Saturday, June 26, 2010

Biscuit Icing and Decorating

Royal Icing
I had to cut it short when doing the biscuit post as it was closer to early morning than late evening when I finished. The icing I use on the cookies is from 'Delia Smith's Christmas' page 24 (yes I know the page off by heart - bit sad isn't it?!)
500g icing sugar
3 large egg whites
1 tsp glycerine
Place the egg whites in a bowl and slowly add the sifted icing sugar mixing with a metal spoon until it drips thickly from the spoon. Once combined beat with a mixer for 10 minutes until it stands in stiff peaks. Then stir in the glycerine, this will give it a glossy sheen. 
Simply divide the mixture amongst different blows, one for each colour. I use gel colours as these don’t turn the icing sugar runny as can happen if you need an intense, deep colour. To fill or ‘flood’ the biscuits thin the icing by adding a few drops of water until you achieve a runny consistency that when lifted with a spoon folds back on itself almost immediately. 

For Directions about how to ice biscuits I highly recommend looking at Bake At 350 and University of Cookie. That’s where I’ve got all my ideas and technique (which needs improvement) so definetly take a look at this group get up to.
Other Decorations:
About 9 or 10 months ago mum and some of her friends (J.A.C.K - their initials. K being my mum Kathy) discovered macarons, NOT macaroons!!! I won’t go into the ins and outs of making them yet - that would take an incredibly long time to type up as there are three methods, French, Italian and Spanish which range in stability and difficulty. However more of that later, at the moment I’m going to talk about the decorations we have. 
We have a tin which is more like a treasure trove, full of bits and pieces for decorating and flavouring. It was originally - when I was about 5 - used for holding sweets, lollies and chocolates, this elusive tin was always something of a source of wonder as it seamed to move locations every few weeks. It would be re-hidden and my sister and I would begin the hunt all over again, when my parents noticed the the supplies were getting suspiciously low it would suddenly disappear then reappear in a new location all over again. 
Nowadays, we have crystalised violets for the macs, green, purple and pink glitters, red and pink hearts, sugar balls of all colours - I’ve only photographed the pink ones. We have no shortage of cupcake holders, ribbons, brushes, extracts, props and dishes for photographing. So here’s a look at the tin that has been the bounty of many sugar cravings.

Chicken with Smoked Garlic, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

A simple, quick and very tasty dinner! 
One clove of garlic (I used smoked garlic that I picked up from The Good Food and Wine Show) 
one chicken breast
a handful of cherry tomatoes 
basil leaves tossed through at the end and to garnish

Simply heat some olive oil in a pan on a medium - hight heat and sear the chicken for two minutes then turn the heat down to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 4-5 minutes. 
To check if the chicken’s cooked insert a knife into the thickest part of the chicken and if the liquid that comes out is pink tinged then the chicken isn’t ready however if it’s clear then it’s ready. Take the chicken out and allow it to rest until you’re ready to plate up. This allows the juices in the chicken to settle.
Chop the garlic and add it to the pan when they begin to sauté add the tomatoes and quickly cook on a high heat until they blister. Then toss the basil through the tomatoes and plate up! 
As I said this is very simple so you can experiment and change it however you want, though let’s be honest tomatoes and basil is a pretty unbeatable combination.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sugar Biscuits

These biscuits are good for kids' parties as they can be made in under half an hour, are sweet and the mixture can be multiplied without the risk of the recipe becoming unstable as can happen with a lot of baking. I use these biscuits to experiment with decorating as - to be honest - they aren’t anything wonderful to sit down and have with a coffee or tea as a ginger snap or something similar would be, nonetheless they are an old favourite and will always have a special place in my heart as they evoke meny childhood memories. Below are some designs I've recently made. I would like to give a big thanks to Bridget at Bake At 350 for the ideas and help I've been recieving via email. Whilst browsing through Marian's decorates cookies at Sweetopia I stumbled upon these delightful little duck cookies and decided to give them a shot. Finally, thank you hugely to C at Bake It Off for the two or so boxes of colours and the piping nozzle. I baked the first ones for a management study day with some friends from uni - they were impressed. Sadly when icing these I only had one piping bag so there was a lot of colour changing ... and washing as I did these on the same day as the circular ones.


155g butter (room temperature)
155g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp of vanilla extract
255g plain flour
Pre heat the oven to 180oC and line a baking tray with grease proof paper.
Cream the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and cream for another minute*. Sift in the flour.
Flour a work surface and rolling pin and role out to 0.5 cm thick and cut shapes out. Be creative at this point. If you haven’t got a cutter and you’re decorating these for an occasion you can always draw out your own and cut them with a knife.
Cook for 10-13 minutes or until golden brown.
* If you have anything else to add, for example chocolate shavings or chips, now’s the time to do so.

To all the expert decorators who may see these, I know they need work but I'll get there, just hoping my hand will become more steady with the piping bags. ;)

This last one was for mum, it bears some resemblance, love you mother dearest ;).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jamie’s Baked Chocolate Tart

I have made Jamie Oliver's baked chocolate tart numerous times for my family on a quiet night in as well as for special occasions. It’s foolproof! The pastry is beautifully delicate and the chocolate mixture is rich so only have a little. It is complimented perfectly with either fruit in summer or coffee in winter. The pastry recipe is included below the tart recipe. Oh one other thing, these photos are from about 2 if not 3 years ago, I never thought anyone else would see these as they are more of a personal record. So apologies for the poor lighting and lack of centerdness (new word) but at least it gives you an idea of how it'll turn out.

