Monday, 6 December 2010

Chocolate Olive Oil Torte

The lengths I will go to for a chocolatey, cakey hit are reasonably extreme, it turns out, and well into the realms of experimental baking! Most bought dairy free cakes I have so far discovered are also wheat, gluten and egg free, and therefore I'm not quite sure what they actually are made of and their ingredients lists scare me...
I'm quite happy with regular flour, eggs etc, it's just the milk, butter, cream and cheese I am bodyswerving. The good news is that grumpy baby is a bit less grumpy, but the jury's still out as to whether my no dairy diet is helping. Sticking with it for another couple of weeks at least tho.
So the long and the short of it is I'd kind of rather make stuff that is designed not to have dairy in it, rather than corrupt things that should. Hence great excitement on my part when I discovered a Green & Black's recipe for a chocolate and olive oil torte. With only 4 ingredients! Dark chocolate, eggs, sugar and olive oil. I now have to confess I can't share the recipe or quantities, because I sneakily made it from a book I'm giving as a Christmas present which is now wrapped - the shame!!! But it was really easy, and very tasty. Sadly the photos are awful and don't do it any justice - you have been warned - view at your peril! ;o)

It souffle-d up like crazy - twice the height of the tin
And then sank spectacularly just like the recipe said it would
Somehow it was dense and light at the same time

The flavour of the olive oil didn't overpower at all, and despite the darkness of the chocolate (85%) and the small amount of sugar, it wasn't bitter either - just deliciously squidgy and chocolatey. I definitely recommend making it, if you can track down a recipe!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Crostata: November Daring Bakers

Can't believe it's Daring Bakers' posting time again - it's flown by with crazy speed and donuts seem a distant memory...

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

I'm eating dairy free at the moment, so mine were made with olive oil margarine instead of butter, and filled with a spiced apple, blackberry, pear and plum compote and drizzled with very dark chocolate for that all important puddingy hit!

The pastry held up better than I thought it would, and the stars didn't sink like I feared, so all in all a success even with the modifications - woop!

... and after

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Greggs Eat Your Heart Out (Lentil Pasties)

Can't believe it's almost a month since I last posted - it only seems like a few days! I really wanted to get a normal post in before the next Daring Bakers challenge - I was hoping for more than one, and indeed I've actually made stuff, and taken photographs, and uploaded them to the computer, it's just the blogging bit I've been slacking on.
This month has been spent getting to grips with dairy free baking, as I'm on a strict no dairy diet as the very lovely 4 month old mini M seems to be lactose intolerant - hopefully just temporarily!
I was excited to find some ready made puff pastry (cheating I know, but I just don't have anywhere near that much spare time) that was dairy free, and made up some lentil dhal to which I threw in some extra mango chutney, cavolo nero and grated carrot, and lo and behold, these lentil pasties were born.
They tasted amazing, and I wish I had remembered the quantities I used, because if I could repeat them, I'm sure they would become firm favourites. Sadly one of the pitfalls of cooking without a recipe, and not writing anything down until about 3 weeks later! I think I can just about remember what went in...and will leave it up to anyone out there that fancies it to experiment with their own quantities

Lentil Pasties
  • Red Lentils
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Chili
  • Cumin
  • Fennel seeds
  • Mustard seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Grated carrot
  • Finely chopped cavolo nero (or any other sort of greens or cabbage would also work)
  • Mango chutney
  • Puff Pastry
  • Beaten Egg
  • Salt & Pepper
And I will say proudly, that these were WAY better than any of the pasties or bakes Greggs has to offer :o)

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Daring Bakers - Lets go Nuts for Donuts

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I was really organised this month, and completing the Daring Bakers challenge was not a last minute affair. I'm even writing this post a couple of hours in advance - what is the world coming to!

Since all the donut recipes made 20+ donuts/holes, and they are most definitely best eaten fresh, we decided to have a donut party, and invited a bunch of our friends around on 10/10/10 to celebrate the funky date, and to eat many donuts. A ridiculous amount in fact, because in the morning, my better half was concerned that we'd not have enough - so I made up another batch of dough - and all in all fried about 60 donuts and holes. Which was quite epic, but after it all, there were only 2 left. Our friends have an amazing capacity for demolishing cake!

I went for the Alton Brown recipe for the filled yeast donuts, and they were filled with...
Blackberry and Apple Compote

Dulce de Leche

and Lemon Curd (not pictured but you can imagine it)

I then used the buttermilk donut which I massively corrupted due to my lack of correct ingredients... I subbed regular milk and lemon juice for buttermilk, peach yoghurt for soured cream, and added a finely grated pear.

