Monday, June 27, 2011

The Fairy Hobmother Strikes Again!

It's been a week of celebrations in Maison Babaduck - as you have all guessed by now, The Hubs- aka @MrBabaduck - hit the great old age of 40 on Saturday which culminated in a birthday party and the creation of my Birthday Extravaganza Cake - some of which made it home unscathed...

This was my present (basket not included...)

The second celebration was a visit from the one and only Fairy Hobmother from Appliances Online (a lovely man called David) who found me on one of my favourite blogs, Dinner du Jour and granted me a wish.  I was actually pretty restrained in the scale of things and wished for a copy of The Silver Spoon and Julia Child's recipe books from Amazon - both of which I have had on my wishlist for years and had always meant to buy until something else got in the way.  To say I was delighted to have my wish granted is an understatement - I let out such a squeal of delight, somebody thought I had hurt myself!!!

This is MY favourite cake...

Now it's time to share the love and invite you to share in the joy that the Fairy Hobmother can bring.  All I want you to do is tell me about your favourite birthday cake and what you would like to receive as a present - it could be you who gets a surprise gift!

The competition closes at 18.00 GMT on Sunday 10th July.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Birthday Extravaganza Cake

Yesterday, The Hubs was 40.  To mark this momentous occasion, we had a party last night. And if there's a party, there has to be cake.  Not just any cake... my Birthday  Extravaganza Cake.

I'd had been quietly plotting this cake for the last few weeks - I wanted to make a variation of Lorraine Pascale's  "I Can't Believe You Made That" cake but with an essential modification : it had to be big enough to feed a crowd at the party.  Oddly enough, we were watching a baking programme about 2 weeks ago when somebody made a very similar cake - The Hubs commented that the cake looked absolutely gorgeous and impressive - so I  got him to guess how many cigarillos you'd need for a cake, paused the show & made him count them (listen, if I'm going to make him a posh cake, he has to work a bit for it...).

After some considerable effort, the chocolate cigarillos were purchased (thank you Tricia Doyle uber-caterer & KelleyAnn, my work colleague) and I consulted with my baking guru - Lulu my 6 year old niece.  Her reaction was instant - "oh that's very pretty Auntie Peefa - will you be able to make that yourself". She then proceeded to interrogate me about the cake making process, from the cake mixture to the filling to the icing and finally demanding to know how I would make the berries stick to the top of the cake "as you don't want them to fall off & get squished when you cut the cake".  Quite right too.  She also showed Sandie The Dog a photo - Sandie apparently approved, but told me that she couldn't have any as dogs are 'lergic to chocolate.

Initally I had tried to keep the cake making process a secret from The Hubs but given that we don't have multiple living spaces in Maison Babaduck, I had to tell him what I was up to.  He was seriously impressed... as so he should be - I don't make birthday cakes for just anybody...  I must say a quick thank you to Neville in my local Superquinn for giving me a cake box & board so I could transport it to the party venue safely (strapped into the back seat like a baby).  Also to Donal in The Martello for organising a great party for us and providing gorgeous party food.

This recipe easily feeds 30 people - I used a 10 inch square cake tin and baked 2 batches of the cake mixture to create the two-layer cake (as I only had 1 tin!).   I filled the centre with seedless raspberry preserves & vanilla creme patisserie, covered the entire cake in a generous layer of chocolate buttercream icing and I used about 120 (30 per side) chocolate cigarillos to decorate the sides of the cake.  I then used some ribbon & pins from A. Rubanesque to pretty it up.  Finally, the finest Irish strawberries, raspberries & blueberries went on top.

Birthday Extravaganza Cake

140g Creme Fraiche
140g Butter, as soft as possible
225g Soft Light Brown Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
4 Eggs
180g Plain Flour
3tbsp Cocoa Powder
2tsp Baking Powder

Preheat your oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4.  Grease your cake tin & line the base with baking paper.

Put all of your ingredients into a food mixture or large bowl & beat well until combined.  Pour into the cake tin, smooth the top & bake for 30-35 minutes.

Check the cake with a skewer to make sure it comes out clean, remove from the oven & allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.  Repeat for the second layer.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

250g Butter, as soft as possible
500g Icing Sugar
100g Dark Chocolate, melted & slightly cooled

Put the butter & icing sugar in a bowl & whisk until the mixture goes fluffy.  Add the melted chocolate & whisk for another 2 minutes until everything is well combined.  Cover until needed.

Assembling The Cake

Spread some icing on your cake board - this acts as a glue & stops the cake sliding around.

Place the bottom layer on the board & spread with the seedless raspberry preserves & creme patisserie (you can replace this with fresh cream if that's what you prefer.

