Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas baking


Merry Christmas all.... it's 10pm and I'd LIKE not to be the sad case that blogs, but check the awesomeness of this - I managed to book my holiday tix to Japan today on sale!! £100 cheaper than when I previously looked so uber happy, ESPECIALLY as I got it done before the VAT increase. Anyhow, see pics attached. Above is a maderia cake covered in marzipan and ready roll fondant. The cake I made in a pan smaller than it should have been because I wanted it to be taller - epic fail because when I tested it, it came out clean, but I knew it felt uncooked, so I prodded a few more holes until I found the damp bit... and naturally the middle collapsed. Never fear!! I halved, then patched the hole with left overs from the crusty top. YUM.
FYI DO NOT BUY SILVERSPOON PRE-ROLL. Comment for myself maybe, but as I unrolled it (it came on a very good plastic roll and sheet which I am reusing) it cracked in several places. Not good for ready roll, plus it didn't patch together too well either. Ouch. Anyway, the crackled cake is above. Decorated with a mini Santa Einstein, wife and oddly a pig too xx


Please see my now almost annual gingerbread. This year I managed to get little men and angel cutters. The angels naturally look more like ghosts. I also found myself taken to humming the StarWars Storm trooper theme when I was lining them up for the shot. Scary. Anyway, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Gratuitous food shots from eating out

Time for some eating out pics - the desserts naturally.

From Yautcha - The Mandarin with mandarin sorbet and rice cracker (Yum, but the coconut was better.)

Here is the Coconut Charlotte - coconut mousse, raspberry sorbet, mango jelly, mint and basil sponge (Yum.)

From Michael Caine's Cafe Bar and Grill in Exeter, Dark Chocolate tart with malt ice cream (too rich, too dark, too heavy, too boring - I actually left some) Go for the Ginger pannacotta... when they have it, it's lovely although not heavy enough on the ginger and a little bit white all over the plate. You'll see. FYI if you're there the mains and starters are pretty yummy but they tend not to cut the meat into sizes where you can get away with just using a fork. Try the Boutique for takeaway lunches. The chicken salad was gorgeous, fresh, with tons of chicken, just a shame they can't ripen an avocado to save their lives.


Tea at Kensington hotel That's a sort of softset version of a trifle, carrot cake (frosting a little bland and no tang), fruit tartlet (poor show, premade pastry and a few berries), fruit cake and a multitiered mini victoria sponge. Worth it at the price (2-4-1) and with the rather lovely scones with lemon and passionfruit curd and with the strawberry and rose jam. Sandwiches were also fresher than usual. Hot chocolate (milk or white) also included. Kudos. Ask to sit in the drawing room which is beautiful.



Honey Madelines and some other random bakes

I haven't posted for ages, but then again, I've not really baked for ages. I had a yen earlier in the year to buy a madeline tin - not that I particularly liked the factory monstrosities that my mum occasionally got from Icelands/poundshops, but the shell is pretty so I did it. I waited till work took me to a town with a Lakeland and bought me a tin! You'd be surprised how hard it was to find tbh. John Lewis sells silicon ones, and the rules are that silicon doesn't make the nice colouring in the grooves. Anyway, Lakeland has the cheapest at around £8. In the wretched way of most recipes, the recipe made 14 madelines... when my tin has 12 pockets. So I made an extra mini pan as well. The recipe I use was from Roux brothers for Honey Madelines. Claire Clark repeats it in her book Indulgence. It's easy as and makes a liquid mix so I'm not entirely sure where all the concern for more air to make it light came from, but there you go.


Other little bakes include Pineapple upside down cake:


Blueberry whoopie pies which were heavy - blame the recipe pamphlet that came with the tin (Robert Dyas, £6.99??) and Allisons lumpy flour... but using blueberry rather than plain yoghurt makes them this rather grotesque Halloween blue. Awesome.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Gateau Saint Honore

Rightly or wrongly, I am a little bit chuffed at this one. Not because it tasted the best, but because after many failed attempts, this is the first time choux pastry worked for me! The recipe is from James Martin's "Desserts" and the first thing you might notice is that his instructions conflict between the top step by step "immediately add the eggs" and the bottom highlighted section "allow to cool before adding the eggs". On the grounds I didn't want scrambled eggs, I asked my sister to have a look at our good ol' Good Housekeeping book which said to cool slightly :P

So that's a choux pastry base and puffs. Mr Martin appears to omit the crucial stage of choux which is to pierce and return to the oven to dry out. Fortunately, online he appears to have amended this faux pas!

