Take a break from the grey and bake


2012 is officially the colour of Grey. Floods and continual grey skies create the perfect reading opportunity for stuck indoors women in their millions to one by one drop like flies and seek comfort in the arms of the infamous Mr Grey. I can’t go anywhere without hearing constantly  ‘I’m spending the night with Christian’, ‘I got the last copy whoop whoop’ and my personal favourite ‘I wrestled the woman in Tesco’s for it and won’    Honestly all this grey has turned my female social media friends into whipping, drooling and silk scarf frenzied sex kittens.  As with all good things Ladies you have to take a break some time or bits start to fall off so walk away from Grey and Greyer, give your racing hearts and imaginations a rest. If you really have a need to tie yourself to things that’s fine just tie yourself to the food mixer or oven door and get it over with. You all have to eat sometime so join me in my top ten round-up of bakes over the year and I hear the naughty chocolate fudge sauce is good if that’s your sort of thing.

Number One – Strawberry Pimms Cake Pop Truffles

Pimms Cake Pops / Truffles

Pimms Cake Pops / Truffles

This is where it all began and I really enjoyed making these and I think at the time that was probably because at the beginning it did not matter if the cake I baked was wonky or imperfect as it got smooshed up with various fillings to create a mouthful of heaven. If you roll cake balls in meringue before dipping them in chocolate you have an Eton mess variation and perfect for when you need something ball shaped that isn’t salty.

Two – The mis-piped naughty meringue snowmen

My piping disaster (keep on reading to see more!)

See these were a bit of a baking disaster and most of you who have spoken to me over the year will have chuckled at these.  I was not the best at piping back then and figured that the little snowmen rather naughty looking tails would go down in the oven.  Hmmm I guess I was wrong with that one however they will star on this year’s Christmas cards!

Three – Pay Day Cakes  ‘The Macchiato’

The ‘Pay Day Cake’ idea began in March with the premise that you do not scrimp on ingredients but bake a cake that has four layers in a celebration for each week worked. This one is the Machiatto based on the coffee, vanilla and caramel drink at Starbucks. After this followed Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake, The Turkish Temptress and White Chocolate Mousse cake with a secret berry blast that will keep your admirers wondering how you did it? The final cake so far is triple chocolate mousse cake with chocolate covered strawberries – do I pick the longest names or what? What next a fifty shades of grey cake how would that work?

Sticky Toffee Cake

 FourVanilla Essence (DIY)

Homemade Vanilla Essence

A great gift to you or a baking friend – why not make a few at the same time.

This has to be on the list as it is the one ingredient I use in all of my bakes – simple to make, full of flavour and saves £££ and if you add lemonade to a shot of it you have a vanilla vodka spritzer – love the dual purpose nature! Comes with a humourous tale of baking meltdowns.

FiveMojito inspired Polenta Cake

Mojito polenta cake

Polenta cake – this is a dairy and gluten-free option you know you will be safe most places you need to take cake. Moist, tangy, easy to make and very portable with no fussy icing to worry about – bake it and job done and if you like it try the lemon and berry version.

SixJammie Dodger CheesecakesJammie Dodger Cheesecake

Perfect little pick me up with a creamy cheesecake, jamminess and biscuit all rolled into one. You would think a soft biscuit base wouldn’t work but it really does and cute too.  Comes with a tale about synchronicity.

Seven – Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Another dairy and gluten free cake (but you would never know) that is just as good as a Bakewell tart but far less hassle. I have a love of simple loaf cakes and my top tip is buy cake liners for your tins to save time from fiddly lining with baking paper. Why not try out Left over Banana, honeycomb and chocolate or Lemon and Blueberry.

EightNaughty Chocolate Fudge Sauce

Just perfect for pouring over ice-cream sundaes, traybakes, puddings or whatever else takes your fancy but I don’t want to know about it thank you very much. Keeps in a jar in the fridge and then just heat and pour over your choosen dessert or body parts includes cute labels as well so you can give it as a gift but please don’t tie the labels to body parts as that would just be wrong.

Nine – Palmiers, Berries and Macaron Ice-Cream

Juicy berry Palmiers with ice-cream oozing with berries and crushed macarons which is the perfect use for them if they have gone hideously wrong as mine do. Accompanied by a funny story of blackberry picking disasters and walking like John Wayne but without needing Mr Grey to do that for me.

TenSprinkle Spiral Cookies

Made for Valentines day with love and such fun to hang on the side of cups (if you cleverly cut them as soon as you take them out of the oven before they begin to harden. Any colour or flavour would work with these and they freeze well so you can make ahead and bake when needed. I keep a frozen cookie roll in my freezer which also serves as a back up weapon to ward off any intruders. Please don’t get any ideas of putting cookie rolls anywhere they shouldn’t go as that would be a hard one to explain at the NHS walk in centre.

