“I want another slice of rhubarb tart…”

John Cleese’s dedication to rhubarb

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In the words of John Cleese “I want another slice of rhubarb tart, I want another lovely slice,” I couldn’t agree more. I always preferred rhubarb tart to apple tart and I think that was always my dad’s influence of loving sour things, gooseberries, granny apples and even the odd crabapple or two. However I like to try different recipes as rhubarb tart isn’t everyone’s cup of tea so with that in mind I trawl through my usual favourite foodie website http://www.bbdgoodfood.com and search for rhubarb recipes. There is one recipe that has caught my attention over the years but I’ve never tried it as it gets such mixed reviews in the comment section. I decided today would be the day that I would accept this challenge, add to the fact that I had all of the ingredients in the press and a load of rhubarb out in the garden begging to be picked, my decision was made for me. Continue reading ““I want another slice of rhubarb tart…””

Mix a pancake, stir a pancake, pop it in a pan…

At the weekend I love to try something different for breakfast (anything is a change from my usual porridge anyways) so I usually make pancakes. I have two pancake recipes that I have discovered in the last year that I love and both are quite different to the usual pancakes that I would have made. The first one is a baked pancake and the second pancake is banana pancake.

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So I was introduced to these pancakes last Halloween at a friends place. As we sat down for a coffee, she mentioned that her husband was going to make pancakes for breakfast, it was a recipe from his great-grandmother. I couldn’t wait to taste it, I love any excuse to try new food and get some new recipes too of course. He had it whipped up in no time at all and then went to pop it into the oven at which point I was very curious, what kind of a pancake is this? Out it came, it was so puffy and dotted with lovely autumnal berries, so I dived right in, well my fork and knife did anyways. It was delicious, so light and fruity. When my friend suggested making another one I didn’t protest and my baking antennae went up as I watched more intently and wrote down the recipe later from my friend. From that day onwards I often whip up this pancake.

The Johnson’s Autumnal Pancake

Preheat the oven to 200C, fan. Add 1/3 flour and 1/4 tsp of salt into a bowl, whisk 3 eggs and 1/3 cup of milk in a jug and then add it into the dry mix and whisk all ingredients until well combined – see it’s super easy :).

Put a knob of butter onto a Pyrex dish lid and put it into the oven to melt. While you’re doing that you can prepare your fruit. I like to add apples and strawberries, but you can add any kind of fruits to this, you could also put in a little vanilla extract if the fruit needs a little sweetening. I added in apples slices and sliced strawberries. Pop it into the oven for about 17-20 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is. You can spend this time popping the kettle on and admiring how much the pancake rises, it’s great fun watching it puff up.

Once you’ve admired your pancake in all it’s puffiness you can cut it in half, quarters etc and serve it drizzled with maple syrup, buen provecho.

Bananarama

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I found a banana recipe online a few months ago and it had two main ingredients, one banana and two eggs. I took that recipe and adapted it a little. I mashed one banana with a fork and then whisked the eggs and mixed them into the banana mixture. I added a splash of coconut milk (about a tablespoon and a half), a small handful of oats, a handful of blueberries and a teaspoon of honey, give it one more mix.

I use a teeny, tiny frying pan to cook these pancakes, you could use a frying pan or a wok either. Add in a knob of butter and put it on a medium heat, once melted add in two heaped tablespoons of the mixture and cook the first side for a few minutes and then turn it over.

So the first pancake is always a bit of a disaster, right, haha. The next few that followed were flipped over with a little more finesse. I usually leave the finished pancakes in the oven on a low heat. Once all done, stack them one on top of the other and then dig in.

 

 

They call me mellow yellow…

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The cupcake has become very popular with flavours varying from the classic vanilla to the popular oreo to the more unusual chocolate cupcake with Nutella-Kahlua ganache and Ferrero Rocher, my eyes widened at this flavour too, talk about chocolate heaven. You name the flavour and you can guarantee that there will be a cupcake version of it somewhere. Cupcakes are one of my go to bakes that I love to rustle up every now and then, granted I haven’t baked them in months as they do require a a good bit of time.

So I had a family BBQ at the weekend and I decided to try lemon meringue cupcakes in the hopes of  encouraging the sun to continue shining.

Lemon Cupcake Ingredients: Makes 24 (lemon curd and meringue recipe ingredients below)

  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 8oz unsalted butter (softened)
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 tbsp of milk

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Preheat your oven to 190C on conventional. Beat the butter and sugar together in a mixer or with a handheld whisk for a good 20 minutes until it’s pale like this:

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Add in your eggs and mix well, I usually do this by hand with a wooden spoon as it’s just handier. Add in your lemon zest, juice and milk, sieve in the flour and baking powder and mix gently together.

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Then spoon  the mix into cupcake cases (the more colourful the case, the better), I usually put in a heaped dessertspoon, the mix should fill half the case.

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Pop into the oven to bake for 17-20 minutes until they’re a golden colour, this all depends on your oven

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What you want is the colour on the right rather than the left. My cupcakes on the left got 3 minutes extra in the oven because I was too distracted watching Pitch Perfect 2, acca-how dare I not pay attention to my baking, I know, I know. Thankfully I wasn’t as distracted with the second batch and I had a trusty alarm set to remind me too.

So while the cupcakes are baking I made the lemon curd. I use a recipe from the BBC food website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/lemon_curd_68499) and I swear by it, it hasn’t failed me yet (*touches the nearest piece of wood). I halved this lemon curd recipe for the cupcake and it was the perfect amount, with a few spoonfuls left over for tasting of course.

Over a bain marie stir the lemon zest, juice, sugar and butter until the butter has melted, pour the whisked eggs into the lemon mixture and whisk until well combined. Stir the mixture every now and then until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon. This usually takes around 15 minutes or so, I’d encourage plenty of tasting here too, just to be sure of course. Then leave it to cool.

While the lemon curd was cooling I scooped out a little hole in the middle of the cupcakes with a teaspoon. You could use these little cake bits to make a little dessert on the side, something along the lines of stewed fruits with ice-cream or…..you could just eat them, haha.

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To make your meringue, whisk three egg whites until stiff and they pass the upside down test. Slowly add in half a cup of caster sugar until you’ve a glossy mix and then whisk in a teaspoon of vanilla extract, soooo sweet, om nom.

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Once the lemon curd had cooled down I spooned the mixture into the cupcake holes, I like to fill them right to the top as I like mine really zesty. I spooned the meringue on top and swirled it with the spoon to create a peak. Now to grill the meringue. I use a little cooking torch to grill them until lightly golden. You can also grill them in the oven.

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The last step is every bakers favourite part, tasting the final product. Although it does require a good bit of work and a fair bit of time, the result is totally worth it and it’s definitely one I’ll do again, probably not for another few weeks though. Now what should be my next flavour……

 

Still trying to perfect the pavlova

imageI love pavlova as I like to think it’s good for you as the main ingredients include one of your five a day and egg whites (no-one needs to know about the copious amounts of sugar).

Pavlova also includes one of favourite steps in baking, decorating and the more the better,  especially as pavlova should be treated as the showstopping dessert that it is.

Why am I writing a blog about pavlova you ask? Well the problem is of the handful of times that I have baked pavlova it never seems to turn out like the lovely white pavlova I am used to seeing, my pavlovas are more of a light caramel flavour. This delights my mam as she informs me that she prefers brown meringues as you don’t see them that often, so happy days.

So I had a family event recently and as per I said I’d bake something and it being summer, or as close to summer as Ireland can get, I chose a pavlova.

So I baked the usual pavlova recipe; whisk egg whites until stiff and when turned upside down they don’t fall on your head, then whisk in the caster a sugar a little at a time until glossy, add in your white wine vinegar, cornflour and vanilla extract and you’re done. Spoon onto baking parchment, I used a dinner plate to trace a circle, spread it out and create a dip in the middle for your fruit. Bake in the oven for an hour and leave overnight, this is when I discover to my dismay it is once again a caramel brown.