Baked Chocolate Tart

150g unsalted butter
160g good quality chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids)
8 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
Small pinch salt
4 large eggs
200g granulated sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons crème fraiche or double cream
10-inch (25cm) tart shell baked blind (see below)

Preheat oven to 150ºC
Place the butter, chocolate, cocoa powder and salt in a bain marie (a bowl held above a saucepan of simmering water, do not allow the bowl to be at all immersed in the water as this can cause scorching). Occasionally stir the melting ingredients.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and sugar together until light and well creamed, followed by the golden syrup and sour cream or crème fraiche. Add the chocolate mixture into this mixture, scraping all the chocolate out with a spatula. Mix again until well combined, then pour into the blindbaked pastry shell (see below). Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. During cooking a beautiful crust will form on top.

Once the time has passed remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes, during which time the surface will crack and the filling will shrink slightly. Then simply remove it from the shell and serve. You will need to keep the tart on the shell base, it may split if it is moved as it is heavy.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g icing sugar, sifted
250g unsalted cold butter, cut into small cubes
zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs beaten, I always use free range
splash of milk


Sieve the flour from a height (for greater aeration) on to a clean work surface or wide bowl and sieve the icing sugar over the top. Rub the cubed butter into the flour mixture using your thumb against your index, middle and ring fingers, you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Now add the zest or any other flavouring of your choice.

Add the eggs and milk to the mixture and gently work it together until you have a ball of dough. Don’t work it too much as it will become elastic and chewy as opposed to being desirably crumbly and short. Flour your work surface and place the dough on top. Pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it in clingfilm and put it into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour. When you need to use it simply re flour the dough and the work surface and roll out to line your tart shell. Don’t worry too much if it breaks, it’s better to patch it up than to re-kneed it numerous times, plus it will add a rustic touch.

Remember be creative, if you’re out of lemons try orange or lime zest, or you could add some nutmeg, cocoa, vanilla or cinnamon. So long as you keep these flavours subtle you can't go wrong ... though maybe don't try flavouring with Vegemite!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Blood Orange Marmalade

I first made this for my year 12 Food Tech Portfolio. There were various requirements such as having one preserve, marmalade fitted my theme however I wanted to put a twist on the traditional Seville Orange Marmalade so after some thought as to what fruit could be used I decided on blood orange. This marmalade is more tangy and doesn't need as long on the heat as traditional marmalades.
250gm caster sugar 
10 blood oranges
3 lemons

Preheat the oven to 100oC. Wash two 250ml jam jars and their lids in hot soapy water and rinse, then transfer jars to the oven and leave to dry for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the oven off and allow jars to cool. Wet a piece of kitchen towel in methylated sprits and clean the lids. This sterilizes the jars, preventing mould from forming.
Zest and juice the oranges and lemons. Wrap lemon seeds in muslin bag and tie shut with string ensuring you leave it long enough to wrap around the handle of the saucepan to allow it to be lifted out when it is no longer required. Place two saucers in the freezer. These saucers will be used to conduct a gel test to establish whether or not the marmalade is thick enough.
Place orange zest and juice in a saucepan with sugar and lemon juice, stir until sugar is dissolve then add the muslin bag containing lemon seeds. Simmer for 30-35 minutes, brushing down the sides with a damp pastry brush and spooning any scum off the surface. Though it may be tempting, do not stir the liquid once the sugar has melted into the juice as this causes sugar crystals to form giving the final product a grainy texture. This said you can occasionally swirl the saucepan.
Once the 35 minutes have passed, remove a saucer from the freezer and take the saucepan off the heat removing the muslin bag and conduct a gel test. This involves placing a teaspoon of marmalade onto the chilled saucer, allowing it to stand for 1-2 minutes then slowly running your index finger through the mixture. If the surface of the marmalade wrinkles as though it has a skin on it then this indicates that it has reduced enough and will set in a spreadable consistency. If it is not thick enough return to the heat for a further five minutes.
When the marmalade is ready remove the muslin bag from the saucepan and discard. Take out the jars from the oven using tongs or your hands (if you do this by hand ensure not to touch the inside of the now sterilized jars). Using a jam funnel or a steady hand pour the contents of the saucepan into the jars and seal with the lids immediately. As the marmalade and air in the jar cool it will form a part vacuum causing the lid to concave slightly. When you open the cooled marmalade the lid will ‘pop’ open s a result of the vacuum being broken - this is the same sound you hear when you buy store bought jams. Once cooled the jars can be labelled.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Introduction

Recently I have had university exams and as any good uni student does, I have been procrastinating, I would like to think I am up there with the best of them. I was going through old photos of dishes that I have cooked with the idea of making a facebook album, however I soon realised that I had exceeded the word limit in the ablum description section by a large margin. It was then that the idea of creating a blog dawned on me. I therefore have - as any worthy procrastinator would - begun to get my bearings with blog world and all its designing complexities. However right now it is almost midnight and therefore time to some sleep before an intensive study day tomorrow - hopefully.

Q: Facebook replaced Myspace, will Blogs will become the new Facebook?

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