Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Very 'Me' Day

Starting off with a 5km run o'er the hills of Cork city, and planning to finish off by baking 4 loaves of Banana Bread and a few dozen Christmas Cookies... Sounds like Me alright... I might even fit in some (more!) drinking with the Rugby girls if I finish up in the kitchen on time. Must admit I'm thoroughly enjoying my transplanting in Cork, the craic is only mighty... :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Curse my lack of creativity!

I've tried to come up with a new blog, and failed to deliver on a sufficiently creative and witty title; hence I am admitting defeat and posting here once more... *sigh* I am currently studying in University College Cork, having made the leap from the small village to the bright lights of Cork City, and enjoying the many many (many!) advantages of this experience. Apologies for the hiatus. Normal service will resume shortly. Well, as normal as one can expect from me and my erratic posts...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Too Weak to Bake!

I'm housebound, and practically bedridden thanks to a bout of a flu-like illness.. Yes, my GP thinks it's swine flu, lucky me, getting such a fashionable illness! It's totally scuppered my plans for finishing work this week, I'd intended on ending in a blaze of baking glory. Even if I had the strength to make something I don't think I could find willing recipients for potentially infected baked goods! I'm still supposed to be moving to Cork this weekend, and just in case I thought I could push that date out a little further, I confirmed today that I start classes on Monday...

Friday, September 11, 2009

End of an Era

I watched the most amazing sunset tonight, I tried taking panoramic photos on my phone but it wasn't capable of capturing the breath-taking red and amber hues that filled the sky, you'll just have to take my word for it. It rocked. A beautiful end to a beautiful day.

Speaking of endings, I'm not fond of farewells even at the best of times, so I'm really not enjoying all the goodbyes I've had to do lately. I'd rather just move to Cork quietly, and let it all sink in after I've gone, but people seem to be insisting on letting me know how much I'll be missed. Damn them and their tear-jerking gestures.

And so, now that I've clarified that my not being a fan of farewells, it's a bit ironic (or is it hypocritical?) that I'm finishing with this blog... Yeah... I'm starting yet another one.. Or for those of who who've only seen this one, I'm starting a second one! :D I figure that it's time to let this one go, seeing as I'm not a New Market girl any more, nor will I be living in Newmarket on Fergus any more, so yeah, it's just inaccurate really. I haven't thought of a new blog title for documenting my adventures as a mature student/immature baker in Cork city, so suggestions are welcome... I could make a competition out of it.. winning suggestion gets a cupcake or something... Terms and conditions would apply of course*

*The winner must live in Ireland... near my house... and have their own transport.. and put the sprinkles on it themselves...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Last Market: Ending on a High

How typically me that I only figure out the best method for transporting, decorating and displaying my cupcakes on the LAST day of the Market! :) In a fit of inspiration and laziness I decided to bring the cupcakes to market without icing them, I simply packed up a piping bag full of pink & white buttercream icing and finished them off at my little stand. Ingenious. Why didn't I think of it earlier?! This was MUCH easier and much more fun too, I brought a big selection of toppings and let a few people decide what they wanted on their personalised cupcake. Fun times! :)

Also I had bought my little miniamo cupcake stand last weekend as a little birthday present for myself, and it worked perfectly for showcasing my cupcakes, both plain and iced. I was so proud of myself, I just can't believe it only occurred to me after 3 months of carefully transporting iced cupcakes in the back of my car every Saturday morning!

