Saturday, 22 October 2011

Currant-ly yum!

This is a special 'A Very Hummingbird Year' blog entry, as it's also an entry to the lovely The Pink Whisk's October Challenge. You can find all the details, plus lots more, here - The Pink Whisk

The October Challenge involves providing a recipe, method and photo of an apple recipe. Of course, when I saw the challenge, where else was I going to look but the pink Hummingbird bible?

I chose the truly scrumptious Apple and Currant Crumble Bars - surely at least two of my five a day? Here's the Hummingbird Cake Days recipe:

200g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200g unsalted butter
250g soft light brown sugar
120g rolled oats
300g eating apples - recipe specifies Granny Smith, but I think it works with any!
4tbsp cornflour
3tsp cinnamon
1tsp nutmeg
1tsp ginger
175g currants - other dry fruits could well work too!

And here's what you do:

Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a tray with baking paper - a medium size roasting tin is perfect.
Sieve flour, salt and baking powder, then rub butter in with fingers until you get a crumble texture, stir in the sugar and oats, then put half into your tray and push down for the base.
Peel and slice apples, then toss them in the cornflour and spice mix. (I didn't have nutmeg so added an extra splodge (technical term) of cinnamon.)
Lay apples on the base in the tray, then sprinkle with currants, followed by remaining crumble mix.
Bake for around 35 minutes, until the crumble is golden.
Cool entirely in the tray. Slice. Serve!

I couldn't wait for the it to cool and had to dig into one corner with a spoon as soon as it was cooled enough to not take a layer of skin off the roof of my mouth!

While this recipe appley (geddit?) works as a snack bar, I also think it would be perfect as an after-dinner treat with a vat of custard. Now there's a thought... who's making the custard!?

Monday, 17 October 2011

Nutty upon nutty

As you all know, cheesecake is one of my favourite things. If I'm being honest it's mainly for the buttery biscuit base (have you ever had a chocolate cheesecake base? Oh em gee), but the sweet creamy topping is pretty awesome too! And, of course, the selection of toppings and fillings you can incorporate just add to the glorious cheesecake experience.

But pecan and butterscotch was new to me. In fact, butterscotch is something I have never worked with. But why?! It's perfect... especially to sweeten up a cheesecake!

Firstly, I did adapt this recipe ever so slightly. I didn't have quite enough pecans, but did have a little pouch of leftover walnuts, so I added these to the mix.

A quick whip (oo-er!) and a mix, and the cheesecake was ready for the oven. I was running low on patience on the day I baked this, so decided not to risk wrapping the tin and placing it in another tin filled with water... hence I ended up with a big crack through my finished cheesecake!

But, in hindsight, this wasn't such a terrible thing as it gave me a nice canyon of butterscotch through the middle of the cake when I poured the topping on. Winner!!

My pecans don't look particularly neat as they started "swimming" across the butterscotch... I think maybe the trick is to make it a little thicker than I did, or allow it to set a bit before placing the pecans. 

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Honey, I'm home!

You can't beat (beat, like eggs, geddit?) an unplanned bake. I almost made the Walnut and Honey loaf last week, but with birthday cakes and post-wedding treats to create, I was a little snowed under. I'm so glad I decided to keep myself busy as I was cooking Tuesday night's dinner... no better way of keeping busy in my book!

I think the only thing I've ever baked before with walnuts is a coffee and walnut cake, which I was bullied into baking by the token irishman at work. I don't even like coffee, so didn't get to try any of that one. But this one, with its honey glaze... shiny and yummy, that's all I have to say.

It all starts like a traditional cake - caster sugar, butter, egg, flour. Then the twist comes with the honey and walnuts... they're a match made in heaven. Unfortunately I didn't have any yogurt, as this recipe needs, but I had some ricotta cheese left over from last week's lemon and poppyseed loaf so I just threw some of that in instead, and it worked. (Phew!)

I'm a huge fan of the Hummingbird loaves - they're so simple but the taste would easily fool people into thinking you've slaved away in the kitchen for hours. I only have three more loaves to go from the pink bible... I think the cinnamon and raisin may have to wait for Christmas, so Pistachio or Cardamom next - both things I've never baked with!

It's all black and white

I'm such a fan of cheesecake. Baked cheesecake, though. Any other kind just isn't right. Nine times out of ten, if I'm in a restaurant and there's cheesecake on the dessert menu, I know what I'm having (though I am also a sucker for a custard pud)!

The Black and White Chocolate Cheesecake from the little pink bible is my idea of heaven. Cheesecake, plus chocolate, in a handy, snack-size bite? Yes please!

