Saturday, 8 February 2014

Comfort food

It's wet windy and miserable out there today - and has been for far far too long! So after dragging myself to the gym with a friend this morning, I decided I deserved some proper comfort food - and making it would take my mind off wanting to snack post gym :)

I suspect my cravings came from the fact that while I was slogging away on the treadmill that I saw there was vintage Great British Bake Off showing on BBC2 - which I'd been watching at home before my friend picked me up - so was good to see the end! Before you suggest otherwise - I think it's actually incredibly motivational to watch, I just love what they create, and even if I can't hear everything going on, I've seen it enough times to know the format :)

Anyway.....comfort food! I was having a think about what I really fancied, and to be honest, (I've not documented this in my blog as it was such a disaster) I made some fresh bread on Thursday - and when I cut into it I was so disappointed to find it was doughy in the middle. I don't know why, I kneaded and kneaded it, and left it to rise far more than it needed (may be this is where I went wrong??) Anyway I had a bit of it to eat, but didn't really feel happy using it for sarnies etc. on the other-hand, it was was a 2lb loaf and I didn't want to waste it :( So I thought it should be OK to use for bread and butter pudding? It's being baked hopefully help with any doughy bits in there? Hopefully? I probably should have researched that....but we all have to learn somehow!

So I had a vague recipe in a Mary Berry book, but as it's only me I didn't really want to make a dish for 6 people, so I just found the smallest dish I have filled it with my slightly doughy bread smothered in baking margarine - spread side down(all good ingredients while you're still stood in your gym clothes!) Then sprinkled some demerera sugar and mixed fruit on top. Covered again with more bread (this time butter side up) and then sprinkled some more demerera sugar and mixed fruit on top. I mixed 1/2 pint of milk with an egg and eat them together, and added some vanilla (after a manic search thinking I'd run out) and some mixed spices. I had an urge from somewhere to add nutmeg, not sure where that one came from, but I couldn't find any so mixed spices would have to do. Poured the custard mix over the bread and left to soak for an hour.

During this hour you'll be pleased to know that I did jump in the shower and get changed out of my gym clothes - phew - and then roasted some peppers and onions ready for my vegetable plait ) we've covered that one before, but I do like to revisit favourites!

Thank goodness for double ovens though, as the plait was ready to be cooked at the same time as the pudding. So pudding in the bottom, gas mark 4 for 40 mins, and plait in the top oven 20 mins at gas mark 6 then gas mark 2 for the last 10 mins. So a bit of juggling did happen, but overall it's tuned out well. Sadly the pudding had to be eaten as soon as it was baked, so I did :D Don't worry, I did have something else to nibble on while I was waiting for it to all finish, I had a pitta bread with some caramelised red onion cheese - so so nice! (and there's me saying I never normally have bread!)

So here's the before and after shots. I could probably have left it to crisp for a it longer, and probably should have served it with custard too - may be I can have my cold portion with custard another day - after another 5k run on the treadmill though?? :/

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Genoise what?

When I decided to start my blog, the idea was to learn new techniques in baking (and practice old ones of course), but I can't possibly eat all the things I make myself so I've opened up the challenge of suggesting possible bakes to my friends (and then of course they get to sample it!) So this week's challenge came from my baking friend @Oat_girl. The request - Genoise sponge! Hmm, have never even heard of that one before (even on bake off - have I missed an episode or challenge where they've had to make it?) So I started on the research, looking through my mum's old cookbooks, some of my newer cookbooks and then online.  Mum's books, they did actually have it, but started talking about clarifying butter, which sounded more complicated than I was hoping for (and on conversations with colleagues at work, wasn't the way they made it), so onto my books Great British Bake off and Mary Berry - yet let me down! Nothing in those books. Humph! So internet it was. So many to choose from, so many fillings, too much choice (but hey, that' the internet right?) I'm an Information Professional after all, I should be ale to apply my skills and deal with this information overload. Yes!! No, I just picked Eric Lanlard's recipe as I have an exciting decorating cupcake adventure coming up with him sometime this year (fantastic Xmas pressie from my brother), so I thought I should take advantage and find out a bit more about this guy :)

So here's the recipe I opted for.... - when I say opted for, it really was just the sponge we were making on the day (yes, I dragged @Oat_girl to come and help, I wasn't doing this challenge alone). So scrapping the filling (which with hindsight, I wish I'd not), we set to making the sponge.

I have a fab kitchen set up with a breakfast bar in the middle, so my friends can prop up the counter at one end (and be near my fridge) and I'm in the middle near the cooker/sink/tools etc. There are times I really do feel like I'm doing a baking show, but thankfully with audience interaction with friends helping. So on inspecting the recipe (friend reading as laptop is being kept well away from me, flames, flour etc) she opted for the hard bit of greasing the baking tins, while I tackled stage two

"2. Put the sugar and eggs in a large heat-proof bowl, and set the bowl over a pan that is half-filled with gently simmering water. Using an electric hand whisk at full speed, whisk together continuously until hot. This will take about ten minutes. The mixture will double in volume and should create a ‘ribbon’ effect when it drops from the whisk. Remove the bowl from the pan of hot water."

Hmmmm interesting. Can I go back to the Angel Food cake, that looked easier?? OK, eggs at the ready (supplied again by the neighbouring chickens - thank you Sarah! Find a bowl that is heatproof and big enough for this mixture, or just find a bowl that's big enough and hope it's heatproof) and set it up on the saucepan. So, I have gas, and I'm not sure if gas/flames and electric mix, so I had a fun time juggling the electric whisk trying not to get it near the flames......half way through I realised that the "big" bowl I selected just wasn't going to cut it, so we had to be a bit creative in swapping over from a warm bowl to a cold bowl, while keeping the eggs and sugar fluffy (and still avoiding those gas flames!)

Next stage was to fold the small amount of flour into the vast amount of fluffy egg and sugar. I didn't nab a picture of this, I can only imagine it was the stress of juggling it all at this stage - so you'll just have to imagine the nightmare scenes!! Once the flour was folded in, which seemed to take forever, and everytime I folded I found another lump of flour hidden in the eggs....arggh! While I was doing this my friend was melting the butter, and then letting it cool, so we could then fold that in as well. Really? Folding melted butter? OK...we'll give it a try :)

So once everything was folded, I then poured the mixture in the baking tins - remembering a tad too late that I didn't have the required size, and there really was no way I was getting any more mixture into the tins. So I though, oooh lets make little cupcakes too....yeah...I'll leave you to imagine why there's no picture of them in the blog this time..

So cakes in the oven, time to clear up the mess. I do try and tidy as I bake, but as you can see below I neglected my duties in this session, and that's just half the mess - the breakfast bar on the other side is just as full of mess as well - oops!

The cakes take 25 mins to cook, so we took the opportunity to have a quick cuppa while performing the bake off bend and squat checking on the cakes in the oven. Thankfully I have a lovely Belling cooker that has a permanent light on while cooking, and you can see pretty well into the oven (I haven't yet thought what I will do when the light goes, I'm sure it can't be *that* hard to replace right?) 

Part way through the aking I did notice they were starting to singe on one side, and also rise unevenly, so I turned them around, and tried to pull them forward a bit. I'm not sure it had much effect, but at least they're not black!

So here's one of the cakes straight out of the oven. We left them a while before trying to get them out of the tin, and then on reflection, left them a bit longer...although eventually came to the conclusion that possibly there was no ideal time to leave them to cool in the tin, as one of them did have a mini accident on the way out (beautifully patched up below though). And it meant that we had a it of sponge to sample.....we also had the cupcakes to sample, but I found the sponge really dense and heavy in these, and a bit dry too, so I don't know if they needed cooking on a different temperature or length of time...not sure, but not so fussed on this recipe that I'll be trying it again anytime soon.... basic cupcake mixes are much easier for what I need.

et voilĂ's the finished cake! I gave half to @Oat_girl to take away for friends/work colleagues to sample and I shared mine around with neighbours (well, they do supply the eggs), and then into work as well.

The taste? Well, that as the whole point as neither of us had tasted it before. I didn't like the cupcakes, I've already said that, the cake itself, was OK. I can see it would work better if using cream fillings and making a gateaux or other layered up cake. the top had an interesting crisp to it, and the inside light a fluffy, but I think personally I prefer a fat free sponge cake, I like the light a fluffy texture that gives. Also, compared to the angel food cake, that was much fluffier and lighter. I didn't get the same feel of lightness from this - although would be interested to hear what others think of the cake in general. (not just those that ate my sponge). I should really attempt it again, and actually follow a whole recipe so that do make up the filling as it's meant to be......don't hold your breathe though!

So......time for a new challenge....