Do bear with me...

I am attempting maintenance work on this blog so it might at times (heh...) look like it is being written by someone who has a bipolar disorder. I have some fine tuning to do and things will resume back to normal soon.

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Stop Press!!!

So, I've killed my hand mixer. I knew it was on its way out anyway cos it started making some funky smells but that was about two months ago and I kind of figured that it might do what most of the appliances in the Stephens family - sort of start threatening to conk out and I then have to humour it and love it - no, hang on, I was thinking of Slaveboy then. Right, ho hum. Anyway. It did today, mid whisking meringue. It was only then did I realise how important it was to have replaced my normal balloon whisk, which, obviously I hadn't. So I had to abandon all that and basically give up.

BUT, not before I made an apple pie. I was given a whole load of cooking apples from my friend, Kak Hery when I went round her house last night. Seeing it is Ramadan, Kak Hery was fasting and she was almost chomping at the bit when Azhar, my friend and I were a teeny weeny bit running late. I would too if I had been fasting from around 5am and desperate to break my fast. Kak Hery is an Asian cuisine Goddess!!! She made a starters of laksa lemak noodles, with all the trimmings of coriander, boiled eggs, plump prawns, sliced chillies and freshly cut limes. She also made ayam masak lemak cili padi which is basically chicken cooked in a chilli and coconut milk sauce with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and ginger. There was also urap, an Asian salad dish, the recipe of which had just been translated to her on the phone by her sister in Malaysia. She also served grilled spiced mackerels which were just to delicious for words. There was some well chilled elderflower presse and also freshly made teh tarik. I really did leave thinking I ought to try harder with my home cooking.

Anyway, Kak Hery doesn't like apples. Pure and simple. She has two apple trees in her garden and she cooks none of the apples. I came home with  big bag of apples and this morning, I fancied some apple pie. Funnily, enough, I have never made apple pie. I've made all sorts of apples cakes, crumbles and muffins but not pies. I had a quick trawl on the internet and found a recipe which appealed but I altered it slightly by using my own favourite pastry dough and increased the amount of sugar as these apples were cookers and had no sweetness to them. I also increased the amount of apples used and baked it in a normal cake tin, rising the height of the pie by double.

Excuse the poor presentation. I am going on holiday on Monday and we are nowhere near ready and I am feeling a tad frazzled. 
And I will be sharing a lodge with bloody vegetarians. Whoever said you could choose your friends must have been a lonely guy.

I didn't quite manage to get a picture of it cut as the whole family descended on me (well, on the pie really) and pretty much got stuck in with some West Country cream from Marks & Spencer's, which in my opinion is the best supermarket cream around.


For the pastry 

350g plain flour 
200g cold butter , cut in small 
2 tbsp icing sugar 
2 egg yolk  (save the egg whites and make a small meringue case with 4oz. of caster sugar)

The rest of the stuff
115 g unsalted butter
25 g plain flour
60 ml water
100 g white sugar
110 g packed brown sugar
8-10 cooking apples apples - peeled, cored and sliced (use leftovers for applesauce and store in fridge)

  1. Put oven at 220C or 205C for fan ovens. 
  2. Melt the butter in a pan.
  3. Add the flour to make a paste.
  4. Add water, and both types of sugars.
  5. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer away.
  6. Line your loose-bottomed cake tin (mine was a 23cm one) which the pastry dough, allowing the edge of the dough to come up to just under an inch from the top of the tin. 
  7. Fill with slices of apples until they create a slight mound at the top. 
  8. Then cut the remaining dough into strips and create a lattice pattern on to of the pie. 
  9. Take the sugared butter liquid of the heat and slowly pour it into the pie, making sure the latticed pastry top gets some of the liquid too. 
  10. Ensure that you place the cake tin on a lipped tray as it does ooze from the bottom during baking. 
  11. Bake for 15-20mins at the original temperature and then reduce the temperature down to 175C or 160C fan ovens depending on how temperamental your oven is (mine is a Chinese Opera dungaree-ed lesbian). Cook for another 40-50mins (or 15mins if you are my friend, Spiker). 
  12. Take it out of the oven. Let it rest for a while. You really want to let the remaining juices to get sucked back in. 

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Daring Baker August 2009 - ARRRGGHHHH!

