First of all I’d like to wish you all a very Happy Easter. Yesterday, I made a chocolate fudge cake with chocolate cream cheese icing. It’s destined for Easter tea with my mother and some friends later today. I think it’s going to be a good one. I also have an easy and fun Easter competition for all baking enthusiasts. The prize is the Mary Berry Collection afternoon tea set that you can see in this post, plus a possible added bonus. Read on.
It was my pleasure as well as my pain to be one of the three judges for the Rangecookers Cupcake Creative competition. My pleasure, because it was a real joy to see the amazing cupcake creations that bloggers came up with, but my pain because it was very hard to choose just a winner. There were a lot of entries and they all deserved attention. I suspect my fellow judges, Jac of Tinned Tomatoes and Lis of Foodstuff Finds felt very much the same. You can find out how we made the difficult decision on Jac’s announcement post.
The winner was announced a couple of weeks ago, but in case you missed it, I’m highlighting it here, along with five others that we thought deserved particular note.
Congratulations go to the winner who gets the prize of a new range cooker:
|Raspberry Lemon Swirl Cupcakes from Super Golden Bakes|
|Chocolate and Raspberry Cream Cupcakes from My Golden Pear|
|Salted Fluffer Cupcake Cones from Cakeyboi|
|Peanut Butter & Jam Cupcakes from Country Heart and Home|
|Rainbow Marshmallow Cupcakes from Wallflower Girl|
|Neopolitan 99 Ice-cream Cupcakes from What Me and the Boys Say|
Cupcakes took Britain by storm a few years ago. They made their way over from the USA and all but eclipsed our smaller traditional fairy cakes. Each year, the food gurus proclaim that cupcakes are in decline and some new cake fad will see them off, but I have yet to witness this phenomenon. Cupcakes remain extremely popular: there are numerous cookbooks, cafes and online shops dedicated to them and very few baking blogs that have not featured them at least once. I am no exception to this rule as you can probably tell by the number of cupcakes I have made. Cupcakes, fairy cakes, call them what you will, I am quite a fan. They are easy to bake and everyone gets to have their very own carefully crafted cake in miniature form. I love the way they are so easily adapted to create a myriad of little fancies. Change the base, alter the type or flavour of icing, add a surprise something in the middle – the adaptations are endless. They can be things of great beauty, but for me, as with all cake, the quality of flavour, texture and ingredients are what it’s really about.
The good folk of Range Cookers have a rather exciting baking competition for bloggers. You guessed it – cupcakes. Bake your cupcake of choice and be in with a chance of winning a 90df Select Range Cooker worth nearly £1,000.
All you have to do is bake and decorate some cupcakes, photograph them, write a blog post about how you made them and mention the Range Cookers brand. Don’t forget to acknowledge your sources, if relevant. Your creations will be judged by a panel of three (ow which I am one) and you have until midday on 12th August to get your entries in. Blog links should be sent via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook; you can see the full details on the competition website.
I am very excited to announce that one of the three judges will be me and I’m really looking forward to seeing all of those Cupcake Creative entries.
To get you in the mood and to inspire beginners and experienced bakers alike, how about these lemon and white chocolate cupcakes? As my initial inspiration, I used the lemon cupcake recipe from Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery by Martha Swift & Lisa Thomas.
This is how I made:
Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes
- Lined two 6 hole muffin tins with spotted yellow cupcake cases.
- Preheated the oven to 180C.
- Using a wooden spoon, creamed 100g of softened unsalted butter with 200g cardamom sugar (golden caster) in a large mixing bowl until the the mixture was light and well combined.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs (large hens eggs can be used instead), using a tbsp of the flour after the first egg to prevent curdling.
- Grated in the zest of one organic lemon (scrub well with soap and water if unwaxed) and beat until smooth and creamy.
- Sieved in 175g flour (half wholemeal, half plain white) with 1 rounded tsp baking powder stirred in.
- Added 4 tbsp milk and 4 tbsp lemon juice. Stirred until just combined.
- Spooned into 12 cupcake cases and baked for 22 minutes until well risen, golden and a cocktail stick inserted came out clean.
- Allowed to cook in the tins for 10 minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Lemon Chantilly Cream
- Melted 75g good quality unflavoured white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Stirred and left to cool slightly.
- Whisked 200g double cream and the grated zest of an organic lemon with a balloon whisk until soft peaks formed.
