Archive | January, 2012

English Scones: must use an oven timer

30 Jan

English scones are easy – start with those and then work up from there…. Good advice – except, my baking skills are that bad that I had to have two attempts before I achieved anything that I had hoped.

As I’m baking on a regular basis – I decided for my first attempt, to only make 1/4 of the recipe measurements so that we wouldn’t have so many yummy, yet not the healthiest, food items in the house. It’s a pity that I had to make the scones twice, as this first decision kind of defeated the purpose.

As I was only using 1/4 of the ingredients – it was very quick and I created a total of 2 scones in a matter of minutes. Having learnt that everything must be measured early on – I had to be quite particular dividing all measurements into four.

Into the oven and I carried on with my day – another baking mistake. It’s probably a good idea to start using the timer on my phone, as I completely forgot about the scones and overcooked them by about 5 minutes. I also probably rolled it too much, as the above picture shows, they’re a little thin. They tasted alright, but weren’t exactly a success. Back to the drawing board.

So with the second attempt, I also added cheese to most of the mixture, as my partner only likes cheese scones and therefore, I can share the eating “burden”. This time, they worked.

A little concerning – one of the easiest things to bake and I required two attempts! I think this learning to bake caper will take a few years….

English scones (& cheese scones)

250 gr (8 oz) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup of milk
extra milk for glazing
(+ 2 tablespoons of grated cheese for cheese scones)

Heat the oven to 220 C (425 F). Grease an oven tray.

Sift the flour and salt together. Rub in room temperature butter into the flour. If making cheese scones – add the grated cheese as well. Mix into a soft dough by adding the milk in slowly (may not require all milk).

On a floured surface, knead the dough lightly, not too much so the scones remain light. Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand to approx 1/2″ / 2cm thickness. Stamp out with a scone cutter – or as I used a regular glass dipped in flour. Place on the tray. Glaze the tops with extra milk. Bake for 10 min.

Tip from Kieran: bake the scones close together for extra height.


Chocolate Truffles: easy to make, hard to make pretty

23 Jan

I have successfully completed my first course, being truffles at “Cakes 4 Fun” in London, and it was great to learn from someone in the know.

The most notable thing as I walked into the classroom was the room’s temperature.  Being in the middle of winter in England and having the air-conditioner on is not ideal.  But apparently cold temperatures (and cold hands, which I don’t have) are ideal when dealing with chocolate.

I heard that making truffles is incredibly easy and after this class, I would have to agree.  However, trying to make them look pretty or attractive is much more of a challenge.  I think, however if you just made the insides, the ganache, and then rolled these in cocoa – the “attractiveness” probably wouldn’t be such an issue – but it’s the dipping into the chocolate and then trying to shake the truffle off the dipping tool (not easy) to avoid truffle “feet”.  Most of my truffles had feet, especially the final few when the chocolate started going hard.

I was quite chuffed to learn that the teacher, who has been making truffles for years, tempers / melts her chocolate in the microwave and I tried this for the first time, when making my (again, funny looking) chocolate squares a week ago.  So this must be the way to go.

Cream Ganache (lasts for 3 months)

90 g double cream
15 mls glucose syrup
180 g dark chocolate
(OR 200 g milk chocolate,
OR 220 g white chocolate)

Put the cream and the glucose (if you’re using the ganache straight away and don’t need it to keep for such a long time, omit the glucose) in a bowl and heat together until the cream begins to boil.  Once the cream begins to boil, pour it over the chocolate and mix until the cream and the chocolate emulsify, creating a thick liquid.  And that’s it!  Very, very easy.

Chocolate Truffles

chocolate ganache, cooled
flavours (alcohol, such as champagne or rum, cherries, orange flavouring, jam, etc)
chocolate, melted (microwave for 30 sec, stir, 30 sec, stir, etc)
chocolate sprinkles / flakes

With your chosen flavouring, mix a small amount into the ganache, so you can taste the flavouring but make sure it hasn’t changed the consistency much at all.  Transfer the ganache into a piping bag and pipe small balls onto greaseproof paper – and put into the fridge to cool for  about 10 minutes.

Using your (cool) hands, roll the ganache quickly into balls.  This can be put back into the fridge to cool again.

