Sunday, 13 April 2014

Creme Egg Cupcakes

As the first of two short working weeks surrounding Easter approaches, I decided that it was time this weekend to start baking some Easter treats. I've been wanting to make something involving Creme Eggs ever since I saw Creme Egg brownies all over the place last year. I decided on cupcakes and found a recipe on Good Food Channel, however I found that I needed to make more batter than the recipe suggested, and I also used my tried and tested buttercream to top them with instead. Here's how I did it...

First things first - put 12 Creme Eggs in the freezer. I left them in there for about an hour to make sure they were fully frozen. This will stop them from melting when the cupcakes are baked.

To make the batter I creamed together 175g butter and 175g caster sugar. I added 3 beaten eggs, 2 tbsp milk and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and whisked well. Finally I folded in 150g self raising flour and 35g cocoa powder.

I put 12 cases into a muffin tin. I placed a teaspoon of batter into each case, then topped with a frozen Creme Egg.

I added about 2 more teaspoons of batter around the Creme Egg, then baked on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutes. I left them to cool and made the buttercream using 340g icing sugar, 170g butter and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

When the cupcakes were fully cooled I used a pipingbag to swirl some buttercream on top and placed a mini Creme Egg, cut in half, on top.

When I cut a cupcake in half I was pleased to see the whole Creme Egg intact inside! These were a huge hit at a party I attended that evening, everyone was really impressed that there was a Creme Egg inside each cupcake. The cupcake was definitely a huge chocolate hit, but was very delicious and the vanilla buttercream makes sure the chocolate isn't over powering. A great Easter bake for the weekend and easy enough to make with the kids too!

Featuring such a classic Easter treat makes these cupcakes perfect for this month's Treat Petite baking challenge, run by myself and Cakeyboi, and this month hosted by Cakeyboi with a theme of "Spring into Easter".

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Cake & Bake Show 2014

Last weekend I went to The Cake & Bake Show 2014 at Manchester Central. This was my second visit to the show that runs for 3 days and is packed to the brim with stunning cakes, celebrity chefs, local produce and delicious baked goods. I went for the day on the Saturday and had a brilliant time seeing chef demonstrations, browsing the stalls and generally stuffing my face with tasty delights! Here's how my day went...

I started the day by checking out the 'Welcome to the Jungle' sugarcraft installation. Everything from the leaves, to the soil, to of course the animals themselves is edible in this jungle inspired tent. Made by CakeBomb, a collective of cake artists all brought together by their passion for cake decorating.

The detail was stunning. No matter how many amazing cakes I see, I am always in awe of each and every one! And rightly so, the cake jungle took the cake artists over 6,000 hours to complete!

Oh and look who else I bumped into in the jungle! I was so pleased to get a photo opportunity with Glenn Cosby and Christine Wallace from The Great British Bake Off. They were both so nice!

I checked out some of the stalls starting with Paul A Young's Fine Chocolates stand. Paul is a passionate and experimental chocolatier and one of his latest creations are the Hot Cross Brownie Pies pictured above. I tried some chocolate brownie and it was the most chocolatey brownie I've ever had!

I picked up some yummy cheese from The Cheshire Cheese Company. My favourite was a caramelised onion and rioja cheddar that is oh so good!

Billington's, one of the main sponsor's of the show, had a Sugar Market set up at the show offering visitor's samples of their sugar. Did you know that most brown sugar is just white sugar with a 'tan'? Billington's sugar however is natural and unrefined giving it a unique flavour. I was really surprised to find this out as I, like many others I imagine, assume that when we are buying a bag called brown sugar it is actually brown sugar inside! Sadly this is not always the case, but at least with Billington's you know you are getting the real thing.

I sampled a delicious raspberry marshmallow from Mallow & Marsh, which exploded with flavour. I love their tag line... "Not Many Things Improve With Fire"!

Fresh artisan bread is one of my favourite things about food shows, and The Artisan Bakery didn't disappoint with stacks of crusty bread and tasty focaccia's.

Speaking of bread, if you make your own or want to start, BakeryBits is the perfect place to start. From the look of their stall, there is literally nothing you will need for bread making that these guys don't sell!

The first demo of my day was Frances Quinn making Californian Prune Panda Scones. She loves combining her creativity with food and was inspired by the shape of the prune, she thought it looked like a panda's eye patch and the idea grew from there.

The filming for The Great British Bake Off 2014 started this weekend and she talked about the shows move to BBC One. She hopes the format of the show doesn't change, as the tent and bridge are a part of the show, and the squirrel! Frances talked about all the exciting things she has done since winning the show, which has included making The Shard out of gingerbread, making a cake for Quentin Blake and making shortbread for Barbara Hepworth. She is also working on a new book and is currently in discussions with television shows.

The scones looked fab and she advised using a large bowl when mixing the flour and butter, not handling the scone dough too much, and adding the milk little by little as you can always add more but never take away. Frances also revealed the secret behind her svelte figure - she loves running!

Next it was onto the Tala competition stage to watch Glenn and Christine from The Great British Bake Off battle it out in a live bake off!

They made brandy snaps with lemon cream and Christine was fully prepared with her homemade shaping cone and stand. She even brought pistachios from home to sprinkle on top - she meant business!

