Saturday, 29 December 2012

How to turn 1 apple into dessert for 3...

I feel I should qualify that rather ambitious sounding title with a slight caveat: if you are short of apples but have a relatively well stocked store cupboard! It's not a magic apple equivalent of the loaves and fishes. It's just a way to eke out fresh ingredients when you don't fancy facing the supermarket and are trying to stretch your fresh fruit supply out as long as possible!

It's also dairy free, quick, easy, healthy, gluten free, free of refined sugar.

I bring you... apple nachos! This was based on a recipe I found on Food Doodles for Apple Nachos with Cinnamon Spiced Raw Vegan Salted Caramel. I tweaked the sauces a little, since Mini-M isn't a big cinnamon fan, and I didn't want as much caramel, or to have to blend it for 7-8 mins. But in essence it's the same idea - and what a genius idea it is.

Apple Nachos (Serves 2 adults and 1 toddler with a healthy appetite for apples!)
For the apple wedges
  • 1 large eating apple
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp water
For the sprinkles
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 heaped tsp flaked almonds
  • 1 tbsp broken cashew nuts
For the peanut butter sauce
  • 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp boiling water
For the date caramel sauce
  • 1/2 cup ready to eat dried stoned dates
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Around 50ml boiling water
Halve, then quarter the apple and cut out of the core. Don't peel it, and cut into thin slices.
Put in a bowl and toss in the lemon juice and water to stop it browning.
To make the peanut butter sauce, mix the peanut butter and water together until well combined - it will still be fairly thick, but dollop-able rather than spreadable.
To make the date caramel sauce, put the dates in a measuring jug and pour in enough boiling water to just cover. Add the maple syrup and vanilla extract, then with a stick blender, blitz until smooth.
To serve, spread the apple slices across a large plate, then put the peanut butter sauce into a small plastic bag. Cut off the corner and squeeze to drizzle the sauce all over the apples. Add the date caramel to the bag and do the same. Sprinkle with the sprinkles, then enjoy!

This was lovely - particularly enjoyed by Mr E and myself. Mini-M was fairly fastidious about picking off all the sprinkles and wiping off all the sauce on the edge of the plate, but happily munched on the apples. For a less fussy little one, I think it would go down a treat!

I should add that if you've read this far, you'll have worked out that it isn't really caramel in any shape or form, but actually date puree - but believe me, it really does have a caramel taste - much better than many dairy-free 'caramels' made in the traditional way. Give it a shot - you might be surprised how tasty healthiness can be!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Doubly Late December Daring Bakers' and Daring Cook's Double Whammy!

This year the preparations for the festive season co-incided with going back to work full-time 2 weeks before Christmas, which meant an added element of slightly unplanned for chaos. Casualties included Christmas card posting (they were all written, but there's no denying the fact that some folk will have got New Year cards this year!); tying bows and ribbon on presents (although largely thanks to Mr E we did manage wrapping); and blogging.

So this is a combined Daring Cooks' Challenge (14 days late) and Daring Bakers' Challenge (only 1 day late) post!

I'm going with the Daring Bakers' first of all, since it's a) the least late, b) the most festive, and c) has the least awful photos...

Muffin tops!
The December 2012 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by the talented Marcellina of Marcellina in Cucina. Marcellina challenged us to create our own custom Panettone, a traditional Italian holiday bread!

And muffin bottoms...
I was a little short of rising time, baking time, panettone papers, and of course had to modify the recipe to make it dairy free, but all things considered the giant dairy free panettone muffins I managed to concoct were pretty delicious and made for a fantastic on-bus-breakfast during my journey to work for a few days!

Guess who didn't portion the dough very evenly?!
Now for the very belated Daring Cooks' challenge...

Our Daring Cooks' December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today's the Day and Today's the Day I Cook! Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the Pate Chinois, also known as Shepherd's pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!

I made a pie with veggie haggis on the bottom, topped by a carrot and sweet chilli puree, then finished off with mashed potatoes. It was delicious - a great hearty winter warmer. Not so photogenic unfortunately - particularly not when I took the pictures on my phone. But at least I took them!

