Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mini Mississippi Mud Pies

Another month...another last minute entry into Random Recipes. Following last month's challenge of baking the recipe at the front and/or back of your randomly selected recipe book...this month we had the middle!
I started writing this post yesterday at nearly midnight and having revisited today I think I may have been a bit harsh on this recipe so after the taste testers had a little nibble today I'm revising to a more favourable opinion!! However, after both Lemon & Limoncello Mini Cupcakes and Window Cookies last month, the middle of this month's random recipe book didn't quite live up!
The book I selected this month was Mini Pies by Sara Lewis, it's a nice little book with lots of cute bakes and on page 40 of 80 were these Mississipi Mud Pies. I've been looking forward to making them and to be fair they didn't turn out too badly but I'm a bit of a perfectionist.
The pastry seemed to turn out ok, I haven't done a lot of baking with pastry and I think really it could just do with a bit of neatening up. The book also suggests a nice recipe for hazelnut pastry which would also be great in a mud pie. I'm going to try and make a few more pastry recipes soon as a bit of a challenge I think!

The best thing about this recipe is that I got to use baking beans, they've been sat in my cupboard unused for ages. I was a bit worried about the pastry sticking to my tin as the recipe just stated to just press it straight in, so I greased and floured the muffin tin. This did the trick as they came out easily but it also left white floury marks on the pastry case, so next time I would probably just grease the tin.
Last night I think the main problem was the filling, the recipe states plain chocolate but I think maybe a nice bit of Green & Blacks would do the might even taste nice with some orange flavoured chocolate for something a bit different. When I made the filling it was too runny despite following the instructions to the letter, so it certainly wasn't set after the stated two hours in the fridge but this morning when I woke up, as if by magic it had really firmed up. Although if I was making these again I'd probably recommend making a classic ganache which would be perfect.
Once the filling set, it just needed a dollop of cream and some chocolate curls to finish it off. The light cream against the dark truffle-like filling provides a good visual contrast. So overall probably a 6 out of 10 for this recipe...could be great with a bit of experimentation and a few tweaks! :-)
*Update: I'm also entering these Mississippi Mud Pies into the United Bakes of America Challenge by Cupcake Grazy Gem. If you've not visited her blog before you really should, there are all sorts of inventive bakes and many are inspired by the US of A! I've been meaning to enter for a while and these mud pies are perfect! You can enter any American inspired bake...check out further details by clicking through to Cupcake Crazy Gem.
Shortcrust Pastry Ingredients

325g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
85g unsalted butter
85g vegetable shortening
4-4 1/2 tbsp cold water
Weigh out all the ingredients except the water into a food processor and blitz. The mixture should take on a breadcrumb like texture. Then with the processor still on, gradually add in the water until the pastry just comes together. Turn it out and form into a ball and then wrap in clingfilm. Chill for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/ gas 5. Roll out the pastry fairly thinly on a floured surface. Cut out 10cm circles with a cutter and gently press into the holes of a muffin tin. The recipe did not suggest greasing the tin but I was very unsure whether they'd come out so I did.

Prick the bottom of each pie with a fork and then line each pie with a crumpled square of baking paper before filling with baking beans. Bake for 10 minutes and then remove from the oven and remove the baking beans and paper. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes to ensure you don't get a soggy bottom!

Chocolate Filling
100g plain chocolate, chopped
125ml semi-skimmed milk
1 egg
2 tbsp icing sugar

Heat and melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (or the microwave). Whilst the chocolate is melting, whisk together the milk, egg and sugar. Once melted, remove the chocolate from the heat and gradually add the egg mixture, mixing as you go. Finally, pour into the cases.

Chantilly Cream

225ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar

Whisk the cream and icing sugar together to form soft peaks. Spoon the cream on top of each pie. I used a piping bag with a round nozzle for a neater finish. To decorated add some white and dark chocolate curls.

