Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

A break, a recipe and a tip (and lots of links!)

on April 22, 2013

Well – it’s been a while!

Since my last post life has been super busy – the Easter holidays descended upon us and we found lots of ways to fill them.  We:

  • Ate chocolate
  • Went shopping*
  • Visited a museum*
  • Saw my parents, who came to Northumberland for a holiday
  • Ate scones (supplied by my parents and procured from a lovely bakery in their hometown)
  • Travelled first class on the train (well, I did – it was FAB!)
  • Bought second hand books
  • Watched DVDs
  • Washed all the duvets and pillows (well, again, that was just me but it was a useful job to get done while the Bookworm & Butterfly were away staying at their grandparents’ holiday apartment!)
  • Baked cupcakes
  • Learned to pipe buttercream from a piping bag (me)
  • Immediately passed on that new-found knowledge to several other women who attended our church’s ladies’ evening at the end of the holidays (me again)

*These two activities were undertaken in the company of my elderly and very deaf grandmother who was visiting for a few days, which made them equally more hilarious, more frustrating and more exhausting.  The anecdotes from her visit are becoming more humorous the more times they are told, so eventually I might believe we had a good time, despite the various nocturnal escapades and the 2-day migraine I suffered following her departure!

So, you can see that all that left me very little time to blog (I won’t mention the squandered minutes on a silly but addictive SIMS-style game I discovered on my phone).  Also, I didn’t really feel I had that much to say, so I took a break during the break (that would obviously work much better if we called it Spring Break, as someone tried to introduce a few years ago when we had an Easter holiday which didn’t include Easter, but clearly more people didn’t like that than did as it’s never been repeated, no matter how early or late the festival).

Now that we’re back into term-time again, my usual cycle of group meetings has resumed, as has the baking that goes with them.  This last week I discovered a new recipe which I thought I’d share.  A few weeks ago, when ordering my weekly online grocery shop, I discovered that several baking products (about 80 pages’ worth, in fact) were on a 3-for-2 offer.  Now I needed a couple of boxes of flour, but I couldn’t see anything else on the list that I was really short of, so I ended up choosing a jar of cherries in Kirsch as my third item.  Having them in the cupboard I then decided that perhaps a sort of Black Forest recipe was in order, so I searched for something suitable online.  I came across this one which, according to the submitter, comes from America.

Obviously my ingredients were slightly different, as I was using cherries in Kirsch (it did occur to me after I’d mixed it just how much more alcohol I’d used than the original recipe, having made the cherry purée with the Kirsch, in addition to what was in the cherries and the 60ml I used as the cherry brandy ingredient, but there is no noticeable taste!), but apart from that I followed everything closely.  I was surprised just how watery the liquid ingredients became when I’d mixed them in the pan, and then with just 4 tbsp dry ingredients and an egg obviously the resultant batter was still quite runny (I wished I’d made it in my big jug-bowl so’s it would be easier to get into the cupcake cases, but the scrudle I got in my Christmas stocking sufficed to transfer scoops of it without too much mess!).  You’ll notice (and one of the reviews points out) that there is no instruction for the halved cherries.  I decided not to go along with Southern Daddy’s suggestion that “set aside” implied “for later consumption” and mixed them into the batter last of all, which seemed to work OK – most of the cupcakes had at least one cherry half baked into it.

Unfortunately, because I was referring to my phone for the recipe, I missed the instruction to fill the cases right to the top (and the reassurance that the cakes hardly rise at all) and ended up throwing away some of the mixture, but the cakes came out big enough anyway.  I tasted one to check alcohol levels and consistency and found it delicious – I disagree with the review which calls it “claggy” and whole-heartedly agree with the other one which calls it “moist and dense”, which would be exactly the words I’d use.  Not cakey like a British cake, but then it’s not a British cake and given the ingredients we shouldn’t expect one.

There is no instruction about topping the cakes, which I think is essential for a cupcake (I don’t know what the technical difference is between a cupcake and a muffin, but for me a cupcake should be decorated in some way, whereas a muffin should be unadulterated, or at most – in the case of a fruit muffin – have a light dusting of sugar added to caramelise during baking).  I decided that anything bearing the name “Black Forest” really ought to involve whipped cream and resolved to pipe a swirl on top of each cake to keep my hand in now that I’ve learned.

[Random learning to pipe story, for those interested: I was asked to run the “cupcake stall” at the ladies’ evening, you see, which involved anyone who wanted to piping buttercream – or having it piped – in their chosen flavour, adding decorations and taking home their finished cupcake in an individual gift box.  The only drawback was that I’d never piped buttercream before.  After an unsuccessful rehearsal that afternoon, this video popped quite by chance into my Facebook feed.  I watched avidly – twice through – and then proceeded to go off and do it many times over that evening! Amazing!]

I bought my cream and then began to worry.  Could you pipe whipped cream?  Was it difficult?  Could you, in fact, only do it out of one of those gas-canister contraptions which allow you to make your own “squirt-squirt” (as we used to call it)?  My panicked online searching revealed that the answers were yessometimes and no – but that whipped cream can only hold its own shape for a certain length of time, which is longer or shorter depending on the temperature and humidity of the day.  To counteract this problem, the cream needs to be stabilised, as is done by bakers, confectioners and caterers, by one of various methods.  Gelatin can be whisked into the cream, but it can’t be hot as it would normally be, so needs to be “bloomed” which sounded complicated.  Cornflour can be used, but sometimes gives the cream a grainy texture.  Icing sugar can be added if you don’t mind your cream being sweetened, but having coated my kitchen in a fine layer of white dust the previous week, I was keen to try and avoid it if I could.  I’m not a fan of icing sugar.  I can appreciate the purpose it serves, but honestly!  The mess!  You’d have thought someone would have come up with something better by now!

And then I found another stabilising method.  It’s so easy I’m amazed that anyone bothers with any of the others:

You take large marshmallows – one per cup of cream to be whipped (a 300ml pot is between 1 and 2 cups, so I used 2 marshmallows).

You whip your cream to soft peaks.

You put your marshmallows in a little bowl in the microwave and heat on full power for 5 seconds at a time until they start to inflate.

You stir the marshmallows and scrape the resultant viscous liquid into the cream.

You continue to whip the cream to stiff.

And that’s it!  You can’t even tell that the marshmallow is in there – honest!  It looks and tastes like whipped cream and, once piped, mine stayed in exactly the same position and shape for over 24 hours, sitting in the fridge in a plastic container, sitting out on a counter in a warm room, being lifted in and out of my car and carried in a box, bumping against my leg, on the mile’s journey home from school.

Here is one after enduring all of that, about 27 hours after I piped it (the chocolate is just a small amount of Green and Black’s Creamy Milk, chopped into shards with a sharp knife).

Black Forest Cupcake

Thankful for…

Time to be refreshed

Family

The excitement of summer plans

The improving weather

A Krispy Kreme doughnut with my lunch!

Some clarity about what’s important in life, and what’s not

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