Hope you enjoyed my round-up and here’s to more bakes ahead. As for Mr Gey I’m avoiding you for the moment as my kitchen is my own version of a ‘red room of pain’ where I’m often found weeping in dispair, involunatrily tied up in piping bags or yelling with sheer baked ecstacy all without having read the trilogy.  Apparently there is expected to be a 50 shades baby boom which will lead to some interesting questions for those parents in the next decade.  I can imagine their conversations now, ‘Mum, how was I concieved?’ and the reply ‘Well Your Dad tied me to the Kitchenaid and I spanked him with the beater attachment whilst balancing a cupcake on my head’ oh dear Mr Grey what you got us into?

Thanks to all who have supported me, commented, followed and the extra pounds my close friends and family have endured so far in my little journey. What was your favourite?

Love to all x Up next gooey popcorn bars traybake

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Sprinkle Spiral Cookies


Ever since I saw beautiful spiral swirl cookies on Sprinklebakes who has such beautiful photography that it just inspires me to keep on trying.  They would make perfect party or wedding favours as they can be made ahead and frozen and you can adapt the flavours and colours to suit any event.  After hours of staring at cookie images I dreamt about them which meant I had a soggy with drool pillow and images of swirling colours had caused me to roll the duvet around me leaving the other half with none and shivering (oops).  I must have thought about them far too much as the next night I ended up having dream arguments with myself over which colour and flavours to create and I would shout out ‘strawberry’ or ‘blue no pink’ and then silence would fall only to be filled by that baking addict long sigh of contentment.    

Be warned that these cookies will bring out the sprinkle fetish in you and when the box of sprinkles finally arrived I literally pounced on my poor neighbour with delight as she delivered them to me.  I should have waited to open the box when she was gone but the ‘I need sprinkles NOW!’ urge took hold and I started to open the box in a relatively cool (ish) manner.  This was until the selotape decided to stick better than a wax strip during a brazilian and then all decorum went out the window.  I bit the selotape with my teeth like a hungry caveman, clawed at the box with my talon nails whilst trying to explain to my dear friend (in between breaths) that it was sprinkles inside.  She knows me well, so she took a ring side seat and watched me with a smirk as I wrestled with the cardboard caged sprinkle tigers.  If you can recognise any of this odd behaviour you need to consult my baking addiction guide here – yes right now!

Ahh sprinkles how I love you I could literally look at you for hours. 

I choose to model the sprinkle spiral cookies on ‘Stupid Cupig’ who is a little Bath pig which I designed and painted for our top table at our Valentine wedding inspired by a play of words from the song ‘Stupid Cupid.  I love the Bath Pigs about as much as I love my home City of Bath.  The pigs were the focus of a treasure hunt involving life-sized pigs painted by artists, schools and businesses (this was of course before I discovered sprinkles).  I spent many an hour hunting piggies with my son trudging behind his maniac Mum just so I could photograph each one in order to name the tables at the wedding after them.  How else can you get away with sitting random odd people at a table called Inky Pinky Porky without causing offence!

The cookies are cotton candy and vanilla flavour as I wanted something fun and different.  They have a melt in the mouth sugar cookie consistency and taste as amazing as they look.  I am taking a frozen bath covered in sprinkle butterflies with me on holiday to bake.  I will be back to make more of these and I will try to take some of photo’s of the making process as I have my heart set on some pretty packaging and different flavour combinations.  Also I realise as I look at the swirl cookies that they remind me of bacon particularly when accompanied by a pig looking over them – perhaps that’s why she turned her back to them!

Ingredients (Adapted from Peggy Porshen Sugar Cookie Dough Recipe from the book Pretty Party Cakes which you can buy here and is packed full of cake and cookie imagery guaranteed to make you go oooh)

Makes 3 cookie rolls 1 for now – 2 for later or reduce the recipe.  This recipe gives a firm cookie dough that once chilled could be used as a weapon against intruders as well as being firm enough once chilled to get perfect swirls.

Vanilla Dough

200g unsalted soft butter
200g caster sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1 vanilla pod (scrape out the seeds or you could use 1 tsp of vanilla essence – try my homemade version which is very tasty and easy to make)
400g plain flour

Cotton Candy Dough

Same ingredients as above plus the following
Add 8-10 drops of quality flavouring to the butter and sugar mixture (I used Lorann Cotton Candy – which you can get here)
4-5 drops of colouring to the butter and sugar mixture (I use Sugarflair as this will not effect the consistency of the dough – which you can buy here) always colour the dough a little bit more than the colour depth you wish it to be as some colour will be lost during baking.

Sprinkles – I found smaller ones worked better (non paraleills) – but the choices are endless! 

Instructions for dough (make each separately)

  1. Line a cookie sheet / tray with baking parchment / greaseproof paper
  2. In a mixer cream the butter and sugar together, add the vanilla
  3. Beat in the egg until combined and add the flour and mix on a low-speed until a dough forms.
  4. The recipe says to mould the dough into a ball and cover in clingfilm and transfer to the fridge for at least one hour.  Repeat above to make the second batch of dough but add flavouring oils and colouring.

