Sweet foods as main course?

I remember from my childhood that we often had sweet things as a main dish for lunch. Like semolina pudding with sugar and cinnamon on top. Or yeast dumplings (Dampfnudeln) baked in milk in the oven until they have risen and have a nice crusty top. Usually served with vanilla custard and berries, like red currants or raspberries. Or cold sweet soup, which is made out of berries and served with zwieback. I never questioned if this was a normal thing to serve for lunch or dinner or if it was odd. Well, when I suggested to make yeast dumplings for dinner a couple of days ago my other half rejected the idea saying it was very odd, like we skipped the main course and went straight to dessert.

Sigh.

Yesterday lunch time I had such a craving for something sweet that I decided to make Nigella’s Doughnut French Toast. I had sour dough bread and rye bread at home and thought, why not use both and see which one tastes better.

Oh. My. God. The rye bread was definitely better than the sour dough bread. It added another flavour dimension to it… it’s difficult to describe, it tasted darker and richer… just good. So so good.

The doughnut french toast is so easy to make (I used vanilla sugar and cinnamon) and is the best fix for when you need something sweet that also fills you up and keeps you going. Serve it with some fresh fruit (I had strawberries at home which I threw into my little food chopper) and it counts as your five a day 😉

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Roasted Tomato Salsa

Based on recipe by Thomasina Miers from her programme “Mexican Food Made Simple” this tomato salsa is incredibly easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious. So fresh, I can’t over how fresh it tastes! Anyway, the only thing I didn’t have was a chilli (of all things), even though I could have sworn I had some in the fridge… never mind, that gave me a chance to try out some chipotle chillis that I had bought on a whim but without any knowledge on how to use it.

I used fresh parsley instead of coriander because I simply don’t like coriander. And I added a teaspoon of chilli flakes as it wasn’t hot enough for my taste.  I’ve never really been much into Mexican food but watching Thomasina Miers cook these easy and delicious dishes made me change my mind about Mexican food. I’ve decided I’m going to buy her book and start cooking Mexican!

Fancy cake or muffin toppers

I came across this fabulous tutorial on how to make some marbled chocolate decoration, really easy to make and impressive to look at so I decided I try it out!

Once I had the hang of it I made all sorts of shapes.

For the chocolate muffins I used my trusted recipe from The Pink Whisk, which works every time. If you use this recipe for cupcakes and you don’t overload your cases you get 24 cupcakes out of the batter. In case you make these delicious muffins, you get 12 out of them and have a few spoonfuls left to eat.  It tastes divine just on its own. Very much like chocolate mousse!

 

Olympic cakes

This year has been a great year for bakers. First the Diamond Jubilee… a great subject for cakes, cupcakes, cookies and all sorts of edible goods and now London 2012! From Olympic themed cupcake cases to sugar medals as toppers to giant Olympic cakes… I think there is something for everyone out there!

I had a quick browse through the internet and I noticed the following cakes (a click on the picture itself will bring you to the original blog post and the recipe in some cases)!:

I love this cake. I think it’s simple yet impressive!

London 2012 Olympics. Exactly!

How cool is this velodrome? And so easy to make really!

Someone actually made the Olympic Stadium! Complete with scenes from the Opening Ceremony. I bet a lot of work went into this cake.

And look at these medal cookies! They look fabulous!

The circus came to town…

I was invited to a party with the theme Circus, Cabaret and Carnival and as a birthday present my friend asked me for a red velvet cake. Nothing easier than that! Of course, it had to go with the theme of the evening… so first I baked three red velvet cakes. I was anxious they might not turn out red enough so I used quite a bit of my “Extra Red” colour.

This one came out perfect. The other two unfortunately decided to cave in. But not to worry, I only needed four layers and some cake to make the dome of my circus tent. I cut the perfect cake into two layers and made sure that I got two even layers out of the other two cakes.

I made a cream cheese frosting and layered my cake. Then I combined the cake crumbs with the frosting (like you would do if you made cake pops) and made the dome.

I crumb coated the cake (twice) and chilled it in the fridge until everything had set so I could cover it in white fondant. Next was the roof.

