Straight Up yogurt beetroot cupcakes

Yogurt is a great thing. You can eat it plain, you can use it in baking, savoury dishes, smoothies… the possibilities are endless. I’ve always loved yogurts from The Collective (as evidenced by my large collection of their yogurt tubs – which, by the way, make for excellent storage containers). So it’s not a surprise that I was excited to hear about their newest product Straight Up a natural, unsweetened yogurt with no added sugar, sweeteners, artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Straight Up Produced using the best West Country milk, it is uniquely luxurious, thick and creamy with a velvety smooth texture, making it a live yoghurt like no other. Because it is packed full with probiotics, it has a very clean, tangy taste – I personally found it a little too sharp, but it’s nothing that a squeeze of brown rice syrup can’t fix! I wish I could have taken proper photos of the yogurt and my baking experiments, but my dSLR camera recently broke (to be more specific, the mirror broke) when we were on holiday, and I need to figure out if it is worth getting it replaced – or it might be time for an upgrade. I am just very grateful for camera phones. They will never replace a proper camera, but at least it’s better than nothing. So, what did I make? I decided to bake some beetroot cupcakes. Yes, I know. It’s a vegetable. But do not scoff, as it is actually a wonderful ingredient and works beautifully well in baked treats. beetroot yogurt cupcake 1 I was a little nervous to find out if Straight Up would work in this recipe, but I shouldn’t have. It worked beautifully, resulting in a moist cupcake with a tender crumb. The only downside of Straight Up is you have to finish the whole tub within a few days, as  the yogurt does not contain any preservatives. I had a small amount of yogurt left over, and it sadly went a little off. So my advice to you is to eat it all, and not practise the ‘let’s just leave some for later’ policy. Beetroot & yogurt cupcakes Makes 24 small-ish cupcakes, or 15 medium cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup beetroot puree *
  • 1 cup Straight Up yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cup brown rice flour (you may use normal all-purpose flour if you wish)
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
  • 1/4 cup poppy seeds (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn oil (or any other flavourless oil)

1. Preheat your oven to 180’C.
2. Sieve the brown rice flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium sized bowl. Add the ground almonds and poppy seeds to the same bowl. I usually don’t sieve my ground almonds, because they usually aren’t ground finely enough to easily pass through the sieve.
3. Add the beetroot puree, egg, sugar, yogurt and corn oil into the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix with the paddle attachment, until it forms a nice smooth paste (this should take only 1-2 minutes). You can also do this with a handheld whisk or a spatula if you don’t want to use/don’t have a stand mixer.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet beetroot mix. Mix until the batter is just combined.
6. Scoop the batter into cupcake tins.
7. Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes until cooked. A toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes should come out clean.
8. Leave to cool slightly on wire racks, then eat!

* I usually use pre-cooked beetroot, and whizz this to form a puree. You can always cook it from scratch, but it is often difficult to find fresh beetroot. Remember to buy plain unflavoured cooked beetroot, and not those which are pre-seasoned with vinegar.

Disclosure: I was sent samples of Straight Up for review purposes, but all opinions expressed above are my own.

A steam patisserie, Rachel Khoo & brioche buns!

I love new toys. Kitchen toys, that is. One of my friends once described me as ‘would choose to buy a fancy kitchen gadget over a designer handbag’ – and I have to admit that she was (and still is) absolutely right.

It was thus unsurprising that I was excited to hear bout the Miele range of combination steam appliances. Whilst I have vaguely heard about steam ovens, I have never properly understood how they work, and why someone would want one. So I decided to go along to the Miele ‘Steam Patisserie’, which hoped to showcase the diversity and adaptability of baking with steam – and also featured a few Rachel Khoo creations, which she created specially for this event. We also got to meet her, which was a definite plus!

So yes. Steam combination ovens.

The ‘steam’ component comes from the humidity setting, which can range from 0-100%. There are 3 ways you can use it:

  • Keep the humidity at 0% = conventional oven.
  • Switch off the ‘oven’ function and only use the ‘steam’ function = steamer
  • Use both the humidity and oven functions = combination steam oven

I was particularly interested in the combination steam mode, as I often bake with a water bath, or throw chilled water into the oven to create steam. We were also told that the oven can also be used to reheat food (a la microwave), but this would take double the time needed in a microwave. The advantage would obviously be the ability to heat more than one plate of food at a time!

Whilst I loved the concept, I felt that the oven was a little small. In an ideal world, I would want to only have one oven. Miele are however already on the case, and are currently developing larger (64L capacity) steam combination oven. The oven is also naturally more costly than the conventional oven.

miele steam patisserie 3 miele steam patisserie 4 miele steam patisserie 5 miele steam patisserie 6
miele steam patisserie 8 miele steam patisserie 10

Most importantly, the treats served at the Steam Patisserie were delicious. It obviously helped that everything was served in beautiful mismatched vintage china (which seems to be the new ‘in’ thing). I must admit that I would love to own such a collection… I doubt R will agree though, bearing in mind my already vast collection of mismatched plates/bowls. Ha.

But going back to the food – my favourite was the brioche bun, which was delightfully light, yet had a nice crust. I naturally had to recreate this at home (in a conventional oven with ‘water throwing’), and I am glad to say it turned out very well indeed. I made a few small substitutions as always, but I have kept the recipe below very similar to the original.

Many thanks to Miele for inviting me along to this event, and to Cesar & Dominic, who took the time to chat and explain their steam combination range to us.

Brioche buns
Makes 12-14 buns
Recipe from Rachel Khoo/Miele Patisserie of Steam

For the buns:

  • 240g strong white flour
  • 25g castor sugar
  • 5g salt
  • 2 tsp dried instant yeast
  • 70ml milk (I usually use cold milk)
  • 2 medium eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened + cubed
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 30g Parmesan (or any other hard cheese), coarsely grated
  • 50g French saucisson (or any other ham), sliced into thin matchsticks

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk

Method:

  • Place flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer (fitted with the dough hook).
  • Add the milk and eggs, and mix on low speed for 2 minutes until a very rough dough forms. Increase the speed to medium, and mix for 5 minutes until a smooth dough forms.
  • Turn the mixer down to low speed. Gradually add in the cubed butter, and mix until the butter is fully incorporated. You may need to use a dough scraper/spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl, to ensure all the ingredients are well combined.
  • Lastly, add in the herbs, grated cheese and saucisson. Mix on low speed for 10-15 seconds, or until they are fully incorporated into the dough.
  • Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm or a teatowel, and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 180’C (fan).
  • Portion the dough into 12-14 equal sizes (depending on how large you want your buns!). Shape the portioned dough into smooth rounds, and place on lined baking trays. Remember to space the buns as they will rise/get bigger in the oven. Leave to rise again for 15 minutes.
  • Glaze the brioche buns with the egg yolk/milk mixture.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the buns are golden. You may place/throw
  • Leave to cool slightly, then eat!

* I attended the event as a guest of Miele, but all views expressed are my own.

A Harrods Christmas hamper, and a champagne chiffon cake

Christmas hampers are one of those things that are synonymous with the holiday season. Each departmental store has it’s own twist on the Christmas hamper – but there is one thing they all have in common: they are all beautifully packaged. Because good things come in beautifully wrapped packages, no?

Harrods is, of course, one of the stores that has some gorgeous hampers on offer – they range from affordable (under £50) to ‘blow the budget’ (over £2000!). Don’t get me wrong through, the more affordable hampers certainly shouldn’t be scoffed at, and make an equally impressive gift.

I recently received a Harrods ‘Pamper Hamper’, which contained pink champagne truffles, Marc de champagne milk chocolate truffles, Laduree candles, a Laduree room spray, and a bottle of rose champagne. A perfect girly present really. Just look at all the lovely pastel colours… (sorry, boys.)

A special mention is needed for the gorgeous rattan basket/box housing the gifts within. It was so pretty that I could not bear to put it away – and this is how it has earned its place as my Christmas tree ‘stand’. Looks much better than my makeshift stand from last year, might I add.

harrods hamper 1

We’re not huge drinkers (we drink the occasional glass of wine/bubbly), so I thought I would use the leftover champagne in a chiffon cake. I know it hasn’t made it on to the blog, but I’ve been on a chiffon cake kick recently – I’m enjoying experimenting with various flavours and combinations of recipes, and am still in search of my perfect, ‘even bubbled’ chiffon. As you can see from my photos, I am not quite there yet. But practice makes perfect, and I’m certainly not complaining about the sampling I get to do along the way!

There’s just something about the lightness of chiffon cakes that make them so addictive. I can honestly eat half a cake in one sitting, and be under the impression that I have not consumed any calories whatsoever. Ha. Delusional much?

A few notes on chiffon cakes – 1) Never ever grease the tube pan. You need the batter to ‘grip’ onto the sides, so it can rise up high. This is why tube pans all have a smooth flat edge (as opposed to bundt tins which have intricate designs), as you have to run an offset spatula/knife around the tin to release the cake at the end of the baking/cooking process. 2) Patience is key! The cake needs to be left to cool (upside down) before you cut into it. Yes, this is unfortunately one of those cakes that you can’t dive into straight out of the oven – if you do so, the cake will end up dense and we can’t have that now can we? 3) Try not to overmix the batter. Treat the batter gently when folding in the whipped eggwhites. I find that mixing in 1/3 of the eggwhites in the first instance loosens up the batter, and makes the subsequent folds much easier. You can also be a little less gentle with the first ‘fold’.

Champagne chiffon cake
Makes one 20cm chiffon cake

  • 190g cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 130g champagne
  • 50g corn oil
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 egg whites
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 165’C (fan forced).
2. Sieve the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium sized mixing bowl. Set aside.
3. Whisk the egg yolks and 50g sugar in a large mixing bowl, until the yolks turn thick and pale. Add the champagne, corn oil and vanilla extract, and whisk until just combined.
4. Slowly add in the sieved dry ingredients to the egg yolk mixture, whisking whilst you add. Ensure there are no lumpy bits in your mix.
5. In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites on high speed until they become foamy. Add in the 50g caster sugar and cream of tartar (if using) gradually, and continue whisking until you reach stiff peaks.
6. Add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to your cake mixture – this helps to loosen the cake mix.
7. In 2 additions, fold in the remaining egg whites into the cake mixture, until just combined. You should ideally not see any lumps of whites. Take care to not overmix though!
8. Pour the cake batter into an ungreased, 20cm chiffon cake tin (tube pan).
9. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. A skewer inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean.
10. Remove tin from oven, invert, and leave to cool upside down (either by sticking the tin on a bottle top, or placing it on a wire rack if your tin has ‘feet’). Leave the cake to cool completely.
11. Once cooled, run a knife along the edges of the tin, and invert the cake onto a serving plate. Cut, serve, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I received a Harrods Pamper Hamper as a gift, but all opinions expressed are my own.

[In photos]: Salon du Chocolat 2013

Chocolate. I cannot count the number of times it has kept me going, especially during stressful exam periods, or long days at work. We have a special relationship, chocolate and I. I always have a stash of various chocolate bars in the kitchen – you never know when you will have the craving for it! (Or so I say).

Which is why I knew I jumped for joy when I heard Salon du Chocolat was coming to London, in conjunction with Chocolate Week. It is said to be the world’s largest chocolate show, with exhibits from various top UK and international brands – including Artisan du Chocolat, Paul a Young, Rococo, Valrhona, Bonnat and Lindt. Various demonstrations and workshops from chocolatiers and chefs were also on offer, as well as a display of chocolate inspired couture outfits (which were modelled live on the first evening of the show). There were many French stalls (complete with French speaking exhibitors), unsurprising as this show has been going strong for many years in Paris.

I always discover new brands during food shows, and this time was no exception. I chanced upon the Leeds-based Lauden chocolate stall, lingered, and eventually tried one of their rather attractive chocolates – and really liked it! I felt that their strength was the intensity of flavours, and especially liked the tanginess of the passionfruit chocolate. I bought a box, naturally.

I’ve never been one for words, so I’ll let the photos do the talking. They are mostly close up (ish) shots of the chocolates/sweets on offer, I got a little over excited and forgot to take wider framed shots!

A selection of 12 chocolates from Lauden Chocolate.

Stephen, one of the owners of Lauden Chocolate.

I wouldn’t be able to wear this without eating my way through the cupcakes…

Too pretty!

I first tried these Venchi chocolates when I went to Italy in my first year of uni – Loved them then, love them now.

Chocolate ruffles, anyone?

I think this was a chocolate/pistachio combo…

A selection of sweets and candies, in extremely pretty boxes.

Chocolate heels. Every girls dream…

A very fancy Advent calendar!

Henri Le Roux caramels. Best caramels EVER – especially the CBS (caramel beurre sel), salted butter caramel.

salon du chocolat 10

A range of spreads – mostly chocolate based, of course.

Rococo mini chocolate bars

Giant slabs of nougat, made from mostly-French ingredients.

More nougat. Because it was pretty.

Not chocolate… but I loved the stand!

White chocolate & orange slabs. I wonder how long it would take one to eat their way through a slab of that…

Extremely attractive chocolate slabs from chocoMe. Loved these.

Paris, je t’aime.

Salted caramels from Melt.

More chocolate.

Not chocolate – but very good. Caramel spread from Henri Le Roux, usually near impossible to get outside France! So good on warm toast. Mmmmm.

Salon du Chocolat in a nutshell:
– Definitely worth a visit if you are a chocolate fan.
– Be prepared for the prices, as good chocolate always comes at a price.
– Sample, discover new brands, and have fun!

Salon du Chocolat is running from 18-20 October at Olympia National Hall, Kensington, London.
http://www.salonduchocolat.co.uk/

Disclaimer: I attended Salon du Chocolat as a guest, but all the opinions above are my own.

Pear & chocolate cupcakes

I love my food. I find any excuse imaginable to snack, and sometimes worry about how much I am seemingly able to eat! To ensure I maintain some sort of balance, I do try to sometimes snack on fruit rather than something errr… less healthy. I also like using fruit when baking, subsequently declaring it “healthy”.

Which is why I welcome the idea of office fruit boxes, which appears to be the new “in” thing. Fruitdrop are one of the companies that offers this service, and supply a selection of fruit to your office – each box contains a selection of 50 fruit, and you can choose from either the “Essentials” or “Seasonal” Fruitdrop office fruit boxes. Prices appear to be fairly competitive, and start at £20 per box. R gets a fruit box where he works, and I am perpetually envious that I don’t, and have to bring in my own fruit!

fruitdrop box

I was recently sent a “Seasonal” box – and was pleasantly surprised at the variety of fruit included within. The site didn’t state how many varieties would be supplied, so it was all a bit of a mystery until I received the box. As you can see from the photo, there were a few seasonal fruits e.g strawberries and plums, alongside the ever present bananas, apples, clementines and so forth.

As I had an abundance of fruit, I decided to experiment and bake with them. Eating them as they are gets boring after a while you see…

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcakes

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcake

So yes. I uhmed and ahhed about which fruit would be my first victim, and finally decided to make some pear and chocolate cupcakes. I tried to make these a little healthier than the average cupcake, so these were made with yogurt and oil (no butter). Shocking, I know. And there isn’t any icing because I honestly am not a fan of cupcake icing – I find it way too sweet for my taste.

The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to sprinkle some demerara sugar on the tops of the cupcakes, as this tends to give a very pleasant crunchy top to bite into. And I like crunch.

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcake

Pear & chocolate cupcakes
Makes 24 small cupcakes

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125g corn oil (or any other flavourless oil)
  • 280g Greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 180g pears, chopped into 1cm pieces, and tossed lightly in 2 tbsp of plain flour*
  • 100g dark chocolate chunks/chips
  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 170’C (fan assisted).
2. Sieve the caster sugar, plain flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl.
3. Add in the corn oil, Greek yogurt and the egg yolks, and mix until just combined.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
5. Gently fold in the egg whites into the cake mixture, in two additions. Take care to not overmix, as this may result in a dense cupcake.
6. Gently fold in the pear pieces and chocolate chunks.
7. Spoon the mixture into a cupcake tin lined with cupcake cases. Sprinkle the tops with demerara sugar if you wish.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown on the top.
9. Cool slightly, and enjoy!

* Tossing the pear pieces in flour prevents them from sinking to the bottoms of the cupcakes.

fruitdrop pear chocolate cupcake

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Fruitdrop.