What else do you need to know? The cream is whipped double cream folded with custard and orange flower water since I didn't have any suitable liqueur. I have two tiny blisters on my fingers from attempting to dip the buns in caramel. The caramel burnt a little bit too much and detracted from the taste of the cake... and oh, the cake looked better with the half ice cream scoops of cream in the centre, but I had a piping back so it just seemed a waste of all the extra cream... Overall, still chuffed.

Grrrr....

So I had a look at my stats today. I never realised they were there before but I had a click. Oddly enough the Rachel Allan pie had the largest number of hits and I went to click on the link to the recipe to see if it still works. To my surprise I saw MY picture on the Goodfood website above the recipe. Submitted by someone called UKTVSTAR. I don't mind mind as such, but it's left me quietly fuming that no one asked. I don't want to be one of those sadf*cks who need to copyright everything - I take pictures with my mobile phone and that's like 2mpx? Grr. Grr. and more Grr. Like do people REALLY need a pic of shop bought puff pastry covering meat? Ai.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Laduree vs Hermes...and some little William Curley Cake porn :)


There's a long running feud of macarons, which apparently is between Laduree and Hermes. Since Hermes recently crashlanded in Selfridges, I finally got round to trying them. In a nutshell, don't do it!! Haa... Opinions do differ though and I have a friend who believes Hermes has the crown, but to me? They are overstuffed nuggets. The name of the flavour is more interesting than the taste, and the ultimate test - the salted caramel for me, just doesn't live up to Laduree's delicate and pleasing nibble.


Packaging wise, the bag was a bit trashy (unpictured because I was that offended :P ) a white bag with leaf cut outs. Too primary school for me compared to Laduree's "Marie Antoinette shops here" style bag. The box, well I had to ask specifically for a box than a plastic bag, was nicer than the Laduree one because it was good and solid, but I can probably find the solid ones at Laduree too.

And so, the little overstuffed little suckers sit. Costing well over a quid each. Ouch.

Now, drumroll please, some William Curley cake porn. I've loved him since he was at Green Park. Funnily enough I'm not a major lover of his chocolate. Paul Young seems to have the eccentric zing for me, whereas my staple is Selfridges. But the cake. Oh the cake.

We were doing the elephant challenge (as you do) and I got all of them bar the late released Glastonbury number (as only the obsessed do)... and we stopped off for some cake at the Sloane Square shop. We also had the lemonade which had a very interesting little touch of vanilla. Kudos William.

Item one: Blackforest number.


Item two: Petit four


Item three: Salted caramel, chocolate, hazelnut tart thing... v good but wasn't mine dammit!



Sunday, 18 July 2010

Ginger fluff sponge with Apple Sauce filling

This is from the Crabapple Bakery cupcake cookbook. I've loved this cake for ages, looking at the picture for some time, but finally I made it. Decoration wise I don't have any flowers to put on top so I put the little chocolate mushrooms I bought from the Japan centre on top. This cake I'd definitely remake, but without the sponge fingers which are decoration only and don't add anything. They stay stiff and unyielding against the cream which is almost a disappointment when you're eating it.

Ingredients:
1/3 self raising flour
1/3 cup cornflour
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp cocoa
5 eggs, separated
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
- Apple sauce
- Whipped cream
- Sponge fingers (250g pack works fine)

Method:
1. Mix all the dry ingredients (bar sugar) together
2. Beat egg whites to peaks, add sugar and keep whisking, then add yolks and golden syrup
3. Fold dry into the egg mix
4. Bake in two greased pans (18-20cm round sandwich tins) for 15 minutes at Gas Mark 5.
5. Once it's cool, sandwich with the apple sauce and cream and surround with sponge fingers.

A Nutty-Nut day

Today was a day for nuts. I don't know how it ended up that way, but that's just the way it is. Since I did nothing yesterday I guess I was trying to kill it with some over-productive bakeathon.

