The Prince of Battenberg

The Prince of Battenberg was a rather illustrious man. A lover, a singer, a fighter. He protected the Earth from dragons and giant spiders and aliens from outer space. Yes, he did, why do you think we can’t find any of these things nowadays?

How did he do it, you might ask?

Overdid it a little with the food colouring

Apart from his mighty constitution, he subsisted solely on Battenberg cake. And he had a shield with a battenberg design on it. When he was ready for battle, he would close his eyes and crouch behind his shield. The sign of the battenberg would then shoot out of his shield like a laser (think Captain Planet with only 2 colours), and it became a giant multicoloured light sabre. He was then able to yield it like a mega-sword.

As Battenberg cake was the source of his special powers, I thought it was prudent to learn to make one.

They don't need to be super even. Ready to roll This is how we crimp itIf you want the real story of the Prince of Battenberg, you can find it on Wikipedia here. I think mine is more interesting. Though even without his super batten-sabre, Prince Louis was apparently a pretty successful fellow.

Seriously, don’t let other websites fool you into thinking this cake is rocket science. If you can roll out pastry (like make cookie-cutter biscuits and apple pie) then you can totally do this. It’s a cut and paste job, and the marzipan is pretty easy to roll out with a rolling pin.

Psychedelic yet sophisticated

Battenberg Cake

Almond Cake

I used the almond sponge recipe off BBC (tweaked to suit what I had in the kitchen), though any almond sponge will do.
Note that the cake gets better after a few days as the flavours meld. I don’t like almond cake, but I have it on good authority.

140g self raising flour – or normal flour with an extra 2 teasp of baking powder
150g brown sugar
175g butter, softened
3 eggs
1/2 teasp vanilla extract
1/2 teasp almond extract

Red food colouring
Yellow food colouring
Baking paper

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C for around half an hour.
Yield: 1 20cm square cake tin, split into two for the 2 colours.

  1. Dump all the ingredients in a food processer and mix until smooth. Wasn’t that easy?
  2. Divide into 2 bowls. Colour one bowl pink and the other yellow. As you can see, I added a bit too much food colouring. This affects cooking time, if you add very little then check whether it’s done at about 25 minutes.
  3. Grease your baking tin. Cut 2 sheets of baking paper to the size of the tin. Fold them in such a way that you get 2 “pockets” for your batter in the cake tin. Make sure you score the corners with the back of a spoon, else your cake won’t have sharp edges and you’ll end up wasting *even more* cake. Fit these 2 pockets into the cake tin (see the picture above if you think I sound crazy).
  4. Pour each colour of cake mix into one of the pockets. Don’t worry, they won’t mix – the batter is pretty thick.
  5. Bake, and leave to cook thoroughly.

I like to build it build it

A pink bar cake – you just made these cakes, you clever fellow
A yellow bar cake
About 500g of marzipan
A few tablespoons of smooth apricot jam
Icing sugar

  1. Stack your bar cakes one on top of the other. Using a sharp knife, cut off the edges so they stack together nicely. Then, cut them in half and switch the top and bottom layers on one side so you get a chequerboard pattern of pink and yellow (see pics above if you’re confused).
  2. Heat up some jam in the microwave so it goes a bit runny. Use the runny jam to stick your 4 strips of cake together. You can be pretty generous with the jam.
  3. Powder a surface with a little icing sugar (I did this on a chopping board to minimise mess). Roll out your marzipan, to a size large enough such that you can wrap the 4 strips of cake in it. You don’t want the marzipan to thin or it won’t be able to hold the cake together.
  4. Paint runny jam all over the marzipan.
  5. Roll the cake into the marzipan, trying to keep the marzipan as tight as possible. Once the edges meet, trim the marzipan with a knife so it sits flush with the corner of the cake.
  6. Pinch all the way along the bottom two corners of the cake with your fingers, no one will see this because it’s at the bottom of the cake. Try not to be too violent though.
  7. Roll the cake back right-side up again. Slice off the two ends of the cake so it becomes a nice even cuboid, covered with marzipan on all sides except the ends.
  8. Decorate as you will, sir.

If you leave it to sit, the marzipan hardens and tightens up

Advertisements

Tiny Tasty People

Apart from ginger flavoured baked products, my other favourite thing about Christmas is that it is socially acceptable to eat tiny baked people.

