BAKING: Churros!

When living in Bondi Beach, Australia, I developed an unhealthy obsession with CHURROS. I’m not sure what kept taking me back to those little, sweet, doughy pieces of heaven but I couldn’t get enough. The other day when I was sat thinking about my amazing year in Australia and questioning why I spend 2 hours a day squashed on the Central Line, I decided to make some churros to cheer myself up. A quick google (shock) and I came across this easy BBC Good Food recipe. I should point out here that when I decided to make churros that evening, I had already come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t mess about making a chocolate sauce and would simply melt the large Cadburys Fruit & Nut bar I had hiding in my cupboard. I got to work making the relatively simple dough (from following the recipe) and all was going well until I realised I wasn’t strong enough to de-lump my dough but I left it to rest anyway and prepped my nozzle and piping bag. I never actually realised that a star nozzle and piping bag would be needed to make the churro shape but I guess it makes sense… **If you are making the chocolate sauce included in the recipe I’d recommend making it now**

 CHURRO11 After boiling up the sunflower oil and stuffing my piping bag with the rested dough (that was actually a difficult and messy task) I began the piping and cutting the churros. It’s useful to have an extra pair of hands for this part as you are dealing with VERY HOT oil and the cutting and pipping routine can be a little tricky, so it’s best to grab anyone thats around to help and avoid any oil related disasters. It was pretty smooth sailing for me once I had got the piping and cutting routine sorted. Straight after the churro came out I would leave it on some kitchen roll to de-oil and then I would transfer it to my pre made cinnamon sugar tray for some shaking around. CHURROS23 You can have fun with the size/shape of your churros which great and I’d say one batch is enough for 4 people to have a churro only meal (which is a lot of churros!). Unfortunately, on eating, it turned out about 60% of my churros were not cooked enough inside – I should have left them in the oil for longer and not worried about them being overdone. I’d say experiment a bit before committing to cooking time. No one likes uncooked dough. 

 The churros were actually incredible and the melted Cadburys went perfectly with those well behaved cooked ones – perfect t for any dinner party, BBQ, weekend treat, weekday treat, birthday party…actually they are perfect for any time. CHURROS

BAKING: A Choctastic Torte (Meg Rivers Home Baking)

So, on this journey of kitchen experiments I have apparently found myself on – I decided to bake a torte. I have never baked a torte and was unsure what it was supposed to look/taste like but it was the only thing in the cook book that I could successfully travel from Essex to London for a dinner party.

Taken from the beautiful and comforting Meg Rivers Home Baking cook book, this recipe is all about simplicity, chocolate and great taste (who wouldn’t want to bake something that tasted like Nutella?)

The ingredients were pretty straight forward…
100g whole, balanced hazelnuts
250g dark/bittersweet chocolate (I used Menier Dark Cooking Chocolate)
100g salted butter
6 eggs
1/2 cream of tartar
120g caster sugar

For the ganache topping…
200g dark/bittersweet chocolate (I used Menier Dark Cooking Chocolate)
125g salted butter
4 tablespoons of whole, blanched hazelnuts

23cm round cake tin (for the first time in my life I actually had the correct sized cake tin!)

Baking

Firstly, please be warned – DO NOT BUY UN-BLANCHED HAZELNUTS UNLESS YOU ENJOY PAINSTAKINGLY PEELING 200G OF HAZELNUTS ONE BY ONE I made this error and I began to hate the torte before I even started to bake. Don’t make the same mistake as me, hunt down those blanched hazelnuts.

It was a fairly simple recipe (which I can post on here if anyone needs?) and turned out to be a pleasure to bake. My mum has a troublesome oven but we powered on and I got a great consistency with the torte which I was pleased with, although, it did taste a little ‘torte’ and I’m not sure if the chocolate I used was too dark?

Ta Da!

Be warned, this is very chocolatey. It’s not Devil Cake level but you definitely need a 30min break after dinner before you can tackle a slice. The hazelnuts come through beautifully which does give a lovely mature edge to the torte – this would be a hit with the guys also!
The ganache recipe is also a great one, very simple and effective although mine did require some cooling just to get a good spreading consistency. I also recommended getting some double cream to serve with to take off the edge.

This torte got many thumbs up – a recommended recipe! (Again, happy to post step by step if someone wants 🙂 )

BAKING: Wonderful WHOOPIE pies!

After going to Southbank in London the other weekend and paying £3.25 for a average tasting, hard, marshmallow-less Whoopie pie; I wanted to give them a whirl and see a) how easy they are to make and b) if I could do it better myself. 

A quick google search led me to Simon Rimmer’s BBC Good Food recipe and I chose it because it was pretty straight forward and had simple ingreients. INGREDIENTS & METHOD AT THE BOTTOM

I got to work and made sure I took my time doing everything right (I feel like whoopie pies are a little like Macaroons in the sense they are extremely sensitive so I wanted to avoid any mishaps)

Step by step
The batter turned out ganache-like; thick, shiny and very chocolatey. I used a measuring (table) spoon to measure out the whoopies on the baking tray – this would have been SO much easier if I had used an ice-cream scoop so I could get them all the same size (so they match up) annoyingly I have found printable size guides for Macaroons (that go under baking the parchment) but not for Whoopie pies 😦 it was hard as I had literally no idea how big the halves needed to be.
Whoopie

Unfortunately there were a few important factors that were left out of Simon’s recipe which made the whole experiance a little tricky! These being…

1) An indication on how well baked the whoopie pies should be after the first half of cooking is complete before you add the ‘mellows and re-bake. I think mine were a little underdone
2) How long should whoopie pies be left after the first bake (before you put back in with mellows) I wan’t sure if they needed to be completely cooled or not – mine also ripped a fair bit as I took them off the tray
3) What the overall consistency of the whoopie pie should be when finished cooking. I think mine were ever so slightly under-baked. Although, this did make them deliciously chewy, a bit like brownies and they went down a TREAT
4) I think the timings are totally wrong, I know all ovens are different but they were literally raw after I had baked for 6-8 mins

They also came out a little cracked, which has confused me, so I need to investigate as to why this happened.

the end
I made some friends very happy with these; they were relatively easy to make and so incredibly tasty. A definite must try!
I will be making these again for sure and perfecting before (the sizing being the real hurdle for me) I move on to the many amazing different types of WHOOPIE pies you can bake.

INGREDIENTS & METHOD BELOW (link also to webiste above):

Ingredients

  • 125g/4½oz butter

  • 150g/5½oz chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, plus extra for melting (optional)

  • 225g/8oz sugar

  • 3 free-range eggs

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 250g/8¾oz flour

  • 30g/1¼oz cocoa powder

  • ½ tsp baking powder

  • 18 marshmallows

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. (Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water.)
  3. Whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla together in a separate bowl then fold in the chocolate mixture.
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together, then fold into the chocolate and egg mixture.
  5. Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray (the mixture should make 36 biscuits) and bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and set aside half of the biscuits on a cooling rack. Turn the remaining biscuits over and place a marshmallow on top of each. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes, or until the marshmallows have softened.
  7. Remove from the oven and set aside on a cooling rack to cool slightly. Press the cooled biscuits on top.
  8. Optional: Melt 100g/3½oz extra chocolate and pour this over the cookies, then set aside to cool.

BAKING: Red Velvet cupcakes…that actually went well!

I know every man and his dog has made Red Velvet cupcakes but I wanted to make them and actually get it right for once, so for a friends birthday I decided to make some….and I actually got them right (horray!)

I usually head straight to my trusty well-known-cupcake-shop’s cookery book to tackle said cupcakes, but they unfortunately never seem to work out well for me so I went to the boss lady; the only and only Nigella Lawson!

I won’t bore you with a step by step so please click here for good old Nigella’s recipe and method

Using such strong food colouring and so much of it almost feels illegal ( trust me, you have to use the super toxic strong stuff) but if you don’t do it they come out a horrible brown colour – and that doesn’t impress anyone.

Process

I made the cream cheese frosting that Nigella suggests; it was great but could have been a little cream-cheesy-er and maybe a little less lemony but still, it was super tatsy. I used a Wilton 2D nozzle to create the flower piping.

Next time I make these I will be sure to add a bit more coca powder – I know Red Velvet isn’t just about the chocolate but man do I love my chocolate and I love the rich-ness that comes through from the chocolate.

Overall these cupcakes were velvety, moist and rich in taste – thanks Nigella you babe! They also pulled away so easily from their cases which is the sign of a good bake – horrah 🙂

Emma was very happy in the end…as was I…as was my office who got the other 15 cupcakes….

Cupcakes

BAKING: Creme Egg Brownies

I had a random day off today so I thought I would go crazy and bake something I’ve been thinking about for a while…

CREME EGG BROWNIES (well, it is almost Easter!)

I have had some tough times with brownies recently so I was a little nervous that I’d mess up (I spent about £7 on chocolate alone!) but I took the plunge anyway…

Actually – before we start, I’ve calculated that these come out about 430 calories per brownie (if the batch is cut into 12)

After a quick google search I settled on the Woman’s Own Recipe (<—that’s a handy link to the recipe and ‘how to’)
I liked this recipe as it was simple and included a no fuss brownie mixture, it was easy to follow so I was happy (you can see the easy steps in my wonderful step by step below ha)

ImageMy favourite part was smushing the halved creme eggs into the slightly cooked brownies (see photo number 5). Cutting the Creme Egg’s was a bit tricky so make sure you use a really sharp knife and do it quickly (without cutting yourself!!) otherwise the Creme Egg mushes and crumbles and that’s not what we want…(see photo number 4)

I think they were a little overcooked as the edges were a tad crispy (probably because I had my oven too low to start with so I ended up cooking them for longer than recommended – hmpf!) but they did actually turn out well. They were so goey and chocolatey and lovely and rich….actually, they were really delicious. An all round winner I’d say!

Image

BAKING: A Fabulous Flower Pot Cake ROUND 2

The big day came along (Mothers Day) and it was time for me to make my Fabulous Flower Pot Cake all over again.

I made a few fundamental changes to my Fabulous Flower Pot Cake – Trial Run

HERE ARE MY CHANGES IN AN EASY TO READ LIST 🙂

1. Instead of a Rich Chocolate cake, I baked a Madeira cake (which was utterly DELISH)
This was much better idea as the rich chocolate cake literally made your face sweat as it was so intense.

2. To avoid the whole fridge drama (cakes don’t like being in the fridge but cream cheese frosting does!) I decided to make a butter cream for the flowers on top.
Unfortunately, butter cream (for some reason, could be my creaming skills) doesn’t create a smooth edge when piped into a flower shape. Which looks messy. And I wish I had stuck with the cream cheese frosting.

Cake step by step
3. I made a fresh strawberry butter cream for the filling and the crumb coating – it was SO tasty but a little running.
I didn’t dry the strawberries after washing and in hindsight I realised I probably should have. I used some of the left over strawberry butter cream to pipe some of the flowers and it was a nightmare as it was so runny! oops.

4. I did use double the fondant icing and it made the whole cake look 100% better than before! yay! And I made the brown myself (with red & green food dye so I was proud eh!)

Overall, the cake was a success! I do wish I had pipped the flowers on more neatly  but I was having some issues with thickness of butter creams etc. and slowly losing the will to live so they got a bit messy. I was pleased with the end product and my biggest critics, the fam, seemed to be pleased also! Horrah!

Final cake
P.S. I am LOVING using all of my new fancy baking tools 🙂

BAKING: Sometimes troublesome BROWNIES

I have had a longstanding issue with brownies…it seemed that whatever I did (bigger tin, smaller tin, bake for longer, bake on a lower temp, different recipe’s etc. etc.) they always REFUSED to be a brownie. They always turn out like some sort of joke type chocolate paste/mousse/mush.
WELL, NOT FOR MUCH LONGER.

Last night I thought I would tackle my brownie issue for the 100th time and I am very pleased to say THEY TURNED OUT REALLY WELL. I could actually pick them up and hold them and take them around with me.

The recipe I used was created by Mr. A’s wonderful mother. I also added some cheeky fudge pieces and for half of the chocolate I used was a Galaxy ‘Cookie Crunch’ bar.

I’m not quite sure what I did differently to make these work…I think it may have been the large baking tray I used and the temperature. And the time, I left them in for a little too long.

We ate them all before I had time to take fancy photos but here was the finished product.
Image

I am excited to get started on some adventurers brownie recipes now 🙂

BAKING: A FABULOUS flowerpot cake (trial run)

SO, being the *amazing* daughter I am, I decided I wanted to make my mum a really fancy cake for mother’s day. This was the first 3D cake I have ever made and the first cake I have ever used fondant icing with…so it was a pretty big challenge.

I’m not going to bore you with a lengthy step by step but instead, I’m going to highlight a few fundamental errors I made (hurrah!)…

1. I stupidly (or really cleverly?) chose a ‘rich chocolate cake mix’ which was REALLY tasty but at the same time so so rich – like make-your-face-sweat rich.

2. The was so heavy…the density of the cake was unbelievable and it was literally like a brick making it difficult to move around/eat.

3. I got over excited and crumb coated it before I should have. In hindsight I should have turned it upside down (in a bowl) and crumb coated it so I could then put the fondant icing on properly. Because I did not do that, I had to kind of drape the fondant around the edge, leaving it all wrinkly and gathered and stuff. Definitely not a professional look.