Since I've stopped buying cookbooks for my new year's resolution (it's July now and I'm holding strong!) I've been hitting the library. A few wonders in there, and an opportunity to try out some books that I refuse to buy.

The above are Peanut Butter Biscuits from Baking - Delia Collection. It has the simplest recipe ever. My substitution was a poor one I think, not that it tasted bad - we ran out of bicarb and so we used baking powder. It didn't come out as a dry dough like the recipe suggested, but was quite greasy. When they were baked the edges weren't as cookie cute as the picture in the book, but they were definitely yummy. On my list for make again favourites :)

Peanut Butter Biscuits
Makes "20" according to the book, 12 plus 4 small ones by my count.
Ingredients
110g crunchy peanut butter
75g butter
110g light brown sugar
175g plain flour
1 egg
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a little demerara

Method:
1. Mix everything apart from the demerara together. (Told you it was easy!)
2. Shape into walnut sized balls and dip into the demerara.
3. Put onto greased baking sheet and press down a little.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes at Gas Mark 4



My other little experiment was from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. It's a non-repeat from me I think, although using nutella might be a new ingredient of choice. It's all a little sweet and brings new meaning to the word "yeet-hey". At the same time it is overwhelmingly chocolatey without being rich. The sponge is light and just functional as a vehicle for the piles of frosting and the filling.

For those who are interested, the translation of "yeet hey" is "hot-air". Chinese wise, food is split into types, the ones we usually focus on are "yeet-hey" or "lerng" which means sort of refreshing or cooling. Either one, yeet-hey or lerng can cause you problems so you need to balance with the other. Peanuts, crisps, all that jazz are under yeet-hey. Melons, fruit and veg tend to fall under lerng.

Hazelnut and chocolate cupcakes
Makes 12 in muffin tins
Ingredients:
100g plain flour
20g cocoa pwder
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g butter
120ml milk
1 egg
120g chocolate spread

Method:
1. The method in the book says mix all the dry with the butter and then add milk. Personally I find this weird so I did my usual - cream butter, sugar then the egg, then the rest, then the milk.
2. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at Gas Mark 3.
3. Cool and cut out little cones from the top.
4. Fill with teaspoons of nutella.
5. Cover with frosting

Frosting ingredients:
250g icing sugar
80g unsalted butter
25ml milk
80g hazelnut and chocolate spread

Method:
1. Mix the ingredients together, adding the chocolate spread last.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Summer Strawberry Meringue Cake

As cakes go, this one is a-may-zing! In imitation of one Joey Tribbiani "What's not to like? Cream good, strawberries good, cake good, meringue goooooooooooooood" :D This has parental popularity which is rare, but is enjoyable all the same.

This recipe cake from the Good Housekeeping Simple and Stunning Cakes (by Greg an Max). Very, very minor tweaks on my part - I used unsalted butter rather than margarine (you can tell the age of the book!!) and added a little vanilla (like 1/4 tsp) to a pot of light double cream. Note that I didn't chose to use light double cream (Elmea no less :S) just that someone bought it and we had to use it up. Something you need to watch out for is the flipping of the cake on top of the other one when you finally plate up. Very delicate and very breakable!!

Ingredients:
Cake:
50g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 egg yolks
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk

Meringue:
4 egg whites
225g caster sugar
50g flaked almonds

300ml cream (one pot)
strawberries

Method:
1. Line two 8inch round tins with baking parchment and warm up the oven (Gas Mark 4 -5 if you use a mediumish shelf)
2. Cream butter, sugar, add vanilla and egg yolks.
3. Add flour and baking powder, alternating additions with the milk.
4. Spread into tins.
5. Whisk egg whites and add sugar to stiffish peaks.
6. Spread meringue over cake mix.
7. Sprinkle almonds on one of the cakes.
8. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes.
9. Take out of tin and allow to cool.
10. Whip cream with a little vanilla and cover the base cake with cream and sliced strawberries, top with the other cake and decorate with remaining strawberries.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Rose and Apricot Macaron


I've been trying to do macarons for awhile, (okay I've tried like twice?) and I think this actually worked. Funnily enough though, the should-have-been-a-failure ended up better than the ones that were text-booked.

The recipe I followed was as follows here. It's the one in the comments which I reproduce here.

