A birthday request

Since I have been making the lovely people I work with try all of my recent attempts at baking, it was only fair that as it was the birthday of Sam, one of the girls in my team, I bake her the cake of her choice. She asked if I could make a Victoria Sponge (thank goodness I thought, one I’ve made before) and so last night I whipped up this delicious, cream and strawberry jam-filled, cake.


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 There’s just one thing, which my boss pointed out to me today – “You do know this is the new precedent – you’ll have to bake a cake for everyone in the office now!”
Orders already placed include whoopie pies, cookies, a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate icing and a banana and walnut sponge! 

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A little bit of whimsical baking

Tom is out for the evening; I’ve run out of recorded programmes on Sky+ to catch up on; the flat for once doesn’t need tidying; there’s only one thing left to do – some whimsical baking! Turns out for once I can actually go ahead with my desire to bake on the spur of the moment as I have all the ingredients I need in my baking drawer to make chocolate chip cookies – flour, chocolate, bicarb of soda,  butter, sugar, vanilla extract, milk.

It’s nice during the week to be able to whip something up quickly, with no planning required, and have a delicious treat at the end of it! I usually bake on Sundays, when I have time to look up a new recipe, go and buy any extra ingredients I need, and take the time to learn any new techniques, but tonight I got the baking buzz and couldn’t ignore it. So, I now have a heavenly smelling plate of cookies sitting in my kitchen!

On a cold, rainy, grey day it’s so nice to sit on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket in front of the telly, with a cup of tea and a warm, melting chocolate chip cookie – perfect!

Ingredients:

half mug of brown sugar

roughly chopped bars of milk and dark chocolate

quarter of a mug of milk

2 mugs of flour

1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda

110g of butter

splash of vanilla essence

pinch of salt

Method:

Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla. Bit by bit add in the milk and mix together.

In another bowl mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt.

Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry, combining well. Add in the chocolate chunks and mix again. 

Using your hands mould the dough into small rounds, not too big as the cookies will spread slightly. 

On a tray lined with baking paper, space out the cookies and place in a preheated (190 degrees, 180 fan) oven for 8-10 minutes, until they are slightly golden at the edges. 

The cookies will be soft in the middle but will harden up once out of the oven. If you keep them in too long they won’t have that delicious gooey-ness we all love in a good cookie!

Double Chocolate Ganache Gateau

I’ve always enjoyed Heston Blumenthal’s cooking programmes, the theatricality of his food is impressive and comes from his understanding of the science behind his ingredients, which adds something different to his programmes – they’re as much about the spectacle of the food as they are about the flavour.

However, until now I’ve never really been tempted to try any of his recipes as they always seemed that bit too intricate/required too complex a set of tools to complete them – dry ice, a huge science lab . . . you get my drift! But his new programme How to Cook Like Heston focuses on key ingredients in the kitchen – eggs, chicken, chocolate – and gives us an insight into how to create Heston’s recipes in your own kitchen.

This week’s episode was about chocolate. Smooth, rich, delicious chocolate. Originating in South America from the seed of the cacao tree, chocolate is one of the world’s favourite foods and is such a lovely ingredient to work with. It’s a thing of brilliance and has something of a mystical feel to it, just read Joanne Harris’ book Chocolat to get a sense of this.

Heston made various recipes using chocolate but the one I most wanted to try was his chocolate ganache gateau* – minus the paint gun and blow torch this seemed like the easiest one to recreate!

I missed out a few steps in order to make this gateau in my little kitchen but it still tastes incredible! The only thing I need to adjust next time is the quantity of ingredients as Heston’s recipe didn’t say what size tin to use, mine must be a lot bigger than his as my gateau is very thin – delicious, but thin! So next time, I either have to use a lot more ingredients or a much smaller tin to get the size right!

 

This recipe is handy as the ganache part is the same recipe for making chocolate truffles. It’s so easy to do and looks particularly impressive – perfect if you want to make someone a home-made present or just show off your culinary skills! Make the ganache the same as in Heston’s recipe, then instead of adding it to the biscuit base, just leave the ganache to set in the fridge. When it’s set, use a melon baller to scoop out rounds of ganache, drop it in chocolate powder or whatever you’d like coating the chocolates, and ta-dah – you have delicious chocolate truffles!

*Heston’s recipe can be found here.

Introducing the KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer . . . in cream

Well hello lovely blog readers and a Happy New Year to you all! I’d like to introduce you to the latest bit of equipment in my baking arsenal . . . the KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer, a belated joint 18th and 21st birthday present from my parents.

This mixer is the most beautiful piece of cooking equipment I’ve ever used and it makes baking so much easier and faster. It arrived bright and early yesterday morning and I’ve already made a double layered sponge cake with cream and strawberry filling, and some delicious cheese, chilli and bacon muffins.

The cake I made was a combination of 2 recipes from the Great British Bake Off recipe book plus a little bit of inspiration, mainly because I couldn’t find what I needed for the first recipe. I was planning on making a white chocolate sponge cake with cream and strawberry filling and topping – but forgot the white chocolate “d’oh” – so I made a victoria sandwich sponge instead, whipped up the cream filling, layered it with strawberries, put on the top cake layer and then spread melted dark chocolate over that and added extra strawberries! De-licious!

Having read an article by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall this week on savoury muffins I thought I’d give them a go as well. I’ve read a few recipes on cornbread and savoury muffins and so I combined a few different aspects of these into a mix for my ones. I wanted to put cheese and bacon in them but also wanted them to have a little bit of a kick so I finely chopped and de-seeded a very hot red pepper and added that too. I wasn’t sure about chilli and bacon as a combination but thanks to a lovely book, “The flavour Thesaurus”, I was able to check, and bacon and chilli are apparently a classic cornbread flavour combo, success!

Using the mixer made the baking so much easier and I’ve never baked anything so speedily! These turned out so nicely I can’t wait to try a different flavour – sundried tomatoes and feta, ricotta and spinach, or pumpkin and pine nuts – the list is endless!