28 September 2008

Going nuts...

This week has been a bit of a nutty one... I had a hankering for coconut during the week, so had a go at making some coconut tarts - instead of making the filling-bit as you are supposed to, I wanted to try and make them a bit less dense, so whipped up the egg whites separately - whilst this did mean that the mix did end up lighter, it wasn't quite firm enough to hold up the cherry! I was very excited when they began to foof up in the oven, though the next minute I looked, all the cherries were playing hide and seek with me! Oh well... it did mean that you get a nice cherry surprise when you bite in!A couple of weeks ago, I got myself a fantastic muffin type tin - why was it so fantastic? Well... each individual muffin "pit" was loose-base! Never seen one of those before. Have since been playing with ideas about individual cheesecakes and other mini-bake creations.

I ended up baking a batch of sponge fingers and sponge, only to realise that there was no way I could assemble the cakes inside the tins, as the diameter was just too small for the Charlotte fingers as well as the cake... Doh!
Finally, I had to assemble the actual spongey bit of the cakes inside the tin, and then adding the surround after I had popped them out of the mould. It was a bit of a slow process and probably won't make it to the fair exactly for that purpose - though they did look cute in their minature form - the chestnut and Tia Maria whipped filling was a verrry tasty combination too! I will surely try and incorporate that for the fair somehow... Maybe in a seasonal yule-tide log...!
Mini-Charlie-Chestnut goodness

Imagine a chocolatey sponge to get you into the Christmas mood... ! ( I didn't have enough charlotte fingers for more than a dozen minis, so just made a swissroll with the leftover sponge and cream!)

21 September 2008


After reading lots of books, researching on the internet, sampling and checking out all the cooking tools that would make my life easier, I finally took the plunge started my R&D on truffles this weekend. I went to buy lots of chocolate and decided to make the classic version of the dark chocolate with a hint of vanilia. I coated one in cocoa and the other in walnuts. The ganache turned out well (thanks for Dehlia's nippy little Kenwood chopper) but I felt that it could do with a bit more cream.
The chocolate was a bit strong for my taste as I used a plain chocolate with 85% cocoa content, I think I will stick with 70% next time. I took them to the badminton club that I go each week to share them with the team. I got some suggestions from them such as adding honey to make it sweeter and a bit more cream.
I'm planning on making some chestnut milk chocolate truffles next time and Gracie has recommended this chestnut puree.

15 September 2008

Thames Festival and Market Research

While Gracie was baking her beautiful and delicious Charlotte Cake, I went to the Thames Festival to do some (ahem) Market Research. This weekend Southwark Bridge was closed to all traffic and was occupied by more than a dozen food stands selling cakes, chocolates and savory food (the sweet corn was particulary good). There were also more than fifty tables and chairs on the bridge for the visitors to dine. The weather was on our side and I spent just over three hours there and a lot of money as well.

Chocolate, pumkins filled with fruit sauces from Konditor and Cook.

Artisan Chocolates from Cocoa Loco

Cakes and Brownies made locally

As well as checking (and eating some of) the range of cales and chocolates I over heard a conversation about how this particular person would not buy the cakes at the prices sold as they could easily have made them at home (I'm an auditor so eavedropping come naturally to me). Now this is a potential challenge for Gracie and me. We will have to think about how we can stand out in the crowd and ensure that our cakes and chocolates are different (in a good way).

14 September 2008

Merry Charlotte Cake...

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival ! This mooncake festival has happily fallen on the eve of my mum's birthday this year, so it's a bit of a double celebration!
Due to the R&D we have been doing for the cake stall, there has been no shortage of cakes for the family to try. Though I was keen to make something a wee bit different for this double celebration... It's funny, I have always enjoyed baking, though due to this new little venture, I have found myself unexpectedly carried away by the excitment of trying out new ideas, new techniques, and day dreaming about possible flavour combinations... ;) It is a really creative process, and I am loving every minute of it...! Especially as I marry my two favourite hobbies, the baking and photography !

Anyways, I digress... so, back to the birthday cake - Following on from the lusciousness of Alex's Tiramisu last weekend, my love of sponge fingers was reignited, and I was inspired to make my own Charlotte cake...

The cake is probably the most involved project I have undertaken to date, especially as I couldn't decide what centre I wanted inside and so settled on a combination of layered mango and mixed berry mousse. I have never tried making mousse before, am not a dessert-making person, so to test something new was a bit daunting as well as exciting! Proceeding with much caution, it was touch 'n go, for a while. The sloppy mousse, although tasting very berry, did not resemble anything that was every going to set into anything beyond its milkshake consistency. It also didn't help that i was working off of a combination of various recipes. I don't know if anyone else does this, though do you find that when you are looking for a recipe, you really want the best of everyone's experiences, and end up just mixing and matching... probably not the best method, but I guess I have been lucky so far! :) Lady luck stayed with me for this one too, it did turn out well in the end... in a leap of faith, I just used the mousse-shake anyways, and it actually set! In fact, the mango layer did a little more than set, and was a little denser than I hoped... Though the berry one worked a treat - if asked to do it again, would I remember the proportions I used ? Probably not...

Sponge... Berry mousse... sponge... mango mousse... sponge and mango 'mirror'

10 September 2008

A Feast and Cupcakes Galore

Last weekend we popped over to Gracie's for some baking and dinner (thanks Alex). I had a few errands to do in the morning, so when I turned up at Gracie's with only my ingredients for my Spider cupcakes, my host wasn't impressed at my tardiness... hehe ! I was given an hour to quickly whizz them up with the help of my rascal, as Gracie's other half was planning to cook us a proper Chinese feast, as I had been warned that I would be kicked out of the kitchen.

Grace, being as organised as usual, had already baked her Banoffee, Pandan and Panilia cupcakes - re-tweaking the recipe to get the perfect light and fluffy sponge...
Luckily I made up for my lateness with some yummy spider cupcakes.

I ate so much cake and was also picking at the food that Al was cooking (whilst he was still preparing it) that I was already a bit full even before dinner had began! Although I made sure that there was space for the surprise dessert, Tiramisu. Yummm!

Next week will be chocolate truffles...