Thursday, 29 September 2011

Happy Birthday Mr Butcher!

a loooooong time ago my local butcher held a cake competition for his birthday, so naturally, i gave it my best shot!

i actually came out with 2nd place and a £5 prize, which was really great because it was only the second time i've baked for people who aren't my family or friends, and normally i'm wierdly self concious about my baking, it's like - they judge my cake, they judge me! anyways, here are some lovely photos of the cake itself (sorry theyre so bad, they were taken very late at night!)
so, it was a triple layer devil's food cake, sandwiched with vanilla buttercream and covered in white fondant (sadly the fondant was bought, not home made, but we can't ask for everything!) the writing is just pink water icing piped using the smallest nozzle i could find.
around the edges i modelled fondant sausages, bacon and drumsticks, in keeping with the butcher theme!
i created a sweet little fondant butcher complete with apron and stuck him on top with a bit of raw spaghetti to hold him in place

hopefully this will be the first in a number of steps to increase my confidence in my baking!

au revoir,
sarahhhhhh xxxxx

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

August 2011 Favourites

i'm so sorry for being so absent lately! but, as i promised, is my monthly favourites from the baking blogging world :)

1. my favourite bake: (as i haven't posted any this month, i'll just choose one from my whole blog) Bonfire Cupcakes!
these bring with them hope of warm cosy evenings by the fireplace in my front room, with a cuppa watching a good film (x-men, superman, batman, spiderman, captain america - i looove superheros) and they taste awesome too!

2. my favourite sweet bake from another blog: Red Velvet Cheesecake! from 17 and Baking
i love 17 and baking, perhaps because i am also 17 and baking! (eventhough she is no longer 17 :P) and i also love red velvet and cheesecake. so putting them together equals the awesomest (yes, that is a word) dessert i have ever seen!

3. my favourite savoury cake from another blog: Jalapeno Popper Dip! from Brown Eyed Baker
i don't know whether this really counts as a bake - but to be honest, i don't care! i love love love spice, and this dip looks epic! i just need an occasion to make it, or i'll end up just making it for myself and greedily eating the whole thing in one go...

4. my favourite topping/decorating technique: Tesco's Fondant Icing!
normally i really detest ready made icing, it doesn't taste very good and you never really know what went into it. however this month i got into a bit of a sticky situation and had to rely on a couple packs of this stuff, and guess what? i don't regret it! it was lovely and soft, and didn't taste too bad!

5. my random favourite: iced lattes!
i don't know why i hadn't tried them sooner! i have become completely addicted to these - whether bought from costa coffee or made by myself at home, i've been drinking these till the cows come home!!

well, thats another month passed, hasn't time flyed??

sarahhhh xxx

Sunday, 21 August 2011

a not-so relaxing summer break :)

i'm pretty sure you guys are wondering where i've been all summer long, seeing as i'm not going to school :)

well, to tell you the truth, i'm not on holiday or at the beach or out with my friends, i'm working 9-5!!!

so mon-fri there's not much time to bake, plus, i've been preparing for my UKCAT test (medical school entrance test) for the last month so all my free time left is spent on that!

luckily, or not so luckily depending on how you see it, i have my test tomorrow morning, so after that you can expect some more bakes :D

thanks for sticking with me!

and just while i'm here, i'll share with you a song that i can't stop playing, it gets me so upbeat!

Foster the People - Houdini

seriously, listen to it, it'll just make you want to smile and dance! perfect for those times when you feel down trodden and limp :P

sarahhhh xxxxx

Saturday, 30 July 2011

July 2011 Favourites

so, i've decided that at the end of every month i'll do a round up of some of my favourites of the month:

1. my favourite bake (that i've done)
2. my favourite sweet bake from another blog
3. my favourite savoury bake from another blog
4. my favourite topping/decorating technique
5. my random favourite

so, i guess that's pretty much self explanatory, so let's kick off my July favs :D

1. my favourite bake: Soda Bread!
i loved this bake simply because of how quick and easy it was, and how delicious the results were!

2. my favourite sweet bake from another blog: Custard Creams! from The Boy Who Bakes
i chose these because i love love love custard creams (maybe more than bourbons, if i dare say so!) and i once made them myself, but lost the recipe, so i'm incredibly excited to find a new custard cream recipe!! plus, these are so pretty and dainty, they'd look adorable with a little china tea set :D

3. my favourite savoury bake from another blog: Everything Bagels! from Brown Eyed Baker

bagels are one of my favourite types of bread which i use to make my packed lunch during the week, so naturally, i was ever so happy to find a bagel recipe that looked and sounded scrummyy!!

