Friday, 28 May 2010

Salad Days

Our garden is lush and green right now, we have two patches of cut and come again salad and a pot of pea shoots (we just planted some dried peas, the kind you make mushy peas with, and cut them when we want  a salad or stir fry.  So good!) so on a warm day like today when you want a lunch idea salad is a real no brainer.  Our vegbox came complete with little gems, cherry tomatoes and juicy red peppers so I topped these with some Quorn pieces, added some mustard and honey to some mayonnaise and poured it over the top.  Delicious!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Cupcake experiments - flat or domed?

I've been reading a lot of blogs and watching a fair few YouTube videos as I plan some of the upcoming baking projects that I have in mind and in one, which I do not know, I came across the suggestion that if you wanted flat tops to your cupcakes you should cream the butter and sugar first, if you wanted domes then you used the all in one method.  Intrigued (and still bored from being house bound!) my little boy and I set out to devise an experiment to see if this was true.  We made a 2 ounce mixture each (that is 2 ounces each of butter, sugar and self raising flour with 1 egg and a splash of vanilla), he used the all in one method and I creamed.  We used different colour cake cases to ensure we knew which was which and put them in the oven with high expectations!

The result?  You really couldn't see any difference between the two methods.  The creamed is on the left and the blue on the right in the above picture.  They all tasted good though :)

Poorly party cakes

My little boy has had chicken pox this week, so we've been housebound and entertaining each other with lots of painting, crafts and of course baking.  On Friday some friends were due to come over with their 1 year old in the hopes of infecting him, so I decided we'd make some cakes for the 'poorly party'.  My boy decided he wanted vanilla cakes, and I had some orange buttercream in the freezer that I got out for the occasion.  We covered each cake with a little layer of the buttercream and then coloured some blue and some green for decoration.  We used spotty cake cases, and our plan was to decorate the cakes in spots too however artistic license and 3 year old enthusiasm took over when we were actually icing them - piping bags are FUN!

Aubergines in honey and almond sauce

The photo really doesn't do this one justice!  We had a couple of aubergines to use up, and I really fancied making it with the Al'fez Honey and Almond Tagine Sauce that I adore but the cupboard was bare.  Doh!  Not to be deterred, I thought back to the vegan carbonara sauce that I'd tried a while back and though that I could probably do something similar here.  The result was just what I was looking for.  Almondy with hints of honey, cinammon and nutmeg.  We had it with quinoa for a low carb, high protein feast for the senses!  Here's how I did it...

Heat some sunflower oil in a pan and add a cinammon stick, fry until the flavour is released and then add a chopped onion and the aubergine, cook until soft adding water if necessary.  Meanwhile in the blender whizz up 1 cup of almonds with 1 tbsp of peanut butter, a clove or two of garlic and a couple of tablespoons of honey. Take 300ml of stock and add just enough to get the nuts blended, then when its houmousy in texture add the rest of the stock.  Pourt this onto the cooked aubergine and onion, cook through (it will thicken up when heated) and then add grated nutmeg.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Banana and peanut butter muffins

I watched a few more of SeriousCakes videos on YouTube this morning. That woman can do things with buttercream that just leave me in awe, truly. If you have a few minutes take a look at the Carousel cake or the Hydrangea cupcakes (going to be trying that technique sometime this week, time permitting). I made the mistake of watching before breakfast, and of watching her decorate a peanut butter cake; and that was it. The craving for peanut butter began.

Google turned up quite a few peanut butter muffin recipes, but The Goddess's Kitchen had a nice recipe from Rachel Allen for Banana and Peanut Butter muffins. They looked great in the picture and so I set about making them. They were quick to put together, I made a half a batch which should theoretically have been 6 muffins but ended up making 12! I added in some chocolate chips for additional nomminess (my new word for the day) and subbed vegetable oil for melted butter because, after a week of constant colds and headaches I'm behind with my washing up and didn't have a spare pan just to melt butter *insert blushing smiley here*

I'd expected them to be quite heavy between the peanut butter, the oats and the banana but actually they were incredibly light! The flavour was a great balance between the peanuts and the banana, and the chocolate was a good addition. We had two each for brekkie. Delicious!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Maypole Cake

It's Beltane!  As a (neo-)pagan, I like to celebrate the sabbats with food.  We usually have a special meal, with incorporates themes for the season, but I also like to make a cake.  As Beltane approached and I pondered what to make for the season, a thought kept popping into my head - a maypole cake.  I mentally planned it and started scouring YouTube for howto videos to help me with the techniques I'd need to learn.

I started off yesterday by making my first ever bactch of Swiss meringue buttercream, which came together really well (although I used a butter substitute so the flavour wasn't great).  I used this recipe, and made half the quantity.

This morning I started the day by baking Delia's Squidgy Chocolate Log, not least because its a flour and dairy free recipe and so friendly to my dietry foibles!  Once it was cooled, I filled it with about 1/3 of the buttercream mixture and, with a prayer to the Gods of the kitchen, I rolled it.  Success!

I split the remaining buttercream into two large portions and one tiny which I coloured red, white and green with paste colours.  Then I went to work with the techniques I'd picked up on YouTube!  I used a 'basket weave' technique to represent the ribbons coming down the cake.  Piped a mess of green around the top for a  garland and then, with more prayers to the Gods of the hearth, I tried my hand at buttercream roses.  I have to thank SeriousCakes for their YouTube Video 'Buttercream Roses, 3 methods' which was an immense help!

Nothing went horrendously wrong, and I was really pleased and proud of the cake once it was done.

If you're interested in Maypole cakes, then HomeBaked blogged their take on the idea yesterday!