Sunday, 13 February 2011

Jaffa Cake Cupcakes

now, one of my favourite biscuits, well, foods, ever is the mighty jaffa cake! is it a biscuit, or a cake? who knows, who cares! i thought i'd try my hand at creating a cake that tastes like a jaffa cake, but is actually a cake. a moist, orangey sponge with a dark, glossy ganache on top? YES PLEASE!
its still quite a basic cake mix, but makes a magical cake. i used clementines here because i think they taste nice and sweet, and the zest is very fragrant, and besides, we didn't have any large oranges in the house. i make it a rule to myself that i only ever use real butter in my cakes, i think it tastes nicer, but today we didn't have much butter, so i had to bulk it up a bit with some margarine, and you know what? it didn't taste that bad, i may try it again :)
the batter was still quite lumpy after everything has been mixed in, but it doesn't really matter, you wouldn't be able to tell in the final product anyway. it creates quite a liquidy batter, as you are adding the juice into it, which thins it out.
i made 24 cakes, which was perfect, as the stand holds 23, so thats enough cakes for the stand, and one for me :)
from past experience, i make my ganache with equal parts cream and chocolate, to make a thick, glossy topping for the cakes. i piped it onto the cakes, i haven't piped in months, so forgive me as its a bit sloppy, especially seeing as i am still recovering from being ill. but i think i did an alright job anyway.
i'm really starting to love the cake stand, it adds a certain professional touch to my baking, and it looks pretty, plus, it means i don't muck up the icing piling them on top of each other.

3 eggs
weight of the eggs in self raising flour
weight of the eggs in caster sugar
weight of the eggs in butter
2 clementines - zest and juice
200g dark chocolate
200ml double cream

cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
miz in alternately, one egg and a thrid of the flour, until theyre all used up
add the zest and juice of the clementines, and then whisk until the batter is light and fluffy
fill the cupcake trays, 2/3 full in each mould
pop in the oven at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown and risen well
warm up the cream in a saucepan, until hot but not boiling
add the chocolate, and stir until melted, leave for about 10 minutes to firm up
pipe onto the cakes using a large star nozzle to create a fancy-dancy swirl

serve after lunch with a mug of tea, and a natter with the mother about life itself. yums

Gnocchi Bake

in an attempt to prepare me for university life next year, and so that i don't end up only eating cakes and biscuits for a year, my mum has put me in charge of one meal a week, to do whatever i like with, as long as it serves five and is not a cake. this week, i went for warm comfort food in the form of cheesy tomatoy gnocchi bake. the sauce itself is an all purpose tomato pasta sauce, if you add beef mince, you can make bolognaise for use in spaghetti and lasagna, lamb for shepherds pie, or even just bacon for a simple pasta sauce. its a good base to have in the kitchen.
when i begin cooking, i start with all my ingredients out all in one place, not just for the photos, but so that i can make sure i have everything to begin with, and also so that i can make any tweaks and changes to how i feel the recipe should go.
make sure you chop up the base veggies nice and thinly, so they cook quickly and evenly, the last thing you want is burnt on the outside, crunchy on the inside. the mushrooms should be a bit chunkier, they need to hold their shape or flavour, as they might just disintegerate into the sauce otherwise.
fry them for a good ten minutes or so in a generous bit of sunflour oil, as they will take longer than you think to soften, and once you add the tomato, they won't soften any more. add the mushrooms about halfway through, so that they cook, but they don't go all horrible and mushy. you don't want the veggies to be mushy like mashed potatoes, but you don't want them to be crunchy, aim for soft vegetables that are still clearly veggies.
two cans of chopped tomatoes and about half a can of water should be enough liquid for the sauce, if it looks too watery, don't worry as it will reduce down as you simmer it away, but if it looks a bit dry before you start to simmer it, don't hesitate to add some more water, it won't affect the taste, and you'll end up with a better sauce to finish with. what i've forgotten to show in this picture is that i've added in one bay leaf to flavour the sauce, i can't pt my finger on the exact taste that it gives, but it doesn't taste the same without it anyway. don't season the sauce until you've finished, as the flavours will intensify and change.
cook the gnocchi according to the instructions on the packet and personal preference, there is no set standard to pasta cooking, as everyone will start off with different amounts of water, and different feelings of how they like their pasta cooked, but generally, the gnocchi will be done when they float to the surface.
i used mozzarella here, simply because i adore the stuff, but i know some people detest the stuff, so i think you could substitute it for just about any cheese that melts well.

2 packets gnocchi
2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 medium sized carrot
2 small onions
2 sticks of celery
handful button mushrooms
2 balls mozzarella
bay leaf
salt and pepper

chop up the veggies nice and small using a sharp, large knife
fry the carrots, celery and onions in a large saucepan with a generous amount of oil for 5 minutes
add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5 minutes, or until they're all soft
pour in the tomatoes, and half a can of water, and stick in a whole bay leaf.
simmer for about 10 minutes, until nice and thick and saucy
cook the gnocchi according to the instructions on the packet
mix with the sauce in a dish, and scatter across the mozzarella
bake in the oven at 180degrees for about 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted and bubbly.

serve with a salad. nomnomnom.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Got the Sniffles :(

so, i sit here, smelling strongly of olbas oil and using what can only be a whole forest's worth of tissues. i thought that maybe i'd write a blog post about my top cold remedies, because i have nothing else to do!

