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Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Where did January go?

Right well January went quickly didn’t it? I was full of good intentions, then Bea got ill, we had a house full of visitors and I just generally didn’t have much time for crafting and baking.

But yesterday was a certain little girls birthday and I did manage to make her a birthday cake for her first birthday party.

First birthday cake

A big thank you to those who lent me equipmemt for making and presenting the cake.

I used a recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible (which I got for Christmas) for Death by Chocolate Cake. I’m not going to type out the recipe again as someone else has already done it. It was nice, but I still think this recipe is better (although expensive).

Lizzy and Bea

The Mary Berry cake was a good one for a kids birthday party (I didn’t make two layers, I just put the icing on the top). It was light and well risen but tasted a bit too golden syrupy for me.

Top tip from Kimberly Williams on how to get those number shaped cake tins to work when they don’t have a bottom on them. Stick them on a baking tray and put a large, heavy, casserole dish on top. Also do what I didn’t and put it face down so that the flat bottom of the cake on the baking tray becomes the top…as I said I didn’t do this, let’s hope I remember for the next time I make a number shaped cake.

Remarkably I appear to have nearly finished a knitted dress for Bea. Top tip people – don’t knit using 4-ply it takes forever and when knitting stocking stitch in the round it’s very very tedious. Hope to be back with photos of that after the weekend when I’ll also have pics of my first attempt at a eat immediately fruit cake.

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I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve just completely got out of the habit. Anyway I have actually been making lots of nice things so hopefully I’ll get to show you some of them over the next week.

First up Hazelnut macaroons with a chocolate filling. I’m really pleased with these, the recipe is adapted from the original Pistachio Macaroons from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
Hazlenut and chocolate macaroon
To be honest this is more of a sandwiched biscuit than a macaroon but I like them none the less.

Macaroons

75g ground hazelnut
125g icing sugar
2 large egg whites
15g caster sugar
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Filling
125g Softened butter
125g Icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Whisk the eggs until quite stiff, add the caster sugar and continue whisking until completely stiff (hold the bowl over your head, when it doesn’t fall on your head it’s stiff enough).

Mix the ground hazlenuts with the icing sugar, fold into the egg mixture.

Put into a piping bag and pipe about 30 circles using a 1cm nozzle. (Or just do what I did and pipe from the corner of a plastic freezer bag so you don’t have to wash up the piping bag).

Leave for 10 minutes to form a skin (not sure this really makes any difference but I’m not going to tempt fate and take the step out). Put in the oven for about 12 minutes.

While the macaroons are cooling make the filling.

Mix together 125g of softened butter with 125g of icing sugar and one tablespoon of cocoa powder.

Pipe the filling onto the flat side of a macaroon and squish another one on the other side…and your done. Alternatively just use a palette knife to put the filling on a macaroon.

These are really easy to make. I made the macaroons while Beatrix was in a baby carrier on my front, they baked while I put her down for a nap and I made the filling while they cooled.

Blog post and photography written during her nap – so I’m being completely serious when I say these are VERY simple.

And I leave you with a picture of the not so tiny anymore Beatrix!
Beatrix with headband

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Scotch Eggs

This is a guest post from Mark (with a little help from Lizzy).

For the recent Royal Wedding party we went to I decided to make Scotch Eggs, I’ve wanted to make them for a long time as they’re always on the TV and they look tasty.

I wanted to make quails eggs but Lizzy said that it would be too difficult to adapt the recipe for the first time we did it. Just follow the recipe and you’ll have no trouble, here are some action shots to help you.

This is the recipe that I used, and here are some thoughts on how you can improve it.

1. You don’t need to flatten the sausage meat out on the board, just split it into equal portions and then squish it in your hand.
2. It would be considerably easier if you happened to own a deep fat fryer. (Lizzy – and it would be A LOT easier on the nerves of others living in the house)
3. The amount of flour and breadcrumbs suggested is ridonculous, you need half what they suggest, if that. (Lizzy – yes he said ridonculous not ridiculous).

All in all it was a delicious and very satisfying man sized treat. Pork pies up next!
Mmmm tasty Scotch Eggs
Lizzy – And just in case you were wondering, Scotch Eggs are English (despite the name). They were invented by Fortnum and Mason (a very posh department store in London for those of you who are international readers) in 1738. I think they would make excellent picnic fodder.

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A Mere Trifle

Sorry about the title of this post, I couldn’t resist. We celebrated the Royal wedding at the house of some friends (who did an amazing job of Britishing the whole thing up with bunting, union jacks, and bacon sandwiches). I decided to make a very British dessert, trifle, to take with me (which was actually an excuse to buy a new glass bowl from Ikea that I’ve had my eye on for some time).
Raspberry and Lemon Trifle
I’m not sure if you get trifle in other countries but if you don’t know what it is it’s basically a layered dessert. First layer is sponge fingers with alcohol (or not) and a fruit sauce poured over the top to soak it, you can then add jelly (or jello if you’re American!) if you choose, then fruit, then a cold custard (that can be flavoured if you like), and whipped cream. My recipe then had caramel on the top but it’s more 1970s to add toasted flaked almonds, or coloured hundreds and thousands.

I don’t have much experience of trifle, my Mum doesn’t like it so it really didn’t feature in my youth. So I just googled lots of recipes and realised that there are A LOT of different ways of making tifle.

First I made a load of boudoir biscuits/sponge fingers using this recipe. That was super easy and very enjoyable, I like making anything that involves a piping bag. I’d say if you’re going to make these then try and make them at least an inch thick, you can do this by moving the piping bag more slowly. (Also I clearly didn’t get a ruler and mark the baking parchment – who would do this?).

