Get baking for Movember

If you’re not able to “donate your face” to Movember this year but you know someone who is and you want to help them with some fundraising, there are lots of brilliant moustache related goodies out there.

I spotted these in Oliver Bonas the other other day – Munchstache Cookie cutters from Fred & Friends. The cutter has an indented pattern on the top so you can flip it over and stamp some beautiful texture on to your Wolford, Baron, or Bristle Brush shaped mo amongst others.

They look super fun, my only reservation might be whether the cut dough comes out easily from the cutter but the stamper means less decorating work to make them look fab.

You could also try  the Fuzzy Inc ones which are available via the Movember website – looks like they ship from the US.

Wilton make these rather fab Mustache Molds (note the US spelling if you’re looking for them online!) which could be used with chocolate as well as their candy melts.  Not so widely available here with paying a hefty shipping charge, but could be used again and again.

[Edit – it seems that the Munchstaches might be sold out online at Oliver Bonas. Try in the stores or also available here.]

In the UK, all the ‘Mo Bros’ who participate in Movember help to stimulate conversation about men’s health and raise awareness of the most prevalent male cancers, testicular and prostate. 

Golden Biscuiteer Bunnies


I had an idea to make some biscuits to welcome in the Year of the Rabbit – well, mostly I just wanted to make biscuits.  Bake something. Partially because I find baking particularly conducive to ‘thinking time’ where my mind wanders off and it’s a great stress-busting exercise as well as being productive.  Not forgetting the fact I also have a ridiculously sweet tooth. However, baking generally tends to be easier, and less stressful, when you haven’t forgotten to buy eggs.

The Biscuiteers book came to the rescue with an eggless recipe for Treacle Spice Cookies which I tinkered with to make these golden bunnies.  I was so excited when I bought this book – not for the gloriously embellished slices of sugar themselves, more for the comprehensive range of base biscuit recipes (10 in total) because many doughs simply don’t hold up to rolling and cutting. The book itself is more of an artist’s primer in some ways with lots of technique and decoration ideas, and you’ll have to like sugar. Or pretty food. But as usual with Kyle Cathie, it’s beautifully photographed and designed.  It probably wouldn’t be the most used cook book on your shelf but hey, just take it down occasionally and look at the pictures.

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 25g Golden caster sugar
  • 25g light brown sugar
  • 100g butter, unsalted (not softened)
  • hefty pinch of sea salt
  • 50g Golden Syrup

Method

  1. Sift flour, baking powder and spices together and then mix in the sugars.
  2. Rub the butter in with your fingers as if you were making scone, until it’s like breadcrumbs.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the incorporated mixture and add in the Golden Syrup and combine to an evenly-coloured dough.
  4. Divide into two pieces, shape as discs and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 170c/350F/Gas Mark 4 when the dough is chilling, then cook for 14-18 minutes.

These keep remarkably well. I was going to make a lemon cream filling – but none of them survived long enough to be sandwiched.

The Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits by Harriet Hastings and Sarah Moore is published by Kyle Cathie, ISBN 978 1 85626 941 4.

Apple Pear and Rose Cake

I’ve never made an apple cake before but it’s autumnlike and blustery and it seemed like a good time. I threw pears into the shopping basket too and when at home, wondered if they wouldn’t work well together, with the right augmentation.

According to Niki Segnit, author of the Flavour Thesaurus, apple can contain surprising elements such as nutmeg and anise, as well as nutty notes near the core which can be reminiscent of almond. She flags apple and pear as a very well established pairing, and quince is another pome fruit. That she credits with apple, pear, rose and honey tastes. Hence the roundabout inspiration for this cake.  It’s an adaptation of a recipe by Allegra McEvedy which was in the Guardian, which I went for mainly because of the quick prep and cooking time.  It turned out to almost more like a clafoutis than a cake but I thought calling it that would just confuse matters. Not that I encourage this sort of thing, but I imagine it would work well with a dollop of cream and a grating of nutmeg. Or some thin, rich, eggy homemade custard.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 175C.  I used a 25cm square tin, and spray oil to grease it.

Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs, preferably organic
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 250g flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 150g butter
  • 240ml water
  • 1 large Bramley apple, chopped
  • 2 large Conference pears, chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp Rose Essence
  • Light brown sugar to garnish

Method

  1. Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick
  2. Sift in the flour and baking powder, using a whisk to mix gently until incorporated
  3. Melt the butter and honey in the water and add in the mixture
  4. Drop the fruit into the batter
  5. Shake sugar over the top
  6. Bake for 40-50 mins until a cake tester comes out clean, and leave to cool in the tin for 10 mins
  7. Slice around the edges to free the cake, then upside it onto a plate and flip again so the apples are on top

You may want to tone down the rose but it seemed to go down well with the Baked Goods  Tester Panel so I’ve left the quantities as I made it.


Chocolate Banana Pantry Cake

I have a problem with bananas. The problem is that I buy them, forget about them and then I’m compelled to bake with them. Yeah, I know, the epitome of firstworldproblems.

This started off as a banana loaf cake idea and then the Green & Black’s cocoa fell out of the cupboard (I really should tidy up more) and it seemed worth trying.  Then it turned into pantry cake when I started pulling more things out of the press, including cherries and walnuts. The cherries melt a little like dates and led to the tasters asking if there was booze in there. Not this time….

Makes a 1lb loaf. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4, 180c.

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 35g of slightly salted, very soft butter
  • 50g demerera sugar
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 50g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g cherries, chopped (the natural ones)
  • 50g chopped dark 70% chocolate
  • ½ tsp good vanilla extract
  • 75g wholemeal flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¼ tsp salt

Method

  1. Mash the bananas and butter together
  2. Add in the egg, vanilla, sugar, cherries, chopped chocolate and walnuts and mix together
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt together and add into wet ingredients
  4. Cook in a lined loaf tin for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean

Improves over a day or two too.

Ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

It was all in the name of clearing the pantry, I swear it. Also in response to a plantive request to resurrect baking, which has been sadly lacking in this household of late. This is an adaptation of an adaptation of an Elinor Klivan’s recipe.

Ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Indulgent and very intensely chocolately. I used higher cocoa-solids chocolate to balance out the fat in the peanut butter. They’re crumbly on the outside and a little fudgy in the middle.  Get a very large glass of milk ready.

Ingredients

  • 125g high cocoa chocolate (Green & Black’s 85%*)
  • 4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter (I used Skippy)
  • 150g flour
  • 30g cocoa
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 125g soft unsalted butter
  • 70g soft brown sugar
  • 40g unrefined caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, cold from fridge
  • 100g 70% chocolate, chopped

Method:

  1. Set the oven to Gas Mark 3 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, and then stir in the peanut butter once cooled.
  3. Sieve the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt into a big bowl.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar and then add the chocolate peanut butter mix.
  5. Beat in the vanilla and egg and the dried ingredients until everything is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate.
  6. Divide into 12 portions (an ice-scoop is useful here)
  7. Cook for 18 minutes, cool on the tray.

One thing that would improve these even more would be throwing in a handful of chopped jumbo salted peanuts. Next time.

*Disclaimer – you can use any high cocoa chocolate, I do work for Green & Black’s and I’m lucky to have quite the supply in the house at the moment.

Macadamia Orange Macarons with Caramel Filling

I had egg whites in the fridge and couldn’t think of anything to make that wasn’t meringue-based.  Ok, not strictly true. I’ve been obsessed with macarons for a while. Yes, I am using the poncy French spelling. That’s because I am particularly obsessed with the French, perfumed, pastel morsels served up by the likes of Pierre Herme and Laduree. Though the first ones I ever made were pistachio, to a Nigella recipe, to ensure that I had something suitable for a coeliac friend who was coming to afternoon tea. That’s the basic recipe that I used to start off this version.

