Sunday, 26 February 2012

So Much News - A New Home & A New Blog!

So I have been absent from here for a couple of weeks. But I have a good excuse. I've been cleaning out, packing and decorating. All on the internet. My big news is that I've started up a new website and name for my blog. It's something I've wanted to do for a while but have only just got around to it. You may remember here where I said I had tried blogging a few times and had always stopped for one reason or another (mostly fear, I guess!) But when I first started I used the name Bake for the Border. In the meantime I started this blog with a new name as I wanted to keep my 'dipping-a-toe-into-blogging-and-not-very-good-blog' in a secret corner of the internet where I couldn't be connected to it. I have always thought about going back to my first blog name. So here we are...

I hope you will stop by and visit my new home. I promise tea and cake for everyone. Lovely fat free cake too. Please drop by and say hello.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Swan Choux Buns For My Valentine

I was going out with my now husband about six months when we were about to celebrate our first Valentine's Day. I was harbouring a deep dark secret that had haunted me for many years. I was seeking help every Tuesday for weeks previous in secret to address my problem, but I didn't want him to know. And now I faced a dilema. Valentines fell on a Tuesday. I could either confess to my secret or I could make an excuse and tell him I couldn't rendezvous with him as I had a previous engagement and risk letting him thinking I was off with another man. So I broke down and told him. I couldn't swim. I was taking swimming lessons. I didn't tell him I had to wear arm bands and would end up pleading with my instructor to let me off going into the deep end because I didn't want to be fished out with a long pole with a hook on it again. It was too humiliating. He took the news well and didn't even laugh. I suppose it made me like him even more. 

Now seven years later, I can swim and we normally take it in turns to cook each other a three course dinner to celebrate the big V day and I'm in luck this year as it's Chub's turn to cook! I still wanted to make something to mark the occasion though and I also wanted to enter something into English Mum's 'Baked With Love' competition. What could be more rosemantic then love swans. I love when we go holidays and we get love swans made from towels at the end of the bed. We once got a towel mermaid but I didn't like her as much. It wasn't as romantic. 

So what else could I make for Valentines Day but love swan choux pastry. I hadn't made these before and struggled a little finding finding exact cooking times so I had to keep oven the oven and checking them with made them a little deflated. BUT I have put down better times for you below so you will have more puffy, fluffy and voluptuous swans than mine. 

The recipe for choux pastry comes from Leiths Techniques Bible. This book is awesome. It has great step by step instructions to master everything you need to know in the kitchen. It also covers what went wrongs and has lots of great recipes. 

Choux Pastry Ingredients - this amount of pastry will make about 10 swans. 
85g butter, cut into small cubes
220ml water - weigh it to make sure it is accurate, it will equate to 220g
105g plain flour
a pinch of salt
3 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or 180 degrees if fan assisted. 
Sift the flour and salt at least three times onto a piece of greaseproof paper. To make this easier, fold the rectangle of greaseproof paper in half and open out, this gives a sharp edge for pouring the flour. 
Add the butter and water to a medium sized saucepan and put on a medium heat until the butter has melted. 
Bring the butter and water mixture to a fast boil and shoot in the flour mixture. 
Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the liquid to form a firm, smooth paste. Beat the mixture until it comes away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball. 
Tip the ball of paste onto a tray and smooth it into thin layer. Leave to cool until it feels just warm to the touch. 
Return the paste to the pan or put in a freestanding mixer and add the beaten eggs a tablespoon at a time. Beating well after each addition. 
Continue until the mixture is of a reluctant dropping consistency, hold its shape and has a slight sheen.  

You are now ready for piping out the swans. This video will be really useful to watch, but I will go through the process below. 

Do the swan necks first, put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe out about 10 necks, making a number 2 shape. Bake in the preheated oven for about 17-20 minutes, remove from the oven, turn them over and pierce them with a sharp knife. Return them to the oven for 3 minutes. Remove and leave on cooling rack. 

Now do the bodies, you are aiming for a large almond shape. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, remove from the oven, turn them over and pierce them with a sharp knife. Return them to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and leave on cooling rack. When cool, cut the body in half along it's length and the cut the top in half to make the wings. 

