As you may have seen from my post last June (Bacon + Chocolate = …?), I attempted a recipe which some of you wouldn’t dare go near. That was of course the now infamous ‘Bacon Brownies’. Even at that point I had made them for a number of occasions, some by special request. I took some to Ian Nunney’s (http://ian.nunney.me.uk/) annual summer Barbecue last year, and they went down a treat. So much so, that I was asked this year to make some more.
Now I believe that cooking should be about experimentation. Yes you may need a recipe as a starting point, but you don’t need to stick to it 100%. Try to vary some ingredients, add something different, or swap for alternatives. You don’t have to stray to far to end up with something just as good, if not better. Clearly I was going to try that here, to ‘spice things up’.
I made 4 batches this time round, each based off the original recipe yet each different. For each batch I used different combinations of Dark Brown Muscavado Sugar, Light Brown Muscavado Sugar, and Caster Sugar. Don’t ask me to tell you how much of each, because I can’t. I just made sure each batch had 12oz/360g of sugar in total. I changed the chocolate around a bit, using dark/plain chocolate for 2 batches, and milk chocolate for the other two. I also used more bacon, with around 8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon in each.
Now came the good part. Having cooked with mixed spice before, I knew it would work well. So to one batch of milk chocolate, I added two teaspoons of mixed spice. Taking my cue from a ‘chocolate chilli cake’ I once ate, to a batch of the dark/plain chocolate I added something much stronger. One teaspoon of Cayenne Chilli Pepper. Now while not to everyones taste, I liked how this turned out, as did others at the party. It gave a deep warm spiciness followed by a kick of chilli. Next time I may use less or milder Chilli Pepper, but the idea was good.
As expected, the brownies were once again well received, in all their forms. The mixed spice ones became a new favourite, perhaps because it masks the bacon slightly for those who are unsure but still want to try them. I did get one piece of advice though, from Skalligrim Ericsson and Fenris Sais Saionnai, Vikings of the Bifrost Guard (http://www.bifrostguard.co.uk) :-
“This needs more Bacon”!
When you’ve got no eggs, it can make baking complicated, as there aren’t too many recipes that don’t need them. I thought of baking bread, but that seemed plain, and I had made it before. So armed only with flour, sugar and butter, plus a few odds and ends, I looked around for something I could make. There wasn’t much, but fortunately, one Scottish classic, actually a form of bread, came through.
Regardless of how you say it, I’m sure you’ve eaten a scone at some point in your life. They are extremely versatile, being made sweet or savoury, with any number of different ingredients added to give them a different flavour. My favourites include cherry for a sweet scone, or cheese for a savoury. I happened to have some sultanas among my baking supplies, so chose that as the extra ingredient.
I used this recipe for Sultana Scones from BBC Food. It took about 10 minutes to mix up the ingredients and have 12 scones on the baking tray ready to go in the oven. I did have to add some extra flour at the end, as in adding the milk, the dough became too moist. After 15 minutes in the oven, they were done, and definitely tasty. Not bad for less than half an hour with limited ingredients.
Remember, cooking is as much about experimenting as it is about following recipes. With these scones you could replace the sultanas with something else, maybe even chocolate (visit BBC Food for some different recipe ideas). Even if it seems like you may not have enough ingredients to make anything, just have a look around, online and in recipe books if you have them, you’re bound to find something!
As I know my time in limbo will be ending soon (see ‘The end of life as we know it‘) I have been trying to make the most of it before I start work. This means of course, more baking! This week, after hearing that one of my friends had been making Cupcakes, I decided I too. I had been given a set of Silicone rubber Cupcake Moulds for Christmas, and never used them. I was certainly dubious at putting rubber into the oven, but I knew I had to give them a chance.
The recipe I began with was nothing special, in fact, it was called ‘Simple Cupcake Recipe‘. Of course, I did change it a little, using light brown soft sugar and caster sugar together, to get a better flavour. After making this, I then split it in half, to make 2 different types of Cupcake. The first, a simple vanilla mix, adding a spoon of Vanilla essence to the cake mix, before baking. For the second, I chose Cinnamon, due to my love of it’s flavour, adding in 4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon to the mix.
Then it came time to bake them. I filled each of the Silicone moulds evenly, put them on a baking tray, and into the oven at 160°C. 20 minutes later, when they had risen and were golden brown, I got them out. I was surprised! They were perfectly cooked, not burnt or even crispy. Getting them out of the moulds was a cinch – the moulds just pealed away. I certainly have a respect for Silicone cookware now, and plan to invest in more to avoid the difficulty of removing cakes from metal tins.
As all Cupcakes need icing, I decided on two different approaches. On to the vanilla cakes I put a simple icing made of icing sugar, vanilla essence and water. I covered each cake liberally, then poured some sprinkles (Hundreds and Thousands) over them.
As I love cinnamon, I felt these deserved better treatment. I made a cinnamon flavoured buttercream icing, blending butter (at room temperature), icing sugar and ground cinnamon. In getting the flavour right, and because I hadn’t measured anything, I did make a little more than necessary, but it was worth it.
The cakes tasted great, and have definitely encouraged me to try more smaller cakes in future. I think I had confined myself to larger cakes because I had become used to baking them. Now I know I can try smaller cakes without any disasters, I am on the lookout for more ideas.
If you have any, let me know!