Gastronomically Terrific

January 30, 2016

Mini cupcakes

Mini cupcakes CUFor a while now, I have been wanting to make the cocktail-inspired mini cupcakes that appear in my Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book. They look incredibly appealing, and I really wanted to give them a try. New Years Eve and a dinner party in mid January seemed like two really good excuses to try out 3 of the 4 recipes that appear in the book. For New Years Eve, I made the brandy chocolate mini cupcakes. For my January dinner party, I went with the Strawberry Daiquiri mini cupcakes and the Mojito mini cupcakes.

The brandy chocolate mini cupcakes turned out fairly well. The cupcake mixture was a chocolate, orange and brandy one, and the frosting was a chocolate, orange and brandy flavour too. To give the cupcakes a festive feel, I covered them in edible gold glitter. They looked stunning, and tasted pretty good. The only problem was with the amounts. The recipe claimed it made 24-30 cupcakes – I ended up with 48, which was far too many. And I still only needed two thirds of the frosting to ice all 48 cakes.

The strawberry daiquiri and mojito mini cupcakes didn’t go so well, however. Whilst the strawberry daiquiri cakes tasted OK, the frosting was really grainy and just didn’t look very impressive. Also, the bottom of the cakes are just strawberries soaked in white rum. So whilst they taste OK, they aren’t the easiest thing to eat. The mojito mini cupcakes were even worse. They had plenty of white rum in them, but you couldn’t taste any of it. They just tasted like boring tiny lime cakes. They also looked pretty bad, as the frosting for these was just as grainy as that for the strawberry daiquiri mini cupcakes. Whilst some of this may have been down to the way I baked the cakes, I’m entirely unconvinced that the recipes are particularly good ones. Whilst I was also looking after an ill baby the day I made these, she did spend a lot of time asleep, so I had plenty of time to myself to concentrate on making these… it’s unlikely to be an experiment I repeat any time soon!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days Recipes to make every day special, by Tarek Malouf and The Hummingbird Bakers, pg. 198

January 30, 2015

Christmas garland fairy cakes

Filed under: Cake, Christmas — Tags: , — lawsonanna @ 9:58 am

Another pretty easy bake, I made these a few days before Christmas as a back-up for the days after Christmas Day when my family would still be visiting, but all the tasty Christmas food would be running low. I made them and froze them with the intention of defrosting them on Boxing Day.

As it turned out, they really weren’t needed. After Christmas Day there were plenty of cakes and chocolate in the house without the need for these to be added. So we waited, and defrosted them in January when we had friends visiting.

The cakes themselves are just simple fairy cakes with added cranberries to make them feel a little more festive. They took all of ten minutes to make and 15 minutes to bake before being put in the freezer.

The intention, before serving them, was to add icing sugar with a pattern in it, so that the cakes looked like they had holly on top. I have done this before, and it does look pretty good. However, because we were no longer serving these for a special occasion I decided not to bother. Thankfully it didn’t alter the taste of the cakes significantly – they still tasted pretty good. And at least it wasn’t more chocolate!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Fairy Cakes, Joanna Farrow, pg. 27

January 5, 2015

Victorian Christmas Cake

Filed under: Cake, Christmas — Tags: , , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 8:52 am

45 Christmas CakeAs with all traditional Christmas cakes, I started making this at the end of October, two months before it was due to get eaten. Well how else do you achieve that amazing boozy taste?!

This is a fairly traditional Christmas cake (there’s a clue in the name), where you soak the fruits the night before, then mix them in with the sugars, flours and treacle etc, then bake the whole heavy thing in the oven for about 4 hours. It really does make the house smell amazing though. You then spend the next 6-8 weeks feeding the cake with sherry/ brandy/ rum/ whatever you prefer (you can use orange juice, but I don’t see why). My drink of choice this year was sherry.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I then covered the cake with marzipan. I have to admit that I didn’t do a fantastic job (the sides in particular looked somewhat patchy), but I wasn’t too worried as I knew a week later the cake would also get covered in icing. And so it did.

I put off covering the cake with icing because I knew I was being fairly ambitious in what I wanted to do, so it took me a couple of days to build up the courage (especially as I had messed up the marzipan so effectively). In the end I didn’t do a bad job, although I do think a little less may have looked better. I added snowflakes (using my shiny new snowflake cutters) to the sides of the cake, separating them with smaller snowflakes and silver balls.

