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Friday, 30 August 2013

Express Lemon Cupcakes & Chocorange Biscuits

If they say never work with animals or small children today I broke a rule.  Actually, it wasn't that bad.  I just had to accept the following:

1. Children will lick spoons and put them back in the bowl - even when you have not finished mixing.

2. Expect things to end up on the floor.  Don't try and fight it.

3. You can't have it neat and organised.  No matter how much you plan and tidy around them, things will get messy.

4. Everything taste 'yum', even if its just sugar and butter licked of the beater of your mixer.

5. And finally, don't expect the end product to look like the picture in the book (and certainly the vision in your head)

Once I came to terms with those areas I started to enjoy myself and learnt the following:

1. It does not matter if what you end up with looks nothing like the picture in the book.

2. Children will sit quietly for ages rolling out dough, cutting them in to biscuits and then rolling out the leftover bits.

3. A bit of mess can be wiped away - worktop, floor or even ceiling, it will come off!

4. Always buy more eggs then you think you need (or keep your kitchen floor clean enough to scoop them back up and use if necessary)

5. And finally, family members will ALWAYS eat what is given to them without question and the reply is ALWAYS 'yum', or 'did you make these?' or 'wow, aren't you clever'.

Today I looked after my cousins two young daughters.  I say look after, they are both as good as gold and caused me no problems so looking after was more 'entertain' and have fun.  8:30am till 12:30pm.  I decided baking would use up the time quickly and thought about two simple recipes that they could make together.  Express lemon cupcakes, express because the mix is whizzed up in the food processor and chocolate-orange biscuits.

Rolling out the dough for the cookies seemed to be the best part of the morning.  Me trying to keep everywhere neat and tidy was the worst.  

Thursday, 29 August 2013


A real foodie must be open to try pretty much anything.  I consider myself a foodie and will give almost anything a go.  There are only a few things on my 'yuck' list and these include liver, kidney, olives and anything with an exoskeleton.  I am happy to taste anything, even if it contains something I don't think I would like, and I am not afraid to  retry something I have not liked before - only recently I tried a couple of olives, still don't like them.

When travelling I have always tired to taste well known dishes from that area.  Green/red curries in Thailand, pizza in Rome,  Singapore Slings at Raffles,  Kebabs in Berlin and pastries in Denmark.  One place I have not been to yet is Vienna, famous for its Sachertorte, but it is on my list of places to visit.

Hunting around the internet, and plenty of research later, brought me to two versions of the 'traditional' Sachertorte.  However, the absolute original recipe comes from the hotel of the same name - Hotel Sacher, Vienna.   Invented in 1832 this dense chocolate cake is sandwiched together with apricot jam and rich dark chocolate icing.  I came across two versions while hunting for a suitable recipe - two layer and single layer.  The two layer version is the one made at the Hotel Sacher therefore it is the recipe I have decide to make.

The icing for this torte is rather strange.  You bring water and sugar up to a boil and then add the dark chocolate.  When I first read this I wondered if the chocolate would simply burn, however careful boiling (if there is such a thing) and constant stirring reduces the risk of burning.  I was worried that my icing was starting to burn and I didn't quite make it to the suggested 116C on the thermometer but the resulting icing turned out ok.  My attempt at writing the famous 'Sacher' wording on top was a total disaster - hence not really seeing in the photo.  I wouldn't really bother and the actual cake in Vienna only contains a chocolate stamp instead of the words.

I feel I overcooked the sponge slightly.  My recipe stated 1 hour 15 minutes.  However other recipes call for 40 to 50 minutes.  I have reduced the cooking time in this version to 50 minutes, but its important to check for that the middle is springy when gently pressed before taking out.

So, here it is, 'original' Sachertorte....serve with thick cream and keep away from the fridge.  Better after a few days resting, or so my recipes says.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Old-Fashioned Cherry Cake

This post is based on ingredients I happened to have in already and required using up.  Glace Cherries that I brought by error and some left over ground almonds from an old recipe.  I have always been a fan of simple cake, cake to eat with coffee, or just to cut off a chunk when a sugar hit is needed.  

I was flipping through 'Delia's Cakes' and came across her recipe for Old-fashioned cherry cake.  A quick read through the ingredients and method and I was ready to go (a big tip for any baker, read it completely first!).  

She states that  recipes for cherry cake often end up with sunken cherries however her tip is to reserve some and scatter on top after you have transferred the mix to the baking tin.  Poking them in just before cooking means some will sink but those on top will stay where they are.  Another technique I know that is suppose to keep fruit, chocolate chips or any 'added' ingredient comes from Ina Garten - she recommends coating whatever it is you are adding in some flour.   I decided to follow Delia's instruction this time but next time I will give Ina's ago.

