A student's guide to baking

Archive for September, 2014

Rainbow Cupcakes

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Ingredients (makes 12):

The cake:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • Food colouring/dye

The icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
  • Mix together the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, and sieve in the flour.
  • Add the milk and vanilla essence and stir until the mixture is smooth and consistent.
  • Ideally you want 6 different colours for this recipe: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. If you only have red, yellow and blue, you can mix as necessary to make up the remaining colours, but be careful not to use too much.
  • Split the mixture evenly into 6 separate bowls and add a little of the food dye or colouring to the respective bowls to make the various colours.
  • Divide the purple mixture up between the 12 cupcake cases, using a teaspoon if needs be to ensure that the mixture spreads evenly and covers the base of the cupcake case.
  • Repeat with the other colours, working backwards through the rainbow to end up with red on top.
  • Bake the cupcakes at 180ºC for 12-15 minutes. When done, remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.
  • Make the buttercream icing by beating the butter until soft, and then adding in the icing sugar and mixing. Add in the vanilla essence and continue mixing until pale and fluffy. Use the buttercream to decorate the cakes.

(Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com.au/recipe/13653/rainbow-coloured-cupcakes.aspx)

Today’s post is a bit of a #throwbackthursday. These cupcakes were one of my first forays into the world of baking. At the time I’d just started my second year at university, and my room this time around had access to a kitchen, which I didn’t have in my first year. I decided to christen the kitchen by baking some cakes for my flatmates to try and make unpacking and 0th week work seem a bit more bearable.

And so, in a bid to put off the effort of unpacking for an extra half an hour or so, I decided to make the cupcakes rainbow coloured, seeing as I had various different food colours with me. I must’ve had them for quite some time though, as the purple, whilst still perfectly fine for human consumption, had changed colour to a dark green, so the rainbow effect didn’t quite work. The lesson here is that if the mixture goes green when you add the purple food colouring, then baking it is not going to effect a miraculous change and render the result purple after all. Also, whilst I wouldn’t advocate pouring in half a bottle of food colouring, feel free to add a little more than you would normally to make sure that you get a nice bright colour.

Our kitchen was called K9, hence the decorations.

Our kitchen was called K9, hence the decorations.

Pear and Passionfruit Tart

Pear and passionfruit tart

Ingredients:

Shortcrust pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 55g butter
  • 30ml cold water

The filling:

  • 5 large pears
  • 100ml pear juice
  • 100ml apple juice
  • Cold water
  • 300g passionfruit curd

Recipe:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC and grease a medium-sized pastry dish with butter and a little flour.
  • To make the shortcrust pastry, start by adding the butter in small cubes to the flour in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter.
  • Use a knife to stir in the water, adding it a tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to bind together.
  • Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes to cool before using.
  • Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge. Lightly flour a surface and use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry until it is large enough to cover the base and sides of your pastry dish. Transfer the pastry to the dish, making sure to press it gently into the base and sides.
  • Cover the lined dish with greaseproof paper and fill with rice or dried beans to hold the pastry down in order to blind bake it. Bake for 20 minutes at 160ºC.
  • Once the pastry has finished blind baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Remove the rice or beans and the greaseproof paper.

Whilst the pastry is blind baking, you can make the filling:

  • To make the poached pears, gently peel the skins off the pears, leaving as much of the flesh as possible.
  • In a saucepan, pour the fruit juices and top up with cold water, leaving room in the pan for the pears. Heat the liquid mixture over a medium heat and wait until hot before placing the pears into the mixture. Leave the pears in the mixture over a low heat for 15-20 minutes before removing them and leaving them on a plate to dry. Keep the juices to one side for now.
  • Once the pears are dry and soft, cut them vertically into thin slices.
  • On the cooled pastry base, spread a generous layer of the passionfruit curd. Into this, gently press the pear slices, progressing in a circular direction to create a spiral design. Pour a little of the poaching juices over the pears to coat them.
  • Bake the tart in the oven at 180ºC for 20 minutes.

