THE BEST Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe is Scandinavian with spicier approach. I swear it is the best recipe for Cinnamon rolls, and so far it has been a secret one…. But I’ve decided to finally share it and spread some cinnamon love… Hope you enjoy!

You’ll need:

0,5 l warm milk/water/coconut milk or other equivalent

1 egg (plus another one for glazing, optional)

2 (total 14g) sachets of dried yeast or 50g of fresh yeast

200g caster sugar

15g (tablespoon) salt

15g ground cardamom

pinch of vanilla

150g soft butter/oil, plus a bit extra

1kg-1,2kg strong flour or equivalent

cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling, plus almond flakes (optional)

Mix all your ingredients, apart from the flour and butter, together. Add 90% of the flour and start kneading. After a couple of minutes add the butter and remaining flour. Keep kneading for 10 minutes adding small bit of flour if the dough is too sticky, but avoid making it too hard.

Leave to rest under a clean tea towel or cling film for 20 mins to reduce the elasticity.

Roll the dough into a rectangle shape about 30 cm wide and 3cm thick. Length doesn’t matter, it only determines how many buns you’ll be able to cut once it is rolled up. (You can divide the dough into two equal sizes before rolling it, to make it easier to manage) Spread your extra soft butter/oil on the rolled out dough, sprinkle evenly the extra sugar and ground cinnamon. Start rolling up the dough width ways, making it nice and tight/compact. Cut into about 5cm long pieces. Turn them on their side and press down gently.

Place on the baking tray to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size, under a clean tea towel or a cling film. Once risen glaze gently with a beaten egg with a pastry brush, sprinkle with flaked almond and sugar. Bake in 225 degrees Celsius for about 15 mins or until nice golden brown colour.

Enjoy with a glass of milk or hot chocolate! Mm…

(Cinnamon rolls don’t stay fresh for very long, but they freeze really well, as long as you do it straight away once cooled down. I thaw them by popping them in to hot oven for a few minutes, this way they are like freshly baked again!)

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Wedding Cakes

I thought I’d add a few pictures of cakes that I have made. And, who knows, maybe one day I will share some of the recipes also..

Making wedding cakes is always a bit stressful, but working under pressure is something one can get used to. To have the finished piece in front of me – and my customer is happy with it, is definitely worth all of it. I always hear this happy hum of my own heart when the creation has been successful.

Chocolate ganache cake with red wine and handmade fondant roses

White chocolate and fresh soft fruit

Traditional fruitcake decorated with fondant icing and handmade fondant roses

Pizza, please!

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Whenever I ask my kids what they want for dinner, the answer is always the same: Pizza! I find it to be a great dish to make when there’s very little ingredients in the cupboards. It’s easy to create something quite amazing with very little effort.

You’ll need:

half a quantity of basic bread dough (check out the recipe in the bread category)

tomato sauce

cheese

your favourite topping

Start by making your dough. I divide the master recipe into half and use semolina or polenta with the flour. I also add a tablespoon of olive oil into the mix after about 4mins of kneading, this will create lovely air pockets in the pizza base when baking, plus it’ll give it more flavour. From this quantity of dough I’d make four round pizzas. I like mine thin, but it’s entirely up to you how many pizzas or how thick you make them. After dividing the the dough into equal size pieces, shape them into balls and leave to rest for half an hour under a clean cloth. (Remember to sprinkle flour underneath and small bit on the top, so they won’t stick, also leave enough space in between)

At this stage I turn on the oven. The ideal temperature for pizza is 300 degrees celsius, so the closer you can get to that, the better. My lovely oven only manages just over 220 celsius, which will do the the trick also, just not as well.. If you have a pizza stone, throw it in the oven now, so there will be enough time for it to get nice and hot. These stones are great, as they help cook the base quick and giving the pizza base a lighter, crispier texture when done.

To make the tomato sauce, I use either fresh or tinned plum tomatoes. I put the tomatoes in the saucepan along with garlic, basil and bit of seasoning (sea salt and ground mixed pepper) Let it bubble for a few minutes to release all the juices and bring all the  flavours together. Then whizz it in the food processor, or pulse, into smooth sauce. Sometimes I drain it through a sieve to discard skin bits and seeds, but sometimes I don’t.. It really depends on how much time and energy I’ve got!

