I stayed up until 3am last Sunday morning. GASP!!! For anyone who knows me, this is quite an achievement. I usually get to about 10.30pm on an evening out and start yawning, then by 11pm I’ve firmly got my going home hat on, and that’s it, the night over. But on Saturday I was having such a great time that I forgot about the fact that my children would be waking up in 6 hours…5 hours…4 hours and was happy to keep going. I bet you are all wondering what I was up to. Well, hubby and I, along with 3 other couples have been taking part in our own ‘Come Dine With Me’ dinner parties. Last week we went to CDWM No: 3…and it was brilliant! The theme was ‘The Oscars’ and I just LOVED getting dressed up. Our hosts had even laid out the red carpet for our arrival, and placed a champagne saucer of pink bubbly in our hands as we walked in. I felt famous, just for a split second.
We were actually first to host a couple of months back and decided to have a Mexican themed night. I had no idea that there would be such a market for Mexican style partyware, but I was amazed at the choice. I think my favorite purchase was the inflatable cactus. The only down side being, it has no further use at all! I mean where does one store an inflatable cactus? It looked fab in our dinning room on the night though. The second CDWM had an Olympic theme which had us all dressed up in red, white or blue and taking part in various party games. Such a great night.
These evenings have been really successful so we have agreed that after the last one next month, we are all going out for a meal together over the summer and then we will be starting CDWM season 2 in the autumn. So I’ve got my thinking cap on already for themes, food and entertainment to make our next one even better than our last one.
I want to create my own dessert next time round, (for extra wow factor) so it’s with thanks to the Alphabake challenge hosted by Caroline Makes and Baking Addict and the We Should Cocoa challenge hosted this month by Laura from How to Cook Good Food and organsied by Chocolette that I have come up with a Toblerone style dessert. It contains the required almonds and chocolate for We should Cocoa, and the ‘H’ ingredient is honey for Alphabake.
I have to say that this was a complete experiment right up to the point of the finishing touches. I had imagined in my head that I would cover the cake with a ganache that would make it look more like a triangle of Toblerone, but I ended up with a chocolate sauce so went with that and I think it worked really well. The final dessert had a gorgeous stickiness to it a bit like a sticky toffee pudding, and served with the ice cream, I was in heaven.
Toblerone Inspired Dinner Party Dessert
What you need:
- 125g butter
- 125g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 115g self raising flour
- 25g cocoa
- 1 tbsp milk
- 25g toasted flaked almonds (and a few extra for decoration)
- 70g chopped nougat
- 75g milk chocolate
- 100ml double cream
- Medium sized traybake tin (mine was 27cm x 21cm) greased with the bottom lined
- Serves 8 (based on a few people having a second helping)
What to do
- Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.
- Put butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add sugar and beat until fully incorporated. Mixture should have a light and fluffy texture
- Gradually add eggs and honey beating after each addition. Sift in flour and cocoa and add milk then fold in with a large metal spoon
- Once the flour and cocoa is almost folded in add the nougat and almonds and gently mix in
- Pour mixture into the traybake tin, and gently smooth down. Pop in the oven for about 20 mins until a knife comes out clean
- Remove cake from the tin and cool on a rack
- Once cool, cut the cake into 6 even squares. Then cut each square diagonally to make 2 triangles. Find a rectangular shaped plate or tray and line up the triangles as in the pictures
- To make the chocolate sauce, melt the chocolate and cream together in a bowl over simmering water. Mix with a spoon to incorporate and drizzle over the cakes
- Use the reserved almonds to decorate the sides of each triangle and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
I just love the picture above. Whilst I adore baking, I am also a massive fan of fresh green vegetables and every time I look at this picture my mouth waters. If I concentrate for long enough I can even taste those gorgeous peas and fresh mint. Maybe the reason for this is because it was only last week when I was tasting these ingredients at a Jubilee cooking masterclass organised by Tesco Real Food. I casually dropped that in there, but I can’t tell you how excited I was to be invited. Not only did the evening sound like my perfect night out, but they picked me because they liked the look of my blog, and that is a massive compliment. Think my smile says it all…
So last Wednesday I spent all day getting everything sorted for the babysitter to come at 5.30pm. My day was meticulously planned and during the final hour when I had the most to do my youngest daughter managed to smash a glass with squash in it all over the kitchen and whilst I was clearing that up my 18 month old was scribbling black felt pen on my cream living room curtains. It all got a bit stressful but I managed to catch my train with one minute to spare and thoroughly enjoyed the ride into the big smoke. It did not take me too long to leave my day behind and I got off the train feeling a bit more like Fleur rather than stressed Mummy.
