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Whats long thick, pink in the middle, and lovely in the mouth ? Thats right, a baked Rhubarb and ginger roll !

April 20, 2014

How rude !

warm, stodgy and fruity ...marvelous

Warm, stodgy and fruity …marvelous !

Well you know me by now, always up for a bit of pudding innuendo.

Well as of the time of writing this post, it’s nearly the end of April and it’s Easter sunday 2014, & typically it’s raining and a bit chilly outside, good old british bank holiday weekend weather ;)

So what a good day for writing up a recipe that warms you up inside.

As you know, I love a bit of Rhubarb, and have already posted a few recipes on here….this blog might as well be called “The Rhubarb-shaker”  ( sounds naughty ) But I decided to make this, as I’ve gone back to making a traditional british pud that I have not made for a long time… A nice suet roll pudding !

You can fill this with what ever tickles your fancy to be honest, Apples and dates, sultanas & spice, pear and blackberry ….or good old-fashioned Jam, as in a jam roly poly. Here I used my favourite again, Rhubarb, mainly as it’s in its zenith in spring & it’s the first seasonal product of the year that’s readily available, You get good old pink forced rhubarb from january to march, then the much firmer and darker outside grown varieties from then on.

It is actually a lovely simple recipe, and you don’t even need to have a special tin to bake it in either as you might think.

This is marvelous served with a thick vanilla custard, Ice cream, or thick vanilla cream.

So if you fancy a hot warm, steamy length of loveliness, this is one for you, have a go and enjoy ;)

Serves about 8-10 can be halved easily to make less.

It’s easy to make this gluten and dairy free  ( see below )

YOU WILL NEED:

Some baking parchment (not grease proof paper, this isn’t strong enough)

Some tin foil.

Chopping board

Shallow oven tray ( like a swiss roll tray )

An oven preheated to 170c ( 160c for fan ovens )

Someone to share your pudding with …and can take a lot.

RECIPE: Suet pastry

300g self-raising flour

Pinch of salt.

100g castor sugar

Fine Zest of one large orange

150g beef or vegetable suet

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1ooml milk

1 egg ( medium )

(also 1 egg, beaten for brushing)

RECIPE: Filling

200g rhubarb ( about 3 sticks )

4 pieces of  stem ginger in syrup, chopped roughly

1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons cornflour

100g soft light brown sugar

Juice of 1 large orange ( from one you zested for pastry )

Orange Marmalade for spreading

NOTE: To make gluten and Dairy free use same amount of gluten free flour ( doves farm flour is great) with 1/2 a teaspoon of Xanthan gum & 50ml more milk. Use a gluten free vegetable suet ( non dairy ) Use same method below.

METHOD GALLERY:

Follow the gallery below of step by step stages on how to make, click on any image to enlarge.

© The cake-shaker 2014

Och mah roots ur showing ye ken ! (Oh My scots roots are showing you know !) – very berry Scottish Cranachan

January 21, 2014
Cranachan, Berry loveliness with whisky and cream, here I used some fab quilted Jars to serve.

Cranachan, Berry loveliness with whisky and cream, here I used some fab quilted Jars to serve.

No I am not taking the Mickey out of the Scots Dialect above….for I am in fact Scottish by birth. and proud of it. Though I may not have the accent having been bought to London at a very young age, I do feel I have the highlands running through my veins, being born in Aberdeen and having a mother and grand parents from Nairn, near Inverness, why wouldn’t I :)

I have even worn a kilt on Numerous occasions, and there is a dedicated help line and counselling service for those who have witnessed this, and been caught downwind of me in the middle of a full highland fling.

When I was younger I used to love trips up to Nairn, It’s a beautiful part of the world, and I loved staying with my grandparents,  Nairn has one of the most vast white sanded beaches I  have been to in the UK, and there, I’d sit and read my Broons annual I used to get bought every year, amongst the white sand dunes, understanding every bit of the Scots dialect that the book was written in, thanks to hearing my grandparents speak it all the time.  While my younger sister on the other hand, would try her best at throwing the biggest stone she could find in the sea, missing the huge ocean and hitting my head on a couple of occasions. Happy days :)

My granddad would stay at home & tend his garden, more specifically his “Tatties” ( potatoes ) or sit in his shed smoking his pipe and keep well out of it until supper time.