1. RAMEN. any kind, chicken, beef, seafood, vegetable, literally, place any bowl of ramen infront of me and you can garauntee that i will eat it - even if i'm not sick! but, being incredibly serious here, for me, a good bowl of ramen is the best remedy for a cold that i have ever had. it seems to be the combination of the steam and slight chilli kick clearing your nose, the warm, salty broth warming you from the inside out, and the satisfying feeling of being able to eat something without hurting your throat that makes it the most amazing food ever. mind you, it must be proper ramen, with a clear, salty spicy broth, meat, veg, egg and some good, thin noodles!
(for those of you who don't know what ramen is, here's a picture!)

2. TEA - i never drink lemsip. i think it tastes horrible and it never works for me, its really not worth the effort of boiling the kettle. but i drink gallons of tea whilst i'm sick. maybe its just boredom tea, i don't know, but i've never suffered any tea related problems so it must be okay. just warm, never hot, with and splash of milk and no sugar, man that's a perfect cup of tea! i have it in one of my mugs - i have a growing collection of mugs, and normally i'll go anatomical and have my mug with the human skeleton on, or literary, and have my Da Vinci cod one (yes, you read right, the da vinci cod - replaced the man with a fish!)

3. CREAM CRACKERS - i love these things. i have them plain, or with a bit of butter. my mum hates them because they kind of go a bit doughy in your mouth, but i think that's what i love about them. whenever i'm sick, not just colds, but tummy aches, headaches, period pains, i have a cream cracker, and the world seems okay again :) and the fact that they are ludicrously cheap for how many you get in a packet makes the most perfect sick food. i, however, don't buy the jacob's variety. the waitrose own brand variety is just as good, the crackers are a little larger, and a bit cheaper too!

4. SUGARED WATER - sounds simple? thats because it is. warm up some water, dissolve a couple teaspoons of sugar in it, until it creates a sweet, soothing drink for your throat to relax and so you can get hydrated and full of energy for the day ahead.

5. A PILE OF HOMEWORK - now, i know this strictly is neither a food nor a cold remedy, but i'll have it here seeing as it plays a major role in my sick 'routine'. i always get so much more work done when i'm sick for some strange reason, and it takes my mind off the fact that i can't do much else. plus, it enables me to shrink my homework debt, whilst getting better, so i can go out and start ignoring it again.

still not sure whether i will bake tomorrow - i'll have to see how i feel in the morning! :)

peace and loveee,

sarahh xxx

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Apple Sauce Cake

this is probably one of the prettier cakes i've made :) in an attempt to pull myself out of the winter blues i made this fruity number, recipe of course from the hamlyn cookbook. i love apple cake, but i've never had it made this way, and i think the cinnamon is a must, if you don't like cinnamon you can just leave it out, but i feel that you would lose a little something from the flavour, as the cinnamon complements the apples so well. you really do need cooking apples for this, as they mush down so easily, eating apples hold their shape for too long, you wouldn't be able to make as a good an apple sauce from them.
cooking apples have a funny waxy skin that makes them quite difficult to peel and chop without slipping out of your hands - and you really don't want that as it can become quite dangerous, you don't want a sharp knife slipping out of your hands at any time. to solve this problem, i make a little cut in the side, to reveal the apple flesh, which seems to make it easier to peel, if you have a starting point. to chop the apples evenly, slice off a bit from the bottom, to make a flat base to rest the apple on.
i had just finished the basic cake mix and thought 'this is too thick - it can't be right!', and then i realised it was because i hadn't added the apple sauce in yet, i added that in, and it loosened up the batter to what seemed to be the right texture to pour into the greased tin.
now, i am certainly not an arty kind of person, but i am very proud of this arrangement, before i started it, i could almost certainly see this as something i would muck up. so this seems to be a step in the arty direction!
its not a very tall cake - but it makes it up in flavour. i think its because you put the apples on top, that it restricts the rising process, but nevertheless, it looks so pretty i don't think it would look as nice if it were a tall cake.

2 cooking apples, each about 250g
2 tbsp water
some lemon juice
250g white bread flour
2 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
150g butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten

peel, core and slice the apples.
put half the apples in a pan with the water, and simmer until mushy.
put the rest in a bowl, with cold water and lemon juice.
cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
add in alternate spoonfuls the egg and the flour, baking powder ginger, nutmeg and half the cinnamon until its all mixed in.
add the apple sauce and mix thoroughly.
pour into a greased round tin, and arrange the rest of the apple in circles on the top.
sprinkle with the rest of the cinnamon and some sugar.
place in the oven at 180 degrees for 35-40 minutes until brown and crisp on top.

serve with a dollop of thick custard. yums.

sarahh xxx