Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Custard Tarts)

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All-butter puff pastry filled with deliciously rich egg custard flavoured with vanilla is my idea of heaven – I love these!

I don’t like custard. Well I didn’t until I tried one of these! Rien’s Aunt made these at Christmas and I was reluctant to try one as I’ve never had custard and liked it before. I am incredibly glad I tried one, they were absolutely amazing. The pastry is flaky and buttery which goes perfectly with the creamy, thick egg custard.

I knew I wanted to make these for my Mum because she likes English egg custard tarts so these are perfect for her. I decided to make them for her birthday so I had a few months to wait before I made them! Since then, I have seen Patesis de Nata everywhere! They were featured in April’s issue of Good Food and were the cover recipe on Delicious. So by waiting and making these now I am right on trend!

Although both Good Food and Delicious featured a recipe, I knew I was going to use the recipe Rien’s Aunt, Carol, had given to me because I knew they were delicious. She found the recipe from the Guardian which was featured as Lucian Freud’s favourite breakfast dish. The recipe can be found here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/oct/25/lucian-freud-custard-tarts-breakfast-champions.

This recipe featured a couple of firsts for me; all-butter puff pastry and vanilla pods. The all-butter puff pastry was a little bit harder to work with than usual puff pastry because it started to almost melt whilst working with it due to the high butter content. So try to handle it as little and quickly as possible. The vanilla pod added a fantastic flavour which couldn’t have been replaced with vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste and I was excited to finally use it.

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I went into making these having no idea what I was doing and only having a fairly brief recipe to guide me. A couple of times I had a few doubts and wondered whether they would turn out right. The main stage when I was a little worried was when I was pouring the custard into the pastry. On some of the tarts, the custard began seeping out so I thought these would not turn out very well. When I took them out of the oven though, I couldn’t even tell which had been the problem tarts!

One tip I would advise is when pouring, use a jug! When I was pouring the warmed cream into the egg yolks I thought it would be fine to pour from the pan – it wasn’t. If you’re anything like me, it will be far easier, and quicker, to use a jug whenever you’re pouring.

When the finished tarts first came out of the oven, they did look good but I remember thinking they didn’t look as good as Carol’s. I left them to cool and when I came back to them, the custard had settled and almost sunk down a little bit and I was very happy to see they did now look like Carol’s! So don’t panic if yours look slightly different when they first come out of the oven, they should settle and look amazing!

My Mum said these reminded her of when we were on holiday in Portugal and had Pasteis de Nata and that these were just as delicious. A couple of weeks before I made these, I went to Nandos with a friend and had one of their Pasteis de Nata. I am very pleased to say that these are far better than the ones in Nandos – don’t take my word for it, try them yourself!

If you manage to control yourself and not eat all twelve at once, store the in an airtight box. Heat them for approximately 20 seconds before you want to eat them, it definitely makes a difference and they will be as delicious as when they were warm from the oven.

Makes 12
320g pre-rolled all-butter pastry
3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
200ml single cream
250ml whole milk
½ vanilla pod
Spray oil for greasing
Icing sugar for dusting

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Grease a 12 hole muffin tray and put in the freezer
  2. Take the pre-rolled pastry straight from the fridge and dust with icing sugar. Roll along the longest side into a tight log and cut into 12 sections

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  1. Dust each section with icing sugar and roll flat until it is roughly 11cm across. Push each round into the muffin tray, it doesn’t have to be flat around the edges as they are meant to have folds in the pastry. Put the tray in the fridge

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  1. Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar until creamy. Mix the cornflour with a splash of milk and then whisk into the egg yolks. This looks exactly like something we used to play with as a child, its a liquid until touched and then it turns solid. You’ll know what I mean when you get to this stage!
  2. Heat the cream and milk together in a pan along with half a vanilla pod with the seeds scraped out, until almost boiling

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  1. Remove from the heat and fish out the vanilla pod, then whisk slowly into the yolks
  2. Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat gently for three minutes, stirring continuously
  3. Pour into the pastry cases and bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and dark spots appear on the custard

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  1. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin. Best eaten warm

rien

 

Creme Egg Cupcakes

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Delicious chocolate cupcake with a gooey Creme Egg hidden inside – the perfect cupcakes for Easter!

