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