Sunday, 27 January 2013

Homemade Coffee Syrups

I can't believe I'm about to admit this, but I've become addicted to coffee.
And all it took were two weeks of exams.
One of my friends has been trying to tempt me for a while, but I've been resisting him.
Until now. Now I've joined the dark side.
And I love it! 

Now I can go into Starbucks, and where before I was limited to a few items (i.e. hot chocolate or frappuccino), I can now order nearly anything and enjoy it.
I think I've fallen in love with their Caramel Macchiato, it's just delicious.

So this lead me to thinking about buying some coffee syrups, but then I saw somewhere about making them. They are so easy to make, and cheaper to make than to buy.

I've gone with the most popular flavours: vanilla and caramel.
Obviously there are plenty of other flavours, like raspberry, chocolate, even cinnamon for during winter .

Vanilla Syrup Ingredients:
300ml Water
225g Caster Sugar
1-2tsp Vanilla Extract

Caramel Syrup Ingredients:
300ml Water
100g Caster Sugar
125g Brown Sugar

In a small saucepan, pour in the water, sugar and any extra flavourings.
Turn on the hob, and heat until boiling.
Stir the mixture occasionally.
Once the mixture is boiling vigorously, turn down to a simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Once done, turn off the heat, and leave to cool for a few minutes.
Put a funnel into the top of your syrup dispenser, and slowly pour the syrup into the bottle.
Leave to cool completely before using.

When adding to coffee, just add a teaspoon or two, depending on how sweet you like your coffee.
Store the syrups in a cupboard, and they should keep for a month or so.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Flavoured Vodka

Well, university has started again. Which means two weeks of exams. Joy.
This year I thought I would make something that I could look forward to once exams had finished.
And as I'm a student, that tends to mean only one thing.

Hence, the flavoured vodkas.
My housemate and I love cocktails, we make them every so often at home, and we go out to this lovely cocktail bar at least once a term. 
So I thought I'd make my cocktails a bit snazzier by using home-made flavoured vodka.

Obviously, vodka is considered a bit of a blank-canvas, so there are a number of flavours that can be used.
I decided to start this batch off with raspberry, blueberry, pomegranate and mint. 

I think it's important to use a good vodka, nothing too cheap, and to use ingredients which have either a strong or sweet flavour.

Making infused vodka is really easy.
Using some clean airtight jars, like an old jam jar, put a handful of the chosen ingredient into the jar, and pour in the vodka until the jar is full.
Leave the jars in a cool place for 3-7 days, depending on what ingredients your using (e.g. herbs like mint should only take three days, but berries can take up to a week to infuse).
Make sure to shake the jars a couple of times a day, just to help the infusion.
Once you think the vodka has infused enough, filter the vodka into a measuring jug to get rid of bits.
Then just transfer the vodka back into the jars.

I can not wait for the next week to go so that I can try these out.
Mmmm, cocktails!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Sweet Madeleines

While I'm at university, I tend to miss when a new shop opens back home. When I got home last summer, it was a new french patisserie/cafe (which has since closed, which is a shame because I thought it was quite good). So when I got home a month ago for Christmas, I had to drive through town. And there I found a new cooking shop, full of all of the essential equipment for any kitchen. I kind of made it my goal to go in at least once before going back to university. 

So today I had to go into town, and as I drove past the shop, I saw a huge sign in the window, saying "20% off everything". So of course, not missing out on a bargain, I parked up and went in. 
I instantly fell in love with the shop, it was full of so many different things, like silicone and metal baking trays, multiple cookie cutters, a huge variety of kitchen utensils. It had literally everything!

While looking around, I saw some silicone madeleine cake moulds. I've always wanted to make madeleines, but I never had the correct cake tin, and they were too expensive to buy from the local shops. But now I had found the correct tin for a decent price, and so I bought it. Finally, I could make some madeleines.

I decided to make them in a couple of flavours: vanilla and honey, and triple chocolate.

Vanilla and Honey Madeleines
100g Plain Flour
100g Caster Sugar
100g Unsalted Butter
1 egg (separated)
1tbsp Honey
1tsp Vanilla Extract

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5, and grease the madeleine tin.
Put the flour and sugar in a bowl, and mix.
In a separate bowl, melt the butter, and add the honey, vanilla extract and the egg yolk. 
Mix thoroughly, and fold into the flour mixture.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff, and fold into the cake mix a bit at a time.
Place a large spoonful of the cake mix into the madeleine moulds.
Put the tray in the oven, and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.
Leave the tray for a few minutes, before popping out the cakes onto a wiring rack to cool.

Triple Chocolate Madeleines
75g Plain Flour
25g Cocoa Powder
100g Unsalted Butter
100g Caster Sugar
1 egg (separated)
Handfull of Plain, Milk and White Chocolate Chips

Use most of the method above, except for:
When putting the flour and sugar in the bowl, add the cocoa powder as well. 
After adding the melted butter, add the chocolate chips and mix thoroughly.

These are delicious with a cup of coffee, the perfect bite-size treat!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Cinnamon Swirls

Cinnamon is one of my favourite spices. Whenever I do an apple crumble or pie, I always use a liberal amount of cinnamon. I just think it adds a nice warmth and sweetness to the apple.
I think it was about four years ago when my mum bought home some cinnamon swirls, and they were just perfect. They quickly became one of my favourite pastries, just below almond croissants.
So for the past few years, during the exam period when I'm off the library early in the morning, I always make a quick trip to the shop to buy some pastries for my breakfast. I feel like it's a good start to the day during that horrible time of the year.

This Christmas morning just gone, I decided to make some cinnamon swirls. I saw on other blogs that it seemed like a Christmas tradition, so I thought it was worth a go. It's a good idea to make the dough on Christmas Eve, and leave it to proof overnight to put in the oven in the morning.

I got this recipe from Paul Hollywood. He's kind of a baking hero for me, along with Mary Berry. (Can you tell I'm a fan of the Great British Bake Off?)

500g Strong White Flour
1tsp Salt
1x7g sachet Fast Acting Yeast
300ml Milk
40g Unsalted Butter
1 egg

For the Filling:
25g Unsalted Butter (melted)
75g Brown Sugar
2tbsp Ground Cinnamon

100g Icing Sugar
1tbsp Water

In a large mixing bowl, place the flour and salt, and stir. Make a well in the middle, and pour in the yeast.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, and then add the milk. Heat until the mixture is lukewarm, and then pour into the flour. Add the egg, and stir thoroughly, until a soft dough forms.
Knead the dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film, and leave in a warm place for one hour. The dough should double in size.
Tip the dough back out onto a floured surface, and roll out the dough into a rectangle.
Brush the dough with the melted butter, and evenly sprinkle over the brown sugar and cinnamon.
Roll the opposite side of the rectangle towards you tightly, until you have a roll of dough.
Cut the roll into small pieces about 1-2 inches thick.
Grease either a roasting tin, or like I did, a deep cake tin.
Place the swirls cut side up in the tray/tin.
If you're preparing this for breakfast the next day, you can then put the tin in the fridge, and leave it to proof over night. If not, then just leave in a warm place and proof for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
When the dough has proofen, put the tin in the oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the swirls are golden brown.
Remove the swirls from the tin, and leave to cool on a cooling rack.
While cooling, prepare the glaze, by sieving the icing sugar into a bowl, adding the water, and mixing into a smooth paste.
Once the swirls have cooled, pour the glaze over the top, and leave to set.

A nice, warm and filling breakfast. Yum!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Crisp Flatbread

I love crackers. Sometimes I think I love them more than bread, and I really love bread.
I don't even need to have a topping at times, I just eat them by themselves, because they are just so full of flavour!

I had flatbread crackers a few months ago, just to try them out, and I instantly fell in love with them. They are perfect when served with houmous, and they're really nice for soup as an alternative to bread.
They're nice and crunchy, and so tasty as well.

So instead of buying some this week, I thought I'd have a go at making some. Which meant I had to dig through the cupboards for the seed packets. I finally managed to find some sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, but obviously any other seeds in your cupboard would do just as well.

220g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
1/2tsp Salt
85ml Olive Oil
130ml Water
Handfull of various seeds

 Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8.
In a bowl, add the flour, salt and baking powder, and mix.
Make a well in the middle, before adding the water and oil.
Stir together, forming a dough, before kneading on a floured surface a couple of times.
Divide the dough into three or four equal pieces. 
Pour a handfull of seeds onto the worktop, take one ball of dough, and knead the seeds into the dough.
Roll out the ball with a rolling pin until the dough is very thin. It doesn't matter about the shape.
Place the dough onto an oiled baking tray, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until it's golden brown.
Once cooked, place onto a wiring rack to cool, before breaking the flatbread into smaller pieces.
Repeat this with the other dough balls.

Result: A load of crackers ready to eat. 
Either eat straight away, or get some dips out of the fridge.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year!

2012 has been one of the best years yet! 
Not just in my general life, but also for all of the amazing events this year that made me proud to be British!

First of all, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. 
I'm a massive fan of the Royalty, to such an extent that I can't stand it when anyone says anything bad about them, because in my opinion, they are an important part of Britain, and we should be happy to have them.
I can still remember sitting down in front of the TV, watching the parade of boats going down the Thames, even thought the weather was terrible, and seeing all of those people standing there, showing their support for the Queen. 
Seeing the nation cheering, while ignoring the weather, (such a British thing to do, don't you think?), made me so proud of our country, it warmed my heart.

And then the olympics in the summer. I feel like I never left my house, I didn't want to miss a bit of it. And if I did leave, it was only to the gym, where they had it on all the time.
I can still remember watching Glover and Stanning on the river, rowing for their lives, and finally achieving their first gold! I think it was one of my many highlights for the olympics.

My only regret of this past year is that I didn't get to actually see any of the events, it really was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I haven't really made any resolutions yet for this year. 
Maybe I should promise to be more regular with the blog... Or at least bake more than last year.
We'll see :)

Let's hope that 2013 will be as good a year as 2012. 
Although it's got a lot to live up to!

Happy New Year!