August 29, 2011

Eggs - what you need to know

Baking is a science of predetermined weights and ingredients. It is therefore important to ensure that the size and temperature of eggs are accurate to the recipe that you are using. Here are several tips to help you achieve that perfect bake. Knowing how the egg works will also help you understand why it is important to be exact in what you are doing.

WEIGHTS of eggs

Large  (old size 1-3 UK)
Medium       Small
In Shell
57g  2.01oz
50g1.75oz     1.5oz
Without Shell
50g  1.76oz = 1/4c = 4tbsp

White Only
30g  1.06oz      2tbsp+2tsp

Yolk Only
18g  0.63oz      1tbsp+1tsp

TIPS on Size
  • For half an egg - lightly beat one egg, then measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons.
  • Always use large eggs in recipes where egg size is not given
  • The size of the egg used will make a difference in the consistency of the batter and ultimately affects the outcome of the baked good
    If I half a recipe which calls for 1 egg, how do I halve the egg?
    One large egg = about 4tbsp - therefore 1/2 is 2tbsp. To get this put the egg in a bowl and lightly whisk with a fork until just incorporated. Separate out 2tbsp. 

    Freshness Test
    The air cell, or empty space between the white and shell at the large end of the egg, gets larger as the egg ages. When an egg is first laid it is warm. As it cools. the contents contract and the inner shell membrane separates from the outer shell membrane to form the air cell. (you see this when you peel a hard boiled egg)
    • Place an egg in water mixed with a little salt. If the egg is fresh it will sink. The quicker or farther it sinks, the fresher it is. If the egg floats, it has spoiled. or/
    • If you immerse an egg in cool water, you can judge how fresh it is by how high it floats. Really fresh eggs won't float at all (as the air cell is very small or not there at all). The higher the egg floats, the less likely it is to be fresh. or/
    • If you shake the egg and it sloshes around in the shell then it is likely to be old  - Fresh eggs make no sound (again because there is little air) 

    more EGG TIPS
    • Cold eggs are easier to separate than warm eggs. 
    • Separate eggs when cold and then warm egg whites to room temperature before using.  Make sure there is no egg yolk in the egg whites.
    • When separating the cold eggs, make sure no specks of egg yolk get into the whites or they will not whip to their full volume.
    • Most of us use eggs right from the refrigerator. As most recipes call for eggs at room temperature - remove eggs from fridge 20-30min before using them or if you forget, put them in a bowl of warm (not hot/boiling) water while you assemble the other ingredients. Dry them with a tea towel before cracking.
    • To maintain freshness it is better to store eggs in the fridge as they will last longer. 
    • Store whole eggs that are not in their shells for 2 - 3 days, covered tightly.
    • If the eggs are separated, you can refrigerate raw whites for up to 3 weeks  (cover with clingfilm) and unbroken raw yolks for 3 days (cover with clingfilm)
    • If you can’t use the yolks quickly enough, hard cook them just as you would cook whole eggs in the shell, drain them well and refrigerate them in a tightly sealed container for up to 4 or 5 days. 
    • For longer storage, freeze raw whites, sugared or salted yolks and cooked yolks for up to 1 year.
    • It's best to freeze the yolks separately from the whites because they store better and are handy when you only need part of the egg for your recipe
    • Store in a plastic bag and ensure you label what it is and how many egg (whites/yolks) are in the pack for easy reference. Take out of freezer and allow to thaw before using - doesn't take long but put in warm bowl of water if you are in a rush (ensuring no water gets inside)
    • If you want to store a whole egg, whisk it with a pinch of salt or a drop of corn syrup per egg to stabilise the egg proteins.
    • To achieve maximum volume when beating eggs, have them at room temperature  (triple in volume)
    • Start beating the egg whites at low speed, gradually increasing the speed to medium-high.  If you start at high speed the air bubbles created will be less stable as they are too large.  Adding cream of tartar (1/8 teaspoon for each white) and sugar will help stabilize the beaten egg whites.  Cream of tartar should be added once the whites are foamy.  Continue beating the whites and once they have reached the soft peak stage, gradually add the sugar (this ensures that the sugar fully dissolves into the foam).  The egg whites should be beaten until you have moist stiff shiny pointed peaks when the beaters are raised. 
    • Cream of tartar is added when beating egg whites to stabilize the whites and give them volume and strength. 
    Bowls to use
    • Have a clean copper or stainless steel bowl and beaters. 
    • Don't use a aluminum bowl as it gives the beaten egg whites a grayish tinge as some of the aluminum does come off during beating.  
    • Plastic and glass are not good surfaces either as the whites tend to slip down the sides of the bowl and plastic attracts grease because of its porous surface.
    • Perfectly beaten egg whites produce a baked good that has good volume and texture.  The foam needs to have a stable structure so it maintains its volume until the batter sets in the oven.  Always use the beaten egg whites right away as they start loosing volume immediately.  If you accidentally over-beat the egg whites, add one unbeaten white andwhipagain until stiff peaks form.  Remove 1/4 cup of egg white.
    Did you know......A typical step in some cake recipes is to cream butter & sugar and then add the eggs one at a time. This creates an emulsion.  Fat and liquid are by nature unmixable  - so the goal when mixing a recipe is to form a water-in-fat emulsion. A well emulsified cake batter should not be curdled or weeping liquid (this will happen if your eggs are cold and your mixture is at room temperature. If this happens the batter will loose air cells and your baked cake may be grainy or flat in texture, sometimes dry, flavourless, look uneven and may sink.

    How the number of eggs affects your bake 
    Check out site to see a brilliant description as to how and why the more or less eggs can affect your bake.

    Italian Meringue Buttercream 
    By adding hot sugar syrup to egg whites while beating them does not bring the egg whites to much above 135 degrees F and does not fully pasteurize them. If, however, you bring the sugar syrup all the way to the hardball stage (250 to 266° F), the whites will reach a high enough temperature.

    1 egg roughly sets 100ml of milk therefore if making 1l of ice-cream you will need 10 eggs
    Le Gavroche Pistachio Ice Cream recipe - my fav!

    About the Egg

    Chalazae: the cord looking thing hanging from the egg is the chalazae. The fresher the egg the stronger or pronounced the chalazae.  What's important is that it's essentially a rope of egg white that twists itself into being as the egg travels from the ovary to the nest. Its sole purpose is to keep the yolk centered in the egg. Remove it before using the egg. You may also have to strain a custard after baking to get rid of them or pieces .

    Structure of Egg Yolk
    • 1/2 water
    • 1/6 protein
    • 1/3 fat (5g)
    • emulsifiers (lecithin)
    • all of the egg's vitamins A, D, E are in the yolk. 
    • egg yolks are one of the few foods naturally containing vitamin D. The yolk also contains more phosphorus, manganese, iron, iodine, copper and calcium that then white. It also contains all of the zinc
    Structure of Egg Yolk
    • 7/8 water
    • 1/8 protein
    • 0 g fat
    • niacin, riboflavin, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur.
    Egg Nutrition Facts

    • high in cholesteral
    • high in saturated fats
    • good source of Riboflavin, Vitamin B12 and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein and Selenium.

    Free Range Eggs
    Free-range eggs are produced by hens that have daily access to an outdoor area with vegetation (weather permitting), although they are housed for the majority of the time in large barns. Even though the hens are housed indoors, they are never kept locked up in cages and the size of the flock is regulated. They are able to wander around and exercise even whilst they are kept indoors.

    Brown vs White Eggs
    Depending on the breed of hen, depends on colour of shell. There is no difference in nutrition  - one isn't healthier than the other.

    Grade A or Class A are the best 

    (UK) Another label to look out for is the Lion Quality stamp - eggs marked with this will have been laid by hens vaccinated against salmonella.