I feel that eating such people head first is the kindest way, because it ensures a clean and quick end to their misery, and is also the weakest point of the biscuit.

Squishy sogginess It was too squishy to make into a single ball

Given how I feel about this, you’d think I would be the first to blog about the spiciest gingerbread (people) biscuits, but the fact is that I haven’t yet found a homemade gingerbread biscuit that I liked. I enjoy eating gingerbread biscuits that other people have made, but if I’m going to make them myself, I want something really dark and spicy. And crisp, not cakey or chewy. So, in lieu of gingerbread people, I get my eating-tiny-people fix from other other baked goods.

But. As with all baked goods requiring the use of cutters, mince pies are a pain in the behind.

Yes that's a koala. My bookmark. Yes, that's the hobbit. I'm going to watch the movie this weekend (in 3d!)

First you mix up the crust dough, then you chill it. Then you take it out and roll it a bit. It refuses to cooperate and sticks to the table because you used too little flour on the surface and it’s warm outside. You put it back in the fridge. Repeat this about 6 to 8 times, and you will feel how I feel about making biscuit cutter snacks.

I think it’s something about Christmas, I magically forget every year what complete bullocks these types of foods are to make and how they take 3 hours or more and how I get so sweaty and angry that I very seriously consider feeding the remainder of the raw dough to my dog (try not to do that, it might not be good for dogs depending on what you’ve made).

These are the standard (larger) pies

I suspect it’s because I usually freeze my mince pies after baking them earlier in December, so by the time I get to eat them on Christmas day, I have forgotten how much the process of making them irritated me.

Pretending to be an angry cannibal, ginger spice, and Christmas. Some things in life just go together.

And these are the mini pies. Meet the Fat Man and Spooky Lady

Christmas Mince Pies

Crust adapted from the Patchwork Apple Pie recipe (doubled).

2 jars of mince pie filling – I used Robertsons, vegetarian and alcohol free
1 small red apple – the addition of apples is my way of bulking up the mince pie filling
1 small green apple

500g flour – I used gluten free
100g sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
Pinch of salt
250g butter – cold and cubed
2 large eggs

Extra flour for rolling
Egg wash – an egg beaten with a little milk
Copious amounts of patience
A cup of tea – to prolong aforementioned patience

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C, for half an hour
Yield: 36 mince pies – I had 24 large and 12 slightly smaller pies, as well as a little family of shortcrust people

  1. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the lemon zest.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the butter cubes and flour mixture until the texture of the mixture looks like sand.
  3. Turn out into a bowl. Directly crack in the 2 eggs, and use your hands to get everything to stick together. You have to keep going for a quite a bit, I realise last time I probably stopped a bit early which is why my dough never came together.
  4. Cover dough and put it in the fridge to firm up.
  5. Peel and core your apples. Cut them into 8ths, then slice those 8ths into thin strips. Mix into the mince pie filling in a big bowl.
  6. Flour a surface and roll out your dough. You need quite a lot of flour because it’s a bit sticky, watch out!
  7. Use a round biscuit cutter / your mother’s fancy dinner party wine glass to cut out rounds. Put each into a hole in a greased cupcake tray and press in.
  8. Spoon in a little mince pie filling / apple mixture.
  9. Use a fun cutter to cut out the pie cover, and carefully place it on top of the filling. It doesn’t need to touch the sides of the pie, or be crimped or anything complicated. I used stars, hearts, trees, fat men, and spooky ladies. I have squirrel and snail cutters somewhere too but I couldn’t find them.
  10. Dab with egg wash, and stick it in the oven for half an hour.
  11. Cool in the cupcake tray.

Notes: freezes well in an airtight box layered with baking paper.

Happy unsuspecting pastry family

Jammy Fingers and a Custard Face

Many of my cooking adventures seem to begin this way. I found what is probably a very nice recipe for Raspberry Trifle Cupcakes in the Hummingbird Cake Days book. But I thought it was slightly too involved (read: I’m lazy).

