Monthly Archives: October 2009

Spooky Halloween Cupcakes

I am planning a big Halloween feast tomorrow night but to keep us going during the day I made these spooky halloween cupcakes.  The cupcakes were made to my usual cupcake recipe.  I made half chocolate and half vanilla by making up the whole batch plain, spooning out the 6 plain into their cases then stiring in a large spoonful of cocoa powder and mixing it well, then spooning the remaining mixture into the remaining 6 cases.  I made sure to well fill four of the cases that were to be the owls so they would form peaks. 

Spooky halloween cupcakes

You will need:
Giant Cadbury’s Buttons
Mini Cadbury’s Buttons
Malteasers
Chocolate Eyes (available nearly everywhere aroung Halloween)
Orange and Lemon Jelly Slices
Thick Glace Icing (Icing sugar and lemon juice mixed to a paste)
Buttercream Icing

– First trim the peaks off the cupcakes and retain 4 of the chocolate peaks. 
– Then ice the cupcakes with buttercream using a large nozzle or spread carefully using a flat bladed knife. 
– Melt a handful of the Giant Buttons in a small ziplock freezer bag (1 minute in the microwave) then snip a small corner off. 
– Put your glace icing in another freezer bag or a cone of baking paper with the corner snipped off. 

For the Owls:
– Take the 4 retained peaks and slice them in half. 
– Place the two halves in a V on the cupcake. 
– Place a malteaser on either side for the eyes.
– Squeeze a good blob of glace icing on to each malteaser and place a mini button on top. 
– Place an orange or lemon slice at the tip of the V for the beak. 

For the Eyes:
– Place an eye at the centre of the cupcake. 
– Take the bag of chocolate and ice eyelashes on the cupcake. 

For the Sipders:
– Place a Giant Button at the centre of the cupcake. 
– Ice legs on with the chocolate. 
– Ice on the eyes with two blobs of glace icing and a dot of chocolate for the pupil.
– For smiley spiders finish by icing on a smile with chocolate.

2 Comments

Filed under Cupcakes and Muffins, Easy

Dough Balls Recipe

I love dough balls from the supermarket but they’re a bit too greasy for my liking and I don’t always plan ahead and buy them.  This evening mum was making spaghetti and meatballs and I suddenly fancied dough balls.  I wasn’t going to drive to town and back just for dough balls so I had a look online to see what I could come up with.  Unfortunately I couldn’t really find any recipes that were what I was after so I simply made it up as I went along! 

These aren’t exactly the same as supermarket bought ones, obviously.  They’re bigger, the size of a small bread bun, and the filling escapes out into the dish but they are very tasty!  I made mozerella and garlic as I love cheesy garlic bread but you could just as easily leave the cheese out or use a different cheese if you wanted to.  They took me an hour from start to eating so they’re excellent for just throwing together. 

Dough Balls

Makes 12

250g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
150ml warm water
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
1 ball mozzerella
~60g butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed

– Mix together the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl and make a well in the centre. 
– Add the oil and water to the well and mix well until it forms a soft dough, using your hands towards the end if necessary. 
– Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes. 
– Squish the dough out quite flat then add the 1 tsp oil and fold together. 
– Continue to knead until the dough is soft and smooth. 
– Cover and leave to rest while you prepare the filling. 
– Chop the mozerella into chunks and divide roughtly into 12 even piles. 
– Soften the butter (20 seconds in the microwave if straight from the fridge) and add the crushed garlic.  Mix well. 
– Roll the dough out into a large sausage and divide into 12 equal balls. 
– Place the balls back in the bowl and cover while working. 
– Use a rolling pin to roll out each ball to about 3″ diameter.
– Place a portion of mozerella in the centre then a teaspoon of garlic butter on top of that. 
– Gather the edges of the dough and pinch together over the filling, forming a smooth ball. 
– Place the ball in a greased, ovenproof dish seam down. 
– Repeat with each dough ball, leaving a few cm space between each ball. 
– Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. 
– Bake for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to gas mark 7. 
– Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly and reabsorb the juices a bit before serving.

3 Comments

Filed under Breads, Easy

Pancakes

I thought it would be as well to have this recipe here separately just as a reference if you are looking to make plain pancakes.  Fill these with whatever you like, I’m very fond of mapel syrup and squirty cream myself or just good old fashioned lemon juice and sugar.  Anything goes with pancakes!