Tesco Real Food is a free foodie magazine that you can pick up at your local Tesco store, and to celebrate the Jubilee they have published a special edition with a selection of Jubilee street party recipes. At the masterclass myself and 4 other bloggers got to cook 5 of the featured recipes. Here’s who did what:
- Chicken tikka drummers (Kerry who writes Multiple Mummy)
- Coronation coleslaw (Tara who writes Hanwell Nest)
- Red, white and blue trifle (Claire who writes Crumbs)
- English breakfast quiche (Michelle who writes Utterly Scrumptious)
- Three pea and wensleydale salad (me :-))
All recipes can be found via this online edition of the Real Food magazine
After a introductory chat with Rosalind Rathouse the founder of The Cookery School where the event was being hosted, we set to work under her watchful eye. This was actually my second visit to The Cookery School having been there the first time to take part in the Katie Fforde Recipe for Love bake off, and I was not disappointed. Rosalind was a fountain of knowledge and casually worked alongside everyone making sure that all 5 dishes were being made in the correct way at the right time. She even showed us how to make fresh custard, a fatless sponge and shortcrust pastry. All of which take literally take 5 mins to make. Rosalind also impressed me by staying cool as a cucumber when I informed her that I was vegetarian. She came up with ways in which a vegetarian version of all the recipes could be made without any hesitation at all.
One of the highlights for me was bringing all our dishes together on the table and tucking in with a glass of wine to wash it all down with. It was a great selection of food. My favorite being the salad, (of course). It was so easy to make and I would never have thought to use so many types of pea in one salad. We actually ended up blanching the little peas just to give a slightly different flavour and texture to the salad which I think was an improvement on the recipe. I liked it so much that I ended up going back to the bowl for another helping more than once! The quiche was also delicious. It had tomato sauce spread on the bottom of the pastry before the egg mixture went in and I though this was a super idea. You could really taste the tomatoes which was a great flavour combination with the egg and mushrooms. Then there was the trifle. Our version had the homemade custard and with all the fresh fruit too, it was simply divine.
I have to say I was very impressed with whole evening and the food especially. When the invite came entitled ‘Jubilee Street Party Cooking Masterclass’ I was expecting a sausage roll to feature somewhere, but not one in sight…thank goodness. I also loved meeting the other bloggers. So refreshing to talk face to face and get to know each other that way.
One final thing to mention is that Tesco Real Food would love people to upload any of their Jubilee street party food to the community section of their website. Anyone who does upload a recipe will go in a draw to win prizes including the weekend cookery course for two at the Ashburton Cookery School, so I thought it was definitely worth mentioning. I shall be uploading my elderflower and white chocolate victoria sponge recipe as soon as I get this blog post published.
With thanks to the lovely Sarah from Cedar, Tesco Real Food and The Cookery School.
P.S. Behind the scenes I’ve been working really hard with my lovely brother Liam as we are creating a new look ‘Homemade by Fleur’ blog. I’m taking the plunge and moving to self hosted and I’m getting myself a little redesign in the process. Look out for the big reveal in a couple of weeks!
Hands up who got excited about the Royal Wedding last year and all the baking that happened as a result? My hand goes straight up because I certainly did. We hosted a party at our house and I was in my element planning for it and baking lots of gorgeous treats to serve my guests. Luckily, for us keen bakers there is the Queen’s Jubilee to celebrate this year which means more street parties and family gatherings to bake for. Hip, hip hooray!
In preparation for the Jubilee I started to scan the internet to see what recipes I could find to inspire me and I have to say, I have been disappointed. All I could really find was red, white and blue cupcakes or crown shaped biscuits. That’s all fine, but I was looking for something a bit more original. So I was thrilled when Appliances Online agreed to sponsor a Jubilee Baking Competition on my blog.
I am looking for any bloggers out there to make their best Jubilee themed cakes and bakes and enter them into my competition so I can create a real treasure trove of inspirational ideas. I want you to be as creative and unique as you possibly can. Anything goes! I shall do a round up post of all the entries when I announce the winner.
The judge for this competition is fellow blogger Vanessa Kimbell. Vanessa is quite an inspiration to me. Her first cookbook ‘Prepped‘ was published 6 months ago, she has her own Sunday morning radio show on BBC Northamptonshire, she runs a ‘pop up’ bakery in her front garden each Saturday with her children and she writes popular blog, ‘ Goddess on a Budget‘. I know that Vanessa has the perfect eye for judging this kind of competition and I’ve no doubt that she will pick a worthy winner.
The deadline for entries is 3rd June 2012 and one lucky winner will get £100 of Amazon vouchers, provided by Appliances Online. Think of all the lovely baking accessories or cook books you could buy for that!
Competition Rules of Entry
Main Entry – Blog post
- Your Jubilee cake or bake needs to be featured on one of your posts. Tell your readers that it is for the Homemade by Fleur, Blogging Jubilee Baking Competition with a link to this post (http://wp.me/p1UMex-o3) which tells them all about it
- You also need to mention that Appliances Online are sponsoring the competition and include this link (http://www.appliancesonline.co.uk/cookers/cookers.aspx) within the post
- Copy and paste the competition badge below and include in your blog post
- Add Homemade by Fleur as a tag on your post / page that you are submitting
- I would love you to sign up to follow my blog to find out the results and of course to see the entrants and winner, but this is not compulsory
- Feel free to like the Homemade By Fleur page and share it with others to get into the Jubilee spirit
- Follow me on twitter for competition updates @homemadebyfleur
- Post your entry on twitter mentioning me @homemadebyfleur and adding #jubileebakingcompetition
- I will retweet you and your post when I see it
- Make anything bake or cake that you wish as long as you feel it links to the Jubilee theme and have explained this in your post
- Please email your photographs (no more than 2) and a link to your post to firstname.lastname@example.org
- In that email please also include your name, although I will be listing entries by blog name on the round up
- The deadline is 3rd June 2012
- The winner will be announced a few days after the deadline, so keep you eye out!