This is where my journey with shortcrust pastry started. I made this tart with my aunt when she came over for dinner one night after she’d agreed to give me a lesson in pastry. Having never worked with pastry of any kind before when baking, I really appreciated having someone who knew what it was supposed to look and feel like there to be able to direct me when I was first starting out.

My aunt is a wonderful cook and she’s particularly great at inventing dishes and discovering flavour combinations. This one came about after she found some passionfruit curd when out shopping. Sadly it’s not something particularly common, as I’ve not been able to find it since any small supermarkets, and the more common lemon curd probably wouldn’t work in quite the same way. It’s rather a shame, given that the combination worked really well, and the curd was also delicious in its own right!

Choux Pastry Buns

Strawberry and orange cream choux buns

Ingredients (makes 18):

  • 120ml water
  • 40g butter
  • 60g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 orange, zest
  • 150g strawberries

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 220ºC and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  • In a saucepan, heat the butter and water together over a medium heat until the butter melts. Bring the mixture to the boil before immediately removing from the heat.
  • Add in the flour when you take the mixture off the heat and stir vigorously and continuously with a wooden spoon until it forms a soft ball. Cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from the heat once more and leave the mixture to cool. Add the eggs, beating each one in fully without adding the next, to create a shiny and smooth paste.
  • Using a piping bag, pipe the pastry into 3.5cm wide discs.
  • Bake at 220ºC for 8 minutes and then at 180ºC for 8 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the pastry inside with door ajar for a further 5 minutes.
  • Once the choux pastry has finished in the oven, take the buns out and leave them on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Whip the cream until it starts to thicken and hold its shape a little. At this point, add in the orange zest and then continue whipping the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
  • Garnish the tops with halved strawberries.

Despite the fact that neither of us had ever made choux pastry before, my girlfriend Ele and I decided one afternoon to have a go at making chocolate éclairs. Sadly we didn’t quite get it right the first time and the pastry didn’t rise as much as it should, so we ended up with éclair buns that were a bit thinner and wider than they ought to have been. We covered them in chocolate ganache and cream regardless and they still tasted just as good.

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Choux pastry isn’t too complicated when it comes to the ingredients, so we decided to have another go, which yielded more successful results. Having already used a lot of the chocolate we’d planned on turning into the ganache, we changed tactics and decided to make a more simpler choux pastry bun and use some of the fruit I had instead.

It’s a fairly simple recipe, and a good one for starting off with choux pastry, as it doesn’t require quite the same structural integrity and perfect appearance that you have with an éclair. It’s also one that you can easily tailor to whatever fruit you prefer or just happen to have in the kitchen at the time. Using lighter summer fruit flavours tends to work better with the gentleness of the choux pastry, so I’d recommend at least sticking to that to begin with.

The sadly less than perfect chocolate éclairs.

The sadly less than perfect chocolate éclairs.

Cheddar Cheese and Red Onion Quiche

Cheddar and red onion quiche

Ingredients:

The pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 55g butter
  • 30ml cold water

The filling:

  • 25g butter
  • 2 large red onions, chopped
  • 140g mature cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml double cream
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Recipe:

This quiche starts off with the same shortcrust pastry recipe as my vegetable quiches:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC and grease a medium-sized pastry dish with butter and a little flour.
  • To make the shortcrust pastry, start by adding the butter in small cubes to the flour in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter.
  • Use a knife to stir in the water, adding it a tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to bind together.
  • Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes to cool before using.
  • Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge. Lightly flour a surface and use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry until it is large enough to cover the base and sides of your pastry dish. Transfer the pastry to the dish, making sure to press it gently into the base and sides.
  • Cover the lined dish with greaseproof paper and fill with rice or dried beans to hold the pastry down in order to blind bake it. Bake for 20 minutes at 160ºC.
  • Once the pastry has finished blind baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Remove the rice or beans and the greaseproof paper.

Whilst the pastry is blind baking, you can make the filling:

  • Heat the butter in a pan and cook the onions for about 20 minutes. Stir them occasionally to prevent them from sticking. Once done, remove from the heat and leave them to cool.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl and gradually add in the cream. Stir in the onions and half the grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour the mixture into the cooled pastry case and sprinkle with the rest of te cheese.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes at 200ºC until set and golden.