Makes 8
125g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
300ml milk

– Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. 
– Add the egg and milk and beat until smooth and the consistency of single cream, you may have to add a bit more milk to achieve this. 
– Leave to stand for at least 5 minutes, preferably 20. 
– Heat a non stick frying pan with a little bit of butter greasing it. 
– Add a small amount of the batter to the pan and swirl around until the bottom of the pan is evenly coated. 
– Leave for about 1 minutes until the edges are cooked and curling then flip over and cook the other side. 
– Put on a warm plate covered with a teatowel then repeat until you have no more batter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Basic, Easy

Stuffed Pancakes

Dinner last night was something of a collaborative effort between mum and me.  She made the pancakes, I made the filling and stuffed them, we both worked on the recipe for the filling.  These turned out to be incredibly filling, we had 2 pancakes each and I was absolutely stuffed, no pun intended, by the end.  I’m still, in some ways, operating on the student premise that a good meal includes as little washing up as possible so this recipe loses point for that as you need 3 pans and a dish but if you have a dishwasher then no worries!  You can also make the pancakes well ahead instead of it being all go at once. 

Stuffed pancakes

Makes 6

For the pancakes:
125g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
300ml milk

For the filling:
1 onion, chopped
4 rashers bacon, chopped
200g mushrooms, sliced
6 tbsp olive oil or a knob of butter
3 tbsp corn flour
1 pint milk
200g mature cheddar, cubed plus a little extra, grated
grated parmesan or generic “grated hard cheese” to sprinkle

– Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. 
– Add the egg and milk and beat until smooth and the consistency of single cream, you may have to add a bit more milk to achieve this. 
– Leave to stand for at least 5 minutes, preferably 20. 
– Heat a non stick frying pan with a little bit of butter greasing it. 
– Add a small amount of the batter to the pan and swirl around until the bottom of the pan is evenly coated. 
– Leave for about 1 minutes until the edges are cooked and curling then flip over and cook the other side. 
– Put on a warm plate covered with a teatowel then repeat until you have no more batter. 
– In a separate frying pan fry the onion in a little oil until soft. 
– Add the bacon and fry until cooked then add the mushrooms and fry until they are cooked. 
– In a separate sauce pan heat the oil or butter and then add the corn flour, whisk together. 
– Remove from the heat and then add the milk. 
– Return to the heat, bring to the boil and keep whisking until the sauce thickens. 
– Add the cheese and whisk until melted. 
– Mix together the contents of the two pans, reserving a bit of the cheese sauce. 
– Grease an ovenproof dish large enough to hold your pancakes. 
– Place about 4 spoonfuls of mixture in a horizontal line in the centre of a pancake. 
– Fold over the sides of the pancake by just an inch or so. 
– Then fold the bottom up over the mixture and roll into a sort of tube, carefully keeping the mixture inside. 
– Lay the stuffed pancake in the dish then repeat with the rest of the pancakes and mixture. 
– Pour the remaining cheese sauce over the top of the pancakes. 
– Sprinkle the top all over with the grated cheese and parmesan. 
– Place under the grill until the cheese is melted and golden brown. 
– Serve straight away.

Leave a comment

Filed under Easy, Mains

Chocolate Surprise Muffins

My mum used to make these for me to take to uni and they were very, very popular!  One of my friends once stole my phone so he could phone my mum and tell her how good they were!  The surprise is the lovely gooey Nutella inside each one.  I once, ill-advisedly, bought a 1.5 litre jar of nutella.  I love Nutella but even I have been struggling to see how I’m ever going to finish this jar!  It has got to the point now where it’s only good for cooking as it tastes a little off if you just spread it on bread.  Happily these muffins are a great way to cook with Nutella. 

Chocolate Surprise Muffins

Makes 6

50g dark muscoavdo sugar
125ml milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
40g butter, melted and cooled (or 2 tbsp sunflower oil)
150g self raising flour
15g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
180g chocolate chips (I use Dairy Milk Chunks)
6 heaped teaspoons of Nutella

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and prepare 6 holes of a muffin tin. 
– Beat together the sugar, milk, egg and vanilla essence then add the butter, or oil, and beat again. 
– Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt into the mixture.
– Fold in gently. 
– Add the chocolate chips and stir in. 
– Half fill the paper cases with mixture then place a heaped teaspoon of Nutella in the centre.  Spoon the rest of the mixture on top. 
– Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine took 25)
– Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little in the tin then place on a wire rack to cool completely or serve warm.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cupcakes and Muffins, Easy

Neep and Tattie Cake

Or for those of a non Scottish persuasion, Swede and Potato Cake.  This was served as an accompaniment to our Chicken and Mushroom Pie the other night.  It was supposed to have slices of Pancetta or streaky bacon on the top/bottom but the bacon had gone off.  Oopsie!  I shall give the recipe as for bacon but it was perfectly nice without it.  I could, of course have just served swede and potato mash but serving it as a cake and cutting slices is a much more fun way of presenting a vegetable.  The crispy edges were rather nice too!  One note though, my ancient masher isn’t great at getting to the very bottom of the pan so there were larger lumps of swede in this, with a better masher I’m sure you could achieve a finer consistency. 

