Friday, 29 February 2008

Butter Cut-Out Biscuits

Any time you want to play supermummy in the kitchen, here is where you start - Nigella Lawson

I admit it, I've been a bad bad baker over the last couple of months. Oh, I've got plenty of excuses, but really, I've just been bad. So I finally forced myself out of my baking rutt, and these are the result.
Aren't they pretty!!

The verdict:
Unusual or substituted ingredients: None. You should have everything you need in your pantry. Except perhaps a range of food colouring, which is why I've got pink, blue and white (not because I like girl and boy biscuits or anything like that. In fact, kill me if I ever make blue biscuits for a boy's party, or pink ones for a girl).

Special utensils or cookware: A range of cookie cutters is probably a good idea. That way, you won't be forced to use your Christmas shapes and the overly large gingerbread person shape, rather than, say, numbers as Nigella uses in the book, or animal shapes or whatever. Must remember to buy some new shapes next time I'm in the homewares store.

Otherwise, you just wizz it all up in the kitchenaid or with a handbeater, whatever takes your fancy.Repeatability: The mix makes a lot of biscuits - Nigella says around 50-60 and for once I think I pretty much got the number she suggested, or at least I would have except for giganto ginge! You can also freeze the dough ("it makes sense - in a smug, domestic kind of way - to wrap half of this in clingfilm and stash it in the deep freeze until next needed" - thanks Nigella!)
Sauciness: The rolling out of the dough and cutting the shapes is pretty darn messy. You refrigerate the dough for an hour before rolling/cutting. If the weather is warm, keep it in the fridge a bit longer (eg 1.5 hours) and make sure you roll and cut quickly.
And don't roll too thin. Or else you won't be able to pick up the shapes and get them on the baking tray without them breaking. Ask me how I know!
Overall pleasure level: Not only pretty, but pretty darn good, although it's the icing that really makes them! I'm giving them a 7.5.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Flora's Famous Courgette Cake

If courgette cake sounds dodgy to you, think about carrot cake for a moment; this is just an adaptation of that (though if you feel its safer, don't tell people it's made of courgettes until after they've eaten it). - Nigella Lawson

The verdict: Something had to be done with the zucchinis my garden is producing. Admittedly, this recipe only takes 250g and that big one my hand is on weighs a kilo, but you know, Rome wasn't built in a day, so this recipe was a good start.

With the delicious lime curd luxuriously sandwiched between the layers and a decadent layer of a lime flavoured cream cheese topping, it's a wonderful explosion of flavours.

Unusual or substituted ingredients: Well, as Nigella says in the quote above, some people might think zucchini in a cake is weird. I don't. Neither does my husband. He was just glad to see me using one of the monsters! Everything else in the recipe is pretty standard cake fare. Nigella said the raisins could be optional, so I opted not to include them. I'm not really one for raisins etc in cakes.

Nigella also suggested using a good quality shop bought lime curd filling if you wished, boosting it with a squirt of lime juice, but I opted to make the lime curd. It took about 5 minutes. Too easy. Although I take issue with the use of a whole egg.

I didn't get a photo of it, but I would have thought that a custard kind of filling would require only the use of egg yokes, not whites. The whites, even while I whisked it briskly, left trails of cooked white. They weren't noticeable in the eating of the cake, but they disturbed me nonetheless. Next time, I'd just do the yoke.

Special utensils or cookware: This is a two layer cake. Fortunately, I not long ago bought a couple of Victoria Sponge tins.

Repeatability: This, I'm certain, will be dragged out every year when I have zucchinis to burn. It's not time consuming (as you might think it is). There's a bit of a wait while you let everything cool down, so don't imagine you can whip it up quickly before guests come for afternoon tea. Otherwise, it's a winner!

Sauciness: It's saucy alright. Layers of rich, lime flavoured creaminess go a long way towards making this a decadent, delightful and impressive cake. Topped with a smattering of chopped pistachios, it's perfect.

Overall pleasure level: You can't beat it. The cake itself is wonderfully light - some vegetable based cakes aren't. It's a 10 out of 10 for me.