Sunday, 30 December 2012

Cinnamon Crumble Cake

Reproduced from Joy Wilson 

I have no photo of this cake due to the fact that it got baked and eaten in a flurry of craziness that was a socialable post Christmas Friday. At Christmas you have to squeeze visitors and visits into your days stuffing your face with foodie delights along the way. Working over the holidays has seriously limited my social interaction but I was off Friday and managed to pop around to the cousins for dinner before dashing off for a more-civilised-than-our-usual-gatherings dinner with my friends. The fabulous host is more than capable of baking up a storm but I can never come empty handed to a party so I made this cake. When asked what is was I described it as an apple crumble, with sponge instead of apples. Yeah I have mad descriptive skills clearly....

If you love cinnamon you'll love this cake. Ripples of treacle-y cinnamon bursts through a moist sponge topped with crumble- delicious with tea and totally beautiful heated with ice cream or cream. I only made half of the crumble topping, finding that I had plenty. Don't skimp if your a crumble fan, I find it slightly drying. The cake mix could also easily be halved, I made a grill tray full of cake, around 38 x 28 cm.

From Joy of Baking by Joy Wilson

For the topping
4/5 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup butter (56g)

For the filling
1 cup brown sugar
1.5 tblspoon cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt

For the cake
3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
1.5 cups sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
3 3/4 cups plain flour
1 1/4 salt
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/4 milk

1. Make the topping. Rub the butter into the flour using your finger tips until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a fork. Set aside.
2. Make the filling by mixing all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
3. Heat the oven to 175oC. Sift flour in a big bowl and add the salt. Beat sugar and butter together until soft with an electric beater, around 4-5 minutes. Add the egg one at a time with a heaped tablespoon of the flour. Beat until all traces of egg is gone. Add the vanilla extract and beat briefly.
4. In a jug mix the sour cream and mix together. It will be lumpy but that's OK. Add 1/3 of the flour and 1/2 of the milk/sour cream at a time beating on slow. Add another third of flour and the other half of the wet ingredients. Continue with the rest of the flour mixing until only just incorporated.
5. Spread half the cake batter on a baking pan (Joy recommends 9 x 13 inches, it made slightly more for me). Sprinkle over the filling. Dollop the remaining batter over the filling. Use a knife to make just a few cuts marbling the cake. Smooth without bringing the filling to the surface as it will burn in the oven. Sprinkle over the crumble topping evenly.
6. Bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Gateau San Honore

Oh my my my. If Christmas isn't a time to get your fancy on I don't know when is. And no one does fancy baking like the French. To use a cliche they have it down to a fine art, an art of shiny glazes, intricate pastries and light as a feather cakes. The Gateau San Honore is an essential part of any French pastry shop window display and apparently every good French pastry chef has his own version. Every gateau must have a puff pastry base and caramel covered choux pastry buns. The typical fillings include cream, chantilly cream, creme patissiere and sometimes fruit.

For this particular gateau I used creme patissiere and vanilla bean chantilly cream and I have to say it is definitely one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. The choux and puff pastries were light and fluffy and the vanilla beans brought a beautiful depth to the cream. The caramel gave the choux buns a lovely sweet crunch. I could have coloured my caramel a bit darker but it smelled and tasted beautifully sweet and I didn't want to be too ambitious and end up with a bitter burnt caramel as can so easily happen in a few short seconds. My relationship with making caramel is still in its tentative stages. If you love eclairs or profiteroles you will go mad for this gateaux. It is not whipped up in a hurry but well worth the effort!

For the choux pastry
See recipe here!

For the puff pastry
Either buy a good quality puff pastry or use my rough puff recipe here!

For the chantilly cream
350ml cream
one vanilla bean scraped
5 tablespoons of icing sugar sifted

For the creme pattisiere
150ml milk
seeds from half vanilla pod
2 egg yolks
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp cornflour

For the caramel
200g caster sugar
50ml water
1/2 tablespoon of glucose (optional)

