BAKE

Sweet Potato Dessert Fries

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I am writing this on my iPhone, sat in a Wetherspoons in Hackney, drinking unlimited coffee and checking property listings. Writing posts recently has been tough because there has been only one thing I have wanted to talk about since I hinted about it earlier this year. I have handed in my notice at the job I have been in since I graduated University to move to London to work for a food stylist!!

It is exhilarating and terrifying all at once! I have wanted to live in London for as long as I can remember and can’t believe it has taken me until 28 to make it a reality. I can’t wait to spend my weekends visiting the galleries I loved whilst I was studying, farmers markets and restaurants, and basically all those amazing things that make London one of the greatest cities in the world!

I have so many exciting ideas about how moving will affect this space. There’s a little note book in my bag that I have been toting around everywhere full of them – side note, has anyone tried bullet journaling? I am completely hooked. The predominant change that will be occurring is that I will be moving away from posting about desserts and focussing more on the savoury. Something I have been veering towards for a little while now. I am still working through the content I prepared before I left my old flat but once I have exhausted that I will explain my vision for the blog in more detail.

One of the things that excites me most about moving to London is being on the doorstep of new food trends. I am an unashamed follower of all things food fashionable. Toast, I’ll take an extra slice. Doughnuts, yes please (but only if they come with a cup of builders tea). One that I have not seen this side of the pond, or anywhere really other than an episode of Dexter, sweet potato dessert fries.

I love pretty much any form of sweet potatoes, but as chips is my absolute favourite. The crisp edges take on a deep caramel flavour whilst the middle becomes sweet and fluffy. I would happily eat a plate of them simply salted but the idea of sweet dipping sauces intrigued me.

Because the fries are naturally very sugary in taste I decided to pair them with sauces that weren’t overly saccharine. The peanut butter, thinned slightly with boiling water provides a salty contrast to the sweet potato, whilst the bitter dark chocolate is softened by the by the sweet chips.

Previously on BAKE

One Year Ago – Sticky Asian Chicken
Two Years Ago – Mini Smarties Cookies

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Sweet Potato Chips
serves 2

1 large sweet potato
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of sugar
peanut butter
50g dark chocolate
1 tbsp flavourless oil

Preheat the oven to 180C and put a pan of water on to boil.

Peel and slice the potato in to fries, you don’t want them to be be too thin as they won’t be fluffy in the middle. I find just under 1cm by 1cm by the length of the potato works well.

Blanch the potatoes for 3 minutes, then drain the water. Pour 1tbsp of oil in the pan, put the lid on and shake to coat the potatoes.

Pour onto a baking tray in a single layer, spacing them out so they don’t touch each other.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the edges are brown and the insides are cooked through. Pour onto a plate and sprinkle with sugar, serve hot.

To make the peanut butter sauce add 1tbsp of boiling water at a time until it reaches thick sauce like consistency. Pour into a dish to serve.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water. When melted add the oil and mix well. Pour into a dish and serve.

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Olive Focaccia

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As I mentioned last week, Sunday was my birthday. I spent the whole weekend with friends and family and ate more than my fair share of cake (so much so I have taken up running again!) and cheese. In fact on Saturday I was invited to have it for lunch and dinner (though we passed on the second serving). Luckily my fantastic new cheese board from Getting Personal arrived just in time (literally within an hour of lunch) so I got to break it out.

gettingpersonal

cheese board and pestle and mortar ℅ Getting Personal

Dan’s gorgeous sister loved the personalised cheese board, and hinted that it would make for a lovely gift for her upcoming nuptials. What she doesn’t realise it that I’ve already seen something on the site and bookmarked it as a present for the big day!

I would love to say that I treated the family to a loaf (can you call it that?) or two of this bread, but in the interest of simplifying my timetable I passed this time. I made the green olives in pesto focaccia to accompany some salmon whilst we were still living in the old flat. I have been eager to get back in the kitchen to remake it but that has yet to happen.

I am almost certain that I have only ever eaten supermarket focaccia before which I found to be pretty uninspiring. I probably wouldn’t have given the loaf two thoughts again until I happened upon the right recipe at the right time. Convenience plays a heavy hand in baking, and this recipe filled my two requirements. It used up the surplus strong white flour I had left before I moved, and its timings fit around me pottering around the house packing.

The recipe, whilst not difficult, is a little on the needy (or kneady – bread pun!) side. It requires you to fold the dough in half three times over the space of two hours. This isn’t a bread to be rushed. The results make it worth the wait, it is fluffy on the inside with a satisfying crunch from the crust. Salty moist olives on the inside make a for delightful contrast both in flavour and texture. I used Waitrose’ olives in pesto from the deli counter, which were amazing, but any type of olives will work in this recipe.

