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Moving on…

January 1, 2012

Hello everyone!

You may have noticed that this blog has gone VERY quiet over the past year. Despite this, I still seem to be getting a lot of visitors… not really sure why.

But, I haven’t blogged in ages on here because other projects and life have gotten in the way. However, I am really keen to get back to food blogging. That said, I don’t want to limit myself to baking on Saturdays any more. I want to cook other stuff, and what’s more I want to get generally more crafty and creative. Therefore, I’ve set up a new website called Look, I Made This.

I’d be thrilled if you’d join me there for my 2012 home-made year.

Love and stuff,

Amy

x

Cherry crumble cake – Annie Bell’s Gorgeous Cakes

January 24, 2011

This week’s bake comes courtesy of the book I was given at Christmas by my parents – it’s full of great looking cakes (well gorgeous as the name implies) that I was keen to try as soon as possible. I landed upon the cherry crumble cake as a long time fan of cake, cherry and crumble, I thought this would be a great one to try.

Making the cake was relatively easy, once again my arms getting a bit of a workout from the beating involved of the butter, but other than that nothing too strenuous. It’s been a while since I’ve made a crumble of any description and I forgot how oddly relaxing it can be to create the necessary crumbs, than again, maybe I’m just a bit odd.

I can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve ever cooked a cake and got it out of the oven to find that it looked exactly like the photo accompanying the recipe. I amazed myself as the golden crumbs sat in the exact same place as on the photo – and I hadn’t even been trying to achieve that.

The cake itself was lovely, and the crumble topping was pretty good too – at a push I’d say this could do with being a touch crisper for my liking. I think the one thing that possibly let this down was the cherries, as to my mind they weren’t quite as flavour intense as they should have been – these were tinned and while it saved me the job of having to pit them, I get the feeling that I would possibly use fresh red cherries next time for a punchier flavour.

One of the best things about the cake was that it was delicious hot or cold, and lasted well too. 3 days later and I was still enjoying the last remnants of the cake – always a bonus in my book. [continues]


Photo setup:

For some reason I find it a bit more difficult to make whole cakes look attractive than cupcakes, muffins or biscuits. It could have something to do with layering and patterns making for more attractive cakes, or I could just be imagining it.

Anyway, this was once again taken in my ironing board home studio set-up.  I’ve gone for a few different backgrounds here, I really like the birds paper but I am concerned it is a little fussy for a food shot.

These were taken either with my 50mm or the 35mm lens I currently have on loan, but if you’d like to know more details about the data for each specific photo, please check my Flickr stream.

Back to the usual:

Taste: 3.5/5 I liked it a lot, don’t get me wrong, but I knock some off for not quite crisp enough crumble and less than punchy flavoured cherries – both things that could easily be improved on.

Difficulty: 1/5 Extremely easy, and a pleasure to make

Chance of remake: I’d like to experiment not only with better cherries, but with other fruits at some point.
You can find the cherry crumble cake recipe in Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell, available on Amazon. BBC Good Food also do a blackberry and apple crumble cake which you could try your hand at.

Mini Victoria sponge cakes recipe – Delicious magazine

January 17, 2011

I first spotted this week’s recipe a few months ago, and squirreled it away in my must have bakes folder for a later date. The date came in September when I found some mango curd at a food festival that was bloody lovely.

But me being me, I waited until January to actually crack it out and get on with it. The original recipe called for lemon curd, but as mango is probably my favourite fruit (exotic at least) I knew these would be just as good.

Other mini-Victoria sponge recipes call for you to use specific little baking tins. I think it’s unpractical to have tiny little baking tins cluttering up your kitchen only to be wheeled out once a year. I loved that to make this, you only needed a humble cupcake tin, something all of us surely have.

Anyway, back to the point, there’s not much to describe about the process of making the cake batter, as this is just a basic sponge, nothing extravagant, just does the job. Once you’ve made up the batter you spoon it in to the cupcake holes (buttered, not lined – you’re not making cupcakes, remember) and once it’s been for a nick of time you’re ready to start assembling.

Now, as usual, I came across a little hurdle. When my cakes come out of the oven, they were pointy, as in they had risen. I looked at them with head cocked, wondering how on earth I was going to recreate the beautiful flat tops I’d seen in the magazine picture. Put these creations together and they’d have looked not unlike a Doctor Who creature (which may or may not float your boat, depending on your point of view).

