35 Before 35: Mini Egg Easter Cookies

After nearly two years in Switzerland I still hadn’t baked anything for Jan’s colleagues, so this weekend I decided that needed to change! With Easter coming up, something relating to that seemed appropriate, so I found this recipe, bought Cadbury’s Mini Eggs and got to work.

The dough looked pretty with all the colourful bits of shell:

cookie dough

I didn’t have brown sugar so I used ordinary granulated sugar. It seemed to work okay. Here are some cookies waiting to go in the oven:

cookies

And here they all are, cooling on a rack:

Easter cookies

There weren’t enough for me to try one and for most of Jan’s colleagues to get 2 each, so I couldn’t tell you how they taste. They looked good though and my entire flat still smells yummy even as I type this (after the cookies have already left the building). At least there were a few Mini Eggs left over for me to munch on 😉

And that makes biscuit number 8 for my 35 before 35 challenge!

35 Before 35: Bourbon Creams

I came up with the idea of attempting to bake Bourbon Creams ages ago (it’s not like I can just buy them here after all), but in typical Bev fashion took forever to get round to actually doing it. Finally, over the weekend, I  remembered to google the recipe. All the ones that came up seemed to be the same so I just used the first link I had clicked on, which was this one. Apparently the original came from Jamie Oliver… I should have known right then that things were too good to be true.

The recipe said that, before kneading, the mixture would be “slightly crumbly” but “show the promise of coming together”. After adding extra milk, I managed to achieve “slightly crumbly”, then had to knead separate balls for each biscuit. That was the only way I even had a chance of getting the dough to not fall apart as soon as I started trying to roll it.

The recipe said the ingredients would make “about 14”. I’m not sure whether that meant 14 Bourbon Creams or 14 biscuit halves, so 7 Bourbon Creams. After much kneading and attempting to roll, then re-kneading because the bloody thing had fallen apart again and then re-rolling, I eventually ended up with this:

biscuits

Yeah… it also turns out I don’t have a rectangular cutter. Admittedly these biscuit layers are way too thick and if I could have rolled them thinner without breaking them I could have got more out of the mixture, but there’s no way 14 would have happened!

I baked the biscuits, left them to cool, made the filling and was finally left with this:

They were very tasty, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be making them again, at least not using that particular recipe. I think I’ll stick with Nigella for sweet treats from now on 😉 But even if I only actually ended up with four biscuits, I still baked and that’s good enough for the 35 before 35 list!

Eight types of biscuits down, two to go. Any suggestions?

 

Chocolate Christmas biscuits

Since this first December weekend was a rare one in which we had no plans, I decided it was time for some Christmas baking. After all, it is the month of all the sweet treats! I used Nigella’s recipe for Chocolate Christmas Biscuits, but I added in some cinnamon and vanilla along with the cocoa powder because I don’t see how just sticking some sprinkles on top magically makes a biscuit Christmassy! You can’t really taste the cinnamon, but I know it’s there and that’s what counts 😉

Here are some of the biscuits fresh from the oven:

Instead of making cocoa powder/icing sugar/water icing, I decided to melt white chocolate for the decoration. My initial plan was to make some of the biscuits look like Christmas puddings and just put some white chocolate in the middle of the others and then decorate with sparkly things, but I quickly got bored of that and started drawing random patterns with white chocolate. When you bear in mind that I did all my drawing with a teaspoon I think they came out okay!

Apart from the Christmas puddings, I think the Christmas trees are my favourite!

Have you done any Christmas baking yet this year? What’s your favourite Christmas biscuit (I still have 3 more types of biscuits to bake for my 35 before 35… give me ideas!)

GBBO bake along: chocolate mousse and white chocolate cheesecake pots

This time on the Great British Bake Off bake along it was time for dessert week. My options were something called Marjolaine (which I’ve never heard of!), a roulade or mini mousse cakes. My first thought was to make some kind of chocolate mousse topped brownie thing, which seemed like a lot of effort for something that’s meant to be fun (and I’m definitely not in this to win it!), so I decided to go with something much easier.

