21 December 2010

Festive Macarons

Oh, I know... I have been slack in updating the blog - though I have been taking a baking break :)  Anyways, so I come back with avengence ! Holiday Macarons, with oodles of festive cheer and filled with Cranberry and Raspberry cream and/or dark chocolate ganache...

I am not usually a fan of sugarcraft, though had a flash of inspiration and topped them with these cute holly leaves and berries, I love the way they look against the dark chocolate macaron biscuit ! The pinky ones were topped with shiny edible confetti hearts.. :)

11 November 2010

Glorious gals...

So... remember a few months ago, Y came over to get some baking tips and try her hand at gracie styley celebration cakes...?  Well, last weekend, my old flatmates wanted in on the act too and came over to tool up and give their spin on the cake I made for D's birthday last month.  

The proof as they say... is in the cake... :)
It was a lovely, lazy afternoon of baking fun. With the gals learning some new techniques, and having a girlie giggle in the process... they ended up making a sumptuous passionfruit and mixed berry cream cake... very fresh and surprising light for A, who was at one point a bit shell-shocked at the sugar that goes into it. (there wasn't really that much.. it was a very big cake ! ) :)

27 October 2010

Layzee Lunch and lounging...

Birthday girl's brief: just simply, simple flavours, sponge, maybe some jam and cream. Nothing fussy...   

So here we have it, I stuck to the brief, a simple vanilla sponge, layered with homemade jam, vanilla cream dotted with strawberries and surprise honeycomb fizzles... and then a second layer of raspberry cream... topped with fresh berries and chocolate pralines. So my confession, whilst foraging for inspiration, I came across Lindt mini pralines... In a shiny pinky box. Oh, they are cute, just the normal lushious Lindt, all miniturized... can you spot them hidden amongst the berries... :) 

3 October 2010

A change of seasons...

Autumn is definitely here... I just bought myself a 13.5tog duvet ready as the chillier nights draw in and my first official bake to mark the change in season?  What could be more comforting than good old fashioned Apple Pie... Encased with a crisp light flakey crust and filled with chunky apples and warming cinammon with just a hint of nutmeg. 

I am not a big pie baker, usually more cakes rather than puddings... though I thought I would make the effort this weekend, as last weekend I brought over a Spanish tortilla over to my parents' house - and as soon as I got through the door, dad caught a quick glimpse of my dish, and exclaimed that I had made him apple pie!  As he trailed me into the kitchen, he was somewhat disappointed that it was a tortilla and no pie. (Yes! He is to blame for my sweet tooth!!!)  So of course, I felt bad, just from his sheer enthusiasm to lukewarm realisation that I was only armed with a savoury snack. 

Yesterday, I stocked up on a bounty of apples (Bramleys, Cox's, Granny Smiths and threw in a couple of Pink Lady's too!) . Got myself a pie dish, well, if you are going to do it properly... ;)  And I was ready to go!

The pastry was flakey and crispy, no soggy bottom which was my main fear - I par-cooked the apples in a mixture of sugar, cinammon and cornflour before filling the case, it looked very proud as I tucked them in with their pastry duvet. Though after cooking, the apples had shrunk back a bit.   This didn't really affect the quality of the pie, though wondering if it's an apple thing. Maybe if I stick to Bramley's there will be less shrinkage? Or is there always going to be a gap between finished pie crust and apple filling inside? hmm...? Answers on the back of a postcard... :)

27 September 2010

A passion for fruit ...

Mango passionfruit, raspberry passionfruit... are you getting the hint that I am really loving the passionfruit right now?  Teamed with lemon for a bit of extra zing to balance the fragrance of the passionfruit, it's definitely been my flavour of the season, especially when further enhanced with the last of the fresh lush berries of summer...

20 September 2010

Last days of the Summer

I hope everyone had a great summer. We spent the last days of summer picking fruit and vegetable at Garson Farm at Esher. As well as the 'pick your own farm' there is the farm shop (where I bought some locally baked bread and some pickles) and the wonderful gift shop (where I bought some clothes for my daughter). There were plenty of cabbages, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli and strawberries, but the raspberries were definitely the best in season.

We lived on the vegetables for the week and we made some cupcakes topped with creme fraiche and berries for a friend's house warming party.

So now its autumn, I'm thinking of pumpkin pie. There is a small city farm nearby with huge pumpkins in their vegetable patch. Hmm....must speak to the manager to see whether I can buy one.

30 August 2010

Smokey with undertones of coffee...

Took a baking break and made me some jam ! Strawberry and raspberry last week... a bit random as I had left over berries from a cake and left over sugar from i don't know when...