Making the swirl (see a photo guide here by the amazing Sprinklebakes who I find such both a baking and photographic inspiration)

  1. Line a cookie sheet or flat baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Roll out both sets of dough so that each is a large rectangle and 5mm thick (about the size of a pound coin).  Place the vanilla dough on on a lined baking tray then place your coloured layer of dough on top – neaten the edges of the dough so both are an equal size by cutting out a rectangle with a knife.  

Note: If your dough just crumbles and will not roll out I found if I warmed it a little so the dough is pliable and then rolled it out it worked better.  Make sure you return it to the fridge for at least an hour or overnight (see below). 

  1. Now it is time to roll – start the process of by rolling the first layer over the tightly and then roll it up like swiss roll – use the paper to help you get a tight even roll. 
  2. If the dough splits – pinch it back together and keep going – it will all be fine in the end.
  3. Pour your chosen sprinkles to a baking tray (with sides – this is more for me than you!) and roll the cookie in it so that it is covered in sprinkles.  Cover your cookie roll in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least one hour – better still leave it over night until firm. 
  4. At this stage you can also transfer the cookie roll to the freezer for up to one month (I keep them longer and they have been fine) and defrost in the fridge overnight before baking.

Baking

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 / Gas 4 / 170 Fan
  2. When ready to bake cut the cookie roll into slices once fully chilled. I prefer mine to be about 1cm (ish) as this gives a melt in the mouth cookie rather than too cripsy.   Warning – cutting the roll before it is firm will result in an imperfect swirls – look on the internet there are plenty of pictures of them
  3. Bake in the oven for 8 – 12 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your cookie they should not be brown but will just beginning to have a slight golden colour to the outside. I always do a small test batch to see how long to bake them for.

Happy Valentines!

You might also like:

Champagne Tiffany Layer Cake

Lushious Lemon and Blueberry Cake

Clementine and Cardamom Shortbread

6 Steps to Toffee Crispie Heaven

Make Vanilla Sugar not Trash


Image of vanilla sugar

Don

The humble vanilla bean / pod

The vanilla bean in magnificent it its dark dreary half shrivelled disguise of a pod nestling its tiny seeds away from prying eyes. The pod looks like something you would throw out in disgust after finding it hidden beneath your fridge not an aromatic flavouring to add depth and flavour to your golden cakes. When the vanilla bean has served it’s purpose it can live on and make a delicious vanilla sugar that you normally find in quality baking shops or gourmet restaurants. Of course they charge a fortune for it in the shops and yet you can make this in a blink of any eye. It also gives you advantage when people ask you how you make your cakes so tasty you can say

“I always use a gourmet vanilla sugar”

This will produce a look of awe from your friends and perhaps a scattering of understanding nodding even though they may not know what it is; it sounds impressive. If you are lucky most will not dare to ask what vanilla sugar is for not wanting to look dumb. For those that do – there is no harm in sharing your secret if you wish.

Homemade Vanilla Sugar = You are a Baking Queen 🙂

All you need to do is:

1 x air tight storage jar (Kilner are good)

1 x vanilla pod / bean emptied of seeds (after being added to your cakes)

Cut the vanilla bean / pod into several pieces – not too small that you forget to fish them out when you bake with the sugar – it’s not good to chomp on one of these pods as they do not taste nice raw. Add your used pods to a storage jar / airtight container. Pour caster sugar over the top – I use golden caster sugar for my vanilla cakes as it make them taste smoother and more like a vanilla ice cream and gives your cake the slight twist in flavour to a normal victoria sponge for example. Place the vanilla sugar wannabee mixture in a dark cupboard ( the baking one is a good idea so you don’t forget where you put it!)

After a few days or as long as you want, the flavour will intensify the longer you leave it. Use it in reciepes that call for vanilla extract and sugar such as cakes, creme brulee etc. Why not have a teaspoon in your coffee – because your worth it and you can!

Enjoy x
Look at the choc & toffee cookie  recipe or toffee fudge meringue to see where I have used this wonderful sugar.
Next on my list will be making some vanilla extract as I want high quality and low price = win win!

Chocolate and toffee cookies

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Cookies are on the agenda today as they will always make you feel better when it is your first week back at work after a break.  I like cookies as they will go great with my morning cup of coffee as I desperately try to wake myself up.  This recipe is adapted from the God of baking Mary Berry Mega choc chip cookie from the book  which you can buy here.  Chocolate is the best invention ever – read why on my post here.

6oz (175g) soft margarine
8oz (225g) natural caster sugar (I store mine in a Kilner storage jar (see here for example) with used vanilla pods to make vanilla sugar)
2 eggs room temp
12oz (350g) self raising flour
4oz (100g) chocolate covered toffee pieces ( thorntons) chopped up

Preheat oven to 180c / gas 4 / 150c fan oven

Measure all ingredients and place in mixer.
Mix until a smooth dough.
Use 1 tbsp or 1 cookie scoop and set cookies well apart on lined baking trays.
Place in oven for 15 mins until lightly golden.
Place on wire rack to cool.
Store in airtight container.

Put kettle on and enjoy a warm cookie!

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