RSS Feed

October, 2016

  1. Toffee Apples – an Autumn treat

    October 27, 2016 by sarah

    Apples, Autumn, Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Bonfire night. Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, this recipe will make your get together complete. You can even kid yourself that they are vaguely good for you (they are based on apples after all!). The deliciously caramel tones of the toffee as it crunches in your mouth against the sharp-but-sweet juice of the apple underneath is a perfect combination. Just be careful if you have fillings!

    Once these are made, you need to eat them ideally within 24 hours otherwise the apples start to become soft. You can wrap then in parchment or cellophane but the apples still go soggy. I used twigs from my apple tree for the sticks (they are non-toxic) but feel free to use lollipop sticks or even spare forks to spear your apples. Sometimes these are coloured with food colouring but I prefer the natural touch though gothic black with rosie pink apples peaking out might well fit a Halloween party! To make them a little grown up, how about sprinkling them with sea salt flakes before the toffee hardens?

    toffee apples-4 toffee apples-5

    Toffee Apples


    12 small apples (kids lunch box size or Coxes but I prefer crunchier apples than Coxes)
    400g sugar – granulated or caster, entirely white or some soft brown/un
    1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
    4 tablespoons golden syrup

    Firstly you need to prepare the apples to get rid of the wax that coats them as otherwise the toffee will not stick. I did this by putting the apples in a colander in the sink and pouring over boiling water from the kettle then I dried the apples and gave them a good rub to remove all traces of wax.

    Stick firm sticks (I used apple sticks) into the stalk end of the apple – make sure these are firm as these are your handles. Set the apples on a baking tray covered in baking parchment.

    Place the sugar with 100ml water in a large heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and use a dampened pastry brush to brush down any sugar clinging to the sides. Once all the sugar is dissolved, stir in the vinegar and syrup.

    Now turn up the heat and DO NOT stir. Use a sugar thermometer and check that 150°C (hard crack) is reached.

    Remove the toffee from the heat and carefully swirl the apples in it so they are completely covered, allowing extra to drip back into the pan before sitting the apples on the prepared tray. Repeat with all the apples; if the toffee is getting too thick then carefully heat again until it loosens in texture. Be very careful as the toffee is very hot and will give you a nasty burn if it touches you – if you are a little worried then fill the sink with cold water before doing this.

    toffee apples-2 toffee apples

  2. The Chocolate Show, London

    October 17, 2016 by sarah

    Yesterday, I answered that long-standing question – can you ever eat too much chocolate? I can now confirm the answer – yes! We went into London to The Chocolate Show, being held at Olympia. I originally found out about this show through the International Chocolate Awards, which were holding their ceremony at the show (but I missed it as it was on Friday when I could not attend). I could not believe there was so much high quality chocolate on one site! I spied lots of famous chocolatiers, including Paul A Young. We tried his chocolate afternoon tea at the show, which I have to say was the biggest disappointment (soggy bread, dense scones, dulche de leche instead of made caramel sauce, crystallised ganache). We signed up to a monthly chocolate subscription service so we can continue to eat good chocolate all year and I brought home a huge bag of chocolates and bars to try. It was also very inspirational in regards my amateur attempts at chocolate making – yuzu is the in thing, along with bean-to-bar producers.

  3. Apple & Cinnamon Kugelhopf

    October 13, 2016 by sarah

    Now the days are really turning Autumnal; it is chilly at night and dark when I get up in the morning. But it is time to stop reminiscing of picnics and barbecues and late evening walks in the sun, and embrace the change of the seasons. The cool days, the wet days, the sitting by the fire, the fire coloured leaves that suddenly drop in a storm, the comforting puddings, vin chaud and cake. And so this has to be the perfect season for this recipe. Using the last of the British apples fresh from the tree and combining them in a spiced dense yeasted cake. This is not a fluffy and light as air sponge, this cake has some heft and needs a walk to digest it but it is not rich or cream leaden. I particularly enjoyed it re-warmed with yogurt for breakfast.


























    This recipe calls for a bundt tin but you can use a large loaf tin instead. Because of the butter and eggs in this dough, it is slow to rise. If making an enriched dough like this on a chilly day I definitely use my ‘lizard mat’, an electric warming mat sold for use under reptile houses. You can pick them up cheaply online and they just give the dough an extra boost in rising. I don’t have a proving draw like the contestants on Great British Bake Off!


    Apple & Cinnamon Kugelhopf

    60g unsalted butter, softened, for greasing
    60g ground almonds, for dusting

    200ml full-fat milk
    85g caster sugar
    85g unsalted butter, very soft
    200g plain flour
    200g white bread flour
    3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon fine sea salt
    lemon zest, 1-2
    12g fast-action yeast (1 and 1/2 sachets)
    3 medium free-range eggs
    2 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced (about 220g)
    75g sultanas soaked in booze for 24 hours

    Thoroughly grease the bundt tin with the soft butter and dust with the 60g ground almonds; tip out the excess.

    Warm the milk with 25ml water.

    Cream together (by hand, hand mixer or stand mixer) the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add the flours, cinnamon, salt, lemon zest and instant yeast. Add the warm milk/water and the eggs. Slowly beat together until comes together then beat on medium for 5-10 minutes until the dough is sticky and stretchy. Fold in the diced apples and sultanas.

    Transfer the dough to the prepared tin, cover with greased clingfilm or shower cap and leave somewhere warm (like on the lizard mat) for 1-2 hours until it is doubled and nearly reaching the top of the tin.

    Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan with a rack in the middle of the oven.

    When the oven is up to temperature, bake the kugelhopf for 35-40 minutes, starting to check after 30 minutes. It is done when a skewer comes out clean and the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the tin. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out to cool fully. Decorate with sliced almonds.


  4. Sticky gingerbread

    October 2, 2016 by sarah

    Autumn is definitely here: the nights are drawing in such that I squeeze in some outdoor activity after coming home from work; the evenings are becoming cool enough to think about lighting a fire or turning on the heating; the leaves are yellowing and starting to drop; the apple harvest has started with three demi-johns of cider bubbling away. It makes me glad that I live somewhere the seasons are defined and changing. Sticky gingerbread is a cake that reminds me of autumn; the dark colour contrasting with the snow white icing and the spiciness that is surprising yet moreish. Go on, welcome in the autumn and make my sticky gingerbread!

























    This recipe is an amalgamation of several recipes as I have tried countless times over the years and none where quite right, until this one.

    Sticky gingerbread

    150g unsalted butter
    150g dark muscovado sugar
    175g golden syrup
    175g black treacle
    thumb size knob of fresh ginger, finely grated
    2 teaspoons ground ginger
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    250ml milk
    3 medium eggs
    2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    300g plain flour

    For the icing
    200g icing sugar
    2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

    Line a roasting tin of about 30x20cm with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan.

    In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar, golden syrup and treacle until combined but do not boil. In a jug beat the eggs into the milk. In a large bowl sift the flour with the dry spices and in a small bowl dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a couple of tablespoons of warm water.

    Pour the liquid ingredients (melted butter/sugar pan, milk/egg jug and dissolved bicarb) over the flour and beat until well mixed; it will make a very wet batter. I normally need to use a whisk to beat out the lumps of flour. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and place in the preheated oven; bake for 30-45 minutes until risen and a squewer comes out clean but the cake is still sticky and moist. Do NOT over bake. Allow to cool completely in the tin.

    Prepare the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and whisking in the lemon juice until a very thick icing forms. Pour this over the gingerbread and encourage it to spread out to cover the top with a palette knife.

    This cake keeps for up to a week in a sealed container.