Saturday, 28 November 2009

Darink Bakers November Challenge - Cannoli

So, I'm getting off to a bad start for this month's Daring Bakers challenge - I've just realised this was supposed to be posted yesterday - oops! Better late than never I guess.
Instead of something baked, this month the challenge was to make cannoli. Without going into too much detail, since it's 23:23 by my computer clock and that means imminently time for bed, they are a type of Sicilian fried desert pastry, filled with a creamy filling - traditionally made with ricotta cheese and dried fruits and nuts. They are fried on cannoli tubes to keep them hollow, and the filling can then be piped in when they are cool.
This challenge was a joint attempt - the lovely Lisa (my little sis) came round and helped me create kitchen carnage. Since we didn't have any cannoli forms, or a handy wooden broom handle to butcher as many people seem to have used, we opted for dried pasta canneloni shells to form our cannoli round. I'd say this was a success, but not foolproof - unfortunately the shape of some of the canneloni tubes changed during the deep frying, making the cannoli an absolute nightmare to remove. But anyway, enough of the chat - here are the only two half acceptable pictures I managed to take!
The fried shells dipped in chocolate and almost ready for filling... we filled them with mascarpone cheese, sweetened with icing sugar and chopped fresh mango.
And there you have it! Cannoli. How did they taste - well they were nice, but on balance we both agreed that they maybe weren't quite worth the effort, but definitely a fun experiment!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Vampire Fairy Cakes

It's Halloween today - how do I know this? Because at the centre where I was teaching my music classes this morning there were kids in fancy dress - vampires, bats, devils... Quite a lot of them too. At 10am on a Saturday morning. Which is really quite keen in my book! Anyway, I'm off to a Halloween party tonight - two in fact and I thought it was a good excuse to go in for some silly baking to take along. After a trawl of the web for ideas, I was taken by the Vampire Cupcakes on Baking Bites. And, lo, here are my fang-tastic creations...
I love the fact that the 'blood' in the bottom picture is even slightly heart shaped :o)

Since I like in Scotland and Corn Syrup and Cherry Pie Filling are not things that I generally have to hand or are easy to come by, I substituted some light Agave Syrup and used straight jam for the filling, so it's not quite as oozy as the original version. I also only had golden caster sugar, and forgot to put the water in to the icing, hence the fact that it's a slightly funny colour and a bit gritty!!!!! Ah well - all part of the learning process...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The Daring Bakers Challenge - French Macaroons

Sadly I find myself having to write this post about a baking failure. And not a one off - a repeated failure! October was my first month participating in the Daring Bakers challenge. This month's challenge was chosen by Ami S, and it was a hard one... the challenge recipe was macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern - delicate and refined French Macaroons.
Enjoy the beauty and then read on forewarned - mine did not look like that!

It seems that macaro(o)ns are many things to may people the world over - of course there are the stunning pastille coloured French ones - the subject of this challenge - made famous by the sophisticated likes of Laudree and Pierre Herme.
Then there are coconut macaroons, Australian in origin, and enjoyed the world over as a mouthfulls of chewy gooey coconutty goodness.
But here in Scotland macaroon is something completely different... it's a ridiculously sweet confection made with mashed potato and vast quantities of icing sugar, often dipped in chocolate and rolled in toasted coconut (for that 1970s exotic touch ;o).
It's even made and sold commercially by Lees along with other traditional sweeties such as tablet, fudge and coconut ice.
But I digress... I guess what I'm saying is that the chances of someone who thinks macaroons are made mainly of cold potatoes being able to conjure up some beautiful elegant pastel coloured french beauties should probably be considered slim to none... and in that case I have managed to live up to all expectations!

Batch No. 1 - no photographic evidence but they were flat and tragically sad looking. No little feet. No gently rounded tops. They were chai flavoured and still tasted fab sandwiched together with jam and happily received as a birthday present for a friend. In retrospect I should have taken a picture but at that point I was still confident I could crack it!

