40. Chinese Rice Cakes – Half way aroundtheworldin80bakes!

Hasn’t time flown? One year in and we’re already half way Around the World in 80 bakes and what better destination to reach than China, one of my most favourite places in the world!

The Great Wall – look how far we walked

China has always been my ultimate must visit country. We visited just before the Beijing Olympics. Travelling around on over night trains from Shanghai to Beijing, climbing the Great Wall (sometimes on my hands and knees  – those steps are steep!) and sampling all of the delights of tasty chicken spine (!) and dried fish skin (yum).

Chinese Street Food – we didn’t eat the seahorses on sticks

Chinese Rice cakes have always intrigued me. I found the recipe in Marguerite Patten’s book and was surprised to discover how little rice flour they actually contain! However they do contain LARD! You may recall my love of lard from previous bakes such as Wiltshire Lardy Cake

 

These are such a quick little cake to bake and the results are impressive. Paul Hollywood would be proud of my equal sized rice cakes and even bake.

Chinese Rice Cakes – Paul Hollywood would be proud, look at the consistent size of the batch!

All you have to do is sift the dry ingredients together; plain, rice and corn flour, with baking powder, salt and sugar.

Ready to rub in the lard and rice flour

Rub the lard into the flour… My least favourite bit as I still shudder at the smell of lard. It’s definitely pungent.

Lardy times

Then bring together the mixture by stirring in a tablespoon of water, almond extract and half an egg. What a peculiarly precise measurement from Marguerite! I struggled to decide what half an egg was, so I cracked an egg into my cupped palm, over a bowl. I chopped the yolk in half with my finger and slid half (ish) of the egg into the mix. Keeping the other half for glazing the cakes later on.

Sticky dough ready for shaping

Once the mixture is quite sticky it’s ready to be divided and rolled into equal sized balls and plopped onto a greased and lined baking sheet. It’s easier to use your hands to roll them into smooth balls.

Lined up and ready for my close up – Chinese Rice Cakes

Once they’re on the sheet and spaced out nicely press a blanched almond into the centre and give them a quick egg wash with the other half of the egg. This means they will flatten a little onto the sheet and the almond will stick to the dough as it bakes. You will also get a wonderful golden crust on your cakes.

Perfectly spaced and oven ready Chinese Rice Cakes

Into the oven for for 15 -20 minutes at 205 degrees celsius and…

Just baked Chinese Rice Cakes

Ni Hao Chinese Rice Cakes ah hoy!

The Final Bake – Chinese Rice Cake

What a tasty little cake! The almond extract really comes though although if I were to make it again I probably would add more almond extract and some ground almonds too for more of an extravagant bake and richer flavour. Marguerite Patten’s recipes tend to be a bit more on the economical side, using minimum amounts of ingredients as she was baking during the war and making do with rations and tight budgets. I often double the quantities to make a larger batch and feed my hungry friends and family. The lard adds the extra moisture needed to give a crumbly yet light texture when baking with gluten free flours such as corn and rice which can be a bit dry side for my liking. They keep for quite a while in an airtight container and freeze really well too. Then easy to defrost as and when needed for a rice cake fix.

All in all a very quick, efficient and consistent bake. I would definitely bake these again and know that I won’t be able to resist experimenting with the ingredients.

Things that I used to make Chinese Rice Cakes

Margeurite Patten’s Recipe

This makes approximately 15 cakes

Preparation time: 10 minutes! (My kind of preparation!)

Cooking time: 15 -20 minutes

  • 4 oz (118g)  plain flour
  • 1 oz (30g) ground rice (rice flour)
  • 1/2 oz (15g) Cornflour
  • 3 oz (88g) sugar
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 oz (88g) lard
  • 1/2 an egg (quite difficult to measure!)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence (I used extract as it’s stronger)
  • pinch of salt
  • blanched almonds to decorate
  • 15-20 minutes at 205 degrees Celsius

39. Bagels Bagels Bagels! Polish Bakery

Bagels! Bagels! Bagels!

Bagels have been on my to bake list FOREVER! Inspired by a recent episode of The Great British Bake Off (new series and I’m guessing everyone else is totally addicted to it like me too?) I uncovered my wonderful (signed) copy of  Thoughtful Bread  ‘Bread Revolution’ for a recipe I could begin late one night. (I’ve even tweeted @thoughtfulbread to let them know I was baking from their book and got some lovely late night baking encouragement.)

We were treated to a short history lesson on bagels by the Great British Bake Off. Although they are more recently considered to be an American bread, they were originally brought from Poland to England and then on to America. They are typically Jewish Food with a wonderfully chewy crust from the poaching of the dough before the bake. (My favourite bit!)

Mixing up all the flour, salt, honey and yeast

A spot of late night preparation was in order to get this dough on the road. I mixed together the flour, dried yeast and a little salt to0. I ran out of strong white flour so made up the difference with brown strong flour, so these bagels were almost healthy too.

Add the water to get a sticky dough and stir!

Then to add the water. I had to add a little more water as I worked with the dough, probably due to the slightly drier brown flour I used.

Ready for some good kneading

When I started kneading the dough I was determined to reach the elusive ‘window pane’ stage where the gluten in the flour has become all stringy and elastic  and stretches out when pulled to create a transparent window when held up to the light in the dough. Alas after the allotted 10 minutes of kneading the rather tough dough by hand I was still windowless. A further 10 minutes of kneading (tracked by my faithful hamburger timer) and I was STILL windowless… I asked Chris to have a go with his brute strength and STILL no window. So I gave up comforted slightly that the dough had been kneaded at least twice as long as it was supposed to be and it did bounce back when prodded with my finger.

Me kneading on tip toes

I think I need lower work surfaces for bread making as I always have to resort to balancing on my tip toes to get the full impact of the kneading…

proving time

I left the ball of dough to prove and double in size over night in a greased bowl covered with greased cling film. Et voila! The next morning I awoke to beautifully risen dough.

Beautifully risen dough

Punching it back I kneaded it thoroughly again (it’s a good job I do yoga press ups!) dividing the dough into 12 (equal-ish) portions I left it to rest for 5 minutes whilst I arranged the next stage. Water bath!

12 chunks of dough

Taking my largest soup pan I filled it about half way with water from the kettle.

Stage 1: The dough sausage

Then to shape the bagels. I tried a few different methods to see which worked best and I think I prefer the traditional method. Roll a long sausage about 20 cms long) of dough and shape it into a circle.

Stage 2: shape into a circle

Fold the loose ends together and squash them together.

Stage 3: Fold the loose ends together

Then put your hand through the ‘hole’ in the centre and roll the join together until the two ends are firmly merged. Then if required roll the rest of the dough ring in the same way to even up the dough and shape it into a bagel.

Stage 4: Squash the loose ends together

The other method is more modern and maybe slightly quicker. Where you shape the dough into a ball, flatten it, poke your thumb through the centre and then whilst holding the dough in your palm squeeze around the dough to widen the hole and shape the dough into a bagel.

I used for each bagel? Poor dough ring on the right is a bit more of a bagel bracelet

Once shaped the bagels need to prove for about 30 minutes under a damp tea towel or greased cling film at which point you can start to warm up the oven and water so it’s simmering nicely.

If you want to add flavouring to your bagels you can add toppings like sesame or poppy seeds after the poaching stage, but if you like your bagels fruity on the inside (like me) then you will have to add your chosen flavour before you shape the bagels. I chose to make half savoury and half sweet.

pre soaked dried fruit, apple, cranberries and raisins

I pre soaked some dried fruit, raisins, apple and cranberries overnight in a little boiling water with a dash of cinnamon. Drained off the excess water and folded in a teaspoon (or 2) of the fruit along with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon into the dough before shaping it.

Step 1: Filling the bagel

It makes the bagel a bit unpredictable with spots of fruit poking out all over the place but I found if I sealed the fruit into the dough and then shaped it, it was a little easier.

Step 2: folding in the edges to make a fruit pouch. Sealing the edges together

Step 3: roll into a dough sausage and follow the stages above to shape the bagel

Then all you have to do is plonk the bagels into your pan of simmering water for 2 minutes (turning them over half way through for an even poach).

Bagels in for a swim

The bagels do expand slightly so don’t over fill your pan, do them in batches so they have room to breathe.

Ever increasing circles

Then out of the pan an into the oven! I used my Nana’s slotted spoon to scoop the bagels out and drain off the water. Then gently pop then onto a lined baking tray (sprinkle on your choice of topping while the bagel is wet) and into the oven they go.

Ready for the oven

This means you can have a continuous run of bagel poaching and baking until all of your bagels are baked. However this meant I was waiting for my breakfast for almost 2 hours. I ended up devouring 2 hot bagels and butter straight from the oven and they did not disappoint! Hot and buttery they were just what I needed.

Fruity Bagels in for a swim

They are definitely easier to split down the middle when they’ve cooled a bit though. The plain bagels were easier to eat and even better toasted too to give an even crisp coating and chewy soft centre. I LOVED this bake. You know you’re making something special when it takes a bit more effort and skill.

Bagels! Hot from the oven

The fruity bagels were a little more moist in the middle, but this is what I had expected. You can’t put fruit into a bagel without adding a bit of moisture.

bagel splitting

Perhaps in the future when I think they’re baked I might also turn them over and return them to the oven for a few more minutes just to ensure the bagels are baked evenly. As I did find that the bagels were quite wet when they went in the oven so they were slightly soggy when they came out of the oven, but a lot of this moisture dried as they cooled (and I guess adds to their chewiness.)

Bagel goodness

I would also add more cinnamon to the bagels as they weren’t quite cinnamony enough for me. All in all a very good bake and I’m adding this to my baking repertoire now!

