Thursday, 12 April 2012

Late for Easter

I know Easter was over days ago, and I know no-one will be looking for Easter inspiration, but I'm terribly forgetful at the moment and have only just got round to documenting my Easter bakes. So don't tell me off for being late!

For the first year, I made my own hot cross buns. Tradition and myth has it that those hot cross buns baked on Good Friday won't go mouldy. However, mine didn't have chance to go mouldy, they were all eaten quite quickly and weren't given a chance to turn to penicillin.

I made them using my Kitchenaid mixer, which I have to admit I'm not sure worked very well. The kneading part seemed more dramatic than I anticipated for a simple bake... the dough kept creeping out of the mixing bowl, trying to lift the arm of the mixer up... I was scared of the dough. In the end I hand-kneaded it for a while. I'm not convinced that it had enough kneading in the end (it kneaded more, ahaha). The final resulting buns were quite heavy, although tasty.

12g dried yeast
50ml milk 
500g strong white flour 
50g caster sugar
2 tsp salt
20g butter
1 egg beaten
150ml water
2 tsp ground spice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g sultanas
50g candied peel

For the paste crosses
50g flour
2 1/2 tsp water
(I think this part went wrong... Perhaps the paste needed more water, perhaps I rolled the paste too thin, but the crosses once baked were very crunchy, almost to teeth-breaking point)

Stir the yeast into the milk and set aside. Combine the flour, sugar and salt. Work in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Stir in the beaten egg, water, spices, currants, and apple, and yeasty milk with a wooden spoon and mix to a soft dough. Leave to rest for 5 minutes until it’s less sticky. 
Using dough hook in food mixer, knead for about 8 - 10 minutes. 
Place dough into large clean bowl. Cover with damp tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until double in size. Knock back and knead again for 2 – 3 minutes, then leave in the bowl to rest for 5 minutes.
Divide into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Place on a baking tray.
Make the paste, roll into thin strips, and drape over the buns while they’re on the tray. Leave in a warm place again for another hour, until doubled in size.
Brush egg wash over the buns. Bake in the oven at 200C (180C fan)/gas mark 6.
When cooked, brush over a glaze of 2 tbsp water and 3 tbsp sugar. 

They looked good on exit from the oven, although I wasn't expecting them to be so round. The taste was lovely and spicey, even if my scary dough was too heavy. But not bad for a first attempt, and it certainly felt nice to have home-made efforts for Easter. 

Next on my Easter baking list were some simnel cake-type cupcakes. I experimented with half of the batch by placing a slice of marzipan in the middle before baking (place a teaspoon of mixture in the paper case, followed by a circle of marzipan, then another teaspoon or so of mixture on top). This was in honour of my old next-door neighbour, Mrs Lambert, who used to look after me after school. She used to make a lovely fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle. However, she must have sliced the cake in half after baking and placed the marzipan inside, rather than baking it - I didn't think of that. Baking it obviously made it go nice and melty and chewy, which tasted yummy even though it wasn't the effect I was after.

250g mixed fruit
200g margarine
200g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
200g self-raising flour
60g ground almonds 
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Not sure how much marzipan I used inside the cakes, but it was 6 circles big enough to get in the cases, at about 5mm thick...

Cream together the butter and sugar until paler and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, with a little flour if necessary if they start to separate.
Sift in the flour and spices. 
Add the ground almonds, followed by the fruit. Mix until all incorporated but not overmixed. 
Spoon into paper cases, with or without marzipan, whichever you fancy. 
Bake for about 20 minutes (I think - I lost track of time, and just judged by the smell in the end!)

I topped all the cakes with rolled icing. For those that didn't have the marzipan baked inside, I used marzipan underneath the icing. Use a little warmed apricot jam to sandwich the marzipan and icing to the top of the cake. 

I then topped 11 of the cupcakes with a ball of marzipan to represent the apostles, minus Judas. The recipe made 18 cupcakes, but I kept 12 separate to act as the simnel part. 

Eat. Celebrate Easter. Enjoy. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Liebster Awards

I am overjoyed that Susan of A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate fame has awarded me a Liebster award!

Hmm, being so new to the blogging community, I read this and thought "Wow!", followed by "Erm, what on earth is one of those?"

After a bit of research through Susan's blog, and also Dolly Bakes and Garden, Tea, Cakes, and Me, and I soon found out that this is a fabulous award to those little bloggers among us who have fewer than 200 followers (or maybe fewer than 100, I've seen both quote). Three cheers for the little ones! Everything has to start from an acorn, and we know that the best things come in small packages.

So, to repay the favour - I love handing out awards, this feels like when I hosted the Oscars... No, wait, I'm thinking of childhood award ceremonies for the 'Out Of Tune Whistling Club'. More on that later.

Drumroll please.... ahem.... *clears throat*

Dolly Bakes
One of my favourite little blogs, a new one but flourishing at a rate of knotts. Full of new ideas and inspiration, plus lots of photos of yummy cakes. No one I know can manhandle a bundt tin like this lady.

