Monday, May 27, 2013

A twist on the cinnamon twist bread

I've seen a few people doing the cinnamon twist breads and I love how this simple technique can reveal such a beautiful and intricate pattern. However if I merely mimicked what others did exactly then what would be the purpose of blogging it, therefore I have decided to change it slightly and make it into a sticky bun style twist bread.

I made this bread for a special breakfast with the bf and it went down very well. I'm sure I have mentioned before that my bf is very honest with his criticism, if he doesn't like something he will say so. However while eating this he repeatedly mentioned how much he likes it and then suggested that we could get more ingredients and make it again - so a positive outcome!

In terms of nuts here I used almonds, but that choice was entirely influenced by availability! THis recipe would work just as well if not better with hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts (perhaps even a combination: it's a free-for-all). Another slight variation that I think would be delicious, but the bf wouldn't like it, would be dried apple pieces!

I've used the same cheat here that I used in the cinnamon rolls previously of using pre-made dough, I know very bold, but it makes it so much more accessible, so try!! ;)

Twisted sticky bread  

2 pieces of dough rolled out to 1/4 inch thickness
3 tbsp Butter
1 agave nectar/honey
2 tsp brown sugar
1tsp vanilla granulated sugar
50g of roasted chopped almonds
2 tbsp sultanas/raisins
1tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
1tbsp Butter
1tsp brown sugar
1tsp cinnamon

Lay your dough pieces side by side. Melt together the butter,honey and sugar and mix thoroughly. Add in the nuts, spices, salt and sultanas. Take half of this mixture and spread it on the first piece of dough. Spread as much as possible but you don't need to cover every inch. Place the second piece of dough on top of the first, push it down so you can see where the bigger lumps of nuts are. Now spread out the rest of the mixture, making sure to concentrate the mixture into the areas that have less mixture underneath. Now melt the last bit of butter,sugar and cinnamon together and pour this over the top layer and spread it around. Now you want to roll the dough length-ways and then using a very sharp knife cut the roll in half lengthways. Now comes the messy and more difficult part, turn the halves so that the cut side is up and slightly separate the dough . Now put the ends of the sections together on the baking sheet and the twist them around each other, this will be messy and I think it takes a bit of practice to get the perfect twist (something I didn't quite achieve this time).

See what I mean?! It looks like a complete mess and I over twisted one section but do not fret if yours looks messy like this because the baking process is very forgiving.

See how much better it looks!!
The picture makes it look very hard and crispy and the outside of the bread does become very crispy, probably because the butter and sugar spills over somewhat but the dough on the inside is so soft and delicious.

There is the most delicious contrast between the soft dough, the gooey sugar and the crispy bits of crust and nuts. It works so well, in fact, that my bf actually commented specifically on the contrasting textures, which is not how he usually talks about food at all!!So I would definitely recommend trying this, it is beautiful enough to warrant presenting at any fancy breakfast, tea-party or as a dessert. Enjoy =)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Jazzing up the ordinary

There is a lot going on for me at the moment, hence the late post! As many bloggers can probably attest to, when the amount of other things that demand attention build up, the desire to bake builds with them, but the time and focus required is not in such plentiful supply. This last week was my birthday and as I always bake my birthday cake it was fitting that I prepare something. Thing is, I couldn't seem to think of a single cake idea; my head is choc full of various counselling theories, abstacts from a hundred different papers, as well as hundreds of laws and legislation relating to working with vulnerable people and mental health and all sorts. So I asked my brother what kind of cake I should make. He responded in the same way that he ALWAYS responds; within a split second 'Victoria Sponge.' It's his favourite cake, he honestly has it for any situation where there needs to be cake!

I shouldn't have been surprised but I honestly don't fully understand it because this is a guy with incredible taste in food. He cooks the most delicious dinners and the sandwiches that he puts together deserve their own food network show! That might seem dismissive of victoria sponge and it's not meant to be. I like victoria sponge, it's a nice cake but it is a boringly simple cake imao!

However it worked nicely as an idea because it's a simple cake to make and when time is limited; the simpler, the better! However, I wouldn't be me if I didn't try to jazz it up a bit, which he said that he expected also.

So simple steps to jazz up the Victoria sponge. The cake is perfect, for the tiniest adjustment I replaced 1 egg with 2 egg yolks just to make a slightly more tender cake. The real changes came in the strawberry jam filling and the cream.

