The modern designer one
The one I use every day
The electric one
The built to last one
The one I haven’t got, but really want!
Now, I know that Easter Eggs and chocolate bunnies aren’t a cake, a bake or a cookie, but when I saw these cute moulds (below) from Lakeland I just knew my girls would love to make Nanny a special Easter gift. So off we went.
This is what we started out with.
In hindsight it would have been better to have only shown the girls one or two moulds. When they saw them all on the kitchen table they wanted to coat them all in melted, drippy chocolate right away! So I let them! It is the Easter holidays after all.
How cute is this little silicon melting pot? My 4-year-old nephew was with us when we first did some of this ‘making’ so I gave him the melting pot to fill his duck moulds with. I was worried that it would become too hot to hold, so I melted chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and poured it into the container. I needn’t have worried. The melting pot can hold very hot chocolate and the outside stays as cool as anything.
The best thing about the pot is that when you want to melt chocolate in it (which I did with the white chocolate later on) it was really easy to squidge around and mix up the contents with your hands in between bursts in the microwave .
I also filled the deco pen from this post as it was really easy for little hands to get the chocolate into the small mould shapes.
With all this great, specific, perfect equipment in mind, Beau decided that the silicon pastry brush (which I had got out to fill the larger egg moulds with) was the best way to spread the chocolate. And here started the messy bit.
With three kids and only two dispensers, I put some melted chocolate into an icing bag. Darcey had full control of it in this pic. Well she did for about two minutes, then it all went over the edge. I used an icing scraper to remove the excess from the mould so that the top of each egg would be nice and flat. And then she had a go at doing the same. Ooops! That was a mistake. It went everywhere!
I read somewhere that kids learn a lot from being able to make a mess without their parents telling them to keep everything clean and tidy all the time, so I bit my OCD lip and left them to it!!!! Boy, chocolate makes a sticky mess! Just look. And that’s not even the floor!
But the eggs looked cute. Well, kind of. Once they came out of the fridge we removed any excess chocolate, which as the moulds are silicon or plastic was effortless.
They were then stuck together with a little more melted chocolate.
I decided that I would make the bigger eggs when the kids were outside. Really I just wanted to have a play. The kids wouldn’t let me near the chocolate while they were doing it.
I kept it pretty simple. The instructions on the packaging said that it was better to have 4 thin layers than one or two thick ones. That is very true. If you put too much chocolate in the middle of the egg mould and drag it up the sides of the mould it just drips back down again giving you a thick middle and thin on top, and no one wants that!
I applied the first coats of dark chocolate using the silicon pastry brush then popped them in the fridge. Once hardened I gave them another coat of dark chocolate.
When it was time to apply the third coat, this time white chocolate, the dark chocolate was melting underneath as I brushed, so I used the back of a tea spoon to make sure that it reached the top edge and stayed there.
Once they had been in the fridge and were hard I carefully prized them out of the moulds. I used a small amount of the white chocolate on the inside edge to stick two halves together. I also kept some as just half an egg so I could fill them with the duck, mini eggs or bunny chocolate shapes.
When things look as home made as these do it’s a good idea to get the gift wrapping right. I use these cellophane bags all the time. Add a little Easter gingham ribbon and your eggs will look top notch.
I love the little spot boxes. They are really sweet (get it? sweet!) and held about 6-8 bunnies, eggs or ducks. We lined them with baking paper to make them look a little extra special. Now we have enough for aunties and uncles too!
So, my top tips for working with chocolate and kids. They may seem obvious but the reality is…..
There’s going to be mess so just let it happen. Fill your sink up with hot soapy water and have your rubber gloves at the ready. As you finish with something pop it into the soapy water until everyone is finished. The soak will speed the big clean up.
On that note, if you have to use anything straight from the draining board ensure it is completely dry. Water and chocolate just don’t go!
Buy more chocolate than you think you’ll need. We used six 100g bars to make two large eggs and 24 solid mini eggs. If you want to buy lots of inexpensive chocolate check out the supermarket’s value ranges. Tesco has 100g bars of dark, milk and white chocolate for 30p each (or 2 for 40p at the moment!) We went back for more as it tastes good! There’s something about the mixture of these cheaper dark and white chocolates that works. We used them for the Nishnobblers too!