Easter is such a great time to bake, you can make anything Easter themed by just adding a mini egg to it! This year I have mainly been making these cupcakes and mini egg fridge cake. Like usual I gave up chocolate for lent which has not been fun as I’ve had a couple of orders for chocolate cake with ganache and even more chocolate on top.  Making these and smelling the chocolate was hard, but I managed to make them without even licking the spoon!

I read somewhere (I can’t find/remember where) from someone who had made similar cupcakes using Creme Eggs that lying the Creme Eggs down horizontally is the way forward. I assumed you would place them vertically so the egg was upright, but this makes the egg less stable so it can wobble all over the place.

These cupcakes are simple to make and have a wow factor with the Creme Egg hidden inside.

For the cupcakes (makes 12 large cupcakes):
4tbsp water, boiled
40g cocoa powder
3 eggs
175g unsalted butter
165g caster sugar
115g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder 

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC and line a cupcake tin with liners and set aside
  2. Sift the cocoa powder into a bowl and add the boiling water. Mix until it forms a thick paste and then add the remaining cake ingredients. Mix until combined

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  1. Fill the cupcake case roughly ¼ full. Smooth out using a spoon and then place a mini Creme Egg horizontally lying down in each case

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  1. Top with the remaining cake mix and bake for 10-15 minutes until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before decorating

For the frosting:
140g softened butter
280g icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk

  1. Beat softened butter and icing sugar together
  2. Gradually add the milk until it becomes smooth and quite thick – you may not need all of the milk
  3. Pipe onto the cooled cupcakes

You can use a full sized Creme Egg if you would like but obviously this would mean it is more Creme Egg than cupcake! If you want to make them even more chocolatey you could make chocolate frosting.

When I made these the first time, I only put a small layer of the cake mix on the bottom before adding the Creme Egg. As you can see, the Creme Egg was quite close to the bottom of the cupcake. The next time I made them, I filled them roughly ¼ full as I image this would make the Creme Egg closer to the middle. There aren’t any photos of these unfortunately as I made them for an order so couldn’t start cutting into them!

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Curly’s Cooking’s 1st Birthday!

Curly’s Cooking is 1 year old!

I can’t believe it was year ago that I posted my first blog post – it has flown by! I started this blog as a way of recording recipes I had found/adapted with the hope that someone might look at it from time to time. If you would have told me that a year into blogging, I would have received over 15,000 views I wouldn’t have believed you. I know compared to other blogs this won’t sound like very many, but I am chuffed!

This blog has turned baking and cooking from a hobby into almost an obsession. I am constantly thinking about what I’m going to make next. I feel uneasy if I haven’t baked something or cooked something interesting in a few days. When I get back from a holiday, one of my first thoughts is what I’m going to make first.

As well as my food skills and knowledge, my photography has improved too. Thanks to help from Greedy Betty and looking at other people’s blogs, I am started to understand what makes a good food photograph more. Don’t get me wrong I still have plenty of room for improvement, but I am going in the right direction!

I’m going to share with you a few of my favourite posts from the past year as well as my most viewed post. It was hard to pick just a few but here they are!

Monkey Bread

Monkey Bread 2

One of my favourite recipes from the last year is Money Bread. It is one of the bakes I took along to Greedy Betty’s photography session. I don’t make it often because it is so big and not the healthiest of recipes, but it is absolutely amazing. I love the pieces that have remained hidden in the middle and are soft and fluffy.

http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=1042

Pulled Pork

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Over the last couple of years, pork has become my favourite meat. This recipe is a delicious way of cooking pork that gives it a great flavour as well as making it very tender. Although it takes a while to cook, there is very little prep needed for such a great result.

http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=1137

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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These are my most popular cupcakes which I have made countless times this year. You can’t have carrot cupcakes without cream cheese frosting in my opinion. I definitely recommend everyone to give these a go.

http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=215

New York Cheesecake 

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My most viewed blog post is for New York Cheesecake. It has had over 4000 views alone which is nearly ten times more than my next post popular post. I took a recipe found on BBC Good Food’s website and worded it in an easier to follow, clearer way. I have received lots of comments thanking me for my version which is always nice.

http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=1209

I’d love to hear which blog posts have been your favourite, so please leave me a comment.