1. To make the creme pat, place flour, sugar and eggs in a bowl and beater with a mixer until lighter in colour and sugar has dissolved, around 3-4 minutes. Add the cornflour and beat until just incorporated.
2. Heat the milk and vanilla in a pan until just at boiling point. Take off the heat immediately and pour onto the egg mixture beating continuously. Pour back into the pan at a low heat and beat until thickened, like shop bought custard. Don't stop beating until you take it off the heat. Allow to cool.
3. Make the choux pastry according to link above and pipe 10-12 small profiteroles. Bear in mind that they will puff up bigger so pipe small. I would make mine smaller next time.
4. Bake for 15 minutes at 220oC then reduce and bake for 10-15 at 190oC. Take out of oven and allow to cool.
5. Roll out puff pastry into a 10 inch circle. Use a plate or the insert of a cheesecake pan. Prick with a fork and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill. Otherwise it will shrink.
6. Take out and pipe a swirl of choux on the puff pastry leaving a 5mm border because the choux will rise and fill the gap. This video by Michel Roux is great for giving you the idea of assembly. I just copied him really!
7. Bake the puff pastry at 180oC for 25 minutes until risen and golden. Allow to cool in a turned off oven for 10 minutes. Take out and cool completely.
8. Beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff. Fill the profiteroles with the cream.
9. Make the caramel. Put water, sugar and glucose in a heavy based (not non-stick pan). Give it a good stir so that the water and sugar are incorporated and bring to a medium heat until it starts to bubble.  Do not stir once the sugar has dissolved. Cook to 176oC or until it smells sweet and is amber coloured.
10. Spoon the creme pat around the puff pastry base in an even layer leaving the very outside clean.
11. Being very careful dip the profiteroles in the caramel and then place in a circle around the puff pastry circle on the creme pat. The caramel is very hot, run your fingers under cold water immediately if you are burned.
11. When the profiteroles are finished filling the circle, pipe the chantilly cream into the centre hole on top of the creme pat until full.
12. Decorated with angel hair/spun sugar from the rest of the caramel.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Stained Glass Cookies

Dear Luas Passengers,

I am sorry I'm such a messy fellow passenger. I'm no ballerina and by that I mean that I have no balancing ability. Unless I have a good grip I will fall on you/step on your feet. You know this. And yes I do drink weird green stuff out of a takeaway coffee mug. Its a smoothie and there is cabbage in there. I feel I have probably completely lost your respect now... I'm sorry I have so many small bags. I could put them all in one big bag yes but that would involve owning a big bag. And you know I like to rummage. I'm a rummage-r. I'm only double checking for my phone, oh and my keys.... oh and for snacks  I threw in a few days ago. Mostly for snacks.

I want to make you some of these cookies. They taste good and they look so cute! I think you might only think I'm weirder than you currently do if I started randomly handing out cookies.... More for me.

I followed this Martha Stewart Recipe. Here are some tips:
- Don't overfill the candy but it won't spread very much so fill it in every corner, you don't want holes.
- Use a large egg or the recipe will be too dry.
- Refrigerate twice- once after making and then when the cookies are rolled.
- Make a hole for the ribbon and put a skewer through as soon as they come out of the oven as they are still soft.
- Allow to cool completely before moving.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


Not everyone likes Christmassy food fare, mince pies and the like. It shocks me. What is Christmas without the dried fruit soaked to plump perfection with old man booze or those classic old time spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. But hey different strokes for different folks. As a baker you have to accept that not everyone has the same taste as you.

No one dislikes profiteroles, at least no one I know. But I've had my fair share of choux disasters, soggy mostly or not rising. Finally in the last few batches I've had sweet success. Deirdre 1, Tricky French pastry 0. Long may it last... The profiteroles are filled with sweetened whipped cream and drenched in a delicious chocolate sauce that would also be amazing over ice cream.

50g butter 
150ml water 
70g plain flour, sieved 
2 medium eggs 

1. Preheat the oven to 220oC. Put a roasting dish with cold water onto the lowest rack of the oven. Put the butter and water in a medium sized saucepan and allow to melt gently. Have your electric beater at the ready beside the stove. 
2. Bring quickly to the boil, remove from the heat straight away and add the flour. Beat until incorporated. 
3. Put back on a low heat for around 1 minutes, beating at the same time but gently. The mixture will be done when it leaves the side of the pan. 
4. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Lightly beat the eggs in a cup and add a little at a time, beating all the time. The mixture should be glossy and thick enough to hold its own shape. 
5. Pipe with a 1/2 inch nozzle (or spoon with a dessert spoon) onto a greased baking sheet. The mixture should make around 12 profiteroles. 
6. Bake for 15 minutes then lower the heat to 190oC and bake for another 15 minutes. Do not open the oven door. The buns are done when golden and puffed up nicely. 
7. Remove from the oven and make little slits on the side. Allow to cool fully on a wire rack. 
8. Beat 270ml of cream and fold in 3 tablespoons of icing sugar to make Chantilly cream. 

For the sauce 

100g milk chocolate 
15g butter 
3 tablespoons of cream

1. Melt the chocolate and butter together. Add the cream mixing all the time until glossy and smooth. The cream will thicken the sauce. Add more cream if too thick. Allow to cool slightly and drizzle over the profiteroles. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mint Marshmallows!