    Thank you to these online sources for all of the info found above:

    August 27, 2011

    Victoria Sponge - TWISTED

    Another Great British recipe (from the Great British Book of Baking)with my own little twist added for the great British summer (we never had this year)

    I never really used to like sponge cakes - probably because I never had a good one but I have found a new love for them - and particularly love this sponge recipe (my other half made it first for me - his very first cake he ever made me it was very scrummy and he only took 10 years!)

    For the sponge:
    175g unsalted, softened butter
    175g caster sugar
    175g self raising flour
    3 medium free-range eggs


    Lemon Curd (with Limoncello!)

    Victoria Sponge with
    Chambord Raspberries
    & Limoncello Cream & Curd

    Tarte au Citron - Mary Berry's own

    Well, as addicted to the Great British Bake off as I am, I have set myself a target of completing at least one type of baking per week based on the last episode of the show. Week one was cakes so I made my cute little sunflower cupcakes using Jo's recipe for the cakes and a video from you tube on piping. 

    This week I am tried my hand at  Mary Berry's Tarte au Citron - pastry and all. It took two attempts at the pastry but the 2nd was well worth the effort - glad my other half convinced me to start again - happy with crust - still needs some perfecting!

    Tarte au Citron

    Mary's recipe


    For the pastry
    For the filling
    • 5 free-range eggs
    • 125ml/4fl oz double cream
    • 225g/8oz caster sugar
    • lemons, juice and zest
    • icing sugar, for dusting

      To make the pastry, place the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food processor -  I used a pastry cutter so as not to add any heat. Make sure the butter is cold when you add it or you will end up with a runny pastry.
      When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs add the egg yolk and water.  

      Pulse or cut with pastry cutter again until the mixture sticks together in clumps then tip onto a work surface and gather it into a ball with your hands. Knead the pastry just two or three times to make it smooth. If your butter was a bit too soft, the pastry might be too. If so, wrap it in parchment paper and chill for 10-15 minutes.

      Grease a 23cm/9in loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin.

      Lay a piece of parchment paper on the work surface. Remove the base from the tart tin and lay it on the paper. Using a pencil, draw a circle onto the 
      paper 4cm/1½in bigger than the tin base

      Dust the base of the tin with flour. Place the pastry ball in the centre of the tin base and flatten it out slightly. Roll out the pastry, still on the base, until it meets the circle mark. As you are rolling out, turn the pastry by turning the paper. Using lightly flour dusted fingers, gently fold the pastry surrounding the tin base in towards the centre. You want a thin crust so don't pack it around the edges if you see a crack.   

      Carefully lift the tin base off the parchment paper, drop it into the tin, then ease the pastry into the corners and up the sides of the tin, pressing the overhang lightly over the rim. If the pastry has cracked at all, simply press it together to seal. Press the pastry into the flutes of the tin then lightly prick the base with a fork, but not quite all the way through. 

      Place the pastry-lined tin on a baking tray, cover loosely with cling film and 
      chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 

      Remove the cling film from the pastry case and line with foil so it supports the sides, then fill with baking beans. (make sure you use a baking tray  (this is where I messed up the first time round as I didn't put it on  first time and when I pulled it out it fell to pieces boooo)

      Bake blind for 12-15 minutes, until the pastry is set, then lift out the foil and beans. Carefully trim the excess pastry from the sides using a sharp knife, holding the knife at a sharp angle and slicing away from you. Remove the trimmings from the sheet. Return the empty pastry case to the oven for another 10-12 minutes or until it is pale golden and completely dry. Set aside to cool while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C/325F/Gas 3.

      For the Filling
      Break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a wire whisk. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and whisk again until they are all well combined. Pour the filling mixture into a jug, then into the cooled baked pastry case. TIP  To prevent it spilling as it goes in the oven, pour in most of the filling so it almost fills the tart, carefully sit the baking sheet and tart on the oven shelf, then top up with the rest of the filling to completely fill it. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until just set but with a slight wobble in the  centre (if it is over baked the filling will tend to crack)

      Leave to cool slightly then, when the pastry seems firm enough, remove the tart from the tin. The easiest way to do this is to place the base of the tin on an upturned can or jam jar and let the outer ring fall to the work surface. Transfer the tart to a serving plate and serve warm or cold, dusted with sifted icing sugar.

