Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas time... mistletoe at £3

'Ello all. One assumes that we are all fed and... fed. Quite possibly you are hitting the mad Christmas sales like the rest of the world. I was quite petrified on entry to M&S in Marble Arch that we pretty much left as soon as we got there. Scary. Anyway, here's my baking run down - there's not much in fairness since we were mainstreaming on the savoury stuff. A chicken, some pork, a forerib of beef for boxing day. I did however make some truffles which though very yummy, pretty basic - chocolate, hot double cream and a drop of peppermint essence if you fancied it. I also made mincepies with some cranberry mincemeat from Waitrose. The recipe was from Nigella's Christmas. Since SOMEONE complained that we never get to see the failures, I want to post this. Personally I don't think of it as a failure - I KNEW it was going to bubble over, but then I wanted the volume of mincemeat that we had. If you don't want it to do this, one option is to put a lid on it (literally!) the other is to only fill it with a little bit and then top up later. It's yummy for me anyway (who was the only person who liked mincemeat to begin with, but dealers choice. For artistic-al ones... look away.
Other things... we had a white Christmas here in Herts, but as it had been white for a week it's less fun. A few funky gifts from the relatives - a Wreath cake tin?? Will be making that this week so look out for that if you are... well that bored :P Enjoy your Xmas everyone!!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Afternoon tea at the Carnaby

Afternoon tea on short notice. One of my new favourite websites featured this one, and we went as it was convenient. First off, it's a Hilton. Therefore do not expect much. We were one of two tables that afternoon, and it took 45 minutes to serve us. The tea comes from Twinings in bags, the sugar is granulated without their own serving spoons (I hate using wet spoons). But to the review: It was £14. What do you expect?

You are served one of these little stacks each. The scones are warm and plain (joy for my sister, the non-raisin eater). However - you get ONE pot of jam each. Strawberry. I'm a purist. I expect a selection somewhere. There's clotted cream in the little black scoop, which did not match the tea set at all. Those little brown cones were either frozen mousse or very stable chocolate ice cream - nice, but when there is only one choice of cake on the stack - apple and walnut, you feel a little robbed of afternoon tea joy.

The sandwiches were cucumber and cream cheese, smoked salmon and cream cheese. Crust free, but slightly dry from being left uncovered briefly without damp teatowel or equivalent.

All in all, wouldn't go again - but it was pretty decent in terms of you could stay there all day and just have tea refills and I'd doubt they'd care...

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Coconut and Honey Marshmallows

It's raining, it's pouring, we had to do SOMETHING!!

Adapted from Marcus Wareing's Nutmeg and Custard, I made these little babies. I don't think the honey flavour is to my taste, but they are a brilliant texture and look like the picture :D

My adaptation stems from, you guessed it, a lack of almonds. I probably won't make these again as is, but it's worth having listed so I can adapt later.

Dessicated coconut (100g?)
12 leaves of gelatine (yep seriously - 12!)
150g sugar
7 tbsp clear honey
100ml water
2 egg whites

1. Line a wet dish with clingfilm. I used a circular dish around 3o cm in diameter, however the book recommends 15cm square. A nice brownie pan would do nicely (which I need to add to my christmas list). The wetness lets the cling stick to the pan. If you have OCD like me you will try and get the wrinkles out of the cling, but it doesn't matter because you won't see anything.
2. Toast coconut. I put mine on a metal dish and placed under a grill till you can smell and see the toastiness. You start remembering it's in there after you've burnt two lots.
3. Sprinkle half the coconut on the clingfilm.
4. Soften up your gelatine in cold water and squeeze out.
5. Put sugar, honey and water into a little pot and melt over the hob. This is why it doesn't matter what sugar you use.
6. Once boiling, add gelatine and stir to let it dissolve. Boil it rapidly for 4 minutes (I actually set a timer for a hob item!! hahahaha)
7. Whisk egg whites to fluffiness. Because you're not putting sugar in, it won't get to stiff peak stage which you might be used to seeing, but it will be white and have plenty of volume despite the tiny amounts of whites used.
8. Pour boiling syrup into the egg whites and continue to whisk until fluffy. I saw this like an Italian meringue and you end up seeing waves in the whites holding a little bit. It won't be stiff, but relatively solid.
9. Tip into pan and top with remaining coconut.
10. Chill in the fridge for an hour and then slice into squares. A wet/hot knife might help but I just used a sharp one.
11. You might want to coat the other edges but it's your call. I fancy I might dip these in chocolate, or have some crisp drizzles for contrast. But meanwhile, I need to know if these will roast on a candle like normal ones do. Laters! x

Saturday, 7 November 2009

My favourites

Every now and again, someone asks, "What is your signature dish?"
I never really know how to answer but I think, after a few years of proper hobby baking, my top contenders are as follows:
- Lemon cheesecake
- Chilli Brownies
- Cheesecake cupcakes
- Vanilla Bundt Cake

I'll add to these at some point (I hope!) but these are the ones which get eaten first time round with limited comments from the parentals.

A lot of these, I admit, are very recent additions to the fold. But hunt on the site and the recipes should be up. x

Friday, 6 November 2009

Lemon and Ginger Cupcakes

There's something called the Iron Cupcake competition which has been around for around six months. I've followed it from the beginning on the Caped Crusader's site (see right) but I've never been because I was always out of town with work. This was the first time I made an entry and it was lemon and ginger. First off, I'd like to say it is not a good idea to bake something first time for a "competition" but since it's free entry for bakers I thought I may as well.

