Tag Archives: Zoosday Tuesday

Zoosday Tuesday: Pufferfish cake pops

Considering my general enthusiasm for Christmas in my last post, it would be reasonable to expect today’s Zoosday Tuesday post to feature some Christmas-related animal, like reindeer or something.  But no, today’s post features…  Pufferfish!  Ya, I know, a bit of a curve ball, right?  Or a puffed-up, spiky ball might be more accurate.  Many times over the course of last (academic) year, Kat was my partner in crime when it came to baking and trying out new recipes.  But we haven’t baked together since Graduation at the end of June (being in two different towns makes that a little difficult…) and I’ve really missed it.  So when I went up to St Andrews a few weeks ago to visit her, we decided to rectify that and bake together again.

Obviously, we didn’t pick something straightforward to make.  Oh no.  I’d had the idea of pufferfish cake pops a few weeks previously, so that’s what we decided to attempt…  We had great fun mucking around and creating a general mess (well ok, so I created most of the mess and Kat cleaned up after me.  This is why we make such an awesome baking team – though I clearly get the better deal).  Neither of us had made cake pops before, so we more or less made it up as we went along (with lots of taste-testing along the way, obviously…), but that’s how we’ve always baked together, so nothing new there!

We faffed around quite a lot whilst making the cake pops and then got distracted by James Bond (helloooo Daniel Craig) and a fair amount of wine, so it took us two days to make them but I think they turned out rather cute.  Before anybody comes out all smart-arse and points out that pufferfish aren’t that colour, I’ll just say that there are at least 130 known species of pufferfish.  These are blatantly the very rare orange-spiked pufferfish (which is clearly not a species that I’ve just made up, ahem).  So anyway pufferfish cake pops, definitely a success!  And unlike most pufferfish, these aren’t poisonous, which is always a bonus…  They also happen to taste delicious.  Hurrah!

Pufferfish double chocolate cake pops

Makes ~24 cake pops (we ate quite a few before they reached cake pop stage)
Cake recipe adapted from SquirrelsLarder

Making cake pops does take a while since there are several stages that involve waiting for things to cool, chill or set, but you can leave them to cool/chill/set for quite a while as you go about your business and fit the cake pop making process around it.  We chose to make the cake because home-made cake is always better, but you can just use shop-bought cake and crumble that up if you want to save some time.  Although I’m giving directions using an electric whisk, you can make these entirely by hand as well.  I know, because that’s what we did.  Since making these, I have read that adding some Crisco (or other vegetable fat product) helps to smoothen the chocolate coating.  We didn’t use any so I can’t tell you for sure whether this works, but if you do try it, let me know!  We found that this video gives a useful overview of how to make cake pops, so if you’ve never tried them before, watching it might help to visualise some of the stages.

Ingredients

For the cake:
175g unsalted butter
175g brown sugar
3 large eggs
150g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
1 tbsp water (optional)

For the cake pops:
200g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g white chocolate
Caramel food colouring gel
Black food colouring gel

Directions

For the cake:
1.  Butter two 20cm sandwich cake tins (or one larger tin if you don’t have two – it doesn’t matter too much since the cake is going to be crumbled once it has been made).  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Using an electric whisk, beat the sugar and butter together in a large bowl until well mixed.  Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl with a fork then mix into the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time (if the mixture curdles, add about 1 tbsp of the flour and continue mixing until smooth again).

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into the mixing bowl and fold into the butter and sugar mixture.  If the batter seems too thick, add some of the water, but this depends on the batter (we didn’t need to add any).

4.  Split the batter between the two sandwich tins (or pour it all into the larger tin), smoothing the tops with a spatula.  Bake both on the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean.

5.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

For the cake pops:
6.  As the cakes are cooling, making the buttercream icing.  Whisk the softened butter and icing sugar together in a medium bowl using an electric whisk (be prepared for a minor icing sugar explosion).  Add the vanilla extract and continue beating until smooth and fluffy.  Set aside about 4 heaped tbsp of icing in a small air-tight box, ziplock bag or small bowl with a cling-film cover and refrigerate.

