Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Who doesn't love ice cream right? I most certainly do! And now it's that time of the year again, where the sun is shining (well, shining here and there in tiny bursts, I am in Britain after all, and we all know how up and down the British summer time can be!), but keeping positive, the sun is shining, sandals are out, skirts are on, it's Pimm's O'Clock again - my favourite times of the day I might add - and it's time to eat ice cream instead of lunch. Yes, I do that.

I remember going crazy at the sound of the ice cream van, rushing to the front door, essentially scraping at the door waiting for mum to let me out and so I could dash off to attend to my ice cream needs. Ice Cream just is one of those things that, as a child, has you in awe, the Mr.Whippy Ice Creams, the mind blowing raspberry ripple pots you'd get during school lunches, the epic choc ice, the best of all worlds Neapolitan ice creams, and the wildly beloved strawberry split! 

So many brilliant memories from some so simple, I remember me and all my mates in the flats I lived in as a child munching away in the corridors together on our favourite ice creams, talking about all the important things kids talk about, what we should do with Barbie's hair today, what ride's I planned to go on during the next visit to Southend-on-Sea, discussing tactics for corridor cricket and how we'll beat those older kids, the epic two tone ice creams you could get from the seaside and wondering how they did it; you know, pressing childhood issues.

So I decided, it is summer, and being summer I should bake something that fills us with that summer joy, and then it came to mind. Cake is my favourite thing now as a young woman, but as a child I would do anything for ice cream. So, it was obvious, cakes that look like ice cream. The.Way.Forward. 

I made these up in Midlands and brought them down to London, now, as a warning, if you go on the tube with delicious looking cakes, you will be the centre of the world and you're head will grow very large with "big ego" syndrome. It was quite humbling actually having so many people stop me and tell me these looked incredible, and I gave one to a homeless man, and got chatting to a couple of guys coming home from the football and also gave them some too (Mum and Rich didn't need 24 cupcakes really, and sharing is caring right?). Really the nicest part of it was the surprise on peoples faces when I just said, "why don't you have one?" - If you're a Londoner you'll know that the tube is not often a hot spot for conversation and nice gestures, but you know what, I'd totally get on the tube again with cakes and happily hand them out, that feeling of engagement with people over something as lovely as food is a feeling I genuinely live for, its the best, and honestly, I still believe everyday that food has the power for social greatness and change, it truly is one of the most basic and beautiful ways of communicating across the world.

These were so fun to make! I highly recommend giving these a go, they're so so simple, it is literally just getting an ice cream come and putting your cake batter in the cone, nothing more to it, very simple, yet very effective! Such a fun little project for young ones, or if you like me, just yourself and some mates, get the sprinkles out, the chocolate and strawberry sauce, the flakes, the cherries and just work your ice cream magic! An odd little bit in me had a feeling of "the other side" the ice cream van person always got to do the fun stuff and I would just scoff away, now I get to decorate as I please and scoff it all up! Perfect.

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Cone Cupcakes
I made 20 cone cupcakes, and split the batch into two to make some chocolate and vanilla 

250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
250g self-raising powder
2 large eggs
4 tbsp milk
1tsp vanilla
20g cocoa powder (for the chocolate ones if you want to make them, if not, crack on with vanilla!)
12 Wafer Cone Cornets (I used Askey's which come in a pack of 21 - the recipe will fill 21, I just broke one of my cones whilst piping them)
1. Preheat the oven to 190C / 170C fan / gas mark 5 / 375F and place the ice creams cone into a muffin tin, one in each hole - I did this in two batches of 10
2. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until you get a light and fluffy mix
3. Add the eggs one by one, and mix until just combined
4. On a low speed gradually add the flour and milk - I did this by adding 1 tbsp of milk and then roughly a quarter of the flour a time
5. If you're just making vanilla cones, then whisk in the vanilla now. If you're going for both with the chocolate too, then split the mixture into two bowls placing vanilla into one and cocoa powder into the other and mixing until nicely combined
6. Divide the batter into the cones - an easy way to do this and to end up having no air in your cones is to pipe the mixture into the cornets, its the easy and tidy way that will ensure you won't get any air pockets
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden - once done leave to cool for a few minutes (roughly 5 or so) and then transfer the cones to a wire rack

Vanilla Buttercream 
Should make enough for 20 cones - any left over you can freeze and use at a later date

600g Icing Sugar
250g Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
4tbsp Milk or Cream - use more if the mix is too "stiff" - I always add more or less milk to get the right consistency and "loosen" my buttercream if I need to
2 tsp Vanilla

1. Place the unsalted butter into a bowl and mix with an electric mixture on a medium speed, to achieve a lighter, creamed, butter - do this for roughly 3 minutes or so, the longer you mix your buttercream the whiter you'll be able to make it
2. Add the icing sugar, bit by bit, and  - I quartered the icing sugar roughly - after each batch has been incorporated, add the next, and mix on a high speed setting - this will help get a lighter and white icing! Add a splash of the milk only using a tablespoon a time to 'loosen' the buttercream as you need
3. Add the vanilla and combine until well combined
4. Place the buttercream into a piping bag with a star large star nozzle and start piping! For a great tutorial on how to perfect your cupcake swirl check out MyCupcakeAddiction on YouTube and you'll be a pro in no time!

Ready for Decoration!

Then just make sure you have plenty of goodies to decorate your Ice Creams up with, sprinkles, cherries, flakes and chocolate sauces! Get creative, these are brilliant to have them ready as a base and have other decorate them too! Perfect for a party!

Tuck in and watch everybodies face glow with joy at these fun treats!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Raspberry Ripple Meringues

Ahhh Meringues. To be honest, meringues were always something I thought were not for me, something I often avoided and thought, "Oh, I probably won't like the texture" or something ridiculous like that - much like most of my growing up with food, avoiding things because they were different, something I'm making up for now, I'll literally eat anything. Maybe not mushrooms unless they're finely cut up, I mean it was not going to be an overnight change in my irrational food habits, but we're getting there!

So if I'm completely honest, and even writing this now, I feel a "facepalm" coming on, but I had not actually had a meringue until March 2013, at the grand old age of 21. Shameful. I know. So let me tell you about that big day, where I not only ate meringue for the first time, but I also ate my weight in all things cake! 

So last year Tate & Lyle held a "Tasting House" day in London, and I entered a competition to go and eat this house, and hey-ho, I WON! So my friend and I, got too spend a couple of hours eating away at lots of amazing edible treats, from a rainbow cake stemming about 10ft, an edible Egyptian pyramid, pillows made out of cake, walls covered in macaroons, bathtubs filled with flavoured popcorn, edible ornaments... Quiet literally a dream world, an edible dream world at that! So part of this house, was an edible rug made out of 1,081 colourful meringues, made by The Meringue Girls! 

I realise this is an incredibly late post, but I wasn't blogging back then, and meringues always had a dark cloud over them in terms of ease, so I always sceptical to give them a go, and well, I was wrong, they're fabulous and such a breeze to make! They're also so ridiculously adorable too aren't they?! They're delicate little clouds of joy!

The beautiful thing with meringues too, is that they're so open to a range of flavour combinations! I've got plans for my next batches to be full of pistachio and dark chocolate, orange, cinnamon, you name it, I'll throw it in an "experimental meringue", especially now that I'm just in love with these little things! But to begin, I went for one of my favourite flavours, raspberry, yup, I'm a raspberry over strawberry kind of woman!

So for these I used some freeze dried raspberries which, rather handily, Sainsbury's now stock - they also do strawberry too - so no need to track down freeze dried fruits for these, which can always be a slightly chore when you get the urge to get a bake-on! BBC Good Food have some inspiration for great flavour combinations for your very own "experimental meringue", so check them out too if you fancy making a batch of various flavour meringues 

Raspberry Ripple Meringues

Simple Meringue Recipe

2:1 ratio of sugar to egg whites
so...weigh the egg whites out and then use double the amount of sugar, so 100g egg whites mean you'll need 200g of caster sugar

So as a guide I used;
4 medium free range egg whites - roughly 120g
 240g caster sugar
Now no wasting! You can freeze the yolks for use later, perhaps for custard! 

