Friday, 30 December 2011
I hope you have all had a wonderfully festive Christmas! I refuse to let Christmas end until the full 12 days are up and so I am enjoying a little time off before I'm back to work on the 3rd, ready to start a brand new year of baking!
This gorgeous biscotti recipe is from one of my new cookbooks Tea with Bea - Recipes from Bea's of Bloomsbury. The book itself is beautiful, each recipe is accompanied by a stunning photograph and out of all my new Christmas cookbooks this is one of the best books for home bakers.
There is no shortage of recipes I can't wait to try, Doughnut Muffins, Sea Salt Caramels, Espresso Bourbon Cake and Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cheesecake just to name a few.
This biscotti is gorgeous, so packed full of flavour and although crisp and crumbly as biscotti should be you won't have to worry about breaking your teeth on it!
I didn't have too many issues whilst making my biscotti, although I didn't do the best job of encasing the peanut butter in the biscotti dough and had little bits poking out. Also the biscotti was crumbling and cracking quite a lot as I sliced it, this could be for a number of reasons:
1) The biscotti dough may have been a too dry, not enough liquid added.
2) I may have over baked the biscotti on the first baking. Recipe recommends baking the biscotti log for 25-40 minutes, I baked for around 35 minutes, I may reduce this a little.
3) The cracking problem could also be the length of time the biscotti is left to cool before slicing (after the first bake) the recipe recommends 30 minutes but I think 15 minutes cooling may be sufficient.
I will play around and make some changes next time, a few crumbled biscotti is par for the course but out of 30 around 10 of my biscotti cracked whilst cutting. I was worried the biscotti was over baked but it did not seem to be, I hear this cracking tends happens most often with chocolate biscotti.
Update: The lovely Bea has was kind enough to comment on this post with tips for cutting the Biscotti.
'So glad you liked the book! I realized I forgot to put a step in the book. What I do when cutting is with a serrated knife, you sharply cut downward, with the tip of the knife on the board like a pivot (Imagine a paper cutter that you swing the handle down). Sawing like a serrated knife doesn't work because of the way the biscotti expands with the crack on the top of the log and the texture which you want to keep. Adding more moisture will result in a kind of limp crumb/bready bite to it even after twice baked. So glad you like the book! I will mark this for future reprints! Sincerely Bea'.
Although I did try using a serrated knife, I did not use Bea's technique so I will certainly try this next time. I can't thank Bea enough for taking the time to comment on the post and give us tips on Biscotti cutting! Such a star!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Biscotti
Recipe adapted from - Tea with Bea
Makes around 30
300g / 2 cups plain/all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
40g / 2 tbsp natural cocoa powder
100g / 1/2 cup light brown soft sugar
40g / 2 tbsp golden syrup
- (you can probably substitute this for corn syrup if you're in the U.S.)
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 medium eggs
2 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
80g / 2/3 cup shelled whole peanuts (unsalted or honey roasted)
80g / 3 oz. high quality dark/semi sweet chocolate, chopped into pea-sized pieces
caster/superfine sugar, for sprinkling
70g / 1/2 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
baking sheet lined with parchment paper
Sift together the flour, baking powder salt and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and mix until well combined. Set aside.
In a new, medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the golden syrup, oil, eggs, water and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture until just combined and no trace of flour remains.
Add the peanuts and chocolate and mix until evenly distributed.
Bring the dough together in a ball, wrap in clingfilm/plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour before proceeding.
Preheat the oven to 145 C (290 C) Gas 3.
Lay a large sheet of parchment paper onto a clear work surface and sprinkle liberally with caster sugar. Transfer the dough to the sugar sprinkled surface and flatten roughly with your hands. Dot spoonfuls of peanut butter all over the dough and lightly roll the dough into a log about 6cm / 2 1/2 inches wide and 2cm / 1 inch high, it will spread whilst baking. Try to encase the peanut butter inside the log, as it can burn if exposed to direct heat in the oven.
