Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Daring Baker's December 2010 Challenge: Stollen Wreath

Didn't think I would like it....

I'm weird. I don't like raisins, sultanas or currants. I don't like candied peel either.

You probably guessed - I'm not a fruitcake person.

But there was loads of fellow Daring Bakers who don't like raisins! And there's me thinking I was a rare breed! And on the forum there were so many ideas flying around for ideas without the usual dried suspects and I was liking it!

I needed to take something in to my daughter's last week of nursery before the holidays. So the stollen seemed like the best idea. I decided to make a date, cranberry, marzipan and cinnamon stollen. I soaked the dates and cranberries in orange juice with some orange zest overnight with a cinnamon stick. It turned out very heavy once baked and quite dense :-(

But I brushed the melted butter on top and the several dustings of icing sugar hoping it will soften the stollen but it didn't unfortunately. I'm sure I followed the recipe but I was rushing things so I can't blame the recipe! I couldn't give that in to the teachers! Instead I went for the easy and chilled out route of a tin of chocolates. Bet they weren't expecting that from moi, Mrs WWW!

The next morning I must've woke up on the 'good' side of bed. I went downstairs and decided to saw into the stollen for breakfast. I used my Kitchen Devils serrated knife and managed to slice up nice thick, even slices. I then toasted them up golden brown and crisp.

I then buttered them well with salted butter to add flavour to the sweet bread. I had grated the marzipan into the stollen dough to have it distributed throughout the bread and you can see the flecks in the picture. I loved that touch.

And would you believe it?!!
It. Was. Absolutely. Gorgeous!

Seriously, I'm not even kidding. They were soooo delish.... I feel like lickin' my lips as I type...mmmm....

And the lovely icing top slightly caramelised accentuated the sweetness with the salted buttery gorgeousness.

I will be definitely be doing this again with different flavour variations and a thorough read of the recipe instructions.
I wont be adding the recipe below as it is quite lengthy but you can find the recipe in the link below with tips as well as seeing all the lovely and well-executed challenges from my fellow daring bakers.


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Chocolate and Hazelnut Sandwich cookies

About time, right?

My sincere apologies for not blogging for 3 whole weeks, truth is I thought it had only been just past one week since I wrote the Daring Baker's Crostata post.

But I'm gonna make it up to you right now. I sure am! Have a look at these.....:

I present to you Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies!

I found this recipe at a blog by the lovely Allison called Dolcetto Confections, all her posts are simply drool-worthy but once I saw the post on the Hazelnut cookies, I knew I just had to try it! So many reasons for wanting to try them now:
1. It's very cold outside, the best way to relax at home is a nice cup of coffee and a nutty chocolate cookie
2. they look so pretty when given as a gift, with a few being held together with ribbon
3. And the time was right because I was going to visit a friend the next day.

I wasn't wrong. Because I tried one.

They were so noticeably aromatic, the nutty smell was so perfect, so right...mmmmm....
I sooo could've had another one. But I didnt.

Well not then anyway because I was yet to sandwich them with the hazelnut-chocolate filling. Not that they need sandwiching, these cookies are just so scrummy all on their own!

And how was it? I hear you ask. It was the perfect combination. I mean you can ask anyone, even a stranger on the street (I would suggest you don't ask a stranger on the street) and they would tell you that hazelnut and chocolate go together like how salt and pepper go together, how cheese and tomato go together, how Laurel and Hardy go together - one always complements the other.

Mr WWW prefered them before they were sandwiched but he's not a sweet person (ppor guy, doesn't know what he's missing!). They were really delicious and would be well received by any sweet-loving person. My friend loved them and I would certainly have a stash of these in my kitchen all the time if I could.

Talking about cookies in the kitchen, if I listen really really carefully I can hear the stash of hazelnut cookies that are in my biscuit tin right now calling me..... Must dash!

Make sure to try these gorgeous cookies. xx

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Daring Bakers Challenge November 2010: Crostata

Gosh, I am so glad that I joined the Daring Bakers because I am really enjoying myself month after month. This month was no exception.