Batch No. 2 - I wondered if it was the ground almonds rather than almond flour that was letting me down - so I investigated what other nut flours were out there I could substitute. After scouring the nearby healthfood shops I could find only chestnut flour. But, I thought to myself, chocolate and chestnuts go well it could work. As I was tipping in the chestnut flour I thought it smelled a bit odd - kind of savoury, but I read the pack again. Ingredients - organic chestnuts - suitable for cakes baking and pastries - and I ploughed on. As they were cooking away in the oven and I was tidying up, I picked up the bag of flour and turned it over. The other side was written in French, and my French is not amazing, but I'm pretty sure it said 'flour made from chestnuts dried over a wood fire' - hence the weird savoury flavour. Smoked chestnut flour.
As well as tasting disgusting, Batch No. 2 was also a flat failure. In fact the best picture I have of them is of the frenzy they caused when I fed them to the birds!!!!
Batch No. 3 - Things are looking up.... a little! I decided I hadn't been vicious enough in my egg beating making my mixture too runny. So this time I gave them an extra hard beating and went for 100% unadulterated plain almond mix. They did not have feet or shiny tops. But they did however taste very nice and get rave reviews from everyone that ate them.
I had great plans for further experiments - with some properly exciting flavour combos up my sleeve too. But then rather unfortunately I got swine flu. Which means that instead of baking macaroons I have mainly been lying in my bed thinking the world was coming to an end. I am soooo much better now but still with a horrible cough, and baking and coughing in my book do not go well together - here have some homemade cakes and a nasty virus is not a good gift for friends! So I will have to settle for Batch No. 3 as the best batch so far, but watch this space - I have been bitten by the macaroon bug and I will not be beaten...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Easy Peasy Cheesy

I made this recipe a wee while ago when friends came round for dinner, and the praise it received seemed totally disproportionate to the the effort involved in producing it - which makes it a pretty good dish in my book. It was lovely served at room temperature with some freshly made tomato and pepper relish and mini bagels rubbed with garlic, drizzled with oil and grilled. It really felt quite like summer, despite the fact that it has recently turned into winter here (after deciding to bypass Autumn all together).

Marinated Feta

(inspired by these recipes for brandied manchego and marinated cheese at Carina Forum)
Serves 6 as a starter
  • 400g feta cheese
  • 150ml olive oil *
  • 3 tbsp runny honey *
  • juice of 1 lemon *
  • 1 clove or garlic crushed *
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil *
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme *
  • ground black pepper *
  • dash of tabasco sauce *
Cube the feta. Whisk together all the marinade ingredients marked with the asterisk (*) in a medium sized bowl. Add the cheese to the marinade and mix gently until well coated. Leave for at least 3-4hrs before serving. Serve at room temperature (not chilled).

I made a fresh tomato and pepper relish to go with it (which I stupidly forgot to photograph) as follows:

Tomato and Pepper Relish (an original concoction)
Serves 6 as a starter
  • 1 small onion
  • Approx 20 small poblano green peppers
  • 4 tomatoes
  • A glug of olive oil
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 heaped tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2tbsp red wine vinegar
Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Finely dice the onion and fry in the oil for 2-3 minutes. De-seed and chop the peppers - add to the pan with the brown sugar and cook for approx 5 minutes until the sugar has melted and the onion is soft. Chop tomatoes (leave the skins on) and add to the pan along with the red wine vinegar. Cook over a moderately low heat until the liquid evaporates and the mixture thickens. Serve hot or cool, but taste before serving. The peppers can vary quite a lot in spiciness - from mild to having a fair kick to them! But if you find you've got a mild bunch, then you might want to add a little shot of tabasco or dried chili to taste.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Sticky Crispie Goodness

Well life has been getting in the way of updating again - it's been a hectic spell of Borders Exploration Group meetings, training and Duke of Edinburgh's Award expeditions. But I thought I had time tonight to squeeze in a superfast post of some sugary goodness. So sticky crispie was not something I had come across until I met Jono, and since then it has become a bit legendary amongst my friends. It is probably about the most unhealthy piece of homebaking that exists, but also one of the easiest and most delicious. Our Year in Industry student left work recently after spending a year with the team, keeping us on our toes, always smiling and trying to prevent us all from becoming old and boring prematurely middle-aged peeps! I decided to use the sticky crispie as a base to convey our good-bye message which I cut out in fondant icing and decorated with food colouring pens.
Here's the recipe for the crispie - this makes 1 rectangular baking tin (swiss roll) full, and cuts into about 30 pieces.
1x250g block of butter (I prefer slightly salted)
1x200g bag of marshmallows (mini or regular, pink or white!)
1x150g toffees (e.g. McCowans or Werthers)
Rice Crispies - quite a lot - a good 200g, but it depends on how sticky you want your crispie.