110g icing sugar
60g ground almonds
(sift these together after whizzing down to a fine powder in a food processor)
Then beat up 60g egg whites (usually 2 eggs' worth) with 40g caster sugar and a LITTLE bit of food colouring (a tiny dot of the gel stuff is much better and more intense than the liquid stuff), untill you have a firm, shiny meringue.
Fold this gently, a third at a time, into the almond mixture. DON'T overmix; when it's just incorporated part the mixture with your spoon - it should slowly flow back together like 'molten lava' might. (If you can picture such a thing)
Then pipe circles by holding your piping bag still and squeezing it a bit to form a neat blob. When your baking sheet is filled, hold it firmly and rap it down on the worktop to pop any air bubbles. Leave out to rest for 15 minutes then bake at 170C for 10 minutes roughly. They should have formed those frilly 'feet' and come easily off the baking sheet.

I didn't have any food dye gel but I had red liquid stuff which I put almost a capsworth in. I put about half a cap of rose water in as well and sandwiched it with apricot jam.

Oddly enough, the egg whites were non-stiff because I used the same bowl I used for the other macarons (with the greasy almond bits in) but as a result, these didn't have the humps and peaks that the other ones had, and had perfectly even feet. Food for thought.

Here are some random bakes from today - cherry and almond muffins.


Monday, 3 May 2010

Happy 10th Anniversary British Born Chinese!


So it was the tenth anniversary of this web forum I belong to - see right for link, and we were asked if we would consider making some cakes to mark the occasion. Much stress!! There were two practice cakes where I tried to make a chocolate gateau, but finally decided that the chocolate mousse filling would make it incredibly difficult to eat on serviettes. But, here it is finally. Despite dropping my ipod on the "y" in "Anniversary when I put on my coat on the train (it landed on the clingfilm which I think saved it from being squished completely!). Despite the pouring rain and Piccadilly Circus closing most of it's exits because of the flooding. Despite me wrangling for my umbrella and mobile with cake boxes in each hand. It made it through the storm!!!

The cake itself is a Vanilla Buttermilk Cake from Sky High Cakes. I've made it before but for cupcakes (the lemon jam centre ones). This time I did try to emulate cake flour to an extent by replacing two tablespoons of my plain flour with cornflour. Will need to try with the proper stuff at some point. The recipe for that is here. I cooked with individual cake pans but won't attempt to give the time for it. Just check after half an hour and depending on two layers or three it will change the timing. Of course you could just... buy the book?

I layered it with strawberry jam and lemon buttercream. The buttercream was approximately 250g unsalted butter, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 7-8 cups icing sugar. I use a recipe and then go by texture when stirring.

The wafer rolls were Askeys and you do decide how much cake you are going to use to match the height. I did have a layer of cake left but was going to fill the top with fruit which would have made it level. After I put the chocolate letters in though (ice melted dark chocolate onto baking parchment and leave to set) it was apparent there wasn't enough room to do so attractively. So, wafer rolls around the side, some cape gooseberries on the top, a tiny bit of piping to hide the fact the cake doesn't quite have straight sides, ribbon around the whole caboodle, et voila. Cake.

The cupcakes were made from the Usbourne cookbook for fairy cakes. 90g of self raising flour, sugar, butter and 2 eggs, which most cake bakers wouldn't need any more instruction on, Gas Mark 5 for 15 minutes in my case. It is the easiest cupcake recipe ever and makes 12 fairy cake sized cupcakes. The icing was enough to cover 18 conservatively.

Lalala. And that's about it for cake. I'd like to say it came out pretty well, holding up to the elements and the klutziness that is me. The sponge is a really soft sponge and I don't think it would hold up to fondant or heavy decorations. The wafer rolls were superb protection (I don't own a proper cake box that fits). If you want to look for them, I used Askey's which are 99p from Tescos (see the ice cream wafer section) and £1.06 from Waitrose. I have no idea where the 7p goes.

The cake stand I made from here. I didn't wrap the cake drums in ribbon though - I just bought paper and sellotaped.