I kinda want one of these scales but they're so irritatingly inaccurate

I wanted:

  1. A cupcake that resembles an English dessert. After much thought, I settled on  the Jam Trifle
  2. Not to have to slave away making proper custard for icing (as in the Hummingbird recipe)
  3. For said custard icing to not-melt in the heat
  4. Not to have to spend loads on buying fresh berries
  5. Not to have to layer everything in a very involved manner (as in the Hummingbird recipe…well it seemed involved to me)
  6. To maintain the nice springy cupcakes that the Hummingbird book produces

Dangerously close to my computer..again

My task was not made easier by the fact that I had left my Hummingbird book in Melbourne, apart from the page with the Raspberry Trifle Cupcake recipe which I took a photo of (on my phone). You don’t really want to be my cooking buddy do you? Please?

Though I ate jam and icing, I did not eat cupcake lids. Proud?

After much thought (well not really thought…internet research), I settled on a solution. My solution was to take the normal Hummingbird Vanilla cupcake recipe, flavour the icing with Bird’s custard powder, and fill with jam.

So essentially just a normal vanilla cupcake with normal icing and a jam filling.

Not much less involved I agree, but I at least I didn’t have to stand around over a pan waiting for eggs and milk to clump together.

Better with a raspberry on top? Fresh berries are exp in M'sia

This was the first time I’d ever done filled cupcakes. I think it really made a difference, but I also think I wouldn’t make it a habit to fill cupcakes. Unless there is a good reason (Jam Trifle cupcakes are a good reason).

Why, you might ask? Well firstly, it takes aaages. And secondly, I almost made myself sick with the amount of jam and custard icing I ate.

Bliss..cupcakes and tea

Good afternoon to you.

Jam Trifle Cupcakes

Based on the Vanilla Hummingbird cupcakes, and heavily adapted. I found the original recipe in The Telegraph. I got 9 decent sized cupcakes out of this recipe, though the original states 12. Perhaps I ate too much batter? On a side note, this isn’t the yummiest batter in the world to eat raw.

The icing is taken from Nigella’s Birthday Custard Sponge, and adapted slightly

Cupcakes

120g all purpose flour – I used gluten free with no problems
120g caster sugar – original recipe states 140g. This gave me a slight mental freakout because that meant more sugar than flour. Diabetes hello
40g butter, softened
120ml milk
1 egg
1/2 teasp vanilla essence
1.5 teasp baking powder
A pinch of salt

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C

  1. The recipe says to beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter with an electric mixer until everything is combined and the mixture looks sandy.   I ended up with flour on the walls, so I admitted defeat and used my fingers to rub everything into the butter. You can probably do this in a food processor too.
  2. Pour in half the milk, and beat until just combined.
  3. Whisk the rest of the milk, egg, and vanilla essence in another bowl, then pour that into the flour mixture. Keep beating until smooth, but try not to overmix or it’ll be chewy.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown, and sponge bounces back when touched. Fill the cases only 1/2 to 2/3 full, it seems to rise quite a lot!

Custard Icing

125g icing sugar
75g butter – I used salted, softened
6 teasp Birds Custard Powder
1.5 teasp boiling water

  1. Zap the icing sugar and custard powder in the blender to get rid of lumps.
  2. Drop in the butter. Mix mix!
  3. Pour in the hot water – this helps make the custard flavour come out, so make sure it’s hot.
  4. Now turn up to high speed and keep whizzing until it gets fluffy. Mine took about 5 minutes. The longer you keep going the fluffier it gets.

Build it!

Cupcakes
Custard icing
Jam – I used blueberry but raspberry would probably be nice. I don’t think I’d like it with marmalade or strawberry, but you can always try

  1. Use a small sharp knife and dig out a little hole in the top of the cupcake. Keep the lid aside and don’t eat it.
  2. Using a teaspoon, drop some jam in the hole. Cover it back up with the cupcake-lid. Don’t lick the spoon you need to use it again.
  3. Ice the top of the cupcake with the custard icing. I used the Hummingbird method because it’s relatively easy and I like it, found here.
  4. In the little indentation left by the swirl, add a little more jam.
  5. Now you can eat.

Rich Scones from the Olden Days

My favourite baking book is a really old book. If I was cooler, I’d probably call it vintage. It originally belonged to my grandmother (who I’ve never met), who was apparently a fabulous cook. My grandfather passed the book on to my mum, who isn’t all that keen on having kitchen adventures. So, it lay dormant in a kitchen drawer for quite a  long time, until a few years ago when I picked it up, primarily out of curiosity. Such an old, small book seemed out of place between the rest of the shiny, picture-filled books that my family had collected over the years.

Home Recipes with Be-Ro Flour, 37th EditionI’ve found that this is one of the few books which reliably results in desserts that work. Remember that this is No Mean Feat for me.

In the preparatory stageBy the way, the batter tastes goodFluffy, milky, and light

You can find the recipes in this book online at Bero Flour, but I like using the old book. Maybe the fact that it’s my grandmother’s book prevents me from doing creative things, like altering recipes – I’ve heard she was pretty strict. It’s probably psychological.

Fluffy No-Fail Rich Scones

From Home Recipes with Be-Ro Flour, 37th Edition. I only changed the measurements a little, because in that edition there was some confusion between the gram-oz conversion for the flour. You can find it online here.

Makes 10 full size scones, or 25-39 mini scones.

225g / 8oz self-raising flour – I used gluten free flour, no problem
50g / 2oz margarine – I used spreadable butter, which was fine
25g / 1oz castor sugar
50g / 2oz currents, raisins, or sultanas – I used closer to 80g, but I think it doesn’t matter that much
1 medium egg, beaten with enough milk to make 150ml of liquid
A pinch of salt

Oven temperature: 220 degrees C

  1. Line a baking tray with paper.
  2. Mix the flour and salt, and rub in the margarine. Keep rubbing until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Make sure the margarine is cold, it’ll make your life easier. Cut it into little cubes before starting to rub it in to the flour with your fingers.
  3. Mix in the sugar and currants/raisins/sultanas.
  4. Beat the egg into the milk, and pour in most of it. Save a little for the tops of the scones (a couple of tablespoons is fine). Stir it in with a spoon, and when it starts to come together, use your hands to mush everything in. Keep going until the mixture comes together. It will look pretty shaggy and craggy because of the milk.
  5. Be-Ro says you should knead the dough on a floured surface at this point, and use cutters to cut out scone shapes. If you can, good for you! My dough is usually a bit wet, perhaps because of the heat. Instead, I make sure everything is well mixed in the bowl and has come together in a loose ball. Then, I use a spoon to drop scone batter onto the baking paper. I then use my fingers to shape each ball into a round, and flatten the top.
    1. For mini scones, I usually use a teaspoon sized ball. I’ve found that a lot of people are scared of scones because they aren’t familiar with how to eat them, and they aren’t that sweet. Usually people are willing to eat a mini-sized scone, after which they are hooked.
    2. For full sized scones, I’d probably use a tablespoon or two of batter. Full sized scones are nice too because you get more of the fluffy inside parts.
  6. Brush the tops with the remainder of the egg-milk mixture, and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden. Mini scones need about 8 minutes, depending on how thick you make them.

Ahoy Golden Castle

“Your majesty, I do believe we have sighted the golden castle.”

“A castle?”

“No sir, it’s a pudding, sir”.

It's a golden castle!Golden syrup and treacle puddings are one of my guilty pleasures when I visit my mother’s hometown in the north of England. I’m sure they are a whole week’s worth of calories / sugar, but I don’t really care. If you’re going to indulge on holiday, better do it properly.

 

On a side note, if you want to follow my philosophy, be prepared to go up a dress size in the space of a week. It’s all part of the fun. Making the most of your holiday, and all that.

 

Of course, at home, such rules don’t apply. So I made lots of tiny golden syrup puddings. Then ate about 4 of them. I’m going to get so fat one of these days. But at least I stopped at 4, that’s less than a full serving don’t you know.

Recommended accompaniment: hot custard. Fresh cream or double cream is also ok. Ice cream is unforgivable.

Golden Castle / Golden Syrup Pudding 

Adapted slightly from Practical Cooking: Baking. The recipe originally makes 4 to 6 (really large) single serving puddings. I halved the recipe, and got about 16 mini-puddings using a tiny tray.

2 oz butter
2 oz caster sugar
1/2 teasp vanilla essence
1 medium egg
2 oz self raising flour – I used gluten free
4-6 tablesp golden syrup
Custard to serve, either fresh or ready-made

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C

  1. Grease the tiny pudding trays. Put half a teaspoon of golden syrup in each pudding cup.
  2. Cream the butter and the sugar until pale.
  3. Stir in vanilla essence.
  4. Add the egg, and a spoonful of  flour. Beat it in well.
  5. Add the rest of the flour and fold it in gently.
  6. Add a tablespoon of water and mix again.. the mixture shouldn’t be too thick and should fall off a spoon easily.
  7. Spoon into the prepared tin, only halfway up (it rises quite a bit!)
  8. Bake for about 10 – 15 minutes or until firm and golden brown. It’s 25 minutes if you do full-sized puddings.
  9. Cool the puddings and flip them out into cupcake cases.
  10. Heat the remainder of the golden syrup in the microwave for about 15 seconds, on low-medium power.
  11. Poke the little cakes with toothpicks a few times. Then spoon a bit of hot golden syrup on to each cake, and make sure the cake is saturated. If not, use more!
  12. Serve hot with custard or cream.

Possible edits:

  • Add a teaspoon of jam into the bottom of the baking tray  cups instead of golden syrup, then plop in the batter.
  • As above, but add a teaspoon of treacle instead of golden syrup.

Cake Fails: Strawberry Rainbow Cake

Let’s talk about cake fails. I spoke to a real proper professional chef over the weekend, and she said that cakes fail if you don’t talk to them. In all seriousness.

I believed her. I usually worry a lot about my cakes, given my history of cake fails during the pre-Happy Bellea era. Nowadays, I generally plead with my cakes before I put them in the oven.

“Please cake, please rise. Please taste good. If you do, I promise I’ll eat you quickly, and you won’t be left at the back of the fridge for months. Please.”

*Slam*

I’m glad to hear that this tactic is condoned by a real proper chef. Now I don’t feel like such a crazy person.

   

But well, in this instance, I didn’t talk to my cake. I’m sure that was the problem. Not the fact that I played fast and loose with the recipe, doubled the cooking time because of the soggy strawberries, or that the cicak bandit living in my kitchen walked all over the top tier. And then I made all the same mistakes a second time, because I’m rather stubborn when I think I’m right. I rather not serve people cake that Mr Cicak has walked all over.

In any case, I shall now recap the lessons I (painfully) learnt. Don’t laugh at me too much.

  1. If you need to double the time the cake is in the oven because it won’t set, something is wrong.
  2. Don’t try to add a very high proportion of (wet) strawberries to a cake unless the recipe specifically says you can. You will get mush. Cakes that can take that level of fruit are special cakes.
  3. Always use a food cover when cooling cakes.
  4. Food colouring covers a multitude of sins. At night, food colouring becomes the Pivotal Distractinator, and no one will notice how dry the cake is. Except you, and you can just quietly go cry in a corner by yourself, thinking about how chewy and weird the texture is.
  5. Don’t do funny experiments on other people’s birthday cakes, do it on your own. That’s fair.

I really don’t like dry cake. Dry cake is a trick. The cake looks nice, smells nice, and you bite into it and…ugh. It’s one step above that special type of chicken sold in some fast food restaurants, that smells absolutely amazing but tastes like oily plastic.

   

So you may have gathered that this was a rainbow cake, except I decided to colour the icing instead of the cake batter (because who has the time to make 6 separate cakes, really). I would do it again. Perhaps not with this icing, it isn’t my thing. Everyone else liked it but I think I prefer straight up butter icing at the end of the day. Maybe I’m a bit boring. Oh well.

Rainbow Cake – (relatively) Lazy version

I’ve left the Victoria Sponge recipe in, as it was actually very nice on its own. Don’t add the strawberries like I did, and stick to the cooking time. It’s nice and light even with gluten free flour. I’ll probably use it again for something else, without soggy strawberries. Also it’s a one-bowl cake, yay!

Victoria Sponge 

Taken from BBC Good Food, edited just a bit. I made 1.5 times this recipe to get the 5 tiers (2 normal, and 1 skinny).

100g white sugar
100g brown sugar
200g butter – at room temperature
4 medium eggs
200g self-raising flour (or regular flour + 1 teasp baking powder OR 1/4 teasp baking soda) – I used gluten free
1 teasp baking powder (or 1/4 teasp baking soda)
2 tablesp milk

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C in a fan oven / 190 degrees C otherwise

  1. Cream the butter and sugars.
  2. Dump everything else in, and beat well.
  3. Grease 2 baking tins and put it in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown and cake springs back when you poke it. Don’t poke your finger in it too early, you’ll burn your finger.

Lemonade whipped Buttercream

Taken from Joy the Baker, originally from Organic and Chic. Originally rose flavoured, but I thought lemon was nicer. I used 1.5 times the recipe and it was enough for everything.

1 cup butter – room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
1 tablesp vanilla extract
3 tablespoons lemonade cordial

  1. In a small pan, whisk the flour, vanilla extract, and 1/4 cup of milk until it isn’t lumpy anymore. Turn the heat up to medium, and then add the remaining milk, whisking. Keep cooking until the mixture hits a low boil.
  2. Lower the heat and keep stirring. The mixture will thicken slightly, changing from a milk to a cream/custard consistency.
  3. Once this happens, immediately take the pan off the heat but keep stirring. Whisk really hard to get it smooth, or else strain it with a sieve. Let it cool to room temperature (I stuck it in the freezer for 5 minutes, pan and all).
  4. While the milk mixture is cooling, cream the butter until it’s soft with a mixer.
  5. Add the sugar to the butter, and beat til light and fluffy. High speed is useful.
  6. Pour the milk mixture into the sugar mixture, and beat it until the icing gets fluffy.
  7. Add the lemon, then keep beating until it is all mixed in.
  8. If you like colours, you can split it up and colour it now.

I think I’m going to take a break from all this cake-ing for a while.

Cheating Milo Dinosaur Cake

Cheating Milo Dinosaur cake is really any chocolate cake, with a vanilla icing. Then pile it high with milo powder on top of the icing.

Don’t pile it up too high before taking a slice though.

The milo powder goes soggy, and that’s just a waste of good milo powder.

That’s better.

Cheating Milo Dinosaur Cake

Chocolate cake recipe: I used the chocolate cake recipe here, unchanged. I’ve also done this with gluten free flour, and it works well.

Icing recipe: I used Fluffy 7 Minute Frosting, from Epicurious. I didn’t like this frosting at all, it looked pretty but tasted like plastic to me. I don’t even know how that happened, using fresh ingredients and all. You live and learn, I guess. I’m not going to bother reproducing the recipe here, because I didn’t like it.

Build the Beast:

Chocolate cake
Vanilla icing
Milo powder

  1. Make the chocolate cake (yes, sounds easy doesn’t it, I’m not belittling you, promise). I got an 8 inch round cake, pictured, and 2 decent sized loaves out of the recipe.
  2. Make the icing. I’m going to use vanilla buttercream next time. Rssssppppptle to you too, fancy frostings.
  3. You can stack the cake, but since you are only putting milo on the top of it, I wouldn’t bother. The chocolate cake is moist enough and doesn’t need a filling to save it. Spread a generous layer of icing on top of the cake. It’s like a cake-float!
  4. Sprinkle some milo on the cake, so that everyone knows it’s a milo dinosaur cake.
  5. Cut a slice, and go on a rampage, throwing milo everywhere. That’s how you transform a little slice of raptor into T-rex material. If you want to pretend to be classy you could serve it with a little bowl of milo powder on the side, and a teaspoon. I don’t really see the point though, you’re better off just giving people the milo tin.
  6. Yum. Roar.

If you really don’t want to allow people access to your milo tin (I, for example, have a tendency to eat the powder straight out of the tin), you can spoon milo powder on top of the cake the last second before serving. Keep spooning it on until you get little mountains of dry milo powder across the cake.  If you do this, you need to make sure your guests (victims?) eat the whole cake in one sitting, because the part of the milo which touches the icing will get soggy after a while, and the effect will be spoilt.

Also, rampaging is an important life lesson. Take note.

On Computers, Shady Deals, and Pizza

I think I may have been forced into a corner. My brother, a tech whiz, has just demanded freshly baked pizza in return for fixing my computer. My computer won’t connect to the internet, which means he pretty much has me at his mercy. When one’s computer won’t connect to the internet, that’s basically like the armageddon occurring in your lap.

He says: “I’ll fix it for you, if you make me something nice.”

Of course, I suggested chocolate cake, because I wanted to have another go at the chocolate cake recipe from a few weeks back. I like chocolate cake, I could eat chocolate cake everyday. I’m quite eager to have another go at that to try and lighten it up. But it was not to be.

“I want something savoury and nice. I heard you make pizza. Make me pepperoni pizza!”

