Monday, 30 April 2012

The World's 50 Best Restaurants

We've waited all year for tonight. No other awards span the entire globe. The World's 50 Best Restaurants list is unique. Rene Redzepi of Noma shared with the audience that this time four years ago he served fourteen covers in his Copenhagen restaurant all day. He now has over 1000 people on the waiting list. Every day. This is the power of the World's 50 Best list.

Ultimately, food will always be about opinion. I'm not a huge fan of salmon. You may love it. I really like a bit of theatre with my meal. You may hate that. Just as explained before the ceremony started, it is subjective. This is not a criticism. Our opinions matter! Let's hope food never comes down to purely numbers.

The World's 50 Best list claims to promote and celebrate brilliant restaurants and great chefs. The amount of chefs in the room from top restaurants was a testament to the credibility of the awards. Forty seven out of the top 100 were in attendance. 

Positions are determined by 800 experts from 27 regions, who review their dining experiences over an eighteen month period. It's democratic if nothing else. No secret handshakes (that we know of).  

Now in their tenth year, the awards were broadcast from London's Guildhall. The Fine Dining Lovers website kindly had a live stream to the ceremony, meaning us mere mortals were able to watch in real time. In our slippers. Some went as far as pyjamas. Really.

The 2012 top ten looks like this:
  1. Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark (no change)
  2. El Cellar de Can Roca, Girona, Spain (no change)
  3. Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain (no change)
  4. DOM, Sao Paolo, Brazil (up 3)
  5. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy (down 1)
  6. Per Se, New York, USA (up 4)
  7. Alinea, Chicago, USA (down 1)
  8. Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain (no change)
  9. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London, UK (new entry)
  10. Eleven Madison Park, New York (up 14)
I was absolutely thrilled to see Frantzen/Lindeberg (last year's One to Watch) jump from 57 to 20. We went in March and knew instantly that it would be a contender (see review). Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was an interesting new entry at number 9, four places ahead of the three star Fat Duck. Is that even possible? The Fat Duck is a British institution! They boast some of the best theatrical performances I have ever experienced, and I've seen Phantom (I'm joking...) However, saying that although the atmosphere is somewhat relaxed at Dinner, the food is fantastic. Is it really in the same league as the Fat Duck though? That pineapple tipsy cake and meat fruit have gone down in legend in our little society... I haven't quite made up my mind there on whether that's actually mental.

Other individual awards on the night included Elena Arzac (Arzac) picking up the World's Best Female Chef and Thomas Keller (French Laundry and Per Se) collecting a Lifetime Achievement award. 

What appears to separate those in the top spots from the rest is the ability to channel their creativity into something different; sometimes every night. At Noma there is no formulaic performance. It depends what has been foraged and indeed what they have dreamt up. 

We were lucky enough to visit Noma in March last year, and have a trip to El Cellar de Can Roca booked, so it will be interesting to see how the two differ in terms of dining experience. The Horwich Fine Dining Society go forth... Next on our hit list? D.O.M...?

Please leave your own thoughts below...

Sources: 
World's 50 Best Restaurants

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen


Every so often, a book is released that gives me butterflies when I read it. I knew it would be amazing. Peggy has a baby pink shop. We were always going to get on.

Peggy Porschen moved to England from Germany in 1998 to study at the famous Le Cordon Bleu cookery school. In 2003, she opened her boutique bakery, Peggy Porschen in Belgravia, London. She boasts a wealth of 'A Listers' as customers, including Kate Moss, Elton John, Stella McCartney and Sting.
Picture from www.peggyporschen.com
The outside of her shop echos the pretty delights on offer in her book. Recipes range from the most intricate creations on Earth (which I admit... give me the collie-wobbles) down to easy to master biscuits which can be made to look like a masterpiece with the right techniques. Peggy's step-by-step approach, and easy to follow instructions make even the most complicated methods achievable. 

I loved this book because it's well balanced; cupcakes, layer cakes, biscuits, meringues, tarts, cake pops and... bundts. You know I had to. I decided to tackle the Neapolitan Marble Cake. Pretty as a picture! OCD kicked in... would I get the swirls to look like Peggy's without it all mixing together? I know bundts. I know how they think. This was a really good recipe test as they are something I make regularly. 

It worked a ruddy dream. One of my favourite cakes ever. Ever ever. It came out of the tin just as easily as my firmer bundt type cakes, and the 'swirl' was as desired. Perfect.
Before it got dressed. You can just see the chocolate layer peeping...
Understated elegance
Then... Booom! Cheeky.

The cake was great too. Even my husband (totally NOT a cake face like me) loved it. Light as fairy fluff but still with that signature crisp bundt base.

This book will be one of my favourites for years to come. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I'll also be paying her a visit the next time I'm in London...

Boutique Baking is released on 24th May 2012. Please leave your comments below...

Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen
Publisher: Quadrille, May 2012
Hardback, £20
Disclaimer: I reviewed this book because this lady has a pink shop and produces the prettiest things I have ever seen. I received no payment from the publisher for doing so.
Read more about the author at Quadrille.

It was a monster mash...

A few weeks ago, a friend of a friend asked if I could do some cupcakes for his little boy's birthday party. Sure! Why the devil not. I had visions of baby blue frosting. Nooo... 

I don't have any children. I have a cat. I found myself totally out of touch with what is 'down with the kids'. Apparently, five year olds want scary monsters! My initial OCD led me down the 'arrrggghhhhh!' path, but this is the year of trying new things... so off I trot to the sweet shop. The only specialist bakery items I bought were the eyes, stars and polka dots. Everything else came from my favourite sweet shop in Bolton, Mr Simms. I walked in and announced, "I'm required to make monsters!'. 

I used the following to create my beasties:

  • Vanilla cupcakes
  • Vanilla frosting
  • Green and blue sour sherbet (for some of the faces)
  • Jelly snakes (hair)
  • Red and blue cables cut on a slant (horns)
  • Red and green astro-belts cut into small sections (tongues)
  • Three different sized confectionary eyes
  • White chocolate stars
  • Dr Oetker polka dots
  • Blue and green food colouring pastes
  • Disposable piping bags
  • Round piping nozzle
  • 'Grass' piping nozzle
  • White sugar paste cut into teeth
  • Red gel pens to create 'blood'
They were surprisingly easy to make, but were time consuming because of the different frosting techniques used. They took about four hours from start to finish. I used the following techniques:
  • 3 green spikes 
  • 3 blue spikes
  • 3 green swirls
  • 3 blue swirls
  • 3 green dipped
  • 3 blue dipped
  • 3 green piped
  • 3 blue piped
I am informed that the birthday boy himself had two for breakfast before his party. I take no responsibility for hyperactive children...

I had a few spare cupcakes, so I decided to decorate them with just sherbet! Perfect for those who are not keen on monsters...
Please leave your comments below...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Bake Sale for The Bolton Bulls

On Monday we held the second part to the Bolton Bulls fundraiser at work. After the success of the Easter events, we were really keen to have a brilliant bake sale. I rallied the troops, and they didn't disappoint! If there's one thing I can say about my colleagues, it's that they have passion! Over the two days, we managed to raise £259.97 for the Bulls. Thanks to everyone who baked or bought goodies from our little stall! Here are some pictures of the items made!

Relish - My Life on a Plate by Prue Leith

I've always been a huge admirer of Prue. I've watched her on every series of the Great British Menu and leafed through her cookery bibles in awe of what she has achieved. I was dying to read her autobiography, mainly because I'm a bit of a nosy parker and Iove to know what is going on behind closed doors. 

If you're looking for a fairytale filled with beautifully crafted cakes and a well roasted bird, you are in the wrong place. Ring Delia. Prue does nothing to sell herself, but offers a totally candid account of her life. 

