Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013

What a year it's been! Here's a little video of my best bakes of 2013. 

Happy New Year! 
Jen x

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Chocolate and Almond Biscotti

Anyone who knows me knows that I am completely obsessed with Bake Off (Great British, Irish, Australian, American... I've watched them all) so I received some lovely Bake Off gifts for Christmas. One of my favourites is this fab book from my little sister! 

The only problem is trying to decide what to make. I handed that responsibility over to my mum and she chose Biscotti. I was wary of these, mainly because I've never had too much success with biscuits, but what mummy wants, mummy gets!! 

Biscotti means 'twice baked', and that's exactly what they are. First you make up your biscuit dough, shape it into a log shape and bake it. Then you slice it up and bake it again. This results in a very dry and crisp biscuit which is what makes them perfect for dunking into coffee. 

To be perfectly honest, these didn't really excite me. They tasted nice and were really chocolately, but I wasn't dying to go back for seconds. I'm blaming it on the texture.... I'm definitely a gooey biscuit girl at heart. Maybe if I liked tea or coffee I'd have a different opinion... 
Scratch that, I'm officially converted. I have been nibbling at these all week! They are so moreish and just a lovely after dinner treat. I will definitely be making these again!!

100g whole blanched almonds
100g unsalted butter
3 medium eggs
200g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
325g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tbsp cocoa powder
110g dark chocolate (about 70%), roughly chopped

Heat oven to 180ºC. Put the nuts on a small baking tray and toast in the oven for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool a bit, then chop each nut in half and set aside. Gently melt the butter in the microwave (use 10-20 second bursts) and leave to cool slightly. Put the eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk until very thick. Pour the melted butter into the bowl and whisk until combined. Sift in the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Stir in the chopped nuts and chocolate. Split the mixture in half and place each half on a lined baking tray. Using your hands, mould the dough into a log shape. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until barely firm when gently pressed in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. When cooled, reheat the oven to 180ºC. Using a serrated bread knife, gently slice the log into 1cm slices and place them on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until firm and dry. Remove from the oven and leave for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

You will also need:
150g dark chocolate (about 70%)

When the biscotti has cooled completely, melt some dark chocolate either over a pan of hot water or in the microwave. Dip one end of each biscotti into the chocolate and then place on a sheet of baking paper to set. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Cake 2013

I had all the intentions of making a proper mammy's Christmas cake this year. I even bought all the ingredients, but somehow it was Christmas Eve and there was still no cake! (Plus the rum may have 'disappeared', but we'll not mention that!!) So, in a bit of a panic, I turned to Google for a quicker recipe. I'm not too pushed on fruit cake, but wanted to use at least some of the ingredients I had bought. And my favourite part of Christmas cake is the marzipan and icing so I definitely wanted to include that. I came across this simple recipe for a Cherry and Almond cake and loved the sound of it! I had the cherries and ground almonds and thought it would taste lovely covered in marzipan.

For the decoration, I turned to Pinterest. I have a Christmas board that I've been adding to throughout the year and chose an insanely cute snowman from it. I'm not actually sure why I chose a fondant design. I rarely use fondant and when I do it's generally only to add little decorations. It turned out pretty good for my second ever fully fondant cake, if I do say so myself!!

(adapted from Odlums)
200g butter, softened
225g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g plain flour
100g ground almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract
220g glacé cherries, halved

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a circular cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, adding a little bit of the flour with each egg. Stir in the remaining flour and ground almonds. Fold in the almond extract and cherries. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

You will also need:
Ready-to-roll fondant
Ready-to-roll marzipan
Red food colouring
Green food colouring
Orange food colouring

Wait until your cake has cooled complete before decorating. Roll out the marzipan and white fondant as  thin as you can. Brush some honey onto the cake. Cover with marzipan. Brush with a little bit more honey and cover with the white fondant. Make the hat, scarf and carrot nose from fondant. Add malteeser eyes and mouth. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Reindeer Cake Pops

I made these chocolate fudge cake pops last year for our staff Secret Santa party. This was before the days of my cake pop mould, so they took quite a bit of planning. Each part only took a short amount of time but I had to leave enough time in between for everything to cool and set. I made the cake, frosting and cake balls the first day, then let them cool over night. I added the sticks the second day and let them cool for a few hours before decorating them and letting them set overnight before bringing them in to work. So basically, I started making them two days before they were needed (Wednesday for Friday). It's very rare that I'm this organised. Must've been a boring week...

