29. Messy Macaroons – France

In Hiroshima, I spotted shop windows stylishly displaying towers of tantalisingly multicoloured circular sandwiches, of every colour in the rainbow. At this point, a couple of yearrs ago now, I had never even heard of Macaroons, let alone tasted one. I kept promising myself one, but with all the other amazing food I never got round to it! Returning home I realised I was macaroonless.

Hello Hiroshima

I then heard more and more about Macaroons, they were everywhere, from Gossip Girl to Lorraine Pascale. (Think Blair Waldorf eating an entire box of pistachio macaroons in the bath.) Then The Great British Bake Off with Edd Kimber’s fabulous macarons. The more I heard about them the more I wanted to try them. Newcastle is not the Macaroon (or macaron – you choose which spelling you prefer, English or French?) central of the world. However my Mam happened upon them in Betty’s Tea Room and bought me an entire box! How decadent and divine, so light and sweet. I sampled the lot,  lemon, pistachio, chocolate and strawberry glossy and smooth macaroons filled with delicious jam and buttercream. They feel like something French aristocrats would enjoy on a daily basis.

Betty’s Tea Rooms Handmade Macaroons – note the glossy exterior, feet and lift!

I had to attempt them myself. They are a French invention, but it seems quite a few other countries have their own variation and have adopted them too. We used to make coconut macaroons with my Mam, but they are something entirely different. (But I have bought some rice paper to have a go myself soon…)

My Messy Macaroons

You can use the Italian meringue method (which uses hot sugar syrup to cook the egg whites before drying out the meringue in the oven. I used it to create my Key Lime Pie) or the French meringue method (where the raw meringue is cooked slowly in the oven)  to make the macaroon shell. I opted for the French method, as it seemed easier! However upon further research the Italian method may be more tricky but it supposedly produces more consistent results. (Next time I’m up for experimenting a bit more with this!)

I learned a few things along the way when making these. They are quite technical and a bit tricky but essentially they are a meringue and like when I made pavlova and mini meringues they require ‘drying out’ or cooking in a low temperature oven.

I chose a classic macaroon recipe to follow and adapted it to suit the flavours that I had in my cupboard. Which meant that I ended up with pink lemon flavoured macaroons. This kind of messes with your mind a little.

Whisking the egg whites

I started by whisking the egg whites and a tablespoon of lemon juice with an electric mixer for quite some time until it becomes stiff. Then gradually whisked in  the rest of the lemon zest and sugar until it was fully incorporated. I also added some powdered red food colouring at this point until I reached my desired pinkness. It’s probably best not to use liquid food colourings here as you don’t want to disturb the consistency of the egg whites too much… Runny egg whites make for one flat and merged meringue. (I should know I’ve already been there and done that.)

Adding the pinkness

It can take 10 minutes or so to whisk the egg whites until they are shiny. Then you known they’re ready for the ground almonds. Using a metal spoon I carefully folded in the ground almonds, so as to keep as much air  in the meringue as possible.

I spooned the meringue paste into a piping bag with a plain round nozzle and piped freestyle. Some people like Holly Bell, who are far more prepared than me, use a template of equally spaced circles (or other shapes) under their greaseproof paper to pipe equal amounts onto the tray.  I however was in a baking frenzy and choose to guess. Therefore my  results are somewhat less than consistent. My piping was supposed to produce little delicate rounds of meringue onto the baking tray lined with grease proof paper. Occasionally little meringue peaks formed on my macaroon circles. I quickly flattened them down again with a slightly wet finger. Good news however! There’s no need to grease the paper before piping, which is always a nice treat.

Piped onto the baking paper – all shapes and sizes

Now here’s my lesson at this point I wish that I had

a)    Gently banged the tray on the worktop to make sure the bottom of the macaroons were flat.

b)    Left the macaroons for 20 – 30 minutes to dry slightly and form a skin on the top before putting them into the oven. (I have since discovered that you get a more glossy finish by doing this and it helps the macaroons to form their characteristic ‘feet’(the little rugged ridge around the base of the shell) and lift up from the tray in the oven.

c)    Blitzed my ground almonds in the food processor before using them to make sure they were really fine. This is supposed to help ensure a smooth and glossy finish. I may have even sieved them if I could have been bothered.

d)    Used icing sugar! The recipe just called for caster sugar. Other recipes I’ve looked at use powdered sugar to get a smoother finish.

e)    Froze the first batch before I filled them. Apparently freezing macaroons helps to make them look and taste even better.