Despite feeling slightly smug, as this is the first time someone has asked for food as payment, I sag slightly. I know that pizza takes a bit of effort because you have to make the crust (well not really, it’s actually pretty fast, but it depends what time I get home from work and takes a bit of forward planning), and also he requested that the pizza to be delivered tomorrow (which is now today).

My typical method of working myself up to cooking something even mildly difficult is to plant the idea, then dream about it for about a week, then finally get so excited/hungry that I decide I MUST HAVE IT and then spend a few hours in the kitchen, salivating over the food-in-progress. I don’t drool in my food, don’t worry, but I do eat quite a lot of raw ingredients. By this point, anticipation is hanging in the air like thick black smoke, and when the food is finally done it tastes all the more awesome, likely because I’m so overexcited about it rather than due to any real cooking skill. But, as you may have noticed by now, my unwritten weeknight dinner criteria is “lazy”, i.e., that any food produced should take less than an hour from chopping board to table. Preferably less than 20 minutes. Using fresh ingredients, if at all possible. Though frozen spinach and peas are still some of my best friends.

After clarifying that I will, in fact, not be willing to make my own pepperoni, I go back to my (borrowed) computer and look for my old pizza recipe. I wonder if, alone, I can actually pull off pizza again – I previously made it only once, when Bigfoot was with me in Singapore. Despite my obvious obsession with eating food, he’s actually better in the kitchen than I am. Difference between someone who grew up cooking, and someone who stumbled blindly into it due to greediness, I suppose. I bragged loads to my brother about said pizza last time, because he was somewhere far away and didn’t get to try any. I suspect this is payback time.

No, in all seriousness. There isn’t an excuse for bad pizza crust really. It isn’t rocket science by any means. Most people are more diligent about following recipe instructions than me, and should be able to do it. Especially if using normal flour 🙂

I always used to think that pizza was like the holy grail of kitchens, the one thing that only people who can actually cook can make. Really good pizza is like a beautiful phoenix rising from the ashes of a smouldering oven. Well, I suppose I only think of it that way because I’ve burnt quite a few freezer pizzas. But it’s different with real pizza! You get so excited that there is actually going to be fresh, crispy pizza that you sit on the floor in front of the oven door while it cooks. Well, of course I don’t do that, that would just be silly. I definitely just use the timer. Definitely, certainly.

Pizza notes: GF flour in this recipe doesn’t work that well. But if you really have to use it (I had to, in this instance, because my mum’s GF), it still makes a much better GF pizza than the commercially available pizza bases, which are rock hard.

Check out my previous attempt with normal flour for crust comparison:

In the same incompetent hands, you get that nice, crisp, puffy pizza crust. No excuses.

Also, my computer isn’t fixed yet. This doesn’t seem like a deal! Hmm.

Easy Pizza that even Lea can’t mess up

Pizza base is copied exactly from Smitten Kitchen. I’m too scared to mess with bread doughs. Use your own toppings.

Pizza

Makes 2 regular sized, thin crust pizzas. I like mine quite thin and crispy though so you might get less.

1.5 cups flour
1 teasp salt
3/4 teasp active dry yeast
1/2 cup room temperature water (add 1 or 2 tablesp more if needed to bring it together)
1 tablesp olive oil, and more to grease the bowl
Cornflour + baking paper
Pizza toppings!

  1. Mix together flour, salt and yeast together.
  2. Pour in water and olive oil, stirring til it clumps into a ball. Use your hands if you have to, or add up to a couple more tablespoons of water.
  3. Flour a flat clean surface, and knead the dough on that until it looks like a nice smooth ball. This should be pretty quick, a minute or two. If it doesn’t work so well, cover the dough with the bowl, and go off and eat some chocolate for a couple of  minutes. When you get back, you and the dough will feel much better about yourselves.
  4. Oil the inside of the big bowl you used, and dump the dough back in. Spin the dough around until all sides are covered with oil (stops it sticking), and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit somewhere warm for a one or two hours. It should double in size.
  5. Put the dough back on the floured surface, and gently squish the air out. Fold into a ball (or balls, depending on how many pizzas you want), and let them sit under the upturned bowl for 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle cornflour on a sheet of baking paper, and flatten out the pizza.
  7. Add your toppings and sauces, don’t put too many or the inside of the pizza doesn’t cook nicely!
  8. Bake for 10 minutes until the crust is a bit blistered, at the highest oven setting. I put the grill on at the top of the oven to finish it 🙂

Sunny Orange Cake

As you may have gathered from my last post, I’m not exactly right on top of the world right now. Flu-ey, and just a bit overworked, and just a bit jetlagged, so overall I’ve been pretty grouchy for the past few days. Also whiny, evidently. But after writing yesterday’s Raita post, I decided I wanted cake.