She was a confident child from a loving and privileged family. She grew up in South Africa with few boundaries; something which possibly assisted her in adulthood. She grew from a mischief maker to a risk taker, and never looked back. 
I found some parts of the book incredibly hard to read (cue tears on the plane to Stockholm...) but at the same time you have to admire how brutally honest she has been. She shares some of the most private parts of her life in a 'here I am - take me or leave me' fashion. Most novellists may struggle to come up with some of the stories she recounts. At times, her memoirs would not be out of place on the stage of Jeremy Kyle; accidental orgies, drugs, adoption, theft and an affair with her mother's best friend's husband...

Prue's life experiences have made her the successful woman she is today. Whether you agree with her actions or not, it's really interesting to see how her adventures moulded her life. Clearly at ease in her own skin, it seems now was a perfect time to share her story with the world.

This book is not for the faint hearted, but I get the sneaking suspicion that she intended to throw a cat amongst the pigeons with this one. In summary, Prue is painfully honest, not afraid to make mistakes (or admit to them) and for that reason she is a self made, successful woman. 

Relish - My Life on a Plate by Prue Leith
Publisher: Quercus, 2012
Hardback, £16.99
Disclaimer: I reviewed this book because I am a nosy parker (cheese & tomata...) I received no payment from the publisher for doing so.
Read more about the authors at Quercus.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

All that glitters...

I love to use glitter on my cakes. It doesn't taste of anything, but gives cakes a certain 'boooooom!' that you don't get from frosting alone. It's glam, it's sparkly... it's causing a right ruckus!

Last week I was chatting to @clandestinecake, @CCCPudsey, @domesticjules and @acedavesgirl about glittter on Twitter (really...) and the general hoo-hah in the press about whether it is safe to put on cakes. I really didn't take it too seriously. I use it all the time, and I don't glow in the dark or twitch, and I'm not dead. 

This week I am tasked with making some 'monster' cakes, so I set about buying some garish green glitter for the occasion. Off I trot to Hobbycraft with list in hand. Now, this is just my luck. I was informed by the 'baking expert' that all glitters had been removed from sale about ten minutes before I arrived, amid fears from head office that the packaging was misleading. When I got home I read the Food Standards Agency Guidance. Although this outlines that the 'non-toxic' glitter I have been using isn't to be consumed, it didn't say that it was harmful. It is recommended that these products be removed before consuming.

This morning another article appeared in the Mail Online, which claims this debate was prompted by Sarah Hadland, after she joked with Paul Hollywood on the Great British Bake Off that she wasn't sure that the glitter going on top of her Red Velvet cakes was actually edible. 

Terrence Collis, the FSA's Communications Director had offered some guidance on their site in February this year, stating:
‘Buy it [glitter] from the baking section of the shop (not an art shop), check the label says it’s edible and check the ingredients to see that it’s made of something edible, otherwise you could be covering your cupcakes with plastic!’
He later stated on their blog:
‘Remember that non-toxic doesn’t mean that you can’t eat it.’ 
Rather than give guidance, this appeared to confuse consumers even more. After being bombarded with questions, it was ruled that these glitters were not to be eaten.

The upshot is this. Glitter is non-toxic, but it is not absorbed by the body. It just passes through (spare me the toilet comments...) Therefore, it is not a foodstuff. Only foodstuffs should be eaten. One eBay seller uses a compelling argument on his online 'guide'. He suggests that sweetcorn should carry the same 'non-toxic' label, as the husk is not absorbed by the body. 

I've been using these products for a while with no adverse effect. I use them in very small amounts and I'm not personally concerned about using them again. However, it's all about choice, and what I do support is clear labelling so that consumers are able to make an informed decision. 

There is of course an alternative to the 'non-toxic' variety of glitters, including mica with titanium dioxide (often found in make-up) and starch based products. I googled these products and came up with quite a few very quickly. CCC Shop have a wide variety of colours in two different types of 100% edible glitter.