This cake is very traditional - the same amount of flour, sugar and butter to three eggs.  Basic creaming method - mixer highly recommend.  I tip I often read and does make a huge difference is making sure the butter is at room temp.  There is a big difference between butter taken out the fridge an hour before you want it and one that has been left over night to totally soften.  I often think ahead when baking and remove things from the fridge the night before I need it.  Sometimes I forget and a quick blast in the microwave helps, but remembering to leave it out is the best.  I always keep eggs at room temp in the cupboard - they do not need to be stored in the fridge. 

When making this cake it is very important to over-line the cake tin.  It raises a lot and you without the extra lining your either going to get a messy oven or a flat cake -  or both.  Over lining is easy, and so is lining the base.  I have included in the start of this recipe my method for quickly lining a tin.

So, here is a quick tip to line a cake tin, and Delia's fab recipe for Cherry Cake.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Coconut and Lime Ice Cream

I think it was wishful thinking that the hot sunny weather we had a few weeks ago wound continue throughout my summer holidays.  Well, it hasn't.  I can't complain, I enjoyed the hot weather while it lasted (thanks to the newly installed air con in my classroom) and have recently come back from two very hot weeks in Tunisia.  I am still very hopeful that it will return , there is plenty of time left.  Hot weather or not, everyone likes ice cream, and this post is about a new recipe that I thought about while cleaning out my kitchen cupboards.  After coming across a half used bag of coconut I wondered how I could use it, then after accidentally ordering two limes instead of four lemons in the shopping I wondered what I could do with them.  Then I thought about combining the two and making some ice cream.  A quick search on the net reviled that this isn't new - I didn't expect it to be.  But it didn't take long to locate a few different recipes and combine them together to create my version.  I also got to use my ice cream maker....

A quick word about my ice cream maker.  As with a number of my gadgets this was brought a few years ago in impulse while looking around Lakeland.  I always wanted to make homemade ice cream and on this particular day they had them on offer.  So, after buying it and bringing it back home, then nipping out again to fetch the necessary ingredients to make a basic vanilla ice cream, I attempted my first batch.   It wasn't that successful, well, it was, but its me, not the ice creams fault.  As people may know that most ice cream is made using a custard base.  Custard is made from eggs.  However, strangely, whenever I tasted my ice cream I could only thinking about how it tasted of egg.  The strange bit is that actually it didn't, but I just could not stop myself my tasting it.   So, to the back of the cupboard this gadget went.  A few months later I had another go, by now it was October time and the cold was starting to settle.  I noticed that the freezing disc had started to leak.  Back in the cupboard it with the intention that when I next saw it I would throw it in the bin.

Recently, a year later, I came across it and instead of throwing out I decided to look on the net for a replacement disc, found one and purchased it.  So, I now have a working ice cream maker again.  Never one for giving up I decided to give it another go and I am glad I did.

Here is my recipe for lime and coconut ice cream, adapted from a range of different recipes that I came across on the net.  It is a little bit time consuming, however most of the time it takes to make is simply waiting time.  I would recommend using an ice cream machine to get the perfect smooth consistency.  If you don't have one I would suggest going to the shops and buying some good quality ice cream and skip the recipe for now.   

Smooth and creamy, sharp with lime and just a gentle smoothness of coconut this ice cream may bring out the sun...who knows.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Delia's Ultimate Carrot Cake

Sorry for the lack of posts.  I have recently returned from a two week holiday in Tunisia and I did have all intention of posting while I was away, however I only managed one post and I don't consider it my finest work.  Tunisia was great, the sites I saw and the activities I did where all brilliant, the food however, was nothing special.  I have decided to scrap my ideas of writing foodie articles about various Tunisian dishes and instead concentrate on one post about the various exports of Tunisia - that post comes soon, first is this one.

Carrot cake was never a favourite, I would eat it, but it would never be my first choice of cake.  I was always put off by the idea of having something I consider savoury in something else I consider sweet.  Carrots, beetroot, squash and all those other vegetables that people make in to sweet cakes never really appealed to me.  However over the years I have become more accustomed to the spicy flavour of this cake and eating some with a nice cup of coffee is something I enjoy.

This recipe comes from the queen of cooking herself, Delia Smith, and is taken from her recently republished book 'Delia's Cakes'.  Titled 'The Ultimate Carrot Cake' I knew I had to give it a try.  Made with wholemeal self-raising flour, something I had to go out and buy, is unique to me.  I was tempted to use plain and add baking powder but I decided to follow her recipe otherwise I could not blame it if it didn't work.  

A tip I once read said you should always peel the carrots before grating - not peeling would not effect the taste of the cake but will result in a darker sponge.  Delia says to peel - I peeled.  I used my machines to make this cake - food processor to grate the carrot (Yes I am lazy) and mixer to combine it all.  Delia would just throw it all in a bowl and mix, as you should know by now, I like my gadgets.  

So, here is Delia's carrot cake, ultimate or not, its a very nice recipe!