Neep and Tattie Cake

Serves 6

1/2 a large swede
3 baking potatoes
approx 6 rashers streaky bacon/pancetta
a good knob of butter (approx 50g if you’re measuring)

– Bring a large pan of asalted water to the boil on the hob. 
– Peel and chop the swede and potatoes into roughtly 1cm chunks. 
– Add the swede to the boiling water.
– After 10 minutes add the potatoes. 
– Continue to boil for another 20 minutes until a sharp knife goes in smoothly. 
– Drain the water from the pan and return the swede and potato to a low heat to dry out any remaining water. 
– Remove from the heat, add half the butter, season to taste and then mash. 
– Grease a round ovenproof serving dish, or even a flan dish or sandwich tin if you don’t have anything else suitable, with sunflower oil. 
– Arrange the strips of bacon in a cross, then add in extra stripes on the quarters, like the union flag. 
– Scoop the mash into the dish and smooth over the top. 
– Dot the remaining butter all over. 
– Place in the oven at Gas Mark 7 and bake for 40 minutes until crispy and golden brown on top. 
– Run a knife around the outside to losen then turn out onto a serving plate.
– Cut slices to serve.

Leave a comment

Filed under Easy, Sides

Shortcrust Pastry

Today I conquered one of my kitchen fears.  I MADE PASTRY!!!  No, really, I’m that excited about it.  For years I have been incredibly wary about pastry because where my mother and sister have lovely pastry hands, nice and cold, I’ve always had nice warm hands.  As such I had been told that pastry and I would not get on.  Well today I can totally refute that! 

I was making a chicken and mushroom pie for dinner tonight to use up leftover roast chicken but when I went to the fridge to get the shop bought puff pastry I had planned to use it was… well, approaching sentience actually.  There was nothing for it, I was going to have to make pastry. 

I have one cook book that I return to again and again.  The Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Cook Book.  (Although I think this is the current edition.)  It was one of the first cookbooks I ever got, before I’d ever tried to cook anything other than fairy cakes.  My mum also has a copy and both are now dog eared and spilt on through many years of sterling kitchen service.  It is the first cookbook I reach for when I don’t know how to do something or just want some inspiration, the colour picture index is great for that, and it was this cookbook I reached for this evening when facing the daunting task making my very first pastry. 

I am happy to report that not only is shortcrust pastry easy, it was also quick and, for cooking, pretty low mess too!  The recipe I use for chicken and mushroom pie filling can be found here.  Instead of cooking the chicken breast I just added chunks of roast chicken stripped from Sunday’s roast.  Usually I decorate pies with a representation of what’s in them but I decided that this was going to be the prettiest pie in the world.  Usually savoury pies are seen as manly and butch where as sweet pies are more girly, nope, not this pie.  I decided that hearts and flowers were the only way to go, sorry dad!

Pie!

Makes enough for 1 pie, decorations and a bit leftover*. 

225g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g butter, chilled and diced
50g Trex (white vegetable fat), chilled and diced
3-4 tbsp chilled water

– Mix together the flour and salt.
– Add the butter and Trex and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. 
– Add 3 -4 tbsp cold water by sprinkling it evenly over the surface fo the mixture.  (I used 3 tbsp and a bit.)
– Using a flat bladed knife mix it together until it forms a dough. 
– Gather it together with your hands and lightly knead for a few seconds to bring it together. 
– Form the dough into a ball and wrap it in clingfilm.  Place it in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
– Lightly flour the worksurface and the rolling pin, not the pastry. 
– Turn out the dough onto the worksurface and roll it out in one direction, turning it as you go until it reaches about 3 mm thick. 
– Place your pie dish upsidedown on top of the pastry and cut a line around the dish about 1 cm out to leave room for shrinkage. 
– Cut a second line around this about 1.5 cm thick.
– Fill the pie dish with the filling. 
– Moisten the edge of your dish with a finger dipped in water then press the 1.5 cm thick strip round the outside of the dish trimming the length to fit.   
– Moisten this pastry with water again then lay the rest of the pastry over the top using the rolling pin to help lift it across. 
– Shape the edges how you want to, I used a fork pressed round the edge. 
– Add any decorations you want to on the top, moistening them with water to stick them down. 
– Brush with beaten egg or milk. 
– Bake at gas mark 7 for 45 minutes. 