- The judges decision is final
Vintage Jubilee Flag Biscuits
To get you all in the mood, I have come up with a Jubilee themed bake of my own. I had a lot of fun making these but the best bit was taking the photos of them on Hove beach in Sussex. I was down there last weekend and along with all the paraphernalia needed for 3 children when planning a day trip to the beach, I packed my biscuits, the mini bucket and spade (pre-filled with sand from our sandpit as I knew Hove beach had pebbles) and my camera. My husband rolled his eyes more than once as I took ages to find the right box to transport the biscuits as we were trying to get out of the door. I’m sure you can picture the scene. But it was all worth it as I love the pictures and the weather was amazing. It has turned out to be the only sunny day in the last 2 weeks, so I was very lucky. It’s a reminder in amongst all the rain that we do have some beautiful days here in England.
I used the Irresistible Chocolate Biscuit recipe from pg 183 of my new aptly named ‘Biscuit’ cookbook written by GBBO finalist from series 1 Miranda Gore Browne. It’s a great book by the way, and if you are partial to the odd biscuit or two this is definitely one to put on your birthday list. But there are plenty of other cookbooks and online recipes for a basic chocolate biscuit. You will probably find one in a book you already have. What you are looking for is one that creates a biscuit dough that you can roll out and use cutter on.
What you will need:
- 8-10 rectangle chocolate biscuits
- Some royal icing (I used 250g (half a pack) of the royal icing sugar mixed with water and it was enough)
- Approx 100g white fondant icing
- Red and blue food colour (I used my new India Tree natural food colouring for these and thought they were great)
- Pencil (not too sharp) ruler and greaseproof paper
- 4 icing containers/bottles or bags
- 4 icing tips, I used 2 x PME 2 tips for the piping icing and 2 x PME 4 tips for the flood icing
- 8-10 Lollipop sticks
How to make:
- The first thing I did was draw around the rectangle cookie cutter I used to make the biscuits onto greaseproof paper and cut it out. I then drew on the central cross from the Union Jack followed by the rest of the flag, but but I found that I only really needed the central cross as a guide and the rest of the flag I did freehand
- Next I made my royal icing. Follow the back of the pack with regards to the amount of water needed. Aim to have it fairly stiff, but soft enough to pass through a PME 2 icing tip and holds its shape with out any problems
- Divide icing into 4 small bowls. Put two bowls aside then add a little bit more water to the remaining two bowls. You are aiming for the consistency of custard. This is your flood icing and is what you will use to ‘colour in’ your flag. The other two bowls contain your piping icing which is what you will use to pipe the flag pattern onto your biscuit
- Colour 1 piping and 1 flood icing red/pink and 1 piping and 1 flood icing blue then fill the piping icing into the icing bottles or bags that have the PME 2 tip and the flood icing into the icing bottles or bags with the PME 4 tip
- Roll out your fondant icing (not too thick) and use your rectangle cookie cutter again to cut out rectangles of fondant and stick these onto your biscuits with a little bit of royal icing (I just scraped out the last bits from the bowl I mixed my royal icing in to do this)
Icing your biscuit step by step
- Take your greaseproof paper flag and place on top of the fondant. Use your not too sharp pencil to imprint the central Union Jack cross onto the fondant
- Pipe the pink/red central cross onto the fondant and then add the 4 diagonal lines that come out from the centre of the flag using the PME 2 tip and piping icing
- Now add the blue triangles onto the flag using the PME 2 tip and piping icing
- Fill in the cross and diagonal strips with pink/red flood icing and the blue triangles with blue flood icing using the PME 4 tip
- Leave your biscuits to dry for a couple of hours then stick your lollipop stick on the back with any remaining royal icing and leave to dry over night
- Cover your royal icing with a clean damp j cloth to stop it from drying out at any point
- Don’t cut your biscuits too thick. I think I did mine too thick, and consequently they were a bit on the heavy side as it was tricky getting the lollipop sticks to hold
- Sticking these in a bucket is a great idea for a centrepiece at your Jubilee party but these flags can decorate cakes, desserts, or if making mini ones, you could use as cupcake toppers
- To make mini flags all you need to do is make smaller flags. You could use the thinner wooden coffee stirrer as the flag pole instead of a lollipop stick giving you the perfect excuse to go for a coffee. See how Maision Cupcake has used them here
HAPPY BAKING EVERYONE!
I am increasingly becoming quite a fan of Nigella Lawson. No matter what people think of her silk clad midnight snacks there is no doubt that she is quite an inspiration and I’m sure her recipes have created many new foodies. By coincidence, her cookbook ‘Feast’ arrived today. I ordered it due to my growing curiosity about Nigella. The only other Nigella cookbook I have is her Christmas one but some how I felt I was missing out. I’ve had a quick flick though ‘Feast’ and I’m quite excited about getting into bed tonight to read more. Sad I know, but that is perfect bedtime reading for me.