Assemble with whipped cream, creme patisserie or ice-cream. Serve with chocolate sauce. 

Eat off with your Valentine. Enjoy!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Liebster Blog Award

I'm not a team sports person or indeed a sports person at all. Which kind of makes it hard for me to win things! I have only won two medals in my whole life. One for basketball when I was in sixth class in primary school, I was really tall back then compared to others and it was easy for me to make the shots. I'm also proud that my short Irish dancing career produced a medal too. My two medals are safely stored away in a secure place in the house so no prospective burglars can bring them to one of those cash my gold stores, so I'm only going to show you photographic proof of my winnings.

Now don't mind my little sister there with her medal, I doubt she even remembers winning this one. She brings the gold home ALL the time. Here's the one she won the other day.

But who needs sports awards when you are very fortunate to be awarded a blog award? I wanted to start a blog for so long, I would start and was always so conscious of my efforts that I stopped. Then I would start again. And then stop. I don't know what's changed now but I love the whole process. The picking of a recipe, the baking, the photographing, the eating, the writing, the feedback. It's so rewarding! It's taking me out of my comfort zone all of the time and that's a really good thing.

Thank you to Claire from Rolling Pin Tales for thinking my blog is worthy of the Liebster Blog Award, which is all about promoting blogs with less than 200 followers. Claire loves baking so much, that even after just having her third baby she was baking for her husband's workplace the week after! I know this because my husband kindly smuggled me home one of her cupcakes!

Here are the rules,
Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog & link back to their site.
Copy and paste the blog award on your page.
Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed.
Let them know you've chosen them by leaving a comment on their blog.

Similar to a chain mail. Just be glad you're not in primary school anymore when chain mails were written out by hand!

Here are my 5 award winners
What the Fruitcake?! - I only came across this blog a couple of weeks ago, now I'm in danger of starting a fan club for Mandy's blog. Great ideas and beautiful photography!
Paula's Sweet Treats - And soon to be under a new name so drop by to enter her competition! Paula is also worth a follow on Twitter, she has made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions.
Cooking in Mammy's Kitchen - Lovely blog with even lovelier photographs.
Like Mam Used to Bake - Nostalgic and from the heart writing from Rosanne. This post in particular struck a chord with me, as I would sell my soul to have my Mam back with me.
A Mexican Cook in Ireland - Lily taught herself how to cook the foods she loved most from home when she moved to Ireland. Check out her blog for lots of authentic Mexican grub.

(I know I'm only supposed to have 5 awards - but if I had another I would give it to Magda's Cauldron. But Colette pipped me to the post and gave her an award of her own.)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recently I was sent an email, one of those forwards that has the obligatory 'send to ten people, or your arm will fall off tomorrow' kind of statement. For once, I actually took something from it. 'If you put your troubles into a pot with those of a thousand others, yours will not be the biggest' or something along those lines. Reallly, what I think it meant was to forget about the small things, they aren't worth it, focus on the positive side of life, your health, the health of your family and friends. Surely, all things pale into comparison when you are fortunate to have that. But what if you don't?

I told you before about my friend's little girl who developed a heart problem when she was a little over a year old and how well she was looked after in Crumlin Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital, in my 'Great Irish Bake' post. While many people are fortunate to go through life and not need the services provided in the hospitals around the country and not even be aware of the good work they do. Others are. They have a loved one attending or they orgnaise to fundraise, they shake collection boxes, they throw money into the collection boxes, they give their time, they bake, they write recipes, they put a cook book together. But really they just help in whatever way they can, even if it doesn't always bring good karma their way! (I got a speeding fine on my way home from the 'Great Irish Bake', for going 5km over the speed limit. Now I am more likely to cause an accident as I keep staring at the speedometer!)

