Leiths: Raisin Bran Muffins

   Another recipe from my Baking workshop at Leiths, these raisin bran muffins are really 100 times better than they sound. Imagine an Elvenses bar, but better and so quick and easy to make. This recipe can also be found in Leiths Baking Bible. I'll be baking more of these pretty soon, such an easy breakfast to grab on the go!

Makes 12

     200ml semi-skimmed milk
     115g butter, softened
     100g All-Bran cereal
     115g golden caster sugar
     2 eggs, beaten
     170g self raising flour, sifted
     1 teaspoon baking powder
     Half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
     Half teaspoon ground cinnamon
     140g raisins
     Honey and oats for decoration
  • Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases.
  • Warm the milk and butter in a saucepan on a low heat until the butter has melted.
  • Place the cereal and sugar in a bowl, stir in the butter and milk.
  • Allow to cool to lukewarm before adding the eggs.
  • Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and raisins. Try to incorporate the mix well without stirring more than 20 times - other wise the muffins will become tough.
  • Divide between the paper cases and bake for 25-30 minutes. 
  • Cool on a wire rack before glazing with honey and adding a sprinkle of oats.
See my other post from this workshop for a raspberry sponge with elderflower mascarpone recipe.

Leiths: Raspberry Sponge with Elderflower and Mascarpone Cream

   Today I attended the 'Cakes and Baking Workshop' at Leiths School of Food and Wine. The workshop was a Christmas present that I've been looking forward to, so much so I enrolled myself on the 8-week writing course and have been spending my Thursday evenings since January learning from Lulu Grimes.

   The morning started with coffee and pastries whilst waiting for everyone to assemble in their aprons. I chose a spot to watch the ensuing demonstration where I could defrost my icicle fingers on the gas stove. Our teacher, Andrea, demonstrated two recipes; sticky gingerbread and mini pistachio loaf cakes. The loaf cakes were drizzled with a lemon syrup and decorated with a sprinkle of crushed pistachios and were my favourite of the day...I shall post the recipe when I have tried these out for myself.
   Next up was a raspberry sponge cake with elderflower and mascarpone cream. This time we were let loose on our own workstations with the ingredients and tools pre-weighed and organised for us. This is the kind of baking I could get used to - ingredients measured, trays greased and lined, surfaces wiped, washing up done.

Raspberry cake:

     110g softened butter
     110g caster sugar
     1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
     2 eggs
     110g self raising flour
     70g raspberries

  • Line two 15cm sandwich tins and brush the sides with oil.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla seeds and mix.
  • In a separate bowl beat the eggs. Add a spoon at a time to the butter mix and beat well after each addition.
  • Sift the flour into the bowl and add the raspberries. Make sure to toss the raspberries in the flour before folding - this ensures that they won't sink to the bottom whilst baking.
  • Gently fold with a metal spoon.
  • Divide between the sandwich tins and bake for 25 minutes. 
Elderflower cream:

     200g mascarpone
     60ml double cream
     1 1/2 teaspon elderflower cordial
     90g icing sugar

  • Beat together the ingredients until the cream holds a soft peak.
Sandwich the two cakes between cream and decorate with fresh raspberries.

Next we made raisin bran muffins...I'll try these for breakfast in the morning and report back with the recipe!

Coconut Marshmallows

     For some time now I have toyed with the idea of making my own marshmallows. I'll be honest, recipes like these scare me. Marshmallows, caramel...anything with hot molten sugar. The idea of hovering over a sugar thermometer makes me so anxious.

     But since I'm a little bit in love with Bea's of Bloomsbury and would like to master everything that they serve, I decided to be brave. And, it worked. Although I think it may have been a little more beginners luck than anything else.

     I used a recipe from Annalise's blog, the measurements are in both American cups and grams etc. After spending what felt like forever reading various recipes and watching YouTube videos, I decided that this one seemed to be the most straightforward.
Makes 30-40 marshmallows (depending on the size you cut them).

     1 cup desiccated coconut
     1 cup (8 fluid ounces) cold water
     25g gelatin
     460g granulated sugar
     1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) golden syrup
     1/4 teaspoon salt
     2 large egg whites
     1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
     1 teaspoon coconut extract (I couldn't find any so just used more vanilla)
It really is important to have everything measured out before you start as there's some parts of the recipe that are time critical. Also, use a whisk attachment on a stand mixer.

