Muffin Top

Banana and Pecan Nut Muffins

Before I visited Florida I didn’t like pancakes. Everyone thought I was crazy but I just couldn’t get my head around putting lemon and sugar or chocolate spread on something made with the same batter as Yorkshire Puddings. Yuck! This all changed whilst I was on holiday. As you may know/have seen on TV, pancakes are a major breakfast staple across the pond. Almost every meal, on every menu, in every establishment I visited came with a side order of pancakes. Everyday our breakfast table would be covered with stacks of them – golden, fluffy and smothered in butter and maple syrup. Nothing like the crepe style pancakes I’m used to seeing at home on Shrove Tuesday. When my boyfriend suggested I try one I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious they were! I was even more pleasantly surprised to find ‘Banana Pecan Pancakes’ on the menu and in the healthy section (albeit “healthy” in American Diners tends to means around a whopping 750 or so calories (which may explain the muffin top I now have!)). The contrast between the fluffy pancake and the crunchy nuts scattered throughout just added to the deliciousness of them.

Upon discovering that the theme for last week’s SBC was ‘Favourite Pancake Topping’, I immediately knew my bake had to be banana and pecan flavoured. I did a little research and found a recipe online for banana and pecan nut muffins. As any baking fanatic will know, Mary Berry, the queen of baking, ALWAYS says to read the recipe twice. We all know this. Did I remember this key point before baking these muffins? No, I forgot. I did think a tablespoon and a half of salt was quite a lot for a standard 12 muffin mix but I pushed the doubt from my mind and continued with the recipe. It wasn’t until I was about halfway through that I took another look at the recipe and realised my error. My boyfriend (an armchair baker at most) took great pleasure in reminding me of Mary’s motto. Luckily, I realised before I had combined the wet and dry ingredients and I had enough spare flour so all was not lost. They ended up turning out really well, not too dissimilar from the pancakes I’d tried Stateside and I have received a lot of good feedback on them since which is always a nice feeling!

The recipe isn’t a complicated one so you may not need to read it twice but clearly I’m not the brightest crayon in the box. Either that or my eyesight is failing me at the grand old age of 23! Let me know if you try them out 🙂

Banana and Pecan Nut Muffins

Ingredients

280g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas
170g brown sugar
170g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 medium eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g pecan nuts, chopped
Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170c fan/Gas mark 5 and lightly butter 2 muffin tins or line with muffin cases.
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl mash 2 of the bananas well but leaving a bit of texture (kind of like lumpy baby food).
  4. In a freestanding electric mixer, using a whisk attachment, whisk together the remaining bananas and the sugar on a high speed for about 3 minutes. Add the melted butter, eggs and vanilla and beat well ensuring you scrape any unmixed ingredients from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Fold in the dry ingredients until just incorporated and then the same with the mashed bananas and chopped nuts until evenly distributed.
  6. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins/cases filling until about half full. Give the tins a rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.
  7. Bake in the oven for around 18-20 minutes, until a knife stuck in the middle of the muffin comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before devouring.
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White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookies

White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookies

I’m sorry I pretty much disappeared from here! I got back from my holiday to Florida the Sunday before last and life has been pretty hectic since as my boyfriend and I are currently looking at buying a flat. I did manage to squeeze in some baking last weekend but I just haven’t had a chance to write about it.

Florida was amazing! It was my first trip to America and I loved every minute of it, I can’t wait to go back. I think I must have put on about a stone as the food is amazing and the portion sizes are massive. I was having pancakes and chocolate peanut butter muffins for breakfast every day and would top that up with a further 6(!) (buy 3 get 3 free) to takeaway. Definitely appropriately named “mammoth” muffins that were the size of my hand and filled with gooey peanut butter…mmmm! They were amazing. I need to find a recipe to recreate them!

White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookies

White Chocolate and Macadamia Nut Cookies

Whilst we were away my boyfriend introduced me to white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies. Albeit only from Subway they were delicious nonetheless. They were the perfect cookies, soft and chewy, indulgent, deeply satisfying and extremely moreish! What more could you want!? As last weekend was Valentine’s day the theme for SBC was to bake something you love but I have been trying to be good since overindulging in Florida so instead I decided to bake something for the one I love and he chose these. I used a recipe I found in the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and just substituted pecans for macadamia nuts. The recipe is really simple and most of the ingredients I already had in my cupboard. They didn’t take very long to prepare nor did they create much washing up which is always a bonus and makes them taste just that extra bit more delicious!

Ingredients

250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
200g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
100g white chocolate, chopped
100g macadamia nuts, chopped

Method

1. Using a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use an electric handheld whisk) cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

2. Add the eggs one at a time and mix on a medium speed until combined. Scrape down the side sides of the bowl to incorporate any unmixed ingredients. Turn the mixer down to a slow speed and beat in the vanilla extract.

3. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix well until a smooth dough is formed. Stir in the chocolate and macadamia nuts until evenly incorporated.

4. Divide the dough in half and place each half onto a separate piece of cling film. Then shape each half into 2 equal rolls measuring 15-18cm in length and wrap the roll in the cling film. (My dough was quite sticky so this was pretty messy!) Place the rolls into the freezer to set for a couple of hours.

5. Once you’re ready to bake the cookies preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas mark 3. Grease or line a couple of baking trays (you need about 4, I only have two so had to cook in 2 batches.)

6. Remove the cling film and slice the rolls into discs about 2-3cm thick. Place the discs onto the baking trays ensuring they are evenly spaced out to allow for spreading whilst baking.

7. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until quite flat and golden brown around the edges. Remove the cookies from the oven and leave to cool slightly before transferring them onto wire wracks to cool completely. The cookies should be soft and chewy…and delicious! 🙂

Chocolate and Caramel Ombre Extravaganza

Chocolate and Caramel Ombre Cake

Truth be told I’ve always been indifferent to caramel, it’s a nice flavour but not one that has ever particularly excited me and therefore I have never been inspired to incorporate it into my baking. As a result, when I discovered last week’s theme for the Sunday Baking Club was caramel, I wasn’t feeling overly enthused. That was until I discovered a recipe for a chocolate and caramel ombre cake! Any recipe that includes chocolate is a winner in my books and eager to use the Wilton’s Easy Layer Cake Pan Set I got for Christmas this was the perfect opportunity to test it out.

This would be a great cake to make for a celebration as ombre cakes look so impressive and are fairly simple to make. I had to alter the recipe slightly from the one I found on the BBC Good Food website as the Wilton layer cake tins are much smaller than a standard cake tin so if you wanted to make this using a larger tin the recipe would have to be doubled and the cakes would need to be cooked for around 20-25 minutes. The cake is really easy to make, the batter is made in two batches, a vanilla batter and a caramel batter, each of these are then separated and cocoa powder is added to half creating the chocolate and caramel chocolate layers. The moist, spongy layers of cake are then sandwiched together with a creamy salted caramel frosting and the entire cake is covered with rich, fudgy, chocolate ganache. Unfortunately I am detoxing before my holiday to Florida next week so will not allow myself to have any, however my boyfriend/chief taster/washer upper (who claims he doesn’t like cake!) was very impressed with the overall result and has assured me that it tastes even better than it looks.

Chocolate and Caramel Ombre Cake

Ingredients

For the chocolate and vanilla layers

115g butter at room temperature
115g caster sugar
115 self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 medium eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1tbsp cocoa powder

For the caramel and caramel-chocolate layers

115g butter at room temperature
65g caster sugar
50g soft brown sugar
115g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp caramel flavouring
1 tsp cocoa powder

For the salted caramel frosting

125g icing sugar
40g butter at room temperature
1 tbsp whole milk
A couple of drops of salted caramel flavouring

For the chocolate ganache

100g milk chocolate, finely chopped
100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
200ml double cream

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas mark 4 and grease your cake tins.
  2. For the chocolate and vanilla layers combine all ingredients, apart from the cocoa powder, in a large bowl. Mix together using an electric mixer on a medium speed until all the ingredients have combined to form a smooth batter. Scrape half of the batter into one of the tins. Then add the cocoa powder to the remaining batter, mix until fully incorporated and then scrape into another cake tin.
  3. For the caramel and caramel-chocolate layers repeat step two, again leaving the cocoa power out, halving the batter and mixing the cocoa powder into one half. Place all of the tins into the oven and bake for around 18 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  4. Whilst the cakes are in the oven make the chocolate ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a large heat proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over a medium heat until it is simmering, do not let it boil. Remove the pan from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate, leave for about 5 minutes for the chocolate to soften. After 5 minutes start mixing the chocolate and cream together and stir until all the chocolate has melted. Chill the ganache in the fridge so it firms up.
  5. Once the cakes have finished cooking place onto a cooling rack.
  6. Next make the salted caramel frosting. Using an electric mixer beat the icing sugar and butter together on a medium speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Then add the milk and salted caramel flavouring mixing on a high speed. Continue mixing for about 5 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  7. Once the sponges are cool spread a third of the frosting over the chocolate sponge and top with the caramel chocolate sponge. Spread over another third of the frosting and top with the Caramel sponge, then the final third of frosting and top with the vanilla sponge. Finally, cover the cake with the chocolate ganache.