Place the log on the prepared baking sheet (you may have to cut it in half) and bake it in the preheated oven for 25-40 minutes until the top is completely hardened, and when tapped, feels sturdy and not squishy inside. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes (I may reduce this to 15 minutes, see my notes above).
Turn the oven temperature down to 135 C (265 F) Gas 2.
Slice the cooled log, diagonally, into 1-cm / 1/2 inch wide batons.
Lay all the batons flat on the same baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until nice and dry, turn all the biscotti over bake for another 10-15 on that side.
Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute.
Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.
The biscotti will keep for up to 1 month.
x x x◦
Thursday, 22 December 2011
I decided to decorate them all differently, the first I simply decorated with sugar Holly and Berries, the one above I scattered with chopped hazelnuts and decorated with little toadstools. Below is probably my favourite little log, I added a branch to the top of the log rather than the side and sat an adorable little snow man on top.
That's enough about my Mini Yule Logs though, lets talk Chocolate & Hazelnut Snowballs.
These delicious little rice krispie treats could not be easier to make and I guarantee they will go down a storm with adults and children alike.
Chocolate & Hazelnut Snowballs
(Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine)
1/2 cup icing sugar
3/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
1 cup crisp rice cereal
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
Sift the icing sugar onto a plate and set aside.
Mix together all the remaining ingredients by hand until well combined.
Shape the mixture into balls.
Do not try and squish or roll the mixture into balls, this will not work and makes a terrible mess, rather, gently pat the mixture into a roughly spherical shape.
Transfer to the prepared plate of icing sugar. Gently roll the ball in the icing sugar to coat and set aside on a sheet of greaseproof paper to set.
There you have it delicious chocolatey, nutty snowballs.
I probably won't be posting again until after Christmas so a huge Merry Christmas to you all. I hope you all have a wonderful time with your friends and family.
Enjoy it and try not to stress out!
Friday, 16 December 2011
This gorgeous Bûche de Noël or Chocolate Yule Log is by far my favourite home-bake of the Christmas season, so far at least. Not only does the finished log look absolutely beautiful but it tastes like a dream!
I have decided that I personally would much rather have one of these as the centerpiece of my Christmas dessert table than a traditional Christmas cake and I'm sure most of my family would agree. The flour-less sponge is beautifully light and the buttercream is just wonderful.
Mr. P. called the cake epic and I have been running around delivering little bits of chocolate log to friends and family, all of them have raved about it.
I love this recipe so much I think I'm going to make a few mini chocolate logs before Christmas!
Don't feel daunted by the rolling of the cake and decorating, it really is actually pretty easy, I was so pleased with my roll, not a single crack!
Don't worry if your cake does crack a little, the icing will cover all sorts of little issues. The bark effect is a breeze, trust me and you will have so much fun making and decorating this cake.
Bûche de Noël or Chocolate Yule Log
Recipe adapted from Nigella's Christmas
For the chocolate yule log:
6 eggs (separated)
150 g caster sugar
50 g cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the chocolate buttercream:
175 g dark chocolate
250 g icing sugar
250 g icing sugar
225 unsalted butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Line a Swiss roll tin or shallow baking tin with baking parchment.
Preheat the oven to 180° C
In a medium bowl whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, still whisking gradually add 50g of caster sugar, continue to whisk until the peaks are stiff but not dry. Set aside
In a separate larger bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 100g of caster sugar until they are thick, light and airy and pale in colour.
Add the vanilla extract and sieve the cocoa powder onto the yolk mixture, gently fold them in. Add a dollop or two of egg white to the yolk mixture to lighten it and gently fold to combine. Gradually, and gently, fold in the rest of the egg whites.
Pour the mix into the prepared Swiss roll tin or shallow baking tin. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow the cake to cool a little before turning out onto a clean sheet of baking parchment. Trim the edges of the cake with a sharp knife.
To make the chocolate buttercream:
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of barely simmering water, remove from the heat and set the bowl aside to cool.
In a large bowl cream together the butter and icing sugar for around 3 minutes. Add the chocolate and vanilla extract to the buttercream and beat for a further 2 minutes.
Spread the cooled cake with a thin layer of chocolate buttercream.
With the long side of the cake facing you, gently roll the cake away from you, the the baking parchment to help you curl the end under and put pressure on the log as you roll it, this will help insure a tight roll. Don't worry if the sponge cracks a little, the buttercream will hide a multitude of sins.
Cut the ends at an angle, and save the pieces you have removed to create a branch or two later.
Cover the yule log with the chocolate buttercream, using a palette knife or the back of a spoon to create a rough finish. Place the pieces of cake you removed earlier on the side of the log to create branches and ice these with buttercream in the same way.
Use a wooden skewer or similar instrument to mark lines in the buttercream, creating the bark pattern, don't forget the wriggly round markings at the end of the log.
How you decorate is up to you, I kept my log pretty traditional with sugar mushrooms and a dusting of snowy icing sugar. I even added a little dusting of cocoa powder to the board and mushrooms to add to the woodland effect. You could add little sugar Holly leaves, Christmas bows, little woodland creatures, a little gingerbread house and a few white chocolate decorations would look gorgeous too.
I have been busy making loads of gorgeous edible Christmas gifts that I cannot wait to post but I might have to wait until after Christmas for fear the lucky recipients might see something they shouldn't
. I hope you're all enjoying the lead up to Christmas, have a brilliant weekend. x
Saturday, 10 December 2011
The tree is up, the lights are twinkling and the Christmas baking is well underway. With the big day just around the corner I thought I'd better do a massive, hopefully highly inspirational Christmas baking post for you all to get you in the mood.
It is going to be a big one, with lots of ideas, both old and new, so grab a cuppa and enjoy!
Christmas Cookie Tree Decorations
I made these adorable cookie decorations for a fabulous event recently, I also made a few extra to decorate my tree.
For these I have made these cookies in Chocolate (above) and Gingerbread (below), all the decorations are handmade using sugar paste icing.
I love Santa!
I also painted some of the cookies with an edible glitter glaze for added magic.
These are so cute and easier to make than you may think, you just need to make yourself a few little templates, the pain is cutting the shapes out of gingerbread, it takes ages!
The result is well worth it though, I didn't get precious with the decorating, opting for a messy look with crushed candy canes and chopped toffee to top.
Gingerbread Melting Snowmen
I also love love love these melting snowman gingerbread cookies....
Too cute for words and again pretty easy to make, just make a wiggly template in your desired cookies size and cut the shapes out of your rolled gingerbread cookie dough.
Once baked and cooled, ice using either fondant or royal icing (if using fondant use the same template you used for the cookies). Add arms and buttons in black fondant or piped royal icing, a ball of white fondant for the head, not forgetting the carrot nose and coal eyes of course.
I think they are so effective and kids, including grown up ones like my hubby will love them.
....these awesome Peanut Butter Cookies or one of my Christmas favourites gorgeous Forgotten Cookies.
There is something so magical about putting dollops meringue in the oven, turning it off and leaving them overnight, to come back to glorious snowy white meringue cookies in the morning.
For me Christmas wouldn't be complete without cupcakes, to decorate I like to keep things pretty traditional, with lots of candy canes, Christmas trees, Santa hats, Christmas puddings and of course Christmas sprinkles.
However you decorate your cupcakes here are a few recipes I think will go down a treat:
All of these cupcake recipes are seriously delicious and not too heavy after a huge Christmas dinner.
Mini Cupcakes are also a great idea, especially if you have a lot of people coming over.
Almost all cupcake recipes can be made into mini cupcakes. Mini cupcake pans hold around a third of the amount of batter as regular cupcake pans, so if you have a recipe that yields 12 full sized cupcakes, you’ll get around 36 mini cupcakes from that batter.
This Christmas I will mainly be making My Favourite Ferrero Rocher Macarons...
...and Yummy Mince Pie Macarons.
Chocolate Macarons are a good choice, they are always a winner and you can decorate them to look like Christmas puddings using just a little melted white chocolate and fondant Holly leaves and berries.
I also recommend trying these yummy Chocolate Orange Macarons
I'm making one of these Spruced-Up Vanilla Cakes to slice and toast for breakfast on Christmas morning, seriously yummy!
