French Cannelés...

3 weeks at college, 3 nights in a proper restaurant style kitchen and finally I've regained my mojo.
A lot can be said for jumping head first out of your comfort zone...

Several months ago now I promised a recipe for French Cannelés and its been sat in my draft box since they came out of the oven.

I think its about time I let them out of the box, don't you?

So "what are Cannelés?" I hear you ask! Well my friends, I shall tell you. They originate from Bordeaux in France and are one of the best known sweet treats of the region. The recipe resembles that of a crêpe, but the finished items are pure perfection. Typically they have a rich caramel coloured exterior with a beautifully fluffy interior.

You will need:

500ml Full fat milk.
50g unsalted butter.
1 vanilla pod worth of beans. (Or cheat like I did and you paste)
100g plain white flour.
250g icing sugar.
1stp salt.
2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks.
60ml of rum.

To start, Heat the milk and butter in a saucepan with the
vanilla (pod and beans or the paste if you too are a cheater...). Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Once its boiling remove from the heat and allow to cool a tad.

Next place the flour, icing sugar and salt into a large bowl and then lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl.

Once the milk has had time to cool slightly, add it along with the eggs to the dry mixture (Remove the pod before hand if you used one). Stir gently until it all comes together, but don't worry to much about lumps at this stage. Grab your trusty sieve and strain the mixture into a clean bowl, pushing the lumps through until you have a smoothing mixture. At this stage, its party time. Add the rum, give it a stir and then cover with cling film and pop it into the fridge. (You can add the pod back in at this point if you used one for added flavour)

This is where the difficulty starts... You have to use will power and leave it there...

...For 2 days...Minimum...!!!

Doing this not only allows the flavours to get to know each other but it also allows the gluten to relax causing a fluffier interior.

One key point though, give it a stir every now and then to allow the flavours to really get to know each other.

Now, there are several different pieces of bake ware you can use to bake these. But which ever piece you choose to use, you need to get it preheated before you add the mixture. This helps to create that crisp exterior.

Preheat the oven to 240°C and when the pan/silicone has preheated (This should only take a few minutes) pour the mixture into each hole roughly three quarters of the way up.

Place into the hot oven for 15 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 190°C and continue baking for another hour.

When the hour is up, remove from the moulds and allow to cool on a wire rack.

As they begin to cool the exterior will being to develop a crisp caramel coloured exterior, with a pale and fluffy interior.

These sweet little treats really have the wow factor and are beautiful paired with a freshly brewed pot of coffee.

So go on...treat yourself this weekend!

Time flies when you're...

...staring a new job! It's been two whole months since my last blog post! Where has the time gone!

So let me start with the new...

I started a new job as a Regional trainer, I was to travel my neck of the woods delivering training for new systems that were to be implemented over the coming year. 
A company car was promised and it was all going really well...
Until it stopped!

Basically the system wasn't quite ready for roll out and the job has ended until January. I am still employed but I'm currently unsure as to what I will be doing over the coming months.

Because of the new job i've not had the time to bake and cook as much as I normally do but never fear! I've been on holiday this week and i've spent some time in the kitchen.

Last Sunday was the Wimbledon final and I love any excuse to have a BBQ and crack open the pimms. This year Emma came to play and we decided to go all out food wise. I made some home made Brioche burger buns for the occasion.

I used Will Torrent's brioche recipe but had to make some home made bun rings out of tin foil, Much easier than you would think!

They turned out rather well don't you think? They were beautifully buttery.

I also made some cinnamon rolls to keep myself amused! The picture doesn't do them justice but they were devoured by the family and I dropped some into my old colleagues for their morning break.

I also tried 2 recipes from Sabrina Ghayour's book "Persiana". First was her sour cherry lamb meatballs in a spiced tomato sauce. I really cannot speak highly enough of this recipe! It was bloody lush!
Also tried the Lemon Saffron Chicken which was beautiful, perfect for a warm summers evening.

As it has been so long since i've blogged or had time to go out an enjoy the food of life... ( I've decided to dedicate this entire weekend to the Bristol Foodies Festival.

You might remember I went last year and had a brilliant time, If not take a look here and see what you missed.

This years event is looking great, the winner of this years master chef (Ping Coombes) is one of the guest chefs and I cannot wait to see what she creates. She's from Bath and it will be great to see some local talent!

There is also the Master Chef street food bus! This is probably where you will find me over the entire course of the weekend!

Other demonstrations include Larkin Cen from MasterChef 2013 and Glenn Cosby from GBBO 2013. 

If you fancy coming along tickets are still on sale online or on the door over the course of the weekend.

Go on...

Eat well!

Thrifty Bakers...

So normally I'm quite naughty when it comes to baking equipment. I usually see it, basket it and buy it. I don't really look at the price as its my biggest passion and its one of the few things I do spend money on now.

However, Its the week of pay day and the baking urge hit. Lucky for me Sainsburys have just started an amazing Cookware offer.

Lots of new lines are currently 1/3 off and although it might not sound a lot there is ALOT of new stuff that has previously been sold else where for ALOT more money.

