Friday, 27 April 2012

Daring Bakers' April 2012: Armenian Nutmeg Cake

The gods of technology, internet and Blogger permitting, by the time this is posted I'll be on holiday - yey! Either that, or it'll be the latest Daring Bakers post ever, and I'll not find out until we're back. Anyway...

The Daring Bakers' April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

I had serious doubts about this cake going into the oven, since the batter seemed unfeasibly liquid. And when it cake out, it looked, well, pretty much brown and uninspiring. BUT... I sent it off with Mr E to work, where it received rave reviews, so it just goes to show that appearances can be deceptive!

I've re-added it to my to-bake list, and will make it dairy free next time so I can taste it and see for myself.

Cake at work - complete with keyboard and coffee cup!
Symbolic of the sugar rush it will give you...
It may look boring, but it doesn't taste it!
Close up of surprising deliciousness

Friday, 20 April 2012

Eat your heart our Mr Kipling! Homemade Fondant Fanices

Fondant fancies are one of those cakes that I always wanted growing up as a kid, and when we did get them, usually as a treat or when we were visiting people, even then they always used to disappoint, but being, well, kind of fluffy and not really tasting of anything apart form sweet.

I have solved that problem now! Here's how to make some fantastic and flavourful fondant fancies with a hidden luxury... instead of being filled with white goopy icing, the little bump on the top is, in fact, half of a Lindor truffle.


I cheated with the icing a little, and used some meltable icing for pouring, made by Renshaw. It is technically from their Flossie Crums kids range, but it worked a treat! You just zap it in the microwave, give it a stir and you're good to go. Sometimes shortcuts like that are worth taking - particularly when you've got 9 different cakes to bake for a charity cake auction, like I did when I made these!

This is the raspberry version
So on to the recipe...

Basic Sponge
  • 2 eggs
Crack your eggs and weight them. Remember that number - that's how much of the other ingredients you need to guarantee you a light and fluffy sponge. We'll call it "X"from now on...
  • "X"g butter or margarine
  • "X"g granulated sugar
  • "X"g self raising flour
For the raspberry version - 2-3 tbsp raspberry cordial (Mine came from a Polish deli, if you can't find it in the supermarket)
For the passion fruit version - the sieved juice of 1 ripe passion fruit

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan). Grease and line a divided cake tin. If you don't have a divided cake tin, just use a square tin and cut it after - the edges won't be quite as neat but under the icing no-one will ever know...
Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs. Add the flour next, then the raspberry cordial or passion fruit juice.
Spoon the mixture carefully into the prepared tin - I filled 8 out of the 16 partitions each batch, then took the best four of each for icing.
Bake for about 15 mins until risen, golden and springy to the touch.
Allow to cool slightly, then carefully remove from the tin and allow to cool completely.

Icing and decoration
  • 2 white Lindor truffles
  • 2 milk Lindor truffles
  • 2 squares white chocolate
  • 2 squares milk chocolate
  • 1/2 tub raspberry Magic Melting icing
  • 1/2 tub tropical fruit Magic Melting icing
Trim the tops off any of the fancies that haven't risen evenly.
Cut each truffle in half and place a half, cut side down, on top of each cake. I went with white chocolate on the passion fruit cakes, and milk chocolate on the raspberry cakes.

Place a wire cooling rack over a large mixing bowl, and put four of one of your cake types on top.
Melt the icing in the microwave according to the instructions, then carefully spoon it over the top of the cakes.

 I found it cooled quite quickly and needed an extra zap half way through to stop it setting too quickly. The excess icing will run through the gaps in the wire cooling rack and collect in the bowl. If it's not too crumby, it will still be usable.
Then melt 2 of the squares of chocolate in a small bowl and drizzle over the top.

Allow to dry completely before gently cutting loose from the cooling rack.

If one of these bad boys took on a shop bought fancy in a fight, I know which one my money would be on!!!!




Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Random Recipes Birthday Cake

This month is the 2nd anniversary of Belleau Kitchen, the fantastic, stylish and culinarily (is that a word?) inspiring blog that hosts the monthly Random Recipes challenge.

And since when it's your birthday you get to call the shots, Dom asked everyone to bake a random birthday cake.

Random cake...
Specifically he suggested we either randomly choose one of our baking books, or choose randomly from a book with a baking section. After a quick glance, I decided that pretty much all of my cook books have a baking section of some kind or another (that's just the kind of person I am!), and didn't need any pre-selection weeding. My random selection method was to count along to the 15th book, since I baked this on the 15th April, then open that book at a random page.

Happy 2nd Birthday?
Vintage - this book is almost as old as me! (And stolen from my Mum's kitchen...)
So how's this for a 2nd birthday cake? I kid you not - this is the page I opened it at! After a quick flick through the rest of the book I concluded it was far too buttercream heavy to make successfully dairy free, and went for the next book along in the shelf - A Greener Life by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott.

Possibly my book with the fewest cake recipes in - great choice.
There are a grand total of 3 cakes in this book! And all are conveniently located on page 191.
Much as the challenge of making Devon Black Cake, with 12 eggs and the description that it should be stored for a year before eating appealed, it seemed a bit ambitious for Sunday evening baking, so I went instead for the Marlborough Cake.

Well at least I won't be disappointed when it doesn't turn out like the picture ;o)
It's a simple cake, flavoured heavily with caraway seeds, which I love. Apparently it is Georgian (as in historical era, rather than Caucasus country) in tradition, and was offered to coach passengers with beer whilst the horses were being changed over on long journeys. Hopefully it also passes muster as a birthday cake!

Marlborough Cake (makes 1 9inch cake)

  • 4 medium eggs
  • 170g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 85g rapadura (the original recipe said 225g caster sugar, but I ran out mid-measure and had to improvise!)
  • 30g caraway seeds

Preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan).
Grease a 9" (23cm) round cake tin - I used dairy free sunflower spread but you could use butter - then sprinkle flour for easy release.
Set a pan of water on a low heat to warm, then put your eggs in a pyrex mixing bowl and place over the pan. Whisk over the warm water until they thicken enough that they leave a trail. This took me 17 minutes of arm aching whisking, but then I was doing it by hand with a balloon whisk - perhaps not the brightest plan! I'd go with an electric hand whisk on low, with hindsight...
Take the bowl off the heat and sieve in half of the flour and all of the sugar, then sieve in the rest of the flour and mix gently.
Lastly, stir in the caraway seeds.
Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for about 10 minutes until risen and golden.
Allow to cool in the tin for a minute, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Turns out I have quite a stash of kitsch cake decorations!
Yey - this cake has not butter or oil, so is low in fat. Boo - that means it doesn't keep very well. Yey - a good excuse to eat it all up!

Not sure an icing sugar doily and some paper flotsam makes up for the absence of actual icing...
The caraway flavour is really prominent but I love that - if you're not a huge caraway fan, then reducing it down to 15g would give a much subtler flavour.


Monday, 16 April 2012

Coconut Toast - A Breakfast Club April 2012 Sweet Treat

This month's Breakfast Club, organised by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours, is hosted by Utterly Scrummy Food For Families who has asked us to cook up a delicious Breakfast Pastry or Sweet Treat.

I went for a quick and easy recipe that definitely gave us a sweet Saturday morning breakfast treat: Coconut Toast.

I used a recipe I found at Taste of Home which I halved, subbed the butter for dairy-free margarine, and generally tweaked the quantities a little bit.

So here's my recipe adaptation...


Coconut Toast (makes enough for 4 slices with some extra topping which will keep in the fridge for another day)

  • 4 slices bread - I used Polish sourdough
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp dairy free margarine, melted
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C and very lightly grease a baking sheet.
Lay out the slices of bread on the baking sheet.
Mix together all of the ingredients, then spread onto the bread.
You want a layer that isn't too thick, otherwise it won't cook properly, but not too thin either!
Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden on top.
Lift onto a cooling rack, and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before eating to avoid burning your mouth!

