Saturday, December 25, 2010

I cooked...a Christmas Cake!

In our house growing up we always had a Christmas cake. I was always really into baking and at around age 12 my mom let me take over decorating it. The first one I did had these holly and ivy leaves that had painted on gold dust, it was quite amazing.

This year I thought it was time to bring back the tradition, but with a new spin. No fruit cake for a start! Here is a photo of my red velvet cake, filled with white chocolate buttercream frosting and finished with a peppermint marshmallow fondant. I added little baubles to the trees with sparkle decorating gel. The cake came from a box, but I made the frosting and the fondant from scratch.

White Chocolate Buttercream frosting (adapted from

1 cup soft butter
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
6 ounces white chocolate chips, melted and slightly cooled
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Beat the butter and sugar together in the Kitchenaid until fluffy. With the motor running at the lowest speed, slowly pour in the cooled white chocolate. It's important to not let the chocolate cool too much or you'll get white chocolate chunks in your frosting! Then add the cream, and crank the speed up to medium high and let it go for 3-4 minutes.

I filled and covered 2 8 inch round layers with this and had some to spare.

Peppermint Marshmallow Fondant (adapted from

16 oz mini marshmallows
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
7 cups sifted powdered sugar
Crisco to coat the Kitchenaid (1-2 tbsp)

Before you start have your Kitchenaid ready to go. Once the marshmallows are melted you have to work pretty fast. You'll need your dough hook attachment for your mixer too btw. Coat the dough hook and the mixer bowl really well with Crisco.

Melt the marshmallows with the water and peppermint extract in the microwave, it should take around a minute but do it in 30 second bursts to be sure, stirring in between each blast. Pour the melted marshmallows into the mixer bowl, and switch on the mixer. Start pouring in the powdered sugar and let it go until it's all mixed in and in a large ball. You may need to mix the last bits in by hand.

The finished fondant should be kept wrapped in airtight plastic, and don't put it in the fridge! Leave it at least overnight before rolling. It's quite a workout rolling this out so leave yourself plenty of time, and you'll want to use some of that leftover cup of powdered sugar on your rolling pin and work surface.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My new favorite brownie recipe!

Yeah that didn't take long. I still love the malted brownies but that malted milk powder is expensive, and these just feel easier. I honestly don't think I'll ever make boxed brownies again.

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 stick unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Melt the butter and chocolate chips in an appropriate sized heatproof bowl - I do this in the microwave in 30 second bursts and mix until melted and smooth.

In your sparkly black Kitchenaid stand mixer (ok I'm the only one with a glittery mixer), mix the eggs and sugar using the which attachment for around 2 minutes on high speed.

Add the cooled chocolate butter, mixing as you add, until incorporated.

Fold in the flour and salt and pour into a 8x8 baking pan. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I cooked...steak and mushroom pie!

This makes a nice change from stew, although it's essentially just stew in some pastry!

I basically made a beef stew for two, using two steaks, an onion, 12 mushrooms, a cup of beef stock and a tablespoon of tomato paste. I cooked it for a couple of hours until the steak was tender, then put it inside some store-bought pastry crust. Brush with some milk, bake until golden. Serve with some nice steamed potatoes and peas. Enjoy!

I cooked...chocolate tart!

This is Tyler Florence's recipe, which can be found on At my first grown up job (working at the British Airways conference center) the pastry chef used to make one of these every week. I was truly addicted to this thing, I would secretly hope that the guests wouldn't ask for it so there would be more for me!

I've tried to recreate the tart a few times in the past but either used the wrong chocolate or bad pastry. This recipe seems to nail it perfectly. Enjoy!

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into small chunks
1 large egg, separated
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used chips)
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature

First make the pastry. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, then add the butter and rub together to make breadcrumbs. You could also use a pastry blender to do this but I didn't have mine handy and the fingertip method is how we learn to make pastry in good olde Englande. Mix the egg yolk and ice water and add to the crumbs to form a dough. Form it into a disc and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a floured surface and line your pastry tin, then return it to the refrigerator for a further 15 minutes. I couldn't find my usual tart tin so I used a glass pie plate, but this would look much nicer if you used the correct equipment! The recipe calls for a 9 inch tart tin but you could probably go bigger with the quantity this made.

While the pastry is resting preheat the oven to 350 degrees. After your 15 minutes is up cover the pastry with parchment paper and some baking beans and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the beans and paper and add a light coat of beaten egg white to the pastry shell, returning to the oven for a final 8 minutes. At this point, you can remove the shell from the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees.

To make the filling, heat the cream and milk until lightly simmering, remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until melted. Then add the sugar and salt and whisk to incorporate.In a separate bowl beat the eggs, then add to the chocolate mixture, stirring well. The filling can then be poured into the shell, and baked for a final 15 to 20 minutes.

The tart should be cooled completely, and then refrigerated, before serving. I also like to add a good sprinkling of powdered sugar to the top, but by the time I took the above photo the sugar had melted in to the filling! You can also sprinkle with cocoa powder if you prefer. This tart actually does taste good for days, I actually think it tastes better as it gets older!