At first glance it might seem that I am just a happy, normal girl who loves to bake and walk her dog. However, I have suffered with an eating disorder since I was 13. It was only in May 2014 when I realised that this Voice in my head was slowly but surely trying to kill me. And so began the long, hard, and painful journey which is recovery...

I want My Cocoa Stained Apron to be a special place...a place for reflection, memories, shared stories...and of course a little bit of cocoa-staining ;) Recovery might be the hardest thing you ever choose to do in this life. But it is also the bravest and best decision you will ever make.:)

Sunday, 31 August 2014

I'm in Cornwall...

Yes! Yes! Yes! I DID it - I made Cornish pasties and they turned out beautifully. Well, maybe it's silly of me to describe them as beautiful...but I must admit I was quite chuffed with them. I have, as I might have mentioned to you before, or perhaps not - apologies in advance if I did - had a few little technical difficulties in making certain types of pastry in the past. Now this might sound a little strange to some bakers, but I have always been much more comfortable in making choux pastry - for those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, I am referring to the kind of pastry you get with profiteroles, eclairs, etc. - than shortcrust, which I know many bakers would think of being the simplest one to make. Not so for me! I find choux pastry a breeze, whereas with shortcrust I proceed with alot more caution. As for the other kinds, I haven't really had that much experience...well, croissants I have made dozens of times, so I suppose I could argue I have taken on puff to some extent. But this kind of was all unfamiliar and new territory for Ganache-Elf. For this sort I actually had to grate the rock-hard fats into the flour...I never recall doing this for any other sort of pastry, anyway. After chilling for a few hours, I then divided the dough into 6 little balls, rolled out to a circle...and then for the filling. This consisted of diced beef, swede, potatoes and onions. The funnest part was sealing them...I had to fold over the circles and seal the moistened edges together, before crimping them with my fingers to secure. And there I had it: 6 great big filled pasties were sitting proudly in front of me on the baking tray, ready to be glazed and baked. But appearances can be deceptive as we all know! Did they taste ok? 
Well...there are no pasties left in the house now, anyway...the two remaining ones were taken away by my brother to eat cold at the Electric Picnic, which he is attending this weekend. :) So yes, the pasties were very well received. My Daddy says is took him back to the days he was in Boy Scouts when he would be given pasties the size of a boot :)
And best of all, my pasty success has given me a new boost of confidence. There is nothing more rewarding for a baker, I believe, when something that looks quite complicated and challenging comes out as well as my pasties did! And now I feel more ready than ever before to take on the pastry-making world. I've ticked choux, puff (sort of), and the pasty pastry off my to-do-list. (ooohhh...I know. This makes me sound incredibly unprofessional, but it's true: I'm actually not sure whether this kind of pastry is classified as flaky or rough puff!! I really do apologise for my ignorance and I promise to clarify this matter as soon as I find out the identity of this pastry.) And so...what's next? Well, I think this is the perfect time to take on my old nemesis, shortcrust! All I need to decide on is what exactly I am going to conjure up this time. I think it's going to have to be something sweet...what with all the savoury baking I've been indulging in lately, my sweet tooth is feeling a little neglected somewhat.;) 

CAN I do Cannelloni??? Oh yes I cann!! ;)

These are the fruit of my labours today. Yes, I know that one could easily mistake my little rectangles for pieces of parchment or something: or assume that I decided to be creative and cut up an old tablecloth into little strips simply for my own amusement. But believe it or not, these ARE actually homemade pasta sheets, and consist not of paper, cloth, or any other inedible item. No, all that was involved in the making of these were in fact plain white flour, two eggs, and a pinch of salt. And lots of rolling on the part of Ganache-Elf ;)
This is my second time to make pasta from scratch, and, now that I've gotten over my initial nervousness and feelings of doubt as to whether I could REALLY reproduce my very own version of the wonderful and incredibly versatile food stuff that is pasta...I felt a little more confident in making my cannelloni today. Of course it was a little different from when I made ravioli - this time I had not circles, but little rectangles of pasta, which were filled after being cooked in the hot water. My filling was a meat ragu made with minced beef, cooked ham, plenty of tomato puree, onions, herbs, and garlic. And of course...on top I had bechamel and grated cheese. I'm afraid I can't lay claim to making bechamel from scracth yet: no, that's a project for another day I'm afraid. But what with the excitement of pasty-making yesterday, and then cannelloni today...I don't think anyone can feel justified in accusing me of being unadventurous this week. Oh, the pasties! And how did THEY turn out? Well. I will reveal all to you in my next post. :)

Economical or just plain stupid?

I would like to put a question out to you now. This probably will make me sound more ridiculous and silly than ever I know…but anyway, I had to get this one out there.
You see I often make my food choices based on what I think needs using up, what there is a lot of, what is the cheapest…it all resolves over my obsessiveness…yes, I suppose it is quite appropriate to term it as just that….over wasting food and wasting money.
I’m not going to give you too many examples as that would be sort of boring and yes, sometimes I think it is common sense and perfectly acceptable, eg. I didn’t put any other vegetables like broccoli or carrots on the shopping list this week because we have so many runner beans popping up in the garden alongside the courgettes and lettuces; so hence this week, with the roast chicken on wednesday and the fish cakes on thursday, we will be having beans both of those days. That’s ok, there’s nothing wrong with that. But…is there something wrong with this little situation that I had this morning. 
This morning I really fancied having Weetabix with cold milk. I opened the fridge and saw that there was an unopened bottle of skimmed milk that was out of date tomorrow. And though I knew that I shouldn’t have…I had that on my Weetabix instead of full-fat milk. All because I didn’t want it to go to waste.
And so I suppose the big question is…is my preoccupation with not wasting food and saving money (even if it is, like, such a small amount…after all, a 1 litre carton of skimmed milk is about 85 cent here in Ireland. ) getting in the way of my weight gain? I know this is only one not very good example…but I guess it does all add up. Here is another one…the other day I actually mixed my fullfat milk with a bit of water to make it last longer; as I didn’t want Mam to have to go out to the shop to buy me another one until we actually went shopping on Friday. Instead of choosing, for toast, a wholegrain variety of bread with seeds in it…generally, the more expensive kind…I always, when we are shopping, pick up a cheap brown Tesco bread which probably does not have half the nutrition in it as the seedy one does. There’s loads of other examples, but as I say I don’t want to prattle on about it too much,.But I don’t know. Should I really be putting being economical before making food choices which I know, deep down, really are the best for me in regard to my recovery and gaining weight?

