All 5 entries tagged 30For30
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June 29, 2012
Item no. 25 on my 30 for 30 list is: bake macarons.
(That's not a typo, by the way. Remember the song: "You say eether, and I say eyether." Well, "You say macaroons, and I say macarons..." I've taken to saying macarons to describe these delightful creations because whenever I called them macaroons, people automatically assumed that I meant coconut macaroons.)
Anyway, back to the subject of macaron baking. These chocolate baileys macarons were the first batch of successful macarons that I baked and I was so pleased with myself. You see, I decided to bake macarons as a birthday cake of sorts for Sarah (of the White Chocolate, Rosewater and Cardamon cake episode) because she likes things that are a bit different. However, I had a disastrous first attempt making white chocolate and raspberry macarons from the Pink Whisk because I over-folded the mixture. Thus, when I added the bright pink mixture into the piping bag, it all ran out of the piping nozzle... and there was no stopping it. What. A. Fail. The sides of my mouth dropped a few centimetres as I scrapped the pink batter into the bin, and my bottom lip came out a bit. No joke.
Well, on the plus side, at least I know what over-folded mixture feels like. However, that's not much of a consolation prize when the clock is ticking.
The following day (which was the day I needed to present them), I decided to try another macaron recipe. I was still feeling somewhat deflated by the previous evening's disastrous attempt so decided to skip the grinding together of the almonds and sugar. That's why the macaron shells look rather rough and grainy, rather than smooth, on the photos. (I have done this for all subsequent macaron baking.) I was understandably slightly cautious when folding in the almonds and icing sugar into the eggwhites. I halted all folding action the second the batter slid slowly off my spoon in a somewhat ribbony fashion. No river of sugary, chocolatey, almond goo fell out of the piping nozzle this time. Success!
They (I don't know who precisely 'they' are) say that chocolate macarons are harder to make than normal ones because the cocoa powder drys them out. So maybe I lucked out with this. But I'll always remember them as the first batch of macarons that I baked successfully.
Ingredients for the chocolate macaron shells from Green and Blacks: Chocolate Recipes
- 125g/4½oz ground almonds
- 25g/1oz cocoa powder
- 250g/9oz icing sugar (225g in with the almonds + 25g with the egg whites)
- 100g egg whites, which is between 3-4 large egg whites
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F/gas mark 9 and line 3 baking sheets with non stick baking liners, such as Bake-O-Glide. Fit a large piping bag with a 1cm plain circle nozzle. Twist the piping bag and push the twist into the nozzle so that the mixture doesn't spill out of the nozzle. Stand it in a large receptacle, such as a pint glass.
2. Measure out the icing sugar and ground almonds. Put them into a food processor to grind down to an even finer mixture. I use my Bamix Dry Grinder and have to do it in 3 batches. When you're finished add in the cocoa powder then sift the almond, sugar, cocoa powder mixture and leave out the residue of ground almonds that weren't ground fine enough. (I always find that there can be up to a tablespoon of ground almonds leftover.) Then leave the sifted powders to one side.
3. Measure out the eggwhites and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until they are thick and glossy. (I sound like I'm describing hair for a shampoo advert!)
4. Use a spatula to gently fold in the almond, icing sugar and cocoa into the egg whites in a figure of eight. It will feel really dry at first and you'll wonder whether it'll ever come together, but don't worry. It will. It's important not to over-mix (see above) so stop when you feel like the mixture is dropping off the spatula in a thick ribbon. This is the tricky part to get right and it even has a name - macaronage.
5. Pour or use the spatula to spoon the mixture into the prepared piping bag. Once it's full, gently untwist the piping bag and begin piping the mixture onto the baking sheets. With the nozzle perpendicular to the baking sheet, squeeze out the mixture until it forms the circular size you're after. Firmly flick up your nozzle and move onto the next one. Leave 2cm of space between each circle, in case the macaron mixture spreads a bit.
6. Next, here's the noisy part. In order to remove spare air in the macarons, bang the baking trays firmly on a flat surface. Let them rest for at least 30 minutes to an hour for a film to form on the macarons. They're ready when you can lightly press your finger on the wet macaron circles and your finger comes away clean. This is also a good time to press down any remaining peaks on your macarons. Something that I clearly forgot to do with the one in the top photo.
7. Put the baking trays in the oven to cook at 240°C/475°F/gas mark 9 for 1 minute, and then reduce the temperature to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake the shells for another 10-12 minutes. The shells should still be soft to touch but not gooey.
