Happiness

Bread and ice cream

bread

We’ve had a really tough week. Ben’s dad died. We knew it was coming (he had cancer) but this didn’t make it any easier.

My first instinct is to turn to food for comfort (I think it’s the only way I know). And for our family ‘happy’ foods would be ice cream or perhaps a home baked loaf.

So on Sunday we had a sugar-crazed ice cream ‘mash up’. I made vanilla ice cream and presented it with a selection of sauces, with sweets to garnish, in true ‘Pizza Hut Ice Cream Factory’ style. This was reminiscent of sleepovers when I was 14 where we would eat pizza and ice cream until we felt sick and then watch naff horror films like Nightmare on Elm Street or Child’s Play.

The ice cream ‘mash up’ was fun and temporarily took our mind off things. Only just like my teenage self we got over excited and ate so much that we felt ill and had to lie down and listen to audio books (in lieu of television) for the rest of the day.

In the end it was the next morning’s freshly baked bread that won through. Slathered with real butter this was the stuff of true, wholesome, everyday happiness.

With Ben away watching over his ailing father, it has fallen on me to make the daily bread. I had to ask for his current recipe which has been updated since the one I posted back in September 2013 (the main change being the larger size since our children now eat more than we do).

So please find below four recipes for ice cream sauces and one for a good loaf of bread.

Peace be with you David Shelton (1950-2017).

Ice Cream Mash up

icecreammashup

For my homemade vanilla ice cream recipe click here. Or just buy some ready made.

Each of the sauce recipes below makes a jam jar full. More than you’ll need for one session but they will keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or you could freeze any leftovers.

Milk chocolate peanut sauce

  • 175ml of double cream
  • 100g of milk chocolate
  • 100g of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy it’s up to you)
  • 3 tablespoons of golden syrup

Heat all the ingredients slowly in a saucepan until everything is melted and amalgamated. Best served warm.

Hot chocolate fudge sauce

  • 80ml of double cream
  • 60ml of golden syrup
  • 40g of dark brown sugar
  • 30g of cocoa powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 85g of good quality dark chocolate
  • 15g of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Heat all the ingredients slowly in a saucepan until everything is melted and amalgamated.

This creates a thick sauce. Add a little more full milk or double cream if you want it thinner.

Salted caramel sauce

  • 175g light soft brown sugar
  • 300ml double cream
  • 50g butter
  • ½ tsp salt (I prefer a bit more but start with ½ tsp and see what you think)

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan set over a low heat, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up and bubble the sauce for 2-3 mins until golden and syrupy. Leave to cool for 10 mins before serving. Can be made up to 3 days in advance and chilled – gently reheat to serve.

The other option is to open a tin of caramel condensed milk and add a good pinch of Maldon sea salt.

Raspberry sauce

  • 350g bag of frozen raspberries
  • 50g of icing sugar

Heat the raspberries (straight from frozen) with the icing sugar over a low heat in a saucepan on the hob. Let it simmer for a few minutes (3-5). I like a smooth texture with no pips so I sieve the mixture before serving but this is a total pain and does take ages (plus nightmare washing up to get the pips out of the sieve). If you don’t mind pips then just skip this step.

Or, alternatively, whizz up a tin of raspberries in syrup and sieve (or not).

Best served chilled.

sauce

Sumptuous sauces (clockwise from top left, raspberry, milk chocolate peanut, salted caramel and dark chocolate).

sweets

Sprinkles

 

Ben’s bread (current version)

  • 900g of strong bread flour (mainly white with 200-300g of spelt or wholemeal if you like)
  • 12g of salt
  • 6g of easy bake yeast
  • 550ml of water
  • (Optional) A small handful of seeds of your choice e.g. sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, poppy

Add all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Bring together with your hands and knead for at least 10 minutes.

Leave in the bowl covered with cling film until it has at least doubled in size – usually 2 hours but this may take a bit longer if it’s a cold day.

Knock back the dough with your hands and knead gently for another minute. Grease a large bread tin (mine is 28.5cm long, 13.5cm wide and 7cm deep) and  press the dough into the tin. Leave to rise in the tin for another 30-60 minutes. The dough needs to reach just above the top of the tin and this for me usually takes around 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220oC or 230oC if, like me, you like a really golden crust and put a tin of boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create some steam (this also helps with the crust formation).

Bake for 18 minutes at 220oC/230oC.

Then remove from the tin and bake for 17 minutes at 180oC.

Leave to cool before slicing.

A happy chocolate cake

old fashioned chocolate cake x

I have a rather cheesy golden rule when it comes to baking:

‘never make a cake out of obligation but always with love and generosity in your heart’

There are many times when cooking is a chore but baking sweet treats should never be.

But I also believe that making a cake can provide you with a great feeling of contentment and happiness. So when I was feeling a bit down last week (possibly due to empty nest syndrome now my children are at school) I baked this ‘old fashioned chocolate cake’ from Nigella’s fabulous ‘Feast’.

It cheered me up no end. And I promise this wasn’t due to the prospect of eating it all myself, but the anticipation of the pleasure it would give to others (in this case my husband and children).

This cake has a couple more ingredients than my standard everyday chocolate cake (Delia all-in-one sponge with a bit of cocoa in) but it is similarly easy to make and it has a gooey depth that takes it to a higher plane. I still think that Nigella’s ‘Chocolate Guinness cake’ (which has appeared on this blog previously – The best chocolate cake ever courtesy of the Domestic Goddess) is the absolute best, but this is a good option if you feel guilty about giving your children a cake with alcohol in it.

I didn’t have the ingredients for the icing Nigella makes so I made one up with what I had to hand (a tub of cream cheese, about 100g of icing sugar and about 50g of cocoa powder) and decorated with chocolate drops and chunks leftover from the children’s birthday party. It was pretty good – a sort of chocolate cheesecake icing – but below is the proper version.

Nigella’s old-fashioned chocolate cake

The cake

  • 200g of plain flour
  • 200g of caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 40g of cocoa powder
  • 175g of butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of real vanilla extract
  • 150ml of sour cream

The (proper) icing

  • 75g of butter
  • 175g of good quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • 300g of icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of golden syrup
  • 125ml of sour cream
  • 1 teaspoons of real vanilla extract
  • Sugar flower decorations (optional)

Remove the butter and the sour cream from the fridge so that they can come up to room temperature and preheat the oven to 180oC.

Butter and line two 20cm sandwich tins (with removable bases) with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

Put all the cake ingredients into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. I don’t have a food processor so I put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk with an electric hand whisk until everything is incorporated.

Divide the mixture equally into the two tins (I am a bit anal here and I do use the scales because I’m terrible at judging by eye) and place in the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes but start testing after 25 minutes. As ever the cakes are done when a skewer comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool on wire racks in their tins for 10 minutes and then turn out and remove the lining paper. Make sure they are completely cool before you start the icing.

For the icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water.

While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little sieve the icing sugar into another bowl.

Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved icing sugar. You may need to add a little boiling water if the mixture is a little thick, or more icing sugar if it is too runny. It should be liquid enough to coat the cake easily but thick enough not to drip off.

Put one third of the icing on top of one of the cakes and sandwich by sitting the other cake on top. Put one third of the icing on the top of that cake and smooth to the edges. Then put the rest of the icing around the sides of the cake. Spread the icing in a swirly, textured way and decorate with sugared flowers if you want it to look like Nigella’s (here’s a photo).

My version.

My finished version.

old fashioned chocolate cake and eddie

A happy boy.