Thursday, 26 April 2012

'Bake-on' Chocolate

As a child I can remember firmly rejecting my Granddad's bread and butter pudding without trying a bite and for years I maintained for years that I didn't like cheesecake. However, slowly I have realised that I have a love for mixing sweet and savoury. I know some people hate it but I love pineapple on pizza, sultanas in curry or naan, apple or pomegranite in salads... I can recall the magical moment of madness when I first risked a bacon and maple pancake without any real hope that I would enjoy the result. I was sold. One of my favourite breakfasts (a high accolade as breakfast is probably my favourite meal - unless maybe you count afternoon tea...?) is now eggy bread with bacon and maple syrup - I cannot get enough of it!

I'd been thinking for a while that I'd like to make a cake version of this breakfast combo but maple syrup isn't cheap and with the end of the month looming and my bank balance running low, I was determined to use the contents of my cupboards. I had chocolate left over from Easter and a few google searches assured me that I wasn't completely mad so I set about adapting a combination of recipes to fit what I had in the depths of my kitchen!

My housemate was not happy about my meaty cakey experiment. In fact she was angry and when I arrived at Apprentice Club with my creation it was greeted with crossed arms and a scowl. Appreciating that this cake would demand everyone's full attention, I waited until the end of a controversial episode - involving shorter shorts than is ever healthy - before imposing it on my company (they didn't really have a choice!)

It was good. Even my more than skeptical housemate was helping herself to more. One friend who sat in almost silence with his cake later sent me this message: 'Having now finished my homework for the eve and having had time to reflect, I can quite honestly say that the combination of flavours was better than beer and cheese - and for a welshman, life don't come much better than brains and brie. Thankyou.'

This recipe was adapted from the BBC Food website and I think I'll be changing it slightly when I make it again (won't be long....). I'm not very good at following recipes so it's probably better to follow the orginial but I'll post tips and comments as I test it out :) The original recipe was for cupcakes but I did a three layer cake in a 15" tin. I'm also thinking of making chocolate and bacon biscuits/cookies to really exploit the sweet and salty taste.

10 slices bacon
100g/3.5 oz milk chocolate
225g/8oz plain flour
50g/2oz cocoa powder
250g/9oz caster sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 free-range eggs
50ml/2fl oz strong coffee, cooled
6 tablespoons yoghurt
2 tablespoons milk
120ml/4fl oz vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to about 180C (I put mine a bit lower as it's fan) Grill the bacon until crispy, allow to cool and then crumble up the bacon onto a lined baking tray. Melt the chocolate and pour it over the bacon. Allow the chocolate to set and then break up into little chocolatel bacon bites.
Beat together the eggs, yoghurt, milk, oil and coffee. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the bacon chocolate chips.
Pour the mixture into a lined and greased tin and bake for about half an hour (I can't remember exactly how long mine was in for but until a knife/skewer comes out clean) Leave to cool.
The BBC recipe topped their cupcakes with a chocolate frosting. I didn't want to overpower the bacon with too much chocolate so settled on a buttercream frosting with a little caramel added. Next time I'm thinking of making a salted caramel frosting - overkill....?

(amounts are rough as I always find you need to add the icing sugar as you go to get the right consistency and how much you need will depend on thick you like your icing!)

80g/ butter
325g/ sifted icing sugar
6 tablespoons caster sugar
6 tablespoons water

Cream the butter then add the icing sugar and beat until light and well mixed (I find that adding just half first minimises the 'covered in icing sugar looking like a ghost' effect!)
Pour the sugar into a pan, cover with the water and place over a low heat. Simmer over a low heat (too not let the mixture boil rapidly) without stirring until a golden caramel colour.
Mix the caramel mixture into the buttercream. Allow both the cake and frosting to cool before icing.

I have made this my first entry for AlphaBakes (hopefully I'm not too late) a monthly baking challenge hosted by The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes. The More than Occasional Baker is hosting this month's challenge and the letter is B. So B is for Bacon!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Gluten Free Chocolate Truffle Cake

Looking forward to a Sunday lunch with mine and my boyfriend’s families, I offered to bring dessert. My options were restricted by the fact that mum can’t eat wheat and my dad doesn’t believe in pudding without chocolate. I came across Gluten Free Goddesses Chocolate Truffle Cake (recipe found here)which seemed to be mainly chocolate, cream, sugar and eggs. Sounded perfect to me and wonderfully easy :)

I replaced the vanilla extract with Baileys (a bit of a trait of mine!); and added some almond meal to make it a bit more ‘cake’ than truffle’ and decorated with cocoa powder and white chocolate. It went down very well. I must say that it was definitely a dessert rather than a cake and perhaps more just chocolate! Nevertheless it tasted wonderful, especially teamed with a few strawberries and a generous serving of cream.

I will certainly be keeping this in my collection of gluten free sweet treats.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Baking Failure

So it turns out I can’t make hot cross buns. After being inspired by @WeeklyBakeOff, I decided to make some to take home for Easter. I followed The Pink Whisk’s recipe and made half a batch of buns and half of swirls. All was going well and using a bit of oil on the surface instead of flour even meant that I didn’t quite look like a ghost in a snow storm! The buns and swirls went into the oven and the kitchen smelt amazing. Then something went wrong.

I think that maybe I forgot to compensate for the fan oven or maybe my temperamental oven was just too hot. Either way, despite the fact that I always take things out a bit early out of a fear of over cooking anything, I over did them. I wouldn’t say that they were burned but I wasn’t happy with them. I tried to salvage the swirls by slathering them in jam (can’t go wrong) and actually they were ok.

