A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: from scratch

I found the recipe for this cake ages ago on Pinterest, and decided to have it as my birthday cake this year. Honestly, this was the most stressful baking experience I’ve had in ages. So many things went wrong and the cake ended up looking a mess. Here is a picture I managed to snap before I mostly destroyed the cake trying to transfer it off the baking parchment. However, this experience was also a reminder of how rubbish it is to be a perfectionist. Everyone in the office loved the cake.

I rediscovered the awesome combination of caramel, chocolate and pecans, kicked up a notch by salting the caramel. Next time I bake, I will most likely make salty turtle cupcakes or brownies.

Once again this post will be various process pictures. Hopefully I’ll have a better baking experience soon.

Ingredients

  • 2cups (280g) plain flour
  • 1.5cups ( 340g) sugar
  • 1/2cup (60g) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (140g) melted butter
  • 1 cup (250g) buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1tbsp baking soda
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh coffee

Frosting

  • 1 cup (220g) sugar
  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
  • 6 tbsp (90g) butter
  • 12oz (350g) dark chocolate
  • 1-2 tsp hot coffee (optional)
  • 1 1/2 pecan halves

Salted caramel

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, salted
  • 1/2 cup double (heavy) cream
  • Extra salt to taste

Method
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter bottom and sides of three 8- or 9-inch cake pans and line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper; dust pans with unsweetened cocoa powder and set pans aside.
In a small bowl, stir together egg, buttermilk and oil
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
Slowly add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, beating until combined.

Gradually beat in coffee

Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; layers will appear shallow.

Bake until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes. Remove towire racks for 10 minutes. Loosen sides from pans, then invert cakes on racks. Remove cakes from pans. Peel off paper and cool completely.

Salted caramel

I’ve made caramel twice recently and it has come out slightly greasy, but still tasty. I will look for a new recipe. I used the one from Sally’s Baking Addiction.





Frosting

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and milk. Add butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate pieces. Using a wire whisk, stir until smooth. If frosting is too thick or grainy, stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly brewed coffee. If necessary, let frosting stand for several minutes before using.

Assembly

I forgot to toast the pecans, which definitely makes a difference.

This post is reminding me that perfectionism spoils my enjoyment of my cooking as well as my making. This cake tastes fine. Just because it doesn’t look like something that costs £4 a slice shouldn’t diminish that.

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A few years ago, I overcame the dramatic and turbulent changes in my weight that I’d seen in my late teens and early twenties. One of my remaining bad habits was that I never ate breakfast. After finally losing weight, I was worried that increasing my food intake would lead to increasing my waistline. But I was also aware of some of my blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day and eventually I took the plunge.
I’ve never looked back since and I remain a committed consumer of brekkie. I love porridge in the winter, but had more difficulty finding healthy and filling ways to break my fast in summer. Cereal with fake milk was okay, but I was always starving by 10am. One day, I saw a former Australian housemate making something for his lactose intolerant sister, who was visiting. He grated apples. He did stuff with oats. He manipulated nuts and seeds. And I learned that Bircher Muesli exists.


I love Bircher Muesli in the summer. I am going to give the basic recipe I use. Please note that a little variation in the quantities is no problem. You must prepare this at least a few hours before serving, preferably the night before.

Ingredients 

Per serving

  • 1 apple
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • 25g oats
  • 75ml fruit juice or smoothie

I normally make five servings at a time and leave it in the fridge throughout the week.  I add the following items to taste each day.

  • A handful of berries, fresh or frozen
  • A couple of tablespoons of Greek yoghurt
  • A couple of tablespoons of nuts
  • A little dried fruit
  • A squeeze of honey

Method 

  1. Grate your apples. I think it’s important to do this by hand and use unpeeled apples to ensure a great texture (no pun intended)
  2. Squeeze over some lemon to prevent the apple from browning
  3. Add oats

  

4. Add your juice. If you have a little less than you need, top up with water. 

5. Stir well and refrigerate.

  

6. In the morning, the oats will have soaked up lots of liquid. Stir in what you like just before serving and savour. 


This is my first bake in my new kitchen! I think these cookies came out pretty well even though it turned out that I had the wrong kind of flour, I’ve lost my raising agents in the move and my oven doesn’t have any markings indicating the temperature. May have to capitulate and buy and oven thermotmeter.

