Hello baby, new kitchen and New York

Busy baking something extra special

I’ve been a bit busy baking something extra special. Here’s my 3 month bump…

I haven’t really managed a lot of baking recently. There’s been rather lot going on… We had to get a new kitchen (long story) and we’ve also been having a baby! So a baking break was inevitable. This may be the longest I’ve ever gone without baking anything and needless to say I was getting a bit twitchy.

After: The new kitchen complete with porcelain butler sink

After: The new kitchen complete with porcelain butler sink

We were without a kitchen for almost 2 months before Christmas. There’s only so much shop bought cake and bread you can manage before craving something wholesome and home made.

During the renovations...

During the renovations…

Floods and leaks seem to follow us round. We discovered a leak in the kitchen which had penetrated the walls so the kitchen had to be gutted, plaster stripped and walls dried.  Luckily we had spontaneously booked our official honeymoon to New York prior to this discovery so we escaped whilst our builder friend got on with the work. It also meant that I could start to construct my kitchen the way that I wanted it, complete with a porcelain Butler Sink and revamp my old kitchen dresser.

There’s a million things that I’d love to put into my dream kitchen but right now I’m very happy with my oven that works, my Candy Apple KitchenAid and subway tiles.

Before we packed up the kitchen into the living room and flew off, I managed to squeeze in baking our Christmas Cake at 5 am. I left it to rest quietly at my mams away from all the dust and debris.

New York was amazing.  A real foodie adventure.  I had a list of bakeries and delis that I wanted to sample and frankly stuffed myself silly with all sorts of cakes, sweets, meats and delicious eats.

Red pizza pie was my absolute favourite and could have gorged on this for days.

I almost considered becoming a vegetarian for a while after our trip as we were served gargantuan amounts of meat and beautiful pickles at Carnegie Deli. I managed half of my sandwich before being defeated by the meat. In man vs. food. Food most definitely won.

I took the  ‘healthy’ option at Katz Deli opting for a real life Knish which I’ve always wanted to try (after I attempted to make them myself) and it was so so good.  Deep fried with a crispy coating and stuffed with mashed potato.  So comforting in the cold November chill.  Accompanied by Matzoh Ball Soup which technically was more ball than soup. The clear chicken broth was the panacea I needed to counteract all the meat.  I must learn how to make that!

We traveled up to Ithaca to visit friends taking in the glorious autumnal colours and waterfalls everywhere you turn.  Deer frolicking (and causing havoc) outside the window. It was like being in a Disney film. Punctuated by BBQ’d meat, beans, slaw,  Mac n cheese, ice cream, chocolate cake, red thai prawn curry, fusion foods, hot apple cider and hot chocolate. We took a much needed step back from the hustle and bustle of busy New York.  We were sad to leave but the Big Apple was calling and we had to head back.

I’m attempting to finish my final few around the world in 80 bakes when I get a moment with my hands free, so it may take some time yet so please bear with me.

But I did manage to bake and ice a cake one handed whilst carrying the little one last week so we’re getting our cake fix and starting him in the kitchen early. 🙂 I’ll also be sharing some of my own quick bakes along the way too.

Baby's first bake

Baby’s first bake

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51. The Legendary Crack Pie (concocted the lazy way)

Legendary Crack Pie - no actual crack is involved in this baking process

Legendary Crack Pie – no actual crack is involved in this baking process

Crack Pie the most addictive pie you’re ever going to eat. It even sounds legendary before you even know what’s actually inside it. It hails from New York so apologies this is yet another American bake in my around the world adventures. But I’m sure you will understand why I just HAD to bake this. It was originally invented by Momofuku Milk Bar’s very talented pastry chefs and coined Crack Pie due to it’s extremely moreish quality.

A slice of gooey Crack Pie

A slice of gooey Crack Pie

I’ve been waiting for an excuse to bake this pie. This excuse came in the form of the Private Pie Club. The theme for this months Private Pie was Film Pie. I managed to shoehorn my Crack Pie in under the banner of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ as the most drug fuelled film I could think of , although with it’s final dusting of floral icing sugar the pie appears much more sweet and innocent than it’s name suggests… (If you like pie you should also come along to Private Pie club and meet other pie enthusiasts!)

Fully iced Crack Pie

Fully iced Crack Pie

The original epic recipe is merely concocted from a few store cupboard essentials. This means you will probably have all of the ingredients ready to hand to bake this pie. So what are you waiting for?? Get baking! Although there is a LOT of everything in it so you may need to invest in a few more eggs…

Blending sugar, salt and flour together the lazy way

Blending sugar, salt and flour together the lazy way

The homemade oat cookie base is well worth the extra effort of making a cookie just to crumble it up and reconstitute it into a pie crust. The pie in total consists of an entire block of butter, almost 500g of sugar (brown and white) 8 egg yolks and cream! This is a gloriously decadent pie for the hungry. It’s so popular I’ve heard that they sell for $45 a pop and are couriered across the states to feed the Crack Pie habit of the nation.

