Sunday, 28 December 2008
Sunday, 21 December 2008
Monday, 15 December 2008
I've made my Christmas fruit cake (below). As usual it came out a bit bumpy on the top. Maybe I got carried away putting the fruit in. I made it enough in advance to feed it this year, but have never done this before, so hopefully I won't end up with a Cointreau soaked top on a dry bottom.
It was back to my old reliable Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book. I do have other ones, honest, but this one is brilliant for standard recipes. What I particularly like about this one is that in the book there's about 8 different sizes and associated ingredient lists, so it can be as big/small as you like.
I only made a little one myself this year, 6in as not everyone in my house likes it, and sometimes it can get a bit sickening. I love it though, yum yum ( I hope :) )
Next, well when I get to the shop, is a layer of marzipan, and then I'll have to actually decide on the decoration. I keep changing my mind.
I just noticed the bottle of Shloer hiding in the backround of the photo. It wouldn't be Christmas without it. I used to love have 'red or white' as a kid at the table. Why don't we buy it all year round?
Friday, 31 October 2008
The only problem with things like that are I have a nagging worry that I've put curry instead of mixed spice, or something similar, since I won't get to 'check' it myself. I haven't heard anything back, so fingers crossed!
Oh and just in case you ever need to know, a 9 in fruit cake weighs 4 lb 8 oz.
Transporting a cake recently I pondered on the skills and tactics needed to bring it safely on its journey.
It really does depend on the cake. A sturdy fruit or Madeira cake for example will happily slide around the footwell of the passenger seat without coming to much harm. This is the best place for it, as it can’t drop off the seat and come to harm, and the seats usually have a camber, so decorations may slide. I have a random paranoia that it’ll slip sideways on top of the gearstick, but that may just be me :)
Delicate decorations or layered cakes usually need a willing passengers lap. Cake boards are great, provided that you have secured your cake to it (royal icing does the trick). Trays help too, as they have a lip round the side restricting it moving too much. For important occasions spare decorations and a piping bag of icing to reattach parts should be taken.
One good solution for transporting and storing cakes is to set it on the lid of the tin and put the main body over the top. That way, when you get there you don’t have to risk dropping it getting it out of the tin again. It’s usually helpful to write ‘TOP’ on the bottom of the tin, so no-one accidentally turns it ‘right-side’ up. Roses or Quality Street tins are perfect for the most popular cake sizes. I normally lose a few throughout the year to friends, but gain more (filled with sweets!) at Christmas.
If you fancy something a bit more fancy these are good, but to all intents and purposes are cardboard boxes. They do allow you to take the sides apart and slide it off however, which is a big advantage. I'm sometimes tempted to get one of these cupcake caddys, but I'd prefer something a bit more multipurpose.
The closest to disaster I came is when I was the passenger and trying to keep a pavlova on the plate. Bouncy along on the twisty back roads trying to act as a human gyroscope was no easy feat. Unfortunately in the half-hour trip, the cream softened the meringue resulting in a mini avalanche all over my arm, which I wasn’t able to get at to clean up. Luckily the rest remained intact, and was a success when we made it to our destination.
So the next time you despair at the snail-like pace of the car in front, stop and consider that, just possibly, they may be transporting a pavlova.
This lead to the basic shapes here:
I bought this cake for a birthday, and thought I'd show you all. I was planning to make it myself but seen this and thought I couldn't do much better! It was from Sainsbury's and was a jam filled madeira cake. It was cut into small bits luckily, as I'm sure the blue icing wouldn't do you much good!
