22 January 2012

Cupcake Infographic

I saw this today on Twitter care of http://frugaldad.com/ and thought it was too good to not share!

Source: http://frugaldad.com This will be my last post in a while as I fly to Australia tomorrow, fingers crossed baking is a feasible past time there or my blog will be looking very quiet until mid-June! Byeeee

15 January 2012

Chocolate Eclairs

My friend Tom has been getting at me to make him some eclairs for quite a while now.  I offered to buy some from Waitrose today to delay his waiting time but he refused and insisted I had to make them myself, and soon because I'm going away in a week.  Luckily for Tom it's his birthday today AND  I've finished my dissertation so I've made him some birthday eclairs!

I used Raymond Blanc's recipe from his Kitchen secrets book that I found on the Guardian website - I watched the baking episode of the programme about 5 times when it was on last year and got a bit obsessed.  But this was my first time making choux pastry or eclairs.

These ones are beautiful, if slightly odd shaped, but lets just glaze over that.

As I'm practically perfect in every way, a la Mary Poppins, I never make mistakes, especially when I'm baking.  But if I had made a mistake, as unlikely as it is to happen, this might be what happened....

For the first batch, I may have added the egg before the pastry had cooled, thereby producing a pastry/scrambled egg combo.

For the second batch, the recipe confused me (in my defense it is written in a very basic way with all the important parts as footnotes, such as 'use 4 eggs' and the footnote reading 'you won't need them all'.  this is not easy to follow!!!) so I might have added too much egg, and then tried to compensate by adding extra flour.  This is what they look like when you bake them....

For the third batch they came out beautiful but there is a chance that I forgot Raymond's cheeky little tsp caster sugar until after I had added the flour.  But look, everybody makes mistakes.  I don't, but don't judge.

Filling them with cream was fun.  I broke a couple being over enthusiastic and tried to use my flavour injector to little success.

The chocolate icing isn't shiny like it should be because, I admit it, I did make a mistake here and I didn't use fondant icing like Raymond's recipe asks for.  Instead I used ready to roll stuff we had in the cupboard, I'm not sure its the right thing to use or not but it didn't look as pretty as it should but it did taste VERY SWEET, which I am a fan of.
ever hopeful wolfhound, who does actually like choux pastry

wrong thing to use?

Raymond Blanc's Eclairs
65ml water
65ml milk
55g unsalted butter
1 tsp caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
100g plain flour
3 medium eggs, beaten - Raymond's recipe asks for 4 then adds that you probably won't need them all to get the pastry to the right consistency, so I used 3 in my final batch 

- preheat the oven to 180 degress

1) Put the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a pan and bring to the boil.
2) Take off the heat and quickly stir in the flour until smooth - it makes a light dough
3) Return to the heat and stir for 1 minute more.
* LEAVE THE MIXTURE TO COOL BEFORE ADDING THE EGGS, scrambled egg doesn't work well in a pastry!
4) Add the beaten egg gradually and beat, always keeping an eye on the consistency: it should be of dropping consistency.  Rest for 5 minutes before using.
5) Using a piping bag and a 1.5cm nozzle, pipe 10 eclairs around 15cm long onto the baking trays and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.

To fill mine I used whipped double cream with 1 tbsp icing sugar added.  You could add melted dark chocolate, vanilla extract or coffee extract if you're feeling very fun.

Raymond Blanc's Glaze
200g fondant icing
12g cocoa powder
1-2 tsp water

1) Gently warm the fondant; to hot and it will lose it's glaze, possibly what happened to mine.
2) Stir in the cocoa powder and water until combined.
3) Dip each eclair in to cover the top; I had to use a knife to spread my topping as it was too thick to dip.

Other recipes use dark chocolate and heavy cream as a topping.

14 January 2012

Mixed nut, chocolate and jam loaf

I reached a point today where I went a bit weird.  By weird I mean, the words I was writing ceased to make sense, I got a bit twitchy (had been sitting down for hours) and I started to sing to the cat.  Shortly after this began, the cat left and I started to wonder about the state of my sanity.  Coming to the conclusion that I needed a break I took myself into the kitchen to make a mess under the guise of baking.

