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.

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!


baking for a cure...

the bake sale was a success! took time to create all of the baked goods but was totally worth it.

in the end i decided to go for cherryade cupcakes, earl grey cupcakes and PB+J pinwheel cookies.

i nipped out tuesday morning and got all the ingredients today for a mammoth day of baking.

by the end of tuesday i had 72 cherryade made and ready to be decorated.

wednesday morning i made 2 rolls of pinwheel cookies and popped them in the fridge ready to be baked freshly shortly before the bake sale. i then made 32 earl grey cupcakes and began to ice them all!

thursday morning i was half expecting a mad rush to get everything decorated and finished off but it was actually very chilled. 

cookies baked, cupcakes decorated i made my way to work to begin the sale.

i decided the earl grey cupcakes (top) needed a topper, so i purchased a selection of miniature biscuits for people to select and put on top. the first bake sale go'er went for a jammy dodger earl grey cupcake and a cherryade cupcake (bottom).

the middle cupcake was made by my colleague pauline, vanilla topeed with a pink butterfly.

when i left after 4 hours the bucket was rammed with cash and we had made over £175 selling half of the cupcakes.

i'm not sure what the grand total is yet but i will find out tomorrow and let you all know.

i was so pleased to be part of such an amazing event, its a charity that is very close to my heart.

this one was for you both, Auntie Jean and Auntie Sue.

now its time to put my feet up and have a nice cup of tea!

p.s how appropriate is the t-shirt?! just had to buy it!

Ask John a Question... saturday i am going to a bloggers multi bake day with John Whaite....

its a disturbing fact but i am so excited i could wee! the chance to see a winner of the great british bake off in action and the opportunity to ask questions!

the only trouble is...what do i ask???

whilst i bake myself into oblivion getting ready for thursdays charity bake sale why dont you leave some questions as a comment below for me to ask him, i can then try and ask him as many as possible for you!

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!

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!

feel poorly? plan you're weekend to make the most...

so its monday, iv felt like this since friday and its gradually getting worse! my head feels like it is full and about to burst and im starting to get a bit annoyed with it all...

so iv decided to think positive and plan things for the weekend ahead as i dont have work and i really dont plan on staying in bed all weekend feeling sorry for myself, especially after working with it all week.

saturday im going to prepare a honey spiced leg of lamb, ready for cook on sunday. there are 2 reasons for this... firstly i want to be a tad adventurous in the kitchen and secondly if i still have a cold i hope the spice will help it leave my body in time for monday.

i will also be setting up my own herb garden. i have never really taken to gardening but after watching a program the other day about how many different herbs we have in england i want to give it a go. hopefully it will inspire me to cook more too!

and then baking...

over the last few weeks i have been gathering up some ingredients to make cupcakes but haven't had the time to get on with it and actually make any.

i currently have a box of Ferrero Roche, 2 boxes of dark chocolate covered coffee beans, a pack of Praline truffles and enough cream eggs to make 152 brownies/cupcakes.
so i am going to get a bit creative and start adding things to my portfolio.

all the baking i do will be sold off and the money donated to charity...excited!

(picture from lick the bowl good

The Londoner's charity bake sale...

rosie over at the londoner is holding a charity bake sale this saturday between 3pm and 6pm @ Bumpkin in south ken.

its a great way to raise money for two very important charities but its also a great way to make friends with other bloggers, get advice and also stuff your faces with cakes and other baked goods.

i had my heart set on baking up a storm and travelling up to london for this but sadly because of the short notice i cannot make it due to work.

all of you bloggers out there that read this blog and live in london, think of poor me working late night saturday and all day sunday and bake something for the event..

go know you want to!

for more info see her blog post