The lemon and ginger recipe came from the book Decadence, with some adjustments because I didn't have any stem ginger, and so instead I did a coning job and filled
it with a little bit of lemon curd mixed with a ginger syrup I made. The gingerbread cookies however was a pretty wonderful recipe, also from Decadence.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Chocolate chilli brownies

I'm not a major fan of brownies, when you get them from the shops or even Borough Market they tend to be a touch dry, or they fall apart. So with the exception of Nigella Lawson's philadelphia cheese brownies, I rarely make them.

Today I made chilli brownies. The reason being is that there is a spice cupcake competition in town and I was wondering if chocolate chilli cupcakes would work. They probably would but whether that would be against the rules almost. Anyway, I'd already made cupcakes this morning - apple and spice cupcakes which on tasting, were definitely more muffin than cupcake. My fault. Any recipe using oil instead of butter comes out like that. I'll post an apple muffin pic up here, but not the recipe because it wasn't fabulous. You can find others just like it, but whereas I want the spice to meld into the cupcake, it was more like cake, with spice stuff. So back to the drawing board if I'm going to be entering that one (it's a fun competition anyway because you get to taste everyone elses!)

The chilli brownies however, were fantastic. If I say so myself :P They sliced nicely into really diddy squares and weren't overpowering. It was just a nice tingle on the lips that really told you there was chilli in the mix. The original recipe came from Jill Dupleix but I pretty much substituted everything by accident or design. To start with, I made it with dark chocolate. Not even good dark chocolate, bourneville since we had loads left (sister bought by accident when I asked for dark chocolate) and I've been working through the packs by shoving it into premade croissant pastry. It actually tastes pretty damn good in this. If you want to be precise, 100g was decent 70%+ dark chocolate from the baking section in Waitrose, which I found is about 15p cheaper than buying eating chocolate from the chocolate section.

Other changes include the fact that I didn't read properly and melted 300g of chocolate into the butter at the start, rather than saving half to put in the mix as chunks - so I substituted with a packet of white chocolate chunks, which don't look that nice to me. Far from Nigella's imagery of snow, I just think of...*ahem* other less savoury images of which you don't want to think of when eating brownies. Also since I was making dark chocolate rather than white brownies, I figured there's no point in using a green chilli for extra colours. But anyway, the recipe, is as follows. Enjoy!

Chocolate chilli brownies
200g butter
300g dark chocolate (bourneville was actually okay)
3 eggs
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1 pack of chocolate chunks/drops
pinch of salt

For the chillies
2 large chillis, sliced and deseeded
100g caster sugar
150ml water
1. Heat the oven to Gas 6
2. Line a roasting tin with parchment paper (no grease necessary)
3. Steep sugar, water and chilli mix on the hob at a light simmer for 5 minutes then turn off and leave.
4. Melt chocolate and butter together and let cool a bit.
5. Mix eggs, sugar and vanilla, and then add the melted chocolate
6. Fold in the sifted flour and salt, then add chocolate drops.
7. Drain chillies and add to the mix.
8. Bake for 20-25minutes until the top is firm although the middle might have some sink when you prod it.
9. Slice into one inch squares and eat from the outside in - the middle is still squidgy ;)

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bundt Cake... and a Dorie Convert

Third time's the charm. I gave in and bought cake-release from the dreaded Lakeland. I love it. But I hate it as well. Love hate Lakeland. So commercial. But so necessary. It never has quite as specialist a gear that I need, but it still has more than the regular high street and more over, I have to go to odd places to get it!! Still, this concoction of hydrogenated fat allowed me to turn out a perfect bundt cake without any digging at all! *pop* cake. The recipe itself also was a winner.

Dorie Greenspan's recipe, I do not believe I've made her before but boy does it rock.

The recipe repeated here so I don't lose the yummy recipe which I did not change for once (although using my usual subs for sugar when I ran out) is as follows:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks (220g ish) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar (used 1 golden caster, 3/4 granulated white)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract (used one)
1 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp jam, optional

1. Preheat Gas Mark 6.
2. Mix your sugar and butter.
3. Add eggs.
4. Sour cream and vanilla.
5. Add flour slowly.
6. Put half in the pan and blob jam on top.
7. Put rest on top.
8. Smooth over.
9. Bake for 60 minutes until skewer comes out clean. Cool for five minutes or so and turn over. Voila! :D

Thursday, 13 August 2009

"Pineapple" buns aka Bor Lor Bau

Going through a chinese baking phase so that my food gets eaten, but these de-lovelies I found were in want of a touch more sugar I think. Will adjust for next time. However, as a first attempt, the parentals were very pleased at the reduced sugar content.

A bit of background before I get into this, Bor Lor Bau's are a staple of chinese bakeries. They are called "pineapple" (bor-lor) buns (bau) because they have the funky pattern that look like pineapple. Occasionally you will see recipes with a tiny touch of crushed pineapple in the mix, but I suspect that may have been the result of a rogue trade descriptions officer. This particular recipe was extracted from a newspaper recipe my new sort-of-cousins-in-law supplied. The triple rise was also a helpful hint from their dad.

As for most chinese cakes, I have little clue why the ingredients are as they are. I mean, milk powder, custard powder and 1 piddly teaspoon of carnation milk?? What do these things DO?? By the way, the carnation milk was just that. I think it was evaporated but I could be wrong. The recipe in chinese just reads carnation. Mother dearest said her mate had said it would help prolong the life of the buns, like adding preservatives. One should not reason why, but appreciate the fact that the other recipe called for ammonium bicarbonate which I have no idea where to buy.

All in all, a worth bake. Officially by the way the recipe makes 16, but I made 10 giant ones. Don't be fooled - what fits innocently in the hand expands rapidly in the oven...