I loosely followed this Raspberry and Lemongrass Trifle recipe by Nigella Lawson, but as I couldn’t find lemongrass in my local supermarkets (it’s a Swiss thing) I decided to use the zest from three lemons. It’s funny because the other day I nearly bought a lemon verbena plant and then I thought better of it ‘what on earth will I use lemon verbena for’ I thought. MMmmm lemon flavoured custard it turns out.
Trifle
I tweaked the Nigella recipe because I didn’t think it would have enough layers to fill my lovely glass bowl, so I added a layer of chopped strawberries. Strawberries were cheaper than raspberries which is why I opted for them.

Making the custard wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be (although you have to watch it like a hawk, and I took my eye off it for a milli second and nearly lost the whole lot).

Apparently there’s a huge debate surrounding the absence or inclusion of jelly in trifle. As I said before I don’t have much experience of trifle but it seems that if you add jelly you’re ‘common’ – seriously who spends time thinking of these things! There’s an entire article about it here.
My trifle didn’t contain jelly (partially because it seems you can’t get jelly here and having made the sponge fingers and the custard I wasn’t about to start faffing around with gelatine) but what do you think? Should trifle contain jelly?

If I’d thought about this further in advance I’d have made the trifle before last weeks pavlova…because I’ve now got 8 egg whites sat in the freezer…oh well we’ll have to make another pavlova soon!

And as so many of you are asking, here’s a picture of Beatrix and I watching the wedding.

Lizzy and Bea dressed in red, white, and blue for the Royal Wedding

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Pretty Perfect Pavlova

I’m a big fan of impressive looking desserts that don’t take hours to create, and for me pavlova fits the bill perfectly. It’s indulgent, yet can be made with ingredients you have in the house, and the vast majority of the work is done by the oven.

I made this particular pavlova for the BBQ we went to last weekend (which was lovely by the way). It’s an eight egg pavlova using this recipe by Nigella Lawson. But instead of using vanilla extract I used a teaspoon of rosewater. I’d love to say that this was my idea but actually it’s in Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’.

I’ve cooked pavlova using this recipe several times before, but for some reason the meringue cracked this time and the centre dropped. Meringues normally crack when you open the oven door too early, I didn’t open the door until the cooking time was up so I have no idea why this happened (let me know if you have any ideas).
Pavlova
Piling in a load of whipped cream and chopped fruit makes the whole thing look a lot prettier when it’s collapsed.

I’d definitely recommend using a food mixer to make your meringue as you need to whisk the eggs and sugar until they’re in stiff peaks. You know the peaks are stiff enough if you can turn the bowl upside down over your head and not get covered in egg and sugar. Another top tip is to make sure that your mixing bowl is spotless before you add your egg whites (otherwise you won’t get the volume you need).

When I separate eggs for meringues I use three bowls, one to transfer the egg yolks to, one to put the egg whites in once they’ve been successfully separated and one to separate the eggs over. This way if you screw up seperating the eggs (and I do this relatively frequently) you won’t ruin an entire bowl of egg whites, just the egg that you’ve just separated.

There are lots of things you can do with the egg yolks you have left over – carbonara and creme brulee are two of my favourites (we don’t always eat incredibly fatty food!).

Hope you enjoy the royal wedding if you’re watching it!

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I discovered this recipe a couple of months ago and I think I’ve made it three times now (don’t worry I don’t eat the entire cake, normally a large part of it goes to work with Mark).

It’s a really moist chocolate cake and the fact that it’s a loaf cake means you don’t have to faff around with icing. You just melt some chocolate and then wiggle it over the top.
Chocolate loaf cake
In making this particular chocolate cake I took it out of the tin took quickly and a large, long section of the bottom stuck in the tin. However, I have come up with an ingenuis solution to this, basically you just leave the piece in the tin, drop some melted chocolate onto the main part of the cake, replace the cake into the tin and then stick it in the fridge for a few hours. The chocolate then sets and bonds the two pieces of cake together and you can remove it from the tin as a whole cake. Brilliant.

I chop a bar of chocolate and add that rather than going to the additional expense of buying chocolate chips. I realise that sounds odd but we pretty much always have chocolate in the house now we’ve moved to Switzerland – they do make a very good bar of chocolate here.

The other cakes in this picture were made by a friend. They’re strawberry cheesecake cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. They were amazing, so this is definetly a recipe that I’ll be trying at some point in the near future.

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As you all know I’m a big fan of baking so when the monthly La Leche League meeting requires me to bring along a ‘healthy snack’ I interpret the brief quite widely. i.e. this recipe has oats in and they’re good for you, oh look they also have some fruit in, doubly good! They obviously also have quite a large amount of sugar and oil but I choose to overlook this fact.
Oatmeal and Cranberry Cookies
I based this recipe on one that can be found in the fantastic ‘Homemade Cookies’ by Jaqueline Bellefontaine. I’ve reviewed this book on amazon so check it out if you want more details about how fab I think it is.

Basically instead of adding ginger I added a teaspoon of cinnamon, and instead of adding raisins I added dried cranberries. I was pleased with the texture but I think the taste could be improved by adding the grated zest of an orange, and a couple of tablespoons of orange juice instead of all milk – I’ll let you know how I get on if I make them again (although I’m out of dried cranberries now so I probably won’t make them for a while).

I think chopped apricot and ginger, or even just crystalised ginger might work well as other alternatives.

Apologies to everyone who’s been waiting for me to post, I’ve been a bit slack recently but I have actually got quite a few things to post about. I’m hoping I’ll now have a little more time to blog as I’ve bought a baby wrap and Bea loves napping in it so I have a happier baby on my hands at the moment. If you have a baby that’s grumpy in the afternoons then I’d seriously consider giving babywearing a go – I’m a complete convert!
Didymos Wrap
Look how big she is! Doesn’t she look old.

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