Homemade Christmas gifts are all the rage these last few years. Mix it up this year by gifting homemade mint marshmallow. It is a lot easier to make then it looks, will impress the heck out of everyone and tastes like fluffy clouds of sweetness. I used food colouring to add a red ribbon to the marshmallows. You do need a thermometer though and liquid glucose, although it is available in tesco's for less than €2.

Adapted from a James Martin recipe
455g granulated sugar
1 tbsp liquid glucose
200ml water
2 free range egg whites
9 sheets gelatine
2 drops peppermint essence
icing sugar

1. Beat the egg whites until stiff in a clean non-metallic bowl. In a smaller bowl soak the gelatine leaves in 140ml water. Line a 30cm x 20cm tin with clingfilm and then dust evenly with cornflour and icing sugar.
2. Put sugar, glucose and water in a heavy based pan and boil rapidly until it reaches 127oC on the thermometer. This may take around 5 minutes.
3. When the syrup is up to temperature, slide the gelatine leaves into the syrup. It will fizz, be careful.
4. Pour the syrup and gelatine mix into egg whites, beating all the time. Add the peppermint essence. The mixture will become shiny. Beat for 5-6 minutes until the egg white holds its shape and is thick but still pourable.
6. Pour in the marshmallow. Leave for at least 2 hours to cool.
7. Turn out then cut into squares. The marshmallow will keep for 3-5 days in an airtight box.

Joy the Baker Cookbook and Christmas Marshmallow

There are so many great blogs out there, especially foodie blogs. The photographs are stunning, the recipes beautiful, they are full of new ideas that you are just dying to try out. But there are only a few blogs where you begin to feel that you know the person behind it all, where their personality is half the reason that you happily click the link in your emails. Joy Wilson is definitely one of those bloggers. Her blog has won tons of awards and thousands of followers. She writes in a way that makes you wish she was your best friend, wish that you could pop around to her house and drown your bad day in salted caramel and peanut butter.

But what about her book? It has Joy the Baker written all over it- the same humorous girl-next-door style, filled with touching family anecdotes and stellar recipes. I've made a few already and am very impressed. The banana coconut cream pie is like a dream on a Caribbean beach. The kale and spinach smoothie has changed the way I breakfast. Banana and pumpkin feature strongly and comfort is a big theme. If you are a breakfast person, you'll find a whole chapter of lazy morning options. There are some weird ones in there, parmesan seaweed popcorn and zucchini pound cake but joy knows what she's doing. The recipes are not complex, most can be whipped up quickly with great results. in sum: a great baking cookbook.  

Marshmallow recipe to follow!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Spinach and Kale Smoothie

Does it ever happen to you that a song comes on the radio or your mp3 and you feel that right in that moment, for as long as the song is on, your life could be a scene in a movie? It has happened to me a few times this week. I think its the kale I've been sneaking into my breakfast. Before you tut tut in disgust of cabbage based breakfast I will tell you that the most cynical of all persons, Mr Mushroom Hater gave this smoothie an enthusiastic seal of approval after initially expressing his revulsion in no uncertain terms. It tastes sweet and fruity, the peanut butter giving a light nutty flavour. There is no way you would guess there was kale or spinach in it! Think of all that iron, vitamins, anti-cancerous properties etc. you are getting into your step.

This is slightly adapted from Joy the Baker Book which I bought recently. I love her blog- more on the book later!

1 cup kale, thick stems removed and roughly chopped
1 cup spinach leaves
1/2 cup low fat natural yogurt
1/2 cup low fat milk
1 tsp honey
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 banana

1. Blitz the kale and spinach with the milk until smooth. It will take a while.
2. Add the honey, banana, yogurt and peanut butter and blend until smooth.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Quick White Chocolate Cake Pops

The Late Late Toy Show is an Irish institution. It holds a place in the Irish psyche, a comforting prequel to the season itself. It is hard to explain to people who are unfamiliar with it. I mean can you imagine Jay Leno or Graham Norton dedicating a full show to performing kids and showing off toys and books? Adults and children alike stay up eagerly in anticipation of ridiculously talented children dancing and singing, 'kids say the darnest things' moments and a guaranteed fuzzy heart warming feeling. Some people take it more seriously than others, including the two "children" I live with who insisted on dressing up in their Christmas jumpers (Santa Claus and an Elf). They are in their twenties. But the maturity of Irish men is in my experience a mathematical equation of true age minus ten years...

