Monday, 23 October 2017

Easy No-Bake Energy Bites

  Generally speaking, I detest "no bake" recipes...they are up there with "no sugar" recipes (which invariably have a metric tonne of sugar, just not in the granulated form...I think the record I saw was a "no bake sugar-free cake" that was in fact 35% by weight pure sugar (the rest being a mix of nuts, fat and other vaguely grim items)...

...however,I was in need of some easy-to-handle calories for a ride planned on a Sunday, and I'd been the victim of poor planning, and had nothing to hand. I had a quick look around online, and then did some adjustments based on what was sitting in the cupboard, and came up with these. I did a small batch, as you don't really want a lot of sweet, tasty carbohydrate-rich snacks lying around!

I did some maths, and if you make 9 bites from the batch they are 100-110 calories/20-22g each.  Each "bite" was about an inch across, and good for a single mouthful. This means that they are good for ride food at the rate of about 2 bites/hour.

No-Bake Energy Bites - Recipe

Ingredients

  • 80g rolled oats
  • 40g sultanas
  • 2g cinnamon powder
  • 1g ground nutmeg
  • ½g salt
  • 35g honey
  • 70g almond butter

1) Place all the dry ingredients (oats, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt) in a bowl, and stir together to mix

2) Add the honey and almond butter to the bowl

3) Mix until all combined/coated, and is clumping

4) With clean hands, separate into 9 separate balls and firmly roll together

5) Wrap each ball in foil and chill overnight

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Orange and Almond Cake

I had a bit of time off recently, and had a very pleasant time off in Mallorca. It's traditional to bring back some local goodies for the office, however I found the offerings at the airport somewhat underwheling, so decided instead to make something... I looked up online "spanish cake", and the most common offering was orange and almond...this fitted well for me, as I'd spent a lot of time cycling between orange and almond orchards!


Orange and Almond Cake - Recipe

  • Pre-heat overn to 160'C
  • Grease and Line a deep 23cm springform tin with baking parchment

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 225g ground almonds
  • 2 whole oranges (about 300g)
  • 20g water
  • Flaked Almonds (to decorate)
1) Chop the oranges up (skin, pith and all) and place in a medium sized saucepan with the water

2) Simmer gently for about half an hour with the lid in. The end result should be some soft orange goo, with most of teh excess moisture absorbed

3) Allow the orange to cool slightly, then blitz in a food processor

4) Separate the eggs, and whisk the whites together with 100g of the sugar to form a stiff meringue

5) Beat the yolks with the other half of the sugar to form a thick, creamy mousse.

6) Whisk the cooled orange mixture into the egg yolks

7) Fold the ground almond into the egg yolks

8) Carefully fold the meringue into the egg whites in parts

9) Transfer the final mixture into the prepared tin, and level with a spatula

10) Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top

11) Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. You may need to give it a tin hat to stop the almonds on top browning too much

12) Cool in the tin, then turn out to a serving plate

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Carrot Cake Cupcakes - Second Attempt

I wanted to give these another go after the last batch, trying teh tweaks. I also wanted to have a shot at the decoration...after all, I want these to be quite obviously carrot-cake! I think I've achieved that.

I don't really like using food colourings, and I want to try actually candying a carrot, and using that as decoration, rather than fondant/sugarpaste. The carrots themselves could be a little smaller as well, or a least a little shorter. I only briefly soaked the sultanas in the orange juice, and I think that I should do it overnight in future (along with a drop of lemon juice to add a bit more citrus), to get extra moisure in...

Carrot Cake Cupcakes - Recipe

  • Pre-heat oven to 160'C

Sponge Ingredients

  • 175g dark soft brown sugar
  • 120ml sunflower oil
  • 200g wholemeal, self-raising flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4tsp mixed spice
  • ½tsp cinnamon
  • 6 cardamon pods, crushed, with shells removed
  • zest of 2 orange
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 175g sultanas
  • 200g grated carrot
1) Place the sultanas an orange juice in a bowl, mix well, and leave to one side

2) Place the oil, sugar, eggs and zest into a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, and whisk for 4-5 minutes, until light and creamy

3) Sift the flour, bicarb, mixed spice and cinnamon together, and add the crushed cardamon seeds

4) Fold the flour mixture into the beaten oil and egg until just combined

5) Add the soaked sultanas and carrot, and again fold in.

6) Spoon 55-60g of the mixture into muffin cases in a muffin tin (I got 17 out of this mixture...don't add more mixture or they will ride too high in the cases, making decorating hard)

7) Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes

8) Remove to a wire rack to cool completely

Cream Cheese Icing Ingredients

  • 100g room temperature butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 300g full-fat cream cheese (I use Philadelphia, as it has a lower water content)
  • Cinnamon powder (to decorate)
1) Put the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with a creaming paddle attachment

2) Beat until extremely soft/smooth. I did it for about 10 minutes. It's really important you don't skip this step, or shortcut it, if you want a pipeable consistency. You want the sugar fully combined and coated with the butter, and as soft as possible to minimise the folding required to get teh cream chese mixed in. Definitely don't add any liquid either...