Just baked macaroon shells – oh so many I ran out of trays to pipe them on! (oh and I dropped a wooden spoon on that one in the middle before it made it to the oven…)

But this is all fine and well in hindsight. I didn’t have this wisdom then. I was pleased that they held their shape (whatever shape that may be)  in the oven when I baked them for 40 minutes at 150 degrees C with the oven door slightly open. However they didn’t develop the little feet or lift that they are supposed too so they weren’t as sophisticated as I hoped. They were most definitely not smooth, glossy or shiny either, but more of a pumice stone texture. Thankfully they didn’t taste like pumice stone! They were chewy in the centre and crisp on the outside, just how I like them. (I couldn’t resist trying a few straight from the oven.)

I left them to cool completely before filling them with a generous smudge of my home made lemon curd and a sneaky layer lemon buttercream. Then sandwiched two shells together.

Little and Large

This recipe was only supposed to make 15 macaroons. I ended up with well over 30, so perhaps I made slightly smaller ones than I was supposed to, but they seemed massive to me. All the more macaroon to enjoy in my opinion.

My Messy Macaroons

I took a whole box along with me on my last day in my job and they were the first thing to disappear from the buffet table, which indicates success despite their ever so rustic appearance. With the other half I wrapped the empty shells carefully in layers of greaseproof paper and stored them in an airtight container. I froze them for a month and defrosted them for my friend’s leaving do. They accompanied me to the pub in their own takeaway container.

Take away macaroons

I have a whole macaroon book to experiment with so you can definitely expect messy macaroons part 2 in the near future as I’m determined to perfect them!

Things that I used to make messy macaroons

4 egg whites (I used medium eggs)

1 lemon (juice and zest)

250g caster sugar

200g of ground almonds

Buttercream

Approx 300g icing sugar (enough to create smooth sweet paste when combined with the sugar)

1 lemon zested

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g butter

Lemon Curd

Approx 3 tablespoons of homemade lemon curd (but you can add as much or as little as you like)

Baked for 40 minutes at 150 degrees C with the oven door slightly open.

**Note to self – I also used a little splodge of the uncooked meringue mix on each baking tray to hold the greaseproof paper in place**

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25. Happy Birthday to me! Triple Lemon, Triple Layer Victoria Sponge – Extravagana – England

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Triple Lemon, Triple Layer Victoria Sponge

Ok, ok I’ve baked rather a few things already from good old England so it may not be that exotic to choose a Traditional Victoria Sponge. However! I know a true test of baking skill lies in the creation of a perfect sponge. I’ve never made one of these before but I sure have eaten my fair share of them. I have pondered over baking a layered cake for quite some time and debated over experimenting with a Hummingbird Bakery venture delicious although it would have been it involved too many ingredients that I couldn’t find so back to Marguerite Patten! Always wanting to try something a little bit different, and having rather a lot of home made lemon curd still to use up, I made mine a triple lemon triple layered Victoria Sponge…
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The Marguerite Patten recipe for Victoria Sponge has so many variations I think you need a Home Economics degree to put it all together! After engaging my non mathematical brain I managed to measure out in ounces (reading my scales correctly this time- I recently realised that I’ve been reading Llbs instead of ounces… This may explain why my last sponge cake went SO very wrong…)

The Many Variations of Marguerite

I used the variation for one 10 inch cake tin, the plan being that I would simply split my one cake in half and fill it with buttercream and my lemon curd.

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Whisking the eggs well

As I was making probably the biggest cake in Marguerite’s recipe options I had to increase all the ingredients from 4oz to 6oz. Simple?

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Creaming the butter, sugar and lemon zest together

I simplified the method for myself: 6oz of butter and 6 of sugar creamed together. 2 medium eggs to be whisked ‘well’. 2 lemons zest and half a lemons juice added to the butter then beat the eggs gradually into the butter being careful not to curdle the lot.

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Scrambled eggs?

Then to fold in the 6oz of plain flour and ta da we have a cake mix!

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Folding in the flour

Careful not to knock the air out of the mixture I lovingly spread it as flat as I could get it into the greased and lined tin. 35minutes at 180 degrees and I had one slightly thinner than I expected lemon sponge.

