Archives for category: Festive

I had been thinking about making Swedish St Lucia buns since I watched Paul and Mary’s Christmas Masterclass in December. I then discussed the brightly coloured balls of goodness with Bronya (of brioche fame) over Christmas, and decided to make some myself. Coincidentally Will and I were off to Stockholm in mid Jan, and so it seemed like a good idea all round.

I am not a big fan of bread making, however I figured that the more I do it the less I will be scared of yeast failure, and less confused by the way that it seems to have a life of it’s own.

I followed the recipe of Mr Paul Hollywood himself, which you will find here, and actually it all worked out OK. I loved the brightly coloured saffron and the way it infused in to the milk.

Milk and saffron  Infused saffron

Whilst the recipe is straight forward, what takes the time is the double proving of the dough. I put my dough under the kitchen radiator in a bowl covered in cling film, since Paul suggested a warm, dry place to undertake the activity.

dough    Shaped dough

I watched with satisfaction as, true to form, the dough did double in size over a few hours. I then shaped the dough in to the suggested S, bull and cross shapes, and completed the look with raisins in appropriate crevices of dough. Just after 25 minutes in the oven, these golden yellow little beauties appeared.

image9   image10

 

A last minute egg wash pre-cooking gave a lovely shiny glaze and I would definitely recommend doing so. The saffron flavour was sweet but subtle, and they were nice buttered with breakfast or as a midday desk-based snack.

We had a great time in snowy Stockholm, not just for the lovely scenery but for the delicious cakes. Our favourite was definitely the Princess cake, regally coated in green marzipan and filled with light vanilla sponge, custard AND cream!

 

 

 

 

2015-01-12 14.02.03 - Copy 2015-01-12 11.52.18 - Copy

We also really enjoyed what seemed to be the cake version of a Viennese whirl, and a delicious cardamon – vanilla cream filled doughnut / muffin! Yum!

 

 

 

 

 

2015-01-11 15.32.19 - Copy 2015-01-11 13.46.27

Our next adventure will most likely be our wedding, which has been keeping me reasonably busy! I would like to write some blog posts on healthy eating for brides, since it is quite a challenge for me, so watch this space.

 

 

Advertisements

Hello my little pumpkins and happy Halloween!

I’m not sure when it became a “thing” to wish people a happy Halloween in the warm autumnal daylight of this fine Friday, but still, if a colleague says it to me then I am more than happy to return the greeting.

To honour the occasion, I had made a pumpkin pie. That, and the need to empty out some of the tins from my grocery cupboard. I have made what you could call a “proof of concept” in consulting language, a quick and easy version of pumpkin pie in order to test out the feasibility of using a real pumpkin.

In addition, I conveniently had all of the ingredients in stock, including a tin of pumpkin puree that I bought LAST Halloween – it was still in date though, I checked!

Pumpkin puree

The back of the pumpkin puree tin detailed a recipe, details of which can  be found here

It really was very easy, and just included the two tins above, two eggs, some sweet pastry and some tasty spices…spices

I blind baked the pastry case, and then mixed all the ingredients together with a hand whisk. Pour the mixture in to the pastry case, and bake for approximately 50 minutes.

Pre-oven

I probably cooked mine for either a little too long or at a little too high a temperature, as the pie came out a little brown on top. However this really did not impact the taste at all. In no way did it taste burnt and was still moist and full of sweet, spicy flavour.

cooked pie

Whilst Americans may enjoy pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, I was quite happy to enjoy a slice with a cup of tea. Far more English… pie slice

Wow, summer is going by very quickly so far! In the midst of wedding season, and as I am preparing to make a cross-channel wedding cake, I thought I would share some pictures of cakes that I have made to date for dear friends to celebrate their amazing weddings.

According to Wikipedia, one of the first traditions relating to wedding cakes began in Ancient Rome where bread was broken over the bride’s head to bring good fortune to the couple. In medieval England, cakes were stacked as high as possible for the bride and groom to kiss over, if they successfully kissed over the stack they were guaranteed a prosperous life together.