I have some mixed nuts in the cupboard, good sources of protein you see, and like the taste of baked nuts like in the flappy no j's I made the other day so wanted to use them in a tea loaf.  Then the weirdness came back and, as I was creaming the margarine and sugar, i decided adding jam would be fun.  I made a tea loaf from the Hummingbird Bakery book a while ago and all I really remember about it was that the jam tasted sweet and it fell apart in the tin.  So I added jam to mine, then added more when I'd mixed everything together because i panicked and it looked a bit dry.

The end result actually looks like a loaf and smells so good.  Unfortunately I had a fluff-brain moment when I set the timer and when it went off  I forgot how long I'd set it for so when I sliced the loaf it I discovered that it is slightly underbaked inside, MUST LEARN TO PAY MORE ATTENTION, expect if its my dissertation....

It does taste good though, and also like its good for you.  I love the taste of wholemeal flour so this is a winner for me, it can obviously be made with white flour but then you can't justify eating is as part of a 'healthy' diet, honestly.  The taste of the jam is very light, but is there, I did put some nutella on one slice because I couldn't resist it but the loaf itself does taste a bit nutella-esque because of the baked nuts and chocolate-combo.

Look at the nuts and seeds!! So healthy (looking).  Shame it's sort of collapsed a bit where I grabbed it so tight to slice it before it had cooled down properly

In my quest to avoid my dissertation I have adopted many tactics, varying from taking up knitting (no I haven't finished the jumper yet) to becoming obsessed with the gym.  As my dissertation is about social media I've justified spending a LOT of time on Twitter and came across the #teatimetreats challenge hosted by Kate at http://whatkatebaked.blogspot.com/ and Karen at http://lavenderandlovage.blogspot.com/ here http://lavenderandlovage.blogspot.com/2012/01/new-tea-time-treats-january-challenge.html

Nut, chocolate and jam tea loaf
75g soft light brown sugar
75g margarine
1 medium egg
2tbsp strawberry jam
225g wholemeal self-raising flour
75g mixed nuts, chopped up
probably 75g dark chocolate, chopped up roughly
I poured some seed mix from Tesco into mine because I was overexcited, just to see what it was like

- grease and line a 1lb loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180

1) Cream the butter, sugar and jam.
2) Eat some jam
3) Beat in the egg
4) Sitr in the flour and accessories
5) Eat some jam and chocolate
6) Pour into the tin and bake for longer than 30 minutes, check after 30 and guess, but do remember how long it's been in BEFORE you check it.
7) Eat it and feel virtuous
8) Wonder if you did really have time to go to the gym today and maybe you should be doing work instead of baking and blogging about it.
9) Decide it's fine, but in future, there's no need to write quite so much.....

12 January 2012

Flappy J's masqueraded as health food

As I have 10 days till I leave the chilly UK and fly to Australia, where I assume I will be wearing slightly fewer layers of clothing, I've been trying (and failing) to be healthier in my diet.  And in-line with this, I have given my flappy j's a makeover of sorts to try and justify enjoying the odd 4 as a snack, every day, twice a day.

The prunes and cheeky agave nectar in the bars make them super sweet but in a feels-good-for-you-sort-of-way, thanks very much.  They're the sort of thing you'd find in the healthy bit of a good supermarket!  But they are a bit crumbly, they did harden when I let them cool though, I'm just impatient and want to try things straight away.

I have spent some time googling 'low sugar flapjacks' instead of writing my literature review today, and the recipe I tried came from here, Delicious Magazine's website.  I didn't bother weighing anything I used but here is a vague idea of what I did to create these little beauties.