Decorating:

This is when your inner artiste comes to the forte and you can create your work of art, or so I like to think.

I blended mango and orange juice together with sugar for the sauce. I made a chantilly cream with icing sugar and vanilla extract. Then I spread a layer of the cream on the bottom and pressed halved strawberries into this, I added another layer of cream and placed the rest of the halved strawberries in the second layer of cream. The finishing touches were a generous drizzling of the mango and orange sauce and lots of milk chocolate shavings.

The result was one of your five a day with lots of dairy, super healthy!

The challenge to perfect the pavlova continues….

The road to the wedding was paved with icing…

The wedding cake that I made was for my brother’s wedding at the beginning of July 2016. My brother and my sister in law asked me to make their cake two years ago and I was chuffed to be asked to do so. I love baking in my free time but I had never made more than one layered cake before so it was quite a challenge but one that I was more than willing to take.

The cake flavours:

To begin with my brother didn’t want any fruit cake, biscuit cake or sponge cake which left me with very little other than cheesecake. So after more discussion they decided on three different layers.

The bottom layer was a sherry soaked fruit cake that I made three months in advance and I fed it with sherry every two weeks, I thought if the other two layers are a disaster at least this layer will make people fairly merry.

The middle layer was a lemon drizzle sponge that was cut into three layers and filled with lemon buttercream and homemade lemon curd. The top layer was a brownie chocolate sponge cut into three layers and filled with milk chocolate buttercream.

I got the sponge cake recipes from bbcgoodfood but added my own touches here and there.

The decoration:

Each layer of the cakes were iced with buttercream and covered with white fondant. The cakes were decorated with pink and lilac roses which I made four weeks before the wedding. The toppers were two Bassett hounds as they love these dogs, they were made 4 weeks before the wedding also. I also added a pink ribbon to each layer.

Challenges and what I learned:

YouTube videos were a huge help to me, in particular when it came to making the roses and stacking the cakes. I was using the wrong type of icing to begin with when making the roses so that was a little bump in the road and the new icing was tricky to work with as it set very quickly and so I had to constantly knead it when I was to make a new rose. I had to add colour to create the lilac flowers so that was a little challenging. Although I got to experience having bright pink hands for a little while.

The toughest part was definitely the dogs as I had never created anything that detailed with sugarcraft before. It took 8 hours to create them both and to add little quirks to them as they were based on their two bassetts. The veil was frustrating to create as I wanted to make it look delicate and it just looked like a white blanket on the bride’s head, I tried printing designs on it but that didn’t work so once again the internet came to the rescue, thank you google images, and I added mini roses to the top of the veil.

Bumps along the road:

I made the sponge cakes three days before the wedding and I had a near cake death with the lemon sponge when I was skewering it with spaghetti (I have now learned not to use spaghetti). I was tired and so I was skewering the cake when it was still quite warm and the spaghetti was getting softer, in my sleepy daze I noticed that the spaghetti was going in a lot deeper at one end and then it snapped. I was pretty calm about it and thought oh well that’ll be an unusual taste for someone. Once my mam had talked some sense into me I though I could burrow at the bottom and take it out. As I turned over the sponge and removed the baking parchment there I discovered the spaghetti lying snug as a bug at the bottom of the cake. I looked up and said “thank you” to the cake gods.

Through watching videos about stacking cakes a week before the wedding I realised that there might be gaps between each layer and so I had to go hunt down some ribbon that would go with the cake.

I found the stacking part the most stressful as I couldn’t do that until the day of the wedding and I had never done that before. Between using a spirit level and trying to remain calm it all came together.

The result:

I was really happy with the result and especially happy with how the cake tasted. Now that I have done my first wedding cake and I have all the tools I think I could rise to the challenge of attempting another one.