It is such an honour to be part of a good friend’s wedding by making their wedding cake, and following a drunken conversation at a hen do I received a call the next day from Kiren, one of my best friends, just to check that I was still OK to make her wedding cake. Hours of practice and many carrot cakes later, there we had it. Sufficient wedding cake for 300 people at her and Raj’s beautiful, colourful and joyous wedding.

Cutting cake

At the bride’s request, I made everything as carrot cake, including three lots of two-tired cakes with cream cheese frosting and a pile of rose-topped cupcakes. I had some ornate sugarcraft flowers and a lovely plaque and personalised cake knife to commemorate the day.

Cakes

I also made lots of back up cakes for the caterers to cut up, but after an all-day eating extravaganza there was so still much cake left!

There was so much cake left after all the delicious food, that the bride wandered amongst her guests encouraging them to eat more!

Beautiful bride enjoying her cake!

I was so excited when some other great friends Vic and Ro wanted me to make their wedding cake for their summer garden party – themed wedding. They are such creative, fun people themselves that I knew their wedding would be great fun – and it was!

 

Happy couple

They wanted a relaxed, colourful feel which is why we used fresh flowers for the cake decorations. I knew that I was on to a good thing when, the morning before the wedding, I went to a florist in Thame, Buckinghamshire to collect the flowers that I had planned to use on the cakes, and there was a collection of flowers waiting there for Mary Berry! Talk about a good baking omen!

Coconut ice and biscuits BrowniesChocolate cake Love is sweet

I really enjoyed making the different cakes, including chocolate orange and Victoria sponge, as well as the other treats such as coconut ice, chocolate brownies and jammy dodger biscuits.

There was a slight issue in the 30 degrees heatwave that came from nowhere, but still we managed to keep the flowers looking fresh by not assembling the cakes until just before the meal. Luckily Vic’s mum who was hosting the wedding in her wonderful garden had a huge kitchen. I did have to demand that the caterers moved their 80+ creme brulees out of my cake fridge in order to store the cream-cheese frosted carrot cake centre piece, but all’s well that ends well, right?!

Carrot cake
I think my favourite decoration though was the miniature teaset that I stumbled upon whilst browsing eBay for teapot necklaces. It was too sweet not to use and I thought the perfect decoration for such a classic cake as Victoria sponge.
_1012170 (2) _1012176

Right, I’d best get back to finishing off the icing of my Dutch cousin Niek’s wedding cake ahead of his marriage to the lovely Ismay. I’m excited about hearing them say Ja (“I do!) and celebrating Dutch style!

Lambs are in the fields, and daffodils on the streets on Tooting. Spring is here.  Along with the showers, sunshine and flowers of March comes Mother’s day, closely followed by Easter (to be discussed separately).

Two tea-related recipes coincided over the week before Mother’s day, although as usual there is some delay in writing about them. The first was camomile and vanilla gluten-free cupcakes, and the second some teapot shaped cakes for mum and the M.I.L. I do love tea, and teapots, and tea cups, and afternoon tea, and most tea-related activities.

Whilst on a weekend in Essex visiting friends, we went to an antiques market and I came across a musical teapot. Made in 1950s Japan, this fairly ordinary looking teapot has a clockwork mechanism underneath it that means it plays a tune every time the teapot is lifted. You have to wind it up occasionally, and I had to buy it immediately. This may have been the start of the revival in us drinking tea from the pot.

Teapot and cakes

Is it tea cupcakes? Or teacup cakes? I’m not too sure of the correct terminology, but either ways these cakes really do taste of vanilla and camomile, and are lovely served with a pot of camomile tea, or in our case, Sri Lankan Ceylon tea.

I made the cakes in silicone teacups, using Ruby Tandoh’s camomile cake recipe for the Guardian here, however substituted gluten-free flour as I had my aunt and uncle, Moy and Keith, coming over one sunny Sunday afternoon. The camomile buttercream icing set them off perfectly and was not too sweet.

The cakes were rather dry; I blame the gluten-free flour, which tends to suck moisture out of most cakes. I would try them again with ground almonds instead. However if you did want to use gluten-free flour you could just increase the quantity of tea and butter liquids, I’d say by 30%.