The veggie haggis base layer - full of lentils, turnip, carrot, beans and oatmeal
Being blanketed with a layer of carrot and sweet chilli puree
Topped with mash and ready to be baked
A serving school dinners would be proud of - dolloped unceremoniously on a plate!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Random Recipes at Christmas - Melon and Blackberry Soup

I hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas with some feet-up time squeezed in somewhere amid the festive chaos. I'm having some now, and using it to do a wee bit of blogging.

It's been a lovely Christmas with LOTS of family and friends and Mini-M has been keeping everyone entertained (verging on bossing them all about in many cases... can't imagine where she gets that from!).

I'll get on with the recipe posting bit first of all, but after that's done thought I'd share some of Mini-M's finest festive quips.

This post is my entry into the Random Recipes at Christmas challenge, hosted as always by Belleau Kitchen. This time we were challenged to return to one of the books we were given as a gift last Christmas, open it at a random page, and make something!

Melon Bubbly and Blackberry Soup
My book was Eat Tweet - a selection of recipes posted on Twitter, therefore all described in 140 characters or less! As a result, some are a little cryptic, or require a bit of guesswork regarding the recipe. I opened it on Page 79 - Melon and Blackberry Soup.

The chosen cookbook - on a natty batik backdrop...
The quantities in the recipe were a little vague, so here's what I went with.

Melon Bubbly and Blackberry Soup (serves 8 as a light starter)

  • 1 small water melon
  • 1 small galia melon
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 200ml sparkling wine (I used champagne leftover from Christmas breakfast!)
  • 125g blackberries

If you have a melon baller, use it to make balls out of about 1/4 of your watermelon (if you've not got a melon baller, cut 1/4 of it into small neat chunks) and set aside.
Cut 1/2 of the watermelon, and all of the small galia melon into chunks and put in a liquidiser along with the juice of the lime and lemon. (Save the other 1/4 of watermelon for something else!)
Blend until smooth, then chill until you're ready to serve.
Before serving, add the sparkling wine to the melon puree and stir well.
Divide between serving glasses, and top with the blackberries and melon balls.
Melon and champagne smoothie anyone?

This was a) easy, b) lovely and light so a great starter before a heavy Christmas meal, c) fresh and zingy so a good antidote to miserable winter weather.

The garnishes ready to be  - well - garnished!
I feel that after last month's Random Recipes horror, I fared a little bit better this time around - phew!

Ready to serve
Now onto the festive Mini-M anecdotes and a few pictures... maybe she's got a future ahead of her as a comedienne?!

Snowballs made by Mini-M. Please don't point out that one of them looks more like poo covered in sprinkles. I  already know!
On Christmas Eve we went to the community carol service. It had just started and Mini-M announced; "I need a pee Mummy... oh I did it already" She picked up the nappy bag with was sitting on the floor next to her, pulled out a clean pair of leggings and exclaimed "Change me Mummy!" as she started to pull her trousers down, at which point I whisked her swiftly in the direction of the bathrooms. As we were leaving the hall she waved to the folk at the end of the rows, telling them all "I just having a  pee. Be back in a minute". It turned out she thankfully hand't already done it - phew!

Mini-M the red nosed reindeer
In order to keep her quiet(ish) I had a handbag stash of snacks to ply her with, but the supply was exhausted before the end of the service. She asked Mr E hopefully "Any more snacks in Mummy's bag?" to which he told her that the snack rations had run out. She then shouted really loudly "Meatballs?" which was slightly surreal and embarrassing. Note - I have never carried around meatballs in my handbag!

Pom-Pom Pine Cones
And lastly, the Salvation Army Leader asked all the children in the audience if they new Away In A Manger, to which Mini-M loudly piped up "No. I know She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain".  Which is true - she does, so I guess you can't fault her helpfulness in suggesting an alternative, but not entirely appropriate for a Christmas Eve service!