Glenn is born to be on stage and kept the crowd entertained. He announced that he has officially retired from teaching and has a tour planned (you can check out locations and get tickets here). He doesn't think a cake can ever be too big and made a giant brandy snap to try and compete with Christine.

Christine won the bake off after a taste test by some lucky audience members. She is currently appearing regularly on BBC Radio Oxford to talk about gardening and baking.

Afterwards I met Ali Imdad from The Great British Bake Off! He was watching the live bake off and I popped over to say hello when the bake off finished.

The Cake Boss is an American TV show that follows a bakery run by an Italian American family. They have since branched out into baking equipment and pans and their range was available to buy at the show. I loved the star shaped pan!

Nielsen Massey were another of the shows big sponsors and they had a cupcake and cocktail bar running throughout the show. You could also buy their extracts, and I purchased two bottle of vanilla as they had a great deal on. I highly recommend using Nielsen Massey over any other vanilla extracts as it is just the best quality and flavour. The smell of it is stunning and as soon as you smell it you will realise how good it is!

The Baking Housewife had some gorgeous looking rum cake on offer. She specialises in making Caribbean inspired cakes, cordials and marmalades.

I stumbled across this beautifully iced Cookie Garden that I had to share as it so pretty and detailed.

Local cafe Tea Hive had a stand and I had some of their Chocolate & Salted Caramel Cake. I have to say this is one of the best cakes I have had in ages and I was seriously impressed with it! I will be going to get more of this from their cafe in Chorlton soon!

If you read my blog often you may know that I attend the Clandestine Cake Club. It's a great network of cake lovers who meet up to share their love of baking as well as a slice or two of cake. The club had a baking competition on over the weekend and above are a couple of the amazing entries!

I ended the day with a demonstration from Eric Lanlard making a Key Lime Pie Cheesecake. His tip for key lime pie in general was that "if it's green - don't eat it!" The 'I made this earlier' cheesecake had a crack down the middle and Eric said that flavour is much more important than taste, because people will remember the taste. If your bake doesn't look that great, he advised to call it rustic!

Eric was very charming and funny, and had the audience laughing along with all his jokes and anecdotes. He talked about baking and cooking on television and how you have to wait until the camera is ready before putting in the next ingredient, otherwise you end up starting all over again. Eric has his own patisserie and cooking school called Cake Boy in Battersea and he said that the first thing he told the architect was that he wanted fabulous toilets with disco music in them. He got the toilets he wanted and he told us that they are a very popular part of the patisserie!

I had a brilliant day at The Cake & Bake Show, it really was so much fun! I left exhausted, full, but very happy. If you are as much of a baking geek as me, or a budding baking geek, you will have a great time browsing the stalls, sampling the goodies on offer, and watching the celebrity demonstrations. The next show is on in London, 3rd - 5th October, and you can buy tickets here.

NB. I had a press pass for the show, but was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Chocolate & Goji Berry Risotto

So this risotto looks pretty sinful, right? Rich dark chocolate mixed with creamy rice... well, it is actually very saintly! Not only is it packed with nutrient filled Goji Berries, it is also made with Blue Diamond Almond Breeze milk, which is low in saturated fat and only contains 14 calories per 100ml. It's also thickened with coconut cream, which is low in cholesterol, dairy free and rich in vitamins. Plus dark chocolate is known for containing vitamins and minerals. If you used dairy free dark chocolate then the entire recipe could be dairy free!

What are Goji Berries? I was recently sent this pack of Goji Berries from nu3, a European supplier of nutrients and suppliments. The berries originate from China and have long been used in Chinese medicine. Nu3 get their Goji Berries directly from the Chinese province of Ningxia, where they mature on high plains and are carefully dried so that the taste and nutrients are retained. They are high in pro-vitamin A, B vitamins and iron, as well as essential amino acids. The berries can be eaten dry or rehydrated by soaking them in water for a few minutes which plumps them up. I think they have a mild fruity taste which could be adaptable for lots of recipes like cakes or granola bars (Cakeyboi recently made some Goji Berry Granola Bars!) I decided to make a sweet risotto as I was really intrigued by the idea of it and thought the Goji Berries would be a perfect addition.

I started by melting 15g butter in a pan on a medium heat. I added 150g arborio risotto rice and stirred into the melted butter. You can use a butter substitute or use oil if you are making this dairy free.

I measured out 525ml of the almond milk and added about 200ml to the pan along with 1 tsp vanilla extract and 80g caster sugar. I let the mixture simmer and begin to reduce for about 5 minutes.

I turned up the heat, added the rest of the milk and a 160ml can of coconut cream and let it bubble away for about 15 minutes while continuing to stir.

I added in 50g nu3 Goji Berries and stirred for a few minutes. The berries will rehydrate and become soft in the heat of the mixture.

Finally I took the risotto off the heat, added in 60g dark chocolate and stirred in, it melted very quickly and turned the mixture a glorious rich brown.

You can serve the risotto immediately warm, or leave to cool and serve cold. Either way it is delicious, trust me! I sprinkled some of the dried Goji Berries on top as a garnish. They are quite chewy when still dried, but the cooked ones are plump and soft. This recipe should serve 4 - 6 people depending on appetite. Despite being quite filling, it is also extremely moreish and I went back for more! The risotto has a creamy, rich flavour sure to satisfy your sweeth tooth after a meal. You could spice this recipe up with cinnamon or ginger if you liked.