Showing posts with label Cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cooking. Show all posts
There is no denying that this time of the year is definitely one for over indulging. Whether you're surrounded by mince pies at every turn or are haunted by the ghost of Christmas puddings past, the festive season is synonymous with lots of lovely sweet treats. Having said that, with lots of  food on offer, it can prove to be a bit of a testing time for your willpower and your waistband alike. Personally, I'm always on the lookout for some lovely alternatives to whisk up in the kitchen, and if the last couple of days have left you crying out for an alternative to brandy soaked everything, then I've got the perfect alternative: a Winter Fruit Pavlova.

I don't know about you, but around the festive season I tend to find that I (rather guiltily!) shun my daily fresh staples in favour of some more indulgent, opulent treats. Ferrero Rocher for breakfast? Well, it's Christmas after all! However, after a little while I find myself longing for a break from the chocolate- so when Fruitdrop challenged me to rustle up a recipe using some ingredients from one of their staple fruit boxes, I jumped at the opportunity. After musing long and hard about what to make, I settled on an old favourite, but adding something of a seasonal twist...

Winter Fruit Pavlova

Ingredients
3 egg whites, 175g caster sugar, 3 pears, 2 apples, 3 plums, cinnamon, 3 star anise, mixed spice,
3 tablespoons of light brown sugar, juice and rind of one orange, 2 sharon fruit,  pulped and strained,
250 ml double cream and water for poaching

Method
1) Begin by making the meringue base for your pavlova. Set the oven to 140 degrees fan before carefully separating your egg whites from the yolks. 
2) Whisk the egg whites for approximately thirty seconds, until they are quite foamy in appearance. 
3) Slowly sprinkle the sugar over the egg whites little by little. Make sure to briefly whisk the mixture after each addition of sugar. Keep going until all of the sugar is incorporated and the meringue mixture is stiff- you should be able to hold the bowl over your head without any drips!


4) Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and carefully spoon the meringue out. I tend to shape the mixture into a rough circle, but make sure to leave plenty of space around the edges of the tray to allow for any spreading during the cooking process.
5) Carefully pop your meringue into the oven, and bake for about an hour. I tend to find that my meringue looks fairly cooked after about 40 minutes or so, so I turn the oven down by about ten degrees at this point just to stop it from burning. 
6) Whilst the meringue is cooking, start preparing the fruit. Wash the pears, plums and apples and ensure that the apples and pears are thoroughly peeled in preparation for poaching. Fill a large pan of water and allow to simmer gently at a low heat.
7) As the water warms up, add the orange juice and rind, sugar, star anise, cinnamon and mixed spice individually- I tend to add a tablespoon or two of each spice, but obviously depending on your palette feel free to add as much or as little as you like! Stir everything together after each addition to make sure it's fully dissolved.
8) Once the water has reached a low boil, pop in the peeled apples and pears, stirring through gently. Almost allow the water to come to a complete boil before removing the mixture from the heat- at this point the fruit should be soft, but still hold its shape and not be too pulpy. Leave to sit and cool before carefully removing the fruit from the liquid.


9) When your meringue is completely cooked, leave to cool inside the oven as you turn it off- this helps to make sure it doesn't sink or crack too much when you come to assemble the final dish.
10) My Fruitdrop delivery included some sharon fruit, which I pulped down and sieved to make a sweet sauce to drizzle over the pavlova. If you want to do something similar, simply peel the fruit flesh away from the skin, mash up gently in a bowl using a fork and strain into a jug to remove any leftover pulp. Then pop into the fridge until you're ready to add your finishing touches.
11) Once the meringue is completely cooled, remove from the oven, carefully peeling away from the greaseproof paper. Begin to assemble your pavlova by placing it on a serving dish or your choice, before whipping the cream and carefully spreading on top of the meringue.
12) Next up, carefully slice the fruit, making sure that the poached apples and pairs have been drained. Whilst the poached fruit is quite soft and easy to chop through, the plums can be a little bit on the tricky side, so well worth using a sharp knife here- taking care to avoid any cuts!
13) Arrange your sliced fruit on top of the pavlova and decorate as you like.
14) Serve and enjoy!


Have you tried any alternative winter baking this Christmas? And do you like the idea of Fruitdrop?