  • Grease the sides of a 9x13 inch baking dish and dust with coconut.
  • Add half the water and all of the gelatin into the mixer and leave to soften.
  • Combine sugar, golden syrup, the remaining water and salt over a low heat.
  • When the sugar has fully dissolved increase the heat to medium and bring to boil.
  • Continue to cook the sugar mix without stirring until a sugar thermometer reads 240 degrees F (around 115 deegres C).
  • Poor the melted sugar mix over the gelatin in the mixer as soon as it reaches this temperature. Stir until the gelatin is dissolved.
  • Beat on a high speed until the mix has turned from a light caramel colour to white and has tripled in volume. Approximately 6 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until they just about hold a stiff peak. Add the eggs and vanilla/coconut extract until well combined.
  • Pour the marshmallow into the prepared dish and sprinkle with more coconut. Leave to set for at least 3 hours, I left mine overnight.
  • To get the marshmallow out the dish, you may need to do a little poking with a palette knife but it does come out fairly easily.
  • Slice into small cubes and toss in more coconut as the sliced edges will be a little sticky.

Will last up to a week in an airtight container.

I'm excited to try some different flavours now!

Balthazar Boulangerie, Russel St.

Balthazar's Russel Street window display.
       Late last year a friend and I flew out to New York with a list of sight seeing to fill 7 days. By sight seeing I mean Sprinkle's cupcake ATM, Dylan's Candy Bar, Bosie Tea Parlour.....get the gist? At the top of this list was Balthazar's Boulangerie. I'd heard great things about their macarons and was so excited to finally try them out for myself.

     Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy hit during our first few days in the City and those 7 days were the most surreal I've ever encountered. Our days were spent walking around for hours on end in the wind and rain observing the aftermath. I would feel bad if I said Hurricane Sandy ruined our holiday, so many lost their lives, homes and were subjected to complete devastation, we were fortunate enough to have been staying within the evacuation zone and were completely safe the whole time.

     As you can imagine, when I first heard that Balthazar was to open in London I was excited that I'd finally be able to get my sweet tooth around one of their macarons. And that's exactly what I did today. So thank you Mr. McNally for sending your sweet treats across the Atlantic for us to enjoy, you did not disappoint!
Balthazar's Russel Street bread and lunch selection.
     Unlike all the rumours I've heard, I didn't have to queue and was served immediately by a very helpful member of staff. Two different breads were recommended to me; a rosemary salted focaccia and a potato-onion roll. 
Potato-Onion Roll.
Rosemary Focaccia. 
     Both entirely different but equally as good. I tried a small hunk of each, before photographing and can safely say that the focaccia with a little bit of balsamic oil is the perfect flavour combination. The roll has a hint of caramelised onions and baked potato but however good it tastes, I'm not sure what to eat with it. Any suggestions?
     And finally on to my favourite part...the macaron. I would like to think of myself as a macaron connoisseur (I did take three trips to Paris in 2012 alone) so what I am about to say is based on my professional macaron munching opinion:
      This is the best macaron you will ever eat. I challenge anyone to prove otherwise!
     Similar to Pierre Hermé's Ispahan, this macaron au framboise sandwiches fresh lemon cream with white chocolate, fresh raspberries and a secret raspberry centre. Heavenly.
     The Restaurant and Boulangerie can be found peeping out of Russel Street on the corner of Wellington Street. I just hope that the wholesale boulangerie in Waterloo arches is open to the public soon, then I can stop by on my route to work.

And here's some pictures from NYC!
Square Meal

Vanilla Coffee Syrup

     I love coffee syrup. I love it so much I carry mini jam jars with decanted syrup in to work. No coffee is the same without a splash of ginger, vanilla or caramel.

     This jam jar carrying obsession is encouraged by my work friend, Deena! During the Olympics we worked on the same team and were known for our decanting antics, passing jars around the office in order to get our fix.

     I'm a silly Soph, I never realised exactly how much sugar/additives/preservatives are in shop-bought coffee syrups. After finding this simple recipe on Elsie & Emma's site I have vowed to always make my own. I don't know why but I thought it'd be a lot more time consuming to make my own than it really is. This method only takes 2 minutes and tastes exactly like the real deal.
Vanilla syrup:
     225g granulated sugar
     250ml water
     1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the water and sugar over a low heat, until the sugar has dissolved fully. 

Add the vanilla extract and stir.

Decant into any bottle/jar/dispenser you fancy. 

     I got a glass bottle with a secure lid from TK Maxx for £2. Empty jam jars could also work. Just make sure you work out how much syrup your jar/bottle/dispenser can hold. This recipe makes just less than 500ml, so double for a bigger bottle etc. 

