Thursday, 27 December 2012

Holly Jolly Christmas!

Christmas is the busiest time of year for me. I'm the only baker in the family, so at this time I'm always found in the kitchen fixing something up. Every family has their Christmas favourites, and in mine it's sausage rolls and mince pies (obviously). And these are just for the couple of weeks before Christmas. On Christmas itself, there's the all-time favourite: the yule log. Now I've heard people say its difficult to make, but its most certainly not true, I've made it quite a few times, and it is such a doddle! I've made it so many times, and tried a number of variations, but I think it's safe to say I've finally got it right (see below for my recipe).
Yule Log
6 Eggs (separated)
150g Caster Sugar
50g Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

300ml Double Cream (whipped)

100g Unsalted Butter
200g Icing Sugar
55g Cocoa Powder
20g Dark Chocolate (melted)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Line a swiss roll tin (or a baking tray with deep edges) with grease-proof paper.
Separate the egg yolks and whites into two separate bowls.
Whisk the egg whites until the mixture is thick and starting to peak, and then add 50g of caster sugar. Continue to whisk until the peaks hold in place.
In the other bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the caster sugar, until the mixture is pale and thick in consistency. Add the vanilla essence, sieve in the cocoa powder, and fold the mixture together.
Add the egg whites a bit at a time, carefully folding it in all the time, making sure the mixture doesn't lose any of the air that was whipped in.
Pour the mixture into the lined tin, and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the top is firm, and the edges are coming away from the sides.
Cut a piece of grease proof paper, and sprinkle caster sugar over it. Turn the cake out onto the paper, cut off the edges, and before it cools down, roll the cake up tightly, and leave to cool.
(This is important, as the cake cools into this rolled position, and makes it easier to roll up later when the filling is put in it.)
While cooling, whip the double until it has a thick consistency.
Then prepare the buttercream, by putting the unsalted butter in a bowl, and sieve in the icing sugar a bit at a time. Mix together, until it's pale and fluffy, and then sieve in the cocoa powder. Melt the dark chocolate, and then allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, before adding to the buttercream, and mixing thoroughly.
When the cake is cool, unroll it (it may crack a bit, but that's fine, the icing will cover any mistakes), and spread the cream over the top of the cake.
Roll the cake back into position, and place the roll on to a serving board, before covering with the buttercream, like in the picture above. You can do this either with a piping bag, or using a palette knife (I use the knife, it tends to look more like bark).

And voila! Yule Log!
Serve either with a serving of cream, or, as it's morish enough, just by itself.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

All I Want For Christmas...

Obviously presents are a huge part of Christmas, and I love to give them, especially when it's something meaningful to the recipient. This year I decided to have a go at making my presents, and so I decided to start easy, and do some chalkboard mugs.

You will need:
Pebeo Porcelaine 150 Chalkboard Paint
Paint Brush
Masking Tape
White Porcelain Mugs

Cover the top half of the mug using masking tape (unless you want to paint the whole mug), and use it as a guide when painting the mug, so that there is a clean line.
Using the paint (it's important that its porcelain paint, as other chalkboard paint will not have the same effect), paint the bottom half of the mug, until it's in one even layer. You may notice that the paint is a bit gritty, but don't panic, it's meant to do that.
Leave to dry for a few hours, preferably overnight, and if another layer is needed, paint and leave for a few more hours.
Once dried, remove the masking tape.
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.
Put the mugs into the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. This fixes the paint, allowing the mugs to be washed in a dishwasher without the paint chipping off.
Once the mugs have cooled, scribble some chalk over the chalkboard section, and just wipe off.
Hey Presto! Chalkboard mugs!

 Judging by my friends reactions, they loved them, and a few of them have told me that they've used them already. Success!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Raspberry Crumble Squares

Ah third year. Full of lab work, lectures and writing your dissertation. Oh, and the most important thing in a student's life: sleeping! So with my time filled with these four activities, I wasn't left with much time for baking. And I've hated it! 

