May 21, 2015

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is a staple recipe and it's so, so good.  The cake itself is moist and absolutely delicious, with the slight crunch of walnuts throughout, and topped off with classic cream cheese icing.  I find that carrot cake is a universally liked dessert so it's great to have in your baking repertoire!

Ingredients - one layer 23cm square cake or two layer 21cm round cake
250g brown sugar
3 eggs
250mL vegetable oil
230g flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb soda
Pinch of cinnamon
250g carrot (2-3 carrots)
Walnuts to taste (I usually use about a cup - this step is optional!)

Ingredients - cream cheese icing
60g butter (room temperature butter works best!)
350g cream cheese
350g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Optional - walnuts for garnishing

Method - cake
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (356F).  Grate your carrot.  If you're using walnuts, chop them up roughly.

2. Beat the sugar and eggs, then mix the oil in.

3. Fold the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and cinnamon into the mixture.

4. Finally, fold the grated carrot and chopped walnuts into the batter.

5. Line a baking tin (23cm square tin) with baking paper and pour the mixture in.  Bake the cake for 1 hour, an inserted toothpick should come out clean.

6. Let your cake cool for a bit in the tin, then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. Get started on the cream cheese icing!

Method - icing

1. Beat the butter and cream cheese until combined.

2. Add the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.

3. Finally, add the vanilla and beat until combined.

4. Once your cake is completely cool, ice it to your preference.  It looks great decorated with walnuts.

The great thing about carrot cake is that you can make it look as 'rustic' and 'homey' as you want it to.  If you're doing it in layers, you can just ice between the layers and on top and leave the sides icing-free; you can put walnuts anywhere you like; and you can make the icing smooth or messy-looking.  There's lots of room for experimentation!

I like to ice the whole cake (because more icing is better!), chop walnuts up and put them on the sides.  Another method I often use is placing walnut halves around the edge of the top of the cake.

Carrot cake is also great in cupcake form!

May 13, 2015

Braided Nutella Bread

This sweet bread is a feast for your eyes and your belly!

I recommend that you consume this within two days of baking for ultimate deliciousness.

Recipe adapted from: Manu's Menu
Ingredients - starter dough
4g dry instant yeast (I'm pretty sure I used a full 7g packet and it worked out fine...)
75mL lukewarm water
1 tsp honey
135g flour

Ingredients - dough + filling
400g flour
75g white sugar
120mL lukewarm milk
5g salt
3 egg yolks
120g room temperature butter
1 1/2 cups Nutella

1. Make the starter dough (I did this in a little jug) - mix the yeast, water and honey together.  Ensure that the water is just lukewarm, not too hot (you'll kill the yeast) and not too cold (the yeast won't activate).  Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes until the yeast starts foaming.

2. Mix the starter dough flour into the yeast mixture until smooth, then set it aside covered with cling wrap or a tea towel for about 45 minutes.

3. Once the starter dough has risen, in a separate bowl whisk the sugar, lukewarm milk, salt and egg yolks.

4. Add the flour and knead the dough.  I used the dough hook on my electric mixer for this.

5. Add the butter a bit at a time, mixing in between so it's combined.

6. Finally, add the starter dough and knead until fully incorporated.

7. Grease the bowl lightly with butter and let the dough rise for another 2 hours.

8. On a clean, lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a large rectangle.

9. Spread the Nutella onto the dough evenly.  If there's not enough Nutella...add more Nutella.  Less is not more when it comes to Nutella.

10. Roll the dough up starting from the longer edge until you form a long cylinder.

11. Cut the cylinder lengthways, leaving a bit at the top uncut so that the two sections stay stuck together.  At this point, you can transfer the roll onto a sheet of baking paper so that it makes it easier to move the finished product to a baking tray.

12. Turn the sections so that the cut cross-sections face upwards, then plait the ropes around each other and form the braid into a circle.  Tuck the ends together so they look neat.

13. Slide the braid onto a baking tray and leave it to proof for another 30 minutes.  During this time, you can preheat your oven to 180C (355F).

14. When the dough has risen, bake it for about 35 minutes.  Be sure not to overbake it because the bread could get dry.

15. Let the bread cool for a few minutes.  You can eat it warm or cold, it's also good heated up in the microwave for a few seconds the next day!