The Market itself went really well, we sold most of our produce and shared out any leftovers, that's how I ended up with a Chilli Plant in my car for the weekend... :) Mum will mind it for me I hope! But we really finished off the summer in style that night with a BBQ in a local pub. I'll have to publish some photos of that, Market people all dressed up! You wouldn't recognise us out of our jeans and mucky clothes!! :) We had a great night, lovely food, a few drinks and great company, finishing off with a house party back at my place! I would have apologised to the neighbours but they showed up too!
There was an ulterior motive behind the house party though, as well as my Birthday the previous week, it was also my chance to have a Last Night with a lot of my friends who live in this area, because.... I'm moving to Cork in 2 weeks time! :) I'm going back to UCC to study a Masters in eLaw. Yes it has absolutely nothing to do with baking. But I've wanted to do it for years and I'm finally taking the plunge. I'm hoping to find somewhere to live that has a baking-friendly kitchen so I can keep up my addiction down there! Fingers crossed... :)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Birthday Cake Binge! :)

I think I may have overdosed on cake this weekend... :) My sister had very kindly made a Chocolate Praline Cake so that I wouldn't have to bake my own birthday cake, it suited me nicely actually as she let me play around with some Coffee Icing and cover the side in swirly patterns! (Please excuse the crookedness of these swirls, I'm still getting the hang of symmetry in cake decorating!) I had also brought down some of the many leftover vanilla cupcakes from the farmer's market, there were just NO customers this week, it was almost a waste of time! The cupcakes went down well with my family anyway, especially when I iced them individually to suit their preferences, and let them decorate with chocolate/strawberries/sprinkles etc. It's definitely more fun to decorate with people than it is to bake with them! We topped off that sugar overdose with meringues from a local patisserie in Kinsale, just couldn't resist them once my Mum served them up with fresh cream and strawberries.. mm...
So it's no wonder my clothes are tight on me this morning!! I have no excuses for missing training this evening after that binge-fest! :D

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A little inspiration please! :)

It's my birthday on Sunday, and although I'm not too happy about turning 26, I am very much looking forward to baking my Birthday Cake! The only problem is... I don't know what to bake... :( I'm not really a big chocolate fan, I'd prefer coffee to vanilla, and I love fresh fruit desserts like pavlova but I want to make a cake so that I can pipe pretty icing swirls and rosettes!
I need some help, I need a little inspiration, so any suggestions would be welcome! :)
I'll still be baking for the market on Saturday, but then I am taking Monday off work so that I still get a full birthday weekend with my family. No major party plans this year, just heading to a concert with my Mum on Sunday night. We're going to see The Swell Season, aka Glen Hansard and Marketa Iriglova of Oscar winning fame, I can't wait!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pastry Practice

Please excuse the poorly lit photograph, and the dishevelled crust, but this is just practice! :) I don't really get a chance to work with pastry very often but I bought a new pie dish recently, and I was given some rhubarb at the market the other day, and then I saw this post on A Scone's Throw and even though the pie was a mess it looked delicious! :) So I made pie! I haven't seen Strawberry & Rhubarb as a combination in Ireland but it seems to be fairly commonplace on US foodie blogs so when I saw my roommate's strawberries in the fridge I figured she wouldn't mind if I used a few for this experiment. I loved it! More importantly, she loved it! I'm a big rhubarb fan and I'd happily eat it on its own, simply stewed with a little sugar, but add in the strawberries and it was divine!
I also experimented with savoury shortcrust, see that quiche in the background there, it was inadvertently a Vegetarian one, ie. I had spinach, mushroom & tomato, so that's what went in it. I have to admit there is a certain level of pride to baking one's dinner (& dessert). :D
I would post the recipes but they were very very simple... Just a basic shortcrust of flour, salt, butter & water for the savoury pastry, I added some caster sugar to the sweet version. The quiche was just eggs, milk, veggies, salt & pepper. The pie was just strawberries, rhubarb and some caster sugar. Simples! :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Week 12: A Challenging Weekend