Make up your own mind based on the facts. Are you happy to use 'non-toxic' glitter? I'd be interested to hear your opinions, please leave a comment below...


Sources and Links:
Storm in a Cupcake by Valerie Elliott, Mail Online
eBay Guide
FSA Blog
Food Standards Agency Guidance

Bags of Love - My New Apron!

A couple of months ago I was on a crazed mission to get a personalised apron made. I wanted a plain white one with my DollyBakes logo across the front. With all the personalised gift companies out there, I was fairly confident that this wouldn't be a problem. After about two weeks I gave up, quite frankly because the general quality was rubbish, or you had to order about 5000. 

A couple of weeks ago a lady called Pina from Bags of Love contacted me asking if I would review one of her company's products. First thing I looked for... an apron. There it was, in all it's glory. What these folk can do with your jpegs is amazing! Rather than just offer the bog standard picture in the middle of the apron, they can do the whole apron as a picture or a montage. 

They kindly sent me an apron with my logo across the front. What they didn't know, is I am a 'super-picky-OCD-perfectionist type'. Their product is fantastic. Really thick yet soft material which is machine washable, and the logo is crisp (and not that naff iron on type). The aprons below start at £34.99 and take only 1 to 2 days to arrive.
Visit their site, there are lots of original gift ideas; from the standard canvases and cards to more obscure items like deck-chairs and iPhone cases! They also have a really nice range of design anniversary gifts which go through the different materials associated with the year e.g. paper, cotton, leather, silk and wood.

I'll definitely be using this company again. Fantastic product, friendly people and great gift ideas! 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Bags of Love contacted me via my website. They did not tell me which product I had to review, but gave me free reign. I reviewed this product not because I felt I had to, but because it's excellent quality and I genuinely love it!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Is a recipe ever truly original?

I always change recipes. Very rarely do I follow one to the letter. As long as you know enough about the chemistry of baking, changing ingredients or quantities is part of the fun. Over the last few weeks I have been doing a lot of thinking about new recipes, mainly for the Clandestine Cake Club and my blog. 

A conversation I had with a couple of the ladies at one of the clubs prompted me to ask the question, when is a recipe truly your own? I would have thought that most recipes start as something else, perhaps from a book, magazine or someone you know. For example, over the last few meetings there have been a number of people who have made layer cakes based on the classic Victoria Sponge but added fruit, flavoured cream, colour or frosting. They have redesigned a traditional recipe and made it their own. However, they didn't actually create the base recipe from scratch. Does this matter? After all, it's widely recognised as the most reliable method?

Does anyone start a recipe from scratch? Have you ever sat and thought, 'how much raising agent will I need for 200g of plain flour?' If you have, do you feel this is the only way a recipe can ever be 'yours'? The official publishing rules say that a recipe is yours if you created it without using another as a starting point. For it to be an amendment of someone else's, there have to be at least three changes; e.g. flavour, addition of fruit etc. This still isn't classed as original though, you will have to cite which recipe inspired it. Let me flip this one. If someone amended your recipe, would that be ok with you? Or would you want them to credit you with the original idea?

If you've read my blog before, you will know that I do create my own recipes as well as trying other people's. The easiest way of doing this is to look at ratios and adopt a bit of trial and error! The Americans have a rich tradition of bake offs and other competitions where cakes must be original. Their methods probably make this a little easier, as cup measurements mean baking is done by volume rather than weight. 

My curiosity takes me to those who write the cookery books. Where do they start? Nigella often openly admits where she gets her recipes from, but it is rarely seen elsewhere. Are they all kitchen chemists?

Lots of questions... I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts - please leave your comments below...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Dolly vs. Silicone... Garden Party Cake!

