Sunday, July 27, 2014

Overwhipped cream and overflowing cupcakes

Baking disasters are distressingly common, but there's usually a way of salvaging something presentable from the wreckage. Here's a couple of examples, starting from my attempt to whip cream for a chocolate and raspberry semifreddo yesterday.

1. Overwhipped cream.

Whipping cream in a food processor sounds like a time saver, but it's easy to over-whip and go past the 'stiff peaks' stage. You know when you've done it, because your cream turns to butter. Like this:

If you've only slightly over-whipped the cream, you can salvage it by simply adding more cream and whipping a little more until you get the right consistency. Pastry chef Helen Fletcher explains the process here. Even the pros do this, apparently.

If you've gone so far that it's yellow and separated into solid and liquid forms, this won't work. Don't throw it away though. It's butter. Pour off the buttermilk, and use it in cake recipes like you would any other butter. I had a couple of over-ripe bananas to use up, so I made banana cupcakes, using Mary Berry's banana loaf recipe spooned into little cake cases and baked for about 20 minutes. Which leads to the next baking disaster...

2. Overflowing cupcakes.

Banana cake batter is more liquid than your average cupcake mix. Add that to slightly over-filling the cake cases, and you've got cupcakes that overflow in the oven, leading to a messy irregular shape. Like these:

Fortunately there's a fix for this too. As described by Elaine from Edge Desserts here, take them out of the cases, turn them upside-down on a board, and trim them with a round cookie cutter. This also neatly gets rid of any hard, over-baked edges. You can just trim the edges with a sharp knife, but the cookie cutter gives a neater and prettier finish, leading to perfectly evenly-sized little cupcakes. Pop them into fresh cases, and no one will ever know they weren't supposed to be that way, especially once they're frosted.

I made frosting with 200ml whipped cream (taking care not to over-whip this time!) and 30g icing sugar plus two tablespoons cocoa powder. The icing sugar stabilises the whipped cream and gives it a firmer consistency for piping. So, banana cupcakes with chocolate frosting, and an (almost) effortless recovery from two baking mishaps.

Don't throw away the leftover trimmings either. They're perfect for using in a trifle base...or just eating.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Homemade raspberry sorbet

Summer desserts are all about the fruit, and if you grow raspberries you probably have a real glut of them at the moment. I decided to make raspberry sorbet, using this recipe .

This works without an ice-cream maker to churn the mixture, you just do it manually by freezing, blending and re-freezing. It's a little bit laborious, but there's nothing difficult in the process. It turns out to have a slightly more crystalline granita-like texture compared to shop-bought sorbet, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

For those (like me) who struggle with US cups and ounces, here are the conversions to European measurements that I used:

680g raspberries
237ml water
225g caster sugar
45ml (3tbsp) lemon juice
5ml (1tsp) vodka

Betwixt: new fiction

My latest short story 'Princess Cosima and the Thousand Cats' is available to read free online in Betwixt Magazine now. This one is a historical science fantasy (I think) featuring Isabella of Spain, an f/f love story, zombies and space. And cats.

I was lucky enough to get to visit the Alhambra in Granada (the 'Red Palace', and the inspiration for this story) a few years ago, and its beautiful gardens are still home to a significant population of semi-wild cats (not sure if I counted a thousand, but there are quite a few!)

Betwixt is a relative newcomer in the short SFF world, aiming to shake things up with an eclectic mix of stories and a focus on genre mash-ups and diverse viewpoints, and so far they've published some quality stories from both established professional and upcoming authors.

Check out the all latest stories here, and consider supporting Betwixt if you enjoy them!