Friday, 4 November 2011

Mini Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcakes

Time for another mini and alcoholic cupcake round. The first were the Mojito cupcakes as they were requested by a friend. These ones are more my style since I actually have drunk a daiquiri of the strawberry variation and know they are good, so in cupcake form it should be interesting.

The rum and sugar need to be boiled and reduced by half before anything else can happen. The smell of boiling rum is horrid in my eyes, or nose should that be, and I had to open the back door whilst it was bubbling away. Managed to get it to the right consistency and the strawberries that had be chopped beforehand were added to this to soak away for what ended up being about 50 minutes. I forgot for a little while about them and started the batter part a little late.

The batter is the usual cupcake mix of flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter. This is whisked and then the egg, milk and vanilla essence infusion is added into it until smooth. Batter complete and the strawberries need to be drained from the rum concoction, saving the liquid for later, and then about a teaspoon of strawberries is placed into the bottom of each cupcake case before the batter is poured over them. I made about 30 cupcakes in all, but this did require me to put another batch in later as yet again I only have one mini cake tray. These baked for about 15 minutes and as soon as they came out the oven I poured half a teaspoon of rum mixed onto the top of each sponge and left them to cool.

My usual routine after the cakes have actually baked it to clean up the kitchen and wash anything up I may need to use to make the frosting up with. During this I poured the leftover rum mixture down the sink until it came to be reading through the next few stages and realising I needed it for the icing. Stupid me I had to them put another batch on to boil, gross and meant I had to wait even longer as the strawberries needed to soak in it again too to add their infusion. With this and my husband giving what he thought were spare strawberries to our little one to try I also ended up being short on my decorations too.

Bashed the icing together and set about smoothing it onto the cupcakes. Got the palette knife out, scooped some frosting onto it and then thought it was going to be too big to ice the sponges nicely so settled on a teaspoon as a substitute. Put a quarter of a strawberry on top of each cupcake bar the last 8 as I ran out as previously said. Pleased with the end result and my Best friend was the first to try one, she loved them and said they might even take over the red velvet cupcakes as her favourites and that is saying something. Once I forced my way in there and had one, I can confirm they do actually taste and smell like the cocktail they are named after. Looking forward to the Pina colada ones next, not so much the Brandy chocolate, Brandy is not my thing.

Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

I haven't made any Whoopie pies for a while now and wanted something chocolatey, as again it has been some time since I made anything with that in it too. These were made last weekend on the Saturday 29th, followed by the plan to make the Mini Strawberry daiquiri cupcakes the next day.

Eggs ans sugar are the starting point in this recipe. Once fluffy the plain yoghurt, milk and vanilla essence is mixed in a jug and then added to the eggs and sugar until combined. The butter for the whoopie pies is melted before it is added in then come the dry ingredients. The usual flour, bicarb and baking powder are sifted together and then added in two batched to the wet mixture. This is where my electric whisk struggles to get through the dense mixture even when on high. Got there in the end, with a little gentle encouragement on my part, and the chocolate chips are the last to be hand stirred in.

I had a dilemma this week in that my local Tesco has not only decided to move all there shelves around, so annoying as taken me ages to work out where they have decided to put things..obviously cereal is now next to the squash and juices aisle., but they have decided to stop stocking chocolate chips of any variety! Something that comes into baking fairly frequently, I could understand if they had cut down to just the dark chocolate chips and abolished the white and milk to the underworld, but ALL of them it just madness. Frustrated I resigned myself to picking some up at my local Sainsburys later on and continued on my way. Should have just ditched the whole cart then and there in protest but alas we need food to survive. I did eventually get my own back when my one year old daughter dropped the packet of pasta from the trolley and it promptly split as it hit and floor and went flying everywhere..Muahahahaha!! If only I didn't then go and alert someone of the Tesco employment status to the said mess. Ah well, battle won, war lost on that one.

Back to the baking, and away from my possible mutiny of Tesco and all its stores, as I got to the chocolayte chip part of the recipe I remembered I had indeed forgotten to go and buy more supplies from said Sainsburys and so had to forage in the cupboard and hoped there was enough chips in there to cover the mishap. Luckily there was, but there were a leftover mix of white, milk and dark so my whoopie pies ended up as triple chocolate chip in the end.

The batter now mixed went to chill in the fridge and have a catch up with the milk and butter for 30 minutes. I lined the two trays with greaseproof paper and set the oven to 170 then chilled out myself for a bit. Once it was firm enough, the wedding rings came off and I set around trying to get the right sided mounds. Again I was over zealous with my portions and only ended up making 7 whoopie pies in total, 14 halves to be exact. I always make them a little on the large side but they, no harm in having to cut a whoopie pie in half just to try and eat it all.

