Thursday, 29 May 2008

TWD and Daring Bakers Apologies

Once again I have to admit defeat - So many things have happened this month to make it impossible to complete my baking missions - I am currently treading water to keep up with existing cake orders just as wedding season starts to hit alongside a perfectly timed 2 week school holiday. I do intend on catching up with the baking missions that I have missed but for now please take a look at some pretty amazing concoctions.

The daring Bakers this month made Opera Cake which was a completely new concept to me but look delish! Visit them at Daring Bakers Blogroll

Tuesdays with Dorie (which incidentally have been featured in the Wall Street Journal - how cool is that?) made Pecan Sticky Buns - although these look yummy - I know brioche making would have just sent me over the edge - Other far more organised, less traumatised bakers can be found at Tuesdays With Dorie

Thursday, 22 May 2008

A Genius

Aardvark Cakes have today entered a new era...a more modern one! Thanks to my wonderful friend, Cara of Freckles Photography, I now have a new title banner. I have mentioned Cara on earlier posts as her fabulous pictures perk up many of my creations.

The recipe for Sticky Ginger Delights is another example - These cupcakes were really simple to make, very quick and super tasty but I think it is the photo that sells them!?

Thanks again to a brill friend!


Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The end of a season - First Holy Communions

This is the last in a steady stream of First Holy Communion cakes that I have made this year - I think the season is now coming to an end. The season's run of cakes started with this and finished more traditionally.

I like it when a customer asks for something in particular so enjoyed making the chalice and wheat.

Not a book shaped cake in site this year - so glad I bought that tin last year! Hmmm!

TWD - Madeleine Flavoured Blobs!

Yes, I know they look nothing like traditional madeleines - I couldn't find a tin anywhere (not even TK Maxx and they normally come up trumps for everything!) But me being me couldn't leave the shop without buying at least one tin so voila! Madeleine flavoured blobs!

This week's choice of traditional madeleines (P167 Baking:From My Home to Yours) was from Tara from Smells Like Home. For once a recipe that doesn't yield enough for the street and doesn't cost a fortune (well, it wouldn't if I didn't buy a new tin every time I baked!)

Results - Tasty but not earth-shattering - they just tasted like the remnants of cake I cut off celebration cakes each week to level them.

Scores: I am on my own this week as they were so quick to make no-one is home from work/school yet - and I may eat them all before they get home!

Taste: 8 out of 10
Ingredients: 10 out of 10
Ease to prepare: 9 out of 10 (Only took 9 mins in the oven but had to do Dorie's signature chill in the fridge for 3 hours first!)

Recipe follows below - I used Self-raising flour and did away with the baking powder and salt.

Traditional Madeleines

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Working in a mixer bowl, or in a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the eggs to the bowl. Working with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale, thick, and light, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days. This long chill period will help the better form the hump that is characteristic of madeleines.

(For convenience, you can spoon the batter into the Madeleine molds, cover and refrigerate, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge; see below for instructions on prepping the pan.)

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds, or up to 36 mini madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Or, if you have a nonstick pan, give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. If you have a silicone pan, no prep is needed. Place the pan(s) on a baking sheet.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Don't worry about spreading the batter evenly, the oven's heat will take care of that. Bake large Madeleines for 11-13 minutes, and minis for 8-10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan(s) from the oven and release the madeleines from the mods by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature.

If you are making minis and have more batter, bake the next batch(Es), making certain that you cool, then properly prepare the pans before baking.

Just before serving, dust the madeleines with confectioner's sugar.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Word Verification

Just a quick one...I know they drive us all mad but does anyone ever get a rude word to spell? I've just been laughing my head off at one I had to input - unrepeatable!

TWD - A Florida Pie from Merseyside

Well, its Friday and I'm only just getting round to posting this Tuesday's recipe - Many Apologies! I'm not going to ramble on about various excuses as to why I am so late but I will say it is a miracle that the recipe got made at all considering the week it has been! I think it is only because I read some of the earliest posts about this recipe and how positive they were that I tried to give it a go at all. And was it worth it?...Yes!

This week's installment was chosen by Dianne from Dianne's Dishes:

I believe Key Lime Pie is pretty big in the US - not so much here but all the ingredients were pretty easy to get hold of - apart from graham crackers - what on earth are they? Tuesdays with Dorie blog to the rescue...I asked what to subsitiute them with and digestives was the reply - no probs I went!
I found the instructions easy to follow and they did what they said they should do - even the reduction which gives most bakers a bit of a quiver! I omitted the cocunut layer in the meringue (in my book you don't mess with meringue!) The added coconut wasn't needed - there was plenty in the rest. I thought the steps involving freezing were a bit unnecessary and cheated a bit as I wanted to eat it and it was 11.45pm on Tuesday! I may not post on time but I am sooo good at eating on time!
I made 12 little pies and a 6" round pie - which is still in the freezer (without the meringue!) I found that the lime flavour was better before all the freezing malarky and may put more lime juice in next time - yes, there will be a next time but prob without all the meringue.

