Fariy Cakes

Delicious magazine (one of my monthly indulgences) have set up a ‘cook’s challenge.’ Each month, they’re choosing a specific recipe for their readers to cook and photograph. Seeing as I do a lot of cooking and a lot of photographing anyway, I thought I’d give it a go.

This month was cupcakes (see recipe lifted from the site below). The chef’s tip was to decorate with crystallised flowers…but if I’m ever clever enough to coax a plant to actually produce a flower, and not just shrivel and die (which is rare) then it seems a bit of a waste to pluck it and stick it on top of a cake. I thought of buying some specially, but that seemed a bit extravagant, so instead I made my own.

I took inspiration from the birthday cakes Mum made me when I was little. She’d mix together royal icing with half egg white and half water. Then she’d put greaseproof paper over a drawing in one of my picture books, pipe round the edges and fill it in . Once it’s dry (best left somewhere warm overnight – an airing cupboard or on top of the radiator is good) the icing shape can be lifted off the greaseproof paper, and painted with food colouring.

My 2nd birthday cake with royal icing farmyard animals

For the flowers, I piped a load of pansie shapes, then put them in a cooling (almost cold) oven.

I made a palette of food colours, and attempted to paint them like a little pansie – some are better than others.

Ingredients

1. 100g butter, softened
2. 100g caster sugar
3. 100g self raising flour
4. 2 eggs

For the icing

1. 100g icing sugar
2. 4 tsp water or lemon juice
3. Food colouring

Method

1. 1. Preheat the oven at 180c/fan160c/gas 4. Line a mini cake tin with paper cases. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat together until just smooth.

Divide between paper cases and bake in the centre of the oven for 12-15 minutes (or 20-25 minutes if larger cup cakes).

2. 2. Remove from the cake tin and leave to cool on a wire rack. Mix the icing sugar with water and colour with a few drops of your desired food colouring. Ice the tops of the cup cakes and decorate as you wish.

Chef’s tip

Flavour these cup cakes with a little lemon or orange rind, vanilla, lavender sugar (used in place of the caster sugar) or a little finely chopped rosemary. Then top with pink, white or lilac icing and decorate with any of the following: crystallised rose petals or violets, sugar flowers, blueberries and rosemary or lavender flowers.

PS For a SUPERB rant about the Death of the Cupcake (and rise of the fairy cake) click:
http://rosecottage-rosie.blogspot.com/2011/05/death-of-cupcake.html

Broccoli and cheese souffle with warm tomato salad

Who knew 3 eggs, a head of broccoli and some stinky, old Lincolnshire Poacher could be so delicious?

I come from a family who happily scoop a bit of mold out of the yogurt, or pick out the furry green bits from for a slice of bread.

Sell by dates don’t usually bother me…. 

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Profiteroles

Generally speaking, homemade food beats convenience food hands down.

When I decided that I was going to make profiteroles, my mind did flick to the pudding isle in the local Sainsburys where you can buy a heap of them for a couple of pounds though. It does make you wonder whether it’s worth the amount of time and the cost of ingredients of doing it yourself sometimes…

Having made these little beauties, I can confirm that it definitely is. No question about it.

Firstly, the cost of the ingredients for profiteroles really doesn’t amount to much. Apart from the cream and chocolate, the rest can just be pilfered from your store cupboard.

Secondly, the pastry is light and crisp and delicious. The last few times I’ve eaten profiteroles, they’ve been stodgy little parcels at an Italian restaurant, or heavy supermarket profiteroles which have been filled with cream and kept in industrial refrigerators for a bit too long.

Try out the recipe below, and become reacquainted with what a profiterole really should be.

Ingredients

Choux pastry
200 ml cold water
½ tsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
85g butter
115g plain flour
4 beaten eggs

For the filling
600 ml double cream

For the chocolate sauce
200g plain chocolate

Before you do anything, turn the oven up to 200°c. It’s really important to make sure that the oven is already up to temperature so that the profiteroles get a short, sharp blast of heat and rise properly.

Now start on the choux pastry by heating up the butter, water and sugar to the point where it’s just started simmering gently.

Take it off the heat, and dump in all the flour in one go. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon so that the mixture turns into a paste and starts coming away from the sides of a bowl.

Take the pastry out of the pan and put it in a mixing bowl for 10 or 15 minutes until it has cooled down.

Stir in one beaten egg at a time until the pastry has a “dropping consistency.” The pastry should be smooth and shiny at this point – it shouldn’t exactly drip off a spoon by itself, but if you flick it then it should.

Oil a baking tray (or if you’re lazy/lucky like me than get a silpat!) Put a heaped teaspoonful of mixture in little dollops at 2 inch intervals on the tray, and pop them in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Do NOT open the oven door while they’re cooking – no matter how tempting it is to inspect your little babies, it’s important that you restrain yourself! By the end of the cooking, the pastries should be golden brown (not golden – if they’re just golden, not golden brown then they have the tendency to go a bit soggy.)

Prick little holes in the bottom of the profiteroles and leave them to cool down. In the meantime, whip up the cream (add a heaped tablespoon of icing sugar or caster sugar to make it a tiny bit sweeter.)

If you have a piping bag at hand – congratulations, you are clearly an accomplished and well-equipped chef. If, like me, you don’t have a piping bag, then improvise. I found a freezer bag which worked well enough when I cut off the end!

Squirt the cream into the profiteroles through the hole cut in the bottom.

Finally drizzle or dip the profiteroles in the melted chocolate. Enjoy!