c October 2011 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Halloween Red Velvet Cakes and Ghost Meringues

If you're of a nervous disposition look away now, or be prepared to be scared silly.   OK, so you've chosen the scared silly option - good choice.  For Halloween this year I decided to make some spooky cupcakes, and for the first time I made Red Velvet cupcakes.   I used the recipe from the Eric Lanlard & Patrick Cox cookbook called Cox, Cookies & Cake published by Octopus Books.  

I confess that I'm vinegar phobic so substituted the vinegar in the recipe for lemon juice. I opted to top off the cupcakes with the vanilla butter cream frosting.   
Blood red cake mixture
Chocolatey Red Velvet Cakes
A few weeks ago when I made a Key Lime Pie I decorated it with hearts piped from melted chocolate.  I had a lot of chocolate left in the piping bag, so planning ahead I decided to make some chocolate toppers for my Halloween cupcakes.  I piped them onto baking parchment, once cooled still leaving them on the baking parchment I cut them out.  I stored them in an air tight container in the fridge.  I'm really quite pleased with how they turned out,  though you really do have to move quick when piping melted chocolate. You can not afford to stop, it has to be in one continuous movement.
Chocolate cake toppers
I thought that would be it for the decorating of my cakes, but the recipe for the Red Velvet Cupcakes left me with two egg whites to use up.  Having spotted a Halloween post on Please Do Not Feed The Animals blog, I was inspired to make some spooky meringues.  Now I admit that this did not go exactly to plan, when I piped the first two ghosts it was obvious my mixture was too loose, which you may spot on the photo.  So back into the mixing bowl for another minute or two with the electric whisk and the mixture was back on track.   I painted on the scary face using a tiny amount of black cake decorating gel.

Check out the sloppy meringue at the back!
They were transported very carefully to my aunts Halloween party, so as not to get damaged and here they are on display on my sisters special Halloween cake stand. I will definitely be making Red Velvet Cupcakes again using this recipe. I admit to being a little dubious at first when it used egg yolks not the whole eggs, but the cakes where moist, light and very tasty.
Who you gonna call?

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Dairy Diary and The Dairy Book of Home Cookery Review

I have very kindly been sent a copy of the 2012 Dairy Diary and The Dairy Book of Home Cookery to review.    I’ve had a few Dairy Diaries over the years and they always contain some lovely recipes, so I was delighted to be sent the 2012 edition.

The Dairy Diary is so much more than just a diary. You'll find recipe on each week to view page of the diary.  I have my eye on the Cherry cupcakes recipe to make during the next few weeks, so watch my blog.  If however you can not wait, you can find the recipe on the Diary Dairy website recipe page, Cherry Cupcakes 

The dairy also has some really useful guides giving you the basics into gardening, handicrafts and digital photography.   There is a special section covering the London Olympics too, with some fascinating facts about the Olympics generally and the previous London Olympics.  There were lots  "who would of thought it" being exclaimed when I read this section.

It also has a comprehensive section on calendar dates and holidays, along with the type of information you need when you have typically turned off your laptop and don’t have the internet at your finger tips. Such as: Metric conversions and cooking times, anniversaries, birthstones and flowers and much more.  There are some useful preprinted lists in the diary too, Christmas cards, Gift ideas and a practical home budgeting section.

To make sure you don’t miss those important birthdays or appointments, there is a special sheet of memorable date stickers when using the diary.   

The Dairy Diary would make a perfect gift for Christmas at only £6.99, but be warned you may have to buy two as you will want to keep one for yourself!  To find out more visit the Dairy Diary blog http://dairydiarychat.co.uk/  

The Dairy Book of Home Cookery

This recipe book contains lots of recipes along with many suggestions on how to vary a recipe, useful for cooks that are not that confident with ingredients. It’s a nice size cook book, not one of those books that takes up so much room on your worksurface there’s none left for you to spread out your ingredients. I also like the ribbon bookmark for keeping your place in the book, very useful for those times you accidental end up turning pages and loosing your spot.
The book has some great additional sections covering subjects such as food hygiene, storing food correctly and safely in the fridge, use of herbs and spices and many other helpful subjects.  As a keen gardener I liked the list of when  seasonal fruit and vegetables were available.
Here are a few of the recipes that caught my eye:-
  • Leftover Chicken Bake
  • Sausage and Apple Grills
  • Corned Beef Hash
  • Butter Whirl Biscuits