Speaking of breakfast, I like to start the day as I mean to go on and with that in mind why not try some of these glorious breakfast teats:
You can also try White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Truffles & Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles both are wonderful.
Instead of dusting the truffles with cocoa powder, icing sugar or rolling in crushed nuts, you can also dip the truffles in melted chocolate.
Honourable mentions must go to the following recipes:
Sweet & Salty Crunch Nut Bars - These went down a storm at my house last Christmas.
Apricot Peach- & Vanilla Jam - which would make a wonderful Christmas gift, as would A gorgeous jar of Vanilla Sugar or some little jars of Homemade Spice Blends.
I will leave it there for now but stay tuned because I will of course have more Christmas baking ideas coming up very soon. I have Peach Pomegranate & Vanilla Bean Vodka steeping in the kitchen as I type. x
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
I have put the Nordic Ware Holiday Bundt Tree Pan on my Christmas list for three years in a row and still year after year nobody got it for me! I understand that people feel that giving me a cake tin would be a bit like giving a child a dictionary for Christmas but the truth is I really only dream of cake related goods.
Finally this year after realising that once again I was almost certain not to get the much coveted Christmas tree bunt pan I decided to buy it for myself. I knew exactly what recipe I was planning to use too, Nigella's Spruced-Up Vanilla Cake.
The cake is exactly as the tile suggests and is spruced-up not only in appearance but also in taste and texture. The cake is unbelievably rich, dense and eggy. It is lovely but I personally tend to prefer a lighter cake, my mum on the other hand would knock me sideways to get at this bad boy.
The day after making this cake I toasted a slice as suggested by Nigella and oh my God!!!!
Heaven is a slice of Spruced-Up Vanilla Cake toasted! I will now definitely be making another one of these to slice up and toast for Christmas breakfast, well you may as well start as you mean to go on.
Nigella's Spruced-Up Vanilla Cake
Recipe adapted from Nigella's Christmas
225g/8oz soft butter, plus extra for greasing
300g/10½oz caster sugar
6 large free-range eggs
350g/10½oz plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml/9oz low-fat natural yoghurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1-2 tbsp icing sugar, to taste
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Place a baking tray into the oven to heat.
Grease a 2.5 litre/4 pint 8fl oz bundt tin (fir tree-shaped, if possible) very liberally with butter or spray with a non-stick baking spray such as Wilton Bake Non-Stick Spray.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer or wooden spoon until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking each one in with a tablespoon of the flour. Carefully fold in the remaining flour using a large metal spoon, then fold in the yoghurt and vanilla extract until well combined.
.Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and spread until level. Knock the base of the tin against the counter a few times to knock out any air bubbles and place the tin on the preheated baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until well risen and golden-brown. After 45 minutes, push a metal skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.
Remove the cake from the oven and place onto a wire rack, without removing it from the tin. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.
Gently pull away the edges of the cake from the tin with your fingers, then carefully turn out the cake onto the wire rack. Leave to cool completely.
Once cool, sieve the icing sugar over the cake and serve.
It is definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas at my house.
x x x
When The Countess of Brighton & Hackney called the bakery and asked us to cater for her up-coming Christmas Tea Party, we couldn't believe our luck!
Baking for royalty?! Yes please!
The Countess of Brighton & Hackney is a much loved local celebrity and she had decided it was high time she reward all her loyal subjects with a party and of course the honour of her company for an afternoon.
The lovely Countess
I made all-sorts of goodies for the Countess and her guests to enjoy and admire.
The gorgeous venue H Bar in Hove was adorned with Gingerbread Cookie decorations...
...and I used candy flavourings to coat the entrance so guests were immediately greeted by a glorious sweet smell.
I made both Ferrero Rocher and Mince Pie Macarons for the event.
Even the cake stands were suitably dressed for Christmas, with little Santa hats on top...
...and I scattered sugar snowflakes and sweets across all the tables.
All the cupcakes were Christmas themed, with Christmas sprinkles, bows, bears, Santa hats, Christmas puddings, you name it the Countess had it.