Now it's time to cover the cake in the icing.  Use a tablespoon to dollop it on the top of the cake, and a palette knife to spread it all over the top & sides.  Take your time - it's worth the effort.  It's also neater if you place sheets of greaseproof paper under the cake as any stray icing will land there & vanish when you remove the paper (a trick I picked up from watching Ina Garten on the tellybox).

Once the icing is smooth & the cake has been covered, it's time to add the chocolate cigarillos.  Press them firmly into the icing to make them stick.  Some will be too short & you're allowed to eat these (quality control purposes...).

You can then pretty up the cake by wrapping it in ribbon, and even adding a bow if you're feeling very artistic.  Use pins to secure the ribbon (jam them at right angles into the cake & they'll stay secure).

Finally, it's time to top the cake with a mixture of fresh berries - I used raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.  Keep the cake in the fridge until you're ready to serve it - it allows the icing to firm up & keeps the berries fresh.

This is all we brought home!

This cake is a bit of a labour of love, but based on the reactions of our party guests last night, it was worth every drop of effort.  Comments ranged from "there's NO WAY you made that" to "will you make one for me" and every plate was cleared. Seconds were requested and pieces were wrapped and brought home.  That's always a good sign!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chicken & Aubergine Parmigiana

The other day, a friend of mine was telling us that she had made Aubergine Parmigiana for dinner & that it was very lovely indeed.  This immediately sparked the usual email debate on the pros & cons of aubergines (I love them, some of the others hate them).  Courgettes were suggested as an acceptable substitute but shot down immediately by somebody else - how can you hate both of these veggies???

Anyway, I thought I'd make it for tea yesterday but make it Hubs friendly by adding chicken to the dish (if there's no meat in it, he ain't eatin' it).  I also added some Panko breadcrumbs which I bought in the Asia Market, on top for texture & crunch.

This recipe is even better reheated the next day as everything seems to firm up and mellow a bit more.  This quantity serves 4 (half for dinner, the rest for tomorrow for us)

Chicken & Aubergine Parmigiana

3 medium Aubergines, sliced lengthways into 3/4cm slices
2 Courgettes, sliced lengthways into 3/4cm slices
Oil of your choice*
1 x 390g carton of Crushed Tomatoes
2 Chicken Breasts, sliced thinly
A handful of Basil Leaves, shredded
1 ball Mozzarella, thinly sliced
40g Parmesan, grated
40g Panko Breadcrumbs (use fresh if you can't get these)

*In an effort to be slightly healthier than normal, I used Flora Cuisine which I picked up in the supermarket the other day.  It worked really well for this dish (and anything else I've tried it on)

Heat your oil of choice in a large frying pan & cook the aubergines and courgettes on each side in batches.until golden brown - don't overcrowd the pan or the veggies will steam & not fry.

Transfer them to a plate when cooked.  Now cook the chicken.

Season the base of a casserole dish & start layering the vegetables & chicken, topping with the crushed tomatoes.

Sprinkle the basil over the top & then add the mozzarella slices, parmesan & breadcrumbs.

Bake for 40 minutes at 200c/Gas Mark 6.


Chocolate Slump Cake

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the Sunday Times Style Magazine & saw a recipe by Lucas Hollweg for a chocolate marmalade slump cake which made me very excited indeed.  He used orange marmalade to make the cake so I thought I'd change it a bit and use the one marmalade I really love : Lime Marmalade because I am a huge fan of a chocolate & lime pairing.  So off I trotted to the supermarket in search of a jar.  It's sods law really, when you don't want something, there's loads of it on the shelves and when you actually need a jar of Rose's Lime Marmalade, there is NOT ONE JAR to be found.  Seriously!

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I moved to my favourite marmalade No. 2 : Blood Orange.  It's a world away from the jars of meh which scarred my childhood where the only question was "thick cut or no peel".  This is fragrant and sweet and absolutely perfect for a cake such as this.  I made it as a gift for a girls night in.  Normally my girlfriends would pick at it, but this cake vanished in the blink of an eye, such was its chocolate allure... and when I revealed the secret marmalade ingredient, they were astonished... and ate some more.  I made this cake in a 10 inch square tin  so I could cut a piece off for the photo without anybody at the dinner being the wiser, but it would work equally well in a 9 or 10 inch round tin.  Just line the sides as well as the base with baking paper.

It's a bit of a washing-up intensive cake but the end result is well worth the added clean-up time - it's rich and fudgy with a gorgeous hint of orange & it will keep for 3-4 days in an airtight container.  Personally, I don't see it lasting more than a night!