For a number of reasons, this was an intense weekend, and I was left feeling physically and emotionally drained on Monday as a result. Of course this hectic time included excessive baking but as usual I found that part to be therapeutic, it was just Life getting in the way that caused the panic attacks!
The weather was not great on Saturday, it was a miserable morning, raining solidly from 9am to 1pm, but clearing up beautifully once the Market had finished! It's hard to stay cheerful when your feet are wet, your hands are cold and your hair is frizzy, and even harder when you look down at your fresh baked cakes and out at the non-existent customers... I just thanked the foresight/laziness that meant I baked fewer cupcakes this week! They sold in the end, Vanilla cupcakes & Banana bread will always find a home, but the experimental Choc Biscuit Cake and Oat Flapjacks were a non-runner, causing me to eat more than my fair share!
Saturday night was intense, it was a Birthday party for a friend of mine who tragically died in a car crash just a few months ago. I had promised to bake a Chocolate Cake, and even though I was hit with numerous difficulties (I have a love/hate relationship with my oven at the moment), I finally finished it and arrived only 2 hours late for the party. Don't worry though, I more than made up for that by staying until after 5am, consuming numerous bottles of wine, and crying a lot into various people's shoulders... I'm a good party guest like that... :) It was an emotional night, but it was a healthy release, and I think we all needed it.
Sunday morning was pretty painful... an emotional and physical hangover like none I've ever experienced... Yet an alarm rang in my head at noon and I remembered committing to make a Birthday Cake for a neighbour... Oh dear... Six hours later I emerged with a slightly dishevelled Vanilla Birthday Cake... And even though it was possibly the most physically taxing cake I'd ever made, it was actually exactly what I needed to do that day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Weekend Off!

Instead of baking dozens of cupcakes (& laboriously icing them...), I spent the weekend catching up with friends and family. It was the August Bank Holiday weekend here in Ireland, and in expectation of a low turnout we had the foresight to cancel the Market. This suited me perfectly as my sister had given birth just last Monday and this was my first chance to see the new Mummy & Baby! I had thought of baking something to mark the new arrival, but I decided to truly take the weekend off and buy a special treat instead.
When it comes to buying a treat... it had to be the Chocolate Biscuit Cake from the newest little bakery in my town, the Fairy Queen. So far I have only tried this and the Vanilla Cake, but she seems to have quite a range of flavours. The choice of novelty decoration is endlessly creative and the wedding cakes are just beautiful! I'm extremely fussy about my choice of desserts, especially those I buy from bakeries, but her Chocolate Biscuit Cake is just heavenly! I'd ask for the recipe if I wasn't afraid I'd make it (and eat it all!) And no, I'm not on commission, I'm just all for supporting local bakers!! :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Week 10: Most irregular...

This week was quite odd in that most of the customers were new to us, and we were missing a lot of the old regulars! I'm using that as one of the excuses that I was left with so much cake at the end of the day! It wasn't a problem as such... other than my diet going to pieces... but the Coffee Cupcakes I made this week were perfect for my sister's birthday celebrations instead of the Coffee Layer Cake she had requested. It's an old family favourite that we normally buy from a local bakery and I had never attempted to recreate their recipe, until now of course. I'm glad I did though, because I think we may have surpassed their version with this rich coffee & vanilla cake. I was worried I might have added too much coffee, but apparently the family were happy with this improvement! So other than overdosing on cake this weekend, my baking was a success! :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Week 9: Some Friendly Competition...

I was really happy with the presentation of the stall this week, the red tablecloth provided a beautiful backdrop for the chocolate & vanilla cupcakes, as well as my pretty tins (from Tesco of all places!) The changeable and predominantly damp weather kept the customers at bay, and those who dared to venture out were met with a number of baking alternatives this week; from Marian's fresh (& delicious!) scones to the chocolate caramel slices on offer from the schoolgirls beside me. Whatever the reason for my reduced sales this week, I was glad of it! I had many mouths to feed post-Market so it suited me to not make such a profit from this week's baking efforts!
From getting soaked at a market stall, to getting soaked on a tag rugby pitch at the Pig & Porter, I didn't get a chance to dry off much this weekend! But I can safely say that I was able to express my competitive side to its fullest! There was a nice merging of the two interests when I was able to talk shop with Sarah, while supporting her team once ours was defeated, camaraderie is easy once winning is no longer the goal! And the leftovers were gratefully received by my teammates, thus duly excusing my late arrival at the festival!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Week 8: Friends in Need

