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.

Ingredients list

Random note to myself.
Things to use up:
  • Ground almonds
  • Gelatine
  • Chocolate cake covering
  • Plain chocolate
  • Poppyseeds
  • Green tea
  • Green food colouring
  • Yellow food colouring
  • Rose water
  • Orange essence
  • Apples
  • Icing sugar
  • Fondant

And they call me mellow yellow...

Remember the Gap advert?? Well it's better than the other things mellow yellow remind me of.

I'd like to say, I LiKE myself. Now I don't want this to turn into some gratuitous blog of my life's comings and goings, which, I must say, I've indulged in before in my life. What happened to the days of writing in secret diaries? Being affronted by invasion of privacy, whereas, these days we just post it all out there...

Now, back to why I like myself. I could be a little slimmer, a little smarter, a little nicer... but sitting here on my day off, looking at blue sky, getting a bit narked off by my auntie who is ridiculously loud downstairs and disturbing my baking schedule, I like myself. Why? I think I've lost track a little. Well. I like baking. I like taking pictures of them and saying "Look at me, look at me" (10 things I hate about you). I am, even looking to spend some money on a camera, just so I can do that, that bit better. (Blame the food blogs, all you people with 10mgpixel cameras!) But you know what? I've not fallen into the mummy trap. My mum has her signature cake. The chiffon cake. If anyone bakes it better, I think she would fall into a depression slash killing spree type mood. I accept that I am not the best. You only have to look at some of the blogs out there to know and likewise, I don't make baking my identity. It's part of me, but not all of me. So I like me.

But here it is, the source of my weird self-awareness day. The Comic Relief bake sale. I didn't make anything, I went out the night before, plus the fact I am a little cake-shy to be honest. The first few times I did check out the Hummingbird bakery cupcakes.
They weren't that hot, but they weren't bad. The red velvet featured fluffy icing, the chocolate cake a little light and boring, but it worked. The vanilla, iced in a tasteful neon blue, was a little stodgy and BLEUGH in icing but hey, it's all for CHARRRRRRIDEEEEEEEEEEE. But then the next day, there was an actual home made bakesale. And the woman (from finance no less) turned out a large table of baked goodies, of which I forked over £2 for a tiny carrot cupcake.
Oh that cupcake made me surprisingly heady. I can make carrot cake. It's alright. Last time I made them I didn't frost and they were designed to be muffins. But this? The cupcake was light and spiced. Moistened with the little sultana bits. The top was perfect. AND PIPED. With a tiny white chocolate carrot on top. *sigh* I emailed her for the recipe and to commend her on such an amazing feat. Cake envy of the highest degree. Check out the pictures. Hummingbird doesn't come out too great... that's all I can say!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Midweek banana baking

It's that time... yes I need to use the slightly out of date leftover stuff from the weekend. The glup of buttermilk and the sour cream. Unfortunately there is still a half cup of sour cream I have to find a use for, but! To the Banana Cake Batman!

The recipe is from Betty Crocker, free application on the ipod touch. It's one of those pigging annoying recipe books where 99% of the recipes use a mix created by... Betty Crocker!! However, it has a recipe search where I looked up buttermilk and so, made banana cake. If you are doing this, one assumes you'd actually have buttermilk. I used my glup and made the difference up with sour cream. Please note that Frau Crocker also grossly underestimates the baking time. Mine took an hour or more using a 9 inch pan? Don't let it put you off though (apart from the gas bill I guess) because putting the cake itself together took less than ten minutes. I admit though, I had my brother mash the bananas for me, and being my brother he chose to do it with my potato masher. *sigh*

Banana Cake
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp mixed spice and a sprinkle of ginger (Crocker says ground cinnamon but I don't have any)
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup margerine
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed bananas (2 bananas)

1. Cream margarine and sugar.
2. Add eggs and vanilla.
3. Add dried goods and buttermilk alternately.
4. Stir bananas through.
5. Bake for 1 hour at Gas 5 in a lightly greased tin (I did half an hour at 6 and then a further half at 4)

It does have a nice crust to it, and is deliciously moist. Not sure whether it will just be damp by tomorrow, but next time I fancy adding some fat golden sultanas to the mix. Must learn to separate the sections so I get sultanas in one side and chocolate chunks in the other since sultanas are on the list of non-sister friendly!

Friday, 6 March 2009

All American Buttermilk Cake

Buttermilk cupcakes. It's my fault. Trains were awful this morning so I turned myself round at the station and asked for the day off as holiday. In my quest to bake I bought buttermilk and sour cream because all my recipes call for that? Right? Wrong. Why is it that all those recipes suddenly disappear? So I looked online and found a recipe for buttermilk cake. Which I made into little cupcakes because I cba to grease a pan and because my cousin said to .

Buttermilk cupcake

100 g margerine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk

1. Cream marge and sugar, add eggs and vanilla.

2. Alternate buttermilk and dried goods.

3. Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes.

They came out very flat - expected really since the recipe has an insane demand for self-raising AND added raising agents, must have been compensating for something. But they were delightfully flat and flooded the pan in pretty way. Mum preferred them to my usual cupcakes because they were more moist and looser in crumb. Well she would have said that if there was a direct chinese translation but that's basically the gist of it. After giving her the recipe, she asked what buttermilk was... and proceeded to enquire if she could use milk. Cream? Evaporated milk? She doesn't really go for things in the chiller like I do. Makes sense really - I now have an annoying glup which I will have to make scones with.

I also decided to make a small amount of frosting using a glup of sour cream (the rest of the pot will make a batch of my standard cupcakes). Remind me to stop doing this. I don't actually like sour cream frosting, but every time it calls because it is so easy to make. Actually I think it's mainly the plain chocolate effect I hate but either way, MUST STOP.

Recipe for sour cream frosting which I used on two cupcakes:
4oz chocolate (100g or half a pack of the big bars)
1/2 cup of sour cream (glup, glup)

1. Melt chocolate.
2. Mix in sour cream.
3. Ta-dah!

Okay I missed a step. Although it was optional! I bought some coffee granules today. I don't drink coffee other than the sugar and cream high frappa-chi-chi latte what have you's from Starbucks. So it was a task. I picked the smallest jar that wasn't Nescafe and lo - it was this slightly fancy hazelnut one that I picked. Alternatives were french vanilla or swiss chocolate. Interesting! I've had a cup now and it's not half bad, but no point getting into a caffeine addiction when I already do a nice cuppa tea. Anyway I got them for purposes of all these cute coffee biscuit recipes I have, but for the purposes of today I dissolved a teaspoon in a teaspoon of water, added to the sour cream before I stirred it all into the chocolate. Can't say I really tasted it, but then it might be why I had to add some sugar at the end because the plain chocolate is REALLY plainnnnnnnn. Will never understand why it is THE cooking chocolate when milk tastes so much better but hey. Maybe I should just rebel.

That's a picture of the cupcake innards. I also bought some sprinkles today and so decorated with some granulated sugar and a little coloured E numbered topping. Appetising aren't I? Oh well, little in moderation. Had some Hummingbird bakery cupcakes yesterday. Not great great in my opinion. The red velvet wasn't half bad last week, but the chocolate is just light chocolate with definitely a better frosting than what I achieved today. What I did find wow was the ingenuity. I've never frosted cupcakes much namely because if you are travelling with cupcakes its hard to keep them intact. But some of the chocolate cupcakes from hummingbird were coated in chocolate vermicelli. Making a nice, neat, protective cover of chocolate over the frosting. Gotta try it!