Thank you to everyone who has visited my blog over the last year. Bring on year 2!

Curly x

Bakewell Slices

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My Mum has been asking me to make Bakewell Slices for months. She had one from Pret A Manger a while ago and thought it was delicious so she asked me if I could make them for her. I thought Mother’s Day was the perfect time to make them for her, but it did mean keeping her waiting for a while!

I had tried to throw her off the scent by telling her I had made her cupcakes. She does like my cupcakes, but like me isn’t really a fan of buttercream so it wouldn’t be the best thing to make her for Mother’s Day. When I went over to my parent’s house on Mother’s Day, I gave Mum the box and said “here are your cupcakes”. When she opened the box and saw the Bakewell Slices her face lit up, she looked so happy! It was so lovely to see her so excited, I don’t think I could have got her a present she would have liked more. She ate one in seconds and said how tasty it was and she even joked and said Dad would be lucky if she let him have one!

Mum did say she hadn’t expected me to make my own pastry, but this was so simple and quick I thought it would be more fuss to use pre-made pastry! Feel free to use pre-made shortcrust pastry if you find this easier.

Mary advised to use roughly four tablespoons of jam but at the same time said to be generous. I didn’t actually measure the jam out, I just used enough to make a good thick layer which turned out to be about half a jar. The last thing I would have wanted would be a thin layer of jam!

A tip for this recipe is to dot the sponge mix around instead of adding it all in one area. Then using a spatula, spread it out carefully making sure you don’t mix the jam in with the sponge mix. It may look a little messy when you’ve finished but don’t worry after it has baked it will look great.

 For the shortcrust pastry
175g plain flour
75g butter 
2 – 3 tbsp cold water 

For the sponge 
100g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
2 tbsp milk
½ tsp almond extract 

To finish
Approximately 4 tbsp raspberry jam
Flaked almonds to sprinkle on top

  1.  Start by making the pastry. Measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
  2. Add enough water to form a soft dough. Add it gradually because you might not need to add all three tablespoons

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  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. Roll the dough out on a slightly floured surface and line the bottom of the tin with it

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  1. Measure all of the sponge ingredients into a bowl and beat until all of the ingredients are combined
  2. Spread the pastry with the raspberry jam and then top with the sponge mix and spread out making sure you completely cover the jam

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  1. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the cake has shrunk from the sides of the tin and springs back when you press the centre with your finger

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  1. Leave to cool in the tin and then turn out and cut into slices

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I can’t remember eating that many Bakewell Slices to be honest but after making this recipe, I will definitely be making them time and time again. The recipe was simple and quicker than I thought it would be. I really loved the three layers; the cake was light an fluffy followed by a lovely layer of raspberry jam and finished with a layer of pastry.

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I found the recipe in Mary Berry’s baking bible. Yet another fantastic recipe from a a great book.

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American Pancakes

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If I have a craving for pancakes, it is always for American pancakes. They’re thick and fluffy and make a perfect breakfast accompanied with bacon and maple syrup – yum!

I first came across American pancakes when we went on a family holiday to America (obviously). Back then I don’t think it was very common for people to consider having bacon with pancakes as a lot of people associated pancakes with thin crepe style pancakes served with sweet toppings. I am a fan of a wafer thin crepe with lashings of Nutella but I think they are best left to the professionals. I had a lovely crepe when we went to Berlin last December for the Christmas Markets, they’re cooked in less than a minute and are delicious. Crepes are lovely for a treat, but I wouldn’t think of making them at home.

Since our first trip to America it has become a tradition in my family to have American pancakes and bacon for breakfast on Christmas Day; after all Christmas is all about indulging! My Mum bought an American pancake maker which plugs in and can be put on the table so the pancakes can be cooked there and then without someone being stuck in the kitchen or the pancakes getting cold. She makes the batter up and can then cook six little pancakes at the same time.

I made these on pancake day which is the perfect excuse to have breakfast for dinner. This recipe is simple and makes lovely thick and fluffy pancakes.

