Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Banana's no substitute for brownie

I opened my Edmonds book last night, looking for something I could bake to put in my lunchbox for morning tea. I ended up choosing coconut chocolate brownies (p62), merely because they looked easy and I had all the ingredients in the cupboard.

For once, the recipe didn't begin with creaming butter and sugar, or rubbing butter into flour - a bit of a novelty! I had to melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in cocoa, then beat in eggs, followed by the rest of the ingredients. Easy, eh?

While I was getting this done, Mum rang. When she heard I was making brownies to have for morning tea, she tried valiantly (but unsuccessfully) to convince me that I shouldn't be in the habit of having baked goods on a daily basis, suggesting a banana instead. Thanks for your concern, Mum, but fruit just doesn't go with my mid-morning Milo.

For one thing, I can't make a banana out of the Edmonds book.

I had of course, made an effort to cut down the fat content of the brownie, using canola spread instead of butter. It doesn't magically make it healthy, but it's better than nothing. And don't worry Mum, I do have fruit at lunchtime!

Anyway, I got the brownie mix into a lined tin, and put it in to bake for half an hour. It wasn't quite cooked, so I bunged it in for another five minutes, after which it was perfect.

When the brownie had cooled a little, I cut it up and had a taste. There's all sorts of different brownies out there, and as a rule, they're all pretty tasty. But this one was pretty close to what I personally consider a perfect brownie - soft, light texture, slightly chewy, and, considering there was no actual chocolate in the recipe - just cocoa - it was delectably chocolaty too.

Considering I haven't really been impressed with the other chocolate slices I've made from the Edmonds book, this one was a big surprise - I wasn't prepared for it to be so tasty. Now I just have to exercise a little restraint and not let myself eat it all at once!

Monday, August 30, 2010

As recommended by Joska

It's funny that whenever anyone hears that I'm doing the Edmonds book, the first thing they do is tell me their favourite Edmonds recipe. Macaroni cheese has its followers, as have ANZAC biscuits, banana cake and chocolate self-saucing pudding. My younger brother, on the other hand, is typically unique in recommending satay sauce (p187).

Having had such a reliable recommendation, I'd been meaning to make it for ages, but never got around to it. In my recent determination to knock off some sauce recipes, I finally decided it was about time I did the satay.

Since the satay sauce recipe only required 3/4 cup of coconut cream, I went looking for a recipe that would use up the other half-can. Handily, there's a recipe for coconut chilli rice (p105), which would utilise my excess coconut cream and, along with some chicken and veges, would also go nicely with my satay sauce.

I started with my rice - basmati into a saucepan with the coconut cream and some dried chilli flakes. The recipe specifies fresh chilli, or "prepared" chilli - I didn't have either, but dried chilli flakes made a perfectly acceptable substitute. Since they're fairly potent, using these may even have made my rice even spicier.

Once I had the rice gently simmering, I made a start on the satay sauce. It starts with sauteing chopped onion with garlic and chilli powder. I was determined not to make my usual mistake and undercook the onions, so they were actually almost caramelising by the time I added the peanut butter.

With the peanut butter I was to add soy sauce, lemon juice and brown sugar. The sugar and the soy were no problem, but I hadn't noticed lemon juice in the ingredients list, so didn't have a lemon in the house. I substituted some white vinegar, and it seemed to work ok.

By the time I'd messed around deciding what to do instead of the lemon, the ingredients in the pan had become a thick, dark, peanutty paste. I added the coconut cream and stirred until it became a smooth, creamy sauce. Some lumps of the paste were a bit stubborn, and it wasn't till I swapped my wooden spoon for a whisk that I got a nice smooth result - that is, smooth apart from the chunks of peanut!

The next instruction was to bring the sauce to the boil. I proceeded cautiously with this, Joska's recommendation having come with a warning: be careful not to split the sauce. I took it off the heat as soon as it started showing signs of bubbling, and after a little seasoning, my satay sauce was ready.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I'd managed to chop up a chicken breast and stir-fry it with a bit of frozen vege. So after a half-hour of frenzied activity, I was able to serve myself a plate of coconut chilli rice with chicken and satay sauce.

The satay sauce was deliciously creamy and peanutty, with a slight kick from the chilli powder. Even so, it was creamy enough to offset the heat of the rice - I'd sat down well prepared for spiciness with a large glass of milk, but it really wasn't necessary. 