This was lovely - and probably once you analyse it, not that much more unhealthy than toast with jam.
It was easy to make, which is important for breakfast, quick - another must, and of course tasty!
You could easily add a lot of other flavours to this - cinnamon would be lovely, some chopped nuts also fantastic - it seems a very flexible recipe.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Daring Cooks' April 2012 Challenge - Create Your Own Recipe

Time to post this month's Daring Cooks' challenge again...

Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. They presented us with a very daring and unique challenge of forming our own recipes by using a set list of ingredients.

We were given three categories, each containing three ingredients, and had to come up with a dish using one item from each category.

Category A) Parsnips, Aubergine, Cauliflower
Category B) Balsamic Vinegar, Goats Cheese, Chipotle Peppers
Category C) Bananas, Maple Syrup, Instant Coffee

Since I'm not one to do things by halves, I decided to create a three course meal, using all nine ingredients, in three different combinations. I'm generally fairly free-form in my cooking, and lots of our dinners are random concoctions, so I figured I needed more of a challenge.

But given that Mini-M the chaos pixie lives in our house, our 'three course meal' was split over three separate days, with one course each day.

For starter I made Cauliflower Croquettes with a Balsamic and Coffee dipping sauce. Main Course was Chipotle and Maple Roasted Aubergine with Hot Smoked Salmon and Rice Couscous. And Dessert was a Self Saucing Sticky Banana, Parsnip and Goats Cheese Pudding. (Recipes after the pictures if anyone is interested!)

So how did it all taste?

Well, the cauliflower fritters were delicious. I'd definitely make them again. We've had some new season cauli's in our veg box which have been rather on the small side, and this is a great recipe for them, as you don't need lots. The sauce was a lot nicer than we expected - savoury and tangy, and a very pleasant surprise. I used the leftovers to bake some beef sausages the next day and it game them a subtle coffee hint which was great.



The main had some delicious elements - the Maple and Chipotle Roasted Aubergines were sticky and sweet and very good. And hot smoked salmon is always tasty. But I horribly overcooked the rice couscous by not paying attention and sloshing on far too much water, which it then absorbed. It was pretty much like wallpaper paste with bits of aubergine and salmon in it. The taste was good, the texture a little odd! I think the aubergine would go really well with noodles though, and I'll be making it again too.



Wallpaper Paste Close-Up
And lastly dessert. I have to confess I didn't taste this, since it had goats cheese in it, and I'm currently dairy free. But Mr E has eaten two helpings happily, and is about to go an have another! I'm reliably informed that it tastes like a banana-y sticky toffee pudding, and the parsnip and goats cheese aren't obvious flavours, but if you concentrate hard you can tell that they're there.

Hot from the oven and still bubbling
Toffee Sauce close-up
Cauliflower Croquettes with Balsamic Coffee Dipping Sauce (Makes 6 and plenty of sauce)

  • 200g raw cauliflower
  • 150g breadcrumbs (mine were frozen and made from a loaf containing sunflower seeds which added extra crunchy nutty bits)
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Sunflower oil for frying

Break the cauliflower into florets and cooking boiling water until tender. Drain, but leave a little water.
Put the cauliflower in a bowl whilst still hot, and mash with a fork to break up.
Stir in the breadcrumbs, rapeseed oil and salt and pepper, then once it has cooled slightly, mix in the beaten egg.
Allow to chill for about half an hour, then shape into 6 small patties.
Heat some sunflower oil in a deep frying pan, add the croquettes and fry for about 4 minutes on each side until golden.
Drain on kitchen paper.

Whilst the croquettes are frying, whisk or shake together the following dressing ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp very strong coffee (I used 1 tsp coffee granules to 2 tbsp water)
  • 2 tbsp cold pressed rapeseed oil
  • a dash of lemon juice
  • pinch of salt and twist of pepper

Serve the fritters with the sauce drizzled over, or in a separate bowl for dipping.