3) Add the cream cheese and fold in until just smooth.

4) Transfer to a piping bag with a semi-closed star nozzle.

5) Pipe a generous circle of topping onto each cake, and a small blob in the middle

6) Sprinkle a little cinnamon poder on top of the icing for decoration

Carrot Decorations

  • 1 pack ready-to-roll Orange Icing
  • 1 pack ready-to-roll Green Icing (which you won't use all of)

1) Roll the orange icing out into a sausaage about 12 inches long

2) Chop into even segments about 1½cm wide

3) Using a smooth surface, round off one end (sort of carrot shaped, strangely enough), and then form a divot into the end using the handle of a wooden spoon

4) Chop the non-ended round to a flat surface

5) Take some of the green icing, and roll into a sausage about the width of a pencil

6) Chop these into sections 5-7mm in length

7) Carefully point one end with your fingers, and push into the divot in the orange segments

8) Place one assembled carrot decoration in the middle of each cupcake

Monday, 18 September 2017

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

This is another weding cake post, only this time a bit more stealthy. No process photos here, as I was also makeing quiche and a loaf of bread, so everything was rather busy!

The plan is to have a tower of cupcakes of various flavours, and one I'd like to do is carrot cake. Everyone likes it (well, nearly everyone), and it's a bit unusual to be served as a cupcake.

The base recipe was this one, which is a slight variety of a Delia Smith recipe. I did a couple of minor tweaks (reduced cooking temperature to 160'C, and cooking time to 20 minutes). I put ~75g of mixture into each case, and I think this was too much, as the cake rose too high...ideally I want the edge of the cake to sit just below the case rim, as this makes icing easier. Adding the syrup to the cakes when they came out was not great, as it tended to soak into the case. The end result was there was not quite enough citrus flavour to the cakes, so next time I will add extra zest to the cake mixture, and maybe soak the sultanas in orange juice (rather than risk making the mixture too wet).

So, changes for next time;
1) ~60g per cupcake case
2) Double amount of zest from 1 orange to 2 oranges
3) Briefly soak the sultanas in the juice of an orange

Which brings me to cream-cheese icing. I did a fair bit of research into this, as I wanted something pipeable. Whenever I've made it previously it's come out quite runny, and while nice and tasty, the texture was not right. Apparently the problem is a combination of many things;
1) Sugar in cream cheese breaks it down
2) Any liquid makes it runny
3) Overmixing the cream cheese breaks it down.

I found lots of potential fixes...only use Philapelphia full-fat (as it's thicker, and less watery). Use some butter to add thickness. A few people had the interesting, and quite sensible theory of beating butter and icing sugar together, then folding in the cream cheese, and it's this that I went with, and it worked really, really well!

Recipe was;
100g soft butter (room temperature)
200g icing sugar
300g full-fat cream cheese (Philadelphia)

1) Put the butter and icing sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

2) Beat hard for several minutes, until very soft and light. You may need to scrape the sides down a couple of times. You are aiming for a mixture that is about the same consistency as the cream cheese. DO NOT ADD ANY LIQUID TO SOFTEN IT

3) Add the cream cheese to the bowl and fold/mix very slowly until evently combined. My stand mixer has a fold setting, and this worked perfectly.

4) Trasnfer to a piping bag with a semi-closed star nozzle

I then sprinkled a little cinnamon powder over each cake to finish.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Wedding Cake V1

Ok, I don't want to go into too much detail on the recipe here, as I think this is far more about logistics!

I have chellenged myself to do a wedding cake for 100-120 people, next October. I've been scouring the internet for inspiration, as well as looking at my own catalogue. My current plan is to do a cupcake stack/tower with 3-4 different flavours, and then top it off with an 8 inch/20cm cake which is done in a half-and-half style. I'll then do a (very) small tier on it to act as a cake topper. The entire thing will be decorated in chocolate-dipped strawberries.

The main body of the cake will be composed of thin cake layers, as I used in my jaffa torte and dobos torte. I made 8 layers, using;
  • 6 eggs
  • 240g caster sugar
This was then split in half, and half had 120g self-raising flour folded in, and half had 95g of flour and 25g of cocoa powder folded in. This made 4 layers at 20-21cm, each with ~100g of mixture spooned on. Each layer was baked for 6 minutes, then turned out to cool. Each layer was trimmed to 20cm using a large cutter, and then cut in half to give me 8 semi-circles of each flavour.

The primary filling is meringue buttercream. Again, 2 flavours, using a common base.I used 5 egg whites (I used liquid egg whites in a carton, so save a lot of egg yolk wastage...175g equates to 5 egg whites), with 250g of icing sugar and a rather terrifying 550g of room temperature butter! This was then split, and one half had some vanilla extract added, while the other had 120g of melted 50% chocolate folded in.