Beat in the butter

Beat in the butter and egg

To start with I got the method a bit backwards. Despite my lack of reading ability it turned out pretty well so you too can follow my lazy method. I forgot to cream the butter and sugar together and instead whacked all of the dry ingredients together into the mixer and beat them until crumbly.

Then beat in the butter and egg to make a thick cookie batter.

Splodge the cookie batter roughly onto a baking sheet and smooth down

Splodge the cookie batter roughly onto a baking sheet and smooth down

The best bit about baking this kind of cookie is it doesn’t need to be pretty and you don’t even have to bother rolling and cutting it out! Music to my lazy baking ears. Basically whack it all onto a greased baking sheet, press it down with your fingers and bake it for 20 minutes. Job done.

The baked cookie base

The baked cookie base

The rough cookie will be a lovely golden hue after 20 minutes in the oven at 160 degrees C. Technically you should let it cool down before crumbling up the cookie but I couldn’t wait.

Blend the crumbled cookie together with even more butter and sugar

Blend the crumbled cookie together with even more butter and sugar

All of the other recipes I’ve found instruct you to blitz up the cookie in a food processor, but frankly that involves unpacking my food processor from the jenga game that is my kitchen cupboard and even more washing up , so I didn’t bother. I threw the roughly crumbled cookie into my mixer and beat it into submission along with an additional 55g butter, 20g brown sugar and 1/2 tsp salt.

This is how the cookie crumbles

This is how the cookie crumbles

After a quick blitz with the mizer (I’m sure you could just use a spoon or an electric handwhisk if you’re feeling the strain) the cookie turn to glossy crumbs. Just moist enough to shape it into a pie crust in your 2 pie tins.

Cookie Pie Crusts

Cookie Pie Crusts

Divide the cookie crumbs into 2 and squash them into 2 pie tins giving a thin and even crust along the bottom of the tin and up the sides. If it’s not sticking you can always blend in a little more butter to moisten the crumbs. I used a 9 inch tart tin and an 8 inch round cake tin. It’s handy to use a tin with a loose bottom to help remove the pie when it’s ready for eating. But feel free to use a solid pie dish, it’ll all taste amazing anyway. Pop the crusts in the fridge to set.

Blend together your sugars

Starting the filling: Blend together your sugars and salt

Now here’s the bit where I ad lib even further from the original recipe. I admit the one store cupboard essential I don’t own is powdered milk. So I just left it out of the filling. I’m not sure what impact this had on the final flavour of the pie but to be honest I didn’t miss it. Looking for a substitute all things suggested just adding actual milk. A splash of milk and a dollop of speculoos butter later and we have one tasty Crack Pie!

Whisk into the sugar, the melted butter, double cream, vanilla, speculoos butter and a splosh of milk

Whisk into the sugar, the melted butter, double cream, vanilla, speculoos butter and a splosh of milk

I love the fact that you just have to keep adding to the one pot to make each stage of this pie. After blending together the white and brown sugar, all that’s left to do is to whisk in to the sugar the melted butter, the double cream, a splash of vanilla, a splosh of milk, and a dollop of speculoos butter. You don’t need to incorporate lots of air into this caramel custard so just whisk it until it’s smooth and everything is incorporated.

Pour the caramel custard into onto the cookie crusts

Pour the caramel custard into onto the cookie crusts

The caramel custard will be shiny and smooth taking on the hue of the brown sugar. Simply pour half of the custard onto each pie crust and bake for 15 minutes at 170 degrees C. Then turn down the oven to 160 and bake for a further 10 minutes. I baked both pies side by side, but the larger of the pies needed an extra 10 -15 minutes of solitary baking time. The pies are clearly cooked when golden all over and only a little jiggly (like a good custard tart should be!)

The just baked Crack Pie

The just baked Crack Pie

A good tip from Mary Berry to achieve an even bake is to place your pies onto a hot baking sheet. It also means your loose bottomed tin will keep it’s bottom when lifting it in and out of the oven (I have had issues in the past with my tart tin). Also if it leaks any butter (and let’s face it with all of the butter in this pie it’s going to ooze a little) you will save a lot of oven cleaning by having your pie on a baking sheet instead.

A pair of Crack Pies cooling

A pair of Crack Pies cooling

The filling will rise slightly whilst baking but maintains a lovely smooth and flat top. Once baked leave your Crack Pies to cool down in their tins. They will keep well for about a week in the fridge and I hear it tastes even better the longer it lasts… (if you can reserve yourself that is!). When I took that first bite of Crack Pie I actually ‘yummed’ out loud. In public! It’s so moist, the cookie crust almost disappears into the gooey caramel filling with the edges giving that much needed bite. It’s a perfect combination of smooth, sweet caramel and oaty crumble, with a hint of spice (from the speculoos) and a tang of salt. The slice quickly disappeared before my eyes and the whole pie was gone within minutes. Without doubt a wonderful sign of an excellent pie.

