Thursday, 27 December 2012

Mini Meringues

We found a pot of mini meringues in Aldi a while back and popped them in the cupboard 'for later'.  Later is now upon us (as were the meringues - they fell out the cupboard and prompted us to think of how to use them).  So, we had a few thoughts and decided on using chocolate as well.

Here's what we were going to use:- the mini meringues, some foil petit four cases and some dark chocolate chips.

The chocolate chips were melted.  We have 'perfected' our technique - Sous Chef J puts the choc chips in a small bowl and we then place the bowl in some hot water and it's left to melt. No need for huge amounts of heat for the small number of chips we melted for this recipe.

Once the chocolate was melted, it was removed from the hot water and Sous Chef J mixed it through with a small silicone spatula.

The bowl of chocolate was placed on a heat proof mat and then each mini meringue's flat bottom was dipped into the chocolate.  Meringues were sandwiched together in pairs and placed on a cooling rack to allow the chocolate to set.

Having paired all the meringues, we drizzled the remaining chocolate over.  Some colourful sugar crystals were sprinkled on by Sous Chef J.

It was then a simple job to wait for the chocolate to completely dry before placing each meringue pair in a festive foil petit four case. 

Finally, they were boxed up ready to store before we eat them over Christmas and the New Year.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas Tree Cupcakes

Sous Chef J has been invited to a party. He decided be wanted to take some party food and wanted to try to make a Christmas Tree Cupcake.

So, we made a batch of cake mix - using 200g Dove's Farm gluten free Self Raising, 200g butter (room temperature), 200g caster sugar and 2 large eggs, beaten.  The butter and sugar was creamed using an electric hand mixer, then the flour and egg were added in 3 batches making sure it was all mixed well between each addition.  Next the mix was divided between 15 festive cupccake cases and baked at 170ºC for 12-15 minutes.  When a skewer was inserted and came out clean, the cakes were place, still in the tin, to cool for 10 minutes after which they were removed from the tin and allowed to cool completely.

Once completely cool, the decoration began.  We used this buttercream icing recipe
  • 200 g butter, at room temperature
  • 250 g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp fluid (we used water but milk is OK)
  • green food colouring
So, the icing was added to a bag which had a C4 nozzle. 

 Then swirls of the icing were piped, inexpertly, onto each cake.  Sous Chef J then sprinkled coloured sugar crystals on (to make the baubles).  

 As a finishing touch, we used some gold dust to coat white chocolate stars and these were placed at the top of the trees.

We displayed them on our cupcake tree stand.

Then the cakes were placed in a 'suitable carrier' ready for off... 

Festive foody fun for all! 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Cake Decorating Done!

Having blogged about making our Christmas Cake last weekend, we thought it was only fair to show you how we got on with decorating it.

As the cake we baked turned out to have such a flat/level top, we decided to risk doing a 'proper' icing job.  Perhaps it would even make my former Home Economics teacher proud...

We'd sourced some ready to roll white marzipan and Regal Ice white icing so prepared our silicone sheet for use rolling out.  A small amount of icing sugar was sifted into a ramekin to be used to minimise sticking.

 First, a small amount of marzipan was rolled into a ball and then rolled out.  Once it formed a circle slightly larger than the top of the cake, it was placed to one side.

 Next, we used a piece of string to measure round the circumference of the cake.  A long strip of marzipan, from the block, was then rolled out to the required length and trimmed to size.

The marzipan was brushed with apricot jam that had been slightly watered down using warm, boiled water.

 An angled join was used - we found this made 'hiding' the seam in the marzipan a little easier.
 After sorting the marzipan out on the side of the cake, the top was brushed with the runny jam and smoothed down as much as possible.

Then, a piece of the Regal Ice was warmed up by rolling.  When it was pliable, using a light dusting of icing sugar, it was rolled out to a size which allowed it to be draped, in one piece, covering the whole cake.  Sous Chef J thought it looked like a ghost at this point.

The top and sides were then smoothed and the excess icing trimmed from the bottom of the cake.

 Star cutters were then used to make the decorations for the top of the cake.  As we are not artistic (that's an understatement!) we'd tweeted asking for simple decorating ideas and a lovely pal, Lynda, had suggested using stars. We already have a set of star cutters so that was a great idea.

Using a big star cut out, we dampened the surface of the cake icing and applied the star to the cake.  Then, smaller stars were similarly applied, draping around the edge of the top.

Next, it was over to Sous Chef J to add some silver baubles (the decorations we used were bought in M&S a while back and gluten was not listed in the ingredients or allergy warning). 

Finally, we added a silver cake frill and our decorating task was complete.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Chocolate Pizza & Snowy Bites

We were looking for a 'healthy' option for a chocolate snack... and Sous Chef J decided on a "pizza" with fruity bits.

So, chocolate types were gathered.

The  dark and white chocolates were melted, separately, and a disk of dark chocolate was spread on silicone paper. It was about 15cm (6") diameter - you could make mini ones as individual petit four style morsels.

Next, Sous Chef J sprinkled the toppings on - he used mixed dried fruit, roughly chopped walnuts, dark, white and milk choc drops, chocolate flakes and chocolate strands.

When all the toppings had been added, the pizza was left to cool before slicing and eating!

Other toppings that could be used (according to your likes/dietary requirements) are - mini marshmallows, dried strawberries/cranberries, meringue pieces, crumbled crunchies, chocolate buttons, sugar strands, popping candy, Twirl bites... the list goes on.

With the melted white chocolate, we took a silicone ice cube tray and planned to use the snowman and snowflake designs.  Some decorations were dropped into the base of the moulds before the melted chocolate was drizzled in.

When the chocolate had set, the chocs were popped out of the moulds.

And that was it... a selection of home made, marvellous mouthfuls of chocolate - perfect as a gift for pals over the coming Christmas days!

Last year we made Christmas Chocolate Stirrers using the silicone mould and are planning to give them another go this year.  Sous Chef J is keen to try mixed chocolate colours and popping candy within.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Gluten Free Christmas Cake

Page in Sainsbury's mag that ACTUALLY MENTIONS changes for a gluten free bake!
Having spotted the above recipe in the December 2012 Sainsbury's Magazine, we couldn't not give it a go.  As regular readers of this blog will know, we rarely stick to the letter of a recipe and this one was no different.  We'd bought a small, springform cake tin from Aldi the other week (18cm round) and wanted to make a cake in it.  So, we halved the ingredients listed in the Mag and used the following:-

75g ready to eat figs - chopped
112g stoned, soft prunes - chopped
50g skin on almonds
112g soft butter
92g dark brown soft sugar (we only used 62g due to a calculation error!)
125g self raising flour (we used Dove's Farm, gluten free)
¼tsp ground cinnamon
¼tsp ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
2 large eggs, lightly beaten (we used 3 medium eggs)
112g raisins (we used mixed dried fruit)
1½Tablespoons black treacle
Juice and zest of ¾ lemon

The figs and prunes were chopped using scissors.

Having creamed the butter and sugar (using an electric hand mixer as we don't *yet* have a stand mixer)...  the flour and ground spices were added to the mix a third at a time, with a little of the beaten egg and mixed thoroughly before adding more.

Once all the flour and eggs were incorporated, the remaining ingredients were then mixed through by hand. 

The cake, ready to bake in our fab 18cm Aldi springform tin
Testing the cake - the knife's clean!
Having heated the oven to 150ºC, we baked the cake for 50 minutes then checked on it.  At this point, it was looking quite browned on top, so we covered it with foil to reduce the chance of burning and returned it to the oven for another 15 minutes.  We then checked it with a knife to see if it was cooked through.

Once the knife, inserted into the cake, came out clean, the cake was removed from the oven and left to cool completely in the tin.
Cooled Christmas cake - what a level top it has.
Here's the cake... ready to be decorated... another day!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Festive Star Tree

Whilst considering the 'options' for baking Seasonal Fare the other day, Sous Chef J decided he'd like to make a tree using star cutters (using the cutters we'd bought whilst shopping last week).  He messed about stacking the cutters up to see if his creation would work and then set me the task of finding a recipe to use for the biscuits we'd need to bake.  I found a remarkably similar idea on the Sainsbury's website and decided it looked like something we could adapt to be gluten free.  This wasn't the only alteration we made... Sous Chef J wanted gingerbread stars so we substituted ground ginger for the ground cinnamon the recipe lists.

Thus, we used the following ingredients:-

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 400g Dove's Farm Gluten Free plain flour
To start with, the butter, sugar and ginger were creamed together using an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Next we added the egg and flour and mixed it well - first of all using a silicone spatula, then bringing the dough together by hand.

The dough was then cut in half and placed in plastic bags.  One bag was labelled and put in the freezer for use at a later date, the other was chilled in the fridge for almost an hour.

Taking the dough from the fridge, we rolled out small pieces on silicone lining paper (we find this really helps to stop sticking) and cut out the stars.

Each star was lifted from the paper with a palette knife and put on a greased, non-stick baking sheet.

When all the dough had been used up, the stars were baked in the oven at 150ºC (fan) for about 12-15 minutes... you need to check them as the larger stars take longer than the smaller biscuits.

Once baked, the stars were left on the baking tray to cool for 10 minutes before being transferred to a cooling rack to completely cool down.

We stacked the stars, sticking them with icing sugar and water mix and layering them.

Next, small blobs of the icing were used to glue a decoration on - Sous Chef J chose some Dr Oetker Chocolate Beans to be the 'baubles'.

A small sugar star for the top and our creation was complete!

Next time we make these we will add more ground ginger as, although the biscuits are tasty, there isn't much of a ginger flavour... so it's either that or call it a shortbread tree instead.