If you make white chocolate cheesecake and top it with chocolate mousse, it totally counts as a mousse cake, right?

This is so easy a five year old could make it! Obviously I don’t recommend leaving said five year old to melt chocolate unsupervised, but with a little adult help a five year old could totally do it.

First of all, you make the base. For this you will need 55g biscuits (okay, cookies if you insist) and 20g butter. Digestive biscuits (I believe you can replace them with Graham Crackers in the US) or – my personal favourite – ginger nuts – work best, but I have never seen a ginger nut here and I wasn’t at the one supermarket that I know sells Digestives so I just bought any random biscuit. They worked well enough, but if any German or Swiss person happens to be reading, could you tell me what kind of biscuit you normally use for a biscuit base? Thanks!

biscuits
Random biscuity rings

Anyway, you need to crush the biscuits to form crumbs and melt the butter. Mix the two together well then put them on the bottom of your glass pots (or mini baking tins, whatever you’re using) and press down firmly to form a base. Now into the fridge with them to chill.

Next up is the cheesecake layer. For this I used 95g of cream cheese, 65 ml whipping cream and 60g white chocolate, which ended up being way too much so I ate the leftovers. What? Like you wouldn’t do the same!

Melt the chocolate in a Bain-Marie… or a bowl over a saucepan with some water in it. Let’s not pretend I’m posher than I am here! Beat the cream cheese until it’s soft then whip the cream. My cheesecake recipe tells me to whip it “until it’s about to form peaks”. How on Earth am I supposed to know when something is about to do something? What is this, baking for psychics? What I usually do it whip it until the beaters start to leave trails when I move them but no peaks form when I lift the beaters. It’s always worked so far. Now fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese then stir in the melted chocolate. You can use any chocolate. I chose white so this layer would contrast with the mousse. Thanks to the cream cheese, the cheesecake layer isn’t horribly sweet despite being white chocolate. Sprread the cheesecake mixture over the biscuit base then place the pots back in the fridge to chill some more.

cheesecake
Cheesecake layer

Finally, the mousse. I took this from a recipe by Mary Berry herself – celebration chocolate mousse cake, and it is easy peasy. Literally whipped cream and chocolate. I used 75g of chocolate and 112 ml of cream. First melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool (confession… I just took mine off the heat and placed it to one side, forgetting the water in the saucepan was still steaming, so I’m unsure whether cooling even happened. Oh well, I melted the chocolate slowly so it wasn’t that hot to start with). While the chocolate cools, whip the cream. This time whip until it “forms soft peaks”. Thank goodness… actual peaks I can cope with! Stir the chocolate into the cream, making sure they’re evenly blended (no random darker streaks of chocolate!), layer the mousse on top of the cheesecake and place the whole lot back in the fridge to chill some more. The mousse needs to chill for at least 4 hours (or overnight) to firm up properly. Other mousse cakes I saw used gelatine, which would probably firm up quicker, but the little shop I was at most definitely did not sell gelatine!

I made two cake pots, but have only photographed the one that looks slightly nicer 😉 Later, I took my desserts back out of the fridge and decorated them with some gold balls… because who doesn’t like a bit of sparkle?

chocolate-mousse-cheesecake
Chocolate mousse and white chocolate cheesecake pot

And that’s it. Not much of a show stopper (I mean, just look at the beautiful desserts everyone else has produced), but it’s easy and tasty, which is really what I want from something that Jan and I actually have to eat!

GBBO Bake Along: meatball toad-in-the-hole

toad-veg-gravyIf I was taking part in the actual Great British Bake Off, I would probably be disqualified for this contribution. Not following the rules at all, but meh… whatever. This week in bake off bake along, it’s batter week. My choices were supposed to be to make a batch of perfectly even Yorkshire puddings with a savoury filling, lace pancakes or churros. I don’t have any means of deep-fat frying, so initially I turned my attention to pancakes. Mine would have been filled with mince though instead of being lacy and intricate. Then I started thinking about Yorkshire puddings… from where my mind wandered to the fact that it’s been ages since we last had toad-in-the-hole. It’s basically a giant filled Yorkshire pudding, so it totally counts, right? We didn’t actually have any sausages, though… but we did have mince. Which lead me to the idea of experimenting with meatballs instead of sausages. And so meatball toad-in-the-hole was born.