A call went out on Twitter from @MexicancookEire for volunteers to review a cookbook put together by staff at Certus, who had nominated Heart Children Ireland as their charity of the year. The staff of Certus collected their favourite recipes, photographed them and had them bound to make 'A Taste of Certus' cookbook. The book would make a lovely addition to your recipe book collection. Many of the recipes have been handed down through families, picked up on holidays or found in a book and cooked and tweaked so often the recipe becomes their own. I made the banana chocolate chip muffins for this post but I have a few more recipes picked out that I want to try. The coddle, for sure, I want to see what it tastes like as an adult as we were only fed it as children. Lots of happy memories!

'A Taste of Certus' is available for €10 (all of which goes to charity!) and can be ordered by contacting Heart Children Ireland at or by phoning 1850 217 017. Heart Children Ireland will place the order with Certus and they will ship the book.

Just a little background, taken from the Heart Children Ireland website - 'Heart Children Ireland was founded in 1990 by a group of parents who met in Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin whose children were being treated for congenital heart defects. They realised there was a need for a support group and with the help of staff including they set about organising one. Their aim is to provide practical support for their members including setting up local groups, buying medical equipment, financial assistance, funding specialist posts and special events for the children and their families. Heart Children Ireland now has over 1,000 member families and has raised well in excess of two million euros for the cardiac unit at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.'

PS look out for other recipes from this book on these sites, A Mexican Cook in IrelandWholesome CookA Year in Redwood and Smorgasblog.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins - Sarah Lysaght, 'A Taste of Certus' Heart Children Ireland

I had two boxes of chocolates left over from Christmas, so I picked out the plain chocolate ones and hazelnut chocolates and chopped them up to substitute for the chocolate chips in this recipe. So if you still have some Christmas sweets hanging around, you could do the same!
I also added some jumbo oat flakes to the top of some muffins for decoration. 

1 1/2 cups of plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees or 155 degrees fan assisted.
Place paper cases into the muffin tray.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the chocolate chips and mix. Set aside. 
Combine the bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter in a large bowl. 
Fold in the flour mixture and mix until smooth. 
Using an ice-cream scoop or a spoon, scoop the mixture into the pre-lined muffin tin. 
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the muffin comes out clean. 
Cool on a baking rack. 

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Ok, breathe a sigh of relief everyone. I have found the perfect chocolate cake for you all. A perfect, no mixer required, one tin wonder. It was Chub's birthday last week and I had to pander to his every request. Nothing but a chocolate and peanut butter cake would do and of course it then had to be produced. I had a quick look through my many, many recipe books and settled on the chocolate cake from Gizzi's Kitchen Magic, which is actually an Earl Grey chocolate fudge cake. I omitted the tea when I made it and was seriously dubious of the melt and mix method but soldiered on nonetheless. The cake came out of the oven perfectly flat on top, which would make it great for using for cakes that are going to be iced with sugar paste. This one however was destined to be covered with a peanut butter cream cheese icing with a peanut butter chocolate ganache inspired by Smitten Kitchen (completely in love with this lady!)

Even with the icing, I found the cake to be not too rich and it was incredibly more-ish. If you are a peanut butter fan, this one is for you....

Ps - For birthday lunch we went to The Residence Restaurant Forty One on Stephen's Green and did the tasting menu. The dining room was beautiful, the staff delightfully well trained and the food completely faultless and absolutely delicious. I'm already looking forward to our next trip!

Chocolate Fudge Cake - adapted from 'Gizzi's Kitchen Magic' Gizzi Erskine
150ml boiling water, cooled a little
100g butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
150g soft dark brown sugar
100g light brown sugar
250g self-raising flour
120g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids) melted and cooled
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbs greek yogurt or natural yogurt

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or 160 degrees fan assisted.
Grease and line 20cm round deep cake springform tin with butter and greaseproof paper.
Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl or food processor and mix until you have a smooth batter.
Pour the batter into the tin and level the surface.
Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Leave in the tin to cool in its tin, covered by a clean tea-towel for 2 hours.

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing - Smitten Kitchen, but previously from 'Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes'
I've slightly changed the ingredients as I can't deal with cups! It's also important to have the ingredients at room temperature
250g full-fat cream cheese
110g butter
500g icing sugar
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter

Cream the cream cheese and butter together until well combined.
Add the icing sugar, 1 cup at a time and mix well after each addition.
Add the peanut butter and mix until well combined.

