• 60 ‘Maltese’ cupcakes

    Looking back at my Instagram account, it doesn’t look like I have done a huge amount since I last wrote.

    Perhaps the most significant events, although not very significant in themselves, are that I got to bake the 60 cupcakes for the customer order which I mentioned in my last post and I trialed our proposed pizzas for the Coln St Aldwyns fete, which is to be held in September.

    On Friday evening, after an early morning shift at the Coln Community Stores (5.30 to 10.30 am); a quick trip to Fairford to pick up some ingredients; a two-hour mow of the lawns to get our garden sort of in order for visitors, I set about making pizza; tomato sauce and caramelised onion, and preparing the toppings for 11, eight inch pizza.  You might ask why, 11 pizzas.  Well, we have just purchased a pizza stacker with 11 slots for 11 pizza trays.  Our mission (Jo was in charge of cooking them in our new Uuni Pro) was to see how many pizzas we could cook in a certain amount of time, in preparation of the Coln St Aldwyns fete.  We are hoping to cook 60-80 pizzas in two hours at the fete.  Limited by only two toppings (the organiser’s suggestion), pepperoni and  caramelised onion and goat’s cheese, we prepared and cooked 11 eight, inch pizzas, which were tasted by 6 of the fete’s organisers to determine whether they were worthy of appearing on the fete’s menu.  With Jo able to cook 6 in 9 minutes, and a thumbs up particularly to the caramelised onion & goat’s cheese topping (the firm favourite, not surprising given the discerning palates of the organisers), we have been given the go ahead to appear on the fete’s menu.  The leftover pizza dough (I made enough for 16 pizzas), together with the caramelised onion (of which there was loads), tomato sauce and goat’s cheese were made into a delicious calzone with added anchovies and mushrooms.  I think after the trial run and the calzone, we were all pizza’d out for a while.

    If cooking a shed load of pizzas on Friday night was not enough, on Saturday, after 6 days straight at work (albeit between the two jobs), I went to work ready to make 60 cupcakes (actually I made over 80 to ensure that I had 60 decent cupcakes for the customer) along with preparing what else needed to be made for general cafe use.  I didn’t envisage that some of my day would be spent supporting the front of house chef as it was a very busy day at the cafe.

    I made a decision to make the cupcake mixture in two batches as I didn’t want the mixture to sit around for too long before putting it in the oven.  I painstakingly made the first batch of mixture and took my time filling the cupcake cases.  I adjusted the oven to 10 degrees below the suggested 180 degrees Celsius as the recipe I was using did not specify if the suggested temperature was for a conventional or fan oven and baked the cupcakes for 20 minutes (the recipe suggested 20 – 25 minutes baking).  A skewer test suggested that the cakes should be cooked so I took them out of the oven.  In retrospect, I should have taken them out a couple of minutes later but retrospect was too late at this time.  That being said, after letting them cool for a while, and cutting open 3 or 4 cakes just to be sure that they were cooked (the less decent looking cakes) the cupcakes revealed themselves to be of a very light and decent texture.  With my first batch of cupcakes cooling, I set about making my second batch of cupcake mixture.  With time pressure on me, I tried to hasten the cake mixture (I thought that maybe I had been a little too cautious the first time around).  The result was that the second batch of mixture was not quite as good as the first and there were fewer cupcakes in the second batch that I thought were worthy of finishing off for the customer.  In retrospect (there is that word again), I should have made a single batch of cupcake mixture (our industrial mixer needs a lot of ingredients to ensure that it mixes them properly).  Irrespective, I had 60 plus cakes worthy of icing out of the two batches.

    Towards the end of the shift, we started the task of making the icing for and then icing, all the cupcakes.  The intention was that my colleague, who bakes and decorates cakes in her spare time would ice the cupcakes, as I never feel that this is my forte.  The first challenge was to get half the icing red enough.  Armed with 6 tubes of extra strong Dr Oetker gel red, food colouring, we attempted to get the correct colouring.  It was a deep pink rather than red.  My colleague made the correct call to try to add some more colouring.  A quick message to my husband Jo, saw the arrival of three more tubes of Dr Oetker.  These did the trick.  The second challenge was to ensure that the icing was firm enough to ice the cupcakes (it was sweltering in the kitchen) – a short chill in the fridge did the trick.  The third and final challenge was to get an even swirl of white and red icing on top of each cupcake.  My colleague used a method used by her aunt, which was to wrap the two coloured icings separately in cling film and the place them in a large piping bag to pipe.  This method ensures that the colours do not mix when piping.  Ingenious!

