Monthly Archives: January 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Mum bought the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook for us last week.  It’s got some great looking recipes in it.  I decided to give Red Velvet Cupcakes a go as I’d been seeing them everywhere and the idea appealed immensely.  I have to say that I liked the end result but I have a lot of reservations about the book.  True, I did produce a brilliant tasting cake and frosting (the frosting is so a keeper) but it was so bloody finniky!  The recipe wasn’t brilliantly written to actually cook from.  I ended up with things behaving oddly and more lumps that you could shake a stick at.  As a result I think I over beat the mixture and so when the cakes were cooling they shrank.  

Also all of the recipes are written to be made with a stand mixer… not everyone has one of those!  I do but it’s a pain in the arse to use, I prefer to do things by hand.  I had to resort to using the electric hand whisk to beat the mixture in an attempt to break up the lumps  as I was starting to get blisters from a wooden spoon/whisk approach.  I honestly can’t see that using a stand mixer would make that much of a difference to the behavious of the mix anyway, if it’s going to clump, it’s going to clump! 

So I’m not generally impressed by the recipe or, consequently, the book.  It did produce a good cake but lacks the predictability and uniformity one aims for in baking.  I doubled the recipe as I needed to provide for 2 offices and that should have given me 2 dozen.  I got a scant 18 and due to the shrinkage issue some of those were a ridiculous size. So all in all I’m not that impressed but I loved Red Velvet Cupcakes as an idea.  Using this recipe as a jumping off point I think I’m going to be having a lot of fun in the future trying to get the perfect one!

Makes 12 (according to the book)

60g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
10g cocoa powder
20ml red food colouring
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
120ml milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice added (or 120ml buttermilk)
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

– Heat the oven to gas mark 3 and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases. 
– In a large bowl mix the butter and sugar together until well combined and the consistency of wet sand. 
– Gradually add the egg, mixing well between additions. 
– In a  separate small bowl mix together the cocoa, food colouring and vanilla extract to form a thick paste. 
– Add the paste to the other mixture.  (This is where it started to go wrong for me.)  Mix until evenly combined (Good Luck!)
– Gradually add half of the buttermilk while mixing.  Beat untill well mixed. 
– Add half the flour and beat until combined. 
– Add the rest of the buttermilk and beat until combined. 
– Add the rest of the flour and beat until combined. 
– Beat until everything is well combined and the mixture is smooth.  (Again, good luck, clumped again for me!)
– Add the salt, bicarbonateof soda and vinegar and quickly (it will fizz!)  mix it in for a few minutes until smooth.  
– Spoon into the cases so they are about 2/3 full. 
– Bake for 20-25 minutes (the sponge will bounce back when touched and a skewer will come out clean). 
– Leave to cool slightly in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
– When cold cover with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Filed under Cupcakes and Muffins, Moderately easy

Cream Cheese Frosting

This stuff is good!  The high point of the Red Velvet experiment.  It’s lovely and sweet but with a tiny bit of a tangy soft cheesy flavour… as you would expect!  I have to say I wasn’t too interested in Soft Cheese Frosting until I ate it.  It was lovely.  Put it on a cupcake today!

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes. 

300g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter
125g cream cheese

– Mix together the icing sugar and the butter until it is well combined and no buttery bits can be seen.
– Add the cream cheese and mix until totally combined with no lumps.  You want to beat it for a fair while but be warned that if you over beat it it will become runny.

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Filed under Basic, Easy

Mini Pastries

I kept back half of the Danish Pastry dough from the other day in the fridge thinking may be a tarte tatin or something could come of it.  However, it had other plans and its plans were escape!  It has risen by about 4 times the volume of the original even though it was chilled and wrapped in cling film.  Since it was about to bust out of the fridge and leave I thought I’d better do something about it, fast!  Mini pastries seemed the perfect idea.  We had a few odd handfuls of various fruits and we have a special fridge just for “jars of stuff” with an entire shelf dedicated jams so finding a jam to match each was never going to be a problem!

These are so very very good!  I usually take a muffin of some kind to work for my breakfast but tomorrow I’m taking these.  I started with two in the box but that quickly became four as I taste tested one of the blueberry ones and they’re sublime!  I ended up with Blueberry, Apple, Redcurrant and Strawberry pastries.  I’ll post the picture of the strawberry ones at the end… noone needs those spoiling their appetite! 

