Best (baking) buddies!
Eloise was joined by her best friend Ben for a cake making session this week. I purchased a Christmas cupcake kit to make the process super easy but in reality the kit was a bit lame.
The packet said it would make ten cupcakes but on further inspection the cupcake cases were minute - like petit four cases. The kids struggle to get mixture into normal size cases let alone aim at thimble sized ones so we compromised and used five standard fairy cake size cases instead.
Ben enjoyed pouring ingredients into the bowl while Eloise was a fan of mixing (and eating raw mixture...) The icing was a packet of icing sugar which we added water to. The kids were given free reign to ice the cakes and top with sprinkles. Their styles were quite different - Ben took a minimalist approach whilst Eloise just kept pouring it on, licking it off and adding more. In fact all she ate was icing! Ben devoured all his cakes so they must have tasted ok.
I doubt this kit will end up in my trolley again but the kids had loads of fun and that is what it was all about.
Birthday mega cookies
I do love a work birthday and this week was the turn of Alison our lovely Comms Exec. The office was unusually quite due to a mass holiday exodus so I decided to make some cookies rather than bake a cake. The first thing I did was bake a batch of eggless cookies.
I added fudge chunks and chocolate chips to the mix and because I used real butter not margarine they had a really short texture which made them quite crumbly rather than chewy. After they were baked and chilled in the fridge I melted a pack of dark chocolate orange and dipped half the cookie. They looked scrummy (to use a Mary Berry term) but not special enough for a birthday treat so I turned to my trusty friend; iridescent glitter. It didn't let me down and transformed them into a riot of sparkles. Happy birthday Alison!
Anyone for Eskimo Pie?
I was set a challenge this weekend. My good friend Muss was inspired by the film Grease and requested an 'Eskimo Pie' for our Saturday girls night in dessert. I had never heard of Eskimo pie before and so I had to clarify what she was expecting. The answer: Ice cream completely encased in shortcrust pastry - a bit like a pastry bomb. After a bit of head scratching and internet surfing I realised it could be done but would be more a case of assemblage than baking!
The first thing I had to do was blind bake a shortcrust pastry case using baking beads to weigh down the pie shell. I also baked a flat pastry top on a baking sheet with another baking sheet weighing it down to use as a lid. When this had cooled I softened some vanilla ice cream and mixed through some fresh raspberries. Working fast so the ice cream didn't melt, I spooned it into the pastry case and swirled through melted milk chocolate (Dairy Milk of course). The lid was then placed on top and the whole thing placed back in the baking tin to protect it in the freezer. A few wraps of cling film and a final layer of foil protected the pastry from freezer burn. 4 hours in the freezer and it was ready to transport to Catford (with the help of some ice packs)
At the end of dinner we removed the pie from the freezer and the pan and left it on a plate for 20 minutes to allow the pastry to thaw slightly. I'd like to say at this point we ignored the pie and carried on having a raucous time but in all honesty we sat with the pie in the middle of the table, staring and salivating for 20 minutes... When the time was up I said a silent prayer and attempted to cut a slice. To my surprise it actually held together quite well. The pastry was nicely thin so it had thawed well and the flavour combination meant it was a bit like eating a raspberry shortcake dessert. The verdict: well, I'm a little ashamed to say the four of us ate the whole pie which probably says it all...
I never usually line my brownie pans. Usually I am making them in a rush or I've run out or I just can't be bothered... However, I have been inspired by the Great British Bake Off contestants who every week meticulously line their pans and tins with astounding accuracy. I aspire to this level of dedication!
I use a slightly smaller tin than the brownie recipe states. This is because I like my brownies to be slightly deeper. I haven't (yet) invested in a brownie pan which has a slide out base so usually I have to massacre the first piece to get the brownies out. For this experiment I decided to go for one strip of baking paper across the widest length of the tin. This seemed like the most efficient option!
I only ever use the Hummingbird Bakery traditional brownie recipe. I use it as a base then add additional ingredients to the mix. Variations I like include substituting half the dark chocolate for milk, adding nuts and fruits or flavourings such as golden syrup or orange . For these brownies I used half milk chocolate and some homemade butterscotch to give a rich, creamy flavour.
