Tuesday, 30 September 2014

September 2014 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Koláče

So….. 27th September was supposed to be Daring Bakers' posting day, HOWEVER I was a little bit preoccupied with this lot (or 50% of this lot, to be more precise!):

All freshly baked by myself and my good friend Mrs H for an afternoon tea fundraiser in aid of Buttle UK which we hosted on the 28th.

So I'm classing that as a very good excuse to my late posting (and possibly a topic for a future blog post in its own right).

But for now, it's time for a virtual journey to the Czech Republic for some traditional sweet treats called koláče.

Blog checking lines:
The September Daring Bakers' challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat - Kolaches.

She shared recipes for three different types of Koláčes - different variants of sweet enriched bread with fillings ranging from quark to poppy seeds and jam.

I chose to make the Moravske Koláčes - a speciality from Moravia which are traditionally filled with two fillings: plum jam and quark, and topped with a streusel topping.

As usual, I didn't have the right ingredients, and I was trying to make it low-dairy. Mini-M can have a little bit now, but not into the realm of quark-filled buns just yet! So I substituted thick coconut milk yoghurt (I used Coyo plain) and homemade blackcurrant jam made by Granny E. I used regular milk but dairy-free margarine in the dough instead of butter.

These buns were a roller coaster to make. Initial excitement, then abject despair when the dough refused to rise (probably not that surprising given the vintage of the yeast I used). However 3.5hours later, I decided just to bake them and see what happened, and lo and behold they rose - phew!

The end result was delicious - Mini-M was smitten. They have now been reminisced about on more than one occasion since the eating, and are referred to as "proper buns" - as opposed to cupcake buns.

There is an excellent and comprehensive recipe available on the Daring Kitchen which I'm not going to recreate here, but I do thoroughly recommend you try it out. They are fantastic, and I'll definitely be making them again. Although first I might have to give Jagodzianki a try - the Koláčes have brought back a taste for my favourite Polish bake - a sweet bread filled with blueberries - one of these from the corner shop was a lunchtime treat when I did my summer placement in Warsaw quite a few years ago now.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Strawberry Tart in 10

Strawberries, chocolate and marshmallows turned into the fastest tart ever in only 10 minutes.

OK, 15 if you chop carefully and crush your biscuits without pepper your entire kitchen with over enthusiastic crumbs!

And the end result looks like you've spent at least 30… plus it tastes delicious which really is the most important thing.

This is a short recipe - after all there's a limit to how long it can be with only 4 ingredients.

Strawberry, Chocolate, Marshmallow 10-Minute Tart (Serves 6-8)
  • 200g chocolate sandwich biscuits (I used The Cooperative Free From Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, but bourbons or Oreo style cookies would also work)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 250g fresh strawberries
  • 50g mini marshmallows
Use a small amount of the coconut oil to grease a 8in round loose-bottomed cake tin.
Crush the biscuits with the end of a rolling pin into powder and small pieces.
Melt the rest of the coconut oil and mix into the biscuits.
Press into the prepared tin and stick in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill.
Halve/quarter the strawberries depending on size and place on the chilled base.
Sprinkle over the mini-marshmallows.
Grill on high for 5 minutes until the marshmallows bubble and brown.
Remove from the girl and cool for a few minutes before gently easing out of the tin.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Belated Birthday Cake

Back to the blogging and catching up on last night's Bake Off on iPlayer, since instead of watching it yesterday, I was in the pub discussing cake - more specifically planning a charity afternoon tea.

I knew it was ages since I'd last blogged, but… I'm ashamed to see it was actually the 27th July. We're in September new (somehow).

So I shall first make my excuses:
  • Work has been silly busy, and after spending 9hrs staring at a computer screen the last thing I've wanted to do in the evening is have even more screen time
  • My dodgy wrist has not been enjoying the long days and typing/mousing
  • My laptop / iPhoto combo are not very happy with each other, making manipulating photos a bit tricky
  • We've been on holiday, enjoying the festival, catching up with friends and lots of other things (see - not all moany, self pitying excuses)
And then I shall get back to the baking.

It was Mini-M's birthday back in July, and her cake request was thankfully not Hello-Kitty related (see previously Kitty Pirate Cake and Rainbow Kitty Cake). Nope, no Kitty. 

This time, she asked for a patchwork owl cake (!). After a fair amount of interrogation to try to establish her expectations, I eventually resorted to Google Images for inspiration, and found the majority of them seemed to stem from this Stitch Craft Create tutorial.

However…. I didn't want to use that quantity of fondant, or really get into cake carving, so I went off freestyle on the patchwork owl front.

I used buttercream in 3 colours (vanilla, light cocoa, and vanilla tinted with a small amount of lilac) and piped feathers all over the cake by piping a row of splodges and flattening them with a pallet knife, then putting the next row in front and repeating. I didn't use a nozzle on my piping bags since the shape was immediately going to be flattened.

I then used small amounts of fondant to make the features which I positioned on the top.