Put the butter and toffee in a pan over very low heat and leave to melt, stirring occasionally. At the same time, line your tin with grease proof paper - it will make cutting and removing from the tin a LOT easier!
Once the toffee and butter have melted, tip in the marshmallows and stir continuously until melted and smooth. It will go separated for a while and then suddenly all comes together.
Add the crispies and stir in quickly until well coated - add more or less depending on the required consistency.
Tip into the tin and flatten into the corners. Leave to cool before cutting - refrigerating it makes it much easier to cut.
Try not to get addicted!!!!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Healthy Brownies

Chocolate brownies are amazing, but sadly not one of life's superfoods :o(
So I decided to try to make 'healthy' brownies, which were both a success and failure.
Failure because they were totally un-brownie-like in texture and feel.
Success because they tasted pretty good in the end.
Instead of using butter (yep, they were completely butter/marge/oil free) I used prune puree which I've already posted about here. And some very roughly ground wholemeal flour which was ground by an old steam engine thing at an agricultural show.
I also chucked in some chopped up toffees that were lurking in the cupboard and going soft.
So here's a wee pic, no recipe, as I can't remember what I did, but a vague summary follows after the image.

About 250g prune & chocolate puree
100g sugar
200g flour
3tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp milk
2 eggs
1tsp coffee granules
100g toffees chopped into little bits

Chuck it all in a big bowl and mix well with an electric whisk (except the toffee) - add more milk if needed. Hoy it all into a greased brownie tin, and stick it into a medium oven (about 180C) for about half an hour. It doesn't taste luxurious, but it does taste nice, and feels a lot more virtuous than regular brownies.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Salad Series Part 3 - Smoked Mackerel and Apple

So life got a bit busy again. And that's meant I've not had a lot of time for posting recipes or pics. I have done quite a lot of baking and cooking, and even remembered for take some photos, so now that things are marginally less manic, there might be some more posts going up soon. But I thought I should finish what I'd started and go for the third and final Salad Series installment - Smoked Mackerel and apple. So here it is! Since I made it a weeeeeeee while ago, I can't exactly remember what went into it, so it's not the most specific recipe in the work - sorry! (Although to be honest the chances of anyone a) reading or b) being inspired to make anything from the site are pretty slim, so I'm thinking it's not something I need to worry about too much...)

Smoked Mackerel and Apple Salad
Here's what I think I put in....
  • 1 vacuum pack of smoked mackerel, flaked.
  • 3 red apples cored and chopped but with the skins left on
  • 2 spring onions finely sliced
  • 1tbsp fresh parsley, chopped.

For the dressing -
  • 1x 284 ml carton of soured cream
  • 1 tbsp dried dill
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • Salt & Pepper

Mix it all together and enjoy :0) It was really yummy, and went into pitta breads for lunch the next day which was also great.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Salad Series Part 2 - Plum Salsa

OK - well this one had an identifiable source of inspiration - here at the Zested blog. But my big problem with salsa is that it always has coriander in it, which makes me rather sicky. So at least this time, my recipe corruption had a good reason. I substituted parsley for coriander, and changed the proportions slightly based on what I had - so here's my version.

Parsley Plum Salsa (serves 6)
  • 6 Red Plums chopped (ripe but not too soft)
  • 2 spring onions finely sliced
  • 1 red chili finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • Juice of half a large fresh lemon
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
Put the plums, spring onion, chili, garlic & parsley in a bowl. Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and salt together, then pour over the plums and mix well. Ideally leave for the flavours to mingle for at least 3-4 hrs for serving. I made it the day before and it tasted great.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Salad Series Part 1 - Fennel, Chickpea & Chilli

We had folks round for tea on Sunday, and I made 7 salads and a puff pastry tart.... of which I managed to take a grand total of 3 pictures, all of 'in-progress' salads. So it's not really caking or making in the original way I intended my blog to be, centering around baking and crafts, but it's kinda take or leave it, since I've nothing else to post at the moment!

I decided it was a good opportunity to try out some recipes that have been lurking in my Safari bookmarks folder for a while, but as usual, my desire to experiment coupled with a lack of the right ingredients despite 3 trips to the supermarket over the weekend meant the end results bore no resemblance to what I was originally inspired by, nonetheless, they seemed to go down well, so I'm documenting the recipes here for future recreation or corruption by others!

