Archive for Baking

Lomography cookie cutters

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Kitchen gadgets with tags , , , , , on 10/12/2011 by libbyplummer

Lomography cookie cuttersI like biscuits and I like cameras so I was embarrassingly excited to find out that analogue photography specialist Lomography has produced a range of camera-shaped cookie cutters. The nice people at Lomo are giving away a cookie cutter with every online purchase – if you spend £120 (or USD or EUR) you get one free cutter, spend over that amount and you’ll bag yourself the entire set of eight for free.

What’s more, the Lomo chaps are running a Holiday cookie cutter competition, where you can submit your analogue cookie photos in the hope on winning some great prizes including cook books and Piggy Points to spend in the online store.

Chocolate marshmallow cupcakes

Posted in American food, Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , on 27/11/2011 by libbyplummer

Chocolate marshmallow cupcakesThe evenings are drawing in, there’s a chill in the air and I can no longer resist saying “yes please” when the man in Costa Coffee asks if I want marshmallows on top of my hot chocolate. This is basically a recipe for a cakey version of my child-like beverage choice, making use of some Mini Mini Marshmallows (kindly given to me by the chaps at Dr Oetker) along with some suitably autumnal orange cupcake cases. Excellent when served with hot chocolate. Or wine, as it turns out. Here’s what to do…

What you’ll need:
3oz self-raising flour (sieved)
2 tbsp cocoa powder (sieved)
4oz caster sugar (sieved)
4oz margarine/unsalted butter (softened)
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp skimmed milk (or any kind of milk you like)

For the icing:
8oz icing/confectioner’s sugar (sieved)
3.5oz unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cocoa powder (sieved)

Makes 12 cupcakes

Chocolate marshmallow cupcakes

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 170°C/150° (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases.

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large bowl, then cream in the margarine/butter using a fork. Next, add one egg at at time, mixing with the fork after adding each one. Then, add the milk and baking powder and mix until everything is combined. Lastly, give the mixture a few stirs with a whisk to make sure that it’s nice and smooth. Using a tablespoon, bung the mixture into the cupcake cases (dividing it evenly among them, of course).

Chocolate marshmallow cupcakes

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a cocktail stick or skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (with no runny cake mix on it). Once done, take the cakes out of the oven and leave in the tin for around 15 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

Once the cakes are completely cool, you can crack on with the icing. Cream the icing sugar together with the butter using a fork, then mix in the vanilla once combined. Add the cocoa and mix in until the colour is even and you’re ready to stick it in an icing bag and pipe away. Before the icing sets, add a few mini marshmallows for decoration. Couldn’t be easier.

Libby’s Pumpkin Pie recipe for Thanksgiving

Posted in American food, Baking, Pies, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , on 24/11/2011 by libbyplummer

Libby's pumpkin pureeHappy Thanksgiving! Time for turkey, back-to-back NFL games and of course, pumpkin pie. Obviously, we don’t actually celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK, but I’ll use any old excuse for some extra pudding.

I’ve named my recipe, somewhat narcissistically, after myself, as it uses Libby’s tinned pumpkin and I do like to have things with my name on (a point illustrated by my gargantuan collection of Tatty Devine name necklaces). Libby’s tinned pumpkin isn’t that easy to find in the UK, so I get mine online from the Stateside Candy Company and you can also find it at Whole Foods.

You can make the pastry yourself if you want, but I prefer to cheat and use a ready-made pie case as they’re much less likely to burn or go soggy. Enough waffling, let’s talk turkey and crack on with the recipe…

What you’ll need:
2 x ready-made pastry cases (around 8in diameter)
4oz/110g/1 cup light soft brown sugar
A good pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1 large egg
14oz/450g/4 cups canned or fresh pumpkin puree
1/4 pint/150ml/just under 3/4 cup whipping cream

What to do:
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/170°C (fan oven)/375°Fgas mark 5. If using fresh pumpkin, boil the flesh until soft and then drain. Make sure that it’s as drained as is possible, otherwise you’ll end up with far too much moisture in your mixture. Next, mash it up with a potato masher.