      To "Tart up your Tarte" - after adding a generous dusting of icing sugar, using a blowtorch, gently caramelise the sugar to give it that lovely golden look.

    August 24, 2011

    Mushroom Tarte Tatins with Tomato Compote

    When our lovely (veggie) friend came to stay with us for the first time I wanted to come up with something different, easy and impressive (he was after all one of our bestest friends, a bit of a foodie, our first dinner guest in our brand new first house and I had to show my domestic ways! :))

    I only recently discovered the love of Tarte Tatin (apple) and thought - why not make a savoury one. But not an onion tart, not a tomato,,,, why not mushroom? I scoured the net and came across one on  I tweaked a bit to suit my tastebuds and found a wonderful compote to go along with it on 

    The first time I made this it turned out absolutely gorgeous - if I can say that! :) My other half (who doesn't believe in vegetarianism) couldn't believe that a veggie meal could actually taste so good! Horray!  

    I made a full tarte the first time making the mushroom mix and compote the day before so that I could socialise more - therefore only had to prepare the pastry and stick in the oven while we enjoyed a glass of wine and catch up! 

    I have made a few times since but as MINI tartes for taking to BBQs/picnic style parties and they are now my favourite savoury treat for such occasions. 

    If you wanted to make one big one instead follow the same method but bake in a small oven proof frying pan (omelette pan size) or a pie dish - just make sure you butter it WELL! Serve with  

    Gratin Dauphinois and a salad to make a meal.

    Ingredients - Mini Tarte Tatin
    5-6 banana shallots
    3 tbsp. olive oil
    200 gr. (1/4 lb) mushrooms, (mixed is good chestnut,button,dried porcini) or whatever you like

    1/4 cup pine nuts
    2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
    1 cup Gruyère cheese  

    Salt and pepper to taste
    250 gr. (1/4 lb) puff pastry 

    Ingredients - Tomato Compote
    1 tbsp olive oil
    ½ onion, finely chopped
    400g/14oz canned plum tomatoes
    2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
    1 tbsp red wine vinegar
    pinch caster sugar
    salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Peel & chop shallots quite thin (not super thin)

    Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in enough boiling water to just cover them. Leave.

    In a dry pan gently toast the pine nuts.

    Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the shallots.

    Clean and cut the mushrooms (not small but not large - they need to fit into the cases and they do shrink quite a bit when you cook them)  Remove the dried porcini from the water (be careful - it might still be hot) and reserve the liquid. Chop up into pieces.

    After about 5 minutes of sautéing the shallots, add the mushrooms for another 5 minutes.

    Now add the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and thyme and cook another 5-8 minutes, or until the shallots are soft  (optional - but I like to add a bit more oomp to the mix, add the reserved porcini liquid - and cook on low heat until all of the liquid has evaporated.)

    Remove from heat and stir in the pine nuts.

    Grease a muffin tin well with butter

    Spoon the mushroom mixture into the pan and sprinkle the cheese over top (be generous - this also helps stick the pastry to the mixture! 

    Roll out the puff pastry and cut a round which is just slightly larger than the circumference of your the muffin tin circle. (TIP - when rolling the pastry do not press down hard or all of the lovely layers that have been pre made for you will be lost). 

    Place the pastry over the filling. Tuck the edges inside the cake tin all around the filling – like you're tucking a blanket in. 

    Bake at 180C (350F) for about 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and puffy 

    For the tomato compote, heat the olive oil, add the finely chopped onion and fry gently for three minutes or until softened. Add the tomatoes, thyme, vinegar and sugar and cook over a low heat for ten minutes or until reduced by half and thickened in consistency. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

    Remove tartes and cool for 5 minutes before serving. Turn the Tartin out onto a flat plate so that crust is on the bottom and the delicious filling is facing up. I sometimes have to use a knife to help them out due to the cheese sticking

    Present Compote in a jar/small dish with a spoon for people to help themselves

    Although mixture and compote can be made the day before I wouldn't suggest baking these until just before you want to serve (or before you are going out) as all of their goodness is best on the day. (they wouldn't last the night in my house anyway!)

