Monday, 31 October 2011

This And That ................

Well, in response to my previous post today, my sister has emailed me to explain how I should link up with other blogs -  I think I've got it now!

On the annoying front, the battery in my camera went flat last night whilst trying to photograph some fairy cakes that my younger daughter had made and decorated for a table party at school lunchtime today - 36 fairy cakes, one each for the whole class plus some extra invitees!  Because of the nature of the decoration we had to use three containers this morning to transport them to school, I do have some large flat boxes that are perfect for this number of fairy cakes, but she was insistent that it would not fit in her locker!  Hence the three smaller containers.

We used some orange candy melts for the decoration of several of the cakes which gave me the opportunity to use my new gadget - the chocolatiere from Cadburys.  Hmm, not sure if I like it really.  It did the job, easier than messing about with a saucepan of water and a bowl balanced on top, but, it doesn't hold very much, so we had to melt twice. Think I should have bought a proper pan to sit atop the saucepan of water.  The handle on the little pan bends back and forth - not sure that it is supposed to do this, I think it's just that the metal is so soft it bends - hope this doesn't mean that the handle will eventually drop off!  I'll just have to wait and see.

So, I have no photographs to share, although the batteries are charging as I write but will still need a few more hours.  My daughter took some photographs with her camera but that has gone to school with her so no luck there.

I have plans for so much today.  I have some clementines cooling after having simmered for two hours - these are for a clementine cake a Nigella recipe from How to Eat, I love this cake and haven't had it for a long time - the clementines remind me of pumpkins, well at least mini pumpkins and of course are in season, so its win win all round.

Being Samhain - the medieval festival which marked the end of the harvest - the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half" of the year, which coincides with All Saints Day tomorrow and All Souls Day on Wednesday I thought I would bake some biscuits for both days.  Apparently in medieval times there was an element of a Festival of the Dead attached to their festivities and the bones of slaughtered livestock would be thrown into the flames of bonfires.  I have found two recipes - one for All Souls' biscuits which are brittle and dry like old bones (which ties in nicely with the animal bones being thrown into the bonfire) - these are eaten all over Italy on 2nd November - their Italian name ossa dei morti means bones of the dead!  Lovely.  The biscuits for All Saints' Day tomorrow  are sweet pastry beans - again an Italian recipe that are traditionally made for All Saints' Day - I'll show you when they are made and hopefully my camera is re-charged.  Both recipes are from Ursula Ferrigno's La Dolce Vita - I love this book and find it so inspiring, don't know what I would do without it.

What Am I Doing Wrong ...........

I must get myself some tuition on linking my blog to others - here I was thinking I had entered my Apple Bread Pudding into the Pink Whisk competition - when all along .......... I hadn't !

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Chocolate Melter

I have just finished opening my latest gadget and feel a little like a child at Christmas!  So here are some pictures - I'm so excited, can't wait to use it (pathetic I know).

I first spotted this little gem on The Pink Whisk blog, then on A Trifle Rushed's blog.   I have been painting my parents' hall, stairway and landing all week so decided I was due a little treat - or as my eldest daughter would say "treat yourself". I can't wait to use it now, think I need a trip to the supermarket for some chocolate and coloured chocolate melts!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Let's make Christmas

If you've been reading my other blog - The Christmas List - you will know that I have been advocating home made gifts for Christmas, so it was with great delight that on reading Vanessa Kimbell's blog Prepped - on 11th October, she too was suggesting the same.  In fact she did more than suggest making gifts for Christmas, she was even holding a competition.  So, it was time to get started and although the recipe below makes a great gift, now is too early to be making them, which does mean having to eat them and make some more - such a trial.

Chocolate Cake Balls, decorated to resemble christmas puddings.  I have made these on so many occasions and decorated them in so many different ways with chocolate, but was inspired to decorate these as puddings when I saw the little sprigs of holly in my local Icing shop recently.

Here's how I made them.

First you need to make a chocolate cake -

150g unsalted butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
3 free-range organic eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder - sifted with the flour
1 tbsp orange juice

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.  Grease a 15cm (6in) square cake tin with some butter and line with baking parchment.

