Friday, 24 December 2010

Merlyn and Malteser Cheesecake

Before the Totterdown Thali became what it is now it was a cute little restaurant called 'The Glasnost'. I had my 29th birthday party there and more importantly I tried Baileys & Malteser cheesecake there.

Since then I have been in search for the perfect recipe to re-create the one I tried there. And I found it. But I changed 1 thing... I used Merlyn instead of Baileys.
(A cream liqueur made with Welsh whiskey instead of Irish). It's the same, but tastes a teeny bit better (I'm not biased at all) and comes in a much sexier bottle...

Beth had miniatures as favours for her wedding from the Penderyn distillery, which you can read about here:

The recipe is straight forward, and better than the ones I used previously (not least because it doesn't have gelatin that makes me gag when I get a whiff of it!)


110g butter
250g digestive biscuits, crushed
600g Philadelphia cream cheese (yep, they really do want you to use 2 family packs!)
25ml Merlyn (or Baileys)
3.5 ounces icing sugar
300ml double cream (whipped)
2 small bags of maltesers


1. Melt the butter in a pan and add the one crushed bag of malteasers and the crushed digestive biscuits. Mix well until the biscuits have absorbed all the butter.
2. Remove from the heat and press into the bottom of a lined 18cm springform tin. Place in the fridge to set for an hour.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Lightly whip the cream cheese then beat in the Merlyn and icing sugar.
Fold in the whipped cream, then smooth evenly over the biscuit base.
4. Use the other small bag of maltesers to decorate the top of the cheesecake.
Refrigerate and allow to set for another 2 hours.

J :)

Thursday, 23 December 2010

'tis the season to get baking...

Although every season is baking season if you’re me to be honest!
I bought the stuff to make these snowmen and I might as well make them as I was looking forward to it – will pass them on to friends in the pub tonight (instead of my original plan to take them to the cancelled party yesterday).
So, this is how you can make one (or many) of these!
Get chocolate-coloured cup cases (got mine from from Asda)
Follow the Chocolate Cupcake (devil’s food) recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, as follows...
For the cakes
100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1and ½ tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
40g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
120ml whole milk
1 egg
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Put the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and butter in a fee-standing electric mixer and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy mixture and everything is combined.
Whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract together in a jug, then slowly pour about half into the flour mixture, beat to combine and turn the mixer up to high speed to get rid of any lumps.
Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not over mix.
Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until 2 thirds full and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

(and it really doesn't matter that the cakes are a bit flat on this occasion... :)

When the cup cakes are cold you can frost them with any white coloured topping you like.
I made cream cheese frosting – just because it’s my favourite!
Before you make the frosting, make the snowmen.
I put my snowmen on cocktail sticks so they stayed together, you could stick bits together with frosting but they're easier to transport with a toothpick "structure" - just be sure to warn people before they start eating!
The components for this...



fried egg sweets for nose (orange bit cut into triangle with sharp knife)

Bottom of fried egg sweet made bottom of hat

Sainsburys marshmallows, very helpfully taper at one end (smaller end = head, larger end = body) Scarves and tops of hats made from red jelly snakes (natural sweet company).

The eyes and buttons are made by wetting a toothpick, poking a hole in the marshmallow and pushing a silverspoon chocolate strand into the hole..

Now frost the frosting:

Cream cheese frosting (Hummingbird Bakery cookbook)
300g icing sugar, sifted

50g butter at room temperature

125g cream cheese (Philadelphia), chilled

(covers 12 cakes)

WARNING: If you go right in with a whisk onto icing sugar and butter you will have a layer of dust over everything in your kitchen and it’ll look like you’ve had plastering done. To avoid "icing sugar lung" and this not so great home decor look, start to crumb the icing sugar together with the butter (as though you were making a crumble), when its kind of combined add the cheese and whisk.

If you have a food processor with a lid, ignore the above and be happy!

Don’t whisk for too long though, it’ll get a bit runny!

Use a spatula to layer the frosting on top of the cupcakes.

Plonk snowman on top (I sprinkled a little silver edible glitter around them too).

Then, if you're bonkers like me, take them outside to photograph them in the snow, whilst crossing your fingers that your neighbours don't choose now as the time to come and speak to you...



Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Exsqueeze me! A baking powder?

