The Prinsesstårta

This week was half term and one of my best friend’s birthdays, so we decided that there was no better way to celebrate than with a wonderful Autumn dinner party!  I had been particularly inspired by the November issue of the Good Food magazine, as well as the recent Great British Bake-Off that I watched religiously every single week, so decided to go all out and create a 3-course masterpiece and really put my baking skills to the test!  Most normal people would create a menu that involved three relatively straight forward dishes.  However, anyone who knows me will know that I am not a normal person.  I wanted to bake my own bread, fill a whole pumpkin full of cheese fondue, create a vegetarian main dish that everyone would enjoy, and finish with a bang by presenting the hardest technical challenge ever appointed on The Great British Bake-Off: the Prinsesstårta.  Nothing could possibly go wrong, could it?!

The Starter

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Homemade Bread with Pumpkin Fondue

The starter was probably the one course that looked like everything was going to be a complete disaster, but in actual fact turned out to be everyone’s favourite!  Firstly, I was well aware before putting it in the oven that I had over-proved my bread.  Secondly, I had baked the pumpkin for an hour and a half and it had filled with tons of water that the recipe in the Good Food magazine made no mention of.  The bottom of the pumpkin then split slightly when emptying it of the water, and the whole thing had to be held up with a bottomless baking tin whilst baking the cheese fondue in it for the last half an hour.  I also had far too much cheese and filling to fit inside of the pumpkin, so had to create the rest of the fondue on the hob.  However, as you can see from the finished result, the starter was a complete success!  The bread, which was a Fabulous Baking Brother’s recipe, was absolutely amazing, especially for my first ever attempt at baking bread.  It was absolutely beautiful in flavour and the fact that the bread was quite thick and heavy worked quite well with the thick cheese fondue.  Everyone also used their spoons to delve into the pumpkin and take chunks of roast pumpkin with the melted cheese instead of putting it onto the bread.  What could be better than an edible bowl?!  The only downside to the whole thing was that it was extremely filling so we were all dreading the main course that had already been put in the oven!

The Main

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Roast Vegetables with Halloumi Cheese and Pesto Couscous

One of my best friends is a vegetarian, so the main course had to be suitable for him, especially as it was his birthday!  Sometimes, it can be hard to cater for people who like meat with their main meal when it has to be vegetarian, but I seemed to have catered for everybody with my main dish, as everyone was really happy with it, even if we were all too full to finish it!  Roast vegetables are one of my favourite year-round dishes, and adding halloumi makes a wonderful contrast in flavour and texture.  The halloumi is also a really quick addition, as it only takes a couple of minutes to fry before adding it to the roasted vegetables that have already been dished up.  The couscous also takes less than 5 minutes of adding boiled water until it is soft and fluffy, and lots of pesto to make it super delicious!

Obviously, after all that food, we required quite a long break before embarking on the mountain that was pudding…

The Dessert

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Prinsesstårta (Swedish Princess Cake)

Serving my Prinsesstårta cake felt like such a massive achievement.  No one thought that I would be able to produce the cake, let alone as part of a three-course meal that I prepared and cooked entirely on my own!  I think I realised that the biggest part to achieving it all was time management and knowing exactly what I needed to do and when I needed to do it!  Everyone was really impressed with the final product and it really was the perfect cake for a celebration.  The only bit that really went wrong was that I had forgotten to buy the caster sugar to make the marzipan in the morning, so I had to use golden caster sugar instead, which meant that the green food colouring did not take to it as easily.  However, I was extremely happy with it, and the addition of mulled berry jam instead of raspberry jam added a wonderful festive twist to it.

The kitchen may have looked like a bomb had hit it and I may have broken my mum’s new expensive digital weighing scales, but judging from how much we all enjoyed the food, I think it was worth it!  I, personally, cannot wait to host my next dinner party, but I think my parents can!

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My Home Made Valentine’s Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea

This Valentine’s Day I decided to make my boyfriend afternoon tea.  He’d never had afternoon tea before, and I’ve never really wanted to suggest we go for afternoon tea because it is really expensive (especially as we are students) and I’ve always worried that he would be underwhelmed by sandwiches, a scone, and a few cakes considering the cost.  However, in creating my own version of afternoon tea, filling each layer with food he adores, I truly learnt exactly how much time and effort goes into creating something that seems so simple, and just how much potential there is for it all to go horribly wrong!

I have to admit that the bottom layer was the least of my worries.  Whilst most afternoon tea specialists provide cute little cucumber sandwiches, I had long decided that my boyfriend would much prefer mini bacon & cheese burgers, hot dogs, and fried halloumi bites.  This was also by far the easiest layer, as all I had to do was cut up a block of halloumi cheese and fry it; boil some frankfurters, which were then cut in half to fit into the mini buns; and make mini burgers by mixing beef mince, chopped parsley and garlic together.  Also, these only took 5 minutes to fry.  Unsurprisingly, this was my boyfriend’s favourite layer, and he has raved about our ‘fast food themed afternoon tea’ ever since!

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The second tier was also very much centred around my boyfriend, especially as I had no idea whether he liked scones or not and I was not prepared to do afternoon tea without them!  His favourite chocolate bar is Twix, and so I decided to make chocolate chip scones and serve them with chocolate ganache and caramel sauce in order to create a ‘Twix Scone’.  (The caramel sauce, as you can see in the picture, turned out rather dark because I had to use dark muscavado sugar rather than brown sugar, but it still tasted delicious.)  These were a big hit, even though he admitted that he didn’t think he would like them, so I was very happy!

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My favourite tier, obviously, was the top tier.  This tier took the longest to make.  In fact, the whole thing took me 7 or 8 hours!  The sweet tier consisted of gingerbread men decorated with regal icing to look like us, heart-shaped chocolate fudge cakes, banana splits, and orange meringues.  The banana splits were actually the hardest to make out of all the desserts, as they required hollowing, but keeping the outside intact, so that the filling, which was a blend of condensed milk and banana pulp, did not spill out.  I also found that it is easy to avoid the mess and time of making meringues by buying a carton of readily prepared egg whites (I ordered mine from Waitrose).  The hardest part of making everything was the sheer volume of food that I was making and the time constraint in making it.  I messed up the ingredients on nearly every single recipe (for example, I completely forgot about the buttermilk in the chocolate fudge cakes, I added twice the amount of orange I was supposed to in the meringues, and those bananas were my fourth or fifth attempt)!  Luckily, everything still managed to taste great though!  It can actually be quite stressful trying to get everything done in time, as well as to a good standard.  Restaurants may have teams of chefs working on different aspects of their afternoon teas, but I can honestly say that after making my own I can fully respect, and, in the future, will take the time to appreciate, the time and effort that goes into each and every little detail of every afternoon tea.