Baked in the oven for 15 minutes until golden brown and springy and then out to cool on the worktop they went. I cracked straight on and made up the filling, mixing the butter, cocoa powder and icing sugar together before adding the marshmallow fluff. Again I admit I didn't measure it out again and just used a whole jar plus a tablespoonful from a second. It is too sticky for me to be messing around with and I get it everywhere as it is without the need to measure it out. Later found a bit stuck to my foreman by my elbow, dunno how it reached up there.

This filling also needs to be chilled to firm up a bit so went into the fridge for 30 minutes whilst the pies still calmed down themselves. Before the filling was ready I peeled the pie halves off the trays and matched them up as best I could on their size so that we didn't end up with frosting spill out of one half over the other.

This time I actually slopped it on in a frenzy and used up all my icing bar a palette knife full at the end for me to eat neat. They looked great, not quite like the picture as my chips were tricoloured and seemed to be hidden mostly in the sponge but otherwise I dug straight in. I did have to cut it in half as it was too big to try and hold as one and eat but it was totally worth the effort. I love whoopie pies and these were no exception. My favourite still has to be the red velvet and the chocolate ones but these have a nice twist with the chocolate flavoured fluff in the middle too. Yummy. I would make whoopies much more often but they are not something you can knock together quickly like cupcakes due to all the chilling involved. Such a shame..if only Hummingbird extended their delivered to Surrey, I would be in big trouble and they would be rich.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This is a recipe I have been intrigued by since I first opened the book. The only pumpkin recipe I was aware of beforehand was a Pumpkin pie and even then I assumed it was made with fresh pumpkin, not a puréed tinned kind. I sourced mine from Amazon, at the same time I reordered the Marshmallow Fluff for the pumpkin, and other, whoopie pies.

The start of this cheesecake is like many others, smash up a load of digestives, again in the blender, and add to melted butter. Then you add the twist of ground cinnamon and nutmeg and once combined the press into the lined tin. As with all my cheesecakes I used a 9 inch tin rather than 8 inch, as the ones I have are too shallow and also only have a loose base, not spring sides and this is definitely an essential for this type of cake.

The base went to chill in the fridge and so I cracked on with preheating the oven and whipping up the topping. Cream cheese, cinnamon and sugar all whisked together before adding the 3 eggs one at a time. So far so good. Then the tinned pumpkin has its turn. I was curious as to what it would look like but once the tin top was sliced off it was literally just blender up smooth pumpkin purée. This got me thinking that I might try the pumpkin whoopie pies with fresh steamed and then blender pumpkin after I had carved it for Halloween. Wanted to see if it would make any difference in terms of texture and taste.

Back to the recipe and the pumpkin is added to the sugar and cream cheese mixture until all blended nicely. I expected the colour to be a bit more orange than it was, it just added a slight hue to it instead. This was poured onto the chilled base and into the oven monster it went. I have given up placing tin foil around the cheesecake and sinking it into water, instead preferring to place a roasting tin of water on the shelf below. It does the trick in keeping the moisture in with less faffing around and flooding of the kitchen sides.

Cheesecake took around 50 minutes to bake and then was popped into the fridge once cooled enough on the side. I didn't leave this one overnight as we planned on having it for dessert after our roast dinner.

I was the first, and actually the only one to taste this, and I have to say I was deeply disappointed. The texture wasn't as creamy as as usual cheesecake for a start, I think this was because of the mushed pumpkin in it took some of that smoothness away. It also didn't seem to have much of a pumpkin nor a cream cheese taste to it, that almost seemed to have cancelled each other out. The smell was lovely, that of the spices in the topping and biscuit base but otherwise it lacked much else to me personally. I was going to give it another try a few days later but just couldn't tempt myself to have another piece and so after a fair few days of it sitting in the fridge abandoned and alone, it went in the bin!

I am not proud to admit that as I have always given each of these recipes an open mind but this one just didn't seem to cut it. It might have just been my particular cheesecake but it will be interesting to read the comments of others who have made this one already too. Also have another pointer I need addressing..whilst the cheesecake comes out the oven perfectly flat and smooth on top, once it starts to cool mine always develops a big crack down the middle and I don't know how to stop this happening.

Carrot and Ginger Layer Cake

Another creation I made a little while ago. I have lost my way with writing and blogging at the moment and everything else in life seems to be getting in the way. I am trying to catch up and once I have I am going to try and keep on track..on fair to all you lovely people that are following my journey at the moment.

So onto the Carrot and Ginger Layer Cake. I have wanted to make this one for a while as it seemed very appetising and the layer cake most likely to tickle my taste buds.

Made this one on the 8th October, a long time ago. I hope I can still remember everything.

I had to do this one in stages with looking after my little, but growing so much every day, one. Managed to grate the ton of carrots..okay maybe that was an exaggeration, it was more like 450g but who's counting. Had to dash off to retrieve the baby from her nap so hubby finished the grating off for me, typically got the other half done in half the time it took me to do the first lot. Saved me an aching arm though so not complaining. That done I set out squeezing some of the moisture out of the carrot but pressing them into a sieve. Then realised it was a lot more affective to just squish them in my hands. Grated the ginger root and added that to the bowl of carrots, along with the sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla essence. It didn't look to appealing a mixture but I always have faith in Hummingbird.

