Monday, 9 November 2009

Sugar and Spice

Here I am, elbow deep in butter and sugar and in dire need of a sit down and a cuppa. Where's my butler when I need him?

Lacking domestic staff, I thought I'd blog about my day.

Today has been a brainstorming and trialling day. I did a mad dash to Harrogate to buy stuff at Lakeland (I can't possibly bake without their wonderful reusable baking sheets) and then zoomed home to pick up Miss B from Nursery.

I spent the drive thinking about all the flavours and foods that feel Christmas-y. Not the turkey/goose/roast spuds/sprouts sort of thing, obviously, as that's no use to a cake maker. Especially a vegetarian one. But you know, all those lovely smells that make you want to trim a tree and wrap presents.
So far I have -
Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, chocolate, cranberries, oranges, chestnuts, fruit cake, brandy, mincemeat, Toblerones, Terry's Chocolate Oranges, walnuts, gingerbread and mulled wine.
If you think of any others, please tell me. I'm after all the inspiration I can get.

I decided that the idea to let people know I am recipe testing and offer selection boxes of assorted cake and cookie samples for a five would be a good way forward. i sent out a mass text, hoping for at least 5 responses to help cover the ingredient costs. I got 13. Coo.

I'm fiddling around with recipes old and new to come up with a winter range that fits in with those sort of flavours. I'm making a shocking mess, using stupidly huge quantities of eggs and lovely Green and Blacks cocoa but I'm having a lovely time and the house smells divine.

The first success is chocolate orange cake. I'm going to look at the price of Terry's Chocolate Oranges because I think the cake would look great with a some segments arranged on top. It's a good recipe, it's commercially viable and I think it is delicious.

I tried it in my new divided cake tin, making 4 little 6x6 cakes. It cooked in only 25 minutes and makes two lovely mini layer cakes.

Next - chocolate chilli cake. I've not done so well at the first attempt. Knowing how much I love chilli, I played it cautious so as not to overwhelm other people. Too cautious, as it turns out - you can't really tell it's there. Still a very nice chocolate cake, though. I'll try again with another version tomorrow.

Chocolate Orange Cake mark II came from an online search. It looks more like the kind of cake I'd make an serve to SJ and Rich when they came for dinner than something from a cafe. No icing as yet, and I rather like the idea of it without. However, that has retail implications; the cake will go stale quicker if its uncovered. I really like the look of it. I haven't tasted it but I've already decided I'm not going to do it commercially unless it is unbelievably lovely. Boiling the orange for half and hour and blitzing it was a right faff and adds a lot to the energy cost of the cake.

Then I moved onto cookies. C is for Cookie, you know.

Cookie number one was a spiced snickerdoodle from Rachel Allen. It's a small, domed biscuit that was terrific fun to make.

Here's the recipe:
Cream 125g of butter until soft.
Add 110g caster sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Beat in
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract.

Sift in

  • 250g plain flour,
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg and
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder

Gently mix until you have a soft dough. Form into walnut sized balls.

Here comes the fun bit. In a small bowl or ramekin, mix a dessertspoon each of
  • caster sugar and
  • cinnamon.

Drop each ball into the ramekin and swirl it around to coat it completely. Pop them on a baking tray and flatten them a bit. Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes. Leave them to cool on the baking tray for a few minutes, then transfer them to cooling racks to cool down completely.

They turned out well. Mine were about 40g each, so I got 22 of them I think. (I can't check, as they were very popular and the kids have scoffed a fair few.)

Then I decided to try some butter cookies with orange zest and cranberries. They worked treat. i was tempted to coat them in chocolate but I think it's gilding the lily a bit. Actually, I think it reduces the shelf life, adds cost, makes a mess if they are stored in a warm room and the cookies are delicious without them, so there we are. Definitely a crowd-pleaser here.

Cookie 3 - Bah, humbug. I make chocolate chip cookies using Hummingbird's recipe and to be frank, it's not all that impressive. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's chocolate chip recipes are streets better. My hope was that, having successfully made the basic recipe, I could play about with it and tinker to get a lovely christmas-y cookie. I don't think I'll bother. They are large, very flat an quite gooey cookies but they just lack a depth of flavour or a really good mouthfeel. The kids liked them but both M and I were unimpressed.

Maybe I'll revert to Hugh's lovely recipes tomorrow. For tonight I have chocolate orange icing to make and a rather intimidating washing up pile.
I may be some time...

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jay, you missed out Baileys, Bucks Fizz, Apple Sauce and Mulled wine (but not all together in one cake!!)
    I quite like the idea of a Christmas Pudding Cheesecake too...... or Bailey's Cheesecake Mmmmm