Good night and god speed, I'm making savoury for awhile... oh but I have met a 13 year old boy who is allergic to dairy and eggs so I might be meeting the challenge with some vegan baking soon :)

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Ebelskiver


So I got me an Ebelskiver pan :)

For those of you as blank as I was, basically I was perusing the Williams-Sonoma website since I WAS going to be going to NY but never made it. But my friend was lovely enough to buy one and bring it back for me.

Google it. Youtube it. Ebelskivers are basically pancakes (with a touch more egg white) which you can fill with things like nutella or jam.

I used the recipe that came with the pan but observe. First go, they look pretty cute although a lot easier to get round rather than pancake shaped if you don't fill them. Lots of tips online on how to turn - I used wooden chopsticks. Easy peasy. Although if you do fill them, the jam can go a bit weird and turn it purple :)

The Chocolate mousse gateau experiment

So I have a week off work and this is what I do with it. The great big cake experiment. There's this anniversary thing for the forums I frequent and so needed to try. The above is a chocolate mousse cake from "Cakes to Celebrate Love and Life" with some large amendments. Below is the amended versions with some notations. The main aspect would be that it requires a lot more chocolate to make the band but they didn't give that much in the line of instructions for that.

Chocolate cake
Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup boiling water

Method:
1. Gas Mark 4
2. Grease an 8 inch cake tin with a removable base.
3. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
4. Add the wet ingredients aside from the boiling water
5. Mix and then stir in the boiling water till blended. It will be ridiculously wet.
6. Pour into the pan and bake for an hour or until a skewer comes out just slightly damp rather than raw cake (think brownie).
7. Cool in the pan for ten minutes, turn out, then cool completely.
8. Slice into three layers. (I used a very large serrated bread knife and a palette knife to cut and move onto pieces of greaseproof paper). The book said with a 26cm pan it should give 3cm layers...don't know how, my cake I had about 1.5cm but it was sturdy enough to complement the mousse.

Chocolate mousse (YOU NEED ABOUT HALF OF THIS)
Ingredients:
330g dark chocolate
150g butter
3/5 cup milk (150ml)
2 1/2 cup cream (I used double)

Method:
1. Boil milk and tip over the grated chocolate and cubed butter and stir till dissolved. (Now whilst the book said this, I'm not sure how it works. Maybe if I actually grated the chocolate, but who can be bothered with that? Heat the butter, chocolate and milk with a double boiler or use a microwave.)
2. Cool the chocolatey mixture to room temp.
3. Whip cream till soft/stiff peaks and then add the chocolate into it until a glorious chocolate cream.

Chocolate ganache
Ingredients:
300g dark chocolate
1 cup (250ml) cream
Method:
1. Heat chocolate and cream together over a double boiler till mixed.
2. Leave to cool. Will become nice and thick but still pourable. FYI. Different proportions are okay, you just need to get it roughly right although you may have to chill it overnight if you want something stiffer/spreadable.

Chocolate band
Method:
1. Take a piece of baking parchment and measure it so it wraps around the cake with a bit of overhang.
2. Cut out exactly what you want the band to look like around the cake.
3. Put on top of another piece of parchment and take some melted chocolate - I used white, and spread thickly. I didn't use nearly enough but that was laziness on my part. I used a butter knife. Go right over the parchment and onto the parchment underneath.
4. Leave to cool for a bit. Officially until the chocolate loses the gloss a bit.

CONSTRUCTION:
1. Take cake, smother with mousse, put another layer on, put on mousse and top with final piece of cake. Neaten up so it looks level (spare the spirit level and use a piece of greaseproof and press gently on top). Fill the gaps with more mousse. If you were being good you should fridge it overnight.
2. Pour ganache over it and around the sides. You should fridge it till it sets but it was a cold kitchen that night...
3. Take the chocolate band, wrap it around the cake. Leave the paper on and fridge/leave the cake to cold.
4. When you're ready to serve, peel the paper off the chocolate band, leaving it standing tall.

PERSONAL SUGGESTIONS:
The cake to me had waaaaaaaaaay too much cream. It wasn't bad, even the day after. Kind of like a chocolate trifle. But I like cake. And moreover I have to feed people on serviettes. The next time I plan to make a vanilla sponge, same recipe just no cocoa and flour to replace. and fill up the cake using only half the mousse.

I'd top with fruit (google Patisserie Valerie for examples) or malteasers.