Extreme Close up of the Crack Pie. Check out that caramel custard

Extreme Close up of the Crack Pie. Check out that caramel custard

As this is a recipe for 2 Crack Pies, you could scale it back to make just the one. But I fear one will never be enough! If you have the ingredients you may as well make two and share with friends (if you like anyone enough to share your Crack Pie with them) or alternatively gorge yourself on all of the pie. (Please eat your Crack Pie responsibly) Or even more sensibly you could freeze your second Crack Pie for a special occasion. I have my Crack Pie resting carefully in the freezer, wrapped diligently in greaseproof paper and tin foil (still in it’s tin) to prevent freezerburn and   that distinctive ‘freezer flavour’ contamination. I literally can’t wait to defrost it.

How to decorate a Crack Pie?

How to dress a Crack Pie?

Now you don’t have to dress your Crack Pie, if you don’t want to. You could leave it naked as the day it was born if you prefer, but I wanted to make it look pretty (and hide a few of the little cracks that had appeared on the delicate crust in the process of forcibly removing it from the tin) Armed with a cake stencil, tea strainer and a box of icing sugar I liberally dusted on a floral pattern, covering the entire pie. It’s the first time I’ve ever managed to stencil anything successfully! Hurrah! Cue many self indulgent shots of stencilled Crack Pie…

The Fully Dressed Crack Pie

The Fully Dressed Crack Pie

Things that I used to make The Legendary Crack Pie 

Oat Cookie (for the crust)

  • 150g plain flour (2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon)
  • 1g baking powder (1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1g Cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon) – This should actually be bicarbonate of soda however I got the pots mixed up! It didn’t seem to do any harm so I will be using cream of tartar in the future.
  • 2g salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • 115g softened butter (1/2 cup)
  • 60g dark brown sugar (1/3 cup )
  • 40g  caster sugar (3 tablespoons)

Step 1: Beat all of the above together until fully incorporated

  • 1 egg

Step 2: Beat in the egg

  • 90g oats (1 cup)

Step 3: Stir in the oats

Step 4: Spread onto greased baking tray and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes at 160 degrees C (375F)

Pie Crust

Step 5: Crumble up the baked cookie and beat in

  • 55g butter (1/4 cup)
  • 20g brown sugar (1 and 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1g salt (1/8 teaspoon)

Step 6: Split the crumbs in half and press firmly and evenly into 2 (approximately 9 inch) pie tins all over the base and up the sides to form a thin crust.  Pop the crusts in the fridge to set.

The Caramel Custard Filling

  • 270g caster sugar (1 and 1/2 cups)
  • 130g dark brown sugar (3/4 cup and a scant 3 tablespoons)
  • 1g salt (1/4 teaspoon)
  • (I left the milk powder out but if you want to put it in use 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon)
  • 113g melted butter  (1 cup)
  • 285ml double cream (3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Splash of milk (to make up for the lack of milk powder)
  • 50g speculoos butter (to make up for the lack of milk powder – you could leave this out if you prefer or even use peanut butter instead)

Step 7: Whisk all of the above together

  • 8 egg yolks

Step 8: Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time until the mixture is smooth, shiny and thick

Step 9: Pour half of the caramel custard onto each pie crust

Step 10: Bake the pies side by side in a preheated oven on a hot baking sheet for 15 minutes at 17o degrees C (350F) then turn the oven down to 160 degrees C (325F) and bake for a further 10 minutes. When golden all over and only ever so slightly jiggly your Crack Pie is ready! 

Step 11:  Allow your pies to cool and dress with icing sugar. Then reward yourself for all of your efforts with a slab of pie. Enjoy!

*The Momofuku Recipe was published by the LA Times recently if you want to see it in all it’s glory

100 Boozy Birthday Cupcakes and Counting

We have been busy bees recently. I put some of our wedding present vouchers to very good use and invested in a beautiful Candy Apple Kitchenaid Mixer. I have christened her Joni and she has already proven her weight in gold.

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine Kitchenaid mixer

Introducing Joni my candy apple buttercream dream making machine

My 30th birthday was approaching fast and wanting to mark the occasion my friend Jill (who’s birthday just so happens to be the day before mine!) and I decided to have a little soiree at our local pub. Cupcakes seemed to be a good option for a gathering, so we didn’t have to worry about plates, knives and such like. It also meant that we could go a bit mad with the flavour combinations too.

What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes!

On my actual birthday! What a lucky birthday girl I am with 2 surprise birthday cakes from my mam and my sister. We’re not going to go hungry. EVER.

The week before our birthdays, Jill and I spent a merry evening baking everything in sight. Modifying Hummingbird Bakery recipes to our hearts content. It’s amazing what can be achieved in 3 hours by two 29 year old girls, armed with a Kitchenaid and a bottle of prosecco. We got very creative indeed.

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz??

How many cupcakes can 2 girls make in less than 3 hours whilst drinking a bottle of fizz?? There’s still more in the oven…

We baked well over 100 cakes and still made it to the pub afterwards to meet our husbands. I must admit we sampled rather a few along the way so not all of the cakes made it into our freezers to await their icing. It’s hard to resist when you’ve got cupcakes hot out of the oven dancing in front of your eyes.

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin!