(Recipe adapted from: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/6291/sticky-onion-and-cheddar-quiche)

Like the vegetable quiches, this quiche has been another convenient one to make for a busier lifestyle. On the days when I wasn’t going to be back at home around lunchtime, I cut a slice and wrapped it in foil in the morning to take with me. It’s great when it’s fresh out of the oven, but it’s still tastes good when it’s cold too.

Obviously a cheese and onion flan will work with pretty much any type of cheese or onion you so desire, although you might end up with something rather powerful, depending on the cheese you use! Cheddar, whilst hardly the most exciting of lactational produce, is at least usually not too expensive and very easy to come by. As for the onions, I prefer red onions in almost all cases, and so I usually substitute in the more brightly coloured version for it’s paler sibling.

Blueberry Muffins

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Ingredients (makes 12):

  • 110g low fat sunflower spread
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 150ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 200g fresh blueberries

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 150ºC and line a muffin tray with 12 cases.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream together the spread and sugar.
  • Add in the eggs and the milk and mix well, before adding the flour, baking powder and vanilla extract. Stir until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Add in the blueberries, mixing gently to make sure they stay whole.
  • Split the mixture between the cases and bake for around 30 minutes, or until golden and firm.
  • When they’re done, remove from the oven and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

(Recipe adapted from Waitrose magazine)

Blueberry muffins

Now, for this recipe I must thank my dear mother, whose baking speciality is most definitely muffins. When the hectic lifestyle of a primary school headteacher and mother of two allows, she makes up a bunch of these that are great as a mid-morning snack with a cup of tea or as a quick breakfast for an energetic start to the day. They’re wonderfully easy to make, and like so many baked delicacies, they can be left alone to cook once they’re in the oven.

The first time I made these was when I got back from the first stretch of my Year Abroad, where I was a student on a German language summer school in Vienna for a month. Having spent a month living in student halls, in a small student room with access to a similarly proportioned student kitchen, my setup there was never designed for baking. What’s more, I didn’t take utensils and the like with me because I was only there for a month and chances were I wouldn’t have time for lots of baking. That was still very much the case, but by the time I got to the end of the month, I was looking forward to getting back in the kitchen and baking something.

So despite getting back at 8pm on a Saturday evening after having set off at 10am, I was up early the following morning, as had become my habit in Vienna, and I decided to bake these for breakfast. The smell of baking is one that is almost universally adored, but there’s something particularly special about it when you’ve been deprived of baking for a while. I very much enjoyed looking at (and eating) wonderfully presented dishes in bakeries and restaurants in Vienna, but I was glad to get back to making my own after several weeks without.

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Banana Bread

Banana bread

Ingredients:

  • 110g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 85ml buttermilk (you can make a substitute by mixing 1 ½ tsp lemon juice with normal milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 285g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt

Recipe:

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line or grease a loaf tin. I didn’t have a loaf tin at university when I started making these, so I used a 10” cake tin instead.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Beat the eggs, the mashed bananas, the buttermilk and the vanilla extract into the mixture.
  • Sieve in the flour, followed by the bicarbonate of soda and the salt and mix well.
  • Pour the cake mixture into the tin and bake for 1 hour at 180ºC, or until well-risen and browned.
  • Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to cool on a wire rack.

(Recipe adapted from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/bananabread_85720)

Here's another banana bread I made, with chocolate chips added into the mixture.

Here’s another banana bread I made, with chocolate chips added into the mixture.

In my opinion, banana bread is one of the best cakes for students and frankly became a bit of a staple in my kitchen last year. It’s rich in potassium and so good for brain functions (how many of us were told to eat bananas during exam season?), and it’s not so sugary that you get a sugar high and then crash shortly after eating it. It makes for a great energising snack and goes very well with a cup of Darjeeling.

The process of making them is rather ideal for students too. I would usually buy a big bunch of bananas at the market as part of my weekly shop, and inevitably I wouldn’t get through all of them before they became overripe, so mashing them and baking with them is a good way of making sure they don’t go to waste. It’s also a fairly quick and simple recipe; it usually takes me about 15 minutes to make up the mixture and get it ready for the oven, and then you can go off and do other things while you wait for it to cook. Granted, the first time I took my books into the kitchen so that I could keep an eye on it, but it happily sits in the oven and slowly cooks, so I usually just went back to my room or the library.

Another feature of the banana bread is that it’s very easy to share, whether you’ve made it as a loaf or a round cake, because you can just cut a slice whenever you need it. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’ll leave up to you to decide.

Vegetable Quiches

Asparagus, red pepper and beetroot quiche

Asparagus, red pepper and beetroot quiche

Ingredients:

The pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 55g butter
  • 30ml cold water

The filling:

  • 7-9 asparagus
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 small beetroot, cooked (optional)
  • 1/2 butternut squash (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • Thyme
  • Black pepper

Recipe:

  • Start by preheating your oven to 160ºC and grease a medium-sized pastry dish with butter and a little flour.
  • To make the shortcrust pastry, start by adding the butter in small cubes to the flour in a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs with no large lumps of butter.
  • Use a knife to stir in the water, adding it a tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to bind together.
  • Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave it in the fridge for 20 minutes to cool before using.
  • Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge. Lightly flour a surface and use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry until it is large enough to cover the base and sides of your pastry dish. Transfer the pastry to the dish, making sure to press it gently into the base and sides.
  • Cover the lined dish with greaseproof paper and fill with rice or dried beans to hold the pastry down in order to blind bake it. Bake for 20 minutes at 160ºC.

Whilst that’s baking, you can make the filling:

  • If you’re using butternut squash, I like to make this into a mash to line the bottom of the quiche. This stops the base from becoming soggy and it adds another taste and texture to the quiche. Chop up the squash into large cubes and boil for about 20 minutes. Once the squash is tender, remove it from the heat and drain the water. In a pan or flat-based bowl, mash the butternut squash using a masher or a fork until smooth and even.
  • Steam the asparagus lightly until it’s soft and tender.
  • Chop the bell peppers, and beetroot if you’re using it, and put them to one side.
  • Beat the eggs and mix together in a measuring jug.
  • Once the pastry has finished blind baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Remove the rice or beans and the greaseproof paper.
  • Sprinkle thyme and black pepper over the base of the quiche.
  • Next, spread the butternut squash mash over the seasoned base, and then add your beetroot, red pepper and asparagus. Depending on the quantity of asparagus, I like to use them as spokes for the design on top, or build a crossed lattice structure inside to ensure good coverage.
  • Once your vegetables are in, pour over the egg and milk mixture, making sure that it fills the quiche but doesn’t spill over. Be warned: if you’re using beetroot, the mixture will start to go pink from the beetroot juice, but don’t worry about it.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 160ºC.
  • Once the quiche has finished baking, remove it and let it cool. Season the top with black pepper, and you’re done!

(Recipe adapted from: https://gumroad.com/l/MYX and http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/shortcrustpastry_1278)

Asparagus and red pepper quiche

Asparagus and red pepper quiche

In many respects, quiches are rather a useful meal idea for students: you can make one at the beginning of the week and have it last the next 7 days’ worth of lunches when paired with some salad bits, and they’re good for using up any vegetables you may have lying around. Providing it’s not too watery, you can put it in a quiche.

I started doing just this halfway through my second year of university. I’d make the quiche on a Sunday afternoon, reading for my next essay whilst waiting for it to cook, and then I’d have a box of salad leaves to go with it for lunches throughout the week, which meant that I didn’t have to spend an extra half an hour every day making lunch when I was in the middle of working. During the 8 weeks or so in which I made these religiously, I experimented with various flavours, going from just using asparagus and red pepper in the first quiche, to adding in butternut squash mash and beetroot later on.

Many supermarkets will stock ready-made shortcrust pastry, but after a lesson in pastry with my aunt, I realised that it’s really not that hard. It’s a relative simple process, and the ingredients are the kind of staples that any regular baker will almost always have in the cupboards, and it tastes better too.

 

Ok, so the first time I made a quiche I didn't have a pastry dish, so a cake tin had to do.

Ok, so the first time I made a quiche I didn’t have a pastry dish, so a cake tin had to do.