Monday, 20 October 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash, Apple and Pecan Bundt Cake with a Maple Cinnamon Glaze

Do you have a regular veg box? What do you think of them? Wholegood have been supplying organic fruit and vegetables since 2007 and they are now selling their veg boxes on Ocado. I've toyed with the idea of getting a regular subscription so this was quite timely as it gave me a chance to try it out. I was sent a mixed box of fruit and vegetables to review. Unfortunately the driver placed the box upside down so some of the fruit was squashed but most of them survived. There was a good selection and we cooked most of it during the week. The vegetables were fresh and delicious but they don't keep for long. Personally I think this is a great idea as you have a basis for menu planning which has an element of spontaneity to it. We worked out what to cook based on the ingredients in the box. It's also good value for money considering the cost of organic fruit and veg plus it's delivered to your door. 

The selection varies week on week depending on what's in season. With this box, we cooked chicken, cheese and leek bake, stir fry cabbage with bacon, steamed carrots, boiled potatoes, roasted mushroom and tomatoes (to accompany a home cooked full English breakfast), roasted sweetcorn and used the fruit for lunch boxes. I also made this amazing cake with the butternut squash and apples. 

I used my favourite carrot cake recipe as a base for this cake. I debated about making squash puree or chunks of squash and in the end decided to roast the butternut squash with some brown sugar so that it caramelised to add extra flavour and texture. I also added in chopped apples and roasted, chopped pecan nuts. This autumnal cake needed spice so I threw in some cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice. The icing on the cake (literally) was the maple cinnamon glaze. It worked beautifully with the cake and really enhanced the flavours of the cake. This is a cake that's best eaten the day after. It was even better 2 days later as the flavours developed. It's a very moist cake with lots of different textures and flavour. I was pleased that you could still see chunks of apple and squash in the cake. 

I'm entering this to Tea Time Treats hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and co hosted by Jane from the Hedgecombers. The theme this month is cooking and baking with vegetables. 

I'm also entering this to the Rix Aga Inspired Recipe Competition where the theme is apples.

It's also perfect for Simple and in Season hosted by Ren from RenBehan as apples and squash are in season.

An original recipe by bakingaddict

Makes 1 large bundt cake
For the cake
1 small squash + 2 tablespoons brown sugar for roasting
3 small apples, peeled, cored and chopped
200mls olive oil
190g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
300g wholemeal flour
1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
2.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1.5 teaspoons miced spice
0.5 teaspoon ground nutmeg
150g pecans, toasted and roughly chopped

For the maple cinnamon glaze
250g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
15g butter
60mls maple syrup
2 - 4 tablespoons milk

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. 
  • Peel the squash and cut into small cubes.
  • Place on to a baking tray and sprinkle with brown sugar.
  • Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes or until soft.
  • In the meantime, prepare the cake batter - In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Add in the eggs and olive oil and mix. 
  • Stir in the chopped apples followed by the pecans and finally the roasted butternut squash.
  • Pour the batter into a bundt tin and bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  • Allow to cool completely before turning out.
  • Make the glaze by placing the icing sugar, ground cinnamon, butter and maple syrup in a mixer and mix on low to medium speed.
  • Slowly add the milk one tablespoon at a time until it's smooth and has the consistency you require. You may need to add more icing sugar if it's too thin or more milk if it's too dry.
  • Drizzle the syrup over the cake before serving. 

Disclaimer: I was sent an organic fruit and vegetable box for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own. This is not a sponsored post. 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Italian Espresso Cupcakes with a Hazelnut Centre

This month's AlphaBakes letter is "I" which is a slightly tricky letter. Last time round I made Italian biscotti and I'm afraid I've gone for the same use of I with these Italian espresso cupcakes with a hazelnut centre. The cupcakes are light and you can clearly taste the coffee. My colleague bought me some packs of Giotto from Germany which are very similar to Ferrero Rochers. I put one in the centre of the cupcake which stayed whole and gave a slightly nutty flavour to the cupcakes. I also put one on top for decoration. 

As mentioned I'm entering these to AlphaBakes hosted by Caroline from Caroline Makes this month and by myself on alternate months. The letter this month is I for Italian espresso (brewed in my Italian coffee pot!) 

 Italian coffee and Giotto - hazelnut cream filled balls

 Place one Giotto in the centre before baking 

 Perfect with a cup of coffee 

Makes 12 cupcakes
For the cupcakes
175g unsalted butter
175g light brown sugar
3 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
4 tablespoons Italian espresso brewed in an Italian coffee pot 
12 Giotto (you can use Ferrero Rochers instead)

For the icing
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 - 3 teaspoons Italian espresso
350g icing sugar, sifted

To decorate
12 Giotto
cocoa powder for dusting 

  • Brew a pot of Italian espresso (or use instant espresso) and set aside. 
  • Preheat the oven to 180C. 
  • Place 12 cupcake liners in a cupcake tray.
  • Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. 
  • Add in the coffee.
  • Stir in the flour and mix well.
  • Divide the batter evenly between 12 cupcake cases.
  • Place 1 Giotto ball in the centre of each cupcake - there's no need to cover it as it will sink as the cake bakes.
  • Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  • To make the icing, beat the icing sugar and butter together for a few minutes. 
  • Add in the coffee and continue mixing until smooth. 
  • Pipe the buttercream on top of the cooled cupcake. 
  • Dust with cocoa powder and place a Giotto ball on top.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Banana, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Muffins and a review

A few months ago I was sent a set of 6 Pantry Design Spice Tins by DotComGiftShop to review.  They also sponsored the same set as our September AlphaBakes prize which was won by Linzi from Lancashire Food. It's taken me a while to review this as it was packed away in one of my boxes in preparation for moving house and I've only just finished unpacking all the kitchen and baking stuff. I debated about what recipe to make and settled on spiced cookies or muffins. In the end, I decided to make muffins as I've been on a muffin craze recently. This recipe was inspired by ingredients in my kitchen and my love of peanut butter and chocolate.

The spices added warmth and flavour to the muffins and are perfect for this time of the year. Banana, peanut butter and chocolate go well together and the predominant flavour here was the peanut butter. I love the chopped nuts on top which added more texture and increased the nutty flavour. This makes for a substantial breakfast on the go and will be good for an afternoon snack too.

The spice tins come in 6 different colours. The design is simple yet elegant and they look great in my new kitchen. It's a great gift for yourself or for a baking friend/relative. They also have lots of matching items including a tea coffee sugar set which I have my eye on.

I'm sending this to the No Waste Food Challenge run by Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary and hosted this month by Vohn from Vohn's Vittles as I used up some old bananas for this recipe. I also had half a bag of roasted peanuts which I chopped up and sprinkled on top of the muffins before baking.

It also fits in to the Credit Crunch Munch challenge created by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla from Fab Food 4 All.  This month it is guest hosted by Hannah from A New Addition. This is quite a good recipe for using up old bananas and store cupboard items such as peanut butter. You can use nuts or raisins instead of chocolate chips if you have the end of a bag of one sitting around.

This is my third entry this month to the Biscuit Barrel Challenge hosted by Laura from I'd Much Rather Bake Than... as she has chosen the theme comfort food. I've already sent in two other muffins so I hope Laura will accept a third muffin recipe! They are so comforting to eat and this spiced version is perfect for the current cold and rainy weather.

 set of 6 pantry design spice tins 

 I made a double recipe so it looks like a lot of ingredients! 

 stir in chocolate chips 

 sprinkle with chopped, roasted peanuts 


An original recipe by Ros @bakingaddict
Makes 12 muffins 

250g plain flour
100g caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 ripe bananas, roughly mashed
250mls milk
190g smooth peanut butter 
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g chocolate chips
Chopped, roasted peanuts to sprinkle on top (optional) 

