Saturday, 26 July 2014

Cake Pops and Cupcakes


cakepops

Baking is proving an endless source of fascination: not only bakers demonstrate a wealth of creativity, produce beautiful goods  which we crave for but the world of baking is proving as vicious as that of the Bolshoi.
 
Take cupcakes. They were around for ever, ignored and languishing on shop shells, when suddenly, they enjoyed a revival with a little bit of help from "Sex and the City". The whole story is reveal in this extremely well crafted article of  New York by Adam Sternbergh.
 
For a while, everyone thought that cupcakes will reign supreme for a long time and the myriad of contenders would never dethrone them until the beginning of this month, when the craze started to peter out.

To everyone amazement, a New York based cupcake shop and one of the major player "Crumbs Bake Shop" closed suddenly all its stores.This leaves Cake Pops with a chance to be the next cupcake.

My money is on this moist center cakey bite. After all, it decorates as well, if not better than cupcakes. It is smaller therefore should contain less calories and with a few tips, it is not very difficult to make at home. If you use cake left overs it can be very economical.
 
So what do you need to know before you start?
 
Tip 1: To bind the cake mixture, use cream cheese, it's lower in fat than most recommended addition.
 
Tip 2: Make sure that your pops are small enough, if you have a melon scoop use it to get all cakes equal in size.

Tip 3:  Before inserting your sticks into your chilled cake balls, dip the end of each stick into the coating. This is the major tip, the last thing you want is doing all the work only to watch the cake pop to fall off its stick.
 
Here is my first attempt at cake pop and as we now know, I am probably not going to win "Baker of the year" or if I do that will be the wooden spoon. But with Cake Pops, my confections were applauded and there were smiles all around on tasting

#cakepops
Basic Cake Pops
Ingredients
I use the leftovers of the coconut and strawberry cake I'd made previously

  • 80g unsalted butter, softened
  • 40g cream cheese, softened
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  •  Lollipop sticks
  •  dark chocolate - melted- though you can use coloured chocolate buttons or a whole variety of covers

  • To make the cream cheese frosting
        1.    Cream the butter and cream cheese together.
        2.    Gradually add the sugar, then continue to cream until light and fluffy.
        3.    Refrigerate for 30 minutes before using.
     
    When this is done,
    crumble the cake and mix the cream cheese frosting in. The texture needs to be a little like clay.
     
    Break off a small piece of the mixture and roll into a ball with your palms, it should be 3cm in diameter.  Place each ball on a tray lined with baking paper. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes, or until they are firm.
    Melt the chocolate until smooth and dip each lollipop stick in, up to about 3cms, insert the stick in a ball straight away. This will "stick" the cakepop.
     
    Coat each cake pop by dipping them in the melted chocolate, shake the excess and return to the fridge for 30 minutes.
     
    Use floral foam to stand the pops during the drying process, you could "dry" them upside down but then you would get a flat top.

    Further reads
     
    More on Crumbs closure here
    and from one of my favourite bakers Daffodils Cookies Pops
    1st cake-pop shop opened in the UK Dream Pop Bakery
     

    Wednesday, 23 July 2014

    Vote for Pebble Soup

    One of Pebble Soup's recipe is a finalist



    Thursday, 17 July 2014

    Beef Thai-Style

     
    I don't know what other people do with their spice collection but with mine it's a constant battle. The number of little phials is growing every time I look and it seems impossible to keep it down. Not unlike books and music tracks which I suspect are reproducing when left alone.
     
    You start with a few, next thing you know, you spend hours trying to organise them in a sensible (to you) manner, blink and there is thousands of them, of course each as important as the next.
     
    When spice-blends appeared on the market, I wasn't too sure if they should be applauded or loaded. Take tandoori: that's not an every day dish, therefore having a little pot, all nicely labelled "tandoori", ready to use, with the correct proportion for each individual spice has to be an advantage, right?

    Weeelll, may be, that's if you overlook the threat of an spice invasion.