While it may not be the sort of dish you should be eating every day - even with light coconut cream and peanut butter, it's got a fair bit of fat in it - I'll definitely be making these recipes again, probably together to make a meal in much the same way. It's simple, requires no exotic ingredients (you don't even need a lemon if you have some vinegar!) and really really yummy.

Good one, Joska!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Don't knock it till you've tasted it

When Lauren suggested we have dinner at her place after our Saturday afternoon dressmaker's appointment, I jumped at the chance to offer a dessert. It's hard to find excuses to make desserts and puddings when you're only feeding yourself, so bringing a dessert was the ideal opportunity to try pecan pie (p212), a recipe I've been dying to make for ages. I've had various cafe-made pecan pies, and was interested to see how a home-made one would compare.

Incidentally, I have it on very good authority that in the USA, pecan pie's country of origin, it's pronounced /pə'ka:n/, as opposed to /'pi:kæn/. Whether that means we should all be saying it that way is a matter of opinion - but whichever pronunciation you choose, it's still delicious!

The recipe required sweet shortcrust pastry, but, since I'd already done the basic version of that recipe, I decided to use nut pastry (p81) for this recipe. The only difference is in adding half a cup of walnuts before you mix up the dough.

All went well at first - I was a little worried that adding the nuts would make it harder to mix the pastry dough together. It was a little more difficult - less liquid to go around - but, after a certain amount of persuasion, I had a nice firm ball of pastry. When I made the plain sweet shortcrust, I'd noted that plain sugar seemed to make the pastry a bit gritty. This time, I tried caster sugar, with a much smoother result.

At this point, I had every reason to be optimistic. The pastry was looking good, and I didn't think the filling would be too difficult. After an hour or so chilling in the fridge, I got out my pastry to roll it and line my pie dish. This is where things started going slightly downhill.

The pastry crumbled as I tried to roll it - the nuts within the pastry seemed to encourage cracking and crumbling. Eventually I had it rolled enough to cover a pie plate. I carefully manoeuvred it into the dish, and after a bit of trimming and patching up weak spots, I had a lined pie plate.

I used some haricot beans for baking blind, forgetting, of course, that it's a good idea to line the pastry with baking paper before adding the blind. It baked beautifully, but I had to spend several minutes picking out small bits of bean that had stuck to the pastry. Oh well, with any luck I'll remember next time.

While the pie base was baking, I was putting together the filling. I began by creaming butter and brown sugar, then beating in three eggs, one at a time. The butter/sugar mixture separated oddly as I beat in the eggs, I suspect because the butter was fairly warm from softening in the microwave, and the eggs were cold from the fridge. I should try to get my eggs room-temperature before using them.

No matter how much I beat the mixture, the texture remained lumpy. I figured there wasn't much I could do about it, so I carried on, adding honey and pecan nuts. The recipe stated that all the pecans should be added to the filling mixture, but I wanted some to decorate the top. I set about one-third aside, and after pouring the filling into the base, placed the remaining nuts in rings on top.

This was probably a mistake. As soon as I put the pie in the oven, I started to worry that the pecans on the top would burn before the filling was set. I sat next to my oven with a Milo and watched the pie for any signs of scorching.

The baking time given in the recipe was 30 minutes. After only 10, I was starting to worry about the pie browning too much on top. I placed a piece of baking paper over it, which meant I couldn't see the pie anymore, so I went to read a book until the timer went off.

I had set it to go off well before the 30-minute mark, fearing the pie would overcook. When I took it out to check, however, I was astonished to see that the filling had risen to a peak some five or six centimetres above the pie. This was completely unexpected - I'd never seen a pecan pie of that shape before. Almost immediately, however, the peak collapsed in on itself, revealing an underbaked, weird-looking filling. Large amounts of melted butter were oozing all around the edges - I poured this off and put the pie back in the oven.

I ended up baking the pie for another 10 minutes or so - the peak would rise again in the oven, and collapse every time I took it out. I think that putting 1/3 of the pecans on the top made the filling less dense, so it wasn't capable of carrying the weight of having them on the surface.

Eventually I was satisfied that the pie was, at least, cooked. I was pretty dubious about the quality of what I had produced, but, having promised pecan pie, I had to bring it along.

Contrary to my own opinion, everyone else thought my pie looked great. After a suitable interlude of digestion following Tom's fantastic pizzas (of which I ate far too much, like a total glutton) we decided it was time for pie.

