29 June 2013

Baking With Spirit: The Cocktails Roundup

This month I gave you a sneak peek at my alcohol shelf, and asked you all to take a look at yours and try to use what you had in the house to make a cocktail-themed bake.

Baking With Spirit has had its highest number of entries so far with this challenge (6), so translating cocktails into baked goods was obviously a popular theme. I'm impressed not only by the variety of ways that cocktails can be turned into cake, but also because everybody used a different cocktail. All of the entries look fantastic, and I'm more than tempted to try making them all.

First up, Caroline from Caroline Makes... made these delicious looking White Russian Cupcakes. She used Creme de Cacao instead of coffee liqueur as she is more partial to its flavour, which must have made the cakes taste great. I'll definitely have to try making these for the chocoholics in my life as soon as I track down the elusive Creme de Cacao.

I adapted Nigella's Roxanne's Millionaire Shortbread to make these Grasshopper Bars. The caramel was a little stickier than usual because of the added Creme de Menthe, but nobody seemed to mind and they went down very quickly. Definitely worth a try!

Craig at The Usual Saucepans celebrated World Gin Day this month by making Foghorn Mini Loaf Cakes. A foghorn is a cocktail I hadn't heard of, but uses gin, lime and ginger ale. It sounds like a brilliant flavour combination and I bet the 'loaflettes' were delicious.

This month I was very pleased to welcome Choclette, of Chocolate Log Blog, to the Baking With Spirit club. She  made a cake based on a cocktail of her own creation, the Chocadoodledoo. The Chocadoodledoo Cake is made with genoese sponge and fresh strawberries - I bet it didn't last long!

Ellen at Bake It With Booze made these gorgeous Ginger Rogers Cupcakes, based on the cocktail named after the famous actress from Hollywood's golden age. With gin, ginger syrup, lime and ginger ale, these cupcakes sound like they pack a delicious punch.

Newcomer Natalie at The Hungry Hinny wanted to bake something with courgette and lime, cumulating in the creation of this delicious sounding Courgette Mojito Cake. I doubt this lasted very long in Natalie's house!

Return to the blog on Monday to check out the challenge for July... it's a good'un!

22 June 2013

Strawberry Daiquari FroYo [No Churn]

Is the term 'FroYo' out? If so, I'm totally bringing it back, such is the refreshing feeling given off by this recipe.

Here in Newcastle there is a distinct lack of FroYo (Frozen Yoghurt) availability. One shop did pop up for a while in the main shopping centre, but to be honest the owners probably didn't think it through because they opened it in mid February. I, along with presumably many others, saw this shop and though to myself "Hey, I'll totally buy something from there when summer comes around!"

Unsurprisingly, though, the shop was no-longer there when summer eventually rolled around, and Newcastle remains FroYo-less.

I made this several weeks ago, and was looking for something that wouldn't require an ice cream maker since I hadn't yet 'borrowed' my parent's one from Devon. A bit of googling led to Mary Berry's No Churn Ice Cream on BBC Food's website. She gives a whole list of ways to flavour your ice cream, but I wanted to try my own idea out. And I wanted FroYo.

I had some strawberries in the freezer, and, knowing that they don't thaw out very well, decided to make them into a strawberry coulis of my own design. I added this to Mary Berry's recipe (exchanging cream for natural yoghurt) along with a nice dose of rum to try and replicate a Strawberry Daiquiri cocktail, though my sources tell me that it also requires lime. Feel free to add some lime zest to your strawberry coulis and/or your FroYo mixture.

Makes 2 Litres
For the strawberry coulis

  • 400g Strawberries
  • 150g Caster Sugar
For the FroYo
  • 4 Eggs
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 300mL Natural Yoghurt
  • 60mL Rum
  • Wash and hull the strawberries, then put in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the caster sugar designated for the coulis.
  • Cover with cold water, then put on a low heat and leave to simmer until the mixture has reduced down and only a layer of sticky looking liquid remains.
  • Use an immersion blender to blend the ingredients together, then strain.
  • If you want, you can keep the coulis for a considerable time by pouring it into a jar that has been sterilised. To sterilise a jar and its lid, wash it in hot soapy water, then let it dry in an oven that has been preheated to 100C.
  • If you're not storing the coulis, leave it to cool while you prepare the FroYo mixture.
  • Separate the eggs, and whisk the egg whites with the sugar to form stiff peaks.
  • Fold in the egg yolks, natural yoghurt, caster sugar and rum until well combined.
  • Add the coulis. If you want a rippled effect, only fold it in halfway, so that the pink and white streaks are still quite obvious.
  • Pour the mixture into a container and leave to freeze (approx 4 hours).

I realise that, through my enthusiasm for FroYo, I've made it sound like I'm the new face of some company that goes by the same name. Really though, I do just love the stuff.

15 June 2013

Strawberry Surprise Cupcakes

This weekend I'm taking a big step and driving my car (which belonged to my parents until this week) up to Newcastle. The longest distance I've driven before is up to Bristol from Plymouth (about 2 hours), so I'm going quite a bit further, but it has to be done some time so there's no time like the present.

I'm especially excited because I'm going to Cadbury World today. I've never been before, and am very excited by the copious amounts of chocolate I'll be exposed to. I've been picturing an almost Willy Wonka-esque factory, but I know I need to tone down those imaginings just ever so slightly. 

I'm meeting up with my ex-housemate, who was also my biggest cake eater when we lived together. I've sent him a lot of cookies, and even managed to post a battenburg cake for his birthday, but I don't think cupcakes would translate very well in the post. This is a pity, because none of my housemates eat/like cake. I know - who are these people?! Anyway, since we're meeting up in person I've made some cupcakes to give him, since they are less likely to be squashed and unappealing by the time I reach him. 

I'm really pleased with these cupcakes. The icing (adapted from Sweetapolita) is soft and airy, and the strawberries in the centre help to cut through its sweetness. These are actually surprisingly simple to make: all you need to do is make the cupcakes, cut a hole in the middle and fill it with a strawberry, then cover it over with icing. The icing is as easy as melting chocolate and blending it into icing sugar and butter. 

I strongly encourage you to give them a go, as they managed to entice even the least sugar-loving members of my family. Cupcakes for everyone!

Makes 12
For the cupcakes
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 200g Butter
  • 3 Eggs
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 50mL Milk
  • 400g Strawberries

For the icing
  • 230g Butter
  • 190g Icing Sugar
  • 125g White Chocolate
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan and line a cupcake tin with cupcake cases.
  • To make the cupcakes: cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into the batter and fold in until well combined.
  • Stir in the vanilla essence, then add enough milk to give the batter a soft dropping consistency.
  • Divide the batter between the cupcake cases, then bake in the oven for 22 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave the cupcakes to cool on a wire rack, then scoop out the middle (don't go all the way to the bottom) of each cake using a knife and place a hulled (destalked) strawberry inside.
  • To make the icing: melt the chocolate in a pan over a low heat. 
  • Use an electric whisk to combine the butter and icing sugar, then continue whisking for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the white chocolate, then whisk the icing for 2 more minutes.
  • Use a piping bag to decorate the cakes with the icing.

I'm entering these into Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than...'s blogging challenge, The Biscuit Barrel Challenge. No, these aren't biscuits, but she says anything that will fit into a biscuit barrel goes. I'm not saying these wouldn't make a big mess inside the barrel, but they would totally fit. Laura's theme is In Season Fruits, so strawberries fit in perfectly here.


12 June 2013

Chilli Chocolate Macarons

The first time I tried chilli chocolate was on an Italian exchange back in 2005. The family I was staying with looked on with glee as I tried some of theirs - chilli chocolate was unheard of in Britain at the time. I didn't yet have much of a spicy palate back then (in fact, I'm still only partial to mildly spicy food), but I did enjoy the contrast between the smooth chocolate and fiery chilli. It was almost like crackling chocolate as the contrast in mouthfeel pulls you in.

Eight years later, I'm still only a cautious fan of chilli chocolate, looking on from the sidelines as it gains in popularity. My dad, on the other hand, is a huge fan. To celebrate his birthday, I made these Chilli Chocolate Macarons. I'm pretty pleased with how well the colour came out, even if the oven caused some of them to crack on top. My dad really liked them, and a sizeable chunk of them had disappeared by the end of the day.

We were out of chilli powder, but I managed so scrounge some chilli flakes from the depths of a cupboard so I used those to infuse the chocolate instead. I've seen a few recipes now where the macarons are sprinkled with something before being baked, so I tried this with the chilli flakes with great results. I know macarons are notoriously tricky, but once you find a good recipe it's hard to go wrong. I use Bravetart's recipe; the first time I tried them I also read her Ten Commandments of macarons and was very successful.