The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

After two initial days of surfing the net, nail-biting, surfing the net again, sleepless nights - ok ok, I'm exaggerating ( I love my sleep - especially in this sudden freezing weather!) - I decided I would bake the crostata using version 1 of the pasta frolla (both versions can be found by clicking the link below).

With great hints and tips given by the ever-so-lovely Audax, I was confident enough about the pastry case. I absolutely love creme patisserie so any chance for me to use it I would! And then, like I wasn't chuffed with my plan as it is, I found this design (didnt use the recipe though) for an apple rossette on a pie. Well..... thats like a cherry on top!
 I was soo happy with coming up with that, I might as well not have actually baked it. Was totally exhausted by all that researching, could've done with someone making me a crostata! :-)

There's my baby daughter trying to run off with one of the apple just when I was getting ready to take a shot of the apples with the crostata! Guess it's keeping it real, lol.
Anyway, the pasta frolla dough is sufficient to line and cover a 23cm flan tin. Seeing that I wasn't covering the crostata and I really wanted to try out these figs that I had bought the day before, I decided to halve the dough and make two 20cm tin crostatas. One being my beautiful apple rosette crostata and the other being a fig frangipane crostata.

I got the recipe online at FoodLovers but had to cut down on the amounts. It looked gorgeous when it came out of the oven, the gorgeous almondy aroma is totally irresistable but even more then whenn combined with the pastry.

I didn't try the fig frangipane crostata, I rather saved it for a lovely brother-in-law who I knew would appreciate it. The apple rosette crostata with the creme patisserie filling on the other hand.....? Let's just say that I wasn't that willing to share ;-)

I'm so glad I got to try this out, the variations are countless and you can really play around with flavours or use your ultimate favourite. If you do try this out, make sure to check out Audax's tips, such as grating the butter and then freezing it before rubbing with the flour. Genius!!

Thank you Simona and a well done to all the other Daring Bakers xx

Friday, 19 November 2010

Cupcakes for Eid!

It was Eid this week - one of the biggest celebrations in the Islamic calendar. And as it is for Christmas, the preparation was manic! A whole load of gift shopping, making freeze-ahead finger foods, bake-ahead cookies and edible gifts (sorry no posts about those guys, they were often done late into the night with tired, droopy eyes!). And best thing of all.....I had a cupcake order!!! Yay!!

The order was for 24 cupcakes with 3 different flavours, I could make whatever I like but one of the flavours was to be chocolate as I was told the recipient liked her share of chocolate. Good. She can be my friend. We certainly have a good starting point for a friendship! ;-)

The chocolate cake was a very rich, moist chocolatey one and the buttercream was a chocolate fudge frosting, both together made it a chocoholic's dream!

Do you like the fondant blossoms? I think the contrast of the pink goes well with the dark brown swirl.

Once they were packed, I felt a sense of relief. I was happy with them and most of all, I wanted the recipient to be happy with them!

The second type of cupcakes I chose was carrot cupcakes with a orange-cinnamon cream-cheese buttercream. The carrot cupcakes were made using my favourite recipe (can be found on an earlier post), frosted in a rose swirl and dusted with ground cinnamon and a handmade fondant carrot.

The final of the three types of cupcakes are an all-time winner - Victoria Sponge cupcakes. A delicious vanilla sponge, filled with strawberry jam with a simple swirl whipped cream frosting and topped with an embossed red heart and gold glitter.

Just the way Queen Victoria would've liked it, only if cupcakes were 'in' then! (Great news about Prince William and Katy, don't you think?? )

It's just so amazing to think that this just started off as a hobby-turned-obsession. Not once thinking that I would be getting orders and all the proper stuff! But I am so glad! I love how the decorations come together and all looks good and nobody is none the wiser about the tornado mess in my kitchen or pulling-out-hair moments when the oven switched itself off in the middle of baking, or the girls tugging on my apron wanting me to watch peppa pig with them..... But I wouldn't have it any other way...