Both doughs were ridiculously sticky to work with, particularly early on in the 'kneading' process which started off a lot more like swirling your hands around in super goop. But with a wee bit of extra flour added, they both came together fine.

The end result were achieved through a serious tag team effort - the prep of the dough was done on rotation between me and my other half, as we both took turns to feed/wind/change baby Martha too. And once I started frying, Terri, Claire and Emma were a dream team on the filling and sugaring.

All types were dusted with a mix of caster sugar, icing sugar and cinnamon, and all tasted yum; I can vouch for this by the fact that I only got 1!

Frying the donuts was nowhere near as scary as I thought it would be, and thankfully all went without mishap - and given that they literally spent seconds in the hot oil, we all managed to convince ourselves that they weren't actually that unhealthy...

Monday, 11 October 2010


We've started getting an organic fruit and veg box delivered weekly from East Coast Organics, as we were getting sick of the rubbish choice and quality at our nearest supermarket. It has not only been extremely tasty so far, but has also forced me to get creative in the kitchen and make the veg the main event, as well as finding new ways to cook some old favourites.

Whilst browsing the interweb, I found a recipe for Broccoli, Mango and Ginger soup on the BBC Good Food Magazine website. It sounded so random I had to give it a shot!

I subbed the Thai Curry paste for just a plain old chili, and the single cream for coconut cream (since I appear to be unable to follow a recipe without adultering it in some way or another!).

That said, it was ace, tasted delicious - smooth and creamy, and I urge you to surprise your tastebuds and make it!
Broccoli, Mango and Ginger Soup
  • 1 tbsp olive oil for frying
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon on grated fresh ginger
  • 1 large head of broccoli, roughly chopped (including stem)
  • 1 medium mango (not too ripe), peeled and chopped
  • half of 1 red chili, deseeded and chopped
  • 900ml veg stock (I used Marigold powder)
  • 2 generous tablespoons of coconut cream
Heat oil in a large soup pan, add onion and garlic, chili and ginger and fry gently until softened. Add the mango and broccoli and cook on a low heat for about 5 mins. Add stock and simmer until the broccoli is tender but still bright green. Stir in the coconut cream then blend until smooth and add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Adding a Scottish Twist - Cheese and Haggis Scones!

Watching the "Great British Bake Off" on TV recently got me thinking about scones - and whether I could do better than some of the contestants, or just whether I thought I could. And then there was some left over haggis in the fridge from the night before's dinner (yes, it's not just a stereotype, Scottish people do eat it regularly at home) and plenty of cheese, which both coincided with a snoozing baby in the sling, and a visit from my sister who lent a helping hand, and so these bad boys were born!

We had them buttered with soup for tea and they were lovely - definitely a successful experiment!
Here's the recipe I used...
Cheese & Haggis Scones (makes approx 24)
  • 500g self-raising flour
  • 150-200g cheese, grated (I used a mix of strong cheddar, and cheddar with chillies)
  • 100-150g cooked and cooled haggis
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 100g butter, plus extra for greasing (I reduced the butter quantity from 125g in normal cheese scones, as the haggis has fat in it)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 300ml milk plus extra for glazing
  • Paprika for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 200C (fan, or 220C conventional) and grease a couple of baking trays
These were made in the food mixer, but could equally be done by hand.
Add the flour and baking powder to the mixer and blitz briefly. Put in the butter and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the haggis and whiz it together again.
Tip the mixture into a bowl and stir in the cheese, then make a well in the centre of the mix and add the beaten eggs and half of the milk. Mix with a knife until the mixture forms a sticky but firm dough. Add more of the milk if required.
Bring the mixture together with your hands and tip the dough out onto a floured worktop.
Roll out until about 1.5cm thick and cut into rounds. Don't twist the cutter as this will seal the sides and prevent the scone rising properly.
Brush with a little more milk and sprinkle with paprika.
Bake for about 10 minutes until risen and golden, then cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy :o)
PS - thanks Lisa for the baking assistance!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Daring Bakers - Sugar Cookies

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking. The theme of the cookies was to be September - and whatever inspiration that conjured up.

I had great plans for tasteful Autumn leaves and squirrels, but quickly realised that with a 9 week old baby I had to be a bit more realistic! So I went for autumn spiced cookies, flavoured with cinnamon, cloves and ginger, topped with orange flavoured orange and white royal icing.
It was my first shot decorating with royal icing, and it went fairly well, considering they were done very last minute (as usual) and in between very frequent baby feeds! A smaller piping tip would have helped with the precision, but I didn't have one, so just bashed on with the slightly larger than ideal nozzle, and I'm quite pleased with the results :o)

The overall impression is not helped by taking the pictures at 11.30pm, in awful light, on my kitchen worktop, with my camera on Auto, but if I don't post now, it may well get forgotten about in the chaos of life at the moment!
(And yes, I did cheat and just stick jelly beans on top of some of them! They were orange at least...)