Bagel sandwiches

Things I used to make this recipe:

Lovingly adapted  from Bread Revolution by the Thoughtful Bread Company

  • 375g strong brown flour
  • 375g strong white flour
  • 3 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 375ml warm water
  • 7 tsp honey
  • additional strong white flour for dusting the board

Fruit filling

  • A bowl full of dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, dried apple)
  • cinnamon

Optional Toppings

  • I used sesame seeds and just sprinkled enough to coat the bagels on each one
  • You could use anything such as poppy seeds, sunflower seeds,

Cath Kidston Flour Sifter – so handy when you’re covered in sticky dough

The Hamburger Timer – so handy for timing all those batches of bagels

31. Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake – Hot! Hot! Hot!

Chocolate and Chilli Cake! Glazed and Glorious

Having never been to Mexico before  or eaten chilli and chocolate together, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I am now a chocolate and chilli convert! What a combination! They compliment each other so well, with the gentle heat from the chilli and  the creamy chocolate, this cake is oh so moreish. Originally the Aztecs and Mayans drank a lot of spicy chocolate, on a daily basis, and believed it had wonderful medicinal and magical properties. Therefore this cake must be good for you and eaten in large quantities.

I baked this originally as I had a major cake disaster. I broke my Mary Berry ‘ultimate chocolate cake’ that I was baking for my leaving do at work. (Unfortunately there are no photos available I seem to have had a baking meltdown at this point.) I had baked myself crazy (making macaroons and a chocolate cake in one go) and when I attempted to cut the Mary Berry creation in half to layer it up, it fell apart in my hands. I almost cried. Then I remembered I had bookmarked the chilli and chocolate loaf in the Great British Bake Off Book for a rainy day, and this was most certainly a rainy night.

Grabbing the book from the shelf and rolling up my sleeves I was ready to improvise and muddle my way through with what I had left in my cupboard to create a new chilli and chocolate cake.

I threw the milk in a pan and blasted it on the stove until it was almost boiling and switched on the oven at 180 degrees C/350F/gas4. While it heated I had time to start preparing the rest of the cake.

Whisk the butter and sugar together and then keep whisking and whisking!

I was surprised by the amount of whisking the butter and sugar needed, I had chosen this cake for it’s simplicity and hadn’t anticipated whisking for 5 minutes, but it was totally worth it. I may even start to whisk the butter and sugar for longer in all of my cakes as you can real feel the difference in the texture. It is a really light and moist sponge. I think it might actually be the lightest sponge I’ve ever made.

I feel like chilli tonight, like chilli tonight

When the milk reached scalding point (just before boiling point wait until it starts to steam a bit) I took the pan off the heat and plopped the broken chocolate into the hot milk. After about 5 minutes the chocolate melts into the milk. It needed a good stir to get the chocolate to distribute evenly into the milk.

Chocolate and Chilli Milk – floaty chilli oil

I added all of the wonderful chilliness to the chocolate milk. As you know by now I don’t ever follow a recipe exactly. I can’t resist tampering with it or tweaking it. Therefore I opted for adding chilli oil (extra hot), chilli powder, paprika and ginger to the milk. Just to ensure it had that added oomph! You can tell if you look closely how much chilli I actually added as there are speckles of red floating in the milk :)

Still whisking the butter and brown sugar together, adding one egg at a time and then keep on whisking…

Once you think you’ve whisked the butter and sugar together enough, you still need to whisk it a bit more. Then in goes the treacle. Keep whisking until the treacle is incorporated, until it becomes a smooth sugary paste. The butter, sugar and treacle combination needs whisking for about 5 minutes in total. Then it’s time to whisk in an egg at a time. This creates wonderfully fluffy and creamy pale brown batter.

Sifting the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together

Now if like me, you’re in a real hurry and enjoy the danger of multi tasking to the extreme you can throw all of the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cocoa powder into the sieve and while you’re still whisking the sugar and eggs with one hand, sift all of the dry ingredients together in a seperate bowl. Lifting the sieve up high to add as much air as possible to the mix. Or if you’re more sensible, chose to do these 2 steps separately.

Folding in the flour

Then all that’s left to do is fold the flour into the sugar batter with a metal spoon, (about a third of the flour mix) then fold in a third of the chocolate chilli milk,  alternating the flour and milk until it’s all incorporated and there are no hidden lumps of flour lurking in the bottom of the bowl. I love my pyrex mixing  bowl for this very reason, it makes it so easy to check to see I’ve finished my folding. It will end up as a glossy batter that can be poured slowly into it’s greased and lined tin.

Tin Time

The recipe calls for a 900g loaf tin. I did originally bake a chocolate and chilli loaf, however I failed to take any photos whatsoever due to my aforementioned baking meltdown, so I used this excuse to bake it again. (Did I tell you how much I love this cake??) This time I opted for my favourite bundt tin and made sure I greased it really well to avoid any sticky disasters.  I reduced the baking time by 5 minutes to take into account  the variation on the tin and it worked brilliantly. It needed 50-55 minutes in the bundt tin or 55- 60 minutes in the loaf tin.  But just to make sure I did the cocktail stick test to make sure it was cooked all the way through.

Chocolate and Chilli Cake – look at those flecks of red chilli

I allowed the cake to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes and then tipped it upside down onto the cooling rack. It slid out effortlessly. No coaxing required!

