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Cupcake decorations

8 Nov

Aside for a dollop of icing, I had no real experience of decorating a cupcake.  Be it buttercream, sugarcraft or ganache, in comparison, my cupcakes looked very, very ordinary.  Just thinking about sugarcraft scared the daylights out of me.  It was some foreign skill that would take me years to master.

After a day long decorating class, I’m happy to say that it isn’t as hard as the outcome looks.  It will still take me years to master, but a few basics make cupcakes look extra special, as the photo’s prove.

One thing I did learn about sugarcraft, however, is that the skill is in the moulds.  Whoever thought of and created each mould or cutter has all the skills, while the rest of us benefit from their imagination.  There are quite a few tools that you need to buy, just for a beginner, but they are all relatively inexpensive.

The tools we used were:

The food items we used were:

On top of a vanilla sponge cupcake with buttercream icing:

For the butterflies

Roll out your chosen colour of flower paste thinly.  You know that it’s thin enough when you hold up the paste with one finger.  If it drapes nicely over your finger, it’s the right thickness.  If it is still a bit stiff, you need to roll it out more.  If it’s too thin, your finger will rip a hole.

With your butterfly cutter, cut out a shape.  Lightly glue the surface with a brush and sprinkle on some edible glitter.  Dry the butterflies on some folded cardboard, so they dry to the desired shape.  They will need a couple of hours to dry before adding to the top of a cupcake.

For the daisies

As above, roll out the flower paste thinly.  Cut out the four different sizes of daisies.  Lay these on a celpad.

With the two smaller daisies, with the ball tool, push the centre slightly, so the petals curve upwards.  With the two larger daisies, use the bone tool and from the tip of each petal to the inside (avoiding the centre) gently push down, so that the petals curve upwards.  To layer these together, secure with a little edible glue.  Leave these to dry and attach with royal icing.

For the hydrangea

Similar to the daisies, roll out the flower paste and then cut out the various sizes.  Then using the mould, press these into the desired shape.  As they don’t sit flat, it’s best to dry them on top of crushed greaseproof paper.



Sea-salted Caramels : 2nd attempt

26 Feb

After the disastrous 1st attempt, this time was a lot more successful.   It may have a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t substitute double cream for clotted cream (who would have thought?!!).

One small failing, however, is that the caramels aren’t as hard as the recipe suggests.  I tried a different recipe to the first and both said that you have to break the caramel into pieces once cooled.  My caramel could be cut into pieces with a large kitchen knife.  Which probably made it easier to handle, but I do not know what I did wrong for this difference.  I was quite meticulous this second time round – so anyone that is a caramel expert, I would love to know the trick!

Anyway, I’ve given most of them away – as they are quite addictive and I could just snack on them throughout the day.  All recipients have been well pleased, which is always a good sign.

I will say that a candy / jam thermometer is a must if you want to attempt this as you have to watch the temperature quite closely while cooking.

 150 gr caster sugar
150 gr light muscovado sugar
100 gr unsalted butter
200 ml double cream
3 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon of sea salted flakes (this does only give a hint of saltiness.  I really like a strong salty flavour, and if you do as well, I would definitely add another 1/2 teaspoon)

Grease a 15 – 17 cm (6″) square tin with sunflower / vegetable oil.  In a small bowl, mix the muscovado sugar, butter, cream, golden syrup and salt and set aside. 

Place the caster sugar in a deep pan with 2 tablespoons of cold water.  Set the pan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and continue to cook until the sugar has turned to a deep amber-coloured caramel.  Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the remaining ingredients and stir straight away until smooth.  You have to do this really quickly so the melted mixture doesn’t go hard.

Return the pan to the heat and bring back to the boil.  Continue to cook until the caramel reaches 121 C / 250 F on the thermometer.  This can take quite a few minutes.  Make sure that you use your hottest burner on the stove so that you can get up to this temperature.  Remove from the heat and leave to settle for 30 seconds.  Resist the temptation to taste test, as this stuff is hot!!  Pour in the prepared tin and leave until cold before turning it out of the tin and break into pieces or like me, slice into squares.  Wrap each individual piece in greaseproof paper.  Enjoy!

How to make Baklava

20 Feb

This recipe is from Food Wonders of the World.

My partner and I with a few friends managed to devour half the tray on the weekend and I just had to take the rest to work today, otherwise I would need to diet for a month. It’s that good….!

20 filo pastry sheets
250 gr unsalted butter, melted
30 gr (approx 1 tablespoon) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
375 gr ground mixed almonds and walnuts
3 1/2 cups water
3 cups sugar
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Make the syrup first, as you want to pour cold syrup over hot baklava.  Simply stir all the ingredients over a very low heat for at least 20 minutes until it’s slightly syrup.  Leave to cool.

Turn the oven to 180 C / 350 F.  Grease the sides and base of a tray that is large enough for one piece of filo pastry laid out flat (approx 33 x 23 x 5 cm).  Lay one sheet of filo pastry on the base of the tray.  Brush it relatively generously with melted butter.  Repeat 9 times until you have 10 sheets of filo pastry in the tray with melted butter brushed in between every sheet of pastry (I did say it wasn’t healthy!  But it is amazing!)

Combine the sugar, cinnamon and ground nuts together.  Pour half of the mixture on top of the 10 sheets of filo and spread it out evenly.  Top with two sheets of filo pastry, brushing the melted butter on top of each sheet, like before.

Pour the remaining half nut mixture into the tray and evenly spread.  Then with the last 8 sheets of filo pastry, continue to lay one at a time brushing melted butter on each sheet, just as before.

Once completed, cut into squares or diamond shapes, whichever you prefer.  Pour any leftover butter over the top.  Sprinkle a few drops of water over the top.  Bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes.  Then reduce the temperature to 160 C / 320 F and bake for a further 45 minutes.

Then pour the cold syrup prepared earlier over the top of the hot baklava.  Serve cooled.  Enjoy!

Sea-salted caramels: 1st attempt

6 Feb

As the heading suggests, this was only my first attempt at making sea-salted caramels and I’ll need to try again.  It doesn’t look very difficult, but unfortunately it wasn’t a success.

They tasted, pretty good – and really in my book this is usually all that matters, but I’ve worked out texture and presentation is also very important when baking or making desserts.

Caramel is simply sugar, water and golden syrup, bring this to boil and then add butter and cream.  According to the recipe – this needs to be brought to 121 C or 250 F and then poured into a pre-prepared baking tray.

I think the first thing I did wrong was substitution.  Something I’m brilliant at when cooking dinner.  I never, ever follow a recipe and always substitute ingredients.  This is perhaps not a wise decision when baking – especially when I’m still very much a beginner.  I needed 225 ml cream, but I only had 180 ml and as it was snowing outside and therefore I wasn’t keen to venture far from our front door, I decided to top up the difference with the leftover clotted cream from the scones.  Hindsight is such a powerful thing.

Secondly, I’ve read another recipe that suggests 130 C for caramel and I did take it off the flame the second it hit 121 C, so perhaps leaving it for a touch longer may help with the texture.

As I said, they tasted amazing but that’s only if you can get it off the baking paper.  It’s totally gooey which generally isn’t a bad thing, except when it’s supposed to be hard.  Fingers crossed the 2nd attempt works and then I’ll publish the recipe.