Tag Archives: baking

Delectable Desserts: Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tart (WARNING: Super rich!)

23 Sep

I’ve got to admit, baking isn’t my strong suit. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook and I’m not bad, but when it comes to making sweet dishes I have a bit of a meltdown. I think it stems from the fact that I am quite creative in the kitchen and therefore not too good at sticking to a recipe, but with baking you need to be, or face catastrophic disasters.

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Disasters which the boy has witnessed; me having a meltdown on the kitchen floor when something doesn’t look like it did in the picture, or the time when I broke the freezer in a strop at icing not setting (we can only try to improve on the day before, after all!)

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After being gifted the chocolate cookbook from during yesterday’s event, the Boy decided that the Chocolate and Raspberry Tart was something he needed in his life, so I had a go.

There were a few issues. Number one, I don’t have any baking beans. This is an issue, but I made do with rice and foil. Not the best fix! Number two, I don’t have a large flan tin. Again, I made do with individual ones, but the process took way longer than it should! And finally, issue three, my clingfilm, is most definitely not ovenproof (don’t worry, I made this realisation before I put it in the oven). Despite all this, I’m pretty pleased with the results.

Thanks to Tales from the Chocolate Shop, who popped on Google when I was near tears and searching for “can you fix split ganache” the answer is yes. Thank goodness!

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Eric Lanlard’s Chocolate and Raspberry Tart Recipe

Serves 6

Preparation time: 25 minutes, plus chilling and cooling

Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

175g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

50g (2oz) cocoa powder

50g (2oz) golden icing sugar

150g (5oz) unsalted butter, cubed,

plus extra for greasing

3 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

500g (1lb) raspberries

For the ganache

200g (7oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped

200ml (7fl oz) single cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

75g (3oz) unsalted butter

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar together into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and gently mix together, then add the vanilla and combine to form a smooth dough. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (fan 170°C)/375°F/gas mark 5.

Lightly grease a 24cm (9½in) diameter tart tin. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and carefully use to line the tin. Cover with ovenproof clingfilm and prick a few holes to avoid pockets of air while it bakes. Fill the pastry case with baking beans and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the clingfilm and beans and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Leave to cool.

To make the ganache, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the surface of the water does not touch the bowl. Meanwhile, put the cream into a saucepan and heat until steaming hot, but do not let it boil.

Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and slowly pour in the cream, gently stirring the mixture. Add the vanilla, then the butter and stir together.

Pack the cooled pastry case with raspberries, saving a few for decoration. Pour the hot chocolate ganache over the raspberries to fill to the top of the pastry.

Leave to set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Serve decorated with the reserved raspberries dusted with a little icing sugar.

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Cake Creations with Cake Boy’s Eric Lanlard

22 Sep

I love learning how to do things. It might be the eager school kid in me, but if I can go to a class and learn something new, I’m in my happy place. Last year I tried my hand at a Sushi Masterclass and a Truffle Making Class, and this year I have made French Macarons and Pork Pies. I have a real hunger to try my hand at creating things, and with a passion for cooking anyway, the culinary classes really work for me.

So when I was offered the chance to attend a blogger evening at Cake Boy, I jumped at the chance. The evening was designed to show us new recipes from Eric Lanlard’s collection and give us the chance to decorate our own cupcakes. Fun for a Tuesday night, and who doesn’t love being armed with the skills to whip up a delicious cake from scratch? Homemade always taste best, so in lieu of having my very own patissier stationed in the flat, learning the tricks of the trade is the next best thing.

The thing I love about blogger events is being able to put names to faces. We perch behind computers each day documenting our lives, but rarely get the option to meet and interact away from a glass screen. There were some lovely girls in attendance that I have had the pleasure of talking to before (check out Sarah @The Laughing Medusa and Manasi from In Her 30s for a start), but meeting in the flesh to me is always an important part to me, and something I don’t take the time to do enough.

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The event was brilliant. We started off being taught two recipes – one amazing tasting red velvet cheesecake, and a second West Indies chocolate tart (where the chocolate ganache was infused with star anise and nutmeg). We chowed down on slices of the cakes, and then took to teams to decorate our own cupcakes. I paired with Fiona from The Very Hungry Londoner, and although we won at speed eating the cheesecake, our technique on the cupcakes was lacking, as we excitedly forgot to sandwich the layers with frosting. Oh well!

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At the end of the evening we took a team shot and left with a fantastic goodie bag (including our very own Kitchen Aid hand whisk and a signed copy of Eric’s new cookbook)

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For more of Eric’s tips on baking head over to the Curry’s blog.

Have you ever attended a cookery class? What did you cook?

Great British Bake Off

22 Aug

It’s been a while since I updated on the kitchen of my abode, but there has been a lot going on in there behind the scenes. It’s that time of the year again when all the birthdays come in quick succession, so I have been in the kitchen botching up cakes all over the place. Pinterest dream I am not.

The first work of art (ha!) was for my Mum’s birthday. When we were kids mum designed and decorated us a plethora of cakes to show off our favourite Disney characters or passions at the time, and they were the best thing about birthdays. We used to wake with excitement on what would be on our cake this year, and Christmas was the same.

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So I thought it only fair to do the same for my mum. I first spotted this cake on Pinterest, and after doing some research, I designed my own. My Mum’s birthday cake: vegetable patch complete with rabbit (or rat, as the boyfriend thought) minus aubergines, as they kept coming out lilac, which was not what I was going for!

The second was a gluten-free cake for my visitors birthday. I had never tried a gluten-free cake before, and to be honest, the actual cake wasn’t the best example of baking! However, I freestyled a lighter frosting and decorated with fresh fruit, and the results were quite delicious, despite the below par sponge in the centre.2

And the third – Snickers Brownies. My friend Siobhan had requested these instead of a cake this year, as she was the recipient of the Pinata cake last year, and I happily obliged. I’m pretty good at brownies, and these ones are failsafe! So good that I have posted the recipe below, so you can wow your friends and be the Nigella of brownies. Enjoy!

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Ingredients for 12

  • 125 g butter
  • 125 g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 200 g brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 50 g cocoa powder
  • 0.25 tsp baking powder
  • 180 g cream cheese
  • 40 g caster sugar
  • 3 snickers bar, or similar chocolate. I actually don’t like peanuts but have used rolos before.
  • Combine butter, chocolate and brown sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until the chocolate and butter have melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the eggs.

Add flour, cocoa and baking powder and stir until well combined. Pour into a greased and lined 18 cm x 28 cm rectangular tin.

Beat cream cheese and caster sugar until smooth and creamy. Spoon randomly over chocolate mixture and swirl with the tip of a knife. Bake at 180 °C, Gas Mark 4 for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through. Add snickers slices.

What’s your go to crowd pleaser in the kitchen?

Afternoon Tea and Fun for Me Part 1: Bake-A-Boo, West Hampstead

8 Aug

If you think about all the things that are quintessentially British, what comes to mind? The Queen and her corgis, rain, queuing, and afternoon tea. There is something so English about a selection of teas, different pits and china cups, and milk and two sugars. And I love it.

With an American friend on an extended visit and a love of afternoon tea and scones, I decided her visit wouldn’t be complete without a perusal of at least one tea room, so I began some research.

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Photo via Elle, who is much better at taking a photo than me!

I found Bake-A-Boo. Being diabetic, its rare that I find a tea room that offers a diabetic option, so my interest was piqued. They also had the bonus of offering a gluten-free option that still included the finger sandwiches and scones, so this was destined to be the first on the list.

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Dont get me wrong; West Hampstead is a bit of a pain to get to, and to visit the cafe you have to book in advance and pay half the balance by bank transfer as way of deposit, which doesn’t make the experience overly easy, although that didn’t stop us at all!

We arrived, and browsed the list of at least fifteen teas! Elle was in her element, but I stuck for the old faithful, Earl Grey. Never far from a cup of my slightly perfumed favourite. The spreads then arrived; finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of cupcakes and brownies.

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We weren’t disappointed. The scones were light and the cupcakes delicious, and we had to box up a lot of the food and take it home. The fun was added to by the fact that there was a very civilised hen party going on and they seemed to be having such a lot of fun that it gave me the warm and fuzzies.

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My thoughts? It’s not easy that you have to pay half in advance, and in comparison to other afternoon teas I have had its on the higher price end for what you get, but it was such a lovely experience that I would definitely revisit. Well played, Bake-A-Boo!

Bake-A-Boo | 86 Mill Lane | West Hampstead | London | NW6 1NL

Do you love high tea like me?

The Macaroon Afternoon*

16 Jul

I’m not a huge fan of stepping out of my comfort zone, but I do see the benefit of forcing myself to do things that scare me. Long gone are the days when I used to hide behind my mothers long skirts and duck my sister throwing mud at me, and now I must stand alone (mainly because at nearly thirty it would be a bit weird for me to be hiding behind said Mother, who, like Yoda, is now smaller than me.

When I saw a deal on macaron making classes, I roped in my BFF and booked us a slot.

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And it was great fun! We rocked up in our pair and it became immediately apparent that there were three types of people who did this sort of thing.

1)      The Fun Finders.

So us, and the hen do that were also there. Not down with taking life too seriously, none of us cried when anything went wrong – we had fun and were amazingly pleased with the outcome.

2)      The Die Hard Bakers

identifiable by the fact they arrived alone (no BFF to weigh them down) and immediately were drawn to each other, to make a ‘powerpair’. Before you could draw your whisk for a duel they were bonding over their previous successes and failures in independent macaron making, shouting buzzwords such as lavender water and rose oil. We made a beeline for the opposite end of the room, as every time we laughed in the queue they glared. No funsies.

3)      The ‘One More Enthusiastic Than The Other’ Couple

Lets face it, boys and macaron making do not go seamlessly together on the whole; they are no sausage and mash. The reluctant boys turned up, dragged along by their girlfriends as a fun day out, and looked perturbed to be there. One had an attitude where he rolled his eyes at the fun personality of the instructor, only to be shot down in glares from us girls who were there to have a good time, LOVED her, and weren’t prepared to have anyone steal her sparkle. Then there was the guy with the huge beard, who unfortunately got covered in macaron mixture fairly early on and spent the rest of the time picking it out of his beard. Hahah!

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We macarooned with the best of them for three hours, adding colours and fillings, and generally learning a whole lot. I have to take some time to talk about Jojo, the instructor, as she had the most addictive personality and was one of the loveliest women I have had the pleasure of meeting. So much so that when I asked my friend if she wanted to go to another one, she said she would happily pay thirty pounds to sit in a room with Jojo for 2 hours as a self-confidence booster.

If you want to try out the macaron making classes, you can book here from the fantastic Flammen and Citronen. I think it would be a really fun thing to build into a hen weekend, or something unusual to do if you had friends to stay.

*Actually, that’s not what we did. A macaroon is a small cake made with coconut; a French Macaron is two little bites of dreaminess sandwiched together with buttercream. We made the latter, but I wasn’t going to let the truth get in the way of a good title!

The Monster Cake and a Birthday

31 May

My little sister is one of my favourite people of all time. She has this unfounded ability to cheer me up, make me laugh and put me in my place at all times, and I love her for it.

Last weekend she turned 26, and to celebrate, I planned a weekend of fun. We had afternoon tea at the Hilton on Saturday, dined at Duck and Waffle on Sunday and I made her a ‘monster’ birthday cake.

What do you think?

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Monster cake, pre-eyes. At this point I was stressing because the icing was melting and sticking to the kitchen counter. Not my finest hour!!

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The finished article! Didn’t manage the eyelashes, this was hard enough! #personaleverest

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Big Tinker and Little Tinker enjoying Dishoom in Shoreditch for dinner

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Duck and Waffle fun, 40th Floor, Heron Tower, London (right by Liverpool street station). NOTE: you HAVE to book!!!

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Danielle chowing down on the plate, which was made of white chocolate. Petit fours, cupcakes, cream teas and sandwiches. You had to roll us out of there!

Walking in A Winter Wonderland

5 Dec

I love Christmas. I used to say I didn’t, but I was a teenager and didn’t like anything. Now I love when October comes and the air starts to crisp up  in anticipation, waiting for the onset of the cold snap and the prospect of all the festive fun to come.

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This year, Christmas feels to me to be tinged with a bitter sweetness, the first year I will wake in the morning and not see my Grandfather, dressed in his brushed cotton shirt with a cable knit jumper over. The first year I won’t hear the air peppered with swears when he realises he has cooked the goose upside down in the pan for the fourth year on the bounce, and the first year I won’t see the glee in his face as he shakes the presents and throws the wrapping paper over his shoulder.

Nonetheless, Christmas is exciting. My goddaughters are 6 and 2 respectively and still believe in the magic of the season (and so do I for that matter) so we will try to seek out father Christmas in the days before the main event, and make mince pies just in case he hasn’t had his fill by the time he gets to their house.

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And it’s a time for new traditions. This year, the boy and I exchanged advent calendars and Christmas jumpers on the first, when we also listened to Michael Buble (I love him and I don’t care who knows) and made the first round of mince pies. He was very thoughtful, so rather than getting chocolate in my calendar I got a Yankee Candle one (spot the diabetic). Most people forget so I was very touched!

Last night I came home and my housemate was making gifts; windfall chutney in cute little glass jars, and so I wrapped all the gifts I had bought and drank cups of tea with her. as soon as the tree comes we will adorn it with little toadstools and gingerbread lights to make it the pretties (and also fairly gargantuan for the size of our flat) tree in all the land.