If you’re a lazy sod like me and you’re using tinned pumpkin, then you can skip to straight to the easy bit. Mix together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, mace and egg and beat with a fork. Once it’s all mixed in well, add the pumpkin and the cream and mix together until it’s all combined. Dollop it carefully into the two pie cases and even the mixture out with a spatula. Bung in the oven for about 35-35 mins until the filling looks slightly firm and the pastry is just beginning to go golden brown. Leave to cool. Serve on its own or top with cream (there’s usually some leftover whipping cream if you’ve bought a big enough pot).

Syrian Victoria sponge

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes with tags , , , , , , on 18/11/2011 by libbyplummer

Syrian Victoria sponge“What the blue blazes is a Syrian Victoria sponge?”,  I hear you cry. Well, it’s essentially a traditional Victoria sponge containing Syrian rose jam, rather than the usual, boring raspberry or strawberry. Simple.

I made this almost cripplingly sweet cake using some rose jam that my friend Kate brought back for me from her recent trip to Syria. Granted, Syria isn’t exactly a top holiday destination at present due to the wave of demonstrations that are currently rocking the Arab world (also known as the Arab Spring) and the fact that it’s potentially on the brink of a civil war, but Kate was visiting her sister who currently works for the Foreign Office in Damascus. Very brave.

Rose jam

The recipe is totally idiot-proof and is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s dreadfully titled (but brilliant) baking tome How to be a Domestic Goddess. Sorry Nigella, I love your work, but I really hate the excruciatingly twee name of that book.  You should be able to find Rose jam for sale on the web (I wouldn’t recommend a trip to Syria at the moment), or you can use any kind of jam you like. Seedless is best.

Sorry the pictures are bit rubbish – they were taken in dwindling daylight…

What you’ll need:
225g unsalted butter (softened)
225g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
3 tbsp milk

For the filling:
4 tbsp rose jam
150ml double cream

For the topping:
Some caster sugar

Syrian Victorian sponge 2

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C (fan oven)/350°F/gas mark 4. Line the bottom of two sandwich tins (approx 22cm diameter) with baking parchment and grease the sides with butter or cake release.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl, using a fork, then add the vanilla extract. Next, add the eggs, one at a time, stirring the mixture and adding a small amount of the flour and cornflour in between each one. Once it’s all combined, add a small amount of milk at a time to thin out the mixture a bit. I found 3 tbsp was about right.

Divide the mixture between the two tins and even out using a spatula. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top of the cake start to brown slightly and the cake starts to come away from the tin at the edges. Leave to cool in the tins for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Once completely cool, place one layer on a plate/cake stand or whatever you’re going to serve it on and spread with a layer of jam. Next whip the cream in a bowl using a balloon whisk until it’s thickened but still soft and shiny. Don’t over-beat it or it’ll start to curdle. Spread over the jam, then pop the other cake layer on top and sprinkle with a tablespoon or so of caster sugar. And voila – Syrian Victoria sponge.

Smashing pumpkin whoopie pies

Posted in American food, Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , on 06/11/2011 by libbyplummer

Smashing Pumpkin whoopie piesHalloween may be done and dusted, but with Thanksgiving on the horizon, there’s still plenty of time for seasonal pumpkin concoctions. I made these pumpkin whoopie pies for the 5th of November or Bonfire Night (also known as Guy Fawkes Night).  For our non-UK chums, this is when we light bonfires and set off fireworks to commemorate the day in 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators tried and failed to blow up the Houses of Parliament and King James I. Although, to be honest, it’s really all about the fireworks these days. But enough about Catholic rebellions, let’s crack on the with cake and celebrate the fact that I made it through the first paragraph without using the ‘making whoopie’ joke. Oh, bugger…

I’ve already made Smashing Pumpkin cupcakes, so I thought I might as well call these Smashing Pumpkin whoopie pies. Well, why not, eh? There’s a Smashing Pumpkins video after the recipe for your viewing pleasure.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from Whoopie Pies by Sarah Billingsley and Amy Treadwell.