Bread buns:
1lb strong white flour
4oz sugar
1 egg
2 tsp yeast
2 oz butter
2tbsp custard powder
2 tbsp milk powder
8fluid oz warm water

1. Mix all but the final ingredient together
2. Add water slowly. 6oz cold water can be used if desired but will give a slower rise. Not sure why the yeast isn't prepped with warm water first but this is the recipe I got.
3. Form a dough and knead for a good ten minutes till elastic and dough like (just looks sticky before you do)
4. Cling film and leave to rise for 2 hours till doubled. Slow rise = tender, fast heat rise = tougher. Your call.
5. Beat down and leave to rise again (not usually called for in recipes but again, tender tender).
6. Form into buns and leave on greaseproof (these days I use parchment paper as the stuff has never failed me yet)
7. Brush with water and leave to rise.
8. Brush with egg wash and place crumb coating on top.
9. Score crumb coating and brush with egg wash.
10. Bake for 15-20 minutes at Gas Mark 5.

Crumb coating:
100g plain flour
45g sugar
55g butter
2tsp milk powder
1tsp carnation milk
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg yolk
yellow food colouring
vanilla extract

1. Cream sugar and butter
2. Add all the damp products
3. Add all the dry ingredients
4. Form into dough and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes
5. Roll out into little rounds - bear in mind this is just crumble, accept that it rips and tears and makes a mess. Don't work it too much or you'll end up with... dough.
6. Make enough rounds as you have rising buns.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Catch up

Completely not posted for ages, but there was this little thing called my brother's wedding.
Anyway, despite completing the Cookie Carnival, I forgot to send it in. They were lemon ricotta cookies as below.

In addition, other baking things involved foccacia with red onion, mushroom and mozarella:

some buttermilk cupcakes with vanilla buttercream.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Comfort baking

So I've indulged in a little comfort baking lately. Which is to be understood given my current situation. I'm not saying it's the best idea in the world, being that it means I now seek comfort in baking rather than, I don't know, socialising, meeting people and friends. These days my social circle is limited to a few stress-heads that I know and love, and somehow I've left the rest of my world just to fall away because it's too hard to concentrate. Either way, enjoy some of my little delectations. The above is a Lemon cupcake with lemon butter icing.

The recipe for the cake is as follows, but it gives you slightly too little for the cupcake size and alarmingly grease soaks into the cupcake papers like crazy.

The buttercream icing I suggest you find your own as, whilst I had a recipe, I possibly ended up putting twice as much icing sugar in as required, and felt it could have used a lot more lemon juice to give that punch.

The swirls I was quite happy with, a bit of fun in my mundane world. I've also got a bowl left over so I better bake something else this week!!

Lemon cupcakes:
125g unsalted butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self raising flour
lemon zest (1/2 lemon but tbh I just scraped a little in)
3 tbsp milk (warm it up a bit)

1. Cream the butter and the sugar together.
2. Add eggs.
3. Add everything else.
To be honest, you could just shove everything in and mix it, this recipe originally called for a food processor. But mix, pour, make 12 slightly undersized cupcakes.
4. Bake at Gas Mark 5 for 15 minutes until springy.
5. Cool it down (that's hard for me!!) then cut a little cone out of the top (and eat) and fill with a teaspoon or so of lemon curd (or jam I suppose - blackberry would be very cool).
6. Top with buttercream (125g butter, 4-6 cups of icing sugar, 1/2 lemon's juice, 2 tbsp milk)

This is the Malteaser cheesecake I made recently. Not a favourite, well people ate it! But they tend to with the cheesecakes because they don't necessarily become "second-rate" as such after the first five minutes out of the oven! It's my usual recipe for cheesecake, but topped with crumbled digestives and malteasers. There was also an abundance of malteasers crushed in when I made the base. I'm not a fan, but I think if I tried the baileys chilled malteaser cheesecake one day I might be a convert.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Cookie Carnival: Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Here we go. Early as usual, but these few weeks are manic and since I had to be home to sort out my expenses and the state of my room, why not bake at the same time? Here in lies Martha Stewart's rendition of Strawberries and Cream in cookie form. The recipe is remarkably easy, just make a crumble and add cream to it and then the fruit. In essence it's not bad, but makes it feel more fattening because you're tipping in a load of cream to boot.

The recipe is here, but I made a few changes. One, I added a tablespoon of lemon juice because I didn't read it before I chucked it in (and I cba to drain it off either). Two, there's no sanding sugar because I don't own any. Three, I added a slug of vanilla to the mix because I could. All in all, a very nice cookie, especially fresh from the oven. But after that I think it lacks a certain punch, even with the lemon juice. Maybe I should have considered adding black pepper or balsamic? Those tend to add some tang to the mix, however even as is, I reckon these are going to be well received although I might have some difficulty transporting them as they are distinctly floppy with strawberries unless I toast them crisp.

I also made some mini-muffins from the mix (no difference, just in the cases). This was because I couldn't be bothered to use another baking sheet and just plonked them in. Very cute and because they're small, they'll get eaten. Dangerous!

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Learning to swirl darlin'

So I forked out some hard-earned cash this Friday (well, less forked out, more electronic transferred and therefore it didn't feel like I paid anything at all... dangerous that!) to go to a buttercream class. The lady in question is of Faircakes. She's been in business for about a year and has quite a following on facebook and twitter (which I don't use). Anyhow, in an effort to get some me time, and just blowing stuff on something "for me" I went along.

