Sunday, 25 April 2010

Twinkle twinkle little star biscuits

Rad art by Marc johns

I recently had a new filling.  So what better way to reward myself than with some 
sugar cookies?

I found a recipe with about three and a half thousand reviews on allrecipes, a site I visit very regularly.  I am slightly addicted to it.  I think it can be a bit foolish to trust the recipes of just anyone on the internet, simply because they call themself 'bestcook2010'. I wouldn't accept food from a random on the street, so I'm not going to accept a recipe from an internet random either, unless they can back themself up with nice reviews.

Anyway, I've used this recipe to create quite a few interesting looking biscuits!  These stars looked particularly lovely.


  • 340 g butter, softened
  • 400 g white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 ml vanilla extract
  • 625 g all-purpose flour
  • 9 g baking powder
  • 6 g salt

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. 

Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.

I used 2 different sized star cutters.  First the bigger one and then the smaller one to cut a star out of the middle.

To decorate...

I used Royal icing.  It is tasty and dries really hard with a lovely smooth finish.  You can add colouring to it easily.  It can be used to make all sorts of decorations as well as to glue edible things together.  If you ever have any leftovers, keep them in an airtight pot with some cling film inside, touching the icing mixture.

These days, less cake decorators use royal icing to cover entire cakes, such as wedding cakes.  Many opt for sugarpaste instead as it is a lot softer and easy to use.  Royal icing can be messy to make and many of the techniques used to ice with it are fiddly and take a lot of practise.  They are also often very easy to break!

Making Royal Icing

There are a number of ways to make royal icing.  The easiest is to buy the royal icing powder, which you simply add water to.  Other recipes include using egg white or egg white powder (see below for one of these).

Royal icing is used in a number of different ways, to decorate cakes and biscuits.  Several consistencies of the icing may be required for a single decoration.

It is very important, when making royal icing to make it to the right consistency.  Even if you intend to use a really runny icing, you should begin by beating the ingredients together until the icing is quite stiff.  You can check that it is the right consistency by dipping the end of your whisk into it and pulling up some of the icing.  If it makes a peak in the icing which slowly falls over, it's about right.  This way you can be sure that you have used the correct quantities of the ingredients.  Once you've achieved this, you can begin to 'let down' your icing.  This is what icingy people call it when you thin out icing by very gradually adding water to it.  The best way to do this is by dipping your pallet knife into a pot of water and then mixing the icing with it.  You would be surprised just how much difference a tiny dribble of water can make to your icing.  Therefore, adding the water in this way really is your best option.

Royal Icing (using egg whites)

2 egg whites
1 pound (450g) icing sugar, sifted

Whisk the egg whites for about 4-5 minutes until they are bright white and frothy.

Gradually add the icing sugar a couple of spoonfuls at a time whilst whisking.

if your icing is too powdery and not sticking together, add a tiny bit of water (a real tiny drizzle at a time)

If the icing is too wet and not forming peaks, add some more icing sugar.

Once you have made your icing, it is important to keep it from drying out.  the best way to do this is to dampen a tea towel and put it over the bowl.  It dries very quickly and although a big batch wouldn't dry out if left uncovered, the top layer might.  If you then try to pipe with icing that has little dried bits in it, your nozzle is going to get all blocked and, quite frankly, there will be icing havoc.

For my stars...

 I made up a batch of the royal icing and coloured it with a pink gel dye.  You can use liquid dyes, but remember, this will let down the icing so you may need to add more icing sugar afterwards.

I began using stiff icing (little peaks which slowly fall) and piped outlines round the outer and inner edges of the stars, using a number 1 nozzle.  This technique is known as flooding.  It is usually used to make decorations which can be peeled off of a non stick paper and put onto cakes.  It's important to make sure there are no gaps between the icing and the biscuit and to make sure all the icing joins up.

This will dry quickly.  You can test by giving it a little tap.

I then let down my icing a lot.  To test whether your icing is the right consistency for flooding, you can pick up a bit of the icing with your knife and then drop it back in.  If the outline of the icing disappears into the rest of the icing within about 5 seconds, it should be alright.  Using a slightly wider nozzle, or a paper piping bag with the end cut out (not too big though), I carefully coloured the stars in, using a paintbrush to push the icing right the way to the edge.  The outlines act as a wall, which the runny icing shouldn't be able to go past, if you're careful.

I then carefully sprinkled some brightly coloured balls onto the icing and left them to dry.  This took several hours, so try to resist the temptation!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Very Friendly Sugar-Free Blueberry Muffins!

