Tag Archives: spice: cinnamon

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

18 Aug

I’m back! Sorry for being MIA lately – The Husband and I have recently moved into our own home (!), and between moving, unpacking and trying to get settled, I’ve hardly had time to get into the kitchen. I needed an excuse to get me back in there, really.

And the excuse came in the form of request for a birthday cake. Perfect! I was specifically asked to make a carrot cake, which I was really excited about. Carrot cake is one of my absolute favourites, and honestly, I don’t know why I haven’t posted about it before. There’s just something about that moist, dense cake coupled with creamy frosting that’s absolutely irresistible. In fact, I think I love carrot cake so very much because it’s an excuse to make copious amounts of cream cheese frosting. Adding maple syrup to the cream cheese gives the flavour a whole other, deeper dimension, and it works with so many cakes – red velvet, pumpkin spice, carrot (of course!)…the list is endless! All I can say is trust me, it’s worth it.

This is a very simple carrot cake recipe, which is slightly adapted from the original found in the Australian Women’s Weekly 100 Classic Cakes cookbook. The maple cream cheese frosting recipe is my own, which has sprung from about five different variations all merged together. The carrot cake is moist, dense and bursting with spices, and topped with the creamy, maple-infused frosting makes it the perfect cake for birthdays, desserts or an afternoon tea with friends. I was sad to give it up once it was baked and decorated!

CARROT CAKE WITH MAPLE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

For the cake (note that I doubled the recipe):

250 ml vegetable oil

1 1/3 cups firmly packed brown sugar

3 eggs

3 cups firmly packed grated carrot

1 cup chopped walnuts

2 1/2 cups self-raising flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

2 teaspoons mixed spice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 4) and grease and line a 22cm or 23cm round cake tin.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the oil, eggs and brown sugar with an electric mixer until the the mixture becomes thick and creamy.

3. Add the carrots and nuts and the sifted dry ingredients and mix gently with a wooden spoon until combined.

4. Pour the mixture into your prepared cake tin and bake for 50 – 60 minutes, though you ought to start checking the cake after 45 minutes in the oven. The cake is cooked when it is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning it out onto a cooling rack.

For the Maple Cream Cheese frosting:

90g butter

200g cream cheese

1/3 cup maple syrup

6 cups icing sugar, sifted.

1. Beat the butter, maple syrup and cream cheese on high speed with an electric mixer for 2 – 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

2. Add 1/3 of the icing sugar and beat again to incorporate. Repeat the process until all the icing sugar has been incorporated and the mixture is thick and creamy.

3. Place the frosting in the fridge for 20 minutes to help it thicken up.

4. Frost the cake however you like – I placed frosting between the layers and over the top of the cake and decorated using extra chopped walnuts and sugar carrots. If you’d like to pipe, simply colour some of your left over frosting and fill a piping bag with an attached writing tip.

Enjoy! xx

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Hot Cross Buns – Traditional and Chocolate!

6 Apr

One of the best things about working in the education system is getting time off work during the school holidays. And time off work means one thing: lots of time for baking. Winner!

With Easter coming up this weekend, I had the perfect excuse to fire up the oven. Who doesn’t love hot cross buns, really? Even if you don’t like the traditional fruit version (although I find this mind boggling, they’re too delicious to pass up!), I’ve got a decadent chocolate variety which seems to be a crowd pleaser for adults and children alike. I realise that hot cross buns aren’t a Good Friday staple everywhere, so if you’re from a country that has sadly deprived you of this Eastery goodness, then I highly recommend you give them a go. Your taste buds will thank you on bended knee!

Don’t be too nervous about the whole yeast/dough/rising/time consuming fiasco, either. These really are incredibly simple to make; time consuming, yes, but ridiculously easy and so worth your patience.

Let’s kick off with a bit of tradition…

HOT CROSS BUNS

4 1/3 cups strong bread flour (or plain flour, if you can’t find this)

2 x 7g sachets dried yeast

1/4 cup caster sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit of your choice (I went with sultanas, currants, raisins and citrus peel)

Zest and juice of 1 orange

40g butter

300ml milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Extra flour, if necessary

FLOUR PASTE

½ cup flour

5 tablespoons water

GLAZE

2 tablespoons apricot jam

MAKES 12 BUNS

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, spices, and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the dried fruit with the zest and juice of the orange.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the milk, heating for about  a minute, until lukewarm. Add the warm milk mixture, fruit mixture and eggs to the flour. Using a low speed and paddle attachment on your stand mixer  (or a flat bladed knife if you’re working by hand) mix until the dough starts to come together.


Switch to a dough hook attachment and set on low speed for 5 – 7 minutes, or use clean hands to finish mixing to form a soft dough and then knead on a floured board for ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add extra flour, a tablespoon at a time, if the dough is too runny/too sticky.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.

