Wednesday 28 October 2009

Pumpkin Pie

There is a saying 'As American as Apple Pie' I have always thought as American as Pumpkin Pie would be better. I always associate pumpkins with our friends across the pond. When I was a child and when my children were wee there wasn't a pumpkin to be seen here. We had to dig out turnips for our 'Jack o' Lanterns'. Not the easiest task in the world. The shops and markets are full of pumpkins now of course. They are such a cheerful sight with their lovely autumny orange colour glowing. I bought two to carve for my grandchildren. Such an easy job to do and such smiling little faces the results produced. I was left with all the pumpkin innards and I have been dying to make pumpkin pie for years. I wanted an American to give me the recipe. I mean if you are going to do a thing you might as well do it right? One of the girls on Vi's pantry who is American kindly gave me her recipe. I can't tell you how gorgeous this is. For anyone who has never tasted it, it's like very spicy custard tart and is a perfect dessert. I have another bag of cooked and pureed pumpkin in the freezer and would like to make individual ones next.

A Few Notes

The recipe as you will see calls for canned pumpkin. A little wander round Google told me that 2 1/2 cups of cooked pureed pumpkin equals a 16 oz can.

I boiled the raw pumpkin for about half an hour and pureed it. This gave me approximately 2 1/2 cups per pumpkin.

I used double cream where it called for whipping cream

I used my own pastry recipe as I knew I would get into a mess with American measures here.

I used a tablespoon of mixed spice instead of the spices specified.

I also used marmalade instead of the apricot jam specified as that is what I had.

Recipe (with thanks to Caesersalad)

Ultimate Pumpkin Pie

Crust: (or, substitute your favorite crust)

1¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup chilled butter, cut into pieces
3 T. whipping cream


¾ cup sugar
1 T. packed light brown sugar
1 T. cornstarch
2 t. ground cinnamon
¾ t. ground ginger
¼ t. (generous) salt
1-16 oz. can solid pack pumpkin
¾ cup whipping cream
½ cup sour cream
3 large eggs, beaten to blend

¼ cup apricot preserves


For crust: Preheat oven to 350°. Blend first 3 ingredients in processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cream and process until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic; chill 15 minutes.

Roll dough on floured surface to 14" round. Transfer dough to 9" glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1". Fold overhang under. Crimp crust. Freeze 15 minutes.

Line crust with foil (I use the non-stick foil with the non-stick side down), pressing firmly. Bake until sides are set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil. Bake crust until pale brown, about 10 minutes more. Set the crust aside and reduce the oven to 325°

For filling: Using a whisk, mix first 6 ingredients (sugar through salt) in bowl until no lumps remain. Blend in pumpkin, whipping cream, sour cream and eggs.

Spread preserves over crust; pour in filling. Bake until filling puffs at edges and center is almost set, about 55 minutes. Cool on rack.

When the pie is completely cool, cover and chill until cold. (Can be made one day ahead).

Caesersalad's Notes:

If the pie isn't completely cool when you cover it and refrigerate it, it will sweat. I do love that this pie is designed to be made a day ahead.

My pie takes longer than 55 minutes; so, plan accordingly and watch for the middle to just stop jiggling.

Do use a 9" or deep dish pie pan as this is a very large amount of filling.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

White Chocolate Strawberry Cheescake Brownies.

I was a little confused as to what to call these divine little morsels. I was told the white chocolate equivalent of a Brownie is a Blondie. Someone else told me this is not the case. The main flavour in a Blondie is butterscotch not chocolate white or brown. In confusion I consulted the great God Google. Sure enough a blondie is made with brown sugar. Using white chocolate instead of brown gives you white brownies. Regardless these turned out to be lovely. A definite keeper. Nice crisp top and a squidgy middle I used my granddaughter's strawberry milkshake to flavour them. This of course drew her like a magnet and I had trouble keeping her away from them.

White Chocolate Strawberry Cheescake Brownies.


125g/5oz butter
125g/5oz white chocolate, chopped
200g/7oz caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100g/4oz self raising flour, sifted

For the Strawberry Cheese

200g/7oz Philadelphia or other full fat cream cheese
50g/2oz caster sugar
A few drops of strawberry flavouring or 2-3 teaspoons of strawberry milk shake
Pink colouring if desired


Combine butter, and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until melted. Remove from heat and melt the chocolate in the mix. Then whisk in eggs.
Add flour and stir until well combined. Don't over mix
Pour into a greased and lined 18cm x 28cm rectangular tin.

