Star Wars matcha biscuits

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Kitchen gadgets with tags , , , , , , on 12/08/2012 by libbyplummer

Star Wars matcha biscuitsAs a sort of trial run for Bake & Destroy’s Sugar Slam III, I had a stab at knocking up a  batch of easy biscuits that required no icing with the help of my latest batch of Star Wars cookie cutters from Williams-Sonoma.

Star Wars cookie cutters

Apart from visiting family, the highlights of my regular(ish) visits to the US are the gluttonous American-sized portions of food, the history (on my last trip alone I saw a space shuttle, John Glenn’s Mercury Programme space suit and visited homes of George Washington and Edgar Allan Poe!) and the fact that we get to casually drive past the Pentagon every day.

And I get to pick up a paper version of The Onion to read in the airport bar on the way home.

And, of course, there’s the chance to stock up on baking paraphernalia at kitchen shop Williams-Sonoma. A tad overpriced it may be, but anywhere that stocks a sizeable collection of Star Wars-themed baking kit is alright in my book.

I’ve previously only made Star Wars shortbread with my embarrassingly extensive collection of Star Wars cutters, so it was time for a change – courtesy of a bag of matcha (green tea) powder that I bought on a recent trip to Japan.

Star Wars matcha biscuits

I’ll save the recipe until it’s perfected…

SugarSlam III: Batter Royal

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Cakes, Events with tags , , , , , , on 15/07/2012 by libbyplummer

SugarSlam III flyerPunk rock baking blogger Natalie is once again running the wrestling-themed SugarSlam bake-off over at Bake & Destroy and the good news is that the deadline for entries has been extended to 15 August 2012 so this blog  post isn’t quite as last-minute as I’d feared. Huzzah!

The lucky winner will be awarded the coveted SugarSlam World Championship belt along with a host of other prizes and there’s also a top prize stash in store for the People’s Champion.

Check out the official SugarSlam rules over at Bake & Destroy and take a gander at the SugarSlam 2011 entries here (including my Kendo Nagasaki cake pops).

Elizabeth Sponge cupcakes for the Diamond Jubilee

Posted in Baking, Cakes, English food, Events with tags , , , , , , on 03/06/2012 by libbyplummer

Elizabeth Sponge cupcakes for the Diamond JubileeWe’ve got a four-day weekend here in the UK to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee – that is, 60 years since the young princess ascended the throne.

With street parties, barbecues and flags all in place, celebratory cakes will also be high on the list of priorities for many Brits (along with copious amounts of alcohol, in the guise of celebrating our Queen’s lengthy rule).

Elizabeth Sponge is simply a variation on the classic Victoria Sponge, named after our reigning monarch (and myself, of course). These cupcakes include a hidden layer of strawberry in the centre, along with red, white and blue striped icing.

I’ll be honest – the fancy icing is a little fiddly (never before have you heard such bad language directed at an icing bag) but I think it’s worth the effort.

Elizabeth Sponge cupcakes for the Diamond Jubilee

Of course these wouldn’t fit the London Baking theme without some sort of tenuous punk connection, like the Anarchy in the UK cupcakes that I made for the royal wedding last year.

That’s why the flags are adorned with circled As (grrr, anarchic baked goods!) and the God Save the Queen slogan that the Sex Pistols used for their controversial hit single that was released to conincide with the Silver Jubilee in 1977.

God Save the Queen Sex Pistols

I’ll leave you with the recipe below. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Putney to celebrate the Jubilee (by which I mean ‘spend all day in the pub’).

What you’ll need:
110g/4oz self-raising flour (sieved)
110g/4oz caster sugar (sieved)
110g/4oz margarine
1tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
Seedless strawberry jam

For the buttercream icing:
340g/12oz icing (confectioner’s) sugar (sieved)
150g/5.25oz softened unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Red and blue paste food colouring ( I used Sugarflair Christmas Red and Navy Blue)
Icing whitener ( I used Wilton)
Disposable icing bags

Makes 12 cupcakes

Elizabeth Sponge cupcakes for the Diamond Jubilee

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases (Union Jack ones, if you can find ’em). Chuck the sifted flour, sugar, margarine and baking powder into a bowl and cream together with a fork. Next add the two eggs, mixing after adding each one, then add the vanilla extract. One it’s all mixed together, give it a quick whisk so that it’s light and fluffy.

Divide the mixture evenly between the 12 cupcakes cases and  in the oven for 20 minutes (or until slightly golden brown and firm but springy to touch). After removing from the the oven, let the cupcakes cool in the baking tray for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Elizabeth Sponge cupcakes for the Diamond Jubilee

Once they’re completely cool, you’ll need to cut out a chunk from each cake to add in the jam. Carefully score a circle around the top of the cake with a sharp nice, then retrace the circle with the knife at an angle so that you cut out a section (in a vaguely conical shape). Use a teaspoon to dollop a tiny blob of jam in the crater, then replace the ‘lid’.

Elizabeth Sponge Cupcakes for the Diamond Jubilee

Next up – the icing. Sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and cream in the butter using a fork. Once it’s all mixed in and smooth, divide the icing into three bowls.

Colour one red, using paste colouring (apply sparingly with a cocktail stick and work in with a fork until you get the colour you want). Do the same with the blue colouring and if you want, add a few drops of icing whitener to the third bowl.

Now comes the tricky bit. You’ll need four disposable icing bags. Half fill three bags with the three different colours (you can always add more as you go along). Next snip the end of the fourth bag so that a large star nozzle fits comfortably.

Striped icing

Next, snip the ends from the other three bags and put them all inside the fourth, making sure that the tips all fit inside the nozzle (this is the bit that takes time, patience and, potentially, a lot of swearing). Once in place, you can ice away as usual.

