Sunday, 14 December 2008


Well, the kiddies and hub demolished half of it before I remembered to take a photo hehe

This was my first attempt at a brioche; it was sort of cheating because I used 500 g of "Brioche flour" and just had to add three eggs, 130 ml of milk and 30 mg of butter, and let my bread machine work the dough while I made tea.

After 2 hours and 20 min, I just had to break off 1/4 of the dough, stuffed the rest into a greased baking mould, made a hole in the dough base, then rolled the remaining dough into a ball and put it on top. I left it to stand for a couple of hours under a clean wet tea towel, then brushed it with an egg yolk and baked it in the oven for 30 min at 200C.

Was really pleased how it turned out, but I want to have another go, from scratch next time.

Triple Chocolate Babycakes

This is basically an intensely dark chocolate brownie recipe, with a milk chocolate ganache and white chocolate shavings.

It works best as a large cake, but the cupcakes are perfect for little mouthfuls of dense moist chocolatey goodness hehe

400 g dark chocolate
200 g butter, diced
16 level soupspoons vanilla-infused caster sugar
6 level soupspoons self-raising flour
6 eggs, separated

Break the chocolate into little pieces and melt. I usually just fill a little saucepan with water, bring it to the boil, take it off the heat, drop the chocolate pieces in and leave it to stand for 1 minute max. Drain off the water carefully - it leaves a lovely moulten chocolatey goo in the bottom of the pan, which you then mix with the diced butter over a low heat til it's all melted.

Place the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. Pour in the chocolate/butter mixture, and stir well until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add the egg yolks and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites, using an electric handmixer, until they form peaks, then fold into the chocolatey mixture carefully using a fork.

Fill into a prepared tin, or cupcake papers, and bake at 180C for 30-60 min (for a large cake) or 20-30 min for cupcakes.

For the cupcakes: leave to cool in the cake tin for a few minutes, then place on a wire rack.
For a large cake: wrap immediately in foil while still warm, and leave to cool - this will make the cake extra moist.

For the ganache:
200 g milk chocolate
200 ml cream

Melt the chocolate as above, then add the cream and stir over a low heat until the mixture is smooth and very very shiny. Allow to cool (but not set), then spoon over the cupcakes/pour over the cake.

Decorate with white chocolate shavings.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

And cupcakes too

These ones were from Nigella's Fairy Cake recipe in How to be a Domestic Goddess, which is lovely and easy and delicious:

125g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 large eggs
125g self-raising flour
half a teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk

I just blitz all the ingredients (apart from the milk) in the food processor til smooth, then pulse in the milk, and spoon into cupcake cases (makes about 16-18 smaller cupcakes or 12 muffin-sized cakes). Bake at 200C for about 15-20 min, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

The frosting is taken from my mum's 1977 edition of The Cookery Year, and it's a great recipe which works every time!

Seven-minute frosting
Preparation time: 10 min

1 egg white
6oz caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons water
Pinch of cream of tartar (I can't get this here, so have to make it without)
Food colouring paste and cocktail stick

Put all the ingredients in a deep bowl and whisk for a few minutes using an electric hand mixer.

Place the bowl over a pan of hot water and continue to whisk until the mixture is thick enough to stand in peaks, after 7 minutes.

Stir in the desired colouring (mix v. gently). Pop the mixture into a freezer bag/piping bag and pipe onto cakes.

I like to add a few sugar sprinkles. This time I added pink and white mini hearts, and popped a mini marshmallow on top, only these mysteriously disappeared when I wasn't looking - think my mini marshmallow monsters must've struck hehe

been practising my Carrot Cake...

making big family-sized ones:

and baby ones:

This is a one-bowl cake which I love because it's so easy and makes hardly any washing up! I just put everything in a bowl and mix it all up with a wooden spoon and some elbow grease.

8oz self-raising flour
2 level teaspoons baking powder
5oz light brown sugar (i use vergeoise blonde)
2oz chopped walnuts
4oz carrots (grated)
1 ripe banana (mashed)
2 eggs
5 fluid oz vegetable oil

3oz softened butter
3oz cream cheese
6oz icing sugar
half teaspoon Madagascar vanilla extract

Sift the flour and baking powder. Stir in the sugar, and mix well to get rid of any lumps. Add walnuts, carrot and banana and mix lightly. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and drop in the whole eggs and oil. Beat well with a wooden spoon.

Spoon into muffin cases, and bake for 30 min at 180C.

Test with a skewer, and when it comes out clean, transfer the baby cakes to a wire rack to cool.

Mix together the frosting ingredients til smooth. Place in a piping bag (or freezer bag then snip off the tip) and decorate.

Monday, 1 December 2008

look at dese babies!

