Sunday, 26 February 2012

So Much News - A New Home & A New Blog!

So I have been absent from here for a couple of weeks. But I have a good excuse. I've been cleaning out, packing and decorating. All on the internet. My big news is that I've started up a new website and name for my blog. It's something I've wanted to do for a while but have only just got around to it. You may remember here where I said I had tried blogging a few times and had always stopped for one reason or another (mostly fear, I guess!) But when I first started I used the name Bake for the Border. In the meantime I started this blog with a new name as I wanted to keep my 'dipping-a-toe-into-blogging-and-not-very-good-blog' in a secret corner of the internet where I couldn't be connected to it. I have always thought about going back to my first blog name. So here we are...

I hope you will stop by and visit my new home. I promise tea and cake for everyone. Lovely fat free cake too. Please drop by and say hello.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Swan Choux Buns For My Valentine

I was going out with my now husband about six months when we were about to celebrate our first Valentine's Day. I was harbouring a deep dark secret that had haunted me for many years. I was seeking help every Tuesday for weeks previous in secret to address my problem, but I didn't want him to know. And now I faced a dilema. Valentines fell on a Tuesday. I could either confess to my secret or I could make an excuse and tell him I couldn't rendezvous with him as I had a previous engagement and risk letting him thinking I was off with another man. So I broke down and told him. I couldn't swim. I was taking swimming lessons. I didn't tell him I had to wear arm bands and would end up pleading with my instructor to let me off going into the deep end because I didn't want to be fished out with a long pole with a hook on it again. It was too humiliating. He took the news well and didn't even laugh. I suppose it made me like him even more. 

Now seven years later, I can swim and we normally take it in turns to cook each other a three course dinner to celebrate the big V day and I'm in luck this year as it's Chub's turn to cook! I still wanted to make something to mark the occasion though and I also wanted to enter something into English Mum's 'Baked With Love' competition. What could be more rosemantic then love swans. I love when we go holidays and we get love swans made from towels at the end of the bed. We once got a towel mermaid but I didn't like her as much. It wasn't as romantic. 

So what else could I make for Valentines Day but love swan choux pastry. I hadn't made these before and struggled a little finding finding exact cooking times so I had to keep oven the oven and checking them with made them a little deflated. BUT I have put down better times for you below so you will have more puffy, fluffy and voluptuous swans than mine. 

The recipe for choux pastry comes from Leiths Techniques Bible. This book is awesome. It has great step by step instructions to master everything you need to know in the kitchen. It also covers what went wrongs and has lots of great recipes. 

Choux Pastry Ingredients - this amount of pastry will make about 10 swans. 
85g butter, cut into small cubes
220ml water - weigh it to make sure it is accurate, it will equate to 220g
105g plain flour
a pinch of salt
3 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or 180 degrees if fan assisted. 
Sift the flour and salt at least three times onto a piece of greaseproof paper. To make this easier, fold the rectangle of greaseproof paper in half and open out, this gives a sharp edge for pouring the flour. 
Add the butter and water to a medium sized saucepan and put on a medium heat until the butter has melted. 
Bring the butter and water mixture to a fast boil and shoot in the flour mixture. 
Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the liquid to form a firm, smooth paste. Beat the mixture until it comes away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball. 
Tip the ball of paste onto a tray and smooth it into thin layer. Leave to cool until it feels just warm to the touch. 
Return the paste to the pan or put in a freestanding mixer and add the beaten eggs a tablespoon at a time. Beating well after each addition. 
Continue until the mixture is of a reluctant dropping consistency, hold its shape and has a slight sheen.  

You are now ready for piping out the swans. This video will be really useful to watch, but I will go through the process below. 

Do the swan necks first, put the mixture into a piping bag and pipe out about 10 necks, making a number 2 shape. Bake in the preheated oven for about 17-20 minutes, remove from the oven, turn them over and pierce them with a sharp knife. Return them to the oven for 3 minutes. Remove and leave on cooling rack. 

Now do the bodies, you are aiming for a large almond shape. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, remove from the oven, turn them over and pierce them with a sharp knife. Return them to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and leave on cooling rack. When cool, cut the body in half along it's length and the cut the top in half to make the wings. 

Assemble with whipped cream, creme patisserie or ice-cream. Serve with chocolate sauce. 

Eat off with your Valentine. Enjoy!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Liebster Blog Award

I'm not a team sports person or indeed a sports person at all. Which kind of makes it hard for me to win things! I have only won two medals in my whole life. One for basketball when I was in sixth class in primary school, I was really tall back then compared to others and it was easy for me to make the shots. I'm also proud that my short Irish dancing career produced a medal too. My two medals are safely stored away in a secure place in the house so no prospective burglars can bring them to one of those cash my gold stores, so I'm only going to show you photographic proof of my winnings.

Now don't mind my little sister there with her medal, I doubt she even remembers winning this one. She brings the gold home ALL the time. Here's the one she won the other day.