I do remember getting up in the mornings on one of our trips up there in the summertime, and my Nan would not let us out until we had polished off a Huge bowl of porridge…and it was huge ! A big clear Pyrex bowl each with a generous bowl of porridge oats cooked in water may I add with salt, not sugar, and we would each be given  a big wooden spoon to plough through it with….and I loved it ! I still to this day cannot abide eating porridge with sugar or milk, it has to be just how Mary Penk made it !

The trips up to  the area dried up when my grandparents moved near us in london as they got older, and have since passed away, But I have been a couple of times over the years and it still  feels like home. and always will.

“Now what the heck is this leading up to ? ” you my be thinking.

Well It’s so I have an excuse to put up a favourite recipe… a Cranachan, it’s a traditional recipe from Scotland, it used to be mainly a summer dish or harvest favourite, but is now eaten all year around, and I have seen it more and more pop up around this time of year (January at the time of writing this post) and appearing on Burns night menus ( I love Burns night …especially the Haggis and all the ceremony surrounding it as it enters the dining room)

Scotland has a fine food heritage and I have had some of my finest dining experiences in some of the restaurants and hotels up in the highlands. Forget all that crap in the press about “deep fried mars bars” There are some very talented chefs north of the border, and some amazing traditional dishes to be found.

Traditionally Cranachan was made in the past with Crowdie – a Scottish cream cheese, Raspberries, toasted oats and whisky. I have made this one with mixed berries and cream, with whisky and oats toasted with brown bread crumbs, sugar and honey. I make it this way as it’s the result of my playing around over the years as usual, and is a mix of about 3 recipes I have come across over the years, one of which was an ice cream.

As with most of the posts on here there is a lot of room for you to play around too, substitute the mixed berries for raspberries for instance, or blackberries, you can even use a nice thick creamy plain yoghurt if you like instead of cream, or go for the traditional Crowdie.

It’s funny how something simple, like porridge oats, can bring back so many memories :)

Here’s the recipe, have a bash, I used frozen berries, you can use fresh if you want to, though add about 50g more , the whisky is just a guide…you can add a bit more if you’re feeling a bit cheeky, or less, or none, if you’re being saintly ;)

YOU WILL NEED:

A Baking tray

Food processor or grater.

6-8 nice deep glasses or dessert dishes.

Whisk.

A few extra nips of whisky to warm you up first.

RECIPE: Oat Layer

Makes around 6-8  (depending on size of glasses you use to serve)

100g brown bread crumbs

100g oats

50g soft light brown sugar

tablespoon of honey

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

METHOD:

Mix all the ingredients together, place on a lined baking tray, spread out thinly.

Bake at 155c for 10 minutes until brown and crunchy

leave to cool down.

INGREDIENTS: cream and berry filling.

300ml double cream.

400g frozen mixed berries  (or 450g fresh berries of choice)

100g caster sugar.

2 tablespoons honey  (heather honey if you can get hold of it)

3 tablespoons whisky  (less or more if you want, depending how you like it)

METHOD:

Slowly heat berries with sugar ( add a tablespoon of water with fresh berries )

bring to slow simmer for 5 minutes.

leave to cool down completely, chill in fridge until cold.

Add whisky to cold berries and leave to soak in for awhile.

ASSEMBLING:

Whisk cream and honey together until semi thick, not peaked.

Reserve about 100g of the berries.

fold the rest into the cream slowly.

Take your crunchy oat mix, crush up a bit as it may have set together.

Fold just half into that cream and berry mix.

place a spoonful of reserved berry mix in base of each serving glass.

Place a spoonful of the cream mix, then sprinkle the oat mix on top, then repeat with cream and oats again making layers.

If you want to, decorate the top with fresh berries.

Serve within an hour or two, so oats retain their crunchiness.

METHOD GALLERY:

A step by step guide in pictures, click on any image to enlarge.

© The Cake-Shaker 2013

Not so much of a review of my 2013, but a year of reflection in 2014 -How I became an accidental baker and 30 yrs on. Me & the big “C” In cake-shaker, 5 years on.

January 10, 2014
2013...the year I got  some domes :)

2013…the year I got some domes :)

“ARRGHH” I hear you cry ! “not another look what I did in 2013 review !” well it nearly was, but after reading  past reviews I’ve written & seeing how ever so slightly cheesy & unintentionly narcissistic they looked in retrospect, I decided to change tact. That’s one thing about blogging, you can look back on previous posts & see how your view has changed over the years, and how, hopefully, you have matured. I’ve decided not to delete posts That I now find a bit cringy , I might slightly edit them a bit & learn from them, as when I started I wasn’t terribly good at expressing myself. Having been working in a career which didn’t involve writing much apart from recipes and work plans & staff rotas , writing a blog that required more than a few sentences has been a right old learning curve ! Now I hope I have got a bit better at it, and get my point across a bit more clearly…without sounding like a-know-it-all-ass.

2013 for me personally was basically a year of finding more styles & flavours to play with, That’s one thing I never tire of, learning stuff & experimenting, I sometimes get an itch that needs scratching, and I’m not entirely satisfied until it well and truly has been.

This last year has been mostly about the search for the perfect recipes for gluten and dairy free cakes and desserts, and I even posted a few recipes up on here…and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge, It’s like being a mad cake scientist ! I need things that make my grey matter fire up now and again at my age ;)

I also managed to settled on a style I enjoyed with regards to tiered cakes that I’m comfortable with, I’ve spent the past few years designing & building loads of cakes for displays & for clients. This past year I held back on displays for the restaurant, for a change, concentrating more on the presentation of cakes for the bar area for sale, giving more choice to the clients who eat there, while giving something fun for people to look at too. So I was allowed to order some snazzy glass domes jars for displaying cakes, cookies and other sweet treats in …which was fun :)

Tiered cakes got bolder

Tiered cakes got bolder

Now you’re thinking ” I thought he wasn’t going to do another review blog ?” &  “I wish he’d stop telling me what I’m Thinking !” …Well I had to say a little bit about last year, as that’s how we move onwards, by looking back on what we’ve achieved before we decide what to do next..isnt it ?

So, 2014 is for me, a year of reflection…30 yrs of it ! As 30 yrs ago in 1984 was when it all started.

I left school in 1984, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to sit in an office, or be apart of the new I.T revolution that was computing, I couldn’t even get the hang of  the ZX spectrum games at the time, let alone write a programme to draw up a spread sheet about following the widening of shoulder pads and the bigness of hair back then. So myself and a couple of friends from school went to a college fair at the local civic hall in Hemel hempstead, where local colleges were advertising their courses for september that year, I was particularly drawn to Cassio college Watford’s food industries stand…now I loved home economics at school, I was by now a dab hand at a quiche Lorraine, And my drop scones nearly made the examiner do a couple of back flips & add extra points to my CSE results that summer ! ;)

A very Young me working in the college kitchens at Cassio college, where I studied bakery from 1984-86.

A very Young me working in the college kitchens at Cassio college, where I studied bakery from 1984-86.

So after hovering over the two year chefs course, & wondering what I would look like in a tall hat, I took a snap decision to go for the 2 year full time bakery diploma. I liked the sound of the cake design classes, something totally new to me, I’d just chucked a few tinned mandarin oranges at a cream gateau previously, also I knew there would be a lot of chocolate tasting involved ;)  So that was the start of it, I was a sort of  an accidental baker, and I had the best two years of my life there. My tutors were all ex bakers or still ran  family bakery businesses, and I know it sounds a bit cliche, but I went in as a childish 16 year old, and came out an adult with skills to build on, gradually moving into the world of patisserie, becoming an apprentice pastry chef  & moving up the cakey ladder over the years, and have been enjoying the ride ever since.

