Strawberry Ice Cream Cupcakes

It’s that time of year again when I break up for the summer holiday and celebrate my birthday. As Hubby & I have known each other for 9 years he knows exactly what I like. With the KitchenAid for my birthday last year and the trip to River Cottage for Christmas he outdid himself yet again this year with an iPhone for me. I’ve been talking about buying myself one for ages, but have been saving up. For my birthday I also got some beautiful flowers, lovely set of new saucepans (after the handles fell off my old ones), microplane grater, Lothian raspberry vodka from Demijohn and some other lovely foodie gifts. What you can’t see in the photo above was that 3rd Birthday was the birthday I got a Fisher Price kitchen set for my birthday, a sign of things to come?

To celebrate my birthday we had a BBQ, something of which has come a bit of a tradition. Thankfully the rain held off and in amongst the various vegetables and raised beds we had a barbecued shoulder of hogget (sourced from a smallholding friend) along with some tomato focaccia, roasted new potatoes, beetroot hummus and salad.

For after the BBQ I made a peach melba jelly and also wanted a nostalgic cake. When I saw the Ice Cream Cupcakes on Mums Who Bake a few weeks back I knew they would be perfect. As a child I can remember how much I loved the marshmallow filled ice cream cones that were a treat and any trip to the seaside was incomplete without a Mr Whippy. As strawberries often featured in my childhood birthday cakes I wanted to add the pulp from the last few strawberries from the garden into the icing.

One thing about traditional cupcakes is that I’m not a big fan of buttercream as I find it too sweet, so decided to try a cream cheese frosting. Well, I have to say I’m converted to cream cheese icing. Although it doesn’t last as long as buttercream and it isn’t as stiff, it’s not as sweet as buttercream and absolutely delicious. I could quite happily just eat the icing! I really enjoyed my making these cakes and I’m going to try and do more swirly icing on cakes now I’ve found an icing I like. Still need a bit more practice with the icing bag and I’m going to try and see if I can find bigger icing nozzles as the shops here have quite a limited selection.

One thing I did learn from this is don’t overfill the ice cream cone or it will dramatically burst and dribble cake mix down the cone.

Strawberry Ice Cream Cupcakes
Makes 8-10

For the cakes
125g plain flour
125g vanilla sugar (or caster sugar)
125g softened butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 tsp baking powder
8 flat bottomed ice cream cones

For the icing
240g cream cheese, cold from the fridge (it has to be the full fat version or it won’t work)
80g softened butter
150g – 190g icing sugar (to taste)
the pulp of a few mashed strawberries
3 full sized flakes cut into 1/4

1) Preheat the oven to 180oc. Beat together the sugar, butter and eggs, then mix in the rest of the ingredients.

2) Line up the cones on a baking sheet. It does make it slightly easier if you put the cones in the cups of a bun pan.

3) Fill up the cones about 2/3 with cake mix. Don’t overfill or they go everywhere! Bake in the oven for 15 min, or until they are golden and pass the skewer test. Allow to cool on a wire rack before icing.

4) Once the cakes have cooled beat together the butter and cream cheese then mix in the sieved icing sugar to taste. Fold in the strawberries then pipe onto the the cakes. Decorate with a flake.

5) If you want the icing to be a bit firmer, chill in the fridge for a few hours.

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Cherry Beer Ice Cream

I first came across Mark @ Pencil & Spoon’s recipe for beer ice cream a few months back and after making a winning raspberry beer ice cream I knew I had to try some other beers to test how they worked. This batch is for my Birthday BBQ this weekend.

I admit I’m not a huge ice cream eater. I don’t like Hagen Daz et al far too sweet and sickly for me. The best ice cream, in my opinion, is the delicious selection from Needwood Dairy…and of course this beer ice cream. I have another ice cream idea in the pipeline based on one of my favourite English cakes, but you’ll have to wait for that because I’m still developing the recipe.