It was a small class (just two students including me) and it was pretty damn interesting. Firstly, she's from the same university as me, and evidently experienced the hideous office politics barricade and left the rat race for the baking tray. Interestingly enough she's not a lover of cake. It is to her, a business, which makes a lot of sense to an LSE girl like me as well. Whilst I love, love cake, I'd be reluctant to lose my tastebuds in an "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman" sense. If you didn't love it to begin with, well that's probably okay, because you might end up hating it. My school of thought is more Nigel Slater, live it, breathe it to the point of lovers lost and spurned (a date who doesn't like cake?? If he doesn't at least hold a spoon and pretend to share mine I'd see issues...)

Anyway, back to the class. I went because it was of a level that suited me. I don't pipe stuff. I've never piped stuff save the icing gun debacle which a friend told me resembled one of his tissues (don't ask) and I guess the macaroons which are less piping, more dripping decoratively. It was unfortunate in essence that there was very little actual piping time, however the smushing of buttercream of airbubbles and filling the piping bag will probably make more difference to future piping than what practice I could get in there.

What was interesting was the other lady who was there, she was basically practically using Faircakes as a franchise. Wanted the EXACT recipes, the EXACT tin measurements, and I was kind of (in a way) laughing because here was a woman who was making cakes, selling them, and quite frankly doing it at a loss. Like, BASIC spreadsheets, costs vs pricing. It's the business nerd in me that I take for granted. You wonder why people go out of business. Actually it makes me wonder why I don't go into business. I can bake. I know better than to pay for a stall in Oxford St markets (Borough, Kings, Portabello - the price might be more expensive but here is where people will linger for food purposes.) *shrugs* And here was the interesting thing. The lady taking notes, she didn't seem to twig that her idol (the teacher) was trying to get OUT of baking cupcakes and into classes because the profit and time allocation was better. If it didn't suit her as a business model, for someone who has finally established herself (thanks to Facebook, twitter and the internet revolution!) why copy it? Not my problem, I was there to make cakes look pretty.

Anyway, the above is basically what I made, the flowers and stampy things are what the lady teacher made - I did like that trick, can't make the piping look good? That's fine, cover it with a flower or something. She was literally the Delia's Cheat guide to cupcakes. Two things she did miss out on which I could have suggested as a net nerd/cake addict
- chiffon cake
- scooping batter in with ice cream scoops
Will post some more later.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Cookie Carnival: Hazelnut Macaroon Sandwiches

I made these insanely early, but here is my schedule:

4th May the Cookie Carnival email came out from Kate, this weekend I made them, next weekend I'm in Scotland, that gives me two weekends left. Yeah, looking at that, now I have no idea why I thought I HAD to make them this weekend (10th) :S I'll figure out what I HAVE to do in May soon. Probably some hen-do or wedding for someone I've forgotten. Ouch.

I've always struggled with macaroons. I've made them... twice. Once using the Roux brother's book, once from the wonderful Tartlette blog (see right). Both failed miserably. The first one was edible. It probably wasn't a good idea to try and use teaspoons which they SAID was okay, the second time I tried to risk it with greaseproof and naturally everything stuck everywhere. They also make scarily little so by the time you've peeled them off the tray, you've eaten most of them. This recipe made a shed-load. There's pictures of the macaroons on every surface, but I think you'll get it from the following picture - and that is AFTER me and my sister worked our way through the ugly ones!

So today's recipe is from Williams-Sonoma. Which I gather is a US version of a cookery store like Lakeland only a bit more flash. And it was with a great deal of apprehension that I embarked on making these. I wouldn't say it was a successful macaroon, not in the way that La Duree macaroons are, with delicate little feet and flat tops. Mine were more along the lines of almond macaroons slash meringues with a nice nutty flavour.

There are things in both the Roux books and in Tartlette's blog that I believe might make a difference - firstly Tartlette ages her egg whites, and the Roux brothers use the high heat then switch ovens/leave the door ajar after the initial period approach. Both might be interesting, but quite frankly, these were lovely anyway. I'll spare you the chocolate ganache, namely because I thought the jar in the cupboard would work, but apparently after donkey's years it's finally decided to grow some mould. Instead I've applied a little peanut butter and some lemon curd to some for the pics but they were pretty de-lovely to begin with. Scratch that, just ate one with peanut butter. WOOT WOOT!!!

The hazelnut came through which was brilliant - namely because I could only find one packet of hazelnut in the shops and I used a mini-chopper to "grind" it. I did force it through a sieve before using and the stuff that didn't make it through, I made up the difference with a pile of ground almonds from a pack.

Overall a wonderful experience this time around, and I sincerely doubt the trays of macaroons will survive the evening let alone till I get home from Scotland next week!!


Raspberry Cream Cheese Buns

What with my new cupcake books arriving from Amazon, one look at the Raspberry Cream Cheese buns on someone elses's site (made with blackcurrant there) and I had to make them. Knowing full well my family wouldn't touch them. Four of these babies were therefore made with big dollops of lemon curd instead, which made delightfully caramelly messes of the tin, but also on the buns, not that I get to touch those - I have eight buns to eat!

The original recipe is from Buttercup Bakery book (New York) and one of these days I'll try the dried cherry one from Magnolias (since I own the book...)

What you need to know about these is that the recipe is easy - as easy as muffins are, but they sink like heck given the amount of preserves you're putting in them. What they give back though, is something so moist and rich you just want to sink yourself into them. And since I've eaten two of them, I'm doing quite well!

As you can see, massive craters. If you don't want that, use less stuff (see one on right). I chose not to use preserves, but to mush raspberries over the stove with a bit of icing sugar. It causes the proportions to be more damp and I guess, results in the intense cragginess. Not that it's a bad thing. I flooded the ones I ate with leftover sauce at the end. Reasons unknown, I just wasn't in the mood for another jar of jam in the fridge. It's loaded with maple syrup, apricot and lemon curd as it is.

