Monday, 27 February 2012

Easy Goose Cookies, 5th Anniversary and Hairy Biker Giveaway

This month sees the fifth anniversary of my blog, fancy that five years! So to celebrate I made some cookies. I did something that I don’t do very often and that is to bake something that would please me. You know how it is we all make things for our families and friends that we think they will like, but I very rarely do things just for me. You’ll never guess though, everyone else loved them too!

I’ve fancied decorating cookies for a long time now, and my (mostly unused) cookie cutter collection is testament to that. Having recently been inspired by some of the very talented cookie decorating bloggers across the pond this want-to-do has been accelerated up my list of must-dos, until it has reached No1# status.

For now though, I had a roll of white fondant icing in my baking box, and I was wondering what to do with it, indeed I was wondering why I had actually bought it! Inspiration struck however and these cutie pie goose cookies were made. I’m in the process of trying a number of roll out cookie recipes and the one I tried here is from Sweet Sugar Belle’s blog. Her recipe which I used is here (I halved the quantity). They are good and have a great flavour, I used vanilla as the flavouring for my cookies.

For the decorating I used one roll of white ready rolled fondant icing and the black and yellow icing tubes from the little boxes that I managed to buy in my local supermarket, and I reckon if I can buy them they must be readily available! Once you have baked and cooled your cookies, use the same cookie cutter to cut out the white fondant geese and attach them to the cookies with a little apricot jam (no lumpy bits!). To decorate use the black tube to do a little eye and the yellow tube for a little beak and feet. Two of my geese have no feet, you have to take care popping out the cookie dough from the cutter or you lose the feet, however I still liked them so left them as on the water geese.

My little flock :)

This is a really easy project to do for little people, or with them if you like. Mind you adults seem to like them too, because they are cute and taste good.

It is royal icing iced cookies that I really fancy doing now and to that end I have ordered some icing bottles to make that easier, more on this soon. I *might* have ordered some new cookie cutters too, you can’t have too many right?! I’ve got cookies on the brain I tell you!

As a thank you from me to you I’m buying one copy of The Hairy Bikers’ Big Book of Baking by Si King and Dave Myers (out this week!) to give to one reader who leaves a comment on this post saying why you’d like to win it. The winner will be drawn at random. Closing date Midnight 4th March 2012, winner to be announced on 5th March 2012. Good luck and thanks to readers new and old for keeping on reading le blog! NOW CLOSED!

Next Review Up: Cake Magic

Monday, 20 February 2012

Cake Slice Bakers Boston Cream Pie - February 2012

Are January and February not usually quieter months? Not this year it seems. The month since the last Cake Slice Baker post has just flown by. The 20th of the month has come round once more though, and the cake slice bakers are rolling through town!

This month’s bake comes again from this years’ book, The Cake Book by Tish Boyle published by John Wiley and Sons 2006. This time it is a Boston Cream Pie.

Now if you are familiar with a Boston Cream Pie you’ll know that it has nothing to do with an actual pie. It’s a cake. Called a pie. You see? If the folks in Boston want to call it pie, fine by me.

Now, what it actually comprised of is two sponge layers sandwiched with a sweet vanilla pastry crème and a chocolate glaze over the top of the cake. The sponge here was a hot milk sponge where you add in boiling milk and butter to the batter before you bake it. This came out fine. The pastry cream however was just too runny to put in the middle. So, thinking back to last month’s Tiramisu Cake where the cream was set with gelatine, I set this pastry cream with gelatine here too. The chocolate glaze was nice, but I added in a tablespoon of golden syrup to sweeten it up a bit.

It was a nice cake, not a wow, but ok. Fresh raspberries or even better a raspberry compote would have taken it into a different league I think. Alas, I had none. I was tempted to put jam in with the pastry cream middle, but held myself back – this would have made it too different from what it is supposed to be. This cake was definitely best on the day it was baked, the sponge which had a distinct trifle sponge vibe going on with it, and it really became a bit dry second day.

Now I’m off to see how my fellow bakers got on with it, if you’d like to as well do visit the Cake Slice Bakers blogroll and click away.

Next Up: Cake Magic

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Tea and Cake

So, this time last year I said I would try and cover more of the books that I like by not always making three or four recipes from each book – maybe just one or two, and this year I am going to actually try doing that! Well at least some of the time! I have so many books I’d like to cover, especially baking books which I have such a passion for. I’ll try…

Tea and Cake Recipes for the Perfect Afternoon Tea illustrated by Emma Block published in 2011 by Hardie Grant Books, with thanks for my copy to the publishers.

This is a very sweet little book. No photographs, but beautifully illustrated in an old fashioned and classic way, with paintings of pretty cups and saucers as well as the food. Chapters are: *P is for Planning* Making the Perfect Cuppa* Tea Strength a Guide for the Hostess* Sandwiches and Savouries* Cake to Share* Baby Cakes, Cupcakes and Scones* Biscuits, Buns and Slices* Petite Pastries* Cake Pops, Whoopie Pies and Macaroons* and *Grown-up Drinks*.

The tea strength guide for a hostess is fun and amusing. It’s a clever little book this one, it covers something very traditional and updates it for a modern palate. For tasters how about: Caramelised Leek and Artichoke Scones, Peking Duck Pancakes, Choc Mint Whoopie Pies with Marshmallow Frosting, Blood Orange Macaroons , Warm Apple Pie Bites or Banana Daiquiri Cupcakes? There are classics too though like Fool Proof Sponge and Creamy Egg and Cress Sandwiches.

The recipe I was drawn to for my first bake was Passion Fruit Yoyo Biscuits. Now, if you are in the UK the yoyo biscuits here are not like the ones that used to be sold in packets wrapped in foil when I was little. These are a fruity take on a melting moment. I’ll still make the melting moments I’ve made for years, but these are a little different, and I have room in my baking repertoire for these yummy little bites. Melt in the mouth biscuits and a fruity filling. My notes: I let my filling firm up a little while before sandwiching the biscuits. I cook them for 10 minutes in my 170oc fan oven. Recipe halves perfectly too.

Passion Fruit Yoyo Biscuits

Posted here from Tea & Cake Illustrated by Emma Block with kind permission from Hardie Grant Books, thank you.

300g (10 ½ oz / 2 Cups) plain flour

300g (10 ½ oz) soft butter

100g (3 ½ oz / 2/3 cup) icing (confectioners) sugar

100g (3 ½ oz / ¾ cup) custard powder

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract


2 passion fruit

60g (2 oz) melted butter

250g (9 oz / 1 ½ cups icing (confectioners) sugar (additional)

1. Preheat the oven to 180oc (350oF / Gas 4).

2. Beat together the flour, butter, icing sugar, custard powder, salt and vanilla. Roll into 36 small balls and place on a greased baking tray. Press down on each ball with the prongs of a fork to form a round biscuit. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 – 15 minutes, until cooked, but not coloured. Allow to cool completely.

3. Strain the pulp from the passion fruit and remove the seeds. Mix with the butter and icing sugar until smooth. Spoon a small amount of passion fruit butter onto one biscuit half and top with another biscuit. Continue until all the biscuits are ready.

Makes 18

Next Up: Cake Slice Bakers

Next Review Up: Cake Magic

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Chocolate Heart Sandwich Cookies with Maraschino Cherry Frosting

Chocolate Heart Sandwich Cookies with Maraschino Cherry Frosting

So, for years I’ve been collecting cookie cutters, not in a big have-to-have them-all kind of way, but just picking them up here and there if I see some that are cute – they’ll be useful someday I always think.

I wasn’t brought up in a home where decorating cookies was something that happened. In fact I don’t think I can remember my mum making roll out cookies ever. I’ve always been interested in decorating cookies, it’s the kind of kitchen job I love to potter round with. So recently I found Glorious Treats and Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle - both thoroughly recommended. I’m not sure how I found them but I’m really glad I did as they are both fabulous blogs, the respective authors having both taste and flair, a winning combination.