The first items into the trolley were the 2 tier cupcake carriers. Now a lot of you have asked me before where I got my old carrier from, as it fits 24 cupcakes and can be used as presentation trays.

Originally I purchased my first carrier from Hobby Craft. As you can see they are currently on offer at £12.50 (sadly I paid £25 for mine). 

Sainsburys version is exactly the same, same height, same trays, same clip lock system. They are currently selling for £6.66! 
The great thing about these carriers is they stack together. So if you have 2 or 3 they will all lock together and you will no longer have to worry about juggling multiple boxes. I grabbed two and went back in for more later on but sadly they are all sold out. They are available online here and the offer is on until the 11th of March.

Next in the trolley was the heavy gauge baguette tray. These are brilliant little moulds to help you prove and bake the perfect baguettes. They are currently selling at £5.33 in store or online here.

Now that i've conquered my fear of bread I felt the need to invest in these bread cloths. I can't honestly say I really needed them, as any old tea towel will do...But I love filling draws with random crap and watching my Mums head explode...teehee(-towel). A pack of 3 towels set me back £5. Sadly I cant find them online.

My love of pastry has also hit new levels over the last week. And i'm going to attempt to make "The Broke Boy" out of puff pastry with these Alphabet cutters. I paid £9.99 for them but the website currently says they are still £15 here. Might be worth keeping an eye on them if you are interested.

And finally my diddy little frying pan. The website again says that this is £20 but I got it in store this morning for £13.33.
For those of us that don't have the money to purchase the lovely Le Cruset collection of cookware this to me is the next best thing and its incredibly good value for money. Its just as heavy as the real thing and just as long lasting. I have quite a few pieces of the Sainsburys collection and got this little frying pan for creating mini Tart Tatins. You can find it online here and the rest of the collection here.

All in all some great offers. They have a lot more stuff in store to so I suggest you have a look!

Also keep checking back as I will hopefully be putting together a give away in the next week or so!

As promised... Egg Custard Tarts...

...what a couple of weeks its been! i seriously don't feel like i have had a single day off. work has been taking up a lot of time recently what with traveling the region to train new starters and organising a charity event (which was a HUGE success!).

the aim of the event was to get all of my colleagues to attend so that we could give them an update on whats going on within the company, raise colleague moral and also raise some money for charity. we were hoping to have at least 40 colleagues turn up to the night and we were over whelmed when 90 people turned up.

the evening was brilliant, we cooked a host of foods for the masses, i did a sampling session with some of the new lines we are going to be selling AND we raised almost £400 for Hope4Kids.

had my oven of been working we may have raised even more but sadly it decided to break 3 days before hand so i was unable to bake a single thing...ITS BEEN 3 WEEKS SINCE MY LAST BAKE!!

starting to have withdrawal symptoms now but never fear, the engineer is coming tomorrow to repair it and then i have the weekend off to bake to my hearts content.

a few weeks ago (when the oven was working) i watched the episode of bake off where they were asked to create egg custard tarts. until this point i had never actually had one, so decided to check out the recipe and give them a bash the following morning.

lucky for me i had everything i needed in the cupboard so didn't need to go shopping.

you will need:

for the sweet pastry:

165g plain flour
25g ground almonds
120g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
55g caster sugar
1 medium egg

for the custard filling:

700ml full fat milk
7 medium egg yolks at room temperature
90g caster sugar
freshly grated nutmeg

firstly you need to make the pastry. start by mixing the flour and almonds together in a large bowl.

add the butter and rub together until it resembled fine bread crumbs.

stir in the caster sugar. now i decided to try something here, rather than using normal caster sugar i decided to go for a golden caster. i wanted the pastry to go really golden and have a slight caramel taste to it.

then break the egg into the bowl. work the egg in with your fingers and bring it all together until it becomes a soft dough.

tip the mixture onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a ball...

...then flatten the ball with your fingers so it forms a disc. wrap with cling film and stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes. 
have a tidy up, make a coffee and prepare the cutter you are going to use.

after 30 minutes remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it out on a floured worktop. the recipe i used calls for the pastry to be rolled to 5mm thickness, however when i made my first batch i found that going that thin made it very tricky to handle so i went slightly thicker and made 10 cases rather than 12.

once rolled use an 11cm fluted round cutter and stamp out discs, carefully ease them into a muffin tin. as you can tell from the picture above i didn't have any fluted cutters so i went for a cutter than looks like it fell out of the 1980s, but it worked a treat!

place the muffin tin into the fridge to allow the pastry to cool back down. preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas 6.

to make the custard gently heat the milk in a pan until just below the boiling point...

whilst the milk is warming, whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until it becomes pale and creamy. such a lovely colour!
again for the custard i used golden caster sugar to add a little colour.

pour the warm milk onto the egg mixture whilst whisking, you want to do this slowly in a steady stream. whisk until the mixture is smooth with tiny little bubbles.

pour this mixture into a pouring jug, it makes the process of adding to the pastry a whole lot easier!

i found that this recipe makes ALOT of custard and i was left with half of what was made. i used the left overs to make bread pudding but you could probably double the pastry and make 2 batches in one.

remove the muffin tin from the fridge and place on the oven shelf, then pour the custard mixture into each case, going as high as you can without it going over the edges of the pastry.
grate the nutmeg over the top of each tart and then close the oven door and bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4 and continue to bake for another 10 minutes.

the next task is to be patient! one of the biggest mistakes made on the bake off was attempting to remove the tarts from the tray before they had cooled. leave them alone on a wire rack for AT LEAST 30 minutes before even attempting to remove them.

when i posted the picture above on twitter in the morning GBBO actually retweeted me and said "Will they survive the scooping?"...

