Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mini cupcakes for little princesses...

Now that I work whilst The Team are at school/work, it's a bit trickier to organise my time for baking and other fun stuff.  And for more dull stuff, like making packed lunches and getting the kids to after-school activities on time and the like, sigh...  I guess this part is a work in progress, as I hone my time management skills in a new way - that's a positive way to look at things  :)
So for the big batch of mini cupcakes I needed for tomorrow lunchtime, I started on the sugarpaste decorations on Thursday night.  I had spoken to the parents of most the young girls in question, to find out their favourite colours as I had a plan to name and decorate cupcakes in matching colours.  
And you can see that The Team got their names in there too, in their favourite colours of green (Mini-1) and pink (Mini-2).  And no, before you ask, I don't have those tiny cute stamps in numbers, despite trying to locate some.
I got the cupcakes baked tonight, and am pleased that nearly all of them turned out well.  But oh boy, I made way too many decorations!  I had bought some cute Disney Princess and Disney Monsters University topper discs too, and didn't have enough cupcakes to use them all - oops.  I'm sure the girls will all be a) super excited to see so many mini cupcakes just for them, and b) to see their names in their favourite colours on said cupcakes.  Roll on tomorrow!
The girls range in age from 2 to 9, they'll all like Disney Princesses, right?
 I mean, who doesn't?
Aww, I just think they're so cute!  Hope the girls do too...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Salted caramel and chocolate sounds good, right?

I had printed out this recipe, from Goodtoknow, for salted caramel and chocolate cookies and been looking forward to trying it out.  The Team are getting ever busier with their after-school sports and activities, and with me working during the days now there's precious little spare time in which to bake-for-fun at the moment.  So I took the chance this afternoon, while they were out enjoying the glorious afternoon with the neighbour children.
Or so I thought.  But when Mini-2 noticed I was getting all the ingredients ready, she insisted on helping me (Mini-1 had been first to get her shoes on, so was already outdoors).  The recipe was very easy to prepare and follow, but my main gripe was the addition of the chocolate before you left it to sit and cool and solidify.  It became basically one hot mess!
So when you tried to dollop out the amounts on the cookie tray in order to bake them, it was already oozing all over the place.  Even more so when baked  :(
The second batch appeared like it was going better, because the batter was cooler and more solid, but they still spread hugely whilst baking, and didn't end up looking any better.  
So the verdict chez Becca?   They smelt great whilst baking, and now, and taste ok but look pretty bad. Have you made this recipe?  How did it work out for you?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fish pie? That's not a dessert...

After the limited success of the courgette fritters, I thought I ought to try again to feed The Team something home-cooked, delicious and nutritious.  So another magazine recipe to the rescue - well, it said it was easy. It's called Cheesy Fish Pie and is in the July 2013 issue of the in-store Asda Magazine (page 59 of 101 if that link doesn't take you straight there).  As you will see, not a tricky situation.  
But, well, what can I say in my defence?  I'm a baker, not a cook.  I was worried that it was all a bust, because the fish took nearly twice as long to cook as they suggested, but it ended up being just fine after all. I had started in plenty of time, so that despite the extra time for the fish to be cooked dinner was served on time.  Mind you, that didn't mean the girls were keen to eat it...  But when 'bed hungry' is the only other menu option, they get hungry eventually.  
Mr Becca and I thought it was fine, not huge on flavour but easy enough.  I've heard that Jamie Oliver does a good fish pie, we'll have to try that one next time.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Becca does tradition - back-to-school cookies (and gets a job!)

For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you may recall last year's first-day-back-at-school after school snack cookie treat.  I felt that this was a lovely and homely tradition for the girls, and was keen to do it again for them.
However, way back at the beginning of the year I had interviewed for a supply administrative post in any school across our fair city.  I was simply hoping to get the job to get on a list, then would hope to get a call now and then, asking me to work here or there for a few days.  I felt it would be the ideal job, as it would mean I could still be with the girls when they needed me and thus not need to pay out for childcare, but also earn a bit of extra money in the hours that I wasn't with them.  Long story short, I got offered a post at a local high school, assisting a teacher.  Because it was arranged during the school holidays, it was initially for a week, to see if I got on with the teacher and if my somewhat limited availability (because it turns out that the school day in primary is shorter than that in secondary schools) would suit also.
So, knowing I wouldn't be able to bake the cookies on the actual day, The Team and I got started on them this afternoon.  Well, the weather has been good and our new neighbours are lovely, so in between riding bicycles and general playing, only Mini-2 could spare the time to help bake cookies.  Here she is carefully cutting the baking parchment to place on the baking trays...
And helping to scoop out the correct amount of mix for each of the delicious dark chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies we planned to bake.  Please don't worry about that mark on her arm, it's the remainder of a glow-in-the-dark tattoo that hasn't yet come off, not a bruise or anything else  ;)
Mmm, what a smell!   And I'll admit, we snuck in a taste test once they were out of the oven.  But the rest we will keep for our first day back at school - all 3 of us!!
P.S.  The teacher liked me, and could work with my availability, so I'm now gainfully employed outside the home for the whole academic year - go Becca!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The world's most famous mouse

A lady got in touch to ask if I could  make a cake for her soon-to-be-2 year old boy, in the theme of Mickey Mouse.  Hmmm... sure thing, I said, as inspiration struck.  I had a back-up plan, and a friend with just the tools I needed to do the job well.
The brief was for a small cake and not much icing, so I went for a cute little vanilla 6" with strawberry jam and not-too-much vanilla buttercream.  Just a touch of the ole red, white, black and yellow and we have a very happy birthday indeed to sweet Jay!!

