Thursday, 29 September 2011

Eric Lanlard Cupcake Masterclass

Yesterday was my birthday and as a treat I had the day off work and booked on an Eric Lanlard Cupcake Masterclass with my friend and mum. We didn’t really know what to expect, but turned up early at Cake Boys so we could have some lunch before hand. The food was tasty and good value and as it was a lovely sunny day we sat outside to make the most of the last few days of warmth.

The course is actually run by Eric. He started by doing a quick demonstration of how to make decorations for the tops of our cupcakes using silicone mould and petal paste using moulds similar to the photo below and then how to paint and decorate them with edible food colouring and edible glitter.

There were lots of moulds to choose from. Once we had made 12 each and they were fairly dry we painted and decorated.

Eric then produced huge bowls of frosting and boxes of cupcakes for us all to decorate and take home. The frosting was a vanilla cream cheese frosting and we had a choice of colours, white, pale pink and pale green. He then showed us three methods to pipe the frosting onto the cakes and topped with the decorations made at the start.

We also did some of the cakes with half pink and half green icing in the bag to get a two tone effect.

Here are the cakes that Eric made:

Here is my slightly less professional attempts!

We got to take home our Cake Boy aprons and Eric kindly signed a copy of his recipe book that I had been given for my birthday.

All in all we had the most fabulous day and I would recommend to anyone who is interested in baking and cupcakes.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Daring Bakers - Croissants

I have been taking part in the Daring Bakers ( for about 6 months now. For anyone who doesn’t know about it the basic idea is that on the 1st of every month a recipe is posted on the website by someone who has selected to host the challenge. Lots of bloggers and non-bloggers from around the world all make the same recipe, sharing their achievements and woes! On the 27th of the month we all reveal the results. The recipes are normally quite challenging and often require a new skill.

I’ve been really looking forward to writing this post and have been patiently waiting until the 27th as this month the challenge was to make croissants. Whilst the recipe wasn’t particularly difficult it does take a very long time due to the number of rises necessary!

Sarah a non-blogging member of the Daring Bakers hosted this months challenge and her instructions were extremely detailed and she had taken the time to take great photos so it was easy to see step by step what to do.

I decided to tackle this challenge over a weekend due to the time needed to allow the dough to rise and also that the outcome was well suited to a lazy Sunday morning breakfast
I made the dough on the Friday night, I used all organic ingredients, including a strong white bread flour from Doves Farm. I was worried it was a little too sticky but once kneaded and after the first rise it was much smoother. After allowing it to rise over night on Saturday I rolled out the dough and added the butter. In future I think I would put the butter on the top 2 thirds of the dough as my normal puff pastry recipe does as only putting it on the top half meant there was a bit of pastry which didn't have a butter 'sandwich' (unless I misunderstood the directions). The second rise happened whilst I was out at a local restaurant having dinner and when I came back I rolled out the dough, and did the turning and folding. I actually added in another stage and did this again after letting it rest for about 1 hour. Then when I got up in the morning I did the final stage, rolled out the dough and shaped the dough into crescents. Following the advice on the forums I egg washed them all twice. I only made 4 croissants as I'm on a bit of a health kick at the moment and didn’t want to be tempted to eat more than one. The rest of the dough is in the freezer for croissants on another Sunday morning!

I was really pleased with the outcome. They were lovely shiny with a perfect flaky pastry shell. The inside was light and fluffy and a great texture. For me there was a little too much salt, but I tend to like less salt than most. I served them with some home grown raspberries for a delicious Sunday breakfast!

Thanks to Sarah for a great challenge!

Here are my croissants rising

Here are the raspberries from my parents garden

Here are the croissants cooling

And here is the finished result!

