Tea and Eccentricities – Earl Grey and Lemon Cupcakes

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If you live in England, you may have noticed that the sun has been shining and with the clocks going forward, the Brittish springtime is well under way. With all this glorious weather garden parties and picnics are springing up all over the place, so I decided this weekend to try out the month’s flavour a garden party favourite, cupcakes! I found a bunch of recipes online, but this one by Honey & Jam caught my attention for two reasons; firstly, it uses tea leaves directly, rather than an infusion and secondly,

I like the classic idea of matching Earl Grey with Lemon. I mostly followed Honey & Jam’s recipe and the result was a gorgeously fluffy, subtly flavoured cake topped with zingy bergamot-laced buttercream. I’m not going to labour the point – you have just got to try these!

 

Ingredients – makes approx 15 cakes
  • 120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 230g of castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 170g cups of flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 120ml milk
  • 2 bags of earl grey tea, just the leaves
  1. Pre heat the oven to 180oC/350F/Gas Mark 4
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until fully combined
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until light and fluffy
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt
  5. Briefly fold the dry ingredients into the mixture, don’t worry about fully mixing
  6. Add the milk and whisk until just combined – do not over mix!
  7. Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases in a bun tin, filling to about 2/3 full
  8. Bake for 20 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean
  9. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Buttercream Ingredients
  • 100g baking margarine or unsalted butter
  • 220g of icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 bag of earl grey tea, just the leaves
  • Lavender sugar, to sprinkle
  1. Cream the butter / margarine until smooth
  2. Gradually add the sugar, mixing well
  3. Add the milk, lemon juice and tea leaves and mix until light and firm
  4. Ice cakes generously and sprinkle lightly with lavender sugar
I hope you enjoy making these; let’s hope the weather lasts so that you can enjoy eating them in the sunshine too! I’d love to hear how you get on with making these, or other unusual cupcake recipes you have found. xx

Tea and Eccentricities – Decandent Earl Grey Chocolate Cake

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We already know that Earl Grey and Chocolate are a wonderful combination – you only have to try my lovely Earl Grey Chocolate Brownies to work that out! And really, what better way to exploit any chocolate-paired flavour, than in a good old chocolate sponge? From orange to pisachio to banana, if it goes well with chocolate, you can bet your bottom dollar it’l be great in a chocolate sponge. So that is pretty much the thinking behind today’s experiment; an absurdly yummy take on a traditional chocolate sponge.

Just like last week’s banana bread, the Earl Grey lends an incredible moisture to the finished product, although unlike the banana bread, the Earl Grey flavour in this cake is fairly potent. If you prefer a subtle flavour, I’d suggest using 3 teabags rather than 5, which will give your cake more of a hint of Earl Grey than the full-bodied Earl Grey twist we enjoyed with mine.

I found this recipe on Lucy’s Table; the recipe is perfect and produced a beautiful sponge consistency, although the resulting cake was MASSIVE. Since mine was a Birthday cake, there were plenty of people around and it was appropriately consumed, however I have now modified the quantities in the recipe to create a more reasonably sized cake, in case you aren’t planning on feeding an army. For the original quantities, check out the original recipe.

The original recipe also suggests a ganache topping, but I opted for a simple chocolate buttercream instead; worked a treat!

Ingredients
  • 155ml boiling water
  • 4 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 170g  flour
  • 2/3 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2/3 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 85g plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 170g sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 110g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 155ml buttermilk (or 150ml milk mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Chocolate buttercream, amount to taste
Method
  • Pour boiling water over the teabags and allow to brew
  • Pre-heat oven to 180oC and grease two 9-inch cake tins
  • Strain tea bags from water, leaving very strong Earl Grey tea
  • Sift 85g cocoa powder into a bowl and add the tea; mix until completely smooth
  • Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl
  • Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy; add eggs and beat until fully combined
  • Add cocoa-tea mixture, buttermilk and vanilla and mix well
  • Add flour mixture and fold until completely combined; do not over mix
  • Pour half of the mixture into each tin and bake for 30-40 mins or until a skewer when inserted comes out clean
  • Allow cake to cool completely before icing and serving.

