Friday, 30 September 2011

September Bake It! - Jam Roly Poly

September sees a welcome return of the Bake It! Club - hosted by Amy over at Cooking, Cakes and Children

This month there was a theme of school dinners, but as soon as I saw the suggested recipe I knew I had to make it! It was 'proper' jam roly poly as my Mum would call it - her all-time favourite! (School dinners must have gone down the pan since she was at school, we never had anything so advanced, it was tray baked sponges and congealed custard for us... although weirdly I did quite enjoy it).

Due to an innate fear of making a roulade I was a bit apprehensive about the rolling element, plus I've not really done must in the way of pastry yet so this was a definite challenge! However I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was to make. I had a few jam issues - when I spread it out I thought it looked stingy but then when I rolled it up it was spilling out and I had to mop some of it up. Looking back at Amy's now I think mine is definitely lacking in jam, maybe I was rolling it too tight?

Anyway, despite me skimping on the jam, it was quite nice and I'd definitely make this again to tweak the bits I didn't get quite right. Most importantly though, Mum enjoyed it and took the rest home to have the next day. Apologies for the slightly rubbishy pictures, the light wasn't great and in most of the ones we took there was the lovely backdrop of junk on the kitchen table! We were rushing though as we wanted to eat it while it was still warm!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Double chocolate loaf cake

I'm a bit obsessed with loaf cakes at the moment, since I finally got a loaf tin I just seem to see lots of lovely recipes, even though this is actually only the second one I've done.

 I made this because Mike was having to go to a work meeting that he was dreading and I thought I would make him something insanely chocolately to cheer him up for when he got back. After a quick peruse on the trusty BBC Good Food website I found a recipe for a Double Chocolate Loaf Cake that I thought would fit the bill perfectly.

It was pretty simple to make - yes yes, despite the recipe commanding me to use an electric mixer I shunned this and went for the usual wooden spoon! This took what seemed like hours to bake (although hours is probably actually accurate) - after the allotted time it seemed barely cooked and I was thinking it was just going to be Brownie Gate all over again, but after leaving it in for an age the skewer test seemed acceptable.

Unfortunately, due to all this I was too annoyed to faff about with drizzling melted chocolate on it like the recipe picture, so I just melted some milk chocolate, smeared it all over the top and sprinkled with chocolate drops.

Couldn't wait for the chocolate to melt!

Well, it was insanely chocolatey I was after and this certainly delivered! It's more like quadruple chocolate cake and very heavy going! However if it's a simple chocolate loaf you need this is a safe bet, just make sure you have got the time and patience to put your life on hold while it bakes!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Toblerone Cupcakes

Huge thanks to everyone who shared their brownie tips/recipes with me in response to my last post (please keep 'em coming!) - I will definitely give them another go at some point, and now I have lots more recipes to try.

This is another bake that I have the blogosphere to thank for. I saw this recipe for Toblerone Cupcakes on the Caked Crusader's blog a few months ago and immediately earmarked it for Mike's Dad's birthday as he is a Toblerone fiend!

These little cakes went down a storm with Mike's Dad, and I would definitely recommend the ganache in particular for other cupcakes aswell! It took a fair bit of whisking (I very nearly gave up) but it was well worth the wait - it was so light, but at the same time full of that rich chocolately goodness.

Thank you Caked Crusader! Be sure to check out the Caked Crusader for yourself for this recipe and other beauts - the recent cheesecake spectacular will probably be making it's way onto this blog in future too!

I'm actually doubly proud of these because they are the first things I have made solely using my mixture! I was given the lovely present of an all-singing, all-dancing Kenwood food processor for Christmas but it's been an increasing source of amusement/annoyance to some that I am still beating my cakes by hand... to be honest I will probably still do most of them by hand, it's probably one of the parts of baking I love the most! Somehow it doesn't feel the same just shoving everything into a bowl and twisting a dial. I definitely couldn't be without it now though as there are so many recipes I couldn't do otherwise (plus I'm planning on going soup crazy this winter so the blender is going to have its work cut out!).

So am I alone in my retro kitchen habits, or is there anybody else out there who enjoys a good bit of beating?!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Best ever brownies....?

I have decided that brownies are my nemesis. For a start, I don't even really like them that much! But also, I'm just not really comfortable baking things that I can't use the trusty skewer test on. Undercooked food is one of my issues - I'm sure that nobody wants to eat things that aren't cooked properly, but I can get a bit unhinged about it. I think most of my cakes end up being overdone because I have to blast them a bit longer "just to be safe..."