Makes 15
For the macarons
  • 4 Egg Whites
  • 230g Icing Sugar
  • 115g Ground Almonds
  • 72g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • Red gel food colouring
  • 5 Tsp Chilli Flakes
For the chilli chocolate ganache
  • 100g Dark Chocolate
  • 50mL Water
  • 2 Tbsp Chilli Flakes
  • Preheat the oven to 145C and line two baking trays with parchment paper. Use a 1.5in cookie cutter to trace circles about 1in apart on the sheets of baking parchment and turn over - you'll use these as a guide for piping the macarons.
  • To make the macarons, put the egg whites and caster sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk on medium (on an electric whisk) for 3 minutes. Increase the speed setting to high and whisk for 3 minutes.
  • Add the red food colouring (you will need a considerable amount to make the meringue red and not pink). Whisk for another minute. The meringue should be so stiff that it gets trapped inside the whisk. Rap it sharply on the edge of the bowl to make the trapped meringue fall out.
  • Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar into the mixing bowl and fold in with a rubber spatula. After each fold, push down on the mixture as if you are trying to push the air out it (which, indeed, you are). Repeat until all of the ingredients are incorporated and, if you drop a bit of the mixture onto the top of the rest of it, the drop merges back into the mixture within 20 seconds. Make sure you also scrape around the bowl a lot to ensure that all of the meringue gets incorporated.
  • Using a standard round nozzle (or by snipping the end off your disposable piping bag), pipe the macaron mixture inside the guides you drew earlier. Don't go right to the edges as the macarons do expand a little in the oven. Sprinkle the chilli flakes on top of half of the macarons.
  • Rap each baking tray (complete with macarons) sharply on the work surface, then turn it 90 degrees and rap it again. This ensures that any air bubbles rise to the top.
  • If you have a fan oven like me, it's a good idea to make sure your oven trays are either slightly above or slightly below the fan as this can cause the macarons to crack. 
  • Put the macarons in the oven for 25 mins, turning the baking tray around half way through. After this time, try peeling a macaron from the baking parchment by holding them perpendicular to the tray and holding the top of it. If the macaron does not come away cleanly, they are not done so put them back in the oven for another 3-6 minutes, or until they do come away from the parchment paper without leaving anything behind.
  • Leave the macarons to cool on a rack.
  • Meanwhile, make the ganache: place all of the ingredients into a heavy-based saucepan and place over a low heat until the water starts to steam. Remove from the heat and leave until the chocolate is melted before stirring until smooth. Leave to cool and thicken.
  • When the ganache is thick enough, pipe it onto half of the macarons (the flat side which was touching the baking parchment when baking). Sandwich them together with the other half of the macarons.

I'm entering this into the November 2014 We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen. The challenge, invented by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Tea Pot, centres around chocolate. This month the challenge is to bake with both chocolate and chilli.


6 June 2013

Grasshopper Bars

This week I went to the Lake District for three fun days of surprisingly seasonal heat and sunshine. Before the trip I had shockingly little knowledge of what I would be doing, since my friends had done all the planning. It wasn’t until 48 hours beforehand, when I started receiving texts about walking boots and sleeping bags, that I started to wonder what I had let myself in for.

You see, I am not an outdoorsy person. In the past I have had my fair share of family camping holidays (with and without lashing rain); I even did the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. I’m not averse to being outside, but after living in the middle of nowhere for 18 years I am now a definite city person. I still enjoy the odd adventure, though, so when I was invited along to the Lake District to stay in R’s chalet and take part in Go Ape (where you basically do an obstacle course, but high up in the trees), I was happy to come along.

It turned out that neither the walking boots nor the sleeping bag were needed, though I was taken on a four mile hike around a lake. I was under the impression that we would just be walking around the lake edge but I very quickly realised that we were actually going to be scaling a steep hill before descending to the lake only at the very end of the hike. I am no stranger to exercise, but I have to admit that, since Newcastle is extremely flat, I am no longer used to hilly terrain so this realisation was slightly unwelcome. Though I might have grumbled a little bit, I did enjoy myself in the end.