So, Sian and Tom have cancelled their Xmas drinks party tonight, Sian is ill L - hope she gets well soon, sounds nasty! Therefore I’ve had to have a re-think of my plans. No snowmen cakes... and a night in. So, I’ve had a flick through my (pretty small) DVD collection and have whipped out Wayne's World, I used to love it so much, but haven’t watched it in years, I hope it’s as good as I remember!
To accompany Wayne’s World, Wayne’s World, Party Time, Excellent! Party on Wayne! Sorry, I digress... I am having some white wine and am making my favourite cous cous dish.
So, here is the recipe, that I found in a free Sainsburys magazine years ago, entitled
“T.V Dinner”
(cous cous with sweet potato and smoked paprika)
Original recipe says to use quinoa (pronounded “keen-wah” in case you go and ask for it the phonetic way and they give you a strange look).  
Get these:

I forgot to photograph the damn lemmon (get one of them too!) – preferably unwaxed.
Quantities are not that important here, only when it comes to the cous cous.
Original recipe (for one person) says to get:
250g sweet potato
3 cloves of garlic, whole but peeled
¼ tsp smoked paprika
1 chicken breast (optional)
Quinoa or cous cous and the relevant amount of stock to soak
Zest of one lemon (hence unwaxed)
4 tbsp fresh parsley (chopped)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees (180 for fan assisted)
Peel and chop sweet potato into chunks (see photo - about 1 and ½ cm cubes)
Peel the garlic cloves
Throw the above in a big bowl, add the oil and smoked paprika and mix

Spread the mixture flat onto a baking tray

If you’re cooking chicken with it too, lighly oil the chicken breast and season with salt and pepper.
When the sweet potato has cooked for 15 mins, add the chicken to the baking tray, reduce oven temperature to 180 or 160 (depending on if it’s fan assisted) and add the chicken breast to the baking tray and cook for a further 16-18 minutes.
About 5 minutes before the chicken has cooked, chop the flat-leaf parsley.
Grate the zest of the lemon.
Cover the cous cous in stock according to packet guidelines and place a plate over the bowl of cous cous so it can absorb the stock.
Stir the lemon zest and parsley through the cous cous.
Shred the chicken (if using) and stir the chicken, garlic and sweet potato into the cous cous.
The paprika oil will colour the cous cous a lovely shade of orange and it will smell fantastic!
I make this whenever I go to someone’s B-B-Q or for staff buffet lunches (just make the quantities bigger), it’s equally as nice cold. When I make it for myself, I use chicken stock as I find it tastier, but use a vegetable stock cube if it’s to take somewhere so as not to alienate the vegetarians...
And here it is - double portion (I’m having it cold for lunch tomorrow too).

Right, off to watch Wayne, then I might arrange some social events (build it and they will come) – that was the last Wayne’s world reference, promise!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Local Gifts, from Local People

On the local news (Points West) they featured the Bristol chocolatiers “Guilberts”, who’ve been making fine chocolates right here from Brizzle for 100 years now!
This led me to their website which told me more about the Guilberts chocolate store...
And, as my Dad is a huge Brunel fan, I bought him the Centenary tin featuring the Suspension bridge.
The S.S Great Britain tin was my reserve secret Secret Santa gift for Nic, had the 1930s typewriter necklace not got here in time... but, luckily, it did!
So, here are the lovely chocs making their way to Wales this week... (hopefully)
Please don't let it snow any more.... I've eaten enough chocolate!

And, then, as my Dad always gets an obligatory bit of booze, I was delighted to stumble across something else that was a bit different and inkeeping with my theme of locally sourced items!
I got him a bottle of perry (that’s the proper name for the drink made from fermented pears, don't you know...) It’s cider’s "cousin" made with pears, not apples. I’m such a primary school teacher with my definitions, I know.
Here it is...

And the reason I knew of it, and how to get it, was due to meeting the owner of “Bristol Cider Shop” by chance at David’s dinner party. Many ciders were on offer that night, but the star of the show was this bottle of delicious perry that was brought out to wash down the dessert course. I had the teeniest amount (whilst cursing myself for driving and agreeing to work the next day - it was amazing!)
However, I resolved to get my hands on more from the Cider Shop (a sweet little place that has just opened to exclusively sell cider and all things cider-related on Christmas steps in the city centre). If you pay them a visit, one of the very amiable guys will have you sampling the ciders and will tell you everything you could ever want to know about cider (and a bit more!)
Here's the place...

And finally, I do like things in threes, am relieved to have a 3rd... (how autistic!)
I’m off to get some Pieminster pies to take back to Wales for a Christmas eve supper. I have to say, it was Annabel who started this trend of taking Pieminsters when she visits her family (and I’ve stolen the idea, but I just sourced it, so no guilt needed then!) A few greens, some mash and gravy and I can so easily concoct a meal that is hassle free  (don’t like any hassle in other peoples kitchens). Admitedly, Pieminsters are actually on sale in every Sainsburys in the U.K now, so the novelty is not quite what is was, but that’s testament to their brilliance and there’s a much bigger choice of flavours if you visit the actual shop on Gloucester Road or the cafe in St. Nicholas’s Market.
I just love eating the pies off the enamel dishes that have that wartime kind of feel about them too... Mmmmmmmerry Christmas!

