Sunday, 18 September 2011

My First Large, Fondant Covered Cake (with Chocolate Roses)

Actually making a fondant covered celebration cake is something I've been meaning to do for at least the last year. This was one of the things on "my baking bucket list" along with swiss rolls, bagels, layered jellies and sour dough bread. All things that I've been really nervous of for some reason - yet when I've actually made the effort, found the nervousness totally unfounded.

The sour dough remains on that list - but I've actually booked a sour dough artisan bread class on the 9th of October. I'm going with my friend Victoria and am really looking forward to the day out !

The thing that worried me most about this was not baking the cake. I made a classic madeira cake which was ok, but nothing special. I'm not going to post the recipe, as I've found a far better recipe since that I would use next time I make a large covered cake.

My concerns lay in how good a job I'd do in fondant covering it. I was worried my fondant would all be cracked or bumpy and not smooth. If I'm going to take on a project, I like to make a good job of it. If I think it'll be a total hash - I'd rather not attempt it in the first place !

Given the fact that I was going to attempt this and also hoped it was something I could continue to do in future, I invested in a turntable. It really is not required, but does make the job of covering a cake so much easier.

On reading, I found that crumb coating is essential for a nice smooth surface. I had made two 8" madeira cakes. I trimmed these to level and used wild blueberry preserve and buttercream to fill. The buttercream needs to be quite soft and smooth to crumb coat. Basically, it involves covering the whole outside of the cake in a thin layer of buttercream. This fills any little air holes in the cake's surface and seals the crumbs in.

After leaving it to dry, I covered with my fondant. I used 1kg of regular pre-made block fondant. It was a bit on the sticky side (brand I've never used before) - so I decided to add a little colour and 3/4 cup of melted belgian chocolate. I simply kneaded the chocolate into the fondant, wrapped in cling film and left it to firm up.

There are loads of good youtube videos that show you how to fondant cover a large cake and I'd suggest watching some before your first attempt. Using a silicone work / rolling mat with a tiny amount of shortening rubbed in made the job easy. I had no need to dust with icing sugar or cornflour - there was absolutely no sticking whatsoever.

After fondant covering, the fun bit of decorating could commence.

I've recently been playing with modelling chocolate. It's basically melted chocolate mixed with corn syrup and mixed to a paste. Once left to harden, this turns into a clay that can be used almost like (or instead of) fondant. It's super good fun turning it into roses !

Corn syrup is not widely available in the UK - unless mail ordered from specialist American online stores.

As an alternative, I tried Agave nectar. That worked pretty well, but took a lot of beating with a spoon and a considerable time to get to a paste consistency. Golden syrup works well. It's thicker and I found I needed a little more of it. The final modelling chocolate is more resilient though and does not melt and stick to my hands at anything like the speed of the agave equivalent.

I used 300g of dark chocolate (54%) and 125ml of golden syrup. Only about 100ml of syrup is needed with white chocolate as this has a higher fat content.

Do have a look at this YouTube video which shows you how to make modelling chocolate and the roses. It really is fab....

I need some practice yet - but these are my first chocolate roses....

Sarah-Jane Nash,  September 2011 -

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Neapolitan Jellies - done my way ! (Foodbuzz #5 19/9/11)

Just because I'm on a low carb, low fat diet doesn't mean I can't cook nice things. The world won't stop turning and I'm not going to stop baking.

It does however take a lot more initial thought and imagination (unless I've no intention of eating what I'm making). General meals are easy and very little effort, but treats take a lot of thought.

I came up with the idea for these last week and was desperate to get round to making them. I knew Oliver would love them if nothing else !

These pretty little jellies require very few ingredients and are easy for any cooking novice to make. However, if you want to make thin multi-coloured layer jellies (rather than one colour) it does take a little patience. Thicker layers like the other one I did in a 1lb silicone loaf mould are easy to do as you simply pour the mix in one lot at a time.

A graduated disposable pippette is essential. They are really really cheap - I've just bought a pack of 100 from Ebay for £3.70 including post (see item number). I'd also advise the use of a silicone bakeware mould - it makes jelly making SO easy. This mould is a brand new design we've got in called 6 JAGGY HEART. Blame Richard for the name ! Right enough - it's getting difficult as we're introducing more and more heart design moulds and have to be able to identify which is which.....


250mls of ready made strawberry milkshake
250mls of ready made chocolate milk shake
250mls milk
1tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tin of condensed milk
3 sachets of gelatine granules (I used Dr. Oteker)

Start by lightly oiling your chosen mould with vegetable oil. You don't want loads - just the tiniest bit to create a film. The cells of the 6 JAGGY HEARTS mould are 60mls in volume. I made the six and used excess mixtures to make a simple 3 layer jelly in a 1lb loaf mould which was later cut into slices.

Start with the first flavoured "milk" you plan to use. I used Muller low fat milk shake. Put a sachet of gelatine granules into the pan and pour on the milk. Leave for 10 mins to sponge.

Put the milk on a low / medium heat and warm to just below simmering, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat  stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons of condensed milk. Pour into a clean bowl. Repeat the process for the other flavoured milk.