I made some French macarons yesterday! Greeny-blue ones with blueberry jam filling, and pink ones filled with white chocolate ganache flavoured with rose cordial. I was so pleased with them! They're definitely my best ones yet. Using Bake-O-Glide made such a difference. The pink ones were still kind of crackly though - I piped them using a proper piping bag+nozzle so I don't know if this made a difference because I piped the greeny-blue ones using a freezer bag and they turned out much much better, lovely and smooth...

My recipe (which just produced about 18 medium-sized macarons - I might double it next time as they disappeared too quickly, although I gave most of them away to friends and neighbours as little impromptu treats):

for the macarons:
75 g ground almonds
120 g icing sugar
60 g egg whites (or two egg whites)
35 g caster sugar
colouring pastes

for the filling:
(pink ones)
1 x 100-g bar of white chocolate
a splash of cream
2 teaspoons rose cordial

(greeny-blue ones)
blueberry jam as required


Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.

Sieve the almonds and icing sugar separately, then place in a large bowl and mix carefully.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form peaks, then add the caster sugar gradually while whisking.

Gently fold the meringue mix into the dry ingredients using a spatula, til smooth. Split into 2 bowls, and add the colourings using a cocktail stick. Mix carefully.

Line two baking trays (I used bake-o-glide).

Stand a freezer bag in a medium-sized glass, and spoon the mixture into the bag, then snip a tiny hole in one corner and pipe onto the baking trays. Make sure the tip of the bag is touching the tray, hold the bag fairly upright and just squeeze until perfect little round blobs are formed.

Leave plenty of room between them.

Then pick up the tray to shoulder height, and drop onto a clear work surface to get rid of air bubbles.

Leave to stand for 30 minutes until the surface of the macarons remains intact when touched lightly with the fingertips.

Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes.

Leave to stand for 5 minutes then carefully place on a wire rack.

Place the white chocolate in a little saucepan, and add a splash of pouring cream. Heat over a low flame and stir until melted, then add 2 teaspoons of rose cordial. Mix well, then pour into a small bowl and chill in the fridge until the mixture has thickened (probably best made a couple of hours in advance).

Sandwich the macarons together with either a teaspoonsful of white chocolate/rose ganache mixture or blueberry jam (beware of clumsy thumbs when putting them together - a few of mine got dented that way hehe).

Admire for a bit in shock and awe, and enjoy!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Rum and Raisins

Have just been busy chopping and soaking fruit in an attempt to make a Jamaican Christmas Cake.

I've been experimenting and think I've found the closest thing to my mum's christmas cake recipe! It was her mother-in-law (my grannie) who taught her how to make it - I just remember it being really heavy but oozing with rich fruity goodness and rum! I remember her filling huge empty Quality Street jars with dried fruit steeped in a mixture of dark Jamaican rum and Sherry. She would soak the fruit for months, sometimes even a year!

I guess I've left it late for this year, but am tempted to have a go anyway, and will soak the fruit for just 2-3 weeks.

Alcoholic fruit mix:

560 g raisins
225 g prunes (stoned)
2 tbsp demerara sugar
3 tbsp water
110 g glace cherries
50 g dates (stoned)
50 mg candied orange peel
375 ml dark Jamaican rum
375 ml Porto (or mixture of Porto and Sherry)

1.5 litre glass preserving jar with rubber seal, sterilised by washing in hot soapy water and drying in an oven.

Stone the prunes, place in a small saucepan with the water, sprinkle with the demerara sugar and simmer gently on low heat for 20 min, stirring regularly, and adding a little more water if necessary.

Meanwhile, finely chop the cherries, stone and finely chop the dates, snip the candied orange peel into tiny pieces with scissors, and place in a large mixing bowl with the raisins. Allow the prunes to cool, then chop finely and add to dried fruit. Stir well, and transfer to a glass storage jar, and fill to the top with the rum and porto (and sherry if used).

Close the jar and leave for as long as possible (anything from 2-3 weeks to a year)

It's starting to feel all Christmassy with all the fruity rum-infused fragrances in my kitchen (not to mention the year-round fairy lights on the beam hehe)

Saturday, 1 November 2008


well yesterday, being that time of year again, I was up to arse and elbow in pumpkin flesh post-carving, and put 2 roasting trays of pumpkin cubes, tossed in a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and freshly ground pepper, into the oven to roast so I could make "Roast Pumpkin and Cinnamon Soup", from the Moro East cookbook. It's so delicious, roasting the pumpkins gives it such a nice flavour, and it's been a huge hit with the kids!

Also had my first attempt at Toasted Pumpkin Seeds which the kids loved too!
Basically I cleaned the seeds in a colander, under the tap, then put them in a saucepan with 4 cups of water per cup of seeds, and 1 tbsp rock salt per cup of water (thinking of trying it with less salt next time though), brought it to the boil, then simmered for 20 min, drained, spread out the seed on a baking tray drizzled with olive oil, and roast in a hot oven (220 C) for 20 min til nice and golden. A few exploded and popped in the oven, but they turned out pretty good!

I prefer shelling them to just eat the inner kernel - the husk is too fibrous and salty, but the inside bit is good - makes a nice little savoury snack.

Friday, 17 October 2008

French Flatbread

Woke up to the smell of fresh warm bread this morning - been baking my own bread. Well, semi-baking. Ok, my bread machine has been doing the baking for me.

I set it on timer a couple of nights a week, and it's been miraculously producing crusty airy loaves, just like pain de campagne. Only last night I rushed, and must've put slightly too much butter in, or pressed the wrong buttons, and it's come out crusty, but brick-like and doughy.

Which is why I will never have my own dream tea-room - my baking is just too random still hehe

edited one week later: ahhh well, after several experiments, it turns out I'd been pressing the wrong buttons to produce the good bread, and it all went wrong when I concentrated and made sure I pressed the right buttons! Weird! Now I'm really confused...

Friday, 10 October 2008

Tonight's Canapés and Nibbles

writing them down before I forget...

platters and platters of the following...

mini toasts topped with butter, jambon cru and a little piece of melon

teeny tiny sausage rolls made with frankfurters cut into 4-6 pieces, then wrapped in pastry, brushed with egg yolk and baked in the oven

prunes wrapped in streaky bacon and baked in the oven (can also do prunes wrapped in duck breast fillets skewered on a cocktail stick topped with a square of Emmental on the end - served cold)

little bite-sized squares of lardon quiche

ham and garlic cheese roulade - just spread garlic cheese over a piece of normal ham, roll up tightly and then cut into half-centimetre rounds - really nice!

cherry tomatoes stuffed with fresh goats cheese mixed with fresh chives, garlic and finely chopped radishes... the preparation that goes into this is astounding: cut the tops off the cherry tomatoes and reserve; scoop out the insides of the cherry tomatoes with the tiniest spoon (the insides can be saved to make a really sweet tomato sauce). Blend the chopped chives, crushed garlic and finely chopped radishes with the soft goats cheese, spoon into the tomato shells, and put the little tomato lids back on... mouthful of pure squishy fresh delicious-ness!

boudin noir with apple toasts: black pudding sliced and fried, on lightly toasted bread, topped with pieces of lightly cooked apple

sliced bread with cream cheese with figs and walnuts - the cheese is just the supermarket variety - Boursin type thing but with figs - will have to check if the walnuts were already in it or added later... but quite delish...

all washed down with neverending supplies of rosé-pamplemousse, whiskey or Pastis (neverending apéritifs!) and followed by my intensely chocolately cupcakes topped with intensely chocolately ganache with sprinkles, and Nathalie's gorgeous caramelly coconut-custard cake - I will be stealing the recipe tomorrow hopefully!

and rounded off with a lovely little expresso with a large sugar lump.

More Cupcakes!

Another Saint's Day, and four dozen cupcakes coming up!

Kind of scary making them for other people...

I love baking, always loved making cakes and feeding them to people, but now they've started bringing me armfuls of chocolate and butter and sprinkles and telling me how many dozens they want haha

It's fun...

Monday, 6 October 2008

Look at that S car go!

I tried my first ever snail on Saturday afternoon at a little French country wedding! Had the most gorgeous time! After the ceremony at the Mairie, we all trooped off to the picnic area for photos, and then on to the Village Hall for a "vin d'honneur" and nibbles, followed by an evening buffet with a neverending supply of pink and red wine, starters consisting of an array of salads and pâté de campagne, main course with rôti de porc et de bœuf, a selection of local cheeses with green salad, and a spectacular pièce montée made of choux pastry balls filled with crème patissière, assembled into a tower glued with caramel, and sprinkled with pearl sugar, served with champagne, followed by toasts and speeches by the Bride and Groom, coffee, games and dancing into the night, then back again for lunch on the Sunday afternoon.

So, back to the snails...

