Our journey into the world of Biscotti

After a couple of weeks of Biscotti madness I thought it would be good to blog about it.  It has been a fabulous experience and adventure and I got to do it all with my friend Karen from Karen’s Little Kitchen

 

As our first big bake we knew we were in for a challenge as we had to bake over 7000 Biscotti biscuits – no problem!!!  In fact it’s so easy let’s pick something that needs to be baked twice (I blame Karen for this decision!!).  The ingredients had been calculated showing us how much we needed of everything – this included 25 bags of flour and 378 eggs – this was going to be a big shop!!  I will also point out that this same week, my husband and I were getting our house ready to go on the market.  This involved de-cluttering and clearing each room, including the kitchen, so arriving home with boxes full of ingredients was going against the house clearing plan!  Luckily they would be turned into delicious Biscotti in no time!

A system quickly formed which ensured every stage of the preparation and baking was time efficient and ran smoothly, with the aim to have something in the oven at all times.  The Biscotti was all baked once before the second bake commenced as this stage requires the oven to be at a lower temperature.

The steps I took were

Round 1

  • Mix the ingredients
  • Roll into a sausage shape
  • Bake for 25-30 mins
  • Remove from oven and cool
  • Store
  • Repeat

 

Round 2

  • Spread out on tray
  • Bake for 15 minutes
  • Remove from oven and let cool
  • Turn each piece of Biscotti over
  • Bake for 15 minutes
  • Remove from oven and let cool
  • Bag and tie
  • Repeat

 

Round 3

  • Stick labels on tags
  • Cut string to size
  • Attach labels to bags
  • Pack in large box
  • Repeat!

 

There was a lot of counting involved throughout this process and I got to the stage where I was counting even when I didn’t need to!  I also noticed I was passing the day in 25 or 15 minute periods as I set the timer to start every time something was put in the oven, this caused each baking session to blur into one and time to fly by!!  However I can now bake a batch of Biscotti blindfolded!

 

For the Biscotti we had to design our own labels and we got them printed onto clear stickers that looked fantastic and professional.  I would definitely use this style of label for any future projects.

 

For delivery I loaded up the car, which took me about 20 minutes and some serious tessellation to get all the boxes into the car.  I then set off towards Keighley with the radio on and the sun shining.  I arrived at the new Gin Explorer offices with the Biscotti delivery and some homemade carrot cakes for the staff as a thank you for letting us get involved.  It was lovely to meet the team and see their new offices.  I also presented them with a bag of Biscotti off-cuts which was opened straight away and tucked in to – I was keen to remove all traces of Biscotti from the house now the order was complete!

dsc02758dsc02756 img_5546

I have really enjoyed taking on this order and working with Karen was lots of fun.  Although it was tiring at times and I had moments of Biscotti madness I would do it all again!!

 

Cupcake decorating at Oakmere Community College

I first met Rachel from Oakmere Community College back in August at the Liverpool Loves Business network event and we got talking about the college and we agreed I would get in touch to see if there were any workshops I could offer the college as part of their enrichment studies.

I headed down to the college and met with Rachel and Andy and had a little tour around.  The college feels really welcoming and everyone I met was lovely, it gave me a fantastic feeling about the place and the work they do for their students and I was keen to get involved.

The first workshop was cupcake decorating and we set up in the canteen which was perfectally placed next to the kitchen.  The room and facilities were fantastic.

The course ran for the catering and hair and beauty groups, so this was something a little different to compliment and widen their studying experience.

The theme was Halloween and each student was shown how to make 4 different designs.

ghost cupcake witches hat cupcake Pumpkin cupcake Spiders web cupcake

They all got stuck in and created some fantastic cupcakes, helping each other out, asking questions and resisting eating any of them for as long as they possibly could!

Sadly I didnt get chance to take any photos, but head over to the college website and check out the pictures they took Oakmere Community College News

 

Baking just for fun

Over the last few weeks we have had  a couple of free cakes for kids orders to fulfil and a couple of birthdays which I wanted to mark with a cake but wanted to keep simple to keep the cost and time involved to a minimum as we have been busy bees here at Hours of Fun.    Rather than have to say no to cake when I am busy I like to come up with simple yet effective and delicious solutions that can be implemented instead.