Camomile cakes

Following from the antiques fair success of my musical teapot, and the (relative) flavour success of camomile and vanilla, I had been thinking about teapots and tea and cakes, and thinking about teapot cakes. It took me several days of the journey to and from work to conceptualise what I wanted to make, but eventually I managed to spend Tuesday night the week before colouring fondant icing and making handles and spouts, and flowers and hearts. I wanted them to firm up before I put them on to cakes, so they needed a few days to dry out.

Thursday night was planned for making cakes, but after a long day at work one drink with a colleague turned in to several more and Friday night was a bit of a rush to get the two cakes made.  I did manage it though, and used a giant cupcake mould in addition to two Pyrex bowls to get two slightly different globe-shaped cakes. I used a basic chocolate sponge recipe and cream cheese frosting to sandwich the two halves together. I had to carve some stray bits of cake off to smooth out the shape of the cakes.

I covered one cake in fondant icing that I had rolled out thinly, and added an extra bit on top to make the lid. I used some runny white icing to stick on my flowers and hearts. Because I had to transport the cakes to Bristol I didn’t put the handle and spout on to the cake until we got there. I didn’t fancy our chances of getting it down the M4 intact!

Teapot flowers

The handles and spouts crumbled when I tried to assemble the teapot cakes on the Friday night, however I think this is because I didn’t put cocktail sticks in to them as supports until the icing had already firmed up several days later. If I was going to make them again, I would definitely make sure I do this on the day I shape the fondant. Luckily I used Fimo as a backup and it only took a few minutes to cook it once I quickly shaped some pieces. I would suggest using Fimo even though it is not edible, as it is a lot sturdier.

20140328_194448

I didn’t take any pictures of the assembly process, however did do a Google search on “teapot cakes” and got some ideas from sites such as this one here

I used cream cheese frosting with lilac food colouring for my second teapot cake, and decorated it with flowers, lid, handle and spout in a similar fashion. I really enjoyed making the cakes and although they were not 100% perfect, they were lovingly made and I’m sure I could do a neater job of icing them next time.

M.I.L. teapot

It was great to make a mother’s day pressie that was enjoyed by all the family, including myself, and the cakes did not last long at all! I’d say they provide 6-8 medium-sized slices of cake so it isn’t really a sufficiently large volume of cake for a big celebration, instead better suited for family times.

Happy springtime!

Flowers

Biscuit postcards

Wow, so it’s mid-February already, how did that happen? The weather has been blowing a gale here in London along side the non-stop rain. What else to do on rainy days other than experiment with new recipes and bake, of course?!

During January (notebly absent from my blog) I discovered a number of delicious veggie curry dishes as well as soupy/ stewy staples. Since it was Valentine’s day yesterday I thought I’d share some of the treats I made my sweetheart (cheesey, I know!)

First up and actually not for Valentine’s day but to sweeten up the people I am working with, some white chocolate and fresh raspberry cookies, which to be fair are red and white-themed.

Raspberry and white chocolate cookies

The recipe I used was another gem from the Carnation website, and these truly taste delicious. Soft, chewy, and full of chocolate and fruit, I think they are a tastier, fresher and preservative / junk free version of the ones you can buy in the supermarket in brown paper bags. They also stay fresh for quite a few days (if they last that long!).

Using this recipe I found that rolling the dough in to balls worked a lot better than trying to flatten it out. The cookies flatten and expand a lot whilst cooking so space them apart and only put a few on each baking tray. Patience is a virtue, plus you get to eat the early batches whilst the rest are cooking!

Also, use frozen raspberries if you wanted to, as they are a) cheaper and b) easier to squidge in to the dough. Unlike fresh raspberries they don’t fall apart under pressure.

So, cookies are good. Always good.

On to Valentine’s day. I had George the tortoise in the spirit of things…

Valentine's tortoise

…and was even given a belated tortoise birthday cake that week by my talented friend Steph. It tasted very chocolatey!

Cake

On to my Valentine’s iced biscuits. It took me a while to find a recipe that I was happy with, I wanted it to be interesting (not bland) and also not to expand too much so that the biscuits would lose their shape.

