Monday, 31 December 2012

Best of 2012

Salted Caramel Macarons 
There is just less than 24 hours of 2012 left and many will soon be blurring out their words, and it might sound a bit like: “Aaaah, what a year it’s been”. As I listen to one of my doggy woggy’s semi silently bark whilst what I can only describe as a dream festered in a deep sleep it becomes apparent that 365 days is not adequate. I want more days and long nights in my years dammit, more time to convince myself to stop being lazy and do productive things and more time to conquer those productive things.

But then something happened - I came across the fabulous likes of Poires, Londonbakes & the Cake Hunter blogging about their best of 2012. The right thing to do was to obviously follow in their inspirational bloggy footsteps, so I gathered mine and then realised, well, that I am chatting absolute shit. This has been a long year and 365 are aplenty. 

To think that I was gently heating milk for the Miette cake THIS year is also mental.

Here are the blog’s top five recipes of 2012 from the most popular descending. If you followed, subscribed, commented or just read a measly snippet of my poorly written blog with the occasional improving piece of photography then thank you. Thank you thank you thank you! You are what keeps me baking, snapping and sharing. 

That’s pretty deserving of a very happy New Year to all of my cyber sisters and brothers. 

1. Hot Milk Cake
2. Turkish Sini Gatmer
3. Muhallebi
4. Miette Double Chocolate Cupcakes
5. Raspberry and Apple Crumble
Love Em xx

Friday, 28 December 2012

The New (Pudding) Age Christmas

Jamie Oliver's New Mince Pies 
I have always hated this part.

We are currently in that mid-holiday bit of December. 

Slap bang in the middle of post-Christmas blues and NYE pre party planning. Not much really happens, if you’re like me, you might be receiving uni feedback left right and centre and constantly doubting you’re ability to perform as a student. 

But put those worries aside for now because I am here to present you with very very dodgy lit photographs from the puds and pastries I made on Christmas Day! You can understand why, surely.
Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Pudding
We had your not-so-traditional mince pies where the mincemeat was rolled into puff pastry, scattered with flaked almonds and bursting with rinds of clementine (thanks Jamie Oliver). 

Shortly after came your not-so-traditional Christmas pudding. Darling, it daren’t contain any pruned grapes! In fact, the only traditional feel our Christmas pud had was the fact that it was steamed - which is surprisingly simple to do by the way. It was a chocolate cake, shaped as a pudding (kind of) and prepared like a Devils Food. Atop lay the richest most decadently thick AND creamy chocolate sauce (thanks Nigella Lawson).
Jamie Oliver's New Mince Pies Assembly Job
Jamie Oliver's New Mince Pies 
Now to wish everybody all the best in the New Year, and a very merry post-Christmas mid holiday awkward bit of December! What are your plans? Love Em xx

PS. Click on the links above for both of these amaaaaaaaazing recipes.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Candied Christmas Pecans

Candied Pecans 
Christmas is coming! Whose already watched Home Alone? I have. Last night. Bless little Kevin.
After my reunion with warm, spicy candied nuts (of all kinds) at Winter Wonderland in London a couple of weeks ago, you guessed it, I was obsessed. I would spend long nights lulling over their sweet deliciousness, the way you would bite into each nut to find this textured and salty surprise. The way that would happen and it not actually be a factory made M&M, was beyond me.

Then I came across Smitten Kitchen's Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts. Have you ever done that thing where you've eaten something really good then googled it straight away? The photos inspired me, the paprika...not so much, that belongs on chicken. 

So it came around to my birthday and seeing as its not permitted to bake your own birthday cake, nuts had to suffice. Don't be surprised at how ridiculously simple pecans, or any nut for that matter, is to candy. It. 

Is. So. Bloody. Easy.

To top it off - helllooooo homemade-gifts-for-Christmas-o'clock! Doesn't get much better really, and they will bring your 'giftees' right back to the fireplace and/or Deptford market.
The Recipe
300g (1 package) pecans, or whichever nut takes your fancy
Half cup (120g) + 1 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg white
1 tbsp cold water
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp salt
Quarter tsp vanilla extract (optional)
The Method
Start by preheating the oven to 180C.

Whisk the egg white and tbsp of water until frothy, but not completely stiff. 

Add all of the pecans into the bowl and stir until it looks like there are little white bubbles on all of the pecans.

Next, just throw in all of the dry ingredients, including the vanilla extract, and stir until evenly distributed.

Line a baking tray with foil and spread the pecans around the tray so that they're not on top of each other (refer to the picture below).

Place in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn them around with a fork (so their bottoms can crisp up) and put back in the oven for a further 15 minutes.

Leave to cool and serve!
What have you candied for Christmas? Love Em xx

PS, this is what our Christmas looks like:

Friday, 21 December 2012

Happy Birthday to meeeeeee

Here is my absolutely gorgeous birthday cake from Wednesday, feast your eyes on its utter beauty and feel slightly jealous that you didn't have a slice.

Or... take a wild guess as to where its from and i'll personally mail you a slice! Go on... its only 2 days old. 

