Saturday, 21 April 2012

My very own Chocolate Chip Cookie production line

My brother, Dominic, was running a Rugby camp for 9-year-olds this week, so I figured the least I could do was volunteer to make some afternoon tea. Of course, when you have 40 9-year-old boys, ravenous after hours spent running through the bush in the pouring rain, you need to have A LOT OF COOKIES. I believe I made 110 cookies all up and, like a mad woman, I  counted all 995 of the choc chips and divided them equally among the cookies to avoid any arguments between the young'ns over who had the most.

Although I was not present at the camp, I heard via the grape vine that they were devoured greedily by the boys. It is, I must confess, a wickedly good cookie dough. I think it is the salt that makes it so moorish. That cloying after-taste, which lingers at the back of your throat when you eat too much sugar, seems to be absent with the addition of a teaspoon of salt. I'm not sure if there is any truth in the claim that 'a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down', however I'm quite convinced that salt does just that with sugar.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Macaron and Cupcake Masterclass

On Sunday I was lucky enough to spend a whole day at a Cupcake decorating and Macaron Masterclass at Carrick College: a christmas gift from my big brother, Ben. In the morning we made the macarons shells, Cream cheese frosting, butter cream and chocolate ganache. After lunch our teacher demonstrated red velvet cupcakes and we decorated a batch of enormous vanilla cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting and butter cream we'd made earlier. Don't let the red colour of my macarons fool you. They were neither raspberry nor strawberry in flavour. In fact, I flavoured my buttercream with coffee extract and Kalua, for wonderful coffee flavoured macarons and, of course, the remainder were filled with chocolate ganache.

It was a great day and the best part of it all was coming home at the end of the day with an enormous box of coffee and chocolate macarons, as well as cream cheese frosting and fondant topped cupcakes to enjoy with my family. Thanks Ben for the wonderful present! Here are some photos for you all to enjoy.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Nana's Hachapuri from Nigella Lawson's 'Feast'

Those who know me well know that I am a big fan of Nigella Lawson. It was her book 'How to be a domestic goddess', a gift from my darling friend Sarah, that really sparked my initial interest in baking. That was 6 years ago now and my love for baking and cooking all manner of things has continued to grow and flourish under the tutor-ledge of the incomparable Nigella Lawson.

If you haven't tried the Georgian specialty Hachapuri, you're in for a treat; if you have, you're in for a repeat treat. It is basically a bread with a gooey, cheesy filling. The bread in question is really a soda bread, made with bicarb as a raising agent in place of the usual yeast. This makes it incredibly quick to make, because soda breads do not require proofing (rising). The cheesy centre in question is made up of fresh ricotta, fetta and mozzarella. I didn't actually have ricotta in the house, so I used cottage cheese in its place with an equally successful result.

Do try this delicious Hachapuri recipe- it's simple and incredibly yummy.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Banoffee Pie: as easy as pie

Whoever thought up the old expression 'easy as pie' may well have been referring to the process of making what I believe to be the easiest of all pies to produce, the Banoffee Pie. Not only is it one of the most simple things to make, it tastes so good that people will believe you have slaved away for hours. There is no longer any excuse for you non-bakers to stay out of the kitchen. No kitchen wizardry, nor indeed any gadgets of any kind are required to make this. So get your aprons on and into the kitchen with yer.

Banoffee Pie


1 can condensed milk
250g digestive biscuits or your biscuit of choice (I like hobnobs best)
100g Unsalted butter, softened
2-3 bananas
1 Tblsp lemon juice
300ml thickened cream (cream for whipping)
50g icing (confectioner's) sugar


The day before you make the pie, or indeed longer if you'd prefer, place the can of condensed milk into a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and leave to on a low heat for 3-4 hours. Turn off the heat and allow the can to cool completely before removing from the water. Extra cans of condensed milk can be boiled and stored in the pantry for future use, saving you the hassle of boiling up another can the next time you have a craving for banoffee pie.