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Ganache Elf's patisserie.:)

When I think of of the first things that automatically springs to my mind has to be the boulangeries or patisseries which are likely to be found in almost every single town city or little village throughout that fascinating country itself. I picture...perhaps a dainty little shop tucked away on perhaps a side street near the town centre, with big glass windows which give the passer-by full opportunity to view for himself what this particular little business has to offer. Through the open door drifts the most enticing and mouth-watering of smells; combined with the clatter of hot trays and the babble of voices as hungry customers eagerly make their orders. Fresh baguettes are propped haphazardly in a wicker basket by the door. Beautifully-shaped merigues and delicate little biscuits are arranged prettily in the window display, their variety of colours and shapes never failing to draw the attention of the wide-eyed school children who press their little faces to the glass and gape longingly at this spectacular display of sugary delights. And then, of course, there are the trays of French pastries and such like. The buttery croissant, possibly the most gorgeous-smelling of them all, and perhaps the ultimate symbol of French baking itself. Pain du chocolat and creamy, finger-shaped eclairs. Glorious mountains of profiteroles and fruit tarts and the brightly coloured macaroons...well the list is endless really, isn't it. You can keep your snails and your frog's legs - for me, the French baking tradition is in a whole league of its own.
and so to celebrate this epic tradition...I guess it's only natural for a baker like me to try out their time honoured-recipes for herself. So today Ganache-Elf got busy with both her rolling pin and piping bag and endeavoured to make both croissants and eclairs. and they were both a success, even though of course not as professional looking as the you would get in the boulangeries. But the aromas produced as they baked were no less delightful, I must say... ;)
Croissant-making is great fun and very rewarding, though again, not something to do if you are in a hurry or have an unusual dislike for rolling out dough (one of my favourites baking tasks...I do so love messing around with my rolling pin. ;) ). As there is ALOT of roling involved. This is to ensure the butter is nicely incoporated into the dough - you want it evenly dispersed after all, and not end up with croissants which are buttery in some parts and dry in others.
Now today I am going to give you my own recipe for butter croissants...well, Of COURSE, when I first made these for the first time ever, I followed a recipe out of one of my cookbooks. It looked so long and complicated and daunting...I very nearly chickened out, I must admit. But anyway I finally stopped dithering and having read the recipe possibly about a hundred times I went for it...and yes, as you can see from my pics, my croissants don't look as flaky and as perfect as the ones you'd get from a bakery, but...the taste, and the smell, were by no means any less appealling...possibly better, as home-baked often is. Since then I've made croissants a few times and I've developed my own recipe which is a little bit different from the original. I hope it provides any croisant-making novices with a clear and straighforward set of instructions for making thse gorgeous yeast-risen pastries at home...I don't think, though, if you want really, really beautiful croissants with a real professional finishing look about them, that my own recipe is the one you should turn to: this is more for someone who, like me, is content with croissants that are equally as awesome in their own right but due to a teency bit of laziness on the behalf of the baker aren't flawless in every way appearance wise. This laziness being mainly, that I don't roll my dough out into precise rectangles and ensure at every turn that it is the exact measurements as stated in the recipe. But anyway, enough of my waffling and onto the recipe. No wait actually - perhaps it would be best if I gave you the recipe in a different post, as this one is way too long AGAIN. And, after a very busy day in the kitchen once again, Ganache-Elf needs her beauty sleep, so off I go. Croissant recipe coming up tomorrow though, if you are interested. But for now I am just going to finish my bed time hot chocolate and stumble up to bed. Another day of cooking, bbaking and pottering around in the kitchen no doubt awaits us tomorrow. ;)

Please, please, please leave me...

What I would like to share with you now are some of the things that still bother me and worry me in relation to my ED; the thoughts that I thought by now I would be rid of entirely, but are still niggling away at me every day, and causing me…well, to feel a bit frustrated and unhappy I suppose.
  • Am I eating too much sugar…
  • Will I get enough exercise done today…
  • If I eat more unhealthy foods on any particular day, I have to substitute for that…
  • I can’t feel too full; I need to always make room before eating; there needs to be a sort of hungry feeling or’s I won’t enjoy it properly…
  • It looks as if I have alot there on my plate…I won’t be able to eat that, I can’t…
And also…some of the other things that I worry about, too, that I feel as if are causing me to not gain as much weight as I would like to…
  • Do I have enough cereal in my bowl at breakfast; and enough milk on it…
  • Should I put on more peanut butter than two teaspoons on my toast/snacks…
  • Do I have enough protein filling in my rolls/bread at lunchtime…
  • Should I really be choosing to sometimes have a piece of fruit instead of a yoghurt after lunch…
  • Am I still obsessive about portion size, about how much to have…do I still feel as if I can’t exceed a certain amount of food in a day…
  • Do I prioritise sweet things over more healthier food…
  • Am I exercising too much and simply burning off the extra calories I am eating…
  • Do I still go for the smaller option for everything…is there still a degree of, I have to have the least. 
  • Do I still have certain habits of behaviour which are very ED like; as in cutting up food into tiny pieces, picking bits off food, eating too slowly…
  • Am I still afraid to say I am hungry for fear that then people will expect me to eat more because of that…
Those are the main ones, off the top of my head. But on different days I get different kinds, it all depends on where I am, what I’m eating, who I am with. 
Like today for example…I had for breakfast a bowl of muesli and malt wheats, and a banana. Two things wrong here. For one thing I think I could have had more milk on the cereal. I poured on the milk and regarded my bowl thinking…umm, it looks so nice. But I bet it would be ever nicer - and more protein rich - if I added more milk to it. But did I? No, I didn’t. No, you will be fine. The voice whispered. And I obeyed. :(
And secondly, I suppose I substituted my usual toast for a banana…the thing is I really wanted to have a banana. I adore fruit and these great big bananas in the fruit bowl - yellow with a tinge of green, just the way I like them - looked really nice. But why couldn’t I have had all three! Because the voice in my head tells me that would be too much; I can only have two things at breakfast time, not three. Oh, if only I could learn not to listen to it…if only, if only these thoughts and ways would just leave me, leave me forever and never come back.