I’d only been to the Lake District once before and experienced horrific weather, so I was glad that I could enjoy the spectacular views on offer. It was definitely worth putting my life in the hands of my friends for a couple of days, and there is nothing wrong with getting out of your comfort zone.

Now, let’s get onto these Grasshopper Bars. I adapted them from the Roxanne’s Millionaire Shortbread in Nigella’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess, and planned to have a layer of the minty caramel followed by the chocolate layer, but I didn’t buy enough chocolate. Instead, I made a ganache and marbled the chocolate and caramel together. The caramel is flavoured with Crème de Menthe, but the liqueur didn’t make it green enough for me so I also added a bit of food colouring. If you’re making these for children, I’d advise swapping the Crème de Menthe for peppermint flavouring.

I do love these bars, and the shortbread base contrasts well with the gooey topping. The one issue I had was that the caramel didn’t set as well as usual because of the Crème de Menthe making it more wet, but despite the added stickiness they are well worth the minimal effort involved.

Makes 12

For the shortbread
  • ·   125g Plain Flour
  • ·   50g Cocoa Powder
  • ·   100g Caster Sugar
  • ·   175g Butter

For the caramel
  • ·   375g Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • ·   4 Tbsp Golden Syrup
  • ·   100g Butter
  • ·   50mL Crème de Menthe
  • ·   Green Gel Food Colouring

For the ganache
  • ·   200g Dark Chocolate
  •     100mL Water

  • ·   Preheat the oven to 180/170C fan and line two square cake tins (or a brownie tin) with parchment paper.
  • ·   Place the shortbread ingredients into a bowl and rub together with your fingertips to form a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. Transfer to the tin and press into the base, then prick all over with a fork.
  • ·   Bake the shortbread for five minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 160/150C fan and bake for a further 30 minutes. Leave to cool but do not remove from the tin.
  • ·   To make the caramel, place all of the ingredients  except the food colouring into a microwaveable bowl and microwave on full power for 7-8 minutes, stopping and stirring after each minute. The caramel mixture should darken when it is ready.
  • ·   Add enough good colouring to give a satisfactory green colour, then pour the caramel over the shortbread.
  • ·   Make the ganache by covering the chocolate with the water and melting it in a pan over a low heat.
  •     Allow to cool and thicken, then pour onto the caramel and use a spoon to merge the two layers together.
  • ·   Allow to set completely before slicing.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the Grasshopper is a cocktail made from Crème de Cacao, Crème de Menthe and cream. These Grasshopper Bars are my interpretation of the famous cocktail, so I’m entering them into this month’s Baking With Spirit. This month I asked you to bake something based on a cocktail, preferably using the spirits and liqueurs that you’ve accumulated over time. You’ve got until the 28th to take part, so get baking!

This month's We Should Cocoa is being hosted by Victoria at A Kick At The Pantry Door. She's chosen mint as this month's ingredient, which we are asked to combine with chocolate. These Grasshopper Bars are therefore the perfect entry! We Should Cocoa is a monthly blogging challenge which was started by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog and Chele of Chocolate Teapot, both of whom are taking a well-earned rest!


1 June 2013

Baking With Spirit: The June Challenge

When I started this challenge I didn't realise what a collection of spirits I would end up with. I now have such a collection that I could do with a dedicated alcohol cupboard, or even a nice wooden wine rack. For now, the bottles are collected on one of the shelves in my room, helping to hold up my books:

Realising the collection I've built up over the past nine months, I thought it might be fun to try combining a few of them for this month's challenge (this might also ease up the number of belongings to transfer to my new home when I move house next month). For this month's Baking With Spirit, I'd like you all to bake something based on cocktails. To add to the challenge, it would be great if you could limit the ingredients of your cocktail to spirits that you already have in the house. If your collection is rather meagre, though, I'll let you off if you need to go to the shops first!

The main rules for the challenge are as follows (you can see the full set here):
  1. Bake or cook something food-related which is based on a cocktail
  2. Write a post about it on your blog and link back to my blog, Cake Of The Week, and mention Baking With Spirit
  3. Email the link to me at cakeoftheweek@hotmail.co.uk and include your name, your blog and the photo you want me to use in the roundup. If you tweet me @CakeOfTheWeek and/or use #bakingwithspirit I will endeavour to retweet.
  4. The deadline is midnight on the 28th of the month.
Have fun, and don't forget to share the challenge with your friends!