135g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
130ml milk
1 large egg
2 tbsp butter, melted and allowed to cool slightly
spray oil

  1.  Sift the flour, baking power, salt and caster sugar into a large bowl
  2. In a jug add the milk and egg and whisk lightly before adding the melted butter and whisking again
  3. Pour the milk mix into the flour mix and whisk until you have a smooth batter. If you have any lumps, just keep whisking until they disappear
  4. Let the batter stand for a approximately 15 minutes

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  1. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and spray with oil. When the pan is hot, add a ladle of batter to the pan. If your pan is big enough you can add two at the same time. Don’t worry if the batter seems thick, it is meant to be. When the top of the pancake begins to form small bubbles, it is ready to flip onto the other side. In total it should cook for roughly a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown. You don’t want the heat to be too high or else the pancakes will brown on the outside but not be cooked in the middle

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  1. Keep going until you have used up all of the batter. The cooked pancakes can be kept warm in a low oven or under some kitchen paper

Sausage, Apple & Leek Pie

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It’s British Pie Week!

I love a nice comforting pie, especially when its cold. but I don’t tend to associate pies with being healthy or low in calories. I managed to make this pie for under 500 calories per portion which I thought was quite impressive as there is absolutely no compromise on taste.

As well as being low in calories, it was also quite quick and very simple. Some pies I’ve made before take a while to prep before all of the ingredients can actually get topped with pastry and put in the oven This pie has a couple of easy steps before you can put it in the oven and forget about it. To make it quicker I used a pack of ready made shortcrust pastry because I had some in the freezer. You can use the ready-rolled pastry to make it even quicker but if I had done this I would have used more pastry as it is quite thick when it is ready-rolled thick which would have meant more calories. As I was conscious of the calories, I used just enough pastry to cover my dish which meant as it cooked, the pastry shrunk slightly. This left it with a rustic look when it came out of the oven which I didn’t mind because it looked homemade. Feel free to use as much pastry as you like.

Another reason I like this recipe is that you don’t need any additional fat. By frying the sausages in the pan first, they create the fat needed to soften the leeks. It also doesn’t need any any dairy like creme fraiche to create the sauce which again cuts down on the calories and fat.

The below recipe makes enough for two portions.

4 pork sausages
2 leeks
1 apple
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
200ml vegetable stock
100g shortcrust pastry
1 egg, beaten
Salt & Pepper 

  1. Heat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan. Fry the sausages in a non stick pan on a medium heat until browned all over and then remove from the pan

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  1. If your sausages have left more than a tablespoon or so of fat, pour this off so roughly one tablespoon remains. Add the leeks and allow them to soften gently for roughly 10 minutes. As your leeks are softening peel and slice the apple and then add to the pan and cook for another minute

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  1. Stir in the flour and mustard. Pour in the stock and let it bubble for 2 minutes
  2. Slice the sausages into chunks and return them to the pan and stir. Don’t worry if they are still a little pink in the middle, they will finish off cooking in the oven

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  1. Tip everything into a large ovenproof dish and then top with the pastry. I make the pastry larger than the dish and then cut off the excess.  Brush with the beaten egg and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown

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Like I said before, the pie isn’t the prettiest because I was trying to use the smallest amount of pastry as I could. If you use more pastry, it will look a bit more uniform.

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The whole plate I made including the sides came to less than 800 calories, and that is definitely not a small plate! This pie is delicious and it doesn’t compromise on flavour at all.

The original recipe can be found at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1039643/sausage-apple-and-leek-pie

Welsh Cakes

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Welsh Cakes are one of my friends Millie’s favourite things. She’s a bit of an expert as she has tried every Welsh Cake out there; but her favourite are from Waitrose. I knew I had a lot to live up to, but when she asked me to make them for her, I accepted the challenge!

Where better to look for a great baking recipe than the legend that is Mary Berry? Rien bought me one of her books, A Bakng Bible, after I went for afternoon tea with my Mum months ago and had the most delicious orange cake (I still need to make that!) but couldn’t find the recipe on the internet. For traditional British recipes I always look to Mary Berry first because her recipes have always been fantastic.