The band would be a lot thicker.

However, I may be adjusting it completely and just ganaching the cake and decorating with chocolate sticks and a ribbon. Who knows? Experiment continues. xx

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Valentines Day Custard Creams

I made custard creams from Nigella Lawson's Feast today. A few tiny adjustments because we didn't have (and I don't like) shortening - we used butter as a replacement, and I don't own a processor so I rubbed in the fat and the egg. It was ridiculously flaky but not as delicate as her recipe suggests. The biscuits themselves could have been rolled a lot flatter than 5mm and would have been a lot nicer - note that for once it wasn't me being lax!! I did make 29 cut outs in total, the recommended is 28-30! Maybe next time I'll try the shortening. Or maybe I'll just buy a packet of custard creams... Happy Valentines (and Happy Chinese New Year!)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Afternoon tea at...Hyatt Regency

http://www.afternoontea.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=29&Itemid=3
There was a 25% off deal in January and so we went as a family (well sis-in-law (in pic), bro, my sis and me...) It is located nicely behind Selfridges and is just past the lobby. Unfortunately, in a way, it IS the lobby since the lifts are just there without much separation from where we were sitting. On the plus side, it was very family friendly as there were several little kids around. Also a nice place to waste the afternoon since there is a gorgeous little sofa and fire area which one couple had commandeered. Maybe with some foresight it could be booked, but I wasn't there for the romance ;)

To the tea! Firstly, choice of tea was pretty good. Included the greens, rosebud, but also hot chocolate which my sis-in-law chose. Me, I went for the Assam. The closest thing to PG Tips is basically what I chose to go with afternoon tea. Anything else just feels wrong. Bonus points, it came in a teapot and in leaf form. I'm not a snob, but when it's afternoon tea, unless we're eating in a caff, teabags are just not done.

We started with a little apres-dessert? Is that the word? Surprise course. I love surprise courses. Ours was a raspberry coulis topped with a sort of yoghurt mousse with a sprinkling of pistachio in a shot glass. Yum. The menu otherwise for the cakes is as follows:

- Lemon macaroon, chocolate ganache
- Caramel macaroon
- Chocolate cheesecake
- Strawberry n cream topped muffin
- Fruit tartlet

The sandwiches weren't anything to write home about. The macaroons weren't quality ones and a little rough around the edges. The cakes were definitely better than the Carnaby, however we did get very *creamed-out* Brilliantly, they let us rest for ages before bringing on the scones. These were made fresh for us and you could tell!! They also brought butter when requested and we got to take the leftovers home. Happiness. I'd definitely go again once they changed the menu (it's all about new things...) but will go with friends if they ever come down.

Primrose Bakery Chocolate Orange Cupcakes


I picked this recipe up in the Metro ages ago because the picture looked very pretty and I've been to Primrose bakery in Covent Garden once before (and unlike Hummingbird, I think the cupcakes are very nice if not particularly remarkable against home baking).

I debated the merits of frosting, but decided against in the end. I'll write the recipe here as per the newspaper cutting (in my odd bullet way). Since the frosting was chocolate it wouldn't have achieved what I thought was missing from the cupcakes - a stronger orange taste. Next time I think I might have to find some orange crunchy bits or something. An orange aero crushed up maybe. It was just missing... something.

Ingredients:
115g dark chocolate
90g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
1 orange zest
2 large eggs
185g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp milk
1 orange's juice

1. Melt chocolate and leave to one side for a sec (I use a microwave, you can use a bain-marie... most people have established that the best way to melt chocolate is not to sit on it, albeit it can be unfortunately effective...)
2. Cream butter, sugar and zest.
3. Add egg. Mix. Call this Mixture A
4. Flour plus bicarb, baking powder, salt etc in one bowl. Mixture B.
5. Milk and juice. Mixture C.
6. Now, put the melted chocolate into the butter mix (Mixture A) Mix in (don't worry, you're going to mix some more so it's not going to matter too much).
7. Add 1/3 flour stuff (Mixture B)
8. Add 1/2 juice (Mixture C)
9. Add 1/3 flour stuff (Mixture B)
10. Add remaining 1/2 juice (Mixture C)
11. Add remaining 1/3 flour (Mixture B)
12. Now if that wasn't too complicated (if you give up just mix it all in gradually in batches, it really doesn't matter that much although it's preferable to end with the floury stuff. )
13. Put into cupcake cases (I have 12 muffin sized ones)
14. Bake for 30 minutes Gas Mark 4.
15. Prod gently/shove a skewer in to check.