I’ve had my toad-in-the-hole recipe for so long that I don’t even know who it belonged to originally, so apologies if I stole it from you! It’s pretty generic though so probably not really subject to copyright…

Ingredients

For the batter:
115g/4oz plain flour
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs
300ml/½ pint of milk

For the meatballs:
350g mince
1 clove garlic
Herbs (I used dried parsley and fresh rosemary)
Chilli flakes
Cayenne pepper
Salt & black pepper, to taste

You will also need some oil or fat for frying the meatballs and for the oven-proof dish. I used olive oil for the former and sunflower oil for the latter.

Start by making the batter.

  1. Sift the flour, salt and pepper into a large bowl.
  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and crack in the eggs. Use a wooden spoon to gradually beat the eggs into the flour then beat in the milk a little at a time until the batter is the consistency of double cream.
  3. Strain and push the dough through a sieve to remove any remaining lumps then cover and leave to stand for around 30 minutes.

While the batter is standing, pre-heat your oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6, then make the meatballs.

mince

  1. Start by placing your mince, herbs, garlic and seasoning in a bowls, as shown above. I used mixed pork and beef mince (the standard here), but you can choose your favourite. Mash all the ingredients together really well – you want garlic and herbs to be in all the meatballs!
  2. Using your hands, form the meatballs into roughly evenly sized balls. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can in the process (yes, part of the liquid will be blood. Sorry!). As you can see below, I got 12 out of mine.
    meatballs1
  3. Fry the balls lightly in oil for a few minutes. You don’t need to fully cook them through at this point (they will be in the oven for a while), but brown the edges enough to stop them falling apart. Or you could make proper meatballs with egg and breadcrumbs to hold them together. Meanwhile, put some fat or oil into an oven-proof dish and place it in the oven to heat for 5 minutes.
    meatballs2
  4. Remove the dish from the oven, place the meatballs into the hot dish, pour in the batter and then immediately return the dish to the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes until well-risen and golden brown. Whatever you do, do not open the oven before 35 minutes is up, otherwise your batter will deflate like a punctured bouncy castle, and there’s nothing sadder than that!
  5. Serve with vegetables of your choice (in our case aubergine fried in the leftover oil from the meatballs, but you may want to go with something healthier!) and, of course, gravy. For more people you could also add mashed or roast potatoes or more veg. This served 2 of us, but with added potatoes it will stretch to 4-6 people.

toad-hole

Jan asked me, since the meatballs were clearly not toad, what exactly is in the hole. Since they are round(ish), I thought maybe frog spawn.  What do you think… will frog spawn in the hole catch on?

See more batter week contributions here.

GBBO bake along: chocolate chip hedgehogs

After missing biscuit week thanks to work and a visitor, I decided to jump back into the linkup for bread week. I wanted to go Swiss for this bake and make hedgehog rolls like the one here, except add chocolate chips to mine to comply with the rules (and also because chocolate!). I couldn’t actually find a recipe for Igeli though, so I settled for this one for Schokobrötchen. I felt like I was cheating a bit since this recipe doesn’t involve any yeast… is it still bread without yeast? It literally has bread roll in the name though (the German means “chocolate bread roll).

My original plan for this post was to translate the recipe for you then show you how I made hedgehogs instead of bread rolls. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out quiiite as planned and I’m at least partly blaming the recipe for not telling me what consistency the dough was supposed to have… mine ended up really sticky so I had to add extra flour just to be able to form it into anything. Even the balls that the original recipe called for wouldn’t have been possible. And also what kind of oven has a 175°C setting? Mine certainly doesn’t and neither have any of the other ones I’ve used in my life!

dscn9923

I decided to use two different methods for the spines so that I would hopefully end up with at least some rolls that looked something like hedgehogs.,For some of the rolls, I cut the dough using scissors to try and make spines like the ones in the picture linked above. My dough was obviously far too soft though because my spines had already melted back into the rest before the rolls even made it into the oven. For the rest I used almonds… sliced almonds would have worked best, but I only had whole peeled almonds so I tried to cut them to size. It only kind of worked.