Instead of a strawberry jam I sliced 2 punnets of strawberries very finely and then sprinkled 1-2 tsp of balsamic vinegar and 1 heaped tablespoon of caster sugar, I mixed thoroughly and let it to sit for 20 minutes.

For the cream I made added 1 tbsp of icing sugar and 2/3 tsp of vanilla bean paste before whipping and then whipped up until it formed peaks.

To assemble in a fun way I laid down the first layer of cake then made a small circle of cream in the centre and surrounded this with the strawberries. I layered on the second circle of cake and then made a small circle of strawberries and piped the cream in circles around this before dusting with icing sugar.

Unfortunately since time was very limited I had to do all of this in my parents house minutes before serving and without my proper camera or baking utensils so you will have to excuse the picture quality and the poor piping but this is it. Trust me though: the taste was flawless!

In case you were wondering, my brother loved it =)

On a related note, I often discuss some of the lovely things I received from friends and family for my birthday and I am actually writing this blog post on one of those very shiny lovely things. However I wanted to show you another one.

I love tea and particularly one of the various fruit or alternative loose teas that are available these days. However brewing a cup of loose tea can sometimes be messy and cumbersome. A few years back my wonderful mother bought me an amazing brewing item in the states which I stupidly left over there when I came home. I have lamented this fact on a number of occassions while using my mother's one. So this year, probably to shut me up as much as anything, my sister sourced this from the internet.

A couple different brands do this so it's not an ad for ingenuiTea
 I shall demonstrate how easy and beautifully this thing works
Pour your loose tea into the brewer
Pour on your hot water

It swirls around and brews

As this tea brews it turns a nice amber colour

Then just pop your brewer on top of any cup
Et voila, a perfectly brewed cup of tea without any floating bits =)
So thank you to my sister for this wonderful present and I would recommend this type of brewer to anyone that enjoys loose tea. Enjoy =)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Churros for Cinco de Mayo

Yesterday was cinco de mayo, a holiday not usually celebrated in this part of the world but I love it! Mexican food, sombreros, tequila and if you are lucky perhaps a pinata!! Yesterday we went to a wonderful Mexican restaurant (Cortinas) that was celebrating cinco de mayo in style with a south American style BBQ, initially the bf wasn't sold on the idea but once he saw the delicious steak sandwiches covered in delicious spices and served with traditional Mexican sides and stuffed chilis he was happy out! I was hoping for a pinata but no such luck, maybe next year (wink,wink, nudge, nudge), I did get a free t-shirt tho =) After dinner we decided to come home because I wanted to take the opportunity to make one of my favourite Mexican sweets for dessert - Churros!

Churros (Adapted from a recipe by Deborah M. Schneider)

475ml Water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 heaped tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
350g plain flour
1 pinch baking powder
4 eggs
1L sunflower oil (or other vegetable oil suitable for deep frying)

to dredge
50g caster sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Pour your oil into a deep sauce pan and start heating it on a medium heat. Pour your water into another saucepan with the 2 tbsp of vegetable oil, the salt and the sugar and bring to the boil. While this is boiling, sieve together the flour and baking powder. Once the water mixture has boiled remove from the heat and add the flour. Mix thoroughly until you have a smooth paste. Beat the eggs in a seperate bowl and then add them slowly, in 4-5 sections. Mix thoroughly between each additions so that the eggs don't cook with the residual heat. Continue mixing and beating until the mixture is very smooth and thick.

Depending on your humidity you may need to add more flour, if so add it through a sieve and beat very very well so as to incorporate it fully.

At this stage your oil should have reached 350'F. You can check with a thermometre or if none is available go with the Nigella method of throwing in a square of bread and see how it frys, if it starts to turn golden brown then you're golden (get it! No? too annoying, ok...)

Pour your churro mixture into a piping bag with a large star piping head. This particular recipe is quite runny so you may still have to hold your piping bag upside down between piping. Then pipe directly into the hot oil. Obviously this is quite dangerous so exercise extreme caution. I used a knife to cut off the stream of mixture as you can see my bf doing here.


Let them fry until they have reached a deep golden brown and then flip, once both sides as done scoop them out onto some paper towel and let the excess oil drain before dredging them in the sugar and cinnamon mixture, then serve and smile!

So.........that went well......but I'm back with a bang!

At the start of the year I said that I would try to post more regularly and......yeah....that didn't happen =/ Finishing this doctorat...