Beat together the sugar and butter, gradually add the beaten egg and continue to mix.  Add the vanilla and then the flour/cocoa mixture until smooth and finally add the orange juice.

Put the mixture into the tin and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Leave to cool completely.

When cool, crumble the cake into a large bowl.

In the meantime make the butter icing as follows -

75g butter, softened
150g icing sugar, sifted
25g cocoa powder, sifted
1tbs milk

Beat the butter in a bowl until soft, add half the icing sugar and fork through until absorbed by the butter, then add the other half of the icing sugar and cocoa powder and for through again, once absorbed mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.  Add the milk and mix well.

Add the butter icing to the crumbled cake and mix well until the mixture forms a ball.  Take small pieces of mixture and form into balls.  Leave to set - preferably in the fridge.

Make the chocolate topping by melting 150g of good quality white chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water until melted - be careful not to melt for too long because white chocolate is notorious for going grainy.

Place the cake balls on a wire rack which is standing on a baking tray and then drizzle the chocolate over them a teaspoonful at a time.  The chocolate needs to run slightly down the sides of the cake balls.  Finally decorate with a holly sprig or other decoration of choice.  Place in the fridge until the chocolate has gone hard and then transfer each cake ball to a small paper case - in this instance I used silver foil cases.

Finally, I placed them in a box which I had lined with tissue paper.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Apple Bread Pudding

The Pink Whisk is holding a challenge this month for a recipe to include apples - preferably Pink Lady apples but can also be any apples you like.  I had a couple of apples left from the tree in the garden but thought they might be a bit sour so I decided to use Pink Lady.  Had a bit of a think about which recipe I could include, which was a little difficult because my Apple Cake has already been featured in this blog, hmmm, what to make?  I decided it was time to get out the books and have a look and I found the perfect answer in Ursula Ferrigno's book La Dolce Vita - there it was, already bookmarked to be made at some stage - Apple Bread Pudding.


175g (6 oz) caster sugar
85g (3 oz) raisins
2-3 thsp brandy (I substituted Muscat Wine because I don't like brandy)
12 slices day-old bread or cake
350 ml (12 fl oz) milk
5 apples
3 eggs
pinch of salt
85g (3 oz) unsalted butter

I began by dissolving 85g of the sugar in 125ml water and heated gently until it was all dissolved, then brought it to a boil and kept it boiling until it changed colour to caramel.  Took it off the heat and immediately poured it into my cake tin - 23cm (9in) ring mould.

Then I put the raisins in a bowl and poured over the Muscat Wine and left it to soak for a while - approximately half an hour.

Next I broke up the bread (I used ordinary white bread from the supermarket) into a bowl and poured over the milk, found I needed a little more milk than suggested above in order to cover all the bread, which soaked it all up.  I left that to soak for about half an hour also.

Then I peeled and sliced the apples thinly.

Next I turned on the oven to 180C (350F/gas mark 4).

I whisked together the sugar, eggs, salt and butter until well mixed, added the raisins with the wine, the apple slices and finally the bread and mixed it thoroughly by hand!

I then poured the mixture into the cake tin, spread evenly.

I then placed the cake tin into a large roasting tin and filled it with boiling water until it came half way up the side of the cake tin.  Placed it in the oven for 45 minutes until it was done.

When it had cooled sufficiently I turned it out onto a large plate. 

It was best served warm, but cold was okay too!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

What Am I Doing Wrong?

Just a small query that I hope someone can help me with - Cupcake Cases.  Why is it that when I bake cupcakes my cake cases lose their colour and become slightly translucent?  I had some cake cases once that didn't do this and of course the foil cases remain the same.  I am rather baffled and would appreciate some advice on the matter.

Thank you.


Macmillan Coffee Morning

Our Macmillan Coffee Morning was held yesterday on Friday morning, being postponed from last Friday due to a funeral being held in our Church (coffee morning is held in the Church Hall behind the Church).  I had lots of ideas as to what I would make but due to lack of time ended up making two cakes that were quite easy.

