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Get creative with chocolate – Vanilla and white chocolate choux buns

Pretty often my friends ask me where I find the time to bake. Easy! The recipes I make may look pretty but they are fairly easy and quick to make. I’ve always loved creating even the simpliest recipe but presenting it in a pretty way and I guess that makes the difference.

With the new year I didn’t have any particular resolution but promised myself I would have started to bake/cook a different recipe every week so here I am.

This week I was inspired by Dr. Oetker  chocolate challenge which aims to encourage more people to get experimental by trying new chocolately bakes never attempted before.

I had a look at the yummy recipes on Dr. Oetker website and I was pleased to see a wide range of easy to follow recipes.  I picked a different version of a dessert that I used to bake when I grew up in Italy: Vanilla and White Chocolate Choux Buns (in Italy we call them bignè )

chocolate treatThere aren’t many ingredients you would need to make these and you can find them all at your local supermarket in the baking aisle. Dr. Oetker has a great range of products and tools to help you make a great chocolatey bake. You can choose between several varieties of cooking chocolate, chocolate decorations and powders available which will help you to create a delicious chocolatey bake with your own twist.

choux buns ingredientsI think I was about 8 years old when I first made profiteroles filled with cream and covered with dark chocolate. I remember my mum had different recipe books and every now and again I picked a new recipe to see if I could do different baking techniques. For some reason Choux buns have a reputation for being difficult to make…trust me if you follow the recipe step by step, they are easy to make and ready in just over an hour (included baking time).

bigneIf you want to give it a go I read a good tip which will give you great results! Just remember that the initial steam created in the oven will help the choux pastry to expand and will reduce cracking too. But when the buns have reached the desired size you should slightly open the oven door to let the steam escape and allow the pastry to dry completely. Come on, give it a go!choux bunsChoux pastry is light and crispy and once is filled with delicate cream it tastes divine. And to make choux buns look pretty sofisticated you  just need to create a linked heart decoration on top of each one (easy to do with a toothpick) and voila’ the perfect treat for an afternoon tea or  a dessert at the end of a meal is ready.

On Sunday we met up with some friends so I prepared some Vanilla and White chocolate choux buns that we enjoyed with tea and coffee after our lunch together.choux bunsIf you would like to try it,  you can find the recipe to make 12 Vanilla and White Chocolate Choux buns on Dr. Oetker website.vanilla choux bunAnd to get you baking Dr. Oetker is running a Twitter competition throughout March. To enter simply tweet @DrOetkerbakes a photo of a chocolate bake you’ve made and tell who you would like to share it with for a chance to win a deluxe hamper of chocolate products from Dr. Oetker using the hashtag #evenbetterbaking.white chocolate choux buns

This is why I love so much baking!  I get to spend more time with my daughter (who loves helping me preparing yummy recipes) and then I get to share my food with friends and family: a great way to enjoy life!

 

 

My Strawberry and Vanilla Swiss roll recipe

This was our first week-end back from holidays and it was one of the busiest one ever!

I had booked tickets to go to the Foodies Festival on Saturday, then we promised some friends to join them afterwards for dinner. On Sunday I had to take Bee to a birthday party and in the between dropping and picking her up I had to get everything ready for dinner as we had friends coming over to taste my homemade pizza! Phewwwwwww

Obviously being just back from holidays, I completely forgot that on Wednesday the Great British Bake Off was on so I missed that!

The next day I noticed images of Swiss rolls popping up everywhere.. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest.. what was that all about?The Great British Bake off obviously! Therefore even if haven’t watched it (yet) I decided to do my first attempt to make a Swiss roll.

To be honest it’s not something that I would normally think to bake. I remember my mum used to make lots of these Swiss rolls when we were little so I thought to dig up one of her recipes and have it a go.

I dropped Bee off to the birthday party at 2pm and then I rushed home thinking that 1 and 1/2 hours  to prepare a swiss roll would have been enough.. at the end I made it but it was crazy (I mean look at these pictures I quickly took with my iphone!! ) because I wanted to bake it but I didn’t want to be the parent who was going to be late to pick her child up from the party!

I adapted a basic Swiss Roll recipe that my mum wrote on a recipe notebook… she gave it to me the day I left to move to Scotland… awwww!

Anyway, if I had to make it again I would avoid preparing this type of filling as although it tasted lovely, it kind of reminded me of strawberry yoghurt so I thought it was too much hassle to make something that ends up tasting  like yoghurt!