Pre Glaze

Now I did mention that I had been baking a Mary Berry chocolate cake originally. This cake also had a chocolate glaze. I figured I wouldn’t need all of it after I broke the Mary Berry cake so I poured it all over my chocolate and chilli cake instead. What a triumph! The original recipe calls for a sifting of cocoa powder over the loaf but now it seems that I have added a chocolate ganache glaze instead. I think this glaze helps to balance out the savoury undertones of the chilli (and mellow out the extra hot chilli oil that I added) so if you can be bothered to add an extra step into the recipe I really recommend that you do.

Glorious Glaze

While the cake was cooling I warmed a good tablespoon of butter in a pan and added 100g of icing sugar and 10g of cocoa powder. Once the butter has melted I added 4-5 tablespoons of warm water to the mix, or enough water to create a smooth glossy glaze. When the cake had cooled enough I simply poured it all over and spooned it onto the gaps. The glaze will crisp up slightly once it has cooled.

Dripping Glaze

The cake will cut easily when it’s cooled, if you can wait that long for your first slice! If you can’t, just dig in with a fork, as it’s so tender it will melt in your mouth :) This was a perfect pick me up after my first 10k practice race that I ran at the weekend, in preparation for the Great North Run. I must admit the thought of wedge of restorative Chocolate Chilli Cake did help to keep my feet moving and got me round in 1 hour 1 minute :)

Chocolate and Chilli Cake – The final slice

Finished the Sunderland 10k. Now time for cake…

Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake

Things that I used to make Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake*

Cake – Milk Base

  • 250ml milk
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • a good splash of chilli oil (1/2 to 1 full  teaspoon depending on how hot you like it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried chilli powder

Cake – Fluffy Base

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 300g brown sugar (demerera or muscovado will do)
  • 1 tablespoon of treacle
  • 3 eggs (I used medium but you could use large

Cake – Dry Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Glorious Glaze**

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter/margarine
  • 10g cocoa powder

* Recipe chaotically adapted from The Great British Bake Off  ‘How to Bake’ Book – Chocolate Chilli Cake

** Glaze made up from a Mary Berry recipe (Ultimate Chocolate Cake) and a Marguerite Patten recipe (Water Icing with chocolate)

21. Whatcha cooking Lebkucken – Germany

Lebkuchen

I’ve always loved lebkuchen. It always seem like Christmas when the shops start selling these chewy and crunchy pink and white sugar coated cookies. This year seemed the right time to attempt to make my own. I’ve not visited Germany (yet) but if the continental Christmas markets are anything to go by I know that I will love it.

A quick google later and I came up with a simple yet effective BBC Good Food Recipe. (I seem to use this website a lot for my continental recipes!) They seemed fairly easy to make with honey, eggs, spices (cloves, ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon)  ground almonds, a bit of flour, black pepper and butter. Simple! Although in my case I had nothing to smash up the cloves with, so improvising with a sandwich bag and a jam jar I hammered them into rough chunks. It kind of did the job, but some biscuits were definitely more clovey than others…

Spicy Stuff

This is definitely a different type of gingerbread to the Sunderland Gingerbread, very rich and sweet. But like Sunderland Gingerbread you throw this all in a pan and melt it together! Fantastic!

Butter, honey and sugar

Then throw in the dry stuff and spice

It needs quite a good stir to mix it all together..

Seemed a bit sticky but trust in the recipe

At this point I started to get a bit worried as it seemed a bit on the sticky side and I couldn’t imagine how on earth I was a) going to roll the dough out or b) cut it into Christmassy shapes… Nevertheless I continued and read the recipe through again and realised it needed some time to cool down. Throwing it into the fridge I popped the kettle on and had a well deserved rest (whilst starting the washing up!)

Now that's more like it!

In a bid to speed things up I divided the dough in half and froze half for other Christmas baking emergencies. I then folded cling film around the dough to roll it out without needing my pastry board and to prevent it sticking to the rolling pin.

Cling Film Queen

Choosing my most Christmassy cookie cutters I cut out the festive shapes and popped them into the oven for a mere 15 minutes.

Off to the oven with you

Then all they needed was a glossy sugary coating once they cooled down enough. Whisking an egg white up with some icing sugar to create a glaze is something that I’ve never done before. There’s another first to cross off my list.

Glazing

I drizzled it over the biscuits and let them drip dry onto kitchen roll. Once they hardened slightly they were ready for eating and the biscuit tin! They were lovely and chewy on the inside. They aren’t overwhelmingly spicy but rich and I enjoy the kick of the black pepper and cloves. I will be baking these every year from now on. I may even try some new variations. I’ve seen some with a much more crispy coating and with a little jam in the middle too to make them extra gooey!

Glazed

I did whip up the second batch in a baking emergency, during a Christmas baking marathon, so didn’t cut them into shapes but made a dough roll (using cling flm to roll it up of course)  and chopped it up… very quick and easy!

Dough roll (not to be mistaken for a sausage)

Lebkuchen Quick Chunks

Food Bloggers Unplugged and The Versatile Blogger Award

Thank you so much to lauralovescakes for tagging me in the Food Bloggers Unplugged game and also to Sharyn from The Kale Chronicles for kindly nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award!