Sea Life Snacking

Kirstie (and maybe Kellie) are coming over for a festive tea; amongst other things I am making Sea Life snacks. Firstly, "Olive Penguins". I've made these once before (correction, in case he's reading...) Richard made these once before, for a dinner party I had, following the instructions I found for them a while back. And a mighty good job of assembling them he did too... I now understand why it took him so long; they're a little bit fiddly, but I'm sure they are nowhere near so much if you have the right tools. I will explain. So here is an "Olive Penguin"...

Cute enough to eat.. and you can, all of it, except the stick. They are so much fun...

I made a gang of them (that's not the collective noun for penguins) but nevermind!

I'm thinking their beaks need to turn 90 degrees...? These olives were in brine, ones in oil would look shinier, but I'm guessing they'd be slippery characters to work with.... sorry!!!
So if you want to make a "parcel, rookery, creche, huddle or colony" (a "parcel" of Penguins...?) - is Wikepedia to be trusted on this occasion?!? then here is how...

Get these...

Peel the carrot, get a sharp knife and cut a disk, then cut a small triangle from the carrot disk (like a pac man).
Then make a slit straight down an olive, if you get plump black olives they will have bigger bodies and look a bit better nourished than my skinny boys...

Put the small piece of carrot in the head to make a beak, fill your olive with cream cheese, I used a spoon and was fine, you could pipe it in with a cut off sandwich bag...?

Then plunge a cocktail stick through the head, body and feet.

If you're feeling particularly creative, you could go on to roast a red pepper and give them complimentary red pepper scarves...


And here they march with the leader sporting a scarf...

Now for the...

"Octopus Pepper in houmous"...

Get these...

Fill a small dish with houmous or any other dip (onion etc.)

Cut the stalk and a small part of the bottom off one of the peppers, scraping out the seeds and some pith.

Slice up 8 "legs" from the other pepper.

Arrange legs around the outside of the bowl.

Slice 2 small pieces of black olive and attach them as "eyes" with a dab of the houmous.

Put body in dish.

Here he is...

J :)

Monday, 20 December 2010

Necklaces from a 1930's typewriter

I had Nicola for our "Secret Santa Circle" this Christmas (it's alright we all worked out who got for who pretty quickly) and I decided to have a browse on an amazing website called “Etsy” to find something a bit kooky.
If you're not familiar with it, Etsy is the home of “all things homemade” and sells hand-crafted items as well as vintage things and supplies for making projects, I adore it! Here it is...
The only problem is that it is an American website, so things have to be delivered from the U.S. or Canada, however, if you start delving you’ll want the stuff so badly you’ll be prepared to pay the shipping and be patient for it’s delivery.
Alternatively, visit "Folksy" (a similar outfit, born in Blighty!) This one is in it's infancy however, and with the U.K being a lot smaller, inevitably,  the range of things is not as vast. (Well worth a look though.)

So, here is what I ordered for Nic this Christmas...

(It's the N key from a 1930s Remington typewriter, made into a pendant and attached to a 24" silver chain).
How cool is that? I love the fact that someone has typed using that very key up to 80 years ago and now it’s a piece of jewellery as fashionable and funky as anything I’ve seen in Urban Outfitters - amazing upcycling!
 And I loved it so much... I got myself one too!

You can find them on Etsy by the seller “Gwendelicious” or visit her personal website:
and see how she made jewellery from the age of 8, browse the funky letter press pieces she is currently selling and see how she’s been making pieces for the American Idol contestants...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Cake Pops (everything you need to know)

So, I've already had the sister requesting instructions for something from the "back catalogue" so here it is...
all that I learned about "Cake Pops".

The brainchild of "Bakerella", cake pops are balls of cake mixed with frosting coated in chocolate suspended from small lolipop sticks.

You can find the Bakerella website here...

and her brand new book here...

The book is very cute indeed, but I wouldn't purchase it without making a batch of these if I were you as the chances are you may well say NEVER AGAIN!!!

It's so worth at least one go though...

so you...
Make a cake (any sponge cake) as you would normaly.
Make a batch of frosting.
Mix the frosting into the crumbed cake mix.
Take a small amount in your hands and make into balls, putting onto a tray of greaseproof paper.
Put balls in the fridge to set.
Take balls out of fridge.
Take a 'Wilton' lolipop stick, (you can buy from Hobbycraft) and dip one end of the stick into the melted chocolate.
Push chocolate coated end of stick into ball and set aside.
You will be here:-

 If you need further guidance in video form, I know I did, look here...