4. my favourite topping/decorating technique: Moons and Stars Sprinkles!
i bought these adorable sprinkles at a specialist sugarcraft store in a hidden village in deepest darkest kent, and i've never seen anything like them! theyre so cute, they'd look good on any baked treat!

5. my random favourite: Guacamole!
now that it's bright and summery, i love this dip with wedges or nachos, with salsa and soured cream, and perhaps a little extra hot sauce! i'm a tad contraversial in the family in that i love tomatoes and red onions in my guacamole, but the rest of them don't! if you'd like me to, i can post a recipe for my favourite dip of all time, just pop a comment and i'll see what i can do :D

i can't believe over half of this year has already gone! it'll be christmas soon, not that i'm complaining :)

sarahhh xxxx

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Soda Bread

i think many people refrain from making bread because they think its too difficult, its too time consuming or its vastly more expensive than shop bought bread. well, i'm here to prove you wrong. bread can be just as fun to make as a cupcake, depending on what ingredients you use it isn't all that expensive, and if you're really picky, you can add all kinds of things to a basic recipe.

my mum is usually the bread maker in the house - not that i'm complaining, she makes a damn good loaf! our family eats a lot of bread as toast in the morning and because all of us have packed lunches for work/school, so on an average week, my mum will make 4 loaves of bread, and we'll buy in a loaf of sliced bread too. but my poor mum has hurt her hand, so she can't knead the bread :( we haven't had fresh baked bread for a while now, so i thought, while i'm in the kitchen, i might as well rustle up a loaf of soda bread.

this recipe comes from the River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr, which i got years back as i christmas present, and i treasure it dearly - it has some amazing recipes.

soda bread is probably the most simple thing you can bake, really, simpler than a muffin, cookie or cupcake! you really just bung everything together, knead it for a minute or so, plop it onto a baking sheet and bake, no time needed to let it rise, as there is no yeast.
buttermilk is normally used in soda bread, but live yoghurt is just as good, if not better! plus, it's cheaper than buttermilk, and more readily available.
bung everything in, and start mixing it together with a wooden spoon - but once you get to this stage, its really important you get your (clean) hands in, and give it a good knead, like any bread. it shouldn't be a sticky dough, just firm and smooth - if it is sticky, add some more flour.
the tighter you form the dough ball, the less likely it will be to spread out, so you'll end up with a more vertical, useful loaf. give it a good, deep cross with a sharp knife - that will give it chance to rise without forming great big caverns on the sides.
see, it may not be perfectly rectangle, or the most aesthetically pleasing loaf of bread, but it is yours, its delicious and you know exactly what went into this loaf.

plus, i had a loaf of bread within an hour of when i thought of making one - perfect timing!

250g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp soft brown sugar
225 ml buttermilk/live yoghurt

dump everything in a big bowl, and give it a good mix with a wooden spoon
get your hands in there - bring it together, adding some more flour if it is too sticky
knead it around the bowl for a minute or so, until smooth but not tough
stick in the oven at 230 degrees for 12 minutes, then turn it down to 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes
it will be done when you tap it on the bottom, and it sounds hollow.

eat warm from the oven, slathered with butter and jam. congratulate yourself for making a loaf of pure brilliance. delicious.

sarahhh xxx

(Ever So slightly Scorched) Chocolate Bourbon Biscuits

okay, so i think its about time you guys knew something about me. something i am neither proud of nor ashamed of, so here it is: i am really not that good at making biscuits. yes, i can make a damn good chocolate chip, and occasionally a brookie (brownie-cookie), but when it comes to the shortbread, sugar cookies and ginger bread malarky, i've not been that successful! they always either blackened and burnt, soft and underdone, or i've forgotten to put something in, and they don't taste right. i don't know why, but they just don't work for me, so i try to stay away from them. but every now and then, a recipe pops up which looks amazing, and i ignore the quiet voice that goes 'sarah, you know you can't do biscuits well' and charge at full speed at the recipe.