You never really acknowledge just how useful the process of baking is when you're stressed. Because the whole process, right from when you're preparing the ingredients, up to when you're clearing everything away, is so automatic, you can just turn off the nagging voice in your head, and relax to the thought of eating something scrumptious in just a short while.

Now even though I've not been able to make anything recently, it doesn't mean that I've not been eating the sweet stuff. My favourite university cafe has a large selection of muffins and flapjacks etc. But recently they had a new arrival in the sugary department: crumble squares.
They have a few flavours, but my favourite by far is the raspberry crumble. It's just so scrummy!

However, I dare not add up just how much I've spent on these bars, so I finally decided to have a go at making my own.
115g butter
175g caster sugar
1 egg
280g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
125ml milk

1 jar of raspberry jam
(Or any other flavour that takes your fancy. Apple and blackcurrant is another good one)

For the topping:
115g caster sugar
85g plain flour
50g butter

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Grease a 9 inch baking tin, and line with greaseproof paper.
In a bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
Mix in the egg, and then the flour, baking powder and milk a bit at a time. Mix thoroughly.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and sugar, before adding the butter. Mix together thoroughly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Pour the cake mixture into the lined tin.
Spread the raspberry jam over the cake mixture.
Sprinkle the crumble topping over the jam.
Bake the crumble in the oven for 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown in colour.
Once cooked, take out of the oven and leave to cool.
Make sure the crumble is cooled completely before taking out of the tin, and cut into small squares.

I think I'm going to have to have a box of these on my desk for me to snack on while writing my dissertation. Perfect for when I'm starting to lose motivation!

Friday, 2 November 2012

This Is Hallowe'en

Hallowe'en has to be one of my favourite holidays. It's right up there with Christmas and Easter (chocolate, duh!).
Hallowe'en signifies the weather getting a bit more chilly, the days getting shorter, and the food being more warm and fulfilling. Not to mention that Hallowe'en just means we can dress up, stuff ourselves with sweets and buy ourselves some pumpkins. 
I've always loved carving pumpkins (even if it can be extremely messy), but my favourite part is lighting the candles, turning the lights off and seeing the pumpkins coming to life.
As I said before, it's time for food that makes you feel warm inside, which is why instead of making the traditional 'pumpkin pie', I made a pumpkin soup instead.

1 Large Pumpkin
1 Onion
1 Celery Stick
50g Chorizo
1tsp Oregano
Pinch of Salt
600ml Chicken Stock

To Garnish:

First of all, the pumpkin needs to be roasted to get the flesh.
Preheat the oven to around 200C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
Chop the pumpkin into quarters, place onto a roasting tray skin side down, and cover with oil and salt.
Roast for almost an hour, or until the flesh has browned slightly and is tender.
Remove from the oven, and leave to cool for around 10 minutes before using a spoon to remove the flesh.
Then chop up the onion, celery and chorizo.
Fry off in some olive oil in a large saucepan, until the onion is soft.
Then add the pumpkin, and leave to fry off for another 5 minutes.
Next add the chicken stock, and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Once done, blend the soup until smooth.

To garnish, top with some chopped bacon and croutons.
Adding the cheese is optional :)

This is a really nice soup for when it's getting a bit chilly.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Chocolate Bailey's Truffles

So it was National Chocolate Week last week! 
I love chocolate! (Who doesn't?)
It's just so versatile! It's used for near enough anything nowadays, although there are some really weird concoctions about. I am not a brave enough baker to experiment with the more daring ideas, but sometimes I think that simple is best.
I love making chocolate cakes or biscuits, and I was tempted to make some this week, except our oven wasn't working. Sigh.

So I thought I'd do something I haven't actually made before:
I apologise for my decorating skill, after all it is the first time I've done them.
They do say 'Practice Makes Perfect'!

I don't know why I haven't made them before, because they are actually quite simple to make. 
Of course the traditional truffles are made with dark chocolate (remember, your chocolate must be at least 70% cocoa), but I've had some that were made with white chocolate. Yum!

Let's not forget you can make them extra special just by adding an extra flavour to the mixture.
I used Bailey's Irish Cream as my extra flavouring for this batch, but next time I may go a bit more out there with some orange, mint, or pistachio. Or I could go straight for the chilli!

12oz Dark Chocolate, chopped (I used 85% cocoa)
6 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream
4 tbsp Double Cream
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Mix the double cream, Bailey's and vanilla extract in a heatproof bowl, and put the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
Heat the mixture until it's close to boiling.
Then add the chopped chocolate, and melt it into the cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat, and pour the mixture into a square baking tray.
Put the tray in the fridge for about an hour, or until it is soft enough to play around with.
Once cooled, use a small spoon to scoop out some of the chocolate.
The size of the scoop depends on how big you want your truffles :)

To decorate:
Roll the chocolate into a ball, and then into what you wish to cover the truffles with.
I used cocoa powder (which is the traditional coating), and some chocolate sprinkles.
You can coat them in some more melted chocolate, to give it a nice crunchy coating, or some desiccated coconut.
Once decorated, put them back in the fridge for another couple of hours.

These are perfect as a present, or just as a solution for when you're craving sugar.
By the way my housemates were chomping these down, I can only assume that they were a success :)

Let's Run Away To The Circus

I can't believe I'm into my third year of university already. It's all gone so quickly. 
I remember being in that first lecture two years ago, sitting with people that I didn't know, people that would soon become my friends, and the lecturer saying that the next three years will be over before you know it. Obviously at the time you think, 'What? As if!' And it is unbelievable, until suddenly you realise that was two years ago, and you're now in your last year. 
That as of June next year, you are never going to sit in another lecture theatre, listening to the lecturers' (sometimes) funny anecdotes; you will no longer be sitting in the canteen with your friends laughing and playing Trivial Pursuit on someone's iPod; and you won't be nervously revising for your exams in the library anymore.

But hey, let's not get too upset just yet. After all, that's nearly nine months away...

Anyway, since moving into my uni house, my housemates and I have had the problem of not having access to the internet for two weeks. So for a lack of things to do in the evenings (after all there is a limit to how much partying or watching TV/movies you can handle) I decided to read some of the books I didn't manage to read over the summer.

The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern

How can I describe it?
It is just... 


Honestly, I just loved it. It was everything I had hoped for in a book. 
I grew up as part of the Harry Potter generation (God I miss it!) and as such I've always had a love for a book that contains magic. Which is (partly) why I loved The Night Circus.
It's not often that I get so involved in a book, but while reading I honestly wished that Le Cirque des Rêves was real. I became a rêveur just from reading the book.

Obviously, the book is not just about the circus. Although the descriptions given are so mesmerising, I wouldn't have minded if it was.
It has a charming plot, containing a slow, but wonderfully written romance. So wonderful that it made me so happy and warm just reading it. Although I think the magic helped a little with the romance.

If there is one thing you should definitely do, it is to read this book. 
You will not regret it. Not one little bit.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Earl Grey Cupcakes

So I'm a massive fan of Downton Abbey, like a huge fan. Have all the box sets, watched all the episodes a dozen times, and for the past couple of weeks I was getting way too excited every time I saw an advert for the third season. Close to squealing. Let's face it, we were all waiting to see if Matthew and Mary would finally get married.

So last night I settled down with a cup of tea, thrilled that I was finally finally about to watch what I had been waiting months for. And god did it deliver, I was laughing, nearly crying, and just constantly smiling that all of my favourite characters were back on TV.

So to celebrate, today I decided to make some Earl Grey cupcakes, thinking they were suitably posh enough for Downton. 
This weekend I also found something I have been lusting after for a long time: a cupcake machine. Cupcakes ready in nearly 10 minutes, what's not to love about it!

As you can see, it cooks six cupcakes at a time, but what you can't tell is that they produce smaller cakes than you normally get/make, even though the normal size paper cases do fit in the holes. But that also means you can make more cupcakes. Normal cupcake recipes make 12 cupcakes, but I managed to squeeze out 16.

 I normally like to use buttercream for the topping, but I didn't have enough butter, so I decided to make a simple glace icing instead (purely because I couldn't be bothered to make royal icing).