Afternoon teas got bigger

Afternoon teas got bigger

Another reason 2014 is a year to reflect on, is really something I don’t really talk about much, probably because its a bit of a weird thing to talk about on a cake blog.  I’m not ashamed or freaked out by it, and I don’t want to sound like someone looking for sympathy or a “YOU OK HUN “? ” Neither am I a “poor me” poor me” sort of person. I’m definitly no braver then the next person thats for sure.  Basically in December 2008 I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, its all a bit of a haze really, it happened so fast. But to cut a long story short I had 4 months of intense chemotherapy in 2009 and had to stay in an isolated ward for most it…needless to say, as you can see, with the  support from my partner, Terry, and our friends and families, The dedication of the Drs and nurses at Kings college hospital, and the amazing support of my employer, Spring studios, I got through it, and this year, 2014, is my 5 year all clear !  I’ve never been healthier or happier, & Since 2009 I’ve only had two days off sick with flu, (Yeah, get me)  It’s like it never happened… but it did, and & I’ve taken from the experience what I can. In fact I was back at work just over a  month after my first all clear after chemo that year, I was intent on getting back to being part of the human race as quick as I could, and what better way then doing something I love…wasn’t easy at first, but the goal was set & I was hoping I would rise to the challenge.

Why am I telling you this ? Well I had four months in bed & a lot of time on my hands with my laptop, and time to sift through & reflect on my career & recipes, (in-between countless family guy and black adder CD box sets) People were always asking me for recipes, and most of them were in my head or scribbled in various note pads scattered around.

So I set myself a task, that when I was better I would write stuff down properly somewhere, & basically sort it out in some sort of order where people were able to access recipes, I also needed something to aim for and keep my mind occupied…and so really the seeds for this blog, the cake-shaker were sown from my sick bed, It took another year to get it together in 2010, but I got there in the end.

( god I hope that didn’t make me sound twatty)

So as you can see 2014 really is about reflection for me in many ways, and I think I can look back and feel I’ve been lucky with the way stuff turned out and all that. I’m very proud to have been part of my Industry for so long, It was a hard slog at times, but I learnt and grew from all the chefs I worked under & who inspired me…and sometimes threw things at me ;)

Long may my career continue, to progress and move on, and I look forward to experimenting, playing & learning some more in the years ahead, and hopefully give something of what I’ve learnt back to those starting out like I did all those yonks ago.

And while I am here, please take a look at the Cancer Research website,  or the Lymphoma associations website, myself and countless others owe a lot to their work, but sadly  this disease is still causing havoc & heart ache amongst families everywhere & I sadly know of a few people who haven’t  made it after  putting up a such a brave fight.  So if you’re feeling a tad generous, & want to donate, please do, every bit how ever small helps.

So lets see what the next year brings, who knows. A successful & happy, healthy 2014 to you all !

I’ll shut up now ;)

© The Cake-Shaker 2014

The mysterious “saint” tart ! ( It’s for christmas I’m told ) otherwise known as a Cherry, whisky and ginger tart.

December 14, 2013
A lovely winter tart, warming in more ways then one with the added spice and whisky...Fat robin seems to think so ;)

A lovely winter tart, warming in more ways than one with the added spice and whisky…Fat robin seems to think so ;)

Goodness I am having a busy run up to Christmas at work at the moment, I thought I wasn’t going to have time to write this post, but found some time to do it, sandwiched between ginger bread house building and mince-pie production ( & munching )

I’m pretty delirious with tiredness though, so some of this might not make a lot of sense and seem to ramble a bit, but I have been meaning to write this recipe for a while now and was determined to do it this year, so here goes !

A few years ago, when I worked at a large law firm in the city, as their pastry chef, the head chef asked me to make a tart to be sold at christmas for the lunches in the restaurant.

I was told it was traditional at christmas there, all he said was it was made with sweet pastry & tinned cherries left to soak in whisky, ginger and cornflour for a while. I was given no recipe, just that guide, and that it was best served with custard, and made in small tartlet cases.

He said it was called “a St James tart” I think or St Stevens, I can’t remember which, but subsequence research has turned up that it is neither, in fact a St James tart is a Mediterranean tart made with almonds without a cherry in sight   but he definitely said saint something, so lets give it the name of  “SAINT TART !”