My version:
1 3/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200g pack of soft cheese
1/2 cup marg
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup of raspberry slush (chuck in saucepan, heat with some icing sugar, smush in a sieve)

1. Cheese, marge, sugar, eggs, vanilla. In that order.
2. Add the dry stuff and the milk, mixing in a bit of each till you've run out.
3. Fill your muffin tin (I lined with papers because I don't want to scrub. I admit it's prettier without and you won't have people thinking you have cupcakes gone wrong.)
4. Put splodges of jam/curd/raspberry slush on top and swirl in with a knife/spoon etc.
5. Gas Mark 5 for 25 minutes. They'll sink on the way out.
6. Enjoy.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Carrot and orange cupcakes

I accept that no one should really put more than one, MAYBE two pictures up on any baked good. It's like looking at pictures of people's kids. Odds are, one is enough, unless of course your child is super-adorable and super fantabulous. Which of course they are! But hey I was playing with icing and I actually made the effort to crumble gingernut biscuits over the top as decoration (I know, I know, the effort...) so appreciate the fact that I am insane.

Carrot cake cupcakes are a stalwart of cupcake books. They go with the peanutbutter and chocolate ones I have yet to make. But anyway, I love really good carrot cake and after the super finance woman who made amazing cupcakes blew me away with the her carrot cake one (recipe was not forthcoming - grrrrrr) I decided I needed to try my own.

These ones were from Elinor Klivans Cupcakes! book. They were pretty decent. I love golden raisins/sultanas in carrot cake so it worked well. The frosting had butter and cream cheese in and I have to say, I'm not a fan of the buttery-ness in frosting.

On the grounds I cba to post recipes which don't blow me away anymore please go buy the book or ask me if you really want it. They were nice. The recipe was definitely good. But it wasn't, please have sex with me fantastic. Which of course, is what every single girl wants to say!

The recipe itself left lots of room for icing on top and I managed to use the ice cream scoop to measure it into the cups. Half a scoop each makes for the cupcakes shown.

Snickerdoodles and things wot I dun wit da buttercream

Oh happy day!! Oh happy Dayyyy... last weekend I made snickerdoodles. As you do. It came from the Ultimate cookie book and I downsized on the sugar for the parentals and they liked it. Snickerdoodles (such a cool name) to me should be softer and more cookie bendy like the chocolate chip things you get in shops. However, that might be because M&S once upon a time had bendy snickerdoodles in their shops. Those might have been more peanutty and chocolatey though. Not sure if it's my memory or whether they thought that was a cool name to call american cookies.

Anyhow, as usual, I digress. Snickerdoodles are apparently originally German and the name got mutilated by the good ol' US of A. But it is such a cool name! These babies, probably because instead of making 36, I made 15 -20 golfball sized blobs on a few baking pans, turned out a bit humped and less cracked, which doesn't look like the wikipedia picture but I'm not that bummed. As a result they kept really well and I ate them the next day without being disappointed.

If I did it again, I'd put more cinnamon in the rolling mix as I really wanted distinct brown vs crack patches (no jokes please gentlemen!)

There are gazillion snickerdoodle recipes out there. So go forth on the internet and search people! I think I'll try another variation next time. Good, but not enough to make me commit!

Just for silliness sake, here's a pic of what I did with the remaining cream cheese frosting from the carrot cake. Gingernut sandwiches (shop bought with squishy cream)

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Cookie Carnival: Lemon Bars

My first Cookie Carnival project. Many thanks to the organiser and this month's host for letting me join in.

Lemon bars from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. I have no idea who Melissa is but I'm not a fan of her lemon bars. Hmm, I sense I'm already at odds with the cheery Cookie club mentality, but to thy own self be true. (Lord, I'm quoting Clueless again...)

The recipe looks close to Lemon Meringue bars, but with less yolk and a touch of flour. And missing all important meringue. Now here’s the thing. This is the
UK. We don’t HAVE Lemon Bars. I’ve just done a quick search on Google Images and it appears they have a very standard appearance. Adding meringue would definitely be cheating, as would my first thoughts of drizzling these babies with dark chocolate. These babies are rectangular, they are dusted in icing sugar and they better be made with lemon.

I made a few changes but not enough as far as I'm concerned. More yolks would have made the filling that bit more yellow, and it would have needed some more flour to keep it a bit more solid, it was still liquid compared to the pictures I've seen online. Moan, moan, moan. Anyway. The fundamentals to why I am changing the recipe:

1: I don’t own a food processor, ergo I’m cheating on the ground toasted almonds.
2: How is 20 tbsp = 1 ¼ cups??
3: I’m cheap. I’m not buying almond extract. Will exchange for a bit
of orange blossom we already have instead.
4: 7 lemons does not a ¾ cup juice make.

My amended recipe (for the real one, go search someone else's website ;) )

For the Crust:
2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds (lightly toasted)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cup butter

1. Toast the ground almonds under the grill. Keep a close eye on them and give them a stir until they change shade and smell nice and fragrant.
2. Mix all the dry stuff together.
3. Add the butter and mush to make crumbs as usual.
4. Grab a pan lined with greaseproof and gently oil.
5. Smush crumbs into a pastry case. Manfully ignore your fingerprints in the pastry and just bear with it. Make walls on the edges because the filling is liquid.

6. Bake blind for 30minutes at Gas Mark 4, then 15 more without the beans. Scarily enough, this pastry needs it because of all the almonds I think, as the paper came up slightly damp and stuck to the pastry which isn't normal.
7. Allow to sit whilst you get on with the filling.

