Archive | January, 2012

Hail Mary!

30 Jan

Apricot Walnut Bars

Okay, so I promised you sports snacks, tri bars (no, not those funny looking handlebars on Mr. Cakes’ bike), back pocket safe muesli type cake snacks on test.  The quest started last year. I tried these cinnamon berry granola bars featured on bbcgoodfood. They were tasty, and packed full of goodies but they were flippin’ hard!  I’m talking rock solid, chip a tooth hard. So Mr. Cakes and I crumbled them up and used them as yogurt topping instead. Strike one.

Then I tried these lovelies  – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s honey and peanut butter booster bars. Now, these bars were featured on the River Cottage Every Day veg series and Hugh served them up to a group of open water swimmers after swimming the OSS Dart 10k. Incase you’re wondering yes, it is a 10 kilometre swim in the river Dart from Totnes to Dittisham. If you fancy it this year it’s being held on the 8th September. Unfortunately me and Mr. Cakes will be in Bala to compete in the Wrecsam tri club olympic triathlon. Shame! Maybe next year…seriously, I’d be up for it. Anyway, back to the bakes. I had high hopes for Hugh’s bars – if they were good enough for those 10k swimmers, then they surely would be perfect. But they weren’t, for some reason they didn’t really set and became one big gooey mess (and more yogurt topping, ultimately!) I’m going to blame it on the oven, it was around the same time that the element blew the electrics to the whole flat and forced us to move our half-cooked 6 hour slow roasted pork shoulder from Shoreditch to Victoria Park. But that’s another story. Strike two.

So, when Mary Berry promised Apricot and Walnuts Sandwich bars, just like “something out of a health shop” in her Baking Bible (and yes that is what she talks like…) I thought I must have struck gold.

Apricot and Walnut Sandwich Bar

They’re kind of a like a shortbready-flapjack with gooey apricot jammy stuff in the middle. Really very tasty, not too sweet, but incredibly crumbly – very much like crumble infact. So much so that Mr Cakes and I ate them with custard on top thank you very much. Not suitable for the rapha jersey pocket, sadly.

And so it looks like I’m out. Who is next?

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Brun’s Night

26 Jan

Nope, not a typo. Look at these lovelies we had for Burns Night. Mmm! Irn Bru Cupcakes!

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Take a can of irn bru and put it in a pan, boil until reduced down to around 4 tablespoons of liquid, at which point you can add it to icing, cake batter, whatever you like. Braw!

Here’s how to make the cupcakes:

Cake ingredients –

125g self-raising flour
125g very soft unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
pinch salt
3 tablespoons irn bru reduction

Icing ingredients –

100g butter
150g icing sugar
a couple of spoons of irn bru reduction

What to do, beware – its very easy….

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6 and line a 12-bun cupcake or muffin tin with paper cases.

Put all the ingredients for the cupcakes, except for the irn bru into the bowl of a food processor, and whizz til mixed together. Not too long…. Whizz again, adding the irn bru to make a batter. Drop spoonfulls into your cupcake tin.  For this I used my trusty cookie scoop!

Bake for about 20 minutes, until your buns are golden and spring back slightly when you press them. Remove from the oven, leave for 5 minutes or so, then move the cupcakes in their paper cases to a wire rack to cool.

Now for the icing. Back to your food processer. Bung in the butter & icing sugar in the mixer and whizz until it starts to come together. Then add enough irn bru to mix to a lovely thick buttery paste (not to be confused with a buttery biscuit base)

When the cupcakes are cooled top them with the icing. I also drizzled a little irn bru syrup on the top, but I wouldn’t recommend that.

And there you have it – cupcakes made from girders!

Makin’ Whoopie

18 Jan

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Today is Mr Cakes’ birthday! Happy Birthday dear, and here! Have a Whoopie. These are the superbly tasty Salted Caramel offerings from Claire Ptaks Whoopie Pie book, which I got up early this morning to bake in time for Mr Cakes’ rousing, thank you very much!
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Have you heard of Whoopie pies? You must have done! They have an entry on Wikipedia, but of course you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to check it out. Basically, they’re like cupcakes but flat like biscuits with the topping in the middle (middling, perhaps?) One tip for you if you do plan on making some – get yourself a cookie scoop. I have this tablespoon sized on from Amazon. It’s just the same as an ice cream scoop, only smaller. The tablespoon one creates medium sized whoopies and it means you get a more uniform shape and size.

If you want the creme de la creme of Whoopies get yourself over to Violet in east London. Perfect to treat yourself with after you’ve had a swim in the Lido, just round the corner. Now, why didn’t I think of that before getting up at the crack of dawn? Ho-hum.

Och pie the noo

17 Jan

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Mmm. Looks good right? It’s a take on shepherds pie. The mash is a 50:50 split of potato and swede. It’s Burns night soon, how about this for an idea. Haggis pie topped with potato & swede (that’s turnip to you lot north of the border) mash? Sounds tasty! Now back to this little lady in the picture. This pie had minced lamb in it, and the secret ingredient? Soy sauce, not salt. Very savoury indeed.

Are you wondering how Herman is? He’s getting bigger, I fed him last night and he’s grown. Every now and then he makes a small spluttering noise. I think that’s his way of saying he’s happy. He will be ready to divide and share on Saturday, would anyone like some? You get a 1/4 of Herman to look after for 10 days, on the 10th day you divide into 4, give 3 portions away and make the 4th into a very tasty cake. The cake that keeps on giving!

Meet Herman

13 Jan

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Has anyone met a cake called Herman? I met him a while ago, probably this time last year. Well, he remembered me and has come calling again.