Christmas Tree Contemplation

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Golden Syrup and Chocolate Snow Dragon Cake

I'm squeezing in a blog post this evening - possibly at the expense of writing Christmas cards - but I'm sure the world won't end if some people end up getting Hogmanay cards instead, right?

A few weeks back I posted a fairy birthday cake, and this one was for the little fairy's big sister who requested a chocolate cake with a snow dragon in it.

Confession: I had (still have) no idea what a snow dragon is. The little girl in question's Mum wasn't sure either, so in the end I just went for a dragon who was having a snowball fight - since that covered both the snow and dragon bases!

The cake itself is my favourite chocolate cake recipe - it's made using golden syrup, and it has a great flavour, a nice solid crumb, it keeps well, freezes perfectly and is fairly easy to shape and carve if you need to do any cake shaping.

It's based on a recipe from 'Fun Cakes for Special Occasions by Ann Nicol' - a now-slightly-retro-looking celebration cake book from 1997, which now seems to be out of print. I've adapted the recipe to be dairy free, and here's my version:

Golden Syrup Chocolate Cake (Makes an 8" round cake)
  • 275g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 4 generous tbsp cocoa powder
  • 175g light muscovado sugar
  • 100g dairy free margarine (I used Pure sunflower)
  • 200ml chocolate flavour Oatly oat milk
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 medium eggs lightly beaten
Grease and base line your tin and preheat the oven to 160C.
Sieve flour, cocoa powder, bicarb, baking powder and sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir to combined.
Put the margarine and chocolate oat milk in a small pan on a low heat and stir until dissolved.
Spoon the syrup into the warm milk and margarine and stir until combined.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, then add the eggs.
Beat until the batter is smooth - it will be fairly runny.
Pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for approximately 50-60mins. When a skewer comes out clean it's done.

If you don't need to make it dairy free, then feel free to use regular marge, or butter. If you're going with  regular butter or marge, then increase the quantity to 115g and miss out one of the tsp of golden syrup to keep things in proportion.

If you can't find chocolate oat milk, then any other non-dairy milk will do, it just won't be quite as chocolate-y! (And again, real milk will also work if you're not trying to be DF).

To make the dragon, I used this tutorial at Bake Happy. To help it dry and keep it's shape a little better, I used 60% fondant and 40% mexican modelling paste which I kneaded together before colouring.

I iced it with chocolate butter cream for which I used 250g unsalted butter, 500g icing sugar, 3 tbsp milk and 50g melted dark chocolate. That made plenty for the cake, plus enough for 6-12 cupcakes (depending on your icing philosophy... 6 if you think icing and cake should be in a 50:50 ration and piled in a towering swirl on top, 12 if you're more of a quick swipe across the top with a palette knife person).

I'm submitting this to the December edition of Tea Time Treats - the theme for the Christmas edition is chocolate, so I think this definitely fits the bill! It's hosted alternately by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked, and this month it's What Kate Baked's turn. I'm looking forward to the roundup and seeing what everyone else has made.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Had a Very Wonky Nose

As you may have noticed, blog posts have been thin on the ground recently. Particularly since most other food bloggers are in a Christmassy frenzy as soon as Halloween is over, and posting rates shoot upwards. But not so here, as there are changes afoot chez Make-Cakey. Nothing too drastic, but I'm now back working full time. The pas month has been slightly chaotic and filled with festive activities like job interviews, presentation writing, worrying about job interviews etc!

Over and done with now thankfully, but blogging time has been and will continue to be in a lot shorter supply than previously! I'll do my best, but sporadic may be the best word to describe it for a while at least. That said, I'm hoping to take advantage of the Christmas holidays to get some back posts finished up, and maybe even write a few and schedule posting dates for later in the new Year, if I'm feeling really efficient.

Yesterday, we made cupcakes with Mini-M. She got to choose which additional ingredients were added to them, and from a wide and varied selection, shunned sprinkles, raisins (!), cherries, jam etc and chose instead prunes and small pieces of hazelnut brittle....

So we made them, and then Mr E and Mini-M got decorating, reindeer style!

They used red fondant for the noses, white for the eyes with raisins for the pupils and pretzels for the antlers.

And here's a close up of "Rudolph the Wonky Reindeer" who is all Mini-M's own handiwork.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Peanut Butter Fudge (Don't tell anyone, but it's dairy free!)

I made this Peanut Butter Fudge as one of my '12 Cookies of Christmas' Daring Bakers' challenge a few weeks back. Technically it's in no way a cookie, but it is delicious, seems vaguely festive, and is awesomely, fantastically, wonderfully dairy free. Obviously, if you want, just use real butter and real milk. But it works very well with non-dairy substitutes.

It's essentially just a few tweaks to the Sophie Dahl's recipe which you can find on the BBC Food website.

I also halved the original quantities, since I wasn't giving it as a gift and didn't want to end up the size of a house before Christmas, and Mr E and I have been very restrained and made the batch last a whole week.

Dairy Free Peanut Butter Fudge (Makes one 6"x4" rectangular tray)
  • 60g dairy free sunflower margarine
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 60ml Oatly oat milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g crunchy peanut butter
  • 75g smooth peanut butter
  • 170g icing sugar
Grease your chosen tin.
Melt the margarine in a small saucepan over a moderate heat.
Add the sugars, oat milk and vanilla extract and stir until dissolved, then allow to come to the boil and boil gently for 3 minutes without stirring.
Take off the heat, add the peanut butter and stir until well combined.
Sieve the icing sugar into a mixing bowl and then pour on the still-hot butter and sugar mixture.
Beat until smooth, then pour into the prepared tin.
Allow to cool on the worktop for an hour or so, then pop in the fridge to firm up completely.

This is seriously good stuff - it would make a lovely present, and it's a lot less hassle than the traditional soft-ball-stage fudge, with sugar thermometers, glasses of water and endless beating, followed by the whole thing setting in the pan!

(If you're making it with regular butter, I'd decrease the icing sugar down to 150g to match the proportions of the original recipe, but dairy free margarine makes everything a bit softer, so the extra helps stiffen it up a little.)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Seasonal Surprise Ingredient Swap Roundup

Happy December everyone!

Back on the 1st of October I announced I'd be organising another Surprise Ingredient Swap - this time with a vaguely seasonal theme.

By mid October, 14 swappers were paired up and simultaneously shopping for and posting interesting ingredients and eagerly awaiting the arrival of their swap parcel. You can find out who was paired with who here.

Throughout November, I've been receiving links and photos of the delicious creations everyone has come up with, and now that another month has been turned over on the calendar, it's time to write-up the round-up!

And so, in a vaguely chronological order, off we go!

Recipe Junkie kicked us off with this decadent Pumpkin Cheesecake - what a ratio of filling to crust! She received a whole box of goodies, including pumpkin puree, cinnamon, dried apple rings and nuts from her swap partner's garden. A perfect and multi-purpose seasonal dessert with autumnal flavours that would be perfect for Halloween, Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving or Christmas!

Next up Mr E, who is a man of many blogs, but records his culinary exploits at Hell Yeah Four Ingredient Recipes. He was sent some marzipan, dried cranberries and dark chocolate. The first two ingredients made it in to these fantastically chewy and more-ish Christmas Marzipan and Cranberry Cookies, whilst the third ended up being eaten and enjoyed without any baking whatsoever!

I was next to get baking - I received some delicious dried figs all the way from Croatia, and used them to make this Fig, Almond, Lemon and Olive Oil Cake. I then indulged the baking fantasies of my eight year old self, and decorated the top with an icing sugar doily!

Next up, my Mum! She doesn't blog but is always up for a kitchen experiment (like mother like daughter...). I say she doesn't blog, but she did write a lovely guest post for me, detailing her baking exploits with the crystallised ginger and pecans she received as her swap ingredients. She used them to make some Ultimate Ginger Cookies, which with a little bit of butter icing became Ultimate Ginger Sandwich Cakes!