It took me longer that it really should have to realise that if you cut the tops off, then used the bottom as the top then you’d have the flattened tops as previously mentioned. It made no reference to this in the recipe, and it really is easier than it should be to confuse me – so if you ever find yourself in this odd predicament, you’ll know what to do.

I also struggled to get my swirls of cream and mango curd to look as perfect as in the recipe, but at least it proves these were home-made and not batch processed. The only other problem was what to do with the leftover “cut-off” tops.
We don’t like waste in this house (we don’t like it but I do it all the time, but anyway…) so I found you could make even mini-er versions of mini Victoria sponges that made for great little bitesize portions and gave me a good idea for party food in the future…

Setup: From now on, I’ve decided to include a paragraph or two about the setup with each post, for those that are interested in photography and styling.

This was a plain purple base, with a cake stand (Christmas present from my nephew – hence the child’s handprints in the pictures) and a purple leaf background, which is art paper from Paperchase. In terms of photography, these were either taken with a 35mm lens or 50mm lens. Only lighting comes from the window, nothing else. If you want to know more about the exif data for each photograph, you can find them on my Flickr stream.

Right, so here’s the usual gumpf:

Taste: 4.5/5 DELICIOUS! I loved these, the mango curd being just tart enough, the simple cake, put them together and what do you get – scrumminess.

Difficulty: 2/5 Once you’ve mastered the art of lopping off cake tops, pretty easy.
Amendments: Changed lemon curd for mango curd – and I didn’t make my own like it suggests you *can* do in the recipe, if you want. I don’t want.

Chance of remake: Well as it happens, I do have a lot of mango curd left….

You can find the mini Victoria sponge cakes with lemon curd and cream recipe on the Taste.com.au recipe website, and as it’s exactly the same picture as in Delicious Magazine June 2010, I’m assuming it’s the same recipe.

Apple and cinnamon muffins – Nigella Kitchen

January 1, 2011

This baking challenge is actually quite an old one that I didn’t get round to blogging about. But, in order to take New Year’s Day off from baking I thought I’d update using this recipe. These were easily one of the tastiest bake I made in 2010, and, even better I didn’t feel guilty eating them.

This was my first time using spelt flour, which I picked up at my local deli. Nigella is quick to point out in her book that a muffin should be different from a cupcake, most especially in the sugar department. The spelt flour really helps with this as it leaves the muffin with a gorgeous, nutty almost-but-not-quite savoury flavour.

Then you’re hit with a gorgeously sharp and sweet at the same time chunk of apple (I used one pink lady and one gala – my two favourite varieties) and that’s really all the sweetness you need. Of course there’s a touch of (brown) sugar in the mixture too, but that’s really to lift out of the breakfast muffin variety I suppose, and I wager you could probably get away with leaving it out if you were after something even more virtuous.

Making these muffins was a doddle. Regular readers will now by know my penchant for chuck it in a bowl method and I’m afraid this was another example of that. Well almost, you did have to use two bowls, one for dry ingredients and one for wet before pushing it all together.

Now Nigella claims this mix is only enough to make 12 muffins. I can’t quite figure out if she has a large muffin tin or I did something else wrong as this easily made 20. Maybe if I’d put more mixture into each case I’d have ended up with giant muffins – but I’m always a little wary of filling a case to the top in case it’s too much and the thing explodes out of the top and joins up with all the other muffins.

Anyway…. drifting away from the point there. After about 20 minutes in the oven they looked ready. Out they came onto the wire rack. And they looked marvellous. Exactly how muffins are supposed to look, and I thought, by jove I’ve actually gone and baked something to perfection.

Of course, being me, I was wrong. Naturally. I came back 5 minutes later to find the muffins had all sank in quite a sad little way. Reading Nigella though she points out that this happens to almost every home-baked muffin and to be expect otherwise is just setting yourself up for disappointment. So with that in mind, I went merrily on my way.

When it came to tasting these muffins I was delighted. As I said previously these were easily one of the tastiest things I’ve ever baked. I’m not  100% sure what did it for me exactly but I could have eaten a few of these in one sitting. I think it’s because, as contradictory as it would seem for someone with a baking blog, I’m actually more of a savoury person, so these hit the spot extremely well.

My co-workers who tasted these some weeks ago all seemed to agree too – although whether they were just sparing my blushes, I’m never sure.

