Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Daring Bakers- Cheesecake

April 27, 2009

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

This challenge was ideal for me this month. You can probably tell from my lack of posting crafty things that I’m hella busy with college work and my actual life (sigh!) at the moment. Deadline after deadline after deadline means my spare time is normally taken up by having a relaxing ale with friends and letting my hands rest around a pint glass rather than gripping onto needles and threads. I’ve been unable to join in with lots of Daring Bakers challenges due to this. Either the challenges are too time consuming, too expensive to join in with or not appetizing to me enough for me to be able to see a return on the baking. I know that’s not exactly the correct attitude for a Daring Baker, but it’s the perfect attitude for someone applying for Art Schools. This time, however, the challenge was affordable, quick and mouthwatering. Cheesecake! Boy, was I ever glad to see that.

Dairy free cheesecake

My sister visited home for Easter, and being a dairy avoider I chose to make it for her homecoming and ommited all the dairy things. I used one tub of silken tofu, 2/3 of a tub of toffuti cream cheese (that stuff looks like cement! Nice.) and 2/3 of a carton of soy whipping cream for the batter instead of the cream and cream cheese. I made the batter to the recipe flavour wise, plain vanilla is good enough for me! But for the base I used bourbon biscuits, the vegan favourite. I then kinda took the idea of a ‘Mexican Turtle Cheesecake’ and ran with it.

That’s a plain chocolate ganache, using the remaining toffuti, soy whipping cream, soy marg and dark chocolate. I’ve studded it with Spicy toffee pecans that were sooooooo delicious I wanted to cry that I had to put them on a cheesecake and not eat them all. I melted a little butter in a pan, put in a lot of sugar, some allspice and a helluva lot of cayenne pepper, then a bunch of pecans. I stirred everything until it all caramelized, then I turned it onto greased greaseproof paper ala praline (minus the bashing everything up into praline after.)

Mmm! So tasty! Definitely making those pecans again, and if I fancy a cheesecake- I’ll certainly go back to this recipe. You can find it on!


My little tea party

February 2, 2009

Yesterday was my nineteenth birthday, and so to celebrate I threw a tea party for my close friends.

One thing I majorly overlooked was that the majority of my friends don’t find such things fun. But I do, and it was my birthday, so I made it as special as I possibly could.


Firstly I had to consider the menu. One of my friends is a vegan, so obviously I had to make special things for her. Thanks to the food blogging community, this wasn’t difficult. I made a bee-line for Bittersweet and found recipes for chocolate cupcakes and cinnamon rolls. I englished up the recipes (no idea where I’m supposed to find canola oil in this little island…) and they were so simple to follow that I had an awful lot of fun and all the stress of alternative baking was totally removed. I’d totally recommend adding Bittersweet to your bookmarks. Even if you have no alternative lifestyles to cater for, the recipes are, without doubt, all delicious.


I made some cakestands for the party. My mother bought me a cake stand for a big cake for my birthday, but I wanted some other stands for smaller cakes. I sort of followed a tutorial in Making Stuff, but I did a total Rosa-Martyn on it and threw caution to the wind and instead of measuring I just stuck various plates, egg cups, sherry glasses and all sorts of bric a brac together with a strong glue. Life’s too short. The joy of this is that you get a beautifully eclectic cake stand and it’s both affordable and entirely up to your tastes. If you’re lucky enough to live near a charity shop like mine, then you can gather armfuls of plates and things each with individual prices, only to go up to buy and have the women look at the pile and go “Hmm… 50p for you, love!” Prices vary greatly from shop to shop, so keep an open mind. One of my best buys was this adorable little plate, just big enough for the top cupcake:


I also attempted to make macarons. My friend, Demelza, came round to help me prepare for things on Saturday and it was decided that bright pink rose flavoured macarons was the best way to go, so we followed this recipe on Foodbeam. It er.. didn’t work out for us. We ended up with a couple of baking sheets of homogenous almond meringue mess. It tasted delicious but it certainly wasn’t macarons. However, being the frugal young girls we are, we decided to make the most of a terrible situation and we crumbled up the bizarre pink-brown chaos and added it to a mix of melted white chocolate, rose syrup and double cream before making little balls and leaving them to set in the fridge. We named them ‘rosebuds’ and they turned out to be delicious.