To make the ice cream was also an excuse to use my newest KitchenAid Gadget – an Ice cream bowl and beater
This is not the first time I’ve made ice cream in the KitchenAid. The Damson Gin sorbet didn’t work (I had gone a bit mad with the gin!), blackberry & apple sorbet waiting to be tasted and the raspberry beer ice cream, well lets just say it didn’t last long as it was so delicious! The only think Mark says about making this is be careful with your choice of beer. Ideally you do not want a too hoppy beer as it can make the ice cream too bitter.

The beer in it gives it more of an adult flavour. Rich and fruity with a hint of bitterness to stop to being too sweet. The cherry juice in the beer gives the ice cream a beautiful cerise hue. This ice cream would be a perfect accompaniment to a rich dark chocolate brownie. I should also point out this is possibly one of the easiest ice cream recipes known to man. 3 ingredients, no egg, no faffing.

UPDATE: We ate this at my birthday BBQ and it was unanimously decided it tastes just like a Bakewell Tart. You can certainly taste almonds in it. Now this breakthrough means my grand plan to create an ice cream based on my favourite cake (a Bakewell Tart!) has now been shelved as I seem to have achieved it without trying.

Fruit Beer Ice Cream

1 can of condensed milk
300ml double cream
250ml-300ml fruit beer (I use Samuel Smith’s fruit beer range)

Gently whisk together all of the ingredients then pour into the ice cream maker. Done!

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Omega Seed Brittle

With the 3-Peak Challenge looming both Hubby & I are trying to find ways to help us get through the 11am and 3pm sugar slump without reaching for the biscuit tin. To help keep on top of my snacking at work I usually pack a bento box. This helps me control portion size as well as encouraging me to have a balanced diet. Hubby is talking of taking a bento snack box to work to keep him away from the temptation of the corner shop. Hubby in particiular has a very sweet tooth so these bars are perfect for him, because not only does he get a good sugar hit it has the added benefits of slow release energy and all the good stuff that is in seeds. A Mars bar can’t promise to do that!

I always have a packet of mixed seeds in the cupboard. Not only are they great for making granola with, but also for sprinkling on cereal and adding to flapjacks. I also carry a small tupperware box of seeds and dry fruit in my handbag for low energy wobbles. This particular seed mix contains pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds and linseed which means it is packed with omega-3. Great for body and mind. Omega-3 is something that the body can’t produce and must be introduced through diet. I know there is some debate as to the benefits of omega oils, but I notice a significant difference in my skin and moods when I have a regular intake of it. However I don’t buy into all the products out there at the moment with “added omega-3″. I prefer to get it straight from the source. These products are just playing on public anxiety and food fads making out that Omega is a new amazing supplement, when in reality it has been something all of our bodies have needed from year dot.

The main source of Omega-3 is oily fish, but as I’m not a big fish eater I try to find other ways to getting it and this is perfect.I buy my omega seed mix from a Vegan Wholefood shop, but I have seen similar mixes in the supermarket.

When your making this, what ever you do make sure you wash the pan soon after making it or you’ll have a job getting the encrusted honey off the pan.

Omega Seed Brittle

85g (approx 6 tbsp) omega seed mix or similar
3 tbsp honey

1) Place both the honey and seeds in a frying pan and slowly heat until the honey has begun to caramelise and the nuts begin to toast.

2) Pour out onto a piece of baking parchment and allow to set in the fridge.

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Fresh from the oven – Rustic Loaf

At the end of last month via UKFBA Claire introduced me to a new baking group called Fresh from the oven. As I’m a keen baker, I was keen to join the group to help improve my skills. This months challenge was hosted by Brianna. She chose a Rustic Loaf recipe from from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes. The idea behind the recipe was that it was a good, basic recipe that introduced a simple preferment, minimalist ingredients, and let us practice our shaping techniques.

I learnt all about preferment at River Cottage, though it was called the sponge dough method at RC. I’ve been keen to use the method and decided to set time to do it. It’s by no mean the quickest loaf I have ever made, but my goodness did it taste good. The addition of wholewheat also made it filling. The preferment gives a very slightly sour taste, not too unlike sourdough.