The Dairy Book of Home Cookery can be purchased for £10.49 from the Dairy Diary website.
There is currently a competition on the Dairy Diary Facebook page to win a copy of the cookbook, so what are you waiting for - Like the Dairy Diary Facebook page.

I was sent a copy of the Dairy Diary and The Dairy Book of Home Cookery for the purposes of this review, all views and opinions I give on this blog are my own.

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National Baking Week

Anyone that enjoys baking will have found it hard to escape the fact that it's National Baking Week this week.  To celebrate this event I have been busy doing some baking of my own.

Key Lime Pie
A special request from my parents for their 47th Wedding Anniversary. This is a favourite recipe courtesy of BBC Food, so if it takes your fancy here it is BBC Food Key Lime Pie

Normally I would drizzle dark chocolate artistically across the pie. However, this time I decided to practice my chocolate piping onto parchment paper. Once cooled I carefully transferred the chocolate onto the pie.  Looking at it now, I realise I should of also piped the word 'Wedding'- never mind, too late now!

Iced Buns
Inspired by The Great British Bake Off and also wanting to try my hand at baking something I had never made before, I was tempted by Iced Buns.   I followed the recipe as featured on the show.  Though time consuming, these were very easy to make and I can not begin to describe just how amazing they tasted.  

I also made Rock Buns and Cherry Buns, but they were not around long enough for me to photograph.

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Vegetable Cobbler Recipe

This is a great recipe for using up lots of different vegetables. You can easily adjust or replace the ingredients depending on what you are growing in the garden at the time, or have left over.
Vegetable cobbler recipe
Vegetable Cobbler

I have harvested the last of my tomatoes growing outside this week, its been my most successful year ever.  The ones growing in the greenhouse finished a number of weeks ago.  I'm not sure whether this success is down to the weather or the fact that I've grown the variety Harbinger for the first time.

Recipe (serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil
8 small onions, halved
2 celery sticks, sliced
225g / 8 oz potatoe, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 small head of cauliflower, broken into florets
225g / 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
400g chopped tomatoes
55g / 2oz red lentils, rinsed
2 tbsp cornflour
3-4tbsp water
300ml /10fl oz vegetable stock
2tsp Tabasco sauce
2tsp chopped fresh oregano

Savoury scone mixture
For the topping
225g /8oz self-raising flour
pinch of salt
115g / 4oz butter
115g / 4oz grated mature Cheddar cheese
2tsp chopped fresh oregano
1 egg, lightly beaten
150ml / 5fl oz milk

Preheat oven 180degreesC / 350degrees F /Gas Mark 4
Heat oil in large frying pan and cook the onions over a low heat for 5 minutes.  Add celery, potato, carrots and cauliflower and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add mushrooms, tomatoes and lentils.  Place cornflour and water in a bowl and mix to make a paste.  Stir into the frying pan with the stock, Tabasco and oregano.  Transfer to an ovenproof dish, over and bake in the oven for 20 minutes (although I prefer 35mins).

Savoury scone dough
To make the topping, sift the flour and salt into bowl. Add butter and rub it in, then stir in most of the cheese and oregano.  Beat the egg with the milk into a small bowl and add enough to the dry ingredients to make a soft dough.  Knead, then roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1cm thick.  Cut into 5cm / 2inch rounds.

Remove the dish from the oven and increase the temperature to 200degreesC/400degreesF / Gas mark 6.  Arrange the dough rounds around the edge of the dish, brush with the remaining egg and milk mixture and sprinkle the remaining cheese. Cook for a further 12 minutes.       
One for freezer
I often freeze half of the mixture once cooked, without the scones on the top.