    After all the icing prep, which took much longer than expected we set about icing the cupcakes, 60 for the customer and the rest for the staff.  A test by my colleague and me revealed that I could in fact ice neater than her so it became my task to ice the cupcakes.  80 iced cupcakes later, 60 of which were left neatly tucked in boxes in the fridge (it was too hot in the kitchen to leave them out – it was the right call as the icing on the ones that we left out for staff, melted slightly), we left for the day, praying that the cupcakes would be okay in the morning.  As I had the Fairford 10km run on the Sunday morning, I was not going to be around for the pick up.  To end this rather long-winded story about the life of a cupcake, lets just say that they were picked up and that the feedback from the customer yesterday was very positive.  The customer came into see me personally to thank me for the cupcakes.  She said that they were more than she had expected and that her Mother (whose Birthday it was) had tears (of joy, I should add) when she saw the cupcakes.  The sentiment most probably came from the colouring of the cupcakes, rather than the cakes themselves as the red and white was supposed to represent the Maltese flag and their heritage.

    Going back to the Fairford 10km.  It was a very fast race with the winner averaging a speed of over 18km an hour.  Although we didn’t place well we were happy with out time of 47.22 minutes.  Our goal was to achieve a sub 50 minute 10km, which we did.  After the race I did a short stint in the kitchen at Lynwood & Co (2-3 hours) and then some paddle boarding and canoeing with my husband, sister and nephew.  Needless to say that we were exhausted so resorted to pub meal and a glass or two of wine at the New Inn.  While at the pub, we got talking to Daisy May Cooper, the actress and recent BAFTA winner from This Country.  She was an absolute delight and asked Jo and I for our phone numbers as she thought we were lovely (her words) and suggested that we meet up for a drink sometime.  She is unlikely to call, but I am sure we will bump into her in the pub sometime.

    The last thing I should mention is that I have made some progress in setting up a business from home.  I am now registered as a business with the Cotswold District Council and have an environmental health officer coming to see me on Monday afternoon.  I have one supplier secured, to provide me with ambient goods and for the ingredients for the Coln St Aldwyns Fete.  I now have a few days, starting after breakfast this morning, to get to grips with the Safer Food Better Business document before the meeting on Monday afternoon.  While I say that I have made progress, any progress that I have made may be thwarted if our landlord does not approve of me operating a small business from home.  We will just have to wait and see what he says.  It is not the end of the world though, as our year’s contract is coming to an end in August and we can look for another property if needs be.

  • Best pizza dough and tomato sauce recipes

    Okay, so I am a bit hooked on my new Uuni Pro pizza oven.  I have now had two pizza evenings with my family.  My younger sister, Gillian, was so taken by the pizzas that she asked me to give her my pizza dough and tomato sauce recipes.  As I was writing them up for her, I thought I would share them with you too.  Happy pizza making!

    Pizza Dough (makes 3-4 decent sized, thin based pizzas)

    Ingredients:

    • 7 g sachet fast-action yeast
    • 300 ml tepid water
    • 500 g strong white flour (Italian 00 is best)
    • 2 tsp fine salt
    • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

    Method:

    • In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and dried yeast with the olive oil and water and form the mixture into a ball.
    • Knead the dough on a floured work surface for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes of kneading the dough should be springy.  Form the kneaded dough into a ball; flour the top; place in a bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm.  Leave to rise in a warm place.
    • After at least 30 minutes, but ideally when doubled in size, your dough is ready.
    • Divide the dough into 3-4 pieces and then roll them into round discs (pizza bases).
    • Top with toppings of your choice and cook in domestic oven/pizza oven as required.  It is best to place pizzas directly onto a hot baking sheet or pizza stone within a preheated oven.

    Source: Polpo

    Tomato sauce

    Ingredients:

    • 2 x 400 g tinned tomatoes (blended)
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • Large pinch of coarsely ground black pepper
    • 1 crushed garlic clove
    • 3 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 sprigs of basil
    • 1 onion – quartered.

    Method:

    • Over a medium heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil.
    • Add the blended tomatoes when the garlic starts to sizzle.  Don’t allow the garlic to brown.
    • Add the quartered onion and basil.  Season (to taste)  with the sugar, salt and pepper.
    • Simmer for 20 minutes, until thickened.
    • Remove the onion and the basil and allow to cool to room temperature before using.

    Source: Uuni Pro

  • Dutch ovens and pizza ovens

    It has been quite a busy time since last I wrote.  I have been using my reduced hours at work to practice and hopefully develop my cooking skills.  Over the last couple of weeks, I have made: