Chocolate hazelnut custard muffins

You might remember that a couple of weeks ago I posted about my go at making Dan Lepard’s “best chocolate muffin you’ll ever eat” using his chocolate custard muffins recipe. I said then that they were nearly perfect, but I wondered about using a nut-oil to mask what I thought was a slightly oily taste, and to impart a little more flavour. So, this weekend I revisited the recipe and set about making what I hoped would really be the best chocolate muffin you’ll ever eat.

There’s a Swedish shop in north London, called Totally Swedish, which stocks all sorts of wonderful and (to English eyes) strange baking goods from Sweden. When I was there, I bought a packet of what was called Hazelnut Nougat. However, it wasn’t at all like what I’d usually associate with nougat (the white, egg white based sweet studded with nuts). Instead, it was like a solid block of what I can really best describe as nut butter. Sadly I haven’t been able to find the same product on Google, but I did find a German recipe for brownies that used what seemed to be a similar product. Sadly I’ve now misplaced that website and haven’t been able to find it again, but the resulting brownies were delicious, so I thought I’d give the hazelnut nougat a go in this recipe.

Figuring that the nougat was more like butter than chocolate, I altered the quantities from the original so that I used 100g of nougat, 50g of chocolate and 50g of butter. I kept all the other quantities the same, but used hazelnut oil instead of sunflower.

To say these knocked my socks off would be an understatement; they’re fantastic, and they are quite possibly the best baked-good that I’ve turned out. The oily taste from the original has gone, and the hazelnut flavour is subtle but stands out against the chocolate. They’re light textured and moist. There’s really nothing not to like.

I think I can proclaim these to be the best chocolate muffins I’ve ever eaten. They even freeze well. I will be heading back to Totally Swedish to stock up on nougat!

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Brown sugar chocolate cake

I’m a little bit embarrassed to be posting this one. I know that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but not only is this an appalling photo with which to demonstrate one’s labours, but the cake didn’t look that good in the first place! So, something of a double-disaster here:

The cake in question is Dan Lepard’s brown sugar chocolate cake. Dan used to have a very useful step-by-step photographed guide to making this cake on his message boards, but it’s disappeared while he restructures his forums; hopefully it’ll come back in time.

On his forums a number of people said they had problems with the cake peaking, then sinking or collapsing in the middle after baking. He suggested replacing the self-raising flour with plain flour, and keeping the other raising agents the same. I followed this advice, but it still rose and sank after baking, so in the photo above the cake is inverted, which goes some way to hiding the somewhat saggy and wrinkled top.

I used a mix of molasses sugar and soft light brown muscovado sugar, which might account for why my cake came out so dark, and not reddish-brown as the recipe suggests.

Rubbish photo, lighting  and sinking aside, this cake is delicious. It’s light, moist and really chocolatey. It’s a shame that it isn’t more attractive for displaying, but once it’s drenched in the left over condensed milk and served up as a pudding, no-one is any the wiser. It would probably work really well as individual cup cakes as they wouldn’t have to support the same weight of cake, but I’d urge you to give this one a try regardless.

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Peanut chilli bread (mark 2)

A while back, I posted about Dan Lepard’s peanut chilli bread. This weekend I remade the bread, but used all white flour, substituted roasted cashews for the peanuts, and baked it in a loaf tin. Unfortunately the result isn’t a patch on the last attempt.

I managed to leave the dough both too long out of and too long in the oven! I let the dough over-prove, so it sank back once baked (hence the crevice along the centre slash line), and I over-baked it, so it’s come out a bit drier than it ought to be. The flavour isn’t as intense as last time either (although the chillis are certainly hotter!). This time it has paired well with some broccoli and stilton soup.

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Sweet saffron fruit buns

Later this week I’m heading back to Cornwall for a little holiday, and to get me back into the mood I thought I’d make some saffron buns. Saffron used to be grown in Cornwall, but as far as I can tell almost all of it in the shops today comes from Spain, Turkey or Iran, so perhaps these buns aren’t as Cornish as they once were, but I still associate the bright yellow hue saffron gives to bread with Cornish bakeries.

I wasn’t really working to a recipe this time. I steeped some saffron in some boiling milk for a couple of hours, then mixed up a slightly-sweet and enriched white dough using the saffron milk, adding some raisins and mixed peel towards the end of the kneading. I shaped the dough into 100g buns, brushed some milk over the top and sprinkled with some pearl sugar. They had about 15 minutes in the oven.

Unfortunately, my saffron was showing its age, and despite using quite a few strands, the bread is only slightly yellow and the saffron taste is barely noticeable. As with almost everything I bake, they’ve gone very dark on top, and interestingly the pearl sugar melted, which I’ve never had happen before. Next time I’ll remember in advance to soak the dried fruit in water/juice as well.

They’re very nice toasted with some butter (what isn’t?), but there’s certainly room for improvement with these.

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Buttermilk baps

Dan Lepard’s recipe for buttermilk baps has become my default bread recipe. I’ve made some changes to the original, tripling the amount of wholemeal flour and reducing the white flour accordingly, slightly reducing the butter, and I almost always use yoghurt let down with water. Normally I double up the recipe, and come away with 12-14 baps, each around 140g before they’re cooked. Last week I pulled out the recipe again to use up some rye flour I had lingering. I didn’t have enough for my usual white:wholemeal ratio, so simply used more white flour:

They’re whiter than they usually are, but they’ve still got that lovely soft, buttery, milky texture that has made this recipe my staple. I shall be looking forward to my sandwiches throughout the week!

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Pirate ship pound cake

Coming from Penzance, it was only natural that a party to celebrate the ending of my exams would be pirate themed. We had about 15 people over for the evening, which provided a great opportunity for preparing a buffet of pirate-themed food, the centre-piece of which was a pound cake shaped as a pirate ship:

I don’t usually go in for cake decorating, but I’m very pleased with how this turned out. The basic pound cake recipe came from here. I made the full amount and it made enough to fill my 2lb loaf tin (which I think is a bit bigger than standard 2lb loaf tins) and to make 12 cupcakes. I then sliced a block out of the middle of the cake, and placed it on the back to create the poop deck. I then sculpted the rest of the cake to make it into a cake shape. The chocolate frosting came from here, although I needed to add more double cream to get it to the right consistency. The railings and steps were chocolate fingers, and the rum barrels were rolos placed quickly on a hot tray to melt then stuck together. The masts were Mikado hazelnut sticks, and the sails were crackers that were baked in the inside of egg-rings to make the right shape. The beach was made off cake offcuts, and the sea was some royal icing coloured with blue colouring. The figurehead was a Cadbury’s caramel bunny. It was a lot of cake, but it was good.

My flatmate made some rum and raisin cupcakes using this recipe, but omitted the butter cream frosting in favour of the rum and raising purée from here. Some got covered in a simple rum and icing sugar icing, with chocolate raisins on top. We also made some caramel cashew popcorn pieces of eight, which were fantastic.

On the savoury side of things, we had meatballs, falafel, crackers, cheese, bread shots from Richard Bertinet’s Dough, chicken legs and thighs, and Cornish pasties:

As Saturday was such a lovely, and hot, day we decided to make some lemonade too, which went down very well. Although, using that recipe we ended up using 6 lemons and only 100g of sugar, so if made to the recipe I’d imagine it would be very sweet.

As ever, we massively over-catered, and will be living off pirate food for several days yet. I can think of worse fates.

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Cinnamon buns

I saw this recipe for cinnamon buns on the Guardian’s website, and immediately added them to my to-bake list. Today I got around to actually baking them.

The dough rose spectacularly in the bowl while rising, doubling in size in about 40 minutes. I added about 80g of raisins to the dough to make them a little more like Chelsea buns (if I’m honest, I thought the recipe included raisins and was surprised when I saw that it didn’t). I used a mix of soft-brown and molasses sugar to mimic the soft-dark-brown sugar called for as that’s what I had. My flatmate will enjoy the left over Ryvita slices.

My rolled up log made 12 buns, so I put 9 into a 25cm square tin, and the remaining three into the bottom of a 2lb loaf tin. After brushing them with the egg wash I sprinkled over some pearl sugar, and popped them in the oven at 200C (fan assisted). After about 5 minutes I thought they were browning too quickly, so I turned off the fan. After another 5 minutes they were already the colour above, so I covered them with foil, turned down to 180C and gave them another 10 minutes before taking them out. I’ve tested my oven’s temperature, and it doesn’t run hot, but I wonder if the top elements are just too strong? A lot of stuff I make tends to brown/burn quickly.

The 3 buns I put in the loaf tin were the runts of the litter, but they were good for testing without spoiling the photo! The crumb is lovely and soft, and they’ve risen very well. The cardamom flavour (I used seeds from three pods) is certainly the strongest, but it’s still subtle, and there’s a background hint of lemon. I wouldn’t know they had cinnamon in though. To my mind they’re a little bland; I’m glad I put in the raisins but some more spices wouldn’t have gone amiss. Perhaps I’m trying to turn these into sticky Chelsea buns, which they’re not. You could certainly eat a few of these in one go without feeling ill, unlike a Chelsea bun.

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