28 August 2016

Victoria Sponge for The Great British Bake Off

This past week has been just all GO! Two of our very good friends got married and trying to fit three layer cakes, 350 macaron and a Great British Bake Off post into my schedule alongside starting in my new school, being a Momma, wife and blogger was a big challenge. But a challenge accepted openly!

But I did it! And I am here to tell the tale... Who needs sleep anyway... hah.. hah ... zzzzzzzz...

First up, George and Lisa have been together since forever and yesterday, they tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony and full blown day out. I was honoured and entrusted with making the wedding cakes. That's right... CAKES!

These folk know what they like and I was going make sure they got what they wanted. The vintage style of the venue lent itself perfectly to the semi-naked, naked cake trend so popular these days and I was only too happy to oblige! There was Red Velvet, Carrot and Walnut and Lemon and Blueberry in the three cakes. We colour coded the macaron with the pastel rainbow colours of the invitation. Each colour had it's own flavour. lemon, lime and coconut, blackberry, damson plum and vanilla, cookies and cream and finally orange blossom.

After a total of 20 hours of baking... Can you guess where this post is going.. I am so SLEEPY!!

Before I even got started on the wedding cakes, the Great British Bake Off and the Great Bloggers Bake Off needed to be sorted out. Finding myself with some *spare* time on Tuesday and knowing the Bake Off was Classic and Cake week, I opted for a simple, yet incredibly effective Victoria Sponge with some pretty trimmings! Worked a charm, went down a treat and I didn't get one photo of the inside!

Taking that as a success!!!

Victoria Sponge
I made mine in 3, 6 inch tins but the recipe quantities were the same...

Line and spray two 8 inch round baking pans and leave to one side. Turn your oven to 180C/350F or Gas Mark 4.  

225g of soft butter
225g of caster sugar
40g of plain flour
210g of self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs (free range)
3 tablespoons of cold milk (optional)

Cream your butter and sugar until light and fluffy. About 5-7 minutes with an electric mixer.
Dry whisk the flours and baking powder together. Or sieve them together.
Add the eggs into the butter/sugar mix, one at a time and mix until the yolk has disappeared. Repeat for the other 3 eggs. Scrap down the sides of the bowl as you go.
Add half the flour to the mixture, then the milk and then the rest of the flour, just mix until combined. 

Be careful not to over mix as you want it to stay nice and light and fluffy!

Divide the mixture between your two tins and pop into a pre-heated oven for 25 minutes or until golden on top or your cake tester comes out clear. Allow to cool in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack. 

Cool completely before filling. 

I layered my cakes with vanilla buttercream and strawberry jam.. I tried to do a fancy drip.. thing.. with the jam on the top but ended up messing the whole shebang up and just smoothed it around the edges instead!! Still tasted pretty damn good!

And if you have stayed here through all of that, I hope you don't feel as tired as I do. haha..

It's a good tired though, the one where you know every second was worth it. The smile on the Bride and Grooms faces as they walked in and saw the table.. Nothing will beat that feeling!!

As for the Blogger Bake-along, the fab Jenny over at Mummymishaps, is coordinating all of us again this year! The season set itself up to be a good one last Wednesday. I hope you'll join in as we go bake alongside the tent! Next week is biscuits... Gosh I love a good biscuit!

20 August 2016

Blackberry with Whiskey Cheesecake

And we are finished. Thesis handed up as of yesterday morning. Finished. Finito. Doneski. No more thesis writing... you get the drift! And it has all been a bit overwhelming the last few days but hey that's how life rolls.. ups and downs, in and outs and all that's in between. 

On to cake.. because lets face it, that's what you like to come here for, and not my simple meanderings! This month with the Cakeslice Bakers was an easy peasy, no brainer. The minute I saw the choices, I knew I was picking this cheesecake. Aaaannddd eh... as excited as I was to get started, I don't know what to say about this cheesecake now that it's finished. 

