Pantastic flipping for Pancake Day – I only managed to flip 4! Second worst in the whole office but we managed to raise £40 for the British Lung Foundation!
As part of the British Lung Foundation’s (BLF) Christmas celebrations we organised the first ever Great BLF Bake Off. There were some fantastic submissions so I thought it would be nice to share some of the recipes. It a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and can also be a festive fundraising event.
The overall winner of the Bake Off was the fantastic cake ‘Santa’s Coming to Town’ by lovely and talented, Cat Holland. For a full recipe please click here.
My Homemade Chocolates won Dr Penny Woods’ special prize of most impactful and outreaching. Click here for the full recipe.
I’ve been testing them on my colleagues at the British Lung Foundation (BLF) so I can make the perfect ones for Christmas. We had the first ever Great BLF Bake Off, the ideal opportunity to try and make some impressive chocolates.
There are two parts to making chocolates, you have the ganache and the melted chocolate.
What you need:
To make about 18 chocolates
250g of the best quality dark chocolate you can find (at least 70% cocoa content)
80 ml double cream
100g good-quality 70% dark chocolate
Silicon chocolate moulds
Heat resistant spatula
Heat resist and bowl
Making chocolate filling ganache
Ganache is a fantastic way to get different flavours into your chocolates – this is when you can let yourself be as creative as you want. I have made a few different flavours so far which include vanilla, rum, chilli, walnut and peanut butter.
Break up your chocolate in a bowl. Add your double cream to the saucepan and heat the cream – but you don’t want it to boil. Just before the cream comes to a boil add about half of it to the chocolate and stir – the cream’s role is to melt the chocolate. If the rest of your cream has cooled down reheat it and slowly add to the chocolate and continuously stir it to make sure it all melts.
If you want different flavours for your fillings separate the ganache into separate bowls and then add the different flavours. Add as little or as much as you like of each (though if you are adding a liquid be careful not to put too much or it will be too liquidy).
When you have added your flavours cover each bowl with cling film and put in the fridge – this will help it harden.
Your ganache will last for about 2 weeks in the fridge.
Making your chocolates
The trick to tempering your chocolate
The most important thing when making chocolates is tempering (melting) your chocolate properly. If the chocolate over-heats your chocolates won’t have a glistening colour and snappy texture, and with gradually develop a white film over them – which is very disappointing after all the effort that goes into making chocolates.
I’ve never been very good at tempering chocolate and think it is a little down to my lack of patience but after a disappointing batch of chocolates I am prepared to wait as long as I need to ensure my chocolates shine!
Melt your chocolate in a bain-marie (water bath), a technique used to slowly melt the chocolate at a low temperature. In the past my bowl has touched the boiling water but I have found it’s better to have your bowl sitting in the pan and not touching the water, so that only the steam is heating the bowl and chocolate.
Some people use thermometers to ensure their chocolate doesn’t go past a certain temperature but my little trick is to boil water in a kettle add it to the saucepan and add my bowl of chocolate and not turn on the heat. I leave the chocolate to slowly melt and stir. Once the water temperature stops melting the chocolate, remove the bowl, turn on the heat and re-boil the water, then turn the heat off and put the bowl over the water again – continuously stir your chocolate with a spatula. The chocolate should be smooth and silky and not gluppy or lumby.
Filling the sides of the moulds
Now that your chocolate is melted you want to fill the bottom and sides of your moulds – the shell of the chocolates. I use a small spoon for the bottom of the moulds and then a tooth pick or wooden skewer for the sides – dipping it in the chocolate and then covering the sides. You don’t need the chocolate to be too thick.
As you fill the bottom of your moulds, gently hit them on your kitchen surface. This will remove any trapped air in the chocolate.
Leave your moulds at room temperature (my kitchen is usually the best and coolest room) to cool.
At no point do you want to put your chocolate in the fridge – this will make them whiten.
Filling your moulds with ganache
Once your chocolate has set – this can take around 30minutes to an hour – you can add your ganache. Use a spoon or pipe (I use a small spoon) and fill them about 3/4 of the way.
Completing your chocolates
Re-melt your chocolate – this shouldn’t take long and a boiled kettle should be enough.
Using a spoon or pipe fill your moulds and continually hit on your kitchen surface to remove trapped air.
Once filled leave your filled moulds at room temperature to harden. They should easily pop out of the moulds when done.
Making a Christmas present
Cut a small square/ rectangle of cardboard, cover with some Christmassy material, I use cello tape on the bottom. Place chocolates on the cardboard. Cover with transparent plastic paper – using a little cello tape again at the bottom to hold. Then tie a pretty bow around it to give that finishing touch.
Special guest blogger, Cat Holland, explains how to make her fantastic ‘Santa’s Coming to Town’ cake.
The figures need time to dry and harden and so it’s best to make these a couple of days before you make the whole cake.
If you haven’t made icing figure before there are lots of YouTube clips out there so I recommend you watch a few to give you an idea of what to do and what you need.
To make these figures I used white ready to roll fondant icing and coloured them using icing colour paste. I made each of the body parts and constructed the figures using cocktail sticks, water and a paint brush. You can use edible glue but the icing becomes quite tacky when it’s being handled and so water is enough to hold the icing together.
I used my favourite gingerbread biscuit recipe for my house. There are lots of recipes out there and so I suggest using one with the right balance of flavours for you.
Using a ruler, pencil and baking paper I drew and cut out the shape of the house including windows. Have a think about the size and style of the house and roof you would like for your house before drawing.
When your ginger bread biscuit mixture is rolled out, (to approx. 5mm thick) place the baking paper cut outs on top and cut around then shapes using a pizza slicer for ease. Make sure you leave an extra 5mm around the roof triangles to makes sure they are big enough to fit together.
Lay the cut out ginger bread on to a baking tray cover with baking paper and put into the oven until they are golden brown, approx. 18 mins, depending on your recipe and the thickness of your ginger bread.
When it is baked, leave it to cool.
Check that the pieces will fit together and then get making the icing and butter cream.
To stick my house walls together I used icing sugar and water and piped it on to the edges. After a couple of hours I used a stiff, coloured butter cream, put into a piping bag with a star nozzle to stick the roof together and on to the house. The butter cream has a pretty finish, is strong and can cover up any gaps you may have between the biscuit.
Once it is dry and stable you are free to decorate the house as much as you would like. I decided to go for a simple house, but did add brown icing onto the roof to create a tilling affect.
The sponge cake
I wanted my cake to have Christmas flavours as well as a Christmas design and so I decided on the following; chocolate & cinnamon with dark chocolate chunks and a orange flavoured sponge.
For most of my recipes I use a basic mixture:
2oz unsalted butter
2oz caster sugar
2oz self-raising flour
I then double/ triple this mixture depending on how much I need and then add the flavour I want.
For this cake I added:
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 tablespoons chocolate powder
100g of broken dark choc chunks
1-2 tablespoon of milk
The peel of one orange
½ the peel of a lemon
The juice of half an orange
To make the inside look Christmassy, I used my Christmas silicon pop cake mould to bake green mini trees. I then placed these in to the cake tin with the chocolate mixture before going into the oven so that the mixture would rise and bake around the already baked Christmas trees.
To make the orange flavoured sponge Christmassy I split the mixture between two smaller tins and added red bake safe colouring paste to one and green to the other.
Both cakes went into the oven for approx. 20- 40 minutes.
To cover the cakes before icing them with rolled fondant icing, I made a stiff butter cream flavoured with the juice of half an orange. Covering the cake with butter cream ensures that the rolled fondant icing has a smooth finish.
I wanted the outside of the cake to tell a story and to use blues and whites to represent winter and snow.
The bottom tear was wrapped with a blue plaited icing and covered with a flared white icing. The top tear was covered with plain white icing all over and trimmed neatly.
To create the plaited blue and white icing I added icing colours to two balls of icing to create different shades and left one ball white. Using an icing smoother, I rolled the balls into long sausage shapes. These three sausage shapes were then plaited together.
With a rolling pin I flattened and rolled out the plait to create a bonded patterned icing to wrap around the sides of the bottom tear.
Using plain white icing, I rolled it out and then cut a circle using the tin it was baked in and placed it on top of the bottom tear, scalloping the edges to give the wavy effect.
I then placed the top tear on top.
With a circle nozzle I piped blue butter cream around the edges of the cake to create a clean finish.
When the main cake complete you need to decide how you want your cake to look. I placed the ginger bread house on top, painted a pathway, and used green butter cream to ice on a Christmas tree, and grass.
And that’s how I made my “Santa’s Coming to Town” Christmas cake.
Now this dish is perfect for a BBQ! I first had this when I was in Nicaragua and ended up having it nearly every single night I was there it was so delicious. So obviously when I got home I tried it and it is really simple.
What you will need:
A big piece of sirloin steak sliced in half (other cuts of beef are also ok)
3 large handfuls of fresh parsley
Chopped chilli (to taste depending how hot you want it)
2-3 chopped cloves of garlic
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
In a blender add all the ingredients (except the beef) and blend. Put the beef in a bowl and a third of the chimichurri mixture to marinate. You can do this the night before or a couple of hours before depending on the time you have. Keep the rest covered in the fridge.
When it’s BBQ day cook the meat. You’ll have to decide on your timings depending on how hot your BBQ is and how red you want your meat but it really doesn’t take long – about 5 minutes on each side (medium rare for me!).