Anyways, so about 700g be
rries to 400-500g jam sugar, JAM sugar I say (sugar with additional pectin to help the jam set) and juice of half a lemon. No method, just threw it all in the pan and bubbled away on a rolling boil for about 15mins, stirring occassionally... turned out sooooo good... the raspberry really enhances the flavour, some may have issue with the seeds, though i liked the extra texture, as well as big juicey strawberry bits... YUM ! :) Anyways, it only made 2 jars and a bit... and I gave them both away so i was only left with the "bit"... :P

During the following week, I found myself watching the "Great British Bakeoff"... a nice bit of baking fun, in the theme of masterchef for the oven, though with less dramatic music and no Greg and John to shout at you that you are out of tim
e. Anyways, theme this week was biscuits, and master artisan breadman and judge Paul Hollywood showed his hand at making the ultimate scone, suitable for royalty! :) I have to admit, scones are not really my thing... though they looked good... poofy high yet light insideand Mr L loves a good cream tea. So against my usual resistance to following recipes, I actual copied it (click here for recipe) down with a mind to give it a go this weekend. Unusual, as he uses bread flour, rather than the usual plain or self raising you see in other recipes, maybe something to do with the gluten? Also, he used a surprisingly low butter content - how would that fair? Divine is the answer. Rich and light... very good indeed. Mr Hollywood, you are the don.

Though really, my ulterior motive if I am honest is that with fresh scones, I thought it would be a good excuse to make som
e more lovely jam... actually, conserve. As apparently, cream teas are with conserve, not jam (as per Mr L). So this time, I was prepared, Friday night, whizzed around supermarket, got me a kilo of strawberries, and nabbed a bag of sugar... and was good to go.
Hulled strawberries, and layered with sugar in a big pan the night before, apparentl
y doing this firms up the strawberries before cooking. Yesterday morning brought the mixture to the boil (strawberries had been macerated, and were now swimming in beautiful juices)... again, left on a rolling boil for 20 mins with a squeeze of a lemon. Strange... it didn't seem to thicken like last time... even when cooled... it was still like strawberry soup... what had gone wrong?!! Method was the same... recipe was proportionally the same, I don't know what happened!? Left it till the afternoon, hoping that it was just a temperature thing, though to no avail. Decided to throw it all back to the pan to cook for a bit longer. Caught a glimpse of the sugar bag, the PRESERVE sugar... preserve... NOT jam sugar... it didn't have the additional pectin, and strawberries are a soft fruit with low pectin .... THAT is why it didn't set... DUH! I bought the wrong sugar... what a muppet. I remembered I had a bottle of natural apple pectin in the cupboard, so thought I could save the jam... poured in half a bottle... left it for maybe 5 mins... and boy, was that a bad idea... it burnt... not just a little heady synge... a full-on stick-to-the-bottom of your pan like toffee burned sugar, pectin strawberry mixture. Mr L said it smelt like strawberry coffee... alas... poor jam wannabe... RIP

Cake below was the original cake that gave up the leftover berries the first time around...

16 August 2010

Musings of cake

So recently, there has been a recurring question that keeps rearing it's head... just where am I going with these cakes?

I have had a couple of real commissions, though I would hardly say it was a business. My problem, I have to admit is that I don't view it as a going concern as such. It's usually a cake here, a brownie there - on request to friends and family.. though a Business venture?! That would involve an actual strategy and structure... objectives and targets right? Though I haven't the discipline. I don't even have recipes that I am capable of following, the cakes come by from an idea, a passing thought, a sponateous concept, a colour... worse still, I dislike repetition. So how can I standardise and monetise something that allows me complete creative directive and no boundaries?

I love what I am doing when it comes to the baking, and the joy it brings... though what is the next step... Am I supposed to be thinking of the next step, or just continuing to drift on my cupcake cloud... ?

8 August 2010

2 days... 49 cakes!

OK...so I cheated and 48 of those were of the cup variety... though still... that's still quite a lot of cakeage ! :)

My Brother's birthday... as the baby of the family, he always gets a bit of extra special treatment... hence the cupcakes on top of his birthday cake. Fluffy chocolate sponge cupcakes filled with raspberry jam and topped with cream cheese frosting and flake... :)

For the main event, he was also after a chocolate cherry concoction - and you know how I feel about all my cakes being very individual... so again, I had to rethink my concept... presentation. No almond this time though, brother doesn't like almond. This time I syruped my own cherries... equal proportions sugar to water in a pan and once melted,threw in some frozen pitted cherries, left it on a gentle simmer for 15ish minutes on low heat. In the last 5 mins, splash in some Kirsch to fi
nish and leave to cool. The cherries tasted just how they should, not having worked with kirsch before, though it really does do something special to enhance the flavour!

The sponge was chocolate, the cream was a layer of chocolate mousse (custard based) and the other a cherry mousse, both pebbled with the juicy cherries, and finished with a chantilly cream. Topped with 2 tone cherry glaze from the cherry syrup, though as the syrup was a bit too sweet, I offset this with some fresh raspberry purée to give it a more rounded flavour. Happy Birthday Bwo... xx

14 July 2010

Baking overload

This hot weather we have been having had been so wonderful - though not ideal conditions in any sense for baking, storing or transporting any type of cakeage...

Though all my friends and family all seem to be cancerian babies, all with birthday's within days of each other... ! So it has been late night and early bakes for me to avoid the blanket of heat that fills my kitchen throughout the afternoon...

This week and weekend was a baking baking marathon... 2 birthday cakes, 1 celebration cake, 1 banana loaf cake, 6 mini berry tarts and 1 large tart filled with crème patissière and topped with strawberries...all within 5 days! Though in my baking frenzy, it looks like I forgot to take a picture of my passionfruit/ white chocolate mousse cake... eesh !
No wonder I had to take a slacky sleepie Monday off... Yay !