  • First up, it broke my food processor. So there was that. From then on, I held a bit a of a grudge. Now to be honest my processor was on it's last legs, but this bake was the straw that broke the camels back so to speak and well yeah.. Grudge. 
  • Second, I didn't have the scotch the bake called for so made the executive decision to swap it out for whiskey. Not that big a deal. 
  • Third, it calls for frozen blackberries. Which we can't buy here, that I know of, so I had to buy fresh and then freeze them as they are not quite in season just yet.

Once I had gotten over the processor break down and popped that shortbread crust in the oven, I started to get happy. The smell was yum, but I over baked the crust by about 5 minutes. Uuggghhh... Moving swiftly on, I made the filling and dropped in those purple pops of yum and was really beginning to warm up to this bake.

I baked it up, delighted with the result and 100% believed I had turned this whole exchange around... But then... Then came the sour cream, waste of ingredients topping. There was no need for it. What it did was cover a once pretty cheesecake with sour cream gloop. 

Not all doom and gloom however.. I called in a tasting party because I was clearly not impartial at this stage. Husband and I flitted between.. "its umm... yeah, there's um.." and "I'm not sure if it's um... or if it's am..." but the tasting party.. they liked it. And I mean LIKED it liked it. 

"I thought the whiskey would over power it but, no its really good", "I'm going to take just another slice to be sure I like it." "No Haze, this is pretty much all sorts of good."

So I know nothing about cake in this instance clearly.. I am missing something. I like ALL cake.. Or you know maybe,  folk can indeed like something I don't... You decide for yourself!

Blackberry with Whiskey Cheesecake 
adapted from Maida Heatter's Cake Pg 155

Shortbread Base

180g sifted self-raising flour
55g granulated sugar
125g cold, butter

Preheat your oven to 190C/375F or Gas Mark 5.
Wrap the outside bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan with tinfoil and set to one side.
Chop your butter into smallish squares and put all the ingredients into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse the mixture until it resembles fine bread crumbs.
Run the crumbs through your fingers a few times to make even finer crumbs and then toss out into the prepared pan.
Squash the crumbs down to the bottom of the pan so they form a compact crust, on the bottom only.
Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on your oven, but the crust will be dark brown around the edges, leading to golden on top. ***While it's baking, make the filling***

Take it out and reduce the oven to 180C/375F or Gas Mark 4.

Leave to cool for a few moments on the counter once you take it out.

Butter the sides of the pan with some melted butter, all the way to the crust. The pan may still be hot, so be careful.

Cheesecake Filling

538g cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tbsp of whiskey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
150g granulated sugar
3 eggs
226g frozen blackberries

Beat the cream cheese until soft and smooth. Add the vanilla, whiskey, cinnamon and sugar and beat until combined.
Add the eggs, one at a time beating until smooth after each addition.

Once you have buttered you pan, pour the cheesecake mixture over the crust. Then plop the frozen blackberries all over the mixture leaving little spaces in between. Push them softly into the mixture, covering only some of the berry.

Bake at 180C/375F or Gas Mark 4 for 35-40 minutes until the sides of the cake have risen and slightly browned, and the centre will be dry to touch but still squidgy on the inside.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 20 minutes. (Start pre-heating your oven again about the 15 min mark.)

Now to be honest I wouldn't bother with this next part... Once cooled, I'd just shove that beauty of a cheesecake into the fridge to firm up for a few hours and bobs your uncle.. you're a star... BUT if you do want to proceed.. here you go!

Sour Cream Topping

450g sour cream
1tbsp granulated sugar
1ts vanilla extract

In a bowl, combine the three ingredients.
Once the cheesecake has cooled for 20 minutes, pour the sour cream topping over the cheesecake and and with the back of a spoon, spread it all  out.

Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and let stand until cool.

When the cake is cooled, release it from it's pan by running a sharp knife around the edges and clipping the side off. Pop the whole thing in the fridge to set up for a couple of hours, but over night is best.

Now I betcha some of the other bakers made this... and I betcha they loved it. It wasn't for me personally but it sure pleased some folk!

17 August 2016

Littlewoods Ireland Bloggers Shortlist 2016

Oh my gosh you guys... Eeeeeeekkkk!!! THE best thing EVER happened my little blog... Ok... Breath..

