Who Doesn’t Love a Tart? A White Wine Mushroom Tart…

See, when tax season ends it is supposed to be spring.  Normally I can get outside in the fresh air and putter about in the garden.  Mother Nature did not get the memo this year!  On Monday we had a two hour delay for school due to snow and ice.  It’s just been cold this week.  The strong winds took down a large tree in town.  She is being cruel!

I really hope the warm weather shows soon because it would be nice to have a spring longer than a couple of weeks.  Summer likes to show early here.

Every Tuesday night we have pizza and sometimes I buy a phyllo dough mushroom tarts with white wine.  It’s been on my list to recreate it but I decided instead of fiddling round with the phyllo that I would make my short crust pastry.

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In a skillet melt 3 tablespoons of butter.  Finely chop shiitake mushrooms to give you a cupful.  Finely chop shallots until you have about 1/3 cup.  Sauté the mushrooms and shallots on medium heat.  Chop up fresh thyme and rosemary, about a small handful total and add them to the skillet.  After cooking for several minutes add a 1/4 cup/2oz of dry white wine.

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Grate about 3/4 cup of jarlsberg and put it in a medium bowl and set aside.

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Preheat the oven to 350F/175C and prep the pastry.  Technique to do the pastry is here.  For this recipe I used 1/2 cup/70g of flour, a pinch of salt, and just under a 1/4 cup of butter.  When the butter is fully incorporated into the flour gradually add cold water a bit at a time until the dough comes together.  Roll out thinly.

Add the mushroom mixture to the cheese and mix well.  Add a dollop to the pastry.

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Pinch the dough closed and slice three vents into the top.  Brush with a beaten egg.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and flaky.

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These are great for a cheese and wine night or if you have a potluck to go to.

 

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Making Whoopie…Carrot Cake Pies That Is

The amount of chocolate our kids still have from Christmas is going to keep them going for quite awhile.  They would disagree completely with me, of course.  As scrooge like as I was being in the chocolate department I didn’t want to forego any treats.  I’m not that mean!

So what do bunnies really like?  Carrots!

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I did a search on Pinterest for fun easter desserts.  The plethora of Peeps desserts was a bit scary.  Aside from the fact none of us like Peeps, my kids aren’t little so something less sugar high inducing would do the trick.  I found this Mini Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies recipe and I thought it would be fun to make.  Not to mention easy!  And as we’re still plugging away at our renovation of the bathroom project, well, easy is key.

I will say the overall time to make this of 18 minutes is seriously over optimistic.  Give yourself an hour.  There is only so fast I can go!

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C

Begin with finely grating 180g of carrot.  This will give you 1 1/2 to 2 cups of shredded carrot.

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In a mixer add 113g/1 stick of butter (room temperature) along with 100g/1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar and 100g/1/2 cup of white sugar.

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Cream all this together for several minutes until creamy and blended well.  While this is mixing mix the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  Add 250g/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

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Gradually add the dry ingredients to the mixer.  Once all the ingredients are mixed well add the grated carrot.

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Using a piping bag and a large nozzle pipe out the batter into circles about an inch/2.5cm onto parchment paper.  This is very sticky and they come out like wizard hats.  Don’t worry about that, it will smooth out in the oven.  Just tap down the real pointy peaks.

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Bake 6-8 minutes until set and golden.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.

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While these are baking prepare the cream cheese frosting.  I chose to use neufchatel cheese which has a 1/3 less fat.  I know, a funny time to start worrying about calories but what can you do?

In a large bowl add 8oz/226g of the cheese and 56g/1/2 stick of butter (both at room temperature).

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Using a hand mixer cream the two ingredients together for a few minutes.

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Add 187g/1 1/2 cups of confectioner’s (powdered) sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract.  Mix well until the frosting is smooth and light.

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Pair up the mini cakes so both sides are relatively equal in size.  Spread the frosting on one side and add the other to make a sandwich.

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Keep the ones you don’t eat right away in the fridge.  Not going to lie, these were really good.  With the carrot how unhealthy can these be?  Ahem.  😉

Do’s Cake and Family Traditions

Does tradition make things taste better?  Not sure with this cake as it’s so delicious but it is very much tied into childhood memories.  It was a cake my mum would make for birthday parties and special occasions and it wouldn’t last long at all.  It’s really the family cake.

My mum got the recipe from our Aunt Do, who is married to our Uncle Bob.  They’ve been married for over 65 years and they are literally the sweetest people you would ever meet.  Do got the recipe decades ago, from a neighbour she thinks.  A recipe from the mists of time!  My sister did say she saw something similar in an old Fanny Farmer book called Mix in the Pan cake.  Could be a variation on that.