Oh, who am I kidding?!! I'd love a BIG self-cleaning kitchen and maybe the girls to be a few years older doing the actual baking while I sit down and have a cuppa. I might need to wait quite a while for that though! [sigh!]

See you soon everyone and hope everyone is enjoying the festive season whether it's Eid, Thanksgiving, Christmas or any others :)

I leave you all with the really gorgeous chocolate fudge frosting recipe xx

Saturday, 13 November 2010

My first blog award!

I checked my email a few days ago to find a lovely surprise in the inbox....... a lovely blog award waiting for me from the very lovely Cath of Dunn to Perfection . Gosh, it really did make my week especially when I felt like I hadn't been giving the blog much attention lately. There were 14 other blogs that Cath had to choose
and those blogs were really great!

I now have to give this award to 15 bloggers who I like. This is going to be hard, there's so so many brilliant food blogs!

The 'One Lovely Blog Award' goes to: ....... [drumroll]

(in no special order!)

Can you believe I got a blog award??!! I'm so chuffed about that.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Daring Bakers October 2010 Challenge: Go Nuts for Doughtnuts!

Donuts or doughnuts or whatever you call ...... The soft fluffy mouthfuls of pure indulgence. That was our October challenge and it was totally loved by me (and my husband!)

Before I continue, I must apologise for the photography. I've left my camera 300 miles away :( and my phone's camera is not my best friend! But I can assure you the best of pictures will still not do justice to the taste of these fabulous doughnuts.

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I had made both baked and fried doughnuts once before so I knew I would be making yeast doughnuts deep-fried!

After reading loads of comments on the DB forum, I knew this would make quite a substantial amount of doughnuts and there was no way I was going to make any amount of doughnuts without weighting out the right moment.

Then guess what happened?? The right time never came!! Can you believe it?! All the times I had people over or went somewhere, it was either unplanned or with very short notice. And these babies cannot be rushed - with a time allowance for two risings, there was no way I could pull these out in a flash. So I made them yesterday (in a rush) and luckily Mr WWW was at home with a friend of his.

They went down a treat, I could tell when I saw that the plate was empty in no time! Who can resist the warm, soft, cinnamon-sugared doughnuts? No one, me thinks!

I did devise a plan to accomodate the whole amount of dough. I divided the dough into two bowls before the first rise and read somewhere that you could keep it in the fridge like that for upto 3 days. So I put one bowl of dough into the fridge and left other bowl to rise.

I had decided on doing the ring doughnuts with cinnamon-sugar and also round doughnuts filled with homemade creme patisserie and a chocolate glaze. They were both sooooo goooood!

I hadn't actually let the glaze set before I took the photo and I didnt have any dark chocolate at home (gasp!) to create the 'boston cream doughnut' look but I'm sure you get my drift ;-)

The second bowl of dough in the fridge? Well, I'll be pulling it out tomorrow morning to take along with me to the toddler group we go to. It's nice to share.....

I really enjoyed this challenge and I'm glad I have now found a doughnut recipe that I like. Thank you Lori for a great challenge xx

Check out how all my fellow Daring Bakers did here

Monday, 25 October 2010

Occasion cakes

A very hectic past fortnight for me but a very enjoyable one as it involved me making three cakes!! :-)

The first one being the cake above. It was nearing the time of my dear friends birthday and I knew she lurved marzipan. I needed the cake to be just as sophisticated as my friends! ;-) Thats when I thought about doing this chic monochrome cake as I was sure it would be loved by all who were gonna be at the get-together. I wasn't wrong.....

It was a deeelicious 3-layer vanilla sponge filled with strawberry jam and vanilla buttercream, covered with marzipan and fondant. Made with love and loved by all..... x

And then in the space of 3 weeks, I made "Chocolate obsession" three times. I totally enjoyed making it even if it is time-consuming. I like to think of it as a labour of love! Only type of labour work to do, me thinks ;-)

They're all slightly different from each other and that is why they are exclusive. The first one is surrounded with tempered dark chocolate panels and chocolate strawberries. The second cake is tempered milk chocolate panels with chocolate strawberries, handmade chocolates and a chocolate stiletto in the centre. And the last one is same as the above ones but with a good sprinking of chocolate balls.

