Sunday, 25 September 2011

I'm aware I haven't posted on here for quite a long time, but that's because I've made the switch to wordpress, which has also involved turning my blog into a proper website!

Very exciting!

It's still called zoesyumyums, it's just now it's own domain,

Please continue to follow me on my baking adventures, successes and occasional disasters!

Some of my more recent posts have included cannelés (you'll have to look at the new website if you're curious to find out what on earth they could be...), rose water sugar cookies, chocolate banana cake, and strawberry tart.


Thursday, 15 September 2011

Shifting Over...

Hey there,

I've shifted the blog over to Wordpress, as there I could list it as my own site. You can now find me at!! This is very exciting for me, and I hope you continue to follow and enjoy my blog as much as I enjoy extending my adventure into the blogging and baking world!

Take care,

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Lemon and Raspberry Drizzle Cake, Ginger Monkey Style

So when I was working at the FANTASTIC Ginger Monkey (how I miss you!) I cooked dinner for the whole hostel one night. It was really good fun, and was followed by a substantial amount of drinking. Thank you to our lovely Canadian guest for teaching us such good games! Luckily our stomachs had been very well lined by some rather good and tender (if I may say so myself) lemony roast chicken, rice with onions, satuéed red peppers, cucumber and tomatoes. Unfortunately the rice wasn't seasoned or vegetabley enough to be as tasty as it probably could have been.

This is the group I was cooking for looking very happy about the prospect of food after a long and tiring game of ultimate friz.

I was terrified everyone was really disappointed by my cooking, not helped by the fact that everyone was unbelievably quiet during dinner, to the point of it being awkward. The whole time I was just thinking 'please don't let everyone hate this, please don't let everyone hate this, please don't...' So I was very pleased and relieved when the first to finish his meal sat back, patted his belly and simply said 'Ahhh satisfaction.' Turns out everyone was happy in the end. Job well done. 

Dessert on the other hand, was awesome all round.

This is how it started... 

Thank you, Jakey, my lovely sous-chef and long-time friend, for taking the place of the hostel's busted electric mixer when my biceps gave up on the job. And thank you also for the entertainment of dropping the remaining 8 eggs from a bag of 10 all over the floor. And then screaming at the broken egg yolk running under the oven 'WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO PROTEINY!?' or something to that effect...

You wouldn't think this would bode too well for dinner considering this was only part way into the first job dessert prep, but it turned out pretty darn well in the end. 

My lemon cake for dessert was awesome. It had a really good crumb, it was very zesty and slightly sticky from the drizzle, with the occasional burst of wild raspberry. Even better, these gems had been sourced locally by a couple of the guests on their rambles through the Tatras mountains.

And how beautiful is this presentation!? You'd never have thought the dudes who picked them would have presented it so delicately. What a treat. And since there were still a few of these floating around, I decided to chuck them into the cake batter at the last second so they wouldn't go to waste.

I just used the old-fashioned method of weighing out the eggs, then matching self-raising flour, sugar and butter measures to it. It just so happened that my 3 eggs weighed exactly 250g, which made my life very easy. Perfect! 

So, cream together the butter and sugar with the zest of 1 1/2 large lemons until it's light and fluffy. This was where Jake's significantly greater strength came in useful. Beat in your eggs one at a time, ensuring each is well incorporated before cracking in the next. Sieve and incorporate the flour with a 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp soda, in a few stages to avoid explosions. 

Then a dash of milk, a squeeze of lemon juice, stir in your juicy jewels of raspberries (sorry, I couldn't resist the Nigella-esque adjectives) and in it goes to a pre-greased and lined tin. The tin I had available was unfortunately a little too big, so with this you'll probably just have to go by eye. Before baking I also pressed some raspberries into the top of the batter. 

Bake at 180C/350F for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Just bear in mind the more eggs you've used, the longer it'll need to bake.

Leave it to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Pierce with a fork before drenching in a lemon glaze. Again I did this by eye. All you have to do is dissolve some sieved icing sugar in lemon juice, increasing the sugar content the thicker you want the glaze to be. Personally, I prefer it to be very fluid to ensure maximum absorption by the cake. Also, sieving it means you're less likely to end up with a horrible lumpy soup. 

This and some stracciatella ice cream made for a mighty fine dessert. Just look at this.

Quick and easy chocolate mousse, praline topping optional

This was a good 'un, if a little too sweet for me. This was another of the Cook n' with Class creations and was very quick and easy to make (rapide et legère, quick and light as our teachers their called it), perfect for a last minute dinner party, or an indulgent treat for one.