I was shortlisted for the Ireland Blog Awards 2016. The SHORTLIST.. Can you believe it?? This is the best feeling. Ever. The whole thing is sponsored by Littlewoods, so a pretty big deal if you ask me! There are so many great Irish Food and Drink Bloggers out there, that to be shortlisted among the likes of them is insanely unbelievable!!

I like to work hard in this little corner of the internet and the fact that you lovely folk stop by means so much to me..

BUT now I have to ask you a HUGE favour?? I need your votes... 20% of my final mark is made up of a public vote.

So if you throw your eyes right and if you click on the "vote now" linky button over yonder in my side bar.. it'll take you straight to my page and you can vote for me!

You don't have to vote for me, you can vote for whoever you want... or whatever, but I would love you to vote for me! MEEEEEEE!!!

If you want to see the other fab foodies shortlisted, scroll down the side bar and click on the shortlist link there... It's dead simple and I bet you'll find some new blogs to drive your taste buds crazy!

*coughs* but vote for me first, hehe!

I figured I should do a little round up of the types of things you can find round these parts.. All nostalgic and the like.

Baking is my favourite and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon. I am hoping that all of you lovely lovelies who pop by so frequently continue to do so as there'll be more NOM added as soon as it's baked!

For those of you new to the blog, swinging by for the first time.. You are so very welcome! If you need anything, just drop me a question in the comments, pop an email in my box or holler from the hilltops! I will do my very best to answer.

Shortlist, shortlist, shorty shortlist!! Too. Much. Excite. My buddy Tony messaged to congratulate me on my NOM-ination and that is my new favourite pun.

It's a good hump-day in my world folks. I do hope it's the same for you!

15 August 2016

Lemon and Poppy Seed Macaron

The avoidance was strong this week folks.. We are now currently down to days in my thesis-handup-countdown and let me tell you this.. I am so over spellings and grammar and editing. Snooooooreee..

I needed a little break, just a teeny, tiny time to myself where I could be creative and productive and not have to think about the correct use of the oxford comma.

I had come across a really sweet, no wait for them to dry French Macaron Recipe and gave it a quick whirl last week. It worked out well. I was very pleased with the results, but needed to work out some kinks in my oven... namely hot-spots and my oven running a little too hot.

I tweaked about the recipe, changed about the oven timings, started all over again and WOW!

You guys... It's a keeper!

Lemon and Poppy Seed French Macaron
makes 50 approx...that's 100 shells!

115g ground almonds
230g icing sugar 
140g egg whites, large free-range, room temp
70g caster sugar
pinch of salt
drop of yellow GEL food colouring
handful of poppy seeds

Pre-heat your oven to 140C/280F or Gas Mark 3.
Pulse together the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor, until very fine. If any big lumps remain, sift the mix through a sifter and set to one side.

Place egg whites, sugar and salt into a super clean bowl and whip with a whisk attachment on low speed (that’s 4 on my KitchenAid) for 3 minutes. It should look like foam by the end bubbly  and frothy.

Increase the speed on the mixer to medium-high (it’s about a 7 on my Kitchen Aid) for another three minutes. It should start looking like shaving foam. Finally increase the speed to high (which is an 8 on my KitchenAid) for another 3 minutes. It is going to really stiffen up and clumps into the whisk attachment.

Add in the gel food colouring and whip at the highest setting for another minute **Remember, by now if you have not reached a stiff meringue, dump the eggs  and start over with new egg whites and a washed clean bowl.**

Pop the dry ingredients into the meringue and using a rubber spatula gently fold the meringue in through the dry mix.

Use circular folding hand movements, bring in the meringue from the sides of the bowl through the powder mix and through the middle of the bowl. You will need a maximum of 25-30 folds. Stop after this, even it’s still a little lumpy.. it’s ok.

Fill up a piping bag with a couple of spoons on the batter and pipe circles onto parchment lined baking trays in small  discs with gaps of about 3-4 cm in between each.

Lift up the tray once piped and tap it against the counter tops twice, turn the sheet and give it another two good whacks. Sprinkle over a hand full of poppy seeds and pop the trays into your oven for about 12-14 minutes.