The Macarons:

Ingredients:

  • 75g macadamias
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 15g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp orange essence

Oven – 180, Gas Mark 4

  1. Grind the macadamias and icing sugar in a food processor.  Probably more finely that I did, as it led to a barely but visibly bumpy surface to the cooked macarons.
  2. Add the orange essence to the eggs, then whisk the two egg whites til stiff but not dry. Add the caster sugar. Whisk til stiff.
  3. Fold the whites into the macadamia sugar, gently.
  4. Pipe on to a parchment baking sheet.
  5. Allow to sit so they form a skin.
  6. Cook for 10-12 minutes, then cool on the sheets.

I put two trays in the (non-fan, bane of my life) oven and the bottom ones cracked slightly, so will know not to do that again.

Caramel Filling by Girl Cook in Paris:

For the filling, I knew I wanted to do some sort of caramel. I spent some time drooling over researching macarons (like Edward’s amazing ones, with lots of tips too) and went with Diane’s step-by-step, including mise-en-place tutorial. I still feel a little limited because I don’t have a stand mixer, and waited for the boyfriend to come home to help. Supervise. Take me to the A&E with burns.

In fact it’s simple, and safe as long as you follow the instructions.

I did wonder if it was going to work, beating the cooled caramel in with cream cheese and butter.

It did. I piped this glorious splodgy cream onto the paired up macarons and found that I had half a piping bag left over.  So I filled some experimental chocolate tartlet shells (experiment is a nice way of saying I screwed them up) with the remaining mixture, and popped a sliver of chopped Montezuma milk chocolate button on top.

I dropped some of these off yesterday to various people in town – because if we eat all of them, frankly we’ll turn into Teletubbies. Would you like some?

East London Saturday

It was a stolen day today – our plans for museum visiting and tea with friends were foiled by unforseen work commitments. Not ours. So we were left with an entirely free agenda. Naturally we decided to fill it with food.

First up, a wander through Victoria Park in blazing sunshine, coupled with cold noses from near zero temperatures.  Then veering off through not-so picturesque industrial estates and along darkened underpasses: all to find the Counter Cafe.  When you see the Ca_lton tower, you’re there.

It’s a brunch menu, served throughout the day.  Two super-smooth lattes to start with, complete with the obligatory antipodean feathered milk tattoo. We chose the Big Breakfast and the French Toast and berries with a side of bacon.  Salty and sweet rules my world.  The Big Breakfast includes skinny sausages, fat slices of lean bacon, sunshine yellow fried eggs on wholewheat toast.  Along with crispy homemade potato cakes, homemade butter beans in tomato sauce and superb tomato relish (available in jars to take away).  The French toast – thick square slabs of golden goodness and fried bananas, scattered with sharp berries and flaked toasted almonds and the obligatory miniature jug of maple syrup for pouring.

The crowd is mixed – Guardian-reading couples, friends gossiping over coffee, walkers fresh from the Capital Ring tucking into substantial breakfasts. They consciously try to use organic ingredients where possible.  Interestingly, less families than the often overrun Pavilion in Victoria Park, another local favourite. I’d quite like to potter down to the Counter Cafe on a working day and settle into the old cinema seats by the window, use the wifi and write in the sunshine.

Fliers on the table directed us down to Stour Space, for their monthly Craft Fair.  It’s an artists’ collective and studio space – super friendly people and a nice collection of designer makers.  So many pretty things – sadly so many makers without websites. Grr. (How?? In this day and age? Mutter mutter </rant>).  The fair is on the last Saturday of every month – certainly worth a look.

Following the canal all the way, we wandered to Broadway Market. We’d been promised Hummingbird today as an afternoon sweet treat – but plans for town went out the window. So we came in search of Violet cupcakes. I have to say, I was slightly perturbed when we got home to discover that they were scattered with flecks of ‘dust or something’. I suppose we’d bought them at the end of the day.  Dammit. They still tasted good – better than good. Some of the best I’ve had.

Passionfruit and Blood Orange.  Wonderful once tucked up at home with tea again. Shortly we’re off to another local Supper Club – And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Our Bread. It’s the Evil Menu. Should we be scared?