Nigella Experiment – Day 24 – Coconut Macaroons & Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

Day 24 – Coconut Macaroons (page 50 ) and Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake (page 166)

The coconut macaroons contain an elusive ingredient – shredded coconut. Not desiccated, not flaked, but shredded and this was not available anywhere in Penzance. Instead I had to order it online from the amazing Melbury & Appleton store. Of course as the delivery was £5.99 I had to make the order worthwhile, so was able to indulge Paul’s passion for Mexican food with lots of incredible dried chillies and genuine Margarita Salt. Anyway, once the shredded coconut arrived:

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It begins with an egg white base, mixed until frothy, add in cream of tartar , almonds, salt, vanilla and the coconut. Form into domes and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Pretty simple. I couldn’t quite make my shapes look like Nigella’s picture here:

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Nigella’s

Mine

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Overall they were pleasant, not incredible or mind-blowing, but pleasant. Not too sure if I’d be in a big rush to make them again.

Marks out of 10: 7

Bakers comment: the main ingredient is hard to buy and I’m not sure I’d recommend going the extra mile to buy it online. If you are lucky enough to have it in a local shop then do give the recipe a whirl.

Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

I had high hopes for this cake. It looks good in the pic in the book:

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and what’s not to like about anything with chocolate in? Simple recipe with generally good instructions, although I’m always wary when a recipe tells you things like ‘take care to blend well but be careful not to overbeat‘..that is such a fine line, and if you’ve never made the cake before it is a hard thing to judge, when is careful blending overbeating? Anyway, I’m not sure if I achieved the correct level of blending as you’ll see in my end results. Cake went into the prepared loaf tin and baked for the requisite 45 minutes. I followed Nigella’s instructions not to test the cake as it should still be a ‘bit squidgy inside‘ and just went on the cooking times. It looked really good when it came out of the oven, and did collapse in the middle as the recipe said it would. We served it up with some delicious Russian Fudge yoghurt and it was a tasty treat:

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The thing I wasn’t so keen on was on further inspection the centre of the cake was actually pretty liquid still. It didn’t really taste like it had cooked enough and certainly couldn’t be sliced into clean portions. Instead we had to pick bits that were cooked off. I had a plate on the second night after cooking and it left me feeling sick – not what you want in a cake!

Marks out of 10: 5, was ok when first cooked but didn’t keep well.

Bakers comment: If you plan on making this I’d cook it for 55 minutes – 10 minutes longer than Nigella recommends, might be just enough to take it from wet in the middle to squidgy.

Grown-Up Gingerbread Men

I know my blog is supposed to be just about my Nigella experiment…however this week I’ve been unfaithful! 2 reasons for this – the first being a bargain purchase of Peggy Porschen’s ‘Boutique Baking

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from The Works for a fiver and the opening of the new mega superstore Sainsbury’s in Penzance (it’s the small things when you live this far South West ;)). The new mecca to all things capitalist has an amazing selection of baking goodies – including an icing decorating set. Being a newbie to the joys of piping, the £9.99 price tag was definitely good for a beginners set. It even includes a little spatula, which I know from this morning’s YouTube piping tutorial fest, is good for icing the first layer of cupcakes.

I eagerly set to making the PPorchen Gingerbread recipe – in the book it is to make a beautiful Gingerbread Village for Christmas, but I was going to experiment with gingerbread men and stars.

Ingredients: 5tbsp water, 210g light brown sugar, 3 tbsp treacle, 3 tbsp golden syrup, 3 tbsp ground ginger, 3 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves, 250g diced butter, 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, 560g plain flour.

Method:

Place water, sugar, treacle, golden syrup, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a saucepan. Over medium heat bring to the boil while stirring continuously. Remove from heat and gradually add in the butter, stir until combined. Add bicarb of soda. Leave to cool to room temp.

Once cooled sift in the flour and slowly mix together to form a slightly wet and sticky dough. Wrap in cling film and leave to chill in fridge for 2 hours.

On a floured surface roll out the gingerbread to dough to 5-6mm, cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Place on greasproof/baking paper on trays. Chill in fridge for 30mins.

Bake in oven for 8-10 mins at 200C/gas mark 6.

Cool on a wire rack! Ta-dah, ready for decorating!

So, I’m new to piping and new to decorating in general. After some failed attempts at decorating happy birthday messages on cakes etc..a little dusting of cocoa on the top of a Red Velvet is about as decorate-y as I normally get. BUT I want to try and improve and want to try and gain some skills so here is my first attempt :)

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You can see where I’ve gone wrong – some wobbly lines, some squiggly swirls and some badly flooded red icing on the santa biscuit. However I was pretty pleased overall at a first attempt.

Anyway, forget the icing…how about the gingerbread men themselves?…well they are AMAZING. The recipe is truly scrumptious –  a million miles away from the normal over-baked hard, crunchy gingerbread men you get. It is crisp yet soft in the middle and has a grown-up spiced flavour. The kids love them though, so it’s not been deemed too spicy, but it is definitely a biscuit Paul and I will enjoy as much as the small people.

I will be making these again….just need more cutters…another trip to Sainsbury’s methinks.

Nigella Experiment – Day 23 – Almond Danish Pastry, Tarte Tatin and Toffee Apples

Day 23 – Almond Danish Pastry (page 328 ), Tarte Tatin (page 330) & Toffee Apples (page 226)

Making my own Danish Pastry is not something that would EVER have crossed my mind pre-Nigella experiment, but boy am I glad I gave it a try! Looking at the page there seemed a gazillion steps involved, but once they were broken down into their individual parts it was perfectly manageable.

The first thing was to make the actual pastry, this involved another recipe ‘Processor Danish Pastry‘ (page 327) – this clue is in the title..it’s made using a food processor. Super easy. whizz up the ingredients and try not to feel freaked out by the massive lumps of butter left in it. If you are used to making smooth pastry it is a challenge to accept that the rough appearance is right. Into the fridge and chill for a few hours.

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To make the Almond Danish, you use the pastry from the above recipe and roll it into six squares. Make your own almond paste by toasting blanched almonds whizzing them up in the food processor with icing sugar, butter and egg white. I took my eye off the ball for a few minutes as was juggling several kitchen tasks and let my almonds get really toasted..hence the darker colour of the paste. Still tasted fine though.

Create the funny shapes – I followed what Nigella said, honest! Sausage-in-a-blanket appearance is down to the book. Egg wash and leave to rise for 1.5 hours, bake for 15 mins. Once out of the oven the pastries are given a clear glaze and once cooler drizzled with an icing sugar glaze. I used un-refined icing sugar hence the browny colour.

All in all these pastries looked a bit odd, but tasted good! Feedback from Paul was the almond paste could have been smoother and Marie thought there could have been less of it, but everything else good good marks.

Marks out of 10: 9

Bakers comment: a lot of steps, but fun to make.

Tarte Tatin

Mmmmmm, looks good in the book:

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The good thing about the pastry recipe is, that once mixed up you can keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days before using..so we were able to enjoy a Tarte Tatin as a very ‘posh’ pudding after dinner. Super straightforward – put loads of butter and sugar in a tin on the hob, boil up, add a mountain of butter and slip on some quartered apples. Cook to caramelize then place the danish pastry circle on top and tuck it in. Into the oven, bake for 20 mins and turn out on to a plate. Marvel at your cooking ability ;)

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The family loved, loved, loved this tart. It was eaten up in seconds and given top marks by all of the children.

Marks out of 10: 10

Bakers comment: I love the fact that the pastry can be kept in the fridge for a while or frozen…this means you could create this delicious pudding at short notice. If only it was a teeny bit healthier I’d eat it every day!

Toffee Apples

Bonfire Night = Fireworks and Toffee Apples. I’ve made various attempts at Toffee Apples since Felix has had enough teeth to crunch an apple. Maddie loves the tradition, so spent the whole of Monday persuading me to make them again (it’s not easy, the toffee likes to slide off the apple instead of sticking to it..and toffee is easy to burn and easy to burn yourself with!)

I was pleased when I saw the recipe in ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess‘ – another one ticked off my list. Boil sugar and water until you have a molten bubbling pot, add in golden syrup, butter and vinegar. Bubble up for ages, testing the toffee in iced water. Once ready swirl in toffee (quite hard) and then plunge into iced water (fun).

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They don’t look perfect, but what the heck! The apples are mostly covered in toffee and the little sticks are sort of stuck in. They were consumed by Felix, Maddie and Rohan with gusto! We had to miss the annual fireworks display on the Prom as I had my Maths class and Rohan was super tired..instead they ate TApples, sparkled some sparklers on the street in front of the house and peered at fireworks from a window.

Marks out of 10: 8

Bakers comment: these are ok for a once-a-year treat. Quite a faff to make, but beat the weird red ones you get from the Supermarket.

Nigella Experiment – Day 22 – Courgette and Chick Pea Filo Pie & Apple & Walnut Cake

Day 22 – Courgette and Chick Pea Filo Pie (page 93) & Apple & Walnut Cake (page 36)

Yesterday was a Nigella day with two lovely recipes to try. The first one ‘Courgette and Chick Pea Filo Pie‘ had been eye-candy for me for a while. I was debating whether or not to cook it for a family dinner or to save it for a special evening when Paul and I were eating alone. Would the usual cries of “blluurrghhh courgette” ruin things or not? It looks impressive in the photo in the book:

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So, what the heck it’s Friday night, celebration of the weekend night, let’s give it a whirl. The recipe itself is extremely easy to follow and quick to make. Shop-bought filo pastry and a collection of ingredients gently sauteed in olive oil and stock – brilliant. I enjoyed stacking in the layers of filo, brushing each one with melted butter, then tipping the rice/courgette/chick pea mix in and popping a filo lid on. So simple!

Into the oven for about 20 mins and voila!

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It was a huge hit with the children as well. Felix declared “chick peas are my favourite superfood“, Rohan shovelled lots and lots in – always a good sign and even Maddie managed to eat more than just the filo pastry! This one is definitely going to get made again.

Marks out of 10: 10

Bakers comment: very quick and easy to make, yet the results make you feel like you must have spent ages on it – winning combination.

Apple & Walnut Cake

This was a quick after dinner bake, we wanted to finish Friday evening with a sweet treat. No picture in the book so no visual point of reference. Another fast recipe to follow – all ingredients in to the mixer, whizz up and into the oven. My only reservation was how big to chop the apple – Nigella says into ‘small cubes‘ but how small is small? I think I may have left them a little too large. She’s not kidding either when she says the mixture will be ‘fairly stiff‘ – it really was.

Cooked it for an hour, but made a school-girl error in removing it from the oven when it looked done, rather than testing it. I don’t know what I was thinking!! The glass of Prosecco had gone to my head ;) So, on cutting it was baked perfectly…apart from the rather runny and batter-like centre. Grrrrrr.

Anway, the family loved it and snaffled it up with gusto so all was fine!

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Marks out of 10: 7.…would have been more I think if I’d baked it properly.

Bakers comment: check and check again. Good flavours in the cake, maybe cut the apple pieces smaller than I did.

Nigella Experiment – Day 21 – Lily’s Scones & Spanish Macaroons

Day 21 – Lily’s Scones (page 67) & Spanish Macaroons (page 54)

WOW! The best ever scone recipe! Nigella says ‘These are the best scones I’ve ever eaten‘ and I agree 100% We’re big fans of scones in this household and I’ve made them over the past few years with varying success. I’ve always been on the look-out for a fail-safe recipe and I think I’m in love with this one.

Simple instructions, throw everything into the food processor, whizz it up, Add milk, very quick mix, out on to board for kneading (gently), cut out, egg wash into the oven and 10 minutes later – heavenly results.

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The only unusual thing about the recipe is the inclusion of a lot of cream of tartar. I’m not well-versed in using c-of-t, but according to the book it is what gives these scones a ‘dreamy lightness‘.

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Maddie and Paul tried Nigella’s suggestion of ‘Thunder and Lightning‘ – clotted cream and black treacle. They thought it was delicious.

Marks out of 10: 10

Bakers comment: very impressed with this recipe. I’ll definitely be making it again. I wasn’t sure what cream of tartar would do…am still not sure, but whatever it does, it does it well! Follow this link to see the recipe for yourself!