They’ll be done when the tops have crisped up and you can gently wiggle them from side to side on the parchment.

Once baked, pull them out and let the shells cool on their trays until cold. Gently remove and fill with your favourite fillings.

I filled mine with some LEMON CURD and swiss meringue buttercream I was practicing for a wedding but you could fill it with this BUTTERCREAM... and it'd be absolutely divine.

I was so impressed with the no wait version of the french macaron method this time around.

I have a super important wedding to bake for in two weeks and this recipe is going to be my life saver!!  Under 30 minutes and you have trays full of macaron... FOR REALS!! #macaronmonday is killing it this week.

Well if that doesn't bate Banagher...

Enjoy the week... I'll be keeping going with these edits. FOUR days and counting. Let's do this.

09 August 2016

Picnic Peach Cobbler

It's one of those summer desserts that you just keep picking at. And because it's got fruit and oats in it, you can totally say it's on the good for you side of desserts... although with the amount of sugar.. Maybe don't think about that part!

It's one of those desserts that is really great warm with real vanilla ice-cream, melting in to the crevasses, dripping down the sides of the peaches. Served at room temperature with a dollop of fresh cream and some grated nutmeg. Or how about cold from the fridge, straight off the spoon, as you stare pointlessly into the shelves trying to come up with something for dinner that isn't Peach Cobbler!! 

It a robust, sturdy bake to bring with you to that summer picnic you've been invited to. Imagine the applause as you roll up with this dish, filled with sweet juicy peaches, topped with soft oaty-baked cobbler and a tub of vanilla bean ice cream. 

It's not that hard to make either. You kind of just dump the peaches in the dish, throw over some sugar and spices. Leave to sit, make the cobbler, bake for 50 minutes and wait for it to cool... To be honest the hardest part is waiting for it to cook and then cool. Because believe me when I say it comes out hot. Like very hot and you will burn your tongue... so just wait a bit longer.

It will be worth it!

Peach Filling
2 cans of peach halves or 10 peaches halved (Cheaty McCheaty.. I used canned)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
225g Demerara of regular granulated sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp cornflour

Combine your  peaches (with the canned version, drain them completely first), lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and cornflour in a large bowl; mix them all up real good and set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Cobbler Topping 
I got so excited to bake it, I forgot to take a picture of it!

425g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp granulated sugar
125g butter, cold and cut into small pieces
180 ml buttermilk
Few handfuls of rolled oats or to your liking...

Putting it all together...

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Whisk together the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar in a mixing bowl. Throw the butter pieces into the bowl and with your fingers, work them into the flour mixture until it is the texture of breadcrumbs. It can be a chunky as you like here. 
Pour the buttermilk on top and using a fork, mix until just combined. It'll be nice and sticky.
Pour the peach sugar/spice concoction into a deep baking dish, (mines a ten inch apple pie dish with 3 inch deep sides). Drop the cobbler topping dough by the spoonful all over the peach filling. There's no exact way of doing this, just cover the whole thing leaving tiny gaps to let all those yummy juices bubble up and spill out over the cobbler crumb!
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown.

Leave to cool on a wire rack when it comes out. The juices are very hot so please be careful. I know it'll be hard to wait but I promise it'll be worth it.

I like mine served warm with vanilla ice cream.. the real bean kind. Not the soft serve I have in the pictures!! Seems my kids have taken a liking to the real kind too... The apple doesn't fall far, eh?

Enjoy the week folks and as always, thank you so much for stopping by!

05 August 2016

Lemon Curd

There are some things that annoy me when it comes to baking... like when I am making a batch of  meringue or macaron and I end up with a mass of leftover egg yolks.

I hate waste you see. Hate it.

There's only so much custard you can make with left over egg yolks, without wanting to never-eat-custard-again. And I am talking custard and all it's variations of pie, tart cake, cupcakes, fillings etc, etc, etc!