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Monday, 29 September 2008
I set out not really knowing what it was supposed to look/be like and to be honest when finished the appearance wasn't very encouraging:
Having popped it in the oven I started cleaning up, which was not mean feat. I used my wee trick of dipping the spoon in hot water so the treacle would slide off it easily, but unfortunately the recipe specified it as a weight and not a number of spoonfulls. This meant I managed to get treacle not only on my measuring scales (bowl and base) but the worktop, the book (thankfully the cover wipes clean), my elbow, the kettle (which I didn't use) and four spoons! By this time the parkin was ready... I think. Here's how it turned out:
Traditionally you leave parkin in a tin for at least a week before you eat it, but purely for the purposes of research (it smelt too good) I decided to try a bit. To be honest I was a bit disappointed, it was quite dry and not particularly ginger. The lumpy top was typical of a fruit cake with too little 'wet' mixture, but I wasn't sure if this was the cake here. However Delia Smith advises that this will solve itself by leaving it the requisite amount of time.
I'll have to update you all about it then!
Saturday, 20 September 2008
I learnt a few lessons this week, the first being don't bake when you're tired, as you will make mistakes! This happened making Viennese Fingers. They are a buttery, shortbread type biscuit originating from...you've guessed it... Austria. The recipe below is good, but I find that using 4 oz of plain flour instead of 2 oz of flour, 2 oz of cornflour doesn't make any difference and is much easier.
The first results of careless baking were not reading the instructions properly and putting 4oz and not 1 oz of icing sugar in. This was after I'd mixed it with the butter. Subsequently I did the only thing I could, made 3x the mixture to 'even' out the ingredients. Unfortunately (OK fortunately) this meant I make loads of them, and was popular with my friends and family for a while :) The second result was in slightly burning one set while piping out yet another. The taste was only very slightly affected but they didn't look as nice. I made my close family eat these ones.
The recipe is actually very straight forward, but there are a few tricks to making them better. The most important is to use real, full-fat butter. I normally prefer margarine for my arteries sake, but it being such a principal ingrediant here calls for quality. Also, unless you leave the butter out all night until it's very soft, shaping the mixture will be like piping wet sand. A final trick someone told me afterwards was to leave the full piping bag sitting in lukewarm water when not being used, to keep the mixture inside it soft.
Here's my result:
A star shaped nozzle gives a lovely shape, which is held perfectly in the oven. Traditionally these would have one end dipped in chocolate, but the result of lesson number two (check you have all the ingredients before you start) meant I had to leave them as they were. It was no huge detriment, as the flavour and texture really are lovely. Occasionally I have created sandwich style ones using chocolate spread, but personally I think the spread overpowers the biscuit and is a waste.
Next time I think I'll try Viennese Whirls, when I have more time to play with my piping technique. On another slightly random note, I took the picture on the biscuit tin lid simply because I had something in my other hand and couldn't reach the plates, but I quite like the effect :)
Friday, 12 September 2008
The link takes you to the cake that inspired the blog and had me actually laughing out loud.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
I was initally sceptical that this would stretch to 24 brownies, but they're so rich that you really couldn't eat more. I'll admit to having a sweet tooth, but was stumped. They taste better than they look in the picture.
I seem to have been focusing on chocolate recipes recently, I must try something different soon...
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Friday, 1 August 2008
Sunday, 20 July 2008
This was a lovely cake, with light sponge layers and a (very) sweet fudge icing. The two textures went together really well. Definately an improvement. The cake itself is an easy all in one method and the only trouble with the icing was deciding when to spread it on the cake; too warm and it'll run off the cake, too cold and it'll be too hard to spread. I like to have it slightly too runny so that most of the marks on the surface settle leaving a smooth glossy surface.
I used fluted sandwich tins and added a few decorations. It was my first time using dusting powders as shading to make the flowers look more realistic and while I think I need more practise, I learnt alot too :)
Thursday, 10 July 2008
I started with a 22cm/9in round chocolate cake, using the recipe from my cake decorating book. To be honest I was a little dissapointed with the outcome. It wasn't very chocolatey and was slightly more moist in the centre. I think I'll stick to my usual recipe in the future.
Next I cut it into a 'face' shape by trimming the edges. Personally I think it looked a bit like an Easter Island statue! I've seen one in the British Museum and they're really amazing things.