Once it had all combined and I had attacked the whisk blades with a spoon to free some of the mixture, I set about sifting the dry ingredients together, including the ground ginger and cinnamon. This is added to the carrot mixture in three batches, scraping down the sides after each one. Lastly the pecans, that had been blitzed in the mini blender as I am too lazy to chop them, get stirred in and the batter is ready.

I still only have 2 8 inch tins as I'm not refusing to buy any more when I only need four for these sort of layer cakes. Don't mind having to do twice the baking and washing up instead. The tins had been prepared with greaseproof paper lining the bottom and the usual butter and flour greasing around the edges. Managed to get both tins looking like they had an equal amount of batter in each, with enough left over for another set afterwards. Into the oven they went for about 30 to 40 minutes. My oven is again taking a little over the stated cooking times, hit and miss but I usually bake for the time given, check them and usually add a few minutes more on.

Had to have a break at this point, as I needed the tins to cool down enough for me to remove the cakes and wash them up for reuse..the tins not the cakes!

Cuppa drunk and back to the grind..washed the tins and re-greased and lined them and in went the second round of cake layers. The first had cooled and smelt completely lush, adding to the smell wafting from the oven too. The whole house smelt yummy, couldn't wait to get the cake assembled and iced.

Waiting for the cakes to all cool I made the icing up. Grated my orange first then whisked the butter and icing sugar together before adding the zest and cream cheese until it was all wonderfully smooth. Had a little finger dip and lick just to make sure it tasted wonderful too. Placed the first layer onto a round cake board and started the icing. I was a little stingy with the amount of icing I put between each layer as I wasn't convinced there would be enough to cover the top and outside of the cake once stacked. I was wrong however, it is so hard to judge the quantity of icing you have when in the bowl, and I had more than enough to do the outside generously now.

All finished I left it undecorated in top, partly because it looks fab without anything but the frosting, and partly because I was feeling tired and lazy by that point. Photo taken before I hit the sack, the tasting would have to wait til the next day.

First had a slice as my elevens on Monday morning once little miss was napping and I could settle with a cuppa tea and catch up on a programme. It was amazing..better than the Spiced Apple cake, my favourite so far. I did over do it on the frosting on the outside of the cake, too much there and not quite enough in the middle but lesson learnt there. I took some to the neighbours as usual and also a few slices to my Mother and Father-in-law. She was so impressed just by the look and smell of them she asked me to make her one for a dinner party that weekend..hasn't even tasted it yet. Definitely a winner in the layer cake stakes. Unfortunately no photo for this one, I did take some but then had to reset and consequently wipe my phone before I had a chance to upload it onto the pc. You will just have to use your imaginations, or the photo from the book minus the flourishes on top.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Butterscotch Marshmallow Bars

Time has come around to make another bar and what better way to satisfy my sweet tooth with butterscotch and marshmallow all wrapped together in a gooey chewy bar.

Lined my tin with greaseproof paper, it is the tin that is now always used for bars as it is deeper but slightly smaller than the dimensions given in the cook book. Always worked out well previously and don't have another choice really.

Firstly the dough base is to be made. This is just icing sugar to give it a sweet edge plus flour and butter, rubbed together with your fingertips until the dough starts to form. Press it into the tray, making sure to go up the sides a little to hold the mixture in. Bakes for just over 20 minutes until the edges are brown but the middle is pale still. The marshmallows are then just sprinkled on top of the cooling base. This is also the only oven part of the recipe, the rest is all hob and cooling.

Next it to make the butterscotch part, which seems the longest bit of all. Two types of sugar (light brown and caster) are added into a saucepan with golden syrup and water. You let it boil away until it gets to the soft ball stage. This seemed to take forever but I thought we had finally got there so moved onto the next stage of stirring in the butter and then letting it boil for a few more minutes.

The rest of the ingredients are added to this mixture off the heat so in goes the crunchy peanut butter, double cream and vanilla essence. I was stirring and stirring away to get it all melted together but it didn't seem to look right. Put it down to the peanut chunks in it so carried on pouring it over the marshmallows on the base. This is then left for a few hours or overnight to set. We left it for ages but it didn't seem to be setting very well. The marshmallows hadn't quite been covered so much as melted and formed a layer on the top also. I decided to pop it in the fridge for an hour just to try and firm it up a little more. This didn't seem to work much either so I bite the bullet and cut a slice out.

It was difficult to cut as the melted marshmallows had formed a thick layer on top and the bars were still rather squishy themselves. Once I had a cut away section I could see that the butterscotch part and the peanut butter seemed to have separated and all the butterscotch then seeped into the available gap from the missing piece. It was too sickly once I tasted it so safe to say I made a complete hash of it. I guess I didn't leave the butterscotch on the hob long enough after all. Might not be attempting this recipe in a hurry again.

