Follow my blog with Bloglovin Home of the Kimonii: November 2012

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Oh Christmas tree....

The start of the Christmas baking season is the school Christmas bake sale, so here we go. I use a simple cake recipe with seasonal touches, which is based on the wonderfully versatile cake recipe I was given when I went to the NEFF head quarters with the Bake it yourself experts  :

170 grams of butter, sugar and self raising flour.
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
100 g sultanas
100 g chocolate drops.

Oven temp 160.
Beat together the butter and sugar until they look pale and fluffy, then add the eggs and fold in gently. Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices and fold into your mix, then fold in the fruit and chocolate (dried cranberries and white chocolate work well also) spoon into the cake cases and bake. It should make 12 and they should rise well, which is what you want as the pointy shape helps form the tree.
 When the cakes are cool, make your butter cream - I used 450 grams of icing sugar and 200 grams butter. I whisked the butter really well first, then add half the sugar and a splash of milk and whisk again, flavour as you like ( I just went for vanilla, but lemon is always good, or use brandy if it's for adults) then whisk in the rest of the sugar and colour green with food colouring.
Your need a medium star nozzle on your icing bag, though most will work, experiment with different shapes to get different effects with pleasure!

To decorate - first pipe a ring of icing round the cake like this. Remember to not over fill your bag and squeeze from the top, keeping the bag pointed over your right shoulder.
 Then pipe a second row on top of the first, think of it like building a coil pot, swirling round and round as you go. You might find you create a hollow at this point, with the icing building up higher than than cake. I'd fill this in with icing - give it a good squirt to fill in the hole,  release the pressure but keep the bag in place and when the icing has stopped coming, lift the bag away smartly and you should make a nice point for your tree.
 And there is it, ready to decorate. If I had thought ahead more, I'd have bought some star shaped cake decorations and put one on the top of each cake, but I forgot!
 Here's a whole forest, ready to decorate. I stand them on a baking tray, the one I used to bake the cakes in but I turn it upside down, giving each cake a little plinth to stand on, which makes it easier to pick them up and also catches any fallen sprinkles.
 I dusted each cake with green glitter first - I think we're meant to use luster dust now but hey, I've got glitter to use up! You can also dust with white luster to create a snowy effect.
I topped each swirl with a gold ball and dropped silver balls on the lower parts to look like Christmas balls. If you were being really creative, you could make tiny packages from cubes of fondant with fondant bows, but let's not go mad on your first attempt!
And here we go, a whole forest!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Amazing what you can pick up in hospital

Luckily not MRSA, but while I was doing what it said on the door and waiting in the waiting room, I was forced to pick up a magazine, something I do rarely. I loath all aspects of celeb culture and have no interest in their lives, so as ever turned to the recipe pages for want of something to read, and found this. It seemed to be an upside down cake which uses tinned peaches and golden syrup - to be fair, they had me on golden syrup!
 It also uses buttermilk, which is a great thing; a fermented yoghurt like stuff which is used in American and Ireland more than the UK but is amazing and should be used a lot more.

It has rising properties so makes cakes very successfully and if you like to make pancakes for your Sunday breakfast, especially the American style thick pancakes full of blueberries and dripping with syrup, then it's the ideal thing to make them with.
In case you can't read it, here's the ingredient list.

6 tbsp golden syrup (buy the squeezy bottle)
2 (though one was fine) can of peaches in juice.
150 g butter, melted.
150 g caster sugar
130 ml buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
175g self raising flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda.

Method -

First grease your tin, I used a 24 cm loose bottom tin. I thought it might leak, which it did, so I stood it on a baking tray. I'd be tempted to use a fixed bottom tin to avoid leaks but it might be hard to turn out when done.
Butter the tin well, you can brush with some of the melted butter, and then line the bottom with a disc of baking parchment and the sides with a long strip of baking parchment.
Drizzle some of the syrup into the bottom of the tin, I had some stem ginger in syrup so I used some of that syrup also because I love the ginger!;)
Then arrange your fruit in a nice, 1950's style fan, I would imagine any tinned fruit would work well, and you could even add cherries for a really kitsch feel!