 

Tea and Eccentricities – Earl Grey Banana Bread

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I came accross an Earl Grey Banana Bread recipe by Healthy-Delicious when I was first researching Earl Grey as a flavour and I have been waiting for an opportunty to try it out. To my mind, Banana Bread fits into that wonderful category of luxury that can masquerade as ‘good for you’ at the same time as being an all-out treat. I should think scientists may disagree, but there’s probably enough banana in there to constitute one of your five-a-day right?

This is a stunning example of classic Banana Bread; a decadent level of moist-ness (if you’ll excuse me making up words!) achieved by the addition of the Earl Grey, which actually lends the bread quite a gentle flavour. If you like Earl Grey, you’ll no doubt be able to identify it’s subtle tones but equally, if you are not a fan you will be able to enjoy this unusual loaf without being hindered by the flavour.

In the end I disgarded Healthy Delicious’ recipe for a more simple one from the BBC website, which I then adapted to include the all-important Earl Grey flavouring. I opted to use brewed Earl Grey tea so that you can try this at home, rather than using the Earl Grey Extract that I have developed for use in my delicious Earl Grey Chocolate Brownies. So do give this a go, and let me know how you get on with it! Enjoy!

Ingredients
  • 120ml boiling water
  • 5 Earl Grey Tea bags
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 110g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 75ml buttermilk (or normal milk mixed with 1½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar)
Method
      1. Pre-heat the oven to Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and grease the baking tin (I used a cake tin as I did not have a big enough but the BBC recomend a 20cm x 12.5cm/8in x 5in loaf tin)
      2. Brew the earl grey tea using the boiling water and 5 tea bags for 5 minutes; strain and disgard the bags
      3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
      4. Mix in the eggs, mashed banana, buttermilk and tea until completely combined
      5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt
      6. Fold the flour mixture in, being careful not to overwork
      7. Pour the mixture into the pre-greased tin and bake for an hour until a skewer inserted comes out clean (it should be lightly golden-brown on top)
      8. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan before turning out

I recommend serving this whilst it is still warm – you can’t beat fresh still-warm bread! It doesn’t need any butter as it is so deliciously moist.

I hope you enjoy this recipe; watch this space for more Earl Grey recipes, including my next project, a hugely decadent Earl Grey Chocolate Cake! xx

Tea and Eccentricities

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March appears to have crept up on me this year and has brought with it all the glories of a British springtime! The surprisingly warm sunshine has ushered in explosions of beautiful blossoms and a flurry of excitable birds dancing in the inevitable wind. As well as being the start of springtime, March is also less well known as Earl Grey’s birthday month. So it makes sense for March’s flavour for Hollyblue’s flavour experiment to be Earl Grey.

The Earl Grey credited with inventing Earl Grey tea,British Prime Minister in the 1830’s, was famed for being somewhat eccentric and I do have to say that I think of it as a somewhat eccentric tea to drink. Having only recently discovered the joys of tea at all, I can’t quite stomach Earl Grey, much like a lot of other Brits. Unfortunately, this puts a lot of us off cooking with Earl Grey; so many people decline to taste my delectable Earl Grey Chocolate brownies, explaining apologetically that they don’t like Earl Grey. It is for this reason that I caveat this month’s experiment – I don’t like Earl Grey tea either! But then I don’t know many people who like lemon by itself either and who doesn’t love a good lemon drizzle cake?! So please put away your preconceptions and come on a journey with me to discover the versatile flavour of Earl Grey.

This month I am going to try out a variety of Earl Grey recipes and post the results for you to see and hopefully try out yourself. I’ve already found an Earl Grey Banana Bread recipe that I have just got to try and since it was a Chocolate and Earl Grey muffin at Boston Tea Party which first inspired my Earl Grey brownies, I will be giving those a go too. I really hope you enjoy experimenting with me; if you have any suggestions you’d like me to try, please do comment and I’ll see what I can do! xx

A Month Through Rose Tinted Glasses – How to Make Rose Syrup

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In celebration of Shrove Tuesday (popularly known, of course, as Pancake Day), I decided to bring a rose element to the pancake situation, thus raising the obvious question: How do you add rose to a pancake? I thought about actual rose flavoured pancakes… I don’t know, but I just think the mixture is too stodgy in consistency for such a delicate flavour. I thought about rose petals and sugar as a topping, but I don’t think it’d look particularly appetising. Finally, after much deliberation, I came up with the winning recipe; rose syrup. The recipe is so simple and very versatile. I used mine on pancakes with strawberries and chocolate and it was gorgeous, but it’d be delicious on vanilla ice cream with berries and chocolate chips, or with stewed apple, or any number of other dishes. Here’s how you do it:

Ingredients
  • 120ml Rose Water (see the Rose & Cardamom Tart post for how to make rose water)
  • 120ml Water
  • 400g granulated sugar

In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to boil, stirring constantly until the sugar is fully dissolved. Boil for approximately 10 minutes, or until the liquid is ‘syrupy’ but slightly less thick than you want it to be eventually; it will thicken as it cools. It’s not an exact science, but as long as its not too runny and you can pour it, it’s good to go. I hope you’re not too pancake-d out to enjoy it! x

A Month Through Rose Tinted Glasses – Rose & Cardamom Ganache

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I recently discovered a pot of cardamom pods in my kitchen cupboard, and having recovered from the shock of the fact that the Sri Lankan spice ended in an ‘m’ rather than an ‘n’, (as I had been pronouncing it for the past however-long) I decided they needed an airing. I’ve noticed a few rose recipes have made use of the stuff, and having been invited to a dinner party this week, I decided to whip out the cardamoms for my first attempt at a ganache tart. 

This tart is based on a recipe from Apple Pie, Patis & Pate which served as a wonderful basis. The result is a deliciously rich and unusual dessert which received oooh’s and aaah’s from the whole table.  Unfortunately I was running late to the dinner party and had to allow it to set in my hosts’ fridge whilst we ate, so I don’t have a picture to show you. My advice; make this the night before you need it and give it plenty of time to set. Oh, and serve with double cream; delicious!

This recipe uses rose water to add the rose flavour; to make rose water, add 1/2 cup of organic dried rose petals to 1 cup of boiling water, boil for 2 minutes and allow to cool. Chill the mixture in the fridge overnight to allow the flavours to really sink in, strain and voila! This will make more rose water than you need for this recipe and you can freeze the rest for another time.

The recipe makes comfortably enough for a 9 inch tart base.

Ingredients – Tart Base

  • 170g plain flour
  • 6 tbsp cocoa
  • pinch of salt
  • 177g unsalted butter
  • 88g granulated sugar
  • large egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp double cream

Cream together the butter and sugar before adding the egg yolk and cream and mixing thoroughly. Sift the flour and cocoa and add these and the salt to the butter cream mixture. Mix well. On a lightly floured surface, mould into a disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to warm up at room temperature for 15 mins before rolling into a circle big enough to line your tart dish. Ideally, the dough should be approximately 1 cm thick.

Line the tart dish, being careful to avoid air pockets by flattening it from the middle outwards. Gently press the sides into the flutes of the dish and run a knife or a rolling pin around the top of the rim to cut off any excess dough.

Refrigerate for a further 30 mins and preheat the oven to 180oC (350oF). Blind bake (I usually line the base with baking paper and fill it with lentils, rice or baking beads can be used instead) for 18-20 mins or until dry. Allow to cool completely.

Ingredients – Ganache

  • 255g plain chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • 235ml double cream
  • cardamom seeds from 5 pods, ground (use either a pestle and mortar or a coffee grinder)
  • 2 tsp rose water

Place the butter, chocolate, golden syrup, salt and cardamom seeds in a bowl. In a small saucepan bring the double cream to boil over a low/med heat, stirring constantly. Pour the cream over the other ingredients and stir until combined. (I zapped the mixture in the microwave for 10 seconds to melt the last few chunks of chocolate. Stir in the rose water and pour the ganache into the cooled tart base.Refrigerate over night, or until set. (This took the hour that I gave it, but in all honesty, it could have done with longer).