...i'm happy to say they did! and they were beautiful. the custard was perfectly done, with a slight wobble. the pastry although dark (because of the sugar used) was perfectly baked and had a caramel butter taste.

needless to say they didn't last long!

Lurpak actually shared my tarts on their Facebook page whilst they were running their pastry competition, i really thank them for that! a real confidence boost.

Bread...a baffling thing...

...the next bake on my list was bread! now rather than following the technical challenge of the GBBO i felt i needed to do something much simpler.

i have never tried to make bread before but have always wanted to give it ago.

my first attempt was a successful failure. the bread itself was baked perfectly and the flavour was amazing BUT the ruddy thing stuck to the paper... i blame Paul Hollywood as it was one of his recipes and he didn't tell me to grease the paper...rude!

so this time i decided to stick to the baker that i knew would give full instructions *cough*

i went for John Whaite's "perfection in a plain loaf" recipe.

for this you will need:

500g strong white flour
10g salt
20g sugar
10g fast action yeast
100ml milk
240ml tepid water
40g unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil

start by mixing the flour, salt and sugar in a bowl.

next add the yeast and mix it through...

as this was my second attempt at bread i decided to use my mixer with a dough attachment. (follow your mixers instructions if also planning on using the dough hook as it does say a maximum speed)

stir together the milk, water and butter in a jug and then turn on the mixer to the required speed. slowly add the liquid and allow the mixer to knead the dough for 6 minutes.

place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover the bowl with cling film, place to one side to rise for one hour or until doubled in size. (or if you are lucky like me, shove it in the oven with the prove function on..who knew it had that! not me!)

as you can see, after an hour it is a beast! tip it out and knock the dough back (this delates it so don't worry if it looses some of its beastliness!)

roll the dough into a sausage shape the size of the loaf tin you own. i only had 2 small tins so split the dough in half at this point...i made a bit of a mess also...

cover the tin(s) with cling film and set aside until doubled in size once again. 

Preheat the oven to 200ºc/Gas 6. once the dough is risen pop in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the bread makes a hollow sound when tipped out and tapped on the bottom.

and there you have it, a lovely white loaf!

what ever you do, do not ask me any questions about i really have no idea! its baffling!

Sinfully delicious chocolate cake...

as i mentioned earlier i'm trying to bake along side the GBBO series, partially as i would be baking something any way, but mostly to practice as i hope to enter into next years competition.

week ones episode was all about cake. i started by baking a victoria sandwich and it went down so quickly that i didn't even get a picture... apparently they liked it!

so the weekend after i finally managed to come true on my promise by making Emma a birthday cake, a belated one at that!

i decided to go for a chocolate cake with a white chocolate ganache filling. it really is an easy cake to make and i think it is probably one of the nicest i have made! 

you will need:

for the cake:
190g self-raising flour
150g caster sugar
2 level tbsp cocoa powder
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 level tsp baking powder
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 free-range eggs
150ml sunflower oil
150m milk

for the icing:
200g white chocolate
150ml double cream
125g full-fat cream cheese

the method really is simple...
pre heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 then grease and line your chosen tins. i used 2 8inch loose bottom tins.

simply sift all of the dry ingredients together and then make a well in the center. Add the syrup, eggs, oil and milk into the well and mix.

separate into 2 tins evenly and then bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake springs back when you poke it with your greedy little finger!

remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool slightly before removing from the pans and placing on to a wire rack.

to make the icing simply break the chocolate into a bowl and then heat the double cream in a pan until its very hot (just don't let it boil).
pour the cream over the chocolate and stir, the heat from the cream will melt the chocolate. Set the mixture aside and allow it to cool slightly.

place the cream cheese into another bowl and gradually add the slightly chilled chocolate mixture. mix well until combined and then set aside to firm up.

once the icing has thickened up, build the cake...

and finally..


cake wednesday transforms into bake off wednesday...

as you may well know every wednesday Fran and i battle it out at work with baked goods, filling the stomachs of our colleagues after a long evening.

the bake off has recently started and its taking the nation by storm once again. this in all honesty is the first year i've actually set it up to record, the other series i've watched snippets of...but shhhhhhh don't tell John! (i did watch that series the night before the bloggers bake day!)

i've been thinking about entering the competition myself for a little while now but i've always been a little concerned that there would be a lot of stuff i wouldn't have tried before, but as everyone at work is hooked on the show we decided to turn cake wednesday into bake off wednesday!

every tuesday night i watch the show and attempt to create something from the show on the wednesday morning to take in for my shift.

so far its going really well! the victoria sponge went down a storm,sadly i didn't get a picture of went that quickly! But never fear i made another cake to show you for Emma's belated birthday. i've also tackled 2 types of bread and i have just finished a batch of madeleines.

i'm going to sort out the recipes and get them on later on today.




Total Saving

Multi bake day part 3...the final chapter...

so the weather didn't stop and my room/blogger den has been like a sauna, i haven't even really wanted to enter it to sleep!

its gone slightly cooler tonight though so i stole the fan from downstairs and have plonked it in front of myself to get this lovely little post done!

the final part of my day with the lovely bloggers...oh..and John of course haha!

the workshop itself is situated in greenwich, about a 10 minute walk from Cutty Sark station. as you peer out of the front door to the building you are greeted with an amazing view of the Thames, the O2 and the city.

anyway! back to the backing!

we removed the pastry from the fridge and rolled it out again but because it was so hot outside we had to take drastic action and shove it in the freezer for a little while, this helped firm the butter back up which allowed us to carry on with the final roll.

for the final roll rather than using flour we used golden caster sugar. this is what gave the palmiers the sweetness and also helped to make them golden when baking.

once we had all rolled out our individual pastry john came round with a sharp knife and chopped off any uneven edges, i squirmed at this, having a very vivid flash back to the bake off!

He's coming to get you!

after we had all been trimmed, we folded the pastry in half length ways and then flattened it back out again, this gave us a guide for folding.
we then folded the edges over and repeated until both sides met in the middle.
after slicing them with a sharp knife we placed them on a baking tray and popped them in the oven.

i was very impressed with how they came out! beautifully golden and puffed up yet keeping the glorious shape.

they tasted beautiful, the buttery pastry and the sweetness of the golden sugar was perfect. i have to say i think i prefer the savoury variety but i am more of a savoury person (even if i do bake a lot of sweet stuff!!!)

this really brings an end to a brilliant day, it was the most fun i have had in a long time and it was so nice to meet new people that had similar interests. i went feeling quite nervous but came out feeling extremely confident and ready to give lots of new bakes i had previously been scared to try a go!

John has something about him that really made the experience, he was so down to earth and a genuinely nice guy!

he kindly personalised his book for me and presented us all with some goodie bags...

the bags contained 2 types of vanilla (paste and extract), 4 flavouring extracts (Lemon + Almond extract, Rose + Orange Blossom water) and 4 types of sugar (dark muscovado, light muscovado, golden caster and golden icing). the bag also had a le creuset bake wear guide and a signed recipe.
i was not expecting this kind of generosity, although i did have my eye on one of the mixers...*cough cough*

finally here are the rest of the questions i asked John during the Q+A:

me: What are your favourite flavour combinations?

John: That's too tricky a question. My flavour combination always depends on my mood, but I've just done a recipe for a fig, 
stilton and quince pizza which really is delicious.

me: If you were to be stranded on a tropical island which was equipped with a fully functioning kitchen, what one item would you take with you from your own and why?

John: My KitchenAid - I can beat, mix and knead with one machine. But I'd have to be able to fashion a baking sheet from some scrap metal.

me: Other than writing the second book, what are you currently working on?

John: I'm currently on a six month break from Le Cordon Bleu so that I am able to concentrate on the second book. But I'm also doing baking classes in Greenwich, and bits of TV work here and there.

me: Cronut or Dosant?

John: Cronut sounds better. 

me:You mentioned that you are on break from Le Cordon Bleu, How are you finding the experience and what exactly are you doing there?

John: Le Cordon Bleu is fabulously French. We learn the fundamental French techniques of Patisserie and Baking, and then we can apply those to our own experiments and our own baking. It is intense and heavy going, but I really do love it.

me: People often talk about the science behind baking but i prefer to think of it as "the magic of baking". Are there any books that you recommend to get a real understanding of the art other than the usual recipe books?

John: The best books that I use are: Ratio by Michael Rhulman, and On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee.

me: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

John: Hopefully having written a good number of cook books, and with a successful patisserie. Touch wood.

me: What can you tell us about The Great British bake off application process?

John: It's long, intense, nerve wracking. There are a number of stages, from phone calls, to interviews, and even a Psycho analysis!

me: Do you require a personal assistant/food taster? as I would be willing to do this for free...haha

John: HAHA. You'd get sick of my bossiness! 

I'd like to give John a massive round of applause for not only giving a great class and teaching us all something, but also for coping with a group of questioning bloggers. 

thank you so much for making it a brilliant day John and i look forward to booking more classes with you in the future.

a list of Johns classes can be found here. i would highly recommend them to anyone who is interested in baking, at any level! i plan on booking to go to the christmas ginger bread house workshop! sounds amazing!

as i mentioned before i will be going over each recipe in detail on the blog over the next few weeks. 

i hope you have enjoyed reading!