But who needs sports awards when you are very fortunate to be awarded a blog award? I wanted to start a blog for so long, I would start and was always so conscious of my efforts that I stopped. Then I would start again. And then stop. I don't know what's changed now but I love the whole process. The picking of a recipe, the baking, the photographing, the eating, the writing, the feedback. It's so rewarding! It's taking me out of my comfort zone all of the time and that's a really good thing.

Thank you to Claire from Rolling Pin Tales for thinking my blog is worthy of the Liebster Blog Award, which is all about promoting blogs with less than 200 followers. Claire loves baking so much, that even after just having her third baby she was baking for her husband's workplace the week after! I know this because my husband kindly smuggled me home one of her cupcakes!

Here are the rules,
Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog & link back to their site.
Copy and paste the blog award on your page.
Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserve to be noticed.
Let them know you've chosen them by leaving a comment on their blog.

Similar to a chain mail. Just be glad you're not in primary school anymore when chain mails were written out by hand!

Here are my 5 award winners
What the Fruitcake?! - I only came across this blog a couple of weeks ago, now I'm in danger of starting a fan club for Mandy's blog. Great ideas and beautiful photography!
Paula's Sweet Treats - And soon to be under a new name so drop by to enter her competition! Paula is also worth a follow on Twitter, she has made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions.
Cooking in Mammy's Kitchen - Lovely blog with even lovelier photographs.
Like Mam Used to Bake - Nostalgic and from the heart writing from Rosanne. This post in particular struck a chord with me, as I would sell my soul to have my Mam back with me.
A Mexican Cook in Ireland - Lily taught herself how to cook the foods she loved most from home when she moved to Ireland. Check out her blog for lots of authentic Mexican grub.

(I know I'm only supposed to have 5 awards - but if I had another I would give it to Magda's Cauldron. But Colette pipped me to the post and gave her an award of her own.)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recently I was sent an email, one of those forwards that has the obligatory 'send to ten people, or your arm will fall off tomorrow' kind of statement. For once, I actually took something from it. 'If you put your troubles into a pot with those of a thousand others, yours will not be the biggest' or something along those lines. Reallly, what I think it meant was to forget about the small things, they aren't worth it, focus on the positive side of life, your health, the health of your family and friends. Surely, all things pale into comparison when you are fortunate to have that. But what if you don't?

I told you before about my friend's little girl who developed a heart problem when she was a little over a year old and how well she was looked after in Crumlin Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital, in my 'Great Irish Bake' post. While many people are fortunate to go through life and not need the services provided in the hospitals around the country and not even be aware of the good work they do. Others are. They have a loved one attending or they orgnaise to fundraise, they shake collection boxes, they throw money into the collection boxes, they give their time, they bake, they write recipes, they put a cook book together. But really they just help in whatever way they can, even if it doesn't always bring good karma their way! (I got a speeding fine on my way home from the 'Great Irish Bake', for going 5km over the speed limit. Now I am more likely to cause an accident as I keep staring at the speedometer!)

A call went out on Twitter from @MexicancookEire for volunteers to review a cookbook put together by staff at Certus, who had nominated Heart Children Ireland as their charity of the year. The staff of Certus collected their favourite recipes, photographed them and had them bound to make 'A Taste of Certus' cookbook. The book would make a lovely addition to your recipe book collection. Many of the recipes have been handed down through families, picked up on holidays or found in a book and cooked and tweaked so often the recipe becomes their own. I made the banana chocolate chip muffins for this post but I have a few more recipes picked out that I want to try. The coddle, for sure, I want to see what it tastes like as an adult as we were only fed it as children. Lots of happy memories!

'A Taste of Certus' is available for €10 (all of which goes to charity!) and can be ordered by contacting Heart Children Ireland at or by phoning 1850 217 017. Heart Children Ireland will place the order with Certus and they will ship the book.

Just a little background, taken from the Heart Children Ireland website - 'Heart Children Ireland was founded in 1990 by a group of parents who met in Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin whose children were being treated for congenital heart defects. They realised there was a need for a support group and with the help of staff including they set about organising one. Their aim is to provide practical support for their members including setting up local groups, buying medical equipment, financial assistance, funding specialist posts and special events for the children and their families. Heart Children Ireland now has over 1,000 member families and has raised well in excess of two million euros for the cardiac unit at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.'

PS look out for other recipes from this book on these sites, A Mexican Cook in IrelandWholesome CookA Year in Redwood and Smorgasblog.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins - Sarah Lysaght, 'A Taste of Certus' Heart Children Ireland

I had two boxes of chocolates left over from Christmas, so I picked out the plain chocolate ones and hazelnut chocolates and chopped them up to substitute for the chocolate chips in this recipe. So if you still have some Christmas sweets hanging around, you could do the same!
I also added some jumbo oat flakes to the top of some muffins for decoration. 

1 1/2 cups of plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees or 155 degrees fan assisted.
Place paper cases into the muffin tray.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the chocolate chips and mix. Set aside. 
Combine the bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter in a large bowl. 
Fold in the flour mixture and mix until smooth. 
Using an ice-cream scoop or a spoon, scoop the mixture into the pre-lined muffin tin. 
Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the muffin comes out clean. 
Cool on a baking rack.