(some good tips in this video, and plenty more videos on Youtube that save a lot of frustration because you're forewarned...)

Nearly all Cake Pop info on the web is from America, and therefore they recommend using "Candy Melts" for the chocolate coating.
These are basically chocolate chips with a high oil content, often colored in bright shades.
I used Dr Oetker chocolate coating. This was fine.
This also has a high oil content and it therefore melts easily (but does take some time to dry as a result).
The best solution of all are chocolate chips high in cocoa butter (not vegetable oil) but these are hard to get hold of... scoopaway in Bristol on Gloucs Road may have them apparently!
If you want coloured chocolate, you can tint white chocolate with "oil based" colourings, such as gels from specialist cake shops, food colouring will probably be a let down!

Back to the process...

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over steaming water.
Do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl.
Have chocolate deep enough to easily submerge the cake pop.
As soon as the chocolate has melted, take saucepan off the heat.
Take a cake pop on stick, submerge and pull out, do not twist or spin in the mixture, it will fall into the chocolate and you will lose it off the stick :(

Once chocolate has stopped dripping, put cake pop into large block of polystyrene that will not fall over.

If coating them in roasted chopped nuts, siverspoon sprinkles or crushed flake do this when the chocolate is still a bit wet so that it sticks.
I saved some as blank ones so that they could be decorated with decorating gels
(bought in a pack of white choc, dark choc, milk choc and toffee flavours) from Sainsburys.

I contemplated presenting them in...

Wine glasses with glass beads.
Champagne glasses.
Fabric or paper covered polystyrene

...but in the end opted for nagging James to make special stands, painted white, with holes drilled into the stands at regular intervals, to a given depth... (we are just about still speaking ;)

Was worth it when I had lovely cake pops to give Harriet, Rhian and Karen for their 30th birthdays, though.


Finally, if you can't be bothered with all this faff, I found a seller in Chepstow...

They sell them for £1.50 in a small plastic bag...

You can also buy these little presentation bags from Hobbycraft by Wilton by the way, and I think my Mum has been buyin similar from Sainsburys.

Marks and Spencers are selling strange Christmas editions of cuboid cake and brownie pops, with a donation to Shelter at the moment also.

For me, it will be a while before I contemplate Cake Pops again, which is why the stands are on a long loan to Priya. I eagerly await photos of Xmas cake pops... :) Maybe she can post some on here, if she isn't reserving them all for her own food blog! We'll see...


P.S. Shop bought frosting made me feel quite sick when I bought a tub of Betty Crocker, so I threw it out and made the Hummingbird Bakery Cream cheese frosting.

I also attempted a box mix of chocolate cake, thinking it would save me time.
This too was vile and I chucked the cooked cake, and started again, making the "Chocolate Devils Food" cake from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and a Victoria Sandwich cake from a BBC Good food recipe...
and it hardly took any more time than the revolting packet because it was an all-in-one cake... lesson learned! 

You've got to start somewhere...

So..., Hello!

I've been talking about it for ages and have finally created my very own blog!
I ran the title past my, somewhat confused sister, who thought it sounded like an interior design company, but hopefully the explanation below the title will clear that up quickly if anyone accidentally finds me for the wrong purpose.
I'm wondering whether to begin trying to upload an enormous back catalogue of art and food projects with accompanying photos or to just say, NO... it starts here!
I think I'll contemplate this whilst watching the Apprentice tonight. Not that I think this blog is going to make me rich like Alan Sugar or anything, I just can't decide. Mainly I'm just excited about finding other blogs that share similar interests and am pleased to have found a "home" for all the recipes and ideas that I frantically tell people about during a school breaktime. Recently I started to upload pictures to facebook of all my latest baking projects but it quickly began to look like a blog and I needed more space for typing, so here goes...
Right, that's enough for my first post I think.
I've seen from other people's blogs that they have "heroes" that they link to, and as I don't know how to do this yet, I am posting links to my 2 top bloggers here (as they are a brilliant source of inspiration for me and everyone should know about them in my opinion).

(voted world's best food blog) -  she makes her food sound so good she even attracted a husband through writing this food blog...

You can read more about her here...

and you can buy her book (I did for Priya for her birthday...) from here...

(however, one word of caution, if you like pictures for every recipe you make, don't touch it, it hasn't got one but I'll forgive Molly, she is a genius and the simplicity of all her stuff is brilliant!)

Finally, my favourite design blogger, that has led me to infinite other things over the last year or so is...

Bowiestyle  (Print and Pattern)
(a "website that celebrates the world of surface pattern design")

And Annabel got the book for her birthday - this one does have a lot of (very, very cute pictures...)