Sunday, 29 June 2014

Sunday's shortbread

I've never made shortbread before - how can this be?  I fancied baking, but it's so warm that I didn't want to spend long in the kitchen and do anything too fancy or complicated, but still wanted to try something I piled through my recipe books and plucked out Mary Berry's shortbread recipe, although am sure they're all pretty much the same?  

I did ponder adding different ingredients to spice it up a bit, but then deicded to go for the basic shortbread first, get that right, and then add my own twists.

So...mixed up all the ingredients (I got the recipe from her book, but it's the same as the

100 g plain flour
50 g caster sugar
100 g butter
50 g semolina

blend it all together by hand, and then roll out into a round.  I took a stab and just rolled it a bit and then patted the general roundness into a more speicifc roundness and was quite pleased that it came out as 7 inches - good guess!

I marked my 8 slices, and did the fork jabs and crimping and then chilled in the fridge.  I didn't cover it, just left it on the baking tray.  Once it was firm, I baked in the oven for about 30 mins, and then as soon as it was baked I sprinkled some more sugar on and marked the slices again.

I left it to cool for a bit, but couldn't resist having a slice myself with a cuppa.  Note to self - shortbread it nicer once it's been left a while - so found it tasted much better after resting.

I tried it out on a couple of friends, one of whom is Scottish, and had nothing but compliments.  Either they're being very kind, or it was quite successful!  I found it a bit soft in the middle, but apparently that's good.  So there we go :)

Next time, I want to try adding different things. I've heard of lavender in shortbread, but am not sure about that myself. I might try cherry and vanilla, and may be white choc and dried raspberries?

I think I need to use a sieve for sprinkling the sugar as well, as I just pinched it over, and that didn't come out looking very good.

The whole reason for making the shortbread was to use up some strawberries I'd bought, but I'm not quite sure what I was thinking, may be 2 shortbread rounds, with strawberries and cream in the middle might work.  Shame the first round didn't last very long :/ I might try 

Finished shortbread (with my spice rack in the background!):

Cheeky cherry

After a week away in sunny London with friends, and a few days at home as well )oh, and a few days at a sunny conference before all that), I decided I wanted to do a bit of cake baking - I was missing it.

I wanted to make quite a hefty cake, as my dad was coming up to help in the garden for a few days, and a friend was popping around to help him - so they needed to keep their strength up.  I also wanted to take some cake in for some new work colleagues that I'd been nattering to at said conference, as they were really interested in the blog and my cake baking (probably more the cake baking), but after all the talk I thought I should walk the walk (or something like that?) and bake them a cake!

So, something a bit different, and a recipe from a friend's mum (I'd already had her cake, so had something to live up to), but went for a toffee-cherry upside down cake.  Basically lots of almonds, ground almonds and cherries. Lovely lovely!

I've made upside down cake with a friend before, but never ventured into doing it myself. So I merrily lined the cake tin, which was a bit big. How do I have so many tins, and none ever the right size? Am sure it's the same in most kitchens. I'm not very good at the lining bit, and I do always try and rush it, but I figured this was going to be pretty crucial to getting the upside down cake out, so I did measure and cut out neatly and properly.

I mixed together all the ingredients, pretty standard sponge mix, but with ground almonds as well, and then chopped up all the cherries to place the at bottom on the tin.  I just scattered the whole almonds around the tin, but on reflection I think I could have done with toasting them lightly first, and also cutting them in half.  I was only following the instructions, but certainly something I'll try differently next time - and as it was cherry and yummy - there will definitely be a next time!

Then I heated up some butter and sugar (there may have been something else in there, I can't remember now), and poured this over the cherries and almonds.  I didn't seem to have enough of this mix to spread and cover all the ingredients at the bottom, so again, something I might make more of, or...use a smaller tin and have a deeper cake?

Then I added the main cake mix and popped in the oven.  It was a slow bake on a lower heat, but seemed to cook quite happily within the time needed, I don't think I'd have given it any longer to be honest (I don't have the recipe in front of me, otherwise I would try and be a bit more specific, sorry).

So the end result, well, the cake didn't last long and I had happy people wanting more - so a good result.  It was very yummy and light, and a bit sticky. Only concern, the almonds just didn't feel at all cooked, bit odd really.  Here's some pics of finished piece.  Again, trying out the photography skills here:

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Cupcake swirls

I went off to London a couple of weeks ago, the plan was to attend an experience day with Eric Lanlard - learning to decorate cupcakes with the aware winning master patissier, which was a present from my brother. However, too good to be true, just as I was leaving for a three-day conference, (the plan was to travel down to London straight from the conference), I got an email to say the day I'd booked for had been cancelled due to low numbers. Arghh! Hopefully I will be able to rebook it again soon, as I've been looking forward to it for 6 months, and crikey I need help with my cake decorating!

Anyway, before I headed off to London, I thought I would be a swotty student, and attempted to make some cupcakes and try out my decorating skills - so that I could ask questions based on experience and hopefully learn something! 

So, the experiment....I made up half a batch or raspberry cupcakes, and half a batch of blueberry cupcakes.  I then mixed up some butter and mascapone, then split the mix in half again to have half blueberry and half raspberry.

The mascapone and butter mix - taken directly from a cupcake magazine recipe - seemed quite sloppy, so I stuck it in the fridge for a bit, then once firmed, I mixed in the fruit.  However, as you can see from the pictures below, the topping seemed to curdle a bit - it still tasted very yummy (I really really ate far too much) but runng and slightly wishy washing looking.  Not sure where I went wrong - hence the idea of being able to quiz Eric.  Ahh well, I shall save my questions up.

Trying to be clever (this bit worked well) I split the mixture, but placed both in the piping bag, to produce a marble swirly effect.  Yay, I got something right....once I'd finished icing all the cupcakes, I then finished off the last of the topping straight from the icing bag. This is where I accidentally ate too much of it, seems to bag holds a lot more than I realised.  I was feeling a tad sick!  oops!

The cupcakes - managed to spill the mix onto the paper cases, so looking a bit messy - need to up my game a bit there...

Close up of the buttercream type topping - you can see the wrinkly effect in the piping, is this curdling? I'm not sure, but it wasn't the effect I was after.

And here's my trying out my other love - photography.  Oh well, I think I'm better at food photography than cake decorating today!

Ooh and finally, here's my friend at work enjoying one of the cupcakes! Or at least she said she was enjoying it!