The other reason I have become more interested in Nigella is of course is because I was been lucky enough to briefly meet her a couple of months ago when filming for Baking Mad. I’m also going to be hosting the Forever Nigella blog challenge in June run by Sarah who writes the fantastic Maison Cupcake blog which I am very excited about so watch this space for more details on that.
So for all these reasons I thought that featuring and reviewing one of her recipes on my blog would be very fitting.
This month Vanilla Frost is hosting Forever Nigella for Sarah and the theme is ‘spring’. So the other night I had a look through some online Nigella recipes and came across one for Red Prawn and Mango Curry. It was the addition of mango and the colourful ingredients that made it feel very springtime to me, and in my opinion a great curry recipe is worth it’s weight in gold so I thought I would give it a go.
I decided that I would review based on marks out of 10 for a few set criteria. Hopefully this will make it easier for you to quickly see what I thought of it.
The total cost of ingredients where I normally shop in Ocado was £17.56. Calculating the cost based on how much of each ingredient is used the cost was £10.74 and based on the dish serving 4 people it worked out at £2.69 per person. Cheaper than your average take away ruby, so pretty good value if you ask me.
Time required to make:
The prep took me about 30 mins, but most of this was peeling and chopping the butternut squash and mango. I did not have any sweet potato so I left it out, but peeling and chopping these would have added on an extra 5 mins the the prep I would say. If you are tight on time you can buy the sweet potato and squash in a prepared pack together and save yourself half the time I would say. The only other thing to mention is that in the recipe it suggests 15 mins cooking time for the squash and potato. Mine took about 40 mins to be soft enough.
Skill level needed:
This is a great recipe for beginners. After everything has been prepared it is really just a case of putting most if it in the saucepan and letting it simmer away whilst you get on with something else.
I like the instructions. They were easy to follow and nicely formatted on the webpage.
Visual appearance of completed dish:
I could not wait to tuck into this meal. Admittedly, I picked this recipe because I thought I would like it, but it really did look scrummy. This would be a great meal to serve friends and you could make it look even nicer by serving with a bit of mango chutney, cucumber raita (my favorite) and a naan or flatbread.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this curry. It is sweet and sour, spicy and salty and I love having flavour contradictions in the same dish. When you get mango, butternut squash and prawn in the same mouthful, it is really quite something. I was tempted to close my eyes and say, ‘Mmmmm….” but then that really would have been a bit too much like Nigella, so you will be pleased to hear I did not do this, and instead started up conversation with my husband as distraction. The level of heat and spice in this curry will be down to the red curry paste you use. I really like the Thai Taste range of pastes.
Overall, I think it is fair to say that I loved this recipe. I will certainly be making it again, and can’t wait to make it next time we have guests.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to bed to do you know what!
I am also going to enter this curry into Fabulicious Food’s Family Friendly Fridays blog event. There are some great recipes entered this month so hop over and take a look if you get the chance.
Well, my TV debut has finally aired and now I can scream at the top of my voice “I WON, I WON!!!” I still can’t quite believe it. Yes, I went there with every intention of winning but I had no idea what my competition was going to be like or how things were going to turn out on the day.
I made so many cheesecakes in the week leading up the show and I really felt that I went on a cheesecake journey during that time. Going from sheer panic to refining my ideas and feeling confident in what I was doing and looking forward to the day.
When I heard we were making cheesecake I was initially quite pleased…until my first cheesecake ended up looking like a cow pat. I kid you not! Making a large cheesecake in 2 hours I came to realise was not possible for me. My hat goes off to Christine who did manage it on the day. I tried her raspberry cheesecake and it was superb. The problem is it takes 50 mins to cook a large cheesecake and in an ordinary situation you are meant to leave it to completely cool in the fridge overnight before taking it out of its tin. When practicing at home, removal of the tin after a mere 15 mins of cooling, (due to the time constraints) made my large cheesecake efforts crack and dip in the middle. It looked a bit more presentable covered in chocolate ganache but there was no way I could give it to Eric on national TV.
Then the lightbulb moment came. I would make a little cheesecake. It would cook and cool quicker and because I could not decide on what flavour I was going to do, I came up with my next lightbulb idea of cooking 3 complimentary flavoured cheesecakes, each one with a different base and bespoke decorations. The first time I tried to cook them, they came out perfectly and the relief was massive. At least I there was a chance that I would cook something which had a chance of winning.
When the day came, I was up at the crack of dawn as we had to be at Cake Boy (Eric’s cake shop and cafe) by 8.30. Once I got there I soon felt relaxed with a coffee and it was lovely to get to know my fellow contestants Christine and Hannah a little bit.
Cake Boy is gorgeous. It has the most amazing selection of cakes which Eric bakes himself every morning and the comfy seating next to a wall of fairy lights is inspired and gave a magical feel to the place. All of the production crew were extremely friendly too and talked us through what was going to happen during the day. Considering we were the second to last episode to be filmed and there are 20 episodes in total, I think the team did so well. They must have been exhausted from it all.
Just before we were about to start and as I was finishing my coffee, I looked up to see none other than Nigella Lawson sitting opposite me chatting to Eric about cakes (of course). She had popped in with a couple of friends who were getting married and who wanted to order one of Eric’s spectacular wedding cakes. I almost choked on my coffee. What a fab start to the day to see Eric for the first time along with Nigella. Star struck? Quite possibly!