Beat Philly cheese strawberry flavouring and the 50g/2oz caster sugar until smooth and creamy.
Spoon randomly over chocolate mixture and swirl with the tip of a knife.
Bake at 180ºC/160.C Fan/ 350ºF, gas mark 4 for 35 - 40 minutes or until cooked through.

Allow to cool before slicing.

Monday 19 October 2009

Oatie Wholemeal Bread and Some Bread Making Tips

I have been making my own bread for two or three years now. I love bread making and I love home made bread. Wholemeal flour has been causing me endless problems as I could never get the lightness and softness i wanted. I usually ended up with loaves that could be used in the building trade. I bought the River cottage bread book recently. That book was quite a revelation to me. Unlike some bread book authors Daniel Stevens has a very laid back approach. This book slid the last piece of the puzzle in. I haven't had a failure in bread since. I used his overnight sponge method for this wholemeal loaf and two rises plus the final proof. Voila it worked perfectly. Light soft wholemeal bread. You can make it the quick route but I haven't tried it that way yet so pleased am I with the results so far.

I always add seeds to my wholemeal bread. Tiny packets full of all the essential nutrients of life. The plant goes to great effort in producing and protecting its seed, filling each genetic packet with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, proteins, essential oils and dormant enzymes. The problem with seeds especially flax which is the most nutritious of the seeds is, if they are not chewed the nutrients are lost to you. I whizz my seeds in the food processor so nothing is lost then just add a couple of tablespoonfuls to the mix before kneading.

It always amuses me when watching a movie when a breakfast time scene is shown. Mum is standing perfectly coiffed and suited having a final cup of coffee before departing for her high powered job while hubby and kids are all seated round the table eating different breakfasts from pancakes to eggs. Mum must be up at four in the morning to accomplish that lot. The reality is somewhat different. Breakfast is a rushed affair. Mum making sure all is ready for the children before going to school or singles would rather grab an extra ten minutes in bed than take breakfast. This bread toasted at least gives you a nutritious start to the day even if it is taken on the run. It also makes lovely sandwiches so no problems at lunch time either.

I have added some bread making tips. I don't set myself up as an expert, far from it but I have noticed a lot of people are afraid to use yeast. I was the same when I started. I think there are a lot of books which are very precise in instructions and advice conflicts from book to book. Perhaps because the authors are masters of their trade I don't know. Anyway I thought as an everyday home baker I would pass on what experience I have and a few tips I have picked up along the way in the hope it will encourage the fearful to take the plunge.

Oatie Wholemeal Loaf

500gms/18oz Wholemeal flour
300 mls water (warm if going the quick route) or 150 mls milk and 150 mls water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1-2 teaspoons salt
About 1 tablespoon oil (optional)

2 tablespoons seeds
1 tablespoon honey
You can also add a handful of raisins or other dried fruit to this but it does make the bread quite sweet so you may want to leave out the honey.

I have started using baker's percentages which makes adjusting amounts of ingredients very simple.

The basic mix is

Flour =100%
Liquid = 60%
Dried InstantYeast = 1% (or 2% if using fresh yeast)
Salt = 2%
Fat = 2 %
(The fat can be oil,butter or lard and is optional. The salt can be varied according to taste.)

You use whatever flour you wish or a mix of flours

After this you have your extras such as seeds, honey, or whatever you want to use. If adding dry extras to the mix you may need a little extra liquid. I add soya flour and horlicks to my white bread to assist the growing bones of my little people so I need to add more liquid.

I base most of my tin breads on 500 gms flour. It suits the fairly large loaf tins I use

Because the basic recipe uses instant dried yeast you can of course just chuck everything into the bowl and knead. I am just giving instructions for the sponge method because it is a slightly different route. Not essential at all. It does however allow you time. That is, if you have a day at home you can do this and leave it until it suits you to make the bread. The same applies to the second or even third rise. If you have to dash off and it doesn't suit to make the bread you can leave it to rise again and gain some time. It does of course improve the bread too.

Sponge Method.

This can be done overnight or for just a few hours or even one makes a difference,
Mix half of the flour, all of the yeast and all of the liquid. Make sure it is thoroughly mixed then cover with cling film and forget about it until you are ready for the next stage.

It will look quite bubbly and frothy now.

Add the rest of your flour fat (if using) salt and any extras. Mix thoroughly. If you find the dough is a little dry, add a more liquid a tablespoon at a time. You don't want it to be a sticky mess. If it does you can add a little more flour. My best guide using a dough hook is, it is right when it leaves the side of the bowl clean but is still quite soft.

