Tuesday, 25 October 2011

My Excuse Note

Dear Blog Pact,

Please may i be excused from the Blog Pact bond for about 2 weeks, on account of me being on holiday and not being able to blog.

I promise that i will make up for my absence  and tell you all about my holiday when i return

Many thanks,

Hayley xx

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Very Exciting (and Secret) Development

I'm quite rubbish at keeping daft but exciting secrets, so I'm going to tell you all about this Top Secret and marvellous thing that is happening at the moment..

Inspired by the lovely Lisa, and the Clandestine Cake Club, my friend Nancy and I have decided to make our very own food-based secret society.

A secret pie club! Similar principles to the CCC, (you only find out about the venue 24 hours before, you can bring a non-baking friend, you have to make a pie that will feed 8-12 people), but with a more savoury option, although sweet pies are still very much welcome.

Our website is under construction at the minute, but i've started off a little blog 
Aaaand, we have a twitter account ( @private_pie)
Aaaaaaaaaaaand, we have a Facebook page as well 

So, once i am back from my holidays, we are going to go and have a look for venues. We have somewhere in mind which i think will be perfect, but fingers crossed that it all works out.

I am really, so excited about this!

Hayley xxx

Baking Battle- Pie Edition

And so, dear friends, we find ourselves in Bake-Off territory again.

There has been a lot of talk about pie in my life at the minute (more on this later) and so a pie-based bake-off was clearly the way forward. The rules were such:

1. Home made pastry, no shop bought laziness
2. The filling had to be sweet
3. The pie had to be wholly covered in pastry (no American style pie for this here challenge.)

Nancy and I had that day at work been discussing the theory of rhubarb and custard pie. A pie with inherent, built in custard. And i found this recipe, which had our mouths watering. So this was the obvious choice, wasn't it? Yes, I know the crumble topping would breach the rules, but i figured i would just ditch that for pastry, and away we go. So, armed with my shopping list, off I went ingredient shopping.

Except... THERE IS NO RHUBARB! anywhere! I went to numerous places in the market, no rhubarb. I went to a supermarket, hoping to find some GM mutant version from Chile or somewhere... Not a stick to be seen, except for the Encased-In-Tin variety. Tinned rhubarb felt like cheating though for a bake-off, so instead i grabbed the nearest fruit, which happened to be pears. I haven't actually had a pear for years, and could barely remember what they tasted like, so i thought this would be high-risk, but fun. I added some pecans into the mixture too, and a handful of sultanas, just because they were there. I had to blind bake the base, and i'm still not 100% used to the quirks of my oven, so the crust of the pie was a bit overdone.

Alas, no. Despite the fact that the pie tastes divine, it was unanimously voted against in favour of The Boy's Pie. Like me, he had to have a last minute ingredients change as he intended to make an apple and blackberry pie but could find no blackberries. So he opted for an apple and raspberry option. A robust, if a little on the safe side, choice of filling. And yes, lets give him a few extra points for his geeky decoration shall we? And let's kindly ignore the fact that the tail on his pi symbol is the wrong way around ;) (sorry, I am bitter about losing this challenge)

The Boy's pie

Pi Pie... See what he did there?
The judges this time were: Boy's parents, and brother. They were instructed to each come to an independent decision. And they each chose The Boy's pie. Suspicious? Lets hope so. "They said pie number 2 was burnt and they thought it was meat filled" he says. Well, please. Clearly the idea of a pie with integral custard is just too advanced for this world. Pff!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

A Very Cool Night Out

Hi all,

Have any of you been to Icebar London? I went there last week and it was FABULOUS! What is it? Well, it's a bar, which is MADE OF ICE! Yay!

It's located just off Regent Street, and it's wonderful. It's very beautiful, with bits of artwork around about, and the ice itself is  harvested from Sweden and the bar is kept permanently at around minus 5. When we went, the designs included some nice quotes in the walls. The decorations are changed once yearly.

You get a furry cape to wear when you go in, with gloves attached, because, and here is the best bit, you glass is made of ice!