Years ago when I was in my 'muffin' phase, I bought a pink silicone muffin pan. They were everywhere, and I felt like I was missing out. However... I was horrified to find that whilst the outside of the cake was cooked, the inside was a gooey mess. Raw. In a fit of rage I binned the wretched thing and vowed to avoid silicone at all costs.

Now then. You might have noticed that recently I am very much in my 'bundt' phase. Proper bundt tins are expensive because they are very heavy gauge, and are often intricate in design. A couple of weeks ago a colleague mentioned she had seen carbon copies of these in Aldi, but they were made of silicone. After I had recovered from the baking disaster of 2009 flashbacks, and rubbished the moulds as imitations... I couldn't help but be curious. Could something that cost £3.49 really be as good as a tin that costs £30? I had to find out.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, (although I am glad to say no cats were harmed in the making of this cake) but I was confident I would live to tell the tale. This is the tale. If you logged onto Twitter this afternoon, you will have seen me ranting about said bakeware. And plotting the bonfire I was planning to burn it on.

I'm not in the business of bad reviews. Don't get me wrong, I don't think everything is perfect but I do believe in the mantra 'if you've got nothing nice to say, say nothing at all'. Silence speaks volumes. I can however be constructive in order to allow others to avoid disappointment (and fury).

What I will say is that silicone will never (ever) replace my bundt tins. This cake was seriously flawed by the fact the bakeware did not conduct the heat sufficiently to create even baking. The edges and top baked quickly, leaving a liquid centre. I actually had to bake it for two hours. I know he recipe is robust, as I have used it before. Even after I removed it from the mould, it had to go back in to brown the top, as the centre was actually white. The texture of the inside was fine, but the outside was quite firm. The cake tasted great, but I'm not attributing that to the tin in any way!

If you make this recipe, I recommend that you do not use silicone bakeware. Any heavy gauge tin will do. I would use a 10 inch ring or bundt pan. 

Garden Party Cake

Ingredients
  • 225g of unsalted butter
  • 100g of vegetable fat (I used Stork)
  • 650g golden caster sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 450g plain flour
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon extract
  • 250ml cloudy lemonade


Method
  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c.
  2. Grease and flour your desired tin.
  3. Cream the butter, vegetable fat and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating on a slow speed until well incorporated.
  5. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.
  6. Mix the lemonade and the extracts in a jug.
  7. Sift in 1/3 of the flour then add 1/3 of the liquid. 
  8. Repeat this until everything is combined. Again, don't overmix, just combine the ingredients.
  9. Pour the mixture into the tin. It will fill to the brim, but don't worry, it doesn't rise much because no raising agent was added. Just air!
  10. Bake in the middle of the oven for an hour and 30 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.
  11. Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a plate.
  12. Either dredge with icing sugar (and in my case, glitter) or decorate using coloured icing. 
This cake is perfect with a glass of cold cloudy lemonade whilst sat in the garden listening to birds and being mithered by the cat...


BloggersPlease respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page. 
Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Sugar and Spice

Today was the second meeting of the Clandestine Cake Club Bolton. A lot has happened since our first meeting in February! We needed a bigger venue, there has been huge press coverage, we recruited a boy (a real one) and two members of the Bolton Club have given birth! The club welcomes its newest recruits April Williams and Samuel Foster! 

We had our meeting at Harvey's Cafe Bar in the centre of Bolton. I knew this meeting would be a big one, so it was ideal. Dominic, the general manager was extremely accommodating (despite us creating ten tonnes of crumbs...) and the staff catered for our every need. They even managed to produce a pile of kitchen knives any serial killer would be proud of... Lots of people who were already in the venue came asking questions, and one has already signed up to the next event.