7.  Once the cakes have cooled completely, crumble the cake into a large mixing bowl.  A good way of doing this is by rubbing the two halves of each cake together (watch this video for a demonstration).  Add about half of the buttercream icing to the crumbled cake and mix together (the easiest way is to just use your hands).  Once mixed, add some more of the icing and continue mixing.  Continue adding buttercream icing until the mixture binds together enough to roll into balls.  Add any remaining buttercream icing to that which has already been set aside.

8.  Roll the cake mixture into small balls (ours were a little smaller than golf balls – we were making these in St Andrews, you can’t seriously be surprised at our choice of comparison) and place on a baking tray.  Put the baking tray in the fridge for a few hours until the balls have hardened a little (we left them overnight).

9.  Once the balls are set, melt the white chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Add a drop of chestnut food colouring gel and mix well.  Remove the  cake balls from the fridge.  Dip the pointy end of a bamboo skewer into the melted chocolate and insert into one of the cake balls (don’t poke it all the way through to the other side – ⅔ of the way in is good).  Dip the cake ball into the melted chocolate and gently roll until coated.  Allow the excess to drip off before sticking the skewer in a piece of styrofoam or in a tall glass (or cupcake stand – the important thing is that the cake pop isn’t in contact with anything).  Repeat for each cake ball.  Allow all the cake pops to fully set (this may take a few hours).

10.  Dip a toothpick into some black food colouring gel and gently dab it around the top of the cake pops to make little black spots (look at the photos to get an idea).

11.  Remove the buttercream icing from the fridge and remove about 1 heaped tbsp into a small bowl.  Add a drop of black food colouring gel and mix until the colour has been fully incorporated.  Add a tiny bit more if necessary to get the colour that you want.  Transfer the dark grey/black icing to a piping bag prepared with a thin round tip.  Pipe the eyes and mouth (use the photos as a guide).

12.  Transfer the remaining buttercream icing to a different small bowl.  Add a drop of the chestnut food colouring gel and mix well.  Add more if you’re not happy with the colour (but remember to only add a tiny amount at a time).  Transfer to a piping bag with a slightly thinner round tip than used for the eyes and mouth.  Pipe tiny spikes over the top and sides of the cake pops (again, refer to the photos as guides).  Then pipe the fins as little triangles built outwards over each other.  Try and make sure that both fins are at the same level on the cake pop (this can be quite difficult – having somebody to hold the cake pop steady for you is a great help.  Thanks Kat!!).

Enjoy!

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Zoosday Tuesday: Killer whale birthday cake

I’ve had a bit of a blog hiatus, mostly because I haven’t been feeling particularly inspired lately, but I thought I’d better sort that out, and it would seem appropriate to end the hiatus with a Zoosday Tuesday post (which I haven’t done in a while) in the form of a slightly epic birthday cake.  It seems to have been the year of the animal birthday cakes – we had the seal pup cake in January, Craig’s meerkat cake, and the latest offering…  A killer whale cake!  Before anybody panics, let me just make it clear that by killer whale cake I mean a cake shaped like a killer whale, not a whale cake that is lethal.

You may well be wondering why I decided to spend seven hours of my life making a cake in the shape of a killer whale (before anybody feels the need to point out that it doesn’t have a tail, the whale is surfacing, so the tail is underwater).  Aside from the fact that cake is awesome and killer whales are pretty awesome, thus the two put together would automatically be totally awesome, Kat happens to love killer whales and has just started the Marine Mammals MRes in St Andrews (she’s clever like that).  She also happens to love amaretto (an almond-flavoured liqueur), so when it came to making her a surprise birthday cake, an amaretto cake in the shape of a killer whale was a bit of a no-brainer…

Now, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t really come across many amaretto cake recipes, so that was the first step.  I eventually found a cake recipe that involved apricots and amaretto which sounded promising.  In view of the epic amount of buttercream icing that was likely to cover the cake, I decided that attempting to be vaguely healthy with the apricots was a bit pointless so I substituted chocolate chips instead.  The next step was to work out how to make the chocolate and Amaretto cake into the shape of a killer whale.  I decided that baking the cake in a loaf tin was a good first step, and pretty much winged it from there.  So basically, I knew roughly what I wanted the finished cake to look like (a surfacing killer whale – to avoid faffing around and having to make a tail), but effectively made it up as I went along.  Thankfully it turned out to be fairly straightforward.  The final step was to get the cake from Edinburgh to St Andrews… on public transport.  Remarkably, we managed it to get it there in one piece.  All that remained to do was to stick a candle in its blowhole and all over Craig’s delicious chilli and lime chocolate brownies and celebrate Kat’s (slightly belated) birthday by spending two days eating cake…  In case you’re wondering, the cake not only looked pretty amazing (if I do say so myself…) but tasted rather good, too.  Phew!

Chocolate & amaretto cake

Serves 8-10 people
Adapted from Waitrose

Since I was making a whale cake, I made the cake in a loaf tin, but obviously a round cake tin works perfectly, too.  I’ve given the instructions here on how to make the cake into a whale, but if you’re not making a killer whale, but still want to ice the cake, use about ⅓ of the icing ingredients and sprinkle with flaked almonds and cocoa powder to decorate.  Just a warning, the killer whale cake did take me about 7 hours from start to finish, though most of that time was the cake’s cooking time and waiting for it to cool – the actual shaping and icing maybe took about 1 ½ hours since I faffed around quite a bit.  The cake keeps well for a few days in an air-tight box.

Ingredients

For the cake:
25g self-raising flour
165g all-purpose flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g ground almonds
115g unsalted butter
200g golden caster sugar
100ml amaretto (this is a bit of an approximation)
3 eggs
125ml sour cream
125g dark chocolate chips

For the buttercream icing:
400g icing sugar
200g butter (softened to room temperature)
5-6 tbsp amaretto
Blue and black food colouring paste/gel
Edible blue sparkles (optional)

Directions

For the cake:
1.  Butter and flour a 21 x 11 cm loaf tin (or if you’re not making a killer whale, you can use a 23 cm round cake tin), and line the bottom with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.

2.  Sift the two flours, the bicarbonate of soda and a large pinch of salt into a medium-sized bowl.  Add 75g of ground almonds and mix together.  Set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, cream the cubed butter and golden caster sugar together using an electric whisk.  Add the remaining ground almonds and about 4 tbsp of amaretto, and whisk together.  Beat in the eggs one at a time before adding the remaining 65 ml of amaretto and mixing well (don’t panic if the mixture appears to separate – I don’t know if that’s normal, but it happened to mine and the cake turned out perfectly fine.  Adding the dry ingredients in the next step will sort the mixture out again).

4.  Gradually fold the dry ingredients into the amaretto mixture, alternating each addition with folding in a spoonful of sour cream.  Make sure not to let the mixture get too dry.  Fold in the chocolate chips and spoon into the loaf tin.

5.  Bake for 1h25 (1h20 if using a round cake tin).  A toothpick or skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean, but make sure not to overcook the cake (or it will come out really dry).  Allow to cool in the tin for about 15 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To turn the cake into a killer whale:
6.  Once the cake is completely cool, using a sharp knife, cut the ends of the cake into a rounded shape (try to keep at least one of the corners in one piece to make the fin with), making one end slightly more pointy than the other (this will be the whale’s head).  If necessary, trim the top edges of the loaf at an angle to try and make the overall shape more rounded and whale-like (if none of that made sense, hopefully the photo below will explain better).

7.  Using one of the corners that have been cut off the cake, trim it into a fin shape (again, see the photo below if you’re not too sure).  Stick a toothpick or two through the fin and into the cake to secure it into place, and use a toothpick on either side to make sure it doesn’t fall over.

8.  To make the buttercream icing, cream together the icing sugar and butter in a large bowl until smooth (be prepared for an icing sugar explosion).  Place 1-2 tsp of icing in the centre of the underside of the cake and place the cake onto the cake board of plate that you’ll be presenting it on, pressing it down gently (this is to vaguely stick the cake to the cake board/plate so that it doesn’t slide around in transit).