- Stirred a couple of tbsp into the white chocolate, then folded the white chocolate mixture into the remaining cream until just combined.
- Used a palate knife to swirl the Chantilly cream over the tops of the cold cakes.
- Decorated with lemon jelly slices and yellow sprinkles.
Well, the lemon Chantilly cream was even more delicious than that used for the Raspberry Tarts. Luckily I had a bit left over so was able to savour it in its unadulterated form. Having said that, the cake was delicious too – moist and moreish with a nice tang of citrus. I put a plateful in a basket and trotted off to town to deliver a bit of midsummer cheer to a couple of friends. They were received gratefully. I did, however, keep a few in reserve for CT and me.
Clotted cream and pasties vied for centre stage in this round-up of Cornwall’s Best of British. I was pleased to see that seafood, cheese, honey and fruit made an appearance too – all good Cornish produce. In total there were fourteen fabulous entries, thank you all. Fiona is also doing a round up of this first ever Best of British challenge over at The Face of New World, so do check out her blog. The next challenge is for Scottish food and is being hosted by Janice. Lots of lovely produce to choose from there – you can find out more at Farmersgirl Kitchen.
Pasties and Cornwall seem to be synonymous in most people’s minds; they were certainly the most popular entry here, so I thought I’d better do a little background research. According to Lindey Bareham in her book Pasties, pasty is an old English word for a meat pie made without a dish. Due to Cornwall’s far flung location, the name continued to be used here after it had died out in most other places. The pasty is of course well known for being the staple food of Cornish miners. A meat, onion and swede filling wrapped inside a pastry case with a crimped “handle” used to hold the pasty whilst eating with dirty hands; this was then discarded along with any adhering contaminants such as arsenic.
I’m a vegetarian so my idea of a good Cornish pasty is a cheese and onion one, which is definitely not traditional. My mother, however, is a bit of a fan, so I do know what a typical Cornish pasty should be like. It should have a juicy filling with a pastry case which is crusty on the outside and tender on the inside. The meat should be beef steak, cut into chunks, never minced with sliced or chopped potatoes, chopped onion and chopped swede – known as turnip in Cornwall. Ingredients are layered raw onto the pastry case and seasoned with salt and pepper. The pasty is then sealed by crimping the sides together along the top or along the edge and then baked. Crimping is a bit of an art and is taken very seriously; whether the crimp should be at the top or on the side is still hotly debated. In 2011, the Cornish pasty was awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status by the EU, which protects it from being made anywhere outside Cornwall. Interestingly, they say that the crimp must be on the side. This is probably because it is easier for large scale bakers to make them this way; home bakers often prefer the top crimp which makes for a plumper pasty, but is more fiddly to do.
Personally, I’ve never been able to make a decent pasty, my pastry falls apart and I’m rubbish at crimping, so I am truly impressed with the abilities showcased here.
Fiona of London Unattached, whose brainchild this Best of British challenge is, felt suitably responsible and kicked things of with her Somerset version of the Cornish pasty as made by her mother. Crimped on the top and containing no swede, Fiona has made it with her first ever flakey pastry, which worked a treat.
Karen of Lavender and Lovage also had a hand in dreaming up this challenge. She decided to showcase Davidstow Cheddar with her mum’s cheese and potato pie – made by her mother just as she used to make it when Karen was growing up in Cornwall. On the other side of Bodmin Moor, my mother used to make something very similar and I can vouch for it being great vegetarian comfort food.
Less well known than the pasty, stargazey pie is another Cornish classic. I wasn’t really expecting anyone to give this a go, so I was delighted when Claire of Under the Blue Gum Tree made this prawn and Kingklip stargazey pie and all the way from South Africa no less. There is a strong link between Cornwall and South Africa as many Cornish miners were highly regarded for their expertise and went on to work in the gold fields and diamond mines. Traditionally made with pilchards, this pie has the fish heads poking out of the pastry crust and “gazing” at the sky. Claire has used prawns instead and why not?
Clotted cream is another ingredient we are very lucky to have in abundance in Cornwall. I grew up with it and have always missed it when living elsewhere. Janine of Cake of the Week was also feeling homesick for Cornish food, so decided to showcase one of the things she could get: clotted cream. Her format of choice was a cake for the Jubilee. Her strawberry and clotted cream Jubilee cake has a right royal wow factor.