this was no exception. i've eaten bourbons for as long as i can remember, so when i found this recipe in Baking Magic (explained in previous post), i couldn't resist. plus, it claimed to be even more chocolatey than the shop bought ones, which was a claim i had to put to the test.
i've never really used golden syrup in biscuits before, so i was eager to see how they would turn out. i find it a bit too sickly sweet to have on its own, but mixed into porridge or in a flapjack it is amazing!
however, syrup is notoriously difficult to work with - it gets everything sticky, doesn't slide off the spoon and never seems to stop dripping everywhere. so here's my method to try and control this mess: keep your spoon in a cupfull of really warm water for a couple of minutes prior to its use - this will melt the syrup slightly, making it easier to slide off. just before you use the spoon, rub a teeny tiny amount of sunflower oil over the surface, so it slides off perfectly.
when you first add the flour to the butter, syrup and sugar, i know you will be thinking 'how on earth will this mess ever combine into a dough' but don't worry, keep mixing...
... nearly there, just carry on mixing...
eventually, you will get to the point where you can put the spoon down and combine it into a ball! yay! dump this onto a floured surface and roll out with a floured pin. the recipe says i'm meant to cut them into rectangles, like shop bought bourbons, but i didn't fancy that, so i rebelled against this rectangle nonsense, and went for a circle bourbon instead. it doesn't affect the taste, but it made me happy, so there!
so, as i said before, they got a bit scorched (just ignore the one in the corner, that could be used as a charcoal briquet - damn you, oven hotspot!) but they should taste okay with a dollop of redeeming, fluffy, creamy chocolate buttercream.
i added more cocoa then it said to add, because when i tasted the icing (come on, you know you occasionally eat icing on its own too :D) it didn't really taste as chocolatey as the filling in a bourbon.
now, everybody laugh at my attempt to do some artsy fartsy photo of fancy biscuits next to some flowers! well, it was worth a try, wasn't it?

if you are going to replicate this recipe, i would recommend that you double the quantities because it only made 9 biscuits, which really, is not acceptable :)

50g butter
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
110g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
15g cocoa

50g butter
100g icing sugar
3 tsp cocoa
splash of hot water

cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy
mix in the golden syrup until combined
add in the flour, baking soda and cocoa, and keep mixing until you can form it into a stiff dough
roll out to 1/2 cm, and cut out shapes, circles, rectangles, triangles, whatever!
bake at 190 degrees for about 8-10 minutes until darker and firm to the touch.
take out and leave to cool on a rack

cream together the butter, sugar and cocoa, until thoroughly combined and fluffy
you can add some hot water if you butter is too cold/the icing is not spreadable enough.
spread over one cookie, sandwich on another.

eat with a cup of tea, after a bacon sarnie for a nice relaxed sunday lunch. yumsss

sarahhh xxx

Orange Muffins

i seem to be in a muffin phase, i don't know why. maybe its because they're really simple, to make, you basically just bung everything together - you don't even have to mix them up completely! or maybe its because people don't mind a lopsided, imperfect muffin, one that has maybe spilled over, or is a little bit browner than usual. or maybe, just maybe, it's because they're almost twice as big as a cupcake, and you can flavour them with all kinds of yummy things? well, i don't know, i just think muffins are great.

this recipe comes courtesy of Baking Magic by Kate Shiragi with Susannah Blake, a great book i bought for my younger brother at christmas, full of recipes for cupcakes, muffins and cookiesand brilliant pictures, with quirky little comments here and there. i may have accidently picked out a present for him that i would also love :P

these were originally going to be lemon poppy seed, but then i thought, hey, why not orange poppy seed? so, i started to make them, then realised, we had no poppy seeds! so, they ended up just plain orange muffins. thats not to say, they aren't delicious though.
the one thing i left out of this picture was a splash of milk, sorry! not many ingredients today, so fairly simple to rustle up any time of the day. plus, i bet you could swap in different flavours that would work just as well. i wonder if lemon-lime poppy seed would taste good?
of course, as with every muffin recipe, here's the dry ingredients, mixed up before you mix in the liquids because you want everything to be evenly spread throughout the mix, but not to have to stir it too much once you combine the dry with the wet.
the acid in the orange juice will begin to curdle the yoghurt and milk, but don't worry, you won't be able to tell, and it tastes just as good. i did wonder why the zest was counted as a wet ingredient, but now i think maybe its somewhere in the middle, not dry because it's damp with oils, but not truely wet because it is neither a liquid nor will it get things wet if you spill it. what a conundrum!
here's my equipment to attack the oranges - it is surprisingly hard to zest an orange without making a complete and utter mess of it - zest in the bowl, over your hands, on the work surface, it gets everywhere, but smells amazing! which zester you use depends completely on your preference - the fine, grater style zester produces a finer, more pulpy zest, that would be good if you love the flavour of orange zest, but hate the feeling of longs strings of the stuffin your muffin. if you don't mind that, and, i think, it looks prettier in a cake if you can see it, then go for the hand held, peeler type affair. i went for a combination of the two - one orange with one, and the other with the other.
it doesn't matter if you have small pockets of flour here and there - as long as the majority of the mix is combined, the muffins will taste good, and be light and fluffy. if you accidently mix it too much, don't worry, they'll still taste great, but may be a bit denser, but not inedible.
the smell that permeates the kitchen when you bring them out of the oven is the most delicious thing - both the sweet, sugary smell that comes with all baking, but also the fresh, zingy scent of all the orange zest and juice.