Sweeeeeet...potatoes and courgettes. ;)


imageYes, the potatoes aren't from our garden I'm afraid...but that big courgette I'm holding there in my hand most certainly is. We've been growing courgettes for a few years now, and they always seem to do extraordinarily well...perhaps too much so, for last year they sort of overtook the whole vegetable plot and cost us our carrots and onions. :(
But hey, courgettes are a great vegetable...I know many might accuse them of being bland-tasting and boring, but I beg to differ! It all depends on what way you cook them and what you cook them with. And I find roasting them in lots of lovely olive oil - nestled alongside potatoes, sweet potatoes, and clove upon clove of fragrant garlic - a very tasty way to consume courgettes, indeed. Quite the opposite of bland in my view. :)
So if you, like me, have grown courgettes and are looking for an ideal and yummy way to utilise them which will not result in lots of disappointed and uninspired faces at the table - horribly reminiscent of those we are faced with on serving up other unpopular vegetables such as boiled cabbage or Brussel Sprouts - but instead will evoke lots of happy and appreciative "ummm!" might be worth giving this one a try. And of course please don't feel that just because you are not growing your own that you can't sample this one too...they're readily available in the shops as you probably already know. And anyway, this can be easily done without the addition of the courgettes of course; but I do love having them along with the makes such an interesting and delicious combination of tastes and textures. Whereas the potatoes are all lovely and crispy, the courgettes, and the garlic too actually, become delightfully squishy. ;)
You will need...(to serve about 4.)
about 4-5 good-sized potatoes
1 large sweet potato, or two small ones (small ones are easier to cut! )
about 6 cloves (at least ;) ) garlic (don't worry about peeling them :)
1 small courgette (or 1/2 of a big one :) )
lots of olive oil
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 190c/170 c fan.Wash the potatoes and cut them into wedges and sprinkle on a big baking tray. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into big, chunky wedges. slightly larger than the potato ones, as these take less time to cook. Add these to the tray. Thickly slice the courgette and add to the tray with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle olive oil generously over the vegetables and then toss them in the oil with a spoon. 
Position the potatoes so that their cut sides are resting on the tray. I usually rest the courgette slices on top of the potatoes in the tray; as I prefer the courgettes to be soft and squishy rather than crispy. The garlic cloves should be distributed evenly around the tray, but try not to place them too near the very edges, for they become quite hard and brown if overcooked. Season the whole lot generously with salt and pepper.
Roast in the oven for about 45 mins - 1 hour. Take the tray out of the oven halfway through the cooking time - you will notice that the potatoes on the edges of the tray might have become crisp and golden quicker than those in the middle. With a spoon, turn over the ones which have developed their crispy sides; but try not to move the ones which haven't. Drizzle over a little more olive oil and return to the oven. Check again when it comes to 45 minutes - if they are done, turn them all over again and toss the tray so they absorb the remaining olive oil, and then place at the bottom of the oven for about 10 minutes.
When you are ready to serve take the potatoes out of the oven and transfer them carefully to a big serving dish - move them with a spoon first before using a metal spatula to place them in the dish, so you don't lose any of those lovely crispy skins. ;)

Little slip-ups and little triumphs.

Writing this now, I feel some sort of inner peace...the sort of happiness I usually get when I know I have had a perfect day...well, perhaps not entirely perfect; as things never really are completely flawless. I don't really know how to define a perfect day for you exactly. For me, there are different types of perfect days: as in, there are a few ways in which I can spend a day that give me so much joy and happiness and which, when they draw to a close, cause me to look back upon with a sort of tearful happiness...and think, gosh. That was such a lovely, lovely day...if only they could all be like that.
But...and there is always a but with many, many things, I suppose...what made me realise that this particular day - this day being yesterday, by the way - was not entirely perfect in every single possible way? Well, I suppose you might have already guessed it...I had a little slip-up yesterday. A little one, but still, it was there and its presence is noticeable to me! You may laugh if I tell you what it was...but I feel as if I have to; and you may laugh or you may think that I'm pathetic, and that's ok, I sort of think I am, too...but I hope that you will try to understand and realise how significant this was, for me. In that I listened to the voice today and did something wrong. I knew it was wrong and so I then paniced a little and felt frightened, out of control, just for a brief, fleeting moment of time...but it passed and I felt ok again. And then, after my little slip-up, I had a little triumph of sorts over that voice, too. I ignored it; I quashed it, I beat it! But I suppose, what gets me down the most , is the fact that I can't seem to be able to ignore it all the time...and I really wish I could. I long for my head to be completely and utterly empty of all ED-type thoughts and trains of thinking...but I guess it will never be as simple and as straightforward as that...
But anyway, let me tell you about both my slip-up and my little triumph that happened...
My lunchtime, I was baking when Mam asked me was I ready for lunch, so I ate alone a little later on when I was finished what I was doing and Mam had gone into the lounge to listen to music. I really fancied a toastie; and an egg mix and some tomatoes to go alongside. I happily made an egg mix with a boiled egg, a bit of mayo and pepper. But then...then I thought...Oh, god...that's too much; I can't eat all that. 
And so half of the egg mix got wrapped carefully in clingfilm and put back in the fridge. :( And I only had 1 piece of bread, instead of 2. Which seemed like enough to me, but my heart's telling me that it was wrong. 
My hot choc time a little later, I wasn't sure what biscuit to have with my choc....and then I saw a chocolate coated Oreo packet hidden at the very bottom of the biccie tin. No, the voice in my head dictated sternly. You can't have that! Not with a hot chocolate...that's wayyyy too extravagant! Have something smaller, less fattening! But this time I did not listen. I took that chocolate-coated Oreo out of the tin, sat in the conservatory with the afternoon sun warming my back and my mug and little plate in hand. And oh, it was, so nice. I dipped the Oreo in the hot choc so the milk choc on the edges of the cookie went all soft and melted instantly as soon as I took a nibble off it after was one of the nicest hot choc breaks ever, and I enjoyed every single bit of it.
I just wish that...that every single day could consist of just triumphs; no slip-ups! And then for me to be able to enjoy every single thing I eat, and feel good about myself; and to not have to worry, every single day - because yes, I do still worry an awful lot about it, and I want to make that clear to you - about what I am and am not eating. And sugar levels, and whether I'm eating enough, whether I had too little, of feeling full or being at all hungry...little fleeting thoughts, I know, but still; they all work together to contribute to me feeling not as happy as I believe I could be; that I have the right to be...
Fight it, fight it, fight it...if only, if only I could find some way to make it that bit easier. I feel as if I need some help, some helping hand to gently pick me up and set me on the right path again. And perhaps it is time to remind myself of why I need to do this; of why choosing recovery is choosing life, happiness, health. And then perhaps then I can make every day perfect...or at least, that bit nearer to perfection than ever before.

goat cheese buns. :)


Yesterday, a smell that is generally rarely detected in the kitchen of Ganache-Elf could indeed be found to be floating from that well-used oven, filling the whole house and causing...well, mixed reactions really. My mam was not's bizarre, but my mam, who is most certainly one of those people who can be described, in general, as a cheese fanatic...well, I say in general, because she absolutely detests both the smell and taste of goat's cheese. So accordingly, she found the aromas of my fresh goat's cheese buns somewhat off-putting. So obviously, please don't make these if you are of a similar opinion about goat's cheese...I know that sometimes when raw ingredients are baked in something they lose some of their strength of flavour or whatever, but this is certainly not the case with these little fellows. But I love them, all the same. As I mentioned before, they always remind me of my roommate and our baking nights last year - I still maintain that my buns aren't as nice as hers, but this second attempt at making them was, I'm pleased to say, generally more a successful one than my first. They were, for one thing, the correct size - I made twelve buns this time and though they still make quite a substantial snack, they aren't quite as huge as the last ones I made; which was what I really intended. And I think they tasted that bit nicer, too - they were lovely and moist and the tops were interspersed with plenty of studs of lovely molten cheese. I felt quite defensive when I heard Mam's grumbles as I lifted the buns from the oven, tenderly wrapping them in a little tea towel before stacking them on a wire rack to me, the smell is gorgeous! But each to their own, and I wasn't going to insist on Mam trying one...or anyone else, in fact; for I don't think anyone else in my family is too crazy for goat's cheese; except my auntie and granny over in England, really. But for once I had actually baked these with one person in mind...well, myself. It's rare that I do this, but my goat's cheese buns do make a really good morning snackrel for me that isn't too high in sugar and that, when spreaded with a nice dollop of peanut butter, is arguably quite good for protein too. :) And finally...goat's cheese buns also, of course, make me think of the Hunger of my favourite ever films. (haven't read the books's on my reading list...) So I feel quite justified in making them really, despite their unpopularity amongst my family members. But anyway, hopefully what I intend on whipping up today will help me to make it up to them...or indeed, it might be a complete disaster, as I have never made Cornish pasties before, so I am currently feeling that sort of nervous excitement I always get before trying out something new and completely different. Burt hey, I got this feeling when I made goat's cheese buns for the first time three months ago, and look at them now! So let's hope today will be just as successful:)

And because I feel that I have actually adapted my own little recipe for these - I made them for the first time using the one my roommate always used, but now I have sort of formulated my very own recipe for them which I am now really happy with - I think it is time to share it and hopefully make lots of kitchens across the world smell like the Mellark's bakery, I suppose. Apologies in advance, Mam! ;)
To make 12 goat's cheese buns you will need...
·         50 g butter, melted.
·         60 g caster sugar
·         100 g Wholemeal flour
·         200 g plain flour
·         7 g sachet instant yeast/ 1 ½ tsp easy-blend yeast.
·         1 tsp salt
·         250 ml tepid water
·         About 125 g goat’s cheese. (I use the one that comes in a tube in Lidl.:) )
·         1 large egg.