Pour your butter into your mixer - if you have a big bowl you can use a hand mixer and on balance, next time I'll use my Bosch hand mixer as this is dead easy to do. Mix in your sugar, whisk for two mins or so, and then whisk in the two eggs.
Add the vanilla to your butter milk and then whisk that in next.
Sift the bicarb into the flour, then sift that into your mix - I took the bowl off the stand to do this and as you don't need to whisk again, this is why next time I'll use my Bosch hand mixer and a bowl for ease.
 Not sure why the pictures are on the side but never mind!

You then fold the flour in by hand, I used my trusty NEFF silicone spatula which is as good as a knife when it comes to folding yet better at scraping the bowl to ensure it's spotless.

Tip your mix over the fruit in the tin, pour slowly so you don't dislodge the fruit and spoil your lovely pattern. 
 Here it is ready to bake, the original recipe said 45 mins at 180 degrees, but mine was still a bit wet so I actually baked it for an hour.

Leave it to stand in the tin for about 5 mins then remove the paper from around the sides and place a serving plate on top of the tin. Count to three and then turn the tin over, keeping the plate in place to catch the cake - it will still be hot so take care, use oven gloves or wait until you can hold it comfortably. It should drop onto the plate. Un-clip and remove the tin and base and peel off the paper.
And there it is, drizzle with the rest of the syrup while its warm, though I didn't use all of it as I thought there was plenty, it looks lovely and can be eaten warm or cold and re-heats fine.

And, as part of my count down to Christmas, I've started the soaking of the fruits for the Christmas Cake, I'll be blogging about how I make mine in the week, but this is where I start.
I'm making a big batch so I can bake two or three cakes, I either use small tins or a big wedding cake tin and divide the cakes when cooked.
The choice of fruit is important, I find that I get the best results choosing fruit with plenty of tartness, the cake is always rich and heavy so a little bite really helps bring it to life.
Here is 2 1/2 pounds of fruit - sultanas (don't use currants, they are small and will over cook and go bitter in a long cook cake like this) - a cherry and berry mix, dried apricots ( do use them, they are divine in a fruit cake) cranberries, cherries, a little crystallized ginger and figs. With figs I hold the stalk and use kitchen scissors to snip them into small pieces, the stalks can be too tough in a cake.
Then add booze - this year I'm using a cup of run and two cups of dry sherry, and leave to soak for at least a week. If nothing else your kitchen smells lovely!

Next week, I'll make the cakes!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Making the most of the toast!

 If you're going to bake bread, most recipes you're give are for one loaf, but you can usually fit two in an oven, so don't waste the heat and make double the quantity and bake two loaves, it's more economic. The don't even have to be the same, here's two bakes I made today, a simple loaf ideal for toast and sandwiches, and a cinnamon and ginger swirl bun loaf.
You make one batch of dough and then divide it into two halves and give each half a different finish.

The basic dough used here is

800g pasta flour ( I find this makes great bread, but strong white is fine)
200g wholemeal bread flour.
50 g butter
600 g tepid water
15 g yeast ( I use the Allison's yeast that you activate in the water first)
50 g brown sugar
8 tsp salt
2 eggs
you'll also need more brown sugar, powdered cinnamon and stem ginger in syrup.

 The usual method I use is to add the sugar to the tepid water, add the yeast and watch it activates (fizz up) and then drop in the butter to soften it. The pour the flour into a big bowl, make a well in the center for the water/yeast mix and a small hole in the flour away from the well for the salt.
Pour your yeast/water/butter into the well and work the flour into it, then add the eggs. You may need a little more water, you want a wet but not too sticky dough.
Put a little oil on your work surface to stop the dough sticking, and kneed for about 5-10 mins until the dough is soft and silky, it should feel so good you want to rest on it for a nap!
Put it back into your bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise, it should double in size. I discovered the other day that if you have hard water, your dough rises slowly, which explains why mine takes about three hours to rise.
 When it's risen, tip it out and fold the dough, squashing out the air. Now break it into two equal halves. The picture above is the simple loaf I made from one half, a nice, smooth round set on a tray lined with baking parchment and left to prove covered with a plastic bag.
On the right is the bun loaf I made from the other half. I rolled out the second lot of dough with my hands, and then buttered it well on one side. I then sprinkled that side with brown sugar, cinnamon, a piece of grated stem ginger and some of the syrup. Then I rolled up the piece of dough like a Swiss roll, cut it into sections and placed them end up in the tin. The first picture shows them when I'd put them in the tin, the one above right shows them once they'd proved for an hour along side the plain load, nicely risen. Pre heat your oven to 210 half an hour into the proving time (If you have a super NEFF oven, you can speed this bit up with their amazing prove to bake setting, sadly, I do not!)
Bake the two loaves side by side in your oven, they should take about the same amount of time. I brushed the bun loaf with milk and sugar before baking, it probably caught a little on the top but I don't mind that actually! The took 25 mins, and are both ready in time for breakfast tomorrow!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

So, mr Bond, we meet again...