I was trialling these recipes last night (Saturday night). Traditionally if we are in, this is the night Paul and I try to have a fun evening – cocktails, music, cooking, hanging out with the kids. Last night was great – Paul was creating delicious veggie burgers from the Wahaca recipe book, Maddie was making guacamole, Rohan was pottering at the table with some pastry making shapes, Felix was in and out of the kitchen, Craig Charles was playing Funk on 6 music and we were having Margaritas and French Martinis. Scones were made pre-alcohol, Spanish Macaroons after a strong martini, must have been a good recipe as I’m not sure I was following it with 100% concentration! ;)

Spanish Macaroons

Another great. throw it all in, mix it up recipe (there are lots of these in ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess‘ which is brilliant. Lots of ground almonds and an orange accent in these little balls of goodness. Into the mixer, whizz up, roll into little balls and into the oven.

Everyone liked them. Again a good, fast recipe with pleasing results.

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Marks out of 10: 8-9

Bakers comment: very easy, very pleasing.

Nigella Experiment – Day 20 – Coca-Cola Cake

Day 20 – Coca-Cola Cake (page 232-233)

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Today I had promised Agnes we would ‘bake a cake and do some magic’…hmm how to fulfill the hopes and dreams of a little 3 year old tomboy ;) Another perusal of the cook book together brought us to the strange sounding Coca-Cola Cake. Something of a novelty for both of us…I’m pretty sure this is a very super special rare drink treat for Agnes and for me I am not a fan at all! Diet Coke is another story however…my own personal guilty pleasure but the full-fat red stuff No Way!

Anyways, on with the making and we had some fun. You have to heat the Coke in a pan with butter and cocoa – it bubbles up which Agnes liked. Mixed up another one of the amazing duck eggs with some buttermilk and vanilla and mixed the two wet sets of ingredients with the dry flour, sugar, bicarb and salt.

Into the oven…50 minutes later – cooked.

Rohan was now home too, so my two little helpers aided my in again melting butter, cocoa and Coke on the hob and stirring in tons of icing sugar to make a quite runny icing. Leave it to set and this scrumptious, moist cake was ready to be scoffed:

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Big hit with the children…so Nigella’s got it in the right section of the book. Paul loved it too.

Marks out of 10: 9.5

Bakers comment: It’s great to use an weird ingredient and for the result to be good. You could have some fun with this at a fete – ‘guess the secret ingredient’.

PS. We did manage some magic too! We looked at a book in the Library and saw a trick involving a cocktail stick and grapes for the ‘magic-grape-on-finger-balancing-act‘. Rohan fell for it and Agnes was happy.

Nigella Experiment – Day 19 – Snickerdoodles

Day 19 – Snickerdoodles (page 58)

We’ve just got back from a lovely Autumnal break at Lands End (most southerly point in the UK!)  Reflecting on this challenge I realise I’m falling back on my speed of entries, so time for a quick bake. Flicking through the book I needed one that fulfilled the following criteria:

a) I had all the ingredients for

b) had time to make

Yippeeee! Snickerdoodles. A bit like a technical challenge on the GB Bake Off (ok not so challenging as that) it was a blind recipe for me. There isn’t a guiding photo in the book and I’ve never eaten or even seen this American classic. All I knew is it came under the ‘biscuit’ section and involved my favourite spice – cinanamon.

Straightforward, easy to follow instructions. I even managed to use one of the amazing duck eggs I bought from the farm on our weekend away. However – disaster..into the spice cupboard only to hear echoes of Paul in my mind “I’ve used all the cinnamon“..yes, Friday breakfast-time on top of Porridge. Whoops, all of the other ingredients are combined and no cinnamon. Luckily kind, genial husband to the rescue ;) Quick jaunt to the local Tesco Express, cinnamon purchased and the bake could be completed.

Mmmmmm smelled amazing whilst baking…..

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Marks out of 10: 8 (Paul) 10 (Felix)

Bakers comment: lazily easy to make :) cheap and done from start to finish in 20 mins..including 15 minute bake time. Excellent.

Just to compare, here is a photo from a fellow blogger Megan’s website Cooking Whims:

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Pretty similar I think?!