May 1, 2015

Giant Browned Butter Choc Chip Cookies

I've never made cookies as big as this before!

Of course, you can make them any size you like - personally, I enjoy bite sized cookies for easy snacking.

These particular choc chip cookies are full of flavour with crunchy edges and soft middles, and chock full of chocolate chips!

Recipe adapted from: Top WIth Cinnamon via Butter Baking
140g butter
2 tsp vanilla essence
100g white sugar
140g brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp bicarb soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
230g flour
1 egg
160g dark chocolate chips/chunks (add more if you desire!)

1. Start off by browning the butter.  Place the butter in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter starts to froth - watch it carefully and take it off the heat when it smells nutty and brown specks appear in the pan.

2. Stir the vanilla into the butter and set aside to cool.

3. Preheat the oven to 190C (375F).

4. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, bicarb, baking powder, salt and flour.

5. Mix the browned butter into the dry ingredients.

6. Add the egg and mix until combined.

7. Stir the chocolate chips into the dough.

8. Scoop the dough into balls the size of your choosing onto a baking tray covered with baking paper.  I did some bite-sized and some the size of my palm!  Make sure you leave enough room in between the cookies as they do spread.

9. Let the dough rest in the freezer or fridge for at least 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour (depending on how desperate you are to eat them...)

10. After they've chilled, bake the cookies for about 12 minutes (for large cookies)/9 minutes (for smaller cookies) or until they're golden brown and have spread out and puffed up.

11. Let the cookies cool for a bit after they come out of the oven, then enjoy!

As I usually find with choc chip cookies, they're best when warm and the chocolate's still melty.  Delicious.

April 19, 2015

Caramel Pecan 'Turtle' Brownies

I have seen many 'turtle' recipes on the internet, all involving caramel, pecans and chocolate.  I now know that there is a certain sweet called turtles, but I've never seen them in Australia.

All that aside, these brownies are gorgeously dense and chocolatey, and the caramel-pecan layer adds some extra sweet crunchiness.  My favourite way to eat these is either fresh out of the oven or, for a similar effect, briefly heated for about 10 seconds in the microwave so that the caramel oozes out of the middle and the brownie goes soft and warm.

Recipe adapted from: Averie Cooks
Ingredients 32 x 23cm brownie tin (approx 12.6 x 9 inch)
115g butter
170g dark chocolate
2 eggs
185g white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp instant coffee granules (optional)
115g flour
1 cup pecans
About 1 cup (250mL) salted caramel (recipe and method here, just add salt!)

1. Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F).  Line a brownie tin with baking paper.

2. Melt the butter and chocolate, mix them until combined.

3. Let the chocolate mixture cool for a bit, then whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla and coffee in.

4. Stir the flour into the mixture. 

5. Chop the pecans into chunks (not too fine).

6. Pour half the brownie batter into the prepared tin.  Bake it for about 15 minutes until the top has just crusted over - don't overbake it!

7. Take the brownie out of the oven and sprinkle the pecans evenly over the top, then pour the caramel on.

8. Carefully spread the rest of the brownie batter evenly on top.

9. Bake the whole brownie for another 25 minutes.

10. Let the brownie cool for a while before cutting it, as it will be difficult when the caramel's all warm and liquid.  You can even put it in the fridge for a while to make sure that everything's set.

These brownies can be enjoyed cold...

Or they can be warmed up in the microwave so that the caramel's melted.  So delicious!

April 12, 2015

Pumpkin Citrus Syrup Cake

This cake is a favourite in our household.  It's moist but not heavy, sweet and citrusy.  The pumpkin gives the cake a great texture.

Recipe adapted from: Women's Weekly Cakes & Slices Cookbook
Ingredients - 23cm square cake
250g butter
2 tbsp orange zest
2 tbsp lemon zest
195g caster sugar
3 eggs
310g flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup mashed pumpkin (about 350g)

Ingredients - syrup
6 tbsp orange juice
6 tbsp lemon juice
500g white sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 180C (355F) and line a 23cm square pan or equivalent with baking paper.  I also prepare my pumpkin at this point by chopping it up and microwaving it with a splash of water until it's cooked, then mashing it with a fork and setting it aside to cool.