Sorry that's a terrible in joke - let me explain.

Yesterday I got to visit the NEFF headquarters in Wolverton, and become one of their Bake It Yourself experts. I kept thinking on the way up that 'NEFF Headquarters' sounded like one of those crime organizations that James Bond has to fight in their secret bunker - National Evil Fendish Federation or something.
However, they day did not involve shark tanks, high octane escapes or Daniel Craig (sorry to say) but in way of much compensation, I did get a sneak preview of the Daniel Craig of ovens, the most amazing creation with a prove to bake capacity, which if you like to bake is truly amazing.It's a steam warmed oven where you place your kneaded bread dough to rise and then with hardly a second's pause you can shape your loaf and put it right back in, and the oven is ready at 210 degrees and full of lovely hot steam to make your bread rise a treat, no second proving, nothing.
The proof of the pudding as they say is in the eating, so here's my (prize winning) loaf -

It was dead easy to make -

500 g bread flour
7g Hovis dried yeast (shake that into the flour first)
20 g sugar
10 g rock salt
25 g butter
320 g tepid milk.

The basic recipe was thanks to the lovely Jo Wheatley,   last years British bake off's winner, who was there all day to demonstrate and inspire and give out great tips, such as drop the butter into the warm milk to soften and add both to the flour together, which worked a treat.

It was up to us to make the loaves our own, so I added sesame and poppy seeds to the bread and an egg yolk, keeping back the white to glaze. I then kneaded the dough using this -
The new Ergo mixx from Bosch which is not out until next year but we were given one each to take home and test. It's got a dough hook for kneading, and so I put mine to good use kneading my dough.
What did I think? Well, for a single loaf or a wet dough which produces a lovely, aerated bake but can be hard to knead by hand, it worked very well. The issue I have is that I get RSI in my wrists after so much writing so holding the machine got a little tiring even though it's not very heavy. I also felt that if I were making a big batch of bread, I would still stick to my stand mixer, because of the volume I tend to use. Actually, I most often hand knead big batches, but I will give my new mixer a go back at Kappuke-ki headquarters and let you know how it goes - the whisk looks amazing!

Anyway, back to the bread. If you want to make my bread at home, once your dough is nearly ready I then add my pumpkin seeds. I don't put them in at the start of the knead as they are quite large and sharp and the kneading process tends to make them break up a little.

Once all together and silky smooth, the dough goes into rise, and if you don't have the absolutely wonderfully totally amazing NEFF oven with the proving setting, (which I don't at home) you'll need to put the dough in a bowl and cover it with cling film, leaving it somewhere snuggley to rise. This can take between 1 and 3 hours, but you don't have to do anything else to it until it's ready. Then you knock it back, squash out the air and shape your loaf. I made a simple 4 strand plait.

Again, if you have a super NEFF oven you can bake straight away (WHICH IS AMAZING!) but if you don't, then you'll need to let the loaf sit on it's tray ready to bake to prove. Put a plastic bag over it to keep the moisture and warmth in, and leave it for an hour.

Heat your over ready to 210 degrees, and before you put your loaf in, brush it with the egg white you saved from before and sprinkle with poppy seeds and sea salt. Throw a baking tray of ice cubes into the bottom of your oven, count to ten and then pop in your loaf to bake.
(Jo gave me the tip about the ice cubes and it really works.)

Bake for 20 mins and check, it may need a another ten mins if it's not ready, but you should then have a lovely seeded loaf perfect for a bread and cheese lunch or to eat with soup.

So, after a day of baking excellence, I am proud to announce that I am now one of NEFF's official baking experts and will be answering baking questions on their facebook pages - The official launch is on Tuesday, so keep a look out for my ugly mug and for my baking adventures, brought to you from my Kappuke-ki Kidswear blog.