Confused? Check out this article from the Guardian, all about Herman the Friendship Cake

I’ll keep you posted on how Herman & I get on over the next 10 days.

Pho sure

10 Jan

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Not baked, but totally yummy. Home-made beef phõ. Perfect for this time of year, very virtuous and nearly fat free. It’s a good job we’ve still got a ton of Xmas chocolates left.

Find the recipe here

A muffin for a new mum

8 Jan

Yesterday was very exciting. For a start I got hang out with an old chum of mine and meet her baby (so so so so cute!)  We took bubba to Pizza East to hang out with the other Shoreditch babies (we met a very cute 4 month old in the most amazing snow-suit, I sometimes with they made baby clothes for grown ups…)

Secondly, it was a day of double baking – muffins for breakfast and a steak & stilton pie for tea. The muffins were whipped up last-minute when I realised I had nothing to offer my guests, how rude! An hour before their arrival I scouted round the cupboards to see what they might offer. I knew I had the holy trinity of butter, sugar and flour so the rest was easy!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Blueberry Muffins recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess

Tea and Apple Cinnamon Muffin

and before you say anything, yes I know that’s a teapot with a coffee cup.

Ingredients
75g unsalted butter
150g plain flour
50g plain wholemeal flour
1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp bicarb of soda
2 tsp baking powder
75g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
100g greek yoghurt
100ml semi-skinned milk
1 large egg
200g chopped apple
12-bun muffin tray lined with 12 paper cases

Method
Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6.

Melt the butter and set aside to cool, you’re going to mix it with the egg, milk & yoghurt later and you don’t want end up with scrambled eggs!

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and in a measuring jug beat together the yoghurt, milk, egg and melted butter (once it has cooled)

Gently combine the wet stuff with the dry stuff. Try not to mix too much! Fold in the chopped apple, again keeping mixing to a minimum.

Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes, by which time the muffins should be risen, golden and firm on top. You could sprinkle some Demerara sugar on top before baking to create a crunchy top. I didn’t do this, but I reckon I will next time. Perfect for breakfast, or elevenses for new mums.

Apple Cinnamon Muffin

They’re also pretty good when you’re knackered and hungry after your sunday morning swimming lesson! Mr Cakes and I started lessons today with Red Top Swim at London Fields Lido. Quite possibly the best place to swim in London.

Now, time to plan our triathlon training plan for the year. Enough to make you work up an appetite….

Double bake day

7 Jan

First, for breakfast – Apple Cinnamon Muffins

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Adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe

Then, for dinner – A Pieminister moo & blue pie

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I’ll post the muffin recipe tomorrow. If you want the steak & blue cheese pie recipe you’ll have to buy A Pie for All Seasons, their cookbook.

A new toy

6 Jan

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Wowsers, look at this. A new 6 cup jumbo muffin pan by Wilton. I got this from Sugar Shack. Perfect for making Paul Hollywood’s Pork Pies as seen on the Great British Bake Off. Here’s some Mr Cakes and I made earlier (before buying the tins, hence the wonkyness) Wonky, but yummmmmmmy.

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2012 pie

4 Jan

During Chrimbo limbo last week, Mr Cakes and I visited Ma and Pa in the wilds wolds of Lincolnshire. After a couple of days and several cooked breakfasts later we were packed off to Shoreditch with 4 pheasant breasts, among other things. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall must have heard the news, as the very same day he included a recipe for Pheasant with prunes and bacon in a collection of Brandy Recipes published in the Guardian. Thanks Hugh!

Now, I didn’t have any prunes…and I did fancy a pie, and I did have apricots and chestnuts leftover from the Christmas stuffing. So, with a touch of inspiration from HFW and a bit of imagination, this is what I came up with.

2012 (aka pheasant, apricot & chestnut) Pie

4 pheasant breasts, cut into large chunks (about 3 chunks per breast)
20g butter
olive oil
1 onion, sliced
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 rashers unsmoked bacon (I used back bacon, streaky would probably be good too)
60ml brandy
250ml white wine
350ml chicken stock
80g dried apricots, halved
60g cooked, peeled & halved chestnuts (peeled weight)
10g plain flour
250g puff pastry (I cheated, and bought ready-made…)
1 egg, beaten

Serves 4

Place a large frying pan (I use this 30cm Le Creuset one, nearly every day. It’s fantastic) over a medium-low heat and melt half the butter with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the bacon, onions, thyme, bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cook gently to soften the onions and they just turn golden, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a minute.

Turn up the heat to your frying pan slightly, add the pheasant chunks to the pan and brown all over. Warm the brandy in a small pan, light carefully and pour over the pheasants. Try not to freak out at this point, you will have massive flames spewing out of your pan. Best to move your pan away from the hob if you have a cooker hood like we do, ours got a little flame grilled.

Once the alcohol has burnt off you can relax and deglaze the frying pan with a splash of the white wine, scraping up any tasty bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the wine, the stock, apricots and chestnuts, bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Transfer the meat, apricots, chestnuts and any other chunky bits to a large pie dish and pour the liquid into something else while you melt the remaining butter in the pan. Add the flour and cook for about 30 seconds. Then gradually add the liquid back to the pan to make a gravy, nice and slowly or you’ll get lumps. Pour the gravy into the pie dish to cover the pie contents.

Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface, place over the dish and trim round the edges. Brush the pastry with egg, and use and pastry trimmings to make your pie look pretty. Bake for 30-35 mins until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving. Nom nom nom!

You can find the original Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe on the Guardian website here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/30/brandy-recipes-hugh-fearnley-whittingstall

And just because, here’s a picture of Ma and Pa on their wedding day. Aw!