We then got to work filming some sound bites about why we wanted to take part in the show and what we were cooking. Then we had to get our ingredients ready and the bake off began. I thought I was feeling calm and collected and things were going well. Then I took my cheesecakes out of the oven and with two cameras filming, all the production crew and the two other contestants watching I had to take all three out of their tins. Possibly the hardest part as the tins are small and I had to push the cheesecake up and out. So much could have gone wrong especially as they are still a bit soft when they first come out of the oven. I was shaking like a leaf and could hardly cooridnate my fingers, but I managed all three and took a big sigh of relief. Once out, I could relax a bit and start to decorate them. I over whipped my cream which made it a bit hard to pipe, but other than that I was really pleased with the end results.
We had to wait for ages to take our creations into Eric, and when I did, he really gave nothing away. Then we had to wait for even longer whilst they filmed Eric’s reactions to the cakes, but finally the time came for him to announce the winner. I had come to realise by this point that in order to make a TV show, there needs to be lots of re-takes to get it just perfect. This was indeed the case as well when announcing the winner. Eric must have said, “and the winner is….” about 6 times, before he finally said, “…Fleur”. At which point I actually almost cried. It meant so much to me to have Eric pick me. I knew I could bake, but to have a master cake maker pick me was such an amazing feeling. I was so worried that I may have over done my flavours and he would not like them, but he told me afterwards that it was my flavours that made him pick me in the end and he liked the fact that I took a risk with something different.
I have to say though that Christine’s raspberry cheesecake,
Needless to say the masterclass was brilliant. I got to know Eric a bit better, and there was plenty of banter so it was a real laugh. We made a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake covered in gold leaf and it was absolutely stunning.
A truly amazing day and a wonderful experience. Something I won’t ever forget, and it has given me more confidence to continue with my baking and blogging. Who knows what will be my next adventure but I’m looking forward to it already, and open to offers 😉
Here’s the link to the show. I’m in episode 16 🙂 http://www.channel4.com/programmes/baking-mad-with-eric-lanlard/4od
Trio of mini cheesecakes, chocolate and chilli, cinnamon and ginger, and cardamom, vanilla and pistachio
What you will need:
50g ginger nut, bourbon and hobnob biscuits
3 x 20g unsalted butter
300g cream cheese
90g caster sugar
142ml sour cream
1 large egg and egg yolk
7-8 cardamom pods deseeded then seeds crushed in a pester and mortar
1 tsp of vanilla paste
20g pistachios finely chopped
2 tsp cocoa powder
4-5 drops of homemade chilli oil or chilli power to taste
20g crystallised ginger finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
70ml double cream
50g plain chocolate
50 ml double cream whipped
30g white chocolate melted
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
Sprinkling of ground cinnamon, vanilla sugar and icing sugar
Sprig of fresh mint
3 3″ round tins
How to do it
1. Grease and line the bottom of 3 3″ round tins with parchment paper
2. Turn the oven onto 160c
3. Either separately whizz your 3 different types of biscuit in the food processor or put the biscuits in 3 separate freezer bags and bash with a rolling pin until the consistency of breadcrumbs
4. Melt 3 x 20g butter separately and mix each with the crushed biscuits in separate bowls
5. Add the biscuit and butter mixture to each of the tins and press into the bottom with the back of a spoon. Put in the fridge
6. In a large mixing bowl mix the cream cheese and sugar together on a low speed
7. Add the egg and then egg yolk and continue to mix slowly
8. Add the sour cream and mix
9. Divide the mixture evenly into 3 bowls
10. In the first bowl add the cocoa powder and chilli oil and stir in with a spoon
11. In the second bowl add the crushed cardamom, vanilla paste and pistachios and stir in with a spoon
12. In the 3 bowl add the chopped ginger and cinnamon and stir in with a spoon
13. Get the 3 cake tins from the fridge and pour the ginger and cinnamon cheesecake mix into the tin with the ginger nut base, the chilli and chocolate cheesecake mix into the tin with a bourbon base and the cardamom, vanilla and pistachio cheesecake mix into the tin with the hobnob base
14. Boil the kettle, cover the bottom of the cake tins with foil (to make the tins more watertight) then place the 3 tins in a deep baking dish and pour in the boiling water until about half way up the sides of the tins
15. Place in the oven for 30
16. Once out leave in the tin to cool for 20 with a bowl over the top of the top (keeps the air moist whilst cooling so helping to prevent any cracks)
17. Once completely cool take out of tins
18. Now melt your cream and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
19. Once melted pour over the chocolate cheesecake and down the sides. Work quickly and then wipe away any excess at the bottom to neaten up
21. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, place in a freezer bag, snip the end off and decorate the cheesecake with white chocolate stripes
20. Whip the cream and vanilla paste together, until stiff. Place in a piping bag with a icing nozzle and pipe a cream decoration on the top of the cardamom, vanilla and pistachio cheesecake and sprinkle with vanilla sugar
21. Use a palette knife to smooth over a layer of crème fraiche on top of the ginger and cinnamon cheesecake, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and icing sugar and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint
- I used whole pistachios which I covered in gold leaf to decorate the cardamom, vanilla and pistachio cheesecake
- I made simple sugar corkscrews for the ginger and cinnamon cheesecake out of melted sugar which I wrapped around the end of an oiled plastic fork
In the blurb about my blog you will see the words “for busy mums who want to use their creative side”. Well this post is written with that specifically in mind. Yesterday after picking my eldest from school, rushing home, giving all three their tea then dropping eldest at Rainbows, I had 40 whole minutes until I had to pick up. Wow, that is quite a chunk of time for someone like me. I did not want to waste it so I carefully considered what to do. There were lots chores that I could have done like fold the washing, tidy the bedrooms, order my food shop or make some calls but instead I decided to set myself a challenge, and see if I could bake something in that time. ‘Crazy” I hear you say! Yes, I might agree with you there, after all I did not list the obvious option of sitting down and having a cup of tea but once I had the challenge idea in my head, there was no going back, I had to do it.