Our theme for this meeting was Sugar and Spice, and boy those attendees were on feugo! The spread was outstanding! Some of the cakes included:

  • Ukranian Honey Cake
  • Calorie Free Chocolate Cake (ish...)
  • Lemon Pepper Cake
  • Kitchen Front Ginger Cake
  • Almond sponge layer cake with raspberry jam and burnt butter frosting
  • Deliciously Moist Ginger Cake 
  • Squidgy Spice Apple Cake
  • Spiced Apple and Pecan Streusel Cake with Vanilla Cream
  • Mincemeat Cake
  • White Chocolate and Cardamom Cake
  • Samoan Bundt Cake
  • Pink Rainbow Cake
  • Captain Morgan Spice Cake
  • Chilli Chocolate Cake
  • Cherry Bakewell Cake
  • Spiced Apple Streusel Cake
  • Chai Tea Loaf
  • Chocolate and Mixed Spice Cake
  • Chocolate Gingerbread

There were others, but they were the ones I can remember! (or I stole the tags from...)
Once again, we had a total novice baker. Heather, (previously self confessed baking cack-hand) produced a wonderfully moist Squidgy Apple cake which went down a storm. Vicki, who made her first cake for the last meeting brought a pink rainbow cake which even some of the most seasoned bakers might have struggled with. Bursts with pride... 
After explaining how the cake club works to the new attendees, there was what can only be described as a polite stampede towards the table! 
There was a table under there at some point...
Heather enjoying her first taste of cake club
Thank you to Harvey's for accommodating a rabble of crumb-creating bakers and of course to everyone who came!

The next event is on the 19th May at 3.30pm and the theme is the Great Village Show. It's limited to 25 places due to the size of the venue so please book early to avoid disappointment. 

Please leave your comments below...

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Cherry's, Westhoughton

Last week, Stephanie from Cherry's in Westhoughton offered to supply me with a prize for the Bolton Bulls fundraiser I was running. We had only ever chatted on Twitter, so I was really grateful! I went over the Easter weekend to give my thanks in person, and to sample some of their goodies!

It was raining cats and dogs, so we both plumped for a full english, followed by a massive wedge of lemon drizzle cake with cream. The breakfast hit the spot, and that cake was out of this world! Really soft, yet zesty.

Pretty plates...
Cherry's is a traditional cafe with beautiful home made cakes, which change each day. They have only been open eight weeks, but I have no doubt this place has the potential to become a really popular little haunt. The owners are such lovely people, I urge you to go in for some homely food and a chat.

Follow Cherry's on Twitter here for regular updates.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Tea at Fortnum & Mason



I'm not much of a coffee drinker. I love a good, strong cup of tea. No sugar, just a little milk. What goes well with a nice brew? You got it cake fans. A slab of something sweet. Since going to T & Cake in February, I've been frequenting tea rooms at every given opportunity. 

When it comes to tea, Fortnum and Mason know their stuff. For three centuries, they have sourced the best teas from across the globe. This book will teach you all about tea and its colourful history, but also gives recipes for sweet and savoury goodies that are the perfect match.

The book starts with a little history... I was supposed to be looking at recipes, but instead found myself absolutely fascinated with the origins of the company, the original advertising and the history of the shop. The business was set up in 1707 by a livery stables owner and a royal footman, and was originally a grocers and tea merchant. Tea was an expensive luxury item due to the time and expense it took to ship the goods to England.  However, by 1707, the demand for tea had meant there was a thriving black market meaning tea was mixed with all sorts of nasties. You could say that it was the common drug of the day! Those who visited Fortnum & Mason were guaranteed a pure (and legal) brew.

I am tempted here to give you a full tea history lesson (frustrated history teacher...). However, I will refrain for two reasons; I do not wish to bore your pants off and the book does it better than I can. I tend to go a bit ranty when it comes to history... 

So we come onto the home made delights. Yes there are scones and shortbread, but this little book gets a bit more creative. It got lots of 'ooooohs' when I read through it for the first time! It includes one of my favourite desserts ever... the Financier. I once had a pistachio version at Pollen St Social, which remains one of my favourite cakes ever. I chickened out of making it, just in case it wasn't as good as the one I have locked in my memory...

