Tag Archive | food

Advent Calendar Day 11: A lighter Christmas Cake

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The countdown is on…. Two weeks until Christmas, three weeks until I land in Goa- what that actual all means is a little time off…. I can’t wait! It’s hard to believe that I only have one day off between now and Christmas. Ugh!

With the little time I have at the moment, I’ve realised just how useful my blog is! I’d completely forgotten about the next recipe until I was going through last years advent posts…. It’s just what I need to bring to Fiesta Friday ! I haven’t been to the virtual party for months, so hopefully this will make up for lost time. This week it’s hosted by Sadhna from herbs, spices and traditional and Natalie from kitchen, uncorked.

This recipe is for a lighter fruit cake, with less eggs, no raising agent and a smaller tin with all the same yummy ginger, spices and loads of fruit.

Ingredients :
zest and juice 1 orange
zest and juice 1 lemon
140g unsalted butter, softened
140g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
175g plain flour
100g raisins
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
100g cranberries
100g golden sultanas
100g brazil nuts, roughly chopped
50g crystalised ginger
150ml rum
1 tsp mixed spiced
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon

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Soak all the dried fruit in the rum (or tea or apple juice) over night.

The next day add the brazil nuts and ginger.

Grease and double-line the base and sides of a deep, 15cm cake tin. Wrap a double layer of greaseproof or brown paper around the outside of the tin, too, then secure with string (with a pretty bow).

Heat oven to 160C

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. Beat in the eggs gradually. In a small bowl mix the zest and juice of the orange and lemon.

Fold the flour and spices, then dried fruit, nuts and ginger into the creamed mix, followed by the juice and zest mix.

Spoon the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins, then turn oven down to 150C and bake for another 1 hr 45 mins until risen, golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 15 mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

The cake will keep well wrapped in a cool place for up to 1 month.

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Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 7: Shimmering Cupcakes

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So I missed December 6th…. Having worked my day off and then driven half way across the country I was a little tired. Anyway, it’s Monday, it’s the 7th of December and it’s time for my favourite Christmas post from last year….

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The shimmery cupcake recipe is a perfect one to do with children, it’s very simple to do. It uses my fail safe chocolate muffin recipe with shop bought icing.

Chocolate cupcake Ingredients:
100g butter
150g brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
180ml milk

Topping:
1 can of Dr Oetker’s chocolate icing
1 can of Dr Oetker’s gold shimmer spray
1 can of Dr Oetker’s silver shimmer spray

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Line a cupcake tin with foil cases. Preheat the oven to 190°/ gas mark 5 or turn your Rayburn off! Cream the butter and sugar, then add in the eggs. Sift in all the dry ingredients and then add the milk. Spoon the mixture into the cases.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, then leave to cool completely.

I used the cupcake icing to top each cake and left them to set.

I covered the table with newspaper and starting spraying! It was great fun building up the shimmering layers.

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Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 4: Donna’s Salad

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The weekend hasn’t even started and I’ve eaten lots of rubbish. Thankfully Donna from The Cookbook Collection posted a wonderful, healthy Christmassy recipe earlier that will balance it all out!

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Brussels Sprouts, Beetroot and Pomegranate Salad – http://wp.me/p3BTn3-HQ looks amazing!

Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 3: Jammy Presents

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Tonight I’m wrapping Dr Doolittle’s jam for Christmas presents whilst eatting Brownies made by my brilliant mate Ruth! If she shares the recipes, then I will….

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The Doc is amazing at making jam…. Chilli Jam, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam, Plum and Ameretto Jam, Mixed Fruit Jam, Blackberry and Vanilla Jam… The list is endless!

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He makes it, he labels it, I put pretty frilly hats on and pop them in a box!

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My favourite jam is the blackberry one.

Ingredients

800 grams of blackberries
1 kilo of jam sugar (sugar with pectin added to it).
1 vanilla pod
Several empty jars and lids (4/5)
A heavy/thick bottomed pot

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Sterilise jars, then wash and prepare blackberries.

Add seeds of the vanilla to the jam sugar and blackberries, then over a medium heat, slowly heat up the mixture and stir until all of the sugar has dissolved. Do not let it boil at this point.

Once it has dissolved, bring to the boil…. Once the pot has started boiling furiously set a timer for four minutes, and let boil.