Obviously there are loads of recipes for Earl Grey cupcakes. I know of a really nice recipe here:
I love this blog, there are so many cake recipes, I just want to try them all.

However, today I used a different recipe, which used less butter, and more milk.
(Still trying to be a bit healthier...)

3 Earl Grey teabags 
80g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200ml milk
2 eggs

(Obviously I didn't use the oven today, as I had to try out my new toy)
Heat up the milk, without boiling it, and then add the tea bags. Leave it to cool for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven  to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, and line the cupcake tin with paper cases.
Beat the butter and sugar together, and then add the flour, baking powder and salt. The mixture should resemble breadcrumbs. 
In a separate bowl, mix the milk and eggs together, and then add to the dry mixture. Mix thoroughly.
The mixture may be a bit wet, but it will still bake fine. Put the mixture into the paper cases, and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Once cooked, leave to cool on a wire rack.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the glace icing.
I can't remember the exact measurements I used, but it was around 250g of icing sugar and about 3-4 tbsp of water.
Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, and add the water. Mix until the icing is thick, and stick to the back of a spoon. If it's too watery, add more icing sugar; too thick, add more water.
Add some food colouring to the desired colour.

Once the cakes are cool, just spoon some of the glace icing onto the cakes, until it completely covers the top. If they're left for about 10 minutes, the icing hardens, so that it's less messy to eat.

And that's it. Simple :)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Low Fat Brownies

So, has anyone else been eating too many cakes, and needed to go on a diet?
No, just me?
I don't know about everyone else, but what I find the most difficult about diets is giving up the sweet stuff. It's impossible for me to do, I tend to go a couple of days on my best behaviour, and then I start to get those cravings. Those shameful, annoying cravings for sugar, which cause me to eat a nibble of chocolate. And then the diet ends up going down the pan.

So this time I thought that I would make some low fat sugary treats, so that I don't feel too guilty when I eat something sweet.
Basically this recipe replaces the chocolate and butter with yoghurt, oil and cocoa. Already sounds healthier, doesn't it? Also, the main recipe called for vanilla essence, but I decided to use orange extract instead. Obviously if you don't like orange, or if you're allergic (like one of my friends) then use the vanilla.

1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup yoghurt
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable/sunflower oil
1tsp orange extract

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, and grease and line a square tin.
Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa into a large bowl, and stir in the caster sugar.
Beat in the eggs, yoghurt, oil and orange extract until mixed thoroughly.
Pour into the tin, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
Then leave to cool, and then cut into squares.
Dust with a bit of icing sugar, and serve.

Perfect for when you have a massive craving, but you don't want to be naughty about it.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Coffee and Walnut Cake

My mum and I like to go out for coffee every so often as a treat, and this last Saturday we went to this nice little coffee shop in town, called Caffe Chai. It was just the typical type of cafe, with drinks, snacks and cakes (yum). Obviously, we had to have the cake. I had their chocolate fudge cake, while my mum had the coffee and walnut cake, her favourite!

I think I should add here that my mum is my cake tester when I'm baking. I'm always asking her what she thinks of my cakes, and from her suggestions I figure out how to improve my baking, normally with brilliant results. So it's understandable why she ended up doing this with the shop cake. She decided that it was too sweet, a bit dry, and the coffee taste was really weak. I think the only bit she did like was the buttercream. 

I listened to her of course, and decided that I'd have a go at baking this cake. Which I did the next day. It's safe to say that the cake didn't last a day, it was quickly gobbled up by everyone. However, my mum decided it still didn't have a strong coffee flavour, and asked me to make a second cake the next day. Which of course I did.