300g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
115g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
100 ml plain yoghurt
3 tbsp milk
50g butter, melted
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges (the big ones - not small clemetines etc)

combine the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl, mix it about with a fork for a bit
in another bowl, combine the egg, yoghurt, milk, butter, zest and juice
pour the wet into the dry, stir it about quickly with the fork until just mixed
divide evenly between a 12 hole muffin tin lined with cases/greased
bake at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes, until well risen, golden brown and smelling delicious

eat fresh from the oven with an ice cold glass of juice for a summery treat. yumsss

sarahh xxx

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Banana Muffins

now, here's a little known fact about me: i hate raw bananas. their texture, their smell, the fact that you can't touch them without them going brown and manky really just puts me off eating them. but as soon as you bake them into a cake, a muffin, a bread, they are transformed into something magical. the smell that fills the kitchen while something bakes in the oven that has bananas in is amazing - the sweet, cakey, almost moist smell really gets you into the mood for cake!

the recipe i used here comes from The Cook's Encyclopedia of Cookies, Biscuits & Bars by Hilaire Walden, which i picked up for 30p second hand at the local summer fayre - BARGAINNN :)
there are raisins in these muffins, which i love. they plump up inside the muffins, so that their sweet cakey goodness is broken up by the juicy raisins. i also used muscovado sugar because it has a dark treacly flavour compared to the raw, sweet, rather bland flavour of caster sugar, which i think would go well with the innate sweetness of mushed up bananas.
fact about sarah number 2: i'm pretty darn lazy. i hate to sieve things, i avoid sieves like the plague. sieving takes forever, half the flour ends up on the counter and you have more to wash up. if i can gain the same results just by mixing it around with a fork for a while, why go to all the bother? it breaks up big lumps, combines the dry ingredients and introduces air!
there is nothing less appealing to me than a bowl of mashed banana. okay, maybe when you're a baby it looks like the most delicious food in the entire world, but now, when i can control what goes in my mouth, i really can't stand it. eww.
the main difference between the preparation of a muffin and a cupcake is that you keep the wet and dry ingredients apart for as long as possible. this grim mixture of banana, sugar, egg and oil needs to be carefully and quickly mixed into the flour for a light and airy muffin.
try not to move the mixture about too much - you don't need to introduce air to the mixture, you don't even need to make sure all the flour is mixed in. as long as it hold together in a batter that you can spoon into the cases to let them do the magic.
all my muffin recipes make 12, no more, no less. i don't know why, but it's really convenient!
yum yum yum. that is all i can say.

225g Plain Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3 large ripe bananas
1 egg
50g dark brown sugar
50ml vegetable/sunflower oil
40g raisins

mix together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg with a fork for a while
mash up the bananas in a separate bowl
mix in the egg, sugar and oil
mix together the dry and wet ingredients, and the raisins
spoon into 12 muffin cases
bake for 20 minutes at 190 degrees until well risen and brown on top

eat warm with a cup of coffee for a late breakfast. yumss

sarahh xxx

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Chocolate Birthday Cake :)

well, this is a slightly misleading title, because my dad actually baked the basic chocolate sponge which i was using. but i'm sure you can achieve the same results as me by just using your regular chocolate cake recipe :)

what i'm loving at the moment is this chocolate frosting recipe that i just discovered. it's from Joy of, and you can find the recipe here, so i won't post the whole recipe, only my pictures.
most of the chocolate icing i've made hasn't actually involved chocolate, just cocoa powder, so i was intrigued to see what would happen. i was worried that it would go really hard and be difficult to cut.
but it made a really smooth, whipped texture that was a delight to work with (and eat) and although it did set slightly, it never went hard - it sort of went into a kind of moussy texture rather than crusting over.
i was using a glass cake stand, so that cake was prone to sliding about, so i fastened it to the base with a bit of icing :)
to keep the sponge nice and moist, i spread a little jam over the middle as well as the icing, the slight sweet-sour of the raspberry contrasted nicely with the sweet chocolate.
then you just basically cover the whole cake with the rest of the icing, making sure to have a even coating - there's always arguments in my household over who has more cake/icing than everybody else!