They are all made of a very chocolatey chocolate cake, filled with either mascarpone cream and chopped strawberries, or chocolate ganache. Varieties are endless and depends on the recipient.

Take care xx

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Rainbow Cupcakes!

Rainbow cupcakes to brighten up any mood. Don't you think?!

I've been wanting to make these for a while, they're even on my "to-bake" list, sitting there patiently waiting to be striked off. But as always, I couldn't justify making them without any reason/occasion (although it was veeery tempting!) 

Then came the occasion - my 3yr old daughter's friend's (as well as them being family friends) birthday. I decided the night before that this was the time for rainbow cupcakes to make their debut. And a 3yr old girl is the perfect recipient, especially as I had some fifi cupcake toppers left from my daughter's birthday cake.

The cake was my favourite vanilla cupcake and the frosting was the utterly gorgeous vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream which you're probably bored of hearing the praises of! But I cant help it, it's sooo good! :-)

I had to put extra cases on all the cupcakes just before I boxed them up. I got some colourful cases from my local supermarket but they were terrible! Some of them started coming off at the cooling stage and had totally got soaked with the batter (Note to self: always make sure cases state they are greaseproof).

I sent 9 cupcakes off to the birthday girl, which means I had 3 cupcakes left for my two girls... ok, ok, for me! Well, don't want them to have a sugar rush now! :-)

But I couldn't be that cruel so I did halve one for them to have after their lunch. My 3yr old loved it, she loves rainbows. And my 1yr old...well, she just squished it between her hands and rubbed it on her face. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture because I was doing a mad dash to make sure she didn't get it all over her hair but it was a funny sight.

Yes, I know, I did six colours instead of the seven. I think the six colours did fine to represent a rainbow even though Indigo was missing. They were so fun to make and will definately be a hit with kids of all ages, even 20-something year olds like me!

The above picture didn't come out brilliantly but at least you can see the rainbow colours contrasting with the sharp white fluffy 'cloud' frosting. So fun and truly yum-yum!

I think I'll be making these again for my daughter's 2nd birthday in January - hmmmm..... [lightbulb over head] I might even possibly have a colourful rainbow themed birthday with a layered rainbow cake and rainbow cupcakes as favours. Just a thought, got a few months to mull it over.

Enjoy the recipes below, beautiful people xxx

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Carrot Cupcakes...mmmm....

Hands up people who do don't like carrot cake??

I think it is safe to assume that there are more people that like carrot cake, than people who don't! The moist bite you take, packed full of utter scrumptiousness. With a different flavour hitting your taste buds with every bite, tell me - who can resist??!!

I love carrot cakes, whether its as layer cakes or cupcakes. It kinda gives me a cosy, warm, hearty feeling, especially with having autumn crept up on us so fast!  And do you know one of the best things about this cake? It tastes even better the next day and the next!! (but don't leave it for too long or there might not be any left for you!)

OK, there are actually two good things about it - the second being that it can be more or less done in one bowl. Adding and stirring the dry ingredients together and then mixing in all the wet ingredients and voila! More or less :-)

One of my favourite cakes is carrot cake and I've had a few recipes that have been very trusty to me. My favourite recipe is the one from Erin from Good Eats n Sweet Treats, who got it from Pastry Queen. Erin starts the blog post saying "The Best Carrot Cake EVER." Now that really did catch my attention and it totally does live up to it's title!

This recipe is a pure delight, with tastes of pineapple (which adds to the cake's moistness), coconut cream, nutmeg and cinnamon. And the proportion of the spices is just right!

Both my girls love this carrot cupcake, not that I need much persuasion when it comes to making them! :-)  I used the cream cheese frosting that I have previously posted but this time with orange zest and 1 tbsp of orange juice - it was gorgeous!

Which one is best looking? I just cant decide!!
 Your comments would be very appreciated! 
The recipe below is for a carrot cake but you can easily adapt it to make cupcakes (will make about 36 cupcakes). I baked them for 15-18 minutes.