (don't omit - helps them rise)
1 egg
8floz (240ml) milk
3floz (90ml) oil (corn oil, for preference) or melted butter

Makes 12 muffins. Preheat oven to GM5-6 (190-200°C). Put cases in the muffin tin. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk wet ingredients together. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix lightly (for no more than 20 seconds) until there is no flour visible (mixture should still be lumpy - do not overmix). Spoon mixture into cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned and they spring back when touched.

You can use wholemeal flour in this recipe and can add chocolate chips, dried fruit or nuts. My favourite variety is lemon drizzle: add lemon zest to the wet ingredients; whilst the muffins are cooking, make a syrup with the juice of a lemon and 3oz (85g) icing sugar; pour the syrup over the muffins when they are fresh from the oven. The muffins pictured above are raspberry and white chocolate: increase flour to 10oz (280g) and milk to 9fl oz (260ml); add 1/2 tsp vanilla essence to wet ingredients; once wet/dry ingredients are mixed, fold in 5-6oz (140-170g) raspberries and 3oz (85g) white chocolate chunks/drops; bake as above (add 5mins to baking time if using frozen raspberries).

These muffins are best eaten on the day they are made and can be frozen for up to one month.

A recipe for bakestones

It seems only right that the first recipe on this blog is for bakestones - or Welsh cakes, in proper Saesneg. This recipe is the one my mother uses and the one she has passed on to me (together with the bakestone to cook them on).

Welsh cakes

8oz (225g) self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
4oz (125g) butter (or half butter, half lard)
3oz (75g) sugar
3oz (75g) currants (or raisins)
1 egg, beaten
milk (if needed)
pinch of mixed spice

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Rub in the butter. Add the sugar and the currants. Bind the mixture with the egg (and a little milk if necessary) to make a stiff dough. Roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick and cut into 2 1/2 inch rounds. Bake on a moderately hot bakestone (or heavy frying pan or under a medium grill) for 3-5 mins each side (until patched golden brown). Sprinkle with sugar. Best served warm.