Free cakes for kids latest bakes have been cupcakes – which were vanilla sponge with vanilla frosting and toffee sponge with banana frosting.  I also did a cake for a special music lover which was an 8 round decorated in black and white with musical notes.  Following making this cake I have added a musical notes cutter or mould onto my wish list!  The cake was vanilla sponge with jam and vanilla frosting for the filling.  I have also made a giant cupcake for a special girl’s birthday.Banana and toffee and cherry and almond cupcakes

 

Music birthday cake
Music birthday cake
Giant cupcake with bunting
Giant cupcake with bunting

 

For a friend of mine I made a 5 layer lemon sponge with lemon curd and vanilla frosting filling.  It was decorated with a sprinkle of icing sugar and only just fit inside the cake box it was so tall!    This was made using a 6” round tin.

4 tier lemon sponge cake

 

Another cake was made using a 6” heart shaped tin.  Again this was a lemon cake with lemon curd and vanilla frosting filling.  Covered in a layer of ready roll icing and decorated as a parcel using pink ready roll icing for the ribbon and bow.  I placed the cake slightly off centre on the board to allow room for a message to be added saying Happy Birthday.  This shows how a small cake on a small board can look really effective and keep the costs down.

Heart parcel
Heart parcel

 

For my nephews birthday we wanted to give him a cake but keep the idea simple as he is planning on having a birthday party in a few weeks which I will make a cake for him to have then too.  As I have been doing quite a bit of edible printing recently I decided to get a Guardian’s of the Galaxy print out done which could be placed on top of the cake.  The cake was then covered in stars to finish it off.  The picture was printed onto rice paper this time and is stuck to the cake using a little bit of frosting.  The cake was a chocolate sponge with vanilla flavoured filling.

Guardians of the galaxy
Guardians of the galaxy

 

Other bakes have been carrot cookies which went a little wrong!  Orange buscuits which were lovely.

carrot cookies Chocolate orange biscuits

 

Chocolate eclairs and a chocolate tart made by Kev which were both delicious.

chocolate tart chocolate eclairs

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies – delicious, addictive and easy to bake!

The first thing I can recall making that made me fall in love with baking was chocolate chip cookies.  I have memories of baking at home with my mum and making things in home economics at school, however I first made these cookies not long after I left University.  They are so easy to bake and it has always amused me that they can turn out slightly different every time you make them depending on how well they are mixed, how you put them on the baking tray or depending on what ingredients you use.

I have recently made them for a work’s leaving do and a few different charity coffee mornings and they have been a big hit.  I have also been working on getting them to be an even shape as when selling them at a charity coffee morning I felt it was important to have them equal in size and shape.  My trick to this is to use an ice cream scope to put the mixture onto the baking tray, just sprinkle a little flour in the scope to stop the mixture sticking.

I have been asked for this recipe so thought I would add it to my crafts download page and share it will all, to encourage everyone to get baking cookies – its worth it!

Head over to the Hours of Fun crafts and hobbies page and download the recipe.

CRAFT IDEAS PAGE

Any problems with the download let me know.

addictive

Happy Baking!

Cupcake decorating – the Hours of Fun workshop in Croxteth

Hours of Fun have been out and about with the craft table visiting the community centres in the Croxteth area.

We headed to the Rhys Jones centre and got the children to make 2 cupcakes, one decorated with rolled out fondant cut to shapes using cutters, the other decorated with frosting as they learnt how to do an ice cream swirl.  Along with sprinkles, edible silver and gold balls and coloured icing they created some master pieces and all really enjoyed themselves.

hours of fun cupcake decorating workshop at GEMS croxteth (20) hours of fun cupcake decorating workshop at GEMS croxteth (5) hours of fun cupcake decorating workshop at GEMS croxteth (1)

We also took the cupcake decorating kit to the GEMS centre in Croxteth.  We had a smaller group for this session and they were slightly older so they were given the challenge of making a flower, a teddy bear and using a piping bag.  We had a mixture of results!  They made 4 cupcakes in total, so for the last one I let them decorate the cupcake using anything from the table and combining any of the techniques they have learnt.

hours of fun cupcake decorating workshop at GEMS croxteth (10) hours of fun cupcake decorating workshop at GEMS croxteth (8)

hours of fun cupcake decorating workshop at GEMS croxteth (12) hours of fun cupcake decorating workshop at GEMS croxteth (17)

 

Our final stop was at the Stonedale bus.  The kids got busy (along with some keen adults) decorating the cupcakes on the top deck of the bus.  They used lots of sprinkles and frosting and created some amazing cupcakes, with lots of taste testing along the way!

hours of fun cupcake workshop stonedale bus croxteth (5) hours of fun cupcake workshop stonedale bus croxteth (4) hours of fun cupcake workshop stonedale bus croxteth (3) hours of fun cupcake workshop stonedale bus croxteth (2) hours of fun cupcake workshop stonedale bus croxteth (1)

 

Gluten free cake recipe – makes delicious cupcakes

As with reduced sugar cakes I have blogged before about gluten free cakes however I have never included a recipe.  Each time I go to make a new batch I have to search through all my recipe papers (which need organising!) and hope I find the right one to use!