4. I didn’t have enough fondant icing – I thought 250g would be enough, but it was not. Too thin = very wrinkly.

See below for a clever little photo montage of each stage…

Cake montage

After I had assembled my cake, I realised I had  I ran out of icing sugar (SO ANNOYING WHEN THIS HAPPENS) so my cream cheese frosting was slightly runnier than it should have been – well  I think that’s why it was runny.

Also N.B. cake and fridges don’t really go well together (cue mega crumbles), so I won’t be using a cream cheese frosting again as I like to keep this in the fridge, and with it being such a MASSIVE cake it’s hard to eat in one day.

Apart from all of the abouve…I was VERY pleased/proud for my first attempt at a ‘proper’ cake.

Flower pot final

I am going to re-make this cake this weekend but instead will make a madeira cake and a fresh strawberry buttercream. Should be much lighter and yummier!

I am happy to share my recipes if anyone wants them 🙂

BAKING: Sugar free & dairy free BANANANA Muffins

SF DF BM

In light of my lent commitments and house FAJITA night we were having, I decided to make some dairy free & sugar free banana muffins

After hunting around I settled on a great recipe from HERE – in Rachel Allen’s Cake Diaries

Ingredients & Method (in case you can’t be bothered to follow the link..)

  • 125 g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 175 g wholemeal flour
  • 3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs
  • 75 ml sunflower oil
  • 150 g honey
  • 175 g almonds, skin still on, chopped

    Method:
    1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases.
    2. Sift the plain flour into a large bowl with the baking powder and salt. Mix in the wholemeal flour. Place the bananas in a separate bowl with the eggs, sunflower oil and honey and whisk to combine. Tip into the dry ingredients and beat until smooth, adding the almonds just as the mixture is coming together.
    3. Divide the batter between the muffin cases so that they are about three-quarters full. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden on top and springy to the touch.
    4. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes, then take them from the tray and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.  

I followed the recipie as per the instructions but added 100g of chopped walnuts and 70g of saltanas instead of the 175g of almonds (I don’t think they would go to well with banana?) I also used 4 bananas (recipe says 3 or 4). I weighed out 90g of batter per muffin case.

I cooked said muffins at 160 degrees Celsius (in a fan assisted oven) for 25 minutes and then turned it down to 150 Celsius for a further 3 minutes.

Notes: Make sure the bananas you use are so ripe they almost are off, you get the sweetest and richest banana flavour that way. 

The muffins turned out so well in the end… they were moist, sweet, spongy and more.
There was only 3 of the 12 left by the morning (well, there is 5 of us in the house!)
I was so pleased! And they are (processed) sugar free and dairy free. What more could you want! 
ban2ban1

A Beautifully Brilliant Baking Class

Well, Cupcake Course…The “Original Cupcake Course” by The Gourmet Cupcake Company to be precise! 

WHEN: Saturday 1st March 
WHERE: The Gourmet Cupcake Company, Chelmsford, Essex (The bakery is a handy 5 min walk from the train station/town centre)
WHY: Because I wanted to learn some TOP SECRET industry tips for baking cupcakes & decoration 
The Gourment Cupcake Company

The day started out with a short intro into what we would be learning…
– How to bake our own 12 perfect cupcakes (6 ‘low’ for fondant and 6 ‘high’ for butter cream icing)
– How to create beautiful florist/flower paste decorations
– How to ice our cupcakes with fondant icing and butter cream icing

We measured out the ingredients in two groups and weighed out the batter into our cases (by this point I had already learnt about 4 things I shamefully didn’t already know) The cupcakes were *carefully* placed into the oven and we then dived into the wonderful world of florist paste.

We created 12 lovely little decorations each. The decorations were not the style I would have personally chosen (I actually hate anything decorative to do with butterflies) but still looked pretty.

After lunch we cracked on with the fondant and butter cream icing. We were offered a large selection of food colouring’s and flavours for our butter cream although I annoyingly ended up with a weird purple/grey colour after panicking 

All in all I had a GREAT day and ended up with some bloody lovely cupcakes! We were sent home with recipe cards we had been encouraged to make notes on throughout the day, which was great.

Free tea & coffee was on offer all day and we were treated to an amazing cake pop in the afternoon that was made in house (Free coffee & cake pop = winning!)

If you would like to know any of this top secret information, just drop me a note – I’ll be happy to share : )  

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos throughout the day but the website has lots of photos (and info!) on of the different classes they offer… http://www.gourmetcupcakes.co.uk/courses/the-original-cupcake-course/

Below you can see my achievements – HORRAH!

FONDANTButter 2