Knead for ten minutes if you are doing it by hand. I use a dough hook in my stand mixer so 4-5 minutes is enough. Over kneading is not going to be a problem by hand but if using machinery it could be. The gluten structure can collapse. Keep your machine at a slow speed. If you want to test it the dough should stretch to quite a thin membrane. This is easier to see in white flour dough than wholemeal

Form it into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film to double in volume which should take about an hour to an hour and a half depending on the temperature of the room.

I cheat a little and turn my oven on very low for a few minutes while the dough is kneading and then turn it off and pop my dough in there to rise.

When the dough is ready pull it gently out of the bowl with oiled hands onto a lightly oiled surface. The oiling stops the dough sticking to you and everything else.

The advice generally given is to punch the dough hard in the bowl to knock it back. I have found this to be the worst notion of handling dough. It is full of all the wonderful air to give the final loaf lightness. I never could understand why it had to be treated so harshly. Handling it gently makes a huge difference.

Just dimple it out with your fingers to disperse the air throughout the dough

At this stage you can form it into a ball againa give it a second rise. It is not essential but it does improve the dough so if you have the time and inclination you can do so. A lot of people fear that the yeast will lose it's 'power'. It doesn't. You can try a little experiment if you are not convinced. Mix 100 gms/4oz of flour with 60 mls of water and a little yeast. Leave it in a covered plastic box . Every so often squash it back. Just watch how often it pushes the lid off the box. It goes on for days.

Now you want to shape the dough for it's final rise or proof. You want to decide at this stage whether you want to make a tin loaf or place it on a baking tray (or stone if you have one) for a more rustic shape. Fold the dough over towards you firming each fold with your thumbs as you go.

Flatten the sausage and fold it in on itself like a business letter

Then you need to pull the sides up to the middle. This creates a surface tension on the top of the dough. It can be fiddly at the start but you soon find your own way of going. Don't worry the dough won't spoil as you work with it. Just take your time.

When you have it all pinched together on the underside turn it over and tighten gently across the surface on either side.

This leaves you with a a sort of cylinder shape. At this stage you want to add any coatings. I like to just dust it over with flour. Rye flour gives a nice rustic look. For the oat coating, dip the loaf in milk and then roll in a mix of oat flakes oat bran and pin head oatmeal. Press it quite firmly on all over so they stay in and on the loaf and don't end up on the floor when you come to use it. Now if you want to make a tin bread make sure the cylinder is about the same length and width as you chosen tin. Just press it gently into the prepared tin for it's final proof. If you want a rustic bread shape place it on a baking sheet.

Enclose the loaf in a plastic bag. This gives a nice moist draught free environment in which to rise. Some like to use towels but I find them difficult to keep off the surface of the bread and they also absorb the moisture.

Tuck in the ends of the bag and leave it in a warm place to rise. I usually turn my oven on at this point for baking the bread and leave the loaf to rise on the hob for about 20-40 minutes. After about twenty minutes shake it very very gently and you will feel how light it is getting. At the point it is ready for the oven it is really very trembly. You will feel it. I find it ready at about 40 minutes. Now you want to slash the loaf diagonally across the top to allow it to expand in the oven. I use a bread knife for this.

Place an old roasting tin in the bottom of the oven while it is heating and boil the kettle. The addition of hot water in the oven gives a nice steamy environment for the bread. Again it is not essential but does improve the crust
Have your oven turned up to about twenty degrees hotter than you need it. This will give you time to get the loaf in, pour the boiling water into the tin, without losing too much heat.
Then turn the heat down. I bake my loaves at 180.C Fan and that suits them perfectly but there are variations in every oven. 200.C/180'CFan/400.F/Gas6 is about the norm. It should take about 35 -45 minutes to bake. After 35 mins remove from the oven and tap the bottom of the loaf. It should sound quite hollow. If you are not sure pop it back in the oven for five minutes and so on. You don't want a doughy crumb. If you find your loaf too brown when ready, that is on the point of burn, the next time turn your oven down a bit. You will soon find what is best for you and your oven.
Place the loaf on a cooling rack and leave it until cool completely before cutting. Cutting it warm just gives a doughiness which spoils the bread.

