Monday, August 31, 2015

Trying a new fondant

So if you have been following this blog recently you may have notice that I have gotten more into working with cakes, particularly celebration cakes. When I attended the amazing cake course at Fair Cake, and made these delicious cakes, we used a lot of Renshaw fondant. This fondant was definitely easy to work with and tasted quite good over ganache. However I thought that it took the ganache to make it delicious.It looked pretty good too!

Therefore I decided to try out another fondant and, naturally, review it for you! So what is the fondant? Fondarific!

I read a great many reviews when considering which fondant to try and what I gleamed from this was that the 'best' fondant on the market, according to these bloggers, is Satin Ice. However Satin Ice presents issues for the novice caker; it tears easily on corners, it wrinkles easily and gets 'elephant skin, and some people claimed that the taste was somewhat artificial! So I looked elsewhere. Fondarific comes very highly rated among many cakers and is apparently the fondant that Duff Goldman uses and sells (re-branded with a hugely increased price-tag) as duff fondant. Since 'Ace of Cakes,' was the first cake shows that I ever saw, and became enamored with, it seems very appropriate to try this fondant.

So what is it like? I bought the 2.5Kg Antique White Buttercream Fondant. It comes in this adorable little bucket!! Inside the fondant is packed into a plastic bag

The instructions say that the texture will depend on the time of year. They say that in summer the fondant may be soft and winter it may be very hard. Well it is August here and the fondant is rock hard. Granted, it's 20'C here in the UK, so maybe that's considered cold weather. The instructions told me to microwave the fondant for 10 minutes and then work it on a counter top. The instructions say that one should use little if any cornflour. My first attempt at rolling I used none, but it stuck to everything including itself, so I used a small amount of cornflour.

I fondanted a small 4" cake (nightmare size). I found the fondant very soft as I applied it. However this gave me lot of time to work with it before it dried. It also meant that the tiniest pressure left indents and marks, which meant that I had to keep working on it. Here's the finished cake and please excuse the lighting

I have to say - I love the colour, it's a beautiful rich creamy white! You can see how it also shines, which is something that I really enjoy. It dried well overnight. But my favourite part? The taste! This fondant tastes delicious!! If you have ever bought vanilla fudge from a pic-n-mix, that is Exactly what this tastes like. It's fudgy and smooth with a delicious vanilla flavour and I am very impressed. This will not only make your cake look good but will enhance the flavour!

So it remains to be seen how this fondant will work on bigger, or more complicated cakes but so far I would definitely consider buying it again! I was not sponsored or compensated for expressing these opinions but if you would like to look at this fondant yourself here's the website.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Last of the summer....

I would love to claim that I spent the weekend out picking berries in the sun, but no. Thes closest berry farm is about 2 hours away and we had other commitments this weekend. That said I did have a lot of berries on my hands this weekend, why? Health efforts and health scares.

Last post I wrote about these healthy crackers. They are part of a number of different healthy changes. One of which was introducing more smoothies into my diet. This is not the first time I've started a habit of drinking smoothies and Every time I do there's another outbreak of hepatitis in frozen berries. I have so so much sympathy for those that have contracted hepatitis from frozen berries because it is deeply, deeply unfair. Each and every time I start drinking smoothies, it is due to a renewed desire to be more healthy. If, like me, those that have been affected by these outbreaks were drinking smoothies in an effort to be more healthy just to get hit by an illness that may affect them for the rest of their lives, well that is just plain unfair! So this is my way of saying to you - boil all your store-bought berries for at least a minute before eating!!

For smoothies,  I now buy fresh berries and freeze them myself. Expensive? yes, but worth it! However now I have a whole lot of berries that I can't use for smoothies. So what do you do with all these?


You guess it??! Jam!

I've made lot of jam before but always the quick kind that needs to be used within a month or two. However, with this many berries it's necessary to make something that is a little more long-lasting! So this time we will be preserving.

The jars need to be sterilized fully before putting the jam in, particularly as it needs to last a few months. To sterilize them, I washed them well with soap and water before putting them in an oven, that was brought up to 225'C/437'F, and heating them for 20 minutes. Put the lids in boiling water

Triple Berry Jam

1400g Berries (Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
1200g Jam sugar
Juice and rind of 2 lemons
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 - Mix all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan

2 - Bring up the heat slowly until boiling, stirring constantly

3-  Continue to stire while maintaining a rolling boil

4 - Continue to boil until it reaches 105'C/220'F.

5 - Remove from the heat and let cool slightly before spooning into the jars

6 - Attach your lids, according to the instructions of the jar and let cool.