Makes approx 25 mini pastries

1/2 quantity danish pastry dough
selection of fresh fruits (I used slices eating apple, blueberries, strawberries and redcurrants)
selection of matching jams (I used mixed apple jelly, blueberry conserve, strawberry jam and redcurrant jelly)

– Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 5mm. 
– Cut out as many 6cm circles as you can and place them well spaced out on a lined baking tray. 
– Put a scant teaspoon of jam in the centre of each circle and a few slices/pieces of fruit on top. 
– Leave to rise for about 30 minutes until slightly puffy. 
– Heat the oven to gas mark 4. 
– Bake for 15 minutes until just turning golden brown.  (Since you’re probably baking 2 trays at a time I tend to bake for 10 minutes then swap the trays over and bake for another 5 minutes giving a few minutes extra if necessary.)
– Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack until cool enough to eat. 

The strawberry pastries were a bit of a disaster aesthetically speaking.  The jam escaped and ran everywhere leaving the tray of strawberry pastries looking like some horrific crime had been committed and preventing the dough from rising much in places.  The homemade jam I used was a bit too runny for my liking so be careful if your jam isn’t very thick as it may well escape too.  They still tasted fine but they were a bit of a sticky mess.   

Also, is it me or are the photos looking a little weird?  This monitor seems a bit dark to me so may be that’s it  Any thoughts?

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Filed under Breads, Easy, Teatime Treats

Danish Pastries

I have been planning to make these since the summer but somehow never quite got round to it.  I first saw a recipe in a cook book and thought it looked great but too complex for the level I was at at the time.  Then I saw a recipe in Good Food Magazine and that one was easier but still rather time-consuming and difficult.  Then I saw Nigella’s ‘Processor Danish Pastry’ in Domestic Goddess.  Although, as usual, while the narrative style is better to read it’s a pain to cook from so I sort of went my own way with the method.  I still didn’t get round to making the damned things for several months but this one was definitely the easiest of the lot. 

Time consuming is going to be consistent across all recipes as this does take time.  However, you can split the stages up over several days.  For example: Make the dough on Friday night, leave it to rise overnight.  Do the rolling on Saturday some time.  Make the pastries on Sunday.  I started the dough at around 10pm on Saturday night and did the rest over the course of the day on Sunday.  I totally forgot about the second rise when thinking about my timings so instead of afternoon tea they have become dessert but it’s all good where pastry is concerned!  Once you break this down into the separate stages it is actually very simple and only a matter of organisation. 

I made Apricot Danish with custard for added squishyness.  I love the Apricot Croissant in Cafe Nero so this was the first flavour I wanted to try making.  I used Bird’s instant custard powder to make up my custard (having to completely disregard the instructions to get a thick enough custard).  I can’t advise doing this to anyone else.  May be the ready-made cartons of custard are better but this stuff was bland and boring.  May be adding some vanilla essence in there might help but if you can then go all out and make your own!

Makes 12 (I used half the dough for a more waistline friendly 6 and will probably freeze the rest or make a tarte tatin.)

60ml warm water
125ml milk
1 large egg
350g strong white bread flour
7g sachet fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, cut into 5mm slices

For the filling:
Custard (see above)
2x400g tinned apricot halves (I only had 1 tin and so some only have 1 bit of apricot.) 

– In a jug mix together the water, milk and egg and beat together. 
– In a food processor add the flour, yeast, salt and sugar and pulse it once or twice to mix it all together. 
– Add the butter to the dry ingredients and pulse until there are chunks of no larger than 1cm.  (You can, of course, do this stage in a large bowl with a round bladed knife if you don’t have a food processor, just keep cutting the butter into the flour until you get the right sized chunks.)
– Tip the contents of the food processor into a large bowl. 


– Make a well in the centre and add the liquid ingredients. 
– Mix together using a spatula, or your hands if you want to get messy, bring the ingredients together until they form a soft, gooey dough. 
– Cover the bowl with clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight or up to 4 days. 

– Dust your work surface lightly with flour and tip out the dough. 
– Roll it out into a rectangle about 50cm on one side.  The dough should be under 1cm thick.   
– Fold the outer thirds from the sides into the centre one on top of the other.  (It may be a little sticky so a pastry scraper helps a lot here.)
– Pinch the edges together to seal. 
– Rotate the dough 90* so that the longest edge is horizontal in front of you. 
– Roll out into a large rectangle again
– Again, fold in the outer thirds, pinch to seal and rotate.  Keep rotating in the same direction and do this 4 times.  (I always forget how many times I’ve done it but I figure a few extra won’t hurt!)
– Stop when you’ve pinched and sealed the edges before rolling it out again. 
– Cut the rectangle of dough in half. 
– Wrap each half in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes but you can leave it in the fridge for up to 4 days if you haven’t left it that long earlier of you can freeze it for later. 

– Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. 
– Remove half of the dough from the fridge when you’re ready to work with it. 
– Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll it out into a large rectangle. 
– Cut into 6 squares.  (Some of my squares shrank to become rectangles, I tried re-rolling them but they weren’t very cooperative so I made those ones into round danish.)
– I found it easiest here to place the square on the tray where I wanted it before adding my fillings as they were rather squishy and it could have got very messy otherwise!
– If making Apricot danish add a spoon or two of thick custard diagonally across the centre of the square then add two apricot halves on top of that. 
– Fold over the edges and pinch gently to seal. 
– Brush with the beaten egg and leave to rise for about an hour until puffy and soft. 

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4. 
– Once the danish have risen put them in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until puffy and golden brown. 
– Take the trays from the oven and leave until they’re cool enough to handle. 
– Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

– Once cool you can glaze them with 100g caster sugar and 60ml water mixed together if you like but I didn’t bother. 

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Filed under Breads, Moderately easy, Teatime Treats

Flapjack

This one has divided the family.  Mum and dad say it’s too hard, Robyn and I say it’s deliciously chewy.  I have to confess I haven’t eaten flapjack in over ten years so I really can’t say as to whether it’s one or the other but it is delicious!  I was actually surprised it was as soft as it was, I was expecting more crunch.  I didn’t think I’d really like it, it sounded far too healthy for me to be really enthusiastic about it with oats and fruits but I was really surprised by how yummy it was. I had thought that I’d make the fruity one for mum to see how it was and then make a chocolatey version for myself but now, even though a bit of chocolate might be nice some day, I’m a total convert.  Bring on the fruit! I like it when I find new things to eat so for me this one’s a winner.  Even mum’s argument started to look a little thin when she had three slices!

Makes 12 slices

115g butter
85g golden caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
200g rolled oats
55g plain flour
100g dried apricots
80g dried cranberries

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4.  Line a 7″x11″ brownie tin with butter papers/bakign paper/foil. 
– In a medium sized pan put the butter, sugar and syrup (I weigh out 30g of syrup into the pan… then eat what’s left on the spoon! Not so healthy now!)
– Heat the pan on a gentle heat until all melted and combined. 
– In the meantime weigh out the dry ingredients and mix them up in a largeish bowl.
– Add the dry ingredients to the pan and stir together. 
– Press into the tin and bake for 25 minutes. 
– Remove from the oven and slice in the tin. 
– Allow to cool in the tin then turn out and reslice if necessary. 

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Filed under Easy, Teatime Treats, Uncategorized

Celebrity Chef Spotting

I just saw the Hairy Bikers while out at lunch! 

They’re doing a signing round the corner from my office.  Not often you see celebs around here.  That’s perked me up no end!

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Cheese and Bacon Muffins

I’ve been making muffins for breakfasts since I started work.  I’ve been sticking to sweet, fruity ones for the most part (Chocolate and morello cherry being a high point! I must make more and post the recipe).  I was starting to tire of those though so I thought I’d attempt a savoury muffin.  Bacon was the obvious breakfast food to go for and what goes better with bacon than cheese?  They are lovely and get full marks from the whole family. 

Makes 6

100g bacon (5 rashers), chopped into small pieces and cooked. 
100g mature cheddar, grated plus a little extra for topping
140g plain flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
125ml milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 egg

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and line 6 holes of a muffin tin. 
– Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl. 
– In a jug mix together the milk and lemon juice. 
– If you haven’t already done so now is a good time to grate your cheese and cook your bacon. 
– Add the egg and oil to the jug and beat together. 
– Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and add the cheese and bacon. 
– Mix until just combined.  Do not overmix. 
– Divide the mixture between the paper cases. 
– Grate a little more cheese on top of the muffin mix.  (Make sure any stray bits of cheese are tidied up, nothing worse than baked on cheese!)
– Bake for 20 minutes. 
– Remove from the oven and leave to rest in the tin for about 5 minutes then cool completely on a wire rack.

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Filed under Cupcakes and Muffins, Easy