Using a spiced biscuit recipe not dissimilar to the one I used at Christmas from Ocado,  I then used roll out fondant icing to make these envelope biscuits, inspired by Domestic Sluttery’s efforts (http://www.domesticsluttery.com/2013/02/baking-for-beginners-valentines.html). I loved this idea, since I love things all stationery and letter-writing. Edible letter-writing!? Yes please!

The biscuit recipe is so easy, although I would recommend chilling the dough for 30 minutes in the fridge since this does stop the biscuits from spreading and losing their shape whilst cooking.

I purchased some edible icing pens online and admittedly could do with some practice, since this was my first attempt at using them. I rolled out fondant icing and stuck them on to a biscuits with a little glace icing.

Biscuits

I made a selection of biscuits with lemon glace icing, although again I think I need to practice my “flood icing” technique. After all, practice makes perfect right?!

Messy biccies

Since we are still in the Christmas spirit time of year, I reckon it’s not too late to write a little about some of the festive feats that I attempted in the build up to Christmas day. I can also introduce you to George, the latest addition to our family and the finest tortoise in all of Tooting, South London!

George

More cards

Taking inspiration from a couple of my favourite chefs I made some “edible Christmas cards” for friends and family. I love to give and receive home-made gifts and these are all straight forward to make. Positive feedback all round, and the biscuits and chocs looked pretty when packaged up in some Orla Kiely gift boxes.

Edible Christmas card Boxes

I needed recipes for biscuits that wouldn’t go stale within a day or two. Requiring a recipe for guaranteed success, I used Delia Smith’s shortbread recipe (http://www.deliaonline.com/how-to-cook/baking/all-about-shortbread.html) which I then spiced up with orange zest, dried cranberries and drizzled with white chocolate. See the heart and teapot shaped biscuits below.

Platter

Frances Quinn’s amazing Christmas creation for the Telegraph, which featured owls, pinecones, stars, and was simply beautiful. I used her gingerbread leaf recipe to create a much simpler, Christmas tree-shaped biscuit. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/10526360/Bake-Off-Frances-Quinns-12-Days-of-Christmas-recipes.html

Christmas tree

The little round cups are Millionaire’s Shortbread (https://lydiatoson.com/2013/12/08/millionaires-shortbread-for-mum/), making them in little cases makes them easier to pack up and prevents crumbly bottoms.

Packing up

The Carnation website also has a fail-proof coconut ice recipe (http://www.carnation.co.uk/Recipes/70/Coconut-Ice). I like to use the coarsely grated desiccated coconut (who knew it came in three grain sizes!?) from the Sri Lankan mini market around the corner from our flat. You have to leave the coconut ice to set for at least a few hours after assembly, so this is one to make in advance. I made mini bounty bars by double dipping the coconut ice pieces in good quality dark chocolate, melted over a bain-marie.

In addition to foodie bits, I crafted together some non-edible Christmas cards for those I wanted to correspond with via Royal Mail. I happened to lose my list of “cards to be sent”, resulting in some friends and family receiving no cards whilst others received two. Oops! I will send out New Year’s cards once I have worked out who received what!

Tree cards  cards Tree card

Each little envelope on this card contained a message on a tiny piece of paper, or some glitter and Christmas sparkle.

IMG00023-20121129-1746

Running out of time to make a card for everyone, I found these Tooting salutations at the Broadway market.

Tooting cards

I made a gingerbread house to take round to my lovely friend Lucy’s house over the festive season, which was good fun although some structural improvisation was required to get the roof to fit.

Gingerbread house

I also missed the opportunity to photograph George the tortoise with any edible treats, however I did lend my Christmas present to my friends at www.moorechampagne.com as they launched their online media campaign the week before Christmas. Check them out for unique and distinctive grand cru grower champagnes, perfect for celebrations and enjoyment at any time of year.

Moore Champagne

I think that’s probably all for now, although my next blog may well feature some Moore Champagne in the form of celebratory New Year cakes, and possibly George too.

%d bloggers like this: