Monday, January 4, 2010
I made the dough, and searched the drawers for various instruments I could use for cookie cutters, and the scattered few that I had. After placing 16 cookies on a tray, I had to use a knife to cut out the middles, and then slowly fill each cookie with the various colours of candy. They cookies turned golden, and the candies had melted together just like the recipe had said. What I didn’t count on was the vast number that the recipe would make, nor did I count on the ‘windows’ sticking to the greaseproof paper. I found that the broken candies stuck together on the saucer, and trying to get a spoonful meant re-smashing the already broken candies, which lead to me cleaning up the sticky particles for weeks. =(
All in all, they didn’t turn out as perfect as I had indented, but when held up to the sunlight, they did have the stain glass effect.
I would recommend using different coloured candies on the same cookies, as it somehow looks like there is a lot more skill involved. My friend enjoyed the cookies very much, and enjoyed looking up through them in the sunlight.
The classic is usually made to be a chocolate pudding with a delicious and sticky sauce that is found at the bottom of the bowl, after it has been in the microwave. Sliding your spoon under the sponge is always satisfying as soon as you find the pool of chocolaty sauce. You can also add coconut to the coconut sponge and it makes it taste like heaven. It is comprised by mixing a basic batter and then pouring over the ‘sauce’ mixture with consists of a cup of sugar mixed with a tablespoon or two of cocoa powder, and a cup of boiling water. These three components with the help of nuclear power create the richest sauce which accompanies a fail safe pudding.
However, having a creative mind *cough* I decided I wanted to broaden my horizons and wanted to make the pudding see a different flavour other than the classic chocolate and coconut. I decided to make the pudding a toffee flavoured. I substituted the cocoa powder in the pudding and sauce for golden syrup. This meant that instead of a chocolate brown, the pudding was a light golden colour. So inviting.
I had to cook this for a few minutes, I think as there was more liquid in the pudding, so it needed more time. This pudding was much sweeter than the chocolate but still tasted great.
The next winter’s night I made this pudding, I swapped the cocoa for blackcurrant jam, and added 1tsp of cinnamon and a handful of raisins. I was trying to make it seem like a classic steamed pudding. To my delight, it turned out rather well. It still had the classic ‘Self Saucing Pudding’ texture but had the taste of a steam pudding that had been cooking for hours.
Although you can’t replace the taste and tradition of a chocolate self saucing puddings, the cinnamon, jam and raisin comes as a pretty good alternative to hours of steaming in the kitchen.
How refreshing is a lemon meringue pie? In the closing months of July, it was surprisingly sunny in
The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice, in which last years yield of lemons did not accommodate. So, I substituted and used only a cup of lemon juice, and 1 3/4 of a cup of water. This made a great curd, that was still tart, but wasn’t too harsh and had a delicate sweetness to it. After completing the base and curd and storing it in the fridge (the recipe filled to flans full!), I was ready to beat up those egg whites. They say you are to add some baking powder to the meringue to make it even lighter, but I don’t think this is necessary unless you’re seriously bad at making meringue.
By lunch, I had made two delicious warm Lemon Meringue Pies ready to be eaten. And eaten they were. One thing I love about Lemon Meringue Pie is that it can be eaten at any temperature. (This also makes it a dangerous dish at that!)
My family enjoyed it so much that they requested that I would make it for my sisters birthday the following week!
250g Griffin's Malt Biscuits
100g Butter (melted)
½ Cup Cornflour
1½ Cups Caster Sugar
1½ Cups Lemon Juice
1¼ Cups Water
2 tsp Lemon Rind
1. Put the Malt Biscuits into a food processor and blend until like breadcrumbs.
2. Add 100g butter (melted) and mix.
3. Press biscuit mixture into a flan tin, refrigerate.
4. Mix cornflour and ½ C caster sugar in saucepan, gradually stirring in lemon juice and water. Stir on a high heat until boiling and the mixture is thick. Reduce heat and simmer.
5. Remove from heat and stir in extra butter, egg yolks and lemon rind. Let cool for 10 – 15 minutes.
6. Spread mixture over biscuit base, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
7. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, add remaining caster sugar, beating until sugar dissolves.
8. Spread the meringue mixture over base forming peaks. Bake in the oven until meringue is slightly browned.
So, I began to surf the net for various fruit mince and fruit mince pie recipes. I found that most recipes contained glace cherries or maraschino cherries neither of which suits my palate. So, I decided to omit those along with the most of the alcohol (I reduced one cup of brandy, to 1/4 cup of crème sherry) that was used in the mince, and some of the nutmeg (which I find too strong of a spice) and all spice (in which I don’t find the smell too pleasant). I also removed the mixed peel. I know that a lot of people feel that it is the ‘heart and soul’ of Christmas puddings but I honestly can’t stand the taste. I had read that some recipes that use nuts, which I’m against as who likes pies with dodgy crunchy fillings? No thank you!
So, I made the mince pie filling a day in advance. I know that your suppose to leave it in a sterilized jar so it has time to marinate, but Christmas was advancing fast, and I had a turkey to roast, a gingerbread house to bake and potatoes to peel. Coincidently, my grandmother (who I got the recipe for plum duff off) came around to my house without arranging, so she caught me just completing the fruit mince. Eager to get her opinion, I was waiting for the opportunity to ask her to taste it, when my Father came home early from work (around lunch time). I asked him to sample the mince, as I feel his love of the homey Christmas pies has rubbed off on me. He was delighted at the taste and smell (keeping in mind that I needed to let it stand overnight to marinate the flavours). He actually went back for a second spoonful!
Just before her departure she tasted the mince, but she seemed to disapprove of the taste as she likes a strong taste of alcohol, whilst I prefer a subtle taste. So that made me feel a little less confident.
The next day I cracked out the food processor, and dropped in the ingredients for the pastry in. I was surprised at how well it turned out, as I know that pastries can be very difficult to make. It was very malleable and wasn’t to dry or to wet. I did taste the pastry before cooking it, and it wasn’t that sweet, which concerned me as I recall Christmas pies being some what sweet and melt in your mouth. However, I lined one and a half muffin tins with the pastry and filled each with the delicious fruit mince, and topped each one with another round of pastry. Looking at the bowl of mince I realized that the mince to pastry ratio was not quite right, and I needed to make more pastry! I ended up making around 25 pies, all of which smelled delicious. The problem I found though, was when removing the lovely pies, they would crumble before my eyes. Having being a labour of my love, I was extremely disappointed in how the turned out, as many had arcs missing and the bases were falling apart. Some had turned to an almost rubble and couldn’t be saved, which knocked the number of Christmas pies back to around 18. Those crumbled pies did not go to waste, and made my dinner for that evening. I made my family (Mother, Father and Sister) test some each, and found I almost had to hid the plate of destroyed pies from my father so that the rest of the family could sample them. I split the batch in two, knowing we couldn’t get through 20 pies for Christmas and stored them in the freezer. This means that when ever I feel like a splash of Christmas, it is just a 10 minute bake in the oven!
Next time I make the pies, i’ll double the batch of pastry, and spend a lot more time oiling the muffin tins and allowing the pies to rest for a good 10 minutes before removal!
Here is the recipe I used, and I HAVE doubled the pastry recipe:
• 250g raisins
• 250g sultanas
• 250g currants
• 65g mixed peel
• 125g butter, softened
• 250g peeled and finely chopped granny smith apples
• 250g brown sugar
• grated rind of ½ lemon
• grated rind of ½ orange
• ½ teaspoon cinnamon
• pinch each of nutmeg and allspice
• 1 cup (250ml) brandy
• 250g self raising flour
• 220g plain flour
• 250g butter
• 4 Tablespoons icing sugar
• 2 egg yolks
• 6 tablespoons cold water
1. Make sure all ingredients are finely chopped to around the same sized pieces. In a large bowl, mix all the fruit, chopped apples, butter, rind and spices together till well combined. Dissolve the sugar in the brandy and pour it over the mixture.
2. Cover and let stand overnight.
3. The next day stir the mixture again then place in clean dry jars for at least a month before using.
4. To make the pastry:sift the flours and then either rub in the butter or combine in a food processor. Add the sifted icing sugar and then stir in the egg yolk and water and mix it all to a dough. Work into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and then put in the fridge for an hour.
5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and grease a 12 hole muffin tin. Use the egg white to glaze each pie before placing in the oven
The next section of the buffet is rather small; it too, has two large vats. One is filled with a beany concoction, and the other is rather thin tomato mince sauce. This accompanies the nachos and spaghetti, which are situated right next to each vat. This section also has a bowl of mysterious grated cheese.
The next section is much larger than the last, and it is filled with salads. They do have variety with different flavoured pasta, cous cous, vegetable and rice salads, but I find that most are covered thickly in sauces and dressings, which end up taking the flavour away from the actual ingredients. This is a bit of a let down, as well as a weight gaining exercise. The section also contains a small spread of seasonal fruit, and a bowl of canned pineapple pieces. The salad section also has sushi, but it is only vegetarian. It does taste great, and I always find myself tucking into a piece or two when scanning the bowls of salads in which I will later indulge.
The second last section contains hot food. It is about the same size ad the salad section, but contains triple the calories. This section is packed full of greasy (but crunchy) chips that have been drowned in salt. It has fried chicken wings (which are extremely awkward to eat, so it’s something you would not eat if you are trying to show class. But then, why would you be at a buffet if you wanted to show class? Moving around the hot plates, you find some sort of sausage casserole, mashed potato which looks like it comes out of a packet, some fried rice which lacks genuine flavour, greasy fried fish, some shrimp slices and *drum roll please* FRIED SUSHI!
This makes this restaurant go from a C grade to a B grade in my books. I was very sceptical when I tried my first piece as sushi, too me, is suppose to be served cold filled with fresh vegetables and fresh fish. However, I was remarkably surprised at the taste, and with the compliment of the sweet chilli sauce. This combination blew me away. Every time I go there, I enforce (whoever I’m with) to grab at least one piece. Its crunchy exterior contrasts with the much softer innards. Delicious
The last section, which is shunted away to the far wall, is desserts. This is seemingly basic; there is a heated tray of apple crumble in which seems to have gotten itself a name. Though I find that the chucky apples don’t make the dessert successful, and the crumble to apple ratio is in the crumbles favour, which is disappointing. The next dessert item is a bowl of raspberry jelly (this flavour never changes and as I’m not a fan of jelly, I’ve never tried this), followed by a bowl of overly whipped cream. This is proceeded by a generous plate of cake (the flavour various between chocolate or carrot). Either way, I always give myself a generous helping of. (I have been known to full a dinner plate with the cake, and also, to take some home in a napkin Shhh!) The last, and most important part to any dessert, is ice-cream. They have an awesome soft-serve ice cream machine, with has compliments of ice-cream cones, sprinkles, chocolate chips and sauces (various between chocolate, caramel and strawberry). This has been the soul of many magical creations, and many hours of fun.
One thing I love about buffets is that you can experiment with flavours and ideas. (E.g. making an ice-cream sundae with gherkin, or olives XD) It also means that you can create some pretty wicked fear factors as well (all of which I have won!) My sister once gave me a piece of fried fish, with chilli sauce, ice-cream, chocolate sauce and a drizzle of pumpkin soup. Lets just say, I took her 2 dollars with much pride hehe.
I gave my mother the idea once to create a banana split, and the look on her face made me think I just solved world hunger (well, perhaps for her anyway hehe). It sucks that we only have one buffet in my small city that I call home, but at least we have one.
(This is a picture i found off the net, and not one I took myself)
Saturday, January 2, 2010
With my passion for baking, my fetish for children birthday cakes, and my birthday coming around the corner, I made a last ditch effect to create the ultimate birthday cake. Well, I lie. It’s actually supposed to be used a centre piece on the table, but that didn’t bother me.
The train cake was on the cover of the Children’s cake book, and through the years it has stared me in the face as I idly choose the monster cake that my mother had made me for years. Last year however, I put it upon myself to create the trophy of all the cakes in the cake book. The train.
This train was supposed to be comprised of one engine and 3 carriages. However, there were four family members attending my birthday dinner, so I had to make 4 carriages. Of course, I was going to eat the engine, being the birthday girl an all, I had to get the biggest slice. On paper, the train looked reasonably easy to make. Cut here, ice there, place lollies of your choice on the side.
I started by buying the cakes in boxes and a Swiss roll (this would be used to create the engine and chimney). Cheating a little, I know, but this baby was going to take me a while, but finding and mixing up a lot of ingredients was just way to time consuming. (Oh, I should mention that my mother let me have the day off school so I could make the cake. Bless) So, after making 3 cakes, and letting them cool, it was almost lunch time. But this stage I was stressing just a little as my relations were coming at 4.30pm.
With the use of an electric beater, I mixed up some butter icing (which now I regret as it was WAY to butter for me, so I ended up not eating my entire engine). Here was the ‘fun part’. I had to cut the cake in a certain way, to end up with about 10 rectangles and all of approximately the same length. But after slicing and dicing away for about 15 minutes, I was satisfied with what I had done.
Now, I had to cover up the glorious *cough* looking rectangles which formed each carriage (two placed on top of each other) with different coloured butter icing. In some ways, fondant would have been a better choice to use, and would have created a nicer finish. However, I personally am not a fan of fondant and really didn’t want to start using something I have never worked with before nor liked. After the tremendous effect to ice each carriage, I was then able to decorate with straps of icing, and chocolate biscuits for the wheels. I then placed candy coated popcorn on each carriage to make it look like ‘coal’. To connect each carriage, I used sour apple rings and stuck them at the back of each carriage and onto the front of the next.
For the engine (the most important part to any train) I used a longer piece of rectangle sponge, and 3/4 of the Swiss roll. I used the other 1/4 to cut a small cylinder for the train’s chimney. I then add to use more butter icing to glue the sucker together. I don’t think I’ve sworn so much in such a short time space in the kitchen, in my life! However, I did manage to stick all the components together, and decorated it with licorice, M&M’s, chocolate biscuits and more popcorn.
At the end of the day, I was rather happy with the slightly lop-sided train, and my relatives thought I did a pretty good job. Unfortunately the icing was too sweet for my taste buds, though my Father and sister did enjoy the taste. They ended up finishing my engine (after I stole their chocolate biscuits of course!) I would completely and utterly recommend this cake for a birthday party. Even though I made it, it still made me feel like a child again (which is one of the reasons I made the cake in the first place XD)
Friday, January 1, 2010
I was ready to jump at the opportunity to use it, so when New Years came round, and I was invited to a party, I knew it was time to get that 'new' smell off the doughnut maker, and replace it with the sweet, sweet smell of doughnuts.
My plan was to make various different flavours of doughnuts. Some would be coated in sugar and cinnamon (a classic doughnut), others would be iced and the last flavour would be chocolate. I tried to make an even number of each flavour, but I think chocolate won by 7 doughnuts (not that i'm bias or anything) hehe.
I followed the recipe that was given to me with the maker, and found that the suggestion of 1Tbsp of batter to each doughnut hole was too much, instead, I ended up using 2tsps. I made way more than what the recipe said it would make. (It said a mere 24, but I think it was more like 42) .
I had high hopes for the doughnuts. I hoped they would have the proper shape, a certain taste, and more importantly, a certain look. (Im going to blaim it on the fact, that I am an amature at doughnut making, and for my first attempt, they weren't a bad batch really)
I found that the doughnut batter was rather runny, which meant that the amount of batter I used would over flow, and the part that was there to make the centre would be COVERED in batter, which meant the classic doughnut shape was more a round ball, with a small indent in the centre. =(
Fortunately, I used the runt looking doughnuts to cover in sugar and cinnamon. I realised within my first attempt that I needed to brush the doughnuts in butter, before dipping them in the sugar and cinnamon mixture otherwise no sugar would stick.
I made rather alot of plain ones, and then thought I should upgrade some of them to sugar and cinnamon. I then added the cocoa to the batter, and made about 18 chocolate doughnuts. Yum!
Some of the doughnuts were rather chewy, and not as I had hoped. I used icing to cover up any mistakes, which I think worked well as a disguse.
Next time when I make the doughnuts, I shall focus more on the amount of batter I add, so I can get a batch of doughnuts, instead of the chewy doughnut batter balls, smoothered in icing. hehe
That idea, equals WIN!
After making trifle (My sister and Father's favourite dessert, I personally don't see it myself) for Christmas, we had some left over sponge and cream. I really wanted to try Tiramisu, as of seeing it on the net on various other food blogs, and hearing about it through TV shows. So, I devised a plan, went online in search for a tiramisu recipe without mascarpone. As suspected, I found none that used ingredients I had in the house. (Sour cream and cream cheese where used, but I didn't have them in the fridge). So, I took it upon myself to just 'Go with the flow' and make a Tiramisu without using Cream Cheese or Mascarpone, but by using ordinary cream. I can’t say I know what texture and taste a proper Tiramisu is meant to have, but the ‘cream’ tiramisu was certainly delicious. The cream was light, and had a mousse like texture and the sponge was moistened with the coffee/boiling water, so it had similar texture to a trifle, but tasted of delicious chocolate and coffee!
My family didn’t complain about the taste, in fact my dad went back for seconds, and he doesn’t even like chocolate or coffee.
250gm Sponge, cut into cubes
6tsp Sugar (3tsp per egg)
5 tsp Instant Coffee Powder
2tsp Icing Sugar
1 Cup Boiling Water
1/4 Cup Grated Chocolate, or Chocolate Chips etc.
1. Whip the cream and then fold in 2tsp of icing sugar.
2. Separate the two eggs, then add the 6tsp of sugar to the egg yolk. Beat till yolk thickens and is whiter in colour.
3. Beat the egg whites till stiff peaks.
4. Spoon the yolk mixture, 1 Tbsp at a time, into the cream mixture. Fold in after each spoonful.
5. Add 2-3tsps of instant coffee (to taste), and the chocolate, folding in.
6. Fold in, spoon by spoon, the egg white into the cream mixture.
7. Mix the hot water and remaining coffee essence into a shallow dish, stirring till coffee essence is dissolved.
8. Dab the cut sponge in the coffee so it soaks up a little of the water and coffee.
9. Layer the sponge in a bowl, then top with the cream mixture, then more sponge, and then end on the cream.
10. Sprinkle with cocoa powder (or sweeter drinking chocolate) for a garnish.
11. Chill for 5 hours before serving.
Ever since I was a child, I have always loved choosing what birthday cake I would be receiving that year. We had a small Children’s Cake book, so which cake we got was limited to, what was in the book (oh, and my Mum's patients/skills). I usually choose the 'Monster Cake' which was PACKED full of lollies and chocolates of my choice. But as I grew, my choice of a 'Childish Cake' turned into a round cake; with the number I was turning iced onto it. One word: BORING!!
However, in recent years I have kicked my mother out of the kitchen for my birthday (I'll give her credit, she is a great baker and keeps the cupboard stocked full of delicious home-made cookies and the occasional slice, but when she cooks? disaster. Needless to say, I am promoted to cook in the family, and serve them up what ever pops into my head) and I cook the meal, desserts and the cake.
The most important part of a birthday (other than the birth itself) is the cake, am I right? I’m sure everyone has those fond birthday memories of when your mother/father/siblings showed you, your birthday cake lit with burning candles awaiting you to christen the cake when you cut the first slice (not all the way though, otherwise your wish won't come true! =))
Anyway, in 2008, I put it to myself to bake a cake I have adored for years, but never requested because of:
- My age (15 seemed a bit too old for a Mickey mouse cake)
- My mothers culinary skills
- If it turned out bad, there would be no way to save it
So, I managed make the glorious cake. It turned out reasonably well, and my friends seemed to think it was 'The bee’s knees'.
I think that day was the start to my obsession with baking, food and kitchen secrets.
When I made the cake, icing the ears would have to be the hardest part. That is because, when you cut the shape for the ears, you’re cutting in the middle of the cake. And, as everyone knows, cakes are VERY crumbly in the middle. Hence, icing it was extremely tricky. It was at that point I called my mother for assistance, even though I knew the 'I told you so... .’ was about to occur.
The ears and mouth are supposed to be densely coated in chocolate hail. Unfortunately, I had another spot of trouble with the application of the hail to the cake, and had to make do with what I had already applied.
The tongue of
All in all, this was the first time I had put tremendous effort in bake, ice and create my very own birthday cake. It ignited my passion for food (baking in particular), and honestly, I would strongly recommend to start baking/decorating/creating a masterpiece for any occasion. There is no occasion to big or to small that does not need a cake.
Start to think about it, I think completing a day of school deserves a slice of cake. I think I shall try and talk my mother into letting me bake a 'Congratulations on Surviving Another Day of School' cake.
A year ago (2008), in cooking class at school, we were given the Christmas task to make Gingerbread houses. Unfortunately, carrying a house made of gingerbread, with non-dried icing and bits of M&M's around 4 other classes can only lead to a disaster. I did manage to take the house home (After fending off my friends) but it was in 7 pieces (a side of the house broke) instead of the proposed one. I did manage to glue the various pieces back together, and took some photos of my amateur house. I had big hopes for the gingerbread that was, and was fully gutted at the result. As you can see, it was a bit of a disaster.
This year (2009) however, I was determined to create a grand house. A house that stands up longer than 5 minutes, a house with class and dignity. After booking out the kitchen (By which I mean, I told everyone to NOT go into the kitchen whilst I was there... luckily my parents were at work and my sister watching various You-tube videos), I started the delicate process of baking the cookie dough. The recipe I used though didn't have much ginger in it, so I added an extra 3tsps! Honestly, who wants non-gingery gingerbread?! (The recipe made extra, so I was able to make Gingerbread men, Teddy Bears, and Trees. All of which got decorated) =)
After spending 2 hours baking the walls and roof, I began the construction of they golden mansion *cough* I convinced my boyfriend to come around, and help me to connect the walls together, and stick the various decorations on the plain walls. Any way, as it turned out, I managed to get bits of icing EVERYWHERE, whilst he sat there in amusement to the mess I had just created. Of course, one must sample and taste the delicious candies, before placing on the house. We only wanted to use the 'Cream-of-the-Crop'.
I found that it wasn't as hard as I had remembered when I was in cooking class. I think that was because I had all the time in the world, whilst at school I had an hour to bake the gingerbread, and then only a mere hour to decorate!
Anyway, I made the gingerbread house, and to my family's approval, we all ate the glorious beast. My sister and I ate the roof (no surprises there) and my parents who have apparently 'Left Their Childhood Behind' and 'don’t Find Gingerbread Houses Exciting' definitely did not say no to a wall each. Of course, leaving to walls left, and me being the baker, I ate both. XD
All in all, I think I have just started the ritual of making a Gingerbread House for Christmas.
The Recipe for the Gingerbread House is:
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest
- 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Cream the butter and the sugar together. Add the egg and mix well. Mix in the orange peel and dark corn syrup. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves and salt, mixing until well combined. Chill dough for at least 2 hours, I like to chill overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. (Or us Place cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until cookies are firm and lightly toasted on the edges.