They serve some nice cocktails (I had a Singapore Sling and a Mojito, whilst The Boy just had whatever was the brightest pink, as is his way with cocktails), and the main problem with the whole experience is that it's only 40 mins long. And a normal pub seems like a bit of a let down after being in there!

Last weekend we also went to a planetarium, which was wonderful, and I was sent off home with a supply of The Boy's very marvelous apple crumble. A lovely weekend all round.

Hayley xxx

Monday, 17 October 2011

National Cakes at the Clandestine Cake Club

This post is going to focus on some of the other lovely cakes that made appearances at the Clandestine Cake Club. Despite the minor disasters that befell most of us, it's always impressive to see a table chock full of a tasty mismatch of home made cake. I love the differences in textures, colours, heights, and shapes of the cakes themselves but also the different plates, cake stands etc. I know i am amused by small things but there is just something wonderfully welcoming about the whole vista of cake. 

It's worth noting that Nancy and I were going to see Nero after Cake Club. Considering i had to lie down for two hours after last time's visit to the club, we had to limit ourselves to a maximum of 4 bits of cake on the evening. Otherwise, the combination of lots of cake, vodka, kahlua, monster energy drink, and dubstep dancing could have made for a very messy evening. We did make sure to pack away quite a lot of cake though, on the basis that it would make for good hangover fodder for the next day.

So here are the cakes individually. First we have Lisa's Double espresso and Brazil nut cake. For Brazil, the country you see. This was consumed after i got in from the dubstep night so to be perfectly honest, I can't quite remember how it tasted =D. I know that's not hugely helpful to my loyal blog readers but hey, honesty is always the best option.

Then there was Catherine's Jamaican Gingerbread cake. This had disintegrated a bit but tasted absolutely wonderful, particularly with the addition of a cream in the middle.

 Next up is a lovely looking Bailey's Irish Cream cake by Julia:

A Chocolate Chile cake by Sarah (which took a few mouthfuls to get used to, but it had a really delicious flavour and an extraordinary texture which I was very amenable to):

And this is Hannah's imaginative sushi cake, beautifully decorated and made of a yummy coconut sponge:

Emily's Malteser cake (for Malta, you see... I love what she did there!):

And a really terrible picture of Nancy's Chocolate Guinness cake. This cake recipe is rather famous in our workplace, where is is usually made by our colleague Jane and is regularly requested whenever we have any baking or buffets at work. So Nancy's had a go at the recipe, which i think is based on one of Nigella Lawsons, and lo and behold it was a triumph of dark moist cakey joy:

Liz made this Moroccan Orange and Almond cake, which was lovely dipped in yoghurt, which she was kind enough to provide for us. This cake really did have a lovely flavour.

A Canadian maple syrup and salted walnut cake by Val. Standing True, Strong, and Free:

And, of course, a trusty, British, Victoria sponge, made by Clare:

There was one other cake which my rubbish phone camera just did not do justice to the decoration, so I am going to refer you straight to her blog A spoonful of Sugar instead. This was Bara Brith, made by Kate, which had a beautiful little Welsh Dragon sat proudly on top of it. Bara Brith is a fruit cake/ loaf type affair, and a huge wedge of it made for a truly excellent Morning-After-The-Night-Before Breakfast

Overdosing on cake part two

Hi all,

Much to report to my little corner of bloggyland at the moment so bear with me while i catch up with you all.

First off, is my report from my second time at the Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle. This meeting's theme? A National Cake (as it was National Cake Week last week, and the cake club meet fell on the Wednesday). I was also very excited to find out that this time, Cake Club would be meeting at the Tyneside Cinema, a place which is very dear to my heart and one of my favourite places in this wonderful city.

So, I thought about my cake that I would make. Well, in actual fact, my friend Nancy and I had many very lengthy conversations, panics, and discussions about the cakes we would make. And I settled on a White Russian cake, mainly because the recipe contained a whole load of alcohol (kahlua and vodka) and there isn't much better in life that a combination of alcohol and cake.