The beginnings of Pina Colada Bundt cakes from a genuinely German Gugelhupf tin! Soaking in white rum syrup

The following week we defrosted our cupcakes and spent an entire day icing the lot, with lashings of buttercream, glitter and ganache. The results were very well received by our friends and the bar staff! The Jasmine green tea cupcakes were a surprise success after I accidentally  emptied the entire bottle of Jasmine Extract into the cupcake batter… They are the most fragrant cupcakes I’ve ever created. Perhaps an acquired taste for some and definitely an excellent air freshener accessory.

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes

Amaretto and Coconut Snowball cupcakes – my personal favourite. I shall be rolling many more cakes in coconut in the future

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table

Our 30th birthday party cupcake table! (From left to right; coconut mini bundt cakes, amaretto snowballs cakes, pina colada bundts, jasmine green tea, double chocolate, more jasmine green tea, amaretto sours, and peppermint cream cupcakes,)

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Amaretto Sour Swirl Cupcakes

Pina Colada Gugelhupf cakes

Pina Colada Bundt (Gugelhupf) cakes

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Extremely fragrant Green Tea and Jasmine Vintage Rose Swirl Cupcakes (With obligatory birthday glitter and lustre powder)

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Double chocolate Cupcakes complete with golden lustre, glossy ganache and white chocolate hearts

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Cupcakes

Happy birthday to us! What a wonderful start to the new decade!

The Creative Cupcake Modification Method

I’m not entirely sure if this is the scientific way to create your own recipes but it seems to work for me. My basic understanding of creative baking is to find a recipe that works for you then add and subtract from it. Experiment to the extreme! My general guidelines are

  1. Don’t alter the specified oven temperature (unless you have to because you’re using a fan/non fan oven) cupcakes bake at around 170-180 degrees Celsius and should take about 20 minutes depending on the size of your cases
  2. Maintain the combination of wet to dry ingredients
  3. Use whatever is in your cupboards
  4. Feel free to double the quantities if you need to bake lots but be prepared to bake them in stages
  5. Naked cupcakes freeze really well and can keep for a month. Freeze them as soon as they’re cooled in freezer bags/Tupperware and this holds all of the moisture in sponge. Leaving you with a wonderfully moist cupcake when you choose to ice it later on.
  6. You normally need more buttercream than you think so again feel free to make a double batch!
  7. The more you beat buttercream the better it is.
  8. Feel free to experiment with shapes if you have a Madeleine tin, Gugelhupf or mini bunt tin they work really well too
  9. A squiggle of melted chocolate works wonders if you can’t be bothed to whip up buttercream to top your cakes and a sprinkle of coconut and glitter hides a multitude of sins

The Basic Cupcake Recipe

Makes 12-16 cupcakes (using cupcake not muffin sized cases)

For the sponge:
Rub together (using an electric whisk if you have one) the sugar, butter, flour salt and baking powder. When it all looks quite sandy beat in the wet ingredients including your choice of flavouring!

Then pour the smooth liquid batter into prepared cupcake cases in a muffin tin.
Bake for 20-25 minutes in the centre of the oven at 170 degrees celsius until golden brown and springs back when pressed. To be extra certain they’re cooked insert a cocktail stick and if it comes out clean it’s definitely done.

The Basic Cupcake Sponge Ingredients

  • 120g  (4½oz) plain flour
  • 140g (5oz/) caster sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 40g (1½oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 120ml (4½floz) milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Cupcake Roulette!
Choose from an array of flavour combinations such as

Green Tea

  • 3 Jasmine Green Tea bags steeped in 3tbsp just-boiled water (reduce the amount of milk by 3
  • Replace 30 ml of milk with jasmine extract

Vanilla

  • 1 vanilla pod
  • Replace caster sugar with vanilla flavoured sugar (if you have pre-prepared some but if not don’t worry!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • You can also add almond extract for extra oomph

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 40ml of milk with amaretto
  • Add 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Add zest of one lemon

Coconut

  • Replace 25g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of normal milk

Chocolate

  • Replace 20g of flour with cocoa powder

Lavender

  • Steep the milk in 1 tbs of dried lavender flowers overnight
  • Infuse the sugar with 2tbs of dried lavender flowers for a week
  • Sieve the lavender petals out of the sugar and milk before use
  • Blitz 1 tsp of lavender into the sugar before use

Rose

  • same as lavender but using dried rose petals
  • Replace 1 tbs of milk with rose water

Piña Colada

  • Replace 40ml of milk with Malibu
  • Replace 25 g of flour with desiccated coconut
  • Use coconut milk instead of milk
  • (soak cupcakes in rum syrup whilst still warm)

Chocolate Brandy

  • Replace 40ml of milk with brandy
  • Replace 20g flour with cocoa powder

Orange

  • Use orange extract instead of vanilla
  • Add orange zest

The possibilities are endless! Create your own flavour combinations!!