It seems like a dim and distant past, but I seem to recollect that the cake inside was a banana cake, at Mini-M's request. I didn't want it to be too damp, so I went for a regular 6 egg Victoria sponge, and substituted out 1 one of the eggs for a medium very ripe banana, very well mashed. And I definitely added some almond extract to the icing, since I made it with dairy free margarine, which tastes, well quite a lot like margarine, even when bucket loads of icing sugar are added.

So no recipe, no how to, but a cake that I really enjoyed making and was very pleased how it turned out. And plenty of pictures!

Bring on next year…

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Daring Bakers' July 2014 Challenge: Surprise! Cakes

It's back to Daring Bakers' posting time - and another month when I've failed to post anything between Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers. Which is disappointing, since what with multiple birthdays and celebrations, there has been plenty of baking and cooking going on.

However that means there are a few more exciting cake posts in the pipeline, once the stars align and there are simultaneously a few extra hours in the day, and my wrist stops objecting quite so much to extra-curricular typing.

But one cake at a time… and this time it is a Daring Bakers cake - there's not been one of them or a while!

Bearded Commonwealth Lego athlete stakes Scottish claim on planted Tunnock - obviously
Blog Checking Lines:
For the July Daring Bakers' Challenge, Ruth from the Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to bake a cake. But not just any cake; she asked us to add in a special surprise for our eyes as well as our taste buds!

One of the advantages (disadvantages?) of posting towards the end of the day on the 27th means you can see what all the other DB-ers around the world have been making. And let me tell you, my effort is paltry in comparison to some of the masterpieces that have been created.

However, it was fun to bake and decorate - and made me smile whilst whisking, stirring, spreading etc.

Now, as you may be aware the Commonwealth Games are currently on in Glasgow, Scotland, and whilst it's a whole different city and typically an "arch rival" of Edinburgh, in global terms it's just along the road. One of the undoubted hits from the opening ceremony amongst the Scots watching it were the dancing Tunnocks Tea Cakes, and the Forth Rail Bridge supported by Irn Bur. They're both true Scottish  icons, so I decided to incorporate them into my cake, to get into the Commonwealth Games spirit a little.

I'm not claiming this is the food of athletes - for the record - although the perhaps food colouring and sugar could go a fairly long way to powering someone around the marathon!

Irn-Bru colours on the inside
I made a zebra cake in orange and blue - the 'Irn Bru' colours (It's a lurid orange Scottish fizzy drink, with a slightly spicy taste, for the uninitiated out there!). I iced it with 'Irn Bru' icing by creating my own concentrate to use to flavour and colour the icing. Then I topped it with a Tunnocks tea cake (a chocolate coated mallow biscuit) and did my best to come up with a Scottish Commonwealth baton bearer from our lego collection.

I'm not posting the recipe for the cake here - it was just a regular Victoria sponge, divided and with food colouring added to each half. I then alternated dropping spoonfuls into the middle of the cake tin to create the effect.

Before baking - just as subtle...
Irn Bru Buttercream Icing (enough for the top and sides of a 7inch round cake, or top only of a larger cake)

  • 250ml Irn Bru (not diet)
  • 50g margarine or butter (dairy free marge works fine)
  • Around 200g icing sugar

Pour the Irn Bru into a small pan and simmer over a very low heat for around an hour. Don't boil it or you'll end up with toffee. If you are very patient you will end up with an intensely orange, Irn Bru flavoured sticky concentrate. I reduced mine right down to about 2 tbsp.
Beat the Irn Bru concentrate with the margarine until well combined, then gradually sieve and beat in the icing sugar until you get your preferred icing consistency. Add a little splash of milk or un-concentrated Irn Bru if you need to loosen it up.

All ready for Irn Bru icing
This really does taste of Irn Bru - and it coloured it orange without having to add any extra colouring.

Thanks for another fun challenge.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Daring Cook's July 2014 Challenge: A Trip to South Korea

Late posting this. Again.

Moving on…….

The July Daring Cooks' Challenge took us to Korea, where Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado taught us how to make bibimbap. This colourful rice dish can be customised to meet any taste, and is as much fun to eat as it is to say!

I definitely went more for following the general concept than the recipe (which, incidentally, you can find here) through a combination of not having the right ingredients, time, and wanting it not to be too spicy for Mini-M.

It was really fun though - and tasty. Mini-M liked being able to arranger her ingredients artfully in her bowl, trying to create a sunshine picture. The rest of us went slightly more abstract, with varying degrees of artistry.

I'm not going to share my recipe as such - since it was not really by design, but I'll give you a quick run through of my deviations from the actual recipe:
  • no chilli paste - in fact no actual Korean ingredients at all
  • sushi rice - it was the only sticky rice I could fine
  • red pepper and celery sauce, rather than spicy sauce
  • a bag of mixed spinach, rocket and watercress instead of greens
Lots of fun - and lots of bowls for washing up afterwards!

Thanks for a very tasty challenge :-)

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Bake it in the bonfire!