Salt in bread is really important, which I learnt the hard way. I made a batch of breadsticks to accompany some soup a few months back and omitted the salt as I know the soup was more than well seasoned. The bread had the flavour of flour and water paste, and no real taste of it’s own. The olives in this (as well as a generous pinch of salt) helped to firmly restore my faith in my bread making abilities.

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Olive Focaccia
makes one loaf

500g white bread flour
pinch of salt
5g yeast
½ tbsp caster sugar
300ml lukewarm water – I usually use about ¾ tap and top the rest up with water from the kettle then test the temperature
olive oil
100g green olives
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

In a jug mix together the lukewarm water and the yeast, and leave for a minute until slightly foamy.

Mix the flour, salt and sugar together briefly in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.

Add the yeast and water and ‘knead’ in the machine for 5 minutes, this forms a very moist dough.

Using olive oil grease a large bowl liberally, place the dough in it, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes fold the dough in half, cover with the tea towel again and return to the warm place for a further 30 minutes.

Repeat this step another two times.

Preheat the oven to 220C and line a (preferably) deep baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Stretch the dough out over the baking tray, which I found easiest by slightly massaging the dough to spread it out.

Place the olives evenly over one half of the dough and then gently fold the other half over the top to envelope them. This prevents the olives from catching and burning whilst the bread bakes.

Using your fingers create dimples in the dough.

Cover with slightly oiled clingfilm and return to a warm place to prove for a final 20 minutes.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Leave to cool before serving – though I am rarely that patient!

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Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes

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I cannot wait for the weekend (a sentence I utter most week days) but this week more than usual as Sunday is my birthday! I am going to spend the weekend partaking in three of my favourite activities, baking, drinking and shopping.

Before we moved, I quite harshly decluttered my wardrobe. I love not having to wade through mountains of ill fitting/damaged/unfashionable clothes, but it did highlight some areas in which I am seriously lacking. Instead of just heading to the nearest store and buying whatever most catches my eye, I want to shop with a clear classic aesthetic in mind. I am already brimming with ideas of what I want to find!

These cupcakes have been floating round my imagination for a while now. I am a harsh critic of cupcakes. Whilst pretty, the majority I have tried have been a mound of overly sweet icing balancing on a sad sponge. The taste and a texture of which, proves it to be nothing more than an afterthought, a vehicle for frosting. A simple, moist vanilla sponge, topped with a generous layer or rich chocolate icing, but not so much to make it too sickly or overpower the delicate flavour of the vanilla. A scattering of sprinkles would dress up these cupcakes, but personally I prefer something a little more simple, celebrating each ingredient for what it is.

One Year Ago on BAKE
Horchata
Two Years Ago on BAKE
Carrot Cake
Marmalade

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Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 12

125g butter at room temperature
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
125g brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
50ml milk

Preheat the oven to 175C and line the cupcake tin.

Beat all the ingredients together until well blended.

Divide into the cupcake cases and bake in the middle of the oven for 17 minutes until golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool.

Icing:

70g dark chocolate melted and cooled
5tbsp icing sugar
1tbsp sour cream
1tbsp double cream

Mix the chocolate and 2tbsp of icing sugar together.

Add the cream and sour cream and mix thoroughly, this should create a quite liquidy paste.

Add the rest of the icing sugar in tbsp increments until the icing is smooth and holds its shape – I just lifted my beaters out and when it held the whisk marks I stopped adding icing sugar.

Ice cupcakes and enjoy.

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Chocolate and Coconut Rice Krispie Treats

Three weeks in and I still haven’t quite accustomed myself to returning to the little ‘island’ I grew up on. In some ways I feel 15 again, except this time round there are frequent glasses of wine when I walk through the front door (next week when I turn 28 will be quite a shock to the system).

Familiar patterns and routines of school life have started falling into place. Sunday night ironing of ‘uniforms’ after family dinners. Pre 7am flurries of activity to make packed lunches, fill backpacks and get out of the door on time to make the bus/train. Life has become organised and disciplined in a way I can almost guarantee will fall apart as soon as we move out.

Mornings spent on the same bus I took to school have inspired to recreate a mashup of my favourite tuck shop treats. Rice Krispie Squares, which for some reason, probably because they were part breakfast cereal I believed were a healthier choice of snack. And Bounty bars, commonly found lurking, discarded, in the bottom of Christmas sweet tins, but a personal favourite of mine (which works out particularly well for me every year).

This recipe evolved during it’s making. The idea to add coconut to rice krispie treats was to combat the soggy texture of my first batch (which I am choosing to blame on my homemade marshmallows). A couple of tablespoons turn to a whole cup of coconut because it tasted great with the vanilla marshmallow.