Enjoy the yumminess.

*Giddy* - and some carrot cake


Am extremely happy today. Have discovered Nigel Slater's Real Food on Youtube (under TV, Food and then it streams from 4 on Demand)

But, other little things I've been up to. Made a carrot cake today. The originating recipe was from James Martin's Desserts, however I made some fairly dramatic changes to it. None of the decoration, a different frosting, different flour, different flavouring, different sugar, no nuts etc etc.

My version therefore is as below:
Ingredients:
200g grated carrot (two big-uns..)
175g demerara sugar
2 large eggs
150ml sunflower/veg oil
200g self raising flour (I comboed baking powder and plain)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
120g sultanas
50g dessicated coconut

Frosting:
300g cream cheese
2 huge tbsp icing sugar
1/2 lemon worth of juice
Muesli

Method:
1. Sugar, eggs and oil. Mix.
2. Add flour, cinnamon and bicarb. Mix.
3. Put in sultanas, coconut and carrot. Mix (Note, I did a quick soak of the sultanas in a squeeze of lemon and a bit of cordial but on tasting it didn't really show since I had nice organic sultanas anyway.)
4. Pour into a pan (mine was about 8 inches, lined with parchment on the base, greased at the sides, and had a loose bottom.)
5. Bake for approximately an hour at Gas Mark 5. (Start prodding with the skewer at 35minutes)
6. Tip the humped back mary out onto a plate and leave the flat side up to ice. (Don't have to, but it saved me a dilemma of how to get it back down...)
7. The frosting. I used a couple of large, heaped table spoons of icing sugar (to be technical it was fondant sugar but that's just because that's what we had), dissolved it in a decent squeeze of half a lemon (we had lemon in the house), mixed with a 300g pack of philadelphia cheese to taste.
8. Spread around and then top with a sprinkle of muesli. Mine happened to be the uber pricy but 50% fruity Dorset brand but it is pretty and was damn yummy. Ah cake.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Maze by Gordon Ramsey

So for the first time ever, I headed out for some "fine dining". Well I say first time, being that usually someone else, e.g. a boss or the company pays. If we're talking company paying, we've been to Quilon (an upmarket, michelin-starred Indian) which was nice, Bank, canapes at the Savoy... the list isn't really that great for someone who works in London and in finance tbh. Hmm. So anyway, my resolutions was to try and break out a little bit. Eat the budget lunches and max out for some nicer meals. Maze was the obvious choice for me because I've been looking at the peanut butter and jelly dessert for AGES and this weekend I went there.

http://www.gordonramsay.com/maze/menus/alacarte/

I decline to add any pictures because it was seriously dark in there, albeit there's plenty of pics online by other bloggers. The decor is a bit Japanese teppen-yaki, and a bit hotel lobby - both of which I spend a bit too much time at. Bathrooms are individual and okay. The seating was actually really bad for my back (no lower back support). The service and staff were actually very good (thankfully given the service charge tabbed on). Me and the other people around were dressed in jeans so it is relatively casual. No teens as far as I can see, but nothing snobby about this place.

Funny thing is, the menu is just PEPPERED with the poncey stuff. i.e. the stuff off Great British Menu. Horseradish snow. Raspberry gel. Squid paint. Anyway, we opted for the a la carte as it offered us choice. The tasting menu is around the same price. I had two cocktails (£10 each), and my friend had two glasses of wine (apparently very nice) and a cocktail plus a bottle of sparkling water. We had four dishes and a dessert each and the bill came to around £180 including service.

What I ate:

Crab salad, marinated golden beetroot, apple jelly, Bloody Mary sorbet £10.50
- little fish finger sized row of crab salad on six slices of beetroot with little bloblets of the sorbet, apple jelly and something else on top plus the micro-veg/herbs, very delicate and pretty but not actually much impact.

