Sunday, 27 February 2011

Corn Custards and Sunday Lunch

Today I decided to try some new recipes from my books. Corn custards from Marcus Wareing's book Nutmeg and Custard. Funnily enough, there's both Nutmeg AND Custard in this...

It was a really basic recipe although I had to amp up the heat to Gas Mark 5 rather than 1/2 as after 20 minutes it still didn't set. It was lovely... but I'm not into it. It's too sweet as a side dish, and that's just from the natural sweetcorn!

I also made mushroom risotto and a large meat stew. Naturally mushroom risotto took twice as long as usual and twice as much stock as it said on the back of the packet, but it did taste fabulous!

This was from yesterday. Strawberry and cream chiffon swiss roll. It was my second attempt at chiffon as it's drives my mother's competitive streak so I try not to touch it too much. I used Sunflower (see blogs on the right) recipe for Orange Chiffon, replacing the orange juice with water instead. I poured far too much and therefore made this giant roll which cracked when I rolled it. But it was lovely and got eaten very quickly. I still think my mother's version has an edge, but I think that's due to the cream of tartar in her recipe. This recipe only has baking powder so it's a little crisper.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Biscuiteers Flooded Cookies

Cookie cutters are a horrible addiction, bested only by my addiction to Bundt tins. However, whilst I use my Bundt tins, I rarely use my cutters because I reckon drop cookies (chocolate chip anyone?) taste sooo much better.

Flooded cookies have been en vogue for awhile and Biscuiteers is definitely the most famous. So, when I was in town checking out the latest bookshop to go bust (boooo...) I found the Biscuiteers book. I have to say, I didn't buy it. There wasn't enough recipes for me to buy - probably about eight and most of them were "adjustments" of the basic recipe whereby you replace flour with cocoa etc. Moreover, it didn't take me long to spot an editing error whereby the Anzac coconut cookies didn't tell you how much coconut you needed to put in the recipe. Anyway, I digress. I didn't buy the book, though it was a very pretty book. You might like it all the same, but I'd rather have more recipes for my money.

There were some handy points which I thought might make it worthwhile reading.
1. How to pack the cookies.
2. Bake the cookies on a low heat after icing to maintain crispness.

I write the recipe for the cookie below. It made four trays of  cookies and really doesn't spread much at all. I did however  get bored so I mixed my second batch with dried peel and that was okay. It's just not a very strong flavoured cookie and I had to use 2 medium eggs to get the mix to a pliable consistency. I used Royal Icing mix (icing sugar and egg white powder) with water and some lemon juice to ice. The amounts quoted in the book was too much for me (1kg plus) which is great if you love icing... less great if it's just you playing pretty pictures.

Basic cookie
Makes 24 cookies
350g plain flour
100g self raising flour
125g granulated sugar (I suggest caster as it did show up grainy when I used normal granulated.)
125g salted butter (surprising right? I used unsalted and added half a teaspoon salt.)
125g golden syrup
1 large egg

1. Sift flours and add sugar.
2. Rub in butter until breadcrumbs appear.
3. Add syrup and egg.
4. Draw in and mix until dough like.
5. Roll and use. (Does not need chilling.)
6. Bake for 15minutes at Gas Mark 4.

I added vanilla essence but evidently should have added more. Next time I will be trying Martha Stewart's recipe, which with 2 tablespoons of cognac, sounds yummy!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Sky-high Banana-chocolate chip cake

After obsessing about the Sky High baking group pics from several years ago, and buying the Sky High book, I've funnily only ever made one recipe - the buttermilk cake recipe, that is *drumroll* up till now!! It was my brother's birthday and ... I realised that in our family we don't have any "favourite" cakes. My sister doesn't do raisins, my parents don't like cinnamon or anything other than vanilla sponge with whipped cream, but we have NO FAVOURITE CAKES. Which, can be quite handy.