Once your four minutes is up, remove from the heat and test to see if your jam has set. Place a teaspoon of jam on a plate, and then place it in the fridge for a minute or two. If the jam is still runny after being in the fridge then return the pot to the heat and boil for another two minutes, and repeat the test. Keep doing this – boiling for two minutes and testing – until your jam sets on the plate.

Once set, give the pot a good stir, remove the jars from the oven, and ladle in the jam into the hot jars, working quickly.

Wipe any spills off of the rim of the jar and sides with a clean warm cloth. Remove the lids from the water and screw on tightly.

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Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 2: Christmas Cake

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This year I thought I’d risk making a new Christmas Cake recipe and only time will tell if it’s any good….

I was gifted Darina Allen’s Christmas book last Christmas and having spent a couple of weeks in Ballymaloe this year, I thought it was only right that I try the cake! I also had the crazy idea of swapping the whiskey for some of the Madeira that I brought back from holidays in the summer….

Darina Allen’s Christmas Cake
225g butter
225g soft-brown sugar
6 organic free-range eggs
285g flour
1 tsp mixed spice
65 ml Irish whiskey (or Madeira)
340g best-quality sultanas
340g best-quality currants
340g best-quality raisins
110g real glacé cherries
110g homemade candied peel
55g ground almonds
55g whole almonds
Rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
Rind of 1 organic unwaxed orange
2 small  apples, grated

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Line the base and sides of a 9 inch (23 cm) round tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper.

Wash the cherries and dry them out. Cut in two or four as desired. Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop them finely. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon rind. Add about half of the Madeira and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F

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Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Mix the spice with the flour and a pinch of salt and stir in gently. Add the grated apple to the fruit and mix in gently, but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).

Put the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake: this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked. Lay a sheet of brown paper over the top. Put into the preheated oven; reduce the heat to 160C/325F/regulo 3 after 1 hour. Bake until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer — it should come out completely clean, 3-3½ hours in total. Pour the rest of the Madeira over the cake and leave to cool in the tin.

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Next day remove from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper, but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required….

Melissa xx

Advent Calendar Day 1: Research

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Can you believe it’s been two months since I last wrote a blog post? Sorry.

I’m working too hard; long hours, day in, day out… every day. I am enjoying the new job (most of the time), but it leaves me little time to bake or blog. It’s heart breaking because I feel that my life is running away from me.

Anyway… It’s December 1st and for the third year in a row, I’m going to try and bring you my Advent calendar to mark the 24 day run up to Christmas. Who needs chocolate behind a little window when you can have recipes and fun behind every post!

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I’ve started flicking through my Christmas cook book collection for ideas and inspiration. I’ve also looked back over last year’s posts to remind myself of some great recipes.

I’d forgotten all about Sharon Hearne-Smith’s No Bake Baking book. Last year I made her flash florentines and substituted some of the fruit and nuts with others, as she suggested.

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Ingredients:
50g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
100g soft brown light sugar
50g creme fraiche
1 piece of stem ginger, finely chopped
150g nuts (I used almonds and hazelnuts)
100g cranberries
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g chocolate

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I melted the butter in a medium pan over a low heat. I added the sugars and turned up the heat, stirring for 5 minutes until smooth and gooey.

Then I carefully stired in the creme fraiche, stirring over a high heat until the sugars dissolved and the mixture thickened.

I removed the mixture from the heat and stired in the fruit, ginger, nuts, bicarb and vanilla.

I dropped the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, flattening into discs and left them to cool in the fridge.

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Once the florentines were set, I melted the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water. I allowed the chocolate to cool before spreading the back of each florentine with chocolate, popping it back on the tray and back in the fridge.

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Melissa xx

Lemony Cupcakes

I’m still in my cupcake phase and I still don’t know where it came from. For years I was very against cupcakes- they’re just jazzed up versions of old fashion fairy cakes! I loved fairy cakes growing up; little cakes with chocolate chips or sultanas in…. With a blob of runny white icing running down the paper case. Delicious! So why make fancy versions, that were inevitably too sweet with way too much icing on top?

Maybe I just decided that life is too short to worry about such complicated matters, cake is still cake after all!

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Lemon Cupcakes
125 g butter, softened
200 g caster sugar
3 eggs
150 ml milk
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
300 g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the icing
Rind of 2 lemons
1 tbsp lemon juice
175 g butter, softened
600 g icing sugar, sifted
1 bottle of Dr Oetker Violet Crystals

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Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases. I actually got 18 out of the mixture.

Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl for a few seconds just until mixed, then gradually add them to the creamed butter mixture, beating all the time.

Beat in the milk and lemon juice, followed by the vanilla, then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in gently to combine.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling each case about two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen, lightly golden in colour and springy to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Finally mix up all the buttercream ingredients and pop into a piping bag, pipe onto cupcakes and finish off with a sprinkle of Dr Oetker’s violet crystals.

By the way, I was a little confused when the guys from Finish emailed to asked if they could send me

1x Finish Salt
1x Finish Powerball Quantam Max
1x Finish Rinse Aid
1x Finish Dishwasher Cleaner

Why? I’m a home baker that blogs about cupcakes, I’m not WHICH? magazine! Then I realised that I do bung all my bowls and utensils straight into the dishwasher once my cakes are in the oven. So I thought I’d give it a bash. Dr Doolittle read the instructions and filled the various dishwasher compartments with the various cleaners.

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I was genuinely shocked at how good the Finish Dishwasher tablets was! We normally buy own brand dishwasher tablets and am used to the dishes coming out washed. I couldn’t believe how sparkling and shiny the pots and pans were AND how clean the inside of the dishwasher was too! Who would have thought?!

Off to bake more and therefore wash more!

Melissa xx

Happy Birthday Me!

I’m another year older and for the first time, I actually feel wiser! I’ve done so much over the last year, started and new job AND started researching for my dream of having my own teashop.  No doubt the next year of my life will be just as busy and exciting. Whatever happens, I can guarantee that there’ll be cake along the way!

So what better way to celebrate than by making my own birthday cake.

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Chocolate Celebration Cake

Ingredients:
200g good-quality plain chocolate, chopped
200g butter
100ml water
125g self-raising flour
125g plain four
25g cocoa powder
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
75ml/2½fl oz crème fraîche

For the vanilla buttercream icing:
100g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar
vanilla
milk, to loosen

For the topping:
200g dark chocolate
100g butter
40ml tblsp water
1 punnet of strawberries

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Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line two 8in sandwich tins.

Melt the chocolate, butter and water together in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, sift the flours and cocoa powder into a bowl and mix in the muscovado and caster sugar.

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Beat the eggs and crème fraîche together in a separate bowl, then beat in the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour mixture until smooth.

Divide the cake batter between the tins and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch.

Meanwhile, for the vanilla buttercream, beat the butter in a bowl until soft, then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the vanilla  and add a few drops of milk if the mixture is a little stiff.

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For the ganache I used the recipe on the back of the Dr Oetker Extra Dark Chocolate pack.

Put 200g chopped Dr. Oetker 90% Chocolate into a heatproof bowl with 100g unsalted butter and 40ml water. Put over saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until melted. Remove from the water and cool for about 20 minutes to thicken.

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Put a cake on a wire rack over a large plate. Spoon ganache over the top, letting it run down the sides. Tap the wire rack to smooth the surface.

Finally, I covered the top of the cake with a punnet of fresh strawberries.

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I’ve been spoilt rotten with cards, presents and flowers. I’m truly blessed.

Melissa xx

Cupcake Centres

A few weeks ago I can home to a lovely suprise from the people at Dr Oetker. The parcel contained their new Surprise Inside Cupcake Centres in rich, indulgent flavours of Rich Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Zingy Lemon.

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“Our innovative Surprise Inside Cupcake Centres add a delicious, gooey surprise to the inside of your baking. Simply insert the nozzle into the middle of your cupcakes just after baking and squeeze into the heart of your cake. Cut open your cupcake to reveal an indulgent centre that oozes deliciousness. ”

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The new Cupcake Centres gave me another idea, i’d use Dr Oetker popping candy as a cupcake centre too!

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I started my making lemon cupcakes, with the Zingy Lemon Cupcake Centre, topping off with Lemon Meringue sprinkles (these are sooooo tasty)…

125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 large eggs, beaten
175g plain flour
2 Dr. Oetker Baking Powder Sachets
1 pouch Dr. Oetker Surprise Inside Cupcake Centres Zingy Lemon

To decorate:
125g lightly salted butter, softened
225g icing sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of lemon

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Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan assisted oven, 350°F, gas mark 4). Put the cake cases into tins.

Put the butter, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together until creamy and pale. Whisk in the eggs. Sift the flour and baking powder on top and then gently mix all the ingredients together until well blended.