And two hours later the cake was finished. I finally had the chance to use my grass nozzle!

I added red glitter to the yellow ribbons on the side as the cake was for a girl and girls like glitter. (Ok, it was a grown woman my age who the cake was for but a bit of glitter has never harmed anyone!)

And we cut the cake later that night. It tasted great (even if I say so myself). It looks like the white fondant was quite thick on the top but it’s deciving… I put a thick layer of cream cheese frosting on the top!

I must apologise for the bad picture quality. These pictures were taken with my mobile phone, which was covered in flour, icing sugar and had several buttery finger prints on them. Looks like one of them was on the lens!

Father’s Day Cake

I was asked to make a cake for Father’s Day and the requested subject was garden. I image googled “Father’s Day Cake” and found hundreds of garden themed cakes, which made me laugh.

Anyway, it was a short turnaround, I got the call Saturday lunch time and agreed to have it ready by 11am the following day. Living in a rural area meant I couldn’t just nip to the shop and get some cake supplies… I had to think outside the box! I knew I still had some sugar carrots leftover from Easter and I remembered seeing some “nature” sugar decorations in one of the supermarkets… indeed, it was a small box with three mushrooms, three bees, three butterflies and three rabbits. I checked every single box and unfortunately none of them came with all sugar decorations intact so I only had two mushrooms instead of three.

I wanted to make some kind of fence… the chocolate fingers were too fat for my liking so I opted for Mikado sticks. They turned out to be perfect!

Grass nozzle? Nope. I had ordered a whole box of nozzles only the day before but of course they hadn’t been delivered yet.

What else is in a garden? Flowers. I had lots of different sugar flowers, so that wasn’t going to be a problem.

I baked my chocolate cake and thanks to the addition of extra baking powder it rose high enough to be cut into two and I didn’t have to bake a second cake layer.

I filled the cake with fresh raspberries mixed with half a jar of raspberry jam and some gelatine.

I buttercreamed it all around (melt chocolate, add 1/2 tsp of instant coffee, add butter, add icing sugar and vanilla and some milk depending on the consistency). Once it was completely covered (I did a crumb coat as well) I started decorating. First came the fences… the horizontal beam was held in place with some buttercream. Then I started on the grass. I had a choice between a big piping bag or some tiny paper ones (I only use them for writing on cakes) but I couldn’t find a nozzle with a small enough hole in it for the big piping bag so it had to be the paper bag. I made green buttercream (I use sugarflair colours) and filled a bag, cut off the tip and started “making grass”. Problem with the small paper bags are that the warmth of your hand makes the buttercream melt so you have to work fast. Hundreds of grass strands later I had reached the garden path… made out of chopped roasted hazelnuts.

Then I got started on the pebbles. I brought big pebbles back from the beach in Portugal, they are smooth and have a black/grey/white pattern, they are ever so pretty. So I made several big ones and even more little ones out of white and black sugar paste.

The carrots went in and nearby a couple of rabbits. Flowers started to bloom and a butterfly came by. A bit of fire wood (broken Mikados) close to the pebbles didn’t look out of place. Some mushrooms near the fence and of course there were also some animals on the back of the fence… a bee and a butterfly and I made a snail out of brown fondant. Every garden has at least one snail (my garden seems to have thousands!).

The last thing I made was the watering can. I took my own as an example. The snout got lots of small holes courtesy of a sowing needle (where are the pins when you need them?) and then I signed my cake along a fence post and took pictures.

I apologise for the quality of the pictures… they were only taken with an iPhone.

But here is one the customer sent to his son later (who kindly forwarded me the email) with the words: “The Cake was Frantastic and your friend should be very proud of her efforts. Everything about the cake is out of this world: Taste, Design, Texture, Craftsmanship and soooo moooooorish.”

I’m so happy with this cake… mainly because I know I made someone else happy!