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. 
  • Place 12 muffin cases in a muffin tray.
  • In a small bowl,mix together the flour, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla extract and oil together. Add in the mashed bananas. 
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.
  • Finally stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Divide evenly between the muffin cases.
  • Sprinkle chopped, roasted peanuts on top of each muffin.
  • Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 

Disclaimer: I was sent a set of 6 pantry design spice tins for review purposes. A positive review was not required and all opinions expressed are my own. This is not a sponsored post. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Gentleman's Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum

What does afternoon tea mean to you? To me it feels indulgent as it's usually a treat or a special occasion. I love having afternoon tea in fancy hotels and have been to a fair few in my time although not recently. When I was invited by The Athenaeum to sample their Gentleman's Afternoon Tea I immediately said yes as I'd been there for dinner before and the food was excellent. It is also on my list of afternoon tea places to try in London. They were voted best afternoon tea in London for 2012 by the Tea Guild. 

The Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea is a new take on the traditional afternoon tea, but without a cucumber sandwich or fancy cake in sight. Instead they've given it a manly twist, serving hot food items such as wild boar sausage rolls, miniature steak and ale pie and cave-aged mature cheddar and bacon scones. It also comes with a wee dram of whisky. I can't tell you how excited J was as whisky is his favourite tipple! This menu is currently available until the end of the calendar year but you have to book at least 24 hours in advance. 

We were greeted warmly by the hostess on arrival and as we were early, we sat in the bar to wait for our table. The service then was warm and efficient. We were offered a drinks menu and an explanation of the afternoon tea. When our table was ready, we were shown to large, airy and bright room. There are only 9 tables with a maximum of 38-40 covers. The weekends are especially popular so you do have to book well in advance. The atmosphere is calm and peaceful and you do feel like you are in a corner of your own. 

 view as you walk into the room. Our table was on the left behind the flowers

 comfortable seats with lots of space 

 The table was initially set up for their traditional afternoon tea - you can see the jam and cream in the background. 

 The afternoon tea menu - we had the Gentleman's afternoon tea 

 The tea menu which included a range of black teas, white teas, green teas and fruit teas 

The service was a little slow once we were seated  at our table. The table was set up for a traditional cream tea and the waitress initially brought over sandwiches, scones and little cakes. We explained that we were there for the Gentleman's Afternoon Tea and she apologised and promptly whisked those delicious treats away much to my dismay! They set the table again and brought us our first course. We had a chat with the sommelier about the different types of whisky, how to nose the whisky and why this menu was created as the perfect food pairing for the whisky. 

First course -suet crusted miniature beef steak and British ale pie, homemade seasonal terrine with an orange marmalade, wild boar sausage rolls, Chili cheese straws with a decadent Welsh Rarebit dipping sauce. All served with a wee dram of whisky, The Aberfeldy 12 years old. 

 The steak & ale pie was our favourite of all the dishes. It had a lovely crisp pastry - no soggy bottoms here! It was rich and well cooked and the whisky made the pie taste richer. 

 Second favourite was the homemade seasonal terrine with orange marmalade. It was very well made, well seasoned and the whisky made it taste sweeter. 

 This was my least favourite - it was a good sausage roll and I was not convinced that the whisky enhanced the flavour of the sausage roll. 

 The cheese straws were crispy but the star was the Welsh Rarebit sauce. We had to steal a teaspoon to finish it off as it was so good! It's usually served on toast so it was quite playful serving it as a dipping sauce. 

 The whisky we tasted is the Aberfeldy 12. It's a single malt whisky from the Eastern Highlands of Scotland. I thought it had a vanilla honey smell and it definitely had a sweetness to the flavour along with a hint of spice. 

Second course - Wookey Hole Cave Aged Mature Cheddar and Crispy Bacon Scones. Unfortunately the scone course was a bit of a let down. It looked a little plain served on a large plate and it was a little on the dry side. Mine was stone cold in the middle so I sent it back and we had to wait for the chef to make a fresh batch. The second round was much better as it was warm and tasted fresh but I still felt it lacked in flavour and texture. I think it would have been good if they could have served it with something like bacon jam and cream cheese - a play on the traditional cream and jam. 