So I decided to make something that would complement my Easter baking. I had made Hot Cross Buns on Easter Saturday so decided on lemon curd. I've never made curd before, so it also fit in well with this year's challenge to make new things. 

I've had a bit of a bee in my bonnet about lemon curd since our February Bolton Clandestine Cake Club. One of the ladies made a ginger cake which was accompanied by a tub of home made curd. I convinced myself it must be terribly difficult to make. I had a chat with Susan from A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate at the last South Lancashire Clandestine Cake Club. She reassured me that it was quite simple, and managed to calm my OCD. Again.

So off I trot. Lemons in hand, I followed the recipe in this lovely little book. It took about 30 minutes from start to finish. Utterly heavenly. Zesty yet sweet. 'Someone' was a right piglet and ate loads of it...
This little book is any tea lover's pocket compendium. Perfect for anyone planning a tea party over the spring or  summer months.

Tea at Fortnum & Mason
Publisher: Ebury Press, 2010
Hardback, £10.00
Disclaimer: I reviewed this book because I like a brew with a piece of cake. I received no payment from the publisher for doing so.
Read more about the authors at Ebury Press.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Springtime Strawberry Bundt

The bulbs are coming up, birds are tweeting, and the cat is going absolutely mental. So, despite the weather thinking it's swinging between Summer and Winter, it's spring. 

I've been dying to use this tin since I got it a couple of weeks ago, but wanted to wait until I had devised the perfect recipe for it. Something light and fruity was in order. My inspiration came from the next south Lancashire Clandestine Cake Club, which is 'In an English Country Garden'. This is the cake I'll probably make for their next meeting, but it will be tweeked ever so slightly...

Although I have done mine in a decorative bundt tin, a 10 inch ring tin would suffice. Regardless which tin you use, fill no more than three quarters full. There are lots of shaped tins on the market now, so this is a recipe which will easily adapt to any. Just adjust the quantities. Feel free to ask if you're not sure. You will know when a bundt is done by looking for the following things:

  1. The surface of the cake looks quite dark (this is because of the high sugar content - this will only taste burnt if it's actually black!)
  2. It's firm to the touch
  3. It's shrinking away from the sides of the tin slightly (it shrinks a little more during cooling)
  4. A skewer comes out clean

The cake is incredibly light and has a subtle strawberry flavour. I was trying to avoid the classic E number Hubba Bubba flavour! It would be perfect served with afternoon tea, as a centre-piece for a child's birthday or indeed to take to a cake club... 

Ingredients:

  • 225g butter
  • 450g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 350g thick strawberry yoghurt (one with plenty of fruit in it for flavour)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp strawberry essence (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 3/160 c
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. You'll see the mix get noticeably fluffier.
  4. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  5. Pour the yoghurt and the extracts into the creamed ingredients and mix well.
  6. Sift in the flour in two halves. Mix this slowly until all the flour has disappeared. Over-mixing at this stage will make a dense cake and may cause air channels. This can ruin the shape of a decorative bundt.
  7. Pour the mix into a greased and floured tin.
  8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. It's stable from about an hour in if you want to check or turn it around.
  9. Leave the cake to cool fully before removing from the tin.
  10. Serve either plain, dusted with icing sugar, or camp as you like with glitter and icing to pick up the shape of the tin.

This cake can easily be modified to suit your tastes. Just replace the yoghurt with a different flavour and omit the strawberry essence with something else. Zests make a nice addition too.

If you would like to join any of the Clandestine Cake Clubs, please visit click here. The next Bolton Club is on 14th April, with the May one being announced shortly.


BloggersPlease respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page. 
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Saturday, 7 April 2012

Hot Cross Buns

I have never made hot cross buns before. It always seemed like a bit of a faff. However, I felt incomplete without them in my repertoire. My next problem was which recipe? The internet has been awash with them over the past week. Everyone has their special recipe; a flavour twist, a bun that's not a bun, one massive bun and whatnot.