1.      Sift the white flour and the salt into a big mixing bowl, then add the wholemeal flour. Stir in the yeast.
2.      Take the goat’s cheese out of its wrapper and flour your hands lightly. Break the goat’s cheese into little studs about the size of your little fingernail. Set aside about ¼ of the cheese for the tops of the buns, and put the remainder in the bowl with the flours. Mix together well.
3.      Whisk the egg in another big mixing bowl, and then whisk in the butter and the sugar, and the warm water.
4.      Add half of the flour and cheese mix to the wet ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon. Gradually incorporate in the rest of the flour and cheese, mixing well with lightly floured hands. You should end up with a soft and slightly sticky dough. Ensure that it isn’t too dry – if it is a little on the moist side that’s ok. But if it is very sticky add a little more flour. Add more water if it feels too dry.
5.      Shape the dough into a ball. Grease a clean bowl with a little vegetable oil and then place the dough in it, turning once to grease the top. Cover with greased clingfilm and leave in a warm, draught-free place for 1-2 hours until it has increased in volume and should feel slightly springy to the touch. You don’t need to worry too much about it being doubled in size, but do make sure that it has increased its volume somewhat. I usually give it 2 hours to be on the safe side. J
6.      Preheat the oven to 200c/fan 180c. Grease two big baking trays and line them with baking paper if they are not non-stick.
7.      Very lightly flour your work surface. Take the clingfilm off the dough and give it a good punch with your fist to knock out the air. Turn the dough out onto the work surface. Cut into 12 equal pieces.
8.      Shape the pieces of dough into balls by rolling them underneath a cupped hand until they are smooth and not lumpy, and are a nice round shape. Place the balls on the prepared baking trays, spacing them well apart.
9.      Place the remaining studs of goat’s cheese that you reserved from step 2 in the top of the buns, pressing them down gently.
10.  Bake the buns in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, until well-risen and golden brown. They should sound hollow when tapped on the base. Remove from the trays and place on a wire rack to cool.

11.  Eat warm, cut in half and buttered (or in my case…peanut buttered ;) ) , or leave to cool completely on the wire rack, and reheat for a half a minute in the microwave later on during the day. They don’t keep any longer than a day, so freeze any leftover buns and reheat them in the microwave on defrost whenever you fancy one. J

Friday, 29 August 2014

More cookie dough.

imageYesterday, I made even more cookies. Probably due to their extreme chocolatiness, the remainder of my totally chocolatey cookies which I made last weekend didn't last very long, at all. I was toying with the idea of making shortbread or flapjacks or oat cookies; but I had a new choc chip cookie recipe that I wanted to just try out first. At the moment I'm going through all of my cookbooks with little pieces of coloured paper (and probably driving everyone else in the house mad...the scissors never seem to be in their accustomed place in the kitchen drawer nowadays. And I am sure that the little cuttings of paper that I keep on accidently leaving around are quite irritating, as well.) Though of course, there is a reason behind all this paper-cutting and scissor-nicking. I'm marking all my recipes, both the ones I've done before and the ones I haven't, and rating them as I go along. And so I came across a choc chip cookie recipe (I honestly have lost count of the amount of these I have), and so i thought that i would try this one out for a change and see how it goes.
It's funny, but with certain items of baked produce I often seen to have a particular recurring "issue" which often happens again and again each time with that certain thing each time I bake it. Like remember with the scones I was relating to you how they often came out not quite as high as I would have liked. Now with cookies...and weirdly enough, this only ever seems to happen with normal chocolate chip cookie dough - not double chocolate, which is kind of funny...I frequently make the mistake of thinking I will get away with just lining two baking trays instead of three, in the certainty that they won't join up. And then of course I lift the trays from the oven and discover, to my exasperation, I have cookies that are not the classic round shape a perfect cookie should be...rather, I end up instead with a load of funny quadrangle shapes which I have to separate with a little knife before transferring to the wire rack to cool. And though I don't ever recall burning any of my baked goodies before, I can't seem to bear the thought of ruining this perfect record. But this sometimes means, in turn, I remove cookies from the oven which, if only left just a little longer in that toasty little space, would have been just perfect...not too hard, not too soft; just with that lovely chewy crispiness which is any cookie fiend's dream...image
Don't be fooled by this pic...true, these are my cookies, and they do look pretty enticing and flawless, with the chocolate chips oozing out in contrast to that lovely golden cookie dough colour. But the star of this pic was the best of the lot. Half of them did join up, and so once again the groans of Ganache-Elf could be heard resonating through the kitchen as she kicks herself for the upteenth time for being frugal with her tray-lining. And also, to add insult to injury...more than half of the cookies were wayyyyyy too floppy. The recipe stated that they should be chewy and not too crisp, but surely, some sort of sturdiness is required in a true cookie. I'm tempted to blame my recipe for being misleading...I did follow it pretty precisely and cooked the cookies for the recommended time...but a bad workman blames his own tools I guess so it could well have been a mistake on my own part. 
Well, anyway. I don't think this counts as an actual baking disaster. I haven't actually eaten one of them yet. I suppose I had the "hump" with my creations yesterday, so disconcerted I was with their shape and general floppiness. But today...well, I feel much better about it all, indeed. I had a peek in the tin I had placed my cookies...or perhaps I should really say, cookie pieces, because the majority of them did, I'm afraid, break into halves and thirds and quarters as I stashed them away in a tin once they were cooled...and well, I know they don't look exactly pretty, but they smell nice. And being all in different shapes and sizes means that one isn't restricted to have one whole in, if you are just a wee bit peckish and fancy a nibbble, you could just dip your hand into the tin and take out a bite-sized piece. Or, likewise, perhaps you sometimes feel in the need (well maybe need isn't quite the right word, but anyway...) for more cookie dough than what is usually provided in an average sized cookie...well, you could then take two big halves, maybe. Or three. Or four. Or five. 

NEO cake. (Neo-rlly as nice as the original...) and Nibble Buns.