    For the following recipe, individual herbs and spices are listed however Bart does a blend called "Aromatic Thai" which fits perfectly

    Beef Thai-Style
    Ingredients

    Serves 4
    2 rib-eye steaks, about 400g
    1 tsp sesame oil
    3 red shallots, finely sliced
    12 cherry tomatoes, halved
    3 tbs lime juice
    2 tbs Thai fish sauce or soy sauce
    1 tsp sugar
    1 lime quartered

    Herbs & Spices:
    2 lemongrass stalks
    1 small red chilli, finely sliced  
    3 tbs basil leaves
    3 tbs coriander leaves

    Method
    Prepare the seasoning by trimming and slicing the lemon grass.
    Chop the shallots and chilli
    Tear the basil
    Mince the mint and the coriander
    Mix the lot in a medium bowl

    On the other hand, use 3 tablespoon of Bart Aromatic Thai Blend

    Smear the steaks with the spices, keep a quarter in the bowl

    Use a grill or a non-stick pan brushed with sesame oil and fry the steaks to your liking. Slice the steaks. Transfer the slices to a serving plate

    Add the tomatoes, lime juice, fish sauce and sauce to the bowl. Toss well and tip on the top of the steaks

     

    Thursday, 10 July 2014

    Le Bouchon - A True Bar à Vin - Review -


    What was The Curry Garden in Blackheath (SE3) is now Le Bouchon, owned by wine expert Jean-Philippe Tessier. 

    First things first, if you think that "un bouchon" is type of restaurant in Lyon offering traditional Lyonnaise cuisine such as tripes, quenelles and coq au vin, you are perfectly right.


     Now it's where it becomes confusing: Le bouchon is Blackheath is not "un bouchon", it's a bar à vin but not a wine-bar as we know them in London.

    To start with in this bouchon, there is no cooking going on, food is delivered to the premises once a week, by cheese and meat specialists. In view of the fact that bouchons lyonnais pride themselves on their cuisine, we have a misnomer. Once you've realised that, you are fine.
     
    Le Bouchon though not Lyonnais has a typical French feel: wooden tables inside and outside. The tables "en terrasse" are a vivid reminder of bar-cafés. There are large windows opening on the pavement, slate board with "les vins du jour", lots of wood in the décor and it's all very pleasant.
     

    Le Bouchon offers a selection of amuse-bouches priced between £2 and £5, Charcuteries and Cheeses at £15 for 5 pieces, desserts made by "la fromagerie Beillevaire" and gorgeous, gorgeous bread baked next door by Boulangerie Jade.

     
    La piece the resistance is the wine. With over 120 different wines on offer there is a glass, a carafe or a bottle for everybody. I like the idea of a carafe, usually a pint or so, common in France, less so this side of "La Manche". The staff are all experts and will advise according to your preferences.


    All the food is of excellent quality. Personally, I discovered saucisson au Comté which I didn't even know existed. If you want a natter after work over a perfect glass of wine accompanied by a snack or three  or you are meeting friends up before heading somewhere else, if you have a romantic "rendez-vous", this is a good place to stop by.

    Le Bouchon
    72 Tranquil Vale
    Blackheath Village
    London
    SE3 0BN
    http://www.lebouchonwinebar.co.uk/

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    Read what bloggers thinks of Le Bouchon on
    Franglaise Cooking
    SliceOffMe


    Disclaimer: I enjoyed the hospitality of Le Bouchon and was treated to the Blogger's menu.
     

    Tuesday, 1 July 2014

    Redcurrant Tart

    Food writing has changed my life in more ways than one. When I used to write for the blog, people didn't pay much attention, dinner invitations where coming loosely and freely.
     

    Enter the magazines. It was a little bit more difficult to get invited. Sort of "shall we invite her or not? Will the food be good enough or not?". Needless to say it didn't make any difference to me, good or disastrous, I am always happy to be invited.
     
    Then came the books and now my face is being scrutinised at every mouthful. One of my friends, cleverly got round the problem. Having invited us, she emailed her main ingredient for pudding and asked for the best recipe I could think of.  
     
    The onus was on me, if it all went wrong then it would be my fault. As cooking with redcurrants is not something I do everyday, I had a moment of panic. I almost suggested that she used bananas instead and make my famous Banoffee tartlets. But I knew that there were no banana growing in her Cambridge's allotment.
     
    Red currants are indeed very pretty. They are also incredibly tart which makes these shiny little berries  rather difficult to accommodate. At the end, I opted for couple recipes of the same dessert. The pudding was a triumph, declared by her partner, "As good as the Banoffee pie" which I would have shared with you if it hadn't been devoured before I had time to grab my camera.
     