This is my recipe:

Ingredients for the roll
100gr of  flour
2 tbps of vanilla extract
140 gr caster sugar
5 eggs
red food coloring to taste
2gr of baking powder

Ingredients for the filling
50 gr of caster sugar
125 ml of double cream
125g of mascarpone
350 g of strawberries
8 gr of gelatin sheets
25 gr of powdered sugar

Preparation

Fist you need to start by making the filling. Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl with cold water for 10 minutes to soften. In the meantime wash and chop the strawberries and put them into a pan with the sugar and cook them just enough to soften.

Put the strawberries in the blender and blend until you get a puree. When the gelatine sheets are soft, squeeze them well and incorporate the strawberry sauce which should still be warm.

In another bowl combine together the icing sugar and mascarpone then add the strawberry sauce. Stir to mix the ingredients until you will get a light pink cream.

Whip the double cream  and incorporate it to the pink cream. Transfer it in a large bowl to cool, cover with plastic wrap and let it harden in the fridge for about 2 hours.

To prepare the Swiss roll place the egg yolks in a bowl (set aside the egg whites), sugar and mix add the vanilla extract and continue beating until mixture is light. Whip the egg whites separately and when you get stiff picks add the sugar.

Incorporate the egg whites by folding them with the rest of the mixture.

In a bowl combine the flour and baking powder, add it to the egg mixture and blend all together. Pick up a small portion of batter (around 4 tablespoons), take the red food coloring and pour a few drops in it, just remember to add the food coloring a little at a time until you get the deep red color.

Transfer the mixture in a piping bag and make the hearts of about 2 cm on a sheet of baking paper lying on a baking tray ( promise I can make better hearts but I was rushing rushing!)

Cook the hearts in oven preheated to 220° C for 2 minutes (fan oven at 200 degrees for about 1 minute)

Then take the tray out and spread the rest of the batter mixture into the baking tray distributing  it over the hearts.

Cook for another 7 minutes at 220° always in preheated oven (if fan oven at 200 ° C for 3 -4 minutes).

When it is ready, transfer it still hot on the work surface, sprinkle the surface with the granulated sugar and cover with the film. By doing so the roll will remain soft and elastic and easier to roll. When it has cooled, remove the cling film and spread the strawberry cream making sure to leave a two cm border.

Roll the Swiss roll and wrap it pretty tight (not like it did!).  Let the Swiss roll  firm up  in the fridge for about 4 hours, then dust it with icing sugar and serve.

TIP: You can vary the filling cream by using other fruits such as peaches or berries or just use plain jam and cream.

Celebrating family time in our kitchen

As a family we tend to spend most of our time together around the kitchen. A part from using the kitchen table to have our meals, colouring books, playing games, we all love eating good food therefore my children love watching mummy preparing nice meals and baking scrumptions cakes (and watching daddy eating them) so I can easily say that the heart of our home is our Kitchen.

Last Sunday for Father’s day, we decided to prepare something all together.  We opted for Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes covered with Nutella frosting! Bee was the first one to put her apron on and impatiently waited for mummy to give her tasks to do.

She’s usually in charge of breaking the eggs (somehow she loves it!LOL) and then adding the ingredients inside (quite a lot outside too) the mixer. She looks so concentrated when she bakes along with me, it’s actually quite funny to watch!

Making these Nutella cupcakes is dead easy. I used my usual Vanilla cupcake recipe and I added to tbsp of cocoa powder to that.

For the frosting I just went with what I thought would create a yummy frosting so I mixed together:

– 100gr of Nutella

– 100gr of sifted icing sugar

– 80 ml of heavy cream

and once I had a creamy smooth consistency, I  put it in the fridge and left it for an hour or so before piping it on the cupcakes.

Tip: make a little hole and take some of the cake off from each cupcake so that you get more frosting in it!

“Hey daddy, do we look good in pink?”

This time Leonardo gave it a go too. He was mainly attracted to the noise that the mixer was making so he wanted to come closer and have a better look at what was going on.

Leonardo little chef

I had a fraction of a second where I thought nobody was looking so I quickly licked the mixture off my fingers but.. daddy caught me!

Daddy usually is in charge of entertaining the kids while mummy carefully puts the cupcakes in the oven.

A little fight broke over who was going to play with the cakepop mould…

Yummy chocolate cupcakes are rising well!