I'm a bit of a wanderer when it comes to food shopping - like clothes shopping, I love a good bargain, and I probably waste a good deal of time studying the price labels in the various supermarkets in our local area, trying to work out what's the cheapest per litre/gram, etc; even if the differences are miniscule and choosing the less expensive one only saves me a couple of cents. A bit mad, I know, but having been blogging My Cocoa Stained Apron for a good while, now, I think I am sort of a bit on the crazy side - not in a harmful way as I was when i had the ED, no: more on the benevolent side of things. Not crazy, just crazy for baking, and food, and sweet things: that's me, the Ganache-Elf. Anyway, to get back to what I was saying, I do like to shop around and make the most of the special offers and different bargains which vary from shop to shop. One week I might pop into our nearest supermarket, the little SuperValu down in Mountmellick, intending to only get a bottle of milk and a couple of bananas: and I come out with my arms full of goodies which I may not necessarily need, but just couldn't resist picking up, telling myself Ahh, well, they're unlikely to EVER come down to such an agreeable price EVER again, right? Another week, I might decide to go into Aldi before going into Tesco for our weekly "big shop" (tesco being, in general, where we would do this. The routine is normally to go into Tescos first swiftly followed by Aldi, where we buy alot of our fresh fruit and veg and other stuff which Tesco just don't do quite as well or as cheap as Aldi's.). And end up getting on so well in there we don't actually need to go into Tesco afterwards. And so this week I went to Lidl for a change and saw, in the biscuit section, some biscuits that looked suspiciously like my latest sweet addition: the wonderful, totally scrumptious, and irresistibly cute Oreo...
But they WEREN'T Oreos, of course. They were the Lidl version, entitled, rather unimaginatively on Lidl's part, "Neos". (I find it quite intiruging, to note the to note the general lack of inventiveness by the discount brands when they imitate something. Mysticals instead of Minstrels, for example. And Okey Dokeys for Hunky Dorys.) Now there IS of course a difference in taste and appearance. It would be extremely difficult, after all, to reproduce such a classical biscuit as the Oreo to perfection. Lidl haven't done a bad job, though. And of course there is the added attraction of they're being alot less expensive. Meaning I felt perfectly justified in using plenty of them in the making of my appropriately named Neo Cake. image 
Well to be honest I can't really crow on too much about this cake and its Neo content because apart from sticking the Neos onto the iced (or should that be, ganache-d) cake, and crumbling some on top, there isn't really anything that Neo-ish about the cake itself. though I hope in time to somehow get the actual biscuits into my cakes, and baking...or who knows, even make my own Oreos. This cake, though, probably shouldn't really be called Neo Cake. The chocolate sponge was from my trusty chocolate fudge cake recipe which has never once let me down though I've lost count of the amount of times I've done it. And the icing...I don't think I need to tell you what I used for that. So no, I don't really think my creation could be called a proper Neo Cake...that might be a project for next time I guess, now that I know for certain Neos are completely harmless(as in, a very yummy alternative for the more expensive Oreo.) and that I can use them to my heart's content without feeling guilty in doing so, for after all no one had accused me of cheating in substituting the beloved classical Oreo with a cheaper brand of biscuit.
On making the ganache for the cake, I went a little overboard with the quantities of chocolate and cream, needless to say. Which meant that the remainder of the lovely concoction left in the saucepan had to be utilised in some way or other. Conveniently, a couple of packets of Cadbury Caramel Nibbles (in case you are unfamiliar with them…they are sort of like Giant Buttons with caramel inside them…ahhhhhhhhhh) had materialised in the candy cupboard during the week: buy-one-get-one-free-across-the-whole-cadbury-range offer in Tesco, you are a godsend. And so along with Neo cake, we had…Nibble buns. 
As you can see, nothing really too complex about these...a lovely little chocolate cupcake topped with swirls of ganache, with a little caramelly disc at their heart. I applied the caramels when the buns were still warm - I didn't push them completely into the sponge; I sort of only tilted the little chocolate circle at an angle and then inserted it in so that a good bit was still left sticking out. So that the chocolate remained whole, but became seductively soft. But yet, as in the case of Neo cake, there was no actual Nibbles in the actual buns, or icing. Sometimes though it's nice to keep things simple, as there is most certainly beauty in simplicity, I believe. But yes, for next time...I may have to buy a few extra Neos. And Nibbles. In order, of course, to be able to make both sponge and icing Neo-y / Nibbley. And who knows there might even be some left over for Ganache-Elf to nibble on, too.
So here is my recipes for both NEO cake and Nibble Buns. :)
NEO cake. :)
For the cake...
  • 125 g butter/margarine, softened
  • 285 g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 170 g self-raising flour
  • 2 tbsp full-fat milk
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cream

