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...!

Monday, 8 August 2011

All a-struesel

I'm still undecided if not having a lot to say about a cake is a good thing or a bad thing. I think, though, on this occasion it's a good thing - the Apple Struesel cake was unbelievably easy!! I had a little helper in the form of my 12-year-old niece and she did practically the whole thing, that's how simple it was.

But the taste... oh my, I went back for seconds! I'm not usually a fan of fruit on sponge as it can make the sponge soggy, but no worries with that here. Mainly because I doubt the cake will last that long!

Simple and tasty - no complaints about that!

I wonder what this one would taste like with rhubarb instead of the apple... might have to give it a try!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Use your loaf

I think I have a problem. A loaf of a problem. I can't stop making the Hummingbird loaves! It's no bad thing... they're utterly delectable, but I keep meaning to try my hand at some more cupcakes but getting side-tracked by a loaf of two!

Tonight's loaf was a bit leftover-friendly. After making the blueberry crumble loaf at the weekend, I had a pot full of blueberries left over... not being a fan of the blue berry, I needed something else from the pink bible to chuck them into. Enter stage left - the Blueberry and Soured Cream Loaf.

A very quick and very easy recipe... I think even my boy could manage this one! Just your typical "mix the wet ingredients, sift in the dry, gently stir in the berries. Et voila! Into the oven for an hour...

I've just sliced the loaf and it feels so moist under the knife. I think I was rather generous when I added the soured cream to the mix... but, the more the better in my book! Makes me wish I liked blueberries so I could have a taste though. I'll have to await my workmates' feedback tomorrow.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Do not disturb - busy baking

Wow - what a weekend! It was my dear old nan's 80th birthday celebrations this weekend and the whole of my dad's side of the family got together for a bit of a shindig. I, of course, was tasked with feeding the 500 with desserts and cake!

First of all, I knocked-up a pretty little (read: big) birthday cake for nan. It's not a Hummingbird recipe (blasphemy!!), but it was pretty so here are a couple of pics...

This was the first time I have made such dainty little flowers... they didn't turn out how they looked in my head, but, still, I was more than happy with the end result.

Anyway, on to more important matters - the desserts! I wanted to do a cheesecake - my first Hummingbird cheesecake! - so opted for the Lime and Chocolate one. I figured the ladies of the family would be happy with the chocolate, and the lime meant we could pretend it was one of our five a day.

I'd read on the Hummingbird's Facebook page that some people had had some issues while baking the cheesecake. You wrap the cake tin in tin foil and place that into a large baking tray, then add water. Bearing the Facebook warnings in mind, I made sure the tin foil was double-strength and there were no gaps! Plus, I didn't add quite as much water as was recommended, just to be on the safe side.

I think it turned out ok! I split the cheesecake a little when transferring it from tin to pretty plate, but it was nothing a bit of grated chocolate didn't mask (baker's secret!).

Next up, I wanted another fruity recipe so went for the blueberry crumble loaf. I was a bit worried about this one - I'm not a fan of blueberries so wasn't sure how many of my family would be. I worried needlessly - this one was a massive hit!

I loved how the blueberries gave the loaf mix a pretty tinge of purple as I gently stirred them through.

I couldn't bring myself to brave the berries and try to loaf, but I did steal some of the crumble topping... I'm now a convert - all future crumbles by moi will feature chopped pecans!

What a lovely weekend, and a great excuse to try out some new Hummingbird recipes :)

Friday, 29 July 2011

Cookie monster

This weekend is turning out to be a bit of a baking bonanza, and we're only on Friday night! It's my dear old nan's 80th birthday celebrations on Sunday, and I have been tasked with supplying the birthday cake. Of course, me being me, I'm not just going to go out and buy one of Tesco's Finest... so that's why I've spent tonight baking two big, square victoria sponges in preparation for icing and decorating tomorrow!

