Saturday, 23 February 2013

22 February 2013

31 July 1924 - 22 February 2013
It's been really hard trying to decide what to say in this post.
 
I'm not very good at this sort of thing normally, and especially today, but I felt that I should explain why you haven't heard from me so much recently, and why you may not for a little while yet.

My lovely mum died yesterday after fighting a losing battle over the last few weeks with pneumonia and then complications which set in. She fought so hard, so bravely, but this time luck was not on her side.

I will be back, but just not yet.

Susie x

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Sweets for my Sweet - Valentine's Baking


So Valentine's Day is upon us once again.

I can't believe how fast the last few weeks have gone. I've had a really tough week, and all ideas of Valentine's baking for this year have gone out of the window. I'm simply going to enjoy spending some quiet time with Mike, counting my blessings.

However, now I've finally got a little time to take a breather, I thought I'd just recap on some past recipes, that if you're looking for a special treat for a loved one, may fit the bill.

First off are some Valentine's Red Velvet Cupcakes.


If you follow me on Twitter (@FoldintheFlour), you may recognise the little cake in the top photo as my avatar. I remember baking these last year, when this blog was still fairly shiny and new and I was just beginning to get out of my normal comfort routine of baking things that you could make in one bowl. I'd found a great post on a blog which showed how to do the cut out heart, but I added  the twist of the rose swirl peeking out through the heart. I know this may sound a bit egocentric, but I was so amazed at how it came out that it's one of my all time favourite bakes. It's also my most popular post on the blog.


If you are just after a quick little bite, that if you have a bit more time you can spend jazzing them up a bit, these little Cranberry Shortbread Hearts are for you. The cranberries add a little burst of tartness in the crumbly shortbread. I dipped them in white chocolate and added a bit of coloured sugar. They would work fabulously as a little gift, as once the chocolate is set, you can package them up easily.


Then there are these Amaretto Sweetheart Cupcakes. I used a bit of Amaretto in the cake batter to give a lovely hint of almond, and topped them with heart shaped sprinkles and white chocolate hearts made in a 'Love Heart' mould from Lakeland. They're also made in silver foil heart shaped moulds. Bit of a heart theme going on with that one! 


For the chocolate luvvers out there, you might like to have a go at these decadent Cherry Chocolate Brownies. They're simple to make, taste amazing and also show how a good chocolate brownie recipe can be used for a base for any number of flavours. I used them here with dried sour cherries, but I've used different chocolate flavoursin the past (Maya Gold anyone?), nuts including hazelnuts and walnuts and other dried fruits (blueberries and cranberries). They've all turned out great. I'm showing them here with some whipped cream and cocoa sprinkles, but they'd make a great pud, warm from the oven with a scoop of frosty vanilla ice cream. 

Hmm, maybe I will bake something after all ...


There is, of course, for the serious display of affection, my Bouquet of Roses Cake. Dark chocolate sponge with a ruby buttercream piped in roses.

Takes time? Yes. Over the top? Maybe. Worth it? Definitely!


Finally, if you have a little time, and you're looking for a gift from the heart, there are these Pistachio Macarons with a Dark Chocolate Ganache. These were my first attempt at macarons, and remain my absolute favourite. They take a little time, but are so worth it. I was planning on revisiting these using a heart-shaped macaron mat I've bought, but I simply haven't got around to it. I'm sure the opportunity will present itself soon, though.


If you're interested in macarons but want something a little different, there are my Rose Macarons with a Lemon Cream Cheese Filling. Again, once made, they are fairly robust and look fabulous as a gift, nestled in some tissue paper in a pretty box.

I hope these have given you some ideas if you're looking to do something.

But I guess, more importantly, whatever you're doing tomorrow, I hope you have a great time and get to spend it with that special someone.

Happy Valentine's 2013.

Susie

Friday, 1 February 2013

Valentine's Bouquet of Roses Cake


If we're being honest, Valentine's day tends to pass me by a bit. As a teenager, I remember getting excited about it, only to face the realisation that it was going to be yet another year without receiving a card (although I gave a few). Heck, it was yet another year without even the merest sniff of a boyfriend, so I suppose fair's fair. But it is hard to stand by and watch others gleefully receiving when you are not.