I had to leave the Market early this week, as my flight to Bristol was at 1pm I couldn't really stay any later than 11am without risking incurring the wrath of Ryanair! So my baking menu was also a good bit smaller, with just a Banana Bread and the staple Vanilla & Chocolate Cupcakes (large ones only though, the teeny ones are fiddly and time-consuming and were going to cut into packing time!) Thankfully my friend Tanya (pictured above, ooh spot my Cupcake earrings!! so cute!) was able to step in and help me with transport and setting up the stall this week, and even dropped me to the airport, the angel! :) (I'm just glad she was able to accept her payment/taxi fare in cupcakes!!) The other girls on the Market were a great help too, with Niamh offering to cover my stall and ensure my orders got to their regulars. I love that aspect to Market life - everybody helping each other - it's a great buzz.

I am on a serious high after my weekend in Wales now, if the great company, wonderfully welcoming locals, and the breathtakingly beautiful scenery wasn't enough, I was also surfing for the first time in about 6 years! I'd forgotten how addictive it can be and after the wave-based dreams I had last night I think I have the bug again! :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Week 7: Unnecessarily Stressful! :)

After last weekend's excessive baking I thought that this week would be a breeze... I was even proud of myself for baking the requested Carrot Cake in advance, figuring I'd be overly-prepared for the morning... I should have known better! :) It all started with a territorial issue in the kitchen on Friday night, how inconvenient it is that my housemate likes to cook dinner for herself and needed (my!) oven to do it... :) I had to shelve my ego and be as patient as possible, no easy feat for me, so as soon as I regained control over the kitchen I was back on track.. I just finished a good bit later than planned...
So the early Saturday morning start was a bit tougher/non-existent as I dragged myself out of bed at 8am I knew I was going to be late! And of course, as it always is when you are late, things take longer than normal to do, resulting in a very chaotic and uncharacteristically disorganised start to the Market for me! Ah it all worked out in the end of course, the girls are great to lend a hand when I need to pop home for a forgotten cake stand or equally important item!
We were in a new spot this week, with the car park being occupied for a church service we were detoured to a grassy spot just around the corner, and it worked out really nicely. We also had a smaller number of stalls this week, due to holidays and injuries, but there was still a great buzz! :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Not-So-Secret Recipe

After a hectic weekend of baking, and much admiration of my cupcakes, I realised that I haven't posted the recipe I use every week! It's a very straightforward Vanilla Cupcake recipe, modified from the famous Magnolia Bakery of SATC fame, that came to me from Laura, a friend and fellow baker based in Limerick, and the recipe is as follows:

Vanilla Cupcakes (á la Magnolia Bakery & courtesy of Laura Boland!)

To make 1 Dozen Cupcakes:

110g butter, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs, at room temperature
90g plain flour
110g self-raising flour
115ml of milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (the real stuff!)

Buttercream Icing:
75g butter (ideally unsalted but "normal" butter can be used instead, at room temperature)
200g icing sugar, sifted
30ml milk, at room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*In case it wasn't clear already, the ingredients need to be at ROOM TEMPERATURE! I cannot stress this enough. Not only does it make it easier to do, the mix won't curdle this way. (Try and beat refrigerated butter then come back to me!)*

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a muffin tray with cupcake cases... this is easier said than done though, I have to get my "standard" sized cupcake cases on eBay! The bun cases in the shops here are just too small, though a way around this is to use the silicone muffin trays as they are slightly smaller than the metal tins.

2. Sift the two flours together into a bowl and set aside. Stir the vanilla into the milk and set aside.

3. Using a hand mixer, or if you're lucky enough a Stand Mixer, cream the butter in a large bowl until soft, usually around a minute. Then add 1/3 of the sugar and mix again for a minute or two. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula and add the remaining sugar in two more stages, beating until very light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between, and ensuring they are fully incorporated.