*(I cut out itty bitty flowers from the last of the pastry, dabbed the tops with the spare egg wash and sprinked them with grated hard cheese then baked them for 10 minutes at Gas 6)

Tuck in!

I served this with carrots, brocolli and neep and tattie cake, which I shall post tomorrow.

2 Comments

Filed under Basic, Easy

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I find myself feeling very conflicted today.  I decided to try a new chocolate chip cookie recipe instead of my fall back Tollhouse cookie recipe.  Essentially it had exactly the same ingredients, although without the vanilla essence, but in different quantities.  They are at once exactly the same and yet very different.  I am now torn between the two, which is my favourite?  I’m afraid only time will tell but these are definitely entering the repetoir.  They have the same crispy crunch around the outside but these cookies have a lot more height to them and so the insides remain pillows soft and a tiny bit chewy.  They are deliciously soft and buttery and yet the overall taste is the same as the Tollhouse.  I think a side by side test is in my future, although for those of you watching what you eat you may be better sticking to the Tollhouse as they contain a lot less butter. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 30

200g unsalted butter, softened
85g dark muscovado sugar
85g golden caster sugar
1 egg
225g self raising flour
pinch of salt
180g chocolate chips (I use Dairy Milk Chunks)

– Heat the oven to Gas Mark 5 and line 4 baking sheets.
– Cream together the butter and both sugars until light and flufffy.
– Add the egg and mix until well combined.
– Add the flour and salt and fold in until the mixture is smooth.
– Fold in the chocolate chips. 
– Spoon walnut sized heaps of mixture onto the baking sheets, leaving plenty of space between each (I put 9 on each large tray).
– Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.  (The tray on the lower layer will need about 3 minutes extra on the top layer to brown up). 
– Remove from the oven and leave on the tray for a minute or two then place on a wire rack to cool.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cookies and Biscuits, Easy

Bread!

I love making bread.  This is kind of handy when I make it every few days.  Although I suppose that if I didn’t enjoy if I wouldn’t do it!  I started making bread back in July when I was bored out of my mind and bread was the first thing I could think of that would take hours to cook.  I haven’t looked back.  I’ve made bread loaves, cottage loaves, bread buns, pita breads, focaccia, and the usual free form round loaf to my heart’s content!  There is something so theraputic about making bread.  I enjoy the all of the kneading, rising and shaping.  It all adds up to make something so satisfying and delicious. 

I started out using an overnight rising technique with my easy overnight white bread recipe but now I’ve had practice I can make bread from start to finish in 3 hours.  It really breaks down into 4 stages, mixing, rising, second rising and baking.  I think that I can get everything together, measured out, mixed and kneaded in 30 minutes.  It then needs an hour to rise, then shaping takes anything up to 30 minutes when making rolls, then another 30 minute rise, then 25 minutes cooking.  If I start at 5pm then I have freshly cooked bread on the table for dinner at 8pm. 

I thought it was about time to post about all of the little tricks I’ve learnt to make the process go a little quicker and make my bread a little better.  I use the same basic white bread recipe I started with but it’s the techniques I’ve developed that have really made the difference to the quality of the bread that I produce. 

Plaited Bread Rolls

White Bread Recipe

Makes 1 large loaf, 12 small rolls

500g strong white bread flour
7g fast action yeast
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml warm water