The whole family are getting together for nan's birthday knees up, so - good as my birthday cakes supposedly are (I've had some excellent feedback, which is always nice!), I don't think my relatives would be too impressed if I showed up with only that to offer, considering how many goodies I've been shipping off to the office lately!

So, this evening I traipsed around the supermarket collecting enough baking ingredients to feed a small army - which is quite apt, seeing as that's what my family is equivalent too!

First on the list were the Apricot and Almond Cookies. I'd never put fruit into cookies before I baked the apple and oat Hummingbird cookies last week and they were delish, so I was pretty confident these apricot ones would be a hit. And... let's just say, I only have my own opinion so far but - two cookies down already - I wasn't wrong!

Even the cookies dough for this one tastes better than I could have imagined.

...and it literally took me all of about ten minutes to knock up! One handy hint - the recipe calls for "roughly chopped dried apricots". Rather than having to drag out one of my gorgeous, but super-heavy, chopping boards, I simply used some kitchen scissors to snip the apricot right into the dough - easy, and less washing up!

My little pink Hummingbird bible recommends that this recipe gives 10-12 cookies. Either I'm being tight with my dough-per-cookie, or the Hummingbird is being more generous than Santa on Christmas Eve, but I got 15 healthy-sized cookies out of the recipe.

Only problem is, I've already munched and rounded this 15 down to a baker's dozen... and I'm not sure the remaining 13 are going to survive until Sunday! Well, 13 is unlucky for some...

Friday, 22 July 2011

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy

I think I'm a little bit in love with the loaf recipes in the Hummingbird book - the Lemon and Poppy Seed one included. Considering I'm a bit of a cupcake junkie, this is quite a revelation! Though, I must admit, it may be down to my laziness to spend my evenings in the kitchen icing each individual little cuppycake.

The loaves are all as easy as it comes - mix everything up, whack it in a loaf tin (very Jamie Oliver!), and bake for up to an hour. See, even the baking time allows you to go away and do something else. I'm always so wary when I put cupcakes or cookies in the oven as they take no time at all to bake and tan.

The Lemon and Poppy Seed loaf was no exception. Everything went in (including Ricotta cheese - who'd'a thunked it?), and came out an hour later smelling deeelish! The deliciously tart lemon syrup was dribbled over the top and, literally, that's it!

My office guinea pigs are omitting lots of mmms - I think this is a good thing!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

An apple a day

If there's one way I recommend of getting your five-a-day, it's with the help of the Hummingbird. I haven't ventured far into the fruity-bakes territory yet with the Hummingbird's latest book, but I think these cookies may be the start of something beautiful.

I've made these Apple and Oatmeal Cookies tonight purely because I don't have the ingredients in for anything else! But, for once, my disorganisation has paid off. These, my friend, are LUSH!

Apples, oats, and a helping of cinnamon (my favourite!), trust me... perfect cookie rolled into one! I haven't gone wrong (yet) with a Hummingbird cookie, so I definitely plan to try some more very soon.

I did have one or two concerns while making these little delights - the recipe calls for light brown sugar, but I only had light brown muscavado sugar. I've used muscavado in cookies before, so was quite certain it would be fine. And it is, but I'm not sure if this might be the reason that my "dough" for more of a "mix". Regardless, the mixy dough has baked up just fine.

Another substitution was the use of Pink Lady apples instead of the Granny Smiths that the recipe asks for. The all-important taste test has proven that those little Pink Ladies are just as good as old Granny Smith in this instance!

Fifteen loooooong minutes in the oven, and I finally got my cookies. Why is it that time goes more slowly when you're looking through the oven glass? ;)

One word of warning - be careful when dolloping your dough on to the baking sheets, as if they're too close you'll end up with a merged, giant cookie. Actually, you might like to try this... :)

I'm sure my work guinea pigs will appreciate all the slaving over a hot oven I did(n't) do tonight. Or, as per usual, they'll all dive in as soon as I've sent the "help yourself" email round the office! I think that's a sign that my baking is all right...