Bran Loaf

This recipe for Bran Loaf comes from my gran’s recipe book, but to me it’s synonymous with my mum because she used to make it regularly when I was a kid. It’s a ridiculously easy recipe to put together – the recipe is done by volume, and requires equal parts of each ingredient (except salt). Using 1 cup, or 250ml, of each gives a decent sized loaf.

  • 250ml self raising flour
  • 250ml caster sugar
  • 250ml dried fruit (e.g. sultanas)
  • 250ml All Bran breakfast cereal
  • 250ml milk
  • A pinch of salt

First up, put the All Bran, milk, sugar and fruit together in a big bowl and give it a stir. Leave this for at least 2 – 3 hours.

Next, stir in the flour and salt until you have an even mixture. Pour it into a loaf tin and bake in the oven. My gran’s recipe calls for a “moderate” oven for 1hr 15mins. We went with 180C fan oven and it took about 45 minutes.

You must eat this sliced and smeared with butter. It’s fabulous.

Double Apple Pie

With autumn here, it seems an appropriate time to make an apple pie so we dug out our copy of How to be a Domestic Goddess and got cracking. The recipe is a bit unusual, in that it includes a special recipe for pastry which includes cheese! I can understand the logic here – cheese can go well with apple, but I can’t say I fancied the idea for this pie, and Mark isn’t a big fan of cheese either, so instead we went with the tried and tested sweet shortcrust recipe which I got from John Whaite’s Kitchen.

http://instagram.com/p/BMMkEhihGHL/

There are two types of apple used here – Bramley and Coxes. The Bramley apples are diced and fried in butter until they start to turn to mush. This is then blitzed in a food processor along with some spices, egg and sugar.

The coxes are cooked in a similar way – fried in butter – but are kept in larger chunks. The pastry is then used to line a springform cake tin and the Bramley mush is added first, followed by the Cox chunks which get “pushed” into it. The whole thing is topped with pastry and then put in the oven.

The recipe makes a really big, really satisfying pie – and regular sweet shortcrust pastry works really well. If I were to make it again though, I’d swap the spices – Nigella calls for ground cloves and grated nutmeg; I’d probably go with a more traditional cinnamon next time.

Maple & Pecan Bundt Cake

Mark’s been hankering for a bundt tin for quite some time but we never seem to see many of them in the stores here in the UK (or at least, not attractive ones… most seem pretty plain, and surely the whole point of a bundt tin is that it should be highly decorative?).

Mark’s done plenty of research in the meantime and come to the conclusions that a) Nordic Ware bundt tins seem to get the best reviews and b) they’re more expensive than most others. So we would often hunt through stores like HomeSense in the hope that they may have some in stock – they never did, until this weekend! Suddenly we were spoilt for choice and came home with a new cake tin to use! I can’t find the exact one on Amazon, but this one is pretty similar.

The first recipe book I had to hand was good old Nigella Kitchen, and it has a recipe for a maple and pecan bundt. They’re basically two of my favourite things so it seemed a no brainer to make this one!

The ingredient list isn’t too exotic – creme fraiche, pecans and maple syrup were the only things we didn’t already have in the cupboard or fridge. The method is a bit fiddly though – basically you need three bowls on the go.

In the first you mix butter and flour with a fork to create a kind of crumble. To this you add chopped pecans, a teaspoon of cinnamon and some maple syrup, then mix it all together with a fork to create the most amazing smelling mixture – this is your filling.

Next mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder in a second bowl.

In a third bowl, cream butter and caster sugar together. Add a tablespoon of the flour mixture to this and beat in, followed by an egg, then another tablespoon of flour, and then another egg. Beat it together after each addition, and then add the rest of the flour. The resulting mixture is pretty stiff so you may get tired when doing this! Finally, the creme fraiche gets added to this.

To assemble, pour about 2/3 of the mixture into the bundt tin. It’s a thick mixture, so you can then make a bit of a “trough” into which you pour the nutty filling. The important thing is that the filling shouldn’t touch the sides of the tin – you want in encased within the cake. You use the rest of the mixture to cover it up, and then bake in the over for 30 – 40 minutes. Once it’s out and cooled you dust it with a bit of icing sugar. It looks so pretty, Nigella herself even retweeted our photo!

A tip from Nigella – she suggests oiling the inside of the bundt tin first and standing it upside down over some newspaper whilst you get on with the rest. This way it’s oiled, but not too oily (it seemed to work for us, the cake came out of the tin really easily).

The result cake is lovely – the sponge itself is fairly plain and light, but the sweet and nutty filling gives a great contrast. Delicious and beautiful!

Apricot and Orange Sponge Cake

It’s been a while since I made a cake, so I had a crack at this one from Nigel Slater’s Appetite. The main recipe is actually for a lemon cake, but the variations suggested that orange could be used instead, and I love an orange cake.

Nigel describes this cake as incredibly easy, but I’m afraid I don’t agree. It’s easy, yes – if you’re using a food processor. By hand? Not so much. First up you have to cream the butter and sugar until “white and fluffy” – this takes a really, really long time by hand. I also found Nigel’s technique to be misleading – the next step described is to zest and juice the fruit… but he actually expected you to NOT add them to the bowl at this point. I realised too late, and because I’d used an orange rather than a lemon I had quite a lot of juice… this began to dissolve the sugar so I was going to lose all the air I had worked so hard to incorporate.

I decided to add an extra bit of raising agent in the form of a teaspoon of bicarbonate. I chose this over baking powder because I believe the latter includes bicarb and acid – but with all the acidic orange juice in the mixture, I decided that would be enough.

Nigel also says you need to chop some apricots until almost like a paste – again, that’s an easy task for a machine but not by hand. Fortunately I have a mezzaluna (this one, in fact) which made things easier than they may have otherwise been.

Once I was done with all that hassle and stress it went into the oven and actually rose really nicely. It sank a little in the middle afterwards, and a bit of the butter separated out in the middle making it look a bit greasy but – all things considered – it’s a bloody nice cake. We had some warm on the first night with raspberries and a blob of skyr, and then some more the next day after keeping it in the fridge. I think it was better for being in the fridge, and Mark prefers his with Greek yoghurt rather than skyr.

If you’ve got a food processor, try this one out. If not, give it a go anyway but make sure you read the entire recipe through before you begin and be prepared for some hard work!

Boston Cream Pie

When we first set up this website, we used a photo of a Boston Cream Pie I had made as the profile picture – it was something I made a long time ago and posted on my personal Instagram account.

Since it was my birthday recently, I decided to revisit the recipe as my birthday cake. And I decided to make two cakes – one for my workplace and one for the Two Hungry Boys.

This recipe comes from How To Be A Domestic Goddess and features three distinct stages – first you make a batch of Nigella’s Victoria Sponge mixture, then some creme anglais to place between the two sponges, and finally some chocolate ganache to top it.

The resulting cake is amazing – light sponge, sweet custard and a thick chocolatey topping. Very rich and very filling, and it vanished within minutes when I took it to work!

Chocolate and Walnut Layer Cake

This week’s bake comes from a book we don’t use very often, Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. It’s described as a chocoholic’s dream, and it certainly is… but it was a pain to make.

The cake is made first and isn’t too complicated, but after it’s baked you then need to leave it to cool before slicing into three layers. Mine could have done with rising a bit more which made the slicing a bit precarious.

You then make the icing and use it to ‘glue’ the layers back together before topping with some more icing. Given that I was making a stew and cobbler topping at the same time (see previous post!) I’d had enough at this point and so I skipped the final steps of grating chocolate over and dusting with icing sugar.

End result is very nice, but very very rich. We actually nearly made ourselves sick by cutting thick slices and then trying to finish them – the brandy in the icing doesn’t help!