I then used green icing to add a Christmas tree and holly leaves to the top of the cake. I decorated the tree with a white icing star covered in gold edible glitter, added silver sprinkles for tinsel and silver balls for baubles. Finally, I used pomegranate seeds for the holly berries – although it turns out that whatever you use for holly berries, it needs to be bright red; and therefore the colour runs. Bright red pomegranate juice covered my kitchen for a while…

Overall the whole thing looked OK, but perhaps it didn’t need the Christmas tree. Just snow flakes and holly would probably have looked more professional, and a bit more classy. However it looked, it tasted pretty good – nobody who likes Christmas cake complained anyway!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry Christmas, pg. 198

January 4, 2015

Star-topped mince pies with cranberry-studded mincemeat

Filed under: Cake, Christmas, pudding, vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 8:51 am

10 Mini mince piesI’ve made these before, back in June of this year in fact. They were a trial run to determine whether or not I was happy to make the same mince pies for Christmas. I decided I was, which led to me making them again in November (and then freezing them ready for Christmas).

The one difference this time was that, because it was Christmas, I used cranberries instead of a cooking apple for the mincemeat. I like traditional mince pies, but I’m not really a traditionalist, and the only reason I didn’t use fresh cranberries in June is because I couldn’t find any. They’re easier to come by in November. Besides, I prefer the taste of cranberries to that of apple!

One other note – I actually got less mince pies out of both the pastry and the mincemeat mixture this time. Luckily, it still matched – I managed 24 pies in total. Which worked out well, because I have a 24-piece mini pie tin. So it did make my life quite easy – but it did mean 12 less pies than I had anticipated.

The end result was, again, pretty positive – nice and tasty with a hint of Christmas because of the cranberry filling. The tiny size meant that they were also perfect for a small pudding after our Boxing Day dinner, served with either clotted cream or brandy butter (left-over from the Christmas pudding served on Christmas Day).

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 186-189

January 3, 2015

Yule log

43 Choc yule log CUOnce again, a recipe I have made before – last Christmas in fact. This time around, I made it because my family were visiting us this Christmas. This was the second chocolate log I made this year, and froze ready for the Christmas period.

The basic roulade mixture only contains 6 eggs, caster sugar and cocoa powder (this yule log is pure chocolate). The great thing about making the log this year was that for my birthday I had been bought a proper (9×12) swiss roll tin, meaning that the roulade came out the right size, and could be made the right shape. In the past I’ve used a square baking tin – which works, just not quite as well.

Both the filling and icing for this roulade are the same – which does at least make life easy. They’re basically just a chocolate icing mixture. I do think that the icing on my previous effort looked better, but this still wasn’t a bad attempt.

The thing that hasn’t changed since the last time I made this was how incredibly rich  and chocolately it is (which I have to admit, I had forgotten). We all ate some of this yule log for Christmas Day tea, and it prevented any of us being at all interested in trying in the Christmas Cake. Thankfully, Christmas Cake is fruit, so leaving it for a few days really didn’t matter!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 191-193

January 2, 2015

Christmas pudding

Filed under: Christmas, pudding — Tags: , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:00 pm

Christmas pudding sliceAnother make-in-advance recipe, I made two small Christmas puddings at the end of October ready for Christmas. Christmas puddings aren’t difficult – but they do take a while to cook, because you have to steam them for so long (about 2 hours each for the size puddings I made).

The actual mixing, however, is pretty simple. You just put it all together in a bowl, stir it up and then add a greaseproof paper and tin foil lid before steaming the pudding. The only (slightly) time-consuming tasks are creating the breadcrumbs and zesting the lemon. And adding all the ingredients together of course, because in total there are 14 or 15 of them.

Once I had steamed the puddings, they just sat in bowls waiting for Christmas Day. On Christmas Day itself, there were two options – steam the pudding for a further 30 mins or so to reheat it, or stick it in the microwave for about 3 minutes. I went with the second, super-easy, option. It tasted fine – and adding a slug of brandy and setting light to the pudding just added to the Christmassy feel! Adding incredibly boozy brandy butter helped a lot too (although there was also clotted cream on offer for those who didn’t want the brandy butter).