The really interesting about this cake club, was the fact that everyone seemed to have a tale of a cake-based disaster to tell. There were cake cracks, cake disintegrations, cakes dipping in the middle, cakes with saggy frosting, and in my case, slightly burnt cakes and curdled cream due to too much alcohol being added. All these disasters made us all feel a bit better and meant that good conversation flowed freely and made us all feel much better about our cake stresses. My way of dealing with my curdled vodka kahlua cream was to remember that well known old proverb "If your cake goes a bit wrong, put s**t loads of gold dust, cherries, and chocolate on top to hide it".

All that glitters tastes rather nice
Well, this seems to have worked, as there was a journalist and a photographer there that night who were wanting to report on the cake club, and the photographer seemed quite taken with my cake. In fact, he seemed quite taken with the whole idea "What, so you meet up every month, and bring cake and eat cake? Wow!". So, before i knew it, i was whisked off into the alleyway outside the cinema for some photographs with my cake. Despite a minor panic attack about the state of my make-up and hair, and demands for extreme air-brushing, I'm actually not as horrified at the results as I thought i would be. Here it is in situ, in the Sunday Sun:

I know what you're thinking! Hotel Rooms for just £10!!
And you can see the article online here: Secret Cake Making Club Cooking up a Frenzy. I'm so pleased to see it doing so well, and would like to say many congratulations and thanks to Lisa for organising such a great event. Check out her blog The Wonderful World of @loopygirl whenever you get a moment.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Great Sachertorte Skirmish of 2011

Hi all,

This weekend saw another bake-off between The Boy and I.

The challenge? Inspired by the Great British Bake-Off, we decided to make Sachertorte. I've wanted to make this cake for ages, and having had a taste of some at the Clandestine Cake Club, I wanted to make it even more. So off we went to get ingredients, at Saturday at 4pm saw us lock horns in our little inter-city, pan-regional baking event. This bake-off was very important to me after The Great Cheesecake Debacle. My baking pride was at stake.

The recipe I used (I will get round to posting recipes on here one day, I promise), called for a lot of egg white whisking, which is very hard work, but worth it for the light, fluffy texture of the cake. Then, in a high-risk, high-potential pay-off move, I went for a topping made with a sugar syrup instead of a cream-based ganache. High risk, because i don't own a thermometer and i know how precise you have to be when it comes to sugar, so i just had to guess when it got to 120o. Luckily I remembered to buy a new piping set as my trusty old piping syringe got lost in my move after christmas.

The cake baking started out ok, with a nice sized, nicely risen cake. I then covered it with apricot jam, and attempted to top it with the chocolate topping. This was far too runny though, and lots and lots of coats had to be applied before it would start to stick. Even after being left in the fridge overnight, the topping still hadn't set, but i had enough on there to pipe the decoration on. Sachertorte traditional has the word 'Sacher' (after Franz Sacher, the inventor of the cake) on the top in chocolate. Herein lies an inherent problem i have with baking: Just go ahead and wing it, and hope for the best, or practice, and risk doing it perfectly on your practice then messing it up on the real thing. I decided to have a practice on the basis that The Boy is very precise, so i would have to be too in order to win. The piping turned out ok, although the practice was definitely better than the real thing.

The apricot jam is applied
Runny chocolate coating is ridiculously messy!

Practice went ok!
The real one didn't go quite as ok, but is still acceptable

The cake went back in the fridge, then when I checked on it later, the S had migrated as the cake had been at a bit of an angle in the fridge. This was a total disaster, but all was not lost as i managed to gently nudge the rogue letter back to its rightful place.

Rogue S!
Once he had finished, it was time for judging. As you know, we take great pains to blind our efforts from our 'independent' judge, Nancy. However, she felt she had to bow out of this competition as she thought she had guessed whose was whose from the piping (and obviously, knowing she wouldget cake from me if i won, this would put her independence into jeopardy.