Being a tea party, I of course had to make scones. I wanted to make them accessible to the vegan so I bought some box mixes. I know it’s cheating, but this way all I had to add was a bit of soya milk, as opposed to buying quite pricey vegan butter to start from scratch. I bought clotted cream for the lactose lovers, and vegan whipping cream for anybody else wishing to give their insides a rest.


Another brilliant charity shop buy was this darling little child’s mug, which here is filled with vegan whipping cream. I think it was only about 79p, and it totally stole my heart.


Ok, now onto the main event. It took me ages to decide what cake I wanted. It had to be fabulous, it had to be decadent, it had to be different, it had to be totally self indulgent. I considered a savarin, I considered a rich chocolate gateaux, I considered a deliciously light angel cake… But nothing felt right. Until I saw this, a Poppy Seed Cake with Chocolate Ganache and I fell in love. It just looked beautiful and interesting, yet unimposing. Demelza and I made the poppy seed sponge on saturday, which I later filled with a mix of cream cheese, bitter chocolate and sugar, instead of the suggested custard and walnut filling, and the next day I made the ganache. I didn’t have any Kahlua so I subbed for some rose syrup and vanilla extract. I let the ganache set before sprinkling some icing sugar through a doily, then sticking some roses into it. Putting roses into my birthday cake felt like the single most decadent act of my life (especially at £1.65 a rose! Hardly recession friendly cake decorating) but it looks so beautiful, I think I can be excused.


You can see the ‘rosebuds’ in the cake stand behind the main cake.



Aren’t those napkins wonderful?!

I had the most delightful time with this little project, and whilst there’s a lot of food left over, and my friends would probably have had more fun with a couple of takeaway pizzas and a few glasses of something toxic, I think it was definitely worth all the money I spent and would jump at the chance to do it again.


Daring Bakers- Lavash Crackers

September 27, 2008

This months’ daring bakers challenge was hosted by alternative bakers Shellyfish and Natalie. Shel is vegan, Natalie has a gluten free diet. We had to make Lavash crackers, we were given two recipes- one for gluten free, and one non gluten free, and we also had to make a vegan dip to go with our crackers.

My bank balance breathed a sigh of relief when it saw the ingredients list. Everything was a cupboard staple. No extra buying! And I thought last month’s eclairs were cheap, this was virtually free. That wasn’t the only thing that was happy with the challenge- so was my diary. The recipe appeared lovely and simple, nothing that I’d have to spend too much time on. And what else? No possible use for a Kitchen appliance. Just a bowl and my hands. (Well, also the oven and some cups and things… if we’re going to get pinickity)

I’ve told a lie. I spent some money on the toppings. £1 for 60g of seeds- 30g Poppy seeds, 30g Fennel seeds. I also spent a small amount on red onions for my red onion jam dip. But I think I can stretch to that ok.

This month I made the challenge with my Beau, as opposed to my baking partner Tilly. She was too busy, but Beau was super pumped to be joing in, and I was happy to leave him to the kneading, giggle.



Excited for the next one!

Daring Bakers- Chocolate Éclairs

August 31, 2008

Mmmmhmm! Chocolate Éclairs. I was so excited I could hardly speak. And then I regained my composure and had visions! Oh such visions. I’d start the challenge by doing the recipe as given- chocolate pastry cream, chocolate glaze. Then I’d experiment! Raspberry pastry cream, chocolate glaze… lavender infused pastry cream, lemon glaze… A more savoury option perhaps- something with gruyere and chives? One thing was for sure- this month was going to be fun.

The challenge was hosted by Tony Tahhan and The recipe chosen was Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé with Dorie Greenspan. And boy oh boy, do they know how to do chocolate.

So anyway, that was the plan. I started nice and early in the month, with the double chocolate hit batch, to try and get into the swing of things. It was sort of easy… By which I mean that had I had the perfect equipment it’d have gone without a hitch- I know I know, a bad workman always blames his tools- My electric whisk only had one whisk. The other one went missing. I didn’t have a pastry bag or a ziploc bag or any of the standard pastry bag replacements. So what did I use? A plastic shopping bag. Good fun, very very messy. And the biggy- my oven. Now, my oven’s great. It cooks things super fast, so if you’re in a hurry it’s exactly what you want. But if you need the timings to be exact, it’s a bit iffy. And for éclairs, you need exact timing. Alas, my éclairs lacked the perfect shape and crispness of Vera’s. They were a bit more like Yorkshire Puddings- but thank goodness, I love Yorkshire Puddings. I didn’t mind that they weren’t ‘correct’.

Here they are;

The chocolate pastry cream tasted just like the bizarre chocolate custard you got in school dinners when you got a chocolate sponge… I had my ‘dieting’ friend around at the time, she was eating it by the spoonful.

And then the month went on, and plans changed- plans always change. Things came up, and then diets came up and I started to worry about my waistline. I considered not even trying again- but that’s madness. One more batch wouldn’t harm.

I asked my parents this time what they wanted in their éclairs. My dad requested ‘cream’. When I asked if he meant pastry cream or dairy cream he looked like I was speaking another language. Dairy cream it was then… For a little more fun I flavoured the cream with vanilla and a bit of sugar. These were very moreish.

I played around with this batch just a little- for one éclair (and one alone) I made some balsamic syrup, and cut up some strawberries into quarters, then I folded that into some dairy cream and filled one lucky éclair with it. And my word, I wished I’d done the whole batch like that. It was perfection in an éclair, tangy, sweet, fruity, chocolatey… Good heavens.

Sorry that second photograph is blurred. By the time I’d realised, the éclair had mysteriously disappeared…

Daring Bakers posts that are worthy of a mention:
JulieE made adorable swans
The Crepes of Wrath used sprinkles! Sprinkles make everything wonderful.
And Elle’s New England Kitchen put bacon a top her éclairs. Bacon and chocolate is still not a combination I’ve tried… but maybe one day? I salute her bravery.

Daring Bakers- Filbert Gateaux with Praline Buttercream

July 30, 2008

The other week, when Fuchsia was here, I slept in late. She came in to wake me at about 9:30am. When I woke up, the only explanation I could give her as to why I’d slept in, was that I was dreaming of making Praline Buttercream. This challenge consumed me.

I’ll admit, when I first saw this challenge I was pretty miffed. I don’t much like nuts, especially not nuts in chocolate. If it had been walnuts, I’d have been happy. Macademia nuts, happy. Cashew nuts, happy… But Hazelnuts? Please god, please no. This fear of the nuts was made worse, when in the rules we were told we were only allowed to not use hazelnuts if we had a genuine reason for doing so, like an allergy. If we just didn’t like them, then we had to make it anyway, and give it away to someone else (or put up with it, and eat it yourself). Now, call me greedy, but I’m not too fond of slaving over a cake, spending allllllll my money on the ingredients, just to pass it on… I was pretty annoyed, I’ll be honest. I was considering sitting out, or even completely bending the rules and doing something else. But then, when I was in the shower, I had an epiphany (the shower is the place I have all my epiphanies) and I realised that this was Daring Bakers. I joined this group so I could challenge my baking skills and my taste buds.

Alas, if only this were the end of my problems… I come from a small family (there’s three of us here) and none of us like hazelnuts. I can hardly serve such a massive gateaux full of an ingredient none of us are particularly fond of… Thankfully, my Beau had recently moved in to a shiny new flat, and he was going to be having a flat warming party. Also! He likes hazelnuts! Problem solved. Only thing is, now I had to transport it all the way up to Mannie on a train… and I was going via London. Not easy.

I remembered that when I made him a fondant covered cake for his birthday, and made a similar train journey (only this time, minus London) it didn’t do so well either, so I had to think of another way to do this. I chose to cook the cakey bit down here in Swindon, then transport just that to Mannie, where I’d assemble it.

Tilly helped me make the cake. We had so much fun that we decided she’d help me make my Daring Bakers challenge every month. We’ve formed ourselves a little tag-team. I’m glad I had a helper- although I was distracted an awful lot (enough to leave a good coupla eggs out) there were bits which I definitely couldn’t have done on my own. Sometimes I think the Daring Bakers group should be renamed “the group for those privileged enough to have a stand alone mixer”, as me and my little electric whisk often get weary (and you know them young girls, they do get wearied).

Ok so! In my kitchen: Cake, done! Praline Paste, done! Swiss Meringue Buttercream, attempted- FAIL. I was trying to be vegan, only the only buttery vegan substance I could find was a tub Margarine. I needed a block margarine. Of course, I didn’t think of this until I’d wasted allllll those eggs and alllllll that sugar. Nevermind.

I cut it up into three layers (How on earth did I manage that?!) and then I quite stupidly soaked all the layers with sugar syrup. This now meant transportation was basically going to murder it. And murder it, it did. When I got to Mannie, I couldn’t pick it up without all the crusts falling off. I could’ve cried. I persevered nevertheless, and I made myself a buttercream with the aid of whisky and left over praline paste. This was plain on buttercream, butter and icing sugar, then with the above fun bits added. Mmm, whisky. It was totally delicious. I no longer morned for my swiss meringue buttercream.

I just about managed to glue the layers together, and then I did a crumb coat. Next, time for the ganache. What a glorious mess I made. The flat’s kitchen is tiny and void of any thing that could’ve helped me coat my cake with ganache. It was a wee bit of an epic challenge… but I like to think I made it pretty. Finally I decorated it with more buttercream and beautifully placed hazelnuts (a la my Beau) and then it was ready for the guests to come.

Everyone seemed impressed, and by the time the cake was cut, everybody was suitably drunk for me to not be terrified about their reactions. Everybody loved it though, but whether that was the alcohol talking or not, I guess we’ll never know. My Beau tells me it was my best cake yet.

Chances are I won’t make it again, but I might use the skills I learnt… Praline making, Swiss Meringue Buttercream (this time with a proper block of butter). I can’t wait for next month’s challenge!

Recipe here on Mele cotte’s blog, who was the host for this month. Thankyou Mele Cotte!

Posting as normal

July 24, 2008

I’m going to attempt to bring this back around to a crafting blog now, and show you what I’ve been up to. As I said, I’ve got a whole load of Works in Progress going on. But I have finished a couple of things!

Firstly, I finished this bag in time for my London visit last weekend.

I used fabric that I had patterned for the surface patterns project in my A Level Textiles. It’s a hand illustration of the Santa Maria Novella, times by four, surrounded by a cross and then screen printed across some calico. It’s quite simple but I quite like it.
I also used some cheap upholstering fabric. I’m calling it linen, even though it isn’t. I just like to pretend to myself that it is. I bought it super cheap from a new second hand shop in Old Town. The woman took a shine to my very small waist (I was as confused as you are) and gave it to me at a cut price.

I used a pattern called ‘Sepp the bag’ that mmmunki on Flickr was kind enough to send to me for free. This is one of her Sepp the Bags.

I did it quickly, and as a result there is fraying and hand stitching to hold in some fraying. I quite like it though. Rustic?

I also made an apple tart today, going for the rustic look again.

There’s a layer of toffee, then a layer of mushy apple, then a thin, sprinkled layer of lemon zest, before the top layer you see of sliced apple.

I need to do some work on my food photography, but first, I need to devour it.

Busy summer

July 24, 2008

For some reason, I appear to be busier than when I was at college. I’m sure this isn’t the case, I just appear to have sent myself a whole heap of impossible tasks.

In the meantime, I’ll tell you about the meantime.

Fuchsia, one of my best friends, came to visit me, all the way over from Killaloe in southern Ireland. She came mainly for Truck Festival, but she came earlier on in the week so we could have some fun together. And fun we did have! We spent the first day making a cake, for Honor’s visit. Honor, coming from Dublin, was coming to Truck too, so we used my house as a stop off for her. This is what her welcome cake looked like:

It’s a Devil’s Food Cake, filled with whipped cream and strawberries, topped with whipped cream and raspberries. There’s an almost ganache on it too, but that went a bit wrong, so we just ate it. Chocolate and cream. Mmm.

