Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry Christmas, happy holidays or just Happy new years

I dislike starting with an apology but last week I tweeted that I would post on Tuesday and then got taken up with lots of jobs and never posted. So this week I am posting one day early to make up for it. Well I have a few little treats to share with you....


This year, like every year, I gave out sweets as gifts

Monday, December 14, 2015

Trying to stay healthy

A big pot-o-veggies

Warning: The following post contains references to animal products which may be upsetting to some readers. The above image contains only vegetables and I am putting a cut below this to make this post 'opt in,' rather than something that could accidentally upset. TVand Cookies also acknowledges that being a carnivore is not necessary for health! So with that said if you are not upset then continue..

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fast and easy Christmas cake

Tis the season, or at least the season is very fast approaching. This weekend we put up our Christmas tree and it's starting to feel quite cheery and seasonal around here. So I reflected on what I should put here on the blog. Every year I imply that I will be doing loads of baking and posting and, all to frequentl, I get overwhelmed with just doing all the baking and then forget to actually blog. So this year, despite (maybe because of) the fact that I am under more pressure than every before, I have decided to start early and get some Christmas posts up this year!!

So I shall start with the Christmas cake, now before you run for fear of fruit cake, let me assure you that this is a lighter cake! It has lots of delicious flavour but it's not dense or overwhelmingly fruity. Even if you have disliked Christmas cake in the past, I implore you to give this a try. If you love Christmas cake, well this has it all, so do try this!



As a bit of a baker, there are certain..........erm..............expectations! I will acknowledge that a great many of these expectations are self-imposed! However once you start a tradition people get used to it and making Christmas cake for my bf's family is one of those traditions. Anything that makes this a little easier is a blessing and this year I think I have it twigged!! The secret = mince meat (the fruit) and with this recipe you can go from start to finish in one hour!!!
























You see mince meat has been stewing for months and all that delicious fruit has been soaking up the delicious spice and juices that make it appear that you put hours of work prepping your fruit and maybe even feeding the cake for a while. So you take this wonderful mixture (preferably one without lard) and put it into a saucepan, add water, whiskey, and extra fruit of your choice, I added sultanas and cherries and then heat this gently for about 10 minutes.



Quick and easy Christmas Cake (makes 2 trays or 10" loaf tin)

800g Minced meat
100ml water
40ml whiskey
300g sultanas
300g chopped cherries
225g Butter
75g white sugar (there is a lot of sugar in the mince meat)
500g Plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp each of cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg
1 pinch salt
300ml Milk
3 whole eggs
1 tsp vanilla

(I know it's a lot of ingredients but it really is simple, I promise!)

1- Preheat oven to 180'C. Put your minced meat, water, whiskey, sultanas and cherries into a big, thick bottomed saucepan. Heat gently for 10 mins.

2- Once it's been heated through, remove from heat, add your butter and sugar and mix thoroughly.

3- In separate bowls, beat together the flour, baking powder/soda and spices and in the other bowl the eggs and milk.

4- Now alternate in the flour and milk mixture until everything in incorporated!

5- Pour into baking trays and bake for 20 minutes for a shallow baking tray or 45 minutes for a loaf tin.

This sight just says Christmas to me!!


To decorate:
I blitzed together almonds, hazelnuts and some icing sugar and then sprinkled on top before nnaking but this is naturally optional!


Monday, November 30, 2015

Vegan Peanut-Butter Cookies




This week I have been incredibly busy, apparently finishing a doctorate is not easy! Between presentations, essays, literature reviews, and work it’s hard to find a minute in the day! This week has also been challenging because my favourite person (bf) has been away and so for his return today I planned a special meal with an even more special dessert. In fact this dessert was designed for two people in my life that I was missing this weekend. 


 
One of my bf’s favourite flavours is peanut-butter and therefore this weekend I found a peanut butter cup ice-cream to finish off the delicious dinner I planned for his return. However ice-cream alone does not a dessert make and therefore I decided to make a few peanut butter cookies to be gently heated and go with the ice-cream and of course the only way was peanut butter.

Now since they were going to be peanut flavoured I knew that I could also make this recipe for another important person that I really missed this weekend and who has a particular penchant for peanuts, so hopefully she enjoys the recipe and maybe we can make it together this Christmas. This, however necessitated the cookies to be vegan. They are not only vegan but also wheat free, not that many people need that! So actually these cookies are kind of healthy, although not very and whatever you do………..don’t tell my boyfriend!!


