Christmas Cake Moulds & Cookie Cutters

Christmas cookie cutterTo get in to the Christmas spirit, I thought I’d do a quick run down of festive cake moulds and cookie cutters. Marks and Spencer have a good range including this Christmas Tree mould which I featured last year, star cupcake cases and Christmas cookie cutters.

If you fancy a Christmas tree made out of cookies, this 3D cookie set could be the thing for you. I know these aren’t cutters or moulds but I also love these snowflake decorations. I’m putting these on my baking list right away! Lakeland also have a fun snowflake cookie cutter set featured below.

Snowflake cookie cutter setCakes, Cookies and Crafts have a full range of Christmas cookie cutters and they also have a  Santa cake tin.

If you want to try your hand at chocolate making, then these chocolate Christmas wreath moulds are a bit different. And OK, these aren’t moulds, but I do love these Santa mini muffin cases from the Funky Muffin shop.

Advertisements

Jonathan Pollock: Food photography

florentines by Jonathan Pollock

On Friday I met Jonathan Pollock, a London based food photographer. He showed me his fantastic portfolio which ranged from florentines for Fortnum and Mason (pictured here) to sausages and mash for a leading supermarket and foodie dishes for the Onion Council. I also love his meille feuille pic here. He was kind enough to give me some tips on how to take great food photos which I’ve summarised below.

  1. Use natural light wherever possible – that means I need to be photographing my baking either outside or by the windows – not using the overhead lights or underlighting by the cupboards
  2. Use a DSLR if you can so you can have a lot more control over the exposure, shutter speed and aperture – I am going to have to get a new camera soon! Jonathan recommends the Nikon D90 with a 15-105 lens
  3. If you can photograph outside on a cloudy day or use the light one hour before sunset it should work well
  4. Don’t use the flash on close up shots (which I try not to) but adjust the exposure to +1 if the photo looks too dark
  5. If you don’t want to use flash then 400 ISO should be about right in low-level lighting (it has a faster shutter speed)
  6. To take crisp shots and avoid blur, rest your back on a wall or your elbows on the table and slowly breathe in before you take the shot and then gently press snap!
  7. If you want some basic principles on how to use a camera, then John Hedgecoe’s Guide to 35mm Photography is a good book
  8. For food, it’s good to take tight shots and remember to have the food at the front of the plate
  9. Composition wise, remember to visually split the picture into three and take the interesting part of the pic in the left hand third
  10. 50 ASA/ISO is good quality but has a slower shutter speed (longer exposure) so you need to use it in an environment with higher light levels

I also asked Jonathan for some anecdotes about what it’s like to be a food stylist. He said you have to have incredible patience – each shot takes about two hours – and it’s more like being an alchemist or perhaps an illusionist? For instance, to get a frothy cup of coffee with marshmallows bobbing on the top, gravel is used for 90% of the cup with coffee poured through it. Then a bit of milk is added on top and the marshmallows can sit nicely on the gravel. Who knew!

Ideas for Halloween Cupcakes!

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream - Halloween cupcakes

I have been thinking about Halloween for several weeks but I’ve been away for several weekends in October and just couldn’t get to the baking until this weekend. I opted for some simple choc cupcakes as I was limited on time.  Waitrose had a good selection of spooky products although you needed to get in early as I arrived when there were no more orange and black sparkles and various other baking ingredients.  The website is probably your best bet – tip for next year! I did like their spooky cupcake set, complete with Halloween baking cases, and little ghouls and pumpkins on cocktail sticks.

Photographed by Hannah CarmichaelMy friends Hannah and Hazel were much more adventurous and used ‘A Zombie Ate My Cupcake’ book by Lily Vanilli  to create spooktacular treats including graveyard cupcakes with marzipan worms complete with gingerbread cookies for the tomb stones and eyeballs speared with sugar glass oozing with cherry jam for bloody treats (I actually shivered when I saw the photo!). They also made fondant death masks so their friends could decorate them at the party! You can check out Hannah’s photos here.

I used the Cakes4Fun chocolate cupcake recipe and chocolate buttercream for these Halloween treats with the Waitrose witches and Frankensteins on top. I was really chuffed with how the fairycakes came out of the oven – they were totally flat! The secret to this is to mix the ingredients for atleast 3 minutes. It seemed that if the cupcakes weren’t atleast half full though, the baking case collapsed. I did have a slight mishap on the piping as I cut my disposable piping bag too close to the metal nozzle and so icing could escape from the bag. They still tasted good but I think that next time I still stick to my trusty baking cases rather than the Halloween ones plus I won’t be making the same mistake again with the piping bag!

Cafe Review: Nordic Bakery

Nordic Bakery cinnamon bunsI am well over due an update to the blog so today is my attempt to kick start things and get back to my regular posting. After many weeks of working long hours I had to put the blog on the back burner but I was itching to get back to the baking and blogging. As part of National Novel writing month, my friend is brave enough to embark on writing a book for the first time. She has to write atleast 1,500 words a day for a month, the equivalent of over 50,000 words.  I think it’s a great initiative because not only does it encourage people to start creative writing, but it envelopes their friends too. Hannah has initiated group chill out sessions where we can meet and write novels and journal entries, blog and read.

Front cover of Nordic Bakery book My suggestion for yesterday’s creative café was the Nordic Bakery on Golden Square in Soho. I had always wanted to give it a try and this seemed the perfect excuse. The industrial décor and low lighting is great for a chilled and dark Sunday afternoon. I opted for a cinnamon bun which is like a giant, tightly coiled croissant, filled with doughy goodness and lashings of cinnamon. It was crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside and just about gooey enough with oozing syrup. Other cakes on offer include tall sponge cakes marbled with chocolate (Tiger Cake) or orange and poppyseed or topped with caramelised almonds (Tosca cake).  The cakes looked a bit dry which is why I opted for a bun but with a good cup of coffee I’m sure they would have been tasty. My friend had a gravalax and Nordic cheese sandwich on rye bread which she said was very tasty although rather minute for £4. If you want to recreate their recipes and other Nordic nibbles, you can buy the Nordic Bakery Cookbook for £15 from the café.

The staff were helpful although they needed to come round more often to clear all our cups and plates. I would recommend this café if you’re after a peaceful, lazy afternoon away from the hubbub of Regent St. Bizarrely, they started turning the lights down every 15 minutes! I was still there after 6pm and the really nice thing was how the atmosphere was really chilled and the staff were so nice they didn’t make any attempt to throw out their customers after closing time!

%d bloggers like this: