Monthly Archives: July 2011

Astrology in the kitchen: Pisces and chips please!

We found this little gem in a used book store!

I will not be terrible and say how silly astrology is…I’ll let this website do it for me: Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy

I may not believe in it but the Scorpio entry did make me most happy!

How do you measure up?! I think Sagittarius and Aries got the worst deal!

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Carro-nana-nut Cakes

So, Simon munched through his healthy snacks; this combined with my love of the Flipboard App has called for a mid-week bake (I was building a motorbike engine out of gum-paste anyway so I may as well have had something going on behind the scenes in the kitchen).

So from my blog feed I ran across this recipe from Scrambled Megs for “the best carrot cake”!  The best ever you say *raises eyebrow*? Carrot cake you say *raises other eyebrow*.

I am always intrigued and slightly skeptical of superlative recipes but I thought I’d give it a read through…

The more I read the more excited I became!  This recipe has NO SUGAR! Let’s not get all pedantic about natural fruit sugars and other sweet things, let’s be happy to say there is nothing I’d stir into my Darjeeling.

The recipe also has NO BUTTER! OK, OK there is oil in there but this gives the option of picking which oil you want to use, vegetable? almond? perhaps coconut?! (ooooh, coconut)

Was this the recipe I had been waiting for; something built on a back bone of banana and carrot? Sweetened with dates and raisins? A cake I wouldn’t feel too bad about  munching through the whole thing sat on the sofa watching The Glee Project?

AND, IT IS DESCRIBED AS THE BEST?!?! (The post has since been changed and it’s now not titled “the best”)

It must be made and made right now!

As usual I made a few minor tweaks:

  • I switched the wholemeal flour for this malted stone ground because it looked lovely (I’m a sucker for a pretty package) and it was on offer (I’m a supermarket raccoon):
  • I used 1 tbsn sesame oil and 5 of ground nut.
  • I decided it would be easier for Simon to take small cakes to work than it would be to have a nine-incher poking out his Mulberry satchel…out come the cupcake cases.
First things first, they took about 20-25 minutes; You know the drill, they’re done when a skewer (erm, who has a skewer?) toothpick comes out clean.  I got 12 cupcake size and 6 big muffins…I’d halve the recipe next time (yes, half 3 eggs, you heard me).
These are not cupcake cakes!  I knew it from the start of the mixture, too thick and full of stuff.  You expect a cupcake to be light and fluffy and well risen…we are definitely in muffin country here!
The edible equivalent of the hippo in the tutu from Fantasia,  but with a drizzle of the honey/cream cheese icing (NO SUGAR! I’M SO IMPRESSED) I think they were partially salvaged.
They may not be winning any beauty pageants but sweet baby Jesus they are GOOOOOOOOD!
Not like the cranberry loaf  which was “healthy” good, these are MARVELLOUS and surprisingly quite sweet!
They are dense and moist like a proper muffin should be and they have a great spice to them.  It’s the crunch of a walnut piece combined with the slight resistance of coconut and grated carrot, accented by the occasional burst of raisin…makes me totally colon capital “d”…DIVINE! Total cake heaven!
This carrot cake isn’t the soggy brick of uniform colour and texture you find in most places; it is a cornucopia of interest…textures, flavours a total Thai full body massage for the mouth.
“Carrot Cake” sells this recipe short as there are so many flavours working together I’d rather call it…erm, Carro-nana-nut cakes (making names up, not my thing).
Let’s also not forget that THESE ARE HEALTHY! PRACTICALLY A VEGATABLE DISH!
I’m making them again very soon…I may add a handful of the cranberry mountain stored in the freezer and I’ll do a nutritional break down to check just how healthy they are.
Our feline overlord approved…

Healthy, really tasty, I’m not sure why Scrambled Megs changed the name as I would agree with the first title:  BEST CARROT CAKE!

Weekend at the bakery…or the mechanics?

Most weekends involve a spot of baking; this one was no exception…

I was on a bit of a mission this weekend for a number of reasons:

  1. Simon required healthy snacks
  2. I had found a pile of bargain cranberries in Waitrose
Si usually takes some form of biscuit-type snack to work but we’d both prefer him eat healthy, home-made snacks rather than the crap they put in the shop bought things.  So, I rustled up a batch of Treacle & Honey Oat/Raisin Cookies from the other week as I had dough in the freezer (I do like having dough on stand-by, it makes me feel safe and prepared…like having a fire extinguisher in the kitchen or a baseball bat under the bed). 
Finlay-Jack liked the cookies too…
On my way around Waitrose I found boxes of frozen cranberries for 29p! BARGAIN! I’m such a squirrel, I love a good forage for provisions…and I have a bushy tail.
But what on Earth can you do with a gazillion frozen cranberries???  They make evil protein fluff, I mean totally disgusting; I thought I’d try this recipe so Si had another snack option: Honey Cranberry Loaf. I switched things up a bit and used almonds instead of walnuts and steal cut oats instead of the quick cooking rubbish.  I also used a bit more oats and cranberries than the recipe suggested-I have A LOT of cranberries to use.
I was a little dubious as who really wants to bite into an atomically sour cranberry in their snack? Me it appears.
Simon took some to work today and he rang me on the way home:
  • M: What did you think of the loaf?
  • S: Was it really healthy?
  • M: Yup, no real sugar or butter…why?
  • S: If it was really healthy make it again, if not, don’t bother.
That pretty much sums it up;  nice for a healthy snack but not worth the calories for an indulgent treat.  I think a toasting and slathering of lemon curd would work wonders (runs to kitchen to see if we have lemon curd…no we don’t).
Check out the atomic cran-bombs:
The bakery was in full swing for two celebration cakes we have on order.
We found out building mechanical thinks like motorcycles out of gum paste is REALLY DIFFICULT! Every thing needs to be moulded, left to dry, assembled, painted…
Angles are hard to get and keep sharp, circles are nigh on impossible, structural integrity is worrying as edible glue is no soldering iron!
I have learned more about mechanics through the medium of sugarcraft than through anything ever before (Daddy will be so proud :$)!  This bike will be drivable when it’s complete (showing my knowledge of vehicles as I’ve been informed you ride a motorbike).
WELCOME TO WONDERCAT MECHANICS! (overseen by a hairless, decapitated Upsy Daisy)
So after a weekend of sugar overload Finlay-Jack was in need of a total recuperation in his basket…

Have a good week everyone, bake long and prosper…

 

Love,

The Little Box of Treats!

Stockton Heath, the epitome of Cheshire suburbia…now home to a Chinese bakery and tea house!

Yes, I know there’s Wong Wong’s and things in Manchester so I shouldn’t wet myself too hard but still…awesome!

The Little Box of Treats is sort of a hybrid little English tea and cake shop/Chinese bakery:

It’s all about the oriental sweet goodness, less about the techno-orientals and Asian-grandmas in flip-flops (yes, racial stereotyping, but give me a break, I grew up being the only oriental in a big Caucasian school). No to the austere Victoria Sandwiches and raisin laden scones, but yes to WI ladies and middle-class couples with small obnoxious off-spring.

L>O>V>E>>>>IT!

The lovely gal who served us was a total sweetheart…it got a bit busy when we were there and she’d sent some staff home as it was fairly quiet before hand; we had to wait like two whole minutes more for our order (yes, I chatted to her at the till, I chat to everyone at a till, I chat to anyone anywhere)…so, back to my point, oh yeah, she threw in some mango and some coconut pudding as an apology! SO SWEET…I plan to make her my new BFF.

Now, right, I was reviewing a bakery, so food…

Dreamy! Tasty good, super quality and really reasonably priced!

They do all kinds of goodness:

  • Sweet buns
  • Savoury buns
  • Puddings
  • Chinese sponges/cupcakes
  • Dim sum
  • Speciality Teas
  • Bubble Tea
They also do some great offers like Chinese afternoon tea for two that comes on little three tier cake stands (I told you, total fusion!) and little meal deals, like tea and dim sum for just under £5.
Simon had the dim sum and tea; pot o’ tea and 4 steamed dim sum either Har-Kau or Siu-Mei (he got two of each). Sweet Baby Jesus! The Har-Kau were huge and amazing (I stole a bite…all for the review of course). Really well steamed with two lobster sized prawns cuddled up inside a duvet of glutinous pastry heaven! The Siu-Mei were of equal size, quality and gorgeousness but I can’t think of any great way of describing a ball of meat that won’t make you feel disgusted with me of slightly misty in the nethers.
I had a Char-Siu Bao…my all time favourite food BTW if you wanted to at some point mail me goodies? If you are used to the little white “fluffy towel” kind, it wasn’t like that…more like a sweet, white, milk-roll (but huge and looked a bit like a boob) glazed on top and encasing the glistening, ruby chunks of char-siu pork that feature heavily in my sexy food dreams…divine! They were exactly what you’d pick up from a bustling bakery down Nathan Road in Hong Kong for a pick-me-up betwixt shopping malls.
I also tried one of the speciality teas, Fairy Blooming Jasmine (jokes to yourselves people…low hanging fruit). It came in a glass teapot and is a ball of leaves and things that unfurls into a beautiful blossom with nano jasmine flowers that float around the rest of the pot (and breathe, long sentence, could not or should not be shortened)! Nectar scented, flowery and delicately sweet like liquid floral candy floss; the perfect accompaniment to my buxom bun.
This is where there would probably be pictures of the food…but no, we noshed down before taking pictures so here are empty plates…

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You will have to be satisfied with a few snaps of the food counters…

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and here’s some things you can buy!

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They sell samples of the speciality teas, I got a bag of five Fairy Blooming Jasmine for £7.50! You get four in a box from Fortnum & Mason for £12.50! I also got a sample of Rose Tea which is just a bag of teeny tiny little rose buds…again with the total Anglo-Asian greatness!

I’m totally planning to live in this shop for the foreseeable future as I want to support local business (we are planning to move to Stockton Heath), I want to promote the greatness of Asian bakeries, I want to big up those brave enough to take the plunge and earn a living selling baked goods…erm, ok, I just want to eat cake.
Next plan is to sample one of the Chinese cakes which I just get giddy over, so light, so bright, so creamy…remember the movie Hook and the imaginary feast? Live the dream!
My only slight sad face is that the bubble tea has small tapioca pearls not the frogspawn on ‘roids that you need a special extra girthy straw to suck up (minds, gutters, hang your head)

If anyone wishes to join me for tea and cake Asian style…I will pay, I will drive and chauffeur you, I will even carry you from the car to the bakery…ring me…NOW!

Biscuit Combat…FIGHT!

Following on from the last post concerning the traumatic loss (then finding) of Granny Chadong’s biscuit recipe; we are getting greased up and violent…

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Lost best recipe
  2. Found another recipe
  3. Found best recipe
  4. Fight to the death of the old champion and newcomer
Let’s start with the equivalent of the boxer weigh-in thing…were they stand in their little nundie pants on a scale while people take pictures.  I’ll replace the scale with a white plate and I can’t find little cookie Speedos so there are raisins on display NSFW!
OK, let’s ring the bell and get it on (did I say that? I’m trying to use fight talk, I don’t know fight talk.)!
Si and I will be judging so once again I’m going to be hiding from my evil mistress: Dailyburn Calorie Counter.

Granny Chadong’s

  • Taste:4.25
  • Texture:4.75
  • Overall:4.25

Treacle & Honey

  • Taste:4
  • Texture:3.5
  • Overall:3.75

The Winner!

Granny Chadong’s wins with a last second dodge of the Spinning-bird Kick and finishes off Treacle & Honey with Yoga Fire! FATALITY! (I know I’m mixing my fight game metaphors, if you’re injured by this you have many issues to work through)
Granny C’s weren’t how I remember them, they were a lot softer; maybe it was because I put them straight into a tin? maybe they needed  a few minutes longer in the oven? maybe I just forgot what they were really like.
They are still so, so good though!
I may tinker again with the recipe as T&H did have some good qualities I may try and incorporate.

In reality the real winners were Mykie and Simon who got to chow down on a plate of cookies.

Final Thought: If we ever open a strip club it is going to be called Treacle & Honey.

The lost recipe of Granny Chadong

So, Simon requested some oat and raisin cookies for work this week…

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He’s not asked for a cookie for a long time but fear not, there is always Granny Chadong’s delicious cookie recipe…or is there?!