Makes approx 12 whoopie pies. (A tip: stick to using either cups, ounces or grams for the measurements otherwise it’s likely to end in tears).

What you’ll need:
2 1/4 cups/10 oz/280g plain flour (sieved)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 cup/7oz/200g light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened)
1 1/2 pumpkin puree ( I used Libby’s, from the Stateside Candy Co.)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling:
1/2 cup/4oz/110g full-fat cream cheese
4 tbsp unsalted butter (softened)
3 1/2 cups/16oz/450g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Smashing Pumpkin whoopie pies 2

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/160°C (fan oven)/Gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or a non-stick Teflon baking sheet. So far, so easy.

Next, mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. In a new (and bigger) bowl, cream together the sugar and butter using a fork until it forms a creamy mixture. Now, mix in the pumpkin, followed by the egg and the vanilla extract, stirring in between each addition. Add the flour mixture and mix together until it’s all combined.

You want to make your pies as even as possible, so either use a two-tablespoon scoop (such as an ice cream scoop), or pop your mixture into an icing bag. I used disposable icing bags to pipe out rounds about 2 inches across onto the baking sheet. Make sure they’re well spaced as they’ll expand as they cook. You might need to bake them in two batches, depending on the size of your oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until the they’re firm to touch and just starting to turn golden brown. After removing them from the oven, allow to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Smashing pumpkin whoopie pie

Once completely cool, you can make a start on the filling. Cream together the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar in a bowl using a fork, and once combined, add the vanilla extract and mix in. Spoon the filling into a piping bag and ice half your rounds with a generous helping of filling, before popping the tops on to make your pies. Easy.

Tenuous link time – here’s a Smashing Pumpkins video:

‘Razor Blades in Candy’ red velvet cake

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , on 30/10/2011 by libbyplummer

Razor blades in candy red velvet cakeThis is my cakey take on the classic Trick or Treat urban myth of ‘razor blades in the candy’. Firstly, I should probably point out that there are no razor blades in this cake. The one in the picture is actually a pendant that I used for the photo and then removed. Putting actual razor blades in your cake is likely to end in tears, blood and a lengthy prison sentence. Don’t put actual razor blades in your cake. I really can’t stress that strongly enough.

If you want to include razor blades, I suggest ‘getting your craft on’ and making some out of silver cardboard.

Red velvet cake

I decided to use candy corn to decorate my ‘blood’-splattered cake as I’ve seen it dished out to Trick or Treaters in hundreds of American Halloween films and TV programmes (I exaggerate), but we don’t have it here in the UK and I’d always wondered what the hell it was. I ordered mine online from the Stateside Candy Company. Turns out, it tastes a bit like fudge.

Brach's candy corn ad

I don’t usually use ready-made cake mixes, but recipes for red velvet cake always involve so much arsing about with buttermilk and red food colouring and so on, that I find it easier to cheat (I used a Duncan Hines, again, from the Stateside Candy Company).

Brach's candy corn & red velvet mix

What you’ll need:

Red Velvet cake mix

For the icing:
450g icing/confectioner’s sugar
75g unsalted butter (softened)
190g cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia)

For the topping:
Candy corn
1 tbsp seedless raspberry jam

What to do:

Prepare the red velvet mix according to the instructions on the pack to make two round layers of sponge.

Once the cake is cool, make the icing by creaming together the icing sugar, butter and cream cheese using a fork. Don’t be tempted to use reduced fat cream cheese as it’s far too runny and your icing will end up as a gooey mess. Once combined, spread half the mixture onto one layer of sponge using a large palette knife then place the other layer on top. Ice the top of the cake using the remaining mixture.

Razor blades in candy red velvet cake 2

Add some candy corn for decoration. For the fake blood, melt the jam in a saucepan, adding a few drops of not-quite-boiling water to thin the mixture slightly. Once melted, drizzle on the top of the cake and you’re all done. Trick or Treat!