The colours are rolled out sugarpaste, stuck on with royal icing. I also used the royal icing to outline some of the shapes and add some decoration to the forehead. Silver balls (dragees) added some sparkle. Sitting with the piping bag in my hand I couldn't help but add a border, I managed to stop there before I went really crazy!
The birthday girl loved it and a day later I still don't think it's been cut :
Monday, 30 June 2008
Meringues are the obvious solution and there’s a world of recipes out there. However did you know that egg whites can be frozen? Just pop them in an airtight container and freeze as normal. Don’t forget to label what is in it and how many though; it can be hard to work out what they are a few weeks later.
You could also make petit fours like I did here.
Pastry is the normal use for egg yolks, but if a lot of whole eggs are needed (particularly successfully in a fruit cake) a yolk can be substituted for a whole egg. There’s a limit on this though, as they whites are the binding agent, I’d say no more than 1/3 should be just yolks.
Here’s a good page with recipes for eggs yolks, including crème brulee and chocolate mouse
It’s worth noting that egg yolks can be frozen, but you need to add another ingredient, as otherwise they thicken. I can’t seem to find a definitive way to do this and haven’t tried myself, so I leave you to the hands of google I’m afraid.
Eggs are best frozen separated; the results are better and it allows more flexibility. Both parts can be kept for a few days in the fridge; I put them in a cup with some cling film over the top.
It may seem a bit icky, but don’t dismiss slightly out of date eggs as off. In most cakes they are perfectly fine, as long as you’re cooking them and the recipe doesn’t state as fresh as possible. Use your own judgement on this, but I think that a few days is ok, any more is pushing your luck.
Either uneaten cake or trimmings from reshaping can leave unwanted leftovers. If I’m honest I normally eat them white waiting for the cake to cool, but I suppose they could have other uses.
One solution I use is to make trifle, as it’s a change from plain cake. Alternatively cake crumbs can be an ingredient in some recipes, such as this one from Cadbury:
This one for chocolate truffles, handy as you could adapt it to make as many or as few as you have cake for:
Or there’s a whole lot of ideas here.
The best advice for this is simply to eat it, but often Scotbloc (cake covering) is just more practical and it’s a bit nasty to eat. Unused chocolate keeps for ages, just follow the instructions on the pack. For the stuff in the bottom of the bowl, rice krispie buns are a staple, plus you can chuck in whatever other leftover decorations, e.g. sweeties you have. The biggest benefit here comes when you only have a few spoonfuls left that aren’t worth keeping.
Alternatively, make decorations for next time, like chocolate curls
Reducing the potential leftovers can be a good step. Generally this means buying smaller quantities of things you are unlikely to use, e.g. golden syrup. It can seem like a bargain to buy the big tin, but if you throw half of it out it just doesn’t make sense. For me this is buttermilk, since it doesn’t keep. It’s amazing in pancakes, so I use the leftovers to make indulgent scones and freeze them instead.
Another option is to change or vary the recipe. I have a great one for chocolate pavlova which uses the yolks to make a chocolate sauce to pour over it.
Well, those are some of the basic ones, if I can think of any more I'll post them. I know a lot here is well known and a bit of repetition, but it’s nice to have it in one place. If you have any tips, please leave me a comment and share!
As I thought, the trickiest bit was rolling it. I took the book's advice and rolled along the longest layer, meaning less 'rolls' but that it didn't fall apart. Also, to make it more interesting, I spread half with the normal strawberry jam and half with lemon curd. I was lucky enought o get the half and half bit. Unfortunately there's no picture of the jam one, as it was all eaten before I got to my camera! I fancy trying a peanut butter and jam one. I think the flaw with this is firstly that it would ruin the lightness of the sponge, and secondly it would 'tear' the sponge when spread.
The lemon curd version was yummy, but I wouldn't put as much on as the jam as I did, because it's more runny and oozes out the side.
Although this is meant to be a 'light' dessert, we did add custard to make it perfect.
Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention I have a poll on favourite cake flavours. I'm just curious :)
Sunday, 22 June 2008
The recipe and the design idea are from a decorating book I got recently "The Home Guide to Cake Decorating by Jane Price". It's a fantastic book, explaining a wide range of techniques and suitable for all levels. I plan to work my way through some of the things, such as runouts and practising my piping. The are some brilliant ideas, and all are explained well.
The cake itself was a lovely moist cake, probably due to the high amount of milk in it. It would be good for a novelty cake as it cut well and neatly.
The 'tag' is a piece of leftover sugarpaste written on with my ever trusty food colouring pen.
If I were to make it again, I'd probably spend more time cutting the sides to the perfectly vertical. Also, since it was my first time covering a square cake I need a bit more practise doing the corners!
Monday, 16 June 2008
I used dry egg whites for the first time here and luckily it turned out fine. I didn't read the instructions properly though and added the water in one go, so had to beat out all the lumps. I'd definately used them again, especially for things like this where you'd end up with lots of yolks left over.
Friday, 13 June 2008
This recipe does take a while, and many stages, but it's well worth it. It was one of the nicest things I've made; the only change I'd make was to use 2 egg whites and not 3 as per the recipe for the meringue. I imagine it's because 3 egg yolks are used in the rest of the recipe. If you do do this, don't forget to use less sugar!
Saturday, 7 June 2008
I used my standard bun recipe, with the addition of the lemon.
4 0z self raising flour
4 oz caster sugar
4 oz margarine
1) Cream the margarine and sugar
2) Beat in the eggs until combined
3) Finely grate the lemon rind and stir in
4) Mix in the flour
5) Spoon into bun cases and bake for around 20 minutes at 180 C.
6) When cool, use the juice from the lemon and some icing sugar to decorate.
I kept the sunshine theme going, with some cool suns. I could probably have achieved a better result using all sugar paste, but I like the taste of 'wet' icing. With the lemon inside and on the buns the flavour turned out nice and strong. I hope the sun is shinging where you are :)
Sunday, 25 May 2008
This is a slightly odd biscuit/cookie since it is made differently in every country. Traditionally in northern Europe it’s a softer biscuit, and further south it’s a more like a ginger snap. In the 1600’s Nuremberg’s (in Germany) Lebkuchen was so good it was used as currency to pay the city’s taxes!
While gingerbread men (and women) are commonly made, a popular use around Christmas time is making gingerbread houses. Inspiring the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, there are some amazing creations. Here’s my favourite; I love that the decorations is almost all icing. The ‘snow’ on the roof is particularly good.
My recipe is another school book source. It makes biscuits that are quite soft, but can be made crispy by leaving them in the oven for another few minutes.
350g Plain flour
175g Demerara sugar
4 tbsp Golden Syrup
1 Lightly beaten egg
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Ginger
1 tsp Cinnamon
1) Preheat the oven to 190 C and grease two baking trays
2) Mix flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon
3) Rub in the margarine, or mix in a food processor until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs
4) Stir in the sugar
5) Beat the golden syrup into the egg. If you dip the spoon into hot water, it’ll come off the spoon really easily.
6) Add this to the dry mixture and knead into a dough. It’ll seem too dry but will come together.
Normal dough on the left, treacle on the right
Here I made half with the normal golden syrup, and half with treacle to see what would happen. What came out was a stronger molasses flavour and less gingery. Personally I prefer the original version, but would definitely make these again.
The recipe above is the basic one, but I normally add another teaspoon of ginger as I like the strong taste.
Changing the type of sugar also alters the outcome. I used Demerara, which gives quite a coarse texture and lets the ginger come through. Using dark brown sugar will give a finer texture, but might overwhelm the ginger flavour. It really depends what you like.
I just did a few quick decorations with chocolate and sugarpaste, but the only limit is your imagination :) ‘Hair’ can be chocolate sprinkles, desiccated coconut, chocolate or raisins.
I made a few ‘old school’ ones.