Initially the dough was very wet and too difficult to work with so had to add some more flour (this may be due to me making a dodgy conversion with the measurements from cups to g/ml). I also have to admit I didn’t let it prove for as long as the recipe said as 1) I was running out of time and 2) it was rising quite rapidly thanks to the hot, humid weather and I was worried about over proving the dough. Looking at the crumb of the dough the big air pockets are a sign that is was beginning to over prove so I caught it at about the right time.

I need to get better at making a tighter shape and have asked for some proving baskets for my birthday. What you can’t see on the photo is that in both of the loaves Hubby & I made they burst a bit on one side due to how we shaped it and supported the dough during proving. Although I was initially unsure of the recipe I’m really happy with the loaf I managed to produce and will certainly be using this method again.

The full recipe for the loaf can be found on The Fresh Loaf.

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The Garden – 2009

A few months back we made some big changes to the garden. Gone are the majority of the pots from last year and in are raised beds made from recycled pallets, of which was Hubby’s idea. Initially I was a bit anti getting rid of all the pots we had spent ages sourcing, but with a bit of shuffling and ridding of pots that had cracked, Hubby got down to making the raised beds. He picked up the pallets for free from work. His resourcefulness shows no ends, though at the moment he has put a stop at the idea of making a shed from old pallets…though if we had a garden big enough I’m sure he’d give it a good go.

With the lessons we learnt last year we’ve planted a slightly different selection of veg this year and have improved our gung-ho method for vegetable growing thanks to a mini greenhouse from Ikea and the ingenious Paper Potter.

Planted so far this year we have strawberries, radishes, spinach, beetroots, carrots, mixed salad, artichokes, rhubarb, broad beans, garlic, peas, kale, sweetcorn, brussel sprouts, leeks and the grape vine has sprung back into life, but there is yet any fruit on it. We also have some Purple Sprouting Broccoli ready to be planted. In addition to all this we also have the odd mushroom thanks to some free mushroom compost that had been given to us.

I also now have a dedicate area for my herb garden currently we have mint, thyme, rosemary & sage. Once the garlic has been harvested I can use their pot for a second herb garden containing chives, coriander, basil & another herb I haven’t decided on yet. Due to limited space in the garden we now have a general rule – it can only be planted if it has culinary uses. Hence the Butterfly Lavender, not only does it look good, smell good, keeps flies away but can also be used in the kitchen.

The one little problem we’ve had this year was the salad we grew. We sowed too much of it at once, couldn’t eat it fast enough and it bolted. The radishes have been deliciously spicy and it won’t be long before the strawberries have ripened. I’m looking forward to trying everything else once it has been harvested. Nothing beats vegetables fresh from the ground.

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Summer Good Food Show with Miele

I’ve been invited to quite a few Miele events before, but due to work commitments I was unable to make it so when they invited me this time I jumped at the chance. Before the Miele invite I was already going with Hubby & friends so they still went and I met up with them later. This was the first time I had met up with fellow bloggers and I have to admit I was quite nervous. I didn’t have my SLR on the day and used my compact so I wasn’t too happy with the photos I took so most of these photos are courtesy of Miele.

Joining in on the event was Nic, Sylvie, Anne, Sunita, Naomi, Celine and Jan

First part of the day was seeing Simon Rimmer in the Super Theatre. I’ve always been a fan of Simon Rimmer and Something for the Weekend is my Sunday morning lie-in TV. Any chef who has a recipe for Jaffa Cakeshas all of my respect! In the Super Theatre he made steak tartar and a delicious looking banana tatin. After seeing the show us bloggers went back stage for a drink, meet our fellow bloggers and also saw Gino d’Campo, The Hairy Bikers and Simon Rimmer.

After being given a bit of time to wonder around the show, where I met back up with Hubby & friends, we made our way to the Miele stand where their range of goods was explained to us. I liked the steam injection in their ovens which would be perfect for bread making. Once I don’t live in a tiny Georgian cottage, where shiny-shiny-fancy-things don’t look right, I wouldn’t say no to one of their products.