 The cookies are crispy on the outside and have a delicious crumb (to sound all Mary Berry on you!). They are intensely peanut flavoured with a little sweetness although if you prefer them sweeter, feel free to increase the sugar by about 50%. They went perfectly with the ice-cream but I can also imagine them going excellently with coffee! And……………. they go with the ice-cream two ways, so read to the end! 



Vegan Peanut-butter Cookies (Gluten free, in case you’re celiac) (adapted from thebigmansworld.com)
250g Peanut-Butter (Chunky or Smooth, your choice)
100g brown sugar
100g white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax seeds with 3 tbsp water, allowed to sit for 15 mins)
75g ground almonds
50g 70% dark chocolate chips (more if you want)

11.      Prepare your flax eggs and preheat the oven to 170’C/325'F/Gas mark 3.
2
22.       Add the sugar and whisk until light and frothy
3
33.       Add the peanut-butter and stir.
4
44.       Finally add the almond and dark chocolate and stir everything together

5
55.       Form into little balls and then flatten, then bake for 15 minutes but keep an eye on them.


6
66.       They are done when they have browned around the edges then allow to cool. They will get    
         firmer as they cool
    
    Alternatively you can make cookie dough for ice-cream, since they can be eaten raw w/o issue!!!
1.       Form into tiny balls and then flatten on a plate.
2.       Put the plate into the freezer.
3.       Add to ice-cream for a cookie dough sensation!!!


Monday, November 16, 2015

Gingerbread and reflections


Today I considered not posting. I had planned this post since last week but somehow in light of what's happened in Paris and Beirut somehow happy seasonal food recipes just don't seem as important anyway. However this morning I decided it would be better to post and talk a little about the many many wonderful times I have spent in Paris.

So, it being the middle of November, it is starting to feel seasonal but yet it's not really reasonable to start indulging yet. These gingerbread bites are the absolute business. They are vegan, wholegrain, fat-free, and (unless you cover them with icing sugar for aesthetic purposes) refined sugar free!! They taste really good too and they hit that cake craving nicely! I also used the lovely Sweetpea Pantry ginger giggles mix that includes barley and rye flour. But before you eat me for using pre-made mix on a baking blog, know that it's just an ingredient and my own recipe!


The last time we went to Paris was very funny! My boyfriend and I have a habit when we go away of getting a little apartment style hotel room or hostel place and walk around everywhere to learn the area and pretend for a week that we live there. Paris is such a lovely place to do this because you can establish your local boulangerie/patisserie for a week and even within that limited space of time I get the impression that the boulanger will get to know you, which adds to the experience massively! Another wonderful thing about the pretending to live there part is that you have oodles of time to sit around in parks observing people and really soaking in the culture. Some of my happiest moments have been in france and sitting in a park with my bf just taking it all in forms the basis of a good few of those.

Back to the recipe

Vegan, Wholegrain Barley and Rye Gingerbread Bites (makes 15 inch square cubes)

200g Ginger Giggles Mix
Egg- replacer (use your product directions for the equivalent of 1 egg)
150ml Apple sauce                                                                

1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp Agave Nectar






1- Preheat oven to 180'C/ 350'F/ Gas mark 4.

2- Mix everything together  (could it be simpler)



3- Line a bread tin and pour in the mixture



4- Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown on top

5- Let cool and slice into cubes to enjoy


So I'll finish off with one of my favourite memories of paris and the wonderful people who live there. On our last visit there myself and my partner were walking around trying to find a great place to eat. We had been walking for a couple of hours sight-seeing and the like and we were pretty hungry. You know the type of hungry that takes on a life of it's own?! Well our seperate hungers were leading and each had a different goal in mind. We searched and searched and looked at so many delicious restaurants but each time, either I wasn't satisfied or he wasn't. Well, this had been going on for about an hour and the hunger was bad when we finally found a place that met all the criteria, Halleluia! But..... the kitchen was closed, in fact all the kitchens were closed until dinner time! Devastated!! We alked away starving and depressed and headed to the only thing we could see that was still open - McDonalds. You can imagine how unexcited I was, except I was forgetting that this was France. My McDonalds meal was the freshest and most delicious Mc Donalds I had ever had, with real dijon mustard and a much needed coffee on the side! Not only that but there was some tables outside and a group singing for some reason I never gathered. Now I'll grant you, my hunger may have added to the flavour but one thing cannot be denied - Parisians can add class to anything!! Which is exactly what we have seen in the wake of this tragedy! Parisians out holding their heads up in the face of terrorism and calling on others not to allow the acts of a few extremist segregate the muslim community in France. Now this is not and never will be a political blog and I am aware that there are several aspects of this situation that are more complex. However I would like to focus on the good and on my happy memories of paris, while I pray for all those involved and affected this weekend!