Mixed Berry Muffins

It was a long time ago that I baked these muffins and I am only just getting round to writing about them. I went for the mixed berry ones to ease myself from the sweet cupcakey flavours into the more savoury tastes of the muffins slowly. Thought it was about time to hit the nail on the head and crack on with them.

Oven on to preheat and I set off filling my muffin tin with cases as I usually do for the cupcakes. I then saw the picture from the cook book in which they have used a silicone tray. I have one myself so put all the cases back into their tin and greased up the silicone one instead. Once it has been buttered I popped a case in and yet it didn't fit so well so had second thoughts, like any woman, and went back to the usual tin.

Faffing with over and off we go with the recipe itself. Using many of the standard ingredients I do for a cupcake, the sugar, baking powder, salt and additional bicarb of soda went into a bowl together. The milk is mixed with the eggs and vanilla essence and then poured into a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Once this is incorporated you add the butter which has already been melted. Usually the butter is the first to be mixed in but it time has come to be almost last for a change. Whisked everything together then sorted out the most important ingredient – the berries.

The recipe uses blueberries and raspberries and this is what I stuck to. I managed to get fresh ones thankfully, as when I have used frozen in the past I have forgotten to defrost them in time and had a scramble on my hands. The berries are folded in by hand and then into the cases the batter went.

I think I used about 2 tablespoons of mixture per case, this is what I tend to get for all cakes in this tin. Now for the unusual part, sprinkling some of the remaining sugar on top of each muffin. You have to leave some behind at the beginning of the recipe see, caught you out there didn't I! It did seem rather a lot of each muffin though and I had made 14 instead of the stated 10-12 so some of the sugar went back into the packet, once I decided they had all been showered in enough of it.

This recipe also doesn't state how long to bake the muffins for, just stays until they are golden brown on top and bounce back when pressed gently. I tried 20 minutes which is the time for cupcakes and had a check on them them. They weren't quite golden brown yet so another 5-10 minutes did the trick. Can't be exactly accurate with the timings, baked them so long ago my memory isn't great on this point.

The smell was lovely and by coating the berries in flour before they were added to the batter I managed to stop them all sinking to the bottom so they were spread nicely throughout the sponge. They tasted as a muffin should, you know the difference between a muffin and a cupcake, a slightly denser sponge. The berries added a nice tang to them whilst the sugar on top had given them that nice crunchy crispiness. They went down a treat with my pregnant sister in law, who is now due in a few weeks (come around so quickly) and the remaining muffins went with hubby to work. Although I did enjoy a few, there were not something that I would eat 14 of lol.

(In my silliness I also forgot to take of photo of these particular bakes, sorry :S )

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Vanilla and the Red Velvet Cupcakes

I am not going to write too much about these two cupcake flavours as they are very old favourites from the first cook book. Had to make them since they were included in the Cake Days book though.

Made them both in the same weekend. The red velvet took me a little while longer to make as the ingredients are slightly different to the usual cupcake batter and the process was written differently to the how it was worded in the first book. Took me a while to get back into the rhythm of making them again. Topped them off with the standard cream cheese frosting. They looked fab and I remembered why I fell in love with this recipe in the first place.

The vanilla cupcakes I added my own edge onto..instead of topping them with the usual plain vanilla icing I turned them into cookie monster cupcakes. This involves colouring the icing blue, using coloured desiccated coconut on top of that and them I used some fondant icing to finish off the details. They looked fab and adds a nice twist on a usually plain sponge.

Walnut and Honey Loaf

Not sure why I decided on making this loaf. I am not a fan of nuts nor honey for that matter but loaves are easy to make so gave it a try.

Mixed up the sugar and eggs then they dry ingredients are added in two stages until all mixed well. The vanilla essence, plain yoghurt and half of the honey is added to this mixture and the chopped walnuts are stirred in my hand with a wooden spoon. I used the mini blender to whir these up as I hate chopping them, it takes such a long time and I usually ping a few around the kitchen in the process and I prefer my nuts in tiny pieces if I do eat them.

All stirred in and poured into the buttered and floured loaf tin. Into the oven for just over an hour, it was about 70 minutes in total in fact. Whilst the cake is cooking you are meant to boil the remaining honey with a little water until the liquid has deduced by half and then it is to be poured over the loaf just after it has finished cooking.

I forgot to do this and took the loaf out and left it to cool on the side immediately. It wasn't until a fair bit later at night that I remembered and so made up the soaking syrup for the top. I think I left it reduce a bit too much as it basically dried and hardened as soon as it was poured over the now cold loaf. This made it difficult to cut as it got in the way and just stuck to the knife but I made it work in the end.

My neighbours were actually the first to try some as they had popped over with some leftover for us to have just as I was finishing the syrup off. Cut them a few slices and then again realised I had not taken my picture. Ah well. Next was my trusted tasting friend who loves all things nuts so she couldn't wait to get dive into this one. I have to make a confession to make..I only tried a tiny bit of this loaf. It didn't appeal to me but from what I tasted it was nice and moist with the honey. Probably not something I would make for myself often.