Here’s the usual:

Taste: 4.5/5 Obviously I loved these, I suppose my only minor criticism is the amount of almonds that go in the mixture. Not being the biggest nut-fan in the world, there was perhaps a bit more than I’d have liked.

Difficulty: 2/5 Pretty easy, but as mentioned, don’t expect these to look like the muffins you see in Starbucks.

Amendments: None

Chance of remake: Absolutely definitely – I’m salivating just thinking about it.

This week’s recipe comes from the latest book by Nigella Lawson – Nigella Kitchen. You can find it in the book, or you could try this spelt flour muffin recipe from Food.com

Easy mince pies – Christmas special

December 24, 2010

Let me just start by saying that if I were a real baker, or perhaps chef, I’d make my own mincemeat. Since I firmly subscribe to the ‘life’s too short’ school of thought, eaters of my pies will have to make do with the ready made (M&S at least!) shop bought variety.

I used to make mince pies with my mum as a child, so as soon as I smelled the pies cooking in the oven I was instantly transported to my childhood kitchen and the memory of being so small I needed to stand on a chair to reach the worktop.

But we’ll come back to that, first of all I had to create the pastry for the pies. I found an ‘incredibly easy’ recipe that was well, incredibly easy in theory, but me being me, struggled with.

All you had to do was mix butter, flour and sugar together. The problem I found here was the missing liquid. It claims in the recipe to be abit like shortbread pastry, but I found I couldn’t get it to stick together and the result was more like breadcrumbs. I added a tiny splash of milk though and I was away.

The big problem I encountered next was trying to get a thin pastry for the bottom of the pies. So anyone who eats these will find there is a fairly hefty amount at the bottom, but if you ask me no one is going to complain about extra pastry are they?

My aforementioned M&S mince had chunks of chocolate in it, which I thought would either be a triumph or a disaster. In the end I think it just about works – which is actually saying something for me because I started off this process not being a huge fan of mince pies in the first place – hurrah!

So here’s the usual:

Taste: 4/5 Well they’ve converted me anyway.

Amendments: Added a splash of milk to the pastry recipe and used M&S chocolate mince rather than traditional.

Chance of remake: More than likely, this time next year.

You can find this week’s mince pie recipe on the BBC Good Food website.

Christmas biscuits recipe

December 19, 2010

Baking is one of the most enjoyable things about Christmas, well in my opinion anyway. This year I’ve decided to bake a couple of different things – you’ll be able to see the other later in the week. First up though, we have Christmas themed biscuits.

Biscuits are probably one of my favourite things to make, both for their ease and the fun you can have decorating them. These of course are no exception. I made these with the intention of sharing with my collegues on our Christmas party day, and I hope they bought jolity to the office.

There was absolutely nothing difficult about making these, which are a little bit like gingerbread, but with just the faintest hint of cinnamon. This was one of the good old bung it all in a bowl and hope for the best.

This bake also included a hunt for light brown sugar, something that proved strangely illusive in my immediate vicinity for some unknown reason. Fear not, sugar fans, though as I once I’d tracked down some I bought 3 packets. For a light brown sugar substitute though you can use some dark brown sugar mixed in with caster sugar and you should be more or less alright.

So here’s the usual nonsense:

Taste: 4.5/5 I love ginger and cinnamon, and these were a great texture and weren’t too hard or too soft. Great.

Difficulty: 1/5 Bung it all in – not difficult at all.

Amendments: None

Chance of remake: 4/5 Next Christmas…

You can find this week’s Christmas biscuits recipe on the Waitrose website, but you can just add half a teaspoon of ginger and half a teaspoon of cinnamon to any basic biscuit recipe and you can acheive a similar effect.

Coming later this week… mince pies.

Traditional apple pie recipe – BBC Food

December 13, 2010

Apple pie is a firm family favourite for pretty much everyone, and, while you can buy more than tasty versions in the shops, I felt it perhaps should be a staple dessert that I can whip up at a moment’s notice. Plus I have a special pie tin (with holes in the base in case you wondered).

Cooking up the pie was a relatively simple process, and the smell of stewing apples filled the house with a beautiful aroma that really just says ‘Sunday’ – whatever that smells like. Next, I even made my own pastry, which was nothing fancy and pretty simple. Unfortunately, the recipe I used was obviously intended for a smaller dish as there wasn’t quite enough to cover the top.