8. Let them rest for a minute on the baking trays and then remove them gently from the baking sheets to cool on a wire rack.
Ingredients for the chocolate baileys ganache filling
- 100g double cream
- 100g dark chocolate
- 2 tbsp baileys or an irish cream liquor substitute (or more splashes of baileys if you prefer)
1. Break up the chocolate and put it into a heat proof bowl.
2. In a small pan, bring to boil the double cream and then pour the double cream on top of the chocolate. Leave for 2-3 minutes so that the chocolate starts melting of it's own accord.
3. Gently stir the cream into melting chocolate to encourage the remainder of the chocolate to melt away. Add in the baileys for flavour.
4. Let it cool completely and put it into the fridge to harden for at least an hour, or preferably overnight.
To assemble the macarons:
1. Lay out the macarons so that the flat side is looking at you, and pair up similar sizes - you can tell that I'm a novice macaron baker.
2. When the ganache is ready, you can spoon the ganache onto the shells using a teaspoon, or better still, transfer the ganache into a piping bag, fitted with a 1cm nozzle, and pipe the chocolate ganache onto half of the shells. Sandwich them together with the other half of the shells.
3. Ta DA!
How does the story end with Sarah's birthday treat? Is it happily ever after? Oh no - my list of things that went wrong in baking macarons didn't stop there. Once I'd arranged the macarons and the candles on the plate, I decided to hide them in the bottom oven. And then I used the top oven to warm the bread. You already know how this story ends, right? Yup, you've guessed it - when I took the plate out to surprise Sarah, virtually all the candles had bent over like the tops of walking sticks. Only three of them had survived the oven. We were all amused!
Oh and the verdict on the macarons? Tasty, of course. Sarah was really pleased with the alternative birthday 'cake'. Now, if you were patient enough to eat one 3 days later - heavenly! The flavours had matured and melded together. Elegantly scrum!
March 10, 2012
Item no. 7 on my 30 for 30 list reads: run a cupcake workshop.
So, on 30th January 2012, that's what I did. As you can tell, the date is still imprinted in my mind!
You know those moments when you wonder how you got yourself into 'that' situation. Well item no. 7 was one of them. This was my first ever cupcake workshop that I'd attended, never mind organise, host and teach. Having said that, I did have that tingling sense of nervous excitement about facilitating it; and terror by my lack of knowledge and expertise in the cupcake decorating front.
So, I marshalled some troops, in the form of enthusiastic volunteers, to assist me. I'm very grateful to them. (Now, I feel like I'm writing the acknowledgments section of a book :P. Bear with me.)
- Midge taught on using fondant icing and sugarpaste.
- Sarah hosted, lent me her a muffin tin, and listened to my ideas.
- Emma printed certificates, shared tips from a friends experience of a cupcake workshop, made fondant icing.
- Emily helped come up with the prose for the certificates (I added the poetry), practised piping with me days before the workshop, and rescued the buttercream!
The evening before, I had a 6 hour bake-a-thon and produced 4 different varieties of cupcakes: strawberry, courgette and sultana, vanilla, chocolate and green tea, using 5 different recipes, totally over 120 cupcakes in all! I am indebted to Kenny the Mixer, whom I fell in love with. (more about him in my strawberry cupcake post.)
On the morning of the workshop, I used 2kg of butter to make a vast quantity of buttercream.
I used A LOT of butter for this workshop. I'm estimating at least 7kg worth. So, when you're charged £40 for a cupcake workshop - part of it goes towards buying the butter!
What fun we had :)
So, I'd factored in 15 minutes for people to arrive late and get a cup of tea or something wet. Even though I'd asked people to arrive to start at 2pm, as I anticipated, there were some delays.
We began with pink champagne and a very quick icebreaker in pairs, where we shared our names, our previous experience with cupcakes and also one cupcake related thing that would push us out of our comfort zone. Then all of us fedback the main points. I remember that my pair and I both confessed a dislike of frosting, which had prevented us on venturing out on the cupcake decorating front. (This was before my discovery of meringue buttercream.)
Courgette and sultana cupcakes topped with lime and pistachio buttercream were doled out to each of the participants.
At this point I said that I'd really like them to learn something that they could do at home, have fun and make lots of mess!
I hope we achieved that.
A few people had already told me that they needed to leave early for the school run, so I planned the workshop so that there were parallel activities running throughout the afternoon which guests could choose.