Once the dough has rested I shape them into flat pizza bases either by using the rolling pin, or just stretching them by hand. I find that if I use just hands, the base will be bubblier and lighter once cooked, but either way is fine and end result will be fab! Once the oven has reached the temperature I take the pizza stone out of the oven and place the base on it. Spread some tomato sauce over it and throw the cheese on. I usually use mix of grated mozzarella and parmesan, but any hard cheese will do. If I use fresh soft mozzarella, I’d only put it on after the pizza is cooked, because I find that otherwise it makes the pizza a bit soggy. Bake the pizza for 4-10mins, depending on how hot your oven is. Basically, it’s the golden brown look you’re after.

In our house the pizza gets the centre stage, so I place it on the middle of the table, on the heavy timber chopping board my dad made me, and let everyone dig in!

Valentine’s Chocolate Cake Slices filled with Baileys Custard

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First a quick word about cake making. I thought I’d share this recipe, because it’s a nice easy introduction to sponge cake. There are a couple of things to that are good to know before starting; Have all your ingredients the same temperature, so keep your eggs out of the fridge. The ideal temperature for egg to whisk to it’s optimal volume is 40 degrees celsius! When I was in college we actually heated them up to this temperature to guarantee best results. Unless I bake a cake for sale, I’d at least make sure that they are at room temperature. The next thing good to know when baking this sort of light sponge (Genoese) that you’ll have to whisk it till it at least doubles in capacity and can hold a figure eight… Which means, when you’re whisking the sponge and think it’s done, lift up the whisk and try and draw an eight on the surface, if it holds it for a couple of seconds, it’s done.

Seen as Valentine’s Day is approaching I decided to top my cake with some icing. I normally wouldn’t do this purely because I have a bit of a love/hate feelings towards it due to the sugar content, lack of flavour and all the additives in most food colours. I think to finish of the cake with a dusting of a icing sugar or cocoa powder would have equally nice effect.

You’ll need:

For the sponge:

200g eggs (4)

140g caster sugar

80g plain flour

20g cocoa powder

For the Baileys custard:

First:

130ml milk

40g caster sugar

2  egg yolks

30g plain flour sieved (2 tbsp)

vanilla

2nd:

200ml whipping cream + couple of tbsp icing sugar

15 – 30ml Baileys Cream Liquor

3rd:

10g gelatine powder (2 tsp)

50ml hot water, nearly boiling point

First, turn the oven on to 210 degrees celsius. Take a shallow oven tray approx. size 30cm x 35cm (12” x 14”) and line it with baking parchment. Measure all your ingredients. Whisk your eggs together with the sugar till it’s light in colour, min. double in size, and so fluffy you’d want to dive into it. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together into the mix and fold carefully, avoiding too much handling and knocking off the air. (I add first 1/3 the flour, mix it through and only then the rest. This way you’ll get lot less lumps of flour in the egg & sugar mix, due to more resistance it the mix) Spread it evenly on the oven tray and bake for 8 mins. Turn the oven off, but leave the sponge in for further 2 mins or until it bounces back when touched.(If in doubt, check with a skewer) It is important not to open the oven for the first 7-8mins, otherwise the sponge will go flat and lose its volume. The end result should be nice and light that melts in your mouth! Leave to cool.

(You can use the above to make swiss roll too.)

To prepare the custard measure out all your first ingredients, put them into a heavy based sauce pan and bring to the boil on medium heat stirring constantly. (But let it only bubble once!) I used real vanilla (about 1cm piece, slice open and with tip of knife scrape the seeds out) You can use essence, but in that case add it only in the end, because otherwise the aroma will evaporate once the custard heats up. Once it is ready it will be runny, but thick. More of a consistency of sloppy mashed potatoes rather than thick soup.. Somewhere right in between those! Leave to cool.

Next, whip up your cream with the icing sugar (according to your own taste) until it’s nice and soft, not too firm and add the Baileys.

Add the gelatine to the hot water until it dissolves. You can use Agar either, or leaf gelatine and use them according to the instructions in the packet.

Add the whipped cream and Baileys to the cooled down custard, fold gently and thoroughly. Add the gelatine water stirring constantly to avoid lumps forming.

To assemble your cake, divide the sponge slab/sheet (whatever you want to call it!) into two equal sizes. I made it on top of chopping board and covered with some tin foil with the edges bent up to make little walls to avoid the custard from spilling out too much. But if you have a tray that would be suitable to hold it all together, use that. Place one sheet at the bottom, pour the custard over and spread evenly, and finally place the second sheet on the top. Leave to set in the fridge for a couple of hours. Cut to slices. If you use icing, cover the whole lot, before cutting)

Tip! Once the custard is set; place the cake in a freezer for half an hour, to get neater slices.

You can also use this sponge recipe to make a layered slab cake by dividing it into three once baked and cooled. Spread jam over the first layer, and butter icing or whipped cream on the 2nd, finishing off with a layer of sponge.

Basic Bread Dough

I thought I’d start with something very simple, but also something that is easily adjusted to suit different tastes: Bread. I rarely make just wheat bread, instead I always add bit of semolina, oats, polenta, rye, or barley to my bread dough. Or maybe even some potato and dill, or nice strong cheese, like Emmental or Cheddar. Or olives, or sun dried tomatoes or…. you name it! Anything that I happen to fancy at the time!

For the basic bread dough you’ll need:

500ml warm water

30g fresh yeast or 10g dry yeast

15g fine sea salt

10g castor sugar

800g strong flour or 650g flour and 150g semolina/polenta/rye/oats..etc.

(olives/sun dried tomatoes/herbs according to taste)

(if you want to make potato bread, use a big floury one grated fine and reduce the flour amount a small bit)

Now, there are a few things to bear in mind when making bread. First, if you use dry yeast the ideal temperature for the water will be about 40 celsius, for fresh yeast it will be 30 celsius. Second, there are different levels of ground flour and the best for baking yeast based bread is fine ground flour, that contains mostly the grains inner part, which when baking has the best viscose abilities that are essential for good end result. In Ireland the best flour available in supermarkets is strong flour. If you’re in a different country the best way to find the right flour is simply to look at the recipe suggestion on the back of the packet, if it’s for bread, then you have the correct one! Also what to bear in mind that all flour brands have different absorbing capabilities, (it can even vary with one brand from  year to year) therefore only add 90% of the flour amount stated on the recipe and the rest bit by bit, or you might even end up adding more than advised on the recipe.

I use sugar in my bread because it “feeds” the yeast, it’s a great little bit of inside information that I learned in college. You wont taste it and your bread will rise better!

So, throw your ingredients together and knead for about 8-15mins. The kneading time depends on whether you do it by hand or let your mixer do the work. If you use mixer, use the dough hook. I bought myself a Kenwood mixer and it is wonderful for speeding things up. Your dough should be moist, but not wet and it should not stick to your hands, work surface or the bowl too much. Once the dough has nice viscosity (it’s elastic, and bounces back when stretched) you’ll know it’s good to be left to rest for about 20mins under a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap (to keep in the moisture and heat).

From this recipe you can make two equal size loaves, or about 14 bread rolls (or less, if you like bigger ones)

Leave to rise for about one hour in warm place, again under a cloth or cling film. Flour the surface of the bread so it wont stick when rising, or sprinkle with semolina, polenta, oats, etc. This way you’ll get really lovely rustic looking bread once baked. The ideal temperature for rising bread is about 37 celsius with about 60-70% humidity, if you can create those conditions, you’ll only need 45mins!

Bake in 200 degrees celsius for 20mins for bread rolls and approx. 40mins for bigger loaves. You have to use common sense when assessing whether the bread is done or not for the simple reason that some ovens are more efficient than others! What I normally do is to set the oven for 35mins and keep checking after that. Thoroughly baked bread will have lovely golden brown colour, sound hollow when knocked on the base and smell absolutely gorgeous!

© 2011 Simon Bates Photography

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