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Posts Tagged ‘Baking’

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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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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Lemon Thins

I made these biscuits absolutely weeks ago, when Kimberly and her man came round to look at art (Kimberly isn't a lazy blogger like me so you can read her post here to find out more). They’re another recipe from Homemade Cookies by Jacqueline Bellefontaine, which as I’ve said before is a considerably better book than the cover would have you believe.
Lemon biscuits

The biscuits themselves were lovely, very lemony. But to be honest I didn’t think an awful lot of the cream cheese filling.

They got off to a bad start when I realised that Mark had bought cream cheese with garlic and chives (thankfully I realised this before making the filling). Perhaps I overfilled them slightly, in all I just don’t think the filling was necessary. If I made them again then I’d probably leave them plain.

I don’t think it’s fair for me to type out the recipe here, and I’ve looked and can’t find anything similar on the web. So you’ll all have go and buy the book.

Completely unrelated – here are five things that annoy me about the tube.

1. People at Regent’s Park station who get on the lifts on the wrong side
2. The way students on english language trips always stop at the bottom and top of escalators in large groups
3. Why doesn’t New Cross have a departures board for the London Overground. How am I meant to know if it’s going to be quicker getting a train if the wait for the tube isn’t listed!
4. Tourists that wait until they get to the gate before trying to find their oyster/travel card
5. People that sit with a bag on the seat next to them and don’t move it when the train is heaving. I’ve startd to single these people out and sit next to them even if there are loads of other empty seats. It really brings a smile to my face.

So maybe it’s not so bad that I’m soon not going to have to use the tube at all.

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Making Macaroons in Paris

I’ve realised that I’m not particularly good at this blogging lark but as Kimberly has now started linking to me I feel duty bound to make a little more effort.

So I thought I’d tell you about my very exciting 30th Birthday presents from the end of March.

My wonderful hubby decided to whisk me off to Paris for a lovely couple of days, but his parents also arranged for me to do a course in Montmatre learning how to make macaroons (I know he’s amazing isn’t he – it was clearly his idea).

Eiffel Tower

You probably already know what this is


The course was held, in English (thank goodness) at a wonderful place called Cook’n With Class. It was a brilliant course, there were only three of us in the class and it was really hands on. I would thoroughly recommend it, and when I get a chance I’ll be back to learn how to make croissants.
Macaroons before the oven

Macaroons resting before they went in the oven


We made three different flavoured fillings – vanilla, raspberry and chocolate ganache. I have to say that although it was loads of fun I think I need quite a bit of additional kitchen equipment in order to do this at home.
Macaroon fillings

The macaroon fillings in vanilla, raspberry and chocolate


So if anyone wants to buy me a food mixer, a digital gun thermometer (amazing – I can’t believe I’ve never seen one of them before, you  just point the gun at the thing you want to take the temp of and using infrared it takes the temperature), about four more baking trays, an oven that has an even temperature and a flat that doesn’t suffer from damp (apparently damp is not good for macaroons) then I’m set.

The recipe on the Daily Mail website looks pretty good, although way more simplified than the steps we took (it’s from Laudre so you’d hope they know what they’re doing).

Basically my tips would be to measure really carefully, follow the instructions really carefully, don’t take any chances with timings (aka be really careful), and once you’ve piped the macaroons leave them for 10 mins before putting them in the oven to stop them from cracking.  (The 10 min tip is clearly not mine, but I would still follow it as it did work on the course). 

As you can see the macaroons turned out pretty well. I think I may well attempt these for Christmas gifts but I’m slightly concerned that the three hours of work that they took would not be appreciated.

Macaroons

The macaroons after they'd been cooked


We had a lovely time in Paris and the weather was amazing and we did lots of lovely things, which I won’t bore you with. I’ve been up to loads of craft so I’m going to really try over the next couple of weeks to blog regularly.

P.S. I feel the need to highlight that the link to the Daily Mail does not reveal my political leanings.

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