Custard Creams

My favourite biscuit of all time. And to celebrate my new Nikki McWilliams biscuit cushion, I baked some.

I've baked them before so you can find my recipe here. This time I didn't go for pink hearts though.

If anyone knows where I can get some biscuit cutters to make official looking custard creams then please let me know. I'd love to bake some giant ones like the ones Costa sell.

Is it bad that I could want every biscuit cushion by Nikki? If I did, I'd be one step closer to living in my dream house, a gingerbread one!

Rose & Pistachio Bundt

   This month's theme for Epsom CCC was 'Rattle those Pots and Pans', so in honour of this I set out to find a recipe using my favourite bundt tin. After sending out a tweet to my fellow baker bloggers, I found Stephanie's recipe for this little rose and pistachio beauty.

A marbled sponge of pink and green topped with rose water icing and chopped pistachios.

Find the recipe here.
This month Epsom's Clandestine Cake Club was held in Lakeland, where we were treated to a special 10% discount on any purchases. I got some pretty new muffin cases that I can't wait to try.

Afternoon Tea at Momo Cafe

   Excuse the phone pictures, but just thought I'd quickly share some treats I enjoyed on the weekend with my brother's better half, April...her first afternoon tea!

   After choosing a 7 citrus fruit green tea and April a Lord's tea, we received an impressive tower of British/Moroccan inspired treats. I've been to Marrakech before but, embarrassingly, didn't get to try much of the food. So was excited to give it a try.

The savoury plates included Moroccan chicken wrap, Zaalouk & Mechouia on toast, smoked salmon & cream cheese sandwich and cheese Briouats.

My favourites were the Briouats and Zaalouk on toast.

Next up, scones with clotted cream and strawberry and fig jam.

A selection of Maghebine pastries followed by lemon cream pain de gênes, pistachio macarons and chocolate brownies.

I've had a number of afternoon teas over the years so find myself being very critical. This one is definitely in my top 5, a nice balance of sweet and savoury, brilliantly presented and all very fresh.

Find Momo here.

Chocolate Macarons & Cake International

Check out my pretty new mini stand from Baker & Maker at Cake International
   The idea of baking macarons has always been a little daunting. So when I went Cake International last weekend and spotted a Silikomart macaron mat I decided to pick them up and give them a go. Along with some handy tips from Lucy at supergolden bakes, I was set.

   They didn't turn out as the disaster I had envisioned for my first attempt. Maybe a little too chewy but Lucy came to the rescue again via Twitter and assured me they'd mellow 24hrs after being filled.

Chocolate macarons
(makes about 30 mini)
     115g ground almonds
     230g icing sugar
     15g cocoa powder
     144g egg whites
     75g caster sugar
     Nutella to fill

  • Combine the ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a food processer ensuring all ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Sift the dry ingredients twice and leave to one side.
  • In a stand mixer, beat together the egg whites and caster sugar. Firstly on a low speed for 2 minutes, then on medium for another 2 minutes and a high speed for a further 2 minutes or until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
  • Fold in the dry ingredients, pressing the mix onto the side of the bowl with each fold to knock any air out. You should aim to fold anywhere between 25 - 40 times. Its important not to overfold. (I did about 30 folds and was too scared to continue!)
  • Transfer the mixture into a piping bag and pipe macarons onto the mat (or baking paper with pre drawn macaron cicrcles).
  • Once piped, tap the tray 3-4 times on the work surface. Air bubbles will form on the top of each macaron shell.
  • Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes before baking, the surface should become touch dry. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 150 degrees.
  • Bake for 12-16 minutes. (I baked for the full 16 minutes but could have definitely got away with 12-14 time!)
  • Ensure that the macaron shells are completely cool before removing from the macaron mat.
  • Fill with nutella or chocolate ganache.
The macarons will last in an air tight container for a few days.

For the ultimate macaron commandments, visit Lucy's page here.

And here's some pictures from Cake International...
Some of my favourite pieces from the competition. A Mulberry bag made of cake, I'll have 2 please!
Professor Dumbledore's Phoenix, Fawkes, in cake form. Cookie Girl in action. The Brownie Bar...I recommend their white chocolate and pistachio! 
More of my favourites...including the Leaky Cauldron, for Harry Potter fans like myself.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cookies

This post has been sitting in my drafts since last week, oops! I was certain I'd published it. So here it is anyway...
   I've had a case of the Baking Blues recently. Not much in the way of inspiration and a few failed attempts of baked treats over the past week or so. I decided the only way to overcome this was to get back in the kitchen and start again.

   This week I've been working night shifts and I always like to bring treats in for the team on the last night. Someone bought in Amaretto and cherry brownies last night that were just a little naughty, but very heavenly. I felt a little competitive and wanted to make a giant million-tiered cake. I can do cake. That's my thing.