This means I get to share a little bit more about myself with you and then tag some of my other favourite bloggers to tell us a little more about themselves and their inspiration too.

So where to start? For the Versatile Blogger Award I am supposed to reveal 7 little known things about myself and tag 10 other bloggers, but I realised that I could answer the 10 questions from Food Bloggers Unplugged and thereby reveal more. (Hope that makes sense!)

1.   What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

I’m not entirely sure where it came from to be honest. I hadn’t even read a lot of blogs before I started blogging myself. I had however watched Julia and Julia and loved it. Then out of the blue one day the idea of baking my way around the world in eighty bakes hit me whilst on my way to work and I downloaded the wordpress app on my phone and that was that.

2.   Who is your foodie inspiration?

Oh so many! I just found out that my great grandma worked as a baker so I guess its been in the family for quite some time now, but I have always enjoyed baking. I baked with my mam as a child and have carried on since then. I do seem to have amassed rather a lot of cook books now too ranging from Marguerite Patten, Mary Berry, Delia, Nigella, The Hummingbird Bakery and a few more!

3.   Your greasiest, batter – splattered food/drink book is?

Most definitely my mam’s copy of Marguerite Patten’s Everyday Cooking, although I seem to spill something on every book as soon as they enter the kitchen. I quite like it when they have medals of honour on them, with a splash of batter here and a stripe of food colouring there. Each stain is a memory of baking something lovely.

4.   Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

Dear me. This is tough. I’ve eaten lots of amazing meals in a few countries but one thing that stands out is Dim Sum in Hong Kong, or grilled eel in Japan, or the fresh fish we had in Fiji, so dense it was more like meat. (I have no idea what type of fish it was but the guys on the island had just caught it that day.)

5.   Another food bloggers table you’d like to eat at is?

I would love to dine at quite a few of my fellow food bloggers tables. I’m often disguising a rumbling tummy as I read their posts! I think Urvashi (The Botanical Baker) makes wonderful food, I’m still thinking about her chilli chocolate loaf and also Sharyn (The Kale Chronicles) cooks lots of healthy and wholesome things! I’d love to try her sour dough bread! or She Cooks and He Eats makes a mean full of meat lasagne! I would love to eat with my friend Julie in Australia who is baking up a storm at Sweetgum Bakery.

 6.   What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

Santa has been and gone and I got a lovely Kenwood Food Processor :)

7.   Who taught you how to cook?

My mam definitely taught me a lot and then I’ve improvised my way through a few books since, especially now I’m baking so many different things. I’m suprised I’ve only set the kitchen on fire once so far to be honest…

8.   I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?

If I’m making something savoury I will probably throw together what ever I put my hands on from the cupboard and make it up as I go along. Whenever I try to follow a recipe it goes horribly wrong (don’t ever mention the spicy lentil roasted butternut squash). So it would probably be a big bowl of miso ramen with chicken and chilli, lime and corriander. Or a chickpea curry with sweet potato and puy lentils. Or if all else fails turkey, mashed potato and baked beans :) Then for the grand finale it would have to be something that is a little challenging that I’m still yet to attempt, perhaps a mousse cake or genoise sponge or profiteroles.

9.   What is your guilty food pleasure?

Ummm see above… turkey, mashed potato and baked beans! The best boxing day tradition EVER. Try it if you don’t believe me. It’s even better if you mash up some carrots and turnip too.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

Hmmm I was thrown out of guitar lessons when I was 14 and told never to come back. Apparently I didn’t take it seriously enough, but then again I did arrive with a mini guitar, with only 1 string attached. I still cannot read music or play any musical instrument.

Finally…tag 5 other food bloggers with these questions…like a hot baked potato…pass it on!

I would like to tag some of my favourite bloggers who share amazing food and bakes. I lvoe reading their blogs and definitely recommend checking them out.

1. Sweetgum Bakery 

2. The Botanical Baker

3. The Kale Chronicles

4. Kenyerek kalácsok és gyönyörű állatok A Hungarian lady who bakes beautiful bread!

5. I am Simpy Tia who has been making some fantastic cocktails recently!

6. She Cooks and He Eats

Now feel free to copy and paste the questions into your blog and answer the questions too. Looking forward to reading more about you!

The Caribbean Christmas Cake Collection Continued…

Caribbean Christmas Cake Collection

This post has been a long time in the making. About a month ago I began the Caribbean Christmas Cakes after an extreme test of my patience in greasing and lining 14 assorted mini cake tins and baking the little blighters for a couple of hours. I don’t mind this of course as I know the fruits of my labours are worth the effort and the wonderous rum, raisin, cinnamon and coconut smell that permeated the entire house let me know just how wonderful it will be.

The baked cakes

I’ve tended to my little cakes every week, topping them up with a bit more rum, until they could take no more. They still required a little house of marzipan and another week to dry out all in their specially purchased enormous Tupperware box.

Roll out a lot of marzipan... this has got to fit round 14 cakes

I decided one Saturday night, before heading out for a party to attempt to coat them all in a quick blanket of marzipan. I managed to finish 9 of them before I decided enough was enough and I would very much like to go to have a dance instead.