[Warning- While this process entails very little effort, do make sure that the can remains submerged under water. If you allow the pot to boil dry, the cans will explode. As a preventative measure, place the can sideways in the pan so that should you be forgetful like me, at least the can will not explode all over the kitchen, but merely inside the pot. Even better idea: set your timer for every half hour to check that there is enough water in the pan and top it up, if necessary.]

The next day, place the biscuits into a plastic bag. Hold the opening of your bag upright to prevent any contents from spilling and, using a rolling pin or other heavy apparatus, bash the biscuits to smithereens. You can certainly use a food processor for this, but frankly, why bother washing up more than you need? Pour the contents of the bag into a small bowl and mix in the softened butter. Press this mixture into a small pie dish, so that it comes all the way up the sides of the dish. Put in the fridge to set for at least an hour.

Open the can of boiled condensed milk and spread it evenly onto the biscuit base. Slice the bananas, sprinkling them with a spritz of lemon juice to prevent them from discolouring, and layer them on top of the luscious thick caramel base. In a medium bowl, or the bowl of a mixer if you'd rather, beat the cream and icing sugar until stiff peaks form. NEVER, and I mean never, walk away from a mixer when you are beating cream; it can turn into butter in the blink of an eye, so watch it closely. I put the cream into a piping bag with a star tip, however, there is absolutely no need for that. Feel free to just plonk the cream on top. It will taste the same either way.

There you have it: a banoffee pie that really is as easy as pie.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday tradition- Egg cracking competition

Every Good Friday for as long as I can remember, we have decorated hard-boiled eggs for lunch. Of course, the eating of the eggs is NEVER as fun as the egg cracking competition that precedes it. Everyone takes an egg, then you partner up with someone and crack your egg (pointy side forward) against your partner's. I've never in all my egg cracking years seen two eggs broken simultaneously- if they did, the game would be ruined. You see, the winners of the first round go head to head in the second round, then those winners go into a third, and so on and so forth until there is a grand champion.

If you haven't done it before, you really should try it sometime. Kids absolutely LOVE it too.The good news is that it isn't too late to do it this year: why not have eggs for breakfast on Easter Sunday?

Happy Easter everyone!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Waffles on a Sunday

My lovely niece and nephews, Dani, Matt and Ryan, came over on Sunday morning to join Mum and I for a spot of brekky. What better way to begin a Sunday than with a fresh batch of waffles? They're pretty hard to beat.

You can serve waffles with just about anything you want: Ice cream, maple syrup, berries, banana, nutella, nuts, whipped cream and, believe it or not, I recently discovered that creme patissiere is very good indeed with waffles. Of course, I don't expect you to have that laying around. I happened to have some leftover from a cake that I made, so I froze it and then defrosted it in the microwave. It froze exceptionally well, so it is worth keeping in mind if you want something extra special with your waffles, without having to go to the effort of making custard early in the morning.

How, you may ask, does a waffle batter differ from pancakes?
Fairly straight forward, really. The only difference is that the eggs are separated, the yolks added to the batter and the egg whites whipped and folded through before cooking. If you haven't got a waffle machine, you could certainly cook this batter in a fry pan. What you will get are beautifully thick and fluffy pancakes, with a hint of crispness on the surface.

Bon appetit!

Recipe (yields 8-10 waffles)


225g Pastry flour (plain flour will do fine)
pinch of salt
15g Baking powder (about a tablespoon, I believe)
3 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups milk
50g unsalted butter, melted
30g caster sugar


In a large bowl, combine the flour salt and baking powder. Make a well in the centre. In a small, separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks, milk and butter. Pour these wet ingredients into the well in the centre of the dry.Gradually whisk the flour mixture from the outside of the well into the wet ingredients until you have a smooth batter, free of any dry ingredients.

In a third, medium sized mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy and white. At this stage, continue whisking, incorporating the sugar little by little. Beat until stiff peaks form- to test this, hold the bowl upside down over your head; if they are whisked properly, there is no fear of them falling on your head.

Take a third of the egg white and whisk into the batter. Then, fold the remainder of the egg white delicately into the batter. The batter is then ready to use in either a preheated waffle maker or a good, non-stick frypan. Serve as you desire- the possibilities are endless.