- cupcake baking vs. sugarcraft
- piping decorations vs. sugarcraft
- piping decorations vs. assembling cakes
- assembling cakes and play
There were a lot of laughs and memorable moments. My guests had so much fun and lots of pretty cakes to take home afterwards, which I was thrilled about. Remember, how I was truly uncertain about it's outcome?
In the end, I think that I squashed too many learning objectives (forgive my teacher speak) and activities in there. When I reflected on it, I decided that in future, I would try this as 3 x 2hour workshops: 1. baking cupcakes; 2. piping frosting; and 3. sugarpaste. As I was reflecting on this, I had this delicious moment when I realised that what I was doing was CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT. The thing that I felt that I was incompetent to do and really scared of doing at work. So, one of my unexpected learning outcomes was greater confidence at work for lesson planning. When I unpack this, the workshop was a gem of a learning experience!
So, I was thinking about which of the five cupcake recipes to share with you, then decided against it. Rather, I'd like to introduce you to the simplest of cupcake recipes. I got taught this by a biology teacher in my secondary school many years ago, and I still remember it.
You will need a set of weighing scales.
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4/350F. Line cupcake/muffin tins with liners.
2. Weigh the eggs and record their weight. Next, you're going to be using that magic number to measure out the self-raising flour, caster sugar and butter.
3. Once you've weighed out all the ingredients, place in one bowl and mix all the ingredients together. Use an electric mixer or a spatula - it doesn't really matter.
4. Using a tablespoon or a dessert spoon, dollop a spoonful into the cases.
5. Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, until a tester/knife comes out clean.
5. Take out and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then let them cool completely on a wire rack.
February 25, 2012
To be honest, I would never have made the strawberry meringue buttercream that makes this cupcake if it wasn't for the beautiful photo in Martha Stewart's cupcake's book. I mean, the very name, Strawberry Meringue Buttercream sounds pretentious, preposterous and... p,p,p... what other word am I looking for that starts with 'p'?. Come on, be honest. How many of you had heard of meringue in a buttercream before?
Having said all that, I did make them, meringue buttercream frosting and all! Do you remember that last year I listed a fair number of things that stop me from trying new recipes... Well, dear reader, I tackled three just here:
- a new/complicated technique
- not being put off by a bit of baking equipment that I don't have
- and getting over my dislike of frosting
Having made the recipe and tasted it (so delicious!), please don't get put off making both parts of this recipe. Particularly the pretentiously, preposterous (I'm joking now) strawberry meringue buttercream. This buttercream is YUM!
There were four noteworthy moments that I'd like to share:
I borrowed a Kenwood Mixer, which we nicknamed "Kenny", and duly fell in love with it. I must confess that after the first time that I used the Kenwood, I sent a text message to Sarah, his owner, which stated "Kenny is a dream!" Kenny definitely made the experience a much easier and better one. But, as I have to remind myself now, if you don't have an equivalent, then use the electric mixer.
You'll want to use a big bowl to make the cake mixture. A glance of some of the ingredients list gives it away: 2¾ cups of flour. 2 sticks of butter.
Martha says that this makes 36 american sized cupcakes. I read in the Hummingbird bakery book that UK muffin tins are the same size as US cupcake tins. More cross-pond confusion. So, I duly baked these in a UK muffin tin, and excitedly found some pretty pink muffin cases to bake them in. In the end I made 42, but it could be that I underfilled the cases a little bit.
I still don't quite get what the UK substitute is for US all-purpose flour. The baking forums are ambivalent on this. Martha's recipe explicitly states that the ¼ cup of cake flour shouldn't be self-raising flour. By that instruction, I deduced (rightly or wrongly) that I shouldn't use self raising flour for the all-purpose flour bit. Unfortunately, at that point in my 6 hour cupcake bake-athon, I realised that I didn't have enough plain flour. And then my kitchen scales started playing up. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I used mix of plain and self-raising flour (ratio unknown), and substituted the cake flour for cornflour. Martha - I deduced by cakeflour that you wanted a flour that would create a lighter texture to it.
So, Martha. My question to you: did I commit a great baking sin?
Looking at these photos now, I'm thinking that the strawberries have a very similar appearance to pomegranates. Hmm.... I wonder whether... Next time I bake this, I'm going to try it with pomegranates. I'll let you know how I get on.
Anyway, back to Martha Stewart's Strawberry Cupcakes, adapted by moi. And I converted the recipe into grams for my UK readers.