9.  Transfer just under half of the remaining icing to a medium sized bowl, add 2-3 tbsp amaretto and a dollop (very technical term) of black food colouring gel/paste.  Mix well until the icing is smooth.  Add a tiny bit more black food colouring if necessary and mix until the icing has turned very dark grey.  Using a small tapered spatula or knife, spread the dark grey icing over the whale, making sure to leave space for the white icing under the mouth (alternatively, cover the entire cake in dark grey icing and then pipe the white icing over the top as with the white bits over the eyes).  Use icing to cover the toothpicks on either side of the fin, and shape it a little if necessary.  Try and make the icing as smooth as possible.  Refer to the photos of the cake, or to photos of real killer whales as guides.

10.  Prepare a piping bag with a 5 mm round tip, and spoon 2-3 heaped tbsp of the white icing into it.  Pipe the white spots over the top of the killer whale’s eyes, and the the white parts of its belly under its mouth (see photos of the cake or real killer whales to use as guides).  If there is any icing left in the piping bag, return it to the rest of the original white icing in the large bowl.

11.  Dip the end of a toothpick into the black food colouring paste and draw a small eye between the white patch above the eye and the white belly under the mouth.  Use the other end of the toothpick to do the eye on the other side.  Use another toothpick to shape a blowhole in the centre of the top of the whale’s head (the blowhole I made was about 6 mm across).

12.  Prepare another piping bag with a tear-drop or rose-petal tip (or if you don’t have either of those, a 5 mm round tip would probably work, too).  Add 2-3 tbsp amaretto and a tiny bit of blue food colouring paste to the remaining icing and mix well until the icing is smooth.  Spoon the icing into the prepared piping bag and pipe squiggles across the cake board or plate to make the waves of the sea.  Sprinkle some edible blue sparkles across the top of the “sea” to finish off the cake (optional).

Enjoy!  (And remember to warn people about the toothpicks in the fin…)

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Zoosday (but not) Tuesday: Ladybird icebox cookies

For the duration of this post, please pretend that it’s still Tuesday.  This also involves pretending that I didn’t have to spend yesterday thoroughly cleaning the flat for our inspection today (as it’s our penultimate inspection, the estate agents told us they’d point out “problem areas” that we need to sort before we move out – I figured I should probably make an effort to avoid the whole flat being labelled as one giant “problem area”), that I didn’t have to go to bed at 9pm with an eye migraine (don’t worry, I’m absolutely fine again) and that I totally had time to bake and write a blog post.

So, today is the first Tuesday of the month (ahem), which means it’s Zoosday Tuesday!  I hope you’re excited…!  I’ve just realised that I completely forgot to do Zoosday Tuesday last month.  Woops.  I think the blame can be aportioned between my general disorganisation and scatty-brainedness and the Dissertation (of Doom) which was due two days later and thus took up all of my time.  Oh well, never mind.  Back to this month.  I wasn’t really sure what I was going to bake for today, nor which animal I was going feature, right up until Monday evening when the combination of a postcard on my wall and half a box of custard powder (not attached to my wall) that needs to be used inspired me to make chocolate and custard icebox cookies again, but in ladybird form!  The chocolate dough would clearly work for the black head, and the elytra (the spotted case covering its wings) could be made from custard dough with added red food colouring.  Simple and straightforward!  Ok, there aren’t going to be any legs, but it’s a cookie, not an anatomical model for a museum display.

Today (actual today – Wednesday – even though we’re pretending it’s Tuesday) turned out to be a bit of an odd day.  The day basically revolved around baking these cookies.  I started off making the dough this morning, which was interspersed by the flat inspection (which it turned out I didn’t have to spend an entire day cleaning in preparation for.  They didn’t even notice the icing sugar explosion that had already occurred in the kitchen by the time they arrived.  Never mind, at least I have a super-clean flat) and a visit by one of the people living here next year.  Having prepared both doughs, I suddenly realised that it would be much more fun to make the red part chilli-flavoured!  So I added some cayenne pepper to the custard dough, though the quantities were total guesswork.  Then I went out for lunch so the cookies had to be put on hold.

Post lunch, time to actually bake the cookies.  This turned out to be a lot more eventful than your average cookie-baking session.  The first batch went smoothly.  The second batch not so much.  Through sheer stupidity, I accidentally managed to set some baking parchment on fire (nothing remotely serious, don’t worry – in fact I put it out so quickly that the smoke alarm didn’t even have time to go off) and also burnt myself by trying to pick up a baking tray that I’d just taken out of the oven.  Then about 10 minutes after the baking parchment incident, the doorbell went.  I opened the door to find two firemen standing there.  How did they know?  I wasn’t aware the fire department operates a telepathic service.  Turns out they don’t and were just here to check the fire extinguisher.  I’m quite glad I managed to avoid setting further bits of paper on fire whilst they were here.  I feel that might have been a bit awkward.  Instead, I fed them half-decorated cookies before they left.  Please tell me these sorts of random situations don’t only happen to me?

So how did the (eventful) cookies turn out?  Rather scrumptious, though I thought they were rather on the peppery side.  That’s more of a personal taste thing, and Kat and one of her friends who both taste-tested them thought they were delicious.  I think you’ll agree that they are also super-duper cute, so I’m declaring them a success!  Now, I should probably conclude what has turned into a rather epic post with a reminder that you can stop pretending it’s Tuesday (thanks for humouring me)…

Chilli & chocolate icebox ladybird cookies

Makes about 32 cookies
Adapted from Diamonds for Dessert

These obviously don’t have to be made as ladybirds – any pattern would work (though you might want to adjust the quantities of custard, cayenne and cocoa so that the dough is split 50:50).  The amount of cayenne depends very much on personal taste, so do be sure to check the dough before you add more!  Chilli powder would also work, but again, check the dough as you add.  For the red food colouring, if you have a paste, use that as you’ll need less to get a vibrant colour.  Adding black colouring to the chocolate dough is optional, but it will make the heads darker.

Ingredients

For the cookies:
225g butter
170g caster sugar
65g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
290g flour
45g custard powder
3-4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
Red food colouring
15g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
Black food colouring (optional)

For the decoration:
A few squares white chocolate
50g dark chocolate (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Cream together the butter and both sugars.  Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.  Split off a quarter of the mixture and set aside.

2.  Sift 215g of flour and the custard powder into a large bowl containing ¾ of the butter mixture and mix until a dough begins to form (I used my hand whisk, and the mixture went all crumbly before coming together).  Add the cayenne pepper and red food colouring, and mix until the dough comes together (you may need to use your hands).  Place the chilli dough on a piece of cling film and roll into a log of about 4-4.5cm diameter.

3.  Sift the remaining 75g of flour and the cocoa powder into another bowl and add the remaining butter mixture to it.  Mix until a dough forms, adding a few drops of black food colouring if using.  Place the chocolate dough on a sheet of cling film and roll it into a thin log of the same length as the chilli dough roll.

4.  Lay the thin chocolate dough roll along the top of the wider chilli dough roll, smoothing the joins with your fingers.  Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 15mins.

5.  Line two baking sheets with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 170°C.  Once the dough is firm, remove the log from the fridge, and slice it into slices of about 8mm thickness.  Place the slices onto the baking sheets (leave enough space between them so that they can spread out a little bit in the oven) and refrigerate for a further 10 minutes.

6.  Bake the cookies for 12-15mins.  Leave the cookies on the baking sheets for 3mins before removing to a wire rack to cool fully before decorating.

To decorate:
7.  Melt a few squares of white chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Use a toothpick (or a piping bag with a fine tip) to dab the eyes of the ladybirds.

8.  Melt the dark chocolate in another heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Use a piping bag with a fine tip to delineate the elytra and draw the spots (the spots don’t have to be the same on every ladybird).

9.  Allow the chocolate decorations to set completely before piling the cookies onto a serving plate or into an airtight box for storage.

Enjoy!

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Zoosday Tuesday: Meerkat birthday cake. Simples!

Today is the first Tuesday of April, which means that it’s Zoosday Tuesday, and I’m excited about the cake that I’m about to share with you…!