For the ganache (yes, you guessed correctly. ;) : 225 g plain chocolate and 250 ml single/double cream.
And also, of course...a box of Neos to decorate. :)
  • First make the cake. Grease a couple of 20 cm sandwich tins and line their bases with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c.
  • Mix the sifted cocoa powder with 4-5 tbsp hot water in a big bowl until you have a nice chocolatey paste. Add all the other cake ingredients and beat well with an electric mixer for about three minutes until smooth and well-mixed.  After two minutes, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a metal spoon or spatula before mixing for the remaining minute.
  • divide the batter between the two cake tins and smooth the surfaces of the cakes with the back of a metal spoon. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and springy to the touch. Gently press the top of a sponge to see if its cooked or not - if it is, the sponge should spring back; there shouldn't be an indentation when you take away your fingertip. If there is bake for another 2 minutes and try again. 
  • Once they are cooked, leave them sitting in the tins for 2-3 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool. Wait another minute and then remove the paper carefully from each cake. Allow the cakes to cool completely before you ice and decorate them. 
  • Next make the ganache by melting the 225g plain chocolate with 250 ml single cream, on a very low heat in a small saucepan. Stir until smooth and then refrigerate for about 1 ½ - 2 hours, checking after 1 ½ hours…you don’t want it very hard, just a nice spreadable consistency.
  • Spread a generous layer of ganache on top of one of the cakes and then sandwich the two of them together. Spread the reaming ganache on the top and around the sides of the cake, swirling with a palette knife to get a pretty decorative effect.
  • Now for a bit of Neo-ing. Apply whole ones, crush some of them and sprinkle on top, break them in half and stick them in the top of the cake pointing upwards... again it is really up to you. :)
Now for the buns, the ganache quantity is basically the same as the cake. Of course add a bag of Nibbles to your shopping list though. I'm sure everyone has their own chocolate cupcake recipe and that they don't need me to blah on about my own one. But anyway...this cupcake recipe is the one I use all the time and it is a very nice basic one and so straightforward and yummy :) So to make 12 cupcakes, you need:
125g butter/margarine, softened
150 g caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large eggs
110 g self-raising flour
1 tbsp full-fat milk/cream
The way you make these is very similar to the chocolate cake method really. Preheat oven to 180c/fan 160c; line a muffin pan with 12 paper muffin cases. As with the cake, blend the sifted cocoa powder with 3 tbsp hot water in a bowl to get a thick chocolatey paste. Then add the rest of the bun ingredients and give it one nice big beat with an electric mixer until smooth and well-blended; scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after two minutes as before. the batter should be of a nice dropping consistency: scoop some of it onto a spoon and then let it drop back into the bowl to check this: it should slide or drop down easily enough and not be too thick. Add a little more milk/cream if it isn't dropping off your spoon.
Divide the mixture equally amongst the 12 paper cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes until well-risen and springy to the touch: like the cake, if you press the top of a bun lightly with a fingertip, it should spring back and there should be no indentation left. Remove from oven once they are cooked and leave in the muffin pan for about 3 – 5 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
If you would like your caramels sort of semi-melted like mine were, then push a Nibble gently into the top of each bun – don’t push it right in; leave a good half still sticking out and tilted at an angle so that when you pipe the ganache around it the Nibble will still be visible.
Make the ganache while the cupcakes are cooling and ensure it is chilled enough for piping.
Pipe generous  swirls of ganache on top of the cupcakes once they are completely cold; leaving a nice little hollow in the very centre so you can just see the Nibble peeping out. You can put them in the fridge to firm up the ganache a bit, or if you prefer you can eat them with the ganache still soft and tender...personally, this is the way I like them the best. Though microwaving a chilled Nibble bun for about 20 seconds in the microwave so that the ganache melts and the Nibble becomes all molten too...that makes a very naughty but nice little nibble indeed. :) 

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Lamingtons and lettuces...

Today was another busy day in the kitchen of Ganache-Elf...
And not just with cooking and baking, actually. Well, of course I was doing just that, but also...the washing of those homegrown lettuces took longer than one might think. ;)
Now please believe me when I say that this is actually my garden, and these are NOT shop-bought lettuces. I don't think the lettuces you'd buy in Tescos or Lidl or wherever would be as green as that anyway...
Our garden has always been something of a picture in the summer: chives and nasturtiums and forget-me-knots spring up out of nowhere, even though we never plant them. And my Dad has always had "green fingers", anyway: so alongside those we would always have geraniums and sweet peas and petunias, to name but a few: I could go on and on about the flowers, as I adore them; but since this is a cooking blog and not a gardening one I may restrain my love of flowery things for now and stick to the point. Though I did read somewhere that nasturtiums and dandelions are a very good and healthy addition to salad. I haven't been quite so adventurous to try this out yet, though, but give me time.
Tonight we were having a barbecue, which of course called for a masive bowl of lettuce and tomatoes and beetroot and onions all mixed together to form a wonderfully colourful summery salad. So out I toddled, barefooted, into that grassy haven which is my garden, making a beeline for the plot where the nasturtiums and the lettuces grow in abundance. There is something so, so special about picking your own vegetables. And eating them, of course. Even if it is only lettuce, which personally isn't, to me, the most exciting of vegetables, tatse wise. But anyway, that aside, these lettuces are different. They are green. And on being livened up with a homamde salad dressing, a salad is really and truly made so much more than just a salad.
Now, onto baking. I'm not entirely sure whether these super-cute little cakes in the pics below are familar to many bakers or not. I certainly hadn't heard of them before. My recipe says they are an Australian favourite. Lamingtons - a great name for a cake, though. I think it was some general guy they derive their name from; all I can say is, if I discovered such awesome cakes were named after me, I would feel very honoured and pretty special indeed. And they are just sooooo fun to make!


It's basically a vanilla sponge, baked in a square tin for a nice even shape, then cut into smaller squares which are dipped in a big bowl of chocolate icing; then rolled in dessicated coconut for that special finishing touch. My impatience got the better of me again though, I'm afraid. Ideally, the sponge should be left overnight before slicing so it's less crumbly and doesn't disintegrate on you when you go to coat it in the icing. But once again I was in so much of a hurry to get my creations finished and sampled, I made my icing a few hours after the cake had left the oven. But don't worry, if you are like me and just can't wait, the results are never completely disasterous. Far from it in fact. Your squares might not be quite as neat as the photo with your recipe, and you might end up with lots of little crumbs in the icing, but I can guarantee that you will still be pretty much satisifed with yourself after doing these. Of course, after dipping in my last square, I was delighted to discover that there was just a little bit of chocolate gunk leftover, interspersed with the bits of the lovely vanillaley sponge which had fallen off the cakes as I dipped and dolloped them in. I didn't mind the fact that I couldn't have a square straightaway - unless you used a spoon, eating one of those with the icing still runny could transpire into a very messy and sticky-fingered affair (not that that's really such a bad thing... ) - for cleaning my bowl of "leftovers" kept my sweet tooth perfectly in check (for now that is.)  General Lamington, whoever you may be, I salute you! :)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Why I love to bake...