Chocolate Peanut Butter GanacheSmitten Kitchen, but previously from 'Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes'
225g dark chocolate (70% solids)
3 tbs smooth peanut butter
2tbs corn syrup (I was able to find this in the Asia Market randomly, but if you can't find it maybe add golden syrup or just leave it out)
1/2 cup double cream

Combine the chocolate, corn syrup (if using) and peanut butter into a double boiler until melted. Slowly add the cream and stir well between each addition. If you do this too quickly, the mixture may freeze.

I wrap the cake in cling film and put in the freezer for about an hour, before cutting in two layers with a large serrated knife. This stops the cake crumbling too much when cutting in half.
Once the cake is cut in half, add some of the cream cheese mixture to the centre and spread. Add the top half and then spread the remaining mixture over the cake. You will have enough icing to have a fairly thick layer. This is a very good thing.
Spread the chocolate ganache on top of the cream cheese mixture. To get a smooth finish, dip a long palette knife in hot water, dry it and then using it to smooth the icing.


Some Instagram pictures

Monday, 16 January 2012

Chocolate Macarons with Confiture de Lait

I have a confession, another one! I used to think macarons were macaroons. I know, it's a cardinal sin! What was I thinking? Infact, the first time I had a macaron, I didn't even know what it was called. We were in a bakery on our first visit to Paris three years ago and when we are in France, I am in charge of speaking. I did French in school, but I wasn't very interested, as frankly, it wasn't boys. So I was doing my usual, trying to speak in my pigeon French, when I do this, I feel like the Earth stands still waiting for my next word. Je. Voudrais. Un. Croissant. Et. Un. Pain. Au. Chocolat. S'il. Vous. Plait. The person waiting for me to finish my sentence has nearly fallen asleep and usually responds in perfect English. Anyway, I was je voudrais-ing nearly everything in the bakery and managed to get a macaron in my bag of goodies, by accident. What a blooming great accident though. Crispy and chewy and really delicious.

I set about replicating my happy accidental purchase at home and it came out as something to be proud of. I can't remember if it had any 'feet' but I didn't know the importance of those back then. After much research over the years, I've discovered that 'feet' are the sign of success for a macaron, they are the product of the skin forming on the uncooked macarons. And they have a funny name. Feet. Hehe!

We had a macaron masterclass during my cookery course a few months ago, the recipe was so exact. 63g water, 190g egg whites, etc. It involved making an Italian meringue first before mixing it into the almond mixture. I tried this recipe on Saturday and did not have much success. The macarons were nearly too bad to even put in the bin. They were that bad. I wasn't going to let them get the better of me and I tried a different recipe the next day. I was lucky to win a macaron book on the lovely Colette's blog and have been wanting to try it for a while now and it worked like a dream for me.

I brought a jar of confiture de lait in Galeries Lafayette Gourmet when we were in Paris last October  and I thought that would make an interesting buttercream flavour for sandwiching the macarons together. I have seen jars of the confiture locally so it might not be too hard to pick up. If you can't find it, I think a jar of caramel sauce or dulce de leche would work just aswell.

Chocolate Macarons - from 'Macarons' by Annie Rigg  & Confiture de Lait Buttercream- adapted from Hummingbird Bakery 'Cake Days' basic buttercream recipe. 
Makes 16 macarons

180g icing sugar
100g ground almonds
2tbps cocoa powder
120g egg whites, about 3 eggs
a pinch of salt
40g vanilla caster sugar
red food colouring paste
2 solid baking sheets, lined with non-stick baking parchment - if you need a guide for piping, trace around a 2 inch diameter pastry cutter onto the baking sheet and then turn the paper over.