Line a large, deep roasting dish with foil or baking paper and set aside. Punch the dough down using your fists to its original size, then knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth.

Cut the dough in half, then roll each half into a long, smooth log and cut the logs into six even sized pieces.

Shape each piece into a ball and roll round in your hands to smooth them. Place the balls into the lined dish, about 1cm apart.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes, or until buns double in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (that’s 375 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 5).

Now make the flour paste for the crosses. Mix the flour and water together in a small bowl until smooth, adding a bit of extra water if paste is too thick. Place the mixture into a piping bag and pipe the flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses.

Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are cooked through and golden.

Finally, make the glaze. Place 2 tablespoons of apricot jam in a bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute, until melted. Brush the melted jam over the warm hot cross buns as soon as they’re out of the oven. Serve the buns warm or at room temperature – preferably with lashings of butter, either way – and enjoy!

And now, just in case you’re not getting enough chocolate already over Easter, let’s crack on with a new take on the old classic. This recipe is an adaptation of the one listed above, so I’ve skipped several photos in the step-by-steps (what’s the point of repeating them?). I had no idea that these aren’t widespread in England; back in Australia (at least, the part that I’m from) chocolate chip hot cross buns are almost as prevalent as the traditional variety. If you’ve never tried one, they make a delicious and gorgeously indulgent treat. I mean, really. It’s Easter. The more chocolate, the merrier!

TRIPLE CHOCOLATE HOT CROSS BUNS

4 cups strong bread flour (or plain flour, if you can’t find this)

1/3 cup cocoa powder

2 x 7g sachets dried yeast

1/4 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (I used white and dark varieties)

150g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

40g butter

300ml milk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Extra flour, if necessary

FLOUR PASTE

½ cup flour

5 tablespoons water

GLAZE

1/3 cup water

3 tablespoons caster sugar

MAKES 12 BUNS

Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, salt and chocolate chips in a large bowl.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the milk, heating for about  a minute, until lukewarm. Add the warm milk mixture, fruit mixture and eggs to the flour. Using a low speed and paddle attachment on your stand mixer  (or a flat bladed knife if you’re working by hand) mix until the dough starts to come together.

Switch to a dough hook attachment and set on low speed for 5 – 7 minutes, or use clean hands to finish mixing to form a soft dough and then knead on a floured board for ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add extra flour, a tablespoon at a time, if the dough is too runny/too sticky. In the last minute or so of kneading, add the chopped chocolate pieces to the dough.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough doubles in size.

Line a large, deep roasting dish with foil or baking paper and set aside. Punch the dough down using your fists to its original size, then knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth.

Cut the dough in half, then roll each half into a long, smooth log and cut the logs into six even sized pieces.

Shape each piece into a ball and roll round in your hands to smooth them. Place the balls into the lined dish, about 1cm apart.

Cover the dish with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes, or until buns double in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (that’s 375 degrees Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 5).

Now make the flour paste for the crosses. Mix the flour and water together in a small bowl until smooth, adding a bit of extra water if paste is too thick. Place the mixture into a piping bag and pipe the flour paste over tops of buns to form crosses.

Bake the buns for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are cooked through.

Finally, make the glaze. Place the water and sugar into a small saucepan and heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for five minutes. Brush the warm glaze over the hot cross buns once they’re out of the oven.

Serve the buns warm or at room temperature – preferably with lashings of butter, either way – and enjoy!

Happy Easter – however you celebrate, wherever you are and whatever you believe. x

Stewed Plums

11 Jan

After a couple of late night cooking extravaganzas, I’ve finally managed to work my way through all the remaining plums from my parents’ plum tree. I had vague ideas about doing fancy things with the plums which weren’t used in the jam I made a few days ago, but considering that my parents won’t be back until the end of January, anything I made had to be freezer-friendly, which narrowed down the options somewhat. The plums that The Husband and I had picked were getting riper by the day, and I knew that I needed to do something before they started to go bad. My mum adores stewed plums and they’re ridiculously easy, so I just went with that in the end.

I made three variations of regular stewed plums, and I’m quite pleased with the way they’ve all turned out. They’re now all sealed up in containers and have been banished to the depths of the freezer. I honestly can’t look at another plum for quite some time!

My mum, though a huge lover of stewed plums, is usually short on time, so she just chucks them into some water, throws in a bit of sugar and simmers until they’re soft. I wanted to give them a bit of added oomph, and I think these three combinations did the job perfectly. A word of warning, however: if you’re wanting to follow my lead and experiment with different flavours, steer clear of vanilla and honey together in the same batch. You’d think it’d work well with the plums, considering how beautifully the two flavours are with plums on their own, but somehow it just…didn’t work. Other than that, go nuts! Feel free to add extra sugar to any of the following recipes if you prefer.

Forgive the dodgy photography, by the way. The photos for this post were taken at 2am!