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Spread as even as possible in the tin

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One slightly sad looking thin lemon sponge

This rather sad looking sponge would be impossible split down the middle and ice. So I just had to bake another 2 layers!! It would have been a bit of a disappointing cake had I not. To speed up the process I doubled the ingredients to make enough for 2 cakes in one go. I wasn’t entirely sure this was technically the best thing to do but hey I didn’t want to be on all night. The problem being I only have one round cake tin so I had to bake one sponge at a time in order to re use the tin. This meant cooling the cake quickly and hoping the last sponge wouldn’t be airless and dry after the sponge mix had sat around waiting to be plopped into the tin.

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Citrus buttercream

Throwing an unmeasured amount of butter and icing sugar into the food processor, (probably around 1 and a half packs of butter and enough icing sugar to make a good smooth sweet texture) I whizzed it all up with a splash of orange extract and vanilla too. I ran out of lemons by this point so thought any citrus would be a good move…

I am not very good at icing cakes with buttercream. My cupcakes always look a bit sad so this was a bit of a trial by fire. I’ve watched Lorraine Pascale ice cakes and it looks easy so I do what I do best and make it up as I go along. Lorraine made a mint sugar syrup and spread it on to her layered sponge cakes before icing, so I thought this must be a good idea although it did mean deviating from Marguerite’s recipe somewhat.

Lemon Syrup

Using what I had left over from the sponges I simmered the juice from all of the zested lemons with some sugar (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) to make a lemon drizzle. When it and the cakes had cooled slightly I spread a generous sticky coating on all 3 sponge layers to add to the lemony flavour and to help keep it moist.

The Terrible Trio

The exciting bit was then whacking on a thick layer of lemon curd followed by buttercream then smushing on a sponge layer (and it cracked slightly but no one will see this once I coat the entire thing in buttercream. The problem was the lemon curd started to dribble out everywhere! For the second layer I put buttercream first then lemon curd which helped hold it in place a bit better.

Layer 1! Lashings of Buttercream

Layer 2. I could stop here for a traditional Victoria Sponge…

Lemon Curding it up

Layer 3! Looking a bit rustic

It was looking enormous and slightly lopsided. I had obviously not spread the buttercream evenly but the leaning tower of Pisa look is so in right now (I tell myself). Once the third sponge layer was added I spread the remaining butter cream, around the sides of the cake, sealing all 3 layers in. Smoothing the cream round with a palette knife. I saved a little buttercream to finish it off after the entire cake had a little rest in the fridge to ‘set’.

All 3 leaning layers encased in buttercream

The cake was so massive I had to take some shelves out of the fridge just to squeeze it in! Once I smoothed on the final finishing touches of buttercream in an attempt to hide some of the crumbs that had broken off the sponges and worked their way into the cream I faced a little challenge. How to cover the leaning tower of cake up to keep it fresh in the fridge?! It was too big for any of my cake boxes and I had welded it to my glass cake stand with buttercream so it wasn’t possible to move it.

Cake Tent

I fashioned a rudimentary cake tent by selotaping cocktail sticks underneath the glass cake stand and gently folding 2 sheets of tin foil around the cake and skewering them onto the sticks. The cocktail sticks meant the tin foil didn’t touch the buttercream but would stop it all drying out in the fridge. Perfect!

Triple Lemon, Triple Layer Victoria Sponge

Once you start you can’t stop

This cake was immense!! I loved the sharp lemon flavour of the Curd combined with the gentle citrus buttercream. The sponge was probably a bit dry around the edges (hence the loose crumbs) so I would probably take it out the oven a little sooner if I was making it again. But hey for a first attempt at a layered cake I was happy. The tilt definitely gives it a certain je nais sais quais. I enjoyed the quirky take on the traditional Victoria Sponge. I took some to work and one comment was “that is the best cake that I have ever tasted’ which is high praise indeed!

Ps. This cake was perfect for trying out my lovely new cake slice!

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!

Lemon Curd – Curd is the Word

Marguerite Patten's Preserves

This is another non bake so I’m not counting it towards my eighty bakes from around the world. However I want to master the many skills that are needed to be a good baker and make things from scratch hence the curd experiment.I had a bag of lemons that needed to be made into something lovely and after reading Mary Berry’s ‘At Home’ book I realised Lemon Curd is a vital ingredient in many, many cakes. Marguerite Patten made my first venture into jam making so easy that I wanted to try another recipe from her Everyday Cookbook.

The addition of eggs scares me a little. What if I do it wrong and I poison people?! Pushing down those terrible thoughts, I put my faith in Marguerite. She’s never let me down yet and my Dad loves Lemon Curd so I’m sure he will appreciate it.