Determined that I would make successful buns and convinced that it was close enough to Easter to still make them, this weekend I went for attempt #2. This time I wanted to use Paul Hollywood’s recipe but I didn’t have apples, peaches or mandarins and was too lazy to go back to the market so I decided to use Mary Berry’s recipe. I omitted the candied peel and added in the zest of half an orange but other than that I followed the recipe exactly. I promise. It was a complete disaster. The dough didn’t rise. At all. In an act of desperation I rolled the dough like The Pink Whisk’s swirls and made what my boyfriend called ‘magic swirls’.

So from now on I think I’ll just buy hot cross buns.

On a better note, I am trying to decide what cupakes to make for the Brixton Bake Off and would appreciate any opinions/ideas/suggestions. At the moment I'm thinking of white chocolate and cranberry, strawberries and cream and chocolate orange..... tweet me (@mixingbowlmagic) or comment on this post.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Pear and Frangipane Tart

With our friend returning from Germany for Easter and the summery weather coming to an end, what else to do other than squeeze ten people into our little flat for a good old fashioned roast. Of course I was in charge of the pudding (or rather no one else was particularly bothered about having one!). Normally for this kind of thing I would make a cheesecake because a) I like making them, b) I like eating them, and c) I can make it in advance of the roast chaos! But this blog is supposed to be about trying new recipes instead of being a lazy baker so cheesecake was banned from the menu.

My Aunty gave me a jar of pears in brandy a couple of months ago. They are absolutely delicious (coming from someone who can’t stand brandy!) and make a gorgeously simple desert just served with vanilla ice cream. However I felt that they should probably be used up soon and I wanted to try something a bit more exciting. I love frangipane and have wanted to try making a bakewell tart for ages so I decided on a pear and frangipane tart with shortcrust pastry. I wasn’t really sure whether pears and frangipane went well together but pastry=good, pears=good and frangipane=good – what could go wrong? (It turns out nothing apart from me getting over enthusiastic and clumsy removing it from the tin!)

I am very much a novice when it comes to pastry so I followed Mary Berry’s recipe for rich shortcrust pastry (sounds good doesn’t it!). Determined not to end up with a ‘soggy bottom’, I rolled out the pastry very thinly, pricked with a fork, filled with baking parchment and rice (note to self: must buy baking beans) and blind baked for 5/10 minutes . I am convinced that this made all the difference because the pastry turned out brilliantly (even if I do say so myself!). It was not at all soggy but not burned or overdone and received lots of compliments!

I completely forgot that the tart tin has a removable bottom so didn’t use it, this was not a problem because it came out of the tin very easily. However, my eagerness betrayed me and I broke the tart as I removed it from the tin. A simple fixing job put it back together – not as pretty as before but it barely lasted long enough to look at it! It went down much better than I’d expected, even among those deluded few who ‘don’t eat pudding’!

So I have learned that pear does in fact go with frangipane and that I can make pastry./ I feel that I can sleep better at night knowing that if I end up in a ‘make pastry or die’ situation, I’ll be fine!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Hen Cupcakes

I am always keen to have a baking project so when someone at work asked me to make cupcakes for a hen party; I couldn’t wait to get started and began to sketch ideas. The brief was for thirty cupcakes: any colour but not be too girly and with ‘rude’ decorations! My initial idea was a pun on cocktails (I’ll trust you can figure out the rest....). I was thinking of mojito or pina colada flavoured cupcakes and frosting decorated with a cocktail umbrella and a ‘rude’ straw :)

After a request for ‘bubbly’ to be used in the cupcakes, I decided to adapt my idea and in the end I settled on 15 vanilla cupcakes filled with cava pastry cream and iced with cava flavoured frosting and 15 red velvet filled with chocolate ganache and iced with cream cheese frosting. I kept my original decoration idea for the cava cupcakes and for the red velvets I decided to stick with a red and white theme and made ‘L plates’ from icing which I paired with lip jelly sweets.

So last Thursday night I prepared for a late night baking session and accepted this would mean very little sleep. Accompanied by my trusty F.R.I.E.N.D.S box set and an extensive catalogue of Gervais’ XFM radio shows I set about destroying my kitchen with flour and icing sugar!

Although they were tasty, I don’t think I’d make the cava cupcakes again as the flavour doesn’t come through very well and it’s just not the same without the fizz. Frankly I’d rather drink it! However I still want to experiment with cocktail flavours so expect some boozy posts in the future.... :) My baking and cooking tends to be unstructured so I enjoyed having a theme, task and deadline. I am yet to hear from the hen party but I hope the girls enjoyed them – the leftover cakes certainly went down well.

I was also able to christen my new investment with this batch of cupcakes -it made my morning a lot less stressful. I had to take the umbrellas and straws off the cakes to fit them in the courier but there was plenty of space for the deep cupcakes with a generous mountain of frosting.

In other, exciting news I have now completed my food safety certificate and registered with Lambeth Council so I am look forward to the Great Brixton Bake-Off on April 28th. I will be entering into three categories: “Cupcakes”, “Cakes” and “Biscuits and Bites” so now I need to work out how on earth to choose just one of each! Suggestions are welcome and if you see me in the next few weeks chances are I will force feed you cake and then make you fill out a four page evaluation document (but don’t let that put you off!)

More baking fun soon.... X