Look after yourself and enjoy this little post, til next week, a bientot =)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween turtles, or the time I burnt myself with boiling sugar


Halloween weekend, Huzzah!! I like Halloween, not love but like a lot. Mostly because it signifies the start of winter, and I don't know if I've told you (here, here or here) but I love winter!!



This year we decided to forego the cornucopia of candy and focus on one main event! During a recent trip to town we dropped by an American sweet shop and I picked up some DeMets Turtles. I loved these chocolates during my time in america and once my boyfriend tasted them we knew we needed more, and preferably for less than £3 a pack (2 turtles). So we planned a Halloween baking session!!


We stuck with the classic - pecans and I decided to try a new caramel recipe to create something between a caramel and a fudge, that would hold it's shape but still be chewy and delicious. As you can see we also did dark and milk chocolate versions, so everyone can have their favourite!!

Homemade Turtles

Ingredients
200g Pecans

For the Caramel
300g White Sugar
60ml Golden Syrup/Corn Syrup
60ml Water
240ml cream
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla
(You will also need a sugar thermometer)

Cover
200g Milk
200g Dark Chocolate

Instructions

1- Preheat oven to 200C/ 390F. Mix together the sugar, syrup and water in a thick bottom saucepan. Then remove the spoon and do not mix again until later.

2 - Place the saucepan on a medium heat. Put your pecans on a baking tray and put into the oven.

3- Using a silicon spatula or a pastry brush dipped in water push any crystals on the walls down

4 - Heat until you reach between 250F and 320F. I went for 275F.

5- Remove from the heat and add the cream

6- Stir gently (it will bubble up but don't worry)

7 - Return to a medium heat and bring back up to 250F

8 - Remove from the heat and add the vanilla, then stir

9 - Remove pecans from oven and then arrange in sets of three

10- Then stir your slightly cooled caramel and if it has thickened slightly pour a spoonful over each set of pecans






11- Now allow your caramel to cool and cut up your chocolate.

12- Melt 3/4 chocolate (ideally in a bains marie but you can use a microwave in 20-30 second bursts)

13- Once fully melted remove from the heat add the final quarter and mix thoroughly until this also melts from the heat of the other chocolate

14- Your caramel should be set now so you can pick up the pieces and dip into the chocolate. Then returned to the parchment lined baking sheet and allow to cool.

Et Voila, or erm Well Lookie here (does that sound america, absolutely no offense intended) - You've got yourself some turtles


Enjoy =)

Oh......and the burn?! Well suffice is to say that my sugar thermometer skills need work and I would advise you to be careful when removing it from the pot as splashes can happen =( Hot Sugar + skin is not good so always be extra careful!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Apple cinnamon Granola

It's finally autumn/fall and I am so happy about it. A while back I made a homemade granola for Mother's day and it was a beautiful summer treat but granola is a year round so why not make this more spicy and autumnal?


This mound of golden deliciousness is full of all sorts of wonderful natural flavours that evoke those seasonal senses.

Ingredients

1 cup organic rolled oats
1 cup irish quick oats
3 tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup almonds (activated by soaking overnight)
1/4 cup hazelnuts (activated by soaking)
1/2 cup dried apple rings
4 slices of candied lemon rind
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of all spice
pinch of nutmeg
generous pinch of salt


3 tbsp almond oil
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp almond butter

1. Preheat the oven to 130'C. Chop the apple rings and lemon rinds into small pieces.

2. Cover the apple and lemon pieces in the spices and mix well.

3. Mix together the oats, seeds and apple/lemon pieces together

4. In a small saucepan mix together the almond oil, honey and almond butter and heat gently until boiling.

5. Pour 90% over the oats and mix thoroughly.

6. Line a baking sheet in tinfoil and spread out the mixture.

7. Bake on for 20 minutes, keeping a close eye on them.

8. Pour the nuts into the end of the almond oil/honey mixture and mix until all the nuts are covered.

9. Mix the nuts into the rest of the granola and bake for a final 10 minutes.

10. Serve with yoghurt and fruit of your choice (I choose fresh apple, sprinkled with more cinnamon)




This granola tastes amazing!! I am so pleased with how it turned out, the lemon rind gives a zingy freshness which compliments the spicy apple perfectly and all the delicious nuts and seeds provide even more texture and crunch. So if you are looking for a taste of autumn that doesn't involve pumkin I would definitely recommend this. Til next week, enjoy =)