For the Lemon Filling:
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (replaced with orange blossom water)
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons but note that these are the big unwaxed ones which are 50% pith, a small organic waxed one yields much more juice comparatively)
1/4 cup icing sugar for sprinkling

1. Sugar, eggs, then extract, then flour, then juice. Mix.
2. Pour into case.
3. Bake for 30 minutes at Gas Mark 3.
4. Douse in sieved icing sugar, slice into pieces and enjoy.

Conclusion? Bring on the next challenge!!!

Apple cupcakes

Almost everything looks better with icing sugar. With the possible exception of my stove. What I did notice was that it does, like makeup, accentuate the pores. Hmm. I think I'm transgressing because I spent Saturday looking for new foundation. Maybe I should consider dipping my face in icing sugar. The colour is probably in line with my goth-like skin anyway.

The recipe came from Faircakes and I won't repeat it here. It was, a relatively decent recipe. Pretty much victoria sponge, give or take a few spoons of cornflour. It was... just vanilla cupcake. As it was designed for people to plaster with icing, it made only ten normal muffin tin sized cupcakes. For me, the minimum spoonage into one of those cups is one "plop" from a normal tablespoon (i.e. the non-officiated tablespoon people actually own.) This is why I only made ten.

Once they were out of the oven, the first few were eaten warm by Daddy dearest, who asked me regarding timing so he could return from his walk and not miss the fresh from oven taste. He ignores all baking after this five minute time frame. Since there wasn't that many remaining, I just cut a little cone out and filled it with some apple sauce made from the leftover apple and a spoon of sugar. I WAS going to do a whipped cream swirl over it. But with around four cupcakes left it seemed a waste, hence we just have some top-hatted apple cupcakes.

My other bake was something for Cookie Carnival, which I'm not entirely sure I'm allowed to post about yet. Will read the rules as next week I'm in Edinburgh and will have no time to post. Brb.

Monday, 13 April 2009

The cheesecake

Yes I cranked out the icing sugar finally. The blackberries are covering some HUGE cheesecake cracks, but the actual cake itself is as soft and melting as I always want, unlike the cakey, floury number I feared. Sister dearest informs me that whilst it was lovely, it was slightly eggy, which is probably the result of the two extra egg whites. Needless to say, I ended up with a lot of blackberries to eat after my family scraped them off.

Monday, Monday...

Easter Monday!! Woohoo!!

Okay so here is what I made.
2 cheesecakes.
Cinammon and apple french toast.
All before midday!

It actually involved a sprint to Waitrose when I realised I forgot to add sour cream to my cheesecake ingredient list. I used the same recipe as last time doubled, but added 300g less cream cheese as we didn't have any, one egg rather than two egg yolks. Added a tablespoon of lemon juice because we had some. Added bigger heaps of tablespoons of flour (to firm it up) because we have to go Toby Carvery soon. That's about it.

I'm kind of looking at it and thinking, maybe that's a BIT too much flour. Because it's rising slightly.

French toast - I should have put the more aesthetically pleasing middle slice on top, but you know what? I wanted to eat it, and it was YUM. One shot only.

100ml milk
2 eggs
1 tsp and sprinkling of cinnamon
Bramley Apple
60g brown sugar

1. Mix milk, eggs and 1 tsp cinnamon together with 30g of the sugar.
2. Soak slices of brioche in the mixture.
3. Peel and core slices of apple, cutting into wedges.
4. Coat apple in a mix of remaining sugar and cinammon.
5. Heat up butter/spread and pan fry apples gently. Just leave in the pan and turn once each side is done.
6. Now, you have a choice. You can either finish cooking the apples and use a new pan for the brioche. Or you can be lazy and fry the brioche in the same pan. Word of warning, because the apples have already been going, you end up with more burnt bits of sugar on the brioche if you use the same pan. You can imagine which one I went with! It's not a BAD thing, just that you have to be careful not to take it past the ucky stage.

If I was feeling disgustingly presentationy, I'd sprinkle with icing sugar. But that's a waste of a packet of icing sugar. For brunch as well.

Cheesecakes are now out of the oven. Look a bit over cooked to me (probably because of the flour firming it up a bit much for moi. There are also HUGE cracks in it as a result. Will decorate ours with blackberries to hide the cracks. This will no doubt be scraped off by my loving family.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Chocolate and Cherry Cookies

So they had a very pretty plate of cookies in the book. More to the freaking point. They were ROUND. I was suspicious. Very suspicious. But I went with it. They did have a few quirks to the usual chocolate chip cookie, and you know what? I think this may replace my existing recipe as "The One". The texture is a bit nicer, the only drawback being that they are that bit smaller and they don't spread so you do have to do what I did if you want them to be pretty. Instructions to follow on that. But check this out, they had dried cherries in this, AND MY SISTER HAD THEM AND SURVIVED!! She of the dried fruit hate at them. *WOOHOO!!*

Chocolate and Cherry Cookies
75g butter
75g caster sugar
75g light brown sugar (WOW I FORGOT TO ADD THIS!!! Umm... the recipe doesn't need it.)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
175g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g dried cherries chopped in half
100g chocolate chips

1. Grease the greaseproof.
2. Butter, sugar, add egg, add vanilla, add cherries, add flour and baking powder, add half the chocolate chips.
3. Place in teaspoon sized heaps on the greaseproof, sprinkle over remaining chocolate chips and flatten.
4. Bake for 10 minutes at Gas Mark 4 till golden.