The Recipe came from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two. Julia Child and Simone Beck see the detail below. If anyone wants a copy of all of the photos Sarah took please let me know

Servings: 12 croissants
¼ oz (7 gm) of fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoon (6¼ ml/4 gm) of dry-active yeast (about ½ sachet)
3 tablespoons (45 ml) warm water (less than 100°F/38°C)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4½ gm) sugar
1 ¾ cups (225 gm/½ lb) of strong plain flour (I used Polish all-purpose flour, which is 13% protein)
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
1½ teaspoon (7½ ml/9 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml/¼ pint) milk (I am not sure if the fat content matters. I used 2%)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) tasteless oil (I used generic vegetable oil)
½ cup (120 ml/1 stick/115 gm/¼ lb) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg, for egg wash
1. Mix the yeast, warm water, and first teaspoon of sugar in a small bowl. Leave aside for the yeast and sugar to dissolve and the yeast to foam up a little.
2. Measure out the other ingredients
3. Heat the milk until tepid (either in the microwave or a saucepan), and dissolve in the salt and remaining sugar
4. Place the flour in a large bowl.
5. Add the oil, yeast mixture, and milk mixture to the flour
6. Mix all the ingredients together using the rubber spatula, just until all the flour is incorporated
7. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and let it rest a minute while you wash out the bowl
8. Knead the dough eight to ten times only. The best way is as Julia Child does it in the video (see below). It’s a little difficult to explain, but essentially involves smacking the dough on the counter (lots of fun if you are mad at someone) and removing it from the counter using the pastry scraper.
9. Place the dough back in the bowl, and place the bowl in the plastic bag (Photos 1 & 2)
10. Leave the bowl at approximately 75°F/24°C for three hours, or until the dough has tripled in size. (Photo 3)
11. After the dough has tripled in size, remove it gently from the bowl, pulling it away from the sides of the bowl with your fingertips. (Photo 4)
12. Place the dough on a lightly floured board or countertop, and use your hands to press it out into a rectangle about 8 by 12 inches (20cm by 30cm). (Photo 5)
13. Fold the dough rectangle in three, like a letter (fold the top third down, and then the bottom third up) (Photos 6 & 7)
14. Place the dough letter back in the bowl, and the bowl back in the plastic bag. (Photo 8)
15. Leave the dough to rise for another 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size. This second rise can be done overnight in the fridge (Photo 9)
16. Place the double-risen dough onto a plate and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the plate in the fridge while you prepare the butter. (Photo 10)
17. Once the dough has doubled, it’s time to incorporate the butter
18. Place the block of chilled butter on a chopping board.
19. Using the rolling pin, beat the butter down a little, till it is quite flat. (Photo 11)
20. Use the heel of your hand to continue to spread the butter until it is smooth. You want the butter to stay cool, but spread easily.
21. Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured board or counter. Let it rest for a minute or two. (Photo 12)
22. Spread the dough using your hands into a rectangle about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). (Photo 13)
23. Remove the butter from the board, and place it on the top half of the dough rectangle (Photos 14 & 15)
24. Spread the butter all across the top two-thirds of the dough rectangle, but keep it ¼ inch (6 mm) across from all the edges. (Photo 16)
25. Fold the top third of the dough down, and the bottom third of the dough up. (Photos 17 & 18)
26. Turn the dough package 90 degrees, so that the top flap is to your right (like a book). (Photo 19)
27. Roll out the dough package (gently, so you don’t push the butter out of the dough) until it is again about 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm). (Photo 20)
28. Again, fold the top third down and the bottom third up. (Photos 21 & 22)
29. Wrap the dough package in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 2 hours. (Photo 23)
30. After two hours have passed, take the dough out of the fridge and place it again on the lightly floured board or counter.
31. Tap the dough with the rolling pin, to deflate it a little
32. Let the dough rest for 8 to 10 minutes
33. Roll the dough package out till it is 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
34. Fold in three, as before
35. Turn 90 degrees, and roll out again to 14 by 8 inches (35 cm by 20 cm).
36. Fold in three for the last time, wrap in plastic, and return the dough package to the fridge for two more hours (or overnight, with something heavy on top to stop it from rising)
37. It’s now time to cut the dough and shape the croissants
38. First, lightly butter your baking sheet so that it is ready
39. Take the dough out of the fridge and let it rest for ten minutes on the lightly floured board or counter
40. Roll the dough out into a 20 by 5 inch rectangle (51 cm by 12½ cm). (Photo 24)
41. Cut the dough into two rectangles (each 10 by 5 inches (25½ cm by 12½ cm)) (Photo 24)
42. Place one of the rectangles in the fridge, to keep the butter cold
43. Roll the second rectangle out until it is 15 by 5 inches (38 cm by 12½ cm).
44. Cut the rectangle into three squares (each 5 by 5 inches (12½ cm by 12½ cm))
45. Place two of the squares in the fridge
46. The remaining square may have shrunk up a little bit in the meantime. Roll it out again till it is nearly square
47. Cut the square diagonally into two triangles. (Photo 25)
48. Stretch the triangle out a little, so it is not a right-angle triangle, but more of an isosceles. (Photo 26)
49. Starting at the wide end, roll the triangle up towards the point, and curve into a crescent shape. (Photo 27)
50. Place the unbaked croissant on the baking sheet
51. Repeat the process with the remaining squares of dough, creating 12 croissants in total.
52. Leave the tray of croissants, covered lightly with plastic wrap, to rise for 1 hour
53. Preheat the oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
54. Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water
55. Spread the egg wash across the tops of the croissants. (Photo 28)
56. Put the croissants in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the tops are browned nicely
57. Take the croissants out of the oven, and place them on a rack to cool for 10 minutes before serving