*This post has been put together in collaboration with Fruitdrop. As always, my opinions and impressions are 100% honest- much like my undying love of dessert! 

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

27.12.2014- Adventures in Baking: Winter Fruit Pavlova

If you're a regular reader of these pages, you'll know that things started way back in 2009, the bits and pieces which I post about have evolved as time has progressed and I've grown up. However, posts about my adventures in baking have proven to be something of a regular fixture around these parts- and I'm relieved to say that since my first foray into making cupcakes back in the day, my skills in the kitchen have improved quite considerably. Whilst cupcakes are still a firm favourite in my baking repertoire, I've picked up some new recipes which have proved just as enjoyable to experiment with in the kitchen- including macarons and lots of festive bakes which have become real perennial favourites. However, for a fair few months or so now, I've been working on my biggest baking challenge to date- a wedding cake!!!

When my lovely college friend Katy told me she was getting married, it seemed like making her wedding cake would be the perfect present. We settled on something quite simple rather early on- a vintage inspired Victoria Sponge cake with tiered layers. Not only was this something which we were sure would be a guaranteed crowd pleaser, it was also a bake which would be easy to whip up in a comparatively short space of time- and which would be pretty hassle free to transport to Cambridge, where the ceremony was taking place. Whilst this was definitely one of my scariest (and biggest!) baking challenges to date, it was one which I enjoyed- so I thought it made sense to share the recipe and some top tips in case you're thinking of doing something similar, whether for a wedding or for another celebration. 

First thing is first- the recipe. I stuck to a Mary Berry classic as it is so straightforward and had worked really well when I practiced it. Obviously depending on how many separate layers you want to have, then the quantities are subject to change- I've listed the total ingredients I used for this three tier version in brackets: 

Ingredients: 
225g soft unsalted butter (675g total) , 225g caster sugar (675g total) , 225g self raising flour (675g total), 2 teaspoons baking powder (6 total) , 4 large eggs (12 total)

For the filling 
Apricot jam, buttercream and icing sugar to decorate.

Method
1) Set the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C/gas mark 4.
2) Prepare the tins by cutting out greaseproof paper circles, and placing inside each greased tin. Make sure to grease the sides of each tin well to avoid sticking.
3) Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs into a large mixing bowl, and beat using an electric mixer on slow speed. Mix until smooth and the mixture falls easily away from the whisk. (I made each layered sponge individually as it was so much easier to make sure the ingredients were well mixed. And I didn't have a bowl big enough to fit in everything all at once!)
4) Pour the mixture equally into each of the baking tins, ensuring that the surfaces are level for an even bake.
5) Bake for 20-30 minutes, until each sponge is golden brown and risen. It's a good idea to check the sponges about halfway through the baking process, just to make sure they are getting an even distribution of heat, moving around the oven if necessary.
6) Once cooked, carefully remove from the oven and cool in the baking tins. Once cool enough to handle with ease, remove from the tins and allow to cool on a rack.
7) Whilst the sponges are cooling down, begin to prepare the ingredients for the filling. Measure out the jam, and mix gently to smooth.
8) Next, prepare the buttercream. This can be quite a messy process, but is much easier if you fully soften the butter in a large mixing bowl to start. Then gradually sift in the icing sugar, mixing together with the butter as you go and adding a little drop of water if needed. In terms of quantities, I usually tend to this recipe as a guide, substituting the vanilla extract for water.
9) Once the sponges are completely cold, turn the bottom layer of each tier upside down and place onto a plate. Spread generously with jam and buttercream before placing the other layer on top (the right way up).
10) Repeat with each sponge, and then begin to build the tiered structure.
11) Sprinkle with icing sugar and decorate as you choose.
12) Serve and enjoy!


Top Tips
- Leave yourself plenty of time. There's nothing worse than rushing through a bake, and this is a challenge which requires optimum levels of baking zen. 
- Make sure you use good quality ingredients- you really can tell the difference when it comes to cooking the sponges.
- Invest in some good tins- I used the Silverwood Sandwich Pans and they really stood up to the task. 
- Do your maths- if you're making several tiers, it's worth sitting down with a pencil and paper and crunching some numbers- particularly in terms of the different diameters which you will be working with. 
- I stuck to the basic recipe for a standard sized sponge, which became the middle layer. I then made the smallest (top) layer, but as the pans were smaller I had some excess mixture, which I then used to bulk out the largest (bottom) layer.
- Get plenty of inspiration- check out my Baking board on Pinterest for a look at some of my research!
- Think about logistics- if you're transporting the cake to a venue, it's an idea to suss out how it's going to get there. I did the final assembly and decoration at the Reception to make sure it looked perfect on the day. 
- Make sure each sponge is stone cold before you attempt to move things- they are pretty fragile. Also it's well worth popping each individual layer in the fridge to help things set properly. 
- If you're decorating with fresh flowers, give them a good wash and dry beforehand!