I got the recipe from the BBC Food website (I love that website way too much)

225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
3 eggs
225g self-raising flour
100ml strong coffee
handful of chopped walnuts

For the buttercream:
125g unsalted butter
250g icing sugar
50ml strong coffee
walnut halves to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together, until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture each time.
Then add half the flour mixture, mix, and add half the coffee, beating the mixture. Then add the rest of the flour and coffee, mixing thoroughly.
To finish add the chopped walnuts and mix.
Spoon the mixture into two lined and greased 9in cake tins, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown, and a skewer comes out clean when put into the cake.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
To prepare the buttercream icing, beat the butter and icing sugar together until it's pale and fluffy, and then add the coffee to taste.
Once the cake is cool, spread the buttercream on the top of each cake, and put one cake on top of the other.
Place walnut halves on the top to decorate.

Enjoy with a nice cup of coffee, and you're all set.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Birthday Cupcakes

So I turned 20 this Sunday (yay for me), and I got the best present ever from my mum:

A Kenwood kMix Food Mixer.
It made me so happy, I was nearly jumping up and down with joy. And of course, I had to use it straight away. So I got to baking some birthday cupcakes.

Just a simple chocolate cake, with some white chocolate icing, but they were so yummy.
And it was even better knowing that I had used my new toy to make them. I love making cakes the usual way, but using the mixer made the whole process a lot easier. Although it was a weird feeling being able to move around the kitchen getting bits and bobs while the mixer was on. Weird but oddly satisfying.
Maybe I'll be doing a lot more baking...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

So I picked up my cousin from work this afternoon, due to the mini storm we had, and she'd had a really bad day, meaning she was a bit grumpy. Now it's kind of an unwritten rule in our house, that if someone needs cheering up, give them food, preferably cake. So when I asked her 'Shall I make cupcakes?', of course her answer was a massive 'YES!'

So all the way home, I was thinking about which flavour I was going to do this time. When my cousin said she wanted chocolate, I thought 'perfect, I haven't had chocolate in a long time'. And then I remembered that last week I had bought some orange extract. And hey presto, chocolate orange cupcakes!

As soon as I got home, I got straight to work. and I was right to use the orange flavouring, it was just gorgeous, giving off such a lovely smell when mixed with the chocolate. It reminded my cousin and I of Terry's chocolate orange, which immediately made her excited. And once they were done and decorated, we just had to eat them. And the unexpected had happened. They weren't like ordinary cupcakes. They were like brownies. And that just made everything better!

Makes 12

120g self raising flower
140g caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
40g unsalted butter
50g dark chocolate, melted
1 egg
125ml milk
1tsp orange extract

225g unsalted butter
500g icing sugar
50g dark chocolate, melted
1tsp orange extract

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/170C, and line a cupcake tray with cases.
Cream the butter and caster sugar, until pale and fluffy, and then add the egg and orange extract, and mix. 
(I tend to use a wooden spoon first, and then do the rest with a whisk, to get the mixture as fluffy as possible.)
Add about a third of the flour, mix, and then add a third of the milk, mixing again. Repeat the process until all the flour and milk has been used up. Don't forget to add the baking powder as well.
Then add the melted chocolate, and stir until thoroughly mixed in.
Fill the cupcake liners with the cake mix, and put into the oven, for 15-20 minutes.
Once done, take out of the oven, but leave the cakes in the tray for about 10 minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the icing.
Put the butter into a bowl, and sieve some of the icing sugar into the bowl. Cream the butter and the sugar, before adding some more icing sugar. Carry on until the icing sugar is gone.
Then add the melted chocolate and orange extract, and stir.

When the cakes are cool, pipe the buttercream onto the cakes.
Then all that's left to do is to make a cup of tea, and eat!

Monday, 13 August 2012

Let's Begin

Welcome! After weeks of perusing through blogs, reading other people's posts about baking and crafts that left me inspired for days, I finally gave in to the idea of setting up my own blog. I hope that you all enjoy reading my posts, although what I really want is to give you all possible ideas for your baking.

This blog won't just be about cakes and other baking goods, although that will most likely be the subject of the majority of these posts. I'll try to talk about other things important to my life, which means that I might (scratch that, I will) even talk about my favourite teas, although occasionally I manage to work up the courage to try a new blend, so I may end up giving recommendations as well. 

All that's left is to say that I hope you will enjoy my blog :)

Sophie x