I’m pretty stubborn, when I decide to do something I generally steamroll right ahead, knocking any other plans (or people, or ideas) to the wayside.  Kinder people call it determined, but let’s be honest here, I’m just plain stubborn. Like a small, female, bull.

I haven’t made cake for what feels like ages.

Also, what could be a more cheerful cake than Sicilian orange cake with vanilla icing? It was one of those spontaneous things I just decided that I wanted when I typed the words “A slice of cake and a cup of tea”.

I made a plan: go into work, work like a crazy hamster on a spinning wheel, finish a whole day’s work by 3pm, and then leave to bake my cake. Yay for plans!

It almost worked, I got out by 4, and managed to bake the cakes but not ice them by dinnertime. I left them sitting in the fridge until the next day. It’s ok, apparently that makes them easier to ice, I read somewhere. And I got to eat orange cake crumbs. And the house smelled pretty strongly of orange (so I’m told, I can’t smell anything at the moment. Don’t worry I washed my hands before baking).

On an unrelated note, I had a very nice conversation with a shorthaired jack russel terrier outside the local corner shop after buying oranges and eggs. She was walking around in circles outside the shop by herself, so I leant over to talk to her. “Hello doggy, what’re you doing here by yourself?” I said. “You shouldn’t be out here by yourself. How did you manage to get here? What are you doing?” Quite loudly and in a normal speaking voice, I should add.

I was about to ask her whether she came to buy groceries, and how she was going to carry the bags home, when I realised the owner was right behind me. He probably thought I was a nutter. I kinda am. I scuttled away after that to make cake.

This is the most orangey and moist orange cake I’ve found so far. It’s perfectly nice without the icing, I just happened to want icing too. But, I can’t give you the icing recipe because it was given to me by the very nice person who runs Snowdrop Cupcakes in Manchester – sorry!*

Caking notes: I did a gluten free version, the normal version is more spongey and lighter in texture. It’s the same recipe, I just swapped out the flour for GF flour.

More caking notes: this time I thought it was a bit sweet, and I’ll be reducing the sugar to 200g next time. Also, make sure to use sunkist oranges, the cake tastes better with a sour orange. I might also try making an orange syrup next time to add before icing, to try and sour it up even more. I’ll let you know how that goes 🙂

Sicilian Orange Cake with Vanilla Icing

Taken from Gourmand, a site which sadly doesn’t seem to be on the internet anymore. I traced the recipe back from there to Almost Bourdain, which has also stopped publishing. Luckily Google had a cached copy, I thought I’d lost a yummy recipe. You can live here now Mr Cake! All credits to the Almost Bourdain blogger, but I can’t seem to link them because the website is offline. Though I did change up the recipe a bit.

250g salted butter – bring it to room temperature so you can cream easily
220g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
1.5 tablesp finely grated orange zest – I measure the juice first, then take the entire orange’s worth of zest that produced that juice. So, if I used half an orange for the juice, I take the whole orange’s worth of zest. Not very scientific clearly.
250g self raising flour- I used gluten free all purpose flour and 1 teasp of baking soda, sifted
85ml freshly squeezed orange juice

Oven temperature: 170 degrees C
Makes an 8 inch cake. I made 1.5x, so had 2 smaller bar cakes. Line your tin with baking paper if using a round tin.

  1. Cream butter and sugar until very pale (4 to 5 minutes).
  2. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add a spoonful of flour with the last egg to prevent curdling.
  3. Mix in the orange zest.
  4. Throw in the rest of the flour at once, and mix well.
  5. Slowly mix in the orange juice.
  6. Bake 45-55 minutes in the oven, or until a skewer comes out clean. If it browns too fast, cover it with a bit of foil.

Edit: tried this with 200g raw sugar, still too sweet! I’ll reduce further and let you know how it goes. 

* If I know you, ask me.