Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Golden Snitch Cake Truffles

Last Saturday I went to Brownie camp! Most of the voluntary youth stuff I'm involved in is with teenagers, so spending the day with a bunch of 7-10yr olds was a very cute change! They were all so polite and took everything to seriously - including having fun.

One of the reasons I went along was to do some baking, and since the camp was Harry Potter themed, I racked my brains before hand to come up with a suitable activity. And thankfully a few weeks before hand, at about midnight just before I drifted off to sleep, it came to me - Golden Snitch cake truffles. I'm pretty sure my other half thought I had lost the plot completely when I woke him up with an exclamation to that effect.

I made a batch before hand, to check that the idea worked - so these pictures are of the prototypes. They were made using lemon sponge cake, as I had some to hand that needed using. The ones the Brownies made were with plain Madeira cake. We also had some giant pretzels, so some of the girls made one big golden snitch, whilst others made 3 or 4 smaller ones.

Golden Snitch Cake Truffles (makes 3 or 4)
  • 1 medium slice of plain Madeira loaf cake
  • 1 very generous tsp of butter icing
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp edible gold lustre dust
  • approx 6 small salted pretzels (this allows for some breakages!)
Firstly, crumble the cake up with your fingers in a bowl.
Add the icing and mix until well combined. You are looking for a doughy consistency that holds together well without being too crumbly or sticky. Add a little more icing if needed.
Mix the icing sugar and gold lustre together well on a saucer or shallow bowl.
Shape the mixture into 3 or 4 ball shaped truffles.
Roll each one in the golden icing sugar until coated all over.
Cut pretzels in half carefully, to create wings, and push them into the sides of each truffle.
Allow to harden slightly before transporting or eating.
As the icing sugar is absorbed into the truffle, the gold colour will darken.

Easy, and definitely achievable fun for kids (or adults!).

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Mini-M's First Cake: Date & Peanut Butter Loaf

A few weeks ago I received a lovely surprise in the post - a copy of "Harley's Cookbook: The Sweet Edition" - a fundraising cook book for the Harley Staples Cancer Trust, sent to me by my very thoughtful Great Auntie C.

After a quick browse one recipe in particular jumped out - for a soft date cake - because it had relatively little margarine, or added sugar, making it a prime candidate for Mini-M-ification. After some fairly major liberties with the recipe, in terms of both ingredients and quantities, I ended up with a baby friendly cake, with no dairy and no added refined sugar.

The sliced loaf
Interleaved with greaseproof paper ready for freezing

Date & Peanut Butter Loaf (Makes 1 loaf)
  • 100g stone in dates
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 2tbsp mild olive oil
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tbsp smooth unsweetened & unsalted peanut butter
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 150C, and grease a loaf tin.
Stone the dates, chop roughly, put in a mug and just cover with boiling water.
Leave them to steep for about 10 mins, then blend them until puply.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl.
Add all the wet ingredients (date pulp, olive oil, agave nectar, peanut butter) and mix thoroughly.
Tip into the prepared loaf tin, and bake for about an hour, until a skewer into the middle comes out clean.

And here are some pics of Mini-M eating her first piece of cake...

Trying to put the whole slice all in at once

Cake? What cake? I don't know anything about any cake!

Cake is fun to crumble onto the carpet...

Showing a little more restraint with the second mouthful!

Making sure all the crumbs go in too

Cake = sticky fingers

All done! (Showing off her bottom 2 teeth)

Friday, 27 May 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 21

It's a double blog posting night tonight, since it's both Friday, so time for the weekly photo roundup, and the 27th, which is Daring Bakers day. Since I've just written quite a lot about cake for that, I'll keep the word count on this one down a bit!

Saturday 21st May
Snails. Lots of them. On a garden fence in Heriothill Terrace.

Sunday 22nd May
The view from the St James Centre NCP carpark. It is quite possibly the worst designed multistorey EVER - expensive, no lifts, and nowhere to turn, but quite scenic, so that's all OK then...

Monday 23rd May
Monkey took a trip through the washing machine

Tuesday 24th May
Mini-M still hasn't mastered crawling - but she has her tongue out in concentration!

Wednesday 25th May
Galeforce winds at the start of the week took some of the roof off of the central stairwell, and uprooted this tree on our street.

Thursday 26th May
Site visit outside Selkirk today - and it even stayed dry! This is the view from about halfway up the 3 Brethren, looking down the valley towards Selkirk.

Friday 27th May
Mini-M was very co-operative and did a lovely job of modelling the BEG 20th Anniversary buff - until she realised she could remove it herself!

The Daring Bakers May 2011: Marquise on Meringue

Blog-checking lines: The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

If you want to see what it was SUPPOSED to look like, and generally be awe inspired by everyone's creations, then click on over to the recipe on the Daring Bakers website.

