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

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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 🙂 )

The Chelsea Cafe, Bath

One time in Bath, pre dog walk, Mr A and I grabbed a coffee from The Chelsea Cafe, in Bath. It looked amazing inside and I was gutted we didn’t get a chance to sit down and investigate properly.

Luckily last week we had some time to sit down in the sun and take a further look.

From the outside it doesn’t look particularly amazing, just like a normal coffee shop really, but inside it has a effortless, trendy London feel where you can see that they really care about their coffee and fresh local producee – they have written a nice little piece about their suppliers here

Chelsea Cafe
We ordered two flat whites (of course) and some sandwhiches – I went for a tuna melt & Mr. A later regretted his boring chicken and mustard choice (not slating the sandwhich, it was indeed very nice just a bit boring). They also had a larger menu of brunch options but we failed to notice that before we ordered #fail

Sandwhich

The staff were really lovely and there was such a happy feel to the place, everyone in there just wanted to take some time and enjoy a coffee with a friend or family. We were lucky to blag a seat outside and had lovely views of Bath as the cafe is at the top of a REALLY BIG hill.

Chelsea Cafe
Here you can also see an amazing brownie and a gluten free flapjack which was SO tasty. Probably a little over indulgent but oh well.

The Chelsea Cafe was resonably priced – all of the above came to about £19, what I think you would expect from a independant coffee shop in a nice area.
You can check out the website HERE

CHELSEA CAFE: 8E CHELSEA ROAD, BATH, BA1 3DU

Patty & Bun – Liverpoool Street, London

WHERE: Patty & Bun, 22/23 Liverpool Street, London, EC2M 7PD
WHEN: 20/05/14
WHY: Long overdue catch-up with a travelling friend

I had the task of of taking an Aussie friend for dinner somewhere East, easy, fun and quick (as our evening was more about cheap wine & chatting then about the food)

I thought that the newly opened Patty & Bun in Liverpool Street would be a good shout as I hadn’t tried it yet – I have been James Street branch before and had an amazing time (would HIGHLY recommend)

The Liverpool Street P&B is more take-away focused; there are a small number of benches and high tables rather than tables, they don’t serve booze, the menu is slightly more condensed and the space is smaller. We were totally down with that though and didn’t actually have to wait long to nab a table! (Just under 10 mins I think…may have been because it was a Monday or even because people don’t like burger hype as much in Liverpool Street?! who knows..)

I went for the Smokey Robinson (naturally) and my co-diner chose the ARI GOLD Cheeseburger (I think he was a little scared of the unknown so went for the safe option).

I also chose the  Thunder Thighs as a I side which I instantly knew was a mistake. I had these before and vaguely remember disliking them for some reasons – unfortunately, to me, they taste like tea. Like actual PG tips tea and and I seriously hate tea. My co-diner was having a ball though and couldn’t get over the fact “the meat is just falling off the bone!” I do think they are good thighs – they are definitely saucy enough, but just not for me.

Collage1 final
Our burgers had arrived with the wings and we got stuck in – they came on nice little trays which I suppose is trendy and there emphasis the take-away focus.

The meat is so incredibly juicy, juicer then any other burger I have tried. So juicy I would actually advise making a small well with your wrapper to collect all of the said juice!
They get literally get everything right…the bun, the condiments (the burger sauce they use is DELICIOUS) how they cook the PATTY (all burgers come medium-rare unless specified I believe) and the caramelised onions that come in the Smokey Robinson are perfection.

I’d say this could be my favourite burger place in London, I just prefer the James Street (London) branch because you can sit down and make more of a meal out of it.

Juicy

Mid-range price for the burgers (£7.50-£8.50) and the meat sides are £5.50, slaw is £3 (stupid price for slaw) and chips are £2.50

My Aussie co-diner was actually in awe, he couldn’t believe how tasty a proper burger could be. He didn’t speak for a while why he processed what had just happened to him.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Check out the website here 

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: 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 🙂