Archives for posts with tag: Cake

As I stand on the train, crushed between other Londoners laden down with various bags, gym kits, laptops, shoe changes, make up and other every day essentials, I one day started to wonder whether my rucksack full of food in addition to the aforementioned items was representative of a standard London lunch.

The following day, I took a picture of my lunch and posted it on Facebook, for a sense of affirmation that everyone else ate as much for lunch as I do. The response I received, appeared to indicate apparently not.

Lunch #1

So I posted again the following Monday, as these tend to be high Tupperwear intensity days. Again, positive responses and intrigued friends enquiring as to contents of said, generic, plastic food containers. (Please note that the use of the word Tupperware is as a generic brand and purely synonym for food container, rather than any particular endorsement of the Tupperware brand over others.

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It seems that others do eat less than me for lunch on most given days, since my towering plastic stack does not even stand for the totality of my daily food consumption. Porridge, breakfast biscuits, nuts and chocolate are in my desk drawer / storage cabinet.

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I like to claim that this is amplified lunch stash is due to the fact that I tend to eat my breakfast, lunch and dinner at work. As an ex-colleague and healthy living ninja consultant friend of mine, Sarah, sighed, at least if you have to eat dinner at your desk it is home made.

I don’t always get time to leave the office during the day, and the fear of not having sufficient snacks to banish any hunger pangs during the day feels me with an even greater fear than having to stand the entire commute from Tooting to Blackfriars (how on earth would I put my make up on then!?).

So, you may just want to know now exactly what is lying inside the contents of my boxes of foodie pleasure? Here are some of the recipe and snacks I have used:
– Boiled egg and veggie (Quorn, etc) sausage for brekkie, washed down with a latte
– Berries to add to my high protein yoghurt for second breakfast
– Peanut butter and marmite sandwiches on brown / soya bread
– Soup as I like a warm lunch, e.g. Hemsley and Hemsley (see here) or a good old tomato and basil for first lunch
– Some sort of carb/ veg/ protein dish such as an omelette, sweet potato and feta salad or roast veg with halloumi or prawn stir fry for second lunch
– Slice of cake or muffin remaining from the weekend’s baking activities
– Other afternoon snacks such as sugar snap peas and crudites to have with a dip or the odd bean salad that Will brings home from his long days away.

I cook or prepare most of the more time-consuming elements of this ensemble on a Sunday night, in order to last me the week. Store cupboard staples such as porridge, popcorn, breakfast biscuits (e.g. Belvita), and chocolate in addition to the above are kept at work.

What do you eat for lunch in the office? I’d love to share recipe ideas!

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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.

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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

I have been experimenting with a few things in the last few weeks, but work had caught up with me and I haven’t made a chance to sit down and write about my efforts. I have also been busy mourning the end of the only TV show I religiously watch, the Great British Bake Off. Content with the finalists and the winner, I have been inspired to try a few different recipes, so I guess there is a happy ending after all.

I can summarise my rises and falls (#GBBO puns) of recent escapades with the following statements:

– Don’t try to adapt a Mary Berry cake recipe – she is official Queen of Cakes for a reason
– Successful Pierre Herme macarons require patience, precision AND a sugar thermometer (now on the Christmas list)
– Lemon curd really IS easy to make
– Despite my first ever attempt at brioche being a success, I am still scared of baking bread

good crumb structure

Whilst my chocolate cake for my friend Vic’s birthday turned out alright, I did fail on an adapted version of Mary Berry’s  spiced orange cake. Pulverised lemon in a cake does NOT taste nice.

Chocolate cake

However I would say that I have perfected my white chocolate icing recipe. I made another chocolate birthday cake, another Mary Berry recipe and added fresh raspberries and white chocolate chips to the batter. I have already had a re-order for next year so that must be good feedback!

Another choc cake

In a somewhat less successful episode, I couldn’t even bring myself to take a photo of my failed macarons. What have previously been such beautiful treats were reduced to burned splodges after trying to rush through the 36 steps of making  macaron shells, according to the master Mr Herme. I will try again, hopefully once in possession of a sugar thermometer, and will report back on progress. Passion will prevail over precision!

Inspired by my friend Sally’s delicious macarons (which were never a failure), and in anticipation of warm, fresh brioche, I had a go at making some lemon curd. I also had a lot of egg yolks and lemons to use up after the above failures. I followed Delia’s lemon curd recipe and as usual, her words of wisdom are right on the mark. Zingy lemon curd with just the right tinge of sweetness was ready to be slathered on to brioche.