150g butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
125g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
1 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line any cake tin that you have (I used a brownie pan). Place the butter, sugar and eggs in a large bowl and sift in the flour and cocoa powder. Whisk together with the milk until smooth. Pour into your cake tin and bake until a skewer comes out clean. Baking time will depend on how thin your mixture is. Mine only took about 8-10 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Fudge Icing
125g dark chocolate
50g unsalted butter
1 medium egg, beaten 
175g icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and microwave until three quarters of the chocolate is melted. Take it out of the microwave and stir it continuously until all the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the egg, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth and glossy. 

You will also need:
Cake pop sticks
Mini marshmallows
Red smarties

When the cake has cooled completely, use a fork to break it up into crumbs.  Stir in the icing until well combined. Using your hands, roll the mixture (about 2-3 tablespoons each) into balls and place on a lined baking sheet. Leave to set in the fridge overnight. The next day, melt a small amount of chocolate (as above) and dip each stick into the chocolate before pushing about 3/4 of the way into each cake ball. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (I usually try to wait 2 hours). When the sticks have set, melt some more chocolate in a large bowl. Make sure it is cooking chocolate as this is made from oil, not milk, so will melt and set properly. Carefully roll each cake pop in the melted chocolate until completely covered and quickly stick on two mini marshmallow eyes and a smartie nose. When all cake pops have been decorated, add the pretzel antlers and chocolate dots on the eyes. Return to the fridge to set overnight (or for a few hours) before serving.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread men (and women) are one of my favourite things to make at Christmas time!! I'm usually dancing around to Michael Bublé's Christmas album while making them and the smell of them baking fills the whole house. It really gets me in the Christmassy mood!!

After many, many, many batches (my oven only has one shelf!), I dipped their hands and feet in melted chocolate and gave them jelly tot buttons. The poor guys were faceless this time as I ran out of chocolate.

I made this batch for my class as a little Christmas pressie. We've been reading the story of the Gingerbread Man so they were all running round the classroom with their gingerbread men saying 'Run, run as fast as you can! You can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man!'

(makes 30 medium sized Gingerbread Men)
(adapted from Odlums)
250g plain flour
75g butter, softened
75g brown sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g golden syrup
2 medium egg yolks
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add bicarb, golden syrup and egg yolks and stir well. Sift the flour and spices into the bowl and mix until well combined. Shape into a ball and knead lightly on a work surface until smooth. Wrap and chill for about 30 minutes before using. Preheat oven to 180ºC and line baking trays with parchment paper. Thinly roll out dough and use gingerbread cutters to cut out shapes. Place on baking sheets, leaving a space between each. Bake for about 8 minutes until slightly risen and golden in colour. Transfer to a wire tray to cool.

You will also need:
100g chocolate
Jelly tots

Melt chocolate in the microwave. Quickly dip in all hands and feet. Dip each jelly tot into the chocolate and add to the Gingerbread Men as buttons.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Red Velvet Cake

I can't believe it's been so long since I posted. I NEVER go this long without baking but somehow life just got in the way!! But, Christmas time means lots of baking! We swapped our Secret Santa gifts in work today and everyone always brings in something sweet or savoury to make a party of it! Of course, I chose to make something sweet. 

I got the idea for this cake from my favourite baking blog: Raspberri Cupcakes. I loved the idea of using Red Velvet for Christmas. The colours of the cake are just so festive and the desiccated coconut looks just like snow! I chose to top it with simple candy canes, put together to make hearts. I love the simplicity of this cake. It looks and tastes delicious and is perfect for the Christmas season.

(adapted from Food Network)
560g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp cocoa powder
340g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
340ml vegetable oil
1 tsp vinegar
25ml red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
225ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line 2 round cake tins. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa together. Beat the sugar and eggs together in a separate large bowl. In another bowl mix together the oil, vinegar, food colouring and vanilla and then add to the bowl of eggs and sugar and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in batches to the sugar/egg mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Always start and end with the flour. Pour the batter into the prepared tins. Tap them on the table to level out the batter and release air bubbles. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before turning out of the tin and allow to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Icing
(adapted from Raspberri Cupcakes)
250g cream cheese, softened
250g unsalted butter, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
750g icing sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl until smooth and fluffy. Add lemon juice and icing sugar gradually, and beat until smooth.

You will also need:
125g desiccated coconut
6 mini candy canes

Using a spatula, cover the cake with the cream cheese icing. Sprinkle coconut all over the top and sides of the cake. Place the candy cane hearts on the top of the cake.