If you’re making lollies, dip the ends of the sticks in chocolate and let them set before sticking them into the melted chocolate and mould. They’ll stay in place and be stronger once they harden up.
Feed your kids with as much fruit and veg as possible before the finger licking starts. Once it starts it doesn’t stop.
Don’t make anything with kids and melted chocolate just after you’ve cleaned the kitchen floor. I mean really, Emma what were you thinking!!!
So, that’s the end of the chocolate making for us for now. I’m sure there’s tons more hints and tips about how to get the best from melted chocolate, tempering and the like! I’ll have to review a book I received at Christmas that I haven’t had a chance to read properly yet, called Couture Chocolate. It looked a bit too professional at the time but after this session I’m feeling like a pro. Well I can dream can’t I?
My favorite pieces of baking equipment have to be the ones that work hard for their money. Some are just plain essential like my cookie lifter (I use that all the time for baking, icing you name it!) so when I saw this ‘Eazistore’ baking set I knew it was going to be a winner!
I’ve been a fan of Stellar products ever since my lovely cousin Adam gave us a set of their stainless steel saucepans when we got married. I only stopped using them last year (that’s 13 years later!) because we now have a new induction hob that they won’t work on. I can’t bring myself to throw them out. They’re in perfect condition!
Anyway, I digress. This five piece set is brilliant because not only is it non-stick (so essential with my baking!) but it has everything that you need – whether you’re a new home owner or an established cook/baker, all in one neat package. It all fits into one large roaster tin so there’s no need to find a ton of storage space or if you’re me, make loads of noise digging out the piece you need whilst clattering around in your baking cupboard!
The top tier is a roasting rack and a cooling tray
Tier two is a baking tray
Tier three is a baking sheet – cookies at the ready!
Tier four is a really great and very deep muffin tin. So what I needed. 12 all in one go! Yay
The set is good for up to 240°C, Gas mark 9, can be popped in the dishwasher and has a lifetime guarantee to “be free from defects in material and workmanship under normal household use. The non stick coatings are guaranteed for 5 years”
Eazistore nesting bakeware set, £49.95, Amazon.com
How cute are these kitchen scales? I received a press release about them last week and knew I had to get my hands on them to test, so I could share them with you. Retro designs are big in home wares right now and baking gadgets are no different.
The scales are high accuracy which is great. If you’ve ever used digital scales before then you’ll know that when you’re weighing your ingredients they tend to jump up in big increments and oddly enough they jump in even numbers. It can be hard to add just one more gram, but not with these. They are so precise.
The scales are made from glass and have four accuracy sensors underneath, which means they can measure from 1g up to 5kg effortlessly.
The digital reader is retractable which is great for storage. It also means that the scales would look great out on display on a kitchen shelf. I found the digital reader a little bit fiddly to get the hang of when I wanted it to go back to zero, but once I’d mastered the knack, it was a doddle. You simply press the ‘on’ button and it resets to zero after you’ve added each ingredient. You can also switch between metric and imperial units.
The best thing about these scales (apart from the great old-fashioned dial design on the front and the cute colour) is that they’re really effortless to clean. My old ones have so many nooks and crannies in them that it’s hard to get every bit of icing sugar or flour off. But with this design you literally run a damp cloth over it and it’s like new!
Did I mention that they are available in 6 great shades? You can get yours by clicking on the image of the green Zassenhaus digital kitchen scale on the right from Amazon for around £30.
When it comes to whisking food up what do you use? I usually use my Kitchenaid, my tiny whisk from the Nigella Lawson range or my hand held stick blender. Depending on what it is I am making, of course. I don’t have a traditional whisk (the kind with a pair of removable beaters. I really should do something about that!)
Last week I was sent a press release for one of OXO Good Grips latest products. A hand held mixer. Now, I love to test anything baking related so I asked if I could have one to play with. It’s funny how a new toy gets you making things you haven’t made in ages! This week so far we’ve had pancakes, omelette and I have just whipped up a chocolate butter cream for a chocolate cake, just so I can have a go on this whisk. Thank goodness there’s no cream in the house or the healthy eating really would have gone out the window! (The cake wasn’t for us!)
