Thursday, 31 October 2013

Halloween biscuits

Life is slowly getting calmer and finally I have time to get back to baking.

First up are some halloween biscuits. I do not really do anything for halloween but perusing blogs and pinterest I have seen some fantastic creations that inspired me to bake a goulish creation for my workmates.

There were two issues, I had time but not a whole lot of it so nothing that would take hours of elaborate decorating. That lead to the second issue, I am not very artistic and have never worked with fondant in my life. Besides which I do not really like fondant icing. So something not too time consuming, halloween-y and tasty. Quite the challenge (for me at least!)

Rooting through the cupboards I realised I had all the ingredients for ginger biscuits, an excellent start, I love ginger biscuits. Further rooting found a gingerbread man cutter, a couple of gel food colourings, and icing sugar. All the components needed for spooky happenings I think.

I decided to make half zombies and half skeltons, this was for two reasons 1) I did not know which one I wanted to make more and 2) I did not know if I could do skeletons and figured if I was really bad they too could be turned into zombies

Gingerbread men

makes ~16 depending on cutter size

125g butter
100g golden syrup
50 grams light brown sugar
50g dark brown sugar
300g plain flour
tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 good tsps ground ginger
1/2 tsp of cinamon

Grease a couple of baking sheets and preheat the oven to 200C/180C FAN. Put the butter, syrup and sugars into a pan and warm gently until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. 

Mix the dry ingredients in large bowl then stir in the wet ingredients until all the ingredients are incorporated. 

Place a piece of baking parchment on a work top and dust with flour. Roll out the dough to 1/2cm thick and stamp out gingerbread men. Re-roll the trimmings to get more men.

For those gingerbread men doomed to be zombies pull off an arm or a leg. Yes pull. A knife leaves too clean an edge. 

Place the men on the prepared and baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. Transfer the gingerbread men on a wire rack and leave to cool completely.


For the skeletons I made up a simple icing using icing sugar and water. I made it very thick but smooth. I put it into a freezer bag then snipped of the tiniest corner. I then piped my bones onto the skeletons. The scariest thing about these skeletons is their bone anatomy! There are lots of pictures online from very simple to very complex, I plumped somewhere in the middle.


I used red gel food colouring and dabbed around the missing limb, dark at the edge, smudging to a lighter stain as I moved further away.

Similar to the white icing for the skeletons I made a red icing and did various eyes and mouths on the zombies. Either crosses for eyes, or angry diagonal slits. Mouths were zig zag teeth or open holes. I added a few scars to each zombie in icing too. Finally I took my green food colouring and  made my zombies look more rotting and dead by dabbing and smudging it around limbs and edges of the zombies.

Warning these are very crunchy biscuits, if you like your biscuits softer these are perhaps not for you.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Chocolate and hazelnut cake

I miss baking! In my last post I mentioned that I had been away with work. When I got back the oven was (temporalily) broken and then I went away on holiday. Holiday was very nice but I do miss the act/smell taste of some baked goods. I am away this weekend too (brownie camp) so I doubt October will be very fruititous in the baking department.

Still I did find time when I was away to make this, quite frankly, delicious cake. It was devoured fast enough by my fiances family and myself.

This cake is a cross between a maryland cookie, ferrero rocher and a cake. If that has not convinced you to give it a try nothing ever will.

A vanilla and hint of coffee sponge, packed with hazelnuts and dark chocolate, topped with a chocolate glaze and more hazelnuts. Yum.

Chocolate and hazelnut cake (recipe adapted slightly from Nigel Slater)

makes one deep cake

250g butter (I used lactose free spread)
100g demerara sugar
100g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
4 eggs
2 tablespoons of coffee, made and set aside to cool slightly
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
200g chopped hazelnuts
250g of dark chocolate, chopped

30g butter
1/2 tablespoon golden syrup
tablespoon of double cream

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN. Grease a 23cm spring-form tin, line the base with baking parchment and flour the sides.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the coffee. Fold in the flour, baking powder and salt until almost combined. Finally fold in the hazelnuts and chocolate, reserving 30g of each, until no streaks of flour are visible and the chunks of nut and chocolate are evenly distributed. 

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and level the top, bake for 70-80 minutes until golden and cooked through. Mine took 75 minutes, after 1 hour I covered the top with foil. 

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Leave the cake to completely cool. 

To make the topping put the butter, golden syrup, cream and reserved chocolate in a pan, heat gently, stirring occasionally  until the chocolate has melted and all the ingredients are combined. Remove from the heat and set aside for 15 minutes to thicken up slightly.

Spread over the cooled cake and sprinkle with the reserved hazelnuts. 

I should say that I had no electric whisk just a wooden spoon and elbow grease and it turned out lovely.
I would say this is a special enough cake for any occasion, but it matters not if this occasion is simple because it is a Tuesday.

This cake contains chocolate and as 'C' is the letter for this months alpha bakes I am going to enter this cake, I suspect Ros is going to get a lot of entries with chocolate in this month...

Monday, 7 October 2013

Bake along with bake off- Pistachio salambos

Arghh what a crazy crazy couple of weeks. I have been away with work, not even managed to watch last weeks bake off let alone try and bake along with it. I think I will have to cut my losses (nothing from sweet dough week and nothing from whatever was last week) and bake along with whatever the theme is tomorrow, and I do not even know what that may be.

These little pistachio delights I made for the week the contestants made petit fours. If my memory serves me right in the trailer for the bake off I am yet to watch I  am sure the contestants were making some sort of choux based delight for the technical challenge so these  do kind of fit!

They are a mini choux bun, filled with orange blossom cream, dipped in caramel and chopped pistachios. They are truly delicious.

Pistachio salambos

makes 12 mini

1 egg, beaten
25g butter
33g plain flour
15g pistachios, finely chopped
60g caster sugar
75ml  double cream
few drops of orange blossom water

Fold a sheet of greaseproof paper in half, open out, and sift the flour onto it.
Put the butter and 60ml water into a pan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Quickly bring to the boil and add the flour all in one go. Take the pan from the heat and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon, as you beat it will turn into a smooth dough. 

Put the pan back over a low heat, and beat gently for a minute more until the  dough comes away fro the sides of the pan to make a smooth glossy ball. 
Tip the dough into a mixing bowl and leave until barely warm. 

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C FAN.

Using and electric whisk gradually add the egg, beating well after each addition. The dough needs to be shiny and stiff, it should just fall from a spoon if lightly shaken. You may not need all the egg, do not make the dough too loose or it will spread out not puff up in the oven.

Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a narrow plain nozzle and pipe 12 small mounds equal in size, onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper, spacing them well apart. Bake for 20 minutes.

Open the oven door to release steam, turn the temperature down to 180C/160C FAN and bake for a further 5 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Make a small whole in the side of each choux ball to let out the steam and return to the oven for a final five minutes. Transfer the choux buns to a wire rack to cool.

Make the caramel by dissolving the sugar in one tablespoon of water. increase the heat and gently bubble until the caramel turns a deep golden. Dip the top of the choux buns into the caramel followed by the pistachios.(If the caramel begins to set before you have dipped all the buns gently warm over a low heat) Set aside to set.

Whip the cream and a few drops of orange blossom extract together until stiff enough to hold a peak. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a narrow nozzle and pipe through the steam hole. 
These need to be eaten as soon as possible once they are filled. I filled a couple to eat straight away and kept the others unfilled , with the cream in the fridge, and ate over the past couple of days. They were their absolute best the day they were made but perfectly yummy the following days.