Ingredients for the Strawberry Cupcakes
- 340g self-raising flour
- 35g cornflour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 225g butter, softened and cubed
- 375g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs + 1 egg white
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups finely chopped strawberries - about 20 strawberries.
1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180C/350F. Line the muffin tin with paper cases.
2. Measure out the dry ingredients and sift together into a medium sized bowl. That's the self raising flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt. You don't have to sift, but the sifting helps it to be a lighter cake.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light in colour and fluffy in texture. This normally takes between 5-7 minutes with an electric whisk. If you're using a mixer then use the beater attachment.
I think this is the moment I fell in love (again!) with the Kenwood mixer because I could just leave it to work its magic whilst I read the instructions again and got the eggs, vanilla, measured out the flour...
4. Add the vanilla extract at this point (one of my variations to Martha Stewart. I think that it helps to mix the flavour in evenly into the mixture). Then add in the eggs on a slow speed, one egg at a time with a tablespoon of the flour mixture, to prevent the mixture from curdling.
5. Now mix in the remainder of the flour mixture into the wet batter. Then pour in the milk and continue to mix well.
6. Finally add the chopped strawberries and mix the cake batter with a spatula or a wooden spoon.
Using a tablespoon, dollop out the cake mix into the prepared muffin cases. For each of the muffin cases, I estimated 2 dollops of the tablespoon worked well.
Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, turning the baking tins once in the baking, so that the cupakes have an even bake. Test them with a tester/sharp knife and if it comes out clean, they are ready. Let the baked cakes cool in the muffin tray for 5 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.
So, by the time I got to make the Strawberry Meringue Buttercream, half of the strawberry cupcakes had been used up at the cupcake workshop. As I read Martha Stewart's recipe on the meringue buttercream frosting, I just couldn't quite convince myself to use her method. She pretty much mixes all the ingredients together, heats it and mixes it, and somehow that didn't suit the perfectionist in me. So, I searched through Ruth Clemens' Pink Whisk blog and found a meringue buttercream recipe that I could adapt. I think there's also an element of me believing Ruth's blog to be more honest over Martha's book.
Besides, Ruth sold it to me, "This post also includes the recipe for the absolute best cupcake topping in the world – meringue buttercream frosting – I can eat this straight off the spoon! It’s definitely worth the effort and once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back to ‘normal’ buttercream!"
Okay, Ruth. Let's give it a go and see whether it's worth the effort.
It is. I don't normally like buttercream frosting because it's too rich and sweet, but I make an exception for this one. The addition of the meringue means that it feels much lighter and airier to eat. Also on the decorating front - it holds it's shape really well. Once again, probably because of the meringue.
So, here's my version of delicious Strawberry Meringue Buttercream, adapted from the Pink Whisk. From another of Ruth's posts, I'd seen that she'd used Two Chicks liquid egg whites and approved. So, I decided to save myself the worry of wondering what to do with leftover egg yolks, and searched the aisles in Sainsburys to purchase some liquid egg whites.
Oh, and I also bought myself a sugar thermometer especially for the task too. That's one way of tackling the issue of not having a piece of baking equipment.
Ingredients for Strawberry Meringue Buttercream
- 5 large egg whites (I did indeed find and use Two Chicks liquid egg whites)
- 50g caster sugar
- 250g caster sugar
- 100ml water
- 500g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tbsp strawberry jam
- 1tsp vanilla extract
Top tip: This is much easier to do with a stand mixer. K-mix, Kitchenaid's were made for these jobs. As a non-owner, I borrowed my friend's Kenwood, I have much K-envy. So, if you have one, please make this just so that I know that they are being utilised for what they were created for!
1. Whisk the egg whites in a big bowl until they are soft peaks (foamy but don't hold their shape). Keep whisking, this time adding in 50g of sugar, a spoonful at a time. Continue whisking until they form firm peaks (they don't lost their shape when you take the whisk out).
2. Leave to one side. In a small saucepan, gently heat up the water and the 250g caster sugar so that the caster sugar melts into a syrup. Once the sugar has melted, put the heat up to full and boil it up th 121C.
Ruth said that it would take 10 minutes. I took about 20 minutes, but wondering whether I either have a faulty thermometer or did something wrong. Anyway, 20 minutes later, it had almost reached 118C and I decided that was good enough for me. Didn't seem to affect it too much this time.
3. Start whisking the egg whites again at a low speed. Slowly, slowly pour in the sugar syrup into the egg whites. Keep whisking for another 8-10 minutes, until the meringue mixture cools. I had a break at this point to allow the bowl to cool down a bit.