– Heat your oven up to the lowest setting it has.  Mine has Slow Cook.  This isn’t to do any cooking, it’s just to create a warm, draft free environment for yor dough to rise in.  In the summer I was leaving the dough in a basket in the conservatory as it was very warm but now that winter is approaching the oven is the best place I’ve found. 
– Put the flour, yeast and salt in a very large bowl and mix it about a bit. 
– Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and then add the oil and water.  To get warm water I use 200ml cold water and 100ml boiling mixed together. 
– Use a spoon to mix together the ingredients until it forms into a ball of dough. 
– Get in there with your hands, floured, to gather it all together and then turn it out onto a floured work surface. 
– Dust the dough with flour on top as well and start kneading.  Squish it out ahead of you, then fold it back and rotate 90*, squish, fold, rotate.  So long as you work the dough and move it all about a lot then it doesn’t really matter how you do it.  You should be picking up the lose flour and working it in to the dough as you go.  If the dough starts to get too sticky just dust a little more flour and keep working it. 
– Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  You’ll notice the difference in textures, it wants to be soft and smooth feeling, no dust or lumps. 
– I then turn off the oven and wash out the bowl I mixed the dough in (it’s the only very large bowl I have) and then put about 1 tbsp olive oil in, a small glug, I use my hands to spread the oil all over the inside of the bowl then use my oily hands to knead the dough again for another minute until my hands are no longer oily. (I think this could be the key step for excellent bread)   
– Shape the dough into a ball and then put it in the oiled bowl, turn it over thereby coating all of the dough in oil. 
– Cover the bowl with a tea towel and then place it in the oven, or other warm, draft free place, for one hour or until doubled in size. 
– Take the dough out, dust the top of your risen dough lightly with flour and then plunge your fist into the middle of the dough. 
– Gather the dought together, wiping it around the bowl to pick up the bits then turn out and knead for another minute or two to knock out all of the air and mix in the small amount of flour used.  
– Prepare a baking tray, or two, with a dusting of flour or a sheet of baking paper. 
– Now you shape your dough into whatever you are making. 
– If you’re making a free form loaf then pull the edges of the ball underneath it and sort of pinch together so you have a smooth top then place it seam down on the baking tray and just shape it into the rough shape you’re after, remembering to keep height as it will spread out. 
– If you’re making a loaf in a tin then squish the dough into a rectangle, fold one third over then the other third over than and place seam down into a large greased loaf tin.  You’re probably better off only using 2/3 of the dough in a loaf tin otherwise it’ll be a really massive loaf!
– If you’re making buns then cut off portions of the dough, keeping the dough you’re not using covered int he bowl, and either pinch the sides of the ball to the bottom to make a smooth ball, roll into a line then tie in a knot for a knotted bun (I think they look like snails!), or divide into 3, roll into lines then plait together pinching the ends together and tucking them tidily under for plaited rolls. 
– Leave to rise again in a warm, draft free place for 30 minutes.  Fortunately I have a top oven/grill above the main oven where I can place the bread and pick up some of the heat from the bottom oven.  Unfortunately you may not. 
– Meanwhile heat the oven to gas mark 7 with some boiling water in an oven proof dish in the bottom. 
– If making a free form loaf dust the top with flour and slash a few times with a very sharp knife. 
– Place the bread in the oven and bake for 25 minutes for a loaf, 12 minutes for rolls.  Once the top is golden brown and the base of the loaf  sounds hollow when tapped your bread is cooked.  Rolls cooked on the bottom shelf may need a few minutes more on the top shelf to brown.  Cool on a wire rack. 
– Leave the bread to stand for at least 15 minutes before eating to develop a good texture. 

Assorted bread rolls

1 Comment

Filed under Breads, Easy

Christmas Muffins

It may seem a little early to be starting on Christmas baking but there is a very good reason for this.  My nextdoor neighbour and I were talking and she mentionned that she needed a baking project for her class to do for the Christmas fair to raise funds but that there were a number of criteria that needed to be met, no boring fairy cakes, for example!  I thought I’d seen a recipe somewhere about that would work but it proved to be a figment of my imagination.  So I decided to invent something that would, hopefully, work.  These are the delightful result!

They have all the tastes of Christmas but not in an overwhelming way.  I have to confess I don’t usually like Christmassy flavoured things, I eat Christmas pudding after Christmas dinner because it’s traditional not because I like it.  However, I really liked these muffins.  They had all of the flavours but lacked the heavy, stodgy feeling I usually associate with Christmas foods.  All in all a great experiment and come Christmas I shall certainly be making these again. 

Christmas Muffins

Makes 6

150g mixed dried fruits
zest and juice of 1 orange
50g dark muscoavdo sugar
125ml milk
1 egg
2 tbsp sunflower oil
150g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Holly berry and leaf decorations (I made leaves out of white icing and green colouring and berries out of glace cherry bits)

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and prepare 6 holes of a muffin tin. 
– Combine the fruit and orange zest and juice in a microwavable dish and microwave for 2 minutes.  Alternately leave them to soak for an hour. 
– Beat together the sugar, milk, egg and oil.   
– Sift the flour, baking podwer, nutmeg, mixed spice and salt into the mixture.
– Fold in gently. 
– Add the mixed fruits and stir in. 
– Divide the mixture evenly between the six cases. 
– Bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine took 25)
– Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little in the tin then place on a wire rack to cool completely. 
– Mix together the icing sugar and the lemon juice until smooth. 
– Once the muffins have cooled spoon a little of the icing over each muffin. 
– Add the holly decorations and leave to set.

1 Comment

Filed under Christmas, Cupcakes and Muffins, Easy