The Gingerbread Challenge continued- My First House.

Gingerbread house - final

A quick update on “Operation Gingerbread Church”. My aim this week was to build something with windows and roof tiles. So I brought out the graph paper and designed a simple house with boiled sweet coloured panes and chocolate button roof tiles.

Gingerbread house - windowThe worst bit was trying to track down boiled sweets which appear to have all but disappeared from my local supermarkets but thankfully I found a pack which are now hidden behind my baking supplies to prevent LSH scoffing the rest. The final aim is to use a mix of colours to create a stained glass effect which I can then light (somehow….) from inside.

I managed to get some small cutters from a local cake decorating shop which I used to cut out three windows. These were filled with ground boiled sweets and baked. And thankfully they worked – I was a little worried they wouldn’t come away from the parchment but they came away cleanly.

Gingerbread house - roof

The roof tiles are chocolate buttons which have been cut in half and held in place with royal icing. The remains were melted and used to create the ridge. I attempted to dye the icing brown but there was some white icing at the bottom of the bag. Looking at it I think that the bits that were white worked better giving a snow effect. Next time I may try a chocolate flavour biscuit base with white icing and quartered giant buttons to give overlapping fan tiles. That’s the plan anyway…

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Raspberry and Chocolate Tarlets

Raspberry tartlets  - final

I’ve been dabbling in patisserie with varying degrees of success. What should have been a chocolate and caramel tartlet ended up as an incredibly bitter split ganache encasing a solid toffee of the kind that’s always left in the chocolate tin at Christmas. Even LSH couldn’t eat it!

This one worked a lot better – mixing some milk chocolate in with the dark moved it from bitter to rich and the sharp raspberry jelly cuts through it perfectly (I suspect that orange would work equally well). The recipe below makes 4 10 cm tartlets.

First the pastry – Beat together 100g of butter with 50g of icing sugar and a pinch of salt until pale and fluffy.

Add 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp lemon extract whilst still beating and then one lightly beaten egg. Stir in 125g of plain flour and carefully bring together into a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for a least 2 hours.

Lightly flour a worktop and roll out thinly. Line your tartlet tins and chill for at least 30 min before trimming. Blind bake at 180C for 15min. Remove the baking beans and reduce the temperature to 160C and continue to bake for another 5-10mins until golden.

Raspberry tartlets - chocolate liningMelt 20g of dark chocolate and brush into the pastry cases, ensuring that the bottom and the sides are fully coated. Leave to cool.

For the raspberry jelly. Put 140g of frozen raspberries in a pan with 2 tbsp of caster sugar. Cook of a low heat until all the juices have been released. Seive into a jug.

Raspberry tartlets - jelly

You should have about 100ml of juice. Add gelatine using the instructions on the packet. Pour a small amount into the bottom of each tartlet – just enough to cover the base to a depth of a couple of millimetres. Leave to set.

Raspberry tartlets - inside

For the chocolate ganache finely chop 80g of dark chocolate and 40g of milk chocolate. Scald 100g of double cream and then take off the heat and stir in the chocolate until it’s all melted and glossy. Pour over the top of the raspberry layer and leave to set, preferably at room temperature.

Serve with cream.

The Gingerbread Challenge – A Shed!

Gingerbread shed

You may remember that I have foolishly promised my LSH a Gingerbread Church for Christmas despite having never made even a biscuit before. So I’ve been busy making gingerbread biscuits but I’ve been putting off the next stage as I was missing a key piece of equipment – an icing bag

But now I am the proud owner of an icing set and I’m out of excuses. So the time has come to make the biscuits stand upright and conquer my fear of the icing bag. I’m starting small with a gingerbread shed.

I created a pattern on graph paper which I used to cut the pieces out of rolled gingerbread dough. I even had a go at creating a timber effect in the roof with some lines scored on them. I then left them in a cold garage for about 30 min before baking. Yet they still spread and had to be recut once they had cooled a little.

Once cold I glued them together with a simple royal icing of just icing sugar and water and piped in a somewhat wobbly door. Thankfully it stood upright! And has remained standing upright. It’s not very pretty but as a first attempt at gingerbread construction it’s not bad. I just need to practice my icing skills and work on creating some windows next…

Apricot Pie and a final farewell to “Bake Off”

Apricot tart - 1

And so the Great British Bake Off has come to an end for another year. It feels like the end of an era as next year it will move to BBC 1 and what was once the guilty secret of us “floury types” will be firmly mainstream. I just hope it doesn’t end up being the X factor with caster sugar and yeast…

Apricot tart - fillingIn the meantime I’ve got round to having a go at a recipe from this year’s Bake Off book. I’m a big fan of these – my favourite shortbread recipe comes from the Showstoppers edition – and having seen this recipe demonstrated on the Masterclasses last week I was keen to give it a go.

The Apricot Pie is a great store cupboard pie – flour, butter, sugar, marzipan and tinned apricot halves. Make the pastry and line your dish. I chilled it for a bit at this stage to try and reduce shrinkage. You then grate marzipan over the base. Add the apricots, cover with a pastry lid and bake. The only change I made was to add less marzipan. LSH isn’t a fan and the amount suggested nearly filled the tin on its own! Even for me that seemed like a bit too much. I used just over half the amount and that seemed ample. I also ended up adding some extra chopped apricot to fill some of the gaps between the halves.

Apricot tart  -  slice

The finished result was lovely and so easy to make. Even the marzipan phobic LSH was keen on it and it tasted just as good cold the next day.