Saturday, 28 March 2015

Cakes for a good cause

Since my hot date tonight is of the water bottle and lemsip variety, I thought I'd use the opportunity to post a roundup of the cakes I've made so far since volunteering with Free Cakes for Kids.

They are a community based charity which provides free birthday cakes, baked and decorated by volunteers, to children and families that would otherwise be unlikely to have one.

Having a special birthday cake is undeniably one of the lovely simple pleasures of childhood. It's just so exciting - choosing the cake you want, dropping some stupendously unsubtle hints, and the final surprise of seeing what it looks like in all it's iced glory.

The sad fact is that there are a great many children in the UK whose birthdays won't be celebrated with cake, or indeed really celebrated at all. This could be for a whole host of reasons, including financial, health, housing or many other issues. That's where Free Cakes for Kids comes in. It works with local organisations all over the UK, and accepts referrals for cakes, which are then allocated to volunteered bakers to supply.

To each individual volunteer baker, the cost is small, the effort rewarding and collectively the organisation provides hundreds if not thousands of cakes to children all around the country each year.

I've been baking with my local branch for several months now, so I thought I'd post a few photos of my creations!

Monsters High

Music and Singing

Not a birthday but a good luck cake for a work placement abroad

Woodland fairy
Football
It's lovely to feel you are doing something that brings a burst of fun and excitement into the difficult lives that many children end up leading. So if you're looking for an excuse to get stuck in with the fondant and food colouring on a semi-regular basis, then I thoroughly recommend checking out your nearest group on the website and getting in touch.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Daring Bakers' March 2015 Challenge: Tarte Tatin

I'm on time with this blog post (or at least in the correct 24hr time period, once time zones etc are considered). Yep, it's the 27th so it's the posting day for the Daring Bakers' March challenge.

For the March Daring bakers' challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.

Mini-M was my official kitchen helper for this challenge. She made the pastry herself.*

*(well, that's what she'd probably like you to think. In the name of making sure there was actually pastry mix left in the bowl after rubbing in the fat and flour, I stepped in to intervene…)

She also chose the filling: figs, apple and cashew nuts. Slightly unconventional but still delicious.

In order to make the pastry dairy free, I used a mixture of coconut oil and DF margarine. I'd have used all coconut oil, however the jar was emptier than I thought. I also chucked in a handful of chia seeds to give the pastry some added crunch.

Ready to flip...
Sigh of relief - still in one piece and ready to serve
We made the pastry and put in in the fridge to chill, then life got in the way a little, as often happens, so I chucked it in the freezer, and I can also report that it froze and defrosted really well. A good tip!

Here's our recipe…

Dairy Free Figgy Tarte Tatin (Serves 8)

For the pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 60g coconut oil (chill until solid if you live somewhere warm  - no problems here in Scotland!)
  • 60g DF margarine
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 60ml iced water

Sieve the flour into a bowl. Chop the coconut oil and margarine into cubes, then use 2 knives (or one of those fancy pastry gadgets) to but the fat into the flour. Once you're down to small pieces, use your hands to give a last rub in - you want there still to be pea-sized pieces of fat remaining. If you're working with coconut oil or DF margarine and you start rubbing it from the start, it will get very sticky as they often melt more easily.
Stir in the chia seeds.
Add the iced water and mix in with a knife.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple of times to combine, then wrap and chill for an hour in the fridge (or freeze until you need it). Take it out of the fridge 15 mins before you want to start making the dessert (and longer if it's frozen). It's also unsweetened so would work just as well in a savoury topped pie.

For the fruit:

  • 8 small fresh figs
  • 2 eating apples
  • handful unsalted cashew nuts
  • 50g coconut oil
  • 150g caster sugar
  • pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 190C (180C fan).
In an oven proof iron skillet, slowly melt the sugar and coconut oil. They won't seem to combine properly, like butter and sugar would, but don't worry - it'll all come OK in the end.
At the same time, top and tail your figs and chop. We were aiming for quarters, but 4yr old knife skills meant a slightly more haphazard effect.
Peel and thinly slice the apples
Allow the mixture to bubble over a medium heat for a minute or so to start to caramelise. Keep an eye so that it doesn't catch. Coconut oil can often cause the sugar to crystallise, and go crunchy - again don't worry!
One it is starting to just take a very pale colour, add the salt, nuts and fruit (both figs and apples) and give it a stir around to coat. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
Roll out the pastry into a circle that is slightly larger than your pan, and carefully place it on top of the bubbling fruity mixture, and tuck in the sides.
Cut holes in the top to let steam escape, and bake for around 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling around the edges.
Cool a little before inverting carefully (I made Mr E do this). Enjoy!

Chief fig chopper/squasher (it's a fine line to tread…)

Crispy pastry, gooey topping

Monday, 16 March 2015

Daring Cooks March 2015 - Perfect, Personal Porridge

Porridge! (or proodgie if you type really badly like I just did…)

We eat it a lot for breakfast, which is why I chose it as the recipe for the Daring Cooks challenge I hosted last month.

I'm technically late to my own party, as the completed challenge reveal date was the 14th. A recurring theme on this blog.

Blog checking lines:
For the March Daring Cooks’ challenge, Ruth from Makey Cakey invited us to start the day with something filling, warm and nutritious. We got to experiment with different techniques and flavorings to create our own perfect personal porridge.

So what did I make as my porridge-y offering? Here are a whole bunch of porridge pics. I can think of another alliterative 'p-word' to describe them in jest, however I'm not going to type it, for fear of who/what Google might direct to my site as a result!

Porridge in the pan...
Porridge and black coffee - sets you up for the day
Mini-M loves porridge 
Aun unusual multi-porridge combo!
Porridge with dried mango and raisins (chosen by Mini-M the executive chef)
Porridge pick'n'mix for Mini-M who didn't want to mix them in the same bowl (see previous photo!)

Baked porridge with cocoa, almonds, apple and raisin

Rye porridge with cranberries 
Barley porridge with coconut milk
And my favourite - probably the baked chocolate porridge, not least for the nostalgia value. It reminded me of my student days when for some unknown and unusual reason, the girls in my first flat would often make chocolate Bailey's porridge as an evening treat - or indeed as dinner before a night out on the town!

(It goes without saying all of these porridges were dairy free. It works with pretty much any liquid and any flaked grain. The ultimate versatile recipe)

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