I decided, for the first time in my life, that I wanted a traditional hot cross bun because that's what I like. My only exceptions being a lack of candied peel (evil) and more cinnamon (heavenly). 

Now then. In the back of my mind I was already considering the things that could go wrong. My OCD made me put a plan in place for each eventuality, and it seemed to work!
Problem 1: not enough cinnamon
Solution? Add more cinnamon. Simple.
Problem 2: them all merging into one horrific bun-nightmare
Solution? Give them more space than the original recipe specifies.
Problem 3: I become cack-handed with the piping bag and my crosses look crap
Solution? Have word with self beforehand and make a mental note to get a grip.

I decided to use a Fabulous Baker Brothers recipe I found in last month's Delicious Magazine as my guide; mainly because they looked appealing and there was no fancy faffery going on. I could change the recipe to suit my tastes quite easily. This recipe is amended slightly from the original.

Makes 16

Ingredients:
Buns

  • 680g strong white flour
  • 14g fast action yeast 
  • 10g Maldon sea salt
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 80g soft unsalted butter (I blasted mine in the microwave for about 20 seconds)
  • 1 medium egg
  • 7g mixed spice
  • 8g cinnamon
  • 175ml warm milk
  • 175ml warm water
  • 150g sultanas
  • 40g crystallised ginger chopped into small pieces
  • Zest of one orange

Cross

  • 100g strong white flour
  • 25g melted butter
  • pinch of table salt
  • pinch of caster sugar
  • 125ml water

Glaze

  • 75ml boiling water
  • 1 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • Pinch of cinnamon

Method:
Buns

  1. Add the flour, yeast, spices, salt, sugar, butter, milk water and egg into a large bowl and bring together with a wooden spoon or by hand. If it's looking a tad dry add a little more water. It will look a bit sticky, but this is rectified by kneading.
  2. Knead for 15 minutes, or for 10 if using a mixer with a dough hook. Don't be shy, you need to stretch that gluten! You'll know it's done when the dough looks and feels much smoother. (If you are using a freestanding mixer, be careful. This is a heavy dough so the machine will need supervision!)
  3. On a floured surface, push in the zest, fruit and ginger. I did this the same way you make puff pastry - add a layer of filling then fold it over. Add more then fold again etc.
  4. Put the dough in a large bowl and cover with cling film. Put it somewhere quite warm for 45 minutes. I abandoned the airing cupboard and opted for the grill section of my oven (the main oven had another cake in it...)
  5. When it has doubled in size put the dough on a floured surface and cut in half. Repeat this process with each section of dough until you have 16 buns. For those of you as OCD as me, each one was about 90g.
  6. Place these on a large baking tray about half an inch apart. Use two trays if you have to.
  7. Cover the buns with lightly oiled cling film, and leave to prove again for about an hour. Again, I popped them in the grill section with the main oven on.

Meanwhile...

  1. Make the crosses by adding the flour, salt and caster sugar to a bowl. 
  2. Slowly add the water and melted butter.
  3. Beat it with a whisk until smooth - this takes about a minute.
  4. Pop the mixture into a piping bag (no need for a nozzle) with a hole about half a centimeter wide.
  5. When the dough balls have doubled in size, you'll find that they are touching each other slightly. 
  6. Pipe the crosses by doing all the vertical lines in one go, followed by the horizontal. One confident movement... 
  7. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes on gas 6.5/210 c.

Whilst you're waiting...

  1. When they have about five minutes to go, make the glaze.
  2. Put the boiling water, sugar and cinnamon in a small pan and boil for 30 seconds. That's it.
  3. When you bring the buns out, paint them with the glaze using a pastry brush. It won't make them soggy, just beautifully shiny.

These buns take a long time to make, but are well worth it. I served mine warm with home made lemon curd.
Please leave your thoughts below...
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