What’s Cooking? – Autumnal Bakes

The title is a work in progress but I’ve decided to do a weekly article about what I’ve been up to in the kitchen. It will also encourage me to keep trying out new recipes!

This weekend I had a fair so decided to try out some seasonal recipes I haven’t made before. With autumn in full swing now, there is a big focus on warm & inviting spiced flavours like ginger & cinnamon. That got me thinking about what to try out that would keep with the season. With Halloween around the corner, I remembered a skeleton cookie cutter I was given as a present for my birthday last year. Not only would it be spooky but I could try out a gingerbread recipe with it. The cookies were a hit at the fair & I’ll admit to nibbling on one when I was decorating them! The cookies are available to order as part of my Halloween bakes (see facebook for more details) & I’ll also have them with me this weekend at the Urban Market in Drygate along with more seasonal goodies.

Skeleton Gingerbread Men

One nation that gets Autumnal flavours right is America. When I was over there a few years ago, I tried a pumpkin spiced doughtnut & the memory of it had stayed with me. I picked up a tin of Libby’s pumpkin puree in Tesco last week but want to find the right recipe for it before cracking it open. Another American favourite of mine is pecan pie with its treacle & nutty flavours. Pie-making is another baking area I hadn’t ventured so gave it a shot at creating a pecan pie. From the pic you can see the pie turned out well! The one thing I need to work on, and this is my own criticism, is to make sure the filling is all the way to the bottom as it was a but pastry heavy at the bottom. Oh and the neatness of the edges…

Pecan Pie

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m an official blogger for this week’s BBC Good Food Show at the SECC. As part of it, I was sent over some recipes that will feature in the free show guide to try out in advance. Given that last week was the final of the Great British Bake Off, I opted to try Mary Berry’s Raspberry & Apple muffins. They were, as Mary would say, a treat & I’ll admit that I munched on not long after it came out of the oven for my breakfast at the weekend!

Mary Berry's Raspberry & Apple Muffins

  • Servings: 12-15
  • Time: Preparation: 10 mins / Cooking: 25 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 85g Unsalted Butter
  • 250g Self-Raising Flour
  • tsp Baking Powder
  • 45g Ground Almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 115g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 250g Plain, full fat yoghurt
  • tbsp milk (either full fat or semi-skimmed)
  • 175g raspberries
  • 1 eating apple cut into 1cm pieces
  • For the glaze: 2 tbsp caster sugar &  tbsp orange juice

Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Line 12 muffin holes with paper cases. Melt the butter in a pan & set aside to cool.

Melting butter

Tip the flour, almonds, sugar, baking powder & cinnamon into a bowl & mix together. In another bowl, beat the eggs & add the yoghurt, milk & cooled butter. Stir this mixture into the flour mixture & then add the raspberries & apples to make a light mixture.

Raspberry Apple Muffins

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases & bake in the oven for 25 minutes until well risen & firm to touch.

For the glaze, warm the sugar & orange juice in a pan over a low heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up & let the mixture bubble for 30 seconds so that it turns a bit syrupy.

Glaze

Remove the muffins from the oven & let them cool in the muffin trays for 1-2 minutes before moving to a wire rack. Whilst they are still warm, brush the muffins with the glaze. (Tip – if you don’t have a pastry brush, you can use a teaspoon to drizzle the glaze)

Raspberry & Apple Muffins

 

Black Sheep Bistro

I’d visited the Black Sheep Bistro a couple of years ago on a work night out & thoroughly enjoyed it so I was looking forward to a revisit when we went for my sister’s graduation dinner. The restaurant is not on any of the main strips, in fact, it’s hidden away on a street in St George’s Cross, just at the end of Great Western Rd. It’s a small, family run restaurant that focuses on good, traditional food. The restaurant is so small in fact, that you will find weekends booked up weeks in advance so I’d definitely recommend calling ahead.

Black Sheep Bistro

The menu is quite large, with around 8-10 dishes for starters & mains, with a seasonal twist to the menu. It took me ages to decide as there were a few dishes I would easily pick on any menu. Instead, I decided to go for dishes I don’t normally have.

Black Sheep!Thistle

For starters, I went for the breaded camembert with raspberry sauce. One thing about the Black Sheep is that they do not skimp on portions! Usually when you get breaded cheese, you get one or two triangles, just bigger than a mouthful. This portion was 3 large pieces of cheese, oozing out of the breadcrumbs. It was well cooked but not so melted you can’t eat it without a spoon. I was intrigued by the raspberry sauce which was not too sweet but not too tart, with a lovely raspberry flavour & it accompanied the creamy cheese really well. I also pinched some of A’s starter which was prawns & crispy chorizo on crusty bread. I was a bit surprised to eat a mouthful only to find out it was cold! However, that didn’t take away from the slightly spicy chorizo & fresh prawns.