I have used this recipe for both cupcakes and cakes and I have found it to produce a lovely light cake, especially the cupcakes and the last batch I made were lovely – best batch to date!

I found this recipe at www.allrecipes.co.uk click the link to visit the page.

You will need :-

150g margarine

150g caster sugar

2 drops of vanilla essence

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder (ensure it is gluten free, I use Dr Oetker)

150g gluten free self-raising flour

3 tablespoons milk.

Method:-

Cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy

Beat in the eggs and vanilla

Fold in the flour and baking powder, then add the milk.

It may seem a little sloppy but this is fine.

Spread out accross 10 cupcake cases or place in small cake tin and bake at 190 degrees C for around 15 minutes or longer if in a cake tin.  I decorated with a small simple swirl of vanilla frosting.

 

 

Reduced sugar cake recipe, perfect for a special occasion for someone with diabetes

I have blogged before about baking reduced sugar cakes for my friend however I have never included the recipe.  For the last couple of years I have had to try and locate the recipe I had used in previous years then come across three different print outs which confuses me and I have ended up guessing which one I have used.  This year I am going to include the recipe so I can refer to it whenever I need it as I have had 2 events already this year which called for reduced sugar cakes and I have a couple more dates in the diary to come.

I am not sure where I found the recipe when I did a search on the internet.  I know it is simply called diabetic cake.  You can add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the mixture however I choose not to as my dad also has to watch his salt intake.

You will need :-

2 cups of self-raising flour sifted

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder sifted

6 tablespoons of margarine

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract/essence

1/4 teaspoon ground almond

1 cup of sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

Method :-

Cream the margarine, vanilla and almond until fluffy

Gradually add the sugar – keep beating the mixture.

Then add the egg and mix well.

Gently stir in the flour and baking powder, alternating with milk until all combined and the mixture is smooth

Split the mixture across 12 cupcake cases

Bake at approx. 170 degrees C for 20 minutes (check they are cooked by inserting a skewer/knife through the centre of one of the cupcakes and look for any mixture stuck when you pull it out)

For the topping :-

I used Low fat crème fraiche, which I beat for a short while to fluff it up slightly.  I then cut a small hole out of the top of the cupcake and filled with no added sugar raspberry jam, then smoothed a layer of the crème fraiche across the top of the cake and topped with some crushed almonds.

 

Gluten free and reduced sugar cupcakes

 

Red velvet cupcakes – a new recipe to try

I was asked to make a batch of red velvet cupcakes as a present for Kurt’s mum.  I had not made red velvet cake before so I was very exciting as I love a new challenge in the kitchen.  With being rather busy I do not often get the opportunity to try new things with my cakes so when someone orders it, I rise to the challenge and have a lot of fun with it.

I found a recipe by Nigella Lawson and headed to the mixer to get baking.

The recipe was easy to follow and I loved the comment about the amount of red colouring to use as I did wonder if I was using too much, however it assures you to add it all!  I used my Sugarflair Ruby paste colour as this was the one I had in my kit.

They baked really well and the colour was a fantastic vibrant red, so far so good! The recipe uses a cream cheese frosting but I chose to go with a vanilla frosting topping, using a piping bag to create a simple swirl then decorated with red sugar crystals.  They then got popped into a cupcake box with a red ribbon tied in a bow as the finishing touch.

Kurt’s mum loves red velvet cakes and the feedback was fantastic and we had got the red velvet cake right yeay!  A new sponge to add to our list, I just need to try it as a large cake now.

Red velvet cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes

red velvet cupcakes (2)

The full recipe and method can be found at

www.nigella.com/recipes/view/red-velvet-cupcakes

You will need :-

250g plain flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

100g soft unsalted butter

200g caster sugar

1 heaped tablespoon christmas red paste food colouring

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

175ml buttermilk

1 teaspoon cidar vinegar

A fun day out at the Can Cook Studio in Speke

Our can cook studio day out

For Christmas last year we were given an amazing present of a Can Cook Studio session from my brother in law and his wife.  We had it booked in for March, but sadly due to me being poorly we couldn’t go and had to rebook.  After a long wait the date was finally here and we headed to Speke for our session with no idea what we going to find or have to do.

