January 30, 2012

Love is in the air - decorating with royal icing

It could be the newly acquired bling... or it could just be that I love making seasonal treats! Let's say in this case it's both!

I have seen a number of blogs and posts and ideas for decorating Valentine treats this week so I thought I would give it a go.

I must say I have never used royal icing quite like this before, but after a quick research in the plethora of decorating bibles I own along with some tips from the net,  I think my first attempt wasn't too shabby!

Royal Icing
Almost all recipes I looked at included meringue powder (rather than using egg whites). I couldn't find any (until AFTER I made them, so next time you are in the supermarket baking isle, have a look - quite inexpensive  unlike the specialty cake shop!) But if you want, use this one - it tastes lovely too. With this recipe I was able to make 4 flooding colours as well as the matching outlining/detailing icing.

1kg Icing Sugar
2 egg whites (slightly beaten)
squeeze of lemon juice

Put the icing sugar in an electric mixer. Slowly add the egg whites mixed with the lemon juice, a bit by bit. Mix for about 4 minutes and you should get a nice smooth but stiff consistency. Divide this into as many pots as colours you want and add gel colouring as you wish (white, pink, red, purple were my choices here).
*Gel colouring is best as it won't alter the consistency as much as the liquid ones will, and there is a larger range of colours as well - if you only have liquid colours then be very careful with amount you add.

I found that my having 4 colours I needed 4 piping bags - 8 to be really efficient but I ended up using plastic sandwich bags for the flooding bits.

There are 3 consistencies to the Royal icing:

1 - Stiff peak - use this as glue  (to glue on decorations etc)
2 - Soft peak - this will be your outline & detailing icing
3 - Ribbon like - this is to flood - not too thick but not runny either

For decorating the biscuits you will need the Soft Peak and Ribbon Like consistencies.
Once you have split your mixture into required number of bowls and coloured the icing, add a little bit of water to get a soft peak consistency. You can test it by holding the mixture on a spoon and turning upside down, if it doesn't fall off then it should be fine. It will need to be thin enough to pipe.
Use about 1/4 of the colours to fill your piping bag and use a number 2 nozzle and pipe outlines onto your biscuits - the sky is the limit as to how you decorate. I outlined all of my biscuits first ensuring enough of the Soft Peak icing of each colour was left in the bags for the decorating bit. Once all are outlined, mix some more water into the remaining colours to get the Ribbon like consistency.
Fill piping bags and use a number 3 nozzle.

Your outlines will have now had a chance to harden.
Flooding You don't need to fill in the entire cookie, just zig zag back and forth. The icing sets quick so Flood only 3-4 biscuits then using a toothpick help spread the icing out evenly. There are several good video tutorials on the web - search for flooding biscuits.

Once the flooding is done start on the first ones and add all of the details you want!

And that is it
Lace, dots, hearts and words

 A Saturday in the kitchen to me is magic... a little like these beauties! 

January 29, 2012

Waterside Inn - Alain/Michel Roux


At the train station en route to I didn't know where, I saw a man - piercing blue eyes, so handsome, so striking - he took me by surprise. Then it hit me - it was  Michel Roux Senior smiling back at me (the dreamy eyed crazed girl staring in awe at him) This was the best way to start a culinary day!
Little did I know we were on our way HIS legendary Roux restaurant - the Waterside Inn. Not only a Roux Restaurant (HEAVEN) but our first 3 STAR restaurant experience! An amazing anniversary surprise.

Here is a "brief" ok a gIrL "brief" glimpse at our day...

A couple glasses each of the lovely Michel Roux Champagne to start and pink champagne with our first starter
Amuse bouche was 
  • Parmesan cakes (with blue cheese & chives on top)
  • Potato crsip with fishie thing on top
  • Welsh Rarebit
  • Chicken liver parfait 
me: Ballotine de volaille farcie au chou vert et jambon de Parme (chicken ballottine filled with savoy cabbage and Parma ham with a salad of cabbage leaves and light chicken jus)
him: Rock fish soup garnished with flaked cod, garlic croutons and aioli sauce
Second Starter/Main
Lobster Claw, Lobster Tail with ginger
Wine: bottle of Faugeeres 2008 Domaine Leon Barral (wonderful red)  

Both: Tranches de fillet de rumsteak cuit a la broche, et sauce bordlaise parfumee au poivre noir Srawak  (Slices of roasted beef fump fillet garnished with crispy potato croquettes (OH MY OH MY OH MY how amazing were they filled with shin of beef and light and creamy potato inside crispy potato outside) and a terrine of braised shin with red wine sauce flavoured with Sarawak black pepper

Both: Macaroon garnished with a guanaja chocolate ganache, mango and pasion fruit creamy filling and lime sorbet. mmmmmm

ALSO: a chocolate coffee slice with CONGRATULATION written in amazingly yummy chocolate (for our engagement/anniversary celebration)

Before Dessert (end of Main) we were privelaged to have Alain Roux come over and speak to us - I was so beyond awestruck and speachless  - just in tears. We had to explain that I was a huge fan of his family and having him come over to chat was an experience of a lifetime. Truely honored to speak to him!
Alain brought us this
After dessert 
We were invited to take our cafe et mignardises outside into the private gazebo. Speachless. Speachless. Amazing. Wonderful.  Perfect.
Amazing. Wonderful. Beautiful. Perfect.