Anyway I got home from work at 8pm and just was not feeling starting a baking expedition but also recognising that the Toy Show required goodies. I spied a battenberg which someone had brought over. I never eat shop bought cake but didn't want to see it go to waste so I pulled out some white chocolate, sprinkles and these new cake pops I bought a couple of weeks ago. I melted the chocolate, crumbled the cake and threw both into a bowl. After mixing well I rolled it into balls, then let them dry before inserting the pop sticks and dipping them in more melted chocolate and rolling in sprinkles.  If you want a recipe Rachel Allen has one here, I just played it by ear adding more chocolate slowly... A quick fix for that tingling sweet tooth!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Mini Gingerbread Cupcakes

Why is everything cuter in minature? It is a fact! I'm not the biggest fan of gingerbread but I was totally won over by this light not too treacle-y recipe and having them in miniature meant that you only get a spicy little pop rather than an overpowering mouthful. Some things are better in smaller portions- dark chocolate, certain family relatives, cruel-to-be-kind guidance etc. etc.

The frosting on these are really special, sweet and spicy. Stem ginger is found in good supermarkets and fine food shops. It comes in a syrup which is used for the frosting.

From Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery

200g unsalted butter
175g light brown sugar
3 tbsp treacle
4 pieces of stem ginger from a jar
2 large eggs
300 self raising flour sifted
150 ml milk
1 tbsp ginger
pinch salt

1. Melt butter, sugar and treacle over a low heat, stirring now and then until melted. Allow to cool and add the milk, eggs and chopped ginger.
2. Sift all the flour, ginger together. Add the salt and then fold into the wet butter mix.
3. Bake at 180oC for 20-25 minutes.

For the Frosting
140g butter softened
2 tsp lemon juice
4 tbsp ginger syrup from the jar
300g icing sugar sifted

1. Beat together all the ingredients until smooth and pale.
2. Spread or pipe on cupcakes. Best eaten fresh.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies

Every good high school movie has a part where 'the new kid' stands awkwardly in the canteen with a tray of miserably grey food staring at the full-up tables looking for a friendly face to sit beside. They inevitably end up eating in the toilet cubicle.  For those youngsters who cannot wait for that final bell to ring to release them from this unpleasant form of social introduction I have saddening words. Unfortunately you have many days of being the 'new kid' ahead of you in your life as an adult- first day of college, first day of work, being ditched at a party where you know no one by your friend so she can go lick the face of a guy who looks like a drug dealer etc. etc.

But there is good news! Although there is no escape from this first day foray into alien territory the food need not be as grey as the usual school canteen fodder. Cheer yourself up with chocolate and peanut butter, a match made in pure gluttony heaven. Brownies are true indulgence for a shoddy day and these brownies have a peanut buttery 'hello' suprise inside. They bake up cracked on the top and moist on the inside.

For the fudge
Half quantity of Peanut Butter Fudge

For the brownies (From Donal Skehan's Kitchen Hero)
225g dark/milk chocolate
225g butter
300g caster sugar
3 large eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g plain flour sieved
1 tsp baking powder

1. Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Stir regularly. Allow to cool.
2. Beat the eggs with the sugar until it doubles in volume and becomes frothy- about 2-3 minutes.
3. Slowly add the chocolate butter mix and add the vanilla extract. Mix well until the chocolate is evenly distributed.
4. Sieve the flour and baking powder over and fold. Be careful as the flour will create pockets. Break these but don't overmix. Pour half the mix into a 9 x 12 inch baking tin lined with baking paper. Chop up the fudge and sprinkle generously. Cover with the rest of the brownie mix.
5. Bake at 180oc for 30 minutes until crusty at the top and the brownie has come away from the side. Remove from the oven and allow to cool fully before cutting into squares.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Vanilla and Cardamom Yogurt Bundt Cake

The bundt tin is my new secret weapon. It jazzes up a simple cake when your not in the mood for all that piping and decorating hoop-lah. I bought this small tin (1L) in aldi for less than €3- I've picked up a few neat baking supplies in there, it's always worth a nosy around the 'random stuff we have on sale this week' isle.

But bundt tins are not without their pitfalls, the greatest being that stomach muscles clenched moment when you have to invert. I was sure that I'd be scraping cake mix from the nooks and crannies of the pan. But fortunately not! I brushed butter generously on the pan, dusted with flour and placed in the fridge for 10 minutes. Happily the cake popped out once I ran a knife around the edge. So all's well that ends well. No major kitchen tantrums.... for now....

Ugh hate the automatic flash...
 I went for what I would consider to be an unconventional flavour, cardamom, but in my foodie research I found out that cardamom is actually commonly used in Swedish baking. Those Swedes have lots of genius baking ideas (Cinnamon Buns anyone?). My friend Zita of told me that they take coffee break very seriously over there and always have something sweet to accompany their cuppa.  I really think I should move.... Addition of yoghurt makes this cake lovely and moist, the cardamom being spicy and fragrant without overpowering the vanilla.