5oz some variety of spread
maybe 150g prunes (I didn't have any dates)
probably 2 tbsp apple juice
large squeeze of agave nectar
lots of oats, pour them in until it looks like there are enough
some seeds etc
mixed nuts chopped up

- grease and line a 7" square tray and preheat the oven to 180 degrees

1) melt the butter and agave nectar together
2) whizz the prunes and apple juice in a food processor - check the prunes have had their stones removed before you whizz them because the processor doesn't like it, I'm vague about whether mine had stones in or not
3) mix everything together and press into the tin
4) bake for 20 minutes until not burnt.

p.s. suggestions for a better name, somehow including 'flappy' are welcome

2 January 2012

The most beautiful gingerbread house ever. FACT

Last year I built the most ridiculous gingerbread house from a pack we had in the house.  I was supposed to make it look 'Christmassy' but instead managed to make it look like a hyperactive child had just thrown sweets at it, never mind the evil gingerbread snowman I made!  In the end, it looked horrific, mum got cross that I'd wasted it and the gingerbread itself wasn't even that tasty.

So this year I learnt my lesson and made one from scratch!  Well, I baked the gingerbread, my sister did the construction work whilst i ate icing.....and we decorated it together (my roof side was obviously better than hers, and the crazy paving was her idea...none of that kooky nonsense at my house!).

note the ridiculous patio doors and crazy paving that my sister insisted it needed.  I disagree, but I don't like licorice so I couldn't eat the doors.  Rest assured, the dolly mixture paving is long gone

By late Christmas day Geoff and I decided we could definitely manage to find space to eat house so he went for it with a large knife.....my idea was just to smash it but he wouldn't let.

10 days later the house is still standing, but in a very sorry state.  The roof was easily the best part.

The recipe came from Good to Know here http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/recipes/531199/festive-gingerbread-house, I'm still working so I won't write it here too.

1 January 2012

1 Million Gingerbread Biscuits.....

Gingerbread is arguably an all year round dietary requirement, and Christmas can only be made better by gingery goodness in many baked forms (my house was a BEAUT, post to follow) so I opted for easy-peasy gingerbread biscuits in what I thought were festive shapes.

I must admit that I got some ideas from Rosie Alyea's blog  (http://bit.ly/uBmtzO)  for icing my biscuits and for the little house shapes... they looked so cute when she used them as cake toppings!!

I made some angels and gave them little dark chocolate or icing dresses to wear.

..some houses...

...and some festive stars!

Be-Ro Gingerbread Recipe (makes 16 gingerbread people and 1 million little biscuits)
300g self-raising flour
3 tsp ground ginger
100g caster sugar
50g butter/margarine
3 tbsp golden syrup + extra to eat when no-ones looking
4 tbsp milk

+ decorations/icing/chocolate

1) Heat oven to 160 degrees and grease and line a baking tray.
2) Warm the sugar, butter and syrup in a pan till well mixed and add to the dry ingredients.
3) Add milk and mix to a firm consistency.
4) Tip out onto a floured surface and knead the dough well; roll out to desired thickness and cut into shapes.
5) Place on a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden; when you first take them out they will be soft but they harden as they cool .
6) Once cooled, decorate and have fun.

Christmas Cupcakes

Christmas this year has been so busy for me with my dissertation due in early January so I've only just got round to posting about my festive baking a week later!  Needless to say, most of my produce is long gone but the taste for it is hanging around and hampering my traditional new year diet resolutions.....

At my mother's request, I produced a second batch of cupcakes to accompany the ginger and milk chocolate cakes I baked for our builders on the 23rd December.  She was after something a little different, but with a "Christmas twist" so after lengthy discussion (I was really avoiding working) and maybe a few spats because I hate zesting fruit, we settled on a spicy, cinnamony sponge with orange swiss meringue buttercream.

cinnamon cupcakes, christmas cupcakes

Our house has been in total uproar this year with building work but our new room was ready just in-time for Christmas and is the most festive looking room in the house, so against my mother's wishes, my baked goods made their way into the living room for their photo to be taken because its just so nice, look!

recipe to follow when I've written more of my dissertation than my blog.....