STEWED PLUMS WITH CINNAMON & VANILLA

1 kg (2.2 lb) plums, halved and pitted

250 g white sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Water

1. Place plums in a large, deep pan. Add sugar, vanilla and cinnamon and stir to combine.

2. Put pan on a medium heat and add water, enough to cover 2/3 of the plums.

3. Simmer until plums have softened (around 15 – 20 minutes).

4. Strain plums over a large bowl, catching all of the juice from the pan.

5. Return juice to the pan and simmer on a medium-high heat for around 10 minutes to help reduce the liquid.

6. Turn off the heat and add the plums back in to the reduced juices. Stir gently to combine.

7. Allow to cool for 10 – 20 minutes before pouring into a labelled, airtight container. Plums may be frozen or kept in the refrigerator, though must be consumed within 3 days if kept in the fridge.

STEWED PLUMS WITH MULLED WINE

1 kg (2.2 lb) plums, halved and pitted

250 g brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 cup red wine

Water

1. Place plums in a large, deep pan. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and orange juice. Stir to combine.

2. Put pan on a medium heat and add red wine. Then add water, pouring in enough to cover 2/3 of the plums.

3. Simmer until plums have softened (around 15 – 20 minutes).

4. Strain plums over a large bowl, catching all of the juice from the pan.

5. Return juice to the pan and simmer on a medium-high heat for around 10 minutes to help reduce the liquid.

6. Turn off the heat and add the plums back in to the reduced juices. Stir gently to combine.

7. Allow to cool for 10 – 20 minutes before pouring into a labelled, airtight container. Plums may be frozen or kept in the refrigerator, though must be consumed within 3 days if kept in the fridge.

STEWED PLUMS WITH SPICED HONEY

1 kg (2.2 lb) plums, halved and pitted

2/3 cup honey

1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

Water

1. Place plums in a large, deep pan. Add honey and cinnamon.

2. Put pan on a medium heat and stir gently to combine as the honey begins to melt. Add the water, enough to cover 2/3 of the plums.

3. Simmer until plums have softened (around 15 – 20 minutes).

4. Strain plums over a large bowl, catching all of the juice from the pan.

5. Return juice to the pan and simmer on a medium-high heat for around 10 minutes to help reduce the liquid.

6. Turn off the heat and add the plums back in to the reduced juices. Stir gently to combine.

7. Allow to cool for 10 – 20 minutes before pouring into a labelled, airtight container. Plums may be frozen or kept in the refrigerator, though must be consumed within 3 days if kept in the fridge.

Triple Choc-Chip & Peanut Cookies

18 Nov

My husband and I are still house sitting for my dad, which means that I have plenty of time to bake at any time of the day or night – bliss! (Hey, it’s the small things…). Woo hoo!

Today has been the first semi-hot day of the season – only about 35 degrees Celsius (or 93 Fahrenheit), but you know how that first hot day in late spring pretty much knocks you for six? Well, that’s what today has been like, so cranking up the temperature on the oven probably wasn’t the best idea when it came to keeping the house cool…but we did end up with a nice big batch of cookies, so it was worth the added heat!

This is actually the first time in years that I’ve deviated even slightly from my usual choc-chip cookie recipe, but I couldn’t help it. My dad has a massive container full of peanuts in the cupboard, and they’ve been calling to me. So, here we are:  Triple Choc-Chip & Peanut Cookies!

I know that you probably have a favourite choc-chip cookie recipe which you’re reluctant to part with, but if you want a bit of a change, give this one a go. They’ve already been given the thumbs up from The Official Taste Tester (AKA my husband), and I’m quite pleased with them overall. I wouldn’t make the peanut addition a permanent feature, but it’s really wonderful when you’re looking for a tasty change.

I’m actually not 100% sure where the basic recipe came from originally. It’s written on an ingredient-stained, crumpled scrap of paper that has been sitting in my mum’s recipe folder for as long as I can remember…so credit goes to her on this one!

TRIPLE CHOC-CHIP & PEANUT COOKIES

150g unsalted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

A pinch of cinnamon

1 egg

1 3/4 cups plain flour, sifted

1/3 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup salted peanuts, roughly chopped

1 – 3 tablespoons milk (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (325 Fahrenheit or Gas Mark 3) and line 3 baking trays with greaseproof baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar for 2 – 3 minutes until light and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and the egg and beat well. Sprinkle in a pinch of cinnamon and mix to combine.

Add the plain flour and mix gently until just combined. Pour chocolate chips and peanuts over the dough and fold through.

If your dough is too thick add some milk, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough becomes soft and slightly sticky. Spoon heaped tablespoons of mixture onto the baking trays, pressing each cookie down lightly with your fingertips to flatten.

Bake for 8 – 10 minutes if you like soft-centred cookies, or bake for 10 – 13 minutes if you like your cookies to have more of a crunch. Cookies should be lightly browned when cooked.

Leave to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

Enjoy!