Leveson Inquiry cake pops

Posted in Baking, Cakes, English food with tags , , , on 28/05/2012 by libbyplummer

Leveson cake popsUnless you’ve been living on the moon (or simply in another country, where the state of the British tabloid press is not high on your list of priorities) you’ll know all about the Leveson Inquiry.

If you haven’t heard, it’s a public inquiry into the ethics and practices of the British press led by Lord Justice Leveson and fueled by the News International Phone Hacking Scandal, which led to the closure of the News of the World.

What the deuce has this got to do with baking? Well, Miss Insomnia Tulip has taken it upon herself to concoct a range of Leveson Inquiry cake pops. As you do.

Leveson cake pops

The selection includes likenesses of British Prime Minister David Cameron, ex News International chief exec Rebekah Brooks and antipodean media mogul Rupert Murdoch. My favourite has to be Grand Inquisitor (not his actual job title) from the News of the World committee hearing, MP Tom Watson…

Leveson cake pops

You can check out the full range of cake pops over at Miss Insomnia Tulip’s Flickr page.

Via: Miss Cakehead/Eat Your Heart Out

Ma’amite to toast the Queen’s Jubilee

Posted in English food, Gifts, Savoury with tags , , , , on 07/05/2012 by libbyplummer

Ma'amite Marmite for the Diamond JubileeMarmite is toasting the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a suitably patriotic version of its yeast-based toast topper and British breakfast staple.

Known as Ma’amite (the joke really only works in an English accent), the jar sports the red, white and blue of the Union Jack, rather than the familiar yellow and red.

I’ve bought myself a jar from Sainsbury’s already to sit alongside my, er, collection of special Marmite jars that includes a black and white Guinness-flavoured version that the company brought out for St Patrick’s Day a few years back….

Sainsbury’s launches baking website with Dan Lepard

Posted in Baking with tags , , , , , , , on 15/04/2012 by libbyplummer

Diamond Jubilee cupcake casesIt seems you’re no one nowadays unless you’ve got your own baking website which is why UK supermarket Sainsbury’s has got in on the act with www.sainsburys.co.uk/baking.

Joining the likes of Renshaw, Dr Oetker and Allinson Flour’s BakingMad.com, the new Sainsbury’s site will include recipes (obviously), along with techniques and tips, advice on food intolerances and a regular Q&A from from baking guru and Guardian columnist Dan Lepard.

Diamond Jubilee cupcake cases

To celebrate the launch, the nice people at Sainsbury’s sent me some goodies to try out including a new set of  Diamond Jubilee cupcake cases featuring Union Jacks and marching soldier designs. I knocked up some vanilla cupcakes to try them out and they’re pretty good (ie. the cases don’t go transparent and make the designs disappear when put in the oven, as some cheaper cases do).

Diamond Jubilee cupcake cases

Ireland biscuits with Baileys buttercream

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Events, Recipes with tags , , , , , on 12/03/2012 by libbyplummer

Ireland biscuits with Baileys buttercreamI’m not Irish. Not even remotely. But that’s no reason not to make some garish green-tinted biscuits (or cookies, if you insist) in celebration of St Patrick’s Day on 17 March, especially when there’s Bailey’s buttercream involved (last year I made whoopie pies with bright green filling).

I was given a cookie cutter set shaped like the British Isles for Christimas (thanks mum!), hence I have a cutter shaped liked the Emerald Isle. If you haven’t got one, you can just make your own template from grease-proof paper and cut around it with a knife.

Apologies for stating the bleedin’ obvious, but thanks to the Baileys, these biccies contain booze so may not be suitable for the nippers.

Ireland biscuits with Baileys buttercream 2

Makes 16-20 biscuits (8-10 when sandwiched together)

What you’ll need:

For the biscuits:
90g/3oz unsalted butter
100g/3.5oz caster sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g/70z plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Green paste food colouring

For the buttercream filling:
225g/8oz icing (confectioner’s) sugar (sieved)
100g/3.5oz softened unsalted butter
1tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

What to do:
First, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, using a fork. Next, beat in the egg and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the original mixture. Stir together until it’s all combined. Lastly, add some green colouring, a tiny bit at a time, until you’ve got the colour you want. Once all mixed in, roll the dough into a ball, squash into a flat disc and wrap in clingfilm. If the dough feels a bit too sticky, then add a touch of flour. Leave the dough to chill in the fridge for about an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C/160 degrees C (fan oven)/gas mark 4. Roll out the dough between two large sheets of greaseproof paper. This avoids you having to add any more flour to stop it sticking, which can make the dough too dry. Cut out your shapes and place onto a lined baking sheet (make sure they’re well spaced, or they’ll fuse together in the oven when the dough expands). If you’re using an asymmetric shape (such as the outline of Ireland), then you’ll want to flip half of the biscuits over as you’ll be sandwiching two together to form a sandwich.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits are slightly golden around the edges and slightly soft in the middle (they’ll firm up while they cool). Once out of the oven, transfer them to a wire cooling rack and after they’re fully cooled down then you can make a start on the filling.

Ireland biscuits with Baileys buttercream

For the buttercream, sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and cream in the butter using a fork. Once it’s all combined and smooth, add the Baileys and mix in. Pop into an icing bag and pipe a blog into the centre of half your biscuits (on the flat underside), then sandwich together with the remaining half (with the flat side touching the buttercream).

Finally, sit back with your ‘Oirish’ snacks, and listen to some suitably Celtic rock, like this ditty from the Dropkick Murphys. They’re not from Ireland – they’re from Massachusetts, but don’t let that stop you. It’s a good tune…