4. When the bowl is cool to touch, it's time to add the butter. This is a slow process and be patient with it. Basically you have to add the butter to the egg whites in small pieces. If you have a mixer - keep it on the whisk attachment. I didn't weigh this out, but I estimate that I pretty much added between 10-20g each time. Let one piece of butter be incorporated fully, before adding the next. The mixture does look like it's going a bit wrong because it becomes liquidy. But don't worry, that's normal.
5. Finally(!), when all the butter is added, (if you want/need to, use the paddle attachment on a slow speed to ensure that the butter is all fully mixed in). Then swap in the whisk attachment to whisk the mixture so that it has the consistency and appearance of whipped cream.
6. Add the flavouring at this point. I separated my meringue buttercream frosting into two batches and added 1tsp vanilla extract into one and 1tbsp of strawberry (and the tiniest smidgen of red gel food colouring) to the other.
7. Fill those piping bags and away we go :)
IPHONE FALLS HEADLONG INTO FROSTING
UM! So yes, as I was taking photos, my Iphone slipped out of it's case and crashed into the decorated cakes. Naturally(!), I ran to grab my camera, so that I could capture a shot of that moment.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to interview the said IPhone at the time, and take a shot at what it had to say about all of this because some cupcake had got in the way.
:-) The salvaged cupcakes!
February 01, 2012
I don't aspire to literary greatness or wittiness, which posed a bit of a problem when I had to come up with the wording to put on the attendance certificates for the cupcake workshop (item no. 7 on my 30 for 30 list). My friend Emily put together the prose and Emma did the printing of the posters. I came up with this ditty at 3am on the morning of the cupcake workshop, inspired by Edward Monkton. Do you fancy posting a poetic response?
Said the cupake to [insert your name],
I promise to post more photos, write up another entry on the workshop itself and a cupcake recipe soon. But right now I am still exhausted from Sunday night's 6 hour cupcake baking marathon. Any guesses what time I went to bed? More on that later.
25th Feb - cupcake recipe added!
10th Mar - workshop added.
January 13, 2012
I turned 30
(It was today when I started writing this entry.)
For a few months now, I've been putting together a list of 30 things that I can do when I'm 30. When I was putting the list together, I invited my friends and family to contribute their ideas to the list. I had one rule: in the spirit of openness, I couldn't say "No" to any of their suggestions until my power of veto kicked in on my birthday. I had about 50 items that I've whittled down. Thank you for all your ideas.
The items on the list can be modified, as long as it keeps within the spirit of it. E.g. I'm scared of heights and the deep sea, so item #20 is doing something that I'm scared to do.
So here's my list of 30 for 30:
- Go on a helicopter ride.
- Give money away towards something GREAT.
- Learn a new language to hold a simple 10 minute conversation with a native speaker.
- Learn to dance - ballroom, latin etc.
- Go to a ball.
- Learn how to make tasty Vietnamese cuisine.
- Run a cupcake workshop.
- Take a photo that captures the moment/day/theme, every day for a year.
- Watch Monty Python's Life of Brian.
- Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant.
- Watch a Shakespearean play at the Globe Theatre in London.
- Go to a friend's wedding in a foreign country.
- Drive 2.5 hours to Huddersfield for dinner with my sister and her husband. That's where they live.
- Go to the Opera. As in properly going to an Opera House and seeing an opera. Failing that, go to a musical in London.
- Start reading the Bible in chronological order.
- Visit somewhere that is mentioned in the Bible.
- Swim in open water.
- Do an adventurous water based activity, such as coasteering, canyoning etc.
- Enter a TV show.
- Wing walking or sky-diving or learning to scuba-dive (or at least have planned a scuba diving holiday by the end of the year).
- Do a tough-girl/wolf run sort of obstacle run thing.
- Go to
a classical concertan international sporting event.
- Be part of a play reading.
- Create a scrapbook of 30 for 30.
- Bake macarons.
- Learn how to solve the Rubrik's cube.
- Learn the words of Auld Lang Syne.
- Do a Freedom in Christ, or similar, course.
- Go on the eurostar, or go and see the northern lights in the artic circle.
- Fly business class.
(At some point in January, Stefan pointed out that I had only had 29 things on the list. So, I've been excitedly waiting for a happy happenstance. Flying business class on Singapore Airlines is exactly that!)
Oh, and I'm not planning on doing any of these by myself. "So, diaries people!"