My adjustments. One, don't do the sprinkle of chocolate chips - they go all over the place and look kinda alien. Just mix them all in like you normally would. Two, these babies don't spread. Well maybe they would if I added the rest of the sugar but I doubt it. But, they make kinda weird cookie shapes if you follow the recipe. I suggest you do what I did to achieve the round little baby at the top of the page - put in a freezer bag, roll into a sausage and put in the freezer to chill. Slice them out (24 cookies in total) and whilst they do squish a little as you slice, you can reshape with your fingers before you bake. (Is it just me or is there a generation who remembers Cher in Clueless with the cut and bake cookies - "Thunk" she didn't bother cutting...)
Anyway, pretty cookies result. xx

Publish or Perish

No I'm not an academic. But here I was tapping my laptop wondering why suddenly all my web disappeared when my brother hasn't unplugged me. Turned out my dad unplugged the router for the vacuum cleaner.

So here is my new purchase. The Usbourne Children's Book of Baking. Bear with me, I'll get it on my side list, especially as I cooked not one but two recipes from this book today. Both were pretty tasty, with minimal messing with.

Pear and frangipane tart
I used apple - sorry I had four giant bramleys left. I will of course next time do the proper pear tart because aesthetically speaking it's more attractive. Also, you can actually slice it properly like they instruct you to, without slicing a little bit out of your finger! (I'd like to say at no point did my blood enter my cooking, and also it was just a fleshwound babe ;) Papercut size and the result of trying to core an apple without breaking it into quarters first. This was parentally approved (the cake not the cut) and at no point did anyone go "Add some red bean paste to this..." and instead they asked if we had any vanilla ice cream to go with. My mother. Whilst yes indeed vanilla would have gone well, I think this culinary demand stems from the fact they went to Burger King yesterday and managed to get apple pie warmed with ice cream. Myself, I still miss the McD's apple pie ala mode...

Ingredients: Pastry
175g plain flour
25g caster sugar
100g butter
1 egg
2 tsp cold water
50g butter
50g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
1 egg
15g self raising flour
3 small, ripe pears or alternative fruit
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Make shortcrust. If you don't know how, I'd worry. Sugar plus butter, add egg, add water, add flour and mush into dough. It is extremely dry but bear with it and knead. Chill for half an hour and then roll out to line a 20cm flan tin before chilling for 20minutes, baking blind at Gas Mark 6 for 10mins with 5 minutes in the open air. Oh and remember to prick before it goes in.
2. Frangipane: Butter, sugar then add a tablespoon of ground almonds.
3. Add the egg, then the ground almonds, then the flour and pour into baked pastry.
4. Cut pears in half lengthways, core and then split the fat bit into a fan, not cutting all the way to the top. Place on top of frangipane.
5. Bake for 35 minutes at around Gas Mark 3 (I ramped it up, especially since I wanted it a bit more brown.)
6. Glaze with warmed apricot and lemon juice mixed together.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

I've done it

I've taken the first steps to being affiliated.

Ever since I've become hooked on reading food blogs I've been interested in the mass bake-athons that are baking rings. People bake, usually monthly but sometimes more regularly than that! the same dish. Now given that I'm not at home half the time with work, it makes it a little hard, but check it out. I found a group to join. Okay, sounding a little weird and psycho now. Kinda like "BE MY FRIEND.... PLEASEEEEEEEEEEE" And that's just not me. But hey ho, this might let me do my baking thing, indulge some of the showy off tendencies other than on facebook, and generally enjoy the company of other online bloggers in a non-perverted way.

Oh and FYI I cancelled the gym membership. 3 months off due to illness and now 5 weeks solid client bookings, it's just money down the drain. Now it's money into a nice new camera or a Wii. I haven't decided.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Lacking that certain...

Two sets of cookies I made today. Two somewhat different results. The first I made were the Pineapple and Macadamia nut thins from The Ultimate Cookie book. Except I have no pineapple, I used chopped nuts and er... I think there was something missing from their recipe. It was very much cream sugar and butter together, add flour... and then guess what? There was no binder. No egg, no water. Nothing. So I added an egg and made dough rather than crumble. It wasn't a bad cookie but not worth putting the recipe down. I used chopped crystallised ginger if you are interested, it tastes nice, but it still hasn't reached the pinnacle of cookie thinness and lusciousness.

The dove cut outs you can see above are from Amazon marketplace. I put them on my shopping list awhile ago, forgetting to read how tiny they are. I think they are definitely better for fondant, although come winter I'm making the partridge in a pear tree linzer cookie I see so much of. Meanwhile, I also realised I desparately need PLAIN cutters. Some plain round and maybe some frilled ones. Our frilly ones are circa 1970s and come with associated rust. The round ones cut above were made by using the lid of my matcha tin. Yay for great packaging.

The second cookie of the day was Melting Moments from 1000 recipes. These were very simple, and I actually followed the recipe, bar the lack of the glace cherry. My mum first made melting moments for Christmas Eve when I was little, just before we went off to work. These tasted similar, but weren't quite as dark. As it was though, these still taste a lot tastier than the ginger and nut cookies. What a shame though, that these cannot be cut into pretty shapes.

Melting Moments
1/2 cup margerine
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

1. Cream margerine and sugar.
2. Add egg and vanilla.
3. Add flour, baking powder and salt.
4. Drop spoonfuls (around 16) onto a greased baking tray.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes at Gas Mark 4-5.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Sloppy day

I made a lot of damp food last week. Above is the lemon curd, which I am very proud of because a) it used up the lemons
b) it came out well (and like the shop bought stuff)
c) it was ridiculously easy

Lemon Curd:
3 eggs
1/3 cup of lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
3/4 cup sugar
50 g unsalted butter

1. Stir lemon juice, eggs and sugar over a bain marie.
2. After around ten minutes it gets thick.
3. Pour through a sieve and then whisk in butter.
4. Cover and cool.

