Monday, 21 February 2011

History and Chocolate Cake!

So in an effort to be the cake company on the tip of every ones tongue I went out on a leaflet drop last week. I tried to make it less annoying for recipients by delivering a bookmark so whether you use the information on it or not, at least you won't ruin your next book.

Well this ended up as a success in more ways than one. Not only did it get these fast spreading hips walking around a bit but I got to meet a wonderful lady whom popped out to say hi after my bookmark glided onto her doormat. A wonderful cake baker herself during our conversation I inquired about two new recipes and immediately got jealous when she told me about her original KENWOOD grrrr.

When I started looking them up it got me to thinking about all manner of old recipes and cake baking so I started to search and see what the first traditions around cake and who indeed may have baked the first soft and fluffy sponge. Without putting my entire day aside for this one topic (as information is aplenty and all consuming) I gleamed these small few facts.

As we all know cakes are a way for people to mark the occasion and are of great importance during birthdays and weddings and no meal is ever really complete until the sweets are served and devoured. Early 13th century European bakers would produce ginger bread and fruit cakes that would last for months, I think I brought one of these at my local convenience store last week . Interestingly I also found out the tiered wedding cake developed from an old tradition of piling small cakes one on top of the other; the bride and groom then kissed over the top of the pile if they managed to do so without the pile falling it meant a marriage of bliss and prosperity.

NOOOO...I need bliss please give me back my prosperity!!!

A French chef visiting England in the 1660's appalled at the witnessing of the cake piling tradition conceived the idea of taking the bland biscuit tower and turn it into a tiered iced sponge extravaganza. British papers of the day deplored the French monstrosity, but I'm very glad of this development myself.

So here is the first of 2 recipes to try out this week a massive thank you to Sara Adams of Gospel Oak.

Sacher Torte
6 egg whites
5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup butter (no substitutes) shopping list
6 egg yolks
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup apricot preserves
chocolate glaze (see recipe below)
chocolate curls (optional)
Edible flowers (optional)

How to make it

Let egg whites stand at room temperature in a very large bowl for 30 minutes. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch spring-form pan. Set aside.
Melt chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over low heat; cool. Stir egg yolks and vanilla into the cooled chocolate mixture. Set mixture aside.
Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating about 4 minutes or until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight).
Fold about 1 cup of the egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg white mixture. Sift about one-third of the flour over the egg mixture; gently fold in. (If the bowl is too full, transfer mixture to a larger bowl.) Repeat twice, sifting and folding in one-third of the flour at a time.
Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Completely cool cake in the pan on a wire rack. Remove sides of pan. Brush crumbs from edges of cake. (Top crust will be slightly flaky.) Remove bottom of pan from cake.

Heat preserves in a small saucepan until melted. Press apricot preserves through a sieve; cool slightly.
To assemble, cut cake horizontally into two even layers. Place the bottom layer on a large serving plate. Spread the preserves on top of the cake layer on plate. Top with the second cake layer. Pour Chocolate Glaze over torte, spreading as necessary to glaze top and sides completely. Let torte stand at room temperature at least 1 hour before serving. If desired, top with chocolate curls; garnish with edible flowers.
Chocolate Glaze: Cut up 4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate. Heat chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter or margarine in a saucepan over low heat just until melted, stirring occasionally; set aside. Bring 1/2 cup whipping cream and 2 teaspoons light corn syrup to a gentle boil in a heavy small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate mixture. Cool to room temperature.

Let me know how your attempts turn out I'll post pictures of my attempts later this week I want to make sure none of yours are better first.....Happy Eating All!

Nicola Quigley

Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine Sigh!

Well Friday had me seeing red; red bows, red marzipan, red piped icing.....oh my poor aching eyes! But we made it; phew what a relief to be on the other side.

I must have tied close to two hundred bows on Friday alone.....Just as I was reaching bow 191 Daniel approached; Trepidation in eyes...just 58 more...if you could...if you don't....Of course we couldn't....of course we did....But we made it happen the family cakes way.

So I came in today expecting feet on desks, chefs stuffing faces with left over Marzipan hearts but alas a few of you had other ideas as you called with panic in your voices, can I get some cupcakes sent to my boyfriend today; it was you ladies that had us on our toes with your last minute orders tut tut.

So for all those whom have forgotten to plan something for tonight here is a romantic menu you can steal perfect for lovers to share. Happy Valentine All!!

Rocket and Parmesan Salad.

Go rustic on this one and pile a load of rocket leaves in a large pasta dish just a small drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of a large lemon wedge plus as much Parmesan slices as you can be bothered to grate. Tip: I use a potato peeler for my Parmesan I find it works better then the slice option on a grater

Home Baked Lasagna

Make life easy on yourself and buy the pasta sheets and pre-made sauces.

1. Sliced red onion into a pan with a little brown sugar and sizzle on a low heat
2. Crush some garlic (just one clove does me) pop that in with the onion
3. Add your mince and keep it moving until browned all over, drain juices as you go
4. Add a beef stock cube to your mince and stir until well mixed in then add your red sauce
5. Start layering: Mince-pasta sheets-mince-pasta sheets-mince-pasta sheets-white sauce Lots of grated cheese
6. Pop in a pre-heated (200 c) oven for a minimum of 40minutes or as long as you can stave off hunger until the top is golden brown and bubbling away

Serve with simple garlic bread by rubbing a peeled garlic clove over any type of toasted bread and spread a little butter if desired

Scrumptious melted chili chocolate pot with a shortcrust biscuit heart

Make your biscuits first

1. Cream together 200g of caster sugar and 500g of butter
2. add vanilla extract if you have it (lets keep it simple don't buy it you don't) 2tsp should do it
3. Fold in 500g of plain flour to form a doughy ball
4. roll this out until about an inch thickness and then cut out hearts with heart cutters if you have them or carefully slice around a heart shape from home could be anything or just a slip of paper you cut into a heart shape; i think the less perfect the better.
5. Bake at 180 for 10-12 mins (should be a golden color) set aside to cool.

Hot Chili chocolate pots

1. In a big bowl set over boiled simmering water (the trick is to never let your top bowl touch the water beneath thats what burns the chocolate) break in a whole bar of dark chocolate
2. Chop up 2 birds eye whole chili add these seeds and all
3. once chocolate is completely smooth mix in half a tub of dbl cream and watch in delight at the color changes
4. sieve before serving to remove chili and leave behind the flavor
4. Pour into 2 little pots or champagnes flutes for fun or if you want to be really romantic just take the saucepan to the bedroom oi oi!

Shopping List (copy and paste this into word and print your shopping list for this menu)

Bag of Rocket leaves
Red onion
500g Mince Beef
Birds Eye Chili's
Wedge of Parmesan
Block of strong chedder
Beef stock cubes
Red (tomato) lasagna sauce
White (bechamel) lasagna sauce
500g Butter
200g caster sugar
500g Plain flour
140g bar of plain chocolate (any variety will do doesn't have to be cooking chocolate)

wishing you all a lotta love tonight

Nicola Quigley

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Happy Valentines All.

So its all fluttery hearts and red icing in the bakery at the moment, most of you haven't even booked your restaurant tables but we've been planning for Valentine's Day for two weeks already. We've a myriad of specials; cupcakes with glittery hearts, heart shaped jammy dodgers and my favorite cherry filled sweet heart tarts are so deliciously tart and crumbly.

Today we were putting together the finishing touches for our individual heart shaped sponge cakes and I got to help.

The cakes had been made, filled and shaped the day before and sat in refrigeration overnight to help solidify the sponge cakes ready for covering Anna then rolled out the red marzipan to an inch thickness and smoothed it over the cakes, I then cut carefully around the edges and scalloped them with a tiny shell shaped tool; then we got to add some bears.

Anna started by making a long oblong sausage out of brown marzipan checking this against the height of the cake (Godzilla sized bear floating hauntingly over a heart shaped cake is NOT cute)

She then takes four much smaller pieces and rolls them into sausage shapes with tapered ends, these are our cute chubby legs and arms.

A large round ball gives us a head, to make sure it sits right Anna made a dip in the neck of the body for the head to sit into.

Then taking light pink marzipan she squashes this into a small flat circle roughly the size of a 5p this gets added to our head shaped ball to make the face, with a small tool she makes indentures to form the mouth, nose and eyes.

A slightly darker pink and yet more indentures give us the soles of the feet and hands.

Yes I'm very cute and made of 40g of marzipan!


Lots of glitter, piped icing and individually wrapped bows give us a perfect gift for your love!

And while the girls were busy doing all the hard work Vincenzo knocked out these little beauties!!!

All of our valentine specials are on display and available for eating from our Eataly restaurant in Kingsway! 
Nicola Quigley

Friday, 4 February 2011

So I made it to the end of my first week and what a weeks its been. I've done taste test's (poor thigh's) learnt a million names and started planning a lovely young ladies wedding cake. I met with The bride to be on Tuesday and started to discuss our ideas and colour themes a gorgeous Merlot and Ivory cake is to be created but the dramatic twist is this 50; thats 5 and an 0 my friends individual squared cakes; placed into individual plastic boxes individually decorated with a 10" top tier for cutting, oh my! First wedding cake to plan and this is what I set myself up for.

So Wednesday saw me trawling the web with vigour. Shiny black boxes aplenty, gold and red cardboards boxes no no no, if I'm decorating 50 individual 3" cakes they are going to be seen god damn it!!!

But alas I found perfection awaiting me perfect little tiny boxes with gorgeous gold motifs on the bottom oh the joy and then the crash.....I need a stand that holds 50 individual boxes and a squared cake weighing 1.5k oh boy!!!! So I will keep you updated as this process unfolds and you'll get to the see the finished long as we make it fingers crossed!!!!
A good weekend end to you all and one last tip for a gorgeous Sunday breakfast: Pancakes strawberries kiwi fruits, a maple syrup drenching and the best bit gorgeous crispy streaky bacon rashers....don't be scared its amazing!!!!!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Raising a Baker: My first of day of Yumminess!!

So I have been chosen for this dream opportunity: Join our team the advert screamed at me learn how to make and decorate professional cakes in return for a small amount of admin, the little creative soul inside trapped in waitressing screamed up at me; go for it, and here I am on my first day.

I'm sitting here getting to grips with my new office and already planning the refurb chintz darlings chintz, every time the office door opens  a delicious smell of buttercream and freshly baked cakes wafts through to tempt my belly but I must hold back something tells me this job could get bad for my waistline.
Give me some eggs and a whisk; Easy!!!

I hope to be learning lots and would love to take you on the journey with me as I learn new skills I will pass them on through this blog and we can all become better bakers and cake decorators together. But on this occasion with the limited experience I have being a keen home baker is this: as long as theirs a ton of love and sugar in the mix it'll always taste great.

Chat to you all in a couple of days