   But, for some (sleep-deprived) reason, I decided to bake something I've only baked once before. Cookies. So easy to make but I never think of making them. I decided to go for triple chocolate cookies with a salty-sweet peanut butter centre. 

Peanut butter & chocolate cookies
(makes 30 small cookies)
     200g unsalted butter, softened
     300g caster sugar
     1 large egg
     275g self raising flour
     75g cocoa powder
     3 big bars of chocolate, chopped into small chunks
     splash of milk

I decided to use a combination of all the half-used chocolate packets in the cupboard from previous bakes and some individual chocolate bars thrown in for good measure. This included white, dark and milk chocolate, some chocolate drops and two Cadbury's Twirls.

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
  • Mix together the butter and sugar until creamy.
  • Add all dry ingredients including the chocolate chunks and mix well. The dough will be a little dry so add a splash of milk to help combine the mix.
  • Spoon onto a lined baking tray and bake for 10 minutes (I layered a spoon of cookie dough, small spoon of peanut butter and another spoon of cookie dough on top).
  • The cookies will be soft and squidgy so leave them to cool for 30 minutes until they harden before eating.
My cookies were a little too deep and had more of a cakey bite to them. Next time I'll squish the cookie dough down flatter before baking.

La Petite Bretagne

Nicola and I popped to La Petite Bretagne for brunch this week.

LPB serve traditional French crêpes and galettes made from a variety of fresh quality ingredients. I felt like I'd just hopped off the Eurostar at Gare du Nord. Wishful thinking.

We both opted for a classic, Nutella and banana. I've already eyed up the menu online for my next visit...Speculoos, Brittany salted caramel and carnacoise (feta, spinach, tomato, pesto).

Added bonus; all galettes and crêpes are made with Breton buckwheat flour making them gluten free.

You can find La Petite Bretagne at 5-7 Beadon Road, Hammersmith, W6 0EA.

LoveTea: Paksong Oolong Cupcakes

   If its not obvious, I love cake. You may therefore be surprised to hear that I also love tea, just as much as cake. I've not baked with tea much, other than my honey tea bread, so when the guys at LoveTea sent me some Paksong Oolong tea I was excited to try it out in a bake.

   LoveTea is a genius idea. It gives tea lovers the opportunity to try different gourmet teas each month. This month's tea comes from the only tea garden in Laos, The Paksong Tea Garden. Seeds from wild growing trees on the Lao-Chinese border were used to plant the garden and were highly prized on their quality by Chinese Emperors; they even saved it for the imperial family and court dignitaries. Sounds like my kind of tea!
   The dry leaves of this tea smell like strawberry jam and once infused produce a delicate buttery floral flavour. I thought that the flavour would be complimented with lemon to add a little freshness to this golden tea.

Oolong tea infused cupcakes
(adapted from Black Dog blog)
     285g plain flour, sifted
     400g sugar
     2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
     1 teaspoon baking powder
     1 teaspoon salt
     300ml buttermilk, shaken
     100ml sunflower or vegetable oil
     2 large eggs, room temperature
     1 teaspoon vanilla extract
     1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
     1 teaspoon lemon juice
     1 cup hot oolong tea

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and fill a cupcake tray with cases.
  • Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  • In another bowl, combine all wet ingredients, except the oolong tea, together.
  • Slowly add the wet to the dry ingredients. Add the tea last and stir well to combine.
  • Divide between the cupcake cases and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and a tester comes out clean.
   I opted for chocolate buttercream because I had some spare in the fridge that needed using up. A mascarpone frosting would go just as well. Or even a white chocolate and thyme frosting as suggested on Black Dog

Find my chocolate buttercream recipe here.
   If you fancy sampling some gourmet tea then Matthew, Master Brewer at LoveTea, is offering a 40% discount to you lovely readers. Just pop discount code 'SLF40' at the checkout over at LoveTea.

The Cookery School: Pastry

   On Monday, I attended a class at The Cookery School. This class was a beginners introduction to pastry and included puff, shortcrust and choux pastry.

   I would consider myself a pastry novice having never even attempted to make pastry at home. I was therefore very excited to learn some tips and tricks from the school's chefs, John and Lucy.

   The morning started with freshly baked lemon cakes and coffee to warm up and get to know everybody. We then gathered round and watched John demonstrate how to make choux pastry buns. Something that seemed a little daunting, but is surprisingly easy.

   During this demonstration, John passed around the pan of dough for everyone to get a feel of the correct consistency; a spoon should not stand up in the pan, it should sink. Once cooled, the buns were filled with freshly whipped cream and finished with a dusting of icing sugar. Alternatively, eclairs or profiteroles can be made with this.

   Next, we all took our places ready to be guided through the process of making shortcrust pastry. We had a choice of making apple pie, vegetable quiche or Cornish pasties. Most opted for a challenge and chose to make Cornish pasties, including myself.