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

One handed blogging and baby winding!

So baby Martha is here and has turned our world upside down - but in a beautiful, cuddly, wonderful sort of way (admittedly with frequent bouts of crying, sicking and pooing!). She's currently asleep on my shoulder, so this will be a quick post, due to the one handed typing... but I thought I should post a couple of pics before I forget...
The first is of a fab Chard, Emmental and Brazil Nut Quiche I made about a month before M arrived. No recipe because I made it up, and it was so long ago I've completely forgotten the ingredients and quantities. But it was absolutely delicious, so I'll have to try to recreate it at some point in the future!

And on the 20th of Aug it was my better half's birthday. With a teeny baby, I was lacking both the time and energy for a proper birthday cake, but thanks to a fab TK-Maxx biscuit cutter find, I did manage to rustle up a Giant Dinosaur Jigsaw Cookie - again no recipe - just a standard-type biscuit mix, baked at a relatively low temp to prevent it spreading too much.

Here's hoping that I'll have time for a but more making, caking and blogging in the not too distant future :o)

Friday, 16 April 2010

Jono's Great Butterbeer Experiment - Part 1

Hey folks, here's a post written by my culinarily more imaginative other half... enjoy!

The great Butterbeer experiment started when Ruth and I watched Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. On emerging from The Three Broomsticks Hermione appeared slightly drunk - this got us thinking about the properties of Butterbeer. Wasn't it supposed to be non-alcoholic? According to the Wikipedia Butterbeer was a real life drink before J. K. Rowling created the Potterverse and is described as "a sweet alcoholic Tudor English beverage made from ale, Worcestershire sauce, and butter amongst sugar and many other ingredients". Now even as a lover of Worcestershire sauce this is pretty disturbing - Bloody Mary's need said sauce but sweet ales definitely do not. So has the Butterbeer Wikipedia page been hacked or is there some truth in the matter?
The Harry Potter page of Wikipedia also has a description of Butterbeer, describing it's prominence as the drink of choice for younger wizards and how House elves can become drunk on it due to the small amount of alcohol that it contains. This lower level of alcohol is described only as giving a warming feeling to humans (although the article goes on to quote from the Harry Potter books where it is implied that the drink also lowers inhibitions). J. K. Rowling has described that she imagines the drink to taste "a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch" and that Butterbeer can be served cold or hot but either way it has a warming effect.

This made me want to try some so I started hunting for a recipe. Various HP fan sites have a few great ideas about what such a drink may contain. MuggleNet's recipe suggests 2/3 of a glass of club or cream soda with 1/3 butterscotch syrup along with a little butter (starting with melting the butter and the butterscotch, mixing them together, leaving them to cool and then adding the soda). This seems like it might almost work but it doesn't really seem all that beer-y and for the purposes of this experiment we shall presume that the nice wizards that invented Butterbeer named it due to it's resemblance to beer.

On an aside this arbitrary adding of butter to butterscotch somehow misses the point - butterscotch already has butter in it! The primary ingredients of butterscotch are butter and brown sugar (although I do admit that if you're buying off-the-shelf butterscotch sauce it may bare no resemblance to these initial ingredients and probably has about 50 other artificial tastes added to it but that's a rant for another day). So, in my head at least, Butterbeer should have ale/beer pre-mixed (so that it could be bottled etc) with some kind of sweet buttery sugary (and possibly vanilla-y) syrup or sauce.

Another fan site suggests a recipe using root beer (rather than soda) with cream as an extra ingredient added once you've made your warm concoction. I'm not sure about this - not at all! Another variant is a less intellectual recipe involving the simple mixing of soda (or ginger ale?!?!?) with butterscotch sauce. Again I feel that these are a little too much like taking two things not quite meant to be mixed (and that don't taste like beer) and throwing them together... but that seems to be how many of the recipes go so someone has obviously tried it and is happy that this works.

So now my list of potential ingredients goes like this:
Liquid base - ale, cream soda, club soda, ginger ale, apple cider or root beer
Butterscotch sauce - some mixture of butter and brown sugar with the possible addition of spices (vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves or a mixture of these)
Cream - currently considered optional... if I can get a mix that works well from the first ingredients then I might try a little with cream

And the recipe instructions so far seem to be to warm the sauce and pour in the liquid (followed by the optional cream). Doesn't sound too complicated!