I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by without trying something I hadn’t made before. Cornish splits are the traditional vehicle for carrying cream and jam for the highly renowned Cornish cream tea. They’ve been much neglected in recent years in favour of the easier to make scones, so this seemed like the ideal opportunity to stage a revival. I also managed to use a number of Cornish ingredients, including Cornish sea salt.
Clotted cream and strawberries continue their meteoric rise with this Cornish strawberry-rhubarb tiramisu from Chris of Cooking Around the World. A very special tiramisu this is, not only does it feature delicious Cornish ingredients, but it doesn’t contain coffee. This means I can make tiramisu AND be able to eat it. Do hop over to Chris’s post if you haven’t already done so as he has some lovely pictures of a sunny Cornwall – not something we’ve seen much of recently!
Following in the cream tea tradition, Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker decided to do things even more differently. Clotted cream and strawberries were the first thing that came to Ros’ mind when thinking of Cornish food and thus these mouthwatering clotted cream and strawberry tarts and cookies were born.
Enough of the sweet stuff, we’re back to seafood with this smoked mackerel kedgeree from Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen. Mackerel is one of the fish that Janice associates with Cornwall. She was unable was unable to source Cornish mackerel for this dish, but figured that the Scottish mackerel she used had quite likely swum up past the Lizard, so could be counted.
Once visited, Cornwall is not easily forgotten and Chris of Cooking Around the World, found that once he started thinking about Cornish food, he couldn’t rest until he’d made a pasty. Having taken an Italian dish for his first entry and turned it into a Cornish one, he reversed things this time by using olive oil and rosemary in this Cornish icon. Do visit his blog to find out what other surprising ingredients made their way into this pasty.
And another pasty makes an appearance. This time on Lavender and Lovage where Karen’s enthusiasm knows no bounds. In her second entry, she gives us the secrets of her friend Annie’s true Cornish pasty. There is plenty of information to be found about Cornish pasties in her post, so do take a look. A word of warning though, she is passionate about the side crimp, so I have to be careful we don’t come to blows.
At last a pasty I can eat! Fellow Cornish blogger Natalie of the Hungry Hinny came up with this most delicious take on the Cornish classic – mushroom, cheese and potato pasties. Filled with thyme and sweet potato as well as the title ingredients, this pasty used Davidstow cheddar and was given the full crimping treatment. Tis a real pasty, me han’some.
Another Cornish blogger, Beth of Jam and Clotted Cream decided to use Cornish honey from the Tregothnan estate in her entry. Tregothnan is mostly famed for its tea production, but it does have a number of other enterprises, including beekeeping. Beth reckons her ginger spiced honey cake would be especially good served warm with a dollop of Cornish clotted cream ice-cream. I’m definitely up for giving that a go.
I was really hoping someone would make saffron cake, another of Cornwall’s well kept secrets and something I’ve not yet got around to making. I wasn’t to be disappointed. Jill of Lapin d’Or and More, blogging over the border in Devon, came up with her own interpretation – one that included less sugar and less fat. Her saffron buns turned out a beautiful pale yellow and sound delicious.
Having started with a pasty, we end with a pasty – of sorts! Susan of the delectable blog, A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate was a little concerned that Cornwall would be up in arms about her splendid rustic Cornish pastie pie. I don’t know why. It has all of the classic Cornish ingredients you’d expect and looks absolutely magnificent – it’s just that lugging such an enormous pie down the mine might have proved a little difficult. They like things bigger in Lancashire apparently!
Sponsored by The Face of New World, we have a £50 Amazon voucher for one lucky entrant who has been picked at random using Random.Org. There will be another £50 voucher next month and so on for the first six months of the challenge. At the end of the process entries submitted over the whole six months will be judged with a grand prize of a £300 voucher.
So, congratulations go to ………. The More Than Occasional Baker
Those human whirlwinds, Fiona of London Unattached and Karen of Lavender and Lovage have come up with a new challenge in order to celebrate British Food. As local food is a topic close to my heart, I’m really chuffed to be hosting the very first challenge. The idea is that each month for six months, a county or region around the UK will be selected and bloggers will post their interpretation of a recipe or dish from that region.
As Cornwall is the first (and dare I say best) county in the UK, it is no surprise that Kernow kicks things off. I am somewhat partisan, I confess – Cornwall is my home after all.