The requirements were quick, easy and something that the kids would like. Lots of scope there and after a rummage through my fridge and cupboards the decision was made. Little scones with feta, sundried tomato and caramelised balsamic onion. Sweet, salty and tangy all at the same time, making these just a little bit more sophisticated than your average savory scone. You might already know this about me, but I like to create mini sized food. In this case I think the small size makes the scones much more versatile. They are perfect for snack time, picnics (can’t wait now that the weather is improving) jazzing up your lunch and can even be made as little canapés served with chilli jam maybe? They freeze well and can be defrosted and warmed up in a jiffy by using the microwave.
Little scones with feta, sundried tomato and caramelised balsamic onion
Here’s what you will need:
- 200g self raising flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 40g/1 1/2 oz butter
- 100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) milk and a little bit extra for brushing the tops of the scones
- 6 sundried tomatoes
- 25g feta cheese
- 1 med onion chopped up finely
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Small scone cutter
- Greased baking tray
- Pastry brush (I use a silicone one and think they are fab)
Makes about 18 mini scones
So the big question now, is did I manage to make them in the 40 minutes? Well here is how I got on.
How to make:
Time: 40 mins
- First thing I did was to chop the onions up and I did this in my magimix as if I’m giving onion to the kids it has to be really small
- Then I put the chopped onion in a small saucepan with the olive oil and let it cook on a low heat for about 5 mins. I then turned the oven on to 220c/gas 7.
- After 5 mins, add the vinegar and sugar to your onions. Stir regularly and keep on a low heat
Time: 31 mins to go
- Now I put the sundried tomatoes and feta cheese in the magimix and whizzed for about 5 seconds, until a rough paste is made. I kept this to one side and started to make the scones
- In a big mixing bowl add the flour and butter. Mix together either by hand by rubbing through your fingertips, or in the mixer until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the tomato and feta paste along with the onions which should by now have had about 15 mins to cook in the saucepan and should be nice and soft and have absorbed the sugar and vinegar
Time: 22 mins to go
- Mix the dry ingredients in, and once combined slowly add the milk and mix until a soft dough is formed
- Take the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly knead and then roll out. Make sure that the dough rolled out thickly (about 3 cm) as this is the secret to lovely high scones. Cut out the scones and place on the baking tray. Bring leftover bits of dough together and roll out again until all the dough is used up
Time: 13 mins to go
As soon as the scones came out, I turned off the oven, placed them onto a cooling rack and ran out the door to do the pick up. I did not have time for the washing up so left the kitchen like a bit of a bombsite.
However, most of it went in the dishwasher, and I had ‘ warm from the oven’ scones to munch on whilst I was doing it. Not so bad after all!
I’m hoping that anybody out there who feels they don’t have time to bake will be inspired by my ‘Crazy Scone Challenge’ and find 40 mins today or tomorrow to get stuck in and create a little something that has the potential to make your day as these little beauties certainly made mine.
These scones can also be entered into the Tea Time Treats blog challenge which is savory or sweet scones! This month the challenge is hosted by Karen from Lavender and Loveage and is shared with Kate from What Kate Baked.
I’ve been thinking recently about what it is that attracts me to baking so much. Some questions that I have been asking myself include why do I go to great lengths to squeeze it into my already hectic day? Why do I stay up way past my bedtime to finish off something I made earlier, and what is it that drives me to look for any excuse to bake something for someone? Seems a bit excessive when I put it like that, but I think I have worked out the answers. Baking makes me feel like myself again. Not mummy, but Fleur. Having that sense of identity when most if my day is consumed with school runs, changing nappies, washing (arghhh how I hate the washing) playing taxi driver and feeding three little mouths is so important to me. I’d go as far as to say that baking helps me to be a better mummy. I know that is quite a bold statement, but to me it makes perfect sense. When I bake I feel a real sense of achievement from turning a pile of separate ingredients into something yummy that I can eat and share. I love my children’s faces when they see what I have made and baking with them is really special too. I am able to give them my undivided attention for a while at the same time as teaching them a new skill. By doing this I hope to create happy memories for them so that they will want to do the same with their children. Baking also takes me on a journey to somewhere I call ‘cakeland’. What I mean by this is completely focusing on the baking task so that all the other things going on in my head (like list building…I like to make lists) take a back seat for a while. This I know is good for me because I always feel calmer and more relaxed after baking. Or maybe it’s the fact that baking is an expression of my creativity? I love to see an idea that started in my head becoming real.