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffes of Vienna. Budapest, and Prague.

So, what is the Dobos Torta (or Torte)?

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.
Thank you Angela  and Lorraine for hosting this month's challenge.
So, how, pray tell, you might ask, did I end up with the concoction below???

This is my first Daring Baker entry and I must say when I found out what the challenge was, I wasn't particularly elated. Nevertheless, it was going to be a challenge and that was the purpose of participating in the Daring Bakers' challenge. This reminded me of the lapis legit I made, with the added fussiness of having to cut out numerous rounds of parchment paper and also multiple bakings. 

I stumbled several times. Firstly, I didn't halve the sugar and used it all up in the initial process, not saving any for the egg white & sugar part. This might explain why the cake resembled slightly of sweet omelette, and slightly rubbery. I loved, loved, loved the buttercream!!! It was simply delicious. The best I have ever tasted. Alas, it was at a temperamental consistency. It simply wouldn't thicken up enough or set enough. It was fine as long as it stayed in the fridge, but at room temperature, it would start to melt and going slippery slide-y. I initially thought that perhaps I just didn't cook the buttercream enough and made a mental note of this. 

The caramel part, I did not enjoy at all. I didn't rate the lemon component of the caramel very highly and I felt it gave the caramel a strange aftertaste. I also didn't cook the caramel for long enough which meant the caramel wouldn't set hard and crisp. 

Constructing the dobos was interesting. I had cut rounds out of the sheets of layer cake so I ended up with a tower dobos. It looks pretty dinky and cute, even when it did decide to lean sideways like the leaning tower of Pisa. I remedied this by sticking a skewer right through to the base. I also had to keep putting it into the fridge from time to time so I could slow down the melting process. 

I also gave this recipe another go recently. I played around with the filling -omitting the buttercream in between the layers and using rose petal jam instead. I made the same buttercream but instead of using dark chocolate, I used white chocolate. Again, the buttercream refused to set enough to make it easily useable and I think next time, I will add some cream of tartar(?) to help it along. I don't think the white chocolate tasted as nice as the dark chocolate but that could be due to the fact I had added so much icing sugar to get the buttercream stiffer. 

This time, I actually make the sponge layers according to the instructions (YAYY!!!) and I have to say, the texture was much improved. 

My conclusion, I don't think I would make this dobos torte in the form that the recipe suggests. The recipe is still a keeper though. The buttercream is yummy, the cake is very tasty and there is a gem of an cake idea in the making so watch this space. 


Recipe by: Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague, by Rick Rodgers
Yield: about 11-12 pieces of torte

2 baking sheets
9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
a sieve
a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
a small saucepan
a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
metal offset spatula
sharp knife
a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round (or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin)
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted (I used macadamia nuts)
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts
piping bag and tip, optional
Prep times
Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes
Sponge Cake Ingredients
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour
pinch of salt
Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used Belgian chocolate)
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
Caramel Topping Ingredients
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)
Directions for the sponge layers:
NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.
1. Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)
3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.) 
Note: I leveled each sponge layer after baking per a great suggestion from other Daring Bakers. I did this by covering the layer with an oiled, cocoa powder dusted sheet of parchment paper and then pressing another sheet pan down on the layer to even it out. 
4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)
Directions for the chocolate buttercream:
NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.
1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.
Lorraine’s note: If you’re in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you’ll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!
Directions for the caramel topping:
1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2. Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.
Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.
Assembling the Dobos:
1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3. Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4. Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.
Don’t forget to visit Daring Bakers and see other interpretations  of the Dobos Torte created! And don't forget to come back to tell me that I really didn't do that badly. 

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I Got Bored...

And Dr. Christine Northrup did say in her book that women who deny their creative side are more susceptible to women's problems.... (I think she meant stuff like fibroids etc. which is really ironic as the one woman who had fibroid whom I was a midwife for, well she was like the MOST creative woman I had ever come across, so go figure). 

So anyway, I have had in my possession some gel food colouring that I have been using for tinting my fondants. Today I thought I would give doing tattoo inspired edible artwork a go. Well, edible they still are, but I am not sure if I would call them artwork. It has been 19 years since I picked up a paintbrush and painted, or drew for that matter and even when I was in high school, my lovely Chinese Arts teacher Mrs. Tan discouraged me from using colours and used to hand me pencils instead. I think I know why now. The gel food colouring was tricky to get used to and I didn't have a range of brushes to my disposable and I was unsure as to whether I could successfully dilute the gels. 

I am quite happy considering this is my first attempt and I think I will keep at this. One thing for sure though, I don't think I will be chancing this process on the birthday cake I will be making for my sister-in-law's 60th birthday party. 

So here they are, my colourful etchings on rolled fondant. 

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Pfffffttt. I confessed on Facebook to having dulce leche splashed into my left eye when making some at home the other night. Spiker queried as to how I managed to make any without using Nestle condensed milk (I suffer from midwife guilt - I avoid all Nestle products) and my response was;

  • 2 litres of whole milk
  • 500g of sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 hours of my life I would never get back
She responded by sending me a link to a website that sells these jars of delicious caramel nectar which pretty much says, "Why bother? You can buy the stuff".


I am so misunderstood. I know how that Fanny Craddock felt.

So, I guess you guys won't be that crazy to actually wanna make your own either as you could go to your local Waitrose and buy some, but just in case you periodically indulge in culinary self-flagellation (which is wrong anyway as I think flagellating means it is self inflicted - answers on the comment box please), here is the recipe.

I don't think my caramel went dark enough so next time, when the moon is right, and the wind is blowing the right direction and some lovely violin music is playing and I am mid cycle again, I might try this recipe.

Disclaimer: Any clever dick who asks if I will indeed be using Splenda will be subjected to my Malay fried, salted, caramelised ground fish. You have been warned.

If you insist on using cans of condensed milk, then this is the recipe for you. *I personally think she is too pretty and too blond for my liking and I am forever dubious of slim bakers. A bit like hairdressers with no hair.

*You do know I am joshing you, yeah? 

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I Am Joy

Well, that isn't quite the truth considering the palaver we are having with moving at the moment. I won't bore you with details but suffice to say that progress is being held up by one member of the extended family and he ain't moving at any other pace but of a snail's.

A week or so ago, there was a week long mini festival called I Am Joy which showcased a range of arts related workshops throughout the week facilitated by local artists. Slaveboy and the Prodigal Step Son were hired to be in charge of productions and thankfully, (aside from the one incident where a bouncer annoyed the hell out of him with his thuggishness, so much so PSS had to be talked out of going for the bouncer with a claw hammer), the Prodigal Step Son came out of this not having harmed anyone physically. Slaveboy's nerves were shod a bit and even more so my friend's who did the talking him out of it bit, and I really shouldn't laugh but frankly, it's beginning to be such a regular occurence, I feel like I am living in my own soap opera.

Anyhoo, back to I Am Joy. I didn't get to go to many of the weeklong events. I did manage to peer into their Art Gallery down South Street where they had turfed the floor of the premises for the festival. That looke absolutely fabulous and I wish I had actually gone there when it was open so I could have kicked off my shoes and just feel the grass beneath my feet, but instead I only managed to peer through the front window sometime during the night when I was out watching Slaveboy's band do a gig.
I did however make it to the Saturday finale in the local park where there was a definite Glastonbury's Green Fields feel to it. A few friends turned up too, one couple came with their French listening dog. They disappeared off for lunch at some point and left their dog in the care of my 11 year old daughter. It was a bit funny as the dog only understood French and was completely ignoring my daughter pretty much most of the time.

Isn't she cute? She was pretty thirsty and my daughter kept having to go back to the hous to get her more water, but then this park is supposed to be dog free but by the end of the day, there were about four dogs in park - all behaving and getting along apart from the few incidents where we had to retrieve the French dog's stick from a poodle with a colourful hairband on. I know. That was surreal.
There was also this performance by the local Youth Theatre group which captivated the audience and had me cracking up with laughter. They were dressed up as Beefeaters and ended up dancing to Queen's Don't Stop Me Now. I managed to get some photos of then in action.

The children had a grand time. They had some blueberry ice cream and also some homemade vegetarian sausage rolls and cinnamon rolls too. It was also the week when our littlest madam decided to come out of her nappies so we were all on toilet alert. She did pretty well. I think she had a couple of minor mishaps but nothing too serious.