Once your meat is cooked cut it into slices on a large plate and cover it with another third of the chimichurri sauce and serve. The other third is for anyone who might like to add some sauce.
This is definitely a must try dish!
I am loving being in full BBQ season and have been cooking a whole array of different dishes. I thought I’d start our BBQ special with a simple but delicious dish of spicy marinated king prawn skewers.
What you will need:
24 king prawns (6 per skewer)
1 tsp of dried chilli flakes
1 tsp of cumin
1 tsp of paprika
1/2 finely chopped garlic clove
Half a lime’s juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
A pinch or two of ground pepper
Place the prawns in a bowl and add all the ingredients and mix together with your hands. Cover the bowl with tin foil or cling film and place in fridge for a couple of hours. Whilst your BBQ is heating up add 6 prawns to each skewer. Place prawns on BBQ a hot, a couple of minutes on each side.
A nice fresh tomato and mozzarella salad is always great with these.
This is a nice and simple dish that will leave all your guests wanting more.
Prep time: 20mins
Cooking time: 15 mins at 240-220C
What you will need:
100g melted butter
Handful of chocolate chips
½ tsp of baking soda
Melt the butter in the microwave, it should take about 30 seconds. In a bowl whisk the eggs and sugar until have a creamy colour and then add 40ml of milk. Mix the flour and baking soda together and add to the mixture. Then add the butter and the rest of the milk and whisk. Finally add the chocolate and mix evenly.
Butter the madeleine moulds and add the mixture, but not to the top as they will rise!
Put in the oven at 240°C for 5 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 200°C and leave for 8-10 minutes. Make sure you watch the oven closely as they can easily burn.
Remove from the moulds as soon as they come out of the oven.
I went to Waitrose last night and they had Herring Roe for £2.99 a kilo – so I thought I’d give it a go and so for just 52p I got 150g of it. It’s really nice and simple but I have to say that 150g is too much for one person, this was supposed to be my starter but I wasn’t hungry afterwards.
What you will need:
50g roe per person
Slice of nice bread – toasted
A handful of flour
Slice of lemon
Salt & pepper
A small knob of butter
2 tbsp of olive oil
Rince the roe and dry slightly with kitchen paper. Place the flour on a plate and add the roe, ensure the roe is completely dusted in flour. In a pan add the butter and oil, once hot add your roe and cook for a couple of minutes on both sides – they should become nice and golden. Whilst your roe are cooking toast your bread and then place your cooked roe on top of your it, add salt, pepper and a bit of lemon juice – you can serve with a side salad.
This is really easy, cheap and a little different – come on don’t be scared!
I love fajitas, I find them so practical and they are good whether you decide to use chicken, mince or opt for the veggie option. What I find always makes a good wrap are some fried/ roasted peppers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and grated cheese – I’d say those are always my staple ingredients in a fajita. I love crispy chicken and as I walked past KFC the other day it made me really want a chicken fajita! So I decided to try and make it at home. Once you have made you crispy chicken breast then it’s super easy and you can also make your own breadcrumbs. Slice you chicken and add your other ingredients to the wrap. Otherwise you can make a simple and delicious wrap that’s great when you’ve got a few friends round.
Here’s how to make a typical fajita.
What you need:
Meat of your choice
1 onion sliced
1 – 2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumeric
Chopped tomatoes mixed with thinly chopped chilli & shallots
Grated cheddar cheese
When I make fajitas with normal chicken chunks or mince I fry the onion first then add the meat and spices and a few minutes before it’s ready add the peppers. These spices are also very similar to the ready-made fajita kits you get but are much healthier!
Put the wraps on a plate covered with tin foil and place in a low heated oven for 5 minutes before serving.
In seperate bowls put the meat, the tomatoes, sour cream,, cheese & lettuce leaves. Place wraps and bowls on table and start filling the wraps with your favourite ingredients.
Breadcrumbs are super easy and quick to make. You’ll never buy them again once you’ve made you’re own. An added benefit is that you can add whatever flavour you fancy to your breadcrumbs. I usually add a mix of herbs, garlic and salt and pepper but feel free to be as creative as you want – only thing is your ingredients need to be quite dry so as not to bring moisture to the breadcrumbs.
What you will need:
2 slices of bread
1/2 finely chopped garlic clove
Tyme and rosemary (about a tsp eash)
Salt & pepper
Toast your bread and add to a blender along with all the other ingredients.
Blend all the ingredients until you get a small crumb.
Place the breadcrumbs in an oven tray under the grill for a couple of minutes or until they take a golden colour.
And there you have it, homemade crispy breadcrumbs that only take a few minutes to make.
Now you can have fun adding them to fish and meat! See our https://melandjoycook.com/2012/09/01/crispy-baked-chicken/