Beetroot and Chocolate Cupcakes

Well I have no written this for a long time, things have been busy and if i'm honest I think I baked myself out a bit. Haven't been as excited about baking or blogging. I guess it has its ups and downs as does everything else in life. Any ways onto the Beetroot and Chocolate cupcakes..this combination has seemed a little odd to me but I have faith in the Bakery and their creations so we are giving it a whirl.

I cheated and bought pre-cooked and peeled beetroot as the blending up and mixing was enough for me. I started off puréeing it in my mini blender which could just about hold it all. Then it needed to be mixed with the eggs, then sunflower oil and vanilla essence and this is where I realised that the mini blender couldn't hold anything other than the beetroot. Had to swap over to my larger blender to finish this mixture off. Made it all up and then got going on the dry ingredients. Once they had been sifted together the puréed beetroot is added to it until all smooth and incorporated well.

Now the mixture is made up it goes into the cases and into the oven for 20 minutes. I managed to make 18 sponges out of this chocolate and beetroot mix. Whilst they were baking I made up the cream cheese frosting. This is the same as the frosting used on the Red Velvet cupcakes so I am a dab hand at making it. Used half the quantity of icing even though I made 18 rather than 12 cupcakes. The whole amount is just way too much and I end up with wastage, which is not what anyone can you throw away something so scrummy!

The cupcakes smelt great in and out of the oven. It reminded me of the Red Velvet cupcakes actually. They are chocolate with that something else behind it and this is what the beetroot ones seem to be too as well. Wont know until they have been tasted but I have my suspicions.

Onto the icing, did my usual thing, swirling with a little flick of the palette knife and they were done. A nice covering on all of them and a little left over in the bowl for me to lick..heehee!

After all that effort an immediate taste and cuppa was calling...and oh my goodness they are delicious. The beetroot cannot be tasted as its obvious flavour but it adds a wonderful depth to the Chocolate. The cream cheese pairs with it perfectly and these might have just overtaken the Red Velvet as the crème de la crème of cupcakes..strange I know but they are just too mmmm to resist. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Apricot Crunchies

I was intending to make the Sweet and Salty Chocolate cake this weekend along side the Jasmine cupcakes. Bought all of the ingredients and started off making the salted caramel first, as the recipe states. Everything was going fine, the sugar was boiling away into a syrup and the cream was heating up nicely. Just as the timer was coming up to the allotted 10 minutes the sugar mixture looked a little too dark in colour to me. I wasn't sure if it has burnt a little or if that was right so added the hot cream to it to see how it turned out. Had a little taste and it was disgusting! Obviously I had burnt it, was on the hob for 30 seconds too long and so that went straight in the bin. Didn't have enough cream left over to make up a second batch and to be honest I was really 100% invested in making this cake now so decided to put it on hold and make something else. This is where the Apricot Crunchies come in.

Has most of the items needed to make these bars. Just had to pop out and grab some orange juice, apricots, sultanas and wholemeal flour. The first step is to soak the fruit in the juice whilst you mix the chilled butter with the flour and oats. This is done with your hands, rubbing it together until it becomes crumb like. It took me ages as the butter was harder than what I usually use in the batters and in the end it become more of a dough than crumb like. Did a few double takes of the cook book to make sure I hadn't misread the butter quantity. That done you add in the two types of sugar, the soft dark and light brown and stir that in well. This again took me a while due to the consistency of the mixture. Hubby was watching me the whole time, reassuring me that once the fruit had been added it will be fine he was sure.

So as you have guessed it the next stage was to mix in the fruit, after the juice had been drained from it first. That wasn't so difficult to stir in as it just needed to be incorporated enough that it was spread evenly throughout. Tipped it into the greaseproof paper lined tray and used my hands to make sure it was spread out well and level.

Into the oven for 30 minutes until it was a golden brown colour. It still felt a little springy when touched. Left it on the side for a few hours to cool whilst I sorted out the little Missy with her dinner and bath, then took it out of the tray and off the greaseproof paper so Hubby could have a slice to tide him over whilst we waited for out pizza delivery. It was crunchy on top but then chew underneath and the fruit added another softness to it as well as the main flavours. Without the fruit the dough is a little plain and savoury. Not my favourite bars to make, I think the Coconut Jam Sandwich ones are still top of our list.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Jasmine Cupcakes

I was planning on making these cupcakes last weekend but to call of the cookies was too strong. Have been wanting to make some more of the floral range for some time, the other recipes were so tasty and I haven't ever eaten anything jasmine flavoured. Also managed to track down some Jasmine Blossom tea bags, after buying jasmine with green tea ones first by mistake, must take my glasses with me shopping sometimes.