Lemon curd

Moving on to the main subject of this post, Bronya’s brioches.  Bronya is Jess’s mum (see “a bit of savoury on the side” for cooking adventures with Jess).  As teenagers, she was picking Jess and I up in the early hours of the morning after a night out and bringing us tea and toast in bed the next day. As adults, she is sharing her delicious bread recipes with us.

This recipe makes makes one large loaf, which can be shaped to make it easy to share. It has a crisp, sugary coating and soft, fluffy, buttery middle. Yum!

Brioche

I was so proud of my loaf, no soggy bottom (GBBO reference) and it tasted delicious.

nice bottom

Just a little forward planning is required as you need to assemble the dough the night before baking it.

Before proving

 

Look at how the little beaut rose after a few hours of proving…

after proving

Bronya’s recipe is below, unadulterated and with full credit to her. Delicious served warm with lemon curd or another spread of your choice.

Crispy sugary topped brioche

Ingredients

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
7g salt
50g caster sugar
10g instant yeast
140ml warm full-fat milk  I have used skimmed, it works
5 medium eggs
250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

Method

1. Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the milk and eggs and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for a further 6–8 minutes, until you have a soft, glossy, elastic dough. Add the softened butter and continue to mix for a further 4–5 minutes, scraping down the bowl periodically to ensure that the butter is thoroughly incorporated. The dough should be very soft.

2. Tip the dough into a plastic bowl, cover and chill overnight or for at least 7 hours, until it is firm and you are able to shape it.

3. Grease a 25cm round deep cake tin.

4. Take your brioche dough from the fridge and tip it onto a lightly floured surface and fold it in on itself a few times to knock out the air. Divide it into 9 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball by placing it into a cage formed by your hand and the table and moving your hand around in a circular motion, rotating the ball rapidly. Put 8 balls of dough around the outside of the tin and the final one in the middle.

5. Cover with a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for 2–3 hours, or until the dough has risen to just above the rim of the tin.

6. Heat your oven to 190 c

7. When the brioche is proved, bake for 20–30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Bear in mind that the sugar and butter in the dough will make it take on colour before it is actually fully baked. Remove the brioche from the tin and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

So, my first ever post and I thought I would keep it to a simple but delicious kitchen staple.

I’d like to share a recipe for what I have finally created as perfect banana bread. Not only is it really tasty, it takes literally five minutes to whip up the mixture and around 40 minutes to bake. It smells and tastes heavenly.

We get through at least 15-20 bananas a week in our house, two per work day for Will, one per day for me, plus extra for the weekend. However any change to the routine (such as a much coveted free breakfast at work) and we are left with surplus bananas. This is a great recipe for using  up bananas that are beyond their best.

Whilst not such a pleasure to eat, it is imperative that your bananas for this recipe are old and manky; brown, spotty and quite soft. This lets the banana juices flow during cooking and makes the texture so sweet and sticky.

I experimented a couple of times with various recipes, including odd/ unnecessary ingredients such as buttermilk, and didn’t like how they turned out. My first attempt was too dry (not enough banana) and second attempt was too plain-tasting (I subsequently discovered that this was due to using the wrong sugar).

Most recipes call for caster sugar, but during my second attempt I used some muscovado due to a shortage of the white stuff in the kitchen. It was sticky and almost caramelised once backed, making the cake smell of warm toffee, however it was a little too heavy. It did give me the idea of using soft brown sugar though, which has made it into the final, perfect recipe.

I was then having a small dilemma between putting cinnamon or chocolate chips in the banana bread, surely you can’t have both? Then, I realised that since there was no law against it (quick Google check for obscure cooking rules in other geographies), why could I not have both!? Of course, both are optional according to taste, you may want the focal taste to be the bananas. But don’t be afraid to experiment!  As an alternative, I think some small pieces of stem ginger would also give the cake a great zingy taste.

Beautiful, breakneck speed, banana bread recipe (makes one loaf):

Ingredients:

100g softened unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas
175g dark soft brown sugar
2 eggs
225g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/ Fan 160C/ Gas 4
  2. Grease loaf tin with a little soft butter
  3. Put all the ingredients listed above in to a large mixing bowl
  4. Mix together using a hand whisk, fork or mixing spoon
  5. Continue mixing until all ingredients are combined
  6. Bake in pre-heated oven for between 45-60 minutes, rotate cake to ensure even cooking if you do not have a fan oven
  7. Check that a skewer/ knife comes out clean from the centre of the cake and then remove to cool on cooling rack
  8. Carefully run a knife around edges before removing cake from its tin

Serving suggestions:

Banana bread

Sliced and buttered with a cup of tea or wrapped in foil for lunchboxes

I actually added a freshly made, warm caramel sauce and ice cream to this as a variation on our “Sunday night sundaes” – to be detailed at a later date…

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