We sprinkled our individual servings with praline, which you can even turn into your very own Nutella. How awesome is that!

50g/2oz whipping cream
50g/2oz whole milk
1 yolk from a large egg
10g (1/3oz sugar)
150g/5oz good quality dark chocolate, 64% cocoa solids minimum
250g/1 cup cold whipping cream

Put a glass or metal bowl and a whisk in the freezer.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolk and sugar until it's light and foamy. You gotta do this by hand as machines don't really do the job too well, shouldn't tire you out too much though. Set this aside.
Grate or chop the chocolate into very small pieces, and put it in a heatproof bowl. Set this to one side too.
Bring the cream and milk alllllmost to a boil then slowly pour it over the egg and sugar froth, whisking all the time. Transfer it back to the pan and cook over a low heat until the mixture starts to thicken. The mixture should be at 86C/183F. If you don't have a candy thermometer, don't worry about this too much, just make sure it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. DO NOT boil the mixture  or you'll scramble the eggs. No one wants scrambled chocolate mousse. Blegh.
Strain the mixture over the chocolate, and whisk until it's smooth and shiny and luscious, just like the chocolate you see churning in those Lindt ads that just make you want to dive into the screen. Leave it to cool to room temp while you get on with whipping the cold cream to form soft peaks. Whisk 1/4 of the whipped cream until it's well incorporated, then gently fold in the rest.
If the chocolate is still too warm (i.e. warmer than your hands), refrigerate the whipped cream while you wait for it to cool, as painful as that is.

It's your choice how you serve it, as you can see from the picture above we piped ours into little ramekins with a generous sprinkling of praline. Recipe to follow!  And another tip, piping the mousse into small ramekins as opposed to spooning things keeps everything neat and tidy and (vaguely) professional looking. Perfect for a dinner party, or treating yourself. If you do pipe it, place the tip of the piping bag at the bottom of your serving vessel and pull upwards slowly as you squeeze the mixture out.

If you can resist, this can be refrigerated; if not, devour immediately.

Unfortunately the picture at the beginning is the only one I have of the mousse, so here it is again.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Tomato and Herbes de Provence Fougasse

I learnt to make this at my wonderful baking and patisserie courses in Paris on the 6th and 8th of August. I think this is some of the best bread I have EVER eaten, so I tried to reproduce it last night for a bunch of friends I had round. It turned out really well, and the only change that I would make would be to add in more herbs.

Unfortunately the pictures are only from my courses as I completely forgot to take any pictures yesterday when I was baking. They looked, oh I don't know, almost the same.

You need:

500g / 18oz cold water from the tap
30g / 1 oz fresh yeast, or 2 (7g) bags of dry yeast (No Fleischman, yes SAF, Red Star, Francine)
60g / 2oz extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp tomato purée (or to taste)
2 tbsp dried herbes de provence
800g / 28 oz all-purpose flour
30g / 1 oz salt

Whisk together the salt and flour.
In a separate bowl (use a stand-up mixer for this if you have one) combine the water and yeast at a low-speed with the oil, herbs, tomato purée, and 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Ensure the flour is well absorbed into this mixture before gradually incorporating the rest of the flour and salt mixture. Once well combined, switch to the dough hook and continue mixing for approximately 5 minutes. The dough should be sticky and elastic.

Line a large baking tray (preferably with sides about 1-inch high) with a parchment paper, then brush olive oil over the paper. Scrape the dough onto the paper, oil your hands really well then spread the dough to fit the tray. Don't worry if it doesn't fit perfectly! Cover loosely with cling film and leave in a warm spot for 45 minutes to an hour to rise. When doubled in volume and spongy, press cherry tomato halves into the dough, sprinkle with more herbs or black pepper, and bake for 20 minutes (or until golden) at 225C / 430F. If you find that it starts browning too fast, lower the oven temperature to 200C / 400F

Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting up and serving.

Now to go devour some of the remains of my own fougasse. See you later!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Key Lime Pie

Sadly, despite having family in Florida and having been there multiple times when I was little, I am still yet to try an authentic key lime pie. The version made with 'Persian limes' - the ones you find very easily in supermarkets - is awesome, but undoubtedly just not the same as one made with the slightly more tart key limes that are really only found throughout Florida keys.

Apparently it's traditionally a 'no-bake' pie as the egg yolks and condensed milk combo mean the filling sets pretty well by itself, but the old 'health and safety' has since kicked in and seen to the end of that.

Both times I've done this, I've used the Hummingbird recipe, and the pie has turned out really well. This was another friend's birthday present, a special request as she so thoroughly enjoyed the one I made for a Spanish lesson.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F
Grease a 23-cm pie dish

For the crust:
Pound 500g digestive biscuits to form fine crumbs.
Slowly pour 200g melted unsalted butter into the processor while the motor is still running. Once well combined, press this mixture into the base and up the sides of the pie dish, using your hands or a spoon to squash it all together. Personally, I find this to be far too much crust for the size of the pie dish, but of course you can adjust accordingly to whatever dish you use, how much crust you like etc etc.

Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until deep golden and firm. Leave to cool completely.

Meanwhile prepare your deliciously tangy yet smooth filling.

8 egg yolks
2x 397 tins condensed milk
zest and juice of five limes (DO NOT use bottled lime juice, you want as much freshness in there as possible)
extra zest for decoration

Whisk all of the above together with a balloon whisk until the mixture becomes very thick. Pour into the cold pie crust and bake for 20-30 minutes. Easy peasy lemon (or should I say lime?) squeezy.

After cooling for at least one hour, or overnight for those of you blessed with copious amounts of patience, either slather the pie with froths of double cream that have been whipped to soft peaks, and sprinkle over the remaining lime zest to decorate, OR go down the less traditional route and top with meringue.

To do this, first turn the oven down to 150C/300F - I'm going on the basis that you don't have the patience of a saint here...

6 egg whites
330g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cream of tartar (my addition, it helps the meringue go lovely and crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside)

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks start to form, then slowly whisk in the sugar, two tablespoons at a time. Somewhere along the line drop in the cream of tartar too. 

As a side note, always make sure you put the sugar in at the sides of the bowl as the egg whites are whisking. If you simply dump it on top of the egg whites, you'll only squash out the air, leading to pancakes of meringues. Finally, whisk in the vanilla extract, and keep going until beautifully shiny stiffly upright peaks have formed.

Spoon this mixture on top of the pie, being sure to cover the filling completely. Create peaks and swirls as you like in the meringue, be as elaborate as you like! Just don't play around with it too much otherwise, again, you'll squish the air out. 

Bake in the oven for approx 20 minutes, or until the meringue is 'golden brown and crisp to the touch,' so says the recipe book. 

Cool completely before serving.

This is so good. Try it.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


How I have missed this blog. The past six weeks have been the most amazing of my lifetime, a month's interrailing with friends culminating in about twelve days of 'me time' in Paris. 'Me time' including baking classes there of course.

Baguette, brioche (yum!), fougasse, madaleines, orange mousse / ice cream, chocolate mousse, creme brulee and finally those pesky macarons. 

Hungry yet?

I'm now back in Slovakia working at the awesome Ginger Monkey hostel in the Tatras mountains, and will soon be posting pictures of the 'Hershey's Perfectly Chocolatey Chocolate Cake' that I made yesterday. It went down a treat, and I'm hoping that there is still a tiny bit left for me for later.

More soon, promise!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Carrot Cake

Cinnamony, slightly sweetly acidic (thanks to the chunks of pineapple) and, of course, decked with swathes of carrot. That is how a carrot cake should be, and that is how this one is. This has got to be one of my favourite recipes. It comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
 - admittedly version from 1976, so I have no idea how it's changed. 

Carrot cake, for me, absolutely has to have mountains of freshly grated carrot in it - none of this 'I'm-a-slightly-spiced-with-two-measly-shards-of-carrot--in-the-whole-entire-cake-excuse-for-a-carrot-cake'. This is certainly a cake that evokes a myriad of childhood memories, namely of a period of obsession involving my dad making one of these babies every weekend possible in a bid to perfect it. He was also famed amongst the primary school mothers and Parent-Teacher Association for making the world's best carrot cake ever, and there wasn't a school fête that went by without a special request for it . You could say he was crowned the King of Carrot Cake. I intend to steal that crown from him. And might just be on my way to doing so.

I made this for yesterday to give to my friend Julia's  for her 18th birthday, and she just sent the loveliest thank you text. It read like this:
'My mum is so in love with your cake she thinks you should go on masterchef and open a patisserie. Seriously. It's the best carrot cake in my life, and I have tried quite a few. Then again you know of my love for your family's food. Yummy.'

Enough rambling. Here's the recipe.

Preheat your oven to 180C/350F
Line a 9x9x2 inch tin, or an 8 or 9 inch springform cake tin.

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinammon (I always add in around 1 1/2 tsp, I think I've made it pretty clear I love mine really cinammony)
1/2 tsp salt

Sift all of these together into a large bowl

In a separate bowl, whisk together
2 large eggs
2/3 cup salad oil
1-2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the wet ingredients into the dry (stir in gently to start with just to avoid an explosion)
Make sure everything is really well combined and don't worry if your batter looks, well, less like batter and more like a sticky, goopy, can't-decide-if-it's-cake-batter-or-cookie-dough mess. This will be sorted out by the addition of
1 very very generous cup of grated carrot (I find this normally takes 2 1/2 large carrots, 4 small ones)
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained

The moisture from these two ingredients will, I promise, turn it into quite a wet, bubbly mixture that promises to fill your house with the most beautifully spiced aroma, and later, your belly with an equally gloriously fluffy yet moist sponge. And not forgetting the swathe of slightly-orangey cream cheese frosting.
(I know, I know, more Nigella-esque descriptions, but they are certainly necessary here)

Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer stuck in the deepest part of the car comes out clean. Just to warn you though, the more carrot and pineapple you put in, the longer it will take.

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, then transfer to a cooling rack. Once completely cold, then slather in cream cheese frosting. This is from the same book as the cake, but I quite like the Hummingbird Icing too.

3 oz/ 85g cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp butter, also at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups sifted icing sugar

Cream together the butter and cream cheese for a minute or two until light and fluffy. Then beat in the vanilla. Sift in the icing sugar in small additions, ensuring it's well combined so you don't end up with lumpy frosting. When this is done, I always like to grate in the zest of about half an orange, to give a very subtle zingy citrus kick. Slather over the top of your cake.

If you're making a layer cake, double the frosting and sandwich the two layers with about 1/3 of the icing.

In the words of the aforementioned pal of mine, 'yummy.'

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

In Search of THE ULTIMATE Chocolate Chip Cookie

I recently found an article entitled: Perfection? Hint: It's Warm and Has a Secret  on the New York Times website, but through someone else's blog (apologies, I can't for the life of me remember which one...). It's all about 'the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie', and who am I to ignore a call to be part of just such a quest?

The main things I got from the article is that chilling cookie dough for 36 HOURS - yes, I know, a painfully long time - and using good quality chocolate of 60-80% cocoa solids gives the best chocolate chip cookies. Beautifully crisp and crunchy on the outside but deliciously soft on the inside, with hints of toffee.

I just baked a few after 24 hours of chilling, and there is only one word that can describe these 5-inch diameter babies: Heaven. 

Pure, absolute, unadulterated heaven. 

My parents will testify that I temporarily lost the ability to speak while eating my cookie straight from the oven. But I have to confess, I do feel mildly ill after consuming it so quickly. So worth it though.

I just used the Nestle Original Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, except I left out the nuts. By all means chuck in a cup of nuts if you like though.

2 1/4 cups flour
1tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 packed cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (I always like to add a little extra though(
2 large eggs
2 cups (approx 350g) dark chocolate chips, chunks, fèves or slices.
First, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda into a small bowl. Set aside.
Cream the butter until very pale and fluffy, approx two minutes. 
Add in both sugars and cream until thoroughly incorporated and your mixture is light, and still fluffy. 
Then beat in the vanilla and eggs.
Add in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 stages, beating after each addition until the ingredients are just incorporated. 
Finally, stir in the chocolate. If using fèves be careful not to break them up.

Split the dough in half and wrap each segment in greaseproof/waxed/parchment paper. This is quite a soft and sticky dough so if you use clingfilm then lots of your mixture will stick to that, which means less for the cookies, and therefore less for you. Not ideal. 

Refrigerate the dough for 24-36 hours. I'll let you know how the cookies chilled for 36 hours are. (And I've just realised, that'll be breakfast time for me! Excellent.) The dough can be kept for up to 72 hours in the fridge, but if you can hold out baking them for that long I will be truly amazed.

Preheat your oven to 190C/375F
Line a baking / cookie tray with a piece of parchment paper.
Form large balls of cookie dough (about a heaped serving spoon will do nicely) and press down on them slightly.
Place each dough ball a good 4-5 inches apart as these cookies will spread out quite a lot and you probably don't want them to merge into one giant cookie. 

Bake for anywhere between 15-18 minutes. You're looking for them to have spread out really well, started going gloriously crispy and a deep caramel colour around the edge, but still soft and almost doughy on the inside. 

They may not look done when cooking time is up, but they will be. Don't forget they firm up once out of the oven. When you've removed them from the oven, leave on the cookie tray for 5-7minutes, then transfer to a wire rack for another ten. 

And then, as the NYT recipe says,

 Eat warm, with a big napkin.

So, to summarise. Tips to baking the ultimate chocolate chip cookies.

1) Chill for 24-36 hours!
2) Use good quality chocolate, 60% cocoa solids as an absolute minimum
3) A lot of bakers use a 40:60 ratio of chocolate to dough
4) Using fèves (or slices) instead of chips means that you end up with layers of dough and chocolate in every bite
5) Sprinkling a little salt on the cookies just before you bake them adds a "distinctive dimention" (to quote the NYT) to the cookies. Good quality Maldon sea salt or something similar is best here.
6) Finally, make your cookies LARGE. With a 5 or 6 inch diameter cookie you have the gorgeous crispy outside; a chewy, melting centre; and the delightful crossover between the two textures and tastes in the rest of the cookie.

These truly are to die for.

P.S. Sorry about the weird spacing and changes in colours. At the moment I don't have a clue why it's doing that, but I'll sort it as soon asap.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Ok, I know Father's Day was yesterday, but I didn't have time to write this one up. I also know this isn't strictly speaking a 'sweet thing' or 'baked good', but it does have a significant pastry component and is just I too good not to share. I don't think I need anymore justification.

My dad and I had a lovely day together, we went to the gym (I managed to forget my tracksuit bottoms though so ended up having to wait til I got home for my work out. Good job Zoë) and then spent the afternoon cooking up this delicious pastilla.

It's a Moroccan dish that my dad said he tried in Paris and is absolutely delicious. It's a chicken pie type thing with a hint of sugar and cinnamon that gives a divine sweetness that cuts through the savoury, but not overpoweringly so. This was one of the yummiest things we've made in a long long time.

There are quite a few stages so it does take quite a long time, but while various ingredients are cooking off you can potter about doing other things. It's also very relaxing to make.

We found the best looking recipe here, on 'Taste Bud Travels', but we used a little more filo pastry than called for and altered some of the spice specifications and cooking time a little.

The recipe says 'serves 4', but you could definitely get 5 servings out of it. You could even squeeze 6 small portions out of it.

NB: An 8-inch spring form cake tin is an absolute must for this.

2 oz flaked almonds
1 oz butter, plus extra to melt later
3 very finely chopped white onions (or 2 ginormous ones)
1 large garlic clove, finely crushed
1 inch piece of finely grated fresh ginger, or approx 1 1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I put in about 3/4 tsp)
1/4-1/2 tsp turmeric
lots of salt and pepper to season
4 skinless chicken thighs
juice of 1/2 a lemon (we used the juice of 1 very small lemon)
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 lightly beaten eggs
handful of finely chopped coriander
handful of finely chopped parsley
6-8 sheets of filo pastry
icing sugar + extra cinnamon to dust

Firstly toast the almonds in a dry pan, being very careful to make sure they don't burn.
Melt the butter in a large, deep pan (God bless Le Creuset), and sweat the onions and garlic until they go all soft and almost caramely, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan.
Mix up all the spices, then stir into the onions with lots of seasoning. It'll turn the most gorgeous golden colour and the room will start smelling like a spice market.
Next, brown the skinless chicken pieces in this mixture. Pour over water to just cover the chicken.
Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer. Go do whatever you want for 30 minutes while the chicken poaches. After 1/2 an hour, stab one of the chicken pieces to see that it's deliciously succulent and tender and transfer to a separate plate with a slotted spoon (you want to keep all those lovely juices in the pan). If you think the chicken needs a few extra minutes then by all means leave it in. It really shouldn't take more than 35-40 minutes though.
Continue to simmer the onion and spice mix until it has reduced and thickened a little.
Meanwhile, shred the chicken. It should be tender enough to pretty much fall apart as you do so, therefore making it much easier to remove the bone than it would be if the chicken were raw.
Add the sugar and lemon juice to the oniony sauce you should now have. There's no harm in a little extra seasoning at this stage as well  if you think it needs it.
Pour the beaten eggs into this mixture, toss in the parsley and coriander. Stir continually for 4-5 minutes on a gentle heat, then remove from the heat. You should have a slightly odd looking scrambled eggs type mixture.

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F

Melt a good hunk of butter in the microwave. Use a little to grease the springform tin, then butter a sheet of filo pastry. Line the tin with this sheet, ensuring that a good corner is hang over the side of the tin - you need enough pastry to fold over the top of the pie later. Butter another sheet of filo, and layer this at a 90 degree angle to the first sheet, then continue layering up to 6 sheets of pastry in this way.

Lay the shredded chicken in the bottom of this pastry case, then scatter over half of the almonds.
Pour over the egg mixture, followed by the rest of the almonds.
Butter another two sheet of filo, place one on top of the other and lay them over the filling. Try to tuck them down in between the filo case and the filling. Finally, fold the overhanging filo corners over the top of the pie to make a kind of parcel. Brush the top generously with more butter, particularly on the edges of the filo, to make them go as crispy and crunchy as possible.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, then remove the ring of the tin, and bake for another 5-10 to ensure that all the pastry is as crispy as possible.

Remove from the oven and over some icing sugar so that it looks like you have a dusting of snow. You could always sprinkle over some extra cinnamon too if you like. Slice up and serve with a fresh and crunchy green salad.

Simply delicious!

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Long-Winded Cupcake Method

This method of making cupcakes is certainly more time consuming than the chuck-it-all-in-and-beat-until-your-arm-drops-off way, but it does give your cupcakes the texture of clouds.

Beat the butter until it is fluffy and almost white, this takes about two minutes.
Beat in the sugar, keep mixing for about a minute.
Then beat in an egg at a time, with the vanilla, until nice and fluffy.

It should look something like this: 

Sift together your dry ingredients, whisk in about half of it, followed by a little milk. Repeat. 
Then split between your cake cases and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Leave for at least an hour.

Ice any which way you like and dive in!

I'd like to add that it's my current mission to work my way through London cupcake by cupcake - Ella's Bakehouse has been ticked off the list, Hummingbird is next. Any good London cupcake bakery suggestions are most welcome. Whoever suggests the best place will get a recipe of their choice tried, tested (maybe chopped and changed up a little bit) and written up on here. I don't know how much of an incentive that is, but at the moment I don't have anything for a give away so that's the best I can do.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Swirl Icing

Cupcakes: simple, easy, fluffy, sweet. And most importantly? De-lish-ous.
Brace yourselves for a long one.

These are, I think, the first thing I ever learnt to bake, and my love affair with them is yet to hit any rocks. Vanilla, Chocolate, Lemon, Lemon and Poppyseed, Hazelnut, Coffee, Carrot, Red Velvet, Coconut, Peanut Butter. You name it, I've probably tried it.

I remember spending a lot of time with my dad being a pain in his backside, begging to lick the spatula or the beaters (or to just eat the batter in its entirety) at pretty much every stage of making the batter. I also used to complain bitterly if he didn't leave at least a two or three teaspoons worth of mix in the bowl for me to devour while the cakes were in the oven.

We always always use Nigella's cupcake recipe from 'How to Be a Domestic Goddess'. You're always guaranteed to get the most wonderful, light, moist cupcakes with this recipe. I always loved making the sticky, sickly sweet glacé icing that she calls for and making a thousand different colours - probably also turning the kitchen into a rainbow in its right. One day I even accidentally ended up with shades of greeny-blue, orange and purple that perfectly matched our fiesta ware! I'll put up pictures of those when I can scan them into the computer (our printer-photocopier-scanner combo had a hissy fit the other day and died).

I EVEN talked about cupcakes and baking for an English Speaking Board exam in year 6 / 5th grade. This was also just called an ESB, and involved speaking about one of your passions for a couple of minutes then answering a bunch of questions. The rest of the class, parents and teachers were the audience. It was enough to give any poor unsuspecting child a fear of public speaking for the rest of their lives! I bribed the examiner with cupcakes. I'm pretty sure it worked. No idea if anything like that still exists.

So, as you can see, cupcakes have been pretty much a constant obsession.
Back to the cake itself. Here's Nigella's recipe, but I always add a little more vanilla extract than she calls for. It's quite hard to have too much vanilla. Always always always make sure that you use good vanilla extract though, none of that vanilla flavour/essence stuff. Blegh. Or you could be super fancy and use the seeds from a vanilla pod. Your call.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
Put large cupcake or muffin cases in a 12-hole muffin tin (I know they're cupcakes, but these rise up a lot so you'll need the big cases)

125 g self-raising flour
125g sugar
125g butter, softened
2 large eggs
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp milk

Nigella's method, the simplest one, is to chuck everything except the milk in a bowl and beat the crap out of it. Be sure to sieve in the dry ingredients! Then, if your batter looks a little too thick, slowly add in as much milk as you think it needs to get the right consistency. There's no denying this method works beautifully.

Split the mixture between your cupcake cases. They shouldn't be any more than 2/3 - 3/4 full.

After 15 minutes, remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

While they're cooling, whip up the icing.