Fennel, Chickpea & Chili Salad (serves 8ish)

  • 1 head of fennel thinly sliced
  • 1 spring onion finely chopped
  • 1 red chili, de-seeded and finely chopped/minced
  • 1 400g tin of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 300g tin of green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • Fennel fronds chopped if your fennel came with them attached
  • Juice of 2 fresh lemons
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp grated fresh Parmesan
I used a mandolin to slice my fennel which got it really nice and fine, although it always scares me a bit using it! The fennel, chickpeas, lentils, spring onion, chili, parsley, basil, & fennel fronds all went into a big mixing bowl. I whisked up the lemon juice and olive oil, then poured it over, mixed well and left to marinate in the fridge for a few hours. Just before serving I mixed through the Parmesan cheese. It tasted good on the day it was made, and even better leftover for lunch the next day!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Lekvar - Hungarian Style Fruit Butter

Well due to general hectic-ness, I've not posted anything for ages. But I'm back :o) The other week as I was tidying out some kitchen cupboards, I came across a bag of dried pears, a BIG bag of crystallised ginger, and a bag of prunes all approaching their use by within the next few months, and definitely ready to expire before I'd had a chance to use them up in normal baking practices!
So after a bit of googling, I came across this recipe for Hungarian Lekvar, which is a dried fruit butter, made with dried apricots or prunes.
Since I'm a pathological recipe corrupter, I did a bit of modification, and went for prune and dark chocolate butter, to make use of a small bar of Lindt 95% chocolate which was too bitter for me and had even escaped several emergency chocolate cupboard raiding attempts. Inspired by the successful result, I decided to get more experimental and went for spiced pear and ginger, with a vanilla pod, cloves and star anise to add a spicy sweetness.
So far the concoctions have proved to be a versatile pair, although the prune and chocolate one is possibly a little confused about its identity and is treading a fine line between sweet and savoury. Or perhaps it's just me and my husband that are confused - he's definitely of the sweet camp, but I'm convinced it's a relish/chutney savoury wannabe.

Anyway, here's a run down of the situations in which they've been consumed so far...
  1. Pear and ginger on warm out of the oven scones
  2. Prune and chocolate on toast (a grown-up Nutella substitute...?)
  3. Prune and chocolate on venison burgers
  4. Pear and ginger sandwiched in the middle of a Victoria sponge
  5. Prune and chocolate stirred into porridge
  6. And both varieties straight out of the jar on a spoon by the aforementioned husband!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Sweetie Sushi

I have a really good friend who is a Brownie guider (Hi Em if you're reading!). And she asked me if I'd come along and do something makey or cakey with her Brownies. Never one to say no to an opportunity to make things with small kids (their enthusiasm and pleasure is infectious and the ensuing chaos always fun) I decided to go for something cakey. After a bit of Googling, I spotted candy sushi at MommyKnows and had to give it a shot. I baked up several HUGE batches of marshmallow crispie to the following recipe:

  • Melt 80g of butter in a saucepan.
  • Add 200g of mini marshmallows (all white if possible)
  • Once smooth and runny, stir in 200g of rice crispies - very quickly!
  • Tip onto a worksurface covered in non-stick baking parchment.
  • Place another sheet of parchment on top and whilst still hot and pliable, roll out the mixture (with the rolling pin on top of the paper) to about 0.5-1cm thick all over
  • Once cool, trim into rectangles and use to make sushi with as many types of sweetie as you want!

The photos below are the ones I made using the leftover marshmallow slab when I got home, ad although the Brownies' efforts maybe weren't quite as neat, they were pretty good and they all headed home and the end of the night proudly clutching little plastic boxes of their creations to share.