Third course - Hot and Sticky Mini Toffee Pudding with Walnuts, Whisky Fruit Cake and Homemade Whisky Chocolate Truffles. It's a good selection to complement the menu and certainly seems more masculine. I am partial to fancy cakes and cream so these did not immediately appeal to me. The sticky toffee pudding needed more sauce and stickiness but it was quite nutty which was nice. The fruit cake was reasonable but you can't really taste the whisky in it. The chocolate truffles were the star - they were smooth and creamy and you got a definite hit of whisky with each bite. I really liked the dark and white one as the flavours were more intense. 

My verdict - We had a lovely afternoon especially as it was raining outside. It's a beautiful venue and I really liked the atmosphere. The service was good to start with but waned about half way through. We had to serve our own tea at one point and waited ages for a refill at another point. However, they were polite and courteous throughout. The menu started off really well and then tailed off but had a good finish with the excellent chocolate truffles. I would recommend it if you want to treat a male relative/friend. It's certainly different to a traditional afternoon tea and I can see this appealing to a lot of males and females! It's the same price as their traditional afternoon tea which I think is more value for your money especially since you get hot food instead of sandwiches. We were divided in our opinions at the end as if given a choice to repeat our experience, I would choose the traditional afternoon tea and J the Gentleman's afternoon tea. Perhaps it's a gender thing! It could also be my love of traditional scones and little cakes :) 

Disclaimer: I was invited with a guest to the Gentleman's Afternoon Tea at The Athenaeum in exchange for a review on my blog. This is not a sponsored post. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own. 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Oreo Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies

This bake is made of all my favourite ingredients - peanut butter, oreos and fudgy brownies. As mentioned in my previous post, one of the first boxes I opened contained my stash of oreo cookies. I also found my giant jar of peanut butter which is how this recipe came about. I used my all time favourite fudgy brownie recipe and added in chopped oreos and a layer of creamy peanut butter. My friend gave me a bag of Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups as a house warming present so I added a few on top. The brownies were absolutely amazing. It's rich, chocolatey and fudgey. You get the crunch from the oreo cookies and the smooth peanut butter layer on top gives it a lovely saltiness which cuts through the sweetness. 

I'm sending this to the Biscuit Barrel Challenge hosted by Laura from I'd Much Rather Bake Than... as she has chosen the theme comfort food. Nothing says comfort like a warm fudgy brownie especially when it's served with cream or ice cream! Perfect for cold, autumn nights.

I'm also sending it to Love Cake hosted by Ness from Jibber Jabber UK. The theme this month is Dark. This recipe uses dark chocolate and it would be perfect for Halloween too.

 add flour and cocoa powder 

 stir in chopped oreos

 before baking  

 fresh from the oven 

 I love how you can still see the peanut butter layer and peanut butter cups

200g butter, chopped into smallish cubes
375g sugar
170g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
165g plain flour
80g cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 pack of Oreo cookies, roughly chopped
150g smooth peanut butter
60ml milk 
Mini peanut butter cups to decorate

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • In a medium sized pan, melt the butter and chocolate.
  • Then whisk in the sugar, salt and vanilla extract. 
  • Continue mixing until you get a smooth mixture then remove from heat and set aside for a few minutes.
  • Whisk in the eggs one at a time and then the flour and cocoa powder until you get a fudgy mixture as shown. 
  • Stir in chopped oreos, 
  • Place the peanut butter in a large bowl and add the milk. Whisk together until smooth - it will take a few minutes and it will look lumpy and wet to start but continue whisking and you will get a nice, smooth mixture.
  • Spread the peanut butter layer on top of the brownies and use a fork to gently swirl it through. 
  • Add in mini peanut butter cups if using. 
  • Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes until the top is crisp and the edges are cooked. 
  • Allow to cool in the pan. 
  • Slice and enjoy!