This is a very easy cake to make and the cake itself is vegan and the icing could be made vegan without too much trouble.

Preheat the oven at 350F/175C.

In a large mixing bowl sift together 3 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cups baking cocoa, 2tsp baking soda and 1 tsp of salt.  Flatten the mixture and put 3 large holes in it.

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In one hole pour 2 tsp of vanilla, in another put another 2 tsp vanilla, then spread between the three holes a cup of vegetable oil.  The oil might not fit into the three holes and it will spread out, that’s ok.  With a spoon or spatula mix it all together.

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Next add 2 cups of cold water gradually while mixing until smooth.

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In a lightly greased 13″ x 9″ pan, pour the cake batter into the pan and bake for about 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

While the cake is baking make the frosting.  In a small saucepan add 2 1/2  tablespoons flour and 1/2 cup milk.  Cook on medium low heat until the flour and milk thickens.  Whisk continually while it cooks.

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Let it cool.  In a medium bowl add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, 1/2 cup of butter and 1 tsp of vanilla.  Add the cooled flour milk mixture.  If you want this vegan use vegetable shortening and a milk alternative like almond milk.

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Using an electric hand mixer, beat on med high until it is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

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Add any food colouring and beat for another minute or so.  Spread on the cake.

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I tried, quickly, to do a shamrock as a design.  If you squint you might be able to see it!

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This is so good that it will definitely continue as a family tradition.  I probably should ask Aunt Do if she has any other recipes to pass down!  😉

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes with Chambord White Chocolate Ganache

Winter is back though fortunately not with the vengeance that was predicted.  At least in our area.  It was predicted we’d get 8-14in/20-35cm.  While it is still snowing we’ll only get a third of that.  Which is fine by us!

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This was our view yesterday and I felt it was a good time to bake.  The kids had early release from school in anticipation of the impending storm.  Turns out the storm took it’s time to start and they could have gotten a whole day in.

Our daughter had won a kit for a strawberry chocolate cupcake mix which she made for a class in school.  This sparked an idea for me to use real strawberries and to really make it posh I thought I’d make chambord white chocolate ganache.

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I made the cupcakes using this chocolate cake recipe.

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While the cupcakes were baking I made up the ganache.  I adjusted the white chocolate ganache I made previously as I didn’t need a lot.  I used 1/2 cup/4oz of cream, 1 tablespoon/1/2oz of butter and 4oz of white chocolate.  When the cream and butter were heating up I added 3 tablespoons of chambord for flavour.

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For the chocolate frosting I found an Allrecipes recipe.  I had to alter it a bit as I didn’t have enough baking cocoa.  So I cut the confectioner’s sugar to 2 1/2 cups rather than 2 3/4 cups as I had to use hot cocoa for the baking cocoa.  The sugar high from these cupcakes was quite something!

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Once all the ingredients are made it’s time to assemble. Cut a pyramid out of the cupcakes and insert the strawberry upside down and liberally drizzle the ganache over and around the strawberry.

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Cut the tip off the pyramid and put the top back on the cupcake and frost the top of the cupcake.

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The cupcake absorbs the ganache and makes it incredibly moist and flavourful.  The strawberry is the only healthy bit of this sweet!

Sunny Orange, Honey and Saffron to Bring in the New Year

It always amazes me how much work goes into the holidays only for it to go by faster than a blink of an eye.  It seemed this year it went by even faster.  But we had a lovely time with the kids and enjoyed a week of just hanging out with them.  I look forward to the week between Christmas and New Year’s as it’s just family time.  No where to be, perfect.

Of course, now that the holidays are over we faced with bitter, bitter cold.  So what better time to bake?  Helps keep the kitchen toasty warm.  Anything to help keep the heating costs down!  One of the gifts my husband bought me was a baking book called Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh.  He had heard an interview on the radio with Yotam Ottolenghi and found him very interesting.  Particularly the flavour combinations he likes to work with.  There are several recipes I want to try.  A while back I bought a madeleine pan so the recipe I chose to try first is his saffron, orange and honey madeleines.

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This isn’t a hard recipe but it does take a little time.  It’s also not completely traditional which allows the cookie to last more than a day because let’s face it, my hips won’t appreciate me trying to eat them all before they get stale.  My taste buds will but they aren’t the ones wearing the clothes.

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In a small saucepan melt 90g of butter (6 tbsp + 1 tsp) of unsalted butter, 2 tsp of honey and 1/4 tsp of saffron threads.  The book says the saffron is optional, say what?  I’m not leaving that out!  Keep the heat low while you are doing this.  Once melted remove from the heat and bring to room temperature.