finished off with a glace icing 'happy birthday' the cake is ready for the table :) yumss

sarahh xxx

Vanilla Cupcakes

i like a good vanilla cupcake, me. a good, moist, fine crumbed, delicately flavoured, simple tasting cupcake. so, i'm not after much. i daresay i haven't yet reached the epitamy of vanilla cupcakes, and have a long way to go - but this is the recipe my old ma gave to me when we started baking, and after a few tweaks, i think it'll take a lot to knock this one off the top spot.
the icing sugar and milk are there because i had originally planned to do a simple vanilla buttercream to go on top, but i had to chocolate frosting left over from the main birthday cake, so i just used that up :)
you're looking to introduce a lot of air into the mixture. with muffins, you mix it as little as possible, with cupcakes you really want to whip that bad boy to get a good thick batter that you just know will produce a good airy sponge.
i like putting cupcake cases in my silicon tray instead of my metal one because it make the cupcakes taller rather than having them spread out, which isn't all that attractive.

i seem to have mislaid my final picture of the plain, un-iced cupcakes :( but rest assured, it made 30 or so cupcakes, all looking like regular, vanilla flavoured cupcakes.

3 eggs
the weight of those 3 eggs in self raising flour
" in caster sugar
" in butter
a splash or two of vanilla extract

cream together the butter and sugar until really whippy and pale cream coloured.
mix in the eggs and vanilla extract.
mix in the flour in 3 parts.
turn the mixer up high, or just whisk really hard, for a minute or so until thick and air filled.
spoon into cupcake cases.
bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes or so, until golden brown and springy.

finish off with an icing and sprinkles of your choice. yumsss

sarahh xxx


now, my mum makes the most amazing scones ever, so i've been wary of attempting them for her, because i knew the benchmark she has set. plus, i couldn't find her recipe (i think she snaffled it away somewhere so i will never know!) so i used the next best thing: river cottage's! i am completely and utterly obsessed with river cottage - hugh f-w was my first chef 'idol' when i was about 11, because my dad introduced me to his world of cooking and i loved it! so, naturally, i went straight down the RC route!

in my opinion, scones are the epitamy of english tea, so the pressure really was on to make them as nice as possible!
the recipe actually states just sultanas, but we didn't have enough, so i had to add in some currants too, but i don't they suffered as a result.
you really have to rub in the butter to reach fine breadcrumbs because that way they really will be light and airy not heavy and stodgy. keep your hands and the butter cold, and you'll find it much easier to work with, because the flour won't stick everywhere. i try and use all my fingers and thumbs, not just my forefinger because otherwise it takes forever!!!
i used a mixture of natural yoghurt and milk, i don't exactly know why, but it just makes it taste nicer (if anyone actually does know, feel free to tell me :D)
you might not have to use all the liquid, so add it in tiny parts until it starts to come together - you don't want a giant sticky mess.
don't twist the cutter when you cut the scones out, or they won't rise properly, and there's nothing worse than a flat scone. so just, in - out, no twisting you hear me? :)
okay, so i singed a few edges, but who doesn't! still tasted good with a good load of raspberry jam and clotted cream.

450g self raising flour
pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
100g butter
100g caster sugar
125g sultanas (or mixture of dried fruits)
150ml natural yoghurt
150ml milk

sift flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.
rub cold butter in flour until it looks like very fine breadcrumbs.
mix in the sugar and fruit
using a knife, mix in small quantities of the milk and yoghurt mixture until it comes together.
tip out onto a floured surface, roll out to about 2 cm.
use a 5cm cutter to cut out the scones (no twisting!!!!) until there's no more dough.
place on a lightly floured baking sheet.
bake at 230 degrees for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

eat on the day with anything from jam to lemon curd. yumsss :)

sarahh xxx