2. Cream the butter, sugar and zest until light and fluffy.

3. Separate the eggs.  Beat the egg yolks into the butter mixture.  Put the egg whites in another bowl for use later.

4. Mix half the pumpkin into the batter, then half the flour.  Once that's combined, mix in the rest of the pumpkin and the flour along with the baking powder.

5. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks.  Mix a spoonful into the pumpkin batter to lighten it, then gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter.

6. Spread the batter into your prepared cake tin, and bake for about an hour.  An inserted toothpick in the middle of the cake should come out clean.

7. Make your syrup!  Combine all the syrup ingredients in a saucepan.  Stir until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes, without stirring.  Make sure you keep a sharp eye on this as it can tend to boil over!

8. Once the cake has been baked, pour the syrup over the cake in the tin.  You can also poke some holes in the top to let the syrup really get in there.

9. Invert the cake onto a serving plate once the syrup has soaked in.  Then, pour the remainder of the syrup onto the cake.

This cake is glorious when served warm!

April 5, 2015

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread

Hello all!  I hope you're well, and have some time on your hands, because you definitely want to try this recipe out.  I'd actually come across it twice, via Joy The Baker and Chocolatesuze.  Obviously this was a sign that I had to make it for myself.

The most compelling thing about this bread is how the top gently curls like the pages of a book - the bottom of the bread is syrupy and sticky, the middle is fluffy and the top is gloriously crisp and crunchy.  There's something for everyone and it all tastes amazing!

Recipe adapted from: Joy The Baker
Ingredients - bread (22 x 12 cm loaf (approx 8.7 x 4.7 inch))
430g flour (divided into 310g and 120g portions)
63g white sugar
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one sachet)
1/2 tsp salt
57g butter
80mL milk
60mL water
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs

Ingredients - topping
250g white sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
45g butter

1. I was using active dry yeast, so I didn't proof the yeast beforehand - however, if you want to make sure that the bread rises and you're not sure if it will without proofing, place your yeast in 3 tbsp of warm water (not too hot!) with a pinch of white sugar.  Let the mixture sit until it's frothy, about 5 minutes.

2. Mix the 310g flour, white sugar, yeast (**if you have proofed the yeast as in step 1, wait until a later step to add it!) and salt in a large bowl - if you're using an electric mixter, use the bowl that comes with it.

3. Place the butter and milk in a microwave safe receptacle and heat in the microwave until the butter has melted.  Mix the water and vanilla in.

4. Pour the milk and butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix.  I just let my mixer do the work with the dough hook attachment.  **If you are using proofed yeast, add it to the dry ingredients along with the milk and butter mixture.

5. Add both eggs, beating them with a fork to break them up a bit, then mix them into the flour mixture.  It may take a while for everything to come together, but keep mixing!  The dough will end up being very sticky.

6. Grease a large bowl with butter (I just used the same bowl as I was mixing in) and put your dough in.  Let it rest for about 1 hour - you want the dough to double in size.  Leave it in a warm place covered with a clean tea towel or with cling wrap.

7. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead a few tablespoons of flour in so that the dough becomes soft rather than sticky.

8. Mix the white sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the topping.  Melt the butter in a separate bowl.

9. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle - as large as you can get it!  Brush the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle the cinnamon mixture evenly on top.

10. Cut the dough into six strips along the length.

11. Stack the strips up one on top of the other, then cut the stack into six sections - you'll have six individual stacks of six squares.

12. Line your loaf tin with baking paper and stack the squares into the tin.  I've seen this done on other blogs with the squares stacked all in one direction in the tin, but that configuration didn't work out with my tin at all!

I think that there's definitely room for experimentation; try cutting the dough into whatever size will fit your particular loaf tin best.

13. Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and let it rise for another 45 minutes, until doubled in size.  While this is going on, preheat your oven to 175 C (350 F).

14. Bake the risen loaf for about 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown.

15. Allow the bread to cool - then tip it out of the loaf tin, peel it apart, and enjoy!

I recommend eating this within 1-3 days while it's still fresh.