Apparently I had made me rolls too flat, so my hedgehogs ended up looking like they’d been squished in a nasty traffic accident… possibly involving a truck? And, as expected, the non-almond spines didn’t work at all, leaving me with demented mouse rolls instead of hedgehogs.

dscn9927
I swear the one at the top right is giving me the evils…

At least the almond ones looked vaguely like they were supposed to…

I am so far far from being a star baker! But despite looking a bit dodgy, my hedgehogs tasted delicious! Next time, I I think I will try and find a better Schokobrötchen recipe, though.

I am adding this to the link up even though every single other entry looks totally professional and absolutely delicious! After all, somebody has to be the failure of the week! (If this was the real show, I’d be the one being voted off…)

This would be a fun bake to do with kids (provided you find a better recipe than the one I used). If you go with the almond spines method, the kids could place them and turn the plain buns into cute little hedgehogs.

And now I have seven more chocolate chip hedgehogs to eat and nobody to help me! (Jan is away at yet another choir weekend)

GBBO bake along: drizzle cake

I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen a single episode of the Great British Bake Off! Now we actually have English channels I saw that it was on the other day and thought about watching it, but after the news a film came on and Jan said he wanted to watch it so I went to bed with my book and left him to it. (We do have an external hard drive but you can’t record one channel and watch another). But that doesn’t stop me from being able to bake the cakes, right? I was just going to do a lemon poppyseed cake that I’ve made before because it always turns out well, but just for fun I entered drizzle cake in BBC Good Food and this recipe for lime and ginger drizzle cake came up. Ginger trumps basically everything in this house, so my decision was pretty much made for me.

cake1
The unbaked cake

I have one complaint about the recipe. It told me to use a 900g loaf tin. Who gives the size of a receptacle for baked goods as a weight? How am I supposed to know how many grams of cake my tin will hold? (At least I assume that’s what the measurement refers to). My tin came with dimensions… you know, length, height, that kind of thing. Admittedly I threw the packaging away and no longer know them, but I have a tape measure. I can work it out. How do you expect me to work out how many grams my loaf tin is?! Okay, end of rant!

cake2
Out of the oven

As you can see, my cake browned to quickly and also split down the middle. Mary Berry would be horrified, I’m sure! It was my first time baking an actual cake in a fan-assisted oven and apparently I haven’t really worked it out yet.

For the drizzle, I had no idea where one would get stem ginger syrup in Switzerland (or even what it is, really) so I used ginger jam instead. The pieces of ginger meant I didn’t need to decorate with crystallized ginger as suggested 😉 Oh, and as for the stem ginger in the actual cake… ginger may come in balls in BBC Good Food land, but it doesn’t here so I just chopped off a chunk and hoped for the best. Also, I may have added more powdered ginger than the recipe called for. Oh, alright, I definitely added a lot more ginger than the recipe called for. It stilled could have done with more ginger though! (I told you… we like ginger around here!)

 

There is drizzle on it, I swear! But most of it soaked in, plus it was the colour of ginger which doesn’t show up well against cake. In my defence you can’t see any drizzle in the picture on the original recipe either! I also added coconut to the top so it would look more intentionally decorated than “someone spilled something sticky on this cake!”. Also, massive apologies for my utterly terrible photography! I clearly have no idea how to photograph cake! It was too long for my camera! First world problems…

cake5

For looks, my cake gets a great big zero, but it tastes amazing and in my world that’s all that matters!

Check out week one of the Bake Off Bake Along for more yummy cakes. Someone even attempted a mirror glaze, which is waaaay beyond my baking skills!