Lazy days in the sunshine …

… and being on my own have prevented me from baking and cooking. We did have a few BBQs over the last week, after all, we had to make the most of this glorious weather; who knows IF we will have summery days again this summer in Britain!  But I forgot to take any pictures of our food… if you want to know, we had boneless chicken thigh filets which I lightly oiled, then sprinkled with Masala Curry, Fenugreek powder and chilli flakes. They were delicious. Juicy and spicy and just the right amount of heat! Served with a cucumber, dill and sour cream salad as well as a greek salad with feta etc.

What I wanted to share today was actually this post from Brightnest about uses for toothpicks and fun with finger food. Listed are 16 ideas for finger food and they all look absolutely delicious. I especially like the Italian Lollipops:

Beach cake

I was asked to make a beach themed cake for the girlfriend of a friend of mine and this is the outcome:

For the sand I used soft brown sugar, yellow sugar sprinkles and some ordinary white sugar and blitzed it for a few times in my little blender.

I used ivory sugar paste for the shell moulds and once they were dry I painted them.

I meant to do a goldfish on the side…. but it turned into an octopus for some reason.

Everything apart from the deckchair, the sunbrella and the candles was edible. And it all got eaten according to my friend!

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars as seen on Unique Sweets (channel 262 on Sky) and based on the Cooking Channel TV recipe (because I forgot to print out the recipe from The Galley Gourmet).

I made some slight changes to the recipe and I changed the quantities of the original recipe because I used a big baking tray and not just a little 8×8 square tin.  I also weighed most of my stuff, so here is the recipe how I made it:

For the crispy layer:

1 bag Organic Puffed Rice Cereal

170g caster sugar

About 6tbsp golden syrup

125g salted butter, melted

For the peanut butter layer:

2 bars of milk chocolate (I used Tesco Luxury Britannia Milk Chocolate 150g), coarsely chopped

½ bar of Green & Black Organic Cooking Chocolate (72% cocoa), coarsely chopped

2 jars smooth peanut butter (340g jars)

For the chocolate layer:

1.5 bars of Green & Black Organic Cooking Chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 dollop of golden syrup

125g salted butter

For the crispy crust layer: Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside. Line your baking tray with baking paper. If you cut it bigger you will have two “handles” to lift the finished crispy bar in one go out of your baking tray.

Into a small saucepan, pour 150 ml water. Gently add the sugar and golden syrup and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, 235 degrees F. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly,  stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, and then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.

For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer: In a glass bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crispy crust layer. Put the pan in the refrigerator until the top layer hardens, about an hour.

For the chocolate icing: In a large glass bowl, combine the chocolate, golden syrup and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer. Put the pan in the refrigerator until the topping hardens, about an hour.

Cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.

The longer you leave them the softer the rice crispies get but it still tastes absolutely moorish!

Double Chocolate Loaf

I came across this double chocolate loaf via foodgawker the other day (have you been on foodgawker yet? OH MY GOD, this is such a cool website, you HAVE to have a look… it’s foodporn, honestly!), anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I wanted to make some kind of chocolate cake and while I have some trusted recipes that always work out and always taste delicious I wanted something different…. So I stumbled across the recipe for a Double chocolate loaf by Mehan’s kitchen.

I had all the ingredients at home and followed the recipe exactly (even though I thought there was a lot of chocolate going in) and while I know that every oven is different I was a bit surprised that after an hour the cake was still liquid in the middle but the rest was baked all around. I added ten more minutes to it and then I took it out. I made a simple sour cream frosting and once it was all set I cut into my cake. The first slice was, mhm, a bit dry. Very chocolaty no less. The next few slices were fine, slightly over baked around the outsides and the chocolate pieces had melted into the batter but in some places it had gone hard. After the forth slice I encountered a big hole right in the middle.

I don’t know what went wrong. Oven temperature too high? Too low? Left it in too long?

The cake tasted delicious, dark and chocolaty and not too sweet and the sour cream frosting added a nice taste to it.

I think I will make this recipe again but this time I will blitz the chocolate to a coarse powder instead of cutting it in small chunks. Maybe I should have used chocolate chips? But I don’t like the chocolate chips you can buy in this country, I rather use a bar of Green & Black’s cooks chocolate bar and chop it up!

It’s bugging me when a cake goes wrong.