For Raspberry Ripple, you'll need
6g freeze dried raspberries, (one tube at Sainsbury's)crushed finer in a pestle and mortar if you want them finer, I crushed mine only slightly so nothing was bigger than a millimetre - a "fine powder with texture" I call it 
pink food colouring paste 

1. Preheat the oven to 140C/120C fan/gas mark 1/275F, and line a large baking tray with baking parchment - meringues can stick to greaseproof paper and foil so use baking parchment instead if you can. (I used two baking sheets, for making lots of small meringues) 
2. In a large and clean bowl - grease will do no good for the meringues, so be thorough with cleaning the bowls - tip the egg whites in and whisk away, starting slow allowing bubbles to form (these are stabilising) and then gradually increase the speed, until they form soft peaks.
3. Once you have soft peak, start adding in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.
4. Keep whisking until you achieve a thick and glossy meringue, should take you 5-7 minutes, and the best thing to do here, is with clean dry hands, sample a bit to make sure the mixture doesn't feel sandy or gritty, but is smooth and glossy. While the mixture is mixing, you may want to prepare you piping bag, have a scroll down for instructions
5. At this point, using a spatula, gently fold in the freeze dried raspberries (or whatever fruits you're using), so there's a nice, roughly even distribution
6. Pipe the meringues onto the baking tray - have a read of "The Piping Bag" instructions for some tips
7. Bake for 1 hour, however at 30 minutes, turn the temperature of the oven down by 20 degrees, so thats, 120C/100C fan/255F/gas 1/2 
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before moving onto wire racks

These will keep for a week in an airtight container.

The Piping Bag
I was a little slack when I did this, so I do apologise, but I'll get some better pictures for next time, but during the mean time, this should help - Instructables

Paintbrush - or your fingers if your happy to have colourful fingers like I did
Piping Bag
Extra large piping nozzle - I used a round and star nozzle
Food colour paste

1. Using a wet paintbrush/finger, paint lines of undiluted food colouring along the inside of the piping bags. Be generous, we want big, bold colours!
2. Snip the end of the piping bag off and place the nozzle inside
3. Put the piping bag with the nozzle into a tall glass or jug - this will help to fill the bag
4. Fill the bag with the meringue mixture, lift up and twist the end to seal
5. Begin piping your meringues - have the bag about 2cm vertically above the baking tray and apply and even pressure on the bag slowly lifting as you squeeze away. To achieve a nice peak at the top, push down just a tad on the micture and quikly pull the nozzle up and away!


Monday, 12 May 2014

Tinginys - The Chocolate Salami

 It's that time of the year again, the best time of the year in my opinion, EUROVISION SONG CONTEST! Every year my bestie and I get together, get dressed up in the most outrageous outfits we can find, and enjoy the most razmataz night out of the year! Luckily, we now get three of those with the two Semi-Finals and then the Grand Final! A whole week Eurovision Bliss.

My friend asked me to make this, Tinginys, as our Lithuanian contribution to the "Eurovision Song Contest Two-Man Feast", and so, being a wonderful friend, I did. What is Tinginys? Well, Tinginys translates into lazy, simply because its a very easy and super tasty dessert to make! There are tonnes of variations of this across the globe, the Italians call it Salame al Cioccolato, in the UK you've probably come across Chocolate fridge cakes, that'll! 

It seems most nations across Europe have their own take on it, the Portuguese like to add a splash port wine, the Italians for for a bit of amaretto or rum, in the UK we like to use golder syrup to bind everything together, and in Lithuania a dash of cognac would go down a treat. Its origins, who knows, I've done some brief reading, some say a woman accidentally created the recipe in Lithuania in the 60's, others say it originated in Sicily, Italy - certainly one to do some investigating into!

You can have nuts, biscuits, dried fruits. This is one of those desserts where it can really be whatever you want it to be, no strict rules, and even if there are, we are going to break them and chuck in whatever we feel like! And on this occasion I felt like cranberries, almonds, digestive biscuits, hazelnuts, pistachios and a good splash of port too, because booze and chocolate are my two best friends!

So lets talk Eurovision now! WHAT A YEAR RIGHT? Amazing, I am, completely and utterly Team Conchita Wurst, I think she is a incredible diva, with an amazing voice to match and most importantly she is a person with incredibly important and strong message - tolerance, and in her words "It was not just a victory for me but a victory for those people who believe in a future that can function without discrimination and is based on tolerance and respect" and this means everything from overcoming homophobia, to ending sexism and eradicating racism, simply, equality, there is no place in this world for inequality. So for a lot of reasons, the Eurovisions wasn't just a song contest, but it felt like a sign of hope for social change.