So you can see why something containing eggs that is actually meant to be a bit squidgy could be a bit of a problem for me. But I had some eggs that needed using and my cousin coming to stay and I thought that brownies would be the perfect thing to have in a tin to be offered alongside cups of tea.

I picked a 'best ever brownies' recipe from a BBC Good Food book, thinking, well they're the best ever, so they've got to be good right?

200g butter
200g plain chocolate
175g dark muscovado sugar
140g caster sugar
4 eggs
50g ground almonds
50g plain flour

1. Preheat oven to 180c, and grease/line a 20cm/8in square tin.
2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a pan and then stir in the sugar.
3. Leave to cool for 5 mins, then stir in the eggs until even. Stir in the almonds and flour then pour into the tin.
4. Bake for 30-35 mins or until just cooked through in the middle.

Erm, I'm sorry, but no. Just cooked through in the middle? What does that even mean? How are you meant to know? After 30-35 mins, it was still wobbling all over the place and so I hurled it back in, red mist descending, still none the wiser about how long I was meant to give it. After a very long while I just annoyed and just took them out, thinking they weren't going to get eaten anyway so I might aswell just save myself the electric bill. I left them to cool and then tried to cut them into nice perfect squares like the picture in the book, but they were just so squidgy I thought all hope must be lost. Along with my temper.

So I let my anger loose on the brownies and had a bit of a stab away at them, venting my frustrations and thinking I might aswell get something out of it at least...

...until Mike dared to try a bit (with me half cringing at the thought of him being ill and half in awe at his bravery) and declared them "actually quite nice". And then I felt a bit stupid, so we managed to salvage some half decent looking ones from around the edges.

They didn't look great, so we made brownie sundae desserts out of them with ice cream, marshmallows and chocolate sauce and they actually were quite nice! They were quite squidgy and fudgy in the middle and stuck to your teeth a bit, but they were OK. And nobody died from food poisoning, which is always a good thing.

So I'm not sure if I'll be making brownies again because I don't think I can handle the stress. So can anyone tell me, what a perfectly cooked brownie is meant to look like? And if you have a failsafe brownie recipe, I would love to hear it, try and tempt me out of brownie retirement!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Cupcake Decorating!

Way back when in July, I headed up to Liverpool with Nicola and Bec to learn how to decorate cupcakes. This was through a bargain Groupon offer with Create, which was another birthday present from my lovely boyfriend (although I am sure he has some ulterior motive for sending me on all these cake courses... hmm wonder what it could be?!).

After a brief panic, we found the Cupcake Workshop tucked away among the back streets of Liverpool, a little bit of cake heaven beautifully decorated with gorgeous crockery, bunting and lots of PINK! Our instructor, Gill was friendly and approachable and not to mention knowledgeable about all things cupcakes! She shared her expertise on how to bake the perfect cupcake before some tutorials on sugarpaste including stamping out decorations, making bows and flowers, and then let us loose with her equipment. Everything was provided for us including all the tools, cutters, and colours of sugarpaste and glitter that you could possible need.

After a quick break for a cup of tea and a yummy homemade cake, we were shown various different techniques on icing cupcakes with buttercream. This was the bit I was most looking forward to as I am not the best at this (and am known for throwing a strop when Mike wafts in and effortlessly pipes a perfect buttercream swirl!). Sounds really obvious but I hadn't even thought to pipe a mini swirl in the middle as a base to get the height on the main swirl.

Rose style piping

Then came the really fun part! We were given 12 cupcakes of our own to decorate using our new piping skills and sugarpaste creations, all boxed up in pretty cupcake boxes. We were also given some fillings and shown how to get these into the middle of the cakes. Again Gill and her sidekick Rachel were so accommodating, making sure that everyone got the colours and equipment they wanted so we could be as creative as we wanted. I stuck with the plain buttercream and felt very boring once I saw what everyone else had done! My whole box of creations is at the top of the post, but I think these were my favourite ones:

I really would recommend this course to anyone interested in baking and cake decorating - even if you already know what you're doing, it's great to spend an afternoon playing around with sugarpaste and creating your cupcakes and I'd love to do another one myself. Check out Nicola's blog about the day aswell which includes lots of photos of the venue itself, and if you're interested, visit the Create website to find out more about Gill's courses.

Since the course I've felt a lot more confident with decorating my cakes, here are a couple of batches I've done recently:
Cupcakes for Mike to take to work

Cupcakes for Mike's Mum's birthday buffet

Can't wait to get my hands on some sugarpaste and practice more of my new skills! Thanks Gill!
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