The weekend my Uni friends came I went a little over the top with baking. I made Reece’s Peanut Buttercup Brownies (http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=1354), Gluten-Free Sundried Tomato Bread (http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=1443), Gluten Free Apple Crumble and these Welsh Cakes. I had a lovely assistant helping me make these though.

The original recipe says to use currants, but I don’t like them as much as sultanas and raisins so I decided to use sultanas instead. It was when Zoe was cutting them out she said she thought the reason why the recipe said to use currants was because they’re smaller so might get in the way less when you’re cutting them out. Use whichever you prefer!

350g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
175g butter
115g caster sugar
100g sultanas
¾ tsp mixed spice
1 large egg
2 tbsp milk
Spray oil

  1. Add the flour and baking powder into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs

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  1. Add the sultanas, sultanas and mixed spice
  2. Beat the egg and milk together and then add to the mixture. Mix to form firm dough adding a little more milk if needed

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  1. Lightly flour your surface and roll out the dough to a thickness of approximately 5mm

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  1. Cut them out using a round cutter

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  1. Heat a frying pan on a low heat and spray with oil. Cook the Welsh Cakes on a low heat for approximately 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Make sure you don’t cook them too quickly or else they will turn brown on the outside and won’t be cooked inside

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  1. Cool on a wire rack

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You can sprinkle them with caster sugar and eat them spread with butter if you like. Or if you’re like Millie, you can eat them straight out of the pan! She told me they were even better than Waitrose which was definitely a compliment!

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Cupcakery

Thick Cream Cheese Frosting

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Cream cheese frosting is my favourite kind of frosting. It has a lovely creamy flavour that isn’t as sweet and sickly as buttercream in my opinion. But the cream cheese frosting recipes I have used before can sometimes be lumpy when the butter isn’t mixed in fully or it just becomes too runny. This recipe does not have those issues!

I don’t hide the fact I don’t like buttercream. It’s very sweet and to me just tastes like butter. People are now used to me baking cakes and cupcakes and taking them into work for everyone to enjoy without me actually eating any myself although they found it suspicious at first. You could ask why I don’t just frost all my cupcakes with cream cheese frosting but there is a very simple answer. I would eat them. If I use buttercream I get to bake which is what I love, but I also know I won’t eat the end product which is always a good thing in my constant struggle to eat better.

As I mentioned in my Funfetti Cake post, I was making a cake for a friend who also isn’t a fan of buttercream. I knew she loved the cream cheese frosting that I used on my carrot cupcakes but I knew there was no chance that would be thick enough to cover a whole cake. It tastes delicious but sometimes it is a little too runny which is why I always frost them with a large round nozzle because I’m worried any other frosting style won’t hold it’s shape. I was talking to someone on Twitter who recommended this recipe to me featured on Kerry Cook’s blog (www.kerrycooks.com). As soon as I saw Kerry had frosted a rainbow cake using her cream cheese frosting recipe, I knew this would be the perfect recipe.

This recipe does take slightly longer than other cream cheese recipes because you have to squeeze the cream cheese through muslin, but the end result is worth it. It’s the extra stage of squeezing the excess liquid from the cream cheese that makes it so thick. I can’t see that I will be going back to my old recipe!

250g cream cheese
100g unsalted butter

400-600g icing sugar

  1. Firstly you need to drain the cream cheese to get rid of as much excess water as you can. I recommend pouring the excess liquid that settles on the top down the sink. Then scoop the cream cheese into a square of muslin and gather the cloth up and twist. Holding it over a bowl or the sink, squeeze so the liquid starts dripping out. I managed to get roughly 2 tablespoons of excess liquid out of mine. Be careful to not get carried away and squeeze too hard though or else you’ll get small pieces of cheese coming through the muslin

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  1. Put the muslin ball on some kitchen paper to let it dry further
  2. In a heatproof bowl, melt the butter in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. You want it to be incredibly soft but not completely melted. It should still be partially solid

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  1. Whisk the butter until it is completely liquid and smooth

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  1. Unwrap the cream cheese from the muslin and add it into the butter mixture. Whisk until completely combined