For this I use the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. It makes a beautifully fluffy, lusciously sweet frosting.

Cream 80g of softened butter until it's almost white.
Measure out 250 g icing sugar. Sieve in small amounts and beat until thoroughly combined. If you dump all the icing sugar in at once and turn the beaters on, or you'll end up with a snow-covered kitchen.
After a certain point the icing will get really thick and heavy, so just add a dash of milk to soften it up a little. Don't add any more than 25ml though or it'll be too liquid. Also, it doesn't call for any vanilla, but I always add about 1tsp for an extra dimension.
Once all your ingredients are well mixed, beat on high for a minute or two. Finally, swirl 3 or 4 tsp of raspberry jam (or crush in some real raspberries)  through the icing, and dollop on top of your cupcakes.

Alternatively, à la Nigella, stir together 250g icing sugar with as much water as you need to get a nice shiny, viscous paste. You can colour this however you like and drizzle 'gorgeously' (I gotta slip some of her vocab in somewhere...) over your cupcakes. If desired you can then finish with a few sprinkles or sugar flowers. Whatever floats your boat.

I would apologise for the length of this post, but the first cupcake addition to the blog was inevitably going to be a bit of an epic. I hope you enjoy making these babies as much as I do!

P.S. Please excuse any more elaborate than normal descriptions, I believe that's (what I'm going to call) the 'Nigella effect'.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Banana Walnut Bread

My favourite banana bread recipe is from the 'Better Homes and Gardens' New Cook Book. The flavours mesh together really well and there is nothing better than a slice fresh from the oven with a little butter scraped over it - a delicious breakfast treat! I have one in the oven at the moment and my my my does the house smell absolutely heavenly. It's also really simple, and a great way to use up any overripe bananas (a recurring problem in my household).

You can leave the nuts out if you like, but I think they add a really good depth of flavour.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
Line a 9x5x3 inch loaf tin

1/3 cup butter (the original recipe calls for shortening)
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups sifted self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 very very generous cup of mashed ripe banana
1/2 cup chopped up walnuts

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs.
Sift together the dry ingredients, and add to the egg mixture alternately with the mashed banana. 
Make sure everything is really well combined with each addition.
Toss in the nuts (if using) and stir

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until done. The more banana you put it, the longer it will take to cook. Not that this matters, it's best when it is really really banana-y.
Remove from the tin and transfer to a cooling rack asap after you take it out of the oven otherwise it'll keep cooking. This is generally quite a good thing to bear in mind when baking.

I know I said it's best for brekkie - or any other time of day for that matter - straight from the oven with a little butter, BUT if patience is your virtue, then store the bread overnight before cutting into it. This amplifies the banana-y-ness x100 so it tastes even better the next day! 

Monday, 13 June 2011

A Tribute to my American Roots (the first of many)

I have grown up on Peanut Butter. Until a few years ago, Skippy (obviously) was my go-to PB, but sadly British supermarkets don't stock it anymore, and even if they do, my goodness is it expensive. 

So now I live off of this stuff. It's not the same but its still pretty good.

 I found these today on and am going to play around with them a little more. I present to you 
No-Bake Grape Nut Peanut Butter Squares. These make very good snacks, and because of the fibre from the Grape Nuts and protein from the PB they're very guilt free! 

You'll find the original recipe here at My changes are changing up the sugar types and quantities and adding in cinnamon. 

This is my version so far:

1/3 cup peanut butter, your choice which brand
1/3 cup golden syrup (white corn syrup in the States)
1/4 cup brown s
ugar (I mixed light and dark)
1 1/3 overflowing cups of Grape Nuts
Line a 9×5 inch loaf pan with a loaf liner or baking parchment
In a medium sized microwave-safe bowl, mix together the peanut butter, golden syrup, sugar. Microwave on medium for one minute, stir thoroughly, then microwave for another minute. Pour in the cereal, stir to make sure everything is thoroughly combined, then tip it all into your lined pan. Press into a bar, let it cool (refrigeration speeds this up), then slice into 8 squares.

I've noticed that even just over the course of a couple of hours the peanut butteriness has developed considerably, and they don't taste as syrupy either.
And after being left over night in the fridge, the sickly sweetness from the syrup had almost entirely been replaced by a lovely peanuty crunch. Yum.


Tropical Summer Pavlova with a secret ingredient

Pavlova has got to be one of my absolute favourite summer desserts. Meringue that's crunchy on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside, with whipped cream and mountains of beautiful fruit. One of the great things about pavlova is that you can adapt it according to whatever fruit is in season - apple and blackberry in the autumn; strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in the summer (the latter is perfect for any 4th July celebration!)