Then you can roll these into cocoa powder, dip into chocolate and decorate with sprinkles / flakes.  You can really be quite creative at this stage.  Enjoy!

Too many many baking recipes and no kitchen

22 Jan

Unfortunately, I’ve had to travel to Birmingham for training this weekend, which means I don’t have access to a kitchen. Nice to travel sometimes, but not when you’re in a real cooking mood.

So, to fill the void, I decided to download recipes to try and add to my already bulging cookbook collection. I think I need to stop downloading recipes. I probably have enough recipes for every day for the next six years. Perhaps I should focus on the basic recipes for now But it is way too much fun, eating desserts with your eyes. …

South African Buttermilk Rusks

18 Jan

I’m very grateful that I managed to leave the office today at a reasonable time.  After two late nights and not having enough time to cook dinner, let alone try out a new baking recipe, I was getting a little frustrated. 

After my first attempt that wasn’t really successful, I thought I would try a couple of recommended recipes, and today it was Buttermilk rusks, a South African recipe.

My boyfriend is South African and his mother gave me this recipe.  It looked really straight forward and I know what the result should look and taste like (which is always helpful) so I thought I would give this a shot.

With the recipe below, you’ll notice that the first ingredient is flour – and it’s a lot of flour!  1kg in fact.  I only have one mixing bowl and once I (measured first – see an improvement already!) poured the flour into my only existing mixing bowl, it filled it to the brim.  Ah.  Something to add to the shopping list.

So I decided to half the recipe, to make it possible.  This seemed to be going fine, until we got to the egg and the salt. 

How do you half an egg?  No matter how much I tried, this wasn’t possible for me and I’m sure trying to watch an amateur baker attempt to half an egg is quite amusing.  Picture it in your head – I looked ridiculous! 

Next problem was the salt.  For some reason (especially after the egg fiasco) I completely forgot to half the measure and added the full 5 gr.  I realised after I added it to the bowl.  So I tried to take out as much as possible.  As sugar and salt in appearance look relatively similar, I had to taste what I pinched out of the bowl, to ensure I had the right ingredient.  First I tasted sugar and then salt, then more sugar, then more salt, etc.  It certainly wasn’t a taste test I enjoyed.  I’m sure I again looked ridiculous – with my facial expression of surprise, when I thought it would be sugar and instead it was salt.

Anyway, we got there in the end and all I can say is that this recipe must be fool-proof, as the end result is how I expected, thank heavens….

South African Buttermilk Rusks

Perfect to dip into your breakfast coffee or tea.

1kg self-raising flour
5 gr salt
200 gr sugar
250 gr butter
500 ml buttermilk
1 egg
25 ml oil

Turn your oven to 180 C / 350 F.  Grease a roasting pan with oil / butter.

Sieve the dry ingredients together into a (large!) bowl.  Rub in the butter well.

Beat the egg & oil together, then add buttermilk and mix.  Pour onto the dry ingredients and mix in thoroughly.

Press the mixture into a roasting pan and mark with a knife where you are going to cut (approx 6×3 cm or 2×1 inch).  Bake for 45 min.

Remove from the oven and actually cut where you have marked.  Place into baking tins, well spaced apart and leave to dry in 100 C / 210 F oven for 2-3 hours until hard.  Store in a biscuit tin.

First dessert attempt: must use measuring spoons….

15 Jan

Like many lovers of food, as I am, I like to collect cookbooks.  Especially one’s with glorious pictures.  (why buy a cookbook with no pictures??)  Along with the recent purchases, I pulled every cookbook off the shelf that could have a decent dessert / tart / cake in it, which means most of them.  I realise I have a lot of recipes to try that I never have.

I invited two of my girlfriends over to dinner and chose two chocolate recipes to try.  I needed basic recipes, as I really don’t have much experience with desserts and then I can work up from there.  So I go with a Coffee Granita and a No-bake chocolate squares.  They both look really simple.

I made the coffee granite first as it needed a few hours to freeze.  Just water, sugar, cocoa, and coffee.  Easy.  Looked fine as I put it into the freezer.

Next were the chocolate squares.  Again, just butter, sugar, cocoa, golden syrup and crushed digestive biscuits.  Easy.  I pressed this mixture into a square tin and prepared the chocolate to go on top.  I tried the “microwave” method of melting chocolate that I have never attempted before, which I saw on one of my many TV cooking shows.  Microwave for 30 seconds, stir, 30 seconds, stir, 30 seconds, and stir.  It worked well. 