   As the name suggests, shortcrust pastry is short, and this meant that I struggled forming the first of my pasties. It stuck to the work surface and crumbled over the steak filling. Getting the balance between a short dough and the amount of water used in the dough to help bind the pasties together is tricky. But, for my next pasties I just added a tiny drizzle of water and it made all the difference.

   Whilst the pasties were baking, we watched John demonstrate how to make puff pastry by making palmiers and cheese straws.

   Everyone dispersed onto their own tables to give the puff pastry a go. Puff pastry should have 6-8 folds and it is important that it is chilled between each to ensure that the butter remains firm. We all managed to squeeze 3 folds in before packing up our pastry dough to take home for baking.

   We then enjoyed all of the morning's bakes for lunch.

   I enjoyed the palmiers so much I used my dough to make some  more...
     225g plain flour
     1/2 teaspoon salt
     225g unsalted butter, chilled
     225ml cold water
     squeeze lemon juice

  • Add the flour and salt into a large bowl. Squeeze a dash of lemon juice into the water and add the  flour. Mix and knead for a minute or two until a firm dough is formed.
  • Wrap the dough in greaseproof paper and chill for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, beat the butter on a floured work surface with a rolling pin until it forms a 1/2" deep rectangle.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge and roll on a floured work surface until 3 times the length of the butter. Place the butter on the dough and wrap ensuring that the butter is fully encased.
  • Roll into a long rectangle with the shorter ends towards you. Fold into 3. Repeat, rolling and folding into 3, wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for 10-15 minutes.
  • Roll and fold into 3. Repeat. Chill for 10-15 minutes. Continue until the dough has been rolled and folded a total of 6 times.
  • Heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • Roll out the dough and sprinkle with a thin layer of golden caster sugar over the entire surface. Roll each end towards each other so that they meet in the middle. Squeeze gently together.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut thin slices. On a floured palm, press down each slice to spread it before placing on a lined baking tray.
  • Sprinkle with water and sugar and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden and firm.
   I enjoyed the class and now feel confident to make my own pastry at home. I may even make a large batch to freeze down and keep for rainy days.

   The Cookery School can be found on Little Portland Street, just behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. They offer a range of courses and individual classes for all skills and interests. The classes like the pastry one I attended, are an ideal way to learn the techniques and ingredients used for anything from bread and baking, to tapas and Italian antipasti. Visit their website for more information

Devilishly Delicious Deserts: Panna Cotta

   To conclude my mini series of speedy delicious deserts, I give you Panna Cotta. I didn't make any additions to this one, the sour cherry coulis did all the work.
Panna Cotta
(serves 6-8)
     500ml Devilishly Delicious Panna Cotta
     Devilishly Delicious sour cherry coulis
Pour the desert pack into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil vigorously for 2 minutes. Pour into jelly moulds and chill for 2 hours (I left mine overnight to save time, again!).

To serve, upturn onto a plate and drizzle with coulis, a sprig of mint and a dusting of icing sugar.
   I've been trying to work out which is my favourite of the four deserts; Limoncello syllabubschocolate Amaretto potschocolate orange crème brûlée or these panna cottas. It really is a tough choice. There's so much scope with these desert packs to be as simple or as creative as you like. I'm officially stocking up for a rainy day to try different flavour combinations.

   Devilishly Delicious Deserts are a unique company that make restaurant quality desert packs for consumers to make up at home. Their deserts are totally free of artificial colours and flavourings and are gluten free and vegetarian. All you do is heat, chill and serve. The creative part is entirely up to you!

To find where your local stockist is, look here.

Devilishly Delicious Deserts: Chocolate Orange Crème Brûlée

Another weekend rolls around and another excuse for desert. Not that I will ever complain. 

   I took these crème brûlées to my Grandparent's yesterday for an Easter Monday feast. My Grandmother made a Goan chicken curry and dahl which was amazing. I've yet to try dahl better than hers...feel free to send your versions for us to test and compare!

Chocolate orange crème brûlées
(serves 4-6)
     500ml Devilishly Delicious Crème Brûlée
     50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
     zest and juice 1 orange
Pour the crème brûlée pack and chocolate pieces into a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring regularly until the chocolate is fully melted. Add the zest and orange juice and stir well. Pour into ramekins or serving dishes and chill for 2 hours (I leave them to chill overnight to save time).

To serve I sprinkled with Demerara sugar and caramelised with a blow torch, you can also do this under a medium grill for 2-3 minutes.
   I've really enjoyed testing out these desert packs from Devilishly Delicious and trying my own variations. If you've missed any of my previous posts on them, then you can find Limoncello syllabubs here and chocolate Amaretto pots here.

   I've spotted these on my travels in my local Lakeland, but you can find your closest stockist here.

Stay tuned - I shall be posting my last desert on Thursday, panna cotta.