I cut into the pie and found it thoroughly stuck to the dish. I scooped out as much as I could of each piece, but still left behind a considerable amount of pastry firmly adhered to the pie plate. Eventually, I had wrangled four pieces of pie, and these, served with ice cream, were presented for tasting.

Despite my doubts, the pie ended up tasting pretty good. I had some trouble getting through mine, since I was still full of pizza, but I had to admit it tasted much better than I had expected. Lauren, Tom and Olivia seemed happy enough with theirs as well, so I had to consider the pie a success - something that I would have been surprised to hear a few hours earlier!

If I make this pie again - and I might - I think I'll stick with plain shortcrust: the nutty one is nice, but hard to work with. I'll also suppress the temptation to deprive the filling of a third of its pecans, merely to decorate the top. And if I'm really on to it, I'll even think to get my eggs down to room temperature before using them!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Placatory cake

Brent, our Admin Manager, has been in Auckland this week. While he was away, we decided to pull the time-honoured office prank of bubble-wrapping everything on his desk. Opinions differed as to his probable reaction; at least one person was convinced he was going to hit the roof. I was pretty sure he would see the funny side, but, just in case, I decided an offering of cake might go some way towards diffusing an angry reaction.

With this in mind, I selected lemon syrup cake (p45), a variation on the butter cake recipe. You use the same recipe, but bake it in a loaf tin (instead of a cake tin), and pour a lemon syrup over the top of the cooked cake as soon as it comes out of the oven.

It didn't take long to throw the cake together - it's a fairly straightforward procedure of mixing dry ingredients and milk into creamed butter, sugar and eggs. Then it was into the loaf tin, and into the oven.

The baking time was 35-40 minutes, so I set the timer for 20, at which point I made a start on the lemon syrup, and re-set the timer for another 15 minutes.

The lemon syrup was very easy to make - just heat lemon juice and sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Easy. I overestimated how long it would take for the sugar to dissolve, and the syrup was ready long before the cake was finished baking.

The cake had started browning at the edges, and I was worried it would overcook, so I took it out to test with a toothpick: nope, nothing like cooked in the middle. It was still quite gooey after 40 minutes, and it had been in for nearly 50 by the time I was satisfied it was cooked through.

I poured the syrup over the cake as soon as I'd decided it wasn't going back in the oven. While quite a bit of it oozed down the sides of the cake, enough stayed on the top to give the cake a nice shiny glaze.

It didn't look too impressive though - the edges were quite a dark brown in places and the cake had an odd shape. I decided not to take it to work whole: as soon as it had completely cooled, I sliced the cake up and arranged the pieces neatly on a platter. It looked much nicer that way. I just had to hope that it didn't dry out too much overnight.

As it happens, Brent wasn't upset about the bubble-wrap: he even managed to laugh along with the rest of us. So I didn't need the cake really, but it didn't go to waste, speedily disappearing at morning tea time, and achieving a fair amount of approval from the colleagues.

It had dried out a little overnight, but not much - it was still very tasty. The lemon syrup added a nice zing, without being overpowering. I quite having the syrup instead of icing - it's not nearly as sickly. Since both the variations of butter cake I've made have come out well, I'd say this is a good recipe to keep in mind if you're looking to make something quick and easy. Don't be put off by the fact that it seems quite plain - it's still a really nice cake.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thinking inside the box

Time to try another "quick and easy with rice" recipe, i.e one that is based on a box of Rice Risotto. This one is leek and sausage risotto (p108), basically chicken flavoured Rice Risotto with a few extra ingredients thrown in.

The recipe requires cooked sausages - presumably it's designed as a way to use up leftover saussies from a barbecue or something, but, since I haven't eaten sausages for weeks, I didn't have any leftovers ready to use. Instead I got myself a packet of Hellers Spicy Italian sausages, and cooked them up in a frypan before beginning the risotto.

After removing the cooked sausages and slicing them up, I added some oil to the pan with garlic, dried basil, and the rice from the sachet in the rice risotto box. When the rice had browned slightly, I added the leek, the sliced sausages, some hot water, and the flavour sachet from the box.

This mixture was simmered for 15 minutes with the lid on, and 5 more uncovered. Then my leek and sausage risotto was ready.

It was quite tasty, really. Nicely savoury and very filling. It would be a very good way to use up leftover sausages, if you happened to have any. The pieces of Spicy Italian sausage are quite a good addition, but you could use any sausage you liked, since most of the flavour comes from the sachet.

Ok, so it's not a proper risotto: it doesn't have the texture, because it's not the right kind of rice, and I didn't stand there for ages stirring it. But that's nothing new about Rice Risotto. This aside, it's a quick, easy, tasty meal, and would definitely be a good way to use up those barbie leftovers.

Rice Risotto is something I've seldom used in the past, but trying this recipe has made me realise how easily I could use it to whip up a quick meal, adding whatever I happen to have on hand. It's probably not a bad idea to have a packet in the cupboard.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's gotta be good for you

I've been none too healthy in my eating habits lately - my meals, on the whole, have not been too bad, but I've been snacking on the naughty stuff. Time to reign in that habit! Having finally eaten all my fruit cake and lemon biscuits (seriously, those biscuits lasted forever), I was in need of something to put in my lunchbox for morning tea.

Looking through the baking sections for something not too calorie-loaded, I came across health loaf (p30). Well, what could be better than that? A quick look through the ingredients confirmed that the recipe has a reasonable claim to the title: extra fibre, less fat and sugar.. on the whole, not too bad, health-wise.

I added the few ingredients I needed to my shopping list and headed to the supermarket. I had a little trouble procuring the bran flakes - clearly bran is not a popular ingredient, since Pak N Save offered only a single brand, and that well hidden on the bottom shelf! The recipe calls for 'Fleming's bran flakes'. No bran expert, I had to hope that bran flakes and wheat bran were the same thing.

In any case, I brought home my packet of wheat bran and got to work. It's a fairly basic recipe - dry ingredients in one bowl, liquids in the other, then mix. Before long, I had a mixture ready to go in the tin. The recipe specifies an 18cm tin, which I don't have - my 22cm one was plainly going to make a very shallow loaf if I used that, so I grabbed out my two mini loaf tins and divided the mixture into those instead.

The bonus of using the mini tins is that they took far less time to bake. The recipe states 40 minutes; mine were actually starting to look a little overdone when I took them out after 25 minutes. The loaves had peaked and split on top: indicative, I suspect, of over-mixing. I'll have to be more careful next time.

Despite this, I'd consider my health loaf a success: it has a very pleasant, mildly sweet flavour, the dates and walnuts adding both taste and texture. The use of bran and wholemeal flour make for a more substantial, filling snack than a baked item made entirely of white flour. 

It is quite an old-fashioned recipe - you don't see many loaves these days, and bran is something that's more likely to be found in a Granny's pantry than anywhere. Yet it reflects modern-day healthy-eating principles: reduce fat; reduce sugar; add fibre. It may not be terribly exciting, but it's tasty enough, and far better for you than many things we commonly snack on.

Of course, if you don't like bran, this one's not for you: it really is the most prominent ingredient in terms of texture. I, personally, quite like the substance that bran brings to the loaf, but I'm aware it's not everyone's cup of tea.

Also, I have only tried the loaf hot from the oven so far. I suspect that once it cools down, it'll tend towards dryness - which in turn will mean that the loaf requires buttering, thus adding extra fat to our 'health' loaf. This is only speculation at this point, however - I'll soon find out whether or not I'm right!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cornflakes and coconut

I guarantee that none of you, looking at the heading of this entry, immediately thought to yourself "well, clearly, Robyn's been cooking chicken". But that's exactly what I have been cooking: crunchy coated chicken (p140).

It's basically chicken pieces in a crunchy coating made from cornflakes, coconut, orange rind, chicken stock powder, nutmeg and ginger. The coating is easy to make: just crush up the cornflakes and mix the rest of these ingredients through.

When the crunchy coating is ready, prepare another bowl with some seasoned flour, and a third containing egg beaten with water. Then, remove the skin from the chicken, and coat each piece first in the flour, then the egg mixture, then the cornflake coating. It's a slightly messy process, but it doesn't take long.

The coated chicken pieces then go on a rack in a roasting dish, and into the oven for 40 minutes (checking, of course, that the oven has not been left on grill). I turned them over half way through the cooking time - this instruction wasn't in the book, but I was worried it would burn on top if I didn't. After 40 minutes, the chicken was perfectly cooked, and the coating golden and crispy.