Monday, October 12, 2015

American Horror Story Hotel Review

American Horror Story has been one of my favourite fall/autumn shows for a long time. However last year, I didn't even bother to finish watching the show. AHS: Freak show was at best annoying and at worst downright offensive. With disappointment I lost faith in the show but then came the amazing trailer for AHS:Hotel -


This definitely warranted a second look and so I watched the first episode and long story short, AHS has got it's mojo back!!

First and foremost - creepy kids!! If they had even attempted a haunted hotel without some creepy kids, reminiscent of 'The Shining,' then everything would have been for naught. Even lady Gaga and all her weirdness wouldn't have redeemed that error!! Thankfully this is a scenario that doesn't have to be considered because they do have creepy kids, and not just twins, lots and lots of creepy kids, and it's awesome!!!



So what else have we got going on? Well, what about lady gaga? She definitely brings a certain, je ne sais quoi! Not to mention a huge pre-existing audience! However to say that she fits the Ryan Murphy style would be a massive understatement! She adds all of the drama and flare that you would expect and even more. I wouldn't consider myself a fan of Lady Gaga but I became a fan of her acting in this first episode.

So this is only a quick review but suffice is to say- watch it for yourself and decide! I think you'll thank me for the encouragement!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Wedding cakes and adventures

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of working on the wedding cake of some amazing people. This was a process that took a lot longer than a week. Months of planning and trial runs and classes and fretting culminated in one week of intense baking and execution. How did all of this turn out??



I'm quite happy about it! The bride and groom were too and it was so amazing to watch them cutting into it on the night! People around me were asking if it hurt to watch all my hard work being sliced up but I couldn't have been happier. You see, the real work in this cake had gone into the inside; the combination of flavours and cakes that met the bride and groom's desires, provided an awesome tasting experience and would present perfectly. Well let me tell you that was the challenge! So watching the cake cutting to me represented a moment of pure anticipation on the cusp of knowing whether I had succeeded or not.


So what were the cakes?

Bottom tier - Victoria sponge with a balsamic strawberry preserve and buttercream center covered in a dark chocolate ganache



The middle tier? Light and fluffy carrot cake with a cream cheese filling, covered in a white chocolate ganache and fondant



Herein lay the biggest challenge!! When I attended the wedding cake course this summer I was told unequivocally that I could not do a carrot cake in a wedding cake. However when I presented this idea to the bride she was crestfallen and I just could not accept that so ..........  I figured it out!  

The top tier was traditional fruit cake, covered in marzipan, and I used a traditional family recipe that's a bit lighter than old fashioned fruit cake and keeps all those traditionalists happy.


So three tiers, three different cakes and so so much flavour....


So how was the experience of making a wedding cake? Absolutely amazing!!! I enjoyed every minute of it and apart from one particularly panicked night 2 weeks before the big day, I felt relatively calm and prepared as much as possible, then put it together. The look on the grooms face when he saw the final product and applied the figurines was amazing and seeing the bride so happy about it was all the thanks I needed. They were extremely appreciative, but all I needed was their smiles.

I will definitely hope to make more wedding cakes and am considering going into the cake business officially but until then I will cherish the memories of this bake =)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Trying and failing to get onto Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice

Today we got up at the crack of dawn, well crack of dawn for a Sunday. The bright and early 8am!! This was more difficult than it really should have been as we were up quite late with some unexpected visitors the night before! Then the prep, that had started the night before, continued.



I should rewind a little and start from the conception of this idea. A few months back we had a visit from friends who told us that it's possible to be in the audience of television shows with seemingly little effort and for free!! Then, while watching an episode of GBBO:An extra slice, it occured to me that we could go on this show in the audience. GBBO: An extra slice is a spin off from the Great British Bake Off, that goes over this weeks episode while Jo Brand draws together some amusing moments and she, with a panel of chefs and comedians, jokes about what happened. The audience is an important part of the show. In particular, there is part of the audience that sits visibly in front of the stage and have 'brought a bake.' Jo Brand highlights a couple of the audience bakes and the panel taste one selected bake per week.



As a massive fan of the Great British Bake Off, the concept of going on 'An Extra Slice,' really appealed to me and so I applied for tickets to be in the audience. The next task was to plan a bake. The specify that you have to bake something relevant to this weeks episode of GBBo, this week will be Patisserie. They also encourage audience members to try to make something interesting orr a statue. I decided to make a patisserie scene out of patisserie items and to make it theme appropriate I pretended that this was Paul Hollywood's table at a french patisserie while he planned for the upcoming episode.



So what have we got here. To mimick a creamy creamy latte I used a Mary Berry recipe for chocolate mousse, flavoured it with a coffee liquor and set this in a tall glass. Latte's have a foamy head and so I decided to substitute this with tiny little mocharons filled with nutella.


This coffee would need to be served with a traditional patisserie treat and so I made a delicious tarte aux fraise, filled with delicious creme patissiere and topped with fresh strawberries


Wouldn't you love a little bite?

So I took these beautiful bakes and headed in to the studios to go to the show. We turned up an hour early and got wrist bands. We queued for that hour but unfortunately the audience was over-booked and we never got to go in. We were disappointed but the experience was so exciting and the energy in the queue was very positive so we were far from alone in being turned away. It seems that there is a lot of love for GBBO!!

The best part was that we got to take our bakes home to enjoy and share here with you. I would definitely try again as this was such an exciting experience and if anyone else is trying to get into an audience I would definitely suggest going 2 hours early!!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Trying a new fondant

So if you have been following this blog recently you may have notice that I have gotten more into working with cakes, particularly celebration cakes. When I attended the amazing cake course at Fair Cake, and made these delicious cakes, we used a lot of Renshaw fondant. This fondant was definitely easy to work with and tasted quite good over ganache. However I thought that it took the ganache to make it delicious.It looked pretty good too!



Therefore I decided to try out another fondant and, naturally, review it for you! So what is the fondant? Fondarific!


I read a great many reviews when considering which fondant to try and what I gleamed from this was that the 'best' fondant on the market, according to these bloggers, is Satin Ice. However Satin Ice presents issues for the novice caker; it tears easily on corners, it wrinkles easily and gets 'elephant skin, and some people claimed that the taste was somewhat artificial! So I looked elsewhere. Fondarific comes very highly rated among many cakers and is apparently the fondant that Duff Goldman uses and sells (re-branded with a hugely increased price-tag) as duff fondant. Since 'Ace of Cakes,' was the first cake shows that I ever saw, and became enamored with, it seems very appropriate to try this fondant.



So what is it like? I bought the 2.5Kg Antique White Buttercream Fondant. It comes in this adorable little bucket!! Inside the fondant is packed into a plastic bag


The instructions say that the texture will depend on the time of year. They say that in summer the fondant may be soft and winter it may be very hard. Well it is August here and the fondant is rock hard. Granted, it's 20'C here in the UK, so maybe that's considered cold weather. The instructions told me to microwave the fondant for 10 minutes and then work it on a counter top. The instructions say that one should use little if any cornflour. My first attempt at rolling I used none, but it stuck to everything including itself, so I used a small amount of cornflour.


I fondanted a small 4" cake (nightmare size). I found the fondant very soft as I applied it. However this gave me lot of time to work with it before it dried. It also meant that the tiniest pressure left indents and marks, which meant that I had to keep working on it. Here's the finished cake and please excuse the lighting






I have to say - I love the colour, it's a beautiful rich creamy white! You can see how it also shines, which is something that I really enjoy. It dried well overnight. But my favourite part? The taste! This fondant tastes delicious!! If you have ever bought vanilla fudge from a pic-n-mix, that is Exactly what this tastes like. It's fudgy and smooth with a delicious vanilla flavour and I am very impressed. This will not only make your cake look good but will enhance the flavour!

So it remains to be seen how this fondant will work on bigger, or more complicated cakes but so far I would definitely consider buying it again! I was not sponsored or compensated for expressing these opinions but if you would like to look at this fondant yourself here's the website.

So.........that went well......but I'm back with a bang!

At the start of the year I said that I would try to post more regularly and......yeah....that didn't happen =/ Finishing this doctorat...