I have known about OXO Good grips for ages. I studied them (or at least their ethos) when I was at Uni doing Product Design. They’re very clever at designing comfortable to use items with great style. Everything has to be ergonomical and effortless.
There are a lot of reasons for liking this whisk. Firstly it has a really soft non-slip handle which makes it very comfortable to use. That’s obviously essential when you are likely to be whisking for a long while, like with meringues.
The whisking part of the mixer is removed at the push of a button.
The steel beaters are also removable and can be cleaned in the dishwasher after use. Just a gentle pull to the sides makes them pop out.
It’s the ingenious bar which raises the beaters off the base of the bowl during the whisking that I think really makes this gadget a winner!
I’m not one for having a gadget just for the sake of it. Who has the space in their kitchen drawers apart from anything else? But I would definitely add this to my ‘must have’ list. Just because it’s so much fun!
When it comes to baking equipment you can easily spend a fortune getting the right stuff. I’ve been decorating cakes for a few years now and my baking armoire (yes I bought a huge French cupboard just to house my baking stuff in!) is packed to the brim with cutters, rolling pins, baking papers and the all important tins and trays. If you’re into baking you’ll know what I’m talking about. You can never have enough!
Well, yesterday I went to the Sainsburys Spring / Summer 2012 press launch – we work far ahead in the magazine world! I was talking to the Head homewares about bakeware. They’ve got a gorgeous new range of baking products coming out which I will be sharing with you when they hit the shelves next year. Here’s a sneak preview to whet your appetite!
We were discussing what keen bakers look for in their baking equipment and what Sainsburys should be stocking for us decorators of cupcakes, biscuits and cakes alike and it got me thinking about how you can easily buy tons of stuff that you will hardly ever use or that you don’t really need. Also, is it always worth buying the expensive stuff or will a less expensive version do?
So, I am going to share with all you readers what I rate and what I use in my ‘Best for baking’ posts. I get to test out new gadgets and equipment all the time as well as new foods for features when I write for magazines so watch this space for up and coming products. But for now……
Ten years ago, when asked by my mother-in-law what I would like for my birthday, I said some Mermaid baking tins. M-I-L wasn’t keen as this wasn’t the glamorous gift she had in mind. But I had it on good authority (albeit from a PR who was slightly biased) that these were the tins to have. It was said that the tins out last many marriages! Once I saw them I had to have them. Those original tins are still going strong today. And I still use them all the time. I was recently sent a set of their new range to test for a feature I was writing and I can’t tell you how excited I was when the box arrived.
I blame ‘The Great British Bake Off’ for my latest obsession with using a baking sheet over a baking tray! I had never had one before and now I can’t do without it. All the Mermaid tins are hard anodized . This means that the heat is distributed really evenly, so whether you are using a tin for a cake or sheet for biscuits there are no hotspots and everything is baked to perfection, AND you can get loads more cookies on a sheet than on a tray!
I was really impressed with not only how well the loose bottomed cake tins performed but how easy they are to clean. I’m a bit of a clean freak with my tins. I like them to always look like new – and these do. There’s something very satisfying about a really cold, hard baking tin that you can scrub clean easily. There are lots of sizes to choose from in the loose bottom collection-in both the square and round shapes. I’ve nearly got all the sizes now. They’re an investment but I know I’ll never have to replace them!
It’s also worth mentioning the pudding basin, perfect for your Christmas pudding. I haven’t baked any puddings in mine yet but it’s a great shape for so many decorative cakes. It’s a really handy shape to have in your stores.
Mermaid don’t just do baking sheets and tins, they do Roasting tins too (although I have been using their mini roaster to bake cakes in for ages as it is such a great rectangular size for a football shirt cake!)
So, If you are looking to buy some new bakeware I can definitely recommend Mermaid Cookware. Check out the range at www.mermaidcookware.com or call them for your nearest stockist on 0121 569 7906. They are also available at John Lewis and.