Archive for Food

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…

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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.

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

London Baking – Big in Japan

Posted in Baking, Out and about with tags , , , , , , on 11/03/2012 by libbyplummer

Japanese snacksI was recently lucky enough to be taken on a work trip to Tokyo for a week by the nice folk at Sony. Along with a busy week of checking out the latest TV tech at Sony HQ, we also managed to find time to stuff our faces with plenty of Japanese food. As you can see from the photo above, I managed to build up a sizeable snack haul to bring back to Blighty.

Aside from the standard Pocky, matcha powder and Panda-shaped biscuits, the highlight for me was the ludicrous selection of weird Kit Kat flavours including green tea and cherry blossom. My personal favourite was the wasabi flavour – they’ll definitely be a white chocolate and wasabi-based recipe on London Baking in the near future. Other highlights included…

…The ninja star shaped crackers at the ninja restaurant, where you get served by ninjas. (Despite it being our first night in the Far East, we instigated a drinking game where everyone had to take a swig every time the word ‘ninja’ was spoken. Such fun)…

Ninja star biscuits

Stumbling across a fantastic bakery at Shibuya station following a wander round Harajuku and Tower Records with Kat

Shibuya station bakery

…this is just one of the snacks I bought there, a custard-filled pastry thingy…

Japanese cake

…a night in Bauhaus (possibly the best bar in the world) – that’s me with the Strat on the left…

Bauhaus

…and of course, the purchasing of a Totoro toy…

Totoro toy

Bauhaus image: Kat Hannaford

Exploding wedding cakes from Bompas & Parr

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Events with tags , , , , on 12/02/2012 by libbyplummer

Ryan Hopkinson exploding jellyJelly experts Bompas & Parr are launching a food explosion service for weddings. Yeah, you heard. Famous for their experimental culinary projects, the team will provide an explosives guru who will lay charges inside your wedding cake (or food of choice) which will then be detonated at an opportune moment.

In celebration of the launch of the service, Bompas & Parr have teamed up with photographer Ryan Hopkinson to document what happens when you blow up a jelly (for US readers, that’s Jell-o), as you can see in the picture.

Ryan Hopkinson exploding jelly 2

Once you’ve booked your explosives expert, they’ll chat with your wedding cake provider to go through the safest way to lay the charges and position the cake. They’ll also attend on the wedding day to set up the explosives and detonate the blast. According to the jelly mongers, “All explosives are transported within containers meeting the MoD’s SEAP 4 security standards as referred to in JSP440”. I’ve no idea what that means, but it sounds pretty cool.

Presumably the cake will be inedible once it’s been blown to smithereens, so you’d probably want to get two made for the big day if you actually intend to enjoy a slice without having to scrape it off the ceiling first.

Images: Ryan Hopkinson