You could choose your own favourite liquor, (Gin?)  cordial (sasparilla, blackcurrant), extract (Orange Blossom, violet), and just follow this idea. I’m very tempted to create some Brandy Alexander cocktail cupcakes very soon…

Then to choose your topping to enhance your flavour combination even further…

 

The Basic Buttercream Recipe
Depending on your style of icing you may want to double the quantities of buttercream. Piping swirls and roses uses a lot more icing than creating a palette knife swirl.

  • 25 ml milk
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter, softened

Icing Flavour Options

Vanilla

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Amaretto Sour

  • Replace 25 ml milk with amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • Zest of 1 lemon

Coconut

  • use coconut milk

Peppermint

  • Use 1 tsp peppermint extract

The General Buttercream Guidelines

You can see here the rules are simple. Add whatever flavour extracts you like. Substitute milk for liquid or boozy flavourings.  Zests are good to add as they are dry so won’t effect the consistency of the buttercream. If your icing is looking a bit sloppy beat in some more icing sugar and return it to the fridge to set a bit if it’s too runny.

Use a piping bag and star shaped nozzle to pipe swirls,  Mr Whippy peaks, stars or roses onto your cupcakes. Or use a palette knife to smooth a swirl of buttercream onto your cakes.

Syrup

If you would like extra moist cakes you can add a syrup to the sponge whilst it’s still warm.

Tropical White Rum Syrup

  • 200ml white rum
  • 60g sugar

Warm the sugar and rum in a pan over a low heat. Simmer it until it’s reduced by half in volume. Once cooled pour over your cakes. Allow it to soak in before icing your cakes. Feel free to use other flavours too! Lemon juice, rose water, cordial etc make a really good syrup!

Colourings

Using a cocktail stick add a couple of drops of your food colour gel of choice and beat until its fully incorporated. You can always add more if needed.

If you want to swirl 2 colours together, split your buttercream in half. Colour each half whatever you fancy. Pipe one colour buttercream down one side of a piping bag and then pipe the different colour down the other side of the bag. You will then get a lovely swirl of colours on you cupcakes when piping the two colours simultaneously from the same bag!

Chocolate Ganache

  1. Heat up 300ml of double cream to just about boiling
  2. Take it off the heat
  3. Smash up equal amount of dark plain chocolate 300g
  4. Stir the chocolate into the hot cream until completely smooth
  5. Spoon a generous blob onto cupcakes and let gravity do the work to create a smooth level shiny ganache top

You could use white chocolate if you add more white chocolate to the mix as it contains less cocoa solids so it won’t set until there’s more chocolate than cream in the mixture.

  • 150ml double cream
  • 250ml white chocolate

Decoration
Arm yourself with a selection of…

  1. Sprinkles
  2. Glitter
  3. Desiccated coconut
  4. Chocolate shavings
  5. Hand made chocolate swirls (melt chocolate squiggle it onto some grease proof paper allow it to cool and hey presto fancy looking chocolate bits)
  6. Lustre powders
  7. Popping candy
  8. Pearls
  9. Cupcake wrappers (if you have some)

And go wild!

Cupcake Combinations That Work Well

  • Chocolate sponge and peppermint buttercream
  • Jasmine green tea sponge and vanilla buttercream
  • Chocolate sponge and chocolate ganache
  • Amaretto sour sponge and amaretto sour buttercream
  • Piña colada sponge and coconut buttercream
  • Amaretto sponge and coconut buttercream

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

Mint Madeleine Brownies – A Hummingbird Bakery Wedding Brownie Experiment

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In the midst of baking a double batch of Humming Bakery Brownies for the wonderful wedding of Jill and Jonny I got a bit carried away. Desperate to use my new Madeleine pan and the rest of the eggs that I bought I conjured up a milk chocolate version of the classic Hummingbird Brownie .

I’m not entirely sure that a Madeleine pan is intended for Brownie usage however I can recommend giving it a good go! What is baking if not a bit of experimenting with unexpected cake shapes? If you’re looking for an odd adaptation of something special I’m your gal.

The original recipe and method can be found on my previous post for Jill and Jonny’s Wedding Brownies.

My little mint plant was looking at me from the window sill so I decided to grab as many leaves as possible, chop them up finely and throw them into the mix. I substituted the dark green and blacks chocolate for a good quality milk chocolate and omitted adding additional chocolate chips to give a smoother finish. An extra slosh of peppermint extract for good luck and I spooned the shiny mix into my pre greased Madeleine pan. Carefully filling the pan only 2 thirds full so to avoid overspill. The tray needed a good wipe too before heading into the oven due to a lot of Brownie dribbling all over.

The recipe was enough for 12 Madeleine and 12 cupcake brownies too! (I used a plastic freezer bag with the corner snipped off to pipe the mixture into cupcake cases, which was far less messy!)
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I baked them for 15 to 20 minutes at 175 degrees, until the skewer comes out clean, et voila!
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They had to cool completely in the pan before attempting to coax them out with a knife. Even then I had to bang the tray on the table a few times as a few were a bit overly attached to the pan. Some of the brownies left a little piece of themselves stuck to the pan but I don’t mind eating the holey brownies! The fully intact mint Madeleine brownies were then wrapped up and whisked away to join in the wedding day celebrations!