Have you ever taken on a baking challenge like this?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

17.09.2014- Adventures in Baking: Naked Victoria Sponge Wedding Cake

After my last foray into sharing one of my favourite quick and easy meals with you, it seemed like high time to celebrate another simple foodie treat- Smashed Avocado on Toast. I discovered the humble avocado about a year or so ago, and was convinced that I really wouldn't get on with them- but here we are a little while later and I'm a definite convert. This easy, five minute meal is one of my most prepared as it's super simple, filling and healthy- it's a real favourite to make before I head out of the door to work, and is a perfect lazy weekend brunch option too:


To begin, pop a couple of slices of wholemeal toast under the grill or into the toaster. Next up, grab your avocado- now, depending on how much you like, I'd recommend halving it and popping one segment into the fridge to use later (they tend to keep for a few days or so). Take out the filling, removing the stone and pop into a bowl, mashing lightly with a fork. Next up, I tend to add a few things just to give it a little more flavour- a pinch of salt, some black pepper, a splash of vinegar and little spoonful of salad cream. This is purely a matter of personal taste, but I find that the avocado without any sort of dressing can be a little on the bland side, so adding a few extra ingredients really helps to boost the flavour. Mix everything together in the bowl, before taking your toast out from under the grill, plating up and spreading the avocado on top. Season with a little more black pepper to taste, or add another topping of your choice. 

And there you go- a super simple meal which can be ready in minutes and is pretty healthy too. I'm on the search for some more avocado recipes, so be sure to check out my food themed board on Pinterest for some ideas!

Are you a fan of avocado? What are your favourite easy meals?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

29.06.2014- Easy Eats: Smashed Avocado on Toast

As most of you are well aware, I'm something of a self confessed cake addict. I love baking almost as much as I love eating cake, and a little later on in the year I'll be taking on a corker of a culinary challenge when I make my friend's wedding cake! Whilst ideas for the finished product are still being refined (thank heaven for Pintrest!), I think we're opting for a traditional Victoria Sponge as the mainstay so have been brushing up on my baking quite a lot recently. The Victoria Sponge is a real kitchen classic, and it's one of my all time favourites too- so seemed like the perfect bake to share with you. This recipe comes from the baking goddess that is Mary Berry- and I've made a few alterations along the way too- replacing the traditional jam and cream sandwich filling with jam and buttercream to make it much longer lasting (practicality first!): 

Ingredients: 
225g soft unsalted butter, 225g caster sugar, 225g self raising flour, sifted, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 4 large eggs

For the filling 
Approximately 4 tablespoons of strawberry jam, 140g softened butter, 280 g icing sugar, a few splashes of water

Method
1) Set the oven to 180°C/fan 170°C/gas mark 4.
2) Prepare the baking tins by cutting two greaseproof paper circles, and placing inside each greased tin. Don't be afraid to be generous with the butter here- believe me, it makes it much easier when it comes to serving!
3) Add the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs into a large mixing bowl, then begin to beat using an electric mixer on slow speed. Mix until smooth and lump free.
4) Pour the mixture equally into each of the baking tins, ensuring that the surfaces are level for an even bake.
5) Pop the tins in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until each sponge is golden brown and risen. It's a good idea to check the sponges about halfway through the baking process, just to make sure they are getting an even distribution of heat, moving around the oven if necessary.
6) Once cooked, carefully remove from the oven and cool in the baking tins for a few minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack.
7) Whilst the sponges are cooling down, begin to prepare the ingredients for the filling. Measure out the jam, and mix gently to smooth.
8) Next, prepare the buttercream. This can be quite a messy process, but is much easier if you fully soften the butter in a large mixing bowl to start. Then gradually sift in the icing sugar, mixing together with the butter as you go and adding a little drop of water if needed.
9) Once the sponges are completely cold, turn the bottom layer upside down and place onto a plate. Spread generously with jam and buttercream before placing the other layer on top (the right way up).
10) Sprinkle with icing sugar to decorate and serve.