Divide the mixture between the cake cases. Smooth the tops and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until risen, lightly golden and just firm to the touch.

As soon as the cakes are cooked, generously inject each one with Lemon Surprise Inside Cupcake Centre, making sure the nozzle goes right to the centre of each cake. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To decorate, put the butter in a bowl and beat until smooth, glossy and pale. Gradually sift and beat in the icing sugar until creamy and soft. Mix in the Lemon juice.

Spoon the butter icing onto the cake and smooth around. Decorate each cake with lemon meringue topping.

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For the Rainbow Cupcakes:

65g Butter softened
65g Caster Sugar
1 tsp Dr. Oetker Madagascan Vanilla Extract
Large Egg , beaten
75g Self-Raising Flour

To Decorate:
Dr. Oetker Rainbow Popping Candy
Dr. Oetker Vanilla Easy Swirl Cupcake Icing

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Preheat the oven to 180°C and pop some cake cases into a cake tin.

Put the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and egg in a bowl. Sift the flour on top and then beat all the ingredients together using an electric whisk until well blended.

Divide the mixture between the cake cases. Smooth the tops and bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes until risen, lightly golden and just firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To decorate, using a small spoon, scoop out a piece of sponge from the centre of each cake and fill with Rainbow Popping Candy. Replace the scooped out cake on top, trimming if necessary, to snugly fit the top of the cake again.

Follow the directions on the can of Easy Swirl. Starting in the middle of a cake, pipe the icing round in an anti-clockwise direction to cover the top of the cake then continue piping round to form a swirl on top.

Just before serving, sprinkle the cakes with a few more pieces of Rainbow Popping Candy. Eat these straight away, otherwise the popping candy loses its pop!

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So tasty, so yummy!

Melissa xx

Marvellous Madeira

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I’ve been absent from my blog for a while, only managing to post every now and then. Life seems to have run away with itself, but in a good way. I have a new job and I love it! It’s not that I’m working really long hours, i’m just commuting a little longer each day.

However, it was time for a break…

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Dr Doolittle and I decided to head to the beautiful island of Madeira. This archipelago, which is part of Portugal, is located in the Atlantic Ocean, 978km southwest of Lisbon. It comprises of the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, Desertas and Selvagens. Only the first two islands are inhabited. The latter two are nature reserves. Thanks to its magnificent location, Madeira remains warm all year round.

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The climate really helps produce some amazing fruit and vegetables. The market in the old part of Funchal was full of the stuff. Every meal we ate was accompanied by salads.

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Tropical fruits such as mangoes, bananas, avocadoes and passionfruit were used in a great variety of puddings, mousses and ice creams. Oh the ice cream! I had to try a peach melba…

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Owing to their proximity to the sea, most restaurants specialised in fish and shellfish dishes; there was octopus and shrimp dishes, tuna steaks and black scabbard fish fillets. I’d never heard of scabbard, but it tasted and looked like cod. As well as the fish, I also had one of the best ‘meat’ meals of my life (more about that next week).

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There were plenty of fresh natural fruit juices such as passionfruit, papaya, pineapple and mango, as well as the famous “poncha”, made with white rum, bee honey and lemon. I tried a fair bit of the stuff and have brought some home to experiment with!

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So to celebrate my holiday adventure I’m bringing my favourite sweet treat to Fiesta Friday. I haven’t been to the online party for a while, so I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends!

Portuguese Custard Tarts
Ingredients:

250ml double cream
150ml milk
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp cornflour
115g caster sugar
150g chilled ready-made puff pastry
Flour, for dusting

Method:

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Preheat the oven to 190c.

Put the cream, milk, and lemon rind in a saucepan.  Scrape the seeds from the split vanilla pod into the saucepan and drop in the empty pod too.  Bring to a simmer, then take off the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a bowl until it comes together in a paste.  Pass the milk mixture though a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl of egg paste and mix together quickly. Return it all to the saucepan and heat over a moderate heat until it thickens but don’t let it boil!

Then roll out the pastry on a lightly floured worksurface as thin as you can.  Roll it up into a long sausage shape and cut 12 discs.  Roll out each disc to about 9cm and put into greased muffin tins. Prick the bottoms with a fork androfill just over halfway.

Bake in the preheated oven for about  for 18/20 mins until browned on top.

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Melissa xx