Maple Chipotle Roasted Aubergine (Serves 2)

  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 1/2 a dried chipotle pepper
  • Hot Water
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • pinch of salt
  • ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 170C.
Soak the chipotle in hot water for about 5 minutes to soften then finely chop.
Cut the aubergine into chunks and put into a casserole dish.
Drizzle of the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and give it a good mix.
Roast for about 20 minutes, then take out of the oven.
Sprinkle over the chopped chipotle, drizzle over the maple syrup and return to the oven for another 15 minutes cooking.

Self Saucing Sticky Banana, Parsnip and Goats Cheese Pudding (Serves 4)

  • 50g soft goats cheese
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil (or omit the oil and substitute the goats cheese for butter)
  • 50g stoneless dates
  • 50g grated parsnip
  • 75ml hazelnut milk (or regular milk, or soya - whatever you fancy!)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 70g Self Raising Flour
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp treacle
  • 35g demerara sugar
  • 1 small overripe banana, mashed

then for the sauce...

  • 35g rapadura (or 50g brown sugar)
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 125ml boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease a medium sized casserole dish.
Chop the dates fairly small, and put them in a pan with the milk and vanilla. Bring to boiling point, then take off the heat, and stir in the bicarbonate of soda.
In a small bowl, mash together the banana, goats cheese and oil.
Sieve the flour and ginger into a mixing bowl, then stir in the sugar.
Add the treacle, mashed banana and goats cheese, parsnip and date mixture then mix really well for about five minutes, or, if like me you're making it at 10:30pm at night, your arm gets tired and you get bored!
Pour into the prepared casserole dish and give it a shake to level.
Sprinkle over the rapadura, drizzle over the golden syrup then carefully pour over the boiling water.
Don't stir!!!! It will look vile and disgusting, with sugary water and little bits of raw cake mix, but worry not, magic will happen in the oven.
Bake for about 40 mins, until firm to the touch and the sauce is bubbling around the edges.
When you serve, you'll discover that there is magically now a layer of toffee sauce on the bottom that you didn't put there - amazing!


Friday, 13 April 2012

Crash, Bang, Craft!

On Tuesday I was upstairs when suddenly I heard a big clatter. My immediate panic was that it was the start of our bookcase collapsing - we covered the end wall of our landing in shelving brackets and turned it into floor to ceiling bookcases. That would have been some paperback avalanche!

Thankfully it wasn't, so I set of downstairs to see what it was that had suddenly launched itself at the floor.



This is what greeted me at the bottom of the stairs - our pin board had jumped (of its own free will, I can only assume, since I was the only person in the house and nowhere near...) off the wall. Drawing pin confetti strewn far and wide! Once the immediate task of picking all of the debris up and making sure there weren't any left for Mini-M to discover with her bare feet was done, and all of the old notices taken down and 'filed (I can't lie, most of them went into the recycling!), I decided it was time for a bit of a notice board revamp.


First up, I taped the cork back into the frame, since it hadn't survived the plunge unscathed. Then I raided my ribbon stash and pinned bits at random angles across the board, giving us plenty of places to slide in notes home from nursery, takeaway menus, cake shop loyalty cards, receipts, repeat prescriptions, polling cards and anything else papery that doesn't have a home!


Hopefully there won't be a repeat performance!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

2012 Q1 - Things I've cooked and forgotten the recipes of

Going through my iPhoto tonight I discovered a fair few things that I've cooked so far this year, taken photos of, forgotten about, and subsequently have no idea what went into them, so they won't be getting blog posts of their own! Well, I know what went into them, just not the quantities - which is kind of the useful bit. Must get better at writing it down!
Hot-Smoked Trout Cobbler
Fruity Chickpea Blondies
Supernoodle Fritters
Cinnamon Shortbread
No-Knead Bread
Oops! Dropped Friendship Cake
Spinach and Banana Muffins 
Halloumi Phyllo Spring Rolls
Roasted Salmon Pasta
Spinach and Apple Pancakes
Nigella's Lazy Muesli Loaf
Garlic Bread Pizza Flower
Feta-Stuffed Pork Meatballs

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Mr E's Photo A Day Roundup Month 3

A little late, since we're heading rapidly for the middle of April, but here's a roundup of Mr E's photo-a-day pictures from March.