Them's a lot of lemons (and pips)

It was a relatively simple process. Grate the lemon zest and juice the lemons into a jug.  Admittedly this is hard work when you only have a little wooden juicer thing (I’m not sure of its real name) and trying to avoid pips getting into the mixture. If only I had some muslin or something to sieve the juice through… I try to avoid using the fine sieve whenever possible as I don’t like washing it but it had to be deployed here to sieve out the remaining shards of pip.

Juiced

All the ingredients, butter, sugar, lemon and eggs had to be placed in a good old bain marie to simmer. With a constant and vigorous stir to avoid lemon scrambled eggs.

Bain Marie

Looking a tad lumpy but it's all in the process...

After about an hour on a gentle heat it was the right consistency to ‘coat the back of a spoon’. I find this term a bit confusing as most things do coat the back of spoon… I think Marguerite means when the mixture is thick enough it sticks to the spoon and slides slowly off, or that’s the definition I went with.

Now it coats the back of a spoon! (and looks a lovely glossy sunshine yellow colour)

Then all I had to do was pour it into my sterilised jar (previously of curry sauce origin – lets hope this doesn’t taint the final product!) I had purchased a beautiful thick glass jar with a hinged lid for preserve making. However I managed to knock it onto the floor before work one morning and it promptly smashed into smithereens and flew everywhere! Hoovering under the cupboards before work whilst holding back a curious cat is not so much fun!

The final Lemon Curd

I saved the curd for a special occasion and cracked it open to make a couple of lemon curd tarts this week. It is beautifully sharp and sweet and just the right consistency. There was no curry like after taste either (phew!) so I had sterilised the jar very well. I may never buy lemon curd from a shop again!

Just in case you would like to make your own Lemon Curd a la Marguerite Patton here’s the things that you will need…

  • Rind of 3 lemons
  • Juice of 2 large lemons
  • 8 oz of sugar (I used granulated and got good results)
  • 4oz of fresh butter (I used unsalted real butter not margarine)
  • 2 eggs

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

A New Challenge

St Kilda, Melbourne.Cakes in the Polish Bakery. Unfortunately I can't claim that I baked them

I’ve always enjoyed baking, ever since attempting the classic fairy cakes complete with wings with my nana. Cookery classes at school were interesting, if irritating, with a complex dish washing rigmarole and spending 3 hours planning a fruit salad that would be basically chopped apples and banana soaked in lemon juice. Vile was the word.  Needless to say that recipe has not entered into my repertoire. I guess I never wanted to just do the basic version, of anything.

When given the option to make pizza from scratch, when others bought pre prepared bases I chose to make life difficult and make my own base. We froze our pizzas at school to cook at home later. By which point I had forgotten the fact that unlike shop bought pizzas, mine was not pre baked and simply throwing the pizza onto the oven shelf resulted in raw dough, pineapple and tomato sliding into the unsuspecting casserole my dad had lovingly prepared below.

Undiscouraged I persevered, baking batch after batch of rock cakes. The only thing I couldn’t ruin. Little by little, I’ve improved, trying out new things, travelling to a few countries, living in various shared houses, picking up new recipes and learning new techniques. I’ve come a long long way since my first boiled egg when living in student halls. Despite (pre internet popularity) typing out what I thought would be the most useful recipes from my mam’s cookbook. I didnt think that I needed to preboil the water and after 3 minutes of sitting in a pan of cold water, I was shocked and disappointed to crack open the egg to find a raw egg slipped out…

However I digress… What dawned on me today, after being given a copy of the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and drooling all over it, I have attempted pretty much every recipe in it now and I’m a little bored. I love the recipes but I need something more. The Great British Bake off  on BBC has inspired in me a new respect for mastering techniques and induced me to spend the entire day baking.

I realised that since my cookery classes at school I haven’t attempted anything that technical since cheese souffles and bread. In fact I think that was the only time I ever made a souffle and it was pretty tasty! I don’t think I’ve ever made pastry before and in fact I never really thought that I liked it! Little did I know…

Today I decided that I really like baking. There I’ve said it. I am becoming middle aged in my twenties. But it is fun and despite getting egg up the walls and breaking a few bowls I think I’m ok at it. So, I’ve been to a few countries around the world now and every where that I’ve been to the best bit has been the food. So why not combine my two favourite things? Travelling and baking? Why not try to bake something from every country I’ve been to? Why not challenge myself that bit further and throw some other countries in that I’ve never been to?

That’s what I’m going to do. Around the World in Eighty Bakes.

Rows and rows and rows of beautiful cakes. Polish Bakery, St Kilda