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While the butter is melting prep the next ingredients in a food processor.  Add 2 large eggs, 75g (1/3 cup + 1tsp) granulated sugar, scraped seeds of about a 1/4 of a vanilla pod and the zest of a small orange. I used a clementine for this. Pulse until it is well blended.  Sift together  90g ( 1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tsp) of flour, 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/8 tsp of salt.  Add this to the food processor and pulse again until blended.  Next add the butter mixture and blend.  Scrape into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 400F/200C and prep the baking pan by brushing the molds with melted butter and dust with flour.  I only have one pan so the book recommends washing, drying and reprepping between batches.

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Spoon batter in to fill about 2/3s of the mold.  This was actually harder than it sounds as the flour sticks to the bottom which makes it slippery and hard to position.  Bake 9-10 minutes until golden and sponge like.

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While they are baking chop up the pistachio nuts.  You only need a couple of tablespoons of the nuts.  Melt 3 tablespoons of honey in the microwave.  Keep an eye on this as it won’t take long to melt.

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Brush the madeleine with honey and dip it in the nuts.  This was a classic case of chasing the natural light and losing. I was hoping to get it done before it got too dark.  I didn’t win the race!  But the days are getting longer so it won’t be long.  🙂

I love how these came out, the flavours were nice and bright.  Perfect for a winter’s day.

Perfect Bread for Mini Sliders

We’ve all had days where we get to the end of it and wonder if the moon was out of alignment.  Yesterday was like that for me.  Lots of wacky stuff seemed to happen and it was highlighted by two encounters with two gentlemen around 80 years old.  Maybe highlighted is too positive a word.

It started just before work when I was dashing across the street to get breakfast and the first guy stopped his little transit van, rolled down the window, and yelled out that I was a beautiful lady.  Since he didn’t say I was a broad or chick or something I smiled and said thank you.  As I was waiting for the bagel I started texting my husband about it.  Then I looked up.  There was the guy, arms wide, beaming at me.  He calls across the store how beautiful I am.  Things are starting to get awkward.  But I figured be nice because maybe he’s not all there.  I smiled again and said thank you.  He took my hand and started kissing it.  Oh boy.  I wished him a nice day and headed out.  But he followed me.  Kept saying over and over I’m beautiful then he started saying he loves me.  Hell of a way to kill a compliment.  As I pulled out in my car I looked across the street and he was still there waving!  He literally parked his car and followed me into the store.

A few hours later I was up front at work and another guy comes in wanting to have a walk in appointment.  He looked at the photos on the wall. Now admittedly I have a photo up there that was done by a professional that is several years old.  It still looks like me though.  He declares he wants to sit with Virginia Payne.  Keep in mind I have a name tag on plus that is a picture of me.  I said that is me and unfortunately I don’t have time for a walk in.  He said that’s not you.  Yes it is.  Not it’s not, it doesn’t look anything like you.  Well thanks, I said.  Then he doubles down and said the photo looks better you should keep it.  What on earth?

And that was my day in a nutshell.

A few weeks ago we were having a potluck with friends and I made mini sliders with my pulled pork recipe.  My sister gave my husband a book for Christmas called “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”  I found this really intriguing.  How can you have decent bread?  The five minutes is a bit of a misnomer but not far off.  The cool thing about this book is that there are a lot of recipes that take minimal effort for decent results.  And if you are wary of trying to bake bread, this would be a good place to start.

I chose the master recipe for the boule.  In a clear container that has a lid add 680 grams of lukewarm water and 10 grams of yeast.

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Add 20 grams of kosher salt.  Then add 910 grams of all purpose flour.

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Mix the ingredients until the flour is completely incorporated.

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No kneading required!  Goes completely against everything I believe with bread making.  But I was trusting the recipe.  Cover loosely with the lid or with cling film.  Set it on the counter for a few hours to rise.  It needs to rise then begin to collapse.

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Pop it into the fridge at least 3 hours though you can have in the fridge overnight.  Preheat the oven to 450F/230C.  Shape the bread into balls about 2in/5cm in diameter.  The trick here is not to overwork the dough.  This takes 20 to 40 seconds. Snip a cross into the top and let rest 30-45 minutes.

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Because these are small rolls they only need to be baked 15-20 minutes.  When you put them into the oven add about a cup of ice to a cast iron container that is below the baking sheet.  This will add the steam necessary for a nice crust.

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Slice in half, add the pulled pork with shredded cheese and red onion that has been marinated in apple cider vinegar.  These are a little messy so not for dressy parties but for casual get togethers these are perfect.