Multi bake day...part two...

where was i....ah yes!


so next we moved onto the macaroons! for health and safety reasons John prepped the italian meringue and divided it up between the class.

we started off with ground almonds and icing sugar which had been blitzed together in a food processor.

we then added the italian meringue and began to fold the ingredients together(the french call this macaronage). one of the tips given by John was that folding ingredients doesn't have to be a slow process, its actually better if you are quick. once the ingredients came together we added the colouring of our choice. i tried to go for orange to match the top of the blog, but sadly it turned out more peach than orange!
we then continued to fold until the mixture fell of the spatula like "magma".

we then popped it into a piping bag and snipped off the end.

after piping out blobs of the mixture we went crazy and slammed the sheet down on the unit a few times! (this helps remove any large air pockets within the meringue..we didn't do it because we were drunk...although i did giggle..) next you dip your finger in a little water and push down any points that may of formed from the piping..or as John said.."Are you going to come over here and tweek your nipples?"...i had heard he had a wicked sense of humour but i didn't realise it was almost identical to my own.

they took roughly 12 minutes in the oven, opening the oven rapidly every 4 minutes to release some of the heat.

once they were done we removed them from the oven and allowed them to cool. mean while we put together a buttercream and flavoured it to our liking, i decided to go for orange blossom and it was very tasty!

a tip John gave me for butter cream was to use the K beater on a free standing mixer to bring the icing sugar and butter together, and then to switch to the whisk attachment to really whip the icing! i will have to give this a go when i make a birthday cake on thursday.

once the macaroons had cooled we peeled the paper away from them and placed them in pairs, matching the size and shape.

we then piped a small amount of butter cream onto one half of the macaroons and then gently sandwiched them together!

this was the one item i was most nervous about, they are notoriously difficult to make and i have never attempted them before. thankfully they turned out really well and i was so pleased with them!

there is something highly satisfying about making macaroons...i cant quite put my finger on what that is but i think its because they are well known for being difficult, when they turn out right they are really worth the effort! i look forward to making them again this week (so much so i have already been to the shop and stocked up on ingredients).

heres a line up of the different colours, sizes and shapes from the class, not bad eh?!

rather than posting in depth recipes with these posts i have decided to do them separately over the next few weeks, otherwise i could be sat at this computer for hours and with this heat...i dont think i can bare it!

part 3 will be up over the next few days so keep checking back! 

Multi Bake Day...Part one..

i am finding it very difficult to put into words just how amazing yesterday actually was, but i will give it ago.

for those of you that are not aware, yesterday i attended a food bloggers multi bake day with John Whaite (winner of the great british bake off 2012)

the day started off by getting up stupidly early to get the 7.32am train to london. i hauled myself out of bed and quickly remembered by my alarm was going off at an unearthly hour! suddenly the time didn't matter and i was ready to leave in what felt like minutes.

the train was on time (well...5 minutes late but thats good right?) and first class was almost empty. 

i arrived in london shortly before 10am and made my way to convent garden for an early lunch at the newly opened 
Shake Shack...but more on that tomorrow!

the class was held at the Vanilla workshop in Greenwich, this little gem of a kitchen is hidden away down an ally way with spectacular views of the thames and the O2.

i arrived just in time but lucky for me i was only the 3rd person to arrive! apparently following directions is not a strong suit of a food blogger! we all managed to get slightly lost.

John welcomed us all as if we were close friends, he seemed completely at ease and at home in the kitchen.

the others arrived and we had a quick introduction and then we got on with the baking! starting with the rough puff pastry for the Palmiers.

the heat in the kitchen was insane! we all began to melt simultaneously. 4 ovens on full whack and the amazing weather made it quite tricky to work with the pastry, we had to move quickly!

after rolling out the pastry for the first time we popped it in the fridge and cracked on with the madeleine mixture. for this we worked in pairs

this is Joanne. this lovely lady had a wicked sense of humour and was a pleasure to work with!

she got a new camera to bring with her and sadly hadn't read the online manual before coming! never the less the camera was brilliant and all she had to do was point and shoot! little bit jealous!

we mixed all the ingredients together in the correct fashion and proceeded to divide the mixture into 2 piping bags.

we then placed those in the fridge to thicken up a bit. according to John this is the french method and i would have to agree with him that it does make them a lot easier to divide amongst the tray.

it was then time for a little break and everyone got to talking about their own blogs and we all began badgering John with a relentless stream of questions.

most of the questions on the day were little things that came up in conversation and to remember all of it is beyond me! lucky for me though John held a Q+A via e-mail before the event, i think had we have asked all the email questions on the day he would of needed more than coffee!

me: If you could only bake one more thing, what would it be?

John: It would have to be something really indulgent, like croissants or my chocolate brownies (which are the best)

me: What was your favourite Bake off experience(other than winning)?

John: My favourite part was all behind the scenes: meeting up with my friends every weekend and going for dinner and drinks in Bristol. 

me: If there was one bake off challenge you could go back and redo, which would it be?

John: My Stollen - I couldn't get it right on the day, but I know it is so delicious when done right!

me: What advise would you give to someone who has completed a degree but wants to move into a career in baking without any qualifications in that field?

John: Experience - work in bakeries at stupid o'clock and see if you can get a real taste for it. You can never truly know what you want to do without experiencing it first.

me: What about baking tempted you away from Law?

