Saturday, October 31, 2009

British Invasion!!

As I look back over my photos, I see that I really didnt take any photos of food on my trip home! I did of course eat lots, but I didnt have a camera handy to take piccies, so you'll have to be content with a little bit of scenery!
I started off paying my dear grandma a visit. She lives pretty close to Teddington Lock now, so I stretched my legs and wandered over there. So pretty. I really loved the weeping willow trees over the river, and the fact that fall was starting.
We had a pretty unmemorable meal at a french restaurant. I often find it a little stressful eating with her as she always feels she ought to leave a clean plate, and doesnt really have much of an appetite, so she has a big stress about being too full and feels ill. Its sad to think that food sometimes isnt so much of a pleasure any more as one gets older.

I then set off to Central London and was given a delicious healthy tofu dish for dinner, its wierd how they have really embraced flavoring tofu and making it much more palatable there.
I had a lovely day in central London with my friend, John, we enjoyed wandering around the British Museum, and also a delicious lunch at Beas of Bloomsbury (more about that later!)
After a couple of days in London, I made my way to my home town of Birmingham. I had a tasty curry with my friends, but we lamented the fact that the curry houses are trying too hard, and that maybe we should have gone back to the homeplace of the balti, Ladypool Road.
I also started on 'project wedding cake', which was
quite a challenge. I baked cakes for 70 people to take to the wedding I was attending at the weekend. My mum served as my sous chef, and we managed to do pretty well, despite a small oven that cooked a little unevenly, and limited resources. Costco came to the rescue, it was great to see that the butter and eggs are all free range. I wish America would follow suit a little more in this regard, after all, theres much more space here to give the animals!! It was also fascinating to see what they had to offer, giant sacks of tea bags and enormous jars of pickled eggs (who really eats those?!!)
I then made my way to a fantasic country house, Treowen in the Monmouthshire countryside, it was a truly beautiful place, and I really enjoyed reconnecting with old friends over a really fun
weekend. We enjoyed fantastic food all weekend, but highlights included the wedding dinner of bangers and mash, with a wonderful sticky toffee pudding for desert, and then a great big full english breakfast the following morning, to mop up all the alcohol that we'd had the night before!
I still believe that the overall quality of food in the UK is often better, although I think its sad that the farmers market concept isnt quite as widespread. I would say that in California we are blessed with an abundance of wonderful fruit all year round, but the dairy produce in the UK is just exceptional.
One of the things that makes me happiest is to see the faces of my favourite farmers when I pick up my eggs and sometimes produce. I was really happy to be back in San Diego and see my favourite farmers stand, schaener farm at the Little Italy Mercado.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone!
I must admit, I'm not really in the mood, making these cupcakes got me feeling a bit more festive.
Hopefully I'll have more to say soon, I've got so much to talk about, a great trip to the UK, fun times at a bakery, a wedding, plus lots of fun in San Diego...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring bakers and macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Like most of the daring bakers, I've been meaning to tackle macarons. I've tried them once, they didnt go so well, so I was happy to experiment again.

This could be the holy grail of pastry, I've been trying to work out why, and I think it could be the variation in ingredients, and the importance of the consistency of the batter. The almond meal could be more finely ground or less, and the egg whites could be more or less aged and can vary in size. Of course the technique is also very tricky, whipping the egg whites to a soft peak, not too hard, then carefully folding the nut meal and powdered sugar in.

I'm going to blame this on the fact that my macarons were a little runny. I think I needed more nut flour. Also, I didnt use my common sense and I piped them too close together. The macarons also stuck to the silpat, so it was difficult to release them. I've heard you can put water underneath the silpat to help to release the cookies.

As you can see, my macarons are woefully thin too, although they did seem to develop the 'feet'. One day I'll spend a week perfecting them, but I just dont seem to have the time to commit to it.

A happy accident happened, I realised I didnt have enough almond meal, so I ground up some hazelnuts to mix in, and then filled the macarons with nutella. Delicious!!!

Please check on amy's blog for the recipe!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Autumn is here!

I've been so busy I've not had time to write about how busy I am! I recently had a little get together to celebrate the fact that fall is here. I bought a copy of Martha Stewarts new cupcake book and I thought it would be fun to share some of the cupcakes from it, plus a couple of new ideas.
I was very happy with the book, lots of ideas and lovely presentations, the only downside is martha seems to have an awful lot more friends than I do, and her recipes often yield several dozen cakes, I prefer to make a dozen or two at a time.

I started with everyone's fall favourite, the pumpkin spice cupcake. I didnt have time for the cute pumpkin topper, so I mixed a little of the cream cheese with some caramel so that it created a pretty swirl. I think this was definitely the big winner of the day!

I was also lucky enough to get some meyer lemons at the farmers market. Although they are not in season he had a few extra on the tree. The cupcake was quite nice but not as dreamy and ephemeral as maybe the dorie greenspans perfect party cake is. Meyer lemons make a much less tart curd too, which is worth keeping in mind if you like a bit more zing.

I then got started on a pretty looking 'hummingbird cupcake. It was another lovely tropical treat. I've seen these lovely pineapple flowers before and wanted to recreate them myself. I found them to be a lot of work and it does seem like a bit of a waste of good pineapple as they are just a bit dried out and not as tasty.

I'd also been hoping to recreate smores in a cupcake form, so I had a try at martha stewarts recipe. Being me, I decided to only stick to the cupcake recipe, I topped with a whipped chocolate ganache and a swirl of seven minute meringue frosting, which was lots of fun to burn with my ridiculously large torch from Home Depot!

Last but definitely not least, I made a rich chocolate mud cake, scooped a little out and popped a filling of coconut with cream cheese frosting and topped with a decadent dark chocolate buttercream, topped with an almond to be an 'almond joy' cupcake. Most definitely my favorite, I think this would be a wonderful treat for anyone wanting something a bit more decadent!

I'm afraid I'm out of town, so I cant share any recipes, but I have to share that chocolate mud cake recipe on my return, it was delicious and very moist!

Whats your favorite cupcake?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall Foodie Swap

Thank you so much to Laura for organizing this! I partnered with Erin in Boston, who shared some amazing stuff with me, maple syrup, pancake/waffle mix, ginger jam, cranberry honey and some beautiful fall cookie cutters, dishes towels etc. So generous!
I was a little embarrassed with what I'd sent off, I made some little pumpkins out of marzipan which I thought would go great as toppers for pumpkin cupcakes, so I popped in a recipe and added some halloween cupcake cases and homemade caramel syrup for decorating. I put in some spices to give a fall scent upon opening, and added some 'world peace cookies' from Dorie Greenspan's recipe, and a little hand painted bowl from guadalajara, mexico that I found at my local farmers market