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I love the shape and the gooeyness of these brownies. The milk chocolate means they’re much sweeter than the normal Hummingbird variety, so probably stick with dark chocolate if you prefer a richer flavour but add more mint! 🙂

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I’m also entering my Mint Madeleine Brownies intothe April AlphaBakes Challenge. Under the letter ‘B’ for Brownies. 🙂 The challenge is hosted by The More Than Occasional Baker and Carolinemakes Hop on over to @Bakingaddicts and @Caroline_Makes blogs  for more information on the challenge and how you can take part too. 🙂

Jill and Johnny’s Wedding Day Brownies – Hummingbird Bakery

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Jill and Johnny's Wedding Day Brownies

I’m baking a little something for my friends’  wedding day. Something that can be piled high and shared. I have baked rather a few Hummingbird Bakery things now from America but this is definitely my favourite brownie recipe. Nevertheless I still wanted to do a trial run to make sure they work (and taste good). When better to try them than at Jill’s hen weekend, this weekend.

The trial run went so well Chris requested a second batch! These Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate Brownies are rich, sweet and chewy with a delicate crumbly top. Perfect with a strong cup of coffee. A good sugar boost too to keep those energy levels up for wedding dancefloor action.
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This recipe is so quick I made the first batch in less time than it took me to ruin two lots of pancake batter. The longest bit was waiting for the chocolate to melt.

I love how this recipe requires no whisking or sifting. Simply stirring everything in one bowl with a wooden spoon means hardly any washing up too! You couldn’t even whip these up and freeze them for brownie emergencies.

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The entire brownie

1. Melt 200 grams of good quality dark chocolate in a bain marie along with 175 grams of butter.
2. Make a cup of tea while this melts gently over a low heat.
3. Once melted stir in 325grams of sugar until it’s all combined.
4. Then stir in 125grams if plain flour.
5. Stir in 3 largest eggs until you have a smooth paste.
6. For extra decadence stir in some chunks of chocolate. I used more dark chocolate. (Whatever amount was left in the cupboard probably about 50grams but I reckon the more chocolate the better as you get gorgeous melty chocolate surprises when you bite in to the brownies.)
7. Pour all the gooey batter into a rectangular baking tin about 23cm by 13cm
8. Bake for 30 mins at 175 degrees
9. Try to wait (if you can resist tucking into the tray with a spoon) until its cooled to chop it up and eat it as it tends to fall apart while it’s still warm… But this might be a good thing especially if you’re eating it with ice cream!

Enjoy!

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Piles of Brownies

This recipe is supposed to be for 12 portions but I chopped it into smaller triangles and made about 30 servings.

Recipe taken from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.

14. Key Lime Pie – America (but with a massive Italian Meringue!)

There seems to be a pattern emerging here. It was my friend Jenny’s birthday and I wanted to bake something special for her. When I asked what she would like her immediate response was ‘Key Lime Pie’. Your wish is my command.

I’ve never had Key Lime Pie before but I immediately thought of the Hummingbird Bakery recipe that I had gazed at longingly many a time but had thought it was too complicated and messy to attempt. I would not let my niggling doubts defeat me.

I knew that I would need a bit of time to prepare this one in order to bring it to work to celebrate Jenny’s birthday in style. I got up extra early the day before to smash up digestive biscuits. It’s days like these that I wish I had a food processor. Chris had to ask me nicely to stop hammering the biscuits with the rolling pin as it was simply too early. I ran out of digestives and supplemented the rest with rich teas instead. (that’s ok right?!)

Smashing Digestives

Again I had to shield my eyes from the flying digestive debris when I blitzed the shards with the hand blender. I may, or may not, have gone to work with crumbs in my hair. (It’s hard to tell with my curly mop sometimes).

I melted the butter in the microwave successfully not causing any fireworks this time and quickly stirred it all together. I quickly realised as I attempted to press the buttery biscuit paste into my flan dish that if I used all of the biscuits as instructed in the recipe that there simply wouldn’t be any space for limes in the pie…

Can't fit any more biscuits in!

I had felt a bit guilty and frivoulous for  buying mini pie dishes recently, but this Key Lime Pie emergency meant that I got to christen them! My sleepy brain missed a step in the recipe which said you bake the biscuit base and I assumed they would need to set in the fridge (hence the extra early preparations). Into the fridge they went to wait for me upon my return from work.

Mini Tins

I realised that I had to bake the base and cool it before the lime filling could be poured in. No baking beans needed for this inital bake unlike the Tarte au Citron.

Ready for round 2. Into the oven...

The grating and juicing of the limes was intense and made me crave a mojito. Once it was all grated I whisked it into the lashings of condensed milk and egg yolks, which I lovingly separated from their whites to save for the magnificent meringue.

A lot of limes went into the making of this.

and eggs 🙂

Then to pour the limey goodness onto the biscuit base  which was now a thick greenish creamy paste and bake it in the oven. The lack of light in my oven could pose a problem for checking the bake, but I’ve lived with it for over 2 years now and found a torch is a handy cooking tool.

