Sunday, 25 December 2011

Is it Christmas already?





Given it appears as though a toy shop has exploded in our living room, I think it is a safe assumption that Santa has visited and it is indeed Christmas.  Merry Christmas to whom ever stumbles across this post.  It has been a bit barren in the posting department.  Reasons one, two and three are in the shot above.

For those following along at home, the baby boys were induced at 3.00pm on the 17th of June, which is coincidentally my Mum's birthday, and arrived at 10.20pm and 10.36pm that same day.  Let's just say that a twin delivery is a production with quite a few cast members, certainly a lot more than showed up for Isaac's delivery.  I can absolutely guarantee that it will be a one time only show, because as cute as they are, they are hard work!  So it has been a bit foggy around here the past six months.  I have baked, but my mental capacity and time scarcity have not stretched to anything really ground breakingly new.  So in absence of cake photos, here are some baby photos instead.


Hard to believe that six months ago they were that little - 6 pound 5 ounces and 7 pound 2 ounces (so not so little), and they are now sitting up and stealing each others toys.


Six months - (huge exhale of breath) surely my medal is in the post?  The little assistant is slowly coming around to the possibility that they could be something other than extremely noisy things that take up time with his Dad.  When anyone asks me how it is, I just respond with "relentless" - all elements of it (especially the laundry)!  We are so blessed and we count our lucky stars on a daily basis that we were so fortunate to have three healthy and happy sons.




The little assistant was not so impressed by his new bike.  The new train set on the other hand, is a winner.
 

Anyway, I am sure that one day soon, I will be baking for real again.  I have a stack of baking books ready to go.

Macarons - Pierre Herme
Tea with Bea - Bea's of Bloomsbury

Baked in America (where I get my US flour)
Mary Berry's Baking Bible - stalwart of UK baking 



Now, if someone can let me know where on Amazon I can buy some time, then I will get right on it.





Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and long 2012 (I am sure it is not just me that feels as though the year evaporates?).

 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Devil is in the Chocolate

Ahem.  Let's not remark about how it is nearly Christmas again.  Let's remark about the fact that I actually baked.  And then blogged about it.

The cake that finally made it past the deeply guarded barriers of procrastination was Devil's Food Cake with Midnight Ganache.  And you know what.  After *months* of procrastination about being too tired, too busy, too "overseas", too whatever, this whole baking thing didn't take too long at all.  Good to remember really.  If I had spent more time *doing* rather than making up excuses, I am sure that my cake quota for the past three months would have advanced past the solitary digit.

I baked this whilst the little assistant and his Dad were at swimming lessons (for the little assistant, not for Dad).  I even have Chris fooled as to how *time consuming* and *difficult* this cake baking is.  When they returned from swimming, Chris asked where I had found the time to bake cakes!  They had been gone maybe two hours...  Clearly I am a good excuse maker.

And this cake is pretty easy to make.  The ganache takes longer.  The devils food cake comes together pretty easily and can be prepared in stages.  Ten minutes to prepare the wet ingredients, dry ingredients, dissolve cocoa, chocolate and boiling water and pull the butter out to come to room temperature.  Then in a about an hour or so, just mix it in the right order and divide it equally between two pans and before you know it you have a couple of cakes.  Mine where baked in about 27 minutes, not the 30 -40 minutes that Rose recommends.  I definitely recommend an early check on these cakes.



The hardest thing about making this cake was coaxing the light brown muscovado sugar that it didn't needed to be in thousands of individual bits, rather than in one big solid lump.  Coaxing with the wooden lemon juicer didn't go far enough, so I had to introduce it to the food processor for a good few minutes.  Quite obviously cake baking has been infrequent around here.  Previously, sugar never sat long enough to work out how to move from grains to granite. The actual mix was fluffy and amazing.