Like my teacosy?!

For a 1L bundt cake tin
Adapted from Rachel Allen's Cake Diaries

125g unsalted butter softened
112g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cardamom, freshly ground from about 8-10 pods.
110ml natural yogurt
1 tablespoon milk
170g plain flour sieved
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

1. Grease the bundt tin. Brush heavily with butter, dust with flour and put in the fridge. Cream the butter and sugar for 5-6 minutes until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer.
2. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
3. Add the cardamom, yogurt and vanilla and mix well. The mixture may curdle, that is ok, it will come back together.
4. Add the flour, salt and baking powder and milk and fold until just combined.
5. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 180oC, longer in a bigger cake tin.

For the icing
50g icing sugar sifted
1/2 tablespoon of water
zest of half orange grated

1. Beat all the ingredients together. Start small with the water and add more if you need to. Spoon over the icing and let it drizzle down.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Maple Syrup Pancake Muffins

Muffins or pancakes for lazy brunch? I do love pancakes but I'm always the one standing at the stove flipping them and trashy morning TV was calling me to its den of condescending advice, z-list celebrities and bad makeover shows last weekend...

Drum roll please- Introducing Pancake Muffins- Soft muffins with a crunchy top, brown butter giving them the pancake aroma. Brown butter is my new favourite thing and isn't as daunting as it might appear. You simply cook the butter on a medium heat until it browns. It does require a keen eye so give it your full concentration.

Butter is usually the conduit for flavour but when you brown the butter it becomes the powerhouse of flavour in itself, giving depth and a light caramel/butterscotch taste.  I found these mutant beauties on Joy the Baker blog. If you haven't checked her blog out, it's amazing. Her photography is beautiful, her writing moving and funny and her recipes TO DIE FOR. She's a self confessed glutton- my kind of girl.

For the muffins
100g unsalted butter
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup whole milk at room temp
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour sieved
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

1. Melt the butter over a low heat. When the butter is fully melted turn up to medium heat. The butter will start to go brown after 4-5 minutes and will crackle. After the crackling subsides you are in the danger zone. Keep a close eye, brown flecks will appear. Take it off the heat and pour into a cold jug. It should look like this:

2. Whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla and maple syrup. Add the brown butter and combine.
3. Sift the baking powder and flour and then put in a bowl with the sugar and salt. Add the wet ingredients all at once and mix well but gently. Be careful to look for any flour pockets.
4. Divide the batter among a muffin tin. It should make 12-15 big muffins.
5. Bake at 180oC preheated oven for 18-20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Afternoon Tea in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin

The Menu 

Shot of smoothie to begin

Savoury Sandwich course

Selection of sweets 

Buttermilk scones

Light Blackberry Bavarois 

Coconut Macaroon 

Dark Chocolate Orange Cup

Passionfruit Tea Delice

In the deepest, darkest recessions of exam time I promised myself that I'd go to afternoon tea as a post-exam treat (I also promised myself that I'd get fit but eating fancies and drinking tea is a way more attainable objective). Mam's Birthday seemed like the perfect excuse! Afternoon tea is like being pampered in a spa but instead of massages and face lifts you get posh teas and delicious sweets (an exchange that I am more than happy with). It is a truly relaxing experience. You feel special and just a little bit Kate Middleton (pinkie finger pointed to the sky while holding your tea cup is optional, please leave your corgis at reception).

As you can see from the photographs the presentation is beautiful. The sweet selection was an exquisite array of colour. I was particularly taken by the dark chocolate cups, being completely edible and dainty. The passionfruit delice was probably my favourite to taste. The passionfruit was tart and the green sponge almondy and sweet providing a lovely contrast. The macaroon was dense and chewy, the blackberry bavarois light and packed with flavour. If I had one criticism (and I'm nit-picking now) it would be that I felt the sweets were more like desserts you would get in a restaurant than what my conception of afternoon tea would be. I thought that there would be more baked goods, cakes and biscuits perhaps.

The Shelbourne Hotel is an historical landmark in Dublin, a building that would not be out of place in Paris or London. It is the perfect location for this unique treat.

The sandwich selection 
Mini Shelbourne house Salmon bagels
Egg and cress finger
Cucumber and Light Cream Cheese Finger
Braised Waterford Ham with Mustard

The Sweet Selection 
Passionfruit Delice
Light Blackberry Bavarois
Coconut Macaroon
Dark Chocolate and Orange Cup  
Buttermilk scones with jam and cream

Twenty different teas to choose from 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Marzipan Heart design

I realised that I did a MISERABLE job of explaining how I put the heart into each slice of my rosette cake so I took a few more pictures. This is based out of the Great British Bake Off book 'Showstoppers' although I noticed in that that there are very few photographs on how it was done so I found my own technique which worked OK I think.... 