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  1. Using a wooden spoon, begin adding the icing sugar. Sieve roughly 150g of icing sugar into the butter mixture at a time. Keep adding icing sugar until you have a thick consistency – I used 500g until the frosting was thick enough to not fall off the spoon. At first it might look a little lumpy, but keep going and you will have the most amazing thick cream frosting

The frosting was perfect for my funfetti cake and my friend really liked it. She said it was the best cake she had ever had which is high praise indeed! Although I know lots of people love buttercream, if I had it my way I would frost all cakes with this cream cheese frosting. It really is delicious and I am glad Kerry shared such a fantastic recipe on her blog.

I’d love to hear whether you are a buttercream or cream cheese frosting fan; please leave me a comment with your favourite.

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Please check out the original thick cream cheese frosting recipe on Kerry Cook’s blog http://kerrycooks.com/foolproof-thick-cream-cheese-frosting-recipe/.

Valentine’s Cupcakes

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What better to receive on Valentine’s Day than a lovely cupcake with a red heart inside? I saw these when I was looking for ideas for Valentine’s cupcakes on Pinterest. I really love Pinterest because it is such a quick and easy way of looking and storing recipes/ideas/things you like. I use it to pin recipes that I have made and want to share and also recipes that other people have made and I want to try. I am awful at finding a recipe I want to make but then forgetting which blog or website I found it on and then I have no way of finding it again. Pinterest gives me a place to keep them all together. Its not just for recipes, I have pins for house ideas for example too.

These cupcakes were initially pinned by Lauren Conrad – not someone I would usually look to for baking ideas to be honest, but I really liked the idea. She did include a recipe on her website (www.laurenconrad.com) but I always prefer to use my usual vanilla cupcake recipe. Plus I have no idea what ‘cake flour’ is even after googling!

The cupcakes are definitely something different and a little bit special. It is great to see people’s faces when they bite into them and realise there is a heart inside. I practised the cupcakes a few weeks ago because I wanted to make sure they came out ok before I took on orders. They were a little bit of a faff at first – trying to make sure the red cake heart stayed standing when I was adding the rest of the cake mix worried me because it looked a little messy. I think this was because my cake batter looked thicker than the one used in the original recipe which is why mine didn’t maybe look as neat. When they came out of the oven though I needn’t have worried because they looked lovely. As i went on I got the hang of it and became quicker.

These would obviously be a lovely gift for Valentine’s Day but I think anyone would be chuffed to receive these at any time of year.

For the red cake
75g margarine
75g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g self raising flour
Red food colouring

  1. Preheat oven to 170ºC and line a 20x20cm square tin with baking parchment
  2. Beat the margarine and sugar together until pale and fluffy
  3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and slowly mix again and then add the flour and mix until combined
  4. Add enough food colouring to make the batter a bright red colour
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for approximately 14 minutes. It doesn’t matter if the cake is slightly under baked as it is going to be baked again
  6. Allow the cake to cool slightly

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  1. While you are waiting for the red cake to cool, make the plain cake batter. The recipe for this is here http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=37
  2. Once the red cake has cooled, cut out hearts using a small heart shaped cutter

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  1. Line a cupcake tin with cases and fill each case approximately ¼ full with the plain cake batter
  2. Place one red heart that you have cut out standing up in each cupcake case

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  1. Add more of the plain cake batter to each cupcake case so that it is roughly ¾ full – don’t panic if this doesn’t completely cover the red heart

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  1. Bake in the oven for 14 minutes or until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely before decorating

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You want to get a nice bright red colour so it really stands out so don’t be afraid of using quite a bit of colouring. I use Wilton gel colours which give a great colour but you do need to use quite a bit. I recommend adding a little bit each time because you can always add more but you can’t remove any!

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I wanted to keep the decoration quite elegant and simple so I decided to use a large star tipped nozzle (Wilton 1M) to create a rose effect. I did this by starting in the centre of the cupcake and piping in a circular motion until I reached the edge of the cupcake. As you reach the edge if you release pressure from your piping bag and then quickly move the bag away you should get a nice clean finish. I then rolled out some red fondant icing and cut our a mini heart to add a bit of colour and to hide the end of the buttercream. The buttercream recipe I used is the same one I used in the vanilla cupcake recipe (http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=37).

I have been pleasantly surprised with how many orders I have received for these. I’m good at coming up with ideas without actually realising how long it will take me to bake it all! I thought I would get a couple of orders, but ended up making 60 cupcakes. I definitely didn’t help myself by choosing these cupcakes as it isn’t the quickest recipe because you have to make the red cake for the hearts first. Although they took a while, I am glad I made these cupcakes because of how great they look when you bite into them.

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With a lot of help from my Mum, we handmade each cupcake box. I am so happy with how these looked because I think a nice looking box really adds to the whole look of the cupcakes. They did take us hours so I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to make them; especially as my Mum did a lot of the initial cutting while I was at work. We did have a nice time chatting away while we made them (I also got a lesson in how to use scissors…) but I think there’s only so much time Mum can cope with me for!

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Bacon Jam

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Bacon. Jam. A sweet delicious bacon-y jam. Yes it is as amazing as it sounds. I’m sure everyone will agree that bacon makes everything better… well apart from vegetarians but even they can appreciate the glory of bacon.

I’m not completely sure where  I first heard about bacon jam, I think it must have been something I stumbled across when I was browsing the internet for tasty sounding recipes. But as soon as I did see it I knew it was something I wanted to make! From what I can tell, a food truck in America called Skillet came up with the genius idea of bacon jam as a condiment for their burgers. Although they haven’t shared their recipe, a few people have tried to work out what the ingredients might be. I looked at quite a few before decided on one by Leite’s Culinaria. They all featured very similar ingredients but I wasn’t keen on adding hot sauce because I didn’t want a spicy bacon jam, so settled on this one. The original recipe can be found at http://leitesculinaria.com/82690/recipes-bacon-jam.html.

As you can imagine, the house smelled amazing as I was cooking! It isn’t the quickest recipe because it needs to simmer away to reduce and become deliciously sticky. But its perfect to make on a lazy Sunday afternoon when you don’t want to leave the house anyway!

These quantities make enough for me to fill three 280ml jars so it doesn’t produce a huge yield. The bacon jam then needs to be kept in the fridge for up to four weeks. It can be eaten with whatever you fancy adding a bit of bacon-y goodness to but I decided to add it to one of my handmade burgers. If you’re using it from the fridge you will just need to heat it up in a pan over a low heat for five minutes or so until it has warmed through and gone slightly darker. It goes perfectly on a burger because it adds the bacon flavour but also a rich sweetness.

680g smoked bacon, cut into a large dice
2 medium onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

¾ cup strongly brewed coffee
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup

  1.  Add the bacon to a large pan over a medium heat. Stir occasionally until the fat has rendered down and the bacon has become a light brown colour. This should take roughly 20 minutes

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  1. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with kitchen towel to allow it to drain
  2. If there is any fat left in the pan, drain off all but one tablespoon. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook until the onions are translucent. This should take around 6 minutes. Make sure the heat isn’t too high or else the colours will brown instead

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  1. Add the coffee, cider vinegar, brown sugar and maple syrup and bring to the boil. Scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure you get all of the browned bits that have stuck. Add the bacon back to the pan and stir

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  1. Reduce the heat so that it is barely simmering and cook uncovered for 1 – 1½ hours or until the liquid has almost completely evaporates and turns syrupy

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  1. Let the jam cool slightly before pulsing in a food processor until it is coarsely chopped. Spoon the bacon jam into sterilised jars and keep in the fridge for up to four weeks.
  2. Rewarm the jam by gently heating it in a pan on a low heat

I didn’t take a photo of the bacon jam after it had been pulsed because to be honest it didn’t look too appealing! It went paler and almost cloudy? So if yours looks a but like that, don’t worry it hasn’t gone wrong! I also have the most ridiculously tiny food processor which isn’t even a food processor its one of those mini choppers. This meant I had to pulse mine in batches but it still worked just as well.

Bacon jam goes perfectly on my homemade burgers, the recipe is here http://www.curlyscooking.co.uk/?p=1340.