    Redcurrant Tart
     
    For the sweet pastry 
    • 200g  plain flour
    • 100g  butter
    • 50g caster sugar
    • 1 medium egg
     
    In a mixer add flour, butter and sugar until it resembles breadcrumbs, add the egg when you get a dough stop mixing. Roll it up in a Clingfilm. Leave it in the fridge to rest until you are ready to use it, minimum 30 minutes.

    Tip: don't use a roller on sweet pastry, you are going to end up with a mess. Use the palm of your hand to flatten it and push it with your thumbs. Repeat.

    For the filling:

  • 340g  almond paste or marzipan (ideally 50 per cent almonds if available)
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g  plain flour
  • 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 300g • 11oz redcurrants, rinsed and de-stalked

  • Stalk the redcurrants, reserve
    Put all the ingredients in the mixer bowl and blitz until smooth, transfer to a bow and add the currants without breaking them

    arrange the pastry into tart mould, bake blind for 15 minutes 200C/180C fan/gas 6. 
    Remove from oven, leave it to cool add the mixture and cook for 25 minutes, it will rise. Leave it to cool before sieving icing sugar (optional) 
     

     

     

    Thursday, 26 June 2014

    Pappardelle with Broad Beans, Peas Topped with Watercress & Emozioni Pacchieri Review

    Express News: this recipe made it to the final of Tuscany Now Cook Off. For it to win, please, add your vote to Pebble Soup here

    Trying out new products is part of the job and yesterday, I realised how easy it was loose  sight of reality. Yesterday, I got caught.

    It happened when we joined, his brother and brother's friends' pub quiz team. This pub is old, the wall paper peels off the walls, all in all it's rather decrepit but so full of atmosphere. Deco-wise the piece de resistance is a massive crystal chandelier for which Del Boy would have sold his grand-dad (and possibly would have found a buyer in this very pub).

    During the quiz, we were asked, "What's the name for a  long tubed pasta with ridges". All eyes were on me. I don't do music, I am appalling at questions of  sport, so the least I can do, is to answer spontaneously foodie questions.
     
    But I drew a blank. Nothing sprang to mind. The only thing I could think of, was the exquisite white box I had received the week before, sent for review by an Italian Gourmet specialist "Emozioni". It contained dried, large, short tubes of pasta which I was told, "Were favourite amongst celebrities and designers in Italy and New York."

    And though the packaging was beautiful and classy, the content disappointed. Not for the quality of pasta, far from that, Emozioni's Paccheri Pasta are delicate and of very high standard but at three times the price of  dried pasta, I can't help thinking that customers pay for the packaging, to put it blankly, in my opinion, it's not value for money. At £5.90 for 250g, I would rather opt for fresh pasta. 

    To come back to the quiz, penne was put forward, cannelloni was the answer and Paccheri has nothing to do with it.

    In the words of Ursula Ferrigno "to learn about Italian food is to understand Italian people" and it looks like I have a bit of learning to do. But as usual, this will have to be done in style,
     
    So I enter a Parppadelle recipe in #TuscanyNowCookOff cooked with fresh broad beans, peas and topped with Watercess, this is a perfect dish for summer.  Having won the quiz, in spite of my knowledge gap, would I be on a roll and would this  blog spot will be a winner of the competition organised by Tuscany Now ?
     
    Parppadelle with Broad Beans, Peas Topped with Watercress
     
    Ingredients for 2 people
     
    
    • 200g papardelle
    • 2 big handfuls each of peas and broad beans (outer skins removed) + any greens you have in the fridge (in proportion)
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • Juice of 1/2 lemon + salt and pepper
    • Small bunch of watercress (keep a handful to chop finely for decoration)
     
    Method
    Cook the pasta in 2.5l of boiling salted water for 10-12 minutes.
     
    In the meantime in a small saucepan boil the peas, broad beans and greens(optional) for 3 minutes. Drain and remove the skin of the broad beans.
     
    Drain the pasta. Quickly return to the empty saucepan (no heat needed) add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and veggies (not the rocket) toss and served on warm plate.
     
    Top with watercress and sprinkle chopped cress on the pasta.
     

    Tuesday, 17 June 2014

    Apricot Mousse ....of Course


    Dreams are stuff made of an improbable wishlists. When I was in Pakistan, I dreamt of going to the Hunza valley (Northern Pakistan). The appeal of the remoteness, the majestic Himalayan scenery, the apricots and cherry orchards was great. So were the geopolitical threats.
     