Tint the marzipan with colour- this will take quite an amount of time, even with good quality gel food colouring (don't use liquid colouring, it will leave the marzipan too sloppy). When the colour is evenly distributed, roll the marzipan into a sausage. Mould into a point at one end and the two rounded parts of a heart at the other. 

To make the two rounded parts I cut a line through the sausage with a sharp knife then carefully teased the two sides out to make the heart shape- like this photograph below. 

This is only a small segment of the full ring that I did. I put a layer of buttercream on my bottom layer. Pressed the moulded heart ring into the buttercream then top with more buttercream to cover the marzipan. Put on your top layer and voila! A really effective cute touch to any cake that is really not that hard! 

Amaretto Rosette Cake with Marzipan Heart and Irish Mammys

I wanted it to look like a wedding bouquet 

With a suprise heart inside 

Happy Birthday Mammy!! This was a design I've been wanting to try out ever since I flicked through the new Great British Bake Off Book in Dubray Books on Grafton Street, Dublin (one of those 'proper' bookshops). I needed a different nozzle to make proper rosettes but I think these swirls are quite pretty. I wanted the cake to resemble a tight bouquet of flowers. The heart design was made from a ring of marzipan moulded into a point at one end and two rounded points at the other.

It seemed a perfect theme for 'Rose' herself, feminine and pretty. Amaretto makes a beautiful scented cake, sweet and almond-y. Use almond essence either as the bottle of Amaretto is quite expensive.

The Irish Mammy is a hero to her offspring and pretty much a cultural icon. Even if she is not Irish there are several signs that your Mammy may indeed be an "Irish Mammy". Here are a choice few:

  1. She hates vulgarity and swearing 'for the sake of it' 
  2. She likes a nice glass of wine on a Friday night. 
  3. She drinks more tea than the country of India can supply. 
  4. She disagrees with 'airing your laundry in public', i.e. your personal business. 
  5. She spends hours on the phone talking to her sister/friend about the 'childer'. 
  6. She thinks meat and two veg is the meal of 'real men'. 
  7. She condenses her sentiments into numerous (readily repeated) clich├ęs such as 'If there was work in the bed you'd lie on the floor!' or 'This isn't a hotel!' and 'You're lucky you didn't get pneumonia'.  
  8. She feeds her children like there is a famine approaching. 
  9. She thinks George Clooney is a 'decent looking man'. 
  10. She gets well narky when she misses an episode of certain soap(s).

For the Amaretto Victoria Sponge 
200g unsalted butter softened
200g caster sugar
200g plain flour sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp amaretto liqueur or almond extract
1 tbsp milk
4 large eggs at room temp.

I used 2 x 20cm round tins, with removable bottoms. The bottoms were greased with butter and lined with greaseproof paper and the sides brushed with melted butter.

1. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale- around 5 minutes with an electric mixer.
2. Add the eggs one at a time with 2 heaped tablespoons of flour to prevent the mixture curdling. Beat well after each addition- until there is no trace of egg yolk. Use up all the egg.
3. Add the amaretto liqueur and mix well.
4. Mix the flour and baking powder together in a dry bowl. Fold in the flour to the egg/butter/sugar mix or use the mixer on low speed until just combined. If the mixture is too thick, i.e. doesn't fall easily from a wooden spoon, add the milk and mix gently.
5. Bake at 190oC for 20-25 minutes, until risen and golden and a skewer/cocktail stick comes out clean.
6. Remove from the tins carefully and allow to cool fully.

For the frosting (you will need about four quantities of this for the filling and the rosettes)
75g butter, at room temperature and diced
200g icing sugar
1 tsp amaretto/almond liqueur
2 tbsp milk
100g marzipan

1. Beat together all the ingredients until the icing is pale- almost white.
2. Tint the marzipan with colour- this will take quite an amount of time, even with good quality gel food colouring (don't use liquid colouring, it will leave the marzipan too sloppy). When the colour is evenly distributed, roll the marzipan into a sausage. Mould into a point at one end and the two rounded parts of a heart at the other. To make the two rounded parts I cut a line through the sausage with a sharp knife then carefully teased the two sides out to make the heart shape.
3. Spread a thick layer of buttercream on the bottom layer then push the moulded ring  gently into the buttercream point side down, then spread more buttercream on top before the other layer is gently placed on top. If you have any questions about the technique do comment and I'll help you out!!
4. Roughly spread buttercream around the sides of the cake and on the top. It will look a mess, you'll see the cake through the buttercream but don't worry because the rosettes will cover it.
5. Use a star tipped nozzle to pipe rosettes. The Wilton 1M nozzle seems the most popular one although I can't find Wilton tips on sale in Ireland. Youtube has some neat videos such as this one Rose Cake Tutorial