First of all, here's the whole selection
And now a few close ups

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Cake Heaven in Brighton

At the weekend just past, I had a lovely time down in Brighton catching up with friends from uni who have left the frozen wastes of Scotland and are now based beside the seaside. Amongst much gin, gossip, ice-creams on the beach and cups of tea there was time for some stupendous cake. We went to 'Bill's' - a south coast institution that is a cafe, deli and restaurant all rolled into one in a converted warehouse - check out their website HERE if you want more info (I thoroughly recommend a visit if you're in the area). And whilst generally being totally in awe at the place, I did remember to snap a couple of photos of the cakes - and oh my goodness what cakes they were!
I indulged in the roasted rhubarb cheesecake tartlet topped with caramelised pumpkin seeds - it was gorgeous. Light lemony cheesecake and sticky rhubarb with the crunchy seeds on top was a winning combination.
Meanwhile my friend went for orange cheesecake with a chocolate hazelnut crust topped with a veritable mountain of fresh strawberries and blueberries and by the look on her face it was every bit as delicious as mine.
Needless to say we didn't really feel in the mood for dinner that night...!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Biszkopt z Galaretka - or Polish Jelly Cake

A few years ago I spent the summer working in an office in Warsaw, and during that time, every arrival, departure or celebratory occasion in the office was celebrated with cake. And the cake of choice seemed to be jelly cake (or Biszkopt z Galaretka I believe...). It came in a wide variety of flavours and styles - with and without cream, and using raspberries, strawberries, peaches and blueberries - endless possibilities!

Well at my current workplace, cake also plays an important part in the weekly schedule, with everyone taking their turn to provide 'Monday Cakes'. And 1st June was my turn. In honour of the gorgeous summery weather (and the fact that strawberries were on special offer at ASDA) I decided to recreate the jelly cake, of the strawberry no-cream variety.

I made a fatless whisked sponge for the base and after a LOT of trauma and worry that a) the jelly would just soak right in, or b) accidentally set in the jug whilst I was leaving it to thicken to prevent a) from happening... it all kind of worked out right. It seemed to be enjoyed by all, and definitely ticked the boxes of light and summery, so I'm sure there will be future experimentation of flavours on the cards...

Monday, 25 May 2009

Banana Art!

Well, here is what greeted me when I looked in my lunch bag today...
It is indeed BananaMan... of a sort! And it was drawn using a Sharpie by my husband this morning whilst I was being very slow and grumpy about getting up and going to work (sadly an almost daily occurrence). I'm not even going to start to contemplate what goes through his head sometimes - and it's probably for the best! But it definitely made me smile which can only be good. It sat on my disk and grinned at me all day and I couldn't quite eat it - so it'll still be there to make me smile tomorrow :o) Here's a sideways shot too...
Am quite taken by Banana art... it might catch on!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Deep Fried Jam Sandwiches

a.k.a restaurant review of Treacle, Broughton Street, Edinburgh
Well... I guess this is the first guest post on Ruth's blog. I'm Jono, Ruth's other half, and I love fried things. This is pretty fortunate since I live in Scotland, the home of the Deep Fried Mars Bar. Now despite how scary the Wikipedia article makes it sound (and how badly a foodstuff like this reflects on the national Scottish diet) wrapping a Mars Bar in batter and frying it actually makes it even tastier. The batter goes crispy and the Mars Bar goes all hot, gooey and melty inside sort of like an extreme version of a fritter. Yum. It is, of course, unhealthy but that doesn't stop it being tasty and provided that don't have one too regularly then you shouldn't feel too guilty. Anyway, chip shops in Edinburgh have largely stopped selling DFMBs due to the fact that they make a bit of a mess in the chip fryers. (By the way... you don't get chips with your DFMB - it's a sweet thing not a savoury thing). One of the few remaining Edinburgh chippies still willing to nuke a Mars Bar for you is Cafe Piccante which, coincidentally, is just a few doors away from Edinburgh's newest cafe/bar Treacle - home of Scotland's next Deep Fried Odyssey! Treacle opened it's doors at the start of May and has a modern take on the bar menu, serving up their burgers and pies on wooden chopping boards and fries in little metal buckets. The high quality of the ingredients shines through and their main courses are fab. The relaxed feel of the bar blurs the line between restaurant, cafe and bar making it feel more continental than many of Edinburgh's establishments. With a good selection of beers and wines, good music, ace Manga-style artwork and polite staff Treacle already looks like they've got the formula in the bag. Where Treacle really excels is their dessert menu. Nestled amongst a cheeseboard from I. J. Mellis and white chocolate mouse with raspberries is the fantastic sounding "Deep Fried Jam Sandwich With Handmade Ice Cream": the reason for the rant about Deep Fried Mars Bars. As I ordered the waiter grinned and told me I'd made a good choice - always a good start. When it arrived it was better than my already high expectations. The Deep Fried Jam Sandwich was a plain teacake spread thickly with raspberry jam, dipped in batter, fried and rolled in sugar served with a simple ball of vanilla ice cream. It tasted better than any jam doughnut. Better even than a Deep Fried Mars Bar. I'm already looking forward to my next trip to Treacle.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Red Bead Bracelet