Ready for round 2. Into the oven...

Who needs a light inside their oven? Torches are the way forward. Is it done yet?

Now for the exciting bit. I’ve never made Italian style meringue before. (and only made normal meringue for the first time recently!) I saw it on the Great British Bake Off  being created very precisely with thermometers and such like. If you’ve read any of my blog you will know by now that I simply don’t do precise, so I was relieved that a thermometer was not needed in this recipe. The only thermometer I own is a forehead strip one that I bought during the Swine Flu Panic last year. Somehow I don’t think I could use that to measure the temperature of sugar syrup…

Frothy egg whites (Before sugar)

8 egg whites were whisked into a frothy frenzy whilst the sugar and water bubbled merrily on the stove. I couldn’t remember if you were supposed to stir sugar constantly or if it makes it return to it’s crystallised state, so I did a bit of both. Stir, let it bubble, stir again. It eventually reached what I assumed to be the ‘soft ball stage‘. A mystical sugary state that frankly I’ve never heard of before I attempted to make fudge the other week, which was a disaster, so I clearly can’t recognise this stage of sugary wonderment. To be on the safe side I let it bubble some more..

Sugar Soup?

Bubblin Hot

When the sugar is syrupy and hot enough it needs to be poured slowly into the egg whites whilst whisking it. It’s a good job I can multi task, as I poured the liquid molten lava with one hand and held the electric whisk with the other, praying I wouldn’t slip and scald myself. When I win the lottery I have promised myself a Kitchen Aid mixer (and a bigger kitchen).

After sugar... I think the meringue's cooked!

I think I may need a bigger bowl if I’m ever going to make this again. It was amazing. Compared to uncooked meringue this was like magic. It quadrupled in size and almost over flowed the bowl! The only downside was after all the sugar was incorporated was that it involved 15 – 20 minutes of more whisking. Thank god for my little electric whisk and my ipod on random. Elvis and whisking. What can be better?

A mini one

Once the meringue had cooled, it was cooked through and ready to be assembled on top of the lime pies. It was a sticky process. With each mountain of meringue in position I popped them all in the oven for the final bake!

The Key Lime Pie Family Portrait

What a wonderful sight! So impressive! I struggled to get the pie into my cake box to transport to work. So cling wrapped it to the hilt and carried it like a baby. I got A LOT of smiles from strangers on my way to work that morning! Someone actually offered me their seat on the metro. It just goes to show people LOVE cake and Key Lime Pie is an attractive bake.

The grand reveal (somehow pearls of toffee appeared from the meringue, I know not how or why but they look pretty.)

This pie goes a long way. We shared it amongst 11 people and then I still had 3 mini pies at home! (don’t worry I didn’t eat them all by myself) The wonderfully sweet meringue balanced out the sharp and creamy lime. The digestive base tasted almost gingery after their third bake in the oven. Perhaps it was the addition of rich tea biscuits, whatever it was, it was wonderful.

Heaven is a massive slice of Key Lime Pie. Happy Birthday Jenny!

Very Neapolitan

8. Make and Bake – Chocolate Cheesecake – America – Hummingbird Bakery

With it being Chocolate Week last week and National Baking Week this week, I thought I should bake something else chocolatey and lovely. A triumphant return to America to one of the few Hummingbird Bakery Recipes that I was still to attempt… Baked Chocolate Cheesecake.

Baked Chocolate Cheesecake

After watching the Baked Cheesecake GBBO episode I was aware of how tricky this would be. But I’m still dreaming about Jo’s Rum and Raisin Cheesecake! I was a little surprised in the supermarket when purchasing all the cream cheese needed for this one… 4 packets of cheese seems like a lot!!

Beacoup de Cream Cheese

I decided to improvise with the biscuits as I already had rich tea in the house rather than buy digestives. That won’t make too much of a difference right?

Biscuity Base

I must admit I was in a little bit of a hurry when putting this one together and roughly blended rich tea biscuits and cocoa powder into sweet dust which permeated the entire kitchen with my little hand whisk. An emergency tea towel was required to protect my eyes.

I pressed the biscuity mess into my borrowed loose bottomed tin and shoved it the fridge to set.

I threw all the cheese with the melted chocolate into a bowl and whisked it all up then added all the eggs… Using one hand to smash the eggs and one hand to whisk, i ended up with egg shells all over the floor, but an effective method nonetheless.

Thoroughly Whisked

I poured it all into the tin then once again disaster struck. I’m most definitely consistent in one area. My inability to read recipes. Dear Lord, I despair at my own ridiculousness. I realised I hadn’t read to the end of the recipe! I didn’t have a tray big enough to submerge the cake in, in order to bake it in a bath of water. I only had another loose bottomed cake tin which I managed to gently manoeuvre the runny cheesecake into. Upon pouring water into the second tin, I thought I could hear rain. No. It was all the water running out of my cake tin over the electrical items down the back of the kitchen units and onto the floor. BRILLIANT.

I had to abandon the water bath idea and hope that it wouldn’t burn being baking directly in the oven.