    August 22, 2011

    Flower Cupcakes

    About a year ago some friends and I went on a Cupcakes & Cocktails course and learnt the basics but I never have put it into practice. With the kickoff of series 2 of the Great British Bakeoff (GBBO) I have been itching to start doing new things (new for me anyway). I have been looking to learn how to use different piping techniques You Tube is great! So when my other half asked for some cupcakes (as usual) and for one to take to his colleague for her birthday I thought now is the time. As this is my first blog post I must highlight that for baking I do use recipes from throughout the web and my books and only tweak  where I feel that I can alter the recipe. I hope to start experimenting with my own flavours and techniques to share with everyone one day - but there are so many wonderful ideas out there that it is not really a point!

    Using a recipe from S2E1 of GBBO I set off to make  Jo's Chocolate and Orange cupcakes decorated as sunflowers and flowers using my homemade piping bag. (another Choc Orange recipe here which has a bit more orange kick to it)
    Using you tube to figure out some basics I set to work.

    For the Ladybirds
    While the cupcakes were baking & buttercream resting I started on the ladybirds (see Tip)

    Take a chocolate covered chocolate
    (orange taste yummy, red look prettier)

    Add a line

    Add some eyes and antennae if you can

    Add some dots - they will be pointy

     after you are done them all,
    take a cocoa dusted spoon
    (very little cocoa or the
    dots will look powdered)
     lightly press down the dots

    And then you have some pretty bugs!
    For the Flowers
    Colour 3 different bowls of buttercream: green(small amount), yellow(large amount) and orange (small amount) and leaving some of the non coloured as well - you will see why later (see Tip)

    As I decided to decorate these cupcakes on a Sunday, my local cake shop wasn't open so I had to make due with a plastic sandwich bag. Reinforcing one of the corners of the bag with sticky tape first, then cutting a small V point out of the end (will get pix soon).

    Fill the bag with the yellow icing and top it with a bit of the orange. This will allow for a two toned petal!

    Ice a cupcake with the green buttercream (you don't need much) then in the centre place an Oreo cookie. (it takes up most of the space hence not a lot of green is required)

    Take your yellow/orange buttercream and start to make the petals. (do a few practice petals first) Then once you have the hang of it -

    Start  at the base of the cookie and with the point of the tip upwards, make a small line (1.5cm) and at the end lift up so that the leaf turns up. Work you way around the cookie and then start layering. Throughout turn the piping bag so that the orange and yellow alternate (they might just blend like mine did depending on how you layered the icings in the piping bag) - it's art! :)

    Two or three layers/rows is all you will need - you want to leave space to see the inside of the sunflower. Once you are happy with your result that is it! Top with some glitter and a ladybird and you are done!

    Flavouring - it may be easier to use orange blossom water to flavour the buttercream as the zest kept plugging up my piping

    Icing Consistency -  if you can I highly recommend using gel colouring as liquid colours make the icing runny as you can see by some of my sunflowers. Test your icing by piping a line and pulling up - if it drops down quickly it is too runny, if it drops down a bit it is still not thick enough - it should Stay Put!) add some more icing sugar until you are happy that it will keep shape. I also added some of the non coloured icing to my running colours which seemed to work as well.

    Piping the ladybird - if you are not used to piping, practice on a plate or on a piece of waxed paper first. Hold the tube just above the surface and slowly work your way dragging it down to form a line. When finished lightly touch the surface to end the line. For dots - squeeze a little bit on tube and press down. When you release it will form a point (press down lightly after it has been left to dry for a minute or two - use cocoa powder and a spoon or your finger to do this - if using cocoa or icing sugar be careful not to use too much or it will leave an unwanted colour on your icing. Practice this bit too!