These cookies were well reviewed by all who tasted them despite the issues. They are soft and cakey with a delicate lemon flavour. I upped the lemon in the recipe I give below compared to the original. Since I use vanilla sugar, the cookies also have a lovely perfume, and the roll in icing sugar prior to the oven gives a slight crisp to the outside. I will try these again and report back on the difference!

 

Ingredients 

Makes 16 cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 1/4tsp baking powder
  • 1/8tsp bicarbonate of soda 
  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar

Note: I used self raising flour in lieu of the flour and raising agents, hence my puffer cookies. 

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F (or a random temperature in my case). Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 

3. Add vanilla, egg, lemon zest and juice.

4. Stir in dry ingredients (except the icing sugar) until just combined.

5. Put the icing sugar into a small bowl. Form a heaped teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

  

6. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until bottoms begin to brown and cookies look matte, rather than wet or shiny. Remove from oven and cool for about 3 minutes on tray before transferring to cooling rack.


Wow, it’s been nearly a year since I went to the Robin Collective’s marshmallow workshop with Anna. How time flies! I thought I would revisit the workshop now as I’m a complete sucker for posh marshmallows so I would like to give them a go. One of the things that prevented me from trying before was the fact that I didn’t have a stand mixer. Now I do, the world’s my artisanal oyster-flavoured savoury marshmallow. Yummers.

Here are some of the sweets I decorated. I am a child.

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The basic recipe they gave us is below. I queried the lack of egg white, and was told that egg white gives a fluffier marshmallow, but that a lot of gourmet mallows omit it because people like the chewier texture. I will probably experiment if I ever get around to trying this out.

As well as a stand mixer, a sugar thermometer is recommended kit.

Ingredients

  • 2tsps/10g (1 sachet) powdered gelatin
  • 1cup / 200g sugar
  • 1/4cup/ 60ml water
  • 1/2 cup/ 120ml glucose syrup
  • 1 large egg white (optional)
  • Flavourings/colourings (optional)
  • Either a 1:1 mixture of icing sugar and cornflour (for cube marshmallows) or granulated sugar (coloured if desired) for piped shapes

Method

1. Prepare yourself. For cube marshmallows, grease a baking tray, being careful not to leave any lumps. Then sprinkle generously with the mixture of icing sugar and cornflour. For piped shape mallows, fill a baking tray or dish with coloured sugar.

Trays of coloured sugar

It’s easy to colour sugar yourself using food colouring. Just add a few drops and stir to avoid lumps. Also leave open after colouring- any dampness will cause lumps. If you get some lumps, smashing them up with a mallet is very therapeutic.

Smash up any lumps of sugar with a wooden mallet

2. In the bowl of the stand mixer, soak gelatin in water. Leave for several minutes to bloom

3. Meanwhile, gently heat sugar, glucose and water (add a pinch of salt if you like) until the sugar has dissolved. Then, turn up the heat and take the solution to ‘soft ball’ stage (around 112C). Keep a close eye so that it doesn’t burn.

4. Pour the mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer and start on its lowest setting to minimise the risk of scalding by hot sugar. Gradually turn the speed up, then allow to mix for at least ten minutes. If you want to add egg white, take the time now to whisk the white to firm peaks in a separate, spotlessly clean, bowl.

IMG_0946

5. If you want to add flavourings, you need to do it when the marshmallow has fluffed up quite a bit, but is still gloopy. Flavourings need to be added in moderation, especially alcohol, as too much liquid will prevent the marshmallow from setting. Add your egg white now if using.

6. Continue to whisk the mixture for a little longer, but make sure it does not set. The consistency should be similar to marshmallow fluff.

7. For cube mallows, pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray and spread out. Leave to set overnight.

For piped mallow shapes, fill a piping bag with your mixture.

Ready to pipe some mallow

Pipe straight onto your coloured sugar in your chosen shape.

Piping a pink marshmallow bunny

Immediately use a spoon to bury the shape under more coloured sugar. Leave to set for at least five minutes before carefully excavating.

Home made marshmallow bunny

You can use writing icing to add some more detail.

For multicoloured shapes, I partitioned my designs into sections. For example, for my bee, I started with the body, leaving it to set under yellow sugar. I then transferred the shape onto some plain granulated sugar and piped on the wings, taking care to join them to the body firmly.

