Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Cake Break

There will be no cakes for a while as I'm bent on losing as much weight as possible in the next two months in preparation for a wedding I'm attending. I've promised to take cakes for the hen-do though, so that will be the next update probably.

Good god, healthy eating is such a load of boring arse.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Pie and Cake

Food is comforting in the Tarts household and as we're dealing with post-holiday -oh dear god we're back in Britain-misery, I decided to cheer us up with a round of pie and brownies yesterday evening. Bacon, mushroom and cheese pie with lovely buttery shortcrust pastry. I've now taken to always using the Nigella Lawson pastry recipe from Feast. 450g plain flour, 225g butter (rubbing in the butter to this massive amount of flour would take ages so I just bung it in my food processor) and 3 eggs. Makes enough pastry to make 2 pies so I wrap one half up and store it in the freezer. Much cheaper and nicer than the ready made stuff and less hassle than walking to the shops to buy the damn stuff anyway. As for quantities for the filling, I just go by eye really. I always seem to make just the right amount. It's become quite a talent in a way.

Here be pie. No particular reason for the dinosaur decoration other than it makes us smile:

And for pudding: brownies and ice cream. I decided to use the blocks of Willie's Supreme 100% Cacao I bought from Waitrose a while ago. They are interestingly packaged, very tactile and aesthetically pleasing and reassuringly heavy. I tasted a little bit that broke off and can only equate it with eating a teaspoon of coffee granules. Intensely bitter and it dries your mouth. It certainly isn't chocolate to eat 'raw'.
I tried the brownie recipe from the chocolate maker's book Willie's Chocolate Factory Cookbook. I've never found a recipe for brownies that required so many eggs, 8 in total; 6 whole and 2 yolks. There is satisfaction to be had in using so many eggs, although I'm not entirely sure why that should be.
Brownie recipe:
250g cacao, grated
300g unsalted butter
6 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
300g golden caster sugar
80g plain flour, sifted
Preheat the over to 180 degrees C (fan oven) and line/grease a brownie pan
Melt the cacao and butter in a bowl over simmering water.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar until pale.
After allowing the cacao and butter to cool slightly, pour into the eggs and sugar and mix, then fold in the flour.
Bake for 25-30 min
And then you get this:
My only complaint would be is that the brownies actually rose, rather than remaining intensely gooey. I would put this down to too many egg whites in the mix and the whisked mixture was certainly very frothy. Still delicious though.
And finally a pic of some of the goodies I brought back from Rome: Sombrero hat pasta, which I don't intend to eat but rather just display in a nice jar, Limoncello (of course), this variety is from Sorrento, and a big tin of tiny Amaretti biscuits that I'm trying to construct a cake recipe around. They are truly moreish. We also brought back packs of speciality Italian biscuits, but those have been largely scoffed. Shall have to go back to Rome to get some more.

Monday, 18 May 2009


Back from our holiday to Rome. If we didn't have our cat to return to we probably never would have left, it was that glorious. Lazy breakfasts and dinners outside the Pantheon, freedom to smoke whilst enjoying our meals, not getting asked for change by rough looking chavs, although there were many beggars in Rome, most of whom were wearing clothes and shoes in better condition than ourselves, but at least they don't insult you when you turn them down. Instead of people walking around all day with cans of Stella/Tenants/Strongbow in hand, the Romans walk around eating ice cream at seemingly all hours of the day. Fiuminco airport was relaxing in comparison to Gatwick with no barking announcements to not do this or that. Even an effort had been made to make the security bollards outside Fiuminco pretty by planting small trees in them. And this is an airport which has suffered numerous terrorist attacks and even a hijacking, and still they don't feel it necessary to order its visitors around like disobedient children. As we were flying business class we were allowed into the BA lounge which even had a smoking room, which aside from the fact that it looked like the lobby of a Travel Lodge, was wonderful. I could go on, but the short of it is that England really does suck, which I already knew, but now having experienced a taste of life on the continent it has become all the more pronounced. So vaffanculo England.

Photos of lovely Rome, just a few of the near 400 we took during the week:
In the doorway of the Pantheon:

The view from our breakfast table:

View of the Roman Forum from on top of the Palatine hill:

Remains of the temple of Saturn in the Forum:

A bad photo of one of the many ice creams I enjoyed that week:

The Italians have as many flavours of ice cream as we do flavours of crisps. This particular one was Double Melting Chocolate with Mint Choc-Chip, and like all the ice creams I had, it was incredibly good. We always went to the gelato shop which was opposite our hotel and open until 2am. There is something tantalisingly decadent about finishing a long dinner at midnight, strolling through the winding alleys of Rome, undisturbed by huge gangs of pissed retards simply because they don't seem to exist there, and getting a huge ice cream at 1am. Other flavours enjoyed by me were: Black cherry, Melting chocolate, pistachio, Baci (a type of chocolate that we don't seem to get here, or at least I've never seen it, consisting of chocolate, praline and a whole hazelnut), and Nutella. I barely even scratched the surface with regards to flavours of ice cream but we ate so well during the day that as much as I wanted to, I couldn't eat gelato as well. Yet another reason to return as soon as we can afford to.

I did intend to take many pictures of the food but often just felt too embarrassed to do such a thing in a restaurant. That and I just wanted to get stuck in. I did manage to get a photo of one of the desserts we had a restaurant somewhere between the Spanish Steps (which weren't all they're cracked up to be, in my opinion. Yes, they're nice but when you've spent the day in the Colosseum its a bit of an anti-climax) and the Trevi Fountain (which is stunning).

Again another bad pic but be reassured that this was a delicious slice of chocolate cake. It had a thin sponge based soaked in orange liquor, a light and fluffy chocolate mousse filling about an inch thick, a second top layer of chocolate sponge and finished with a glossy dark chocolate ganache, served cold. Beautiful. A lot of the cakes I saw look almost as if they had been baked in a pasta bowl. The vast majority were a very shallow dome shape which was interesting. I've no idea why this appears to be the tradition.

Anyway, returning from holiday is always a miserable process so I'm baking the favourite meals of Mr. Tarts tonight to cheer us up: bacon, mushroom and cheddar pie and chocolate brownies.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Banana Bread

Banana bread is the only cake as opposed to pastry that's acceptable breakfast food. I've been trying to cut down on the old sugar intake but a merciless sweet tooth needs to be fed occasionally, so banana bread that takes it sweetness mostly from the fruit in it seemed a reasonable compromise. Like brownies, there are as many recipes for banana bread as there are bananas in the land but I decided to try out the one from Rachel Allen's Bake! and it is probably the best recipe I've tried for it with lots of nuts, dried fruit and glace cherries. I'm feeling lazy so I won't reproduce the recipe. Have the lovely photos instead:

And I am fully aware that I've recreated 'The Scream' in cake art with the rather wonderfully positioned cherry. Either that or it looks a bit like a sex doll's face.
Anyway, me and Mr. Tarts are off to Rome for a week in 32 hours. As is obvious from the hourly countdown I'm rather excited. Photos will inevitably follow.
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