Choccy Horror cupcakes

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , on 24/10/2011 by libbyplummer

Choccy Horror cupcakeAnd so the onslaught of Halloween-themed baking continues. Today’s masterpiece – Choccy Horror cupcakes. As well as desperately lame punning, these chocolate cupcakes also involve toppers emblazoned with minature film posters from some of my favourite horror flicks, namely Night of the Demon (trailer below – it’s called Curse of the Demon in the US), Halloween, Night of the Living Dead and The Tingler.

The cakes are topped with Renshaw Snip & Swirl ready-made chocolate icing, kindly given to me by the makers to try out when I went to check out their latest products a few months ago. If I’m honest, I don’t think it’s quite the same as freshly made icing, but it does have a surprisingly good taste and it’s a great alternative if you haven’t got much time on your hands. Recipe after the vid…

What you’ll need:
3oz self-raising flour (sieved)
2 tbsp cocoa powder (sieved)
4oz caster sugar (sieved)
4oz margarine/unsalted butter (softened)
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp skimmed milk (or any kind of milk you like)

For the icing:
Renshaw Snip & Swirl (chocolate flavour)
Or to make your own:
8oz icing/confectioner’s sugar (sieved)
3.5oz unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cocoa powder (sieved)
Red sprinkles

Makes 12 cupcakes

Choccy Horror cupcake lineup

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 170°C/150° (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tin with cupcake cases.

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large bowl, then cream in the margarine/butter using a fork. Next, add one egg at at time, mixing with the fork after adding each one. Then, add the milk and baking powder and mix until everything is combined. Lastly, give the mixture a few stirs with a whisk to make sure that it’s nice and smooth. Using a tablespoon, bung the mixture into the cupcake cases (dividing it evenly among them, of course).

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until a cocktail stick or skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (with no runny cake mix on it). Once done, take the cakes out of the oven and leave in the tin for around 15 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.

Choccy Horror cupcakes

Once the cakes are completely cool, you can crack on with the icing. If using Renshaw Snip & Swirl, simply snip the end off the pack and ice away. If making your own, cream the icing sugar together with the butter using a fork, then mix in the vanilla once combined. Add the cocoa and mix in until the colour is even and you’re ready to stick it in an icing bag and pipe away. If you really can’t be arsed to deal with any icing, just add some chocolate spread (e.g. Nutella) to the cakes with a knife or just melt some chocolate and spread that onto the top.

The movie-themed toppers are simply made from film poster images (procured via a Google Image search) printed out on white paper and stuck onto black card, with a cocktail stick attached to the back with sticky tape. Arts and crafts, kid, arts and crafts.

Chocolate biscuits for Halloween

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , on 16/10/2011 by libbyplummer

Halloween chocolate biscuitsApparently it’s Chocolate Week, so what better time to knock up some seasonal Halloween chocolate biscuits (or cookies, if you insist). I first made these last year, adapting a recipe from the Nigella Christmas book. They”re very easy to make and like many of the best recipes for chocolate cakes and biscuits, they, er,  don’t actually use any chocolate, instead sticking to the winning combo of cocoa and sugar (trust me, it’s much better). Don’t believe me? Try them for yourself…

What you’ll need:
125g unsalted butter (softened)
75g caster sugar
20g cocoa powder (sieved)
150g plain flour (sieved)
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 tsp baking powder

For the topping:
1 tbsp (15ml) cocoa powder
90g icing sugar
30ml boiling water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Seasonal  sprinkles

Makes 12 biscuits

Halloween chocolate biscuits 2

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Teflon baking sheet.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, using a fork. Once mixed in, cream in the cocoa, then add the flour, bicarb and baking powder and mix until it’s all combined.

Scoop up a blob of the mixture in your hand and roll into a ball (around the same size as a walnut). Place each ball onto the baking sheet and flatten slightly using your hand. Make sure they’re well spaced apart otherwise they’ll fuse together in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray for about 20 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. The biscuits will look and feel soft when they come out of the oven, but they’ll crisp up as they cool.

Halloween chocolate biscuits 3

Once they’re completely cool, you can crack on with the topping. Chuck the cocoa powder, icing sugar, water and vanilla extract into a small saucepan and stir oven a low heat until combined into a shiny mixture. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Next, drop a tablespoon of the topping onto the centre of each biscuit and let it dribble down the sides. Use the back of the spoon to even it out a bit if need be. Swiftly add your sprinkles before the topping dries and leave to set and you’re all done. I got my sprinkles from Target on a trip to the US, but you should be able to find them online on various sites including Amazon.

The perfect snack for grazing on while watching a horror film. Today’s choice – The Orphanage:

The Orphanage

Smashing pumpkin cupcakes

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , , on 09/10/2011 by libbyplummer

Smashing pumpkin cupcakesIt’s nearly Halloween! Not only is this my favourite time of year, it’s also the best time for baking, largely because of the seasonal delight that is pumpkin. The fact that it’s a seasonal vegetable is however completely irrelevant seeing as this recipe uses the tinned variety (I used Libby’s pumpkin puree procured from The Stateside Candy Company).

Once upon a time, the Smashing Pumpkins were my favourite band in the whole world and they serve as the inspiration for these cupcakes. Not only are they pumpkin flavoured, but I’ve also used the band’s Bullet with Butterfly Wings track as a theme for the topping, which consists of gunmetal grey cream cheese icing and sugar butterflies, kindly sent to me by the nice people at Dr Oetker. Thankfully, the brand has recently designed its packaging  moving away from the pesky plastic bag and cardboard box combo to a more cupboard-friendly storage jar. But, enough on the riveting subject of kitchen storage, let’s crack on with the recipe, which is adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. Watch the Pumpkins video below (that’s a suggestion, not an order), then get baking.

What you’ll need:
120g plain flour (sieved)
140g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter, softened
60ml milk (doesn’t matter which kind, I used skimmed)
2 eggs
200g tinned pumpkin puree

For the icing:
300g icing sugar/confectioner’s sugar (sieved)
50g unsalted butter, softened
125g cream cheese
Black food colouring paste
Edible pearlescent spray

Makes 12 cupcakes

Smashing pumpkin

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 170°/150° (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3

Line a 12-hole muffin tin with cake cases.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a large bowl. Add the butter and work it in with a fork until the mixture looks like sand. Next, add the milk and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at at time, mixing after each addition then stir in the pumpkin.

Divide the mixture evenly between the cake cases and bung in the oven for 20 minutes or until the tops of the cakes start to turn golden brown and ping back when touched. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Make sure they’ve completely cool before you add the icing, or it won’t stick.

Smashing pumpkin cupcakes 2

For the icing, cream the icing sugar, butter and cream cheese together in a bowl, using a fork. It’ll look like there’s too much icing sugar to start with, but believe me, the proportions are correct, it just takes a bit of graft before they start to mix together. If you want to colour your icing, add paste food colouring, a tiny bit at a time, using a cocktail stick and mix in with a fork. If you want your icing to be dark grey like mine then you’ll need to add quite a lot of black colouring. Next spoon the icing into a disposable icing bag and pipe on using a large star-shaped nozzle. Lastly, add the sugar butterflies and a quick squirt of edible lustre spray for a shiny gunmetal finish and voila – smashing pumpkin cupcakes.

Here’s another Smashing Pumpkins video for your enjoyment – this time, an early performance from Japanese TV including a brilliantly awkward pre-song chat with the hosts. [Please take note: some of the lyrics might be a bit too salty for young ears].

Cadbury Screme Eggs for Halloween

Posted in English food, Gifts, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , on 01/10/2011 by libbyplummer

Cadbury Screme EggFans of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs will be pleased to hear that they’re no longer confined to Easter. The legendary chocolate manufacturer is selling a slightly more macabre version in celebration of Halloween. Renamed Screme Eggs, the sinister treats sport a suitably seasonal green, purple and black wrapper, while the traditional yellow yolk has been transformed into a toxic green.

After a Twitter-based tip-off from Miss Cakehead, I hotfooted it down to Selfridge’s on Oxford Street to pick up a few (half a dozen to be precise). In my defence – I’ve only eaten one so far.

Keep your eyes peeled in the shops or order direct from Cadbury – 15 notes for 24 eggs.