Finally, I also had some strawberry jam (shop bought, but I'll be making my own) , and some chocolate ganache (100g of 50% cocoa chocolate, and 120g of double cream)

Assembly was...interesting. Building up a half-and-half cake involved a lot of mess. The basic principle was to place semi-circles down on the cake drum, then add a couple of teaspoons of the relevant flavoured icing, before carefully spreading, and adding the next layer. Alternate layers also had jam/ganache added.

Keeping it straight was challenging, and keeping the join in the middle clean was also tricky. Careful use of a palette knife is required. I rushed a bit, and didn't chill everythig down enough. Ideally I would chill afer assembly but before adding the crumb-block layer on the outside, and it should then be chilled again before final decoration.

Final decoration will involve covering with rolled fondant on the vanilla/strawberry side, and smoothing the chocolate buttercream meringue down, and then dripping chocolate ganache over it.In this case that didn't happen, as I had instead some not-very-good chocolate rolled fondant which needed hiding, so it got fully ganached!

For the vanilla side I want to do some additional piped docoration, though not entirely sure what just yet. I've seen a sort of dimpled/upholstered look I like, or some (neat) piping...something I'm not quite there on yet. I'll then pile on chocolate-dipped strawberries (white and dark chocolate, to keep the split theme).

I was fairly happy with the first attempt...while it's a fairly complex build, I can chop some corners by making a single batter and icing base, and then splitting it. The fondant I can make ahead of time (or buy), and drippy style just looks decadent. The taste-testing went well too, with a pretty even split of preference. I suspect my colleagues are just happy to be guinea pigs!

Fondant / Supgarpaste Icing

Been fairly quiet for a while...a combination of summer busyness, and a slight accident involving a broken wrist, which puts a damper on baking. I've been of cast for a week now, and looking to sort myself out.

One thing that has come up is that I'll be baking my own wedding cake next year, so there will need to be a focus on getting some presentation-skills. I have an outline plan (basically a cupcake tower, with an 8-10" topper cake), and first goal will be getting some basic presentation style stuff going.

One of the classic items is rolled fondant/sugarpaste. It's an ingredient that allows you to create very clean looking cakes. most people buy it (and in all lightlihood I will too), however to make it there are basically 2 methods;
1) Properly, using ingredients such as liquid glucose, gelatin and glycerine
2) Using melted marshmellows as a base

I decided to try both, and I also wanted to see how they coped with chocolate, as I plan to do a half-and-half cake, with one side "traditional" white, and the other half chocolate. I started with the marshmallow recipe, as that was supposed to be easier. It;s certainly less ingredients!

Marshmallow Fondant Icing (aka MMF)

Ingredients

Chocolate Version

  • 150g mini white marshmallows
  • 175g sieved icing ugar
  • 25g sieved cocoa
1) Place the marshmallows in a large heatproof bowl

2) Place in the microwave for 10 seconds, then stir. Note, this will become the stickiest stuff you've ever seen, so have a second spoon ready for scraping!

3) Repeat this until the marshmallows melt (it took 3-4 bursts for me).

4) Start adding and mixing in the icing sugar (and cocoa, if doing chocolate)
OK, that sounds easy, but this stuff is incredibly adhesive. It will stick to the bowl, the spoon, your hands...everything. It's also incredibly elastic and spongy, and it's actually quite hard to incorporate the sugar. I ended up hand kneeding it after a certain point...it's a bit like kneading cool napalm, as it really does stick to everything.

The end result was...OK...I suppose. I found it quite hard to work with, as the spongy and elastic nature meant that rolling it was hard, and it tended to re-gather into a thicker substrate. The mouthfeel was not quite right either...it's chewy. On the plus cide the chocolate version came out well, very similar in texture to the plain version.

"Proper" Sugarpaste (aka Rolled Fondant)

Ingredients

Chocolate Version

  • Substitute 40g of icing sugar for cocoa
  • 20g "Trex" solid vegetable fat (if you've ever seen an American recipe call for "Shortening", thats what this is)
1) Put the water and gelatin in a small heatproof bowl, and allow the gelatin to soak for 5 minutes, until it is spongy

2) Place the bowl over a simmering water bath (I used a sausepan, with a small tray over it),and stir until the gelatin is fully dissolved/melted

3) Add in the liquid glucose, glycerin and vanilla essence

3a) If doing the chocolate version, also add the Trex and allow to melt

4) Continue to heat and stir until smooth and runny

5) Sieve the sugar (and cocoa if using) intoa large heatproof bowl

6) Form a well in the middle of the sugar

7) Pour the liquid into the well and start to stir/incorporate the sugar into the liquid

8) Knead on a silicone matt until smooth

So while this is more complex, I found it a lot easier than the MMF version, as it had a much better consistency, without the elasticity of MMF. That said, the chocolate version didn't work well (I used more cocoa first time)...it came out stiff, brittle and non-compliant.

All of these can be stored wrapped in clingfilm.

So, based on these initial exporations, I think I'll be making my own fondnt using the traditional method, but only for the vanilla/white stuff. You can buy ready-made chocolate icing, and logisitcally that will save me a lot of time, and possibly even money.