Blend the icing sugar, ground almonds and cocoa powder in a food processor until throughly combined. Set aside. 
Tip the egg whites into freestanding mixer and add the salt. Beat until the egg whites can hold a stiff peak. 
Continue to beat the egg whites at a medium speed and start adding the caster sugar a teaspoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. The mixture should be thick, white and glossy. 
Dip a skewer into the food colouring paste and stir into the egg whites. Mix until combined. 
Using a large metal spoon, fold the ground almond mixture into the egg whites. 
The mix should be throughly incorporated and smooth, this can take up to 1 minute. When it is ready, the mixture should drop from the spoon in a smooth molten mass. 
Fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe evenly sized rounds, about 2 inches in diameter onto the prepared sheets. 
Tap the bottom of the baking sheets sharply, once, on the work surface to expel any large air bubbles. 
Leave the macarons for at least 15 minutes, and up to 1 hour, until they have set and formed a dry shell. They should not be sticky, tacky or wet when tested with your fingertip. 
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees or 150 degrees fan. 
Bake the macarons on the middle shelf of the preheated oven, one sheet at a time, for 10 minutes. The tops should be crisp and the bottoms dry. Leave to cool on the baking sheet. 

Confiture de Lait Buttercream - Adapted from Hummingbird Bakery basic buttercream
90g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
2tbsp milk
2tbsp confiture de lait or dulce de leche or caramel sauce

Blend the butter and icing sugar in a freestanding mixer until sandy. 
Add the milk and mix until pale and creamy. 
Add the confiture de lait and mix well. 
Fill a piping bag with the icing. 

Pipe the buttercream on to a macaron shell and top with a lid. Simples. 

Some Instagram pictures.....

The Sunday V the Saturday Macaron. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Chocolate Orange Cake

It's that time of year again. January. Boo. Dark nights and cold days. It was alright before Christmas when we knew we had a feast to look forward to and days away from the desk. But now it feels a little sad. Going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark is no fun. Sometimes I feel like the worst part of my day is standing in the cold waiting on the train to arrive. If I were to look on the brightside at least that means that the worst part of my day is over terribly early and I can get on with the rest of the day with nothing so bad to dread (except the gym, I will dread the gym for a few weeks yet 'til I get back in the spin swing of it again)

But dark nights mean lighting cosy candles, snuggling down on the sofa, reading a book, drinking red wine or baking a cake. Not too shabby in my opinion.

I was gifted Lilly Higgins 'Make Bake Love' for Christmas, a signed copy nonetheless! It's a lovely book and there are many things which I have picked out to bake already. This recipe was picked out by sister, who celebrates the first birthday of the year which falls on the third. Not a good day for celebrating a birthday as it's when everyone normally goes back to work with a heavy heart and hips.

The cake is a simple two layer sponge cake. I've changed it around a little from Lillys. I've added extra cocoa, chocolate, zest and juice to the cake.  I've changed the icing a bit too and instead of Lily's suggested white buttercream and chocolate ganache I've made an extra chocolate-y buttercream with pimped up orange flavouring. Below is my adaption.

Chocolate Orange Cake - Adapted from Lilly Higgin's 'Make Bake Love'

Cake Ingredients
225g softened butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
50ml milk
1 orange, zest and juice
225g flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp cocoa
50g dark chocolate orange, melted

Buttercream Ingredients
200g icing sugar
60g cocoa
1 orange, zest and juice
1 tbsp milk

Decoration Ideas
Dark chocolate orange, grated or orangettes (yum), Terry's chocolate orange segments (double treble yum)

For the cake...
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees or fan 160 degrees.
Grease 2 x 20 cm round sandwich pans and line the bottoms with greaseproof paper.
Sift the cocoa, flour and baking powder together into a bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar in a freestanding mixer until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs one by one, adding a tablespoon of the dry ingredients after each egg to stop the mix curdling. 
Once the eggs are fully mixed in, add the orange zest, orange juice, milk and melted chocolate. Mix well again.
Fold in the remaining dry ingredients gently.
Split between the two prepared tins and bake for about 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on a rack.
Remove the cakes from the tins and allow to cool completely on a rack.

For the icing...
Sift the icing sugar, milk, cocoa, orange zest and juice in a freestanding mixer until well combined.

Sandwich the two layers together with a generous helping of icing.
Spread the remaining icing over the top and around the sides. A long flexible palette knife is useful here!
Decorate to your hearts content.