Firstly they needed to be glazed with apricot jam to make the marzipan stick…

Warming Apricot Jam

Then as all the cakes are very different shapes and sizes, they each needed to be fitted individually for their marzipan house. In an attempt to minimise rolling out marzipan, as it is frankly infuriating with its tendency to stick to the work surface just as you get it to the right thickness and it’s perfectly smooth so you have to start again, I squeezed as many on to one sheet as possible and trimmed it so there was very little excess to remove on the cake itself.

cutting each cake its own marzipan house

Once it was face down on the marzipan I had to simply lift the marzipan up and force it to stick to the sides of the cake, achieving a (relatively) smooth finish. I’m not too bothered about getting it perfect at this stage as the fondant should cover any major flaws…

Off with its head! (far too wonky)

Occasionally I got too frustrated with the cake being all oddly shaped and cut a lump off it. This didn’t really help matters as the cake was no straighter after being hacked into. I just made a big mess and dropped cake everywhere… but it did mean that I had a midnight snack when I got back in later on. :)

Then for the fondant

After a week the marzipan was settled enough to add the final icing layer. I was greeted by a fantastic whiff of almond and rum when I came back to the little cakes. The white fondant icing needed to be kneaded until it was pliable and then rolled out in the same way as the marzipan, however a bit more carefully and precisely (if I can ever be precise?!) as this is the layer that everyone sees. Cue more irritated rolling pin action.

I didn’t have any vodka to brush onto the marzipan so I used the rum in the cupboard. I’m sure that will do the same job and perhaps enhance the rumness of the cake while it’s at it?

Trim its skirt

The cakes needed a little trim to tidy the edges and I ended up rolling the cakes themselves around like a rolling pin (as they’re so small) on the worksurface to smooth them out and flatten the icing down. It’s impossible, even with my childrens sized rolling pin to roll the icing smooth on the cakes. Then they needed a quick polish with the palm of my hand to bring the icing to life.

I love the film Elf. It always makes me think of candy canes so as an homage to Elf I wanted to make Candy stripe cakes. I was very kindly donated a block of red fondant which is amazing!! (Thanks Lucy!) I rolled it out and using many handy palette knife/ruler cut strips of red icing.

Lines and lines and lines and lines

Then I glued them on to the cakes using a dab of water.

Chunky Candy Stripes

Not bad for my first attempt even if I do say so myself (and as I was completely making it up as I went along). Not content with just one design, I had ordered some daisy flower cutters from Ebay and thought I could perhaps christen them and pass them off as Poinsettia?

The daisy/poinsettia flower cutters

Poinsettia Flowers

I added some silver edible ball things (can’t remember their real name) by mixing a tiny bit of icing sugar with water to make a paste then squishing them into the cakes. There’s still 5 more cakes that require some attention and I have some holly leaf cutters and green food colouring to play with :)

All shapes and sizes welcome in this collection of cakes

4 hours of icing later... 9 down, 5 more to go.

I’m also entering this in Vanessa Kimbells’ fantastic Let’s Make Christmas Competition as I will be packing up these mini cakes in cellophane with lashings of ribbon and giving them to my friends and family very soon! Have a look at her blog and competition below…
 

18. Disastrous Turkish Delight (No Delight in Sight)

Marguerite Patten's Recipe...

This was an unmitigated disaster. I won’t attempt to make excuses for this one at all. It was dreadful!! The recipe supplied by Marguerite Patten (who has never failed me before!) asked for powdered gelatin which I didn’t have so I substituted for leaf gelatine. Not entirely sure if this is a reasonable substitution and I had to guess the number of leaves required too… I think the sheer amount of guess work and hoping for the best resulted in terrible Turkish Delight, I take all the blame.

Having visited Turkey many many times, it’s one of my favourite places. So hot and so beautiful! I always enjoy sampling the local delicacies, rose and mint flavoured Turkish Delight are my favourites along with the apple tea of course! I wish I could make it properly at home.

Delightful

Pancakes anyone?

The recipe asked for the

sugar and water to be melted together

Then to add the gelatin…

Bring the syrup to the boil (no problem)

Then to let it simmer until it reached the soft ball stage. This is when you drop some of the mixture into cold water it forms a soft ball. If only I had a sugar thermometer it would take all of the guess work (fun) out of the experiment…

Soft ball stage?

The recipe called for Tartaric Acid. This is something I’ve never heard of, nor seen in any shops, ever. Rummaging in my cupboards I discovered Cream of Tartar. Surely this is the same thing, right? NO, It’s really really not. As soon as I added it to the syrup it shrank back dramatically into the pan, losing its white frothiness.

At this stage according to Marguerite it should be a lovely Turkish Delight consistency so you can add rose essence and pink food colouring…

Or how about a solid block of sugar? *curses*

I succeeded in making a solid block of pink sugar instead of lovely chewy transparent Turkish Delight. I refused to let this beat me, so tried to melt the block down again by adding more water. Now if I was trying to make Kendal Mint Cake, this would be perfect…

Solid Pink Sugar instead rather more like Kendal Mint Cake than Turkish Delight

Undeterred I found a different recipe for Lokum (Turkish Delight) that uses Cornflour rather than gelatin that I thought might be more traditional and easier to make. How easily deluded I am!