Bee is the happiest kid when she spends time helping to bake in the kitchen and if her adorable father is next to her, then there is nothing better!

“Mummy look, daddy is all mine!” I know, I know…

I truly enjoy baking and cooking, it totally relaxes me. But then it comes the time to tidy all up and I swear I cannot be bothered to rinse it all and clean well all the dishes before loading them into my dishwasher (like my mum thought me to do – sorry mum!). I found that by using Fairy Platinum, I really don’t need to do any particular pre-wash in the sink because my dishes still come out clean and shiny so why not use that time in a better way, ie frosting the cupcakes with a delicious Nutella topping ?

Perfect! A fresh strawberry on the top and voila’

We are all happy now, we prepared lovely cupcakes for daddy’s day and we just cannot wait to taste them ( in fact Bee is smiling in this picture but she was kind of getting a bit impatient as she had already been asking to eat a cupcake for 10 minutes!)

 Leonardo is looking pretty eager to get his hands on that frosting too!

 “Mummy, stop taking pictures, can I eat it now?!?”

Love and sweets, what else do you need in your family?!?

And this is how we spend amazing family time in our kitchen, laughing, playing and making the most out of every daily celebration!

I caught all three of you! Happy days!

 

*This post is an entry for the “My Kitchen Story” Linky Challenge, in collaboration with Fairy Platinum

Tutorial for my Carousel cake – this worked for me!

After I shared my carousel dessert table I’ve received SO many emails and messages asking how I made the Carousel cake therefore I thought it would be easier to put a post together and share my experience with you. During the 2 and 1/2 days which took to make the cake (yes that long!) I took random pictures of “the cake in the making” and I’ll post them here so you can have a better idea of how I put the whole carousel together.

I’d like to add that I’m no expert whatsover 🙂 I only like to make beautiful things and to achieve them I try to get as much tips as possible from various sites, blogs, tutorials. This is what has worked for me so I’d like to share it with you and hopefully you will enjoy making this beautiful cake too!

THE BASICS

First of all I decided the size of my cake. I used 2 x 18cm vanilla sponge cakes and 1 x22cm. Because the cake HAD to be very stable, I only filled the layers with some lemon curd which gave the sponge a lovely fresh taste.

I then covered each cake (a part from the top one, I will later explain why I left that one out) with white ganache. The reason behind this is that when you cover the cake with ganache and then with fondant, the result it’s a much neater cake. I personally find it easier to smooth the ganache plus once you place the cake in the fridge the ganache gets harder and it stays that smooth. If you were to use buttercream you would get different bumps plus for me it is very difficult to smooth.

TIP: An amazing tutorial on how to cover your cakes with ganache can be found here.

Once my cakes were covered with ganache, I covered them with white fondant and then I stacked the 18cm cake on the top of the 22cm.

THE TOWER

I decided from the beginning the the only non edible bit of the cake would have been the tower in the middle. At the beginning I thought to use a kitchen roll and cover it in fondant but then in one of my cupboards I found a cardboard bottle tube and I quickly thought that it’d have been PERFECT to make the central tower. In fact when I placed it on the top of the 18cm cake it was well proportioned to the other measures, beginner luck again I guess!

As you can see from this picture the tower looks very bumpy, that’ s because I tried to covered it in fondant but it kept trapping bubbles of air! I was so fed up, I tried 3 times to cover it and then my husband proposed to just covered it with white paper: GREAT!

As I mentioned before, the cake on the top wasn’t covered in ganache but just fondant and the reason behind it is that it didn’t need to look perfect because it would have been completely covered by decorations later on,  so one less job to do!

THE CONE

Here it’s the tricky part… the cone.. please allow me to say the BLOODY cone!!

I made the base of the cone out of a tick paper and tried to get it proportioned to the size of my cake but then it was so difficult to cover it in fondant! I thought.. either I’m using a very cheap fondant (well to be honest I use the Tesco brand but it has always worked so well!) or either this is just very hard to do! I did, let me think 4/5 attempts to cover it with fondant.. every time it was breaking on the top… once I was rolling it around it wasn’t big enough so I had to start all over again, roll it and try again.. and again.. I was almost giving up, I swear! Then it magically worked! I rolled a big round white piece of fondant and then I placed the cone on one side and rolled the fondant around the cone. It doesn’t matter if the two parts of fondant don’t join perfectly as you can always make that the back of the cake I guess!

