Friday, 21 September 2012

Moving on up...

My eye is twitching. I'm not sleeping very well. I have a pretty constant headache. I'm not doing much baking, and my sewing machine is going dusty. What's the cause of this malaise? Oh, yes, I'm moving house! When this post goes live (don't you just love the schedule thingy) I will officially be a homeowner. How scary is that.

It's been a long time coming. Our landlord announced in November 2011 that he was selling up and wanted us out. We thought we'd be in a new home by March 2012, but that wasn't to be. Two sales fell through in quick succession and I began to lose hope. Then we found our perfect home, somewhere that would suit us down to the ground. We were meant to have moved in at the start of July, but then the unstable tenant decided she didn't want to move out, and no one was going to make her. She stuck fast and my resolution faltered. The threat of court action meant we didn't think we'd be in before Christmas - then suddenly, the mad woman was out, and all systems were go go go! We get the keys today, Friday September 21.

My first house, bought together with my brilliant boyfriend. Our real home. I can't wait, but at the same time I am petrified. Scared of the future, the past, and the present. I'm not sure I can cope with everything, but I will try. I will try my hardest to make everything in our new home perfect for me and Steve.

Looking foward to baking a cake in our new home. Hoping the oven works...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Raspberry Bakewell tart and a soggy bottom

Project 'Don't bake anything else made with chocolate' is going well. Admittedly, I've only baked once since I made the pledge, but it wasn't with chocolate, so I consider that a success.

In the midst of moving house, surrounded by cardboard boxes, baking was a little piece of heaven in a cake tin this weekend. I intended to bake a cake using apples, but I found I had already packed all of my recipe books that contained such a gem. So the apple cake must wait for another time - although, I won't need a book, as the lovely Camilla at Fab Food 4 All has entrusted me with her favourite apple cake recipe by her mum, which sounds delish.

Instead, inspired by Steve's mum's home-grown raspberries, I went for a sort-of Bakewell tart. I even made the pastry case myself - although I have to admit to the biggest failing seen on the Great British Bake Off #GGBO - a soggy bottom *weep*. However, I blame the recipe. I intended to blind bake the pastry, before adding the jam and frangipane, but the recipe advised to bake it all at once. I should have followed by instincts - rookie mistake.

I would write out the recipe here, but I have packed it already. It included shortcrust pastry, raspberry jam, a simple frangipane mix, topped off with fresh raspberries. I wanted to drizzle icing on top once it was baked, but Steve said no. Boo.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Choco no more

I need to wean myself off chocolate. I make too many cakes and bakes with chocolate. I need to branch out and try some completely different recipes.

I know why I rely on chocolate so much - and not just because I blummin love the stuff - but it's because it's so easy to knock a chocolate something up. There's always chocolate powder in the cupboard, so no other ingredients are required. It means I don't need to go to the shops for other ingredients.

But enough is enough! Project 'Don't bake anything else made with chocolate' begins NOW!

As we are moving house next week (ARGH!) I have been sorting out some cooking magazines and finding lots of recipes I need to try. Lime and ginger cake, blackberries, lemon, raspberries....No chocolate!!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Out of the flames...comes a rubbish phoenix

Major, impressively terrible, disasterous cake fail at the weekend.

For my dad's birthday, I thought a chocochino cake would do well. Deep chocolate sponge, with a cappuchino cream frosting...bitter, sweet, and creamy all at the same time. Brilliant. I chose a recipe from Mary Berry's brilliant book. All the ingredients were spread over the kitchen, apron was on, oven was hot and ready....

It was one of Mary's "bung it all in the bowl and stir all at once" recipes, which I've never been a fan of - I much prefer the creaming butter and sugar approach. I just don't trust recipes where you just throw everything together and hope for the best. But, in Mary we trust. Bung it all in the bowl I did, and stirred until it looked presentable. Into the prepared tins it went, tucked into the oven they disappeared...

Checking on the sponges halfway through the cooking time, I thought they looked a bit odd. A bit flat, and a bit greasy on top. Hmm. Curious. My panic went into overdrive somewhat, and I pretty much stayed staring at them for the remaining cooking time. I gingerly took the tins out of the oven. Nope, they're not right at all.

Flat, brown, circular house bricks. I think they would have tasted nicer.

I grasped Mary's book in desperation. Surely I followed every step? I didn't use the wrong flour again, did I? No, no, definitely self-raising. Checking the list of ingredients one by one, tick, tick, yes, did that....


Here's a great baking tip for you: when making a cake, ALWAYS REMEMBER THE SUGAR. Every ingredient counts. A cake that's meant to have sugar in, which doesn't, will be terrible.