The alternative ingredients

A paste made from cornflour sugar and cream of tartar (looks delicious?)

Add the rose essence and food colouring once at the soft ball stage

Then supposedly once it’s reduced enough it should magically transform into Turkish Delight…

Pink rose jelly. No Delight in sight

I simply can’t figure it out! Is it me? Should I give up guessing and follow recipes properly? Should I buy a thermometer? Maybe I should give this one last try…

17. Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake – Japan

I love Japan. This is probably an understatement. The North East of England has slowly but surely caught on to the variety of foods that other countries can offer. For a long time we only had one sushi restaurant. I’m happy to report that we now have at least 3 that I’m aware of. Wagamama posed quite a revolution when it first opened its doors and we all queued down the street for a chance to eat some gorgeous food.

The Golden Palace

Traditionally Japanese food focuses more on savoury things rather than cakes I found this fantastic recipe for a Green Tea Drizzle Cake in the Wagamama cookbook.

A delicious slice

I went to Japan last year after dreaming about it for many, many years. I love that pretty much everything has green tea in it. I ate so much Green Tea ice cream…

My favourite ice cream parlour (this may have bee rose but I ate so much I forget)

went to a Tea Ceremony,

Me making Matcha in the Tea ceremony

Tea Ceremony

dressed up in kimono

The Full Kimono Experience

Kimono

and ate tonnes of sushi and noodles and maple leaf cakes (if I can find a recipe I will be attempting this very soon!)

The best cold soba noodles I have ever had. EVER

I’m quite adventurous when it comes to food and when in Japan of course I’m going to experiment a bit further, so yes I ate Bento boxes on the bullet train til they were coming out of my ears, (octopus legs and all)

Tasty Octopus Legs

but I drew the line at raw horse meat which was almost eaten by accident, slightly lost in translation somewhere…

No raw horse meat here!

Luckily during my Hello Kitty splurges I also insisted on purchasing Matcha (Green Tea Powder although the bamboo whisk is yet to see daylight and is still sealed in its packet at the back of the cupboard) My Asian cooking obsessions mean that I regularly purchase bizarre things from the Chinese Supermarkets, so I have a cupboard full of tapioca pearls, jasmine essence and of course gunpowder green tea.

The strong stuff

We had friends coming round for takeaway and I thought Green Tea Cake would be a perfect light end to the meal. It was quite a quick bake too, so just enough time to whip up a double batch as I wanted to bake one to take with me to my friends house the night after too.

Unlike a normal sponge cake, the sugar and eggs were beaten together in a bain marie until it tripled in size.

Eggs and sugar into the whisk

Whisk it all until it triples in size

Magic

then flour, baking powder and matcha powder were folded in.

Matcha Green Tea Powder (and flour)

I divided the batter between the 2 tins and set them away to bake whilst I brewed up the strongest green tea I’ve ever made. It goes against my tea teachings to use boiling water when brewing green tea, but that’s what the recipe called for so I followed the instructions, wincing at the bitter green tea smell.

Brewing tea

I sieved the stewed tea to separate out the leaves and then reduced the tea down to a syrup with sugar.

Dark green tea

When the cakes they had to rest in their tins until cooled. I pierced the top of the cakes with a skewer and then poured the syrup generously over the 2 cakes.

Green Tea Syrup

They needed a little more resting and then wrestling out of the sugary tins, as the syrup hardened and required some brute force to release the cakes. Normally with a drizzle cake I use a solid tin and can dunk it in hot water to release it, but as this wasn’t water tight with a loose bottom I didn’t want to drown it before we had a chance to eat it!

Drizzled

Having saved a little syrup back, I ‘spiked’ the crème fraiche with green tea.

Green Tea spiked Creme Fraiche

I usually don’t like cream on the side of my cakes, but this was divine! The cake didn’t taste anything like how it smelt, which to be honest wasn’t the best smelling cake I’ve made.  (Nor was it the prettiest!)

The Final Cake

It was clean tasting and refreshing, with a crispy coating on the outside and soft and moist on in the inside. Beautiful! I would definitely recommend this to anyone.

The cake was enjoyed by all

Bonsai Trees at Hiroshima Peace Park

 

Things that I used to make my Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake (Courtesy of Wagamama Cookbook) 

This will make 1 Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake. I doubled these ingredients and made 2 cakes at the same time. (Just in case you’re feeding a few people! The cake should serve about 6-8 people)

For the cake

  • 110 g plain flour
  • 10 g matcha (powdered green tea – you can get this in most oriental supermarkets)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 75 g butter
  • 110 g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs

For the green tea syrup

  • 2 tbsp green tea leaves (I used gunpowder loose green tea leaves to make the syrup)
  • 150 ml boiling water
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • Don’t forget to save a little of the syrup to spike the crème fraîche  with!
  • about 200 g crème fraîche  to serve

We’re painting the roses red… Sugar flowers (first attempt)

image

image

My Christmas food coloring pastes have arrived. I’ve started icing the 14 mini Christmas cakes and I’ve been watching the Junior Great British Bake Off avidly. I’m so very impressed with the creativity and imagination that the young bakers have.