I’ve just realised that I could have done a Cakes for Craig mini-series of posts – last week I told you about the Gin & Tonic macarons that were his birthday present, then on Sunday I shared the chocolate délice that I attempted for his birthday dinner.  Today is the final installment (so I guess that makes it a trilogy?): the surprise cake that Kat, his housemate (who I shall call H for now, as I forgot to check if I could use her name) and I made for his birthday party, which was about ten days ago.  Kat and I previously ventured into the world of animal-themed cakes back in January with a seal pup cake.  We had so much fun that we wanted to make another animal-themed cake.  Now, Craig loves meerkats, so this is the cake we made for him…

Here’s a little secret: Kat and I have actually been planning this since January.  Before you accuse us of having too much time on our hands, let me just say that it’s amazing the amount of procrastination you can get out of designing a cake (and we’ve had a lot to procrastinate from – exams, review essays, practical reports, our dreaded dissertations…).  H helped us make it, and most importantly, was in charge of hiding it from Craig so that it would be a total surprise.  Since we didn’t want to arrive at the party with the cake, thus giving the game away, we took it round whilst he was out and H did a brilliant job of hiding it, because he clearly had no idea.  SUCCESS!!!

The cake itself was straightforward enough – we used the same chocolate cake and glaçage as the seal cake, but sprinkled it with gold sugar to resemble sand (meerkats live in the desert).  In keeping with the general chocolate theme, the meerkats were chocolate rolled cookies.  We scoured the internet for meerkat cookie-cutters, but to no avail.  Which is surprising, considering the whole meerkat craze at the moment.  I mean seriously, I have a shark cookie-cutter – do they really make shark cookie-cutters and not meerkat ones?!  It would appear so.  Astounding.  Anyway, I digress.  So Kat drew out a stencil instead and we used that to cut out the cookies by hand.  The icing was originally going to be a straightforward (American) royal icing, but well, we’re alcoholics students, and this was a birthday party, so the obvious thing to do was to lace the icing with kirsch (to go with the kirsch in the cake and in the cookies, the recipe of which we’d already altered to include some kirsch).  And by lace, what I really mean substitute kirsch for water.  We then used some edible glue to attach toothpicks to the backs of the meerkat cookies to so that they would stand up on top of the cake (this also made it easier to transport because we just stuck the meerkats into the cake once at Craig’s).  The cake was served with kirsch-infused whipped cream, well, actually, I may have surpassed myself and accidentally made cream-infused whipped kirsch (oops).

Getting the whole cake together took us about six hours.  But the cake nearly rendered Craig speechless (quite a feat) and he clearly deeply appreciated it, which makes the effort totally worth it (and we had so much fun with the icing).  He actually mentioned it in the sweetest post, and after a recent episode of somebody very obviously not eating a cake that I made them (despite it being tasty according to everybody else who tried it), cake appreciation means a lot to me.  I have to admit, I’m still amazed at how realistic we managed to make the meerkats, so here’s another photo (all photos thanks to Kat, by the way):

Chocolate rolled cookies with kirsch icing

Makes 5 meerkat cookies and a lot of stars
Cookies adapted from Glorious Treats
Icing adapted from Joy of Baking

If you want to make the whole cake, then follow this chocolate cake and chocolate glaçage recipe, and sprinkle gold sugar over the top of the cake before the glaçage hardens (so that it sticks to the cake). The cookie dough makes a lot of cookies – we only made 5 meerkats but we used the rest of the dough to make star cookies.  Luckily the dough freezes quite well in a zip-lock bag, just thaw it out in the fridge before using it (otherwise it will be too hard to roll out).  The icing would make enough to decorate at least 8 meerkats.

Ingredients

For the cookies:
375g all-purpose flour
45g cocoa powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
135g granulated sugar
110g brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp chocolate liqueur (I used dark crême de cacao)
1 tsp kirsch

For the icing:
1 large egg white
Kirsch
250-280g icing sugar
Food colouring pastes (we used hazelnut & black)

Directions

To make the cookies:
1.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt together into a bowl, and mix them together.

2.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and two sugars together using an electric whisk, until light and fluffy.  Mix in the egg, chocolate liqueur and kirsch.

3.  Gradually add the cocoa powder and flour mixture to the butter mix roughly 100g at a time, making sure that it was been well incorporated before adding the next 100g (the mixer may slow up a bit towards the end).