Ingredients - 8 out of 10
Ease to prepare - 8 out of 10
Taste 9 out of 10

Comments - Husband loved it and even ate his evening meal quicker as he knew we had ' a nice pud!' Praise indeed! Well done Dorie!

I also have to make comment on my fabulous lime picture this week - regular readers may notice a drastic difference in my usual photography style! My good friend, Cara came on Saturday to take shots of another exciting project (more details to come later!) and performed miracles with some pretty ordinary looking limes - the things that girl can do with a camera! For more examples of her work, take a look

Florida Pie

1 9-inch graham cracker crust (page 235), fully baked and cooled, or a store-bought crust I used about 12 digestives and a lob of butter - sorry wasn't feeling very accurate!
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs, seperated
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh Key (or regular) lime juice (from about 5 regular limes) Go on try 6 limes - it'll be worth it!
1/4 cup of sugar

Getting Ready:Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment of a silicone mat. I used 12 muffin tins with no cases and a 6" round tin with a loose bottom.

Put the cream and 1 cup of the coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the lime filling.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl beat the egg yolks at high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the condensed milk. Still on low, add half of the lime juice. When it is incorporated, add the reaming juice, again mixing until it is blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the graham cracker crust, and pour over the lime filling.

Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.

To Finish the Pie with Meringue:
Put the 4 egg whites and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking all the while, until the whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the whites to a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer in a large bowl, and beat the whites at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining 1/2 cup coconut into the meringue.
Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, and run the pie under the broiler until the top of the meringue is golden brown. (Or, if you've got a blowtorch, you can use it to brown the meringue.) Return the pie to the freezer for another 30 minutes or for up to 3 hours before serving.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

TWD - I'm getting there!

Please bear with me - I may be a little late with my post this week...but it will get finished! Hx

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The Music Lover

My quest...? To design a cake for someone who likes singing, drama, playing the guitar and the piano. Hopefully I fulfilled the brief - I couldn't think of anything drama/role play related but I think everything else is covered. The cake was a 10" sponge and the model made from marzipan and flower paste. Verdict? - They loved it!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

TWD - Peanut Butter Torte

Peanut Butter Torte was the the choice this week for the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group - This selection was chosen by Elizabeth from Ugg Smell Food. The recipe can be found on her website - I'm not being lazy by not posting the recipe on my blog (well, perhaps I am!) but I think it is only fair that Elizabeth gets more traffic looking at her blog on her chosen week - Thanks for choosing, Elizabeth.

The picture for this in Dorie's book looks amazing - I really wanted to like this and to be blown away by the taste. I like peanuts and don't mind peanut butter so thought this might be a winner. From reading the many blogs that I enjoy, I find that peanut butter doesn't seem to be as popular here in the UK as it is in the US - I made some peanut butter cookies (recipe to be posted soon!) as few weeks ago and loved the subtle taste of the peanut, however the torte was nowhere near as subtle. I found the mousse really rich and couldn't manage more than 2 bites - The base was OK but just ok...I would much have prepared to just eat the Oreos dipped in a cup of coffee! I was so disillusioned with the recipe that I didn't bother covering the whole torte with the chocolate ganache - I just didn't want to waste any more cream.

Ingredients - 3 out of 10 - Not hard to find but it used loads of cream, peanuts, peanut butter, Oreo cookies

Ease of putting together - 9 out of 10 - The directions for the recipe were simple and it came together just as it should have - I couldn't see the point in putting extra salt in the base as there was loads of salt already in from the salted peanuts.

Taste: Only me I'm afraid this week - DH didn't want to try, DD1 wouldn't go near and DD2 is too young for peanuts so 2 out of 10 - I might like this better if it was in tiny balls instead of being overfaced with a huge torte - I also like other bloggers' ideas of freezing the torte and eating like ice-cream.

TWD - Bill's Big Carrot Cake - The Sequel!

A couple of weeks ago the Tuesdays with Dorie gang all set to and made a fabulous carrot cake recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From my home to yours...I too joined in with my fellow bakers and loved the recipe. This was quite timely as I had an order for a wedding cake that incorporated 3 tiers of carrot cake due in a fortnight. I had provided the couple with a sample cake but still was not quite sure about how successful my recipe would be...until I discovered Bill's Big Carrot Cake. The photograph shows the finished article with silk tulips - I have to admit this wasn't the easiest cake to get right and stack as carrot cake is not traditionally that neat and tidy but overall I am fairly pleased with the results. When I delivered the cake, the barn was being decorated with masses of bright tulips and the room looked fantstic. Each table was named after a mountain the couple had climbed together with the top table being named after the mountain where the groom proposed. The bride's Mum rang me yesterday to say thank you and how pleased she was with the cake. Phew!

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Liverpool Football Club Cake

This was a last minute order squeezed in last week for a LFC fanatic - I didn't get to meet the recipient but met his lovely girlfriend and little girl. I would have liked to put more detail on the actual shirt now I have seen the picture but had to go with the time I had (which was practically non-existent!). The little player was made from sugarpaste with marzipan skin and had a number 30 on his back. The board was made grass-like by pushing tin-foil into the soft sugarpaste and then pushing extra through a sieve and sticking around the edge of the cake.