At the end of April one of my very good friends had a pre-exams / end of Easter holidays BBQ, so I of course jumped at the chance to provide dessert. This is not just any old pavlova, this was possibly one of the best ones I have ever made.

Doesn't she look beautiful?

Without boasting too much, my friends have said that I do make perfect meringues, 'the best ever' according to one. Hopefully now you can too!
Here's my recipe:


5 egg whites
8 oz golden caster sugar
2 oz light brown sugar
1tsp cream of tartar

Generally speaking, a good ratio of egg white to sugar is 2 oz of sugar per egg white. Substituting a little brown sugar for the white gives the meringue an extra, slightly caramely depth of flavour.

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F
Line a large baking tray with a piece of baking parchment. I always find it helpful to draw around a large plate to get a good circle template to shape my pavlova.

Beat the egg whites at quite a high speed until they form soft peaks. Tilt and move the bowl around if it helps.
Then beat in the cream of tartar (this will make the egg whites nice and shiny and more likely to hold their shape)
Slowly add the sugar, beating continuously until you have stiff peaks. 

Note: It's crucial that you add the sugar to the side of the bowl as you beat it in - you don't want to knock all of that lovely air out of the egg whites.
Also make sure that your bowl and beaters are free of any water as even the tiniest drop can stop your egg whites from frothing up the way you want them to.

Turn your meringue mixture out onto the baking parchment. So that I don't have to spread it too much I tend to dollop big spoonfuls around the edge of the circle, then dump the rest in the centre and smooth it out slightly so that the edge are higher than the centre and you get a kind of giant meringue nest. (I hope that makes sense, I'll post a picture the next time I make a pavlova).

Bake in the middle of the oven for a good two hours. The first attempt at making this pavlova was a disaster. I was convinced it was done after one hour as the top had already gone all crispy and, as I didn't want it to burn, I took it out of the oven. As soon as I tried to transfer it to the cooling rack it fell apart completely and turned into a sticky mess, sadly not even fit to make Eton Mess. 

Once your pavlova has completely cooled, you can make a start on the topping. My dad regularly helps out with cooking for local party functions, and learnt from one of the other women who helps out too that the most delicious pavlova filling uses part double cream, part Greek yoghurt. Now, I'm not a huge fan of whipped cream, so this addition sorta made me jump for joy. The yoghurt makes it slightly healthier too, a winner all round then! 

For the topping:

500ml double cream (I believe Americans call this heavy cream?)
300ml Greek yoghurt

Whip up your double cream until it has thickened to form soft peaks, then gently fold in the Greek yoghurt. Slather over the top of your pavlova.

You can alter the ratios of cream to yoghurt according to your taste, there's no strict rules.

 Now you can start adding fruit!

The pavlova above has
1 large mango (if in season a few Alphonso mangos would be just divine)
4 passion fruit
Pomegranate seeds
Zest and juice of one lime
A few sprigs of mint

Cube up the mango any which way you desire and pile high on pavlova and cream/yoghurt base. Scrape out the passion fruit and drizzle around the outside of the mango (hopefully you can see how I did it in the picture). Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the top, then lime zest. Squeeze over the juice of a lime for an extra kick, then top with a few sprigs of mint.

And voila, you should have the most beautiful summer pavlova. This certainly wowed all my friends, and after a moment of 'but it looks too pretty to eat!' they all dove in with relish. We got about 12 servings out of this one, but some of the end ones were pretty mean. 


New Start

A little bit about myself, I'm an 18 year-old student living in the UK, and in all my efforts to avoid the 'slings and arrows' of 'Hamlet' and 'The Revenger's Tragedy' and other exam prep, I have decided to finally get on and post something on here. I seem to have had this blog going for a very long time, but have really only just made up my mind as to exactly what I want it to be about. My favourite thing on this Earth...


Baking is my go-to activity when I'm happy, sad, bored, stressed, chilled out, emotional, calm, in an experimental mood or just in need of something yummy. This seems like a much more entertaining way to channel things and I'd love to share some of my favourite recipes with all you lovely people out there. I regularly host full-blown 3-course dinner parties for friends, generally speaking make something to take with me to a friend's house if they're having people over. And, as I am too broke to buy all of my friends birthday presents (especially in March, what is it with so many people being March babies!?) I always always always make them something edible. 

This is my first shot at food blogging so I really hope you enjoy the recipes I post. I will post something as often as possible, and with a few pretty pictures too. Please feel free to leave comments, questions or suggestions :)

Take care,