My grandparents came round to visit our flat for the first time yesterday.  It's highly likely that the new kitty was a major pull factor here!  Anyway, my grandma is diabetic and my grandpa gets her all flustered if he is left to his own devices around sugary snacks. Therefore, I decided I would try my hand at some diabetic baking.  After some research on the interweb, I decided that blueberry muffins can't really go too wrong, so they would be a good place to start. 

These blueberry muffins are good to your teeth, waistline and blood sugar levels.  
Which means you can eat lots of them.  And you'll want to because they are lush.

If you are making these for someone who is diabetic, it's important to be aware of a few things, as my lovely cousin Helene has informed me.  Helene is diabetic and explained to me about how blood sugar levels are also affected by carbohydrates which turn into glucose when they are digested.  As these muffins contain roughly 22g of carbohydrates, they do in fact contain about 4 1/2 teaspoons of sugar and would be equivalent, in terms of their sugar content, to eating 2 digestive biscuits.

I botched together the recipe, using various different versions of the one from SPLENDA® .
They're very sweet so you could use less splenda.  I think next time I make them i will use about 20g instead

Sugar-Free Blueberry Muffins 
Makes 10-12

250g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
3/4tsp salt
110g margarine 
25g splenda granulated (this should be around 16tbsp)
4tbsp honey
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla essence
120 ml milk
145g blueberries

*Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 400°F,

*Line a muffin tray with paper muffin cases.

*Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

*Using either a wooden spoon and some elbow grease, or an electric whisk, cream together the margarine, honey and splenda.

*Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a couple of minutes after each one.

*Add the vanilla to the milk

*Pour in about a 3rd of the flour mixture and beat.

*Then add about a 3rd of the milk and beat.

*Alternate between the milk and flour until there is none left.

*Fold in the blueberries,  Don't whisk them in or they will mush up.

*Carefully spoon the mixture into the cases until they are about two thirds full.

*Bake in the oven for 30mins or until golden brown on the top.

*Test that they're cooked by sticking a skewer into the middle of one.  If it comes out clean then they're all good.  If you hit a blueberry, then stab the muffin somewhere else.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Even the bees like them!

The cat is chasing everything on the computer screen. Oh yes, did i mention that we now have a beautiful kitten? I think this weekend I will make some little cat biscuits in her honour. Although, come to think of it, would it traumatise her to see us biting their heads off? Actually, she's a cat, so that would be a no.

Anyhow. Yesterday, I opened my bible to page 40 where I found the recipe for some honey and granola cupcakes. Another guilt-free cupcake recipe! Never mind all the sugar, these babies have oaty raisiny goodness! Hoorah! Another good thing about them is that the mixture tastes a bit yuck before you actually bake them, so there's little temptation to lick the bowl! Hoorah!

I had a little difficulty working out the difference between granola and muesli but i now vaguely understand that granola tends to be the less healthy of the two because it is the sugary one.

The recipe can be found in the Primrose Bakery Book and it is most certainly a champion of a recipe. They smelled amazing while they were cooking and just look how nice and golden they are!

The Bees are made of sugarpaste and the flowers are made from flower paste. Here is how to make them:

Sugarpaste Bumble Bees

Colour up some yellow and black paste with a gel dye.

*Make a yellow and a black sausage shape by rolling the paste between your hands. Make it about 3cms long and about 1/2cm thick.
twisty sausage shapes

*Put the two sausages together and twist them round eachother. Gently push them together as you are doing it and roll it between your hands so it becomes one big stripy bee coloured sausage.

rounded bee sausage
*You can gently roll it around in your hands so that it becomes as bee shaped as you like. Cut off any extra bee body with a sharp knife and roll the end in your hand so it is round at the end.

*Take a small ball of black paste. Dab a tiny bit of water onto one end of your bee sausage, using a little paintbrush and press the black ball onto it. That's the head.

smiling bee
*Using either a scallop and bone tool or the end of a straw with the top half cut off, create a little smily mouth.

*Using either a frilling tool or some other small pointy stick, make 2 indents for the eyes.

*Dab a tiny bit of water into the indents and press tiny balls of white paste into them. Then make a little hole in each.

*For the sting, make a small cone out of black paste and bring it to a sharp point by twisting and pulling off the end. Again, using a dab of water, attach this to the other end of the bee sausage.

give it wings
*For the wings, make two small white balls and press them between your fingers, making them as thin as you can. Tip: Cornflour stops paste sticking to your fingers.

*Make the circle into a teardrop shape by pinching together the top of the circle. Dab this with water and fix it onto your almost complete bumble bee!

*Do the same with the other wing. obv.



Flower Paste Flowers

For this you need flower paste really. For anyone that doesn't know, it's much stronger than sugarpaste and as the name suggests, is used to make all sorts of wonderful flowers. You could easily get a similar effect if you used sugarpaste, but just don't roll it very thin because it will break and ignore the bits below about softening and using glue.


Quite simple really.

*Colour up some pink flower paste

*Grease your board with some trex or use a bit of cornflour and roll the paste out very thinly.

*Using a blossom cutter, cut out a flower. Put it on a petal board and soften the edges using a ball tool so that the edges start to bend up. Try to stretch it as you do so.

*Cut out another flower and do the same thing, but don't stretch it as much.

*Dab a little bit of edible glue in the middle ad put the smaller flower on top so that its petals are in between the petals of the bigger flower. Keep doing this until you have about 4 layers and it looks real pretty.

*In the middle, stick a little white ball and press it down flat. You can dust this as well. I did mine gold.

Now, How pretty's that?!

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Little Mini Carrot Cakes

taken from name the Garels

These made me feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

There's a big difference between biting into a slice of carrot cake and biting into an individually cased and decorated mini carrot cake.  Everything about them is good.  The word 'carrot' in the name instantly eradicates any sense of guilt usually associated with eating a cake.  The sponge was moist and flavoursome and bursting with carrotty raisiny goodness.

The icing is an orange cream cheese icing.  There is some left over in the fridge and it has taken a lot of self control for me to not tuck in to it.

The recipe for the sponge and the icing is taken from the Primrose Hill Bakery recipe book.  It is somewhat of a bible to me and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in making cupcakes, no matter how wonderful or lacking your baking skills are.

i've sprinkled a bit of cinamon on them (using a tea strainer) and as you can see, I've also decorated them with mini carrots.  Believe it or not, these aren't actual vegetables.  I have made these out of sugarpaste.  Incase you are interested in making these, here is how i did it below.

Sugarpaste Carrots 

*Colour up some orange and green sugar paste, using a gel dye.

*Make yourself a little cone out of the orange paste.  Then make a little hole in the end using the tip of a frilling tool, or if you don't have one, some sort of clean pointy stick.

*If you can, allow the green paste to harden a little bit (this happens if you leave it uncovered), so that it's    a bit crumbly.  This way it will be easier to break off tiny bits.

*Using a paintbrush, dab a tiny bit of water into the hole.  You really only need a little bit.

*Using either a veining tool or something similar, pick up individual flakes of green and effectively stuff them into the hole.  Keep doing this until you have enough foliage.

*To get the creases in the carrot, take a reasonably blunt knife and indent little lines all the way down the carrot.  then, gently hold the carrot at each end and push the carrot back together, so the lines become more like creases.

*If you want, like me, you can dust your carrots with a bit of gold powder.  Lush

Monday, 12 April 2010

Bread Winner!

Bread has always been a bit of a grey area for me.  For years i didn't eat wheat because it didn't seem to agree with my gut.  During that time I satisfied any sandwich cravings with all sorts of expensive speciality hippy breads, made with wonderful seeds and grains and full of goodness.  These days I seem to be a little more tolerant of wheaty treats but the idea of a shop bought loaf of bog standard white bread always seems a bit pointless.  If i'm going to have bread, it should be good bread.  I don't just want a tasteless jacket for my ham and cheese.  To me, good bread is fresh bread.  I realise that there is somewhat of an art to making good bread and so I thought it best to start simple.

Easy White Bread
taken from BBC Good Food

500g Strong White Flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
7g sachet fast-action yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml water

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, then add the oil and water, and mix well. If the dough seems a little stiff, add 1-2 tbsp water, mix well then tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead. Once the dough is satin-smooth, place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size or place in the fridge overnight.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Knock back the dough, then gently mould the dough into a ball. Place it on the baking parchment to prove for a further hour until doubled in size.

Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Dust the loaf with flour and cut a cross about 6cm long into the top of the loaf with a sharp knife. Bake for 25-30 mins until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

For some reason, my loaf required and extra 25 mins or so.

As you can see from the photos, it turned out quite well.  I am going to make another one this week and leave it to rise over night, to see if i can get a plumper loaf.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Hello faces!

Welcome to my blog!

Here I'll be jotting down all of my cake related adventures and hopefully making your mouths water with photos of all sorts of home made treats.

Today I have been busy baking and eatingbaking and eating
The house smells heavenly because the oven has been really giving it some. I have quite bad indigestion, as the child in me couldn't resist trying the 'broken' ones while they were still hot, but I think it has been worth it.

Here are some chocolate chip cookie lollipops

I put the lolly sticks on top of the hearts and then sealed them with a little sausage of dough

For the cookies I used this recipe and bunged in a bag of white chocolate chips.
I had intended to decorate these a little more, but judging by how fast they are flying off the plate, it's looking unikely.