You could also check out Yeast Spotting for some great recipes and information on bread

Monday 5 October 2009

Little Cheesy Biscuits

With thanks to Lottie Duncan for this recipe. These are the most gorgeous little savoury biscuits. Perfect for serving with pre dinner drinks. Be warned once you start eating them you won't be able to stop. I think they would be worth making to use as a crumble topping on a savoury pie instead of pastry. Very quick and easy to make which is always a plus in my book. I didn't cover them with seeds as I thought my little people might like them. They seem to associate biscuits with sweetness so they weren't a hit with them. Perfect for the adults though.

Cheesy Biscuits


100g/4oz butter
100g/4oz self raising
75g/3oz strong cheddar cheese
25g/1oz grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 egg for egg wash
Pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, fennel, poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 200C Mk6 400F
AGA 4/3/2 dr -grid shelf roasting oven

Place the butter, flour and cheeses together in a food processor and whiz until it all comes together.
Remove onto a floured surface and roll out into a thick cigar shape. Wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour or pop in the freezer fo 15-20 mins
Remove from the fridge, take off the cling film and slice into discs. If you want nice thin biscuits, remember to cut the slices about ½ cm thick. The colder the dough, the easier this is to do.
Place on a non-stick baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle over your chosen topping and bake for about 4-5 minutes in the oven until firm and gold brown.
Cool and then serve.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Chocolate Caramel Cake

Yesterday was my Mother in Law's Birthday. We all went out for a family lunch. I realised I needed to provide a birthday cake. GG (great granny) adores cake especially chocolate cake. I was flicking through Good Housekeeping when I came across this recipe. It required a tin of caramel/dulce de leche. I had accidentally opened a tin last week instead of condensed milk and it was stowed in a jar in the fridge so this was a perfect recipe to use it up and please GG all in one go. It was so quick and easy and yet such a wonderful light moist cake. I will make this again. If you like chocolate cake you will love this


  • 175g (6oz) self-raising flour
  • 2½ tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 150g (5oz) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml (¼pt) corn oil
  • 150ml (¼pt) milk
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 125g (5oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • 397g can Carnation Caramel
  • 1tbsp icing sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4.
  2. Base line 2 x18cm (7”) sandwich tins with baking parchment.
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and stir in the sugar. In a jug measure the oil and milk, then add the eggs, one teaspoon of vanilla and mix together with a fork until combined. Beat two tablespoons of the caramel until smooth and whisk into the egg and oil mixture. Combine the wet with the dry ingredients and mix well. The cake mix will be quite wet. Pour the mixture into the tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until springy to the touch.
  4. Cool the cakes in their tins and then turn out onto a wire rack. Remove the baking paper and cool completely.
  5. Melt the chocolate in short bursts in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Add the remaining caramel and vanilla to the chocolate and beat well until smooth and glossy. Sift in the icing sugar and combine thoroughly.
  6. Place one half of the cake onto a plate, spread with a generous amount of the frosting and top with the other sandwich half. Spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake and down the sides to cover completely. Leave to set and cut into slices.

PS. The Birthday girl was well pleased with her cake.

Thursday 1 October 2009

St Clement’s Drizzle Cake.

This cake was this month's challenge set by Rosie and Maria at Sweet and Simple bakes. I have seen various drizzle cake recipes on different blogs but until this challenge I hadn't made one. I don't really know why as I love citrus flavours in cake. This spurred me into action and it is an absolutely gorgeous cake. Feather light and beautifully sticky with more than a hint of citrus. I did cheat a little as I did it in the food processor. Just threw everything in and whizzed. I added 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to compensate for this short cut. It turned out perfectly and keeps very well. Couldn't be quicker or easier. Thank you Rosie and Maria for another great bake.

St Clement’s Drizzle Cake

175g/6oz caster (superfine) sugar
175g/6oz softened butter
Grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon
Grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
4 tablespoons milk
2 eggs
175g/6oz self-raising flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180.C/fan 160.C/355.F/gas 4.

Grease and line the base of 1 large (900g) or 2 small (450g) loaf tins.

Place the caster sugar, butter and zest of the lemon and orange in a bowl and beat together until pale and creamy. Add the milk, and then beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a spoon of flour to prevent the mixture from curdling. Mix in the remaining flour. Spoon into the prepared tin/tins and level the surface flat.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes for a large cake or 30 minutes for the smaller cakes until they are golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.

While the cake is cooking, place the lemon and orange juice in a saucepan, bring to the boil and allow to reduce in quantity to about 3 tablespoons. Leave to cool, and then stir in the granulated sugar so it just starts to dissolve.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick several times with a skewer, then slowly pour the lemon and orange sugar all over the top, letting it soak into the cake. Leave to cool completely in the tin before turning out and cutting into slices to serve.