So this time, we had a grand total of 5 judges. 3 of my friends, and 2 of his. And the score? 4-1 to ME!! And, if i do say so myself, my sachertorte was a triumph. It was baked perfectly, tasted wonderful, and looked alright in the end, despite the slightly dodgy topping. It was very quickly snaffled by my friends and colleagues.

note the uniform texture inside. I'm well proud of that, I am!

Part of me wants to make this again, immediately. The rest of me is saying "don't you ever, ever make this ever again. Quit while you're ahead!". I guess we shall see....

Aaaand here they are... The long awaited photos of The Boy's *losing* cake...

Very precise piping, but the lack of swirly bits may have decreased  the prettiness factor.

More gooey than mine, which is good, but not as uniformly baked...
I know, I know, I am a terrible winner. And I am also a terrible loser, which doesn't matter in this particular case ;)

Hayley xxx

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Other Cakes Of Note

So, this will be my last post about the Macmillan Worlds Biggest Coffee Morning, and I want to say thank you to all of my wonderful colleagues who baked for the occasion, and also to those who made donations for cake. Have done a cursory total, I think we have made about £115, which is really brilliant for the number of people who work at the centre. I do suspect, however, that the amount says more about our vast cake eating skills than our generosity, but its a good cause and I'm so pleased at how well it went.

Here's a little selection of what people brought in. This pic was fairly early on so much more cake arrived afterwards. They don't have their own picture but I must mention Dacia's Cheese and olive borekas. They were very moreish and delicious. Dacia always makes something a little bit different for our work buffets and I'm always excited to try her cooking.

Hurrah and huzzah for Nancy's long awaited chocolate courgette cake:

Basically, just... NOM!!! The cake also had some hazelnuts in, and was super moist and rich... lovely. The topping was the stuff dreams are made of (i.e. chocolate, and cream). It wasn't overly courgette-y it was just very pleasant, especially for breakfast, which was when i ate the majority of cake that day.

Jane Ingram's Guiness cake:

This was a special request for Jane to make as it is a little bit famous in our workplace. I can sum it up in two words: Blummin' lovely.

Thanks again to my lovely (if rather mad at times) colleagues and to you, my lovely readers.

Hayley xxxx

White Chocolate and Banana Cake

So the other cake I made for the Macmillan Worlds Biggest Coffee Morning was a white chocolate and banana cake. First I made the banana-ey flavour sponge...

*insert 'ooh what a lovely pair' based pun here.
Then a lovely thick layer of creme fraiche...

...then a layer of sliced banana...

Then put on the top layer of the cake, and slather with white chocolate topping and.... Wahey!!

I apologise for the pretty rubbish photos by the way... I ran out of batteries for my proper camera so was having to rely on my phone camera instead. And yes, I know the paper plate is tres chic, non? it didn't seem to put many people off trying the cake though, and it seemed to be pretty well received.

oooh look, here is a BONUS side-on picture too for your viewing pleasure. I do spoil you sometimes...

Chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes

I love peanut butter.

I mean I really, really love peanut butter. If i don't have any peanut butter for breakfast i don't feel quite right for the whole day. And the amounts of peanut butter i have on crumpets etc really is disgraceful. And yes, I will quite often be found eating it with a spoon.

I thought that this year it would be nice for my workplace to take part in the Macmillan World's Biggest Coffee Morning, so I arranged a bit of a bake sale at work, and it was a resounding success. I'm going to write a couple of posts about this event so bear with me for a few posts.

I haven't made cupcakes in a while, so I thought i'd make a wee batch of peanut butter chocolate cupcakes... yum! So i started out by making the chocolate cupcakes....

Then the peanut butter is all in the delicious frosting, which also contains cream cheese, butter and icing sugar. Then of course the whole cakes are topped off with some chocolate coated peanuts yay!

This picture was taken after the cupcakes' journey to work so they are slightly battered. Nonetheless they disappeared fairly quickly, along with the rest of the wonderful cakes there. Of which more later....

Hayley xxx