Thursday, 28 April 2011

They're getting married in the morning!

Everyone loves a good... muffin! I haven't made a Hummingbird muffin before, so what better time to try than for a Royal wedding? And what better muffin than the mixed berry?

Obviously these mixed berry muffins aren't for the happy couple themselves... Wills and Kate can go hungry as far as I'm concerned, these muffins aren't going anywhere!

I made a few alterations to the way I usually bake, and a slight alteration to the recipe itself this time. Firstly, I was making the MBMs (mixed berry muffins) at the boy's house, so I didn't have my trusty Kenwood with me, or even an electric hand whisk! So I went old-school and did this one entirely by hand... never again...! I'm used to using KC now.

The next change was the cases. I usually use cheap and cheerful paper muffin cases - nothing wrong with that, it's typical for most bakers. But this time I thought I'd give some silicon cases a go. I've used them once before but wasn't very impressed... this time, however, they did their job and I'm a (tiny) bit more in favour of them.

Now on to the recipe - the only change I made here was to the berries. The recipe states that you can use any berries, so I changed the listed blueberries (yuk!) for some chopped strawberries to accompany the raspberries.

The only difference I would say this made, is that the higher water content in the strawberries possibly had something to do with the muffins not browning as much as they perhaps could have.

The recipe itself was simple to follow and literally took about ten minutes to knock together... and I did think the berry-littered muffin mix looked particularly attractive in the colourful silicon cases with shiny white sugar sprinkled on top!

The recipe in the pink bible doesn't state a baking time, but my muffins took about 22 minutes to bake... this will, of course, be different depending on your oven among other things.

Now all we need is the wedding to kick off so we can tuck in. Cheers, Will & Kate!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter BBQ treats

I had a bit of last minute baking inspiration yesterday morning, so had a quick browse of my little pink bible, a rummage around my cupboards and thought I'd "quickly" knock-up the Peanut Butter & Chocolate Pie.

I didn't have much time to spare, but this pie didn't involve any "baking" as such and the little blurb at the top of the page said it was a simple recipe... so I thought I'd have time. Oh no no no... simple doesn't mean quick! That'll teach me to read through the recipe through before I start! But, it was worth the time...

A four layer pie with cookie crunch, peanut butter, chocolate AND cream isn't to be sniffed at. In fact, is there much better?

I finally got all the layers stacked and looking pretty in the tin...

...then came the moment of truth - would the pie stand up once the tin was released and, more importantly, how would it taste?

Both questions got a big thumbs up! The pie stood up, and my nieces and nephews gave it a big thumbs up when they nommed down after our Easter BBQ. I think that's what they call a result!

Happy Easter, everyone.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Picnic treats

Y'see, one of the dangers of telling friends and family that you're on a mission to make everything in a cook book, is that they soon start flicking through the pages and placing their orders!

With plans to go on a seaside picnic tomorrow, the boy got his order in for some coconut and jam sandwich bars... and I was only too happy to oblige, what with coconut and jam being one of my favourite couples.

I thought this would be quite a simple "biscuit and spread" recipe, but how wrong I was! All sorts of whipping (easy, tiger), pre-baking and heating was involved.

But it's all been worth it... I've had a sneaky taste, and the end result is yum, just yum!!

Can see this being a permanent addition for all future Farnell picnics!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Left-over sweet treats

After making Whoopie Pies at the weekend, I had a little bit of yoghurt left over. Being a super-duper-housewife-in-the-making I didn't want to throw it out, so I scanned my little pink bible for another recipe to chuck the left overs into...

The Orange, Almond and Yoghurt Loaf has left my kitchen smelling tropical! There didn't seem to be too much orange zest in the recipe (for those of you that aren't keen on "peel"), but the aroma - Mmmmmm! Says it all.

This was sooo easy to make. Throw everything in, and ta-da! The baking time was spot on, and the end result is zingy perfection.

I've brought the chopped up loaf into work today for a taste test so I'm hoping for the thumbs up... if the smell's anything to go by, I don't think I'll be disappointed!

I'm not left wondering if I could count this as one of my five-a-day...? ;)

Friday, 15 April 2011

Merci buckets

This weekend the boy and I are going on our jollies for a couple of nights, so my lubberly friend Toni and her fella Andrew are coming to stay at mine to dog-sit for Bobby and Amy... and what better way to thank them than with cake!!

Of course, this means getting out the little pink bible and finding a couple of yummy recipes to knock together. I still had a bowl full of Whoopie Pie filling sitting sweetly in my fridge, so my first pick was the yummy-looking chocolate whoopie pies and, just a few pages further on, I fell in love with the caramel cupcakes.

I set to work making up the chocolate whoopie mix and popping it in the fridge to chill out while I threw together the caramel cupcake mixture and spooned into muffin cases ready for the oven...

I left these to one side while I baked my whoopies - I love this recipe... they only take ten minutes in the oven and cool so quickly, perfect for if you don't want to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen but want something that looks cute and delicious!

I wasn't sure how good the left over whoopie filling I had would be, but after giving it a quick mix and a taste test I thought it was fine, so I set to work filling and sandwiching my pies while the caramel cupcakes were baking away in the oven - multitasking at its best!

The (other) best thing about this recipe is the lack of need for neatness... the filling is all hidden so you can whack it in any ol' how, and I think the cracked tops on the "pies" make them look rustic and beautifully homemade - perfect!

The caramel cupcakes, on the other hand, are a work of baked art... the golden sponge is intensified by the caramel condensed milk and I can imagine (as I haven't tasted them yet) this also helps keep them moist and sweet.