IMG_0949

Cover the mallow in sugar as above, trying to avoid mixing the coloured sugars as far as possible.

IMG_0952

Have fun and make sure to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Me consuming a marshmallow bunny

Isn’t it funny that this photograph would win me the very stand mixer I need to make more marshmallow? I love circularity at times.


I’ve had my eye on the recipe for these delicious pecan and cinnamon cupcakes for a while. Unfortunately I didn’t read the recipe through before embarking as it is more time-consuming than most cupcake recipes, but the result is a very light and fluffy cupcake that is delicately spiced with an occasional pleasing crunch of pecan. Right up my alley. I made them with buttercream frosting but I think they would be even nicer with cream cheese frosting- a little tang rather than just additional sweetness. I thought I would spend a little bit of time on the decoration for once.

With the quantities given below, I got 24 mini cupcakes and six full sized ones. So I reckon 18 full sized cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 50g (1/2 cup) pecans
  • 190g (3/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
  • 215g (1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs- these will be separated
  • 175g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp salt (1/2 tsp if you use unsalted butter)
  • 1/2tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 60g (1/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
  • 400g (2 1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) double cream
  • 4tbsp maple syrup
  • Yellow food colouring

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line an 18 hole muffin pan with paper cases

2. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 6mins, until they are just beginning to brown at the edges. Allow to cool, then crush in a pestle and mortar.

3. In a large bowl or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (7-10mins).

4. Add the yolks one at a time, mixing until incorporated.

5. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a mixing bowl, or the bowl of your scale. In a separate jug, combine milk and vanilla.

6. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar and butter in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture. With each addition, scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure an even batter. Remember to begin and end with the dry ingredients.

7. Stir in the crushed pecans.

8. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.

9. Gently fold the egg white into the batter, in three parts.

10. Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling them three quarters.

11. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15mins, until just browning and passing the toothpick test.

12. Allow to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting.

1. In a medium bowl, beat the butter until soft.

2. Add sugar, vanilla, cream and maple syrup. Beat until smooth and creamy.

3. Put about a quarter of the frosting into a small separate bowl. Add food colouring until you get a really vivid yolk colour.

4. Once the cupcakes are totally cold, spread evenly with the white frosting using a palette knife or offset spatula. Drop about a teaspoon of the yellow frosting on top, a little to one side, for the yolk.

  


I was trawling the web for a simple but crowd-pleasing cake recipe when I spotted this lemon lovely. I was doubly pleased when I realised it had the added bonus of allowing me to use up the polenta and ground almonds kicking around in my cupboard. It turned out really nicely- a colleague thought I had bought it somewhere pricey like Ottolenghi. This colleague clearly has a discerning palette as the original recipe is indeed adapted from Ottolenghi. The cake is pleasingly sharp, dense and buttery. The polenta adds some extra bite.

Ingredients

Makes one 20cm loaf cake

  • 150g butter
  • 105g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly
  • 1 lemon (zest and 6tsp juice)
  • 90g instant polenta*
  •  180g ground pistachios**
  • 40g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (1/2 if you use unsalted butter)

*If you don’t have enough polenta in your cupboard, you can make up the weight with more plain flour

**These are not widely available, so you can either substitute ground almonds or grind pistachios yourself (I used a spice grinder as my hand mixer is broken)

For the glaze

  • 3tbsp sugar
  • Juice of one lemon

For the lemon icing

  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 50-80g pistachios, roughly chopped

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 170C. Grease a 20cm loaf tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until combined, around 1-2 mins

3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate

4. Add the lemon zest and juice, polenta and pistachios

5. Sift remaining dry ingredients into the batter and stir until just combined

6. Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a knife comes out clean.

7. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

8. Prepare the glaze/drizzle. In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice and sugar and heat until the sugar has dissolved.

9. Pour the hot glaze over the still-warm cake, then leave to cool (still in the tin so the glaze doesn’t leak everywhere) completely.

10. Prepare the icing. Mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice. The icing should be pretty thick, but feel free to add a few drops of water if you feel it is too stiff.

11. Turn the cake out of the tin. The bottom side is likely to be the most presentable so leave it inverted.

12. Pour the icing over the top of the cake. Help it down the sides, particularly over any areas you want covered. Sprinkle the pistachios on top.