Friday, August 09, 2013

Ombre, polka dots and all things purple

M's sister's birthday was coming up fast, and her brother-in-law had been so busy working he'd had no time to organise a cake.  So M rang me, in a mild panic, asking for advice.  We agreed on purple, as it was her sister's favourite colour (and hers, and their mothers, odd) and the rest was up to me.  They loved my rainbow and ombre cakes, so that was a definite inclusion.
But it was all to be a surprise, so I wanted to ice it in white to disguise the interior.  I liked the polka dots I'd done on the Mickey Mouse cake, so did another style of them.  Turns out one of the birthday gifts was a polka dot wine glass, so the cake fitted in beautifully.
And at the party they were kind enough to take and send me a photo of the sliced interior - lovely!  
Happy Birthday Leanne!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Sprinkling gorgeous!

Sometimes Summer just makes you feel happy.  And sometimes you wanna jump for joy.  In which case, we can make a cake to help you out.  Let me present our sprinkling gorgeous 6" vanilla sponge with Nutella and Nutella buttercream.  Iced in lashings of vanilla buttercream, smothered in colourful happy line sprinkles.  
Now, doesn't that just make you smile?  It went into an office for a Friday treat, and I believe it certainly made them all smile  :)
This photo is to give you a sneaky peek behind the scenes - to see how the cake was achieved.  I had seen a tutorial suggesting you roll it in the sprinkles to achieve full coverage over your buttercream, but I just felt that this squashed the design a little.  If you look closely at the space where I placed my logo in the first picture, you may notice a little squashing there.  Or not.
I then did my best to 'throw' the hundreds and thousands at the cake in an attempt to get them to stick.  This too sort-of worked.  But overall, it made me and the customer(s) happy, so all was well.  Have you tried this technique?  What worked for you?

Monday, August 05, 2013

Peanut butter and chocolate - a match made in traybake heaven

I subscribe to quite a few email lists from bakers - whether it be blog posts or email newsletters.  I love reading and saving or printing out the recipes and ideas for future inpsiration.  One such recipe was this from Betty Crocker, that great American powerhouse of ideas, for Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars.  I mean, that just sounds good right there, doesn't it?!!
And with a starting out photo that looks this good, you know it's gonna taste amazing!  Mmmm...
It was a pretty easy recipe to convert to metric measurements (I really don't like American cup measurements, they're too imprecise for my scientific mind to handle) and to get to this stage.  They asked you to sprinkle chocolate chips over the just-out-of-the-oven traybake.  You can see in the photo that a few have started to melt within moments of touching the warm peanut butter choc studded base...
Then a few moments later you had to use a palette knife or similar to smooth out the melted chocolate and quickly add the chopped peanuts, so they'd stick well.
I left it out on the kitchen counter to cool, and realised after a little while that it would never set hard at room temperature.  So I cut it into 'bars', which in my case were more like bite-sized squares, then popped it in the fridge for a while.
And got this as the end result.  Oh my, peanut butter heaven!!  This tasted so good, and was so quick and easy to make.  And only about 1000kcal per bite-size of luscious dessert.  You have to try this - let me know how you get on!  Enjoy.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Courgette fritters - Becca does savoury, ooh

I had seen an easy recipe for courgette (zucchini to you non-Europeans) fritters in a supermarket magazine, and thought to try them on The Team for a change  (sorry but I can't find the recipe online, I'll keep searching and add it in at a later date if I do).  It included eggs, courgettes, plain flour and not too much else so I figured they'd like eat.  They were quite keen, and the recipe said to fry them lightly for a few minutes on each side.  Sadly, some required quite a few more than a few minutes so not all of them were fully cooked.
But they ate them, in the most part.   However, I may just stick to sweet goods for the moment...

Friday, August 02, 2013

Mmm, melting moments - a biscuit from my youth

As many of my readers may know by now, I grew up in the wonderful land of milk and honey, often known as Australia.  And one of the biscuits that I recall from away back then, that I haven't eaten in decades and had all but forgotten about, is Melting Moments.
Then lo and behold, they appeared in my Facebook newsfeed, made by a baker who lives in Adelaide.  I admired her photo, gave it a little thought, then figured if you don't ask, you don't get.  I contacted her, explained I was very far away and thus no competition to her and kindly asked for the recipe...  And she was lovely!  So happy to share and so I made them.
Now, these were quite easy, and The Team could have helped if they wanted to - as Lindsay (the Australian baker) had made them with her children, but they were too busy enjoying the Summer Holidays to worry about remaining indoors with a hot oven on a hot day.  Clever girls!
Mmm, don't they look good?  The recipe only made 13 halves, so this is the whole haul.  I made them with vanilla glace icing in the middle, rather than lemon as suggested, as I felt the taste would be better.  And it was - not only did The Team love them, but Mr Becca pronounced them delicious too.  High praise indeed  ;)