There seemed to be a lot of melted butter on top of the pressed mixture in the baking tin before I pour on the chocolate, which I hesitate on whether to mop up with some absorbent kitchen paper or not.  I decided not to and pour on the chocolate.  Into the fridge it goes.

So the girl’s come over and we have the granite first.  …….Phoa!  It blows our heads off!!  All three of us were tired beforehand – we certainly weren’t anymore!  Wow it was so strong! 

Yeah, so, ahh, I think that maybe there was a little too much coffee in this one.  Perhaps it may have something to do with using normal cutlery to measure out the coffee, rather than proper measuring spoons.  I do own measuring spoons, but have never used them.  That’s what I enjoy about cooking savoury dishes – you just throw in what feels right and tastes right at the time.  I compared the two spoons and yes, the regular tablespoon used is almost double the measuring tablespoon.  Mental note, use proper measures for all recipes.  I may need to try this one again…

After dinner, the chocolate squares came out of the refrigerator.  Hummm.  Looks like I should have soaked up the excess butter from the top of the mixture first.  There seems to be light yellow bubbles around the edges next to the chocolate, which doesn’t look great, quite ugly in fact. 

I also discovered that I can’t cut chocolate squares in a straight line.  Some squares were the size of a finger and others the size of a cassette tape.  They tasted alright.  The girl’s enjoyed them enough to go back for seconds but there was no wow factor.  I might just remember lessons learned, make notes in the cookbook and move on.  Not sure how to improve the cutting chilled chocolate straight though, perhaps practise?

Next time, I will only make one item, not two.  We all seemed to be on the biggest sugar & caffeine high afterwards and then absolutely crashed at 10pm – this may not have been the healthiest day either and I don’t think my girlfriends would want to be my tasting guinea pigs for long if they end up gaining a nasty sugar / caffeine addiction and an extra 10kg….


Baking ingredients

14 Jan

I just finished unpacking from my Christmas holiday, after too many days back in London and I found two small bottles within my luggage.  My thoughts on learning how to bake came up while on holidays a few (or more than just a few) days ago and so I bought these two small bottles in the supermarket while travelling.  They are both VERY important baking ingredients, Banana Essence and Pineapple Essence.  Clever thinking…

Learn to Bake. Running with a new idea.

12 Jan

So I have an idea.  I do have a tendency to get pretty excited about something and go completely overboard and then get bored and not finish what I started.  I have already become quite excited about the idea of learning how to bake and make desserts (as it does involve food!) and right now I do hope that it isn’t just a passing phase.

So this current excitement, was clearly demonstrated today already.  Multiple times.

Early this morning, I organised to record close to 10 cooking shows on TV.  They all involve baking and desserts.  Hopefully, my boyfriend won’t notice that I have used up all the memory on the TV when he gets home later today.

I have also signed up for my first course.  Fortunately for me, there is a well-reviewed baking school walking distance from my flat – so I have signed up to the truffles course next week.  It’s only a couple hours long, so hoping it will be one of their easier classes.

I also spent £80 on baking books, £30 on cooking utensils, £10 on fancy stationery – very important, and £20 on baking ingredients that I don’t even know if I need any of it or not.  Yikes.

  I also bought some salted caramel.  Weirdest concept and I never thought that I would want to try it, but after watching about 3 episodes of various cooking shows in the morning, salted caramel was mentioned twice, adding salt to a dessert once and bacon bits added to a sweet 3 times (all in America, of course!).  So I figured I needed to try this whole salt with my sweet concept.

I don’t usually like mixing sweet with savoury, as I have very strong views on fruit mixed into a main course.  Apricots with chicken, raisins in a tagine, pineapple on a pizza and banana in a curry are very, very big no-no’s in my book.  I just don’t understand fruit in savoury dishes.  Apple sauce with pork is my only exception (that I know of!).

However, what about the reverse?  My thoughts on this are still out with the jury.  Caramel is generally sickly sweet and the stronger salt does take that almost sickly sweet edge off, but I’m not sure that it’s super fantastic.  I’m going to investigate this concept more.