Once the products had been demonstrated to us, it was our turn to get up on stage with Sophie Mitchell to do some cooking. Although I knew in advance I would be cooking with Sophie it was only a short time before the event that it dawned on me I would be cooking in front of an audience. I have to admit I nearly pulled out as the fear of doing something like this shot through me. Especially when I found out we would be cooking scallops, a food I just don’t enjoy. The 2 dishes we made were Thai inspired with scallops for starter and the main being crab stuffed lemon sole on a spicy mango salad.

Well I’m very glad I didn’t pull out as I really enjoyed it even if I did hash up taking the skin off a fillet of lemon sole thanks to a set of blunt knives. Sophie was lovely and I’m glad I had cooked Thai before as it helped me to keep up with her and understand what was in all the pots in front of me. We cooked our dishes using the steamer programme in one of the Miele oven. I was impressed as to how fast it was all cooked and with no additional fat. What made it even better was that we were able to try our cooking afterwards. I’m not a fan of scallops (I don’t like the texture) but Hubby gladly ate them for me. After finishing our meals and taking lots of photos, well we are food bloggers, Miele gave us some goodie bags and I bid farewell to my fellow bloggers and headed back into the show with Hubby & friends.

As it was now about 4pm the show was beginning to quieten down making it easier to get around the stalls…and not be bashed in the ankles by those annoying pull along boxes many people had. Although it is smaller than the Good Food Show in November we still managed to find some gems.

Lauden Chocolates gave all of the other chocolate companies there a serious run for their money. The chocolates were not only stunning to look at but also absolutely divine to taste. The flavours literally exploded in my mouth. The people on the stall were also deeply passionate about their products.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned Teahouse Emporium, I mentioned them last time I went to the Good Food Show and purchased some of their blooming flower tea. This time I bought some Kalahari tea along with some Cranberry & Elderflower tea, the tea leaves alone smell delicious even before they have been infused in water.

As for the worst products – fizzy vodka..why? Brought back wrong memories of my student days and Yumberry Juice it deserves to be done for breach of product description. Yumberry juice is not yummy in the slightest.

It was a great day out and it was lovely to meet other food bloggers and be able to put a face to a name. A big Thank you to Miele for inviting me.

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Bara Brith & Butter Pudding

This particular loaf of Bara Brith had been hanging around for a week or two after I made it for my Welsh mother when she visited a few weeks back. To be honest I think we forgot about it in the cake tin as it is a very rare occurrence for cake to be left for a long time in this house. Now I did originally plan to accompany this blog post with a delightful photo of me aged 8 in traditional Welsh dress, but decided my credibility would go down the pan if I did, so you’ll just have to do with a pic of the pudding.

I’m not one to throw perfectly good food away and the nature of Bara Brith means it doesn’t go off very quickly, however it does begin to dry out making it perfect for a bread & butter style pudding. As much as I love feeding the fluffy fledglings with crumbs of cake I wasn’t sacrificing all of this Bara Brith to our feathered friends. I was really pleased how they turned out, with the Bara Brith giving more depth to the pudding than usual bread would. I would be interested to try it with other dry cakes that have gone past their best. We had the puddings with lashings to custard. In my eyes the only way this type of pudding can be served.

Promise I will blog something savory soon!

Bara Brith & Butter Pudding
makes 2 indiviual puddings

6 slices of bara brith (or similar fruit loaf)
75ml milk
40g caster sugar
1/2 vanilla pod
1 egg

1) In a small saucepan mix milk, sugar and vanilla and gently heat until sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat and allow to infuse for 15 min, then remove vanilla pod.

2) Using a circular cutter, cut rounds of the bara brith. Butter both sides and pile into a ramekin. Once the milk has finished infusing whisk in the egg. Pour the custard over the bara brith and leave for 30 to allow the cake to soak up some of the custard. Cover ramekins with buttered foil.

3) Preheat oven to 170oc. Place ramekins in a deep baking pan then pour boiling water into the pan so it is half way up the ramekins. Place in the oven and bake for 40 min. Remove the foil and bake for a further 5 min to brown the top.

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