16 April, 2012

Cupcakes, again.

I was asked to bake some cupcakes for Ian's nan for her to bring along to her OAP club. It's tradition for all the ol' dears to bring along treats to celebrate their birthdays, and as it's her birthday on Wednesday she wanted something to share with her mates.

I'm still playing around with my new toy, I can't seem to get enough of Instagram. Now, I'm no photographer, so to have an app that will make my pictures look halfway decent is a godsend. Please, humour me.

Back to the cupcakes, look at these naked lovelies.

I basically made the same cupcake as the Easter ones from last weekend except I left out the lemon from the sponge and went straight-up vanilla. The icing however, I kept the same.

Summon da police, someone broke in and messed up my kitchen! Icing sugar is the devils creation.  

My, what a fine job they made of the cupcakes, they must be professional...

I think Ian's nan liked the cupcakes, I hope all the old dears do too!

12 April, 2012

New toy

Not one for fancy technology, I always said I'd never be that bothered about getting an iPhone, and would be more than happy with my cheapo pay as you go handset for as long as it would (work before I dropped it in another cup of coffee) did I mention that I'm clumsy? Oh kids, how times have changed! Not only have I gone and got myself an iPhone but I'm secretly loving it! You can't tell Ian or I'll never hear the end of it.

Anyway, I was messing with the camera and I took a photo of the boy. Isn't he handsome?

09 April, 2012

Easter Cupcakes

In the spirit of the season, I made some lemon cupcakes to bring over to Ian's mum for Easter lunch yesterday. I told you I was a fan of lemons!

Because I wasn't feeling terribly creative (i.e. lazy) I chucked a few Cadburys' Mini Eggs and tiny fluffy chicks on top. Cute, right?!

Lemon Cupcakes

For the cupcakes
125g unsalted butter, softened
165g caster sugar
zest of one large lemon
2 medium eggs
225g self raising flour
125ml milk

Preheat oven to 180°C

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin liners

Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Don't skimp on this part! Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add the lemon zest and stir through.

Gently fold in the flour until it's combined and then add the milk, stirring well.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack.

Lemon Sugar Syrup

1-2 tbsp caster sugar
1-2 tbsp lemon juice

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and lemon juice over a low heat until sugar has dissolved. Brush each cake liberally with the sugar syrup. This keeps the cupcakes lovely and moist!

Lemon Buttercream Icing
Adapted from: Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery

110g unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
500g icing sugar, sifted
2-3 tbsp room temperature milk

Begin by beating the butter, lemon juice, lemon zest and half the icing sugar until smooth. (I always start with a wooden spoon - being very clumsy, I don't want a layer of icing sugar all over me and my kitchen!) Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar and beat slowly, moving on to a hand held mixer for a smooth, light icing.

I made the cupcakes on Saturday evening, but because we wouldn't be eating them until Sunday I wanted the buttercream to stay soft (it has a tendency to harden) so I added about 2 tbsp of milk to the mixture.

Once the cupcakes have cooled, decorate them any which way you please and enjoy!

*Photo taken on Ian's iphone.

08 April, 2012

Cardamom and Lemon Stamped Cookies

Woohoo! I'm back in the baking saddle (so to speak) and there's just no stopping me! My poor kitchen has taken a bit of a bashing over the past couple of days, the guilt of neglecting him got too much. My belly is loving all the delicious baked goodies but my thighs are screaming out to be saved. Does it count that I went cycling yesterday? And I did 12.5 miles?! Biking and baking, get me!

I love the Hairy Bikers (do you like my feeble attempt at a biking and baking link? Sorry kids) and I wanted to bake these cookies as soon as I saw the recipe on their new programme, Hairy Bikers' Bakation. Have you seen it yet? It's great! They're travelling across Europe on their motorbikes, visiting artisan bakers along the way and trying their hand at baking traditional recipes from each country. If you haven't seen it you're missing a treat and I've lost count of the number of times I've declared that 'I want that job' *sigh*. A girl can dream...

The cookie recipe is from the episode when they visited Norway - look at the view they had when baking.

Check out my view

In your face, Bikers.

Anyway, the cookies! Lemons have to be one of my all time favourite ingredients and I will almost always choose a lemon dessert if ever we go out for food. I've only ever used cardamon in savoury dishes and was intrigued to see how it tasted in a sweet treat. Knowing that cardamom is a very fragrant, almost overpowering spice I was worried when I saw how much was needed in the recipe and I didn't want it to be another case of 'Emma, I can't eat this', (Ian isn't cardamom's greatest fan) but to my surprise they were a massive hit!

I'd've liked a bigger hit of lemon in the cookie, so next time I'd ramp it up by zesting two lemons and the cardamom, thankfully, doesn't overwhelm the taste. It is a well known fact that I get easily distracted, which, truth be told, is a real pain in the arse and I may have left them a little too long in the oven (note to self: BUY A TIMER) as they were more golden in colour the than I wanted, but beautifully crisp.

Cardamom and Lemon Stamped Cookies
Hairy Bikers' Bakation

225g soft butter
150g caster sugar
zest of one lemon
250g plain flour
100g ground almonds
1 heaped tsp cardamom seeds, ground in a pestle and mortar

Preheat the oven to 190C
Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment.

Using an electric hand-whisk, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest together in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the flour, almonds and cardamom until the mixture is well combined and comes together to form a stiff dough.

Roll the dough into 24 balls and place 12 on each baking tray – make sure you leave space between each one. Press each cookie with a cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass to flatten and leave decorative indentations in the dough (I didn't have a stamp so I used the bottom of a glass)

Bake a tray at a time for 12–14 minutes until the cookies are pale golden brown. Leave them to cool on the tray for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. They will crisp up as they cool. Store the cookies in an airtight tin and eat within 7 days (if possible!)