Granny Chadong’s recipe was the only cookie that made it into my recipe book…this was a big deal, not many recipes were tweaked and poked and perfected enough to get written in IN BIRO!
It should probably be mentioned that there isn’t actually a Granny Chadong…we enjoyed the biscuits so much I invented an imaginary old woman and gave her a portmanteau name from our own surnames…we reverse-birthed a woman for these cookies! They are that special.
Actually, they are not “special” just super comforting, hearty, wholesome goodness…more wool cardigan than sequinned nipple tassel.
I remember them to be surprisingly light for an oat cookie and have a satisfying crispness; I do enjoy a nice chewy cookie but there was something so very pleasing about the crunch…or so I think I recall…

and here’s the plot twist…brace yourselves people…
I HAVE LOST THE RECIPE!!!

In my haste to become a techno-baker of the future I ditched my trusty old recipe book and went electronic. I threw the jam-stained, corner-crumpled, summation of my most perfected recipes to the recycling gods before checking, rechecking then checking again that all recipes had been catalogued, backed up on multiple computers, hard drives and on a USB stick destined for the seed bank on the moon…

NOOOOOOO! How could I be so careless? How could I be so rock and roll with my recipes?

This evening was spent trying out a recipe that could be the “square one” of the search deep within the dusty corners of my skull for Granny Chadong’s legacy. Her dying breath spent whispering her oaty secrets in my ear will not have been in vain.

Todays batch were actually very tasty, I found a recipe involving treacle and honey that I know weren’t part of GC’s recipe…could they be competition for my secret family recipe? Will we ever know?

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UPDATE: Well, it turns out we might do!!!!

I have found the recipe!!! It turns out I tucked the recipes I hadn’t copied into a cranny in the bookcase!!!! The relief!!!

You know what this means? A cookie head-to-head!
Granny C. Vs Treacle Honey

I’m going to try and remain impartial but I think it’ll be difficult not casting Granny C. in the role of Daniel San.

Pain does not exist in this kitchen!

We have business cards!

We are reinvesting in the business…

We are investing in some business cards…

Time well spent that would have otherwise been used nursing a hangover and watching Ace of Cakes 

I hope they turn out well, the image looked slightly blurry on Vistaprint (but that could have been the hangover).

Our first commission: The Graduate

So our dear friend Carole asked Wondercat Bakery to make a graduation cake for her daughter Dale.

Dale has just graduated with a 1st class degree!!! CONGRATULATIONS DALE!!!

Here’s a colour version:

As you can see, we went for a blue and gold scheme as in our opinion it looked very “studious/university colours”.

The cake was a light vanilla sponge with a raspberry compote and a pink, raspberry, Swiss-meringue butter cream filling.  The decorations were are crafted from petal paste and hand gilded or glittered.  There is also some freehand piping work that again was hand gilded after drying…

We were generally quite pleased with the finished article…the fondant covered well, we got some nice clean edges and not too much glitter in the wrong places…it’s like walking on a beach but replace sand with glitter in inexplicable places.

The hats were a challenge!  Finding a small head shaped object with a flat top was difficult…then the top bobble of our kitchen roll holder caught my eye!  I think it worked well.

The raspberry S-M butter cream was delightful…so light and buttery and really held on to the raspberry flavour; which was just a cup of fresh blended raspberries…practically a heath food (or so we told ourselves as we shovelled a whole bowl of leftovers into our face holes-so much for carb counting)!

So nothing to do but add a few beauty shots…the graduation hat is belongs to Mykie (he knew it would eventually come in handy!)

We will also work on reducing the excessive use of ellipsis in the next post…  😉

Coconut & Blueberry Tart

Dinner at Mr Adam’s abode called for the Wondercat Bakery to whip something up.
We thought we’d throw caution to the wind, nigella to the bookshelf, and free-style a recipe…

It’s basically a pate sucree pastry case filled with a coconut creme patisserie and a blueberry/port compote. It was all finished with a flourish of sweet whipped cream, toasted coconut and some blueberries that had been sprayed gold (flamboyance, meet tart, get acquainted)…I also found some little sprinkles (like micro blueberries) so threw a handful on as well.

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It is presented on Si’s birthday plate…a plate from the year he was born with a calendar and birds all over it! Retro-glamour.

So, it looked nice, maybe the lilly was a little over gilded (quite literally), but I didn’t make it with enough time to set…after it was cut there was a slow but steady flow of unctuous creaminess out of the pastry, like a sweet carbohydrate glacier.

I may make something similar again but it definitely needs a tweak or two before it makes another showing.