Wednesday, 29 December 2010

where have i been?

well, i trust everyone has had a good christmas? got some nice goodies to work with in the next few weeks, and am still figuring out a couple of excuses to use to get my hands on my brothers new baking cookbook :)

anyway, as per the title of the post, where has sarah been?

across the country, day and night, are thousands of a level students beavering away over their textbooks, in anticipation for the january exams. i am no exception. my tiny children's desk from ikea in the dim corner of my bedroom is now my best friend. it is where i spend around 5 hours a day, revising away, through fear of failure when results come.

something you guys should get used to if you follow my blog, is the fact that i am absolutely, 100% petrified of failure. failure in exams, class tests, assessments, coursework, even life itself. and not something i can see improving in the near future. i'm more scared of it than i am of getting sick, or having blood tests.

so, you may see the occasional post or recipe every now and again, but with exams looming just under 2 weeks away, i have to prioritise.

BUT DON'T WORRY - i'll be back to normal the weekend after exams finish, and that, my friends, is a promise.

ciao for now,
sarahhh xxx

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Baking wishlist!

ahhh christmas time already!?!? it feels like only yesterday when i was left reeling after results day and wondered where the hell did my summer go? i must remember to enjoy my summer next year!

so, as its my first christmas here at vanilla sugar, i thought i'd put up my baking wishlist! my parents don't actually know about my blog, so they just think i really like baking for the family (which i do of course)

top of my list is a cookbook, which is kinda obvious. i'm actually buying a couple of cookbooks for the family this year, but everyone knows that i get cookbooks that i would like to use as well. but why does it matter, if they are going to enjoy it as well? my dad always gets a whopping great cookbook (you know, the ones that weigh a million pounds) every year, it wouldn't be the same without the howling cry of someone who has dropped it on their foot, and this year my 11 year old brother has really gotten into baking (must be in the genes) so i bought him a book all of his own :) but i'd really really like a book for myself, maybe the hummingbird one - but i've heard mixed reviews about that one, so i'm not sure yet.

second, i would really really love a cake stand, like this one:
because its really not the same piling biscuits and cupcakes onto a plate, and this ones so pretty!

finally, i'd love a set of gel food colourings. recently i've found several recipes that i'd love to use, but liquid colourings just wouldn't work, and many a perfect icing has been ruined by colourings, also i'd love to give red velvet cakes a crack!

so, not that long a list this year, normally its about as long as my arm, but this year i thought i'd tone it down to a few things that i really really want rather than loads of things i like.

i am planning a series of christmas and leftover bakes, so don't worry, not all my posts will be so wordy!

in the meantime, whats on your wishlist?

Monday, 13 December 2010

Double Chocolate Brownies

double chocolate! i hear you cry! ahh yes, they are double chocolate in that they have chocolate and cocoa powder in them. don't underestimate these babies, cut them small, they are very rich and you won't be missing out by having a smaller piece!
this was tweaked slightly from the hugh fearnley-whittingstall one, but i think i changed it for the better :)
the consistency was somewhat in the middle of a cake batter and a bread dough, so i dont know if that was a result of my tweaks or if it was meant to be like that.
the surface was nothing like i expected it to be - it was really crumbly and quite hard, nothing like the shiny, cracked surface i was used to. nevertheless it didn't affect the quality of the brownie whatsoever!

200g good quality dark chocolate
250g butter
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
125g plain flour
50g cocoa

melt together the butter and the chocolate in a double boiler (bowl ontop of a saucepan of water)
whisk together the eggs and the sugar, and add the chocolate to the eggs, mixing thoroughly.
sift in the flour and the cocoa and stir in until completely mixed
pour into a foil lined square tin
put in the oven at 160 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a knife pushed in the middle is only a little bit sticky

eat hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. yums.

Vanilla Shortbread Biscuits :)

alas, this is the post from two weeks ago, sorry about the delay, exam period so no time to spend working on this blog! we had no self raising flour in the house so i made some shortbread which didn't need any.
this is a very simple recipe that everyone should have in their kitchens and so should not have to do any extra shopping.
my recipe made 32 cookies, but of course this will vary on the size of your cutter and the thickness that you roll the dough.
silly sarah went and burnt her biscuits! but ahh well, they tasted fine anyway - or maybe my family are just great actors??

150g plain flour
5tsp cornflour
45g icing sugar
125g soft butter
few drops vanilla essence
caster sugar

sift the plain flour, corn flours and icing sugar together.
rub in the butter until you get fine breadcrumbs
add in a few drops of vanilla essence and bring together in a big ball of dough
turn out onto an unfloured surface and roll out with an unfloured pin to about 1/2cm thin
cut with a round cutter about 5cm in diameter and place onto a baking sheet (they won't spread)
place in the oven at 150 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
transfer to a cooling rack and immediatly sprinkle with some caster sugar when they are warm.

eat warm with a bit of jam. yums.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Sorry Guys.

evening all. apologies for no post this week, i have one all lined up with pictures but have yet to find the time to write it up, this post is written in between emergency revision and maths homework. a couple of days until mocks start and i've suddenly realised the ginormous heap of revision i did do was actually not enough. i'll try and have the new post up in a few days, but i'm sure you can understand the situation i'm in at the moment :)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Jam Tarts!

when i was a wee girl of around 5 or 6, me and my mum set about making up a folder of recipes for me, and it was a baking project! everytime we made a new thing, we'd copy out the recipe and put it in my folder, so now i have a big chubby folder full of baking recipes. Jam tarts were one of the first recipes we found, and i've made them by myself for almost 10 years, and never gotten bored of them. for the pastry, they are surprisingly easy to make, and are all gone within hours of them coming out of the oven.
i think this is the simplest recipe i've made for a long time! here i've used strawberry and peach jam (homemade of course!) but as you'll se later on, i got a bit adventurous and ended up trying the ginger jam, and having to sneak some blackberry jelly as my dad is verrryyyyy protective of it, which is my favourite :D
i always think you need to have nerves of steel to work with pastry, but this comes together quite easily
i tried to include some of the fruit in each of the tarts, because i'm just that fussy
this made 20 tarts, and as you can see the spiky ones are made up of the scraps of pastry left over - waste not want not!

(apologies for the quantities in ounces, i have both scales so i dont really need to convert them)
4oz butter
8oz plain flour
pinch of salt
the jam of your choice!

rub the butter into the flour and salt until you get fine breadcrumbed texture.
tip out onto the work surface, and gradually add water, mixing around with a fork, until about half of it sticks together.
slowly and gently, squish the dry parts into the wet parts, and bring it all together into a ball.
put the ball into a plastic bag and leave it in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
roll onto a floured surface with a floured rolling pin until about 1/3cm thick.
cut out circles with a glass or a cookie cutter and place in a cupcake tray.
1/3 fill them with jam and place in the oven at 180degrees for 20 minutes.
when theyre finished, take them out of the tray immediately or the jam will harden and theyll be stuck in there.

WARNING! - when you take them out, the jam will be like lava, so leave them for a while!

eat while the jam is soft and sticky, sprinkled with icing sugar. yums.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Ginger Cake!

i've never made a ginger cake before, so this was exciting to make, i always seem to make chocolate or vanilla cakes, but fancied a change. this fabulous recipe comes from Margaret Costas's Four Seasons Cookery Book, which put simply, is an awesome cookbook. i'd reccomend it to anybody looking for a new cookbook, it literally covers everything from meat to fish to veg to bread and cakes. in the background of my pictures you will notice a little loaf cake, thats a loaf of banana bread, which i've made a zillion times, but is as popular as ever!
i dont really see the point in using salt and butter, next time i make this i'll just use salted butter, and save a few pence!
my batter was quite thick and dense, i don't know if its meant to be like that, it my be due to the fact that i added the butter and sugar and then the egg, instead of mixing them together like the recipe said to do. silly me for not reading the instructions properly!
the resulting cake looked pretty good, golden brown, springy and ginger-smelling, but it was quite small - only like 3cm high!

175g plain flour
pinch of salt
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/4tsp cinnamon
1/4tsp mixed spice
115g butter
55g caster sugar
55g black treacle
1 egg
2tbsp hot water
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

sift the flour, salt and spices into a bowl.
in another bowl, cream the sugar and butter.
warm the treacle up until its quite runny, and mix into the butter and sugar. stir in the egg.
fold this into the flour.
finally, mix the bicarbonate of soda into the hot water, and stir into the flour.
pour it into a greased round cake tin, and put in the oven at 180degrees for 15 minutes.
done when its springy and golden brown.

i made some buttercream flavoured with ginger just to spice it up.
i found a jar of ginger jam my dad bought, and was inspired to put it into my icing, but i think crystallised stem ginger or the ones in syrup would be perfect as well.

140g butter
280g icing sugar
3tbsp ginger jam
some water to lossen it up

just mix together all the ingredients until its thick and creamy and delicious!
i think its looks pretty darn good!

eat with a steaming mug of tea. yums!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Chocolate chip cookies!

the amount of love i feel for chocolate chip cookies is too great to put into words. my packed lunches would not be the same without one, which is why i'm constantly on the hunt for the perfect recipe. i found this one in The River Cottage Family Cookbook, so much thanks to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall!
i used 70% cocoa chocolate, but you can use stronger or sweeter chocolate according to what you prefer, i just love the contrast between the sweetness of the cookie and the bitterness of the chocolate.
the finished dough is quite loose compared to some other cookie recipes, this is down to the fact that it uses melted butter not solid, but i had no trouble using it anyway.
it may seem a bit over cautious to only put 5 on a sheet, but these spread out A LOT and for some reason they never taste as nice when they meet and you have to cut them apart.
the recipe said it made 12 cookies, but i got 15, so i guess it all depends on the size of your blobs. in the last set of five cookies, i found some neglected white chocolate buttons and crushed them up and mixed them in.

100g good dark chocolate chopped into medium sized chunks
125g unsalted butter
100g golden caster sugar
75g soft brown sugar
1 egg
150g plain flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

melt the butter in a small pan and add it to the sugars in a bowl, mixing thoroughly.
carefully mix in the egg and vanilla extract.
sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, and combine.
add the chocolate and mix, being carefull not to overmix or break the chocolate down.
put dessert spoonfulls onto baking sheets lined with baking parchment, giving them plenty of room, the will spread out to about 2-3 times the size.
place in the oven at 180 degrees for 8-10 minutes. if you have a dodgy oven like mine it would be advisable to turn them around halfway through so they get brown all over.
when you take them out, i'd leave them on the sheet to harden for a few minutes so it will be easy to put them onto the cooking rack.

eat slighty warm and melty with an ice cold glass of milk. yums.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Bonfire Cupcakes!

so, i thought i'd take advantage of the ready made theme we have here, and make some bonfire cupcakes! chocolate cake with a a dark chocolate ganache, icing flames and flake logs. seeing as its my first time making ganache and marshmallow fondant, i think it went pretty well!
i always use salted butter in my cakes, i think the salt makes it taste nicer for some reason.
it makes quite a strong batter, not dribbly at all, although that may be because of the mixer because i am not sure i'd be able to beat the mixture that much by hand.
my mum always taught me to fill the empy parts with water so they don't burn or something! - does anybody else do this?
the mixture makes around 17 cakes - but you can make more or less by varying the size of them.

self raising flour
cocoa powder
salted butter
caster sugar
2 eggs

you may have noticed that i haven't included any wieghts in the list, this is because i use a recipe called 'the wieght of an egg' which is basically, however much the two eggs weigh, i use that weight in flour, butter and sugar. i got taught this recipe by my dear mother and it always works for me! when i make a chocolate cake, i replace a tablespoonful of flour with cocoa powder.

cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
mix in the eggs until combined but not whipped!
gradually add in the flour (this is more to do with stopping it all flying out when the mixer starts)
3/4 fill cupcake cases and place in the oven at 180 degree for 15 minutes.
you'll know they are done when they bounce back and a skewer comes out clean.

for the marshmallow fondant you can use normal marshmallows but i couldn't find any so i just used some flumps :)
it was so easy to use, and soft and easy to manipulate, and it tasted so much better than that silly shop bought rubbish!

6 flumps/bag of marshmallows
enough icing sugar to firm it up
food colouring

cut up the marshmallows and coat them in water and place in a bain marie (a bowl on top of a pan of boiling water).
heat them enough to melt them into a thick marshmallow paste.
take of the bain marie and mix in enough icing sugar to form it into a ball.
turn it onto a counter covered in icing sugar and knead until soft.
cut 2/3 off and dye that part orangey yellow, and dye the remaining 1/3 red.
cut out 17 large flame shapes out of the orange paste 17 small flames out of the red.
stick them together using a small bit of glace icing (sugar and water).

finally, i made a dark chocolate ganache, which was thick and glossy and yummy!

250g dark chocolate
250ml double cream

heat the cream up until it boils, and then take it off the heat.
add the chocolate and stir until melted.
leave to cool and thicken.
when cool, whisk it for a while to make it even thicker and glossier.

to assemble them all, i coated a cupcake in ganache, and placed a flame on top. i then cut up a flake into small sticks and sprinkled them at the base to look like logs.
eat with a mug of tea and watching a roaring bonfire. Yums.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Banana Bread.

i always make this when we have several mushy bananas around the house! a simple recipe open for additions, walnuts or honey would be delicious me thinks.

so as you can see its a very simple recipe with a few ingredients that are available pretty much everywhere.

the mixture itself was fairly thin, more like a cake batter than a bread dough, so don't worry if it seems a bit liquid-y. it filled up about half a loaf tin, and bearing in mind it rises, so makes a generous sized loaf.

i always think a loaf doesn't look quite right without a big crack down the middle. it rises up a decent amount, and goes a medium golden brown when done.


2 large or 3 small mushy bananas, squished up
1 egg
225g self raising flour
55g butter
115g caster sugar
3 tablespoons yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon salt

in a large bowl cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
mix in the egg and squished up bananas.
sift in together the flour and salt.
mix in the yoghurt.

pour into a greased loaf tin and place in the oven at 180 degrees for around 1 hour. you'll know its done when its golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

eat warm with salted butter. yums.