I had a little helper making this recipe as my middle niece Megan was sleeping over with Auntie Leanne. She's a little chocoholic, too, so the only problem we could find with this treat was how long we had to wait for it to set in the fridge after baking!!

I think the dish I used for my base was smaller than that recommended, as I had quite a bit of mixture left over. Of course, I had to save some for the black "blobs" on top of the bars, but I managed to make an extra cookie out of it too!

Here's what I ended up with after the first bake...

Good enough to eat already!

The rest of the bake is easy. Cheesecake-making is so simple, I'm sure a monkey could do it... though I'm not sure monkeys like chocolate? They need a banoffee pie...

Bearing in mind my dish was smaller than the one recommended by the Hummingbird, we ended up with slightly thicker than normal bars... but I'm not complaining. Extra thick cheesecake base and topping? Oh yes!!

Friday, 30 September 2011

A meringue dress...

After the failings of the coconut pie, I had some egg whites left over. I've been eager to try the lemon meringue cupcakes after seeing so many beautiful examples on the Hummingbird Bakery's Facebook page (!/HummingbirdBakery) so I grabbed the spare egg whites and set to work!

The cupcake is very typical of your usual Hummingbird cuppy, but with a twist of lemon. I love lemon curd and was finger-lickingly happy to add a dollop into each cupcake after it had cooled. The method used reminded me of making butterfly cakes with my mum when I was small!

I love the colour of the lemon sponge, too - so golden and bright!

So far, so good.

Next came the meringue stage. I believe this method of making meringue is the Italian method, not one that I'm familiar with having never tried it. In fact, I've never had much success with meringue full-stop so I was determined to get this right!

Two attempts and many eggs later... I got my beautifully frothy meringue! Note to self - take your time cracking eggs, even the tiniest bit of yolk in the whites will sabotage your meringue... sabotage it, I tell ya!!Also - mind your fingers on the sugar syrup. I know the pink bible says this, but I didn't pay much attention. But do... it's very, VERY hot!

I'm not yet the proud owner of a cook's blowtorch, so I popped the meringue-topped cuppies under the grill and knelt in front of them... I know they can catch really quickly so I wanted to be vigilant. My hubby commented that I looked like I was praying for a good result... he wasn't far wrong!

And I think I did ok. I hunted high and low but couldn't find any gold glitter dust in my baking cupboard, though I think the meringue would look magical with a shiny sprinkling over it.

What I've learned this week is: don't bake while you're nursing a cold as it leads to runny coconut pie and too many attempts at Italian meringue... that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it!

Coconut shy?

Ok, ok, I have to admit it... I've had my first Hummingbird failure!

After the success and yumminess of the Coconut cake that I made earlier this year (, I had been looking forward to trying out the Coconut Pie for ages.

Unfortunately, this time the custard element caught me out.

All went well with the pastry. I think I've got quite a knack to making good pastry after my old nan taught me when I was a wee nipper, so that bit was a doddle.

I even had enough left over to make a separate heart-shaped casing. I was doing well... or so I thought...

I got to the coconut custard stage and was starting to juggle things a bit. I had to whisk until I got a custard-y consistency. And there's my failing... I guess I just like my custard less thick than the Hummingbird!

I thought the filling looked a little runny as I lay the cling film over, but I carried on regardless and followed the recipe. But, when after a whole night in the fridge the filling was still liquid, I knew I'd been beaten!

Oh well, I'll live and learn... the coconut custard did taste really good though!

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

It's not Wimbledon, but...

It's coming to the end of the summer season, so I'm making the most of all the beautiful strawberries around at the moment. And what better way than to cheesecake some up!

The Hummingbird's Strawberries and Cream cheesecake will not disappoint. Firstly, the fact that I didn't manage to get a photo of the cheesecake before everyone tucked in should tell you everything you need to know!

And secondly, my brother didn't believe that it was homemade - speaks volumes!

The filling is just your typical Hummingbird cheesecake with the addition of some stewed strawberries. I love the way they colour the cheese... swirly and pink, brilliantly girly!

The mascarpone and cream topping, with a touch of icing sugar, was beautiful - I could have eaten that dolloped on strawberries all day! I did do a pretty decoration of chopped strawberries, but then the cheesecake was cut into pre-photography so you don't get to see that, I'm afraid.

Everyone had a spoon of extra strawberries on the side - to make it half-healthy, you see - and the noises coming from those who were tucking in. Well, if you couldn't see what was going on in that room you might've wondered what you were about to walk into...!