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I’ve bought some silly napkins that look like Father Christmas’s suit when you tuck them in to your collar, and my family will be made to wear reindeer antlers or other silly headgear at the table.

It’s a time for being with the ones you love and celebrating the fact that there is a day when you can throw away the rest of the world and all congregate.

And I think that’s the magic of Christmas.

What are your traditions and rituals of the season?

Let Them Tweet Cake!

16 Sep

The last few weeks have been manically busy with birthdays, sick people and work so once again, writing has taken a backseat.

* Slaps hand and promises to try harder in future*

I’ve been on hand making chicken soup, buying cough medicine and generally doing a Florence Nightingale routine for various people, and as everyone who has ever come into contact with me knows, I am a notorious feeder. I genuinely believe that you can show love through food, feel better from the right veggies and garner comfort by eating. This might go against any advice by doctors, but you know what, I am laughing in the face of the doctor. Some food nurtures the body, other food nurtures the soul. And although I appreciate and recognise the importance of a healthy, balanced diet (blah blah blah) I also know that a birthday cake makes you feel the love. RIGHT?!

I had 3 birthdays in August, and for each and every one, I made a cake. There were a few touch and go moments, a dusting of tears and maybe, just maybe, a minor temper tantrum when all the fiddly little wafer curls kept falling off one of the cakes, but on the whole they were fairly successful.

1) The Boy’s Birthday Cake

Picture the scene. As much chocolate as you can physically get into a cake, with a ribbon twisted round the outside, for added effect. If I was Willy Wonka’s wife, it would be a really happy union.

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2) Mother Superior’s Birthday Celebration

This one was a hard task for me. My Mum doesn’t like chocolate cake or many chocolate based products, so I had to revise my tried and tested method to create something she would like. I swapped out the chocolate cake for lemon cake with lemon marmalade baked in, and decorated the outside with hazelnut wafer curls. Winning.

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3) Workmate Celebrations

One of the girls on my team also had a birthday, so I decided to show the love with cake. Why not. We had seen pictures on Pinterest (where else?) of a Pinata cake, and so with inspiration from the Great British Bake Off, I decided to go forth and have a go. The man in the supermarket thought I had an eating disorder as I stockpiled Smarties and various types of chocolate, but all in all it was successful, and a definite show stopper for the future!

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What have you guys been up to lately?

Cupcakes – Nailed It!

11 Jul

Birthdays are my favourite time. Not my birthday, but the birthdays of my friends and family; the people I love. I find so much pleasure picking out a gift that sums up my relationship with that person or something thoughtful that will show them I pay attention and put some thinking into picking. I even think I prefer it to my own birthday.

EAT ALL THE CAKE!!

EAT ALL THE CAKE!!

I also love cake. As a child my Mum made cakes and decorated them beautifully, and I have always wanted her to start her own business. Over the years I have had clowns, Little Mermaids, four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie (this is a personal favourite as she made the pie lid stand up to see the birds inside) and all sorts of fantastic Christmas cakes.

It’s given me the bug. I’m pretty good at whipping up savoury treats, but desserts have always caused me problems. Little Tinker won’t let me make pancakes on Pancake Day as they come out like door stops while hers are thin and papery, and I was kindly asked not to choose Home Ec as a subject to GCSE after an incident that involved slightly too much baking soda and a cake explosion, taking out the other kids who were sharing the oven.

There are rare times when I pull a blinder, but it’s taken me a few years and time to realise that it is an exact science, and not like savoury food where I can throw stuff together and it come out right.

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My Great Grandmother used to bake the most perfect chocolate cake; it was moist and delicious, with a layer of apricot jam and then set chocolate on the top. Everyone loved it and it didn’t last five minutes when it got home, wrapped in the old fashioned baking parchment that she used to parcel her sweet treats up in. the whole fun of getting the cake and the build up to it was part of it; opening the parchment and finding the delicious cake inside, that we had been dreaming of since we polished off the final crumbs of the last one.

I love baking birthday cakes for people. I’ve posted previously on my successes, but glossed over the times that I have had cake meltdowns in the kitchen, covered in cake mix and having incinerated a batch of cake dough to the inside of the oven. It’s often hard to do, but I love the way it makes you feel when someone has made you a cake. My Mum created the memories for us every year, never making us share a cake (we are 6 days apart) and I love to recreate that for other people

This weekend marks my best friend’s 27th birthday; the day that she is back to the same age as me and no longer refers to me as the older one. She had exactly 2 months each year to do this, so I smile graciously about being the oldest and take the jokes on wrinkles and Zimmer frames.

