Monday 20 June 2011

So much baking...!

I have a lot of private orders this of the pitfalls (and pleasures) of being a baker is that I am the first port of call for friends & neighbours when birthdays, weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs etc come around! I soon have to bake 360 rabbit shaped shortbread biscuits as wedding favours/place cards for a neighbour...and above you see another creation for a 17 year old's birthday tomorrow. Dark chocolate & vanilla cupcakes...they're for a boy, so I didn't want them to look too feminine...but I couldn't resist a little 'sophisticated' gold sparkle!
The Coffee Tree has had a busy week too...sunshine and warmer temperatures mean that people love to find somewhere that they can bask in the sun while drinking coffee & (hopefully) eating cake! So some of the deliveries have included...
Lemon & Organic Strawberry Muffins....with sharp lemon curd glazing the tops a little...
Grasshopper Bars...a brownie bottom, peppermint middle and chocolate top...I sprinkled the finished tray with crumbled Aero bars for extra colour too...

But only thought of it after I took this photo...!

I had a special request to deliver some type of cheese scone on Saturday morning - these contained spring onion snippings and wholegrain mustard too...

Also on Saturday, there was a big and beautiful Pistachio Cake with Honey Butter Frosting...

that I was very tempted by...and a Lazy Daisy Cake which was from a lovely recipe that I found on a fabulous foodie blog that I've just begun to follow...The English Kitchen

It's a fairly plain cake with a caramelised coconut brown sugar top...

We're now into English gooseberry season...I really love their clean, grassy tang and clear green colour so I use them as often as possible during the short time they're with us. These muffins had an elderflower glaze (it complements the fruit so perfectly...)

And finally...I made some Fresh Apricot & Almond Muffins. Based on the very first recipe I posted on this blog, which was from the incomparable Ottolenghi - the cookbook they were an absolute delight. The originals were made with plums - but the apricots worked beautifully too..

they are, in fact, one of the few fruits that tastes better cooked - in my opinion, of course! To make them extra special, I baked them in some rather extravagant mini loaf cases I had - not great for the profit margins, but sometimes the artistic heart overrules the head!!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend...I would love to serve you one of these with a cup of something delicious at my kitchen table - but I'll send you my love instead xo

Sunday 12 June 2011

Perfectly Prepped...

On Friday, I was invited to a book launch in London. This, in itself, was exciting. It meant getting up extra early to bake my morning orders...coming home to dress in a manner befitting (what is that exactly?? I later felt that I should have worn something pink...I'll explain why in a while!) and catching the 10am train into town. We British often, for some reason, call London 'town'!

After staying on various trains for as long as possible, due to a quite magnificent rainstorm (I did take an umbrella, but it was small...), losing my beloved pocket street directory and wandering in a circle for 40 minutes (!) I finally arrived at the beautiful venue, the Knightsbridge branch of chocolate emporium Rococo . I've only been to the (much smaller) Marylebone store....this was large and open, decorated beautifully with displays of gorgeously wrapped chocolates & had a small cafe area at the back of the shop. I knew that I was heading in the right direction when I saw a selection of fabulous cakes, together with stacks of the new book, arranged on tables near the stairs! Once again, I had the strange but wonderful experience of meeting people that I felt I knew well from their blogs...but had never actually spoken to! I was greeted so warmly by everyone, that I immediately lost any residual shyness and plunged straight in to chatting and eating some of the amazing cakes!
The biggest thrill was finally meeting the author, Vanessa Kimbell. She is one of those people that are, truly, larger than life...her personality lit up the room as she embraced and welcomed us all and the happiness & pride in her achievement glowed from her like a beacon!
'Prepped' is her first cookbook, and it will, I hope and predict, not be the last! You can read all about the journey from concept to finished book on her blog, here ,which was started as she had the idea to write & publish the book within a year, and is full of interesting tips and anecdotes on the pleasures and pitfalls of embarking on such a daunting challenge!
It's concept is that, like a professional chef, the home cook can save time, energy and often money by thinking ahead and 'prepping' a few key ingredients in advance. She cleverly links recipes, which are grouped into chapters by flavour. While most of the recipes are simple enough to be attempted by anyone, the tastes created are deceptively complex and delicious...plenty of new twists to keep experienced cooks as happy as the comparative novice.
When Vanessa was writing her recipes, she cleverly recruited an army of 'real people' to test them...mainly other food bloggers... who called themselves the 'Prepperati'! They all wore something pink to the launch, and it was wonderful to see these people, who in many instances had never met, squeal with delight as they recognised each other and launched immediately into exchanging their experiences of the testing process!
Sustained by delicious coffee, eating slices of Cardamom & Rose Victoria Sponge and Chocolate Chili Cupcakes and chatting into the afternoon about food and writing....pure bliss! As I stepped out into the now bright, warm sunshine, I felt so happy and honoured to be part of this wonderful creative world...
I've already made the Lavender and Lemon Cake from the book...and as this morning is wet and chilly, I may just bake that divine Cardamom Sponge too...

Hoping your weekend is wonderful xo

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Monday 6 June 2011

Wedding roulades...& other stories

Hopefully the Blogger problems I've been encountering have now been solved...this post has been hanging around for a long time!

Last week was a very busy one...Friday was entirely taken up with baking lots and lots of Mocha Roulades. I was asked to help with a wedding that a customer was catering...130 guests and this recipe was one of the bride's mother's specialities that the bride has been enjoying since her childhood....quite a daunting prospect! I created a sample a few weeks ago which was it was all systems go! The recipe worked very well, so I will pass it on to you...I think if I were making it for myself, I wouldn't use the cherry pie filling (!) but this was how the bride wanted it! Fresh raspberries would be wonderful I think...or even bananas, if you were going to eat it fairly soon after rolling.

Mocha Roulade (serves 8-10)

6oz/200g good dark chocolate
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
5 large free-range eggs (separated)
8oz/250g caster sugar

Preheat oven to 375f/180c
Line a swiss roll tin (approx 9" x 13") with non-stick baking parchment

In a bowl set over simmering water (or in a microwave if you're confident!) place the chocolate (broken into bits) water & coffee powder to melt. Stir a few times to make sure there are no lumps.

In a large bowl, whisk sugar and egg yolks until thick and creamy (I used an electric hand whisk for this)

In a separate, scrupulously cleam bowl, whisk egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

Stir chocolate mixture into egg yolk/sugar until combined. Fold a spoonful or two of egg white into the chocolate mixture to loosen first, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg white using a large metal spoon...

until all traces of white have disappeared.
Turn into prepared tin...

and bake for 20- 25 minutes until set and firm to the touch. It will look quite matte & dry on top when it's ready...

Wet a clean teatowel under the cold tap and wring out well until just damp. Lay over the hot cake and leave until completely cold (you can leave it overnight if you need to) I made so many, that after half an hour or so I replaced the towel with plastic wrap...
which worked just as well. As long as there is no exposure to the air, which will dry the base out and make it difficult to roll, all will be well!
When you're ready...have a serving dish to hand (something fairly flat, like a tray works best)...cover a fresh sheet of baking parchment with sieved icing sugar and invert the base onto that...then carefully peel away the original base paper (which will now be on top!) Whip 10floz/300ml double or whipping cream softly (not too stiff or it will be hard to spread) and spread evenly over the base (not quite to the edge) followed by fruit of your choice...or canned pie filling!!

Using the parchment, (have the serving platter very nearby!) carefully roll up from the short edge as tightly as possible to form a bee-yoo-ti-ful roulade...hopefully you'll be able to transfer it to the plate! I found it best to have the last bit of the unrolled base just on the edge of the platter so that when I finished rolling, it just gently tipped onto it!

Anyway, after making so many I'm a real expert! And I must say that they were very straightforward and looked and smelled quite impressive - having no flour in the mixture was also great, as I'm always on the lookout for gluten-free recipes. This also made it more of a dessert rather than the cake that some roulades resemble!
Also at the bakery in recent days....

Fresh Nectarine Hazelnut Cake...

Buttermilk Raisin Scones...
and my personal favourite - Black Forest Cake, which is my take on the 1970's bistro classic. I find that the original (now usually found in freezer cabinets!) is often dry and oversweet...I like to think that my version is neither of these things!

It certainly sold quickly anyway...

This morning is chilly and rainy...perfect baking weather! I'm just off to The Coffee Tree to deliver a fresh batch of Gooseberry Elderflower Muffins (and pick up a much needed coffee!)

Enjoy your day xx