Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Vegan Caramel Popcorn Bites

Vegan Caramel Chocolate Popcorn Bites


Now I've said in previous posts how I try to avoid double cream where possible, as it doesn't agree with me (and I've never been a fan of the taste, to be honest). So, when I had a spare can of coconut in my pantry, I wondered whether I could make a nice-tasting caramel using the cream from the can. To separate the cream from the water in the can, place the can in the fridge for around 12 hours. You can then scoop out the cream. Or, if the weather is chilly, the cream may well settle on top in your pantry (mine do in winter).

The coconut cream made a lovely caramel sauce, which had the perfect pouring consistency. If you don't like the taste of coconut, I wouldn't recommend this, but otherwise, it really is worth giving a go.

To make the caramel really sing, I used it to make popcorn bites - which are really simple to make and a tasty biscuit jar treat :)

These can easily be made completely dairy-free/vegan by using a dairy-free chocolate :)

Makes 24 popcorn bites

Ingredients:

  • Cream from one tin of full-fat coconut milk (chill the can for 12 hours and the cream will rise to the top of the tin) - around 1 cup/240ml
  • 150g (3/4 cup) light soft brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 85g (1/3 cup) popcorn kernels
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 90g (1/2 cup) milk chocolate (dairy free if you're making these vegan-friendly)

Method:

1. To make the caramel sauce, pour the brown sugar into a saucepan and place on a low heat.

2. Heat the sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has all melted.

3. Add the coconut cream and salt, and whisk in until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and heat for 8-10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened (and coats the back of a spoon).

4. Place the teaspoon of coconut oil in a large pan, and place on a medium heat. Once the oil has melted, pour in the kernels, and cover the pan.

5. Keep the pan on the heat until the popping sound of popcorn stops. At this point, take the pan off the heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool down.

6. Carefully transfer the cooled popcorn into a fresh bowl, throwing away any unpopped kernels.

7. Lightly grease and line a 20cm square silicon tray with greaseproof paper.

8. Pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn - if the caramel sauce has become too thick, heat for few seconds in the microwave to loosen. Stir well to evenly coat the popcorn with the caramel.

9. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

10. Melt the chocolate by breaking into chunks and placing in a heatproof mixing bowl. Place in a microwave and heat on full power for 30-second bursts, stirring well after each burst, until all of the chocolate has melted.

11. Pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag and snip off the end.

12. Drizzle the chocolate over the popcorn caramel. Place in the fridge to set for at least 1 hour.

13. Cut into squares.

14. Enjoy!

Vegan Caramel Chocolate Popcorn Bites
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Monday, 28 May 2018

Lemon and Strawberry Stripe Cake

Lemon and Strawberry Stripe Cake InsideLemon and Strawberry Stripe Cake Outside


Lemon and Strawberry Stripe Cake Top

Work's been pretty hectic recently - as an accountant, there are times of the year when the workload gets a bit crazy! Thankfully, however, that time has just about passed, and to celebrate I really wanted to try out a new type of cake. This was inspired by a striped cake I saw in a Tesco magazine (their recipes are really good!) - I adapted the flavours of the cake, and the buttercream is my own creation, but I think the overall look is pretty :)
The stripe effect is made by making sponges in trays, so they are akin to Swiss rolls. I flavoured one with lemon zest, and the other, I tried to give it a strawberry kick with some strawberry conserve. The strawberry flavour was pretty delicate though, so next time, I might try adding pureed strawberries instead.
I made the buttercream ruffles using a tip similar to the Wilton 406:


The cake isn't as tricky to make as it looks, so give it a go!

Makes one 20cm cake

Ingredients:

For the lemon sponge:

  • 130g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 eggs
  • 35g (2 tbsp) butter, melted
  • 85g (2/3 cup) caster sugar + 1 tbsp for sprinkling

For the lemon syrup:

  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 75g (3/4 cup) icing sugar

For the strawberry sponge:

  • 130g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 eggs
  • 35g butter (2 tbsp), melted
  • Pink food colouring (I used a concentrated gel)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp good quality strawberry conserve
  • 85g (2/3 cup) caster sugar + 1 tbsp for sprinkling

For the strawberry topping:

  • 2 tbsp good quality strawberry jam

For the lemon buttercream:

  • 300g (1 & 1/4 cups) butter, very soft
  • 600g (6 cups) icing sugar, sifted
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • Pink food colouring

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan)/355f/gas mark 4. Grease the base of a 23 x 33cm swiss roll tin/baking tray, and line with baking parchment.

2. Make the lemon sponge by pouring the eggs, lemon zest and sugar into a mixing bowl. Whisk for around 5 minutes (I used a stand mixer but an electric hand whisk would work fine) until the mixture has tripled in volume, and become very pale.

3. Sift over the plain flour and baking powder, and pour the melted butter around the edge of the mixture. Gently fold in, being careful to knock as little of the air out of the mixture as possible.

4. Pour into the prepared baking tray, and tilt the pan to evenly spread the mixture across the tray. Bake for around 10 minutes, until golden on top and springy to the touch.

5. Halfway through the cooking time, prepare the lemon syrup by pouring the lemon juice and icing sugar into a small pan. Place on a low heat and bring to a simmer.

6. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until the icing sugar is clear and the mixture is syrupy.