The ganache was a bit of faff.  I declined the option to use food processor to grind my chocolate.  Weird, given I had it out to grind the faffing sugar.  I must have been channeling a bit of Raymond defiance!  Knowing how hot caramel gets, I figured out that it would be plenty hot enough to melt the broken bits of chocolate.  Also a bit weird, was that I seem to have maintained the confidence that comes from baking week in week out.  You know, the kind of confidence that results in skim reading the recipe, getting it wrong, then with a shrug of the shoulders, doing a slight adjustment and thinking it will be right!  I used 85% chocolate in the ganache (it was midnight ganache after all!!)  Anway, on my second skim, I realised that Rose had instructed 60% so I switched out some of the 85% for some lower % and called it roughly right.  So what if I was a few hours post midnight in the ganache stakes?

The caramel was a great success.  Whilst I was in Australia recently I had to consult Rose (via You Tube) on correct caramel preparation.   (How great is it to have Rose on call, whenever you need her... kind of like having your Mum at the end of the counter, except that my Mum doesn't know how to make great caramel!).     I gifted our hosts with the two Ottolenghi cookbooks and whipped up the Macadamia and Caramel cheesecake.  Except my Caramel (made on brown sugar!) was a crystallised disaster.  So I learned from Rose that you need plain old white granulated to make proper caramel.  You know what - she is right (like I should be surprised).  So the caramel of the ganache was simple - so long as you know the difference between deep amber and burnt.  Which I do.  Through bitter experience (literally!).  Not that I burned it this time.  But I have.  In the past.


After caramelising the sugar and tipping in the cream and butter, you add it to the chocolate (it doesn't need to be finely processed, chunked into rough squares is good enough if you put some elbow effort in).   I tasted it at this point and was very tempted to stop.  I could easily taste the caramel coming through the chocolate.  Divine.  But this was Midnight Ganache, not Caramel Ganache.  So onwards with adding in a shedload of cocoa mixed with boiling water.  Again, I didn't cool this as instructed because really, what was the point?  Cooled cocoa mixed with hot caramel/chocolate didn’t really make sense to me – just lengthened the process.  So I just mixed and then let it cool for a few hours.  Not the five as instructed.  More like about three.


I didn’t ice it as artfully as Rose.  I just smoothed it on and called it done.  I also didn’t bother with the macerated cherries – they too fell victim to the skim read.

The verdict on this cake?  Hmm.  I can’t say that I am sold.  The cake itself, whilst tender, is quite crumbly.  There is no way you can sneak a piece of this cake.  A friend dropped over to collect Chris for an early morning motorbike ride on Sunday and helped himself to a slice of cake.  I knew this even before I lifted the lid on the cake plate because there were chocolate crumbs all over the floor.  Granted, he is a bachelor and cake plates and forks are not his thing – especially at sparrows on a Sunday morning.  Still, it is worth noting that this is not the moist heavy chocolate cake that makes you regret even a sliver.  It is light.  It is tender.  It is a tad crumbly, or more politely worded – delicate.  That midnight ganache does ratchet down the delicate nature of the cake – I think I would have preferred it less cocoa-ey, more like it was with just the caramel and chocolate.  Chris described it as chocolate cement.  But that hasn’t stopped him having five slices in 48 hours.


I quite like the delicateness of the chocolate cake, but would pair it with a lighter whipped caramel ganache or something.  Assuming my levels of procrastination permitted, of course.


My other baking endeavor is well underway.  I can’t procrastinate my way out of that one.  Fortunately I don’t have to read any recipes or talk myself into the baking, otherwise who knows how long it would actually take me to come up with the goods.  All going to plan, two more little boys will be here by mid June.  I am fervently wishing for a longer torso, but other than that, it is thankfully, boringly normal and uneventful, if a little on the large size.  

In other news, we are moving in the next two weeks from our two bedroom gardenless flat to three bedroom small back yarded house, which, although nice, doesn’t have quite the same high quality German appliances.  Sob.  I will do my best not to add that to my list of baking avoidance excuses.