The cake, the cake... I made a cake because I felt like it (mother's day at the time). The recipe for the cake was from Good Food and it was really tough! Looking at the photo they have, I think it's supposed to be. Don't know why they've rated it so highly. I stuffed it with pear and whipped cream. I covered it in a mixture of whipped cream and ready made custard just for a bit of a change. Yes I know it's sloppy, but since I realised the cake itself wasn't going to amaze me, I got lazy with the decoration.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Cranberry Brownies

Second baking session of the day - using up the cranberries. As a result, I have an entire tray of brownies to eat on my own because no one eats cranberries! Ai.

First of all, the recipe calls for dried cranberries. Let me make that clear. I knew therefore at the outset there was a bat's chance in hell that the brownies I made would actually set, being that I used frozen berries defrosted. Other than that, recipe wise it was pretty decent. Used cocoa rather than dark chocolate which made it a darn sight cheaper than usual. Definitely fudgy since it won't set. I would like to try it with dried berries one day, to see if it will set, but since I whacked it in for another half an hour with the frozen berries, I have my doubts. Otherwise, it's a nice, moist, tangy chocolate pudding. Served warm with vanilla I think it'd go down a treat.

Cranberry Brownies
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour (probably add some more if you wanted it to set)
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Blend dry ingredients into the wet.
2. Spread in a greased pan and bake for 25 minutes at Gas Mark 5.

Coconut Cookies

It's time. To use up that half a pack of coconut I have left over. Not feeling able to commit myself to the full coconut cake as I have no one to offload it onto. Check this out, previous cake I have just demolished. 90% on own. Thankfully it's borderline healthy (I keep telling myself). This is because, yes, thy family does not do fruit in baking. And I still have a pile of cranberries to eat. *sigh*

I'd make the coconut cranberry chews because the reviews are raving about them online, however, I can also read. And when it says 6 DOZEN, one should worry. 6 x 12 = 72. 72 cookies! That my family won't eat! Screw that. Save that one to try at Christmas when the offload potential is greater. Curiously the Metric recipe they offered uses 10 g more brown than white, but cup wise it's the same. Either way, will cheat and use margerine, even though I should really use butter in such a simple recipe because the ingredients really pop when you have less of them.

Post making conclusion? Make these. It's nothing fancy but just nice in the way shortbread is nice. The recipe is really simple. I made 22 golf balls of cookie and they worked out the right size. It is worth squishing them down as they don't spread like chocolate chip cookie dough for instance. Not major spreaders either so you don't have to position them 3 inches apart like the original recipe said. It was however pretty necessary to rotate trays near the end so that the bottom layer were lightly browned too. I made basically four trays of cookies with six/five cookies each. Parents were very happy with these.

Chewy Coconut cookies
1 1/4 plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (marg!)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup dessicated coconut

1. Cream butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla.
2. Add flour gradually then coconut.
3. Drop by the teaspoon onto an ungreased pan.
4. Bake 10 minutes at Gas Mark 5.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Apple and Cranberry loaf

After a bit of a horrible day off - me with the grumps, an aunt downstairs with a very loud voice, I finally got round to baking. Bring it on! I used up the apples, overdosing the cake with them since I'm sure four granny smiths does not equal 2 cups (see the massive chunks in the picture). But it all turned out well. I had the apple corer/slicer thing which I bought for a quid, and aside from drenching my top in apple juice, it did the job fine. I also managed to use a cup of cranberries, leaving another cup to use up tomorrow I guess, but since it's been sitting in my freezer since Christmas it's time.

My verdict on this cake? I love it. The apples are slightly too bland, probably because they've sat around for awhile and because the chunks are so big, but the cranberries work a treat alongside. Plus it would seem this cake is ridiculously healthy. No butter, just 2 tbsp of oil and one egg. It lacks some punch though, so I think next time I'll add some more spice or lemon peel just to give it a boost. As it was I put a tsp of mixed spice rather than the original cinnamon requested, but other than giving it a lovely colour and smell, it doesn't offer much in the way of warmth or depth.

It does look a bit of a stunner though doesn't it? Mother dearest commented I should have put those peeled almonds round the edge like in dundee cake. What you don't get in dundee cake (I suspect at least, because I never made it myself) is the sheer lumpiness of this cake pre-bake. I wish I took pictures, but it went in as a pile of apples coated in brown batter. It is pretty amazing how it expands and becomes a cake though.

Picture of the sliced wedge just to show how chunky the apples were. It was ever so slightly raw in the top of the dome in the middle, but we ate it anyway. Not entirely convinced skewer trick works given the amount of fruit in the mix.

Since this was a recipe worth repeating, especially how healthy it felt. Please see below.

Apple and Cranberry loaf

2 cups peeled, chopped apple
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp oil
1 egg
1 1/2 cup plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
1 cup cranberries (I used frozen dunked in water briefly)
(The original recipe calls for chopped walnuts but I chose not to sully my cakes with nuttier elements - feel free if you want = 1/2 cup chopped walnuts at the same time as the cranberries)

1. Apples, sugar, oil and egg - mix.
2. Add everything else bar the cranberries.
3. Mix well and then stir in the cranberries (wait till now otherwise you'll just have pink cake with lots of cranberry skins. Not a bad thing. Just pink.)
4. Place in a lightly greased pan. I used a deep round cake tin with a loose base. I'm not convinced not greasing it would have mattered, but will experiment with that next time.
5. Cook for 1 hour at Gas Mark 5 until skewer comes out clean.