I made Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache & Chocolate Cupcakes with Hazelnut Ganache.
The Countess and her adoring public had a fantastic time at her party and absolutely adored all the cakes and bakes. Which I was very thankful for since I have heard that if you upset the Countess you make get beheaded! Or even worse dumped in slurry!
I have some more detailed pictures of the cupcakes and cookie decorations but I will post those separately. I may even save them for the mega Christmas Baking post I'm planning...
x x x
Saturday, 3 December 2011
I am so glad it is finally December and I can break out all the Christmas bakes! I have been think about these Mince Pie Macarons since September when I first got my hands on some Buttery Sweet Dough flavouring. The ability to make a macaron taste like sweet pastry was just to exciting to bare quite frankly.
Mince Pies are the epitome of Christmas for me, hubby and I both love them and look forward to them every year. I also love a variation on the traditional mince pie and these macarons are no exception they taste so much like a mince pie, even a mince pie itself wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
I am adding these gorgeous macarons to this months Mac Tweets, I love a seasonal Mac Attack and I have sadly missed a few lately so I'm glad to be back to it.
These Macarons are really simple, the shells are of course flavoured with Buttery Sweet Dough emulsion (which you can source from NY Cake) and mixed spice.
The filling is a very simple buttercream with glorious Mincemeat stirred through, you can use any type of mincemeat you like sore bought or home made will both be great.
Mince Pie Macarons
170g icing sugar
160g ground almonds
1/2 tsp mixed spice
4 medium egg whites, separated into two equal batches
160g vanilla sugar or caster sugar
1 tsp Buttery Sweet Dough flavouring emulsion (optional)
For the filling:
50g butter, softened
100g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp icing sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
To Make The Macarons:
Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sieve together the icing sugar, ground almonds & mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Add the first batch of egg whites (unbeaten) and mix to form a thick paste. Set aside.
Tip the second batch of egg whites into a heatproof bowl and have an electric whisk at the ready. Place 50ml water and the caster sugar into a small saucepan on a medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook until the syrup registers 110C, using a sugar thermometer, at which time start beating the egg whites on a high speed. Once the syrup has reached 118C pour it slowly down the side of the mixer bowl, avoiding the whisk. Add the flavouring emulsion if using and continue to whisk on high until the mixture has cooled slightly and you have a shiny peaked meringue mixture - the bowl should no longer be hot to the touch, but still warm.
Tip the meringue onto the almond mixture and gently fold together. It is important not to over-mix the batter - it should fall in a thick ribbon from the spatula. The ribbon should fade back into the batter within about 30 seconds - if it does not, fold a few more times.
Heat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/ gas 3-4. Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Pipe rounds onto the prepared baking sheets, knock the air out of the macarons by giving the bottom of the tray a whack on the kitchen counter and leave to rest for 30 minutes on the, or until the macarons have developed a skin.
Bake the macarons for 14 minutes. Once out of the oven immediately slide the parchment onto a work surface and cool for a few minutes before gently peeling off the paper.
Pair up your macaron shells.
To Make The Filling:
Beat the butter with an electric mixer until significantly whiter in colour around 1-2 minutes.
Sift the icing sugar and gradually add half to the butter, continuing to beat the entire time, add the milk and finally the remaining icing sugar. Beat the mixture for a further 3 minutes.
Stir in the mincemeat using a rubber spatula.
Spoon a teaspoon of filling onto the flat side of one macaron in each pair and sandwich the two shells together.
Sieve the icing sugar and cinnamon together.
Pile the macarons high on a cake stand or serving plate and sieve the cinnamon sugar mixture over the plate of macarons to dust.
I cannot wait to fill the house with the smells and sounds of Christmas!
I have been so busy at the bakery, where it has been pretty darn Christmasy, that I'm a little behind at home this year but we are getting our tree tomorrow and I cannot wait!
I'm making lots of foodie gifts for people this year and I really looking forward to putting on the Christmas music and getting the goodies underway, the best bit of Christmas is definitely the baking.
x x x