Baking Tip: How To Get A Perfect Crust on Your Loaf of Bread!

THE BEST RECIPE FOR PERFECT BREAD: Blackbird Bread

Tutorial: How To Paint a Meadow Cupcakes

If you need a helping hand looking for these tools, check out Squires Kitchen, it has some really fun things to play with, Enjoy!

Baking Tip: How to achieve a BRIGHT sponge cake using gel colours

Salted Caramel Macarons, Hand Painted and Delicious!

A mixed batch of painted designs

A mixed batch of painted designs

I was lucky enough to be sent a little taster of Sugar and Crumbs ‘salted caramel naturally flavoured icing sugar‘ so wanted to give the flavour a chance to shine – so this called for MACARONS! I must admit I was worried that the flavoured icing might be tinted in colour but it was a beautiful, crisp white, perfect for letting you play around with designs and colours yourself! Also, it gives you a little surprise when you bite into the macaron, as it appears to be a simple buttercream, then you get a POW of flavour! Everybody loved them.

Design inspired by Royal Windsor's blue and white tea sets

Design inspired by Royal Windsor’s blue and white tea sets

Blue and White Flowery Macarons

Blue and white flower design painted on pink macarons

If you have never tried making them, don’t be scared just give it a go, here’s a simple macaron recipe to follow.
NOTE: Make sure you SIEVE YOUR GROUND ALMONDS, it takes ages (moan) so if you have a blender, then blitz them for a bit instead – it makes such a difference to the smoothness of your finished macaron. It makes no difference to the flavour though, but for a lovely smooth surface on your macaron, my advice is blitz!

Edible silver leaf, salted caramel filled macaron

Edible silver leaf, salted caramel filled macaron

 

Sugar paste hare on circus style macaron

Sugar paste hare on circus style macaron

 

Big and bold sugarpaste flowers adorning macarons

Big and bold sugarpaste flowers adorning macarons

Painted, green leaf macaron. Salted caramel flavour

Painted, green leaf macaron. Salted caramel flavour

Perfect Party Macarons! don’t you think?

Check out the other fun flavours from Sugar and Crumbs, I’ve still got naturally flavoured ‘Coffee Icing‘ and ‘Lime Coco Power‘ to try, happy days!

Bakes, Cakes and Inspiration from January

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The 1st painted cake for 2014, inspired by fruit trees and fields in Tuscany
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A present from me to me, the Flavour Thesaurus.
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Cake Pops! (click here for blog post and How To Guide)
Cake Pop In Cup
“I am Paul Smith” exhibition at The Design Museum, London
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Yesterday I was given a lovely batch of homemade marmalade,
So today a sticky Marmalade Cake was in the oven! (recipe)
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The friendly Sugar and Crumbs have sent me some tasters of naturally flavoured icing sugars,
I can’t wait to try them out! *stay tuned*
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Space Cake Pops

Cake Pop In Cup

Today I tried making my first cake pops. I used a light lemon sponge which I blitzed and mixed with a raspberry buttercream until it was like a dough consistency. I rolled the mix into balls, dipped the end of the cake pop sticks into the balls and then froze them for about 20 mins. For the chocolate dip I melted 50% dark chocolate and 50% milk ‘covering’ chocolate, to make it less likely to crack I also added a drop or two or vegetable oil. I used a microwave to melt it down, just make sure you stir it once and a while.

Cake Pops
Tall Cake Pops

Once the pops are re-frozen dip and twizzle them in the melted chocolate, you need the thermo-reaction to cool and harden the chocolate, it works a treat. Then all you have to do is work out how to let them rest without ruining all your hard work – I stuck them into a boxed which I had pre-skewered little holes into, which worked ok! (lots of people use Styrofoam cake dummies)

Galaxy style cake pop, Chocolate and gold design
Cake Pop Galazy 1

I really like the ones which are a bit messy, when i dusted gold onto them they look like galaxy, space pops!

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Next up I’m trying rum and raisin cake pops… mmmm

 

My Attempt at Dan Lepard’s Stollen Recipe, and My Joy!

I’ve always wanted to bake a Stollen and was told Dan Lepard’s recipe was a goodun’… So I went for it.
I’m a huge fan of Christmas breads and love all the spices, however, I’m never happy with the dry ones you get at the supermarkets and hate paying a fiver for a tiny slice from a Christmas market (oh hello Scrooge!)
So I made this one, IT WAS MASSIVE! So I’ve wrapped up slices to give away to friends for a tea time treat (not so Scrooge-like)
The funky paper is from my very talented friends Polly and Chris’ magazine, Wrap, check them out for inspirational illustration and wrapping paper galore.
I did leave the bread to rise all day as needed to go Christmas shopping, but it was in a big bowl and it didn’t go beserk, so feel free to mix it in the morning and then get on with your day and in the evening, make the house smell AMAZING and bake the beast!

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My Recent Bread-scapades!