It's been a month with some unseasonably warm weather, lots of trips to the park, picnics, zoo visits, lots of duck feeding, and enjoying the sunshine.

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4

 April's roundup will probably not happen until the end of May - we're hitting the road at the end of the month on a bit of a road trip, and internet access is likely to be non-existent most of the time. Plus let's face it, whilst you're on holiday, it's time to focus on enjoying life, not blogging about it!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The world is very squiggly when you try to ice its outline...

A very belated post tonight about the Borders Exploration Group 20th Anniversary Celebration Cake that I made back in October.

It's not a printed photo - it's icing!
Dracula pondering the Romanian flag
Borders Exploration Group is a fantastic hands-on youth expedition group that organises and leads expeditions both overseas and at home for young people form the Scottish Borders area. It provides hands on social, cultural, environmental and personal development for the young people involved and delivers valuable community projects around the world. And it's been going for 20 years in 2011/12.

I went on one of these expeditions when I was 16 to Mongolia - a travel destination I'm unlikely to top in the rest of my life! Jump 9 years down the line, and I was chief leader of the Poland expedition, and then stuck out several years on the committee. I've stepped back a bit at the moment, since Mini-M is providing plenty of opportunities for adventure of a different kind - sometimes just getting to the supermarket and back and feel like a bit of an expedition!

But I knew I really wanted to make everyone a special cake for the 20th Anniversary ceilidh that was held in October. I wanted something that represented all of the expedition destinations over the years, so I went for a map of the world with flags of all the visited countries around the sides, and a small model symbolising each expedition. I made the models out of modelling clay because I needed to make them in advance, and didn't want any melting or cracking disasters, and let's face it - none likes eating fondant icing on its own anyway!

When it came to icing, I discovered the slow and painful way that the outline of the world is really wiggly. Cue epic hand cramp! But I got there :o)

Of course, I may have altered years of geological processes!

How did I do it - I printed the outline and lettering onto a sheet of paper, which I placed on top of the cake. I then got a sharp sterilised pin and pricked all around the outline - that in itself was fairy time consuming, but was nothing compared to the icing! And then I very carefully, with my heart in my mouth, joined the dots with black royal icing - and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when it was done.

No spelling mistakes - phew!
I made the flags from fondant and coloured them in using food colouring pens, and attached them with royal icing.

Scotland attached as the guinea pig - it stayed put so the others followed soon after
I can't pretend it was easy - it was definitely a labour of love, but I'm glad I went with the design I did, and it certainly prompted much debate and guessing during the ceilidh as to which flags were which and what the models represented.

Guardians of the cake...
As for the cake - it was a very moist and delicious chocolate fruitcake!

Here are all of the  models and their associated countries...
Mongolia 1999 - Ger
Peru 2003 - Guinea pig on a stick
Ukraine 2011 - Flower garland
Solar Eclipse 1999 - Sunglasses
Poland 2008 - Sister Klara
Vietnam 2005 - Cyclist
India 2001 - Curry, naan and a flower garland
Norway 2006 - Fjord Kayaking 
Cuba 2012 - Classic Cars
Kenya 1997 - Safari
Zambia 2007 - White water rafting
Romania 2002 - Dracula
Pyrenees 2004 - a mouflon sheep
Scotland - several - the Ocean Bounty
Lesotho 1993 - a Basotho hat
Chile 2010 - petroglyphs and red wine
Ecuador 1995 - a condor
And one last pic of the cake getting cut

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