Sunday, 25 September 2011

7 days 7 posts

I decided a week ago that I'd write a post everyday for a week. I was worried I'd find it difficult to find something to write about every day, but thought the discipline would be good for me!

It was actually easier than I expected and I wrote about everything from blackberry and apple muffins to vegetable curry, turkey chilli and cupcakes. It's amazing to look back and realise how much I've actually made this week, especially as there are dinners I didn't write about.

No recipes for today but I'll be back at some point next week with more recipes.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Hen Party Cake

This weekend was my cousins hen party (bachelorette party) We were going to a spa hotel in Somerset and I was asked to bring along a cake for the guests to eat when they came out of their treatments. I decided to try something new (a bit risky when it's for an occasion!) and made a chocolate and salted caramel layer cake.

I started by making two 8" chocolate sponges, beating 8oz caster sugar with 8oz butter until it was smooth and creamy and gradually added 4 beaten eggs and 4oz ground almonds and 4oz of sponge self raising flour. I put half in each 8" cake tin and baked at 190C for about 20 mins.

I then made two 8" caramel sponges. I'd already decided I wanted to put some dulce de leche into the mixture but I'd never tried baking with it so decided to rely on good old google and found a recipe on the Pink Whisks' blog here I followed it exactly apart from adding about 1/2 tsp of salt.

Once both of the cakes were cool I put one caramel one to one side and then sandwiched the other caramel between the two chocolate ones using Dulce de Leche with some added salt and then topped with possibly the lightest chocolate frosting I have ever tasted! The recipe can be found here

I forgot to take a photo before the cake was cut but here's one of a slice so at least got one showing the different layers!

Overall the experiment was a success and everyone was very complimentary. Next time I'd put more caramel between the layers.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Turkey Chilli

I have to admit turkey isn't my favourite but in this dish it really is quite good and obviously far healthier than a beef chilli.

I started by frying two diced onions in a little oil and a diced turkey breast, added one diced green pepper, 2 crushed cloves of garlic and about 8 diced mushrooms and continued to cook until they were starting to turn golden. I then added a finely chopped chilli, 1 tsp cumin power and seasoning and stirred well. After a few minutes I added a couple of tablespoons of tomato purée and a tin of tomatoes and then left it to bubble away for about 30 mins until it was quite thick.

I served it with corn on the cob

And made a quick guacamole (mashed an avocado with a little crushed garlic, chilli, lemon juice and seasoning), a tomato salsa (finely diced tomato with mint, a little crushed garlic and seasoning), a cucumber yoghurt (roughly diced cucumber in Greek yoghurt with mint and seasoning) and some Greek yoghurt.

A quick, healthy but tasty meal!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Autumnal Soups

I intended on posting this last night in order to keep up with my aim of writing a post everyday for a week but unfortunately ran out of time.

I always love soups, especially for lunch, but as the weather starts to turn autumnal soups come into their own. Warming and filling they are decidedly satisfying.

I made three batches of soup which I have optioned up and put in the freezer to take out for lunches either at work or home.

As most of my previous posts I'm afraid I haven't got a 'proper' recipe'. I have a tendency when cooking to cook by tasting as I go and experimenting with flavours I know complement each other, borrowing from memories of recipes I may have followed at some point in the past.