And there you have it- a really simple, traditional treat! This is such an easy cake to make as it uses the all in one method- minimal washing up required here too! Whenever I've tried it using other recipes in the past, I've ended up with quite an uneven finish, but couldn't be happier with the results of this attempt- not rushing it is key too!

Are you a fan of the Victoria Sponge?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

01.06.2014- Adventures in Baking: Victoria Sponge

As much as I adore baking, I've discovered that, alas, one can't live on cake alone. Having been feeling a little bit run down of late, recently I've been having an overhaul of my eating habits and after realising how much of my monthly income I waste on sandwiches at lunchtime, I'm determined to save myself a few pennies in the process. I always used to be a packed lunch fanatic so am determined to get back into my old habit of taking food to work with me, as well as filling up on nutritious goodies when I'm at home. I'm really no Masterchef in the kitchen, so have been trying some ultra quick and easy experimentation- and at the top of my list for a go-to healthy food fix is the humble poached egg on toast:


I was always under the illusion that poached eggs were notoriously tricky after watching an episode of Masterchef (can you tell I'm obsessed?!) where everyone tried and failed (rather spectacularly) to make Eggs Benedict. Call me a cheat if you like, but I'm all for the microwave method- so much quicker than standing in front of the stove and keeping one eye on your watch. Simply pop the kettle on and take it off the heat before it comes to the boil, and fill a microwave proof bowl about 2/3 full with simmering water. Add a few splashes of malt vinegar, and give it a little swirl just to make sure it's incorporated. Crack your eggs (I usually treat myself to two, free range if possible) into the water and pop a microwave proof lid onto the bowl- I usually find that a small plate works perfectly. Once in the microwave, cook on the 'slow cook/defrost' setting for two minutes, and pop some toast on too. After the two minutes, remove the eggs from the microwave, checking to see how they are cooking. The next step is purely a matter of personal taste- if you like a runny yolk, cook for another minute and a half or so, but if you'd like them a bit firmer another two minutes should do the job perfectly. Once cooked, remove from the water using a slotted spoon (the dish will be very hot- definitely make sure you use a tea towel!) and serve on the toast. Season with salt and cracked black pepper, as well as a cheeky dollop of tomato sauce if you fancy too. 

This is honestly one of my lunch/brunch staples, and literally takes minutes to prepare. It's hugely filling, and gives you the perfect injection of energy for the afternoon- in fact, when I cooked this last Monday it was all the fuel I needed to run nearly 8km that evening!

What are your simple kitchen favourites?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

11.05.2014- Easy Eats: Poached Egg on Toast

Last week I tried a new recipe from my lovely Hummingbird Bakery book, this time for double chocolate cookies. Whilst January usually ushers a period of resolution to get healthy/go to the gym more/eat less rubbish, my logic is that it's futile to even attempt this all the time the seemingly never-ending post-Christmas food mountain (largely consisting of Pringles, a box of mince pies which have to be eaten by the end of January and enough chocolate to give Willy Wonka a run for his money) is still to be demolished. So, for now at least, my resolution is to practice my baking!

Hummingbird Double Chocolate Cookies
Makes 12

Ingredients
50g unsalted butter
450g dark chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
170g light brown or muscavado sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
85g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder

To make the cookies:
1) Preheat the oven to 170 degrees, Gas Mark 3.
2) Melt the butter and half of the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until the mixture is smooth, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to let the base of the bowl touch the water, as this will cook the chocolate.
3) Mix the eggs, vanilla extract and sugar together using an electric mixer or handheld electric whisk until well combined. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate and butter and beat on slow speed until both mixtures are fully combined.
4) Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into another bowl and then add to the chocolate mix in three stages, making sure to mix well after each addition. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate with a wooden spoon until it is well dispersed throughout the cookie dough.
5) Taking a baking tray which has been pre-lined with greaseproof paper, arrange the cookie dough on the tray in even amounts, leaving room between each for spreading during the baking process. (I found this part the most tricky, so it might me an idea to have two pairs of hands here as the dough is quite hard to shape. But then again, it might be a case of practice makes perfect!) If necessary, use more than one lined baking tray to accommodate all of your cookies.
6) Bake the cookies in the oven for 15 minutes, checking them regularly after 10 minutes. They are ready to be taken out of the oven when their tops begin to crack and they appear glossy.
7) Leave the cookies to cool slightly before placing on a wire rack to cool totally. (It might be an idea to put some greaseproof paper under your wire rack just in case any of the melted chocolate seeps out and makes a mess here.)
8) Serve and enjoy, preferably with a steaming mug of hot chocolate!