The coating has a fantastic crunchy texture, but is a bit unusual in flavour. The coconut dominates, and after that, the cornflakes are the major flavour. Combined with chicken, this is makes for a slightly odd taste experience, almost as if you've added some hot chicken to your bowl at breakfast time.

Unusual though it may be, crunchy coated chicken is still quite a tasty dish. I'd perhaps up the stock powder a bit to counteract the sweetness of the coconut, but otherwise it's not bad at all. I don't recommend keeping any leftovers though - the coating loses all its crunch when left in the fridge overnight, and with the crunch goes most of this dish's appeal.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's not bland - it's 'subtly-flavoured'

There's a group of recipes in the soup chapter I'd been avoiding - not consciously, but more because any time I decided to make a soup, there was another one that sounded more appealing. To be honest, the only expectation generated by looking at the five variations of the cream soup base (p86) was one of blandness.

According to the rules I've set myself, I have to make not only each recipe, but every variation of a recipe that has its own name to make it distinct from the main recipe (i.e any that are merely entitled "variation" don't count as separate recipes). So, yes, I have to do all five variants, be they bland or otherwise.

With this in mind, I've been trying to get around to knocking at least one variation off the list. And finally, last night, I had a go at making cream of cauliflower soup (p86).

Cream soups require cooked, pureed vegetables to be stirred through the cream soup base, so I started by boiling up some cauliflower, and when it was cooked, I whizzed it in the food processor until it was nice and smooth.

I then made a start on the cream soup base - a process remarkably similar to that of making a white sauce, except for the inclusion of onions. In fact, I've come across the instructions "melt butter, stir in flour and cook until frothy. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly" so often, that I'm getting heartily sick of the process. In a sense, the cream soup base seems to be just a watered-down white sauce, with onions in it.

In any case, this was soon done, and I added the cauliflower and nutmeg. The remaining instruction at this point was "season to taste": sticking a finger in the soup to taste it, I translated this to mean 'season to give it some taste', since the soup as it stood was achieving new levels of blandness.

It took quite a bit of salt to make the soup palatable: hardly ideal when we're always being told we should reduce our salt intake! If I made this again, I'd be tempted to experiment a little with curry powder or something to give it more flavour with less salt.

Cream of cauliflower soup, therefore, will not be a favourite with those who prefer strongly-flavoured foods. It's not that it tastes terrible: it doesn't. It's just that the flavours are so subtle that most people will find it bland. I expect this will be the case with the rest of the cream soups as well; none of them are made with particularly strong-flavoured veges.

One aspect of the soup that I disliked was the texture. The pureed cauliflower and cream base made a very thick, smooth soup - the kind of texture I quite like, except that there were also bits of onion all through it, making the texture a bit lumpy. Smooth-textured soup = good. Chunky soup = also fine. Smooth soup with little lumps = not so good.

I'm not sure how to get around this - I thought I'd chopped my onion quite small, and I'd been careful to cook them through before continuing with the rest of the soup base. I'd normally puree a soup if I found it too lumpy, but I'm not sure whether that would work with a cream soup. So, for my next soup, I'll just have to make sure I chop my onions really, really finely.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fish as 'Plan B'

This evening's decision to make fish with parsley sauce (p114) happened in a fairly roundabout way. I originally had no thought of making it - I'd firmly fixed on stuffed baked potatoes (p165) for tonight. I had purchased the necessary potatoes and parsley at Raeward, when, for some reason, I found myself flicking through my Edmonds book, while still sitting in my car in the Raeward car park.

I can't recall what made me pick up the book at that moment, but the fish with parsley sauce recipe immediately caught my eye. I'd had to buy a bunch of parsley for the potatoes, and this recipe looked like a good one for using up some more of that. Figuring that the fish would go well enough with the potatoes, I decided to make both for dinner tonight.

With this plan in mind, I dropped into Pak n Save, grabbing a couple of tarakihi fillets with the rest of my groceries.

I got home, and began to prepare the potatoes. Having scrubbed off the dirt, I found that they really weren't ideal specimens for baking - hiding under the layer of soil were bruises and blemishes on the potato skin. I gave up my plan for baked potatoes and made mash with them instead.

So, with my original baked potato plan out the window, I turned to the fish with parsley sauce. It's a fairly straightforward concept - you first poach the fish in milk, then set the fish aside and use the milk to make a sauce.