Large savoury scones topping
I am entering this recipe into the May 2015 Cool Cauliflower Recipe Collection blog hop, hosted by Tin and Thyme and Lavender and Lovage

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Byron Bay Cookies Review and Giveaway (closed)

I was delighted to receive some wonderful cookies from Byron Bay Cookies this week.  

For those of you not familiar with Byron Bay Cookies, they are a company originating from Australia baking some of the most amazing cookies, selling in over 40 countries.  I know what you're thinking a cookie all the way from Australia, wow that's some food miles.  But that's where Byron Bay Cookies are different. In 2007, wanting to keep with the company’s green credentials and use as many locally sourced ingredients as possible, Byron Bay Cookie Company signed a deal with one of the UK's most prestigious bakeries to produce the cookies in the United Kingdom.  Many of the ingredients have been sourced from within 50 miles of the UK bakehouse!

The move to being baked in the UK meant that they could be certified by The Vegetarian Society as they now contained only free range eggs. Byron Bay Cookie Company have also searched all over Europe to find a candy covered chocolate bean that is free from cochineal and gelatine which has resulted in the ever popular Dotty™ and Clowning Around cookies being able to gain Vegetarian Society approval. The gluten free range has also been approved by Coeliac UK and displays the Cross Grain Symbol.

Having tried a number of the cookies one of my favourites was the Lemon and Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookie it had a real zingy flavour.  There is no stinting on the size of the cookie either, they make the perfect mid morning or afternoon snack with a cup of tea. Which is great for when you're at work and have a case of the munchies like I did this week.  Watch out for their trademark  Dotty™ cookie, my niece made a beeline for this one as soon as she spotted it.  There are so many different varieties to choose from and I still have one or two more to try, there's time yet for my favourite to change!

There are 14 of the individual cookies to choose from, including 5 from their Gluten-Free range.  Every six months they release a seasonally inspired cookie, at the moment there is the Winter limited edition Dark Choc Orange Cookie.  

Byron Bay Cookies can be found in selected Sainsbury's and all good cafes, coffee shops and selected health food stores.  You can find out more on their website http://www.byronbaycookies.co.uk

I was sent a box of cookies from Byron Bay Cookies free of charge for the purposes of this review, the opinions expressed above are my own.

Giveaway Time

Now to the exciting part Byron Bay Cookies are offering two lucky readers of my blog the chance to win a mixed selection of Byron Bay Cookies. 

For a chance to win just follow the instructions below, there are lots of opportunity for extra entries too.
Giveaway will close midnight 31 October 2011.

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Afternoon Tea - October

There is nothing that I enjoy better than indulging in Afternoon Tea. Arriving at a nice swanky hotel, relaxing in a comfy chair whilst reading the extensive list of teas. Trying to decide, should I be tempted to try something a little different, maybe even exotic, or play it safe with a traditional tea.  Then there is the excitement of choosing which of the many cakes, scones or pastries to eat first. But wait I'm forgetting the sandwiches, well you do don't you.  You maybe eating them but your mind is already calculating just how much room will be left in your stomach for cake.  No? OK then, it's just me that does that!

My sisters pride and joy Chocolate Eclairs
But for someone who loves to bake, an afternoon tea at home is a perfect excuse to stop, sit, put your feet up and indulge in all things that are good - cake, cake and more cake.  That's why earlier this year my two sisters and my mum agreed to put dates in our dairies, to have our very own Afternoon Tea!

Cucumber Sandwiches
Chicken Sandwiches
Pistachio Biscuits
Fruit Cake
Chocolate Eclairs

Anyone for a sandwich

Nothing too fancy, depending on how much spare time we each had available we all contributed something.  My sister who was hosting the afternoon tea made Chocolate Eclairs.  I made the Pistachio Biscuits and my eldest sister made Fruit Cake, we also bought along the finger sandwiches. This put to good use the last of the cucumbers I had grown in the greenhouse this year. My mum as befitting of a mother was spoilt rotten by her daughters and did not have to lift a finger! 