Then - and this is important - you must find multiple colourful strings. Choose two. Twirl them around the jar. Then - very important - make a homemade sign! Use the string to attach the sign and tie it off on the side! Why must you do all this?? Because it's jam and if it doesn't look pinterest worthy then what kind of baker are you???????! Oops, inner monologue, erm, please ignore that and decorate how you like!

Leave the jars 24hours to cool and then you can store them in a cool dark place for up to a year! Then enjoy them on toast with butter and love....

Monday, August 10, 2015

New Favourite Snack

Sit down! Take a load off, and let me tell you about my new favourite snack!

As I mentioned last week, I've been working on a number of cakes recently, and as a result, eating a lot of cake recently. So during the week I've been attempting that whole "clean eating" thing. Now, I fundamentally disagree with the term "clean eating." So what? My delicious cakes are somehow dirty?! I think not! In fact I fully ensure not!! #foodsafetyiscool. The psychologist in me (I know I rarely mention this) knows that making some foods clean (good) and some foods unclean (bad) is not a psychologically healthy way to approach nutrition. Not to mention that much of the "clean eating foods" that people talk about online are just over-priced processed (in a natural way) stuff from whole foods and basically it feels like a scam! All of that said, I can see the merit of watching one's consumption of sugars and simple carbohydrates. Therefore this is something that I do during the week to balance out all the wonderful cake consumption.

The hardest thing about this is that some nights you just need crackers to get you from home time through the dinner prep. These babys are just the trick. They are crunchy, a tiny bit sweet and perfect with cheese, jam, or just on their own. Not to mention they have all the health benefits of chia seeds and flax seeds, which adds up to a wonderful hit of omega-3 fatty acid, which is very very good for you!

They are easy to assemble, but take a while to cook so I would recommend doing them on a day where you are gonna be around the house and I would recommend doing multiple batches at once.

Flax and Chia Seed Crackers

165g flax seeds (I used a mix of golden and brown)
3 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp almond flakes
350ml water
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 - Preheat your oven to 100'C/210'F. Place your flax and chia seeds in a container and cover with
     250ml of the water. Let this sit for 15 minutes.
2 - Add 50ml more water and let sit for another 5 minutes
3 - You can add the last 50ml if the mixture is still thick and add with this add the agave nectar,
      vanilla extract and then fold in the almond flakes.
4 - On a baking sheet spread the mixture out as thin as you can (it's tough)

5- Now bake for a long time! Bake for 90 minutes before flipping over and baking for another 60
     minutes on the other side.
6 - Let cool and then break into pieces

These can be made savory by just swapping out the agave nectar and vanilla extract for salt and any selection of herbs, my suggestion would be rosemary! Try these and tell me how much you love eating healthy!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Birthday cakes

Another week, another cake, or so it seems! But let me tell you.....I am not complaining!! Baking is so much fun, but nothing is more fun than sharing that baking with others!! Recently I have been very lucky and happy to have had a number of opportunities to make celebration cakes for birthday parties.

The first was a beautiful two tiered birthday cake for my grandmother. We celebrated her birthday with the rest of my family and we had a wonderful time. The cake went down really well and I was pleased with how it turned out. The technique that I have been using most recently has been piped buttercream roses. I love this piping technique because it gies height and definition easily and with a little more time and planning you can add a beautiful focus to any cake.

Inside the cake was a store bought cake that originally started by looking quite cheap. There were positives and negatives to this. As you can see, a small amount of work changed the cake into something more impressive, without having to do the baking. However, as it turned out, the store bought cake was dry and unimpressive. I feared this when I saw it but was assured by multiple people that the cake had a 4 star review from a leading local paper. Just shows that you should always trust your instinct on these things. Regardless everyone at the party enjoyed the cake and no-one appeared to complain about the dryness, so....

The second cake was one that I did for a friends' 30th. She specifically requested a red velvet and recently commented that she would love to be able to have a sprinkles cake. So I combined the two and came out with this.

As you can see once again I have used the piped roses, but this time as a much smaller accessory, making the sprinkles the highlight of the cake.

As you may have read last week I explored the difference between artificial and natural red food colouring. This cake was for an American friend, so I knew it needed to be bright red and therefore used the artificial colouring. So how does it look cut -

Want a piece?!

Honeymoon first Stops: Boston and Las Vegas

We left London on A Saturday afternoon and flew to Boston, arriving in at 7.30pm Boston time. We somewhat regretted flying from London when ...