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.