A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate
Who can resist a blog with such a scrumptious-looking opening picture as Susan's?

Laura Loves Cakes
Oh yes she does. And don't we all!

Baking Beats
Music and cakes, what's not to love. I turned from a nosy occasional looker to an avid follower once I saw the beautiful spotty cake - which I am going to try out very soon....

Just some of my favourites. I have some other faves too, but I think this is a wonderful idea to honour those of us who don't have trillions of people checking out our ramblings every day, but who have a handful of loyal appreciators (is that a word?) who love what we write and who we are glad to call our audience. Big up the little bloggers.

Oh, and here's a cake.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Cake Club success!

The first meeting of the Market Deeping Cake Club was a resounding success!

There were 7 members altogether, and hopefully more will join as the group gains momentum. To put it simply, we baked cakes, took cakes to the pub, ate cakes, talked about cakes, and took cakes home. The perfect sort of club...

Rhubarb & lemon curd cake
The first meeting's theme was 'Step into Spring'. There was lemon drizzle cake, spiced apple & raisin cake with a pastry base, vanilla sponge with chocolate buttercream, blueberry and lemon bundt cake, chocolate cake, and orange cake... Oh, and my rhubarb and lemon curd cake. All delicious! We sampled each cake in turn, just a small piece of each (so that we didn't all roll out of the pub and gain a stone in weight during that hour and a half...)

It was great to meet some really different people, a mix of ages, backgrounds, and interests, but to all have this one yummy thing in common. There was a variety of cake textures, flavours, and styles, and it was inspiring to hear how other people baked, the problems they come up against, and the ideas and advice they had about new approaches and problematic areas I talked about.

Me & my cake
I felt confident to talk about something I was passionate about, even though I didn't know these people... Never having been part of a group or club before, I was incredibly nervous beforehand. Nervous about the cake, nervous about my 'performance', worried about what people would think of me. But in the end, everyone was so friendly and approachable, and accepted me as a fellow baker - just as I accepted them in the same way. It was refreshing, to say the least, and I felt happy to share my enjoyment of something as simple as cake.

But cake isn't always just 'simple' - neither in terms of the science behind the bake, nor the emotional attachment I and other people have with baking. For me, baking calms me, gives me a sense of purpose, gives me something to learn and create, and a product to be proud of.

My rhubarb & lemon curd cake went down well. I was more worried about this one cake than any other (except, perhaps, the Christening cake for my godson, George). It was different to what I normally bake, as I haven't often cooked using fruit. Such a wet and unpredictable fruit as rhubarb certainly created a nervousness and critical element in my mind. But it was moist and fluffy, with a delicate but definite flavour, although not quite enough of the tang of rhubarb as I'd like. It seemed to go down well, although I think the whipped double cream and lemon curd topping was everyone's favourite part of the cake.

The Cake Club spread
So here's to the next Cake Club - it'll be held once a month, and the next theme is 'chocolate'. Perfect! 

If you want to join a Cake Club, check out the Clandestine Cake Club website and see whether there's a local club you could become a member of.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Get ready for cake club

Tomorrow I will be attending the first meeting of my local Clandestine Cake Club - a new phenomenon gripping the cake-baking nation. Find out more about CCC here.

Sneak peak of my CCC cake...
I don't yet know how many cake makers will be joining me at the secret location to eat, talk about, and show off cakes, but however many people turn up, I'm looking forward to meeting new people and hopefully making some new cake-loving friends.

Requirements of the club include baking a cake that can be cut into 8 - 12 slices, bringing a cake stand or similar recepticle for showing off said cake, and then eating other people's cakes. Now that sounds like my sort of club.

The club has featured on BBC1's 'The One Show' and soon will be featured in 'Women's Own' magazine, and the idea has really captured the imagination of bakers across the country. A fun and informal way to meet like-minded people just to enjoy each others' creations and talk about why we love to bake. For me, baking is a way to relax, learn new techniques, hone skills, and enjoy lovely cakes. I've found baking to be a way to escape from the stresses of everyday life, to help me overcome impending bouts of depression that haunt me some days, and a way to feel fulfilled that as yet a career has yet to do. Seeing the faces of your friends and family as they devour some tasty creation that you made fills the heart with happiness. I can say, "I made that, I did that, I'm good at something". It's also great to test my perfectionist nature, as inevitably things will go wrong in the kitchen, the cookies will only taste good if you dunk them in tea otherwise you risk a trip to the dentist, or the cake sags and is a bit claggy, or perhaps the cheesecake doesn't quite set and slides off the plate. But, who cares? I'm not a professional baker or chef, and everyone still loves the tasty things even if in my eyes they've gone hoo-har.

I will be taking to the meeting a rhubarb & lemon cake, topped with whipped cream and lemon curd. I'm more nervous about this cake than any other I've made, but hopefully it'll taste yummy and I won't get thrown out of the club on its first outing. It smells nice, I know that much. I won't share all the pics or the recipe yet, as it should stay a secret until after the club meeting...