We had "rosé pamplemousse" for the apéritif - chilled rosé wine with "sirop de pamplemousse" (grapefruit cordial), in the same proportions as for a Kir - really light and refreshing... Went down a little too easily hehe

Meanwhile family and friends passed around nibbles: crudités with a delicious crème fraîche, chive and crushed garlic dip, little boats made out of chicory leaves with garlic cheese and a cherry tomato inside, bacon cake, feta and wild mushroom cake (delish! recipes to follow soon!), toasted canapés topped with cream cheese and smoked carp fillet, and mini snail tartlets. Now these looked just like the mini spinach tartlets I make at home and my son wolfed down two of them before realising they were indeed snails in parsley, garlic and butter, but he wasn't phased at all and thought it was pretty cool and said he liked them (though with a slight shudder)! And so of course I had my arm twisted to try one too! I'm pretty squeamish and have to say I nibbled on the pastry, and then had to pop it into my gob, think of oysters and down it in one! It was totally worth it for the well dones and pats on my back I got afterwards - like an initiation of sorts haha!

And then my friend told me how to prepare them:

So, the rough idea is, you catch a few snails, the little grey ones you get in the garden are the tastiest apparently. Put them in a little box and feed them nothing but flour for a month. That way they detox and get rid of the nasty stuff... Then you immerse them in plenty of white vinegar with a little water, til it turns frothy, and rinse them about 10 times in plenty of fresh water til the water stays completely clear. You then prize them out of their shells (and clean the shells if you want to serve them in the shells afterwards). Mix up lots of crushed garlic, finely chopped parsley and butter, put the snails back in the shells with the seasoning and bake in the oven for [I need to check] OR you can cut little circles of flaky pastry and pop the snails and seasoning on the pastry circles and bake in a hot oven for half an hour.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Michel's Cupcakes

I made a batch of two dozen chocolate cupcakes Monday night for my neighbour Michel's party. It was his "Saint's Day" so we had a little celebration with lots of little canapes and nibbles and Sangria hehe

I used Agathe's Chocolate Cake recipe, but instead of making one big cake, I spooned the mixture into paper cases to make mini brownie-like cupcakes, decorated them with a thick ganache and sprinkled crystallised rose and violet petal fragments on top while the ganache was still slightly warm so the petal flavours infused into the chocolatey topping...

There was a particularly nice canape that I want to remember - blue cheese (Bleu d'Auvergne) blended with a little butter (proportions: three-quarters cheese, one-quarter butter), chilled in the fridge but brought out to mix regularly, then spread onto mini bite-sized toasts, and topped with half a grape. The sweetness of the grape worked beautifully with the blue cheese. Yum!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Well I made my cake

... and broke it!

Must've manhandled it a little too vigorously when wrapping it in foil while still warm and it broke clean in two! Ah it'll be ok - nothing a little bit of cream cheese icing can't hide.

It was a beautiful loaf-shaped carrot cake from a recipe my mum had written in the back of her old "Cookery Year" cookbook which is one of my treasures. Felt nice reading her handwriting and weighing and mixing up the ingredients. The recipe was given to her by an aunt in Canada - we first tasted carrot cake when we stayed with family over there when I was 10. That's when we discovered McDonalds too hehe

Having a Waterboys moment...

... in my kitchen, listening to Fisherman's Blues and making sundried tomato and rosemary fuh fuh focaccia!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Got a new cookbook!

Well, new to me at least – it came out last year I think: Moro East by Sam & Sam Clark.

I’ve spent the whole week thumbing through the pages and drooling over the beautiful foodie writing and photos since the postman knocked at my door with a sweet birthday parcel from my in-laws in the UK...

So, last night I decided to have a bash at Jamón with quail’s eggs and piquillo peppers... It was just a Wednesday night, but what the heck, I can do special starters on a Wednesday once in a while I guess hehe

I picked up a little tray of quail's eggs my daughter spotted at the supermarket in town - the kiddies love these teeny tiny eggs which I hard boil for festive/party nibbles sometimes, and I loved the sound of the mini crispy fried eggs in the recipe... I didn't have the right kind of Jamón but substituted this with some jewel-like slices of Jambon de Bayonne instead. Also swapped the piquillo peppers for a big red pepper I had in my veggie basket, which I cut into 6 pieces and fried til soft and slightly blackened - deliberate I swear! - then kept warm on a plate covered with foil.

For the toast, I took four slices of bread, cut the crusts off, popped them in my toaster, then rubbed them with cut garlic and drizzled them with a little olive oil as stated in the recipe...

The quail's eggs were pretty fiddly to crack, for my fumbling fingers at least, so I didn't manage to get them all in the frying pan fast enough, and they ended up being well done instead of soft... Next time I will have them all cracked into little bowls and ready to tip into the pan... oh but they were still very pretty and quite delicious!

Then arranged the Jambon, pepper and mini eggs on the plates, with a strategically placed piece of toast, sprinkled with salt and pepper (forgot the cumin! argh!), plonked the plates on the dinner table with pride, then rounded everyone up to come and eat.

Was a hit! Definitely one to perfect and try again! (but hopefully with the exact right ingredients next time at least hehe)