From basic to brilliant, by Donna Hay

Genius idea! The new book by Donna Hay helps you master essential recipes then turn simple into special with clever variations. Try these to add sparkle to your baking repertoire.

Carrot cake and cream cheese muffins

MAKES 12

250g cream cheese, softened

1 tbsp raw caster sugar

3 carrots (450g), peeled and grated

2 tsp ground cinnamon

100g walnuts, chopped

1 x quantity simple muffin mixture (see basic recipe)1

1 Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line 12 x 125ml capacity muffin tins with paper cases and set aside.

2 Place the cream cheese and sugar in a medium bowl and mix until smooth. Set aside.

3 Add the carrot, cinnamon and walnuts to the muffin mixture and mix until just combined. Divide half the mixture between the prepared tins. Place 1 heaped tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture on to each muffin. Top with the remaining muffin mixture and bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Mini pancakes in cinnamon sugar

 

MAKES 60

1 x quantity light and fluffy pancake mixture (see basic recipe here)

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

55g caster sugar

25g unsalted butter, melted

1 This begins with uncooked pancake mixture – simply prepare the basic recipe until the end of step 3.

2 Place a large nonstick frying pan over a medium heat.

3 In batches, cook heaped teaspoons of the mixture for 1-2 minutes each side until golden brown.

4 Place the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl and mix to combine. Place the pancakes and butter in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the cinnamon sugar and toss to coat. Place on a serving plate and sprinkle with any remaining cinnamon sugar to serve.

 

Simple muffin mixture

MAKES 1 QUANTITY

375g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

220g raw caster sugar (see Notes, below)

1 medium egg

125ml vegetable oil or light-flavoured extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

180ml milk

1 Place the flour, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl and mix to combine.

2 Place the egg, oil, vanilla and milk in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.

3 Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and fold until almost combined (see Notes).

NOTES

Raw (unrefined) caster sugar has a honey-caramel flavour, making it perfect for baking. If unavailable, use regular caster sugar. In the book I give 4 ways to bake this mixture into different muffins. The carrot cake and cream cheese version (left) is one of my favourites.

Light and fluffy pancakes

MAKES 12 

110g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

75g caster sugar

180ml buttermilk (see Tips)

2 medium eggs, separated

1 Place the flour, baking powder, sugar, buttermilk and egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk until a smooth batter forms.

2 Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form.

3 Add the egg white to the pancake batter and gently fold to combine.

4 Place a large nonstick frying pan over a medium heat.

5 In batches, cook heaped tablespoons of the mixture for 3-4 minutes each side or until golden brown.

TIPS

Gently folding in the whisked egg white will keep these pancakes super light.

Buttermilk makes them extra fluffy.

Serve pancakes hot from the pan or stack on a warm plate and cover with a tea towel until you’ve cooked the batch. Drizzle with maple syrup to serve.

Banana bread

SERVES 8-10

390g mashed ripe banana (about 4 bananas, see Notes below)

125ml vegetable oil or light-flavoured extra virgin olive oil

3 medium eggs

260g brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 banana, extra, halved lengthways

1 Place the mashed banana in a large bowl.  Add the oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla and mix to combine.

2 Add the flour and cinnamon and mix until just combined.

3 Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.

4 Lightly grease a 10cm x 20cm (2 litre capacity) loaf tin and line with nonstick baking paper (see Notes).

5 Pour the banana mixture into the tin and top with the extra banana, cut-side up.

6 Bake for 1 hour or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool completely. Slice to serve.

 NOTES

  • Ripe bananas lend a lovely natural sweetness to the bread.
  • It’s best not to overwork the mixture – just mix until the ingredients are combined.
  • When lining the tin, leave a few centimetres of baking paper overhanging at each long edge. You can use these to help lift the baked banana bread out from the tin and on to the cooling rack.

Banana bundt cake with caramel icing

Banana bundt cake with caramel icing

SERVES 8

1 x quantity banana bread mixture (see basic recipe here)

320g store-bought caramel (or see the basic creamy caramel in the book)

1 This cake begins with uncooked banana bread mixture – simply prepare the basic recipe to the end of step 2, omitting the extra banana.

2 Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Grease a 24cm bundt tin (see Notes + Tips).  Pour the banana bread mixture into the tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Immediately turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

3 Place the cake on a cake stand or plate and top with the caramel (see Notes + Tips). Slice to serve.

NOTES + TIPS

  • Grease the bundt tin well with butter or cooking oil spray.
  • Spooning the caramel over the cooled cake will help it set into a sweet golden icing.
  • You can also top slices of the cake with warm caramel and double cream for a cosy pudding-style dessert.

My Nan’s sponge cake

MAKES 1 QUANTITY

150g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

6 medium eggs

165g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

75g unsalted butter, melted

1 Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 2½.