So today I made Banana and chocolate chip cake from the book. Shockingly easy, but also in the american way of baking, not so great on the results. Let me explain, if you gave me a list of ingredients I am almost always going to go butter, sugar, eggs, flour - in that order. This cake is almost muffin-like in it's creation. Dry meets wet, meets some more wet. I think the texture suffered as a result and it didn't have the lushness of banana bread. A bit more cream maybe would have helped - or not leaving the cakes in for as long as instructed or cooling unfilled for as long. It's possibly one to develop, but I think there are enough chocolate and banana cakes for me to experiment with not to touch again. It's good to know that I can finally chalk another one off the list though, but as ever I have a quarter cup of buttermilk left over. Is it time to make pancakes or scones this time?

Friday, 4 February 2011

Chocolate tea at the London Hilton

You have to love January sales. But as it's me, I hit the 25% off deal online for the London Hilton Chocolate Tea on Park Lane. Which, on the date that I went was a bit of a horror. I must explain - Park Lane is just near Hyde Park. Where the students were having their protests that day. And the President of Bangladesh was staying at the Hilton as well so there was some protesters outside the hotel specifically for that too. 

It gave us a rather odd feel of Marie Antoinette in a way. "Let them eat cake." We were also very grateful not to be sitting near the windows. 

The service/protocol at the restaurant was mixed. They offered to switch the sandwiches if we wanted to, were generally lovely and doggy bags come as standard. When I say doggy bags, I mean hopelessly elegant pink cardboard and glossy carryouts. I'm saving it to carry my own cakes later. The bad side was that it's not a place where they pour the tea for you, but also that you feel a little pressured to stick to the same tea whereas usually I switch between each pot, plus it wasn't even a tea refresh, it was just new water. There was a keyboard player who sang up to date songs. Unfortunately a little loud because I suppose she was trying to drown out the protests, but it made conversation a bit difficult. She did manage to sing Happy Birthday at least five times whilst we were there so if you're into that, make a request!

The important bits. The chocolate plate. It actually comes ON a chocolate plate. The selection changes periodically. My sister in law went a few weeks earlier and had a different set of cakes. The one we had were as below - work from the top middle in an anticlockwise direction, the lychee mousse is covered in the picture by the marshmallow cone.

Lychee, raspberry, rose water mousse, sugared diamonds (fluff with a bit of raspberry, strawberry flavour. Low on flavour and I hate sugared diamonds I've now decided. Like silver dragees, rock hard and non-biteable.)
Chocolate mille feuille with Griottine cherries (voted good but no one liked the cherries)
Pineapple crumble with chocolate jelly (okay, but not great)
Jaffa cake chocolates (not good)
Cone of marshmallow and chocolate ganache (slightly rubbery for me, but a cone of chocolate is never bad)
Caramel of white chocolate and praline (the brandy snap looking thing at the top)
Pistachio and chocolate macaroon (green lollipop on a stick)

The cupcakes. They were, lemon, strawberry, chocolate and peppermint. I only ate the peppermint and it just tasted of buttercream and dry chocolate cupcake. They also od'ed on the sparkles and baubles which meant I had to spit bits out - so elegant I know! The rest of the cupcakes I sent home with my friend. Odd for a tea place, they only had one of everything (apart from the jaffa chocolates and the scones). Usually it's one each for everyone. I also felt a bit bad because I had heard such good reviews about the coffee cupcake they had.

The scones. I think scones are like the hygiene factor of a tea. As in, no one cares if they are good, but they care if it's bad. Industrial Relations course. Go figure. The scones were good. Light, fluffyish. They are even served warm which is usually a bonus bonus in my eyes. But even though we asked for the mixed selection, no chocolate chip scone could be found :( We countered it with a mound of chocolate spread on a plain scone instead. The same problem happened when my sister in law went.

Would I go again? I think my vote is no. There's better out there. It was worth it for the once, but there's a slab of chocolate plate sitting downstairs still and my friends don't have the sugar tolerance that I do and didn't even make it to the cupcakes. xx