The brownies need to be just cooked so the middle is solid but chewy. You want a crunchy top with a few cracks but don't overcook or you'll have overcooked edges and none of that lovely gooey brownie middle. The lined tray made it ridiculously easy to remove the brownie slab from the tin in one piece. I feel rather stupid not to have been doing it all along. Brownies freeze excellently so you can batch bake and wrap tightly in cling film then foil to keep them fresh.
I have recently had the pleasure of making some golf themed cakes for some 60th birthdays. Both were a challenge for completely different reasons! The first was for a man and we decided on a 60 shaped golf course cake. This cake involved a hell of a lot of fondant icing! The big challenge was the lake which i made using homemade piping gel - very pleased with myself! The tress and bushes were all modelling paste and the bunker was soft brown sugar.
The second cake was slightly more abstract - the brief: Lady golfer on the top tier with her head in a bush looking for a golf ball meanwhile the bottom tier needs to have a boat on it churning out the birthday message in it's wake. Oh and a squirrel somewhere holding the lost golf ball.... Here's how it turned out:
Much better than I expected. And yes, the squirrel just had to be driving the boat...
Buns in the garden
The dreadful weather has made me think back to summer and share this picture of Eloise enjoying brioche buns in the garden!
The bake off...
I watched the Great British Bake off final last night and I have to say generally I was disappointed. I know it is timed and the pressure must be immense but seriously, would any of you been happy with those wedding cake offerings?
Don’t even get me started on Ruby’s show stopper but she did produce a gorgeous picnic basketwork on her picnic pie. The less said about Kimberley the better...
Frances bakes have consistently looked amazing and her concepts took her work beyond food and entering art. So the result pleased me but even her wedding cake looked like it was about to topple over and crush any woodland animals who we scurrying around the log base. A worthy winner but next year I hope we see some grand show shoppers worthy of the final three.
Sorry for the long break in posts. We have been away for our annual holiday in Spain. It bit manic with a 2.5yr old but a lovely break from the daily routine. So, not much cake has been made but lots in the diary so watch this space.
In the meantime here's a picture of Eloise enjoying a Spanish delicacy - Churros. Check out my old blog posts to find out more about churros.
Brooklyn Blackout cake
I was tasked with making a birthday cake for my office colleague and friend Neal this weekend. Now Neal is not fussy when it comes to cakes, doughnuts, pastries etc - simply put he eats anything. Despite this I thought quite hard about what I was going to bake because I wanted to be a very manly cake, fondant wasn't coming near this project!
A couple of years back my bestie Laura made our gang a cake from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook - Brooklyn Blackout cake. The history behind this cake is that is was originally made by a local bakery in Brooklyn during the war years when they regularly practised blackouts. I remember when Laura made this cake i was hesitant as heavy chocolate cake really is not my kind of cake but it was light and absolutely delicious. The cake was perfect for Neal as the dark frosting and crumbled cake topping make it look very blokey.
The secret behind this cake is that it actually does not contain any chocolate! I know, hard to believe but the flavour and colour comes from cocoa powder. The incredibly shiny filling and frosting is eggless chocolate custard. This is made from a combination of boiled sugar, cornflour and cocoa powder with a splash of vanilla and some butter mixed in. I had never made it so was slightly nervous of the process but it came out perfect with a super high gloss shine.
The recipe did not give the cake quite the height I was after, but the quantities of mixture in the recipe were never going to produce a 4 inch high cake. Next time I would add half the quantities again to produce a taller cake. Conversely the eggless chocolate custard element of the recipe gave me double what I required so I had way too much leftover!
Neal was very pleased with his bloke cake and general feedback from the office was overwhelmingly positive. Alison even had a second slice... Happy birthday Neal!
Another go at pancakes...
My previous attempt to make pancakes with my two year old Eloise was... Interesting... It was pancake day around her second birthday. It was a complete disaster, she had to go straight to the bath without eating any pancakes! And the kitchen looked like a milk tornado had hit Horley...
Six months on I thought it was time to tentatively try again... Savoury pancakes this time stuffed with cheese and ham - simple surely?
What a difference! The kitchen wasn't exactly clean afterwards but in relative terms it was spotless! Eloise mixed the batter all by herself and then supervised my frying and flipping. Yum!
Mum. Wife. Artist. Baker.