To make the vanilla milk mixture, add the vanilla extract to the milk and gelatine granules. Repeat previous process. You may need to add a little extra condensed milk.

If you are using a detailed mould like the 6 JAGGY HEART, you can build up your layers a little at a time. After each layer, chill in the fridge until set. The thinner the layer, the faster it sets ! My first layer was set in about 3 minutes. Once set, add the next layer.

The only real tricky bit with this one was the outline round the edge. I only used about 4mls of jelly mix to do the tiny rim round the edge. I can't imagine it being achievable without a pipette.

The weather had been rather miserable (very over cast and high winds). The light in my kitchen was atrocious for taking photos. My results were dire and I was most disappointed as these jellies were so pretty. All of a sudden, the sky started clearing and a patch of blue appeared.

I legged it into the garden with my mirror board and literally grabbed about two minutes maximum of sunshine before the clouds all blew over once more. I used mirror board before to take photos of these jelly shots and I'm really starting to like it as a medium.

It's been an eventful week so far. This little chick hatched this morning, with some help. Henrietta has been broody for a few months now and was close to starving herself unless allowed to hatch out some chicks. 

I got some bantam hatching eggs from a local chicken keeper and sat them under her 3 weeks today. One chick tried to hatch yesterday, but I found it dead still in the shell last night. On checking in on Henrietta this morning. This little chick was trying to hatch, but for whatever reason, Henrietta had kicked it out her nest. It was still in the shell, stoney cold and barely alive.

I brought it in the house and warmed in my hands and slowly helped it out the shell. At this point, I really thought it didn't stand a chance as it lay lifeless and cold in my hand. Tiny little thing - only about 2" long.

After breathing on it for quite some time, it started to revive and cheep. We then sat it on a tiny little hot water bottle inside a sandwich box and covered over with a tea towel. About an hour later, chick was gaining strength and had opened it's eyes.

Oliver was intrigued and sat with me the whole time as I had the box on my knee. He even brought  his favourite toy elephant for the chick to cuddle and wanted to try and stuff it in the sandwich box !

As soon as it gained enough body heat, I took it back out and popped it back in with a very excited mummy hen. All we could do was hope the chick was going to be strong enough to make it. Henrietta tucked it underneath her, clucking away loudly.

On coming home tonight, Oliver and I went to check on how they were doing. Chick popped out for few seconds - long enough for a quick photo. It's all fluffed up now and very vocal. Fingers crossed, it should stand a good chance now. Henrietta still has another two eggs. There was no sign of pipping, but we'll see in tomorrow if any more are going to hatch.....

Yesterday, my 3yo washing machine broke. £45 call out later, I discover it was going to cost me another £45 call out and £180 for a new printed circuit board to fix it. I had stacks of washing backed up - so it spurred an emergency washing machine shopping spree. Thankfully, new one arrived this morning and I'm starting to get on top of my massive amount of laundry...... What fun !!

Sarah-Jane Nash - September 2011 -

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Baked Chicken Curry with Green Beans and Rice

This recipe originates from Madhur Jaffrey, Curry Easy, but has been adapted a little. My dad got the book from Christmas (I don't think he's used it !) and it looked so good I had to go and buy a copy for myself.

I've used it a few times now and can really recommend this book for easy and tasty home made curries, most with minimal effort and suitable for weeknight cooking. I made this about 5 or 6 weeks ago. I'm afraid I still have a big backlog of blogging to do ... Despite the diet, I'm intending making this again soon but will sub the rice for some roasted red peppers that have been simply seasoned and just rubbed with the tiniest bit of olive oil.

The original recipe used 1.25kg of bone-in chicken, but I used 1kg of boneless chicken breast and drastically reduced cooking time

Ingredients for curry

1kg chicken breast fillets, each cut into bigish pieces but not too thick
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
5 tablespoons of greek yoghurt
1.1/2 tablespoons ground corriander
2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 a tsp of cayenne pepper (or double as I did for a bit more punch)
6 cardamom pods
oil (for basting
4 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

Put the chicken in a large , non reactive dish in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper and the lemon juice. Set aside whilst you prepare the other ingredients

Combine all other ingredients (cumin, corriander, yoghurt, cracked cardamom pods, turmeric and cayenne) in a bowl and then smear this all over the chicken. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Bring your marinaded chicken to room temperature the following day.

Preheat fan oven to 1800deg C

Put the chicken on a baking tray and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Scatter the chopped onions over the top and bake for 15 minutes.

Take out the oven, turn the chicken pieces over and baste with any juices / onion pieces. Cook for another 15 mins at approx 200deg C.

For halogen oven cooking, cook on backing tray at top rack at 250deg C (grill function) The chicken pieces will be cooked from raw in approx 12 minutes or less.

Serve the baked chicken with rice and your choice of vegetables. I used some green beans, boiled until just cooked and then stir fried with some cumin seeds, mustard seeds and linseed.

My mum and Oliver, Mellon Udrigle - late August 2011

At the end of last month, I took a trip with Oliver to the very north of Scotland to tiny little place called Mellon Udrigle where my parents have bought a little beach house.... It's quite a long trip to get there (plane flight and then 5 hours or so by car). Oliver and I intended to stay up there for a week, but unfortunately we had to make an emergency trip back home after just two days as my husband was taken very ill.

You really cannot get closer to a beach, and it's right on a secluded little bay. The weather when we were there was pretty dire - the whole of the UK was having very high winds and rain. In the two days, I think Oliver only got on the beach for about 2 hours total. You can see there is a lot of seaweed on the beach, ripped up from the seabed floor during the storm.  I believe all the seaweed was taken back out to sea the following day and the beach left clean.

Steve is still very poorly. We spent Sunday night in a&e at the hospital. Doctors again tomorrow - it's been going on for a month now and we need some answers ! Rather stressful around here at the moment.

Another photo - shows how close the beach house is to the sands ! A stones throw....

I've had a few emails asking how the diet's going. I'm good thanks. 3.1/2 weeks in, 13lb down. Long road ahead - but I've adjusted well. Been doing a bit of baking (though not eating it personally) and have a few things to blog soon. You might start seeing things like loads of soup recipes in a month or so - as I'm generally having a bowl of homemade soup once a day and some salad or lean meat / fish and some fresh veg. That's about it..... but I'm not missing sugary stuff or carbs. Long may it continue !

Sarah-Jane Nash,  - September 2011

Friday, 2 September 2011

Banana Creme Caramels

This might make you laugh..... I'm on a diet ! Seriously - I've been doing pretty well.
 Two weeks and 8lb down so far. Long way to go right enough, but hey ho - I've done it before, so nothing is impossible.

 No starchy carbs for me - I'm on absolutely no flour, bread, pasta, rice, potatoes (so that means cake too). That means fat and sugar consumption are minimal too (butter, sugar etc just aren't on the menu) Just some lean meat or fish and fresh vegetables and a small amount of fruit. Actually, I'm not that hungry despite eating only about 600 > 700cals a day. First few days of no carbs gave me hideous migranes but those are long gone now.

Saying that - I've got a couple of blog posts from last month still to do with cake photos

I made these just over a week ago and very good they were too (from the little taste I had).

 They got the thumbs up from Oliver - who kept opening the fridge just to check if there were any left and from the lads at work who got to scoff the rest after Steve and Oliver had devoured one each.

This recipe is a bit of a twist on a classic creme caramel recipe. I had a couple of bananas left that were totally black and ready for the bin. Having made (and given away) some banana and walnut teabread the day before, these remaining bananas were screaming to be chucked in the bin. However, they were absolutely glorious baked into this creme caramel.

I used a 6 cell extra deep silicone muffin mould for my creme caramels. I also use this mould for mini victoria sponge cakes and small single pies. When making small single pies, I've got one mould cut into 3 x 2 cells. After making the pies (but before baking) I wrap and freeze pairs of pies for future use and bake right in the same mould after defrosting.



120g white sugar
2 tablespoons of water

For the Banana Custard

400mls full fat milk
1.1/2 over ripe (black skinned) bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar

Put the sugar and water in a large heavy based frying pan or saucepan. Put over a medium heat. Don't stir - just leave and watch until the sugar has melted and starts to turn a golden caramel brown.

Pour a little of this into each cell of your mould and swirl it around to coat the bottom and partially up the sides as far as you dare. CAUTION - the sugar will be seriously hot and can burn ! You need to work quite fast as the caramel will harden quickly.

There is enough sugar to do 8 cells, but only enough of the custard to make 6 banana creme caramels.

You can see the caramel in this cut up mould that I use for pies - just a shame there was not enough custard to fill these ones too !

For the banana custard :

Using a fine sieve, force the black skinned bananas through the sieve using a wooden spoon to form a smooth puree.

Add to this, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, 2 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks and whisk to combine.

Heat your oven to 150deg C Fan

Look out a roasting tin that your mould will fit into, and get a kettle of water ready to boil.

Heat the milk in a pan with the sugar until almost simmering. Remove from the heat and whisk the hot milk into the banana / egg mix.

Strain this mixture through a sieve into a jug ready to pour into your moulds.

Put the mould into the roasting tin and fill all 6 cells. Mine filled to within 3mm of the top of each cell..

Carefully pour boiling water into the roasting tray around the mould. The water should come at least 1/2 way up the side of the cells.

Pop the roasting tray into the oven. Your creme caramels will be cooked in approx 25 > 30 mins. The tops will have a skin developed and may brown a little. You want to cook until the top centre is solidified, but still wobbles.

Allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight to let the carmel start to dissolve and infuse into the set custard base.

To release, run a blunt table knife round the top of each cell. Give a little push to the bottom and simply turn out. There may be a crunchy disc of caramel pop out as well as some liquid caramel. This can be left on and will start to dissolve as the caramel starts to warm a little in room temperature. Quite nice to sever it with the crunchy bit too though !

Sounds hard, but in fact very easy to make and an impressive looking pudding. Never known them done with bananas, but it was subtle and worked really really well.

Hope you are all well and looking forward to dropping in on your blogs soon

Sarah-Jane Nash, September 2011 -