I hope you enjoy trying this out, do let me know how you get on! Watch this space for more rose related recipes coming soon. xx

A Month Through Rose Tinted Glasses – Rose Chocolate Cupcakes

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Think flower flavours and you just can’t help but think of cupcakes. Cute, pretty and sweet, cupcakes were just made for rose! So this is my first experimentation with the rose flavour – I hope you enjoy it!

NB. there are several ways to add rose flavouring to baking. The most popular are rose sugars, rose water, rose extract and rose petals. For this recipe I added rose petals because the flavour needs to compete with a strong chocolate flavour. I’ll be trying the other methods throughout the rest of the month.


Ingredients
  • 100g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 140g plus 1 tbsp castor sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp organic rose petals
Frosting

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • a drop of vanilla extract or rose extract/water
  • Organic rose petals and glimmer sugar for decoration
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170oC (325oF) or gas mark 3
  2. Cream together the butter, milk and 140g castor sugar together
  3. Add the egg and beat until smooth
  4. Blend together 1 tbsp castor sugar with the rose petals until powdery (a clean coffee  grinder is perfect for this)
  5. Sift together the flour, cocoa salt, baking powder and blended rose and sugar and add to the mixture and beat until smooth. Be careful not to over-mix.
  6. Spoon into cupcake cases to 2/3 full and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Whilst the cakes cool, make the frosting by mixing together the butter, milk and half the icing sugar. Once blended gradually add the rest of the icing sugar until the icing is firm (add additional icing sugar if necessary)
  8. Once cakes are completely cooled, generously ice cakes and top with a rose petal or other decorations.

These cupcakes turned out beautifully and went down a treat with my housemates. Only one of them admitted to being able to taste the rose though! That said, as I discovered with my delicious Rose Brownies, rose is great for brining out chocolate flavours, and these were certainly very chocolatey cupcakes. I used vanilla icing on my cupcakes, probably out of cowardice more than anything else, which worked well, but next time I think I’ll use rose icing for a more convincing flavour.

Happy baking; I’d love to know how you get on with these, or any rose recipes you’ve found particularly good. x

A Month Through Rose Tinted Glasses

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Last year, whilst I was deciding on the Hollyblue Bakery’s brownie flavours,I discovered a whole load of exciting flavours and combinations of flavours that I had never experimented with before. Who knew that lavender was so versitile? Or that Earl Grey is so yummy in cake? (I can’t drink the stuff myself) Or that peppermint and bourbon are such a delightful combination? It is only unfortunate that having ascertained how best to capture these flavours in my brownies, I have not gotten round to experimenting futher with my new discoveries.

Therefore, it is one of my resolutions this year to do a little more experimenting. I have decided to devote each month to a flavour and try to bake at least one new item a week with the flavour of the month, and I will be sharing my progress with you lovely people!

February is widely regarded as the month of romance, with Valentines Day just around the corner, and especially with 2012 being a leap year I have decided to dedicate February to the ultimate symbol of love… Rose!

I have also settled on Rose as Hollyblue’s special edition flavour for Valentine’s Day (which will shortly be available for order through our Etsy Shop!) so it seemed apt to take continue experimenting with the flavour. If you have any rose recipes or any ideas you’d like me to try, let me know! I hope you enjoy exploring with me! x

How to Make Flavoured Sugars – Vanilla, Rose & Lavender

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If I’m honest, I love all things sweet. I try to hide it and sometimes I even try to suppress it, but when all is said and done, I just love sweet things. I’m one of those people who don’t even look at the starter section of a menu because I’m saving space for desert. Thankfully I know several people, most of my family included, who also consider a slice of cake to constitute a perfectly good lunch. And despite my love of baking and all things home-made, I have never yet made bread from scratch, because after all, why bake bread when you can bake a cake?

So as you can imagine, sugar is an important staple of my store cupboard. At present I have an impressive collection of castor, granulated, demarera, preserving, light brown, dark brown, muscovado, icing, royal icing, unrefined…. the list goes on, but my most exciting discovery has been flavoured sugars. I discovered these wonderful concoctions whilst playing around with some more unusual flavourings, such as rose and lavender and couldn’t resist trying it out.

For me, the attraction is the ability to easily add flavour to baking, but flavoured sugars also have a multitude of other uses, including mixing with tea or fruit juice, rimming cocktail glasses, sprinkling over fruits like strawberries and melon, sprinkling over ice cream or mixing into whipped cream. One idea I particularly liked was substituting rose sugar for vanilla in a Creme Brule, which is going to have to be tried. Over the coming months I am going to be spotlighting different flavours and sharing my discoveries with you, so keep an eye out for some great recipes utilising these sugars in the future.

The idea is super simple; flavours are infused by standing the ingredient in sugar for a couple of weeks. Some recipes suggest for rose and lavender blending the ingredient into the sugar, but I opted out of this as I wanted sugar with a fairly subtle flavour, particularly avoiding the bitterness that can come out of these flowers. The vanilla sugar is a slightly different flavour, with less potential for bitterness, so I have added the seeds into my finished product, as I will explain later.

I’ve used Kilner jars for these sugars, partially because they look so pretty on my kitchen shelf, but mostly because they are airtight and dry. You can always use clean jam jars with a good seal or tupperware tubs. The quantities I have used are fairly large, but I have included the ratios below so you can up- or down-scale as you like.

Lavender OR Rose Sugar
  • 3 Cups Lavender or Rose petals (NB. these should be culinary grade or organic – other products will have been sprayed with chemicals which you don’t really want to ingest.)
  • 6 Cups Castor Sugar
  • 1:2 flavour:sugar ratio

Layer up the flowers and sugar in a dry, airtight container, seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks, stirring occasionally; strength is really a matter of taste, so try a little. If it is not strong enough, continue to stand for another week or two, testing occasionally. Once you have reached your desired strength, sift out the flowers, and voila!

Vanilla Sugar
  • 6 Whole Vanilla Pods (NB. vanilla pods are hugely over priced in supermarkets; if you use them regularly you might want to consider ordering in bulk for websites like Vanillamart)
  • 6 Cups Castor Sugar
  • 1 pod per cup of sugar

Split the pods down the centre, leaving the ends in tact and place in a dry, airtight container, fill with sugar and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks, stirring occasionally; don’t worry if the flavour seems a bit light at this stage. Remove the pods from the container and scrape out the seeds and mix in with the sugar to make a sugar that looks and smells just as good as it tastes!

These flavoured sugars make a lovely and unusual gift, especially when accompanied by a few of your own tried and tested recipes! I hope you enjoy making your own flavoured sugars, but if you would prefer not to make them yourself, check out my Etsy shop, where I will shortly be selling my own.

The Great Extract Experiment – How to Make Rose Extract

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I have always loved unusual baking flavours. When I discovered Earl Grey and Chocolate muffins I couldn’t wait to try what have now become my delicious Earl Grey Brownies and when I saw Lavender cupcakes, I immediately got to work on my Lavender & White Chocolate Brownies. So working with Lavender got me thinking about other floral flavours… hence the Rose extract experiment! Having done some research, I can’t seem to find any rose extract for sale anywhere, so I do wonder whether the flavour is too delicate to capture in an extract. But that’s what experiments are for isn’t it? Finding out? So here’s what I did:

Rose Extract
  • 300ml Vodka
  • 2 cups organic rose petals (I used Melbury & Appleton‘s, 50g for £1.99)

I started by soaking 1 cup of rose petals in the vodka. After shaking thoroughly, leave the jar to stand for 2 weeks. By this time, the petals will have lost their colour almost completely. After 2 weeks, drain off the liquid and discard the old petals. Replace the liquid and add 1 cup fresh rose petals. Leave for 2 more weeks.

I’m at week 2 presently, having just added fresh rose petals, and it smells gorgeous. I suspect it may need a third up of petals to achieve a usable flavour, but I’ll keep you posted. x