I had heard from Kurt who owns Fuel Shakes that the place was amazing, fully kitted out with kitchen equipment and kitchen pods available to hire by the hour which Fuel had used.  We arrived at the Studio which is located at the Matchworks, to be greeted with a beautifully laid out table with freshly baked scones, juice and tea and coffee.  After a delicious breakfast we headed to the display kitchen for the first demonstration going through what we will be making during the session and getting us started on the dough for the bread.  We then split off into pairs and got started on making 2 different types of bread – a focaccia and bloomer.  There was an air of competitiveness between Kev and I and following a comment on Kev’s dough advising it needed to look like mine, this competitiveness was embedded for the day!!

Whilst the dough was resting we headed back to the display kitchen to go through Cornish pasties which was next on the menu.  We learnt how to make pastry and learnt a few tips Kev is keen to try next time he makes some shortbread or a pie.  We were provided with the ingredients for the filling and headed back to our kitchen pods to get started.  We made a couple during the session then, due to time we boxed up the rest ready to be made at home.

Whilst the Cornish pasties cooked it was back to the display kitchen for the run through on sticky toffee pudding.  We made our own pudding and popped them in the oven along with the bread which was now ready for baking.  Whilst these were cooking we headed back to the dinning table to sit down with drinks and our homemade Cornish pasties for lunch.  We all really enjoyed our pasties, and making half the batch and eating them allowed us to identify any changes we wished to make to the filling before cooking the rest of them.

We left the Can Cook Studio with bags of food to take away with us and had had an amazing day.  They provided everything we needed, we had our own personal washer upper – Tony and we had a fun group of people who all seemed to really enjoy the session.  They didn’t rush us and made the session fun and interesting.  I would highly recommend these sessions to anyone who fancies learning more about baking and cooking.  They do lots of other sessions; visit their website to learn more about them.

Hours of Fun with cakes and new tools

The Hours of Fun kitchen has been busy since opening two months ago, baking delicious cakes to order and there have been a few family birthdays where a cake is a must.

New equipment has been added to the cake tool box and new edible cake decorations have been tested out.  The adventure has been a lot of fun and here we can share the new things learnt, new tools purchased and have a look back at some of the creations made.

<img class="alignnone size-medium wp-image-5213 aligncenter" alt="New cake tools for homemade cakes by Hours of Fun" src="http://www.hoursoffun.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/New-cake-tools-for-homemade-cakes-by-Hours-of-Fun-300×207.jpg" width

Impression mats

Flower impression mat  The latest addition to my impression set is the PME floral design sugarpaste icing impression mat.  Impression mats, rolling pins and crimpers are a fantastic, yet simple way to decorate a cake.  They can be used on icing and marzipan and you could get a collection for your craft kit as they work on fimo, clay, playdough etc.

 Edible fun

A new flavour has been added to the collection  – English Toffee and it is yummy!  Simply add a little flavouring to your cake batter or mix it in with your buttercream.  These flavours are fantastic for jazzing up your cakes and allowing to offer a variety of flavours, there really is any flavour you can think of.  I have also tried edible sparking sugar crystals for the first time as they caught my eye whilst shopping to stock up on silver balls.  They can be used instead of silver balls or glitter and give a more rough and ready look.

  Sparkling sugar crystals metallic silver  English toffee flavouring  Silver edible balls in different sizes

My favourite new experiment has been with Wilton candy melts as I first spotted these some time ago in my local cake shop and didn’t have a reason to use them.  My brother in law’s cake had a swimming themed bottom tier – perfect for some blue candy melts spread across the board.  You can get them in a range of colours and they can be coloured if you can’t find the one you need.  You simply melt the candy, spread where you require and let it set.

Wilton candy melts  close up on blue wilton candy melt

The other main purchase in the first couple of months has been boards and boxes as I am lucky enough to already have a varied and well equipped cake tool box.  I will continue to add to my tools and edible treats as i place new orders and require new bits and bobs, however boxes and boards are a continuous requirement.  All these additions, including a new Number 2 tin and along with the protein bar business have demanded more storage in the kitchen, perfect excuse to go shopping for shelves.

<img class="alignnone wp-image-5229" alt="New cake storage drawers for homemade cakes and protein bars" src="http://www.hoursoffun.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/New-cake-storage-drawers-for-homemade-cakes-and-protein-bars-152×300.jpg" width=  New number 2 cake tin