The next logical step was to break out my emergency chocolate bar – the one you keep on hand for those really bad work days, or more realistically just any random Tuesday. Melted over the top to give the final treat a satisfying crack when you bite into it.

One Year Ago On BAKE
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Two Years Ago On BAKE
Meatloaf
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Mama Feelgoods

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Chocolate and Coconut Rice Krispie Treats
makes 12

30g unsalted butter
2 cups marshmallows
2 ½ cups rice krispies
1 cup desiccated coconut
100g dark chocolate
oil for greasing

Line a 22cm square tin with clingfilm and brush lightly with oil.

In a large pan over a low heat melt together the butter and marshmallows.

Add the coconut and cereal about ½ cup at a time stirring well between each addition making sure that it is all completely coated.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin and using a spatula push down firmly to create an even layer.

Leave to set for an hour.

In a bowl over hot water melt the dark chocolate.

Pour over the rice krispies and leave to set.

Carefully turn out the treats and cut to the desired size.

Keep in an airtight tin and eat within 2 days.

Fish Pie

Nothing good happens after 2am. Or in the case of a small coastal town 1am as there isn’t the same range of late licensed establishments.

Saturday night, after 6 hours of celebrating Dan’s father’s birthday, we were suddenly the last ones standing (barefoot I might add, heels had been discarded in the corner for hours by this point). The group quickly divided into two camps, those who didn’t want to stop the party and those who didn’t want to go to anywhere that was open at that hour.

I was firmly in the latter camp. Lacking any nightclubs in the area the only options were dank dirty bars that charge a cover fee to get in, the kind you would actively avoid during daylight hours. Needless to say our side lost out, and we bundled down to the only place that was open. Within half an hour we were homeward bound, further inebriated with lighter wallets and sticky shoes.

The next morning we were all worse for wear, none of us made the family breakfast and I missed the message from my boss I was waiting for. Moral of the story, the only thing you should overindulge in after 1am is a big bag of greasy chips and a giant orange fanta – especially if you have offered to work the next morning.

Sunday evening called for comfort food, so Dan whipped up one of my favourites, fish pie. Unlike the creamy versions I remember as a child that were heavy on potato and white fish this pie is light and fresh. Creme fraiche or cream is substituted for grated vegetables and lemon juice which makes it a bright cheerful meal for spring. What I love most about this recipe is how uncomplicated it is to make by haphazardly arranging layers of ingredients before throwing in the oven. It’s a great use for leftover mashed potatoes – did you know you can freeze them? which is an easy way to reduce waste from those huge bags you buy at the supermarket.

Whilst it cooks all the moisture seeps to the bottom allowing the potatoes and cheese on top to form a satisfying crust. By elevating the fish on a layer of vegetables it cooks it perfectly so it maintains it’s shape and flakes away when you cut into it. This recipe was originally in Jamie’s Ministry of Food, but over the years we have tweaked it to our own personal taste. A few more vegetables, less fish (though still enough to create a generous layer), a few boiled eggs for luck and reserving some of cheese to sprinkle on top. I hate peeling potatoes so if I’m in charge I will halve new potatoes and mash the skins and all, with a tale of that where all the nutrients are anyway. Dan prefers regular (peeled potato) mash made from maris pipers. Either way it freezes well, or will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.

Fish Pie
serves 4
adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food

1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
50ml milk
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
150g cheddar cheese
a couple of handfuls of spinach washed
1 medium lemon
½ red chilli
4 sprigs parsley
390g fish pie mix or a mix of salmon, smoked haddock and cod
2 boiled eggs

Start by boiling the potatoes until soft, about 12 minutes depending on the size of your chunks of potatoes, then drain.

Mash with a pinch of salt and pepper, the olive oil and milk. Put to one side. If you are planning on cooking the fish pie later allow the mash to cool completely before adding.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

In a dish grate the carrot and the celery, zest the lemon and mix together.

On a chopping board grate the cheese, and sprinkle half over the vegetables and reserve half. Chop the chilli and parsley and scatter evenly across the dish.

Layer over the spinach and then add the fish. If I am feeling particularly enthusiastic (read OCDish) I will add each piece in lines, one type after the next. The main goal is to get the fish evenly mixed up and spread out.

Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the fish.

Peel and quarter the eggs and add to the dish.

Spoon over the mashed potato and flatten out. Using a spoon create a series of zigzag lines over the top of the mash, this creates peaks that will go crispy when baked.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

After this time remove, sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and bake for a further 20 minutes. This keeps the cheese melted but not completely browned.

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