Jean who blogs at Baking in Franglais was sent some macadamias, dried cranberries, amaretti biscuits and a Santa Claus - so there was no doubt her creation was going to have a festive flavour! She used them to conjure up a  delicious looking trifle with a Christmassy twist - then as a kind of two-for-one bonus bake, rustled up some Cranberry, Macadamia and Orange Squares!

Next came Let Them Eat Cake who was sent walnuts, dried cranberries and cinnamon (a popular seasonal swap ingredient choice it seems!!). She used them to make these lovely Spiced Fruit and Nut Shortbread Biscuits, which would be perfect with a cuppa on a wintry day.

Dom at Belleau Kitchen was sent some cocoa nibs, which he combined with some exotic rose petal tea to come up with these beautiful Rose Tea and Cocoa Nibs Cupcakes. Reading his post for the first time, I have to confess to having some serious cupcake case envy - teeny tiny cases with little sprays of flowers which seem to shout elegant afternoon tea. Plus, mini cupcakes means you can eat two (or three, or four...) without any extra guilt, which is a good job, as they look very moreish!

Heading overseas now, to What's For Dessert, who made these stunning Mint Ganache Chocolates, after receiving some Kendal Mint Cake as her swap ingredient. I can't get over how perfect and shiny these chocolates look - amazing!

Heading to Italy this time, and Cooking Manu was sent some Scotch whisky and dark chocolate in her swap parcel. She used them to make a decadent Chocolate Whisky Cake. The pistachios sprinkled on top look so vibrant and are a beautiful touch.

Coming back to Scotland again, Please Do Not Feed The Animals went down a deliciously savoury route and cooked up a hearty winter warming dinner. She was sent some Lincolnshire Relish and used it to make a giant Lamb and Root Vegetable Mash roly poly style pie! Amazing - a complete meal in a pie and great comfort food for the cold weather that has just set in.

Claire - another non-blogger - was another lucky cranberry recipient! She used them to make an Apple and Cranberry Cake which sounds deliciously different - the base is made with spelt flour, and has marzipan kneaded through the dough, before being topped with fresh apples and dried cranberries - so many festive flavours in one slice!

Not to be outdone by my Mum, my Dad wanted to join in too! (Note - I didn't twist their arms - honest!). Now he is a prolific bread baker, but went down a sweeter route this time, and made a Lemon, Creme Fraiche and Chestnut Cake with the very adventurous swap ingredient he was sent - chestnut flour. The result was a lovely moist and pudding-y cake.

And last but by no means least, Cake Crumbs and Cooking was sent some dried mango and some coconut and cherry fudge. The fudge looked too tasty to cook with, so it was enjoyed unadulterated, and the dried mango was used to make some fantastic sticky Mango and Chocolate Flapjacks. And adding surely adding dried mango makes them more healthy, right? Or at least cancels out the chocolate ;o)

Now, if you're super observant, you might notice that I've rounded up 13 delicious cakes and bakes, and 13 is a number that doesn't easily lend itself to pairing up, without things getting awfully complicated. Number 14 has had a hectic time of exams and other such unpleasantness, but might manage to rustle something up now that that craziness has passed - and if she does, I'll update this post!

Thanks all for taking part - I hope you had fun - I certainly did. Wishing you all a lovely December, Christmas, New Year and beyond. Once we've made it through the festive chaos and out the other side into 2013, maybe we'll all need another little swap to cheer us up through the rest of the short days and long nights!


Friday, 30 November 2012

Cake roundup!

I posted a recipe roundup a week or so back, of all the things I've made over the past 6 months and forgotten the recipes of, thus will never make blog posts of their own, but I have to confess I kept a few back... some cakes which are a little bit more special.

Hence this post to show them off on their own!

Starting off with one of my most recent decorating exploits - a cute little fairy for a little fairy's 5th birthday

An LP cake for a DJ...

A spiced chocolate and raspberry bundt cake to congratulate on an engagement

Some brush embroidery close ups

Some swirly butter icing roses with edible star sprinkles for a kitsch finish

Super bright multi-coloured cake crumbs...

6 layers of rainbow brightness hidden under the white icing :o)


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