John: I'm greedy! No, because I have artistic flair but can't express it in any other way than through food. And also because baking and cooking are the things I enjoy the most.

shortly after the break and the chatter a cork was popped and we all indulged in a glass of bubbly...i think John might have needed it!

once the madeleine mixture had cooled down we removed it from the fridge and pipped it down the centre of the tray. a little while later these little babies were pulled out of the oven, beautifully golden and the smell and taste of vanilla was out of this world!

Johns partner Paul was at hand yesterday to re fill our drinks and tidy up after us! he even popped to the shop for more bubbly! what a star!

this post is going to be a long one! its Pimms o'clock anyway now to celebrate Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, so part two will be up tomorrow...keep your eyes peeled!

Bristol Foodies Festival... things keep getting better and better!

i have been thinking about buying some tickets for me and the family to the Bristol Foodies Festival on the harbor side for a few months now but we were a bit unsure as to weither my parents would be in the area to go.

they have now decided that yes they will so i started looking into the different tickets.

i eventually decided that i would get a VIP ticket for myself and normal tickets for my parents are they weren't quite as excited for the chef theatre as i was.

this morning i turned on the computer to book the tickets but before i did so i decided to check twitter.

@foodiesfestival had tweeted asking any keen photographers to email them to get their hands on some free press passes.

i thought i would be a little bit cheeky and tweeted them asking if they were looking for any food bloggers and they asked me to email them...

...who knew my little blog could get me free passes!

its going to be a fun filled day full of food, drink and hopefully sun!

obviously my passion is baking and i am really looking forward to all the different cupcake stalls! hopefully it will be a really inspiring day and i hope to come back full of ideas and ready to try new things!


i'm really looking forward to some of the cake and bake theatre's including the chocolate truffle masterclass by Coeur De Xocolat and the Sugar craft demo by Ann Pickard

contestant of the great british bake off Manisha Parmar will also be at the festival and will be giving bakery hints and tips! 2 contestants in one week! what more could i want!

the festival runs in bristol from friday the 12th of july until sunday the 14th and the tickets are actually a really good price...

...£12 for adults and £38 for VIP.

the festival is also at different locations throughout the summer, check here for more info!
ill make sure to take lots of pictures and report back to you with what i find... if i take a minute to stop eating that is! 

Oui Oui...

in two days time i will be in london baking and making yummy things with John Whaites. i recently found out that Emily and Bea will be attending as well!

as i have never made any of the goodies before i decided it might be a good idea to give them a go!

i decided to try Madeleine's! the madeleine or petite madeleine is a traditional small cake from Commercy and Liverdun, two communes of the Lorraine region in northeastern France, AKA yummy!

i stuck to Johns recipe for rose water but decided against the fondant. insad I went for a simple rose water icing using icing sugar, water and rose water.

considering i have never made these before im really pleased with how they turn out! they looked perfect and they tasted amazing!

in the morning i will be trying mushroom and parmasan rough puff pastry palmiers

on a slightly different note the final fundraising amount for cancer research was £266! id like to say a special thanks to all those who supported by buying the cupcakes and making the day such a success!


a cause close to my heart...

last week i was asked to create some pink cakes for a fund raising event at work. the event is taking place as we have a colleague returning to work after being treated for cancer. all money raised will be donated to Cancer Research UK.

they asked me to think of some ideas for baked goods that i could sell, including a pink cupcake.
i've decided to go for cherryade cupcakes, they went down really well last time i did a charity bake sale. they have ordered 120 of these.
lucky for me they are paying me 50p per cupcake to cover the ingredient cost and they are also paying me to stay at home part of the day on Wednesday to give me some time to bake.

the plan is to bake all of the cupcakes on Tuesday ready to be decorated on the morning of the bake sale. hopefully i will be able to make some peanut butter pinwheels in advance as they are easily stored and can be baked shortly before the sale.


i also have LOTS of creme eggs left over from easter which i need to use before July so i hope to make some brownies if time allows!


in other news!
i have entered the above cake into a competition! i was wondering if you guys would VOTE FOR ME?

click on the Link and go to the facebook competition APP. the cake is titled "Mad Hatters Tea Party Topsy Turvy Birthday Cake"

the people with the most votes get to the next round of the competition and the judges then decide on a winner. the prize is a Kitchen Aid Mixer

thanks in advance guys!


....for the last couple of days i have been looking into different things baking related and otherwise.

after purchasing a copy of John Whaite's book in london (autographed as well) i decided to follow him on twitter (@Johnwhaitebakes).

shortly after following he sent out a tweet about a Food blogger multi bake day so i decided to take a look. at first i was a bit unsure because of the price and the date, i wasn't sure if i would be able to get the time of work in such short notice. however after a lot of thinking i decided i would look into going.

amazingly i found some train tickets for the total price of £59 first class return from my home town to London Paddington (booking first class singles rather than a return). I thought about staying over night on the friday and then returning home after the day of baking as it was originally due to run from 10am to 3pm.

today i had another look and sadly the hotel i usually stay in is fully booked BUT! the times had been changed to 1pm-6pm which ment i had time to travel up on saturday morning and return the same day, saving myself £65 on hotel costs.

i had gone over it all in my head and decided to go for it. 

as i went to click on the link that would take me through to purchase i realised that the price had gone down from £140 to £100! i transfered money out of my savings account instantly and clicked on the link!

you are now reading the words of the proud over of a place at a food bloggers paradise, a day with a Great British Bake Off winner!


shortly after this my phone lit up and i had an email. i recognised the name as one of my followers on twitter.

the email read as follows:

XXY magazine would like to invite you to this event we are hosting on tuesday next week, at Mahiki.
We hope to see you all there at the after party in collaboration with designers Joseph Turley and L.Lipop.
Also, we were wondering if you would want to collaborate as well with us making black cupcakes/or a cake with white icing spelling XXY.
Tell us if you're interested.

i feel completely honoured to be invited and so completely gutted that i cannot make it! what a great thing to be asked to do.
i had to email back and tell him i couldn't make it due to work and travel arrangements. 

kind of feels like one of those what if moments that i will probably regret for a very long time. 

but thank you so so much Pierre

Grown up cookies...NONE FOR YOU....

...these cookies are not for children! they are for adults only and if i was to find a child eating one i would snatch it and stuff it in my mouth quicker than you could yell NONE FOR YOU!

chocolate, chocolate, chocolate and Kirsch soaked cherries...yum!

the inspiration for these cookies came from Nigella Lawson's comfort cookies but i wanted to add a little something to them. i love an experiment!

you will need:

125g dark chocolate (70%)
150g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarb of soda
half tsp salt
125g softened unsalted butter
75g soft light brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
350g chocolate chips (Dark, 70% or milk if you prefer)
hand full of kirsch cherries

start by placing the dark chocolate in a bowl and melting over a pan of water.

whilst the chocolate is melting cream together the butter and both kinds of sugar.

once the chocolate is melted add it to the butter and mix well.

add the vanilla extract and egg and mix again. sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt into the mixture and beat until everything is incorporated.

this is where i wanted to add something extra. take a hand full of kirsch cherries and chop finely.

mix the cherries in well and get ready for more chocolate...

add the chocolate chips into the bowl and give it a really good mix, you will find that it seems like ALOT of chips (thats because there is alot!) but just make sure its all stuck together and it will be fine!

using an ice cream scoop and a palette knife form little mounds of cookie dough but DO NOT FLATTEN!
pop the tray into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to allow the dough to firm up slightly. this allows the cookies to retain some of their shape and stops them expanding to much in the oven.

whilst they are chilling preheat the oven to 170ºC or gas mark 3.

pop them in the oven for 18-20 minutes and when they come out they will look like heaven in cookie form! 

the smell of them fresh from the oven was to much to resist so i had one straight away! i think i am in love!

if i was to make these again i think i would reduce the chocolate chips by half and replace with more cherries and they seemed to get lost in all the chocolate.

i would also recommending leaving them over night before cracking into them as the chocolate seems to mellow slightly, they can be a bit bitter when first baked.

cake mountain and a farewell...

after a lovely week off work i decided i had better show my face...
i had enjoyed my time off so much that i actually felt quite sick at the thought of returning but it had to be done. so after pulling myself out of bed and getting myself ready i made the journey in.
it wasn't as bad as i had been expecting and it was nice to see the familiar faces, that and the fact i knew it was only a day before my next day off haha.
when i arrived home i had received a private message from a friend asking me if i could make a cake for her sons first birthday next week. the cake is obviously aimed for the guests of the party rather than the baby.
they asked me to make something they had seen on the choccywoccydoodah website. It's basically a chocolate cake bathed in chocolate topped with marshmallows and even more chocolate.. at first i wasn't sure i could do it...but then i thought heck! i can try!

Deans funeral was today, i went with some other work colleagues and it was a lovely service. there were no hymns but lots of his favourite songs including Barcelona by Freddie Mercury.

RIP Dean

lemon meringue cupcakes...

now a lot of people have been asking for this recipe here on the blog and also over on twitter.
i was quite worried about doing these for a charity bake sale as i have never had any luck with meringue but thankfully it all turned out brilliantly.

you will need

for the sponge:
80g of unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1 table spoon baking powder
1 quarter teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of lemon zest (or if you are a bit of a lemon fiend like myself...2-3)
2 eggs
240ml of while milk

for the filling:
a jar of lemon curd

for the frosting:
4 egg whites
200g of caster sugar
150ml water

start by preheating the oven to 190ºC or gas mark 5 and line your cupcake tin with your favourite cases.

mix together the sugar and butter until no large lumps remain.

sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. its always best to sift even if a recipe you are following doesn't say to.

throw in the lemon zest and then mix until all is well combined, it will look a bit like sand but dont be tempted to make castles...this is for eating not for playing!

after i added the lemon i got a bit over excited by the smell and forgot to take any more prepare yourself for a mountain of type!

whisk the eggs and milk together in a jug and begin to add the mix into the other ingredients, whilst beating on a slow speed.
once all of the wet is added, turn up the mixer to a medium speed and allow all the ingredients to come together until smooth.

using an ice cream scoop begin to fill the cases, i found this mix made 14 full size cupcakes and one small one. i like to call this small one the taste test!

bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, the sponge should bounce back when pressed or you can use a trusty cocktail stick to check the core.