The first soup I made was a Spiced Pumpkin Soup with Mint Yoghurt. I started by peeling and roasting a pumpkin with 2 onions and 3 cloves of garlic (I know this sounds a lot but once roasted it takes on a lovely sweet and mellow flavour). I then added this to a large pan with some homemade chicken stock I had in the freezer, some ground chilli, cumin, corrinader, turmeric and garam masala (which I had dry fried for a few seconds first) and seasoned it well. I left it simmering for about 30 mins and the. cooled slightly before blending it until smooth. Taste to check the seasoning and add more if needed.

It's great served with a generous blob of mint yoghurt (I use Greek yoghurt mixed with chopped mint and seasoning).

A couple if years ago I went on a wonderful cooking course in a farmhouse in the hills just north of Rome, Italy

Twice daily the cook came down from the village to teach us to cook and this soup is one of the recipes I've made many times since. The original had a small potato in it added at the beginning and some risotto rice added about 15 mins before the end so feel free to revert to the original. The result is a very thick, filling soup so could even be eaten as a light dinner.

You start by frying a diced carrot, onion, celery tops and a clove of garlic in a pan. Once slightly browned and softened add a cup of dried green lentils, about 5 diced cherry tomatoes, seasoning and about a litre of stock. Simmer for about 45 mins, checking if more liquid is needed every so often. It should be thick by the end but you don't want it to dry out or burn on the bottom of the pan. About 5 mins before the end add another 5 diced cherry tomatoes and a handful of chopped parsley. Check the seasoning and serve.

The final soup I made was a Chicken, Vegetable and Barley soup. I love barley anyway and think it's a wonderful grain but in something like this simple soup it comes into it's own.

I started by sautéing finely diced carrot, onion and celery as a base (the same idea as an Italian sofritto) I then added a crushed garlic clove, a cup of barley, seasoning a handful of shredded roast chicken (don't worry you really don't need a lot) and about a litre of brown chicken stock (this is made by taking the carcass from a roast chicken and putting it back in the own until the bones and any remaining chicken are quite brown. The carcass is then boiled in plenty of water for an hour or so to make a very tasty stock. You can also add veg to the stock pot but on this occasion I didn't). Cook this for about 45 mins until the barley is soft. Check every so often that there is enough liquid and add more water if necessary. About 5 mins before the end add a handful of chopped parsley.

Sorry for the less than pretty serving bowl but this was ready to go into the freezer when I thought to take a photo!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Apple and Blackberry Jam

This morning before work I decided to make some jam. Some of the blackberries and apples I picked at the weekend hadn't made their way into my freezer yet and I wanted to use them before they went off. It's so simple to make jam and much tastier than jam from the supermarket. I tend to add apple to any jam I make as if you ate buying the fruit it is cheaper and it's also higher in pectin so helps the jam to set. This jam has 2 cups of blackberries to 1 cup of peeled diced apple and 1 cup of jam sugar (you could also use granulated sugar and some pectin) plus a squeeze of lemon juice.

I make my jam in my bread maker as its so easy. You just chuck it all in and leave it for about 90 mins, but it is equally possible to do it in a pan. Once completed put the jam into sterilised jars.

Here is the finished article. Perfect with homemade bread.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Guest baker - Cupcake Heaven!

For my 10th ever post I thought I would write about a guest baker to Sarah's kitchen. My sister Helen took over the kitchen to make some cupcakes and I might be a little bias but I think they are pretty amazing.

The first cupcakes she made were for a friends birthday. They vanilla cupcakes but decorated in the style of ombré using plenty of red food dye, the theme of the party (for anyone who doesn't know ombré hair is very fashionable at the moment and basically means a graduation of colour so perhaps dark roots fading to blonde ends). The icing was piped using a Wilton 2D nozzle from the centre outward. For anyone who wants icing tips You Tube has loads of how to videos.

The recipe was just a simple sponge and butter icing but if anyone wants it let me know.

She then moved on to make two sets of cupcakes for an afternoon tea and to take to work with her.

The first was again a vanilla cupcake but this time she removed some of the centre of the sponge and hid a whole strawberry under the icing and decorated it with edible glitter and edible lustre.

Finally she made a dense chocolate sponge using hound almonds for extra moisture and decorated them with chocolate ganache.

Again both of these were piped using the Wilton 2D nozzle.