     Yes, there's loads of sugar in this, but at least you know what exactly you're getting. Next time I'm going to try a sugar alternative like Stevia. I may even get a little adventurous and try making a caramel one.


Valentine Custard Creams

      Custard creams are my absolute favourite classic biscuit so I thought it was about time I attempted to bake my very own. I found the recipe for these on Edd Kimber's blog and gave them a little Sophie twist...hearts and pink biscuit dough!

Custard creams:
     225g plain flour
     50g custard powder
     30g icing sugar
     175g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
     1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
     1 teaspoon pink food colouring

Custard filling:
     50g unsalted butter, room temperature
     200g icing sugar
     2 tablespoons custard powder

Makes 16 - 20 biscuits.

Pulse the flour, custard powder and icing sugar in a mixer until well combined.

Add in the butter, food colouring and vanilla extract and continue to pulse until the mixture begins to come together. (At this stage my biscuit dough looked more like breadcrumbs, so I took the dough out of the mixer and kneaded).

Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge until firm.

Roll out the dough on a well floured surface and roll to a thickness of 3-4mm.

Cut the biscuits with a small round cutter and place on a lined baking tray. I halved the biscuits between two baking trays. One with plain round biscuits and the other with a heart shaped centre cut out.

Chill for a further 15 minutes.

Whilst the biscuits are chilling, preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden. Its quite important to keep an eye on the biscuits, I found that the tray with heart centres was done by 8 minutes so took that one out early.

Place on a wire rack to cool.

To make the custard filling, beat the butter in a bowl until light and creamy. Approximately 5 minutes.

Slowly incorporate the icing sugar and custard powder and continue to beat until smooth. 

I found the custard filling to be quite firm so used a teaspoon to sandwich the two biscuits together.

     The dough is quite short so the biscuits have a shortbread type of texture. I think I'd change the recipe slightly so that they're more crisp than crumbly. I'm not sure if adding a little more butter would work?

Hummingbird Blueberry Bundt

     In my university days, this was my most successful bake...I put a lot of time into the kitchen to avoid writing about Fourier Transforms. Surprisingly...nearly two years on...I couldn't tell you now exactly what an FT is, but, I can bake and I did learn that the sour cream in this makes for a really moist bake. Handy.

     This cake is an ode to these days in my wee little flat, and the beautiful cake stand I once had for this cake to perch upon (it got smashed by some new, not so nice, flat cohabitants).

     I didn't make the frosting in those days as I thought the blueberry studded top looked so impressive on its own. (The blueberries sink to the bottom of the cake mix whilst basking in the oven...when you up turn the bundt the top is studded with blueberry jewels). However, this time I decided to go all out with frosting and to add a little twist...

     After buying The Flavour Thesaurus I've been thinking a lot about flavour pairings. I was trawling the internet, magazines and books for the perfect blueberry recipe before finally realising I had it all along. With a few tweaks to the Hummingbird  Bakery's blueberry cake, this time I now have frosting and zesty lemons!
Blueberry cake:

     350g unsalted butter, room temperature
     350g caster sugar
     6 eggs
     1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     450g plain flour
     2 tablespoons & 2 teaspoons baking powder
     280ml sour cream
     250g fresh blueberries & extra to decorate

Cream cheese frosting:

     600g icing sugar, sifted
     100g unsalted butter, room temperature
     250g cream cheese, cold
     Juice of half a lemon
     Zest of half a lemon, for sprinkling on top

25cm bundt tin, dusted with flour.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs to the mix one at a time, ensuring each addition is well combined.

Beat in the vanilla, flour and baking powder.

Add the sour cream and mix well before gently folding in the blueberries.

Pour the mixture into the prepared bundt tin and smooth the top with a palette knife.

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden the sponge bounces back when you give it a little prod.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Whilst the cake is cooling, beat the icing sugar and butter in a mixer on a medium speed until well combined.

Add the cream cheese and lemon juice and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Approximately 5 minutes...be careful not to over beat.

Once fully cooled, cover the top and sides with frosting. Add some fresh blueberries, lemon zest and a dusting of icing sugar to serve.

A few handy tips -

  • make sure you prepare the bundt tin with plenty of flour to make it easier to release after baking
  • don't worry if disaster strikes and the cake doesn't come out in one piece...the frosting makes for perfect cake cement, no one will know any different!

And here are my original flat friends...hello to you both!xx