Sadly, I didn’t realise this until the final moment when I went to place the blanket of pastry atop the pie. Being half of the ‘oh well never mind what it looks like’ school of thought and half ‘oh crap what are the pictures going to look like’ way of thinking I did my best to at least cover the top with various scraps of pastry.

In the end I manage to cover the top of the pie with a less-than-photoshoot worthy piece of pastry. My solution? Only shoot a portion of pie and not the whole of it. No one would be any the wiser had I not mentioned it here, but I like the blog to be honest and upfront of course.  😉

After half an hour or so in the oven the pie was complete, and once more delicious aromas permeated from the kitchen. Yum yum yum. I got the pie out of the oven and the gorgeous golden pastry looked just right – I couldn’t wait to tuck into this beast.

I’m pretty lazy so I couldn’t be bothered to make my own custard, but the shop bought variety worked a treat with this pie and I’m happy to say that despite appearances, the whole ensemble was bloody lovely.

So, here’s to the usual malarky:

Taste: 4/5 Perhaps I might add a bit of sugar to the pastry next time to sweeten it up, but overall this was pretty spot-on.

Difficulty: 1/5 I always assumed making apple pie was a little bit tricky. Can’t recall why. But in reality, making pastry is a pretty simple affair, so long as you make the appropriate amount. The most time consuming part of this bake is peeling apples.

Amendments: None

Chance of remake: 3/5 Now that I’ve tried this I can have a go at mastering the pastry making and trying other fruits.

You can find this week’s apple pie recipe on the BBC Food website. That said, apple pie recipes are pretty ubiquitous so whatever your favourite food site is, they’re bound to have something to suit your needs.

Nigella flourless chocolate and lime cake

November 15, 2010

Having bought the new Nigella Kitchen book a few weeks ago and indulging in watching the accompanying TV show, I thought it was high time I actually gave one of the recipes a go. All it took was a quick flick through the book for this to catch my eye. I was having friends over for dinner, and everyone loves chocolate.

Now lime and chocolate aren’t two ingredients I’d have naturally thought of putting  together, but much like Nigella herself, perhaps it shouldn’t work, but it does. This recipe would be suitable for anybody with a gluten intolerance as it replaces flour with ground almonds to great effect – I wouldn’t have guessed in a blind-taste test that is.

The only thing I would have to say about the taste is that the lime was very subtle. The occasional pockets of lime zest aside, it could really do with being oomphed up a bit. Perhaps it’s my fault, the lime was quite small, but I think if I make this again I’d add the zest and juice of another lime to really give it some zing.

This cake also lasted wonderfully well, and was perfect heated up in the microwave for just a few seconds and served next to a delicious scoop of melting ice cream. Delicious. Alternatively, grabbing a quick, decadent slice was also great as it tasted beautiful cold too. If you wanted to add some extra oomph to this, you could serve it with a raspberry or cherry coulis, something faintly sharp to set off the sweetness of the chocolate.

Whichever way you have it, this is an indulgent treat for those with or without allergies, and one I’d highly recommend to anyone and doubly highly recommend to any sufferers who believe you can’t find a tasty gluten free cake.

The usual:

Taste: 4/5 If only the lime was a bit more noticeable, this would score higher, but with only the odd burst of it, it feels like it’s a mistake rather than an intentional ingredient.

Difficulty: 2/5 Not difficult at all – I thought these might be as tricksy as the brownies I’ve previously cooked, but not so. The only thing here was the oven timings were slightly off. Nigella said to cook for 45 minutes but check after 35, by 35 mine was perhaps a little overcooked if anything – so something to watch out for.

Amendments: None.

Chance of remake: 3/5 I’ve been looking for a good, simple, chocolate cake recipe – maybe this will be my go-to recipe of choice in future.

You can find Nigella’s flourless chocolate and lime cake recipe in her latest book, Kitchen. For more of her recipes, visit the Nigella website or check BBC Food.

Coming up soon: traditional apple pie!

Halloween baking: scary sculls biscuits recipe

October 31, 2010

I wanted to be seasonal with this week’s baking challenge, and so when I came across these sweet looking biscuits, I just couldn’t resist. Handily, I still also had some morello cherry jam left over from one of the food festivals I went to last month.