2 Lightly grease 2 x 20cm round cake tins and line with nonstick baking paper.

3 Sift the flour and baking powder together 3 times and set aside.

4 Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk on high speed for 12-15 minutes or until pale, thick and tripled in volume.

5 Sift half the flour mixture into the egg mixture and, using a large metal spoon, gently fold to combine (see Notes + Tips). Repeat with the remaining flour mixture.

6 Add the butter and gently fold to combine.

7 Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and gently smooth the tops, using a palette knife (see Notes + Tips below).

8 Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cakes are springy to the touch and come away from the sides of the tins. Turn out on to wire racks covered with clean tea towels and allow to cool completely.

NOTES + TIPS

Use a large metal spoon to combine the flour and egg mixtures with a careful cutting, lifting and folding action.

Be gentle when smoothing the tops of the cakes, to keep the mixture light and airy.

By covering the cooling racks with tea towels (or nonstick baking paper), you will prevent the wire from imprinting grid marks on the cakes.

Italian ricotta sponge cake, plus basic mascarpone icing

SERVES 8-10

BASIC MASCARPONE ICING 

 MAKES 1 QUANTITY (ABOUT 2 CUPS)

250ml single cream

250g mascarpone

80g icing sugar

Place the cream, mascarpone and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until soft peaks form.

TIP

This smooth, pillowy icing is similar to whipped cream but with more flavour and a little extra hold. It’s perfect piled on to almost any cake or cupcake and makes a lovely filling for a sponge.

1 x quantity my nan’s sponge cake (see basic recipe here)

1 x quantity mascarpone icing (see basic recipe, right)

RICOTTA FILLING

360g fresh ricotta

40g icing sugar, sifted

1 tsp finely grated lemon rind

1 tbsp lemon juice

  • To make the ricotta filling, place the ricotta, sugar, lemon rind and juice in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Set aside.
  • To assemble the cake, place one of the sponge cakes on a cake stand or plate. Spread with the ricotta filling and top with the remaining cake. Using a palette knife, spread the top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone icing. Slice to serve.

TIP

Simple and elegant, this is a perfect cake for celebrations such as birthdays and baby showers. It’s equally pretty piled with berries or topped with roses (choose pesticide-free) for something special.

Chewy chocolate chip cookies

MAKES 22

200g cold unsalted butter, chopped

175g brown sugar

165g white granulated sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp milk

1 medium egg

300g plain flour

¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp table salt

300g dark chocolate, chopped

1 Preheat oven to 180C/gas 4.

2 Place the butter and both the sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on low speed until just combined.

3 Increase the speed to medium and beat for 8 minutes or until pale and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

4 Add the vanilla, milk and egg and beat for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.

5 Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and beat until combined.

6 Add the chocolate and stir to combine.

7 Roll heaped tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place on lightly greased baking trays lined with nonstick baking paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown (see Notes + Tips below).

8 Allow to cool on the trays for 5 minutes before transferring on to wire racks to cool.

NOTES + TIPS

Leave 2cm-3cm between each ball of cookie dough to allow for spreading in the oven.

Cookies should be golden around the edges with even colouring on the base when they’re ready.

If you’re baking more than one tray of cookies at a time, swap their shelf positions in the oven halfway through cooking time to ensure even colouring.

 

Cookies and cream ice cream

SERVES 8

2 litres vanilla ice cream, chopped

½ batch chewy chocolate chip cookies (see basic recipe here), finely chopped

1 Place the ice cream in the bowl of a large electric mixer and beat on low speed for 2 minutes or until soft. Add half the cookie crumbs and beat until just combined.

2 Spoon the mixture into a 2 litre capacity metal container (or see Note below), cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 3 hours or overnight until solid. Sprinkle with the remaining cookie to serve.

NOTE

To make cookies and cream popsicles, simply divide the unfrozen ice cream mixture between 12 x 80ml capacity popsicle moulds and insert popsicle sticks. Freeze for 3 hours or until solid. Press the popsicles into the remaining cookie crumbs to serve.

 

SAVE 20 PER CENT ON DONNA’S NEW BOOK

Today’s recipes are from Basics to Brilliance by Donna Hay, which is published by Fourth Estate, price £25. 

‘I believe, just like anything you want to be good at, that mastering the basics is key to cooking with confidence,’ says Donna. ‘In this book I’m sharing with you my tried-and-true basic recipes, both savoury and sweet, as well as need-to-know essentials. Each has clever variations so one recipe becomes many and your repertoire naturally grows. It’s my personal guide to take you from basics to brilliance in the kitchen.’

  • To order a copy of Basics to Brilliance for £20 (a 20 per cent discount) until 3 December, visit you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.