Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Cake Pops.

The village fete was this weekend and as such I wash expected to produce a cake for the baking stall. Usually this would be a good excuse to try out some new recipes. However currently our kitchen is a building site and all I have to cook with is a camping stove, a microwave and the George Forman. I therefore decided to try my hand at cake pops which seem to be the 'in' thing to be making.

On this occasion I used a bought chocolate cake and Betty Crocker chocolate fudge cake icing. But in future I think it would be worth using home made icing but I don't think it would worth making your own cake. I also used normal white chocolate rather than candy melts which most recipes advised. Candy melts come in lots of colours and set very quickly to make life much easier. Chocolate worked fine but you did have to be careful with its consistency, to thick and the decorations did not stick to it and too thin and the chocolate simply ran off rather than setting.

Lolly pop sticks.
Cake any flavour you chose.
Butter cream icing of a relevant flavour to the cake you are using.
Chocolate or candy melts.
Decorations I used coloured sugar, hundreds and thousands and mini marshmallows.

Break the cake down to crumbs and stir in enough icing so it forms a dry paste like consistency roll the mixture into balls approx the size of a two pound coin. Remember that they get bigger once you have decorated them. Make a small hole in them with one of the sticks and leave in the fridge. Melt the chocolate dip the end of each stick into the chocolate them place a stick into each of the holes. Return them to the fridge this sticks the pops to the stick to allow for easier icing. Once the chocolate has set dip the pops into the chocolate to coat while the chocolate is still setting decorate them. I then placed them in an old bit of Styrofoam to keep the upright.

As it was my first attempt I kept mine very simple but there are loads of examples of the internet of people being much more creative with their shapes and decorations. I finished mine off by wrapping them individually in cellophane and tying them off with a small bow.

Strawberry Jam.

Only my Father eats strawberry jam in our house so I have never bothered to make it before preferring raspberry instead. This year he convinced me to make a small amount for him. I think many people are scared of making jam believing that it is difficult and time consuming. This is so not the case you don't have to spend hours once a year making huge quantities instead spend half and hour making a couple of jars. I would like to know more about jam making though, what is the difference between normal caster and jam sugar. I have never used jam sugar but some recipes insist on it. The only piece of equipment I would advise buying if you are going to make jam is a jam thermometer as this does making it easier to know when you have reached the setting point.

I used equal amounts of caster sugar and strawberries. Approximately the juice of one lemon per 600g of fruit. If you prefer jam with large lumps of strawberries still in it the place all the ingredients in a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place over night. Before you start place a saucer in the freezer. Put the mixture in a large pan heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved bring it to the boil for about for minutes or until it has reached 104c. Spoon a small amount onto the saucer after a couple of minutes if the surface wrinkles when you put you finger in it it is ready. If not return to a boil and give it another couple of minutes. Skim off the scum and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before putting into sterilised jars. If you put it straight into jars all the fruit rises to the top.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Lemon and Raspberry Tarts.

The other day I bought a set of individual tart tins I really like individual puddings they instantly look so much smarter than something you have tried to cut up nicely. The problem with them is though that you do have to slightly alter recipes to fit the new dimensions both for quantities and cooking time. I had been meaning to try out Heston Blumenthal's lemon tart recipe as you don't have to bake the lemon mixture only the pastry cases. I have a habit of when blind baking, always either ending up with slightly uncooked pastry on the bottom or a burned rim. This therefore seemed an ideal solution and a good excuse to try out my new tins. I took them along as pudding for a picnic which they were perfect for. The quantity of pastry lined 10tins but the mixture only filled 8.

For the pastry I used my standard short crust pastry recipe which I use for everything.

8oz Flour
5oz Butter
Zest of a lemon
2oz Icing sugar
An egg yolk
The juice of a lemon

Put all the dry ingredients into a blender until you have a bread crumb texture. Then add the yolk and enough juice to bring the mixture together. Chill before working with. With small tins like these I don't bother rolling the pastry out I cut slices of a sausage shaped roll and push them together in the tin.

3 Unwaxed Lemons
170g unsalted butter
220g caster sugar
5 Eggs
1 Egg yolk

Blind bake the pastry first. Put the butter and sugar into a pan with the juice, zest and eggs and place the pan over a medium heat. Stir continuously for 10-15 minutes (do not allow to simmer) until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir until it begins to simmer; simmer for 5 seconds literally, then remove from the heat. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl.You do actually do need to do this because the minute that you stop stirring the egg will start to scramble but the little lumps sieve out easily. Cover with clingfilm to avoid a skin forming, and place the bowl in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.

When cold, pour the lemon filling into the centre of the tart allowing the lemon curd to flow evenly to the edges. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or until set. I also stuck raspberries onto the top as it was easier for a picnic rather than serving along side and having to use cutlery. In the end I would use the raspberries on the top again as the looked great.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Women's Institute.

I would love to be a member of the women's institute as I enjoy learning from others about traditional crafts but there is a stigma surrounding the WI. Members are perceived as old women with too much time on their hands who fill said time learning crafts that have no real value. Being a member is seen as backwards and almost anti-feminist supporting old fashioned ideas of male chauvinism. This is such a shame as there is so much to be learned from others life experiences. My mother makes beautiful silk lampshades and curtains it would give her great pleasure to teach others these skills. I would love to learn from others experiences and even mistakes. For example anyone know a jam expert, I tried making strawberry jam (I will post the recipe) it tastes delicious but has not set very hard and I would love to know why. I also always struggle making jams on our Aga as I cannot get it hot enough to reach a rolling boil have I got the Aga turned down to low or should I be using the oven rather than the top. Anyhow back to the point I have various friends who would want to join a WI but we don't want to be the only ones there who are not retired. We want to learn old fashion skills without having to pay to go on expensive courses. Blogs seem to be the new WI everyone shares ideas and advice over then internet rather than in person. This is certainly a convenient method but can it really beat the companionship of face to face contact. The WI maybe out of date but the principles behind it are still relevant to society today I just wish that somehow they could make it feel less antiquated.