Due to recurring pantsness at remembering to take photos of the things I've been cooking (peach and almond tart, more bread and sesame coconut and mango muesli bars), it's another craft post. I promise more cakes soon tho! I've recently got a haul of beading books from the library and this is the result of my first bead experiment with some mixed red glass beads. I'm pretty impressed with how it has turned out...
Keep checking back over the next few days for more cakes....!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Wedding Cakes and Table Decorations

Well, despite the fact that I made a whole load of baking, cooking and general kitchen chaos over the Easter weekend (including cucumber and radish pickles, thai prawn curry, lemon and cashew chicken, Easter cupcakes, Dr Pepper brownies, chicken and vegetable pie, tropical fruit trifle, and pear and rhubarb jellies with yogurt and honey!!!!) I took a total of zero photos of any of them. And given that it's all been eaten, it's a bit late to do anything about it now!

So I thought I'd stick up a few more makey-cakey wedding photos instead. We discovered during planning our wedding that we had a whole load of really talented friends and family - so talented in fact that we had several potential wedding-cake-makers (after much internal debating and fighting the urge to make it myself!). In the we asked my sister Lisa, our friend Jen and my at-that-point-future-mother-in-law Sheila to do a tier each, and to go crazy. They had free reign of colour and style to be as creative or traditional as they liked and the results were fab.

Here's a shot of the whole creation (a shame the backdrop wasn't a more sympathetic colour!), and wee close up of each tier.

Sheila's lovely traditional fruitcake bottom tier (which was decorated with fresh flowers on the day)

Lisa's amazing gold dusted autumn leaves middle tier (hiding a tangy lemon and almond cake)

Jen's gorgeous gingerbread gerbera's to top it off with!
And to prove that the wedding wasn't a girls only making fest, my Dad made loads of these table centre-pieces after I ran out of time, using dry oasis and recycled "New Civil Engineer" magazines. They were very cool (and I still have a stash of them in our spare room looking for homes if anyone wants one!!!)

Monday, 6 April 2009

Friday Night Baking Frenzy

For some reason after work on Friday I was feeling riduculously full of energy and inspiration - even after a trip to ASDA!
So I started off trying out a recipe for beer bread. I have to say I was skeptical at first that the ingredients list was so small - just SR flour (3 american cups), sugar (3 dessertspoons) and beer (375ml). But it turned out amazingly.... still upholding my skepticism I sieved the flour, stirred in the sugar and poured in the beer and gave it a quick mix before tipping it into a loaf time and bunging it in the oven at 180C.
I left it in for about half an hour, then took it out and brushed the top with an egg and milk was as I wanted a shiny chewy crust, then popped it back in for 5 mins and voila...

Then since that seemed so easy I felt slightly cheated of the whole 'baking' process, I decided to make some shortbread. I have to confess that despite being a)Scottish and b)distantly related to the Walkers shortbread making giants, the only other time I've made shortbread was during home economics classes in 2nd year at high school.
And since I'm in a confessing sort of mood, I have a pathological inability to follow any recipe exactly. So instead of making just plain old shortbread, I decided to stick in some lemon rind and poppyseeds, and I'm glad I did. The poppyseeds gave it a really nice crunch and the lemon wasn't too overpowering but quite a subtle sweetness. I even had time to play with my camera a wee bit and attempt some arty shots!