If you don’t already know, twickenham’s Blackbird Bread have a bread making class happening, and since I am friends with this feathered family I got to go along and help out, do some dishes and also sharpen my bread skills, which were lacking after 8 months of travelling and not much experience before that. Anyway, since then I have been baking bread as often as I have a time to spare, and recommend you folk give it a bash too.
For a lovely crusty fluffy white loaf visit blackbird bread’s recipe.
Follow all the guides there, making sure you don’t rush the proving times and also making sure you don’t cut into your incredible loaf until it’s completely cool from the baking, if you want it warm, sack it in the toaster or oven again…but I doubt you will want to wait any longer to dig in!

Last night I tried making Dan Lepard’s Extra Moist Stollen it’s something I have always wanted to bake and now it is resting for a day or two to get a nice set on the icing and butter crust….I might have to just get the knife to it later though as I’m desperate to see if it surpasses the dry crappy ones they over charge you for in the shops. That’s a picture of it dusted with icing, there is rum and all sorts in the recipe, so I’m hoping it’s amaze balls.

The plaited loafs in the picture and so satisfying to make, after I was confident my timings were good and I knew how the dough needed to feel I went for a plait. I waited a bit longer for the last rise, as there is a lot going on, so wait an hour instead of 45 mins. The monotone loaf was great, I used a mixed seed and grain flour (check the supermarket shelves but I think it was Allinsons range) then before it went in the oven, after I sprayed with water, I patted on poppy seeds to one side and dusted flour to the other. It got eaten in one hit last Sunday with a broccoli soup. Also for this loaf I substituted milk for water, adds an extra yumminess.

In the first photo there is a soda bread, all farmhouse looking, they are super quick to make (45mins!) so if you need a fix after work, GET INVOLVED, you don’t need to knead it or prove it or even use bread flour, so you probably have all the ingredients in the cupboard, bonus.

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Next up, barm bread!

Christmas Hampers, A Cookie Bizarre!

It’s been a month since I have been back in the UK and I have spent most of that time playing in the kitchen! It’s been lovely!
So, with Christmas on the horizon, I want to introduce you to my Cookie Boxes which are available now to order for £30.

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Hand painted snow globe cookies will sit all snug in a box amongst Lemon and Thyme Shortbread, Coconut Ice, Iced Vanillla Biscuits and my favourite, a Family of Fiery Gingerbread! What else do you need?

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They come all boxed up with a bow – ready to give to someone special, or ready to jump into yourself with a pot of tea, I’m not judging!
Contact me if you fancy a sweet treat, I’m based in Twickenham, London and will be available for pick up on 23rd December. YUM!

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Easy Afghan Biscuits, My Flora Addiction and 200 Seal Pups

We have been traveling around New Zealand for a month now and with our budget diminishing and the up-coming Inca Trail, we have spent a lot of time walking up and down mountains. Which has led me to a not-so-mild obsession of drawing flora. My worry with flowers and cakes is, that they can become ‘fluffy’ – sickly sweet looking and way too pretty. It’s dodgy territory which I need to keep a close eye on! But, inspired by the rainforest hikes, alpine summits and the springlike weather that New Zealand has in August, (it’s glorious!) my sketchbook filled with doodles of ferns, moss and tiny blossoms. Blossoms that can only survive in hardy conditions, like a heather; where even in snow and wind it can still produce a buds of colour.

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Then, as if in complete rebellion, yesterday I came across a magnificent display of multicoloured poppies in Nelson city. Possibly one of the most fragile looking flowers ever. And now I can’t stop drawing them either. So I thought I would blog a few sketches which I am excited to incorporate into my cakes when I get home: in 55 days and 3 countries time.

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As well as incredible views of snow caped mountains, red woods, mirrored lakes and the ocean, we have also come across lots of seals! In Kaikoura (south island) I went to a little waterfall where the baby seal pups go until they reach abut 9 months old. Here they are safe from predators, learn social skills and become pretty nifty at walking (waddling) on rocks. They are incredibly curious fellas and kept poking their noses on my legs when I tried to pose for this picture. It was a very emotional experience to see them so safe and wild – for once a happy story about animals surviving and the numbers actually growing. There are at least 200 pups that play here.

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‘Easy As’ Afghan Biscuit Recipe

Now for some kiwi baking! We found these on display in lots of cafes, a true regional treat. They are fabulously chocolatey and the corn flakes add a bit of crunch, so you gotta try them. Also, I reckon they would keep quite well for about a week in an airtight jar, which is always handy for when you have surprise guests for tea. Something that I really miss whilst I’ve been travelling. Don’t leave out the walnut by the way, it’s crucial and works so well with the chocolate, also, it looks really cool sat on top.

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Ingredients:
200g butter, softened
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups cornflakes
Chocolate icing, recipe follows
1/2 cup walnut halves, to decorate

1. Heat oven to 180 degrees and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

2. Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Sift flour and cocoa powder over creamed mixture and stir to combine. Lastly, stir in cornflakes.

3. Place tablespoonfuls of mixture on prepared baking trays. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until firm and golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

4. Ice the cold biscuits with chocolate icing and decorate with a walnut half.
You can see more recipes like this on here: http://www.nzwomansweekly.co.nz/food/recipes

Last note of the day:
On thursday we are in Fiji and I hear that guinea pig should be on the menu. Fun! I will report back.