4.  Once fully incorporated, split the dough into two or three balls (this makes it more manageable to work with later on), and put each into a zip-lock back and chill in the fridge for 1-2h or about 20mins in the freezer (don’t forget about it in the freezer or you’ll have to let it thaw out after).

5.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.  Line a few baking trays with baking paper.  (This is a good time to make stencils if that’s what you’ll be using.)

6.  Remove one ball of dough from the fridge (if you’ve chilled the dough in the freezer, move the other balls to the fridge so they don’t freeze completely) and place it on a lightly floured surface.  Place a piece of baking paper over the top of the dough (this minimises the amount of flour that you have to use) and roll out to a thickness of around 4mm.  Use cookie cutters (or cut around the stencil you’ve made) to cut out the cookies and place them on the baking trays.  Make the excess dough back into a ball and roll it out again, making sure that the surface you are rolling it out onto is lightly floured.

7.  Once you’ve got a full baking tray, chill it in the freezer for 5 mins (to help the cookies keep their shapes), then place it directly into the oven and bake for 7-10 mins (this will depend on the thickness and shape of your cookies).

8.  Allow the cookies to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

To decorate the cookies:
9.  As the cookies are cooling, prepare the icing.  Set out small bowls or tupperware boxes for the number of different colours you need (we had two – one large to make the icing in, and a small one in which to mix the black), and prepare the tips and icing bags that you will need (we used a Wilton #2 for the lining, a syringe for the flooding, and a Wilton #5 for the brown stripes and shading).

10.  Using an electric whisk, beat the egg white and 1 tsp of kirsch together until just mixed, before adding the sifted icing sugar.  Whisk until smooth and the correct consistency for lining the cookies.  If the icing is too runny, add a little more icing sugar.  Pour as much of the icing as you need into one of the bowls, and cover the big bowl so that the rest of the icing doesn’t dry out.  Add some black colouring to the small bowl and mix well (add more as necessary).  Spoon the black lining icing into a piping bag with a thin tip and outline the cookies.  You can extend the lining to define the paws, too.  Once done, put the icing bag aside, in an airtight box if possible – it will be required later for the eyes and nose.

11.  As the black lining dries on the cookies, prepare the flooding icing.  Uncover the large bowl of icing, add 1 tsp and mix well.  Add another 1 tsp of kirsch and mix well once again.  Continue adding a little bit of kirsch at a time until the icing is of the correct consistency (scoop some icing out of the bowl and drop it back in – it should disappear within 5s).  Add a tiny amount of hazelnut colouring and mix it in well, to achieve a beige colour (add a tiny bit more if necessary – err on the side of caution with quantities as it’s easier to add a tiny bit more than it is to remove any!).  Once the correct colour is achieved, spoon about ⅔ of the beige icing into a piping bag (or syringe) with a medium-sized tip, and cover the rest of the icing so that it doesn’t dry out.  Flood the cookies within the lining, using a toothpick to spread the icing as necessary.

12.  Once the cookies have been flooded, add more hazelnut colouring to the remaining icing and mix well to make a darker brown (you may have to add a sliver of black colouring, too).  Once the correct shade of brown is achieved, spoon the icing into a piping bag with a small tip (but not as small as for the lining), and pipe on the stripes on the back.  Each stripe consists of 3-4 dots, joined together with a toothpick, and mixed a little to make them less defined.  Add a few dots at the end of the tail, paws and around the nose, and blur them slightly with a toothpick.  Draw ears, too.

13.  Get the icing bag with the black icing back out again and draw the nose and eyes.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you can always add a tiny bit of shading to the ears with a toothpick.  Allow the cookies to dry a little before attaching the toothpicks to the back using edible glue and a fine paintbrush. Be careful when handling the cookies (to avoid smudging the icing)!  Allow to dry fully (this may take several hours) before decorating the cake or storing in an airtight box.

Enjoy!

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Zoosday Tuesday: Lion icebox cookies

I’m currently in the final semester of my Zoology BSc, and Graduation (in June) is looming ever closer.  That makes it sound a little bit like the edge of a cliff or something, but it’s actually quite a good analogy – after Graduation, my life is currently this great big empty void.  I have no idea where I will be or what I will be doing after June.  I know where I’d like to be, and what I’d like to be doing, but unfortunately, that’s not really quite the same thing.  If I don’t come out with a good degree classification, or don’t get into the courses that I’m currently applying for, there is a back-up plan.  Sort of.  It’s perhaps more of a Plan Z.