You'll have gathered from that opener, that mine didn't quite work out as planned. Well, it did, really, just that there was a fairly major change of plan once the baking started! I bought my ingredients, thought about my substitutions to make it dairy free (I decided to go all out coconut milk), put Mini-M to bed, rolled up my sleeves, put on my apron and got started. Pretty quickly I realised that it was going to take about 30 mins at least of electric hand whisking, since I don't have a stand mixer. The kitchen is under Mini-M's bedroom. My electric hand whisk is noisy. Cue sudden change of plan!

I was making this dessert to take to Sunday lunch at a friend's so just not bothering was not an option - I had said I was bringing a chocolatey dessert that involved a blow torch, and I didn't want to disappoint. 10 mins of googling later, I found this recipe for a chocolate and coconut milk cake over at the little red house blog. And it appeared to have been featured on TV, so I reckoned it was definitely worth a shot - it was!

I de-dairified the recipe, as per my usual, by substituting the melted butter for a mixture of melted non-dairy margarine, and olive oil (3 tbsp marge and 2 tbsp light olive oil). The resulting cake was fantastic - deeply chocolatey, subtly coconutty, dense and rich and just delicious - I'll definitely be making it again.

I then diverted back on to the original Daring Bakers 'Marquise on Meringue' challenge recipe.

I made caramel sauce using coconut milk rather than cream - which worked fine, although it had a slightly translucent quality, and was s lightly more grayish than the regular golden toffee colour of caramel, due to the starting colour of the coconut milk. I added a splash of cherry brandy, rather than the tequila in the original recipe - an unfortunate tequila incident as a teenager means the smell of it still makes me feel ill!

I made the sugar coated roasted almonds, to which I added pinches of chili, white pepper and cinnamon for a little kick. I'll definitely make these again too - they were so much easier than I imagined, and had a really lovely crunch.

I made the meringue (for torching). I didn't have white sugar, so used light brown sugar instead, and it worked perfectly. I've never used the dissolving and heating method for making meringue, so it was a learning experience for me, but a successful one I think.

And to finish it off, I made some cherry compote, using some frozen cherries, a dash of cherry brandy, a splash of cordial and a tbsp of icing sugar which I mixed together and zapped in the microwave for 1 min.

Everything was then duly packed into boxes or cling filmed for transportation to the lunch location, and once the delicious curries were all eaten up for main course, everyone built their customised dessert, using whichever of the elements they preferred, before blow torching to their hearts content!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A bib Mini-M can't remove!

It is an unfortunate fact of life that Mini-M doesn't really like bibs - in fact she's getting quite nimble fingered at whipping them off. This bib removing skill is coupled with a lot of enthusiasm for feeding herself, which unfortunately isn't matched just yet with accuracy. So meal times in our house currently have the potential to be very messy!

I found a lovely tutorial on Craftiness is not Optional for a "Bapron" - a combination tie on bib and apron. So I dusted down the sewing machine for its first outing since Mini-M's arrival, and gave it a bash.

Distractedly looking out of the window whilst modelling!

The pattern is simple, her instructions are fab, and it is a great quick-fix almost instant gratification project. If you don't look too closely at the stitching, then I'll count it as a success. I think I created the sewing equivalent of crazy paving - my stitching lines are all over the shop!

The front - untied
The front - tied
The back tied

However, I have 2 handy excuses lined up already...
To make it extra absorbent, I used some super thick muslin padding I had lying around, so in places I was effectively trying to sew through about 8 layers of material.
I also had some red bias tape kicking about which I decided to use up, rather than making my own, just that it was pretty narrow - even more so when used with the super fat muslin layer.
But how neat does the stitching on a bib need to be anyway.... in fact if it was beautifully finished it would seem a shame to smear it in puree (or at least that's what I'm telling myself!)?

Now it just needs to be road tested! At least this one shouldn't show strawberry juice stains too badly - they're Mini-M's favourite :o)

Mini-M looking grumpy so I chopped the grump off!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Pretty & Pink: Strawberry Rice Pudding

A quick post of some strawberry rice pudding I made for Mini-M.

It was made with ground rice (which I found in the back of the fridge left over from some shortbread making in the distant past), and the juice (not syrup) from a tin of strawberries, which appears to be a mixture of strawberry and pear juice.

I cooked it on the hob first, then baked it, because... well that's what the instructions said to do. But actually that just created an epic skin on the top, which I then chucked out, because it wasn't very baby friendly. Future ground rice puds (to use up the rest of the box) will definitely be hob only. Since the sun was shining I took it out onto the balcony to photograph, and added a few of the tinned strawberries on to the top to pretty it up a bit - the rest of them went in a 'squishy' fruit salad, along with mandarin segments and mango, which I divided up and froze in Mini-M sized portions.

