Sunday, 12 December 2010

Gruyere Cheese Stars

I was having a look through the Marks and Spencer's catalogue and found a recipe for these biscuits. They looked so yummy I had to try them! They were sooooo tasty I'm going to make more (Don't worry I didn't eat them all!). The only changes I made was putting them on a greased tray, not baking paper but them came of fine, also I used rosemary on the top.

The recipe is in the free Christmas magazine, but for those who can't get hold of it here it is:

Makes approx 26

125g Plain Flour
100g unsalted butter, diced
1/4 tsp mild chilli powder
100g Gruyere cheese, finely grated
1 tbsp milk
caraway seeds or rosemary
to decorate

1. Put the flour, butter and chilli powder in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the cheese and pulse again to bring the dough together. Shape into a flat disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour until firm.

2. Heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/gas 4. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 5mm thickness. Use a 5-6cm star-shaped cutter to stamp out the biscuits, then re-roll the trimmings to stamp out more.

3. Put the stars on the baking sheets, brush the milk and sprinkle with caraway seeds or rosemary. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool.
N.B. Per biscuit: 57 calories, 4.2g fat, 0.2g salt.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Practice Pies

As it's December I thought I'd do a little Christmas Baking. My Christmas cake is baked and being fed regularly with Cointreau. I did skip on making a proper pudding though, as I just couldn't handle watching it steam for 7.5 hours, especially as I've never steamed anything before. As I'm a firm believer in not waiting until one day of the year to eat your favourite things, I made some mince pies.

Strangely I've never made mince pies before, so these are my practice pies. The pastry recipe I used was a bit short, so I think I'll just have to give them another go (yay more mince pies!)

I like Christmas Trees as a wee change from the usual stars too. I also bulked up the sweet mincemeat with some stewed apples. It makes a moister filling and goes further. Off to sample them now, yum...

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Great British Bake Off

A bit behind the times I know, but I'm enjoying the Great British Bake Off on BBC's I Player. There were so many yummy recipes it's made me want to run to the kitchen and try out something new.

Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake book is my 'go to' book for recipes, so seeing her on the show was good. She's just how I imagined from her picture on the book, kind but takes no nonsense!

My only quibble was that for a show about baking they didn't show you much about how to bake a cake, though I suppose they don't teach you how to sing.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Wedding Cake

I did my first wedding cake this year: my own! I couldn't resist the challenge and am so glad I did it.

It all started a few months before the big day. The bottom tier was fruit cake and was done under supervision by a professional baker, my grandad :) He advised (and it definately was needed) a new clean bucket as I didn't have any bowls big enough to take the volume of a 12" cake, my biggest yet.

Here's it all mixed in using a cake tin that's seen more wedding cakes in it's life than Elizabeth Taylour.

It was so heavy going in the oven! A few nervous hours later it came out smelling lovely and was cooled then wrapped up to mature.

The other tiers were a 10" chocolate madeira and a 8" lemon madeira. I made them a few weeks before and froze them undecorated. They came out fine and were filled with (a whole jar of) choclate spread and lemon buttercream respectively. In fact they defrosted in a few hours which was lucky as I had actually forgotten to take them out of the freezer the night before!

Actually stacking the cake was pretty scary but was fun. I used wooden dowells and pushed them into the fruit cake, then removed aand cut to the hightest length.The middle tier was stacked on top. My 2 tier birthday cake was a good practice for using dowells, especially as I found that plastic ones are tricky to cut as they 'squished' instead of leaving a nice flat edge. The top tier went on with pillars which were a bit harder than they looked! One of them sank into the middle tier a bit as the dowell was slightly too short but it wasn't noticable unless you looked carefully. I don't have any pictures as I didn't have enough hands.

The design was from my previous lace cake, as it was simple, easy and relatively quick. I don't think I could have handled the stress of fancy piping. I used thicker fondant than last time to remove the lumps and bumps and create a smoother effect, though I have since invested in an icing smoother that might have come in useful. The lace was also great for hiding a not so perfect edges. I also covered the top and bottom cake boards with fondant to finish the look. In the end I chose ivory as it was such a rich colour and matched my dress, plus the pillars came to match the icing.

My toppers were nearly more elaborate flowers. I'd looked in the shops for a bride and groom topper but they were all ugly in my opinion. I spotted these the week before and ordered thinking if they came on time all well and good if not I'd do more flowers. Luckily they arrived in a few days to finish it off and they're now safe on my mantlepiece.

Here's a picture of the final result. There are a few things I'd do differently if I was making another one but I love it and am so pleased with how it looked. Unfortunatley I can't tell you how it tasted, I was too full after dinner and it got eaten over the rest of the night!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Silicone Bakeware

I got some silicone sandwich and loaf tin recently and am still experimenting. I do love the colours and getting things out of the tins is really easy as it just peels back. In fact it workss particularly well with ice cream type desserts. I think it's supposed to be oven microwave and dishwasher proof.
It does have its limitations though. I've found that you don't get a nice crust round the edge as the silicone doesn't heat up as hot as a metal tin would. Also they are very flexible (on purpose) meaning that for the sandwich tins you really need to put them on a baking tray or you'll probably spill batter all over the oven if its even nearly full.
I think a light mixture works well, but for anything heavier I'd stick to traditional pans, my barm brack showing the reason why. It took ages to get burnt mixture off the bottom of the oven!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Baking equipment and storage

I've been looking for a solution for where to keeping my decorating equipment for a while now. It was in various small cardboard boxes and (clean) stork margarine tubs. I tried tool boxes from DIY stores and lusted after the Wilton 101 piece tool caddy before finding this in a craft shop. It has small compartments for those fiddly things and a larger bit in the bottom for cutters etc... I love being able to find things more easily now and it being all organised. The only problem is that for a hobby baker I have a lot of stuff and might outgrow it!

Raspberry and coconut muffins

Well mini muffins, I forgot to buy the larger paper wrappers. I did get 20 though instead of 12 muffins.
I bought some raspberries recently and wasn't sure what to do with them and then I remembered this receipe. They include buttermilk so have a really rich flavour. I found though as last time, it's hard to make sure the berries are evenly in the cases, some ended up with 2 or 3 and some with none. I suppose it's the luck of the draw! I chose not to decorate them, partly so it didn't interfere with the taste and partly so you could see the raspberries. You can put a sprinkling of coconut on the top but I find it always goes a bit crispy and tastes burnt.
Aren't they summery looking

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Choo choo!

I made some more of my gingerbread teacups and saucers the other day and had enough dough left over to add to a birthday present for a two year old. I was inspired by Louise at Cake Journal's Tutorial for her cake topper. Hope you like it.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Not quite disasters but...

Hmm, after baking so much for my wedding I took a break for a few months. I've slowly eased myself back in with normal routine family stuff. Recently though I've felt inspired to try out a few new reciepes and lets just say they haven't exactly gone as planned.

First there was the apple custard buns. Essentially normal buns/cupcakes with a layer of custard in the middle and sliced apples on top. How hard could it be. Except that I didn't quite read the recipe, the first instruction was 'make custard'. Strangely though how to make the custard was the last instruction. So when I combined the ingedients and they were cold and lumpy I resorted to packet custard. Except that when I put in the top layer of batter the warm custard mixed into it. The result were buns that tasted custard which was actually quite nice, but not how they looked in the book.
Then I decided to make plain, completely standard chocolate buns. However the extra large eggs meant a bit of a runny mixture. I noticed but couldn't be bothered to fix it. What came out of the oven was perfectly flat buns that stuck to the paper cases. Chocately though.
And finally my most spectacular failure ever. I wanted to make a cherry cake. I've used the recipe before a few times and had no bother. The same larger eggs went in though; also I had turned the temperature down from the chocolate buns so the oven temperature probably wasn't stable. For the first hour all was well, it rose to a slightly domed top. Coming back at the time to take it out though I was greeted with this:

To show just how much it dropped I had to take a profile shot:

Luckily I have a family that will accept almost anything and know that custard solves many ills. Hopefully I'll get out of my rut soon so I can actually let other people eat my hard work!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Hello again

Hi everyone, just realising how long it's been since I last posted! I do have a good reason though, in that since then I've moved house (+ decorating), started a new job, Christmas, and gotten married. I promise some cake posts soon though, so stay tuned...