Thursday 25 May 2017

Recipes: Sweet treats

Why not spoil yourself with a sweet treat such as Irish coffee cake says Brenda Costigan

Irish coffee cake
Irish coffee cake

Think about how everyone likes to be appreciated. So why not show our love and affection for family members by baking something special?

At the tender age of about seven, I am told, I brought my parents their breakfast in bed. Even though the tea was cold, the toast was somewhat burnt and the scrambled eggs were like bullets, they were charmed. It is the thought that counts. These treats, if made with love, will be all the more special.

IRISH COFFEE CAKE

Inspired by a recipe I came across recently, this one-layer coffee sponge is partially soaked in sweetened coffee, which is laced with an optional dash of whiskey -- a nice treat, for those who feel inclined. The topping of lightly sweetened whipped cream also includes a dash of whiskey, if desired. The cream is spread in a thick layer over the top, imitating the creamy topping on an Irish coffee.

For the sponge, you will need:

2 tablespoons instant coffee

3 tablespoons boiling water

175g (6oz) butter

175g (6oz) caster sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

3 large eggs

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

75g (3oz) chopped, toasted walnuts

For the coffee syrup, you will need:

175ml (6fl oz) strong coffee

50-75g (2-3oz) caster sugar

3 tablespoons Irish whiskey (optional)

For the whipped cream topping, you will need:

200-250ml (7-9fl oz) fresh whipped cream

1-2 teaspoons caster sugar

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey (optional)

A little grated chocolate or chopped toasted walnuts, to decorate

You will also need a sandwich tin or spring-clip tin 23cm (9in) in diameter. Grease with butter and line the base with a circle of baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas 5.

The first thing to do is to dissolve the instant coffee with the boiling water and let it cool. For best results, the coffee needs to be very strong.

Beat together the butter and the caster sugar until light and fluffy. Then add in the vanilla essence with the eggs, one at a time, adding a little of the weighed self-raising flour if there's a danger that the mixture is beginning to curdle. Stir in the remaining flour. Then stir in the coffee and the chopped walnuts.

Put into the tin and spread out. Bake until cooked through, for 35-40 minutes. The cake will start to shrink from the sides and be evenly firm all over. Stand the tin on a wire tray for about 10 minutes and then carefully turn out to cool completely.

Meanwhile, dissolve together the ingredients for the coffee syrup -- the strong coffee, the caster sugar and the Irish whiskey, if you are using it.

When the cake is cool, put it into a wide dish in order to catch the coffee syrup. Prick the top with a fork, gently pour the coffee syrup all over and allow a little time for the syrup to soak in.

Carefully place on a serving dish and cover the top with the fresh whipped cream, lightly sweetened with the caster sugar and laced with the Irish whiskey, if you are using it. Decorate with the grated chocolate and walnuts, whichever you are using. If preferred, cover the top with coffee-fudge icing (see below).

For the coffee-fudge icing, you will need:

1 tablespoon instant coffee

1 tablespoon boiling water

40g (1½oz) butter

175g (6oz) icing sugar

Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water. Melt the butter in a saucepan, take off the heat and add into it the dissolved coffee and the icing sugar. Stir well together. Leave for a little while to cool and become stiff enough to spread over the top of the cake. Spread smoothly or in rough little peaks.

CHOCOLATE BISCUIT CAKE

No cooking is required, other than to melt the chocolate. Coarsely crushed biscuits and other items are mixed through and the cake is chilled in the fridge. I include a packet of Maltesers. The result is totally addictive!

You will need:

175g (6oz) butter

250g (9oz) dark chocolate

75ml (3oz) cream

2 tablespoons golden syrup

200g (7oz) digestive biscuits, coarsely crushed

200g (7oz) HobNobs or ginger nuts (or biscuits of your choice), coarsely crushed

75g (3oz) packet of Maltesers, very coarsely crushed

For the topping, you will need:

100g (4oz) dark chocolate

2 tablespoons fresh cream

Use a 23cm (9in) square tin lined with baking parchment.

Melt the butter, the dark chocolate and the cream together in a bowl -- either over a saucepan of gently simmering water or on the defrost setting of the microwave for about 6-10 minutes. Stir well when melted and add in all the other ingredients -- the golden syrup, the coarsely crushed digestive biscuits, HobNobs or ginger nuts, or whichever you are using, and coarsely crushed Maltesers. Mix well and spoon the mixture into the tin and spread evenly out. Chill to set in the fridge.