And as we were in Bray - it only seem right to pop over to the Hinds Head Pub (Heston Blumenthal's) for a Tanqueray10 with coriander & sage  and a pint for the other half. Very civilised indeed (especially after all of the lovely wine and bubbles earlier) I couldn't help myself from popping over to the Fat Duck to see if there were any tables for dinner..... my bank accounts says thank you for no availability there! I think my tummy did too!

An absolutely amazing day thanks to my wonderful other half! :)

January 22, 2012

See where I get it.....

 Since my before my first birthday my mum has been decorating cakes as you can see through the years - the ideas she came up with were amazing (need to find the pix of the bday cake she made for my brother when he was two I think). Not only bday cakes but wedding cakes too *see my sister's*  - so she is where i get the inspiration from!


January 15, 2012

Non Baked Cheesecake

Now if you are after something to fix that ultimate craving - a non baked cheesecake usually can hit the mark in no time at all! Just use the recipe below and adapt with whatever that craving might be - a little chocolate or caramel, fresh berries or boozy boozy... it's all up to you. As this is a non bake it is easy to modify without going wrong - just taste as you go and adjust as your tastebuds tell you too! :) Happy non baking!
This was our Xmas cake - amaretto chocolate cheesecake with a
homemade amaretti biscuit & shortbread & whitechocolate base
(which was far too thick a base but... tasty!)

For a simple plain cheesecake to add your own signature touch to you will need..

250g biscuits (digestive/chocolate-digestive/gingernut/shortbread/amaretti.... your choice)
100g butter (to bind the biscuits together)
sometimes I add melted chocolate or roasted almonds and even chocolate coated popping candy to the base as well - if you are adding melted chocolate though beware.... it may be very difficult to cut though not impossible maybe a bit messy.. but lovely tasting none the less!

600g cream cheese
300ml double cream (whipped)
100ml icing sugar
and whatever combo of flavours you want to add
 - 30ml alcohol (amaretto,baileys, cointreau,lemoncello, coffee flavour...)
 - 100g chocolate (white,milk,dark,flavoured)
 - 2lemons, iuice & zest
- fresh fruit dusted in icing sugar
 - biscuit pieces, marshmallows, nuts, maple syrup, honey, vanilla.....

lightly dust with cocoa or icing sugar, top with a salted caramel, chocolate ganache, chocolate flakes/shavings, nuts or fruity compote

This really is the easiest of cakes to adapt so let your tastebuds guide you and imagination run wild!

To make the base put the biscuits in a plastic bag (sealable would be best so they don't fly everywhere). Melt the butter in  a saucepan on a very low heat. Take off heat just before finished melting fully (you don't want to colour the butter, just get it into liquid form).

Pour the biscuits into the butter and give it a good stir until completely mixed (this will ensure it sets properly and isn't all crumbly). If adding extras like chocolate or nuts add now (or add on top of base - up to you). Press the mixture into a spring based removable tin (9-10"). You don't want too thick a base  - maybe 1-1.5cm deep. Press firmly with your fingers until evenly distributed and put in the fridge to set while you make the filling.

Whip the double cream with an electric mixer until light and fluffy and add in the icing sugar (don't over whip or it will turn curdly looking which tastes almost dry and you could even end up with butter!)

Place all of the cream cheese into a separate bowl and stir to loosen up and then fold in the whipping cream. Once mixed evenly fold in your flavours and / or bits.

Take the base out of the fridge and spoon the filling mixture on top  - fill up to the top of the tin. If you have leftovers you can make small ones in ramekins that you have in the cupboard from all of those store bought puddings :). Cover well & freeze to pull out when you need  a little something!

Put in the fridge to set - about an hour but to be honest, if you don't mind it being a bit gooey you could really eat it at any time - it just cuts nicer if you set it longer.

Do bring out of fridge for 10 min or so before serving and top with your choice of topping (or not).

It really is that easy.
Below are some combos I like for fillings to the basic recipe
Amaretto & Chocolate:
Mix amaretti biscuits with shortbread and added melted white chocolate to the base. For the filling separate mix into two, add melted dark chocolate to one half and amaretto to the other half and layer (see pix at beginning of blog). Top with shavings of chocolate and gold leaf (it was our Christmas cake after all so a little bling never hurts!)
Baileys Chocolate
Add baileys to the filling along with shavings of milk chocolate. Top with shavings of milk chocolate
Add vanilla essence to filling. Make or use store bought raspberry jam and swirl it into the filling by spooning in 1-2tbsp and using the handle of the spoon gently make swirling patterns throughout the cake. For the topping drizzle a little of the jam on top and cover with fresh raspberries. OR... add vanilla, separate filling into two parts. Spoon half the mixture onto the base, drizzle on raspberry jam and or top with fresh raspberries. Carefully spoon remaining mixture on top. Finish with fresh raspberries and shavings of chocolate.
Boozy Lemon
Add 50ml lemoncello to mix along with zest of one lemon. Drizzle with lemon curd or just a bit of lemon zest.