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Pumpkin Crumble Muffins

Apparently all our neighbours think we are weird because we had zero trick-or-treaters tonight. I could be offended.... or I could settle down to New Girl and eat my weight in cheap chocolate before you can say 'Douchebag Jar'. I mean look at these adorable eyeballs and freaky looking monsters chocolates. They are calling me.... And now I have muffins. So I'm pretty much set. I really should say a prayer to the pagan Halloween Gods that my metabolism doesn't slow down any time soon....

These muffins are not too sweet, but deliciously moist and mildly spicy. The crumble topping just adds a special crunch and a bit of sweetness to the top. If you like a bit more of a kick you can double the amount of cinnamon and ginger. I find the pumpkin can lack flavour so I always double up with this recipe. I got a can of Libby's Pumpkin Puree in Fallon and Byrne in Dublin but you can make your own with some good quality pumpkin flesh roasted and blitzed in the food processor.

From Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery

240g soft light brown sugar
110g unsalted butter
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger ground
100g pumpkin puree
125g sifted self raising flour
120g plain flour sifted
125ml buttermilk

For the crumble topping (my own recipe) : This will make much too much but freezes well
110g plain four
20g porridge oats
4 tablespoons brown sugar
75g cold butter

1. Beat the sugar and butter together until lighter coloured, about 5 full minutes.
2. Add the eggs one at a time with a heaped tablespoon of flour. Repeat with the other egg. Mix in the pumpkin until well combined.
3. Combine the flours and spices. Add one third of the flour with one third of the buttermilk and beat until just combined. Repeat with the rest of the flour and buttermilk. Fill the cupcake cases.
4. For the crumble rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. A food processor will make easy work of this. Add the sugar and oats and mix well.
4. Sprinkle the crumble topping on top. You will have plenty over, it freezes really well so you can save for a lovely apple crumble another day. Bake in muffin cases for 18-20 minutes at 180oC.

Happy Halloween!!

Get creative with Halloween! This year I have to say I've been tame enough in my Halloween-y efforts. I didn't dress up (although I did go to a haunted Halloween experience and got sniffed at by a ghoul and pushed through the drawer of a zombie morgue- it was cool!). The internet has ruined Halloween for me. People buy these fancy costumes online that look too realistic. What happened to the days of cutting holes in bin bags (if you were a witch) or a sheet (if you were a ghost), using coat hangers in ways that would make Bear Grylls look unimaginative and safety-pinning the whole thing together with deft strategy? They were the good auld days. Our costumes were lame but we were all in it together, hoarding King crisps and sweating under one pound plastic masks.

PS note to the ladies. Lingerie is not an acceptable costume. Unless you are wearing your knickers over your trousers (Superman style) or bra over your top (Gwen Stefani in the 1990's style). Because in that case I have respect for your taste.

PPS cannot wait for the cheap Halloween sweets firesale tomorrow.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Fondant Fancies

I don't feel fancy at all. I've fondant glued to my glasses like welded cement. I think I know how they make industrial strength adhesive and it involves lots of sugar paste. I'm pretty in pink. But not when its on my face...

I did wonder when fondant fancies were the final technical challenge in the Great British Bake Off what all the fuss was about. I mean they are sponge covered in icing right? Seemed a bit of a mediocre challenge for the three finalists considering what they faced in previous challenges. But oh boy did fondant fancies take my naivety and whip my ass with it. There is nothing technically challenging about fondant fancies, they are just so messy and fiddly. Cutting the sponge into identical squares is tricky and the fondant dipping session requires patience. Its not a glamorous job.

Getting square paper cases for the fondants is a great idea because it covers the sides which can be lumpy and unsightly unless the buttercream underneath is perfectly smooth. Don't cut out the freezer time, it will firm up the cake and avoid it crumbling in your fingers.