7. Once the sponge has baked, take it out of the oven, and use a pastry brush to brush over the lemon syrup. Place a sheet of baking parchment on your work surface, and then sprinkle over 1 tbsp of caster sugar.

8. Turn the sponge out onto the sugared baking parchment, and gently peel off the parchment stuck to the base of the sponge. From a short-end, roll the sponge (with the greaseproof paper) to a tight swiss roll, and leave to cool fully.

9. Repeat the same steps for the strawberry sponge, except instead of lemon zest in the sponge, add vanilla extract, strawberry conserve and pink food colouring to the eggs and sugar, and then whisk this mixture until tripled in volume.

10. Whilst the strawberry sponge is baking, make the topping by gently heating the strawberry conserve with 3 tbsp water, stirring regularly. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.

11. Once out of the oven, spread over the strawberry syrup, then turn out onto sugared baking parchment, and roll as previously.

12. Whilst the cakes cool, make the buttercream by beating the butter, icing sugar, and lemon juice together until well combined, light and fluffy. I used the whisk attachment on my stand mixer and ended up with a fluffy soft buttercream that worked really well.

13. Divide the buttercream evenly into two bowls. Add pink colouring to one half of the buttercream and beat in.

14. Carefully unroll both sponges. Cut in half lengthways.

15. Take one of the lemon sponge halves. Spread with a thin layer of the pink lemon buttercream, then roll from a short side to make a swiss roll.

16. Take one of the strawberry halves, and spread with another thin layer of the pink buttercream. Wrap this around the rolled lemon sponge (effectively continuing the spiral).

17. Repeat with the remaining lemon and strawberry halves.

18. Cover the sides and top of the cake gently with a thin layer of the white buttercream. This acts as a crumb coat and should help stop crumbs from escaping into the outside buttercream layer.

19. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until the buttercream doesn't stick to your finger when pressed lightly.

20. Prepare a piping bag by adding a Wilton 406/ruffle tip to a piping bag, and trimming off the end. Fill with the pink buttercream.

21. Starting at the base of the cake, start piping ruffles by having the wide end of the nozzle pointing downwards, and angling the piping nozzle - this is by no means something I'm expert in, but I angled my tip slightly downwards so that the bottom of the nozzle was about 30 degrees away - I'd recommend checking out youtube for videos on this bit :)

22. When you only have about a quarter of pink buttercream left, add half of the white buttercream and continue piping the ruffles around the cake - this will give you a slight ombre effect. Alternatively, you could use a new piping bag with a clean piping nozzle if you don't want this effect.

23. Continue piping up the sides of the cake, and then, starting from the centre on top of the cake, pipe concentric circles - again there are some really good youtube videos showing this really clearly.

24. Place in the fridge until the buttercream has set (10-15 minutes).

25. Enjoy!

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Friday, 25 May 2018

Ice Cream Cones

Ice Cream Cones


The weather has been pretty glorious in the UK over the past week (apart from some rain today of course). I've made some pretty delicious ice creams previously (see my cookies & cream ice cream, salted caramel ice cream, and honeycomb and coffee meringue ice creams) but haven't ever tried to make the wafers to go with them.
A while back I purchased an ice cream cone maker to make Stroopwafels (see my recipe here) and thought I'd have a go at making some ice cream cones.


The trick to make the cones is to work very quickly as soon as they are off the pan - as they cool, they become really crisp!
I used an ice cream cone mould, which is the white cone-shaped instrument in the picture above. If you don't have one, you could fashion one out of a piece of card, and fill it with foil to keep its shape.
Alternatively, you could mould the waffle over the base of a glass or small bowl, and make cool looking ice cream cups - I'll have to give that a go next time I make them!

The recipe is really simple - the longest part is waiting for the waffle maker to heat up.

Oh, if you don't have a waffle maker, you could try using a hot frying pan (like you would cook pancakes) - I haven't tried this myself but I've seen others get good results doing this.

These are best eaten the day you make them.

Makes 5 big ice cream cones

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp butter, for greasing the hotplate
  • 25g (2 tbsp) butter, melted
  • 100g (3/4 cup + 2 tsp) plain flour
  • 50g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp milk

Method:

1. Plug your ice cream cone maker in and start to preheat it. Mine took around 10 minutes, so get this going first!

2. Pour all of the ingredients, except the 1 tsp butter, into a bowl, and whisk until smooth. Set aside for at least 5 minutes to rest.

3. Once the hotplate has finished preheating, add the teaspoon of the butter to the hotplate. Add 1&1/2 tbsp of the batter to the centre of the hotplate.

4. Close the lid and press down. Cook for 3 minutes - depending on your machine and the exact amount of batter this can vary. Open the lid - you want a nice golden colour. If the first wafer is very brown, decrease the time you cook the next one to 2 & 1/2 minutes. If the wafer is still pale, press the lid down again and cook for another 30 seconds.

5. Use a spatula to carefully remove the wafer from the hotplate. Working quickly, wrap the wafer around the ice cream cone mould (or glass base, or bowl, as mentioned above). Hold for a few seconds until it cools slightly. It will cool very quickly.

6. Once cool to the touch, remove from the mould. If you make the cones and end up with a hole in the bottom, place a bit of marshmallow in the bottom. This will stop ice cream leakage!

7. Repeat with the remaining cones.

8. Fill with your favourite ice cream.

9. Enjoy!

Ice Cream Cones



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