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: My mum’s!

January 1, 2015

Redder-than-red cranberry sauce

Filed under: Christmas, freezer, main — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 4:45 pm

Cranberry sauce mixtureAnother recipe I made in advance and froze in preparation for Christmas Day. It’s a Nigella Christmas recipe, and incredibly simple.

You put cranberries, caster sugar, cherry brandy and water in a pan, then simmer it all together until the cranberries pop. It takes minutes to do, smells lovely and makes you feel virtuous because you haven’t just gone out and bought a jar of cranberry sauce. The hardest thing about the whole affair is finding fresh cranberries in the shop in the first place.

It was easy to get ready on Christmas Day too – I just removed it from the freezer a couple of days in advance and left it to defrost at room temperature. Five minutes before dinner was ready, I reheated it on the hob and gave it a stir to remove any lumpy bits.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 119

Christmas dinner extras

DSC07611Including:

1) Brussel sprouts with(out) buttered chestnuts

It’s Christmas, so you need brussel sprouts. But brussel sprouts are quite dull. Thankfully, there are ways to make them a bit more interesting. I had intended to add chopped-up chestnuts, but when I went to use them they had grown a nice layer of mold. I figured it was better to throw them away and just add the flavouring to the sprouts. It’s a really easy recipe – basically you just boil the sprouts for a few minutes, then fry them in butter, salt and pepper and nutmeg. It worked well, and the lack of chestnuts really just meant that, well, there were no chestnuts!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: The Daily Cookbook, pg. 311

2) Bacon-wrapped chipolatas

These aren’t complicated, and I’ve made them before. They’re so simple, in fact, that I don’t even need a recipe to make them. Just some chipolatas (in this case, some mini ones and some longer ones), some streaky bacon and a bit of time to wrap the bacon around the sausages.

I made these back in November and froze them ready for Christmas Day. This makes basically no difference to how they taste, and on Christmas Day they were still a favourite. The last few tasted good on our Boxing Day Christmas pizzas too!

Who made it: Anna

December 31, 2014

Aubergine five-nut roast

Filed under: Christmas, freezer, main, vegetarian — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 10:14 pm

When the rest of us were eating our Christmas turkey, this was my hubby’s alternative. I actually made it about a month in advance, at the end of November, and just reheated it on Christmas Day – if nothing else, it saved on oven space!

The recipe itself isn’t too complex, but there are a lot of ingredients – so there’s a lot of grating, zesting and chopping to do before everything goes in the tin. Basically, you mix together nuts, cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, egg, lemon juice and zest, onion, celery and garlic, then wrap it all in aubergine strips. It is then baked in the oven for about an hour.

Nobody except Dan actually ate this on Christmas Day (there was tasty meat on offer, after all), but I did try some a few days later when we were eating up the last of the Christmas dinner left-overs – and it tasted alright. Not like bacon-wrapped chipolatas or turkey tastes, but pretty good if you’re a vegetarian.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 93-94

December 30, 2014

Sage and onion stuffing

Filed under: Christmas, main, meat, vegetarian — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:21 pm

Another recipe I made in advance of Christmas Day, I’ve never actually made my own stuffing before. My mum always does, but I’ve gone with the (very tasty) shop-bought variety. This year, I had the time, so I thought I’d give it a go.

I used Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection recipe for the stuffing and I have to say, it was incredibly easy to make. You boil some onions (yes, I found boiling onions odd too), then add breadcrumbs and sage to the mixture. And that’s it! I froze the stuffing in two halves, so that I could use half of it to stuff the turkey, but still have some left to cook separately for my veggie husband.

It turned out OK, although could probably have done with a little longer in the oven. Th stuffing inside the turkey was quite soft and (unsurprisingly I guess) hadn’t crisped off at all. The veggie stuffing was nice and crisp on the outside, but just as soft on the inside as the stuffing that had been inside the turkey.

In hindsight, I think using bought stuffing would have been just as good, but I’m glad I gave it a go. I’m not sure I would bother with my own stuffing again – or I would at least try a different recipe (there are some in Nigella Christmas book that I would like to try…).

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 113

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