I'm trying out some new technology tonight to allow me to write blog posts without typing - I'm spending a lot of keyboard time at work at the moment, which is tough on my poor wrists! The last thing I want is to just inflict more of the same when I get home, so I'm trying out some voice recognition software and hopefully I can soon get caught up on my blogging backlog! We'll see how it copes with my Scottish accent...
We were camping with friends at the weekend and one of the things we cooked on our campfire (as well as the obvious sausages) was a twist on the usual baked bananas: still chocolatey but a little bit more sophisticated, and it entertained junior and senior campers alike. So without further adieu here's my recipe for hot chocolate orange sponges, baked in the bonfire!
Admittedly I didn't take the most appetising of photos...
Chocolate Orange Bonfire Cakes (Serves 8)
  • 8 large oranges
  •  1 box of chocolate chip muffin mix 
  • 1 egg 
  • Tinfoil 
Carefully slice the top third off each orange.
 Scoop the orange pulp and juice out of the bottom section saving the lids. It is really important to keep the orange shell intact.
Read the instructions on your chocolate muffin mix and replace the volume of milk with orange juice, drained from the scooped out pulp. 
Mix together the muffin mix, orange juice and egg then use this mixture to fill the hollowed out shells.
Place the lids back on each orange and wrap in a double layer of in tin foil.
Don't forget which way is up otherwise the mixture of will leak out.
Place the oranges in the embers of the fire (they don't need to be covered over completely, just nestled) and leave to cook for around 15 to 20 minutes.
When they're done the outside of the oranges may be charred, however when you open them up (very carefully - hot steam will escape) you should find a lovely gooey chocolate orange-y centre. Delicious!
Mr E - chief orange preparer - complete with plastic plat and penknife
This would work well with any flavour of cake mix, or a mixture made from scratch if you're feeling very adventurous in your camp fire cookery.
First moment of "ooh it works!" excitement

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Random Recipes #40 - Bacon and Egg Pie

I shall start this post by noting that it is a very good thing that I am far better at managing deadlines at work, than I am with blog challenges.

I'm writing this AFTER this month's Random Recipes challenge roundup has been published - you can find it here (and there are some scrummy looking entries as always). As ever, the challenge is hosted at Belleau Kitchen and participants are encouraged to choose a random book and recipe from their collection and make whatever comes up.

A change from my usual form, this was not an unmitigated disaster, as my RR submissions have often been. It looked exactly like I hoped it would. How it tasted, I have absolutely no idea as I gave it to my lovely little sister as a thank you.

Smile - it's a pie!
So… my Random Recipes #40 came from "Traditional Scottish Cooking" published by Lomond Books. I had good intentions to make the recipe on page 40, but it was Herrings in Oatmeal, and I really really really can't stand all those teeny, unfilletable herring bones. So I closed the book in a strop, opened it again and got page 74 - Bacon and Egg Pie.

I tweaked a few bits and bobs here and there, and cheated with the pastry. So here's my version

Happy Bacon and Egg Pie (Serves 6ish along with salads etc)

  • 500g pack ready to roll puff pastry
  • 250g smoked streaky bacon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 large eating apple
  • 50g cheddar with chili or Mexican spices
  • 50g regular unflavoured cheddar
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chutney (I used rhubarb relish)
  • Splash of milk/egg wash

First boil the eggs (hard boiled) and cook the bacon (I used a griddle pan, but however you usually cook bacon will work perfectly).
Preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan).
Very lightly grease a 9 inch sandwich tin
Peel and slice the eggs
Slice the tomatoes
Snip the cooked bacon into pieces about 2cm wide.
Grate both cheeses and mix together.
Divide the pastry block so one part is approximately 1/3 and the other 2/3.
Roll the large piece out, on a floured work surface, and use to line the base and sides of your tin. Cover the other piece to prevent it drying out whilst you layer your pie.
Next slice the apple (I left the skin on for extra fibre, but you could peel it if you felt strongly anti-apple-skin) - doing this just before you assemble stops it from going brown.
Spread the chutney thinly over the bottom of your pastry-lined tin.
Cover the bottom of the tin with the apple slices, overlapping if necessary.
Next layer the bacon on top of the apples.
Add the sliced hard boiled egg, and then the tomatoes.
Lastly top with the grated cheese.
Now roll out the remaining piece of pastry to fit the top.
Before putting the pastry lid on, lightly wet your finger with a little of the the milk/egg wash and run your finger around the edge of the pastry sides to help the lid stick.
Pop the lid on and press firmly around the edges to seal.
Use any trimmings you have to make a happy face to go on top, attaching the pieces with a little dab of the egg/milk wash.
Brush the top with a good layer of the egg/milk wash and then bake for around 35 minutes until golden and puffed up on top.

Arrrr me hearties! - having a tomato inspired pirate moment to begin with
Pastry rolling
Apples - check 
Egg slicing
Bacon - check 
Egg - check
Tomato - check
Cheese - check 
Finished off with a good dose of egg wash.
 Mini-M has requested we make one for ourselves soon - minus the cheese. We'll see how that turns out - I can't help feeling it is probably critical to sticking it all together when you slice it!

I really will have to do better next month with my time management…

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