Naked cupcakes!

I had a go at a bit of a "shallow" Hummingbird swirl...

For the finishing touch I "blobbed" (yes, that's a technical term!) some extra caramel on top of the icing, et voila! I have just had a thought that some very tiny chopped caramel pieces would finish these cupcakes off perfectly - will try this next time I make these little beauties!

Oh, and another note - I only made up half of the caramel icing... I quite often have a lot of icing left over from Hummingbird recipes and I thought the caramel cupcakes would be sweet enough without oodles of gorgeous buttercream, so I simply halved all the ingredients. For 18 cupcakes, the amount was perfect!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A double whammy day!

Having been abandoned by all and sundry today (basically meaning the boy!), I thought I'd take advantage of some "me time" and wreak havoc in the kitchen... and wreak havoc I did!

Mum gave me some rhubarb from her garden last weekend, and so I was more than chuffed to find a rhubarb and almond loaf recipe in my little pink bible. It all seemed very straight forward... although I must admit a slight moment of housewife weakness when I had to call my mum to double check "you do have to peel rhubarb, don't you?". Showing my inexperience there!

So I got my (peeled) rhubarb stewing away while I prepared the rest of the ingredients, whacked the lot (how Jamie Oliver of me!) into my one and only loaf tin with fingers crossed it was the right size (it was - just!!), and got to work making some Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies while the loaf spent the next 50 minutes baking away in the oven.

I've been looking forward to making more whoopie pies since receiving my delivery of marshmallow Fluff earlier in the week, so I still feel a bit deflated that they didn't "quite" go to plan.

What I consider to be the pie part - the "shell" - turned out fine, if a little rustic looking, but that I could cope with.

It was the "whoopie" - ie the filling - bit I had issues with. Whether I didn't whisk enough, or didn't chill enough (it has been unusually warm here today), I don't know... but my poor little whoopie pies didn't end up looking quite as neat and tidy as I'd have liked!

I haven't tasted one yet (out of protest!), but as soon as the boy gets home I will be shoving one in his direction and awaiting the verdict!

Back to my rhubarb and almond loaf... and it was a minor success!

I may have left the loaf a touch too long in the oven, or possibly not compensated for my fan assistance (I've never really had to in the past, but it may be different with this tin as it's rarely used), but it's only the top that looks a little tanned so I think I can get away with it!

And, having just had a sneaky taste, this one's pretty darn good (I'm super-modest!). The stewed rhubarb brings a bitter yet sweet taste, while keeping the loaf moist and crumbly all at once. It practically tastes like one of your five a day - just what I like in a cake!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

From whoopies... to snickerdoodles!

Getting home from work this evening to a parcel of marshmallow Fluff, I was all set to get stuck in and make some real, proper authentic Whoopie Pies after having to improvise with the choc chip ones at the weekend and fill them with buttercream instead of marshmallow.

But, in typical Lea fashion, I was missing another key ingredient! So, determined that my poor, deprived work buddies weren't going to miss out on my Hummingbird treats any longer, I had a quick flick through the book and stumbled upon the Snickerdoodle cookies.

Now, these are technically a Christmas recipe, being packed full of one of my favourite spices - cinnamon. This week, though, this is kind of fitting. Despite our almost tropical temperatures today (got to love global warming!), yesterday was a bit more on the nippier side and I was wearing a jumper with a reindeer on, so I thought I'd continue in the festive spirit with the Snickerdoodles.

All went perfectly to plan with the recipe. I let KC do the work and came up with a lovely cookie dough, which I left to chill out while I ate dinner...

I often make the mistake of not leaving cookie dough, pie pastry etc long enough to chill before I handle it, but I think I got the doodle mix just right, as the cookie balls rolled out easily, and I even spaced them out right on the trays and didn't end up with one giant cookie (not that that would have been a problem!).

And there you have it, my most successful cookie attempt ever. I'm definitely a more experienced cakey girl, but after how simple these cookies were and how well they have come out, I think I may be extending my talents in the coming weeks and months! I've taste-tested one cookie (perk of the job) and, I have to say, they're good!

I just hope my friends, family and colleagues are up for the challenge of eating all future attempts - good and bad!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Whoopie, it's Mother's Day!

Being a slight baking fanatic (slight...!), and both my mum and step-mum being slight baked-good fanatics, I thought it only right that I continue my Hummingbird year with some Mother's Day baked presents for them both!

Unfortunately, I had to "tweak" my chocolate chip whoopie pie recipe slightly before I'd even started it. I planned to pop to a "well-known supermarket" last night to pick up my ingredients ready for baking today... but I didn't consider that said well-known supermarket wouldn't stock the elusive marshmallow 'Fluff'.

So... rather than a nice sticky, fluffy filling, my choc chip whoopie pies have a sweet and scrumptious choc buttercream filling!

Other than that, this easy-peasy recipe went without a hitch...even though my little (I say little, he's 21 now!) brother was "helping" (ie, hindering) me!

I have rarely baked a successful cookie, I'll admit it. I get carried away and put the dough too close together on the tray, and I end up with one giant cookie (what's the problem, I hear you ask?). But positioning the whoopie dough like below seemed to do it!

The baked whoopies came out perfectly and cooled very quickly, ready for slathering with lashings of buttercream, sandwiching together and dressing up in pretty little boxes.

Et voila, you have yourself a homemade Mother's Day gift! (Better than anything I ever made as a kiddy...)