Though amid all this baking crazyness, there has been a casualty... For some reason,my lovely Nikon SLR has decided to rebel and refuses to work. Well, actually, it does work, it just doesn't want to lock in the SD card in its slot. No reason, it just won't lock? Anyone else had this problem before? I have had to send my baby away to be fixed... :( Hope she gets better soon...

5 July 2010

Baked with Love (Part II)

Back in November 2008, I got my first ever commission for a birthday cake... and we have come full circle - this time I made a cake for Uncle Flavian - Auntie Mina's other half... :) What a lovely garden party they threw, taking full advantage of this beautiful weather we have been having !

The brief wa
s a straightforward blackforest gateau,though as usual, I always do things a little bit differently, so put a very gentle almond undertone throughout just to bring out the cherries and add another dimension to the flavours.

Three sponge layers - 2 chocolate, 1 of
chocolate almond, 2 fillings (smooth dark chocolate mousse dotted with juicy dark cherries, and some equally juicy sour cherries to cut through the richness; a second layer of red cherry mousse, filled with whole cherries and chocolate shards for a little textural crunch!) and a subtle almond cream to top it all off.

Worried that the look was slightly out of season, I finished it with an elegant floral chocolate surround, homemade chocolate cherry cups and decorative two tone chocolate decorations and gorgeous fresh picola cherries... As usual, the devil's in the detail !

28 June 2010

Spreading the crumbs...

I have been meaning to post this one for a while, though I just haven't quite got around to it... Though a couple of months ago, my friend Y wanted to bake a birthday cake for her hon, and asked if I could help. Of course I jumped at the chance, I guess I love the creativity of baking and the joy that baking brings to others, so to be able to share the experience was great fun!

I think she enjoyed making the cake as it wasn't as intimidating as it looks... the tutorial was a laugh ! And doesn't it look great ! Gold stars methinks!!! :)

2 June 2010

Berries and Butterflies

I've had a break from baking for health reason for the past few months, but I'm back on the mend now. To celebrate, I took a few days off work to bake my daughter a birthday cake. You would have thought that I would choose something simple to get my to my baking mojo back, but my daughter wanted a three layer cream cake with berries, butterflies and a pink chocolate wrap. So here it is:

The first layer was filled with raspberry fresh cream and the second layer was filled with strawberries and cream. The pink chocolate was a bit tricky to make and the hot weather didn't help, I'll definitely have another go at this next time. We made the butterflies out of edible paper and my daughter decorated them with some edible glitter. I think she did a great job.

16 May 2010

jamming around...

Last weekend I had a hankering for making some doughnuts... I am not a fan of cakey doughnuts. I much prefer their yeast-dough counterparts. There is just something about the lightness and the delicate nature of the best kind of doughnut. The way it doesn't just give way when you sink your teeth into them, the gluten gives you just that little bit of resistance, that makes them so satisfying, whilst still being soft and fluffy... Yum! Fillings? Purest that I am, raspberry jam in one and M's favourtite apple and dusted with cinammon sugar for the other... :)

Though how do you make a doughnut keep beyond a day?! Ideas...?

26 April 2010

Caked out

Lots of cakes, though have been very slack in posting...

So here you go... all in one
fell swoop... :)

So what do we have here... Lots of birthday cakes mainly... all with similar makeup, though all different flavours... Firstly Kal's cake... filled with raspberry and amaretto cream... a nutty roulade surround and topped with fresh berries and funky homemade chocolate decorations...

And this one. A special commision for S... A banoffee-chocolate-rum gateau... :) This one was a bit different, instead of just sponge layering through the cake, I changed the texture of this one a bit. It has a crunchy caramelised biscuit base dotted with pecans... then a filling of luscious rum cream, fresh bananas and caramel... the second layer was a plain chocolate cream peppered with fresh raspberries. Topped with raspberry cream filled profiteroles encased by crunchy caramel and the cake itself finished with an elegant chocolate surround.

So what else do we have... let's see....Well this one. I was a bit undecided about this one. The filling was a lychee and strawberry filling. The fruity lychee mousse was very refreshing, though I am just not too keen the texture of the lychee mousse... maybe the puree needs to be finer next time? Though it did make for a very spring flavoured treat!

So last, but by no means least... this retro looking number. Topped with butterscotch cream fill profiteroles and fresh strawberries, hides a butterscotch pear surprise ! There were a number of steps to this seemingly simple cake... and it gave me trouble! One of the layers of sponge was supposedly a hazelnut dacquoise, though whilst I was busy getting on with my vanilla poached pears, I may have forgotten that they were in the oven. I think I need another timer ! :P

Luckily, the rest of it behaved itself. So, sandwiched in between the vanilla sponge was a creamy butterscotch mousse, then the troublesome dacquoise, followed by the poached pear purée mousse, with some of the poached pears roughly chopped into the mix. Finished with smashed up praline of toasted pistachios, pecans and hazelnuts... Pure indulgence...