Sunday, June 23, 2013

Loukoumades & A Honey Masterclass

Apart from Tigger who doesn't like honey! But did you know that even though it's popular, Britain comes rather low down on the list based on consumption per capita...maybe because we tend to only eat it on toast or drizzled over yoghurt.
On Wednesday evening I attended a honey masterclass at the home of the Culinary Anthropologist, Anna. The evening was run in conjunction with bee keeper and author Elizabeth Gowing. Elizabeth works and keeps her bees in Kosovo and has written several books on her experiences. It was a very informative evening as there are so many ways in which honey can be used in both sweet and savoury cooking. For example, we enjoyed a delicious Ragstone Goat's Cheese drizzled in honey which could become a serious addiction!
Some of the honeys we sampled included:
  • Dandelion honey
  • Propolis honey - propolis being a sealant the bees produce to plug any unwanted gaps in their hive.
  • Vintage honey from 1991!
  • Urban honey from Regent's Park - urban beekeeping and honey production is becoming increasingly popular. You may remember that Rachel Khoo visited a Parisian urban honey producer in her last series. 
We crammed a lot in to three hours, as well as trying the different honeys we also sampled honey drinks and made several honey based recipes. My favourite were the Loukoumades which are fried Greek doughnuts soaked in honey which you can see in the photo above. Another great recipe was the honey ice cream as it's a no churn recipe and it tasted delicious. Here's what we made and sampled:
  1. Mead and Sbiten
  2. A tasting of honeys
  3. Goat's cheese with honey
  4. Green beans with garlic and honey
  5. Fried aubergines with honey and mint
  6. Ethiopian spiced honey bread
  7. Loukoumades
  8. Honey ice cream with Polish Miodula
So what interesting facts about honey did I find out:
  1. For a honey to be monofloral i.e. a single flower honey such as acacia honey or lavender honey it only has to contain 51% of the nectar from that plant type.
  2. If you put a magnet next to a beehive then the bees will start to build cylindrical honeycomb rather than hexagonal!
  3. Alexander the Great was embalmed in honey.
  4. Top tip: you can reverse the crystallisation process of honey by putting the jar or bottle into a bowl of hot water for a few minutes. So no need to throw it away.
  5. The world's most expensive honey is Sidr honey which is a Yemeni honey that is only harvested twice per year.
  6. China is the biggest exporter of honey.
  7. It is claimed that eating a spoonful of local honey a day is a cure for hayfever. Read more about the theory here.
You can find out more about Elizabeth and her books on her website. At the end of the evening I also purchased The Little Book of Honey which is written by Elizabeth and features a guide to different types of honey as well as lots of yummy honey recipes including some of those we tried on the evening.

Anna has very kindly allowed me to share her Loukoumades recipe with you here. This is a great recipe as it's so quick and easy to make and everyone will love it. You can make Loukoumades with store cupboard ingredients too so they're perfect to rustle up when you're in need of something sweet! You can see the ingredients in the picture below but I wouldn't recommend using skimmed milk and try and find a good quality honey...unlike mine in the picture!


120ml (170g) runny honey
zest of a large lemon and juice of half of it
220g plain flour
2 level tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
20g butter, in small pieces
4 tbsp (60ml) hot water from the kettle)
4 tbsp. (60ml) milk
Sunflower oil for deep-frying
cinnamon or icing sugar to sprinkle (optional)

1. Stir together the honey, zest and lemon juice to make a syrup.
2. Pour oil into a saucepan to fill it by one third and start heating gently. Keep an eye on it!
3. Measure flour into a bowl and mix in salt and baking powder.
4. Put batter into a small jug or bowl and measure in hot water from kettle. Stir to melt the butter. Now add the milk.
5. Make a well in the flour and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir to combine then tip onto the work surface and knead briefly just to bring it together into a dough. If the dough doesn't come together or seems a bit dry, add a splash more milk.

6. Now check that the oil is hot enough - a small piece of dough should sizzle gently without any delay. Or if you want to you could use a thermometer and the oil should be about 170-180 degrees but this isn't strictly necessary.
7. Squeeze off little balls of dough the size of fat cherries, and carefully add them to the oil.

8. Fry in batches until puffed and golden brown all over.

9. Remove them with a strainer or slotted spoon.

10. Place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.

11. Finally, place them directly in the syrup, which they will absorb. Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon or icing sugar.

For an even easier version, do not make the syrup in advance, but rather simply drizzle the fried balls with honey and then zest a lemon over the top.

* Recipe from Anna Colquhoun - The Culinary Anthropologist You can find more recipes on Anna's website and I'd highly recommend her courses.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cinnamon and Raisin Marble Loaf Cake

For today's bake it's a simple Cinnamon and Raisin Loaf Cake but sometime it's the simple ones that are the best! If you're looking for a tasty cake that takes next to no time to make and goes well with a cup of tea, then this could be the one for you! And believe it or not as far as I can remember this is the first marble cake I've ever made!
The cinnamon gives it a lovely flavour, the raisins and soured cream make it really moist and light and the marbling adds a bit of fun. This recipe came from the Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days and it really is simple to make, it's the kind of thing that you could make time and again and also on a whim as most of the ingredients you'll probably have in your cupboards.
The recipe suggested that to marble the cake, the vanilla layer should be spread in the loaf tin first and then the cinnamon layer added on top before being swirled together using a skewer. In my limited knowledge of marbling, I didn't think this would give the greatest effect, so I blobbed spoonful's of each mixture in alternately before swirling and it seemed to work. I also made a bit more of the mixture cinnamon than was suggested as the recipe only called for 200g of cinnamon but this didn't seem like very much. However, I was very pleased with the finished product and I'd make this again! 
I'm entering my cake into this month's Alpha Bakes as the letter this month is 'R'. There are plenty of R's out there and raisins are a simple entry, so if you fancy giving Alpha Bakes a try then check out host Ros's blog - The More Than Occasional Baker. The challenge is hosted on alternate months with Caroline of Caroline Makes.


190g unsalted butter
190g plain flour
190g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
25ml soured cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
70g raisins

This one is easy to make. Start by preheating the oven to 170c/150c fan/gas 3 and grease the loaf tin and dust with flour. The recipe states to use a 8.5 x 17.5cm tin, I think mine was a little larger than this but it still turned out fine...but the cake was slightly shallower.

Whisk together the butter and sugar until it is pale and fluffy, this can take up to 5 minutes. It is obviously easier if you start with softer butter! Next beat in the eggs one at a time making sure each addition is fully incorporated, you may also wish to scrape down the sides of the bowl at this point.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the batter in two parts, mixing on a low speed until the mixture just comes together. To finish, add the sour cream and vanilla essence and mix.

In order to create the two contrasting colours with which to marble the cake, put 250g or up to half of the mixture into a separate bowl and then mix in the cinnamon to this half. Add the raisins into the remaining batter. The recipe then suggests to pour the raisin batter into the tin and then spread the cinnamon batter on top before running a skewer through to marble. However, I don't think this method will give the best marble effect, so I just put alternating random blobs of each mix into the tin and then ran my skewer through.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, mine took a little bit longer. It should feel firm and a skewer should come out clean. Leave in the tin for 5-10 minutes before turning the cake out of the tin to cool completely.

* Adapted from Cake Days by the Hummingbird Bakery.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Giant Cupcake Cake

If a regular sized cupcake doesn't quite hit the spot...why not make yourself a giant cupcake! I've always admired the pictures of giant cupcakes that I've seen but I've never made one myself. So when the Cake Decorating Store recently offered to send me an item from their website to review, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try out a Giant Cupcake Tin.
If you are looking for cake baking and decorating equipment then you can find everything you need at the Cake Decorating Store. If you want to make a giant cupcake or any other cake check out the Cake Decorating Store website for bakeware, boxes, icing, colours, dusts, cutters and lots more.
The cupcake tin came with a recipe and instructions for a Double Chocolate Pound Cake made with cocoa powder and chocolate chips. By using a pound cake recipe, it means it's a bit denser and will hold it's shape better and support the weight. The recipe did state that it would take 60-70 minutes to bake, mine took closer to 100 minutes but this may have been my oven! The good news is that it came out of the pan very easily thanks to the Easy Bake spray you can see at the end of the post.
You can obviously choose to decorate your cupcake anyway you choose as you can see from these images of other giant cupcakes on Google. I chose a fairly simple design covering the base in a teddy bear brown sugar paste and then using buttercream on the top. To get the raspberry ripple effect on the top, I coloured half my buttercream with a pink paste colour and then filled my piping bag on one side with plain buttercream and then the other side with pink buttercream. I then piped it on and used a palette knife to smooth it down.
To finish off I added some sprinkles, along with florist paste butterflies and flowers. You can make your own butterflies and flowers using the cutters you can see in the equipment picture. To get your butterfly wings to open upwards, fold a piece of card lengthways and place the butterflies in the fold to dry in position. You can also use the corner of a cut cereal packet for this which is what I use.
To present my cake, I put it on a cake drum that had been covered with white sugarpaste and then finished with a pretty pink ribbon around the edge. You could of course also put it on a plate, cake stand or an uncovered cake board.
The following is a list of equipment that you might find useful for making a giant cupcake, depending on your design, or any other cake that needs decorating:
  1. Sugar Florist Paste - a firmer paste that dries hard, useful for making the flowers and butterflies.
  2. Ribbon - Give a neat finish to your board.
  3. Sugarflair Paste Colour - to colour white sugarpaste or florist paste. I also used it to colour my buttercream.
  4. Cutters - to create butterflies and flowers, although a whole array of cutters are available. Used to cut the sugar florist paste.
  5. Ready made flowers - if you don't have the time or inclination to make your own.
  6. Piping nozzles
  7. Piping bags
  8. Sugar sprinkles
  9. Sugarpaste - for rolling and covering cakes and the board.
  10. Cake drum - to stand your cake on.
  11. Lustre dust - to add an extra dimension to the butterflies and flowers.
  12. Dusting brush - to apply the lustre to your decorations. 
If you haven't tried it already you might also be interested in Wilton's Bake Easy Non-Stick Spray. The recipe that comes with the pan suggests using a cake release and a light coating of flour in addition to ensure your cake comes out easily.
Disclaimer: I was sent the Wilton Giant Cupcake Pan free of charge but was not paid for this post. All opinions are my own and all other equipment and materials, I supplied myself.