One of the perks of working in a cafe is all the free cake available. Some of these taste amazing, and some just good; however I’ve learnt that taste isn’t actually as important as the fact that they all look incredible. It has made me have a bit of a think about my bakes, as whilst they often taste good, it can be hard to make them look aesthetically pleasing. For example my salted caramel brownies, which may taste of orgasmic goodness but look as if they had been sat on by a small child. So when asked if I might contribute something to the cafe menu, I soon realised I couldn’t just make my usual cookie recipe as these often come out in all sorts of different exciting shapes, but not the circle one would expect. Whilst pondering how to achieve the balance between chewiness and perfectly-round cookies, we happened to be visited by some chefs from another local independent cafe; one of whom was a pastry chef. Posing my conundrum to her, she gave me a few tips. Melt the butter, replace caster sugar with brown sugar, and use fewer eggs. Warning: the final recipe produces addictive results.
Chocolate Chip cookies 250g melted butter, 220g brown sugar, 75g white sugar, 2 pinches sea salt, 345g flour, 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
- Combine the melted butter and sugar until smooth, add the sea salt. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then stir in the flour.
At this point add either 150g milk chocolate chunks or 150g dark chocolate chunks (perhaps with a bit of orange peel or orange extract) or 100g white chocolate chunks with 50g dried cranberries….whatever combinations you like. Go crazy.
Roll into a log shape, wrap in cling film and chill for a minimum of 1 hour. (This is very important as it helps the cookies keep their shape).
Bake in a preheated oven on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, for 10-12 mins at 180ºC. NB they should be just cooked and still gooey when you take them out as the outside will harden up as they cool; this way they will still be chewy in the middle.
Oatmeal and raisin cookies 250g melted butter, 220g brown sugar, 75g white sugar, 2 pinches sea salt, 125g oats, 220g flour, 3 tsp cinnamon, 100g raisins, 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
Repeat the recipe as above, using the combination of oats and flour rather than just flour.
You may have noticed that recently I have been utterly hopeless about posting in Gullifer Eats. This may or may not be due to the fact that I now have a full time job as cafe manager at Catesbys in Cambridge, (shameless advertising), and also possibly because I was producing an opera… slightly over-stretching myself!
It is only fitting that I chose to celebrate the end of producing this opera with some baking: how else would you expect me to celebrate? As is probably evident from this blog, I always relish a challenge. I have lived up to the challenge set by Stornaway (who as mentioned in previous posts is gluten free). However a second friend has upped the ante by not only being allergic to gluten, but also dairy. You have to be extremely imaginative when it comes to creating both GF and DF food. It seems to me very unfair that most offerings in restaurants and cafés for those who suffer from these allergies are boring and altogether far too healthy for my liking. So I set out to make a cake that still tastes delicious and bad for you, whilst also being GF and DF. In fact the biggest compliment I got from this recipe was from a GF friend, who had clearly been starved of baked goods for too long, and excitedly proclaimed that it tasted ‘just like real cake’.
260g light brown sugar
260ml vegetable oil
Large pinch sea salt
Dash of vanilla extract
260g gluten free self raising flour
500g pack of carrots, grated
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Whisk the eggs, vanilla, salt and sugar together for 3-5mins.
- Add carrots, raisins and spices and mix. Add bicarbonate of soda.
- Mix in the flour.
- Pour into two lined sandwich tins.
- Bake at 180ºC for 30-35mins, or until just set. Be careful not to over-cook, as it will cook a little in the tin as it cools.
- When cool, sandwich the two halves together with icing made mixing 200g icing sugar with 2-4tbsp orange juice.
- Drizzle with more orange icing and/ or icing made with 200g icing sugar, 2-4tbsp water and a few drops of raspberry extract.
It is sadly an altogether too rare delight that my housemates and I manage to be in the house all at the same time of an evening. Despite the fact we have lived together for the past 4 months, we very rarely seem to manage to all be there at the same time. This may have something to do with the fact that I work during the day, Mark Francis works during the evening and Clare Balding works whenever she can/has to. When we do find ourselves in the house together, it is usually either early in the morning standing in our bedroom doorways clad in dressing gowns for a quick 10 min chat, or occasionally at about midnight, when we all traipse in from our various social activities to share the gossip we know about those still at the university. Hence the fact that a dinner together is practically unheard of. When we discovered we all happened not to have prior social commitments on the same evening, that evening became a social occasion in itself. I hit up Aldi, Clare Balding brought the Prosecco and Mark Francis brought… himself. We decided we would make one course each: CB the starter, myself the main and MF the dessert. I feel each course reflected our different cooking styles…
We began with a classic combination of melon, prosciutto, Parmesan, rocket and balsamic. It was delicious. Sometimes just combining good quality ingredients together is all you need to make a really good dish. (Plus look how pretty it is!)
I, of course, went to the other extreme: simplicity was not the aim in my dish. I made lamb neck fillets with a harissa pine nut crust, roasted veg and raisin-studded couscous, a thickened tagine-style sauce, sautéed spinach and a mint raita.
The highlight of the meal was inevitably the pizza, sorry, ‘pudding’. Unfortunately by this point the novelty of cooking had worn off, and we were all more interested in watching Christmas adverts on YouTube and listening to 100 year old recordings of castrati sounding incredibly bad. Mark Francis did his best though, and made beautiful looking (slightly pizza-esque) individual strawberry tarte tatins with grated white chocolate. These managed to be not too sweet and full of luscious strawberry flavour: like a fruit-filled strawberry ice cream. However he was too impatient to actually wait for the tarts to cook… As Mary Berry would say (and I know my housemates are fans) the tarts most definitely had rather soggy bottoms.