January 14, 2012

Almond Raspberry Pavlova Roulade

Oh my oh my oh my - have you ever made a roulade? Well I don't know what happened in the last couple of months (well I do really...but) one thing I know now is how to and how not to make a roulade!

You might know them better as Roly Polys, Swiss Rolls or Yule Logs but in essence a Roulade is something rolled. Usually Sponge but often meringues. There are sweet ones and savoury ones and the sky is the limit on flavour combinations.

Here I mix some favourite things - Raspberries & Raspberry Jam, Toasted Almonds, Amaretto, meringue pavlova, white chocolate and amaretto cream. Oh and glitter of course!

A good meringue/pavlova needs time to bake, to cool and to go all gooey. (overnight is best). You can make a sponge roulade instead, but the sponge is better used the following day. In saying that I have had some very nice ones, both meringue and sponge, both turned out on the same day but in my experience, I can't get a lovely meringue to turn out at its best in 2hours.... so go for it and see what works best for you! :)

Pavlova (a gooey meringue)
·      3 egg whites
·      3 tbsp cold water
·      1c caster sugar
·      3tsp cornstarch (cornflour)
·      1 tsp white vinegar
·      1 vanilla pod

Almond Cream
·      300ml double cream
·      2 tsp vanilla
·      2 tbsp almond flavoured liquor (or essence if you rather)
·      ¼ cup icing sugar

Raspberry filling
·      500g fresh raspberries
·      4+tbsp sugar
·      lemon juice

White Chocolate buttercream (optional)
·      50g unsalted butter
·      1 vanilla pod
·      125g icing sugar
·      25g quality white chocolate (melted)

for decorations (optional)
·      Icing Sugar to dust
·      Raspberries and or Slivered almonds
- glitter glitter glitter - everything needs glitter

For the Pavlova  (15-20 min to prepare, 40min to bake, 20+min to cool, the longer the better though)

Set oven to 150deg C fan
Prepare lined swiss roll

Using an electric hand whisk, whisk egg whites until form stiff peaks (don't over whip)
Turn down whisker to lowest speed and slowly add 3 tbsp cold water 
Then, slowly add sugar one tbsp. at a time while continuing to whisk  - the egg whites will start to look nice and glossy
Mix together cornstarch (cornflour), vanilla, vinegar then add (yes while still whisking) to egg whites

Using a pallet knife smooth egg mixture into tin ensuring completely even and smooth
Bake in preheated oven for 30-40minutes then leave to cool in oven. Take out of oven after 20min and leave to further cool on new baking paper covered with icing sugar.  

Put slivered almonds on tray and toast in oven 2-3min (just golden brown not too dark)

For the raspberry filling (20min + cooling time)
Place fresh raspberries in heavy bottomed pan with sugar and a bit of water. Bring to boil and reduce. Allow to cool completely.

For the Cream (5min)
Whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Add icing sugar, vanilla and mix well. Then add liquour. Ensure cream is not over whisked but not too runny either.

For the White Chocolate Buttercream (15min)
Melt chocolate in bain marie. Allow to cool (not completely though or will just go hard again)
Beat the butter using electric whisk until light and fluffy. Slowly (and carefully to avoid a dust storm) add the icing sugar a bit at a time. Then add vanilla and melted chocolate.

For the Roulade (5min)
Once all parts of previously made have completely cooled you can assemble. Spread the raspberry filling on the baked pavlova ensuring nicely coated (you want every mouthful to have some of that yumminess). Then add the cream evenly on top. Don’t go crazy with it otherwise it will just squash out once you roll it up.
Now the fun bit – the rolling up “creating the roulade”

Using one of the short ends fold over about 1.5cm of the pavlova – this will help achieve the roll look. Then, using the baking paper as an aid, slowly and tightly start to roll up the pavlova – evenly. You can use a flat object (ruler/dowel) to help push the pavlova roll tighter together – after one roll/fold and keeping the paper still attached, carefully push the ruler under the fold (if that makes sense?) great how to videos online

Once all rolled up, carefully place seam downwards on a presentation plate.  You could leave like this and just devour, or you can take one step further…
Cut off ends with a very sharp knife to reveal a pretty swirl – you do have to be careful here as not to squash your lovely roll.

Cover the roll with the buttercream – you don’t have to be generous with this one – unless you have a very very very sweet tooth (not the ends tho as remember you have to show off those rolls – how often can you say that!)

Decorate however you wish. 
Decorated with Un-toasted Almonds
Toasted better in my opinion.

I rushed this one both on baking time and resting time
Shame. Shame. Shame. Lesson learnt
too late sadly. Tasted nummy though.

Lovely Gooey Meringue. left overnight 
then filled and decorated

Here are some other Roulades I have made - recipes one day....

Chocolate Orange Roulade
Not sure if really Roulade but ...
Pistachio Puff Pastry Swirls  
Lemon Meringue Roll
Chocolate Chestnut Yule Log
Chocolate Sponge, Chocolate &
Chestnut filling
My First Roulade - Vanilla Sponge
Berry  & Cream filling
Christmas Yule Log