Archive for Recipes

3D Christmas tree gingerbread biscuits

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , on 18/12/2011 by libbyplummer

3D Christmas tree gingerbread biscuitsTime for more festive baking, this time in the form of a 3D Christmas tree made from star-shaped gingerbread biscuits. I used a set of 3D Christmas cookie cutters that  my dear old mum picked up for me from Lakeland, but you can always make your own templates or go freestyle if you’ve got a steady hand. After a week of Christmas booze-ups, my hands were anything but steady during the making of this intricate biscuit-based structure so I stuck to using the cutters.

Tenuous Youtube link ahoy! Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree…

What you’ll need:
350g/12oz plain flour (sieved)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
100g/4oz butter (softened)
175g/6oz light brown sugar
1 large egg
4 tbsp golden syrup

For the icing:
200g/7oz icing/confectioner’s sugar (sieved)
some not-quite-boiling water
edible glitter/sprinkles  etc for decoration

Please note: You’ll need two of each star shape. I didn’t use the largest three cutters from the set, but if you want enough dough for those as well, then double the quantities given above.

3D Christmas tree gingerbread biscuits

What to do:

Mix the flour, bicarb and ginger together in a large mixing bowl. Chuck in the butter and rub the mixture between your fingertips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs, then add the sugar and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg and golden syrup then pour onto the flour mixture and use your hands to form it into a dough. Divide the dough into two large blobs and flatten into discs. Wrap them in clingfilm and bung in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190°/170° (fan oven)/375°F/gas mark 5. Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking parchment to prevent it from sticking. Roll out to a thickness of about 4mm and cut out your shapes. You’ll need two of each size star. Place on a lined baking sheet and stick in the oven for 12 minutes until the biscuits begin to turn golden brown at the edges. Leave to cool on the baking tray for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

3D Christmas tree gingerbread biscuits

When the biscuits are completely cool you can have a crack at the decoration. Obviously you can add whatever icing and decorations you like, but here’s what I did:

Using a fork, mix together the icing sugar with 2 tbsp of not-quite-boiling water from the kettle. Add a little more water if the icing is too thick. Spread the icing on over the smallest two stars and cover one with edible glitter and the other with festive hundreds and thousands (on nonpareils). Take each biscuit and spread a small amount of icing to the tips of the star. After icing each biscuit, sprinkle the hundreds and thousands on before the icing sets. Leave to dry for an hour or so.

Finally, it’s time to construct your tree. Place one of the largest two biscuits on whatever you intend to serve the tree on (it’s a bugger to move once it’s all put together). Add a tiny bit of leftover icing to the centre and put the second biscuit on top, turning the star so that the points create the effect of branches. Build up the rest of the tree in the same way, using the small star with the hundreds and thousands on top. Lastly, secure the glittery star on the top using a good dollop of icing.

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Star Wars Holiday Special chocolate and brandy buttercream cupcakes

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Recipes, Seasonal food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 11/12/2011 by libbyplummer

Star Wars Holiday Special cupcakes

Never heard of the Star Wars Holiday Special? Let me enlighten you. After the success of the first Star Wars film in 1977, some bright spark had the idea of producing a Christmas/Holiday-themed TV special. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, that’s what. The story sees Chewbacca trying to get home to his family to celebrate Life Day – a thinly veiled, intergalactic version of Christmas. Highlights include a musical number by Jefferson Starship, a comedy skit in the Mos Eisley cantina (starring the Golden Girls’ Bea Arthur) and a jokey scene in which Chewbacca’s wife (essentially a Wookie in an apron) attempts to cook the Life Day dinner. Oh, and Princess Leia sings a song, too. It’s every bit as preposterous as it sounds. You can find it on YouTube or ebay, if the mood takes you…

For reasons that should be entirely obvious if you’ve read the previous paragraph, the Star Wars Holiday Special was only ever broadcast once in 1978 and has never been officially released. This festive cake-based tribute to what is possibly the worst TV programme ever made is formed of chocolate cupcakes with brandy buttercream icing (the icing method is adapted from Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery). I used a Star Wars cupcake decorating kit, along with a Star Wars cupcake stencil set from Williams-Sonoma to decorate mine, but obviously you can use whatever you like.

Star Wars Holiday Special cupcakes

What you’ll need:
3oz/85g self-raising flour (sieved)
4 tbsp cocoa powder (sieved)
4oz/110g caster sugar (sieved)
4oz/110g margarine/unsalted butter (softened)
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp milk (any kind you like)

For the icing:
4oz/110g unsalted butter (softened)
60ml milk
2 1/2 tbsp brandy butter (a good quality one that contains actual booze is best)
1 tsp vanilla extract
17.5oz/500g icing sugar (sieved)
Cocoa powder for decoration (if using stencils)

Makes 12 cupcakes

Star Wars Holiday Special 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).

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.

Star Wars Holiday Special cupcakes

Once the cakes are completely cool, you can crack on with the icing. Cream together half the icing sugar with the butter, milk, brandy butter and vanilla extract using a fork, until smooth. You can add a little more brandy butter if you want a stronger taste, but I found 2 1/2 tbsp to be about right. Add the rest of the icing sugar and combine until you’ve got a smooth icing. Either spread onto your cupcakes using a palette knife or use an icing bag to pipe on and add whatever decorations you have to hand. Happy Life Day!

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.

‘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!

Rock star cook book coming soon

Posted in Books, Gifts with tags , , , , , on 25/08/2011 by libbyplummer

Love Music, Love Food Brian MayLove Music, Love Food is a brand new cook book packed with interviews with more than 60 rock stars talking about their favourite foods. Featuring images from renowned foodie photographer Patrice de Villiers, the book has been penned by music journo Andrew Harrison with recipes from rock ‘n’ roll caterer Sarah Muir.

The stellar lineup includes Noel Gallagher extolling the virtues of Yorkshire Tea, Queen’s Brian May, in praise of grapefruit and The Who’s Roger Daltrey talking trout.

Love Music, Love Food is available from 5 September and has been put together to raise awareness (and funds) for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Via: Shortlist
Image: Patrice DeVilliers