These were probably the simplest biscuits I’ve ever had to make, I didn’t even had to crack out the electric whisk for these. Simply put butter, sugar, vanilla essence and an egg yolk into a bowl and use a big spoon to mix it all together. Slowly add the flour and voila you have the basic mixture. It’s a wondrous work out for the arms though – it really is shocking they don’t include it in gyms isn’t it?

Anyway, after chilling for a while, it was time to roll out the dough and create the shapes. Believe it or not, I didn’t have a skull shaped cookie cutter, but rather I just rolled these in the palm of my hands, squashed it onto the baking tray then pinched the bottom of the circle to make a jaw line. I don’t have an apple corer to make the eyes either, as recommended in the recipe, so I made do, as you do, with the ‘other’ end of a whisk.

A few ticks later and the biscuits were ready, all I had to do was pair them up as best as I could to and insert the lovely glistening cherry jam in between. Next was the really tricky part, the icing. I’ve never been particularly prestigious at icing neatly, especially when I don’t have the appropriate piping bags.

On this occasion I made do with sandwich bags pricked with only the teeniest of tiny holes and squeezed the decorations on with due care. This is the part the took the longest and was trickiest, but I think they’ve turned out well in the end, are suitably spooky.

Usual nonsense:

Difficulty: 1/5 Easy as pie, except for the icing bit, then you’ll need a little more patience.

Taste: 4/5 I’m a sucker for simple flavours, so I love these. Others may find them a tad basic.

Amendments: Used cherry jam instead of raspberry, I’d recommend using whatever you have to hand.

Chance of remake: Maybe at Christmas I’ll do Santas or Christmas trees…

You can find the scary scull biscuit recipe on BBC Good Food.

Blackberry lemon cakes with cheesecake topping – BBC Good Food

October 25, 2010

This week’s bake was, by all accounts, a bit of a weird one. It was two cakes in one, normal sponge cake on the bottom with a cheesecake style topping. Except the cheesecake part wasn’t made from cheese, but rather sour cream, an egg and icing sugar.

Anyway, this required messing about with fiddly strips of paper that you would need later on to pull the cakes out of the muffin tin, but if you wanted to save yourself the hassle you could probably just use tall cupcake or muffin cases to similar effect.

Another reason why this bake was odd is that when the cake part has barely cooked, you have to take them out of the oven and squash them into the base of the muffin holes so that you can pour the cheesecake mixture (at this point runny) to fill up the holes. I got the feeling that this wouldn’t work because the cakes had already risen quite a lot, but it’s amazing what you can do with a spatula isn’t it?

Anyway, after pouring the cheesecake mixture on, they go back in the oven for a bit and then when they come out they do look ever so sweet with the luscious blackberry glistening out from the top. The recipe actually called for blueberries, but at this time of year they are so expensive and carry so many food miles I just couldn’t bear to use them and found these blackberries on special offer instead.

Now for the inevitable problems with this week’s bake… The recipe commands you to take the cakes out of the oven when they are only partially cooked in order to flatten them slightly and pour the cheesecake topping on. You wouldn’t be able to do this at the end as they’d be too hard to push down and there would be no room for the topping. The problem is that the resulting cakes (or at least mine) remained pale and not quite cooked enough for my liking at the end of it. They weren’t light and airy like normal sponge, but a lot more dense. It wasn’t a bad cake, but you can see why cheesecakes are normally accompanied by biscuit and not sponge…

The taste of the cheesecake part was light and somewhat refreshing, and the sponges just lemony enough. Still, I don’t think I’ll be rushing to make these again, even if they were a little more interesting than usual.

So here we go:

Taste: 3/5 Nice enough, but they don’t really have the wow factor, unfortunately.

Difficulty: 3/5 The tricky part here is the laying of the baking paper strips into the muffin holes to allow you to pull out the cakes at the end. It was a lot of faff for not a fantastic reward – if you had a silicon baking tray you might want to use one of those instead. It was also a bit weird having to push down part baked cakes with a spatula.

Amendments: Subtituted blueberries for blackberries, you could probably use whichever fruit you liked here, although a berry of some kind would work best I think.

Chance of remake: 1/5 Nice enough, but with so many other wonderful treats I can’t imagine I’ll be rushing to the kitchen for these any time soon.

You can find the lemon cake with blueberry lemon cakes with cheesecake topping recipe on the BBC Good Food website.

Special thanks to Emma for the props and ‘rustic’ table 😉

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