TIP: if the fondant breaks on the top of the cone just add some fondant on the tip and smooth it with the rest. At the end with all the decorations around, I promise, nobody will notice (Did you? eheh)

Once you got your cone remember to create a long “sausage” of fondant to put around the base of the cake. This will ensure that the cone will not move from the base and that you have a place where you can attach more decorations. Remember the rule “less is better” doesn’t work for a carousel cake, in fact in this case more decorations you have the better the result is!

To make the long golden fondant “sausages” used to decorate the cone, I first rolled out long pieces of fondant then I smoothered them with a cake smoother. I know, you need to be patient.. very patient but they come out perfectly round. Then, like for the other decorations, I brushed them with golden lustre dust.

TIP:  To make the top cake more stable I glued its cardboard base to the top of the tower using some super attack glue.

THE DECORATIONS

The tricky part of this cake is that you cannot really prepare much of the decorations in advance. In fact if you prepare the fondant decorations days before, they get hard and once you try to place them on the cake they crack and don’t bend to follow the shape of the cake.

For the decorations I used two different types of frill cutter, different plastic moulds and a horse cookie cutter.

First of all I started rolling my light blue fondant in long stripes then I gently pressed the frill cutter on the fondant.

MISTAKE Number ONE  Please don’t be as daft as me haha. At the beginning I cut the fondant as long as the lenght of the plastic cutter but that meant that once I put it on a cake you could see different gaps between the stripes because I could not perfectly joint each stripe to the other (see picture below).

So please instead press the frill cutter on the fondant then lift it up and position it again where the first stripe finishes. I should probably make a video to better show you… anyway make a long stripe!

Once you make all the stripes it’s the time to get the beige ones golden. Getting the golden colour was a bit tricky . I first followed some (obviously wrong!) instructions and my fondant turned out brown, it look like I had attached a stripe of cardboard box to the cake! (and I have this picture to prove it lol!). So I had to dismantled everything and start all over again…

Thank God my lovely hubby came to my rescue and made a light shade of beige.  We then brushed golden lustre dust on EACH decoration. I have to say, this part took ages and we ended up having our kitchen covered in lustre dust, ourselves covered in golden powder and probably got just the right amount where it should have been ! LOL

MISTAKE NUMBER TWO: Because I was worried that by the time I had finished brushing the stripes with golden lustre dust they would have become hard, I started attaching them to the cake and only then I brushed them with lustre dust. Please DO NOT do this because it is almost impossible to avoid some lustre dust landing on white bits of fondant, and once it’s there you cannot get rid of it!

I made different decorations using the plastic moulds and powder them with golden lustre dust too.

TIP: please remember to brush the plastic moulds with some cornstarch and tap them to remove the excess before you press the fondant in them. This will make the decorations come out easily.

We made some little fondant pearls which were the decorations used for the bottom tier and those were  covered too in lustre dust.

To attach all the decorations to the cake I brushed each one of them with little edible glue (if you put to much of it the piece tend to slide down the fondant!) and stuck them to the cake using our creativity.

TIP: make your own edible glue! To stick the sugar decorations on the cake, mix some tylose powder with some water and it quickly becomes pretty tick, ready to use edible glue! Easy right?

The only thing I prepared in advance were the little horses which I cut out of fondant few days earlier and decorated them with some royal icing. My husband still think they look funny because they look like they’ve got wigs on their head! LOL

Because the horses really didn’t want to stay in place, we glued them to the poles using super attack. We just needed to remember our guests not to eat them!

For the posts I used cake dowels. They were the perfect height for my cake so I didn’t need to cut them, I guess this was AGAIN a bit of beginners luck! On each dowel we twisted a little sausage of golden fondant and let it dry.

The tricky bit was getting the right measurements to insert the dowels into the cake. The dowels should be equally distant from the tower and placed in a way that the left side of the cake mirrored the right side.

Once we fit them, we then placed the top tier on the tower. We now only needed to worry that it was well centered (otherwise it would have fall when we moved the cake) and that during the night the cat would not jump on it! I think I took this picture at 1 something am in the morning… Aaaand breaaaaaaaaaaaath….

I hope this tutorial was helpful. Please share any comment with me and ask any question you might have as I’m sure I forgot to explain something!

My son’s birthday was already a special day and this cake made it even more special so I really hope you will attempt to create one Carousel cake to make your celebration a lovely memory!