The recipe for a "hot, frothy Butterbeer" does not contain soda or root beer, using milk instead (one thing which everyone, apart from Coke, knows isn't fizzy). Once again this is very far from anything that even closely resembles beer but it does come back to this idea of something creamy so maybe I'm on my own in thinking that butterbeer doesn't sound like a creamy thing. This creamy idea persists across several other sites which suggest the use of ice cream. The ice cream based recipes seem to all revolve around heating the liquid and dumping the ice cream mix on top - sort of like a hot ice cream float. The only other major variation to the recipe is yet another non-beery version involving butterscotch schnapps and cream soda - but I have to reject this for blatantly being a) not sounding magical and b) not even being a little child-friendly.

It was a side comment on a recipe (rather than the recipe itself) that piqued my interest - "The Irish grandmother of a dear friend of mine used to melt butter in a pot, then pour in beer to warm it." Whilst the recipe wasn't what I was imagining this idea of warming butter and adding beer just seemed totally nuts - but maybe there was more to it.

At this point I looked back through my open tabs and discovered a rather helpful blog post that pointed me to culinary legend Heston Blumenthal's attempt to make something resembling Butterbeer as he recreated a Tudor feast (unfortunately the video is no longer available but there is still a recipe on the Chanel 4 blog). The blog asks whether this recipe is similar to egg-nog or even mulled beer with fat - and it asks the all important question... does it taste any better than it looks?

Heston Blumenthal describes a bona fide Tudor recipe made from ale, sugar, egg yolks, nutmeg and butter.
Butterbeer Ingredients
500ml London Pride ale
Yolks from 2 medium eggs, whisked
60g sugar
Dash of nutmeg
15g unsalted butter

Butterbeer Method
Pour the ale into a warm pan on a medium heat. When the beer begins to come to the boil take off the heat and add the whisked egg yolks, sugar and nutmeg. Return the pot to a low heat (to stop the eggs from scrambling) and stir for 2 minutes until the mixture goes the colour of strong tea meets cloudy apple juice. Take off the heat and whisk in the butter.

The final quote on the matter speaks for itself - "Rich, caramelly and super-sweet". Time for me to try to make some of my own methinks! The comments section brings some warnings for me to take note of before I try my hand at the recipe; the main issues were the egg ("we noticed the large quantity of egg bits floating round", "to avoid the floating egg bits try ladling a small quantity of the warm beer into the egg mixture before pouring that back into the rest of the beer") and the sweetness (" we suggest that people reduce the amount of sugar when making their own butterbeer", " eating 10 Mars Bars") so I think I'll use our recently inherited double boiler pan so hopefully I'll avoid the eggy bit and the need for sieving. As for sugar content I think I'll use 40g of brown sugar.
And here's my attempt at Heston's recipe - looks good doesn't it? When warm it tasted amazing - beautiful, rich, sweet and warming. I followed the recipe as mentioned above (with the reduced quantity of sugar and mixing a little of the beer into the egg mix before pouring the mix back into the beer). But is this what I imagined the Butterbeer in the Harry Potter books would have tasted like? Almost... but the big thing to point out is that there still isn't any actual butterscotch in it. The taste is pretty butterscotchy but even if this is an original Tudor recipe I still don't think it's quite right for Harry and the gang. Next I think I'm going to try to create a butterscotch base and add it to beer; I need to find something just a little less eggnoggy and a little more butterscotchy.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

I'm back!

So... it has been a shockingly long time since I posted anything. Since November. Which is over 4 months ago. And coincided with the time I started to really struggle with my morning sickness. Unfortunately I'm still struggling, at 5 months pregnant, but I'm getting better at living with it. But life has been fun-ner. It's still very exciting tho, and starting to feel a bit more upbeat and optimistic about things. I've had two baby-related craft project on the got, and the first one is finished. The second may be quite some time, so I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for it, but if/when it is finished I'll pop it up here too.
The forthcoming arrival of the sprog in August has prompted a bit of a knitting frenzy amongst relatives on all sides, and I thought I'd join in. I'm not an amazing knitter, so any knitting projects I take on have to satisfy certain caveats... they have to be simple... they have to be quick... and they have to either be chunky or loopy (if that makes any sense) - mainly in order to achieve the 'quick' criteria. And so I chose this knitted cocoon , using the Laurel Love pattern which I can confirm meets all of my knitting criteria.
Accidentally on purpose, I added a row of purl around the top, giving it a more defined edge, whilst I got to grips with the circular knitting. And I chose a more even coloured and textured wool - mainly because I found an irresistibly fuzzy and warm feeling merino/cashmere mix and couldn't resist. I now want one in adult size!
So I know that it mainly just looks a bit like a elongated hat at the moment, but if you check out the link to the original patter, you will see it in action, and it looks a whole lot cuter with a baby in it! 4 months and all being well, I'll be able to post an update of it in action :o)


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