*This is where you have to be careful not to overmix:

5. Reduce the speed of the mixer and add 1/3 of the flour mixture, gently beating until just mixed. Then add half of the vanilla-milk, don't worry about the curdles appearance, just gently beat it. Add the next 1/3 of the flour, then alternate with the milk and finish with the flour. It's very easy to overmix and produce tough cupcakes so be very careful, ideally using a spatula to fold in the last of the flour. You should be left with a glossy, creamy (delicious!) mixture that falls easily off the spatula.

6. Scoop the batter into the prepared cases (I use an ice-cream scoop for this for uniformity but two spoons will work just as well, just be sure not to over fill the cases), and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, the cupcakes should be golden and springy to the touch once done. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 mins, then move to a wire rack until completely cool and safe to cover with icing. (Do NOT try to rush this or your pretty icing will melt all over your cakes!)

7. Make the icing: Beat the butter on its own in a medium sized bowl until creamy and fluffy, then sift in half of the icing sugar and beat until fully incorporated. Reduce the speed and add the rest of the icing sugar along with the vanilla & milk, beating until light and fluffy and at the right consistency to ice your cupcakes. I use a Wilton 1M piping tip to produce the ice-cream-like swirls on the top of my cakes, but you can just spread it on thickly with a knife and it will taste just as good! Top with sprinkles/sugar pearls/sweets/whatever you fancy! :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Week 6: A very full stall...

... and it's all gone!!
I had baked Cupcakes (Choc & Vanilla, incl. mini ones), Banana Bread, Peanut Butter Cookies AND I used some leftover Lemon Pound Cake mixture to make a few cupcakes with a Lemon Glaze... and I have nothing left now! I didn't sell everything (the PB Cookies were given to the kids of a friend of mine) and half the Banana Bread was eaten by me & a few others, but it's all gone! :) I was half-hoping that I'd have a dozen cupcakes leftover to bring to my friend's place for dinner tonight but I guess I'll have to bake fresh ones now! I'm just chilling out for a few minutes now before I start back into it again, I've a Carrot Cake to make for a neighbour too so I think I'll be skipping baking for the Munster Indoor Market tomorrow. I'll go along and give Collette a hand of course but I can't see myself having the energy to bake MORE cupcakes tomorrow morning!! :)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Marathon Baking Session Ahead!

This is going to be an unprecedented weekend of baking... It all kicked off on Wednesday night when I prepared Oatmeal Cookie dough for a friend that's going travelling today and had requested snacks that would last the journey. It continued last night with the Lemon Pound Cake pictured above, I'm using the Joy of Baking website to full advantage lately! Tonight is Baking Day for the Farmer's Market as normal, with Vanilla & Chocolate Cupcakes and Banana Bread on the menu as usual. But I also have rhubarb that I bought in the Market last week that I wanted to bake into Rhubarb Crumble Muffins, so I'll have to see if I have time for that. The marathon effort continues into Saturday with an invitation to dinner with friends, that came with a proviso that I should be accompanied by a dozen cupcakes to secure that invite! I'm just hoping I have leftovers from that morning because I have also committed myself to baking for a Sunday market this weekend (!!) I'm not sure when I'll have time to sleep... but I'll struggle through somehow... I might just fall in to bed on Sunday evening at about 5pm but it would be worth it! :)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Week 5: A Great Crowd!

There was a brilliant buzz around the market today, not entirely from customers though, hence I was not sold out this week! It's not too hard to get rid of leftover Chocolate Cupcakes though.. :) I had great fun with my guest stall-helper Stewart, and had the pleasure of Collette & her family dropping by to sample everything on my stall! :)

This week was a load of firsts, with my first "employee", my first time selling Banana Bread and my first attempts at piping icing... :) It all went really well, I was surprised at how popular the banana & walnut loaf cake turned out to be, and even more surprised at how pretty my amateurish attempts at icing looked! I'll definitely be using that method in future, I think I'll just be experimenting with my toppings. I might even start playing around with fondant and sugar craft if I find the time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Midweek Baking

Just for fun... Banana & Walnut Bread...

A reunion with some former colleagues today was enough of a reason to defrost some frozen bananas (a new experiment!) and make some Banana Bread. I tried a new recipe this time, having felt from previous attempts that it was a bit too sweet, so this time I used the Joy of Baking recipe and it worked out really well... I haven't eaten a full slice yet but the crumbs tasted yummy and it smelled wonderful when I woke up this morning... It's probably great for breakfast, but I'm holding out till afternoon tea...


I forgot to take photos of last week's Market Day! I was kept busy with friends/customers and I was sold out by 11am! It's a good complaint though, so I'll just be sure to take photos earlier next time! I think I'll stick with Vanilla & Chocolate Cupcakes, they went down very well, I might experiment with additional baked goods when I have the time or inclination. My friend Stew might be helping me out this Saturday, and baking Scones too, I'll appreciate the help & the company! :)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Week 3:

The weather was so changeable this week that it may have scared the Cupcake Customers from coming out.. business was slow.. well it was to begin with.. but thankfully my regular customers (and some of my mates!) returned and I was practically sold out again! Those Vanilla Cupcakes are a BIG hit, I won't be messing with that recipe, though I may become a bit more creative with decorating in future.

It was only my third week in the Farmer's Market and I feel at home already, it really helps that everyone who works there is very welcoming and friendly! New members seem to be joining regularly so hopefully the Market will really take off this year and secure itself as a fixture in the village, irregardless of the weather! Our newest member is Roisin, with her cute, creative and playful jewellery fashioned out of Fimo clay. I had to buy the little Cupcake earrings from her, and judging from the orders being placed around me it sounds like every stall will have a custom pair before too long!
This week's "cupcake special" was a Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcake with a Lemon Glaze, and though it didn't sell as well as the regular favourite, there was still only 2 leftover and thankfully so as they'd been reserved beforehand! The mixture was quite easy to make and produced a very light result (thanks to the addition of yoghurt no doubt) but I'll be tweaking the recipe if I make them again, they just needed an extra dash of sweetness so that should be easy enough to do. I'll post the recipe(s) if anyone's interested? I'm already thinking about what to make for next week...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Robbing Recipes!

I've been trawling the internet to find the right cupcake recipe to complement my Vanilla Cupcakes at the market this weekend, and I've found this Chocolate Cupcake recipe courtesy of my favourite Cupcake Blog. I think this sounds perfect for my market audience, nice and chocolatey but not too complicated so it should be easy enough to prepare. I don't think it counts as robbing a recipe if I give full credit though... :)
My next plan is to work on my Icing skills.. (which are sorely lacking at the moment!) The first step is to find some decent Icing Equipment, and this is proving harder than I'd imagined. I've been looking online, but I think I'd be better off looking at the shops around like The Kitchen Range in Limerick. Ideally I'd do an Icing or Sugar Craft Course.. but baby steps... :)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Week 2: All Sold Out!

Well the Vanilla Cupcakes were a big hit, yet again!! I made 48 cupcakes this week, half Vanilla and half Mocha, and they all sold out! I had intended on setting aside a few for family and friends but I had to give the customers what they wanted! :) It really helped that it was a scorcher of a day, 20 C in Ireland is just unheard of, and the "crowd" was double that of last week.
I'll definitely be making the Vanilla ones again, I think they'll be my staple item, but I'd like to continuously vary my second option, if only for the sake of my creative expression! Suggestions would be welcome... I might have to do a poll of some sort... :)

Monday, May 25, 2009

My First Day!

My first day in my local Farmer's Market, in the quiet little village of Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare. I have never been so nervous about baking some cupcakes, especially for what turned out to be a washed-out event... Punters aren't so keen on shopping in the lashing rain apparently! Well it was a great learning experience in all, and hopefully things (if not the weather) will only get better! :)
Pictured above: Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting, á la the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook Recipe & American-style Carrot Cake Muffins with Cream Cheese Icing, from The New Basics Cookbook.