 

Eggnog Cookies

I have an obsession.  I think my husband might stage an intervention.  I get started and I can’t stop, just go down the rabbit hole.  What makes me lose track of time so quickly?  Genealogy.  It’s a time sucking, fascinating hobby.  I love the history and the detective work but it’s also been wonderful finding relatives.  Not the distant relatives, though that is fun as well, but actual second cousins.  Which is just fabulous.  I connected with three in the UK and one in Australia.  I love it.  🙂

I didn’t get as much baking over the holidays as I would have liked but my daughter was mentioning she had eggnog cupcakes and I thought ooh, I want to make cookies with eggnog.  I searched round on the internet for some ideas.  I found a recipe on allrecipes that I could change up a bit and that was easy to whip up.

I used the hand mixer for this as you don’t want to over mix the ingredients.  In a medium bowl add 3/4 cup/12oz of butter softened, a cup/8oz of white sugar, and 1/4 cup/2oz of brown sugar.

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Cream the ingredients together until it is light and fluffy.  Add 2 egg yolks, 1/2 cup/4oz of eggnog, and a teaspoon of spiced rum.  Mix at medium speed until well blended.

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In a separate bowl blend together 2 1/4 cups/18oz of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 1/2 a teaspoon of cinnamon.  Gradually add it to the mixing bowl.  Don’t over mix the cookie dough, just mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated in.

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Spoon the dough onto a cookie sheet that has not been greased.  About a teaspoon size.  Bake at 300F/150C until golden brown.  20-25 minutes depending on your oven.  While this is baking mix equal parts spiced rum and milk then add powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want for the glaze.

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When the cookies come out of the oven, drizzle the cookies with the glaze.  Then all you have to do is enjoy!

 

Shortbread for Not so Short

My son has taken to calling me shorty.  Sigh, problem is that he isn’t wrong.  But he thinks it is hilarious that he keeps growing like a weed and he is pretty much out pacing me in any high heels I may have.  This ship has sailed.

Even though we are in the throes of a hot summer I wanted to bake for the kids so they’d have a treat after they came back from camp.  In keeping with the shorty theme and trying not to overheat the kitchen I decided to make shortbread.  I had made this before but my camera setup wasn’t working, turns out I needed to change the batteries on the remote.  That was easy to fix but I may be facing bigger issues with the camera.  Fingers crossed I’m not but it’s been acting very strange.  I love the camera so I want it to behave!

Years ago my parents gave me a cookery book called “Cape Breton Pictorial Cookbook” and it was edited by Yvonne LeVert.  It is a collection of recipes from the area and the influences from immigrants.

I used my hand mixer for this to cream the butter and sugarShortbread 1 2016

In a medium mixing bowl cream together a cup of softened butter and a 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

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This will take a few minutes.  Add a teaspoon of vanilla and gradually add two cups of flour, mixing a bit in at a time.  Tip out onto a floured surface.

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Knead to form a ball.  Now the recipe said to roll out.  Which seemed weird but hey I tried it.  Wrong!  You definitely need to chill for at least a half an hour.

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Preheat the oven to 300F/150C.  On a well floured surface roll out the dough with a well floured rolling pin.  Roll it out to about an 1/8″ of an inch.  Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes you want and prick the tops with a fork.  Bake 15-20 minutes until they are golden brown.

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Let cool and enjoy.  We’ve been enjoying it with the rhubarb ginger jam I made recently.  The tart and sweet go really well together.

Marshmallow Fondant and Exterminate!

We just had a very busy few days with celebrating Father’s Day and my son’s birthday.  We did a small family gathering on Saturday and our friends have a tradition of hosting a BBQ at a local lake.  It was perfect before the kids are off on their summer adventures of camp and making the rounds with the grandparents.

My husband and I also got bikes!  Turns out the kids were thrilled as they love the bike paths round here so we’ll have plenty of fun with this family activity.  Though could someone please, please invent a more comfortable bike seat?  Yikes.  We’re lucky that there are many places to bike round town.  This town used to be a hub for the railways, even building the steam locos here.  When the rails were pulled up the lines became trails for bikes and walking.  Miles of them!

As some of you know we are fans of Dr Who and I wanted to do a Dalek cake for my son.  The thing is store bought fondant is, to put it mildly, awful tasting.  Not something you can really truthfully call edible.  While watching the Great British Bakeoff awhile ago we saw one of the contestants make a marshmallow fondant.  Of course the recipe wasn’t disclosed, probably something about editing and not enough time!  Excuses, excuses.

Thank goodness for the intertubes.  There are a few versions on how to make the marshmallow fondant.  I decided to go with the Wilton version as it was pretty simple.  When you have loads going on, simple is best!  Wilton is a cake decorating brand stateside.