I decided this time to make Lemon Curd. Because in all fairness that stuff lasts forever if you need it too but also doesn't because it tastes soooo good on pretty much everything you put it on! Toast, scones, biscuits, bread, crackers, splodged through meringue and cream for a lemon fool, sandwiched in a Victoria Sponge for a change of pace on the jam.

Licked straight off the spoon as you look into the fridge hoping for dinner to appear magically before your eyes so you can just heat it up and head back to your book and the summer holidays... You feeling me.

This stuff is the bees knees.

Homemade Lemon Curd

I get 4, 250g pots out of this recipe.

4 lemons worth of juice ( and zest if you like, but I don't like it bitty)

400g caster sugar

200g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
6 free-range egg yolks 
1 tablespoon corn flour

Put the lemon juice, the sugar and the butter into a heatproof bowl. Sit the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. 
Stir the mixture every now and again until all of the butter has melted and you get this big gooey, lemon butter mess!
Lightly whisk the egg yolks, then add the corn flour and mix together. 
Stir them into the lemon mixture. 
Whisk until all of the ingredients are well combined, then leave to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring the mixture every now and again, until it is thick and creamy. You'll know it's thick enough when it coats the back of a spoon.
Remove the lemon curd from the heat and set to one side to cool, stirring occasionally as it cools. 
Once cooled, spoon the lemon curd into sterilized jars and seal. 
Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

This photo, one more time.. because that gloopy goodness.... Oh my, you guys! All the heart eye emojis!
Have a super weekend whatever you plan on doing. I hope the weather is going to pick up.. I am not ready for Autumn just yet. Two weeks and counting for my Masters hand up deadline. Normality resumes thereafter. Right?

02 August 2016

Brown Sugar Shortbread with a Peach (no-churn) Ice Cream

For those of you into numbers, this recipe will be brought to you by the number three.

It's not that I planned it that way, it's just how it is really. What follows are three, incredibly simple easy makes. Having them individually, on their own is fabulous but smooshed together on a hot summers day... Now you are talking my language!

Peaches are in season so perfect to buy ripe and juicy right now, but if you are lazy you can totally opt for canned.. No one is going to judge you! All recipes contain three ingredients. Three, no more and no less. Three exactly.

That's it.

Like honestly, you cannot go wrong with this. Make one or all and bask in your baking prowess.

Baked Peach Puree

3 whole peaches skinned, de-stoned and chopped in half
a little knob of butter for each peach half
sprinkle of brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F or Gas Mark 4.
In an oven proof dish, add all the ingredients and pop in the oven, uncovered for 25 minutes until the juices are bubbling the sugar has melted and the peaches are gone all squidgy.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then blitz into a puree with a hand blender or similar.

Peaches and Cream Ice Cream

500ml of single cream
1 can of condensed milk
the batch of peach puree

Whip the cream up until peaks form.
Add in the condensed milk and continue to whip until thick.
Fold through the batch of peach puree and transfer into a freezer proof container (I like to use a loaf pan). Cover the container with clingfilm or a lid.
Pop into the freezer for at least 4 hours to set.

Brown Sugar Shortbread

225g salted butter at room temperature
285g self-raising flour
110g soft brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F or Gas Mark 2. Line two cookies sheets with baking parchment.
In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until it is one sticky mess.
Add the flour and mix until just combined.
Toss the dough out onto a pre-floured counter top and knead together.
Wrap the dough up into some clingfilm and pop into the fridge for 20-30 minutes, to allow the butter to cool.

Roll out the dough onto a pre-floured counter top and cut out your shapes.

I like to do little circles... JUST REMEMBER to space the cookies apart as they spread when they are baking.. I usually get about 16 cookies from my dough.

Bake for 15-20 mins on the lowest racks in the oven, until they have turned that beautiful caramel colour. They will be soft (and hot) to touch when you take them out. You need to leave them on the tray to cool completely. By doing so you will have that soft, melt in your mouth crumbly texture to them.

Just like shortbread should!

Once you've gotten through all the steps assemble how you please.

I like to do the scoop on top of a cookies, but you could sandwich the ice cream between two... or even crumble the cookies into crumbs and sprinkle it all haphazard like.

Whatever you do, enjoy it. That's the main thing!
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