The first was Seed Cake - very easy and I have blogged this recipe before (so I won't bore you with it again).

The second was Chocolate Banana Cake - a lovely thick cake that I have made a few times before, but didn't have time for the chocolate frosting so took it as it was!

The recipe was taken from Books for Cooks Book No. 8.  I tweaked the recipe slightly by using cocoa powder instead of grated chocolate - this recipe serves 8.

Cake Ingredients:

160ml (5 1/2 fl oz/ 2/3 cup + 1 tbsp) milk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
450g (15oz/1 cup) mashed very ripe banana (this can be anywhere from 2-4 bananas, depending on size)
300g (10 oz/2 cups) plain (all purpose) flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g (5oz/1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
225g (7 1/2 oz/1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
3 organic eggs
100g (3 1/2 oz) dark chocolate, finely chopped (chill it first if it's a hot day)

N.B.  I didn't use chopped chocolate but instead used 2 oz cocoa powder and 8 oz plain flour

Frosting Ingredients:

200g (7 oz) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
160g (5 1/2 oz/ 3/4 cup) icing sugar, sifted
125ml (4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup) sour cream

Heat the oven to 170 C (325F) Gas 3 (electric fan assisted ovens should be set at 150C).  Butter a 24cm (9 1/2 inch) springform cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.

Place the milk and lemon in a bowl and let stand for 10 minutes to sour the milk, then stir in the banana.

Sift together the flour (and cocoa if using), baking powder and soda with a pinch of salt.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Add one third of the flour mix to the creamed mixture and gently beat in.  Add one third of the banana mixture and gently beat in.  Alternately add the remaining flour and banana until just combined.  Gently fold in the chocolate (if using) until evenly combined with no trace of flour, then spread evenly over the base of the buttered and lined tin.

Bake until the sides of the cake have pulled away from the tin and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen before turning out on to the rack and leaving to cool completely.

Make the frosting when the cake has cooled.  Melt the chocolate, either in a microwave or in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and stir until smoothly combined.  Let cool slightly.  Gradually beat in the icing sugar until smooth with no trace of sugar.  Stir in the sour cream until thick, smooth and glossy.   Use immediately: spread over the completely cooled cake.

There were some lovely offerings at the coffee morning and I naughtily had two slices of cake with my coffee - a coffee and walnut with cream cheese icing and a slice of chocolate guinness cake which had a cream topping ........... mmmmmmmmmm!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Great British Bake Off

I am feeling quite sad that this series is over - I started off feeling that judging cakes was a little harsh and ended being almost addicted to it!  Congratulations to Jo who created some beautiful cakes last night.  But to be fair Holly and Mary Anne did exceedingly well also - obviously we could only go on sight and not taste.

At least we have Lorraine Pascale's new series to keep us going!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Afternoon Tea Doesn't Always Have To Be Sweet !!

Instead of having something sweet for afternoon tea today I decided to make some soda bread - the easiest bread in the world to make!

The recipe was taken from The River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr and is a great book for children and adults alike.


A little olive oil for greasing the baking sheet
250g Plain Flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
2 teaspoons of Soft Brown Sugar
225ml Live Yoghurt or Buttermilk (we used yoghurt)

Preheat the oven to 230C and then grease the baking sheet.

Sift the flour, salt and soda into a mixing bowl and then add the sugar.

Stir in the yoghurt or buttermilk at first with the wooden spoon then bringing it all together into a doughy mass with your hands (my daughter loves this bit).  It should feel firm, not sticky (I may have overdone the yoghurt because I had to add more flour at this stage because it was too sticky).

Knead the dough lightly in the bowl for about half a minute, until smooth, then shape it into a ball, as deep as you can make it.  Place it on the greased baking sheet.  Slash a deep cross in the top of the loaf with the sharp knife.  This will allow the bread to open out as the soda starts to work and expand the dough.

Bake in the hot oven for about 12 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200C and cook for another 15-20 minutes, until the base of the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.

We ate it with lots of salty butter and hot tea - mmmmmmm.

Next time I will make it with half wholemeal and half plain flour and add a tablespoon of porridge oats - as suggested in the book.