I’ve been itching to try out sugar craft but been put off slightly by the expense and equipment required.

Improvising to the hilt and having read I read Ruth Clemens sugar rose tutorial a couple of months ago I thought that I’d give sugar craft a whirl. Surely it can’t be too difficult. Can it?

Lacking any official icing tools apart from things I can find in my cupboards which includes a cocktail stick to add food colouring, a glass worktop saver, 2 plastic sandwich bags, my mini children’s rolling pin and of course a block of fondant icing.

Its quite delicate work. Not so much like play dough as I had hoped. I mainly gave up attempting to roll anything out properly and just used my hands.

Here’s the results…

15. Millionaire’s Shortbread – Scotland

Shortbread is traditionally Scottish and delicious so what better way to bring it to life than with a generous coating of caramel and chocolate?

Millionaire Shortbread

I’ve been to Scotland many, many times and love it. Who else has a shop dedicated to Chocolate Soup?

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

I’ve made biscuits before but not like this and never Shortbread. After my mam kindly donated a tin of what we thought was caramel I craved Millionaire Shortbread for a week so I dug out a Shortbread recipe and set to work.

The Beginning

It seems strange that Shortbread only consists of sugar, butter and flour. I had to keep checking the recipe to make sure I hadn’t missed something. Where’s the eggs?! Surely this won’t work?

I treat myself once more to another new piece of baking equipment. This time to a very big and deep tray. Perfect for a traybake like this. The can of caramel had a recipe for Millionaire Shortbread printed on it which said to break up Shortbread then squash it into the tin. I was about to bake loads of biscuits then crush them up but realised this was ridiculous. I could simply bake a layer of Shortbread and layer the caramel and chocolate on to it, making one big tray instead. Genius.

The new rolling plan

I quickly whipped up a batch of Shortbread and attempted to roll it out directly onto a sheet of greaseproof paper in an attempt to minimise mess and washing up! Another innovation, although I had to weigh the paper down with various kitchen implements.

Upon rolling the dough it became apparent that we were going to be dining on pauper Shortbread if I had to eek out the dough to fill the entire tray. It would have been a sorry sight to serve up wafer thin Shortbread.

Squished into all the corners

I ended up making another batch and combined the two doughs. A quick roll to flatten it out. Then all I had to do was lift the entire baking sheet into the tray and press the dough into the corners. Minimal effort required!

A quick bake in the oven for the Shortbread and whilst it was cooling in the oven I opened the can of caramel, only to discover that the price label had cleverly concealed its true contents. It was in fact a can of condensed milk! I thought my plan was scuppered but I rooted around in the fridge for some spare butter and sugar. I had enough to turn this can into a wonderful pan of caramel!

Let's make caramel

I hadn’t attempted caramel before, although I have made Dolche De Leche by simmering a closed can of condensed milk in a pan for a couple of hours. I assumed caramel couldn’t be that different and threw myself into the caramel creation with some gusto. Yet with some caution, following my previous burnt pan messes which have killed off a few of my pans. I didn’t want to have to buy any more pans!

add the butter

I was surprised by how relatively easy this was. I didn’t burn then pan or set fire to anything. Success!

And we have... caramel! (No burnt pans!)

Once the next layer of caramel was added to the shortbread it needed to set in the fridge for a while. I left it to cool and threw 3 bars of plain chocolate into a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water to melt.

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate

This meant just before bed all I had to do was spread the thick chocolate onto the caramel, and leave it to set in the fridge once more.

I discovered a little white chocolate lurking in the fridge too and thought it would be nice to make a swirly pattern on the top with it. So I threw it into a sandwich bag and left it in the hot water to melt.

Swirly

A quick snip with the scissors and I have a handy disposable piping bag (thanks for the tip mam!) and less washing up for me. I swirled it up with a knife and it looked rather pretty, even if I do say so myself!

Look at that thick chocolate!!

The hardest bit of this bake was trying to cut it up into equal pieces without the chocolate cracking in all the wrong places. My hands were a bit sore pressing the knife into the chocolate! Perhaps a sharper knife would help?

How do I cut this??

It was very well received at home and at work. It is genuinely the bake that just keeps going. I must have cut it up into about 35 pieces!  I’ve enjoyed a bit everyday with a massive cup of tea. I predict I will be making this again in the future…

Delicious!

Things that I used to make Millionaire’s Shortbread

Shortbread Base

I had to make twice as much shortbread to fill my tin so I doubled all of the ingredients listed below…

  • 125g/4oz butter (I used 250g butter)
  • 55g/2oz caster sugar (I used 110g sugar)
  • 180g/6oz plain flour (I used 360g plain flour)

Caramel Filling

 

  • 175 g butter
  • 175 g caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 x 397 g can condensed milk

Chocolate Topping

  • 1 bar (200 g) dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 bar (200g) of white chocolate