Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Treat Petite April

Welcome to Treat Petite April!

It was lovely to see all the entries to last month's 'Mum' theme over on Cakeyboi, there are certainly lots of lucky mums out there!

This month's theme is... 'Hello Spring!'. That means anything made with fresh spring produce, made for Easter or made to celebrate the arrival of Springtime.

Here are those all important rules:

1. Add your petite treat to the Linky Tool at the bottom of the current month's post by the 25th of the month, midnight at the latest

2. Post your bake onto your blog and link back to Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer, stating who is hosting this month

3. Follow Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer blogs on Google+ (see sidebar links), if you haven't already.

4. If you tweet use #treatpetite and mention @MrCakeyboi and @BakingExplorer - we will retweet

5. Add the challenge logo to the post and 'Treat Petite' as a label to the post

6. Use any recipe as long as the source is noted

7. If you like, add your photo to the 'Treat Petite' Pinterest board (request access from Cakeyboi)

Feel free to enter old posts as long as you update the post and meet all the requirements above!

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Chocolate Making Class

What better time than Easter to be invited to a chocolate making class! I have wanted to do a chocolate making class for a long time as I love making chocolate treats such as truffles, but I definitely think my skills could be improved. Also I knew a class involving chocolate making would involve getting to eat plenty of it too!

I went along to the event hosted by Joe's Bloggers at The Copthorne Hotel in Manchester this week. It's a gorgeous location looking out onto the water of Salford Quays.

I arrived to find each table decorated with marshmallows and various sprinkles - always a good sign!

Cocoa pods on a tree

We then learnt about the history of chocolate, which I found really interesting. Chocolate goes back around 3000 years to the Aztecs who made a cold broth drink from the cocoa beans. In the 1500s Christopher Columbus brought the cocoa beans to Spain and they made it over to the UK by the 1600s. It was all about dark chocolate at the start until milk chocolate was invented in a Nestle factory and is now the most popular kind.

We tasted some raw cocoa beans which were extremely bitter and unpleasant (thankfully they get better when sugar and cocoa butter are added!). Then some 98% dark chocolate, again far too bitter for me. We then tried some chocolate made with vegetable oil, this was to show how cheap chocolate is made with oil instead of cocoa butter and it hugely reduces the quality. Finally we tasted delicious dark chocolate and good quality milk chocolate. You can really tell the difference in quality when you eat one followed by the other.

Next it was button making time! At this point I felt like I was back in school - in a good way! We got to play with melted chocolate and decorate it with sprinkles and other types of chocolate. I could've quite happily done this all night...

I've made truffles before but it was cool to learn a new technique from the teachers. We mixed double cream with melted dark chocolate and piped it out into portions onto wax paper. It sets much quicker this way than waiting for the whole lot to set in a bowl. We were then able to roll it into balls between our palms and coat in cocoa powder.

There was also some chocolate fudge that we cut into circle and hearts and drizzled chocolate onto which you can see at the back of the photo above. We then got some lovely boxes and bags to take them home in. They made it home, but not long after that! I really enjoyed the class and I'm excited to play around more with chocolate at home.

I headed home with this fab kit so I have no excuse not to make more chocolates, what a shame! If you're looking for a chocolatey experience of your own, Millenium Hotels have wrote up a list of the best in the UK! You can read it by clicking here.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Golden Layered Simnel Cake

Simnel Cakes go way back, all the way to medival times in fact. I've never actually eaten a traditional one before, which just have one layer of fruit cake, but I see them in the shops every Easter. The marzipan balls on top represent the twele apostles, minus Judas. Although I'm not religious myself, I love Easter and baking around this time of year. I wanted to make the Simnel cake a bit more modern and also more to my own tastes, so it's filled with delicious almond buttercream and the sponge is much lighter with less fruit.

I started by creaming together 350g butter and 350g golden caster sugar.

I whisked in 6 eggs, adding two at a time and mixing well.

I folded in 2 tsp mixed spice, a pinch of salt and 350g self raising flour. Then I gently mixed in the zest of 1 lemon and 250g dried fruit mixture.

 I divided the mixture between 3 lined cake tins.

I baked on 160C for 25 minutes until golden brown. I tipped the sponges out of the tins and left to cool.

When the sponges were fully cool I made some buttercream by mixing 400g icing sugar, 200g butter and 1 tsp almond extract together. I piped it around the edge of the first layer and smeared it in the middle.

I placed the second layer on top and did the same with the remaining buttercream.

I added the final sponge layer and brushed some apricot jam over the top to help the marzipan stick.

I used 320g natural marzipan for the decoration. Each ball was 15g each and the rest I rolled out into a disc.

I placed it on top of the cake and trimmed the edges. I then brushed it all over with egg white, placed the balls around the cake and brushed them with egg white too.

I then used my handy cook's blowtorch to scorch the marzipan in the centre and on top of each ball. If you don't have a blowtorch you can put the cake under the grill to achieve this effect, however I would recommend decorating the top sponge on it's own and grilling it before placing it over the buttercream, which would probably melt under a grill!

I loved the final effect of the cake, a gorgeous golden delight! My boyfriend's eyes lit up with excitement when he saw it as he loves marzipan. He quickly ate up the first slice and was full of compliments for the flavour.

The sponge was lovely and light with just enough fruit for me and the sweet almond buttercream was the perfect accompaniment. It was a large cake and was cut into about 18 slices - plenty for a hungry group of family and friends at Easter!