Poaching is not a cooking method I'm in the habit of using. I don't even poach eggs. It certainly would never have occurred to me to cook fish by simmering it in milk. Still, this is what I found myself doing this evening. It was quite easy - the fish simmered quietly away for 15 minutes, then I took it out of the pan, set it in a dish on a low heat in my 'little oven' to keep warm, and poured the milk into a jug.

From there it was the usual melting butter, stirring in flour, and gradually adding the milk, until I had a nice thick white sauce. When the sauce was done, I added the parsley, and seasoned it with salt and pepper, somewhat over-generously in the case of the pepper, since I always forget that my pepper shaker has larger holes than it should. I poured the sauce over the fish, and served myself up a plate of fish, veges, and a generous helping of mashed potato.

Fish in parsley sauce made quite a pleasant meal, but I wouldn't really rave about it. Realistically, it just tastes like fish and parsley. Still, it makes a nice change from my usual pan-frying. If you're the kind of person who likes white sauces, you'll probably quite enjoy this dish. There's a variation on this recipe using smoked fish, which I'll be making at some stage - It'll be interesting to see how much difference the smoked fish makes to the flavour of the dish.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Just for fun

Aside from a bit of housework, I really didn't have much planned for my Saturday. Having finished the cleaning and tidying, I picked up my Edmonds book, thinking to find something to keep me occupied for a while. I wasn't really in need of further baking (still eating fruit cake) but just felt like doing something in the kitchen.

Eventually, I decided it would be fun to make orange cupcakes (p47), another variety on the standard cupcake recipe. I'd enjoyed making the tiny cupcakes I did for Mothers' Day, so I decided to make my orange ones in the same diminutive size. A half mix would produce 12 miniature cupcakes - more than enough for me to eat before they go stale!

I went for a walk to the local fruit and vege shop and got myself an orange. Upon returning, I creamed butter and sugar with the orange zest, beat in an egg, then added flour, baking powder and milk. This mixture was spooned into paper cases lining my small muffin pans. I ended up overfilling them slightly, to use up all the mixture.

Because of this,the cupcakes came out slightly pointier than the ideal cupcake shape, but that didn't matter - the orange icing (p77) was not thick enough to give extra height to the cupcakes. In fact, seeing the shape of the cupcake, I deliberately left it slightly runny, thinking it would look quite nice dribbling down from the point. But as usual, I had underestimated the runniness of the icing, and it dribbled everywhere.

The decoration is usually the main point of cupcakes - one of the reasons I'd chosen cupcakes is that I thought I'd enjoy the decorating. However, confronted with the reality of 12 cupcakes encased in runny (and, as I discovered when the icing began to dry) lumpy icing, I had no creative inspiration at all. The best I could come up with was to melt some chocolate and drizzle that over the top, preferably in an interesting pattern.

I threw some chocolate chips into the microwave on a low heat. As they melted, I added a little butter, but was unable to get the chocolate to a drizzling consistency. I'd almost given up (in fact, I was snacking on the partially-melted chocolate, thinking I had no other use for it) when I spied the remaining half of the orange on the bench. With nothing to lose, I squeezed some orange juice into the chocolate. To my astonishment, it thinned down the chocolate immediately.

When the chocolate was thin enough, I used a teaspoon to drizzle it over the cupcakes. Initially I tried spiral patterns but the flow of chocolate from the teaspoon was so uneven as to make the results ridiculous. I settled for flicking the chocolate back and forth across the grouped cupcakes.

When both the chocolate and the orange icing had set, I had a dozen unimaginatively decorated, but quite tasty jaffa cupcakes. The cupcakes themselves are a little dry in texture; I'd noticed this with my previous cupcakes, but thought it was because I'd baked them the night before decorating them. These ones were iced and tasted on the same day as I baked them, but were still a little dry.

The icing is the main focus of both the appearance and the flavour of a cupcake: the orange icing on this one has a pleasant tang which cuts through the sugary sweetness, but it was the chocolate-orange drizzle that provided the flavour that turned a fairly boring orange cupcake into a tasty jaffa one.

I've come to the conclusion that cupcakes are not really my thing. They're more about the decoration than the actual cake. I always think they'll be fun to decorate, but I'm no genius with icing (always, always too runny) and the few ideas I do have for decoration don't come out right. Still, I'll be getting some more practice yet: there are still 3 cupcake recipes to go!

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