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Danish pastry

Ta da! Finally… A day late in posting – June’s Daring Baker challenge to make a Danish Braid. And what a delicious challenge it was ūüôā

My tiny recipe tweaks included:

– nearly an extra cup of flour to get the dough to a kneadable consistency

– using a pear and raisin filling instead of apple

Pear-cinnamon-raisin filling in the danish pastry
It worked beautifully –¬†I was happy with my results¬†as a first-timer on this sort of pastry. I particularly liked the the feel of the¬†dough¬†under my¬†hands, gradually getting softer¬†and more velvety-gorgeous as it absorbed the butter with each ‘turn and roll’. A very therapeutic activity for a Sunday afternoon.

Tastewise, it was a big hit¬†as well (to¬†take these photos, I had to fend off Mr B. before he chomped the lot).¬†Not at all yeasty, which was something I was slightly worried about at the beginning of this challenge. The only thing that I wish I’d done differently was keep a better eye on the oven, as¬†the braid came out a¬†lot darker that I would have liked¬†– and that’s hardly the¬†recipe’s fault! A year after getting¬†our oven and I still forget that it gets super-hot…

This month’s challenge¬†definitely pushed me outside my shortcrust comfort zone and I’d like to try more variations on this recipe – if I can get myself organised, that is! In fact, at the excellent suggestion of Rachel, I’ve stashed the other half of the dough in the freezer for croissants next weekend. And Lorrie made cinnamon rolls with her leftovers… Oooh – it’s all very tempting!

Thanks to¬†Kelly¬†of Sass & Veracity and¬†Ben of What’s Cooking?¬†for a memorable challenge! For the full recipe, plus handy ‘as you go’ photos, here’s Kelly’s excellent post. Now, check out the rest of the DB gang on the blogroll. It never ceases to amaze me how we can all make the one recipe with such different and wonderful results ūüôā

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Conference pears

My ever-loving husband brought back some pears from the shop the other day and the first thing that popped into my head wasn’t, ‘Awwwwwww! He cares deeply about my well-being and remembered my recent comment about¬†wanting to get more fresh fruit/veg into my day¬†because, no matter how hard I wish,¬†chocolate isn’t a nutritional equivalent and the crap-filled snack machine at work is not my friend (pause to draw breath…) – it’s the little things like this that make me love him more…’

Oh no.

It was more along the lines of, ‘Fan-bloody-tastic!¬†My boy’s a mindreader!¬†Now I can make that cinnamon pear cake with vanilla fudge sauce that I’ve had filed away since the dawn of time and was wistfully dreaming¬†about the other day. Hurray!’

Then I had to go back to the shops and get the rest of the ingredients but, hey, it was the spur I needed to try out this recipe.

cinnamon-pear cake - closeup

And oooooooh – it’s a keeper! I think I’m going to start up a Hall of Fame for Outstanding Cakes and make Nigel Slater the¬†first inductee/honorary president for life. What more could you want than a softly-crumbed, almost pudding-like cake, stuffed with cinnmon-infused pears and, the killer move, a sexy vanilla fudge sauce to top the lot off?¬†¬†Oh. My. Word. This cake is the business and then some.¬†Time for another slice, methinks…¬†

Cinnamon-cooked pears

Cinnamon pear cake with vanilla fudge sauce by Nigel Slater, from Sainsbury’s Magazine.

Serves 8

You’ll need:

For the pear mixture:
740g ripe pears (I used Conference pears)
1/2 lemon
40g butter
3 tablespoons unrefined light muscovado sugar
1/2 heaped teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake:
200g unrefined golden caster sugar
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the vanilla fudge sauce:
95g unrefined light muscovado sugar
95g golden syrup
50g butter
142 ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

And… 24cm/9¬Ĺ-inch loose-bottomed (springform) cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with greaseproof paper.

1. Peel the pears and core them. Cut them into chunks and drop them into a bowl of cold water, acidulated with a few good squeezes of the lemon, which will stop them going brown.

2. Melt the butter, sugar and cinnamon in a shallow pan over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Drain the pears and add them to the pan, taking care that they don’t spit at you. Let the pears cook until they are tender and the sauce is thick and coats the pears. Stop before the sugar turns dark and bitter. Set aside to cool.

3. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. To make the cake, put the sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the eggs and a little of the flour alternately, so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Fold in the remaining flour and then the cooked pears with their syrup.

4. Scoop the mixture into the tin and smooth lightly. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until risen and golden, then check with a metal skewer (it should come out clean).

5. Remove the cale from the oven and leave to cook before lifting out of the cake tin.

6. To make the sauce, put the sugar, syrup and butter in a small, heavy-based pan and bring to the boil, stirring only enough to stop it sticking. Stir in the cream and the vanilla extract and cream (watch out, the mixture can foam a bit at this point), and leave to cool. The sauce will thicken.

7. Sprinkle some extra muscovado over the cake and serve with icecream and fudge sauce.

Cook’s notes

All that fruit can make things a bit soggy – I found it took an extra 20 minutes in my oven to make sure this was cooked in the centre.

cinnamon-pear cake

Just the sheer number of cinnamon-spiked dishes I’ve posted on this blog probably speaks volumes about how much I love this spice. I will happily make any recipe in which it is the main star or I will sneak in a little extra if it’s only meant to have a supporting role. In short, I am a cinnamon fiend.

So when Kieran of Murphy’s Icecream put out the call the other week for recipe testers for his upcoming book, well… it was a shoe-in which one I would go for. Cinnamon icecream – oh wow.

Now, I’ve got to admit, this was a leetle bit of a selfish choice on my part – Mr. B likes cinnamon, he thinks it’s, you know, ok and all that. But it’s not his favourite. So back I went to Kieran’s recipe list to search for something that would preserve marital peace and harmony. And there it was – hot fudge sauce. Mr. B likes to consider himself something of an afficianado when it comes to icecream extras – he has his own special recipe for chocolate sauce, along with the sweetest tooth of anyone I know, so Kieran’s recipe would be judged against stringent standards.

The icecream turned out like a dream, as the warm spice of the cinnamon partnered well with the creamy custard base – a real taste of Christmas (you know, when you’re still far enough away from Christmas that it still seems exciting). And I have confirmation of that from people who aren’t as enamoured of cinnamon as I am – we polished the whole lot off for dessert one evening when we had friends round for dinner, along with this scrumptious apple tart from Smitten Kitchen. Unfortunately, there is no picture of this happy event as I’m still a bit shy about taking food pictures when other people are around. I’ve got to get over that.

But did the hot fudge sauce meet Mr B’s exacting expectations?

And how. He was seriously considering drinking the lot straight from the jug at one point. I think I mentioned that he has a seriously sweet tooth ūüôā In the end, he showed admirable restraint by simply drowning his icecream in the molten, fudgy gorgeousness.

I’d love to tell you that I’ve deliberately shot a soft-focus pic here but the truth is I think I screwed up my camera the other day when I leaned in to closely to snap some soup and a bit of steam got into the lens. Now everything looks like I’m applying for a job with the M&S advertising team. For mouthwatering pics of icecream, hot fudge sauce and many other wonderful things (along with the recipes, of course) I’d recommend a trip to Icecream Ireland.

Good luck with the book, Kieran. It’s certainly been fun testing the recipes!

Not quite cake, not quite cookie, snickerdoodles fall somewhere inbetween in the baking lexicon. Lightly crisp on the outside, soft and tender-crumbed on the inside, they make another good accompaniment to a mid-morning cup of tea or coffee.

Have I mentioned that they’re rolled in cinnamon sugar? And that there’s a generous grating of nutmeg in the cake/cookie/whatever-it-is mix?

As a consequence, they smell heavenly when they’re baking in the oven. Imagine the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg wafting around the house, lifting the spirits, making everything feel snug and warm on a chilly autumn day. Consider it a form of aromatherapy with edible results.
And I defy anyone to eat just one snickerdoodle alone, particularly when they’re still warm from the oven. It’s simply not possible. I’ve already eaten three while typing this up…

Snickerdoodles
from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
Makes around 21
You’ll need:
250g plain flour
¬Ĺ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¬ĺ teaspoon baking powder
¬Ĺ teaspoon salt
125g butter, at room temperature
100g plus 2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 180Cgas mark 4 and line or oil two baking trays.

2. Combine the flour, nutmeg, baking powder and salt, and set aside for a moment.

3. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the 100g of sugar until light in texture and pale in colour, then beat in the egg and vanilla.

4. Now stir in the dry ingredients until you have a smooth, coherent mixture.

5. Spoon out the remaining sugar and the cinnamon on to a plate. Then, with your fingers, squidge out pieces of dough and roll into walnut-sized* balls. Roll each ball in the cinnamon mixture and arrange on the prepared baking trays, two inches apart.

6. Bake for 15 minutes, by which time they should be turning golden brown. Take out of the oven and leave to rest on the baking trays for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Cook’s notes

For a chocolatey variation, replace 25g of the flour with cocoa powder.
Be careful with the baking time on this recipe. Snickerdoodles are supposed to be a teensy bit dry, making them good tea-break dunking material, but it’s easy to go too far and dry them out completely.
Nigella suggests they’d be good with spicy poached plums and cream. I’m also thinking pears… Or crumbled over icecream… I wonder if you could adapt it into some kind of cobbler topping… Oh the possibilities!
They don’t store well, so they would make a lovely treat to share with work colleagues or friends on the day of baking or within 24 hours at most.
*I don’t know what kind of walnuts Nigella is used to but they must be tiny. She suggests that this recipe makes about 32 snickerdoodles, but I only managed to scrape 21 together at a push.
I’ve eaten another one to see me to the end of these notes. I don’t think that Mr. B is going to get a look in.

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I'm short of stature (a family trait) but big of appetite (also a family trait). If you're reading this then you're probably big of appetite too. Or a member of my family (hello Mum).
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