Lola's Birthday Cake
Lolas Bakery Chocolate Birthday Cake
Lolas Bakery Vanilla Buttercream 
Lolas Bakery Birthday Cake 
Love Em xx

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Spiced Chocolate Cupcakes with Gingerbread Buttercream

Who has started their Christmas baking test-runs yet? Does anybody even do tests for such things? If you’re an inexperienced cook and you’re having the ol’ lot over, I’m guessing you’ve currently got a test-run turkey in the oven. That’s perfect because it’s a Sunday as well, just replacin’ the chicken for a turk really.  Here are my Christmas test run cupcakes, in unnecessarily copious amounts of pictures that I wish to share with you. Yes. You obviously wanted to look at every single picture I took that day. Obviously.
I’d otherwise slate the test-runner…what’s the point? Do you not have anything better to do with your time? Just chance it! But alas, I have become one of those weird test-run people. And boy, AM I GLAD. This chocolate cupcake slightly resembled a brownie (now would be a good time to mention that it was still delicious)! It was by no stretch of the word a light and fluffy cupcake, but a  kind of dense and dry topped brownie! Crossing THAT one off my Christmas baking list… next time I’ll go for a bitta stout in my liner, maybe even a bitta treacle, plus A LOT more spice in the batter. Don’t be afraid to be generous with the festive spices in a chocolate cake, it has a tendency to be masked by the intense flavours of chocolate you see.
Some good news - the buttercream was lovely, spicy and not too sweet. Rich, coming from a crusting buttercream recipe aye. But with a distinct lack of vanilla extract, and TONS of cinnamon and ginger, there is just this amazing balance of sweetness. The spices really do cut through all of that icing sugar! Still, I’ve got my eye on a mascarpone frosting, who knows how many more test-run’s my kitchen will see before the big day! 
The Recipe:                                   Makes aproximately 16 cupcakes 
The Cakes
100g dark chocolate, minimum 50%
4 eggs
100g self raising flour
2 and a half tsp cocoa powder
pinch of salt
225g caster sugar
175g soft butter
1 tsp vanilla extract 
Quertar tsp cinnamon
Quarter tsp ginger (optional)
The Buttercream
300g icing sugar
150g unsalted butter, soft
1 and a half tsp ginger 
2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1 tsp milk
The Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a muffin tray.

Over a ban-marie, heat the butter and chocolate together till melted.

Take off the heat, add all of the sugar, mix together and then set aside to cool.

With a whisk, mix for 3 minutes until slightly fluffy, add the eggs in one at a time.

Fold all of the dry ingredients (including the spices if you wish) until just incorporated.

Lastly fold in the vanilla. Fill the cupcake liners two thirds full and bake for 25 minutes.

For the frosting, beat the butter in the bowl of a freestanding mixer for half a minute.

Add the icing sugar bit by bit, lastly the spices until well incorporated.

Pipe and frost. I used a small french tip for these cupcakes.  
Expect a *possible* birthday cake  on the blog this week, as I'll be turning the big 20 on Wednesday. But let's not mention that again, just comment below and make me feel sane by telling me you also had a Christmas baking test-run today, please! Love Em xx

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Traditional Petticoat Tail Shortbread

Traditional shortbread with rice flour 
I have no idea how my desperate desire to bake something festive somehow translated into traditional shortbread - look, it’s even round like they do in Scotland! Having said that, I have no idea if this is even constituted as Scottish shortbread, anyone? 

For days now I’ve just craved biscuits and fresh, raw raspberries, but I can't bake those so they don't get a blog post. All I wanted was two things from these biccys: that they were home baked and that they included those festive Christmas spices. Y’know, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and a bitta cinnamon?

I knew I couldn’t bake the bog standard non temperamental gingerbread man recipe, this is a blog for grown-ups after all, so then the search began... the search for a biscuit which contained those beautifully tasting and oh so aromatic spices, but that wasn’t specifically a traditional a gingerbread man recipe. It was a disaster. There is NO SUCH THING. I came across this one recipe; it was from a shabby website which clearly hadn't been updated since the 17th century so god knows why I put my trust in it and went ahead, 3 eggs I used!

I was originally after a Christmas spiced shortbread, the biscuits (if you can call them that) were not at all ‘short’ and certainly weren’t spicy enough! They were these crunchy, tough and downright ugly plaques of sugar in my eyes - see if you can spot them down below (I call it the name and shame)… 
So that’s when the shortbread was born, at 2 in the morning, after a frustratingly painful bake off it was time to just adapt from a real recipe from a real website and viola… short, delicate and just the right yield. Hey ho (ho-ho), maybe my next post will cease from such arrogance and be filled with some spicy real gingerbread men! 
Traditional Shortbread
The Recipe: (all of the 'good quality' variation)
115g unsalted butter at room temperature 
40g rice flour
130g plain flour 
55g caster sugar plus extra for dusting 
Pinch of salt (optional)

Note: Rice flour can be found in most continental aisles in the supermarket. Or, if there is no such thing in your area, you can substitute it for 40g of cornflour. It does the same job, only, giving a more delicate as opposed to 'grainy' mouth feel.  

The Method:

Preheat the oven to 150C. 

In a large bowl lightly cream the butter and the sugar till fairly smooth, with a wooden or plastic spatula. 

Add both of the flour at once, along with the optional pinch of salt.

With a clean hand, start moulding the dough together using a groping/squeezing motion, until all of the ingredients are barely strung together. 

Grease an 8 inch sandwich tin with butter.

Put the dough in the tin and press neatly into the corner, remembering to use a light hand.

Decorate accordingly, using a fork to poke holes into the dough to allow air to escape. Score portions into your petticoat if you wish.

Dust with caster sugar/sprinkle it all over and bake for 50 minutes.

Leave to cool completely in the tin, the shortbread should come out of the tin very easily after its cooled! 
Have you been doing any festive baking? Tell me about it, lets share our disasters :) Love Em xx
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