So to the challenge. I am looking for you to showcase something that embodies Cornish food. This could be the good old Cornish pasty, or for those that love fish, Stargazey pie. For those with a sweeter tooth, there is of course saffron cake or how about a good Cornish cream tea? Not forgetting, of course, that the jam goes first with a hefty dollop of clotted cream on the top – unlike the heathen practices of other counties. Or you may prefer to use some great Cornish ingredients. Famed for its dairy, seafood, vegetables and soft fruit, Cornwall has a wealth of fresh and delicious produce to choose from. Our new potatoes are second to none, our cauliflowers famous and I had my first punnet of local juicy and flavoursome strawberries this weekend. Clotted cream everyone knows about, but we also have some amazing cheeses, including Cornish Blue, winner of the World Cheese Awards 2010, Yarg, a semi-hard cheese wrapped in stinging nettles, Cornish Camembert, Allet Dairy Goat’s Cheese and the Cornish Crackler, an award winning cheddar.
I’m not sure how local chocolate is to Cornwall, but I shall endeavour to sneak it in anyway!
There are prizes to be had too. This challenge is being sponsored by New World Appliances, which is one of only a few British manufactures of kitchen appliances. Each month an entrant will be picked at random and will win a £50 Amazon voucher. At the end of 6 months all entries will be judged and the best will be awarded a £300 Amazon voucher, so get your aprons on and cook up a Cornish storm in your kitchens.
The full rules are posted on The Face of New World Appliances. But in essence this is what you need to do:
- Post your recipe on your blog with a link back to The Face of New World Appliances AND to this post.
- Add the Best of British badge to your post.
- Add “Best of British” to your post or as a tag.
- E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your recipe title, a link to your post and a photograph by Midnight of 15th June.
- If you post on Twitter, you can use #BestofBritish and if you mention @fionamaclean or @Choclette8 or @newworldapps, we will try and retweet.
- The round-up of entries will be posted on or before the 20th June on The Face of New World Appliances and here on my blog too.
The Fairy Hobmother has been flitting here and flitting there and turning up in all sorts of unexpected places, although it has to be said these are mostly (and maybe exclusively) food blogs. Following on from a comment I left on Nic’s blog Cherrapeno, this fairy, aka Ian of Appliances Online visited me recently. I had wished for a new nut or spice grinder. In the end I got something rather different from what I’d originally intended, but I’m really pleased with it.
It is a hand mill for grinding, grating and slicing nuts, vegetables or chocolate. Guess what the first thing I used it for was? I really like the fact it is simple and easy to use and that I’m not reliant on electricity for everything. It’s particularly good for grating chocolate as I find trying to hold a piece if chocolate whilst grating it leads to lots of melted chocolate all over my hands – not necessarily a bad thing of course, but not the most efficient way of getting either melted chocolate or grated chocolate. My one complaint is catching the gratings; much of the chocolate spilled onto the work surface rather than the saucer I’d placed to collect them. Next time I shall try it with a bowl. You’ll find out what I wanted that grated chocolate for in a later post.
Do leave a comment here stating your wish and you never know, it just might be granted and the Fairy Hobmother could be visiting you. Good Luck.
Beth of Jam & Cream PR has been strutting her stuff again and thanks to her efforts, I was recently sent this rather cute 100g Praline Toasty egg sandwich from Hotel Chocolat. This is not the usual sort of thing I have for breakfast, but is more than acceptable later in the day. Needless to say, this egg sandwich was not your traditional fried egg with a bit of tomato sauce slapped between two slices of bread, no, it was two slabs of chocolate sandwiched between a praline chocolate egg – a fun and novel concept.
The slabs of chocolate turned out to be more than I had bargained for. They were in fact half Hotel Chocolat’s house 40% milk chocolate and half praline chocolate which was particularly delicious. The chocolate was smooth and creamy and the white chocolate streak down the middle of the egg gave another dimension to its flavour. I was expecting the egg to be filled with praline, but actually it was hollow – it was almost a relief as the hazelnutty praline was quite rich and sweet. – just about the right volume for two people to share after a hard day’s labouring.
Hotel Chocolat are currently looking for help in naming their new Easter Baby. If you’d like to help them out and be in with a chance of winning £75 worth of chocolate then go to the following link on facebook and have a go at Name our bouncing Easter baby.
Thank you to all who entered this competition and thank you also to Dorset Cereals for providing this great prize. All the lovely ideas you’ve shared are much appreciated. As you can imagine, it was really hard to come up with a single entry that we liked the best – there were so many good ones. I did think, fleetingly, of trying them all out and in an ideal world (one where I was a lady of leisure) I would have done.