As I mentioned before, it was in third year of secondary school when I really grabbed the bull by the horns and went into unexplored territory in my baking. Now, I know back then I didn’t quite stress about the teenciest and most ridiculous of things as much as I do now - (eg: my first little concern this morning? That there isn’t enough bananas left until Saturday when we next go shopping…the thought of not being able to have banana dessert! :o) but of course it was indeed an exam year and so I was bound to be a little bit all over the place. But it was the theraputic qualities of baking that really drew me to it, I think…I found that there was something wonderfully soothing about spending a rainy evening in the warmth of my kitchen with the music on and the oven merrily humming away in the background; baking away to my heart’s content; free from the stress and hassle of school and school life just for that little while.
I think that was one of the main reasons why I loved baking so much…of course, I understand that it is not for everyone; and that for some it might actually be the cause of stress and hassle rather than serving to lessen it! But anyway; this is and never was the case for me. And so today I would just like to dedicate a little post to the wonderful, wonderful branch of cooking which is baking. Perhaps in reading this you will be converted too and want to try it out for yourself. 
and so I compiled a wee list…Why Ganache-Elf is just crazy for baking. <3
  •  Nothing makes me happier. You know yourself; there are just certain things that just always float your boat, no matter what time of the year it is, what kind of mood you are in, or how crappy or awesome your day has been. And for me that certain thing is baking. 
  • I love to be able to make yummy foods which I know will be enjoyed and appreciated by family and friends. There is something really special about receiving a home-baked cake that’s been made just for you; or a box of miniature truffles which you know has been made with you in mind. And seeing those smiles of delight and gratitude on the faces of my loved ones when they receive something I’ve made for them gives me, in trun, so much joy and happiness. And so I like to put as much care into what I bake as possible, no matter what it may be: so that in each and every little biscuit, in every single slice of bread, in every wedge of cake or pie, the love and fondness I feel for them is safely and securely encased. It’s my own way of saying that I care, I suppose, and that making this just for you has given me so much pleasure.
  • I love the creative side of baking. To be sure, baking is a very creative and exciting branch of the culinary world. It’s one of diversity and endless possibility for you, the baker. Who knows how many varieties of cookie are out there, awaiting discovery? Who could possibly be able to count the different kinds of pastry throughout the entire world? What limit is there to the different kinds of ingredients that a cake could be made from? If you make buns today…there are probably dozens, if not hundreds, flavours you can choose from: you could go for the classic butterfly bun topped with vanilla buttercream and strawberry jam…or you could be really exotic and make pineapple cupcakes with a pretty yellow frosting. It’s the same with everything in baking…there really is no limit to what you choose to make: and then the way you go about making that particular thing. And everyone’s baking is different: those brownies you made today, say - they are unique to you; no one else. :)
  • Home-baked always tastes and smells so much nicer than anything you would get in the shops. You don’t need me to remind you of that. There is of course the argument that baking your own stuff saves money too - I haven’t done any exact calculations so do’t quote me on that; but at a guess I’d say that it;s probably true - but even if it didn’t work out cheaper, well I believe it’s worth paying that little bit more. You will never get that gorgeous smell, the fantastic flavour, the yummy warm freshness in anything out of a packet or a bag that you would in eating something crafted in your own kitchen, by your own hands..
  • Being the baker of course means…you get to sample everything first. Whether that be in its cooked or uncooked form. Personally, as you know, one of my favourite things to eat ever is cookie dough, before it actually makes it into the oven. And ganache and melted chocolate of course; they’re high up there in my list of favourties as well.
  • Baking is just…so fun. Some may think me simple for being so easily pleased - in that I find immense enjoyment in doing certain baking tasks, such as rolling out dough, filling bun cases with batter, kneading, and so on…and perhaps I am. But I’m not going to deny that I love the creaming stage of making a sponge cake; when I get to beat all that yellowy butter with my big wooden spoon to a soft, squishy mess, perfect for being mixed with the aster sugar…or that cutting out rounds of scone dough with my utter, placing them on a baking tray, and then proceeding to glaze them with a little milk, fills me with joy and contentment. And they’re just some of the hundreds of little procedures involved with baking that I adore.
There are more, of course…but I think I will leave it at that, for now. All this talk about baking has made me both a) quite peckish so I think it time for breakfast - probably Shredded wheat and homemade milk bread toasted and spread with peanut butter - and b.) in the mood to bake, so no doubt the apron will be pulled out of that well-used drawer in the kitchen very shortly. ;)

my kitchen smells like an indian takeaway right now...

felt a little experimental today. and i had the urge to make bread, but then again, since i had made pasta for the past two days for dinner, and pasta was, generally speaking, the dish which i would usually make bread to go with as an accompaniment - I felt as if it was only right that I did something a little different. So...what I decide on? Well, tonight Ganache-Elf decided to go Indian, rather than Italian. And so that meant that homemade fish and tomato curry, and freshly baked naans, were on the menu.
This fish curry is yet another culinary endeavour of mine inspired by our Mallorca holidays. In the very same little town where Mam can get her mushroom ravioli, there was a quaint little Indian restaurant-takeaway place which did a very flavoursome, aromatic tomato and yoghurt fish curry. My version is a little different of course. Instead of yoghurt, my recipe uses coconut cream, and a few tablespoons of korma paste (hope this doesn’t make my claim of “homemade” curry any less true.)
Well anyway, if I cheat maybe a teensy bit with my curry, I can rest assured in the knowledge that my naans are definitely made purely from scratch. It’s the same kind of process which is involved in bread-making. A soft, satiny dough containing natural yoghurt and just a little butter is brought together, kneaded, and then left to rise for 2-3 hours. Then, on being knocked back, it is then divided into balls which are then rolled and stretched into the distinctive teardrop shapes. Then the fun part – choosing your flavour. Of course you can leave them plain if you prefer, but I always like to smear each teardrop with a good half a teaspoon of crushed garlic.
So don’t go into your local Indian and stare longingly at those enticing plates of steaming, fragrant curries; and those gorgeous-smelling baskets of fresh naans which look oh-so-difficult to make. Trust me, naans are no more trickier than bread, really – the shape’s just a little different, that’s all. And homemade curry shouldn’t be an unknown enigma, either. Oh, let’s just say using korma paste doesn’t mean it’s not homemade, right? You resisted the temptation to just not make the effort and rush down to the Indian for the convenient, but far less superior option…and for that, you should be feeling very pleased with yourself, indeed. ;)