allow these to cool for a few minutes in the tin and then place onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

once they have had time to cool completely its time to give them an extra burst of lemon loveliness. if you have a cupcake corer feel free to use this but i went for a teaspoon. simply cut out the center of the cupcakes and put them to one side (do not be tempted to eat any! you will be using them as lids shortly!).

once thats done, take a jar of your favourite lemon curd and place a spoonful into each cupcake. replace the lid and push down slightly.
dont' worry to much about putting the right top on the right cupcake as the meringue topping will cover this!

next you want place 200g of caster sugar into a saucepan and cover with the water. bring this to the boil and allow it to sit on the heat for 5-10 minutes, by which point it should reach its soft ball stage (if you take a spoonful of this and place it into cold water you should be able to pick it up and form a soft ball).

whilst the sugar and water are boiling away place the 4 egg whites in a bowl and whisk until it just begins to foam.

once at the soft ball stage turn the mixer up to medium and add the sugar to the eggs. you will find that the whites will instantly start to grow and it should increase in size. once all the sugar has been added increase the speed to high and whisk until the bottom of the bowl is lukewarm.

next for the fun part!

place the meringue on top of each cupcake, you can do this however you see fit really. for example you could try piping it onto each cake to give it a swirly effect.

i opted to spoon it on and used a palette knife to cover the entire cake and give it a peak.

if you have a blow torch, turn it on and with fluid motions go back and forth over the top of the meringue, this will give it that golden colour commonly seen on a meringue. just be very careful as this mixture will burn very quickly.

don't worry if you don't have a torch, just pop them under the grill but make sure you dont take your eyes off of them as they will burn quickly!

and there you have it! lemon meringue cupcakes!

i hope you enjoy them as much as i did!

another charity bake sale...

so im on holiday :D which is lovely as i look to have chosen a great week off, the sun is shining and my sun glasses are out!

sadly though before finishing work, we were told that one of our regulars had passed away.
he had a rare genetic disorder called friedreich's ataxia and he had gone down hill over the last 8 weeks.

the funeral is next thursday so a group of us are going to go and pay our respects, he was a lovely man.

his mother was his carer and she took him out every day. she's asked that no one donates flowers, but instead donates money to the friedreich's ataxia charity as that would be what he wanted.

so yesterday i got out my mixing bowls and set to work making some baked goods to sell to raise some money for the charity.

these are lemon meringue cupcakes, i was a bit unsure about these at first as i haven't had much lucky with meringue before but they came out perfectly and were delicious! i will post the recipe later in the week.

i also decided to use up my chocolate covered coffee beans from Hotel chocolat and made Espresso cupcakes. again i was a bit worried they may be a tad strong but my god they were good!

and finally...i almost wet myself the other day when i realised that waitrose sell pumpkin puree! i have been looking for it for months and could only find it on really expensive american sweet shop websites. but this was a steal! 
i went ahead and made pumpkin cheesecake. now i know what you are thinking..."Pumpkin cheesecake..really!?" was goooooooooood!

i was expecting to take a lot of it home after the bake sale because its pumpkin but also because i rushed it at midnight whilst buzzing after eating an espresso cupcake (to check it tasted good obviously...)

to my amazement everything sold!

the bake sale itself raised £61! im fully chuffed and i'm so happy i did it for such a great cause.

i decided to treat myself, after all the sun was shining and i had done my good deed for the day. so i got myself a few bottles of wine to enjoy over the week.. (one bottles already gone so i apologise for any shlurring/typos...hic..)

mount riley is a lovely easy drink shall we call it? one that you can sip on without thinking its wine.

also as i am so into my cooking at the moment i decided to treat myself to "Kitchen" by Nigella Lawson. i have been watching her programs on TV a lot recently and find myself making sex noises when wrong but so right...ummm!

one last thing before i leave you in peace...someone tweeted this on thursday and i literally wet myself and just had to share it.. the tweet was something like "Tomorrow..." and then the picture... brilliant!


i didn't have much planned for my day off before last night...
fran and i decided to go for breakfast this morning which was really nice, the laughs flowed and we did some light shopping.

i then came home expecting to be going out for a coffee with my mum and auntie...but no...we went for a full on italian which was also lush..pasta with a creaming sauce with mushrooms, chicken, garlic and a hint of chilli...

by this point my tummy was over joyed and at the point of bursting...

then came my evening plans with one of my nearest and dearest friends, ruth.
tomorrow is her birthday and i wanted to treat her to a night in with laughs, chinese and some light baking.
i collected her at just gone 3.30pm and we commenced with the baking..

i finally got round to baking these bad boys, Ferrero Rocher cupcakes! i have been wanting to do them for a few weeks but haven't been able to.

i didn't bother to do a step by step guide for these as i was to busy chatting but they are so easy to make. just whip up a batch of your favourite chocolate cupcakes, core them, fill with nutella and stuff with a ferrero rocher!

i believe ruth said "Crumbs in my lap, chocolate smeared on my boobs...these are the signs of a good cake!"

all in all a brilliant day! we laughed a lot and i look forward to doing it again soon!

happy baking all!