Then to top the evening off, rustled up a big pot of spinach and sweetcorn and soup with creamed coconut and chilli to see us through the weekend. No photos, but it was creamy, spicy, yummy and very very green!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Butterfly Table

Enough of the cakes - I thought it was time to post some making.
I had an old folding Ikea table in the spare room that had seen better days! Its top was covered in some green paint and quite a few big scratches, so I decided it could do with a bit of a revamp.
I've been fascinated for a wee while with paper - specifically magazines and books - the the scope for using in a million and one different ways! So I decided to go for a recycled paper themed table top, using a much read trashy novel (obviously not read by me tho'....;o) and an old copy of Glamour, some glue, a black sharpie pen and some electrical tape.
Here's what I started with:

So here's a very out of focus photo of mid-sticking - but it's the only one I've got so it'll have to do:

Once the paper strips were all stuck down, I sketched on some swirly patterns with the Sharpie, and then cut a bunch of butterflies out of pages of the magazine and scattered them over the tabletop. Several coats of PVA glue later, I edged it all with electrical tape, and voila! Definitely an improvement if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Well it's been overwhelmingly cakey things that I've been posted about so far. That will change soon, once my latest craft experiment is finished - almost there and I think it's fab! But in the meantime, here's another cake - it's been a bit of a baking frenzy recently....
I did this one for Comic Relief - it was the prize of a quiz held at work organised by a colleauge of mine, and raised just over £85 not to shabby :o)
Inside it was a toffee cake with a layer of chocolate fudge icing in the middle - yum!

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Super Cakey Sunday

After a pretty manic couple of weeks at work, it was great to have a weekend to chill out and get round to doing some of the things I've been wanting to do for a while, including some baking!
In the end it turned into a mammoth cake baking and decorating Sunday, with two birthday cakes, a little star cake to cheer up a friend who's been having a tough time, and a 'spare' one for my other half to take to work for coffee time on Monday.
I also had some new scroll decorating embossers I wanted to try out, and this is the end results:

Birthday cake #1: Almond and cranberry cake hence the lumpy surface - for my brother who is almost 24...

Birthday cake #2: Coconut and lemon cake, for my sister, who is also almost 24 ;o)

Little chocolate star cake, and finally...

The 'spare' one with chocolate orange icing - all in all quite a productive Sunday!

Monday, 2 March 2009

Chocolate Truffle Baileys Cake

Just a quick post of a cake I made for my brother's girlfriend's welcome back to edinburgh party.
It is the most ridiculously chocolately concoction with only 4 ingredients.... chocolate, double cream, shortcake biscuits and Baileys. Finished cake had about 800g of chocolate and a pint of cream, so definitely not for the health-conscious, but on the other hand, it fed a crown generously with plenty of leftovers. I topped it off with some mini marshmallows that were sprinkled on before it set, and white chocolate stars. Ideally these would have been embedded into it stickying up, but due to the logistics of transporting it across Edinburgh in a taxi I decided to go for the safe option and scatter them over the top on arrival.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Valentines soup and pretzel-rolo-pecan-turtles

I'm not normally someone that can be accused of having too much time on their hands. But I seemed to struck by a bout of excess time (or rather a lack of desire to get through all the other things on my to-do list) around about Valentines day. So obviously the only thing to do was to get out my mini cutter set and chop a whole load of veggies into an array of cute little shapes to make Valentines soup with! I used carrots, cucumber, baby corn, and mangetout peas for my veg, along with 1 finely chopped chicken fillet, 1 small onion, 1 stock cube and a good slosh of soy sauce, sesame oil, chinese 5 spice powder, and finished off with a beaten egg to make ribbons. It even made enough for leftovers the next day.

For afters I did some panfried nectarines and blueberries which we had on a toasted pancake with icecream and the hot fruit poured over the top...definitely one of the tastiest puddings I've made in a long time and in the summer when there is plenty of soft fruit around I'm pretty sure it will be repeated!
But the highlight of the evening was definitely the rolo-pretzel-pecan-turtles. I have to confess now that I have absolutely no idea why they are called turtles - the best I can come up with is that the half pecans look a little bit like turtle shells. But that doesn't matter because they are addictively delicious and soooooooooo unbelievably easy to make! You'll need small pretzels (yes, the salty kind), rolos (as many rolos as you have pretzels) half pecan nuts (same deal as the rolos). Here are some super simple steps to carmely, chocolatey, salty, nutty heaven ;0)

Preheat your oven to about 200C.
Line a baking tray with parchment.
Spread your pretzels over the tray.
Put a rolo on top of each pretzel.
Stick the tray in the oven, and leave it there for about 3-5mins.
Watch it carefully - you want the rolos to go soft, but not run off the pretzels!
Take the tray out of the oven.
Straight away stick a pecan half on each rolo, and push it down gently.
Leave to cool.
Try not to eat them all at once!

The pictures soooooooo don't do these justice!


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