I used Mary Berry's Fondant Fancies recipe, pretty much to the letter except I used my own buttercream recipe:

75g butter softened
200g icing sugar sifted
2 tbsp milk

Here are 10 tips I found on the great maisoncupcake blog for doing fondant fancies although to be honest it all goes out the window and you find your own rhythm with dipping -

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Chai Latte Cupcake

I'm reading Tuesdays with Morrie at the minute. Well I finished it today to be exact. Bawling in the kitchen, my glasses were filling up like little dams ready to burst. I'm sure many people have read it. It's a story of a man who learns of the terminal illness of his old college professor, Morrie and returns to visit him for 'one last class'.  Morrie is the kind of person we all strive to be, courageous, wise, compassionate and caring. He strips the human condition down to its most basic components. He analyses the culture we live in, the failings of the world to really fulfil us, to make us happy. He hits the nail on the head and reading it you feel like you should be taking notes, absorb the astute guidance because it rings so true. 

Of course aphorisms are easier said than obeyed- "Live each day as if it is your last", "Once you learn how to die you learn how to live"- but certainly there is no harm in trying to be a better person or trying to get more out of life. I really enjoyed it. Its a book you keep for reference, write your name and date on it and hope someone someday in the future reads it and it means something to them. 

My love of Chai Latte has been documented in my post on making Iced Chai Latte. I was well overdue on experimenting with the cupcake version. The sponge is warm and spic., I added rosewater because I've seen rosewater in chai tea recipes and it really complements the chai spices without overwhelming them. Go the whole hog with the beige buttercream frosting with a lovely pep. 

The cupcake and frosting is my own recipe, the chai spice mix is from The Novice Chef Blog

Makes 12 

For the cupcakes 
113g unsalted butter 
1 cup caster sugar 
1 1/4 cup plain flour sifted 
1/2 tsp baking powder 
1/2 chai spice mix (below)
2 large eggs lightly beaten 
120 ml milk 
1/2 tsp rosewater

For the chai spice mix (From the Novice Chef Blog)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the buttercream
75g butter softened 
190g icing sugar sifted 
1/2 chai spice mix above
2 tbsp milk 

1. Beat the sugar and butter together until light coloured- around 5 minutes. 
2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a dry bowl. For the chai spice mix, mix all the spices together. 
3. Add the eggs one at a time with a heaped tablespoon of flour until all the egg is gone. 
4. Add the flour one third at a time alternatively with the milk and repeat until all the milk and flour is gone. Fold in the chai spice mix gently. 
5. Bake at 180oC fan oven for 15-18 minutes until golden. 
6. For the buttercream beat the butter, spice mix and icing sugar together until texture of breadcrumbs. Add the milk one tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together. Add an extra tablespoon of mix until the frosting is loose enough to spread, a little softer than the consistency of nutella.  

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Cheddar and Cranberry Soda Bread

Being out for dinner at MacNean's on Sunday reminded me of the beauty of proper bread. Soft and fragrant with a crunchy crust, teamed with real butter I would never stop eating it. I can't believe I never thought of putting cheese in bread before- it's genius! The mature red cheddar adds a tangy saltiness to the bread which is balanced out nicely by the sweetness of the cranberries. This is a no yeast bread which is quick and easy to make. Its even worth making a soup to team with the bread!

450g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
100g cheddar grated
100g dried cranberries
350g buttermilk

1. Sift the flour and bicarbonate inot a bowl. Add the salt, cheddar and cranberries.
2. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk. Mix until a soft dough forms. All the crumbs should come together but the dough should not be too sticky. You may need another dash of buttermilk.
3. Tip out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two until the bread comes together in a smooth ball.
4. Shape into a 15cm in diameter round loaf and place on a baking sheet.
5. Bake at a preheated 220o C oven at 40-50 minutes. The base should sound hollow when tapped and be golden brown.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

MacNean Restaurant

There are a few people who have shaped my relationship with food and the Irish chef Neven Maguire is one of them. In my teens I got one of his cookery books for Christmas and now have an almost complete collection (I had an ogle at the new book, it looks fabulous, the photography is to die for). I really couldn't recommend them enough. I've never made one thing that didn't work or that didn't taste beautiful. There is a great selection of good family food, push-the-boat-out-and-be-a-show-off-dinners and classic desserts.  

I have been at Neven's MacNean restaurant twice before but it was a few years ago and I was so excited to go back again. Going to a good restaurant is an adventure down the rabbit hole and back again; being wow-ed by presentation, tasting a combination of flavours and textures you wouldn't put together yourself, deliberating on the menu like it was a life and death decision. Here are some of my favourite pictures.

Pre-starter of Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup with a Selection of Breads 

Mango and Ginger Jelly

Trout with Pak Choi and Lobster Ravioli 

Trio of Pork- Belly, Fillet and Cheek

Lemon Tart 

Chocolate Delice, Parfait, Malteaser Ice-Cream and Chocolate Opera Cake

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Malteaser Ice-Cream

Petit Fours