It tasted like bitter, weird bread, sort of. It certainly didn't taste like a cake.

This disaster pre-empted the longest-lasting bake-related bad mood for a long time. However, I don't like to be too much of a defeatest, and so thanks to an idea from the brilliant Karen Burns Booth of Lavendar and Lovage fame, I set out about turning this fireball of a cake fail into a phoenix in the shape of a trifle. I soaked the chocolate house bricks in a bit of sherry, topped with a tin of cherries, poured over some jelly, and let it all set. On top went custard, then cream, then some shaved dark chocolate.

Shouldn't have blummin bothered. It was the worst trifle in the world. Cue several expletives. None of it set, the 'cake' was ridiculous even when soaked in alcohol, and I couldn't eat it. Yes, I wrote that - I couldn't eat a trifle. That's never happened before.

Utter cake bake fail. I didn't even take a photo of the trifle, it's too embarassing. The next bake will be successful. It will. I promise.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Chocolate thunder cupcakes

It's thundering and lightning-ing like its a bank holiday weekend here. To take my mind off it (I am a chicken) I made some chocolate cupcakes.

I haven't baked for ages - my last kitchen moment was some flapjacks. I didn't have any eggs and needed to bake - but heavens, I didn't realise how very very bad they are for you! I knew they weren't 'healthy' but the inclusion of oats made me think they were 'ok'. But no. The whole pack of butter makes those oaty bits as healthy as cheesecake.

Anyway. I digress. Chocolate cupcakes. I didn't know whether to go for an old favourite or a new recipe this weekend. But, the thunder and lack of exciting ingredients in the cupboard combined to mean only the former was possible. But who doesn't love chocolate cupcakes?!

I used a Hummingbird Bakery recipe. I've used it before so I won't repeat it here. I'm always a bit wary of their recipes. They can use strange methods, and as with this one, it was very wet and runny. It also was supposed to make 12 but I could only stretch to 10 and a half one.

The frosting is delicious. This is my favourite use of my Kitchenaid mixer. It really does help make the best ever frosting. I only make half the quantity of what the book says otherwise there'd be three times as much frosting ad there is cake. I decorated with chocolate vermicelli and silver balls. How on earth are you supposed I get those balls to go in the right place?!? I ended up pouring some in my hand and dipping the cakes in.

Perfect for a rainy thundery weekend.

These are my first entry into the brilliant Calendar Cakes blog challenge from Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes. To coincide with National Cupcake Week (September 17 - 23), this month's challenge is CUPCAKES! Yay!

GBBO book review

I love The Great British Bake Off. It's my only 'must-watch' TV programme at the moment - no one dare phone me, text me, or even ask if I'd like a cup of tea while it's on. I applied this year, but wasn't successful - not even through to the auditions - but I still feel a little part of it ;)

I have both of the previous books to accompany series 1 and 2, and so as soon as I saw this season's 'Showstoppers' book it went straight on my bookshelf.

All three books have had different approaches while retaining the joy of the competition, lots of recipes, and new ideas. In this year's book, the challenge theme is announced (such as hidden picture cakes), with the basic recipe given. Then there are three alternative ways to tackle the challenge, ranging in difficulty. I think this is a great way to reach new bakers and the old hands - something for everyone. I was happy to see that I'd already attempted the first variation of the hidden picture cake challenge - a chocolate marbled cake - which means I can go straight on to attempt either the chess board cake, or the marzipan heart. Watch this space to see which I try...

There are lots of hints, tips, and advice, with great intros to each section, and surprise gems of knowledge throughout. I've already learned lots of handy tips to put into practice. I particularly liked the info about icing, and how to approach royal icing and sugar paste, things that I haven't gone near as they've always been a bit daunting.

The book follows the flow of ther TV series, and it's full of photos of the contestants, recipes from the show mingling with new and old favourites, and they hint at successful bakes from the show without ruining the surprise of who wins master baker in that episode. The only negative thing I can say is a personal bugbear about many recipe books, and that is including recipes without photographs. I think especially with a baking book this is vital, and as a novice/beginner baker I am always a little reluctant to try something new without having a clue what it's supposed to look like - how can you judge whether you've done it right?

Aztec cookies
I've already made one recipe from the book - Aztec cookies (page 96). These were absolutely delicious - made with melted dark chocolate (it's meant to be dark chocolate with espresso, but my local shops didn't have any, so I stirred in some ground espresso instead), plus chunks of white chocolate too. Very adult cookies. They're sprayed with gold dust in the book, but as this wasn't a bake to go on show, I missed that out, and they were no less delicious for it.