Just as I was lifting the precariously full tin unto the oven I had a flash of panic. I’ve forgotten something…. SUGAR! (and also vanilla). How did I forget sugar??!! I was so very lucky to have realised at the very last minute, as this would have been a rather expensive and disgusting cheese and chocolate bake.

not quite oven ready... quick hand me a ladle!!

Quick to rescue yet another failure on my part I grabbed a ladle and scooped the gloopy mixture it of the tin and back into the bowl. A quick whisk of sugar and vanilla and it was time for the oven again.

Oven Ready?

To compensate for the lack of water I turned the oven down to hopefully prevent burning. From watching GBBO I know the cheesecake has to wobble a bit in the middle, but mine just kept wobbling all over. I probably kept it in the oven a bit too long.

The Double Tin Effect - sadly no water (probably should have stopped baking at this point...)

An hour and a half later I had one massive chocolate cheesecake on my hands, albeit with a huge crack down the middle, it looked ok!

Rather than at this point...

It needed a night in the fridge and then it was ready for tasting. It’s definitely rich and creamy. It’s so filling  you can only eat a little bit in one go, but I quite like it. The Rich Tea base is actually pretty good too! This feeds about 25 people.

But from this angle (and if you squint a little) the disaster disappears! Magic!

I’ve even purchased some take way pots to deliver take away cheesecake to my friends and family this week. If you’re visiting me this week please beware you will be fed cheesecake and then take some home with you too! Its good to share!

Cheesy and Chocolatey

4. Accidental Breakfast Muffins – America

I had a vision for what I wanted to bake but didn’t have a recipe to achieve it. I’ve attempted American muffins from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook about 5 times now and failed miserably to get them to rise and to look more appetising than a sludgey, sticky, tray bake, rather than lovely risen individual muffins. I give up!

Me in LA with Cary Grant

I’ve been to America quite a few times and they do indulgent food so well. I have quite a few American items on my baking wish list so where better a place to start than the good old fruit muffin.

Accidental Breakfast Muffins

I had over ripe bananas, oats, honey, raisins and rather a lot of apples to use up in the cupboards so I concocted this next baking attempt. I was thinking about how wonderful and creative the contestants on GBBO are and how they invent their own recipes so I found a basic banana muffin recipe and for better or worse, improvised…

Accidental Breakfast Muffins Recipe:

1 cup (115 grams) oats

2 and half  cups (230 grams) plain flour

2 cups (3/4 cup (150 grams) combination of half brown and half granulated white sugar.

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs lightly beaten

25grams unsalted butter

2 large ripe bananas mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)

2 large apples diced

1 handful of raisins

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

sprinkle of honey and oats for the top of the muffins

Chopping the apples up in a hurry before yoga, I left them along with the oats to marinade in the fruity, sugary, cinammony mess that I had made. All that was left to do was to throw the rest of the dry ingredients in and gently mix it all together..

Accidents happen. Somehow, despite bringing my massive laptop into the kitchen and balancing it precariously on the hob, to avoid touch screen phone issues, I still misread the basic recipe!! Mixing up the measurements for the flour and sugar. I realised a little too late that I had added 3 times the amount of sugar (and extra honey that I had taken the initiative to chuck in too) that the recipe needed. Yikes, these were going to be ridiculously sweet muffins!

To balance this out I added more flour and oats. Creating more problems for myself, as per usual. Now I know that oats soak up all the available moisture, wherever they are. If only hadn’t poured away all the sugary apple juice that had seeped out from the fruit. But hey, you bake, you learn.

Pre baking in lovely silicon cases

I keep considering investing in a proper muffin or cupcake baking tray but have yet to commit to it. Undiscouraged by my lack of baking equipment yet again. (I see it as an opportunity to make life interesting…) I improvised. Using a set of silicon cupcake cases set on a flat baking tray. I filled paper muffin cases with the mixture and squashed them in to the silicon cases. I figured they would hold the muffins in the right place.

Extreme Close Up

You may wonder why I didn’t just cook the muffins in the silicon cases. I’ve had some unfortunate silicon cooking experiences; uncooked bottoms, half the cupcake stuck in the case etc. so prefer to use paper cases these days.  Once I ran out of silicon cases I rummaged round for something else ovenproof to hold the paper cases upright (and avoid  muffin sludgage) and landed upon some ramekins. Perfect.

Ramekins and Yorkshire Pudding TIn

Before I popped them in the oven a sprinkled on a few more oats on each muffin and drizzled on some honey to make them look all rustic and pretty.

The End Product

They smelled amazing and tasted really good too.  They were fully cooked and had a proper shape too! Amazing! Maybe paper cases in ramekins and silicon cases are the way forward? No more rivers of muffins for me! The only improvements that could be made would be to add an extra banana and leave in all the fruit juices. Maybe even a slightly bigger dollop of honey on the top too would add a bit more moisture. They were definitely sweet enough though! For my first attempt at full on recipe creation it wasn’t too bad, especially with a good cup of tea.

Now to share them with everyone at work, as I can’t possibly eat all of these myself!

So many muffins