So I decided I wanted to make those cupcakes that look like ice-cream cones (damn you, Pinterest!) I thought that it might be difficult, but after the Cookie Monsters and Kit Kat cake successes I gave it a try as I’m starting to become a bit of a one trick pony.

The result was pretty horrendous. The cakes were a doddle; replace the cupcake cases with those free standing cones, but the topping was a bit of a nightmare. Let’s get to the truth… I cried. It was the freezer that started the sneaky cake hate spiral; a pizza box got jammed as I was trying to open the drawer, squeezing the frosting out of the piping bag and into my freezer, and then breaking the drawer. I sat on the floor, fish slice in one hand and sobbed about how my cakes were going to look like one of those ‘nailed it’ Pinterest memes. You know the sign of a good boy when they look at you, look at the cake mess you are standing in and declare “it’s not what it looks like anyway is it chicken? It’s all about how it tastes”.

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So anyway, back to the cake Armageddon. Cakeageddon. I scraped the runny frosting off the cupcakes, the walls and my kitchen floor and after getting really stressed with the boy when he suggested eggs WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT FROSTING?! WHEN DID YOU LAST MAKE CUPCAKES?! I decided to a) say sorry and b) sleep on it.

The results were fruitful. I woke up with a renewed plan and decided to reread the recipe which I had skim read about three months previous.

Turns out it did need eggs. The frosting is made with a meringue mix to start, and then the buttercream is gradually worked in to prevent the meringue peaks from collapsing and give it a thick and creamy texture.

VOILA! They taste pretty good too.

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If you want the recipe then click here, they also have a great buttercream recipe that is dead easy!

Have you ever had any kitchen meltdowns? We won’t talk about the time I set fire to my Mums favourite cookery book when cooking pasta on the gas stove.

To Your Posts… Let The Bake Off Begin!

27 Aug

My sister and I decided, in normal penniless fashion, to spend the Bank Holiday weekend together doing sister activities. Last night we had bruschetta for dinner (messy, don’t choose for restaurant fodder!) and watched I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Don’t Mess With The Zohan. The latter was a bit disappointing but the first was hilarious.

So this morning, armed with a weekend at the gym, we decided to have a bake-off, after initially planning to visit my Granddad and then for plans to change. Neither of us bake very often, preferring to cook savoury food, but in total exercise avoidance it seemed like the best idea.

We baked three types: carrot cakes, vanilla and lemon, and mixed up the icing while we waited for them to cook. And they were a success! If you know me at all you will know I cant do puddings, and I am so bad at baking a cake that my hopes were shattered when it came to making GCSE choices, and I was asked kindly to not choose home economics after putting too much baking powder in some cakes and taking out all the muffins in the oven.

(cupcakes with vanilla icing and raspberries)

We impressed ourselves. The kitchen became a production line of icing and piping, of hearts and flowers and icing sugar inhalation. My little sister managed to get carrot cake mix all up the wall and on the white cupboards that my mum keeps so pristine, with her saying “Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have pressed the turbo button on the whisk”.

Yep, I am impressed with what we created. We coloured icing and added sprinkles etc, until my sister, ignoring what I said, decided to try colouring some herself. It resulted in her being covered in red food colouring and looking like the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

(my sister is so creative!)

But she persevered, and created cute little cupcakes, while I went for speed and simplicity. It was so much fun! the grass in the one above is made of icing mixed with desiccated (or defecated as my sister calls it) coconut and lots of food colouring.


The piece de resistance in my opinion has to be the cookie monsters. You can see the one at the back left was my first attempt as his eyes are a bit squiffy (or ‘the one that did drugs’ as my sister calls it) but I gradually improved, although my fingers are now bright blue and stained from food colouring.


(Cookie monster cupcakes. Made with mini Maryland cookies, white chocolate buttons and desiccated coconut. I wanted to make red Elmo ones too but as Danielle pointed out, no one likes coconut except me, and I cant eat them anyway).

(Ginger cupcakes. Vanilla icing mixed with powdered ginger, with crystallised ginger chunks.)

(my creations!!)

Shame my cupcakes are all dressed up with nowhere to go. I’m going to take some round for Lou tonight, and I hope Lilly likes the Cookie Monsters!!!

Hope you are all having a fantastic weekend. I have started a Facebook page for this blog in addition to Twitter (apparently social media is where all the cool kids are!) so if you subscribe or follow anywhere please like it. I hate that its called a fan page but ill post updates there that are too long for Twitter!!
‘Belle xx