Jerusalem artichoke velouté, duck ragoût, Lincolnshire field mushrooms on olive toast £8.50
- tiny mushroom with a pate on a crouton slice of toast (very flavourful), a bowl of mushrooms and bits of duck (I think!) with the artichoke veloute (i.e. soup) poured over. Hot and yummy.

Cornish lamb and tongue, salt marsh mutton shepherd’s pie, spring cabbage and mint jelly £13.50
- tiny bit of tongue arranged on a bit of lamb on top of a piece of spring lamb with a little jelly. Lamb was a nice thickness and decent cut. Shepherds pie in a separate pot. Same soupy mash (they'd call this a pomme puree until the new rustic phase came into fashion) poured over mince. M&S seriously does it better.

Scottish red leg partridge, cob-nuts,‘ neeps n tatties’, haggis sauce £13.50
-Pretty little leg, nice nuts (ooh-er...), some weird wrap excuse for neeps and tatties, and haggis sauce which had no haggis flavour. Disappointing. Just like meat with some kind of red wine sauce.

and

Peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich, tonka bean cream and dehydrated cherries £7.50
- A sandwich of nut florentine (no chocolate bondage) and peanut ice cream. A tiny roll of cherry ice cream and gorgeous cherry sauce. A little tonka bean scoop (smooth, slightly savoury) with flat slivers imbedded which I assume is the dehydrated cherries. Yumminess and a lot better than the chocolate delice.
---------------------------------------------------
What my friend ate:

Confit of wild mallard, raspberry gel,
walnuts and compressed celery £11.50
- it's duck.

‘Warm Scottish breakfast’ London-cured salmon, smoked haddock risotto, egg and bacon,
horseradish snow £10.00
- Salmon, with a side ramekin of a very creamy risotto, with a tiny egg and bacon on top. Nice. But not amazing.

Suffolk pork ‘cheek n belly’, spiced pumpkin jam,
red cabbage, crispy crackling £13.50
- just pork belly.

Irish ox ‘tongue n cheek’,caper raisin and ginger carrots, horseradish pomme purée £13.00
- my mum makes similar meat.

and

Bitter chocolate délice, honey gelatine,
honeycomb ice cream £8.00
- rich chocolate mousse with a thin piece of chocolate balanced on top. Ice cream on top of a little crumbled pile of honeycomb. You could see Slug n Lettuce being able to dish this out tbh.

Out of the lot, I would eat, the Jerusalem artichoke velouté, duck ragoût, Lincolnshire field mushrooms on olive toast (was tiny, but a lot of flavour and very yummy) and the peanut butter dish again. The rest wasn't memorable, albeit the shepherds pie was memorable for being pants (no crust and was like a soup) and the haggis sauce was distinct in it's lack of haggis flavour. Must return to Scotland at some point. I don't think I'd go again to Maze. It's worth going to the once I think, but just not my thing.

Have a feeling that I will start paying more for upmarket teas rather than meals out. Maybe go to Roast? It will be disappointing if Toby Carvey tastes better though.

Love n kisses,
Budget Cynic.


Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year - New you... errrr....



Happy new year all!

Few wee resolutions firstly...
1. Scary - not to buy any new cookbooks APART from those bought on holiday (NY is earmarked)
2. Moisturise.
3. Be frugal.

Most are un-cake related, however frugality links in with non-cake book buying in a way. I bought a shiny little laptop on New Year's Eve and out of guilt feel I must make up for it by making my lunches etc. That is not to say I won't spend, but whilst I am increasing my grown-uppyness by going to places like Maze for dinner (not that expensive based on the a-la-carte) I figure I can compensate elsewhere.

So what have I made this frosty new year?

Honeycomb as above (oddly hard to get the sugar to 160 degrees C but persevere otherwise it fails miserably) I used James Martin's recipe "Cinder Toffee" but you can get recipes which don't call for thermometers or liquid glucose. This will store for a few days as long as you airtight it with at least two wrappings of plastic/foil and don't give it to your dummy brother.

Wreath cake (made with my usual bundt cake from Dorie baked for 45min only, but with peach jam - too much peach jam for such a shallow tin, hence the volcano effect - on eating, don't add the jam, whilst it will cook, the jam merges with the sponge on cooling and creates a marzipanny uncooked effect which I don't like. And it was definitely cooked!!)