When set, melt the chocolate for the topping with the cream and spread in a thin layer to give a smooth surface. When completely set, cut into squares with a sharp knife.

CRUNCHY APPLE CRUMBLE

Apple desserts are a sure winner for most dads. This is a simple recipe to make, with the added advantage that it is low in fat and contains plenty of fruit, with a crumble that is rich in fibre. Serve with custard or whipped cream or, better still, spoon some nice fruity, low-fat yogurt over each portion instead. Serves 4-5.

You will need:

450g (1lb) cooking apples, peeled and chopped coarsely -- Bramley are good

Juice of 1 orange

1-2 tablespoons water

About 50g (2oz) caster sugar or light brown sugar

Pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

For the crumble topping, you will need:

40g (1½oz) white flour (not self-raising)

50g (2oz) wholemeal flour

40g (1½oz) rolled oats

50g (2oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) butter

25g (1oz) chopped, toasted almonds or walnuts

Pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas 5.

Partly cook the peeled and coarsely chopped apples in a saucepan with the orange juice and possibly a little water to just cover the bottom of the pan. Cover with a lid, bring to the boil and simmer gently for a few minutes until nearly tender. Stir in the caster or light brown sugar and the ground cinnamon or nutmeg, if you are using one of them. Pour the apples into a wide, shallow 1-litre (2pt) ovenproof dish. Put the white flour and the wholemeal flour into a bowl and add the rolled oats, the caster sugar, and the butter cut into lumps. Rub together until the mixture is like breadcrumbs -- this can be done in a few seconds in a food processor.

Add in the chopped, toasted almonds or walnuts, or whichever you are using. Then add the ground cinnamon or nutmeg, if you are using one of them. Mix well and then sprinkle over the hot apple. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the crumble is golden brown. Serve hot.

CHOUX BUNS

You will know that you have made good choux buns when you cut into them and find almost no pastry/paste inside but an empty space full of air! One of the secrets of success is the consistency of the choux pastry, another is to use strong flour (as for yeast bread -- or else plain white flour, not self-raising). The third is to leave the oven door closed for at least the first 15 minutes -- or they may collapse.

If you have not made choux buns before, shape just one bun on to the prepared tin and cook it. This will allow you to see the size to which it will expand and the baking time.

Makes about 14 buns, not quite as big as a tennis ball.

For the choux pastry you will need:

150g (5oz) flour, preferably strong flour (or use white flour, not self-raising)

110g (4oz) butter

225 ml (8fl oz) water

4 fresh eggs (medium-large)

A few drops vanilla essence

For the filling, you will need:

250 ml (7fl oz) cream

Caster sugar

1 tablespoon fresh fruit salad for each bun

Preheat the oven to 220°C, 425°F, Gas 7. Sieve the flour on to a piece of paper. Cut the butter into lumps and put into a saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil. Immediately add in all the flour -- any delay will allow evaporation and thus the wrong balance of ingredients. Stir this stiff mixture over a gentle heat for about three minutes to cook the flour, without allowing it to colour. Take off the heat and allow to cool somewhat.

Using the first three eggs -- add them one at a time, beating the mixture until smooth after each one. I use an electric hand mixer for this. Add the vanilla essence at this stage. Break the fourth egg into a cup and whisk with a fork. Add gradually to the choux pastry, beating after each addition until the correct consistency is achieved -- soft but stiff. The idea is to add as much of the egg as you can, but not too much, otherwise the pastry will be too soft and the buns will be flat, rather than puffed-up. Judge this by placing the back of a spoon on to the surface of the pastry. Lift it off with a quick jerk so that the bit of pastry underneath stands up in a little peak, which should not flop easily sideways.

Lightly grease a few baking tins or, better still, line with baking parchment.

Using two soup spoons, shape round blobs from the prepared choux pastry on to the prepared tin, leaving room for expansion between them.

Bake for about 15 minutes then reduce oven heat to 200°C, 400°F, Gas 6, for a further 15-25 minutes until well risen, crisp and golden. Don't open the oven door for the first 15 minutes of baking or the buns will collapse. When baked, cut a little slit or hole in the side of each puff to release the steam. Return them to the oven for about 3-5 minutes to dry them out, this helps them stay crisp. Cool on a wire tray.

Shortly before serving, whip the cream and sweeten lightly with the caster sugar. Mix in the fresh fruit salad and cut off the tops of the buns. Fill the buns with the mixture, dust with caster sugar, and sit each 'cap' on top.

L

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