    I still dream of eating fresh apricots in the Hunza valley but I fear that it might be in another life  and for the time being I make do with Lewisham market (South-East London). Which gives it credits, sells apricots too.
     
    However instead of the juicy, velvety, golden fruits of my dreams, the local market apricots are of unknown origins (as in "wher' from? don't know luv") and have been picked too early. They are hard-ish, bitter-sweet with an emphasis on bitter.
     
    Never to grudge a pleasure, it has to be said that out of the lot, some are juicy and between you and me dreams are powerful and irresistible. So I bought a bowl for a pound, ate of few and the what do I do with the remaining apricots?........
     
    Apricot Mousse ....of course
     
    Ingredients
    • 500g apricots
    • 4 eggs
    • 40 g icing sugar
    • 20 g caster sugar
    • 1 tsp. lemon juice
    Method
     1- stone and wash the fruits. Place them in the food processor with icing sugar, lemon and mix to obtain till fine (not bits).
    2- Turn your attention to the eggs, separate whites and yolks. Mix the yolks with sugar and add to the apricot mixture.
    3- Wisk the whites until firm and add to the mixture, a table spoon at the time.
    4- Place in serving bowls and in the fridge for 30 minutes.
     
    More Apricot Recipes
     
    Amazing bakes, Hamantaschen from Cakes, Bakes, Cookies

    Savoury apricot recipe  Grilled Apricot Hoisin Glazed Prawns from Greedy Gourmet
     
    If you are a Yummly user here is your button
    Yum

    Friday, 13 June 2014

    Coconut and Strawberry Loaf Cake

    Pebble Soup has a distinct pink colour lately, after reporting on an evening of Rosé D'Anjou here is pink cake. For someone who "doesn't do sweet after a meal", I came to realise that there is a lot of dessert recipes on my blog.
     
     
    Would I be a repressed cake eater? probably.
     
    My parents cheap and mad reversed-psychology treatment may have worked after all. Like most kids I was addicted to sugar. My mother after conceding that I didn't have the aptitude for the ballet, set her goals on me becoming a model.
     
    Therefore, I had to be dissuaded to eat cakes and to that effect my cousin and I (age 7), were let loose in a patisserie. This is where the reversed psychology treatment was going to take place.

    There we were allowed to pick all the cakes we wanted, no lesser than five, under the proviso that we would eat them all......
     
    The "treatment" worked with my cousin, she felt sick after four, was forced to eat the rest and stopped pestering people for eat cakes for a very long time. On the other hand, I had whale of a time. I ate many petit choux, eclairs and tartlets and I even wrote an essay at school about my experience. A blogger was born. 
     
    On the other hand, my parents felt sick to hear me ask for more  after that gargantuest feast. On that day, in different ways, we all learnt the value of "what you wish for".

    In honour of one of my mum rare visits, I wanted to show off my recent mastery of cake making so I made the most moist, delicious and girly cake I could think of and I jested that she couldn't go home until the whole cake was finished......
     
    Coconut and Strawberry Jam Loaf cake
    Ingredients

    250g self-raising flour
    150g unsalted butter softened
    150g caster sugar
    3 free-range eggs
    100g desiccated coconut
    4tsp semi skimmed milk
    6 tsp quality strawberry jam
    100g/7oz desiccated coconut, toasted
     
    For the icing
    80g icing sugar
    2tsp strawberry jam
    2 tsp hot water
    + 2 tbsp dessicated coconut for the topping
     
    Method
     
    Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a large loaf tin (900g) I used my bread tin.
     
    In the food processor or in a large bowl beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy, beat the eggs one at the time and add the flour, a little at the time
     
    Add the coconut and the milk.
     
    Spoon 3/4 of the mixture in the tin, spread the jam on the top (having done this once, next time, I'll heat the jam up so that it gets runny)
     
    cover with the rest of the mixture
     
    Bake for 35 minutes, cover and return to the oven for another 20-25 minutes until cooked.
     
    Leave to cool and turn your attention to the icing: in a small bowl mix all the ingredients bar the coconut. When the cake is cold enough spread the icing with a knife and sprinkle the coconut on the top.

    Though strawberry jam was used, I am entering this seasonal cake in simple and in season, hosted by Custard Pie.
     
     

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