Breaded CamembertPrawn & Chorizo on crusty bread

Mains in the Black Sheep revolve around the meals that you crave when you need some proper comfort food with dishes including macaroni, steak pie & chicken balmoral on the menu. I was tempted to have the dish I’d had previously, haddock with parma ham & parmesan but opted to try something new. I ordered beef with red wine sauce, parmesan mash & seasonal veg. As I’m not a big parmesan fan, I asked for colcannon instead which they happily switched. The plate had 2 massive bits of meat sitting on top of a big pile of mash. We were given a pot of veg between two which was full to the brim with broccoli, carrots, apargus & green beans. The dish wasn’t entirely to my liking as the red wine sauce was more of a gravy when I was hoping for something similar to a jus. The mash as well was a bit lacking in texture, possibly a bit too much cream or milk added. The meat, however, was really well cooked & fell apart as I tried to cut into it.

Beef with red wine sauce & colcannon

Now one thing the restaurant does well is desserts. As you’ll have noticed from previous posts, I don’t normally get  a dessert but here I couldn’t resist! They have 2 options for dessert, either a bigger plate for yourself or ordering 3 mini desserts to share (or one your own if you can handle it!). I shared a peanut butter, dark choc & pretzel tart, strawberry shortbread stack & puff candy meringue ice cream with my dad. Honestly, it was one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten in my life. The tart was very dense, with good quality chocolate & the combination of that with the salty peanut butter & pretzel base was divine. The shortbread stack was filled with buttery shortbread, fresh strawberries & just the right amount of whipped cream whilst the puff candy meringue can speak for itself. It was so tasty!!

Trio of desserts

If you’re looking for good quality, traditional food, I’d recommend the Black Sheep in a heartbeat. I’m already eager to go back to try more of their fantastic desserts!!

Mad About Macarons @ Tennent’s Training Academy

For my Christmas, I received a voucher for the Tennent’s Training Academy & the first class I was eager to get booked in for was the Mad About Macarons class. For those of you not familiar with Macarons, they are a French meringue-esque cake, usually in bright colours & filled with either a buttercream or ganache. They are notoriously tricky to master so I wanted to go along & get taught first hand how to create these little beauties.

The legend - Mr Floyd

The Tennent’s Training Academy is situated at the Tennent’s brewery in the East End of Glasgow, just on Duke Street. Tennent’s spent a couple of million pounds a few years ago renovating the building & turning it into a state of the art training academy. The facility boasts a professional kitchen, tasting room, classroom & fully equipped bar. They provide a multitude of professional courses for those in the hospitality business as well as leisure courses for people like me to go along & learn a new skill. Bizarrely when you arrive, you are taken in a mini bus to the academy which is literally a couple of mins walk from the main entrance but I put that down to a healthy & safety point.

Mad About Macarons

I had expected the class to be full but amazingly there were only 4 of us taking part in the class! We were greeted by Michael Kilkie (renowned chef) & introduced to the class & what we were going to be doing. Michael gave us a quick demonstration of whisking together the egg whites & sugar to get the desired consistency & we were then left to our own devices.

Demonstration

Each of us had our own work station with the ingredients already laid out in separate bowls. We were also allowed to choose which colour we wanted our macarons to be – I opted for green for the first batch. I was disappointed that we wouldn’t be making flavoured macarons but mastering the technique is the main reason I chose the class. Making macarons is a test of patience as I quickly found out! You have to wait for the eggs to be beaten just the right amount so that the macarons set correctly. When it came to piping them, I found trying to get those perfect circles that you see in pictures takes a lot of practice!

Attempt #1

Once our Macarons were ready to set, we were given a ‘light lunch’. Now I’ve put that in quotes as we were all expecting some sandwiches or something similar. Instead, Michael whipped up some spaghetti with chorizo & roasted veg in a light tomato sauce for us! We were also given the choice of wine with our lunch but I declined as I’m trying to be good (pre-holiday diet!).  Whilst we were eating, our macarons were put in the oven to bake.

Freshly baked!

We were then allowed to make a second batch & I opted for red this time, which turned out to be more of a pinky colour! Whilst these macarons were setting, we then set about making our filling. We were given so many choices for flavouring our buttercream – vanilla pods, peanut butter, passionfruit, jam & chocolate (I think I’m missing a couple). I opted for 3 fillings – chocolate for my green macarons & vanilla & passionfruit for my red/pink macarons. I did put in too much passionfruit (I love that stuff!) into my buttercream & it curdled slightly but it still tasted amazing. There were a couple of interesting combinations – peanut butter & choc buttercream & jam buttercream. I’d never thought about putting jam in the buttercream but it was really nice!

Mine at the front

Once our macarons were ready to be filled, you had to find pairs that were roughly the same size & then fill them with buttercream. It was all a case of trial & error with how you fill them & then put them together. I have to say mine were a mile off the lovely classy French patisserie cakes you see but I was quite proud of my first attempt at making them! My family also appreciated the leftovers 🙂 I have since tried to make chocolate ones but the consistency was all wrong so I think investing in a book would be a good idea!

Green Macarons & Chocolate ButtercreamSecond batch

I thoroughly enjoyed the class at the Training Acadamy especially since the chefs are willing to answer each & all of your questions, no matter how trivial. I have actually attended an Italian course soon & am booked in for a pizza making class in April! A good way to spend a Saturday afternoon in my opinion.