So, St Valentine’s Day is coming and I thought I would try a roll out cookie, to see how it came out. I plumped for one from Glorious Treats, and the chocolate dough is great, easily made, easily rolled and very well behaved in the oven. They are sandwiched together with a maraschino cherry buttercream and decorated simply, but effectively with sugar crystals. They were loved by all, just the thing for your sweetie. For the post and recipe link within it go here to Glorious Treats.

Now I’ve found a roll out cookie I like I’m going to give iced cookies a go too, I can hardly wait!... and you know what? These cookie cutters I’ve been hoarding for years may well come in useful after all. Happy Valentines!

Next Review Up: Tea & Cake

Friday, 3 February 2012

Home Cooking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascale

This one is the second cookbook offering from Lorraine PascaleHome Cooking Made Easy published by Harper Collins in 2011. A follow up to her Baking Made Easy, which I loved. It’s a tie in book for her four part Home Cooking Made Easy TV series also from 2011. There are a lot more recipes in the book than were featured on the series though.

I’m never sure if having a great first book is a help or hindrance. On the one hand you are likely to get the second one if the first one has been good; but then the second one has a lot to live up to.

Home Cooking Made Easy is a nice book, done in the same style as the first one. Plenty of pictures, glossy clean pages, colourful chapter heading pages and easy recipes. Chapters are * Starters, Soups Canapes & Snacks* Breads* Mains* Vegetables & Vegetarian* Desserts* Cakes & Cookies* and *Sweets, Jams and Other Good Stuff*. It has a bit of a cold weather food vibe going on with it, offering up mostly warming and comforting dishes.

There are many savoury recipes to tempt with classics like chilli con carne and lasagne, plus others with a little spin like Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Chilli & Ginger, Twenty-first Century Ham, Cheese & Chive Bread, Pad Thai, Oven Roast Salmon with a Mustard & Parsley Crust, Paprika Baked Fish with Chorizo, Quick Brown Sugar & Spring Onion Chicken Teriyaki, Lemon and Thyme and Not-so-slow Roast Leg of Lamb with Thyme and Plum Gravy.

Where Lorraine really shines for me though is still with her sweet desserts and baking recipes, she definitely has a great touch with these. She makes them easy and a little bit different too. Some of the sweet recipes I’ve marked to try are: Shameless, Flourless, Moist and Sticky Chocolate Cake, Extra Gooey Pecan Pie with Brown Sugar Pastry, Steamed Chocolate Pudding with warm Mars Bar Sauce, Peanut Butter Truffles, Peppermint Creams Sugar Rush and the beautiful Graffiti Cake. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I do a second helping post from this book.

For this book and more inspiration do have a look at Waterstones cookbook selection here. Now to my first makes:

‘Oat Couture’ Granola Bars

These were good. They are a flapjack type bar with pumpkin seeds, raisins, pecans and maple syrup. I loved the deep almost smokiness that the maple syrup brought here.

Creamy Pancetta Pasta with Mushrooms and Parmesan

On TV Lorraine made it with a home-made cracked black pepper pasta rather than plain pasta. It did say you could use normal pasta, but we thought it was a bit blah like that. I’d like to give it a go with the flavoured pasta though, as I think it would make all the difference. The recipe is here.

Chocolate Digestive Cheesecake with White Icing

Boy oh boy this was a rich cheesecake! If you like your chocolate very rich and creamy this one is for you. It was a bit too rich for us and the base turned out crumbly too. I did start out doing the feathered design that Lorraine did on TV and in the picture in the book, but my hand was so shakey that night I had to resort to something a lot more abstract! If you fancy it the recipe is here.

Chocolate Marshmallow Brown Sugar Fudge

I’ve saved the best till last, we as a family loved this fudge. I love to cook and bake, but there is something about making home-made confectionary that really appeals to me. This was a really lovely chocolate fudge, you couldn’t eat too much of it (a good thing!) it really hit the spot. I played about with sweet making quite a bit when I was a teenager and have tried a number of chocolate fudge recipes in the past; and this is the only chocolate one I would make again… and I do so need to make it again! The recipe is here.

Next Up: Tea and Cake