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Monday, 29 October 2012

Nanaimo Bars

Still enjoying The Boy Who Bakes, and loving that the recipes are easy to make.

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I've often thought about making Nanaimo bars, but never really got around to it. The recipe originally came from a Canadian housewife who submitted it to an annual Women's Institute fundraising cookbook back in the early 1950's, and recently, Nanaimo bars were voted 'Canada's Favourite Confection'. There are a few different recipes out there, but this one has no baking involved, and the recipe makes a large amount if you cut the bars into small squares - they are very rich and rather sickly sweet, so smaller is better here (you can always have another one!)

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Nanaimo Bars
Adapted from the Boy who Bakes
Notes: I left out the desiccated coconut because we don't really like it, and I substituted pecan nuts for the walnuts, and roasted them for more flavour.

Bottom layer
300g digestive biscuits
170g melted butter
75g caster sugar
45g cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g desiccated coconut, I left this out
75g pecans, coarsely chopped & roasted

Middle layer
85g butter, softened
345g icing sugar
3 tablespoons custard powder
100ml double cream

Top layer
225g good dark chocolate, finely chopped
200ml double cream
40g butter

Line the base and sides of a 23 x 33cm baking pan with baking parchment.

For the bottom layer:
Pulse the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs (or crush them finely in a plastic bag, using a rolling pin).
Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan, remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder. Gradually beat in the eggs and put the pan back onto the heat. Cook for about 1 minute, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, coconut (if using), biscuit crumbs and the chopped roasted pecans.
Press this mixture into the prepared pan, pressing it down evenly and firmly, you can use the back of a spoon to do this. Chill for about an hour.

For the middle layer:
Beat the butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until smooth.
Add the custard powder and double cream, and beat slowly until the mixture is combined. Turn the mixer to a higher speed and beat until light and fluffy.
Spread over the chilled base in an even layer. Chill for another 30 minutes.

For the top layer:
Put the chocolate, cream and butter into a large microwavable bowl and heat for 30 seconds on high. Stir gently until the chocolate and butter has melted into the cream, making a smooth ganache. You may need to give the mixture an additional 15-30 seconds in the microwave. (This is my way to make ganache, Edd Kimber recommends that you heat the cream in a pan and pour it over the chocolate, before adding the butter.)
Pour the ganache over the custard layer evenly and chill to set.

To serve, cut into small squares using a sharp knife.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Cake & Bake Show

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Kids' kitchen

Last month I went to the very first Cake & Bake Show which was held at Earls Court, London.

The show was a cake decorator's dream, with many of the stands demonstrating icing techniques and beautiful little fondant flowers/figures etc that you could make or buy for your cakes. There were fewer stands for the baker, I would have liked to have seen even more baking products and tins, especially for the bread and pastry makers amongst us.

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Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bake Off

There were demonstrations from the stars of The Great British Bake Off (currently on BBC2), Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, plus appearances from the current contestants. Other big names at the Cake & Bake Show included Richard Bertinet, Eric Lanlard, Paul A Young and Claire Clarke.

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Baker Brother, Tom Herbert, and French pâtissier, Eric Lanlard

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Paul A Young giving a chocolate tempering demonstration

Although it was good to see that all the tickets had been sold, it was so crammed with visitors that it was hard to get close to some of the exhibitors' stands. The queues for the loos and food were even longer...  I only managed to do a couple of hours there, not really being one to fight my way around an exhibition hall. One of the other things that I noted was that some people had paid extra for 'master' classes, only to discover that this really only meant that they were entitled to sit down and watch an open demonstration, which anyone could watch by standing just outside the roped off area.

Here are a few photos of some of the wedding cakes and other cakes that I saw:

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Cupcake cases, macaron mats, silicone piping bags and decorating paraphernalia:

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Something else I found a little odd, was the 'edible beach' cake competition. Nothing wrong with the competition, all of the cake entries were on show and they were absolutely beautiful, extremely creative and the contestants must have spent hours/days/weeks on them. But WHO won? There were 3 categories, professional cake makers, non-professional cake makers and one for juniors. It was the perfect opportunity for the organisers to promote the next show with the winning cakes on their website and to announce it on Twitter with photos. Instead, just a little link on Twitter to their Facebook page, showing all the photos and if you click on the first 3 cakes, you can see that they are the winners and in which category.

With a few changes, this could be a great show. I hope the organisers are taking notes of all the feedback for next year.
The next Cake and Bake Show will be in Manchester, from the 5th-7th April, 2013. 

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Some of the edible beach cake entries:

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This cake, by Vicky Bedford, was the non-professional winner

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I bought a fabulous loaf of bread from Flour Power City, an organic bakery

I went to the show as a guest of Renshaw, all views expressed above are my own.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Have You Eaten? - Book Review

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Salted Caramel from page 246, easy to make and very versatile

If you have ever watched MasterChef Australia, you might recognise the author of an exciting new book called Have You Eaten?, which I was kindly sent to review.
I was already familiar with Billy Law (a Malaysian who is based in Australia) after following his food blog A Table For Two, where he combines his Malaysian heritage for traditional recipes with modern ideas to create amazing fusion food.

This cookbook is a little bit different from your usual run-of-the-mill cookbook. Billy did most of the food styling and photography himself, creating a quirky, beautiful book - with virtually every recipe in glorious full page colour. I really liked the layout, with some pages having white text on vibrant coloured backgrounds and other pages with black text.  There are a couple of spreads showing the different, more unusual, ingredients that Billy uses in his kitchen. Some of the ingredients are a little hard to get hold of if you live in the countryside, alternatives can be used but I think it's worth making the trip to an Asian supermarket for them.

The book is divided into seven chapters, including 'Snack Attack' - little bites and finger foods, 'Over the Top' - challenging and more complex recipes, and 'Sugar Hit' - my favourite chapter, which includes home baked sweet treats and beautifully presented desserts.

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Inside the book, one of the recipes I want to try

Some of the recipes I have bookmarked to try include 'Yee Sang', a salad that consists of different shredded vegetables and slices of raw fish, mixed with sauces and condiments, 'Nyonya Devil Curry', a spicy hot curry that that you will regret you ate come the following morning (!!!) and a 'No-Bake Key Lime Tart'. For the really adventurous, there's the 'Vegemite Cheesecake' recipe or the 'Avocado Ice Cream'.

One of the recipes I tried was the 'Popcorn & Salted Caramel Macarons', which was slightly different to my usual Italian macaron method, but gave me lovely cute macarons with a gorgeous salted caramel buttercream filling. I'm not quite sure if I would bother with the popcorn on the top of them again, blitzed popcorn is a bit like the static residue from those polystyrene packaging pellets.... but the filling.... OMG the filling!

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Popcorn & salted caramel macarons

Salted Caramel Buttercream
Adapted from Have You Eaten Yet? by Billy Law.

100g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar
4 tablespoons of salted caramel

Beat the butter with an electric whisk until the butter is pale and creamy.
Add the icing sugar a little at a time, beating until it's all incorporated.
Add the salted caramel and beat until well mixed in. 
Fill a piping bag with the buttercream and pipe onto your macaron shells.

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This book can be bought from Hardie Grant Books, Amazon and all good book shops.

Have You Eaten? By Billy Law
£25.00/ Hardback, 288 pages
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books
October 2012
ISBN: 978-174270381-7

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the cookbook from Hardie Grant, but all views expressed above are my own.

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This content belongs to Nic at Cherrapeno. All writing and photography copyright N Fowers © 2007-2012 unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.