If anyone could let me know what it’s called drop me a line ( I did google the ingredients but got a stream of cocktails )

What ever it’s really called, or if my old head chef just made it up, its flipping delish & feels just right for christmas, or indeed anytime during the cold days of winter.

So thanks to the chef, who I’ll call Roger, for the idea, I hope I’ve taken it and turned it in to something you’d approve of.

( That is his name actually, not sure why I said that )

So it’s not really my recipe, I was given a blueprint which I have now filled out over the years, with little bits added to the ingredients above, I have now turned it into a large tart rather than original little ones I was asked to make.

So give it a go…with all that whisky and warm ginger it certainly is full of Christmas cheer anyway.

Nice served with clotted cream or warm vanilla custard….oh and rounded of with a glass off port would be nice ;)

they were made individually originaly you can with this recipe  in 2.5 inch tart tins, I'd half the recipe though.

I made them individually originaly,  you can with this recipe in 2.5 inch tart tins, I’d half the recipe though .

YOU WILL NEED:

An 8-9 in round tart ring.

Baking tray.

Rolling pin.

Oven pre-heated to 160c ( 155c for fan oven )

A bit of a Christmas ditty to sing a long to in the kitchen, here’s one from one of my fave Christmas albums of late by Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler :)

RECIPE: Pastry.

400g plain flour

150g icing sugar

180g unsalted butter at room temperature.

pinch of salt

Zest of one clementine

1/4 teaspoon ground aniseed

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 medium eggs  (beaten)

(have another egg beaten separately for the glaze)

METHOD: Pastry.

Sift the flour,sugar and spices together, then add butter and zest and either by hand or in a machine work together to form a crumble, so all the ingredients are incorporated thoroughly.

Add the eggs and bring together to form a dough. It may feel sticky at this point, but wrap in cling film and place in fridge for an hour to firm up ( yes, I know how that sounded ) ;)

RECIPE: Filling.

2 x 850g tinned pitted cherries ( or the equivalent depending on tin size you can get hold of I used these, but any brand will do that you preffer )

300g of the cherry juice

2 tablespoons of  cornflour

3 teaspoons of ground ginger

the juice of 1 clementine

100ml whisky

MEHOD: Filling.

Drain the cherries, keeping 300mls of the juice

Place the cherries in the juice in a bowl, then add the other ingredients.

Leave to soak for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally as the spice and cornflour settle.

ASSEMBLING:

Take your pastry out of the fridge, roll out 3/4′s and line your tart ring ( on a baking tray lined with baking parchment )

Stir the cherry filling in the bowl, then drain cherries, keeping the juice.

Pack the cherries into the lined case, then stir the juice and spoon over the cherries, just so you can see it through the cherries, but not so it comes to the top.

Brush egg glaze around edge of pastry

Roll out pastry for lid and cover tart, pinch the edges to seal.

Brush with glaze.

You can cut out christmas shapes with any left over pastry to decorate top if you want to get creative.

Poke to small holes in centre with the tip of a knife to let steam out when baking.

Bake in pre heated oven ( 160c or 155c for fan oven) For 30-35 minutes.

Tart should have a nice golden colour and feel firm to touch.

Serve warm with custard or cream.

METHOD GALLERY:

Heres a gallery of pictures to help, click on any image to enlarge.

© The Cake-Shaker 2013

Cheese and apple ? Yes ! Apple, quince and port poached raisin pie, in a cheddar cheese crust…sounds mad, but it is rather nice.

November 21, 2013
Fruity Tangy, boozy, and smells amazing when cut.

Fruity Tangy, boozy, and smells amazing when cut.

I’ve been lucky enough to venture to New York a few times in the past few years, and I often pop to the various cake related stores and cook shops when I’m there to see what’s about.

One year I picked up the New york times cook book, jammed with all the recipes they have featured over the years. One recipe I looked up inside was an Apple pie, one that is popular over there across the water,  an apple pie in a cheddar cheese crust. Now cheddar isn’t American you say ! well no, but it has been around for a long time over there. And I’ve seen a few  UK  chefs publish their own recipes.  It makes sense to me all this, I love apples, and I really love cheese, especially a strong cheddar, you know, one that takes the roof of your mouth off and makes hair grow out your ears…that strong ! I can’t be doing with mild cheddar…it’s just a hard block of milkiness to me …the trouble is, I loves me strong flavours ! :)

Now one of my guilty pleasures is a bit of strong cheddar on a chocolate digestive biscuit, ( yeah I know, lock me up now) I love the sweet and sour tang you get at the same time, so when I decided to play with this recipe I had this in mind, no chocolate, but the sweet apples and tangy cheese.

I used a mix of cooking apples and dessert apples, it’s nice to mix up the textures and flavours when cooking with apples.

But something was missing, I wanted more, you know, like having cheese, port & grapes, I wanted richness too, and a dessert that would scream…”EAT TOO MUCH OF ME & I”LL GIVE YER GOUT”

So here it is, an apple pie with a cheddar cheese crust, but with added quince for a bit of seasonal kick at this time of year ( of writing this post that is) With raisins poached in port, just to give something else, I don’t know what to call that something else yet, but I like ;)

This recipe is made in a deep 9 inch by 1.5 inch tart ring, by now you must know how I like a deep filling..it’s pretty much mandatory these days.

Have a go..it’s quite nice in Late Autumn/winter…and pretty much goes with all things christmas too, it’s like a dessert and cheese course in one :)

Very nice with marscapone or creme fraiche, with a bit of grated nutmeg…If you’re going to go with custard I’d spice it up a bit with a bit of cinnamon or brandy.

YOU WILL NEED:

The above mentioned tart ring, on a tray lined with parchment.

A rolling-pin.

Mixing bowl and beater, or just your hands.

A small pan.

A larger Pan

An oven at 160c (155c for fan assisted ovens)

RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS:

Pastry:

500g of plain flour.

50g caster sugar.

200g unsalted butter.

150g strong mature cheddar ( roughly grated )

1/4 tsp  ( teaspoon) ground star anise.

1/4 tsp cinnamon.

1/2 tsp baking powder.

pinch of salt.

4 medium eggs.

one egg beaten, to use as glaze.

Method: pastry:

Sift flour, spices, baking powder and salt together mix with butter by hand or machine until a crumble is formed, add cheese and mix in, then add eggs, mix together to form a dough, leave in fridge for 20 minutes to rest.

INGREDIENTS: filling

2 large cooking apples.

2 dessert apples.

2 quinces

150g raisins.

150ml port.

30g butter.

1/2 tsp of ground cloves.

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

100g soft light brown sugar

1 and half tablespoons of cornflour

2 tablespoons ground semolina.

Method: filling.

Place the port and raisins in a small pan, bring to a simmer for 2 minutes, take off heat and leave to cool for a couple of hours, can be left over night to steep for more flavour.

Peel and core the apples and quince, chop apples into medium-sized chunks, and quince smaller.

Melt butter and sugar in a larger pan and toss apples and quince in for a couple of minutes over the heat, remove and cool down.

When cooled, place in bowl, add raisins, which by this time should have soaked most of the port up.

Next add cornflour and ground cloves and cinnamon, mix together ( this should  smell amazingly rich and boozy  about now) :)

ASSEMBLING:

Take pastry out of fridge and roll out about 3 quarters and line your now greased tart ring which should be on a lined tray, leaving a bit of over lap on edge.

Sprinkle the semolina evenly over the bottom.

Pack the fruit filling in.

roll out the rest of the pastry for the top.

brush the edge of the case with egg glaze before placing on top, then place the top on and pinch all around the edge. Trim of excess pastry.

You can get creative here with pastry trimmings and cut out a leaves to decorate the top, I plundered my leaf cutters from my cake decorating kit to do just this. :)

Brush over the whole top with egg glaze.

Bake at 160c for  25-30  minutes, or at least until the top is nicely coloured with no wet patches of pastry showing.

leave to cool a bit before removing ring.

Serve with creme fraiche or marsapone,and a nice glass of red wine or port.

METHOD GALLERY:

Heres a gallery of photos of the stages to help you along, click on any image to enlarge.

©The Cake-shaker 2013

Dead cool, sugar ghouls – Day of the dead sugar skulls

October 13, 2013

As you would know by now if you have been following this blog, I love a bit of Halloween, and always try to put something up each year. This year is no exception.

Who knew skulls could be so cute !

Who knew skulls could be so cute !

I came across how to make these skulls while trying to look for something a bit different last year, I found the moulds on ebay, they came complete with instructions on how to do them, so this is really about how I found making them.

They take little in the way of ingredients, but I found the amounts a bit vague, so have basically tried to simplify them.

I really enjoyed making them, and have made some more for october this year, they are traditionally made for the mexican day of the dead festivities which is celebrated in the beginning of November. They are made in honour the spirits of dead ancestors who are reputed to visit their relatives and our world at this time. Families make them, sometimes fill them with sweets, & and take them to the graves of relatives as gifts.

Display I made for halloween last year, with Norman, one of my skulls.

Display I made for Halloween last year, with Norman, one of my skulls.

It may all sound rather creepy, but I quite like it, it’s a nice way to feel close to ones ancestors, and its a sugary way to taking the fear out of mortality. ( try licking a sugar skull & you’ll never fear the reaper again ) :)

The skulls themselves are not really made for eating, it is just a huge lump of set sugar, you could try to put it in a giant cup tea, but I wouldn’t advise it.

We don’t really celebrate this festival here in the UK, but I think the moulds are great for Halloween, Last year I made two ( who I named Norman & Tebbit ) and placed them in a display, I made a few this year and placed one in a Halloween restaurant display, I’ll decorate and place the others around the place as we go through october.

2013's display using one of the skulls i made this year

2013′s display using one of the skulls I made this year

I have included a link to the company that sell the moulds I bought last year HERE, or you could just find them online somewhere else, you might get a bargain on ebay like I did !

What I like about the skulls is that you can decorate them how ever you want & use your warped imagination. I was inspired by the fabulous colourful mexican decorated skulls last year, but decided to move towards a more gory creepy design this time. I have just shown how to make the base, the rest is up to you… go nuts and be really creepy, scare the shhhhsugar out of everyone and get your spook on !  ( I’d love to see them )

YOU WILL NEED:

A Mexican sugar skull mould. ( I used an XL mould )

A bowl

Some baking parchment

a couple of 6 inch round cake cards

disposable gloves ( optional )

A warped imagination when decorating ;)

INGREDIENTS:

1.250g granulated sugar ( some say castor, but I found this easier and liked the crystalline effect )

1 tablespoon of dried egg white powder or meringue powder ( I used Meri white which is sold in most cake decorating shops )

Some cold water.

METHOD:

Place sugar and powder in bowl.

Gradually sprinkle some cold water in and mix by hand until its like wet sand you make a sand castle with.

A good guide is if you squeeze some in your hand and you leave finger marks in it’s done, if its to sticky, just add a bit more sugar.

Polish the inside of your moulds, pack the sugar in one half and smooth off at the top.

Tip out like you are making a sand castle, I found it easier to turn it onto a cake card covered with baking parchment.

Do the same with the other half.

Leave both halves 24 hours to set.

When set you can pick them up, the inside should still be soft, scoop out the inside with a spoon, leaving about half an inch for the structure on the outside.

leave to dry for another 12 hours.

make a batch of royal icing from this blog. (click here for link)

Stick the two halves together ( fill with sweets for a spooky Halloween suprise )

Leave to dry, then go nuts and decorate however you like :)

METHOD GALLERY:  a step by step picture guide.

click on any image to enlarge.

© The cake-shaker 2013

Yep, I’m messing about with recipes again, now it’s a chocolate and toffee version of portuguese custard tarts ( with my shiny new pan )

September 28, 2013

Now like most people here in the UK, I’ve been glued to the latest series of the Great British bake off, sometimes biting my nails as Mary Berry passes a disapproving eye  over a tarts soggy bottom…. &  I snigger at the mention of Paul Hollywood’s soft muffins. But that can’t be helped, you know me by now, it’s an illness ;)

Chocolate, toffee...what's not to love ! :)

Chocolate, toffee…what’s not to love !

This particular week had tarts featured, the custard tart in particular …you can’t go wrong with a creamy tart. Now someone on twitter tweeted me as they were watching the show, and said they loved the version of the Portuguese  custard tart I put up on this very blog a while a go, which was very flattering & lovely of them to say so, And this put me in the mood to pursue a promise I made to put a non christmas version up at some point ( the one on here contains mincemeat )

So in a round about away I was being told by GBBO to get in the kitchen and make some tarts, so who was I to ignore the hint.  I have wanted to try to make a chocolate version for a while, so I gave it a go and finally came up with one I could share, I decided to stick toffee in the middle for the hell of it, you can leave it out if you want and just go for a full on  chocolate custard mouth explosion.

I rolled the pastry out on the cocoa powder as I found it gave a nice smokey cocoa hint to the finished tart, I tried it without as well, but preferred the cocoa rolled ones, you can leave it out if you find it too messy for your surfaces ;)

These are heavier than the english custard tarts, but the good thing about them is that they are cooked all at once, no blind baking……and not a hint of a soggy bottom.

One thing I do envy is the well equipped kitchen they have on GBBO, So I felt like I was there with the contestants in my own little way, when I noticed they were using the same brand of pan I have, A Green pan  no less, and great for this recipe, as it’s totally non stick and conducts heat evenly, so no hot spots or burnt bits stuck to the base.  I recently  took my eye off a pan of creme anglaise, distracted by a lonely bowl of mash potato (yum) and burnt it. Fearing the kitchen porter would spit in my morning coffee if I gave it to him to clean, I tried to dispose of it discretely, and was surprised to find it slipped out the pan with ease and didn’t need scraping,  just a rinse out and looked as good as new ..phew !  They cook quicker too, so nice to see the BBC saving some of our license fee by keeping the gas bill down :)

They are in my suppliers I recommend Category section if you want to find the company.

My lovely green pan.

My lovely green pan, hard at work.

Well yet again I go off on a tangent, sorry about that, here’s the recipe, I’ll stop me jabbering now.

You can pimp your tarts if you want: add some sea salt to the toffee, about a teaspoon for a salted caramel flavour.

Or add a tablespoon of brandy + an added half teaspoon of cornflour to the chocolate paste for the custard filling to give a kick.

YOU WILL NEED:

A hand bowl and whisk.

A non stick milk pan.

A 12 pan muffin tin.

An oven heated to 180c (160c fan oven)

INGREDIENTS:

Makes approximately 10-12

350g of ready-made puff pastry

4 Large egg yolks

100g caster sugar

200ml whole milk

260ml double cream

2 and a half tablespoons of cornflour

2 tablespoons of dark cocoa powder ( plus some for dusting )

1 can of condensed milk.

METHOD: custard

In a bowl with a whisk, cream the egg yolks and sugar together, then add the cornflour and cocoa, cream together to form a paste.

Bring the milk and cream together to the boil in a pan.

Slowly pour into chocolate paste, continuously whisking so no lumps form.

Place back on stove on a low heat and stir until thickened.

METHOD:  tart case

roll out the puff pastry on a service dusted with cocoa powder until about 5cm thick.

Then roll up like a swiss roll.

Cut up into rounds about 1/2 an inch thick.

flatten, then roll out to twice the size of your muffin pans.

push into your greased pans, making sure the pastry pokes over above the edge.

METHOD: toffee

Pour a can of condensed milk into a non stick pan and stir over a medium heat until a golden thick toffee is formed.

( you can sometimes by this already caramelised in the can in some supermarkets )

leave to cool.

ASSEMBLY:

Divide the chocolate custard between the cases.

pipe a ball of toffee in the centre.

place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until the pastry has started to brown, and the custard has bubbled up the side.

Take out and cool on wire rack.

serve by piping more caramel in the centre.

METHOD GALLERY:

click on any image to enlarge.

©The Cake-Shaker 2013
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