The fondant needs to be started the day before.

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In a large microwavable bowl add 16oz of good quality marshmallows and a couple of tablespoons of water.  Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until the marshmallow has melted.

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As you can imagine this was an extremely sticky enterprise.  Better than superglue!  Add 1 1/2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar.  You will need an additional half pound of the sugar set aside for the kneading.

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Now if you know what you are going to do and know you just need one colour, add your colourant at this step.  It will be much easier to incorporate.  However, I was still figuring out how I was going to decorate this cake.  Start incorporating the sugar into the melted marshmallow.  If you want any flavouring this is the step you add it.  I added a teaspoon or so of vanilla. Once the sugar is incorporated tip the mixture out on a greased counter.  And when I say greased, I mean greased.  I used vegetable shortening.  Not only do you need to grease the counter you need to grease your hands as well.  Sounds messy but trust me, it is much needed.

Knead like you would knead bread adding in the extra half pound of the sugar a bit at a time.  You may not need all of the sugar.  I had about an eighth of a cup left after the fondant came together in a smooth ball.

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Store in an airtight container or bag and place in the fridge overnight.  In the morning let it come to room temperature.  Add the colourant and then knead until the colour is uniform throughout.  Be patient as this can take awhile and be careful of your wrists as it is a bit of a workout.

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I layered the cake and shaped it.  Then coated it with buttercream.

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Roll out the fondant until about 1/8″/.3cm thick.  Drap the fondant over the cake.  The mistake I made here was not to keep the fondant cool enough.  So it began to rip as I was doing this.  And because it came into contact with the buttercream I couldn’t roll it up again and chill it.  So the Dalek looked a bit injured.

For the grey parts I used rice crispy treats and gum paste.  I also found edible adhesive.  That was a cool find I must say.

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The cool thing about this is I managed to keep this a surprise from my son.  So when I brought it out after the lunch he was very surprised.  That was the best.  And it is wonderful, despite him growing so fast, he still loves stuff like this.

Bringing Out the Big Buns

I think if you are a parent you will find yourself at some point say something that your young child will think is the funniest thing and from that time forward it becomes an in joke.

Several years ago we were having a family game afternoon, I think it was Monopoly, and I was ready to make a big move.  I meant to say “I’m bringing out the big guns!”  Instead I said “I’m bringing out the big buns!”  Oh boy.  The kids just lost it laughing.

This past weekend I managed to do it for real with brioche.  I was going for small but ended up with the opposite.  I was planning on making cheeseburgers so I wanted to make the buns.  I found a brioche recipe by Paul Hollywood.  Most of the recipes follow pretty much the same ingredient list.  I chose to follow his because he used weights for the ingredients.  This is a two day affair.

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In a large mixer bowl add 500g of bread flour, 7g of salt, 50g of sugar, and 10g of yeast.  Keep the yeast separate from the salt until you start mixing.

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Add 5 medium eggs and 140ml of whole milk that has been warmed.  You don’t want the milk to be hot, just warm to the touch.

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With a dough hook blend all the ingredients together.  Once the ingredients are combined increase the speed of the mixer to medium and “knead” for 6-8 minutes.  The dough will become shiny and elastic.

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Add 250g of softened butter.

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Mix until the butter is completely incorporated.  You will need to scrap the sides of the bowl a few times to make sure all the butter is mixed in.  This will create a very soft pliable dough.

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Place the dough into a plastic container with a lid.  Put it into the fridge overnight.  You want at least 7 hours to chill.  The next day flour a counter well and tip out the stiffened dough onto the countertop.

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Punch the dough down to remove the air.  I followed the recipe and divided the dough into 9 equal pieces.  Paul Hollywood’s recipe called for baking this in a round tin with nine balls proofing together.  I wanted separate buns so I got out a cookie sheet.  Roll out each piece into smooth balls.

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Evenly space out the balls.  Spray cling film with oil and cover the dough.  Proof the dough for 2-3 hours.   They will be about double the size.   Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

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Bake until the brioche is golden brown and cooked through.  You will need to check with a skewer to make sure the brioche is done.  It takes about 20-30 minutes.

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It was at this point I realised I probably should have made 18 balls of dough.  Here were the big buns.  Keep in mind I only had a pound of ground beef which means quarter pounders with buns that could take a lot more.  Harkens back to the “Where’s the Beef” adverts.

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You want an even crumb that is soft and bounces back when pressed with your finger.  If it stays indented it wasn’t baked completely.

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I made up our gourmet burgers and kept it simple with a side of chips.  This bread isn’t difficult to make and the flavour is really good.  If you can find the time I highly recommend giving this a go.