* Adapted from Mini Pies by Sara Lewis

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Nigella's Forgotten Meringue

This really could be one of the simplest sweet treats you ever eat...what could be easier than whipping up meringue, spreading it in a tin and then leaving it overnight in the oven...completely forgotten!
This is also perfect if you tend to forget to check the bakes in your oven as I occasionally do, as there's no checking required. You literally turn the oven off as soon as the meringue goes in. The resulting meringue is more like marshmallow and then if that wasn't enough it's topped with cream and luscious summer fruits. I did enjoy these little puds but they are very soft, almost wobbly in their marshmallowy-ness and maybe it would have been nice to have a bit of variation in the texture but still delicious and some of the other tasters really enjoyed them!
You can either cut your marshmallowy meringue into 12 squares or if you prefer a more dainty offering then you could go for 16. The great thing about these is that you can also choose whatever fruit you like to top the meringues...I'm quite partial to raspberries so next time I might use them instead.
As this is a lovely light, summery treat I'm entering it into this month's Forever Nigella event which is run by Sarah at Maison Cupcake and this month is hosted by Homemade by Fleur. I think you could quite easily serve the more refined smaller squares as part of an afternoon tea.


6 egg whites
1/2 tsp salt
250g caster sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1tsp vanilla extract
Butter for greasing

250ml double cream
2 passionfruits
175g blackberries
175g strawberries

This really is one of the easiest things to make. Just preheat the oven to 220c/200c fan/gas 7. Then all you need to do is whisk the egg whites with the salt until they start to form soft peaks. Then add in the sugar bit by bit and then the cream of tartar and vanilla. Continue whisking until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
The original recipe didn't state a size for the tin but it suggests a swiss roll tin and I had one that was 32x18 cm which worked well. The only thing I didn't like were the slightly sloping sides making the side squares slightly irregular, so I therefore cut these off to make straight edges when I took it out of the tin the next day. So... when you've prepared your meringue and tin, spoon the meringue into it and spread evenly.

That's the hardwork over, as soon as you put it in the oven, turn it off immediately and then just leave overnight. The next day when you're ready to serve whip up the double cream until thickened but still soft. Then spread it over the meringue in the tin and dot with the seeds and pulp from the two passionfruits (the original recipe said 4 but it depends how much you like them!). I then cut my meringue up into squares and removed from the tin before adding the fruit. It cuts nicely into 12 pieces but if you wanted them smaller it could easily do 16. So the final step is just quartering the strawberries and tossing them in 2 tsp of sugar. Finally, scatter the strawberries and blackberries over each square and serve!
* Original recipe from

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Strawberries & Cream Layer Cakes and Nielsen-Massey Product Review

It's that time of year again...Wimbledon starts tomorrow, so what better way to get into the swing than with individual strawberries and cream layer cakes. These are lovely little cakes that I've been looking forward to making for ages. They also gave me the ideal opportunity to use and review Nielsen-Massey vanilla samples that I have been sent. So I'll start with the review and then move onto the recipe...

I felt that to give you an honest and unbiased review I ought to do a blind taste test to compare Nielsen-Massey's premium vanilla extract with vanilla it really worth going the extra mile and using vanilla extract in your bakes? So without further ado I whipped up 28 mini vanilla cupcakes, half were made with vanilla flavouring/essence and half with Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract. I then found 14 willing volunteers who took part in the taste test, they ate one of each cake without knowing which was which.

Each tester was then asked to pick a favourite if they could taste a difference. And the results... 11 picked the Nielsen-Massey vanilla cupcake as their favourite, 2 picked the vanilla flavouring and 1 said they couldn't taste the difference.

So the results were fairly conclusive. My favourite quote from a tester was that the cake with the extract gave 'more of a vanilla experience'! Many testers also commented on the fact that the flavouring tasted and smelt more chemically and left an after taste, whereas the Nielsen-Massey product was more natural. I guess this is due to the fact that the extract is made with finest quality vanilla beans.

You can buy Nielsen-Massey vanilla products in many supermarkets and at Lakeland but one thing you will notice is the price differential between buying vanilla essence but as Mary Berry always says...'buy the best you can afford'.

So if you do bake regularly with vanilla or are making a special cake, I would recommend using vanilla extract if you are able as it doesn't just add flavour, it also complements and enhances other flavours too. If you watched the last series of Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard, he actually threatened to throw one lady out of his kitchen as she wasn't using vanilla extract!

I recently made these 'Window Cookies' using Nielsen-Massey's Madagascan Vanilla Bean Paste too. They had a lovely vanilla flavour and you could see the little seeds in the dough. The bean paste can also be used in custard, ice cream and creme brulee or in any other recipe that requires vanilla.

