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