Here it is: Kat, Craig (of G&Ts-in-the-library fame) and I are going to open a bistro, ‘Allo ‘Allo! style.  (If you’ve never watched/heard of ‘Allo ‘Allo!, it’s a BBC television series, a bit of an institution, based around a café in Occupied France during WWII.  It’s totally inappropriate and relies on ridiculous accents and a lot of heavy stereotyping, but it’s truly hilarious.)  We’re all hoping that this never actually comes to fruition (though it would be kind of amazing), since that would mean we’d probably failed, but that hasn’t stopped us coming up with lots of ideas…  One of which is Zoosday Tuesday – every Tuesday, bake something animal-themed.  Genius!  (Perhaps I should mention that we’re all Biologists, and “green” Biologists at that.)

Now, I think that this is just too much of a brilliant idea to restrict to our (currently) imaginary bistro, so I’ve decided to make it a regular feature on my blog.  I hereby declare that the first Tuesday of every month shall be named Zoosday Tuesday, and I will post something animal-themed.  So for the first installment, I present to you…  Lion icebox cookies (presumably thus named because they chill in the fridge before being baked).  Perfect for Biologists.  And small children.  Ha ha…

Chocolate & custard icebox lion cookies

Makes about 24 cookies
Recipe from Diamonds for Dessert

This is an easy recipe to follow, though I found it a little time-consuming.  This is probably mostly because I’d never made icebox cookies before, so spent a lot of time re-reading and checking the instructions and just generally faffing around.  Obviously they don’t have to be lion cookies, you can make them any pattern you like (but why wouldn’t you want lion cookies?!)  Making the lions’ faces took a deceptively long time.  The results are so worth the time though – they are just so cute!  (I’m easily amused…)

Ingredients

For the cookies:
225g butter
170g caster sugar
65g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
290g flour
30g custard powder
30g cocoa powder (at least 70%)

For the decoration:
A few squares white chocolate
Custard powder
A few squares dark chocolate (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Cream together the butter and both sugars.  Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.  Split the mixture in half and set aside.

2.  Sift 145g of flour and the custard powder into a large bowl and mix well.  Add one half of the butter mixture to it and mix until a dough forms (I used my hand whisk, and the mixture went all crumbly before coming together – I ended up kneading the dough with my hands a little right at the end).  Place the custard dough on a piece of cling film and roll into a log of about 4-4.5cm diameter.

3.  Sift the other 145g of flour and the cocoa powder into another large bowl and mix well.  Add the other half of the butter mixture to it and mix it until a dough forms.  Place the chocolate dough between two sheets of cling film and roll it out into a rectangle of the same length as the custard dough roll and wide enough to wrap around it (this is actually rather more difficult than it sounds – probably because rolling things into designated shapes isn’t really my strong point).

4.  Wrap the chocolate dough around the custard dough, smoothing the join over with your fingers.  Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 15mins.

5.  Line two baking sheets with baking paper and preheat the oven to 170°C.  Once the dough is firm, remove the log from the fridge, and slice it into slices of about 8mm thickness.  Place the slices onto the baking sheets (leave enough space between them so that they can spread out a little bit in the oven) and refrigerate for a further 10 minutes.

6.  Bake the cookies for 12-15mins.  Leave the cookies on the baking sheets for 3mins before removing to a wire rack to cool fully before decorating.

To decorate:
7.  Melt a few squares of white chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Mix in a little bit of custard powder until the chocolate has reached a colour similar to the custard dough part of the cookies.  Use a toothpick (or possibly a piping bag with a very fine tip, though there is not a lot of chocolate so this might be difficult) to draw the lions’ ears onto the fully-cooled cookies.

8.  Melt a few squares of dark chocolate in another small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Use a toothpick (or possibly a piping bag) to draw the eyes, the noses and the mouths.

9.  Allow the chocolate decorations to set completely before piling the cookies onto a serving plate or into an airtight box for storage.

Enjoy!

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