So I guess baking is a very important part of my life at the moment for many reasons. Ultimately, it makes me happy, and when it’s written like that, maybe my baking antics don’t seem so excessive after all. I’d love to hear from any of my readers if you also indulge in a bit of cake therapy.
This week, I’m going to share some top tips for one of my all time favorite bakes. It is Mary Berry’s infamous chocolate roulade. In my experience this is a total crowd pleaser and they are great fun to make. The sponge is made without flour and butter which creates a beautifully light, melt in the mouth cake, leaving you hankering after a second slice. Don’t let the rolling part put you off though as it is really is not that bad, and I’m being totally honest. The sponge will crack as you roll but that is part of the look and character.
It won’t come as a surprise when I say that I have been experimenting a bit with this recipe, so if you fancied added a little extra flavour you could try making my Chocolate and Chestnut Roulade filled with Almond Cream variation. I will tell you how to do this in the tips section below. Having used chestnut in my chilli a few weeks ago, I though it would be fun to show how it can be used it in a sweet dish as well.
- Tin of chestnut spread (I found mine is my local Waitrose and brought it thinking it looked so lovely I just had to find something to use it in)
- 1 tsp of almond extract
- It’s worth following the recipe carefully and taking time to measure out your ingredients as the way you mix the batter will have a big impact on how much it rises.
- To test stiffness of egg whites turn the mixing bowl upside down and it should stay put with none falling out
- Make sure you have the right sized tin for this recipe. If the batter is spread too thick or thin you will end up with underdone or over cooked sponge
- Having two mixing bowls makes this recipe so much easier. You will need one for the egg yolks, sugar and chocolate and another for the egg whites
- Give the bowl for the egg whites an extra wipe with a clean tea towel to get rid of any grease as even a speak of it can effect the way your egg whites whisk up
- To make the Chestnut and Almond Roulade variation simply add 1 tsp of almond extract to your whipping cream as it is being mixed. Then you need to apply a layer of the chestnut spread onto the sponge once it has cooled and you have placed it on your icing sugar covered greaseproof paper. Finish by topping with a layer of the almond flavoured cream. Then continue with the remaining steps of Mary’s the recipe
- When you come to roll the sponge, score across the short width with a knife into the sponge about an inch in from the edge, then fold this bit in. Then use the end of the greaseproof paper to start the roll by pulling it back over the sponge towards the opposite end. This will avoid finger prints and finger marks in the sponge as you roll it
- Don’t worry if the ends look messy once you have rolled it up, these can be sliced off with a knife to reveal (fingers crossed) a beautiful swirl of chestnut and cream. Then you can do a taste test and scoff the enders 🙂
- This roulade can be frozen once made and defrosts perfectly with only a little extra dusting of icing sugar needed before presentation
After a very exciting day filming Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard yesterday, I came back to earth with a bit of a bump this morning. The school run was freezing, the washing mountain piled high and my baby boy not well at all. I still have a big smile on my face though and am so pleased that I went for it and enjoyed the experience. I feel even more inspired about my baking, which is amazing really given how much I loved it before. So today, to help with the reality blues I decided that a bit of baking was in order .
On Australia Day last week one of my Australian friends posted a picture of her lamingtons on Twitter and ever since I have been thinking about them. I have made them quite a few times before, but not for a while. If I had a Pinterest account I might have posted pictures of lamingtons on there, but I don’t (yet) so I made a mental note instead.
Lamingtons are essentially a plain sponge cut into squares, covered in chocolate and sprinkled with desiccated coconut. It’s not just any old sponge though, it is a sponge that is mostly eggs and flour, with a little bit of sugar and butter. The result is a sturdier sponge, (needed for the cutting into neat squares and then dunking in chocolate) that tastes amazing. A bit like a sponge/biscuit combo. The only thing that I can think of that compares is those little sponge fingers you can buy to make the base of your trifle with, except this sponge is not as crunchy as those by a long way.
There is no getting away from the fact that decorating lamingtons is a messy affair. Once dunked they need somewhere to ‘drip dry’ and the best place is on a cooling rack. My eldest daughter helped me with ours this evening. We had a lot of fun. It’s a great interpretation of messy play. As long as you don’t mind the licking of fingers, which will happen, my advice is to get stuck in and enjoy.
I should also mention that I have a special friend who moved to Australia last April for 3 years. I’m so proud of her for getting stuck into the Australian lifestyle and coping amazingly well with the change. So these cakes and this post is especially for Emily. I hope she makes some and can enjoy them too.
The recipe I use for reference is from Tanya Ramsay’s cookbook, Real Family Food’ (pg 224). I have made a few alterations for example, less chocolate icing because I had a fair bit left over when I made it to Tanya’s recipe, but that’s just my opinion. For tea time treat life saver, try making double the amount of sponge and freezing the extra squares until needed and icing them once defrosted.