So there we have it! And now for the recipe...
These strawberries and cream layer cakes are perfect for summer and the start of Wimbledon. It also makes a change to have an individual cake rather than a slice of cake. They're not the neatest bake I've ever made but they certainly were tasty. The cake is a sponge recipe made with vanilla extract and interestingly the recipe also included a little ground almond. Each little cake was baked in a mini cake tin. However, if you don't have mini cake tins it is still possible to make these. You can just make a regular large sponge and then use a circular cutter to cut out sponge rounds which can be stacked.
Once the mini cakes were baked, each one was split into three. These are easy to assemble, just whip up some cream with a teaspoon of vanilla extract and thinly slice some strawberries. I started by spreading a little strawberry jam onto each of the bottom two layers and then I piped my cream on top as it gives a better finish, it's also advisable not to overwhip the cream, it should still be quite soft. Then place some of the sliced strawberries on top of the cream.
To decorate the top use a little icing sugar and make it up to a fairly stiff consistency. The icing I used here also had a tablespoon of rosewater in it. The little strawberries on top really finish it off and these can be made in advance. Use pre-coloured sugarpaste or colour your own. You need about four strawberries per cake. To make them just roll little balls of red sugarpaste into a teardrop shape and then top with a tiny blob of green icing for the stalks. To make the strawberries more realistic you can also prick holes in it with a steralized pin or a scribe. Cover the top layer of each cake with icing, leave to set for about four minutes before adding the sugarpaste strawberries. You can then put the whole thing together.

All I need now is a glass of Pimms....oh and maybe some sunshine! :-)

N.B I was sent the Nielsen-Massey vanilla products to review with no expectation but an honest opinion and I received no recompense for the review.


115g caster sugar
115g softened butter
2 eggs
85g self-raising flour
30g almonds
1tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract

300ml double cream
1tsp Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract
200g strawberries
3 tablespoons strawberry jam
200g icing sugar
1tbsp rosewater
Red and green sugarpaste

To make the sponge, whisk together the butter and sugar, it should be pale and fluffy. Then whisk in the eggs before sifting in the self-raising flour. Finally fold in the almonds along with the vanilla extract and divide between the cake tins. The recipe suggests this amount makes 10 cakes but I would suggest dividing it between 8 tins as it seemed a little sparse between 10. One thing to note is that the instructions don't suggest greasing the tin but just in case I greased and floured each one which I think helped.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180c/160c fan/gas 4 for 15-20 minutes until springy to the touch. You can then allow to cool in the pan. To remove slide a knife around the edge of each pan. To finish follow the instructions above.

* Recipe adapted from mini cakes & other bitesize treats

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Strawberry Shortbread Meringue Pies's officially the start of summer...British Strawberries have arrived...we might just have to ignore the weather though!! What could be better on a warm summer's evening than sitting in the garden with a glass of wine and one of these Strawberry Shortbread Meringue pies.
The recipe for these desserts specified to use shop bought shortbread which I would be more than happy to do but for this blog post I thought I'd add a bit more of a baking element and make the shortbread! The recipe I used is below but I perhaps found it a little you can either try the same recipe or how about this one from Delicious magazine...they also add a hint of Orange.

To make the base for these pies, it's a bit like a cheesecake, crumb up the shortbread and then add melted butter before pressing it into the tin. My only complaint about this recipe was that it was nigh on impossible to get the dessert off the base so in the end I had to resort to leaving on. To get round this problem, the recipe suggested making the baking paper for the base larger than needed. My other thought was to just use a food ring and leave the base as a whole circle of shortbread, baked in the shape for the purpose.
So once the base is chilled, it's just a case of cutting the straweberries in half and putting a circle around the edge. Inside of this goes whipped double cream with a little sugar, mint and crushed strawberrries. Then the finishing touch is to make a gorgeous Italian meringue which can be piped on to make dramatic peaks. The meringue is then browned off under the grill and voila! To make the meringue it does help to have a sugar thermometre but you can do without.
So the finished product is a dreamy desssert of shortbread, cream, strawberries and clouds of gorgeous Italian meringue...who could resist...certainly not me...I'm going to make this again next weekend!! :-)
It seems everyone has gone berry mad this month...and who can blame them! I'm therefore entering these luscious lovelies into the following challenges. The first being Tea Time Treats hosted by Karen over at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked.
Next up is the One Ingredient Challenge hosted by Working London Mummy and Laura at How to Cook Good Food. The theme for their challenge this month is Strawberries.
Finally, we have Simple and in Season where you can pick any seasonal product you like...hence the lovely British Strawberries! The challenge is from Fabulicious Food and this month it is also hosted by How to Cook Good Food...a busy month for Laura!

65g unsalted butter, melted
200g shortbread fingers
500g strawberries
1 tsp vanilla extract
185g caster sugar plus extra for dusting
200ml double cream
Handful of fresh mint
2 eggs
Pinch of cream of tartar

So to put it altogether...start by melting the 65g of butter and breaking your shortbread up into crumbs. Combine the two and then press into the base of four greased and based lined 10cm tins (springform). It is suggested you make your base paper circle larger than the actual base to help you remove the dessert from the tin when it's finished. Chill this in the fridge.

Next up whip the double cream with 1 tbsp of sugar and quarter 200g of the strawberries. Mix the quartered strawberries with the vanilla extract and 1 tsp of sugar. Then add the whole lot together with a little mint and crush the strawberries slightly with a fork.
You should have 300g of strawberries left which can be halved. To make the Italian meringue place 185g of sugar in a heavy based saucepan with 60ml of water. Gently dissolve the sugar and then bring to the boil (do not stir). In the meantime shisk up the two egg whites until they are at the soft peak stage. Using your sugar thermometre heat the sugar and water to 115 degrees. When it gets to this heat begin whisking the egg whites again and slowly pour a steady trickle of the sugar syrup into the egg whites. Try to avoid the beaters as you pour, otherwise it tends to splatter everywhere.

Finally, to assemble place the cut strawberries on the shortbread around the edge of the tin. The recipe calls for alternating cut side and non-cut side out...however, I think it looks better with all the cut sides out! Place a blob of the strawberry cream in the middle and then using a medium size round nozzle and piping bag, pipe the Italian meringue into peaks on top. Fo finsh off, brown the meringues under a grill until they go golden or use a blow torch if you have one. The whole thing can then go back in the fridge to chill before serving.


200g flour
200g butter
50g castor sugar

Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan. To make this it is suggested that you use a food processor but you can make it without too. Add the flour and butter into the food processor and mix, then add the sugar and combine, it should be crumbly at this stage. Ensure you have a 22cm greased fluted tart tin to hand and press the mixture into the tin with a spoon. Bake for 30-35 minutes, when it's golden it's done! Cut into wedges whilst still warm and then dust with a light covering of castor sugar.

* Recipe adapted from Delicious Magazine and is by Allegra McEvedy

Sunday, June 17, 2012

England Footballer Cookies

To celebrate England's 3-2 win over Sweden on Friday night I have immortalised the team in biscuit form. The only downside to the win is that I can't make a joke about my biscuit team playing better than England do!! If you look closely there's also a mysterious new member of the team...
This is my second entry into our new Calendar Cakes first being these Lime and Vodka Russian Doll Cakes. I'm co-hosting the challenge with Dolly Bakes, so check out her blog for more info on this month's theme: Euro 2012.
To make these cookies, you can use any cookie dough recipe such as this one from BBC GoodFood and the cookie cutter came from Cakes, Cookies and Crafts. These cookies would also be great for a young football fan's birthday, they could be decorated in any team's kit as required!
Once the cookies are baked, you just need to make some royal icing which is fairly stiff. This can be used to pipe an outline for your footballer. The icing should then be made a little runnier by adding water. To flood fill the cookies, put the icing in a small piping bag and snip off the end, fill the outline with icing and use the end of the piping bag to push it out to the edges...simples!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lime & Vodka Syrup Russian Doll Cakes

These lovely ladies are my inaugral entry into new baking challenge, Calendar Cakes. It's a monthly challenge hosted by yours truly and Rachel from Dolly Bakes. Each month we'll be giving you a theme based on an event or the season. This month it's Euro 2012, Rachel and I are hosting alternately, so if you want to find out more about this month's challenge then check it out over at Dolly Bakes. Rachel has already made a fab football stadium as her entry too!

So with the theme of Euro 2012 in mind I chose to make a set of Russian Doll cakes as Russia are competing at Euro fact they're playing tonight!
This is yet another fabulous cake from the Birthday Cake Book by Fiona Cairns. I've already made Alice's Teapot Cake and a Butterscotch Whisp Cake and all have turned out beautifully...Fiona Cairns has some fabulously inventive ideas!