Off we go with the baking and first step to let the three teabags brew in only 35ml of boiled water for around 30 minutes. I set these to stew and mixed the dry ingredients all together. Love making cupcakes, everything all in at once, minimum fussy and thinking involved. I don't know if I left the tea the full 30 minutes but regardless I added it into the milk and egg mixture and in it went. It made the batter a little yellow in colour but smelt good. Spooned it into the cases, 16 in total as is the standard now. As usual got about 2 tablespoons per cupcake. Put them into the oven for 20 minutes, decided to go for the maximum time as the oven is having its funny phase again and couldn't be bothered with the faffing of checking them every few minutes.

They came out brilliant and whilst cooling I set about making the icing. I had already put the previous three already brewed teabags into the milk to fuse before mixing the butter with the icing sugar. I did use my shield to stop the dust explosion but took it off a little too soon. The downside to using it is that whilst mixing, it traps the dust under the shield which obscures the view and so it makes it difficult to see how well the butter has blended with the sugar. Thought it was all mixed well so off it came and yet wasn't quite there yet so I can it another quick whirl with the whisk and covered the kitchen in the unavoidable dust storm. Ah well I Had been doing so well so far. I had halved the icing quantities, mixed in the milk in two batches until it was smooth but it looked a little runnier than usual. Put that thought aside and just got on with frosting the cupcakes. It was as I was smoothing this on with the pallette knife that I realised that although I had used half the amount of sugar and butter, I forgot to only use half the jasmine infused milk. Rookie mistake. Was due a slip up around now. The cupcakes with frosting all finished came out fine, picture taken and writing commences.

As I am about to finish this blog I have just remembered that I haven't actually eaten a cupcake yet to taste them..Luckily as I speak I can feel my tummy calling for some food..I shall be right back...

A cupcake has now been eaten..It rather reminds me of the Earl Grey cupcakes. Similar sort of taste in the icing although it is less intense. The sponge is amazingly moist though and the taste of that isn't as similar as the icing taste. A nice cupcake but not the flavour I was expecting..rather hoped they would be more floral than tea. Still lovely.

Apricot and Almond Cookies

Sorry it has taken me to long to get this blog up, I made these cookies almost a week ago, what a slacker!
Well the recipe is basically the same as the Apple and Oatmeal cookies, just minus the rolled oats and apples and adding in the apricots and ground almonds.

The decision to whip these up on the Sunday evening, instead of making the Jasmine cupcakes as I originally said I was going to make, was because the other cookies went down so well and I had gotten the baking bug for them. Also wanted Hubby to have another flavour to take with him in his work lunch.

Mixed up both types of sugar together with the butter until wonderfully fluffy. Then the egg and vanilla essence is mixed in. Add in the dry ingredients, and the most important main flavours and there we have it. I used soft dried apricots and just cut them up into rough pieces. Thought they would give it a bit more of a chew than the usual dried fruit.

Took me a long time again to get the dough rolled and flattened equally on the lined baking tray. I think my obsessiveness of making sure they are all perfect in size is a slight hindrance. Kept taking bits out of some that looked too big and adding them into a 'smaller' sized ones. Finally they seemed roughly the same size so into the oven they went for the full 20 minutes. On one tray they must have been a bit to closely spaced and did start to spread towards one another but luckily it didn't become one giant cookie, much to my husband disappointment. He recommended I do this the next time I make them, just one or two huge cookies. Guess it will save me time in trying to get the measurements of each cookie just right.

The cooking time meant they came out lovely and crispy on the outside edge and soft and chewy in the middle, just how we like them. They smelt wonderful. I had even roasted the flaked almond in a saucepan before adding them onto the top of the cookies prior to baking. Let the cool down on the top of the oven before stacking them up for a photo and then me and hubby split one to try out. They were yummy, not as strong a flavour as the Apple and Oatmeal variety but I think I actually prefer these ones. Either way both recipes were delicious and baking cookies have sped up to the top of my list over a weekend.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Apple and Oatmeal Cookies

Hooray, the first of the cookie recipes to be attempted. I haven't made any until now as 1) there are only four cookie recipes in the cook book and two of them are Christmas themed, 2) As you all know I don't like making doughs and 3) The cookies aren't chocolate and don't seem that tempting. Time to suck it up though and have a go at them.

The first thing I notice about this recipe is that it uses both light brown and caster sugar, which is mixed with the butter until fluffy. The vanilla essence and egg are in the bowl next and whisked together. The rest of the dry ingredients are sifted as one and added in two batches as always, unsure why this always is but hey I just do as I'm told. These have to be mixed in a mixer, which I don't own, or by hand. This is where I admit to something stupid..I started using my actual hands, rubbing them together like other recipes state. It wasn't working very well and questioned whether it meant hands or by hand with a spoon, but then it usually says that in the cook book. It was just covering my fingers and so I washed it off and tried with a wooden spoon instead. This turned out a much better technique and I felt a bit of a fool afterwards.

The apples needed to be peeled and then grated. This was a nightmare as the Granny Smiths are full of juice they just turn to mush. Managed to keep my thumb and fingers clear of the grater this time and after slaving away for what seemed like ages I had managed to get as much of the apple grated as possible. Next it was time to squeeze the juice out of the flesh. I had grated them into a sieve and used this to press them against to remove the juice. It took a while and just as it was almost finished I figured out that crushing it in my hands actually removed more juice than the sieve idea and was quicker too. Another fail but its all trial and error in this business I guess.

The liquid is thrown away and the apples and oats are mixed in, by hand (with a spoon this time) and the dough is finished. Removing my wedding rings, I set about grabbing chunks, rolling them in my palms and then placing onto the baking trays covered with greaseproof paper. I flattened them a little before they went into the oven. I cooked them midway between the 15 – 20 minutes stated, I think about 18 in total as I like them crisp around the edges and soft in the middle and this time frame seemed to cook them like that perfectly. Once out and had cooled just enough to handle, Hubby nicked one straight away, whilst they were warm and said they were delicious. I was next and they were yum, not what I was expecting at all. You could taste the sweet and also salty mix to the cookies and they were quite more-ish. So much so that the dozen baked on Saturday afternoon were gone by early Sunday morning and Hubby persuaded me to make another dozen on Sunday..they aren't lasting much longer either lol.

Lemon And Poppy Seed Loaf

Thought it was about time to make another loaf and after spending some time tracking down the poppy seeds, as they don't sell them in the giant Tesco near me, I thought I would give this one a whirl.

Another simple recipe, as all the loaf ones are. I love making loaves, you literally just add all the ingredients into one bowl and mix it up. It turns out wonderfully every time, no matter what the flavouring. My only reservation was the poppy seeds in this particular one as I have never eaten anything other than a bagel covered in them and wondered how they would affect the texture of the loaf once baked.

This recipe uses the usual caster sugar mixed with the butter. The eggs went in next followed by the rest of the dry mixture, which is added in three batches instead of two, adding the milk in after the second batch. Lastly the ricotta cheese is stirred in. This is another unusual addition to the standard loaf batter.

Then it was popped into oven for about 65 minutes, slightly longer than the stated time. Oven seems to go through random stages of cooking things down to the stated minutes perfectly and then it has a funny turn and takes longer on things. Came out looking lovely although I had forgotten to make up the soaking syrup so had to put that on asap. The loaf obviously started to cool before it had the syrup added to it and the top of the loaf deflated a little too. I don't think I left the syrup on the heat for longer enough, it looked reduced by half but once I poured it onto the loaf top it was actually absorbed rather than coating it.

This made the loaf a little difficult to cut, as it was so much more moist with the syrup inside it it fell apart as soon as the knife was run through it. Just meant I had to cut a bigger slice each time, what a shame. I cut two slices off to take to my neighbours then came home to taste it for myself. Texture took me a few bites to get past as not used to the continuous small crunchiness on every mouthful. Otherwise it is nice, the lemon is not too overpowering and it is amazingly moist. Need to try and make it with the actual syrup on top next time as I'm sure this will give it a bit more zing, which is needed.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Chocolate and Lime Cheesecake

Not sure what made me settle on making a cheesecake this weekend, nor the chocolate and lime, as it seems a slightly odd combination. The recipe calls for a chocolate base with a lime filling and decorated with chocolate shavings/curls.

I set about making the base just after I had finished the Fruit Tea cupcakes, since it needed to cool in the fridge slightly. It is basically just double chocolate cookies, for which I used Maryland cookies, and melted butter mixed together to make a paste type consistency. This is pressed into the spring side tin which I lined only on the bottom with greaseproof paper. Into the fridge for 30 minutes and I started on the cheesecake filling.

This is mainly Philadelphia, whisked with icing sugar and then adding the eggs one by one, scraping the sides down after each addition. Then the zest and juice of no less than 6 limes needs to be added into this mixture. It took me a long time to grate and then squeeze the limes as I currently don't own a juicer and had to go it by hand. I also had a little mishap and (stop reading now if you are squirmish) grated a bit of my thumb off..luckily none of it ended up in the zest but it did require a few plasters before baking could continue. Still a bit sore now actually. The smell of the mixture once the limes had been added was amazing.

Base out of the fridge and the cheesecake mixture was poured over it to go into the oven to bake. The mixture looked runnier than usual and it made me a little worried at first. I again didn't sink the tin into the water bath but instead put the tin on the shelf above it. Still seems to work just as well and is less complicated and messy.

The cheesecake must have been a bit more sloppy than previous mixes as it took about an hour to took in total, rather than the 40 minutes I had originally set the time too. It came out well even though was cooking for longer.