There is nothing better than the chance to have a good natter without any distractions (such as my adorable five year old niece*), and of course enjoy a cup of tea in a lovely china cup and saucer.

*My niece will be most unhappy to know we dared to have tea and cakes whilst she was at school, it is only a matter of time until she discovers this blog!  

Pistachio Biscuits 

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Banoffee Pie - is it really baking?

So up until last week I had never eaten Banoffee Pie, I know I can hear you now "what never eaten Banoffee Pie, where has she been". I generally only like Banana in its fruit form not food that's made or flavoured with it. The only exception being Banana Loaf.  However, my uncle had made a special request for Banoffee Pie for his birthday and I volunteered to make it.  

Having looked at the recipe (I used the one on Nestle's Condensed Milk website), I decided that maybe it didn't seem so bad as it only had slices of the fruit in it.  Whenever I've seen Banoffee Pie in a shop or eating out somewhere its usually a goopy mess of banana slop.

no removable bottomed flan dish - diy job.

weigh it 
crush it - melt it
flatten it 
open a can - empty it
peel it - slice it
 I decided to only add the banana's and cream an hour before serving to avoid the goopy banana situation.  Now, what I want to know is does all this opening of packets and tins really qualify as baking.  Other than melting the butter, whipping and pipping the cream there are no skills required. 

Having said that who cares I've now found another banana recipe I like!  
whip it - grate it
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Cucumbers a mixed year

I wanted to share my gardening disaster with you.

I always seem to have great success with growing cucumbers, well at least for the first month or two and then disaster strikes in the form of Red Spider Mite.    I usually manage to get 4 or 5 cucumbers before the plants loose their fight, I spray water and try keeping the greenhouse damp as I don't like to use insecticide but to no avail.

Later in the season I sowed some Lemon Cucumber seeds, I've never grown these before but I thought why not how much of a disaster could they be.  Well true to form, the plant started well and looked healthy with lots of flowers and lovely green leaves but very few cucumbers appearing.   I did manage to get one cucumber of each of the two plants - whoopee!

Well here they are and don't they look pitiful, only the size of a tomato.  I won't be growing Lemon Cucumbers again, in fact next year I may not bother growing cucumbers at all.  I think we need some time apart!

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Chocolate Cake Recipe

I have a wonderful recipe for a lovely rich chocolate cake that I wanted to share with the world.

Cake Ingredients
140g / 5oz butter, softened
250g / 8oz caster sugar
11/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
55g / 2oz self-raising flour
165g / 5 1/2oz plain flour
3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
210ml / 7fl oz milk
60g / 2oz sifted cocoa powder

Butter Cream Ingredients
125g / 3oz unsalted butter, softened
250g / 6oz icing sugar
1 teaspoons boiling water
30g / 1oz sifted cocoa powder

For this recipe you will need either a 7in round or 6in square cake tin. Lightly grease and line your cake tin.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ 350 degrees F / Gas 4

Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each egg.  Fold in the combined flours, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder alternately with the milk.
Spoon into the cake tin, smooth and bake for 1 hour.   
Test the cake nearer the end of the cooking time, insert a skewer if it comes out clean the cakes done.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. 

Ensure the butter is soft, gradually add the icing sugar and cocoa powder and beat well, add the water and again beat well. 

Once the cake has cooled slice it in half and spread one half with the buttercream, if you want you can spread some jam on the other half, I chose Damson Jelly.

I wanted to cover my cake with sugar paste so I could decorate it for a family birthday. So I trimmed the cake top so it was nice and flat, and then covered the cake with the rest of the buttercream. If you are not going to cover your cake then you may want to half the measurements for the buttercream recipe. Or any left over buttercream can be stored in the freezer.
Next I rolled out some white sugar paste and covered the cake. I then cut out some triangles of coloured sugar paste and arranged them to create the bunting effect.
Ta da! Here is the finished cake decorated with a simple bunting style Happy Birthday message. I need to work on the consistency of my piped icing as it was a little runny, but you live and learn.
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