What you will need
- 3 eggs
- 75g caster sugar
- 125g self raising flour
- 25g cornflour
- 3 tbsp hot water
- 25g unsalted butter, melted
For the chocolate icing
- 250g icing sugar
- 40g cocoa
- 7g unsalted butter, melted
- 110ml milk
- 25g desiccated coconut for sprinkling on top
Makes 16 squares
- Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
- Lightly grease a medium rectangle shaped tin (approx 18cm x 23cm) and line with greaseproof paper
- Mix the eggs together in a large bowl until thick and creamy and then add the sugar and mix until dissolved
- Sieve in the flour and cornflour, then add the water and butter and mix with until smooth
- Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 30 mins. Place on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Trim off any golden edges and then cut into medium sized squares. Though you might want to cut into smaller squares if you are making this mostly for kiddie consumption, or even use a cookie cutter for fun shapes, (although there will be some excess sponge with this option)
- For the chocolate icing sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl, add the milk, water and butter and stir together until smooth. Then, put the bowl over a pan of hot water and stir again until silky and glossy. Add a dash more milk if you think it is looking a bit thick or stiff.
- Use a fork to hold the sponge squares and dunk into the chocolate icing until completely covered. Pull out and let it drip for a few seconds over the bowl and then place on a cooling rack and sprinkle with the coconut. Leave to set and then tuck in. These are best eaten on the day you make them but can be kept for up to 3 days in an airtight container. As the letter for the first ever AlphaBake blog challenge is ‘L’ it would be rude not to enter this blog post. The Alpha Bake challenge is hosted this month by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker blog. Ros shares the hosting of this challenge with Caroline from Caroline Bakes blog. Looking forward to seeing all the other entries.
Only a quick post for you this week folks. For those of you that don’t know I and heading down to London on Monday to take part in Channel 4’s programme, ‘Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard‘. Filming is going to take place in Eric’s cake shop, Cake Boy and I will be competing with two other bakers in a mini bake off to win a masterclass with Eric afterwards. The theme is cheesecake, so as you can imagine I have cheesecake coming out of my ears at the moment with all of the practicing I have been doing. I have finally decided on what sort of cheesecake I am going to bake and am now concentrating on the decoration. I’m very excited and nervous all rolled into one!
I will be blogging the chosen cheesecake recipe in a few weeks, but today the recipe is for a fig, shallot and blue cheese tart. I made this tart a week ago as we were hosting a family party at my house and although I was not catering completely (everyone was bringing something) I was keen to try out something new. The other thing to say is that I LOVE figs, LOVE blue cheese and LOVE sweetly cooked onion so I was confident that this would get the big thumbs up from me. These flavours just go so well together. Sweet fig and shallot, against the salty blue cheese brought together with cream and eggs. Superb! But before I give you the recipe I wanted to list why I think savoury tarts are so special and definitely worth making from time to time.
- They are a great winter supper cooked with a jacket potato and your choice of veg
- Fantastic summer lunch served with salad and garlic bread
- Versatile – eaten all year round
- You can make double and freeze one (very handy mid week)
- Great party food (mine did not last 2 mins)
- Perfect for experimentation depending on what is in season and what your preferences are
- Easy to make, especially if you use shop brought pastry which is perfectly acceptable and totally allowed
Now that you are all convinced that savoury tarts are a good thing to make, have a go at this. You wont be disappointed.
This recipe was inspired from one I found on the BBC Good Food website, but I have made a few subtle but noticeable changes.
What you will need:
175g plain flour
75g wholemeal flour
150g unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp salt
400g shallots, peeled and finely chopped
few springs of fresh thyme
dash of olive and a small knob of butter
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200ml crème fraiche
200ml double cream
140g blue cheese (your choice)
3-4 fresh figs, cut in half
A 20-23cm tart tin, greased
How to make:
I’m going to explain how I make my pastry in the food processor. You can of course make it by hand, (or buy it) but this is so easy. In fact, I would argue that it is much less effort than getting out the house and going to the shop…or maybe that is just me with 3 kids in tow.
1. Put the flour, salt and butter into the food processor and mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix until a soft smooth dough is formed. Wrap in cling film and put into the fridge for at least half an hour. This pastry can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen so a good one to make in advance.
2. Put the butter and olive oil in the saucepan, then add the shallots and thyme and start cooking on a low heat. After about 5 mins add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a further 10 mins stirring regularly until soft
3. Preheat you oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface, transfer to the tart tin, gently press the sides of the pastry into the tin, (to prevent it folding over in the oven) prick the base with a fork and blind bake with baking balls on top of greaseproof paper for 15 mins
4. Mix the eggs and cream in a large bowl, season and add the blue cheese. Once cooled add your shallot mixture and stir together.
5. Once pastry is blind baked, take out of the oven and turn oven down to 170c/325f/gas 3. Remove baking balls and greaseproof paper, then pour in your filling. Place your cut figs, inside up around the tart. Cook in the oven for about 50 mins – 1 hour until it as started to brown. It should still have a bit of a wobble when you take it out. It will continue to set as it cools.
PS: I also did a review of some Valentines Chocs this week. Worth a read if you fancy putting some chocolates on your wish list for 14th Feb.