Then we went out for a day trip to London, and after being asked if we were the Spice Girls, we found ourselves in the East End Thrift Store, as reviewed by Anushka. I vowed not to buy anything, since I’m refining my wardrobe an’ all, but then I saw the most darling lemon yellow 1960s style shift dress. I bought it after convincing myself that when wearing it, people would call me ‘Lemon Sherbet’. Alas, so far anything beyond ‘Rosa’ has just been ‘Moustache girl’. (All in good fun, y’understand.)

Then, we took a trip to Oxford Circus, because none of us had ever been, and you ought to once, you know? Primark was horrible, but that was to be expected. Selfridges however, was a delight. Not because of the shop, but because of the darling little art gallery on the Lower Ground Floor. To be honest, the best thing about the entire art gallery was a comment on how children in war torn children have to play in bunkers by Jeni Snell. Unfortunately this was presented in bouncy castle form, and the concept was soon lost between squeals of girly fun. Fuchsia took a fantastic photograph that displays the emotions beautifully:

art gallery funnn

Daring Bakers – Danish Braid

July 1, 2008

A few months back I started reading a lot of food blogs. I don’t know why, I just found them all ever so interesting. A lot of them mentioned something called ‘Daring Bakers’ which always sounded funny to me. It’s a (very) large group of internet food bloggers, who, once a month, all bake from the same recipe and then discuss that recipe together. It would not have interested me were it not for the interesting recipes that are chosen. They’re all daunting sounding recipes using expensive ingredients in long drawn out methods, the kind of thing most people just buy from super markets because it’s easier. I decided that I ought to challenge myself- and I ought to join.

This is my first challenge, I’m afraid I’m posting it late due to being at Glastonbury Festival whilst the posting date was supposed to happen.

Danish Braid

Hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking?

As you can see in the recipe (which is on both of the above blogs) there were an awful lot of steps in this recipe. Many steps, many opportunities for things to go wrong. And it did, oh boy, it did.

Making the ‘pastry’ or more, the dough was less like cooking and more like crying. Everything seemed sticky, so I added flour, then everything seemed hard and impossible to roll, so I put it in the fridge and gave up. Thankfully, returning to it later, found that all it had needed was a bit of a rest. I put in all the butter like a good girl and rolled it all out and felt like everything was on track, and in my head I had images of beautiful braids, all thick and tall and long and delicious looking.

Only, urr, what I got was this:

Road kill. Baking that resembles road kill. My main mistake was putting in a very sloppy rhubarb filling. My other mistake was assembling the braid on the work surface, then having to slide it on to the baking sheet, which was of course a total disaster. After proofing, it looked like mousse, so I just threw the whole thing in the oven and hoped for the best.

It did taste delicious, it just didn’t look it…

Thankfully, my pride has not totally been battered. The recipe yielded enough pastry for two braids, or one braid plus mini Danish pastries of any kind, and here is where I shone. I decided to make Spandaus because I think they’re ever so pretty (otherwise known as Envelopes) and I decided (whilst sitting in an English exam, staring at the ceiling) that I wanted to fill it with pastry cream and chocolate.

It was my first time making pastry cream and I was rather surprised at how well it went, I have little confidence in my ability to thicken liquids, and I was even more surprised by how simply beautiful the little Spandaus looked after I’d filled them with my cream and chocolate, folded them and then baked them.

Needless to say they were devoured very quickly and adored for much longer.

Cakes and results

May 17, 2008

To congratulate myself on finishing my textiles A level I made myself a cake following this beautiful recipe for Angel Food Cake over at Baking Bites. I hate to blow my own trumpet but this is quite a cake. (Or was… ahem.)

The texture is amazing. It’s so light, I’ve been referring to it as ‘cloud cake’ as that’s exactly what it tastes like.

I got my textile result, basically. It’s got to be sent for moderation yet but my textiles teachers are telling me I’m going to get an A. They’ve been saying that to me for a while really, but they’re saying that my exam sketchbook was worth an A so they’re more definite about it. Exciting!