Let the tin cool enough to handle and then popped it into the fridge to cool. Didn't try any until Sunday evening when Hubby returned from his fishing trip. The Cheesecake was decorated just before serving and I grated some chocolate over the top and did sprinkle from lime zest on as well but after a small lick (just to check everything was okay obviously) I decided it was too strong a taste and wiped it off. The lime in the filling taste was dulled down by the cream cheese and took the edge off it. It paired well with the chocolate base and all in all it a nice treat. Not one of my favourites though, I actually preferred the previous cheesecake I made, the Butterscotch Pecan one.

Also attaching a photo of my Mini chocolate loaves made on Sunday from the adapted Coffee and Chocolate Loaf Hummingbird recipe. Made up the same quantity of batter for a normal sized loaf.

Fruit Tea Cupcakes

This is the last variation from the Earl Grey Cupcakes recipe. The other was the Peppermint Tea cupcakes which I actually made first. It says to use whatever fruit flavour tea you like so I picked Red Berry.

Put the tea on to brew, which was looking like a nice red colour and started on the dry mixture. All went fine and so added the red tea to the milk and egg mixture as stated. This is where things got interesting...expected it to stay red but the milk diluted the colour and it went a sort of violet when all combined. Though this would make an interesting sponge and so assumed the icing would match too. How wrong I was. When the milk mixture was added to the dry ingredients it then diluted the colour even more and turned a strange sort of metallic silver with a blue tinge.

Spooned it into the cases and got 16 in total, managed to get the measurements for each cupcakes right this time and didn't over or under fill them like the previous few times. Seem to have go my mojo back on that front. I had to take a picture of them before they went in to bake as it was such a strange sight, being the colour the batter had turned out in the end. Wondered how they would look once cooked now.

Timer on and I popped the brewed and strained tea bags into the milk which is to make up the frosting. Cupcakes cooling and went back to the tea milk to check how that was doing and remove the teabags. Things hadn't gone to plan and the milk had looked like it had curdled slightly as it seemed to have flecks in it. I strained the teabags and give it a mix first before deciding what to do with it. Seems that fate made the decision for me, as when I squeezed the final of the three teabags it burst and tea leaves spilled into the milk mixture so I had to start again regardless. This time I made sure to give it a stir every so often and not just leave it like before and this seemed to do the trick in getting it combined and smooth.

Whisked the icing sugar and butter together then added the milk mixture it. It was a reddish/pink colour, not violet like before. Think this is because it was brewed with the actual teabags and not the tea like the milk mixture for the sponge. The lack of eggs might have also been a factor too. Either way it made the frosting a light pink colour in the end. All iced and the cupcakes looked and smelt fab, although you could see a slight blue hue through the casings.

The first to taste one was actually the 4 year old daughter of my friend who popped over just after they had been completed. She knows I bake a lot and always have cupcakes around so asked for one the minute she was through the door. It seemed to go down a treat, even the icing, which surprised me as some of the other cupcakes she has sampled, the icing was a bit too strong for her. I tucked into a cake afterwards and have to say they were yummy but the sponge colour as a grey/blue and did look a bit off putting. My friend did decline my kind offer of a cupcake due to this, just couldn't sway her..oh well more for me then!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Custard and Cinnamon Tart

After making the Coconut Cream Pie, I thought I would give the Custard and Cinnamon Tart a go. This is another recipe that requires me to make a dough as the base and this one made me a little more than frustrated.

Used my hands again to rub together the flour and butter until they got to a crumb like consistency and then mixed in the sugar and egg with a spoon. Once it started to come together as a dough it is kneaded before being covered in clingfilm and left to settle in the fridge for 30 minutes. then the nightmare of trying to get the dough rolled out to the right thickness without it either getting stuck to the work surface or falling apart when lifted into the tin began. It took me several attempts and even once I had managed to press it into the tin I had to do a little patching up to make sure the sides were high enough to hold the filling.

Back into the fridge again and then straight into the oven to bake blind for 12 minutes. I still haven't got round to purchasing any baking beans so used uncooked rice again on the grease proof paper. Then, once these have been removed, the base goes into the oven again or 15 minutes to golden in colour. Whilst it was in for the second time I started warming the milk up to boiling point and getting the other custard filling ingredients into a thick paste. Did need to add a little more milk than suggested to loosen it. The paste gets added to the boiling milk, reducing the temperature and keep cooking until the flour is cooked throughly  and it basically looks like a custard. mine got a little lumpy as I was stirring it rather than whisking which is what the recipe states but even after the butter had been added I still couldn't get rid of the lumpy texture.

The warm mixture has the stiff egg whites folded into it then this all goes into the tin and into the fridge to be left to set overnight. I tried a slice of tart after lunch on Monday and realised after I has cut into it that I had actually run out of cinnamon so had to try it without. After getting over the odd texture, not helped by the lumps I failed to remove it was actually a nice dessert. The base is lovely, not too hard or crumbly and went well with the creamy custard on top I managed to pick up some ground cinnamon the next day and tried it again as it is meant to be. It definately added something having that dusted over the slice. Next time I am going to whisk it to get it a little smoother and that might not be as off putting when you first bite into it.