All in all pretty successful I would say :)

Monday, 19 September 2011

Healthy Curry

I've decided to try and write a new post everyday for a week, so this is day two of seven. I'm on a bit of a health kick at the moment and decided I fancied a curry so adapted a Madhur Jaffrey recipe.

I started by dry roasting the spices (i.e. in a pan with no oil). I used 1 tsp cumin seeds and 2tsp coriander seeds. Removed from the pan and ground them to a power and added 1tsp turmeric and 1tsp of garam masala, 2tsp of mustard seeds, about 10 whole cardamom, 10 cloves and a couple of inches of cinnamon stick (just watch out for the whole spices as you're eating it) and fried for a little longer before removing them from the pan. In a food processor whiz an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, a couple of inches of ginger and a chilli into a paste. Put the paste in the frying pan (again with no oil) and cook until a little browned. Add the spice mixture, your choice of veg to the pan along with some water and half a tin of tomatoes. Cook the mixture for about 40 mins. I used mushrooms, cauliflower, green beans, onion and broccoli. You could also add chicken.

I served it with a simple raita and a hot cabbage and carrot salad (shredded cabbage and carrot fried in a little oil with a tablespoon of mustard seeds and finished with the juice of half a lemon).

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Autumn treats and Random Bakes of Kindness

I've spent the weekend at my parents so decided to go blackberry picking. Luckily the spot I picked had been well designed by mother nature and had wild apples growing next to the blackberries. My neighbour had also given me some walnuts from a tree in his garden.

I decided I'd make some blackberry and apple muffins with a streusel topping. I just made a basic sponge but used soft light brown sugar and added some cinnamon (4oz self raising cake flour, 4oz light soft brown sugar, 4oz butter or margarine, 2 eggs, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a scant teaspoon of cinnamon). I lined the tin with baking parchment rather than using muffin cases for a more rustic finish and once I'd put the mixture into the tins I popped a few blackberries and some diced apple on the top of each, picture below.

I then sprinkled with some streusel topping (equal amounts of butter and flour rubbed together until they resemble breadcrumbs, stir in the same amount of dark soft brown sugar, a few oats and chopped walnuts and another teaspoon of cinnamon). Here they are ready to go into the oven.

Then baked at 180 degrees for about 15-20 mins. Next time I think I'd add the streusel topping half way through the cooking time to get a better rise. They still tasted yummy though!

I had some leftover streusel topping so used it to make a blackberry and apple crumble by putting blackberries and diced apple in an oven proof dish and then sprinkled to streusel topping all over and baked for about 20 mins until golden.

I packed up some of the muffins and gave them to my 90 year old nan who doesn't bake for herself anymore and tends to buy rubbish cakes from the supermarket. She always appreciates homemade treats so
perfect for my first Random Bake of Kindness for the month :)

I also picked some rosehips and rowan berries so will blog about them once I've turned them into something edible!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

L'Atelier des Chefs

I recently went to a cooking course at L'Atelier des Chefs on Wigmore Street, London I didn't really know what to expect but it was fantastic value and we all had a great night. The group were all varying levels of experience but we all still went away learning something.

We made two courses. The first was sea bream with provencal vegetables and for desert saffron and pistachio cake served with orange and cinnamon cream.

I decided to try the main course for dinner at home. I didn't have any sea bream but substituted sea bass and then made the veg.

Basically you an aubergine, courgette, pepper and finely chop an onion and two cloves of garlic. Start by frying the onion first and then add the garlic and the vegetables add a couple of swigs of thyme and rosemary and season. Once the veg is soft add a small amount of chopped tinned tomatoes or passata and cook for about 10 mins.

Pin bone the fish and fry skin side down until crisp and just cooked. In the lesson we were told to start with oil in a cold pan, then add the fish before putting it onto the heat. The chef said this prevented the kitchen smelling of the fish as much as it cooked and it did seem to help. We didn't turn the fish over as the filets are thin enough to cook through without doing. It also allows the skin to get very crispy.

Serve the fish skin side up on a ladle of the veg and drizzle with balsamic glaze - yummy!

Here is a picture of the veg...

The chef also said variations were good such as putting cumin seeds in and serving with Moroccan chicken and that it was also good with lamb.

Here is a link to the L'Atelier des Chefs website where you can book courses and find lots more recipes

Recipe adapted from L'Atelier des Chefs.