04 April, 2012

Chocolate-Orange Cake

If I'm honest, this weekend baking thing hasn't panned out quite as I'd planned. As I work shifts, I don't alwys get a weekend off; my days off can fall on any two days of the week, and may not necessarily be together. This is no biggie as I like to have my days off when everyone else is out working - its so peaceful to go shopping mid-week rather than battle through the queues on the weekend! For weekend baking it can sometimes be problematic, and if it's been a busy Saturday I don't always feel like coming home to bake, let alone to make us dinner aswell. That's not to say I haven't whipped up a batch of cookies or baked a cake when I've come home from work, because sometimes I just get the urge, y'know? Baking can be very theraputic, especially if you know you're going to get a delicious treat afterwards! But on some days I just need to do nothing and re-charge my batteries.

Anyhoo, I saw this recipe in Nigella's 'How To Be A Domestic Goddess' ages ago, and the combination of orange and chocolate in a cake  seemed too good ignore, it became one of those recipes that I filed away as 'ooh-I-must-try-that-one-day' cakes. So, flicking through the book for ideas I knew it needed to be made. There's something quite appealing about a recipe that calls for ingredients that you should already have in your store-cupboard. This Store-Cupboard Chocolate-Orange Cake, as it is correctly known, did just that.

Ok. My first obstacle was the discovery that my store cupboard was somewhat lacking in the essential ingredients needed for the cake. Foolish gir! So, after a quick dash to the shops to pick up a bar of dark chocolate and a jar of marmalade I couldn't wait to get started. (I acidentally bought two jars of marmalade. So what if I got distraced by the different varieties of marmalade and forgot that I'd already put a jar into my basket? The real mystery is how I didn't realise this until I got home)

Once out of the oven and cooled a bit, I couldn't help but think the cake looked a little dry. A spoonful of marmalade mixed up with some water to make a syrup was poured over the top, but not before I skewered holes in to the cake first. The cake turned out to be very dense with a glisteningly sticky top. It wasn't overly chocolately but the sweetness of marmalade was almost too sickly sweet, to the extent that I was the sole-eater of cake in a two-person house. Not a problem as I do love cake. Mae West once said: 'Too much of a good thing can be wonderful!', but boy, was I glad when it was all gone.

I wouldn't rush to make this particular cake again, but if I did I would perhaps use a darker marmalade than the one (or ones) I bought. When I was a little girl I remember a very dark, thick-cut marmalade we used to love spread on thickly-sliced white bread, with a generous layer of salted butter underneath. I think this marmalade would be perfect for the cake - not too sweet, but with just the right depth of flavour.

Store-Cupboard Chocolate-Orange Cake
How To Be A Domsmestic Goddess
Nigella Lawson

125g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g good, thin cut marmalade
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self raising flour

Preheat oven to 180°C
Butter and flour an 8" (20cm) springform tin

Slowly melt the butter over a low heat, once it's nearly melted stir in the chocolate. Take off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the marmalade, sugar, salt and eggs. Stir together until all ingedients are amalgamated then beat in the flour, bit by bit. Scrape into your prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto your rack.

17 February, 2012

A Birthday Celebration

Last Thursday I turned thirty-three and quickly tried to forget it. Feeling like death from a glorious midnight shift and not getting in until 4am (thanks George) it was hard to feel nothing but, well, old.

Undeterred, Ian made sure I enjoyed a relaxing morning before he whisked me off for an afternoon of cinema fun. I was treated to a film at the The Electric Cinema in Birmigham to watch The Descendants. Going to the pictures is bit of a busman's holiday for us, but when it's someone else's cinema you quickly forget your day job and can enjoy watching some quality cinema, regardless.


Ian booked us a sofa where we ordered drinks and nibbles, to be served just as the film started!

And the film! If you haven't yet had the pleasure of watching it, I urge you to go out now and view it immediately. Mr Clooney's dubious wardrobe didn't detract from his performance and the vulnerability of his character made me love him a little bit more. I'll admit I cried a little throughout. OK, a lot then. But it's hilarious too, so don't let my uncontrollable blubbering put you off.

When the film ended, and the little old lady waiting for the loo and I had finished discussing the films highlights ("George Clooney, WOOOOO!", her shrieking words not mine) Ian and I headed over to Moseley where a table was booked at a lovely Caribbean restaurant, Carib Grill.

With our bellies full of rum punch, delicious jerk chicken and curried goat, it was the perfect end to my birthday, and what a fine ending it was. Thank you Ian!

13 February, 2012

Weekend Baking

Sometimes it crosses my mind that I'm not as adventurous a cook as I'd like to be. Don't get me wrong, every once in a while I get the urge to bake something new, something different. That little gem of a recipe hiding away in a cookbook will occasionally reveal itself to me, but, more often than not I find myself reaching for the familiar recipes in my repatoire.

It's no secret that I have a lot of cookbooks. I, unfortunately, haven't utilised them as best I could so, I have made a decision. I am going to revive weekend baking in this here house, to try a new recipe each week from a book of my choice - a recipe that I may not have tried before.  

How d'ya like them apples? In a pie. Got it.

I can't promise that this will be an interesting 'Julie & Julia' project. I can't even promise to make each recipe with the energy and enthusiasm of said project, a la Julie. But I will channel my inner Julia (or Delia, depending on how I feel) and she will emerge, bringing sexy back baking back to my kitchen. I may not be able to keep up the promise of weekly baking, but I'll hang on in there, feebly attempting in my quest for delicious baked goods.

Are you in?
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