Although my cookies resembled cow-pats more than the perfectly formed circles they were supposed to be, they still tasted amazing!

Have you ever tried baking cookies? And what are your favourite recipes?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

13.01.2011- C is for Cookie!

Last week, following my cupcake baking, I made some chocolate muffins from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. They turned out really well and tasted lovely!

Hummingbird Chocolate Muffins- makes 12.

Ingredients:
2 eggs
200g caster sugar
130g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
160ml whole milk
160g unsalted butter, melted
120g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

You can also include dark, milk or white chocolate chips in the mixture as you prefer, and you will also need a 12-hole muffin tray, lined with large paper muffin cases.


To make the muffins:
1) Preheat the over to 170 degrees, Gas Mark 3.
2) Put the eggs and sugar into a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment, or use an electric whisk. Beat the mixture until pale and well combined.
3) In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In another bowl (or measuring jug), combine the milk and vanilla extract. Gradually beat theses two mixtures alternately into the egg mixture little by little and beat until well incorporated.
4) Stir in the melted butter with a wooden spoon until well mixed, and add the chopped chocolate until evenly spread throughout the muffin mixture. If you're adding chocolate chips, then do this now.
5) Once all of the ingredients are fully incorporated, spoon the mixture into the muffin cases until they are two-thirds full and bake in a preheated oven for approximately half an hour, or until the sponge is springy.
6) When cooked, leave the muffins to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely before serving.

And there you have it! I found that my muffins tasted even better after a day or two as the chocolate flavour matures beautifully.



I also made some rocky road bars last week, so will share soon!

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

23.08.2010- More adventures in baking

Last week I made some more cupcakes from my cookbook, and again they were a success! Yay! So, as an excuse for me to post the photos I took, I though I'd share the recipe with you all. It's taken from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf, which, as I've mentioned before is a really brilliant, easy to follow book, great for novices and experienced cooks alike.

Hummingbird Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Icing- makes 12.

Ingredients
for the cakes:
120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1½ teaspoons of baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
120ml whole milk
1 egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
edible sprinkles to decorate

for the icing:
250g icing sugar
80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
25ml whole milk
a couple of drops of vanilla extract
a couple of drops of food colouring of your choice

You will also need a 12 hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases.

To make the cakes:
1) Preheat the oven to 170 degrees, Gas Mark 3.
2) Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or, like I do, use a handheld electric whisk) and mix on a slow speed until the mixture has a sandy texture and everything is combined. Slowly pour in half the milk and mix until it is just incorporated.
3) Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds and then add to the flour mixture. Keep mixing until just incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
4) Spoon the mixture into the paper cake cases until they are two thirds full, leaving room for the cakes to rise when they are cooking in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the sponge is light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched. When cooked, leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray when out of the oven before placing on a wire rack and allowing to cool completely.

To make the icing:
1) Beat the icing sugar and butter together with your electric mixer on a medium to slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
2) Turn the mixture down to a slow speed and then combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add this to the butter mixture a couple of teaspoons at a time.
3) Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixture up to high speed, add a few drops of food colouring and continue beating until the icing is light and fluffy, for at least five minutes.
4) Once the cakes have cooled completely, pipe or spoon the icing on top and decorate with hundreds and thousands. I use an icing syringe which I picked up from my local supermarket, which is really easy to use and comes with different attachments so you can change how thickly or thinly the icing is piped onto the cakes.

Then, fingers crossed, you should end up with some cakes that look a little bit like this:


This week, I'm hoping to try making some chocolate muffins, so will let you know how I get on.

What are your favourite things to make in the kitchen?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)

16.08.2010- The continuation of my culinary adventures....