Chocolate Slump Cake

100g Orange Marmalade
125g Caster Sugar
150g Butter
150g Dark Chocolate
4 Eggs, separated
50g Cocoa Powder
Pinch of Salt
Icing Sugar, for dusting

Heat your oven to 190c/Gas Mark 5.  Line the base & sides of your chosen tin with baking paper.

Put the marmalade into a food processor & blitz until slushy.  Add the sugar & blitz again until the sugar has merged with the marmalade.

Put the butter into a pot & melt on a gentle heat.  Add the chocolate & remove from the heat - allow this to sit for 2-3 minutes before stirring.   Add the marmalade & sugar slush and transfer to a large bowl.

Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, then add the cocoa powder.

Now it's time to beat the egg whites & the pinch of salt together until it hits the soft peak stage.  Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture as gently as you can, to keep all the air in the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin, smooth the top & bake for 30 minutes or until the centre has risen and set.

Remove from the oven & allow to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes.  Remove it v-e-r-y carefully, peel off the paper and serve, dusted with icing sugar.

Fathers Day Treat - Chocolate & Marshmallow Brownie

Today I'm having a bit of a lazy day so I'm going to give you a brownie recipe which was sent to me by the Flour Advisory Bureau to keep any Dad sweet next Sunday (that's Father's Day, in case you've forgotten), or the "Day After Take That" as it's currently known in Maison Baba.  There's nothing nicer than giving a gift you've made yourself and this recipe is actually really easy, so even if you've never baked before, this won't cause you any problems.

Chocolate & Marshmallow Brownies

125g Dark Chocolate, broken into squares

150g Butter
285g Caster Sugar
3 Eggs
1tsp Vanilla Extract
150g Mini Marshmallows
100g Milk Chocolate Chips
125g Plain Flour
Icing Sugar (for dusting)

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4/180C & grease a deep baking tray with a little bit of butter or spray oil.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan over a low heat.  I'd suggest melting the butter first, adding the chocolate & letting it sit for 2 minutes before stirring. This makes everything melt & combine much more evenly.

Now remove from the heat, add the caster sugar and beat till it dissolves.

Add the eggs one at the time, then the vanilla, marshmallows and chocolate chips.

Stir in the flour and pour into the greased tin.

Bake 30 minutes or until a skewer or small knife placed in the middle should come out almost clean.  Be careful not to overcook or it will become too chewy.  Allow it to cool in the dish, cut into squares and dust with icing sugar.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Blooming Fantastic Day Out

Today, myself & my friend Denise decided to brave the damp and drizzle and head to Bloom in the Phoenix Park.  Organised by Bord Bia, this 5 day event is Ireland's largest food, garden & family festival with hundreds of exhibitors, cookery and craft demonstrations and 27 show gardens.

We decided to start at the furthest point (the Garden area) & work our way back to the food.  The garden exhibits were absolutely spectacular and my two favourites were the Ire-Su garden & the Alice in Wonderland garden.  The Ire-Su garden could be summed up in one word : serene.  It was very calming, with beautiful paving and wonderful attention to detail.

The Alice in Wonderland garden was fun and I really loved the signage that greeted you...

Another highlight was the Victorian Kitchen Garden where I amazed myself by identifying loads of plants (see Mum, I was paying attention all those years ago - it didn't go in one ear and out the other like you thought...). I thought the display of the old gardening equipment & signage was really eyecatching - especially this sign

Once we had walked the length & breadth of the garden area, it was time to hit the area I was looking forward to the most... the Food Village.  As we were starving, first stop was the Crowe's Farm stand for a pulled pork sandwich.  I forgot to take a photo of it because I was too busy devouring it while listening to the dulcet tones of Mr. Donal Skehan doing a cookery demo at the Chefs Summer Theatre

Get in my belly...

Donal & one of his fans

Once we had stuffed ourselves full of pork, it was time to open the purse & buy some gorgeous goodies from the Artisan Food market.  Some of my favourite food producers were there, including Noirin's Bakehouse where I was given a quarter of their Hi-Fibre Breakfast Bread to bring home (I am a big fan of their Wholemeal Brown Bread & it's our Saturday morning treat in Maison Baba).  Denise bought 2 of their Spelt Loaves as well.

Yummy bread from Noirin's Bakehouse

Then we high-tailed it over to the Hicks stand to try the famous Bacon Jam.  It was worth the wait - salty, sweet and savoury - and flying off the shelves too!

I also bought more herbs from Tom & the team from O'Hanlon Herbs - this time they had Lemon Thyme - the smell of which drove me mad on the way home and some rapeseed oil from Derrycamma Farm.

This was my little haul...

So, if you've nothing planned for tomorrow, get yourself to the Phoenix Park for the final day of the Bloom festival - there really is something for everybody.