My favourite is definitely doll number two...she looks much more dainty and serene than the other two who look rather anxious...perhaps they know that they are soon to be eaten!
To make the cakes I made some doll templates out of card and then cut them out of cake. Using a sharp knife they were then carved into something like a Russian Doll. The cakes were then covered in vodka and lime buttercream before being covered in sugarpaste.

Then the decoration is painted on with the paint being made out of a mix of paste food colouring and alcohol. Outline the design in the black first and then fill in with the other colours. Just a note here, the Squires Kitchen colours didn't work at all for this, if you're going to try then I'd recommend using Sugarflair. Alternatively, the book also suggests that you can use edible pens to create the designs.
If you'd like to make a lime and vodka syrup cake you could use a regular sponge or madeira and then add the finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime to the cake mixture. The cake was then brushed with the syrup which was a heated mixture of 30g golden caster sugar, 1/2 tablespoon of vodka and the zest and juice from half a lime. This was heated until the sugar dissolved and then it was brought to the boil before being set aside to cool. Finally, to make the buttercream it is just a regular buttercream recipe with the addition of 1 tablespoon of vodka (or more if you like!) and the zest of half a lime.

I do hope you can join us for some fun with our Calendar Cakes challenge. This month is all about Euro 2012 but your bake could be inspired by any European country taking part...such as Russia or it could be a football bake...or even an anti-football bake or a cake fit for a can interpret it however you like! :-)
This is also my second entry into this month's AlphaBakes hosted by Ros at the More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline check them out as there's always loads of fabulous entries! :-) The challenge this month is to come up with a bake beginning with 'V' or containing a 'V' these Vodka and lime cakes should do the trick.
These dolls don't acutally look much like cakes...and they may be too cute to perhaps dolls one and three can look a little less anxious...they may have just been granted a reprieve!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Viennese Whirls & Fingers

These Viennese Whirls are my entry into this month's AlphaBakes Challenge hosted by Ros at the More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes. The randomly generated letter for AlphaBakes this month is 'V'...a bit of a tricky one. I thought I had a reasonable idea in making Viennese Whirls but it turns out the host Ros has also made them and she has also received two other Viennese Whirl entries!!! I'm pleased I made them though as it was something a little bit out of the norm to bake...and they tasted delicious!!
The recipe I chose for my whirls was by the Hairy Bikers and can be found on the BBC Food website. The resulting biscuits were light and crumbly...and oh so moreish with that taste of butter. The raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream really compliment the bake too. The only trouble I had with these was the piping out, an iron grip is needed  to get the mixture out of the piping bag. I also used a very large piping nozzle so ended up with rather mamouth whirls...not quite as neat as Mr. Kipling's!! :-)
In addition to the traditional whirls I also made some Viennese Fingers. For these I used a recipe from the Great British Bake Off winner Jo Wheatley. The recipe is in her new book 'A Passion for Baking'. I bought a copy in my local Sainsbury's yesterday and at first glance it seems to be a lovely little book and rather more comprehensive than I was expecting! These Viennese fingers also tasted great, although they were maybe a little too light and crumbly...I really wanted a little bit more bite...but still a winner! :-)
So there we have it my first entry for AlphaBakes this month...but hopefully I have a second up my sleeve (not literally...that would be a bit messy!). Watch this space!


250g soft butter
50g icing sugar
250g plain flour
50g cornflour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


100g soft butter
200g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
75g raspberry jam

These were easy to make, to start line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/gas 5. Then put the butter, icing sugar, flour, cornflour and vanilla extract into a food processor and blend until the mixture comes together and is smooth. It might be necessary to scrape down the sides a couple of times during the process.

This mixture can then be placed into a piping bag with a large star nozzle and piped into swirls. The only problem I had here was the stiffness of the mixture and trying to pipe it out of the bag...I kneaded it slightly in the bag to soften it up but I still needed extreme pressure to pipe it out! Bake for around 15 minutes until lightly golden. Once out of the oven, the whirls can cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes to firm up, before being transferred to a cooling rack.

For the filling, put the butter, sifted icing sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Place this in a piping bag with a star nozzle. To construct the whirls, spread raspberry jam onto one half and then pipe a swirl of buttercream onto the other before sandwiching together. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar.

* Original recipe by the Hairy Bikers on the BBC Food website