When Mike and I began going out during our uni days, I eagerly anticipated my first Valentine's card. I could not believe how upset I felt when, after handing over a lovingly and painstakingly selected card - just the right hint of intimacy but with a certain sangfroid - and gift, it slowly dawned on me that Mike was standing there looking pained. He had forgotten. He tried to pass it off, as did I, but it was too late. I had a severe case of wobbly lip and was stifling tears. A hastily drawn heart on a piece of card was proffered. It wasn't bells and whistles, but it was good.


As the years have gone by (over 25 of them now) I've realised that I have something far more valuable than a card on one day of the year. It's the little things he does for me every day that really matter. Like still laughing at my really poor jokes. Like putting up with my addiction to Amazon and cookbooks (and handbags). Like queueing for hours at Ninian Park to get FA Cup tickets (OK, maybe not every day for that one). Like making me a tea for breakfast and a coffee after a hard day. Like bravely attempting some d-i-y for one of my whims. Like getting up to Sam during the night. So many things I can't possibly list them all here. He may not be perfect, but he's all I want.  

So this cake is for Mike.

That being the case, it's chocolate. Rich, dense chocolate.

Covered in rich, red buttercream, iced to resemble roses.



I wanted to bake a deep, dark chocolate cake to go with the red. The recipe I used is adapted from one in Annie Rigg's 'Make, Bake and Celebrate'. It was fairly straightforward and produced a lovely, moist cake.

Valentine's Bouquet of Roses Chocolate Cake

Ingredients (makes one 23cm / 9 inch cake)

125g 70% chocolate
300g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tspn baking powder
pinch of salt
125g softened unsalted butter
200g light brown soft sugar
200g golden caster sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
2 tspn vanilla extract
225ml room temperature sour cream
175ml just boiled water

For the buttercream
375g softened unsalted butter
450g icing sugar
2 tbspn milk
red and violet food colouring - I used Wilton's gel pastes

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Grease and baseline two 23cm / 9 inch sandwich tins.

Break the chocolate into chunks and melt it in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Put on one side and allow to cool.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, bicarb, baking powder and salt.

Put the butter and both sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle, beat for 3 - 4 minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg, and mix until smooth (scraping down the bowl if necessary). Add the vanilla and chocolate.

Add a third of the flour mix and mix until just incorporated, then half of the sour cream. Continue with a third flour, half cream, third flour. Mix until smooth. Very slowly and carefully, add the boiling water, and mix in.

Bake in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Mine were a little big to sit next to each other on the same shelf, so I had one one the middle shelf and one on the bottom. I swapped them after 15 minutes, but the one from the bottom shelf was still very runny in the centre and needed an extra five minutes (making 30 in total for that cake) after the other one had cooked. 


Place tins onto a wire rack, cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely.

When the cakes are totally cool you can decorate them. I made up the buttercream by mixing the butter and sugar, and adding a little milk until I got a consistency I liked. You may need a little more or less icing sugar than I've quoted, but see how you go. I then added some food colouring. It took a lot to get the deep rose red colour I wanted (about 2 tspns), and I even added just a little violet to help deepen the colour (just a toothpick worth).


I used a little of the icing to crumb coat the cake, and then let it chill in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.

To get the roses, I used a Wilton 1M tip to pipe. You start in the centre and swirl outwards, this creates the little folds that look like rose petals. You just fill in any gaps with a little more buttercream.  


Finally, I should warn you though, that following one of the steps in the original recipe left me a bit concerned. The final step in mixing the sponge is to add some just boiled water. Supposedly with the mixer still running, albeit slowly. I can see why - as it makes the mixture lovely and smooth, and adds moisture to the cake. But, and it's a big but, I found it really dangerous, as by this point my mixer was pretty full, and so adding the just boiled water made it splash everywhere. Over the counter and over me. This is something that you can overcome by gently folding it in first, and then turning the mixer on. But you do need to be careful. It's not something I would have wanted to do if Sam had been running around me.

Anyway, the finished cake is definitely worth it.

So an early Happy Valentine's Day, baby.

Loves ya lots.

Susie

I'm entering this into this month's 'Achy Cakey Heart' Calendar Cakes challenge, which is being organised by Laura at LauraLovesCakes and Rachel at Dollybakes. This month's host is Rachel, and the roundup of Valentine's themed bakes will appear on her blog at the end of the month.