I used 3 dessertspoons of ground rice, and the juice from 1 400g tin of strawberries (I'm guessing it's about 250ml). I heated the juice, then sprinkled the ground rice over the top, and stirred quickly until it was all incorporated, then cooked over a low heat until it thickened. Job done! This also freezes well in individual baby sized portions.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 20

No pictures of Mini-M in this week's selection - and quite a high quotient of random things in the house. Not sure how that happened... will have to make up for it next week!

Saturday 14th May
The newly married Mr & Mrs C&D! On the steps outside Harmony House, Melrose.

Sunday 15th May
I spent the day manning activity 6 - the blindfolded rope maze - at the Borders Exploration Group Cuba 2012 selection day

Monday 16th May
Ceramic radio/robot/money bank made by my talented Dad for when Mini-M was born

Tuesday 17th May
Q) "Hmm, what is behind the big wall I can't see over on the way home from work - let's hold the camera up in the air and investigate" A) A cemetery

Wednesday 18th May
Editing and blogging wedding cake photos

Thursday 19th May
Monkey, Teddy & Bear

Friday 20th May
Sometimes you need to celebrate the end of the week with a little Zubrowka and apple juice!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

C&D's Wedding Cake: Lemon & Almond Cake with White Chocolate Icing

The weekend just past saw the beautiful wedding of our lovely friends C&D. It was a fantastic day, with uncharacteristic and unexpected Scottish sunshine, good company, good food, and good ceilidh-ing. The fortnight running up to it, I had a military precision baking timetable, as I was making and decorating their 3 tier wedding cake. I'm pleased to say that it turned out as well as I hoped, tasted good, and I even managed to take some photos (unusual for me!). Each tier was different and will get its own post - this one is dedicated to the bottom tier - lemon sponge with white chocolate butter icing.

I made the cake with 3 thin layers, as I wanted to keep them fairly flat so they would stack well, and I wanted to make sure there was plenty of cake to go round.

The recipe I used was given to me by my Mum, who got it from a Home Economics teacher at her school, who made it for her son's wedding. I'm not sure where it came from before that, or if it is of her creation - but it is lovely and moist and lemony, and can be made a day or so in advance, which is perfect for a wedding cake. The recipe below is the quantity I used for each layer, however I have also made the same amount in an 8in deep tin, which makes a single cake that can be split through the middle for filling.

Lemon Cake with Double Lemon Filling
For the Cake...
  • 225g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 225g caster sugar
  • grated zest of 1.5 lemons
  • 275g SR flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 large eggs beaten
  • 50g ground almonds
For the Icing & Filling...
  • 150g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 275g icing sugar
  • 1 lemon, grated zest and juice
  • 2 generous tbsp lemon curd
Preheat oven to 160 C (Gas Mark 3), and grease and line an 8 inch deep loose bottomed cake tin (or a shallow 12 inch one)

Make the cake first of all...
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, add the zest, then beat in the eggs a little at a time. If it looks like it is starting to curdle, add a little flour and beat hard. Once the eggs are all added, sieve in the flour, add the salt, then lastly mix in the ground almonds. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, with a slight hollow in the centre to ensure an even rise. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 to 1.25 hrs, and leave to cool in tin for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Once you are ready to ice...
Beat together the softened butter, sieved icing sugar, grated lemon zest, and 2-3 tbsp of lemon juice. Level the top of the cake(s) if necessary, and cut in half through the middle (obviously not if you're going for the thin layers approach). Spread the middle(s) with the lemon curd. I used about 3tbsp per layer, at this point, which is more than the recipe, due to the large surface area I needed to cover. The original recipe says to use 2/3 of the lemon icing in the filling too, reserving 1/3 to crumb coat. It also specifies to stand for 1 day before marzipan-ing. I diverged a bit from the recipe here... I mixed up a double batch of the icing and used it all to give a generous crumb coat, with none in the middle (just the lemon curd).

I then made white chocolate icing based on this BBC Good Food recipe. I upped the icing sugar and decreased the butter slightly as I wanted it a bit stiffer to hold its shape after piping.

White Chocolate Icing
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 130g unsalted butter
Allow the butter to come to room temperature, then beat with a wooden spoon to soften. Sift the icing sugar over the butter, and beat well until smooth. Melt the chocolate (I did it carefully in the microwave on half power) and mix into the icing. Allow to cool and thicken up a little before using. All in all, I think I made 6x this quantity to cover the 12 inch cake with roses (which is an icing-heavy decoration).

I was then inspired by this post on i am baker for a beautiful piped rose design, which I, like her, piped all over the cake. I did a fair bit of practicing on several batches of cup cakes in the weeks beforehand, so that I was familiar with the swirling technique when the time came to decorating the lemon cake.

That said, I was still rather nervous - and indeed I got more nervous as the piping progressed because there was more at stake if I messed up! The key to this technique is definitely confidence - the hesitant roses looked least rose like, and even though they are individually imperfect the massed effect is gorgeous. I foresee many more swirly rose cakes in the future!


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